Monday, February 28, 2011

Cranberry-Scented Yams

Cranberry-Scented Yams
What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? I always thought yams were orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, but apparently it's only us Americans who use that distinction. Throughout the rest of the word, yams are really tropical tubers that are often bland and dry. So, while I've titled this recipe "Cranberry-Scented Yams", they are technically sweet potatoes. Hopefully you'll forgive me for any confusion.

The inspiration for this dish came from several sources, the most prominent of which was the remains of a bag of frozen cranberries that were loitering in the freezer, left over from our Cornish Hens (and Tofu) with Cranberry Paste. Yams and Cranberries go together beautifully (the sweetness of the yams is a nice contrast to the cranberries' tartness) so I just needed to figure out how I wanted to combine them.

To me, the easiest way to make yams is to bake them, then puree them with a liquid (usually melted butter). However, when I made Roasted Yam Puree with Brown Butter, the vegetarian found it too rich (such a thing exists?) for his tastes. So butter was out. But why not use cranberry juice instead? So I pureed the cranberries (of course this required buying more, so there are still cranberries in the freezer) with water and a little sugar, then simmered them. Finally, to make it a little more interesting, I infused the cranberry liquid with some jasmine green tea. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Scented Yams
Inspired by Eat Tea

Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil and place yams on top. Bake until completely tender, about 45 minutes.

Simmering Cranberries
In a food processor, blend cranberries, water and brown sugar until for several minutes, until consistency closely resembles juice. (There will still be chunks of cranberry skin; don't worry, we'll strain those out later.) Bring cranberry mixture to a simmer over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in tea leaves. Let infuse 5 minutes.

When yams are cooked, allow to rest until cool enough to touch. Then remove skins, cut into quarters and transfer to food processor. Process until smooth. Strain cranberry mixture into yams (pressing against the strainer pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Add salt and pulse a few more times so everything is combined. Serve, garnished with reserved whole cranberries. 

Links to other cranberry scented noshes:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tarragon Pistachio Butter and Beer Making, Part I

Tarragon Pistachio Butter
One of our Chanukah presents this year was a beer maker which, until now, has sat patiently above our kitchen cabinets, waiting to be used. Sunday night, after spring teased us with a 60F-day on Friday (only to shoot back down to a wintry 20F over the weekend), we decided it was time. Since neither the vegetarian nor I know very much about beer or beer-making, we invited one of his best friends from college, E, over to join in the merriment. We made West Coast Pale Ale, set everything in a (mostly) empty cabinet and began the more-immediate task of making dinner.

I've been on a sweet potato kick lately and, while looking for yummy sweet potato recipes in the folder in which I keep all the recipes I've stumbled upon and plan to make, I excitedly lighted on the word "sweet". It was followed, however, not by the word "potato" but instead by "pistachio".  Ah, yes! The Sweet Pistachio Butter from 101 Cookbooks--a vegetarian "healthy recipe journal" that I cannot recommend highly enough--that I had saved as a way to use up the pistachios from my Cornish Hens (and Tofuwith 
An (almost-set) Table
Cranberry Paste. (On a side note, one of my former college roommates, Miss Julie, a San Franciscan, cooks from there incessantly and was actually the one who first turned me on to the site.) Heidi made her Pistachio Butter for crepes but I, with my waning sweet tooth, wanted something more savory, to serve atop a protein. I stared for a while at the picture of Heidi's brilliantly green butter and decided to replace the sweetener with an herb. What herb? Something light, with a sweet taste and a loud flavor--tarragon! I often think of tarragon with chicken, but instead I paired it with Salmon Roasted with Herbs (from How to Cook Everything) for E and me and Tofu Roasted with Herbs for the vegetarian. The tarragon created just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the flavor of the pistachios and paired beautifully with the richness of the salmon. It also matched quite nicely with the delicate flavor of the tofu, I was told. And, to satisfy this sweet potato obsession, we had Roasted Yam Puree with Brown Butter--decadent and delightful. There was also a Cherry Tomato-Caper Salad and Hummus with CapersAnd, while I would 
recommend a Viognier as a wine-pairing, we stayed on our beer theme and instead 
had Long Haul Session Ale with the Hummus and Morimoto Soba Ale with the Salmon, Tofu and Tarragon 
Pistachio Butter. I highly recommend both, especially the Morimoto. Enjoy!

Tarragon Pistachio Butter

  • Salmon and Tofu
    1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup pistachios, shelled and crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 cup water, hot (from the tap is fine)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 pinches Hawaiian salt
First peel almonds: pour boiling water into a small bowl and add almonds. Allow to sit at least 1 minute, then remove them one at a time (go for those whose peels are the most shriveled first) and peel, rub, whatever to remove.

Place peeled almonds into food processor along with pistachios, tarragon, hot water and garlic. Pulse until all one consistency (add more water if you'd like it to be wetter), then add salt and pulse once or twice more to incorporate. Serve, atop salmon, tofu or whatever you'd like. Makes more than enough for 3 people's dinner. Enjoy!

Links to other tarragon pistachio butter noshes:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tofu with Cranberry Paste

Tofu with Cranberry Paste
A few days after Valentine's Day, here's part two of my Valentine's Day-appropriate Cornish Hens (and Tofu) with Cranberry Paste. Obviously, today is the tofu version of the recipe. Now, just as a disclaimer, this isn't an entirely vegetarian dish. There is chicken stock in the paste and, when I made it, I cooked the tofu in the same pan as the Cornish hens. If you are cooking for a strict vegetarian, you could substitute the chicken stock with a strong-flavored vegetable stock (or even a mix of vegetable stock and cranberry juice) and if you do, I'd be fascinated to know how it turned out. However, for the sake of total honesty, I'm only writing up what I did. The Vegetarian loved it, with a side of couscous, some cinnamon sweet potato slices and a delirium tremens and I hope you do too. Enjoy!

Tofu with Cranberry Paste

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • shallotssliced
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves, fresh
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 6 ounces cranberriesfrozen
  • 4 leaves basil
Wrap tofu in a clean dish towel and set on a clean plate. On top, place a colander filled with heavy bottles or boxes (I usually use a bottle of olive oil and a box of kosher salt). Let rest for as long as possible, preferably at least an hour. This removes excess moisture from the tofu and helps it to better soak up the flavors you're cooking it in.

Preheat oven to 350F. Once tofu is sufficiently pressed, slice tofu in half depthwise. Coat both sides in 1/4 
Tofu, ready for the oven
cup pistachio nuts, salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Sear tofu for 2-3 minutes on both sides. Place in a roasting pan, on a roasting rack. Once oven is heated, place tofu in oven and roast for 30 minutes.

While tofu is cooking, add shallots to pan and saute 6 minutes, mixing shallots well with any pistachio nuts that fell into panStir in thyme, then deglaze with chicken stock, using a wooden spoon to get all the nuts from the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. 

In a food processor, combine remaining 1/4 cup pistachios, cranberries and basil. Add shallots and pan drippings. Pulse 
Cranberry Paste
until all is a uniform texture.

Serve tofu with at least two tablespoonfuls of cranberry paste. You will have plenty left over!

Links to other tofu cranberry noshes:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cornish Hens with Cranberry Paste

Cornish Hens with Cranberry Paste
Happy almost-Valentine's Day! In honor of that hallmark holiday to commemorate love, which often involves sharing rich, pink (or red) food, I offer to you a two-part post based on last night's dinner, which consisted of Cornish Hens with Cranberry Paste for me and Tofu with Cranberry Paste for the Vegetarian. I'll share the recipe for the hens now and the tofu another day. First, though, a brief disclaimer--while the vegetarian does not eat meat (hence his title), there is what I've fondly dubbed "the chicken broth clause". This means that it is to the texture of flesh he protests, not the flavor, humane methods, etc. So I can cook his tofu in the same pan as my Cornish hens and, even, use the pan drippings (as well as some chicken stock) to make the sauce.

The inspiration for this dish came from a desire to cook with nuts. As I've been making our meals more and more vegetarian, I've been very interested in exploring alternative forms of protein--particularly nuts. However, since I'm certainly not a true vegetarian yet, I realized that I was craving meat. So I decided to incorporate meat and nuts (for an extra shot of protein) into our meal. I found a recipe for Cornish Hens with Pistachio Paste. But I wanted the flavors of the hens and the tofu to shine more. In honor of Valentine's Day (and because I love the combination of roast poultry with fruit), I decided to create a sauce with cranberries instead. We served this with Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices. I enjoyed some Madeira, while the vegetarian treated himself to a bottle of Delirium Tremens. Madeira is a sweeter wine (like port) and usually served with dessert, but, because of the fruit in the sauce and the cinnamon in the sweet potatoes it came out very well. Enjoy (for Valentine's Day or any other)!

Cornish Hens with Cranberry Paste

  • 1/2 + 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, crushed
  • 2 (1-pound) Cornish game hens
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 shallots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves, fresh
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 6 ounces cranberries, frozen
  • 4 leaves basil
Place hens on a cutting board and remove backbone and trim off any excess fat or skin. Discard or save for stock. Press hens flat with back of hand. With your fingers, separate skin from meat. Stuff 1/4 cup pistachios under the skin of each bird. Massage to distribute nuts evenly. Salt and pepper both sides.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Sear hens, breast-down and 
Cornish Hens ready for the oven
splayed open, for 5 minutes. Remove and place in a roasting pan, on a roasting rack, breast up. When oven is heated, place hens into oven and cook 30 minutes.

While hens are cooking, add shallots to pan and saute 6 minutes, mixing shallots well with the drippings from the hens. Stir in thyme, then deglaze with chicken stock, using a wooden spoon to get all the good bits (nuts and hen drippings) from the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Cranberry Paste
In a food processor, combine remaining 1/4 cup pistachios, cranberries and basil. Add shallots and pan drippings. Pulse until all is a uniform texture.

Serve hens with two healthy tablespoonfuls of paste. You will have plenty left over!

Links to other cranberry Cornish hens noshes:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pepper & Potato Soup

Pepper & Potato Soup
In an ongoing effort to continue eating organic fruits and vegetables and, at the same time, support local farms, the Vegetarian and I joined Winter Sun Farms CSA. What's really special about this particular CSA is that they deliver locally grown, flash-frozen summer produce--in the depths of winter. So, as we're getting tired of only finding root vegetables at the Greenmarket, now our freezer has a beautiful assortment of summer fruits and vegetables: diced mixed peppers, blueberries, sweet corn, Carolina Gold tomatoes, butternut squash puree, green beans and fresh pea shoots. We pick up this array of goodies once a month, through April, at which point spring produce will be in full force. The other nice thing about everything being frozen is that we don't have to worry about using it immediately (except the pea shoots, of course. Any suggestions?)

Dinner last night came, as usual, from a couple of sources. First, since we had leftover potatoes from our mashed celery potatoes earlier this week, I knew I wanted to use those. And what better use for potatoes in February then in a soup? The recipe inspiration came from a cookbook I found waiting to be thrown out in my old building in Chelsea--Quick and Healthy Home Cooking. The book itself is rather shticky--all the recipes are either below a certain carb count or take fewer than 30 minutes to cook--and this particular one was made entirely in the microwave! So I knew I had to adapt it to the stovetop. (Even though, for the first time since college, I now reside with a microwave, I still have no desire to use it for anything other than reheating and occasionally making popcorn.) The original recipe was also for a beet & potato soup--sufficiently wintry, of course, but we had bell peppers in the freezer! That, and the vegetarian isn't so into beets. So then I poked around online and found Elise's recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Potato Soup. Perfection! A quick combination of the two recipes and we were in business. Enjoy!

Pepper & Potato Soup

  • 23 ounces mixed bell peppers, diced (about 4)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 5 red-skinned potatoes, diced
  • 1 russet potato, diced
  • 1 fuji apple, peeled, cored and grated (I did this in the food processor--much easier)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch thyme, dried
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
  • sour creamto taste (optional)
  • brown rice, cooked (optional)
  • several sprigs dill leaf, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Toss peppers with olive oil and spread out on pan. Roast for 20 minutes, until quite fragrant. Remove and set aside.

In a medium stockpot, mix together onion, potatoes, apple and water. Steam, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in cumin and cook another minute. Add peppers (and their oil), bay leaf, thyme, lemon juice and vegetable broth. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and let rest 5 minutes.

Remove bay leaf and discard. Transfer contents of pot (in batches!) to food processor and pulse until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper. If necessary, return soup to pot and reheat. Garnish with sour cream (if desired--I did, the vegetarian didn't) and dill. If you want something heartier, stir in some cooked brown rice (the vegetarian did; I found it delightful as is. Serve warm.

Links to other pepper potato soup noshes:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

MLLA 32: French-Style Lentil Soup

French-Style Lentil Soup

Lentilles Verte du Puy
One of the goodies I brought back from Paris for the Vegetarian and me to enjoy was a box of French green lentils, an AOC-protected variety that many consider to be the best lentils in the world. Blue-green when uncooked, they are quite beautiful and certainly not "peasant food." I often think of lentils as a winter food and, with all the snow we've been having in New York, a lentil soup was exactly what we've been craving.

As I slowly adapt myself to a (mostly) vegetarian diet, I have a new-found appreciation for legumes. High in protein, they're an excellent main dish and alternative to tofuLentils are probably my favorite variety. One such reason is simply time commitment--unlike most legumes, lentils don't need to be soaked. They can just be rinsed, sorted (to make sure no small stones sneaked in) and cooked. They also only need about 45 minutes to cook, unlike many beans which require several hours. This all means that I can still get dinner on the table, even when I come home late and don't plan ahead.

Because I used French lentils, I decided to make the flavorings of this soup reflect French cuisine as well. Wanting a meal that really stuck to our ribs (and knowing the Vegetarian craves starches as much as I do protein), we had this over Mashed Celery Potatoes. Not traditional, I know, but delicious all the same.

And, because this is a legume dish, it's my first entry into the 32nd installment of My Legume Love Affair. Enjoy!

French-Style Lentil Soup
adapted from a recipe for French Lentil Soup from Epicurious and one for Egyptian-Style Lentil Soup from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen.
  • 1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 baby carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I recommend Imagine Organic Vegetable Broth)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups French green lentils
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon French sea salt
  • 1 lemon, quartered
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place red onion in a pie plate and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover tightly with tin foil and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add yellow 
Simmering Lentil Soup
onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cumin and fennel seeds, reduce heat to medium-low and saute until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add vegetable broth, water, lentils, tomatoes, kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil then lower heat immediately, cover partially, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until lentils are very tender and the broth has thickened.

Remove from heat, stir in reserved red onion and its olive oil, as well as balsamic vinegar. Season with French sea salt and additional 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Serve, over mashed celery potatoes if desired, with lemon wedges. Enjoy!

Update: check out Sandhya's beautiful round-up and congratulations to all the winners!

Links to other French Lentil Soup noshes: