Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Little Rock N’ Roll

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One of the things I love about getting a CSA box is that it forces you to get a little adventurous with your meals every once in a while. (What can I cook with beet greens? How do I cut a butternut squash? What the hell do I do with all these oranges?? #bougieproblems) Now, I’m definitely not saying these are daredevil-like risks we’re taking here, just a little push to get out of the weekday safety meals. As noted in a previous post, I received a festive box of fresh cranberries in my last shipment from Farm Fresh to You, so never having cooked with them before, I hit the blogosphere for inspiration. After a solid hour had past (this is why I don’t need a television) and a good twenty recipes had been added to my food board on Pinterest, I found a recipe in the LA Times for this cranberry orange cornmeal cake. It is perfection.

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I am drawn to simple, no-fuss recipes with equally low maintenance ingredients and prep time, and this one definitely fits the bill. This cake is a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll: the cornmeal creates a lovely homey texture, and the cranberries give a tart little kick. The ricotta is the secret ingredient that makes the cake super dense and ridiculously moist-two adjectives used only on rare (and lucky) occasions when describing cornbread.

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To top it off, I drizzled a bit of honey over the cake after pulling the it out of the oven. It just seemed right. This cake is also not too rich or too sweet, which makes it a perfect ending to a heavy holiday meal. Especially when accompanied with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Just sayin.

Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake

find recipe here

2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups cranberries, divided

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round by 3-inch tall cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt and zest. Mix just until thoroughly combined; do not overmix. With the mixer running, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the butter just until combined.

With the mixer on low speed, add one-half of the flour mixture to the batter and quickly mix for 5 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour, the ricotta and one-half of the cranberries. Mix the remaining ingredients into the batter over low speed just until combined, being careful not to overmix. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Place a loose piece of foil over the top of the cake if it starts to darken. Cool the cake on a wire rack before removing it from the pan.

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The Perfect Lunch

Title_Image_1After going deep into a take-out only phase during a 2-month GRE study fire drill, I’ve come back out into the world. Which means I’m ready to do things like see people, clean my room, sleep…and start making lunch again. I needed to ease my way back in, and was brainstorming some  basic salad or sandwich options when my fabulous co-author here sent me a recipe with the challenging subject line “The Perfect Lunch?” That name has a lot to live up to. For us nine-to-fivers The Perfect Lunch must be supremely easy to make. It must be easy to bring in, especially if you commute on the most crowded bus ever in San Francisco (me) and have had a traumatic bus experience involving an exploded tupperware of soup, where you had to let it spill into an upside down umbrella until you could get off (yep, me again). This lunch must be nutritious, cheap enough to beat its takeout competition, keep you full all day, and easily combat the “well maybe I’ll eat it tomorrow” feeling when your coworkers tell you they’re doing another trip to the Grilled Cheese Truck. The Perfect Lunch? Obviously, I was intrigued.

This recipe hits all the main points of a solid lunch – filling beans, starchy sweet potato, lots of kale, warm spices. All wrapped up in an easy to eat pita. The recipe calls for making your own whole wheat pita and actually baking the filling in – which sounds amazing, I just wasn’t ready for it. It also calls for lentils, but canned black beans sounded pretty great in this dish and they take all of 2 seconds to open. It was a great foray back into lunch-making in particular and domesticity in general, and I really did feel ok next to the grilled cheese.

Spiced bean, sweet potato, and kale pita pockets
Adapted from here

1 onion
1 bunch of dino (lacinato) kale
1 large sweet potato
1 can of black beans
salt/pepper
cumin
a pack of whole wheat pitas

Preheat your oven to 350, pierce your sweet potato, and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Slice the onion into slivers and sautee over medium-high heat in a pan with olive oil until it starts to turn brown, about 10 minutes. Add chopped dino kale, salt, pepper, and a dash of cumin and let cook, about another 8-10 minutes.  Add black beans to pan with another healthy dash of salt and pepper, and a few dashes of cumin. Peel your sweet potato and cut into half-inch chunks. Add the sweet potato to your pan. Toast pita and fill with your mixture.

Fueling up

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Although I am prone to baking sweet sweet desserts, every so often I do make something savory (and that I actually consume instead of pawn off to coworkers and friends). I thought about bringing this dish to thanksgiving to moderate the carboload, but quickly reconsidered to avoid having to defend quinoa to my entire extended family. Japanese people take their grains very seriously.

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This is a second-hand recipe from 101 Cookbooks, grandfathered from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Bittman is more or less a prophet of the plant-based diet, his NTY column his prophecy. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks is also a veg goddess in her own right, and I’ve made many of her recipes to stellar reviews. Her SF-based blog is also an aesthetic inspiration, with great photography that really captures the misty and magical essence of her city.

The butternut squash quinoa bake you see before you is a deliciously hearty vegan recipe that I made entirely with ingredients from my CSA box! Whenever I am able to use 80% of my produce the first week it feels like a major feat… It’s the small things!

photo (5)It’s time to fuel your body well in these final weeks of the year! Your body will thank you after you’ve wrecked havoc on it with a champagne diet on NYE, which is a completely acceptable social diet when you’re used to spinach, quinoa and kale the rest of the year, right? RIGHT??

Mark Bittman’s Autumn Quinoa Bake
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for the dish
3/4 cup quinoa (Bittman and Heidi both use Millet, but I had quinoa on hand)
1 medium butternut or other winter squash or 1 small pumpkin, peeled seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (learn to appropriately cut a butternut squash here)
1 cup fresh cranberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced thyme and/or rosemary
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 cup vegetable stock or water, warmed
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 2-quart casserole, a large gratin dish, or a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the millet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Scatter the squash or pumpkin cubes and the cranberries on top of the quinoa. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sage and drizzle with syrup. Carefully pour the warmed water (or stock) over all. Cover tightly with foil and bake without disturbing, for 45 minutes. (Don’t forget to cover! I did the first time and needed to add a lot of water to make up for the dryness)

Carefully uncover and turn the oven to 400F. As discreetly as possible, sneak a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of water or stock. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the mixture bubbles and the top is browned, another 10 minutes or so. Serve piping hot or at room temperature (hs note: drizzled with the remaining olive oil if you like).