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Recipes and food musings for the global home cook.

Key lime pie that tastes so good no one will be able to tell that it is vegan. (Novel Eats)

Meatless Monday: Vegan key lime pie

By Novel Eats / 04.30.12

This is going to be one of those posts where I show you how to do one thing, but I am going to recommend another. This is a delicious recipe, but it just doesn’t set very well as a pie. Instead, I think this recipe would translate well to a parfait: crumble up some vegan butter cookies or graham crackers into a dessert glass, spoon some pudding on top, and add a dollop of vegan whipped cream (like Soyatoo), then chill for a few hours.

Eventually I’m going to experiment with this, too, and come up with a version that doesn’t require a pudding mix, because I know not everyone has access to the specific brand that’s needed for this recipe. Still, if you are able to make the recipe below, your taste buds will not be disappointed, even if the pie doesn’t set just perfect.

Vegan Key Lime Pie
 Recipe from Food.com

1/2 cup fresh key lime or regular lime juice (or use lemon juice for a lemon pie)
1 12.3-ounce package Mori-Nu firm silken tofu
8-ounce package vegan cream cheese
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime peel
2 4-ounce packages Mori-Nu Mates vanilla pudding mix (must be this brand; it’s made to go with the tofu)
1 tablespoon agave nectar or other liquid sweetener, to taste
1 9-inch baked pastry shell or 1 9-inch graham cracker crust (Keebler’s pie crust is vegan)

Before you cut up your limes to squeeze the juice from them, grate a couple of limes or so until you have about two teaspoons of grated lime peel.

Cut the limes in half, then squeeze them using a citrus juicer into a measuring cup until you have half a cup of lime juice.

Drain any excess water from the tofu. Blend tofu and lime juice in a processor or blender until creamy and smooth.

Add the rest of the ingredients except for the pie crust, and blend again until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

Then chill two to three hours, until firm, or overnight.

Related post on Novel Eats: Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Cookbook review: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

By Kitchen Report / 04.27.12

I’ve been meaning to tell you about this cookbook for awhile. For all those of you out there who are raising chickens, pickling, and making your own crackers, you’ll find good wit and wisdom in “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” by Jennifer Reese (Free Press, October 2011, $24).

Having chickens cluck in the yard and filling your pantry with preserves that you picked and canned yourself is rewarding – but is it worth all the time battling persistent bugs and rodents just to say, “I made this sauce with heirloom tomatoes I grew myself”?

Reese, who blogs at www.tipsybaker.com, took on an ambitious project when she applied her journalistic skills to figure out what is worth making at home (croutons), what is worth attempting for the experience (Camembert cheese), and what is an accomplishment but a true pain in the rear (prosciutto).

 “You don’t have to meekly accept what Safe or Stop ‘n’ Shop has to offer,” says Reese. “Cooking is easy and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. On the other hand, don’t feel guilty when you buy something delicious that happens to come from a supermarket. Lays potato chips are better than any chips I’ve ever made by standing over a cauldron of hot oil. The perfectionist homespun/do-it-yourself/urban farming ethic some of us are susceptible to can become rather enslaving. I’m all about the middle ground. I’ve just tried to figure out exactly where that is.”

While tackling more than 120 recipes for everyday items made from scratch Reese does us all a big favor. She puts in the time to discover how much of a cost savings and a challenge it is to make your own Oreos, so we don’t have to. Reese also wisely counsels that sometimes picking up a rotisserie chicken is just as delicious as roasting your own, plus you’ll get a few more precious moments to put together a puzzle with your child and eating before 8 p.m. instead of dashing around and trying to recreate a dinner scene from a Norman Rockwell painting.

Reese’s tales told with a matter-of-fact humor will keep you entertained even if you have no plans to raise goats, ducks, or bees (Reese and her family do). Reese also lets herself to be changed by her experiment, giving up cherished ideals for the sanity of practicality, like the day she realized her free-ranging backyard chickens really need to be penned up for their safety and for health of the garden, which one morning “looked as if the entire patch had been stomped by the yeti.”

We decided we couldn’t let our chickens range around the yard anymore. Although the yard was secured by a tall wire fence, the sight of all those chickens drove the local predator population mad with bloodlust. I disapprove of factory farms, but I understand why people who depend on chickens for their livelihood might decide to keep them in a big, windowless room….

