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Crispy Tandoori Tofu!

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I’ve posted a recipe for this tofu–or at least a variation of it–in the past but I made it for staff lunch today and thought I’d re-post it because it is so easy and delicious to make. Sometimes I eat it as a salad component but today I ate it on a sandwich with toum (my chickpea version of Lebanese garlic mayo), vegetables, and whole grain bread. Follow the links in this paragraph for the other components, and the tofu recipe is below.

Crispy Baked Tofu Marinated in Yogurt and Spices
1 (14 ounce) package extra firm tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Place it between two plates to allow the weight of a plate (or two) to press out additional moisture. Drain the tofu again and slice it into ½ inch slices, then lay it on a baking sheet. To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, lemon, garlic curry, turmeric, hot pepper, cumin, and salt. Mix the marinade, then pour it over the tofu, gently turning it to coat all sides. Preheat an oven to 400F and allow the tofu to marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a clean baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack (if you have one, otherwise place it directly on the baking sheet but lightly oil it first). Sprinkle the sesame seeds across the tofu and bake it for about 30 minutes, or until firm and slightly crisp (rotate the pan every 5 minutes or so for even cooking). This is delicious on a sandwich, salad, or as a simple snack; it can be eaten hot, room temperature, or chilled. 

Two delicious but unrelated recipes…

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At some point I’m pretty sure I’ve posted both of these recipes in the past, but not in quite some time. Anyhow, I had to make these yesterday at work for two separate events and thought I’d re-post them. What’s interesting, I thought, is that while neither of these recipes are remotely related to one another both can be served hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

 

Carrot Soup with Ginger, Curry and Yogurt
Makes about 2 quarts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoon honey or sugar
1-1/2 pounds peeled, diced carrots
4 cups chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion, ginger and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the curry and honey; sauté 2 minutes. Add the carrots, stock (or water) and salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower it to a simmer; skim any impurities that may rise to the surface. Cook the soup for approximately 45 minutes, or until the carrots are very soft. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor and purée until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and warm it, but do not boil (boiling it may curdle the yogurt).

German-Style Warm Potato Salad
Makes about 10-12 servings
5 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
10 Slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the peeled and sliced potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them. Set the pot over high heat and boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until cooked but not falling apart. While the potatoes are cooking, combine the diced bacon and vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and it begins to brown, then add the onion and cook another few minutes until the onion is cooked but not browned. Stir in the water and sugar; stir and scrape the sides of the pan to remove any bacon flavor that may have adhered there. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a bowl. Gently stir the bacon dressing into the potatoes while both are still warm. Allow the salad to rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the salad to a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature. 

The Anatomy of a Healthy but Really Delicious Pizza…

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Okay. So this pizza was delicious. I say “was” and not “is” because I ate more than half of it for dinner and I’ll likely eat the rest before the night is out. Anyhow, this post is more about the crust than what is on it (because you can really put whatever you like on a pizza). In an ongoing effort to make healthier bread and pizza dough I not only used 100% whole wheat flour (which I usually do) but I also added beans to the dough. This last step isn’t that unusual for me either as Ezekiel bread and its many variations are one of my favorite doughs. But what is a bit unusual is the amount of beans-to-flour ratio…the dough is made up of about 50% beans. I added just enough water to the beans to allow them to puree smoothly. Pictured below.

And then added enough flour to the bean puree (with a few other basic ingredients) to make a dough. Delicious. I’m not sure this would make a good bread, or should I say light bread, because of the high ration of beans, but it did make a fine pizza dough. On the pizza–as pictured below–I also added a thin coating of pesto (click for a recipe), a thin layer of tomato sauce (click for a recipe), a layer of broccoli aglio e olio (click for multiple recipes), and of course cheese (Ok, so the cheese is not the healthiest ingredient, but it is good and I cannot eat pasta or pizza without it). Anyhow, the recipe for the dough is listed after the photos.

Whole Wheat and Bean Pizza Dough


Makes enough dough for a 12-inch pizza


1 (15oz. can) beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup water

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1/3 cup bean puree

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

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2/3 cup bean puree

1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

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3 tablespoons virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (if needed)


Combine the beans and water in a blender and puree until smooth. This should make about 1 cup of puree. Divide the puree into two bowls; 1/3 in one bowl and 2/3 in another. In the first bowl (the one with 1/3 puree) stir in 1 teaspoon yeast and 1/4 cup flour. It will be thick and sticky; almost dough-like. In the second bowl (the one with 2/3 puree) stir in 1 tablespoon wheat gluten and ½ cup flour. This will also be dough-like. Cover the bowls with plastic and allow them to rest and ferment for 1 hour. Then combine the contents of both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Also add to the bowl the olive oil, two teaspoons of instant yeast, the honey, and the salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 10 minutes. If the dough is too wet or sticky add the additional 2 tablespoons of flour. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for an hour or two. Use with any pizza recipe.


On Cooking for One’s Self…

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That’s Maxwell and Franklin above staring at me while I cook my dinner. By the look in their eyes you’d think that I never feed them…but they just finished eating their dinner. So what do they have to do with cooking for One’s Self? Well, not much on the one hand, but on the other, a lot. I can have a super stressful day or evening at work and they are always there to greet me with a snort and wag when I arrive home. It’s been a known fact for quite some time that caring for a dog makes a person happier, but in the same way cooking can be a form of therapy, too (cooking can even be a spiritual practice...if you let it). Food, of course, nourishes far more than just the physical body. But, as usual, I’m jumping ahead.

Many of you know by now that I cook for a living. And cooking at work is way different than cooking for myself at home. Work cooking is often stressful for so many reasons; cooking at home is not. When I cook at work it is in large amounts while I am also managing a staff, food costs, etc, etc. But at home it is peaceful. With my son off at college it is just me and the pugs. I’ll often drink wine and listen to NPR. This to me is pure luxury.

I am fully convinced everyone should cook for themselves (and really for themselves). If not everyday, then at least now and again. This is especially true for those in the food-service industry. I can’t tell you how many times I hear a colleague state that after cooking all day or all evening the night prior the last thing they want to do is cook at home. I can’t help but think of what this person is missing out on when they don’t cook just for themselves now and again. A person that serves others on a daily basis (whether it’s food service or any other form of service, such as health care or ministry) really needs to take care of themselves, too. And cooking for myself is a way of tending to myself…physically, of course, but also–at times–emotionally and spiritually as well.

It’s interesting in that while I’m at work and there is so much going on all at the same time cooking is sometimes automatic…I don’t even think about it. I just do it. Sometimes I don’t even smell the air thick with aroma because I am so accustomed to it after all these years. But at home it’s different. I’m aware of everything. I of course cook with all five senses at work (one has to), but at home it’s as if it’s amplified. At work the food I cook is dictated by what the customer (club member) orders. But at home the food that I cook are things that I enjoy. And nine times out of ten this is either a pasta dish or a rice dish. I really love Mediterranean and Near Eastern foods, so this is usually what I make myself. And while I am not a vegetarian I rarely cook meat at home unless my son is here.

The sense of smell and taste are said to be the two strongest memory senses…the aroma or taste of something can quite literally transport you to a different time and place. Tonight, for example, I made a brown rice dish with chickpeas and spinach, and seasoned it with sofrito and Lebanese seven-spice blend. The sweet smell of Lebanese spices always brings me back to my youth, of going to my grandmothers house. It was the first smell that tickled your nose when you walked through the front door.

And when I rolled out whole wheat flatbread I used my grandmothers rolling pin, which I inherited and is said to have been brought from the “old country” at the beginning of the previous century. I made the bread while the rice cooked and topped it with an herb pesto, which was made from herbs that grew just outside my front door this past summer.

