Saturday, December 3, 2011

tamale party

first of all, have we shared the joy that is our new kitchen?  i think with all the catch-up posting we forgot to mention the fact that we are now cohabitational.  one of the greatest parts about this new arrangement is the kitchen.  to begin with, the kitchen itself is wonderful - lots of counter space, good work flow arrangement (we can chop side-by-side without elbowing each other).  additionally, the spices, oils, and random ingredients that used to be divided between two different kitchens can now live together in OUR kitchen cabinets.  it is truly an amazing thing.
we also like living together because, well, it means we can see each other all the time.
moving right along.  we had another couple over for dinner to show off our lovely new home.
we opted for a mexican theme but we wanted to be adventurous and try some recipes we've never made before.
we decided upon black bean and corn tamales (based on a recipe from two blue lemons) and tortilla soup
here's the info.
*before you begin, if you've never made tamales before i'm going to tell you now that they take a lot longer to cook than i had originally anticipated - like over an hour.  not sure why i thought this was like a simple, quick steaming procedure*
tamale ingredients:
2 ears of fresh corn  - remove husks carefully as these will serve as the wrapper for the tamales
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups masa harina - it's corn flour and can easily be found at the local grocery store in the "latino" aisle
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 serrano chili, minced
handful of fresh chopped cilantro

alright so you start by making the masa: boil the water with salt and olive oil, remove from heat and add the cumin and masa.  once it's cool, form the masa into 1-2 inch balls and set aside while you prepare the filling.
remove the corn husks - remember, be careful! and save the husks.
slice the kernels off the cob.
saute the onion and garlic in olive oil.
add tomatoes and spices and cook until the tomato breaks down.
add beans, corn and cilantro.
once the beans are warm, you're ready to begin tamale assembly.
make an X with two corn husks and place a ball of masa in the middle.
spoon the filling on top of the masa
carefully wrap the corn husks around the masa and filling.  don't make this more complicated than it has to be - just make sure everything is contained in the corn husk.
once you've wrapped up all your little tamale packages, prepare a bamboo steamer over a pan with some water.
place your beautiful packages into the steamer and cook for about an hour.
basically you're looking for a soft, almost cake-like texture in the masa.

adventure dish number 2: tortilla soup (don't let the long list of ingredients frighten you - it's a simple recipe)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 peppers (red/green/yellow/orange), chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
kernels from 2 ears of corn
1/2 cup green onion
3 tbsp cumin
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
sat and pepper
chili powder
cayenne pepper
lime juice

use a large soup pot to saute the onion, garlic, peppers, zucchini and corn in olive oil
add the tomatoes, spices, cilantro, lime juice and vegetable broth
cover and simmer
see, it's easy.
serve with tortilla strips for some extra crunch
please excuse the fact that there are no pictures of the soup...i made it while the photographer was at work.

grilled pizza

so there is a classy vegan restaurant in the west loop neighborhood called karyn's on green.  this karyn woman also has a few other vegan and raw restaurants in Chicago but we have yet to frequent those establishments.  anyways...we got all gussied up and made the trek in the chilly Chicago wind and went to karyn's on green to see what "fancy" vegan food would look like.  we split an appetizer: chorizo sliders and our main courses were chicken legs and an arugula pizza.  the food was pretty good.  the chicken legs had an excellent texture.  the pizza was inspired.  or should I say inspiring?
cut to the middle of the summer and we're wondering what to make for dinner.  arugula pizza!  this pizza from karyn's used thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes to replicate the texture of cheese.  it was topped with caramelized onions, garlic oil and arugula.  since we're only classy sometimes, we didn't get quite as fancy as karyn.
grilled arugula pizza:
pizza crust - we bought ours pre-made but we have subsequently been graced with the recipe for a delicious pizza crust which we will definitely use in the future.
3-4 yukon gold potatoes
small red onion
a whole bunch of arugula
goat cheese - yeah, yeah, totally not vegan but totally delicious and can be eliminated if you're going vegan

first you must prepare your toppings.
heat up the grill.
boil a pot of water.
thinly cut the potatoes into rounds - a mandolin is an extremely helpful tool for this procedure.
place the potatoes into the boiling water for a few minutes.  you want the potatoes to be tender.  we boiled the potatoes in batches and used a delicate hand so as to preserve the shape of the potato rounds (because who doesn't like beautiful food?)
thinly slice the red onion - mandolin not necessary
brush some oil onto the grill and onto the bottom of the pizza crust.
arrange the cooked potato rounds on the crust so that it is covered.
place the onion slices on top of the potatoes.
put the pizza on the grill and close the lid.
once the crust is warm and crispy, place handfuls of arugula on top and close the lid of the grill for just a minute or two.
once the arugula is wilted, remove the pizza from the grill and top with goat cheese if so desired.

the potatoes give the pizza a heartiness that you wouldn't expect to find in a grilled pizza.  once it's time to bust out the grill again, we'll have to try some topping variations.

grilled vegetable pasta and spicy bok choy

summer time is grilling time and we love us some grilled vegetables.
essentially we got a whole bunch of vegetables, cut them up and grilled them.  we cut the veggies into bite-sized pieces and added some to a jar of pasta sauce as it heated on the stove and served the remainder of the veggies over the pasta. this is simple stuff.
we used red onion, red pepper, green pepper, baby eggplant, zucchini and yellow summer squash.
we used a jar of pasta sauce - something with some spice and good herb-y flavor.
we got a tad bit adventurous with regard to our side dish: spicy grilled bok choy.
so we wanted to try bok choy and that martha stewart just happened to have a lovely grilled bok choy recipe.
here's what you need:

4-6 heads of baby bok choy - cut in half length-wise
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato-based chili sauce (we used sriracha)
2 teaspoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper
here's what you do:
clean the bok choy well and trim off any outer leaves that look less than ideal.
mix the vinegar, chili sauce, brown sugar, oil and salt and pepper.
toss the bok choy in the sauce mixture.
grill bok choy but do not disgard the sauce.
once the bok choy is tender - after about ten minutes - remove from the grill and drizzle with the remaining sauce.
easy peasy, beautiful, and delicious.

Monday, November 14, 2011

the grilling continues

vegetarians eat bean burgers.  that's what we do.  we've made mexican black bean burgers in the past.  they were delicious.  this is an italian variation to a bean burger recipe that has served us well for quite some time.
italian kidney bean burgers:
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
some garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cornflake crumbs/bread crumbs (if you can find any vegan options...or be super chef and make your own from old bread)
handful of chopped basil
oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, any other italian-ish spices
this is pretty simple stuff.
you mash the beans (generally a potato masher works well but a fork can also be a useful tool)
you saute the peppers, onion, and garlic in some olive oil until they are soft.
you throw everything into a bowl and mix it
the consistency of the burgers is something that takes some time to master.
as someone who used to eat meat, i urge you to keep this fact in mind: bean burgers will not shrink or solidify the way ground beef burgers do.  with that being said, adjust the wet and dry ingredients so that the mixture is slightly dry.
form patties.
heat the grill.
apply olive oil to the grates of the grill.
grill burgers about 4-5 minutes on each side.  you're looking for a brown crunchy crust.
to get all the "italian" flavor, we whipped up some basil cream spread.
this, too, is simple stuff.
we bought some vegan cream cheese.  don't let the mention of some "special" vegan product scare you.  we bought ours at jewel in the case next to the fake meat and fake cheese.  we used classic plain cream cheese from galaxy nutrional foods.  it's our favorite of the brands we've tried.
alright, so you buy vegan cream cheese, you chiffonade some basil.
*insert fancy (but totally simple) cooking technique here*
chiffonade = herbs cut into fine strips; method = place basil leaves on top of one another and roll into a little cigar.  start chopping where you would light the cigar.  it makes lovely little ribbons.  now you're fancy.
mix the basil into the cream cheese.  add lemon juice to taste.
burger, basil cream spread, toasted bun, lettuce, tomato, red onion.  delicious.
we served our burgers with some grilled leeks:
cut the ends off the leeks.
wash them really well - when the leeks grow, dirt collects between the layers.
toss the leeks in a little bit of olive oil.

fashion yourself a little leek boat out of tin foil ("leek"y boat - haha)
place your tin foil leek boat on the grill and allow the leeks to cook until tender.
serve with a little salt and pepper.

Lazy Summer Meal

In the summer, there is nothing better than food cooked on a grill.  Yes, it's November.  It's fine.  The cold weather has pushed us inside and we need a task...hence posting blogs about food we made 5 months ago.  Think about sunshine and warm breezes and the smell of vegetables kissed by flames.
This meal was basically the result of craving grilled food but not really wanting to put forth a great deal of effort.

Grilled Green Beans:
1 lb. fresh green beans (ends removed) - get these from a farmer's market, your taste buds will appreciate the fresh, crisp flavor
wooden skewers (soak these in water to avoid any little fire incidents)
all you've got to do is heat the grill and put a little olive oil on the grates.
put the green beans on the skewers
grill until delicious
side dish = done.
as for our lazy main course, we went with tofu dogs.  super simple.  super tasty.  enough said.
i believe we rounded out our meal with some left over bean salad of sorts.

Beet Burgers and BBQ Broccoli

Confession: I love the Food Network - Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives; Chopped; Iron Chef America; etc.  There are rarely any recipes that I can enjoy (even vegetable side dishes involve bacon, a pound of butter, or prosciutto).  Over the summer, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives featured a recipe called Beet Sliders.  I had to try it.
To prep the beets - this can get messy so be prepared:
Boil whole beets in a pot with water and about 3 tablespoons pickling spice (I used McCormick's pickling spice mixture but I would imagine you could whip up your own if you were so inclined).
This will take about an hour but it's low maintenance.  You want the beets to be tender.
Allow the beets to cool.
Peel and slice the beets into about 1/2 inch rounds.
Warm up the grill and apply a thin coat of olive oil.
Place the beet rounds on the grill.  All you're trying to do here is make the outside of the beet slices kind of crispy.
Once the beets have been grilled, serve each round on a toasted bun topped with green goddess dressing (we opted for the ease of store-bought..yeah, I know, lame. but the beets alone were a serious endeavor), and shredded cabbage.

I served the beet burgers with BBQ broccoli.  Alicia saw the recipe in a cooking magazine and wanted to try it out.
This was ridiculously simple.
Toss broccoli florets in olive oil and arrange on the grill.  You'll want to keep the florets fairly large so that they don't fall through the grates.
Grill the broccoli until it becomes tender.
Remove broccoli from the grill and toss it in your favorite BBQ sauce.  I'm a fan of Sweet Baby Rays.

Don't go crazy with the BBQ sauce here because you want to taste the freshness of the broccoli and the smokiness from the grill.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Camping Adventures

Over the past 2 years we've done a lot of camping. Our food choices have differed with each trip but we are usually too busy hiking, canoeing and enjoying nature to take pictures of our meals. We do have a few from different trips that are shared here. We do have lots of nature pictures from those trips though and here a few of those too.

Roasted Root Vegetables:

olive oil

chop vegetables
toss in olive oil and garlic
wrap in tin foil. (serious wrapping so it doesn't rip open...which sucks)
place over fire until all veggies are done - about 40 minutes.

baked beans are beside them. open can. place in dish. heat till warm. easy peasy.

tofu dogs: heat as you choose. on a stick, in specially made grilling utensils, on the grates.

beets. we have yet to successfully cook these in a campfire. we tried to wrap them in foil and place them in the fire. we got purple centered charcoal. oops.

Tofu Scramble:
we prepare this prior to leaving so that all you need to do is wake up and throw it in a pan
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 onion
1 package of extra firm tofu
olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

chop peppers and onion
press all the water out of the tofu
crumble tofu with a fork
mix veggies and tofu together
this keeps in a container in the cooler pretty well.
morning of:
add tofu mixture to pan with olive oil and garlic
add salt, pepper and nutritional yeast to taste
heat until sufficiently scrambled

we love asparagus in case you haven't noticed

so we tossed some in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper
make a little basket out of tin foil
place over fire

camping food is pretty basic
even this wrap we made to bring in a cooler on a canoe trip worked out well. marinate some shitake mushrooms in sesame oil and soy sauce. add fresh veggies day of and wrap in a tortilla with a smear of hummus. wrap in tin foil. seal tightly and you have a ready to go lunch in between activities :)