Archive for October, 2008

Whole Wheat Couscous Salad and Zucchini Salad

October 31, 2008

I tried whole wheat couscous, using my favorite salad recipe. The recipe is very flexible. Basically, you dress the couscous with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing that is livened up with some curry powder. The dried fruit add-ins give the couscous a jewel-studded appearance. Simple, colorful, and delicious.

couscous salad (without craisins)

My favorite couscous salad (adapted from Sharing Our Best and The Kosher Palette)

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2 1/2 ounces currants, raisins, dried cranberries, or golden raisins, or a combination (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 bunch scallions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup chick peas (or more, as desired)
2 Tbl. toasted pine nuts or slivered or sliced almonds (optional)

2 Tbl. lemon juice
4 Tbl. olive oil
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. allspice (optional)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste

Heat water to boiling in a saucepan. Add salt and couscous. Cover pot and cook ten minutes (I turn off heat after 5 minutes).

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Fluff couscous and add dressing, dried fruit, scallions, and chickpeas and pine nuts.

This was a huge hit served with thinly sliced raw zucchini, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh mint leaves. The recipe is from Simply Recipes, but I left out the cheese. The fresh mint worked well against the couscous salad flavors.

Espresso Bean Chili

October 31, 2008

I made Espresso Black Bean Chili from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. This recipe makes a whole lot, and Jen at Little Bird Eats cleverly turned leftovers into soup. I deviated somewhat from the original recipe. For starters, I used small red beans instead of black beans. I used flavored diced tomatoes instead of plain tomatoes. I added in half the coffee amount and added in some chocolate. Also, I changed the seasoning just a little bit. Go to Little Bird Eats for the original recipe.

Espresso Black Bean Chili loosely adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic (14.5 ounces)
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeno (14.5 ounces)
1 tablespoons decaf coffee powder
2 Tbl. chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
3/4 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 pound dried small red beans, washed, picked over and soaked for around 8 hours

Saute the onions in oil until tender. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough water to cover and cook until the beans are tender. This will take hours . . . .

I was somewhat nervous about adding the coffee. I first added all the other seasonings to the pot (also leaving out the molasses and chocolate), and I tasted the broth. The flavor was pretty similar to my usual chili. So I added in just half the suggested amount of coffee. It gave the chili a deeper, richer flavor, but also a bitter, harsh, slightly burnt flavor. The molasses and chocolate smoothed things out, but I am not so sure I am a fan of the coffee thing.  Maybe I should add in even less than I added in. I have leftover chili and I can reassess when I reheat it.

I also made Seitan Lentil Loaf. I haven’t tasted it yet.

Update: The chili improves upon reheating. The bitterness disappears.

Second update: The seitan loaf was interesting. Baking the seitan after boiling it made it go from spongy to dense. The lentils were a tasty addition, but reminded me oddly of chocolate chips in cookie dough.

Lemon Bars

October 28, 2008

My favorite lemon bar recipe (at least lately) is from Cara Tannenbaum (Daily News, April 25, 1999). These bars have a nice lemon zing, with a just thick enough layer of lemon. My mother raved about Aunt Myra’s bars, so I gave them a shot.

Myra’s bars push the upper limit in terms of the depth of the lemon curd layer. They are more like lemon pie squares, the filling is so thick and creamy. Everyone really, really liked these bars, but they are quite sweet and need to be served with a fork, like a slice of pie.

Myra’s Lemon Bars

Crust (basically the same as Cara’s, except Cara adds in 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla)
1 cup of butter or margarine (8 ounces)
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
2 cups of all purpose flour

Beat the butter or margarine in a mixing bowl until softened and smooth. Scrape down the bowl. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light in color and texture. Scrape down the bowl. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

Now spread the batter to form an even layer in a 9×13 pan. (Cara calls for lining the pan with foil. This makes it easier to get the bars out of the pan, but harder to spread the batter because the foil slides around a bit. Why do you need to line the pan? Because the lemon mixture sometimes oozes under the crust as it bakes and forms a hard candy-like substance that basically glues the crust to the pan. Not good. Another option is greasing the pan and laying a piece of parchment on top. Heavy-duty non-stick foil as a liner is probably the safest bet, though.) Bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes (I baked it for 25 minutes). The crust should be set and starting to brown a bit on the edges.

While the crust is baking, you should be whipping up the filling, so that you can take the pan from the oven just as the crust is set and starting to brown, pour the filling over the still hot crust, and then whisk the bars back into the oven to finish baking.

6 eggs
6 Tbl. all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
9 Tbl. lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Combine the filling ingredients. (Cara warns that over whisking the eggs leads to an unpleasantly hard crust, so go easy). Pour the filling over the hot crust and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. (The original recipe called for baking a mere 25 minutes, but my mother and I found that the filling needs more time). If the filling sloshes around when you start to take the pan out of the oven, let the bars bake longer. The filling will be set, and just a little loose in the very center of the pan when the bars are done baking. Under baking will leave you with a soupy mess, so exercise caution here.

Chocolate Tart

October 26, 2008

I made a chocolate caramel tart. For the crust I used Cindy Mushet’s press-in chocolate dough. For the filling, I spread a thin layer of caramel and then topped that with some ganache. I think that a thin layer of caramel is best, even though it is more subtle than a thick layer.

Ganache Tart
Adapted from a recipe in the TAG cookbook, with the crust replaced with Cindy Mushet’s press-in dough and an alternate version with caramel inspired by Claudia Fleming’s recipe

Chocolate Tart Dough (for a 9″ round or a 4″x13.5″ rectangular tart pan)
Adapted from Cindy Mushet
4 ounces butter or margarine, softened
2.25 ounces sugar (1/3 cup)
egg yolk
5 ounces flour (about 1 cup)
2 1/2 Tbl. cocoa

Cream the butter and the sugar until smooth. Add yolk and blend in well.

Combine the cocoa and the flour in a another bowl until evenly mixed together.

Dump the flour/cocoa mixture into the butter/sugar/yolk mixture.

Combine everything together gently just until it comes together in moist clumps (use low speed if using mixer or use a spatula). There will be medium and small lumps, but the mixture will be evenly moist and will clump together when you press it. Make sure that the color is even and that there are no dry patches of flour/cocoa or lumps of butter.

If you overmix, the dough will get smooth and sticky and will be hard to work with. If this happens, the fix is to chill the dough about 15 minutes until the butter/margarine gets hard and the dough is less sticky.

Dump the dough clumps into the tart pan and press it evenly over the surface (bottom and sides). NOTE: you might want to reserve just a little bit of dough for making any repairs later (see below for baking instructions). Chill 1 hour in the fridge or 1/2 hour in the freezer.

Bake the tart shell at 350 degrees for 30-32 minutes. After about 15 minutes (the halfway mark), take the tart out of the oven and check for cracks. If you reserved some dough, here is your chance to use it: press the reserved dough over the cracks like putty to seal them up. Return the tart to the oven to finish baking. Remove the tart, cool on a rack.

When the tart shell is cool, fill it with ganache. Let the tart chill in the fridge for at least a half hour to get firm enough to unmold from the tart pan. Have ready a plate, cake cardboard, or foil covered piece of cardboard the right size to support the tart.

9 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream just to the boiling point. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit a minute, and then whisk until smooth.

Caramel variation: put a layer of caramel on the bottom of the shell before adding the ganache. You will only need a portion (maybe half) of the below amount of caramel. You might have leftover ganache, as well.

Caramel (makes twice as much as you need for the tart)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Caramelize the sugar in a 3 quart saucepan. If you do not know how to do this, go here or here.
Add the cream and cook the sauce for about 5 minutes. Cool and add vanilla. You will
only need half the caramel for the tart, unless you want a thick layer of caramel.

