Sunday, May 31, 2009

I made biscuits with Granny!!!

This is a very special recipe. It's my Granny's classic biscuit recipe straight from the hills of Tennessee. The trick, she says, is to put a thumb print in the top of every biscuit. It helps them rise and creates a nice little spot for butter or honey.

This is a picture of my sister and Granny right before we put the biscuits in the oven:

Granny's Biscuits
from Helen Hart
yield 3 dozen

5 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening/butter
2 cups buttermilk

1. Sift dry ingredients - really do this! It is what makes them fluffy. You can buy an old fashioned sifter with a hand crank, or you can toss the flour through a strainer, or even fluff with a fork, but get some air in there!

2. Thoroughly blend in shortening - the trick is to keep the shortening cold while blending. I'll tell you why - when the shortening melts in the oven it creates steam and gives the biscuits their lift and their moistness. My sister (who has tried this recipe several times) cuts the butter into tinsy tiny little cubes to reduce the amount of mixing she does with her hands.

3. Add buttermilk, blend in - keep this cold too.

4. Roll on floured bread board, cut - no need to roll too thin. The thicker biscuits the better, right? If you don't have a biscuit cutter, you can use the rim of a glass.

5. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 400 degrees until golden brown.

Really, this was easy! One mixing bowl, one measuring cup, a baking sheet, and 15 minutes!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I made tofu fajitas

Fajitas are pretty simple. Just a bunch of grilled stuff in a tortilla. Maybe served with some extras like rice and beans, cheese, guacamole, etc. Sadly for me, they usually include chicken or beef, and the "Veggie Fajitas" at restaurants are usually just a bunch of random grilled veggies. This dish needs some kind of flavorful protein. So I decided to attempt tofu fajitas.

Here's what you do.

Take a block of extra firm tofu and drain any excess moisture. (You can do this by placing a few heavy cookbooks on top and letting it sit for a few minutes.) Then slice into three 1/2 inch slabs, and place in MARINADE.

I made this up. It was pretty good. The measurements are not exact.

4 cloves diced garlic
1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lime
adobe sauce
1 or 2 chipotle peppers
few tbs braggs liquid aminos.

Stir all that up in a bowl, drop the tofu in and let sit for a while. 15 min to an hour.

Meanwhile, rub a griddle with oil (I have one of those big rectangular ones that takes up two burners) and slice up a red onion and a bunch of different colored peppers. Get the griddle nice and hot, and get that stuff cooking. It will take longer than the tofu.

After a few minutes, put the tofu on. Let it sizzle a couple minutes, then flip. It should be nice and browned with pretty grill marks.

When the veggies are a little blackened, take those off too.

Take a few flour tortillas, and cook them for a few seconds over an open flame.

Wrap all that stuff up in a tortilla with some of the aforementioned extras.

I also had left over tofu and veggies in a sandwich with hummus. Yum.

Make this if you are sick.

If you have a cold like I do right now, you gotta make this soup. It's just a simple variation of miso, but something about it is so nourishing and comforting. You just make the normal broth, then add soba noodles, tofu, spinach, scallions, CILANTRO and RED PEPPER FLAKES. I think it's the last two ingredients that make it special. The cilantro is refreshing and the red pepper will get your congestion moving. Gross.

The only change I made was that I used no-chicken broth instead of water. Made it a little heartier, and it's good for those hippy-dippy organic brands of miso paste that aren't salty enough.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We had a picnic!

This was that weekend that spring came to NYC all at once in a crazy explosion of 95 degree weather in the middle of April. We celebrated by throwing together a picnic in Fort Greene Park.

In my humble opinion, picnic food should be easy. Easy to make, easy to eat, easy to carry, easy to keep in the sun without spoling. BUT IT ALSO MUST BE DELICIOUS! Is it possible? you may be wondering.

Well the answer is yes. Just take a look at this spread.

