Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Green Beans with Creamed Spring Onions

The mere mention of the words "Green Bean Casserole" is likely enough to prompt what is surely the most extensive flood of culinary jokes and haughty smirks attributable to a single dish.

I have a confession to make, though. I grew up with green bean casserole. I don't mean the fabulous, entirely from scratch, gourmet versions that have gradually - thankfully - emerged on the culinary scene, I mean the kind of casserole consisting entirely of canned condensed cream of mushroom soup, frozen "French cut" green beans, and French's fried onions.

Ready for my next confession? (You may have already guessed this fact, given my predilection for waxing poetic on the subject of casseroles.) As a child, I loved my family's green bean casserole. It was smooth textured, soothing to a small child, and always reminded me of Thanksgiving, which was synonymous with happiness in my youthful mind.

Nowadays, I usually fix roasted green beans with garlic and toasted sesame oil for Thanksgiving. But Zach grew up with green bean casserole too, and there is something very powerful about food nostalgia. One night last week, with an abundant bowl-full of the season's first fresh green beans upon our counter, I started to envision crisp, stir-fried green beans, light, healthful, and unencumbered, but with just a hint of the velvety, proverbial casseroles of my childhood...

because a homemade dinner any night is cause for Thanksgiving...

Green Beans with Creamed Spring Onions

2 tablespoons butter or light vegan margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 spring onions, white and green parts included, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound green beans , trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
1/4 cup vegetable broth

~ In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter or vegan marg, then stir in the flour and continue stirring quickly just until the flour browns.
~ Pour in the 1/2 cup vegetable broth and simmer briefly, until the mixture thickens.
~ Add the milk, stir to combine, and remove the saucepan from the heat, setting it aside to rest.
~ In a large wok over high heat, stir-fry the spring onions and garlic in the olive oil over high heat until the onions are golden brown and starting to crisp.
~ Toss in the green beans and continue to stir-fry, stirring often, until the green beans are crisp tender.
~ At this point, the spring onions will have continued to brown, and will begin to stick to the bottom of the wok. Quickly pour in the 1/4 cup vegetable broth and deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon while the broth simmers, then remove the pan from the heat.
~ Immediately stir in the white sauce mixture, and serve warm...

On a side note, my triumph of the moment is having learned how to sew curtains... :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Delicious Vitamins: Caramelized Onion and Sunflower Seed Tart

With deep appreciation to my wonderful readers for all your welcoming comments regarding the first "Delicious Vitamins" post, I am eager to continue our culinary vitamin series.

Without delay, let us introduce Thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1!

Thiamine, while seemingly a quiet, unassuming vitamin - found in a variety of foods rather than possessing a singular distinguishing champion in the produce department - is in fact essential to whole-body functioning. A lack of thiamine will negatively impact the nervous system, the muscles, and the heart. To put it in most scientific and distinguished terms: "A thiamine deficiency is Not Good."

While severe thiamine deficits are less common amongst those able to consume a varied diet, a mild shortage can still cause stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, and difficulties sleeping.

Thiamine busies itself all throughout our body, ensuring proper nerve conduction (making sure I promptly released the scalding saucepan handle I grabbed in haste this evening), keeping our immune systems functioning vigorously (so that perhaps I might not catch every cold my pediatric patients so kindly bestow upon me), and enabling genetic material to pass along to new cells as they divide and develop (keeping me, well, me). Thiamine also carries out its essential functions in a very helpful manner - as a "helper" coenzyme molecule, assisting our bodies in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

Because thiamine doesn't predominate sweepingly in one particular food, it gives us all the more reason to tantalize our taste buds with an array of flavors! Thiamine is quite soundly present in watermelon, green peas, potatoes, black beans, pork products, salmon, and peanuts, but, surprisingly, it shines in the inconspicuous little sunflower seed...

Sunflower seeds contain 0.41 milligrams of Thiamine in just two tablespoons, and, as the recommended daily intake of Thiamine is 1.5 milligrams for women and 1.7 milligrams for men, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds puts one well on their way to a solid day of thiamine. It bears keeping in mind, too, that thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin, which means, for our purposes, that it is not long stored in the body, and requires continual replenishing.

