Saturday, May 31, 2014

Risotto alla Milanese

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible.

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Risotto has an unfair reputation for being labor-intensive and time-consuming, but it's actually a pretty simple proposition: all it requires is that you stand at the stove and stir for a half hour or so. This makes it an ideal choice for those nights when you feel like hanging out in the kitchen, optimally with someone you enjoy chatting with (NB this person can also perform helpful services like refilling your wine glass, changing the music, and dealing with the pets who invariably begin begging the minute anyone gets busy at the stove). I make risotto fairly often, and have posted a number of different versions over the years, from the classic to the expedient to the iconoclastic and/or countercultural.

Today's iteration came about because I spotted some beautiful mushroom stock at Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville (a veritable Aladdin's cave of culinary riches) and immediately knew its earthy, starchy destiny. If you don't have access to prepared mushroom stock, you can easily make your own, or use regular vegetable or no chicken stock if you can't be arsed. (But let's face it, everything is more fun with fungus; as Ms. Plath notes above, resistance is futile.) However you choose to proceed, I encourage you to whip up a pot of this soon; in addition to its other charms, it makes great company food, because people imagine that you've slaved over it, and - especially at this time of year - all you need is a green salad and/or some roasted asparagus on the side for the perfect springtime dinner. 

Risotto alla Milanese
~ 6 cups strong mushroom stock (homemade or store-bought)
~ 1 tsp. saffron threads
~ 1 large bay leaf
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large yellow onion, diced fine
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 cups Arborio rice
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 3/4 cup dry white wine
~ 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
~ Juice of one lemon

~ In a saucepan, combine the mushroom stock, saffron, and bay leaf. Heat almost (but not quite) to boiling, and keep on a low heat.
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray and sauté the mushrooms over high heat for 5-7 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with a little salt and set aside.
~ Place a large, deep saucepan or dutch oven on medium heat, and cook the onion in the olive oil for 7-10 minutes, until soft and golden but not browned.
~ Add the garlic and the Arborio rice, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly so that the grains are coated.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, stirring well to remove any bits that may have stuck to the bottom. 
~ Once the wine has cooked off, discard the bay leaf and begin adding the mushroom stock to the pot by ladlefuls, stirring with each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
~ Continue this process until you have only about a cup of stock remaining (this is the part where your helpful glass-refilling chum comes in).
~ With the last addition of stock, stir in the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and reserved sautéed mushrooms. Mix well and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until the mixture is creamy but still retains a teensy bit of “bite.”
~ Serve immediately with a green salad, steamed or roasted vegetables, and more wine!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Selsig Morgannwg (Glamorgan Sausages)

The idea for today's recipe came from that perennial font of culinary inspiration, the Guardian's food section. Glamorgan sausages are a fixture on UK pub menus, and there are many frozen, commercial versions, but they always contain cheese and eggs so I never get to have them. I hadn't thought about just making some myself until Felicity Cloakes featured them in a recent "How to Make the Perfect..." column, and thought I'd give it a shot, the results of which I'm happy to share.

As with Welsh Rabbit, one has the feeling this meatless dish has its roots more in austerity than in ethics, but any alternative to eating ground-up sheep, pigs, and cows (or rabbits) is all right in my book, regardless of its generating impulse. The recipe originally called for Glamorgan cheese (made from the milk of Glamorgan cows, pictured above), but since the breed is now all but extinct, Caerphilly or cheddar are most frequently recommended. My version improves on its prototype by sparing the calves and chickens as well; substituting margarine, ground flaxseed, and Daiya cheddar shreds (Cheezly would be even better if you can lay hands on it) for their animal-sourced analogues.

The finished product is more like a croquette than a sausage, but that sounds dangerously French so never mind. Whatever you choose to call these crispy little darlings, they're deliciously addictive in that particular pub-food way, and eminently kid-friendly. (NB that they're traditionally fried, but I chose baking for maximal crunch and minimal grease. If you'd rather fry them, go for it, but I'd keep a close eye because the crumb coating could burn easily!)

Glamorgan Sausages
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 2 leeks, chopped
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, thyme, parsley
~ Dash nutmeg
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2 cups grated vegan cheddar 
~ 2 tbsp. ground flax seeds
~ 6 tbsp. water
~ ¼ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. English mustard
~ 1 tsp. Marmite
~ 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs, divided
~ ¾ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ Melt the margarine in a skillet and sauté the leeks over medium heat until well softened; about 5 minutes.
~ Stir in the cheese, salt, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper; mix well, and continue cooking until the cheese has melted. Remove from heat.
~ In a bowl or small beaker, whisk the flax seeds with the water until viscous (this will take a minute or two). Add the milk, English mustard, and Marmite, and stir to combine.
~ In a large mixing bowl, combine the leek and cheese mixture, the flax mixture, and 2 cups of the breadcrumbs. Mix well and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
~ Shape the mixture into sausages (I made mine about 4” long), and chill in the refrigerator for ½ an hour.
~ While the sausages are chilling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the soymilk and remaining breadcrumbs in two separate dishes. Dip each sausage in the milk, and then roll in the breadcrumbs to coat.
~ When all the sausages have been coated, place them on your preheated baking sheet, and give the tops a good shot of cooking spray.
~ Bake the sausages for 20-25 minutes, turning once at the halfway point, until golden brown.
~ Serve immediately with mashed potatoes (I made champ), onion gravy, and the vegetables of your choice.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tofu and Green Beans in Coconut Sauce

Okay, it's not that bad, but I have been a bit off the whole cooking (and blogging) thing lately. Between the semester winding down, with classes ending, grading to be done, summer plans to make, my son's college applications and decision (!), and trying to get some Actual Writing done so I can get going on More Serious Actual Writing, I haven't had much time or inclination to hit the kitchen. No one is going hungry, but meals chez nous have generally been fast, simple, and/or old favorites long since posted here. I'm anticipating my annual jolt of renewed energy once summer arrives, with its farmer's markets and piles of fresh produce; meanwhile, I've got enough on my figurative plate without worrying too much about the literal ones.

That said, I did MacGyver this tasty dish one recent night. It's not quite a stirfry, and it's not quite a curry: it's one of those things that
 come about when whatever's in the house winds up becoming dinner (hence the unimaginatively literal title of this post). Happily, it turned out to be delicious, and I'm sure it would lend itself to whatever other vegetables happen to be lying around; lightly steamed broccoli and/or snow peas would make nice substitutions or additions. Onward!

Tofu and Green Beans in Coconut Sauce 
The Tofu
~ 1 block extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1/2” cubes
~ 2 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: lime juice, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 1 tbsp. each: crushed garlic, grated ginger
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 tsp. English mustard powder
~ 1/4 cup water

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl and add the tofu cubes, turning them a few times to make sure they’re thoroughly coated.
~ Set aside to marinate for at least half an hour.
~ When the tofu has had a nice, long soak, arrange the cubes on your prepared baking sheet.  (Be sure to reserve the marinade!)
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes turning occasionally to make sure it browns on all sides.
~ Transfer the baked tofu to a plate and set aside, leaving the oven at 400.

The Vegetables and Sauce
~ 1 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
~ 2 tbsp. canola or other neutral oil
~ Salt and black pepper
~ 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin matchsticks and then halved
~ 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
~ ½ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. corn starch

~ Arrange the green beans on a baking sheet (you can just wipe down the one you used for the tofu) and coat thoroughly with the oil and a few grinds each of salt and pepper.
~ Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring them around periodically to be sure they don’t burn.
~ While that’s happening, coat a large, deep skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high flame. Add the red bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until they are slightly charred (but not burned!).
~ Stir in the coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, and reserved tofu marinade. Combine thoroughly, turn the heat to medium low, and cook for about 5 minutes.
~ In a small bowl, combine the soy milk and the corn starch and beat with a fork until smooth.
~ Add the corn starch mixture to the sauce and cook another 5 minutes or so, until it has thickened a bit.
~ Add the baked tofu and roasted green beans to the skillet, mix thoroughly with the sauce, and allow to heat through.
~ Serve hot over short grain brown rice.