Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Round of thanks: "thank you for this perfect day"

My friend Linda Kohler posted this gratitude song on her facebook page today, which reminded me of a story. I recall being seasick on my first ocean voyage as a cook one December just before Christmas on the Pacific Ocean. We left the flat and calm Columbia River through the bar to the stormy open ocean. We were delivering a cruise ship for our winter cruises in Baja Mexico. The ship was flat bottomed and light as it was empty of passengers. This meant that our ship crashed with loud BAM, shiver, and shake with the sound of of tied down gear clinking and clanging to the steel hull after every swell.The winds raged up to 80 mph in gusts and the ocean swell was significant. I recall spending a lot of time in my bunk and crawling to the kitchen to prepare meals. I was literally holding on to everything I could to stabilize myself during a trip to the galley while in this nauseous dream state. I was amazed that anyone was eating anything other than saltines and seltzer! but I did my duty, minimum duty of opening cans of clam chowder, then proceeded to burn it. I was stirring in a large pot on the stove and couldn't even tell it was burned as I wasn't tasting anything. When you scorch the bottom of a soup, you taste it throughout. The crew that had stormy motion tolerance made themselves sandwiches! I had the window open for fresh air and the sea spray from the huge waves would blow in. I sang that song while the thrashing of the huge waves rocked me. I loved the recording I had of little children singing it in a round. It comforted me. Returning to flat land, it took a couple days to get my land legs back and I dreamed in motion. Repeated trips eventually resulted in better sea legs and better cooking too! Here is the song!

"Thank you for this perfect day; Truth and Love point out the way" Calm and exalted each morning I pray; Thank you for this perfect day." (Morning Round - Madora Kibbe)

Posting clam chowder, fish chowder, corn chowder, smoked salmon chowder, would be in order. Does anyone want to post their favorite? I made an exquisite scallop/Jerusalem artichoke soup one holiday {that I didn't invent} and it was terrific.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Twist on Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Just in from Rio de Janiero! Amy Duncan has  a delicious recipe for Carrot-Garlic Mashed potatoes, just in time for the holidays! Sounds simple and sweet.

Here is what she says, "cook some carrots and potatoes until soft, brown some garlic in olive oil, mix all together with a little milk, butter, salt and pepper and MASH to the consistency of mashed good!" 

Watch for comments from Amy.

Snap a Nappa Salad

The Asian salad that I snapped together for my daughter's cross country team's potluck last night is posted here, with a few additions. There were 3 requests for the recipe, so thought I'd try to scribble down my notes and post them here. (Skip to the recipe below if you want to miss the slightly graphic description of the local meat section of the Asian market in my neighborhood which may deter you from taking an interest in the recipe.) I live in a neighborhood of immigrant populations, many of them Asian. The Asian supermarkets abound! When I decided to make the salad for tonight, I headed to a shop down the street that is less adapted to the Western tastes. After filling my basket with greens, I wandered down the isles. I passed the refridgerated meat section showing many cuts of pork, and packages of things like spleens and intestines. I saw something that looked like Fois Gras, but it wasn't. Simply raw pigs ears! Not smoked and chewy like my dog Lily loves, but pale pale pink. The most difficult was something watery and red called "pork blood solution". I thought I was brave to look, yet my stomach was churning. Endeavoring to prevent gagging or loosing it right in the store, reminded me of trying to avoid sea sickness while my solid ground was bobbing all over.  The fish section was my relief, a little more friendly. I looked over and dried shrimp and many varieties of fish sauce, jars of pickled cabbage as well as interesting bamboo baskets and urn style pots for the stove. The instant coffee packets with fiber and ginseng made me really curious though. What kind of place did I land in? Am I a foreigner in my own neighborhood? Wonderful!

One medium Napa cabbage. Slice finely and then cut the opposite way once so the strands arn't too long.
2 or 3 trimmed green onions sliced, omitting any tough green ends
1 handful of washed and chopped cilantro. The biggest stems removed and loosely chopped.
4 handfuls of baby spinach, washed and dried
3 handfuls of arugula, washed and dried
Some carrots, peeled and sliced
Generous spoonfulls of sesame seeds (1/2 a handfull or more?)
A large amount of sliced and toasted almonds (one handfull?)
Tofu cubes (note: I like plain but my daughter prefers flavored., so I dipped them in a sauce, (4 parts soysauce and one part maple syrup) concoction and sauteed to brown them and flavor them)
Chives (I added dried chives)
Crisp cucumbers sliced
Garlic powder and ginger powder, salt and pepper, and lemon squeeze and toss the salad.
Toss in a handfull of crunchy wasabi peas and set aside the garnish of cilantro, japanese seaweed crackers and slices of kumquat..
Later at the potluck I tossed the salad with an Asian soy garlic dressing that was purchased. When I make my own, I add peanut oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, squeeze of lemon, toasted sesame oil, water, fresh grated ginger, pressed garlic, salt and pepper, and a little mayo (or a little miso or both).

Favorite additions that I did not use this time: mushrooms, fresh or frozen peas, snap peas, edemame beans (shelled), red cabbage, Kumquat slices, mandarin orange segments, watercress, peanuts instead of almonds, fresh bean sprouts, lime juice instead of lemon, crispy fried rice vermicelli or bean thread noodles, and more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vegetarian challenge: Reubenesque Sandwiches

The best kind of improvisational cooking is when you make sense of some left-overs in a fantastic way and this happened tonight. The cabbage-saurkraut-onion-leek-apple concoction for the Veggie approximation of Chaucroute Garni (see recipe posted in November), was great with the cheese croutons embedded. It occured to me that the reverse would also be good, the cabbage mixture inside the sandwhich griled with cheese.
I used some artisan whole wheat bread slices, but French or rye would be great as well. Spread both sides with a layer of stone ground mustard on the inside and butter on the outside. Then sandwich the cabbage-kraut mixture with some generous slices of Swiss or French mountian cheese (I used Raclette). The sandwich was grilled in a frying pan until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted light brown. Some of you may want to try mayo, horseradish, or dressing on top like they do Reuben sandwiches. The cabbage mixture is moist and I already put butter on the bread which seems sufficient ot me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Creating the Veggie Mushroom Barley Burger

Our July project was creating a delicious and nutritious recipe for grain burgers. We used barley, walnuts, mushrooms, lentils among other ingredients. We obviously wern't too worried about forming them into perfect circles, so our patty looks a little clunky. It browned nicely in a frying pan and held up well between buns with favorite condiments. We added avocado, tomato and greens.  See recipe in the archive under July.

Converting Beef Stroganoff to an oniony-mushroomy Vegetarian Stroganoff (and satisfy even the carnivore?)

My approach: An oniony mushroomy broth and lots of mushrooms and some root vegetables in a creamy a brown sauce topped with chopped chives and parsley and paprika, on your favorite egg noodles or pasta preference. By roasting the vegetables and boiling the onion skin for color, and adding a slight bit of soy sauce, gave the sauce plenty of depth to replace the meat. I added a little orange zest and Spanish paprika and clove because I tend toward Southern France or Spain when I cook beef stew type dishes so it is associated with beef in my mind, thus making me miss the beef less.

2 yellow onions, 3 cloves of garlic
Carrot, parsnip, potato, one large Portobello mushroom (or equivalent smaller)
Quartered Crimini or white mushrooms and sliced shitake mushrooms
White cheddar cheese
Milk, and one of these: Cream, sour cream, canned condensed non-fat milk, or whole milk yogurt/yogurt cheese (made by straining the yogurt overnight).
Olive oil and butter
Bay leaves, Thyme, Cloves, Chives, Parsley, Cayenne pepper, Spanish or Hungarian paprika
Salt, Pepper and Soy Sauce (or marmite)
Truffle oil or truffle salt (optional)

Oniony vegetable base
Cut prepared carrots and parsnips in into coin shaped slices that are then quartered or cubed to make bite sized pieces. Slice onion into ½ wedges. Drizzle a little oil on bowl of vegetables, add Salt and Pepper and mix together. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with olive, sunflower, or other oil. Toss the vegetables, bay leaves, and thyme, the onion skins, into the roasting pan and roast in the oven for 1 hour at a low temp like 325degrees. Stir about every 15 minutes. Add a little water if they begin to dry out too much. Put one potato in the oven by itself while roasting the vegetables. Take the potato out when it is nice and squishy after about 1 hour.

Turn the oven up to 375 and add two large Portobello mushrooms sliced and diced, stirring well. Add a little water if necessary to coat the vegetables better when you stir. Roast at this temperature 15 minutes or until portobello is cooked. The veggies should be just sticking to the bottom of the pan, but not burned or too dried out.

Pasta: in the meantime, you can cook your pasta to a chewy consistency so it doesn’t turn to mush later. Your favorite stroganoff noodle will do just fine. I also like a corkscrew noodle or some imported (woops, not local) fancy chewier egg noodles that have extra eggy flavor. Drain the pasta and place it in an oven proof casserole with salt, pepper and enough butter to keep the noodles form getting sticky.

Mushrooms: Also in the meantime, slice and sauté in butter a couple dozen crimini mushrooms and maybe 8 thinly sliced Shitake mushrooms, with tough part of the stem removed. (You can also add these to the vegetable roast a little bit after the Portobello pieces. But I wanted to protect these from roasting so I cooked them separately). Place them in the casserole dish.