Before the rice was finished I washed and sliced a locally grown apple. After taking a sip of wine and then biting the apple it was alarmingly tart, but in a good way. When I finally sat down to my meal in front of the radio the national news was on. And as usual there was a lot of bad stuff to report. So before I dug in I sat in silence for a minute and looked at all I had in front of me…the beautiful plate of rice, bread with pesto, wine, fruit, and a small plate of spicy fermented cabbage made from cabbage that grew in my garden as well. And I felt almost overwhelmed with gratefulness…that I had so much–too much at times–while some have so little. So I sat for a minute. Then I thanked God (or Spirit, or Universe, or whatever term you identify with) for not only all that I have, but also all that I am given in the desire and ability to cook such a good meal. Then I ate while my dogs looked on, knowing that tomorrow’s meal would be just as good…leftovers!

For a brown rice and beans recipe, click here.
To learn how to make sofrito, click here.
For my version of Lebanese Seven Spice blend, click here.
For a really basic whole wheat bread dough for flatbread, use this recipe.
For a recipe on how to make any herb into pesto, click here.
To learn about fermented foods in general, including spicy cabbage, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Pesto!

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Pesto is similar to sofrito in that it is both an ingredient and a stand-alone recipe. It can be eaten as is–as a dip or spread–or added to recipes as a flavor enhancer. The word loosely translates from the Italian as “pounded,” because this was originally made with a mortar and pestle. But with the aid of a blender this is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make. It is classically made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and cheese, but ingredients can be interchanged. Tonight, for example, I made it with basil and parsley (which were still growing in the garden), almonds that I had in my pantry, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and a single hot pepper that was still growing in the garden. I tossed it with pasta for dinner and froze what I didn’t use. Here’s a basic recipe.

Pesto

Makes about 3/4 cup
.

1 cup fresh herbs
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nuts
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Urban Simplicity.

Scampi!

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This is a simple but classic dish. Make this at home in minutes and save lots of money from what you’d pay in a restaurant (but then you have to wash the pans and dishes). Anyhow, this is really simple and truly flavorful. If you’ve never made this recipe before I hope you give it a try.

Shrimp Scampi

Serves 2-4

12 large shrimp, shells and veins removed but tails remaining
a few ounces flour for dusting
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ lemon, sliced
½ cup white wine
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ bunch parsley, washed and minced

Dredge the shrimp in the flour. Heat a skillet with the butter over medium high heat. When the butter is melted and begins to bubble add the shrimp. Cook it for a minute or so on one side, then turn it over and add the garlic. Stir and shake the pan gently. After another minute add the lemon, wine, and salt. Simmer the shrimp for a couple minutes, or until cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly, then stir in the minced parsley. Serve with rice pilaf or over pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

Three Loaves and a Pie…

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I haven’t posted this recipe in a while and I made it this morning so I thought I’d re-post it (as it is one of my favorites). It’s my basic whole wheat bread recipe with the addition of oats…delicious and nutritious. And is often the case, after the first rise of the dough (before I cut it into loaves) I pinched a piece off and made a small pizza for lunch (which I baked while the loaves rose and ate while they baked). And the pizza itself is a sort of reflection of this past summer…the tomatoes (which are now sauce) and the eggplant were both grown just outside my front door.

Whole Wheat Honey-Oatmeal Bread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 ½ cups water, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt


Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity.

No recipe needed…

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One of my food purveyors delivered a case of peaches today from which these two come. Perfect, I thought (or likely said aloud) as I opened the case. I took one and bit in and sweet nectar ran down my chin. In some instances, such as this, I also thought to myself, I could not create a recipe using these peaches that would improve them. They are perfect as is. No recipe needed. Mother nature is amazing. I just felt like saying this and sharing the photos.

A Dish of Peaches in Russia

With my whole body I taste these peaches,
I touch them and smell them.  Who speaks?

I absorb them as the Angevine
Absorbs Anjou.  I see them as a lover sees,

As a young lover sees the first buds of spring
And as the black Spaniard plays his guitar.

Who speaks?  But it must be that I,
That animal, that Russian, that exile, for whom

The bells of the chapel pullulate sounds at
Heart.  The peaches are large and round,

Ah! and red; and they have peach fuzz, ah!
They are full of juice and the skin is soft.

They are full of the colors of my village
And of fair weather, summer, dew, peace.

The room is quiet where they are.
The windows are open.  The sunlight fills

The curtains.  Even the drifting of the curtains,
Slight as it is, disturbs me.  I did not know

That such ferocities could tear
One self from another, as these peaches do.

Urban Simplicity

These Are Lip Smackin’ Good…no joke

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  Okay, so these may not be the healthiest thing I’ve posted on this blog, but geeze o’ man are they delicious. Boneless chicken tenders marinated in buttermilk and spices, then breaded with oatmeal and pan-fried (and yes, before you ask, these can be baked instead of pan-fried but they would loose some of their crispiness). And paired with the sweet and spicy (and really easy to make) strawberry-horseradish sauce, these things can be addicting. Anyhow, I hope you try these.

 

Buttermilk-Oatmeal Chicken Tenders with Strawberry-Horseradish Dipping Sauce



Makes about 18 Chicken Tenders


1 pound boneless chicken breast


For the buttermilk marinade:
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt


For the coating:
2 cups oatmeal
3 eggs
¼ cup milk
2 cups whole wheat flour


Oil for pan-frying


Place the sliced chicken in a bowl or shallow pan. Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together and pour over the chicken. Gently stir the chicken to allow the marinade to coat all sides. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Place the oatmeal in a food processor or blender and pulse it until it resembles a coarse meal. Mix the eggs with the milk. Arrange three pans in this order: one pan containing the flour, the second containing the egg-milk mixture, and the third containing the oatmeal. If you are right-handed, do this from left to right, and if you are left-handed do this from right to left. Place a clean pan next to the oatmeal and the marinated chicken next to the flour. Coat the chicken, one piece at a time, by first dipping it in the flour, then the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. As the chicken is coated arrange the pieces on the clean pan.


Heat about ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, gently add a portion of it to the pan without overcrowding the pan (the chicken should sizzle as it touches the oil, if it does not this means the oil is not hot enough). Cook the chicken on both sides for a couple minutes, until it is golden and cooked throughout. Transfer the chicken to absorbent paper and cook the remainder of the chicken as needed.


Strawberry-Horseradish Dipping Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


1 cup strawberry preserves
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons horseradish
Combine the preserves and orange juice in a small pot and bring it to a simmer. Stir the preserves with a wire whip to dissolve it. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, mixing it to make sure the cornstarch has dissolved, then stir it into the strawberry-orange mixture. Cook the sauce for a couple minutes, until it thickens slightly. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the horseradish. The sauce can be serves hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

The Mother Loaf…

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Ezekiel Bread; a meal in itself. I’ve posted this recipe a few times prior, but not in quite a while. It is my favorite bread (to eat and to make) and in fact is still the #1 reason people visit this blog. More than 500 people find their way to my little page each day for this simple but delicious recipe. As I’ve also mentioned before, while this recipe looks somewhat difficult to make, it is really not (read the directions in steps). One of the biggest difficulties people seem to have is that the dough is too wet (likely from not squeezing out the beans and grain enough). This is not a problem, simply add additional flour. This bread is not only delicious, but also nutritious. If you are a baker, or someone who wants to bake, I hope you try this recipe…you won’t be sorry. There are additional links below.

Whole Wheat Ezekiel Bread
Makes 3 loaves
12 cups water
2 tablespoons white beans
2 tablespoons red beans
2 tablespoons spelt berries
2 tablespoons lentils
2 tablespoons barley
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
___________________
cooked beans and grains
½ cup cooking water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
___________________

4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups cooking liquid
___________________
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
3 teaspoons instant yeast

Boil the grains in the water in logical succession according to cooking times: first the white and red beans (about 60 minutes), when they are soft add the, spelt berries, lentils, and barley (about 30 minutes); lastly, add the millet and bulgar (about 10 minutes). The key is that after each addition the previous grain must be soft enough so that when all of the grains are in the pot they will all be equally soft; undercooked grains (especially the beans) can really ruin this bread. And as the grains cook add more water to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which is full of nutrients, will become part of the recipe (keeping a lid on the pot will slow it’s evaporation). After the grains are cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature, refrigerating if necessary. After the grains are cooled drain them, squeezing them with your hands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.

