A loaf you say? Hmmmm

I am someone who, if given the choice, would not normally be excited about a loaf. Being raised a vegetarian I have never had meatloaf and it has taken me a long time to appreciate this particular comfort food. But that is the thing, loaf IS such a good comfort food. It is warm and substantial. So I thought I would make a go at it. I turned to my beloved Mollie Katzen and found this wonderful recipe in The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  Drop what you are doing and make this right now.

Tofu, Spinach and Walnut Loaf

-Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9×9 baking dish. (The recipe calls for a loaf pan but there was WAY too much to fit into one loaf pan. I suppose if you are very attached to the loaf shape you could put it into two loaf pans).

-Heat 1 Tbs. of vegetable oil in a deep skillet. Add 2 cups minced onion, ½ lb. minced mushrooms, and 6 gloves of minced garlic. I just blended them all in a food processer. Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

-Add 1 cup ground walnuts, 2 lbs. fresh spinach (or 20 oz. frozen, defrosted and drained), ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce (I used 3 Tbs. cider vinegar and 1 Tbs. soy sauce as a substitute since Worcestershire sauce has anchovies), and 1 tsp salt. Cook for another 8 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and everything is well combined.

-Stir in 1 Tbs. soy sauce, ½ lb. mashed tofu, 1.5 cups cooked brown rice (you have to plan ahead and cook your rice!), fresh black pepper, and ¼ tsp of nutmeg.

-Spread into the pan and bake for 1 hour (or more, there were some cold spots, and the crisper the outside the better, basically cook it as long as you want without burning it). Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot with sauce (below) and a sprinkle of paprika (which I forgot, woops!)

Dilled Horseradish Sauce

-Melt 2 Tbs. butter into a medium saucepan. Whisk in 1-2 Tbs. of flour and cook over low heat, whisking often, for a minute or until the flour is cooked (slightly browned).

-Whisk in 1 ¼ cups of warmed milk and cook over low heat whisking often for another 5 minutes or until it started to thicken. Stir in 1 Tbs. prepared horseradish and ½ tsp of salt and remove from heat. Stir in 1 Tbs. minced fresh dill (or 1 ½ tsp. dried) and black pepper. I used dried and it was fine. Maybe it would be a little brighter with fresh, but then what am I going to do with all that dill!?!?

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Best Cookbook EVER

Just a quick note. Our little one is 10 months old today! I can’t believe how quickly it has gone by.

Now to cookbooks. As you may or may not have already figured out, we cook vegetarian and I love the Moosewood cookbooks. However, I have begun paying attention to which Moosewood cookbooks are Mollie Katzen books and which are post-Mollie Katzen (AMK-After Mollie Katzen).

I love her. I love her illustrations. I love her playfulness. I love the commentary on every recipe. She is an inspiration. However, her recipes are often intense, meaning: Many ingredients (most of which we don’t have around the house), lots of chopping, lots of pans and lots of time. So I’m often daunted by her cookbooks. Granted, some of our favorite go to recipes come from her books, both her Moosewood books and post-Moosewood books (Gypsy Soup, Cauliflower Puff, Indonesian Rice Salad) but they take work. And did I mention we have a baby? So yeah, lots of work is not so great right now.

This is where the Moosewood cookbooks AMK come in. The two books we have make all the recipes so easy. Simple Suppers and New Classics are two of my favorite cookbooks. Simple Suppers is great because they define simple in so many ways. Sometimes it means quick; sometimes it means only one pot; sometimes very few ingredients. But whatever it is, the recipes are delicious.

So I recently started exploring Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. It is wonderful. There are a few duds but some of my new favorite recipes are from this book. I will share two of them below. I have already made both of these recipes three times each! The only thing that is lacking from these Moosewood books AMK is a little bit of that character and personality I love so much about Mollie Katzen’s writing. But did I mention the delicious factor?

Enjoy!

Instant Tamale Pie

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil an 11-inch casserole dish.

Mash a can of pinto (or black) beans WITH their juice in a large bowl. Add and mix ½ cup of corn, ½ cup of salsa, 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp oregano, and ¼ tsp salt.

Buy a role of pre-made polenta. The recipe says to use 12 ounces of it, but they come in 18 ounce tubes, so I just use it all. Cut it into ¼ inch thick rounds and layer them on the bottom of your casserole dish, slightly overlapping. Spoon the bean mixture over the polenta.

Sprinkle on 2-3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro on top. Then add 1 cup of grated Cheddar cheese on top of that.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes and then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes, until the beans are bubbling and cheese is browning. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Devour!

