Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bulghur Grape Salad

Another salad from a cookbook that's becoming one of my favourites, Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. The recipe for bulghur grape salad caught my eye a few times but bulghur is not something I just happen to have around the house so I couldn't make it without a trip to Galloways. I've never had bulghur before and I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, but I want to try out all the different kinds of grains (amaranth, quinoa, millet, barley, etc) and incorporate them more into my diet. Some I'm more familiar with like barley and somewhat quinoa, but I've yet to make anything with millet and amaranth (though they're both waiting patiently in my cupboard!)

I was surprised at how delicious this salad was. I've never had a salad like this before, not only with bulghur but also combining grapes with other veggies. And oh those grapes were so good and crisp. I wish all grapes were crisp like that. I loved the surprising crunch and sweetness that they added to the salad - it definitely wouldn't have been the same without them. I thought the dressing smelled a bit strong at first with the cumin and coriander. Once I mixed everything together and served it with greens, I discovered that the dressing was mild and perfectly accentuated the ingredients in the salad. One reason, among many, to love this salad is how healthy it is: a mixture of fresh veggies, omega-3 filled walnuts, and too many health benefits to list whole grain bulghur.

Bulghur Grape Salad
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

2 cups raw bulghur
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 cup minced red onions
2 cups (8 ounces) walnut halves
2 cups (12 ounces) rinsed and stemmed seedless red grapes

3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

mixed greens

Place the bulghur in a heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over it, cover and set aside to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the bulghur soaks, cut the cucumber lengthwise into halves, then again in half lengthwise. Slice all 4 long strips crosswise into thin bite-sized pieces.* Stem, seed, and chop the bell pepper. Place the cucumbers, peppers, and minced red onions into a serving bowl and set aside.

Toast the walnuts in a single layer on an unoiled baking tray in a toaster oven at 350F for about 5 minutes, until fragrant. Let them cool slightly and coarsely chop. Cut each grape into halves. Add the walnuts and grapes to the serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together lal of the dressing ingredients.

When the bulghur has softened, fluff it with a for and refrigerate it, uncovered, until cooled to at least room temperature. Add the cooled bulghur to the serving bowl, pour on the dressing, and toss well.

Serve with mixed greens, sharp-tasting sprouts or whatever you like.

*The recipe suggests you peel and seed the cucumber, but why waste a good cucumber?! Unless the skin is really tough.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Best Gnocchi Ever In Existence

As I was looking at the pictures I took of the lemon ricotta gnocchi I made, I was drooling again. These gnocchi were so insanely delicious, and I'm not exaggerating at all. I found them on Brilynn's blog Jumbo Empanadas, who got the recipe from Jaden of Jaden's Steamy Kitchen (lots of beautiful food photos).

I've never made gnocchi before even though it's something I love and have been talking about making for a long time. As with other unfamiliar food things, I was scared that I would screw it up. I feared that the dough (usually made with potato, flour and egg, such as in the recipe on 101 Cookbooks that I want to try) would be dry or crumbly or the gnocchi would be gummy once cooked. Not so with the lemon ricotta gnocchi. They were so easy to make, full of flavour and so tender - the perfect gnocchi texture.

Typically gnocchi seems to be boiled, but I definitely think that pan fried is the most delicious way to eat it. Perhaps especially with this particular gnocchi since it's so tender on the inside, and then you have that bit of nice hard exterior. I had never thought about pan frying gnocchi until I had it in a restaurant a couple of years ago and after that I was hooked.

Pan-Fried Lemon-Ricotta Gnocchi
(Adapted from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen)

1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (plus extra reserved for garnishing)
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon zest (plus extra reserved for garnishing)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (plus extra reserved for garnishing)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Combine ricotta, parmesan, yolk, zest, parsley and salt in large bowl. Mix well. Sprinkle half of the flour on the mixture, gently turn with spatula a few times to incorporate. Dump mixture on clean, lightly floured countertop. Sprinkle remaining flour on top of the mixture. Gently knead with your fingertips, just bringing together the mixture until flour is incorporated through. This only should take a minute or two. Any longer and you will be over-kneading. (If you are using skim milk ricotta - you may have to use more flour, as there is more water content in skim ricotta.)

