Sunday, December 12, 2010

How To Roll Your Own...Stuffed Grape Leaves

Back in the day, I used to love to eat at Robert's Deli, a Lebanese joint on 9th South and about 1050 East, in the building that now houses a flyfishing equipment store (?!). When they closed, what I found myself craving and unable to find anywhere else in Salt Lake was the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves. Eventually I checked out just about every Lebanese cookbook at the main library trying to duplicate them, and I think I did it - or at least my memory has faded enough that I'm okay with the result!

Liz' Lebanese-Style Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

The Ingredients:

1 32-oz. jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed
1 large onion, minced
2 tblspn. olive oil
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 1/4 c. short or medium-grain white rice
1 1/2 c. water
3.5 oz. sundried tomatoes, soaked for 10 minutes in hot water (reserve liquid, use as part of water called for above)
1/4 c. minced fresh parsley
Juice of 1 lemon

The Instructions:

1. Put minced onion and olive oil in a microwave-safe dish, cover with lid and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Remove from microwave and add spices, tomato paste, rice and water. Stir well.

3. Cover and microwave for 4 minutes. While cooking, mince sundried tomatoes.

4. Add minced tomatoes to rice mixture, stir well. You are now ready to stuff the leaves...

5. Line a pot with scrawny, torn reject leaves...

6. Pack in the stuffed leaf rolls. You want them to be snug. If you leave them too much room, the rice inside will expand, take on too much water, and be soggy-ish. You don't want that!

7. Weight down the leaves with a plate or lid, and a heat-resistant mug. Slowly add water to barely cover the rolled leaves.

8. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and gently continue boiling until nearly all of the water is absorbed. This should take about 40 minutes.

9. Put in a covered dish to cool. This will help "even out" the moisture levels - some rolls will be drier than others. Really, it is best to let them sit overnight in the fridge this way, but I rarely manage to plan that far ahead!

10. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm, with Lemon-Cucumber Sauce (see  recipe below).

Lemon-Cucumber Sauce:
1 cup plain soy yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into large chunks
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 cloves garlic, pressed

Put everything but the yogurt into a food processor and puree until mostly smooth, then stir into yogurt. (In a pinch, put it all in the blender, including the yogurt.) Let sit at least an hour before serving to let the flavors meld. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ecuadorian Quinoa Stew

Let's face it: I can't really follow a recipe to save my life. I think everything is better with more tomatoes and cilantro and cumin, so, there you have it! Also, I've been looking for more ways to use up the bag of Costco quinoa in my cupboard. Thus, I give you: Liz' Ecuadorian Quinoa Stew.

(Adapted from Moosewood Daily Special)

3/4 c. raw quinoa
1 tblspn olive oil
3 cups onions, chopped
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground black pepper

2 c. diced potato
1 1/2 c. chopped bell pepper

5 cups water
2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup diced zucchini
2 tblspn lemon juice
2 tblspns minced cilantro

Rinse quinoa and let drain. Saute onions in olive oil with salt until translucent. Add spices and saute two minutes more. Add potatoes, peppers, water, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add zucchini and simmer for 15 more minutes, or until all veggies are done. Add lemon juice and cilantro, and serve. Top with crushed tortilla chips or green onions or cheese. Yummy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vegan Orange Cranberry Rolls

This is my go-to dessert/brunch dish these days. Because, really, is there anything better than bread fresh from the oven (especially if it is sugary)? Soooooooooo yummy...And bread is just so forgiving in general, it's perfect for those who hate to measure stuff, LOL. I'll attempt to recount vaguely accurate measurements...

Put in breadmaker pan in the order listed:

2 tsp. yeast
2 tblspn. sugar
1 c. soymilk, lukewarm
1/4 c. orange juice
1 tblspn. fresh orange zest
2 tblspn. softened Earth Balance margarine (can substitute olive oil)
4 c. all-purpose flour or "bread flour"
1 3/4 tsp. salt

Start breadmaker on "dough setting" and watch it for a minute. Add water or flour if necessary to get that perfect dough consistency - no flour remaining on sides, but not sloggishly wet either.

When the beep for adding raisins and whatnot goes off, add a cup of dried cranberries. This happens when my breadmaker has gone through one kneading and rising phase, at 55 minutes remaining. You can add the cranberries at the very beginning, but they tend to get rather pulverized into little bits if you do that.

