Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hearty Wild Rice Soup

Reading through the latest issue of Cooks Illustrated, a recipe called "Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup" caught my eye. It looks hearty, healthy, and perfect for winter. However, I knew I'd have to do quite a bit of tweaking to make it kosher because it uses chicken stock and heavy cream.

I decided to use the chicken stock because it seemed that the meaty flavor would be too good to pass up with the wild rice and mushrooms. I also further highlighted this aspect by incorporating many vegetables that boosted the umami flavor, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Instead of the cream, I used vanilla almond milk because I liked the idea of having a sweet nuttiness in the soup. I also added a lot more vegetables because I love a very chunky soup and they add nice color and flavor. I also made a bunch of other tweaks, changes, and adjustments just based on my own preferences and what I had on-hand. 

So in fact, I would bet this soup tastes quite different than the original, but it was delicious all the same. There are some great tricks in here from the original recipe, including the use of baking soda to speed up the cooking time of the rice and cornstarch to thicken the soup. 

This soup is unctuous and has a sweet and earthy flavor with an almost velvety texture. It has a nice blend of creamy thickness and chunky heartiness. It's perfect on a chilly or rainy day. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Balsamic Avocado Brunch Toast

This year for Chanukah, Faigy got me a book I've been eyeing for a while: The Flavor Bible. It's great because it's not a cookbook, but rather a guide to creating dishes by pairing flavors that have affinities for each other. Most of the book is just long lists of every single kind of ingredient and a bit about its character and what it goes well with.

So of course I began leafing through the "A" section and hit one of the best parts of it: Avocado. Avocado to me is a little bit of a magical superfruit (as indicated in Faigy's Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Garlic Sauce recipe) because it just makes whatever it's in instantly more appealing (aside from its many health benefits). It's got a creaminess and fruitiness which, when complemented with a bit of salt, is heavenly all on its own.

There was one particular pairing that caught my attention: avocado + basil + tomato + red onion + balsamic vinegar. I've known about the first four for a long time (in panini or guacamole for example) but the last bit, the balsamic vinegar, intrigued me. Normally I am not a huge fan of balsamic vinegar raw, because it's a little too pungent for my tastes. But I wondered if I could take inspiration from this and make a delicious and quick brunch the next morning.

As it turned out, we had left over challah from Shabbat. No fresh tomatoes, red onion or basil though; we did have sun-dried tomatoes and dried basil however, which would suffice. I also thought I would use sea salt rather than my standard of kosher salt to get a little more flavor contrast with the avocado. Taking a little bit of inspiration from a co-worker who prepared an avocado open-faced sandwich for breakfast once for me, I decided to top some toast with eggs. It turned out to be incredibly filling and was less than 15 minutes from start to finish (I'll note the order of preparation in the recipe that I found to be fastest).

Faigy likes eggs-over-easy; I prefer scrambled - you can prepare them any way you like!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Creamy Avocado Garlic Sauce

As I was roaming around Trader Joe's this week wondering what else I "need" (at TJs I use this term very loosely), I came across a large pile of spaghetti squash selling for under $3 each. In your typical supermarket, squash is usually sold by the pound, usually making it cost more than I want to spend. So, needless to say, I was very excited by this discovery and just had to have one. I figured I'd come up with what I "needed" it for when I got home. And indeed I did.

I love treating spaghetti squash like regular pasta, and often eat it with tomato sauce and cheese. It's delicious, but I was getting tired of it and wanted to try something new. Ari already made a pumpkin sauce for pasta, so that was out of the running. I moved on to one of my favorite naturally creamy fruits - avocado! I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love this stuff. Turns out it goes perfectly with spaghetti squash and it's just as good as its tomato and pumpkin sauce peers.

This recipe is really simple, healthy, and delicious. We had it for dinner tonight, and Ari loved the avocado with the spaghetti squash, calling it the "perfect complement for the squash, much better than tomato sauce." I like my guacamole with some chunks, and so I decided to leave my sauce this way and mash the avocado by hand. Feel free to adapt this recipe and just put all the sauce ingredients in the blender for something much smoother.

I also found the chopped leeks add a nice mild onion-y flavor with a bit of crunch to what is otherwise very mushy, soft recipe. This recipe is very adaptable, so feel free to experiment. One variable I thought of but didn't try this time is roasting tomatoes and leeks or red onions with the squash in the oven for the last 20 minutes, and then chopping them and mixing them in during step 5.

One last thing I love about this recipe is that it is very filling because of the protein and fat in the avocado. Spaghetti squash in general can leave you feeling less than satisfied, but this dish works perfectly well as a main course because of how filling and satisfying it is.

If you try the suggested variation, or any other for that matter, please let us know how it goes in the comments - we'd love to hear about it!

Although it tastes delicious, the green sauce on the squash alone doesn't
look so appetizing, hence why I highly recommend garnishing before serving. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Apple Cider Pumpkin Doughnuts with Maple Glaze

So, I have a confession: I'm addicted to Pinterest. And since I love to cook, I follow many fellow foodies and constantly see awesome cooking and baking ideas. Recently, many different kinds of homemade doughnuts have filled up my feed and caught my attention (really, are doughnuts the new cake pops?). I couldn't find a recipe that had all the flavors I wanted in a fall doughnut, so I did what I usually end up doing and made up my own recipe inspired by a few of the recipes I found (like this one or this one).

We happen to have delicious apple cider made on a farm from our CSA, and I wanted to make sure to incorporate it into my dough. A lot of the recipes I found for doughnuts seemed to include sweet potatoes, squash, or pumpkin, which sounded amazing so I wanted to include that element in my recipe as well. I also decided to replace most, but not all, of the eggs and oil this recipe would require with applesauce, which usually makes for a nice baking substitute,  is healthier, and would complement the other flavors well. Lastly, I wanted these doughnuts to be baked and not fried, as I try to be pretty health-conscious in my cooking.

I did need to go out and buy doughnut pans, which I was (not so) secretly happy about because I love getting cooking gadgetry at the HomeGoods near our apartment. Any excuse to go there is a good excuse, even though our credit card bill might protest. Normally I try to avoid specialized gadgets that only have one kind of use, but these were cheap and don't take up too much storage space, so I went for it. However, in case you don't have and/or don't want to get doughnut tins, I left the option open to make these as muffins as well, which are also delicious. Actually, this recipe made more batter than you need for a dozen doughnuts, so I ended up making doughnuts and muffins.

These taste as good as they look

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce

Have you ever wanted a bowl of pasta but were quite tired of the same old tomato or marinara sauce on pasta? Or if you're a little more old school and keep it clean with just garlic and olive oil, haven't you wished you could bring a new, fresh flavor into your bowl of pasta? I felt exactly that way last week, and I wanted a new sauce quickly (in about the time it took the pasta to cook).

I had a can of pumpkin around, and if you've been reading this blog from the beginning you might have gotten the hint that I am a culinary sucker for pumpkin. It's really just so versatile in how you can use it in so many dishes, either as a star or as part of the supporting cast. Faigy and I (if you haven't noticed, my wife and I are co-bloggers now; I lucked out with someone just as (if not more so) culinarily talented and inclined as myself) have been toying with the idea of making pumpkin gnocchi for quite some time now. Unfortunately it was a rather lazy Sunday so that wasn't happening. But we could do the next best thing - have pasta with some sort of pumpkin sauce.

I wanted to really highlight the savory notes of pumpkin this time, which stands in contrast to a lot of other pumpkin recipes I'm a fan of. I decided to use dairy as the platform upon which to build these flavors - first and foremost starting with frying (not just sautéeing) onions in butter. Some milk thins out the thicker canned pumpkin and gives the sauce some creaminess, but what really steps up the flavor is fresh-grated Parmesan cheese. It's sometimes hard to find blocks of Parmesan kosher, so in a pinch the bottled pre-grated Miller's stuff will do, but it's hard to beat the fresh stuff. The cheese brings out some of the nuttiness dormant in the butter and pumpkin, and is enhanced if you add the toasted crushed walnuts.

The last really crucial thing to this recipe is the finishing touch: extra virgin olive oil. Now, I am often one to just skip garnishes and like accoutrements to recipes I see; you are free to do so with the others in this recipe, but I warn you, DO NOT SKIP THIS. The fruitiness of the olive oil adds a really powerful contrasting accent to the savory sauce we've built up and teases out some of the fruitiness the pumpkin is hiding. Since it's raw, definitely use the extra virgin stuff (we just used generic Fairway brand and it was fantastic).

You can in fact make this entire recipe pareve/dairy-free (as indicated) but be aware that if at all possible, you should re-make it in its dairy form another time to compare and contrast.

A fresh autumn take on pasta sauce

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chewy Fruity Breakfast Bars

Some days I have classes really early, so I was looking for the perfect breakfast bar recipe that would be filling and last for a long time in the fridge (so I don't have to start baking weekly before class!). Of course, I also wanted to look forward to eating this thing early in the morning. After some searching around the internet, I didn't find any recipe that seemed just right, so of course I just mashed together a couple of recipes and then took it from there to make up my own. 

I took inspiration from recipes by Alton Brown and another blog I found called One Hundred Eggs. Actually, the baking instructions are almost entirely from the latter, as the method of cooking these bars generally stays the same. It's a pretty flexible recipe in general, so you should feel free to swap some of the dried fruit for other dried fruit you like, or some of the nuts for other kinds of nuts. Just make sure the moisture to dry content ratio stays about the same to get the chewy bar texture we're seeking here.

A single portion of the finished product

Monday, October 29, 2012

Apple Blueberry Muffins

Ari has been encouraging me to add some of my own recipes to this blog, and I've finally gotten around to it now that I'm home-bound due to Hurricane Sandy!

These delicious muffins are healthy and dairy-free. I based this recipe on a another health-conscious mini muffin recipe I found. While it looked great, I didn't want my muffins to have dairy or to be small, and I had no bananas on hand. What resulted was an entirely new recipe that are great to have around the house for breakfast or snack.

I specifically used pastry flour to get an airy texture, and I picked dry over fresh blueberries so as not to over-saturate the muffins with moisture (and a pervasive blue dye!). The original recipe calls for a cup of vanilla yogurt and half a cup of milk. As I was seeking something dairy-free, I thought that the vanilla pudding mix would add the flavor and some of the moisture the yogurt adds, while also adding to the amount of milk to ensure enough liquid in the mixture.

This recipe can be adapted in many ways, especially by swapping out the apples and blueberries for other add-ins, like chocolate chips, nuts, or other fruit.

Enjoy! What are your favorite ways to modify dairy recipes?