Roux: Combine flour and butter and milk to make a roux. Maybe 3 Tablespoons of butter to ¼ cup of flour and add milk to thin. (Sorry, I didn’t measure precisely).

Broth: When the roasted vegetables are done, take out the vegetables and put them in the casserole dish. (You may wish to discard the carrot and parsnip at this point if you don't want to bite in to a non-traditonal flavor in the stroganoff). Toss the onion skin back in the roasting pan. Add 1or more cups of water and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce or marmite (yeast extract), a clove or two and boil, stirring to release the stuck on flavors of the roasted vegetables. Strain the liquid.

Casserole: So you have your casserole dish with the pasta, the veggies, the mushrooms and now you need to finish your sauce.

Sauce finale: Combine roasted vegetable broth, 1 peeled mashed potato and flour roux, adding broth or milk as necessary to create a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and one dash or cayenne pepper. Add the orange zest about 1 teaspoon full. Add 1 T of tomato paste or 1/3 cup Red or Marsala wine. (I used tomato sauce form a tube) Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream . You could add yogurt or cream at this point instead of sour cream and try reduced condensed milk or cream instead of the flour roux, but the roux will help the sauce not get sopped up by the pasta so easily.

Topping: little bit of finely grated white cheddar cheese or else toasted buttered bread crumbs
Drizzle of truffle oil or sprinkle of truffle salt on top
Dash of Spanish smoked paprika or Hungarian paprika across the top
Fresh chopped parsley
Fresh chopped chives

You can place this in the fridge for a later reheating, but the pasta will absorb liquid so make sure you have enough sauce if you do this and be prepared to revive the sauce with some broth and a little cream or evaporated milk.

Place in a hot oven about 375 degrees, 20 minutes or more before serving to heat.

For upped protein content, add garbanzo beans to the veggie roast, add firm tofu or tempeh slices that have been browned with a little soy sauce and oil , or add cubes of aged gouda cheese to the casserole dish., Also good would be egg plant chunks. To make the flavor less earthy, take out the rutabaga. My daughter is not fond of the flavor, but I find it adds a satisfying complexity.

To simplify this recipe: Omit things or substitute with what you have on hand, use only one kind of mushroom and use purchased vegetable broth and onion soup to mix with the roux. Sautee onions and mushrooms.

Vegans could try this by choosing a pasta without eggs and omitting the dairy and using cashew cream, cashew butter whipped with water until sauce consistency.

Now I need my recipe tester/tweakers (you) to get the proportions right. Let me know!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Proper Pilaf in 35 minutes

You don't think I could post the 5 minute recipe without posting a proper one do you? While your brown Jasmine rice is cooking, you can prepare the rest. First, boil some lentils. I like using channa dal, they look like little baby split chick peas, and have a flavor and texture that I like. Red lentils are also fast cooking and good to use, or use both. I would spice the rice with butter, ginger, onion, cilantro, coriander, cardamom, salt and pepper, chile pepper, mustard seed. Heat the mustard seed in a skillet with a little oil until they pop. You can add a little tumeric if you want to up the golden color. Or else you can add saffron but not both. You can add a bay leaf but leave out the cilantro. You can add cinnamon stick pieces. I like to put dried apricot bits, golden and brown raisins, cashews or almonds. This can be done in 35 minutes or less.

Serving this with Yogurt and Mango pickle is a must!

5 minute Improv - Vegetarian Pilaf

So the brown Jasmine rice took 30 minutes to cook. Other than that, it was a delicious and easy one pot meal. The leftovers from the previous night's stir-fry intended for a second meal, were eaten at lunch. Veteran's day, the teenager was home for lunch. I was going to ask her to make herself a quesadilla or something while I zipped out to a meeting, but the improv bug hit me. (Or I'm a softy momma realizing my youngest child is about to launch and I will miss taking care of her). I put some rice on to cook and managed some other work for 30 minutes. Then I opened a can of Amy's vegetarian lentil soup with vegetables and heated it. While wondering where I was going with this meal, I just decided to pilaf it. I threw in a couple handfuls of raisins and sliced toasted almonds. I seasoned this with a chutney I had on hand made locally, it could be recreated by blending cilantro, garlic, lemon, water. Then I added the lentil soup and stirred. Since it was in pilaf format, the mushy texture of canned lentil soup didn't bother me and the flavors were delicious with the lemon cilantro addition. I think the teaspoon of butter I folded into the rice made it yummy too. Keeping it simpler, I avoided the dried apricots and pistachio nuts. "Next time, I'll add those and everything from scratch, including fresh spices". My daughter looked up at me with a smile of proud recognition as she served herself a bowl, "This looks like a kind of pilaf!" Knowing that she doesn't always know what to call my creations, I affirmed that yes it was, as if I had intended to create a pilaf  from the start. It's unlikely that she bothered to make the salad that I suggested from bagged wild greens and dressing on hand (sigh), but I had to run to a meeting.
This would be delicious served with the Indian condiments like Patak's hot and sour lime, mango or carrot pickles mixed with or next to plain yogurt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vegetarian conversion of Chaucroute Garni

Due to the lack of submissions for the November recipe challenge I posted, I decided to challenge myself to convert one of my favorite meat dishes to something vegetarian. I chose the famous Alsatian slow food peasant dish, Chaucroute Garni, sans meat! Hold on now, we aren’t just going meatless, we are going full flavor vegetarian! Crazy for sure.

The full charcuterie dish with the variety of slow cooked smoked meats and sausages are a favorite flavorful tender way of eating meat. I use to make this once per year for the family. Now the family prefers vegetarian, so I puzzled over how I could experience the wonderful sweet and sour of apples and sauerkraut with other flavors that would satisfy in a way that it was not just a vegetarian dish with the meat missing. Here is what worked best in my opinion.

The base flavor: onions, leeks, sauerkraut, apples and apple juice, cabbage, bay leaf, juniper berries, celery leaves or flat leafed Italian parsley, with some butter added to blend the flavors and mellow the acidity.

The meat: croutons of toasted crusty French baguette slices with stone ground mustard and a flavorful. Swiss/French mountain cheese. I used Raclette and know that Grueyere would also be wonderful. One could stop here for simplicity, and I would, but I didn't this time. I then added smoked potatoes and tea smoked eggs to parallel the smoky variety in the meat dish. Use pheasant eggs if you have access to them, otherwise, chicken eggs. The next round, I'd like to try the addition of cloves of roasted elephant garlic as one of the "meats". I avoided the imitation meats because I don’t really like the texture or taste, but one could try varieties of tofu sausages and slices of field roast or smoked tempeh bacon if they like that sort of thing. You might need to add additional sauerkraut, cabbage and apples to cover the additions.

Prep: slice the onions like apple slices, core and slice the apples like apple slices, thinly slice the cabbage the circle way, (the opposite way than apple slices). Wash the leek well behind the ears, looking for mud in the folds. Slice the white and lighter green parts of the leeks to look like coins. Peel and boil small round potatoes until just cooked, still firm and holding their shape. Use any variety. Organic potatoes tend to be more flavorful. Purple or blue ones would be good for this dish. I used yellow potatoes.

1. Stove top: sauté one large onion and one large leek, in butter and salt and pepper. Add about 2 cups of cabbage and 2 cups of sauerkraut rinsed, 3 or 4 apples sliced (I used a mixed variety), apple juice depending upon how juicy the apples are, I'd say about 1/2 cup, a few of the celery leaf tops, 1 bay leaf, a few juniper berries, a few shakes of course pepper and sea salt. Add a couple tablespoons of butter, then sauté until everything is wilted and somewhat tender. Check the balance of flavors. If it's not sour enough, add a little apple cider vinegar or more kraut. If it's not sweet enough, add more apple juice.  Some recipies add wine – a Riesling, I did not think it was necessary without the meat. If you use this, ajust the balance of sweet and sour flavors accordingly. Celery salt or caraway seed would work well in this dish.

2. Drain the boiled potatoes and sauté for a few minutes in a hot pan with a drizzle of smoked oil (I happen to have a smoked grape seed oil from a vineyard in Washington) add several shakes of smoked paprika just before finishing. One could smoke the potatoes in a smoker but roll in a little oil and smoked spanish paprika first.

3. Brew black tea in a small sauce pan. Add a drizzle, maybe a tablespoonx or two of maple syrup and several shakes of the bottle of some smoked oil. (Next time I am going to buy some Lapsang Souchong smoky tea and do it the Chinese way and you don't need smoked oil, although it the tea flavor could be too earthy and assertive for this dish). Boil the eggs whole. Cool and crack the eggshells a little all over, but don't peel. Return the eggs to the liquid and I added a small amount of soy sauce to make the color darker.
4. Toast slices of chewy French baguette. Cover each side with whole grain mustard, and place sliced cheese between the layers to make a sandwich.

Assembly: If you have individual casseroles, put one egg, one mustard-cheese crouton sandwich, one or two potatoes and cover with the saurkraut vegetable mixture. Cook at medium oven temp of 350 for a minimum of 15 minutes, at least until the cheese is melted. Otherwise, follow the steps to placing ingredients into a larger casserole dish. I want to say this serves 4, but I need to make it again to confirm proportions.

To be extra fancy, serve with a garnish of cornichons or baby dill pickle slices, a dab of whole grain mustard, and a few toasted walnut halves.