Sunday, December 30, 2007

And a year rolls by ...

2007 is almost done with! Quite unbelievable how quickly an entire year has gone by. Yoikes! I'm going to have to get used to writing 2008 now, that's the most tiresome part of the new year :)

The end of a year is often mired in nostalgia, soon followed by anticipation. I often spend several moments thinking about the highs and lows that went by. And then I start gleefully anticipating all the things that come with the new year - more snow, snowboarding, anticipation of spring, seasonal fruits and vegetables, suddenly everything starts to seem new and exciting! ... :)

Nupur's Best of 2007 event comes at the perfect time - I'm already in nostalgia and I'm usually thinking about food, so it seems perfectly natural to talk about AtoZ's life so far.

122 days, 58 posts, pretty much every one of them involving a recipe. Cooking has always been a passion, but the more we cooked, the more I wrote, the more we starting thinking about the "right" things. Now we spend hours talking sustainable, polycyclic, more than organic, giving back to the soil and supporting local farmers. We watch where we shop, what we buy, how we cook and what we dispose. Some awareness came from writing about food, a lot more came from reading all those great blogs out there - it is quite amazing how much we learn everyday from fellow bloggers. After all

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
- James Beard

Speaking of a recap, this is a loose list of best picks from AtoZ - only the lentil soup and black bean burgers are old-timers, the rest are all first attempts.


A list of 10 favourites seems too large and too small at the same time :)


Blackened Snapper


Zen and the art of Black bean burgers

This goes to Zorra and Sandra for their Best of 2007 event - the first batch of burgers that I made were pretty good, but it took a few rounds of experimenting before I finally hit the perfect balance. Burger heaven is a great place to be in! :)


Veggie Fajitas


Roasted Vegetables + Spicy Polenta



What next?

We're excited about 2008, about a new look, more recipes and experimenting, growing vegetables and herbs, new cookbooks, travel, eating out, eating in ... everything!

This blog has consumed more time than I expected, it is probably going to take up a lot more time in the coming months, but no complaints here, this is a fabulous journey, we definitely want it to keep going!

We wish you a happy, exciting and tasty 2008 and raise a toast to all the fabulous food that 2007 has brought to us!

Eat, drink and make merry!
And don't forget to take pictures and write about it :)

Salsa rojo ... and still lusting for Mexico :)

The aftereffects of the trip down south are pretty clear - especially the impact on the palate! We miss our street taco guy, have dreams about tamarind margaritas, veracruz fish, salsa verde y rojo. And every once in a while, the smell of queso fundido seems to waft through the air ... *sigh*.

So, we decided to take matters into our own hands, after all we had a new mexican cookbook, right? So, we cooked up this flash-fried fish - turned out too dry. Never been a fan of fried fish, never want to eat it again! We also tried out this new red salsa recipe - we followed the recipe pretty closely and used 2 juicy off-the-vine tomatoes, but the salsa seemed too "tomato-ey". So, we ended up adding some onions and it seemed too oniony (for me atleast). We used a combination of ancho and pasilla peppers and the spice flavours turned out great, but the base sauce needs some work, so I'm not posting that recipe just yet :)

We did get a cool picture, so that goes here - just so we will remember to work on this recipe till it is perfect!

So, we'll keep trying to recreate those flavours - our next attempt is going to be fish veracruz-style, I'm a lot more confident of nailing that one :)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mexico y Belize - Comidas y Bebidas y los demas

I think I got that title right, it took several minutes of thinking :)

It was a fun trip replete with great food and drinks, crazy commuting (flight+bus+taxi+water taxi to get to Caye Caulker, water taxi+twin-engine bumpy plane+van+flight to get back to Mexico), warm waters, sunny skies and crazy adventures.
The best street taco guy in Mexico City.

Harry (the guy who took us out on his boat off Caye Caulker) cooked up the best fish we had on the trip.

Near the split on Caye Caulker.

Sunset - from outside the Lazy Lizard on Caye Caulker.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Machli ka Salan and much more!

Last week, we were hankering for a desi cookout - well, that's pretty normal except this time we decided to try out a fish recipe.

Being relatively new to eating fish, I often end up going for simple flavors that easily showcase the fish - marinades followed by grilling or broiling. But this time, we wanted obvious desi flavors, so we attempted this salan recipe from Art of Indian Cuisine by Rocky Mohan. BTW, I'm digging this book more by the recipe - it distinctly lacks cooking times, but makes up for it by showcasing really flavorful and often different dishes.

Once we picked our fish recipe, the next step was finding the right sides - after a little deliberation, we decided to skip rice and went with Aloo Kurma and collard green rotis - another greens fix :)

Madison Market has become a pretty good destination for reliable fish - the folks behind the counter totally know what they're talking about and are pretty amiable about picking the right size of fillets - especially since I'm not a fan of thick slabs of fish that don't cook through easily. The recipe just called for white fish, we we went with true cod. And we ended up skipping the mint that the recipe asked for and just used dry spices along with ginger and garlic for the marinade.

Machli ka Salan
Fish Fillet Treats

Servings: 3

1 lb true cod fillets


1 T red chilli powder
4-5 garlic cloves
1" ginger

1 t turmeric powder

1 T coriander powder (freshly roasted and ground works best)

1 T butter

1 large white onion - finely chopped

salt to taste

Rub the fish fillets with the marinade and set aside for 45-50 minutes.
Heat the clarified butter in a large frying pan and add the chopped onions.

Sauté until light brown in colour.

Add the marinated fish fillets.
Reduce the heat and add 1/2 a cup of warm water and salt.
Simmer, stirring carefully, taking care the fish pieces do not break.

Cook until the fish is tender and the gravy is thick.

What did we think?

Perfect. Seriously. One of the best fish dishes we've ever made.

Alu Kurma

Yay! Potatoes!

Serves: 3-4

1 lb fingerling potatoes - sliced into chunks
1 cup of thick yogurt


Dry roast and grind to a paste with a little water

2 T almond - blanched, peeled and sliced
1 T grated coconut

1 T poppy seeds

1 T coriander seeds

1 T red chilli powder

1 T olive oil

1/3 cup finely chopped onions

1 t grated ginger
3 cloves garlic - smashed

Salt to taste

Whisk the yogurt with the roasted spice paste and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok, saute the onions+ginger+garlic till golden brown.
Add the potatoes and saute for 3-4 minutes.

Add 2-3 T of water, stir and cook covered for 4-6 minutes.

Add the yogurt mixture and salt and stir.
Cook for 5 minutes and add 3/4 cup of warm water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook the potatoes are tender and the gravy is thick.

At this point, we ended up tossing the potatoes+gravy into a baking pan and baking it covered for about 15 minutes at 300 F.

What did we think?

Daria thought it tasted perfect, but we think the poppy seeds was a bit much - we'll probably scale back on that next time, but otherwise, the potatoes were perfectly cooked and absorbed the masala flavours really well.

Collard Greens Rotis

Go Grrreeeennnnnn :)

Servings: many many rotis

3 cups of whole wheat flour

6-7 leaves of collard greens - cleaned and shredded into small pieces

1 t salt
1 T cayenne powder

1 t cumin seeds
1/2 cup warm milk
warm water for kneading

1 T sesame oil

Cook the collard greens in about 1 cup of water till softened - this took about 5 minutes.

Knead the dough with the greens, salt, spices and milk, adding water as needed.

Once well mixed, add the oil and knead for another 5-7 minutes.
Cover the dough with a wet towel for about 20 minutes before rolling out rotis.

These were *good*! Think we'll make parathas with them next time around and maybe just stuff them with a spiced collard mix, that sounds a lot more exciting :)

Wine Pairings:
All french - a Chateauneuf du Pape (which was fabulous, thanks Daria!), a Gigondas that was quite yummy and one more that I've forgotten the name of!

The meal was fabulous, but the pictures were subpar. Oh well!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Middle Eastern Greens Soup

As part of the ongoing greens craze, we made this soup a couple of times in the last week - it was *so* good the first time around, it totally warranted an immediate repeat :)

The recipe that we adapted from is Mollie Katzen's Middle Eastern Spinach Soup from the kick-ass Still Life With Menu cookbook.

I loved Mollie's recipe, but sometimes spinach seems a little wimpy. It seemed like this recipe warranted stronger greens - chard, collard, the works :) So, we added a variety of greens and let them work their mojo.

The original recipe also asked for rice or potatoes, but in an ongoing effort to skip carbs where possible and focus on fibre instead, I went with garbanzo beans instead - think I'll stick with that as a permanent alternative.

The net result was quite fabulous, especially the way the yogurt accentuated the flavors of the greens. We ended up with this really thick soup that could be slurped up or dipped into or even eaten with rotis like daal!

Middle Eastern Greens Soup
Thank you, Mollie Katzen

Servings: 4

1 small bunch of spinach

4 leaves of collard greens

4 leaves of rainbow chard

4-5 cloves of crushed garlic

1 cup of chopped shallots

2-4 cups of water
1 T olive oil

1 t ground cumin

1 t freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 t turmeric
1 t cayenne

1.5 cups of cooked garbanzo beans
1 cup firm yogurt - room temperature

salt to taste


1/2 cup of shredded mango

Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the garlic and shallots along with the salt and spices until tender - about 10 minutes.

Add the greens and saute for 2-3 minutes.
Toss in the garbanzo beans along with the water and cook for 12-14 minutes.

At this point, the soup can be left as is or pureed. We ended up running a hand blender and making a coarse puree.

Stir in the yogurt along with the cayenne and maybe even a dash of black pepper.

Serve topped with the shredded mango - the mango was semi-ripe, so it added a sweet-tart flavour to the soup - turned out to be the perfect garnish.

This soup was divine (think I said that already!) - the funny thing was how cinnamon totally defined the flavor of the soup, even more than the cumin. I'm not usually a big cinnamon person, but this was really flavourful - a definite win.

In honor of the positive cinnamon effect, this has to go to Sunita for her fabulous Think Spice event - the theme for the month is cinnamon. Sorry this is late, Sunita, but I think you'll like it anyway :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Root vegetable kurma

Beetroots. *drool*.

Every once in a while, I dream of frolicking in this endless vegetable garden. And my garden is teeming with beets - those fabulous crimson nether parts :)

Red beets, sugar beets, chiogga beets, they all taste fabulous - earthy, sweet, succulent, flavorful, pungent, I could go on, huh? Apparently, there are the globe-shaped varietals that we regularly encounter, and then there are the cylindrical ones that I haven't seen yet - these carrot-shaped beets are apparently more common in intensive vegetable plots.

Beet Etymology Trivia:

* Maybe from an imagined resemblance to the greek letter beta - this sounds like a serious stretch of imagination!
* Maybe from the Celtic word "bett" meaning red - a little more plausible, I guess.

Parsnips. *drool*.

My dream garden is also teeming with parsnips - easily one of my favorite vegetable smells.

They make for fabulous soups, taste divine when roasted. the options are endless! And the nutrition value is a total bonus - it is replete with potassium and dietary fibre. I'm definitely planting some of these next year.

Random Parsnip Trivia:

* Considered to be an aphrodisiac by the Romans - more reason to eat them, Yay!
* In Ireland, it was used for making beer and wine

So, what could be better than a dish that combines beet and beet greens and parsnips?! Wooooo!! This was another quick recipe that exploded with earthy flavours, meant to be made
again and again.

Root Vegetable Kurma
Beets, Parnips, Onions ... Yum!

Servings: 2

1 yellow onion - sliced long
1 red beet - julienned

2 medium chiogga beets - julienned

2 small parsnips - julienned

a handful of chopped beet greens
7-8 curry leaves

1 large vine tomato - chopped

1 T grated ginger

4 cloves garlic - smashed

4 green chillies - sliced long

1 T sesame oil



1/2" stick cinnamon
2 cloves
1 cardamom pod

1 t turmeric

1 T grated coconut

1 t khuskhus

Dry roast all the masala ingredients and grind to a coarse powder.

Heat the oil in a wok and saute the onions and curry leaves till they start to brown.
Add the ginger, garlic and green chillies and saute for 2-3 minutes.
Now toss in the beets and parsnips and cook covered on low for 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and beet greens along with the ground masala and salt and stir.
Simmer covered for 7-8 minutes.

