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How many times can one person screw up a veggie burger? I don’t want to talk about it. Although this time, instead of ending up with bean hummus sort of shaped like patties, I managed to salvage my burger concoction and ended up with something quite delicious. I just don’t know what my problem is…the first time I clearly screwed up the recipe. This time, I only sort of screwed up the instructions, but I’m skeptical that it would have worked in any instance. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mark Bittman’s book, How to Cook Everything. It’s a wonderful guide for a great many types of recipes, and I like that there are so many variations offered for each one. But there have been a few I’ve made that were just off. His proportions for hummus called for way too much tahini (in my opinion), making the hummus quite bitter. His olive oil salt bread was basically like a big biscuit, and for some reason, it didn’t brown at all. And his burger recipe, well, here’s how it all went down.

I started with his base.

2 c. cooked beans (I used kidney)
1 egg
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 onion, quartered (I only used 1/2 an onion)
1 T. chili powder & 1 T. cumin
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
Salt & pepper

He also says you can add up to 1/2 c. vegetables. I had some canned artichoke hearts (about 3) that I threw in there just to use up, and I also added a small handful of parsley. It all went into the food processor. “Chop but do not puree,” said the instructions. I started the processor, and before I knew it, not only did I have a puree, but I had giant chunks of onion in my puree. This was not going well. I fished out the chunks of onion but I knew from my past disasterous experience that the texture was way, way too wet. I had even squeezed all the moisture out of the artichoke hearts before I threw them in there!

Panko. I immediately thought of panko. Thank you Japanese bread crumbs! I added probably 3/4 c. panko and voila! Burger consistency. I chilled the burger mixture before forming into patties, and then again after forming into patties and before cooking. It made 5 medium-sized patties. I cooked them with a little bit of olive oil in a pan, until they were nice and browned on each side. They were awesome on nice rolls, topped with mayo, mustard, tomatoes, pickles, and arugula! (I like toppings on my burgers). I served them with oven fries (the sweet potato / yam variety) which I just made by cutting yams cut into matchsticks, coating them with some oil, sprinkling with salt & pepper, and roasting at 400 degrees until browned and cooked completely, about 25 minutes.

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This time I managed to avert disaster, but the search for the perfect veggie burger recipe continues…

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Check out my newest post on The Thrifty Gourmet!

Let’s Talk Ratatouille

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I used to make this bread long ago, two loaves at a time, and freeze one. Then I lost one of my loaf pans. OK, I actually left it at my last apartment during my move and let’s just say I’m not exactly friendly with my old roommate. So this time around, one loaf it is. However, since nuts seem only to come in larger bags than necessary, it would really maximize the cheapness of this to make 2 loaves at a time. Just saying.

I really enjoy this bread, and decided to make a couple of small modifications this time around (the original recipe is on epicurious, from Bon Apetit). I can’t say the flavor of the sweet potato (or zucchini for that matter) is present much, but it does have a unique flavor that’s not vegetable-ey, but also not too sweet. There was probably a time that I would have left the walnuts out — I was absolutely opposed to using them in anything because I found them bitter and gross (another childhood thing). Now, I quite like them in my quickbreads. Feel free to omit if you wish.

Sweet Potato Zucchini Bread

2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cardamom
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar (the original recipe calls for 2 c. but it sounded like a lot, so I reduced it)
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. grated zucchini (about 1 medium, you think you need more but you don’t)
1 1/2 c. grated peeled sweet potato (about 1 medium)
1 c. chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla to blend in large bowl. Mix in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and walnuts and stir well.

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Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes (it really does take this long). Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Things are getting serious around here (pay cuts! awesome!), and it’s time to parlay all my talk of saving money into actual saving of money. No more fancy ramps. Here’s my plan.

– Cook with lots of whole grains and pasta.
– Eat lots of fresh things, fruits and vegetables, but especially those that are in season and thus inexpensive.
– Get protein primarily from beans, tofu, and other vegetarian sources.
– Bake more. Flour is cheap and usually a quick bread ends up being a lot less expensive than buying the equivalent. I’m also going to try to make my own bagels this weekend, and if it goes well, I’ll make a huge batch and freeze them for breakfasts.
– Utilize frozen and canned goods where possible.

Last night I got off to a good start, making a tofu and spinach stir fry with brown rice for dinner (which will be lunch for a couple of days) and a zucchini sweet potato bread, which is great for snacks (I have pictures and a recipe that I’ll post later for that one).

Tonight I’m making ratatouille with the leftover zucchini (I always buy more than I need for that zucchini bread) and eggplant, served over some farfalle pasta. For some reason I have extremely vivid memories of the ratatouille that my dad made when I was a kid and that I hated with a burning, searing passion. Probably because it involved not only zucchini but also tomatoes, two things I loathed and still sometimes feel ambivalent about. But I’m confident my taste buds are totally on board now, and my favorite fruit and veggie bodega sold me a hunk of ginger, 2 big zucchinis, 3 sweet potatoes, and a medium eggplant for $4.40. Can’t. Beat. It.

Cleverness abounds in this Amateur Gourmet post, featuring the recipe Susan Boyled Potatoes.

Homely on the outside, an embarrassment of riches on the inside! He also works in a reference to Ray Liotta’s unfortunate skull incident in the movie Hannibal. A must read.

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I wanted to make this rhubarb tart to go with my dinner on Saturday night, but by the time I got to the farmer’s market, the rhubarb was long gone. So I decided to sub out citrus for the rhubarb — grapefruit, oranges, and blood oranges. Instead of making a pastry crust, I also decided to take the easy way out and use packaged puff pastry! Amazing stuff, really. This is one product I can absolutely get behind buying instead of making.

Smitten Kitchen had a blood orange tart recipe that included a salted caramel sauce, which I decided to make as well. Holy moly that stuff is good, and would pretty much be amazing on anything.

I ended up making the tart for a trivia night party on Sunday instead, so I didn’t get any fabulous pictures (although I think the deliciousness is conveyed anyway). I didn’t want to be that asshole at the party setting up my tripod and trying to find natural light. Yuck. So anyway, if you want to impress someone, and you don’t want to spend a billion hours making some complicated dessert, make this. You will look so fancy, and everyone’s taste buds will be pleased.

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Ramps, ramps, ramps. It’s all the New York foodies can talk about this time of year. They’re in season for about five minutes, so everyone scrambles to get them from the farmer’s market before they’re a fleeting memory of early spring. What are ramps you ask? At one point I was under the false impression they had something to do with ferns, but in fact they are spring onions, otherwise known as wild leeks (they are like a very delicate cross between a scallion and a leek, but the roots are tiny and the flavor is mild).

Aware of the ramp fervor yet at a loss for ramp-related recipes, inspiration arrived by way of The Spotted Pig this weekend. Brian’s dad was in town, and very generously took us out to dinner Friday night at said West Village gastropub. There were a few items on the menu featuring ramps, but what spoke to me was the braised rabbit with ramps and fennel. Ok, you may think I am a horrible person for eating rabbit — well, I defy you to try it and not want to eat it ALL THE TIME. It’s like the most flavorful moist dark meat chicken you’ve ever had, times a million. I cannot sing its praises enough.

In any case, the dish was expectedly delicious, and the braised vegetables were no exception. I knew I wanted to cook a farmer’s market meal Saturday so I decided on braised vegetables (whatever looked good) with ramps for my side. Saturday was the first really warm day we’ve had this spring, so people were out in droves, and as I feared, many market stands were picked over by the time I got there. Luckily, I found some good ramps, some tiny, tiny potatoes (the tiniest I’ve ever seen, in fact), and carrots. Because the licorice flavor of the fennel had been so good in the rabbit dish, I decided to flavor my veggies with tarragon, an herb I rarely use, but which worked out perfectly here, enhancing the natural sweetness of the carrots and potatoes.

Braised Potatoes, Carrots and Ramps with Tarragon
Cooking and prep time approx. 35 – 40 minutes
Serves 4

1 lb. small potatoes — creamers, fingerlings, Yukon Gold would all work. If you can’t find tiny bite-sized ones, dice as necessary
1 bunch ramps, root ends cut off, leaves separated from roots (you could easily sub for greens like kale or spinach when ramps are out of season, or stick with the onion family with leeks. Cooking time would increase.)
6 small carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thickly
3/4 c. chicken stock
1 T. tarragon, chopped
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 T. butter

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy stockpot with a lid. Add potatoes and garlic and saute for a few minutes or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil; lower heat so liquid is simmering but not boiling. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and tarragon. Cover again and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender and the carrots are just tender. Stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the ramp roots and cook for 2 – 3 minutes with the lid off, then add ramp leaves and cook, stirring, until leaves are just tender. Add butter and stir until melted; taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

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It’s been a hectic week, and I realize my post about these cookies is overdue, given that I made them on Sunday! Rest assured, it has nothing to do with any inadequicies in the cookies themselves. They were quite delicious, and far superior to my previously posted oatmeal cookie recipe (sorry Mark Bittman). While those were cakey, somewhat flavorless, and a little dry (yum), these cookies were crispy, airy, and studded with buttery white chocolate. Yum for real! The recipe came courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, and while my cookies were larger and flatter than her rendition (I think I pressed down on them a bit too much before baking), they were still quite good.

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I stumbled across the web site for the Brooklyn Food Conference today — it’s a free event on Saturday, May 2, and some great chefs and organizations will be participating, including Dan Barber from Blue Hill and the chef / owner of Applewood in Park Slope, David Shea, in a panel hosted by Leonard Lopate.

Dinner prepared using local ingredients is just $20. I’m thinking of going. Any Brooklyn foodies out there planning a trip?

Brooklyn Food Conference

This is another hilarious blog with a very specific point of view (which I share). CILANTRO IS THE NECTAR (HERB?) OF THE GODS. It’s not for the faint of heart or probably people under 18. Let’s just say this person uses colorful language to describe his love of cilantro.

F*** Yeah Cilantro

Reminds me of this also hilarious site…

F*** You, Penguin

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