Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sesame Noodles

I recently had sesame noodles from a downtown lunch cart and I really enjoyed them, but I thought I could tweak the noodles to make me like them even more. I just made a pound of whole wheat fettucine yesterday, so I had this lovely fresh pasta to start with. The whole thing took me an hour to knock together and eat. I made a spicy dressing which involved no cooking, and tossed it with sliced scallions and toasted cashews. Here's what I put in it:

One pound (16oz.) of cooked pasta, cooled and drained
1/2 cup of toasted peanuts or cashews
1 bunch of scallions, sliced


1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 1/2 " piece of ginger root, finely grated

My method was very easy. While the pasta water came to boiling, I toasted the nuts and sliced the scallions. I whisked the sauce ingredients together, then threw the noodles in to cook. When the noodles were drained and cooled, I tossed everything together until it was all nicely incorporated. And that is all there is to it. It was dead tasty! I can imagine this with any number of raw veggies added in. Things like snowpeas and cucumbers come to mind. Tofu would be good too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

White Bean Hummous

One of my fave lunch spots near my office is Chez Foushee. I don't know how long they have been there at Grace and Foushee Streets--I know it's as long as I have worked at Theatre IV at least, which is 12 years. It is a charming little restaurant with a menu that is just right. Not too many or too few choices and really fresh, imaginative yet comfy food. They offer this white bean hummous sandwich that I am totally in love with.

I have made tons of hummous with chickpeas, but I love the lightness of white bean hummous. This is the version I made today:

1 14 ounce can of cannellini beans, thoroughly rinsed
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
juice of a small lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
ground black pepper
pinch of dried crushed red chili
about 2 tablespoons water

I just blended this in a food processor until it was super smooth. The water thins it out enough that it seems to get some fluffiness whipped into it. It is so delicious!

I ate it on a sandwich with sundried tomato pesto, spinach, bell pepper, carrot, and purple onion.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Daily Bread

This basic bread is so easy. I don't actually make it "daily" but I certainly could. It's that low maintenance.
This is a spinoff of the uber-popular no-knead bread that Mark Bittman wrote about in the NY Times. This recipe, originally from Sullivan Street Bakery, was an internet sensation. I later found a bunch of modified versions of it, and I have even modified it more on my own. It's gotten easier with each incarnation.

Here's what I do. Before I leave for work in the morning, I mix 2 cups of unbleached white bread flour or all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in a large bowl. I add a scant cup of lukewarm water and mix with my hand until it becomes a cohesive misshapen ball of dough. This takes maybe 2 minutes, tops. Just mix with your hands until all the loose flour is worked in. Then, drizzle a bit of oil on this dough blob, coat the blob with the oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set it in a warm (about 70 degrees) place.

Go to work and do your best to act like a grownup.

When you get home, you will see the blob has at least doubled in size! It will have lots of bubbles in it. Take a baking sheet and sprinkle it liberally with flour. Turn the dough out of the bowl and onto the sheet. The dough will de-gas and shrink as you coax it out of the bowl--this is okay. It needs to rise again and that will happen next. With a very gentle touch, coax the dough into an approximate loaf shape, making sure it gets coated in flour. Cover with plastic and let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours or so.

This is when you can make soup. Well, at least that's what I did today!

Put the bread into a 400 degree preheated oven and bake it for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is nice and brown and crispy looking.

Red Lentil Soup

Today was a perfect fall day and that makes me want to bake bread and make soup!
While the bread was baking, I concocted a spicy red lentil soup tonight. Split red lentils are a staple in our kitchen. They're a beautiful coral color and very tiny, and they cook quickly and just sort of melt into the mix, giving a thick velvety consistency. Don't spill them on your kitchen floor. You will still be picking them up a decade after the actual spill.

Here's what I used:

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
3 tablespoons of red curry paste
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup dried split red lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk
1 small peeled and diced sweet potato
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons red chili powder or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onion until soft. Add the fenugreek and cumin and give it another minute. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and curry paste and swish that around for a couple minutes, until you can really smell the flavors intensifying. Add the veg broth, lentils, sweet potato, cilantro and coconut milk. Finally, add the nutmeg and red chili powder. Simmer partially covered on low heat until the lentils are so tender you can't really find them anymore, and the sweet potato is soft. Blend with an immersion blender until mostly smooth with just a few chunks for texture.
If you don't have an immersion blender, for the love of Darwin, get thee to Target and buy one. Alternatively, just get in there with a whisk and puree it a little.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

I was too lazy to do this tonight, but a sprinkle of chopped fresh mint, stolen from Joe and Debra's yard, would make a perfect garnish for this soup.

I ate the lovely soup with fresh warm slices of bread and (vegan) butter. If you are avoiding dairy and miss the taste of butter, I highly recommend Earth Balance spread. It contains no dairy, but it is just as tasty as butter. You can cook with it, too.

I thought about taking pictures, but this soup eats better than it photographs!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Homemade Vegan Pasta

I'm sure I've mentioned how I love my pasta roller. It is the rock bottom model, at about 60 bucks at any snooty kitchen store. I didn't know this when I bought it, but all the pasta making afficionados will tell you that the plain old simple, hand-cranked machine is the best one to get. So Yay Me! Every once in a while I screw up and do something right. I have an Atlas brand machine, and it is made of very weighty shiny steel. You don't even have to wash it when you're finished using it--you just wipe it with a dry cotton towel.

I wanted to try my hand at vegan pasta today. I found this recipe by Bryanna Clark Grogan on the internet. I loved the simplicity of it--it only called for 3 ingredients: Unbleached white flour, chickpea flour, and water. If you are stumped as to where you would find chickpea flour, have no fear. Go to any Indian grocery and you will easily find it. It also might be labeled by its Indian name, Besan.

Apparently, chickpea flour has proteins, fats and lecethin that act as tenderizers in the dough, the same way eggs would if you were using them. I was very pleased with the dough, and it went through the machine just as smoothly as non-vegan dough does.

We are going to eat the pasta with some roasted and sauteed veggies for a light dinner. Between now and then, I have to get gussied up so I can go sing some songs at a fundraising party for Henley Street Theatre Company.

I may post a pic of the finished dish when I get home tonight. We'll see if it turns out purty enough!

Update: YUM.. Roasted grape tomatoes, red bell peppers and garlic cloves. Sauteed red onion, courgette (that's the posh name for zucchini, which is the posh name for summer squash) and spinach. The homemade pasta cooked in just a minute or so, then we drained it and tossed everything together. We finished it off with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper and sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. Mwaahh!