Sugar High Fridays #53 ~ The Test of Time Round-Up

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Sugar High Fridays is a monthly dessert blogging event created by Jennifer, the Domestic Goddess.  Each month we get our sugar high on in keeping with a theme. This month, as the hostess of SHF #53, I chose “The Test of Time – Desserts over a century old” and bloggers from all corners of the sugar high world reached back through the ages with their spoons and mixing bowls, to grandparents and ancestors and beyond, to bring some time-tested sweet treats of yore onto our plates.

Join me now for a trip backwards through time, beginning with the recent past and nibbling our way all the way back to antiquity. And be sure to check out the individual posts for family memories, cooking adventures, old recipes in their original curious formats, and fascinating, well-researched culinary history!

130 years ago ~

Great Grandma Kelly’s Jam Cake

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Laura of The Spiced Life recreates her grandmother’s great-grandmother’s jam cake, starting with figuring out how to actually make the cake! The long line of matriarchs passed down the ingredients through the years, but figured their descendants should be smart enough to figure out the rest of the directions. Luckily Laura was more than up to the challenge, as her moist, elegant creation attests!

140 years ago ~

Speculaas

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Friedl of Kitchen Fun gets daring with speculaas, bringing this traditional autumn and winter cookie into the spring air and trying her hand at a gluten-free version. Happily for Friedl (and for the rest of us who can’t eat wheat) gluten-free speculaas is delicious speculaas. And something tells me they taste every bit as tasty shaped into a sweet heart as they do molded into a windmill!

150 years ago ~

Tilslørte bondepiker

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Janne of The Bitesize makes a traditional Norwegian dessert passed down to her from her great-grandmother. She points out perceptively that old recipes are more likely to feature natural and local ingredients, and this dessert makes mouth-watering use of things like breadcrumbs, apples, and cream that would have been commonly available in a 19th century Norwegian household. The name translates to “veiled, rural girls” but, as Janne asks, which layer is the veil and which is the girl?

160 years ago ~

Strawberry Shortcake

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NAOmni of Not Another Omnivore grew up eating strawberry shortcake on her grandparents’ farm and once she started researching its history realized it was well over a century old. Her post explores all the different options for the dessert’s “carbohydrate” component, from biscuit to pound cake to angel food cake. But looking at NAOmni’s photo I’m wondering, does the carb even matter when you’ve got that tantalizing strawberry topping?

200 years ago ~

Far Aux Pruneaux (Far Breton)

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Inspired by a bottle of milk that needed using up, Pamela of The Cooking Ninja tries something new to her but quite old on this earth: Far Aux Pruneaux, a traditional dessert from Brittany, France with a dense flan filling flecked with sweet prunes. Dating back to the 18th century, this dish has evolved through the years from a savory buckwheat flan to the incredibly delicious sweet version we know today. (Can you tell this is one of my favorite desserts of all time? I am practically drooling on my keyboard…)

250 years ago ~

Madeleines

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Elodie of yummyaourt gives Proust a run for his money with her charming “Once upon a time” tale of the origin of the Madeleine. She calls them “little pieces of pleasure,” and, looking at her luscious photos, I couldn’t agree more, especially when she advises flavoring them with orange blossom water or Earl Grey tea!

Magdalenas

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Karolcia of For the Body and Soul makes the Spanish version of Madeleines, called Magdalenas. Instead of a shell shape, these are made in a mini-muffin pan and use olive oil rather than butter. Karolcia is a baker after my own heart with some kitchen experimentation – she bakes half her magdalenas with baking powder and half without, to see if it really makes a difference. I feel quite willing to devour these moist and crunchy lemony treats under any experimental conditions!

350 years ago ~

Tourte de Beurre

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Carolyn of 18thC Cuisine was the first person I thought of after I picked our theme, since everything in her fascinating blog is well over a century old. For Sugar High Friday she brings us a rich sugar cream pie flavored with almonds, baked on a piece of paper on the floor of the oven, using one of the oldest cooking techniques around!

Linzer Torte

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My own contribution to our test of time was a literal test – a test of four different recipes for what is believed to be the oldest known cake or torte in the world! (Although I’m not really sure how they reckon that since there are cake- and torte-like desserts in this round-up that are clearly as old or older…) I compared the original 17th century recipe with three gluten-free varieties to see if this famous Austrian treat not only held up to through the ages but could change with the times as well.

450 years ago ~

A Tarte of Strawberryes

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Digigirl of Don’t Forget Delicious! brings her highly applicable experience in Medieval re-creation to this event. The only trouble being, it turns out the Middle Ages weren’t exactly the golden age of dessert. But after combing through ancient cookbooks in Middle English and French, she finally turned to the internet for aid, and came up with this incredibly appetizing sweet and juicy tart featuring wine-soaked strawberries – or strawberryes as they called them back in the day!

500 years ago ~

Hyderabadi Almond-Semolina Halva

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Muneeba of An Edible Symphony gives props to her heritage with a fragrant, saffron-infused dessert. Even though her beloved Cuisinart met its end trying to prepare this dish, Muneeba soldiered on valiantly and the delectable results were clearly worth the effort! The hour it ending up taking to blend the mixture by hand gives me great sympathy and respect for the Hyderabadi princesses who first enjoyed almond-semolina halva. (Or great sympathy for their cooks, rather!)

1500 years ago ~

Hot Cross Buns

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Anna at Life’s Too Short For Mediocre Chocolate is a history buff, and puts her expertise to work sharing the history and symbolism of Hot Cross Buns. Adopted as an Easter sweet, these buns have their origins pre-Christian England where they once (and still do, for some) honored the Saxon Spring goddess Eostre. Whatever they stand for, cranberry walnut hot cross buns with cream cheese frosting sound like sweet, sweet symbolism to me!

2000 years ago ~

Daktyla

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Even Ivy, of Kopiaste… to Greek Hospitality, isn’t sure how old the recipe is for daktyla, one of the best-known pastries of Cyprus, only that is has been passed down in her family from generation to generation. I did some research on similar pastries, however, and it seems daktyla may have been around for two thousand years! Clearly these heavenly phyllo “fingers” stuffed with almonds and orange blossom water have had the staying power needed to make it through the ages.

Payasam/Kheer

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Sra of When My Soup Came Alive puts a new spin on a very old formula by making an ancient Indian rice pudding from couscous. The results look positively ambrosial – I think you may start a trend here, Sra! What magic can come from expediency – in this case a years-old packet of couscous that needs to be used up becomes a reworked classic that will probably get made again and again.

Back to the present day ~

Well, friends, there’s the round-up! Thank you for joining me on this excellent adventure through time and place. I truly enjoyed all your marvelous creations and I learned so much! I feel ready for my pop quiz on dessert history now…

I’ll meet you next month for another sweet, sweet Friday!

Linzer Tortztravaganza!

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I picked the Sugar High Fridays theme “Test of Time – Desserts over a century old” because I thought it would be cool and something we hadn’t done before. I didn’t have any particular dessert in mind to make myself, but then in a flash I realized what it would have to be.

Laurie Stern, the perfumer for the marvelous Velvet and Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery, is a client of mine and a very dear friend, and back in February I put together a Valentine’s Day newsletter for the Purrfumery featuring her famous Linzer Tortes. Every year Laurie and a friend make huge batches of Linzer Torte dough which they shape into hearts, fill with raspberry jam, decorate with fanciful flowers and leaves made from dough, and give out to all their friends. Now that I can’t eat wheat I have to pass, sadly, on my annual torte treat, and I’ve been wondering if there isn’t a way to turn this nut-and-wheat flour dough into something deliciously gluten-free.

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The research I did while working on the newsletter turned up a surprising fact: Linzer Torte is the oldest known cake or torte in the world. This made it a perfect sweet for my Sugar High Friday – not just old, but the oldest cake in the world! A recipe dating back to 1653 was found in a monastery archive in a collection called “Book of All Kinds of Home-Made Things, Such as Sweet Dishes, Spices, Cakes and also Every Kind of Fruit and Other Good and Useful Things, etc.”

It’s funny though – I know 1653 means Linzer Torte has been around for a long time (over 350 years!) but when I see 1653 as the date of the oldest known cake, what I think about is how long humanity didn’t have cake (over 10,000 years!). What a shame!

So back to our culinary history lesson. Linzer Torte is very old, and appears to have been named for Linz, Austria, although there were some spurious rumours floating about in the early 20th century that it was a Viennese baker named Linzer who actually created the cake. Those Viennese – as if it weren’t enough to have invented psychoanalysis, modern philosophy, quantum mechanics, and Sachertorte, now they have to try to take Linzer Torte away from poor Linz.

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The original Linzer Torte recipes, the ones from 1653, were based on almonds, with the popular hazelnut variation coming later. Spices were not specified, clarified butter was kneaded into the dough, and the torte was baked like a pie in a “silver dish.” The latticed top and the jam or jelly filling (originally red currant jelly) have been around since the beginning. Eventually the dish evolved to become the beloved treat it is today, featuring a free-standing crust made from ground almonds, hazelnuts, or both, combined with wheat flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and a mixture of lemon, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and vanilla.

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In deciding what to make, I combed the web and my cookbooks for Linzer Torte inspiration. I knew I wanted to follow one of these very old recipes, since that’s part of the fun for me of this month’s theme. But I also wanted to see if I could find a successful gluten-free version to add to my own baking repertoire. And I had the notion that Linzer Torte could be a delicious breakfast treat if it weren’t so full of sugar and butter, so when I found a recipe using agave nectar and grapeseed oil, I decided to try that as well.

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The great Linzer Torte Experiment (or Linzer Tortztravaganza! as I like to call it) was about to begin.

linzer_originalIn the first corner: the “Original Linzer Torte,” straight from the Linz tourism website and the nearest bet I could find for a translation of the 17th century recipes. Made with wheat, this torte is not about to become a regular addition to my life, but I wanted to start with the original.

lonzer_bostonIn the next corner: the Boston Globe Gluten-Free Linzer Torte. This torte uses garbanzo bean flour and cornstarch in place of the wheat flour. I decided to use the spices called for in this recipe, with the addition of freshly grated nutmeg, in all the tortes. I wanted to compare the substrate, not the flavoring, of each one.

linzer_agave1Holding down the healthy corner: Linzer Hearts from the blog Elana’s Pantry. These are made using only almond flour, with grapeseed oil in place of butter and agave nectar instead of sugar. This recipe is vegan as well, no eggs. The original recipe was for cookies, but I decided to see how it worked as a torte.

linzer_betteRounding out the quartet: I looked through my Bette Hagman dessert book (Bette was the grand doyenne of gluten-free baking) to see if she had a recipe for Linzer Torte and found one for Nut Crust Supreme that seemed along similar lines. I decided to follow my friend Laurie’s Valentine’s torte recipe, the one that originally sparked my Linzer lust, but with Bette’s GF Flour Mix (1 part rice flour, 2/3 part tapioca flour, 1/3 part potato starch) in place of the wheat flour.

To see the four recipes I used with my own tweaks, notes, and ultimate reviews, please check out my detailed Linzer Torte page. (Coming soon!)

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Things I learned while researching and making quarter-scaled versions of FOUR different Linzer Torte recipes:

~ Linzer Torte lattice should form a diamond pattern, not a perpendicular, or square, pattern as you often see on American pies.

~ There is a reason the high art of pastry is founded on wheat flour. Dough containing wheat gluten looks better, cooks better, and weaves better than other doughs.

~ I really am allergic to wheat. So please someone remind me to stop eating it, even in the interest of science and sexy lattices.

~ My oven thermostat seems to be around 75 degrees off.

~ There is an awesome website called Gourmet Sleuth that converts weights of specific foods into volume measurements. This was invaluable since between my four recipes I was dealing with amounts given in both grams and ounces, and I don’t have a kitchen scale.

~ Trader Joe’s has discontinued their Ground Hazelnut Meal and now carries only Ground Almond Meal. I had been counting on finding both there, and had to make a decision between using only almonds for the experiment or driving across town to get whole hazelnuts to grind in the food processor. I thought about what SHF blogger Janne wrote about old recipes being ones that, of course, will tend to use natural and locally available ingredients. I decided that since I am in California and not in Austria, almonds would do just fine.

~ Three words: Meyer. Lemon. Zest. (They may be out of season but I had some in my freezer – there’s no excuse not to use it where it will really shine!)

~ In my research I came across one Linzer Torte recipe from 1822. I did not recreate this one (it calls for 12 eggs!), but I used it as a reference as I made my other recipes. I now wholeheartedly agree with the direction to include “the fine cutted peel of one lemon and a little of its juice.” The Linzer doughs I made with juice and zest were head and shoulders in terms of aroma and subtle flavor over those made with zest alone.

~ There is also another nugget of essential Linzer wisdom in the 1822 recipe. Linzer Torte is not actually that good right after you bake it. On the other hand, “Please let it rest one or two days, the taste will win enormously!”

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Yum, yum, yum – it’s a vegetarian, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday!

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Whee! It was a pretty nice week! Some delicious things were cooked and eaten and even occasionally photographed!

I invented one of my new favorite dishes, Sunrise Noodles with Gingered Greens and Tofu. I keep dreaming about that incredible pink color and that soft rice noodle texture and that piquant lime flavor. Duck discovered our new favorite broccoli recipe ever, Roasted Broccoli with Pine Nuts and Lemon Zest (oh man I can’t wait to try it with Meyer lemons). I rescued myself from a cold with improvised Tom Yum soup. And I had my first BLT (gluten-free and vegan, of course) in maybe ten years.

I hope your week to come is as satisfying as mine just was! Enjoy the menu!

Monday: Sunrise Noodles with Gingered Greens and Tofu (Gingered chard and baby bok choy with lime-pink rice noodles and broiled tofu)

Tuesday: Roasted root vegetables (beets, Yukon Golds potatoes, garlic, red onion, carrot, parsnip, with rosemary from my little plant), crackers and cheese

Wednesday: Roasted broccoli with pine nuts and lemon zest, fennel-marinated pan-fried tempeh (Moosewood Cooks at Home), brown jasmine rice

Thursday: Homemade Tom Yum soup with rice noodles, tofu, shitake mushrooms, tomato, carrots, onion and green peas

Friday: BLT with GF toast, tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, and vegan aioli

Saturday: Tamales, steamed beet greens and kale with kale sauce, brown jasmine rice

Sunday: Sprouted corn quesadillas with Clover Stornetta Monterey Jack and pumpkin seed salsa

For more Menu Plan Monday madness, check out the huge compendium over at I’m an Organizing Junkie. And the wonderful Gluten-Free Menu Swap, organized by Cheryl of  GF Goodness, is being hosted this week at Weird and Surprisingly Good.

Finally, if you meant to participate in this month’s Sugar High Friday but know you won’t make today’s deadline, I will still be accepting entries for the next few days! So just try to get it to me by oh, let’s say, Wednesday evening or so.

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“Semi-homemade” from scratch

Yuck. I’m sick. (*whine, whine, whine*)

I have some kind of sore throat, stuffy nose, achey sinus thing and I feel gross all over. When I feel this way, there is only one food I want: Tom Yum soup. Lovely clear broth so it’s light on the system, lots of heat to open up those sinuses, enough veggies and tofu that my body has some fuel to keep going. And that lilting, incomparable flavor – lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and lime juice – like sweet-and-sour refined and taken to the pinnacle of possibility.

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Usually when I’m sick I get a big tub of it from the Thai place down the street, but lately their tubs have been shrinking and besides we had take-out from them last night, before I knew I would be sick and require my Tom Yum fix. So I decided to try to make my own version, figuring if I could at least hit the basic notes – acid, heat, sweet – I would get a similar medicinal effect if not the exact flavors. I started surfing the web for ideas and it quickly became clear that I had one major problem: no lemongrass.

You can’t make Tom Yum soup without lemongrass. It would just be some other kind of soup. And you can’t really make lemongrass flavor from something else, either. But then in my web travels I came across an old Slashfood post called “Semi-homemade: Tom Yum” that sang the praises of using prepared Tom Yum paste (that the author buys, coincidentally, at my favorite Asian-foods market here in SF) to whip up a bowl of Tom Yum in minutes. No need to keep lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, etc., around the house at all times. All very well and good, only I didn’t have any prepared Tom Yum paste, either. Or did I?

I did a search for Tom Yum paste and found the ingredients: Lemongrass, soya bean oil, onion, salt, chili, water, galangal, lime juice, sugar, garlic, msg, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp extract flavor, citric acid. Leaving aside the fillers and the non-veg ingredients, I realized Tom Yum paste was an awful lot like the homemade yellow curry paste I had sitting in my freezer.

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See, I love those little jars of red and green curry paste made by Thai Kitchen. I find them perfectly acceptable for making curry at home. But my favorite, above all other Thai dishes, is yellow curry, and I have been unable to find prepared yellow curry paste anywhere. So last summer I found a wonderful recipe from Jugalbandi, bit the bullet, and made my own yellow curry paste (more complicated in the ingredient-gathering than the actual preparation) and ended up with an extra 1/4 cup wrapped in wax paper in my freezer.

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The soup itself was a very improvised affair. I’m not going to bother with giving a recipe, because if you have the ingredients around to make curry paste from scratch, which you would have to do in order to reproduce my version of the soup, then you might as well make actual Tom Yum soup from scratch. And if you are using a prepared Tom Yum paste, your flavorings may be completely different and the proportions of lime juice, etc., that I used won’t be very helpful.

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I’ll sketch a basic outline, though, in case you happen to have some yellow curry paste around and feel like making Tom Yum soup with it.

Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup from Yellow Curry Paste

Bring 4 cups broth plus 2 cups water to a simmer and add 1/4 cup yellow curry paste. I threw in 3 large kaffir lime leaves I had in my freezer as well. At this point I also added half a pack of firm tofu, cubed. The tofu comes out pretty bland, but that’s part of the Tom Yum experience for me. Simmer everything for 5 or so minutes. Then add half an onion, thinly sliced, 1 carrot, thinly sliced on the diagonal, a few sliced shitake mushrooms (already soaked in hot water for 30 minutes), half a can of sliced water chestnuts, and some frozen peas. If you have canned straw mushrooms, canned baby corn, button mushrooms, and/or baby bok choy, these would all be yummy to add.  Cook for a few minutes, then add a tomato, sliced into thin wedges. Also add lime juice (at least 1 lime’s worth – I use a plastic squeezie lime), and a little mirin or sugar. Season to taste using lime juice, mirin or sugar, and a tiny bit of soy sauce if necessary (I do not like soy sauce in my Tom Yum, but Duck loves it). Serve immediately, plain or over cooked rice noodles, topped with full stalks of cilantro if you have it.

Washoku, the first principle

“Five colors, or go shiki, suggests that every meal include foods that are red, yellow, green, black, and white. (Often very dark colors, particularly, deep purple – eggplant, grapes – and sometimes brown – shitake mushrooms – are counted as black.) Vitamins and minerals naturally come into balance with a colorful range of foods.” — Elizabeth Andoh, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen

Washoku, the book, is a huge and glossy tome filled with, as the subtitle suggests, recipes from the Japanese home kitchen. But before I started reading her book, I heard Andoh interviewed on The Splendid Table, my beloved NPR food show, and she talked about how the principles of washoku can be easily applied to a Western meal. After I started reading the book, I began looking for ways to bring the principles into any meal I prepare.

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One of my first washoku meal-tweaks was a simple meal of homemade falafel over quinoa with tahini sauce, accompanied by a salad of grated daikon and carrot. Pretty plain on the plate – the falafel, quinoa, and tahini sauce all fall into your basic brown-to-tan spectrum, and the only color offered up by the salad, which I had been eating topped with toasted white sesame seeds (hello, brown-to-tan!), is the orange carrot.

So I checked the list Andoh outlines in the first principle of washoku, that of “five colors.” White was covered nicely by the daikon, and the orange carrots definitely seemed to me to be holding up the “yellow” end of things. But this plate of tan goodness was seriously defective in the other color departments, and, washoku aside, a big plate of neutral-colored food always kind of depresses me. (I remember my mom being horrified when she came to visit me at college – everything served in the dining hall that night was white-to-tan, from the fish filets to the cauliflower and mashed potatoes right down to the vanilla pudding for dessert. It was a big plate o’ neutral. Yum.)

So I brought a little color to my plate. Toasted black sesame seeds for the salad. A sexy line of sriracha hot sauce wending its way across the falafel brought in red and a sprinkle of parsely balanced the whole plate out with some green. Clearly this was not a jewel-like meal fit for an emperor – I was more interested in eating my lunch than in perfect plating – but having this extra boost of color significantly enhanced my enjoyment of the meal. Washoku is beginning to creep in, and, rather than feeling like a rule or a structure, it actually feels like something intuitive and right is coming home.

Oh, pretty!

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Duck was craving noodles. I wanted something satisfying and filling, but also fresh and healthy. I looked in the fridge and found red chard, baby bok choy, and tofu. A quick consultation of my beloved Moosewood Cooks at Home spreadsheet offered up Gingered Greens and Tofu, page 232, and things just kind of went from there. I riffed off the Moosewood recipe to end up with something delicious and stunningly beautiful. An unexpected side-effect of red chard + rice noodles is a sea of gorgeous, sunrise-tinted noodles. They tasted of lime and, somehow, lime tasted of pink.

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Sunrise Noodles with Gingered Greens and Tofu (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)

Rice noodles (I used half of a 14 oz packet from Thai Kitchen)

Tofu marinade:
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. dry sherry or Shaoxing cooking wine
1/4 c. rice vinegar
3 T. brown sugar

1-1.5 lbs firm tofu, blocks cut into 1/2-inch slices and then into 1-inch squares

4 T. peanut or vegetable oil
2 T. grated fresh ginger root
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 bunch red chard, lower stalks removed (but don’t pull the stalks out of the leaves), coarsely shredded
1-2 baby bok choy, coarsely shredded (optional)

3 T. lime juice
2 T. thinly sliced scallion + more for garnish
pinch of cayenne or splash of chili oil

To cook rice noodles: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Turn off heat and immerse rice noodles in hot water for 3-5 minutes until noodles are soft, cooked through but still firm and al dente, not mushy. (Check firmness frequently, as you would regular pasta.) Rinse with cold water for 30 seconds. Drain well and set aside.

Make tofu marinade: In a small saucepan, bring the marinade ingredients to a boil. Simmer for one minute and remove from heat. Add the tofu squares to the pot of marinade, immersing them as much as possible. Gently stir in 2 T. of the peanut oil. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Make lime juice mixture: Combine lime juice, scallions, and cayenne or chili oil in a small dish and set aside.

Preheat broiler. Prep all the remaining ingredients and have them at hand before beginning to stir-fry.

Place the tofu in a single layer in a nonreactive heatproof pan, covered with the marinade, or remove tofu from marinade, reserving marinade for later, and place on a piece of foil (depending on how your broiler works). Broil the tofu for 7-8 minutes; then turn it over with a spatula and brown the other side. Ideally, the tofu will get nicely browned and firm on the outside, chewy on the inside.

While the tofu broils, heat the remaining 2 T. of oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Stir in the ginger and garlic for a few seconds and then quickly add the chard and bok choy. Stir constantly on high heat until the greens wilt. When the greens are just tender, gently stir in the rice noodles and lime juice, scallion, and chili mixture. Gently toss the noodles and greens together until the rice noodles are heated through. The noodles should turn a lovely shade of pink. Remove from heat. When the tofu is browned, gently toss it with the reserved marinade and the noodles and greens, reheating if necessary. Top with a few raw scallions slices and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Washoku, an introduction

I’ve been reading the most fascinating book, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, by Elizabeth Andoh. In the book, Andoh (described on the book jacket as “the leading English-language authority on the foodways of Japan”) writes about the Japanese principles of washoku, the “harmony of food.”

As Andoh explains it, washoku is “both a culinary philosophy and the simple, nutritionally balanced food prepared in that spirit.” One of the things I foundbookcover most interesting is that, although Andoh details a set of principles that form the basis of washoku, she writes that in Japan washoku is so old and so deeply ingrained in the culture that “most Japanese today would have a hard time articulating washoku notions.” Nevertheless they follow them instinctively, whether preparing a home-cooked meal or putting together a meal of packaged foods from the supermarket or even the convenience store!

This made me think about the food principles that each culture follows intuitively. For the better part of the 20th century, most white Americans had a common understanding about how a plate of food should look – this much meat, this much starch, this much vegetable. I imagine a Japanese visitor wondering how each ’50s housewife knew to portion out and place exactly so much meatloaf, mashed potato, and green beans, each in their own zone on the plate. Why are potatoes served with gravy and not with tomato sauce? Why is meatloaf topped with ketchup and not mustard?

I have my own intuitive principles around food preparation and presentation, influenced most strongly by my mother. More than any specific recipes or dishes, what I remember learning were ideas about how food should look on the plate: lots of colors, pretty arrangements, interesting contrasts of textures. And above all, bounty. Not so much for an individual plate, but every platter, every holiday table, should be brimming with food, so much that every person could take as much as they craved and never have to worry for the people who hadn’t yet helped themselves.

Washoku, the book, is part cookbook, part comprehensive Japanese pantry-stocking and ingredients guide (with gorgeous, glossy photos of all the ingredients as well as prepared dishes), and part introduction to the beautiful and sensible principles that make up the washoku philosophy. I haven’t used the pantry-stocking guide or explored any of the recipes yet, but the washoku principles really resonate with me and I will be writing more about them here as I see how they incorporate into my life.

Cheese, glorious cheese, for a gluten-free, vegetarian Menu Plan Monday

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This past week found me even more tired than the one before it. I still went out quite a bit and got a lot done, I just spent all the interim times collapsed in a heap. One of the big tasks I accomplished was a major shopping trip to the food co-op, where I hadn’t been since January. This meant I had cheese in the house for the first time in over a month. And it was cheese that came to my rescue this week, as the savior of the tired person. Cheese turns a snack into a meal and answers the question “I’m so hungry but so tired, what shall I have for dinner?” with a single, glorious word. (Oh, and for the record, I was way too tired to have taken the photos of Bravo Farms cheddar, Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk, and Clover Stornetta Monterey jack up above – all the pics of these humane, local, sustainable cheeses are cadged from the interweb!)

So read on for a very simple and decidedly NON-vegan menu plan. (Sorry to all my vegan friends that there is little here for you this week. And don’t worry, vegan Duck managed nicely on his own – things made with wheat are another easy answer to the dinner question.) This week’s Gluten-Free Menu Swap is hosted by that goddess of gluten-free and vegan blogging, Sea at Book Yum. Her theme for the week was nuts, and while my menu isn’t exactly peppered with them, I did end up eating a few this week. Toasted walnuts in the arugula salad, pumpkin seeds in the salsa (they’re like a nut, right?) and handfuls of almonds during the early part of the week before I went to the store and we had nothing else to eat in the house.

This week the huge compendium of Menu Plan Mondays from all over the web, usually hosted at I’m an Organizing Junkie, is being hosted by $5 Dinners. Take a look at the list – there’s something there for everyone!

And don’t forget! The deadline for this month’s Sugar High Friday dessert event is March 23rd. I really hope to see you all there!

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Monday:
GF mac and cheese with baby broccoli

Tuesday:
Tangy red lentils with goat yogurt and mustard seeds
Stir-fry of cabbage, red onion, and carrots with white rice

Wednesday:
Salad of arugula, apples, warm tempeh bacon and toasted walnuts with Hollyhock dressing
Quinoa with borscht, yogurt, and caraway seeds

Thursday:
Raw foods salad of bok choy, carrots, daikon and kelp noodles with an almond butter-coconut water-cider vinegar dressing
Sprouted corn quesadilla with Clover jack cheese and pumpkin seed salsa

Friday:
Amy’s Lentil Vegetable soup
GF toast with Bravo Farms cheddar and Maille tarragon mustard

Saturday:
Pan-cooked frittata of eggs, bok choy, carrots, daikon radish, Bravo Farms cheddar, roasted green chiles, quinoa, and pumpkin seed salsa

Sunday:
Pink lady apple, GF black pepper crackers, Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese

A little less socializing for a gluten-free, vegan Menu Plan Monday

social_menu2

Well, the awesome energy that was propelling my previous MPM stuttered to something of a halt last week due to fatigue, an abundance of social activity and the poor customer service of Eating with the Seasons (in other words, no more CSA box)*. So here’s another retroactive menu plan that harkens back to those glory days where we were actually making lots of new Moosewood recipes and eating fabulous meals every night!

After you’ve taken a look at the menu, please check out the announcement for this month’s Sugar High Fridays event. This is a super fun and incredibly long-running sweets event, and I have the honor of hosting this month’s round. If you like sweets (and who doesn’t?) won’t you cook up something fun and join us?

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is being hosted over at lovely Gluten Free Goodness. For a huge compendium of Menu Plan Mondays, visit the giant list at I’m an Organizing Junkie.

Monday:
Impressionist cauliflower
Raw kale salad with avocado and cherry tomatoes
Spanish stew with chick peas, potatoes, and artichoke hearts (Moosewood at Home)

Tuesday:
“Sloppy sushi” rolls with nori, sushi rice, toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce, and flax oil
Steamed asparagus with citrus dressing (Moosewood Low Fat)
Broiled portabello mushrooms with miso-balsamic glaze (MLF)

Wednesday:
Fennel-seasoned pan-fried tempeh (Moosewood at Home)
Glazed sweet potatoes with maple syrup and lime

Steamed napa cabbage with pickled ginger and vinegar-soy sauce

Thursday:
Nature’s Burger or homemade falafel with arugula and cherry tomatoes
Sweet potato fries
(made with white sweet potatoes – the best for fries!) with vegan aioli
Baby broccoli with garlic and soy sauce

Friday:
Black-eyed pea curry (5 Spices, 50 Dishes)
Steamed beet greens
Quinoa

Saturday:
Broiled tofu (Moosewood at Home)
Kale with kale sauce
“Sloppy sushi” rolls

Sunday:
Quick vegetarian borscht (I added a Yukon potato and some caraway seeds to the recipe)

*For those who care, here are the reasons why we quit Eating with the Seasons: Mostly it was an issue of style. EWTS was more of an online delivery service, with a huge list of produce to choose from each week, much of it coming from farms far to the South or North of here. Two of the main reasons we get a CSA box are so we can be more connected to specific farmers who grow our food and so we can eat locally and in season. It didn’t really feel like that was being facilitated by the EWTS box.

But the capper was the poor customer service we received. The people we spoke to on the phone never seemed well informed about the CSA service, which was frustrating. Finally, we wanted to put our box on hold as we do periodically to check back in and make sure getting a CSA box is still the right choice for us. When I called to find out if we could do this, we were told that we would be purged from the EWTS membership and probably would not be able to get back in later. The way this was presented was as a kind of threat to keep us from putting our box on hold. (Of course it had the immediate effect of making me want to quit rather than just take some time off.) When I spoke to someone else there later, they had no idea what I was talking about and assured me we would remain EWTS members forever and could resume whenever we wanted. I hate to think that there’s one confused and/or nasty person spoiling the customer service for EWTS, but it was definitely a series of frustrating interactions! We’re going to try a different CSA soon, one that is more connected to a specific farm.

Energizing broccoli for the fatigued cook

broccoli
There is, for me, no vegetable more vegetable-y than broccoli. When I am craving a serious does of healthy veggie goodness, I usually want either broccoli or kale. But steamed broccoli is often just a little too plain, especially to have for several meals in a row. And something a bit more exciting, like stir-fried broccoli, is often too labor-intensive when I’m tired and just want to get dinner on the table.

But welcome to the most delicious compromise you’ll ever meet! Chopped garlic (and as a time and labor-saver you can chop the pieces fairly large because they are going to be steamed until they are mild) is thrown on top of chopped broccoli, and the whole mix is cooked in a tiny bit of water and soy sauce. One pot, no oil, no mixing sauces. Because you are cooking it in a tiny bit of water, it retains more nutrients than if you boiled or blanched it, but there’s no steamer basket to wash!

This recipe is also great for taking the bitterness out of broccoli rabe, also often known as “broccolini”. I had a friend who otherwise couldn’t stand the bitter taste of broccoli rabe, but loved it when prepared this way.

Easiest Broccoli with Garlic and Soy Sauce

1 bunch broccoli, baby broccoli, broccolini, or broccoli rabe
5-7 cloves of garlic
1/2 Cup water
2 tsp. soy sauce or wheat-free tamari

Chop broccoli into pieces. For baby broccoli or broccoli rabe you can leave the stalks whole, too. Chop garlic into small pieces. You don’t have to mince, nor do the pieces have to be pretty or evenly sized.

Combine the water, soy sauce, and chopped garlic in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Add the broccoli, cover, and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

Serve the broccoli immediately, with or without the garlic pieces.