Friday, July 30, 2010

Cilantro Macadamia Pesto

After enjoying the Chestnut Spinach Pesto on Monday evening, I was once again craving pesto with vegetables and pasta. I seem to buy a bunch of cilantro every week when I'm grocery shopping, whether I have it planned for a dish or not. I love cilantro, the flavor is so bright, fresh and almost spicey. However, I know cilantro tends to be either loved, or hated. There's not much in between.
My husband falls closer to the hate side of the cilantro gap, so I'm always hesitant to make dishes where he can't pick it out. However, I find that cilantro pesto, though packed with cilantro, doesn't have the same flavor as a dish with copious amounts of minced cilantro. Maybe it's just in my head though? 
For this pesto, I figured since I was going to throw cilantro in JJ's face, I'd at least use the Macadamias from Oh! Nuts to appease his Macadamia-loving self. This pesto was so delicious, so easy, and the perfect no-cook, no-heat sauce for summer! 

Cilantro Macadamia Pesto

2 bunches of cilantro, about 2 c. packed
2 tbsp. Romano cheese
1/4 c. Macadamia nuts
2 small cloves of garlic or 1 large
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
Water, for thinning

Rinse off cilantro bunches and tear off the top leaves, some stems are ok.
Place in the food processor and let it run until cilantro is minced.
Add Romano, Macadamias, garlic, lemon juice, and EVOO.
Pulse to chop ingredients, then let it run for 10-20 seconds.
Taste and season with salt and pepper, add 2 tbsp. water.
Let it run again, add water if necessary to thin.
Taste again and season.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pumpkin-Mango Casserole with Macadamia Crumble

Along with the Chestnuts, I received a pound of raw Macadamia nuts from Oh! Nuts. I chose these because they're my husband's favorite nut, and I thought he'd appreciate a few dinners featuring them. If you saw my post from last week, you know I am now the proud owner of a freezer full of pumpkin puree, courtesy of my green thumb (and yes, that is dripping with sarcasm... the pumpkins are pretty much the only garden success I've had). 
Mangoes were $.50/each this week, and go naturally with Macadamia nuts, so I thought a Thanksgiving-esque casserole with a crunchy Macadamia crust sounded great. We ate this casserole with dinner, but it could easily be a delicious breakfast! It's a bit eclectic, but suited our tastes.

Pumpkin-Mango Casserole with Macadamia Crumble

2 c. pumpkin puree
1 mango, peeled, pitted and finely diced
1 egg white
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. roughly chopped raw Macadamia nuts
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400*
In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg white to a froth.
Add pumpkin, mango, cinnamon, salt and brown sugar.
Gently whisk to combine.
Spray a casserole dish with nonstick spray (I used 2 small ramekins for individual servings).
Add the pumpkin mixture.
In a small dish, toss crumble ingredients together.
Sprinkle over pumpkin mixture in casserole dish.
Place in the oven, bake for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly and crumble has browned.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spinach and Chestnut Pesto

Last week Oh! Nuts graciously sent me some nuts to review on my blog. As I was browsing the website, I saw they carry chestnuts. I absolutely love chestnuts, and have done my fair share of roasting them at home. Though they taste amazing fresh roasted, it's so nice to get them peeled. I decided to select them, and then try to figure out a recipe to use them in later on. 
Most often, they're found in Christmas-y or fall like recipes, so I had to do a bit of brainstorming. I was in the mood for a big bowl of pasta with loads of vegetables, so pesto seemed like the obvious choice. Since the chestnuts have a delicate flavor, I didn't want to overpower them with a strong tasting green, enter spinach! This pesto was delicious, almost creamy, and the chestnut flavor was present, but not overpowered or overpowering.

Spinach and Chestnut Pesto

4 cups packed baby spinach leaves
5 oz. roasted, peeled chestnuts
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 tbsp. Romano cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and fresh black pepper

Add spinach to a food processor, pulse to chop well, about 15-20 times.
Add chestnuts, garlic clove and romano cheese, pulse to chop, about 15-20 times.
Add lemon juice, EVOO, salt and pepper, run the food processor for 30 seconds.
Season with salt and pepper, pulse a few times, taste and adjust seasonings.
Add more EVOO to reach desired consistency. 
(I like my pesto very thick, tossed with pasta and a bit of reserved pasta water)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mediterranean Veggie Flatbread Pizza

Thursday night tends to be pizza night in our home. It used to be Friday, but now I find myself so tired from the week that Friday is generally eat out night. Every week when I'm working on the menu, I ask JJ what kind of pizza he wants. Sometimes he'll answer, but he's constantly challenging me to create something new. I've had a few great successes with this, including these pizzas: Chicken Mole Pizza, Caribbean Jerk Chicken Pizza, and Grilled Zucchini, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Pizza
I tend to struggle with creating vegetarian pizzas because they're always lacking protein. I've made Greek or Mediterranean pizzas before, but they had prosciutto. So for this pizza, I had an idea to use hummus as the sauce, and then top it with vegetables. However, I didn't want to cook the hummus, so I decided to cook the crust, top it with hummus, vegetables and cheese, and then broil it. This method worked exactly as I had hoped! It would also make for a delicious grilled pizza, if you desire! 
Note: I pre-cook my zucchini, but not all other vegetables. If you don't mind your zucchini on the raw side, you can just add them at the end. 

Mediterranean Veggie Flatbread Pizza

1 pizza crust (recipe below)
1 batch of hummus (recipe below)
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 15 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts
2 roasted red peppers, sliced
2 slices red onion
1/4 cup halved olives
1/2 c. crumbled feta
1 tbsp. pizza or Mediterranean seasonings
(my pizza seasoning has fennel seed, crushed fennel, red pepper flakes, rubbed sage, salt, pepper and oregano)

Whole Wheat Mix pizza crust (makes 2, 10" crusts):
1 packet fast acting yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. EVOO

In a standing mixer with the dough hook on, add water, honey and yeast, stir to combine, set aside for 5 minutes, until yeast froths.
Add 1 c. whole wheat flour, salt, EVOO and AP flour to mixer. 
Turn on low and begin to mix. 
Add more whole wheat flour as necessary if dough is too sticky, alternately add water if it's too dry. 
Knead on medium-low speed for 5 minutes, set aside to proof.
Punch down, divide in half. 
If only using 1 crust, the other can be wrapped loosely in plastic (it will continue to rise), put in a freezer bag, and frozen.
Roll or stretch out pizza crust over parchment, set aside. 

Original Hummus

15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained (or 2 c. cooked)
2 tbsp. well-stirred tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. EVOO

Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, salt and EVOO to a food processor.
Process until very smooth, adding water, tahini or EVOO to thin, about 5 minutes.
Refrigerate until using.

Preheat oven to 425*
Slice zucchini, spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, add zucchini, season with salt and pepper. 
Place in the oven.
Place pizza pan/baking sheet in oven.
Roll crust out on parchment, pierce the center a few times with a fork.
Drizzle with 1 tsp. EVOO.
Place crust, on parchment, on pizza pan.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown and crusty on bottom.
Remove pizza pan with crust as well as zucchini from the oven.
Turn oven off, and broiler on high.
Slather with hummus, top with vegetables, cheese and sprinkle with seasoning.
Place under the boiler for 2-4 minutes, until cheese is melty and vegetables are hot.

Friday, July 23, 2010

General Tso Tofu

Last weekend, I had to get to the top shelf of my pantry for a bag of coffee, and found the remains of a chili pepper pack I was sent by Marx Foods. I had ground up the chipotles, ancho and New Mexico chilies for various dishes. However, I still had the Japones chilies to use. I read that they're best in spicy Asian dishes, so General Tso's Chicken came to mind (my husband's favorite Asian dish). I decided to compromise our taste, and make General Tso's Tofu, using both the Tofu Xpress and Chilie peppers. 
I looked up a few recipes to get a general idea, but ended up just winging it when I made the dish. I served it with wheat berries because I had some prepared in the freezer, and it was much less effort than making brown rice. I also just steamed some mixed vegetables on the side.
This dish was very spicy and flavorful, and only took about 15 minutes to prepare! 

