Thursday, September 27, 2007

Kitchen Neglect

This morning's posting is a monster edition of what I've made this month. I have not been updating since I've been so crazy busy with other projects. This also means I have been cooking less than usual and what's worse, I have not been all that creative. I've mostly been working from recipes, which is fine, but I like to come up with ideas of my own too. Friday night Matt and I stayed in and I made dinner. I made roasted root vegetable stacks with a tahini, honey and white balsamic dressing. I paired the veggies with broiled large white button mushrooms stuffed with a sauté of spicy veg Italian sausage and Braeburn apples. I topped my dish with fresh thyme leaves. The dish turned out really well, like the taste of fall in your mouth. Recipe follows...

Tahini Honey Balsamic Sauce:
3 Tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons white balsamic
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sace
Whisk these ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Slice a large turnip, a large beet, and slice and peel a parsnip. The slices should be about 1/4" thick. Grease a baking sheet or pan with olive oil, put the turnips in the pan and brush them with more olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Cook them in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until soft. Turn them over half way through the cooking for even cooking. Repeat this with the beet and parsnips. While the veggies cook shave some carrots for garnish using a vegetable y-peeler with micro blades.

To assemble:
Place some of the tahini sauce on the plate, then place a large slice of turnip on top, top the turnip with a beet slice and top the beet with a parsnip slice. Drizzle more sauce on top and garnish the the shaved carrots. Top that with some fresh thyme leaves.

The mushrooms:
Clean about 6 large white button mushrooms and pull out the stems so there's a hollow cavity. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, place the mushrooms on the sheet and then brush mushrooms with olive oil on both top and bottoms. Cook the mushrooms under a broiler set on high until they are softened and cooked through, flip the mushrooms half way through cooking to get them cooked evenly.

Meanwhile, chop up a large spicy vegetarian Italian Sausage link into a fine dice(or not vegetarian if you prefer but I do not know the cook time or instructions for that so you will have to wing it there). Also chop half of a crisp apple such as a Macintosh or Braeburn. Combine the apple and sausage in a sauté pan with some vegetable oil and cook over medium high heat until the apple is tender crisp.

Stuff the sausage mixture into the cooked mushrooms and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (we used soy cheese but regular cheese is also fine).

Par Les Vous Delicious

The other night I wanted something different. Something I do not usually make. I wanted a culinary adventure. I decided to make something French. I never make French food. It tends to involve a lot of rich heavy cream sauces and weird meats and other things that I'm not really interested in. I managed to get a mostly veg recipe though and decided to give it a go. This Mushroom Strudel with Braised Shallots and French Lentils, with a Port Demi-Glaze called for espagnole sauce, a thick veal stock common in French cooking. I used the recipe here to replace it. The dish came out delectable, rich and filling. As much as we really enjoyed the meal, we kind of felt like we couldn't move for hours after eating it so it's the kind of thing we will not make very often.

Spicy Chicken Salad and Miso Eggplant

I loved this salad. We used Morningstar Farms soy Chicken and soy sauce instead of fish sauce. The salad had a really nice crunchy texture and the contrast of the sugar, chilies, vinegar, garlic and mint made for a really excellent flavor.

We served the salad with Jaden's miso eggplant which was also really good and even approved by the eggplant skeptic Matt.

Indonesian Style Mahogany Glazed Chicken

We enjoyed this meal because it was flavorful but light so we were satisfied without feeling all puffed up after dinner. We pretty much followed this recipe. We used Morningstar Farms soy Chicken strips and skipped the shrimp.

Some Like It Hot

A few weeks ago Matt and I had to buy some chipotle chilies in adobo sauce for a recipe, oddly these things seem to be scarce around here and often out of stock. We live in an area with a huge Latino population so I am not sure why this stuff is so hard to come by. Any way, we stocked up, worried we might need more soon and not get any. Then we had a lot of these chipotle chilies around and felt compelled to make use of them. Chipotle chilies tend to go with Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, not really our thing, so we turned to Epicurious. Epicurious, like a lot of the culinary world, is pretty meat-obsessed. Not being meat eaters, we didn't let this stop us from giving their recipes a try.

First we tried their Chipotle Beef Chili with Lime Creama. We used veg ground beef and soy sour cream. The chili was, well, meaty, and thus this was not our favorite dish. We really love veggies and tend to prefer meat (or meat substitutes) as an element in a dish rather than having it as the central component. We did like the lime sour cream however and would definitely use it in chili again. We might even re-use some of this recipe, we just found the lack of vegetables in this recipe made for a boring dish in terms of texture and flavor.

Next, we tried their short ribs braised in coffee ancho chile sauce. If you like spicy this is the meal for you. We used fat-free vegan's ribz recipe for the ribs and otherwise followed the recipe instructions from Epicurious. The dish came out super hot and the sauce had a nice, rich, sticky mouth feel to it. It made for a sort of heavy, rich, dense meal I wouldn't want to eat too often but definitely one that could be enjoyed if that is what you are in the mood for.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Liquor + Cake

Cupcakes and Cocktails; it's not only adorable in its alliterative nature, these two lovelies embody some of my favorite things. They're delicious, tiny and nice to look at. The only trouble with these things is that you can only have so much of either one before you run into trouble. The only solution -- miniature cupcakes and miniature cocktails! Over the weekend I had my friends over and orchestrated a five course meal of decadence that revolved entirely around cake and booze. In order to maximize cake and liquor consumption I miniaturized both and created a tasting menu fit for a hedonist.

You can find miniature cupcake tins and miniature cupcake liners at bakery suppliers and some craft stores (Michael's carries these things). You can also find these things at stores with a large kitchen equipment department like Bed Bath and Beyond. For my party I served a drink that coordinated with each cake. In order to make the drink size appropriate for the cakes I scored some votive candle holders at Target for about 50 cents a piece that looked like oversized shot glasses.

I am going to apologize now for my laziness, I do not feel like typing up every recipe I used for my party. I made 5 kinds of cake and 5 kinds of cocktails. That's 10 recipes. If you're considering a cocktails and cupcakes party of your own there's no real need to get hung up on my recipes any way, just take away from this post the concept of a cupcakes and cocktails party and use your favorite recipes. If there's something you're really dying to know how to make I can give you details, but your favorite cupcakes will be just as good as mine I'm sure. One thing to keep in mind however is that little cupcakes bake very quickly. Most of my cakes needed only 8 minutes. Keep a very close eye on your oven.

For the first course I served chocolate cupcakes with a homemade cocoa hazelnut frosting, topped with crushed hazelnuts, chocolate dust and a raspberry for a pop of tartness. I paired this cake with Kahlua and cream. (Vegans: I used soy creamer so if you are also a vegan, that is the ingredient I recommend.)

Next up: Berries and cream layer cake with champagne frosting. I replaced the liquid content of a buttercream frosting recipe with bubbly. Then I baked 24 mini mixed berry cupcakes and stacked them in 2 layer cakes (gluing them together with frosting). I topped each cake with a generous amount of frosting and a sliced strawberry. I served this cake with a mixed drink consisting of equal parts champagne, Stoli Raspberry and raspberry schnapps.

After the berry cakes, I served cherry cordial cupcakes with apricot hot toddies. My cupcakes were chocolate with a cream and cherry center. I topped each cake with chocolate ganache and a cherry from a jar of cherry pie filling. I made my hot toddies with apricot brandy flavored black tea, lemon juice, honey (vegans: use agave) and a shot of brandy.

Following the cordials came the tiramisu and coffee. I made the tiramisu using the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World recipe and I served with with a coffee cocktail that consisted of cream, coffee, Stoli Vanilla, and Amaretto.

I capped off the meal with chai tea cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream frosting and a dusting of cinnamon. I served these cakes with an apple cider and spiced rum cocktail.