Archive for July, 2009

That’s a Wrap

July 31, 2009


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When I was putting together the menu for last weekend’s yoga retreat, there were a couple of things that were clear to me.  I wanted to take part in the morning session of yoga, so I needed to make things that could be mostly done ahead of time.  And I wanted to be sure to have some kind of sandwich.  Salads only after 2 hours of hot yoga was not going to satisfy this group.  Last time, I made three giant sandwiches on ciabatta bread which were very well received, but those took a lot of last minute time.  For this retreat, because I wanted to take part in the class, I needed to simplify.

Enter one of my favorite sandwiches ever.  I first made these about 7 years ago and have made them countless times since.  Wraps of any kind are the perfect portable food and these are no exception.  I’ve made them for road trips and for picnics and for dinner when I am craving something healthy with a flavor explosion.

I would have made them in advance but there was a 7:55am ferry to catch and I wasn’t prepared to wake up any earlier than necessary.  Instead, I had all the components ready (hummus made…well, Trader Joe’s made it, olives chopped, sundried tomatoes sliced, balsamic red onions made, tofu sautéed) and put together the wraps in the hour of prep time allotted to me.

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The recipe orginally came from Cooking Light but I have made significant changes to it over the years.  The one thing I have kept the same is the ingredients and method for cooking the tofu.  This time I did pan fry it first as the recipe states, but I have also made it by just cooking raw tofu in the sauce.  It’s delicious both ways but the second option is healthier.  Finally, you may want to make extra balsamic onions.  They are spectacular and taste amazing in salads, pastas, you name it.

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One Year Ago:  Raspberry Cake and Blueberry Cobbler – both amazing summer desserts.

Zesty Tofu Wraps
Inspired by Cooking Light
Makes 4 wraps

If you are able to find sundried tomatoes that are not packed in oil, but are soft and supple, this is the place to use them.  If you can only find the brittle kind, reconstitute them in hot water for about 30 minutes.  Drain and chop.  You can easily vegan-ize this recipe by leaving out the honey.

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil, thinly sliced
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 pound extra-firm tofu
Olive oil
1 large red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
Hummus
4 cups arugula

Cut the tofu lengthwise into quarters.  Dry the tofu well on all sides with paper towels.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add onions and a pinch of salt.  Sauté until very soft and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes more.  Set aside.

Combine lemon juice and next 5 ingredients in a small bowl.  Heat pan over medium high heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add tofu.  Cook about 6 minutes, browning on all sides.  Stir in lemon juice mixture and cook 1 minute, or until sauce thickens.  (Alternatively, pour sauce into warm pan and immediately add tofu.  Turn on all sides to coat with sauce.)

Warm tortillas, if desired.  Spread about 2 tablespoon of hummus over tortilla.  Top with 1 piece of tofu, 1/4 of the onions, 1/4 of the olives, and 1/4 of the sundried tomatoes.  Add a small handful of arugula and roll up.

UPDATE:  Beth had a good question in the comment section.  She noticed that the tofu in these photos is more log-like than slab-like.  If you follow the recipe as written above, you will get slabs, which work out better for the wraps.  I quadrupled this recipe and actually needed to make 18 wraps, I made my pieces a little smaller.  Hence the logs.



Muhummara Dip

July 29, 2009


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There are certain dishes that just pop up for me again and again.  Things that I love and I keep trying variations until I find the one that becomes “my” version.  I’m thinking of things like baba ghanoush and gazpacho.  I tried endless variations before I settled on the Greens cookbook’s and Cook’s Illustrated’s versions respectively.

Muhummara is one of those things.  What?  Something you may have not even heard of and here I am tracking down the perfect recipe?  Here is the thing.  I love dips.  Not like chips and dip (although I love those too), I mean like warm grilled pita bread and dip.  If a restaurant has some kind of Middle Eastern platter, I will without question order it.  I love hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki, and I love muhummara.  Well, now I do.

I have made four or five versions of this dip and always liked it.  It just never popped for me.  Eralda at The Split Pea recently posted a recipe that looked a little different from the ones I have tried.  I decided to make for last weekend’s lunch and everyone who tried it loved it.  I served it with crackers, but it would be great with pita and Eralda says it’s terrific with cucumber.  This is my new go-to recipe.

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One Year Ago:  Creamy Eggplant with Green Peas


Smokey Muhammara

Adapted from The Split Pea

I made a few changes here, mostly in method.  I also cut down on the amount of garlic because I don’t like a lot of raw garlic in my dips.  You can find pomegranate molasses at Whole Foods and at Middle Eastern markets – if you are lucky enough to have one of those where you live.  It’s flavor adds so much to this dip, so it is worth seeking out.  Along those same lines, the smoked paprika is essential here.  The flavor will just not be the same with regular paprika.

3  red bell peppers
1 cup of walnuts
¾ cup of pecans
1 ½ tsp. cumin
2 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp. ground Chipotle Chile powder (or regular chile powder)
2 cloves garlic
1 ½ tsp.  salt
2 tsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. of honey
2 -3 tbsp. pomegranate molasses (substitute balsamic vinegar)

Preheat the oven to 500°F.  Place the peppers on a baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally, until beginning to blacken in spots, about 15 minutes total.  Remove sheet from the oven and carefully wrap it in foil.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then remove the foil.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel away the skin and remove the membranes, stems, and seeds from each pepper.  Slice and place in food processor.

Lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Place the walnuts and pecans in a rimmed cookie sheet and toast for about 3-5 minutes until fragrant (oven temperatures vary, so make sure to keep an eye on them).  Set a timer so you don’t forget about them.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once cool, add to the food processor along with all the other ingredients.  Process until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Taste for balance of flavor, adding more salt, honey, or lemon juice as necessary.  If the dip seems too thick, add more olive oil.

Keeps refrigerated for up to 3 days.



Chickpea Goodness

July 28, 2009


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A heartfelt thanks for all of the birthday wishes!  My year of yoga is underway.  It actually started the day before my birthday at a retreat on Bainbridge Island.  My friend Jen, yoga instructor extraordinaire, plans to host one of these a quarter and I am already excited about the next one.  I have known Jen since 7th grade and she is one of my favorite people.  She is a part of the supper club I put together 4 1/2 years ago, and she is one of the best listeners I know.  I have done so many things with Jen at all different phases of my life, but I had never taken a yoga class with her.  I now, more than ever, wish she was much closer than a ferry ride away.  I would be at that studio everyday if I could be.

Oh yes, the food.  Because I wanted to take part in the morning class, I needed to make most everything in advance.  Last time, I spent about 2 hours putting it all together.  This time, I only had an hour.  I decided to make some tofu wraps, a dip, a trio of salads, and two kinds of cookies.  When I got to her house, everything was done except assembling the wraps and tossing the green salad.

The most talked about dish, aside from these cookies, was the chickpeas.  Women after my own heart.  If you are new here, let me tell you that I love chickpeas.  I love them every which way.  If you do too, this is an especially nice dish because the dish truly stars the humble chickpea.  There is not a lot to distract you from how wonderful they are, but with lots of flavor to boost them up.  Chickpeas are poured into a bowl, a spice oil is made and poured over the beans, then yogurt, green onions, lemon juice, and lots of herbs are folded in.  It is a quick and simple dish that does not suffer from an overnight visit to the refrigerator.  Just be sure to serve it at room temperature so the flavors bloom as they should.

For the rest of this week, I will most likely be posting recipes from the retreat.  You see, it is too hot to cook here in the Pacific Northwest.  If you are the type who watches the weather, or if you are on Twitter (are you?  Follow me!), you will know that we are experiencing a heat wave here in Seattle.  It is going to be above 90 degrees all week.  If I make anything, it will most likely be a giant salad, but I predict we will be eating takeout and ice cubes until this is over.
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One Year Ago:  Birthday Weekend

Indian-Spiced Chickpea Salad with Yogurt and Herbs
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 6

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas – rinsed, drained, and patted dry
2 tbsp. peanut oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
3/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
3/4 cup low fat plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 tsp. kosher salt

Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl.  In a small skillet, heat the peanut oil until shimmering.  Add the mustard seeds, partially cover the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until the mustard seeds stop popping, about 1 minute.  Add the cumin and fennel seeds and the crushed red pepper and cook until the mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Pour the hot oil and spices over the chickpeas.  Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro and mint and salt.  Serve the chickpea salad at room temperature.



July 26, 2009

July 26, 2009

Today is my birthday.  I am 39.  Or, perhaps I should say this is the first time I am turning 39…

Actually, I’m not really one of those people.  Of course, I love it when someone thinks I am younger than I am, and if I get carded I do a little dance (even though I know I look closer to 41 than 21), but I don’t long to be any other number than what I am.  Birthdays are easier when you are where you want to be, or at least close to where you want to be.

This year, from 39 to 40, is going to be a big one for me.  For starters, I’ve decided that it’s going to be “The Year of Yoga”.  I left my much-loved yoga practice behind after I had my first son.  I was able to get back to it after he was a few months old, but I let it go again around the time he celebrated his first birthday.  That was 3 1/2 years ago.  I have missed yoga and I have missed teaching.  There are people in the yoga community who celebrate birthdays by doing as many sun salutations as the year they are turning.  When my good friend Rachel turned 40, I promised her we would do 40 Surynamaskara A’s together.  If you practice yoga, you know that this is no easy task.  I was at the peak of my yoga shape at that point and it was still hard.  Next year, I would like to do 40 A’s and it will probably take me the whole year to get in good enough yoga shape to do so.  Along the way, I will also reclaim my practice, and possibly get back on the road to teaching.

In addition to yoga, I plan to challenge myself with some cooking tasks.  This will be the year of homemade pasta, croissants (maybe), Holly B’s cinnamon rolls and almond butterhorns, crèpes, sourdough starter and the breads that follow, perfecting layer cakes, making all kinds of ice cream, and other delicious things.  I hope you will come along with me for the ride.

Before I hit “publish”, I need to tell you how sweet my husband is.  I have been pining away for an iPhone for about a year now.  The desire started slowly, then escalated to a full-blown need.  I kept telling Randy that I wanted one for my birthday.  Of course, I could have just walked in and bought one.  We already use AT&T, it all would have been very easy.  But for some reason, I just really wanted it for my birthday.

Randy works for Microsoft.  He drinks the Kool-Aid there on a regular basis.  Whenever anyone we know uses “google” as a verb, he will say, “You mean bing it?”.  (Actually, I am thankful we now have bing.  It is much easier to say than “Live Search it” or “MSN Search it”.)  So whenever I told him how much I wanted an iPhone, he would start in on how we don’t allow Apple products into our home, how that would be like taking food out of our childrens’ mouths.  He calls my father, who has always had Macs and has an iPhone, a traitor.  Now, he is kidding.  Kind of.

This morning, Randy brought me my birthday gift in a large Williams Sonoma bag.  Inside was a new Cuisinart food processor.  My old one is 16 years old and while it still works perfectly, I have really been wanting a new and bigger one.  I was very touched.  Then I opened the gift from my brother and sister-in-law which was a clock radio which you can plug (and re-charge) your iPhone into.  He said, “Oh, what’s that?  A clock radio for an iPhone?  Well, then I guess you need one of these…” and out came my new phone.  What did I do?  I started bawling.  This is unlike me.  I am not a crier.  I just couldn’t believe he caved and bought me something I so wanted and that he kept it a secret from me.  Now I just need to figure out how to use it…and keep it away from that secretly-coveting-an-iPhone husband of mine.



Thoughts on World Peace

July 24, 2009

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Friends, I am tired.  We are coming up on the tail end of a brutal travel schedule that my husband has been on.  It looked a little something like this:

6/20 – 6/25 Cannes (yes, that Cannes)
6/26 – 7/5 Bethany, DE
7/6 – 7/10 New York
7/13 – 7/15 Chicago
7/20 – 7/25 Atlanta

Now, aside from the family trip to Delaware, all of these were business trips and all of these weeks, in case you haven’t noticed, were back to back.  He has been home on the weekends but weekends, in case you haven’t noticed, go by fast.  I have been holding down the home front and I have to say, I am exhausted.

Fortunately, Randy comes home tonight and I have something big to look forward to tomorrow.  My friend Jen is hosting another yoga retreat at her incredible studio on Bainbridge Island, and I am catering the lunch.  This time, barring any family appendicitis attacks, I get to take part.   (By the way, Jen has an amazing new website.  Check it out here.  Isn’t she gorgeous?)

I’d like to be witty here and talk about these World Peace cookies I made for the retreat, but it’s just not going to happen today.  I will tell you that this is a Dorie Greenspan recipe and it was originally called something else.  Apparently a neighbor of hers thought the cookies were so good, they could contribute to World Peace, and so she re-named them.  World Peace?  I don’t know.  They are good cookies.  Very chocolate-y and just enough salt to make them interesting.  They have a nice sandy texture and if you use good cocoa and good chocolate, they might even be great.  How about I just leave it at that.

Somewhere tucked away in a box, I have Paris Sweets, the cookbook where this recipe was first published.  I may never find it, so I used the recipe you can find here from Smitten Kitchen.

One Year Ago:  Zucchini Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Mint



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