Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Recipe - Hummus

I recently realized that I needed to add a late morning snack on days I go to the gym. Because feeling like your hands are cement blocks flung around on twigs just isn't ideal. So, I glanced around my kitchen to figure out what I could add to my diet that would give me energy through the extra hour or two before I had lunch, but not break the calorie bank. I settled on hummus with pita (flax, oat brand and whole wheat flour pita bread, to be exact, and it's quite yummy despite its wheat-germ smoothie sounding roots).

Za'atar Hummus

1 large can of chickpeas (I don't remember the size, I think it's 800 some-odd grams)
1/4 C olive oil
Lemon juice to taste (I usually just squirt a bunch until I feel like it's enough, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe one lemon's worth?)
Za'atar spice (same deal as the lemon juice, just kinda sprinkle it on top)

Put all above ingredients in a food processor (or if yours is as teensy as mine, do half at a time), blend until mostly smooth. I can't seem to get mine thoroughly smooth, but it's not the end of the world if there are chickpea chunks (I love alliteration).

Can be refrigerated and eaten for several days. The recipe for this I found online said three days. I ate it in five and I'm still breathing, but your mileage may vary.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Restaurant Review - Grezzo's (Vegan raw food)

Friday night, I went to Grezzo's in the North End for vegan raw food. The menu on the link is mostly the same, though the specials have changed.

For those of you who aren't familiar with vegan or raw food, the basic concept is this: vegan means that there's no animal products involved (no meat, eggs, milk, cheese, honey, yeast, maple syrup) and raw means that nothing is heated over 112 degrees. They also don't use any canned or processed ingredients. The literature on the table mentions that raw food is supposed to give you a buzz after the fact, but I don't honestly remember the whys of it. For more about the raw food movement, visit the Living and Raw Foods website.

I was intrigued by the idea. I've heard of the raw food movement, and I know a lot of people swear by it. I'm neither a raw foodist or a vegan, but I am an adventurous eater and figured I'd try it. Plus, my cousin was in town to run the marathon, and had expressed interest in eating there. So after the race, I headed over with her (I'll call her C, for cousin, just so I don't have to keep writing "my cousin") and P (as a side note, P and I had stayed with C when we went down to the inauguration, so we wanted to treat her to an awesome night out as thanks).

So, we get to the restaurant for our 6:30 reservation. And this place is tiny. I mean, seriously, probably about the same size as my shoebox condo, but elongated. It was very cute, though, tastefully decorated, comfortable chairs, and (/open geek out moment) cool menus with magnets that slid open so they can change the menu (/end geek out moment). The tables were very tight though, because they were trying to squeeze in as many people as possible, and there was very little room to actually sit in the seats if there was someone sitting at the table behind you. P is tiny, and even she felt like she didn't have enough space.

The waitress was very friendly and had a great spiel about the menu. Answered all our questions (what's the lobster really? mushrooms. What're the oysters? mushrooms. What's the cheesecake? nuts. What's the cream? nuts.) and was all in all quite enthusiastic. So I ordered the drink special (Grapefruit and Orange cocktail with lemongrass, thyme, and chili-infused sake with a pink salt rim) while P and C were deciding what they wanted to drink. And we waited. And waited (no water mind you, though they did bring some spiced olives for the table). It took about a half hour to get my drink and more time after that to get P and C's drinks. Another ten to fifteen after that to get the straws we'd asked for (by then, we'd just decided to drink out of each other's glasses to taste. My drink was not good. I tried to take a couple sips, but it just wasn't happening. So I set the drink off to the side and asked for water. And the waitress didn't even ask how my drink was until right before dessert (when it was far too late). She did take it off the bill, though, so I have to give her props for that.

I decided to order the tasting menu and P and C each got an appetizer and an entree (plus P got a dessert). We all shared the dishes around, so I'll just list below what we got and my reactions to them.

Vietnamese Coconut Soup - lemongrass, ginger, mustard greens, mint and basil
This was ok. It was actually pretty creamy, and while I realize I prefer soup hot, it was better than I expected it to be. The basil was quite good, the mustard greens added a kick, and the lemongrass and ginger added some crunch. The tasting menus size was definitely enough of it, though.

Mushroom Soup - baby bellas, soaked dulse and pineapple
This was also ok, and I definitely didn't need more than my little serving. I'm not sure what all was in it, but it was a little sweet, a little savory, with a small spicy kick.

Sliders - spiced patties on vine-ripened tomato, pommes frites and pickles, creamy "bleu cheese" watercress
This was the best course of the whole meal (except dessert). It's the only one I really truly enjoyed eating. It was their take on a hamburger (not sure what the patty was made of), but the tomato buns went together really well with the pickle, watercress, and potato chips (the chips were potato slices soaked in vinegar and then dehydrated).

Gnocchi carbonara - dumplings, creamy rawmesan and fresh English peas with pea shoots and crispy eggplant
The dumplings were made out of mushroom, the peas had some wasabi on them I think, and the pea shoots were pretty but rather tastless. All in all, this course was fine but pretty uninteresting and didn't taste like much. C ordered a full appetizer of this in addition to the smaller one I got on the tasting menu, and it didn't come at the same time as mine. In fact, when her entree came out, she still hadn't gotten the gnocchi, even though we'd already asked twice. The gnocchi came out after the entree (the waitress said the kitchen was backed up, but when I went to the bathroom, I noticed that they were chatting. It's seriously restaurant 101 to deliver food in the right order and at the same time as the other people eating at your table).

Seaweed salad - kelp noodles, sea beans and nori with wasabi vinaigrette
I hated this dish. It's the only one I really couldn't eat at all. Not because of the spicy, because I like spicy. But it tasted like they'd just sprinkled wasabi over it, like wasabi flavored veggies. Ugh. Thankfully, C enjoyed it and ate the whole thing.

Falafel in a lettuce cup
This was pretty good as C's entree. Didn't disappoint (though I only had two small bites, but she seemed to like it well enough). The problem was that it came out by itself and P and I were left without our entrees. Ours came out after C's was already finished. Again, restaurant 101.

Star Anise Crusted Papaya Steak - dill vermicelli with cucumber and olive salad
The papaya steak was really interesting - it looked like fish (they even made the little hash marks), but tasted like papaya. It was pretty good, actually.

Land and Sea - maitake, yellow oyster, black trumpet, hedgehog and honshimeji mushrooms. Smooth lemon "ricotta", dulse and Maine coast kelp
The first couple bites were good. But raw mushrooms only go so far, and I guess I realize now that I vastly prefer them cooked. I think that might be personal preference, but I couldn't finish this dish.

Rich brownie sundae - vanilla gelato, chocolate truffle sauce, brazil nut crumble
This was the best course of the night. There was also a little dash of mango and raspberry coulis on the side that was a wonderful counterpoint to the chocolate.

Chocolate Torte - apricot and candy macadamia crust with lavender blue gelato
This was quite good as well. The torte seemed rather like chocolate mousse and the gelato was delicious. The waitress forgot to put the order for this in, so there was another wait at this stage.

In looking at my overview, I realize I gave a lot of pretty goods and fines for the courses. But really, for the price we were paying, only the sliders and the dessert seemed worth it to me. None of us really enjoyed the meal (I don't think), though we found it very interesting, and there were courses here and there that were enjoyable.

But the thing is, we were there for three and a half hours. Yup, that's right, three and a half. And it's not because we were chatting non-stop and just never left. It would good to catch up with both these lovely ladies, but it was also frustrating because there were such long waits for everything, and by the time we left, it was 10p.

I would definitely not recommend this restaurant. If the service is poor and the price high, then I'd expect the food to be fantastic to make up for it. But it wasn't. I hear there's another raw food place in Beverly that's better, maybe I'll try that one next.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Recipe - Spiced Stuffed Eggplant

I was quite please with this recipe. It's completely vegan, but entirely full of flavor. It's spicy (cayenne), sweet (sugar), bitter (eggplant), and all around yummy. It will definitely make my list of recipes to make again.

Imam bayildi (spiced stuffed eggplant)
2/3 cups olive oil
4 whole eggplants (of the Asian eggplant variety, or 2 regular eggplants)
1 cup passata (I used a couple T of tomato paste instead)
t sugar
juice of 1 lemon
4 ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
T ground cumin
T ground coriander
1/2 t cayenne
2 onions, finely diced
2/3 c currants
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Score the tomatoes with a sharp knife, ten blanch in boiling water until skins start to peel back. Put tomatoes in a sieve and let cool (or run water over them until cool). Remove skins and seeds and dice the rest. Set aside

Dice one of the eggplants and cook in hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, cook garlic, cumin, coriander and cayenne until fragrant. Add the onion, reduce heat, and cook until softened. Stir in the cooked eggplant and diced tomato. Sprinkle the parsley and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.

Take the other eggplant, cut the top off, and peel thin strips off the flesh so that it is striped white and purple (I have no idea how this affects how the recipe comes out, but it looks kinda cool). Slice the eggplant down the middle, length-wise. For each half, slice it lengthwise again until it is almost cut through and open it like a book. Then slice each half again almost through, so you have an accordion shape (four triangles sticking up, connected at the bottom).

Place accordion-side up on a baking sheet. Top the two eggplant halves with the spiced eggplant mixture, filling down into the dips in the eggplant and in between the two pieces. Combine the passata with the sugar, lemon juice, and remaining olive oil and some salt. Pour over eggplants. Cover the dish with aluminum foil (I skipped this and it was fine) and bake for 45-60 minutes until the eggplant has softened and sauce has reduced.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Recipe - Aloo Puri and Veggie Pakoras

Aloo puri are fried puffed potato bread. Think little buttery fried bread rounds. I was surprised how good they were (when I didn't burn them). I was quite pleased with how they turned out. They weren't nearly as puffy as the ones in this picture, they were more like little bread-like pancakes.

The veggie pakoras didn't turn out so well. Part of it was because I didn't cook the potato long enough, so some of the slices were still raw. But the batter didn't stay on in the cooking process, and even when it did, it wasn't very flavorful. I'm including it here, because maybe someone has some tips on what went wrong and how to fix it?

I don't normally fry food (ever), so this was my first foray into it. The aloo puri is vegetarian and the pakoras are vegan.

Aloo puri (fried potato bread)
8oz russet potatoes, peeled and cut into equal-sized pieces
2t salt
2 1/4 c flour
2T melted butter
1/4c warm water
vegetable oil for frying

Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain, then return the potato the pan over low heat for 2-3 minutes, to allow it to dry out slightly. Mash and allow to cool.

Sift flour and t salt intoa bowl. Add mashed potato and stir. Add the butter and water little by little, mixing until you have a firm dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until soft and elastic. Let stand for 30 minutes, covered (better results if not left for longer than 30 minutes).

Roll the dough into small balls and flatten into a circle using your hands. When the oil is heated until very hot, add one or two puri at a time, turning once, until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Zard choba pakora (potato and cauliflower pakoras)
2t ground coriander seeds
t ground turmeric
1/2t ground cumin
1/2t dried red chili flakes
1 1/2 c flour
2t sale
4 large potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
1/2 head cauliflower, broken into florets
30 fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
vegetable oil for frying

Mix coriander, turmeric, cumin and chili flakes in a bowl. Combine flour and 7 fl oz water to form a smooth batter. Season with 2t salt and black pepper and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Scrub the potatoes, put in a pan, and cover with cold salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and allow the potatoes to cool. Blanch the cauliflower in boiling water for 3 minutes until softened slightly, but still slightly crunchy. Drain and allow to cool.

Mix the spices wit the batter and cilantro. When the potatoes have cooled, peel off the skin and cut into 1/4" slices. Heat the oil in a large pan. Dip the potato/cauliflower slices in the batter, coating well on all sides, then fry them in small batches. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Recipe - Garlic and Cilantro Nan

These were tasty....and seriously garlicky! I would probably decrease the amount of garlic in them, because I had a bunch of leftovers and I just couldn't bring myself to eat them, they were that fragrant. But I think if I tweaked it a little, they'd be an awesome addition to a yummy meal.

Garlic and Cilantro Nan
1 large egg
1 t sugar
T Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 c flour
pinch of salt
1/2t baking soda
2T oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2T softened butter
1/2t cayenne
small bunch of fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, finely chopped

Whisk the egg, sugar, yogurt, and milk until smooth. Sift in the flour, pinch of salt and baking soda to make a soft dough. If needed, add a little water, a teaspoon at a time (if the dough's a bit too dry). Kneed the dough for 3-4 minutes, add oil and continue to knead until the oil has been absorbed into the dough (and dough is soft and elastic). Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a cloth or paper towel, and let it rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425. Crush the garlic with salt to form a paste. Stir the garlic paste, cayenne, cilantro, and scallions into the softened butter. Season with black pepper.

Divide the dough into eight balls. Flatten the dough until about 1/4" thick and smear with the herb butter. Allow the dough pieces to rise for another 5 minutes before baking. Lay two nan (or as many as fit) on a non-stick baking tray and bake in the over for 7 minutes until golden.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Recipe - Malaysian fried noodles

This recipe didn't turn out quite so well. Mostly, I think this was because I couldn't find either dried shrimp or shrimp paste, which would have added a much heftier flavor profile. I tried adding fish sauce to make up for it, but it just wasn't quite the same thing. But I'm still giving it to you here because I think that it might turn out really well if the appropriate ingredients are used.

The chili paste is definitely powerful, though take my word for don't want to leave any of it in tupperware all week and then open it to check on it. Practically bowled myself over, and ended up throwing up the whole tupperware with it. Not that it wasn't a good chili paste (it was), but sitting and marinating in its own juices, it just got to be a bit much.

10 large dried chilis
5 shallots, peeled
5 garlic cloves, peeled
t shrimp paste
6T oil
5oz firm tofu, cut into 1" cubes
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10 oz skinless chicken breast, sliced
10oz raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (or you can take the lazy route like me, and buy frozen cooked deshelled shrimp)
6 choi sum (or baby bok choy), cut into 1 1/4" lengths (if you buy too much and have leftovers, these are great cooked with a little olive oil and garlic, like spinach)
t tomato puree
T dark soy sauce (following the tradition of this recipe of not having stuff, I got home and realized I didn't have soy sauce (well, it was hiding, but I didn't find it til later), but I didn't want to go out, so I just tried to make do)
lb fresh thin yellow wheat noodles, cut into short pieces (I wouldn't used these next time, because they turned into big balls of doughy substance that wasn't very appetizing, I'd probably use rice noodles)
4 scallions, finely chopped
8oz bean sprouts
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

To make the chili paste - soak the dried chilis in boiling water for 20 minutes until softened. Seed and finely chop (unless you're paranoid of chili oil getting on your face, like me, and you just chop them up without seeding them because you don't want to risk the small chance that any tiny microdot of chili oil will get on skin). Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chilis, shallots (it helps to chopp these first, unless you have shoulders of steel), and garlic into a paste. Add the shrimp paste and 2T f water and mix. Heat T oil over medium-high heat and cook the paste 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat the remaining oil and fry the tofu 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Add the onion and garlic to the oil and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the chicken and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the shrimp and choi sum.

Add T of the chili paste, tomato puree, 1/2 cup water, and soy sauce, and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes. Add scallion, bean sprouts and tofu. Adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, and add a little lime juice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Recipe - Scallops with spicy cilantro chutney

I'm back! It's been forever and an age since I've posted, but I've been keeping up with my international theme the whole while. So today kicks off a week or two straight of recipe posts, to catch up with everything I've missed! March was Asia month and April is Caribbean and Central/South America month.

The recipe below turned out quite yummy. The sauce was just the right balance of spicy and creamy and herb-y. And it reheated rather well, surprisingly (you never know how seafood is going to be, reheated.

Scallops with Spicy Cilantro Chutney
4T raw cashews
1 garlic clove, minced (or pressed)
1/2t salt
t sugar
4 medium-hot fresh green chiles, seeded and freshly chopped
large bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
T Greek yogurt
juice of 2 limes

for the scallops:
12-18 sea scallops (you can present them in the shells, but I didn't bother, since I didn't have shells)
2" piece of fresh ginger
2T oil
3 scallions, finely sliced
small handful of fresh cilantro or mint leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Dry-roast the cashew nuts in a skillet until golden brown. Set aside half the nuts to garnish the scallops (I skipped this step). Blend the remaining cooled nuts to a paste with the garlic, salt and sugar. Add the chili and cilantro and puree. Add the yogurt and 2T of water. Puree until the texture suits your taste (I suppose this is similar to chunky or smooth peanut butter taste? I dunno...I MUCH prefer smooth peanut butter, but for this recipe, I prefer it chunkier, to offset the soft scallops). Transfer the chutney to a bowl and stir in the lime juice. Taste. It should be hot from the chili, sweet from the nuts and yogurt and salty and sour from the lime juice.

Finely slice the ginger into thin shreds like needles and lightly crush the reserved cashew nuts with the back of a knife. These are both used for garnish on the scallops (and I used neither).

Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Sear the scallops for 60-80 seconds each side, depending on how big they are. When they're brown and caramelized, put them on a plate. Spoon a little of the chutney over top, sprinkle with ginger and scallion, cashew nuts and fresh herbs. Can be served over quinoa or couscous for a complete meal.