2. Divide dough into 4 parts. Take one part and roll into a long, 1" diameter log. Cut gnocchi into 1" pieces.

3. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and olive oil. when butter is just lightly browned, add gnocchi in single layer. Fry on one side for 2 minutes, flip. Fry other side for 1-2 minutes. Timing really depends on how big/thick your gnocchi is. Do a taste test - do you taste flour? Not done yet. Serve with a sprinkling of lemon zest, parmesan and parsley.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Getting Closer to Finding the Best Peanut Butter Cookies

As some of you may recall, the perfect peanut butter cookies are one of the things I am searching for. Shortly after I posted about the peanut butter cookies I made for my brother, I was reading Kristen's blog Dine and Dish, and came across a post entitled Peanut Butter Perfection. I immediately saved this recipe and knew it would be the next peanut butter cookie I'd make. Unfortunately it was a while before I made them, but a recent trip from my aunt and uncle was the incentive I needed!

My mom mentioned to me that my aunt was a cookie lover, so when I found out she was coming to visit, I emailed her and asked what kind of cookies she'd like me to make for her. Her response was kind of odd to me - peanut butter and raisin cookies. And RAISIN? Weird. But who was I to argue. So the day before they were going to leave to go back home, I used the recipe from Kristen to make her peanut butter and raisin cookies. I did make a few without raisins too though.

I kind of wish that I had taken a closer look at the recipe before starting (I know you're always supposed to read through recipes before starting, but I'm not so good at doing this). Which reminds me of something else I don't do that I should start doing - cracking eggs into a separate bowl before adding them to something. I never even thought about eggs being rotten (with a blue-brown liquid inside!) since I've never come across one, but after reading a post on delicious:days about it, I really must remember to crack my eggs separately. Anyway, no more thinking about rotten eggs and back to yummy cookies.

The cookie recipe uses 4 1/2 cups of flour! That is an obscene amount of flour. I don't think I've made a cookie recipe that uses more than 2 1/2 cups. But then I doubt I've made such an extremely large batch of cookies as this recipe produced. Of course there's also a lot of butter, vanilla and other cookie things in there too. I was scared that the dough wouldn't be able to fit in my mixer, but thankfully it did. And wow it made a lot of cookies. A lot of cookies. Good thing my aunt has kids and grandkids to share them with when she went back home!

Now the real question is - did my search for the perfect peanut butter cookie recipe end here? This peanut butter cookie recipe is very very good, and I will be keeping it to make it again. However, I found that it wasn't peanut butter-y enough for me. It was more of a vanilla peanut butter cookie. (Which I didn't think would taste good, given my last let's-add extra-vanilla-to-peanut-butter-cookies experiment. But it was actually quite delicious.) That being said, I really liked the texture of the cookies, and a super added bonus is that they stay soft for at least a week (I didn't try them after that) which I find is not too common in soft cookies. I'd like to play around with this recipe a bit, add less vanilla, add more peanut butter, maybe some chopped peanuts, and see if I can find my ultimate peanut butter cookie recipe. There are a couple other peanut butter cookie recipes out there that I want to try too though.

Britta's Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet, July 2007 Adapted from The Willows
Found at Dine & Dish

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (3/4 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter, peanut butter, sugars, and oil with an electric mixer at high speed just until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes in a stand mixer or longer with a handheld. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until well incorporated.

Scoop scant 1/4 cups of dough about 2 inches apart onto 2 ungreased large baking sheets.* Flatten mounds with floured tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern, into 2 1/2-inch cookies (about 1/2 inch thick).

Bake until slightly puffed and golden around edges, about 30 minutes total. Transfer cookies to racks to cool. Continue with the remaining dough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Balkan Roasted Vegetable Salad

I'm currently loving the interesting and different salads in Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, and their Balkan Roasted Vegetable Salad is no exception. I wasn't sure what the marinade would taste like and I was a bit wary of the fennel seeds, but wow I cannot believe how good it smelled as the vegetables were roasting with the marinade. What a wonderful combination of flavours!

