Sunday, May 31, 2009

easy-peasy brownies


I made these vegan brownies for Rachael a couple of times while Annie was off in Hawaii. Rachael thought they were pretty good, and that I should post the recipe here so I don't forget how to make them. If you bake them as directed they come out pretty squidgy: if you like your brownies cakier, leave them for 5-10 more minutes, till the middle's set.


dry ingredients:
165g (1C) all-purpose flour
175g (3/4C) sugar
110g (1/2C) brown sugar
70g (1/2C) cocoa (non-alkalized), sifted
1 1/2T instant espresso powder
1/2t baking soda, sifted
1/2t salt

wet ingeredients:
150ml water
100ml oil (blah, flavorless oil like canola or sunflower)
1t vanilla extract
2t flax meal

100g (3/4C) toasted walnuts
70g (1/3C) chocolate chips


Heat the oven to 350ºF and grease an 8"x8" pan. whisk the dry ingredients together in a big bowl, getting the lumps out of the brown sugar, and whisk the wet ingredients together till thick in a big liquid measuring cup. Mix the wet and the dry, then stir in the walnuts and spread into your greased pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and bake for about 30 minutes, till the edges are set and the center's getting there but still a little soft. Let cool thoroughly before cutting up.

Friday, May 22, 2009

frying potatoes

Annie told me that it has long been a sorrow of hers that she can't fry potatoes. Being the grandchild of Grandma Rossi I know how, and I promised to tell her so that she could make potato tacos for the Hawaiian Guppies.

raw potatoes

You'll need potatoes, oil, salt, pepper, a decent pan and a metal spatula. Your can add other flavoring ingredients, like onions and cumin (for tacos) or garlic and rosemary, but for breakfast I like them best plain. If you're in a big hurry you can start with cooked potatoes, but they'll turn out a lot better if you fry them from raw. Cut them up into thickish (~1/2cm) slices. If you're adding cumin and onion, your can have them start cooking while you wash and cut up the potatoes.

potatoes in a pan

Next, stir the potatoes along with the salt and pepper (and rosemary if you're using it) around in a well-oiled (don't skimp! at least 2-3T of oil!), wide (12" is ideal), stick-resistant but not nonstick (a cast-iron skillet would be good) pan with a lid on medium heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low, put the lid on, and let the potatoes steam themselves for about 20 minutes. They should be all the way cooked at this point.

Turn the heat up to medium (if you want to add garlic, now's the time) and let the potatoes cook for a few minutes before stirring them around. You'll have to scrape them off the pan pretty hard, but you want to get the crusts up. You may have to add some more oil. Alternately cook and stir 3 or 4 times, till they look sufficiently browned and crusty.

potatoes on a plate

Thursday, May 21, 2009

using up bananas

Annie also left behind some very ripe bananas: one was solid brown, and the other two were brown-and-tan with flecks of yellow. Rachael and I like our bananas to be entirely yellow except for a hint of green at the tips, so I had to think of something to do with them besides eat them as-is. We planned to go to the movies, so I decided cookies would be a better and more portable treat than banana bread.

The lumps of banana make this a sticky dough, and one that spreads a lot while baking. Be sure to leave lots of space between them on the cookie sheet--I made batches of nine, and that seemed to be about the most that would fit on a sheet. They're still sticky after they're baked, so I arranged them carefully in a tin with wax paper between the layers.

cookie dough

Salty, Sticky, Peanutty Banana Cookies

makes 3 dozen

7oz unsalted peanuts, toasted and cooled
4oz margarine
3 bananas, 1 mashed and 2 sliced
8oz natural peanut butter
7oz each brown and white sugar
2T flax meal soaked in 2T water
1t vanilla extract
11oz whole spelt flour
1 1/2t baking soda
1/2t salt
for topping, 1t Maldon salt or other fluffy sea salt

Put the peanuts, margarine, mashed banana, peanut butter, sugars, flax, and vanilla in a food processor and run till the peanuts are mostly cut into sandy meal with the occasional big lump. Unless you have a really big food processor, you may have to do this in a couple of batches. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a big bowl, then add the peanut sludge and mix it together with your hands. It'll seem impossible stiff, then suddenly become incredibly sticky. At this point mix in the banana slices, then let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Shape dough into big (1 1/3" or so) balls and arrange on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten them slightly, then sprinkle with Maldon salt (I used 1/4t per 9-cookie batch). Bake at 325ºF for 15-17 minutes, till the cookies have puffed up and collapsed, then turned brown over their entire surfaces. Cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

pbbs cookies

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

using up avocados

When Annie went to Hawaii she left behind three little rapidly ripening avocados. I didn't want them to go to waste, so decided to make them into a cake, like this one that so intrigued me when I read about it a couple of weeks ago. I had to modify the recipe, of course, veganising and dechocolifying it to suit the tastes of my audience. Disappointingly, the nice green batter fades to khaki as it bakes. It came out a little bit damp, so I think if I make it again I'll cook it about five minutes longer, past the point when the cake-testing straw comes out clean. It was a success in spite of the damp: Rachael, Michael and I ate it all up!

avocado cake

Avocado Coffee Cake

100g walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
80g dried apricots, chopped, soaked in hot tea till plump, then drained
85g brown sugar
1t cinnamon

200g avocado flesh, from 3 small or 2 medium avocados
80ml oil (avocado oil would be nice, or else something blah like sunflower)
180g sugar
170ml soy milk
1T EnerG Egg Replacer
1T orange juice concentrate
2t vanilla extract
275g all-purpose flour
1t each baking soda and baking powder
1/2t salt

Heat oven to 350ºF and grease a bundt pan. Mix the filling ingredients together in a little bowl.

Whiz the avocado and oil together in a food processor till smooth, then add the sugar, milk, egg replacer, orange juice, and vanilla. Process thoroughly, till light and fluffy. Whisk the flour together with the remaining ingredients, then add to the avocado fluff and mix till just blended. Spread half of the batter in the pan, scatter the filling over, then spread on the rest of the batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

tropical sauerkraut, or how to peel a pineapple

sauerkraut ingredients

My last batch of sauerkraut is getting low, so I started a fresh batch today. This one had 2.25kg cabbage; 800g pineapple; 2 onions (325g); 325g carrots; 30g fresh ginger; 2T coriander seed; 3T mustard seed; 6 dried chiles de arbol; some sprigs of mint, tarragon, and Puerto Rican oregano; and 30g kosher salt.

Annie called me up last night to find out how to peel a pineapple. I see now that she's figured it out, but I took these pictures for her benefit and put them here so she can refer to them in the future:

It helps to have a big knife and a big cutting board. First, cut off the pineapple's top and bottom.

topped and tailed

Next, peel it. If you're in a hurry you can peel thickly and get the eyes off all in one go, but that will use up a lot of pineapple. I peel thinly, and get the eyes out in the next step.


I cut out the eyes by cutting them out in trenches, following the spiral pattern they make.


Then I cut the pineapple into quarters and cut out and eat the core.

cored and quartered

At this point you can stick it in a Tupperware and into the refrigerator for later, or else proceed to cutting it up into pieces suitable for your purpose, using the trenches as guides.

in pieces

Sunday, May 17, 2009

yam salad

yam salad

I fixed this the other day when I had Annie over for dinner, and she asked me to post the recipe so that she could make it for the Hawaiian Guppies when she visits them. It's a quick and easy dish, and really very good--better than it looks in its photo.

It requires Penzey's Turkish Seasoning (they sent me a free sample of some, and I've been putting on yams ever since), but you could try substituting a great big pinch of salt; smaller pinches of cumin, garlic powder, oregano, sumac, paprika; and a tiny pinch of cayenne.

Roasted Yam and Apple Salad

makes enough for 2-3 people

a biggish yam (350-400g), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1cm-thick half-moons
2 Granny Smith apples (they'll hold their shape better than most), peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
1T olive oil
1 1/2t Turkish Seasoning
about 2T chiffonaded mint leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/2 a red bell pepper
3T lime juice
3T olive oil
1/2t cumin
salt and pepper

Toss the apples and yam with the oil and seasoning so that all the pieces are thoroughly coated, then spread in a single layer on a tin-foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 425ºF for about 20 minutes, till the yams are getting browned and are tender all the way through. Let cool a bit, and then scrape onto a serving platter.

Meanwhile make the dressing by whizzing all the ingredients in a blender till smooth. You'll only need about half of it for this, so save the rest to put on your broccoli or something. When you're ready to serve (and when the yams have cooled substantially), pour the dressing over the salad, getting at least a little bit on every piece. Scatter with mint and green onions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I made chocolate chip cookies the other day and was going to post the recipe here, but Rachael said they weren't good enough. They didn't have the right texture (she likes them thin and flexibly brittle, but I fear that might only be possible with the use of real butter), and they needed more walnuts. This version addresses the second concern:


Walnutty Chocolate Chip Cookies

125g margarine
75ml walnut oil
225g sugar
1T molasses or golden syrup
2t vanilla extract
60ml non-dairy milk (I used almond cream)
2T flax meal
250g toasted walnuts, divided
300g flour
1t each baking soda and salt
230g chocolate chips

Beat the margarine, walnut oil, and sugar till fluffy, then beat in the vanilla, molasses, flax, and milk. Coarsely chop 150g of the walnuts.

