26 June 2013

A ruby red grapefruit mojito for Wendy Davis

ruby red grapefruit mojito

I don't know about you, but I believe in women's bodily autonomy and safe access to reproductive health care. With that in mind, it's time for a cocktail.

If you've been under a rock (or not on Twitter), Wendy Davis is the Texas state senator who yesterday, with the help of her caucus, the parliamentary rules of order, and a gallery full of vocal & active protesters, kept nearly all the abortion clinics in the state of Texas from being closed. She did this by filibustering SB5, which proposed a slew of stringent restrictions, from just after 11 am until nearly midnight last night. If you weren't watching, I encourage you to read the Texas Tribune's liveblog of events and see what exactly she had to deal with. Pretty horrifying, right?

ruby red grapefruit lime and mint

This morning, The Hairpin noticed that she also has a Pinterest account and a cocktail recipe board.

I can't think of anyone who deserves a cocktail more than Wendy Davis right now. So let's raise a glass with one of her pinned cocktails: Iowa Girl's grapefruit mojito.

ruby red grapefruit mojito

A ruby red grapefruit mojito for Wendy Davis

1/2 ruby red grapefruit, supremed
10 fresh mint leaves
2 tsp agave nectar, honey, or simple syrup
juice of half a lime
1 shot white rum
~3 tbsp reserved juice from grapefruit
sparkling water to top

Muddle all but one of your grapefruit segments in a cocktail shaker with your mint leaves, sweetener, and lime juice. Add a handful of ice, rum, and grapefruit juice. Shake vigorously; pour into an ice-filled glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with remaining grapefruit.

Drink with vigor.

22 June 2013

Plum pie two ways

backyard cherry plums

Our backyard plums are ripe.

I always have a hard time using up the surplus of fruit our trees produce, mostly because we don't really eat jam on any sort of regular basis. So I end up going two ways: liqueur-making and baking. And since we still have quite a bit of plum schnapps from last year, baking was the clear winner.

I've baked these plums into a yogurt cake. I've chucked them into smoothies. I've stuck a bunch of them into crumbles and crisps. It was time for something different: PIE.

backyard cherry plums

For someone with "pie" in the title of their foodblog, I certainly don't make it very often. I had a single coconut oil pie crust in the freezer, where it had been languishing since Thanksgiving. That's the last time I made a pie. So I decided to defrost it, roll it out, and fill it with all the fruit I could chop.

Our plums are tiny, juicy, and tart. I knew the usual plum pie recipes would probably be a bit off, since they're developed with supermarket plums in mind. So I broke out my trusty Joy of Cooking, looked up the instructions for sour cherry pie, and tweaked until I came up with this rendition.

I had to cut up about 30 of our little ping-pong-ball plums to achieve sufficient filling. If you're using larger supermarket plums, I'd guess 10 to 15 would be enough for one large pie or two smaller ones.

Make sure to get non-cling plums if you can. Did I mention that ours are super-cling? Yeah.

Instead of making a single pie, I decided to split up my dough and go for two: a rustic hand-formed guy and a neat little 7-inch tart. Double pies! Hooray!

plum pie with coconut oil crust

Plum pie two ways

4.5 cups chopped plums
juice of half a lemon
3/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
2 tbsp cornstarch (up to 3 if your plums are super-juicy)
1 tbsp water (less for juicier plums)
crust of your choice

If your pie crust is frozen, take it out to defrost in advance. Otherwise, make up a batch of the pie crust of your choice. Since I was using coconut oil pie crust, my pie was vegan. Hooray!

Pit and chop your plums. Put them in a bowl and mix them with your lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and water. Let this mixture sit for at least 15 minutes, so the plum juice begins to release and thicken.

While you're waiting, preheat the oven to 425F and roll out your dough to 1/4 inch thickness on the floured surface of your choice. Even though I was making two pies, I rolled out the entire slab of dough at once. Then I pressed it into my tart tin, rolled the pin over to cut off the extra dough, neatened up the tart edges with a few scraps, rerolled the leftovers for my rustic crust, and pricked both crusts all over with a fork. This worked fine, with no particular issue re crust tenderness.

coconut oil whole wheat pie crust

You are also clearly free to just fill up a standard 9-inch pie pan instead of making two pies. Whatever floats your boat.

Put your tart tin and your rustic crust on a rimmed baking sheet before filling. (There will probably be juice leakage. I'm just saying.) Then pile your plum mixture into each crust. Fold up the edges of the rustic crust, overlapping the filling, and press together.

plum tart with coconut oil crust

Bake your pietarts for 25 minutes at 425F. Then reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking for another 25 to 35 minutes. If you're making one larger pie, you'll want to do 30 minutes at 425F and up to 45 minutes at 350F. When lots of thick juice is bubbling up at the top of your pies, they are done.

plum tart with coconut oil crust

I cut the rustic pie in half for immediate dessert purposes. The tart went into the fridge for future eatings. And lo, the next day, I totally ate pie for lunch. And then we ate more for dessert. DAYS UPON DAYS OF PIE.

rustic plum pie with coconut oil crust

We ate our pie totally plain, but ice cream is obviously an excellent addition. It would be a perfect contrast to the tangy acidity of the tart plums.

plum pie with coconut oil crust

What are you making with all the new summer stone fruit?

18 June 2013

Cucumber shallot salad with rice wine vinaigrette

cucumber shallot vinaigrette salad

So we've covered picnic sandwiches. Now, how about salads?

My picnic salad criteria are pretty simple: I want to eat a lot of delicious vegetables, preferably with a similarly delicious dressing. So when I checked out the crisper for salad components, I discovered a beautiful cucumber, just waiting to be loved. Perfect!

Typically, salads with cucumber include iceberg lettuce, thick chunks of cucumber, and fat wedges of watery tomato. If you're so unlucky as to be eating this salad at a restaurant, you might be inundated with stale croutons and shredded fake cheese as well. Obviously, this is not the way to go. Instead, let's take that cucumber and make it the star of the salad. Let's slice it thinly and get rid of those watery seeds. Let's shower it with intense shallots and dress it in a delicious tangy dressing. Let's eat it.

This salad has two components: vegetable and dressing. For optimal time management, you'll want to slice and drain your cucumbers, make your dressing while you wait, and finally combine everything together.

cucumber shallot vinaigrette salad

Cucumber shallot salad for two

1 large cucumber
1/2 shallot
rice wine vinaigrette

If your cucumber is waxed or tough-skinned, peel it. Otherwise, you are totally free to keep the peel on and eat it.

Slice your cucumber in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon; throw them in the compost or your freezer stock stash. Cut the remaining cucumber into thin crescents.

Toss your cucumber pieces with a sprinkling of salt, put them in a strainer, and let them drain for about a half hour. This will drain off some of their natural moisture and keep your salad from being watery later.

Now is the time to make your vinaigrette.

When your cucumber pieces are drained, put them in a bowl. Cut your shallot in half, and from there into fine slices. Separate the slices into fine shreds and add them to the cucumbers.

Toss your vegetables with a couple spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Use as much dressing as you prefer.

Let your salad rest for at least a half hour before serving. This gives the vinaigrette a chance to soak into the vegetables and pickle them slightly. It also gives you a chance to pack your salad into a container, stick it in your picnic basket, and go off on the excursion of your choice. Just don't forget the forks!

Rice wine vinaigrette

1 tbps rice wine vinegar
1 tsp hot Chinese mustard
juice of half a lime
1 minced green onion
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp veg oil
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together with a fork, adding the veg oil in a steady stream at the end for optimal emulsification. Use to dress your cucumber shallot salad.

Keep any leftovers in a jar in the refrigerator, and shake before using. I found this to be just about as delicious on plain greens as it was on cucumber and shallot.

cucumber shallot vinaigrette salad with egg salad sandwiches

Eat your salad, either with egg salad sandwiches (obviously that's what we did) or with the other picnic entree of your choice. If you like, you can add a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds or gomasio to your salad after serving.

What are your favorite ways to eat cucumber?

16 June 2013

Perfect picnic egg salad

perfect egg salad with radish dill and scallion

We're always talking about food at our house. What's your favorite sandwich? What are your top 5 beers? If you could open a diner, what would it be called, and what would the menu look like? And, of course, what is your perfect picnic menu?

