Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cookbook Review: American Pie by Peter Reinhart

At one time I had over 1000 cookbooks. I was reviewing cookbooks so publishers sent me review copies and I also loved to hit up used bookstores to look for cookbook treasures. DH built me some massive industrial bookshelves spanning the walls of my office and I tried in vain to keep them organized. After a few out-of-state moves I greatly pared down my collection to around 120 - HERE is my Library Thing list of my current cookbooks.

To keep my cookbook collection from getting out of control again I try to only keep cookbooks I use regularly. When I do buy a new cookbook I judge it by one criterion - does it make me want to go into the kitchen and use it? Master baker Peter Reinhart's excellent book American Pie immediately propelled me into the kitchen to start making pizza dough.




87 pages of this book are devoted to his travels in the US and Italy searching for the best pizza. There is a section on doughs including a sourdough pizza dough, a grilled dough, deep dish dough and a recipe for dough you pre-bake and freeze. Most of his doughs are made a day in advance and refrigerated for maximum flavor. The sauce and specialty topping section includes a few uncooked tomato sauces which he greatly improves by adding an acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to either crushed tomatoes or tomato puree. I definitely want to try some of his herb oils once my herb garden starts producing. Finally he has a section on pizzas including a Pizza Alla Marinara which is traditionally cheese-free (although his recipe does include some optional Parmesan).

I used his Napoletana dough (recipe here) and his sauce (recipe here) for this pizza. I added some of my homemade pesto, some sauteed shiitake and baby bella mushrooms, and vegan Parmesan. Sorry about the photo - low light strikes again.



This pizza used the same dough and sauce and I topped it with Yves Soyrizo, leeks, roasted green chiles, and some questionable soy cheese that unfortunately did not melt. I should have put it under the sauce.




A few days later I still had some of his tomato sauce left so I tried a different non-Reinhart dough. I used a last-minute pizza dough recipe (the Quick Rustic Ciabatta Pizza from The Fresh Loaf), some soy cheese, fresh tomatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes for this beauty.





Sunday, April 26, 2009

Whole Wheat Sourdough Crackers



I've been very lucky with sourdough. Five years ago I mixed up some water and unbleached flour to the consistency of pancake batter and left it uncovered at room temperature and a week later it was ready to go. I neglect my sourdough starter terribly - forgetting about it in the refrigerator for many months at a time but it always starts bubbling the instant I take it out and feed it with more water and flour.

There's a wealth of sourdough information online and you can happily spend many hours reading about the complexities of wild yeast. Here are some links to learn more about sourdough, to buy dried sourdough starter, and to find recipes for using your starter.

http://www.sourdoughhome.com/recipes.html
http://sourdough.com/
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/
http://www.sourdo.com/




Today I felt like making some hearty whole grain crackers. This recipe is based on one in Adventures in Sourdough Cooking and Baking by Charles D. Wilford, Gold Rush Sourdough Company, 1971. If you ever see this little out-of-print gem at a used book store grab it as it is very comprehensive and one of the best books on the subject.

WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH CRACKERS

Makes about 18 2" crackers

1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried dillweed
1/2 cup sourdough starter at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Put flour, salt and dill in a large bowl. Use a fork or pastry blender to blend in the margarine.




Stir in sourdough starter and mix well.

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a rolling pin until about 1/8" thick. Cut dough into 2 inch squares and place on a greased baking sheet. Prick each square all over with a fork.




Bake for 25 minutes or until crackers are lightly browned. Cool on a baking rack.




Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!



I'm always looking for ways to make my kitchen more eco-friendly. I especially like environmentally-friendly choices that save money. Two of my favorite ways to "green" my kitchen are shown below.




1) I once saw a tv show where they calculated that a family of four spent $700 a year on paper towels. I doubt we spent one third that much but even so I have many better things to do with hundreds of dollars than buying paper towels. I was looking at some of the fancy paper towel alternatives you can buy but ended up cutting up some old flannel sheets to make some rags to use in place of paper towels. I keep a basket of these rags in both the kitchen and the bathroom and wash them with the regular laundry. I still use regular paper towels occasionally but I estimate that we use less than a quarter of the paper towels we previously used.

2) I am sure there is a landfill somewhere filled with all the plastic water bottles I used to toss. sigh Finally I bought an inexpensive Brita water pitcher and change the filters every 3-4 months. I can always tell when to change the filters because I can start tasting the water. I recycle blue glass water bottles to store the extra water. We have very hard water so I now also use filtered water for the pets (Bubbles my house rabbit and Jack the cat) and to water all my plants.

My future green kitchen goals include buying some glass containers to substitute for plastic food storage containers and checking out Cuisinart's new green cookware. I don't use nonstick cookware but I'd love to find something that works like nonstick for browning tofu. I currently use a Le Creuset enameled skillet that was recommended by America's Test Kitchen which is a little better but not perfect. I also want to research new methods to compost indoors as I live in bear country. I tried vermicomposting a few years ago but had trouble keeping it going properly.

Here's a simple nontoxic cleaner I like for my kitchen:




PEPPERMINT SPRAY CLEANER

I use this for everything except glass and granite. I've also made this with tea tree oil instead of the peppermint to clean my yoga mat and with cedarwood instead of peppermint to clean the wood surfaces in my house. For greater cleaning power you can add 1 tsp. washing soda (found near the laundry products in the supermarket) and use hot water to help mix the washing soda with the rest of the ingredients. Don't use washing soda for the yoga mat version of this cleaner though.

1 tsp. liquid peppermint castile soap (Trader Joe's has the least expensive castile I've found)
2 cups water
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
10 drops peppermint essential oil

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mango-Cucumber Salsa

When I saw this week's CSA box, I knew I had to make DH's favorite salsa.




The three yellow items above the tangerines are the delicious Ataulfo mangos and we get them often from Los Poblanos Organics. They're definitely not as photogenic as regular mangos but they are a different texture and less wet so they're easier to cut. In our weekly letter Farmer Monte says that these mangos are less stringy than regular mangos and they are best when they start to wrinkle a bit.



MANGO-CUCUMBER SALSA

Note: I've learned over time to always test my chiles before adding them to a recipe. Jalapenos can have absolutely no heat or so much heat that they can ruin a recipe so after I cut one open I taste a small slice to gauge the heat.

Makes about 4 cups salsa

2 mangos, peeled and diced
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
5 scallions, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (or to taste)
Juice of half a lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together with serving dish. Let sit about an hour for the flavors to intensify and stir well before serving. Serve with tortilla chips. I used flour tortillas, cut into strips, sprinkled with red Chimayo chile powder, and bakedat 375 degrees F until just starting to brown.







Saturday, April 18, 2009

RICE STICK NOODLE SALAD


RICE STICK NOODLE SALAD
Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as an appetizer

I'm always looking for recipes for main dish salads I can take to potlucks. You can make this in advance and just add the dressing at serving time. The dressing is pretty mild to appeal to adults and children and you can use cooked edamame or cashew halves instead of tofu for the protein if you are worried that your guests won't eat tofu. Iceberg lettuce or Savoy cabbage can be substituted for the bok choy but I really love the sweetness of raw bok choy.



NOTE ABOUT THE NOODLES:

I've seen Thai chefs say that rice noodles, especially thin ones like the ones used here, shouldnever be boiled. They simply put the noodles in hot water for about an hour or so until soft. The package of the noodles I bought (Instant Rice Sticks) says to cook for 2 minutes. Neither method works to completely soften the noodles for me but that might be my altitude (about 7000 feet). Rice noodles can overcook quickly and become a gummy, sticky mess though so whatever method you use keep an eye on them and remove them from the water once they are just tender.

DRESSING:

1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. diced or grated fresh gingeroot
2 tsp. agave nectar
2 Tbsp. unsalted peanut butter
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 cup water

Whisk all ingredients together until peanut butter is completely incorporated. Makes about 2/3 cup dressing.

TOFU:

15 oz. organic firm tofu, drained
1-2 Tbsp. canola oil
Cut tofu in half lengthwise then cut into 8 slices vertically. Cut each piece diagonally to make triangles. In wok over medium-high heat cook tofu on each side until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel.

RICE STICK NOODLES:

5 oz. rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
Cook noodles in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again and let cool slightly before assembling salad.

SALAD:

2 small baby bok choys, shredded (about 4 cups)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
6 scallions, diced
1 small carrot, peeled and grated

GARNISH:
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

To assemble salad, arrange bok choy on serving platter. Top with noodles, then tofu and vegetables. Garnish and combine with dressing immediately before serving.







Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grocery Shopping

My favorite place to shop in Albuquerque is Talin International Market.




Can you believe I bought all this food at Talin for $38 including tax? The best bargains were the grape tomatoes for 98 cents, the bag of shallots for 81 cents and the big bag of baby bok choy f or $1.07.



Here's our week's haul from Los Poblanos Organics. I was very happy to see more strawberries, artichokes, and asparagus!




And my new favorite food find from the Albuquerque Whole Foods - So Delicious coconut milk yogurt. I tried both the plain and the vanilla and they're really wonderful. I think I'll serve this with the strawberries in my CSA box.




Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Today I decided to make two recipes I've made before - the Mini Crustless Tofu Quiches from Fatfree Vegan and the Lemon Cornmeal Waffles from Vegan with a Vengeance.

Here's the prep for the quiches. You mix silken tofu with a few other things in the food processor and saute some diced peppers and mushrooms.




You can make these quiches in regular muffin pans but I love an excuse to use my mini muffin pans. I love these mini ice cream scoops for all sorts of batters - I have them in several sizes.



