I wish I wrote in my journal more often than I do, but I seem to only find myself there when I am sad, working through decisions, or traveling. In each new journal, I have a list of goals on the back page. I always know where to find them, and it's fun looking at journals past to see what I actually attempted to pursue. The six pack abs and fluent spanish and are still pending a number of journals later. For some reason I've taken more action on those in my present journal, and in regards to cooking, I have: 'learn to make a tasty roast chicken' and 'perfect at least three new sauces'.
This recipe, sent to be by my Aunt Suzy who heard it on NPR's Splendid Table, certainly knocks out one of the three. It is easy, sweet, fresh and versatile. It is fairly thick, and would make an amazing spread on a sandwich. You could even thin it out and make it a salad dressing. Like I said, versatile, like the favorite sweatshirt of sauces.
STUFFED PORTABELLO MUSHROOMS WITH HERB SAUCE // Serves 4
4 Large Portabello Mushrooms
2 Bunches Fresh Spinach, Chopped
2 Cups Cooked Brown Rice, still warm
Zest of One Lemon
Salt and Pepper
GEORGIAN CILANTRO SAUCE // The sauce is adapted from Martha Rose Shulman's series Recipes for Health in The New York Times. It keeps in the fridge for about 5 days, but be warned that the garlic develops as it sits and effects your breath accordingly.
2 oz Dried Apricots
1 Cup Boiling Water
1/3 Cup Toasted Walnuts
2 Garlic Cloves (to taste), halved, green shoots removed
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp. Salt (more to taste)
2 cups Cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 Cup Parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mixed Basil, Tarragon, and Dill
1/4 Cup Walnut Oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil works fine too)
3/4 Cup soaking water from the Apricots, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
For the Sauce:
1. Place the dried apricots in a bowl and pour on the boiling water. Let sit for at least an hour, more if possible, even overnight. Drain over a measuring cup and retain 3/4 cup of the soaking water.
2. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and drop in the garlic. When it is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl. Add the walnuts, and process with the garlic. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the drained apricots, the lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper to the bowl, and process to a puree. Add the cilantro and other chopped herbs, and puree, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides several times. Combine the walnut oil and soaking water from the apricots, and with the machine running, gradually add it to the puree. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Taste and adjust salt. Best at room temperature.
For the Mushrooms:
Oven at 375’
3. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper. Put them on a baking sheet, and bake on the upper rack for 8 minutes to soften. Remove.
4. Remove the stems from the spinach and give it a rough chop. Saute the spinach in 2 tbsp. olive oil until just wilted. Add to the warm brown rice and mix together. Add the lemon zest, pinch of salt and pepper. Amount of oil is your discretion here.
5. Add a heaping half cup of the spinach and rice mixture onto the gill side of the mushrooms and sprinkle with fresh herbs and desired amount of sauce.
There are days I feel like cooking, and there are days that it sounds like the last thing I’d like to do. Hugh does an excellent job of romancing you into the Sprouted Kitchen, but believe me, toast and hummus work fine for me some nights. For this experiment, I strapped on an apron to remind myself that I mean business. I doubled this recipe, trusting it would work out. I like to have a tasty option waiting for me for breakfast and I also wanted to take action on my long time intention to send a loaf to a new friend. If you make this, I suggest you do the same. I have never met a person who does not like surprise mail, and I guarantee there is someone in your life who could use a surprise.
The lovely thing about this hearty loaf, is that you could use apples, pears, stone fruit or berries and make it yours. Throw in whatever you’re in the mood for. If it is a day you need to toss in the rest of the bag of chocolate chips you have into the batter, I encourage that. It tastes more like a bread than a cake due to the whole grains and modest amount of sweetener. It definitely needs this yogurt topping, which goes with just about anything, and this fibery gem gets along so lovely with the creamy tang. Hugh preferred a good schmear of butter; you pick your poison.
HEARTY APPLE LOAF // Makes one loaf
Muscovado sugar is a natural sweetener that has a more intense flavor than brown sugar. It is also more moist and sticky, so it holds up well in baked goods. It has a nutritional profile rich in minerals as a result of not being over processed. Turbinado sugar is much easier to find and would work fine as an alternative, just expect a coarser texture.
2 Heaping Cups Chopped Apples, Fairly Small Pieces
3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Cup Almond Meal
½ Cup Oatmeal
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tbsp. Fresh Ginger
1 tsp. Salt
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 tbsp Real Vanilla Extract
½ Cup Ricotta
¼ Cup Butter, Just Barely Melted
½ Cup Muscovado Sugar (plus 2 tbsp for the top)
Squeeze of lemon
Oven at 375’
1. Butter the loaf pan.
2. Put the chopped apples in a bowl of warm water with a squeeze of lemon and let them sit.
3. Whisk the eggs, butter, ricotta, vanilla and buttermilk together.
4. Add the dry ingredients together, including the cinnamon, ginger and salt and mix to combine. Gently mix in the buttermilk mixture til incorporated.
5. Drain the apples in a colander and give them a little shimmy to shake off excess water. Fold in the apples, do not over mix.
6. Fill the loaf pan and sprinkle remaining 2 tbsp. of the muscavado. Bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes until golden on top and springy to the touch. Test for doness with a toothpick, as the type of pan and oven vary. Do not overcook, as it will continue to cook a bit more when you remove it. Remove and cool.
7. While cooling, mix together your yogurt frosting. Cut yourself a slice of the loaf and drizzle her with a generous dose of the yogurt goodness.
I am not sure there is a group of people more partial to fall, than the food blogger demographic. I have read countless posts and tweets about the elation brought to most via soups, squashes and pumpkin baked goods. Autumn is like the big hug we all get before the pale skin, freezing toes and overdose of holiday jingles. I do like me some good fall foods, but they seem to require a bit more time, ingredients, number of pots to clean and what forth. The pay off, is the complexity of layered flavors, the tenderness of braising and roasting and aromas that linger for hours. The art of delayed gratification. It's supposed to be 80' here this weekend, so the chilled leftovers of this dish are going to be heaped on a nice plate of spicy greens. I've got my arms out and ready for that hug autumn, where are you?
Note that yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing, but either could work here. Yams are slightly less starchy, but in this recipe, the taste is not compromised. Be creative with the spices, if you like it spicy add a bit of red pepper, a squeeze of lime at the end if you enjoy citrus or more ginger if you like the zing.
SPICED SWEET POTATOES AND CHICKPEAS // Serves 4 as a side
I suggest serving this side, on a wide or long platter, not a bowl. When all the warm potatoes sit on top of each other, they continue to steam and get mushy.
1 Cup Dried Chickpeas/Garbanzos ,soaked in water overnight
3 Large Sweet Potatoes, peeled (about 3 lbs)
¾ Cup Finely Chopped Yellow Onion
2 tbsp. Melted Butter
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tbsp. Honey
2 tsp. Fresh Nutmeg
1 tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 tsp. Salt
1 Lime Zest and Juice
Fresh Ground Pepper
3 tbsp. Fresh Thyme, leaves removed
Oven to 425’
1. In a medium pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add the soaked beans. Gently boil for about 50 minutes until the beans are cooked through. Drain.
2. In the meantime, prepare the peeled potatoes. Cut off the ends and chop them into one inch cubes. Try to make them equal in size, shapes can vary. Put them in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the lime zest and juice, melted butter, oil, garlic, salt, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. Pour the mix over the big bowl of potatoes, stir. Add the drained garbanzos, onions, 2 tbsp. of the fresh thyme and gently fold to cover everything in the spice mixture.
4. Spread the goods evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425’ in the upper third of the oven for 35-40 minutes, gently stirring halfway through for consistent browning.
5. Let cool a bit before serving, sprinkle fresh pepper, squeeze of lime,taste for salt and sprinkle remaining thyme on top.
I needed this recent trip to San Francisco for a number of reasons. A few I didn’t realize until I was home, back into my routine. It is a city of passion; of a good handful of crazies, but people are themselves. A man singing, full volume, while walking down the street. A number of open kitchens, inviting diners to watch chefs of all levels, articulate their craft. People playing musical instruments by the Embarcadero, eyes closed and internalizing the music they're creating. There seemed to be more ‘life’ happening than you see on a given day in a suburbia, and I loved it.