Whenever I'm in Israel I quickly slip into the habit of nibbling sunflower seeds, happily partaking in what surely seems to be the nation's universal between-meals snack, but back in the States I often lose track of the lilliputian seeds, so tenaciously encased in their salted shells... until, that is, they happen to lend a bit of crunch, concentrated nutty flavor, and thiamine to the slightly rustic, whole wheat crust for a creamy, savory tart...

*It is sheer coincidence that both of my first two Vitamin posts contain recipes infused with caramelized onions, but I do confess to be a bit obsessed with caramelized onions of late...

Caramelized Onion Tart with a Whole Wheat Sunflower Seed Crust

For the dough:
1 envelope quick-rising yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup plus 1/4 cup white flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 T butter or light vegan margarine
4 T toasted sunflower seeds

For the filling:
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1 T butter or light vegan margarine
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup 1% milk
1 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
1 tsp salt
1 T flour
1 pinch of nutmeg

~ To make the dough, stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water, and let the mixture sit aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to proof and puff up.
~ Meanwhile, pulse the whole wheat flour, 1/8 cup white flour, butter or vegan marg, and salt in a food processor until the butter or marg has been cut into the flour.
~ With the processor running, pour in the yeast and water mixture and keep processing just until a sticky, wet dough forms.
~ Add another 1/8 cup white flour, and blend in the food processor until the dough gathers together into a ball.
~ If the dough still seems wet (it will remain a sticky dough, which is OK, you just don't want a gooey, soggy dough), add the remaining 1/8 cup white flour and processes again for another 30 seconds or so until the dough ball forms again.
~ Sprinkle a bit more flour into a glass bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl, and gently turn the dough until it is fully covered in a dusting of flour. Cover the bowl, and set it aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size - around 45 minutes.
~ Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and make the filling.
~ To make the filling, cook the onions in the butter or vegan marg over medium heat for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally - until the onions are golden brown and deeply caramelized.
~ In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream, salt, flour, and nutmeg.
~ Returning to the dough, when it has doubled in size, very gently punch down the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
~ Sprinkle a dusting of flour and the 4 T sunflower seeds into the bottom of a 10" pie pan.
~ After the dough has rested, turn the dough into the pie pan, and gently begin to stretch the dough to fill the pie pan. When the dough is nearly the size of the bottom of the pie pan, turn the dough over to coat the second side with sunflower seeds.
~ Using your fingers, press the dough up the sides of the pie pan.
~ Bake the tart crust dough in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
~ When the tart crust emerges from the oven, gently pat down any air bubbles that have risen.
~ Fold the caramelized onions into the egg and milk mixture, and pour the resulting filling into the prebaked crust.
~ Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes - until the filling is set and the top of the filling is golden.
~ Serve warm or cool...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Humble Food: Recycled... Bread?

When you have a lovely whole grain loaf that's gone a trifle stale, the founts of culinary wisdom say you should make breadcrumbs, right? Well, what if you don't really need A Whole Loaf of breadcrumbs? You'd soon wind up in a similar situation, with a large bowl of, well, stale breadcrumbs.

Instead, why not investigate the ultimate thrifty solution? Take those breadcrumbs you just created - and bake bread.


"Make bread from breadcrumbs?!"

"Um, why? And how? And wouldn't it taste gross?"

On the contrary, my friends...

I was struck with the idea while reading a recipe for Herbed Passover Rolls, with matzah meal, in Cooking Light magazine - it dawned on me, suddenly, that breadcrumbs are rather similar in concept to matzah meal (ground matzah is to finely crumbled bread as orange juice is to... oh wait, I don't have to ever take the SAT or the GRE again, never mind...), so why not employ a baking technique to rejuvenate the humble breadcrumb?

My favorite breadcrumbs for these rolls are ones made from homemade whole grain bread, or a sprouted grain loaf such as Ezekiel bread. If you're still skeptical, I understand, but I ask only that you reserve judgment until you've garnished one of these rolls with a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of roasted garlic, and been transported to buoyant, airy, crisp-crust bread heaven...