Clock wise from top:

I made black bean salad (recipe follows).
Hill made AWESOME brownies.
Alena brought some fruit.
Billy brought a refreshing celery blue cheese salad.
Joey brought "Summer Pasta", which is basically tortelini with basil, cherry tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. He taught me how to make this when we were in grad school together and having almost nightly dinner-making/study dates. This is sooo easy to throw together--just throw all the ingredients besides the pasta in a bowl, let sit so the flavors infuse the olive oil, and then toss with the pasta. You don't have to use tortelini--bowties work well if you want something less heavy.

Here is the recipe for my black bean salad. It is inspired by something I found on Epicurious, but I can't find the original recipe, and I've tweaked it so much anyway that we can just say I invented it.

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can heart of palm, drained and sliced into medallions
1 diced tomato
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 avocado, sliced

1 clove garlic
Juice of 2 limes
Tb olive oil
tsp white vinegar
splash hot sauce if you want

Toss all the salad ingredients in a bowl. Then toss all the dressing ingredients into a smaller bowl and whisk together. Combine bowls. Toss that salad. Through some pretty avocado slices on top.

Done. Simple, refreshing, good. Look at how happy it made us:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I made tofu parmesan!

When I first moved to Brooklyn, way back in 2005, my cousin Rachel sent a cookbook from a restaurant called The Grit, her favorite restaurant in Athens, Georgia. The Grit serves tons of vegetarian versions of traditional comfort food and is frequented by local legendary rockers the likes of Micheal Stipe. I think I made this recipe for the first dinner party I ever hosted at the apartment, and it was a total success. Except that I misread the recipe as calling for TWO POUNDS of mozzarella cheese instead of two cups! I don't think I actually ended up using that much because the pan would have been overflowing, but I still used a whole lot. 2 cups of mozz is plenty, as you can see in the mouth watering photo above.

I know what you may be thinking, especially you Italian food snobs-- tofu Parmesan sounds sacrilegious--like one of those vegetarian versions of dishes that just should not be messed with. It sounds like it would be soggy and weird. But it's not! It's delicious, cheesy goodness that will win over the biggest tofu skeptic. The trick is that the tofu is sauteed, THEN coated in breading and THEN baked before you put on the sauce and cheese and everything else.

I used Alena's method of squeezing out some of the water from the tofu by stacking some books on top of it and leaving it like that for a good 15 minutes. Works pretty well. One of the keys to making good tofu is getting rid of as much water as possible.

Ok here is the recipe, with a couple very minor adjustments in bold:

Tofu Parmesan from The Grit Restaurant Cookbook by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer

3 (15 ounce) blocks tofu, extra firm
2 T olive oil
Soy sauce
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1 T chopped fresh parsely, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 c fine bread crumbs
1/2 t salt
1/8 t fresh ground black pepper
4 c marinara (I used Mama Vallese's homemade sauce, but I have made this before with store-bought. Ain't no shame in it.)
2 c shredded mozzerella
Chopped fresh or dried oregano, for garnish
A sprinkle of nutritional yeast
A couple garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan or glass casserole dish.
Tear tofu chunks of various sizes. Add a thin layer of olive oil to a non-stick skillet and place over high heat. Chop up those garlic cloves and toss 'em in. Cover bottom of pan with tofu chunks and saute, tossiping often and sprinkling with soy sauce and nutritional yeast, which helps make it crispy.

Repeat with another small batch of tofu (I did about one and a half at a time--depends how big your skillet is) until all tofu is cooked in this manner. Drain if necessary and cool slightly. Place in a bowl with beaten eggs and toss together.
Blend 1 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add to tofu and toss together.
Pour 2 c marinara into prepared pan and spread evenly. Distribute tofu over sauce. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until tofu breading is very well browned.

Remove from oven and spread top with 2 c marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Garnish with remaining Parmesan cheese, parsley and oregano. Return to oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes until top is well browned.

Yields 8 servings.

Take another look at all that beautiful cheesiness:
YUM. Nothin' more you can say but Y U M.