Friday, September 30, 2011

guest post: cinnamon maple muffins!

when i was staying at my parents' place a couple of weeks ago, i made some gluten free muffins and set them on the counter. the next afternoon, they were gone. i figured someone had moved them - most likely to the trash but maybe to the pantry. turns out, they had been relocated into everyone's stomachs in a matter of hours. this, i realized, signals a recipe worth repeating. 

gluten free baking, as i've mentioned before, is a rare treat for me. the necessary flours can be difficult to locate in german supermarkets, so i'm always giddily overwhelmed by the selection of such baking ingredients stateside. in the last few weeks, i've been reveling in the muffin-making joys of coconut flour. it's a drier flour, so you need to add in a fair amount of moisture when baking with it. but if you can strike that right balance, it'll make you wonder why you'd ever try another flour. 

this week, i'm honored to be sharing the recipe for my coco-flour cinnamon muffins on the wonderful blog of an old childhood friend (and now culinary inspiration!): regina rae. her recipes not only exemplify the ideal of natural, whole foods, eclectic cooking, but her humility and humor always keep me coming back for more. so head over to regina's gorgeous blog to check out the recipe, and while you're there, don't forget to poke around - you may come away with a recipe (or ten) in need of testing out in your own kitchen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

a curried apple couscous.

one month has passed since i celebrated my birthday in bremen. since then, i'm moved up and out of germany, into the US, stayed with my parents in tucson, made pit stops in chicago and san diego, and have now resettled in palo alto. whew! even typing all those transitions makes me want to kick my feet up and take a breather.while i've been cooking a bit in the past few weeks (stay tuned for some vegan oatmeal raisin cookies and a summer curry sauté), there's also been an unusual amount of eating out. while most of the food has been really tasty, i must confess that i'm looking forward to cooking more meals now that i've finally "landed" in what will be my home for the next years. (and this time, i've brought my recipe books with me!).
the first recipe i'll be repeating is this one from that aforementioned birthday gathering in august (stolen and adapted from one of my all-time favorite cooking blogs). filled with fresh apples and green onions, it's the ideal potluck dish to help ease the transition from summer into fall. the fresh mint adds a much-needed kick, and i would venture that throwing in chives or cilantro wouldn't hurt one bit.

curried apple couscous

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 gala apples, cored and chopped
5 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups couscous
3 ½ cups water
3 teaspoons salt
2 large handfuls mint, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. add the curry powder and 1 teaspoon salt. cook, stirring regularly for about 1 minute. add the apples and cook for another 5 or 6 minutes, until they are slightly softened and absorbed with curry. remove from pan and place in a large serving bowl.

in the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. add the green onions and cook for a couple of minutes, until they are slightly softened. add the water, another teaspoon salt, and the couscous. give the couscous a good stir, then cover the pan and remove from the heat. let steam for about 10 minutes.

when the couscous is cooked through, fork it up with a fork and add in the apples and mint. season with salt, pepper, and curry to taste. let sit for at least a half hour to reach room temperature, and transfer back to the large serving bowl when ready to be consumed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

saag tofu

the cooking from cookbooks continues! (and so does the alliteration, apparently).

my incredibly food-savvy cousin was kind enough to have a couple of wonderful books shipped and waiting for me when i arrived at my parents' place earlier this month. one of them, 1,000 indian recipes by neelam batra, makes me want to crawl inside a hole (a hole equipped with a full kitchen and mini indian supermarket) and cook for days. there are so many delicious recipes - one thousand, to be exact - that the biggest challenge has been actually picking out which ones to try. luckily, my mom is slightly more decisive than i am, and declared the other evening that she desperately needed something saag. we weren't feeling eager beaver enough to make our own paneer cheese, so the culinary geniuses that we are, we swapped in tofu. 

et voila! saag tofu for dinner!
growing up, my mother was the acclaimed indian chef of the household. while i have almost exclusively positive memories of her kitchen (there was just this one time with a hunk of ginger and me as a toddler and 3 hours spent wiping my tongue with a wet napkin "to make it go away"), her signature dishes are generally north indian (where she learned to cook) and many quite meat-centric: keema, tandoori chicken, ginger chicken, lots of  chicken chicken chicken. sadly, such dishes just aren't something i can recreate these days. so it was something very special to get to cook with the woman who brought indian cuisine into my life in the first place. and to do it vegetarian style!
this dish turned out absolutely delicious. we decided to pan sear the tofu beforehand, which helps a great deal as you don't have to be so careful when you incorporate it into the pot of cooking spinach. the other adjustment we made was leaving out a teaspoon of fenugreek leaves. this has nothing to do with my feelings about the spice - we just couldn't find it anywhere in tucson! next time i make this (which will invariably be very very soon), i'll make sure to scavenge them up, though to be honest, the dish is so flavorful anyway that you may not even know what you're missing.