Perfect picnic fare has a few qualifications. It tastes great cold. It's classic and uncomplicated. It's easy to transport. It can ideally be eaten with your hands, although we make limited exceptions for salads. And it's appropriate to the height of picnic season.

With all that in mind, we think the ideal picnic sandwich crown belongs to egg salad. It's tangy yet creamy, full of finely chopped crispy vegetables and big chunks of rich egg, seasoned liberally with fresh herbs, and stuffed between slices of toasted rye or sourdough: yes.

A good egg salad requires good hard-boiled eggs, so let's start there.

There are lots of different ways to boil eggs. The most common method involves boiling eggs for ten full minutes. This usually results in a hard-boiled egg with a rubbery yolk and a ring of greenish oxidation around the yolk: not good. To make a perfect hard-boiled egg, you need to cook your eggs for less than ten minutes. Eight minutes will produce an egg that looks like this one: solid, creamy-textured white with a yolk that's fully cooked on the outside, but still a bit damp in the middle. In an egg salad, the white will be more tender and delicious, while the yolk will mix more smoothly with the classic mayo & mustard dressing. It's an ideal situation.

perfect hard boiled egg

Perfect hard-boiled eggs

Put your eggs, cold from the refrigerator, in a pot. Cover with cold water. Put the pot on the stove and bring it to a boil. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and start timing.

Take your pot off the heat at the eight minute mark for large eggs. If you're using extra large, you can push it to nine minutes. Immediately drain off the hot water and run your eggs under the cold tap. I like to cool down the whole pan under the faucet, turning to get all the metal in contact with the cold water. Then, either in your cooled pot or a separate bowl, cover your eggs in cold water and add a handful of ice cubes.

Let your eggs chill until they're cool enough to peel. Then whack them all over with the back of a spoon and peel them, starting with the wider end. I like to peel eggs under a thin stream of cold water; this way, the water gets behind the membrane and helps loosen it a bit.

Voila: a perfect hard-boiled egg.

Combine this with a few radishes and some chopped fresh dill, and you have the makings of one of the best salads ever.

egg salad with radish dill and scallion

Dill and radishes are seriously the power combination for egg salad. Maybe you've always eaten your egg salad with celery as the crunchy veg component. That's all well and good--and you can absolutely add minced celery as well--but radishes, in my opinion, are even better. They're crunchy and spicy and add a beautiful touch of dark pink to the salad.

And dill! Dill is one of the most underused herbs ever, and it goes so perfectly with egg and mustard. It is, of course, totally fine to use parsley if that's what floats your boat, but you should absolutely try dill. It's the best cool counterpoint to spicy radish and rich egg.

Perfect picnic egg salad for two

4 hard-boiled eggs
2-3 radishes
1/4 bunch fresh dill/other herbs of your choice
2 scallions
1-2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt, pepper
rye or sourdough bread

Chop your eggs into pleasing chunks. Finely mince your radishes. Strip the dill fronds from their stems and chop them up. Trim a couple scallions and slice them into thin rounds.

Combine all your eggs and vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix, smashing with a fork to blend the egg yolks with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread your egg salad onto slices of toasted rye or sourdough bread. Other bread is also okay, of course, but the flavor and aroma of both rye and sourdough are hard to beat. It's also pretty delicious to spread your egg salad on cucumber slices if you want more vegetables, or for a big plate of appetizers. It's all good.

egg salad sandwich with cucumber shallot salad

Now eat it! We had our egg salad sandwiches open-faced, with a side of cucumber shallot salad. Super delicious and refreshing on a summer afternoon.

We actually ended up eating everything at home, I'm sorry to say. It was just too blindingly sunny outside, and we are cloud-loving midwesterners, even after eight years of living in California. Fortunately, picnic food tastes just as good inside as out.

Next up: that cucumber shallot salad! Hooray!

12 June 2013

Giant tofu stirfry with mixed vegetables and peanut butter

tofu and vegetable stirfry with peanut butter

A little while ago I had a delightful noontime visit from my friend Chrissy, who had driven over the mountain from Santa Cruz to go to multiple interviews in one day. YIKES. Clearly, she needed some relaxing downtime in the form of a delicious lunch she didn't have to think about at all. So I broke out the biggest frying pan I have, turned on the rice cooker, and turned out a huge batch of vegan tofu stir-fry stuffed with shredded cabbage and carrot, nice chunks of broccoli, and sweet red bell pepper. Hooray!

