Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Awful Falafel Waffle Baffles Me

I can’t follow directions—got that on all of my report cards. I need to find my own path, and it is the harder one. Yes, there is a point. The recipe is a plan I can’t follow and that is part of who I am.

I read of Falafel Waffles on Don’t Loose Your Lunch. It was so clearly the answer to some major pending issues in my life---how can I make and freeze lunches; how can I have something quick for the baby; how can I use that pesky waffle iron that my sister-in-law gave me for my wedding. (Mind you we love the iron, so no offense, okay). However, I chose not to read the recipe that Wes used. Why? Because of my essential self. Essential self, you ask? There is something that you are—happy, sad, sensitive, whatever. And, that essential self will never change. So, my difficult self just missed his recipe altogether. So, instead, I used a recipe that I concocted myself using Claudia Roden’s Book of Middle Eastern Recipes. I decided to use a combination of chickpeas and fava beans.
I am not quite sure if the recipe was too moist or what. But, the result was maddening. It had the form of a waffle, but it was burnt at the crests and uncooked in the valleys. To make things worse my little falafel would not release from my beloved iron. We picked at it with a spatula and finally got it out chunk by chunk. The little falafel bits were basically a sad pale green; and the elements that did brown were a discouraging reminder of what didn’t occur in our waffle iron that night. Instead of declaring failure, we battled back. Clearly the problems were multifold—not enough oil and need for a warmer iron. The second waffle was like the opposite sister to the first—very black exterior and pale green mushy interior. Both waffles however were exact in their fragmented nature.

At this point, we were hungry and I began to think falafel waffle was all awful. I was very close to deep frying them to a lovely crisp, but then we decided to bake them in heart-shaped muffin tins. The falafel was actually very tasty. The next day we ate them in homemade naan (though we used soy milk). Have falafel waffle’s totally eluded me? Stay tuned.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Friend's Mountain

When I was in fourth grade, we read My Side of the Mountain. This is the tale of a boy who feeling neglected by his family decides to move (alone) to a plot of land owned by his family in the Catskills. The main character goes on to live fairly successfully by creating a shelter in a rotted tree, eating acorn pancakes (how did he fix their poison, I can’t remember) and hawking. I wonder if this book is read in schools these days, what with its spirit of ingenuity and childhood empowerment—it would likely strike fear in the hearts of all helicopter moms.

Why was this story so attractive to me? Years later, my husband and I came to the conclusion it was the not the solitude of the boys quest that was attractive but the self-sufficiency and ability to eat off the land. We are so disconnected from our food sources generally. Over the years, our food industry has succeeded in taking us further from the natural. When I was little, the only food that was in bags was carrots and iceberg lettuce. Now everything is contained in plastic. (The Graduate was right.)

So recently, my husband and I decided to take advice from Cincinnati Locavore and went foraging. With a prearranged agreement with friends who have a wooded lot, we walked under tall trees and upon deep leaf litter. In this lovely setting, we found wild garlic and dandelion greens. Near the end of our trek (it was actually not very long) we found a lovely patch of ramps. We only pulled up a few; waste not…

With our bounty we made, farmers cheese crepes filled with farmer’s cheese, ramps, potatoes, and dandelion green salad. Not everything was local in this meal—thanks to our American processing methodology, I have no idea where my flour comes from.


Farmers Cheese Crepes

I really didn’t measure at all when I made these in part because I was fairly confident that they wouldn’t succeed. I put ½ cup of farmer’s cheese in a bowl and added a bit of flour (1/3 cup or so) and then a bit of soy milk until I got a thin batter (like crepe batter). I filled them with sautéed leeks, sautéed potatoes, and a bit more farmer’s cheese. (Make sure to salt and pepper the filling)


We have a lovely infestation of violets. In the next few weeks, expect some culinary projects: crystallized, in sugar, in salad, in vinegar. In the meanwhile, the first picture is my entry for Click: Au Naturelle.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Cheesecake Pops

Last weekend, my husband and I dared to bake vegan and non-vegan cheesecake pops. For the sweettarts amongst you, it might seem that I need no impetus to do so, but it was actually thanks to the fact that we have joined daring bakers. The challenge, chosen by Deborah from Taste and Tell and Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms , was to make Cheesecake Pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor.

The goal of Daring Baker’s is for the whole food blog world to the replicate the recipe. This is not a redundancy. Recipes, and for that matter directions, have always struck me as a suggestion; that is in part why I write up my recipes in the Joy of Cooking action-recipe format.

On one quiet Friday evening, my husband and I tried to not think about work and instead drowned our sorrows in cheesecake. I made a ½ recipe of dairy cheesecake pops and my husband made the vegan. I took this recipe from versions posted at NovelEats adapted from Fat Free Vegan.

All pops, dairy and non-dairy, were yummy; though the ones that were rolled in graham cracker prior to their chocolate bath were more enjoyable. As my husband said, we have learned how important that crust was.

My husband and I are essentially deviants, and so there are few small changes: first, we made a few small pops (diameter of a quarter) and second we made some with pretzels for the sticks. This was a simply fantastic change.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ode to the Spring Farmers Market

Winter is long. This is not a subjective statement. If you have lived in any cold weather climate, you understand what I mean. Winter, with its promise of hot cocoa and warm cuddles on the couch, remains a romantic prospect through the end of December. By early January, one dreams of spring breezes and flowers. Months of spring dreams blind me to its actual arrival; it is always seems to be one week into the season before I notice. The first rite of spring for me is a trip to the farmer’s market. This is long before throngs of crowds arrive and baskets are weighted down with crowd-pleasing tomatoes. The spring market is intimate. Here in the Cleveland, the outdoor stands are just getting under way. Each week this month, new stands will continue to populate the boulevard that is blocked off and transformed into the market every Saturday. This early in the season farmers and clients are renewing last year’s relationships or just beginning to forge new ones.

Last year, when Belle was but a babe, the market experience was very much about my husband and I. While we went to shop, as we had before Belle arrived, these trips held additional meaning. We were full of the good intentions for a certain lifestyle future for our family.
Last week was our first market experience as a family—with three people intent on viewing, touching and smelling the bounty (and ingenuity) of North-East Ohio. The early spring offerings had a lovely native and/ or foraging aspect to them. There were ramps and maple syrup. (I love being from the maple syrup producing portion of the world.) And, Belle considered all the local bounty. She saddled up to all of the tables. (even though when standing she is barely as tall as a card table.) She smelled the ramps (acceptable) and pulled at the arugula flower (hunh). She attempted to touch the bent wood furniture, despite strong parental suggestions as to contrary. She gazed at the glowing jars of pickles and preserves.

Mostly, on that day, we just were. We experienced the space and life. We met up with our friend A—, Belle’s new favorite person, and took a few pictures. We tasted snacks and spoke to farmers and sellers. There are so many important things about farmers markets---local food, local jobs, local farmers, heirloom vegetables, local artisans. I read about those things often. But, market time is not just about food. There has always been a social aspect to markets. In a place where city dwellers become insular and disconnected with their fellow man, the market is about community. It is also about a moment in time, every Saturday morning, work disappears, and family and friends come to the fore.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The First Annual Cleveland Cupcake Project

When I was pregnant, I knew how long it took from work to my favorite bakery. All the way there, I was focused on the thick chocolate frosting. I would purchase just one chocolate-frosted yellow cupcake. When I would get back to the car, I would open up the bag, flatten in out to create a makeshift plate, and place my lovely cupcake down. I never had the patience to admire my cupcake. I would take a bite and start the engine. Sitting here now, I remember the sheer pleasure of the creamy chocolate frosting and the crumbly-moist cake. The best part, in my memory, was licking the little sugary bits that would get stuck in the corner of my mouth.

