Friday, April 30, 2010

Atiklett Wat

Last week Amber (of Almost Vegan), Stephanie, and I attended a vegetarian Ethiopian cooking class at Blue Nile Cafe. After a brief history of Ethiopia, we got down to the cooking demonstration. We were shown how to make atiklett wat (potato, carrot, and cabbage stew), misir wat (red lentil stew), and injera (the spongy flat bread that takes the place of utensils). This is my first attempt to recreate this cuisine at home.

Because the ingredients are easily available to me, I chose to start with the atiklett wat. I deviated from the recipe (of course) on a couple of points. At the restaurant, they peel the potatoes before slicing them. I chose to leave the skin on, mostly because I'm lazy, but also because I happen to like potato skin. I leave it to your discretion as to which you prefer. The second change I made was the addition of a little cumin. While I love tumeric, it just doesn't stand alone on my palate very well.

I had this with a whole wheat tortilla rather than the authentic injera. While a tortilla can't compare with freshly made injera in taste and texture, it certainly makes up for all that in convenience. Making injera is something like a three day process, during which you have a bowl of batter spoiling on your counter (literally). Changes aside, however, this made a very satisfying (and cheap) lunch (and dinner, and most likely lunch and dinner for the next week).

Atiklett Wat

2 tbs peanut oil
6 medium carrots, cut into 1/2" slices
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1" cubes
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
1 tbs tumeric
1/2 tsp cumin
3 tbs salt
1/2 head of green cabbage, cored and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
2" ginger root, peeled

Heat oil in large wok over medium heat. Add carrots and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. As needed, add water about 1/2 cup at a time to prevent the vegetables from drying out and burning.

Add tumeric, cumin, and 1 tbs of salt. Continue to cook, adding water as necessary, and stirring frequently. Once the vegetables are fork-tender (about 20-30 minutes), add the cabbage to the wok. Stir in 1 tbs of salt. Cover, and allow to cook. Again, make sure to stir frequently and add water as necessary.

Blend the garlic, ginger, and 2 tbs water until pureed. Add to the wok and cook an additional 15 minutes. Add additional salt to taste. Makes 8 servings.

Balsamic Strawberry Cookies for the Dark Side

Oh, how I love strawberry season. Here's my next installment of Cookies for the Dark Side. The strawberries are marinated in balsamic vinegar and sugar to bring out the flavor. I used my chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar. The cocoa powder adds a little extra to the flavor. The chocolate is not strong in these at all; it's an extra depth of flavor that you don't taste until the end. If you aren't a fan of the cocoa bean, you can easily leave it out. The overall effect is that of a refined strawberry shortcake that you can eat with your hands.

Balsamic Strawberry Cookies

1 1/2 c strawberries, diced
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cocoa
1/2 c + 2 tbs white sugar
2 c unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a small bowl, combine strawberries, vinegar, cocoa, and 2 tbs of the sugar; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream together remaining 1/2 c of sugar and the butter; add vanilla. Cut the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined; the dough will resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in the cream until dough starts to come together. Fold in the strawberry mixture, until just barely combined.
Drop dough by spoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets, about 2" apart.

Bake in preheated oven 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies with a spatula to a wire rack, and let cool. Makes about 30 cookies.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sole Florentine with Lemon Pepper Pilaf and Lemon-Dill Sauce

On a whim, I had purchased sole from the grocery store. It was on sale, so I figured what the hell? Having never prepared sole before, I did a fair amount of handling it before making up my mind.

Here's what I discovered: Sole is a very firm fish. I use tilapia so much that I've become accustomed to fish falling apart on me. These filets didn't do that, however, so I though I'd use this to my advantage. I still had a bunch of spinach left from my farmers market trip, so I decided it belonged rolled in my new (to me) fish.

When I originally prepared this meal, I used double the ingredients I have listed below. My plan was to have leftovers to take to work. Unfortunately (for me), the offspring had other plans. There were no leftovers!

Sole Florentine

3 tbs olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tsp)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 lb sole filets
1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 c fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
3 tbs fresh dill, chopped

Whisk together 1 tbs of the oil, lemon juice, zest, 1/2 tsp of the salt, and 1/2 tsp of the pepper. Pour over sole filets and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium skillet, heat remaining 2 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in spinach, red pepper, and dill. Cook and stir 2 minute; allow to cool. Evenly spoon spinach mixture onto each filet at the tapered end (if there is one). Roll fish around spinach mixture and place seam side down in greased glass baking pan. Sprinkle rolled fillets with remaining salt and pepper.

Bake in preheateed oven about 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon dill sauce spooned over top (recipe below). Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Dill Sauce

3/4 c dry white wine
1 shallot, finely chopped
juice of 2 lemons (about 2 tbs)
1/2 c unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbs fresh dill, finely chopped
2 tbs heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Combine wine, shallot, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, and allow to boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Whisk in butter, 1 tbs at a time, making sure each tbs is melted before adding the next. Drizzle cream in slowly while whisking until all is combined. Remove pan from heat and stir in dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3/4 c of sauce.

Lemon Pepper Rice Pilaf

1 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chipped
3/4 c long grain rice
1/4 c dry white wine
3/4 c water
1/2 c lemon juice (because this dish is cooked quite a bit, I cheated and used bottled)
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste
2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium oven-proof skillet (I used my cast-iron pan), melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add rice and stir to coat evenly with butter. Cook 3-5 minutes.

Add wine, water, lemon juice, zest, and pepper; increase heat to high and bring to boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, cover pan. Place in the oven and bake 18 minutes.

Remove rice from oven, sprinkle with salt and parsley, and fluff with fork. Makes 4 servings.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vegetarian Kidney Lasagna

The rainy weather yesterday had me yearning for comfort food, and few foods are more comforting than lasagna.

I had no meat, nor an overwhelming amount of cheese. What I did have were a variety of odds and ends and a ten can assortment of beans. Black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans....I went with the red beans to match the tomatoes. Plus, I like the play on words: Vegetarian Kidney.

It's the little things, you know.

I had this with a salad of fresh spinach, parsley, basil, chives, and red onion; a few croutons substituted for the garlic bread I knew I'd inevitably want.

Vegetarian Kidney Lasagna

1 tsp light olive oil
1-2 marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15-oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 c alfredo sauce of choice (or use recipe below)
6 no-boil lasagna noodles
1/4 c smoked Provolone, shredded
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 c fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F.

Heat the olive oil and artichoke in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender. Mix in garlic; saute another minute. Add red beans, tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and cook 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a 9x9 glass pan, spread 1/4 cup of the alfredo sauce. Place two lasagna noodles on top of alfredo sauce. Spoon half the kidney bean mixture over the noodles, followed by 1/4 cup of alfredo. Repeat these layers (noodles, beans, alfredo) until you have placed the last 2 lasagna noodles. End with the remaining 1/4 cup of alfredo sauce and top with the cheeses and parsley. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes in preheated oven. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Alfredo-Style Sauce

2 tbs butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c Provolone, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan, heat butter over med-low heat. Once butter is melted, add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add cream and milk to pan. Stirring frequently, bring to a slight simmer (do not boil!). Add cheeses and continue cooking over med-low heat, frequently stirring, until cheese is melted and sauce has thickened. Season to taste.

Strawberry Strudel Muffins

Strawberry season is here! Somehow I can't seem to resist buying the four pound flat of berries. Then again, when it's $2.50 for one pound and $4.00 for four....well, it just seems silly not to go all out.

Inevitably, I'm forced to come up with creative ways to use the berries. As awesome as they are as-is, it can get a bit boring. I'll make real strawberry milk, salads, and ice cream topping....but trust me, it can be hard to make a dent!

So, I present here Strawberry Strudel Muffins. Not too sweet, heavy on the berry goodness. The kiddos have approved these for breakfast as well as snacking.

Strawberry Strudel Muffins

2 1/3 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c butter, softened
1 egg
1 c milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c fresh strawberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg; stir in milk and vanilla until well-combined. Add the flour micture to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in strawberries. Grease a 12 muffin pan and divide batter evenly amoung the cups.

Strudel Ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/8 cup butter

Strudel Directions:
In a small bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cardamom. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 muffins.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Broiled Tilapia with Garlic Aioli and Carrot Puree

This is a light meal that doesn't skimp on flavor. Garlic aioli is one of my favorite condiments, and I like to make a batch and keep it on hand in the fridge. It's great on bread, as a topping for baked potatoes, or simply as a dipping sauce for your favorite veggies. Don't forget to make it ahead of time! It needs at least 3 hours to allow the flavors to blend.

I served this with the rest of the asparagus from my recent farmers market venture. The asparagus I broiled with some of my Tuscan herb olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. For color and a bit of sweetness to counter act all the garlicky goodness, I also made a simple carrot puree (recipe below). When making the puree, feel free to adjust the salt and brown sugar to your taste. Depending on the carrots, you may need a little more!

Broiled Tilapia with Garlic Aioli
1/2 c mayonnaise (I prefer the olive oil based mayo)
1/2 lemon, juiced (approx. 1/4 c lemon juice)
1/2 tbs stone-ground mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbs lemon zest
3 tbs finely chopped tarragon
12 oz tilapia, deboned and fileted
olive oil
fresh cracked pepper
parsley and chives for garnish, if desired

Whisk together mayo, lemon zuice, mustard, garlic, zest, and tarragon in a small bowl. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Place the top rack in the oven about 8 inches below the broiler. Set the (empty) broiler tray on the rack, and preheat the broiler to high.

Rinse and pat dry the tilapia filets. Brush each side of the filets with olive oil. Once the oven is preheated, place the tilapia in a single layer on the broiler pan and allow to cook for 4 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Flip filets over and broil another 2 minutes.

Spread the mayo mixture evenly on the top of each filet, using 1/2-1 tbs per filet. Return to oven and broil another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with fresh cracked pepper. Garnish, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Carrot Puree

3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small garlic clove
1/2 c water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbs heavy cream
1 tbs unsalted butter

Place carrots, garlic, water, and salt in a 1-quart saucepan. Cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes. Purée mixture with sugar, cream, and butter in a food processor until smooth. Add additional salt and/or sugar to taste. Makes about 3/4 cup of puree.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Chocolate Balsamic Dressing

This is another creation inspired by my trip to the farmers market. There is a local shop--The Tasteful Olive--that sells infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and even better is they offer free samples of every single item they stock. I absolutely fell in love with the chocolate infused balsamic vinegar. Needless to say, my first thought was of strawberries. Coupled with the brand new spinach I had just purchased from a local farmer, this salad was born.

I am particularly proud of this combination. The dressing is tangy with just a touch of sweet, and the chocolate flavor rests beautifully in the background of the palate. Extra acidity and sweetness come from the strawberries, and the contrast of the creamy goat cheese and crunchy walnuts makes this salad feel more like a dessert than rabbit food.

If you can't (or simply don't want to) find chocolate balsamic vinegar, you can approximate the flavor by combining 1 1/2 tbs of balsamic vinegar with 1/2 tbs dark chocolate liquor. It'll be a little sweeter, so I recommend using half the agave or honey.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 tbs chocolate infused balsamic vinegar
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp agave nectar or 2 tsp honey
1/8 tsp salt
4 c spinach
1 c strawberries, sliced
1/4 c goat cheese
1/4 c walnuts, coarsely chopped
fresh cracked pepper

Whisk together vinegar, oil, nectar, and salt in a small bowl until well-combined. Set aside.

Combine spinach, strawberries, cheese, and walnuts in a salad bowl. Just before serving, toss with dressing and fresh cracked pepper. Serves 4.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thai Basil Tofu and Asparagus

The farmers market opened last weekend, and I couldn't wait to see what would be offered. Despite it being early in the season, there was quite a bit from the local producers! Spinach, asparagus, green onions, various was a thrill to walk through the booths again.

Naturally, I was eager to put my wares to the test. I've been craving Thai lately, and as I have a plethora of tofu in the fridge (there was a sale), that's the route I took. This is my variation of the dish my sister and I usually get when we go to the local Thai restaurant. The best part about making this myself is I don't have to ask the waiter to bring more basil!

Thai Basil Tofu and Asparagus

1 lb block extra-firm tofu, drained, lightly pressed between paper towels, and cut into 1/4" thick strips
2 tbs peanut oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp tamari (soy sauce)
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced (more if you like it hot!)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbs grated ginger root
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs stir fry sauce
1 tbs water
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1" lengths
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, cut into matchstick sized pieces
1 lime, zested and cut in half
1 c fresh basil, chopped
1/2 c cashews

Heat wok over medium heat; add 1 tbs of the peanut oil and all of the sesame oil. Lay the tofu strips in a single layer in the wok. Fry tofu for about 5 minutes on each side, or until a light golden brown. Sprinkle the tamari over the tofu and stir gently. Allow to fry another 5 minutes, then remove from the wok and set aside.

Heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add jalapeno, onion, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry for one minute. Add stir-fry sauce and water and mix well.

Add bell pepper, asparagus, mushrooms, lime zest, and the tofu that was set aside. Stir, then cover and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes (or until the asparagus is a bright green).

Stir in basil, juice from 1/2 of the lime, and cashews. Cook an additional 2 minutes. If desired, garnish with additional basil and lime wedges cut from the remaining half of the lime. Makes 4 servings.