General Tso's Tofu

1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed in 1" pieces
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 c. prepared brown rice or farro/wheat berries
1 head of broccoli, cut in florets
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 lb. snow peas, trimmed
1 15 oz. can of baby corn in segments

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 scallion, minced
1/4 c. tamari
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sherry
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. sriracha
1 heaping tsp. cornstarch.
10 Japones chilies

Place tofu in a press, set aside for 5 minutes.
Heat up rice, place in bowl.
Place vegetables in a steamer over 1" of water, bring to a boil and steam vegetables for 5-8 minutes, until tender but not mushy.
In a small dish, whisk together all sauce ingredients except chilies.
Heat a wok over medium-high.
Add 1 tsp. sesame oil and tofu, toss to sear the outside. 
Whisk sauce mixture again (make sure to get cornstarch if it settles to the bottom), pour over tofu, toss in chilies.
Use a spatula to gently mix tofu and sauce, bring to a simmer and turn to low heat.
Simmer for 2 minutes, until mixture is translucent and no longer milky.
Spoon vegetables into bowl, spoon tofu and sauce mixture over top.
Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Buffalo Blue Tofu Sandwiches Tofu Xpress Review

Last week while I was menu planning, my husband asked if we could have some sort of buffalo chicken, but not necessarily chicken. He liked the buffalo chickpea patties I made, but I wanted to try something new. Around that time, Tofu Xpress offered to send me a tofu press for review. 
I've been pressing my tofu for years, using a tea towel and full tea kettle method. I often had water spillage in the fridge or the counter because of that method, so I was excited to try this new product! 
I usually buy extra firm tofu, but decided to buy firm to see if the press would really get the water out. The tofu was pressed about as well as my former method, it was about half the size in the end. The water in the tofu was kept neatly in the compartment above the tofu. The machine was very simple to use, and easy to clean. I would definitely recommend purchasing this if you eat tofu often. However, the other press method works as well, it just leaves you with occasional water spillage and a dirty towel.

For the tofu, I pressed it for 10 minutes, sliced and marinated it, then baked it. In the end, I broiled blue cheese on top, and layered it in toasted bread. I considered adding other sandwich elements, like lettuce, tomato and onion, but I wanted to buffalo and blue cheese flavors to come through. I think this was a tofu success with the husband, who isn't really a fan. We both agreed the tofu tasted like a fried egg sandwich, and was a great substitute for chicken.

Buffalo Blue Tofu Sandwiches

1 block of firm tofu, pressed
1 cup Buffalo sauce
2 oz. blue cheese crumbles
4 slices sandwich bread, toasted

Press tofu for 10 minutes to remove water.
Slice into 12 pieces, add to a bowl and toss with buffalo sauce.
Marinate for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400*
Line a baking sheet with foil, add tofu.
Bake for 12 minutes, flip and bake for another 5 minutes.
Top with blue cheese crumbles, broil for 1-2 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Layer on sandwich bread and serve.

Thanks to Tofu Xpress for allowing me to try out their product! I will be using it often (another recipe to come tomorrow!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vegetables Bourguignon

I've never been a fan of beef dishes, but there are a few I would eat. My mom is a bit strange in her eating habits. She eats no poultry or fish, but loves beef and shellfish. Because of this, there was a lot of ground beef recipes growing up, and occasionally she'd treat us with beef stew, beef bourguignon, or rouladen. I vividly remember picking out the potatoes and other vegetables in those dishes, and leaving the meat behind. So for me, these dishes can still be made often with the meat either left out, or beans used instead.
 A few months ago, I dreamed up cannelini beans bourguignon, which was delicious! This time though, I wanted the dish to really focus on the vegetables, and leave out all meat. I used whole cremini mushrooms to get a meaty quality, and kept the remaining vegetables true to standard recipes. I think the addition of some peas or haricots verts would be wonderful though, and might try it again. Also, I've served this over noodles, mashed potatoes, but polenta would also be a great foundation. Basically, you can't go wrong when concocting a dish with a red-wine based sauce! And the best part - traditional beef bourguignon takes hours to prepare. This dish took me about 30 minutes, start to finish! 

