Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From the Artful Vegan

My friend Liz gave me The Artful Vegan for my birthday. The pictures are gorgeous, ingredients enticing and it is a challenge. I don’t have a lot of cookbooks containing recipes that intimidate me, but this one certainly does. They are recipes for weekends only, with ingredients that even challenge the knowledgeable employees at Whole Foods.

So here it is, Creole Sauteed Mushrooms and Kidney Beans over Pecan Dirty Rice.

Serves 6.

Creole Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 cups 1/4-inch-diced celery, 2 cups 1/4-inch-diced carrots, 1 red onion cut into 1/4 inch dice, 4 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon espresso ground, 2 teaspoons Spanish paprika, 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more as needed, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast, 2 cups dry red wine, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 3 cups mushrooms stock (I used veggie stock), 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon tamari, salt

Begin with a roux. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small saute pan over low heat Whisk in the flour. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, whisking almost constantly, to make a deep nut-brown roux. Remove from the heat. Let cool to close to room temperature before using.

Heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft and starting to brown. Add the thyme, bay leaves, espresso, paprika, cayenne pepper, and oregano. Saute, stirring often, for 2 minutes to toast the spices. Add the yeast, and then add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the black pepper, tomato paste, stock, vinegar, and tamari. Decrease the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until reduced by one-third. Slowly whisk in the roux, decrease the heat to low, and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Add salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.

Pecan Dirty Rice

2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 red onion cut into 1/4-inch dice, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, pinch of freshly ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup brown basmati rice, 1 1/2 cups water

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Add the pecans, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and salt. Saute for 1 minute. Add the rice, and saute for 2 minutes, stirring often, to toast the rice. Add the water and bring to a boil.

Cover the saucepan and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. (Alternatively, cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and let steam still covered for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork. Serve or keep covered until needed.

Braised Kale

1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 bunches Red Russian or Lacinato kale, washed, stemmed and cut into 1-inch strips, 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 yellow onion halved crosswise and then sliced into thin crescents, 2 cloves garlic minced, 2 teaspoons of umeboshi vinegar

Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the salt. Place the kale in the boiling water and blanch for 3 to 7 minutes, depending on the variety, until just tender. Drain the kale in a colander. If not using immediately, rinse with cold water.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes, or until just softened. Add the drained kale and the vinegar and saute for 2 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from the heat.

Last, but not least…

Creole Sauteed Mushrooms

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic minced, 8 oz. cremini mushrooms halved, 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms stemmed and halved, 8 oz. oyster mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more as needed), 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans, cayenne pepper

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until just starting to brown. Add the cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms and the salt. Saute for 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms are just softened. Add the kidney beans and the Creole sauce and heat through. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

To Serve

You also need: Cornbread (this book has a recipe for that as well), 6 lemon wedges, 12 chive sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons chopped chives, 1/2 cup roasted pecans

For each serving, place a ring of kale around the inside perimeter of a large shallow bowl, such as a pasta bowl. Follow with a ring of rice. Fill the center of the bowl with a portion of the Creole mushroom mixture. Place a wedge of cornbread and a wedge of lemon on the side. Sprinkle the plate with some chopped chives and roasted pecans. Put 2 chive sprigs upright in the center.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Kind Dinner

My friend Allyson got me The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone for my birthday. I was so happy she found a copy for me since the book was sold out after Alicia’s appearance on Oprah. I heard about her book at least a year ago and was curious, but never made the purchase. Well, I am so glad I have it now.

On my drive home from work today I was tired and craving comfort food, maybe pizza? And then I remembered that I have a nearly full box of vegetables from my CSA delivery. How could I forget? I decided to see if I could use anything in the box and Alicia’s book to make a delicious dinner. No grocery store visits, just cook from what I have already. The result was wonderful: Sicilian Collard Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins (only I used cashews and craisins) and Cuban Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes. I added in some roasted carrots and had a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup for dessert…Alicia’s version that is. Thank you Alicia Silverstone for great vegan recipes. I can’t wait to try them all.