Serve with rotis - we ended up making rolls stuffed with the kurma - worked really well :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Short'n'sweet post: Hot'n'Sour Soup

Too much cooking, too much to write about, not enough time! Guess I first need to catch up on posts before starting work on the new look for 2008.

Winter begs for warm comforting food. For me, that often translates to soups - thick chowders and bisques are often the norm, but every once in a while a lighter soup makes me quite happy.
In lieu of the continuing green craze, this soup is along the lines of the yummy sweet'n'sour soup we used to eat at Cascade in Madras. A ton of shredded cabbage, onions, some corn kernels, some spices, that's about all it took. I will admit that freshly roasting and grinding the spices made a *huge* impact on the flavor of the soup!

Hot'n'Sour Soup
That indo-chinese favourite!

Servings: 4

1 small cabbage - cut into long shreds

1 bunch of scallions - chopped

1 cup of corn kernels

2 T grated ginger

5-6 cloves garlic - crushed

2 T soy sauce

2 cups of vegetable broth

3 cups of water

5 T white vinegar

1 t freshly ground white pepper

1 T ground mix of cloves, cinnamon, star anise, fennel

1 T canola oil


4-5 fresh red chillies - sliced lengthwise

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the scallions, ginger and garlic till they start to brown.

Add the cabbage and cook covered on low for 5-6 minutes till the cabbage starts to wilt.

Add the corn, broth and water along with all the spices.

Cook covered for another 10-12 minutes.
Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir for 1-2 minutes.

Top the soup with lightly toasted red chillies before serving.

What did we think?

*Very* good! Especially if it feels like we're sitting at Cascade slurping the soup there :)

Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard

The next couple of weeks are probably going to be replete with green posts - the last PO box had many varieties of greens which we quickly ran through and I stocked up on more today.

Life has seriously been enriched with spinach and chard and collard and rutabaga greens - all goodness.
It has been a series of fun experiments trying to find different ways to cook greens. There are daals and curries and sambars and sautes - all of which are awesome, but this time I was really seeking a dish that did not involve extended cooking of the chard.

Swiss chard is a power food - it belongs to the Chenopod family - shared by beets and quinoa. And it is chockful of nutrients like Vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. Like with several other greens, long term cooking (20 minutes or more) ostensibly depletes the nutrients by as much as 50%. To work around this, I chose to flash cook the chard and bake it with the polenta to let the flavors blend and settle rather than go in for extended cooking that could lead to flavorful yet limp chard.

Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard
Green, yet good!

Servings: 2

1.5 cups cornmeal
2.5 cups of water
5-6 cloves of garlic - smashed

2 cups of shredded swiss chard

1 t cayenne powder

1 T olive oil

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Mix the cornmeal with 1 cup of water till smooth and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1.5 cups of water to a roiling boil along with salt to taste.
Turn down the heat to simmer and add the cornmeal paste slowly, stirring constantly to blend it in.
Continue to stir the polenta for another 5-6 minutes till fully cooked.

(Add a few more spoons of water if needed)

Heat the oil in a wok and saute the garlic till browned.
Add the chard and saute for 1-2 minutes.
Place the polenta along with the swiss chard in a baking pan.
Stir in the cayenne and season with more salt if needed.

Bake covered for 5-6 minutes.

Perfect accompaniment: Olive tapenade

Good? Weird? Odd?

Very good! The chard picked up the garlic flavors, yet retained its vibrance. And the polenta seemed really happy to be with the chard. Can't ask for more :)

Friday, December 21, 2007


"I confess, that nothing frightens me more than the appearance of mushrooms on the table, especially in a small provincial town."
Alexandre Dumas, early 19th century

I don't think I can agree with Dumas anymore! Them mushrooms are growing on me by the day. Such a fascinating world too - apparently there are approximately 38,000 varieties of mushrooms (not all of them edible)! And their growth and proliferation is so odd - the fungus thrives in the dark, totally at odds with the whole "plants thrive in the sunlight" story.

Having grown up vegetarian, I had a really hard time getting used to the meaty, chewy texture of mushrooms. And they seemed to absorb flavors in really odd ways. Besides, I started off with the generic white mushrooms that I still have no interest in. But the rest of the mushroom world awaits exploration - oyster, chanterelle, enoki, shiitake, porcini, morels ... mmmm ... even portabello - if they're sliced and marinated :)

Fun tip when working with mushrooms:
A good way to keep most mushrooms clean and bright is to wipe them with a paper towel dipped in lemon juice.

The last delivery from Pioneer Organics had a batch of shiitake mushrooms that seemed to be craving some spice - or maybe I was just craving a spicy mushroom dish? I know I was definitely craving something quick and tasty, especially after all the fabulous flavors encountered in Mexico&Belize (vacation stories coming soon once I wade through the photos). :P

This time around, I used sumac instead of amchur for the tartness - it seemed to bring out the pungent flavors of the mushrooms more than amchur or even lemon juice - less overpowering, but still tangy.

Shiitake 'Shroom Sabji
I promise it'll make you happy!

Servings: 2

8-10 shiitake mushrooms - chopped
1 cup shelled peas
1 leek - thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic - crushed
3 tomatoes - chopped
1 T olive oil
1 t sumac powder
1 t cayenne powder
3 T feta cheese

Heat the oil in a wok and saute the leeks till you can smell them (can't miss it) :)
Add the peas and tomatoes and saute for 4-5 minutes.
Now throw in the chopped mushrooms along with spices and stir for another 8-10 minutes on low.
Season with salt.
Top with feta cheese before serving - this went really well with the middle eastern flatbread stocked at Trader Joe's - Yay! for their wheat goodness.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hey Monkey! Show me your nuts!

Nuts, nuts, nuts! One of my favorite food groups - yes, it qualifies as a separate food group in my pyramid :)

Bee'n'Jai made me super happy with their Click theme for this month. I started fantasizing about pictures of this bowl of unending chestnuts on my counter. Or maybe peanuts? Peanuts rock! Plus, they're visually so damn appealing! Hmm ... how about cashews? Wonder if I could find fresh cashews anywhere. Or maybe pistachios? *so* good! Hazelnuts? Pecans? Almonds? Pine nuts? The list goes on!!!

Yeeesh! Mired in indecision!

Wait! Walnuts! Daria brought back mountains of walnuts from her ranch near Paso Robles in California. And we totally lucked out on hanging out at her place surrounded by bags and bags of walnuts - if I remember right, she mentioned one varietal was the Hartley, and maybe the other one was the Franquette - both looked quite similar to us, but she soon pointed out an obvious difference - only one of them could stand upright, the other toppled right over! Fun botany lesson of the day :)

I had a camera on hand. And carte blanche to do what I wanted in Daria's kitchen! :) And then I found Mr.Monkey and he made for these insanely funny pictures! Now all I have to do is pick one and send it off for Click. So, if you have opinions, please holler.

Camera used: my faithful Pentax Optio S4i - my favorite travel camera.

'k, time to make a choice, this is the pic that goes off to Jai'n'Bee for Click:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pasta Bliss!

You're starving, you want something tasty, you want something quick! Know that feeling? I do! It rapidly descended on me a couple of nights ago. And it reeked strongly of wheat cravings too :)

Quick ... tasty ... healthy ... wheaty .... pasta! PCC has this really awesome tomato/spinach whole wheat fusilli that picks up flavors really well. And I had a bunch of fresh bell peppers that I chose to broil before adding to the pasta. If you haven't broiled and sliced peppers before, I would heartily recommend that - the meaty texture and slightly smoky aroma is pretty awesome!

Seriously, this pasta took about 25 minutes to make and made for a fabulously flavorful meal!

Truly Presto Pasta!
Cooked and eaten in under an hour :)

Servings: 2

2 cups of uncooked fusilli
1/2 large red onion
3 cloves garlic - smashed
2 red/orange bell peppers
12-15 green olives
1/2 cup of red wine
2 T cider vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to suit your palate :)
2 T crumbled feta cheese

Heat the oven to broil.

