12 January 2021: Vegan Pressure Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Since our COVID isolation, Adrien and I have been sharing cooking duties more frequently. For us, it’s a fun way to cook together or to be on your own. The Chef comes up with the meal and the sous chef either assists or enjoys an adult beverage. Guess which was my role?

This recipe was one that Adrien prepped for us, and it is delicious. And vegan. Sorry Andouille fans – no sausage here, just plenty of great flavors. We cut the recipe in half (the original serves 6) , and still had plenty for four main course servings.

Originally found in the New York Times Food section, the recipe directions include things such as garlic powder and onion powder. I’ve included them in the ingredient list, but we did not use either as we prefer to not used dried powder flavorings unless the fresh is unavailable. Also, even with a longer cooking time the beans were still a bit more firm than we would have liked. So, up the cooking time in the pressure cooker or do as one of the recipe commenters suggests: soak the beans.

Vegan Pressure Cooker Red Beans and Rice from Sarah DiGregorio, NYTimes

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon white or yellow miso paste
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (did not use)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (did not use)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage (optional)
  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans (no need to soak – however, that is something I would do on a repeat)
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  •  Cooked rice, for serving
  •  Sliced scallions, for serving
  •  Louisiana-style hot sauce, for serving

Method

  1. Turn on the sauté setting of a 6- to 8-quart electric pressure cooker and heat the oil. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until limp and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the celery and bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, miso paste, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne and sage (if using). Grind in a generous amount of black pepper and add 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir well to combine all the ingredients, then turn off the sauté setting.
  3. Add the beans, bay leaves, thyme and 5 1/2 cups water. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cook on high pressure until the beans are creamy, 50 minutes to 1 hour (we felt this time wasn’t long enough – adjust accordingly OR presoak the beans).
  4. Turn off the pressure cooker and allow the pressure to reduce naturally for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually and open the lid.
  5. Add the soy sauce, and season to taste with salt and cayenne. Using a fork, mash some of the beans against the side of the pressure cooker to make the mixture creamy. It will continue to thicken as it sits, or you can turn on the sauté setting and let the mixture bubble for a few minutes to thicken.
  6. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Top the beans with hot cooked rice and scallions; serve with hot sauce.

04 January 2021: Jim Leahy’s No Knead Bread

I’ve been a home bread baker for most of my adult life and, especially now as more home bakers are interested in breads, I’ve been experimenting with different loaves. This one – a No Knead Bread developed by Sullivan Street Bakery‘s Jim Lahey is the bake I return to most frequently. It uses a list of simple ingredients and, with a little forward planning, the rise time is not a roadblock.

Usually when I’m putting together this dough, I start in the late afternoon the day before I intend to bake. Doing so allows most of the rising of 18 hours (I do think the longer rise time makes a difference) to happen while I’m asleep. I do the reshaping, preheating, and baking the next morning.

This recipe was originally shared in the New York Times by Mark Bittman. After it was originally published, NYT Food readers shared some suggestions for homebakers which are part of this recipe published in the Times. I’ve incorporated my own adjustment to baking based on what I learned from America’s Test Kitchen (those tweaks are in bold italics below).

Over the last few years, I have come to realize how important weighing ingredients like flour is to successful baking. While consistent bakes are often at the whim of the weather (how humid, how warm the air temperature), I strongly recommend using a food scale for weighing ingredients which makes the time investment in turning out a quality loaf more of a certainty.

Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread

Ingredients
  • 3 ⅓ cups/430 grams all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  •  Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed

Method

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons/390 milliliters water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.
  4. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. Here’s where I use some baking tips learned from America’s Test Kitchen’s version of a No-Knead Bread: tear off a piece of parchment big enough to hold the ball of dough (about 12×14 or so). Put the parchment into a 10-12 inch fry pan and allow the dough to rest on top of the parchment (covered loosely with a piece of plastic). If you like your bread dusted with flour or toasted sesame seeds, this is the time to do that.
  5. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. And here’s another modification if you are using parchment: TURN THE TEMPERATURE DOWN TO 425 degrees when you are ready to put the dough into the dutch oven (or whatever you are using). Paper could ignite if you don’t turn the temperature down.
  6. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

23 December 2020: Egg-Free Cutout Cookies

One of my fondest childhood food memories is of the big rectangular tin of cutout cookies my Aunt Eleanor used to make for the four of us each Christmas and Easter. She had collected an impressive array of cutout shapes which, when I had to downsize, went to another family member. I love her recipe – which includes a box of lemon or orange gelatin as one of the cups of sugar.