Mini quiche goodness. Every time I make this recipe I regret not doubling or tripling the recipe to have extra to freeze. These would be a terrific high-protein choice for a quick breakfast on the run.




The waffles did not happen due to my old waffle maker deciding to kick the bucket on Easter. Fortunately the batter makes good pancakes as well. The white rabbit is actually a dish sponge holder but I thought he looked cute in the photo.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Pizza Making Equipment, Part 1




I've been using the fact that I'm planning on self-publishing a vegan cookbook this summer as an excuse to buy lots of new equipment. My first purchase included a deep dish pan and a heavy duty spatula to hold those heavy pizzas, an Oxo good grips large pizza wheel (excellent for whole grain crusts), and a package of 3 pizza screens.

I can't recommend pizza screens highly enough. I've always used a pizza stone but they always crack in my oven over time. Pizza screens are cheap (about a dollar per screen at Amazon) and have produced the best pizza crusts I've ever made. You use them just like a pizza pan but you have to either roll out or stretch the dough before putting it on the screen so they don't work for really wet doughs. If you have a baking stone you can put the pizza in the screen right on top of it or you can do as I do and just put it right on the oven rack.

I've made thicker crusts with nice dough bubbles using a screen.




And I've also done a thin crust (docked as is the custom in cracker-style pizza crusts) on the screen.






They're a pain to clean but I really love the end result.







The next pizza tools I plan to try include a cast iron pizza pan (you heat the pan until it is hot then plop the stretched out dough on top), a pizza knife, and what they call a cutter pan (looks like a deep dish pan but is actually used for thin crust).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vegan Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies



These wonderful cookies are adapted from a recipe I saw last week on Jae's blog, Domestic Affair. I plan to get her cookbook, Get It Ripe, as soon as Isa Chandra Moskowitz' new book on vegan brunches is available for purchase.

Vegan Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Makes about 50 small cookies

2 1/2 c. unbleached flour
2 c. old-fashioned oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. raisins
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Scant 1 c. canola oil (1 cup minus 2 Tbsp.)
1 c. agave nectar (I used the light but either will work)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients together in bowl. In separate bowl combine wet ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Make rounded 1 tsp balls and drop on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Let cool on baking sheet a minute before removing to tray to cool.

I froze some of these (in an attempt to not eat the entire batch in one day!) and I think they tasted even better after being frozen.







HOMEMADE VEGETABLE STOCK



I thought I'd start by giving a recipe that is a staple in my kitchen. This vegetable stock is based on one I found on the Food Network web site by Bobby Flay. I simmer it slowly but not for more than 30 minutes - I find that vegetable stocks cooked longer and at higher heats can tend to develop a kind of cloying taste. The garlic chives are optional but since they are taking over my yard I like to use them in this recipe.

Makes 2 quarts of stock

2 quarts water
3 carrots, cut into 2" pieces (no need to peel)
1 large onion, quartered (no need to peel)
3 stalks celery, cut into 2" piece
3 cloves garlic, cut in half (no need to peel)
10 whole peppercorns
5 stalks Italian parsley
handful garlic chives (optional)
3 bay leaves
Salt to taste (I usually don't salt this so I never have to worry about oversalted soups.)

Put all ingredients in a large stockpot. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes.




On the stock cools I strain it and fill up old clean mayonnaise jars. (I'm trying to reduce the use of plastics in my kitchen and haven't yet ordered some fancier glass containers.) This stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. It can also be frozen but in that case I probably would use plastic containers.

I use this stock all the time and it really is great for quick main dish soups like the Thai green curry soup shown below. This simple soup contains my homemade vegetable broth, some Trader Joe's Thai Green Curry Simmer Paste, rice noodles, whatever green vegetables I can find, and diced browned tofu. I topped it with fresh cilantro and lime slices.


INTRODUCTION

I have a long-running knitting blog Knitting in Color but I realized that it is finally time to start a cooking blog as well. I'm currently at work on self-publishing a vegan pizza cookbook with many photos and I am a freelance food writer. I have a cover story in the current issue of Vegetarian Journal about Southwestern Raw Cuisine.


I've written for Vegetarian Times, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Health magazine. You can read some of my articles online by clicking on the links in the sidebar. I'm the author of 'Tis the Season: A Vegetarian Christmas Cookbook (Simon & Schuster,1995) and have contributed recipes to a few cookbooks including Hot, Spicy, and Meatless, the Vegan Handbook, and the Eating Well Diabetes Cookbook.

I eat vegan at home and try to eat vegetarian when out and my husband is an omnivore. I love shopping for fun cookware, especially gadgets. I am a supporter of pet rabbit rescue through the House Rabbit Society. I have a 15 year old cat Jack and a fat house rabbit named Bubbles.


We're longtime members of Los Poblanos Organics, a large year-round CSA farm in Albuquerque - their colorful weekly boxes are a highlight of my life. New Mexico is truly foodie heaven!
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