If you use more caramel, you will need less ganache. Fortunately, both the ganache and the caramel are yummy to have as leftovers.

Claudia Fleming has a well loved recipe for chocolate caramel tarts. See here and here.

Vidalia Onion Dressing

October 24, 2008

I almost hesitate to mention this dressing, because it involves mayonnaise. There is a lot of mayo-phobia in my family. I tried the dressing with extra virgin olive oil and it just didn’t taste right. It tasted too . . . gourmet. The recipe comes from the Harlem soul food restaurant, Sylvia’s. It was invented by Sylvia’s daughter Bedelia in an effort to introduce healthier items to the menu. I found it in Sylvia’s Soul Food  Family Cookbook, which I highly recommend.

The dressing is basically a coleslaw dressing: mayo, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. A little tumeric and dry mustard are added for color and a bit of grated onion is added for flavor. That’s it.

Vidalia Onion Dressing

1/3 cup mayo
1 Tbl. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. water (I left this out, but the resulting dressing was very thick, so it is probably a good idea to thin the dressing with water)
1/2 tsp. grated Vidalia onion (this seems like such a bizarrely small amount. I actually used a pinch of onion powder, but fresh onion obviously would have been better)
1/4 tsp tumeric (Watch out! Too much tumeric gives a wierd color and taste)
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. cracked pepper (I just used ground)
1/8 tsp. salt

I served this dressing over salad with sliced apples and walnuts, sort of a Waldorf salad thing. The original recipe calls for cucumber, bell pepper, carrot, tomato, and lettuce.

Pareve Sour Cream Coffee Cake

October 8, 2008

Smitten Kitchen’s Mom’s Sour Cream Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake was just calling out to me . . . .

So I made it. But, I made it pareve. Except I didn’t have enough pareve Tofutti “sour cream” because I used most of what I had on a really vile cake that I just do not want to talk about. So I used vanilla soy milk in addition to the leftover Tofutti. Instead of butter, I used Earth Balance shortening.

Here’s the thing: butter and real sour cream just taste better. But, the cake came out well. I was a little perturbed that the chips sank so low.

If I make the cake again, here is what I would do differently:

(1) Use real dairy ingredients, or just use soy milk and vegetable oil and not bother with shortening and Tofutti.
(2) Put a thicker layer of batter on the bottom of the pan before layering on the cinnamon sugar and chips.
(3) Skip the instructions to whip the egg whites separately.

I really want to try a sour cream coffee cake recipe that I saw in Carrie Levin’s breakfast cookbook. The recipe is pretty similar, but has triple the butter and does not involve separating the eggs. Also, there is a crumb topping involved. Levin says she adapted the recipe from a Massachusetts B&B, and this might be the inspiration recipe.

For pareve, I have been happy with Marcy Goldman’s recipe for cinnamon chip coffee cake that uses oil and orange juice. I used soy milk last time I made it, and it was the best ever. The recipe is pretty close to the sour cream cake, but is a lot easier because there is no creaming butter or whipping egg whites. Plus, if you use chocolate chips instead of butterscotch chips in the filling, it is pareve without resorting to odd “faux” ingredients. Another thing that is smart about the recipe is that it calls for adding just one layer of filling on top and then drizzling over just a few tablespoons of batter. The filling sinks in as it bakes, leaving behind some topping on top. This gives the effect of two layers of filling without actually making two layers. And the filling does not sink to the bottom.

Pumpkin Corn Muffins

October 7, 2008

The pumpkin corn kugel was delicious, but dense like pumpkin pie instead of fluffy like carrot kugel. Wondering how it would taste if it were cake-ier, I decided to combine the kugel recipe with the pumpkin cake, pumpkin challah, and Homestead Cornbread recipes to make a pumpkin corn muffin.

I took the cornbread recipe, cut it down by a third, and swapped in 1 cup of pumpkin puree for 2/3 cup of the soy milk. I added in some of the spices from the other pumpkin recipes (cinnamon, ginger, allspice) and changed the sweetener from all white sugar to almost equal amounts of dark brown sugar, white sugar, and honey. For an extra hit of color, texture, and flavor, I added in dried cranberries and golden raisins.

After coming up with a recipe, I quickly checked Allrecipes to see if anyone else had tried to make pumpkin cornbread or pumpkin corn muffins. There was a recipe for pumpkin cornbread and a recipe from Libby’s that looked a lot like my test recipe, but without the spices and with an extra egg. That was good. I added in an extra egg to my recipe. But the Libby’s recipe got mixed reviews. Not so good. The complaints were that the muffins were bland. Reviewers for the pumpkin cornbread also complained of blandness and insufficient sweeteness. Hoping that the spices and sweeteners I added in would compensate, I forged ahead.

The muffins were excellent. I think more spice might have been better, but I’m not sure. I will need to taste them again later. The color was nice, they were moist. They were sweet without being cloying, and there was just enough salt.

I’m not sure about the dried cranberries. They were tasty and pretty, but they definitely slant the muffins towards dessert and away from being useful as a dinnertime bread item. One allrecipe poster served her pumpkin corn muffins with chili–that is a smart idea. If I do go with the dried fruit again, I might add more, and I might add chopped pecans.

Note: The pumpkin effect is subtle, even with spices added in to highlight it. Mom’s comment: “Yum! Is that a dried cranberry?! Mmmm. These are pumpkin? Really?”

Pumpkin Corn Muffins

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup vanilla soy milk
3/4 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
3 Tbl. sugar
3 Tbl. dark brown sugar
2 Tbl. honey
1/3 cup corn or safflower oil
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
pinch allspice
2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 – 1 tsp. kosher salt (1/2 tsp. regular table salt)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup dried cranberries (optional)
1/3 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin cups with foil liners (or use paper liner, or grease the pans). The yield should be about 1 1/2 dozen muffins, so you will need three pans with 6 cups or the equivalent.

Combine the cornmeal and soy milk in a medium sized bowl, and let the mixture soak for five minutes. Add in the pumpkin puree, eggs, sugar, dark brown sugar, honey, and oil.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking powder, and salt). Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin cornmeal mixture. Stir in the raisins, if using.

Divide the batter between the lined muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes.

yield: 16 to 18 muffins

Update: After a day the muffins tasted a bit drier than I would like, which could be for the following reasons:

(1) Okay, they are a day old. But the Homestead Cornbread stays moist and fresh for a couple of days.
(2) Maybe I miscalculated the substitution of pumpkin for soy milk. Maybe I should add another 1/4 cup of soy milk to the recipe.
(3) Maybe I baked the muffins too long. Maybe I should reduce the cooking time by five minutes.
(4) Maybe corn muffins just get drier than cornbread baked in pan because more surface area is exposed. Maybe I should try to make this recipe in pan instead of as muffins.

Another issue is that the muffins do not taste very pumpkin-ey. This is more obvious after a day of aging. Maybe the solution is to up the spices. Maybe it is primarily the spices, combined with the color, that causes people to think “pumpkin.”

On the other hand, maybe this isn’t a problem at all. I originally made the Homestead Cornbread because my husband raved about the cornbread at Smokey Joe’s (Teaneck, NJ). The Homestead Cornbread is much lighter in color and texture than the Smokey Joe’s cornbread, but the Homestead Cornbread was universally judged superior by family and friends. The pumpkin cornbread tastes just like the Smokey Joe’s cornbread, confirming my suspicion that Smokey Joe’s uses dark brown sugar or honey as a sweetener. Now I am actually wondering if they use pumpkin, too. But, no, that can’t be. All I have to do to make the pumpkin cornbread taste precisely like the Smokey Joe’s version is to add in drained corn niblets instead of the raisins and dried cranberries.

Update two: I realize that I used only 3/4 cup pumpkin mixture (I corrected the above recipe, which originally called for 1 cup of pumpkin). I tried this recipe again with an extra 1/4 cup of liquid and with the drained corn niblets. Instead of using muffin cups, I baked it in a baking pan. Not good! Dense, gummy, and bland.