Whole Grain Breadcrumb Rolls

1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 T raw sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole wheat matzah meal
1 1/2 cups whole grain breadcrumbs
4 eggs
1 T minced chives
2 T rosemary

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner.
~ Stir the water, olive oil, sugar, and salt together in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.
~ Reduce the heat to low, add the matzah meal and breadcrumbs, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the saucepan (this will happen in a minute or less).
~ Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, and allow it to cool a bit.
~ Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl well and making sure each egg is well incorporated before adding the next one.
~ Stir in the chives and rosemary.
~ Using an ice cream scoop for measuring, transfer mounds of dough onto the baking sheet.
~ Bake for around 50 minutes - until browned and crispy on the outside. Serve warm, of course...

*The Delicious Vitamins series will continue in the next post... :-)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Delicious Vitamins: Caramelized Onion Soup with Carrots and Tofu

While spending the majority of the past few weeks studying for my nursing boards exam (thank God for having that experience successfully concluded!), amidst other, drier material (such as memorizing the chemical names of countless medications) I did have the chance to review some of my favorite topics in clinical nutrition. As an attempt to make my otherwise rather droll studying and note-card writing sessions more lively, I began musing about vitamins in a culinary sense as I followed the paths of their effects in the body and committed to memory the many symptoms and complications associated with their deficiencies. All of this to say, I've been thinking about food on the molecular level lately, and it struck me that it might be fun to do a bit of a series on the blog focusing on recipes that highlight certain vitamins and minerals.

While I do take a daily regimen of vitamin and phytonutrient supplements (I confess that Zach and I consider the act of perusing medical journals for the latest research on nutrition and preventative health fun, and even a hobby - perhaps we should be a bit embarrassed?), I still deeply believe that it's best to receive most of your micronutrients from dietary sources - after all, your body only absorbs around 30% of any given vitamin or mineral in supplement form, as opposed to the far more efficient, more readily absorbed nutrients available from foods.

So, let's dive right in and start from the beginning, shall we?

Vitamin A, also known as retinol. As you might guess from the prefix "ret" (I like word games too, can you tell? :-), vitamin A is important for healthy vision, as well as overall cellular growth and - fashion and beauty tip here - healthy hair and nails. In fact, without vitamin A, the body cannot synthesize the pigment molecule retinal needed to transform light stimulus into a nerve impulse used to create visual images.

I seem to recall, a couple of decades ago, my mother hovering over me, chiding with as much sternness as she could muster: "Now eat your carrots, or you won't have super-eyes like Bugs Bunny."

Fast forward to today, where, while my vision isn't great, I can see adequately without glasses, and I do love carrots.

Without ever having taken a nutrition course, my mother knew her Vitamin A - carrots are one of the best sources of Vitamin A, transporting a walloping 971 micrograms in only half a cup. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin A is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men, so nibble on a carrot, and... you've settled your daily score with Vitamin A! Sweet potatoes are a very close second, containing 961 micrograms, and spinach, despite not fitting the orange profile of carrots, sweet potatoes, or cantaloupe and butternut squash (also high in Vitamin A), still carries 472 micrograms in a humble half cup.

Because Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, insoluble in water, it's stored in the body - in fact, up to a year's supply of Vitamin A can be amassed in the body at one time. Suffice to day, you don't need to consume a ton of Vitamin A each day - so adding some carrots to a favorite soup, perhaps one with caramelized onions to accent the natural sweetness of carrots, is a marvelous beginning...

Caramelized Onion Soup with Carrots and Tofu

2 cups cubed firm tofu (or cubed boneless skinless chicken breast)
1 T olive oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 T olive oil
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 lb whole wheat pasta

~ Season the tofu (or chicken) to taste with salt and pepper.
~ In a small skillet over medium high heat, saute the tofu (or chicken) until browned on all sides (and until the chicken is cooked through). Remove from the heat, and set aside.
~ In a large soup pot, saute the onions over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are limp and deep brown in color - aka nicely, sweetly caramelized. Scoop the onions out of the soup pot, and set them aside.
~ Toss the carrots and celery into the same soup pot, and saute for a few minutes - just until the carrots begin to tenderize.
~ Pour in the broth and whole wheat pasta. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 12 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
~ Stir in the onions and tofu (or chicken), and simmer for a few minutes until heated through. Serve warm, and savor the Vitamin A! (and the caramelized onions... :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Polenta and Tomato Casserole with Cannellini Beans and Basil

We sharpened our knives yesterday, and what better way to appreciate their new and improved prowess than with the delicate slicing and dicing of tomatoes?

