Monthly Archives: November 2014

Kale Sprouts

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I don’t have much to say about these except that I’ve never seen them before and they are amazing! A kale-Brussels sprouts cross that grows on a stalk like Brussels sprouts, with a top of normal kale leaves, and a flavor like the two of them put together. I unfortunately didn’t have the foresight to take a picture before cooking them but you can look it up if you’d like.

I sautéed them with some oil and salt, covered for a bit to make sure they got cooked, and they were fabulous—crispy, with a nice crunch in the center. Throw on some nuts, seeds, and vinegar to make it into a salad/meal, or enjoy as a side (perhaps on a Thanksgiving table? or the surrounding evenings).

I have no words to help you with Thanksgiving, which appears to be a bit of a fiasco in the Internet cooking world. Check out the NYTimes Cooking page if you need help, or talk to relatives who have done it for years (part of the fun is in the tradition, after all). Don’t stress out about it too much (planning ahead does help, I suppose), Thanksgiving should be an occasion to get together with family and friends and enjoy yourself. And yes, good food, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. My favorite holiday: no pressure for gifts, just food and company. Enough to be thankful for.

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Cranberry Apple Sauce

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Pictures while cooking kept steaming up my camera 

Who says you can’t eat local in Maine all year round? I was worried about getting enough fruit in the winter, but so far I am doing quite well. This is because a) freezers b) apples store ridiculously well (side note: I kept apples in my fridge in college for months and months after going apple picking, and used them up very gradually (not having time to bake), but they were still good, albeit a little wrinkly, after having survived the winter and numerous attempts by my dear roommates to throw them away. Wrinkly ones do requires some peeling and attention, but otherwise they remain delicious) and c) local fruit just keeps coming! Cranberries and pears are the latest crops, both of which keep well as well, and pears have to ripen for a long time anyway.

Breakfasts are where I eat most of my fruit, along with yogurt (remind me to write down my yogurt tasting notes sometime. I eat yogurt almost every day and have tried a fair number of them, never get sick of it. Definitely get the whole milk creamy-top version) and sometimes oatmeal, toast, granola, or some other baked good. In the summer I had fresh fruit, melons or berries, and now I usually have either some form of applesauce or I thaw some berries (usually blueberries, but if I want a smoothie I use a mix of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries). Nom.

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Anyway the first time I saw cranberries at the co-op I knew I had to get them (and local cranberries, by the way and in case you hadn’t figured this out yet, are much more beautiful and delicious than the packaged grocery-store variety). I intended to make cranberry sauce but have not enjoyed adding a bunch of sugar to dishes lately, and most cranberry sauce recipes contain buckets of sugar. So instead of following a recipe, I threw a bunch of cranberries and apples together in a pot, added a little water (or cider, I don’t remember), and listened to them pop. Ended up with a delicious tart-and-sweet bright pink sauce that gets more vibrant as it sits. Vary the ratio of apples to cranberries per the occasion (Thanksgiving may be a more cranberry-heavy scene), and vary the cooking time depending on how soft and blended you like your apples.

Cranberry-Apple sauce
1/2 cup cranberries
4 apples, whatever variety you like to cook with, sweeter if you want a sweeter sauce
A few tablespoons of cider, tea, or water
Spices, if you want (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, etc)

Core and slice the apples, peeling only if you want a smooth sauce (I can’t be bothered most of the time, and I like having skins add to the texture anyway). Throw them with the cranberries, spices, and liquid into a pot (larger ones work a little better, but you can do a small one and just start with a smaller amount, adding more apples as you go. This will also create a varied texture, if you like that). Cover and cook on low heat for a good 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all the elements are getting cooked.

Eat at least a few spoonfuls right away (for taste-testing purposes if nothing else), and put the rest in the fridge for breakfasts. As I said, the color will intensify as it sits.

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Also happens to be a good thing to have around when you discover a meal that needs just a little extra vibrant tartness. Such as rutabagas and fried beans.

