Monday, September 12, 2011

Three Pepper and Mushroom Tacos

Since I last posted I've been pretty busy, but not too busy to cook new meals. As a result, I now have a bunch of recipes stockpiled and photographed, just waiting to be written about. So, what kept me from posting since the month started, you ask?
  • Austin and I continued unpacking and otherwise putting the house together. Yes, we moved over a month ago and while the place is 90% set up we still haven't found a home for some things. For instance, our pictures and other wall hangings still haven't made it off the floor. So sue us. 
  • I've been accepted to the OM Yoga 200 hour Teacher Training program, which starts this weekend. That means that for one weekend a month for the next 8 months I'll be totally immersed in all things yoga, not to mention the independent work I need to do in between the instructional weekends. I don't know if I'm more excited, scared, or intimidated. In preparation for the start of the program I've been doing lots of reading and practicing.
  • Austin and I went to our friends' Steve and Brianne's wedding. They planned a beautiful event in the Outer Banks, here in NC and we made a long weekend out of it. We were so happy they chose to share such an important day with us. Congratulations to the beautiful couple! 
  • I started doing P90X. During the week, I wake up at 6am to get the workout in before the day starts. Am I loving every minute of it? Absolutely not! Am I getting my ass kicked? You bet. Do I think I'll be in better shape after I'm done with it? Most definitely. 
Amidst the craziness of the last week and half, I've developed a new obsession -- mushroom tacos. I think the seed was planted when I fell in love with the portobello tacos they make at Chubby's Tacos in Durham.  I thought I'd make my own version using cremini mushrooms (which are just small portobellos) and all I can say is mmmmmmmmm, delicious. Ok, I lied. I'm going to say more. I'm so infatuated with these tacos that I've made them 3 times in less 10 days. Yes, they're that good. They do take a bit more effort and time than my go-to bean tacos but they're absolutely worth it. The key their amazingness? Nicely browned, umami rich mushrooms, which, as a bonus, will make your kitchen smell seriously amazing. As Austin said the second time we had them "You can't not like these, I mean, how could you possibly miss the meat?"*.

 Three Pepper and Mushroom Tacos
 Makes about 10 tacos
Inspired by the Portobello Mushroom Tacos at Chubby's Tacos
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb / 455 g cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with a slightly damp towel (please do not wash them, they'll never brown) and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 poblano peppers or 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded if you don't like heat and minced
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, seeded if you'd like and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the chipotles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • About 10 corn tortillas
  • A large handful of cilantro, chopped
  • One batch of roasted tomatillo salsa or your favorite store-bought kind
1.  In a medium skillet, heat 3/4 of a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add half of the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally,  until brown, which should take about 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the other half of the mushrooms. 

2.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the poblanos, jalapeño, chipotle and garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

3.  Add the mushrooms to the onion and pepper mix. Toss in the salt and spices and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Serve immediately over warmed corn tortillas, topped with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro and some of your favorite salsa.

*As wonderful as I think these tacos are, I understand if you're averse to some of the ingredients or the preparation and therefore don't like them. We tend to be a bit hyperbolic around here. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)

In my last post, I vowed to give quick simple dishes some love. Well, it doesn't really get any faster or easier than panzanella.  I've been meaning to make it about a month now, since I've come across a couple panzanella-esque recipes recently -- at El Comidista and Smitten Kitchen -- and now I'm upset I waited so long.

While other vegetables are sometimes added, the staple ingredients of this Tuscan salad are bread, tomatoes, and good quality olive oil. The preparation is about as minimalist as it gets so it's very important to start with fresh produce. 'Tis the end season for tomatoes and peppers, so hit up your local farmer's markets while you can. The bread also needs to be high quality -- think hearty and crusty -- and preferably a day old, to prevent it from getting too soggy. Once toasted, it soaks up the dressing and tomato juices without falling apart, basically doing the dunking for you. This combination of ingredients is seasonal perfection, but I couldn't resist adding some navy beans for a complete, albeit light, meal.

So the question shouldn't be why to make this salad, but why to wait another minute. After all it's September, and therefore time to start savoring the last of our summer meals.

Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)
Makes 4 generous servings
  • 1/2 lb / 225 g good crusty bread, preferably a day old
  • 2 pints / 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (you could also use any other tomato variety)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, white or sherry vinegar (I like my dressing pretty strong so I added 2 additional tablespoons of vinegar)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
1.  Cut the bread into about 1/2 inch / 1 cm thick slices and toast it until it's golden brown. Cut it into bite-sized cubes and toss into a large salad bowl.

2.  Add the tomatoes, onion and green pepper to the bowl with the toasted bread. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and pour over the salad. Give the salad a good toss and let it sit for about 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the veggie juices and dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately or store for up to a day. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Stir-Fry with Quinoa

Thanks to our recent move, Austin and I have had to adapt to a number of things: a different area of town; living in a multi-story home (in my case for the first time ever); everything we own being in a different place than it was a month ago; and the layout of our new supermarket. This last one has proven a bit challenging, since the Kroger where we now do most of our shopping is somewhat weirdly organized. For instance, most of the vegetable broth is located in the health food section, instead of with the soup. This health food section also contains items, such as non-dairy milk, energy bars, and rice cakes usually found throughout the store next to somewhat similar items. Since I find the organization strange and confusing I was rather fearful when Austin suggested we track down a can of mini corn on the cob. Oh no, not a specialty ingredient! Instead of going straight for the canned veggies, I put on my Kroger shelf stocker hat and headed for the Asian foods section. Success!

But, as usual, I digress. Why were we searching for cute little corn cobs anyway? Well, Austin insisted we needed them for that evening’s stir-fry.  I had decided that’s what we were having for dinner because it seemed like the perfect way to make a dent in a seemingly bottomless bag of dried shiitakes and my ever-growing supply of peppers and zucchini. These veggies, along with the corn, made for fresh and summery-tasting stir-fry. For a protein boost, I served the stir-fry over a bed of nutty-tasting quinoa.

Even though it involved a fair amount of chopping, the meal was easy to prepare and came together in about half an hour. So if stir-fry is such a quick, not to mention tasty and versatile, meal why don’t I make it more often? Probably because I’m too busy working my way down a list of new, and usually more complicated, recipe ideas. I’ll try to remind myself that quickie old faithful dishes deserve some love too.

Summer Stir-Fry over Quinoa
Makes 4 servings
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chili and garlic paste
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced into 2.5 inch / 3 cm thin matchsticks
  • 2 Anaheim chilies or 1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can baby corn, cobs drained and halved
  • 1 cup sliced dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Optional: Sliced scallions for garnish
1.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, until you can smell its nuttiness and starts to brown. Pour in 3 cups of water, sprinkle in the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

2.  Whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, and chili-garlic paste. Set aside. 

3.  While the quinoa is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook until the onions start to soften, about 3 minutes.  Next add the carrots and peppers, cooking for another 3 minutes. Then stir in the baby corn and zucchini and fry for another 3 minutes. Lastly, add the dried mushrooms, stirring to incorporate them into the mixture. Turn the heat off and stir in the sauce. Let the stir-fry sit for about 5 minutes, then serve over the cooked quinoa, garnished with scallions if you'd like. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mocha Tofu Pudding

It's no secret that I have a pretty bad sweet tooth. I find that it generally strikes after meals, especially dinner. A couple days ago I felt a hankering for dessert so I opened my fridge and looked for a quick fix. I didn't find any chocolate bars or anything else I could enjoy immediately but I did spot several packages of Mori-Nu silken tofu (Kroeger was having a sale; I couldn't resist). "Sweet,", I thought, "Pudding time!".

Now some of you may think that tofu pudding sounds pretty unappetizing. Well, it's actually delicious -- even Mark Bittman says so, which obviously makes it a fact. In addition to being tasty, a tofu-based pudding is healthier than it's cream-based counterpart and can easily be made low fat by using lite silken tofu. It's also a versatile quick and dirty dessert: you can enjoy during a lazy movie night or dress up and serve to guests.  Anyway, whether you believe me or not, you need to give this a try. And once you've fallen deeply in love with tofu pudding (you will), you can try this slightly more elaborate recipe. Happy dessert making!

What are some of your favorite quick and/or (relatively) healthy desserts?

Mocha Tofu Pudding
Makes 3 servings
  • 12.3 oz / 350 g silken tofu, drained (I used the shelf stable kind, Mori-Nu, although you could certainly use the refrigerated variety)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond (or other non dairy) milk
  • 1/4 cup espresso or other strong coffee
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: Macadamia (or other) nuts for garnish
1.  Place all the ingredients in the blender or food processor and whiz until smooth.

2.  Chill for about half an hour, garnish with nuts if you'd like and serve. If you put the tofu, coffee and almond milk in the fridge ahead of time you can skip the chilling step. Not that it's absolutely essential; if you need your chocolate fix stat you can enjoy the pudding at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Miso-Glazed Eggplant

As I've mentioned before, Austin isn't a huge eggplant fan. I, on the other hand, love it so much I can’t fathom anyone not feeling the same way. I’ve therefore declared that Austin’s dislike is really silly prejudice and have made it my mission to periodically sneak eggplant onto his plate when he’s not looking. Thankfully, he’s a pretty good sport about it and eats at least one serving of every eggplant-containing dish. My plan to make him taste the goodness in eggplant requires me to always be on the lookout for ways to cook it that I think he may enjoy.

When I saw Eric Growe’s miso-glazed eggplant recipe in Yoga Journal, I quickly ripped out the page and stuck it on my fridge, deeming it a perfect candidate for a (not so) stealthy attack. I've since served Austin a modified version of the dish several times. Not surprisingly, I think it’s delicious. But Austin has even gone so far as to describe it as “good” and have seconds. That's about as glowing an endorsement as I could hope for.

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Adapted from the Eric Gower recipe published in the May 2011 issue of Yoga Journal
Makes 4 servings
  • About 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 lbs Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and scored about 1/2 inch / 1 cm deep on the fleshy side
  • 1/3 cup yellow (or other type of) miso
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of white wine or sake
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon maple or agave syrup
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • A couple pinches red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon chili and garlic paste 
1.  Preheat your oven's broiler. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add about 1/3 of the eggplant halves cut-side down. Flip the halves after about 4 minutes or once they've browned. Cook them for another 3 minutes or so on the other side and then transfer them to a foiled-lined or greased baking sheet, cut-side up. Repeat for the rest of the eggplant.

2.  While the eggplant is cooking, whisk together the miso, wine, maple syrup, garlic, chili flakes, and garlic chili paste, if using. Brush the eggplant generously with the miso mixture. Place under the broiler for about 2-4 minutes or until golden brown. (As you can see, mine got a bit too brown but it was still delicious).

3.  Sprinkle the eggplant with the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Veggies For Real on Meatless Mondays

Austin and I spent the last week on vacation on Cape Cod, MA. We had no computers and no internet, hence the lack of posts. I'd love to say I spent a lot time on the beach sunning myself, but the truth is that for the second consecutive year the weather did not cooperate. I might of only gotten one good beach day but I at least I got to catch up on my pleasure reading. It could be worse.

I wish I could have figured out how to write this post on my phone, so that I could have posted the exciting news when it was fresh. Oh well, better late than ever. My Pesto Pasta with Spiralized Zucchini and Carrots is the suggested dinner of the week (until tomorrow, I think) over at Meatless Mondays! Check it out!  It's one of the most popular recipes on the blog, so I hope the Meatless Mondays readers enjoy it as well.

Time for me to get back to unpacking. There's nothing like coming back from vacation to a house full of boxes!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cantaloupe and Mango Slushie

On Saturday, Austin and I left the only apartment complex we've lived in in North Carolina (Pinnacle Ridge, it's been real) and moved into a townhome complex on the other side of Durham. We hired TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers) to do our moving and they were absolutely fantastic and very affordable. As my mother would say, "Luxury is being able to hire movers".

While all our stuff is in our new place, most hasn't found its way out of the boxes. The only rooms I would say are fully set up are our two and a half bathrooms and the kitchen. Even though I tried prioritize putting the kitchen together, we just finished setting up it  up a couple days ago. After about five days of eating out (I'm always surprised by how old that can get), I cooked my first meal in our new home yesterday (black bean tacos with guacamole and salsa verde, in case you're wondering). I like our new kitchen a lot, but I'm still getting used to everything being in a different place, so much so that I find myself opening several cabinets to find a single utensil. Foreshadowing of my future senile self? I hope not!

Since I haven't gotten back into creative cooking mode yet, I'd like to share another recipe (although it's so simple it barely qualifies as such) I've been hoarding. This slushie was born out of necessity, really; I needed to make a dent in our CSA cantaloupe before the move and relief from the super humid heat. I added some lime juice, mango and ice to the cantaloupe and the result was summer in a glass. For an even more exciting drink (more exciting than mango, cantaloupe and lime? Imposible!) use your favorite spirit in place of the water.

Cantaloupe and Mango Slushie
Makes about 4 cups
  • 2 1/2 cups cold chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 cup frozen chopped mango
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cold water (you could also substitute a spirit of your choice; I think vodka would be quite good)
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately, garnished with a lime for a bit of flair.