Book Review

This isn’t typical for a food blog, but I would like to take the time to review a book here. It is a cookbook of sorts, but it is also one of the most touching memoirs I have ever read. If you’re not involved in the food blog world you may not have heard of it, the book I am referring to is A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, creator of the beautiful Orangette.

I really don’t have any critiques for this book, it really did have me at ‘hello’. Molly ends her introduction by saying “In the simple acts of cooking and eating, we are creating and continuing the stories that are our lives.” This sentence nearly brought me to tears because it sums up, as closely as I have ever been able to, my feelings about why I love cooking and food.

More than just beautiful writing, this book is chock-full of amazing sounding recipes, many of which I hope to cook and (if I can get my act together enough) post here on this blog. If you haven’t read this book and you have time to please consider it. If you know me in real life I will be more than willing to lend it to you!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Depending on where you live the weather may just be starting to get consistently nice (as it is here in Portland) or it could be in the full throes of summer (as one of my Arizona-native roommates bemoans). We made this pie over Spring Break, which was a while ago now, even thought the weather wasn’t particularly springy at the time.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is always delicious, sweet from the strawberries and tart from the rhubarb with a lovely intermingling of cinnamon. This is a perfect recipe that is just sweet enough but one that doesn’t overwhelm the wonderful tart qualities of the rhubarb!

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Bonus: What is wrong with this picture?

Answer: I am horrible at weaving lattice, notice the mistake in the upper left-hand corner. I could pretend that this was the only lattice mistake in the pie, but that would be untrue.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Pie recipe from here via Kit Leitschuh, crust recipe from Jan Layne.

Crust
In a large bowm mix together with a pastry blender until crumbly:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Crisco

In a cup mix together:
5 TBS cold water
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 egg, slightly beaten

Add the mixture in the cup to the mixture in the bowl. Mix with a large spoon, DO NOT OVER MIX!

Shape into 3-4 balls. Roll out each pie crust you intend on using right away and freeze the rest.

Pie
3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Method
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter flass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

Homemade Chai

Today I attempted to make chai for the first time, hoping to end up with something akin to the Tazo Chai that they sell at Starbucks, but perhaps a little spicier, like my absolute favorite chai: Dragonfly Chai.

Unfortunately, my end product isn’t spicy and tastes a bit earthier than I would have liked. Ugh. Maybe I’ll try again sometime, but now I’m feeling a little defeated.

Here’s the recipe I tried, does anyone have any suggestions as to how I could better it?

Homemade Chai
Adapted from Green and Clean Mom

Ingredients
12 cardamom pods (the big green ones) You can also just use cardamom seeds if you can’t find the pods.
4 sticks of cinnamon
1 star anise, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
10 whole black peppercorns (more for spicier tea)
1 scant teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon orange peel, grated (fresh or dried)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup black tea leaves
4 cups skim milk
1/4 cup honey

Method
Fill a saucepan or stock pot with 4 cups of water and add all of the spice ingredients except the tea leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes (longer for stronger flavor). Add the tea leaves for the last five minutes.

Strain, add 4 cups milk, reheat for a minute and then add the sweetener. Makes about 8 cups of tea.

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

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As a friend once said, “I love enchiladas, they’re like delicious food already partly digested.” (or something like that). These chicken mole enchiladas pack a real wallop of flavor and have a wonderful saucy texture. The spiciness of the sauce and the creaminess of the chicken filling all with the brightness of a squeeze of lime juice is really divine!

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The sauce is really what makes these enchiladas special. Mole is a red sauce with dark chocolate in it. I know, it sounds a little weird, but the dark chocolate really helps to mellow out the sauce and complements the smokiness of the chipotle peppers really nicely.

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The chicken filling is really easy to make, which is nice since the sauce is the real star and a bit time intensive. If you wanted to have this as a weeknight meal you could make all of the component parts ahead of time and then simply assemble and bake when you are ready for dinner!

Chicken Mole Enchiladas
Adapted from Kirsten’s Home Cooking

Ingredients
For the enchiladas:
6-10 flour or corn tortillas (taco size)
4 bone-in skin-on chicken thigh, cooked and shredded
3/4 c light sour cream
one bunch green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
3 c grated cheddar, divided (1 cup and 2 cups)
Salt and Pepper

For the Mole Sauce:
The fat rendered from cooking 2 slices bacon (or equivalent amount cooking oil)
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
4 chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce
2 TBS adobo sauce
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c warm water
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes, with juices
2 c chicken broth
1/4 c dark chocolate, chopped finely
Salt and pepper

Method
Directions for Mole Sauce:
Saute onion, carrot and celery in bacon fat (or substitute) until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Once vegetables have softened place them in a blender with the peppers, adobo sauce, tomatoes, garlic and water. Puree until smooth.

Return mixture to saucepan and add chicken broth. Simmer on high heat for 20-30 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir in chocolate until melted. Salt and pepper to taste, keep sauce warm.

Directions for Enchiladas:
Mix chicken, sour cream, green onions and 1 cup cheese in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Make sure that the chicken forms a nice solid mixture; tweak amount of sour cream as necessary.

Lay out tortillas, fill with chicken mixture.

Roll tightly and lay seam side down in a glass or metal 13×9 baking dish that has a thin layer of mole sauce already spread on the bottom (to prevent sticking and burning).

Cover with remaining sauce.

Top with remaining 2 cups cheese, more if you feel it’s necessary.

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Serve with rice and beans with lime wedges and additional sour cream on the side!

Seared Ahi Sushi!

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Do you like sushi? I don’t! My problem is that I have an aversion to the nori (seaweed) that is wrapped on the outside, I really don’t like the way it smells or tastes. That being said, I LOVE seared tuna. In order to combine the two a friend (soon to be introduced on this blog) and I embarked on an adventure to make seared ahi tuna rolls. Mine were made without seaweed and his were the traditional roll, but both were amazing!

