May 26, 2009

Asparagus Frittata

One of the hallmarks of Spring is fresh asparagus. There really is no end of dishes you can make with this flavorful vegetable, but one of my favorites is in a frittata. We love frittatas because they are not as "eggy" as an omelette. The vegetables and other things take the center stage and the egg simple binds it altogether.

For years we made frittatas the hard way: cooking on the bottom then carefully flipping it over, usually resulting in a mess all over the stove. This recipe takes a simpler approach with the same delicious results (but without the same messy results). First you cook the bottom on the stovetop, then slide it under a broiler for a few minutes to cook the top. No flipping necessary!

Be sure your skillet is oven proof. We sometimes use a cast iron skillet, but when we use our normal nonstick skillet, we remove the rubber handle before sliding it into the oven.


Asparagus Frittata


Ingredients


8 oz pencil thin asparagus, tough stems trimmed
1 T olive oil 
4 shallots, thinly sliced 
2 large eggs 
4 large egg whites
1 T snipped chives, optional 
1/4 t sea salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 

Steps


1. Cut asparagus spears into 1-inch lengths. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and cook the asparagus until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl. 

2. Preheat the broiler. 

3. Set a nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil. When hot, add shallots and cook, stirring, until they begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots to the asparagus. 

4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, chives, if using, salt and pepper. Add asparagus/shallot mixture. 

5. Add more oil to the skillet and swirl around to coat thoroughly. Return the skillet to the heat. When the pan is hot, pour in the egg mixture and gently shake the pan to evenly distribute the vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom is set, about 5 minutes. 

6. Place the skillet under the broiler to finish cooking, about 1 minute. 

7. Cut into wedges and serve.

May 24, 2009

Chili Sin Carne

Ever since Cinco de Mayo, I have been craving Mexican and Texas food. I love the simple ingredients, such as onions and tomato, fused together with a complex assortment of herbs and spices.

This recipe is a redux of Chili Con Carne ("Chili with meat") and has been relabeled Chili Sin Carne ("Chili without meat"). I have replaced the meat with soy wadi, those wonderful meat-like chunks I have covered before.

This dish also calls for two kinds of beans: black beans and pinto beans. You can used canned, but I prefer pressure cooking dried beans. Both beans cook for the same amount of time (15 minutes at high altitude), so you could cook them together.

Chili Sin Carne

Ingredients

3 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ c soy wadi, pressure cooked for 10 minutes
1 can diced tomatoes (don't drain)
1 T chili powder
2 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 c dried beans cooked
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 c dried beans cooked
1½ c beef or vegetable broth
½ t salt

Steps


1. In a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil. When hot, add the cooked wadi and onion. Cook 5 minutes until almost browned. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

2. Dump in the tomatoes, juices and all, and the chili powder, cumin, oregano, beans, and broth.

3. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

4. Stir in salt. Garnish with parsley.

May 18, 2009

Vegetarian Chorizo

Chorizo is a sausage popular in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and throughout Latin America. Each area adds their own distinctive taste. In Mexico, for instance, the meat is ground rather than chopped. The recipe I present here is a rendition of the Mexican variety, using TVP as the meat substitute.

I've not met many people who know about or enjoy TVP. Certainly the unappetizing name doesn't help market it ("Textured Vegetable Protein"). It is made from defatted soy flour, a by-product of soybean oil. It is low in fat, high in protein, and is fast to cook. Because of its crumbled nature, it is a perfect stand-in for ground meat.

If you remember a previous article, wadi is also a form of TVP, but it is made in larger, roundish chunks.

I have used TVP in pasta "meat" sauces, pizza toppings, taco fillings, etc. It is also wonderful for backpacking meals. Like tofu, TVP takes on other flavors quite well, and it takes on the chorizo spices perfectly.

TVP is available in many groceries, often in bulk. If you can't find it, Amazon sells it: Minced Textured Vegetable Protein, 1 lb.