Roasted Carrot Almond Raisin Couscous

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Dinner for a single person is delightfully simple. You can have whatever you want, combine random ingredients, and if it doesn’t taste incredible, you’re the only one suffering, which is much preferable to serving guests something less than desirable.

On the other hand, if you create something amazing you don’t have anyone to share it with. But then you can eat it all yourself, so. And share it on your blog later.

This is not one of the most delicious dishes I’ve prepared, nor the most inventive—heavily inspired by Internet wanderings. But I like it because it’s a good representation of what you can do, for yourself, by yourself. A meal is an amazing experience where a collection of ingredients suddenly transforms into a dish, aromatic and flavorful. Not all cooking has this result, I don’t know if it’s the spices or just the particular combinations of flavors, but that completeness makes meals infinitely more satisfying.

Another reason this is a great dish is because if you keep roasted carrots (and/or other roasted vegetables) on hand, along with pre-toasted almonds (both of which you should), it takes approximately five minutes to prepare (well, caramelizing onions maybe takes a little longer, but you can skip that if you’re in a hurry).

I generally think of couscous as the tiny granules of dried processed wheat, kind of like spaghetti that’s been cut up into tiny pieces. Fortunately Wikipedia agrees; and I’d definitely like to try cooking it the traditional way after reading the entry. There’s also Israeli couscous, the larger pearly chunks, but they are a little different. This kind is awesome because it cooks basically instantly, but doesn’t seem like a scary instant product like instant rice, mashed potatoes, and the like.

Roasted carrot, almond, and raisin couscous
Roasted carrots (maybe 1/2 cup?)
Caramelized onions, if desired
A few tablespoons of raisins (I used Golden raisins, but whatever you have. Cut-up prunes will also work)
1/2 cup semolina couscous (or whatever you'll eat. With equal amount of water)
A dash of each: ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, pepper, allspice and cumin if you feel like it
1/2 cup boiling water
A handful of toasted slivered almonds

Heat up carrots, if necessary. Place raisins in a bowl (with heated carrots, if you like) and cover with dry couscous. Mix in spices (or you can add them later if you aren’t sure what you’ll like), then pour boiling water over the whole thing. Cover and let sit for about five minutes, then fluff with a fork, toss in the toasted almonds, and enjoy, adjusting spices as desired.

Can also be made with other roasted vegetables; chickpeas make a nice addition as well.

If you don’t have roasted carrots on hand, cook them in a pan with the caramelizing onions—they should take about 20 minutes to get soft and sweet, but still with a slight crunch.

Roasted Beet, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Salad

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(I’m at a conference this week so a quick bite so you don’t starve while I’m away.)

Towards the end of my college career, the dining hall started serving these awesome entrée salads on the end of the salad bar. This was my favorite, although they would top it with blue cheese or no cheese instead of goat, and would usually put feta on instead (the dining hall was pretty fantastic, but no goat cheese on a regular basis).

When you are in the process of roasting things, roast a lot of them. These beets I think I decided to roast when I was making squash and cookies one day, to use my oven efficiently. I knew I wouldn’t eat the beets any other way, and they’re better if you can let them take your time, which is not always the case when you come home wanting immediate food. Once you have the beets, and the walnuts (I also toast a bunch of nuts at once and then keep them that way—I don’t think they keep quite as long, but it’s worth it to have toasted nuts around to toss on things or just munch on), you can throw together this salad any time and it’s AMAZING. I used spinach as a nice winter vegetable but you could really do anything you like, or skip the greens altogether and just have the other ingredients, which complement each other quite nicely.

Roasted Beet, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Salad
Beets
Walnuts
Goat cheese
Spinach, or other greens
Balsamic reduction, or vinegar and olive oil

Do you really need this? Roast the beets and toast the walnuts, if you haven’t already. Don’t even bother mixing dressing together, just drizzle on some balsamic and olive oil, then toss on the goat cheese and dig in.

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(With a side of squash, as I am wont to do.)

Pumpkin Coconut Tofu Curry

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I seem to be getting in the habit of making a big pot of something at the beginning of every week, and then eating it for lunch every day. I’m pleased with it—less to think about in the morning—and surprisingly haven’t gotten too tired of the same lunch day after day. I eat pretty much the same breakfast too. I suspect that is cultural bias—same breakfast is okay but if you eat the same meal for dinner 4 days in a row there is a problem. When I studied abroad (in Cameroon) this was not the case, I stayed in a village for a week and when we made a huge pot of cabbage thing we ate it for days (lunch and dinner) until it was gone. Lack of refrigeration, among other challenges, gives you fewer options.

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Even the best curries are relatively uncomplicated. The key is sourcing good curry powder, or better yet, paste. I happen to have curry powder so that’s what I use, but if you have access to a Thai grocery store, go for the paste, because it’ll pack in more flavor.

Coconut milk is rather an odd thing. I bought normal instead of low-fat because I can’t abide by low-fat nonsense, but it might be a little too rich, so I definitely understand now why most recipes call for the reduced version. Instead, I only added about half a can and now have the exciting challenge of finding something to do with the other half. I think I’ll put in it pancakes or something. I wish I had a waffle maker.

This recipe features once again my old standard of fried tofu. I like slightly larger chunks here than in say, a pasta dish, and you can fry them even larger—in strips if you want to. It is also a good candidate to use whatever vegetables you happen to have around: carrots, radishes (traditional would be a daikon radish, but that’s not something I tend to have unless I’m planning ahead), red peppers, sweet potatoes, etc. I also threw in some green beans from my freezer because I wanted a little greenery.

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I’ve made this with and without pumpkin and I must say I prefer the latter. Just provides a little extra oomph to the sauce. Also it’s a great way to use up that pumpkin you made for cookies and only partially needed.

Pumpkin Coconut Tofu Curry
1/4 teaspoon each of curry powder (your favorite), turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika, and cardamom
1/2 an onion, sliced lengthwise
1 red bell pepper
1 hot pepper
1 large carrot
Other veggies, such as radishes
1/2 cup green beans (from my freezer, but obviously if you have fresh that's better)
A good chunk of fresh ginger, minced
A block of tofu
Around 15 oz puréed pumpkin
2ish cups stock
1/2 can of coconut milk
Scallions, for garnish

First chop all your veggies. I like them in long strips for this, except for carrots, which I cut in half lengthwise and then slice diagonally, so you get long-ish flat pieces. Put the spices in a dry pan and heat for around 30 seconds, until aromatic. Careful not to burn. Add oil and veggies and stir around, sautéing until at least the onions are soft.

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Add the pumpkin and stir around for a minute—I was hoping it would get a little browned as well, and didn’t, but I may have been a little impatient. Add the stock and coconut milk and simmer gently.

Meanwhile, chop up, soak, and fry the tofu. If you don’t want to use up a whole ton of oil that is required to properly fry things, a fairly light layer (like 1/4 inch) will do, just make sure to turn them often. Add the fried cubes/strips to the curry pot, let simmer for a few more minutes (it will be thick), then serve, preferably over rice. Garnish with sliced scallions.

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I went to a nutrition talk the other day and the man there said that organic brown rice apparently has very high levels of arsenic in it, so it’s something to be avoided. That’s what I used here, but a general note for the future. The problem, apparently, is that the rice is grown where cotton and tobacco used to, and they had high levels of toxins sprayed on them to keep away pests and the like, which rice is fantastically good at absorbing. I would assume that organic standards take that sort of situation into account, but maybe not. Regardless, maybe something to be cautious of (as if we didn’t have enough already). Sigh.

As another note, don’t forget to vote tomorrow (if you are American)! Voting is the only way you can definitively voice your opinion where it matters. Even in races that are already more or less decided, your vote will show where you want to be headed, and that will shape future political directions. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about anything, ever, because so much is affected by politics. If you would only vote based on food issues, Food Policy Action is a good place to start, although there are a myriad of issues that would benefit from more detailed research, and food is so intertwined with everything else that really it can’t be the sole issue on your plate. Get to it!