Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Today we said goodbye to our exchange student from Spain. She has been with us for only one month but what a month it was! Several of Hallie's friends were hosting students as well and it was four weeks of parties and sleepovers, bonfires and beach trips and shopping - lots of shopping.

I have lots of food to blog about - we had two parties over the weekend. But right now I am very tired and really missing our extra girl :-)

I'll be back in a bit...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Last of the teenage years...

Today is Ana's 19th birthday - one more year and she will no longer be a teenager. How the hell did that happen? I feel very lucky to be her mom :-)

It has been a busy few days. We only have our exchange student for another week or so. I'm really going to miss her - she has been a delightful addition to our family. We spent the entire day in San Francisco on Saturday - started at the Ferry Building Marketplace at 10 in the morning and didn't get home until 9:30 that night. Our student is from the Basque area so I thought it would be fun to have dinner at Iluna Basque in North Beach. It turned out to be an excellent place for vegetarian, gluten free dining! We had:

eggplant and fresh tomatoes with goat cheese
selection of Basque cheeses with membrillo
crisp shaved potatoes flash fried with herbs and vinegar
spanish tortilla with caramelized onions
roasted red bell pepper with mushrooms and manchego cheese (this was my favorite)
batter fried spanish white asparagus (the only non GF food we ordered)

We even got a picture with the executive chef and owner Mattin Nobilia

The low point of the evening was realizing I'd lost my ticket for the parking garage which was bad enough. But instead of just taking my $26 the guy had to see my driver's license, fill out a form, step out of the booth to write down my license plate, see my driver's license again while the line of cars built up behind me and so on. It was the third parking garage of the day and I'd kept track of five teenage girls without losing any of them so I guess it could have been worse! A great San Francisco day overall!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Battle Mushroom: Garlic Cream of Mushroom Soup

This recipe began with a challenge from my husband - he'd been in the city and had stopped in at the Ferry Building Marketplace where he soon found himself at the Far West Fungi shop. He came home with a pound each of oyster and shiitake mushrooms which he ceremoniously handed to me and said "Battle Mushroom." I made a simple soup that we both loved - one that I've been wanting to recreate ever since. When I went to my favorite little market yesterday and saw oyster mushrooms for only $3.99 a pound I knew that despite the hot weather, it was time for Battle Mushroom II.

For this soup you will need:

1 pound oyster mushrooms, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 pound crimini mushrooms, stems removed and coarsely chopped
6 heads garlic
32 oz vegetable broth
32 oz plain unsweetened soy milk
2 T. nutritional yeast
fresh thyme and rosemary
salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar

I based the soup on the garlic cream sauce from the Millenium cookbook. Start with six (yes, six!) heads of garlic and cut about an inch off the top. Place in a small baking dish and sprinkle with fresh thyme and rosemary, then add one cup vegetable broth.

Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 11/2 hours until soft and lightly browned, let cool.

In the meantime, toss the chopped mushrooms with some olive oil (or spray oil), salt, pepper and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. Spread out on a lightly oiled jelly roll pan. You don't want anything too deep or the mushrooms will just steam, not roast. These will roast in a 450 degree oven for about 45 minutes (it's a good idea to stir them up once or twice). I have two ovens so I can braise the garlic and roast the mushrooms at the same time using different temperatures. If you have one oven you could probably meet in the middle (400 degrees) and do both at the same time.

Once the garlic has cooled and you can handle it, squeeze out all the softened garlic into a blender. Add as much soymilk as will fit plus the nutritional yeast. Blend until all the garlic is incorporated. Put this into a large pot and add the rest of the soy milk and the remaining 3 cups of vegetable broth. Heat this up and once the mushrooms are finished add about half of the mushrooms to the pot. I used my immersion blender to blend this together and then added in the rest of the mushrooms. If the people in your household aren't crazy about mushrooms, particularly their texture, you can blend all of it - or none of it. Once everything is added you will need to season with salt and pepper.

The garlic flavor is mellow and tastes like a soup made with cream and butter. I baked bread (again) and this time made individual rolls topped with gomasio (sesame seeds and sea salt). Hubby's reaction was "this is good, will you make it every day?" :-)

Mushroom Soup on Foodista

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tomato and Goat Cheese Polenta Tart

It's been a busy few days with our exchange student. We had an additional student Friday through Sunday as her host family was busy with a huge swim meet so we offered to have her stay with us. On Friday night I cooked a big Persian dinner and had one of the other host families over for dinner. It was very impromptu and worked out much better than if we'd tried to plan such a thing!

I was in the kitchen all day yesterday - more gluten free baking using the same recipes as last week. Again, success - I really like this bread! I also made a couple of salads to go with dinner.

For dinner I wanted something Italian'ish (Monday nights = Italian) and something that would use up the ridiculous amount of food I've been buying ;-) I found this recipe on the Whole Foods website and decided to give it a spin. The tart was very good - I think next time I will merge it with another tomato tart I like to make with roasted tomatoes. The second baking time in this recipe really just warmed up the tomatoes and I like to have them a little more cooked. I put it under the broiler for a minute but all that did was blacken the sun-dried tomatoes...but still, it was quite tasty. The basil in our garden has not fared well during the recent heatwave coupled with our water rationing. So I omitted the basil and olive oil on top though I'm sure it would have been a welcome addition!
Tomato-Topped Polenta Tart

1 1/2 cups finely ground dry polenta (cornmeal)
2 cups cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
4 ounces soft goat cheese
1 pint sliced cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed slivered fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil a 10-inch tart pan with removable base with olive oil cooking spray and set aside.

Combine polenta with water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese and continue to stir 3 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer polenta to prepared tart pan. Spread it evenly over bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until dry and crisp on edges, about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and spread a thin layer of goat cheese over crust. Arrange cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes on top of the cheese. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until the cheese is softened and tomatoes are heated through. Before serving, remove the sides from the tart pan and sprinkle top with basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

From: www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kashk-e bademjan

Of all the Persian dishes I cook for friends, probably the most popular is kashk-e bademjan. It is the dish that can convert eggplant haters, if not into eggplant lovers, then at least into kashk-e bademjan lovers! We've had it many ways - swimming in oil with large pieces of eggplant (my least favorite) all the way to almost blended. Recently, Hallie and her boyfriend took on the challenge of cooking this for a class project. I provided oversight and entertainment (see below) but they did the work.

The recipe we make is large but it is intentional - it uses the entire jar of kashk which otherwise ends up going to waste.

Kashk-e Bademjan

4 large eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/3-1/2" thick
up to 1 1/2 cups water
2 1/2-3 T. tomato paste concentrate (from tube)
16 oz jar kashk
2 tsp salt
2 onion, very finely diced
8-10 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

Put the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet that is covered with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Spray both sides of the eggplant and put it under the broiler and cook (turning over once the first side is browned) until it is well browned and soft - falling apart. As you finish a sheet of eggplant, place it into a pot on the stove.

Once all the eggplant is in the pot, add some water (about 1/2 cup). Cook over a low heat, adding a little water at a time until it gets incorporated. I like to break up the eggplant so that there are no huge pieces (a key element if you're using this to convert an eggplant hater). Add about 2 - 3 tablespoons tomato paste concentrate. You want this to be thick, not soupy, so don't add too much water.
Once the eggplant is thoroughly cooked and blended with the water and tomato paste it is time to add the kashk. You can find kashk at Middle East markets or online. It has a unique tartness to it that is difficult to replicate with any other product. I've made a vegan version of this recipe and posted it in the past here but kashk is important for an authentic taste.

Finally, the topping. Start browning the finely diced onion in a little bit of oil. Once it starts to brown add the garlic and keep stirring until everything is very dark and well browned. It's a bit of work to cut the onion small enough but entirely worth the effort. If you are bothered by all that chopping Hallie has come up with a good approach ;-)

Once everything is done spread the eggplant into a dish (we used two pie plates) and sprinkle with the onion and garlic. It is a tradition in our family (albeit a weird one) to put the onion/garlic combo on the eggplant in some kind of design - it is usually some kind of inside joke or holiday theme (e.g. a Christmas tree). Here's what they decided on

We serve this with lavosh or for a gluten free option, corn tortillas. I also make a very quick and easy gluten free flat bread that is good with this - I'll post it one of these days.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Gluten free baking - Take Two

Since my visit to Whole Foods rounded out my flour supply, I decided to try the same recipe I made yesterday but with the modifications suggested by Book of Yum. I made two loaves instead of rolls/hamburger buns this time. One plain and one with golden raisins and walnuts. This recipe is so, so good...I ate the raisin walnut bread warm from the oven with cream cheese. Swoon.

It's interesting to see the difference in the color between the two loaves. My range has two ovens - one gas and one electric. I normally only bake in the electric oven but in an effort to get things moving I used both ovens at the same time (I started at 450 for 10 minutes and then down to 375). The loaf from the electric oven was much darker. Both loaves were delicious and made me very optimistic about our ability to keep up a gluten free diet for hubby. I feel lucky that there are so many people out there who have done all the hard work on these recipes and I surely appreciate it :-)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gluten free baking - Take One

Yesterday was my first foray into the world of gluten free baking. My husband decided about a month ago that he would like to try a gluten free diet -we've managed to have a lot of good meals but have just avoided anything that required bread (though we did have some pretty good "panini" on waffles!). We now have an exchange student living with us for a month and last night was our first sit down dinner at home since she's been here. I was confident in serving gluten free pasta but wanted to have some kind of bread to go with our dinner. Even though I didn't have all the right flours I tried out this recipe from Book of Yum. I didn't have brown rice flour so used white rice flour - I also didn't have teff so wasn't able to try her modifications. I shaped them more like a hamburger bun (because I bought some Sunshine burgers to try out) but they didn't last long enough to try it with a burger. They were quite good! I split them in half and brushed them with melted garlic butter, sprinkled with parmesan and bit of salt and broiled them for garlic bread.

Tonight I took one of the rolls and sliced it thin, rubbed it with a garlic clove, brushed with olive oil and baked in a 450 degree oven until toasted and made crostini with olive tapenade and feta cheese. Again, we were both quite happy with the results. I went to Whole Foods and bought more flour so I'm looking forward to trying it with the modifications given by Sea.

I am thoroughly enjoying our exchange student. She is an absolute delight and best of all - she will eat anything (including tofu - tonight we had Kung Pao tofu). We took her to Berkeley today to see all that Telegraph Avenue has to offer. The girls had a great time and we saw plenty of interesting things;

And we were very curious as we drove behind this van out of the Berkeley Marina - CSI Berkeley!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Two fruit salsas

We were invited to a 4th of July barbecue at a friend's house - they live on a cul de sac - it was like something out of a tv show. They set up tables in the street, everyone brought out their chairs and we sat around and ate and ate. They barbecued burgers, chicken and hot dogs - we had grilled portobello mushrooms. I used the rest of the dressing from the ginger salad we had recently to marinade the mushrooms and threw in some onion and fresh ginger. Yum. Since I've been on a produce buying binge recently I had a lot of food on hand and wanted to make something I could bring to share. I'd been reading over at Gluten Free Girl about watermelon and how people like to eat theirs. It reminded me of a recipe I'd seen in this cookbook I bought for dh as a joke (he loves nachos and for Christmas I got him a book called "Macho Nachos" - how could I resist?). So I dug it out and made a batch of watermelon ginger salsa. It looked exactly like pico de gallo so the taste was a bit of a surprise.

Watermelon Ginger Salsa
2 cups diced watermelon
1 cup fresh cilantro, diced
1/2 cup flat leaf parsely, diced
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 jalepeno pepper, seeds removed, finely diced
juice of 3 lemons
finely shredded fresh ginger, to taste (I used at least 3 T.)
salt and pepper to taste

The book called for powdered ginger but I had all this fresh ginger on hand and it made a huge difference. I tried the powdered ginger at first but could barely taste it.

Next up was a mango salsa. For this I used two finely diced manila mangoes (the yellow ones - they are the BEST). Some red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime, salt and pepper.

I found these organic veggie tortilla chips that were so good with the mango salsa. With the watermelon salsa I put out some blue corn tortilla chips (which, by the way, was the closest I got to any patriotic colors ;-)). The mango salsa was awesome on the mushrooms.

It was a nice relaxing evening - hanging with old friends and meeting some new people. The only thing marring the evening was waking up at 4 in the morning and realizing we hadn't remembered to feed my friend's dog or put him in the house in his crate! So I made a 4 am run to their house to hang out with Henry. He was fine - appreciated his food and then off to bed. No hard feelings. Such is the forgiving nature of dogs.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Siam Orchid Ginger Salad

Okay...I know I just blogged about this salad a couple of days ago. But I made it again today and without the chaos of getting dinner on the table for company I was able to really appreciate it. This salad is so good it deserved to be singled out this time. The dried peas were a little tricky to track down - I eventually found something at Whole Foods that looked like it would work (and it was only peas, oil and salt instead of an impossibly long list of ingredients). I think avocado would taste great in this mix as well. This is something we will most definitely have again and again....

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 cup fresh ginger, shredded

1/2 cup fresh lettuce, sliced into long, thin strips

1/4 cup carrot, sliced into matchsticks

1/4 cup red onion, sliced into thin strips

1/4 cup dried peas

2 tablespoons roasted coconut meat

1/2 cup roasted peanuts

2 tablespoons roasted cashews

1 tablespoon chopped shallot, fried

Sliced lime, for garnish


To make the vinaigrette, add the
olive oil, sesame oil, and brown sugar
to a small bowl and whisk vigorously.
Add cautiously, to taste, a bit of salt,
pepper, garlic powder, and rice vinegar.
Set aside.

To present the salad, arrange remaining ingredients in individual piles, adjacent to one another, on a large plate. Drizzle vinaigrette over each to taste and toss together, making sure to incorporate every ingredient. Add lime garnish (to squeeze on the salad).

Serve immediately. Serves 2.

From Diablo Magazine April 2005

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was Hallie's 17th birthday - hard to believe that this little one (taken the day she came home) , has now become this grown up girl...I think the smile is still the same!

Her birthday would usually mean a dinner request of Persian food, her ultimate comfort food. But, the times they are a changing and she asked if it was okay to go out to dinner instead. With her boyfriend. So off they went to one of the nicer restaurants in town which left me home to cook for the three of us who actually like Taco Tuesday! In my efforts to find gluten free recipes that the whole family will like I've been spending a lot of time perusing blogs and am completely smitten by Karina's Kitchen, aka The Gluten Free Goddess. The recipe I made the other night was so good I couldn't wait to try another.

Last night I made her Sweet Potato and Black Bean enchiladas - another winner. I had a couple cheats/modifications. I bought a jar of salsa verde from Trader Joe's and I had some frozen sweet potato fries and used those instead of fresh sweet potato. I took her suggestion of mixing in a little sour cream in the sauce before topping the enchiladas and used a sharp cheddar instead of monterey jack on top. These were so good and the mix of flavors was perfect. Unfortunately I'd been messing around with my camera the night before, screwed up some settings and the result was no pictures. I was able to fix it later!

Today we welcome a new addition to our household - for a month anyway. This afternoon I pick up our exchange student from Spain. We have been e-mailing with her and can't wait to meet her. For the sake of this blog I shall call her Ms. Potato - she knows why. :-)