Many of us are cupcake lovers. Magnolia and Sprinkles are well-known phenonmena. Cupcake wedding cakes are becoming fairly common. There seems to be an infinite number of cupcake blogs. But, what is the best cupcake in Cleveland?

Today I announce and begin the Great Cleveland Cupcake Project.

The task I offer to all is to tell me about your favorite store-bought cupcake in Cleveland. While I have heard, there are wonderful cupcakes to be purchased outside Cleveland (unlikely as it is), this challenge is about Cleveland. In addition, I know that many of you make a mean cupcake. But, homemade cupcakes are another challenge all together. This challenge is about plugging your favorite cupcake and your favorite local bakery.

This contest will be two-fold:
First, on or around June 15, I will post a round-up of all of the images and blurbs about the bakeries. If one bakery gets many votes, I will post all of them. The bakery with the most votes will win. What do they win? Well, bragging rites assumably, because I am afraid I am not an award-granting organization.

Second, for the bloggers, this is also about writing. Tell us in vivid detail about why that is the best cupcake, what the bakery is like, and what the neighborhood is like. Make the non-Clevelander dream about coming here on a cupcake pilgrimmage. This doesn't have to be long, just evocative. For the best writing, there will be an award--as yet unnamed, but wonderful.

1. Choose your all-time, ultimate, most favorite cupcake in town. Multiple votes are not allowed. If you feel very strongly about a bakery, get your friends to vote.

2. Write about your favorite cupcake on your blog. You do not have to write a food blog, but it can't be an adult content blog. Link back to this announcement.

3. If you are not a blogger, you can enter too—send the same details listed in item 4, plus your writing entry, in an email.

4. Email to clevelandcupcakeproject@gmail.com
your name
the name of the bakery and its street address
a photograph of your favorite cupcake (250 by 250 pixels wide) take by you
1 sentence about why this is the best cupcake in Cleveland.

Rules and Regulations:
  1. The Cleveland I speak of is in North-East Ohio. If you are from a Cleveland in another state, I suggest you start a similar challenge about your community.

  2. All cupcakes must be purchased from a Cleveland-owned and run establishment (i.e. Heinen’s would qualify but Giant Eagle would not. I have heard good things about some of those big box store cupcakes, but this challenge is about the local baker.)

  3. For the sake of this challenge, I will be calling Cleveland: Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Summit Counties. If you feel like you live in Cleveland, but you are not in those counties, email me, and we will try to work it out. Frankly, Cleveland has such a bad rep, I would hate to turn away anyone who lives in Northeast Ohio and who feels like a Clevelander.

  4. If you are the owner or employee of a bakery, please sit this one out. This is a great chance to hear from your customers.

Project ends June 1. Round-up and results will be posted by June 15.

Sausages and Lentils with Ricotta Salata Naan

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring Dosas

It is finally Spring in Cleveland. Yesterday evening the weather was so lovely I snubbed my stove so that I could go for a walk with Belle. We walked hand-in-hand for a good long while. She babbled as I told her about the robins, the daffodils, the moss, the grass. When I came in, my little hungry bunny needed to eat. We still had dosa batter. I made some quick dosas and filled them with the chicken from Sunday night, lettuce, spinach, carrots, cucumber and radishes. I topped the whole lot with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and more kumquat glaze. Belle picked out all the spinach, cucumber and chicken from hers, but what can you do?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Kumquat Glazed Chicken

So, one Saturday, we got nuts and made too much marmalade. Too much, you say. Well, more than I think we could consume as a preserves. So, what to do? Kumquat-glazed chicken, of course. A Sunday Roast Chicken was a given for a while, but now with the goal of 80/20 vegetarian food, it is much more rare. But, apparently the free-range chicken looked very good at the market on Saturday, so it was sitting there in the fridge waiting to be cooked.

