Sunday, September 30, 2007

Romanesca, Italian Butter Bean, and Gorgonzola Gratin

This delicious Fall gratin with creamy fresh Italian Butter Beans, green and firm Romanesca, and tangy Gorgonzola was inspired by my trip to the SF Ferry Building Farmers Market last weekend. While I love Romanesca, I wouldn't have noticed the beans without Chef Eric's recommendation.

The Romanesca is the most amazing looking vegetable:

I discovered it last year and you can read more about it in this post from last November.

There's really no need for a formal recipe here. The Italian Butter Beans were podded and boiled until tender (approx. 15mins), cooled, then I removed the outerskin (like one would with a fresh fava). The Romanesca was cleaned and cut into small pieces and sauted gently with minced garlic and olive oil. Added the beans for one minute then put the mixture in a small gratin dish with some cooked rice underneath. As a side dish, the rice wouldn't be necessary, but this was a main for me. I think soft polenta (keeping with the Italian theme) would have been a much better choice and I would have preferred some tasty mashed potatoes or sliced sauted potatoes to the rice. ) Topped with crumbled Gorgonzola and placed under the broiler for 4-5 minutes, this made a wonderful little supper.

Vegans, you may remember my recent call for a Vegan Stilton. My trusty vegan pal VK discovered a Canadian Blue Soy Cheese, which I sampled this weekend, along with their Vegan Feta. Although the texture wasn't right, I was quite surprised at how well the Blue Soy Cheese reproduced that Blue Cheese taste.

Definitely good enough for a cheese lover to eat alone on crackers:

So the question now is: does it melt?

VK found these soy cheeses at Rainbow in SF. I haven't seen them elsewhere, so let us know if you have a source.

Here's the feta with cracker:

Also, very good. I'd love to hear about favorite vegan cheeses in the comments, so bring it on!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Millennium Cooking Class: Chiles

So, you may remember, last time I took a cooking class with Eric Tucker, Exec. Chef of the gourmet vegan restaurant Millennium, I said I couldn't imagine a better way to spend a Sunday. So this time, it's the best way to spend a Saturday morning and a Sunday, 'cos I attended the "foraging" part of the class at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market.

Incredibly, this was my first visit to the Ferry Building Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. And, it was really quite a treat (in the sense of locating unusual and fantastic produce and also in the sense of dropping $$). There was certainly an advantage to being part of Eric's entourage: the vendors all talked up a storm about their produce, and, chatted happily about their latest creations/discoveries/crops.

And, although the class was focused on chiles, we also explored vendors selling mushrooms (OMG!), apples, beans, and greens.

Here' s Chef Eric purchasing some chile peppers from Lee, who had some wonderful chile jams, including a very beautiful, bright red tomato, red chile jam which we all enjoyed tasting:

But, honestly, discovery of the weekend (for me) was the Blue Chanterelle mushrooms:

And, to salten the deal,....yep, those green beans in back are the elusive salty sea beans I've been seeking.

The most amazing thing about the Millennium cooking classes, apart from the discovery of awesome fresh ingredients, is how Chef Eric and his trusty assistants, Thomas, Ryan, and Sarah, turn a bunch of relative amateur cooks into a team that can produce restaurant standard (well, excellent, at least) food in a matter of hours. The team cooking approach (the class is split into two groups) builds a strong, immediate sense of comaraderie and a touch of competitiveness. Eric is constantly instructing, floating out ideas, while at the same time drawing on individual ideas and interest. He knows exactly when to put the pressure on the group to perform and pull together to make a dish happen, but also when to hang back and see what happens.

And, here's the proof, in photo gallery form....

Indonesian Coconut Potato Soup with a topping of Thai basil and a crunch combo of fried shallots and peanuts:

Cauliflower Bisque with shaved Matzutake Mushrooms and Chili Oil:

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters:

A pretty plateful (from noon: Chickpea fried Oyster Mushrooms (on the main menu and way better than calamari), toast triangles with macademia nut pate and chile jam, Italian Butter Bean Ragu with Chile Salsa Verde, and Grilled Blue Chanterelles :

Black-eyed Bean Fritter with blow-your-head-off hot sauce, tomato & pepper salsa, and mango-habanero sauce:

They may look like coal, but these grilled blue chanterelles, marinated in XV olive oil, garlic, soy sauce, and plenty of salt and pepper were the "roast beef" vegan dish of the century:

Beautiful butternut squash tamales:

Tempeh Picadillo Rellenos :

And, of course, the other great thing about the class is you get to eat everything that's cooked. If only the Internet could communicate flavor! Honestly, everything was soooo good, it was hard to find room for the desserts (which are made first).

But who can resist .....

Apple Pepper Strudel with Pomegranate Chile Caramel and a sorbet of chocolate chips, mint, and chiles:

And, the total OTT (Over The Top) dessert, Mexican Mole Torte with Chocolate Ganache and Orange Sorbet:

To my mind, this super moist, intense chocolate orange dessert can only be described as "killer".

The food you make and eat at the Millennium cooking classes is amazing. But, the sense of comraderie, on top of the food, makes the classes a truly amazing experience. This weekend, the class enjoyed the company of Ann Wheat, who, along with her husband, owns Millennium. Ann is one of those down-to-earth, hands-on types. Not only was she a pleasant person to chat with and talk restaurant business with, she was also out there in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, and hanging with the rest of us.

Here's Ann in the Millennium wine room with food photographs by Joan Linn Bekins.

(Obviously) I feel the Millennium cooking classes offer a truly unique hands-on learning and tasting experience. I plan to take the classes as my "treat" each month for the next year. So, stay tuned....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Stilton, Tomato & Pesto Pizza

Stilton pizza? Hmmm... this pizza made from Trader Joe's plain pizza dough, Poor Man's Pesto (no cheese), Heirloom tomato slices, topped with grated Stilton and walnut halves, was bursting with flavors. Honestly, the walnuts put this pizza into "over-the-top" indulgent mode, so feel free to skip them.

This would also be amazing with grilled portobellos.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chinese Stir Fried Green Beans

Last weekend, I had the most wonderful dish of Chinese Stir Fried Green Beans at CJ's in Larkspur. They were so good, I decided to try making them myself.

I used this recipe. Not nearly as good as CJ's, but pretty darn good with some stir fried tofu and broiled baby bok choy. Next time I'll add a little peanut butter to the sauce, or top with chopped peanuts. Definitely, a recipe to play with.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kale & White Bean Soup

This week has me infused with a strong sense of transition. Is that fall I'm sensing in the air?

This morning I decided I needed a fluffy spa robe with matching slippers. Last night, I brought out the movie-watching blankets. Tonight, choppin' firewood. (OK, now I'm exaggerating).

But I do have a sudden sense of wanting to hibernate and keep a low-profile.

So tonight's dish is a transitional soup recipe: a combination of summer elements (white beans & tomato broth) and fall (my beloved dinosaur kale, potatoes, and sweet carrots) with rosemary flavors (with rosemary, my yard runneth over.)

This was a perfect supper with a glass of Barbera d'Alba Red. And, who's betting it'll be even better tomorrow.

Kale & White Bean Soup:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 dutch baby potatoes, diced
1 carrot, sliced, then halved
2 -1/2 cups vegetable broth ( I use TJ's)
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup tomato sauce/puree (I used A. G. Ferrari's Freschissima.)
sea salt & pepper
sprig rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
1/2 bunch dinosaur kale (stalks removed, torn, cleaned)
2/3 cup white beans (cooked al dente)
red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes until softening. Add the garlic, turn down, and continue to cook for several minutes, not letting the garlic brown.

Add the potato, cover, and cook for 4-5 minutes over medium low, stirring occasionally. Add the carrot, cover, and cook 3-4 minutes longer. Add the vegetable broth, water, tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, add the tomato sauce, salt & pepper, and chopped rosemary. Simmer until the potatoes are almost tender. Add the dinosaur kale, white beans, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Check seasoning and serve!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

White Bean Basil Pesto

This White Bean Basil Pesto is adapted from The Millennium Cookbook, from a recipe for Heirloom Tomato with White Bean Pesto Torte, where Tucker oven dries the tomatoes to bring out their flavor. I'll have to try that, but I simply used the pesto on raw tomato slices with arugula.

I was delighted with this pesto! The bean and basil combination was wonderful. Incredibly, this pesto requires no oil, making it a lowfat, protein-packed, fresh tasting spread with endless posibilities. My first thoughts were on toasted baguette or as a sandwich spread, as a dip for raw vegetables or pita chips. Delicious!

Postscript (9/17/07):
I used the leftovers on a portobello pizza (one of those big portobellos, where the 'shroom acts as the crust), with a slice of tomato and a slice of Sheep Brigante Pecorina Pinna. It was dark and I was hungry, so no picture, but this was a quick and yummy way to use the white bean basil pesto.

White Bean Basil Pesto (adapted from The Millennium Cookbook):

1 cup white beans (I used cannellini)
3-4 cloves garlic (depending on your preference)
1/4 tsp fresh rosemary
1 cup basil leaves, torn
sea salt

Soak the beans overnight. Drain. Simmer the beans, along with 2 peeled (but uncut) cloves of garlic, in a generous amount of water for about an hour, until al dente. Drain, keeping the garlic cloves, and allow the beans to cool.

Put the beans, 2 cooked garlic cloves, 1-2 additional raw cloves (minced), rosemary, salt and pepper, and a little water into a food processor and process. Add the basil leaves and process until smooth. Check seasoning.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fiesta Tomato salad with Macademia - Red Pepper Cheese

So my first nut cheese was definitely a tasty success.

The color and texture weren't quite right, and, while it didn't actually taste like cheese, it was totally satisfying in place of cheese on this salad of Mexican flavors. Perhaps more of a Macademia-red pepper spread, it was rich and smooth and worked brilliantly with the tomatoes and refried beans.

I ate the rest with sesame blue corn chips and salsa. Delicious and easy!

The recipe is based on the raw nut cheese recipes in Ani's Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo, which attracted me due to their simplicity (no 3 day sprouting of rejuvelac required!) My version is also very easy. You'll see the measurements aren't that precise because I was playing with the taste as I went along.

Macademia Red Pepper Cheese:

1/4 cup macademia nuts
squeeze of lemon juice
4 taps cayenne (it was hot, so you may want to start with 1-2 taps)
1/8 tsp soy sauce
pinch nutritional yeast
pinch of sea salt
1/4 -1/2 roasted red pepper (I used Trader Joe's from a jar)
1/4 cup water as needed

Grind together the nuts, lemon juice, cayenne, and soy sauce in a mini prep. Add the soy sauce, yeast, and salt and a little of the water until the consistency starts to become creamy. Add the roasted red pepper in pieces, until well blended. Add water only as needed to get the desired consistency.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Not Cooking, but Eating

Above raw golden beet, topped with Arina Goat Gouda, Steamed lentils, and Jalapeno jelly.

Below, what can I say... I just can't stop making caprese salad with the amazing heirloom tomatoes I'm getting. This version on a bed of arugula with pine nuts and olives.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Taco with roasted pepper, corn, and avocado and refried beans

This was a yummy taco, made with a Food for Life Sprouted Corn Tortilla, refried vegetarian beans, roasted Anaheim pepper, broiled corn, and Casa Sanchez medium salsa with fresh tomato, red onion, and avocado. Topped of with Cashew Sour Cream (from the Millennium Cookbook) and a slice of red jalapeno.

This tasted very good, but in a decidedly lowfat way, if you know what I mean. Roasting the vegetables really brought out their flavor and the cashew sour cream added richness (although my version was a little too watery in texture). And, although now I've been eating more vegan meals, I can use soooo much less cheese and be satisfied, I missed the cheddar on this one. I have to confess, I added a few slivers to taco #2.

I found a relatively easy vegan "baja cheeze" recipe made from Brazil nuts, however, so stay tuned!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Protein-Packed Portobello: Lentils, Stilton, Walnuts, Tempeh Bacon

Ok...I'm not sure I'll ever out do this one. A juicy mouthful that is so light, flavourful, protein-packed, sexy, good-looking, and incredible tasting! Apologies up-front to my vegan friends, but someone has to come up with a vegan Stilton so you can experience this!

Portobellos, broiled with olive oil and balsamic, 2 minutes downfacing, 1 minute upfacing, packed with Trader Joe's Steamed Lentils mixed with red wine, then topped with Stilton and walnuts. Broiled 2 minues then wrapped in lightly fried tempeh bacon. Served over pretty micro greens. I got everything from Trader Joe's except the Tempeh bacon (Whole Foods).

These are so easy to prepare and no knife and fork required. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Potato, Cannellini & Arugula Soup

A sudden change in the weather (from very hot to cool and very windy) was the perfect excuse to make this tasty summertime soup with potatoes, white cannellini beans and arugula.

I think it's the first time I've used arugula in soup and it was delicious. I made a tomato broth and added some pesto, red pepper flakes, and kalamata olives to pack a flavorful punch. Top with a little pesto if you want to indulge!

Potato, Cannellini & Arugula Soup
I tsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped,
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp butter
3-4 baby dutch potatoes, cubed
1 large carrot, diced
salt & pepper
1 cup water (approx)
1/3 cup pureed tomatoes (I used A.G. Ferrari's)
1 tbsp pesto
1 portobello mushroom, peeled, black gills removed, sliced
1/2 cup cannellini beans
4-5 oz arugula
pinch red pepper flakes
3-4 kalamata olives, sliced

Heat the oil over low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the shallot and cook slowly, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Turn heat up slightly and add butter and potatoes. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add the carrot, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Add the water, tomatoes, pesto, salt, and pepper and turn up the heat until boiling. Turn down to a simmer and add the mushrooms and beans. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the arugula, red pepper flakes, and olive and cook 5 additional minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Grilled Portobello, Tomato & Tofu Open Sandwich

I'm not big on sandwiches - too much bread - but this open version, like a giant crostini, made a completely satisfying dinner on a hot evening.

I sliced the portobello and grilled on my grill pan with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I dry grilled a slab of Wildwood Savory Tofu and a buttered slice of La Brea Organic Whole Wheat Bread. I then spread the toasted bread with arugula pesto, a slab of heirloom tomato, some fresh arugula leaves, the grilled portobellos, grilled tofu, and another slice of heirloom tomato, topped with arugula pesto.

Probably, my favorite no-cheese sandwich to date!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Poblano, Jalapeno Pizza with Avocado

It's not the prettiest, but this was one hot pizza in more ways than one.

Trader Joe's plain pizza dough, topped with salsa (Casa Sanchez Medium), grated Arina Goat Gouda, roasted poblano, jalapenos, topped with grated cheddar. Baked at 450 for 10 minutes, then topped with rather too much cilantro pesto (better without, honestly) and some nice cool avocado. It was pretty hot and very delicious.

Alas, this pizza had a difficult birth. As I took it out of the oven, my arm touched the hot oven. As I still have the scar from the last time this happened, I reacted very quickly and flipped the pizza almost upside-down, leaving a lot of the cheesy topping hanging gruesomely from the rack and burning on the oven door. Oh, English expletive! Well, at least my arm remained intact.

I've learned a lot about kitchen safety in the last 6 months. I took Shuna's Knife Skills Class and haven't cut myself since (touch wood). I've taken the Food Manager Safety Class and Exam. I took the Millennium Cooking Class, where Chef Tucker very clearly spelled out that no glass items crossed from the bar area to the kitchen. So why did I think that bud vase was well positioned on the microwave above the dishwasher?

Yep, as I emptied the dishwasher and put glasses away in the cupboard, you know, the one right above the microwave and dishwasher, I just caught the bud vase which took the fastest suicide plunge ever, hitting the kitchen counter, richocheting into the open dishwasher, then onto the floor, shooting tiny splinters of glass over all three surfaces. Oh, American-English expletive!

So, they say things come in threes, and as I have some non-vegan baking planned this week, I think I'll probably skip licking the spoon. Stay safe!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Spicy Tomato & Cucumber Gazpacho with Arugula Pesto

Finally, I've made a gazpacho I like!

After having a very delicious gazpacho shot at Piccolo's in Larkspur (last summer), I've tried a few times to make gazpacho, but it's harder to make than it seems. I've always really wanted to like gazpacho since I saw the film "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (you know, that English reservedness can get old). So now I've done it! Spicy with a slight melon flavor.

Anway, even without the roasted red peppers that appear to be M.I.A., this was delicious. I used two sundried tomatoes that were a take-home from my Millennium tomato class (I didn't make them, but at a guess, they're roasted tomatoes with garlic, rosemary, sage, and fennel seeds in oil), 1/2 cup of A.G. Ferrari's Freschissima (Chopped Tomato Sauce), one peperoncini piccanti (seeded), 1/3 of an English cucumber (peeled), 2 Tbsp red wine, 1/2 slice of cantalope (cubed) ,and an unmeasured amount of water to get the right consistency. Put the lot in the blender and "Ecco!" Topped with arugula pesto and a fresh basil leaf this was the perfect combination for a hot summer's evening: spicy and refreshing!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Heirloom Tomato and Golden Beet Salad with Arugula Pesto

Now that's a pretty plateful, don't you think?

Heirloom tomatoes and raw golden beets on a bed of arugula with arugula pesto.

I've had golden beets on my mind ever since I saw Melody's post.

I suspect I am the first in an extensive English heritage to eat raw beets. Incredibly, I didn't even know you could eat them raw. (OMG!)

I don't know if this counts as "raw" food, as I dry-pan toasted the pine nuts, a step I would have undoubtably skipped before my Millennium Cooking Class. Heck, now toasted pine nuts seem like a requirement for any ice cream dish!

I used the Arugula Pesto recipe from The Millennium Cookbook as a guide, but basically winged it with arugula, toasted pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and salt. The pesto was delicious and a nice change from basil pesto, although I'd like to try a combination basil/arugula version too. Anyway, I have quite a bit of arugula pesto left over, so what do you think I should try it with?

The salad was a joy that I took my time over! The tomatoes and beets were sweet and the arugula pesto surprisingly mild.

And, if you ever think you're a tad strange/obsessive about your food creations, how weird am I to even have thought of this catch-the-last-rays-of-sun shot.

Yep, that's my salad with Mount Tam in the background.