Vegetarian Mexican Chorizo



This basic recipe can be used in a variety of Mexican dishes, such as tacos. Below is a quick recipe for enchiladas.

Ingredients


1 c TVP
7/8 c beef broth (I use a vegetarian version)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 c red wine vinegar
1 T chili powder
1 T dried oregano
1/2 T paprika
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground cumin

Steps


1. Pour the broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. dump in the TVP, stir well, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Mix the remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Add TVP, stir well. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.



Quick Enchiladas


I whipped up this dish quickly to use up some left-over corn tortillas. It can be jazzed up a little, like adding some jalape├▒os and beans to the filling, so this recipe can serve as a base.

(Sorry this photo is so bad. The dish smelled so good I started devouring it before I remembered to take a picture! I'll replace it as soon as I make the dish again.)

Ingredients


Chorizo mixture (see above)
1 medium onion, sliced
corn tortillas
½ c (or more) shredded monterey jack cheese
1 c prepared salsa

Steps


1. Saute the onions in a skillet with oil until slightly golden.

2. Spray a glass baking dish lightly with oil. Preheat the oven to 350┬║.

3. In each corn tortilla, place 1 heaping tablespoon of the chorizo in the middle. Sprinkle some cheese on, and then top with some onion. Roll the tortilla up and place in baking dish. Repeat with as many tortillas as you have fillings.

4. Pour salsa over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with more cheese if you like.

5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until everything is heated through and the cheese is bubbling.

May 16, 2009

Date Nut Bars

We cook and bake a lot with dates because they are incredibly sweet. Unlike sugar, which is just sweet, dates are sweet and have a wonderful flavor. This dish makes a tasty and satisfying bar that can be eaten any time of the day.

Even with just a few ingredients, these bars can easily stand on their own. However, I can't help but think about adding some dark chocolate or cranberries...

Date Nut Bars



Ingredients


1 c dates, cut in half and pitted
1 c pecan halves
1 c rolled oats (not instant)
pinch of salt
1 t vanilla extract
1 T honey or brown rice syrup

Steps


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a glass 8x8 baking dish lightly with oil.

2. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until the pieces are all finely chopped and well mixed together. Add a little water if the dough is dry and doesn't hold together.

3. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

May 13, 2009

Aloo Kurma - Potato Curry

I don't believe potatoes are indigenous to India, but they certainly have integrated them nicely into their cuisine. Potatoes take on spicy flavors quite well and provide an alternative form of starch for those tired of rice.

This recipe for a potato curry comes from a fellow blogger; however the instructions were a bit confusing and I made several ingredient changes. For example, the original called for couscous, but since my wife cannot eat these little pellets of gluten, I left them out entirely. Since this is a potato dish, I did not see the need to put in more starch ingredients. Here is a cleaned up version.

This dish calls for garam masala, a popular and delicious spice blend. If you don't have any, you can make it yourself. Instructions can be found here.

Aloo Kurma


Ingredients


1 T olive oil
1 small size onion, thinly sliced
4 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
½ c frozen peas
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, juice retained
½ t ginger root, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
½ t turmeric powder
1½ t red chilli powder
1 t dried coconut flakes
tsp coriander powder
¼ t garam masala
2 T dried parsley


Steps


1. Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions, and saute for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

2. Add potatoes and 1 T water. Cover the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes or until the potatoes are almost tender.

3. Add the peas, garlic, ginger, and turmeric and saute for a couple minutes.

4. Add tomatoes and juice. Cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

5. Add the chili powder, coriander, and garam masala. Stir well and cook a few more minutes until the flavors are infused.

6. Add the grated coconut and parsley. Stir well. Serve hot by itself or with Bread.



May 10, 2009

Spice Blends

"Variety is the spice of life" is a common expression. Yet in American cuisine, spices are not really the spice of food. If you poke around the spice cabinet of a typical American kitchen, you'll find salt, pepper, and a few dried herbs. Mrs. Dash® might be the only spice blend you come across.

It is odd that spices are not a big part of the American food culture, but we pretty much stop at salt and pepper. Other cuisines have a very rich spice blend culture.

At the Evolution Kitchen, we keep a couple of our favorites on hand to put into dishes and to sprinkle on otherwise boring eggs. Here I present just a couple of them.

Garam Masala


This spice blend is very common in Indian cooking. Sure, you could buy it, but making our own is both economical and fun. All you need are the raw ingredients and a spice grinder. For the latter, we simply use a spare coffee grinder for such tasks.

If you can't find cardamom pods, you can get them here: Cardamom-Green Fancy Pods 2.0z By Zamouri Spices

The secret is to roast your seeds, which brings out their full flavor. Here is what garam masala looks like when in the dry roast phase:



This recipe makes about 8 tablespoons.


Ingredients


5 green cardamom pods
3 T coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
5 cloves
½ T black pepper corns
2 bay leaves
½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground mace

Steps


1. Gently warm a dry, heavy pan.

2. Crush the cardamom pods slightly. Place all the ingredients except the cinnamon and mace in the skillet. Roast slowly, stirring often, until seeds begin to smoke slightly.

3. Remove the seeds from the heat and cool a little. Remove the little black seeds from the cardamom pods. Discard the green hulls. Put all the seeds and bay leaves into a grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add the cinnamon and mace and grind a little more to mix it up.

4. Cool completely before storing.

Zatar


Zatar is a Middle Eastern spice blend typically used on meat, vegetables, and bread. It is commonly present on the mezze table: Tear off a hunk of bread, dip it in olive oil, then dab in a bowl of zatar. It has an earthy, tangy taste that is hard to describe, and completely foreign to the SAD.

We use this spice for other things as well. It is fabulous on hard-boiled eggs. We also use it sometimes in our broth when we cook soy wadi.

The secret ingredient is ground sumac, a beautiful red spice made from sumac berries. You can usually find it in Middle Eastern groceries. Amazon also sells it: SUMAC, GROUND, 1.125 lb. jars.

This recipe makes about 4 tablespoons.


Ingredients


2 T sesame seeds
2 T dried thyme
½ t salt
1 t ground sumac

Steps


1. Gently warm a dry, heavy pan.

2. Add the sesame seeds and stir constantly until they start to change color. Remove from heat immediately and pour into a bowl.

3. In a spice grinder, grind the thyme leaves into a coarse powder. Add the sesame seeds and salt, and grind to a powder. Add the sumac and briefly mix.

Ras el hanout

Ras el hanout is a popular spice and herb blend from North Africa and the Middle East. It has a dizzying array of stuff in it, which makes for a very deep flavor used to season meat and egg dishes, as well as desserts.

Ingredients

1 t ground cumin
1 t ground ginger
1 t turmeric
1 t salt
3/4 t ground cinnamon
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t ground white pepper
1/2 t ground coriander seeds
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 t ground allspice
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves

Steps

1. In a bowl, blend all the ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

May 5, 2009

Apple and Oat Bran Muffins

Sometimes we prefer muffins over sliced Bread because they're fast and easy to make. They are often more portable, and you can make so many different kinds. And best of all, making gluten-free muffins is super easy, unlike finicky yeast Bread.

Even though muffins are easy to make, there are a couple rules you should be aware of. These rules apply to gluten-free or gluten-full muffins.

Most important is to not over-stir your dry and wet ingredients. As Alton Brown once said, "Stir 10 times and then just walk away." Muffins are a form of "quick bread", meaning they rise from baking soda and/or baking powder. Working the batter too much will result in a dense loaf that is chewy and stiff, and very little rise. That is why you usually see instructions that say stir until just moistened. After that, "just walk away."

Another tip is not to fool around with those paper muffin cups. Those are really for cupcakes and are not necessary for muffins. I use a non-stick muffin pan and spray with oil.

The following recipe is really healthy: it has little fat and sugar. The apple doesn't really add much flavor, but it does add plenty of fiber. Be sure to squeeze the water out from the shredded apple; otherwise your batter will be too wet. Your apple will also turn brown as it oxidizes. Don't worry about this; it doesn't do any harm and you won't see it in the final product anyway.

If you don't have any buttermilk on hand (I never do), simply add 1 T of cider vinegar to 1 c milk (soy or moo) and let of congeal a few minutes.

We always have a general purpose gluten-free flour blend on hand, but if you don't you can use our blend (a slight modification to Bette Hagman's Four Flour Bean mix):

½ c oat flour
½ c tapioca flour
¼ c chickpea flour
1 T sorghum flour

Muffins are more forgiving to the blend you use than yeast Bread, so you really should experiment with whatever you have on hand. Chances are it will turn out great.

Apple and Oat Bran Muffins


Ingredients

1¼ c gluten-free flour blend
1 c oat bran
1/3 c packed brown sugar
2½ t baking powder
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
¼ t ground nutmeg
¾ t ground cinnamon
1 c buttermilk
1 flax seed "egg"
2 T canola oil
1 medium apple, peeled and shredded

Steps

1. In a medium bowl stir together flour, oat bran, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl combine buttermilk, egg, and oil. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened.

3. Squeeze shredded apple inside a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Stir shredded apple into batter.

4. Spray muffin cups with nonstick spray coating. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup. Bake in a 375 degrees F. oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins (12 servings).



Whole Wheat and Oat Bread

I continue to experiment with the Bread recipe I have been perfecting (first introduced here). A couple things I wanted to address are: the texture of the Bread is too crumbly, and the loaf size fits neither my small Bread pan nor my large Bread pan.

To fix the first problem, I decided to put in two flax seed "eggs" to help bind the dough together. You could use real eggs, or just the egg whites. The second problem was easily fixed by upping the ingredient amounts slightly to get my dough volume large enough to put in my large Bread pan.

I think this version turned out pretty well. The flavor is pretty basic, but this can serve as a starting point for more interesting additions, like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc. Here is how the loaf turned out:



As much as I like oat flour, I believe it contributes greatly to the crumbly nature of these past few Breads. In future experiments, I will try to substitute other flours, such as white sorghum, buckwheat, barley, etc.

Whole Wheat Oat Bread


Ingredients


Dry:
1 c oat flour
1 c tapioca flour
3 c whole wheat flour


Wet:
2 T ground flax seed
3 T sugar
2 ¼ t yeast
2 T oil
2 c warm water

Steps

Follow the basic steps as outlined in this article.

May 3, 2009

Bok Choy

Today's exotic ingredient is Bok Choy.

Bok Choy? What the heck is that, you ask? As you can guess from the name, bok choy comes from China, which is why it is sometimes called Chinese Cabbage. To me, it tastes like a blend of cabbage and celery.

It is certainly not a staple in most American households, but bok choy is becoming more and more common in the markets. We can get it any time at Whole Foods. There are over 20 varieties of this plant, but we typically find only two here in the states. One simply called bok choy and another called "baby" bok choy. These are actually two different varieties, and not a juvenile and an adult version of the same thing. We prefer the "baby" variety because it can be cooked whole and has better texture and taste.

Presented here is a simple dish with bok choy. Unlike most Americanized Chinese food, this dish is not swimming in a sauce. In fact, there really is no sauce. It is a mix of bok choy and red kidney beans. Any moisture comes from the bok choy as it cooks. You can spice it up as much as you like in the end; I like to splash on some tamari and about ½ teaspoon of hot chili oil.


Chinese Beans and Greens


Ingredients


1 T sesame oil
1 T fresh ginger root, grated
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ lbs bok choy
1 c cooked red kidney beans
tamari and hot chili oil to taste

Steps


1. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil. Saute the giner and garlic briefly.

2. Stir in the bok choy and stir fry for 1 minute.

3. Add the beans. Cover and cook until the greens are crisp tender and the beans are heated through.

4. Season with tamari and chili oil to taste. Serve hot over rice.