Monday, December 27, 2010

so much roasting. and delicious bruschetta.

i've been backloading recipes for about a week now. just to give you a preview of what's to come: banana cinnamon twist bread, oven roasted brussels sprouts, mediterranean strata, and a banana cake that disappeared within 24 hours of me setting it down on the kitchen counter.

my dear friend lizzy was here to visit last week, and this roasted pepper, tomato, and goat cheese bruschetta was the first dish we tried out. we ended up making it alongside a bunch of other dishes, all of which consisted primarily of roasting. given that neither of us had much experience with this technique - but somehow made the ingenious decision to prepare everything this way - it was an evening of highs ("we know how to roast now!") and lows ("it's buuuurning!"). but ultimately, we emerged victorious and with a sound knowledge of how to roast just about anything.

we strayed a bit from the new york times' recipe for health and sort of miscalculated the appropriate ratio of tomatoes to peppers. translation: we way overdid it on the tomatoes. in retrospect, 8 tomatoes to 2 peppers sounds ludicrous. at the time, we found a way to convince ourselves it was reasonable. reasonable would have been 4 tomatoes to 2 peppers, considering the latter give a bit more of a punch.

but for real: this recipe is easy, pretty, and tasty. we served it as part of a buffet at a big family dinner, but it would also be a great appetizer. next time i make this, i'll either stick with the goat cheese or switch to a crumbled feta.


2 large red peppers, roasted in the oven
4 heirloom tomatoes
coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup parsley
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1 onion
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 baguette
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

dice peppers and coat in a thin layer of olive oil. roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes, turning them over as necessary. while the pepper are roasting, dice your tomatoes and onion and set aside. remove the peppers and allow them to cool in a bowl. if you want, you can mince one of the garlic cloves and add to the peppers. once peppers have cooled off, combine with tomatoes and onion. stir in your parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees. toast the bread. spoon on the prepared topping and sprinkle with the goat cheese. serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

joyfully over-souped.

in the past few months, as things have been getting colder and the need for warm foods has risen steadily, i've learned the invaluable lesson that you can never run out of ways to eat soup. personally, i enjoy mine with a thick slice of toasted bread or a warm pita, but i have to admit that the approach below isn't bad either.

potato latkes.. minus the potatoes... and disguised as pancakes.

it was Chanukah last week, and i am very lucky to have a friend who never fails to draw my attention to the me that never was: that is, the synagogue-visiting finkelstein i should have been... rather than the devout agnostic i've become. i'm always eager to try and channel my jewish potential, especially if the experience ends with a full belly. and i get to take pictures along the way. hence: latke evening!

while the latkes in mind were potato, plans changed when we ended up forgetting to buy the key ingredient. we were also unwilling to purchase some of the exotic(ally overpriced) spices used in the new york times recipe for fear of tarnishing our hard-earned reputation as poor students. however, despite the unsettling amount of substitution going on, these fritters turned out very delicious. which taught me 2 things:

1) you can make anything into a latke.

2) but you'll enjoy it more if it's thinner and not too full of flour.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon pepper
2 large carrots, grated
1 zucchini, grate
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
olive oil for frying

make the batter by combining flour, baking powder, and salt. in another bowl, whisk the milk, egg, lemon zest, and pepper together. pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until well-blended but still a bit lumpy.

stir in the carrots, zucchini, parsley, and scallions. allow to rest and solidify for about 20 minutes.

fill a saucepan with 1/2 inch of oil oil and line a plate with paper towel. begin working in batches, dropped small balls of the batter into the oil and frying. turn occasionally until they are golden all over. transfer fritters to plate and let towels absorb excess oil. transfer to serving plate for eating. serve with sour cream or a dip like this.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

lasagna (stew?!)

yesterday morning, something very strange happened. i woke up and instantly knew: today's a lasagna day.

this is, as those who know me can confirm, a very unusual and confusing occurrence for someone like myself (namely, someone who spends 10 minutes trying to decide what kind of muffin to order at a bakery or ponders most of the day what exactly her stomach is craving for dinner that night). but the christmas season works in magical ways and so i was blessed, for one oh so brief moment, with the miracle of decisiveness!

i'd guesstimate that this recipe makes enough lasagna for a family of 4. i'm basing that on the fact that the two of us ate it for three nights in a row (with it getting better each passing evening...). the only thing to watch out for is that it doesn't get, well, too stewy. it could have had to do with the fact that we cooked it with mushrooms (the world's most water-emitting vegetable) or that we used slightly too much tomato sauce. either way, things got a bit soupy after 20 minutes in the oven. so i'd recommend learning from our silly mistakes and making sure not to overdue the number of vegetables or the amount of tomato sauce between each pasta sheet. the other key (which i learned from a dear ex-pat ami of mine) is to cook the lasagna pasta in boiling water for 2 minutes before baking, especially if you're using whole wheat pasta. it makes a world of difference.

los ingredientes:

10 sheets of lasagna
1 head of broccoli
1 zucchini
3 carrots
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 red pepper
10 brown mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large can tomato sauce
1 cup grated cheese

begin by sautéing your carrots and mushrooms in a skillet with some olive oil until carrots soften up (about 5-7 minutes). add onion, garlic, zucchini and pepper and cook for another 8-10 minutes on a low heat. meanwhile, fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil, and blanch your broccoli head (already chopped into florets) for 1-2 minutes. once your other veggies are cooked through, mix the broccoli in and set aside.

bring another small pot of water to a boil and cook your lasagna sheets for no more than 2 minutes. remove! its time to start compiling the lasagna. of course, how you do this is a matter of personal preference. whole wheat lasagna sheets are pretty thick/hearty, so we only made three layers. begin by adding your vegetables, then the tomato sauce, and then your pasta sheet. repeat as many times as your pan will allow. top with a bit of tomato sauce and most importantly, cheese!

we baked ours for about a half hour, but just keep an eye on yours :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"comfort yourself the non-paula deen way" lentil soup

bremen has turned into a winter wonderland! the snowflakes are sticking, the christmas markets are booming, the glühwein is flowing, the waterfront looks like santa threw up all over it, and i'm in the mood for baking cinnamon-y treats and watching inane romantic comedies (serendipity!). oh yeah, and eating soup. there is something really comforting about the reward of an almost too-hot-to-swallow spoonful of soup and some hearty bread at the end of a long journey home through the snow. hence: today's entry, a lentil and carrot soup to comfort but not render you immobile the way, for instance, paula deen's cream of cheesy cheddar potato soup might :)

i've always struggled with making my soups thin enough. usually, they end up looking like a thick mush for spreading rather than a silky well for dipping. however, with this one, adding more water as you go works very well. you can start by cooking the lentils pretty much through using the recommended amount of water and then continue to add more broth as they gradually lose their shape. we don't own a blender, so soup in this apartment pretty much always has to have the word "chunky" in the title. that's not a bad thing here considering that the lentils become a smooth base by themselves and the carrots and zucchini retain their shape when you add them toward the end.


1 cup yellow lentils
2 cups water (to start)
1 tbsp vegetable broth
1 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 carrot
1 zucchini
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup parsley (as garnish)
salt and pepper to taste

start by rinsing your lentils in a sieve until the water runs clear. place lentils in a large pot with your two cups of water and a cube of vegetable broth. bring to a boil. reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. it will take about 15 minutes for them to cook through. make sure to check on them often and stir as necessary.

in the meantime, add the olive oil and carrots to a skillet and saute for 3-4 minutes before adding your diced onion, zucchini, and finely chopped garlic. cook for another 8-10 minutes on a low heat until the vegetables start to loose their shape.

at this point, i added the veggies, another cup of water, and turmeric to the lentils. you can make the soup as thick or thin as you want by varying the amount of water you add. let the mixture simmer uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until lentils collapse and lose their shape.

salt and pepper and spice as desired. garnish with a some parsley. this paired nicely with a slice of millet bread, but i can imagine that adding a small helping of couscous or brown rice to the soup would also be quite delicious.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

couscous-stuffed, feta-topped paprikas

not to fear, dear friends and loyal fans, the hobbit is back with a dish that was made last week, but which was so tasty that it took me this long to be able to write about it without shedding a small tear of nostalgic joy.

the days are getting shorter, the nights more frigid, and the rain... well the rain has stayed its constant self (this is bremen after all) (zing!). i notice how my interest in eating salad is inversely related to how many layers of socks i need to survive the day. as such, it's always nice to find warm, healthy dishes that still pack a degree of veggie and vitamins. this dish offers both nutritional value and the endlessly fun task of stuffing one thing into another. and adding cheese!