Place two bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. In one bowl combine the cooked and drained grains with ½ cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups cooking liquid; stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not to get yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at room temperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

For additional directions and photos on how to make this bread, click here.

The read my views and philosophy on this bread, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

New Orleans Red Beans-and Rice Burgers

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These are a variation of a few different vegetarian/bean burgers I’ve made and posted somewhat recently, and a play on the classic New Orleans red beans-and-rice recipe. While this recipe is equally delicious it is a bit more labor intensive than my other vegetarian burger recipes (but not really) in that you have to cook rice before you make the burgers. Now I know that if you are a native New Orleanian or have Creole/Cajun roots you will disagree with this recipe. But I mean no disrespect and it is–I believe–really delicious. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Crescent City on more than a few occasions and had fallen in love with it at first glance. The first time I was there in the mid 19-80’s I was traveling with a friend and pretty much survived on red-beans-and rice for a couple months (which was 99 cents at a local restaurant), and plenty of Dixie beer, too. Anyhow, I hope you try this recipe; it is easy to make and really delicious.

New Orleans Red Beans-and Brown Rice Burgers


Makes about 10 (4 ounce) burgers


4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons black pepper
¾ cup brown rice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can red beans, rinsed and drained
2 eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 bunch green onion, sliced thin
1 cup shredded cheddar (3-4 ounces)
½ cup hot pepper sauce
1 ½ cup bread crumbs (plus extra for dusting)
Olive oil for cooking


Heat the olive oil in a small pot over medium heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook the onion and pepper for about five minutes, or until they just begin to brown, then add the onion and cook another minute or two. Turn the flame to low and stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, turmeric, and black pepper; cook the spices for a minute to bring out their flavor. Stir in the rice, coating it with oil and spices, then stir in the broth. Bring the broth to a boil, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer the rice for 30-40 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked (if too much broth evaporates before the rice is cooked ad more as needed). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the beans. Transfer to a shallow pan and refrigerate until cool. Divide the rice-and-bean mixture into two portions. Place the first half in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarse but not pureed, then transfer it to a clean bowl. Add the remaining half of rice-and-beans to the food processor along with the eggs, salt, green onion, cheddar, and hot pepper sauce; process until a smooth paste. Add this to the bowl with the coarser mixture along with the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Divide the mix into ten balls and shape into burgers, transferring them to platters or a baking sheet that is lightly dusted with breadcrumbs. Heat a large heavy skillet with 1/8th inch olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers for about 10 minutes, turning them as necessary, or until golden, crispy, and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

The Spice is Right (two super flavorful and delicious recipes)…

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Spices really are amazing aren’t they? Not only are some used for food preservation and medicinal purposes (not to mention preventative medicine) they also make even the blandest foods taste really incredible; these recipes are two examples of this. And both of these recipes, while delicious hot from the oven or skillet, are equally delicious at room temperature or even cold from the fridge. The tofu, for example, when chilled makes a great meat alternative on sandwiches.

Tandoori-Style Tofu

Serves 4 

1 pound extra-firm tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices ginger, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded
½ small onion, diced

3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Black sesame seeds to garnish (optional) 

Remove the tofu from its package and drain it. Set the tofu on a plate with 2 or 3 plates on top of it, gently squeezing out some of it’s moisture. Leave the tofu to drain for 10-15 minutes. Combing all the remaining ingredients except the sesame seeds in a food processor or blender (yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, onion, curry, and salt), and process until smooth. Pour the marinade into a shallow pan. Slice the tofu about ½ inch thick (and crosswise if you would like smaller pieces). Lay the tofu slices in the marinade, turning them to coat all sides. Marinate the tofu for ,30-60 minutes. Preheat and oven to 350F. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet that is fitted with a wire rack, leaving some of the marinade on the tofu. Sprinkle the tofu with black sesame seeds and bake it in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the tofu begins to brown at its edges. This is delicious straight from the oven, at room temperature, or chilled as a snack or sandwich ingredient.
 

Aloo Gobi

(Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas)

Serves 4 

¼ cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices ginger, minced
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon whole cumin seed
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and chopped 

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and add the onion and potato. Cook these for a couple minutes, until they just begin to change color. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Stir in the black mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, cumin seed, and crushed hot pepper; cook for a minute to release it’s flavor and aroma, then stir in the cauliflower, coating it with oil and spices. Add the water, then cover the skillet and cook the potatoes and cauliflower for a couple minutes. Stir in the peas and lemon juice; cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Urban Simplicity.

Chicken-less Fingers…

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Okay. So these are really good. These are a play on chicken fingers which of course are a knock off of chicken wings. In my continued effort to eat less meat I made these today as an alternative to the chicken fingers I cooked for staff lunch at work. And rather than tossing them in butter and hot sauce and then dipping them in creamy blue cheese dressing (as traditional Buffalo style wings are) I included the hot sauce and Gorgonzola cheese in the actual mix. The finished product was, if I do say so myself, quite addicting. To read a story with recipes regarding the history and my personal history with chicken wings (originally n Buffalo Spree Magazine), click here. And btw, in Buffalo they are simply called wings.

Buffalo Style Chickpea Fritters

(a.k.a. Chicken-less Fingers)


Makes 24 small patties or fritters


2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 eggs

½ cup Frank’s hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon granulated onion

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped

1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola (3-4 ounces)

1 cup bread crumbs (plus extra for coating)


Oil for cooking


Combine all of the ingredients except the cheese and breadcrumbs in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the cheese and breadcrumbs; mix until thoroughly combined. Divide the mix into about twenty four small balls, and shape them into patties or tubes. One-by-one, dip them in a bowl of water very briefly then coat them in breadcrumbs, shaking of any excess crumbs. Heat about ½ inch canola or olive oil in a skillet, and fry the fritters—in batches if necessary—on both sides until golden brown, crispy, and cooked throughout. Drain on absorbent paper. 

Thoughts on the Perfect Pear, and another quick note

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I had this with dinner  this evening. Perfect. Just right. But I’m also fully aware that it is likely from last fall, seeing it is not in season at present. I ate it with a large chopped salad dressed simply with virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and course sea salt. It was truly delicious. Why, I sometimes wonder, do we (I) make such a fuss over food when it’s nearly perfect already. Okay, I’ll stop with the mushy stuff.

But anyhow, I just wanted to mention that I’ll be away from my computer for a few days. I’ll likely post again on the 7th or 8th. Until then…peace.

Urban Simplicity.

This is way more fun than cutting a lawn…

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It has been more than ten years since I tore up my teeny front lawn and planted a teeny vegetable garden which yields big results. And over the years it–the garden–has spread to other areas around the house; the side and rear, mainly. But this year–because of various reasons–I have only planted the front yard garden…sort of getting back to basics. It’s doing well and tonight was the first significant haul of the season…broccoli. It is so satisfying picking the broccoli and cooking it just feet from where it grew and remembering when you planted it (I could go on). At any rate, I’ve posted this recipe numerous times prior but it is one f my favorite. It is simple, nutritious, and really easy to make. If you haven’t made this yet I hope you give it a try.

 

Penne alla aglio e olio con broccoli in brodo

(Penne with Garlic, Oil, Broccoli, and Chicken Broth)

Yield: 4 servings
3/4 pound whole wheat penne
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta and drain it. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with the garlic and hot pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to change color add the chicken broth and salt. Cook the broth for one minute, until it reduces by half, and then add the broccoli. Toss the broccoli for a few minutes. Add the cooked pasta, and stir it until thoroughly coated with the other ingredients. Stir in the cheese just before serving.

Moules Marinière!

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I’ve posted this recipe before but not in a while. It is really delicious and so easy to make…quite literally put everything in a pot and place it over a fire. Anyhow, I made a large pot of these at work this evening (a scoop of them is pictured straight from the pot) and thought I’d post this recipe again. Here it is…

Moules Marinière

Makes 4 servings.

3 pounds mussels, washed, rinsed, and de-bearded

1/2 cup white wine

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 plum tomatoes, diced

Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

1 handful flat-leaf parsley, washed and chopped


Place all of the ingredients except the parsley in a low-sided pot or a very large skillet. Cover the pan and place it over a fast flame. Cook the mussels, shaking the pan occasionally, until they open, then cook for an additional minute. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the parsley across the mussels.