I had considered cutting it into pieces, but frankly I didn’t want to expend the energy cooking when the alternative was dancing with Belle. After massaging the bird with olive oil and kosher salt and filling the cavity with oldish oranges, I roasted it at 300 degrees for a while. My husband and I made carrot, rutabaga and acorn squash fingers that we roasted at 400. (Spring vegetables are just beginning to arrive in diet).

And, then, we all danced and danced to a variety of songs from the Peel Sessions—we have had the Buzzcocks in our heads all weekend.

When the chicken was finished, I quartered it and then basted it with the kumquat glaze. I placed it on an extremely hot grill pan and then reglazed it. The result was very nice—not too cloying. I have some chicken left today and I think tonight I will use it to top a salad. If I was so inclined, this glazed chicken would be a great filling for homemade egg rolls (served with more dipping sauce and some hot mustard.) The glaze also tasted wonderful on the roasted vegetables. I might glaze some tofu with it tomorrow. There is a kumquat round-up at Coffee & Vanilla for the Fruit of the Month event, and I thought to enter the marmalade, but I felt my recipe was too close to Charcuterista’s kumquat marmalade. So, instead, I decided to send them this glaze instead.

Kumquat-Lime Glaze

Combine and simmer until thick and syrupy:
1.5 cups kumquat-lime marmalade
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup chicken drippings from a roast chicken or 1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup catsup
3 T ginger
1 T garlic

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Good News--it happens

I have had a quick flurry of good news blogwise. First, I received an Excellent Rating from Maggie at Dog Hill Kitchen. While it was flattering, it was also nice to link up with a new blog to read (new to me.) She has a fantastic recipe for vegan caramels and vegan snickerdoodle cupcakes.

So, it is my belief that I am to pass this rating on; I looked through the blogs that I read and chose 5 that I love that don't post an E. I actually looked three or four times, because I was stunned that these are not already rated E. In addition, as a lurker, for some of you, you might have had no idea I was out there, but what a way to make an introduction, no? And the E goes to...

Modern beet --Jen has a wonderful blog--pictures, design, concepts. She also has a farmers market carnival that should be on your monthly read list.

Mango power girl--MPG has quite an eye for photography and a service-oriented (green) mindset.

Dalitoy--This site has wonderful recipes and proves that there is not just one kind of Indian food.

Heights Eats--My fellow Clevelanders, Ben and Sarah eat and make wonderful food and like me choose vegan sometimes because it is yummy.

Also, in this warm fuzzy blog period, I actually won something. As they say, it is just an honor to compete, but, it is also an honor to win. This time it was A Slice of Cherry Pie's Easter Cake Bake and I won with the Vegan Bunny Cake. Thanks to everyone who voted for me.

A Sunny Disposition: Vegan Mango Cupcakes with Saffron-Pistachio Frosting

mango cupcakes
It was spring this weekend—cool and rainy punctuated by sunniness. I spent much of the weekend with Belle and it really lifted my mood. I might not have her pictures but I have those memories—and her.
mango cupcakes
On Saturday, Belle’s cousins were coming over so I decided to make cupcakes. I rushed around and got two kinds made during her naptime. For picky eaters, I made fluffy white vegan cupcakes from Shmooed Food with strawberry “whipped cream”. I just added fresh strawberries to vegan buttercream, but as I was on the phone while I was doing it, I just lost track and the cream broke. I then proceeded to add way more sugar, and then began to give up. Finally, I put it some chilled coconut milk, whipped it again, and then accepted defeat. The result was tasty but not pretty. But, no one asked what was in the frosting.
mango cupcakes
Then, I made vegan mango cupcakes. Since I was going to include these in the Livestrong event, I wanted to try to work out a recipe on my own. My recipe resulted in a vat of batter which resulted in 48, yes 48, mini-cupcakes. But, frankly, they were wonderful—moist, fluffy, not too sweet. I have less than a dozen left to take to work tomorrow. So, if you decide to make this recipe, feel free to ½ it—or accept that you are about to have one hell of a good time and just make the full order.

