Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pesach Cake Delight!!!

Unfortunately I can not take credit for the following cake recipe (nor can I take credit for pretty much any baking I do), it is from Vegetarian Times & it.. is.. heavenly. It was not written as a "Passover" recipe (sadly no mention of Passover in the April issue like many of my other foodie magazines), but it totally should have. Rather, it's a traditional gluten-free (shout out to D my love!) flourless chocolate cake, and the good thing, especially for Pesach is that this cake will not weigh you down like the traditional potato starch cakes/brownies (& I can imagine the matzah meal cakes will do the same!)... Obviously I'm not saying to sit down with a whole cake but hey, whatever.. The coulis (fancy name for sauce) is a perfect complement..

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Coulis
-8.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
-3/4 cup margarine (1.5 sticks), or half margarine half unsweetened applesauce
-4 large eggs, separated, and divided
-2 egg whites
-1/2 cup sugar

-Melt chocolate in a glass bowl over a double boiler with the margarine (or melt the chocolate in the microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring in between- this method usually can overmelt the chocolate until it seizes up though so I'd recommend double boiler which is just a small saucepan with a few inches of water simmering, place the glass bowl on top and make sure the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl. Keep stirring)
-Whisk egg yolks, then stir into the chocolate
-Beat all 6 egg whites with a mixer on high 1-2 min, until foamy. Add sugar, beat 4 minutes, until stiff peaks form. Fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture until combined. Pour into a greased pan and bake 40 minutes.
-To make the strawberry coulis: combine 1.5 cups sliced fresh strawberries, 1 tbsp. sugar, and 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice in a bowl of food processor. Add 2 tbsp. water and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Drizzle on top of cooled cake.

(yes this is a picture from the magazine)

This cake I'm sure will be a welcome addition to your Pesach or "anytime" recipes!

Have a happy & a healthy Pesach! Eat cake!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Polenta & Vegetable Cheese Bake

Since the last few polenta recipes (check them out here & here), people have been asking me what polenta is... well here is another recipe utilizing my favorite non-pasta friend.

Here is a short background on WHAT polenta is. Originally Italian, polenta is basically cornmeal, traditionally made into a grits-like dish with water or stock (read: gloppy maize mess). Despite its baby food texture, it does have the versatility and "blank canvas" quality that rice & couscous have. Now for the good part, the polenta gods have brought us the more updated, modern, and more pleasurable version of polenta which is packed into a log/tube form (I get it at Trader Joes for $1.99-bargain! But I've seen it also at Aron's next to the meat). See picture:

I've used it to make mini pizza rounds (note: gluten free!), topping them with a bit of sauce, a spinach leaf, and cheese; they are perfect grilled atop a salad or sauteed with greens and mushrooms (my previous recipes, linked above). I've also grilled polenta rounds and served them aside steak! Totally works...

My recipe today using polenta is an alternative option to a heavy baked ziti. It's packed with sauteed vegetables, marinara sauce, cheese, & of course- polenta. You won't miss the pasta... I can guarantee it.

Polenta & Vegetable Cheese Bake
-1 tube polenta
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 zucchini, chopped
-1/2-1 cup finely chopped eggplant
-A handful of loosely packed fresh spinach
-Marinara sauce
-Shredded mozzarella cheese
-Chopped parsley
-3 tbsp. Panko breadcrumbs

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees
-Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, a pinch of salt & pepper, and let saute a few minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
-Add the zucchini & eggplant, and saute for a few minutes more.
-In the meantime, cut the polenta into 12 thin slices. Sometimes I use 2 tubes, but 1 is enough for 2-4 people, it just might not be even layering, but who cares.
-Spray a baking dish with Pam, and spread the bottom with some marinara & then layer the polenta (you don't have to fill the whole thing, just make sure they're spread out)
-Top with some more marinara sauce (I don't use very much as not to drown it in sauce), and then a layer of the fresh spinach, then top with the sauteed vegis (you don't have to cook the spinach first because the hot vegetables + cooking will do the trick)
-Sprinkle just a bit of cheese to hold it together, then layer the rest of the polenta. Top with more shredded cheese (I use Natural & Kosher Mexican or Chefs blend), & then sprinkle the panko & parsley on top.
-Bake 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown & bubbly!

Now you have enough polenta recipes to fill your repertoire, so go try!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tofu 2 Ways

So, this post is a long time coming. I probably make tofu once a week or every other week, & it's one of our favorite dinners (if I may speak for both me and Avi). Tofu has a bad rep among people who have never had it, or have never had it made well/right! So don't be a hater & if you don't like tofu kindly leave your opinions to yourself ... & those of you know who I'm talking about!  ;-) I owe these recipes to a bunchhh of people, so here it is.

The main thing about tofu is that there are a few different kinds. Silken tofu is a good substitute for yogurt in a smoothie, or mayonnaise in a creamy dressing. The best tofu for sauteeing or baking is EXTRA FIRM (Nasoya, or Trader Joe's, among other brands- I don't see a difference between brands, but TJ is usually the cheapest). You must prep the tofu at least 1 hour before you plan on cooking with it. It's imperative to drain the tofu because there's a lot of extra water in it and that makes it mushy, which is probably why people think it's.. mushy! Well, it doesn't have to be. Open the package and put the tofu on a (real) plate, and put 2 plates on top of it. I have ceramic dishes so they're quite heavy. You can also put a measuring cup in a small pot and put that on top of the plate. After about 20 minutes, pour the water out and put the plates back. I usually let it sit on the counter like this for an hour, draining a few times in between. My first tofu recipe is super simple, & I use my favorite Teriyaki Sauce, Soyaki from Trader Joe's. The second is a lighter tofu option, dredged in cornmeal and baked until crisp.

Teriyaki Tofu with Steamed Vegetables & Rice
-1 Extra Firm (or firm) block of tofu, drained, and cut into cubes (cut the block in half crosswise [like opening a book], then cut into 20 cubes)
-2 tbsp. flour
-1 tbsp. sesame seeds
-salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley
-Canola oil
-Mixed vegetables, steamed or blanched (I just pour boiling water over them)
-2 frozen garlic cubes (i.e. Dorot)
-1/4-1/2 cup Trader Joe's Soyaki
-Chopped scallions, honey roasted peanuts, & chopped mango, for topping

-In a large Ziploc bag, add the flour, sesame seeds, some dried parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Shake to mix.
-Season the tofu with salt and pepper.
-Heat a bit of canola oil in a large saute pan over medium-high, & place all the cubes (separate them) in the bag and shake to coat each cube.
-When the oil is hot, add all the pieces slowly, and let saute (don't move them) for a few minutes & then turn them all (I find it's easiest to use to 2 spoons to flip each one). Even though it can take a while, I like to do each side so that they all get crispy.
-Transfer the tofu to a plate, & add the garlic cubes to the pan with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Add the vegetables, and stir until the garlic defrosts and coats all the vegetables. Transfer vegis to the bowl and add the tofu back into the pan, & add the Soyaki. Bring the heat up to high and swish the pan so that all the cubes get covered with the sauce & it slightly thickens. Obviously you can leave the vegetables in the pan and add the tofu into that and put the sauce on everything, but I happen to like everything separately.
-Top with some more sesame seeds, mango, scallions, & chopped peanuts (these are my go to garnishes for anything chinese I make). Serve with brown rice, or cellophane noodles.

This one is from a few months back, I used fresh string beans and snow peas...

Tonight's I made without rice, & frozen vegetables...

I find that even if you aren't "vegetarian friendly" you would probably still like this dish, the Soyaki and the toppings are delicious, whereas the next recipe is more plain, but equally good in my opinion.

Cornmeal Crusted Baked Tofu with Mango Black Bean Salsa
-1 block of extra firm tofu, drained
-3 tbsp. flour, on a plate, seasoned with salt pepper & garlic powder
-1 beaten egg, pour on a plate
-Chopped parsley & dill
-salt & pepper
-Cooking spray

-Cut the tofu in half (again, like opening a book), and then cut each half diagonally to form 4 triangles
-Season each triangle on both sides with salt & pepper
-Add chopped herbs to about 1/4-1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal
-Preheat the oven to 450 (or even 500) degrees, and spray a baking rack and set over a baking sheet
-Dredge the tofu in the flour, then egg, then cornmeal and place directly on the rack
-Spray each triangle with cooking spray & bake for 15 minutes. Flip the tofu and spray lightly, and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Alternatively you can low broil it. 

-Serve with steamed or sauteed kale or spinach, & 
Mango black bean salsa:
-Chopped mango, parsley, black beans, lime juice, salt & pepper to taste- it's that simple! Sometimes I add avocado to it.

Take on "Meatless Monday!" (or any other day of the week) 


Whether you are new to tofu/meat substitutes, and feeling adventurous, try out this delicious Kosher pan-asian vegetarian restaurant, Wild Ginger in Brooklyn (there's also a location in the city)- it's amazing (I could probably eat there everyday)... No it's not grass on a plate, it's filling entrees, excellent appetizers, drinks, and the best cake I ever had! Let's just say there was a lot of peanut butter in it...!