March 20, 2013

Devilish Potatoes

Makes 20 hors d’oeuvres
Total time: 1 1/2 hours || Active time: 20 minutes

Devilish Potatoes

I know. Adorable, right?

A tender roasted potato with a creamy, eggy filling. Sprinkled with a little paprika and a sprig of dill, they taste as irresistible as they look.

My first meeting with deviled potatoes was when my friend Lauren made them for an Omaha potluck. And of course I came to expect an inviting trayful at all subsequent potlucks. But then Lauren moved away and I was stuck staring at a tray of…nothing. Only my own tears.

The recipe she used (and I think most people use this one) is from VegWeb, called Potato Angels. Awww!

I wanted to make a version that would be perfect for Passover or Easter. Pop them into one of those vintage egg trays and impress everyone.

Happy first day of Spring, everyone!

Devilish Potatoes

Recipe Notes

~A little black salt, called kala namak, is used for the eggy flavor, but you can use regular old salt, too. Just reduce the amount to 3/4 teaspoon. But kala namak is a really fun ingredient, and great in tofu egg salads, or vegan omelets, so pick some up at a specialty shop or order it for good times.

~I actually didn’t have a vintage egg tray, so I cut off just a tiny sliver of potato at the bottom, to prevent wobbling. But a little wobble isn’t going to hurt anyone.

 ~Try to find egg-shaped yukon gold potatoes that are all as close in size as possible. As you can see from the pic, they aren’t going to be totally perfect, but that adds to the cuteness.

 ~Use a jar of ground black pepper instead of fresh ground black pepper. I dunno, it just kind of adds to the authenticity!

 ~If you don’t have a pastry tip you can slice off the corner of a plastic bag with a 1/2 inch slit and pipe the filling in that way. Alternatively, you can use a rounded tablespoon to scoop it in. But get a pastry bag and pastry tip (I used Wilton 4B), it’s fun!

1 1/2 lbs small thin-skinned potatoes, like yukon gold (about 10)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
3/4 cup vegetable broth (or water)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon kala manak black salt (or 3/4 teaspoon regular salt)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
A big pinch black pepper

For garnish:
Sweet paprika
Fresh dill

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slice potatoes across the waist and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Rub potatoes to coat, and place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

In the meantime, drain the cashews and place them in the blender with vegetable broth and turmeric. Blend until completely smooth, scraping the sides of the food processor with a spatula occasionally to make sure you get everything. This could 1 to 5 minutes depending on the strength of your blender.

When potatoes are tender, remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, but still hot, scoop the centers out with a melon baller or rounded teaspoon, leaving about 1/4 inch lining of potato inside.

Place the scooped out potato into a mixing bowl and mash until smooth. It’s important that they’re still warm so that they mash well. Add the cashew cream mixture, salt, lemon juice and black pepper, and continue to mash until well incorporated. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes so that the mixture stiffens up.

Once cool, scoop into pastry bag fit with a medium sized serrated tip (I use Wilton 4B) and fill potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika and top with a little sprig of thyme. Keep chilled until ready to serve! These taste best at room temp, I think. Enjoy!




March 17, 2013

Rice Noodle Salad With Grapefruit-Sriracha Vinaigrette

Serves 4 (Doubles well)
Active time: 30 minutes || Total time: 30 minutes

Rice Noodle Salad

If this were an item on a fancy restaurant menu it would be all: Chilled Rice Noodles In Grapefruit-Sriracha Vinaigrette. Then there would be a clean typeface listing all of the components with a classy flourish — “ruby grapefruit, sesame smoked tofu, black sesame, mint.” And then you’d be like “I’ll take three, please!”

This is a really pleasing spin on a Vietnamese noodle salad. It’s bright, fresh, zesty and studded with savory smoky flavors, too. What I love about cold noodle salads like this, is how the contrasting flavors create something otherworldly. And it’s easy on the eyes, as well. Pretty jewels of ruby red grapefruit, set off with the black sesame seeds. Wasn’t pink and black your favorite color combo in the 80s? Yes, mine, too!

The dressing on its own would be nice to keep bottled up in the fridge this spring. Is there any sweeter music to the ears than Grapefruit-Sriracha Vinaigrette?

And just one last thing. Don’t you get annoyed when your camera phone pics look better than the pics from your real camera? Such is the case here. (PS I’m on Instagram: IsaChandra.)

Cold Noodle Salad

Recipe Notes

~I used super firm tofu, because it doesn’t need to be pressed or anything, and it browns up in cast iron quickly and beautifully. You can buy it at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, for sure, and probably other places, too. And ya know, if you’re super lazy, you could just buy some smoked tofu. (While we’re at it, you can use a half block of pressed extra firm tofu instead. )

~I sliced my tofu into matchsticks that were about 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long. You can also do a small dice, if you prefer.

~Ooh, you know what else might be good? Instead of tofu, saute chickpeas in the smokey soy mixture. I bet that’d be yummy.

~Sriracha lovers: feel free to add a little extra! It’s got some heat, obviously, but I’d say it’s like, oh, let’s say a four on the one to ten heat scale.

~I used mini cucumbers, but you can use large ones sliced into half moons, instead.

~If you’d rather a green salad, that would be delicious, too! Just replace the noodles with crisp greens.

~Two large, juicy red grapefruits will be enough for this salad. One for its juice, the other to slice into the salad.

~Diced avocado would be great on this, too! I didn’t happen to have any.

For the tofu:
8 oz super-firm tofu, sliced into thick matchsticks (see pic)
3 tablespoons soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
3/4 cup fresh red grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salad:
8 oz pad thai rice noodles
2 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced (about a cup)
1 red grapefruit, cut into segments then halved
Black sesame seeds
1/4 cup finely sliced fresh mint
(I used sliced fresnos for garnish but, eh, you don’t need em.)

First, boil water for the noodles. While water is boiling prepare the tofu, prep veggies, and make dressing.

Prepare the tofu:
Preheat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat.

Measure the tamari, sesame oil and liquid smoke out onto a dinner plate. Dredge the tofu pieces into the mixture and toss to coat.

Spray pan with a little canola oil. Cook tofu, flipping often, until lightly to medium browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Prepare the noodles:
Once water has come to a boil, prepare rice noodles according to package directions, being careful not to overcook. Once noodles are tender, transfer to a colander and run under cold water to cool completely. Set aside.

Make the dressing:
Simply add all dressing ingredients to a blender and blend until very smooth. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Assemble the salad:
Toss together noodles, cucumbers, grapefruit segments and tofu. Coat with dressing, using your hands to mix (this way, you don’t break the tofu or smush the grapefruit). Garnish each individual serving with sesame seeds and mint. Serve cold!

March 10, 2013

Mushroom Stout Pie With Potato Biscuits

Serves 8
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes || Active time: 45 minutes

Mushroom Stout Pie

Oh my shamrocks, this is good. A fluffy potato biscuit soaking up a deeply savory gravy that is at once mysterious and familiar. The stout really gives this dish an allure, and two kinds of mushrooms make it meaty and earthy and just umami like nobody’s business. And ya know, for a special occasion, it’s not tooooo fussy.

I’m going to give you a few options here for the filling: one with frozen thawed tofu and one with straight-up kidney beans. I enjoyed both, with a slight preference for kidney beans only. My boyfriend, however, vastly prefered the tofu version. And he’s Scottish. And Scotland is near Ireland. So, you know, he’s kind of an authority.

I think it would also be great with some sauteed seitan or a few seitan sausages. But I’ll shut up now, and get to the recipe. Happy St. Paddy’s everyone!

UPDATED: I changed the broth to 3 cups after a few people said theirs looked a lot thinner than mine.

Mushroom Stout Pie With Potato Biscuits

Recipe Notes

~ For the tofu variation:
Omit 1/2  of the kidney beans. Freeze and thaw a 14 oz block of extra firm tofu. Press tofu to remove excess water (wrap in a kitchen towel and place a heavy book and a few cans on top, for an hour or so.) Cut 1/2 inch dice and add to the pot when you add the beans.