Vegetables Bourguignon

1 tsp. EVOO
1 small yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. small cremini mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4" rounds
2 oz. tomato paste
2 tbsp. Brandy
1 cup dry red wine (I used pinot noir)
1 cup vegetable stock
3-4 thyme sprigs
1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Parsley, chopped, for garnish
1 cup frozen pearl onions
6 oz. whole wheat pasta, or prepared polenta, mashed potatoes, etc.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt, add pasta, cook to al dente.
Drain, set aside.
Heat a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
Add EVOO, grate in onion, stir to combine.
Add garlic, mushrooms and carrots, continue to stir and cook for 5-10 minutes, until mushrooms have softened and let out most of their water.
Add tomato paste, brandy and wine, stir well.
Bring to a simmer, reduce wine by half, add stock, rosemary and thyme.
Bring to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for 15 minutes, until carrots are tender.
Add frozen onions, heat through.
Taste, adjust seasonings, remove thyme stems, serve over noodles.
Sprinkle with parsley.
*Note: This recipe is vegan, as written, but a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or grated gruyere is a fantastic addition.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marsala Pasta with Mushrooms and Artichokes

Chicken Marsala was one of my favorite dishes for a long time. After going back to vegetarian a few months ago, I found myself craving it. Not for the chicken though, for the marsala sauce. I do think the pancetta adds immense flavor to the sauce, so I wasn't sure I could make a pasta marsala sauce that would taste as good. 
I also was concerned that a pasta dish with just mushrooms would seem to be missing something. I was searching on Food Network's website and found this Giada recipe. Adding artichokes was a genius move, in my opinion. They add a new texture, flavor, and meaty quality to the dish. I did think the absence of pancetta was noticable, but with the addition of a little more parmesan I thought the dish was great. 
It can easily be altered to add any protein, such as chicken, pork, turkey meatballs or for vegetarians, cannelini beans or tempeh strips. 

Marsala Pasta with Mushrooms and Artichokes
adapted from Giada Laurentiis

1 tbsp. EVOO
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
2/3 c. dry Marsala wine
6 oz. whole wheat pasta (I used Barilla whole wheat shells)
1 15 oz. can quartered artichokes, drained well
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (3/4 sprigs)
2 tbsp. half and half
1/2 c. grated Parmesan, separated

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt, add pasta and cook to al dente.
Drain and set aside.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat.
Add EVOO, onion, garlic and mushrooms.
Saute for 5-8 minutes, until mushrooms have sweat out liquid and begin to caramelize.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add Marsala, simmer and reduce by half. 
Add artichokes, thyme, and half and half.
Stir well to combine, add cooked pasta and half the cheese, stir well.
Bring to temperature, plate and serve with remaining grated parmesan.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Symon Sundays: Confit Duck with Pickled Cherry Sauce

This week's Symon Sundays selection was from Joanne at Eats Well with Others
There is a whole chapter in the book devoted to pickling, which makes me so happy. I love pickles and all things vinegary! The idea of a sweet cherry with the vinegar and spices was genius! I am so glad Joanne chose this now, when cherries are at their peak of flavor and availability (and lowest prices).

I made my cherries about two weeks ago, and left them in a jar in the fridge. I knew I wasn't going to make duck, so I had to try to figure out how to modify this week's selection. As I read Chef Symon's explanation of the cherries, he mentioned they pair well with blue cheese. I instantly thought some toasted bruchetta with a crumble of Maytag blue cheese, some chopped pickled cherries and fresh rosemary would be the perfect appetizer!

Both Joanne and Natashya chose to pair their cherries with Five-Spice Chinese Chicken, which also is a phenomenal idea. Please check out Joanne's blog for the recipe and her interpretation of the dish!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Roasted Corn and Poblano Polenta

Yes, another fresh corn recipe! I just can't get enough of this local, sweet, fresh corn at rock-bottom prices. I probably need an intervention because after cutting off the kernels, I have an intense desire to suck on the cobs. Too much information? Ok, let's move on...
I saw this recipe on Elly Says Opa! a couple months ago, and thought it sounded fantastic. I've been on a polenta kick lately, and JJ is always up for anything with poblanos. Elly served hers with spice rubbed shrimp, so I had to find something else to serve it with. I decided some simple garlicky black beans and roasted squash would round out the meal, keeping it healthy and vegan (I made some subs in the polenta). 

