Couscous and Cucumber Salad

This is a very quick, easy, and customizable dish. I found the recipe via the NYT, which includes mint. Even without the mint, it’s very refreshing, with a smooth, neutral, and delicate flavor. A really lovely lunch or a welcome side dish that goes with pretty much anything. couscous

•  1/2 cup Pearl Couscous
• 1 Cucumber
• 1 large tomato, or lots of tiny ones
• 2 T red onion, diced
• 1 cup water
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1 – 2 T olive oil
• About 5 sprigs parsley
• salt & pepper

1. Lightly toast couscous in olive oil [enough to coat] over medium high heat, about 5 minutes.

2. Add 1 cup water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat, cover, and simmer until 10 minutes, just until tender.

3. Remove from heat, strain if necessary, and pour couscous in large bowl.

4. Chop cucumber, tomatoes, and onion. Add to couscous, along with lemon juice, herbs, and the rest of olive oil. Toss, let breathe, and serve.

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Vegetarian Meatballs

meataball

These are incredibly satisfying, and, despite the lengthy list of steps, are pretty easy to prepare. The process is comparable to regular meatballs, just with more veggie cutting and less gross meat smell.

The recipe is adapted from the NYT, which specifies half hour waiting periods between stages, allowing the ingredients to cool. I adhered to this the first time, but was more casual about it the second, waiting for everything to cool rather than waiting for a full half hour. Cooking the veggies and lentils at the same time saves a lot of time, as they can cool next to one another, which is better than staggering cool times.  The final cooling step, where you put the entire mix into the fridge, might not be necessary either, but is useful as it allows time to review the recipe and clean up a but before they’re rolled.

« 400 ° // 30 – 45m per pan »

•  1 1/2  c  lentils
•  1/4 c olive oil
•  1 large onion
•  2 carrots
•  2 celery stalks
•  1 garlic clove
•  1 T thyme leaves
•  2 tsp salt
•  3 T tomato paste
•  8 oz mushrooms
•  3 eggs
•  1/2 c Parmesan cheese
•  1/2 c bread crumbs
•  1/3 c parsley
•  1/4 c mixture of basil & oregano

1.  Cook lentils: Combine with a little under 2qt water in stockpot and boil. Reduce to low and simmer 25m. When lentils are soft, drain and allow to cool.

2.  Dice onion, carrots, celery, and chop mushrooms. They will reduce in size slightly while cooking, but they will not be mashed up, and so will retain their basic size & shape of your cut. Mushrooms are most impacted by heat and so can be a bit bigger. Mince garlic.

3.  Cook vegetables: Add 1/4 c olive oil to pan and sauté onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt. Stir frequently until veggies begin to brown.

4. Add tomato paste and continue to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

5. Add mushrooms and stir frequently for 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

7. When cool, add lentils to vegetable mix. Then add eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, and spices. Mix until everything seems uniformly combined. I used a wooden spoon, but feel free to use your hand and smoosh as you go.

8. Refrigerate mixture for a half hour. Preheat oven 400 degrees.

9. Coat heavy pan with thin layer of olive or vegetable oil.

10. Roll mixture into meatballs or make patties for veggie burgers. The mixture is pretty soft and delicate, and can’t really be mushed tightly like a regular meatball. If you feel they are too loose, it is possible to add more bread crumbs without impacting flavor. Either way, they will stay solid after they are fully cooked, and become even more stable when cooled.

11. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, flipping at least once. You’ll want to use a spatula or tongs for the first flip, then just jostle them until they’re nice and golden brown.

12. Serve whole with pasta, break up for lasagna, meat sauce, or ravioli, or freeze for later use.

Raspberry Clafouti

This is from Eric Ripert’s Get Toasted podcast, a quick recipe tailored for your toaster oven. I don’t have a toaster oven, but the recipes are perfect for one or two people, and can all be made quicky in a regular oven. His recipes included in this series are all really elegant, and his show Avec Eric was instrumental in inspiring me to learn more about cooking.

Clafouti

• 1T room temperature butter
• 1/4c sugar, with extra for the dish
• 1 egg
•  3T flour
• 6T (almond) milk
• 1tsp vanilla extract
•  Raspberries

1. Whisk egg, then add sugar, milk, and vanilla.
2. Add flour and mix until combined so as to not overwork.
3. Butter small casserole or gratin dishes (I made 3) with a brush. Coat with sugar, shaking bowl around for full coverage.
4. Place raspberries flat-side down in dishes and slowly pour mixture between, allowing them to poke out a bit.
5. Broil until the mixture is solid, which will take 8-10 minutes on high, or 15-20 on low.

