03.26.12_Asparagus, Leek, and Gruyere Quiche

For my sister's birthday we went to a restaurant that changed their menu to feature seasonal items. The vegetable of spring was asparagus. Asparagus was all I could think about the entire following day. I was browsing our blog when I saw the picture of our Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche Phillip had made and it made me want another quiche. The obvious solution was to find a quiche that had asparagus. Luckily Martha Stewart had a recipe for a Asparagus, Leek, and Gruyere quiche. Perfect.

I had never cooked with leeks before so I was excited to try something new. As all quiches seem to be, this was insanely easy. While Phillip beat together 4 eggs, 1 1/4 cups half and half, a teaspoon salt, a teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg, I prepped the asparagus and leeks. I cut off the tough ends of the asparagus and then sliced the stalks diagonally to create nice long strips. I saved 5 of the tops separately for decoration. For the leeks, I took one leek, cut off the dark green parts, then cut the remaining stalk in half before thinly slicing into half moons. I rinsed the leeks thoroughly to remove any grit and dirt. Next, I melted a TBSP of butter in a pan over medium heat, added the asparagus and leeks, then seasoned with S&P. I sauteed the asparagus and leeks for about 7 minutes then set aside to cool.

While I was sauteing, Phillip grated a cup of Gruyere cheese and filled the bottom of our store-bought pie crust with it. Once the asparagus and leeks were cool, we put them on top of the cheese, and then finally added the egg mixture. The quiche bakes for about an hour in a 350° oven. Our oven stopped working yesterday (unfortunate timing) so I ended up baking the quiche in our toaster oven. It fit perfectly and still worked (we just baked it for a little bit longer). When there was about 15 minutes left, I added the 5 reserved asparagus tips.

The quiche rested for 15 minutes before we served it. I made a side salad of mixed greens, slivered almonds, shavings of leftover Gruyere, and made a quick lemon vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, good olive oil, and S&P. This meal was so good. Sometimes the easiest meals taste the best. It was a very light but very satisfying dinner. I was worried that it would taste too oniony for Phillip but it wasn't at all and it certainly satisfied my asparagus craving. I definitely plan on making more quiches in the future. They are just too easy and too versatile to pass up.

03.22.12_Buffalo Fried Goat Cheese

I think the name alone explains why I was uncontrollably excited about making these. I love buffalo sauce and goat cheese is by far my favorite cheese. Anytime I see goat cheese on a menu I have a really hard time not ordering it. I thought these would be a great appetizer for our monthly dinner party this month.

I was a little reluctant to make these only because the blog I found the recipe on said "Don’t let them sit on one side for too long or the cheese will start to escape." I have never been good at frying things without having to worry about cheese "escaping!" But my fear could not stop me from making these.

To make them, all I did was buy a 12oz log of goat cheese and cut into 12 equal discs. The recipe called for a 4oz log but my goat cheese obsession told me that making 12 balls out of 4oz would simply not be enough to satisfy me. Next Phillip and I rolled the discs into balls. I then put the cheese balls into an egg wash (I used 2 eggs beaten together), dropped them into panko bread crumbs, and then repeated so that each goat cheese ball had been dredged twice in the panko and egg.

Finally it was time to fry. I put about 2-3 cups of vegetable oil in a pan, put the heat to medium-high, and then when the oil was starting to ripple put in 6 of the balls. I used a metal pasta strainer (I don't have a metal slotted spoon) to toss the cheese balls int he oil and tried to keep them constantly moving. I was really surprised how quickly they browned up. I took them out of the oil and dropped them directly into a bowl with 1/2 cup of Frank's Red Hot. I repeated the process with the 6 remaining cheese balls. I screwed up and put them all on a paper towel lined plate after dropping them in the sauce rather than directly after frying, but it probably didn't make much of a difference. After they sat for a few minutes to dry, we dug in. They were everything I had dreamed of. The creamy goat cheese cut the spice of the hot sauce. I couldn't stop eating them.

The only thing I probably could have done differently was to leave the cheese balls in the oil a little longer to get them crispier and warmer but I was really nervous about melting the cheese. Definitely try these. They are so heavy that everyone will only eat a few anyway, unless you are like me and cannot stop eating them and immediately regret the fact that you just ate half a log of goat cheese in 5 minutes. Totally worth it though.

03.21.12_Mealtess Meatloaf

A couple of months ago I tried a Meatless Meatloaf while out to dinner with Caitlin at Cafe Green in DC. I was surprised how amazing it was so when a recipe for Meatless Meatloaf came up on my daily Food Network Recipe calendar I was excited to try it. The recipe called for:
  • 1 pound Japanese eggplants (about 3)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 8 ounces shiitake or button mushrooms, stemmed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
The only substitute we had to make was for the Japanese Eggplants. Whole Foods did not have them, of course, so we subbed the 3 smaller eggplants for one large regular eggplant.

To start, turn the broiler on, moved up the rack in the oven so it will be right underneath of the coils, then put the eggplant directly on the rack. Every couple of minutes check to see if the skin is bubbling up, then after it is slightly charred, use tongs to flip over the eggplant to do the same thing to the other side. Once the eggplant is ready, take it out of the oven and wrapped in foil then set aside to steam for 20 minutes. Leave the oven on but put it down to 350°. After the 20 minutes, remove the skin from the eggplant. This process would be much easier to directly in the flame of a gas stove, but since we have all electric appliances, this worked just as well.

While the eggplant steams, prep the rest of the ingredients. Mince two cloves of garlic, a TBSP of thyme, a TSBP of sage, and 1/4 cup of parsley. Then in the food processor, chop up 1/2 cup of walnuts and put aside in a large mixing bowl. Next, the recipe called for pulsing the mushrooms, tofu, and steamed eggplant into a food processor, and pulse into small pieces. I would recommend doing the eggplant and mushrooms separately. The tofu quickly formed a paste that made it hard to pulse the mushrooms.
Concrete or meatloaf?
Add the mushroom, tofu, and eggplant mixture into the large mixing bowl, then add the remaining loaf ingredients (all the fresh herbs, garlic, oats, wheat germ, red pepper flakes, an egg and one egg white, and S&P). Mix it all together. Once it is all combined put it into a 1.5 qt loaf pan (it fits PERFECTLY into this size pan, like no wiggle room, whatsoever). At this point, the mixture looks like wet aggregate concrete (aka not very appetizing, not gonna lie). Put the loaf into the 350° oven and bake for 50-60mins until the loaf is golden brown on top. Finally, unmold the loaf and slice. We served our meatless loaf with mashed potatoes, peas, and mushroom gravy.
We were both pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. The flavors were good and it did not taste super tofu-y like we feared. Some of my loaf got stuck to the loaf pan so if I made this again I would probably spray the pain with nonstick spray first. We really liked the top edge because it had a nice crust to it. We thought that next time we would consider spreading the mixture out into a baking dish so that it is thin, and would get crusty all over the top, or form the loaf on a baking sheet like some people cook meatloaf, so that there are more exposed edges to brown up. This recipe could also be easily made vegan by using egg substitute instead of the eggs.

03.18.12_Sweet Chili Lime Tofu

Having been out of town the past several weekends, Phillip and I planned on doing nothing all day Sunday. We decided we wanted something light and healthy for dinner after a weekend of drinking for St. Patrick's Day. Phillip had found this recipe for Sweet Chili Lime Tofu with Quinoa and Collard Greens that looked good and fit the bill. We decided to sub that with kale because I have never been a big fan of collards.

