Tag Archive | Tablespoon

Ginger-Orange Muffins

ginger orange muffins
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
2 eggs
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.


Maple-Black-Pepper Pork Chops

This song came on during my commute to work this morning, and it has, thus far, completely made my day.

I realized, as I was bopping along to this, that I actually like my commute. I’ve always been fond of transition spaces–airports, trains, waiting rooms–spaces that have no other function than to hold you while you wait for something to end or something to begin. And that’s essentially what my commute is, especially in the morning. The traffic isn’t too bad, the scenery is varied and interesting, and I have half an hour of just time, maybe the only moment like it in my day. I move from the northside of Chicago to the southside, over a tangle of highways, streets, neighborhoods, buildings, and people.

September itself is a transition; it starts out in summer, but by today, the last of it, it is undeniably not. Not lazy, not gluttonous, not warm. The leaves are starting to change, I’m wearing a jacket every day, the air is crisp. I love the brightness of the light and the chill of the breeze. I love roasting vegetables and picking apples and making pies. But, still–I’m not entirely there yet. I’m still in the transition stage. I look up and see that it’s the last day of September and I think I’ve been driving too fast, moving through the months so quickly. I’m just about ready for this season, but part of me misses summer.

I’m trying, though. I made this the other day, and this recipe is most certainly a fall recipe, with maple as its dominate flavor. It may sound overly sweet, but it’s really not. The shallots, thyme, and black peppercorns round it out. I served this with roasted butternut squash and poured the sauce over the whole shebang. With a light endive salad to add a crispness, this was a perfect fall meal.

Maple Black Pepper Pork Chops

2 bone-in, thick-cut pork chops
1 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 1/2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 c. maple syrup (Grade B or Dark Amber)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, season the pork chops well with 3/4 tsp of salt. Pour the oil into a large ovenproof skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the chops when the oil is warm, and cook for four or five minutes on each side, until they are well browned.

Flip the chops, then carefully transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until their internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, just a few minutes, depending on thickness of the chops. Set the chops aside and cover loosely with foil.

Place the skillet back on medium-high heat. Sautee the shallot with thyme and the rest of the salt until the shallot becomes transluscent.

Pour in the vinegar and scrapte the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits. Reduce heat to a simmer, and let reduce for 2 minutes. Then add the maple syrup and crushed black pepper. Return to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes.

Serve the sauce over the chops.

Greek Cucumber Salad Sandwich

The theme of my summer has been eating outdoors, thanks to this highly useful and necessary purchase I made in July:
This pimped-out cooler makes picnicking a snap, and very quickly became the MVP of the season. My summer, which officially came to a close last week (boo), was filled with a bounty of delicious, simple meals that were packed into the cooler and then unpacked at one of Chicago’s lovely outdoor spaces. I have the good fortune of living a block from Humboldt Park, which is a 207-acre greenspace filled with ponds, baseball fields, gardens, and a weekly impromptu classic-car parade. Pimped-out cooler made it super easy to transform a weeknight dinner into an outdoor excursion, complete with entertainment (baseball and soccer games seem to happen every night of the summer).
picnic at humboldt park
Luckily my partner-in-outdoor-eating agrees that there’s no reason to eat indoors if the weather allows. One day, I came home from work to a packed cooler and a Brandon with a plan. You may know that there’s no quicker way to my heart than to cook for me, but cooking for me AND taking it outdoors is a sure win. So he earned some big points with this delicious picnic, comprised of tangy Greek cucumber salad sandwiches and a crisp white wine.
greek cucumber salad sandwiches
The weather was perfect, with a blue sky and gentle clouds. The sun set behind the baseball field as the kids finished their game.
Maybe it’s cruel to post this summery recipe on a day like today, with gray, cold rain, and no end in sight. But I’m not ready to put pimped-out cooler away for the year yet; consider this an incantation asking the weather to let me squeeze in just a few more picnics. If you get the chance, make these sandwiches and eat them outdoors. They’ll transport  you back to a lazy August afternoon, make you forget about the rain.
Greek Cucumber Salad Sandwich
Adapted from Epicurious.com 

2 1/2 pounds Japanese, Persian, or English hothouse cucumbers
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup labneh (Lebanese yogurt cheese) or Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed well, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 9×7 inch loaves focaccia, halved horizontally, or 8 ciabatta rolls
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using English cucumbers, split lengthwise and remove seeds (leave other varieties whole). Arrange cucumbers on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, cut side down. Brush with melted butter. Roast cucumbers until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate; chill until cold.

Cut Japanese or Persian cucumbers lengthwise in half. Cut hothouse cucumber halves lengthwise in half. Slice crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick pieces. Whisk Greek yogurt and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in sliced cucumbers and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season filling to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

Brush cut sides of focaccia or rolls with olive oil; place on a baking sheet and toast in a 400° oven until just crispy and lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Divide filling among focaccia bottoms, cover with tops, and cut each into 4 sandwiches (or divide filling among rolls).

picnic sandwich

Beet Slaw

I thought the weather and I had come to a tacit understanding: I toughen up, make it through the gunk of winter; it gives me a few months of summer during which I can live relatively unmolested by it. But after a freak hailstorm that caused EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of damage to my car last week, all bets are off. You hear me, weather? I don’t think you’re so cool anymore! I’m gonna complain my eyes out if I feel like it.

It happens to be a nice day today, so I’ll spare you any further grumbling. The humidity is low, the sun is high. I’m in an office, but dreaming of sponging up some sunshine soon. Here’s a recipe that’s perfect for a picnic, and’ll get you out of the kitchen quickly. Tristan showed me this a few months ago. You can eat the slaw on its own, in a salad, over brown rice, or stuffed in sandwiches. It’s tangy, sweet, fantastic. Beets are in the same family as spinach, chard, and quinoa, and are jam-packed with phytonutrients–their health benefits are matched only by their deliciousness.

