Wednesday, April 24, 2013

sneaky little cupcake creatures

Custom cupcakes, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
My day job.
These were not created in my little kitchen, but they were so freakin' cute I had to share. These were created by our fabulous baker Alex at Kara's Cupcakes. They were a special order I took for a gaming company.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vegetable pot stickers

Vegetable pot stickers, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This was a first for the little kitchen: Pot stickahzzz!  I spent the entire afternoon making pot stickers.  Why? when my favorite Asian market, New May Wah sells a ginormous bag of 'em for something ridiculous, like 8.99, and Trader Joes are pretty darned good too. I loves to have them in freezer for those nights when I'm just too worn out to make anything and too broke to go out. Pull the bag out of the freezer and toss a handful into hot skillet with some peanut oil and 10 minutes later( providing you've got some left-over rice in the fridge) , dinner is served.
Is it worth the labor involved you may ask? Yes and no. If they taste brilliant then hell yah! This first attempt is not quite there yet but has potential and I'm seeing the dumpling assembly as theraputic, along the lines of garbanzo bean peeling.
I've had this recipe from 101 Cookbooks for Golden Potstickers, a vegetable pot sticker starring yellow lentils, on my to do list for months (prompted by a pantry purge of all the jars of lentils I had decorating my shelf). I used red lentils  and a bunch of excess cabbage I'd shredded up for a slaw that was juuusst about to find its way into the compost bin-thus another refrigerator rescue was born!
Make the lentil pot stickers and the dipping sauce just the way Heidi explains it and they'll be wonderful. But, if you're me and your fridge is always on spoil alert, this lentil base is a great host for a sauteed veggie mash-up. The lentils are cooked and then pulsed in the food processor. The texture is up to you.  If you have a lot of veg to add just make sure it's diced small and perhaps you'll need an extra package of wrappers lest your bowl of filling gets a little whack once you add the vegetables. These freeze perfectly so make as many as you can handle.
The cabbage (or any veg or green that needs to find a greater purpose) goes into a hot skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of peanut oil (I'd gauge it thusly: 1 tablespoon for every 2 cups of veg) , red pepper flakes, chinese 5 spice ( 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of veg)  and salt (to taste~taste often). Toss the pan to get the cabbage coated and when it's almost soft, (and this is totally optional) dash in some Sriracha, taste it and dash some more if you want...and then  fold the sauteed vegetables into the lentil mix.
Smitten Kitchen just posted a Spring Vegetable Pot Sticker recipe that is definitely going on my to do list.  In addition to the great recipe, she's got some great process pics for folding technique.
Un-wrap the won-ton/pot sticker wrappers and place them into an airtight container or get a damp tea towel to cover the package while you work. I use two spoons to form the filling and have a small bowl of water the moisten the edges of the wrappers. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper to place your formed pot stickers on. Sit down at your kitchen table or your coffee table and pop in a French Chef DVD and commence to wrapping. Keep a damp towel over the formed pot-stickers as you work and make sure they aren't touching. When the baking sheet is full put it in the freezer (without the towel) for about an hour. Transfer them into a freezer bag and draw out as much air as you can. Keep the bag in the freezer and when your ready to cook some off, have a half cup of cold water standing by.
Heat up a non-stick skillet (make sure it has a lid to fit) on medium heat with a tablespoon of peanut oil and when the oil starts to shimmer, place the pot stickers flat side down and cook until the bottom just starts to brown. with the lid in one hand pour in the water and place the lid on the pan firmly and cook until the water has reduced by half (about 7 minutes). Remove the lid and continue cooking until the water has evaporated and the bottoms are browned (about more 3 minutes).


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ottolenghi's Turkey Zucchini burgers

OCD'ing on OTZ burgers~Oh. So. Good.
I've been sitting on this recipe for awhile now. It's from Ottolengi's Jerusalem and I knew it would be great in spite of my reservations with ground turkey. So, when I realized I had to kick up the healthy cooking a notch (again), I figured now was as good of a time as any to give ground turkey another chance (again).
I've never been a fan of ground turkey, except for the time I made an Ellie Krieger recipe for Big Fat Greek Turkey Burgers. I'd always found the gamey smell, insipid flavor and mushy texture a huge turn-off. What I know now is that there are endless ways to flavor it up and give it great texture. It's a blank canvas.
These amazingly flavorful meatballs or slider sized burgers are packed full of zucchini, fresh herbs, scallions and spices. The sour cream and yogurt sauce is enhanced with sumac, a middle eastern spice that comes from dried sumac berries. Sumac is a deep red powder with a tart lemony flavor. It creates a pink creamy sauce that is so gorgeous and fresh tasting. I made these twice last week. The first batch disappeared before I could get a picture off. The second batch was about to go the same way so I dashed this pic off in the murky light of the night time kitchen. I have to keep reminding myself that it's ok that I'm not smitten kitchen or 101 cookbooks with my low rent cell phone cam and generic blogger template, hence the link to the recipe above. I aspire to its inspiration.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kale, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Every now and then, I have to re-evaluate the little kitchen and get back to its roots...embracing the veg. The Thing That Started it All. The Big Boom.
Of course this is so much easier in Spring when there are so many compelling ingredients to explore. It all starts in earnest, obsessive though it may be, tagging cookbooks and trolling the web for the next best veg recipes, tripping down to the produce market, pedaling over to the farmers market, roasting, sautéing grilling, shaving, dicing, slicing, shredding...then some where down the road I'm consuming pastas, cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.
A visit to the doctor last week hit me with the news that I have high blood pressure. Crikey! (tooo much Downton Abbey) Tension and anxiety aside, I flipped into denial for a bit, justifying a few slip ups with a pound of bacon and a bag of barbequed Lay's.
Then I got real and took note of the dearth of fruits and vegetables in the little kitchen for woe these many months. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm old. I usually don't feel old, but sometimes I feel old. The doc said "90 percent of health problems are caused by what we eat". Those words were still echoing in my ears when I saw this post on Amateur Gourmet the other day...I mean what is the deal with all the Gwyneth Paltrow haters trashing her new cookbook?  It reminded me of that Guy Fieri brouhaha a few months back.
GP's new cookbook, which I have not yet seen, but have on library hold, was her reaction to some severe health issues that caused  her to re-evaluate her kitchen and the way she fed her family. I'm sure it's not for everybody, but it is for some body. I'm gonna check it out and I suspect it will meet my criteria to find 10 recipes I'll want to make and out of those 10 recipes if I deem only one a keeper then it's a success in my book.
I had many great successes with recipes from her last book (borrowed from the library several times), her vegetarian chili being one of my favorites. But of course, I couldn't help but go a-googling to see what the big dust up was all about. Mostly she's being written off as neurotic and out of touch. Probably. If memory serves, she's always been a little nutty when it came to her diet, so are a lot of people. Eliteist. Possibly, but she does have resources most of us don't have, why shouldn't she use them? Preachy. I suspect so, but so are most people I come across who explore food and cooking. Foodies are a passionate bunch.
Say what you will about her, but GP did what no other could do in 50 years of trying: convince me to eat Brussels sprouts! and not just eat them but like them.
Sooooo in my mission to embrace the veg, I'm starting with Kale.
I saw this recipe on and it looked so pretty. Lacinato kale, pink grapefruit and avocado. Simple and it was surprisingly tasty. I like the peppery bite to the kale and I found the lacinato (dino) kale to be more tender than the green curly kale. It helps to massage the kale a little as well. I learned that little tip when I went to the SF Cooking School open house a few months ago. I sliced the kale into thin strips and poured a little of the dressing over and rubbed it in with my fingers for about 30 seconds.
This one's a keeper.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Farro with Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

This was a mash-up of the last of my new favorite soup and finally, a successful attempt at cooking farro. I added a last minute poached egg to top it off. It was divine! 
It's been hit and miss with my few lame attempts at farro, a super healthy whole grain that looks like a cross between brown rice and barley. When cooked properly it has nice chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavor that makes it a hearty base for a main course.
I first came across it when I made this most excellent soup from Smitten Kitchen way back when and it wasn't easy to find back then. Now I get it in the bulk food section at Whole Foods or Rainbow. It's cooking time varies based on the type you buy: Pearled, semi-pearled or plain or I guess, unpearled. The pearling process breaks down the tough outer skin thus reducing the cooking time.
It's not inexpensive, so I've been hesitant to keep at it after having such underwhelming results. But since I've been cooking rice the Jamie Oliver way, I figured I give the farro another go.
Get a large pot of salted water boiling. I also start a full tea kettle to boil as well if I need to add more water later. Spread a cup or so of farro onto a baking sheet and pick out any impurites (if you've purchased the better bagged stuff this is probably not necessary), either way, the next step is to rinse it through a strainer.
When the water has come to a boil, add the farro and keep it at a boil  until it's almost tender (this could take 30-45 minutes so keep an eye on it and add more water if you have to). Then carefully pour the water and farro into a collander that will fit back into your original pot. Cover the farro with aluminum foil, pressing it down onto the surface. Pour about an inch of water (from the kettle) back into the pot and bring it to a boil. Put the collander back into the pot and place a lid on top. Reduce the heat until the water is simmering and then steam it until it's done. Check it every ten minutes and stop when the farro has reached a consistency you like. It took forever but it turned out brilliant. I wasn't planning on eating it that night anyway (I prepare rice and farro in large batches to re-heat for weekday office lunches and too-worn-out-to-cook dinners) so you can just let it go while doing something else. You can reduce the cooking time if you soak the farro overnight.
My current curry obsession led me to this next keeper: Coconut Curry Lentil Soup  from 101 Cookbooks.
Did I mention that this makes a super-tasty and satisfying breakfast with the addition of a fried or poached egg?