Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday Supper Remixed w/Bryant Terry April 13th 3-5pm

Hope you can join us for this exciting event! The talented Chef, activist and artist Bryant Terry will be with us to launch his new book AFRO-VEGAN- Farm Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed. There will be a fabulous community pot-luck, a cooking demo, music, a Feast For the Future Visioning activity and so much more. It's s chance to gather and build positive community, celebrate culture, eat, learn and be together!!! Bryant will be cooking up his Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens, and there will be lots of great dishes from community members to share. I'm planning to make Bryant Terry's Cocoa Spice Cake (probably a mini cupcake version), and maybe an Afro-Brazilian Moqueca (coconut milk stew).  The Fabulous Nadine Nelson of Global Local Gourmet will be making some Black Eyed Pea Caviar from Afro-Vegan as well.

Photo credit to Paige Green, all pix from Afro-Vegan. From top right, clockwise: Cocoa Spice Cake, Glazed Carrot Salad, Summer Kebabs with Pomegranate Peach Sauce, and Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens.
The photo above is from Bryant's Feast for the Future installation at the Chicago conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. We will be building our local Feast for the Future altar. If you are planning to attend on Sunday, you can contribute something personal that connects to your culinary history or traditions, a cooking tool, or even a blessing or wish that you are inspired to add when you arrive (all items will be returned to you at 5pm). It will be beautiful. 

New Haven area folks, if you plan to attend and would like to cook one of Bryant's recipes, I'll post one below, and you can also google many of his recipes online!

For local folks, see you Sunday!
For those of you around the country, Bryant Terry is on a book tour and may be headed your way, check out his schedule here.

From AFRO-VEGAN by, Bryant Terry
All-Green Spring Slaw: 
green cabbage, green peas, sugar snap peas, celery, pumpkin seeds, parsley, chives

Soundtrack: “Mobius Streak” by Hiatus Kaiyote (Dufrane Remix) from TAWK TAKEOUT (Tawk Tomahawk Remixed)

This dish is my modern take on classic coleslaw. The delicate flavor of the green peas and sugar snap peas make this an exceptional dish, and the crunch from the celery and pumpkin seeds is extremely satisfying. The tangy dressing is top-notch too, so reserve any extra to use on another salad.

1/4 cup silken tofu
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1/2 cup shelled peas (about 8 ounces peas in pods)
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
2 stalks celery, strings removed and thinly sliced diagonally (see note)
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, toasted (see sidebar, page xx)
1/2 cup packed chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest

To make the dressing, put the tofu, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, garlic, and salt in a blender and process until somewhat mixed. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil and process until creamy. Taste and season with more salt if desired.

To make the slaw, put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. With clean hands, massage the cabbage until soft and wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse the bowl. Put the colander in the sink, put a plate atop the cabbage, and weight it (a 28-ounce can of tomatoes works well). Let sit for 1 hour.

Rinse the cabbage under cold water, then squeeze with clean hands to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer back into the bowl and add the shelled peas, sugar snap peas, celery, and pumpkin seeds. Pour in enough dressing to lightly coat the vegetables. (start with 3 tablespoons). Toss with clean hands, then taste and add more dressing as desired (reserve any extra for another use).

To serve, with clean hands transfer the slaw into a serving bowl, leaving any juices behind. Garnish with the parsley, chives, and lime zest.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Buttermilk Scones

This is definitely the messiest batch of scones that have ever come out of my oven, but truthfully, what does mess matter when they taste so good? Crisp sugared edges, buttery, slightly sweet interior with fragrant steam of anise and orange mixed into the batter. Scones are deceptively luxurious, as really, they are so easy to make. It's the same process as making biscuits, cutting cold butter into flour a mixture until it's broken into little pieces, adding liquid, mixing only enough to pull the dough together, cutting and baking. Once upon a time every mother, grandmother auntie and even a few uncles knew how to do this. It's a skill that has been replaced with refrigerated cardboard tubes barely containing the dough ready to burst from inside, filled with five times the number of ingredients needed, leaving the average shopper feeling there is some mystery to making a biscuit, something you can't just do at home. 

And so we are here. Like so many other culinary skills I savor, a totally basic recipe that once you make a few times, will vanquish the fear and open up a world of possibility, a food that's quick, versatile, and delicious; a gift you can whip up to treat your family and neighbors who have yet to walk behind the velvet curtain revealing the simplicity that is scones and biscuits. 

