Friday, January 30, 2009

Cipollini Onion & Portobello Mushroom Ravioli in a Garlic Cream Sauce

A few years ago, at the request of The Wife, I made some ravioli. I made the dough. I made the filling. I tried to make each one perfect. It was a disaster. The dough was gummy and thick, and they fell apart in the water. I fished three or four good ones out and presented them to The Wife. She knew how hard I had worked on them, so when I asked if she liked them, she said, "Yeah." I asked if she really enjoyed them, and she replied, "Uh-huh." I said, "So, you will remember this meal forever." She nodded her head. "Good," I told her, "'cause I am never making ravioli again." I had decided that it was just too frustrating.

Then the other night at Kelly and Michael's my interest in homemade ravioli was reborn. They served us ravioli stuffed with mascarpone, porcini, and roasted eggplant in a garlic cream sauce. I asked how he made the dough. He told me that he had bought it. It was a revelation. At that point, I knew that ravioli could be fun again.


About 30 wonton wrappers
1 egg
3 cipollini onions (peeled)
2 large portobello mushrooms (roughly chopped)
1/8-1/4 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cups shredded parmesan
2 sprigs of rosemary (stems removed)
1/4 cup red wine
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
S & P
olive oil

Place the mushrooms and onions into the food processor and allow it to chop the vegetables very fine. Transfer the mixture to a large saute pan that has been coated with a generous amount of olive oil. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan, and allow it to cook over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Stir it, and then spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan again. Do this until the onions are lightly caramelized and the mushrooms have taken on a darker color. Add the balsamic vinegar and rosemary, and then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Using a wooden spoon, make sure to scrape up all of the bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and then add the cheese, and enough bread crumbs to give it some body, but not so much that they make the mixture too dry.  Add some salt & pepper. Now taste the filling and make any adjustments as you see fit.
Now for the fun part. In a small bowl, mix the egg with a tablespoon of water, and then set it aside. Lay 15 wonton wrappers on a long sheet of parchment paper. In the center of each wonton wrapper, place 1 tablespoon of the mushroom mixture. (I use a measuring spoon to scoop each portion.) Now dip your two forefingers into the egg mixture and wipe all of the edges of one of the wonton wrappers. Take a new wonton wrapper out of the package, and then place it on top of the egg-washed half while smooshing the filling enough to line up the corners. Now press the edges together forming a tight seal. It may take a few times to get the hang of this, but it is easy once you have done a few. Repeat until you have made all your raviolis.

To cook, simply drop raviolis into a large pot of hot water. You want to bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat because a rolling boil will unravel your ravioli. They take 2-3 minutes each to cook. You will know they are done when one end floats to the top. I removed the raviolis and placed them directly into a sauce I made using 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of cream, and a cup of milk. 

A simple presentation is best here. Place 4 raviolis on a plate, drizzle with some of the garlic cream sauce, and then sprinkle on some parmesan and fresh parsley. You will love this dish because for {relatively!} little work, it turns out so, so good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Savory Bread Pudding with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Snow Day! Yesterday The Wife was off of work because of the icy roads, so I decided to cancel all of my appointments as well. It was wonderful to have a day in the middle of the week to do nothing. So that is what we did, and it was great. Since we were up at 5:30 to watch the news, we had plenty of time to make a weekend-style breakfast. Recipes for savory bread pudding have been popping up in all of my food mags, so I decided to get in on the action.

4 thick slices of  rustic bread (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
6 medium eggs
1 cup of 1/2 & 1/2
1 shallot (sliced)
1 pint of grape tomatoes
4 oz goat cheese (crumbled)
2 tablespoons capers (rinsed and dried)
olive oil
S & P

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the tomatoes in a few tablespoons of the olive oil, and then arrange them in an oven-proof dish. Let the tomatoes cook in the oven until the skins have turned dark, which should take about 15 minutes. I know I'm a little obsessed with roasted tomatoes right now, but I'll get over it soon enough. In a bowl combine the 1/2 & 1/2 with the eggs, and whisk until incorporated. Add the bread and the shallot to the egg mixture and stir until all of the bread cubes are covered with egg. Next gently fold in the tomatoes being careful not to mush them up. Reduce the oven 350 degrees. Pour the egg mixture into a medium-sized, oiled baking dish, and then top with the crumbled goat cheese. Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish, and bake for another 15 minutes. Distribute the capers over the top once you take it out of the oven. I served the savory bread budding with some sauteed spinach and a fine glass of orange juice. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kelly's Lunch Box: Mock Chicken Salad with Tempeh (V)

My good friend and running partner, Kelly, decided to go vegetarian shortly after New Year's Day. He has been enjoying his new meat-free life, but he has had one recurring question for me: What do you eat for lunch? It made me realize that lunch is a particularly meaty meal, and may prove to be a challenge for newly minted vegetarians. 

