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Archive for April, 2012

“A girl cannot live  on sweets alone.” – a vegan cook from Portland 😉

Honestly, I love cooking. And actually I cook savory food more often than bake sweet food, but I’m typically always really hungry so the photo snapping time is generally neglected. But I was super excited about this dish so I managed to spare a few precious minutes to take some pictures before devouring it.

I know some would say, “Why make mexican crepes when you already have tortillas?” And perhaps this is a valid argument. But crepes are fun to make, and I might argue more fun than tortillas. Plus I just got a new crepe pan as a graduation present (thank you anonymous Tigard resident). And, well, the idea just randomly came to me one afternoon and I couldn’t get it out of my head and it called for soft, delicate crepes, not rough, durable tortillas. But the best, and most applicable, reason for using crepes instead of tortillas – I wanted to. Enough. Said.

This dish is all prep time. Once you slice and dice everything, and puree your crepe batter, there’s only about 20 minutes of cooking time left, depending on how many crepes you are making or how many crepe pans you have.

The nice thing about crepes is that, a) you can hold the batter in the fridge for a few days and, b) you can hold prepared crepes in the fridge for about a week or so. Yep, just stack em one on top of the other and plop em in a plastic bag or container. And what makes vegan crepes far superior to their eggy predecessor (aside from the obvious) is that they don’t stick to each other. Eggy crepes like to hold onto one another for dear life, especially after you chill them down in the fridge. These chicken friendly guys come right apart, no hassle or oven heating required.

Savory Mexican Crepes

Crepe Batter, adapted from Veganomicon

  • 1 1/2 C soy milk
  • 1/2 C water, plus more if too thick
  • 3/4 C AP flour
  • 1/4 C Garbanzo & Fava Flour
  • 1 T Tapioca starch
  • 1/2 t salt

This recipe is barely altered from Isa’s original version. I wasn’t sure if I should post it or not but then I found that you could view it on Google books so…

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a tub of some sort and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer. The batter will thicken a bit as it sits. Make sure to stir it well before you make the crepes.

You may end up needing more water. The half cup is already double what the original recipe calls for, but I just think thinner is better.

To make the crepes, heat a crepe pan or other non-stick pan on med/ high to high heat. Brush vegan butter or oil onto the pan with a heat tempered brush (or you’ll singe the little guy’s hair). Pour 1 – 2 oz of batter (2 – 4 tablespoons) onto the pan and swirl the pan to move the batter all around. This might take some practice and you’ll probably lose a crepe or two but don’t fret, it gets easier.

And you have options here. You can cook the crepes all the way and immediately fill and eat them. Or you can par-cook them, fill them, and warm them up in the oven later when you’re ready for them. Either way, the level of doneness is entirely up to you. You can cook them until there is just barely some color on the crepe, or get some nice brown splotches all over it. You can also cook both sides of the crepe in the pan (by flipping or using a spatula) or just cook one side and finish cooking the rest of it in the oven. It’s all up to you!

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

  • 12 – 13 oz tomatillos (about 6 or so, average size)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small jalapeño, brunoise dice (1/8 in cut)
  • 1/2 small yellow chile, brunoise dice
  • 1/4 red onion, small dice (1/4 in cut)
  • Juice from one lime
  • 2 T minced cilantro
  • Salt, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste

The quantities listed above are basically approximate. If you like things hotter, add more diced peppers. Not on onion fan? Leave it out. Absolutely love cilantro? Pile it on! Recipes aren’t meant to be followed like they are set in stone. Use it as a guide and follow your taste buds.

Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them. Roughly chop them and place them in a food processor and pulse several times until they’re at the consistency you want. I had mine roughly pureed but chunky is fine too.

Transfer the tomatillos to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Let it sit in the fridge for awhile before deciding if it’s salty enough for you.

You can add other things like cumin and cayenne if you like. I wanted the flavors of the vegetables to shine through so I left the spices out.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • Lime juice (1 – 2 limes)
  • Olive oil (1 – 2 T)
  • Finely minced cilantro (2 – 3 t)
  • 1 small clove of garlic, grated on a microplane
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

The amount of oil versus lime juice versus cilantro is entirely up to you; the measurements in parentheses are about what I did. Salad dressings are typically loaded with oil, but I always cut it back quite a bit so mine was a bit on the acidic side. If you find your dressing is too acidic, try adding some sugar or agave to balance it out a little bit, or more olive oil.

Mix all ingredients vigorously with a small whisk or in a dressing emulsifier (love this thing). Set aside.