I used peanut oil because it has a high smoke point and I like the flavor it adds to the dish. If you're serving someone with a nut allergy, you can simply switch out the peanut oil for vegetable oil and eliminate the peanut butter. Something like tahini or sunflower seed butter might be a good substitute, depending on the specific allergy. But this is also great with no nut content whatever. No worries.

Giant tofu stirfry with mixed vegetables and peanut

firm tofu
peanut oil/veg oil
soy sauce
sriracha sauce
sesame oil
fresh ginger
red pepper
all the other veg in the house
peanut butter
rice wine vinegar

Start in advance by pressing your tofu. Slice the tofu in half horizontally, keeping both pieces as even as possible, and sandwich them between two cutting boards. Weight the whole business down with a pot full of water or something similarly heavy, and let sit for an hour or so. I like to put a towel under one end of the bottom cutting board and hang the other end over the lip of the sink, so all the liquid drains into the sink itself.

When you're ready to cook, slice your tofu into 1-inch cubes. Brush on both sides with a sprinkling of soy sauce, sriracha, and sesame oil. Heat a frying pan to medium-high, add a few dabs of peanut oil, and rotate to coat. Then slide in all your tofu. Fry, tossing occasionally, until your tofu is golden brown and delightful on all sides.

browned tofu cubes with soy sauce and sriracha

While your tofu is cooking, slice up all your aromatics and vegetables. You can use practically any veg you have in the house for a stir-fry of this nature. I used everything in the ingredient list; things like bok choy, mushrooms, or green pepper would be great additions as well.

When your tofu is done, tip it out of the pan and set it aside. Add another dab of peanut oil and tip in the onions. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another few minutes. Then start gradually adding in your main vegetables, starting with those that take longer to cook (broccoli, carrot) and ending with those that don't take so long (cabbage, red pepper). Season the pan with soy sauce and sriracha (and powdered ginger, if you don't have fresh) with your first vegetable addition.

tofu and vegetable stirfry with peanut butter

When all of your vegetables are tender, add a big spoonful of peanut butter to the pan, along with a bit more soy sauce and sriracha as needed. You might want to add a little bit of water to help melt the peanut butter as well. Add your cooked tofu and toss together over slightly lowered heat until the peanut butter has melted and coated everything and the tofu is hot through. When everything is ready, take the pan off the heat and stir in a splash of rice wine vinegar.

Serve over rice or your choice of noodle. Udon would clearly be pretty great. I think I'd make a spicy peanut-soy sauce separately instead of pouring small bits of everything right into the pan in that case, though.

tofu and vegetable stirfry with brown rice

We ate our stirfry over long-grain brown rice, and then Chrissy went off, full & happy, to her next appointment. Such a satisfying lunch.

What kind of dishes do you love to serve your friends?

10 June 2013

Ginger molasses cookie ice cream sandwiches with pineapple coconut ice cream

Ice cream sandwiches with ginger molasses cookies and pineapple coconut ice cream

Yes, I did absolutely make a batch of ginger molasses cookies right at the beginning of summer. Why not? I don't really think of either ingredient as seasonal so much as tropical--totally appropriate for the newly warm weather we've been having. And to really make these cookies appropriate for the glare of the summer sun, I decided to add something cold and melty. That's right: ice cream sandwiches for everyone. Sweet and spicy cookies with rich ice cream? Perfect.

I have to admit I didn't make the ice cream. However! If you want to make your own, feel free. Pineapple coconut was our ice cream of choice, but a vanilla bean, zesty lime, or candied ginger flavor would also pair perfectly with these spicy, chewy cookies.

We still have an overabundance of powdered sugar in the house, so I used a mix of powdered and raw instead of the standard granulated sugar in these cookies. I also used wheat flour, because that's how I roll. This worked out perfectly.

ginger molasses cookies

Ginger molasses cookies

3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp clove
1 tsp ginger
2 cups flour

Cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg and molasses and mix well.

It's standard cookie practice to mix the dry ingredients in a different bowl before adding them to the wet in batches. I like to just put everything but flour straight into the wet, mix thoroughly, and then add the flour in three or four additions. It's all good.

