Monday, December 28, 2009

Black Truffle

I scored this beautiful black truffle at the Whole Foods Market yesterday. It is about the size of a half-dollar. My head is on fire with possibilities. I invited my friend Michael over to have a truffle-off. We plan to make several small plates so we can experiment with this rare gem. We have already discussed a duxelle souffle with shaved truffles, a tofu-truffle-miso soup, and a truffled pasta carbonara. The idea is to keep the dishes simple to let the flavor of the truffle shine through. The Wife has already told me that she is not having truffles for dessert. We'll see...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tofu & Truffle "Pork" Rinds

Two weeks ago I walked out of the Viet Ho market with a huge bag of frozen tofu skins. I had never seen anything like them before, and I had no clue what I was going to do with them. I admit it -- I do love to get challenging ingredients just to see where my imagination will take me. So, the skins sat in my freezer for a few weeks. They were busy mocking me every time I opened it to get some ice or a bit of frozen tomato sauce. Then today it struck me: pork rinds....sort of!

I rarely ever fry anything in my kitchen, but I just knew if I fried up those tofu skins they would puff up like pork rinds -- and believe it or not, I was right. To season them, I used some black truffle salt because everyone knows that truffles are the bacon of the future. Right? You knew that, right?


Bean curd sheet
Canola oil
Black truffle salt
Pour a 1/4 inch layer of canola oil in a small frying pan and set over medium heat. Tear bean curd sheet into two-inch strips. Fry one at a time, turning once. It will take only a few seconds for the skin to crisp. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle each with a little truffle salt. Enjoy hot or at room temperature.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gifts for the Foodie in Your Life

1. Mandolin slicer (mine is a Norpro Deluxe)
5. Food processor (Cuisinart 14-cup)
6. Cast-iron grill pan
7. Stainless steel measuring cups
9. Bamboo cutting board
10. Pizza stone

I couldn't live without these tools in my own kitchen. Give any or all of these things to the one you love. They'll smile. They'll thank you. (Then you can tell 'em to make you some dinner.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Muscavado-Poached Satsumas

Lousiana's Plaquemines Parrish satsuma oranges wound their way into town this week and a brown bag full of them serendipitously fell into our laps. What to do, what to do? Well, we figured, why not put them on drop biscuits instead of jam? We still had some dark brown, molasses-flavored muscovado sugar left over from last year's Christmas gifts, and we figured not much is better than a skilletful of warm spiced orange wedges. This could be done with any number of oranges, and it releases the sweetness of them while erasing any lingering tart flavors.
Peel and separate 4 oranges. Put them into a frying pan with a tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of water, a few quick zests of lemon, and a pinch of cinnamon. Cook it over medium-high for about 8 minutes or until the water evaporates. Serve warm at breakfast.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Easy Horchata

This isn't the traditional way to make horchata, but it suits me just fine. Don't let the simplicity of this little treat fool you. It's very delicious. Make this to go along with tacos or enchiladas or my poblano tamales. The sweet rice milk is the perfect foil for spicy food.

Makes two servings
2 1/2 cups vanilla rice milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (a little extra for sprinkling)
a squeeze of agave nectar (two squeezes if you like it sweet)
enough ice to fill two tall drinking glasses

Place the milk, cinnamon, and agave into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. You want it to get a nice little foam on top. Pour mixture over ice and sprinkle the top of each with a little more cinnamon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In December Drinking Horchata

I just can't resist this catchy little song about my favorite rice-milk drink. Click HERE to check out Vampire Weekend singing about drinking horchata in a balaclava.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Unreal Chicken Pot Pie

Click HERE for the new and improved version of this dish!

I like to call it unreal chicken pot pie because it is u-n-r-e-a-l how good it tastes, and I use fake (unreal) chicken in the recipe. This is one of the few things that The Wife requests on a regular basis. It is simple to make, and she always helps out by making the crust. She says that every good Southern girl should be able to make a pie crust from memory. Here is how she remembers it:

Pot pie crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup ice water
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder

**** Place all ingredients except water in the food processor with the dough blade. Turn it on and add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic and stick it in the fridge for 20 minutes.****

Roll 1/2 of the crust out and fit into a pie plate. Reserve the other half for the top. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
For the pot pie filling dice:
2 medium carrots
2 medium ribs of celery
1 medium onion
1 medium potato
2 cloves of garlic
2 Quorn Naked Chick'n Cutlets
1 handful of fresh parsley

Throw all of that into a large pot with some olive oil, salt, pepper, one chicken-style bullion cube, and one cup of frozen green peas. Allow the mixture to cook on medium-high for about five minutes, and then create a well in the middle by pushing everything up against the sides of the pot. In the well you just created, melt four tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle four tablespoons of flour on top of the melted butter, and whisk the flour and butter together. Allow flour mixture to cook for a few minutes, but keep it moving around the pot so it does not burn. Pour in a cup of milk and stir the whole thing together. Once the mixture has thickened, pour the whole thing into a your pie plate, cover it with the remaining crust and bake for 40 minutes. I like to put and egg wash on the top crust about half way through so the top is a nice, brown color.

Whew! O.K. it looks complicated, but it isn't. Let me know if you have any questions.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Banana-Ricotta Muffins with Walnuts

I love banana bread, but the texture is That first warm slice is good, but after a couple of hours, a weird, tough graininess sets in, and no one really wants to eat it anymore. Muffins in general, are just better-tasting, and also keep longer when put in the fridge and warmed up the next day. Also, the addition of ricotta makes them have a texture that's more like cake. Perfect paired with cold rain and hot white tea.

Banana-Ricotta Muffins with Walnuts

1 1/2 large bananas, mashed
1/3 cup cream or milk
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 tbsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
pinch of salt

Whisk wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately. Stir together until just mixed. Pour batter into oiled muffin tins; sprinkle each with topping. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges
as soon as you take them out -- this makes it easier to pop them out ten minutes later.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Polenta Pancakes w/ Pear + Clementine, & Vanilla Bean Compote

Someone around here loves pancakes; someone else is repelled by them. The dedicated pancake fan is committed to whipping up a stack just about every Sunday, so she is always searching for a new recipe that will tempt TCV to cross to the other side, if only on the weekends: a way-overboard breakfast of starch, butter, and maple syrup. Chocolate chip pancakes recently failed as a lure, but here is the latest try, which was slightly more successful:

Polenta Pancakes (recipe adapted from
½ cup Delta Grind cornmeal
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1¼ cups milk
olive oil for skillet

Whisk cornmeal with 1 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, whisk, lower heat, and whisk for a few more minutes until it is thickened. Set aside. Whisk dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then stir together until just combines. Brush skillet or double-burner pan with olive oil. Set to medium heat and pour on batter for pancakes. When they bubble, flip them.

Pear, Clementine, and Vanilla Bean Compote:
2 yellow pears
3 clementines
1 tbsp. vanilla sugar or raw sugar
half a vanilla bean

Peel ripe yellow pears and dice them. Squeeze the juice and pulp of 3 clementines over them. Add sugar. Slice open and scrape out half of a vanilla bean into the mix, and then throw it in and stir. Heat for one to two minutes. Pour over polenta pancakes along with a pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.

(Oh, yeah -- we recently took advantage of a really good deal on vanilla beans on -- just $15 for an entire bag!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vegetarian Chili Two Ways

We had a bunch of friends over on Sunday night for chili and corn muffins. I couldn't decide whether I should make my famous chipotle-chocolate chili or to try something new and make my own version of a white chili spiced with cumin. I finally decided...I would make both. I was a one-man chili cook-off on a mission to make both versions spicy and delicious. The contrasts were interesting. The chipotle chili was dark and smoky with just a hint of chocolate while the white chili was fresh and bright because of the addition of fresh hot peppers and tomatillos.

I took an informal poll at the end of the night, and there was no clear winner. Everyone seemed to love both recipes as they both delivered on the chili promise: a hearty, spicy, belly-full of goodness. Some people put them both in the same bowl as I did, and others had a bowl of white followed by a bowl of chipotle and then another bowl of white. I love to see people go back for seconds at my house, so I'm elated to see some going for thirds.

Here are both recipes so you can decide for yourself:

Chipotle + Chocolate Chili:

4 1/2 cups prepared beans ( mix: pinto, black, red kidney)
2 medium onions (diced)
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
2 "Not-beef" bouillon cubes
1/2 a beer
2 bell peppers (red, green, orange: diced)
1 large can fire-roasted tomatoes
3 chipotle peppers (from a can)
2 dried pasilla peppers (stems removed)
6 cloves garlic
1 box white wave chicken style seitan (drained)
1 small can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 square of dark chocolate
1 pat of butter
olive oil
salt & pepper

In a large soup pot or dutch oven sauté onions with a few tablespoons of olive oil, ancho chili powder, and bouillon cubes until onions start to brown. Add the bell peppers and deglaze pot with beer. Allow most of the beer to evaporate. Pulse seitan in the food processor until finely chopped (like ground beef), and add it to the pot. Into the food processor place the large can of tomatoes, chipotle, pasilla, and garlic, and blend until almost smooth. Pour mixture over the onions and peppers, add the beans, small can of tomatoes, the chocolate, and the butter. Add enough water to cover. Simmer for at least one hour. The longer it cooks, the better it gets. Add salt and pepper to taste.

White Chili w/ Tomatillos + Mushrooms

2 cups prepared cannellini beans
2 cups prepared flageolet beans
1 large white onion (diced)
2 shallots (diced)
2 tablespoons cumin
2 "Not-chick'n" bouillon cubes
1/2 cup white wine
2 yellow bell peppers (diced)
6-8 tomatillos (peeled and washed)
20 oz white button mushrooms
2 jalapeno peppers (stem removed)
1 serrano pepper (stem removed)
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
olive oil
salt and pepper

Pulse mushrooms in the food processor until finely chopped, toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil, roast in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Set aside. In a large soup pot or dutch oven sauté onion and shallot with olive oil, cumin and bouillon cubes. Once the onion is translucent, add the peppers and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Pulse tomatillos and hot peppers in the food processor until finely chopped. Add mixture to the pot along with the beans and mushrooms. Add enough water to cover and simmer for one hour. Whisk chickpea flour with some of the broth and add it all back to the pot. Cook for another 10 minutes. (This will thicken the chili.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

In addition to the chili, I made a buffet of toppings consisting of white cheddar, aged cotija, cilantro, green onions, sour cream, guacamole, and fresh lime wedges. I also made a huge pot of rice and got out every hot sauce I own (which is a lot of hot sauce). At the last minute, The Wife had me chop apples for a crumble, and she made the crunchy topping for it. It was the perfect dinner party for a cold and drizzly Sunday night.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cranberry-Apple + Curry-Ginger Chutney

"What were those blood-red rings we used to eat at holiday meals?" I asked my family recently. "And why in the world didn't we make our own cranberry sauce?" The red rings were from cored, unpeeled apples and the cranberry sauce was, of course, canned. I guess our focus was on the always-homemade things like the perennial Christmas cauliflower soup or miniscule, buttery pecan tarts instead of on the lowly cranberry.

But now we know it is so easy to make your own cranberry sauce. There is no valid reason not to! I checked out the back of an interesting jar of chutney at a fancy little market this month, valiantly tried to memorize the ingredients, and then made up this version instead of the cranberry-orange one I usually do. (I didn't know if using organic cranberries would make a difference, so I sprung for them and gave it a shot, and I found out it really was worth it...the usual sharp, over-sour flavor was gone.)

Cranberry-Apple + Curry-Ginger Chutney

2 pints organic cranberries
1 cup of raw sugar
2 big pink lady apples, peeled and diced
one inch of fresh ginger root, microplaned
1 1/2 tsp. sweet yellow curry
1/2 cup tangerine juice

Mix it all up in a saucepan and set heat to medium. Stir occasionally; soon you'll hear the cranberries pop. As soon as that occurs, set heat to simmer. You still want to see individual cranberries and apple pieces, so the whole production should take about an hour, tops. This is great on stuffed acorn squash or tofu cheesecake.