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The reason for searing the tuna (at least in our case) was that we had bought it a few days before and frozen it, meaning it was no longer safe to eat raw. We first marinated it and then seared it for 2 minutes on each side. We had a single 1/3 lb tuna steak that was more than enough for the 2 of us, so although sushi and sashimi grade tuna can be expensive when bought by the pound it is relatively reasonable for a few servings.

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You could use almost any crunchy green veggie in these rolls. We used celery, but green beans or cucumber would have also worked well. The marinade was really simple and even letting the tuna marinate for only an hour gave it so much flavor! Searing is a quick process, so make sure to do it well. Have the pan really hot with just a little bit of oil in the bottom.

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Seared Ahi Roll

Ingredients

1/3 lb tuna steak
1 batch marinade (see recipe below)
1 cup uncooked sushi rice, cooked per package instructions
2 ribs celery, cut in 1/2 the long way
3 sheets nori (sushi-rolling seaweed)
drizzle of vegetable oil
small dish of water for sealing the rolls
soy sauce and wasabi paste for dipping

Special equipment: bamboo rolling mat

Marinate tuna tightly covered in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Sear tuna in a hot pan with a drizzle of vegetable oil to keep it from sticking, approximately 2 minutes each side. Have all components ready to go when you put the tuna in the pan so that you can assemble everything while the tuna is still hot. When the tuna is done, cut it into 4 lengthwise strips, and then cut each of those strips lengthwise again so that they look like the slices in the top photo. Lay 1 sheet of seaweed onto the mat and spread 1/3 of the cooked rice all over the sheet except for a 1-inch border at the top. Lay 2 slices of tuna and 1 piece of celery lengthwise along the bottom of the rice. Using your finger, dab water along the top border and then roll the sushi shut, using the wet seaweed edge as a seal. Repeat for the next 2 sheets. Using a sharp knife, cut each roll into bite-size pieces. Put soy sauce and whatever amount of wasabi you like into a small dish, dip, and enjoy!

Tuna Marinade
for a 1/3 lb tuna steak
Adapted from Simply Recipes

1 TBSP canola/vegetable oil
1 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 TBSP of diced pickled ginger (or grated fresh, if you have it)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 green onion (scallion) thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 lime

Supreming a Grapefruit

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Supreming is a technique used to cut citrus for garnish in a way that removes all of the pith/membrane and leaves only the flesh. Used typically on desserts and salads, it is a pretty but wasteful way to use citrus. However, I decided to practice my knife skills and give supreming a grapefruit a try. Please pardon the poorly lit pictures, it was early and the grapefruit was destined to be my breakfast.

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First you must cut away the skin, removing as much of the white pith along with it. The pith is unsightly on a supremed citrus wedge, but it is also somewhat bitter.

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Next, cut in between each of the segment dividers and remove as much of the flesh while maintaining a perfect wedge shape and not including any membrane. Remove seeds as necessary, but do your best to maintain the wedge shape of the original section. Repeat for the whole grapefruit,, being careful to not accidentally cut two wedges into one.

Chances are slim that I will ever actually need to supreme citrus for garnish (I really don’t cook anything that fancy), but it is nice to know that it is something I am capable of and to be able to demonstrate how relatively easy it is!

Chipotle White Bean Casserole

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This chipotle white bean casserole is a delicious and inexpensive dish that is chock full of color and flavor. The spice of the chipotle helps disguise the kale (for those who are skiddish about leafy greens) and adds a whole other dimension to this already flavorful and textural dish.

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It is a dish with a few components, but the can all be prepared ahead, even the night before, and the use of canned beans instead of dried really speeds up the process. If you make all the components beforehand this can be a forty-five minute meal with very little prep time! Serve with a crunchy green salad and you have an amazing weeknight meal!

Chipotle White Bean Casserole
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients
For the Chipotle-Tomato Sauce
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
2 big pinches of red pepper flakes
2 pinches of salt
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 1/2 TBS adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers

For the Cilantro Pesto
1 medium clove of garlic
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
big pinch of salt

1 19oz can white/cannellini beans
1 19oz can garbanzo beans
heaping 2/3 cup chopped and de-stemmed kale or chard
1 1/2 cups cotija or other salty, hard, crumbly cheese (like feta)
1 slice wheat bread, crumbled and dried out in the toaster or regular oven

Method
For the Chipotle-Tomato Sauce:
Place the 2 tablespoons olive oil, red pepper flakes, couple pinches of salt, and chopped garlic into a cold medium saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and the oregano and heat to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the adobo sauce. Taste the sauce (careful not to burn yourself!). Adjust seasoning to make it as spicy/smoky/garlicky/etc as you like.

For the Cilantro Pesto:
Combine the clove of garlic and cilantro in a food processor or blender. Pulse while you drizzle in the olive oil (you could also do this by hand in a mortar and pestle). Season with a bit of salt and set aside.

For the Bread Crumbs:
Tear the piece of wheat bread into small pieces and then rub those between your fingers in order to turn it into crumbs. Place on a baking sheet in either a toaster oven or the regular oven, baked at 250 until dry (about 10 minutes).

To assemble and bake:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a 9×13 baking pan (metal or glass) toss the drained beans with the tomato sauce and the kale. Sprinkle with the crumbled cheese and bake in the top-third of the oven for twenty-five to forty minutes, the key is for the cheese to start browning and any visible beans to get crusty (especially at the edges). Remove from oven and let sit for about ten minutes. Top the beans with the breadcrumbs and just before serving drizzle with the cilantro pesto.