Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ma-Po Tofu (Tofu in Black Bean and Chilli Sauce)



Lately, I've been learning how to cook Chinese vegetarian dishes. I love Chinese food. However, I've found it somewhat difficult to find vegetarian dishes at Chinese restaurants. I've been to Chinese and Thai restaurants where dishes containing meat broth are referenced in the menu as being vegetarian. And then, of course, there's the issue of MSG. I loves me my sodium; but I don't enjoy the headache that sets in after having a meal.

To learn more about Chinese cooking, I've been reading cookbooks on the subject and watching the new Cooking Channel show, "Chinese Food Made Easy." Speaking of the Cooking Channel, have you seen it? I love it! It's what the Food Network used to be before it turned much of its focus (or so it seems) to reality-based programming. I enjoy the diversity the Cooking Channel offers with regard to World cuisine: Indian ("Spice Goddess"), French ("French Food at Home"), Chinese, Asian fusion ("Simply Ming"), Italian ("La Dolce Vita"), etc.

There are a lot of ma-po tofu recipes that can be found on the internet. Many of them call for the use of chicken stock. The following recipe, which comes from the book World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown, uses stock made from dried shiitake mushrooms. I've made this a few times already, and it has quickly become part of our regular rotation of weekday meals.

If you don't have any red chillies, then use red pepper flakes. I also use about 1 teaspoon or cornstarch, rather than 1 tablespoon of cornstarch as called for in Brooks' recipe, because I prefer a sauce that's less gelatinous.

Finally, prepare the rice ahead of time, because this dish does not take long to prepare, especially when using jarred black bean sauce and hoisin sauce.

Ma-Po Tofu
(Tofu in Black Bean and Chili Sauce)
Serves approximately 4

1 small handful sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 pound firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large green bell pepper, chopped into bite-size chunks
1 large fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced (adjust amount according to heat preference)
2 large garlic cloves, minced or sliced
1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the sauce:

2 teaspoons black bean sauce

3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar

Place the shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl. Pour the cup of boiling water over the mushrooms and let stand for about 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the water, and set them aside.
Stir the cornflour into the reserved water and set that aside.

Place all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the mushroom, green pepper, chilli, and garlic to the skillet and cook until the garlic becomes soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sauce mixture.

Next, stir in the reserved water (with cornstarch). Continue cooking until the sauce thickens and becomes bubbly. Add the tofu cubes and stir until they are warmed through.
Serve with rice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chinese-Style Pickled Cucumbers



Recently, I had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia, called Hong Kong Palace (6837 Leesburg Pike). Upon entering, I was given the option of ordering from either the "American menu" or the "Chinese menu." I took both menus, because I had a craving for Americanized vegetable lo mein. From the Chinese menu, I ordered pickled cucumbers as an appetizer. After dinner, I thought to myself, I have to find a recipe for this dish!

Finding a similar recipe on the internet was not difficult. The version below is a hybridization of this recipe from Appetite from China and this recipe from Geema. While I would have preferred to use Thai red chilis, or any red chilis for that matter, they simply were not available at the grocery store. Hence, I used the more readily available red pepper flakes.

This dish is easy to prepare and makes a great side dish for an Asian entree. In my case, I served this dish with mapo tofu (tofu in a spicy chili sauce), the recipe for which I plan on posting sometime next week.

Chinese-Style Pickled Cucumbers

5 to 6 Kirby cucumbers
Salt for tossing cucumbers
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar
1 medium-size carrot, thinly sliced (using a vegetable peeler)
Sesame seeds, for garnishing (optional)

Cut the cucumbers lengthwise into quarters and then into 1 to 2-inch pieces. Place the cucumbers in a colander, toss them in some salt, and let stand for about 20-30 minutes.

Thoroughly rinse the cucumbers under cold tap water and pat dry with a towel. Place the cucumbers and carrots in a bowl.

Heat the sesame oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper flakes and cook until they start to deepen in color. Take the skillet off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the cucumbers and carrots and toss. Add the chili-infused oil to the bowl of cucumbers and carrots and toss. Let stand for about 1 hour, until cooled. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sandwich: Grilled Gruyere with Green-Olive Tapenade



This recipe for grilled gruyere with green-olive tapenade comes from an old issue of Metropolitan Home magazine. It was included in an article entitled "The Great American Sandwich." The article, including recipe, can be found here.

I made this sandwich last weekend. I pretty much followed the recipe as written. I did find, though, that melting the gruyere just on the grill took much longer than the time specified. As a result, I ended up burning the ciabatta rolls. I solved this problem by lightly melting the cheese on the top and bottom half of each roll in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds, assembling the sandwiches as shown in the photo above, and then grilling the sandwiches for 2-3 minutes per side.

This was so delicious. Definitely a keeper.

Grilled Gruyere with Green-Olive Tapenade
Makes 4 sandwiches

For the green-olive tapenade:

2 cups green olives, pitted
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 ciabatta rolls, approximately 3 inches by 3 inches
1/2 pound gruyere cheese, cut into 12 slices (approximately 1/8-inch-thick each)

Combine all of the tapenade ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until the mixture becomes spreadable, but not smooth.

Add 1 slice of cheese to the bottom half of each ciabatta roll. Add 2 slices of cheese to each top half. Place each top and bottom face-up in the microwave and heat for 20-30 seconds, until the cheese begins to melt. Assemble the sandwiches by layering approximately 2 tablespoons of the green-olive tapenade between the top and bottom half of each roll, as shown in the photo above. Place the sandwiches on a hot grill, weighing them down with another heavy skillet. Grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side until heated through, and serve.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baked Eggs with Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Mascarpone



I love modern design, particularly mid-century modern design, and one of my favorite magazines covering modern design was Metropolitan Home. Seriously mad design porn! Sadly, Met Home is no more. As a result of the economy, the publisher of Met Home shut down the magazine in December 2009.

The following recipe (slightly modified) comes from an old issue of Met Home. The recipe, as printed in Met Home, can still be found online. I've been wanting to try this recipe for the longest time. What I loved about this dish was that it was ridiculously simple and fairly inexpensive to make. And it tasted really, really delicious!

I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry, except the mascarpone. This dish only took about 25 minutes to prepare, which, for me, makes it an ideal weekday meal .


The following recipe will serve three using 8 1/2-inch by 5-inch gratin dishes.

Baked Eggs with Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Mascarpone
Serves 3


1 large onion, chopped
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with juices reserved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces frozen spinach leaves
6 eggs
1/2 cup mascarpone
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Baguette, sliced


Place rack in middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Place the frozen spinach in a bowl and cover with very warm tap water. Replace water at least once to thoroughly thaw out.


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they become soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.


Divide the tomato sauce among three gratin dishes. Using a spoon, make two indentations in the sauce in each dish and crack and an egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove
the spinach from the bowl and squeeze out the water. Scatter the spinach leaves around the eggs in each dish. Place the dishes in the oven. Bake the eggs until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes.

Remove the gratin dishes from the oven, spoon dollops of mascarpone cheese around the eggs and spinach and serve with slices of baguette.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Uncover Investigation Revealed Animal Abuse at Conklin Farms Inc.


"Cow Field" from flickr member

I think it goes without saying that anyone who would beat a cow with a crowbar and stab a cow with a pitchfork is one sick fuck.

I forced myself to watch the entire undercover video taken by the non-profit, Chicago-based animal advocacy group,
Mercy for Animals. I was so disturbed by the images shown in the video that I actually started gagging while watching it.

Yesterday,
an individual was arrested and charged with several counts of animal cruelty in connection with the abuse depicted in the video.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Barbecue Tempeh Sandwich



This past weekend, I was reading the latest issue of Vegetarian Times and came across a recipe for a barbecue seitan sandwich.

It looked delicious, but I really don't like seitan all that much. So, I started searching online for a tempeh barbecue recipe and came across one at naturalhealthmag.com.

I followed the recipe as written, except I decided to use packaged broccoli slaw in lieu of grating my own cabbage and carrots and mincing my own red onion. (I know, that's so Sandra Lee!)

I thought the end result was ok. This is not a dish that I can see myself making again, and I really can't explain why that's the case. Maybe I'm just not a barbecue type of person.

The baked red potatoes, on the other hand, were awesome. I just took some red potatoes, tossed them in some olive oil, dried thyme, dried basil, salt and pepper, and baked them uncovered in a 450 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. A very simple side dish.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Southwestern Bean Cakes



My partner and I have this routine where he cooks dinners on Saturdays and I cook dinners on Sundays.

The weather was so hot outside last Sunday that I really wanted something light and simple. The solution was found in a cookbook I received two year ago for Christmas from my sister entitled, "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen," by Jack Bishop.


I grabbed the book and just started flipping through it when I came across a recipe for Southwestern Bean Bakes.

In a nutshell, these were easy to make. They also tasted surprisingly very good, given the minimal number of ingredients required. This is a seriously low-cost meal.


And I liked the fact that these bean cakes made for a fairly low-calorie dish, because I still have about 10 more pounds to lose.

At the author's suggestion, I served these bean cakes alongside a simple baby spinach salad
lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and kosher salt.

Southwestern Bean Cakes

Makes approximately 7-8 cakes

  • 2 15-oz cans cannelleni beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (add more for extra heat)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (at least) cornmeal or polenta
  • Extra virgin olive oil
Add the cannellini beans, vegetable broth, and lime juice in a large bowl. Mash the beans using a potato masher.

Next, stir in the cilantro, pepper, and chili powder. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/4 cup of cornmeal. Continue stirring in more cornmeal in small amounts until you can form the mixture into 3-inch cakes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the bean cakes and cook until browned, approximately 4 minutes per side. (Add more oil to the pan if necessary.) Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blogger Photos Not Sharp? Here's What I've Learned


"Typical" by flickr member trazomfreak

For reasons I've been unable to figure out until recently, the photos I've been posting on this blog have been lacking sharpness. When I look back at all of the photos I've posted, all of them have a certain "graininess" to them. Is it the camera? The lenses? The fact that I wasn't shooting in RAW format, which I recently switched to? Nope.

So, I did some online research and came across
this in the Blogger Help Forum. And it worked.

R
emoving the /s200, /s320, or /s400 from the HTML depending on the size of your photo (small, medium, or large) should help enhance the sharpness of your photos on Blogger. For example, here is the photo of the somen with dipping sauce I posted last week, without having removed the /s400:



And here is the same photo after having removed the /s400:



Notice how sharper the image of the noodles is in the second photo. Definitely tastier looking!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cold Somen Noodles With Vegan Dipping Sauce



Seriously, if there is one dish I could probably eat daily, it's this one.

When I was living in living in San Diego, I would drive home from my office for lunch several times a week during the summer, cook up some somen or soba noodles, quickly chow them down, and then drive back to the office, all in about 30 minutes.

It's been rather warm lately here in the DC metro area. So, I recently stocked up on somen and soba noodles at Super H in Fairfax, VA, and have begun transitioning our regular Monday night meal from hot udon noodle soup to cold somen or soba noodles with dipping sauce.

Somen noodles are thin white noodles made from wheat flour. Most Asian markets carry both somen and soba (buckwheat) noodles. I have not seen somen noodles sold in any regular supermarket, at least not here in Northern Virginia. Whole Foods does carry soba, but not somen, noodles.

Once the dipping sauce is prepared and chilled, the rest of the dish takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Vegan Dipping Sauce for Cold Somen or Soba Noodles

3 1/4 cups boiling water
3-inch piece of kombu

1/2 cup (small handful) sliced dried shitake mushrooms

1/2 soy sauce
1/4 mirin


In a small saucepan, bring 3 1/4 cups of water to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat, add the kombu and dried mushroom (see photo below) and set aside for 10-15 minutes.



Add the soy sauce and mirin to the pot and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking on low heat to boil off the alcohol (in the mirin). Remove the pot from the heat, strain the liquid into another container (e.g., a large pyrex measuring cup), and discard the kelp and mushrooms. Set aside until it is cool enough to be placed in the refrigerator, and chill.

Cook the somen noodles according the directions on the package. Somen noodles cook very fast in boiling water, from 3-5 minutes, so be sure to keep a close eye on them.

Drain and rise the somen noodles thoroughly in cold tap water. Place the somen noodles on individual plates. Serve with a small bowl of the chilled dipping sauce and a small plate of scallions and wasabi paste. When ready to eat, add the scallions and stir in some of the wasabi paste into the dipping sauce and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Portobello Tacos with Green Salsa



I'm finally back home in Alexandria full-time. I'm trying to get back into a routine of cooking dinners. When I was in NY full-time beginning in late February to help care for my partner's mother, who passed away on March 10 as a result of a brain tumor diagnosed late last year, we were ordering take-out from an Italian restaurant almost every night. Any cooking I did was very basic, as I described in a previous post.

The first thing I did when I returned home from NY was to go to the post office and pick up a huge pile of mail that I had withheld from delivery. In this huge pile was the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. The cover of the magazine promised "32 fresh & easy recipes under 350 calories." I thought, cool. I did gain approximately 10 pounds while in NY, so this issue could not have come at a better time.

On Sunday, I chose to make the portobello tacos that were featured in the magazine, mainly because the ingredients were inexpensive. Also, I wanted to make a meal that didn't have to be served piping hot, because the weather outside was very warm that day.

The salsa verde is the star here. This is the first time I've made a green salsa. To date, I've yet to find tomatillos in any of the grocery stores, including the Latin markets, near where I live. I ended up using canned tomatillos, which I found only at a Latin market. This basic green salsa beats the crap out of any of the jarred green salsas I've had.

Note: although the VT recipe calls for 6 6-inch corn tortillas, I found that the recipe, as written, will make more than 10 tacos. I used 5 portobello mushroom caps and was able to assemble 11 tacos. Lastly, I served these tacos with yellow rice.

Grilled Portobello Tacos with Salsa Verde
Makes approximately 12 tacos

  • 1/3 cups canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 6 large portobello caps
  • 12 6-inch soft corn tortillas (I used flour tortillas)
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded, and diced
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • Sour cream
Salsa Verde
  • 1 28 oz can tomatillos, drained
  • 1 large green bell pepper or poblano chile, roughly chopped (I used a green bell)
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro (leaves only)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 large cloves garlic
  • 3 tsp organic sugar or agave nectar (I omitted this ingredient)
  • 1 1/4 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your grill or grill pan to high heat.

For the salsa verde, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Next, whisk together 1/3 cup of canola oil and the balsamic vinegar. Brush this marinade over the portobello caps. Set the caps on the grill and cook for about 3-5 minutes per side until they soften slightly. Remove the caps from the grill and set them aside. The caps will continue to cook. When the caps become cool enough to handle, slice them into strips.

To assemble the tacos, lightly warm the tortillas on a grill for about 15 seconds per side. Fill each tortilla with the sliced mushrooms (approximately 2 slices), avocado (approximately 1 slice), salsa verde, cabbage, tomatoes, and a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Arborio Rice Pudding



This weekend, I happened to come across a print-out of Dave Lieberman's recipe for rice pudding
in a kitchen drawer at the home of my partner's mother here in Oceanside (Long Island), NY.

Dave Lieberman is the chef who hosted, "Good Eats with Dave Lieberman," on Food Network a few years ago. I would watch this show every Saturday morning thinking, He's cute. I would totally do him. Ha!

Dave Lieberman's rice pudding tastes similar to the rice pudding I get down the street at the A & S Italian deli. Both use arborio rice, which is a short-grain Italian rice that releases a ton of starch and becomes creamy when cooked. Yum!

As I frequently do when making desserts, I substituted Splenda for sugar to help knock down the per serving calorie count. While this dish is quick and easy to prepare, some planning ahead is required, as it does need to be cooled before serving.

Arborio Rice Pudding
Serves approximately 4

1 cup water
Pinch salt
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup arborio rice
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons sugar or Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Add the first three ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the rice and reduce to heat to low. Continue cooking the rice until it has absorbed most of the liquid but is still al dente, about 10-15 minutes.

In another saucepan, bring the milk, sugar, vanilla and a couple of dashes of cinnamon to a simmer. Add the cooked rice. Continue cooking the rice over low-medium heat until it has absorbed most of the milk and the mixture starts to thicken and become creamy, about 10-15 minutes.

Pour the contents of the saucepan in a large bowl or baking dish. Cool to room temperature. Sprinkle a generous amount of cinnamon over the top. Cover and place in the refrigerator and chill for at least three hours. Serve with whipped cream.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tempeh Bolognese



My apologies (again) for the irregular posts.


I've been spending a majority of my time (5 days per week) in Oceanside, New York to help care for my partner's mother, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor (inoperable) last year. Since December, my partner has been living in Oceanside full-time to care for his mother, with the assistance of a home health aide.

Between the weekly commuting (from Alexandria, VA) and care assistance, I've had little time to try new recipes. Lately, dinner has consisted of super quick, and inexpensive, pasta dishes that have already been posted on this blog, such as pasta with marina sauce or Batali's basic tomato sauce and penne alla vodka.

Recently, though, I came across this Vegetarian Times recipe for a tempeh bolognese. Admittedly, I prefer the taste of Giada DeLaurentis' vegetable bolognese over the tempeh bolognese. However, the tempeh bolognese is especially good if you want something that is seriously protein-packed.

Tempeh Bolognese Serves approximately 6

1 8-ounce package tempeh, crumbled (by hand)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth or red wine
1/2 cup chopped flat fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the crumbled tempeh and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the tomato paste and broth/wine. Continue cooking for another five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the crushed tomatoes. Simmer over low-medium heat for about 20 minutes. Stir in the fresh parsley and basil, and serve over pasta.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

About Pressure Cookers


This is the pressure cooker set that I own, and I love it!

This Fagor set comes with two pot sizes (4 quart and 8 quarter), a pressure cooker lid and a glass lid that fits both pots, and a pasta/steamer insert.


Because I do not do a lot of pressure cooking, I appreciate the fact that the pots do double duty. I keep the smaller pot on the stove and use it almost daily for regular cooking. It heats up water quickly, and it's large enough that I can cook spaghetti in it. I typically use the larger pot if I'm making a large batch of tomato sauce.


Initially, I was going to purchase the set manufactured by
Kuhn Rikon. Ultimately, price dictated my decision to go with Fagor.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Split Pea Soup In Under 30 Minutes



I could have titled this post, "Easy Split Pea Soup," but having looked at the titles of my two previous posts . . . .

Making split pea soup can be time consuming. Normally, you would be required to either soak the split peas overnight or cook the split peas for about 1 1/2 to 3 hours before pureeing them in a blender.

A pressure cooker, on the other hand, absolutely pulverizes the living $&%# out of dried split peas in about 12-15 minutes. No soaking required. No blender required. With a pressure cooker, you can make split pea soup for dinner on a weekday after coming home from work and not have to serve it at 9 p.m.

Split Pea Soup
Serves approximately 4-6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 cups green split peas
8 cups vegetable broth (plus an additional 2 cups broth or water to thin out soup, if necessary)
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt, to taste
Sour cream (optional)


Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the next five ingredients listed above. Stir, cover, lock the lid in place, and increase the heat until high pressure has been attained. Lower the heat enough (usually low-medium) to maintain that pressure for an additional 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes has elapsed, turn off the heat and let the pressure begin to fall naturally. (If you have an electric stove, as I do, take the pot off the hot burner.) After 10 minutes has elapsed, open the valve to release any remaining pressure, if necessary.

If the consistency of the soup is too thick, thin it out with some water or additional vegetable broth. Stir in the thyme and salt. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"The Cove"



I've started living part-time in Oceanside (approximately 30-45 minutes outside of NYC) to help care for a family member. Initially, I was taking the train. Recently, though, I have been taking the bus and have been impressed by this mode of transportation for long distance travel. It's approximately $18 from DC to NY Penn Station on Bolt Bus. The return trip costs approximately $25 on DC2NY.

While en route to NY last week, I fired up my laptop and watched the film, "The Cove." It's a documentary film about the efforts of activist Ric O'Barry (the dolphin trainer from the "Flipper" television series) to expose the dolphin hunting practices of villagers in Taiji, a small fishing town in Japan. It's suspenseful and literally had me on the edge of my (bus) seat.

This film is highly rated, with a Metacritic score of 84 out of 100.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Easy Greek Style Salad



When I'm cooking, I have a tendency to focus on the main dish. For a side dish, I frequently find myself throwing together a mixed salad with bagged greens, tomatoes and avocados, which I toss in a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's a mindless effort.

Last night, I made this simple Greek style side salad. I love cucumbers, and this was nice change-up from the usual. And I wrapped the leftovers in lavash bread to have for lunch this afternoon.

Greek Style Salad
Serves approximately 4

3 small tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
20 pitted kalamata olives
6 ounces feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

For the dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables, olives and cheese with the dressing and serve.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Easy Tiramisu



On New Year's Eve, I attended a small, potluck-style party at a friend's home.

This year, I volunteered to bring a dessert. I made tiramisu using savoiardi (Italian lady fingers) I had purchased last month at Litteri's, a small Italian grocery store located in the District. (In an article I read in Cooks Illustrated, the author stresses the importance of using savoiardi cookies rather than the spongy, cake-like lady fingers more commonly found in regular supermarkets.)

While I'm not really a dessert person, I do love tiramisu. And it's so simple to make, as demonstrated below. To knock down the calories somewhat, and to get an early start on my goal of losing 10 pounds during the new year, I used Splenda instead of sugar.

Ideally, this tiramisu should be refrigerated overnight before serving to allow the egg/mascarpone mixture, which is layered between the coffee-soaked cookies, to set.

Tiramisu
Serves 10-12
  • 40 lady fingers
  • 3 cups strongly brewed espresso coffee, cooled
  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 5 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 16 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
Add the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of coffee, Splenda and cognac to a large bowl and beat for 2-3 minutes. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat another 3-5 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.

Take each lady finger, dip one side into the remaining coffee, and layer on the bottom of a 9-inch-by-12-inch baking dish.
Spread half of the egg/mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers. Dust with a layer of cocoa powder. Repeat with the remaining lady fingers and the egg/mascarpone mixture. Dust with a final layer of cocoa powder.

Cover the baking dish with plastic or foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.