Monthly Archives: January 2013

Rice Congee (a.k.a. Jook) With Vegetables and Baked Hoisin Tofu

Rice Congee with Vegetables and Baked Tofu

I’m officially getting caught up with life this week.  It’s been a pretty hectic couple of weeks for me!  Where to begin?  Chronologically?  In order of importance?  Most exciting?  Yes.  I’ll start there.

I am very excited to share the news that I am going to be blogging for the Grand Rapids Cooking School!  My first post (just an introduction to me and my blog) went up today!  Check it out here.  I am so excited to be working with Molly Clauhs and Kelly Lecoy on this new project.  We are going to start out with a “Back to Basics” series then move into a “Spotlight on Produce” series once spring and all of the wonderful Michigan produce we love to cook with come back to us!  Stay tuned…I’ll be sharing my Grand Rapids Cooking School blog posts with you all too.

Next, I’m so excited to share that I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended StartUp Weekend Grand Rapids two weekends ago.  This is what it is all about:  “All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.”  The event was just wonderful.  I spent the weekend on a team with 7 brainiacs developing the first draft of an app called The Diet Sherpa.  The app would help anyone find restaurants, stores, and farmer’s markets that offer foods that fit their dietary needs (gluten free, diabetic, paleo diet, vegan, etc.).  Stay tuned–we are fine tuning our prototype and I’ll share with you all when it is ready.

I’m happy to share that my boyfriend returned last week from a three week music tour to Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  I was still cooking meals for myself, of course, but having him back gets me all excited to cook up new and exciting dishes.  He is a very gracious guinea pig for my new recipes and an excellent sous chef, I must say.  We whipped up an Indian meal for friends last week and I was overjoyed standing at the stove, stirring our respective dishes (his contribution was Chicken Tikka Masala and mine was Channa Dal).  We also got a ginger bug started, which we feed every day and will use to make ginger beer once it is ready!  My heart warms when I think of how happy I am to be hanging out with a lovely man who loves spending time in the kitchen with me.  My cup runneth over!

I am also excited (and sad and nervous) to say that my little sister is going to South Korea in a few weeks and came to visit me this weekend.  It was interesting getting to know about the town she will be living in (Changwon) and what she needs to pack.  I just got a little camera for her and am really looking forward to her sending some photos once she gets there.  I’m also really sad that I won’t see her for a whole year!  We enjoyed the weekend together, hanging out and cooking a few dishes.

007

One of the dishes we enjoyed was this rice congee, or “jook”.  Congee is basically a rice porridge that has cooked for a long time, allowing the rice to soften and create a thick and creamy consistency.  This was last week’s Food Matters Project recipe, chosen by Erin from The Goodness Life.  Follow Erin on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.  Check out what everyone else made here on the FMP website or here on the FMP Pinterest Board.

This recipe was a very comforting dish on a cold Michigan Sunday in January.  It did not blow me away or excite me too much, I’ll be honest.  But if you are looking for a healthy and satisfying dish that will stick to your ribs and warm you up, this is a good one to try.  The original recipe includes chicken and can be found here.  Although my vegan version was satisfying, I can picture the chicken version potentially being even moreso!

003

Rice Congee (a.k.a. Jook) with Vegetables and Baked Hoisin Tofu; adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

Makes:  4 servings; Time:  About 3 hours, largely unattended

From Bittman:  This creamy Chinese rice porridge—also known as congee—is a perfect cold-weather soup, and a fine vehicle for delicious add-ins.  It takes a while for the grains to break down and thicken the water, but luckily you have options:  Jook cooks perfectly in a slow cooker (see the sidebar on page 119), or you can make the soup a couple days ahead and simply reheat it.  It also requires virtually no attention as it simmers, so making it on the stove is not all that much work.