The original recipe called for double the amount of vegetables (which is why there's 1/2 an onion and 1/2 a cucumber in my version), but I halved it because I wanted to add barley to make it a more substantial meal. Feel free to double the veggies and omit the barley if that's what you'd prefer. I also added the walnuts and sunflower seeds for some delicious nutrition. I ate the salad at room temperature the first time and it was good, but when I had it the next day after it had time to sit in the fridge and the flavours had mingled, it was so much more delicious. I really loved the combination of roasted veggies with raw cucumber and tomato, plus the marinade was so good.

Balkan Roasted Vegetable Salad
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)

1/2 cup raw barley (pearl or pot)
2 cups water

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil*
1 to 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 of an onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, trimmed and halved (quartered or cut into 8 if large)
1 tomato
1/2 a cucumber

1/2 cup grated feta
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 500F.

Place the barley and water in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook on low heat until most of the water has been absorbed and the barley is soft, about 40 minutes. When the barley is tender, drain it in a colander.

While the barley is cooking, combine the marinade ingredients by whirling briefly in a blender or food processor, or by whisking them in a bowl. Set aside. On a large baking pan with raised sides, spread out the sweet potato, red pepper, onions, and mushrooms and drizzle with about 1/2 of the marinade. Right on the baking tray, toss the vegetables with the marinade until evenly coated. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.

While the vegetables roast, dice the tomatoes and cucumber.** Place them in a serving bowl. Add the drained barley. Drizzle with the remaining marinade and toss well. With a slotted spatula, transfer the roasted vegetables to the bowl and toss well.

Serve immediately, or at room temperature, or chilled. Top each portion with feta.

*I used freeze dried basil and I can't remember how much I put.
**The recipe suggests you peel and seed the cucumber, but I like eating the whole cucumber plus I don't want to throw good cucumber away! It's up to you what you want to do though.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


First off, last week I started my food technology program. Sadly, this means I won't have a lot of time to update my food blog, and to read other people's blogs. I really love having a food blog though so I'm going to try to keep all this up. Unfortunately my posts will be more infrequent and probably shorter. And most likely I'll be posting about baked goods or quick, healthy and easy to make vegetarian meals. Anyway, on to the food!

I made snickerdoodles not too long ago, and discovered that they are the most delicious cookies ever in existence. Ever ever ever. Okay after writing that I had to go through the list of all the cookies I've had that have stood out (and for those of you that don't know, I am an extreme cookie lover). There are some other cookies that have been extremely delicious, but these snickerdoodles kind of blew me away with how addictively tasty they were, and are now definitely in the top rankings for cookies.

I've always wanted to make snickerdoodles, but for various reasons never did. One day I felt like making cookies, looked through my trusty Martha Stewart cookie magazine, saw these, and knew they were it. They're simple cookies so it's very likely that you have all of the ingredients in your house already (butter, sugar, cinnamon). I think it's probably key to use butter and not margarine in these cookies, to get the delicious soft butter cookie. You roll them into little balls and then coat them in cinnamon sugar before baking them. When I make cookies I always end up with less than what the recipe says I will, but with these cookies, possibly for the first time ever or at least one of the very rare times, I got more cookies. I made the first 20 or so pretty small, but then got tired of rolling balls near the end so made them a bit bigger.

When they first came out of the oven, they had slightly crispy outsides and perfectly soft cookie insides. I thought after cooling, they would become completely soft as a lot of cookies seem to, but they retained some of their outer crispiness. It was incredibly difficult to stop myself from eating all of them. I know I'll be making these again. I want them to be one of the cookies I make this Christmas for sure.

(Adapted from Martha's Holiday Cookies 2005)

makes about 20 (or 40, if you make the balls very small)

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.

2. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 1 inch balls; roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sweet Potato Black Bean Salsa

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I really needed to make the effort to incorporate beans into my diet. Not only are they good for you but as a vegetarian, I think they should be included in at least a meal or two every week. Unfortunately up until this point, I have been a very bad bean fearing vegetarian. Because you see, I don't really love beans. The first bean dish that I liked was seven layer dip, but then the beans are covered by other delicious things like guacamole, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes and green onions. Then I discovered that I liked refried beans. But I haven't really explored the world of beans too much aside from that.

