November 15, 2014

A microwave love story

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, urban homesteading tagged , , , , at 4:34 pm by thecatwho

You might not have heard anyone admit to loving a microwave, but I am an unabashed admirer of what my microwave can do.

Here are some of the tasks that I employ my microwave to do in record time—and, I suspect, with less energy than conventional methods:

  • Steam ears of corn in their husks, which has the added benefit of making it easy to remove their silks.
  • Cook winter squash completely (see microwave instructions in a previous post) or soften the squash so you can cut it in half to bake or add cut pieces to soup.
  • Make a bowl of tomato soup or stewed tomatoes by chopping tomatoes or piercing cherry tomatoes and microwaving.
  • Soften whole leaves of kale, Swiss chard, and collards and then chop into a serving of soup or stew.
  • Shorten the soaking time of beans and legumes by microwaving in water until hot and then soaking.
  • Cook cellophane or rice noodles.
  • Prepare grains, like oatmeal, couscous, bulgur, and quinoa.
  • Heat a moist washcloth for an instant facial spa treatment!

I’d love to know how you use your microwave.

November 12, 2014

Autumn brings endings and beginnings

Posted in cooking, creativity, dairy-free, food, gluten free, gluten-free vegan, sugar-free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:49 am by thecatwho

The last months of the year compel me to combine summer’s friends that are almost out of season with new cool-weather buddies. What could be better than soft, warm polenta prepared with the savoriness of leeks and shallots and the sweetness of cherry tomatoes, butternut squash, and peppers?

Summer-into-fall polenta

You can cook the butternut squash in the oven, toaster oven, or microwave. To cook the squash in the microwave: Pierce it two or three times, put it whole and uncovered in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn it over, microwave again 1 to 2 minutes at a time until the squash is shiny and completely soft, and let cool before handling.

  • cooked butternut squash
  • extra-virgin olive oil or ghee
  • leeks, sliced
  • shallots, diced
  • sweet peppers, chopped
  • hot chiles, chopped
  • whole cherry tomatoes or chopped regular tomatoes
  • salt
  • dried or fresh rosemary leaves
  • coarse polenta
  • vegetable broth or water
  • pepper
  • pitted green olives (optional)
  1. Scoop the flesh from the cooked butternut squash, discarding (or composting) the seeds and skin.
  2. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallots, sweet peppers, and chiles. Cook, covered, until starting to soften. Add tomatoes and squash flesh; season with salt and rosemary. Cook, covered, for a few minutes, then stir the softened tomatoes into the mixture.
  3. Refer to the polenta package for ratio of polenta to liquid (use 1:4 if you purchased polenta in bulk). Add measured broth to pot and bring to a boil. Gradually add polenta while stirring constantly. Return to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, stirring every 5 minutes. Add more broth as needed so polenta doesn’t burn. Cook until polenta thickens and is soft (no hard bits). Add a few grinds of black pepper and pitted green olives or salt. If you like, add more oil or ghee to the pot or to each bowl and serve.

November 9, 2014

Tangy autumn fruit salad

Posted in cooking, creativity, dairy-free, food, gluten free, gluten-free vegan, sugar-free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:51 pm by thecatwho

It’s fall here and time for persimmons, pomegranates, and mandarins (tangerines). Although I usually stick to fruit varieties that are available at my farmers’ market, I was compelled to mix local fruit with an imported fresh pineapple, inspired by a friend’s recipe. Good for breakfast, a snack, or dessert.

Pineapple, pomegranate, persimmon, and mandarin salad with fresh mint and cinnamon

It’s important to use fuyu persimmons. Fuyu persimmons are round and squat, taste sweet and non-astringent when firm, and can be eaten out of hand like an apple.

  • fresh pineapple, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • pomegranate seeds
  • fuyu persimmon, diced
  • mandarin (tangerine) sections, cut in half if you like
  • sliced fresh mint leaves
  • lemon or lime
  • cinnamon
  1. Mix the pineapple chunks, pomegranate seeds, persimmon pieces, mandarin sections, and mint in a bowl.
  2. Squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over the mixture and stir. Season to taste with cinnamon and serve.

October 30, 2014

No-fuss vegetable broth for soup season

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, gluten-free vegan, urban homesteading, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , at 6:08 pm by thecatwho

Cool weather naturally has me turning to tummy-warming soups and stews that benefit from homemade vegetable broth. I make broth on farmers’ market day when I come home loaded with vegetables that need to be trimmed to fit in the fridge—and I use those trimmings for my broth.

You will need a large pot, a large glass measuring cup, a mesh strainer that fits on top of the measuring cup, and a large screw-top bottle in which to store your finished broth.

Vegetable broth in 3 steps

Choose mild-flavored vegetable trimmings; avoid strong flavors like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, radish, and turnip. If you have them on hand and don’t mind the extra chopping, you can add potatoes, carrots, celery, fennel bulb, onions, and mushrooms if you like. I do not season the broth with salt because I use this broth as an ingredient in other dishes.

  • leek tops
  • green onion tops
  • fennel fronds
  • parsley stems
  • cilantro stems
  • celery tops
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Roughly chop the vegetable trimmings and separate out the large, dense pieces. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add dense pieces and cook, covered, stirring frequently, until browned bits begin to form on the bottom of the pot.
  2. Stir in the rest of the trimmings and cook for a minute or two. Add water to cover vegetables by several inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Strain the broth into a large glass measuring cup. Discard vegetable material from the strainer into the compost. Pour the strained broth into the screw-top bottle and chill.

October 24, 2014

Chickpea spread—savory and sweet

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, gluten-free vegan, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 4:56 pm by thecatwho

I enjoy chickpea spread with vegetables mixed in—see my post about adding steamed broccoli to hummus. This version was inspired by the fresh beets and cooked chickpeas waiting for me in the fridge. Don’t be surprised by the lovely color of this spread!

Chickpea spread with beets and olives

For a quick version, whirl the cooked beets, olives, and herbs, and mix in your favorite prepared hummus.

I prefer Chioggia or golden beets because they don’t bleed and aren’t as fibrous as red beets, but any beets will work. There’s no need to wash, scrub, or peel the beets because the skins slide off easily after the beets are cooked.

  • beets
  • cooked chickpeas
  • tahini (sesame paste)
  • lemon juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pitted green olives with pickling liquid as needed or olive tapenade
  • garlic (optional)
  • fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, chervil, cilantro, basil, tarragon, dill, oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Cut beets in half. Put in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Cook until easily pierced with a fork. Pour off cooking water, keeping beets in the pan. Cover beets with cold water to cool beets quickly. Rub beets to remove their skins.
  2. Whirl beets, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, oil, olives, garlic (if using), and your choice of fresh herbs. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.

October 17, 2014

Potato “pancakes” from the oven

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:17 am by thecatwho

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes—can’t get enough of them. This easy method of steaming, smashing, and roasting provides crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside pillowy pancakes. Inspired by Leaf.

Smashed and roasted potato pancakes

We served these potato cakes alongside a large green salad for dinner. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, crumble dried rosemary on the potatoes after they are roasted or top with fresh chopped parsley instead.

  • potatoes, fingerlings or small potatoes
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • hummus
  • sliced almonds
  1. Steam potatoes until soft but not mushy. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven or toaster oven to 450º. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Transfer potatoes to baking sheet. Smash lightly with a pastry knife or a flat plate.
  4. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with fresh rosemary, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake until outsides are sizzling and crispy, about 15 minutes. Turn over and continue baking until second side is crispy, about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with hummus and almonds.

October 3, 2014

Discovering coconut milk

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:10 pm by thecatwho

Yes, I’ve had curries at Indian, Thai, and other restaurants, but I’ve never made anything with coconut milk that tasted good—until now.

California curry with red lentils and vegetables

I call it a “California curry” to distance it from a specific world cuisine, given I combined the flavors of New Mexico chile powder, olive tapenade, and whole-fat coconut milk without a hint of curry paste. The red lentils give the rich coconut sauce a nice thickness. I served this curry over packaged precooked polenta that I sliced and broiled until crisp.

  • coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • leeks, cut crosswise into rings
  • potatoes, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • cauliflower, cut in half and then into 1-in. steaks
  • full-fat coconut milk
  • vegetable broth
  • red lentils
  • chile powder, such as New Mexico and/or chipotle
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive tapenade or pitted chopped olives
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, potatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth to just cover vegetables (use water if needed). Bring to a simmer and stir in lentils and chile powder. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils and vegetables are soft. Add more water if needed so the sauce doesn’t get too thick.
  3. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and olive tapenade. Serve with your favorite hot sauce if you like.

September 28, 2014

Using steam to cook eggs

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegetarian tagged , , , , at 9:32 pm by thecatwho

I like my eggs with runny yolks, so my favorite Brunch Chef makes me soft poached eggs on Sundays. I’m not sure where the Brunch Chef got the idea to steam-cook eggs, but the steaming process is easier, faster, and more foolproof than poaching eggs directly in water. If you like poached eggs, you’ll love this method.

Steamed “poached” eggs

You’ll need a metal or bamboo vegetable steamer and ramekins that fit your steamer.

  • extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • eggs

Put about an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Oil one ramekin for each egg you are cooking. Crack one egg into each ramekin. Place the ramekins in the vegetable steamer and cook, covered, 4 to 5 minutes for soft.

September 23, 2014

Potatoes to the rescue

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , at 6:08 pm by thecatwho

The potato has been my year-round friend, saving me from slumps in cooking energy and ideas. So it didn’t surprise me that potatoes came to mind for stuffing these cabbage rolls. But consider using this versatile mashed-potato mixture to fill peppers, dumplings, rice-paper rollups, and tacos or to accompany your breakfast eggs instead of country potatoes.

Cabbage rolls stuffed with mashed potatoes

To separate individual whole leaves from a cabbage, core the cabbage and microwave or steam the whole head for a few minutes to soften it, testing each minute to see if you can peel off the leaves. Then quickly blanch or microwave the leaves to soften them just enough so they bend instead of break or tear when you fill and roll them. If you don’t have leeks and fruit vinegar, replace with chopped onions and balsamic vinegar. Serve the rolls plain or topped with hummus, hot sauce, or salsa, if you like.

  • yellow potatoes, cut into quarters
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • leeks, sliced into half-rounds
  • sweet peppers, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • thyme
  • fennel seeds
  • parsley, chopped
  • chopped nuts, such as walnuts or almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • fruit vinegar, such as fig
  • toasted sesame oil
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • salt
  • pepper
  • large leaves from a green cabbage
  • stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or tomato sauce
  1. Put the potatoes in a steamer basket over boiling water and steam, covered, until tender. Drain and pour potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Coarsely mash until no large lumps remain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and cook leeks, peppers, and mushrooms over medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until brown bits form on the bottom of the pan and vegetables are soft. Add chopped tomato, thyme, fennel seeds, and parsley and stir, scraping up browned bits. Pour vegetable mixture into large bowl with potatoes and add nuts and seeds. Season to taste with vinegar, sesame oil, tamari, Sriracha, salt, and pepper.
  3. Heat oven to 375º. Spoon a scoop of filling into the bottom third of a cabbage leaf, fold over side edges, and roll up. Place each cabbage roll seam side down in a baking dish. Repeat until you have the number of rolls you want. Pour stewed tomatoes over the cabbage rolls, cover with foil, and bake until cabbage rolls are completely soft, about 1 hour.

September 21, 2014

Simple and delectable green cabbage sauté

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , at 7:40 pm by thecatwho

I was not a fan of cooked cabbage until I tried it sautéed quickly with mushrooms, onions, and seasonings. So pull out that cabbage from the back of your refrigerator, and try this recipe.

Quick green cabbage sauté

You can serve this dish hot or cold; if served cold, make sure that all of the cabbage pieces are cooked until thoroughly soft, but not mushy. Good over brown rice, lentils, split peas, or polenta; consider topping it with hummus, salsa, or drizzled toasted sesame oil.

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • onions, chopped
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • green cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • caraway seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • fennel seeds
  1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft.
  2. Stir in cabbage and cook, covered, over medium-high heat until softened. Add seeds, stir, and cook for another minute or two.

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