October 03, 2008

Back to Business


After a long awaited big life event and a nice long vacation, I am back and ready for kitchen time! In fact, after 2 weeks of eating out for nearly every meal I was more than just "ready."

So, I've been busy the last couple of weeks. Here's a run down of what's been cookin'.

1. TRIED THAI + TOFU
That's right--I haven't made homemade Thai before. Which is crazy since I LOVE Thai. And I've tried Tofu only twice before... once with no success and other with a baked Tofu. This recipe was certainly new territory. I got it from The New Whole Grains Cookbook by Robin Asbell. Thai Coconut Fried Rice with Basil and Tofu is made with brown rice--therefore pretty healthy. Instead of cooking the brown rice in water, you use coconut milk. The bruised lemongrass steeps in this mixture, adding amazing subtle flavor.

Great tip I've learned with Tofu--to get the flavor in, you have to get the liquid out before you cook it. This cookbook recommended squeezing out the moisture with a clean kitchen towel--worked great except that towel is headed straight back to the laundry! The tofu was fried to get crispy. Success!

Snow peas, scrambled egg, onions, shallots, ginger, basil, red pepper flakes and lime round out the recipe.

Not kidding. This dish delicious! It had a rich flavor, but it wasn't overly rich. The snow peas and basil gave it freshness and balanced the creaminess. The ginger and lemongrass made it decidedly Thai. Email me if you want the recipe.


2. BAKED CHEESE AND NUT CUTLETS
This is a favorite recipe of mine. It is vegetarian yet has an excellent meaty taste and texture. It is from American Wholefoods Cuisine by Nikki and David Goldbeck. I've represented their recipes here before. It mainly consists of onion, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cheese and eggs. The onion and nuts are finely chopped, the cheese shredded and the eggs beaten. It's all mixed together, topped with paprika and baked in a casserole dish.

It's easy and allows for plenty of leftovers!


3. FIRST OF FALL SALAD
This is from Everyday Food's cookbook Great Food Fast. The book is aptly named. I wish there were more vegetarian recipes, but even so--it's a great cookbook. It's organized by season--light and packed with produce in the summer, warm and comforting in the frosty winter. How clever!

But this isn't about the cookbook. It's about the excellent recipe Broccoli, Chickpea and Tomato Salad, which was refreshing and delicious with an array of textures. Here's the recipe:

BROCCOLI, CHICKPEA AND TOMATO SALAD
1lb broccoli
1 T Dijon mustard
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T EVOO
1/2 small red onion, minced
coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Cut florets from broccoli and steam until crisp-tender. Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, olive oil and onion, S + P. Add to tomatoes, chickpeas and broccoli; toss to coat. We had this with a generous portion of French bread that is baked with Parmesan ad cracked pepper (not by me!). It was a delicious, refreshing meal. The red wine vinegar adds a great acidity with the beans and veggies.



4. BEEF AND ORANGE STIR-FRY
This is another recipe from Great Food Fast. How can you go wrong with an orange reduction with tender steak strips?

By the way, I've discovered Jasmine rice. Its flavor and aroma is second to none--so worth the time and perfect with this recipe.

5. BEAN BURGER ADVENTURE
So I was making bean burgers. To save some money and avoid some sodium, I got dried beans. I put them with water to soak while I was at work. Done... right?! Wrong. I missed the vital step of cooking them until tender.

Fortunately I realized it before it was too late. I discovered it because I was grinding them in the food processor, and I expected the consistency to become like refried beans. Not so much! It looked more like rice--little bits of hard beans.

So what to do? After getting a second opinion, I decided to try cooking the beans as they were to soften them. Why not? Well, I began cooking, adding water, cooking, stirring, adding water again and again--I felt like I was making risotto. But it worked! The bean bits became tender and usable for the recipe.

The burgers turned out great. I froze the leftovers and can throw them directly into the fry pan to heat through again.

Phew! I've been busy. But just wait until you hear about the birthday meal I'm cooking for my husband this weekend. Oh, and I still need to give an update on excellent vacation food, wine and beer!

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