Late one night last week lying in bed awake, I was using my time wisely planning these cupcakes. Yellow for me could be acid free tomatoes, saffron, cornmeal, schmaltz… I had already seen a saffron cupcake recipe for Livestrong. Frankly, being near the end of this gave me some good parameters, the world was no longer my yellow oyster, and I was glad for it. Belle had been enjoying mango this week, so I decided to go with that.
mango cupcakes
We all love pistachios, and I decided to go Indian fusion with the dessert. One of the best things at Indian restaurants is the kesar-pista or saffron-pistachio ice cream. This flavor is repeated in any variety of desserts. One dessert, shrikand, basically thick sweet yoghurt, seemed like the perfect frosting for mango cupcakes. Could I veganize a dessert for which dairy is central? I thought the result was wonderful.
mango mini-cake
mango mini-cake
Finally, I had some crazy notion, thanks to its late night inception, to make a mini-cake. Not a cupcake mind you, but a minicake. I pictured making a three layer cake with mango jelly in the middle and shrikhand frosting. It was a little annoying to make because I don’t have a tiny lazy susan. I ended up using the bottom of a wine glass. And then in the final minute as I was cutting into the cake, it tipped over. So even though there is no picture of the final cake perched alone on the cake pedestal, there is a picture of one slice with a fork and a teacup for scale. And, I know some friend or another will say to me, why exactly minicakes? I have a feeling there are tea parties in my future.
mango mini-cake
mango mini-cake
Vegan Mango Cupcakes with Saffron-Pistachio Frosting

Vegan Mango Cupcakes
Cream in a blender

4 oz Earth Balance Margarine
3/4 cup sugar

To the blender bowl add
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 cup plain soymilk
1/3 cup very finely chopped mango
¼ cup mango pulp (available in cans from Asian Grocery Stores)
½ cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend the wet ingredients and then dump in
2 ¼ cups flour
2 ½ tsps baking soda
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt

After all of this is mixed add
3 tsp Egg Replacer dissolved in 4 T Warm Water

Fill (up to about 3/4ths full) greased cupcakes tins. Makes 48 minicupcakes. (To make mini-cakes: fill mini-cupcake tins until only ½ full. Use 3 to make a layered cake with mango puree or mango jam as the filling.)

Vegan Saffron-Pistachio Frosting (Shrikhand frosting)
Tie up in cheesecloth and drain overnight

1 cup soy yoghurt

In a blender, add the drained soy yoghurt (which should be much less wet)

1 cup Tofutti cream cheese
¼ cup Tofutti sour cream
¾ cup sugar

In a small mug, warm
3 T soy milk
8 threads saffron
2 cloves cardamom

Add the warmed milk to the blender with 1/8 cup crushed pistachios and, if desired, diced dry mango. (I decided at the last minute not to do this step.)

This frosting is not as thick a real shrikhand, which is important, b/c this frosting is very easy to pipe.

mango cupcakes

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Crying over Spilled Marmalade

I am very ambivalent about the nature of the universe--Is there a greater being? Can we change our destiny or is it written in stone? Are there forces greater than yourself that can affect your life? What does this have to do with marmalade? Well, very sadly, this week I have had my wallet stollen and my computer harddrive with a good portion of my pictures of Belle (and all my blog pictures) died. This is not to mention a variety of other things that have made me feel grey and limp. (Two sad starts to entries, huh. When will Spring arrive on this blog?)

So, my point is that I no longer have all the pictures from Preservation Saturday that happened a few weeks ago. We had so much citrus--so much. And, so my gorgeous friend M--, my husband and I spend a great Saturday night drinking beer and putting food by. We made made different kinds of marmalades, Indian Pickles and pickled eggplant.

