Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I have been on a total sweet potato bender lately. I'm pretty sure that I have roasted, boiled, baked, and fried more of these delicious little spuds in the last month than I had in the previous two years. We have had sweet potatoes in just about any possible incarnation imaginable and I am still not sick of them. Alex might be, but he is too much of a sweetheart to let me know it.

Tonight, thanks to the Moosewood cookbook that I have renewed from the library for the third (and last allowable) time now, we discovered my new FAVORITE way to ingest my current favorite food. Sweet potato pancakes. These things are so delicious it is slightly unreal. The sweet potatoes keep the pancakes moist, and the sweetness is balanced by the cumin and chili powder so they are delicious with savory foods, but you could always omit the cumin and chili powder, add nutmeg and some sugar along with raisins. Oh the possibilities! Tonight we topped ours with poached eggs, salsa, pepper jack cheese, Greek yogurt and tomatoes.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

  • 1 cup peeled and grated raw sweet potatoes (the potatoes should be grated as finely-using a small hole grater if possible)

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel (can be omitted if you don't want in a savory rendition)

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 cup milk

  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl mix the sweet potatoes, lemon peel, egg, milk, oil and butter.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon.

Sir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to over stir. Set the batter aside.

Heat a oiled skillet to medium high heat. For each pancake pour about a ladle full or a little less of batter into the skillet and allow to cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until they reach a golden brown color.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The big easy, California style

I have never actually been to New Orleans. For god sakes I have never been to Louisiana, or even it's bordering states for that matter. This simple fact does not seem to have any bearing on my overwhelming and slightly fanatical love for New Orleans. I have this strange and misguided theory that in some strange way I am a defacto native of the area. In college we had a guy on an exchange program from LSU and I followed that poor boy around and badgered him for any information about his hometown that I could get out of him. I hung around his dorm and struck up a friendship with him just to hear him talk, and to eat the crazy food he made(his mom sent alligator!! we made stew). It was as though I thought that some of his awesome cool Luisiananess would rub off on me. It did not, but I did fall even further in love with New Orleans.

About three weeks into my stalking stint Hurricane Katrina blew through his hometown. He told me all the stories that he was getting from back home. We watched the news coverage. It was horrifying. I remember being so devastated by not only the madness of the political situation and the mind numbing amount of pain was being absorbed by so many, but also at the loss of such an amazing place. My heart went out then, and still goes out now to all of those that lost so much in that disaster; people they loved, the places they called home and everything within, and the culture of a city like no other. To this day I am amazed by the resiliency of the people from that region and I am so grateful that they have worked so hard to rebuild and preserve New Orleans. Hopefully one day I will actually get my ass down there.

All that to tell you that I was really excited that the Saints were going to the Superbowl!!! In honor of this occasion Alex and I had a Louisiana inspired evening. There was even Sweet Tea wine that I found at Cost Plus. It was actually a little too sweet for my taste, I had to mix it in to some white wine to get a sangria effect, which worked nicely. Look at that bottle though...ahh soo cool.

I actually got my act together and chopped/organized my ingredients.
Makes life so much easier.

We made (Just like your mawmaw's) Shrimp Creole (we used chicken sausage not shrimp to save $$) from the Trader Joe's Companion cook book that I got from some friends for my birthday this year. My preparing this recipe marked a monuments occasion. I made my first roux. A roux is simply a mixture of fat and flour that is used as the base for a lot of Cajun stews. The flour and fat are combined in equal parts and then cooked until it becomes a dark brown color. The roux has a deep nutty taste that it lends to the dish as well as giving it a rich color that is hard to resist. It is a bit of a tedious task but it is well worth it. The creole was perfect, spicy, thick and satisfying. The roux gives the stew an almost smokey flavor, a very subtle richness that is perfectly offset by the spice of the chili powder and the sausage. And I really recommend using the fresh tomatoes, the acidity is perfect and the texture of the skins makes the dish a lot more interesting.

The roux in the beginning

Finished Product

Go Saints!! Creole

Adapted from (Just like your mawmaw's) Shrimp creole from The Trader Joe's Companion

  • 1 lb Andoullie Sausage sliced or chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup, carrot chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (could use chicken)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cup chopped tomato
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

Begin by making your roux. Using a flat bottomed pan over medium-low heat warm up the oil. Slowly add the flour and whisk together. Once the flour is Incorporated you need to continue to stir the mixture until it has turned a light brown (a color similar to peanut butter). This should take about 15 minutes. You can cook the roux for longer, my understanding is that the longer it cooks the more authentic it is.

Once you are satisfied with the roux add your onion, pepper, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, until the veggies have softened.

Add the garlic, thyme, broth, wine, chili powder, tomato and tomato paste. Stir until the paste has dissolved and the entire soup is well blended. Allow everything to simmer for about 30 minutes. The creole will have thickened up a great deal, add as much extra liquid (stock or wine preferably) as you feel you need.

Once you have the consistency you want add the sausage and cook for about 10 more minutes.

We served ours the way they do at our favorite Louisiana style restaurant, with a scoop of rice on top, and we added a bit of Greek yogurt to the top because we put in extra chili powder and it was hot!! Stick to 1/4 teaspoon chili powder if you are adding spicy sausage!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

If you give a moose a Quiche

He is probably going to ask for...More quiche!!!
Ohh, so there you have it, the years of Nannying are beginning to go to my head. More often than not I am thinking of some strange children's book when I should be milling over slightly more adult ideas. Oh well.

The good news is that this quiche that I made earlier in the week was so good that it just about brought me to tears.

I need to backtrack a bit I suppose. I had a few weeks post holiday's/pre school semester to enjoy a few precious moments of free time, which is a rarity in my life. During this period of time I finally made it to the Library, something I have been talking about doing since, well my last break from school. I love the library. I prefer old dusty books to new ones, a strange quirk that I can't exactly explain, it is just a fact of life. So I went, I found some books, and it was awesome. And on the way out I though that maybe, just maybe, the Library might have cookbooks. Oh and did they ever!! soooo many cookbooks it was slightly overwhelming. I checked out so many books that I could hardly get them back to my car, it was embarrassing. But worth it.

One of the books I got was the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. The Moosewood Restaurant is a bit of a mystery to me seeing as I have never actually been there, but I have at least thumbed through most of their cookbooks, all of which are rather large, with very few pictures of the food, and a whole mess of crunchy granola type recipes. I was a vegetarian for a long time, so I have a bit of a soft spot for all things Tofu and veggie laden which is what attracts me to these books I think. On the other hand I am a bit confused by recipes like kasha with red cabbage. What does that even MEAN!?!? These confusing dishes aside, they always have strange new twists on old meat heavy foods which appeals to me. So this cookbook I checked out is gorgeous, but it is scary. There are just so many recipes I don't know how to even approach deciding which ones I need to make before I have to return the damn thing.

There was one recipe however that I had to make ASAP the second I read the title. Seriously.

It was Ronald's Fennel Quiche. I love fennel and I love quiche so it was sort of a shoe in. This quiche is freakishly delicious. The fennel lends it's deep and rich flavor, but the eggs are still light and fluffy and balance the rich flavor of the crust and fennel, especially with the tangy feta blended in. The whole dish is so beautifully layered with flavor and texture and is completely addicting. I found myself day dreaming about it in class when I was supposed to be focusing on the effects of bacteria on their hosts. It takes an extremely good quiche to make you think about food when learning about giardia.

Ronald's Fennel Quiche

Loosely adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant new Classics

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup chilled butter

  • 2 tablespoons ice water

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil

  • 3/4 cups diced onions

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel

  • 2 medium fresh tomatoes

  • 1 cup diced zucchini

  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

  • 2 tablespoons dried basil (recipe calls for fresh, use it if you got it, our Safeway was out)

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 cup feta cheese

  • 1/2 cup grated dill Havarti cheese

  • 1/2 cup grated Swiss

You could of course use any cheesed you want, just stick to about 1 cup total, grated, plus the cup of feta.

To make the crust:

Mix together the flour and salt. Work in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture is similar to a coarse meal. Slowly incorporate the water into the mixture, using about a tablespoon at a time.

Push the dough away from the sides and into the middle of the bowl until you are left with a ball that sticks together. Turn the ball out onto a dry clean surface, cut it in half and than stack the two half's and press down to mix. Do this a few times until the moisture seems to be evenly distributed.

Add a bit of flour to your work surface and roll your dough out into a circle that is about 12 inches. Place the dough into a 9 inch pie place, fold the edges over and crimp the edges until they adhere to the plate. Make sure to put the crust into the refrigerator when finished.

Preheat oven to 375

In a skillet heat your oil and add the onions and salt. Cook on medium heat until the onions are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add your fresh fennel and cook for 3-5 more minutes.

While the onions and fennel cook, halve the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp and juice, reserving 1/2 cup of the tomato juice/pulp. Chop up the tomatoes and add it, along with the zucchini to the skillet and continue to cook on medium heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat off the skillet and add both the basil and the pepper

In a blender mix the eggs, tomato pulp and juice along with the feta until it is a smooth custard.

Take your crust out of the refrigerator and place the veggies on the bottom. Top with the grated cheeses and then pour the egg mixture on top.

Bake for roughly 50 minutes until the top of the quiche is golden and puffed up and the crust is golden as well.