29 January 2006

perfect lemon bars

The lemon filling must be added to a warm crust. The 30-minute chilling and 20-minute baking of the crust should allow plenty of time to prepare the filling. If not, make the filling first and stir to blend just before pouring it into the crust. Any leftover bars can be sealed in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days.

Makes about two dozen 1 1/2- to 2-inch squares

1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 c confectioner's sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
3/4 t slat
12 T unsalted butter, at very cool room temperature, cut into 1" pieces

4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 1/3 c sugar
3 T unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t grated lemon zest
2/3 c lemon juice, strained
1/3 c whole milk
1/8 t salt

1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.

2. Pulse flour, confectioners sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. (To do this by hand, mix flour, confectioners sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of box grater into flour mixture. Toss butter pieces to coat. Rub pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.) Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and, following illustration 2, press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

3. For the filling: Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon juice, zest, milk, and salt to blend well.

4. To finish the bars: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Following illustrations 3 and 4, below, transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary. Sieve confectioners sugar over bars, if desired.

27 January 2006

Yin and Yang Salad with Peanut-Sesame Dressing

[originally lifted completely from 101 Cookbooks, who copied it from The Real Food Daily Cookbook; then I tweaked it]

Ann's head notes: The name of this salad is an homage to the ancient Chinese philosophy that all things in the universe contain elements of both yin and yang. Within each is the seed of the other, and when yin and yang work in harmony, all is good in the world. All is good in this salad, too. The crunchiness of the vegetables is the perfect counterpoint to the rich and creamy peanut dressing.

4 cups shredded napa cabbage
3 cups shredded red cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 (2 1/2-inch) piece daikon radish, peeled and julienned
10 green onions (white and green parts), julienned
1 cup Peanut-Sesame Dressing (recipe follows)
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes chilled ginger tofu (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Toss the cabbage, carrots, radish, and green onions in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat. Mound the salad into 4 wide, shallow bowls or onto plates. Arrange the tofu around the salad. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve.

Serves 4.

Peanut-Sesame Dressing

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup (brown) rice vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves (maybe add some basil)

Ann's header notes: If you'd like a spicier dressing, just add more crushed red pepper flakes. This thickens up once it's refrigerated, so you can either add few tablespoons of water to thin it or leave it thick to use as a sauce on grains and other cooked dishes.

Blend the peanut butter, vinegar, maple syrup, water, tamari, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Add the cilantro and blend just until it's finely chopped. The dressing will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Makes abaut 1 1/4 cups.

Gingered Tofu

Ann's header notes: This basic tofu recipe is versatile and easy to make. It's important to drain the liquid from the tofu before marinating, so give yourself enough time to properly prepare.

2 (12-ounce) containers water-packed extra-firm tofu
2/3 cup tamari (for less salty tofu, use less tamari and make up the difference with water, half and half should work well if your tamari is really strong)
1/3 cup (brown) rice vinegar
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
I tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
I tablespoon canola oil

Drain the tofu and save the containers. Cut into 1-inch wide strips, and pat dry with paper towels. Cover a large baking sheet with more dry paper towels. Place the tofu in a single layer over the towels on the baking sheet and let drain for at least 2 hours, changing the paper towels after 1 hour and turning the tofu at least once.

Whisk the tamari, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a bowl to blend. Pour half of the marinade into the reserved tofu containers. Return the tofu slices to the containers, and pour the remaining marinade over. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 400'F. Oil a heavy, rimmcd baking sheet with the canola oil. Drain the tofu and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes on each side until golden brown and heated through. Serve warm or cold, or at room temperature. The tofu will keep for 1 day, covered and refrigerated.

Serves 4 to 6.

26 January 2006

rigatoni with lentil ragu

olive oil
garlic, 3 cloves, minced
finely chopped onion, about half a cup (food processed is fine)
finely chopped carrot, about half a cup (food processed is fine)
finely chopped fennel and/or celery, about half a cup (food processed is fine)
fresh (or dried) rosemary
red pepper flakes
flat leaf parsley
brown lentils, 2 c
canned tomatoes, pureed (not tomato puree), at least a cup

olive oil in hot pot, add chopped garlic, saute, stir frequently as garlic begins to brown, add onion, carrot, fennel. cook for a few minutes, then add a tablespoon or so of chopped fresh rosemary, some red pepper flakes, and some chopped flat leaf parsley. cook around twenty minutes until veggies soften.

add two cups of brown lentils, a cup or two of pureed canned or fresh tomatoes, and four cups of water. cook until water is mostly absorbed and lentils are soft but not mushy. add salt and pepper to taste (do not add salt before lentils are cooked, as salt in the water will make the skins tough).

cook 8 ounces of tubular pasta such as rigatoni, drain and set aside. when lentils are ready, mix with pasta and sprinkle with parmesan.

25 January 2006

pecan encrusted pork tenderloin

plain yogurt, 3/4 - 1 c
garlic, 2 - 4 cloves
olive oil, 2 T
freshly ground black pepper
juice of a lemon or two
ground mustard, 1-2 T

chopped pecans,1 c
panko, 1 1/2 c
mustard seeds, 1/4 - 1/2 c

one pork tenderloin, at least 2 1/2 pounds, patted

mix yogurt, garlic, oil, lemon juice, black pepper and ground mustard. put tenderloin in glass or ceramic baking dish. coat tenderloin on all sides with yogurt mixture. cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, can sit for up to 36 hours without a problem.

when ready to cook, preheat oven to 450° F. scrape most of the yogurt mixture off the pork. mix together pecans, panko, mustard seeds and spread on wax paper or a shallow pan. roll the tenderloin in the pecan mixture, coating all over.

bake on a broiler pan for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 250° F. bake another 45-60 minutes until interior reaches 150-155° F. take out of oven and let sit for another 15 minutes, interior temp will climb probably another 5°.

this produces a very juicy roast, with lots of flavor with hardly any added fat or salt. ours was almost four pounds, so I had to turn the heat up to 300° and cook for another 45 minutes, but it will still be very tender and moist.

15 January 2006

green curry with chicken and avocados

based loosely on the recipe on the back of the Blue Dragon Green Curry Paste jar. the paste itself is a blend of lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, shrimp paste, chilies, etc, and saves me from making an extra trip to the farmers market just for galangal.

onion, 1 medium, cut into strips
garlic, 2 cloves, minced or pressed
fresh ginger, 1 T, minced or very finely grated
dried red chilies, 1-3, or red pepper flakes
boneless skinless chicken, 1 lb, cut into small strips (I use breast meat only, but I'm lazy)
green curry paste, 1-2 T
coconut milk, 1 can, light works fine
red bell pepper, 1 large, cut into chunks or small strips
avocado, 2 small, diced
fresh cilantro
toasted cashews

in a deep frying pan, saute the onion in sesame oil for a couple minutes, then add garlic, ginger, and chicken. cook for five minutes or so, then add curry paste and chilies. cook for another two to three minutes and add at least half of a can of coconut milk. cook three minutes or so, and add the bell pepper. when heated through, add the avocado. garnish with cilantro and toasted cashews, if desired. serve with (jasmine?) rice.

09 January 2006

coconut sweet potatoes

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
3/4 c lite coconut milk
1 T minced fresh ginger
1/2 t salt

prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. microwave on high until tender all the way to the center, 10 to 15 minutes (or bake at 425 until tender, about an hour)

when cool, peel off and discard skin. transfer to a medium microwaveable bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher. add coconut milk, ginger, and salt, stir well. reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. serve warm.

makes 4 servings, generous 1/2 c each.

to make ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days, reheat in the microwave or oven just before serving.