14 November 2011

lemon and olive oil banana bread

Banana bread for grown-ups! Smells sophisticated! You know, you're leaving town in a week, but there's three overripe bananas and what with Thanksgiving coming up, you'd really rather not grab a stick of butter. Personally, I am not a fan of glaze on quick breads even though it is called for in this recipe. I like that they aren't as super sweet like cake with frosting. But that's me, and it took me until I was in my 20s to appreciate cake with frosting. Not like that would have anything to do with the fact that I live four blocks from a cupcake bakery, nooo.... Ahem. Back on that train of thought that was originally steaming full speed ahead, I wouldn't be opposed to a sprinkling of turbinado sugar on top next time for some crunch. And there will so totally be a next time.

Also, a quick note on types of chocolate, and ingredients in general really: if you don't know which kind is which, you should get over yourself and Google it. I used unsweetened chocolate in this, and it was fine, but I promise that you want semisweet for maximum goodness. 

roasted miso curry

If you are looking to prepare more colorful meals, I suggest you give this a go. This was definitely one of those times where I wanted to pat myself on the back for having such a fun-looking dinner. In college my boyfriend (now husband!) challenged me to eat more colors since I was a very beige-centric eater. Weird how things change sometimes, eh?

So this past weekend I took a cooking class for the first time ever (Thanks, Mom!). I assume high school HomeEc doesn't count, right? I took a lovely class entitled Delicious Mediterranean Vegan, as instructed by chef Robin Asbell. I figured I wanted to take a class on a) something new that I don't already make all the time, and b) something I could eat. So that ruled out all the classes on soups and cupcakes. Knife classes could be useful, but mostly involved carving (then eating) meat. Wine tasting classes were too expensive. Baking bread is something I'm pretty comfortable with by now. So why not vegan? There's nothing bad or wrong or gross about plant-based food. In fact, my favorite part of the class (beside eating super tasty food, duh!) was learning super cool vegan nutrition facts. I think by necessity vegans are some the most knowledgable folks when it comes to nutrition. Robin often started with "Sorry this is boring, but..." before she went into nutrition/food chemistry stuff, but I loved it! The whole class felt like a conversation with her, and she told us lots of funny stories about being a vegan. As a vegetarian, I am totally familiar with some of the most annoying classics -- everyone thinks you're weird, there's always that one person who can't give it up/teases you relentlessly with hamburgers, getting really tired of people asking "but where do you get your protein?!"... and so on and so forth. Therapy.

During the class, I often found myself thinking, hey, I could totally do this! I love cooking for people. I love researching and experimenting. Such a scientist, I know. But one of my major hang ups about being a geoscientist is that I don't think I help people enough. I fell in love with my college over the recruiting campaign slogan "Think One Person Can Change The World? So Do We." The students are all passionate about something, and making the world a better place. I don't think I do enough of that. Sometimes I think I should have been a nutritionist or a food chemist. For now, I blog, and I hope I get people to try making themselves some good real food. :)

One more thing! I found out during class why onions make you cry! It turns out there are sulfur compounds released when you cut into an onion. Once they are airborne, they mix with the water in your tears, and BAM! Sulfuric acid in your eyeballs! Ahhh! Don't you feel so validated?! I always thought I was a total wuss and that one day I'd get used to it. No dice. It hurts like crazy every time. In fact, cutting onions even makes the cat cry, and he has three eyelids per eyeball, so I am so not the wuss here. Solution: I will continue to look super cool wearing my Onion Goggles in the kitchen, and otherwise be confused about why it doesn't hurt when I'm wearing contacts. But let's get serious here, I never wear my contacts. Glasses are way, waaay, cooler.

Enough of my stream of consciousness spouting forth at you. There's a dinner at stake here, yes? This recipe calls for pepitas. Don't let this fool you; these are just simple raw pumpkin seeds. I was all "oh, I don't know what that is, and I am ashamed, so I will just go ahead and use these pumpkin seeds here. Those will toast up nicely." Then I Googled it later. Now you can scoff at the gourmet word with me, and just call them pumpkin seeds, dammit. Maybe next time I will overcome my fear of asking someone at the coop if they really don't have any delicata squash. I get very shy while shopping at the coop for no really good reason.

Roasted Miso Curry
adapted from Miso-Curry Delicata Squash, yet again from Super Natural Every Day

12 oz. butternut squash
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. white miso (of the fifth taste, umami. I will leave you with this to blow your mind.)
1 T. red curry paste
12 oz. extra-firm tofu (frozen and then defrosted, trust me, it is worth it!)
5 small-medium-ish purple potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ~1 cm cubes
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups kale, stems removed, then cut into ribbons and cooked
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
oodles of cilantro, to taste/tolerance

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Peel the squash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, then cut the halves again lengthwise (so now you have long quarters). Cut these pieces in 1/2 inch slices to make lots of little curved wedges.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, miso, and curry paste. Combine the tofu, potatoes, and squash in a large bowl with 1/3 c. of the miso-curry paste. Turn the vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
4. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until everything is tender and browned. Toss once or twice along the way, after things start to brown a bit. Be careful not to burn anything.
5. In the meantime, whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso-curry paste, then stir in the wilted kale until coated (it soaks up the lemon juice in a very delicious way! I'd also recommend using this time to toast your seeds too.)
6. Toss the vegetables gently with the kale, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. Enjoy! You'll always want your tofu this way for ever and ever.

**This recipe is an example in being a sneaky vegan: Don't tell anyone that you've cooked something vegan until after they ate it. Or just don't say anything. I totally pulled this on my husband a few days ago. Sneaky!**

06 November 2011

roasted chickpeas

Given that I am the overlord of the household pantry, I have rules. One of the biggies is that I keep snack food to a minimum. However, there are plenty of exceptions and corollaries to this rule. Basically, no pre(over)packaged snack food is allowed. You know, junk food pretending to be real food. There are so many reasons why I think this is justifiable. One, $$$. (Curse you, Clif, Lara, and Luna! Too tasty... and yet so similar to a Snickers bar sometimes.) Two, pretty sure I can make it all better myself. Three, they are all pretty much starchy foods that you can consume in a mindless manner. You know what I'm taking about... all those aisles in the middle of the grocery store? I like variety better... visiting the other categories in the food pyramid. So fruits and veggies are cool, dairy is fine, nuts are fine.

Problem: We're runners. We eat a lot. Often we don't get around to dinner (sometimes even starting it) until 8. There is only so much yogurt you can consume in a day. Bagels aren't really even exciting anymore. Trust me, if you were on a college cross country/track and field team, you've had enough cold bagels with peanut butter to last a lifetime. *shudders at the thought*

So I'm on a campaign to make more interesting snacks to keep around the house for post-workday snacking. I do plan to give kale chips a try since a buddy of mine sent me the recipe (and I keep reading about them all over the internet!). Said buddy also deserves a shout-out for exporting some apple butter to me from my hometown... I love that I've got oodles of it and I haven't had a chance to visit my favorite orchard myself in a good long time. :) But yeah! If anyone else has some fun ideas, please let me know!

This finally, eventually, brings me to what I've got for you today: roasted chickpeas! The only bad thing about making these is that I only made a half batch (I was limited by the volume of chickpeas at hand. Alas.), and I made them right after a gleeful eight mile run... so now I wouldn't really mark us down as 'stocked'. :) What I mean to say is, you should probably try these out. They're awesome, and they are another way to use chickpeas that isn't making hummus. They also remind me of when I did field work in central Turkey. The field team stayed in a little mom and pop hotel in downtown Eskisehir. My hotel room window was above a little convenience shop that had a roaster full of chickpeas going at all business hours. It smelled amazing.

You probably won't be surprised to hear this is yet another creation from Super Natural Every Day. I'm telling you, it's one of the most innovative, yet practical cookbooks out there for vegetarians.

Roasted Chickpeas (with my comments)
3 c. cooked chickpeas (if you're using canned, be sure to get them as dry as you possibly can. Seriously, dig out the salad spinner!)
2 T. olive oil
1 1/2 t. sweet paprika (I didn't have this, so added ancho chili powder instead on a whim)
1 1/2 t. smoked paprika
1 1/2 t. hot paprika (didn't have this either, so I added a pinch of cayenne for funzies)
1/2 t. fine-grain sea salt (kosher salt worked fine)
zest of one lemon (if you're feeling ambitious...)
1 t. fresh rosemary (I used one big pinch dried and crushed)
1 t. fresh thyme (same as the rosemary)

Preheat the oven to 425 with a rack in the top third of the oven. Pour the well-drained chickpeas onto a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 10 minutes. Shake the pan and rose for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the chickpeas crisp up a bit. Keep a close eye on them to avoid burning, particularly if you think your oven runs hot. In the meantime, combine the other ingredients in a mixing bowl. Carefully transfer the chickpeas to the bowl and toss until well coated. Return them to the baking sheet and roast for another 3 to 5 minutes, until fragrant. Let them cool before serving.

Next time I'm totally going to make these chickpeas with za'atar, because I love using it whenever I can and I'll bet this would be a good opportunity to do so. I might even zest a lemon for it, and that means I'm seriously committed.