I left Phillip in charge of mixing up the sauce. He combined
  • 3 Tbs Sugar
  • 3 Tbs Reduced Sodium Tamari
  • 1 3/4 Tbs Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Zest of the Lime
  • 1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes
  • 1 Clove Garlic, pressed, optional
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 4 Mint Leaves, chiffonaded  (we used a few more since the mint leaves we had were tiny)
While Phillip mixed up the sauce, I prepared the tofu and the quinoa. For the quinoa, I combined 3/4 cup quinoa, 1 1/3 cup water, 1/4 tsp of salt, and the zest of half a lime in a pot, brought to a boil, then reduced the heat to low and simmered for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, I removed the quinoa from the heat and let it steam for 10 minutes while I finished off the rest of the meal.

Earlier in the day I pressed the tofu like I learned to do the first time I used tofu. I cut the tofu across into 8 slices, then took each slice and made 4 triangles, making a total of 32 pieces of tofu. Next, I brought a nonstick skillet up to medium. This recipe called for "dry frying" the tofu which I had never done. I was excited to try a different technique because every time we have made tofu in the past I never got it as browned as I would like.  I placed all the tofu into the heated pan, and then used my spatula to lightly press the tofu and get out any remaining liquid. I cooked the tofu on each side until they were as brown as I liked. I took the tofu off the heat so that I could make the kale.

For the kale, I quickly heated a little EVOO in a pan, then added the kale. I squeezed a lime over the kale, then seasoned with red pepper flakes and salt. I used tongs to constantly toss the kale until it was cooked and tender. After the kale was cooked, I put the tofu back over high heat, then added the sauce Phillip made. The sauce bubbled and reduced, coating the tofu in a glaze. I flipped the tofu over once to make sure both sides got coated in the sauce. This only took a couple of minutes at most.

We served the dish all piled on top of each other: quinoa, then kale, then tofu. I was super happy with how the tofu came out. It was a great texture and didn't taste tofu-y at all. I think in the future I will use the dry-frying technique to cook my tofu as this was the closest I had gotten to the texture of tofu you order in a restaurant (without deep frying it).

03.16.12_Sweet Potato Tahini Burgers

I came across a picture of these Sweet Potato burgers with a mound of sliced avocado on top and immediately knew that I had to try them. After reading over the recipe I realized I had a majority of the ingredients in the apartment already which is always an added bonus. The recipe said it made 7-8 patties so we invited our friend Amanda over for dinner since we had more than enough.

To make the burgers I first cooked one sweet potato. I just did it in the microwave to speed along the process. After it was fully cooked, I combined the sweet potato and 2 cans of drained and rinsed cannellini beans. I mashed them all together with a fork until most of the beans were smashed. Next, I added 2 Tbsp tahini, 2 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp Cajun seasoning, 1/4 cup wheat flour, a dash of cayenne and then S&P. After everything was combined, they were ready to go. I actually formed the patties in advance and then put them in the fridge for a bit to let them set up while we were waiting for Amanda to arrive.

When I was ready to start cooking, I quickly dredged the patties in panko. Then, I heated a TBSP of oil in a nonstick pan and put in the first batch of the patties. I'm not sure why this did not work for me but the panko started to burn extremely quick and my patties were not browning up. I think if I had used more oil and "shallow fried" the patties it would have worked better. I decided instead of just burning the patties I would bake them. I put all the patties on a lined baking sheet, and popped them into a 350° oven. I let them bake for about 20 minutes or so to get warm all the way through. I then took the patties out, gave them a quick spray with cooking spray and turned on the broiler to get them to brown up a bit. 

I actually liked baking the patties. It was a lot easier than trying to flip mushy patties and the outside got nice and crunchy. I served the burgers with sliced avocado and drizzled nice EVOO on top before cracking fresh black pepper on the burgers. Amanda and I both agreed that they tasted better with the addition of mustard. I think from now on whenever I am making a "burger" that is made up of some mushed up bean or pea or whatever, I will be baking them. Way less stressful! 

