Miso Hungry

Do you ever have those moments when you realize that you’ve done something really, really dumb? You know, like when you go to wash your face in the shower and realize you just poured conditioner into your hands. And to make it worse, you haven’t shampooed yet, so you can’t just go on and condition, so as not to waste.

Or when you walk up to the counter to pay for your coffee and realize you left your wallet in the car. Or worse – at home? They don’t really let you wash dishes to earn your coffee/food like people say they do. But sometimes they are nice and they let you slide, or pay them next time.

I don’t have a gym membership anymore, but when I did, there were plenty of times when I’d get showered and ready for work at the gym, only to find that I’d neglected to pack a bra. Let’s just say that sweaty sports bras have no place in the professional world, or at least they shouldn’t have…

Hopefully you’ve all been there a time or two as well. Or at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Food-wise, I’ve done plenty of silly things in the kitchen. Last night even, I was making pizza, and I must have spread the dough too thinly because when the pizza came outta the oven, it definitely didn’t come off the pan. We were left picking chunks, some charred and some gooey, off the pan instead of sitting down to perfectly cooked pieces of pie.

I’ve already told you about the time I forgot to take the tie off of the soba noodles, and ended up with goops of noodles. And yeah, there are plenty of others, I’m sure.

The worst though, is when you finally use an ingredient, one that you’ve heard about, read about, and for whatever reason, never bought yourself, and you LOVE it. At least for me, I think of all those months and years I could have used said ingredient, enjoyed said ingredient, shoved said ingredient into my face. Avocadoes are one such ingredient, and I’ve tried to make up for lost time.

Miso is another. Oh, baby. Be still, my heart.

Since my discovering miso, oh, 1 month ago, there has been miso-glazed chicken, miso-curry vegetables, and now this – a rice salad with miso vinaigrette. Vinaigrette! Miso, where have you been all my life?! It is extra-salty, but nutty in a way, too. Decadent, but pretty healthy since it’s really just fermented soybeans, usually. Umami for sure comes to mind. And just plain freakin’ awesome.

Don’t be like me – don’t read about this great-sounding miso-laden recipe and turn the other cheek. You’ll regret it 5 years later when you finally do come around. Live for now, and get thee to the Asian aisle of your grocery store and get this.

Wild Rice Salad w/ Miso Dressing
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen; serves 4

printable version

time commitment: 1 hour (for cooking rice, which can be done in advance. if so, time commitment drops to 20 minutes or less.)

this is a great, versatile recipe that can be served warm or cold. I’m so into miso dressing lately that I made this again since I had all of the ingredients on hand except the carrots, which is used in the original recipe instead of butternut squash. Feel free to use either one – if you do choose the carrots (1-2 cups, sliced), you can skip the sauté part and throw the carrots in with the edamame after the tofu is sautéed, just to heat them up a little and take away some of the hard crunch of the fresh carrot. Also, I threw in the arugula to “bulk up” the salad a little and make this dish stretch to four servings instead of 3.

ingredients
salad
1/2 c wild rice
14 oz. block extra firm tofu
2 t coconut oil
1 small butternut squash, cut into 1″ pieces
2 t soy sauce
fresh ground pepper
3/4 c cooked, shelled, edamame
1 large handful of baby arugula
3 T toasted sesame seeds
chopped cilantro, for garnish

dressing
2 T white (shiro) miso
2 T agave nectar
1 T sesame oil
2 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Juice of half an Orange

instructions
Rinse the wild rice. Bring two cups water to a boil. Add the rice, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 35-40 minutes), adding a bit more water if necessary to finish cooking. You will see a tuft of white pop from the center of the rice.

Meanwhile, drain the tofu of excess water. I like to wrap it in a dish towel and sit something really heavy on top of it for about 10 minutes. Cut it into a 1” dice. Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat – a cast iron skillet would work great, but any skillet will do. Add the butternut squash and sauté for about 7 minutes, then add the tofu and saute for about five minutes. Sprinkle the soy sauce and a few grinds of fresh pepper over the top and saute another few minutes until the edges are browned, adding the edamame at this point as well. Turn off heat and set aside, letting cool as much as possible.

To make the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Then, in a large bowl, combine the rice, tofu, squash, and edamame. Toss everything with the dressing. Add the arugula, sesame seeds, and cilantro and give it another toss. Serve room temperature or chilled.

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Green Goddess

Despite the general lack of cold weather out this way, something about the months of January and February call to me, like those siren songs that tempted Odysseus at sea, and all I hear is sweet, beautiful pleas to make soup.

Of course, our weatherman did say that we were having “bone chilling” cold weather last week. Which to the crazy Californian he is, meant that we had weather in the high 30’s in the wee morning hours, which promptly increased to the 40’s and 50’s. For crying out loud, some people were wearing down coats and scraping “ice” from their cars. Ah, perspective.

Bone-chilling cold weather or not, I gravitate towards soup with open arms, without (bees)wax in my ears, with no restraint or need to resist the temptation whatsoever. There have been quite a few dinners of the soupy, stewy variety as of late, although my inability to post more than once a week has really done a number on the recipes I share with you.

