Saturday, January 28, 2012

Winter Vegetable Noodle Curry

After two years of begging and pleading to Jay (and then about five minutes of searching the web), The Bojon Gourmet now has a 'print friendly' button at the bottom of each individual post (not the main page with all the posts – to go to an individual post, click the recipe title). The happy, green button is located at the very end of the post, after the recipe and final photo. When you click it, you can delete anything you don't want printed – just hover over the photo or paragraph and click. To remove all the images, click the 'remove images' box at the top.

And what better recipe to print out than this easy, gluten-free, vegan, one-pot meal?

This is the dish we've been enjoying regularly for the past couple of months. It was inspired by a meal I enjoyed at Spice Monkey, an adorable cafe in Oakland with an eclectic menu inspired by foods from around the globe. As we partook of their excellent beer and wine selection served up by friendly staff, I reveled in a steaming bowl of fragrant coconut milk broth teaming with vibrant vegetables and slippery noodles. When we left, I knew I would either have to re-create the recipe or begin spending more time in the East Bay. (Like, every night.)

Luckily for Jay and my bank account, I found a recipe in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking for a 'slurp and slop bowl of noodles' that looked like a winning springboard recipe. I omitted the tofu, doubled the broth, and added in a jumble of vegetables.

The result is a messy bowl of spiced broth, stained yellow with turmeric and Thai red chile paste, creamy from light and full-fat coconut milks, tangy from a generous dose of lime. The ample vegetables cook right in the broth until crisp-tender, and noodles added to the bowl just before serving stay chewy-soft. The curry is light and nourishing all at once, leaving you satisfied yet energized.

While my favorite version uses colorful carrots, broccoli, savoy cabbage and cauliflower (which turns bright gold from the turmeric), I also made a tasty version with bok choy, romanesco and baby turnips – pesky vegetables from our CSA that I previously never knew how to use.

If you have a case of the winter vegetable blahs and find yourself pining for the asparagus and peas which are not yet in season, the bright flavors in this lively curry may assuage your longing.

And you don't even have to cross the bridge (or copy and paste) to enjoy it.

Oodles of noodles:
Creamy Sesame Soba Noodles
Mac and Cheese with Winter Squash, Bacon and Collard Greens
Pasta Alla Carbonara

One year ago:
Butterscotch Pudding (I just made this the other night with a shot of bourbon stirred in at the end - highly recommended!)
Two years ago:
Citrus Cornmeal Pound Cake

Winter Vegetable Curry with Rice Noodles

Inspired by Super Natural Cooking

My curry paste wasn't very spicy, and this curry turned out completely mild; taste yours to determine how much spice you want in your curry, and add extra chile, or a bit of Sriracha hot sauce, for more heat if you like. Feel free to add 8 - 12 ounces of extra-firm tofu along with the vegetables. And speaking of vegetables, try any combination you like, taking cooking times into consideration – I've successfully used bok choy, thinly sliced baby turnips and romanesco in place of the ones suggested below.

This curry keeps well for several days, but don't add the noodles until just before serving; otherwise, they will drink up all the broth, and then disintegrate before making it into your mouth. Thai red curry paste and coconut milk can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

Makes 6 - 8 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil or sunflower oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste

1/2 pound carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced diagonally
1/2 pound broccoli, in bite-sized florets
1/2 pound cauliflower, in bite-sized florets
1/2 pound green cabbage (preferably savoy or napa)

1 can light coconut milk
1 can regular coconut milk
4 cups vegetable stock (I use 2 cubes of Rapunzel bouillon and 4 cups water)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons sugar

tamari or soy sauce to taste
juice of 1-2 limes

8 ounces Asian-style rice noodles
a bit of vegetable oil for tossing the noodles (such as sunflower)
a big handful of cilantro, washed well and chopped

In a large wok or dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for a few minutes until translucent and softened. Add the curry paste and cook for a few more minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the vegetables and give them a turn to coat them in oil. Add the coconut milks, stock, turmeric and sugar. (It will seem like not enough liquid, but the vegetables will shrink and release water as they cook.) Increase the heat to bring the curry to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Add tamari and lime juice to taste.

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, drain, rinse with cool water to prevent stickage, and toss with a bit of vegetable oil.

To serve, place a nest of noodles in a bowl and top with the curry and broth, and a sprinkling of cilantro. Serve with extra lime wedges and Sriracha, if desired, and both chopsticks and soup spoons for easy eating.