  • 1/4 head of red (purple) cabbage
  • 2 average sized carrots, peeled

Shred the cabbage and carrots in a food processor and toss them together in a bowl. If you let them sit for awhile, the carrots will turn this beautiful dark orange color from taking on the pigment in the cabbage. Toss with the vinaigrette when you’re ready to serve.

Kale Filling

  • 1/2 bunch curly kale, stemmed and roughly sliced
  • 2 large cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 – 3 T sliced leeks (about an inch of the stalk)
  • Salt, pepper, cumin, to taste
  • Minced cilantro, about 2 T

This is enough filling for about 6 small (7 in) crepes. Double it if you need to.

Heat a saute pan with a smidge of oil. Saute the leeks first for a couple minutes and then add the mushrooms and cook for another couple minutes. Add the kale and seasonings and toss everything. Add water or stock if you need more liquid in the pan. Once the kale brightens and begins to wilt (soften), it’s done. Add the cilantro and set aside until you’re ready to assemble your crepes.

Finishing Touches

I added some pepitas (pumpkin seeds – look in the bulk section if you’ve no pumpkins lying around) to my kale filling and placed some sliced avocado on the crepes right before serving. You could do guacamole if you want, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

All the natural flavors of the vegetables come together quite nicely in this dish. My husband, who typically pours hot sauce on all his Mexican food, didn’t even bring the Valentinas to the table. It’s fresh, flavorful and filling, but light and just perfect for eating on the porch on a warm day.

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It’s official. The fact that the first “hot” day in Portland renders me wishing it was cooler is surely a tell-tale sign that I’m a… wait for it… Portlander.

Of course I’ve gone through several of the iconic Portlander initiations already. Converting to a hop head and shunning all other beer that once I knew and loved. Wearing socks with my flip flops. Thinking McMenamins is cool. Figuring out that McMenamins actually kind of sucks. Except for the spicy tots of course. And yelling at a car from my bicycle, while forgetting that I don’t have any car windows to shield the public from my traffic tourettes.

Not that I hate the sun or warm weather or anything, I’m all about it being warm enough to wear flip flops (without the socks of course), but the hotness made my afternoon run total crap. You get so used to running in mild temperatures that 73 is just unbearable.

But, there is something that goes quite nicely with this summer weather; ice cream! I’m always fiddling around with my ice cream machine. I love having random ideas and being able to actually turn them into reality, even if reality turns out a tad different than what had originally transpired inside my head. #alwayshappens

I had some black mission figs slowly dying in my pantry. Initially I thought fig and honey ice cream, but honey’s technically not vegan and you just can’t get the same flavor from agave. Then I thought figs and madeira, but I, of course, didn’t have any madeira lying around. But I did have about half a bottle of marsala being neglected so I figure it was time to put it to use.

Fig & Marsala Ice Cream

  • 9 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • 1 can coconut milk (I used light)
  • 1 & 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 6 T marsala (or to taste)
  • 1 T olive oil (optional)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C figs (fresh or dried)

So this is where I tell you how I did it, and then advise you to do it a different way (I’m a work in progress).

This ice cream turned out pretty soft; not yogurty-soft-serve-soft but definitely not ice creamy-heat-the-scoop-up-first-hard. The culprit? All that damn marsala. I may be a lush but I like to taste my booze, so I kept adding more marsala to the ice cream base. What I should have done is reduced a cup or so of marsala on the stove by more than half. This way you get a lot of flavor but not so much liquid (and alcohol which also affects the freezing properties). It’s up to you, but I advise going the route of the reduction.

Once you’ve decided how to handle your marsala, toss everything in a blender, except the figs, and puree until smooth. You can chill it down more before freezing, or just pour it straight into your ice cream maker.

If you’re using dried figs you’ll need to bring them back to life. I roughly chopped mine into small pieces, covered them with hot marsala and let them rehydrate for a bit. Drain off the marsala before adding the figs to your ice cream (add either during the last few minutes of freezing or mix them in by hand afterward).

I didn’t stop here of course. I still thought the ice cream wasn’t marsala-y enough, so I dumped the rest of the bottle into a sauce pan – probably about 1 cup – and reduced it until it was a thick syrup. You won’t be able to tell the consistency of the syrup until you cool it, so reduce it for a bit and then cool it in a stainless steel (or something conductive) bowl that’s sitting in an ice bath so you can find out quickly if it’s reduced enough. I drizzled the syrup over the ice cream in layers when transferring from maker to tupperware. In my opinion, the syrup did the trick in making the ice cream flavorful, but you might be able to skip this step if you reduce the marsala before adding it to the ice cream base.