Fascinating Theory Sad Reality, Round Two

October 5, 2008

According to Jessica Seinfeld, you can make tofu cubes taste like chicken or cheese by dipping them in a pureed vegetables and egg mixture, breading them, and then frying them until crispy. Seinfeld posits, moreover, that children will happily scarf these nuggets down. This is a variation on a chicken nugget recipe that is also in the book.

Hmm . . . . Fascinating theory, but the reality?

To be fair, I didn’t really completely follow the recipe. I looked at the detailed instructions for steaming and pureeing vegetables and decided it was code for “just buy baby food.” I combined a small jar of peas with an egg and coated small tofu cubes with the green mush. Then I breaded the cubes in fresh crumbs made from my whole wheat challah. Instead of frying the nuggets, I heavily sprayed them with Pam and baked them in the toaster oven. I used the convection feature, set at 425 degrees, and baked them about a half hour, until they were brown and crispy.

My son just looked at them and said, “What are these, Mommy?”
“Ummmm, they are veggie-chicky nuggets,” I replied brightly (if somewhat evasively).
“But, what is in them, Mommy?”
“Uh, tofu,” I said, utterly trapped (and unwilling to flat-out lie).
“No thank you, Mommy.”

Defeat. Absolute and complete and utter defeat.

So I ate them. Not bad, but not great.

Conclusion: Fascinating theory, but not so great reality. Tofu does not become magically yummy to children just because it has been breaded and browned and looks like chicken nuggets.

Take a look at Jaden’s ideas on getting kids to eat their veggies.

Vegetarian Chili

October 3, 2008

I am usually pretty lazy when it comes to vegetarian chili, but I had an eggplant and zucchini to use up and I did not want to make ratatouille again. I tried a recipe from Simply Recipes and was very pleased.

Here is what I left out of the original recipe:

  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1-2 Tbsp chili powder (I used just a bit of chipotle and ancho chili powder, to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano or 2 teaspoons dried (I used 1 tsp.)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

I must try it with those ingredients added in, especially the red wine.

They Loved the Tiramisu

October 3, 2008

We were invited out for lunch on Rosh HaShana. I brought pareve tiramisu for dessert, and it was very well received. I expected the adults to like it, but, much to my surprise, the kids all loved it and asked for seconds.

In an ideal world, I would rework the recipe to make it more wholesome. Instead of Rich’s Whip and Tofutti cream cheese, I would use silken tofu. And of course the instant pudding mix would have to go. But, it is a special occasion dessert, not an everyday main dish. It is yummy and easy and not everything has to be super-healthy all the time.

Pareve Tiramisu (adapted from Netivot’s cookbook Gatherings)

Creamy cheese mixture:
Two 8 ounce packages Tofutti “cream cheese”
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
1 pint Rich’s Whip pareve whipping cream

Coffee mixture:
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp. instant coffee powder
1 Tbl. vanilla
1 Tbl. liqueur, orange juice, or more vanilla

24 crisp ladyfinger cookies

cocoa powder and grated chocolate, for garnish

Whip the Rich’s Whip until stiff. Set aside 1 cup of the whipped cream. To remaining whipped cream, add the “cream cheese,” pudding mix, powdered sugar, and vanilla.

Combine the coffee mixture ingredients in a small bowl.

Now, it is just assembly. Select your serving dish. It could be a trifle dish or a glass casserole. I used a foil pan because I was taking it to someone house.

Set aside 12 cookies for the bottom layer. Dip the briefly in the coffee mixture and lay them out on the bottom of the serving dish. Spread over half the creamy cheese mixture. Add another layer of 12 coffee dipped cookies and spread over the remaining creamy cheese mixture. Spread on top the reserved whipped cream. Garnish by sifting cocoa powder over the top and sprinkling over grated chocolate.