Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cardamom-Scented Baked Raisin Rice

This is our favorite rice to serve under dum or mild curries--anything subtly flavored, and especially anything with sweeter vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes or winter squash. Baking rice in the oven rather than simmering on the stovetop has two key benefits: it frees up burner space for whatever else you're whipping up, and it heats your house so your living room isn't 40 degrees when you're trying to have a dinner party.

2 cups long-grain brown rice, brown jasmine rice or brown basmati rice
3 and 3/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon butter or canola oil
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a lidded casserole dish (if you have a Le Creuset, well...we've got a proposition for you which involves being our best friend). Combine ingredients in the casserole dish, cover with a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil, and replace lid. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until water is absorbed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Apricot-Cranberry Compote

This is one of our favorite desserts: sweet-tart dried fruit slow-simmered down to a rich amber stew. It's a blessedly simple option for when you're having company--there's almost no prep work and you can just throw everything in the pot before you start making dinner and let it simmer gently throughout the evening until dessert rolls around. Feel free to experiment with the fruit; try substituting dried figs or dried peaches for the apricots, dried cherries for the cranberries, or orange slices for the lemon slices. You can also replace the yogurt with creme fraiche (if you're feeling fancy) or cashew cream (if you're feeling lactose-intolerant).

The slow simmer really concentrates the sugar in the fruit, so you'll want to serve this with plain, unsweetened yogurt (we like this with thick Greek yogurt or goat yogurt for variety). The sweetness will also vary depending on the kind of fruit you use: Turkish apricots will yield a sweeter compote than California apricots, lemon slices will be tarter than orange slices, and sugar-sweetened cranberries vs. juice-sweetened cranberries--well, you get the idea. If you do end up with a compote that isn't as sweet as you'd like, you can drizzle honey or maple syrup over the final product.

If you end up with leftovers, this makes a delicious breakfast!

1 and 1/2 cups dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 a lemon, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
yogurt for topping

Place all ingredients in a saucepan (don't use cast-iron--it'll taste weird). Add water just to cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 2-3 hours, until fruit is very soft and the liquid has reduced to a mahogany syrup. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Parsnip, Kale and Beet Salad

Are you craving raw food, but it's the dead of winter? Are you seeking a parsnip and beet outlet that doesn't involve tossing with olive oil and roasting? Are you always searching for innovative ways to sneak in extra kale? Look no further than this refreshing salad, which showcases wintry ingredients in a beautiful confetti-like raw presentation, scented with fresh mint.

3 leaves lacinato kale, thinly sliced
1 large parsnip, scrubbed and grated
1 beet, scrubbed and grated
1/2 a head of green romaine lettuce, finely chopped
1/2 a small red onion, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

Combine. Mix with your favorite salad dressing (we love Annie's Naturals Goddess dressing).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Carob-Coconut Fudge

Tu B'Shevat is upon us, which in our household means: bring on the carob! (Eh, who are we kidding--every day is bring on the carob day around here). This easy, addictive fudge also incorporates two other things that grow on trees (and are thus suitable celebratory food for this holiday): almonds, another traditional Tu B'Shevat food, and shredded coconut.

The way we've made it, this fudge has a lot of texture. If you want a smoother fudge, you could pulse the coconut in a food processor to achieve a finer consistency.

1/2 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup carob powder
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup carob chips (or chocolate chips)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the carob powder and shredded coconut and mix well. Add in the almond butter, agave nectar and optional goodies and stir well to combine. Press the mixture into a pie pan or glass baking dish, flattening to about an inch. Cover and freeze until thoroughly chilled, then cut into squares or use cookie cutters for whatever festive shape you desire.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Roasted Green Beans with Red Pepper Puree

Like a lot of other cruelly-treated vegetables, green beans are often subjected to too much water and end up mushy and flavor-leeched. But give them another chance: they have a hidden sweet, crunchy side that emerges when you roast them! (We really can't say enough about roasting green things. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, even kale--you name it, we like to douse it in oil and bake it on high heat). The accompanying red pepper sauce is optional for those of you who, as one reader confided to me, "fear fancy sauces," but it's quite good and the leftovers will perk up whatever other veggies you're serving later this week.

1 lb. green beans or Blue Lake beans
1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt

Roast peppers in the broiler, turning until blackened on all sides. When peppers are completely blackened, remove from broiler and place in a paper bag to steam for about 15 minutes.

While peppers are steaming in their paper bag, lower the oven temperature to 400. Trim the ends off the green beans and chop into 1-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and salt, spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and roast for 15-20 minutes, until browned.

When the peppers have cooled down, peel off the charred skins, discard cores and seeds and chop roughly. Throw the peppers, tomato paste, cayenne, paprika and salt in the food processor and pulse until smooth. Drizzle the resulting sauce on the now-browned green beans and serve.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lemon-Turmeric Malaise Deterrent

Barack Obama has a sore throat, and it's too bad he's all the way in New Hampshire, or we'd give him some of this turmeric-glow elixir and fix him right up. Since the New Hampshire primaries are upon us and it's general cough-cold-yuckiness season anyway, we thought we'd share this concoction, passed on to us by my sister. It's great for clearing your sinuses, zapping hoarseness, getting up the phlegm, or just giving you a sweet-tart cayenne jolt. (Blah blah, these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease).

