Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spinach and Olive Soccattata

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Socca is an unleavened, savory pancake made of chickpea flour, and is a popular street food in the south of France. I've never been to France or had authentic socca, so I can't verify if this is even close to the real thing, but it's pretty tasty. Socca, made simple and plain, is perfectly delicious in its own way, but the last time I made it, I decided to add some salty and tangy elements into the batter, which transformed the socca into more of a vegan version of a frittata, hence the term soccattata. Whether this is eaten plain or dolled up with some other savory components, it is surprisingly rich and egg-like in taste and texture. This makes a perfect brunch or light dinner—it's filling, packed with protein and super easy to make.

1 cup chickpea flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 TB olive oil
1/2 red onion, cut into thin half-moon slices
1 TB oil cured olives, depitted and roughly chopped
2 TB sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
2/3 cup spinach, cut chiffonade
olive oil for frying

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, water, salt and oil. Cover and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. There's no need to refrigerate it.

In a small 9-inch cast iron pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the sliced onions and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let the onions caramelize for about 30 minutes (don't stir the onions as they caramelize). Fifteen minutes into your caramelizing time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

After the onions are caramelized and your oven is preheated, increase the heat under your cast iron pan to high. Add in the olives, tomatoes and spinach to the pan with a couple tablespoons of oil. Saute until the spinach is reduced a bit, then add about two cups of the chickpea/water mixture to the pan. It should sizzle immediately. Place the entire cast iron pan into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until it slightly browns around the edges.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sriracha and Peanut Butter Tofu

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The Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate aired an All American-themed episode the other night, which included Chef Michael Symon, among other chefs, describing some of their favorite dishes in this category. Chef Symon talked about a concoction created by his stepson, which was a hotdog laced with chunky peanut butter, sriracha and a jalepeno pickle relish. As he was describing the dish, I thought about how these components could translate into a balanced sauce and came up with the recipe below. For this dish, I froze, defrosted and pressed the tofu before marinating it in peanut oil. If you haven't tried freezing tofu before, it's a great method to try out, although it's a little time consuming. Freezing and defrosting tofu gives it a unique dense and chewy texture and, in this recipe, perfectly compliments this viscous, spicy and nutty sauce.

for the marinade:
1/3 cup peanut oil
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB grated ginger

for the sauce:
1/2 cup mirin
1 TB rice vinegar
2 TB sriracha
1/2 TB sesame oil
1/2 TB agave
1 TB chunky peanut butter
1/4 tsp xantham gum or 1 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 2 TB water

for the dish:
1 block tofu
peanut oil
6 oz. bella mushrooms, quartered
2 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, crushed
sesame seeds
3 scallions, green portion only, cut on the bias

Cut the tofu into 4 slabs, then cut each slab in half twice to create dice-sized tofu cubes. Line in a single layer in a glass pyrex dish and place into the freezer for at least 4 hours. Remove it from the freezer, tipping it over to gently remove the tofu. Let it defrost slighty for about a half an hour and then press it for an hour.

In the same pyrex dish, whisk the peanut oil with the soy sauce and ginger. Place the tofu into the marinade, flipping over as needed to ensure coverage. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours.

To make the sauce, place the first four marinade ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it begins to slightly bubble, add the agave and peanut butter and whisk until well combined. Whisk in the xantham gum or cornstarch slurry. Turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally.

Heat some of the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and saute on each side for about two minutes, or until well-browned. Remove from the skillet and place aside in a bowl. Add the mushrooms to the skillet, using a bit more peanut oil as needed until slightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove from the skillet and add it to the bowl with the tofu. Lower the heat to medium and saute the shallots in a small amount of peanut oil for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic to the skillet and saute for a minute more. Remove from the skillet.

Throw the peanuts into the skillet (don't add any extra oil at this point) and toast for about two minutes, making sure they do not scorch. Remove from the skillet into separate small bowl.

To serve, add all of the skillet components into serving bowls. Top with the sauce, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds and scallion tops.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mattie's Vegan Butter

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Once upon a time, a genius named Mattie posted this recipe and method on, which resulted in a buttery applause from vegans everywhere. Although picking up a tub of Earth Balance at the grocery store is pretty easy, trying your hand at making this butter is absolutely worth the effort—there is just something very satisfying about making your own product from scratch. Mattie has a deep understanding of the ingredients he uses in his recipe and how they work together—he also explains everything incredibly well. This butter slices and melts beautifully, boasts a wonderful buttery taste and features an incredibly smooth texture. I followed Mattie's recipe exactly, but did the following things:

  • I scraped out about 8 ounces of solid coconut oil into a small saute pan and melted slowly in a saucepan over the lowest heat possible, then measured according to the recipe instructions (any extra oil can be poured back into the jar). 
  • To ensure that the coconut oil was at perfect room temperature, I let it sit in a blender for about a half an hour before blending the soymilk and other ingredients with it.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Spicy Fava Bean Falafel

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    Hannibal Lecter loved them. Pythagoras hated them. Fava beans. Although siding with fictional serial killer characters isn't really my thing, I'm with Dr. Lecter on this one. These beans are fantastic, rich and buttery. They can be served fresh and sauteed, are convenient when dried and even taste delicious in their canned form. I scored a few cups of dried fava at Whole Foods the other week and decided to make falafel out of them with great success. Similar to a chickpea-based falafel, these are light and fluffy, and are perfectly crisp on the outside. Although these are traditionally served with a tahini dressing, I've paired it here with a sriracha-vegenaise sauce to give it a spicy-garlicky kick.

    1 1/4 cup dried fava beans, picked over and soaked overnight
    1/2 cup dried chickpeas, picked over and soaked overnight
    1 cup onion, chopped
    1 cup parsley, chopped
    6 cloves garlic, minced
    4 TB chickpea flour (preferably stored in the freezer overnight to chill)
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp habanero or cayenne powder
    1 TB cumin
    1 TB coriander
    vegetable oil
    1/8 cup Vegenaise, mixed with 1/8 cup sriracha

    Drain the water off of the fava beans (they should have a rubbery consistency and their tough leathery outer shells should be easy to remove.) Throw away any fava beans that have not softened. Discard the shells and transfer the small white beans to a food processor. Drain the chickpeas and add them to the food processor. Pulse a few times only.

    Add in the next eight ingredients and pulse until the ingredients have blended, but are still slightly coarse. Transfer the batter to a medium-sized bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours.

    In a small and deep saucepan, pour plenty of vegetable oil (enough to submerge the falafel in). Heat the oil over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes. While you are waiting for the oil to heat up, roll the falafel into golf-ball sized pieces and set aside.

    Throw a pinch of the batter into the oil to test its readiness. If it sizzles immediately, you are ready to fry.

    Working in batches, slowly submerge the falafel into the oil and fry for about 3 minutes, or until the falafel is golden brown. (I use a skimmer, but a large heat-resistant spoon works well too.)

    TIP! Since the batter is cold, it is best to only fry a few at a time. Frying large batches will reduce the temperature of your oil and you'll end up with a soggy mess.

    Immediately transfer the fried falafel onto paper towels to drain. The used oil may be cooled, strained and stored in the refrigerator and used a few more times before being discarded.

    Serve with the sriracha-vegenaise dressing or a tahini sauce.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    PPK Pumpkin Muffins with Tofutti Cream Cheese

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    Fall is almost here! This is the time of year when my oven starts making the transition from being a horrible piece of hot metal to an amazing appliance that produces delicious things and keeps me warm in the kitchen. One of the first ingredients I think of for the fall is pumpkin and Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Best Pumpkin Muffins recipe is the best way to enjoy any of it that's canned. These are super-moist and not too sweet. The last time I made them, I added a little half-sphere of Tofutti cream cheese to the batter with a delicious result—whether or not you add in the cream cheese here, you'll still be rewarded with a perfect and delicious muffin.

    Make Isa's Pumpkin Muffin batter. Spoon into a greased muffin tin. Using a tablespoon, level some Tofutti cream cheese to make a perfect half-sphere. Place the half-spheres on top of the muffins and bake according to the recipe instructions. 

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Roasted Garlic and Sriracha Hummus

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    I remember the first time I had roasted garlic. It was presented in its whole form—the top of the head had been lopped off, revealing little catacombs of caramelized garlic cloves inside. I wasn't totally sure what to do with it, so I literally dug right in with a little knife. My effort was rewarded with a sticky, buttery and heavenly-smelling clove. I spread it on a cracker, savoring this new taste and texture. Up until this time, garlic was a pungent and spicy ingredient, meant to be used only very sparingly. But this garlic was mellow, creamy and soft—and I could easily devour a ton of it. Because of its easy prep and short cook time, I use roasted garlic often: it's perfect for incorporating into a a rustic fall soup or tossed into roasted brussel sprouts. I also love blending it into a hummus for a rich and silky-textured dish.  

    2 whole heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
    2/3 cup olive oil, divided
    pinch of salt
    2 cups of dried chickpeas (soaked overnight) or one can of chickpeas, rinsed
    pinch of baking powder
    1/4 cup tahini
    1 tsp salt
    2 TB sriracha
    red pepper flakes, optional

    Preheat oven to 375. Place the garlic bulbs in a small glass casserole dish. Douse with 1/3 cup of olive oil and pinch of salt. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir and place back into the oven for 15 minutes more, uncovered. Let the bulbs cool completely for about an hour. Reserve any of the leftover oil that may remain in the casserole dish.

    If you are using dried chickpeas: While the garlic is roasting, place the soaked chickpeas in a pressure cooker with enough water to cover them plus a bit more and a pinch of baking powder. Cook on high for 25 minutes, or until they mash very easily when pressed on by a fork or back of a spoon. Drain and place in a food processor.

    If you are using canned chickpeas: Rinse very well and transfer directly to a food processor.

    Once the garlic bulbs are completely cooled, remove the skins and discard them. Place the garlic, any leftover olive oil, plus the 1/3 cup remaining olive oil into the food processor with the chickpeas. Pulse until very smooth, about a minute.

    Add in the tahini, salt and sriracha. Pulse for about a minute more. If not using immediately, refrigerate and allow to sit out at room temperature for about an hour before serving. Hummus is tastiest when served at room temperature.