This scone recipe comes from a great cookbook from Julia Child that came out in the 90's when I was just entering the professional culinary world. It is among the early wave of photo rich cookbooks that helped to birth the realm of celebrity chefs and cookbooks of today, those books you want to pour over nearly as much as you want to eat the foods described within. Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan is a collection of recipes from great bakers across the country, and some of the base recipes, like these buttermilk scones are gems. My standby favorite additions are anise, lemon or orange zest and currants, but really you can add nearly any combination of flavors you like: citrus, dried or fresh fruits, ginger, spices or shredded coconut. You could even go savory by reducing the sugar to 1 tablespoon and adding cheese, olives or herbs. 

This batter is very wet, so flour your counter well before turning out the dough, handle the dough as little as possible, leaving the small chunks of butter to melt in the hot oven resulting in flaky pockets of rich steam and deliciousness. A simple pleasure you will now be able to enjoy more often.  

Above: unbaked scone, bits of butter layered within the dough are what make the final product so tender and flaky.


Recipe by Marion Cunningham 
from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (with my notes and adaptations)
3 cups all-purpose flour (part whole wheat, corn meal or oat flour is great too)
⅓ cup sugar (I use 1/2 cup)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup (approximately) buttermilk*
1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest (optional)
½ stick unsalted butter, melted, for brushing (I generally use a few tablespoons of cream or 1/2 & 1/2)
¼ cup sugar, for dusting (I use turbinado sugar or  "Sugar In The Raw")

Other additions might include:

1 tablespoon anise seeds 
1/4 cup dried fruit like currants, raisins or shredded coconut
1/2 cup small or diced fresh fruits 
candied ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices

savory additions work to, just reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon and add things like cheese, fresh or dried herbs, olives, curry or other things you like. 
* If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute 1 cup of any kind of milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar or 3/4 cup milk with 1/4 orange juice.
  1. Preheat oven to 425°, and position the racks into thirds in the oven.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium size bowl. Add the cold butter and mix it with your hands until it resembles coarse cornmeal. You could also use a pastry cutter, but your hands are really the best option. (I use my electric mixer with the paddle attachment.) It's OK if there are a few bigger pieces of butter remaining because they add to the flakiness of the scones.
  3. Pour in the buttermilk and the zest and mix with a fork or rubber spatula until it is just combined. Do not be tempted to mix it until it looks pretty! The original recipe says to knead a few times, but I just scrape the dough onto a floured counter and gently pull it together. If it is too dry, you can add 1 tablespoon more milk. 
  4. Shape the dough into a long rectangle about 3 inches from front to back of counter, 1 inch high and about 18 inches left to right. Using a chefs knife or bench scraper, cut from front to back across the 3 inch length of the rectangle angling from right to left in a zig zag resulting in triangular scones.  
  5. Place the scones on a baking sheet, lined with parchment, brush them with melted butter or cream, and sprinkle with a little bit of coarse sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until both the tops and bottoms are golden rotating in oven if necessary. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly. 

For freezing: you can make these up until the point of cutting them into triangles. Freeze on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a air tight bag or container. To bake place scones on a baking sheet while oven is preheating. Bake following instructions above, but increasing baking time slightly (time will vary). 

Do you have a great scone or biscuit recipe? Please share!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Brazilian Countryside Breakfast: Avocado, Oats & Molasses

 I know this looks and sounds crazy, but trust me it is delicious! Take 1/2 a ripe avocado, mash it with a fork and scoop it into a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup RAW rolled oats, drizzle with molasses. Mix molasses into oats and enjoy the molasses covered oats and the rich creamy avocado together in each bite. I first ate this in Brazil deep in the countryside of Bahia in 1994. Avocados are eaten primarily as a sweet food there, the whole left by the pit filled with condensed milk, or fresh molasses; or blended into milk shakes called "vitaminas". Do yourself a favor and try this combination for breakfast, it is a huge favorite in our house!

 Have you come across other fun and unusual breakfasts abroad?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Love of a Good Egg

More than a few of my best childhood food memories (of which there are many) involve eggs. A soft boiled egg broken over torn pieces of buttered toast, the yolk soaking into the buttery bread; my father making "Egyptian Eyes" essentially an egg in a hole, a triangle shaped hole reminiscent of the pyramid with the eye on a dollar bill; or the tiny fancy egg cups and little spoons my dutch grandmother had for us.

My love for eggs has risen and fallen over the years. These days it's by far on the up swing with my family eating two or three dozen a week. Yes really. Eggs are one of the least expensive types of protein, rivaled maybe by beans, but they are far more versatile and quick to cook, so eggs make it into many of our meals, breakfast, lunch or dinner.  A number of years ago I started reading about how egg laying hens are treated in factory farms an was totally disgusted, so now I mostly buy organic or certified humane eggs as well as eggs from small local farms when I can. Some of the grocery store eggs are from big farms like Pete & Gerry's in New Hampshire (the medium sized ones are usually much cheaper) and some are from local farmers at the CitySeed Farmers' Markets, or when I'm lucky from my mechanic's wife at Aquilla Motors Garage down the street....

Yes, homegrown eggs at our urban gas station, lovin' it!
While humanely raised eggs are more expensive than the bargain priced cousins, when I think about how many meals we can get out of a dozen costing $2,50 or even $4, and how the chickens were not feed animal byproducts and kept in tiny cages, well, it makes me actually want to eat them.

One of my favorite staple egg dishes is rice and beans with a fried egg on top. I love the richness the yolk adds to the dish. Similarly, if we make rice and stir fried or roasted vegetables for dinner, topping it with a fried egg and some good hot sauce transforms the dish and adds some much needed protein.

Another great stand by meal (for breakfast, lunch, or dinner) is an Omelette. Some chefs will wax poetic about the sill needed to cook the perfect Omelette. Don't worry about making it perfect, or if it browns a little (like mine did accidentally) just find some good eggs, and some delicious fillings, sautéed greens and cheese, scallions, fresh tomatoes, zucchini and thyme...whatever you have on hand and a pinch of salt and pepper...It's a quick, delicious, affordable and healthy meal. 
Making the perfect soft boiled eggs is also a bit tricky. I find that you have to test it out with a specific pot, burner size and amount of water, all of those factors influence how quickly the egg will go from soft to medium to hard. In general, I cook an egg for one minute at a simmer, and it is soft, but if I use a different pot, I may get a slightly uncooked egg or a medium cooked egg.

So here's to hoping that more folks start eating eggs for dinner. It's a great quick alternative on those nights when you might have been tempted to get take out or eat not so healthy packaged foods. 

If you are looking for a fun but slightly sweet breakfast or dessert with eggs, check out this puff cake with fruit.

Please share your favorite egg dishes!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Oatmeal Take Two: Caramelized Banana and Hazelnuts

There have been many cold mornings when the thought of oatmeal for breakfast reminded me of gruel or watery plain congee; bland and totally unappealing. Maybe it was the years of eating oatmeal and peanut butter for breakfast at six in the morning, before heading in to cook at work, or to teach; a functional breakfast, filling, cheap, and easy. I took a multiyear break from eating oatmeal very often, which must have been a good decision, because suddenly it has reentered my life, reborn and deliciously adorned, like a grown-up fancy cousin, not the plain jane I once knew.  

The thing about this delightful breakfast is that it is still simple and dekicious; the toppings really take so little time to prepare, but they make such a difference. I generally add some chopped nuts or nut butter to my oatmeal to add protein, and if I have it, any kind of fruit so there is something fresh, and a natural, unrefined sweetness. I almost always add a sprinkle of cinnamon, which adds a bit of sweetness too, and occasionally a little drizzle of honey or maple syrup, but with all the fruit, it doesn't need much. The easiest ones are things that don't have to be cooked, like strawberries, shredded unsweetened coconut, walnuts and honey, or diced apples, almonds and dates. On a weekend morning I give it a little more time and sauté some bananas with butter and maple syrup, and caramelized some hazelnuts in the same mixture, making a sweet warm decadent addition to the oatmeal. When I'm in a rush and I need to save the few pieces of fruit in the house for my kid's lunch or snack, a handful of raisins, cooked up plump with the oats, a big spoonful of peanut butter on top, a drizzle of milk and honey make for one of my workday winter favorites. 

Caramelized Banana & Hazelnut Oatmeal
Serves 2
Prepare plain unsweetened oatmeal (recipe below)
Make toppings while oats are cooking

I am approximating this recipe as I never measure this:
2 ripe bananas. peeled
1/2 cup hazelnuts (whole or chopped)
3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (you can use less if you want)
2 tablespoons butter (or less)
pinch salt
milk, cinnamon or other spices optional

The Nuts: Generally I add a slice of butter (less than 1 tablespoon), a drizzle of maple syrup or honey (1 to 2 tablespoons) and a pinch of salt to a frying pan set over medium heat. Simmer until butter and syrup are mixed and let them bubble and start to caramelize, about 1 minute. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Add a handful of whole or chopped hazelnuts. Stir frequently cooking until nuts are well coated and starting to brown. Remove nuts into a bowl or plate and set aside.