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 fresh chili (like jalapeno or Thai), minced
  • ½ cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 2 cups cabbage sliced into very thin ribbons
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 container of extra firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 8 oz of baby bella mushrooms (you can also use white button mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Fish sauce for serving (for non-vegetarians)
  1. Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, add the garlic, ginger, chile, and ½ cup scallions and cook until they are soft, just a minute or 2. 
  2. Add the rice along with 6 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so it bubbles.  Partially cover the pot and cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom. The congee should have a porridge-like consistency; if it becomes very thick too quickly, turn down the heat and stir in more water.  When it is done, the congee should be soupy and creamy but still have a little chew.
  3. In the meantime, when the congee has about 1/2 hour left to cook, bake the tofu.  Drain the tofu and wrap it in a clean towel. Place a small plate on it and let sit for a half hour to extract some of the liquid.  Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly oil a baking pan.  Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. and place on baking pan. Brush with hoisin sauce on both sides and bake for 20-30 minutes.  Click here for images on draining and baking tofu from my post on soba noodles with baked tofu.
  4. Stir in the cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, 4 tablespoons soy sauce and sesame oil; cook until the vegetables are just tender, another 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve, passing the cilantro, additional scallions, fish sauce (if using) and additional soy sauce at the table. Enjoy!

 

Baked Polenta With Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash

DSC_0126

Sorry for the technical issues, everyone!  You should be able to access this post now.

Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  This dish is a spin on Mark Bittman’s Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms.  The recipe this week was chosen by Sandra at Meadows Cooks.  She made her polenta cakes in the shape of hearts–adorable!  I made mine without any wine (subbed Sherry Vinegar) and added some roasted delicata squash for a heartier dish.  I also made this dish a second time, adding heavy whipping cream and a little cream cheese to the mushrooms.  And while it wasn’t nearly as healthy, boy was it good!

Polenta is such a versatile food–if you haven’t made it before, I highly recommending giving it a try.  It tastes good topped with any number of foods.  You can do a cream sauce, a marinara with cheese and veggies or meat, a nice eggplant sauce, a chickpea curry, pesto…the possibilities go on and on!  Polenta is basically just cornmeal cooked up, pressed into a pan and chilled, and then cut into shapes and pan-fried or baked.  Let me know if you end up making this dish or a variation–I would love to hear from you!

DSC_0120

Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash;

Makes: 4 to 8 servings;  Time: 3 hours, mostly unattended

  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • Salt
  • ½ cup 2% milk (or use water)
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound mushrooms, preferably an assortment, sliced (I used baby bella mushrooms this time)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • 1 delicata squash, seeded and sliced
  1. Put the cornmeal and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 2 and ½ cups water and the milk to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want the consistency to be like thick oatmeal. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper.
  2. Grease a large baking sheet with some of the oil while the polenta is still hot, pour it onto the sheet and use a spatula to spread it out evenly at least ½ inch thick. Brush the top lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the polenta until it sets up, about 2 hours (or up to a day).
  3. Heat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly spray or drizzle a baking pan with olive oil and lay squash onto the baking sheet, taking care not to overlap. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and roast, about 20-30 minutes, flipping each piece halfway through.
  4. Lower the heat in the oven to 375°F. Grease a clean large baking sheet with some of the oil. When the polenta is set, cut it into at least 12 squares or diamonds or use a round cookie cutter to make disks. Put the cakes on the baking sheet, brush with a bit more oil, and bake until they are warmed through and the edges begin to brown (the outside should be nice and toasted while the inside should stay soft), 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, put the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and dried out a bit, about 10 minutes. Add the Sherry Vinegar and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes; turn the heat to medium-low and add the garlic.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve a spoonful of mushrooms and a few pieces of squash on top of each polenta cake.  I served mine on a bed of mizuna–love mizuna!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Spinach and Baked Hoisin Tofu

067

Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  This week’s recipe was Sesame Noodles with Spinach and Salmon, chosen by Sara from Pidges Pantry.  Check out everyone’s variations on the dish here.  So far I’ve seen posts starting with this simple noodle dish and changing things up with crab, sea bass, kale, green beans, lamb, ahi, and fried tofu.  Wow!

Whatever variation you choose, this noodle dish is a perfect weeknight supper or quick lunch.  Add more spinach than noodles and you have a perfectly satisfying and very healthy dish.  The sweet soy-garlic-ginger sauce will be a hit with any diner at your table.

