Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring rolls


We had some very hot days earlier this week, including temperatures in the high 80s on Marathon Monday. I have nothing but respect for everyone who participated in the race - the heat was wiping me out and I was just a spectator! Anyway, when the temperature climbs, it's always nice to eat cool, refreshing foods. I've been really craving Asian flavors lately, so when I saw rice paper wrappers at my grocery store, I decided to try making spring rolls for the first time. And hey, there's not much available in terms of spring produce right now, so at least this recipe has "spring" in the title... For these rolls, I marinated and baked some tofu to add protein, used cucumbers and sprouts for crunch, and added mint and basil for fresh flavor. I had a lot of fun learning how to wrap the rolls - once I got the hang of it, they came together very quickly. I've got lots of wrappers left over, and I'll definitely be making spring rolls on hot days in the future!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Brown rice cakes


Have you guys caught on to the fact that I love brown rice? I don't eat it just because it's healthy - I eat it because flavor and texture-wise, I really prefer it over white rice. Even as a youngster, I'd be thrilled when my mom made brown rice. My sister though....not so thrilled. Her palette was not as refined as mine (I kid, I kid). So you can imagine how proud I was to hear that my 11-month-old nephew ate brown rice at dinner tonight! He obviously has very good taste.

Anyway, I could go on for a while about my nephew's superior qualities, but I'll get back on track here and tell you about this recipe. The inspiration for these cakes came from these brown rice balls on 101cookbooks and a recipe for savory rice cakes in Gourmet Today. I knew I wanted to go with an Asian flavor profile, and ended up mixing the rice with black sesame seeds, green onions, carrots, and ginger. After a quick pan fry, the cakes get wonderfully crispy on the outside, and they make a nice light meal with some eggs on the side. I'm pretty excited about this new way to use my beloved brown rice, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with more variations on this idea.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tempeh tacos


A few weeks ago, Meghan posted about making tempeh tacos for dinner. I was immediately intrigued - I've mentioned before that tempeh is not my favorite vegetarian protein, and that I have only really enjoyed it in veggie burgers. For some reason, I prefer tempeh when it is crumbled rather than eating it in large pieces, so the idea of trying it in tacos appealed to me. I decided to create my own spin on this idea, adding some brown rice to the filling to give the texture more variety, and flavoring the filling with ingredients I usually use when making chili: onion, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, chile powder, smoked paprika, and cilantro. For toppings I used some red cabbage that was quickly marinated in lime juice and honey, which added both color and crunch, as well as creamy avocado and salty feta cheese. I really, really loved the result. These were wonderful vegetarian tacos that didn't use the typical combination of beans and loads of cheese. I think this might be my favorite tempeh preparation so far, and I'm definitely more open to playing around with more tempeh recipes now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Roasted carrots with browned butter and thyme


Sometimes I can't really decide whether something I've made is too simple to count as a real recipe. For example, the side dishes I cook for normal dinners are often just sauteed or roasted veggies with some salt and pepper, and the breakfast I eat most days is yogurt with fruit and granola. In my opinion, even though dishes like those are consumed often in my house, they aren't really worth blogging about. So when does a dish cross the line and become interesting enough to tell people about? I don't think there's a single right answer to this that applies to every blog - it really depends on the style of the blog and the target audience. I'm personally still trying to figure out my thoughts on this question and would love to hear your opinions!

I was originally unsure whether this carrot dish was blog-worthy. Carrots and thyme is not an original flavor combination, but it is a pairing that I honestly think is transcendent. There's something about thyme that elevates roasted carrots to a whole new level. The dish would be pretty good without the browned butter, but the butter makes it a bit more special, worthy of serving at a holiday dinner. So once I thought about how much I like this simple side dish, it seemed clear that I should share it with you and my decision was made!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Orzo with shrimp, red peppers, and mushrooms


I feel like I've been seeing orzo recipes everywhere lately. On the blogs, there was this one and this one, and my cousin served an orzo dish when I was at her place last week. So I decided to join the club and cook an orzo recipe for dinner last night. Mediterranean flavors work so well with orzo, so I went in that direction - why mess with something good, right? When I cook pasta, I usually bulk it up with lots of vegetables, and this time I used red peppers and mushrooms. With shrimp, olives, basil, feta cheese, and a generous amount of lemon juice, this recipe is healthy and packed with flavor. I'm so glad we had a lot of leftovers - I can't wait to eat this for lunch tomorrow!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Beet pizza with arugula pesto and Gorgonzola cheese


For some reason, I've been seriously craving pizza lately. I made a classic tomato and mozzarella version last week, and wanted to experiment with something more interesting next. I had the idea to turn a classic beet salad into a pizza and decided to use Gorgonzola instead of the more common goat cheese (I love me some moldy cheese). I know I wanted to incorporate arugula, but didn't really just want to pile it up on top of the pizza. I mean, is there any good way to eat pizza with a huge pile of leaves on top without having them all fall off? I was also looking for a way to add moisture to the pizza and decided to kill two birds with one stone by making an arugula pesto to use as pizza sauce. I enjoyed the way the final pizza came out - the different components definitely worked well together to make a tasty pie. My pizza craving isn't gone though, and I've got more pizza dough in the what toppings should I play with next??

Beet pizza with arugula pesto and Gorgonzola cheese
Makes a 16-inch pizza

Some tips: I like to form the pizza on a piece of parchment paper placed on the pizza peel. That way, the pizza and parchment slide easily into the oven. Also, if you don’t have a pizza stone, you can bake the pizza on a large baking pan.

This recipe makes more pesto than you'll need for the pizza. You can eat the leftovers with pasta or as a sandwich spread, and you can freeze it if you want to store it for a while.

1 lb. pizza dough (I used whole wheat), at room temperature
3 medium beets (about 20 oz.), scrubbed and stems trimmed to 1 inch
2 cups arugula leaves (packed)
⅓ cup walnuts
⅓ cup coarsely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (you can also use any other type of blue cheese, or use goat cheese if you prefer)
4 tsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Put beets in a baking dish with enough water to cover the bottom of the dish to a depth of 1/8 inch and sprinkle with salt. Cover tightly with foil and bake the beets in the preheated oven until they can be easily pierced with a sharp knife, about 1 hour (this could take more or less time, depending on the size of the beets). Remove beets from the oven, uncover the pan, and cool the beets. Cut off their tops and roots and rub off the skins. Cut beets into ¼-inch slices.

If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Increase oven temperature to 500 deg F (or as high as your oven can go).

While beets are baking, combine arugula, walnuts, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add olive oil and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When oven is heated to 500 deg F, stretch dough out to a 16-inch round on a pizza peel. Spread arugula pesto on dough and top with beet slices. Sprinkle cheese crumbles over the beets. Slide pizza onto the preheated stone and bake until crust is crisp, about 8-10 min. Remove pizza from oven and drizzle balsamic vinegar over the pizza. Let cool for a couple minutes, and serve.