saag tofu
from neelam batra's 1,000 indian recipes

8 ounces extra firm tofu
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed well
1 large yellow onion
4 quarter size slices peeled fresh ginger
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchstick
3 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1 large clove fresh garlic, minced
¼ cup water
3 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
2 sticks cinnamon
5 green cardamom pods, crushed lightly to break the skin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup plain nonfat yogurt, whisked until smooth
1 chili pepper, finely diced (with seeds)
½ teaspoon paprika

1. prepare the tofu by wrapping it in paper towels and letting it drain for about 2 minutes. repeat at least once (preferably twice) to remove all the water. cut into slices of ½ x 1 inch. heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium high heat. once hot, place tofu in pan and sear on one side by cooking for about 1 minute. flip over and sear on other side. remove from pan and set aside for later use.

2. place the spinach, ginger slices, whole garlic, and water in a large nonstick saucepan. cover and bring to a boil over high heat. reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the spinach is just wilted and the onion is tender (about 10 minutes). let cool, then pulse lightly in a food processor until just minced, but not pureed. return to the pan.

3. heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat and cook the cinnamon, cardamom pods, and ginger matchsticks, stirring until the ginger is golden (about 1 to 2 minutes). add the minced garlic, coriander, garam masala, and salt and stir a few seconds. add the yogurt bit by bit, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t curdle. immediately transfer to the spinach pan. cover and simmer over medium heat for another 10 – 15 minutes.

4. add the tofu to the pan and stir to mix. cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes to let the flavors blend. transfer to a serving dish.

5. heat the final tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. add the chili pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until tender. remove from the pan, add the paprika, then immediately add to the spinach and swirl lightly to mix, with parts of the chili peppers visible as garnish. (if you’re worried about it being to spicy, add just half to the dish and serve the rest on the side). serve hot and alongside naan, rice, or any other carbohydrate!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

welcome, autumn: apricot almond bread.

this year, september means change. change of location, change of weather, change of career. i made the first of many changes to come this fall with a massive transatlantic move. i no longer reside in the sunshine capital of the world (bremen, germany), but i've moved back to the u.s.a and will soon be relocating to northern california. for the moment though, i'm spending some layover time in arizona with my parents, puppies, and 105 degree weather. i don't know about the rest of the country, but tucson has yet to get the memo about autumn. still, i know in my heart of hearts that september ushers in fall, so i'm going to start lobbying the desert, even if it stubbornly resists!

one of the joys of being back in my childhood stomping grounds is purely materialistic: all of my stuff is here! by stuff, i mean anything from to my raggedy old stuffed dog to the cookbook collection that has been growing over the last year, prompted by the founding of this blog. i never bothered schlepping the books with me across the ocean, so when i returned home, it was a lovely sight to see them neatly stacked on my bookshelf, just waiting to be opened. 

first on the list: molly katzen's new moosewood cookbook. simple, hearty vegetarian fare. this is one of the few recipe books that isn't filled with pictures that can still make me salivate. her dishes range from light and delicate to rich and decadent, but i decided to kick things off with something in the middle. this loaf is the perfect mildly sweet way to start the day or satisfy a mid-afternoon craving. dried apricots and chopped almonds give it a nice crunch and a beautiful color, and the honey a comforting sweetness. the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of orange rind, but i omitted that in favor of an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract. one thing to note is that the loaf is relatively dry, so if you like a gooier bread, try adding in another 1/4 cup honey or tablespoon of butter.
apricot almond bread
from molly katzen's the new moosewood cookbook

1 ½ cups dried apricots, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups water
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, softened
½ cup runny honey
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup almonds, chopped

preheat the oven to 350 F. grease a loaf pan.

place apricots and water in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. pour contents into a separate bowl to cool for at least 15 minutes.

combine dry ingredients (except almonds) in a medium-sized bowl.

once the apricot mixture has cooled, pour in the honey and butter in it. beat in the egg and add the vanilla extract.

pour the dry ingredients into the wet (or vice versa!) and add the almonds bit by bit, stirring constantly.

when everything is well mixed, transfer to the prepared baking pan. bake for about 50 minutes, or until a probe comes out clean. let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before attempting to remove. slice and enjoy as is, or with some honey, jam, or condiment of choice.