Video of Eric making this recipe here

Mint Chocolate Macarons

Untitled by Nico Paix
Untitled, a photo by Nico Paix on Flickr.
These were made using the Martha Stewart recipe. They weren’t as smooth or picturesque as previous efforts, but they were puffier and actually had ‘feet’. Structurally, they’re pretty strong so this is a nice beginners shell recipe.
Then again, the result might not have much to do with the recipe– macarons are very finicky and difficult, so if your technique is off or if measurements are too imprecise, you might end up with a different result. I found watching YouTube videos to be immeasurably helpful, pulling information from many sources to create a technique that felt ‘right’ for initial experiments. It’s also good to really look around as there are a few very different methods for making the shells, which mostly has to do with how you create the meringue. Martha’s recipe is the French method, but you can also use the Italian (where you heat the granulated sugar into a syrup) or Swiss (hand whisking in a double boiler) methods.
A good place to start researching is the link for the mint chocolate ganache, which includes really helpful guides & troubleshooting. This filling is also a great beginners recipe because it’s flamboyantly delicious. The first few batches I tried were hit or miss: raspberry preserves were the best, but they were rather plain. Apple butter frosting was sickeningly sweet, while chocolate caramel was sticky but somehow didn’t compel the two sides to stay together. A liquid filling like preserves or caramel are best integrated into a plain frosting to keep the cookies structurally sound and as adorable as they should be.
All-Purpose Macaron Recipe
• 1 1/4c confectionary sugar, sifted
• 1c almond meal/flour, sifted
• 6T egg whites (from approx 3 eggs, depending on size)
• 1/4 granulated sugar
• Pinch salt
• An electric mixer, parchment paper, and pastry bags/tips

1. Separate and measure your egg whites. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter until at room temperature, at *least* for a few hours. Refrigerate the yolks for use in another recipe, or treat yo self and make a crazy anti-health-craze omelet. While waiting, check the bowl of your electric mixer, ensuring that it is completely clean. Ideally, it should be stainless steel as (according to Julia Child) other materials (like plastic, etc) can retain fats that ruin your meringue. Wash and allow to dry completely.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine confectionary sugar and almond meal. Preheat oven to 300 – 350 degrees.

3. Pour egg whites into your super clean bowl and allow the electric mixer to whisk them until foamy. Add a pinch of salt, then gradually add granulated sugar and increase speed to high. You want stiff peaks to form, and for the mixture to be glossy. It is finished when you can turn the bowl upside down without spillage.

4. Gently fold in the confectionary sugar and food coloring.

5. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. If you’d like uniform macarons, you can make circles on one side, flip the paper over, and pipe on the clean side. (There are also silicone maps for guidance.) I just pipe and match the bigger ones with the bigger ones, and the misshapen ones with fellow eccentrics.

6. Use a pastry bag with a round tip, a frosting dispenser (I use this), or a big plastic bag with the tip cut off to pipe the dough onto the parchment. If there are little peaks from where you stopped, pat down with your finger.

((This is, without question, the worst part of macaron making, as the dough is rather thin. But it definitely gets better with practice-as you get comfortable with your chosen piping tool, your circles become more uniform and there’s less mess.))

7. Bake at 300 – 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. I think I baked an earlier batch at a lower temperature to prevent browning. If your oven tends to burn stuff, it’s not a bad idea to hover and calibrate the time & temperature as necessary. Basically, you’re looking for the shells to have the feel of an eggshell and for the cookie to have a little foot at the bottom. Mine probably have cracks in the shell because my oven was too hot, so next time they should be baked in the 200s.

8. Fill with frosting, ganache, preserves, caramel, etc. These are filled with chocolate ganache (recipe below), but just plain raspberry preserves is an absolutely delicious filling. You can also make a flavored buttercream frosting, or combine textures, like adding a little piece of dried or fresh fruit, different spices (even savory ones), etc. You can also avoid filling the macarons and use them as cake decoration. Either way, as they don’t keep for very long (its best to start eating them after allowing them to rest a day-they’ll stay fresh for a few days after that) ensure they are delicious!

Chocolate Mint Ganache 
7oz (1c + 2.5T) or 200g chopped semi-sweet chocolate
Under 1/2c or 100g heavy cream
2-3 drops peppermint extract

1. Bring the cream to a simmer. Once warm, pour over chocolate, ensuring its submerged. Allow to stand for a minute, then softly stir.
2. Add a few drops of extract, as much as you feel is necessary.
3. Leave at room temperature until its cooled and thickened.
4. Drop spoonfuls onto macarons and cover with another shell.

Quick Vegetarian Chili

chili

• 1 onion
• 2 – 3 tomatoes depending on size
• 1 green or red bell pepper
• 2 chili peppers (more/less)
• 1 zucchini
• 1 can black beans
• 2-3c vegetable stock
• dash of salt & pepper
• about 1TB/roughly equal amounts: oregano, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon or cocoa, and old bay seasoning

1. Heat onion and pepper first, then zucchini and other substantive vegetables
2. Turn heat to medium/low and add tomatoes, beans, stock, and spices.
3. Ready when peppers are as soft as you feel is appropriate.

Garnish with avocado and cilantro, serve with tortilla chips.

This can have whatever quantity of whatever foods you wish. It can be a personal recipe, producing enough for you and your freezer or easily expands to feed a group.

Custard Filling & Fruit Tarts

Tartsfig

Custard Filling
•2c (vanilla almond) milk
•2 beaten eggs
•2/3c sugar
•1/2c flour
•pinch salt
•1t vanilla
•1TB butter

1. Warm milk on medium heat
2. In separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add eggs and combine, beating well
3. Add slowly to milk, stirring with whisk.
4. If needed, add more flour- I added an extra half cup. You can also add flavors like extracts, cocoa, or citrus zest
5. Stir, cool, eat some, then fill desserts

Above tarts were made with boxed pie crust and custard leftover from cream puffs.

  • The fruit tarts have a raspberry jam glaze as I was out of apricot (just microwave for a few seconds then paint on).
  • Fig tarts: top custard with roasted figs, which are sliced in half, coated with a thin layer of brown sugar and rosemary leaves, then baked at 400/450 degrees until the sugar has caramelized.
  • Mini Apple Pies: mix diced apple, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, then paint with milk and sprinkled with sugar.

Smoked Salmon

smoked salmon

These brunch sandwiches are made by toasting an English muffin, then layering cream cheese, smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon, ground pepper, greens/spinach, tomato, egg, and avocado.

I ended up removing the unnecessary avocado when eating,  as it’s much more tasty as a simpler assemblage. The tomato and pepper are essential for making it feel like a proper sandwich, though.

Poached eggs are ideal, but I’ve yet to master poaching!

Serve with cantaloupe, kiwi, and extra spinach (w/a sprinkle of Parmesan. The unused avocado can be mashed with herbs and citrus for a fresh dressing).

Ratatouille

ratatouille

1 (or so) each:
• eggplant
• zucchini
• white onion
• red bell pepper
• large tomato (or a few medium)
• Garlic, olive oil, parsley, s&p, fresh Provençal herbs of your choosing

1. Cut eggplant and zucchini into large cubes. In olive oil, cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until eggplant softly browns
2. Remove from heat, set aside. Now heat cubed onion and red pepper in same fashion. Mash and mince 2-3 cloves garlic and add, along with some s&p. Set aside in another bowl.
3. Heat cubed tomato & olive oil
4. In large pot, layer 1/2 of tomato mix, then pepper & onion mixture, then zucchini & eggplant, then rest of tomato. Sprinkle parsley (lots) on top, drizzle olive oil. I put a few sprigs of oregano, lavender, sage, and thyme to infuse. Cover.
5. Leave on medium heat for a while, then remove sprigs and stir. 6. Stir every so often, and eventually remove cover and set to boil. Stir more frequently during this period. Simmer.

It’s done when you feel it’s reached a good consistency. I like mine soupy, so I don’t reduce very long and add a bit more olive oil here and there. If you like less liquid, let it boil longer or squeeze the gel/seeds from the tomato before you begin. If you’d rather make the movie version, look for “confit biyaldi”.

Serve with big chunk of fresh bread, and love your leftovers. :)

Bread

Bread

Basic Bread
• 4c flour
• 1 1/2c water
• 2tsp salt
• 1tsp instant yeast

1. Sprinkle yeast over surface of warm water. Pour over flour and salt. Mix, then knead until dough is smooth & elastic.
2. Continue kneading until it can be stretched without breaking. If you are making a flavored bread, you would add spices (garlic, rosemary, thyme, etc) or ingredients (olives, walnuts, etc) at this point.
3. Place in bowl covered with plastic wrap until it expands to twice its size (4-8h). It is ready when it won’t immediately spring back if you poke it.
4. Knead dough for a moment, then cover with towel and allow to rest 10-15m.
5. Shape dough and cover again with towel. Allow to rise/proof for an hour (or refrigerate overnight then allow to rise at room temperature for an hour and a half– I had to do this and it’s still delicious)
6. Preheat oven 450 degrees, then bake for 10 minutes before reducing temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 40-50m. If baking on a pan instead of within a Dutch oven, include a ramekin with 1c water in the oven for steaming, which produces a hard crust.

The above recipe is from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, which includes a lot of variations for different flavors. The core ratio is 5 parts flour : 3 parts water + yeast & salt. It’s basically the same as the no-knead bread posted below, but the kneading makes you feel like you are a professional Boulanger :)

No Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

• 4c flour
• 2c warm water
• 1 1/2t salt
• 1/4t yeast

1. In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add yeast and warm water. Mix.
2. Cover with foil and let sit for 18 hours
3. Shape dough (it’s quite sticky/difficult to work with so nothing too exciting)
4. Cover with towel and let sit for 2 hours 5. Bake at 425 for 35-45 minutes.

This multigrain boule above was made in an uncovered ceramic dish (w/a small ramekin of water to steam). It was really difficult to remove, so I prefer the ciabatta recipe from Food Wishes (http://bit.ly/YhsYYT) to the messier NYT recipe (http://nyti.ms/SuMYHv).  It is slightly easier to remove if you use a covered dish rather than an open one, but I usually have to cut it out rather than taking out a pretty loaf.  Ciabatta, where you pour dough onto a pan coated with cornmeal, is much easier, pretty, and has a more satisfying rustic feel.

Pesto Risotto

risotto

• 4c stock 1 1/2c rice
• 1c white wine
• 1 yellow onion
• 1T olive oil handful mushrooms
• 2T pesto
• 1T butter
• 1/2tsp pepper, a bit of salt

1. Heat vegetable stock (homemade or water + bouillon or water + celery, carrot, onion, garlic, s&p) on low. Over medium heat, add diced onion with oil to cast iron skillet. After 5 min, add rice (I used wild) then wine.
2. When wine is mostly absorbed, start adding some stock. I poured at 10 minute intervals, and added chopped mushrooms, salt, and pepper about halfway through.
3. Leave on medium heat and cover. If you use cast iron you don’t have to stir that often, but anything else will have to be monitored. All in all, it will take about a half hour for the rice to be al dente/edible.
4. When it’s almost done, add pesto along with butter. Allow flavors to coalesce a bit, then serve with roasted tomato.

The creamy texture of risotto comes from the starch produced by immersing rice in water. As it slowly cooks, the starch is pulled into the water, which eventually thickens to a delicious consistency. This is enhanced by herbs, and can be further embellished with liquid stuff, like pesto, butter, milk products, or even soup.

Recently, I made mushroom soup and used the leftover to make a quick risotto with prepared rice. If standing over an oven maintaining a risotto is not your scene, you can easily make a delicious dish using the soup + cooked rice method. You can use microwave rice, or just make a plain batch in a rice cooker every week or few days, keeping it in the fridge for different dishes.

Vegetarian Tacos

Tacos

• quinoa
• black beans & onion
• avocado
• plain Greek yogurt
• lettuce
• Sazon Goya, lemon, salt & pepper, garlic powder, Adobo seasoning
• tortillas

1. Boil 1c water, add about 2/3c rinsed quinoa, simmer covered for 15 minutes. Add dash Sazon Goya and squeeze of lemon, cover and simmer for like 5 minutes stirring occasionally
2. Cook 1 can (or 1 cup soaked &) rinsed black beans and 1/2 onion on stovetop over medium heat. Spice with rest/most of Sazon Goya packet, Adobo seasoning, juice from about 1/2 a lemon, s&p, and garlic powder
3. Mix about 1/4c (or whatever) yogurt with remaining juice from lemon 4. Assemble on tiny soft taco shells with a few slices avocado and lots of iceberg lettuce

Simple Pesto

basil pesto

•6 loosely packed cups fresh basil (daddy long legs from garden that decides to creep around while you’re cutting the garlic not included)
•2-3 cloves garlic
•around 1/3c olive oil
•1/2c pine nuts
•1/3-1/2c Parmesan and Romano cheese (or pecorino if you’re not cheap like me!)

Blend! Makes a little under a jar of pesto (depends how much olive oil is used) which is supposed to last about a week. I served it on multigrain toast with roasted red pepper, spinach, cheese, and mushrooms. Also excellent as a cream sauce base.