Friday, October 30, 2009

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Leeks and Thyme

Homey and comforting, this creamy soup contains no cream or dairy products of any kind--just vegetables, herbs and stock. Even without cream, it's still very rich, so plan to serve this as a small first course rather than a meal in itself.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small head cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
5 cups vegetable stock (you can use the green part of the leek, thyme stems and leftover garlic or onion skins to make a quick stock)

Preheat oven to 350. Toss 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the cauliflower and sea salt in a 9 x 13 inch pan and roast for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned in places and tender.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add the leeks and saute, stirring frequently, for 10-20 minutes, until wilted and starting to color. Remove from heat.

When cauliflower is done, combine cauliflower, leeks, thyme and stock in the blender and puree until very smooth. Pass through a food mill to remove any twiggy bits of thyme and get the texture ultra-silky.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Triple Almond Cookies

Over the summer we got pretty obsessed with these cookies. While we definitely don't follow the Primal Blueprint diet, we were intrigued by the idea of cookies with no flour and no sugar. So we made them no less than twenty times, tried out numerous variations, and got the thumbs-up from both gluten-free friends and consumers of regular cookies before we decided it was time to blog our version. We were going to wait until Passover, but these cookies are too good to be relegated to the "Passover dessert" category (keep them in mind when that time of year rolls around, though). These cookies have three almond sources--almond meal, slivered almonds and almond extract--with maple and warm spices singing backup. They're addictive and macaroon-like and disappear VERY quickly!

We tried both almond flour and almond meal and have found that we like almond meal better (it's a little coarser, so the texture is more complex). East Bay readers, you can get almond meal in the refrigerated section in the bulk aisle at the Berkeley Bowl, in the case with the pasta dough.

Modified from This Primal Life

1 and 1/4 cups almond meal
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (or coconut oil!)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine almond meal, slivered almonds, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Mix together melted butter, maple syrup and almond extract and add to the dry ingredients, stirring well to combine. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake on the top rack of your oven for 10 minutes, until the bottoms start to brown, and then transfer to a wire rack--they may not seem done when they come out, but they will firm as they cool and develop an amazing chewy texture. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before you EAT. THEM. ALL.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Massaged Kale Salad with Asian Pear, Smoked Gouda and Cucumber

This is one of those rare October weeks at the farmer's market where you can find summer foods like tomatoes and cucumbers alongside harbingers of fall like delicata squash and Asian pears. To take advantage of the seasonal overlap, here's another massaged kale salad! The crisp, clean taste of the cucumbers and the sweetness of the pears nicely offsets the assertiveness of the kale and gouda. If Asian pears aren't available, we've also tried this with slices of green apple with good results. Best of all, this requires no dressing beyond the olive oil used to massage the kale, making it an excellent choice for you brown-baggers who would rather not get vinaigrette all over the inside of your briefcase.

1 large bunch curly green kale, washed, de-stemmed and chopped (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large Asian pear, diced
1/2 cup cubed smoked gouda
1 small Persian or English cucumber, diced

Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Massage the kale for a few minutes, until it breaks down and wilts. Top with pear, gouda and cucumber and enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Mashed potato pancakes are an excellent way to turn leftover mashed potatoes into a whole new meal with minimal effort. If you're truly lazy and can't even work up enough energy to fry your potato pancakes, we've discovered that baking works just as well.

2 scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
2 eggs
4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
Canola oil

Mix together all of the ingredients except the canola oil.

Choose your cooking method: baking or frying.

The Easy Way: Grease a cookie sheet and dot with tablespoons of batter, pressing each mound down to flatten it. Bake at 450 until the bottoms of the pancakes are golden and crispy. Flip the pancakes over, return the tray to the oven and bake until the undersides are golden. It should take about 10 minutes on each side.

The Hard But Deliciously Fatty Way: Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet, medium-high. Drop 1 tablespoon of the batter into the pan. Flatten the mound of batter slightly with the back of a spoon. Add as several more mounds, then fry for about 5 minutes on each side, until the bottom is golden and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to blot the oil.

Serve with ketchup.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cumin Rice with Cashews and Raisins

More than six months after our return from Kerala, we still can't stop making this aromatic, earthy rice we discovered in cooking school. It's fantastic with curries or thoren! The only modifications we've made are to use shallots instead of onions and to substitute cooked brown rice for more traditional white basmati rice. The cashews and raisins are an easy way to turn an otherwise humble rice dish into something impressive.

One of our biggest take-aways from learning to cook South Indian food is the value of black pepper as a centerpiece spice rather than a finishing touch. Resist the temptation to just grind in a few shakes of black pepper and call it a day--measuring out the full 1/2 teaspoon, you'll see how much more it is, and using that much black pepper really makes a difference for the final product.

3 cups long-grain brown rice or brown basmati rice, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 and 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon urad dal (optional)
1 cup very thinly sliced shallots
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
a pinch of turmeric
1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup raisins

Heat the olive oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and urad dal and stir until dal is brown, then add the shallots and saute until starting to brown. Now add the pepper and turmeric, stir to coat the shallots, and fold in the cooked rice. Stir well, ensuring that the shallots and spices get mixed in well. Salt to taste and set aside.

In a small skillet, heat the butter or coconut oil and saute the cashews until just barely starting to color. Add the raisins and continue stirring for about a minute longer, until raisins are puffy. Remove from heat, sprinkle raisins and cashews on the rice and serve.