Thursday, January 15, 2015

Such A Devoted Manner


      Is there anything more courageous than a beet? Early spring lettuce competes for the title with its delicate leaves despite the threat of freak frosts, but with its bitterness, I think it's more audacious than heroic. A beet gets to the heart of things; its mellow sweetness never surprises with hidden tastes like the pang of a turnip or rutabaga or the sometimes cloying caramel lumps that squash can become as it roasts. Beets keep feet on the ground, never allowing one to forget the place from which they came. Though the earthiness of them deters some (along with the inescapable ruby stain of the red variety), beets have as much potential as a pot of boiling water. Horseradish cream atop thinly sliced roasted beets is a revelation. Grated raw beets with ginger, sesame oil and rice vinegar are a cheerful yet soothing reminder that all is not lost. And pickled beets with allspice make me feel like I have wings.

      Though I sing their praises in such a devoted manner, please believe my sincere surprise when I came across this remarkable chocolate cake recipe that calls for these small but mighty heroes.

Chocolate Beet Cake
 by Nigel Slater

      I take zero credit for this recipe. Though I've read Slater's column in the The Guardian for years, I was turned onto a special one of his cookbooks by RB and have sat for hours thumbing through the pages, utterly captivated by the attention-turned-devotion to his vegetable patch. This recipe, though requiring both time and care, is not to be overlooked.

Ingredients

A digital scale is helpful but not essential. Re-read the recipe a few times to get comfortable.
 
8oz red beets (about three to six small beets or one cup worth, once processed) (250g)

7oz 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces (200g)
3/4 c + 2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces or grated (200g)
4 T hot espresso (or strong, strong coffee)

1 c + 2 T all-purpose flour (135g)
1 heaping t baking powder
3 T cocoa powder

6 eggs, separated
1 c sugar (190g)


Process

      Roast the beets with a bit of water in a covered dish until tender, about an hour. Let cool until touchable (or run under cold water) and then peel.  Place what you approximate to yield one cup worth and process in a food processor to a coarse puree. Save any remaining beets for later use.

      Lightly butter an 8" springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round cut piece of parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350F.

      Bring a pot with plenty of water to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Place a large bowl with the broken pieces of chocolate atop the pot (this is the double boiler method). Do not stir.

      Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs. Make the espresso.

      When the chocolate looks melted, pour the espresso over it and stir once. Add the butter and let it melt.

      Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold in the sugar.

      Mix the egg yolks together.

     Remove the chocolate and butter from the double boiler and stir to combine. Let rest a few minutes to cool a bit.

      Moving efficiently but gently, add the yolks to the chocolate mixture, and mix firmly. Fold in the beets along with the egg whites with sugar. "A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care to not overmix."

      Finally, fold in the sifted dry ingredients.

     Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and put in the oven. Immediately reduce heat to 325F. Bake for 40 minutes.

      The edges of the cake will be set but the inner part should be wobbly and molten-like.

     Let cool for 30 minutes before loosening the edges and let cool completely before eating. The center will sink a bit.

     Nigel suggests serving it with creme fraiche and poppyseeds. And I promise that this cake gets better with time, so if you're having company, bake it the evening before.

Yields: eight servings
Prep time: an hour +
Bake time: 40 minutes

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Recognize Your Luck


    
      Some people are die-hard meat dripping fanatics when it comes to their holiday gravy but here's something sophisticated for the more mild-mannered palates; the earthiness from the shiitakes with the sweet boozy acorn lift from the Madeira makes it nearly into a side dish of its own. In whatever nook of the world you're in, whether you like gravy or not, happy holidays -- may you all eat well and recognize your luck.

Shiitake Gravy with Madeira (or Sherry)
inspired by Amy Pennington

      I've been known to toss in some minced caramelized onions, garlic and bruised rosemary from time to time. Play!

Ingredients

3 c vegetable or chicken stock *
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated **

3 T butter or olive oil
1/2 c chic pea flour

1/4 c Madeira (a Portuguese fortified wine similar to Sherry, which works well, too)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Process

      * ** To both make a quick stock and to rehydrate the dried shiitakes, bring to a active and hearty simmer 6 cups of water, half of a chopped onion, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, 4 prunes and the shiitakes with 3/4 t of sea salt. Simmer for 25 minutes or longer (but don't let it reduce by more than half). Strain the ingredients and discard everything but the shiitakes.

      Trim the stems of the soaked shiitakes and discard them (they are often too chewy to be enjoyable). Dice the mushrooms and set aside for later. Measure out all other ingredients and have them close at hand for the next step.

      In a heavy bottomed skillet or pot, melt the butter over a medium flame. Add the chic pea flour and stir constantly until the flour has a toasty aroma and is gently darkening in color -- not more than 2 minutes. Do not leave unattended.

      Slowly whisk in the stock and let it come to a simmer, gently stirring all the while. Reduce the heat to low and add the Madeira and shiitakes. Let the gravy simmer and thicken for about 5 minutes. If at any point it is looking too thick, add a bit more stock.

      Add a few generous pinches of sea salt to taste and a couple cranks from the pepper mill (and another splash of Madeira if you like a boozy taste). Keep warm until serving.

      Double or triple the recipe depending on the number of mouths gathered. This is wonderful on buttermilk mashed potatoes and roasted poultry.

Prep time: 25 minutes, including stock
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yields: gravy for 6

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Warming Promise

       

      Few things I've encountered ignite in me a feeling of belonging such as the warming promise of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and sweet pumpkin as a pie bakes in the oven. Happy holidays, far flung friends.

Roasted and Spiced Pumpkin Pie with Gluten Free Crust
crust adapted from Megan over at Allergy Free Alaska

      This surprised me in a big way. It's not the easiest time I've had with getting the crust into the pie plate, but once it's in there, it stays! It's flaky with a chew -- a major feat for anything gluten free that's as fuss free as this.

Ingredients

For the crust

1/3 c sorghum flour
1/3 c millet flour
1/3 c arrowroot or kuzu powder
1/4 c brown rice flour
3/4 t xanthan gum 
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 c cold unsalted butter (or vegan alternative)

1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
5 T ice cold water
1 T brown sugar/maple sugar/cane sugar

 For the filling

  * To make the roasted puree, halve the squash(es) with a sharp knife, scoop out the seeds, rub with a bit of oil and place on a baking sheet covered tightly with foil. Bake at 350F until tender (about an hour). Let cool and then scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender, adding the coconut milk or heavy cream if it's too dry. You can do this a few days in advance.

4 c roasted squash/pumpkin puree* or something from a can (I used a small butternut and acorn squash)
1 cup coconut milk/heavy cream
1 T ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
3/4 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t sea salt
1/2 to 3/4 c brown sugar/maple sugar/cane sugar

1 egg, beaten (or egg substitute)

Process

      For the crust

      Sift together the dry ingredients. Combine the apple cider vinegar, water and 1 T of sweetener and set aside. With a grater, grate the cold butter (or butter substitute) into the sifted dry ingredients and cut until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs (do this with two forks or a pastry cutter).

      Mix the wet ingredients in with a wooden spoon and quickly (so not to melt the butter) shape into a ball and put in a plastic bag. Press down so the ball of dough shapes itself into a disc and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

      Roll out the dough either on a sorghum flour dusted surface or between two layers of sorghum flour dusted parchment paper. Once it's ready to be placed in the 9" pie plate, gently fold the dough in half twice so that when you make the transfer from counter to baking dish, less tears happen. Unfold the dough and cinch together the edges to form a crust. If any rips occur, fear not -- it patches together easily once it's settled in the pan.

      Cover with a damp cloth and refrigerate until the filling is ready to bake.

      For the filling

     Preheat the oven to 375F.

     Mix together the pureed squash/pumpkin, coconut milk, sweetener and spices. Taste and add more sweetener or spice if you'd like. Add the egg, mix until smooth and pour into the pre-formed crust. If any filling remains, pour it into little ramekins and bake separately until set.

      Bake until the filling sets -- about an hour. The crust should be golden. Let cool for 3 hours before slicing.

      Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or sweetened yogurt.

Yields: one 9" pie
Prep time: an hour or so
Bake time: an hour or so

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Friday, October 31, 2014

Nearly Forgotten

      
     
       When we make quinoa, invariably there always ends up being far more than we anticipated. The other day, knowing that a bowl of squash and leek bisque would be dinner, I whipped these up from a bowl of nearly forgotten toasted red quinoa on the bottom shelf in the fridge. Nutty from being toasted and crunchy from being pan fried in olive oil,  they made perfect soup accoutrements and helped us soldier onward down the experimental (for allergy’s sake) gluten-free path.
 
Toasted Red Quinoa Fritters with Dijon Yogurt Cream (GF)

            * Contrary to what some say, it really is aesthetically important to rinse the quinoa -- it’s coated with a natural pesticide called saponins that quite bitterly interferes with its mild flavor profile. Fill a pot with 1 cup of uncooked quinoa and cover it with enough water to submerge it. In a clockwise manner, swirl your hand around the pot at least 20 times and then drain through a fine mesh strainer. Dry toast the rinsed quinoa in a pot over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of fresh water, ½ teaspoon of salt, bring to a simmer and put a lid on it. Reduce the heat to very low. Let the quinoa cook for 25 undisturbed minutes and then remove from heat. Let cool. You can do this a day or two in advance. And if you already have leftover quinoa, you're all set!

Ingredients

3 cups cooked red quinoa (or white) *
¾ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup millet flour
½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup manchego cheese, grated
vegetable or olive oil, for frying 

½ cup yogurt (mayonnaise/aioli or Veganaise are great substitutions, too)
½ clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
¼ t of freshly cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
chopped capers, fresh basil or dill (optional)
 
Process

      Mix together the cooled, cooked quinoa, millet flour and ¾ teaspoon of sea salt. Combine the sundried tomatoes, minced garlic, egg, and cheese and fold it into the mixture. Let it rest for twenty minutes.

 
      Meanwhile, mix together the yogurt, ½ clove of minced garlic, Dijon, maple syrup, salt and pepper and any herbs and taste for balance.

      In a large skillet, heat a generous amount of oil over medium-high heat. Add a drop of the batter to the oil – it should sizzle immediately and heartily.

      Moving quickly with a large spoon, gently drop 2 T worth of batter per fritter onto the skillet and lightly press down so that they are no more than half an inch tall. Fry on each side for about 2 minutes, flipping once. Do this in batches until the batter is gone.

      The fritters can be eaten hot or at room temperature, alongside a salad or on their own.

Yields: a dozen fritters
Prep time: 45 minutes (includes quinoa and sauce)
Cook time: 15 minutes (for frying)

Writing/Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gentle But Illustrious

     

      Like lugging the bin of cold weather sweaters down from the attic once the breeze turns cool or slow cooking black beans with smoked chiles on a Saturday night -- it's the simple things that brings the joy.

Black Beans with Sweet Onions and Smoked Chiles

      These beans are gentle but illustrious. The sweet onions are an essential base, as is the technique of frying the spices -- both for the power of deepening the flavor and for the extraction of the medicinal properties of turmeric (anti-inflammatory) and cumin (a digestive aid). This has been a staple in my repertoire since living in Harlem in my early twenties and the only real change to the recipe is that I don't cook it in an aluminum pot anymore.

Ingredients

5 T oil (olive or coconut)
1 large onion, diced
3/4 t sea salt

1 T maple syrup
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 canned chipotle peppers, minced (plus 2T of adobo sauce)
1 t ground cumin
3/4 t ground turmeric

4 cans of black beans (I like Westbrae for their BPA free principals)
1 t sea salt  (or more)

Process

      Over a medium-high flame, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot large enough to house all of the ingredients. Add the diced onion and sea salt and let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn a caramel color -- about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat if they start to blacken.

      Add the maple syrup, minced garlic and chipotle peppers, cumin and turmeric and let sizzle for a minute or so, stirring constantly but gently.

      Add the beans and their liquid plus the remaining sea salt. Let the beans come to a hearty simmer and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

      Taste a spoonful -- add more salt, pinch by pinch, to lift any dragging flavors or more adobo sauce for added spice.

      These are delicious on top of hot rice with a poached egg, atop corn chips with melted cheese and pickled jalapenos, or in warm tortillas with a cabbage and onion slaw with a creamy buttermilk dressing.

      Freeze any leftovers.

Yields: beans for days -- about 8 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, mostly unnattended

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Therefore In The Right Place

  

      When I made my living in kitchens I used to wake myself up in the middle of the night with the residual scent of onions and thyme, once delicious sauteing on the stovetop, accosting my dreams. At first it was nearly sensual, like how your upper lip smells of your kissing partner long after they've gone home. But before long (much to the aggrieved heart in its longing!) their perfume fades away and you're left with yourself, ready for bed and in need of a toothbrush. The slippery smoke of cooking food marches to a different drum; it creeps into your ears, clings under your nailbeds and sets up permanent camp in the metallic pores of any jewelry you may have forgotten to remove prior to handling garlic. And if you're cooking in your own home, the fumes will sneak into the cupboards and nestle into curtain folds, lingering after the dishes are washed and the feet are propped.

     Among the many ways to mitigate a meal's clinging scent (running around with a burning piece of newspaper or simmering water and cinnamon on the stove), the best way may be to simply tie your hair back, open a window and let it wash over you -- like winter, it won't last forever. MFK Fisher (once again) nails it: "...you can broil the meat, fry the onions, stew the garlic in the red wine...and ask me to supper. I'll not care, really, even if your nose is a little shiny, so long as you are self-possessed and...your mind is your own and your heart is another's and therefore in the right place."

Lemon Roasted Potatoes with Garlic
inspired by Flora Maranka

      One of the many things I do miss about working in the kitchen is my friend Flora. She's read almost every book in the world and has a sense of humor that has left me doubled over in a fit of laughter at least five dozen times. She is one of the founding mothers of the Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca, NY and has a cool sensibility about food that has inspired me time and time again. Amy and I learned this recipe from her and are indebted to her (in a calm, collected way).

      Note: These are very lemony; if your palate prefers a traditional profile, leave out the lemon juice and water bath (but do use the garlic).

Ingredients

a pot of boiling salted water

6 medium potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled 
5 T olive oil
1 t sea salt

4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
the juice of one lemon (about 2 T worth) 
1/4 c water 

some sort of chopped green herb for garnish (optional)

Process

       Bring a pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cut the potatoes lengthwise in half and then lengthwise in thirds again so that the potato is cut into six pieces. The uniformity of shape and size is important for even cooking and is a simple technique to get under your belt for the future.

      Preheat the oven to 400F. Add the potatoes to the boiling water for about 5 minutes -- this will create a starch coating around the outside which will bind to the oil and crisp up gloriously in the oven. Drain the potatoes totally and toss with 1 t salt and olive oil.

      In a pan or cast iron skillet large enough, arrange the potatoes in a single layer, cover with foil and it all in the oven. After about twenty minutes, remove the foil and let the potatoes keep cooking for about twenty five minutes more or until their undersides are crisping and beginning to brown.

      Pull the pan/skillet out of the oven and add the garlic, lemon juice and water. Gently fold the potatoes into the mixture so they are bathed in the liquid and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

      Remove from heat, place in a serving bowl and garnish with chopped herbs if you so wish. Serve alongside a green salad, grilled fish or meat or with a poached egg.

Yields: a side dish for 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, mostly unattended

Writing by Adria Lee | Photography and Styling by Amy Pennington