Roasted Corn and Poblano Polenta
adapted from Elly Says Opa!

2 small poblano peppers
1 ears of corn, shucked
1 tsp. EVOO
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 c. vegetable stock
1/2 c. polenta
1/4 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper

Preheat broiler to high, place poblanos just under broiler and char skin, turning as necessary.
When all sides of peppers are blackened, remove and place in a tupperware container with a lid.
Set aside.
Heat oven to 400*
Place corn on a baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO, salt and pepper.
Roast for 10 minutes.
In a skillet, heat 1 tsp. EVOO over medium heat.
Add onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, sauté for 5 minutes.
Stir in vegetable stock and paprika, bring to a simmer.
Whisk in polenta, turn to low and stir every few minutes.
Cook according to package directions for length.
While polenta cooks, skin peppers and cut corn off cob.
Add poblanos and corn to polenta mixture just before serving.
Garnish with cilantro.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mango Slaw

I've proclaimed my love for Smitten Kitchen and her countless slaw recipes before, but I think this one takes the cake. I can't get enough mango lately, so this recipe was perfect for me. As I've said, my husband is not exactly a slaw hater, but pretty close. Because this slaw had cashews, mango, and used Napa Cabbage, he was less reluctant to eat a sizable bowl for dinner. 
I tried to find harder mangoes at the store, but as luck would have it, they were all pretty ripe. I wasn't able to shred or slice it too thinly without it disintegrating, so my slaw was a little chunkier than SK's. I will definitely be making this, or versions of it in the future. I have visions of adding shredded carrot, a bit of cilantro, some shredded snow peas, and even Macadamia nuts rather than cashews. The possibilities are endless for this perfect-for-summer mayo-free slaw! 

Mango Slaw with Cashews and Mint

2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
1 1/4 lbs. Napa cabbage, halved and sliced thin
1 red pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. sliced mint leaves
1/4 c. toasted cashews, coarsely chopped (I left a few whole for garnish)

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, vinegar, oil, salt and red pepper flakes.
Add mangoes, cabbage, pepper and onion to the bowl, toss to coat.
Refrigerate for an hour, before serving toss with mint and cashews.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Made from Scratch S'Mores (Graham Crackers and Marshmallows)

For our 2nd anniversary last December, my in-laws gave JJ and I a standing fire pit. I was thrilled for two reasons. First, because JJ wanted to dig a hole in the ground and make that a fire pit... which sounded a little unsafe and not exactly aesthetically pleasing. And second, I love sitting around the fire and cooking things... or just throwing random things in the fire to watch it burn (don't we all?). We hadn't had an opportunity to use it until my birthday party, so I have been trying to find another reason since then. With John and Vickie visiting, I knew we'd have to light it up. 
Vickie is a big s'mores lover, so I instantly thought sitting around the fire pit on the 4th of July with s'mores would be perfect. And it was. 
Last summer, I mentioned to Vickie that she should try using Peeps in her s'mores, which she did and loved. So I figured I'd have to up the ante with my s'mores. I decided to not only make homemade marshmallows, but also make homemade graham crackers. 
I have to admit I'm a huge geek about things like cooking and gardening and the likes. To see plants sprout and grow to 6 feet from a tiny seed just amazes me. To see a bunch of random ingredients come together and create a dish (especially baked goods) also amazes me. Every time I make marshmallows, it's like magic! I first made them a couple years ago when I participated in Tuesdays with Dorie, so that's my go-to recipe.
For the graham crackers, I used this recipe on 101 Cookbooks. It was very simple, and spot on graham cracker. I used a pizza cutter and haphazardly sliced mine, but a pastry cutter would make them look especially pretty, or a square cookie cutter.
For the chocolate, I settled on the classic Hershey's Bar. Since it's about a hundred million degrees in Florida, the bar was already really soft and pliable so the chocolate melted quickly. 

