Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Falafel Fun

For me, falafel has always been one of those foods that can go either way. At Middle Eastern restaurants sometimes the little fried balls of ground garbanzo beans and herbs are chalky and bland. But other times they are moist, delightfully crunchy and perfectly seasoned. When looking for meal ideas in the cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Trevor found a falafel recipe. Since we know that when falafel is good, it’s very, very good, we gave it a shot.

The odd thing about the recipe it that the garbanzo beans are not cooked. You get dried beans and soak them for 24 hours. Then you whirl them in a food processor with parsley, garlic, onion and spices. Once shaped into little balls or patties, you deep-fry them for about 5 minutes. The recipe doesn't call for it, but I put them on a cookie-rack-covered baking sheet as opposed to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. I think it keeps fried foods from getting soggy.

We usually make a yogurt-tahini sauce to slather over them and stuff them in pitas with shredded lettuce, and slices of cucumber and tomato. (Sometimes I’ll sprinkle a little feta cheese on top, too.)

The best thing about homemade falafel is its consistency. You know it will always be piping hot, crunchy and seasoned to your taste. Sure it’s deep fried, but it’s also vegetarian. The only other fat in the meal comes from the tahini – and it’s good fat. It’s now become a meal we crave. And because it takes minimal work, it’s suitable for making on a weeknight.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dirty Hippie

Homemade yogurt and chunky granola with almonds, apples and craisins

When I told my friend Randi that I had started making headbands and selling them at craft shows, she said, “Denise, you move to Portland and become a dirty hippie.” The years since then, I’ve done plenty more to add to my dirty hippie status. Like growing vegetables, eating seasonally, canning, and sewing my own clothes and home accessories. I do admit to showering regularly though.

But the other day I think I reached the zenith of dirty hippidom – I made my own granola and fermented my own yogurt. For Christmas, Trevor’s parents gave us a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated magazine. What it lacks in modern, glossy layouts it more than makes up for in genius kitchen tips and recipes that work because of on-staff science editors and repeated testing. We’ve made several recipes from the issues we’ve received so far and each one is just perfect. One day I decided to make the super chunky granola from the March/April issue. I’d also been eyeing the yogurt recipe in Canning for a New Generation. And our friend Paul had recently given us a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, which also had a yogurt recipe. Yogurt and granola seemed like a perfect combination.

The granola was simple enough. Oil, vanilla, maple syrup and brown sugar mixed to coat rolled oats and almonds, then pressed into a lined baking sheet and baked at a low 325˚ for about 40 minutes. After it’s cool, you break it apart and add the dried fruit. We used apples and craisins. (Making this granola, I found getting rolled oats, dried fruit and nuts from the bulk bins at the grocery store is much cheaper than buying packaged versions!) I like granola, but it’s never been all that exciting to me. But this granola was so tasty and crunchy, I really liked it. Now Trevor is hooked and would rather eat it for breakfast than his usual Kashi goLean Crisp. He’s even said he’d be willingly to be the one to make it on a weekly basis.

The yogurt was surprisingly easy to make. You use a bit of plain yogurt with live active cultures as a starter. You heat up some milk to the right temperature, let it cool a little then add the starter and let it sit in a cooler warmed up with bottles of hot water. My first attempt at yogurt was a little thin. The couple times I’ve made it since then, it’s been thicker. Nevertheless, I really like the richness and tanginess of it. It’s a perfect foil to the sweet granola. When I have the two for breakfast, I feel like I’ve eaten something really good for me. Then I take a shower and put on some makeup, because I’m not a total dirty hippie.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Weekday Vegetarian

Homemade pasta with Brussels sprouts and toasted pecans.

I’ve always wanted to be a vegetarian, but I just can’t picture myself having my last cheeseburger ever. A few weeks ago, Trevor shared the concept of a TED talk he’d heard. Basically, you become a weekday vegetarian, but still eat meat on the weekends. He said he wanted to try it. And it was something I could get behind, too. We’d be eating more healthfully, saving money, reducing our environmental impact and giving way less money to companies that treat animals inhumanely. And I’d never have to completely give up cheeseburgers.

Spicy cauliflower pasta
We had already incorporated many vegetarian dinners into our repertoire, but it’s been a challenge to find more tasty meatless meals. The Moosewood New Classics cookbook has been our go-to book. But I was getting a little tired of it, so I started looking through my other cookbooks that weren’t necessarily vegetarian. In our giant Pasta cookbook, I found a spicy cauliflower pasta. With homemade noodles and Persephone golden cauliflower, it was a keeper.

My Martha Stewart New Classics cookbook had a section on meatless main dishes and number of tasty soups and pastas that fit into our weekday needs. Trevor filled in at Hollywood Farmers’ Market on Saturday, so we’re stocked with lovely fall produce from Persephone, including my favorite, Brussels sprouts. Martha had a wonderful recipe for Brussels sprouts with walnuts and pasta. Since Trevor can’t eat walnuts we used toasted pecans instead. And I out Martha-ed Martha by using homemade fettuccine instead of store-bought, dried pasta.

