Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pan Roasted Mushrooms with Wild Rice

Mushrooms - people either love them or hate them, but there rarely is the nonchalant indifference that say green beans may inspire. Clearly I am in the love them column.

Spring is the season for morels and they are among my favorites, but the lowly button and cremini mushrooms see plenty of love on this blog as well. Here's a simple but hearty dish that combines some of my favorite fun ingredients - wild rice and parsley.

This dish is a spin on the Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms that hijacked my holiday menu planning a couple of years ago, courtesy Smitten Kitchen, I simply added lots of wild rice and presto, a one pot meal! Adding the cooked rice in with the mushrooms as they finish cooking helps the rice absorb all of the good flavors that have been stewing in the pan.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad

 Barley is one of those grains that too many people buy and then don't know what to do with it. Sure, there's the old standby of mushroom barley soup (or beef and barley soup) but barley really has so much going for it then playing second fiddle in a soup.

Whether you buy the pearled (white) or hulled (brown) barley, both have a chewy density that is fun to eat and a great substitute for rice. Stir in your favorite sauce - pesto of any kind, tomato sauce, harissa if you're feeling bold - and you have a bowl full of goodness that will treat your body so well!

This salad was merely a riff on the Mediterranean Caviar I have been making for years. While the veggies are not quite in season in parts of the country, the eggplant and tomatoes trucked in from south of the border feel local to me, despite the international boundary, so I ate with abandon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Moroccan Lamb Patties with Harissa and Pomegranate Molasses

My love affair with Moroccan cuisine started about the time I began this blog. I threw my first dinner party in California, aptly titled "Oh What A Moroccan Feast" and believe you me, it was quite a night. My guests ranged from people I had just met to friends I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. It was an occasion, and the food wasn't too shabby either!

I am infamous for my confidence (hubris?) in the kitchen, meaning I do not do test-runs before throwing parties, usually without mishaps. But that night was my first time making homemade harissa or cooking a tajine and I was a nervous wreck. Although I already had homemade preserved lemons (the solution to an over abundant lemon tree in the back), that night was my first time making harissa and I was kind of terrified that its heat would kill everyone. I'm happy to report that we all survived, but do not let your own hubris regarding your ability to "handle the heat" kill your food. Harissa is definitely something best in small doses!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Harissa - DIY Pantry

Do you know harissa? Fiery hot - really super duper hot! It is essentially a red pepper flake pesto, so if you think curry is too hot, look away, you will not be interested in this.

Since harissa is so spicy, it is used in very small amounts. A traditional condiment for Moroccan cooking, it is best dabbed rather than dolloped into tajines or other stew like dishes. The first time I made it my then roommate - of Korean descent - plopped nearly a teaspoon into her bowl, thinking that her lifelong consumption of kimchi made her palate able to handle "super duper" spicy. Sadly, it ruined her bowl and she had to toss it and start fresh. Yes, it really is that hot!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Smoked Salmon with Herb Pesto on Rye Toasts

There are all kinds of diets out there nowadays - gluten free, paleo, anti-inflamation, blood type - you name it, someone is on it and working in a natural food grocery store I hear them all. I confess that I am always so thankful that my body seems to accept most foods and is apparently allergy free (knock on wood!) So when I was recently diagnosed with a nasty fungal infection (in my ear of all places) and a Chinese herbalist suggested I restrict my diet to help speed my recovery, I was thrilled for the free advice, until I heard the list of no-nos: No fermented foods, eggs, dairy, wheat, sugar, corn, beans or rice.

That translated into no: wine, beer, kombucha, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, cheese, butter, milk, yogurt, Mexican food of almost any kind or the homemade bread that I make and subsist on. As my friend said, "but that's all you eat!" Right sister, cue the mini violins because I was having quite the pity party!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Pudding Pie with Almond Crust

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I'm in love with Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen. Consider her chocolate pudding pie sa Exhibit A.

Not only does it deliver that amazing pudding pie flavor and texture - super creamy and rich - but it is darn easy to make as well! And as an extra bonus, it's soy free! This is vegan chemistry in its highest form. All natural ingredients, straight out of the pantry, and ready in a few hours once the pie has chilled long enough to set. Incredible!

It is from Vegan Pie in the Sky and if anyone wants to send it to me as a gift, I'll be forever grateful. But it I don't receive it within the next four weeks, I'll just have to purchase it myself - my first ever dessert cookbook, it's unheard of in my kitchen!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Red Chile Tamales - Pork or Vegan

The first tamale I ever ate was in a little shop in a residential area of Minneapolis. You read that right, Minnesota was the place for the tasting of my first homemade tamale (they really can't come any other way). It was so delicious I went back for seconds and thirds, feeling a bit sheepish at my gluttony at the time. Now living in the City of Angels I understand that one tamale is never enough, and I am part of a long history of people who stuff themselves uncontrollably on tamales because they really are that good. If made properly. So when I set out to make my own tamales there was quite a bit of trepidation, anxiety and general fear, which is not something I usually feel in the kitchen.

Upon asking advice from friends at work, these were the warnings/suggestions I heard:

"Don't make them too greasy - greasy tamales are the worst!"

"And they can't be too dry, then you've wasted all that time on nothing."

"You have to make them with love, or people will taste it that you were unhappy when you were making them."

Can you blame me for feeling a tad intimidated? And when you look at the process, this is a multi-day, multi-hour labor of love. But let me tell you, they were so worth it!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fusilli with Putanesca Sauce - Happy Birthday Presto Pasta Nights!

When Ruth of Once Upon A Feast emailed me about Presto Pasta Nights' 5th anniversary, I felt like a very, very, old lady. Where did the time go? How could this be the fifth anniversary of PPN? I mean that's pre-great recession, pre-Obama presidency, pre-moving to California. Kind of shocking!

So in honor of my old age and PPN's ripe five years of bringing weekly pasta goodness to my inbox, here's my favorite quick and east pasta, Putanesca. Olives, tomatoes, capers and red pepper flakes. You really cannot go wrong with this and the sauce is ready in the time it takes to make the pasta. Super easy and delicious!

Since I have been on a vegan kick lately, there is a vegan option included, substituting parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast. Found in most natural food stores, nutritional yeast - not brewers' - has a cheesey taste that is dairy free. I was first introduced to it on popcorn - yummy! - and my friend referred to it as "hippy cheese." 

Fusilli with Putanesca Sauce

1 lb fusilli
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olives, chopped (kalamata, oil-cured, cracked green, any you like)
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 15 oz can diced or pureed tomatoes
grated parmesan (optional)
nutritional yeast (vegan option)

Bring large pot of water to boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt and fusilli. Meanwhile, heat oil over high heat and saute garlic until just beginning to brown. Add tomatoes, olives, capers and red pepper flakes and cook 4-5 minutes until heated through. Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Garnish with cheese or nutritional yeast and serve.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Roasted Beets and Carrots with Goat Cheese Dressing at Stacey Snacks
Spicy Asian Shrimp Cocktail at The Perfect Pantry
Black Forest Cake at Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy