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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Lest you think that all we eat around here is sweet carb-laden snack food, here's proof that we do eat our vegetables every once in awhile.

This ratatouille recipe was one of the first things I made from the Silver Palate Cookbook, which in turn was the first serious cookbook I used. Something about the picture of a bowl laden with stewed vegetables and a hunk of bread called to us - or, more likely, to Cary, who then convinced me that I should make it.

And I'm glad he did.

This is the dish that taught me to love roasted eggplant, and that showed me how well freshly-baked bread pairs with anything stewed or containing tomatoes (well, or anything, really).

I've made this so often that the page in the cookbook is actually no longer attached to the binding. It's ok - I pretty much have it memorized anyway.

Take it from me - the girl who used to think vegetables were terrifying - this dish is a winner.

Especially with homemade honey whole wheat bread - more on that soon!

From The Silver Palate Cookbook

  • 2 cups best-quality olive oil
  • 4 small eggplants (about 4 pounds in all), cut into 1.5-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 pounds white onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 7 medium-size zucchini, washed, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch strips
  • 2 medium-size red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into .5-inch strips
  • 2 medium-size green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into .5-inch strips
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 cans (16 oz each) Italian plum tomatoes, drained (I don't drain them - it just makes the ratatouille saucier)
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • .25 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • .25 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil and pour in 1 cup of the olive oil. Add the eggplant, sprinkle it with the salt, and toss well. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake until the eggplant is done but not mushy, 35 mins. Uncover and set aside.
3. In a large skillet or 2 smaller skillets, heat the remaining oil. Saute the onions, zucchini, red and green peppers, and garlic over medium heat until wilted and lightly colored, about 20 mins. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, dill, basil, oregano, and black pepper. Simmer for 10 mins, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the eggplant mixture and simmer for another 10 mins. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Here's another great snack recipe adapted from Mel. (What, me play favorites with recipe sources? Of course not!)

These peanut butter granola bars are thick, chewy, and just the right amount of sweet. You know, so you don't feel like you're eating cardboard, but you also don't think you're eating a candy bar.

They're also packed with toasted nuts for a nice inter-prandial burst of protein.

Plus, if you cut them into squares with a sharp knife after they've been refrigerated for a few hours, they have these amazing oat-mosaic sides. It's always nice when your food is both aesthetically pleasing and tasty.

The original recipe called for banana chips, but I left those out and added peanut butter chips instead, for a bit more sweetness.

The brown rice syrup is what really makes these bars, in my opinion. It has all the sticking power of honey with little of the sweetness, which allows for a nice, compacted bar that stays together even at room temperature and isn't sickeningly sweet. I found mine at Whole Foods - most health foods stores probably carry it.

Now when I get that musteatsomethingrightnow feeling, I have something satisfying and relatively healthy to munch on.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Adapted from Mel

1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Toast the almonds and the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, line an 8 x 8 dish with foil. Mix the oats, peanut butter chips, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a big bowl. Add the nuts once they’ve cooled.

In a small saucepan, heat the honey, brown rice syrup, peanut butter and vanilla extract over medium heat, stirring to avoid burning. Once the syrups come to a light boil, continue to cook for an additional 3 – 5 minutes until the syrup begins to thicken, then pour it over the oats and nuts. Mix everything together so that the syrup evenly coats everything in the bowl.

While it’s still warm, pour the contents of the bowl into your prepared dish. Using a rubber spatula, press down hard to compact everything. Cover with parchment paper and press down again. Let cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Cut into squares or rectangles. They keep fine at room temperature for a few days, but probably keep best in the fridge - I keep a few in a plastic bag in my messenger bag for easy snacking and the rest in a tupperware in the fridge.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ginger Spiced Granola

This is my third batch of this granola, none of which has turned out perfectly.

The first batch was too sweet, the second batch burned (or, um, rather, I burned it), and this last batch was not sweet enough. (Just call me Goldilocks.)

Despite these problems, however, this granola is fantastic. Tons of rolled oats mixed in with crunchy almonds and crackly pepitas, all tossed with maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger.

The recipe is incredibly easy - mix everything together in a big bowl and bake. Perfect for a lazy, rainy, Sunday afternoon. And, despite its problems (or, more likely, my user error), way better than most store-bought granola.

The gingery aroma that wafts out of the oven after about twenty minutes seems like something tangible on which you could float from your spot on the couch into the kitchen. Which is good, since you should stir the granola every once in awhile to keep it from burning.

This recipe is also pretty much infinitely adaptable, so customize it to suit your personal tastes and what you have on hand. Like walnuts and pecans more than pepitas and almonds? Use them instead. Like vanilla rather than ginger? Add in some extract and take out the spices you don't like. Want to add dried fruit? Go for it (though wait till after you take the granola out to mix it in, so it doesn't burn in the oven).

Plus, if you mix Greek yogurt with blueberry jam and then add a generous scoop of granola, you won't even miss the extra sweetness.

Three of the four of us thought this granola was delicious.

The fourth apparently prefers camel brains.

Gingery Olive Oil Granola
Adapted from Mel, who adapted it from the New York Times.

The original recipe called for an extra 1/2 cup of sugar, but I found it too sweet with the maple syrup. Then again, perhaps if you use Grade B maple syrup, like the original recipe states, instead of substituting the Grade A we had on hand, you might want the extra sugar. Mel also suggested using slivered almonds, but I had sliced on hand, and they worked fine. I left out dried fruit just for personal taste.

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup roasted, salted pepitas
1 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup Grade A Maple Syrup
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300°.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Spread the oats onto a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Remove from oven when the oats are crisp and golden.

Let cool. Enjoy.

Makes about 8 cups.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Art of Snacking Well

I'm not really a New Year's Resolution type of person. I think if you want to improve, there's no reason to wait until January first to start.

However, early January does encourage me to make lists of things I want to accomplish in the new year, and I now have a very long (currently-120-item-long) list of food I want to cook in 2010.

Some of it, like pork and sauerkraut and empanadas, I've already checked off my list. Yay productivity!

It will take longer to amass enough courage to make some of the other things on the list, like homemade mozzarella and anything involving seitan.

One recurring theme on my list (aside from trying new produce, sampling weird meat substitutes, and engaging in ridiculously complicated projects just so I can say I made homemade whatever) is snack food.

Most people can't go hours between meals without getting hungry. If I get too hungry, I get a headache, and if I get a headache, believe me, neither of us wants anything to do with me.

Couple that with the fact that I spend a lot of days out running errands or - worse - grocery shopping for hours, and that means I need to make sure I carry snacks with me. So, you know, I don't come home from the grocery store with four loaves of bread, a bag of tortillas, eight boxes of cereal, and a few paltry vegetables.

However, I always feel a little pang of guilt tearing open a prepackaged granola bar. They generally aren't tasty, or good for you, and of course, they're not homemade. As you might have gathered, I tend to think homemade versions of pretty much anything are superior to their prepackaged brethren.

So one thing I want to focus on in 2010 is making tasty, relatively healthy (but still tasty!), homemade snack food.

Whether it's quick breads and savory muffins, homemade yogurt and granola, or bagels and bialys (check and check!), I want to make sure that we have snack food that does more than just fill our stomachs until the next snack or meal.

A good snack should leave you sated and happy, don't you agree?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Three Salad Night

I love braises and stews and creamy, delicious risottos. But sometimes, especially around the holidays, I crave fresh vegetables.

So the other night, we made three different salads for dinner. And they were all delicious.

* Sprouted Kitchen's Butternut Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Cider Dressing
* Smitten Kitchen's Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
* 101 Cookbooks' Broccoli Crunch Salad

To save time, we used the same dressing for the Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad and the Broccoli Crunch Salad: Cary's modified version of the Broccoli Crunch Dressing, and possibly my new favorite dressing.

Cary's Cashew Butter Dressing
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cashew butter
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water (cold works fine - add more little by little until you get your desired consistency)
Combine all ingredients and buzz with an immersion blender until creamy. Eat on everything.

Friday, January 1, 2010