Sunday, November 15, 2009

Carrots! Carrots! Carrots!

I recently made a 3 tiered carrot cake and processed a bit too much carrot, so I found some ways to put the extra grated carrot to good use in two delicious ways...and by the way, I did not post the recipe for carrot cake. It was delicious, but carrot cake is only attractive/photogenic in the deft hands of a pastry chef!


I like an accompaniment to a sandwich or grilled/roasted meats and fish. Traditionally we have used potato salad, slaw and lately we have cleaved to a variety of salsas. Salsas have gained in popularity, largely because they wake up our taste buds and have more complexity of flavor and spice than traditional potato salads and slaw. They do require a few more ingredients than the accompaniment I am sharing today, which is why I love it. This salad was inspired by Phyllis Meras book, Carry-Out Cuisine. There is a recipe from McMead's a carry out shop that was in Coconut Grove, FL. It was a "Honey Glazed Carrot Salad," whose kick came from the healthy addition of dijon mustard and ginger. Of course, being the "adaptable" cook, I made some revisions to the original recipe, but kept the total amount of ingredients to 6 plus salt and pepper. I hope you try it with any grilled meat or fish and it is a great wake up topping for a grilled burger.

6 cups grated carrots
1 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1 T.+ freshly grated ginger, or 1 t. ground ginger
1/2 c. golden raisins
Juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Thoroughly mix all ingredients, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in refrigerator and enjoy. My favorite way to enjoy is with roast/grilled chicken, only to be topped as a hamburger topping. Scrumptious!

...And expanding on our "carrot" theme, my favorite/only daughter, Ashley, loves avocados! So with some left over grated carrot on hand, I decided to incorporate them into a vegetarian sandwich I knew she would enjoy. I used to make a variation on this sandwich many moons ago when I had a carry out shop. The difference then was that I used sprouts instead of lettuce, no whipped cream cheese and eliminated the Monterey Jack cheese. Sprouts scare me now, so I stay away from them. Color me coward!

The Californian Sandwich

Vegetarian sandwiches can truly be filling, flavorful and imaginative. The use of high fiber whole grain breads lend a density to the sandwich, and a good dressing helps. Because vegetables hold so much water, liquid oozing can attempt to turn your fresh and tasty sandwich into a soggy mess. Mayonnaise is not an effective barrier to this moisture, and while it does lend flavor to the sandwich it will not retard moisture seeping into the bread. This requires a bigger "fat" barrier that you can traditionally obtain with butter spread on both slices. I opted in this sandwich for a different profile, and used whipped cream cheese, in lieu of two fat laden ingredients like butter and cheese.

Ingredients: Serves One
2 slices whole wheat/whole grain bread of choice
1/2 - 3/4 cups of grated carrot
2 T. Whipped cream cheese
1 avocado, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Curly lettuce (arugula works well here also)
Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette


Smear whipped cream cheese on both slices of bread, and pile on grated carrots on one slice of bread.

Arrange the avocado slices on top of the carrots, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add your lettuce or arugula, top/close and enjoy your vegetarian sandwich!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Nut Bread With Molasses & Marsala

I really don't care for banana bread, at least I didn't before I perfected this recipe. The only reason I would have been motivated in the past to make banana bread is because I had over ripe bananas hanging around. I buy them for my morning cereal quite often, but some mornings it's a savory breakfast that wins out or I have oatmeal. Thus I look at those bananas that start to really freckle up and have that dilemma. Sometimes I peel them and wrap them in aluminum foil and put them in the freezer. They make an excellent snack that is good for you and if you talk yourself into it you can imagine you are eating banana ice cream. But more often than not, I already have some in the freezer and banana nut muffins or banana bread comes to mind.

In the past I have made banana bread, but I was like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, one was way too moist, one was way too dry, but this recipe is just right. This banana bread retained the correct amount of moisture, and is meltingly delicious and from hence forth I will be a banana bread fan! I love this recipe and I hope if you decide to try it you will love it too!


I started out knowing I would use bananas, flour, and sugar and oil. As for the flour, I try to use some whole wheat flour in most of my baking, when I can. In this recipe I used whole wheat and all purpose in a 50/50 ratio. I know most people give a greater ratio to the all purpose, but I tried it this way and it worked. When it came to oil/butter I have left butter behind in most of my cooking and opt for either canola oil or olive oil. Lately I have graduated to olive oil in my baking because it provides a textural quality to baked goods that I don't get from canola oil, and as long as it is not too fruity it compliments the flavor profile in the baked product. I know walnuts or some addition of nuts is traditional, but for me they would represent texture. The chocolate chips and molasses (cut back on the sugar a bit) were a definite flavor addition and because I was jotting notes and sipping a bit of marsala I just knew in my bones it would also work. Maybe I had sipped a wee bit too much Marsala, but it proved to be a genius addition if I do say so. Whereas some recipes call for the addition of buttermilk, I substituted the marsala as a liquid. My only concern was with the elimination of the buttermilk and its chemical action, should I add more baking soda? I didn't and it turned out just fine.

Preheat your oven to 325º
Oil/flour a 9x5x3 loaf pan
Total baking time 75-90 minutes

Dry ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, you may substitute melted butter, or canola oil
1/2 cup dark, unsulphured molasses, you may substitute an additional 1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 cup Marsala wine, you substitute 1/4 cup of buttermilk
2 large eggs, well beaten
4 ripe mashed bananas

Blend into final mixture:
6 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup well chopped walnuts

The Method:

Into a bowl sift all the "dry" ingredients and set aside.

Put olive oil, molasses, sugar, vanilla extract and wine into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 10 or more minutes until well "creamed" and sugars have dissolved. This step cannot be overworked so take your time here. Next add the beaten eggs and mix again to incorporate. When this is all blended, fold in the bananas and hand mix thoroughly.

Add the dry mixture to the mixing bowl of wet ingredients in 3 batches, stirring/folding until just blended. Then fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts and pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Place on a rack in the center of the preheated oven and bake until done. I tested mine with a wooden skewer, but at 75 minutes it was not quite there and left it in the oven the full 90 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, remove to a rack and cool completely.

I wrapped the bread in foil and left it at room temperature overnight, and do believe it tasted better the next day. The texture was great, the flavor was more complex with the molasses and marsala while the chocolate chips gave it a decadent tone that I usually didn't experience with banana bread.

My next iteration of this recipe will mix 1/2 chocolate chips and 1/2 toffee chips and that will be that!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Blue Jalapeno

As "brown" as most of my blog postings look, I love color! When recently asked to mix a drink to bring along to a BYO party some friends threw, I went to my bar and discovered it needed serious help. I had plenty of red and white wine, but the only liquor on the bar was a bottle of 1800 100% Agave Reposado tequila, some blue Curacao, Vermouth, and Angostura Bitters. What to do? When I tweeted asking for suggestions, suggested that I do something with jalapeno and @achenglovesfood (Ashley Cheng) sugggestedI mimic a drink from Toro Restaurant in Boston. I did my best to mingle the two suggestions. The result is the "Blue Jalapeno."

Serves 4

This is what I needed:



4 Chilled Martini Glasses

The ingredients::

1 Jalapeno Pepper, quartered and seeded
Two Lemons, removed peel for garnish avoiding the pith
One Lime, remove peel for garnish, avoiding the pith
8 oz 100% Agave Reposado Tequila
2 oz Blue Cracao
3 T. Superfine Sugar*
1 t. of Angostura Bitters
Red Sanding Sugar
Coarse Kosher Salt

*A lot of mixologists would use a simple syrup, I opted not to because I wanted to keep as much "kick" in this "tequini" as possible since I knew I would shake it over ice before servicing and it would get slightly diluted then. You certainly can adapt it to use simple syrup and I am sure it would work. To make the superfine sugar I simple put the granulated sugar in a mini food processor to break it down.

Here is what I did:

I juiced the lemons and lime, combined them with all the other ingredients, including the jalapeno pepper and let it macerate overnight to get some kick from the jalapeno and to thoroughly chill the mix.

To chill the martini glasses, rinse them under hot tap water and place them in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

To serve:

Remove martini glasses from freezer, run a cut lemon or lime around the rim and roll in a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of kosher salt and sanding sugar. Place cocktail mix into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until the shaker is chilled, strain into glasses and float lemon & lime peel and a slice of jalapeno.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Granola Granola Granola

Well it seems reasonable to continue with the love I have for grains. That being said, I love granola! However, I am an obsessive/compulsive label/ingredient reader, and I am often appalled at how much sugar and fat are hidden in store bought/prepared granolas. I stand for hours it seems at Whole Foods reading the nutritional content of each and every variety, rejecting many because a "portion" is 1/4 of a cup so that the calorie/fat count looks reasonable. Who are they fooling? Am I really going to put 1/4 cup of granola in my bowl?

I recently read Michael Ruhlman's blog about making your own granola. You know how you get the "kitchen hots" to make something, you know you have to adapt it because you don't have exactly the same ingredients in your pantry, but you are forging ahead anyway. Well that's how it was with this granola. I got the spirit of the task though. He proceeds with instructions on a Strawberry Banana Granola. Method: you process/blend fruit, in this case strawberries and bananas, sweeten it with honey and brown sugar add some canola oil and spices than toss with your grains. Once toasted in the oven you add your dried fruits. With this much control I could have a say so in the fat and sugar content, so I was greatly inspired to sally forth into granola making. Most of the other recipes I looked at for granolas slathered the grains with too much sugary sticky stuff, his recipe relied more heavily on fruit. I liked it!

Well, I was missing more than a few ingredients by his recipe, but I didn't let that deter me. I was very pleased with the outcome. Albeit, I made some adjustments, I made some mistakes but nothing that ruined the final product and one mistake I would probably repeat. He didn't specify what to spread the mixture onto when you toast it in the oven, but he instructs you to stir it every 15 minutes. That instruction would indicate that the sheet/pan would need sides. The yield on this recipe is GINOURMOUS, so I toasted in batches. The first batch I placed on a cookie sheet with no sides, forgetting to stir every 15 minutes and I got some clumping, which I actually love. The second and third batches I placed in sheet pans with sides, stirred every 20 minutes and that kept the granola loose. For a bowl with milk loose is fine, but with yogurt I love the clumps. Clumps are also great for just snacking, which is my favorite way to eat granola.

With apologies to Michael Ruhlman I did not have wheat bran, flax seeds, almonds, dried cherries or cranberries. Why did I even attempt it, you ask? Because in theory the recipe should work with a lot of combinations of pureed fruits, grains and dried fruit. Much like his new book Ratio, this was about the method. I also adjusted the amount of oats because I only had 2 boxes of rolled oats. He also used 1 cup of strawberries, but I wanted to use the ones I had left, so I added another cup. Kudos to him for inspiring me, this is my home made recipe:

Preheat oven to 300ºF
Bake time: 45-60 minutes
Yield: A ton


For the fruit puree:
2 bananas
2 cups strawberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 t. cinnamon
grated nutmeg

For the grains:
2 lbs rolled oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

For the dried fruit:
2 cups of raisins

What to do?

Process the ingredients for the fruit puree until a good paste. Pour over the grain mixture and mix well with your hands until it is thoroughly well coated with the puree. Spread on either a sheet pan or shallow pyrex dish and bake 45-60 minutes stirring periodically for even toasting and separation. I had to do my mixture in batches to make sure it dried out and toasted evenly.

When cooled, add the dried fruit and store in an air tight container.

Notes: Flax seed, wheat bran, dried cherries, cranberries and almonds will definitely be in the next batch, but the method leaves the home cook with many more options to include your personal favorites!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wheat & Walnut Corn Cakes

I love foods that are grainy, and always have. Grains have flavor and texture and talk back to you. They have a personality that you don't get from refined ingredients... perhaps there is some peasant in me after all! There is a restaurant in Chicago, The Dixie Kitchen that plays homage to southern and cajun cooking. Obama liked it when he lived in Chicago, paying special attention to the "bread basket" of home made corn cakes with honey butter. They are delicious and one of my daughter's favorites. So, I decided to experiment with taking them up a notch with a grainier texture and bumping up the flavor. I know that breads, baking, and "cake like" things have a different precision, and perhaps the contrarian in me will not go into that forest of "3/4 cup plus 1 T" measuring nightmare, followed by "2 + 1/8 t." Keeping it simple here with 1 c., 1 T., etc. Today's foray into corn cakes is on the sweeter side, and a more savory version will follow, enjoy my version of:

Wheat & Walnut Corn Cakes
Yield: 12
Preheat griddle to medium flame/heat and lightly spray with canola oil


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup soy milk**
3/4 cup ff half and half**
1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Sift/whisk the first 5 dry ingredients until well blended. Whisk the sugar, eggs, milk, half and half and canola oil until well blended. Combine the wet and dry until just blended. Spoon with a 1/4 - 1/3 cup scoop onto the hot griddle. Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts on each corn cake.

Working with this mixture, you will not see a lot of dry edge or bubbles coming to the surface, you will see a healthy browning on the bottom after about 3-4 minutes, then turn for about 3 minutes on the other side depending upon the height of the flame under the griddle. This "doneness" is a judgment call and can vary. These are so flavorful and I would guess the fiber content a tad higher than their white flour cousins. **I would have used buttermilk, but alas I was out. I don't often cook with soy milk, but it did a credible job with a little boost from the ff half and half.

The Contrarian In Me - What Works & Doesn't Work

There's no doubt about it, I am a foodie, have been one since the day I baked my first scratch cake. How amazing the chemistry that takes raw ingredients, the alchemy of milk, eggs, extracts, add a little heat and voila, it is something different. The "icing" on that cake, and the pun is intended, is to watch with singular pleasure the absolute joy that emanates around the dining table when those metamorphosed ingredients are devoured by appreciative guests! Yes, I am hooked! As much as my kitchen baptism at the ripe old age of 7 revolved around baking, I am neither a baker, nor a pastry maven. I am a full fledged, die hard recipe kitchen cook. I have my repetoire of scratch cakes, cookies, pies and quick breads, but my metier is not baking. Baking has all these rules, and then there are those bakers (my mother was one) who will tell you, "you'll know it when you see it!" See what? My mom and her mom baked so many rolls, loaves of bread, pies, cakes, including that all so challenging biscuit that their instructions were almost inscrutable, I think it was genetic. Clearly my DNA didn't get that link. My taste and criteria for baked goods is a different story. I haven't had a truly memorable biscuit since my Aunt Mattie died. How does one make a biscuit that melts in your mouth and doesn't stick to the roof of your mouth? LARD, in a word... home rendered, pure as the driven snow, and no hydrogentated shortenings and no butter that softens at room temperature. No siree, the secret is LARD. As well as lard works in biscuits and pie crust, it doesn't do so well in my arteries. You bakers have your work cut out for you!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Roasted Roma Tomatoes - Preparation, Uses and Sauce

I have a love of most things tomato, and if I could find some genuine San Marzano tomatoes that don't break my food budget I would keep them in stock. I have also been duped by store bought sun dried tomatoes that yield a touch outer skin that takes on a concentrated unyielding quality that is most unappetizing. I love the intensity of roasted tomatoes that I don't always get with a home made marinara sauce. I love my marinara sauce, but these yield a different result.

Roasting tomatoes is certainly not original, but takes several hours, so if you are a quick and dirty cook you would not be interested. There are a few steps that yield something wonderful: (a) slicing, and seasoning (2) roasting for several hours (3) passing through a food mill (optional)

I use Roma tomatoes because they are abundant most consistent in quality at local produce markets. I have not experimented with any other variety and I am no purist when it comes to other varieties that may yield similar results. Because of the time they take to roast I generally cook two dozen at a time.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes Preheat oven to 175F - 200F

In an oiled ovenproof pyrex or ceramic dish place:

24 Roma tomatoes, split lenghwise, drizzle with
2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and sprinkle with
2 t. kosher salt

Herbs (this is optional depending upon the time you roast, because they can burn)

Cooking time:
3 hours when using in a roasted tomato sauce (200F)
5 hours when trying to approximate the consistency of sun dried tomatoes (175F)