I wanted to keep this memory going with our granddaughter who has an egg allergy, so my Aunt’s recipe needed to be replaced. Fortunately, many cooks and bakers are replacing or eliminating eggs these days, so the choices were plentiful; however, this was the recipe that I used for this year’s holiday bake and it is delightful – the website, Safely Delish, has quite a nice collection of allergy-friendly recipes.

There is nothing more fun than decorating cookies with a toddler! When I say sugar goes everywhere, believe me – sugar in shoes, on fingers and in every possible nook and cranny. Any cleanup is definitely worth the fun and laughs. Looking forward to our next session and more cookie decorating!

Egg Free Cut Out Cookies from Safely Delish

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened slightly
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream together butter, sugar, milk and vanilla in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until combined. Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for about 30 minutes (I put the dough aside overnight – you can do this, but you may need to allow the dough to come up in temperature a bit in order to roll it out).
  5. On parchment paper (used a silicon mat) roll dough out to 1/4-1/3 inch thickness. If the dough warms up too much during the process, refrigerate rolled dough an additional 10-20 minutes before cutting shapes).
  6. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Press one side in sugar or sprinkles if desired (I did not do this as we wanted to save for decorating day) Re-roll any remaining dough for additional cutouts.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes depending on cookie shape, size, and thickness. Allow to cool on the pan for at least 5 minutes before transferring to wire cooking rack. Cool completely before frosting.


20 December 2020: Union Square’s Chocolate Biscotti

Each holiday season, I choose a biscotti recipe – or two – to make for my family as a way to honor my Sicilian heritage. This year’s bake comes from New York’s Union Square Cafe and melds chocolate, espresso and white chocolate (the original calls for milk chocolate). The condo filled with the aroma of dark chocolate and espresso which, for me, was transformative. I honestly don’t think there are any two flavors the complement each other more than chocolate and coffee.

I made a few tweaks to the baking instruction: I like to use white chocolate with a cookie that is already off the charts in chocolate flavor. I also use the baking shortcut of standing up each cookie for the second bake. To me, it saves having to flip cookies from one side to the other and gives a really even bake. I also would recommend creating four dough logs on the first bake – the yield will be closer to the 60 in the original recipe and the dough does seem to spread out quite a bit. However, to honor Union Square’s recipe, I’ve included their original recipe and method below.

No matter how you bake them, they are delicious.

Union Square’s Chocolate Biscotti Recipe courtesy of NYT Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ¾ cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon double-strength brewed espresso (I used espresso powder)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 7 ½ ounces (1 rounded cup) small milk chocolate chips (I used white chocolate)
  • 1 large egg, beaten and mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash (don’t skip this!)
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12- by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick liner. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda; set aside.
  2. Using a heavy-duty electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter for 3 to 5 minutes at medium speed. Add vanilla extract and espresso. Mix for 10 seconds. Add eggs one at a time, mixing for 10 seconds at medium-low speed after each addition. Add sifted flour mixture and mix at low speed until dough comes together, 1 to 2 minutes. Add chocolate chips and mix just until chips are evenly incorporated, 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide in two, shaping into balls. Form each ball into a log 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly. Brush tops of logs with egg wash and sprinkle each log with 1 tablespoon raw sugar. (Here’s where I took some advice on the recipe website: CHILL THE DOUGH – wrap in wax paper or cling wrap and allow it to chill to make handling easier.)
  4. Bake until biscotti have spread, have a few cracks and bounce back slightly when pressed with fingertips, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch slices. Place each slice with a cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or nonstick liner. Bake until firm, crisp and slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or freeze for up to three months.

15 December 2020: Nut Brittle

I remember tins of peanut brittle although I don’t remember exactly where they came from so when King Arthur Baking sent out this Microwave Nut Brittle recipe in a weekly email blast, it seemed like an opportunity to try something from long-ago memory.

When I think of handmade gifts for giving at the holidays, I’ve shied away from making nut brittle, especially now, as I don’t do enough candy-making to warrant having a candy thermometer in my tool drawer. Also, the making part of this involves corn syrup, something I don’t often keep in the pantry.

With a thought that perhaps COVID lockdowns are making me a bit nostalgic, I decided to give this candy a try. It looks similar to the peanut brittle we used to get out of those tins and by preparing it with a microwave, it seemed pretty easy to pull off. The original post on King Arthur’s website contains nutritional information.

King Arthur Baking Microwave Nut Brittle

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (156g) light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups (213g) salted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. Spray a wooden spoon (or other heat-proof stirring implement) with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly grease a 10″ x 15″ or larger baking sheet, or line it with parchment.
  2. Mix together the sugar and corn syrup in a large microwave-safe bowl and stir until well combined; the mixture will be stiff and hard to stir. Be sure to use a large enough bowl; the sugar/corn syrup should fill it no more than 1/4 to 1/3 full.
  3. Microwave the sugar mixture uncovered on high power for 5 minutes; it will bubble vigorously.
  4. Add the peanuts and butter, and stir well to combine. Speed is key! The cooler the mixture becomes the harder it will be to stir.
  5. Replace the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 2 to 4 minutes, until the mixture turns a nice medium-brown caramel color. Start watching carefully around the 2-minute mark, and remove when the caramel color is achieved. (I found 2 minutes to be the right timing)
  6. Add the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will bubble furiously upon the addition of these ingredients — this is what gives the candy its hallmark airy texture. (This is also why you need to use a large bowl.) Stir quickly to combine. The finished mixture will look creamy and caramelized.
  7. Working quickly, pour the mixture onto your prepared baking sheet and spread it as evenly as possible. If you end up with an uneven spread, don’t worry — the candy should still set up nicely, even in the thicker areas.
  8. Once the brittle has set and cooled (30 to 60 minutes), break it into pieces.

12 Dec. 2020: Cranberry Nut Chocolate Bark

And just like that, it’s time to start Holiday Baking again. This year, I’ve made fewer cookies, and included some other confections in my repertoire. King Arthur Baking share a couple of recipes over the last week that I am working on for family and friend homemade gifts. The contrast of cranberries, roasted pecans, and sweet chocolate, easy and quick way it comes together and a decent yield (2 dozen pieces) makes it a keeper! Visit the KAB recipe post for the nutritional information – and why spoil such a good treat, but there you have it.

Cranberry Nut Chocolate Bark from King Arthur Baking

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup toasted, diced pecans
  • 2 2/3 cup chopped semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate, melted
  • 2 2/3 cup chopped white chocolate, melted.

Method

  1. Toss the cranberries and pecans together. Set aside.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate and spread it into and 8″ x 12″ oval on parchment paper.
  3. Allow the chocolate to set, but not harden completely.
  4. Melt the white chocolate and mix it with about 3/4 cup of the cranberries and pecans.
  5. Spread the cranberry/nut/white chocolate over the dark chocolate.
  6. Sprinkle the rest of the nuts and fruit on top, pressing them in gently.
  7. Allow the candy to cool until hardened, then break it into chunks.

06 December 2020: Crustless Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche

I’ve discovered Skinny Taste as a great resource for when I don’t want to bother with trying to adjust higher calorie recipes for something to eat. This quiche – crustless no less – came together beautifully and at 174 calories per serving, it’s a winner for breakfast, lunch, or a late dinner.

Crustless Broccoli & Cheddar Quiche from Skinny Taste

Ingredients:

  • Cooking Spray (I used coconut oil)
  • 3 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup half and half cream
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a pie dish with oil.
  2. Steam the chopped broccoli florets in the microwave with 1 TBSP water until tender crip and green but not mushy – about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Evenly spread the broccoli in the dish and top it evenly with the grated cheddar cheese.
  4. Make the custad mixture by whisking together the milk, half and half, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour the custard into the dish and bake 35 to 40 minutes until the center is set.
  5. Cut the quiche into 6 pieces and serve.

Nutrition information found on the recipe website.


28 October 2020: Carrot-and-Fennel Soup

The New York Times has an extensive recipe collection that I’ve often used when looking for ideas for cooking. If you have a subscription to the Times, the recipe box feature is worth the price of a NYT subscription, and their newsletter, What to Cook This Week, is an extraordinary resource.

With cooler Fall temperatures setting in, this week I’ve begun to put more soups and stews into our meal-planning rotations. With some beautiful carrots and a fennel bulb in our CSA Share, this recipe for Carrot-and-Fennel Soup from Amanda Hesser was truly serendipitous.

I did make a modification by substituting 0% Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream which didn’t feel as if it impacted the texture or flavor.

Carrot-and-Fennel Soup (Amanda Hesser)

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I subbed in 0% Greek Yogurt)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. In a 3 quart heavy saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy. Add the fennel slices and cook, stirring, until softened.
  2. Add the carrots and garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Pour in 6 cups of water and season with salt. Simmer, covered, until the carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the orange juice, sour cream and reserved fennel fronds. Use the back of a spoon to mash some of the carrots and fennel, but leave the soup chunky.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.

Noomers: full nutritional information on the NYT recipe website. Calories = 120 (for 1/6 of the recipe)


19 October 2020: Romanesco Cauliflower Pasta with Olives, Capers, and Parsley

We’re nearing the end of our 20-week Summer CSA and finding more Fall veggies in our share. This week, we were introduced to a new one: Romanesco. To me, it’s odd shape and more nutty flavor reminded me of cauliflower, but it seemed to hold up better in cooking. Not sure how to deal with prepping this vegetable? A Beautiful Plate, the source for this recipe, has a great how-to.

Romanesco Cauliflower Pasta with Olives, Capers & Parsley, from A Beautiful Plate

Yield 4 servings (428 calories)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of Romanesco (or cauliflower)
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 heaping cut pitted kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 TBSP capers, roughly chopped
  • large pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 heaping cup chopped Italian parsley leaves, lightly packed (more for garnishing)
  • 1 lb dried linguini or fettucine pasta (we ended up needing only half pound)
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for serving (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with rack in center position.
  2. Trim and discard the base of the Romanesco and cut it in half, then quarters. Standing each quarter upright & holding your knife at an angle, trim the florets from the core. Most of the florets will fall off or can easily be separated with your fingers (you want the florets to be no larger than an inch in diameter); cut any larger florets in half with a knife to match the size of the other florets.
  3. Place the florets on a half-sheet pan and toss with 1 TBSP of olive oil, kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Distribute the florets, cut-side down, into an even layer, making sure the florets aren’t touching each other if possible. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway, or until carmelized and tender.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring continuously, or until fragrant. Do not allow it to gain color (this can happen quickly!). Add the kalamata olives, capers, and red pepper flakes to the pan and saute for an additional minute or until warm. Taste for salt and pepper. Add half of the parsley to the skillet and keep the mixture warm – off the heat – as you cook the pasta.
  5. Boil the pasta until it is al dente, reserving a cup of cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and add the kalamata olive and caper mixture and roasted Romanesco. Toss the mixutre together gently, adding the remaining chopped parsley, and a touch of extra virgin olive oil and reserved cooking water if dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve immediately and garnish with chopped parsley and parmigiana cheese as desired.

More detailed nutrition information can be found on the original recipe’s website.


05 Oct. 2020: Vegetable Cabbage Soup

We’ve been enjoying our CSA Share from Farmer Dave for the last 3 months. This week, however, we were presented with one ginormous cabbage for which just two of us were somewhat at a loss for how to use it up. Yes, we did find a way to blanche and freeze part of it, but as condo dwellers, our freezer space is at a minimum. Here, however, is a great way to use half of a head of cabbage: soup!

Vegetable Cabbage Soup by Lauren Miyashiro

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 15-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 large head cabbage, chopped
  • 1 15-oz. can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 TBSP freshly chopped parsley (more for garnish)

Method

  1. In large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions, carrots and celery, and season with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Cook stirring often, until vegetables are soft (5-6 minutes. Stir in beans, garlic, and thyme and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth and water (I withheld the water until I knew I needed to add it) and bring to a simmer.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and cabbage and simmer until cabbage is wilted – about 6 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in red pepper flakes, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with more parsley if using.

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