Peanut Butter and Purple Onions

Sounds crazy until you try it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

They Look Like Biscotti to Me...

...but according to Cooking Light, they're Italian Anise Cookies. Well, okay.

Any way you slice it (so to speak), these are mighty tasty. Almonds and anise are a classic Italian flavor combination, one I've always loved. These are wonderful crunched on their own, or dipped into a mug of tea.

Italian Anise Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
0.25 c. melted butter
0.5 to 0.75 chopped almonds (vary the fineness of the chop according to how much you like to bite into chunks of almond)
1.5 tsp. aniseed

Whisk flour and baking powder together. In another bowl, pour in the sugar, eggs, and egg whites, then beat on high until fluffy. Beat in the butter, then gradually add the flour mixture, almonds, and aniseed. The dough will be quite sticky and soft.

Divide the dough in half as best you can and turn out each half onto a separate sheet of wax paper. Shape the dough into rolls about eight inches long and 4-5 inches across, depending on what length you want the cookies to be. Chill the dough for an hour.

Heat the oven to 350. Unwrap the rolls, keeping the profanity to a minimum if there are small children about, and place on greased baking sheets. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove them and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack, then slice crosswise into slices, between .25" and .5". Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake 5 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake another 5 minutes. Cool the cookies on the rack.

Monday, February 27, 2006

And Here I Thought It Was a Figure of Speech

So I often describe great dislike or fervent opposition as a "violent magenta passion." To wit: "BNA hates raw tomatoes with a violent magenta passion." Etc., etc.

Until yesterday, I didn't realize that I was in fact capable of physically reproducing aforementioned passion, in all its torrid magentaness. See?

Isn't it amazing? Obviously, there are beets in there. They've been simmered in vegetable broth with fennel, Savoy cabbage, garlic, and ginger. Then pureed. Honestly, it's even more lurid in person -- it looks like cerise paint.

Oh, and by the by, it tastes AWFUL and I will not burden you with the recipe.

What the Hey?

Not sure what's going on with the missing links...heck, the entire missing sidebar. Hopefully it'll right itself soon.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

You CAN Take It With You

As long as we're talking about oatmeal.

I've been kind of obsessed with oatmeal lately. I eat big bowls of it, strewn with tiny Maine blueberries and laced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Enormous steaming spoonfuls of oatmeal on a chilly afternoon? Perfect. (Mom, who was required to eat oatmeal as a girl and now hates it with a violent magenta passion, is probably quite perplexed.)

It's not all that portable, though, so when you want oatmeal to go, try mixing up a batch of these. They're quick to make and wonderful hot or cooled. I'm partial to the pumpkin variation, but the basic applesauce-based recipe is really very good -- like an oatmeal brownie without the chocolate. (That probably doesn't make a lot of sense.)

Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from the Weight Watchers message boards

Makes one 8x8 pan.

2 c. rolled oats (quick-cooking will work)
1.5 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp. salt
1.5 T. cinnamon
2 dashes nutmeg
1 c. skim milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
0.5 c. unsweetened applesauce
0.25 c. Splenda baking blend

Heat the oven to 350 and spray an 8x8 pan with baking spray (the kind with flour). Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ones in another; combine. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake 35-45 minutes. I find 40 minutes is usually about right.

* Pumpkin variation -- replace the applesauce with canned pumpkin and add several dashes ground ginger and one dash cloves.
* The bars have a crumbly texture when hot. After cooling, they will be a little sticky.

WCB #38

Max would prefer that you not approach the apricot jam.

Visit Clare's to see Kiri and his friends!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Guess Traditional Doesn't Always Mean Pretty

Looks like I made mud soup, doesn't it? Well, perhaps clay. Earthy, anyway.

It's actually black bean soup. More precisely, it's Boston-style black bean soup, which is apparently a traditional, sort of old-fashioned way of cooking black beans with warm spices like cloves and dry mustard. Despite the pallid appearance, trust me -- this is a rich and savory soup. I've been taking it to work all week for lunch.

Does this mean I have to try Manhattan-style clam chowder next?

Boston-Style Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen

Makes about 2.5 quarts.

1.5 c. black beans
2 T. butter or olive oil
1 c. finely chopped yellow onion
3 bay leaves
0.5 c. finely diced celery
2 tsp. minced garlic
1.5 tsp. dry mustard
0.5 tsp. ground cloves
1 c. nf milk
fresh lemon juice
lemon slices
whole cloves

Soak the beans at least four hours and preferably overnight. Drain well.

Melt the butter in a large soup pot with a lid. Add the onion, bay leaves, celery, and garlic, and cook until the onion turns soft and translucent. Stir in the mustard and cloves, then add the beans and two quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about an hour. Add 2 tsp. salt and cook another 30 minutes, covered, or until the beans are soft.

Remove the soup from the heat and cool briefly. Puree the soup with an immersion blender if you're lucky enough to have one, and in a regular blender in batches if you're like me. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the milk. Bring the soup back up to a soothingly warm eating temperature.

If you like, squeeze a bit of lemon juice into each bowl, and float clove-studded slice of lemon on top.

* I'm sure it would be even richer with regular milk or half and half.
* Next time I would add some more cloves and maybe a shake of nutmeg.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

She's Back!

So I didn't cook a single thing all week. What with two dinners out and, more significantly, the leftover Baked Penne, there was neither time nor need. This has been fairly traumatic, not just because I cook to unwind, but because last Monday, while browsing the cookbook section of The Strand, I found this book.

Devorit and I adore Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It's our go-to source for every culinary question not involving meat and a fantastic inspiration. Although I'm not presently vegetarian, I try to eat meat in no more than a quarter of my meals. "The Madison," as we call VCfE, is invaluable in that regard, but honestly, I've given the book to avowed carnivores and they universally love it. It's just an awesome book.

Typical conversation between Devorit and me:

Devorit: So, I bought some parsnips.
BNA: Dude. Cool. What're you going to do with them?
D: Beats me. Going to check the Madison.
B: You are wise.

The Madison's never let me down. I didn't get her second-latest book, Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, showing what I thought was rather heroic restraint. But when I found her new Vegetarian Soups book, nothing could keep me away.

I've read it through and earmarked about twelve recipes as "to try immediately." I started this afternoon with this one, which she rather coyly calls "Delicious Dieter's Soup." Not a fan of the name, but I'm thrilled with the soup. Don't let the mild-mannered appearance fool you -- the chile and ginger give it a savory heat, the lime a bright tang, and the miso a wonderful roundness.

Delicious Dieter's Soup
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen

Makes about 10 cups.

4 c. chopped green cabbage
2 med. celery ribs, sliced on the diagonal
1 sm. onion, thinly sliced
1 med. carrot, thinly sliced
12 fat garlic cloves, 6 thinly sliced and 6 finely chopped
4 T. grated ginger
1 jalapeno chile, seeded if you prefer less heat, finely diced
juice of 1 lime
0.33 c. white miso
roasted sesame oil, optional

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large soup pot with a lid. Add the cabbage, celery, onion, carrot, and sliced garlic cloves. Cover and cook (at a boil) for 20 minutes.

Stir in the chopped garlic cloves, ginger, and chile; turn off the heat. Add the lime juice and the miso and stir to dissolve. That's it. If you like, add a few drops of roasted sesame oil to your bowl.

* One cup is 1 Point.
* I accidentally chopped about six cups of cabbage, so I added an extra 2 c. water and it didn't seem to make a difference.
* I included the seeds and veins of the chile and enjoyed the heat, but next time I'd probably add another. I'm demented.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snowed-In Pasta Bake

So, now I have seen it, and I I believe it. Two feet of snow in Central Park! Our section of the island was hushed all day, blanketed in white. And I really felt like I had achieved a New York Moment during yoga this morning in the living room, high above the city, surrounded by endless snowfall.

Now, the stores were open here; it wasn't that bad a storm. But I liked the idea of making something comforting and defiantly rich without leaving the snugness of the apartment. Plus, each time a clump of icicles crashes past our windows from apartments above, the kittens bolt for the nearest lap and even when both humans are home, that's a 1:1 ratio. So I perused the shelves, and here's what I came up with. It's not fancy or original, but it oozes cheese, radiates warmth, and filled us to the brim. Without leaving the house!

Baked Penne with Faux-Bolognese
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Pasta

Serves a whole heck of a lot. Probably 8 at least.

1 c. part-skim ricotta
1 egg yolk
1 c. grated pecorino romano, divided equally
mega pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. penne rigate
4-5 c. faux bolognese (see below)
0.5 lb part-skim mozzarella, cut into small cubes

Heat oven to 425 F. Oil a large baking dish with olive oil and put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Mix the ricotta, yolk, 0.5 c. pecorino, and nutmeg together in a very large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For me, this means a lot of pepper, but go easy on the salt; you're going to be adding plenty of that with the sauce and additional romano later.

Cook the penne until slightly shy of al dente. Drain, then add the pasta to the bowl with the ricotta mixture. Stir well to coat the pasta with the ricotta. Now pour in the faux bolognese and the mozzarella, and again stir well.

Pour everything into your baking dish and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the romano over the top, and drizzle with additional olive oil. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned. Let it sit 3-5 minutes before you scoop into it.

* I made a faux bolognese by (a) sauteeing a minced onion and two fat minced garlic cloves in olive oil until soft, (b) adding a minced carrot and celery stalk and cooking a little longer, (c) adding 14 oz. of browned "Gimme Lean" pseudo-ground beef, 28 oz. crushed tomatoes, and several generous shakes of dried oregano and thyme and heating over low heat for thirty minutes, then (d) stirring in 0.25 c. grated romano and salt and pepper to taste.
* You could substitute real bolognese or another tomato sauce, of course. I prefer not to use ground beef -- Gimme Lean makes a great vegetarian substitute.
* Next time I'd add some toasted fennel seeds and some fresh parsley to the pasta mixture.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Scurvy Cure

Dimples is very enthusiastic about lemons. And when I say "enthusiastic," what I mean is "rhapsodic, verging on starry-eyed, and not to be left alone in the citrus section of Whole Foods."

For well over a year now, he's been not-so-idly mentioning his grandmother's famous lemon sherbert. (Sherbet? Now both options look weird to me. I don't know.) Despite the fact that we're supposed to get a foot of snow this weekend (...I'll believe it when I see it), last night he decided that this was the perfect time. So that was our late-night project. Several pulped lemons and one scraped knuckle later, we poured a vat of citrus-scented milk and sugar into a brownie pan. And this morning, we were rewarded with a 9x13 sheet of creamy frozen lemonness. It looks like a sheet cake made of ice cream, actually.

I don't know the technical distinctions between the frozen desserts -- ice cream, ice milk, sherbert, gelato, sorbet, granita, etc. Ignorance notwithstanding, this recipe strikes me as sort of a milky granita. Dimples says his family's always eaten it in chunks, cut from the pan, or alternatively mooshed up in a glass with fruit juice. The lemon flavor comes through clean and bright, and the texture has a nice crunch, not too sharp on the tongue.

Dimples's Lemon Sherbert

0.67 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
zest of one lemon
4 c. whole milk
1.75 c. white sugar

Mix everything together in a large bowl, then pour into a 13x9 pan and freeze. Check it after 2-3 hours and stir the slush around a bit, then allow to freeze solid. Cut into squares and enjoy your frozen vitamin C.

WCB #36

Widget and Max are practicing their snuggles for the snowy weekend...

Visit Clare's to see what the other kittens are up to around the world!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When in Doubt, Make a Sandwich Out of It

It's a good philosophy, don't you think? So many things are made infinitely better by stuffing them inside of two pieces of bread. I've been an enthusiastic supporter of the sandwichification method ever since I chewed my way through my first fried egg sandwich. I couldn't have been more than ten, and until then I had refused to eat fried eggs, which had a weird floppy/gooky texture to me. (Three cheers for Mom, who would patiently scramble my eggs while frying everyone else's.) But someone, can't remember who, handed me one morning the miracle of a fried egg, draped with cheese, and crammed between two slices of whole wheat buttered toast. Utter heaven.

Since then, bread has lived in serious fear of its life around me. I'll make a sandwich out of nearly anything -- pasta (be careful of penne, it'll shoot out of the back of the 'wich), frittatas, salads. Jello. Ok, only once with that last, and yes, it was on a dare.

So when I spied this recipe, I knew what we would do with it -- slather toasted bread with searing mustard, pile on the baby spinach, and top it off with layers of the spicy roasted pork. It worked even better than I thought it would. I can honestly say this was the best pork tenderloin I have ever made, and you'd never think it's a WW recipe.

I suppose, if you really wanted to, you could eat it sans bread -- maybe with some mashed potatoes to cool the heat. But -- seriously. Make it a sandwich.

(sorry the picture's a little weird...)

Jalapeno-Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

Serves 4.

zest of 1 orange
0.25 c. fresh orange juice
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1-2 jalapeno chiles, sliced (use 1 if you're sensitive to heat, and remove the veins and seeds)
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1.5 tsp. ground cumin
0.5 tsp. salt
0.5 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. pork tenderloin

Make a marinade by whisking together all the ingredients except the pork in a small bowl. Put the pork inside a gallon-size Ziploc and pour the marinade in. Seal the bag and squish the pork around to fully coat. Toss it in the fridge for at least two hours and up to overnight. Turn it occasionally so it doesn't feel neglected.

Heat the oven to 450. Line your roasting pan with aluminum foil and spray it with nonstick spray. Place the tenderloin on the pan and pour the marinade over. If you're fond of heat, press the chile slices onto the surface of the roast. Roast 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and roast another 15-18 minutes. The internal temperature you're looking for is 165 F.

Let stand 5-10 minutes before slicing.

* 4 points per serving.
* This sauce is a quick version of a mojo sauce, which I (perhaps inaccurately) associate with the Caribbean. Mojo sauces or marinades usually contain olive oil, lots of garlic, paprika or chili powder, something acidic like vinegar or citrus juices, and cumin. It's also awesome on chicken.
* This pork has some serious chile heat with the two jalapenos, so tone it down if you're not a freak like me who enjoys wincing while she eats.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

ARF/5-a-Day Tuesday -- Blackberry Muffins

Dimples loves blackberries, so when the baking bug descended this last weekend, I scrabbled through my recipe box until I found this clipping. I figured this way he'd be more likely to help out with the results. And I was right!

The oats give these a toothsome texture, and the blackberries are bright and cheerful. Good for beating the winter blues -- and I choose to believe that the combination of oats and blackberries make these entirely healthful and virtuous. Ahem.

Whole-Grain Blackberry Spice Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light

Makes 15 or so.

2 c. flour
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1.5 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp. baking soda
0.5 tsp. salt
0.25 tsp. cinnamon
0.25 tsp. nutmeg
dash cloves
dash ginger
1 c. skim milk
3 T. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1.5 c. frozen blackberries
granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 400. Chop the blackberries and return them to the freezer as you continue. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups and spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the milk, butter, vanilla, and egg together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix gently to combine. Stir in the blackberries.

Spoon 0.25 c. batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 16 minutes, then sprinkle the muffins with a little granulated sugar. Return the muffins to the oven for another 3 minutes, or until they spring back when touched lightly.

Cool in pans on wire racks for ten minutes.

This week Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness is hosting the roundup -- thanks Stephanie!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Fish for One

I need to correct an error in a prior post. It is simply no longer true that steamed mussels is the easiest seafood dish I know. Not that the mussels aren't impossibly easy -- they are. (Make them!) But now I have an even simpler preparation to share.

The problem in our apartment is that Dimples generally doesn't eat things that swim. (Two exceptions: shrimp -- to which I am allergic -- and tuna, as long as it's converted into a sandwich filling.) So, although I have no objection to leftovers on principle, in reality, seafood recipes that make more than two servings rarely catch my eye.

So when I saw Giada folding individual pieces of fish into aluminum foil packets, I perked up. Aha! It doesn't get much more serving-for-one than that. Plus, it includes its own side dish -- how cool is that?

So I made it, with the toppings adjusted down from four servings, and -- wow. The fish steams to delicate perfection inside its packet, the spinach wilts under the gingery garlicky onslaught, and the whole process takes only 20 minutes from the moment I turn on the oven to the second I sit down to steamy goodness in a bowl. Meanwhile, I am doing essentially nothing to help this dish along. Ordering a pizza takes more effort. Seriously.

You can see Giada's original recipe here, but this is a very flexible dish, allowing you to substitute different salty, spicy, or sweet components nearly at will. And it will STILL be the easiest fish recipe around.

Can I repeat the part about how it's perfect for one person? How about the part where I tell you how easy it is? How about I just give you the recipe already?

Steamed Fish for One
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Serves, uh, 1.

1 4-oz piece of flaky-rather-than-steaky fish (cod's my favorite, but salmon works well too)
3-4 c. baby spinach
1-2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil or toasted sesame oil
0.5 tsp. chile oil or 1 tsp. red pepper flakes or 5-6 pickled jalapeno slices or 1 tsp. Tabasco (all spicy components optional)
squeeze of lemon or lime or orange or sprinkle of unsweetened rice vinegar or quick dash of lemon or orange zest

Start your wristwatch timer.

Heat the oven to 400. Tear off a 12" square of aluminum foil. Pile up the baby spinach in the center of the foil, then place the fish atop the heap. Sprinkle over the ginger and garlic (I like to use the Microplane directly over the fish). Pour the soy sauce over, being careful not to let it trickle off the foil. Dribble or sprinkle the additional flavorings you're using over the fish.

Twist up the sides of the foil and seal together to make a shiny packet of goodness. Put it on a baking sheet and pop it into the oven for ten minutes. Take it out and let it rest for 2-3 minutes before you open it over a large bowl to catch the fish, spinach, and glorious briny broth.

* I calculate Giada's original recipe (which includes Marsala) at 4 points for the fish and spinach both. How cool is that?
* My biggest complaint about this dish is that it cools very quickly once it's in my bowl, but that just means I eat it rather speedily (some could say greedily).

WCB #35 this is how the Manhattan cat stays clean.

Don't worry, we double-checked the bag before sending it off to the laundry!

Go visit Clare's to see what Kiri and his friends are up to!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Virtual Recipe Club -- Soups!

Alysha at the lovely blog The Savory Notebook has started a Virtual Recipe Club -- brilliant -- and this edition's theme is Soup. I love the idea of this event, so even though this week's going to be short on cooking (I twisted my ankle while snowboarding last weekend -- vicious ski lifts! -- and so I'm doing as little standing as possible so the darn thing will heal), I'm offering a recipe from a previous post.

(You think there are enough dashes, asides, and whatnot in the previous paragraph? Good grief.)

Tomato Soup with Pancetta is hearty and warming, and a thrifty way to make the most of that heel of bread lingering on the counter. Sometimes leftovers thicken a little too much, in which case I thin it out with a little marinara sauce before reheating. Add a grilled cheese sandwich and all will be right with the world.