it's also tres easy, and the recipe could easily be adapted depending on what vegetables you have. i know because we adjusted this (divine-looking) recipe and it turned out simply splendid!

get your hands on:

4 large peppers
veggie cooking spray
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cup water
1 cube vegetable broth
a few tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1 zucchini
2/3 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup fresh herbs
(parsley or chives work great)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 can chickpeas
3 tbsp pureed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a baking dish with cooking spray. cut off the tops of peppers and scoop out seeds (and all that gunk). place the peppers upright in the baking dish and let the roast in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until they start to soften up.

meanwhile, begin cooking the couscous by bringing your water to a boil, adding in some vegetable broth and then couscous. cover the pan and remove it from the heat to let the couscous cook. in another skillet, cook your veggies! add the onion, zucchini, and mushrooms and let cook for 5 minutes. turn the heat down and stir in your tomatoes, chickpeas, herbs, and tomato sauce (and you can do your salt and pepper now too). combine with the couscous and let cook on low heat for a couple of minutes.

fill the peppers with the couscous mixture, top with bits of feta, and bake for 20 minutes.

eat immediately, but first let your friend assemble them in a beautiful fashion to enhance the dining experience. (p.s. see those orange slivers to the side? those are sweet potato fries! that recipe coming soon….)

Sunday, November 21, 2010


last week, i came home to find a waffle iron on my bed. confused and inspired, i set to work. and quickly realized that life with a waffle iron > life without a waffle iron. this may have more to do with the realization that this heart-shaped treasure will also probably be able to double as a panini maker  (!!) and veggie burger grill machine (!!!!) and less to do with any sort of waffle obsession. that said, it's certainly a HUGE relief to know that waffles are only minutes away if we need them.

we don't normally have butter or eggs stocked in our fridge unless there's a baking session planned, so it was clear that these were going to have to be vegan. fortunately, the thing is: it's really not as difficult as it seems to "veganize" most recipes. mostly, you just need something to substitute for the butter and eggs which adhere the dry ingredients to each other. soy milk works great, as does vegetable oil and a dollop of apple sauce.

die zutaten!

2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups soy milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

begin by heating up your waffle iron so it’s ready to receive batter.
combine all the dry ingredients, and add in the wet. stir it all together, but leave some lumps too. once the iron is nice and piping, grease with cooking spray, and fill er up. with this iron, it only took at 5 minutes to cook. and of course, the first one looked very silly and disfigured. but the rest were stunning.

also, our first batches were sans cinnamon, but we later added the spice to the batter. personally, i preferred them with (heaping amounts of) cinnamon. next time we do it (aka in a few hours, probably..), i think we'll see what happens if we throw an overripe banana or two into the mix.

et bon appétit!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

los geht's, a word of warning, and cake!

an honest confession to kick things off: a title which would probably better capture this blog's purpose/imminent fate might be something like,

"experimental kitchen creations that don't necessarily end up looking to-die-for delicious but which (usually) turn out tasting purdy good."

that said, muffins on sunday felt - as a title - crisper.

but let's cut the small talk and get down to the thing on everyone's mind: cake. the first recipe we tried turned out, not surprisingly, to be both over-the-top and really tasty! you've had apple-banana cake, sure, but this takes the fruit ingredients to a whole new level. the recipe is inspired by smitten kitchen's mom's apple cake and the craft begin's banana-pear bread. i've tried and loved both, but i still think this newest creation is my favorite, combining all the pleasures of a banana loaf with chunks of cinammon-y apple in every bite!


3 overripe, mashed bananas
5 medium sized apples (or pears, if that's more your thang)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup sugar (you can also use 3/4 cup if you prefer it less sweet)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. cinnamon

preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease a tube or bunt cake pan. peel, core and chop apples into chunks. toss with cinnamon and set aside.

in a large bowl, mix together bananas, eggs, sugar, cooking oil, vanilla, and half the apples. beat until well mixed. in another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with until it’s well moistened but still lumpy.

pour half of batter into the pan. spread about half the remaining apples over it. pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the last apples on top. bake for about 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. enjoy!!