Category Archives: Appetizers

Baked Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash

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Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  This dish is a spin on Mark Bittman’s Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms.  The recipe this week was chosen by Sandra at Meadows Cooks.  She made her polenta cakes in the shape of hearts–adorable!  I made mine without any wine (subbed Sherry Vinegar) and added some roasted delicata squash for a heartier dish.  I also made this dish a second time, adding heavy whipping cream and a little cream cheese to the mushrooms.  And while it wasn’t nearly as healthy, boy was it good!

Polenta is such a versatile food–if you haven’t made it before, I highly recommending giving it a try.  It tastes good topped with any number of foods.  You can do a cream sauce, a marinara with cheese and veggies or meat, a nice eggplant sauce, a chickpea curry, pesto…the possibilities go on and on!  Polenta is basically just cornmeal cooked up, pressed into a pan and chilled, and then cut into shapes and pan-fried or baked.  Let me know if you end up making this dish or a variation–I would love to hear from you!

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Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash;

Makes: 4 to 8 servings;  Time: 3 hours, mostly unattended

  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • Salt
  • ½ cup 2% milk (or use water)
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound mushrooms, preferably an assortment, sliced (I used baby bella mushrooms this time)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • 1 delicata squash, seeded and sliced
  1. Put the cornmeal and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 2 and ½ cups water and the milk to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want the consistency to be like thick oatmeal. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper.
  2. Grease a large baking sheet with some of the oil while the polenta is still hot, pour it onto the sheet and use a spatula to spread it out evenly at least ½ inch thick. Brush the top lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the polenta until it sets up, about 2 hours (or up to a day).
  3. Heat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly spray or drizzle a baking pan with olive oil and lay squash onto the baking sheet, taking care not to overlap. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and roast, about 20-30 minutes, flipping each piece halfway through.
  4. Lower the heat in the oven to 375°F. Grease a clean large baking sheet with some of the oil. When the polenta is set, cut it into at least 12 squares or diamonds or use a round cookie cutter to make disks. Put the cakes on the baking sheet, brush with a bit more oil, and bake until they are warmed through and the edges begin to brown (the outside should be nice and toasted while the inside should stay soft), 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, put the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and dried out a bit, about 10 minutes. Add the Sherry Vinegar and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes; turn the heat to medium-low and add the garlic.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve a spoonful of mushrooms and a few pieces of squash on top of each polenta cake.  I served mine on a bed of mizuna–love mizuna!
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Homemade Kimchi

Ever since my big brother sent a gigantic Pickl-it jar to me for my birthday (with a card that said, “From the best brother in the world”) I’ve been in the mood to make and eat fermented foods.  I’ve always been a little nervous about fermenting things myself but this gadget takes the mystery (and fear) out.  I’ve got a big jar of sauerkraut going right now…can’t wait to try it out!

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The only bummers about this jar are that a) it is huge so I have to make A LOT of one thing at one time and b) I want others so I can pickle other foods simultaneously.  Recently, while lacto-fermenting a batch of mixed veggies (cauliflower, carrots, celery, and radishes, which turned the batch a nasty pink color…lesson learned) I had a hankering for Kimchi.  Much to my delight, I found a recipe that didn’t require any elaborate process, unless you call hanging out in the fridge for a week elaborate.

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This recipe, from Serious Eats, was exactly what I had in mind.  I wanted an authentic recipe and I wanted to know how to make it without shrimp paste, which I find to be a bit much for me.  This recipe shows you not only how to make it without shrimp paste, but how to make it vegetarian!  I’m fine with fish sauce so made my version with it but it was great to find out that you can use miso as a fine substitution, which I will surely try for next time.

I had some kimchi yesterday with my special grain blend for a snack.  To make my grain blend, cook wild rice and brown rice with water to cover for 25 minutes.  Add farro, black and/or white quinoa, and radish seeds.  Cook another 15-20 minutes covered on low heat.  Turn off and let sit for 10 minutes before fluffing.  The radish seeds are my favorite part.  they pop in your mouth and are so fun to eat!

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Homemade Kimchi; from Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 large head napa cabbage, cored and separated into individual leaves, about 1 pound total
  • 1 small daikon radish (about 4 ounces)
  • 8 scallions, greens roughly chopped, whites reserved separately
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • One 2-inch knob ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 cup Korean chili powder (kochukaru)
  • 2 tablespoons white or red miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Place cabbage leaves, daikon, and scallion greens in a large bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Toss to combine, cover, then let sit at room temperature until cabbage is wilted, at least 1 hour and up to 12. It should release about 1/4 to 1/2 cup liquid.
  1. Meanwhile, combine scallion whites, garlic, ginger, chili powder, miso paste or fish sauce, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until rough paste is formed, about 30 seconds total, scraping down sides as necessary.
  2. Once cabbage is wilted, add chili mixture and turn to coat. Add 1 cup water to mixture. Taste liquid and add more salt as necessary (it should have the saltiness of sea water). Pack kimchi into mason jars, pressing down firmly to pack tightly and using a chopstick to release any air bubbles trapped in the bottom of the jar. Cover the kimchi with its liquid.
  3. Seal the jars tightly and allow them to sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator. Allow to ferment at least 1 week before eating (see note). Kimchi will last for up to 1 month after opening. Alternatively, place directly in fridge and taste daily starting after the first week until it’s as sour as you like it. Consume within 1 month.

Notes: This kimchi will get more and more sour as it ages. It can be eaten immediately, but is optimal at around 3 weeks. For a more traditional kimchi, replace the miso paste with 1/4 cup fish sauce or 2 tablespoons jarred brined tiny shrimp. It’s normal for the kimchi to produce lots of gas as it’s fermenting. Your jar’s lids may pop open when you open them and bubbles may appear in the liquid. Do not be alarmed.

As for the kochukaru—Korean dried chili powder, this is perhaps the only ingredient that can be a little tough to track down, but it’s absolutely essential. Korean chilis are a lot more about flavor than heat. You can pack a whole load of chili powder into your kimchi before you end up with a significant amount of heat. I haven’t found any other pepper with a similar flavor profile and heat/aroma ratio.

Creamy White Bean and Celery Root Dip With Fresh Herbs

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Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  Today’s recipe choice, selected by Lexi at Lexi’s Kitchen, is something that will surely find its way onto my (healthier) holiday spread.  It is creamy, simple, delicious, and so much better than many of the creamy dips out there.  I’ll take this over Rondele any day!

White Bean and Celery Root Puree

This was also a great opportunity for me to pull out some of my pre-cooked beans to use.  I recently read something about cooking beans in Super Natural Every Day that inspired me.  Heidi suggested cooking beans and storing them in the freezer in freezer bags so they are quickly ready to use.  I had been storing my cooked beans in Pyrex but it always took so long to thaw out the block of beans so this new method was worth a shot!  I cooked up some garbanzo beans, mung beans, white beans, pinto beans, and black beans, all in separate large pots (I felt a little crazy with so many pots bubbling away but I knew that the result of my madness would pay off!).  I let each pot cool, drained the beans (let sit in the colander for a couple of minutes until all the liquid is gone), and scooped beans into sandwich, quart, and gallon freezer bags.  Now I have beans of all types for any size recipe: larger recipes (soup), medium recipes (like this bean dip), and single portion sizes for when I just want to add some beans to a stir fry or salad.  Genius!

I modified the original recipe to give it a little more oomph with some garlic and fresh lemon juice.  I also had a celery root hanging around and begging to be put to good use so I cooked that up and pureed it with everything.  If you love celery root as I do, it is a great addition but completely optional.  This dip is great without it too.

Check out what the other Food Matters Project participants came up with here.  They are a creative lot!  For visual inspiration, check out the FMP Pinterest board.

White Bean and Celery Root Dip With Fresh Herbs

White Bean and Celery Root Dip With Fresh Herbs; adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

Note from Bittman:  This puree has a stunning green color from all of the fresh herbs and is the perfect dip-warm, cold, or at room temperature-for toasted bread or crudites.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 leek, white part and some of the green, trimmed, well rinsed, and chopped; or 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped mixed mild herbs, (I used parsley, cilantro, and mint but you can also try basil or chervil as options)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, tarragon, or thyme
  • 3 cups cooked or canned cannellini, navy, or other white beans, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 small celery root (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • About 1 cup bean-cooking liquid, stock or water, or more as needed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Crudites and crackers to serve
  1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped herbs and garlic and cook a minute or 2 more.
  2. In the meantime, add cubed celery root to a small pot with water to boil.  Boil for about 10 minutes or until very soft but not breaking apart.
  3. If you want a smooth dip, transfer the beans, leek/herb/garlic mixture, lemon juice, and celery root to a blender or food processor and process, adding as much liquid as you need to make a smooth but not watery puree. If you want a lumpier texture, mash the beans right in the pan with a fork or potato masher, adding liquid slowly to get them as soupy as you like.  Note:  I saved a couple of spoonfuls of the un-processed bean mixture to top the dip with.  I also added a sprinkling of pine-nuts.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; taste and add more if necessary. If you want your dip hot, heat and serve immediately or keep warm over low heat for up to an hour or so. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil if you like.  This dip also tastes quite good cold!  I served mine with carrots, cauliflower, radishes, and rye crackers.  Mmm!

Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters With Thai Dipping Sauce

I’m really excited to be hosting The Food Matters Project this week.  It’s been such a wonderful habit to get into, cooking a new recipe every week for this project.  There have been some real surprises as the weeks have rolled by.  I have a tendency to buy cookbooks that have gorgeous color photography but Bittman’s cookbook has nary a photo in sight.  Though at first I wished for some photos, there is something to be said about being able to create something to look like you think it ought to, rather than mimicking what you’ve seen.  My choice of recipe for this week, chosen after thumbing through the entire cookbook (again), was another tasty surprise.

I made the fritters following the recipe to the letter.  For the sauce, I modified slightly, adding carrots and some Habanero hot sauce for a truly spicy dipping sauce.  Hot out of the pan, these fritters are amazing and I recommend eating them as soon as possible.

Head here to check out the other FMP member’s tasty creations.  And stop by the newly updated Pinterest board for visual inspiration.

Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters With Thai Dipping Sauce; from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

“Crazy good, crazy simple–and not to mention pretty–these pan-fried fritters are best with peak summer corn, but frozen works all right too.  Or, since fresh sweet potatoes are available all year, you can just skip the corn and increase the quantity to 3 cups.”

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce) or soy sauce, or to taste*
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of red chile flakes
  • Pinch of sugar, optional**
  • 2 cups grated sweet potato, squeezed dry if necessary
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen are fine)
  • 1 fresh hot chile (like Thai), minced
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 egg or 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chile flakes, and sugar if you’re using it in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon water.
  2. Heat the oven to 275° F.  Put the sweet potato, corn, chile, scallions, cilantro, egg, and flour in a bowl and mix well; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (You can do this ahead of time and refrigerate the batter for a couple of hours before cooking.)
  3. Put about 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, drop spoonfuls of the sweet potato mixture into the oil and spread them out a bit.  (Work in batches to prevent overcrowding and transfer the finished fritters to the oven until all are finished.)  Cook, turning once, until golden on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature with the dipping sauce.
  4. Fancier Fritters:  When dropped fritters aren’t quite elegant enough for the occasion, you can dust your hands with flour and shape the fritter batter into small patties, cylinders, or other shapes.  Cook immediately or refrigerate, loosely covered, for up to a couple hours before cooking.  To make croquettes–which are essentially breaded fritters–set up 3 bowls:  one with flour, one with an egg beaten with a splash of milk, and another with bread crumbs (preferably made from whole grain bread).  Carefully dredge each shaped fritter in the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally the bread crumbs.  Fry until crisp and golden.

*I used fish sauce because I love it…but this recipe won’t be vegetarian if you use it.  If you are vegetarian, use soy sauce instead.

**I did include the pinch of sugar.

Roasted Balsamic-Honey Glazed Brussels Sprouts

“Brussels sprouts are misunderstood–probably because most people don’t know how to cook them properly.”  -Todd English

I see you there in the frozen food aisle, hands poised over a bag of brussels sprouts.  You know they are good for you so you choke them down.  You may be about to torture your children by putting them on their plates tonight, dreading the inevitable negotiations at the table (no dessert unless you eat your brussels sprouts!).  If I were your grocery shopping angel I would say:  Stop!  Step away from the frozen brussels sprouts and take a walk to the produce section to get some of these fresh little cabbages and you won’t be disappointed.  Call them baby lettuces, as Jenny Rosenstrach does and everyone will adore them, even kids if you have ’em.  Drizzle some sweet balsamic glaze on them and you will wonder why they ever got a bad rap in the first place.

I never had to get over the brussels sprouts hurdle.  My mom was kind enough (and whole-foodsie enough) to never torture us with frozen or canned brussels sprouts.  She told us stories of living in Santa Cruz and picking stalks of brussels sprouts from the cliffs by the ocean.  With such a romantic back story, they had to be good.  Every autumn and winter I turn to these gems for comfort.  I typically saute them in some olive oil with a generous dusting of sea salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.  Toss some parmesan cheese into it all and I’m in heaven.  Another favorite is sauteing in some butter with a tiny amount of prosciutto and shallots sautéed along with the sprouts.  A-maz-ing.  But when it is just getting to settle into the beginning stages of winter and frost is on the ground, I use any excuse to turn on my oven.  Hence this version of roasted sprouts with a comforting balsamic honey glaze.  In my opinion, there are few things better than an oven-warmed kitchen and a sheet of sweet, salty, and crispy brussels sprouts.  Watch out, though…you’ll find yourself popping one after another into your mouth.  They are that addictive.

Sold on brussels sprouts?  Good.  Here’s how you make them.

Roasted Balsamic-Honey Glazed Brussels Sprouts

  • 1.5  pounds Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt And Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Trim Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half or quarter if desired (or you can leave them whole). Arrange on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper and roast at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brown.
  2. Combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and reduce until very thick, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts. Toss and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4

Roasted Garlic and Siracha Tofu Mayo With Sweet Potato Fries

My best friend came with her cousin and baby to spend the day with me at Artprize 2012 yesterday.  As we sat down to tuck into some addictive seasoned fries at Stella’s Lounge, we turned to a conversation of condiments for fries.  Gobs of ketchup, mayonnaise, vanilla ice cream (!), malt vinegar, siracha-mayo.  When I returned home and looked at the Food Matters Schedule for this week’s recipe and found that it was tofu mayo (chosen by Sopie at Biographie de ma faim), I knew what had to be done!  The good old fry was about to get a makeover in my kitchen…and it was about to be served up Amsterdam-style with some mayo (albeit a vegan version)!

I roasted up some hand cut sweet potato fries and some teeny fingerling potatoes.  Then whipped up some tofu mayo from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook.  A couple of dips later…I wasn’t really feeling it.  The tofu mayo wasn’t really doing it for me.  Maybe it was because I used Nasoya tofu and it turned out kind of runny…maybe the color was a little too non-mayo for me.  Whatever it was, I knew I needed to make some changes a la Aura.  I roasted a head of garlic (wrap a head of garlic in some tin foil and pop into the oven at 350° until the garlic is smushy on the inside, about 1/2 hour) and pureed it with the tofu-mayo.  Better.  Still not satisfied, I reached for one of my tried-and-true kitchen weapons–Siracha, aka Rooster Hot Sauce.  A generous squeeze went into the mayo and voila!  A perfect, guilt-free vegan dipping sauce/mayo.  For the original recipe, head to Sophie’s blog, where she has also posted a bread-and-nut mayo recipe.  To see what the other Food Matters Project bloggers came up with, head here.  For my Roasted Garlic-Siracha Tofu Mayo recipe, read on!

Roasted Garlic Siracha Tofu Mayo adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Project; Makes about 1 cup

  • 6 ounces soft silken tofu (about 3/4 cup) *
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar, optionnal
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender. Turn the machine to a medium speed that keeps things moving without splattering. Let it run for a minute or 2, then turn it off.
  2. Scrape the sides of the container with a rubber spatula, turn the blender back on, and repeat the process two more times. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately (or store in a jar for up to several days).

*I used Nasoya silken tofu and found my mayo to be a little on the runny side.  I would use Mori-Nu for better results.

Aged Cheddar Almond Cherry Spread

This week’s Food Matters Project recipe was cheese-nut balls…chosen by Jess at Cheese Please.  Think holidays and those orange cheese balls covered in sliced almonds that can be found on many a buffet.  Well, in classic Bittman style, he has reinvented this classic to a more flavorful and less processed version that is so much tastier than the store-bought kind.

I used Bittman’s recipe as a starting point but created my own version, which can be served as a spread or chilled and formed into a patty or ball.  This recipe will certainly find its way onto my holiday tables!  Feel free to substitute different cheeses, nuts, or additions like caramelized onion, roasted garlic, or fresh herbs.  This is one of those recipes that if you use quality ingredients, you can’t go wrong.

Aged Cheddar Almond Cherry Spread; adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Project Cookbook

Time:  10 minutes

  • 1.5 cups raw almonds
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, optional
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces aged cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced dried cherries or cranberries
  • sliced almonds for garnish or for rolling, optional
  1. Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped and almost paste-like.  Add the lemon juice, cayenne, Parmesan, cheddar, a pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/3 cup water.  Process until the mixture is creamy and spreadable; add a tablespoon or 2 more water if it seems too thick.
  2. You can serve this as a spread (as in my photos) or chill for 1/2 hour and shape the mixture into balls or disks.  If you go that route, shape the mixture into 1 large or 2 medium balls.  Roll the balls into sliced almonds, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate to set up firmly.
  3. Serve with crackers, bread, or crudites.