For the pasta, the Brussels sprouts are cored and then the leaves are pulled off. They are sautéed in butter with red onion and garlic. Fresh sage and thyme added even more fall flavors to the mix. Then the pasta is added to the Brussels sprouts and it’s topped with browned butter, pecans and grated cheese. (I used less butter than called for – ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons.) We used Parrano cheese instead of Parm. I served it slices of wheat baguette, roasted Persephone delicata squash, and Trevor’s Persephone mixed greens. It was unbelievably good. Probably one of the best meals we’ve had lately — vegetarian or not.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Canning Roundup

Dilly Beans!, Bread & Butter Pickles and Kosher Dills.

After trying out several recipes from Canning for a New Generation last summer and fall, Trevor and I decided to do even more canning in the following year. We’ve made good on the promise and we’re running out of room for all of our beautifully filled glass jars.

Trevor is not working for Persephone Farm this season, but does occasionally fill in when someone needs a day off. Last Saturday was one of those days, so we stocked up on a boatload of veggies while he was at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, especially tomatillos for Salsa Verde and the last of the season’s tomatoes.

Our friends Paul and Meredith mentioned they’d tried the ketchup recipe from Canning for a New Generation and that it was unbelievable. I decide try it with the Persephone tomatoes. They did mention that they’d cut back on the allspice, so I omitted it and I added a little extra apple cider vinegar for more tang. I also reduced the amount of cinnamon. Even though it took a couple of hours for the seven pounds of tomatoes to cook down to three cups, I think store-bought ketchup is ruined for me now.

Green tomatoes soaking in lime.
We also tried Green Pickled Tomatoes for the first time. I had a slew of green tomatoes still on my plants and decided to not let them go to waste. The sliced tomatoes are soaked in a pickling lime solution overnight, rinsed and rinsed and rinsed, topped with brine and canned. The result is firm, sweet and tangy pickles delectable on grilled cheese or a turkey sandwich. Pickling lime was a little hard to find, but I eventually found it at a wonderful new store in Sellwood called Portland Homestead Supply Co. It takes a lot of self-control for me to not buy everything in that store! Earlier in the summer, I was able to can a batch of Crushed Tomatoes from our garden, too. I found citric acid at Portland Homestead Supply, too.
Pear-applesauce, Plum Filling,Spicy Carrots,
Green Tomato Pickles and Ketchup.
We also made two batches of Spicy Carrots that remind me of the giant crock of pickled carrots, jalapeños and onions my grandfather used to make. One bite of our carrots thoroughly clears your sinuses. These might be the prettiest jars in our collection. The thyme sprigs and dried red chiles stand out against the bright carrots.

Zucchini pickles are really good on
ham-and-cheese sandwiches.

Earlier in the summer, we made bread and butter pickles from homegrown zucchini. They tasted just as good as the cucumber version we made last summer. And it was a great way to use up a lot of zucchini. And we canned four batches of Dilly Beans!, probably our favorite canning project from last summer.

Brandied cherries, yum!
Disappointingly, our all the apples on our apple tree had worms. We had to get apples from the Fruit Loop in Hood River to get our applesauce fix. We got a great deal on pears, too. So this year we canned chunky pear-applesauce. But the good news is we discovered that our plum tree gives an incredible amount of fruit. We canned pie/cobbler filling. I used the first jars of filling this week and it hasn’t taken long for us to finish off the plum cobbler with fluffy biscuit topping. We also canned Brandied Cherries made partially with cherries from our tree. We spoon the cherries over vanilla ice cream or toss them into Sidecar cocktails.

Our cupboards also hold Charred Tomato Salsa, Peach Cilantro Salsa and Quickest Kosher Dills. Our extra work will pay off when we’ll be enjoying green enchiladas made from Salsa Verde, crisp Dilly Beans! and plum cobbler for the rest of fall and winter.

Plum cobbler with biscuit topping.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Green Eggs

Weekday breakfasts usually mean a quick egg-and-cheese burrito for me and a bowl of Kashi GoLean! for Trevor. But Sundays are a different story. Sometimes I’ll mix up pancakes from scratch. But Trevor usually makes a big feast that involves Huevos Rancheros or fried potatoes. A couple of weeks ago he started morphing the two with really good results. Instead of frying up some flour tortillas and placing salsa, poached eggs and cheese on top, he piled up the toppings on fried potatoes from Persephone Farm. Since we used green salsa made from Persephone tomatillos and onions, we gave the dish the Seussian title of Huevos Verdes, which translates to green eggs.

When the poached eggs are broken and mixed into the piping hot potatoes it thickens up the salsa into a silky sauce. When Trevor first sets a heaping plate in front of me, I usually think there’s no way I can possibly eat it all. Five minutes later the plate contains only a little smear of yolk and a couple strands of grated cheese.