More cocktail party trivia for you to bring up at whatever New-Hampshire-returns-watching soiree you'll be attending: did you know that turmeric is actually a rhizome, like ginger? We have some whole turmeric lovingly brought back from India by a friend and have been grinding them up whenever we want to make this drink.

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey (or more, to taste)
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
1/8 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon warm water

Combine all ingredients and stir well to dissolve the honey. We take shots of this whenever we need it, but Barack and anyone else who might be drinking this in public, you can dilute with a cup of hot water so you don't grimace on camera while you're sipping it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Rutabaga Puree

Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, authors of Veganomicon, appeared in my kitchen this morning via Weekend Edition...just as I was looking over this recipe, since we got Veganomicon as a Christmas present from Phoebe's sister Dawn! We're not vegans, but I really love the book's sassy headnotes and the substance of the authors' comments on Weekend Edition, namely that the most important thing to learn to love and prepare is vegetables. Word on that, Isa and Terry, and thumbs-up on a delicious rutabaga recipe. We didn't modify it at all, which speaks highly of their kitchen instincts.

It's the dead of winter, and you can't have too many rutabaga suggestions, right? This one is rich with coconut milk and tart-sweet with lime juice and agave syrup. Since we used a lime to get the lime juice, we served this innovative mash with another Veganomicon recipe, chile cornmeal-crusted tofu, which has lime zest in the batter. Mmm.

Rutabaga Puree
from "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

2 and 1/2 lbs rutabaga, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place the rutabaga in a medium-size lidded saucepan and cover with water. Put on the lid and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until the rutabaga is tender.

Drain and transfer to a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Serve immediately, while still warm.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Chocolate-Chipotle Black Bean Soup

Yeah, that's right, chocolate. Your kitchen will smell DeLiCiOuS. Resist the urge to use whatever chocolate bar you have lying around--you need unsweetened baking chocolate because this is a savory chocolate showcase, like mole, and a handful of Hershey's kisses will just taste weird.

If you're new to chipotles, they can usually be found, dried, in the international section of your supermarket or a Latin American grocery store (where they'll be WAY cheaper). They have a great smoky flavor and cooking them whole in the soup allows you to control the final level of heat--at the end, you can puree the whole chile, half or none and return it to the soup, depending on your spice tolerance.

Get to the Chocolate Already.

1 cup dried black beans
1 dried chipotle chile
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin
½ an onion, minced
2 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups stock
1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt to taste

Optional but Delicious Garnishes
1 cup peanut oil
4 shallots, sliced paper-thin
Sour cream

Yeah, Yeah, and When do I Add the Chocolate?

Soak beans and chipotle however you normally do dried beans--either cover them with water for 8 hours or do the quick-soak method (cover with water, bring to a boil for five minutes, remove from heat and let sit, covered, for an hour). Drain beans and chipotle.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot and add cumin and onions. Stir for about 3 minutes, then add remaining spices, stock, chocolate and soaked beans and chile. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, until beans are tender. Remove about 2 cups of the soup and the chipotle and puree, then return to pot. (If you're not into spiciness, you can just remove the chipotle altogether and just puree 2 cups of soup). Stir in tomato paste until dissolved and add salt to taste (these are added at the end because both salt and tomatoes prevent dried beans from cooking. Retain that for cocktail-party conversation).

Garnish time! Heat peanut oil in a small saucepan, add shallots, and fry 2-3 minutes, until crispy. Drain the shallots into a sieve (save the oil!) or remove them quickly with a slotted spoon onto paper towels. The used oil is great for instant flavor in stir-fries.

Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of crispy shallots.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Miso-Preserved Garlic

About a month ago, I had the flu and was good for nothing except lying on the couch, coughing and groaning. Because I was down for the count, activity-wise, Phoebe embarked on a weekend of miscellaneous preserving and fermentation projects to keep herself amused, including this salty treat. We dug out a few cloves tonight and threw them in a stir-fry and the results were well worth the wait! Best of all, this is a project that requires very little effort from you: just pack the garlic cloves and miso in a jar, stash them in your fridge and fuhgetaboutit for a month, then retrieve a few and feel all righteous and Martha Stewart.

If you're new to Japanese cooking, both mirin and miso can be found in natural-foods stores, well-stocked supermarkets and Asian groceries. The garlic cloves will get mellow and take on a magical saltiness, perfect for perking up salad dressings, sauces, kebabs, stir-fries and rice dishes. You can basically use them anywhere you'd want regular garlic, but they are saltier and less stinky. They're fantastic sauteed with a little broccoli, and if you're the type to eat whole garlic cloves when you're getting sick, nibble on one of these straight without having horrendous garlic breath! Perhaps if we'd had these handy a month ago, I could have warded off the flu...

1 head garlic
1 cup miso (we used barley miso, but if you've got something else on hand, go for it)
3-4 tablespoons mirin

Separate garlic cloves and peel. Toss in some boiling water for just a minute, then drain and pat dry with a clean towel.

In a separate bowl, combine miso and mirin. Spoon a small amount of miso-mirin mixture into a clean 12-ounce jar, add a few garlic cloves, and cover with miso-mirin mixture. Repeat until all garlic cloves have been used and finish with a final layer of miso-mirin mixture. Screw on the lid and store in the refrigerator. You can eat these after 5-6 days if you're OK with a strong garlic flavor, but they're best if you wait a month or so for the garlic to absorb the flavor of the miso.