June 28, 2009

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Let me start out by saying this is more of mousse than a pudding (and sorry for the mediocore photograph), but it's also quite versatile. The first time I was introduced to a similar creation was the summer after my freshman year of college. My friends from back home and I were making a vegan chocolate pie for our vegan friend's birthday.

Our pie filling version of this recipe included silken tofu, melted carob chips and all natural peanut butter, which was blended together and then chilled in some sort of vegan pie crust. Now I must say, the pie didn't end up working so well. We tried to cut slices and they didn't quite cut- instead we pretty much had to use a spoon to transfer the "slices" (more like blobs) from the pan to our plates. But, quite fortuitously, another friend had made some un-frosted vegan chocolate cupcakes so she started using the pie filling as a frosting- and that worked out rather well.

So, long story short this could be a pudding, a pie filling, a mousse, a frosting, and maybe even chocolate whipped cream. It could also be chocolate peanut butter, Mexican chocolate a la Mark Bittman, or just plain old everyday chocolate as I've shown below. So experiment already!

Oh, and let me also add, for all of you who may be a bit skeptical of TOFU pudding. You cannot taste the tofu at all, especially if you use light silken. And if you're still worried about tasting it just add more chocolate, because that never hurt anyone.

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Note: the better/higher the quality the chocolate you use here, the better the final product will taste. I think I should have splurged on something above Ghiradelli.

1 block (12 oz) silken tofu [I used Mori-nu Silken Lite Firm Tofu]
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips [I used Ghiradelli 60%]
1/8- 1/4 cup milk of choice, depending on desired thickness [I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk]
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoons agave nectar (or other sweetener)*

Combine chocolate chips and milk of choice in a double boiler stirring occasionally. Once the milk and chocolate chips have melted into a uniform mixture, add them into a blender or Cuisinart with the tofu, vanilla and agave. Blend until smooth. Add more agave and/or melted chocolate to taste. Pour pudding into a container and refrigerate until cold. Enjoy!

* I don't mind bitterness, especially in chocolate, but the average person will likely want this a little (or a lot) more sweeter.

June 20, 2009

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

You just know it's summer when cherry season rolls around... and when you're in the middle of a 95 degree heat wave, but lets stick to food here. I bought my first bag of cherries from the grocery store just a couple of weeks ago and they were wonderful- sweet, slightly sour, firm, and just right. My second bag, however, was nowhere near the quality of the first. Of course there were a couple gems in there but as a whole they were mediocre at best. Still, I couldn't bring myself to throw them away and eating them straight from the fridge wasn't the most appealing option either.

Then! while spending some quality time with the internet (my new cable t.v.), I saw a recipe for cherry cornmeal scones. Now, I'm not really a fan of scones but this combination jogged my memory for a recipe I had seen awhile back: Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake. And lucky me, I had just bought some cornmeal the other day when I was making pizza.

This was my first time making an upside-down cake and I have to say, I'm enthralled. You see, I'm a cake person and a bread person- not a cookie person or a pie person. Don't get me wrong, I love a good apple pie but the crust doesn't get me the way it gets some people. I'm much more taken by the fluffy and airy or thick and dense texture of a good cake or quick bread than I am by the buttery crust of a pie. So what I'm trying to say is that this pairing of fruit and cake, much better than a fruitcake I might add, could just be my perfect summer dessert.

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

From Bon Appétit
I halved the recipe and made it in a loaf pan, which worked perfectly. Perhaps it's not as pretty as a 10-inch round, but the size is much more manageable for only two people... although my boyfriend ate basically all of it within a day.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar*
3 cups whole pitted fresh Bing cherries or other dark sweet cherries (about 21 ounces whole unpitted cherries)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground medium grind)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Combine 1/4 cup butter with brown sugar and vinegar in 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high; add cherries and bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl. Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Using rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten slightly. Fold in remaining whites in 3 additions (batter will be thick). Spoon batter over cherries in skillet, then spread evenly with offset spatula to cover cherries.

Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in skillet on rack 5 minutes. Run spatula around edges of cake to loosen. Place large serving platter upside down atop skillet. Using pot holders or oven mitts, firmly hold platter and skillet together and invert. Leave skillet atop cake 5 minutes. Remove skillet. If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have become dislodged. Let cake cool at least 45 minutes. Cut cake into wedges and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

*I used white balsamic vinegar because it's a bit sweeter than regular balsamic, but honestly, I couldn't really taste it. If you want the taste of the vinegar to come through, I would suggest upping the measurement to at least a tablespoon.

Edited to add: I just tried Dorie Greenspan's "Dimply Plum Cake" from Baking: From My Home to Yours and I have to say it is at least 25 times better than this cake! If you don't have the book, you can see the recipe over at smittenkitchen. And if you're wondering why there's no entry on that cake over here, it's because my mom made it :) but I might crack soon...

June 18, 2009

Jeffery Steingarten's Pizza Dough

Ideally, I would start this post with: "This was my first time making pizza" but in truth, it was my second. The first one didn't turn out to be anything pizza-like (it was more of a dense flat-bread) but I'm blaming that on the yeast. I also didn't have a pizza stone when I embarked on my first foray into pizza, and while I know it's not a necessary investment to make a great pizza, I found myself in this new apartment, baking sheet-less and ready to rationalize the purchase of a $45 pizza stone. I did, however, forget that we also do not have a rolling pin around here and ended up rolling out the dough with a floured bottle of apple cider vinegar, but more on that later... on second thought, that's quite enough of that.

In stark contrast to my first pizza, this one turned out to be restaurant quality. The crust was crackly and hard on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside and flecked with cornmeal along the bottom. Really, it was nothing short of amazing. It did get a bit soggy in the middle which, due to some amateur pizza tossing skills, was the thinnest part, but I also think it was partly because I went a little heavy on the toppings (and so did my boyfriend, but such excess is to be expected when he and meat are in close proximity).

Now, I don't want to give the pizza stone all the credit for how well this turned out because as others have said, and as I know from baking bread, you can get a perfectly good crust without a pizza stone; however, the pizza stone does help. So I will leave you with just the crust recipe (a la your very own high minded foodie Jeffery Steingarten), because I'm sure you've all been thinking up the toppings for your own homemade pizza as you've been reading this.

Pizza Dough
By Sam Sifton, adapted from Jeffery Steingarten via New York Times Magazine

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

cornmeal for dusting

1. The morning or ideally the day before cooking, prepare the dough. Using a hand whisk, combine the flours, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water and olive oil until a rough dough forms. Set the bowl on the mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 to 6 minutes, until it becomes a wet and vaguely menacing mass. (If it forms into a ball, lower the mixer speed to medium-high. If not, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides once.)

2. Scrape and pour the dough onto a heavily floured work surface. Keeping your fingers, the countertop and the dough well floured, fold one dough end over the other so that half the floured underside covers the rest of the dough. Let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place each ball on a well-oiled plate, generously dust with flour and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it is at least doubled in size, about 3 hours.

4. Punch the dough balls down, shape into rounds and place each in a quart-size freezer bag. Refrigerate dough between 1 and 24 hours. Makes 2 balls.

Here is the link to the article that went along with the recipe; it gives some helpful notes on the baking process. I let my pizza stone heat up in the oven for an hour before putting the pizza and I baked it for about 13 minutes at 500 degrees F. I also used a sheet of parchment dusted with cornmeal to transfer the dough from my cutting board onto the pizza stone and from the pizza stone back out of the oven.

June 14, 2009

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

I love broccoli but I always cook it in pretty much the same way- sautéed.  Sure, I pair it with and add it to different things- asian noodle dishes, chicken, macaroni and cheese, but when you think about it, it can get kind of boring.  

Since I no longer have cable, I came across this recipe when I was watching the Food Network at the gym.  Ina Garten and Giada di Laurentis are sometimes my incentive to stay on the treadmill... but back to broccoli...  This recipe is a great way to change up your broccoli cooking routine (if you have one).  Plus, it was no more difficult and hardly more time consuming than a quick sauté.

I also found the recipe great for summer.  The browned and roasted florets were reminiscent of the grilled vegetables I love so much but can't really make without a grill.  The juice and zest of the lemon lent the dish a nice citrus-y punch, while the almonds provided extra crunch and textural interest.  And really, don't roasted garlic and parmesan make most things better?

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Adapted from Ina Garten
I did not follow measurements on this recipe at all because I was making a much smaller portion.  I basically just used the recipe as a guide and used however much of the ingredients I thought seemed right.  Still turned out wonderfully, so if you're in a rush, don't worry too much about getting things exact.

4 to 5 pounds broccoli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted [original recipe uses pine nuts]
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, almonds or pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot.

June 9, 2009

Chana Masala

I've had this can of whole peeled tomatoes sitting in my pantry for months. This kind of thing (un-eaten/un-used food) usually doesn't happen to me, but I had bought the can in preparation for making these Giant Lima Beans with Stewed Tomatoes and Oregano Pesto featured in Food & Wine. Soon though, I realized that without a Cuisinart or the possibility of getting one in the near future, this recipe was going to have to wait. So instead, I decided to do the only other natural thing one would do with a can of whole tomatoes: make Chana Masala.

And I'm quite glad I did. Although I didn't use the exact spice blend this recipe called for (I couldn't bring myself to buy the $10 cardamom at the grocery store), I didn't feel like the flavor or complexity were lacking in the least.

The heavily caramelized and charred onions make the dish wonderfully aromatic right from the beginning, and the cumin, which I sometimes find to be overwhelming, is actually somewhat subtle here against the garam masala and tomatoes. As the recipe says, the addition of yogurt is optional so I added some to the side of my plate and mixed it in when my mouth was hot and my nose was runny from the from the cayenne (I added more than the recipe calls for because I like it spicy despite these unpleasant side-effects).

I finished off the meal with some coconut milk yogurt (just plain greek yogurt mixed with coconut milk- yummy) and frozen mango- the perfect end to a delicious and homemade Indian dinner.

Chana Masala

Adapted from Orangette

Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds [I used ground cumin]
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed [left this out b/c I didn't have it]
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish [I left this out b/c I abhor cilantro]
A pinch cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, turmeric and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.