Roll your dough into small balls and arrange on cookie sheets. If you want, you can roll each ball in sugar as well, or flatten them with the base of a glass dipped in sugar. Put your cookie sheets in the refrigerator for a few minutes before baking; this will keep the dough from spreading too much.

Bake at 375F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are barely cracked. Err on the side of taking them out early, so they stay chewy and nice when stored. Overcooking equals rock-hard cookies. I'm just saying.

Cool your cookies on wire racks. Try not to eat all of them before they're cool enough to handle the ice cream.

Ice cream sandwiches with ginger molasses cookies and pineapple coconut ice cream

To make ice cream sandwiches, simply spread slightly softened ice cream onto the flat side of one cookie and top with another. We used store-bought pineapple coconut, which matched perfectly with the zing of ginger and the deep dark molasses--almost like a dark rum drink in ice cream sandwich form. Something in the citrus or tropical fruit family would be delicious too.

We made each ice cream sandwich as we ate, but I could definitely see making a whole tray for a weekend party and stashing them in the freezer until the time was right. What could be better at the end of a long, hot afternoon?

What desserts are you concocting this summer?

05 June 2013

Pan bagnat: the ultimate picnic sandwich

pan bagnat

It's June. You know what that means: it's officially picnic season.

Picnic food is one of my favorite genres. (Does food have genres? Sure, why not?) Who doesn't want to cram a big basket or tote bag with a stack of sandwiches, several containers of salad, a big bag of fresh fruit, and a bottle of wine, iced tea, or lemonade, and swan off to the park for a sunny afternoon? Okay, I admit that we actually set up camp in the fullest possible shade, but still.

So let's make sandwiches! More precisely, let's make one sandwich: a huge, delightful pan bagnat.

Pan bagnat simply means "bathed bread" in Occitan. (And if you've never heard of that--well, I had heard the French term "langue d'Oc" before, but that's it. It's a language spoken in the Occitanian region, which spreads over southern France, Monaco, and some bits of Italy and Spain.) Pan bagnat is essentially a giant sandwich: a whole loaf of bread filled with fresh vegetables and their juices, anointed with olive oil, and pressed under a weight before eating. This gives all the flavors the chance to meld together into something delicious and beautiful. When it's time to eat, just slice off as much as you want and go.

If you are concerned about sogginess--which seems totally normal, considering that this is called "bathed bread," don't be. Our sandwiches were deliciously juicy on the inside, but the juices did not penetrate the crust overnight: perfect.

Needless to say, pan bagnat is one of the best picnic foods ever invented. Let's make one!

The number of servings here really depend on the size of your loaf of bread. We could have served six people pretty comfortably with ours, especially with salads or fruit on the side.

pan bagnat

Pan bagnat

A whole flat loaf of bread (Acme bakery herbslab for us)
basil leaves
butter lettuce
green onion
red pepper
havarti (or your choice of cheese)
olive oil
dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Slice your loaf of bread into two thin halves, using a serrated bread knife. It's easiest to put the bread flat on a board and cut into it from the side while you hold the loaf steady with the palm of your hand--sort of like cutting a cake layer into two.

Open up your loaf and start piling on the fillings. Start by drizzling olive oil over each side and spreading on some dijon mustard. Then just layer on all the vegetables and cheese you desire. We used everything in the ingredient list, but feel free to use whatever else sounds good to you. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper before you close it up.

To make your pan bagnat vegan, just leave out the cheese. Super easy!

Wrap your loaf securely in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator and weight it down overnight, or for at least four hours. We put a cutting board topped with a cast-iron dutch oven half full of water on top of our pan bagnat, and it worked admirably.

When you're ready to eat--perhaps after transporting your pan bagnat to the picnic grounds at the very bottom of the picnic basket, with your containers of salads and bottles of wine still pressing it together--simply unwrap and cut off slices to eat. You can go for long, thin sandwiches (toothpicks come in handy here) or cut wider slices and then halve them (no toothpicks necessary). It's all good.

pan bagnat

Now have your picnic! Eat your sandwich, lounge in the sun, drink some wine, break out the frisbee, wiggle your toes in the grass--it's all good.

What's your favorite picnic food?