02.22.12_Mole Baked Tofu

When I was first flipping through the Moosewood cookbook, I saw several recipes for baked tofu. I had never thought of baking tofu. One that stood out the most was a Mole Baked Tofu. I looked at their recipe and it seemed very authentic. We went to the store with high hopes of finding all the different peppers and dried chilies we would need, but of course to no luck. I quickly used my iPhone to look up a different Mole recipe that was made up of all basic ingredients and decided it would have to do. One major difference was that the mole sauce recipe I found online had chocolate in it while the one in Moosewood did not.

When I got home from work I drained the tofu and pressed it while I made the mole sauce. Making the sauce was not nearly as intimidating as expected. Add one cup of diced onion and 3 tablespoons of minced garlic to a large sauce pot with 3 TBSP olive oil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp cumin, and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Then add in 3 TBSP flour and 2.5 TBSP chili powder. Slowly whisk in stock (we used veggie instead of chicken) and increase the heat to medium-high. Let the sauce boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it reduces. Remove from the heat and whisk in 2oz of chocolate.

Once the sauce was ready, I sliced each block of tofu into 12 triangles, and put them into a baking dish. I then poured the mole sauce over top of the tofu and put into a 375° oven for an hour. I occasionally pulled out the dish and gave the mole sauce a little stir. After an hour we served the baked tofu with a side of Mexican rice and homemade guacamole.

The mole sauce was SUPER chocolaty and sweet. I do not think I would use the Special Dark next time because it added sweetness that you don't normally find in a mole sauce. It was also missing spice. I definitely want to try a different recipe for mole and see if we can get a more authentic taste. I also want to try baking the tofu again, maybe marinate the tofu for a bit first to absorb flavor before baking. Not a terrible first attempt at mole though!

02.17.12_Chickpea Gnocchi Peperonata

I had had this recipe for Chickpea Gnocchi Peperonata on our recipe list since we started the blog back in August. For some reason we kept pushing it off until I finally decided it was time. After having a somewhat successful first attempt at gnocchi when I made Gnocchi with Thyme Butter I thought I would give this a shot. Unfortunately, the blog that had the original recipe was in French, so I had to do the best I could with Google Translate. I had to convert from metric and some of the translation just made no sense so this was a bit of a struggle.

Basically for this recipe all I had to do was mix a cup of chickpeas with 2 eggs and salt in the food processor. After it was smooth, I added the wet ingredients to the flour. I kneaded the dough, then let it sit for an hour in the fridge, covered. While the gnocchi dough was resting, I did all the prep work. I diced a red, green, and yellow bell pepper, a red onion, and a tomato. The recipe called for friarelli peppers, which I believe in America are banana peppers, so I left them out because I do not like their flavor and subbed the green bell pepper instead. I sauteed the peppers and onions then added a 1/4 TBSP of water to the mix and simmered for about 20 minutes. Next, I added the tomato, raisins, and leftover chickpeas. I cooked the mixture for another 10-15 minutes and then set aside when it was done.

Once the dough had sit for an hour, I cut it into four equal parts and rolled them out into long ropes. I marked the dough with a fork to create ridges then cut the ropes into inch long pieces. I dropped the gnocchi into boiling water and after the rose to the top of the water, let it cook for another 2-3 minutes before taking it out. I then tossed the hot gnocchi with the peperonata and it was ready to eat!

The gnocchi came out really tough for this recipe. I'm not sure if I didn't follow the recipe exactly or if parts of the steps were just lost in translation but it was not light and pillowy like my last gnocchi. I compared recipes and there was a lot more flour in this recipe so I'm not sure if that was it. I was worried about the flavor of the peperonata but it was actually delicious. The raisins seemed like an odd addition when reading the recipe but they gave a nice sweetness to the dish. 

02.12.12_Soft Pretzel Bites and Kale Chips

Several weeks ago a picture of soft pretzel bites appeared on my Google Reader and I died. As a kid one of my all time favorite snacks were these soft pretzel bites that had cheese in the middle. They always remind me of summer and I would eat an entire box in one sitting. When I saw the post for Soft Pretzel Bites and Cheese Dipping sauce I knew I would have to make this. I originally thought that the Super Bowl would be a good venue but our friend Amanda had already planned on making them (what are the chances?!) so I decided to hold off. After another week of waiting I decided I could not wait anymore. I decided that the Grammys would be a perfect excuse to stuff my face with them. Phillip also wanted to make something for our exclusive viewing party and smartly decided to use the leftover kale from our ginormous bag we had bought for the Mac and Cheese Style Cauliflower and Sauteed Kale to make kale chips.

The pretzel dough recipe called for:

* 1 1/2 cups warm
* 1 tbsp sugar
* 2 tsp kosher salt
* 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
* 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
* 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
* Vegetable oil

I do not have a fancy Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough attachment so I had to tackle this by hand. After combining all the ingredients, I kneaded the dough for a few minutes before placing the dough in an oiled bowl and covering to let rise for a little under an hour. As the hour came to a close, I preheated the oven to 425° and put 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup of baking soda into a large pot. As I waited for the water to boil I prepared the pretzel bites. I had to divide the dough into eight equal parts, then roll them onto into long ropes (it looked identical to when I made the Homemade Gnocchi). Then I cut the ropes into inch long pieces and covered them with a wet paper towel to prevent them from drying.

Once the water was boiling, I dropped a spoonful of the pretzel bites into the pot. I was worried they would all stick together as I piled them up onto the spoon but with a quick stir they all separated. I stirred constantly, helping the bites flip over within the water, and after 30 seconds, removed with a slotted spoon, drained, and put onto a parchment lined baking sheet. I repeated this until they were all boiled. While I finished boiling the bites, Phillip melted 2 Tbsp of butter and brushed each bite with the butter before sprinkling with salt. We then baked them for about 12 minutes and then were nice and brown.

As the bites were baking I made the cheese sauce. It was just your classic sauce like if you were to make homemade mac and cheese. Melt 2 tbsp butter, whisk in 2 tbsp of flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk in a cup of milk. After the sauce has thickened, add 2 cups of shredded cheddar, then season with some S&P. These pretzels were AMAZING. The recipe made two full baking sheets of bites and Phillip and I ate an entire baking sheet in one sitting. So. Good. It took a lot of self control not to keep eating them. We were so excited to eat them we forgot to take a picture of them in the bowl with the cheese sauce. Whoops.

For the kale chips, Phillip put the oven to 275°, then lined the baking sheets with foil. We took out any of the stems and then spread out the kale on the baking sheets. He drizzled the kale with some EVOO then we salted and decided to add some red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick. They baked for 20 minutes and Phillip flipped them about half way through. I was a little skeptical about these but they were delicious and could not have been easier, even though they did not photograph well.

02.12.12_Asparagus and Lemon Pasta

Our friend Laura bought us the Moosewood Restaurant: New Classics cookbook as housewarming gift when we moved into our new apartment. I finally sat down and flipped through it this weekend and found a ton of recipes that I can't wait to try. Phillip and I were originally going to grab carryout for dinner but as it got colder and colder outside, I decided I would much rather stay inside and whip up something easy than endure the (finally) winter weather for food. One of the recipes I had earmarked in the book was Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon. Without really reading the recipe I knew that this could not be difficult and that I would love it.

As I brought a large pot of water to a boil, I cut off the tough ends of a bunch of asparagus then trimmed off the asparagus tops by cutting the top inch or so off. Then I chopped the stalks of asparagus into small pieces. After the water was boiling, I dropped in just the tops and blanched them for 3-4 minutes. After removing the tops with a slotted spoon, I added the chopped stalks. I let these cook for 6-7 minutes before removing them.

Next, I added a lb of penne pasta to the boiling water and let that cook while I prepared the sauce. I got to use my mini Cuisinart again which I hadn't used in a while now that I have the full-sized one. I added 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 fresh lemon juice, the cooked asparagus stalks, a TBSP or so of the hot cooking water and S&P into the Cuisinart and gave it a whirl. Once all the pieces were mixed and the sauce was smooth it was ready.

I drained the pasta, tossed it with the asparagus lemon sauce, and added in 1/4 of Pecorino Romano cheese. I also topped the pasta with some fresh parsley for some added color and little extra flavor. The pasta was super delicious and as expected ridiculous easy and quick to prepare. I think I'll be making this again when I'm feeling lazy. Thanks Laura for the great cookbook!

02.09.12_Cauliflower Mac and Cheese and Sauteed Kale

I realize that regular Mac and Cheese is vegetarian but what fun is that. I saw this post for Mac and Cheese Style cauliflower that was served as a side and thought it would be great to take this recipe and adapt it to be a main course. Who can say no to a baked casserole dish of cheddar cheese?! I did not increase the size of the dish since it already called for an entire head of cauliflower but did make some adjustments to make it feel like more of an entree.  My modified recipe used:

1 large head cauliflower cut into medium floret
1 cup broccoli (we had some in the freezer so I decided to add it in)
2 Tbsp butter (I used Country Crock)
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups low fat milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp of nutmeg
2 egg yolks
1/2 panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
Parsley (for garnish)

First, I cooked the cauliflower in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. At the very end I dropped the cup of frozen broccoli into the pot just to defrost it. After reserving a cup of the water, I drained the cauliflower and broccoli and set aside. Then in the same pot, I melted the butter and whisked in the flour. I was a little worried because it was clumpy but after adding the cooking water, milk, and garlic, the clumps went away as I whisked for the next 10 minutes. Once the sauce thickened, I added the cheese. Before adding the eggs, I tempered them with some of the sauce to make sure I didn't end up with scrambled eggs in the cheese sauce. Finally, I grated some fresh nutmeg into the sauce and added the pinch of cayenne. I folded the cauliflower and broccoli into the cheese sauce, poured in a baking dish I had sprayed with cooking spray, and put the dish into a 350° oven.

While the cauliflower cooked I moved onto making our side dish, sauteed kale. I've never cooked with kale because the amount of fresh kale you need to get several servings is insane. I felt pretty ridiculous walking out of the grocery store with a 2lb bag of kale that was literally the size of my chest. I followed Bobby Flay's recipe for this. I quickly sauteed 2 cloves of garlic in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until soft before adding 1/2 cup of veggie stock. Then it was time for the kale. This was a sight to see. My largest sauce pot was apparently not big enough so I had to add the kale in small batches, tossing the kale with tongs constantly until it had wilted enough to add more. We used 1.5lbs like the recipe called for and by the time it was all cooked down it made about 4-5 servings. We finished the kale with 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Back to the cauliflower! After 30 minutes, I it out of the oven and was discouraged by the amount of liquid in the dish. I ended up draining a couple of ladles full of the sauce so it wouldn't be so runny. I think the head of cauliflower I bought must have been to small. Luckily, I was adding panko to the top so it worked out great. I sprinkled the panko bread crumbs and Pecorino Romano cheese across the entire dish then stuck the baking dish under the broiler for a few minutes until it was golden brown. I topped the dish with some fresh parsley and voila! It came out great. The panko made it a lot less runny and made it feel like a main course. The kale was super delicious and went great on the side. I would definitely make this again. So good! I'm excited for leftovers tomorrow! 

02.03.12_Thai Quinoa Chili

Ever since Phillip and I made the Butternut Coconut Stew, I have been on the look out for another recipe that we could use quinoa in since we barely used half the bag last time. I came across a similar dish, Thai Quinoa Chili and thought it would be another easy, tasty dish that would be good for the winter months. The recipe called for:
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sliced green onions, for serving (I omitted these for Phillip)
  • Plain Greek yogurt, for serving (omit to make the dish vegan)
After reading through the list I thought 3 cans of beans was a lot, as was a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, but we rationalized that all the beans would take the place of the meat that was typically in chili.

As always, this recipe could not have been easier. I whisked together the chili powder, curry paste, cumin and a few tablespoons of stock in my largest soup pot. I then added a little olive oil before dropping in the sweet potato, onion, green pepper and garlic. I also added one Thai chili to give a little kick. Make sure you wash your hands good and several times after using these bad boys. They are hot! After sauteing for a few minutes, I dumped in the drained kidney beans, the quinoa, and the can of tomatoes. Finally, I added the coconut milk and remainder of the veggie stock, praying it would all fit. It was literally filled to the brim. Needless to say this recipe made an ABSURD amount of chili. We ended up freezing half of it and the other half was more than enough for both of our dinners and lunches for another day so I'd definitely recommend halving this recipe if its just for two people.

The chili was delicious but I was a little disappointed that I couldn't taste the coconut milk. It was very subtle, maybe because it called for light? I definitely was hoping for more of a Thai flavor. I topped my bowl with a dollop of Greek yogurt which added a nice tang to the chili that I really liked. Obviously you can omit this and the dish would be vegan.

On the side we decided we would make cornbread, but I wanted to change it up a bit to go with the Thai flavors I was expecting with the chili. I used the box mix, but added 1/4cup of frozen corn kernels, a Thai chili, and instead of 1/4cup of milk, I did half milk half coconut milk. Again, I didn't get as much coconut as I wanted so if I were to make these again I would use all coconut milk to get more of the flavor. The Thai chili gave a nice kick though and the corn added texture to the muffins. Cornbread mixes are not vegan, FYI, so if you did want to make this a vegan meal you would have to make these without the box.