Speaking of Matt, he does these cookbooks. Every year, for the last ten years, he and Rachel have culled recipes from their brains, their cookbooks, and their friends and family to create a smorgasbord of vegan (and later, vegetarian) delights.
Now, I’ve been on a muffin kick lately. Aren’t they sort of the perfect breakfast? They are fast and cheap to make, they keep you full until lunch, and you can make them as healthy/sweet/savory as you’d like. I have been trying to swim in the mornings before work, and muffins make it a lot easier to get out the door in a timely manner. So, Matt suggested I try the Ginger-Mandarin Muffins from volume 2 of his cookbooks. According to Matt, the recipe came from Pablito, the farmer who gives them their produce every week. Also according to Matt, “They are mind-blowing.”
And I can attest: mind adequately blown. I made a few substitutions and added coconut–and they were fantastic! I also de-veganized them, as I really like butter (which I’m sure they’ll forgive me for, since they now eat dairy too). I also skipped the glaze at the end, because they are beautifully sweet without it. The results: moist and full of flavor. All the other slowpokes are gonna eat my dust in the pool tomorrow morning!
Ginger Orange Muffins
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1/2 shredded coconut
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 navel orange or 2 mandarin oranges
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. flour
optional for the glaze: 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter with the sugar and eggs. Combine with the milk, coconut, ginger, and the orange zest. I used a food processor so that the coconut was pulverized and not in large shreds anymore.
In a separate bowl, sift together the baking soda and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.
Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins, then bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
If you’d like to make the glaze, dissolve the powdered sugar with 1/4 c. of the orange juice. When the muffins are finished baking but still warm, drizzle them with the juice mixture.
You know the Portlandia sketch “Put a Bird on It”? I’m kind of like that, but with pasta. Got a bunch of gorgeous veggies you’d like to make into a meal? Put it on pasta. Leftover sausage? Put it on pasta. There are many other fine grains out there, and I do try to diversify. But pasta just calls to me. I open the cupboard and it says, “C’mon Kate, you know who’s your favoritest carb. Why fight it?” What can I do but give in?
Which is exactly what I did yesterday when I received my first Fresh Picks box, filled with gorgeous spring greenery. Most exciting of all was a bunch of ramps, which I’d never seen before and at first mistook for scallions. After a bit of careful research (Mr. Google), I learned that not only are these creatures delicious, but they are, in fact, responsible for the name of Chicago itself! A 17th-century explorer named Robert Cavelier described a thick growth of vegetation near Lake Michigan as the wild onion, called Chicagou in the language of the native tribe. Recently, it was found that these wild onions were actually ramps.
So it’s clearly an act of civic pride to eat these by the barrelful. And, did I mention that they are delicious? The whites are a milder version of the scallion, and the greens have a lovely, delicate onion flavor. Put them on some pasta, why don’t you!
Ramp and Brussels Sprout Pasta
1 c. cashews, unsalted
2 c. brussels sprouts, quartered with ends removed
1 bunch ramps, whites diced and greens julienned
parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp. good, aged balsamic vinegar, or reduced balsamic vinegar if it’s not that aged
1/2 lb. penne
Preheat oven to 450. Put a pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
Lay the brussels sprouts out on a cookie sheet and coat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they have reached your preferred level of crunchiness (I like mine really crunchy). When done, put them in a large bowl.
In a dry, heavy-bottomed pan, toast the cashews until they turn brown. Add to the large bowl.
In the same pan, warm some oil over medium and saute the ramp whites until they are soft and translucent. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the greens and cook until they wilt, maybe a minute. Add the bowl with the cashews and brussels sprouts.
Cook the pasta until al dente. Add to the bowl and toss, adding olive oil until lightly coated.
Bring the same pan with another tbsp. of oil to medium, and fry an egg, about a minute on each side.
To serve: dish out the pasta, then drizzle some good vinegar–no more than maybe a tbsp. Add the egg to the top, grate cheese over it, and finish with salt and pepper.
All I want to do lately is make. I feel more pull toward cozying up at home these days and making things than I did even in winter. Maybe it’s a last push of hibernating impulse before Chicago gets warm and lovely and I am too busy with barbecues and street festivals to do such things as make bread. Or to even turn my oven on for that matter. But for now, I have this great desire to reduce everything to its essential elements and start from scratch.
