Thursday, July 31, 2008

Red Lentil-Chickpea Patties

When I'm off from work, one of two scenarios unfolds.  I'm either very motivated in the kitchen, or very lazy.  I will have to work hard on falling into the former in the months ahead as I enjoy a little time off before the baby comes.

Last week I had a day off, and was extremely motivated.  I decided to make M. a healthy feast for dinner, and picked a recipe I've often looked at but never tried.  These patties were great!  The filling was really tasty - I found myself scooping little bits as I worked on other components of the dish.  I did totally blank on the chilling step - our patties did fall apart a bit so I think chilling them before cooking would have been a good idea.  Oh well, next time!  The flavor was partly Indian, partly fusion (when paired with the peanut sauce) and had a good blend of both fresh and dried spices.  The peanut sauce was quick to prepare and very tasty - I wasn't sure about the maple syrup sweetener but there was no discernible mapleness in the final sauce.  I paired the patties with a simple chopped salad.  

We both enjoyed this meal, and I will definitely make it again.  I think I might try a bun instead of the pita bread next time.  Both M. and I felt there was a bit too much pita and not quite enough patty.  But we did end up with extra patties, so perhaps ours were a bit small.  But overall, a tasty (although not quick!) meal that will definitely be repeated in the future.  

Red Lentil - Chickpea Patties
The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld
Serves 6 

3/4 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 3/4 cups water
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 pound carrots cut into small dice (1 cup)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cup of peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
6 whole wheat pita breads
shredded romaine lettuce
chopped fresh tomatoes
Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below) 

Combine the lentils and the water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Add 1 tsp salt, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.  The lentils should lose their individual shape and cook into one mass.  Cook them as dry as possible without sticking.  Stir the cooked lentils with a spoon to break them up, and pour them into a medium bowl.  Stir in the chickpeas. 

Warm the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots, carrots, and 1/4 tsp of salt, and cook until the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.  Add the cumin, coriander, and peas, and cook until the peas are tender, 2 minutes.  Stir the vegetables into the lentils along with the parsley, lemon juice, and cayenne.  Stir in the bread crumbs.  Let the mixture sit for ten minutes, or until it is cool enough to handle. 

Using your hands, form the lentils into 6 tight patties and place them on a plate.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator until very firm, at least 30 minutes.

Warm a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the burgers (they are a bit delicate so do not crowd pan).  Saute until golden, about 2 minutes.  Turn over and saute on other side until golden.  

Serve each burger in a pita with Spicy Peanut Sauce, topped with lettuce and tomatoes.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
Makes 3/4 cup

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions or chives

Combine everything except scallions in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Stir in scallions.  Store covered and refrigerated.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies - New York Times Recipe 7/9/08

I've already mentioned my love for chocolate chip cookies.  Here.  Here.  And I'll even count here, even though these cookies happen to also contain oatmeal. So, when the New York Times dining section contained a recipe for reportedly fabulous chocolate chip cookies, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would try them.  It took me a little time to collect the flours (cake and bread), as well as find the time to make the dough and allow it to sit for the full 36 hours.  This is not the cookie recipe to make for instant gratification (although the two I baked up on the first night for scientific purposes were very tasty indeed).  No, this is the recipe to make for an event.  An event 36 hours from the time of making the batter.  These cookies are delicious, probably my favorite to date.  They have crisp edges, soft and tender centers and are positively littered with chocolate chippy goodness. Although maybe that's because my hand slipped just a bit when adding the chocolate chips.  

M. prefers the cookies sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, but I prefer them plain. I think this recipe is our new hands-down favorite, and will definitely be repeated.  But, as mentioned before, only when there's time or an occasion to plan ahead.  When you need a cookie right now, then another recipe will serve you better. But when you can plan ahead, then I urge you to try these cookies.  And then if you're like me, you'll quickly freeze balls of dough (see above) in the freezer so as to reduce the temptation to eat cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner while they're around.  Yes, they're really that good. 

I think I made my cookies a bit smaller then the recipe calls for, even though I made them bigger then I would usually.  I do think the size is somewhat important, as a smaller cookie might not develop the crisp/chewy texture that makes the recipe so delicious.  I used Ghiardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips (with a handful of regular Toll House chips for good measure). And, as I mentioned, I also froze much of the dough into pre-formed balls for easy baking for future chocolate chip cookie cravings.  These cookies are way too deliciously dangerous to leave lying around!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Jacques Torres
New York Times 7/9/08
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
  • (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
  • Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baked Thai-Style Tofu

Sometimes I make a recipe, really enjoy it but don't make it for years.  This recipe is one such favorite.  I first made it years ago living uptown with three other roommates.  I can distinctly recall being impressed by the tangy, nutty flavor and the sweetness of the roasted peppers but yet years passed before I made the recipe again.  I made it again recently, and was again appreciative of the simplicity of the recipe in contrast with the freshness of the end result.  Trust me, the picture above doesn't do the dish justice!  

I find this recipe to be flexible.  With bigger pieces cooked longer, the recipe makes a delicious sandwich stuffer.  With the tofu cut smaller (as depicted above)  it makes a nice side dish or component of an Asian meal.  We rushed this particular batch - the tofu could have done with a little more pressing and the tofu could have baked longer.  Still, even though quickly prepared, the dish was delicious and one that will be repeated again before more years pass.  

Baked Thai-Style Tofu
Jeanne Lemlin
Serves 3

This method of baking marinated tofu gives it a crispy coating and intensifies all the flavors in the "sauce".  You'll also love the ease with which this dish can be put together.  A side portion of rice,  or plain couscous is the best accompaniment.  Don't hesitate to serve this dynamic tofu dish cold; it would make a great lunch to take to work.

The Marinade:
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoons minced gingerroot
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes and patted very dry
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, 1/4 inch by 2 inches

The Sauce
1 tablespoon natural-style peanut butter
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 scallion very thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil, or 1/4 tsp dried
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint, or 1/2 tsp dried

1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the tofu and red pepper to coat them evenly with the marinade.  Let sit 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 8 hours chilled.  Toss occasionally. 
2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the tofu mixture and any remaining marinade in a large shallow baking dish so that the tofu rests in one layer.  Bake 15 minutes, tossing once with a spatula after about 7 minutes.
3. Meanwhile make the sauce by stirring all its ingredients together with a fork.  Remove the tofu from the oven. Spoon on the sauce, then, using a spatula toss the ingredients together until everything is well coated.  Return the dish to the oven and bake undisturbed for 10 minutes.  Let the tofu sit for at least 10 minutes before serving for it is better when warm, and not piping hot.  

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blueberry season!!!

I love blueberry season.  I love walking among the stands at the farmer's market, and seeing the pint baskets lined up with their blue jewels sparkling in the sun.  I try to buy them as often as possible, and throw them into cereal, bowls of mixed fruit topped with a dollop of whipped cream and even enjoy them alone.  

Still, the ultimate blueberry experience has to be a blueberry muffin. I've tried many recipes over the year, but this time I tried one from Cook's Illustrated.  M. and I have enjoyed the magazine for the past year, however we recently decided an online subscription would better serve us as it would allow us to access many more recipes then in the bi-monthly printed version.  So I selected the Cinnamon-Sugar-Dipped Blueberry Muffin recipe.  The muffins seem a bit homely, as they're baked without paper liners.  Still, a quick dunk in melted butter and then a swift spin in a cinnamon-sugar mixture creates a soft and tender muffin with a sweet crust.  The crumb of the muffin was very tender, despite my worries that I had overmixed ensuring all pockets of flour were mixed in.  

I made a few changes to the recipe - I used fresh blueberries instead of frozen.  It worked well, although a few bled and exploded into the muffins.  Since these were just for us, it didn't make a difference.  But if I were making these for an event or company, I might go with the frozen in order to improve the appearance.  I also used the microwave to melt the butter for the final dipping step.  

We are really enjoying these muffins.  I froze most of them, however they are steadily reappearing from the freezer and being consumed at a quick rate.  The sweet topping combined with the tender crumb make these muffins really delicious, and I think this recipe will go into regular blueberry season rotation as a result.  

Cinnamon-Sugar-Dipped Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

This recipe does not require a standing mixer, but when making the batter, be sure to whisk vigorously in step 2, then fold carefully in step 3.  There should be no large pockets of flour in the finished batter, but small occasional sprays may remain.  Do not overmix the batter.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 oz)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar (7 0z)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups sour cream (10 oz)
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, preferably wild
1/2 up granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl until combined.  Whisk egg in second medium bowl until well-combined and light colored, about 20 seconds.  Add sugar, and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 0 seconds. Add melted butter in 2 or 3 steps, whisking to combine after each addition.  Add sour cream in 2 steps, whisking to just combine.
3. Add frozen berries to dry ingredients, and gently toss to combine.  Add sour cream mixture and fold with rubber spatula until batter comes together and berries are evenly distributed, 25-30 seconds (small spots of flour may remain and batter will be thick).  Do not overmix.
4.   Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop batter into greased muffin tin.  Bake until light golden brown, and toothpick or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, 24-30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time.  Invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes. 
5. While muffins are cooling, mix sugar and ground cinnamon in small bowl until melt butter in a small saucepan.  After baked muffins have cooled five minutes, working one at a time, dip tops of muffins in melted butter and then cinnamon-sugar.  Set muffins upright on wire rack; serve.