Monday, January 23, 2012

Garlic Fest in My Soup

Man did the farmers market have such a nice variety of goodies this week. The greens were out of this world. I had a huge bunch of kale that was screaming to be used. I thought about kale chips, I though about just sauteing them up. But I just wasn't feeling it. I love the cooler days of winter...soup weather, so that's what I decided to do.

I wanted a lot of flavor and not a lot of ingredients. Something really tasty and special but not overly complicated. Something anyone could make on a weeknight. Now I have to tell you no vampires will come near you after this one! My house is still full of the beautiful smell of garlic. I had some leftover butternut squash and the kale both from Horny Toad Farms. The earthy mushrooms and thyme combine with garlic and marsala give this soup a very special flavor.

Garlic Wonder Soup

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
10 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup marsala wine (not sweet)
1 cup butternut squash, 1/2 inch dice
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound kale, ribs removed chopped, about 2 1/2 cups after ribs are removed
1 can navy beans with liquid

In a 4 quart heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, saute onion, until slightly golden, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in thyme, black pepper and salt and saute for another minute. Pour in marsala wine to deglaze pan, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pot. Saute for another minute or two until liquid is reduced by half. Reduce heat to low. Add cubed butternut squash and saute until it is just starting to slightly caramelize, about 3-5 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat back down to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until butternut squash is al dente. Add mushrooms and simmer for 5-10 more minute until mushrooms and butternut squash are soft. Add kale and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Add navy beans with their liquid and simmer until they are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread and feel the wonder! Oh yes and don't forget to brush your teeth after :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Farmers Market Featured Ingredient - Tatsoi

A couple of weeks ago Farmer Stella from Horny Toad Farms introduced me to a green I had never seen before: Tatsoi. It may just show up in the Horny Toad farm CSA this week. If you are looking for a good way to use this interesting green, keep reading.

When Fred asked me what it was I told him that it reminds me of a cross between spinach and bok choy. Funny, when I looked it up on wikipedia it said it was also called spinach mustard, spoon mustard or rosette bok choy. So I wasn't too far off. This lusciously dark green sautes up like a dream. The stems stay slightly crunchy which is beautiful with soba or udon noodles. They have just the slightest mustard-like bite to them. Quite lovely in the recipe below.

Miso Ginger Grilled Tempeh with Tatsoi and Soba Saute

1-8 oz package tempeh
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon red miso
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

6 oz. soba noodles

1 tablespoon, toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sake or mirin
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
3 bunches tatsoi roughly chopped, about 10 cups

Cut tempeh into 8 triangles 1/4" thick. Steam tempeh for 10 minute. While tempeh is steaming in 8 x 8 baking dish mix water, miso, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sesame oil until completely mix. Marinate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking and set aside.

To cook tempeh:

Heat a grill pan or grill to approx. 350 degrees. When grill/pan is hot, grill tempeh for about 3-4 minutes per side, brushing each side with marinade. Tempeh should have nice grill marks and be heated through. 

While tempeh is cooking prepare the greens.

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, saute ginger and garlic in sesame oil for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Deglaze pan with sake/mirin stirring to remove stuck on bits. Add soy sauce, five spice powder and stems of tatsoi. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add remaining tatsoi and saute for about 3-5 more minute until greens are tender and just slightly crisp. Toss in soba or udon noodles and heat through. 

Divide noodle mixture evenly among 4 plates. Top with two pieces of grilled tempeh. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Vegetable Wonderland

Root vegetables. They spend their growing days in the dark like a bear hibernating for the winter. That is until the day they are released from their earthy cave by the scruff of their stems. After a good scrubbing, they are ready for some love and oven time.

There has been a mother load of root vegetables at the farmers market for the past few weeks. It's so that time of the year. I grabbed some beautiful, bulbous, colorful magnificence in the form of golden and red beets, sweet potatoes, turnips and parsnips (ok the last two aren't so colorful, but whatevs).

To me root vegetables scream "roast me!". I love to roast them until they are golden and caramelized giving them that earthy sweetness and nice slightly chewy texture. Oh man, that is winter cooking at it's finest.

We had lots of people coming for Thanksmas and I thought a root vegetable roast would be a fabulous way to show them how much I love them.

Root Vegetable and Fennel Roast

2 lbs golden beets
2 lbs red beets
3/4 pounds turnips
1/2 lb parsnips
1 lb orange sweet potatoes or garnet yams
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
6 cloves garlic, one minced, 5 thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel beets, turnips, parsnips and sweet potatoes. Cut into 1/2" dice. In a very large 1 inch or deeper pan, toss all ingredients together.

In a very large baking pan lined with parchment toss all ingredients together. Roast uncovered for about 40 to 50 minutes turning once or twice until softened and caramelized. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vine and Dine - Candle 79 - Chile Grilled Tofu with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce

The title of this post alone pretty much says it all: chile avocado tomatillo. My passion for southwestern ingredients has been fully satisfied. I could just stop here and be done, but I won't.