Friday, January 20, 2012

(Gluten-Free!) Über Chocolate Cookies

A few haiku for you:

Chocolate glistening
melting gooily beneath
shiny, crackled crust

Whipped eggs and sugar
Chocolates and butter, folding
folding into you

Globs of sticky dough
hit the oven's heat, slumping
into crinkled discs

Crispy, chewy goo
bittersweet and earthy
flecked with cacao nibs

How can these cookies
taste so good and yet, surprise!
still be gluten-free?

The answer is here:
whipped eggs, sticky dark chocolate
a touch of rice flour

Chocolate cookies and
a glass of milk make you smile
on a rainy day

Triple Chocolate Chile Cookies
(Gluten-Free) Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
(Gluten-Free) Bittersweet Whiskey Brownies

One year ago:
White Bean, Kale and Farro Soup
Two years ago:
Chocolate Cherry Breakfast Bars
Banana Brown-Sugar Pecan Scones

(Gluten-Free) Über Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Cook's Country

It's ok to omit the cacao nibs if you don't have any, but do use high quality chocolate that you like the flavor of on its own. Scharffenberger, Guittard, and Valrhona are all good brands. If gluten isn't an issue for you, use all-purpose flour in place of the rice flour. Sticky rice flour, sometimes called "sweet" or "glutinous," is available at most well-stocked grocers. I usually use Mochiko brand, available here. Regular rice flour will leave your cookies less chewy and more crumbly; if that's all you've got, try adding 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum.

All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen 2" cookies

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cacao mass – 1 cup wafers or chopped chocolate)
2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup (1 3/4 ounces) fine, sweet white rice flour (see headnote)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (1 cup)
2 tablespoons cacao nibs

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350º. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Place the unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup bittersweet chocolate and butter in a medium-sized metal bowl, and place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted together. Remove the bowl from the pot to cool slightly.

In a small cup or bowl, stir together the espresso powder and vanilla to dissolve the granules. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the eggs, sugar and salt on medium-high speed until tripled in volume, pale, and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, and stir in the vanilla mixture, beating until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture, beating until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Whisk or sift together the flour and baking powder, then stir them into the batter. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and fold in the chopped chocolate and cacao nibs until evenly distributed. Let the batter stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to firm it up slightly and make it easier to scoop. It will look more like a gooey brownie batter than a cookie dough.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough (I use a #40 purple-handled, spring-loaded ice cream scoop) onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2-3 inches apart. Bake the cookies until puffed, shiny, and cracked on top, 10-14 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets.

The cookies keep well in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Persimmon Galettes

When I was five, my grandmother asked me what my favorite color was. I gave the matter a good deal of thought, then told her that it was brown.

A hachiya persimmon tree in Corralitos, California

Brown was not actually my favorite color. My real favorite color was light blue, but I felt sorry for brown since I knew that it was nobody's favorite color.

Little did I know that my grandmother simply wished to buy me a dress in my favorite color, and this little decision sent her racing around to every clothing store in town in search of a brown dress. (Thanks, Bubba!)

But when it comes to fruit, my tastes do tend toward the less popular (and I'm not just saying that to protect their imaginary feelings). Rhubarb (which is really a vegetable), figs and quince are three that I never tire of. Heck, I even like prunes.

But come December, it is fuyu persimmons that steal my heart, that I devour daily, that I spend yoga classes distracting myself from the agony of standing lunges by thinking up new ways to enjoy. I usually let fuyus ripen until they have a hint of give when squeezed. I cut the pretty stem out with a paring knife, slice the persimmon in half, then slice it into wedges and eat it straight up. I'm surprised fuyus have so few fans, given their sweet flavor, low acidity, and tender-crisp texture.

I wanted to feature their flavor in a different manner than the usual spice-laced pudding/cookie/cake, so I mixed up a batch of pâte brisée, rolled it into 6 small rounds, and topped it with the gooey flesh from hachiya persimmons and a fan of fuyu persimmon slices that had been hanging out in citrus zest and a bit of sugar.

These galettes make a sunny change to the pale fruit desserts of winter (apples and pears, I'm talking to you), with a juicy, fruity filling as pleasing as a peach pie. A crisp crust flakes against the tender, sweet fruit, its flavor boosted by the citrus zest and judicious amount of sugar.

Someone recently asked me whether a galette is like a fancy pie. I replied that galettes are more like un-fancy pies, being rustically easy to assemble and requiring no special pan, save a sheet to bake them on. Galettes are also a lovely way to make individual servings without having to buy special tart or pie pans. They are easier to transport than messy slices of pie. And they have a French name, so they sound fancy. And that's really what's important.

Fancy or non, these galettes make a superb breakfast or afternoon snackle, especially with a cup of good tea, as the crust contains whole spelt flour and the filling is mostly fruit. But served with a dab of whipped cream, crème fraîche, or a scoop of ice cream, they are decadent enough to count as dessert. Or cut them into wedges and serve them at a cocktail party.