~ This recipe calls for “leftover mashed potatoes” but you may not have any laying around! To make about the cup called for here, microwave a russet potato, and mash with 1/4 cup unsweetened vegan milk, 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Let cool, then measure and use!

~ Stout is often processed with animal products (namely, isinglass, from fish) so check out Barnivore to see if a brand is vegan-friendly or not.

~ If you don’t have a stovetop-to-oven pot, then simply make the stew, place it in a 9×13 casserole and form the biscuits into a rectangle instead of a circle. Slice and arrange them on top of the casserole and bake as directed.

~ If you’re feeling lazy, or just want a simpler weeknight meal, make the stew portion of the recipe, and leave off the biscuits. Serve with some nice crusty bread.

For the stew:
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced medium
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 lb carrots, peeled, sliced into thin half moons
1 1/4 cups stout beer
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Fresh black pepper (a lot!)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups cooked kidney beans – 2 15 oz cans rinsed & drained [see note for tofu version]

For the biscuits:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes [see note on leftover mashed potatoes]
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cold water


Make the stew:
Place porcinis in a bowl that’s large enough to contain the 4 cups vegetable broth. If the porcinis look large, tear them into bite sized pieces. Boil the vegetable broth and pour it over the porcinis. Cover with a plate to keep hot, and prep everything you need for the recipes. This will soften them and make the recipe a bit faster.

Preheat a stovetop-to-oven dutch oven over medium heat. (See notes for non-dutch oven directions.) Saute onions and a pinch of salt in oil until until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, for about a minute, until fragrant.

Add sliced cremini mushroom (not the porcinis yet), celery, thyme and rosemary (crush herbs in your fingers) and saute for 5 minutes, until mushrooms release moisture and brown slightly.

Add carrots, stout, tomato paste, fresh black pepper and salt and bring to a boil. The liquid should reduce in about 3 minutes.

Add porcinis and vegetable broth, cover and bring to a full boil for 5 minutes or so, to finish cooking the porcinis.

Once porcinis are soft, in a measuring cup, mix the flour into one cup of cold water with a fork until no lumps are left.

Slowly add the water/flour to the pot, mixing well as you go. Let thicken for 5 minutes or so. Add the kidney beans, turn heat off and cover to keep warm. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425F and make the biscuits.

Make the biscuits:
In  a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, use a fork to mix together mashed potatoes, olive oil and water. It should be very loose and mushy.

Make a well in the center of the flour and add the potato mixture. Mix with a fork until a stiff dough starts to form, then turn the dough on to a clean surface and knead a few times to smooth out. Flatten into a disc 2 inches smaller than the pot with the stew in it. Slice like a tic tac toe board into 9 pieces and arrange the pieces on top of the stew.

Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top, and bubbling up thickly around the biscuits.

Let sit for 15 minutes or so, then serve!

March 6, 2013

Sweet Potato Soup With Ginger & Vanilla

Serves 6 to 8
Total time: 30 minutes || Active time: 15 minutes

Sweet Potato Soup

Here’s the vision: vanilla bean and ginger holding hands in a field of sweet potato, with pretty bursts of lime lighting their way, and just a touch of heat.

This recipe came about when I looked in my pantry and screamed “Is there anything at all interesting in here???!?!” The vanilla beans were like “Uh, hello, try us in soup?” So what if my blog has accidentally tripped and fallen face first into a big soup pot? It’s March and it’s dreary, and I can hardly manage to tie my shoes on these gray days, never mind cooking something any more complicated than soup.

Plus, this one has special powers!

For one, the aromatherapy. Try to feel seasonal affective disorder as the delicious scents of ginger and vanilla waft through your abode.

For another, teleportation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t cook with vanilla every day. It took me on a much needed vacation away from my comfort zone, to a more intriguing place.

