Monday, March 24, 2008

Hippy Food 101

Our nanny likes to call me a hippy. She often refers to our food as hippy food. Tonight's dinner would fit that bill. Nothing says earthmuffin quite like Broccoli and Tofu over Bulgar with Peanut sauce, well, unless it is an actual "earthmuffin" and I don't have a recipe for that.

As 70s granola mom as this sounds, it is actually really good, and it was a real hit with one of the kids, the other was too obsessed with drinking water from Easter Bunny delivered rocket shipt cup to offer an opinion on the meal.

1 1/2 cups bulgar wheat
4 cups boiling water

Put bulgar in a heat proof bowl add boiling water and cover. Set aside.

1 Tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup peanut butter (unsweetend, natural style works best)
1 1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Heat oil in a sauce pan and saute crushed garlic being careful not to let it burn. Add peanut butter, water rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Stir until well mixed and heat until warm, if it is too thick, add additional water to thin. I also add a teaspoon of "Better than Bullion" to round out the flavor, but it is not necessary. You can also add a good squeeze of Sirachana if your children will eat spicy foods, mine don't so I have to do without.
2 packages Wild Wood Savory tofu
3 cups broccoli florets
Steam broccoli. Cut tofu into bite sized pieces and heat.

Serve bulgar topped with broccoli and tofu. Add a healthy dose of sauce on top. Sit back and wait for your two year old to ask for "more tofu, peese" like Little Dog, it'll melt your heart.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dining with the whores

No, I am not in the same social circles as Gov. Spitzer. I am only a fan of prostitution in so much as it seems to have been the origins of one of my favorite pasta sauces. Pasta Puttanesca, in all of its salty, spicy deliciousness was a quick supper of the "working girls" way back when, or so rumor has it. As it turns out, it is an excellent dinner for the working mamas too, different line of work entirely, but still...busy people need speedy meals, right?

I make a rapid version that suits my family, but may be a bit salty for non-salt lovin' folks. I don't know many of them so I can't say for sure, but since it hits my salty cravings just right, it is a suspicion I hold. If you are a moderate salt lover, you might want to cut back on the capers and anchovies, but if you choose to go that route, really, what is the point?

Put water on to boil for your favorite pasta. I like whole wheat penne, or Barilla high protein penne, but really, any pasta that floats your boat will work just fine.

While the water is getting ready to boil, put a large saute pan on medium heat.
Once the pan is hot, add 1 tin of good quality anchovies in olive oil, including all of the oil.
Add 3-4 cloves of garlic, crush.
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata, chopped into smaller bites, about 4-6 pieces per olive.
Once all of this has been heated, add a 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes. I like Pomi or Muir Glen Organic, but any good brand will work well.
If there are no children on the guest list, or those children love spicy foods, add a couple of good shakes of crushed pepper flakes,

By this point your water should be boiling, dump in your pound of pasta and cook until it is slightly underdone, probably a minute less than the directed time on the package.
While your pasta is cooking, let the sauce continue simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add to the sauce, cook in the sauce for a minute or two. And that's about it. I like to top it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. If you and your dinner companions are of drinking age, this is one of those meals that craves a big glass of bold red wine.

This goes over like gangbusters with my kids, but keep in mind, Big Dog was eating capers plain, by the fist-full as a toddler and they both go gaga for a good feta stuffed olive, so your results may vary.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Delicious enough for Dr. Evil

Nigella has been good to me lately. After staring the day with a batch of the best scones ever, I made her Spinach and Bulgar Pie for dinner. Despite my poor timing, which once again had me serving dinner after 9:00pm, the recipe is a winner. An added plus is the crust, a deliciously flaky pie type crust that I can prove is fool proof because I was successful in making it. I am a complete failure at pie crust, but this came out beautifully. I had to make a few substitutions because despite having planned to make this since Friday, I failed to have all of the required ingredients on hand. I replaced the green onions with a medium shallot, omitted the bread crumbs entirely and used 16 oz of frozen spinach in place of the 10 oz package in the recipe. It still was delicious and will be made again, possibly with the correct ingredients.

During dinner, Little Dog loved it, but seemed to prefer eating from Mr. Dog and my plates. He came to me and asked to "A taste" then kept on asking for "tastes" until my serving was gone. After he ate the last bite, he threw his head back, clasped his hands together and declared "Mine ALL mine! Ah hahahahaha!" (A line from the Backyardagins Super Secret Super Spy expertly applied to his own life). Having finished off my serving, he started in on Mr. Dog and gave us a repeat performance, evil laugh and all. I'd say that is a ringing endorsement from a 2 year old.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Even filo couldn't save it

My mom used to make a vegetarian entree, Vegetable Strudel, way back when I first became a vegetarian. I don't know where the recipe came from, but I do remember how much I liked it. A lot. I've asked for the recipe a few times over the years, but it has yet to be handed over. Considering that many of my mom's recipes are stored in a giant electric wok leads me to believe this is not out of malice or desire to keep me strudel-hungry, but from a lack of recipe organization. (she should get a blog!)

In my recent quest to cook outside of my old standards, I googled it and got a recipe. Unfortunately this recipe didn't quite work out as I remembered. The flavors were great, but the overall consistency was too wet. When I rolled the strudel, it made a big soggy log, not a compact roll. Even after it was baked, it was too runny. Not sure what went wrong, since I think this recipe is pretty close to what my mom used. I think I may need to cook off the moisture a bit more before I add the cheese. I thought of that at the time, but since the cheese was in the pot, that ship had sailed.

Here is the Vegetable Strudel recipe I used. I am going to try it again at some point and work to offset the extra moisture. I'll keep you posted.

Wrap it in Filo, Boys.

If there is any ingredient I enjoy more than filo, I can't think of it right this moment. Ok, maybe I can, but I won't admit it. I love filo, so if I exaggerate slightly, so be it.

My boys seem to agree. If I wrap ingredients into a flakey filo crust, they eat it. It is that simple.
For a long time, I was stuck on Spanikopita. I love the stuff, and they wolfed it down, so I assume they liked it too. Imagine my delight when I was perusing my new copy of Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess and came across a recipe for Courgette and Chick Pea Filo Pie. (For those of us who don't speak Stuffy British, that's Zucchini.) All of the ingredients were simple, easy to pull together and wrapped in deliciously crispy filo.

I made it once strictly following the recipe, but used brown basmanti rice instead of plain basmanti rice. It came out of the oven golden brown and beautiful, easily as perfect as the one pictured in the cookbook. It was a huge hit. Unfortunately it took nearly twice as long as I had expected so dinner was served past bedtime. On the upside, starving children will eat just about anything with gusto!

In my next attempt, I made one simple substitution. I used bulgar instead of rice. Mr. Dog hates rice (although he always eats it when I make it- go figure) and bulgar cooks faster than rice. I simply replaced the rice with an equal quantity of bulgar. I also added a hearty squeeze of lemon right before putting the filling into the filo lined pan.
Personally, I much preferred the bulgar version. The flavors just merged a bit more and the nutty flavor of the bulgar added to the overall toasty deliciousness.
And the kids ate it as though I had starved them, even though dinner was served right on time! This will be a new weeknight staple in our house.

Courgette and Chick Pea Filo Pie
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
3 plump courgettes/zucchini
1/2 cup basmati rice (or bulgar if you want to follow my wisdom)
3 cups veg stock
2 cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
*big lemon (if you want to add it, it is not in the original recipe)
4 tbsp melted butter
8 oz filo pastry
9 inch springform pan
Preheat the oven to 200C and put in a baking sheet. Gently fry the cumin seeds and onion in the olive oil until the onion is soft. Add the turmeric and coriander. Dice the courgettes (unpeeled), add them to the onion mixture, and cook on a fairly high heat to prevent the courgettes becoming watery. When they are soft but still holding their shape, add the rice and stir well, letting the rice become well coated with the oil/liquid. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring while you do so. When all the liquid has been absorbed the rice should be cooked, so take it off the heat, stir in the chick peas and check the seasoning. At this point I added a big squeeze of lemon juice and I highly recommend it.

Brush the insides of the tin with some of the melted butter. Line the bottom and sides with about 3/4 of the filo, buttering each piece as you layer. Leave a little filo overhanging the sides and keep 3-4 sheets for the top. Carefully put in your slightly cooled filling, and then fold in the overlaps. Butter these down then scrunch up the remaining sheets as a topping. Brush with a final coat of butter and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filo is golden and the filling is hot. Check this by inserting a metal knife which should feel hot when removed.
Serves 6 - 8

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Delicious PMS Survival Cookies

OK, so Cooks Illustrated calls them "Triple Chocolate Cookie" but that fails to sum up the rich, velvety chocolate blend that goes into these perfect treats to tide my inner bitch over her "time of the month". From now on, when I need chocolate, and I do mean NEED chocolate, I will make these.
Even Big Dog appreciated them. "They are just so perfect!" he says. "I can feeeeel the chocolate" as he rubs his chest, chocolate cookie residue forming a prefect ring around his mouth. his mouth. The kid knows his cookies. As he stands at the door to the playroom, our working oven in the house, he says "I neeed a cookie. Mine's all gone." Little Dog follows Mr. Dog yelling "Eat it all UP!" And just because I understand where he is coming from, I say yes.

PMS Survival Cookies

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

But what's IN it?

I made a delicious soup last night from Fine Cooking. Everyone in the family seemed to enjoy it. Paired with a slab of Limpa bread fresh from the oven and a few slices of good cheddar cheese, we had a simple yet filling meal.

The recipe itself is easy, relatively quick to prepare and as I said, considered tasty by an audience that ranges from a 2 year-old to a 41 year-old. My curious 4 year old liked it, but was suspicious that I had put some extra ingredient in without admitting it, so dinner was punctuated by frequent demands to know "But what else is in it?" He finally decided there must be beans in it (there are not), and I decided to let him believe that just to shut him up so I could eat in peace.

The recipe called for 1 Tbsp Pernod, but as I am not a fan of the stuff and the liquor store only had one size bottle, suitable for a French alcoholic, I omitted it. I also used a potato larger than the recommended "medium" in the recipe, but I think that is what made this recipe work a little better for me than my friend over at Pork Cracklins.

Tomato Soup with Fennel, Leek and Potato (Fine Cooking #91, March 2008, back cover)