Sunday, April 29, 2012

Roasted Asparagus and Sweet Potato Lentil Soup

Hope everyone had a nice and sunny weekend! This week’s Food Matter’s Project dish, Roasted Asparagus and White Bean Soup, was chosen by Adrienne of ADRIENNEATS. She has the original Mark Bittman recipe on her blog. Adrienne’s blog is lovely and I enjoy reading it. Her pictures are beautiful and her recipes are always delicious and wholesome, seasonal fare. As have been proven in the past few months, FMP members’ takes on recipes never fail to amaze me, so check out what everyone else did at our website.     

DFJ and I spent quite a bit on wine in the past few weeks and have a ton of produce in the refrigerator from a crazy grocery shopping trip two weeks ago. So groceries were limited to household essentials and no food until everything is used up, tight budget. Thus, my version of this dish is somewhat different because I had to use what was on hand. Luckily, I had asparagus! An onion instead of leeks, rosemary, thyme, and basil instead of just rosemary, a sweet potato instead of 2 baking potatoes, green lentils instead of beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste instead of vegetable or chicken stock, and no wine. I made this soup earlier in the week and was nourished by it for a couple of dinners and it just got better every day.

roasted asparagus with salt and pepper in olive oil

roasted sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, dried rosemary and thyme,
with salt and pepper in olive oil 

lentils, water, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, rosemary, and thyme

everything in the pot + a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to add brightness
Although it was good, there was something lacking and too much about my soup… maybe I should go with vegetable stock and definitely use wine next time and cut back or do not use any thyme at all. I will definitely give Mark Bittman’s original recipe a try someday.

On a completely unrelated note, I would like to share a time-saving tip. If you knew me personally, you will find that I am never on time. Don’t get me wrong, I try, I really do! I just get distracted… breakfast (I never leave home without breakfast, otherwise I won’t survive), dishes, laundry to fold, things to put away, and so on.

The time it takes me to shower, put on my clothes, and be ready is no more than 15-20 minutes. It’s what happens before hopping in the shower that causes the delay (something I continue to work on). So, in order to keep the 20 minutes of getting ready to not extend further, I follow my friend, Anna’s, advice: set out my work outfits from Monday to Friday sometime during the weekend.

I spend about 15 minutes on Saturdays or Sundays picking out which top to wear with what pants, what cardigan to wear, what scarf with what shirt, shoes, socks, and even underwear. These outfits are then set out or hung and are ready to go. Right after my showers I just grab whatever I planned on wearing, put it on, and head out the door. This is a big time saver for me because I don’t have to spend another x number of minutes trying to make a decision on what to wear only to change my mind after I have already put it on. Those x number of minutes are reserved for an often recurring unfortunate event which is walking back to the house after starting the car because I always forget something: my glasses, cellphone, lunch, or coffee. When will I ever learn?!

Have a great week everyone!      

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Long Weekend + Yoga Love + Swiss Chard Stir Fry Salad

It's the weekend! I have been looking forward to this the whole entire week and plan on enjoying every minute of it... house cleaning, cooking, working out here and there, savoring some wine, starting page one of my Steve Jobs book, and blogging.

Yesterday was a half day at work. Some coworkers went to a burger place close to work and I ordered a jalapeño popper hamburger with jojos on the side. I haven't had a big, fat, juicy burger in a long time and have been craving for it so badly. That was my chance. Although I ate only a quarter of it, I scarfed down half of my jojos and a slice of quesadilla from DFJs plate (he drove over and joined us). I was a happy little girl with greasy fingers and a full belly!

As soon as I got home, I took a nice, hour and a half long nap and woke up feeling like I had the best sleep of my entire life. I microwaved some milk and leftover espresso from this morning and had an afternoon latte with a cookie and just relaxed.

Before going to my Friday afternoon yoga class, I went on a short and sweet run and then lost myself in twists, balances, lunges, inversions, and stretches. Yoga allows me to just be myself and do things at my own pace... No hurries, no pressures, no stresses. When I'm in the poses, I love every second of fast or slow and always in control movements. Yoga gives me courage to try new things and explore the capabilities of my body and I always leave feeling lighter, balanced, fearless, strong, and confident, both physically and mentally. I get out of the studio smelling better than when I came in, like smoked lavender, and completely rejuvenated.

Because of all the junk I packed away at lunch today, I decided to cleanse for dinner and made a Swiss chard stir fry salad.

Each vegetable flavor came out distinctly yet blended with each other naturally. Light and wholesome as can be. This would be a great side dish to salmon, beef, chicken, or anything else you might think would be great.

Swiss Chard Stir Fry Salad (Makes 1 or 2 servings)

1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed with a garlic press
1 scallion, thinly sliced
4 large Swiss Chard leaves, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
juice of ¼ of a small lemon
2 Clementines, peeled and separated (or a small orange, peeled, separated, and cut in chunks)

Heat olive oil in large pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown. Add the scallions and stir until soft. Throw in the Swiss chard and stir until it starts to wilt. Toss in the celery and let cook for another minute. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste and squeeze in some lemon juice. Stir everything well together and turn off the heat. Stir in the separated Clementines and serve warm.

A medley of flavors and texture: salty, tangy, and sweet; soft, crunchy, and juicy. Simply good!

 Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Food Blog Finds Made at Home

There are countless dishes all over the food blogging world that I wish I could find time to make. Sadly, since there are only a few hours in a day to squeeze in everything I would want to do, this is not quite possible.

However, I have made time to try some of the recipes I thought would be good and all of them were even better than my expectations! Here are some of the things I have made at home and the links to the original recipe. Please note that the pictures are all mine (which explains why they are not as gorgeous as the recipe creators’). Do not let my not-so-great-pictures deceive you though, because these recipes are highly recommended!  

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Sweet Potato PancakesEat, Live, Run
This is one of my favorite pancake recipes. I have made it twice already and absolutely love the mashed roasted sweet potato and chocolate chips in it! The reason why I like Jenna Weber so much… she knows what girls love!  

Our Valentine’s dinner this year… which reminds me that I want to make this again soon. Even though I cut back on the oil and butter that the original recipe required, it was still very good. Tyler Florence, I will never look at another shrimp scampi recipe again.

DFJ made this for Valentine’s dessert and it lasted us until the weekend. We don’t have a torch, but he made the crunchy top happen in the oven and burned his finger in the process. It was worth the burn though because it tasted like creamy vanilla heaven (Sorry, D!). Thank you Alton Brown!

Homemade PaneerKiran Tarun
Easier than I thought it would be and very good! Used this paneer for my Paneer Tikka Masala and it was super tasty. Please try this at home and send Kiran Tarun a thank you note. She is awesome!

Arroz Con PolloEat, Live, Run
DFJ has told me a dozen times how he loved eating arroz con pollo when he went on a trip to Costa Rica with his friend Andrew. When Jenna Weber posted her version of this recipe on Eat, Live, Run, I just had to make it. Do not let the long production and work daunt you because this recipe is well worth it. It will make you fill your plate with seconds and thirds.   

Spelt Everything CrackersSmitten Kitchen
Following Deb’s blog gives me the courage to try the amazing recipes she has come up with. These crackers are made of such simple ingredients but taste so wholesome and pure. You can eat it with any dip, cheese, or fruit you fancy.   

spelt everything crackers are the darker colored ones, right 

Sea Salt and Poppy Seed CrackersJoy the Baker
These are, hands down, the best crackers I have ever had. Try making them and you’ll know what I mean. Everything Joy makes are the best!

sea salt and poppy seed crackers are the lighter colored ones, left

Homemade Asiago Cheese BagelsHow Sweet It Is
This sandwich was amazing: the egg scramble with crab cakes in it (check out DFJ’s recipe here), the veggies, and the homemade bagel. I have never attempted making bagels before, so I recruited DFJ to be my bagel buddy. He was a good sport and we had a lot of fun making these bagels and devouring them. For good measure, we decided to coat some of the bagels with poppy seeds. I love store bought bagels but these ones from Jessica really impressed me. Try it!