Well today’s supposed to be another scorcher (high of 80… eek!). I think I’ll play it smarter though and not go for a run right smack dab in the middle of the hottest part of the day (I may be slow sometimes but I’m not completely daft). Hope you’re enjoying some nice spring weather, wherever you are. Cheers!

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Guten morgen!

Previously in Naan I made a brief mention on fresh compressed yeast and that it was far superior to instant dry yeast but that it doesn’t keep long in the fridge but that you could also, supposedly, freeze it. (you didn’t think that sentence was going to end did you?) I also told you I would let you know if my frozen yeast would still do its thing once thawed, so this is me letting you know.

Yesterday at about 4:23 AM I realized that my husband would be out of bread soon so I needed to yank some yeast out of the freezer to thaw. Instead of actually yanking the yeast out of the freezer I, of course, just left myself a note to do so when I got home from work. There’s obviously a shorter way to relay my yeast information to you but I feel like babbling this morning so just hang tight (whatever that means).

We have a dry erase board on our fridge, so that’s where I left myself a note, “Amber, take yeast out of freezer.” Evidently, at some point during the day, my husband, who has been busy studying for his 3rd year law school finals, got bored and decided to have fun with the white board. By the time I got home it looked something like this:

The mind reels. 🙂

So, when I got home yesterday I took some yeast out of the freezer (no, Gary did not try to put it back in). The website that I previously learned you could freeze yeast from said that you needed to thaw it out for a day in the fridge, which is why I was taking it out yesterday. However, while piddling in the kitchen I got a hankering (I’m from the south, I can say that) for pizza. I obviously couldn’t wait an entire day for dinner so I took a gamble and grabbed some extra yeast and left it on the counter. Then I tried to speed up the process by holding it in my hands, and I happened to be reducing some marsala on the stove so the extra heat there was beneficial as well.

My point to all this yammering is that, yes you can freeze yeast. And yes, it will still work once it’s thawed. And no, you do not have to wait an entire freaking day to thaw it out. I had my 1/4 oz of yeast thawed out for pizza dough in about 10 minutes. And my husband and I both enjoyed some very tasty pizza last night for dinner, his with cheese and mine, of course, without.

I’m not sure how familiar you are with fresh yeast, but it comes in bricks like the one pictured above. Obviously, if you freeze the entire brick as is, you’ll be kicking your own ass later when you try to break off a small portion so you can use it. What I did was portion it all out before freezing. I grabbed my handy dandy scale (if you don’t have a kitchen scale, go get one straight away, they make your life much easier) and portioned the brick into 1 oz, 1/2 oz and 1/4 oz portions. I then wrapped each portion in plastic wrap, wrapped each portion group in more plastic wrap and labeled which group it was, and then tossed them all in a plastic bag. I figured this way you (I) could easily get the amount of yeast needed without the risk of wasting too much or having to refreeze it.

You may now be asking where exactly you can buy fresh compressed yeast from? Well, that’s a good question. And, actually, I don’t have a good answer. I got it from work, who got it from a food service company, who got it from Fleischmann’s. All I can find in the online shopping sectors is bulk quantities… while you can freeze this yeast, you don’t want to be freezing 24 lbs of it. Some quick Googling has revealed that certain stores like New Seasons and perhaps even Safeway and Fred Meyer carry it, but not at all locations (I know I’ve never seen it and I actually look for things like this). But I also read that some bakeries and bakery departments in grocery stores might be willing to sell you some, so just ask. If anyone knows of a guaranteed place to buy yeast from, please comment and let us all know.

So, there you have it, in a very long-winded, completely unnecessary and not very quick way of saying it; you can freeze fresh compressed yeast.

Good day!

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Sometimes you pick up a book that changes everything. Sometimes you indulge in the feeling of the smooth cover under the palm of your hand. Sometimes you read the first page, and fall in love.

I think people often take for granted the skill of writing a cookbook. I also think everyone thinks they can write a cookbook. Anyone can publish anything these days, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Just because you can cook, doesn’t mean you have the ability to write about it. And make me want to actually read it. I have cookbooks that I don’t ever look at. Cookbooks that I’ve never made one simple little recipe out of. Not that anything’s wrong with the recipes, I guess, but they just don’t intrigue me.

I like a cookbook that I can sit down with on the couch and read like a novel. Something that peaks my interest so much I don’t want to put it down. It takes more than ingredients and instructions to make a cookbook, just as it takes more than some food and a few tools to make dinner. There’s skill involved in both cooking and writing, and Tartine Bread delivers both.

I’d been meaning to get this book for quite some time, but as usual there’s more things to pay for than what I have to pay with so it got pushed to the back burner. But I recently graduated from culinary school (yay!) and hence received a gift card. So with this gift card I bought Vegan Pie in the Sky, The Flavor Bible and, of course, Tartine Bread.

Bread is something that seems to mystify most people. How can you take three simple ingredients and make such vastly different products with them? Why does it turn out different every time it’s made? And who actually has time to make their own bread?

I’m not a fabulous bread baker by any means, but I’m not mystified by it either. I love bread. And I also love making bread. I achieve fairly good results with typical sandwich breads, flat breads, ciabatta, focaccia, etc, but I’ve yet to create that dark, thick crusted, moist chewy crumb, gaping pocket filled bread that you find in artisan bakeries. But this will hopefully not be the case for long.

Chad Robertson, the writer of this book and baker/ proprietor of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, did the entire world a favor when he published this book. Seriously. Many bread baking books don’t really enable the home baker to achieve the same results as one would in a commercial kitchen. But this was Chad’s aim, to create a method that would work for anyone in any oven, even my rink-dink piece of %#*@ oven.

Chad spent the last twenty years studying, testing, baking, eating, breathing bread. That type of dedication should be admired by everyone, but especially anyone who’s ever dabbled in bread baking. Bread baking isn’t a quick task. You can just throw some flours together, toss in some yeast and add a little water and find out in an hour if it turned out alright. It’s quite time consuming and extreme patience and a profound love are definitely a necessity.

The book explains everything, from the tools you’ll need and the process involved in making and maintaining a wild yeast starter, to baking and subsequently eating the bread. There are also recipes for things like bruschetta, panzanella, gazpacho and affogato. And what’s really genius is his idea of making bread to be ready for dinner, not breakfast. Professional bread bakers typically have horrid hours because everyone wants to buy bread in the morning. Why? I don’t know because honestly most people don’t really need their bread until lunch or dinner. As a baker, I think the dinner thing an excellent idea. 🙂

But what really makes the book, aside from his excellent writing style, are the pictures. Lets face it, we all like books with pictures in them. Especially food books. I’ve actually put cookbooks back on the shelf because there weren’t enough pictures. People want to see what they are about to create. And with bread making it’s even more important to be able to see what exactly it is that you’re supposed to be doing, or how it’s supposed to look when all is said and done.

Chad’s friend and early apprentice Eric Wolfinger did the photos for the book and they are simply phenomenal. Even if you have no interest in making bread, it’s worth it to buy this thing just to look at the photographs. They are really quite beautiful.

I’ve never had to opportunity to visit the Tartine Bakery in San Fran, but hopefully one day not too awfully far away I’ll be able to enjoy bread of a similar quality from my own oven. I plan on getting my starter going in the next day or so, and I’ll let you know how it goes. Until then, try not to drool on your keyboard as you peruse pictures from this book. 🙂

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You know, sometimes when I wake up at 3:58 in the morning on my day off, I wonder if I seriously pondered the implications of being a baker before diving into the field… Did I? Nope. Not. At. All.

There should be an occupational hazard list they give you when signing up for pastry school that includes things like, “Indefinite failure to sleep past 5am, Possible career as hand model eliminated, and Probability of arthritis: 98.6%.” Fortunately (I think), they don’t tell you any of these things. But it’s not like it would have stopped me if they did. I just need some Ambien, a periodic spa day for my hands and about 5 heating pads paired with a bottle of Ibprofen. 🙂

I’m still happy to be a baker though, in spite of all its woes. One thing I love making is bread. And one thing my husband gets tired of is trying to make sandwiches out of irregularly shaped loaves… but he’ll get over that.

Lately I’ve been making a lot of naan. No, I don’t have a tandoor oven; which is probably a good thing because it might set this 125 year old house I live in on fire. I wouldn’t mind having a wood fired oven, but that’s also not going to happen. Actually, I’d be happy with a normal sized oven, but I make do with my rinky-dink mini version. Some girls dream of having a big house with a white picket fence when they grow up. I dream of being able to put a full size sheet pan into my oven (guess we all have our priorities).