(After all, without a perfectly honed knife, the soft and slippery orange-red orbs will persistently slip and squish their way about the cutting board, without receiving the appealingly diced shapes they deserve...)

In honor of a bit more slicing and dicing, one might even fancy an entire spring menu...

The main course with tomatoes, of course...

Polenta and Tomato Casserole with Cannellini Beans and Basil...

along with,

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Onion Balsamic Dressing...

Whole Wheat Focaccia...

served with classic chickpea Hummus...

and... a grand Honey-Apple-Rum-Raisin-Dark Chocolate Cake for dessert!!

Most importantly, though, those spring tomatoes... with mozzarella cheese... and tender baby spinach...

Polenta and Tomato Stew with Cannellini Beans and Basil

1 tube prepared polenta, cut into 20 thin slices
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 T basil
8 oz tempeh, crumbled
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz baby spinach leaves
1 cup tomatoes, finely diced, juices included
1 (14.5 oz) can cannellini beans, drained
1 cup part skim mozzarella

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
~ Whisk together the ricotta and basil with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray, and saute the tempeh over medium-high heat until browned.
~ Season the tempeh with salt and pepper, add the onions and garlic, and continue to saute until the onions are limp and translucent. Remove the mixture from the heat.
~ Line a 6 quart casserole dish with half the polenta slices.
~ Place half the spinach leaves atop the polenta.
~ Spread half the cannellini beans over the spinach. The spinach will begin to wilt already, adding to the broth that will be formed from the tomatoes and beans during cooking.
~ Scatter half the tempeh and onion mixture atop the beans.
~ Pour half the tomatoes, with their juce, over the tempeh.
~ Spread all of the ricotta mixture over the tomatoes.
~ Line the rest of the polenta on top of the ricotta mixture, followed by the rest of the spinach, the rest of the beans, the rest of the tempeh mixture, and the rest of the tomatoes.
~ Scatter the mozzarella cheese on top of everything.
~ Cover, and bake for 35 minutes. The covered casserole will allow everything to steam and become brothy, making this a bit of a "baked stew."
~ Uncover, and bake for 5 more minutes to brown the cheese a bit.
~ Serve warm in nice big bowls...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Whole Grain Strawberry Corn Muffins

After a long, nerve-wracking weekend awaiting my scores, I finally received the news that I passed the NCLEX nursing licensing board exam!

The boards evaluation is administered via computer, and is designed as a "Computer Adaptive Test," which constantly calculates your score during the testing process and simply stops your assessment when the computer system is able to establish a sufficient "pass" or "fail" pattern, however briskly (or languidly) such a pattern may emerge. I took the evaluation on Thursday, and was promptly freaked out when the exam shut down after only the minimum number of questions (85 questions, which feels like a rather short trial when you are bracing yourself for the possibility of a 5 hour examination). Naturally, already in test-panic mode, I was convinced that the only way the computer could have established my "pattern" so expeditiously was if I had failed -

- which, of course, made me all the more ecstatic to discover today that I had in fact passed with expediency instead!

I'm still a bit dizzy with joy and relief...

Time to take a break from all that studying...

Time to celebrate! Time for strawberries!

Whole Grain Strawberry Corn Muffins

1 rounded cup strawberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup cornmeal (preferably coarse, stone-ground cornmeal)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups 1% milk
1 rounded T lemon juice
2 T applesauce

~ Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line around 10 muffin cups with paper liners, or coat them with cooking spray.
~ Spin the strawberries briefly in a food processor, just until broken down into small chunks.
~ Combine the cornmeal, flour, raw sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.
~ Whisk together the egg whites, milk, and lemon juice in separate bowl.
~ Stir cornmeal mixture into egg mixture.
~ Fold in the applesauce and strawberries.
~ Fill the muffin cups with the batter, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes - until the muffins are set and the tops are lightly golden brown. Serve warm...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dark Irish Soda Bread

I am inordinately proud of myself. Today I spotted a gorgeous vintage Pyrex mixing bowl in an antiques shop... and, because finances are rather crimped lately, I left it sitting demurely on the shelf.