Chocolate Orange Cream Cheese Pound CakeJoy the Baker
Another Joy recipe… I substituted some ingredients and posted an adapted version here. Made this twice already and would definitely make it again and again in the near future.

Easy Little Bread101 Cookbooks
I can’t believe how fast and easy and pretty this little loaf turned out. It is perfect for just about anything, toast, lunch sandwiches, dinner bread, or just eat it plain with a pat of butter. Lovely!

Cardamom Pistachio Coffee CakeHungry Ghost
As soon as I stumbled upon this cake, I knew I had to have it. I asked DFJ to make it for me and being a sweet man, he did. He had already started mixing the batter when I got home and caught a serious mistake. He used fenugreek instead of cardamom… I tried to be calm because he freaked out more than I did and insisted that we throw out the batter. Refusing to let anything go to waste, we trudged along… I just added the required amount of cardamom and squeezed agave nectar and honey into the batter. The result was a Fenugreek-Cardamom Pistachio Coffee Cake, which was wonderful! It is my favorite coffee cake as of the moment… it has a gentle sweetness and real textures from the nutty grains used. Fortunately, there is just a hint of the fenugreek’s bitterness which did not affect the taste much, but we have to make sure not to accidentally add it in the next time we make this.

Have a great Friday everyone!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Working Towards Happiness + Roasted Root Vegetables

Lately, I seem to be carrying a huge burden on my shoulders that I cannot let go. It has also been hard for me to focus on my priorities and I find myself evading responsibility instead of facing it. Smiling, giving, and being happy recently became a challenge instead of just coming out naturally. Something has to be done… I decided to make a list of ten things I need to work on that can hopefully lead me on the path to a happier self.      

Things I Need to Work On (in random order):

1. Listen to my body. Do not push it too hard and take one step at a time to improve yoga poses, run faster and longer, lift heavier weights, and so on. I have to remember that forcing my body to push too hard too soon will only result in injuries. Will I be able to enjoy being active if I’m hurt? The answer is easy: No. So, I need to respect my body by listening to it.

2. Extend my patience and be sincerely patient with everyone around me every day.

3. Quit procrastinating! Do what NEEDS to be done and not do other things to avoid what needs to be done.

4. Do a series of four sun salutations first thing in the morning and send good thoughts to a person I love and whoever I am in discord with.

5. Do a series of four sun salutations before going to bed and think of three positive things that happened during the day.

6. Go to bed before 11:00 so I can fall asleep before or by 11:00. I need at least 7 hours of sleep!

7. Every day, read at least two chapters of whatever book I am currently reading.

8. Not worry too much about what tomorrow is going to bring and just enjoy today!

9. Connect with my loved ones more often and let them know how special they are.

10. Be mindful of my breathing and take long, deep breaths. It’s surprising what a huge difference this makes in improving my mood!

Now, on to some food matters… We have said goodbye to winter a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn’t resist and had to give these root vegetables a last go and am more than glad that I did. 

This dish has an amazing medley of flavors… sweet, starchy, and a refreshing tart bite from the dressing. Roasting different root vegetables brightened all the earthy flavors… and altogether, it was like vegetable candy heaven. The best part was the delicious beets that turned everything a gorgeous pink!   

Roasted Root Vegetables (Makes 4-6 servings)
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Roasted Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes and Caper Vinaigrette, Plenty

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 parsnip, sliced
1 turnip, sliced
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, sliced
1 medium potato, sliced
2 beets, sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed with a garlic press

16 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 large basil leaves, torn
freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp capers
½ tbsp agave nectar, maple flavor (or real maple syrup or honey)
½ tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large roasting pan, toss onions, parsnip slices, and turnip slices with olive oil, rosemary, parsley, and salt.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove roasting pan from oven and add another tablespoon of olive oil then toss in carrot slices, potato slices, beet slices, and garlic. Stir well and roast for 20 more minutes.

Remove roasting pan from oven and add cherry tomatoes and basil. Stir well and roast for 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by stirring together in a small bowl the lemon juice, capers, agave nectar, and Dijon mustard.

As soon as the roasting pan is removed from the oven, pour the dressing over the vegetables, grind pepper on top to your desired amount, and mix everything well.    

Some notes on how I served this:

- Served this with quinoa and it was great.
- It went well on top of corn tortillas warmed in a pan with melted cheese.
- Leftovers were heated in a skillet and an egg was poached on top. Served with buttered toast or cheesy tortillas on the side… voila, deliciousness!
- Leftovers were also used in a quinoa stir-fry with an egg scrambled in right before the burner was turned off.   

Remember: It is essential to heat leftovers in a skillet to bring back some crunch to the veggies.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bread-baking Tips + Honeyed Rhubarb-Walnut Jam Bruschetta

For our Food Matters Project this Monday, Melissa chose Real Whole Wheat Bread or Mostly Whole Wheat Baguettes. Thank you for a great pick Melissa! The recipes for these breads are on her lovely website… while you’re there, make sure to check out her other delicious dishes and beautiful pictures! Also, do check out what creative things other FMP members came up with for these bread recipes.    

I love baking bread… it is my thing on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Lately, my bread baking has mostly been the no kneading involved type. The end product is still lovely but I miss making bread for real. Which for me means touching and really feeling the dough… stirring water into the dry ingredients until your poor arm can’t stir anymore, moving the dough on the counter, forming it into a ball, folding it over, pressing it with the palms of your hands, waiting for it to rise, moving it to the baking sheet and forming it one last time, and then slashing the tops with the tip of a knife right before popping it in the oven.

With that said, although Mark Bittman says to just stir everything together and let it sit, I couldn’t help myself and had to knead the dough. Because this dough was wetter than others I have made before, handling it made everything just stick to my hands. So, I had to add 5 teaspoons of flour (one teaspoon at a time) until the dough was to the consistency that I liked… still kinda wet but not oozing through my fingers. Also as this dough is wetter than most, I used a delicate touch with it and folded it over and over and pushed with the palms of my hands ever so gently and formed it into a ball. I then poured a bit of olive oil on my palm and wiped it all over the inside of the mixing bowl and the outside of the dough ball so it pulls away easily when I’m ready to move it to the baking sheet.  

I let mine sit for exactly 24 hours. Using a rubber spatula, I gently scraped the sides and the bottom until the dough pulled away from the bowl. Instead of using a bread pan for this, I used a baking sheet and greased it with dots of butter spread all over with my hands (*See note on using butter to grease baking sheets). Then, I dusted my hands generously with flour and moved the dough to a clean counter dusted with flour. I gently flattened the dough, folded it over twice, and formed it into a ball. The ball was moved to the pan and the top was lightly dusted with flour. As per Bittman’s instructions, I let it sit for another two hours before baking it. Right before it went in the oven, I made some slashes on the top of the dough for a rustic look and also to allow gas to escape so the bread doesn’t split itself on top while baking.    

getting ready to sit for a day

after 24 hours

shaped into a ball, rose 2 more hours, dusted, slashed, ready to go in the oven 

*NOTE: From my experiences with baking, I have found that it is easier to clean baking sheets or pans if I grease them with butter. Every time I use oil, it leaves an annoying, sticky stain that never seems to come off and causes my pans to look old and rusty. Seriously, I have spent countless hours trying to rub these oil stains off with hot water and soap, letting it sit with baking soda and water… maddening! With butter, there’s none of that stickiness, just regular grease that comes off after a quick, soapy rinse.       

The crust is chewy and not very thick and the inside is dense yet soft. Letting the bread sit for a day was well worth it because it imparted a nice, slightly sour tang.    