There’s one notoriously time-consuming item, however, that I’m happy to buy from the store: puff pastry. Apparently, when making it, you must be in a temperature-controlled room so that the layers of (mmmm) butter don’t melt and run while you’re rolling the dough. And the dough must rest in between layers. That’s the beauty of this concoction: layer upon layer of buttery dough with strata of butter in between.
Truly, what can go wrong when puff pastry is involved? You can throw old tires on it and it’ll still probably come out tasting great. Flakey and gorgeous–like making pies out of croissants. Really, puff pastry is never a bad idea.
Here is a very lovely visual demonstration for making puff pastry from scratch. If you’re up for that kind of thing.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 red apples (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into small pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
about 1/2 c. blue cheese, crumbled
Heat oven to 400º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the apples, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.
Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Spread with the crème fraîche, leaving a ½-inch border. Top with the onion mixture and sprinkle blue cheese on top. Bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into pieces before serving.
Lessons learned yesterday:
1. Sandwiches are infinitely better when you call them panini and squish them between two hotplates.
2. It is impossible not to buy cheese from the cute cheese vendor at the farmers’ market.
3. Always listen to a lady who insists you buy these certain wonderful cucumbers. Any lady who cares that much about you or about cucumbers won’t steer you wrong.
4. Horseradish cheese and jalapeno jelly are a win-win combo.
The morning’s weather in Chicago was perfect yesterday. Breezy and sunny and mild. It was a lovely morning to walk around the farmers’ market, even though summer is clearly on its way out. The peppers and the eggplant were nearly past their prime. There were more apples than anything, and even a small batch of winter squash.
I came home and cobbled together this sandwich, er, panino. I have more elaborate recipes to share with you, but it’s Labor Day weekend, and I’m sure that you are as little interested in laboring this weekend as I, even if cooking is among the more pleasurable labors known to man (or, me). So, here’s an ode to feeding yourself creatively, deliciously, and laborlessly on this holiday. Everything but the avocado in this concoction is a farmers’ market item: wheat bread, horseradish cheddar, cucumber, and a fantastic sweet jalapeno jelly that I bought at a farmers’ market in Oakland a few weeks ago. It’s kind of like ketchup doing kung fu. You could use Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce as a substitute.
Spicy Labor(less) Day Sandwich
2 slices wheat bread
salt and pepper
6-8 thin slices of cucumber
1 slice horseradish cheddar
1 tsp. jalapeno jelly
optional: sliced peperoncini
Spread the jelly on one side of the bread and smoosh the avocado into a layer on the other side. You’ll want a nice ripe one in order to do this. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the avocado. Add the sliced cheese and slices of cucumber, and peperoncini if using. Close the sandwich and pop in the panini press or pan. Grill until the cheese is melted and both sides of the bread are a nice golden brown color.
Serve warm. Then do no more labor for the day. Except maybe for dinner.
Alas, my coworker, cocktail mixmaster, fearless foodie, and good friend Melissa is moving next week to Seattle. Good news for Seattle, bad news for me. We had a going away BBQ with other workmates, and this bean dip was my contribution. I used dried beans, so am going to supply the recipe according to those directions. If you want to use canned beans, just skip the soaking and boiling. I love using dried, though. The whole ritual reminds me of being a kid in my mom’s kitchen, picking through the pintos for her before she made her famous refried beans. Plus, it’s much cheaper than canned and you can control what goes in them.
Cannellini Bean Dip
1 c. dried cannellini beans
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
the leaves from one full sprig of rosemary
salt and pepper
5 tbsp. olive oil
Rinse the dried beans and sort out any hard, disfigured, or discolored ones. Cover with water and let them soak overnight.
The next day, drain and rinse the soaked beans then cover them with water in a pot. Do not add salt yet. Bring to a boil and let them cook for about an hour, until soft. Drain and let cool a bit.
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients but the olive oil and begin to pulse. Drizzle in the olive oil until desired consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste.
I served with garlic-rubbed, oven-toasted baguette slices.