TCV to the rescue. Since I make The Wife's lunch every day, I decided to share my portable creations with you in hopes that it will make your mornings easier and your mid-day more delicious.

1 block tempeh (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 medium pickle (diced)
2 ribs celery with the leaves left on (diced)
2 spoonfuls vegan mayo (Spectrum Organics makes a good one)
a squeeze of spicy mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon Braggs
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
S & P tp taste

Toss the oil, water, Braggs, and tempeh in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave for two minutes. Let the tempeh stand covered for 2 minutes, add the remaining ingredients, and then toss until everything is incorporated. This should make enough for three or four sammies depending on how much you snack and how high you stack.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Red Lentil & Saffron Soup with Chimichuri (V)

Once I spotted the red lentils in the Fresh Market, I knew I had to have them. They are so beautiful and tiny. I allowed the beautiful bright hue of the lentil to guide me as I constructed the flavors of the soup. Immediately, I thought of red pepper, tomatoes, and saffron flowers. I could not wait to get home and start cooking.

2 1/2 cups dried red lentils (rinsed)
1 red pepper (seeded and cored)
1 medium red tomato (cored)
1/2 white onion
1 boullion cube
1 palmful of dried saffron flower (much cheaper and milder than just the saffron threads)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon beet powder (optional)

Over medium heat, melt butter in a medium-sized pot. Place the onion, tomato, & pepper into the food processor, and turn it on. Let the vegetables get chopped very fine until nearly smooth. Add the vegetables to the butter and cook until most of the moisture is absorbed. Add the lentils, the boullion, the saffron flower, and enough water to cover by about 1/2 an inch. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The red lentils cook that fast. 
I blended mine, but you could leave the lentils whole if you'd like. I made a simple chimichurri by blending the juice of 1/2 a lemon, two cloves of garlic, and a few handfuls of fresh parsley with some olive oil that I served on top. The soup went perfectly with sausage and potato empanadas

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Herbed Polenta with Spinach, Cannellini Beans, & Caramelized Tomatoes

This is a great dinner for a cold night. First, preheat your oven t0 415 degrees. 

Toss 12 campari tomatoes in olive oil and arrange them in an oven-safe dish. Then drizzle one head of garlic with olive oil, wrap it in foil, and place it in the same dish. Place the dish in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the tomato skins have started to darken.

For the polenta you will need:

1 cup yellow corn grits (aka polenta)
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups of vegetable stock (I like not-chicken)
1 palmful Italian seasoning (Penzey's makes a good one)
1 cup shredded provolone
2 eggs
olive oil

Warm the stock in a pot on the stove. In another pot, melt the butter, and then add the seasoning and the polenta. Add the stock in thirds, stirring occasionally to ensure no lumps form. Cook mixture for about 30 minutes, and then add the cheese. Temper in the eggs, and then pour mixture into an oiled, medium-sized baking dish. Bake in the 415 degree oven for 20 minutes or until firm. Remove dish and allow to cool in the fridge until firm to the touch.

For the Beans:

1 can of cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
1 head of roasted garlic
olive oil
s & p to taste

Over medium-high heat saute' the beans in olive oil until the skins just start to turn darker, and then add the garlic from the head you roasted earlier. The easiest way to extract the garlic is to cut the rounded end, and then squeeze the garlic out like tooth paste. Add salt & pepper to taste.

While your pan is still hot, pan fry a square of polenta for each serving in a little bit of butter. Remove the polenta and add a handful of chopped spinach and some olive oil. Cook a few seconds until wilted. 

Now you are finally ready to eat. Top the polenta with the spinach, garlic beans, and the roasted tomatoes. Finish the dish with some parmesan, chopped basil, and a drizzle of your best balsamic vinegar. We served it with a wonderful bottle of wine given to us by Michael. It was a 2004 estate grown Z Cuvee'. It was peppery and fruity and delicious. (Michael is amazing.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Strawberries, Pepper, Vanilla Sugar, and Balsamic Vinegar over Ice Milk

A crazy dessert fits today just perfectly, says The Wife. 

While looking up various panna cotta recipes (coming here soon!), a strawberry-balsamic topping caught my eye. I have wanted to try this for a year or more and jumped right in tonight. We sliced strawberries. (I always get them and forget to use them, why is this?) TCV scooped the vanilla ice milk and put pepper over it. I, the sugar and salt fiend, liberally sprinkled it with Penzey's vanilla sugar. (Why have I not made my own yet?) We got out the 10-year balsamic Paul and Gina gave us and poured it on. And wow. This is unlike anything I have ever tasted before and fulfilled my craving for a soft-ish dessert. I will make this again. (I wonder what it would be like as a milkshake?) 
(Why do I like parenthesis so much right now?) Maybe I am just loopy after hanging out in the Baptist Women's Maternity waiting room with our big extended family all day long. But we are so proud to welcome our new nephew, Graham Odell Burks III, into the world, so it was very worth it. See the three Grahams below! 
We will have to do a baby food post up in here very, very soon because this boy, being a Burks, is likely to love to eat good homemade food -- even if it has to be all mushed up for a while. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seared Artichoke Hearts over Carrot & Goat Cheese Risotto topped with Edamame Dust


For the Risotto:
4 medium carrots
1/2 white onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup loose-packed parsley leaves
1/2 jalapeno seeded
4 0z goat cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
4-5 cups broth. (add a pinch of saffron if you'd like)
1/2 cup frozen edamame
S & P to taste

Throw the carrots, onion, jalapeno, garlic and parsley into the food processor, and let'er rip. You want the veggies chopped very fine. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, and then heat the broth in a different pot. Add the veggies to the butter, and cook until softened, which should take about 5 minutes. Add the dry rice to the veggie/butter mix, and move it around the pan  to coat each grain of rice. Here is where the risotto magic comes in. Over medium heat, add the broth about 1/2 cup  at a time as you stir the rice with a wooden spoon. Wait until the mixture looks nearly dry before adding more broth. Taste it after about 20 minutes to see if it is done. It can take as long as 40 minutes. Once it is soft, add the frozen edamame and the goat cheese, and then stir to incorporate. Take it off the burner, and put a lid on it.

For the artichoke hearts:
2 whole fresh artichokes
1 lemon
1/2 white onion (roughly chopped)
S & P to taste
olive oil
1/2 cup dry roasted edamame (pulsed in the food processor until finely chopped)

In a large pot of boiling, salted water add the juice of the lemon, the lemon rind, and the onion. Add the artichokes to the water, cover, and boil for about 30-45 minutes. When they are tender, remove them from the water. Run a knife down the middle of the stem and through the heart. The rest of the artichoke will fall apart at this point. Reserve the leaves for garnish. Scrape the "choke" out of the heart with a spoon and discard. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over high heat. Just as the oil begins to smoke, gently place the dry artichoke hearts cut-side-down into the pan for about 3 minutes. Turn and sear the other side of the heart as well. Serve artichoke hearts on top of the warm risotto sprinkled with edamame dust. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Orange-Chocolate-Bourbon Cakes with Spiced Cream and Cara Cara Oranges

We were dying for anything chocolate this cold, cold afternoon and here it was: a recipe in the new issue of InStyle for dark chocolate cake with lots of crazy flavors to complement it. 

We baked the cakes in little shallow dishes and decided to nix the spiced real cream (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove) in favor of spiced Fage Greek yogurt. Grab a bag of these Cara Cara navel oranges from Schnuck's before they're gone: they taste ultra-sweet and are a surprising dark pink on the inside -- perfect for supreming. 
Thanks to The Spotted Pig's chef for a recipe that reminds us of one of those chocolate oranges from the candy aisle but tastes much more interesting. 

Spicy Corn, Black Bean, and Quinoa Salad

Quinoa (keen-wa) is an ancient grain that is versatile and healthy for you. That's all fine and good, but if you've never cooked with it, then you are missing out because it also tastes amazing. It could easily play the part of rice, couscous, or pasta in any dish. Quinoa's flavor reminds me of the mildness and nuttiness of brown rice, but it is gluten-free. And it only takes about 14 minutes to cook.

This corn, black bean, and quinoa salad is fast and easy, plus it is great as a side dish or as a healthy snack. Collect these ingredients:

1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
2 ears of corn (peeled, washed, kernels removed)
4 scallions (chopped)
2 cups cooked quinoa (cooled)
1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and minced)
1 garlic clove (minced)
1/2 lime (juiced)
salt and pepper to taste

Throw all of the ingredients into a big bowl and toss together. You can add cilantro if you'd like, or even better, dice up an avocado to put on top as a nice touch. You can serve this cold --or warm like I did -- alongside some delicious seitan and squash enchiladas with feta.

(As a side note: Is it weird that I never noticed that my dog looks like my guitar until just now?)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Black Eyed Peas, Cornbread, Mustard Greens, & Squash/ Potato Gratin

I have a vivid memory of my grandma, Biee, picking a few black eyed peas out of the heavy cast iron pot that sat simmering on her stovetop, and saying, "These have not touched the jowl; you have to eat them. It's good luck." She had no problem with me being a vegetarian, but she was concerned that if I didn't eat my black eyed peas on January 1, the whole year would be a disaster. We southerners are a superstitious bunch for sure.

I was curious about the origin of the black eyed pea tradition, so I asked around. No one seemed to know why we eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day, but at the same time no one dares to test fate by skipping them. I wanted to find out why. As usual, the internet held no complete, definitive answer, but I picked the one I liked the best to share with you here. Black eyed peas are a humble food, and eating them at the start of the new year reminds us to stay humble all year.
Here is a simple, hog-jowl-free way to make black eyed peas:

1 bag of dried black eyed peas (rinsed, quick soaked, drained)
1 white onion (diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
2 cubes of vegetable bullion (I like Not-Beef cubes)
2 tablespoons butter
3 slices veggie bacon (I like Morningstar Farms)
1/2 cup ketchup
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot, and then add the onion & green pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, and then add the bullion cubes. They will melt into the veggies and impart a wonderful flavor. Add the peas, and then pour in just enough water to cover. Allow it to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Add the whole strips of veggie bacon and the ketchup. Allow this to cook for about an hour before you try them; they get better the longer they cook. 

We like to serve them over buttered cornbread and topped with saute├ęd greens. The Wife made the cornbread out of one of our many Martha Stewart cookbooks; however she updated it by adding polenta to the mix instead of cornmeal since that is all we had. It gave it a nice texture. The mustard greens were sauteed in olive oil with onion slices, and then drizzled with local honey. It was humbly delicious.

Bonus recipe: Squash & potato gratin

1 egg
1/2 cup cream
1 clove of garlic (minced)
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese (shredded)
1 cup bread crumbs
olive oil
These veggies thinly sliced on a mandolin:
2 starchy white potatoes
1 yellow squash
                                                                                  1 zucchini squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In an oiled medium baking dish, begin to layer in your vegetables. Alternate between the squash and the potatoes until you've used all of them. Use a tiny bit of salt and pepper on each layer so the dish is evenly seasoned. Mix the cream, egg, and garlic together in a bowl, and then pour it evenly over the top of the veggies. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover the dish, add the cheese to the top, then the breadcrumbs, and lastly, a drizzle of olive oil. Return the uncovered dish to the oven until the top is brown. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Spicy Paella with Seitan, Sausage, & Mushrooms

Sofrito, socorat, paellera...learning to make paella was like learning a whole new language. With a little help from Mark Bittman and his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, 
I was on the right track in no time. Paella, he explains, is a Spanish comfort-food dish usually consisting of sausage and seafood with rice that has been seasoned with saffron and a sofrito. After reading Mr. Bittman's entry, I was feeling better about my decision to make this for a dinner party. This was good considering that Michael and Kelly would be over for dinner in a few hours, and I had never attempted a paella of any kind before in my life. I was determined and pretty sure I could make it turn out edible.

Let's start with the pallera. It is a large, flat, metal pan with two handles traditionally used in the cooking of paella. I don't have one, and you probably don't either. So I just used my largest flat-bottom All-Clad skillet without a nonstick coating. It worked great. 

