Tuesday, March 31, 2009

big birthday

party i

Today was an important birthday for Lori at my job, and she had to work! Little Debbie organised a birthday party potluck, and I was assigned to bring the cake. I brought a nice ginger cake: the same one Annie gets for her birthday, but tripled (and veganised). Our colleagues were astonished. How could it be so dark while not having any chocolate in it? Molasses! Whoever would think to put molasses in a cake? They liked it, though, and some asked for the recipe, so here it is.

When I'm making a single recipe I use treacle, but tripling the recipe would have meant using $15 worth of treacle so I decided to use molasses. I only had a 12oz bottle, so I went to the store this morning to get a couple more bottles. The store had been rearranged recently, and I couldn't find the molasses anywhere. It wasn't by the sugar and flour, it wasn't by the honey and jam, and it wasn't by the marshmallows. There wasn't any corn syrup either; that whole section was missing. The customer service man and a cashier I asked couldn't find it either. After half an hour of searching I settled for some blackstrap molasses from the healthy baking section: I could dilute it with corn syrup.

It's always been a problem finding a suitable pan for this cake. I have two versions of the original recipe, one calling for a 6" round tin and the other calling for a 7" tin. The 7" tin seems like it will work, but then the batter boils over in the oven and makes a terrible mess. Now I've settled on a deep 8" tube pan, but an 8" springform pan should work as well.

Dark Ginger Cake

4oz margarine
4oz brown sugar
2t each flax meal and Ener-g Egg Replacer with 3T water
10oz molasses or treacle
8oz flour
1t ground ginger
1/4t salt
2oz sultanas or golden raisins
2oz crystalised ginger, sliced
2oz walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2T soy milk
1/2t baking soda

Beat the margarine till soft, then beat the sugar in till the mixture's fluffy. Beat the flax meal, egg replacer, and water till fluffy and foamy (it's easiest with an immersion blender), then add to the margarine mixture along with the molasses and beat some more. Add the flour, ginger, and salt, then the raisins, crystalised ginger, and nuts. Warm the milk , mix the baking soda in, then add it to the batter. Turn the mixture in to your buttered, floured cake tin and bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes-1 1/2 hours. The time depends on both your pan (a tube pan will make it bake far more quickly than it would in a springform pan) and whether you want it to be cakey or squidgey. In any case, if it's going to bake longer than 45 minutes cover it with tin foil at that point so it won't darken too much.


Monday, March 30, 2009

pineapple crud

pineapple crud i

It seems to be pineapple time: I've been seeing lots of bargain pineapples at the grocery store. I've seen lots of tips on picking them out, but in my experience it's best to find one that smells nicely of pineapple, with no hint of fermentation, and make sure it's firm. Once it's home, don't leave it out decoratively on the the counter for more than a day or two: pineapple seem to keep best cut up in the refrigerator. Here's a quick and easy pineapple dessert:

Pineapple Crud

makes enough for two or three

1/2 a pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4C dessicated coconut
3T each flour and dark brown sugar
1/4t powdered ginger
2T margarine
1/2C almond flakes

Toss the pineapple and coconut together and spread them over the bottom of a greased 7"x10" pan (or any pan whose bottom has an area of 64in²-70in²).

Mix together the flour, sugar, and ginger; then rub in the margarine. Add the almonds, then strew the mixture evenly over the pineapple. Bake at 375°F for about 25 minutes.

pineapple crud

Sunday, March 22, 2009

another retro casserole

hippie casserole i

I made this hippie health-food casserole to use up some broccoli and mushrooms that had been hanging around in my refrigerator. I ended up buying some more broccoli and forgetting to add the mushrooms, so it wasn't really successful as a refrigerator-clearing exercise, but it was still pretty tasty. The sauce is similar to the mac & cheeze sauce I made last month, but I think it turned out a little more cheddary. Maybe that's just because it turned out so orange from all the carrots....

Orange and Green Casserole
makes enough for 4 people, or 1 person who likes leftovers

4C cooked brown rice
2C cooked beans (I used cranberry beans)
1lb broccoli, stems peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces and steamed till tender
(6oz cremini mushrooms, sliced and fried in olive oil till limp and turning browner)

2 medium carrots, cooked till very soft
1 1/4C carrot-cooking water
1/4C each nutritional yeast, cashews, and arrowroot (or cornstarch if that's all you have)
2T olive oil
1T lemon juice
2t onion powder
1/2 salt and 1/4t black pepper
1C unsweetened soy milk (or your favorite nondairy milk)

2T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2C fresh bread cubes
2T minced parsley

Mix the rice, beans, broccoli, and mushrooms (if you remember to cook them) in a big bowl.

Whiz all of the sauce ingredients except the soy milk in a blender till smooth. Cook in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, till thickened. Whisk the milk in and take off the heat. Stir it into the rice bowl, then spread the mixture into a big, shallow casserole.

Mix the crumb ingredients together, then scatter them over the casserole. Bake at 375°F for about half an hour.

hippie casserole ii

Thursday, March 19, 2009

St.Cyril's day dinner

stew i

Since my St. Patrick's day party fell through, I had everyone over for a St. Cyril of Jerusalem's day dinner the next day. I already had a menu planned, so we celebrated Cyril with Irish rather than Palestinian food: soda bread, champ, stew, and apple cake. The stew was like my usual New England boiled dinner, except with mushrooms and Christmas Lima beans instead of corned seitan. The cake was my own invention; it didn't turn out quite as I'd intended (it was supposed to be like a tarte tatin, but wouldn't come out of its pan in one piece), but was still very good.

apple cake ii

Apple Cake

5 cooking apples (I used Pink Ladies), peeled, cored, and quartered
2oz margarine
2oz sugar
2t cinnamon

4oz margarine, melted and cooled
4oz sugar
1T each flax meal and Ener-g Egg Replacer
1/4C water
4 1/2oz flour

apples in a pan

Melt the margarine in a 9" square or 10" round oven-proof frying pan, then take off the heat and scatter the sugar evenly over the bottom. Arrange the apple quarters neatly, packing them in tightly with their rounded sides down. Put back on the heat and cook on medium or medium-low for about fifteen minutes, till the sugar starts to brown. Take off the heat, and sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples.

Meanwhile, make the cake batter. Mix the melted margarine and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat the flax meal, egg replacer, and water till fluffy and foamy (it's easiest with an immersion blender), then add to the margarine mixture along with the flour. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 40 minutes, till the cake's nicely browned and the apples are tender. Let rest a few minutes, and then you can try to turn the cake out onto a platter. If you fail, just turn each piece over as you serve it and it'll be pretty enough.

piece of apple cake ii

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


stovies ingredients

Nobody could come to my planned St Patrick's Day party, so I put it off till another day. Since it was just me I made stovies, one of my favorite easy dinners. It's not really suitable for company--though I used to make it for Tom Stratman--but it's just the ticket when you're all alone and it's cold out. This makes enough for one good eater, or enough for a daintier person to have some nice leftovers.


1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
a handful of steel-cut oats
margarine to taste
1lb potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
8oz firm tofu, cut into cubes
a piece of cabbage about the size of the piece of tofu, cut into ribbons
1T nutritional yeast
salt, pepper, and Spike (a hippie seasoning)

Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart heavy pan and add the oats. Let them toast while you ready the onion, then add it. Peel and cut the potato while the onions soften, then add them to the pan along with enough water to come up an inch. Stir everything around, then add the tofu, the cabbage and the seasonings. Don't stir: just bring to a simmer, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let cook for about 35 minutes, till everything's tender. Give it a stir, then eat.

stovies in the pan

Monday, March 9, 2009

puffy, chewy pizza

pomegranate pizza

Rachael and Annie came to my house for dinner last night, and both were impressed with my pizza crust. It's chewy but not rubbery, and puffs up into attractive bubbles around the edges. It's very easy to make, but requires special high-gluten flour. You can either get expensive Sir Lancelot from King Arthur or get a cheap 25-lb bag of Power Flour at Cash & Carry.

Chewy Pizza Crust

dough for 2 14" pizzas

5oog high-gluten flour
400ml water
2T olive oil
10g salt
1/2t yeast

In the morning, while your tea water's cooking, mix the flour and water together to a shaggy mass. Let it rest till you've drunk some tea, at least 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and knead it all together as best you can. It might be a little rubbery, in which case let it rest a while and then knead it till it's a nice, smooth ball of dough. Give it a quick knead every twenty minutes for the next hour, then let it slowly rise all day, till you're nearly ready to bake your pizzas.

Heat your oven to 475º with either a pizza stone or a pizza pan in it. Divide the dough in two and form into two balls. Let them rest on your floury counter for 10 minutes to relax, then stretch one into a 14" circle. Put it on your semolina-ed peel or (easier) a piece of parchment paper and decorate with your choice of toppings. Slide onto the stone or pan and bake for 8-9 minutes. Get the other pizza ready while the first one bakes.

The pomegranate pizza above had pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, capers, pine nuts, picholine olives (Rachael's new favorite), tofu ricotta salata (scroll down to find the recipe), and a sauce of pomegranate molasses and caramelized onions.

To make the arugula pizza below I brushed the dough with olive oil, then scattered over it dried marjoram, pine nuts, macerated sultanas, olives (pitted and quartered lengthwise), capers, and tofu ricotta salata. When it came out of the oven I threw on a couple of handsful of arugula.
rucola pizza piece

Saturday, March 7, 2009

pumpkin bread

A couple of weeks ago I made a very nice sourdough pumpkin bread. It was similar to my Sunflower Squash Bread, but smaller (a better size for one person) and entirely whole-grain. I used it for sandwiches for my work lunches, and it lasted a week while never getting stale.

pumpkin bread

Sourdough Pumpkin Bread

250g whole wheat flour
200g water
30g whole wheat or spelt starter

all of the levain
250g whole wheat flour
170g whole spelt flour
65g dark rye flour
300g puréed squash
200g water
20g salt

A day before you plan to bake, mix the levain ingredients together and let rise in a warmish place till puffy.

When the levain's ready, mix it together with all the remaining ingredients except for the salt and let rest for half an hour or so. Add the salt and knead the dough till it's well incorporated. Knead the dough briefly at twenty-minute intervals for an hour, then let it rise till doubled. The time this takes will vary, depending on your starter and the temperature of your kitchen--at my house, it takes six to eight hours. If your starter's slow like mine you could get your dough made before you go to bed, and it will be all risen and ready to be shaped when you get up in the morning.

Shape into a boule or bâtard, and let rise in a linen-lined basket or banneton till doubled (this takes about four hours at my house). Slash, and bake on a stone preheated to 425ºF. Bake for 20 minutes, squirting with water a couple of times in the first 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375º. Bake 10-20 more minutes, till its internal temperature's about 208º.

pumpkin bread

Friday, March 6, 2009

banana bread

banana bread cooling

Rachael loves banana bread and used to nag me all the time to make it for her. She never quite believed that it was mainly a way to use up overripe bananas and that we had to wait for some of them to appear before we made it. I'm not much of a banana-eater, so only buy them as I expect to use them and rarely let them get more than faintly freckled. I somehow ended up with three brown bananas this week, and immediately thought of my little girl.

This eggless banana bread turned out very well, especially its crust. After helping me eat three-quarters of the loaf at a sitting, Rachael said I should make it again but in cookie form, so as to maximize the crust/crumb ration.

banana bread slice

Banana Bread

5 oz pecans and/or walnuts
3 small or 2 big ripe bananas, about 12 oz
1C milk (I used oat milk)
1t vinegar
2T flax meal
7oz sugar
1/3C oil
1T orange zest
7oz whole wheat pastry flour
1t mixed spice; or 1/2t cinnamon, 1/4t nutmeg, and a pinch each of cloves and black pepper
1t baking powder
1/4t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Heat your oven to 350°F and toast the nuts for 10 minutes. Turn the heat up to 375°F.

Mash the bananas well, then add the milk, vinegar, and flax meal. Mix well, then add the oil, sugar, and orange zest.

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and soda, and salt, then stir in the banana mixture. Chop the nuts and stir them in, then scrape the batter into a greased 8x4.5 inch pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350°F and cook for another 30-40 minutes, till a cakes tester comes out clean and it has an internal temperature of at least 200°F.