Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Couple of Things

First, I wanted to introduce you to my roommate.  Her name is Brianna.

photo by Jimmy

I figured it was about time for you to meet her, since I talk about her so much.  She is The Greatest Roommate in the World.  Not only does she act as my sous chef when I need her, she eats anything (vegan) I put in front of her.  And I mean anything.  She'll even take seconds and thirds and throw in some compliments to the chef.  If that doesn't make a girl happy, I don't know what will.  I feel so fortunate to have her.

I also wanted to give you a little glimpse into our lives.  First and foremost: the food we eat.  Since Brianna is a vegan, I often make vegan meals.  Not because I'm vegan, but because I like to eat with my roommate and I want her to be able to enjoy the things that I cook.  I do occasionally cook meat and there are usually eggs and cheese in our fridge, but our kitchen is pretty much vegan otherwise.  Brianna has her own reasons for being vegan, and you can ask her about them, but I think we each just do what we can to eat well, support our local farmers, and limit our environmental impact.  For Brianna, part of that means being a vegan.  For me, part of that means feeding a vegan.

Not only do Brianna and I eat together, we shop together, hang out together, and drink together, too.  She's there for me when I need her, and she always listens.  She's been known to give some great advice in the past, and she even taught me how to ride a bike.  Did I mention that she also eats my food?  What a girl.

Finally, I wanted to provide some recipes from Eat In Week.  I've already posted the photos and written about the event, but here's the official menu with recipes:

Butter Beans with Shallots in Olive Oil

1 28-ounce can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 shallot, minced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss beans and shallot with lemon juice and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve with nice thick slices of baguette.

Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise

2 bunches asparagus
3 egg yolks
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted in a pan on the stove
pinch of cayenne pepper

Wash the asparagus and trim about 1-2 inches off the bottom of the stalks.  Bring a bit of water to a boil in the bottom half of a steamer pot, place asparagus in the top half of the steamer, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.  Alternately, bring a bit of water to boil in a large skillet (about 1/2 inch to 1 inch of water, depending on how much asparagus you have and how big your pan is), add asparagus, cook until tender, and drain.  Set aside.

To make the hollandaise, use a double boiler or a bowl over simmering water.  Use a stainless steal or glass bowl that is bigger than the mouth of the pan but that will sit comfortably in it.  In a medium sauce pan, bring a bit of water (fill the pot about a quarter of the way) to a simmer.  In a heatproof bowl, whisk together egg yolks and lemon until thickened and a light yellow color.  While continuously whisking, place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that it does not actually touch the water and that it does not get too hot (the bowl should never be too hot to hold), and begin to incorporate the butter.  Stream in the butter slowly while whisking until all butter is incorporated and the mixture has thickened (this works best with two people).  Remove from heat and add cayenne and salt, to taste.  Serve immediately with steamed asparagus.

Arugula, Fennel, and Chocolate Salad
Inspired by this salad from Molly Wizenberg of Orangette

2 bunches arugula (about 1/2 pound), washed, dried, and trimmed, if necessary
1 bulb fennel, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup chocolate, shaved or roughly chopped
juice of one orange
a drizzle or two of olive oil
salt and pepper

Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, thinly slice fennel.  Combine arugula, fennel, and chocolate in a large bowl.  Lightly toss with orange juice and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 red and/or green bell peppers, washed, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 Italian eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 yellow squash, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large tomatoes, cored and diced, about 1 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

I like to make each component of ratatouille separately, then combine it all at the end.  I think this allows each vegetable to develop its own distinct flavor; plus, not all the vegetables should be cooked for the same amount of time.  There are many ways to make ratatouille; feel free to improvise and add your own touches to this dish.

In a large skillet, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat.  When hot, add onion and garlic and cook until onion is just soft, about 5 minutes, then add bell peppers.  Cook under tender, about 7 more minutes.  Transfer to a large serving bowl.  In the same pan, heat a bit more olive oil and, when hot, add the eggplant.  Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of thyme.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 12 minutes.  Transfer eggplant to the same serving bowl.  Next, cook squash (zucchini and yellow together), again adding more oil to the pan if necessary.  Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of thyme, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to the same bowl.

Finally, throw the tomatoes into the pan with just a bit more oil and cook until just warmed up and softened.  Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of thyme, and add to the ratatouille.  Mix everything together, seasoning with salt, pepper, and the rest of the thyme (if there's any left) to taste.  Garnish with parsley and serve.

Quinoa with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, Tofu, and Ramp Pesto
Beware: ramp pesto is garlicky and addictive!

2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound ramps, rinsed and bulb ends trimmed
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the quinoa according to instructions on package, or by bringing quinoa and 4 cups of water to boil, reducing to a simmer, and cooking until all water is absorbed and the curlicue germs have separated from the quinoa.  Toss tomato halves with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place onto a baking sheet and bake until just starting to brown, about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, give the tofu a quick saute.  Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and, when hot, add tofu.  Cook for about 15 minutes, making sure all sides of the tofu get a nice browning.  Combine quinoa, tofu, and tomatoes in a large serving bowl.

To make the pesto:  Give the ramps a rough chop and throw them in a food processor with about 1/4 cup olive oil.  Give it a whirl, add a bit more oil if necessary, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Process until just smooth.  Toss quinoa salad with pesto and serve.  (For a more mild pesto, blanch the ramps for a couple of minutes before making the pesto.)

Kale Panzanella
I recently posted a different recipe for panzanella here, so I might call this one Panzanella, Part Two.  This is the kind of dish that I'd like to serve in my restaurant someday, whenever that might be.  It's just that good.

1 loaf crusty bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices
1 large bunch kale, rinsed, dried, and trimmed, then cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 large tomatoes, rinsed, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
10 leaves basil, cut into a chiffonade or just roughly chopped (I forgot the basil on the night of the dinner party, and the dish turned out just fine)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

In a large skillet, heat a bit of olive oil.  When hot, add a couple of slices of bread and fry until crisp and brown on each side.  Repeat with remaining slices of bread, then cut slices into thirds.  In the same pan, heat a bit more olive oil and add garlic.  When garlic is fragrant, add kale and cook until bright green and tender, about 7 minutes.  In a large serving bowl, combine kale, bread, tomatoes, and basil.  Toss with balsamic vinegar and a few drizzles of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and serve, with parmesan on the side.

Apple Cake
Inspired by this recipe from Vanessa of Coffee and Pie 

3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance), at room temperature
1/2 cup silken tofu, blended in a food processor until smooth and creamy
zest of 1 lemon and half of its juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9-inch non-stick round cake pan with neutral cooking spray.  Combine tofu, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl.  Add butter and stir with a wooden spoon until butter is all incorporated and mixture is smooth.  Add sugar and mix well.  Sift together flour and baking powder, then slowly begin to incorporate into the wet mixture.  Once everything has been well combined, pour into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown and crisp and center has set.  Let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a large serving platter.

(At the dinner party, I waited too long to do this last step and the cake had completely cooled when I went to turn it out.  Lo and behold, it had sealed itself to the pan.  But don't worry!  I did it right the night before - I waited only 10 minutes, then turned the cake out, and it came out perfect.)

2 large baking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegan butter

Meanwhile, place sliced apples and 1/4 cup butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Add 1/4 cup sugar and combine.  Cook until apples are soft, but not falling apart, and syrup has thickened, about 15 minutes.  Arrange apples nicely on the cake, or just pour the whole mess on top, and serve.  Either way, it will be delicious.  I promise.

What apple cake is supposed to look like!

1 comment:

  1. I have to second your comments on the lovely Brianna. She is a wonderful friend and will try absolutely anything! And Kat - you are a wonderful cook and friend as well. You both have great culinary and social insight! Love you both and cant wait to try the apple cake!