Cook the fusilli in water heated to a roiling boil per directions.

Slice the bell peppers into quarters and broil face down for 10-12 minutes till the skins are blackened and crinkly.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onions for 4-5 minutes.
Add the smashed garlic and saute for a few more minutes till the onions turn translucent.
Turn down the heat to simmer and add the vinegar and wine.

Peel the bell peppers (pretty easy to yank the skin off once they're broiled) and slice them long.
Add the bell pepper to the onion mixture and stir for 4-5 minutes.
Add chopped olives, salt and pepper and stir for a minute before taking off the heat.

Toss the vegetables with the pasta, season with red pepper flakes and feta cheese.

Perfect entry for Presto Pasta Nights organized by Ruth :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Brussel Sprouts and Quinoa goodness

Mmm ... I really must like brussel sprouts - seems like I buy some every second time I hit the store! No complaints though - it is a quintessential seasonal vegetable and looks so damn inviting, especially on that little sprouts tree! I've probably mentioned this a zillion times already - I love chopping sprouts, the way I love cutting cabbage and cauliflower and broccoli. *so* much of fun!

P.S.: It snowed here! Care for some fresh powder? :D

I felt like a quick meal - something simple, loaded with natural flavor, that didn't take too long to make. Something warm and comforting sounded good, what with all that crazy snow out there! After a long day of romping around in the snow, Vodka decided to settle for some warm oats and yogurt, and I went for brussel sprouts and quinoa.

Brussel Sprouts and Quinoa Pilaf
Got to love that grain from Peru :)

Servings: 4

2 cups of quinoa
20+ brussel sprouts - quartered
1 red onion
1 T sambar powder (I freshly grind mine as needed, but any store-bought powder should probably do)
1 T cumin seeds
1 T sesame oil

Soak the quinoa in cold water for about 15 minutes and rinse it.
Rinse it again.

Hmm ... did I say "Rinse the quinoa."?

Guess I've said it before
here ... and here ... :)

In the meantime, heat the oil in a work and roast the cumin seeds till browned.

Add the onions and saute till they get translucent.

Now add the brussel sprouts and saute them for 3-4 minutes.

Add the sambar powder+salt along with a couple of splashes of water and stir.

Continue to cook partially covered on low for about 6-7 minutes - You want the sprouts to retain a bit of a crunch.

Cook the quinoa in 4 cups of water with a dash of hot oil and salt - this takes about 20 minutes. Once cooked, toss the sprouts with the quinoa and add salt if needed.

Simple and flavorful. The very subtle bitter taste of the brussel sprouts was a perfect compliment to the chewy spiced quinoa. This pilaf is a definite winner!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Beet Orange Salad ... and eternal admiration for Alice Waters!

Chez Panisse ... The name sets me aquiver. Organic, sustainable, local, ecologically sound, and above all fabulously delectable. *drool*. Well, I don't live in Berkeley, I've only been there once, but the memories are firmly imprinted, waiting to be refreshed. Well, I don't really remember what I ate, but I remember loving it ... every bite of it! And I can't wait to be back! In the meantime, I make do with reading Alice Waters' cookbooks - sometimes before going to bed! Nothing like waking up with amaranth or fennel on the mind, huh? :)

So, yesterday, Chez Panisse Vegetables was opened to page 45 - 'Red and Golden Beets with Blood Orange, Endive and Walnuts' it read. Guess it was our lucky day - the beets were in, the rest - we figured we'd substitute. Getting some flavor of this divine salad was *so* much better than skipping it! We decided to forego the raspberry undertones of the blood orange and replace it with the sweet satsumas instead. And the endive was replaced with red leaf lettuce instead - I know, totally different flavor, but that was the best we had! Trust me, the salad was still divine :) And the vinaigrette was sweet, tart, explosively flavorful - I slurped the leftovers and licked my bowl clean (a la Vodka!)

