Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eggplant: A Vegetarian's Best Friend

It wasn't until I stopped eating meat that I discovered eggplant. Now, I love it. It's just so versatile. You can use it as a meat substitute, stuff it, cut it up and put it in anything, or bread it and smother it with cheese to make Eggplant Parm. In this recipe, however, the eggplant really shines on its own. This recipe works well for the holiday season because of its colors, but would also work well in Spring and Summer because of the fresh flavors. It can be used as a side, but I prefer it as a beautiful main dish. 

Cumin Scented Eggplant with Pomegranate and Cilantro
5 cups water
2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
2 lbs. eggplant (about 2 medium) cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
2 garlic cloves, minced
pomegranate syrup (recipe follows)
2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Stir salt into water in a large bowl or casserole dish until dissolved. Soak eggplant for an hour, flipping over halfway through the soak. Drain and pat dry. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Heat a thin coating of oil in a large skillet and saute eggplant over medium-high heat until there are brown spots and softened (about 2 minutes per side). Do this in batches adding more oil as needed until all are done.

Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Mix cumin and cayenne pepper together and sprinkle over the eggplant. Put in the oven and roast until golden and cooked through (about 30 minutes).

While eggplant is roasting, create the pomegranate syrup: combine 1 cup pomegranate juice, 12 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. 
Stir until sugar completely dissolves. Allow to cook on medium-high for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and the syrup will thicken as it cools. 

Also, mix together pomegranate seeds, cilantro, and garlic in a separate, small bowl. 

Once eggplant is roasted, remove from oven and sprinkle with the cilantro, pomegranate seed, and garlic mixture, then drizzle with pomegranate syrup. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Back to My Tiny DC Kitchen: Berry Vanilla Oatmeal

Since the creation of my blog, a lot of my cooking has been done in my parent's large and well-equipped kitchen because I was home for the holidays. I LOVE cooking in that kitchen. I also kind of love cooking in my little dorm-room kitchen as well because it always presents new challenges. No counter space? I bring in the chair from the living room as an extra work-space. Need another mixing bowl? I use one of my pots. And you can just forget about two people cooking in their at once. To show you that I am not exaggerating when I say my kitchen is tiny, I took a couple of pictures:
Now, think back to one of my holiday posts where I posted a picture of my parents' kitchen. There is quite a difference! In fact, I'll post the picture again:

This picture doesn't even show the double oven, huge fridge or warming drawer, but you get the idea.

And of course, instead of going to the grocery store every time I want to try a new recipe, I have learned that substitutions are key. This is also an important lesson for me because the Watergate Safeway where I shop isn't necessarily the best-stocked grocery store I've ever come accross.

That's what I had to do for this recipe which I got from Ellie Krieger from Food Network. It is a healthy, quick, and tasty breakfast that you can easily make on a weekday morning and even have the leftovers later in the week.

Berry Vanilla Oatmeal
*This was originally Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal but Safeway didn't have dried cherries or cherry preserves so I played with the recipe a little

1 3/4 cups water
1 cup gluten free oats
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons raspberry preserves
1/4 cup almond milk
--you can obviously substitute with any kind of dried berry, preserves, and milk that you prefer or whatever you have on hand--

Put water, oats, salt, and dried cranberries into a medium sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes for old fashioned oats and 1 minute for quick cooking oats. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and preserves. Put the oatmeal into bowls and pour 2 tablespoons milk over each bowl. This recipe makes 2 large servings.
**This post was edited on 12/12/10 to make it gluten and dairy free

Friday, January 15, 2010

On the Lighter Side: Vegan Lasagna

When looking for something to serve for Christmas Eve dinner, we decided on a classic family favorite- lasagna. So, the search for such a lasagna recipe began. Where do I look first? of course, only the most addicting website to anyone interested in cooking and baking. I simply type dairy free lasagna in the search bar and this is what appears: . Perfect. No meat, no dairy, and seems simple to me. This recipe also works for vegans! And its lighter and healthier than a normal lasagna. I didn't follow the recipe exactly but did use it as a starting point, so here's what I did:
Also, you can use gluten free lasagna noodles. They are not always easy to find but you can definitely order them online or I am sure if you used a different kind of gluten-free pasta you could make a free-form lasagna-like dish that would taste just as good.