Now on to the sofrito. 'Sofrito' is a generic term for a spanish spice mixture. I looked at a ton of recipes and came up with a recipe of my very own. Collect the following ingredients and meet me at the food processor:

1/2 white onion
1/2 green pepper
1/2 red pepper
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch of cilantro
2 tsp ground fresh chili paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
enough olive oil to get it all moving

Put all ingredients in the food processor. Turn it on, drizzle in olive oil, and leave it on until your veggies are finely chopped. Transfer this mixture to your paellera; cook over medium heat with a few more tablespoons of olive oil until most of the moisture has evaporated and it has taken on a paste-like consistency. You have done it; you have just made your first sofrito. You can use this in black bean soup or as a tofu marinade or for anything you want to be spicy and delicious.

For the next step, you will need:

3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
a few pinches of saffron threads
2 cups arborio rice
more olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat the stock and add the saffron to it. With the stovetop on medium-high heat, throw the rice into the pan with the sofrito and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Coat the rice in the sofrito and oil. Add three cups of hot stock to the rice and stir. 

Here is where you can get creative. I topped my rice with diced zucchini, tomato wedges, shelled edamame, Field Roast sausage, grilled seitan, and king oyster mushrooms. It was quite a feast, but you can make yours as simple or as elaborate as you'd like. Arrange your toppings as you would the toppings on a pizza and throw it all into the oven. After 20 minutes, add the remaining stock and then stick it back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Right before you serve the paella, put it back on the stovetop over high heat for about 4 minutes. This will 
develop the socorat, the crunchy rice at the bottom of the pan that is so wonderful. Chop some fresh herbs and sprinkle them over the top. Serve it with a nice salad. (We had spring greens with orange rounds, olives, and a sherry vinegar-olive oil dressing.)

The meal was rounded out with a wonderful syrah and a bottle of sparkling wine from Austria. Michael also brought fresh hot sauce he made from a family recipe. For dessert, The Wife served us hot tin roof sundaes made with homemade vanilla ice cream, chocolate cacao nibs, cayenne peanuts, and caramel. (She is very proud of her first attempt at homemade caramel, especially since she made it up herself as she went along. Funny what not planning ahead and not getting the proper ingredients can force you to learn!)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vegetarian Closet of Mystery

In the back of my favorite asian market, Viet Hoa, resides one of the strangest collections in all of the world. I call the last freezer case on the left the Vegetarian Closet of Mystery. It is a freezer packed full of some of meat substitutes the likes of which you probably have never seen. Many items in the VCM look like artist renderings of actual food. To add to the mysteriousness of the experience, nothing is priced, organized, or even labeled. So you must sift through the meatless wonders like you are at some rummage sale or flea market while you decide which one, if any, of these strange things you are going to take home and try. The best thing in the case is the Happy Ham, but they have vegetarian versions of everything from shrimp to steak. I encourage you to try something from The VCM. It is not always good, but it is always interesting...and 100% vegetarian.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Classic Cinnamon-Raisin Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Sauce

As a little gift last week, some nice person gave us cinnamon-raisin bread that kind of resembled Polynesian bread. I froze it and knew I was going to use it for bread pudding, one of my no-set-recipe-needed desserts. I have made chocolate bread pudding, apple, pineapple, you name it. Sometimes, though, the original remains the best. This is so easy to make and is great to have on a chilly January night. I was thrilled that Lindsey and Mo got to try it on their last night here in town. 

Bread Pudding:
Cut or rip the bread into 2-inch cubes and set aside in a bowl. Whisk 1 cup of milk, 1/4 cup half and half, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup raw sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add 1 tbsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and a generous pinch of salt. Heat 1/2 cup dark rum with 1/2 cup golden raisins. Pour milk mixture and softened raisins onto the bread. Mix gently. Pour into buttered pan and sprinkle with a mix of raw sugar and brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm. 

Vanilla Bean Sauce:
Whisk 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla paste, 1-2 tbsps. milk, and 1 tbsp. whiskey. Refrigerate and then drizzle sauce across warm bread pudding. 

(Also, don't forget to register for TCV's upcoming Vegetarian Cooking Class. I will be his dutiful little helper, and I know you don't want to miss out on that dynamic!)