Friday, August 31, 2012

A Link to the Future, and Kickin' Green Beans

A not--so-shocking article I found in my email box this a.m.:

 Enjoy your weekend, and the weather, while the seasons change. Here's a neat little recipe that livens up a picnic. I may have posted it before, but there's getting too much of this tangy salad!

 GREEN BEANS with TWO MUSTARDS from Madhur Jaffrey's Cookbook, adapted by Mari


3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 super-full Tbsp dijon mustard

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

5 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds (can use brown, if necessary)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thin slivers

1 1/2 lbs green beans, trimmed

 Set a large pot of salted water to boil (should be just slightly saltier than your natural preference).

Put the lemon juice in a small bowl, add the dijon, 1 tsp salt, black pepper and cayenne. Mix and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a small cast iron frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop (this takes just a few seconds), put in the garlic. Stir until the slivers turn a light brown, take pan off heat, and allow to cool slightly. beat the cooled oil mixture into the lemon juice mixture until you have a creamy dressing.

The pot should now be at a rolling boil. Drop in the beans and boil vigorously for 3-5 minutes, just until crisp-tender. Drain thoroughly. Put beans in a large bowl, beat the dressing again and pour it over beans. Toss to mix. Serve cool or at room temp.

 I have found that although you can make both beans and dressing a day ahead, it is best to let the dressing come close to room temp again, and dress the salad just before serving instead of mixing the two way ahead of time; it keeps the beans fresher looking, and avoids greasiness.
 We love this salad, especially with grilled foods. So delicious and savoury.

 Peace, Mari

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baking Essentials: Vegan Chocolate Cake

It was a hot and moist day, when I made my mother's birthday cake for an Ice Cream Social Birthday Party this past July. Besides the oppressive heat, there were a few new challenges to meet for Mom's birthday this year.

 Recently, Mom was diagnosed with congestive heart failure; and in the interest of helping her manage that, I'd like to make sure that treats and goodies on special occasions are still special, but not lethal. It's easy to say, "Just this one day will be fine," but those holidays and treats add up. I want to be able to make many more momentous cakes for my mother, so I decided to start immediately with the more healthful alternatives.

 Some in my family were off dairy, for the time being, which is fine with me. There were also small children, and people of all ages, to please.

 Luckily, I had just the cake! It's been in my repertoire for ages, and when Mom requested a dark chocolate cake (she always wants chocolate for her b-day), I knew I had the perfect choice. It's a far cry from the ludicrously rich layer cake I did for Mother's Day; but it has been a reliable company cake for years. It's divinely dark and moist, looks chic, and takes well to any fancying up you might want.

 Plus it's the second simplest chocolate cake to make in the world. You can even mix it in the pan, but I go the extra step and use a bowl. Most versions of this recipe also tell you not to grease the pan, but I have since the second time I made this, because it comes out of the pan better (duh).

 I first found it in Moosewood Cooks at Home, and have since seen many versions, called by different names. They got it from House & Garden magazine in 1976, under the fairly accurate name of Six Minute Chocolate Cake. That's prep time, not baking time. But still, a quick cake, which just happens to be lusciously vegan, and to work well with olive oil, which I prefer to vegetable or canola oil for most uses.

 A few things: It's a light, liquidy batter, so if you want to add chip or nuts of any kind, make them small-- mini-chips, finely chopped nuts, dried cherries chopped very fine-- and sprinkle them over the top just before baking. They'll mix in on their own. The batter is just too light to support heavier items, and those that are mixed in will fall to the bottom, making the cake stick and likely come out of the pan in a broken, messy state.

The lightness makes icing, (if desired), rather than frosting, a better bet, though honestly I tend to serve it with a sauce or fruit couli, or some coffee granita on the side. Killer combo, to me.

 Don't be afraid to change the flavor profile-- if you add chopped nuts or chopped, dried cherries, you might want to lessen the vanilla and add a drop of almond extract. I've also made this with a Mexican Chocolate-inspired spice blend of cinnamon, coriander and ancho chile powder (Penzey's has a good one) and even hotter, cayenne.

 Or try a nice pumpkin pie spice blend, or just ginger, with some finely diced candied ginger on top. Mint extract is a good choice, too, and then you can serve it with a scoop of something cold and vanilla-y, like Tofutti, and a mint leaf garnish, for an elegant presentation.

 This is dark chocolate we're dealing with, so the options are almost limitless. Tweak as desired.

 One last detail: for a chic looking plated dessert,  make this in four or five giant muffin cups-- plan on four, but depending on size, you may get five. You can serve it on whichever side is the prettiest, I like upside down, which makes it look not at all like a cupcake, but more of a restaurant-style personal dessert cake. My average yield is four big cupcakes and a smaller greased ramekin-- cook's treat!

 For my mother's birthday party, I doubled the recipe and made it in my lasagna pan-- the equivalent of a 13x9 oblong pan, or two 9-inch round pans. It doubled flawlessly, and when turned over and iced, looked very glossy and pretty, with a cold cherry puree on the side.

Vegan Deep Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 C unbleached flour

1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 C sugar *

1/2 C oil ( I like olive, but you may use canola or vegetable oil)

1 C cold water or cooled brewed coffee

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 Tbsp vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan, or other pans as suggested above.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar. Set aside.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour into dry ingredients and mix the batter with a fork or small whisk, till smooth.

Add vinegar to batter and stir quickly; there will be pale swirls in the batter where the vinegar and bakign soda are reacting. Stir just until vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter, and pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or about 20 minutes for cupcakes. The cake is done when you can press a finger very lightly to the middle and it springs back, is dry and set on top, and the cake has pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool in pan on a wire rack at least 15 minutes.

 Serve as suggested above; this cake is very good chilled, too.

 *Tops Markets, and Trader Joe's, both carry Florida Crystals brand sugar, a light turbinado sugar processed without bone char. Beet sugar, although it has a higher glycemic index, is also standardly processed without bone char, and is cheaper than cane sugar. It's the kind you see in every grocery store, that isn't marked as cane, but just as Granulated Sugar.

 Peace, Mari

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Miso of Your Dreams

  A casual mention here of the Miso Dressing from the long defunct The Juicery restaurants in WNY has brought about many requests, recently, for that recipe. For those who have asked, and those that haven't, YET, I submit it here today for your pleasure.

 The dressing was served at The Juicery on several dishes, and was available by request. It's supposed to be fairly thick, a creamily salty, rich, tangy emulsion with just enough sweetness in it, made to balance  the flavors of almost anything you put it on-- green salads with fruits and nuts, a bread and tomato salad, steamed vegetables, in a wrap or sandwich of any sort. I liked it on the Lite Bite: a small green salad of frilly lettuces topped with a large rounded scoop of the Juicery's very rich, cuminy Hummus, flatbread triangles on the side.

 But the uses of this dressing go way beyond. It could easily be a dip, it's a natural, if counterintuitive pairing, with feta and pita and all dishes that go with them, it's wonderful dripped onto a veggie burger, it makes the sliced cuke a snack of the gods, and I'm dying to try it on sweet potato fries. I've enjoyed it with almond butter and lettuce on wheat bread. Of course, it would enhance a vegetarian sushi plate.

 This recipe, given me by my niece who was, at the time, working at the Juicery Cafe in Amherst, NY, makes a large quantity-- a gallon, in fact.

 It won't be enough.

 But it does keep very well in the fridge. Or you can do as I often do-- make a smaller quantity using similar proportions* and your own sense of the proper taste/consistency to get it right. If making it as a dip, you may want to scratch the soy, or edit it down to a few drops, and add water just till thick enough, instead of the given proportion.

 As for the oil, we have it on good authority that the restaurant used an olive oil/vegetable oil blend. I use olive oil, with a little extra-virgin thrown in for fruitiness. But it takes well to canola, sunflower, or straight veg oil, or a combination of these. Corn oil is too heavy, IMO.

 As for the miso, white or yellow are first choices for this, but red or darker work too-- you should taste as you go, and adjust. It shouldn't be too salty to lick straight off your finger. And you'll want to lick it off your fingers!

PS-- a little blended into your hummus is out-of-bounds yummy.

The Juicery's Miso Dressing

makes about 1 gallon

8 C oil

4 C water

1/2 C lemon juice

1/2 C honey (vegans can use a slightly lesser amount of agave, and adjust to taste)

1/3 C wine vinegar (they used red)

1/4 C soy sauce

3 tsp chopped garlic

10 oz chopped onion (1 big onion)

1 3/4 C miso paste

 Measure and add all ingredients into large blender. Blend till smooth. Store in refrigerator.

*Proportionally, if you started with one C oil, you'd use a scant 1/2 C water, about 1/4 C miso or less. The rest of the ingredients, you do to taste, adding maybe a 1/4 C chopped onion, a clove minced garlic, and drizzling the liquids in by a tsp at a time. When it tastes delicious, it's right.

 This stuff really is the bomb, as requests for it from several different states/countries will atttest. I hope you try it soon. It's perfect for fall salads, and end-of-summer grillfests.

 Peace, Mari

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

No-Cook Summer

Despite having more time to cook because of my computer woes (and therefore, less time spent facing a screen) this summer, I haven't much wanted to cook or eat, and I'm sure most of Buffalo feels the same way-- too hot to eat, until it's too late to care.

 But given the past few reasonable, milder days, I have some appetite now-- but still crave cool and fresh over warm and gloppy. That's how I think of cooked food, today.

 It's a good time to make tabbouleh, to have meal-in-a-bowl salads, to buy hummus and pita from Pete's Lebanese Bakery and set out chunks of tomatoes and cukes on the side. It's a good time to let olive oil be the the most fattening non-frozen food we eat. I'd rather have spicy, room temp food than a take-out pizza, even if pizza weren't so expensive to have delivered.

 What about you? How do you cope with an overdose of summer?