Tuesday, March 27, 2007

sushi and ice cream

I was feeling bored, busy, and more than a little bit restless yesterday afternoon, and since everyone was busy working, (most people are busy working on a Monday afternoon,) I decided to get busy in the kitchen and work on a couple of cooking projects. After a mountain of dishes, (I needed to find some room to cook, after all,) I made a simple green lentils and rice, with a somewhat French-inspired dressing -- red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried fines herbes . . . come to think of it, that was the exact same thing I marinaded my portobello cap in yesterday . . . ha! Anyhow, after I finished the lentils and rice, I set to work on dinner:
Since it was 80 degrees in MN yesterday, I wanted something cool and refreshing for dinner. Sushi, believe it or not, is a quick, relatively simple supper, as long as you have all of the ingredients on hand! I made two cucumber and red pepper rolls, and steamed half a bag of edamame, and that was plenty for Dan and I. YUM.

After dinner, Dan and I walked over to Sebastian Joe's for ice cream cones. Dan ordered chai ice cream, I ordered green tea, and we switched halfway through. Yum yum yum yum yum. (I also tried a very unusual sorbet -- orange basil! It was good, but I wasn't sure I could eat an entire cone's worth.)

And that's all for now. I may disappear a little bit over the next week or two, since work will get extra-busy, but I'll be back!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Swedish Fish are evil.

Why? Because I love them so darn much, I can eat nearly an entire package in one sitting, and then feel considerably ill later. Alas.

Anyhow, two meals of note, of late:

Last night, I got home from work around 7, ate some leftover risotto, and got to work on the laundry. And then . . . I watched Oliver pee in Dan's duffel bag. ARGH! So, lots and lots more laundry later, 11:45 rolled around and I hadn't had dinner yet. Conveniently, neither had Dan when he arrived shortly after midnight, so a quick dinner of some whole wheat & potato gnocchi with porcini mushroom tomato sauce and shaved romano cheese, and a delicious side salad were quickly prepared by yours truly. Gnocchi are tasty . . . and an incredible timesaver. Whew!

I finally made myself a portobello mushroom "burger" for lunch today. I cleaned a cap, scooped out the stem and gills, marinaded it in a simple balsamic vinaigrette (balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and dried fines herbes,) broiled it on both sides, topped it with a slice of muenster cheese, and added a toasted bun, some vegenaise, spinach, and sliced tomato to the sandwich party. (Side of Asian pear.) This will definitely be a repeat visitor at my house!

Off to nurse the Swedish Fish-full belly now . . . ugh. (You'd think I'd know better by now!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

kitty, avocado, risotto, waffles, muffins . . .

First, the Oliver update:

I bought a bunch of new toys for Oliver at the pet store the other day, and he is in love with this catnip-filled sock. He totes it around the apartment like a security blanket, and cradles it between his paws while he sniffs and licks at it. Silly cat.

Also, while Oliver has not warmed to Dan yet, he is improving. While he does typically hide most of the time while Dan is here, Oliver has also moved towards sitting somewhat near Dan on the couch, while looking incredibly irritated, meowing in protest, and occasional hissing. I'm starting to wonder whether this is all for show!

AND NOW . . . on to the food!

Teeniest avocado pit I've ever seen:

Last night's dinner: two-mushroom risotto with a balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled over the top. YUM.

This morning's breakfast: homemade waffles (half AP flour, half whole wheat pastry flour,) with peanut butter and real maple syrup, and a side of kumquats. Dan bought these for me to try . . . and I tried them . . . and I don't much care for them. (Yet! I hear they are an acquired taste. Not giving up on the kumquats yet!)

And, last but not least . . . what to do with three nearly-black bananas? Well, make banana-oat muffins, of course!