As a HUGE fan of most things southwestern and chile related it was not surprise that this version of Vine and Dine would make me very happy. The biggest bummer was that I totally spaced out that is was V & D week. SO I did not get to marinate my tofu for any length of time. I did simmer it for about 45 minutes hoping to speed the process. I think it was fairly successful. I'm certainly not going to complain.

This is the third recipe I've made from Candle 79. This book is really growing on me. One thing that often throws me with many recipes is the measurement of fresh herbs. I am never 100% sure if they are measured before or after chopping. I usually guess well, but still, I would like to make sure.

I'm still in heaven from the intermingling flavors of the dueling sauces. Guajillo chiles are a beautiful smoky wonder. The chile sauce is divine in its own, but pair it with the Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce...bliss. The smoky earthiness of the chile sauce and the bright, slightly acidic Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce combined to make a perfect party in my mouth.

I chose Wildwood tofu for this dish. It is a very firm tofu that holds up well on the grill. I tend to use this brand mostly when I know it will be served with a very flavorful sauce as it doesn't really absorb marinades  as well as some other brands. It was a dream on the grill, perfect for this dish. I had some left over black beans simmered with tomato and cumin. I combined them with some quinoa and made a little quinoa cake for the base. I loved the texture with the tofu. Wow I'm chatty tonight. I better stop so you will hang in there to read Fred's wine review! But just look at those vibrant colors!

Here's Fred!

I showed my wine guy, (one of many, I feel like such a wine tramp) tonight's recipe and he said this is a no brainer. A semi-dry Riesling would be soft with the avocado and just sweet enough with the chili. We chose a "Jean Baptiste 2009 Riesling Kabinett (German)". It is definitely a fun wine but after the first bite the wine became sweeter, really too sweet for this dish. I said wrongo bongo, I ran to the wine cellar (small fridge in front room) and grabbed a French "Trimbach Riesling, 2008". This is from the alsace region in France. It borders France and Germany in a mountainous region that compares with Napa Valley in that it also is on a fault line with a a lot of different soil types in a small area. It is known primarily for its whites, so there you go. Although this wine was much drier, it became sweeter after another bite, niccccce... What a complimentary wine, floral, minerals, fruitier smelling than it tasted, yeah!! I know, unsweet Riesling, hot cold, bitter sweet, but I gotta say this worked great. The Jean Baptiste was fantastic as a desert wine for this venue. One thing that I have learned, in my research for "Vegan" wines it is hard to find the association between centuries old wineries and please don't kill our animal friends. Start from the basics, don't use words like vegan, fining, or processing. Keep it simple and use "filtering" when asking questions to the winemakers,  this does not confront and make it an attack on age old processes. I have found many more sites available to me this way when I search with filtering as the term. Cheer on! 

New Year's Eve - Course #1

We started out our incredible dinner with an outstanding appetizer. This was a ricotta and spinach fritter with frizzled spinach and a fresh tomato sauce. Ladies and gentlemen, I could have stopped right here. I desperately wanted to eat more than one, but I knew there were 3 more courses on the way. My friends have promised to share the recipe with me. As soon as they do, I will post it. I do know that they used a variation of the tofu ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance, breadcrumbs made from their own home made bread and panko. The rest is still a mystery...a delicious, tantalizing mystery.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Eve - Course #2

For the second course I chose the Mediterranean Salad with Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette from Candle 79. What a wonderful salad! We used fresh herbs from our wine barrel planter for the dressing and tender nutty arugula fresh from our garden in the salad. The creamy roasted yukon fingerlings were a perfect complement to the slightly bitter arugula. I've made a couple of things for Candle 79. It's a really nice book. I am looking forward to many more delicious culinary treats from that one!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Entree from New Year's Eve

In part two of our four part series of NYE dinner we are featuring the entree of the evening. This incredible dish was made by the team effort of my awesome friends Beth and Jerry. Kindred foodie spirits with one another and me, they assembled a most scrumptious ravioli. Beth has promised to share the recipe. When she does, I will post it here with her permission. In the mean time, I will tease you with photographic evidence of the awesomeness we got to experience.

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with San Marzano Ragout

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!!!

We had yet another incredible New Year's Eve feast. Several years ago a friend of mine invited us to be part of a 4 course wine pairing dinner. Back then Fred and I were still eating meat. As a matter of fact it was at one of these dinners that we had or very last meal with meat.

We loved the tradition so much, we decided to carry on with a vegan version. We found that a few of our friends were up for joining us in the vegan version, which just thrilled me! This year my good friends Beth and Jerry were our fantastic hosts. I love these two for many reasons. One of those reasons is that they love to create in the kitchen as much as I do. It makes our dinner party celebrations even more awesome. This year they decided on an Italian themed dinner.

The next couple of days I will be posting about our adventures course by course. I am going to do it in reverse for no other reason than I took a long time to write up my dessert recipe in my wine induced day after fog.

I must start off by saying, desserts and pastries are still my Archilles heal. It is always a challenge for me to come up with something worth serving to others on my own, at least without  having to try and try again. My original plan was to make white chocolate mousse stuffed cannolis using the white chocolate mousse recipe from The Artful Vegan. The mousse was an epic fail. It was completely liquid after sitting in the fridge all night. It was a really sad and expensive fail. But the show must go on.

To keep with the Italian theme I then thought that something with "marscapone" would be a good idea. I didn't want to do tiramisu, because I felt that would be too obvious. So I started playing around with the marscapone idea first. I had some egg nog in the fridge that I had bought for Christmas and never used and the Egg Nog Marcapone Cream was born.

We had a white elephant exchange a couple of night ago and I walked away with some yummy fig balsamic vinegar from Queen Creek Olive Mill. As soon as I got this I knew I had to use it somehow for this dinner.

After the syrup was made, I was having a hard time deciding on the poaching liquid. I wanted to make sure there weren't too many opposing flavors going on. I ran to our local AJ's food market and talked to Chris their wine and spirits expert. He immediately took me to where there was a lovely pear liquor. It was pricey, but I had to have it. I was toying with the idea of using a sweet marsala, which I think would work well here for a lot less dinero. The reason I steered away from that this time was the wine Fred had chosen for the original pairing: a lovely Pirovano Extra Dry Prosecco. The wine expert at Whole Foods said this one is vegan.

While this was not easy on the wallet, it was very lovely on the plate and the palette. We were about 5 bottles in by this time so I must apologize that I didn't get a super close up. I chose to cut the puff pastry into a square for the bottom layer and a fun star for the top.

Happy 2012 my friends! May it be a prosperous, joyful and delicious year for you!

Poached Pear Napoleon with Eggnog Marscapone Cream and Fig Balsamic Drizzle

Makes 6 Serving

There are several components to this dish and it may look a bit overwhelming. None are too complicated and several can be done in advance. I recommend making the marcapone cream, toasted walnuts and the balsamic syrup a day ahead of time to make assembly a snap.

Eggnog Marscapone Cream

1/2 cup tofutti cream cheese
1/2 cup tofutti sour cream
1/2 cup Earth Balance Egg Nog
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Poached Pears

4 ripe but firm anjou pears (peeled, cored and halved)
1 bottle Mathilde Poire Liqueur, (or other pear liqueur) 3 tablespoons separated out
1 whole vanilla bean scrapped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Fig Balsamic Syrup

1 bottle Queen Creek Fig Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons sugar

Toasted Walnuts

1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
touch of salt
2 teaspoons canola oil

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed

For the Eggnog Marscapone Cream:

In medium sized bowl combine the cream cheese through vanilla. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Combine until mixture is fairly smooth. This can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated in a sealed container. If mixture is too loose add a bit more cream cheese. If it is too thick add a bit more eggnog.

For the poached pears:

In a small bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons pear liqueur, vanilla beans, cinnamon and nutmeg until sugar is dissolved. In a large saute pan (large enough to hold all of the pears in one layer) over medium-low heat stir remaining liqueur with sugar mixtures. Place pears cut side down in pan. Cover and poach for 30-40 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the pears) turning 1/2 way through. Let pears cool enough to handle them and slice to about 1/4" thick. Then let them cool to room temperature.

For the Fig Balsamic Syrup:

While the pears are poaching, combine syrup ingredients in small saucepan. Simmer over medium low heat until the liquid is reduced by 1/2, about 20 minutes. Be careful not to let it boil or you will have a sticky icky mess. When the pears are through poaching. Add 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid to the syrup and stir to combine. Let the syrup and the pears cool to room temperature.

Carefully lay out the puff pastry sheet(s). Using your choice shape of cookie or biscuit cutter (approx 3" size) cut out 12 pieces of puff pastry. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake according to package directions (usually 10-12 minutes in a 400 degree oven). Let cool to room temperature.

For the toasted walnuts:

In an 8 x 8 baking dish (or similar size) combine walnuts through oil until evenly coated. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 4-5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool to room temperature. Can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.

To assemble:

Place about 1 tablespoon marscapone cream on middle of serving plate. Place one piece of cooked puff pastry on top. Next add about 6-8 slices of the poached pears another tablespoon or two of marscapone cream (this stuff is like crack so use as much as you want within reason). Place a second puff pastry piece next. Dollop with a little more marscapone cream. Drizzle decoratively with syrup and garnish with cinnamon toasted walnuts.

Listen to the oooohs and aaaahs of your guests.