In the process, I discovered: in challenging economic times, the triumph of leaving something un-purchased feels far more wonderful than bringing another item home ever could...

So, tonight, I'm celebrating the simple joys of everything we're so fortunate to already have - in our homes, and in our pantries...

Dark Irish Soda Bread

*I only changed this recipe very slightly, to make a vegan soda bread - mostly, this gorgeous recipe comes from The Diva of Beach Eats - a true Irish gourmet at heart, The Diva completely awed me with her hearty, nutritious, gorgeously rustic Irish soda bread... This is my kind of comfort food!

2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup wheat germ
1 3/4 cups white flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp raw sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup light, non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
2 cups light vanilla soymilk
2 T lemon juice
1 rounded T honey

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a a round 9" cake pan or a pie pan with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, white flour, salt, sugar, cream of tartar and baking soda.
~ Cut the light vegan marg into the flour mixture until the flours resemble coarse meal (I find whirring it in a food processor is the fastest).
~ Make a well in the center of the bowl, and add the soymilk, lemon juice, and honey.
~ Stir until all of the soymilk has been incorporated and a stiff dough begins to form, then knead just a bit with a dough hook or by hand until you have a smooth dough.
~ Transfer the dough to the cake pan or pie pan, and, using a large, sharp knife, cut a shallow X across the top of the dough.
~ Bake for 35 to 40 minutes - until the outside has a nice crust and the loaf sounds a bit hollow when tapped.
~ Cool in the pan, or on a wire rack, or, best of all, serve right away, nice and warm, with a bit of melted butter or vegan marg (or vegan cream cheese!) on top...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gooey Mocha Brownies

For nearly a week now we have been experiencing tremendous rains in our corner of the Southland, complete with torrential thunderstorms last night that awakened even sound-sleeping me, raising me bolt upright with a cry of "Wow, did you see that lightening bolt? It lit up the whole window!" I was answered only by one of the cats, who looked at me slightly askance as if to chide me for disturbing her sleep over a mere, normal phenomenon such as a thunderstorm.

The holiday of Passover also lasts for a week, much more reliably so than lengthy April rains. During the history of that week, Passover desserts have garnered an unfortunate reputation, likely, in my mind, due to the array of packaged brownie and honey cake mixes that sprout up in grocery stores around the Passover season, promising a delightful, unleavened treat and instead delivering a rather dry, bland confection with the general taste and texture of cement, or perhaps a sink sponge... My parents still laughingly refer to the "Egyptian brick," a bit of brownie-mix baking that emerged from the oven so impenetrable to any utensil that it could have symbolized the brick-making tasks the Hebrew slaves were forced to endure during the biblical Exodus story.

Homemade Passover desserts, however, are an entirely different sort of species. Light, airy, and, dare we say, even gourmet, they elevate unleavened baking to entirely new heights despite their lack of yeast (yes, dreadful pun intended).

For example, brownies... When I was in college, I used to bake these brownies even when it wasn't Passover, simply because my roommates, having sampled the brownies at my parents' Passover seder, proceeded to request "Passover Brownies" throughout the rest of the year as well.

These brownies are a particularly good use for leftover matzah meal following Passover, but, most importantly, they're also gooey, fudgey, sticky, and utterly scrumptious...

(and, made with whole wheat matzah and applesauce, they're rather appropriate for year-round consumption...)

Gooey Mocha Brownies

1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups date sugar
1/2 cup light vegan margarine, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 T instant coffee granules
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat matzah meal (some stores do carry whole wheat matzah meal, or you can easily make it by whirring whole wheat matzah in a food processor to form a coarse meal)

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8X8 baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, then coat with cooking spray.
~ Beat the applesauce, date sugar, and vegan marg together until well blended.
~ Stir in the eggs, coffee, cocoa powder, salt, and whole wheat matzah meal until well blended. once again.
~ Pour the batter into the baking pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes - until the brownies are just set in the center.
~ Serve topped with whipped cream, of course... :-)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter! and a Garlic Cream Sauce...

