Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cold weather solutions, one pot at a time.

Despite predictions of a stormy, gloomy, perhaps even snowy weekend in the Bay Area, I awoke to blue skies. It was admittedly chilly, though. I've been on a cooking roll lately, but I haven't been much for soup until today. Soup is the kind of thing I usually throw together sans recipe, so every time it's a little bit different. Here's what I made today.

Leek, kale, and white bean soup for a cold winter's night
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped (I like to slice the stalks lengthwise into quarters, then chop into 1/4" pieces)
  • 3+ cloves of garlic, crushed and minced (I think I had 7-8, but they were small)
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 red potatoes, diced about 1" (bite-size)
  • 1 can cannellini, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped small
  • salt and pepper to taste -- I love black pepper in this kind of soup
In a large heavy pot, saute the leeks in olive oil on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the leeks are starting to cook down. Then add the carrots and cook until things begin to brown. Turn the heat on high and add the sherry to deglaze, then stir. Turn the heat down to medium high and add broth, dried herbs, potatoes, and cannellini. Bring up to a boil, then add the kale and turn down to medium and let it simmer until at least all the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then let it simmer a few minutes more before eating.

Once I had the soup sorted out, I figured out the direction I could go for a side: rosemary quick bread. I found a recipe that had been taken offline, but still available as a cached copy. Its original source was the '97 Joy of Cooking, but I had to veganize it, so it ain't cheating.

Rosemary olive quick bread
  • Flax egg replacement: 2 tbsp. flax meal mixed with 1/2 cup water, stirred and left alone for a few minutes
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain rice milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 4" sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • handful chopped kalamata olives
Preheat the oven to 350' F. Whisk together the flax meal egg replacement, rice milk, and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the flours, baking powder, rosemary, and salt and mix to incorporate. Fold in the kalamata olives. Pour batter into a lightly greased pan--a bread loaf pan would be ideal, but I just had an 8" square glass dish that worked fine. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

...aaaand I just spent 20 minutes writing about my food instead of eating more of it. Now I'm cold and still hungry!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pick 3 for dinner.

Of this week's market veggie haul--which included asparagus, cauliflower, kale, and broccoli--I asked Kevin what appealed to him most for dinner. He picked collard greens, red cabbage, and cremini mushrooms. I took this combination as a challenge: I like to have at least a tiny spark of inspiration when I cook, and I was feeling a bit underwhelmed at the prospect of my new favorite stewed greens with garlic, soy sauce, and liquid smoke, which could take on the mushrooms and cabbage easily but: booooring.

So I thought. And I paged through recipe search results and a variety of cookbooks. And then I put that all aside and made these.

Orange-soy glazed tempeh and mushrooms
  • 1 8-oz. package of tempeh, diced into 3/4" cubes
  • 1/2 lb. small cremini mushrooms, sliced in half
  • juice of 1 mandarin orange
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. sriracha (or to taste)
Put the tempeh and mushrooms in a bowl. In a small container, mix together the rest of the ingredients, then pour over the tempeh and mushrooms. Toss together and let it sit for at least half an hour, or however long it takes to prep the other dish, occasionally giving it a quick stir.

In a large skillet, pour a thin layer of cooking oil and turn the heat on high. Pour in the contents of the bowl, marinade and all (there shouldn't be too much excess liquid). Bring it up to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium high. Let the sauce get bubbly and reduce significantly. Try to stir it as little as possible--you want to let it caramelize and brown just a bit, which takes time. Once the pan is nearly dry, turn off the heat for a few minutes, then turn it back on to medium high or high in order to achieve a nice crust. ( might burn a bit. Mine did. Still good, though.)

Ginger-garlic collard greens with cabbage and carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1" peeled fresh ginger root
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
Prepare the broth first. Using a microplane zester (or small box grater), mince the hell out of your garlic and ginger. Stir together with the rest of the liquid ingredients and set aside.

To prepare the greens, cut off the raggedly bottom inch or so of the stems, then separate the leafy portion from the rest of the stem. Chop up the stems into about 1 to 1-1/2" pieces (bite size) and place them in a pot. Roll up the leaves and slice them into ~2" sections, then rough chop the whole thing and set aside.

Pour the broth into the pot with the stems and turn the burner on to medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then add the collard leaves. Turn down the heat to medium, stir, and partially cover. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the leaves are bright green and starting to cook down. Add the cabbage and carrots and continue to cook until everything is tender and you're ready to eat.

These two dishes taste really nice mixed together with a mound of brown rice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Crazy, hazy, lazy winter dessert

In retrospect, I could've made this a lot more complicated without much additional effort. There should've been sliced almonds, for instance. I might've added a layer of melted chocolate. Or I could've remembered those apples I picked up yesterday and made a crisp instead. But no, it's Valentine's Day, and for some reason, I wanted a berry dessert. But it's far from berry season. What to do?

If you've got jam, you can make...this. I don't know what to call it. Somewhere between a crisp and a bar cookie, I guess. It requires maybe 5 minutes of work and 20 minutes in the oven. To be honest, I didn't even really measure -- it's not such hardcore baking that it can't manage a little fudging.

What you need:
  • Jam or preserves (I used raspberry fruit spread, with seeds)
  • Rolled oats -- ~1 cup
  • Brown sugar -- 2-3 Tbsp
  • Flour (whole wheat works fine) -- ~1/2 cup
  • Pinch of spices (I went with cinnamon and cloves)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Oil or melted butter/margarine -- up to 1/4 cup
Heat the oven to 350 F. Mix together all the dry ingredients with a fork, then drizzle in a few tablespoons of oil. Mix again, and if it's not quite coming together, add a little more oil and mix until the desired consistency is achieved. It shouldn't be OILY, just moist and starting to clump. Press a little bit more than half of the oat mixture into a pie plate (or other similarly-sized baking dish) to form a nice, flat bottom crust. Tamp it down with the fork or your hand. Then, spread a few dollops of jam on the surface, going for maaaaybe 1/4-inch thick layer. Spread the remaining oat mixture evenly over the jam layer. Stick it in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the top layer starts to brown and the jam is bubbly. Let it cool a few minutes, then dish it up and eat.