And that's all, folks. For now, anyhow!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

chana dal

I've been fascinated by chana dal, ever since Dan gave me a big bagful when he moved out of his apartment, and have been looking for ways to use these quick-cooking baby split chickpeas. (Chana dal = tasty hummus, just so you all know!) I had been wanting to make Indian food for a while now, and decided to adapt and vegetize a recipe for "Balti Butter Chicken" that I had made years ago. Curried chana dal, here I come!
Curry never photographs well, does it? Anyhow, I'd call this meal pretty tasty -- not spectacular, but a valiant effort, and absolutely edible. The recipe needs more tweaking, yet -- how to keep the richness I'm looking for, without an entire stick of butter . . . sheesh. I also used fat-free plain yogurt, since I couldn't find low-fat plain yogurt in the little cups, which was a mistake -- I forget that fat-free dairy has a tendency to curdle when heated. (It's been a while since I've really cooked with dairy!) Indian food sure is tricky! On the side is a brown basmati rice pilaf with almonds and raisins, seasoned with butter (again, not much -- and I think this time the reduction was a good thing!), cardamom, black pepper, and bay. In the end, I'll have to keep working on this one . . . and someone can test it for the cookbook, once I get it the way I like it!

Monday, March 12, 2007

cats do the darndest things.

I haven't made any food that is blog-worthy in a while -- I've actually been eating out quite a bit this past week, which is strange for me, but I've had lots of plans with friends that happened during mealtimes. Alas. So, I thought I'd show you a few of the things Oliver has been up to:

Looking for the Tweetle-Bugs, maybe?

"Pay no attention to the kitten behind the laundry basket."

This isn't the greatest picture of him, but I think it's really cute when he tucks his paws up underneath him when he's sitting with me at the desk. Silly cat.

And that's all we have for you, for now!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Miso hungry . . .

. . . so I made miso soup!

I had a lengthy conversation with one of my coworkers about miso soup a while back, and he informed me that, according to his opinion, I don't actually make miso soup -- I make vegetable soup with miso in it. Technicality . . . whatever. Regardless of what you call it, I made soup for lunch! Yum:


I love adding tofu and soba to my miso soup, because then it's more of a whole meal in a bowl. Warm, slightly salty, gingery-garlicky goodness, with a bunch of richness from the miso. Nummy. And really, miso soup isn't miso soup, in my opinion, without mushrooms and greens. (I usually use spinach, but kale works well, too!)

This has been called "miso soup deluxe" before, which I suppose is a more fitting title!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

No-Knead Bread!

The latest buzz at work these days has been about a recipe that originally appeared in the New York Times last fall, and was reprinted in the Star Tribune a few weeks ago. The recipe? No-knead bread. (I would love to read the original article by Mark Bittman sometime . . . but the Times makes you pay for archived articles. Boo!) Anyhow, I finally scrounged up a recipe for the bread, and started working on it yesterday. Here's my version of the process, with accompanying photos:

1. Stir together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat bread flour, 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 5/8 cups warm water, and stir until everything is combined. It will look like a sloppy mess!

2. Cover the dough and let it sit at warm room temperature (I stuck it in my oven so the pilot light could keep it just a little bit warmer,) for 12 to 24 hours. (I went about 13 hours on this first rise.) It will look like an even bigger mess now:

3. Flour your work surface well and turn your dough out onto the surface. (I found using a silicone spatula to help the dough along during this process was indispensable.) Fold the dough over once or twice, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Still messy:

4. Shape the dough into a ball, using enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the board, (I ended up using almost a cup of flour during this process,) and transfer this ball to a very well-floured dishtowel or Silpat. Flour the top of the dough, and cover it with another dishtowel or a piece of plastic wrap. Looking less messy now:

5. After about an hour and a half, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Farenheight, and stick a large (4 to 6 quart, although I used a 3 1/2 quart All-Clad casserole) pot or Dutch oven (ungreased) in the oven, so it can get nice and hot, too. Wait at least another half an hour, and up to an hour and a half, until your dough has doubled in size. (My dough got flatter and much, much bigger -- see?)

6. Take the pot out of the oven and use the towel or Silpat to flop the dough into the pan. (I thought ahead and used a pastry brush to remove most of the excess flour from the towel and the top of the dough before floppping, to prevent a huge, messy cloud I'd later have to clean up. It worked wonderfully!) Give the pan a shake or two to evenly distribute the dough:

7. Cover and bake the bread for 30 minutes. Then take the lid off:

8. Bake 15 to 30 minutes longer, until the bread is lovely and browned. Turn your bread out onto a wire rack. (It will just fall right out of the pan . . . it's truly amazing! Resist the temptation to grease the pan!)