After the dough is finished, roll into a rectangle approximately 16 x 10 inches. Spread 2 tablespoons of softened Earth Balance on dough, and evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon orange zest on top. Roll tightly and pinch to seal edge. Cut into 1 inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Place in oiled cake pan, with edges of rolls barely touching. Cover with a towel and let rise until double in size, about 40 minutes.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375º, or until golden brown. Don't overcook them if you like em gooey!

For the frosting:
Mix together 2 tablespoons softened Earth Balance and 2 tsp. orange zest. Add 1 1/2 c. Powdered sugar to bowl. Add 2 tablespoons orange juice, a teaspoon at a time, mixing well until you get the consistency you like. Spread on mostly-cooled rolls and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Real Life Level Fiver!

So, I'm back in the kitchen when I overhear a conversation at the counter between Michelle and a male customer, 20-something, wearing a white knit beanie with what appears to be Hebrew lettering around the edge.

Customer: "What kind of soymilk do you have?"

Michelle: "Silk Unsweetened Organic."

Customer: "I don't drink Silk - it isn't really vegan. It's not Kosher vegan."

My ears prick up - I've been calling myself a "wannabe vegan" for almost a year now, because I've pretty much eliminated dairy and eggs in my home cooking. And I *LOVE* Silk brand soymilk products (I look forward to Silk Nog all year - I can attribute any extra holiday weight gain to that stuff, I tell ya.)

The customer proceeds to explain that Kosher restrictions are so much more rigorous than any other food standards, and that because the Silk has a "D" next to the Kosher symbol, there is a possibility that some dairy is allowed in the product. He said, "It might be one one-hundredth of a percent. I'd just rather not chance it."

I am really curious about that guy's hat. I hope it says "Level Five Vegan" in Hebrew, I really do...

p.s. My hubby went to the Silk website for me, and they claim that their products *are* vegan. After also perusing the kosher guideline descriptions, our theory is that perhaps one of the ingredients Silk uses is manufactured in a facility that also processes dairy. Even if the machinery is washed in between, that earns a "D" on the Kosher scale...

Monday, December 6, 2010

How do you say in Spanish, "Deep Frying is not the same as Roasting?"

In my quest for not-canned roasted green chiles for my Veggie Verde recipe, Russ and I went to the Rancho Market connected to the Latino Mall in West Valley yesterday.

A very helpful employee said he could roast some Anaheims for us while we waited. He had me put the amount I wanted in a bag, and proceeded to go behind a cafe counter to "roast" them for us. (Side note: I told him I wanted about 3 pounds. I filled a bag, and he weighed them. The amount I chose was EXACTLY three pounds. The guy was so impressed that he grabbed the produce stocker to witness my skillz. They were talking about me in Spanish. I have no idea what they were saying. Probably that I must be a Federal Weights and Measures Spy or something....)

Anyhoo, THIS was what he proceeded to tell the (female employee) do to the chiles....

Ummmmm. Yeah. And I just just watched them take fried chicken out of that vat of oil. I didn't know what to do. The skins did blister nicely, and they were easy to peel, after I soaked all the oil off of them with paper towels. So, I have three cups of diced green chiles in my fridge if anyone wants them!

"Don't judge me by the color of my skin!" a.k.a. Anthropological Field Notes from WVC

Yesterday, as I walked into his conversation with a heavily-accented Rancho Market employee, I was shocked to hear my (very white) husband saying, "Don't judge me by the color of my skin!"

The next words out of his mouth? "I *like* spicy foods!"

(Turns out, Russ couldn't help himself after the second time said employee made a remark about what kind of chiles "white people" like. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the employee laughed when Russ said that...)


Our Great Weekend Multicultural Adventure began with a stop at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center for their Holiday Art Fair. Sampled raw chocolate bars. Looked at local art/craft work. Listened to a live choir (I think they were Vietnamese?). [Side note: This is my 'hood - I grew up less than a mile from the Center, but I'm pretty sure things weren't so awesomely diverse in the WVC back in the olden dayz...]

Our next stop was for some quick Pakistani food The Chaat House inside Qaderi Sweetz and Spicez, 3546 S. Redwood Road. Russ had a mixed veggie curry and I had pakoras. The Oiliest_Pakoras_Ever. This is why I don't eat here a lot - it's a once-in-a-while greasefest, but it tastes sooooo good!