Recently Trevor made a roasted veggie version. He placed a poblano chile, the last of our garden’s ripe tomatoes and chopped onion in the oven to roast and char lightly. He put the veggies on top of the crispy potatoes and poached eggs, and grated some pepperjack cheese on top. It looked so good I forgot to take a picture of it! The roasting brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes and onions. And the poblano was just slightly spicy. Again, nothing was left on either of our plates.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hitting up the Pantry

After mimicking the menus of pricey restaurants in Portland, we needed to cook some meals that were a little easier on the wallet. Since we cook so much, we have a small arsenal of spices and condiments and an assortment of grains. So I took stock of what we already had in our cupboards and garden and planned some tasty, cheap meals.

Since we had rice wrappers, thin rice noodles, fresh herbs, daikon and carrots we made Vietnamese Summer Rolls with a tangy soy dipping sauce from a Martha Stewart recipe. The Zucchini Pizza we made from the Moosewood New Classics cookbook is now one of our favorite easy summer meals. But my very favorite meal was a recipe also from the Moosewood New Classics cookbook for Red Risotto. It called for Arborio rice, stock, wine, tomato paste and radicchio, all things we has on hand. I ended up buying a can of small red beans, but that was a very economical addition.

Risotto is a comforting and creamy dish. With the red beans, it became even more filling and homey. Below is a link to a similar risotto recipe. To make it more closely resemble the Moosewood recipe, add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, a pinch of thyme and a can of rinsed and drained small red beans with the last ladleful of broth. The wine, slightly bitter radicchio and flavorful stock give this risotto a lot of depth. And the cheese and beans add a creamy softness. We’ll be making this risotto many more times.

Red Risotto

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Menu Mimicry, part 2

Roasted beet salad with candied pecans and blue cheese

Last week I mentioned some of the dishes we recreated from reading menus of the best restaurants in Portland. We finished out the week with some outstanding salads. I feel like I did a good job of recreating the Insalata Nostrana’s creamy Caesar dressing and Trevor made a really good version of clarklewis’ roasted beet salad. We used Persephone Farm fennel, beets and radicchio. Here’s how we did it.

Radicchio Caesar salad with herbed croutons
Please be aware that this recipe uses a raw egg yolk, so eat at your own risk. Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems definitely shouldn’t consume raw eggs.
Serves 6 to 8

1 head radicchio (preferably from Persephone Farm), halved
6 to 8 slices of day-old white bread
6 fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
cooking spray or olive oil
1 egg yolk
¼ to ½ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup to ¾ cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place radicchio in a large bowl of cold water and allow to soak for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 400˚. Rub 4 sage leaves on the bread slices. Cut bread into small cubes, spray with cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil. Finely chop 2 remaining sage leaves. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or brushed with olive oil. Sprinkle sage and rosemary over bread cubes. Season lightly with salt. Bake for 5 minutes, toss bread cubes and bake for another 5 minutes until cubes are lightly browned and crunchy. Cool and set aside.

To make dressing, place egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese and Dijon in a food processor or blender. Turn on food processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Once dressing becomes thick and creamy (almost like mayonnaise), you can stop adding olive oil and stop the food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more garlic, Dijon or lemon juice if desired and pulse a few more times.
Rinse radicchio, chop and spin to dry. Place in a large serving bowl. Add enough dressing to lightly coat the radicchio and toss. Top with Parmesan and croutons.

Roasted beet salad with candied pecans and blue cheese
We used a sweet (dolce) Italian Gorgonzola, but you can use whatever kind of blue cheese you like. Oregonzola blue cheese, is also a great choice.
Serves 4
1 bunch beets, (preferably from Persephone Farm) stems and roots cut off
1 bunch arugula, washed and dried with stems cut off
1 cup of fennel, (preferably from Persephone Farm) very thinly sliced
½ cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
sherry vinegar
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 ounces of Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled into small pieces

Preheat oven to 425˚. Place beets in squares of aluminum foil, sprinkle with olive oil and wrap up tightly. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until fork tender. Allow beets to cool enough to handle, then slip skins off using paper towels to keep your hands from turning red. Chop beets into bite-size pieces.

While beets are cooking, mix together brown sugar and water. Toss mixture with pecans making sure each piece is coated. Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray, place pecans on foil, sprinkle lightly with salt, and bake on a baking sheet in a small toaster oven at 350˚ for 6 to 10 minutes. Check on the pecans after 5 minutes, toss and allow to bake until a pecan piece broken in half is golden brown. (You can also bake the pecans in the oven with the beets, but you will need to cook them for less time and watch them more carefully. Pecans and other nuts can go from not quite done to blackened very quickly.)

Assemble salad by tossing arugula and fennel with sherry vinegar and olive oil and seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Divide arugula and fennel into bowls, top with beets, pecans and cheese. Enjoy.