Saturday, June 22, 2013

Berry Tiramis├╣

(from Schnucks Cooks, Spring 2013)  

I have made this wonderful dessert twice this spring, once using ladyfingers and another time using angel food cake (premade from the grocery store and sliced for layering).  My husband likes the angel food version better, but both got rave reviews from our friends.  I also use orange juice rather than liqueur to make the simple syrup in step 2, and had ample leftovers to use for other purposes.

4 packages (6 oz. each) fresh blueberries (about 4 ¾ cups), divided
4 packages (6 oz. each) fresh raspberries (about 5 ½ cups), divided
2 packages (16 oz. each) fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (about 6 cups), divided
1 2/3 c. sugar, divided
1/2 c. berry liqueur (such as Chambord), orange-flavored liqueur (such as triple sec), or orange juice
1/2 c. water
1 ½ c. whipping cream
2 packages (8 oz. each) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
3 packages (3 oz. each) sponge-style ladyfingers [I have also used sliced angel food cake]

1.       In 12-inch skillet, add 2 packages blueberries, 2 packages raspberries, 3 cups sliced strawberries, and 1/3 cup of sugar.  Cook berry mixture over medium-high heat 25 to 30 minutes or until mixture becomes thick and reaches a jam-like consistency, stirring frequently during last 10 minutes of cooking.  Remove skillet from heat.  Transfer jam to medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least two hours or up to two days ahead.  You should have about 3 cups.
2.       Meanwhile, in small saucepan, add 1 cup sugar, liqueur and water; heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.  Remove saucepan from heat.  Allow mixture to cool slightly.
3.       In large bowl, toss remaining blueberries, raspberries, and sliced strawberries until combined.
4.       In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat cream and remaining 1/3 cup sugar until cream thickens.  Increase speed and beat until stiff peaks form.  Add mascarpone and fold with rubber spatula just until well combined.  Makes about 5 cups.  [In my experience it’s okay to beat in the mascarpone with electric mixer.  EH]
5.       Place 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish horizontally in front of you.  Arrange 1 ½ packages ladyfingers, flat side down, vertically (perpendicular) in 3 long rows across bottom of dish.  Brush ladyfingers liberally with half of liqueur [or orange juice] mixture.
6.       Spread half of berry jam (about 1 ½ cups) over ladyfingers.  Dollop about 2 ½ cups mascarpone mixture over jam, then spread to cover.  (It is okay if some jam swirls into mascarpone mixture.)  Top with half of fresh berries, about 3 cups.  (Cover and refrigerate remaining berries to use after chilling.)  Repeat layering with remaining ladyfingers, brushing with liqueur mixture.  Top with remaining berry jam and mascarpone mixture.  Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 1 day ahead.  Top with remaining fresh berries just before serving.  Cut tiramisu lengthwise into 4 slices, then cut each slice crossways into 5 pieces.  Makes 20 servings.

Each serving:  about 340 calories; 17 g. total fat (10 g. saturated), 84 mg. cholesterol, 34 mg. sodium, 39 g. carbohydrate, 4 g. fiber, 26 g. sugars, 3 g. protein.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fried Okra

I stole this recipe from a friend of a friend on Facebook; I haven't tried it yet myself:

"Fried okra method: fill a large bowl with cold water and then add 1/4 cup of salt. if it's a very large bowl, add 1/2 a cup of salt. yes, it's a lot of salt, but trust me, it's important. slice your fresh okra and add to the salt water. let sit for at least 30 minutes. drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. it will be a slimy, but that's ok. heat your oil. when it's hot, take a portion of the okra and toss in yellow cornmeal. you can put the cornmeal in a large ziploc bag and toss in the okra and shake to coat. it won't have a thick coating of cornmeal and that's ok. shake off excess cornmeal. fry okra until it starts to turn golden. remove okra from oil and drain on paper towels. repeat with remaining okra. try it. you won't do fried okra any other way. :)"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yum Yum Noodle Bar, Woodstock (Restaurant review)

Friday night we ventured out to the newest restaurant in Woodstock (New York) - the Yum Yum Noodle Bar - at the recommendation of a friend. By "we" I mean myself, my grandmother, and my son. I'm not sure why someone would recommend this restaurant to a 99-year-old woman - it was crowded, loud, and with a very slow kitchen. But we enjoyed the food very much, so overall we were glad we went.

We got there around 6 p.m. and the place was packed; we had to wait 20 minutes or so for a table. I was surprised to find such a crowd that early, but the place only has three tables, plus about a dozen or so bar stools. The restaurant opens at 4:30 (they do not serve lunch), and I guess if you want to beat the rush you have to get there pretty well ahead of the 6 p.m. "dinner hour." If I were to visit this restaurant again I would definitely not go on a Friday night! Since the place is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, it's pretty hard to avoid going on a weekend. This phenomenon could be due to the restaurant being so new - I believe it just opened on July 23 - but the enormous demand may continue apace, at least until the tourist season dies down.

Yum Yum Noodle Bar is easy on the pocketbook; a "bowl" (noodles plus protein, veggies, nori and a boiled egg, Japanese style) costs $10 and provides an interesting and satisfying meal for an adult. You get your choice of noodles, choice of broth, and choice of protein; Grandma and I both went for the grilled salmon in our noodle soups, which was delicious.

There are also various "plates" available; we tried the Miso-Cured Grilled Salmon, which was outstanding; and, on the friend's recommendation, the Pork & Watermelon Salad, which I thought was good but Grandma thought was just weird. It consisted of pieces of grilled pork served with diced watermelon and diced green papaya on a large bed of fresh mixed greens.

No alcohol is served, but I loved the Strawberry Mint Lemonade (a beverage which is rather trendy here in Woodstock this summer -- I saw them being sold at the farmer's market a few weeks ago too).

The wait staff were super nice and friendly. The food, as I already mentioned, was quite delicious -- though I can't understand why a children's Bento box of tofu satay would include a fairly spicy satay sauce.

Do try YumYum Noodle Bar, but try to avoid the crowds if you can.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Euphoria Loves RAWvolution, Santa Monica (Restaurant review)

One of the highest claims I can make for a food, or a restaurant, is that I could eat it / eat there every day. Euphoria Loves RAWvolution is one of those places; not only would I love to eat there every day, but I would love to eat there three times a day, every day.

This restaurant, which looks unremarkable from the outside - except for its rather remarkable name - stands literally two blocks away from my former apartment in Santa Monica. I left that apartment in 2002, and the restaurant didn't open until 2006, I believe. When I discovered it in 2008, I couldn't believe the cosmic irony that had divided me from this potentially life-changing eatery; surely if there is a restaurant equivalent of a soulmate, this one is mine.

The name doesn't say it all, but the slogans on the outside of the building do. Facing Main Street is the name of the restaurant, Euphoria Loves RAWvolution, and underneath that, the slogan "Conscious Food for Conscious People." Around the corner, on the north side of the building, it says "Raw, Organic, Vegan Cuisine," and underneath that, "Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Everyday." Never mind the fact that it should be "Every Day" (two words) instead of the adjective "Everyday" (one word). These people are not academics, they are new-agey alternative food folks.

By now you're probably thinking, geeze, how pretentious! Only in California! I admit, I was dubious at first too. But I went in and tried the food, and I was hooked. I wanted to try everything on the menu. I wanted to be a regular at the juice and smoothie bar, despite the fact that it takes 10 minutes for them to make a single drink. (Hey, have you ever tried opening a coconut to make a smoothie? It's not easy!

The wait staff when I was a regular (2008) were very friendly folks. I recall discussing one of the ingredients in the energy drink mixture (I don't recall what it was); the waitress told me lots of anecdotes about people who had it every day and how much better they felt. She said, and I clearly remember this quote, "If you drink it every day you'll feel ridiculously happy." Wow. What a claim to make. But she was so sincere, and her sincerity so charming, that it made me like her and the restaurant a whole lot -- and to dismiss my own skepticism about the "new-agey-ness" of it all.

As I write this blog entry, it has been almost two years since I last dined at this my favorite establishment (Sept. 2008). At the time I took notes on the food, and had a copy of the menu in hand, all with the intention of blogging about it back then. I never did, and now the notes and the menu are vague memories. The menu is not even online. So I can't comment on too many specific items here, I'm sorry to say, but I'll do my best to give you an idea of what you can expect -- and the raw food movement, in brief (or what I know of it).

You can check out the Wikipedia entry on "Raw foodism (or rawism)" and you will get this definition: "a lifestyle promoting the consumption of uncooked, unprocessed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet." You will learn that there are several different approaches, including raw veganism, raw vegetarianism, raw omnivorous diets, and (rarely, I believe) those who promote a 100% raw animal foods diet. (I could possibly do this if I got to eat sashimi three times a day, but would I be denied wasabi and soy sauce?)

The raw food movement has been around for a very long time; the first time I became aware of it was sometime in the mid-1990s, when my best friend and I met a man in the produce department of the grocery store who was advocating a raw food diet. He had some kind of a house in Santa Monica where people gathered weekly for some kind of raw food meal, which he invited us to, but we never went. I did eventually buy a cookbook on raw food, which I have used very little. By the way, the chef-owner of Euphoria Loves RAWvolution, Matt Amsden, also has a cookbook out, with some of his amazing recipes; it's called RAWvolution: Gourmet Living Cuisine.

As I understand it, the main benefit of eating raw foods is that they still have all the enzyms that go into making the food good for you and easier to digest. Cooking kills these enzymes, and so cooked food is much less beneficial.

The food at Euphoria Loves RAWvolution is largely based on the flesh of young Thai coconuts, as well as other nuts. Their almond milk is unbelievably delicious (NOT like the stuff you buy in boxes at the health food store). Most patrons at Euphoria Loves RAWvolution order a young coconut to drink with their meal. The restaurant staff open the coconut, and serve it to you with a straw and a spoon. You drink the juice (or coconut water), then eat the soft, creamy coconut meat by scraping it out of the empty coconut.

I love most of the food at Euphoria Loves RAWvolution, but the desserts are just WAY too rich for me; I can handle one or two bites, but to eat an entire parfait made from coconut meat and goji berries, you must get something like 2,000 calories. The desserts are sweetened with agave syrup, which claims to be the only "raw" plant-derived sweetener. According to Wikipedia, raw agave syrup "is produced at temperatures below 118 degrees Farhenheit (48 degrees Centigrade) to protect the natural enzymes." If you peruse the Euphoria Loves RAWvolution menu, you will discover many items that are "dried" instead of cooked -- raw breads and crackers that have been heated with this very low heat, not much higher than the human body temperature. The idea that these can still be considered "raw" seems to be like the work of lawyers trying to use loopholes to get around certain limitations. Agave syrup, by the way, is quite concentrated -- it's much sweeter than honey, for example.

Some of the dishes they serve are so amazing, you can't believe that they are created from raw foods. Others are less successful; some foods (like most cruciferous veggies) just aren't meant to be eaten raw, in my opinion. I had dinner there one night with my best friend and her boyfriend, we shared this enormous "sampler" plate, and all had a bit of intestinal discomfort afterwards. But most of the food there does agree with me. One thing I recall is the "hummus," which is made from pureed zucchini (peeled, so that it still has a hummus-y color). Their foods have lots of raw garlic.

What got me thinking about this restaurant so much this summer is that I'm spending the summer in Woodstock, New York, and the local health food store is stocking these young Thai coconuts on a regular basis. In honor of the coconuts, I will leave you with one recipe from Euphoria Loves RAWvolution:

Coconut Mint Smoothie

You will need 2 young Thai coconuts, a large handful (or two) of fresh mint, and raw agave syrup.

Open the two coconuts. Pour the juice of one coconut into the blender. (You can save the juice of the second coconut to drink on another occasion.) Use a spoon to scrape the coconut meat from the two coconuts into the blender. Sweeten with a little agave syrup, to taste, and blend at high speed until the mint is thoroughly blended into the coconut juice.

Sweet and Sour Okra (Kutchhi Bhindi)

If you live in Missouri, you have the great opportunity to buy tons and tons of locally grown okra during mid- to late summer. I didn't come to appreciate this great Southern vegetable until I moved to Mid-MO, but now I'm absolutely crazy about it, thanks in large part to this recipe. I got this recipe from Sandy Camargo several years back, and I believe she originally got it from one of Madhur Jaffrey's many cookbooks. (On Jaffrey currently has 33 individual titles available!)

Be sure to pick the smallest okras you can find, as the larger ones tend to get woody and less pleasant to eat. I usually just serve this with brown rice for a simple family meal, but it can also be combined with other Indian dishes for a larger and fancier meal. You can also add chicken or tofu to the recipe for protein.

Serves 4-6

Spice Mix -- Blend into a paste in blender:

7 cloves garlic, peeled
1 whole, dried hot chili
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. ground turmeric
3 T. water

Lemon Juice Mixture - Combine in a bowl:

1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
4 t. lemon juice
4 T. water

Other Ingredients:
4 T. vegetable oil
1 t. whole cumin seeds
14 oz. okra, trimmed and cut into 3/4" slices [n.b. If the okra are small you don't need to slice them]

Heat oil in 9” skillet over medium flame. Add whole cumin. When they sizzle, turn heat down a bit and add spice mix. Stir and fry about one minute. Add okra and lemon juice mixture. Stir to mix and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover tightly and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until okra are tender. If your okra takes longer to cook, you might need to add a little more water.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Moosewood House Dressing -- Creamy Spinach Basil

My Aunt Ruth sent me this recipe to share with readers of my blog; it was provided to her by Laura Branca of Moosewood, Inc. I haven't tried the recipe myself yet, but look forward to doing so.

Yields 2 1/4 cups
Time: 5-10 minutes

1 cup canola or other vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons mild honey
1/4 cup rinsed spinach leaves, packed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
pinch of ground black pepper
1 cup milk or buttermilk

In a blender, combine the oil, vinegar or lemon juice, honey, spinach, basil, mustard, salt, and pepper and puree until smooth. With the blender still running, gradually add the milk or buttermilk in a thin stream — the dressing will become thick and creamy. As soon as the dressing thickens, stop the blender or the oil may separate, causing the dressing to become thin.

Moosewood House Dressing will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. If it separates, shake well before serving.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Comments Policy

After receiving numerous comments in Chinese, I am announcing a new policy of not publishing any comments that are not in English. I apologize if this policy offends those who want to post comments in another language, but I don't understand why someone reading an English-language blog cannot post comments in English. Again, I'm sorry if this new policy offends you, but I am afraid to allow my blog to become a vehicle for content that I might object to.