You may even turn persimmons into someone else's favorite fruit.

Multiple persimmonality disorder:
Two-Persimmon Tea Cake

Strange fruit:
Rhubarb-Chevre Galettes
Quince and Apple Turnovers
Fig and Ginger Scones

One year ago:
Persimmon Pudding
Two years ago:
Sourdough Pizza with Chantarelles, Shallots and Chevre

Persimmon Galettes

This recipe is all about the persimmons, so be sure that yours are at the peak of ripeness when you make this. It calls for both the gooey flesh from hachiya persimmons (the heart-shaped ones that feel like water balloons about to burst when fully ripe) and squat fuyus (which should be bright orange and have a hint of give when squeezed, and whose flesh should be crisp-tender and full of flavor).

Makes six 4-5" galettes

All-butter pate briseé:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole spelt (or whole wheat pastry) flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 ounces (8 tablespoons/1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, in 1/2" dice
about 4 tablespoons ice water

Persimmon filling:
1 large or 2 small, dead-ripe hachiya persimmons (see headnote)
2 medium, ripe fuyu persimmons (see headnote)
3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra sugar for sprinkling
zest of 1/2 clementine
zest of 1/4 lemon
pinch salt
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk, water or beaten egg) for brushing the dough

Make the crust:
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, sugar and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour, and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles sand with lots of pea-sized butter chunks. Drizzle the ice water over, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a rubber spatula, until the dough will hold together when you give it a squeeze. Dump the dough out onto a counter, divide it roughly into 6 portions, and fraisage by dragging a portion of dough across the counter using the heel of your hand. Scrape up the dough (a metal bench scraper works well here) and gently press it into a ball. Cut the dough into 6 even pieces (they should weigh about 2 ounces each) and flatten them into small discs. Put the discs on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Remove the discs from the fridge, and roll them out into 5-6" rounds on a lightly floured surface, dusting the rolling pin and surface with a little flour and rotating the dough to keep it from sticking. Stack the rounds on a plate and chill for another 30 minutes.

Prepare the persimmons:
Remove the stem(s) from the hachiya(s), slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, keeping the gelatinous segments in tact. Discard the peel. Cut the stem out of the fuyus, slice them in half lengthwise, place the halves cut-side down, and use a sharp knife (serrated works well) to cut them into thin slices, about 3/8" thick. Remove the brown seeds, if there are any.

In a medium bowl, rub the sugar with the zests and salt, then toss in the fuyu slices and lemon juice to combine.

Assemble and bake the galettes:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400º. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove one round of dough from the fridge, trimming the edges clean if you like. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of hachiya flesh in the center, then top with a circle of fuyu slices (about 7 slices worked for me). Fold up the edges around the fruit, pressing on the pleats to stick them together. Place the galette on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining rounds of dough and persimmons.

Brush the edges of the dough with the cream, and sprinkle the galettes with sugar.

Bake the galettes until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

The galettes are best the day they are baked, when the crust is crisp, but they can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 or 3 days. Reheat in an oven or toaster oven before serving.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Quinoa, Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

When I was quite young, my grandmother took me out to lunch at an LA diner. As she ordered, the waitress asked if she would like a "super salad" with her entree. I imagined a giant salad, sporting a cape and tights, flying to our table in order to rescue a drowning steak or abused mashed potato.

But I never got to meet this salad, because my grandma replied, "I'll have the soup."

If there were an election for a super salad (and wouldn't that be much more fun than the actual upcoming election?) I would nominate this guy. He's full of good-for-you ingredients: iron-rich kale, protein-packed quinoa, creamy roasted sweet potatoes, sweet-tart dried cranberries, omega-full nuts, extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice. He's gluten-free and vegan. He is equally delicious warm, chilled, or at room temperature. He may not be well-traveled, but he does travel well – to work, a picnic, a potluck.

I find the clean, straightforward flavors of this salad a welcome relief after the spicyboozybuttery holidaze; we've had it three times in the past couple of weeks. Toasty cumin and crunchy pecans contrast tart lemon juice, creamy sweet potatoes, and chewy dried cranberries. Multi-colored quinoa ends up a mix of tender white grains and red and black flecks that pop in your mouth. A brief soak and thorough rinse rid the quinoa of any bitterness, leaving feather-light grains with nutty-sweet flavor.

Not only is this salad superb for you, it tastes super good, too.

Happy 2012.