Kibbet Batata with Broccoli Cheddar Hashwa and Lentil Salsah

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This is a contemporary version (fusion?) of traditional Lebanese kibbeh (pie or patties made with meat or vegetables and bulgar wheat). Most often this is made with meat (and sometimes eaten raw), but there are plenty of vegetarian versions out there as well, and this is just one of them. The vegetable recipes are usually eaten during Lent, but in my opinion are just as good any time. Potato is one of the traditional recipes, but what makes this nontraditional is the hashwa (stuffing)…it is made of broccoli and cheddar. Anyhow, this may look complicated at first, but it’s really not. Each recipe is really simple to make. And as always, these are just suggestions, use whatever seasonings or ingredients that suits your needs or tastes.

Kibbet Batata with Broccoli Cheddar Hashwa and Lentil Salsah
(Potato and Bulgar Wheat Patties with Broccoli Cheddar Stuffing and Lentil Sauce)
For the Kibbeh:
Makes about a dozen patties
1/3 cup bulgar wheat
1 rather large potato, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 large egg
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Lebanese seven spice blend
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup whole wheat flour (or more if needed)
Place the bulgar in a small bowl and cover it with room temperature water. Let the bulgar soak for about 20 minutes. Boil the potato until soft, then drain it thoroughly. Drain the bulgar, squeezing any excess water, then combine it with the cooked potato in a bowl and bash it gently, then set aside. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and cook it for another minute or two. Transfer the onion and garlic to the bowl with the potato and bulgar along with the remaining ingredients (parsley, egg, salt, 7-spice, turmeric, and flour). Mix together thoroughly, then let rest for a few minutes. At this point the kibbeh can be baked in a pan, shaped into balls or patties (stuffed or plain) and fried, or shaped into balls or patties and braised in a sauce.
For the Broccoli and Cheddar Hashwa (Stuffing)
1 head cooked broccoli
3-4 ounces cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon sea salt
Using a food processor fitted with a grating attachment, grate the cheddar and broccoli (lacking a food processor, hand grate the cheese and mince the broccoli by hand). Add the salt and mix together in a bowl.
To Assemble the Kibbeh
Divide the dough into about twelve balls. Flatten them to about ½ inch. Place a portion of the stuffing onto each piece of dough. Gently lift the dough with the stuffing (you’ll likely need a spatula for this), and with wet hands wrap the dough around the stuffing, sealing it in. Shape the dough into discs, patties, balls, or football shapes. Cook to your preference (fried, baked, braised, etc).
Spicy and Lemony Lentil-Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 small bell pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 (14 ounce can) small diced tomatoes
1/3 cup dried lentils
2 cups chicken broth
¼ cup lemon juice
Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and pepper, then the garlic, cooking them until they just begin to brown. Stir in the crushed hot pepper, salt, and turmeric; cook for a minute or two while stirring. Then add the tomatoes, broth, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil then lower to a very low simmer. Cook the sauce for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the lentils are soft and the sauce has reduced and thickened. If it becomes too thick, add additional broth.

Fourteen Bean, Grain, and Legume Bread (a meal in every slice)

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I’ve posted this recipe some time ago but it is so easy to make and so delicious that I thought I would re-post it. This is really a variation of my Ezekiel Bread recipe (click here or here) but somewhat simplified in that you boil the beans all at once rather than in stages. And while I used 14 different beans and legumes nearly any can be used, or even just one (the recipe below reflects this).

What I find interesting about this bread is that while it adds tons of nutrition to the bread it also adds a soft texture. And interestingly, the beans mostly are mashed into the bread itself when kneaded. You can see in the image above there are just specs of beans in the finished slice. And if you are worried that this is a difficult bread to make, don’t be…basically, after boiling the beans or grains you simply make this like you would any other whole wheat bread except you utilize the cooking liquid as the water and add the beans to the dough.