Vegan Lasagna
1 28 oz jar marinara sauce
6 uncooked gluten-free lasagna noodles
2 cups sliced vegetables (I suggest eggplant and squash)
1 (12 1/3 oz) container extra-firm tofu, broken up
1 (8 oz) package soy mozzarella, shredded
4 tablespoons vegan parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray and 11x7 baking dish with nonstick spray.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce over the bottom of the dish. arrange 3 noodles over the sauce in a single layer. Add another 1/3 of the sauce, all of the veggies, all of the tofu, and half of the mozzarella. Then, top with the 3 remaining uncooked noodles in a single layer. Spread evenly with remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and cook, uncovered, about 5 minutes until cheese melts.

Sorry no picture for this one!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


One of my new favorite foods is Risotto. It is tasty, versatile, and relatively easy to make. It goes well as a side dish for almost anything and can be made to be pretty healthy. I am listing three different recipes, a fancy risotto, a fun risotto, and one that is super easy and cheap. Traditionally making risotto requires both wine and parmesan cheese, so in that since only the first recipe is a true risotto, but the other two are made in the same way and taste just as good to me but are simpler and require less ingredients.

First, the fancy risotto... recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis. I made this with my friend Bethany, again using her Tanzanian vanilla bean, and we had some of our friends over and none of it was left by the end of the night- that's how good it is.

Vanilla Butternut Squash Risotto
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large vanilla bean
3 cups peeled, cubed (i-inch wide) butternut squash (12 oz)
2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance), plus 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 red onion or 1/2 vidalia onion)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup dairy free cheese of choice *optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives (optional)
In a medium saucepan, warm the broth over medium-high heat and cut the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the seeds from the bean into the broth and then add the bean to the broth as well. When it comes to a simmer, reduce heat to low and add the squash cooking until tender (about 5 minutes), then remove into a side dish. Reduce the heat to very low and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat, add onion and saute until tender but not brown ( 3 minutes). Add rice and stir to coat, then add wine and simmer until almost evaporated (3 minutes). Add a half a cup of the heated broth at a time, until absorbed (2 minutes). Once the last of the broth is absorbed test rice and if it is no yet tender add water and continue process until the rice is tender.

Once ready, remove the bean and toss in the squash, cheese if desired, salt, 1 tablespoon butter, and optional chives.
Now, it's time for the fun risotto. It is served in a hollowed out lemon cup. It is really cute and would be good served at a luncheon or a light summer meal. Serving in the lemon cup also helps with portion control for all of you out there who are trying to keep New Year's resolutions. This recipe is also from Giada, but simplified and made healthier by leaving out the cheeses.

Risotto in a Lemon Cup
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 large shallot, diced
3 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 a lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
6 lemons, for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth and 1/2 up water to a simmer, cover, and keep hot over low heat.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add shallot and saute until tender but not brown (about 3 minutes). Add the rice and stir to thoroughly coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated (3 minutes). Then add 1/2 cup broth at a time adding water and continuing if necessary, just like the process used in the previous risotto.

When done, stir in remaining butter, lemon juice, and zest, salt, and pepper.

To serve, cut 1/4 inch off of the bottom of each lemon so that they stand on their own. Then, cut i inch off of the top of each and scoop out the flesh. Fill each hollowed lemon with about 1/2 cup risotto.
Last Risotto... This is the easiest risotto. It doesn't require wine and the ingredients are simple and cheap, yet it tastes just as good in my opinion. You can also change this recipe around easily to fit your tastes. You can substitute the vegetable broth with chicken broth or switch up the vegetables you use. I have added broccoli and that worked as well. I have also heard that you can do this in a rice cooker as well if you don't want to watch the pot. I have not tried it but if anyone does, let me know how it works out.

Simple Asparagus Risotto
1 tablespoon vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
3/4 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch long lengths
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups vegetable broth
salt, to taste
Heat broth in a saucepan, covering to keep warm over low heat.

In a separate pan, melt butter add onions on medium-low heat. Cook 4 minutes, then add garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add rice and stir until well coated. Ad 1/2 cup broth, stirring until absorbed. Add asparagus.

Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, till absorbed each time (20-25 minutes). Add water and continue process as necessary. Add salt to taste.
*This post was edited on 12/12/10 to make it gluten and dairy free.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chai Berry Muffins: Vegan

The other night I was watching a new Food Network show called Cupcake Wars. The show wasn't really as exciting as it originally sounded to me but one of the judges seemed really cool. She is covered in tattoos, loves punk rock, and loves to bake-especially cupcakes. Seemed like a strange combination to me, but I loved it, so I grabbed my computer and looked up her blog. It's awesome! It's called Bake and Destroy; I put it on my list of blogs on the side of the page but here it is again just in case: My favorite part is her tagline- the food blog equivalent to a punch in the throat. I love the attitude!

I wasn't really looking for another cupcake recipe because I've made a lot of them recently but she does other things as well, including muffins. I saw one that immediately caught my eye. Vegan Berry Chai Muffins- Yum.

I was intrigued by the fact that they are vegan since I feel like more and more people in my life are discovering their food allergies. I love cooking and baking for people so I am currently exploring ways to omit some of these allergens. Thats why I decided to take it a step further and make them both vegan and gluten-free.

First I made the original recipe but didn't like them, partly because simply substituting gluten-free flour made them too crumbly and partly because they had a little too much spice for my taste so I cut out the cloves and cut back on some of the other spices plus added xanthum gum as an additional binding agent for the gluten-free flour. I really liked how the second batch turned out, so here is the revised recipe:

Chai Berry Muffins
2 bags Earl Grey tea
3/4 cup soy milk
1 3/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch white pepper
1/3 cup canola oil
2 1/2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
3 tablespoons water
1 cup frozen berries *I used blackberries and blueberries from my Papa's farm :)
Start by heating the soy milk over the stove until just before boiling. Remove from the heat and and step the tea bags in it for 4 minutes. Then remove the tea bags and let the milk cool.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, xanthum gum, baking powder, sugar, spices, salt and pepper. Then, add in the frozen berries.
In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed meal and water making a paste. Add this to the dry ingredients along with the milk and oil. Stir just until mixed. The batter will be somewhat lumpy. Now, pour the batter into 12 lined muffin cups.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Let cool for at least a minute before removing from the pan. Then enjoy :) I could be wrong, but even though they don't have any dairy or gluten I think they taste good on normal muffin standards.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon ala Julia Child

Considering that I love to cook, it might be somewhat shocking that I had never seen the movie Julie and Julia- that is until the beginning of this break. When I got home, we ordered it on On Demand and I fell absolutely in love with it. Not only because of its culinary content, but also because of my love for Meryl Streep and the adorable relationships between the characters. The day I spent making our Christmas dinner party menu, my mom even bought me the movie as an early christmas present so we could watch it while we were cooking. A few days before Christmas, my mom and I went to her friend Sandra's house to drop off some baked goods, and she was actually making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. After seeing the movie, I was left with the impression that the dish was impossibly difficult and time consuming. But Sandra said it was manageable and that she would copy the recipe for me. Making the dish became my goal for the break-I was determined. And then I was even more excited when I opened up my presents Christmas morning and among them was THE cookbook. A couple days after Christmas I went out of town so I couldn't make it for awhile, but today I finally got around to make it. It was time consuming but also relaxing and somewhat therapeutic. I've been a little sick the past couple of days so it gave me something to do while trapped in my house.

So dragging myself out of the house, I first went to Marshalls and used Christmas money to pick up my first Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish in a beautiful blue- I was probably far too excited about a pot than someone my age should be but oh well. The best thing about it is that it can go from stove to oven and then is pretty enough to go straight to the table as a serving dish, which is important in a small kitchen with hardly any storage and where you have to hand wash all of your dishes.

Then, I went to Harry's Farmer's Market and picked up what I needed, including locally raised, grass fed beef. If you read my about me, I know what you must be thinking- you don't eat beef, right? Well... I have recently decided that I am going to try meat again for a little while but limiting myself to only organic, local, and grass fed. I made this decision for two main reasons- health and so that I can cook with more variety and actually eat it.

**Hey again, so just updated this recipe to ensure that it is gluten and dairy free. It required only very minor changes so I do not think Julia would be too upset. Enjoy! (12/12/10)

Ok, enough explanation. Here is the recipe:

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

A 6-ounce chunk of bacon (including rind)
1 tablespoon olive
oil or cooking oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2 inch cubes (rump p
ot roast or chuck pot roast)
1 large sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
3 cups red wine
2-3 cups brown beef stock
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
*18- 24 brown-braised onions (recipe follows)
* 1 lb mushrooms sauteed in butter (recipe follows)

First, remove rind from bacon (put it to the side) and cut the chunk of bacon into lardons, or sticks 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long. Simmer the bacon and the rind in 1 1/2 quarts of water for 10 minutes, then drain and dry.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In the cast iron dish, saute the bacon in the oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to brown it slightly then remove into a side dish with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease in the dish. Now, dry the beef in paper towels so that it can brown properly and saute it a few pieces at a time in the hot oil and bacon grease until all sides are browned. Add the browned beef to the side dish with the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Take off of the heat. If a good amount of grease remains, pour it out and then return the beef and bacon to the casserole dish with the browned vegetables. Toss with salt and pepper, sprinkle on the flour, and toss again. Set the dish uncovered in the middle position in the oven for 4 minutes then take out, toss the meat and return to oven for 4 more minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 325 degrees F.

Add the wine to the dish then enough of the beef stock to just barely cover the meat. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole dish and set in the lower third of the oven. Leave in for 2 1/2-3 hours and the meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms:

Oignons Glaces A Brun
18-24 peeled white onions (about 1 inch in diameter)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup brown beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in cheesecloth with kitchen twine

When the butter and the oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions occasionally so that they brown as evenly as possible. Then, pour in the stock, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes until onions are tender and liquid is evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions in a side dish.

Champignons Sautes au Beurre
2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 lb fresh button mushrooms, stems removed and halved
2 tablespoons minced shallots

Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and the oil. When the foaming of the butter subsides, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake in the pan for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Toss in the shallots and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the mushrooms and shallots to the side dish with the brown-braised onions. Set this side dish aside until you are ready to add these vegetables to the stew.

Back to the stew... when the beef is tender, pour the contents of the casserole dish into a sieve set over a sauce pan, so that he meat and vegetables are separated from the stock. Wash out the dish then return the meat and vegetables to it. Distribute the sauteed mushrooms and brown-braised onions over the meat.

Place the sauce pan with the drained stock over the stove, skim the fat off of the top, and simmer the sauce for a couple of minutes, removing fat as it arises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. I too thin, boil it down rapidly, and if too thick, add more stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and when ready pour a little of the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes basting with the rest of the sauce a little at a time. Serve from dish with potatoes as a side dish. May i suggest Ina Garten's Dill Fingerling potatoes?...

Dill Fingerling Potatoes
1 1/4 lb fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan then add the potatoes, salt, and pepper and toss well. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes shaking and tossing occasionally until potatoes are tender when tested with a small knife. Take off of the heat and let them steam with the cover on for 5 minutes. Then toss with the dill and serve.

To finish off the meal, all I did was serve some leftover green bean bundles with the stew and potatoes and it seemed to be a hit! A long day in the kitchen, but nothing in itself was too challenging so I enjoyed it.