When it comes to Easter baskets, one would usually expect to find chocolate within... While Zach's Easter basket this year did contain chocolate, and quite a few Cadbury Creme Eggs, the overarching theme tucked within the fluffy green Easter grass was - garlic.

Those of you who recall the tale of Zach's consumption of an entire head of garlic on Christmas Day won't be too surprised by my decision to design a garlic-themed basket for Zach's Easter celebration this year... and, since garlic abounds with health benifits as well, garlic, while perhaps unconventional, still struck me as sufficiently appropriate for a healthful Easter basket!

This morning, Zach discovered: Two bottles of roasted garlic infused olive oil, a garlic cookbook, and a terra cotta garlic roaster! As I assembled the basket I worried that perhaps it was a bit overly idiosyncratic, but I was relieved to find Zach was as excited as I had imagined he would be (and in fact, my Easter basket consisted of a brand new rice cooker!) One knows one has truly found one's gourmet soulmate when you both consider garlic roasters and rice cookers ideal presents...

Speaking of garlic, we were so enchanted with the garlic cream sauce we prepared for our Passover seder that we fixed another batch for today's Easter roast lamb... and I can personally attest that the garlic cream would be equally as scrumptious atop crispy baked tempeh as well...

Happy Easter!

Roast Lamb or Tempeh with Garlic Cream Sauce

3.5 lb sirloin lamb roast OR 3.5 lb tempeh
3 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
2 tsp mint
1 1/2 T rosemary
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
6 T lemon juice
1 cup olive oil

5 whole bulbs of Garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
3 T butter or light vegan marg
3 1/2 oz water
1 T half and half

~ Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
~ Mix together the 3 T olive oil, salt, oregano, basil, mint, rosemary, and garlic to make a paste.
~ Rub the herb paste over the lamb or tempeh.
~ Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice, and set aside.
~ Place the lamb or tempeh in a roasting pan, and scatter the chopped onions around the lamb or tempeh.
~ Transfer the pan to the oven, and reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees.
~ Roast until the lamb reaches 160 degrees or until the tempeh is browned and crispy on the outside, basting with the olive oil and lemon juice mixture - every 10 minutes for the lamb or every 5 minutes for the tempeh.
~ Meanwhile, prepare the garlic cream: In a small saucepan over medium low heat, combine the garlic, butter, and water. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and allow to sweat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, pour in the half and half, and puree in a food processor (leaving an escape route for the steam..)
~ Serve the garlic cream atop lamb or tempeh! It's also delicious over potatoes, or brown rice!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Passover: GF Almond-Citrus Cake

One of the traditions surrounding the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Passover involves refraining from eating leavened products, in memory of the expeditious, unleavened flat-bread the Jews baked when they were fleeing slavery in ancient Egypt. The rest of the year, puffy, risen, yeasted loaves reign, but during the week of passover, matzah gets to incandesce. Baking unleavened desserts is always a diverting challenge, and, while one can use ground matzah as a flour-substitute, this year I decided that Passover would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about gluten-free baking, in special honor of my wonderful gluten-free readers.

(Super-fluffy cake batter...)

(with the magic of egg white peaks...)

Almonds, already a traditional base for middle-eastern desserts, seemed a natural theme for our Passover dessert this year... An almond citrus cake emerged, topped with a lusciously smooth buttercream. I don't fix buttercream frostings too often, as they are a rather immoderate dessert, but, with the aid of some lovely whipped low-fat cream cheese, Zach managed to brilliantly create an almost sensible buttercream...

Since it was a holiday, though, and cause for celebration, we were much more concerned with the fact that the cake was dense, moist, and abounding with deep almond and orange flavors, and the frosting was buoyant, silky, and just a wee bit tangy...

Complete with buttercream luxury, we declared our Passover seder menu a culinary success:

Vegetable Soup with Our Favorite Saffron Matzah Balls
Yemenite Charoset with Apples and Cumin
Zach's Masterful Roast with a Lemon Herb Glaze and Garlic Cream
Broccoli Kugel
Roasted Asparagus and Potatoes with Rosemary
Almond-Citrus Cake with Lemon Buttercream

and, of course, "four cups" of wine (more like a glass or two of vigionier :-), the company of good friends, and plenty of matzah... :-)

and Dessert!

Almond-Citrus Cake with Lemon Buttercream

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp cinnamon
4 oz raw almonds

2 T light vegan margarine
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz low-fat cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a bundt pan with cooking spray.
~ Whisk together the egg yolks, raw sugar, orange zest, and cinnamon to make a thick paste.
~ Whir the almonds in a food processor until a coarse meal is formed.
~ Stir the almond meal into the egg yolk mixture until an even thicker paste is formed.
~ Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
~ Gently fold the egg whites into the almond mixture - it will take a bit of very careful folding, but gradually the paste will thin out into a light batter as the egg whites are incorporated.
~ Pour the batter into the bundt pan, and bake for 35 minutes - until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Allow the cake to cool in the pan. It will deflate quite a bit, rather like a souffle, but don't worry - it won't collapse all the way.
~ Meanwhile, make the lemon buttercream: Beat the vegan marg, lemon juce, vanilla, and cream cheese until smooth. Whip in the powdered sugar just until smooth. Chill until you're ready to frost the cake.
~ When the cake is cooled, invert the pan to remove the cake. Frost with the lemon buttercream, and garnish with a few whole almonds!

*Note: This makes a rather diminutive cake that serves around 5 people - double the recipe for a larger gathering... or more leftovers... :-)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

151 Rum Truffles

Two Christmases ago, our friend Matt gave us a bottle of 151-proof rum - a gift that we rather hoped was intended as much for giggles as actual consumption. Over the past year and a half, though, the 151 rum became a standing joke every time Matt visited, as he continually teased us for having not yet found a use for the puissant liquid. I wanted to put it in a buttered-rum pound cake, but Matt insisted that idea was "too girl-ish" The conversation quickly deteriorated into a debate regarding the potential manliness of pound-cake (with me arguing heartily that pound cake was a perfectly reasonable, adequately macho use for rum), and the actual pound cake never materialized.

A few nights ago, though, Zach and I were watching a movie, and decided to make rum balls. We had "regular strength" dark rum and spiced rum on hand, but something moved us to reach for the 151 proof bottle hovering at the back of a kitchen shelf - glowing slightly, I imagined fancifully, with its potency.

It seems somewhat antithetical to attempt to create a healthy dessert based upon rum, but, with a hearty sprinkling of dark chocolate,raw coconut, pineapple juice, and agave nectar, I believe we at least compromised... and the results were far richer and purer tasting than any traditional, purchased rum ball I've ever sampled.

We made a double batch, so we could give some to Matt at lunch the next day... Suffice to day, he only needed to take a tentative nibble of one innocent looking, truffle-shaped candy to discover these were Seriously Adult Confections.

These rum balls are wicked -

and man oh man, are they good...

151 Rum Truffles

1 cup dark chocolate chips
2 T cocoa powder
2 T agave nectar
1⁄2 cup pineapple juice
3 T rum - 151 proof, if you dare...
5 T light vegan margarine
1 cup vegan graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup almonds
3/4 cup raw shredded coconut

~ Combine the dark chocolate chips, cocoa, agave nectar, pineapple juice, and rum in a medium saucepan, and stir over low heat, just until chocolate melts.
~ Add the vegan marg, and continue to stir over low heat until the marg melts and is incorporated. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
~ Whir the almonds in a food processor until they form a coarse powder, then stir them into the chocolate mixture along with the graham cracker crumbs.
~ Transfer the mixture to a glass bowl, cover, and cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.
~ Stir in the coconut, and drop the fudge mixture by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet covered with wax paper. Chill again until firm, then serve festively...

*Currently, in a much less naughty fashion, I am working on matzah balls, sans rum... Happy Passover! Holiday recipes are soon to follow... (and I'm sure there will at least be a bit of wine involved... :-) On second thought, if you did want to make rum balls for Passover, just replace the graham crackers with crumbled passover cookies!