Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vegetarian Moussaka

This is a beautiful recipe - it combines a rich tomato-chickpea-lentil stew with a creamy bechamel sauce and roasted potatoes and eggplant.  It is, however, very time and ingredient intensive, although I think it's worth it.  It also makes enough for about 12 - i.e. lots of leftovers!  Adapted from Jamie Oliver.


15g dried porcini mushrooms
2 onions, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
a handful fresh herb leaves (such as rosemary, sage)
dried oregano
250ml red wine
1 400g can of chickpeas, drained
1 400g can lentils, drained
4 bay leaves
3 400g cans chopped tomatoes
4 eggplants, cut into 1/2" round slices
800g potatoes, cut into 1/4" round slices
750ml milk
5 peppercorns
75g butter
75g flour
150g feta cheese
100g parmesian or pecorino
2 large egg yolks
olive oil
olive oil spray
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.  Place porcini in a small bowl and cover with boiling water, then set aside to soak. 
  2. Saute onion and garlic in 1T olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until translucent.
  3. Take porcini out of bowl (reserving the water), and roughly chop. At the same time, bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.
  4. Add to the onions, along with fresh herbs and 1t oregano, and saute for 30 seconds more, until fragrant.
  5.  Add wine, chickpeas, lentils, 2 bay leaves, tomatoes, and porcini water - season to taste, and simmer over low heat for ~1 hour, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
  6. Meanwhile, parboil potatoes by cooking in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drain and allow to dry.
  7. Place potatoes in large roasting tray, season with oil and a few pinches of dried oregano, and toss to coat evenly.  Spread in an even layer and set aside.
  8. Prepare another large roasting tray with olive oil spray, and spread eggplant in a single layer.  Spray top of eggplants, then add another single layer of eggplant, and spray again.  Continue layering eggplant and spray until all eggplant slices are in the tray.
  9. Roast potatoes and eggplant in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.  Once cooked, set aside.
  10. Add butter to a medium-large saucepan, and heat over medium heat - add flour and combine to form a paste, then cook for ~2 minutes, until butter-flour mixture is fragrant and has a slight golden color.
  11. Gradually stir in milk, making sure that there are no lumps of flour - add bay leaves and peppercorns, and stir mixture until it is  hot enough that it starts to thicken.
  12. Crumble in 50g feta, and stir to combine - set aside.
  13. Once the tomato mixture, roasted vegetables, and sauce are done, you can begin to assemble the moussaka: take roasting pan full of potatoes, cover with half the ragù, layer layer half the aubergines on top, and repeat with the remaining ragù and aubergines. 
  14. Whisk egg yolks into the béchamel sauce, then gently pour onto the aubergines in an even layer.
  15. Crumble and grate the remaining cheese on top, and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and bubbling. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Vanilla mascarpone ice cream

I made this ice cream without an ice cream maker - the custard base keeps it from forming ice crystals that are too big.  Adapted from BBC Good Food.


3 large egg yolks
100g golden caster sugar
300ml full-fat milk
250g mascarpone
seeds ½ vanilla pod (or 2 t vanilla extract)

  1. Put the yolks and sugar into a large bowl, and beat together until pale and thick.
  2. Put milk, mascarpone, and vanilla into medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to combine
  3. Once just boiling, take off the heat and whisk this gradually into the bowl with egg mix to make a custard.
  4. Pour custard back into saucepan, and cook gently for 15 mins, stirring constantly until mix is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (approximately 65-70C). Don’t let it boil or the eggs will scramble. 
  5. Freeze  custard for approx. 4 hrs in a container, stirring and breaking up the crystals every hour until thick and smooth. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tagliatelle with asparagus in a parmesian and creme fraiche sauce

This is a tangy and fresh version of carbonara - the creme fraiche adds a depth of flavor to the dish.  Adapted from The River Cafe Cook Book Green


500g-1kg asparagus, ends trimmed
500g tagliatelle (fresh is ideal)
250g parmesian, grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
400ml creme fraiche
2 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Fill a medium pot halfway with water, and bring to a very gentle simmer
  2. Rub the crushed garlic around the surface of a small-medium saucepan, and add creme fraiche, parmesian, and egg yolks
  3. Heat small pan filled with creme fraiche on top of medium pot filled with water - stir gently and cook until sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes (or until sauce reaches around 65C)
  4. Bring a large pan of water to boil, and season with 2 tablespoons of salt
  5. Prepare asparagus by slicing stems and tips into 1" pieces on the diagonal
  6. Cook pasta - read cooking instructions on pasta package, and add asparagus to boiling water so that it cooks with the pasta for the final 3-4 minutes, until both are al dente
  7. Drain pasta and asparagus, pour creme-fraiche sauce over and toss to mix

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Simple coconut rice

Try this rice with any Latin American or Asian flavored dishes, to add a bit or richness and flavor to your normal rice.


2 c short grain rice (or jasmine rice, if you want to use long grain - I prefer short grain as it makes the rice a bit sticky)
2 c water
2 c high-quality coconut milk

  1. Combine rice, water, and coconut milk in a medium-large pot
  2. Heat over medium-high heat until mixture starts to boil, stirring constantly, then reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid
  3. Cook 15-20 minutes (depending on rice's cooking time), until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice (check for doneness by eating the rice or looking for extra liquid)
  4. Remove pot from heat and leave rice covered 5-10 minutes, or until serving
  5. To serve, fluff with a fork

Black bean stew

I recently read an essay about eating beans in the book Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, which is a collection of essays about what people like (or don't like) to eat when they're alone. It had me hunkering for a hearty meal of black beans. The black beans recipe is from the book, and is somewhere between a soup and a stew. I added some crushed pineapple (with its juice) and spices to give the beans a little zing.


1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
1.5 t cumin
2 12-oz cans of black beans, drained of liquid
1 12-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 red (or yellow/green) pepper, chopped finely
1 small can of crushed pineapple (about 1 cup)
1 small chili, seeds removed and chopped finely (be careful if you use spicy chilis!)
Optional: adobo or other smoky flavored chilis/spices
olive oil/salt/pepper as needed

  1. Heat a large skillet or medium pot over medium-high heat, and saute onion in 1 T olive oil for ~5 minutes, until translucent. 
  2. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic, and fresh chili, and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Add beans, tomatoes, pineapple, and pepper - simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes (or longer if you want more concentrated flavors and a stew-like consistency)
  4. Serve with Coconut Rice and corainder

Coconut cardamom panna cotta

I originally made this as a vegan dessert with soy milk, but I've adapted it here for regular milk.  Panna cotta is deceptively simple, and this recipe adds a special twist with flavors of coconut and cardamom.  Adapted from BBC Good Food


serves 4

4 leaves of gelatin (1.25 t powder, can be substituted with the appropriate quantity of agar agar)
250 ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
250 ml cream of coconut
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle
splash (1 cap-full) of brandy
1-2 dried cardamom pods (2 for more flavor)
1/4 c caster sugar
pinch of salt
fruit or nuts to garnish - try pineapple, pistachio, or blueberries

  1. Combine milk, cream of coconut, and gelatin in saucepan - let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into cream/coconut mixture, then add the vanilla pod, brandy, and cardamom
  3. Heat over medium-high, stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved - remove from heat when when mixture is about 135F/57C (do not let it boil)
  4. Stir in salt and sugar, and mix until they are dissolved
  5. Strain vanilla bean and cardamom pods - then pour mixture into small ramekins and cover with plastic wrap
  6. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours, until the panna cotta is set
  7. Optional: unmold panna cotta by dipping each ramekin in boiling water for 3 seconds, running a moistened finger or knife around the edge of the custard to gently pull it away from the side of the ramekin, then inverting the custard over your hand and gently easing it onto a plate

White Chocolate, Apricot, and Cashew Biscotti

A delicious, nutty and fruity take on the traditional biscotti.  The recipe is a bit time intensive because of the double baking, but the result is totally worth it.  This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen.


2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 c sugar
4 T salted butter
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c white chocolate chips
1/2 c apricots, chopped (into small slivers, or pieces roughly the size of chocolate chips)
1/2 c cashews, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 175 C - then combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl.
  2. In another large bowl, beat together sugar and butter until creamy, about 3-4 minutes.  
  3. Add eggs (preferably one and at a time) and extract, beating after each addition.
  4. Combine flour mixture with butter/sugar mixture, either by hand or with the mixer speed on low.
  5. By hand, add in white chocolate, apricots, and cashews - mix to combine.  The dough will be lumpy and a little bit sticky.
  6. Prepare a baking sheet - either line with parchment paper or with a think layer of butter/oil spray.
  7. Using floured hands, split dough in half - shape each half into a long loaf, approximately 2x13".  Place each loaf size by side on the baking sheet, with at least 1 inch between them.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until loaves are gold brown and tops are just beginning to crack.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for ten minutes, preferably on a cooling rack or a cutting board.
  10. Lower oven temperature to 160, transfer loafs to a cutting board, and slice each loaf into 1/2" slices (a serrated knife works well for this).
  11. Bake biscotti slices on an ungreased/unprepared tray for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden brown and firm (the biscotti will continue hardening out of the oven).