DFJ and I enjoyed this bread as a bruschetta with honeyed rhubarb-walnut jam with basil and feta cheese on top. Toasting the bread slices in the oven for a few minutes gave it a nice, perfect crunch.   

Honeyed Rhubarb-Walnut Jam Bruschetta

½ cup walnuts, chopped
3 tbsp honey
4 stalks rhubarb, sliced
5 large fresh basil leaves, torn
feta cheese, crumbled

Real Whole Wheat Bread or any good bread, sliced thin

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, toast the chopped walnuts and stir often until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the honey one tablespoon at a time. The honey will make big, beautiful bubbles as soon as it gets in contact with the hot pan. Stir for about a minute. Throw in the rhubarb and let cook, stirring often until the rhubarb is soft and falling apart, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and add the torn basil leaves. Mix well.

Toast bread slices in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle feta cheese on top and serve immediately.

P.S. For some notes and pictures on kneading bread dough, check out this post. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Melancholy + Everything Good Cookies

Are there ever times when you feel some inexplicable sadness about everything and nothing in particular? There’s no reason for you to be sad at all because things are going fine and dandy… everyone in your family is doing good, you have a special someone whom you love and loves you back, all your friends are living their happy lives, you have a good job, your health is in perfect condition, you’re strong, and all in all, life is good. But there’s just that gnawing lonely feeling of a desire for something unbeknownst, a feeling of uncertainty for what the future might hold, a feeling of imbalance and insecurity, feeling like you’re standing at the edge of a cliff where at any moment you can fall and break into pieces. In moments like these, I flounder… I lose confidence and start doubting myself… I forget how to focus, forget to take a deep breath, forget to hold myself up, forget to smile, and forget my appreciation for life.   

Yesterday’s weather was weird… from sunrise until about 3:30 (which is right when I leave work) it was nice and sunny. Then, as soon as I got home, the sun disappeared, AAARGH! It made me sad because I really wanted to go on a bike ride and just free myself of any thoughts.

DFJ and I lounged on the couch and had a melancholic discussion about life for a little bit and then we decided to walk to a wine bar. This turned out to be the best idea. Somehow talking about our weird, unexplainable hang-ups in life while walking outside didn’t seem as bad as it did when we were holed up in the apartment. Vigor kicked in and we felt more hopeful as we talked about dreams and ideas while walking next to trees and watching mama birds circling over their nests and bikers and runners go by. Right at that moment, everything felt perfect… the future stopped seeming like a dreary, unknown darkness and started looking brighter, more inspiring, and full of sweet surprises.    

After an hour of walking and thinking out loud, we stopped at Hamilton Cellars and had a cheese plate while wine tasting. The tasting room is very classy… there was an inner room for wine club members and they all sounded like they were having a ball. The owner, Stacie, was very nice and gracious. She took time to talk about their wines and what she knew about the art of wine-making. We walked out in the pouring rain with two bottles of rosé. A few steps away is Casa Vino, a nice wine bar with selections from all over the world. We decided to order a bottle and each of us drank a glass with our delicious salad and panini, then took the rest of the wine home. The rain was pouring and I’m glad we cradled our wine like a baby because the bag was falling apart. Walking home for an hour in the rain, talking about silly things that people talk about after drinking wine, and feeling giddy was what I needed after a day of feeling down. It was one of our best dates! While walking home, both of us looked forward to enjoying some cookies, but I didn’t get the chance to because I conked out instantly.

These cookies are soft, chewy, and chockfull of good stuff! It has the right amount of everything you would want put together in a single cookie! These sweeties are meant for indulging because there’s not a lot of butter or sugar in it for the amount of flour and oats that went in the batter. So go ahead and bake these and eat them without feeling guilty.    

Everything Good Cookies (Makes 46-50 cookies)
Adapted from DFJ’s mom’s Cowboy Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp hazelnut oil
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup milk (whole milk, 2%, 1%, nonfat, all are ok)
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup coconut flakes, sweetened
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup extra dark chocolate chips
a tad of butter for greasing baking sheets

In a large mixing bowl: mix butter, oil, and sugar with an electric mixer on low, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is creamy. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk and continue to mix on slow until batter is smooth. Set aside.    

In another large mixing bowl: whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until everything is well-combined. Pour in the oats and coconut flakes and whisk well.

In a medium-sized bowl, pour in the hazelnuts, cranberries, and chocolate chips. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.

Slowly pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with the electric mixer on low until both wet and dry ingredients are well-incorporated. Add the hazelnut, cranberry, chocolate chip mixture and continue to mix on low until everything is well-combined.    

Move an oven rack to the middle spot and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease baking sheets with a tad of butter. Using a cookie dough scoop or your hands, scoop the dough or form into a ball and plop on a greased baking sheet. Evenly space them out and bake in the oven for 16 minutes.


 Lift your head up and smile, the world has so much to offer!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crunchy Tofu with Buttery Soy Sauce

DFJ gave me a beautiful spring break celebration present... Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. I’m glad he knows me well or in this case, listens to me. *Wink!* Everything about this cookbook is just gorgeous… the interesting ingredient combinations of Ottolenghi’s recipes, the vibrant-looking dishes, and the short stories that tell what inspired him to create each dish. He creatively celebrates a main vegetable and adds on other ingredients, putting together cooked and raw, heavy and light, sweet and salty, and many other unique combinations. I love the way he lightens up cooked or heavy dishes with fresh garnishes. Ottolenghi certainly takes cooking vegetables to a whole new level!

On Friday night, this was our dinner project and let me tell you, it was crazy-delicious! Because I did not have enough tofu on hand and did not want to use as much oil, soy sauce, and butter as the recipe required, I lessened the required amounts by more than half. Nevertheless, it tasted rich and was incredibly wonderful.  

This dish was very fragrant, sweet, salty, gingery, and had a little spicy kick. Ottolenghi’s original recipe calls for this to be much spicier than my adapted version but I did not feel like going all the way, so I just used a minimal amount of red chili pepper and ground black pepper. The tofu soaked up all the flavors and stayed crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  

Crunchy Tofu with Buttery Soy Sauce (Makes 4 servings)
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu, Plenty

Crunchy Tofu
olive oil
1 lb extra firm tofu, cut in ½-1 inch cubes

Soy Sauce Mixture
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
¾ tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp salted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red chili, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, pressed with a garlic press
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp pepper, freshly ground
12 stalks green onions: green parts cut long and slanted, white parts minced

Drain the excess water from the tofu by placing it on a deep plate and putting another plate on top to push the extra water out. Let it sit like this for about 30 minutes and pour the excess water out. Take care not to push the top plate with your hands too hard, because this could cause the tofu to fall apart. Cut the tofu into ½-1 inch cubes and lightly coat the cubes with cornstarch. Set aside.   

Make the sauce by mixing the soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Stir well until the sugar dissolves and set aside.

Generously coat the bottom of a large, nonstick pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. *See note below about deep frying.* Once the oil is hot, cook the tofu on one side for about 6 minutes until it turns a nice, golden brown, then turn each piece on their opposite sides for another 6 minutes. You can turn the rest of the sides of the tofu pieces, but don’t worry about it too much. As long as the top and bottom sides are golden and crunchy, that’s good. Move the cooked tofu to a plate lined with paper towels to remove the excess oil.

If you think there’s too much oil left from frying the tofu, pour some out, if not, go ahead and melt the butter in the same pan. When all the butter has sizzled off, add the onions, red chili, jalapeno, garlic, and ginger. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. Add the soy sauce mixture and stir well. Throw in the ground pepper and give it another good stir. Toss in the tofu cubes and stir for a little over a minute. Add the green onions and stir for another minute. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

This dish is really good with plain, soba noodles or rice.

*Note: The original recipe requires more oil… pour the oil until it comes a ¼ inch up the pan. However, I found that just coating the bottom of the pan with oil up to about half a millimeter high was enough to give the tofu a nice crunch. There will be a lot of hot oil pinprick splashes and they hurt, so stand far back from the pan when frying the tofu and use tongs to turn the cubes. Do not let this step daunt you though, because frying the tofu is essential in making this dish extra special.*

All the flavors you can imagine in authentic Chinese food, without the unnecessary grease that makes your lips all shiny and without the guilt feeling of running a marathon the next day to get rid of all the oil and butter you consumed.   


To DFJ: I love my book and I promise, there will be PLENTY more dishes to come!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Homemade Pizza with Swiss Chard Pesto and Toppings

Yay to pizza! Thank you Niki for choosing No-Work Mostly Whole Wheat Pizza Dough and Topping Pizza for this Food Matters Project Monday! In my book, homemade pizza is not junk food at all… It’s a perfect all-in-one meal: grains, vegetables, protein, and dairy.

Making pizzas at home is a special thing between DFJ and me. The first few times we started hanging out, he would make pizzas on Friday nights and we would devour an entire thing or even two with wine. It’s one of the best ways to say goodbye to a grueling week and start celebrating the weekend.

So, Mark Bittman recommends not overloading your pizza with too many toppings because it can affect the doneness of your dough. There are too many things that I want on my pizza and I want them all! The solution to my problem was simple: combine all the other things that can be put together and turn it into pesto. Hello Swiss chard, tomatoes, garlic, and smoked gouda! The first flavor that you taste in this pesto is the gouda, then you get the slight bitterness of the Swiss chard, and a peppery kick at the end. This pesto can serve as a dip for crackers, bread, crudités, chips, what have you. The No-Work Mostly Whole Wheat Pizza Dough with just this pesto and some fresh basil as a topping will be enough to make me one happy camper.  

Swiss Chard Pesto (enough for 2 medium sized pizzas)

1 tbsp olive oil
3-6 cloves garlic, pressed
12 grape tomatoes, cut in half
3 Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped
¼ tsp salt
pepper, freshly ground
¼ cup smoked gouda, shredded and firmly pressed in cup

Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden and fragrant. Toss in the tomatoes and cook until their juices start coming out, about 2 minutes. Toss the Swiss chard and cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and the gouda and stir together for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and move everything in a bowl to cool down. Puree in a blender or food processor and set aside to use as a pizza sauce. 

Let’s talk about the pizza dough…

Having made this dough once before, I was iffy about making it again because it didn’t turn out very well the first time. Oh, it was totally worth my while giving it another try! The reason why this dough failed to impress the first time was because I added too much water. Make sure to add water 1 teaspoon at a time until the right consistency is achieved. I actually added a little too much water again but countered this by adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Also, this is supposed to be a no-knead dough, but baking bread has trained me to have to touch and feel the dough, so I did it anyway and it didn’t hurt. *Wink.* When I was ready to bake, I cut the dough in half and formed one half into a ball. Then I poured about 1 teaspoon of olive oil on the palm of my hand and spread it on the pizza stone and the outside of the dough ball. I placed the dough in the middle of the pizza stone and gently spread the dough. Since I used a pizza stone, it took 14 minutes for the pizza to be done in an oven preheated to 500 degrees F.

This dough is soft, chewy, thin but not floppy, and has a lovely sour tang, the result of having it sit for 10 hours… so if you like a sourdoughish pizza dough, give this one a try! Visit Niki’s blog for the full recipe of this yummy dough and visit the Food Matters Project website to see the pizza creations that the other members did.

These are the toppings that went on my pizza:

a generous layer of Swiss chard pesto (recipe above)
mozzarella cheese pieces, torn
portobello mushroom slices
red bell peppers
chorizo (on the other half, for DFJ)
fresh basil leaves (torn and scattered all over after the pizza was baked)


Reveling in life’s simple delights… homemade pizza. Thank you, Mark Bittman!