Super salad:
White Bean, Kale, and Farro Soup
Creamy Sesame Soba Noodle Salad
Crispy Sesame Kale Chips

One year ago:
Spiced Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Two years ago:
Sourdough Flaxseed Waffles

Quinoa, Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

I love the way multi-colored quinoa ends up mostly tender, with flecks of red and black grains that retain a bit of crunch when cooked. And it looks pretty, too. If you can't find any, use any color quinoa you like (red and black quinoa may need extra water and cooking time to soften). This salad is equally good warm, room temperature, or chilled. It keeps for up to 3 days in the fridge, though I find the flavors to be brightest when the salad is warm and freshly made. Fromage-philes will enjoy a bit of goat cheese crumbled over the warm version, or feta when it's chilled.

Makes about 6 meal-sized servings

2 medium-large sweet potatoes (1 1/2 pounds, jewel), scrubbed, cut into 1" chunks
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
sea salt

1 cup quinoa (preferably multi-colored)

1 large bunch kale (preferably black/dino kale)

1 tablespoon cumin seed

juice of 1 lemon (or more, to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup toasted pecans, broken up or coarsely chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400º.

Toss the sweet potatoes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spread evenly on a sheet pan and roast until soft and golden, about 40 minutes, flipping the potatoes once halfway through cooking. Remove and let cool slightly (or completely).

Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl or large measuring cup. Fill the bowl with water to cover the quinoa and soak for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the soaking water and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Drain well. Place the soaked, rinsed and drained quinoa in a medium saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Bring the quinoa to a simmer, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Let the quinoa steam until the water is gone and the white quinoa is tender (the red and black quinoa will retain more crunch). Remove from the heat, leave the lid on and let steam 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, remove the ribs from the kale with a sharp paring knife. Stack 3 or 4 leaves on top of one another, roll them up the long way, and slice crosswise very thinly. Repeat with the remaining kale leaves. Place the leaves in a colander and set in the sink. Bring a large tea kettle of water to a boil, and pour the boiling water all over the kale to wilt it. Rinse the kale with cool water to stop the cooking. Squeeze dry and place in a very large bowl.

Toast the cumin seed in a small skillet over a medium flame, shaking frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Let cool, then grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Add the sweet potato cubes and quinoa to the kale, then add the cranberries, toasted and ground cumin, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and juice of 1 lemon and gently toss to combine. Add the pecans and parsley just before serving.

The salad can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or chilled for a day or two. When chilled, the flavors get muted, so you may want to add an extra squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of salt and/or pepper to bring up the flavors.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Double-Malted Hot Chocolate

My current favorite musical duo, The Two Man Gentlemen Band, have a thing or two to say about cacao-flavored dairy...

And I'm quite certain that any proper gentleman (or woman) would enjoy this hot version made from whole milk, bittersweet chocolate, malted milk, and whiskey, all whisked together until frothy and smooth.

Malted milk has a warm, comforting flavor that you might recognize if you drank Ovaltine as a child (which I found neither warm nor comforting at the time, but now appreciate the way it adds old-school flavor, body and sweetness to this drink.)

The secret, if you can call it that, to good hot chocolate made with chocolate (rather than cocoa powder) is to whisk the bejeezus out of the milk and the stubborn chocolate in order to combine the two. You could use an immersion blender if you like, but a good thirty seconds of vigorous whisking brings the two components together, and creates a light, sippable texture.

Use a good bittersweet chocolate and whiskey that you enjoy the flavor of.

If you do, you might stay up all night long sippin' chocolate milk along with the Two Man Gentlemen Band. (I know I would like to.)

Hot on chocolate:
(Gluten-Free) Bittersweet Whiskey Brownies
Chocolate Bouchon Cakes with Black Pepper Ice Cream
Triple Chocolate Chile Cookies

One year ago:
Cardamom Snickerdoodles

Double-Malted Hot Chocolate

Do use a good chocolate that you like the flavor of here; Tcho, Scharffen Berger and Valrhona are all excellent choices. Malted milk powder can sometimes be found near the ice cream section in markets, I picked mine up in the swoon-worthy bulk section at San Francisco's Rainbow Grocery Co-op. The amount of whiskey I use is relatively small and blends with the flavors of the malted milk; add more if you like, though you may need to add more milk powder as well. Grate a bit of chocolate over the tops with a Microplane.

Makes 2 gentle servings

1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate wafers (or a chopped bar; 60-70% cacao mass)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons malted milk powder
2 tablespoons whiskey

Heat the milk in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, swirling occasionally, until the milk is steaming and small bubbles form around the edges. Remove from the heat, and add the chocolate and milk powder, and whisk like mad until the hot chocolate is slightly frothy and the chocolate is completely incorporated, 30 seconds or so. Stir in the whiskey, pour into small cups, and top with a grating of chocolate.