Sunday, March 31, 2013

I'm Seasonally Confused

I have had so many great recipes to share lately that I never got around to sharing my adventures with persimmons. Well, it is now March, the time of asparagus, citrus, and green beans. The brief life of persimmons has long been over. These persimmon recipes are a nostalgic look back at the past winter and fall.

I had a bag of Fuyu persimmons, which you can read about here. My first adventure with persimmons was a crisp. I followed Dinners and Dreams Persimmon and Crisp recipe, only omitting the dried cranberries (not because I didn't think it would be delicious, just didn't have any). This was a simple, homey desert that allowed the exotic (to me) fruit shine.

Here are the ingredients for the fruit portion of the crisp. I love honey!
Ingredients for the crisp topping.
This just makes me smile. It's a sunset in a pan.
Yum! Simple, homey, and let's the fruit shine.
My Persimmon and Parsnip Stir-Fry is one of the best meals I have made this winter/fall, alongside my Peanut and Yam Curry and Pappa al Pomodoro. This stir-fry had two keys to its success: multiple textures and the balance of flavors. I use a variety of textures like soft persimmon, crispy parsnip, crunchy broccoli and included more toothsome chicken. The balance and layers of flavors was created by using spicy, citrusy red chile pepper, sharp ginger, earthy parsnip, and sweet persimmon. Onion and garlic round out all my stir-fries. The element that ties everything together is the miso.

My first time cooking with chicken at home in years. I was home alone and feeling sorry for myself so I splurged. This one chicken breast became 2 meals and would have become a third. Look for my Kitchen Misadventures to find out what happened to the third portion.
 There was a time when I was afraid of miso. It's alive, after all. Before experimenting with miso at home, my one experience with miso was a bowl of miso broth at a sushi restaurant. I thought it was...interesting. I kept coming across recipes that use miso and finally decided to give the stuff a try. My first miso adventure was with chickpea miso. The co-op in Corvallis has a huge variety of misos in bulk, including chickpea miso, which is great if you just want to commit to a little bit. No more chickpea miso for me. Eating my chickpea miso broth was like slurping bean cooking liquid with some extra earthiness.

I tried again with some Westbrae Organic Mellow Red Miso. I have fallen in love and going we are still going strong, three tubs later. If you are unfamiliar with miso, the only adjectives I have are earthy and funky.
This was one good looking meal.
Turns out, that earthy funk goes great with persimmons. To create the rest of the sauce, I just used my standard stir-fry trifecta: soy sauce, rice vinegar, and Sriracha sauce. Enjoy!

P.S. I can't wait to try Dinners and Dreams version of cobbler with quinoa topping.

**As you can see in the photo, some of my persimmons still had a green tinge and most were very firm. I stored my persimmons in a paper bag until they were softer.

Persimmon and Parsnip Stir-Fry

by Ace Nation
Keywords: stir-fry chicken miso
Ingredients (serves 2 hungry adults)
    For the Sauce
    • 2 teaspoons miso
    • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • Sriracha, to taste
    For the Stir-Fry
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 1/3 pound chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
    • 1/2 onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 2-3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
    • 1 fresh red chile, such as Fresno or red jalapeno, seeds removed, and minced finely
    • 2 parsnips, peeled and sliced into half-moons
    • 1 cup broccoli, including the stem, cut into small pieces
    • 3 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and cut into similar-sized pieces as the rest of the vegetables
    For the Sauce
    Mix the ingredients in a small bowl or cup until combined. Set aside.
    For the Stir-Fry
    Heat oil in a wok or high-sided skillet over medium heat.
    Cook chicken, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
    Add onions to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, adding garlic after about 5 minutes. Cook until onion is translucent and beginning to brown.
    Add chile pepper and parsnip to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.
    Add ginger and broccoli to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is just beginning to become tender, about 4 minutes.
    Return chicken to the pan and add persimmons. Very gently stirring, cook until chicken and persimmon is just heated through.
    Add enough stir-fry sauce to coat all ingredients. Serve immediately over rice.
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    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    Posting Schedule

    I decided I should be more like a real blogger and try sticking to a posting schedule. I'm going to try Wednesdays and Sundays. So far...I'm successful! Way to go, kiddo.

    I'm going to leave you with a teaser of Sunday's post. It's titled "I'm Seasonally Confused", includes a recipe review, and my own recipe for one of the best three meals I created this fall/winter. Thank you for your continued reading and I hope you enjoy what I have in store for you!

    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    Barley Mujadara Salad

    This recipe was inspired by a discovery on a shelf at the Market of Choice. Z. and I were perusing the hot sauce and Indian chutneys when I saw this package:

    I really enjoy barley and lentils so why not have them together?  The ingredients reminded me of mujadara, made with barley instead of rice. I've made mujadara before and really enjoyed the meal (here is my mujadara review and here is a link to the original recipe, if you are interested). Instead of paying several dollars for 10 or so ounces of prepackaged food, I decided to make my own version, creating a variation of my recent Cilantro Pistou recipe. As is mostly the case, I had no idea what I was doing and ended up with a very tasty dinner.

    From the top clockwise: garam masala, ground ginger, and cumin seeds

    This recipe is great warm or cold, so of course I tried both! I prefer Barley Mujadara Salad at room temperature or colder. Barley is very tasty warm, though I just love the texture of chilled barley. Mediterranean Barley Salad, anyone? The toothsomeness of properly cooked barley is brought out by chilling.

    After making Cilantro Pistou, I was inspired to create a parsley version. I figured since parsley is commonly featured in Middle Eastern Cuisine, Barley Mujadara was the perfect first vehicle for my Parlsey Pistou, or what I might call a parsley vinaigrette. Whatever it's called, the green stuff I mixed in with the barley, lentils, veggies, and spices tied everything together.

    I am always proud of my onions; hence, way too many pictures of browned onions.

    I wanted to keep this pretty brainless so I cooked all the ingredients separately then mixed everything together. If you are talented enough to cook things together that have different cooking times and not overcook anything (like Z.) be my guest. Enjoy!

    Barley and Lentil Mujadara Salad

    by Ace Nation
    Keywords: entree salad vegan barley beans/lentils Middle Eastern

      For the Mujadara
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1 onion, sliced thinly into half-moons
      • 4 cloves garlic, minced finely
      • 1 cup brown lentils
      • 1 cup barley
      • 1 teaspoon ground cumin or 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
      • 1 teaspoon garam masala
      • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
      • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      • Kosher salt, to taste
      For the Parsley Vinaigrette
      • 1/2 bunch parsley
      • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, more or less depending on your taste
      • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
      • Kosher salt, to taste
      For the Parsley Vinaigrette
      Combine parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt.
      For the rest of the dish
      Cook the barley and lentils separately according to package directions. Set aside when done.
      Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a high-sided skillet over medium-low to medium heat. Add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very browned, about 20-25 minutes.
      Add garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Set aside when done.
      Meanwhile, heat a small and dry pan over medium heat. Toast the spices about 60 seconds. Set aside.
      In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked barley, lentils, and onion mixture with toasted spices and parsley vinaigrette. Make sure to taste and add more salt if needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
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      Thursday, March 14, 2013

      Cilantro Aioli

      Even after my Cilantro Pistou recipe, I still had plenty of cilantro left to play with. I definitely feel I was channeling Bobby Flay with this one. Not surprisingly, Cilantro Aioli makes a great accompaniment to brown food. The mayo provided a creamy richness that was brightened by cilantro and lime juice provided zip. This sauce provided a delicious balance to roasted potatoes and Tuna Cakes in my case.

      Future recipe already in mind: Cilantro Aioli as the inspiration and basis for a salad dressing.

      Cilantro Aioli

      by Ace Nation
      Keywords: blender sauce cilantro
      Ingredients (about 1/2 cup)
      • 1 cup mayonnaise
      • 1/2 bunch cilantro
      • 2 teaspoons lime juice, more or less needed depending on desired consistency
      • Kosher salt, to taste
      Blend all ingredients in a small food processor until smooth. Enjoy!
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      Friday, March 8, 2013

      Recipe Review: Tuna Cakes

      Recipe Review: Tuna Cakes

      Source: Simply Recipes 

      I know that anything that has the word cake in its name and doesn’t have sugar in it, will probably be rather ugly looking, most likely a washed out shade of brown. It’s the ugly sister with lots of personality and a bad tan. This has been the case with my Quinoa Cakes and now my Tuna Cakes. Unlike my Quinoa Cakes, since discovering them, I make my Tuna Cakes on a regular basis. I’m sure anyone who is also cheap or enjoys a quick meal, will agree that canned tuna is a staple in their pantry. 

      At any given time, I probably have at least 30 cans of tuna in my pantry. I buy ridiculous amounts of the stuff when I find it at the price I’m willing to pay ($0.30 or so for most brands, up to $0.50 per can for my preferred brand). I eat so much tuna that when my father and sister found a case of 48 cans of my favorite tuna on sale, they bought it, and mailed the case to me. I love and appreciate them so much that I have never had the heart to ask why they just didn’t send me the money and have me purchase the tuna at the same chain grocery store in my neighborhood. I think they were just trying to take care of me in my time of college poverty.

      I only have one tuna recipe up my sleeve that does not involve making a sandwich. My one tuna recipe is my popular Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole. Not feeling in the mood for something creamy, salmon cakes popped into my mind as inspiration. Why not substitute tuna for the salmon? I found a tuna cakes recipe on Simply Recipes (a blog that I already read regularly) and gave it a try.

      Tuna cakes was a winner and has since become a regular in my repertoire. Since most of the ingredients are from the pantry or refrigerator basics, I create variations according to what is fresh my fridge. I would say, start with Elise’s original recipe which is fresh and bright with lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh herbs, and green onions. I would not eat a tuna salad sandwich without mustard and hot sauce (Melinda’s XXX hot for me) but would never have thought of adding them to my tuna cakes. Thanks, Elise! 

      Just a few quick points I have learned: 

      • I have made tuna cakes with different types of bread and have never noticed any differences. The original recipe calls for white bread, something I don’t have in my home unless the word white is switched with words such as French, Italian, or sourdough. When I buy bread, I get whichever of my preferred brands is on sale. It varies from plain whole-wheat to multi-grain bread with a variety of nuts and seeds. Of course I had to write a paragraph to tell you what you should have already figured out. My point: use what’s on hand and it will be just fine.
      • Two cans of tuna will leave you with 4 patties, so if you do the math one can of tuna will provide two tuna patties. I find that two patties make a great dinner for me. I have taken to halving the recipe and using just one can of tuna (Z. doesn’t eat tuna so there is no one to share with). The tuna cakes make decent leftovers but are best fresh. My point: Even though I’m using one can of tuna, I use a whole egg and the patties come out just fine. Unless you’re using eggs that come out of a carton, I’m not sure how to use half of a whole egg. And if I did, I would probably forget about it and waste half an egg.
      • When I haven’t had fresh parsley, I have used a few shakes from my jar of trusted Italian seasoning. I actually really liked the flavor of the Italian seasoning with the tuna but was missing the fresh element. I had recently enjoyed my Root Vegetable Soup with Cilantro Pistou and had cilantro on the brain. I didn’t think adding chopped cilantro would be extraordinary but I thought of a sauce I could make and use for other meals. Check back soon to see what I made with cilantro that has become one of my favorite additions to Tuna Cakes. Enjoy!

      Sunday, March 3, 2013

      Cilantro Pistou

      Look through a few French or French cuisine-inspired cookbooks and you will most likely come across soupe au pistou, a vegetable soup garnished with pistou. I think of pistou as Provence’s version of pesto without the cheese. You blend basil with garlic, olive oil, and a little salt until smooth, occasionally with lemon juice or zest. I have also seen recipes that substitute parsley for the basil.
      In the winter months, I rely on cilantro as a cheap way to brighten up heavy, earthy meals. I will often chop it and garnish fajitas, dal, or curries with the herb. When I made my Root Vegetable and Quinoa Soup, I thought about the soupe au pistou recipes I have read. Why not use one of my favorite herbs, cilantro, making a deliciously earthy soup a little brighter and more interesting?

      Bon appetit!
      I imagined my version of pistou not only with the herbal grassiness of cilantro but also with the zip of lime. I loved my Cilantro Pistou so much in vegetable soup that I ended up using the whole batch of Cilantro Pistou with one pot of soup. You can make your pistou as thick or thin as you like. Since I use my pistou in soup or as a dressing, I like it on the thinner side. I accomplish this by adding a little extra extra virgin olive oil. I love the brightness of the herb with the decadence of the olive oil.

      My success with the Cilantro Pistou inspired me to try a parsley pistou. In this case I used the pistou as a dressing for my Barley and Lentil Mujadara Salad (recipe coming soon!). Either the Cilantro Pistou or Parlsey Pistou could transform a simple green salad or tomato salad to a luxurious side dish. A future recipe I have in mind is a sandwich made from leftover roasted chicken on a Market of Choice ciabatta roll, with beautiful locally grown tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and Parlsey Pistou. Would some please buy the ingredients for me? I promise I will really…enjoy!

      Cilantro Pistou

      by Ace Nation
      Keywords: raw gluten-free vegan cilantro
      Ingredients (about 1 cup)
      • 1/2 bunch cilantro, about one cup loosely packed
      • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more or less as needed
      • about 2 teaspoons lime juice, more less according to taste
      • Kosher salt, to taste
      • Dash of cayenne pepper, if desired
      Combine all ingredients in a small blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Adjust the amounts of olive oil, lime juice, and kosher salt to taste. Enjoy!
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