03.15.12_Mom's Matzo Ball Soup

Phillip hasn't been feeling well the past couple of days. My mom commented on his Facebook status telling him I should make him Matzo Ball soup (aka the Jewish Penicillin). I realized I had never actually made it before which kind of surprised me. Phillip really liked the idea, so I decided it would be a good time to try it. I looked up some recipes online and then decided I would just ask my Mom how she typically makes it. Her email response was as follows:
  • chicken pieces (any that are on sale...Grandma insists that Kosher chickens make the best soup, but I have never had that as an option)
  • celery (with leafy part)
  • carrots
  • onion
  • water
  • lots 'o salt
Bring to boil and let simmer for ~an hour. Take out the celery and onion...leave the carrot.
Pull chicken meat off bones. I use the Manischewitz matzo ball mix.  Do NOT make the matzo balls in the soup. Make them in a separate pot of water...then add to soup. And, I use the really, really skinny egg noodles.

The email even included two pictures she found online of the Manischewitz matzo ball mix she uses and the type of egg noodles. Seemed easy enough. I only made a few modifications because I wanted it to taste just like home, but I also wanted it to be vegetarian. We obviously omitted the chicken and instead of using water I subbed vegetable stock to make up for the flavor I may have been losing for leaving out the chicken.

I added three 32oz boxes of veggie stock, two stalks of celery roughly chopped, an onion quartered, and two carrots thinly sliced into my big stock pot. I brought to a boil, added some salt and pepper, then lowered the temp to low and simmered for an hour. I decided to follow my Mom's recommendation and use the help from the store on the matzo balls. I used the same box mix she uses rather than make them from scratch, which quite honestly, they taste so good out of the box I didn't care. You have to refrigerate the matzo ball mix for 20 minutes before you form the balls.  While the mix was in the fridge, I scooped out the onion and celery from the stock with a slotted spoon.

Next, I divided the matzo ball mix into twelve 1" diameter balls. They looked so small but my mom ensured me they would puff up. I followed her instructions and cooked them in a separate pot of water.  After you drop the matzo balls into the boiling water, you cover, reduce heat, and simmer for twenty minutes. Last thing to do was drop the egg noodles into the soup, let them boil for about six minutes and dinner was ready. It was just like the soup my Mom always makes. Nothing beats a recipe from your childhood. I honestly did not miss the chicken at all and of course, Phillip felt instantly better from my magical Matzo Ball soup.

03.08.11_Sweet Potato Kale Pizza

Caitlin and I have decided we are going to start trying to have a vegan "date night" every month where we can cook together or go out and try a new (or not so new) vegan-friendly restaurant. This month we decided to try and make this Sweet Potato Kale pizza that I had found a recipe for a while back and had sent to Caitlin as a must try. I love all of these things. I love sweet potatoes. I love kale. I love pizza. And I love onions. There was no way this could be bad.

While I sat in traffic attempting to get to Caitlin's apartment during rush hour on a Thursday, she ran to the store and got all the ingredients. The recipe called for:
  • 4 small sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • ½ bunch of kale, ripped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 ½ freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Whole wheat pizza dough
We made a few modifications to make it vegan such as using EVOO instead of butter, using soy instead of regular milk, and for the cheese, we only sprinkled Parmesan vegan substitute on top. We also cheated to save time and instead of making our own dough, used store bought dough from Whole Foods.

Once I finally made it to Caitlin's, she had already cooked the sweet potatoes in the microwave and the ingredients were all prepped. I spread out the dough on a oiled pizza pan. We quickly discovered that if the dough is cold, it will not stay stretched out. We then baked the crust by itself for a several minutes until it was slightly browned. While that was baking, I sauteed the kale and shallots in some EVOO while Caitlin mixed the sweet potatoes, soy milk, and sage. Once the crust was ready, we spread out the sweet potato mixture, top with the sauteed kale and shallots, then sprinkled Caitlin's mystery Parmesan vegan substitute on top for a little extra flavor. The pizza went back into the oven for about 10 minutes and it was time to eat.

This pizza was amazing. I scarfed down my half in record time. The recipe made enough toppings and sauce to cover two crusts so we ended up baking the second so Caitlin would have leftovers for lunch. I highly recommend trying this and will definitely be making it again. So good.