Presto! Chocolate Cake

This cake is amazing and so super easy. And you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen already.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan. Or make it in a bundt pan, like I did, but make sure you grease really well!

In a large bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, ½ tsp baking soda, and ¼ tsp salt.

In your kitchen aid or with an electric mixer combine ½ cup of butter with 1 cup of sugar. When the butter and sugar are combined, add 2 eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.

In a small bowl combine ¾ cup of water with 1 tsp vanilla. Add the flavored water by thirds to the creamed mixture, alternating with the flour mixture and beating after each addition.

Poor into the pan and bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.

When the cake is almost done, make the glaze. It’s so easy! ½ cup of chocolate chips, 1/3 cup of jam (apricot is a nice choice), and 2 tablespoons of milk. Put in a small pan and warm on low heat, stirring constantly until melted.

When the cake is done, pour hot glaze on top (if using a bundt pan, flip out of pan to make right side up on a plate before pouring the glaze on).

Serve warm or at room temperature. Yum yum and yum!

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On the Fourth night of Hanukkah

Good forbid the holidays go by without a food related post. We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah in my family, but when Hanukkah is so close and overlapping with Christmas, it often gets over shadowed. So we decided to have our two best friends over (the baby’s aunties) and have a delicious Hanukkah meal. We also had a lot of vegetables that I had bought at Costco that we needed to get rid of. Enter the best roasted vegetable meal ever! There is nothing traditional about this dinner, except for the fact that we also had latkes.

First, back to the topic of tofu. I rediscovered this marinade from Mollie Katzen. It is so delicious (this is the second time we have made this recipe in a week). You can do it baked, just tossed in with a salad, however you want. Make it now!

Amazing Tofu Marinade (Enchanted Broccoli Forest)

First, cube a pound of tofu and boil it in water for 10 minutes. This makes the tofu firm and the texture better.

In a bowl combine:

3-4 Tablespoons of soy sauce

2 tsp of grated fresh ginger

2 minced cloves of garlic

1 Tablespoon of sesame oil

1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar

Pour this over the tofu and let sit for many hours, or over night.

Then we like to bake it at 400 for about 15-20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is gone. Make sure you stir so it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom and burn.

We also made these Roasted Tomatoes and these Roasted Mushrooms. The mushrooms are especially wonderful. The butter sauce that forms in the bottom of the pan is unreal. We forgot to add the basil to the tomatoes but they were still delicious. The onions were so soft and caramelized.

Enjoy and happy holidays!

-Rachel

The stuff we affectionately call Tofu

I have been a vegetarian my whole life (give or take a brief period in high school and after college ,when I ate some chicken every once in awhile). For me, it is about what feels healthy and what I am used to. I’m not so big on the moral righteousness of it. The mainstream animal production industry totally grosses me out, but a lot of what is gross about it applies to how we get our eggs and vegetables, etc, so I can’t really complain. Or I can, but that would be a rant for another post.

Anyway, a big part of being a vegetarian for me has always been eating lots of tofu. I love tofu and ate a lot of it as a child (though not as much as my brother did, who used to eat it raw with ketchup, gross!).  But here are some of the challenges I have with tofu.

It has no flavor. I suppose this is good and bad, given that it means the tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it, but that often takes more work and thoughtfulness.

It ends up as a bowl of mush (along with a comb and a brush… goodnight moon anyone?). Texture is often a big issue with tofu, I have a hard time with tofu scrambles for this reason, because unless it is fried, tofu still often has that mushy texture.

Enter the savior of kitchen appliances: the SLOW COOKER!

I have two tofu slow cooker recipes to share, but first I want to tell you why cooking tofu in the slow cooker is a good idea. It solves both the above problems. It makes the tofu super firm and have a lot of texture because it draws the water out. Also, it infuses the flavor as if you had marinated it for days. Yum. I love how both of these recipes use miso paste, which we had in the house because while I was pregnant I had this idea that I was going to make my own miso soup. I did. Once. It was not good. I don’t even like miso soup. Anyway, I highly recommend both of these, though we are partial to the one with spinach in this house.

Enjoy!

Japanese-Style Braised Tofu (The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

Combine in a bowl with a whisk: 1/4 cup miso paste (recipe calls for white, we had yellow, which worked fine), 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon honey.

Take one pound of firm tofu and cut into 1/2 inch slices, or as I like to call them, tofu steaks. Coat the tofu (both sides) in the sauce and lay into the slow cooker. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. We like to turn the tofu a few times because the edges get really crispy and almost burnt.

Just before serving, add 1 pound of washed spinach (the recipe called for 1/2 pound but we found that wasn’t enough). Continue to cook in the slow cooker just long enough for the spinach to get wilted, maybe another 10 minutes.

Remove and put on plates. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds.

Miso-Braised Tofu and Shallots (Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

Thinly slice 3 shallots (we only had one so we substituted with 2 small onions, which worked well). Spread them over the bottom of your lightly oiled slow cooker.

Make your tofu steaks (1 pound cut into 1/2 inch thick slices) and put them on top of the shallots.

In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons miso paste, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 tablespoon water. Pour this over the tofu and shallots.

Cook on low for 4 hours. Delicious!


Slow Cooker Soups

So we have been doing lots of slow cooking lately.

Here are a few of the wonderful recipes we have been making. Both are from the cookbook: Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.

French Onion Soup

So I have never eaten or made french onion soup before, but my wife loves it and we got a huge bag of onions from Costco, so I was inspired to give it a try.

Making the soup is fun because it means cooking the onions forever! It also means you have to like the smell of onions taking over your house for a full day (and then some). Start by thinly slicing 4 sweet onions and throw them in the slow cooker with 1/4 cup of olive oil on the bottom.

That is a lot of onions. Then you cook them on low for 8-10 hours OR LONGER! They get super soft and caramelized. I couldn’t resist stirring them from time to time especially since they get stuck to the sides.

About an hour before serving, you add 5-6 cups of homemade vegetable stock and cook on High an hour (or till hot enough for you).  When you add the stock you salt and pepper to taste. I think I added about 1-2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

The soup is delicious with crusty toasted sourdough smothered in melted Swiss cheese.

Chipotle-Kissed Red Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

I have made this before and it was okay, so I made a few changes this time. I made it for the group of moms that get together every week or so (I like to call us “the moms who lunch) and it was my turn to host. It was a hit. I think the key to it is being able to personalize the amount of chipotle you get to add. It is also one of those recipes where you have to do a little sauteing ahead of time, but it is worth it because the peppers and onions get all melty.

Chop up an onion, a red bell pepper, and a clove of garlic. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the above ingredients and cover until softened, about 5 minutes.

Peel and cut into 1/2 chunks about 4 sweet potatoes (the recipe says 1.5 pounds).

When the onion mixture is soft add 1 tablespoon of chilli powder (I did a heaping tablespoon) and let cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the sweet potatoes and coat with the spices. Throw all that in the slow cook.

Add 14.5 ounce can of tomato (recipe says crushed I used diced which I think I like better), 15.5 ounce can of red beans (drained and rinsed), 1.5 cups of water and about 1.5 teaspoons of salt.

Now, the recipe says to cook on low for 6-8 hours. This will turn your potatoes into MUSH! If you want it that way, go for it. I keep trying to turn it off in time for the potatoes to have a little bite. So far they are still pretty mushy at 5 hours, maybe next time I’ll try 4.5 hours. I think our slow cooker is particularly hot as well. Obviously you want to the potatoes to be cooked and tender, but I would prefer them not too mushy.

When you are ready to serve, blend some chipotles in adobo sauce (chilis, sauce, seeds and all) in a blender (or the magic bullet) and serve on the side. I recommend serving it with some grated sharp cheddar and homemade cornbread.

Enjoy!

-Rachel

Italian Birthday Feast

So one of our best friends had her birthday last night. She originally wanted to go to the North End with us and the baby for dinner. Eh, not too easy with a baby. So we decided to make her an Italian feast. It was delicious.

My wife grew up learning to cook in her family’s Italian restaurant, so making good Italian food is a source of pride and joy in our household. When we went to Italy last summer, we took a cooking class and made these wonderful things:

They are spinach and ricotta filled fresh ravioli. Amazing!

Here are some things we did to make it special. We set the table nicely, put flowers on the table, and made sure there was good Italian wine. Instead of a million courses, we had two, but that was still more than usual.

We started with an amazing antipasto. It included chunks of good provolone, marinated artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, homemade roasted red pepper with lots of garlic, and roasted green beans and mushrooms. It we served on a bed of lettuce with an amazing balsamic vinaigrette.  There was also bruschetta with an amazing white bean dip (recipe here).

Yum. That was probably enough food, but I also made pasta puttannesca.

Now. We made puttannesca our first year having Christmas together with my family. It was amazing. I swore up and down the recipe was from the Moosewood cookbook. So I made it again last night. It was not as good as I remembered.

Here is the recipe as I would make it next time:

1 1-lb. can of good crushed tomatoes

10-12 cloves of garlic, sliced

15-20 Kalamata olives sliced

2 tablespoons of capers

Salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste

1 lb. linguine

Parmesan for the top

First, I started the pasta water since water takes forever to boil.

Then, I chopped up the garlic and the olives:

Next, cook the garlic for awhile by itself with some olive oil (on low heat, make sure you don’t burn it). Then throw in the olives, capers, and your seasonings and cook for a little while longer. Then add the can of tomatoes.

Bring to a boil on medium heat and then lower the heat to simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.

When the pasta is done drain it and put it into the pan with the sauce. Mix until the pasta is coated.

Serve right away topped with Parmesan.

Italians tend to eat pasta that doesn’t have too much sauce on it and I think that is one of the things that went wrong with how I made it last night. It called for a can of tomato paste which made the sauce too tomato-y and made too much sauce. You could probably use the amount of sauce that is made with the recipe for a pound and a half of pasta. Also, with so few ingredients, quality is key. Make sure you cheese, olives, capers, tomatoes etc are of the best quality.

We ended the night with decaf coffee from Zabars and fresh cannolis from the North End. Amazing. A great way to celebrate someone we love!

-Rachel

Broth, Brussels, and Baking

Warning: This post is recipe heavy. But don’t worry, there are lots of pictures.

Broth

So I have always wanted to cook with my own vegetable broth, I have just never had the time/energy to make my own. But when I made soup the other day (http://wp.me/p1Y51C-U) it occurred to me that it would be much better with homemade vegetable broth. The slow cooker makes it so easy to make broth. I turned it on before bed and when I woke up there was my broth. All I had to do was strain it. Easy as pie!

Picture of the vegetable broth before bed.

Brussels

We are saving most of the broth to make the Potato Leek soup again, but here is the first thing we (and by we I mean my lovely wife) made with it. This recipe is adapted from the Saveur magazine website (more on how much I love Saveur later). It is always interesting to make things vegetarian, especially when the recipe calls for far rendering

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Penne with Brussels Sprouts, Cranberries, and Caramelized Onion:

2 tbls olive oil

3 oz. of morningstar bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 medium onion, sliced

1/4 dry white cooking wine (the original recipe called for vermouth, but unless you already have it sitting around, you can just use white wine)

1 cup vegetable broth (made at home in the slow cooker!)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (we ran out and used some raisins in addition to the cranberries, delicious)

6 oz. of penne (original recipe called for fettuccine, but it was great with penne)

2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat 1 tbls of the oil in a large heavy bottom skillet (we used our beautiful orange dutch oven). Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Set bacon aside.

2. Add the other tbls of oil turn the heat to medium-high. Put the Brussels sprouts in, cut-side down and cook until they are brown. Then add the onion and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Add the broth, wine, and cranberries and bring to a fast simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the sprouts are soft.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss continuously over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed (if its too dry, that is what the reserved cooking water is for.) Season with salt and pepper and serve with the Parmesan and bacon on top. Delicious

Baking

We have been feeding the baby greek yogurt, but clearly she eats it slowly so I figured I had to do something with the leftover yogurt. I went to my trusty Moosewood cookbook and found a ridiculous recipe for Cardamom Coffee Cake. However, it is supposed to be made in a budnt pan, which we don’t have. So I thought I would cut the recipe in half and try to make muffins. A great success.

Here is the recipe as I made it: Cardamom Coffee Cake Muffins (makes 12)

2 sticks of butter (OMG so much butter, delicious!)

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp powdered cardamom

1 cup yogurt (she says you can also use sour cream or buttermilk)

Nut mixture:

1/8 cup of brown sugar (I eyeballed it in a 1/4 cup measuring cup, cause who has a 1/8 measuring cup?)

1 1/5 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 and fill muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a large mixing bowl (I used the Kitchen Aid) beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Then add the vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients (not including the nut mixture).

4. Add the flour mixture, 1/3 of it at a time, alternating with the yogurt. Stir just enough to blend after each addition. Do not overmix. At this point I stopped using the Kitchen Aid, took the bowl off the stand, and mixed with a wooden spoon.

5. Combine the nut mixture. I used the magic bullet!

6. In the muffin tin, fill each tin half full with the batter, then a layer of the nut mixture, then the rest of the batter on top. They will be full to the brim. Spread flat (as best you can).

7. Bake for 30 minutes. Make sure a knife comes out completely clean to check if they are done. Let cool.

In the muffin tin and out. See the layer of the nut mixture? Yummy!

Also, just a note. If you happen to make chocolate cookies, and you have leftovers, and you happen to have some mint chocolate chip ice cream in the fridge, and your wife is a genius, you should make these: