Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

Today, Albion Cooks turns one, so I satisfied my savory tooth with a birthday pizza pie. This pizza used a premade cornmeal crust, brushed with minced garlic and olive oil, and topped with campari tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

One year and 317 posts feels like quite an accomplishment. But mostly, it's been lots of fun and I'm a much more confident cook than a year ago. Happily, I have so much more to learn.

Thanks to all of you commenters who have made this such an interesting exchange. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Green Soup with Beans & Strozzapreti

Looking for an easy meal to make the most of all those lovely winter greens? Try this quick and easy soup made with Broccoli Rabe, chard, and kale! I added butter beans and strozzapreti (pasta) to make the soup hearty, and jalapeno and red pepper flakes to give it warmth.

This super healthy soup is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF (Antioxidant Rich Foods) Tuesday.

Green Soup with Beans & Strozzapreti
1 large leek, soaked and chopped (white and green parts)
1 tbsp butter
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
2-4 oz strozzapreti or other pasta
3 garlic cloves minced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, stem ends removed, cut into 2-1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch dinosaur kale, stems removed and torn into 2-1/2 inch pieces
1/2 bunch green chard, stems removed and torn into 2-1/2 inch pieces
4-5 oz butter beans
3-4 slices of jalapeno, chopped
red pepper flakes

Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook the leeks until almost tender (about 5 minutes). Add a good two shakes of red pepper flakes and stir. Add the vegetable stock and water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook at a low boil for 6 minutes. Add the garlic, broccoli rabe, kale, and chard and turn down the heat to a simmer. Season. Simmer for 6 minutes until greens are almost tender. Add the butter beans, jalapeno, and more red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes. Check seasoning and serve topped with pine nuts.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Five Things Most People Don't Know About Me Meme

(Near Zuni Cafe. Around 1990)

I've been tagged by Anna of Anna's Cool Finds to participate in the "Five Things Most People Don't Know About Me" meme. So, here goes:

1. When I was a very young child, my dream was to be a zookeeper. When I told my father, he discouraged me saying I would spend all my time cleaning up animal "messes".

2. After being discouraged about zookeeper life, I decided to become a writer. My first book (at 8 or 9) was a school story. It was awful, but I was very proud.

3 .I hate cooked celery and it never appears in anything I make.

4. I have a very long time crush on Richard Butler, singer of the Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love.

5. Prior to a trip to Portugal (my boyfriend at University was Portuguese), I suffered from anxiety dreams in which a huge bowl of olives was set before me (I hated all the olives I'd tried at this point) and I was required, out of politeness, to eat the whole bowl.

Now I'm addicted to Cerignola olives from A. G. Ferrari Foods (other sources have paled in comparison - locals the Town Center Store has great staff) and enjoy quite a few other types of olives (as you've doubtless noticed!).

And now I get to tag 4 others. So I tag
1. Vegan Knitting (and then Some)
2. Lydia of The Perfect Pantry
3. Vanessa of Vanesscipes
4. Fiber of 28 Cooks

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Chocolate Bouchons

While they don't have the traditional "cork" shape, these muffins do share the dense, intensely chocolaty taste of Chocolate Bouchons. Traditionally made in small, deep timbale molds, this recipe produces dense little chocolate cakes, studded with chocolate chips. A long time family favorite, I make these indulgences in mini-muffin pans with mini chips. Even just one (two bites) is highly satisfying.

The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Paris Boulangerie Patisserie: Recipes from Thirteen Outstanding French Bakeries. I used Scharffen Berger cocoa powder with rich results.

Chocolate Bouchons:

4 eggs
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1-1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a mini muffin pan.

Whisk together the egg and sugar until well blended. Whisk in the softened butter and cocoa until blended (the recipe says until smooth, but when I make these there's always little lumps of butter, which has never been a problem in the final result). Stir in the flour until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon into the mini muffin pans and bake for about 10 minutes (full-sized muffins take about 15-18 minutes), until a toothpick in the center comes clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes then place on a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thai Curry with Basil, Eggplant & Green Beans

This wonderful dish was my first using those lovely little green and white Thai eggplant! I found them at Whole Foods last week and thought they were tomatillos until I read the sign! After finding some organic Thai basil at the Farmers Market, I knew it was time for a Thai curry.

Apart from the eggplant, this Thai Curry with Basil, Eggplant, and Green Beans was inspired by a favorite dish at a longtime local restaurant, Royal Thai. I can't believe how close I got in taste to the restaurant version with this simple recipe! I can't wait to make this for friends and see what they think. I should warn you that this recipe was hot!

So the lovely little Thai eggplants are tomato-sized, white-fleshed, with lots of seeds. I just sliced them and sauted!

And, will miracles never cease, I finally managed to switch to the new Blogger after so many reneged invitations!

Thai Curry with Basil, Eggplant & Green Beans:
3 tbsp olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Thai eggplant, sliced and cut in half
1 red pepper, sliced
1 cup+ thin green beans (I used Trader Joe's frozen)
1 serrano chile, sliced across (not deseeded)
8 oz firm tofu, cubed
3 tbsp Thai Red Curry Sauce (I used Trader Joe's, vegetarian but not vegan)
torn greens (I used broccoli rabe, but spinach or chard would be good)
12 leaves of thai basil

If using frozen green beans, heat salted water in a saucepan. When it boils, add the beans and cook 2-3 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water to stop the cooking.

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook garlic for 1-2 minutes (don't brown). Add the Thai eggplant, pepper, and serrano chile and sauted for 5 minutes. Add the tofu and saute for 2 additional minutes. Add the green beans, Thai Red Curry Sauce, and cover. Cook 5 minutes then add the torn greens (if you use spinach, add it later with the thai basil) and cook until greens are tender. Stir in thai basil and serve immediately over rice.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cheese & Poblano Quesadilla with Black Beans and Sweet Potato Stew

There's nothing like roasting poblano chiles to fill your house with an exotic and appetizing fragrance. After looking through my new Dona Tomas cookbook, I was definitely in the mood for Mexican food.

For the quesadilla, I used corn tortillas filled with cheddar cheese and roasted poblano chile. One thing I note from the Dona Tomas recipes is that they call for Mexican cheeses that I don't recall seeing anywhere, like queso Oaxaca and queso Cotija. There's also many other ingredients I've never heard of like Achiote Paste, Huitlacoche, Nixtamal, Piloncillo. This is going to be an awesome learning experience and I'll need to find a good local Latin American Grocery store (let me know if you have any recommendations).

The Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew was a simpler version of this recipe. This time I used just sweet potatoes, black beans, and salsa and served it with a more elaborate avocado salsa. I really love the combination of sweet potatoes and black beans! Not only do they taste great, their colors really compliment each other.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ten Speed Press Cookbooks!

Look what I won!

Yes, I was the lucky Menu of Hope raffle winner of my choice of three cookbooks from Ten Speed Press.

I chose:

Dona Tomas : a beautiful book of Mexican recipes from the restaurant of the same name, located in Oakland, California. Not a vegetarian cookbook, but with plenty of awesome sounding vegetarian recipes like Mexican Pasta with Vegetables & Chile, Quesadilla with Morel Mushrooms, Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Poblano Cream, and Rose Petal Flan. Gosh...and I've been satisfied all this time with a simple cheese quesadilla! I'm looking forward to trying these bolder recipes.

The Artful Vegan: Fresh Flavors from The Millenium Restaurant, the most famous vegan restaurant in the Bay Area. Filled with beautiful photos of some incredible-looking vegan dishes like African Teff Cakes with Fava-Wild Mushroom Wat and Carrot-Chile Chutney, Yellow Finn Potato Gnocchi with Beet-Merlot Reduction, Roasted Beets, and Walnuts, or Mediterranean Five-Lentil and Chard Soup with Walnut Gremolata. My...I think I'm going to have to hire kitchen staff for some of these! These will be challenging, but its good to stretch oneself, right?

Morning Food: by Margaret Fox, the former owner of Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino. Hubby and I had a romantic dinner there eons ago (read:before we had kids) and the food was wonderful, as was the garden. Anyway, this book is knudging inspiration to achieve one of my 2007 goals: to learn to bake bread. How hard will that be after I've made some of those recipes from The Artful Vegan? This book includes all kinds of breakfast and brunch foods from Stinson Beach Blueberry Muffins to Ole Souffle and Egg & Onion Fried Matzo to Rhubarb-Lemonade Fizz. This book looks to provide the greatest challenge to my waistline!

All these books are really gorgeous! Many thanks to Randy at Ten Speed Press for the kind donation to Menu for Hope and also to The Bunrabs, for arranging this prize.

Ten Speed Press are very cool publishers. They also published one of my latest favorites, The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry. And do you know the other famous foodie whose book is about to be released by Ten Speed? None other than our very own lovely blogger Heidi of 101 Cookbooks. Super Natural Cooking is due out this March!

I'm also adding all these wonderful cookbooks to the Albion Cooks Storeon Amazon.

So, what was for dinner Chez Catherine? A simple fresh thyme and chive omelette, cooked in salty English butter, and a salad. What can I say? It was fabulous!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fusilli with Broccoli & Garlic Cheese Sauce

Although I love cheese, most of the mac 'n cheese dishes I've eaten have been disappointing. They're cheesiness always seems diluted to something mild and milky. And, I consider it an indulgent dish as far as those fat calories go.

However, I was recently inspired by cookiecrumb's Little Pots of Cheesy Redemption to reconsider the pasta with cheese sauce dish. So when I had that wintry craving for something comforting and cheesy, and discovered my only block of tofu had somehow become half frozen in my fridge (I love tofu & veg. with cheese sauce), I recognized my opportunity.

The sauce was incredibly cheesy and had just the right bite of garlic. It was far from low fat, but I did use vegetable broth in place of some of the milk, which was actually fantastic. I'd have added a little white wine if I'd had some. It was much thinner that my typical cheese sauces and swirled around the fusilli shape wonderfully. The little broccoli florettes were the perfect contrast, with their juicy freshness and mouthy crunch. I sprinkled cayenne pepper on mine.

This is quick and easy to make, requires only basic ingredients, while being quite elegant. Keep this dish in mind for a spontaneous dinner with friends.

Fusilli with Broccoli & Garlic Cheese Sauce

8 oz fusilli pasta
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
large head of broccoli, cut into little florettes

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook per directions (10-12 mins). Add the broccoli florettes to the pasta for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.

In a small saucepan (one with rounded sides is best), melt the butter over med. low heat. Add 1/3 minced garlic to the butter, then add it the flour and stir continuously for 1-2 minutes until frothy. Add the milk and turn up the heat. Stir constantly until the mixture starts to thicken (4-5 minutes) Add the vegetable broth and cook an additional 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cheddar and remaining garlic. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and serve in a bowl. Spoon the cheese sauce over the pasta and serve. Cayenne is a wonderful addition!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Spinach, Red Onion & Feta Pizza

This Spinach, Red Onion & Feta pizza was wonderfully light and fresh tasting. Inspired by Spanakopita, the flavor of all three topping ingredients came through distinctly and were delicious together.

I brushed a Boboli thin crust with olive oil and minced garlic and sprinkled a light layer of grated mozzarella on top. I minced two garlic cloves and sauted them in a tbsp. of olive oil for 1-2 minutes. I then added 5-6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves (stalks removed) and sauted for 2-3 minutes, adding a few drops of water. I seasoned the spinach with salt and pepper and then placed it on a chopping board, chopped it, then placed it in a sieve and removed extra liquid by pressing with the back of a wooden spoon. I sprinkled the spinach over the pizza.

I wiped out my skillet and cooked fine slices of red onion in a smidgen of olive oil for 2 minutes. I added these to the pizza and then topped everything off with generous amounts of crumbled feta. Baked at 450 for 8 minutes.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Red Lentil Soup

Here's a substantial soup for cold winter days! This Red Lentil Soup is filled with vegetables of the warm orange hue: orange cauliflower, carrots, rutabaga, and sweet potatoes, along with a hearty broth of red lentils flavored with cumin, curry, and cayenne. I also included some red kidney beans an a little chopped cilantro.

A bowl of this hot soup makes a meal and provides a powerhouse of protein and vitamins. You could also make this a great stew by using a little less water and serve over rice. The eggplant pesto adds a smoky depth to the flavor that I really liked. Jalapenos would also be fabulous in this dish, but I wanted to test the curry flavor on 6 year old Sweetpea (she liked it!) so I decided not to risk making it too hot.

Red Lentil Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 rutabaga, peeled and chopped (small)
3 carrots, sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
pinch of cumin seeds
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups water
1/2 cup red lentils
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp smoky eggplant pesto (optional)
1 cup orange cauliflower, cut into small florettes
1/2 cup+ red kidney beans
chopped cilantro to garnish

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and saute the onions for 3 minutes. Add the rutabaga, carrots, and pinch of cumin seeds, stir well, cover, and cook 3 minutes. Add the sweet potato and cook 2 additional minutes.

Add the vegetable broth, water and lentils, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the cumin, curry powder, cayenne, and tomato paste. Simmer for 15 minutes, partially covered. Salt. Add the cauliflower, red kidney beans, and eggplant pesto (if using) and cook an additional 8 minutes. If the broth is too thick for your liking, add additional water. Check seasoning. Serve topped with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Despite our inventiveness and desire for the new, sometimes we crave those simple and familiar foods of our childhood. Growing up in England, my childhood favorites included jam tarts, rice krispie treats, Bakewell tart, sausage rolls, scones, bread and butter, and flapjacks. But my kids are American, and one of their favorite treats is the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie.

So where do you go looking for those classic American recipes? My source is the recently published The Good Home Cookbook by Richard J. Perry, a retro cookbook that boasts over 1000 simple recipes for American home cooked food. Each recipe has a brief note addressing its American history, alternate names, or tips on ingredients. While not a vegetarian book, there's plenty here to enjoy. The sweets section is especially appealing: recipes for popcorn balls, bourbon balls, bananas foster, crumb cakes, peach muffins: yum! There's plenty of vegetarian options in the party appetizers, soup, and salad sections and I was excited to see a recipe for Rutabaga Pudding in the vegetable section.

Many recipes are for foods that originated elsewhere and have been adopted into the American menu, so the book includes a recipe for Spanakopita, along with Harvard Beets and Onion Rings. A good cookbook for beginners, it includes tips sections (on baking, candy making, coffee making etc), defines cooking terms, and provides menu suggestions.

So, how were "the quintessential school lunchbox cookies" ? So good, I had to hide them! This recipe makes enough for a crowd! Enjoy!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (adapted from The Good Home Cookbook)

1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves (I used All Spice)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugars, and vanilla extract. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in the rolled oats and raisins.

Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased cookie tray and bake for 12 minutes until golden brown. Wait a few minutes before removing the cookies from the tray.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Penne with Broccoli Rabe & Olives

If there's one thing I try to avoid at all costs, its overcooking vegetables. You know... there's that whole English cooks =overcooked vegetables myth. Alas, my first recipe with Broccoli Rabe involved overcooking it.

The Broccoli Rabe (aka Rapini) was a Farmers Market find. Although the vendor recommended stir-fry, I almost made a pizza, but then opted for pasta at the last minute. I followed this recipe from Suite but used feta instead of Parmesan and kalamata olives. Unusually, I wished I hadn't researched this particular subject as it resulted in a misjudgment. "Bitter" was the main word to describe Broccoli Rabe and although I tried it raw and thought it had an afterkick, it didn't strike me as particularly bitter. I parboiled the Broccoli Rabe for 2-3 minutes, per the recipe. As I watched it drain in a colander, I thought, hmmm...better stop the cooking... so I rinsed it with cold water. Alas, it was still overcooked in the final dish. Next time, I'll parboil for 1 minute and make up as needed at the saute stage.

Still, I think you'll agree, it makes a sumptuous and classically beautiful pasta dish with kalamata olives and feta.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

French Lentil Stew here's one of those vegan dishes that tastes great, but, honestly, doesn't look that hot. While this adaption of the French Lentil Sauce recipe from The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld was incredibly flavorful, I had that blog-photographer-sinking-feeling as I retrieved the pureed lentil mixture from my blender. To be frank, it looked muddy. The stew made a delicious home meal, but I can't see myself serving this one to guests.

The stew was made from the small green French lentils du Puy and flavored with a wonderful combination of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage. Although the original recipe is for a sauce to serve over pasta, this didn't feel right to me, so I used it as a high protein base for a hearty stew with potatoes, carrots, and kale. The dinosaur kale was really sensational here!

Next time, to improve the looks of this dish, I might skip pureeing part of the lentil mixture, although the puree did provide a nice gravy. Or maybe I'll use red lentils for a warm orange dish. It's certainly a meal we'll want to have again this winter.

French Lentil Stew (adapted from The Voluptuous Vegan):

1 cup lentils du Puy
5 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus 1 tsp minced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus 1 tsp minced
3 fresh sage leaves, plus 1 tsp minced
salt & pepper
2 tbsp olive oil (Kornfeld says 3 tbsp)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
6 small potatoes, cut into small chunks
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 bunch dinosaur kale, stemmed and torn

Put the lentils in a large saucepan with the water, bay leaf, sage leaves, rosemary and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil, then simmer partially covered until lentils are tender (25-30 minutes). Add salt and pepper. Take about a cup of the lentils and 1/2 cup of the liquid and puree in a blender. Add the potatoes and carrots to the remaining lentils and simmer until tender (10-15 minutes). Add the kale for the last 8 minutes.

Heat the lentil puree in a small saucepan with the olive oil and red pepper flakes. Stir until well combined, then add to larger pot. Heat together for a few minutes, then serve.

Cheddar & Chive Buttermilk Scones

These savory Cheddar & Chive Buttermilk Scones were incredibly light and delicate. A variation of Clare Connery's Irish Buttermilk Scones, we made lunchtime sandwiches with these and also enjoyed them plain and simply with butter. The chives were wonderful, so now I'm thinking leek scones!

My only critique was that plain, they weren't salty enough to my taste. I tend to go a little light on the salt when cooking for others, and, as I was adding sharp cheddar, I just gave these a small pinch. Mistake. But then, how much is a pinch of salt?

Cheddar & Chive Buttermilk Scones (adapted from In an Irish Country Kitchen by Clare Connery):
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter
3 oz sharp cheddar, grated
2-3 tablespoons chives, chopped
1 cup buttermilk

Beaten egg or milk to glaze (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425. Sift together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar in a medium large bowl. Cut the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the grated cheese and chives. Create a well in the center and add the milk. Use a thick knife to mix in the milk and form a dough. Roll out the dough on a floured board to 3/4 inch thick and cut into rounds or triangles. Put scones onto a lightly floured baking sheet and brush with milk or beaten egg, if desired. Bake for about 15 minutes until light golden in color.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gooseberry Fool

Despite our extremely chilly weather here in California, a visit from my brother and a lucky find at our local high-end grocery store, made a dreamy summer English dessert a reality today.

There's really nothing like Gooseberry Fool. A very simple dessert to prepare, assuming you can find the gooseberries, this incredible combination of tart fruit, sugar, and whipped cream creates a bold and unique fresh flavor that makes this my favorite dessert. I even listed this dish as one of my Five Foods Everyone Should Try.

In our childhood garden in England, we had two or three thorny gooseberry bushes at the end of the garden, behind the vegetable patch. I remember picking them in the sweltering sun (!) and planting a sunflower that grew to at least 6 ft nearby ( tall was I then? was very, very tall anyhow).

The gooseberries I used today were about half the size I remember, organic gooseberries from Chile:

My brother and I mused on what made the Chilean growers decide to grow gooseberries of all things. It certainly seemed odd, but today we were both grateful. However, I fear Gooseberry Fool may be particularly delicious to the English taste buds. My brother and I couldn't get enough of this creamy dessert, but my daughter Sweetpea didn't like it (although she scoffed half the Quality Street Chocolates my brother brought) and hubby's comment on a small spoonful (all I was willing to give up anyway) was "different".

Well, maybe we're mad Englishfolk, but, if you are lucky enough to find gooseberries at your local grocery store, I hope you'll try this dreamy English dessert.

Gooseberry Fool

6 oz gooseberries
1/4 cup+ sugar
1/2 cup+ heavy whipping cream

Top and tail the gooseberries and place in a small saucepan. Cover with water and add sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the berries are tender. Drain off half of the liquid.

Pass the cooked gooseberries and remaining liquid through a sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to remove the seeds. Taste the liquidy mix and add more sugar if particularly tart. Cool.

Beat the heavy whipping cream until stiff. Combine the gooseberries with the cream, reserving a spoonful of gooseberry. Serve in a pretty glass dish and top with reserved gooseberry.

Two Bean Vegetable Soup with Rosemary

It's been colder here in Marin that we can remember, so soups are in high demand chez moi. This healthful bowl included white and red beans, orange cauliflower, red cabbage, carrots, potatoes, green beans, and chard. The base was simply vegetarian "chicken" stock, a little marinara, and a tablespoon of green olive paste. And plenty of onions and garlic, of course. I used fresh rosemary from the garden, which really brought the flavors together. Everything you need to stay healthy in this cold snap.

We were very surprised to wake up this morning to ice on the lagoon (that's bay water):

That's a first!

Stay cozy everyone.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Leek & "Bacon" Pizza

Can you say scrumptious? This awesome pizza with leeks, vegetarian bacon, green olive spread and Gorgonzola was indulgent and utterly amazing!

I used Trader Joe's plain pizza dough and spread it with one of my favorite flavor ingredients, green olive spread (I get mine from Cost Plus $4).

I cooked one big fat leek (chopped) in butter over med. low heat for about 6-8 minutes.

Topped the olive spread with a little grated mozzarella and the leeks. Grated about 2 oz of Gorgonzola over the leeks then topped it with 4 crumbled slices of Morningstar Bacon (vegetarian, but not vegan). Baked on a pizza stone at 450 for 10 minutes.

The blend of all these flavors was just incredible. Hubby just kept repeating, "You've really outdone yourself with this one."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Portobellos Stuffed with Potatoes, Leeks, Cheddar & Chard

Hurray! I'm the proud new owner of a Canon Powershot A640!

I'm really into leeks right now. So, if you have a favorite vegetarian leek recipe, post it, email it to me and I'll do a vegetarian leek round-up.

Tonight's menu, chez Catherine, was portobello mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes, leeks, scallions, chard, and cheddar cheese. A wonderful comfort food with the elegant touch of stuffed Ports. It's also super-easy! Here's how.

Portobellos Stuffed with Potatoes, Leek, Cheddar & Chard

I large baking potato
1 tbsp butter
I large leek, cut in quarters, and soaked for 5 min
3 scallions
1/2 bunch chard leaves, stemmed and ripped
1/4-1/3 cup milk
S & P
1/2 cup grated cheddar
6 portabello stuffing mushrooms (6oz)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Rinse the potato, poke it with a fork several times, and microwave on high until baked (5-6 mins).

Melt the butter in a skillet and cook the leek for 4 minutes. Add the scallions and chard and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the cheddar and S & P. Add the milk, potato, and grated cheddar.

Peel the mushrooms and brush ousides with olive oil and insides with balsamic vinegar. Stuff with potato mixture and bake for 12 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Albion Connection

I've been asked to explain the Albion connection and I think this is worth a post.

Albion, as many of you probably know, is an ancient name for Great Britain. So, Albion Cooks is a bit of a pun on British Cooks, once thought of as awful, but that's all changed now! Being a Brit, I can say this with confidence ;-)
"I used to think...that the English cook the way they do because, through sheer technical deficiency, they had not been able to master the art of cooking. I have discovered to my stupefaction that the English cook that way because that is they way they like it.
--Waverley Root

As you know, I'm not one to overcook a vegetable, but I am partial to vegetarian versions of British food, in all its glory!

Nova Albion, or New Albion, is also the name of the Pacific Coast region explored and claimed for England by Drake back in the 1600's. "The most prevalent theory has been that Drake landed in Marin County, California"(Source: Wikipedia), where of course, we have the lovely Drake's Beach. So Brits and Marin have a strong historical connection.

It's also a personal pun on Albion Books, an Internet publishing company my ex started back in the early 90's. I was soon working for Albion too, but this was before we tied the knot, so I appear as Catherine Hubbard on the Albion website. Albion Books' claim to fame was the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea, the first guide to online etiquette, published in 1994 (think: . Virginia is a fabulous writer and her book received accolades from around the globe. While some of her advise will be old hat to regular Internet users, I'm sure we can all think of someone who should read this book... like... right now.

Albion is also famous for publishing Philip Baruth's The Millennium Shows, a novel about a Deadhead named Story that begins, "My life is a set-list."

You can read the complete texts of both Netiquette and The Millennium Shows online at

Monday, January 08, 2007

Behind the Apron

Fiber of 28 Cooks is hosting a Behind the Apron round-up, where food bloggers are invited to show their faces and tell a little about themselves. So here's a self-portrait using my Mac's photo booth camera.

I grew up in Abingdon, just outside Oxford (England) and now live in Marin, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I have a BA in English & American Literature from the University of Kent in Canterbury (England). Hubby and I have been married for 10 years and have 2 beautiful children.

My original step onto the blogging scene was BookCarousel, where I review exceptional children's picture books. Being the bookish type, I went to the library and took out all their books on "blogging". One book, Blog, referred me to the wonderful Cooking With Amy and I was immediately hooked on food blogs. When Sam of Becks & Posh made Albion Cooks Bay Area Blog of the Week #32, I felt like my 15 minutes of fame had arrived! And, geeky though I may be, I'm still really enthusiastic about Albion Cooks. I'm also a very enthusiastic reader of food blogs: I'm currently subscribed to 115 and I read them all!

Albion Cooks is the perfect creative outlet for me as it incorporates many of my favorite things: food, cooking, writing, researching, photography...and cookbooks, books on food, books on photographing food etc. That said, I do have a "mission" for the blog (yep...I'm really that geeky), which is to inspire others to enjoy healthful and fabulous-tasting vegetarian food with the emphasis on abundance rather than deprivation.

So enough about me! I hope you'll consider participating in the Behind the Apron round-up too!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Healthy Lunch

So, looking on the bright side of being a camera-less food blogger, I am afforded that rare opportunity of making repeat recipes, something I rarely do these days.

For lunch today, I made delicious Vegetable & Tofu dumplings, with a side of Super Sesame Slaw. Very tasty!

I also made a wonderful new pasta dish this evening with a Welsh theme: Spaghetti with Leeks & Caerphilly. It was fabulous and I'll definitely be making this again to share with you when I'm camera-complete.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

David Lebovitz' Fresh Ginger Cake

My cake baking has made a very delicious and successful start to the year with this amazing Fresh Ginger Cake, a recipe from David Lebovitz' Room For Dessert. This gorgeous book has tantalizing recipes for every occasion from fancy dinner (Champagne Gelee with Citrus Fruits & Kumquats) to after-school treat (Peanut Butter Cookies) and includes sections on frozen desserts, fruit desserts, and Liqueurs & Preserves.

Although this wonderful ginger cake came out exactly like the photograph in David's book, my photography has had a less auspicious start to the year. In fact, my camera died yesterday. Or rather the USB port in my camera died (the camera still works, I just can't get the pictures off). Happily, my friend Vegan Knitting rescued me with her camera so I got the shot above, but you know how it is trying to get a decent shot with a totally different camera. At least you can tell what it is in this picture.

David says this Fresh Ginger Cake is one of his most requested recipes and I believe it. It's so moist. The texture is heavenly. The only changes I made were that I only had 3/4 cup molasses so I used Lyles Golden Syrup to make up the difference. I also subbed All Spice for cloves because I didn't have cloves and All Spice was the closest substitute. I thought the 4oz of fresh ginger would be completely overwhelming, but actually it's perfect.

And, for anyone who's not familiar, David Lebovitz writes a wonderful blog about Living the Sweet Life in Paris.

Fresh Ginger Cake (adapted from Room For Dessert):

4 oz fresh ginger
1 cup mild molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut oil
1 cup water
2 tsp baking soda
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350. Line bottom of a 9-1/2" springpan with parchment.

Peel the ginger, grate it, then finely chop.

In a mixing bowl, combine the molasses, sugar and peanut oil. Boil the water in a saucepan and add the baking soda (this was fun!). Add the water mixture to the molasses and combine. Add the chopped ginger.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture gradually, whisking to combine. Add the eggs and mix until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick in the center comes clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Buddha's Hand

Call me weird, but here's a fruit I feel like worshiping: a Buddha's Hand. If only the Internet had an olfactory feature, you might join me. The glorious smell of this golden citrus is so perfect. It's a treasure I want to share.

In China, the fruit symbolizes happiness, wealth, and longevity and is used as a fragrant centerpiece or temple offering. It is especially popular at New Year's as it is "believed to bestow good fortune on a household" (Source: Flavor & Fortune). So for all of you who (like me) had a challenging 2006, I'd like to share this symbol of good fortune with you for 2007.

Will I actually use the fingers for cooking? Right now, I can't really imagine cutting one off without an accompanying sense of desecration. But can I let the opportunity pass untasted? Surely not.

This is the largest Buddha's Hand I've ever seen. In the picture below, I am holding it in my hand with Mt. Tam in the background.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Eggplant & Tofu Curry

Wow ! This is my favorite use of eggplant to date (except those Vegetable Towers were awfully good). I've never been a huge fan of eggplant (aubergine), but perhaps I just wasn't using enough garlic.

Anyway, this is the first time I've salted the eggplant slices and let them sit for an hour in a colander before rinsing and patting them dry. And, heck, the eggplant plumped when I sauted it in a modest amount of olive oil with lots of minced garlic. Supposedly, the salting helps prevent the thirsty eggplant from absorbing too much oil. I have to say the juicy texture was perfect for this curry.

The eggplant was joined by tofu, cauliflower, red pepper, white beans, cilantro and cashews in Trader Joe's Korma Simmer Sauce. I served it with Naan (from the Trader Joe's freezer), raita (plain yogurt with grated cucumber), and cilantro chutney (made by a local vendor). So good!

Eggplant & Tofu Curry:
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4" rounds
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large pinch of cumin seeds
pinch of coriander seeds
1 red pepper, chopped into 1/2" slices
1 cup cauliflower, cut into small florettes
1 jar TJ's Korma Simmer Sauce
4 oz tofu, cubed
1/2 cup white beans (red kidney beans would be great too or chickpeas)
handful of cashews
small bunch cilantro leaves, chopped

Salt the eggplant slices and place in a colander. Leave for 1 hour. Gently rinse and pat dry. Cut into 1" pieces.

Heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic. Cook gently for 1-2 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander seeds. Cook 1 minute. Add the eggplant, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent sticking. Add the red pepper and cauliflower, stir well, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the Korma Simmer Sauce and tofu and simmer for 10 minutes until the eggplant is tender. Add the beans and cashews for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Add the chopped cilantro for the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Serve with naan or over rice.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Spaghetti with Cauliflower

The first day of 2007 was a brilliant, sunny (if cold) day here in Marin. Perfect weather for a wonderful family hike around Lake Lagunitas and to the top of Pilot Knob, where we were bathed in the last 15 minutes of the day's sunshine and enjoyed spectacular views of Mt. Tam, the lakes, and local towns. When we got home, we were hungry! An early and filling dinner was called for.

Inspired by this recipe from January's Gourmet magazine, this simple spaghetti dish with cauliflower, green olive paste, garlic, and parsley was quick to prepare and very tasty. I simplified by using green olive paste and simply chopping the parsley, rather than processing whole olives and the parsley together. I also switched the almonds from the original recipe to pine nuts. I didn't really fancy almonds with the rest of the ingredients, but the pine nuts were awesome. I also used much less olive oil than the 1/2 cup called for in the original recipe and left out the cheese.

The cauliflower is broken into small florettes and sauted for this recipe. I have to say I love this treatment, producing crisp browned edges, and you really don't have to use much olive. And, as cauliflower is a wonderful antioxidant and a great source of Vitamin C, this recipe is my first 2007 contribution to Sweetnick's ARF (Antioxidant Rich Foods) Tuesday. Many thanks to Cate at Sweetnick's for her weekly commitment to this inspiring food blogger event.

Here's yours truly at the top of Pilot Knob with Mt. Tam in the background.