My version uses baked hoisin-glazed tofu and adds ginger and agave nectar.  I love the chewy texture of baked tofu and I wanted to make some for a friend of mine who is not eating meat this month to show her how satisfying baked tofu could be.  This was the perfect opportunity!  I promised to take photos to illustrate the process so here goes…!

078

First, I press the tofu for a while to get some of the liquid out.  This is an especially important step when you are frying tofu but I do it for baked tofu anyway to speed up the baking time.  To press tofu, wrap the tofu in a clean towel (I use flour sack towels but any clean towel or paper towel will do) and place a small plate on top for 1/2 hour or longer to press.  Make sure the plate isn’t too heavy or else it can smush and crack the tofu.

043 046

Once the tofu is pressed, unwrap and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Place on an oiled baking sheet and brush with a marinade or hoisin sauce.

051

Bake at 300 degrees for 1/2 hour.  The result is toothy and satisfying:  smooth on the inside and crispy on the outside with a dense texture.  It is my favorite way to eat tofu!

057

The noodle dish is so simple.  Just cook the noodles while quickly sauteing the garlic, ginger, and spinach in a wok.  Add the noodles, toss in soy sauce and agave, top with the tofu and you have a meal to the table in 1/2 hour.

As I always like to remind you, feel free to change things up if you would like!  This dish would also taste good with cabbage, green beans, zucchini, snap peas, or snow peas.  I added a few cubes of sweet potato to one of my plates of noodles.  Enjoy!

081

Sesame Soba Noodles with Spinach and Baked Hoisin Tofu

Makes 4 servings; Time: 30 minutes

  • 1 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
  • 8 ounces firm block tofu
  • 3 tablespoons store-bought Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 and ½ pounds spinach, trimmed and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar (or sugar)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 8 ounces buckwheat (soba) noodles
  1. Drain the tofu and wrap it in a clean towel.  Place a small plate on it and let sit for a half hour to extract some of the liquid.
  2. Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking pan.
  3. Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. and place on baking pan.  Brush with hoisin sauce on both sides and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet on medium. Add the garlic, ginger, and sesame seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to soften and the sesame seeds turn golden, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for another minute or 2. Add the soy sauce, agave, sesame oil, and a splash of water and cook until the spinach is wilted, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  6. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until they’re tender but not mushy (start tasting after 5 minutes), then drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Turn the heat under the spinach mixture to medium and add the noodles. Toss, adding enough reserved liquid to keep things moist. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately or at room temperature with tofu laid on top and some sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Sweet and Sticky Green Bean Stir Fry With Everidae Sauce

Sweet and Sticky Green Bean Stir Fry

I work from home.  For those of you who work from home you might understand that this means I work from home A LOT.  At all hours.  And it can be taxing.  (If you work from home and don’t work A LOT I want to know your secret!)  But…there are also some perks.  For instance, I get to eat a homecooked lunch every single day.  And what could be better than that?  Most of the time my lunches are super-quick veggie and grain concoctions, eaten in front of the computer while I sift through emails.  But sometimes, I like to treat myself and step outside of my zucchini-onion-soy-fish sauce routine.  This dish is super-quick.  It’s just a simple veggie dish.  But it feels special, like I’m at a nice asian restaurant for lunch.  This dish deserves my attention.  It deserves for the computer to be silenced, deserves a linen napkin, and deserves to be enjoyed slowly with chopsticks.  I prefer this served with a cup of miso soup but it certainly doesn’t need anything on the side.  I also like to serve my green bean stir fry on top of my special grain blend.

My rice blen

To make my grain blend, put 1 cup brown rice in a dutch oven and cover with water by 1 inch.  Cover and bring to a boil then turn heat to low and let simmer for 25 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup farro, 1/2 cup millet, 1/2 cup black and/or white quinoa, and 1/4 cup radish seeds (you can use any of these, some of these, or just make the brown rice plain–whatever works for you!).  Add more water if needed so the water level is about 1/2 inch above the grains after adding all grains.  Cook another 15-20 minutes covered on low heat.  Turn off and let sit for 10 minutes before fluffing.  The radish seeds are my favorite part.  they pop in your mouth and are so fun to eat!  This makes quite a bit of grain blend so once it is completely cooled I spoon the leftovers into quart-sized freezer bags, flatten, and freeze for future lunches or dinners.  Makes things so much easier when I’m wondering what to make for a meal and don’t want to spend 45 minutes cooking rice!

