Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tasty Meal for One

Some of my tastiest kitchen concoctions have been created for a solitary meal for myself. When preparing food foe me alone I feel free to mix in a little of this and that without fear of failure. The result is often a simple but new and successful combination of flavors. Tonight I baked a sweet potato and topped it with roasted walnut oil, ground, dried kelp and bucheron cheese. Three simple toppings created a winner.  It is difficult to find roasted walnut oil in this country. There is a new vendor at the Ferry Building's Saturday farmers market that produces a walnut oil that rivals the French walnut oils. The producer is Glasshoff Farms, a third generation local farmer, located in Suisun Valley.  Here is their website. I recommend their roasted walnut oil as well as their jams.    Do read their story and look for their stand. 
I also made myself a wilted frisee salad with pine nuts and fresh garlic based on a recipe in this month's vegetarian times magazine. 

Warm Frisee Springtime Salad 
1/4 cup pine nuts
 2 stalks of fresh garlic, sliced on diagonal
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 organic navel oranges
1 lb. frisee, washed and torn
1T tablespoon balsamic
1/4 cup parmigiano  reggiano grated with vegetable peeler

1. Place nuts, galic, olive oil and butter in small skillet.  Cook over low heat for ten minutes or until pine nuts and garlic are golden.
2. Meanwhile, remove zest from orange and reserve for another use. (You can mince the zest, dry it for a couple of days and add to salads, hot cereals. Store in a small jar when thoroughly dry.) Stand orange upright on cutting board and remove remaining peel and pith with knife, following curve of fruit from top to bottom. Repeat with the other orange and set aside.
3. Place frisee in a large bowl. Pour  hot oil with garlic and pine nuts over greens. Cut sections of orange along membranes while holding over the bowl to catch the juices, as if slicing out a wedge and release wedges one by one.  Repeat with second orange. Toss. Add balsamic, toss again. Add cheese and divide among 2-4 plates.

Based on Wilted Dandelion Salad with Pine Nuts and Crispy Garlic Vegetarian Times, April/May 2011. Pg 64.

I am so thrilled to be able to get my orchids to re-bloom here in this wonderful city filled with moist air, I had to show it off.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cold Comforting Broccoli Salad

Here is my favorite flower presentation from last week's Bouquets to Art at the DeYoung art museum. This kimono was created entirely from plant material.  The arrangement transported me to a place deep within a dark forest. I could well have slipped of the shoes the artist created and placed to the left of the kimono, just above the calming pond. I want to gaze into that pond alone in quietude of the forest. There I would find the peace that has been so elusive to me of late.  Here are a few more pictures from the exhibit.

I must confess that I included these flower pictures to distract from the awful pictures I shot of my broccoli salad. I was so hungry and wet and cold when I made the salad and I was so pleased with the way the flavors came together that I rushed the photography.  I did not check the photos until the salad had been eaten.  The salad was delicious.  I now feel comforted despite the wind and the rain which refuse to go away.
I used cold broccoli left from yesterday's lunch mixed with protein contributing seeds, (I have been tracking my calories and it turns out I get only 18% protein at best.  I have been told this is not enough) I mixed olive oil mayo thinned with greek yogurt, miso and naturally fermented soy sauce for flavor and beneficial bacteria.  I added meyer lemon juice for kick. I ate my salad along with a warm cup of jasmine green tea. The following recipe will revive one tired, damp soul satisfyingly.

Broccoli Salad
1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 generous teaspoon raw sunflower seeds
1 generous teaspoon sesame seeds

2 teaspoons olive oil mayo
2 teaspoons nonfat greek yogurt
1 teaspoon white miso
1 teaspoon tahini
juice of half a meyer lemon
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Whisk dressing ingredients together in serving bowl.
Add broccoli and seeds.

Sit down, eat and enjoy the warmth inside.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Turnips on a Grey Day

Lately one the only activities I enjoy is cooking.  I am grateful to find high quality ingredients in my pantry when I work up the energy to walk into the kitchen to create. I don't have to leave the house to feed my senses and clear my head of the greyness. Just seeing the beautiful colors of these turnips is a healing. I cut them into crescent shaped quarters, sprinkled salt, kelp and olive oil over them, stirred them and dumped them onto a baking sheet and baked at 425.  The flavor was surprisingly good. There are a few fancier recipes for turnips to be found on the web, but this simple preparation satisfied me.  I also cooked up some Espresso Chip Oatmeal Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar from the folks who brought us Veginomicon.       

The cookies have a deep flavor that only coffee can bring, as I usually do I used only whole wheat pastry flour and I added dried grated orange peel. There was no discernible difference in the cookies  from using flax seeds in place of egg. I am not vegan nor even vegetarian, neither do I have dietary restrictions.  That being said these cookies were fast to put together and the absence of raw egg meant I could safely lick the spoon.

It's so hard to keep cheery with the gloom both outside my window and out in the world in general. But cooking  brings the sunshine back into my thoughts for a while. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Finally! Fluffy Wholegrain Scones

I have been participating in Heidi Swanson's cookbook library network. It is a place to learn and comment about cookbooks and their particular recipes. This month's cookbook is Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: the Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery. This lovely green colored tome has enabled me to create the first batch of scones that were not stand-ins for hockey pucks. The recipe is called Cheddar Cornmeal Scones.  I'm not sure what made the difference.  Could it be the addition of eggs? I know the important thing with scones is to knead or handle the dough as little as possible.  Maybe the moistness of the eggs allowed me to form the dough with less handling than usual. I'm not sure of the science. But I am sure of the result. If anyone is sticking to whole grains, as I am and wants a true soft, flaky, savory scone, this is your recipe.  I don't have permission to post the recipe, but get your hands on this book, and bake these scones.

I had the privilege of attending the DeYoung Museum's Bouquets to Art member night last night.  It was very crowded but I snapped a few  photos of the beautiful flowers.  I will return tomorrow during the day.  My favorite arrangement was of a kimono made of flowers, ferns and moss. It was beautiful , serene and quite creative. There were too many people to get a picture but I will try to post one after my next visit.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Calm Unbeknown to the Storm

As I sit here on the marina facing the San Francisco bay it hardly seems as though today is different from any other day. Tourists bicycle by, a mother pushes her toddler in a stroller.  The only sign that anything is amiss is the yellow tape and park ranger car parked at the entrance to the marina. Could it really be that devastation has taken place not so far from here? The news footage would have me believe so. I fear, tough that decades of disaster movies have desensitized me to the reality of the earthquake and tsunami.  Having lived through the flood of 1986 in Butte county I would think I could feel something while watching water moving over homes, fires burning.   But it seems unreal, although I feel for and worry about the victims.  Many of us get caught up in our own personal, insulated, well-scheduled world and leave little room for the outside.  My heart goes out to the victims of this latest tragedy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

This is my very late entry for the French Fridays with Dorie cooking group.  My apologies to all.  This is a very tasty and satisfying bread. I will pack this in my husband's and my lunches this week.  I chose to make a few adjustments to the recipe.  I used whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour to up protein and fiber.  I used a goats and cows milk blend cheese, added dandelion greens for the chives and  threw in diced pancetta. I am happy with the result, however next time I will increase the greens to a full cup and use the full teaspoon of salt. The walnuts did not seem to match up with the extras I chose.  I think pecans will do better next time.

One of the reasons I am so late with this entry is the fact that I am overwhelmed with cookbook reading.  This is inspirational, but when to many recipes swim around in my head at once I have a hard time getting into the kitchen. This morning I managed to bake not only this cheese bread, another tin of Heidi's millet muffins (adding garbanzo bean flour and additional lemon zest and olive oil was a nice alternative) and chocolate buttermilk doughnuts. Phew!
Part of the reason I'm reading so many cookbooks is my discovery of Heidi's cookbook library site.  I am trying new recipes with the intent of adding my comments to the site.  Check out her site.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Heidi's Millet Muffins

I baked up a batch of Heidi Swanson's millet muffins.  They are so good  I must confess to eating three of them the day I made them. I tweaked the recipe a little.  I cut both the butter and honey in half without any loss of flavor. Here is the recipe link. I was able to enjoy  the butter I left out of the recipe by spreading it over the two halves of my toasted muffin and topped that with Happy Girl's organic strawberry lavender jam. I like to toast my muffins because when I was growing up in NYC I used to get toasted corn muffins in the snack bars found in the subway stations through which I traveled. Prepared in this way I get both nostalgia and enhanced eating pleasure.
I  have found my new favorite kitchen gadget, it cost me $1.09 and I found it at Ichiban Kan in Japantown.  It's a small handheld grater and I was able to use it to create the most beautiful grated carrots. 
I spent less than five minutes on this large bowlful.  I prepared david tanis' carrot and coriander salad with these lovely, not flat but rounded, fluffy, airy carrot threads. The salad was tasty the day I made it but so much better in quesadillas the following day. I grilled a sprouted wheat tortilla added the carrots, cayenne and manchego cheese.  It made a tasty evening snack.  

I have big plans for tomorrow's kitchen activity.  I am planning on another batch of millet muffins (fast and easy)along with espresso chip oatmeal cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  And I am hoping to create my own sourdough starter which I will name as soon as I know it will live and that I can be committed to its care.  I kept my last starter alive for several years. I would like to make whole wheat english muffins as soon as the starter is mature. I would also like to bake Dorrie Greenspan's savory cheese and chive bread, I am a bit behind on my French Fridays with Dorie

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Flax Crackers & Homemade Almond Butter

I have had guests for the past couple of days.  When friends visit me here, in San Francisco, I like to join them in their vacation activities and feel like I'm on vacation too. My friend S. and I cooked  dinner together the night of their arrival.  We prepared bionaturae whole wheat spaghetti with swiss chard, onion, garlic, butter and romano cheese. The bionaturae pasta is the best whole grain pasta I've tasted. It is smooth with no grainy texture.  It's a bit more pricey than the trader joe's whole wheat pasta but I'll take taste over bargain any day.  I served some chimichuri with oven-toasted bread. I have been in love with chimichurri since I prepared it for an Argentinian themed dinner last weekend. The flavor of chimichurri is much more than the sum of its parts, which are parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil. My guests have been putting the leftover sauce on everything.
My guests brought along their own juicer and we had fresh veggie juice every morning of their visit.  This morning i decided to put the vegetable pulp to good use along with an excess of flax seeds I discovered in my freezer.  I used this recipe from Choosing Raw.  The pulp looked so pretty in the dehydrator, the beets contributing the most color. I will report on their flavor after the crackers are completely dry.

I had left my food processor out after using it to prepare the chimichurri, so I turned my frozen almonds into lovely, creamy almond butter.  After processing the almonds for a few minutes they looked a bit dry, so I added hazelnut oil to the mix. Have I created something new? Maybe so.  I'm thinking of adding sesame seeds to my next batch. Has anyone ever heard of almond sesame butter? If not, you will soon.

I had the privilege of being taken to dinner by my guests last night.  They took me to Be My Guest Thai bistro, on Clement and 11th. With a name like that I wasn't sure what to expect, but the food was spectacular.  My guests are vegetarians so we stayed away from anything with meat, eggs or even a hint of fish sauce.We had samosas, summer rolls with tamarind sauce, a trio sampler of green, yellow and red curry.

 The red curry was my favorite, with a nice level of spiciness.  It was creamy but not overly rich from coconut milk. We also ate a pumpkin curry, which ended up being our least favorite.

  The pad thai was topped with cooked snap peas and green beans and the glass noodles were not at all  mushy.  They were cooked to a perfect firm consistency.I have never had Thai food that radiated freshness before. Our waitress accommodated our every dietary restriction with a smile.  I will definitely be returning.