I have to say these are probably the best s'mores I've ever had. The homemade marshmallows were so gooey that you just had to stick them in the fire and char the outside rather than hold it over a low flame and rotate for 5 minutes to get the perfect s'more marshmallow. The graham crackers were crisp, but still buttery and moist. And in true Florida fashion, boy scout JJ went into the woods behind our house and picked some palm tree branches to use as skewers.
I guess summer in Florida isn't too bad! 

Made from Scratch S'mores!

Marshmallows, from Dorie Greenspan:
About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet -- choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high -- with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.
Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup -- without stirring -- until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)
Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy -- don't overbeat them and have them go dull.
As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.
Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won't fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).
Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They'll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.
Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you'll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you'd like -- into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they're cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you've got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.
SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table -- it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.
STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don't cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week -- they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they'll still be very good.

Graham Crackers adapted from Nancy Silverton:
2 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour 
1 c. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut in small cubes, frozen
1/3 c. clover honey
5 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor with the blade, pulse flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt to mix.
Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is like a coarse meal.
In a small dish, whisk honey, milk and vanilla.
Add to the flour mixture and pulse until dough comes together (it will be soft and sticky).
Turn onto a lightly flour surface and pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2+ hours.

Preheat oven to 350*
Flour a work surface, divide the dough in half and roll to 1/8-1/4" thick.
Use a pizza cutter or pastry cutter and slice into squares (or any desired shape).
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
Continue rolling and slicing dough to fill baking sheet.
Gather all scraps and place back in the refrigerator.
Make a small line down the center of each cracker, pierce the sides with a fork.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until browned and crisp, cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Work all scraps back into a ball, re roll and slice, transfer to cooled baking sheets and bake second batch, if necessary, follow cooling instructions from first batch.

Leave graham crackers on cooling racks to harden, then store in a plastic bag. Humidity will soften them, so let them sit out uncovered to crisp back up, if necessary (in Florida, it was necessary!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lemon Scented Pull Apart Coffee Cake

I knew I wanted to make a delicious coffee cake for brunch while our company was here, so I began browsing blogs. I found a blog that I'd never read before, 17 and Baking. Now I began baking from scratch when I was around 18, but I was nowhere near as skilled as Elissa! Not only does she bake very technical pastry, she takes beautiful photographs and is a skilled writer. I practically scrolled through her entire blog in a trance, starring many recipes to make in the future. 
When I saw this Lemon Scented Pull Apart Coffee Cake, I was intrigued. It's very clean and fresh in flavor, and though it looks impressive, it's fairly simple to make. There aren't many ingredients and the finished product is really fun! 
I followed the directions exactly up until the very end when it came time to make the icing. I was being extremely lazy, and decided to whisk the ingredients in a bowl with a fork rather than use a mixer. It's evident by the tiny bits of cream cheese that didn't whip in the icing. Looking back, I'm mad at myself for not taking the extra few minutes to finish the coffee cake correctly, but I had a quiche in the oven and a few other things I was working on. I know I'll make this again (maybe with a different fruit, add some nuts, etc.) so I'll be sure to make it right. 

Lemon Scented Pull Apart Coffee Cake

2 3/4 c. AP Flour (12 1/4 oz)
1/4 c. granulated sugar (1 3/4 oz)
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast (1 envelope)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. whole milke
2 oz. unsalted butter
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature

Lemon Sugar Filling:
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. finely grated orange zest
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted

Cream Cheese Icing:
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice

To make dough:
Mix two cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a spatula.
In a small saucepan combine milk and butter, heat until butter is just melted. 
Add the water, and let it cool until just warm (120-130*), add vanilla extract.
Pour the milk and butter into the flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the flour is moistened, beat in eggs one at a time.
Stop the mixer, add the remaining flour and resume mixing until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes.
Dust a work surface with flour, dump out dough and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour as necessary, 1-2 tbsp. at a time.
Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic and let it rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Make lemon sugar filling:
Mix the sugar, lemon zest and orange zest with a fork, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350*, grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

