Friday, March 15, 2013

Banana Cream Pancakes = Vegan Breakfast Goodness!

It seems to me that breakfast is often the most difficult meal for vegans.  Unless you're into lots of bread or smoothies, the options can feel kind of limiting - pretty much every traditional breakfast/brunch menu is heavily dedicated to eggs or pork or cheese...  

What to do when these items don't suit you, and you're not in the mood for a bagel with hummus?

I offer you the banana cream pancake.

Vegan Banana Cream Pancakes
(Adapted from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan)
yield: 10 pancakes

1 1/3 c white whole wheat flour, or gluten free flour blend
1 T baking powder
1/2 t nutmeg
1/8 t sea salt
1 c coconut milk
1/2 c almond or soy milk (preferably unsweetened)
1 c overripe banana (about 1 large banana), squished
1 t vanilla extract
canola oil, grapeseed, or coconut oil
In a large bowl, add flour and sift in baking powder.  Add nutmeg and salt and stir to combine well.  In a blender combine the milks, banana, and vanilla and blend until very smooth.  Transfer wet mixture to dry mixture and stir gently just until evenly mixed.  (do not overmix!) 

On medium-high, heat a skillet for a few minutes until hot, then reduce heat to medium/medium-low.  Oil the pan generously (or use a non-stick pan), and using a large spoon, scoop batter into pan to form medium sized cakes.  Allow to cook on the first side for several minutes, until small bubbles start to form in the center.  Flip pancakes to lightly brown the other side, for 1-2 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining batter and serve immediately.

*Things I love about this recipe: there's no added sugar or fats in the batter; it's sweetened by the ripe banana and is super luscious from the coconut milk.  I count this as good-enough justification for topping the cakes with a little extra maple syrup. 
*Things about this recipe that  I wish were different:  these stick to the pan like white on rice unless you use a non-stick surface or a LOT of oil.  Just be forewarned.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Poached Cod with Coconut Broth

Somehow, when I write the actual name of the recipe it sounds much less romantic than "a study in white...blah blah blah." The romantic name prompted so many of you to post and email for a recipe, hopefully the practical name will inspire some of you to actually make it...  This is a simple recipe that I compiled using a few basic techniques married with a typical Thai flavor profile; it's a perfect way to use a few pantry essentials to create a quick after-work supper.

Poached Cod with Coconut Broth
yield: two adult servings

12-14 oz fresh cod/other non-oily white fish, or scallops, cut into two portions
3-4 oz rice vermicelli, blanched until tender and rinsed
1 can coconut milk (I like Chao Koh)
1/2 c light vegetable or chicken broth
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and smashed
2" ginger, rinsed and cut into thin coins
2 kaffir lime leaves, bruised -or- zest of 1 lime
one large handful each of green beans and mushrooms - sliced
splash of your favorite high-heat oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly (two if you want a bit more spice)
fish sauce, lime juice, and palm (or brown) sugar to season

Preheat the oven to 400F and bring a small pot of water to boil.

In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk, broth, and lemongrass/ginger/lime to a simmer and allow to steep until it tastes super flavorful (about half an hour - be careful if you're using zest, you may want to remove it sooner than the rest).  It should be nicely balanced and well falvored, but still delicate.  Strain into another small pot and season to taste with fish sauce and palm sugar.

As the broth is steeping, heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add a touch of oil to the pan, then put in the shallots and cook until wilted.  Add the mushrooms, cook for a few minutes, and then add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender.  

While you are finishing the vegetables and broth, place the fish in an oven-safe dish and cover with boiling water by 2/3.  Add a pinch of salt, cover, and place in the oven.  Check after about 10 minutes, allowing the fish to poach until it is just starting to flake but it still a little firm in the center.

Just before the fish is ready, bring the broth back to a simmer.  Taste to check the fish sauce/sugar balance, and season with the lime juice.  It's best to add lime juice at the end because if you simmer citrus for too long it will get bitter. 

Run some very hot water over the noodles to heat and loosen them up.

Into two deep bowls, divide the still-hot vegetables and top with the rice noodles (to make the noodles pretty, pick up one portion with tongs and then place them directly on top of the veggies while twisting your wrist to create a tight knot).  Set the perfectly cooked fish on top of the noodles and drench with the broth.  Garnish with the jalapeno slices and serve.

Once you get the hang of this recipe, all of the tasks should nest together and it should take no more than 30 minutes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hazelnut-Coconut Milk Breakfast Quinoa

Sometimes, breakfast just needs a little revamp.  For me, the morning meal usually consists of a green smoothie or maybe an apple with almond butter.  Super exciting, right??  This works great during the summer, but since it can be so cold and soggy here in the winter months, I find myself looking for something warm and comforting.  Since I'm not a bacon and eggs kind of girl and I'm doing my best to not eat waffles every day, I wanted to find an alternative to oatmeal that provides enough protein and textural interest to keep me engaged until lunch.

I came across a post on Food52 that had a listing of five vegan breakfast porridges...that looked like just the solution!!  Out of the five, the quinoa recipe was my favorite -  I changed a bit here and there to suit my taste more.  It's still a bit sweeter than what I usually choose, but hey, live a little!  Full confession time though, one morning I took this with me to my kitchen, only to find that I had forgotten all of the toppings.  So I dumped a bunch of house-made English toffee crumbles on it.  And yes, it was delicious.

Hazelnut-Coconut Breakfast Quinoa

Serves 4

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and halved
1 cup quinoa, uncooked, or 3 c left over (in this case, skip the water and just heat in the coconut milk for a few minutes)
1 cup water
1 cup plus 1/2 cup coconut milk
1 T maple syrup
1/4 t. sea salt
1 cinnamon stick
4 pitted dates, chopped into small pieces

Rinse quinoa using a sieve until the rinse water runs clear. Bring the quinoa, maple syrup, sea salt, cinnamon, 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup water to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Let simmer until quinoa is fluffy and all liquid has absorbed (about 15-20 minutes). Turn off heat and fluff quinoa gently with a fork. Remove cinnamon stick, and portion into four bowls.  Divide the hazelnuts, dates, and remaining coconut milk to top.

Original post :

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chocolate Drenched English Toffee with Toasted Pecans

Ok, so, as healthily (is that a word?) as I try to eat, and as much as I try to keep refined products out of my diet, every once in a while it's necessary to indulge and treat myself to something sweet (today I was bored, so the opportunity presented itself...).  If you know me personally or have been reading my blog for ever, you know that one of my guilty pleasures is pie.  Namely fruit pie, followed closely by pretty much any fruit dessert.  I tend not to go for candy or chocolate so much, but English toffee has a special place in my heart (right next to the artery that it's going to clog someday).

Today, I am going to share with you a recipe that I have adapted from the Tartine cookbook (Prueitt/Robertson).  It is very straightforward, and because of the minimal ingredient list, it's very important to use the absolute best of everything.

A couple of notes before we start; first, it's very important to have everything ready to go and to have read the instructions completely before beginning, because once the sugar reaches the proper temperature, there is no time to mess around.  In proper kitchens, this is called "mise en place," or everything in place.  Secondly, many books recommend keeping a bowl of ice water next to the stove in case you burn yourself with the hot caramel.  I have a better suggestion: just don't burn yourself.  Sugar is much, much hotter than you expect it to be, and sugar burns are usually worse than you'd expect them to be.  Please be careful.

Chocolate Pecan Toffee
yield: about 1.5#

2 cups pecan pieces, toasted lightly
(325 F until they smell roasty and delicious)
1.75 cups sugar
3 T water
4 oz unsalted butter

1 t. dark molasses

1/4 t. sea or kosher salt (a pinch more if you like it salty)

1 t. vanilla extract

1/4 t. baking soda

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, in chips or well chopped
Line a baking sheet with oiled parchment or a nonstick pan liner.

Spread half of the nuts over the pan.

In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, molasses, butter, and salt.

Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stirring frequently, cook until the mixture reaches 295F, which will take about 5-7 minutes.

Immediately remove from the heat, and carefully stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  The mixture will foam up and could very easily overflow the pot if you chose one that's too small.  The moisture in the vanilla will cause this minor eruption.  Make sure that the soda/vanilla are thoroughly dispersed, and pour over the nuts on the pan.  Use a lightly oiled spatula to spread the toffee if needed.
Let the toffee rest for about five minutes, and sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the still warm surface.  
Allow the chocolate to warm through, then smooth out with an offset spatula.  
Sprinkle the rest of the nuts over the chocolate, pat gently to set them, and then let the toffee rest at room temperature until it's firm and the chocolate is set.
Break into shards, and store in a sealed container, in a cool/dry place, for up to several weeks.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Very Mushroom Soup

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Soup
As I was experimenting and beginning to compose this recipe, all of the words I came up with were preceded by "very."  This soup is very vegan, very mushroom-y, very low fat, very creamy, very tasty...

In addition to being an avid gardener, my husband absolutely adores foraging for mushrooms and greatly looks forward to the first rains of the year, as they inevitably herald the start of chanterelle season.  In my dish tonight, I used 100% chanterelles since we have so many.  Really, any combination of flavorful mushrooms would work in their stead.  And, a splash of white wine or sherry just before you add the veg broth would be a welcome addition!

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Soup
about two quarts

olive oil, as needed
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
5 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and stems discarded
6 cups roughly chopped mixed mushrooms (plus 2 c set aside for garnish)
3 cups cooked soft white beans, drained (great northern, cannellini, navy, etc)
vegetable broth, as needed
salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat a tablespoon of oil or so over a medium flame.  Add in the onions and garlic, and then turn the heat up to high.  Saute for a few moments until they are just starting to brown, and add the mushrooms.  Give them a good stir, and then let them sear on the hot pan, monitoring just enough so that the onions and garlic don't burn.  Every 90 seconds or so, mix the mushrooms to keep the bits from burning.  Stir in the thyme.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook until all of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.  Deglaze the pan with about two cups of vegetable broth, add the white beans, and transfer the mixture to a blender.  Work in batches if you need to, and do proceed with caution, so that you don't cause the lid to blow off the blender, thus burning your self and dirtying the kitchen...  Spin until the mixture is completely smooth, adding broth as needed to keep everything moving.

In a clean pot, heat a bit more oil, and repeat the steps for searing the mushrooms that you set aside for garnish.  After the mushrooms are seared, add the puree back in, and heat through.  Season to taste, and serve with a drizzle of fabulous olive oil, a sprig of thyme, and a few flecks of fleur de sel.

**For those of you at home who are critiquing my presentation, that little squiggle in the olive oil is where the cat bit the back of my knee.  I think she's hungry.**

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Ubiquitous Croque Monsieur

Really, when it comes down to it, what could be better than an ooey-gooey-melty sandwich made on exceptional bread, topped with good ham, and covered in fantastic cheese? If you take that, and then throw some béchamel in the mix to up the creaminess factor, I believe you may have found just a piece of French paradise on your plate. What I am referring to here is the croque monsieur sandwich - it's classic, it's delicious, and it makes the American tradition of white bread with a slice of Kraft look plain lazy. And, I honestly believe that once you go croque, you'll never go back...

The recipe below is adapted from Bar Boulud - esteemed chef Daniel Boulud's casual bistro across from Lincoln Center in Manhattan. I have adapted this slightly to suit my needs, and here is what I have done... First, I skipped the second slice of bread on top - usually this sandwich is of full dimension, I prefer to serve it open faced. It's a fork and knife affair anyway, and most of my clients are watching their carbs, so I don't see the need for a second piece of bread (though you could certainly do this if you were using this as a main dish). Secondly, I love to use Beecher's Flagship in this recipe; partly because I like to use local ingredients when I can, and partly because it's just plain delicious and melts just right! Now, on to the good part! 

Croque Monsieur (adapted from Daniel Boulud) 
serves: 4 

For the Béchamel Sauce: 
1.5 T unsalted butter 
2 T all-purpose flour 
1.5 c whole milk 
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg 
Salt and freshly ground white pepper 
For the sandwiches : 
4 slices high-quality bread, sliced 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick (a Pullman loaf or similarly fine grained bread) 
12 oz thickly sliced good ham (Jambon de Paris if you can, or good quality black forest ham if you can't) 
10 oz delicious melty white cheese, coarsely grated (Gruyère is traditional, I happen to enjoy Beecher's Flagship in this situation) 

1. For the béchamel: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and whisk in the flour until blended but not colored. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside. (May be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and stored, refrigerated, with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on surface of sauce; gently reheat before serving.) 
2. For the sandwiches: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. On a work surface, place bread slices in a single layer and spread each one evenly to the edges with béchamel. Divide ham among four of the slices, trimming it if necessary so it is within 1/4 inch of edges. Top all eight slices with equal amounts of cheese, spreading it evenly to within 1/4 inch of edges. 

3. Transfer sandwiches, cheese side up, onto sheet pan. Bake until grated cheese topping is melted and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately. If serving as a Madame, top with a fried egg.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dehydrated Strawberry Jam

Dehydrated Strawberry Jam and Amish Butter on Essentials Bakery "Fremont" Sour White
A while ago, on Facebook, I posted a photo of a cookbook that I had purchased:  The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant.  I think this was perhaps four months ago?  Maybe six?  I can't remember, but I finally had the time, inclination, and extra fruit laying around to try a recipe this past weekend.

I was initially very excited about this book since it has *different* preserves- not only does it have jams and jellies, but it has a whole section on mostardas and aigre-doux.  And...they are fairly low in sugar compared to many formulas.  This is something that's pretty atypical in American preserving books.  Also, the author advocates making your own pectin, which I think is very cool...

I've been canning for years- mostly fruit preserves since I have yet to purchase a pressure canner.  We have put up our own sauerkraut, made various pickles, and butters, jams, and compotes...all items with enough of an acid content to be processed in a water bath.  I would like to expand into other items but haven't made the leap yet.

For this recipe, I picked the second flush of strawberries from our totally organic garden.  We have two varieties growing this year- something standard and then (the belle of the ball) some heirloom Olympia berries that are softer, sweeter, and more intense.  The Olympias sent out quite a good sized batch of fruit, and since it's been so warm, they all ripened very quickly.  It is very important to use good quality strawberries in this recipe.  Since they are dehydrated, everything, for better or for worse, gets concentrated.  The only adaptations I made in the recipe were to use store bought pectin, and mash the mixture roughly before jarring.

Dehydrated Strawberry Jam
(adapted from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant)
yield: 5-half pints

4 # strawberries
4 1/2 oz sugar
2 t Pomona Pectin
2 t calcium water (from Pomona Pectin)

Rinse and hull the strawberries, halving if they are large.  Spread out on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet or on dehydrator trays.  Dehydrate at 135F (or as close as you can get to this with your oven or warming drawer), until the juices are thickened and the berries are about half their original size (4 to 8 hours, depending on the temperature).

Transfer the berries to a non-reactive bowl, stir in the sugar, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to five days.  This draws out all of the remaining juices and primes the mixture for jamming.

Move the berried into a heavy-bottomed pot, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the juices are reduced by half.  Meanwhile, scald five half-pint jars in a boiling water bath.  Whisk in the pectin and calcium water, return to a simmer to dissolve the pectin, and then turn off the heat.  Mash with a potato masher lightly to break up the larger fruit pieces.

Remove the jars from the bath and prepare to fill them with the hot strawberry mixture.  Heat the rings and lids.  Ladle the strawberries into the jars, leaving 1/2" head space, wiping the rims clean, and then screw the lids on firmly but gently.

Place the jars back in the water bath (preferably in a jar rack, or you can improvise with whatever you have on hand to keep the jars from bouncing around).  Make sure there is enough water in the pot to cover the jars by at least 1".  Process for a full ten minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to sit in the water for a couple of minutes.  Remove to a safe spot and allow to cool to room temperature.  

The resulting product is fruit-leather intense, packed with flavor, and more spoon-able instead of spreadable.  It has tons of texture and is perfect on toast, pancakes, scoops of ice cream...  It truly is the essence of strawberry.