Beet Slaw

3 small beets (or equivalent), peeled and shredded
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. orange-champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar with a little orange juice)
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a bowl, whisk the garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper together. Drizzle in the olive oil until all the liquids emulsify. Pour over the shredded beets. Will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Green Garlic and Cherry Tomato Focaccia

I realized the other day when talking to an old friend that I essentially have a philosophy on life: Try new things and eat vegetables. That’s it folks. If I had to sum up all the wisdom I’ve learned in my 29plus years on this planet, it would be that. Be adventurous, and find pleasure in the things that are good for you.

Yesterday, I spent a really lovely day with sunshine and good friends and a grill. We then spent some time at the Andersonville street fair, crammed full with people and craft booths and food. Pleasure, I think, is good for you. It’s a vegetable. It makes you feel attached to the world, participating in it. Friends are good for you.

Focaccia is good for you, especially if you top it with vegetables.

I made this the other day when it was thunderstorming and ridiculous outside.

I took out my aggression on the dough.

With the help of this book I picked up at Myopic:

After hand-kneading and triple rising, I got here:

adapted from the Good Housekeeping Baking Cookbook

1 1/2 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 3/4 c. bread flour
5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. kosher or course sea salt

1 package of cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
1 head of green garlic, rinsed, peeled, and diced
3 to 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1/2 c. parmesan
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c. warm water, yeast, and sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. Add remaining 1 c. warm water,  flour, 2 tbsp. oil, and table salt; stir to combine.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic (dough will be soft; do not add more flour). Shape dough into ball; place in greased large bowl, turning dough over to coat. Cover bowl and let stand in warm place (80 to 85 degrees) until doubled, about 1 hour.

Make the toppings: Over medium heat in a pan, saute the green garlic (with a bit of salt and pepper) until soft. Set aside to cool.

Lightly oil a cookie sheet with a lip (not one that talks back; I mean one that has about an inch-long border around all sides). Punchdown dough and pat into prepared pan. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. With fingertips, make deep indentations, i inch apart, over entire surface of dough, almost to bottom of pan. Drizzle with remaining 3 tbsp. oil; sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover looselty and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450.

Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the dough. Spread the tomato halves over the dough. Sprinkle the thyme, then salt and pepper. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over everything.

Bake focaccia on lowest rack about 18 minutes, or until bottom is crusty and top is lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Then here.


Lentil Burgers

lentil burger

Though the weather in Chicago hasn’t fully committed to summer, its people have. And damn straight. We deserve it after such a crappy, gray spring. The festivals are in full bloom, farmers markets are back, bikers are flooding the streets. And the barbecues! You can walk down the street at any given time of day and inhale the tell-tale smell of charcoal and grilled meats wafting from balconies.

This burger didn’t make it to any party, but was a thrifty reuse of lentil leftovers, which had started their life in this iteration:

And ended up, the next day, like this:

Homemade Lentil Burgers

For the lentils:

1 c. dried lentils, rinsed (I used red lentils, but any would work)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, rinsed, ends removed, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
bay leaf
water to cover
salt and pepper

For the burgers:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c. flour, added gradually

Plus toppings:
Manchego cheese
butter lettuce
on a toasted bun or toasted wheat bread

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and onions and gently saute for a minute, then add the carrots and celery. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and let the veggies soften, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add in the lentils, tamarind, bay leaf, vinegar, and cover well with water. Let them simmer vigorously for about half an hour, stirring occasionally and checking to see that there’s still enough liquid in the pot. You want them to absorb most of the liquid, but not burn. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

You can eat some now if you’d like (try them with roasted asparagus, fried egg, a drizzle of balsamic, and grated parmesan). If you do eat some before you make the burgers, then be sure to halve the amount of egg and flour you use for the burgers.

When the lentils have cooled and you are ready for burgers, add them to a mixing bowl. Add the egg(s), and gradually stir in the flour. The consistency should be thick enough to fry. The more flour you add, the denser the burgers will be.

Bring a few tablespoons of oil in a pan to a very high heat. Spoon a large heap of the batter into the hot oil and flatten with a spatula. Let it fry a few minutes, until you can see that the sides are brown. Flip. Add cheese. Fry until the sides brown, another few minutes. Serve with the fixin’s I suggested above, or any that float your boat! Bask in your thriftiness! And (hopefully) the summer sun!

Lemon Pound Cake with Balsamic-Marinated Strawberries

pound cake balsamic strawberries

Traditionally, pound cake is made with a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs, and a pound of flour. Essentially that’s four pounds of crazy. Who can eat all that? This version is much more manageable: loaf size. It’s not a cake of the super moist variety, but has a consistency more like a breakfast bread. As such, it holds up beautifully to the marinated strawberries. The balance of zingy and sweet here is delightful. Balsamic and strawberries are a genius combination that I was introduced to by Kat Santore many moons ago. Thanks, Kat!


Lemon Pound Cake with Balsamic-Marinated Strawberries

1 lb. strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sugar.

Combine all ingredients well and let sit in the fridge while you make the pound cake. The longer, the better. With a slotted spoon, spoon the strawberries on top of each slice of cake to serve.

lemon pound cake

Lemon Pound Cake
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white granulated sugar
2 sticks butter
4 eggs
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add lemon extract and zest.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking, powder, and salt. Gradually add to the sugar mixture.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

lemon pound cake