The chickens resented the coop. They paced their perimeter, yelling, looking out through the chicken wire. I liked them less almost immediately. I found them irritating with all their complaints and demands, and somewhat contemptible. I had an inkling of how becoming a prison guard might corrode the soul.

But I thought we were were all set, that our chickens were now safe. (p. 37)

The tale of the chickens, of course, doesn’t end there, and in the end Reese admits that her feathered “girls” are really more like an expensive hobby that provides her family with fresh eggs and hours of entertainment than a backyard sustainable food source.

I was thrilled to find a yogurt recipe in “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” that doesn’t involve a yogurtmaker because I keep hearing how easy it is to make your own yogurt and how much money you save making it yourself instead of shelling out $6-$7 for a large carton at the grocery store. I did try Reese’s recipe, with no luck. For the record, I am a failure of a yogurtmaker and I seem destined to put this easy process into my “buy it” category. I’ve tried other homemade yogurt recipes to only end up with slightly curdled milk.

I guess I just have to accept that I am one of those overly scheduled urbanites whose fantasies of homesteading will have to be lived vicariously through others like Reese. I just don’ t have the time to babysit warm milk as it transforms into thick, creamy yogurt.

All in all, “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” is a very useful and valuable collection of recipes ranging from the complex such as croissants to classic favorites such as pumpkin chocolate chip muffins to easy sauces such as mayonnaise. Like most food memoirs, readers also get a peek into Reese’s family life stirred with vignettes from her card-file of memories.

That alone makes Reese’s book worth reading – even if you really, really don’t have the time to make the bread.

Related posts on Kitchen Report: Are you an urban homesteader?Chicken and Dumplings

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Buttery leeks with sautéed scallops and over egg noodles. (Blue Kitchen)

Butter + leeks = delicious: Scallops with melted leeks and egg noodles

By Blue Kitchen / 04.26.12

We’ve used leeks any number of ways here. Sautéed, puréed in soups, braised with duck legs, baked into tarts and quiches, even cooked almost whole as a side dish. But melted?

That’s how they were served with a nicely cooked piece of halibut when we ate at Frontier in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood recently. As delicious as the fish was on its own, the melted leeks took it to a whole new place. We knew we’d be trying something with them here soon. 

In their simplest, purest form, melted leeks are leeks cooked in butter over low heat for a long time. Unlike caramelizing, where you use higher heat to deeply brown onions or other vegetables, this is more of an extreme sweating process. As you can see with the leeks peeking out from under the scallops above, they barely color. The long, low cooking makes them meltingly soft (hence the name) and brings out their sweetness. A splash of lemon juice at the end balances the butter’s richness. The result is a sweet, luxurious accompaniment perfect for just about any seafood.

There are any number of recipes out there for melted leeks. Some call for boiling the leeks first for nearly half an hour. I think this would just drain them of lots of their flavor, and leeks are already quite mild. Writer Regina Schrambling beautifully describes them as the gentle giants of the onion family. If you’ve never cooked with them, their imposing appearance can be daunting. But their taste is absolutely civilized.

Scallops were Marion’s call as we discussed what to do with melted leeks on the way home from Frontier. As were the egg noodles. In fact, this post might have been hers, but I was the one with more time for the kitchen this weekend. Scallops are always fun to work with. They cook quickly and are practically impossible to screw up (unless you don’t cook them quickly). They’re rich and meaty, with a slight sweetness. And they just look cool, with their drumlike shape. Here, I halved them so they wouldn’t overwhelm the pasta. It also made them easier to eat; you can cut them with just the side of the fork.

The egg noodles work well with this dish because of their shape and scale. You don’t want a long, twirly pasta here, but rather noodles you can jab with a fork, along with scallop bites.

Besides lots of butter, some olive oil, some lemon juice and salt and pepper, the only other ingredient here is parsley. It adds a nice freshness without imposing a bigger herb taste that, say, tarragon or sage might. The stars of this show are the leeks and the scallops.

Scallops with Melted Leeks and Egg Noodles
Serves 2

2 cups sliced leeks (from 2 large or 3 smaller leeks)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 pound sea scallops (about 4 to 6)
flour

1/2 pound short, wide egg noodles (or other ribbon pasta)

Melt the leeks. Slice the dark green leafy top and root tip from each leek, leaving just the white and pale green parts. Halve lengthwise and rinse under cold running water, fanning layers to wash away any grit. Slice leeks crosswise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch half moons.

Heat a heavy lidded saucepan over a medium-low flame. (Heavy is the key here, a thin-bottomed pan will brown or even burn the leeks.) Cut up butter and add to pan, along with 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to combine. Add leeks to pan and stir to coat with butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons water, stir again and cover the pan. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally and adding water a tablespoon at a time if the leeks seem too dry. I added 3 tablespoons through the course of melting the leeks. The leeks don’t truly “melt,” by the way – they won’t be like a confit or jam. But they will be buttery soft. You can make ahead to this point and keep them covered on the stovetop.

Meanwhile, prepare the scallops. Rinse scallops under cold running water, feeling the surfaces carefully for any bits of sand. Slice off the side muscle from any scallop that still has it – this is a tougher piece of flesh attached to the side (for the second time in one post, I’m saying “hence the name”). Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and halve crosswise. Season both sides with salt and pepper and dredge the tops and bottoms lightly in flour. Lightly is key – you don’t want to bread the scallops, but just give the pan something to brown. Set aside.

Also meanwhile, cook the pasta. You want to time this so the pasta is done just before you’re ready to cook the scallops. The scallops will cook very quickly, and you don’t want to be screwing around with draining noodles while the scallops overcook. Cook according to package instructions. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it, reserving some cooking water. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and half the chopped parsley. Cover and set aside.

And finally, cook the scallops. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. (If the leeks need reheating, put them over a low flame now.) Add a tablespoon or so of oil and a teaspoon or so of butter to the skillet and swirl together. You want enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan well. Add the scallops and cook until just browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook for a minute more (the browned side will be the presentation side – the rest of the time is just to cook them through). Transfer scallops to a small plate and tent with foil.

Assemble the dish. Toss the egg noodles once more. If they seem dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Divide noodles between 2 shallow pasta bowls (you don’t have to use all the pasta – just put a good serving in each bowl). If you reheated the leeks, remove them from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Spoon leeks over pasta. In this case, do use all of them – they’re very good. Arrange four scallop halves on each bowl and sprinkle with some of the remaining parsley. Serve.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Seared Scallops with Asian Slaw

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A two-layer chocolate sour cream cake. (The Garden of Eating)

Chocolate sour cream layer cake

By The Garden of Eating / 04.25.12

Spring is birthday season in my family. My mom's, mine, my big brother's, my son's and my husband's birthday all fall within April and May. This means there is lots of cake baking and eating going on. Which brings me to this particularly delicious cake.

I found this recipe in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts, given to me by my mom who is too busy to do much baking these days.

It's the only chocolate cake I've made since I discovered it last year (and I have made it a number of times). I love the moistness, the amount of sweetness (not overpowering), and the fact that it is wonderfully chocolate-y without being at all overwhelming. I also like that I can turn leftover sour cream into something so yummy when it might otherwise just sprout green mold while languishing in the back of our fridge.

So I got out the cake flour, chocolate, sugar, eggs, butter, sour cream, vanilla and more one early morning to make one for my mom's birthday. I like this cake enough that I have a semi-reverent approach to it. Which means that I do not cut any of the baking corners I might normally cut. For example, I bought cake flour instead of just using all-purpose like I normally would, and I dug out my adorable flour sifter that I've loved since I was a child (another hand-me-down from my mom) to actually sift the flour – something I almost never do. And I actually made the cake release of butter and fine bread crumbs as Maida instructed (though I'm not actually convinced it works any better than butter and flour).

About an hour later, two pans of chocolate cake were cooling on the counter and the house was filled with the smell of sheer happiness.

After everything cooled, it was time to frost those suckers. Unfortunately, I failed to read Maida's excellent instructions before I began so I ended up having to flip one of the layers after I'd frosted it already (a sticky situation, you might say) but I had enough frosting to make it all come out okay in the end. And now I'm pretty sure I'll never forget to FLIP THE BOTTOM LAYER UPSIDE DOWN BEFORE FROSTING IT again. It's brilliant advice – no need to mess with cutting layers flat – the weight of the cake on top presses it nice and flat.

I decorated my brown beauty with a few of the lovely little violets growing in our yard. Then there was nothing left to do but light some candles, sing Happy Birthday to my dear maman and devour a big slice with some Ronnybrook Farm vanilla ice cream. 

Chocolate Sour Cream Layer Cake (from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts
Makes one gorgeous cake
 

3 squares (3 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups sifted flour
1-1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter (use organic)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs (use organic, free range if you can get 'em)
1 cup sour cream (use organic)

Adjust rack to center of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter two 9 inch round layer cake pans and dust both lightly with fine, dry bread crumbs (though I think flour works just as well if you don't have any breadcrumbs on hand.)

In a small heavy saucepan over low heat melt the chocolate with the boiling water. Stir occasionally with a small wire whisk until smooth. Set aside. You can also zap these things together in the microwave for about 30 seconds if you're in a hurry.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In large bowl of electric mixer, cream the butter. Add vanilla, granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat well, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary to keep mixture smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

Stir sour cream and cooled chocolate together until smooth and add to batter, beating only until mixed. On lowest speed, add the sifted ingredients continuing to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat only until smooth.

Turn into prepared pans. With rubber spatula spread tops smooth and then run the batter up on the sides a bit, leaving the batter slightly lower in the centers.

Bake 35 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched and layers come away from sides of pans. Cool in pans for about 5 minutes. Place racks over the cakes and invert. Remove pans. Cover with racks and invert again to cool right side up.

For the Icing/Frosting

3 squares (3 ounces) unsweetened chocolate)
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound unsifted confectioners sugar.

In top of small double boiler over hot water on low heat, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until smooth and let cool completely.

In small bowl of electric mixer at low speed, beat sour cream, vanilla and salt just to mix. Gradually beat in the sugar, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. When smooth, add cooled melted chocolate and beat at high speed for 1/2 a minute or until very smooth.

Place four strips of wax paper around the edges of a cake plate to protect it while icing cake. (Note, this is one step I skipped – you can always just wipe the frosting off the plate later – it's actually rather enjoyable...)

 Place one layer upside down. Spread with filling. Cover with second layer, right side up so that both bottom sides meet in the middle (brilliant, Maida!!!)

Cover the sides and then the top with remaining filling and icing, smoothing it with a long, narrow, metal spatula; then if you wish use the pack of a teaspoon to form swirls and peaks all over the sides and the top.

If you did the wax paper bit in step 3, remove the wax paper by pulling each strip by a narrow end.

Needless to say, this goes well with ice cream! I'd say vanilla, coffee or hazelnut are all good bets.

Related post on The Garden of Good Eating: Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

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Serve minted pesto on lamb, grilled veggies and polenta, or as a delicious sandwich spread. (Beyond The Peel)

Minted pesto and cooking with Mom

By Beyond The Peel / 04.24.12

My mom is visiting from California and she is one of the two women who have influenced my culinary life. France, my wife, is, of course, the other. The other day, after we’d been up at the mountain skiing all day, the three of us tag teamed a fantastic dinner: Lamb Chops with Minted Pesto with Mashed White Beans and Sweet Potatoes, and a Roasted Beet Spinach Salad.

Oh, the hardships of my life.

France came up with the idea for a minted pesto, which I’d never made before, and I was responsible for making it happen. A little of this and a little of that, toss it in the food processor, and bam, we had ourselves a delightful sauce to top off the lamb chops.

It’s a real treat being able to spend time with my mom since we live so far away from each other. She, and most of my family, live in San Diego. It’s a long ways from Vancouver Island and we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as I’d like. It’s even more special to be able to cook with her since I wasn’t much of a cook growing up. Whenever, we get to cook together, I feel like I’m getting to know a side of her that I never fully knew all those years.

That said, I have lots of fond memories of my mom cooking up something delicious in the kitchen. I can remember rocking out to the oldies station in the kitchen of our Oklahoma home (that’s where I’m originally from), while Mom cooked up an amazing meal, the smells making us all salivate.

It’s funny to think how much of our lives, the conversation, and connections with our families happen within the tiny space of a kitchen. There’s something special about the act of creating food and breaking bread together, whether you’re actively involved in the process or not, that allows us to connect with the ones we love in a uniquely freeing kind of way.

What are your favorite memories of cooking with those you love?

Minted Pesto

1 cup mint, packed
1/2 cup cilantro, packed
1/4 cup parsley, packed
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until it is well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve on lamb, grilled veggies and polenta or as a yummy sandwich spread. Leftover mint pesto could also be used instead of chimichurri to make this fabulous Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich.

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A decadent brownie with a rich caramel center. (The Pastry Chef's Baking)

Brownies with salted caramel

By The Pastry Chef's Baking / 04.24.12

One of the things I love about getting inspiration from other foodie bloggers is coming across new baking ingredients I hadn't tried before or, in some cases, had never even heard of until I read about how someone used it for baking.  And, thanks to my Amazon.com patronage (obsession), I can usually find it there and put it on my Amazon "wish list" to remind myself to order it or try to find it locally (Trader Joe's, Sur La Table, World Market, and Williams Sonoma are good sources for instant gratification). 

My Amazon wish list used to be full of books – now it's full of ingredients I want to try or have already tried and would reorder:

Salted Caramel (I found a jar at Trader Joe's)
Biscoff Spread (TJ's also has a knockoff version called Speculoos Cookie Butter)
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Black Cocoa Powder
Coconut Oil (bought it on Amazon, have a recipe teed up which uses it)
Fleur de Sel
Pearl Sugar 
Almond Butter

To dress up this brownie, I dropped dollops of salted caramel between two layers of brownie batter. I love caramel brownies. I'm picky though in that I always put the caramel within the brownie and am careful to cover it all with brownie batter. 

While it's always pretty to see swirls of caramel atop a brownie, the reality is when caramel is exposed to high direct heat, it'll bubble and cook further.  When your brownie cools, the caramel hardens and sometimes becomes too brittle or chewy to really enjoy. You don't want that. Also remember when you bake with caramel within your brownie, it makes it more moist – you have less risk of overbaking but you also don't want to underbake too much or it'll be too gooey rather than perfectly fudgy. 

This was a great brownie recipe with the fudgy texture I prefer in my brownies. I think I could've had a heavier hand with the salted caramel layer but otherwise, this turned out really well.  Cut the pieces small, though, as they're pretty rich. I had one and that filled my chocolate quotient for the day. 

Brownies with Salted Caramel

4 ounces (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter; more for pan
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4-1/2 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
 

Position a rack in the middle of the oven; heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square pan, line the pan bottom with parchment, and then butter the parchment.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium metal bowl, set over a pan of simmering water.  Let the chocolate cool slightly before stirring in the sugar, salt and vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring each time until blended. Add the flour and cocoa and beat until the mixture is smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is uniformly colored with no indentation and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean, with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 45 minutes. 

Set the pan on a rack until cool enough to handle. Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan, and then invert the pan onto a flat surface and peel off the parchment. Flip the baked brownie back onto the rack to cool completely. Cut into squares.

Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Brownie Cups with Salted Caramel and Nutella Crunch

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Kimchi soup is a classic Korean dish and can be made in less than 10 minutes. (In Praise of Leftovers)

Kimchi soup

By In Praise of Leftovers / 04.23.12

This is a classic Korean soup, and there are more complicated and caloric ways to make it. It's often made with pork belly (yum!), but the point for me is usually to have something quick and healthy. I can make it for myself in 10 minutes for a working lunch at home. It takes that long to make a sandwich, for gracious sake.

Of course, this would be impossible without my pantry. When Armageddon comes, feel free to hole up with us. We might have brown rice and kimchi for months on end, but we won't run out of food. If we're really desperate, we could probably live on Asian condiments for a week or two. 

Here's my dream (Westernized) Asian pantry. Sheepishly, I should admit that this dream is a reality most the time. Even though we've moved out of our Asian-Market-on-Every-Corner Seattle neighborhood, I have my ways: 

  • Sesame oil and sesame seeds (white and black)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • Toasted seaweed sheets
  • Sriracha (hot sauce)
  • Sambal (hot sauce)
  • Furikake, a few different kinds (Japanese seasoning shakers, usually containing seaweed, sesame seeds, and dashi)
  • Miso paste
  • Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
  • Peanut or vegetable oil
  • Fresh ginger and garlic
  • Napa kimchi
  • White and brown rice
  • Rice noodles
  • Coconut milk
  • Red curry paste 
  • Limes
  • Peanuts

Most of these things keep indefinitely at room temp or in the fridge once opened. If you live in the Seattle area, H Mart in Lynnwood will make you lose your mind. They have an entire aisle of Korean hot paper paste, about 10 million kinds of fresh noodles (soba, udon, etc.), and their cooler of braising greens will make you cross-eyed. If you live in an area that doesn't have Asian markets, Cash and Carry is great for pantry items – a big bottle of sweet chili sauce, for instance, at a fraction of the price the "Asian" aisle at the grocery store will charge.

Kimchi Jigae
Serves 2

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups napa kimchi, chopped
2 tablespoons Korean hot pepper paste
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
12 ounces soft tofu
Green onions, to garnish
Sesame oil, to garnish 

Heat peanut or vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan. Briefly saute 1 minced garlic clove. Add coarsely chopped napa kimchi with its juice, Korean hot pepper paste, miso paste,  rice vinegar. Stir constantly and saute for another minute.

Add the softest tofu you can find and enough water to barely cover everything. Simmer for 10 minutes until warmed through. If you want to get fancy, you can add lots of fresh veggies – spinach, kale, or chard at the end, or finely sliced zucchini, cabbage, or julienned carrots at the beginning.

Garnish with sliced green onions and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Fiery Homemade Kimchi

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Green bean and potato salad with lemon-dill aioli. (The Garden of Eating)

Meatless Monday: Green bean and potato salad with lemon-dill aioli

By The Garden of Eating / 04.23.12

This salad is about my favorite thing in the world lately. I made it up (though I'm sure lots of other people have, too) which gives me a special feeling of pride about how good it is.

It started with the sauce. It's so simple yet so delicious – just mayonnaise, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic, salt and pepper. It only occurred to me as I sat down to write this post that it's actually an aioli...

Then I was thinking about potatoes and green beans. Then I thought, what if I mixed the sauce with those two things? It sounded promising...

So I steamed some Yukon Golds and blanched some green beans and tossed them with the sauce and voila, my new favorite salad was born! It's a great dish for spring and will be an even better one for summer when fresh beans and new potatoes are coming right out of the garden or the farmers' market. 

One of the things I love about this hearty salad is the relative ease of putting it together but if you are in a slow food mood and have a little extra time, you could take it one step further by making your own mayo for the aioli.

Green Bean & Potato Salad With Lemon-Dill Aioli
Serves 4 as a side
 

For the salad
4 cups of fresh green beans, rinsed with the ends trimmed off
3 large or 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into equal-sized cubes (I like Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn for this salad)
Tray or two of ice cubes and lots of cold water

For the aioli
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (go heavy if you like garlic, light if you don't!)
3-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice3 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped

Make the aioli by combining all the sauce ingredients and stirring well. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed. It's okay if it seems a bit salty and garlic-y – remember, this is going to cover a whole lot of unseasoned vegetables.

Place the cubed potatoes in a steamer pot over an inch or so of water and steam, covered until tender when pierced with a fork, roughly 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes.Then remove from the pot and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Then add the green beans and blanch then until they're just a little bit tender but still bright green – probably 3-4 minutes or so. While they're cooking, prepare a large pot of very cold water mixed with ice cubes so that you'll have it at the ready to put the blanched beans in - this is important so that you can stop the cooking process (otherwise, they'll continue to cook and end up overdone).

Once the beans are done, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon or by pouring them into a colander, then place them in the ice water bath for 5 minutes to ensure that the cooking stops.

Combine the steamed potatoes, blanched beans and the sauce, stirring with a large spoon to ensure that everything gets well-coated with the aioli and serve. 

Related post on The Garden of Good Eating: Lemon Aioli With Roasted Beets, Oven Fries & Steamed Asparagus

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Carrot-raisin pancakes with cream cheese glaze. (The Gourmand Mom)

Carrot-raisin pancakes with cream cheese glaze

By The Gourmand Mom / 04.21.12

We brought in Easter morning with these decadent pancakes. It’s taking every bit of my self control not to whip up another batch right now … well, that and the absence of a few crucial ingredients.

These pancakes combine the flavors of a classic carrot cake with the feel of traditional pancakes for a really tasty breakfast treat. You could go heavier on the sugar and carrots for a sweeter, cakier result, but for me, these are just perfect. They’ve got the right balance of flavors and sweetness to remind you of carrot cake, while still maintaining the overall feel of a breakfast pancake. A simple cream cheese icing provides the perfect finishing touch.

And they’ve got carrots in them … so they must be good for you, right??

Carrot-raisin pancakes with cream cheese glaze

 2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
1-1/2 cups carrots, finely grated
1/2 cup golden raisins
Butter, for pan

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir with a fork until the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Add the milk, eggs, and vegetable oil (or melted butter). Whisk until combined. Stir in the grated carrots and raisins. Melt a little butter in a pan over medium heat.

Add about 1/3 cup of the pancake batter to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook for another minute or two on the other side, until cooked through.

Drizzle with cream cheese glaze before serving.

To make the glaze: Combine 4 ounces of softened cream cheese with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Then, add a bit of milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches your desired consistency.

Related post on The Gourmand Mom: Cinnamon French Toast Bake

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Fresh fava puree make a really elegant first course to a spring-centric meal. (We Are Never Full)

Fresh fava puree and garlicky sauteed chicory

By We Are Never Full / 04.20.12

I remember seeing this dish in a food magazine years ago and it was one of those images that stuck in my head. The winter version of this dish isn’t a colorful or particular beautiful dish (beauty really is in the eye of the beholder), but to me it was gorgeous and extremely rustic. This is the type of food Jonny and I love to eat the most even though we may showcase some of our more daring dishes on We Are Never Full.

Last September, we traveled to Maine for a long weekend, one our first times away from our then 11-month old. We had a ball (as you can imagine) even though it rained virtually the whole time. In our last hours in Portland, we ran to seek cover from the rain into a place we had been eyeing up for days – Rabelais book store (we later discovered it was a pretty darn famous and beloved place) – a store dedicated to out of print and hard to find (and easy to find) food and drink books.

We must’ve been in that book store for hours and were very close to spending more money in that shop than we had on the whole Maine trip. After begrudgingly putting away 12 cookbooks we just couldn’t afford to buy, we couldn’t let go of Puglia in Cucina. We had to pay the conversion of euros to dollars and knew this would be a pretty pricy purchase (say that 10 times fast) but we couldn’t let go of it.

The photos are amazing and the loosely translated recipes are simple and super authentic (Donkey Stew, anyone?). On page 88 was the recipe I had burned in my head from years ago – Fave e Cicoria (Fava beans and chicory). Well, favas are in full swing right now and it was the perfect time to make a fresh version of this traditional Puglian dish.

This dish is normally made with dried fava beans and is actually a winter dish, made when the chicory is able to be freshly picked. We decided to try it with fresh fava beans and, wow, I could eat the fava puree as a dish by itself. This would make a really elegant first course to a spring-centric meal.

I think using frozen fava’s would work well after fava season is long gone. Use reconstituted dried fava beans for a traditional touch. Because we do not grow Italian-style chicory, I used escarole (which is a form of chicory) and it worked well. If you have never tasted Italian chicory, know that the flavor is heads and shoulders above what we offer here. It’s called puntarelle and is actually the new/young/tender chicory shoots. It’s unbelievably delicious and I so wish we could easily buy it here. It is often used to make another traditional Roman dish, aptly titled “puntarelle” which is sauteed greens with a garlic and anchovy sauce.

Give this beautiful seasonal and spring dish a shot at home while fresh favas are still available. You will not be disappointed and will be licking the sides of your blender as if you just whipped us some cookie dough! 

Fresh Fava Bean Puree and Chicory (Fave e cicoria) 
Serves 2-3 as an ample appetizer
 

2 lbs. of fresh fava beans
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 finely minced garlic cloves
1 shallot
1 teaspoon peperoncino (hot pepper flakes)
1 head of chicory/escarole
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your fresh fava beans by shelling, blanching and removing each bean. Drain and put in a blender.

Add about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil to a pan and, on low-medium heat, add 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan and slowly soften. You do not want to get much color (if any) on the garlic, just soften it while also softening the taste. After a few minutes of softening the garlic, add it to the blender with the fava beans. Begin to puree. Add more olive oil and a bit of water (maybe only 1/4 cup at first – this all depends on the amount of fava beans used). You want a puree that is thick-ish and not thin. Add a pinch of salt and taste – add more to taste. Set aside.

Boil some water. Chop the bottom off the escarole and add it to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander and set aside. In a separate pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and add the shallots. After a minute, add the last of the garlic – allow to saute for a minute. Add the drained escarole, a pinch of salt and a pinch of peperoncino and saute for an additional minute or two.

Prepare your dish by spooning enough fava bean puree on to a plate and top with the sauteed escarole. Serve with a piece of crusty bread. Enjoy!

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