Whole Bean Bread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves
12 cups water
1 cup dried beans
___________________
cooked beans and grains
½ cup cooking water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
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4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups cooking liquid
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1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
3 teaspoons instant yeast

Boil the beans until very soft. As the beans cook add more water to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which is full of nutrients, will become part of the recipe (keeping a lid on the pot will slow it’s evaporation). After the beans are cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature, refrigerating if necessary. After the beans are cooled drain them, squeezing them with your hands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.

Place two bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. In one bowl combine the cooked and drained beans with ½ cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups cooking liquid; stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not to get yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at room temperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Black Bean Cheddar Burgers (Yum!)

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Yes these are as good as they look, and of course they are easy to make also. If you’ve ever wanted to make your own meatless burger this is a good one to try. And also, as usual, this recipe is simply a guide. Change the beans, seasonings, etc., to suite your person liking. And before you ask–because I already know that your thinking it–I’ll answer three questions:

1. Can these be made completely vegan? Yes, simply omit the egg and the cheese, and if you like replace it with soy cheese. It may have a more crumbly texture, but still be just as flavorful.

2. Can these be made gluten free? Yes. Cooked brown rice or uncooked instant oats would likely be good substitutes for the breadcrumbs. To use the cooked rice puree it with the beans, and when using oats (which would likely be a better option), add them when you would the bread crumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes or so to allow the oats to absorb moisture. This, too, will probably yield a more crumbly texture but still be just as flavorful.

3. Can these be baked instead of pan-fried to alleviate fat. Yes, definitely. Simply lay them flat on a baking sheet and bake them in a preheated oven. The only difference is that they probably will not have the crispy crust as pictured, but they will still be just as flavorful.

I really hope you try these because they are so easy to make and really flavorful. I’d be interested in hearing how they came out, and if you tried any variations (of those listed or your own).

Black Bean Cheddar Burgers
Makes about 10 (4 ounce) burgers
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded cheddar (3-4 ounces)
1 cup bread crumbs (plus extra for dusting)
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ small onion, minced
½ red bell pepper, minced
¼ cup hot pepper sauce
Olive oil for cooking
Place half of the beans in a food processor and pulse for just a few seconds, until coarse but slightly mashed; transfer these beans to a large bowl. Add the remaining beans to the food processor with the eggs, and process until very smooth; add the bean-egg puree to the bowl with the coarse beans. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl (but not the olive oil which is for cooking the burgers) and mix well. Let the mix rest for a couple minutes, then mix it again. Divide the mix into ten balls and shape into burgers, transferring them to platters or a baking sheet that is lightly dusted with breadcrumbs. Heat a large heavy skillet with 1/8th inch olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers for about 10 minutes, turning them as necessary, or until golden, crispy, and cooked throughout. Transfer to absorbent paper before serving.

Farfalline with Asparagus, Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Saffron, Garlic Confit, and Fontinella

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This is a continuation of a previous post regarding garlic confit…here’s an example of a recipe in which I used it. I made this for staff lunch at work yesterday. At first glance this may look complicated but it is really very simple…and really delicious. Other than the chicken broth this recipe is meatless but it would go really well with seafood or poultry. This is also a restaurant-quality recipe that can be made in your home kitchen for a fraction of the cost. If I were only allowed one word to describe this dish it would be: Flavor (and the accompanying sound would be: Mmmm…)

Farfallinewith Asparagus, Tomatoes, Chicken Broth, Saffron, Garlic Confit, and Fontinella
Makes about 4 servings.
½ pound farfalline
1 cup chicken broth
1 pinch saffron
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, diced
4 cloves garlic confit
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup shredded Fontinella cheese
Cook the pasta al dente in plenty of salted boiling water, then drain it and set aside. Bring the chicken broth to a boil, add the saffron, remove it from the heat and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook it for a couple minutes, then add the garlic confit, mashing the garlic with the back of a spoon. Add the tomatoes and then the saffron- chicken broth. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer the broth for a couple minutes, then add the asparagus and salt. Stir and cook the asparagus for a couple minutes, until just cooked, then stir in the pasta. Gently stir the pasta to coat and reheat it (if too much broth has evaporated add more). Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cheese, gently folding and tossing it to coat evenly.

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