The Bananas: Add one tablespoon of butter to the frying pan right after you remove the nuts, (no need to wash it out). Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of maple syrup on honey, a pinch of salt and any spices you like. While this is bubbling over medium heat, slice 2 peeled bananas in half across the middle and then along the length. Place them in the bubbling syrup and butter. Cook until browned slightly on one side, turn over and cook on other side. If the caramel starts to get too dark, you can add a few drops of water. The bananas will start to soften, so handle gently.

To Complete: spoon one serving of oatmeal into a bowl, top with caramelized bananas and nuts. Drizzle a little milk of your choosing (cow, almond, rice etc...) around the edge. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon if you like. Enjoy.

Basic Oatmeal - Serves 2
1 Cup Rolled Oats*
2 Cups Water (can use 1/2 milk or almond milk if a creamier oatmeal is desired)
pinch salt (optional)
  1. Combine oats and water in a pot. place over medium high heat, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer oats. Stirring occasionally. 
  2. Cook until oats are cooked through and soft. You can adjust water to make your oatmeal thinner or thicker, depending on how you like it. 
*If you have quick oats you can use the same ratio of oats to water, but they will cook much quicker. If using steel cut oats, you need 1 cup oats to 3 or 4 cups of water. Check out this recipe for how to cook them.

Really I think almost any fruit or nut is wonderful on oatmeal. Mango and strawberries are particularly delicious and beautiful...sadly we ate that bowl before any pictures could be snapped... Medjool dates, melted butter and almonds make for a deep rich version, perfect for these cold winter mornings.

What are your favorite oatmeal toppings?  Please share!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Mochi, Another Chinese New Year Treat

As you may have discovered from my blog, I have a bit of a sweet tooth. This particular treat, Mochi or pounded sweet rice,  rises above many in my heart, so much so that my husband started calling me "Mochi Lady" more than 13 years ago, and still does to this day. This post is rather long, which might give you an idea of just how much I love mochi. And, while the chewy, sticky texture of this lightly sweetened rice cake is not so familiar to most Americans, it is something worth exposing yourself too at least once!

Mochi is a not too sweet treat, made by people in almost every country in Asia, and is one of the foods eaten on Japanese and Chinese New Year, which are this month. Various types of cooked glutinous rice or sweet rice flour are pounded or mixed to make a sticky mochi dough which is most often filled  with sweetened red bean paste, but may also have an assortment of fillings (like the ones I bought pictured above), with chopped peanuts and coconut, lotus seed, sesame paste, taro or other fillings. The red bean variety is often available in take-out sushi restaurants in the USA, as well as any Asian market in either the refrigerated or dry good self area. 

The skillful process of pounding glutinous rice into mochi has become a bit of a spectacle, showing up on japanese game shows and tons of youtube videos, like the one below, keep watching to the end to see the incredible speed they hit!
Many years ago a friend of mine from the Philipines, knowing of my love of mochi, shared an incredible homemade treat made by her family back home, and sent to her in a care package. It was a seasonal specialty in the Philipines: early spring mochi made from the first grains of fresh green spring rice, pounded, sweetened and flattened between two sheets of plastic. It was an amazing, chewy, slightly sweet, nutty and fresh, handmade by her family and sent half way around the world. It was a gift I will never forget!  I could not find any photos or recipes on google exactly like what I ate that day, but this is somewhat similar: How to Make Kalamay na Pinipig 

Over the years I have made mochi at home only a few times. Once from fresh sweet rice which I soaked overnight, steamed and then "pounded" using the paddle attachment in my stand mixer. Last year, I decided to try using the Mochiko rice flour (pictured in the box at the top). I do not have a microwave, so followed the stovetop directions for cooking the mochi dough. Here is a good video for a Korean style mochi, and she shows how to make the red bean filling using adzuki beans.

Below are some pictures of my mochi making adventure with my kids, who share my love of mochi.  First we made the red bean filling and scooped it into small balls ready for filling the mochi dough. Then made our dough from the glutinous rice flour, and tinted it pink with a few drops of food coloring.

 Below: cutting the dough into 1 1/2 inch squares, then filling them with red bean paste, pinching the dough closed and rolling the mochi round and flat.

To make Red Bean Filling:

  1. Put one cup of adzuki beans in a heavy pot with 3 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Lower heat and simmer for about 1½ hours.
  3. If the beans haven’t softened after 1½ hours, add more water and cook over low heat until they are soft and can be well mashed.
  4. Mash the beans with a wooden spoon (or food processor) until smooth.
  5. Put the beans back into the pot and add ¾ cup light brown or raw sugar, ¼ tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 2-3 tbs rice or corn syrup.
  6. Stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the paste looks a little shiny.
  7. Using spoons, divide the bean paste into one inch balls (or smaller depending on the size mochi you want to make.  
To make Mochi:
Mochiko is the only brand of glutinous rice flour I have seen in the USA. You must use glutinous or sweet rice flour for this, regluar rice flour will not work. Most recipes online use a microwave, you can do that if you like. I made mine on the stove top and it was great. 

3 Cups water
1 box (16oz or two cups) Mochiko glutinous rice flour  
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 drops food coloring if desired.
  1. Put water, sugar, salt and food coloring in a pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in Mochiko flour and simmer stirring constantly, until the dough forms a thick smoth paste, about 3 minutes. 
  3. Sprinkle the counter with tapioca or corn starch and spread the dough our sprinkling the top with starch as well. 
  4. Cool and cut into squares for filling with red bean paste, or anything else you like. shredded coconut and peanuts are a great combination too!
  5. Mochi must be eaten within a day or two, and should be kept at room temperature, it will get hard if refrigerated. 
There are many other kinds of mochi, which if you decide you like it, you can start to discover. For Americans, there is this variety that you can find in most health food stores. I was raised eating this type, toasted and topped with a little butter and maple syrup, a New England twist. 

I usually keep sweet rice or glutinous rice in the house, since when it is cooked or steamed you get sticky rice, which we love as well. It can be turned into little balls and sprinkled with sesame, or rice seasoning, which makes a great treat for little (or big) kids. 

 Have you had mochi? What do you think?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Year

It's only been a few weeks since the new year started, but to be honest, it feels like months have gone by. I love new beginnings and special holidays with family, so I feel sort of nostalgic for the holiday just past. Lucky for me, I celebrate four new year holidays each year, and each in a different way: Western New Year, Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and my birthday (personal new year). Chinese New Year is coming up later this month, and I am working on a post about Mochi sweets which are traditionally eaten on this holiday, but to start getting you inspired for this holiday, I thought I'd include this post about homemade dumplings, which we sometimes make for Chinese New Year, Western New Year...or just for a fun dinner.

The dumpling "skins" or dough (bottom right above) can be found at any asian market, but often in a good regular grocery store at the end of the produce isle, near the tofu. You can fill these with whatever finely chopped ingredients you like, tofu, vegetables, meat and add some garlic, scallion, grated ginger, salt or spices. Steam boil or pan fry and your are done.

It's a bit of a messy project, but great fun for kids or a party night with friends. One of my favorite kids books describes family dumpling making, Mochi, and New Year in the most wonderful way "Dumpling Soup" is well worth the read! 

I don't really use a recipe when I make dumplings. I toss together different ingredients that I might have in the fridge and season as I said above with garlic, ginger, salt and spices. The typical fillings I use are: tofu (pressed and crumbled), scallion, blanched mung bean sprouts, finely chopped mushrooms, or shredded carrot. Traditionally, the dumplings are made with pork, if you'd like you can use any ground meat, season it well, and fill dumplings with a small spoonful in the middle, use your finger to wet the edge of the dough with water, hold the dough in half and pinch it tightly closed, overlapping the seam as you go. If that is too complicated, you can just fold them in half and pinch the edges together. 

Once you have made a batch of dumplings, you can steam, boil or fry them. I served these up with some sautéed pea greens from the Asian Market, totally out of season for the north-east in the winter, but a joy to eat, and a great way to start another new year. 

Here are some links to some traditional dumpling recipes:
Homemade Chinese Dumplings - Jiao Zi - This has great photos to show how to pinch the dumplings closed.  

For dipping, you can buy a "dumpling dipping sauce" or make your own by mixing: 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon hot chili oil (or other hot sauce)

Beyond this, get creative: sweet, savory, curry, sweet potato, banana and chocolate..... whatever your heart desires. 

UPDATE 1/29/14: Check out my friend and cousin, Nadine Nelson of Global Local Gourmet demonstrating how to make delicious Golden Chicken Spring Rolls. 

So, are you going to make some dumplings...or did this scare you off 
and you're headed to the store to just buy some?