Friday, May 20, 2011

Pork Spring Rolls with Chili-Hoisin Sauce and Spicy Cucumbers

Here I have a couple of Chinese-inspired recipes for you. The first is a spring roll stuffed with pork and cabbage and served with a chili-hoisin dipping sauce. The second is my answer to an overwhelming number of cucumbers thanks to my organic produce deliveries the past few weeks. I do love cucumbers, but I swear if I see one more slice in a salad I'm going to go on a mad rampage.

Or not. I mean, cucumbers are pretty tasty.

Anyway, the spicy cucumbers get a near-pickled treatment from being sautéed in the tamari "brine." I like to eat them on their own, but they would also be a nice change of pace as a salad topping.

The spring rolls are fairly traditional, save for not being deep fried. Obviously if you prefer the crunchy wrapper to the fresh, you can fry them. For the vegetarians out there, soy crumbles can be used instead of the pork with similar results. For an even more authentic flavor, add 1/4 cup of fresh chopped cilantro to the cabbage mixture when preparing the spring rolls. I skipped it, since the oldest spawn can't stand it.

Pork Spring Rolls with Chili-Hoisin Sauce

1/4 c hoisin sauce
1/4 c tamari
2 tbs garlic-chili sauce
1 tbs honey
1/4 c water
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
1 tbs peanut oil
1 lb ground pork
1 1/2" piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
12 rice paper wrappers

Whisk together the hoisin, tamari, garlic-chili sauce, honey, and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and green onion. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Brown the pork until no pink remains. Add the ginger and sauté for one minute. Pour about half the chili-hoisin sauce over the pork and sauté another three to five minutes, or until most the moisture has evaporated out. Transfer the pork to the bowl with the cabbage and toss to combine.

Soak the spring roll wrappers according to package directions. One at a time, lay a soaked spring roll wrapper on a flat surface and arrange one-half cup of the pork filling on the rice paper, about two inches from the edge closest to you. Roll the wrapper tightly around the filling, tucking the ends on the left and right toward the center as you go. Repeat until each wrapper has been filled.
Serve the rolls with remaining chili-hoisin sauce for dipping.

Spicy Cucumbers

1 tbs tamari
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbs peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2" piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
2 tsp garlic-chili sauce
2 cucumbers, halved, seeded, and sliced into 1" pieces

Whisk together tamari, salt, and sugar. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the peanut oil over med-high heat. Sauté garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds, then quickly whisk in the garlic-chili sauce. Add the cucumbers, tossing to coat, and sauté for three minutes. Add tamari mixture sauté another 3-5 minutes, or until cucumbers just start to soften. Remove from heat. Can be served immediately, at room temperature, or after chilling in the fridge (the latter is my favorite!).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fudgy Brownies with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing

Happy Mother's Day! Just in time, what does every mother need once in awhile? Chocolate, of course! These brownies take some muscle to mix, but that just decreases the guilt factor--surely burning extra calories making them justifies a slip from the diet?

If you are into cake brownies, then you won't like this recipe. This is for those of you who love thick, fudgy brownies. Make them with or without the frosting; either way I recommend a tall glass of milk to help wash down the gooey goodness.

Another benefit of these brownies is you can make them on the cheap. By using cocoa powder, you get the dark chocolate flavor without shelling out for the irresistible fine-milled 60% cacao chocolate. Make sure to follow the directions exactly. Not stirring completely or warming the batter long enough will result in a grainy dessert at best; chocolate scrambled eggs at worst. Just trust in my own experimentation, and enjoy! If you have a double boiler, go ahead and use it. I wrote out the directions for those of us who have to go the old-school route.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies

cooking spray
1 stick plus 2 tbs unsalted butter
1 c packed brown sugar
3/4 c plus 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature, beaten
1/2 c unbleached flour
2/3 c walnuts, chopped (optional)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing (optional)

Place the oven rack on the second position from the bottom and preheat the oven to 325F. Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Fill a large, deep skillet with 2 inches of water. Bring water to a low simmer, and place a medium heat-safe bowl in the water bath. Place the butter in the bowl and allow to melt. Once melted, add sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. While the bowl is in the water bath, stir until the mixture is well-combined. Stirring occasionally, continue to heat for an additional 5 minutes, or until no grains of sugar can be felt when a drop of batter is rubbed between the fingers (batter should be tolerably hot to touch--not scalding!). Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes, or until mixture is warm (about 80 degrees F, if you have a thermometer handy).

Mix in the vanilla. Add the eggs and stir until completely incorporated (this will take some upper body strength!); the batter will be shiny. Add the flour 2 tbs at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition (more arm muscle). Stir in walnuts, if desired. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then pull the brownies out by the foil and place on a rack (still on the foil) to finish cooling. Once cooled, if desired, ice brownies with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing (recipe below). Cut into 20 portions, and enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing

1/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c smooth peanut butter
2 tbs butter
1 tbs cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, heat all the ingredients over medium-low until melted, stirring thoroughly. Once combined, reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to warm an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Use to top brownies, cupcakes, or ice cream. Makes about 1 cup of icing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dandelion Pesto and Roasted Beets

I love receiving boxes from Door to Door Organics, but sometimes the substitute feature can get the best of me. Some items will never be allowed to deliver (like raspberries....ick), but other times I waffle between the items I know and items I've never tried. Imagine my dilemma when my Friday morning email announced that there would be dandelion greens in my box.

"Weeds?" I thought, rather taken aback. What on earth was I supposed to do with weeds?

I could've easily substituted the item out for an innocuous lime, or maybe a few bananas; instead, I chose to boldly go where no--well, me--had gone before. I was going to anti-chef the hell out of these weeds.

First, let's go over how they taste. They taste like bitter grass, of all things. Pretty much how I had figured weeds would taste. The bitterness was a little more nuanced, though, with an almost almond finish. Very unique. I opted to go the easy route and turn the dandelion greens into pesto. So I did.

The thing about dandelion leaves is the bitterness increases exponentially as they are chopped and processed. In the batch I came up with, the pesto bordered on too bitter for human consumption alone. Paired with a four-cheese ravioli, however, it was perfect. It also made an excellent smear for bagels, as well as the perfect compliment to an over-easy egg.

I think for more general use, I'd prefer to use half dandelion greens and half basil. For a first attempt, though, I'm pretty happy with the outcome.

For my second feat, I had also received a batch of beets in my organic box. These were much easier to prepare, as you'll see below. Roasted beets have a flavor somewhere between potatoes and carrots, which makes them very easy on the palate. Plus, they are pretty!

Dandelion Pesto:

2 c dandelion leaves, washed and cut into 1" pieces
1/4 c lemon thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 c olive oil, additional to achieve smooth texture if needed
1/2 c macademia nuts
2 tsp light agave nectar
1 tsp lemon zest
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated


Place about of the dandelion greens, thyme, garlic, and the 1/2 c olive oil into the food processor. Pulse chop for about a minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the remaining greens and continue to pulse until finely chopped up.

Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth, drizzling in additional olive oil if necessary. Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto. Store tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Roasted Beets with Herbs

4 large beets, tops removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 springs fresh rosemary, stems discarded and leaves minced
2 tbs fresh lemon thyme leaves
2 tbs light olive oil
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400F. Peel beets and cut into 1 1/2" cubes. In an 8x8 glass dish, toss beets with garlic, herbs, and oil until thoroughly coated. Cover with foil and roaste in oven for 45 minutes. Uncover, stir, and roast (uncovered) an additional 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Just before serving, toss with lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 side dish servings. Can be served hot or cold!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Raw Chocolate and/or Mango Pudding

I think it's time for a dessert post, don't you? How about a dessert that you'd feel comfortable having for breakfast? Well, here it is! These two puddings are very similar, and a great way to use up extra produce (I know, I know, "extra avocados" are scarce around my house, too!).

For show I layered the chocolate and the mango pudding, then tossed a few chocolate chips on top as garnish. The kids loved these! The tangy mango is the perfect compliment to the rich dark chocolate.

After the recipes, continue reading for an idea on using leftover mango pudding for breakfast!

Raw Chocolate Pudding

2 ripe avocados
1/8 cup raw cocoa
2-3 tsp honey, to taste
1-2 tbs pineapple juice, to achieve desired thickness (if necessary)

Place all the ingredients into a food processor/blender and purée until well combined. If needed, add juice 1/2 tablespoon at a time until pudding is the desired texture. Spoon into serving dishes and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 3-4 half cup servings.

Raw Mango Pudding

2 ripe yellow mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 ripe banana, peeled
1/4 c raw macademia nuts, soaked and drained
1-2 tsp honey, to taste
1-2 tbs pineapple juice, to achieve desired thickness (if necessary)

Place all the ingredients into a food processor/blender and purée until well combined. If needed, add juice 1/2 tablespoon at a time until pudding is the desired texture. Spoon into serving dishes and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 3-4 half cup servings.

An additional use for the mango pudding is to use as a dessert topping or to place it in crêpes. The following morning, I made the crêpes pictured here for breakfast. I used my basic recipe for crêpes, substituting pineapple juice for the orange since it's what I had on hand. For the filling, I combined about a quarter cup of mango pudding with a quarter cup of Greek yogurt. I also grilled some pineapple to add to the breakfast and topped the crêpes with slivered almonds. Very tasty, and very filling!