9. Cool on a wire rack, then enjoy.

Other than having to time your bread process somewhat, this was nearly effortless, and produced the best loaf of homemade bread I've ever made. Light, chewy, airy, delicious. Make some and tell me how yours turns out!

Friday, March 02, 2007

"She's a maniac, maniac . . . "

. . . in the kitchen, that is!

Must tell you about my day first:

After a lengthy phone conversation with Chelsea this morning, (she was going to head on down with the girls and we were going to hang out today, but because of our recent blizzard and subsequent crummy road conditions, she decided to keep them home and safe,) Ann and I decided to take the bus Uptown and have lunch at Lucia's bakery. I had heard rumors about Lucia's . . . wonderful, wonderful rumors. I was not in the least bit disappointed. I had a carrot-ginger soup, a popover, and a salad of arugula, some kind of blue cheese, thinly sliced pear, sunflower seeds, and a delicious sort of vinaigrette. The soup was incredible -- perfectly balanced, not overly anything, just perfectly sweet-gingery-smooth-creamy deliciousness. The popover . . . well, it's a popover. Eggy, fluffy, crispy-on-the-outside heaven. And the salad . . . again, perfectly balanced. I was in food snob heaven. :)

After lunch, Ann and I headed over to my work so I could pick up a few key ingredients for this evening's cooking projects, and then hit the Wedge for some additional ingredients. (P.S. the Wedge has started carrying Laptop Lunchboxes! Many months ago, I contacted the ladies at LL and suggested they contact the Wedge as a potential retailer . . . who knows whether it was me that made it happen or not, but it's awesome that the Wedge now has the full lineup of lunchbox fabulousness!)

Then I came home, put away all of the groceries, cleaned up the kitchen, and began to cook.


I made chai from scratch, using a recipe from Cooking Light magazine, which I altered slightly. I've made chai before, and it's always a bit of a hassle, but it tastes so incredible, it's always worth it. I always make a fairly large batch, because it is such a hassle, and well, it's just as easy to make two servings as it is to make four!
Combine, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes:
3 cups water
14 cardamom pods, crushed
12 whole cloves
8 peppercorns
1 3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, broken up a bit
1 2-inch piece vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 star anise
1 bay leaf
6 whole allspice
(look how pretty:)
Then, add:
2 cups plain soy milk
2 tablespoons loose black tea
Continue to simmer your chai for 4 to 5 minutes.
Whisk in:
1/2 cup honey (or agave)
Strain through a cheesecloth lined mesh strainer, and you get:
Mmmmmmm. Perfect mid-afternoon snack.


I decided to use some of the ultra high-quality Valrohna chocolate I bought and make vegan chocolate pudding pops. I can't remember which fellow blogger I got this chocolate pudding recipe from, but it's INCREDIBLE! I've never tried freezing it before, so we'll see. (I got the popsicle mold for free from Ann's sister Katie. Thanks, Katie!)
puree until incredibly smooth:
12 ounces firm Mori-Nu, obvious water drained off
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, melted
pour into a serving dish and chill, or popsicle molds and freeze. So cute:
(*** UPDATE . . . Best. Fudge. Pop. EVER. Make these! ***)


I also made lentil soup. This soup recipe is based on Isa's French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Post Punk Kitchen, but with several of my own modifications.
Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a 6-quart soup or stock pot.
"chop and drop:"
1 cup carrot, scrubbed
1 cup celery
1 cup onion
1 cup white button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic
Saute the above for about five minutes, or until soft.
Add and bring everything to a boil:
30 ounces diced tomatoes with liquid
6 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
several cranks of black pepper
2 cups French green lentils, rinsed,
then lower the heat, cover the soup, and let it simmer for 45 minutes.
Little soup soldiers, all queued up for the freezer:


The real reason I bought the Valrohna chocolate (and, well, Valrohna cocoa powder for that matter,) from work was to make these brownies. They were also from Cooking Light, and I'm not as impressed with these. Don't get me wrong -- they are an incredible, deeply chocolate, fudgy yummy pan of tastyness. They just don't taste "spicy" enough for something called "Chai Latte Brownies." I'll have to perhaps bulk up the spices next time, and then I'll post the recipe for all to see. Picture, regardless:


And last, but not least, a non food photo. Dan bought me a plant!


Stay tuned . . . because I'm in the middle of working on no-knead bread. SO EXCITED!!!!!!