Chop the remaining 100g of walnuts in a food processor till they're a coarse meal, then whisk them together with the flour, soda, and salt. Beat into the margarine-sugar fluff, and then mix the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts in by hand. Chill the dough at least an hour, or up to 2 days.

Heat oven to 375ºF. Take walnut-sized blobs of dough and quickly shape them into 1/2" thick disks. Put them on a Silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet about an inch apart and bake for 9-11 minutes, till the edges begin to darken.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Indian pineapple salad

pineapple salad

Here's the recipe for the salad Rachael took to Tina's. It's always a success wherever it goes (Annie took it to Mary Guppy's funeral party, where it was a hit), and people always ask for the recipe.

Indian Pineapple Salad

20oz peeled, cored, cut-up pineapple
1/2 a red bell pepper, cut into little strips
1/2 a cucumber, peeled, halved, deseeded, and sliced
a small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
additional fruits, suitably prepared (in this case, Rachael added, a banana, an orange, and half of an under-ripe mango)
3T lime juice
1T palm sugar (or regular sugar)
1 1/2t chaat masala (Laxmi has a good recipe, or you can buy it at the Indian store)
a couple of handsful of coriander, coarsely chopped
a small handful of mint, chiffonaded (only if you have some nice mint in your yard; don't bother with the flavorless kind from the grocery store)

Mix all the fruit and veg in a big bowl, then add the lime juice,sugar, and masala. Mix well with your hands, then taste for seasoning. Don't add the herbs till the last minute, as the mint will blacken and make your salad less pretty.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

work treat


I got a big bag of avocados to put in my quinoa salad, and as it only used two I had a bunch left. Now that I like avocados (I hated them in my youth), I like to take them for a nice treat in my work lunches. This is my easy way to fix them: take a whole avocado, along with a knife, spoon, half a lime (or quarter of a lemon), and a bindle of salt and pepper. When you're ready for lunch, cut the avocado in half, pull out its seed, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and squeeze juice into the hollows. Eat with a spoon, getting a little juice in every bite.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

lunch at Tina's

Ricardo and Apolinario

Tina invited me, Rachael, and Lillian for lunch on Saturday. She said she didn't know how to make any vegan foods besides hummus, so asked us to help out with some complementary dishes. Lillian brought something to drink that she left in her daddy's car, Rachael brought pineapple salad, and I brought quinoa salad, baba ganoush, and a lemony cake (I had a bunch of lemons to use up). The cake was okay, except that it tasted distinctly of tofu....

Tina wound up adding another vegan recipe to her repertoire, José Andrés' spinach and garbanzo bean soup, and Gabriela made some nice rosemary bread, so we ended up having a very good lunch.


The quinoa salad was more successful than the cake, I think. It was tabboulehesque, but with new-worldy flavors--and Lillian, who dislikes tabbouleh, thought it was pretty good.

Quinoa Salad

1C quinoa cooked according to package directions with 1/4t salt and 1T nutritional yeast (I did it in my rice cooker with 1 1/3C water)
1/2 a red bell pepper cut into little squares
1C thawed frozen corn
2 avocados, cut into little cubes
a big handful of coriander, coarsely chopped
a jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
(I would have added some sliced radishes, but Tina hates them)

2T lime juice
2T olive oil
3/4t ground cumin
1/4t Aleppo pepper or other mild dried chile
salt and pepper

Mix the salad ingredients together in a big bowl then whisk the dressing in a smaller bowl and toss into the salad. Let rest a while before eating.

quinoa salad iii

Friday, May 1, 2009

walnutty focaccia

flat breads

I had to bring treats to an after-funeral party today, so I said I'd bring focaccia. The one on the right is ever-popular focaccia Pugliese, made with potatoes and durum flour, from Carol Field's Focaccia. The other one is my own invention, a spelty, walnutty, sagey focaccia. I haven't tried it yet, but here's the recipe:

Walnut Focaccia

300g bread flour
150g whole spelt flour
350ml water
1t each salt, instant yeast
4T walnut oil, divided
150g toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
sage leaves (about 2T, chiffonaded)
1t coarse sea salt

Mix the flours and the water together, and let rest for about 20 minutes. Add the salt, yeast, and 2T oil and knead till nicely elastic. Let rise for about an hour, then fold in the walnuts and let rise another half an hour or so.

Heat the oven (with a baking stone in it) to 400ºF. Stretch the dough to an 11"x15" rectangle on a piece of parchment paper and let rise another half an hour while the oven heats up.

Dimple the dough with your fingertips, then drizzle with the remaining walnut oil. Spread it around, then artfully scatter the sage shreds and sprinkle the sea salt. Bake for about 20 minutes, squirting with water three times in the first 10 minutes.

walnut bread iii