But my oven doesn’t really matter here. I like to make my naan on the stove top, in a dutch oven (or french oven or enameled cast iron pot). This bread is super easy to make, very versatile on flavor and only takes a couple minutes to cook. I like to make a big batch of it, portion it into rounds, and store them in to the fridge until I’m ready for it. Since there’s hardly any yeast in naan, it’ll keep in dough form for several days, even a week. You can freeze the dough blobs but it’s honestly better to make the bread and then freeze it; I’m not a huge fan of freezing dough as it tends to affect the quality of the finished product in a negative manner.

I know most people probably don’t want to have to make their bread every time they want to munch on some hummus or make a panini, but this stuff is honestly best the day of. It’s still edible the day(s) after, but it’s pleasant chewiness becomes a bit of unpleasant rubberiness. So, if you cook it all off, warm it back up in the oven to reverse some of the staling.

You can use any mixture of seeds, herbs and spices in this bread – just make sure they go together. Like don’t put fennel, basil and dill in at the same time. I’ve made it with poppy seed, cumin and fennel, or dried chives, fennel and marjoram, or basil, oregano and thyme, etc, etc, etc. Also, I like to use whole wheat flour to make it “healthier,” but feel free to use all bread flour.

And lastly, a note on the yeast. Active dry and instant yeast are what you commonly find on the shelves at the grocery store. They will work in this recipe but you’ll need to cut the amount in half (which means going into gram land). I managed to procure some fresh compressed yeast from work. Fresh yeast, for whatever reason, is far superior to the dry stuff. It leavens longer than dry yeast and lends to a better tasting, more moist product. It, however, doesn’t keep very long so most people would end up throwing the bulk of it out. I’m told it’ll keep for a week or so in the fridge and still be effective. I read on the internet (so it must be true) that you can freeze fresh yeast for up to 4 months and just thaw it out before you need it… I’ll let you know how that goes for me next time I make bread.

Naan

  • 9 oz whole wheat flour
  • 23 oz bread flour
  • 1/4 oz fresh compressed yeast (about 7 – 8 grams)
  • 3/4 oz kosher salt
  • 3/4 oz seed/ herb mixture (or a few tablespoons…)
  • 1 C soy yogurt
  • 1 1/2 C water (room temp is fine)

Weigh out your dry ingredients, including the yeast, into a bowl. I know a chef instructor that would tell you to add the salt during mixing, but I haven’t noticed any ill effects from adding it with everything else.

Put the yogurt and water in the mixing bowl of your KitchenAid. Pour the dry ingredients on top of the wet and knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes or so. The actual mixing time may vary. What you’re looking for is a nice, smooth, supple ball of dough. It should not be sticky and there shouldn’t be any dry spots. You want to mix it long enough to develop a strong gluten network, but if you mix it too long the gluten will break down and the dough will get all sticky and gooey and you’re screwed at this point. Put the dough in a large bowl (or be lazy like me and leave it in the mixer bowl), cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until double (about 2 hours or so).

Once the dough has fermented, punch it down and portion it into rounds. A bench cutter is your friend here. For me, about 3 oz portions seem to be a good, single serving size. 3 oz also fits in my dutch oven and makes an excellent panini sandwich. Anyway, you won’t need any flour on the bench or counter for this. Just take the dough and cut portions off with a bench cutter (weigh them if accuracy if important to you). To round the dough, grab a blob and press it down a bit to expel some air and kind of fold it into itself. Flip it over so that the folded into side is face down and cup your hand around it. A 3 oz ball should fit in one hand, larger portions will take both hands. With your hand cupped over the dough, press down and move your hand in a circular motion. You’re looking to make a smooth surface all over the dough, a little pucker on the bottom is ok. If this sounds confusing to you go look on YouTube for some videos. There are a lot of ways to round dough so you’re going to find an array of videos out there.

Rounds that have been proofing in the fridge for at least a week (so they've expanded quite a bit)

Place the rounds on a parchment (or Silpat) lined sheet tray, cover with plastic wrap (I use a clean trash bag), and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Flattened rounds

When you’re ready to cook, spray a little bit of oil in your dutch oven and heat it over medium high heat. Grab a blob from the fridge, place it on the counter and use your hands to flatten it out as thin and large as you can get it. When the dutch oven is hot (not smoking, hot), peel the naan off the counter and lay it in the pan. Put the lid on it and twiddle your thumbs for a minute or two. Grab some tongs and flip the bread over. Let is cook for another minute or two, or until brown and puffy all over. Your going to have spots that are more cooked than the rest of it but that’s ok.

Naan cooking in the dutch oven

Toss it on a plate or the counter or what have you and make another one or just start chomping away.

Well, I think that does. I’m off to find another cup of coffee in hopes of staying awake the rest of the day. Happy Friday!

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