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Mango Mojitos With Ancho Chili Salt

15 Aug

It was another summer Friday in the neighborhood and that called for another festive cocktail. Riding high on the success of last session’s passionfruit mojitos, I decided to make mango mojitos. The drink itself followed much the same construction, but the mango was decidedly sweeter than the passionfruit, so I decided that it needed a spike of heat and salt for proper balance.

Assembly line for summer

Assembly line for summer

Ancho chile salt on the rim provided just the right touch.Your lips get hot, your tongue gets salty, then the potent sweetness of the mango and rum drenches your mouth in happiness!

Friday night in the hood

Friday night in the hood

I made enough to take to a Spuyten Duyvil concert at the farm two days later. Once again, big hit (except for the bit about the plastic cups…it is not good form to use one-time use cups in our world, but sometimes it happens; mea culpa)!

Spuyten Duyvil rocking the farm

Spuyten Duyvil rocking the farm

Mango Mojitos with Ancho Chile

3 parts rum

2-3 parts mango nectar or juice

1 part simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water heated until clear and liquid and cooled)

Ancho chile salt

1 Tbs ancho chile powder

1 Tbs table salt or salt crystals

Limes quartered

Mint leaves

Ice

Club soda or seltzer

Mix rum, juice and syrup together and place in a container until you are ready to use.

Mix salt and ancho chile powder thoroughly and pour onto a small plate. Rub the rim of your empty glass with lime then twirl the rim in the salt until coated.

Add two or three lime quarters, three leaves mint and muddle thoroughly so you have lime juice in the glass. Add ice, pour the mango mix in and top with a bit of club soda or seltzer.

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Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

1 Mar

(Reminder to vote for my piece on Watermelon Mojitos for an #EDDYS2015 Award by clicking here! Vote daily until March 15!)

Here on Long Island we are having one of the coldest winters on record. Since you can’t reasonably spend the entire winter drinking hot toddies all day — as much as the idea appeals –, the second best, more sensible and certainly more sustainable response is soup.

Light winter lunch

Light winter lunch

Here is an easy-peasy soup recipe that is warming and light, inspired by my dear friend Deborah Rivera Pittorino’s matchless soups at her restaurant La Cuvee Seafood & Grille in the heart of Long Island’s North Fork wine country. She shares some her recipes on her blog, The Seasoned Fork, by the way.

This recipe adds a little nuttiness (nutty flavor, not crazy person nuttiness) by dry roasting the cauliflower for 10 minutes. This amount makes four appetizer servings or two meal-size bowls and reheats really well in the office microwave for lunch!

Office lunch

Office lunch

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

3 Cups cauliflower (stems and florets, trimmed)

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs butter (salted or unsalted)

3 Cups leeks, white and pale green part, carefully cleaned and sliced into ¼ inch rounds

1 Qt veggie stock (if using store-bought, choose low sodium and season accordingly)

¼-1/2 Cup milk (optional)

1 tsp mild curry powder

salt & pepper to taste

On a baking sheet or in a baking pan roast cauliflower at 400˚F for about 10 minutes (I do it in my fancy, full-service Breville toaster oven) until getting browned at the edges.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium. When the foaming subsides, add the leeks. Stirring occasionally, allow the leeks to get very soft (5-10 minutes). Add the cauliflower, stir and cook a minute or two. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then add curry, lower heat, add milk and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until cauliflower is falling apart. Using an immersion blender or (in batches) a blender or food processor, blend until you reach the desired smoothness. Season to taste and serve, topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or croutons if you like.

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17 More Warming Winter Soups!

 

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Tembleque (Tropical Coconut Pudding)

7 Feb

We spent the better part of last summer in Puerto Rico, and among the tasty things that my little guy fell in love with was tembleque, a jiggly (temblar means to tremble) dessert that falls somewhere between pudding and flan. I promised him we’d make it back in New York, and this weekend, for a dinner with some dear Nassau Community College colleagues with whom I serve on the Latin American Studies Committee, I delivered.

2015-02-05 21.03.20 temblequeWho knew it was so, so easy to make that my seven-year-old could do it almost completely on his own? All I had to do was pour the hot mixture into the mold. I adapted a recipe from Cocine a Gusto (University of Puerto Rico Press), which is one of my go-tos for traditional Puerto Rican recipes.

2015-02-05 21.27.57 temblequeIn future we will make it with homemade coconut milk (all you have to do is pour hot water over coconut flakes and strain, but more on that next time), but in the interests of expediency (I also made pollo guisado, black beans and pink beans from scratch, and yuca salad, so I had my hands full) I just used canned.

Next time you want a fun dessert that takes your tastebuds to the tropics, tembleque is the ticket!

2015-02-06 19.21.31 temblequeTembleque

2 14 oz. cans coconut milk

½ Cup corn starch

½ Cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Powdered cinnamon

Place coconut milk, corn starch, sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil at medium high, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Add vanilla, stir and pour the mix into a slightly moistened mold (a smooth pie tin for one, or six ramekins for individual servings). Chill for at least three hours or at most 48. Turn tembleque out of mold(s), sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

KID in the KITCHEN: French Toast Casserole (make ahead!)

30 Dec

We are a fútbol-loving family ( fútbol = soccer in the U.S. and football in most other English-speaking countries except the U.S. where football — rather inexplicably – means gridiron a.k.a. that sport with the helmets and shoulderpads. There’s also Australian rules football, which is actually a form of rugby, but never mind that right now). We particularly follow the English Premier League and support Chelsea, in case you were wondering. We watch it a lot at home, but watching soccer in the U.S. has ceased to mean spectator-in-exile. Increasingly in America you can find people with whom to watch.

This is part of the spread...Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

This is part of the spread…Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

So that creates opportunities to invite folks to brunch or lunch (EPL matches are played at GMT and so rarely go later than 5 p.m. here in NY) with fellow travelers at home. Buffet-style is best, because the footie runs continuously for two 45-minute halves and if — like me — you are the hostess but really want to watch the action too, you want to get everything done before kick-off and then sit right down with the guests for the first half.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

So, we invited friends for the 9 a.m. Southampton v. Chelsea fixture this past weekend. In addition to bagels and cream cheese, tortilla española, gravlax, ham and cheese, and mango-prosecco mimosas, my little guy made French toast. Since it would have been insane to try to make French toast to order at game time, we chose a recipe he could do the night before and pop in the oven for 40 minutes before everyone arrived. Thus this French Toast Casserole recipe we adapted ever so slightly from Love, Pasta, and a Tool Belt. It was super-easy, sweet and delicious and has a bread pudding sort of texture and was loved by one and all.

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

To do it with kids, make sure you have the ingredients, measuring implements, and other equipment at the ready before you get the kids going. It is a breeze!

2014-12-28 13.06.06 french toast casseroleFrench Toast Casserole

Ingredients:
1 stick salted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
12 slices white bread

Directions:
Melt butter and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon until well-blended. Spread half of the brown sugar mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 rimmed baking pan. Lay six pieces of bread over the sugar mixture. Spread the remainder of the brown sugar mixture over the bread trying to make it pretty even. We used a butter knife to spread, but a stiff spatula would also work.
Place remaining six pieces of bread on top. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over the whole thing evenly. If, like us, you forget to put on the second layer of bread, you can lift the already covered slices one by one and slide the unsoaked slices underneath and it will work out just fine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Heat oven to 350°F and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Allow to rest and then serve up!

 

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Cornbread

26 Dec

The best thing about school holidays is that the kids are home. The worst thing about the school holidays is that the kids are home.

Okay, that’s not really how I feel about holidays but it seemed like a catchy way to start this post on cooking with kids.

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

The little man impressed his grandfather by leveling off the measured ingredients

Regular readers know my seven-year-old is starting to learn his way around the kitchen. Part of that is giving him responsibility for certain dishes at the holiday table. He can manage roasted asparagus on his own now. He makes bread as well, from his prize-winning no-knead recipe. And with his grandfather, he makes a delicious cornbread that goes well with roasts (and chili).

What's next? Let's see.

What’s next? Let’s see.

The original recipe comes from Kids Cook! by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson, a treasure trove of simple and tasty recipes that kids can manage. Padushi and Leandro have tweaked it a bit (starting with substituting the margarine for real butter and beating the eggs before mixing with the rest of the ingredients) and the results are an ever-so-slightly sweet, rich crumb that has a lovely cakey texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

Not my most artistic image, but a good indication of the nice texture.

The other results are a kid who is learning to follow instructions, a grandfather who is learning to let the kid do the work, and a grandson and grandfather who accomplish stuff together.

*See tips for cooking with kids below.

Nice crumb!

Nice crumb!

Easy Cornbread

1½ Cups cornmeal

1½ Cups buttermilk

2 eggs (lightly beaten)

½ Cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ Cup butter, melted

1 tsp sugar

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, beating for about a minute.

Pour batter into a greased 8”x8” pan.

Bake at 450° for 25-30 minutes (if you use a glass pan, you’ll need the longer time) or until golden brown. Serve warm.

*Tips for cooking with kids

1. Get all the ingredients and measuring equipment laid out before having them wash their hands and get started.

2. Make sure the surface you are using is a comfortable height for your child(ren).

3. Use aprons or smocks or clothes you don’t care about.

4.Read the ingredients and ingredients out loud with the kids BEFORE starting. Use that opportunity to make sure you have everything you need. FRom this point on, the fewer times you have to turn your back on them the better.

5. If you will be allowing the kids to measure ingredients, have them do it over a bowl that is not your mixing bowl. That way accidental overpours or spills don’t ruin your batter or dough or whatever.

6. As soon as you are done with an ingredient, close it up and get it out of the way. Many spills come from stuff left around just waiting to be knocked over.

7. Remember to have fun. This one can be a challenge for me…my little guy can be very impulsive and tends to believe that he has a better way of doing things than the instructions indicate. I am learning to hold it together and focus on recovering our recipe from whatever he’s done, but when you do get snappy (and I do), just take a deep breath and remember that you are not the only adult that has ever barked at a kid who isn’t listening or wrecking your kitchen. Keep Calm and Keep Baking, as it were.

 

Artichokes or Fartichokes? We Test Them

7 Nov

I got a quart of Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus),as a special bonus from the farm the other day and I was thrilled to get to try them.

Here's what they look like before washing

Here’s what they look like before washing

But a funny thing happened when I began to research…some articles suggested that as delicious as these roots are — favored by Native Americans back in the day and now beloved worldwide — and despite their cheery aliases —  sunchokes, sunroot and earth apples  — they have a dark underbelly. Emphasis on belly. The story goes that they cause gastric disturbances that no one wants to talk about, since they have so many tasty uses and currently are the darling of the foodie-rootsy set.

I took my investigation international, as my sources said the Brits in particular complained about the gas and christened them “fartichokes.” Given that the English would be unlikely to worry about the truth of such a terrific pun-type word and would happily use it with complete disregard to its relationship to actual fact, I had to corroborate.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

My son and I got on the Skype to Lowestoft, England to ask my friend Kate and her two boys, Alastair and Gregor, who are 10 and therefore can be expected to be well-versed in anything gassy. They said no, they’d never heard such a thing, but seemed to enjoy being asked.

Well, me being me, I forged on with the experiment, fearlessly offering my body as laboratory rat in the name of good eating, washing and peeling some (but not all) of these cute little roots that have a hobbit-y sort of charm. I set about roasting and then had a taste. They were delicious. Really delicious.

Firm to the bite then creamy inside, with a wonderful nutty flavor (the peeled bits were better than the unpeeled); I was smitten and already thinking about what I could do with them the next time. I then went to bed, after leaving some for my parents to try with their lunch the next day.

Another view of them raw

Another view of them raw

All was well, until suddenly on my way to work that next morning I found out that the Wikipedia entry was painfully true…and I quote… Continue reading

Buttery Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

1 Nov

I don’t always reap what I sow, being that my garden is often a disaster and if my family depended on it for primary sustenance, the de Cubas would be no more.

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

But in a delightful surprise, a late summer planting of leftover radish seeds, sown in some fit of hopefulness as I cleared the beds of the unproductive detritus of a summer spent elsewhere, yielded a pound or so of very fat cherry bell and French Breakfast radishes.

Should've harvested these a week ago....

Should’ve harvested these a week ago….

So fat, in fact, that they needed a roasting with butter to mellow the bite and soften the woodiness that comes when you don’t notice what is happening and you wait too long to harvest. It is the #gardenofneglect after all!

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

I added in there some watermelon turnips from our CSA (Restoration Farm), which were absolutely gorgeous, but I didn’t know what else to do with. This is the simplest recipe ever for a beautiful autumnal side dish!

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

Radishes, sliced into ¼-1/2” half moons and/or Watermelon turnips, peeled/pared and sliced into ¼”half moons

A knob of butter

2 Tbs (or more) extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly cracked pepper to finish

Preheat oven to 425°F

In a baking dish big enough to hold your quantity of root vegetables you have, place all the vegetables. Add a generous knob of butter (figure 1.5 Tbs for a 8×8 oven dish worth and go up a half Tbs for each inch larger). Pour 2 Tbs of olive oil over that. Stir everything around to coat and add more oil as you see fit.

Roast in the oven a half hour. Check how things are doing. The turnip will take longer, so lower heat to 375°F and roast for another half hour (you won’t burn the radishes, but the turnip will soften. I will be experimenting with a slower roast at lower temp all the way in the next few days). Sprinkle generously with finishing salt and pepper and serve.

Bok Choy, Carrot and Ginger Soup (just chop and simmer)

25 Oct

This was one of those late-season, gotta use up some veggies because tomorrow is another C.S.A. pick up, type of recipes that came together so quickly and made everyone so happy that I have to share it, even though it is embarrassingly easy and yes, I used a stock cube because I was out of chicken stock and my found veggie stocks didn’t seem the right flavor for this.

My parents went wild for this delicate soup.

My parents went wild for this delicate soup.

Bok Choy (Brassica rapa, Chinensis group) is also called chinese white cabbage and pak toi or variations thereof. There are also different varieties within this group; the one we get from Restoration Farm has kind of a bulb-like bottom (like fennel), wide stalks like chard, and green leaves like wings on either side. Look for firm yet tender stems and glossy, spot-free leaves. It is very versatile for salad, fried rice, stir fry and the like.

We loved this soup because it was so delicate and yet clearly expressed the flavors of the vegetables, the ginger, and the sesame oil. You can remove the ginger slices if you like; we didn’t. A couple of shrimp or shredded beef would not go astray here either! Done in a flash and ever so delicious!

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

I find this bok choy soup kind of pretty!

Bok Choy Carrot and Ginger Soup (serves 4 as an appetizer; 2 as a very light main course)

4 Cups chicken or vegetable stock (or a stock cube and 4 Cups water)

1 knob ginger, roughly peeled and sliced in thin rounds

1-2 heads bok choy, bottom sliced off, separated and carefully washed*

½ Cup onion, sliced into half moons

2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias

¼-1/2 tsp sesame oil

½ – 1 tsp soy sauce (low sodium, if using commercial stock)

Place all ingredients in a soup pot. Add liquid to cover, if necessary. Bring just to a boil, lower heat immediately and simmer until vegetables are tender.

*My mom prefers the bok choy sliced smaller, but my dad and I like it whole. My son thinks it’s a joke that we would even suggest he try it.

New Favorite Nosh: Tomato and Cucumber Sandwich!

19 Aug

This is barely a recipe, but it’s what I have been eating for breakfast and lunch (and sometimes in between with a cup of tea).

 

I like it with rye toast (shown here), but it reaches its apex with white bread....

I like it with rye toast (shown here), but it reaches its apex with white bread….

Toast and butter two slices of bread. Layer thinly-sliced cucumber (peeling is optional) and tomato – preferably fresh from the garden – on the bottom slice. Sprinkle with salt and top with the second slice. Cut in half and eat!

 

 

Garbanzo (Chick Pea) Salad with Tahini, Black Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

13 Aug

I love garbanzos (chick peas, ceci) in all different ways, but especially as a salad or salad topper. They add meatiness and texture to everything and taste great with loads of garlic and onions.

Also, very versatile...

Also, very versatile…

Here is a quick and easy salad that uses up the bits and bobs you have in your fridge. When I make this kind of salad, I feel as though I am just giving it everything I’ve got; you’ll notice that the quantities of each ingredient can vary to your taste and availability. We’ll be having this one tonight with cold leftover chicken, perhaps some marinated artichoke hearts, an olive assortment, some pistachios and clementines. Delicious light dinner!

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

A worthy accompaniment to summer meals

Garbanzo Salad with Tahini, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives

2-3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

½ – 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

1-1 Tbs tahini

Pinch salt

1 Tbs garlic, minced

2 Cup garbanzos (soaked or from a can)

¼ Cup onion, chopped fine        

¼ Cup green pepper, chopped fine

2 Tbs sun-dried tomatoes, diced

1-2 Tbs pitted black olives, sliced

1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

In a serving bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, until smooth. Stir in tahini until smooth, then a bit of salt. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, adding additional salt if desired. Serve over salad greens or rice.

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