3/29/2012

tom yum goong

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Just a quick mid-week entry to draw attention to my newly redefined love for Thai food. We stopped at Tom Yum Goong on one particularly beautiful spring day. (The website claims their second location, the one we visited, is currently closed. I am here to report that it is in fact open.) And though I have experienced Thai cuisine here and there a few times before, I now have a new favorite dish, all encompassing cultures included: pad preaw wan, which was a delicately stir-fried mix of zucchini, bell peppers, scallions, pineapple (zing!), and tofu in a sweet-and-sour sauce. Perfection.



3/26/2012

vegetarian dumplings

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Almost always, my previously non-vegetarian days included, if we were to order take-out from the local Chinese restaurant, or the many times we all crowded into a booth at the downtown China Wok, where the sweet proprietor would always serve up free sugared doughnuts and wontons, I have been known to ask for a plateful of vegetable dumplings, steamed or fried, and sometimes both. I'm unsure if it's the perfectly folded corners or the salty, tangy dipping sauce. Personally, I think the scallions on top are what make it sing.

So the other day while perusing the local grocery store, when cute Colin stumbled across refrigerated wonton wrappers, of course I was excited to attempt our own version of the dish, sauce included. And yes, fine, we did not make our own dumpling wrappers. If you, like us and everyone, don't want to make them either (or for whatever reason, can't), you can find them in the produce section of your grocery store. Conveniently, they are located right next to the super firm tofu, which you will also need.

We adapted this recipe from my new favorite food blog, and apparently everyone's favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. I totally enjoy Smitten Kitchen's writer (and chef!) Deb for her obvious passion for food, her knowing voice, her attempts to perfect everyone else's recipe, and her dedication to what is undeniably delicious yet devoid of highbrow ingredients or methods. I mean, carrot cake pancakes? Come to ME. We will have to try those next or soon.

Anyway, Smitten Kitchen took her dumpling inspiration from Alton Brown, and her remix (and ours) can be found here while Alton's [slightly different one] can be found here. See that? And the ingredients are:

1/2 pound of firm (we used super-firm) tofu
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
35-40 small wonton wrappers (See, she didn't make hers either!)
1/3 cup of water


The first thing to do is press the tofu, to get as much of the moisture out as possible. Deb notes that this recipe comes out very liquid-y, which has potential for a big, ol' mess when it comes time to steam: sticking everywhere. SO, press away with this method: put the tofu on a plate lined with a paper towel. Place another paper towel and another plate on top, using a weight of some sort (can of tomatoes, we used) to push down. It should be ready in about a half an hour. But you, busy doing other things, will hardly notice.

In the meantime, you could be grating the carrots, chopping the peppers and scallions, measuring out soy sauce, or admiring the delicate green color of the Napa cabbage. Such an interesting and beautiful vegetable, that particular cabbage, with its curly yellow and white stalks.



When the tofu is de-liquified (not entirely, of course, but you get the point), cut it up into quarter-inch cubes. Gently combine in a medium sized bowl with the carrots, peppers, cabbage, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, egg, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Whew.


It's now time to set up your steamer on the stovetop so you can start forming dumplings! (I hear these can also be pan-fried, though I claim no authority on that particular method.) You'll need about a 1/2 an inch of water simmering over medium heat. The folding step is a little bit of a process, so don't jump the gun too early if you want to take your time in getting the perfect creases. One word of advice: it's harder than it looks BUT, by about your tenth try you should start seeing a method forming, however clumsily. I speak for myself only.


The two most important tips in forming your dumplings: 1. Brush the edges of the wonton wrappers with water (or egg white) in order to ensure they hold together and 2. Don't overfill them! About half a teaspoon of mixture is just enough for each dumpling. And yes, that is exactly how you come out to having about forty of these little guys.



About 8 to 10 dumplings will fit into the steamer (or pan) at once. Though Smitten Kitchen's Deb noted the dumpling's tendency to stick to the surface, we took Alton's advice and lightly sprayed the steamer with non-stick vegetable spray. They will, however, stick to each other no matter what, so do your best to keep them from touching in both the steamer and during preparation.


The dumplings should be fully cooked in about 10 to 12 minutes. While Alton suggests that you keep them in a preheated oven (at 200 degrees) between batches, we came up with a different solution: eat them! I have to say, these came out really, really good. Perhaps not the most bee-yoo-tiful dumplings you ever saw, but once they met with the steam and the sauce, it was almost difficult to tell if they came from our kitchen or a white take-out box. Yum!



3/21/2012

stockton farmer's market

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Oh, spring. So glad we can meet again, this time with bicycles and Sundays out and pink and white trees blooming everywhere.

All of these wonderful things combined, with the added sweetness of cute Colin, on a weekend jaunt (it's true!) to the Stockton Farmer's Market, via bike, naturally, in Stockton, New Jersey. This indoor market, with the luxury of being open rain or shine and year round, boasts a variety of vendors including fresh produce (of course), artisan breads, coffee, homemade preserves, and more. (Okay, and yes, even items such as organic beef, should you wonder.)

While we did manage to make a meager purchase of some adorable stubby little carrots and a handful of purple-red beet roots, greens still intact, I admit that this venture was almost entirely steeped in sugary treats. After all, the seven mile bike ride left us feeling ever-so-slightly entitled. Right?

A Snickers cupcake from Felix's Caketeria, which was magically identical to this favorite candy bar of mine, all without being overly sweet yet still masterfully indulgent.


Next we have two gorgeously glamorous hand-crafted candy bars, courtesy of The Painted Truffle, a decadently addictive artisan chocolate company. Always handy with free samples (to get you hooked!), the Painted Truffle vendors won't let you go by without tasting a bite of something sweet. If you linger long enough, they will force upon you (oh please) the most ah-may-zing little thimbleful of drinking chocolate. Kill me, please. With candy.

The ubër-dark maze bar, front and center, is The Painted Truffle's Mayan bar, a perfect balance of cocoa, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. The other bar, a chocolate more my speed and shade, is a toffee pecan milk bar. Each the size of an index finger, they are just enough of a treat with zero looking back.


Oh my heavens, whenever I am lucky enough to have this next treat, it's everything I can do to not perk up as if I just saw the clouds part with an angelic chorus beckoning me on towards this French culinary delight: my absolute favorite dessert, THE MACARON. Also from The Painted Truffle, bless them, we decided to go with a festively adorable box of six, with many flavors from which to choose. The ones we landed on, in color coordinated order: pistachio, vanilla-coconut (DEAD), sea salt caramel (this flavor is EVERYWHERE, is it not?), chocolate-hazelnut, raspberry, and lemon. Swoon.


So there you have it. A visit to a farmer's market that was a little more confectionary than agriculture-y, but what can I say? I promise we didn't eat it all in one sitting. But I'm still not sorry, no, not one bit. As a matter of fact, I never am.


3/19/2012

paella primavera

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One recent Sunday afternoon, we went leafing through new cookbooks for inspiration. Though this particular post didn't come from one of these hardbacks, heavy with future dinners, one book that called out to us from the shelves of one of my favorite stores (okay, okay, my favorite one EVER), Anthropologie, could not go unmentioned. While I currently and constantly lust after just about everything this store carries, my obsession does not end with the perfectly tailored jackets and one-of-a-kind dresses. Rather, it overflows into the other areas that they sweeten with uniqueness, the furniture, the hardware, and yes, the room of all rooms, the kitchen.

Though I imagine I will one day do all of my cooking in one (or twelve) of their coquettish frill-and-flower covered aprons (THIS ONE), all of which could pass for vintage summer dresses, for now, owning an adorable pair of elephant salt and pepper shakers will have to do. And flower-painted measuring cups.

Getting to the point now, the book that captivated us is called Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, a chef whose creations are all inspired by his Mediterranean heritage, a similarity I can both recognize and appreciate. (Book can also be found on Amazon for a fraction of the price, as most all things can.) Suggestions and results to come from Ottolenghi soon.

Alright, alright, enough gushing. Now on to the culinary masterpiece that we attempted this time around, which came from a revisit to the March issue of Vegetarian Times. What they suggested to us was a vegetarian's version of a Spanish paella, most often and traditionally done as a seafood dish. Not so for cute Colin and I. The ingredients can be found here:



Though a paella staple, we decided to make due without the saffron threads, due to the dollar signs this spice normally entails. Other substitutions include brown basmati rice rather than Valencia white rice (a swap we were initially skeptical about, but that turned out quite beautifully) and no black olives, which are labeled as optional anyhow. So we opted out and went for all greenies.



Begin by heating the olive oil in a nonstick pan. We chose to use the wok for this endeavor, seeing as the list of ingredients was long, and the deep shape of the wok seemed appropriate for this dish. If you are snazzy enough to own your own paella pan, then you are in good shape to remaster this recipe at any time. If not, you can wok it up as we did, or simply reach for your biggest skillet. Not even a true Spaniard would know the difference.

Next, add the broccoli, peppers, and green onions and cook for about five minutes.



Now it is time to stir in the broth (water works if you find no broth in your pantry; adding a little extra spice will make up for the lack of flavor), garlic, and saffron, should you be willing to spend the ca$h. One of these days, I will be able to afford saffron, it's true.

Once this mixture has begun to boil, which shouldn't take long at all, sprinkle the rice over the ingredients and cover, allowing to simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Now, if you're anything like me, you may be raising an eyebrow over a rice that normally takes 45 minutes to cook being fully prepared in less than half the time. I know, I know. It's weird, and ever-so-slightly more al dente than usual, but it works.


After about ten minutes, sprinkle the peas (MY FAVORITE VEGETABLE EVER, IF THE RECIPE HAS PEAS, I'M IN), tomatoes, and olives over the rice. Cover again, and cook for about eight minutes more. Then, remove from heat and let rest, still covered, for about five minutes before serving. After this, you are free to add salt and pepper to taste, if you'd like. By now, your dish should be looking something like this:


To serve, take the lemon and slice it up into wedges (enough for each plate, and this serves about six, to have a wedge or two). Spoon it up into bowls, where it works best, and garish with the parsley and the lemon slices.



There you have it, and it tastes just as lovely as it looks. A little bite of citrus, the bright freshness of the parsley and the vegetables and rice, gently simmered in the broth. Warm yet light, sure to be a summery dinner staple, seeing as Vegetarian Times suggests seasonal swaps for the main vegetables in this dish, a trick that can work for endless variations on most any meal.

Cute Colin & his pita smile, which makes a great side addition for dipping.

3/17/2012

going green

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Here's to a St. Patrick's Day free of green beer (heavens), and full of Jamba Juice's Apples N' Greens fruit and veggie smoothie. Which is looking a tad gray due to the addition of whey protein powder. Otherwise, this complete meal in a cup is a blend of apples, peaches, mangos, bananas, and GREEN veggie juice that contains: carrots, spinach, bell pepper, kale, something we are all encouraged to eat more of here, and spirulina.

In case you were wondering, spirulina is a micro-algae. CHEERS.


3/14/2012

heirloom-y.

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The solid proof that I am not only of Mediterranean descent, but also a true girl of The Garden State: my obsession with the heirloom, or any, tomato. Oh, and feta cheese. Summer can't come soon enough.


3/12/2012

lemon madeleines

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As we already know, I am a sucker for all things that can be categorized as pastry, or just simply dessert, even more so if said treat makes us all feel a little more cultured, like we should be having it with espresso at a sidewalk café with our pinkies in the air, talking about things like the Louvre.

While we are miles (about a million) from a Parisian side street, there is one simple and delicate cookie-sized cake that will momentarily transport you there in about two, possibly three, bites: the madeline. The traditional madeleine, a miniature French sponge cake, usually only requires a very basic recipe, some variations including finely ground almonds or lemon zest, and of course, the specialized baking pan to produce that lovely seashell shape. OR, as it appears to me, a teeny-tiny kitten paw. Aw: adorable AND delicious.


While I currently have my own madeleine pan, one of the extra-small variety from William Sonoma, my dear cute Colin also owns two of his own pans, one metal, one silicone. (Sheesh, he's perfect.) Both work equally well, we have found, though the silicone pans, because deeper, make for a larger cookie.

Because we embarked on this baking adventure in celebration of my grandmother's 80th birthday, and the rule of not showing up to a party empty-handed, we went with one of her favorite flavors, and one that works so beautifully in this light dessert: lemon.


The recipe we adapted originally came from Martha Stewart. Though my grandmother is often one to insist that Martha's recipes always include a minimum commitment of two days or an ingredient unheard of and unfound, we were pleased to find her madeline variety to be simplistic to the point of perfection. So, ingredients:

3/4 cup of unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted, plus more for the pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. (Note: You could prrrobably do this when you have to let the batter rest for thirty minutes. Just saying.) Butter two (or, as we did, three) madeline pans and set aside. I found the easiest method is to put a little butter on a piece of wax paper and go to town. Go to town minding the crevices, that is.

Next, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Cake flour is already very soft and fine, but this step just ensures an even mixture of ingredients, as well as channeling out any hidden lumps.


Now the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice all hop into the bowl of an electric mixture. Using the paddle attachment, mix on a medium-high speed until a palish yellow and thick texture form, which will take about five minutes. After this, mix in the butter. Then, using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture.



Now comes the rest-for-thirty-minutes phase, which seems to me, as I mentioned, would be the more ideal time to preheat the oven. Not that this process takes an awfully long time, but why waste? The resting makes sense, also, when you are finished mixing the batter. After that half-hour it will look both fluffier and firmer. Ta-da.

Using your small scooping utensil of choice (we opted for an appropriately sized melon-baller), now it is time to fill the pans. These cakes will puff up to about double their size, so no need to fill the trays to the brim. One or two little scoops will do, leaving the edges free, and the results are nothing short of magical.



Now for a quick bake time (my favorite!) of only seven to eight minutes, rotating halfway through to ensure evenness. Look for golden centers and (only slightly) browned edges.



Once removed from the oven, place on wire racks to cool. These little cakes are so airy that they cool brilliantly fast, which is another plus according to my impatient-feed-me standards. Because of all the pan-buttering, they should quite easily come out of the pans with some small encouragement from a fork, or simply flipping the pans gently and hoping for the best. (Unless the pans you use are exceptionally large, you should still have enough batter left for another batch. Or two.)

Once fully cooled, and when you are ready to serve, dust with confectioners sugar for an especially pretty treat. We were quite happy with the results of our first flavored madelines and, if I may say and despite the zillions of other available desserts, they were quite a hit during Gram's birthday celebration.




3/05/2012

broccoli + spinach + tahini soup

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If you can believe it, this may be one of the last soup recipes that Green Girl Eats sees for quite some time. Already into the first week of March, daylight savings time only around the corner, and that familiar scent of all things new, of coming warmth, of change, and dozens of fresh new varieties coming into season. Springtime is a vegetarian's menu dream come true.

Still, winter or no winter (and truth be told, I'll take none), I've discovered yet another note-worthy and fairly simple soup recipe that is chock-full of vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. This big bowl of green comes from the magazine Whole Living, to which I am now fully subscribed for the following year. A publication that aims for the balance of body and soul, this particular issue contains page after page of incorporating color into your diet, a skill most experts say will guarantee balanced nutrition. (That is, as long as you aren't basing your color choices on things like Twizzlers and Cheet-os. But you understand.)



So of course, hereee are all the necessary ingredients AND: perhaps you will be as surprised as I was to find that the element of creaminess in this soup does not come from, ahem, cream at all. Rather, it comes from tahini (swoon), which is basically a paste made from ground sesame seeds. In a word, yum.


1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 leek, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
4 cups water
1 bunch broccoli, chopped (6 cups = A LOT)
6 ounces baby spinach (also 6 cups!)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons tahini
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

And, of course, we also added two chopped carrots and one chopped red bell pepper. Because that's what we do.


Begin by heating the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leek and cook until tender/transparent, which will take about four minutes. (This is also when we added the carrots and bell pepper.)



Add the four cups of water (or vegetable stock, which we forgot to pick up at the store, DARN); bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the broccoli and cover. Cook for about two minutes, until bright bright green.



This is the point where the recipe instructs you to remove the pot from the stovetop. The reason for this is because once cooled, you are to purée the soup in batches using a blender. If you are going to go this route, swell. Turn off the heat and continue the instructions as follows. If you are going to use our method and go with an immersion blender, then it's perfectly okay to leave the stove on, as long as it remains at a simmer and not a boil. What a mess that would be. (Also, the immersion blender allows for more texture to remain in the dish, which turns out to only be a matter of personal preference.)

Next, while simmering, stir in the spinach, Parmesan, and tahini. NOW: this was the first crack we had at this recipe. While the six cups of broccoli and spinach (APIECE) seem huge, the end result is only about four servings. The recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons of tahini, but having tried it once, I could certainly add more on a second attempt. Possibly even double the tahini to four tablespoons, or even five if you really enjoy the taste of this condiment. Which I DO. I found that with only two tablespoons, while adding the expected creaminess of a broccoli soup, the actual tahini flavor got a little lost in the mix. Your call, darlings.


Once the spinach has wilted, which will happen almost immediately, take the immersion blender (a role best suited for cute Colin) and both carefully and slowly circle the pot until you've reached the desired smoothness. We left some larger pieces of broccoli intact, which happens to be my favorite.

All that is left now is to scoop it up into bowls, perhaps pair with the avocado toast recipe Whole Living provides, and serve. All in all, a very tasty soup, which could perhaps use some tweaking only in the tahini department. But otherwise, a total (and very green) success.