Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges

Don't these look good in that "Gimme carbon, baby" way?

They were! Paired with dark beer and some of this homemade split pea soup...

...these Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges were to die for. Literally, because I couldn't stop eating them and felt my arteries harden.

Well, harden may be an exaggeration. Because these guys are simply roasted in high-quality olive oil, garlic, metabolism-boosting chili pepper, and a spice-salt blend mix from a friend (Penzey's Northwoods Fire Seasoning) - thanks, T!

Here's the best part: they are SO easy to make! Don't have sweet potatoes? You can substitute another tuber, but you'll miss out on the heavenly spicy-sweet-salty ratio that makes these guys out of this world.

Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges

- Peel and chop sweet potatoes into happy wedges
- Dump some garlic, chili peppers, salt (or Penzey's spice blend), and cracked pepper into a food processor and whirrrr
- Pour over wedges on a baking sheet, toss in olive oil
- Bake at ~375 F for 30-40 minutes...however you like your C (carbon)

(Thanks to Deb for the idea!)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Were you Good today?

I wasn't...

But they're sure going to taste GOOD!

Garlic Rosemary Potato Crucifixion - the PERFECT Easter Starch

- Baby red potatoes, boiled
- Garlic
- Rosemary
- Butter, olive oil, and/or milk
- Turmeric
- Flax seeds
- Paprika or chile powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Toothpicks

Prepare two different preparations of potatoes - one for the cross, one for the man. You won't need a lot of turmeric to color your man, so start by adding a teaspoon to your mixing pot and see.

You'll want to pipe these out of a plastic bag (with the corner cut) or a very large-sized pastry bag. It takes a little practice to figure out the right amount of pressure you'll need to apply - especially if you didn't fully mash the garlic and potato.

Now the wicked[ly fun] part: add thorny crown, the five stigmata, and a spear (toothpick) for extra gore.

OIL YOUR BAKING PAN - crucial to remove an intact Jesus. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees, allow to cool slightly, then use two or more sets of hands to carefully transport your savior to your plate. I promise, your guests will never forget this ham:

Ahh, just look at him. Who needs Peeps when you've got the Lord? Happy Easter time, everybody. ...And no, I didn't have too much to drink last night for Purim.

Update: Here they are...risen from the cave. Deeeelicious.
To refresh the stigmata, I recommend some hot sauce or another application of paprika. A toi de jouer!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

There's MSG in my Goldfish?

Not that I allow myself to keep things like Goldfish in the house (okay, they may enter the house, but they certainly don't stick around long enough to be considered anything like "pantry food"), but this article by food writer Julia Moskin of the New York Times made me wonder:

Do I have MSG-laden foodstuffs in my house?

A quick inventory of the fridge:

Okay, so far, no MSG. ...but I'm not giving up that easily.

I've read Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats and Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilmemma, I saw Super Size Me, I keep Marion Nestle's Food Politics bedside (okay, haven't read Skinny Bitch, but it's on the list)...I've been vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, had whole-foods-only-itis, cut out wheat and soy, even gave up my delicious and deadly nightshades for a while.

But MSG? I didn't think so.

Do I suffer from an ongoing nourishment identity crisis? There's enough here for a book - forthcoming...haha - but my non-medical opinion would definitely be YES. There's a reason why, after growing up eating frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets, PopTarts (ick, ick!) big-box cereals, non-organic dairy (skim milk, string cheese), green apples, and - the curveball, folks - broccoli, I was so drawn to the dietary habits of this nation of thin, happy, well-fed wonders. Heck, I even dated one for a year and seriously considered running away with him permanently to his Mediterranean isle and subsisting solely on châtaigne until death do us part.

Mom, I love you, but I have not inherited from you any ritual of the table, any sense of balance, nor anything close to a week's worth of healthy meal options. You have shared with me a scant few recipes (some that I plan on showcasing here - thanks, Mama). Or perhaps you were until now totally ignorant of my duplications, as I've always been one to discretely observe and copy - the highest form of flattery, right?

The worst advice to give an anxious, depressed 19-year old, full of despair and too many brownies after breaking up with her first real soul mate when asked about how to lose weight:

"Why don't you keep a food diary, dear?"

Baaaaad idea.

Yes, I got past the legal voting age without ever having to worry about dieting thanks in no small part to a racing metabolism and a strict regimen of soccer, doodling, and oversleeping - aka missing the bus and having to run 1.5 miles to get to school on time. Anyway, I'll save my so typically American tale of dietary navel gazing for another post.

In the meantime, I mean to root out and destroy any hiding MSG agent. Note to self: beware of glutamate in its hidden forms: hydrolyzed soy proteins, autolyzed yeast.

Further inquiry:

Wait a second.
"Flavoring"? ...What's that?

...this may be the closest we'll get to MSG for now, but don't be dismayed; I've got a hunch that agent MSG will show his face sooner or later in my neighborhood.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Almond Lemon Cake

Update: Made this and, man, is it LEMONY!

Confession: I haven't made this yet, but lord knows I'm looking forward to my next dinner or house party when, after wowing my guests with my best - sometimes experimental, always flirtatious in flavor combinations - savory offerings, I pull this out of the kitchen. Their jaws will drop as I plop down or withdraw triumphant from this holy delivery.

All thanks to Clea's (alias Claire Chapoutot) smart, imaginative, and resourceful law of substitutions - or how to replace butter in cake baking (in French).

Here's the recipe, as I've translated from Clea:

Almond Lemon Cake
3 eggs
40 grams flour (e.g. organic non-bleached all purpose)
40 grams almond powder*
80 grams blond cane sugar**
60 grams almond butter***
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 lemons (juice and zest) [my note: for a mellowed flavor, go with ONE lemon]

A note on metric measurements: while conversion charts are available, I use a small food scale when following metric recipes. It's not always convenient, but I can vouch for its accuracy...and once you start measuring, you'll find it much easier then sifting, scooping, and leveling with a curved ($#^!) butter knife.

*I make my own by blanching almonds in the oven, then processing in my Cuisinart
**I use Alter Eco's Fair Trade Cane Sugar
***I use Trader Joe's Raw Unsalted Almond Butter

Preheat oven to 170°C (325-350°F). Separate the whites from the egg yolks. Beat yolks with sugar until frothy.

Add almond butter and lemon juice, stir vigorously, then add almond powder, flour, baking powder, and lemon zest.

(I don't have a zester, so I peel the lemons using a veggie peeler, and then finely chop with a big bad ol knife. Try to avoid the white stuff as much as you can.)

Beat egg whites until stiff, then delicately incorporate into the batter. Pour into a greased 9-inch cake or tart pan and cook for approximately 25 minutes. Check that the cake is set by inserting the point of a knife into the center. Allow to cool completely before serving, and remove from pan before serving.

More updates: Because I couldn't wait another week to make this - and needed to test-bake it before serving to guests, anyway - here it is in all its delicious glory:

I was initially worried about the quantity of lemon zest - the zest of TWO whole lemons seemed like an awful lot. But once i had beat the egg whites to triple in size, froufrou like a poodle, and gently folded them into the rest of the batter...oh my goodness! This is good! And baked? Even better! Hope you'll try this one and let me know what you think. In a perfect world (ahem, summer), I would serve this with fresh raspberries or homemade raspberry sorbet...or a raspberry macaron from LaDurée. Formidable!
Merci, Penelope!

Comfort Sushi - Colorful and Vegan

This sushi recipe is inspired by Renee Loux Underkoffler's Living Cuisine. While her cookbook emphasizes raw foods, this recipe combines cooked, dried, fermented, toasted, and raw foods: rice, carrot, avocado, nori, balsamic vinegar, cumin, black and white sesame seeds.

But I prefer to think of it in the following context: simple and elegant comfort food.

When paired with homemade "pickled" ginger (not really pickled, but it comes close), wasabi, and organic shoyu (soy sauce), this vegetarian - actually, vegan - sushi is a light and healthy meal, and goes well with the usual suspects: miso soup, salad, homemade (!!) tempura, sake, and fish.

Cook 1 cup sticky rice (I use Alter Eco's Fair Trade Purple Jasmine Rice) and prep vegetables: slice 3 to 4 carrots into matchsticks and marinate in balsamic vinegar; pit and peel 1 avocado, slice into smallish pieces, and season with cumin.

Once rice is a point, sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds over rice, and stir until the rice becomes sticky or "glutinous." Set aside to cool long enough so you don't burn your fingers during the next step.

Lay out 1 piece of nori (sheets of dried seawood found in Asian food stores) on a large cutting board. Spread thin layer of rice over 1/4 - 1/3 of nori's surface. Next add marinated carrots and avocado, then roll the best you can. Unless you have a proclivity for rolling things, getting the right technique takes time and practice. Wet outer edge with water - or saliva, as does my friend - to seal.

Sharpen your best kitchen knife and slice roll into small pieces.

Option for those who love sugar and fire:
Peel and thinly slice fresh ginger root into bite-sized pieces. Toss into a saucepan, pour in enough rice wine vinegar to cover ginger, heat on high, and stir continuously. After a few minutes, sprinkle some brown sugar over the ginger and continue to cook until sugar dissolves in vinegar. Be careful when cooking to not get vinegar steam in your eyes - this can burn. Continue to cook until ginger flavor has mellowed enough for your tastes. This will mean that you have to pluck out a piece now and then to check the ginger's "heat." But do be careful - you don't want to burn your tongue.