With started early with an easy recipe. Charcuterista has a good kumquat marmalade recipe. This was a very yummy recipe and we then used it to fill vegan linzer cookies using a rose water cookie recipe from Veganomicon (oh how I love you Veganomicon.)

After that, we went on to play with kumquats. I wanted to make the most of the pectin in the rind (I assume that is why Charcuterista's kumquat marmalade had no need of pectin). But, I wanted to have a sort of asian dipping sauce inspired marmalade. Rather I wanted something sweet, tart and spicy. I used pectin, limes, kumquats, a tiny pinch of five spice and star anise.

Then we got really fancy and decided to make orange marmalades. (Yes, this was a very long night.) We made a blood orange marmalade with black peppers. This was so lovely; slightly kick but mostly sweet. And, then an orange/meyer lemon marmalade with cardamom. This last one was a little odd, and not necessarily a success. It felt a little medicinal.

And, then it got spicy. We decided to make two Indian-style pickles. The first was a simple meyer lemon pickle using a recipe from Indian Food Rocks. The second was an orange pickle. I have never eaten orange pickle--or even heard of it--but there is only so much orange marmalade that you can consume (or give away.) I read a few different recipes and combined them. This resulting recipe involves some amount of fortitude. All of the spices need to be browned over heat. As pickles are said to cure for a few months, it is not as if I could taste this recipe and understand if the spice was right. Instead, I had to go by smell, and that sense really couldn't be trusted either. Because, well, the fumes of spices that traveled through the kitchen were halting. (My husband might say instead noxious.)

Just before the concoction was ready to be bottled, we tasted it. My husband, first to the tasting, was fairly convinced we had failed. It was bitter, spicy and strong. M-- just passed on the tasting phase all together. For me, I tasted it and extrapolated that this would be just right. It was unbalanced but had the right undertones that I have tasted in Indian pickles. In fact, I was so jazzed by the process that I went out an bought more canning jars.

Sadly, my recipes were basically lost in the computer death--so I can't even write about the eggplant pickle--it was rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and what else, who knows. But, I can put down a few basic recipes--though I am doing these from memory.
Kumquat/ Lime Marmalade
Wash and slice, very thin,
1 lbs kumquats
½ lb limes

Boil for 30 minutes in 5 C water with
½ cup lime juice

6.5 cups sugar
3 star anises/ stars of anise
½ tsp Chinese fivespice

Cook for another 45 minutes or so on medium. Add ¼ cup pectin, boil for 1 minute. Transfer to sterilized jars when marmalade is thick and hot. Sterilize jars according to package directions
Blood Orange Marmalade with Peppercorns
Wash and dry
2 meyer lemons
8 blood oranges

With a sharp paring knife, remove the rind of the citrus, and then juice all the fruit. With a sharp knife, slice the rind into thin slivers.

Boil the peels for 15 minutes in
1 cup of water in a heavy-bottomed pan and boil.

Boil for 20 minutes:

2 cups of juice from meyer lemons and blood oranges. (You might need to juice more fruit to get the right amount of juice.)
1 cup orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed)
½ cup pulp from the blood oranges

Add and then cook on medium for 35 minutes
6 cups sugar
6 peppercorns

Add and boil for 8 minutes
1 pkt pectin

Once the mixture has gotten thick, place the mixture when hot in sterilized canning jars. Makes 7-1 cup jars of marmalade.
Spicy Orange Pickle
Wash and then dice
4 medium oranges (leaving the skin on)

In a heavy bottom pan, sautee in olive oil for 2 minutes

1 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black onion seeds
6 whole dried red chili pods
1 tsp asafetida powder
¼ cup chili powder
½ tsp haldi (turmeric) powder

Add and simmer for 15 minutes
cut oranges
4 green chilies
1 inch piece of ginger in long slender slivers
½ cup salt
2 cups waters

Once the mixture is cooked down and slightly cooled, add

¾ cup canola or mustard oil

Add the mixture to canning jars and then sterilize.