Red and Golden Beets with Satsumas, Red Leaf Lettuce and Walnuts
An ode to Alice Waters

Servings: 2


1 red beet
1 golden beet

2 satsuma oranges
1/3 cup of walnuts - lightly toasted
3-4 leaves of red leaf lettuce


2 T red wine vinegar
2 T orange juice

2 T olive oil

zest of 1/2 orange

1 t freshly ground black pepper

kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Trim and wash the beets and put them in a baking pan with a splash of water.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes until the beets can be pierced through with a sharp knife.
Uncover and allow the beets to cool.

Trim off the top and bottom of each orange.

Pare off the rest of the peel and slice the oranges into 1/4" thick rounds.

Make the vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar, orange juice and the orange zest (finely chopped or minced) along with the olive oil.
Season with the salt and pepper.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them (the skin actually comes off real easily!)
Cut off the tops and bottom tails of the beets and slice them into rounds.

Toss the beets gently with the vinaigrette.

Arrange the beets along with the orange slices and shredded lettuce.

Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and garnish with the walnuts.

Could it get any better?! :)

And the love for everything Alice Waters has created continues. As does the countdown to the next visit to Chez Panisse. *so* excited. We'll be there soon!

Think I'm going to send this to Simona for Weekend Herb Blogging #112 - no herbs here, but the plethora of vegetable and fruit flavours makes it an ideal candidate!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Orange-Almond-Chocolate Cake ... and it is Vegan!

Phew! Ok, I *might* squeeze this post in within the deadline for one of my fave events Vegan Ventures - guess it depends on how fast I can type! Yes, apparently, I love this event, but I haven't submitted a post for it yet. What can I say, I'm a lazy bum? :)

After the last almost-vegan posting, I did my homework well before attempting a truly vegan dessert - I actually found it harder than I'd imagined! As I poked around several dessert recipes, I found a vegan orange-almond cake recipe from an all-time favourite book - Didi Emmons' Vegetarian Planet. But surprise of surprises! Didi wasn't vegan all the way! Her recipe used a couple of kinds of honey! Wow, guess she doesn't quite meet Suganya's standards here :)

BTW, molasses rock! I'm in love with them. Truly, madly, deeply. When I was a kid, I used to have this gooey multivitamin concoction called Vidalin M - I absolutely loved the syrupy flavor of this medicine. And molasses totally reminds me of this :) So, I liberally swallowed a few spoonfuls of molasses as I baked this cake. Yum!

So, I reworked this recipe to skip the honey. I also went with whole wheat flour - this ended up in a slightly denser and more chewy cake, but it actually absorbed the citrus drizzle really well - so no complaints there. I'm glad I skipped the chocolate icing in the original recipe and went for the citrus glaze instead.

Orange-Almond-Chocolate Cake
No creatures required :)

Servings - makes a whole bundt cake

1 cup almonds - lightly toasted
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup margarine spread (Earth Balance)
2/3 cup of molasses
1.5 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup (+ 1/3 cup) chocolate soy milk
2 T grated orange rind
1 t vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Grind the toasted almonds in a food processor to a fine powder.
In a large bowl, mix the flour along with the almond powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a smaller bowl, mix the softened margarine along with the soy milk, molasses, vanilla extract and orange rind.
Add half of the liquid mixture to the flour and mix well.
Now add the other half and continue mixing till well blended.
If more liquid is needed, use the extra 1/3 cup of soy milk to get the mixture to blend completely.
The batter is not of a dropping consistency like most cake batters, instead it is really thick and gooey.
Pour (or rather scoop?) the batter into a greased bundt pan and bake for 40 minutes.
Cool for 15 minutes before tipping over onto a plate or cooling rack.

Citrus Drizzle

1 T margarine
1/2 cup orange juice
2 T crushed orange bits
1 T molasses
a few drops of amaretto extract

Heat all of the above in a saucepan with constant stirring until thecontents starts bubbling.
Take off the stove and pour onto the cake.

Ok, this turned out waaaaaayyy better than I expected. The cake was a little chewy courtesy of the whole wheat flour, but that was to be expected. The drizzle turned out really tasty - the orange explosion was *so* good! :) The one thing I'd definitely do differently next time around is probably use regular soy milk instead of the soy chocolate milk - it seemed like the chocolate milk overpowered the almond flavor.

Damn! Past midnight! Oh well, Suganya, you get this anyway :)