I decided to add carrots to my stir fry today.  Other days I do mushrooms.  Other days just green beans and onions (always onions–love onions!).  My little dog loves eating carrots for a snack so she loves it when I make this dish because she nibbles on the raw carrot ends.  Today I shaved the carrots.  Other times I julienne or simply slice thinly into rounds or on the bias.  I think you are getting my drift.  Whatever floats your boat with these stir fries!

003

One thing I always do is shock the green beans.  You want them to stay pretty and bright green in the stir fry.  The best way to do this is to plunge them in cold water after blanching them.  These are my green beans after shocking:

006

One more thing.  I’ve been using a sauce lately called Everidae Sauce.  You don’t need it for this recipe–this recipe is great with just some soy sauce, honey, and crushed red pepper.  But if you want to try something really tasty, you can get it on Amazon if you aren’t local to Grand Rapids.  It’s produced by Grand Rapids own Dominic Sorenson at an incubator kitchen called Uptown Kitchen.  This sauce makes so many things tastier!  Just a tablespoon or two added to my plain ol’ veggie and rice routine really takes the dish somewhere.  I love habanero and love spicy but even if you don’t, there is a mild version of the sauce to flavor a dish without adding too much heat.  From the Scoville Farms Everidae Sauce Website:  “Dominic created the sauce to fill the need for a more versatile Habanero sauce, less spicy than traditional sauces with a flavor that wouldn’t overwhelm the subtle flavors of his favorite dishes. Dominic puts his extensive food industry experience to work when personally making each batch. Working in small batches, he prepares each ingredient by hand, cooks, cans and labels each jar of sauce before hand delivering to local specialty stores and markets.  Each of the three versions of Everidae Sauce (Mild, Medium, Hot) are made with fresh Carrots, Sweet Onions, All Natural Garlic, Whole Orange Habaneros, Cider Vinegar, White Sugar, Salt and Natural Fruit Pectin.”  Yum!

032

Okay, without further ado, the recipe!

Sweet and Sticky Soy-Garlic-Honey Stir Fry With Everidae Sauce

  • Salt
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 carrots, shaved into ribbons
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Scoville Farms Everidae Sauce (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Add the green beans and cook about 2 minutes.  Don’t overcook or they will become soft and won’t maintain their vibrant color.  Submerge the green beans in a bowl of ice water to stop them from continuing to cook.
  2. Put olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or wok.  Cook the onions over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Toss the green beans and carrot ribbons into the pan and turn it up to high.  Let brown, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the soy sauce, honey, and Scoville Everidae sauce and toss to combine with the vegetables.  Cook for another minute until the sauce thickens and gets a little sticky.
  5. Serve on brown rice or a blend of grains.

023

“Hippie Rice” With Beet Greens, Currants, and Seeds

Hippie Rice:  With Beet Greens, Currants, Sunflower Seeds, and Orange Zest

Welcome to my first post of 2013!  It’s been a busy, busy (yet wonderful) few weeks but as much as I hate to admit it I’m kind of happy to be getting back into my old routines.  I am even somewhat relieved that the holidays have passed and I can look forward to catching up on my “honey do list” including actually organizing my office closet, sewing the linen pillow covers that have been cut and ready for the machine for months, organizing the photo folders on my computer, and other riveting grown-up extra-curriculars (when I feel as good now when my house is clean as I did when I was a kid and I got an elephant ear at the fair, I wonder if I grew up and somehow found myself in some twisted opposite-world).

This post is also the first Food Matters Project post for 2013.  This week, Gracie chose the recipe, “Hippie Rice,” and how fitting it is considering all of the “diets” I’m sure we are thinking about or actually following through on.  It is a good reminder from Bittman that “we are what we eat” and that feeling better (emotionally and physically) and looking better starts with eating better.

My goal this year is to eat mindfully.  I do a good job of eating well:  eating whole foods and following a mostly plant based diet.  But I have my hangups with some junk foods and tend to overeat, especially when I am not being mindful about my eating.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened a bag of pistachios or popcorn in the car and when I got home realized that half the bag was gone and my car was a mess (followed soon thereafter by a declaration that “there will be no more popcorn/pistachios/other messy snacky foods eaten in this car from this point to as long as we both shall live and into eternity!”).  I can get carried away when I’m distracted.  So my goal is to eat mindfully, to take my time, to try (I said try, okay?) not to eat in front of my computer, to savor each bite and taste the flavors, to eat more deliberately.

DSC_0039

Let’s start with this dish.  I used Bittman’s recipe as the starting off point (see Gracie’s blog for the full recipe) but diverged quite a bit based on what I had on hand and what I was in the mood for.  My version has interesting flavors, textures, and colors…a perfect dish to enjoy mindfully.  Beet greens add color and powerful health benefits.  Currants add a hint of sweetness flavor without overpowering.  Sunflower and pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) add crunch and depth.  A little bit of heat comes in from the crushed red pepper.  And orange zest adds a bright pop to finish it off.

This recipe can be modified in any-which-way-you-choose.  So don’t get hung up on the exacts.  I used my standard grain blend, a mix of brown rice, quinoa, farro, and radish seed, which I had cooked ahead of time and frozen, making this recipe very quick and easy!

To make my grain blend, put 1 cup brown rice in a dutch oven and cover with water by 1 inch. Cover and bring to a boil then turn heat to low and let simmer for 25 minutes. Add 1/2 cup farro, 1/2 cup millet, 1/2 cup black and/or white quinoa, and 1/4 cup radish seeds (you can use any of these, some of these, or just make the brown rice plain–whatever works for you!). Add more water if needed so the water level is about 1/2 inch above the grains after adding all grains. Cook another 15-20 minutes covered on low heat. Turn off and let sit for 10 minutes before fluffing. The radish seeds are my favorite part. they pop in your mouth and are so fun to eat! This makes quite a bit of grain blend so once it is completely cooled I spoon the leftovers into quart-sized freezer bags, flatten, and freeze for future lunches or dinners. Makes things so much easier when I’m wondering what to make for a meal and don’t want to spend 45 minutes cooking rice!

My rice blen

Next, I lightly steamed shredded beet greens.  The next time you buy a bunch of beets with the greens still attached, don’t throw them away!  They cook up much like swiss chard but I like the flavor even better.  Beet greens are also an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin A, making this a vision-boosting, cancer-fighting superfood.

DSC_0030

Next I sauteed some onion in a little olive oil, adding the seeds to toast for the last five minutes.  I squeezed the juice of an orange into the pan and added about 1 tsp of zest.

DSC_0049

Then I tossed all of the other ingredients into the pan (grain blend, beet greens, currants, red pepper flakes, salt), sprinkled it with a little patchoulie (just kidding), and voila, a bowl of righteous grains and veggies was born.

“Hippie Rice” with Beet Greens, Currants, Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds, and Orange Zest; makes 4 servings; takes 45 minutes (with pre-cooked grains will take 20 minutes)

  • 1 bunch beet greens, shredded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sunflower and/or raw pumpkin seeds (or a blend)
  • 2 cups grain blend (anything you want but I make brown rice, farro, quinoa, and radish seeds in a pot ahead of time and freeze in quart-sized plastic bags)
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1/2 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • juice of 1 small orange
  1. Put beet greens in a saucepan with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom.  Bring to a boil then simmer, steaming lightly for about 5 minutes.
  2. Put the onion in a heavy skillet and saute until lightly browned.  Add sunflower and pumpkin seeds and saute until they are lightly toasted.
  3. Add beet greens, grain blend, currants, red chile flakes, orange zest and orange juice to the pan and stir to heat through.  Enjoy!