So my vision for this recipe was a short but sweet ingredient list with nothing superflous and nothing wasted. Pure, clean flavors. I suppose I wanted to be the Raymond Carver of soup. Hope you love it! And hopefully the next pic I post will look like spring, and not Thanksgiving. Haha.

[ed note: I wrote this yesterday, and today, the sun is actually shining!]

Recipe Notes

~ Everything gets pureed in the end, so don’t stress too much about chopping things too perfectly.

~ My favorite method of scraping the vanilla bean is to slice the bean across the waist, using a steak knife. The slice each half lengthwise, and use the steak knife to scrape out all the delicious vanilla beaniness.

~ My little container of vanilla beans reminded me not to discard the skin! Throw empty vanilla skins into a cup of sugar, cover, and let it sit around for a week or so, giving  a stir every now again. BOOM! You have vanilla sugar. Put it in your coffee or something delicious like that.

~ Not really a note, but I know that yams are not botanically sweet potatoes, and I’ll be deleting all comments that yell at me about it. (Yes, people yell at me about yams sometimes. It happens!)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 lbs garnet yams, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (tip to use a steak knife)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onions in oil with a pinch of salt for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add ginger and red pepper flakes, and saute another minute or so.

Add yams, veggie broth and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat a bit to a slow simmer and cook until potatoes are tender – usually 5 more minutes or so.

Once tender, add the vanilla beans. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Or transfer the soup in batches to a blender or food processor to puree. Be sure to let the steam escape in between pulses so that the steam doesn’t build up and explode all over you. Then transfer the soup back to the pot.

Add maple syrup and lime and taste for salt. Thin with a little water, if necessary. You can eat immediately, but the flavor develops a lot as it sits. The lime mellows out and the vanilla becomes more pronounced, especially the next day. Serve garnished with lime, if you like. You may also want to do a coconut swirl, or something like that, if you’re feeling fancy.

Sweet Potato Soup

March 3, 2013

Smoky Tomato Lentil Soup With Spinach & Olives

Serves 6 to 8
Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 15 minutes

Smoky Tomato Lentil Soup

I’m not one of those people who freezes soup, although I do occasionally try to be one of those people, and then find the poor victim in the back of the freezer way too late. To avoid that tragedy, I’m usually simmering up a pot a few times a week, and there is almost always a lentil variety in the mix. It’s flexible and easy and takes to new flavors like a champ, so I’m always tinkering.

I rendevous with all manner of lentil; de puy, black lentils, red, you name it. But I always come back to the basic, dependable and oh-so-flavorful brown lentil. It’s my little black dress. And they’re like, what, $1.50 a pound, even for organic? That’s lentils for weeks, my friends.

This week, I had a windfall of smoked paprika. It’s one of those spices I love, but they don’t sell it where I usually do my shopping, and if I don’t make a special spice trip, the jar can languish empty for months. So when I picked up a beautiful fragrant baggy, I wanted to make up for lost time and use it in copious amounts. Add to that the scrumptious kalamata olives I had leftover, and some baby spinach that was dying to be used, and there you have it! A lush, flavorful, healthful soup that was just amazing served with a crusty baguette smeared with homemade hummus.

Recipe Notes

~ Since olives are salty, wait until after adding them to decide if you need more salt.

~ You can use hot smoked paprika instead of sweet, but do remember that it’s hot! So your soup is gonna’ be spicy. Start with a tablespoon and go from there.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
1 cup dried brown lentils (or green lentils)
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1 24 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
4 cups fresh baby spinach (or chopped spinach)
3/4 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives

Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium high heat. Saute onions in oil with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 15 seconds or so, then mix in the thyme and paprika.

Add the lentils, broth, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are almost tender. Add the tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes with your hands to get them into small pieces, as you add them. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for another 20 minutes or so, or until lentils are very tender.  Add spinach and olives and stir frequently until spinach is wilted and velvetty. Add water to thin, if necessary.

Taste for salt, and let sit for 10 minutes or so for flavors to marry, then serve!