Sicilian Collard Greens with Pine Nuts & Raisins

1 bunch of collard greens, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts (I used cashews), 3 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped - I used a red onion from the CSA instead), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 3 tablespoons raisins (I used craisins), 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Use a sharp knife to cut out the central rib and stem from each collard leaf. Rinse the leaves in a sink of cool water, lifting them into a colander to drain a bit (you want some water to remain on the leaves).

Toast the pine nuts over a medium heat in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes or until golden. Shake the pan often to keep the pine nuts from burning. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.

Place the garlic and oil in a large skillet, and saute over medium heat for 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the damp collards and stir, then cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the raisins and pine nuts, and stir. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, cover and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Cuban-Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes

3 large sweet potatoes (peeled and quartered), 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, fine sea salt to taste, freshly ground pepper to taste, 1 large garlic clove minced, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Place the sweet potatoes in a medium bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet, and roast until they can be pierced easily with a knife but still offer some resistance, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes or so.

Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, and toss with the garlic, lime juice, parsley, adn remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you want the chocolate peanut butter cup recipe, you’ll have to buy the book ;) Trust me, it is worth it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Baby Brownies (for Administrative Assistant's Day)

I know my New Year’s resolution was to take better pictures of my food, but I was kind of in a bind here. Slept a little later than I should, brownies weren’t cut and arranged yet, had to make a quick stop on my way to work AND it seems that every road I take on my commute is being repaved (= major delays). I didn’t want to be too late this morning, so here it is, another poor quality picture.

Baby Brownies in honor of Administrative Assistant’s Day. This recipe is from a book my Mom got for me when I first moved away from home. Other than my McCall’s Cookbook, this is my go-to resource for basics and I guess it should be since the title is The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I doubled the recipe since I made them for a department of 15 people. I’m reciting this recipe from my memory of making it last night at 11:30, so apologies if it is missing anything major. If they don’t come out right, just buy the book or send me an angry e-mail.


6 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used semi-sweet), 1/4 cup of chocolate fudge (I used Mrs. Richardson’s), 1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature), 2 eggs, 1 tsp of vanilla, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup flour, a pinch of salt.

To Make:

Generously butter/grease a 8x8 pan (I doubled the recipe and did 9x13) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate pieces in a saucepan over low heat and stir constantly. Once chocolate is melted, add chocolate fudge and stir until smooth. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and whisk in butter. Once combined stir in eggs (slightly beaten) and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together sugar, flour and salt. Gradually combine dry mixture with the chocolate mixture until smooth.

Pour in the pan and bake for 30 minutes (or until tester comes out clean). Allow your baby brownies to cool before cutting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Inaugural Panini Party

Since my friend Alison was housebound last Friday with a bum foot, I went over to her house to make paninis with her roommates Amanda and Andrew. I brought my dog Rusty along for the fun too. He didn’t get to enjoy paninis, but I think he is now thoroughly traumatized by our visit to Chat Roulette. Although he did meet a cute pup from West Hollywood during our adventure.

I’m getting off topic…back to paninis. We chose to make mushroom fontina paninis. I purchased baby bella and cremini mushrooms from Trader Joe’s along with some shallots, french rolls, baby spinach, sweet potato fries, garlic fries, and chocolate bonbons for dessert. I also got some red zinfandel from Cline Cellars (also at Trader Joe’s).

To make the delectable melted sandwiches, we first sauteed the shallots in butter over medium heat and then added the mushrooms and about a tablespoon of tarragon. We cooked the mushroom/shallot mixture until softened. We brushed melted butter on the top and bottom half of the french rolls and then put a layer of fontina cheese slices on the bottom half of the roll. The cheese was covered in the mushroom mixture, followed by a layer of baby spinach and then some more fontina cheese. The sandwiches then went in the panini press at medium heat for about 7 or 8 minutes. The rolls were thick, so the cooking time was a little longer for these guys.

When I first took my fancy Breville panini press out of the box I thought, this isn’t much different from the George Foreman grill I purchased a couple years ago and I suddenly felt buyer’s remorse (even though it was a Birthday gift from my family - thank you FAMILY!). After our inaugural panini Friday, I know the panini press was well worth the purchase and I hope this becomes a weekly tradition. Melted, buttery goodness.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Epic Easter Feast

I had fifteen people over for brunch on Easter and made a feast. I love cooking big meals for my friends, but I think I’m going to be resting for a while after this one. It sent me on an unhealthy food jelly-bean bender from which I’m recovering.

Not much to say other than I will be making the french toast casserole again. Definitely a winner. I’ll let the menu to the rest of the talking.

French Toast Casserole — via Foodnetwork.com from Paula Dean. Butter, butter, butter.

Vegetable Frittata with Asparagus Salad — The frittata was loosely based on a couple recipes, but basically, zucchini, asparagus, shallots and grated asiago cheese. Got the recipe for the asparagus salad on foodnetwork.com.

Bacon and Cheddar Frittata with Rosemary — The boyfriend manned this one and from what I hear, it was delicious.

Sweet and Spicy Potatoes — Had this dish for the first time at a friend’s brunch a couple years ago and had to make it myself. Tons of seasoning with sweet potatoes, roasted at over 400 for at least 45 minutes. YUM!

Breakfast Herb Potatoes — Regular potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh parsley and rosemary. Classic perfection.

Banana Crunch Muffins —An Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) recipe from www.foodnetwork.com. I will be making these again and I have two bananas that are ready for it!

Amish Friendship Bread — Got my starter from Katie and the bread turned out delicious! More like a pound cake than a fluffy, airy loaf, and went perfectly with the next item.

Strawberry Butter — I made this to go with the croissants that Andrew brought along with the Amish Bread and Banana Crunch muffins. It was a big hit, but thankfully I made enough for leftovers. Got the recipe from my Heidi Swanson book, but basically just use room temperature butter (or maybe a little bit warmer) and combine with strawberry preserves. After the two were combined, I put the butter in red ramekins and refrigerated overnight.

Carrot Cake & Lemon Cake Cupcakes — Refer to my last post to see recipes and close-up photos of these.

In addition to my creations, my roommates made tasty looking bacon and sausage, others brought, cheesy grits, colored eggs, croissants, fruit salad, key lime pie, cinnamon rolls, ham/pineapple/cherry skewers, Bloody Mary mix and of course champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice for mimosas.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter Cupcakes

I plan on writing about Easter brunch, but let’s skip to dessert first. I made cupcakes of the carrot and lemon variety. I used my standard carrot cake recipe and then (since the lemons in the backyard were begging to be zested) I made a new lemon cupcake recipe. Both had cream cheese icing on top.

Carrot (adapted from Bon Appetit 1994 via Epicurious):
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots.
Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 25 minutes.
Lemon (from OurBestBites.com):

1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) of REAL butter3 c. cake flour (no substitutions here—you really need the lightness of cake flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons (just zest the other lemons before you squeeze them)
1 c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners (I used yellow, although white would also be cute).In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Don’t go skimping here—you want the mixture to be almost white and super fluffy. This is absolutely essential to the outcome of the cake.While butter and sugar are mixing, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside. After butter and sugar have mixed sufficiently, With the mixer running, add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Beat in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until fully incorporated.Using a standard cookie scoop, place about 2 scoops of batter into each muffin cup. Fill these almost to the top—due to the final texture (again, think super-moist and light pound cake), these cupcakes won’t have a nice, curvy crown, but that’s okay—no one will ever know or care.Bake about 20-25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. You don’t want to overbake these even a bit, or they’ll start to lose their delicious moisture. Remove from oven and cool completely.
4 cups powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract