Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

one spectacular Ethiopian feast!

Since my visit to Africa over the summer, I’ve been pretty much wholly obsessed with Ethiopian food. Where to find it (or rather where to find the traditional kind), how to make it, etc. After a few months of flirting with the idea, I finally had some friends over and made a full blown Ethiopian feast. My menu included: Gomen (Collard Greens), Miser Wat (Spicy Red Lentils), Yetakelt We’t (Vegetable Stew), Kik Alicha (Yellow Split Peas), and of course, homemade injera. Injera is a light, sour, spongey crepe made from fermented teff flour, and contains more calcium than milk, as well as 100% of one’s daily iron requirements, boron, copper, phosphorus, zinc, protein and fiber. It’s also gluten-free. My injera tasted absolutely nothing like it did in Ethiopia, or in any Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to for that matter, but I still thought it was great. It was denser and tasted wheatier, or maybe just healthier, than the other forms of injera I’ve had. Probably because most injera is cut with white or whole wheat flour, and is probably fermented for longer. I let mine sit for 2.5 days; the recommended fermentation process lasts 3-4 days. I would have let it sit longer but I was worried it would be too sour, and I didn’t want to scare away my adventurous friends.

Just some of the spices I used. Clockwise: cumin, hungarian paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, chili powder, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom pods, nutmeg, poultry seasoning, cloves, allspice. Not pictured: yellow curry powder, Hana Jeera (a special spice blend my Indian friend’s mom made, and shipped over from India. I try to use it sparingly, as I don’t want to become too dependent on it. It’s really, really good.), garlic, salt and pepper.

I started making 2 kinds of dal, Miser Wat and Kik Alicha.

First I sauteed some onions and garlic, and threw in the cardamom pods (bruised) and cloves. After a few minutes I added all of the remaining above mentioned spices, in varying quantities which I really didn’t measure.

Once the onions were nicely caramelized, I removed the cardamom and cloves. Sometimes I find those flavors overwhelming. Plus, lately I’ve been having weird experiences grinding my own spices. They’ve been tasting bitter, I’m not sure if that’s from my coffee (spice) grinder or what, but it’s been a horribly disappointing situation that I didn’t want to risk replicating today.

I pureed the spicy onions, kind of like Niter Kibbeh but I didn’t want to strain anything through cheesecloth, so I pureed it. It worked phenomenally; I think I’ll be pureeing onions like this every time I make dal from now on. It made the finished product so creamy and flavorful.

The dal cooking away. The above Yellow Split Peas, or the Kik Alicha, I wanted to keep a little on the mild side, just nice savory and warm flavors. So I added a good amount of poultry seasoning, cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as a couple teaspoons of the Hana Jeera. The Miser Wat, the Spicy Red Lentils, I wanted to be really tomato-y and acidic, so I added 3/4 a can of fire roasted tomatoes, a little tomato paste and lots of fresh ginger. When both dals were about done cooking, I added in the pureed onions and let all the flavors blend together on low heat for about 20 mins or so. That was Day 1.

And this is what my counter looked like after Day 1.

The teff flour after 2.5 days of fermentation. Not as bubbly as it should look, but then again I really didn’t know what I was doing. Looks pretty appetizing, huh???

I tested the batter out, making one tiny injera. It was quite delicious.

So on Day 2 I guess I completely forgot about taking pics of the dishes in progress, but that’s probably because people were over and I get distracted easily. But I made some collard greens and a cabbage, carrot, potato stew, with the list of above mentioned spices. I kept the collards and veggies moist and steamy by continually adding shots of vegetable stock to the skillets. If you’ve never made long-cooking veggies that way, try it immediately. Even if you’re just cooking down onions, the veg stock adds a ton of flavor. Then I made some regular-sized injera and piled it high with the food I’d spent 2 days slaving over (exaggeration, this meal was not hard to make). I also made a chili oil with hungarian paprika, chili powder, lime juice and some tomato water from that can I used earlier.

You must eat with your hands when eating Ethiopian food. You must!

Actually it’s customary to feed your friends in Ethiopia, as you see Jeff (the US Mobilization Director for the Global Hope Network, that humanitarian group with which I volunteered over the summer) engaged in with our friends Alex and Kimfe.

And since I’m breaking out the Africa pics now here is one more of me with some of the super awesome kids from the village of Hruso, where we helped build a school. Discovering my love for Ethiopian food while over there was merely a nice little take-away from the experience, but it doesn’t even compare with the affect the Hruso people had on me. But I can’t get into that without getting all emotional and nostalgic, so back to the food: if you don’t want to go through all the trouble of making your own Spectacular Ethiopian Feast, try going herehere or here. All amazing restaurants. A bit of a hike from the LV, but think of it as an adventure.


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I had some crazy good pine nut/lentil dumplings at Blue Sage once, and immediately began contemplating how I could make something similar (but with more kick!) on my own. My first attempt turned out ok, but they weren’t exactly fantastic. Probably the fact that I was just trying to use up a batch of less-than-great dal in a creative way didn’t help. So this time, I made a PERFECTLY spicy, flavorful and delicious pot of dal, mixed it up with some toasted pine nuts, and used that as the filling for half of the dumplings. Dal (also spelled dhal, dahl, or daal) is the Indian term for lentils cooked with spices, basically. I thought spicy Indian flavors would make for a very interesting dumpling filling, and holy crap, did it ever. For the other half of the dumplings I went a more traditional route and used sauteed veggies and shrimp (I liked the Indian ones better, though). This meal turned into a crazy Indian/Asian fusion ordeal, and the flavors all went together surprisingly well.

VeggiesCabbage, shallots, shiitake mushrooms, grated carrots, garlic and lots of ginger, frying away in the saute pan. I added the garlic near the end of the cooking process, after the veggies had cooked down for 10-15 minutes, then I added the grated ginger all the way at the end, after I turned the heat off. I wanted the ginger to retain most of it’s flavor and kick, since not a whole lot of other spice went into this filling.

FillingsThe sauteed veggies and a little bowl of dal. I won’t lie, dal is not the prettiest food in the world, so I’ll spare you the close up. I mean I think it looks delicious, but I think all brown goopey Indian food looks delicious.

FillingSome of the pictures were taken on an iphone, with the ShakeItPhoto application giving the pics an old-fashioned polaroid look. The rest were taken on my rickshaw wannabe camera. Hopefully the lack of consistency here won’t give anyone a headache.

Dumpling Mis

Lined up

a Soggy MessI didn’t time anything, or follow any precise steps. I just tossed the dumplings into a pan with a little oil, let them cook for a couple minutes on medium high heat until the bottoms began to turn brown, then I dumped a glassful of water into the pan, covered it and let them steam until they felt right. This haphazard method worked beautifully.

yumI guess these are technically pot-stickers, but I like the word dumpling so much better. It’s an adorable word.

once delicious dumpling circle

dumpsOld fashioned polaroid dumplings.

the PlateVeggie/shrimp dumplings on the left, dal dumplings on the right. Deliciousness all over the place. And please, use a high quality Tamari, not some crappy American soy sauce.

I’ll post my dal recipe sometime, but it does contain some top secret spice blend I got from an Indian friend’s mother. She ships over (from India) boxes of homemade jarred spice blends and chutneys and things to my friend. I don’t even know what’s in my jar and I don’t care, it’s freaking good!

And because it was about 30 seconds down the road from where I was, I had to stop in Vegan Treats to purchase the most adorable little Pumpkin Pie I’ve ever seen:

cutest Pumpkin Pie everThough honestly I was so bummed that they didn’t have any pumpkin whoopie pies that day; that was the true reason behind my visit. If you’ve never experienced the glory that is the Vegan Treats Pumpkin Whoopie Pie, well then you just don’t know what you’re missing.

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I’ve made variations of this muffin recipe many times, each batch turning out better than the last. What I haven’t done before is use pumpkin puree as the base. So, in the spirit of autumn, I attempted a seasonal, healthy pumpkin muffin. The dry ingredients consisted of brown rice flour, chickpea flour, oat bran, baking powder, toasted coconut, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. The wet stuff included vanilla rice milk, a can of pumpkin puree, brown rice syrup, and some vanilla extract. Since I don’t use added sugar, I threw in some dark chocolate chips for good measure. Into the muffin tins the batter goes:

pumpkin gooI wanted big fat huge high-rise muffins, so I filled the tins up dangerously full. I just figured on a few extra minutes of baking time.

pumpkin muffin goo25 30 45 minutes later at 350 degrees, they were finally done and looking tasty.

Muffin pileWELL THEY WEREN’T.  These were horrible. What you can’t see in the above picture is the completely raw bottom half of the muffins. The top developed a nice little crust to it (though borderline overdone) while the bottom developed into an unpleasant pumpkin flan. There was just no getting these things cooked all the way through. I’m not sure if it was the obscene amount of pumpkin puree I used, or the brown rice flour or what, but I do know these muffins were NOT good eats. Normally I have plenty of obstacles to overcome when baking since I don’t use eggs, milk, butter, or any dairy product for that matter, but this was just ridiculous. It’s pretty ironic that every time I make delicious muffins I think to myself “Oh shoot, I should post this recipe, it’s delicious” and the one time I actually remember to whip out the camera is the one time I have an epic muffin failure.

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For the most part I dread fall like most people dread Tetanus shots. It’s cold, it’s rainy, my nose starts running, my throat gets sore, and going for a run has turned into an avoided chore as opposed to a relaxing excuse to get outside. And don’t get me started on the staticy hair. But enough of my seasonal bellyaching. Fall does have its plus sides, the most significant of which being: soup season! And I guess that whole leaf-changing thing is cool too.

Here are two soup recipes without which I’d never make it through the cold, dreary, bone-chilling months ahead. They keep me warm and happy, and almost make me forget my disdain for cold weather… almost.

Peanuty Sweet Potato Soup
The above smooth and creamy, peanut-buttery soup is made from pureed sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and red pepper, topped with a drizzle of maple syrup, sesame seeds and roasted sunflower seeds. I adapted my version from this Ellie Krieger recipe, my goal being to come as close as possible to the super popular West African Peanut Soup featured at Balasia. And let me tell you, I came pretty freaking close. So at the risk of accidentally sharing any of the Balasia chef’s secrets, I’ll just leave you with the above linked recipe, and let you go crazy with your own adaptations. I will say the crunchy seed toppings were a no-brainer for me, since there’s something about scallions that I just can’t get behind.

Curried Split PeaThis Curried Split Pea soup is spicy, flavorful and extremely hearty. Now when I hear the words “spilt pea soup” I don’t exactly pair them with adjectives like “delicious,” “exciting,” or “bursting with flavor.” However, I can assure you the following split pea soup recipe is indeed delicious, exciting, and positively bursting with flavor. I made this for a boyfriend for our anniversary (we decided to cook for each other instead of buying each other stuff). So I took a risky shot in the dark and attempted to make a pear and cheese ravioli from scratch, reminiscent of something we ate in Italy over the summer. The dessert was a no brainer – crazy ice cream. I scoured the internet for some recipes and decided on corn ice cream, and Parmigiano Regianno ice cream with a balsamic strawberry glaze. Those were a hit. The ravioli was quite good though my method could have used a little work; it was my first time rolling pasta so I had no clue what I was doing. But the split pea soup was the highlight of the evening! Who would have known. Now as with most recipes, here I tripled (sometimes quadrupled) the amount of spices called for. I just wasn’t going to get the kind of flavor I was looking for using 1/4 teaspoon of cardamon powder, so I threw in several teaspoons (ok that’s a lot more than quadrupled… svettupled perhaps?). Red pepper flakes and a good amount of salt (at the end of the cooking process, mind you) gave this soup an extra kick. The grated carrot garnish added a wonderful little burst of freshness. The cilantro was nonexistent since there’s nothing that grosses me out more than raw cilantro. I followed this Isa Chandra recipe almost exactly, aside from adding more spices than called for, and some extra heat with red pepper flakes.

Now, please excuse me as I go burrow under the covers and wait for spring.

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Polenta RoundsThis meal was fantastic. FANTASTIC I TELL YOU! I got the idea from this Giada De Laurentiis recipe, but adapted it quite a bit. Included in these adaptions is my own pesto recipe, which will flat-out knock your socks off. But first things first, I cooked up some Bob’s Red Mill polenta with boiling water and a pinch of salt, then I added in about 1/4 cup coconut milk once the corn had absorbed most of the water. Bob’s instructions were to simmer the polenta for 30 mins, however, after 10 minutes things were looking pretty good to me, so I turned off the heat and spread the polenta out into a small square baking sheet.  I gave it a few minutes to cool and set, then I cut the rounds out with a glass cup. Simple!

Since I don’t eat chicken I was trying to figure out what would be a nice replacement to top these cute little rounds. I went with sauteed julienned zucchini for one of them, since I have a nice zucchini surplus right now thanks to my generous next-door neighbor and her garden (why do I feel like such a mooch reaping the benefits from someone else’s garden?). Oh I should have topped the zucchini one with pumpkin or sunflower seeds or something, now that I think about it.  For a nice little crunch.  Note to self, do that next time.  And since I’ve been on a fish kick lately, I pan-seared some halibut with salt and pepper, and topped it with tomatoes on one, dried cranberries on the other.

polenta rounds on a dumb plate

I might broil the polenta for a minute or two next time.  It had a pleasantly soft and creamy texture to it, but I think a little crust action on top might be nice as well. This meal was seriously freaking delicious. This was also my first experience with polenta (not counting my one encounter with Polenta-in-a-tube from Weiss) which I feel was a raging success. The coconut milk really adds a nice creaminess and flavor to it. But to be honest, the real star here is the Pea Pesto.

pesto: the before shot

You will need:

1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup (packed) torn fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
splash of balsamic vinegar
splash of tamari
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
walnuts or pine nuts
3/4 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/3 – 3/4 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I used both this time. Sometimes when I’m feeling crazy I throw in a few pecans.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful of fresh spinach
handful of fresh basil leaves
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
splash of Tamari
pinch of red pepper flakes
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
water to thin, if needed

Whir everything together in a food processor until you have a mostly smooth (you want a little bit of texture in there), heavenly, insanely delicious pesto. Hopefully your food processor isn’t a sad little mini version like mine is.
pesto - the delicious after shotYes, this pesto is vegan, and no, you absolutely do not need parmigiano reggiano to make it so face-stuffingly good that you will want to eat it with a spoon. That was in italics by the way because I was thinking about how Giada De Laurentiis would say it. Nutritional yeast, fortified and inactive, is basically a tangy vegan Godsend, as it can be substituted for parm in most recipes, especially in a recipe like this when there are so many other flavors going on. It certainly gives this pesto a nice cheesy bite to it. If you’re trying to cut back on dairy a bit, give nutritional yeast a try. You can find it in the bulk/natural food section at Wegmans and at most health food stores. Once the weather turns scary cold and I’m forced to retreat indoors making warm comfort food to take my mind off of the horrid conditions outside, I’m planning on making vegan mac and cheese using nutritional yeast and pureed squash! Crazy right!?

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Purple Potato goodnessI always get excited when cooking with purple sweet potatoes. Also known as Okinawa potatoes, or simply, as they were labeled at the Asian market where I purchased them, “JAPAN POTATOES.”  The closest place I was able to find that sells these potatoes is Assi Plaza in North Wales; sadly, no Asian market in the Valley seems to sell them (if anyone knows of a place that does, please enlighten me). These potatoes are sweet, but a completely different kind of sweet than their yam cousins.  

potato close-up

The texture is pretty dry – when I mash these, I make sure to mix in plenty of rice milk and olive oil.  The result is a creamy, sweet mash of vibrantly purple potatoes that go so well with sauteed bok choy and soy-glazed carrots.  This meal comes together in a snap and tends to really, really impress people.

my purple potato mis en place

I’m kind of cheating because I top the potatoes with the same miso sauce I wrote about in the last recipe. The miso plays a much more prominent role here, though, and the tangy flavors really shine through.

For the miso sauce:
-3 tablespoons white/yellow miso paste
-1 tablespoon Tamari
-1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
-1 tablespoon Mirin

So, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce.  Steam, then mash the potatoes (and have fun peeling them, these bad boys have some thick and quite inedible skin on them).  Be sure to mix in enough liquid of some kind until you reach your desired cream-tastic texture.  Saute some bok choy with a clove or two of garlic. Cut up several carrots into matchsticks, and saute in another skillet with a little bit of oil over medium-high heat.  After a few minutes, add in some Tamari, crank the heat up to high and then turn the heat off completely.  Hopefully a nice glaze will have formed over the carrots, thus rendering them salty and delicious.  Top a nice mound of potatoes with the bok choy and carrots, then proceed to smother in miso sauce.

with shrimpThrow in some shrimp for a non-vegan version of the Purple Potato Madness. 

Oh, these okinawas also go killer with vanilla bean brown rice and tomato dal:

Tomato Dal, Vanilla rice and Purple Potatoes

That completes today’s Wacky Colored Food Post, enjoy those purple ‘taters!


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I’m pretty sure I won’t be posting a recipe every week, but this title does have a nice ring to it so until I come up with something better, this will be the “Recipe of the Week” post. Like most foodies, we all like to experiment in the kitchen, and sometimes we’re just going to have to put the reviews on hold to share an extra special and delicious recipe. This particular recipe is really easy to make, and flavor-wise, it’s got a lot going on. It’s tangy, nutty, citrusy, it’s got some crunch to it but is also smooth and chewy. I feel like vegetarians will love it, and maybe 50% of meat-eaters will appreciate it (my open minded mom loved it; my pork-loving dad said it looked like something he’d scrape off the bottom of his shoe). But I can’t end this paragraph with that terrible parenthetical visual so let me end by saying: this recipe is GOOD!

Sesame Peanut Crusted Tofu
You will need:
-1 block of firm tofu (preferably the Allentown brand with the hilarious wings on the package)
-1 bunch of kale
-1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the miso glaze:
-3 tablespoons white/yellow miso paste
-1 tablespoon tamari
-1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
-1 teaspoon mirin

For the peanut crust:
-1/3 cup peanuts (you can substitute some of the peanuts with walnuts or some other healthier nut if you want; I used half peanuts, half walnuts and it came out great)
-1/4 cup sesame seeds
-2 large cloves garlic – finely grated
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
-1 teaspoon turmeric
-1 teaspoon coriander
-2 tablespoons maple syrup
-pinch of salt

The peanut crust part is adapted from the “eggplant stuffed with a sesame-peanut masala” recipe in the fantastic Indian cookbook 5 spices, 50 dishes.  I threw in some walnuts and used maple syrup instead of sugar and water; I also used less salt than Ruta because the peanuts I used were roasted and salted, and I threw in some coriander for fun.

On to the cooking: you can marinate the tofu beforehand if you want, I did the night before only because I wanted the dinner to come together really quickly the next night.  So anyway press the tofu in a towel for at least 10 mins to drain out some of the water.  While it’s pressing, whisk together the miso, tamari, rice wine vinegar and mirin.  Cut the tofu into six 1/2 inch triangles and brush with the miso glaze, on all sides.  Let that marinate up to overnight if you’d like, or just continue on with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare the peanut crust: chop, crush, or blend the nuts and sesame seeds until you have a slightly chunky mix.  Move to a bowl and grate in the garlic and add in the spices, salt, and maple syrup, then mix everything together with a fork until it becomes a nice sticky mess.  Slather the tops of your your marinated tofu triangles with the peanut crust and place in a glass baking dish.  Bake for 30 minutes.

15 or so minutes before the tofu is finished baking, wash and chop up the kale, then saute on medium to medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until the kale is wilted down.  Add salt and pepper and the lemon juice.
(quick note: by itself the kale will probably taste too sour, but eaten with the tofu, it’s perfect)

At this point your tofu should be nicely baked, so remove from the oven,  place on top of the kale and enjoy!

Hawkshaw Hawkins


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