I also haven’t had the chance to talk nearly as much about our meandering as of late, which makes me a little weepy. We’ve had some really awesome weekends out here lately, and maybe one of these days I’ll do a quick Friday post or something to post some pics about life outside of food.

But for the moment, that ain’t happenin’.

If you are finding yourself in a cooking rut (or cookbook rut, I suppose), I still can’t recommend Heidi’s Super Natural Every Day enough. True, I’ve had it for quite some time now, but I still manage to find a recipe to cook that doesn’t disappoint. This lentil/split pea soup is all up in the Interwebs (my friend, Liz, for one as well as here, here, and of course, the source) and for good reason. It’s pretty tasty.

And for me, it meant I got to use my ultra-pink immersion blender that I finally re-bought! A year was way too long to go without my blender, because pureeing in batches in a regular blender is just not something I’m into.

Now, it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t make a few modifications to a perfectly good-as-is recipe, but I did anyway, although not too much. I definitely recommend using coconut oil for sweating your veggies, although olive oil would work if needed. The coconut oil with the coconut milk though? Rock solid. I also drizzled mine with more of a coconut-curry oil than a butter, because I liked the idea of really driving that coconut flavor home, if you know what I mean. And yeah, I probably used a little less broth than some might prefer, but I like my soups well, less soupy. Oh, and I think the cilantro is a nice finish, but you could stick with the original and do chives, because that sounds pretty awesome too.

Last but certainly not least, I chose green split peas instead of green lentils, but I’m certain they’d both be tasty. I just liked the idea of making my soup “greener” since it was more photogenic. Oh, the things we do for these blogs ;).

 

Green Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day; serves 4-6

time commitment: 45 minutes

printable version

ingredients
3 T coconut oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 t red pepper flakes
4-5 c vegetable broth
1 1/2 c green split peas (or green lentils), picked over and rinsed
1/2 t curry powder
1/2 c light coconut milk
salt to taste
cilantro, chopped

instructions
In a large pot over medium heat, melt 2 T coconut oil. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and stir often until onion softens, a few minutes. Add 4 c vegetable broth and the split peas. Simmer, covered until split peas are tender, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 T coconut oil in a small pan and add curry powder. Stir into the oil and saute for about a minute over medium heat, until warm and toasty smellin’. Set aside.

When lentils are tender, remove from heat, stir in coconut milk and 1/4 t salt. Puree using an immersion blender (or in a regular blender or food processor) until smooth. Add more vegetable broth if you prefer your soup less thick. Taste and add salt, if needed. Serve drizzled with curry oil and sprinkle with cilantro.

Great Balls of Fire

I am on a huge Indian kick lately. You wouldn’t know it from what you’ve seen posted around these parts lately, but I’m dead serious. Those of you living in the Bay Area already know this – there are a plethora of Indian eateries around these parts. Because of that, I’ve decided that Indian food is my new favorite take-out staple.

Sorry, Thai food, but I’m giving you the boot for a while. Maybe forever. It’s just that no one seems to make my yum woonsen salad like Thai Lagoon did, and it didn’t hurt that they were exactly 6 doors away from our house.

We ordered take-out from the neighborhood Indian joint the first weekend we lived here, and I was immediately sold. I ordered a HUGE “combo meal” the weekend Chris was in Singapore, and while sopping up my chana masala with garlic naan, I happily watched Something Borrowed (laugh it up) and almost drank an entire bottle of New Zealand Pinot by my lonesome. It was amazing (the food and the wine, that is. the movie served its purpose, which meant I was able to choose the movie for a change, because no one was home!!).

I’m sure we’ve had takeout from the same spot at least a handful of other times too. Despite their unwelcoming demeanor when I walk in to pick up my order, I always graciously take my food, somehow deciding that they’re allowed to have shoddy service so long as my food rocks, because in the end, we all win.

I decided I must learn to make chana masala, the tomato-y chickpea dish that I get almost every time I get Indian food, and as a result I surfed the Internets to figure out where I might find such a recipe, and for that matter, a good Indian cookbook. After Googling and Amazon-ing for a while, I finally decided on Madhur Jaffrey’s “An Invitation to Indian Cooking“, and although I’ve yet to cook from it, I am slowly perusing through it, waiting for the right moment to finally give that chana masala a try, and the other recipes I’ve bookmarked so far.

Today though, I’m sharing a recipe from another Indian chef I admittedly adore watching, Aarti Sequiera on the Food Network. She won “The Next Food Network Star” a while back (actually, the last season we watched it), and I was rooting for her all the way. Sure, part of it was because she wrote a food blog (and ironically just posted a recipe for chana masala), but the other part was because I really wanted an Indian cooking show to watch. Plus, I can only take so much of Giada’s boobs (or her large head, for that matter), and the other shows on that channel (other than Iron Chef, duh) are pretty lame. But! I did just learn that Michael Chiarello (of Napa’s Bottega) is going to be on The Next Iron Chef, and you best believe that will be DVR’d with a quickness.

So yeah, on to sharing. We had some friends in town this past weekend, and since they were coming in right around suppertime on Thursday night I’d volunteered to make dinner. My requirements were that the dish had to be straightforward, void of constant tending-to, manageable on a weeknight (night before prep a plus), and easy enough to make for 5 people without dirtying up every dish in the house. A homemade curry was a no brainer, and I remembered a recipe Aarti made the other day where she added an Italian twist (meatballs) to a curry dish – perfect!

The meatballs were easy peasy to throw together, and they probably benefit from being refrigerated overnight anyway, so that they can adhere together a little better. Plus, it saved me some time the night I made it since step 1 was already complete. The Serrano chiles were super spicy and perfect with the creamy coconut curry. The recipe below is essentially a doubled version of hers, which is meant to serve 8, but either our guests were starving or it was that damn good, because there was 1 serving left by the time it was all said and done.

The added bonus? You’ll probably have some leftover sauce when all the meatballs have been eaten, and I just know it’ll go with just about anything you toss into it. Better yet, a spoon would probably work just fine.

Meatball Curry
Adapted from Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira; serves 6-8

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes

printable version

ingredients
meatballs
2 lbs ground beef
2 serrano chiles, minced (I seeded one of them)
4 t fresh ginger, minced
4 T fresh cilantro, minced
Kosher salt

curry
5 T coconut oil or canola oil
1 t brown mustard seeds
8 small shallots, thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-inch piece) ginger, peeled and minced
4 t g coriander
2 t g cumin
1 t cayenne pepper
4 medium tomatoes, medium dice
2 cans light coconut milk
Kosher salt
3 T fresh cilantro, minced
juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 c uncooked jasmine or basmati rice

instructions
for the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, chile, ginger, cilantro and 2 teaspoons of salt together using your hands until just combined. (Don’t mix any more than this or you’ll end up with tough meatballs!) Roll the meatballs into 32 similarly-shaped balls, placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the fridge when they’re all rolled until ready for use.

for the curry: In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the coconut oil until nearly smoking. Add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid so you don’t get popping seeds all over you. When the spluttering subsides, add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until golden brown. Then add the ground coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir, and cook 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the meatballs. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Right after you add the meatballs, start the rice. Add rice and 3 c water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes, until rice is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

To finish the curry, add the cilantro and lime juice. Shake the pan gently to mix them in, and then taste for seasoning. Serve over rice.

At the Carnival

Do you ever have those moments when you swear you hear circus music in the background? In other words, things around you are just so dang crazy you just stop and do a double-take, which turns into a triple-take, and then a quadruple take, and then a whatever looking 5 times is, and so on and so forth? And then your neck hurts, too?

You may have just heard that music, in fact. I’m going vegan for two days (yes, that’s exactly how long I can go without cheese AND meat AND honey). I’ll tell you why later (it isn’t all that exciting, so don’t get your hopes up). Regardless, I’m convinced that it has clouded my judgement.

I hear circus music a lot in San Francisco. Imagine that. Sure, Chicago had its eccentricities, but this place is a whole ‘nother planet, I’m convinced. It’s not bad, not bad at all; it’s just really different. And I’m not one to stare either, so if you are wearing something, or doing something that makes me stare, you are very talented. Or weird.

The other day, I saw a guy wearing pants only (tight ones, too), swinging on a pole (in a sexual way) on one of the main streets in the city. No lie. I see a whole lot of high-waisted shorts too, which probably isn’t weird and is probably in fashion and I just missed it. I’m ok with that. Yesterday, we saw a street sale (like a yard sale, but on the street) where a book called “All About Hepatitis C” was for sale. I didn’t check the price.

Okay, okay. It isn’t that weird, right? I mean, for realz – this guy hangs around Wicker Park in Chicago all the time. Now that should be in the circus, don’t ya think? At least, I’d pay to see him, but maybe that’s just me.

Then again, things would be a little bit boring around here if things were all the same, if things were all what we expected them to be, if boys didn’t hang from poles every now and then, wouldn’t they?

Take these cookies, for example. Initially, I sort of turned my nose up at the recipe. They’re weird – they’re made with oats and ground-up almonds and peanuts and – get this – popcorn!  They’re held together by bananas, for cryin’ out loud.

These cookies, comprised of all these seemingly random ingredients – they fit together, somehow. Though the recipe seems a little weird at first, and though they most certainly belong at the carnival, they make sense and damn, they even taste good. Not quite good enough to make me consider buying high-waisted shorts, but still – it’s a start.

Carnival Cookies
from Super Natural Every Day; makes 24

time commitment: 45 minutes (25 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 c)
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 c coconut oil, barely warm – so it isn’t solid
1 1/2 c rolled oats (gluten-free available)
1/2 c almond meal (you can make your own by grinding up almonds very finely)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t fine grain sea salt
2/3 c shelled whole peanuts
1 c dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar, chopped
1 1/2 c popcorn, popped

instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate, then the peanuts, and then the popcorn. The dough is looser than a standard cookie dough, but they’ll cook up just fine. Ball about 1 Tablespoon of dough into your hands and place, an inch apart from one another, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet.

Bake for 14-17 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Carefully remove from sheet and cool cookies completely on a wire rack.