Next we headed to Eastern Groceries, 1616 West 3500 South. This fascinating place sells clothes, kitchenware, and food from all over - Middle Eastern, Bosnian, Indian, African.  If you get there early enough, they supposedly have fresh-daily injeera. I've never been early enough. I did buy Turkish coffee and still-warm pita bread. The clerk clearly thought I was insane when I asked how to make Turkish coffee...Also, Russ says a man was glaring at him the whole time we were there, but I was much too distracted by the giant pile of Korans in Spanish to notice.

On my quest for roasted chiles for my Veggie Verde, the next day we went to the Latino Mall - Rancho Market, 2470 South Redwood Road. This is a fascinating place - imagine a food court with about 6 kinds of "Latino" food genres, with a few vendors sprinkled in, plus a dentist's office and an insurance agency. And a Rancho Market as the anchor for it all. If I weren't a wanna-be vegan, I would love exploring the food places here. Unfortunately, I think I may have inhaled lard just walking past them.

Just because I was fascinated by the strip mall in general, we also stopped in at Halal Nutrition and Ethnic Food, 3197 South Redwood Road. The most unusual feature of this small grocery was a section of bulk foods and spices, many of them labelled “organic” - not unlike the aisle you’d find at Whole Foods or Smith’s Marketplace. There’s a mini-restaurant on one side of the market, but it was closed when we were there. They also sell fresh injeera, but were sold is nice to know that there are backup injeera possibilities when my pals at African Restaurant and Mini-Mart are closed!

And you thought SLC was lacking in diversity. Ha! These were just a few of the places within a small radius - there are several more places I’ve been before and some I have intended to visit “someday” in the for my next set of culinary field trip notes!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Karmic Biscotti Slap-down...

I love biscotti...but only if it is perfect, even before being dangerously soaked in my caffeinated elixir. The test is that first dry nibble. It has to be just right - crunchy, but not too hard to break with my front teeth.

Once I bought a pretty homemade biscotti at a local coffeeshop, and then discovered that the topping was FROSTING. I was ejected after I cried in outrage, "No, no, no, no NO! Frosting is not allowed on BISCOTTI!" (Not really, but I did almost cry.)

The only acceptable topper to a perfect biscotti is real, solid, chocolate. I will allow white chocolate, even though it is hardly chocolate at all...

So, karma, anyone? I'm trying to make biscotti for the Cafe.

This week's attempt was pretty good, if I do say so myself. The Cranberry White Chocolate Nut? Delicious! And Chocolate Candy Cane: brilliant holiday tie-in. And for the first two days, they passed the dry nibble test. Third day: too hard to bite comfortably with my front teeth. Boo!

If anyone has a recipe they swear by, or advice for me, will you please send it my way? I'll buy you a cuppa and let you taste-test the biscotti at Cafe Solstice for your trouble :-)

p.s. After I get a good run going, I am then going to try for vegan biscotti...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spicy Long Weekend, Part Deux...

The only other thing I managed to accomplish over the Thanksgiving Break...making an apron. (This may shock some of you, for it is family legend that I nearly failed Home Ec. at Eisenhower Junior High over the pillowcase fiasco.) But once I get some idea stuck in my head, I tend to go for it so it doesn't torment me forever. (OCD, anyone?). This apron design was inspired by a t-shirt Erin saw on and described for me...and I'm planning to wear it all month!

A Spicy Long Weekend...(Get yer mind outta the gutter!)

So, on our snow day last week (Wednesday), I was making Tunisian Pumpkin Soup and had a big problem...I couldn't find the nutmeg. I looked in the spice cupboard and the spice bin in the other cupboard. I had to dump out the whole bin. You see, if you follow my advice for spices, you end up with lots of little bunches of baggies and whatnot, and I had ended up with a drawerful. This is what it looked like AFTER I threw away all of the spilled, ripped, mutilated, unrecognizable, and outdated ones:
In my world, there's a fine line between "motivated" and "manic" and this set me off somehow...let's go with "motivated" shall we? I went to my spice cupboard (what I believe is a re-purposed ironing board cupboard, yeah - that's how old this house is.) and proceeded to throw out and empty all of the woefully outdated seasonings. (There was a tin of oregano my grandma had given me in 1990, when she helped me gather a box of kitchen stuff for my first apartment...) After a bunch of washing and drying, this is what I ended with:

In the process of weeding and re-filling bottles, I discovered this phenomenon:

You'd think I was some kind of cardamom fanatic or something! Anyway, the final product...YAY!