Deflate the dough, flour a large work surface. Roll the dough to a 20x12 rectangle and smear with 2 tbsp. softened butter. (I rolled mine on a silpat with a ruler on the edges to make sure it was the correct size)
Use a pizza cutter and cut the dough crosswise into 5 strips, 12x4 each.
Sprinkle lemon sugar over the first rectangle, top it with the second, sprinkle with more sugar, and continue until all 5 strips are stacked and layered with sugar.
Slice this stack crosswise through all 5 layers, creating 5 equal rectangles. 
Transfer the strips into the loaf pan, cut edges up.
Cover with plastic wrap and rise for 30 minutes.
Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. 
Transfer to a wire rack, cool for 15 minutes.

Make icing: Beat cream cheese in a small bowl, add sugar, milk and lemon juice, beat until creamy and smooth.

Turn loaf out onto a serving dish, smear with icing and serve warm.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mango Chutney and an Easy Indian Dinner

Last week we had friends from Indiana come visit for the long July 4th weekend. We often went to ethnic restaurants, and enjoyed the diversified food served in Bloomington. So naturally I decided to cook something with a little ethnic flair. I had been craving Indian food, and rarely make it at home, so took this opportunity to create an Indian dinner. Though I've made naan from scratch, it's a bit of work and I didn't want to spend hours in the kitchen while they were here. I found two varieties at Whole Foods, whole wheat and garlic and herb. 
I have noticed that when you grill, everyone seems to congregate around the grill, so you can cook but not be anti-social in the kitchen. I figured I'd have JJ and John man the grill outside while I did a bit of prep inside. I made tofu and chicken with a simple curry rub. Then I skewered some veggies for the grill as well (and made extra to put in a quiche for the next morning), and made a curry sauce (coconut milk, curry paste and lime juice) and the mango chutney. I also served plain Greek yogurt as a third condiment. 

I used to buy Mango Chutney from Trader Joe's, but now I'm so far from TJ's! I looked at a few jars at Whole Foods and Publix, but they were running $6-10, which is pretty expensive for a simple condiment. It finally hit me, why don't I just make it? Mangoes are in season and on sale right now, and since the rest of dinner was pretty low-key, making mango chutney was no sweat. 
I looked up a few recipes and found Alton Brown's was highly recommended. My only issue was it made massive quantities, and I only wanted a cup or two. I scaled it back quite a bit, and I also omitted the raisins because Vickie doesn't like them. This chutney was fantastic! I definitely would make the full amount next time and freeze small portions or jar it for future use.

Mango Chutney
adapted from Alton Brown

2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 tsp. EVOO
1/2 tsp. red chile flakes
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 red bell pepper, minced
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Kosher salt and white pepper

Add EVOO to a small stock pot over medium heat.
Add mango, chile flakes, onion and bell pepper. 
Sauté' for about 10 minutes, until softened and beginning to caramelize.
Add ginger, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper, stir well to combine (if using raisins, add here).
Turn heat to low, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat, serve at room temperature or refrigerate until using.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spicy Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry

The last time I was at PF Changs prior to going vegetarian again, I had the Chicken and Eggplant, which is ground chicken and eggplant stir-fried in a scallion and soy chili sauce. I absolutely loved the dish, it was spicy and flavorful, and had eggplant, one of my favorite vegetables. I haven't been back and asked if I could sub tofu for the chicken, but I did decide to try making it at home. I created a soy chili sauce that I thought was very, very close to PF Changs version. I also served this over rice noodles rather than brown rice because I hate how long it takes to cook rice, and I love noodles! 
Also, PF Changs eggplant is all peeled, I leave mine in stripes because I like a little skin, but too much makes the dish chewy.