The intention was to make a quick trip, as Hugh had a engagement session to shoot, and the remaining free time was very food focused. Following a number of recommendations from Heidi, we were well fed. Hugh holds Anthony Bourdain in high regard, (it’s tough not to trust someone so frank),so we trekked a number of miles to his recommendation for Red Java Hut. I can get giddy about food destinations, and this was Hugh’s turn to be giddy. Can you tell how interested I was by the pictures below?He is a man of consistency, and regardless of the variety up there, I think he always settled on some form of pizza or cheeseburger the entire three days.
As I mentioned, the passion truly comes through in the food. Perfect cappuccinos, some of the richest ice cream I’ve tasted (thank you for your spot on description, Tea!), and certainly an affinity for seasonal and local ingredients. I looked up about two dozen menus, and I think ‘sand dabs’ were on every single one. There is a food culture in San Francisco that even those not intrigued by gastronomy, can respect. I had no idea there was a sand dab season. Thank you, San Francisco.
I'm a bit under the weather. While most people usually lose their appetite when they're sick, I can always seem to find mine. I fought through the desire for cookies alone, and decided something with a more impressive nutritional profile would make a better lunch for my wellness. I am also impressed that Hugh will eat tofu without hesitation. You can't say that about too many 6'5 men. Reason #987,543,222 why I adore him.
Curdled beans. Coagulated soymilk. Tofu is not exactly the beauty queen of vegetarian protien sources, but her possibilities are endless. It's skin deep, my friends. I've eaten my fair share of tofu, but have never crusted it as follows, so this was a learning experience. If you cover a bland bean cake with all of these flavors and give it a crunchy crust, this fall-ish salad will suprise you. Farmers markets are brimming with greens, so shop well and even the lettuce will contribute to the flavor here.
PISTACHIO CRUSTED TOFU SALAD // Serves 2 (with tofu leftovers)
If you don't use bread crumbs often, you can toss a piece of toast in a blender and wa-la. Single serving of bread crumbs.
4 Cups Baby Greens
1 Large Asian Pear
3/4 Cup Green Onions, sliced thin on a bias
1 14 oz. Package Organic Firm Tofu, drained and pressed*
1 Cup Toasted Pistachio Nuts
2 tbsp. Cornstarch
3 Egg Whites
1/2 Cup Whole Grain Bread Crumbs
2 Tsp. Cumin
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp. Oregano
1 Tsp. Mustard Powder
2 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Pepper
1/2 Cup Cilantro (big handful)
1/2 Cup Parsley (big handful)
2 tbsp. Capers
1 tbsp. Agave/Honey
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or nut oil if you have some)
2 tbsp. Yogurt/Sour Cream
A pinch of Salt and Pepper
*Press out as much water possible. Set it on a plate with a paper towel and under something heavy to press out remaining moisture.
1. For the dressing, add the first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend. Add the yogurt/sour cream and give it a pulse. While running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk up the egg whites until they are lightly frothy. Add the cornstarch and continue to whisk another minute to combine.
3. Grind the pistachios and bread crumbs and put that mixture in a medium bowl. Add the salt, cumin, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and mustard powder to the nut mixture.
4. Slice the tofu in half width wise, and then diagonally to form triangles. Working with one piece at a time: Pat the tofu dry, dip in the egg mixture, then the nut mixture, and place on a baking tray. Repeat with each slice of tofu. * At this point, if you prefer the tofu cold, you can chill them in the fridge. Or, continue with directions for warm tofu.
5. Set oven to 350’. Coat the bottom of a saucepan with oil and warm over medium heat. Fit in tofu pieces without touching, you will probably need to do two sets. Sear for about 2 minutes on each side until golden and crispy, return to baking tray. Repeat with all tofu chunks and pop the tray in the oven to warm through.
6. In the meantime, Slice the asian pear into matchsticks. Toss the greens, green onion with desired amount of dressing. Plate with asian pear slices and tofu chunk on top.