I've made a few dishes with chickpeas, though I don't really like chickpeas (aside from in hummus, delicious! - I still remember the time when I was on an airplane and my vegetarian meal was a bun with a few chickpeas in it...) I thought that if I made the beans from scratch (buy dried beans instead of canned), that might make the whole thing more exciting for me so I'd be looking forward to eating beans. I haven't done that yet, but I am becoming more accepting of beans. I think I need to find one or two kinds that I like and then find dishes that use them.

My issue with beans reminds me of Jeffrey Steingarten's book The Man Who Ate Everything. Great book by the way, highly recommend it. Anyway, he talks about how there were foods that he didn't like (I can't remember them now but I think one of them was Greek salad and possibly organ meats?). So what he did was he decided to expose himself to those foods enough, which resulted in him shedding his picky eater ways. Now in my head when I think of something I don't like but I know I should eat (ie. beans), I think of him and it makes it easier to know that one day I will like something I previously didn't.

Once I decided I needed to eat more beans, I started looking through my cookbooks' indexes to find something tasty. One of the first things I saw caught my eye: sweet potato and black bean salsa. Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite veggies (or technically tubers?) and one of my favourite things in general to eat, so how could I go wrong? And then I read the description above the recipe, which said "great for Halloween!" (since black beans = black, sweet potato = orange) and I was totally sold. (Halloween and the month leading up to it, the time of year, all the decorations, the spooky stories, and all of that wonderful stuff are all my favourite things.)

I had read through the entire recipe before going out to buy ingredients, but when I started making it, I completely forgot that I was going to half it (since it makes I think it was 7 cups of salsa!) That is an absolute ton of salsa for one person to eat. Luckily other people liked it so I constantly told them to eat it. I'm actually amazed that we got through the whole thing. Mostly I used the salsa to make quesadillas (just with the salsa and some cheese). So delicious. Other people wished it was spicier, and I would've been okay with that but I didn't have a problem with it the way it was. I was scared that the sweet potato would be too mushy once it was cooked and chopped but it held up just fine. The addition of pumpkin seeds was also festive, and nutritious! I've only made salsa a couple of times before and I haven't yet made a more traditional salsa. I think I'm scared of messing it up since I love salsa so much. I would definitely make this salsa again though, and surprisingly I wished that there were more beans in the salsa!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Salsa
(adapted from Entertaining for A Veggie Planet)

Makes 7 cups

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2), peeled & quartered
2 1/4 cups finely chopped tomatoes
1 13-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup fresh lime juice*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool.

2. While waiting for the sweet potatoes to cool, put together the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Once the sweet potatoes are cool, finely chop them and add them to everything else. Mix well.

*For some reason the recipe says this is 6 limes but for me it was 2.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Easy Spaghetti Frittata

After seeing Cook (almost) Anything's submission to Presto Pasta Night a few weeks ago, I was inspired to try making a pasta frittata, or as Giada de Laurentiis calls it in her cookbook, a torti di pasta. I then came across another spaghetti pancake (yet another name for it) at Tea & Cookies. It's extremely easy to make and will now be one of my I'm-feeling-lazy quick meals. Well I guess it's not that quick because you have to cook the pasta first, but simple enough. You don't really need a recipe to make it, just the general idea of what to do. The recipes that I've found don't recommend that you make it too eggy, though there'd be nothing wrong with that if you wanted it that way. Add enough oil to the pan so that it easily slides out. You can either flip the pancake after it's brown on the bottom (I flipped it out onto a plate then slid it back into the pan), or put it under the broiler to brown it (as long as your pan doesn't have a plastic handle). Any veggies you add should be finely chopped so that they cook through. In the spaghetti frittata I made pictured here, I used grape tomatoes (the best kind of tomato!), basil and Parmesan cheese. I'd actually recommend sprinkling the top with Parmesan cheese instead of adding it to the frittata, because then you'll end up using less Parmesan but tasting it more. I haven't tried it that way yet, but that's one way I'll attempt to make this dish healthier. The second time I made this, I grated some carrots and zucchini, and diced onion and red pepper. That was extremely delicious. Check out the links at those two blogs if you want a specific recipe, otherwise be crazy and just put it all together.