Thursday, May 25, 2017

Platonically Ideal Banana Walnut Muffins

What's not to love about muffins? Sweet or savory, full-sized or mini - there's something inherently cozy and comforting about a basket of these little darlings on the counter. And because they require so little time or effort, you get a lot of domestic street cred bang for your buck! Today's recipe has everything you could wish for in a muffin: a little sweet (bananas), a little crispy (walnuts), and pretty healthy into the bargain, so they are equally suited for breakfast or a random snack. I get a dozen from this recipe, but people will almost certainly eat more than one at a time (the batch I made yesterday is disappearing at an alarming rate) so if you have a hungry household like ours you might want to make double; they also freeze or refrigerate well.

Platonically Ideal Banana Walnut Muffins
~ 1 cup plain unsweetened soy(or other non-dairy) milk
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ ⅓ cup canola oil
~ ⅓ cup maple (or agave) syrup
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 4 large, very ripe bananas 
~ 2.5 cups white whole-wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, salt, ground ginger
~ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
~ ¾ cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 tbsp. brown sugar

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a beaker, combine the soy milk with the vinegar and set aside for a few minutes. Add the flaxseed, and whisk vigorously for about a minute.
~ Stir in the oil, syrup, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas and mix well to combine.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). Sprinkle in the walnuts and toss to coat; this will give them some "grip" in the batter.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, stir in the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.
~ Spoon the batter evenly into your prepared muffin tin, and sprinkle the brown sugar and nutmeg (if using) on top.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (NB ovens differ wildly, so your mileage may vary.)
~ Remove from oven and allow the muffins to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. These are equally good eaten warm or at room temperature, by themselves or with a schmear of whatever you fancy.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quick & Easy Herb Bread

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight." ~ M.F.K. Fisher

There are few things nicer than bread fresh out of the oven, but too often the idea of actually making it conjures up images of long hours in the kitchen (see above, but without Zorn’s charming brushwork). Of course, the truth is that baking bread needn't be an arduous ordeal; with a little planning and minimal effort you can have a proper yeast-raised loaf in a couple of hours. 

But there are those times when even that level of forethought/organizational skill eludes us, and that’s where quick breads come in. Cornbread, soda bread, zucchini bread, and even savory muffins come in handy on such occasions, and today’s recipe is a worthy addition to that list: a fragrant, flavorful, and eminently sliceable herb bread that can go from your imagination to your dinner table in just over an hour.

Quick & Easy Herb Bread
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ ⅓ cup good quality olive oil
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, garlic powder, white pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted (or more olive oil)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.
~ In a bowl or beaker, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, and flaxseed. Add the olive oil, mix well, and set aside.
~ In a separate mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour through dry seasonings) and combine thoroughly.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the soy milk mixture; stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.
~ Transfer the batter to your waiting loaf pan, smooth with a spatula to make sure it spreads evenly. Pour the melted margarine (or olive oil) over the top and add a few grinds of black pepper.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a board to cool for another 10 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Peanut Curry

Sometimes you just need a hug in a bowl, and that's exactly what today's recipe delivers. My family has been going through a rough time, and I brainstormed this curry one recent evening when we were all in need of a little cheering up. The result is a warming, colorful one-dish meal that pushes all the comfort food buttons - the accompanying fancy rum drinks didn't hurt, either - with the bonus factors of being 1. ridiculously healthy, and 2. even better as leftovers. Since there are a lot of flavors going on here and people in our house like a variety of hot sauces, I didn't add too much heat to the dish itself, but you can obviously adjust the spiciness to suit your tastes.

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Peanut Curry
~ 2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 2 large sweet potatoes, cut in cubes
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 1 red bell pepper, large dice
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, curry powder, chili powder, thyme
~ ½ tsp. each: cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne (more to taste)
~ Dash nutmeg
~ A few healthy grinds of black pepper
~ 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 can black beans
~ 2 cans coconut milk (lite or hight-test, your choice)
~ ½ cup smooth peanut butter
~ 1 small head kale, cleaned and chopped
~ Juice of 1 lime (2-3 tbsp.)
~ Handful of chopped, toasted peanuts or cashews

~ Place a nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ Melt 1 tbsp. of the coconut oil and toss with the cubed sweet potatoes and a little salt and pepper. Spread the sweet potatoes out on the preheated baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, until slightly browned but not mushy. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the remaining 1 tbsp. of coconut oil and sauté the onion and celery over medium heat for 5 minutes.
~ Add the bell pepper, garlic, and ginger and cook another few minutes more before adding all the dry seasonings and stirring to coat.
~ Add the tomatoes and black beans (including their liquid), stir to combine, and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Combine the coconut milk with the peanut butter and heat to almost boiling; whisk thoroughly until smooth and add to the pot along with the roasted sweet potato. Mix well and continue cooking another 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the chopped kale and cook for 5 minutes, until wilted but still bright green. Add the lime juice, taste for seasoning, and serve hot over brown rice topped with the chopped nuts and hot sauce(s) of choice.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Crab Mornay En Croute

Sacre bleu! 

In our current, ever-more-bizarre world, carbohydrates often feel like our best defense. (Regular exercise is also key for this coping strategy to remain effective; resistance needs to be quick on its feet!) I made today's recipe one recent evening - in the mood for something nostalgic and a bit naff - and it absolutely hit the spot. NB that the "crab" mixture has multiple applications: a perfect filling for puff pastry, it's also an excellent stuffing for baked mushrooms, makes a nice dip for crudités, crackers, and/or crusty bread, and would be equally good in a sandwich, or served on English muffins under some melted vegan cheese for brunch.

Crab Mornay En Croute
~ 1 package puff pastry, thawed (Pepperidge Farm is vegan)
~ 2 packages Gardein crabless cakes, cooked and mashed
~ 1 tbsp. each: canola oil, vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 cup chopped scallions, shallots, or a combination
~ 2 cups chopped brown mushrooms
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, tarragon, mustard powder
~ ½ tsp. each: white pepper, marjoram, cayenne
~ Dash nutmeg
~ ¼ cup dry sherry
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ Cook the crabless cakes according to package directions; mash and set aside, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ In a large, deep skillet, combine the oil and margarine over medium-high heat and saute the scallions/shallots for about a minute. Add the mushrooms and seasonings and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and started to brown.
~ Pour in the sherry to deglaze the pan, making sure to get any bits that may be sticking. After about a minute, add the flour and a little of the soy milk and mix well until the vegetables are coated.
~ Gradually add the remaining milk and stir well; turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken.
~ Stir in the mashed crab cakes, combine thoroughly, and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
~ When the crab mixture is cooled,  arrange the thawed puff pastry sheets on a nonstick baking sheet and divide the filling between them, spreading it evenly along the lefthand third of each sheet.
~ Fold each sheet over the filling to form an envelope, carefully crimping the edges to seal.
~ Prick the tops of the pastry several times with a fork, and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown (ovens vary wildly, so check occasionally).
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Leek & Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms

In times like these, with the world getting weirder by the minute, sometimes you just need to shut the door, get into your pajamas, and curl up with a big bowl of soup. I whipped up a pot of this one on a frigid January night and it was exactly what was called for: hearty yet light, earthy yet sweet, a perfect vehicle for crusty bread, and an all-round, comforting hug for body and soul. My only regret is that I didn't make three times as much, because it was so popular (even my once-picky-and-suspicious son declared it "fucking delicious") that there's hardly any left over. Live and learn!

Leek & Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 large leeks, chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 lbs. parsnips, diced
~ 2 large potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, white pepper, smoked paprika
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne
~ ⅓ cup dry sherry
~ 7 cups "no chicken" broth (or other good vegan stock)
~ 4 bay leaves
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 lb. brown mushrooms, sliced

~ In a large, deep pot, saute the leeks and the celery over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.
~ Add the parsnips, potatoes, and dry seasonings, and mix to coat the vegetables. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Stir in the sherry to deglaze the pan; cook another minute or so, until some of the alcohol burns off.
~ Pour in the broth and the bay leaves, cover the pot, and bring just to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 30 minutes, giving it the occasional stir.
~ After 30 minutes, fish out the bay leaves and puree the soup with an immersion blender until the mixture is completely smooth. Keep the soup hot over low heat.
~ Now get a large, non-stick skillet screaming hot and cook the sliced mushrooms in the remaining tbsp. of olive oil until brown and slightly crispy. Stir the cooked mushrooms into the soup and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Roasted Eggplant & Coconut Milk Curry

Goodness gracious, but it's been a long while since I've posted! As ever when these droughts occur, I've been insanely busy with Other Stuff, which means that even though people at our house are still eating, I tend to fall back on old standbys, and when/if I do conduct an experiment, I lack time and energy to rationalize the quantities, type things up, and post. But today I have something new, to kick off the new year. (Let us pass over the various horrors that have occurred in recent months, avert our attention from those looming on the horizon, and concentrate - at least for a moment - on our stomachs, shall we?)

I present to the gentle reader a simple and delicious curry, concocted on the sort of dark, rainy winter day when a warm kitchen is the only sensible place to be. I served this dish alongside a simple yellow dal (to which I added sautéed mushrooms at the very end), South Indian coconut rice, onion naan, and a shocking variety of chutney and pickle. There are lots of eggplant curries in my repertoire, but usually the vegetable breaks down to become one with the sauce; this recipe calls for roasting the eggplant first, which helps it keep some structural integrity. In fact, this strikes me as the kind of dish that would lend itself to many vegetables; next time I may add roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and/or cauliflower to the mix, so I encourage you to do the same if fancy strikes you that way.

Happy new year, and bon appétit!

Roasted Eggplant & Coconut Milk Curry
~ 1 large eggplant, cut into 2" chunks
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 2 tsp. panch phoran
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, garam masala, ground coriander, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: cardamon, turmeric, white pepper
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne (more to taste)
~ 1 14 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
~ ½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Toss the eggplant pieces with the olive oil to coat and spread out on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn them over and roast for 10-15 minutes more, until golden and softened but not falling apart. Set aside to cool.
~ In a large deep skillet or pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat and add the panch phoran; cook for a minute or two, until the seeds begin to crackle.
~ Add the chopped onions, stir well, and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, until quite soft but not brown (add a splash of water if things start getting sticky).
~ Stir in the garlic, ginger, and dry seasonings; cook for about a minute, then add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Mix to combine and raise the heat just long enough to bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and allow the sauce to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the roasted eggplant, stir well, and continue cooking over low heat for 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and coated the eggplant.
~ Stir in the fresh cilantro, remove from heat, and serve over basmati rice.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pasta with Baked Eggplant and Summer Vegetables

Sorry for the long hiatus. It's been a busy summer with lots of traveling, and when we have been home - and, as ever, loyal attendees of local farmers' markets - our meals have tended more towards salads and simply prepared vegetables than ambitious cooking projects. But with summer's all-too-short lease nearly run out and a new semester bearing down upon us, it's time to get back in the kitchen and rattle those pots and pans.

The prototype for today's dish came from my partner's daughters, who were inspired by Nigel Slater's baked aubergine pasta in the  Guardian. They came up with the idea of adding the beans, lemon juice (genius), and pine nuts, and over the course of a couple years I've made additional changes to arrive at the recipe below, which - if I say so myself - is completely and utterly delicious: perfect for those evenings when temperatures are just beginning to cool and the refrigerator is stuffed with late summer produce.

Pasta with Baked Eggplant and Summer Vegetables 
~ 1 lb. penne pasta
~ ⅓ cup good, extra-virgin olive oil
~ 1 large eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
~ 1 large yellow or zucchini squash, cut into ½"quarter moons
~ 1 large red onion, sliced into strips
~ 1 large red bell pepper; cut into 2" strips
~ 1 heaping cup grape tomatoes, halved
~ ¼ cup minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, smoked paprika
~ 2 tsp. oregano
~ 1 tbsp. dried basil
~ A few generous grinds of fresh black pepper
~ 1 15 oz. can white beans (about 2 cups)
~ Juice of 1 large lemon
~ A good handful each of torn, fresh basil and toasted pine nuts

~ Cook the pasta until al dente; drain and set aside.
~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Pour the oil into a large casserole and place in the oven for a few minutes to heat up.
~ In a large bowl, toss the eggplant cubes with a little salt and pepper; add them to the casserole and bake for 10 minutes.
~ Reduce the heat to 400 degrees, and add the red onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and dry seasonings. Mix to combine and return to the oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the cooked pasta and the canned beans (including their liquid). Stir well and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
~ Remove from the oven, stir in the lemon juice, taste for seasoning, and scatter the fresh basil and toasted nuts over the top before serving. This dish is equally good eaten hot, at room temperature, or even cold straight from the refrigerator.