Spicy Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry

2 tsp. sesame oil
1 large eggplant, slightly peeled and diced in 1" chunks (about 2 lbs.)
Kosher salt
1/4 c. tamari or dark, rich soy sauce
1/4 c. vegetable stock
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sherry 
1 tbsp. sriracha
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
4 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 block of firm tofu, pressed and crumbled
4 oz. rice noodles, prepared
Scallions, for garnish

Heat a wok over medium, add sesame oil and eggplant, season with salt and stir fry for 5 minutes, until caramelized and slightly softened.
In a small dish, whisk together soy sauce, vegetable stock, sherry, sriracha, sugar, pepper, scallion, garlic and cornstarch.
Pour over eggplant, turn heat to low.
Mix eggplant with sauce, bring to a low simmer.
Add crumbled tofu, stir to incorporate.
Simmer mixture for another 5-8 minutes, until eggplant is tender.
If mixture gets too dry, add another splash of vegetable stock or soy sauce (in equal parts).
Place rice noodles in a dish, top with eggplant-tofu mixture, garnish with scallions and serve.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Roasted Fennel, Beet and Pepper Farro Salad

I've had a pretty full bag of wheat berries in my pantry for a while now because I haven't had a thing to do with them. They're not something you can cook up quickly for a weeknight dinner. Last weekend, I decided to cook a big batch and freeze smaller batches so they're ready for an easy weeknight salad. As I was searching for recipes, I discovered that wheat berries are also interchangeable with farro. The wheat berry is the whole wheat kernel, so it takes a bit longer to cook. The revelation led to a whole new world of recipes! 
When I read through my June/July Eating Well magazine, I found this recipe for roasted fennel and farro salad. I've tried to like fennel, but I'm not a licorice fan, and it's the dominant flavor. I thought if I roasted it and added a few more vegetables and flavors, I might like it...and I was right! I actually really enjoyed the sweetness the fennel added, and this whole salad just screams healthy and hearty. It wasn't favorable heating the oven up to 400* to roast the veggies when it's close to one hundred degrees outside, but I was able to find a few other things to add to the oven so I won't need to turn the oven on for another few days. 
I kept close to the original recipe, adding beets for more color and flavor, feta because everything's better with cheese, onions and garlic, for a bit more flavor. 

Roasted Fennel, Beet and Pepper Farro Salad

2 c. farro or wheat berries, prepared (about 2/3 c. dried)
1 large bulb of fennel, trimmed and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
3 medium beets, peeled and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped kalamata olives
1/4 c. crumbled feta

Heat oven to 425*
Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
Add fennel, peppers, onions and garlic to baking sheet, toss with 1 tbsp. EVOO, salt and pepper, move to one side of the baking sheet.
Add beets to the other side, toss with 1 tbsp. EVOO, salt and pepper (I kept beets separate so they wouldn't stain the other vegetables).
Roast for 35-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender and caramelized.
Add vinegar and thyme to a serving bowl, toss with farro.
Add vegetables and olives, toss to combine.
Top with feta and serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shells with Zucchini Pistou

About a week ago, JJ told me I needed to make some pesto because my basil pot is growing out of control. I then flipped through my newest Cooking Light issue, and found this recipe for Penne with Zucchini Pistou. I also had a fridge full of zucchini as they were dirt cheap at the Farmer's Market last weekend. Again, another reason I love cooking magazines - they are seasonal and feature recipes that showcase the season's best produce. 
This dish is very simple, few ingredients, and quick to make. I served JJ's with chicken sausage, and mine with Italian Herb tofu for a complete meal. I subbed in shells because I think they're best at trapping pesto sauce, but you can use any short cut of pasta.

Penne with Zucchini Pistou
slightly adapted from Cooking Light July 2010

4 tsp. EVOO, divided
1 lb. small zucchini, sliced
2 c. packed basil leaves
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. pine nuts or walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta
2 tbsp. half and half
Crushed red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and drop in pasta, cook to al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid.
Drain and place back in pot.
Heat 1 tsp. EVOO over medium heat, add zucchini and onions, sauté for 5 minutes, until tender and slightly golden.
Add basil, garlic, pine nuts, half of the Parmesan cheese and 3 tsp. EVOO to a food processor, run until smooth, adding pasta water to thin if necessary. 
Add zucchini, onions, cream and pesto to pasta pot, toss to distribute pesto.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Plate and serve with extra Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes.