Category Archives: Food

Oven Fries, BLTs, Watermelon Feta Salad, and a Tart

We’re enjoying summer while it lasts at Chez Raché. This weekend’s cooking festivities included…

Fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust and Lemon Mascarpone Cream

A Fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust and Lemon Mascarpone Cream from Epicurious.com. The flavor combinations in this tart are outstanding, especially the rosemary and creamy lemony filling. It’s the fresh figs that disappointed me. Maybe they just didn’t live up to the hype I created for such an expensive ingredient. Not the delicacy I imagined. I will make this again with another fruit.

I lost points for execution on the crust. I strongly suspect that I am overworking it, resulting in the dense crusts I’m producing, not the light-and-flaky crusts of my dreams.

At least it looks pretty.

Noah made perfect oven fries: crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

Oven Fries

No points lost for execution on these. And he receives extra credit for the dipping sauce: mayonnaise, smoked paprika, and garlic. We make this stuff up as we go.

We also used the mayo on these awesome BLTs.

BLT and Watermelon Feta Salad

Made with applewood smoked bacon, greenleaf lettuce, tomatoes, and caraway-seeded sourdough. On the side is a Watermelon, Feta, Black Olive, and Fennel Salad from The Figs Table by Todd English. The salad was just okay; we thought it had too many red onions.

This wasn’t the only sandwich of the week. I also enjoyed a delicious Tofu Dill sandwich on fresh-baked bread at The Red Herring.

Tofu Dill Sandwich

And because it was my birthday last week, the colleagues in my office treated me to fresh pastries from Pekara Bakehouse.

Borthday Pastries from Pekara Bakehouse

I chose the fruit tart in the left foreground. Someday I will make a crust like that.

Mushroom Omelet

Mushroom Omlette

I think this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten for breakfast: an omelet with sliced baby portobello mushrooms, rehydrated morel mushrooms, thyme, salt, pepper, and freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.

This is a few weeks old. I’ll be catching up with some more photos of this weekend’s dishes in the next few days.

Rosemary Pork Loin

I adopted some rosemary a few weeks ago. It lives in a pretty little pot in my living room, and I catch myself idly nibbling on the fronds when I’m talking on the phone. The scent permeates the air as soon as it’s touched, and it was almost overwhelming tonight when I snipped off a few whole branches to make this Rosemary Pork Loin.

Here’s the cast of characters (minus the fresh black pepper):

the cast of characters: pork loin, rosemary, sage, garlic, and kosher salt. Not pictured: freshly ground black pepper.

…pork loin, rosemary, sage, garlic, and kosher salt.

I’m fortunate to have a great neighbor who landscapes with herbs (I plan to do the same myself this fall), so I had access to fresh sage – two kinds to choose from, actually. I chopped several leaves of sage (about 10) along with the rosemary (about 1 tbsp), crushed some garlic (4 cloves), added a little kosher salt, and smashed it all together into a paste with a mortar and pestle.

rosemary, sage, garlic, and salt in a mortar and pestle

I should use this tool more often. It makes me feel like a mad kitchen scientist.

I added a generous amount of black pepper and a bit of olive oil (2 tsp?) to the mixture, rubbed it on the pork loin, then roasted it for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. I turned it after 30 minutes, and started with the fat side down.

rosemary pork loin

I think it turned out okay.

(Inspired by Roast Pork Loin with Garlic and Rosemary, from Epicurious.com – originally from Bon Appétit, July 1999.)

 

The Morel of the Story is…

…they make everything they touch insanely delicious. (Dessert may be an exception, but I haven’t tried that… yet.)

morels in a jar

I have most of a quart jar of these delicious dried morels. I think of them as The Truffle of the Midwest. Some would say they’re almost as difficult to find. My dad gave me these, and they keep for many months in a tightly-sealed Ball jar. It only takes a few of these dried delights to add earthy complexity to any dish.

Chicken Tenderloins with Mushroom Sauce

 

For tonight’s dinner, I thinly-sliced and sauteed about 8 oz. of baby bella mushrooms in a bit of butter, added a handful of fresh thyme leaves, and crumbled in two dried morel mushroom halves. (I should have added one more half.) I added white wine to deglaze, seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper, and reduced it all a bit.

chicken in a skilletAfter removing the mushroom sauce from the pan, I added a bit of olive oil and seasoned some chicken breast tenders with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves.

After they had cooked nearly through, I added the mushroom sauce back to the pan with the chicken, and garnished with fresh chopped chives from my front yard.

I served my portion with greens, topped with a basic vinaigrette (one part vinegar, three parts oil) to which I added some sun-dried tomato and balsamic mustard.

 

 

 

 

Corn and Chives

 

The boys had two ears of corn left over from the weekend. I had leftover curried roasted carrot soup.

So good!

 

 

The Tell-Tale Tart

The Tell-Tale Tart

My entry, The Tell-Tale Tart, won the prize for Funniest/Punniest entry in this year’s Edible Book Festival, sponsored by the University of Illinois Library. It’s based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, of course.

Here’s a bit of background on the festival, from the Library website:

Around April 1st, bibliophiles, book artists, and food lovers around the world gather to celebrate the book arts and the (literal!) ingestion of culture. Participants create an “edible book,” which can be inspired by a favorite tale, involve a pun on a famous title, or simply be in the shape of a book (or scroll, or tablet, etc). All entries will be exhibited, documented, then EATEN!

The tart is filled with strawberries, strawberry glaze, and a human heart sculpted from marzipan. Despite the gruesome appearance, it’s totally vegan. Marie Callender’s frozen pie crust saves the day! I STILL can’t seem to make a decent crust. I’m still trying, but this is one of the things I’m willing to cheat on for now.

Several people were grossed out by the realistic human heart nestled in a sea of glistening, gelatinous goo. Their disgust really touched… my heart. *rimshot* Those who were able to get past the realism found the combination of strawberries and almonds to be quite tasty. I guess they… took a piece of my heart along with them. *rimshot*

“Thank you very much, I’ll be here all week. Please tip your waitstaff.”

My fabulous prize included not one but TWO rubber chickens: a full-size chicken and his keychain-sized cousin.

This great idea was courtesy of my literature-loving friend, Noah. The original idea involved making the heart beat somehow, which would have been even more awesome. Thank you!

Tamales

I believe Amelia (Common Ground deli manager extraordinaire) when she says tamales aren’t that much work… if you make them with a friend (or co-worker, in her case).

I’ve made the latest batch on my own, and if took much less time than it did a few years ago when I made them for the first time. After rolling about 30-40 of them, I can see how boredom would set in. I had enough stamina to last through about one package of husks.

Here is a video that’s as close to my favorite rolling technique as I’ve seen. I prefer to leave more space (1/2 inch?) from the open “top” of the tamale since the dough expands when cooked. I like this method because there’s no tying involved. If you fill your steamer with tamales standing on the closed end, they will stay closed.

The dough recipe I used comes from Veganomicon. I used canola oil instead of corn oil, which turned out alright. The ingredients are simple and quick to mix.

My filling was a simple mixture of coarsely-mashed pinto beans, baked and diced sweet potatoes, tomato paste, cumin, and ground chipotle peppers. Next time, I’ll make smaller batches of a variety of fillings. I’ll also use double the amount of chipotle (2 dried peppers, freshly ground, with most of the seeds) since the relatively bland dough mutes the filling’s flavors. If you try your filling by itself and it seems spicy enough, it won’t be once it’s inside the tamales. Add more spice.

The “sauce” for these tamales was Green Pumpkin Seed Mole from Veganomicon. I used fresh roasted tomatillos instead of canned – about 5 tomatillos, but I think it could have used 7 or 8. I like tomatillos a lot, and they’re so easy to use. I’ll be making green sauces more often!

To roast the tomatillos, remove the paper skins, rinse, cut in half horizontally, and broil on a lightly-oiled sheet pan until some black spots appear.

This mole also makes a good spread for sandwiches or dip for fresh vegetables. Like any other Veganomicon recipe, it makes a ton – so enjoy the leftovers.

Tamales freeze very well and work great for packed lunches. Toss them into a bag or container, and either re-steam or microwave in their husks to reheat.

Quinoa Taters

mushroom walnut loaf, quinoa mashed potatoes, sesame green beans, cornbread

The pinnacle of my dining-out experiences this week was the deliciously square meal pictured above: mushroom walnut loaf and quinoa mashed potatoes topped with delicious vegan gravy. It’s served beside sesame green beans and cornbread. This is one of the best meals I’ve ever had, at the Red Herring or otherwise.

These mashed potatoes… with red quinoa? Yes, please. The next time you think someone’s about to ask, “where do you get your protein?”, put a plate of these in front of them (with gravy, of course) and they’ll be too busy inhaling them to ask. (Quinoa is a protein-rich grain – 8 grams per cup, cooked. A medium red potato with skin on has 4 grams too.)

quinoa taters

Let’s have a close-up shot of those taters, shall we? The camera loves you, baby.

Misato Radishes and Random Nut Cheese

misato radishes and random nut cheese

The little watermelon-like veggies in the box are called misato radishes. I first encountered them locally at an open house for doGood Consulting, where a friend of mine featured local foods prepared by a local chef. I remember having a good time, petting a hairless wonder-cat (adorable!), and sampling these intriguing (and delicious) radishes. I am not a huge fan of radishes. Sometimes they give me an (extremely rare) case of heartburn. I guess pretty food matters!

The misato variety of radish, appropriately dubbed “watermelon radish”, is a winter variety. I was surprised by the lack of information on this variety when searching for “misato radish”. A search for “watermelon radish” reveals a bit more. The taste is much like a regular radish: a mix of sweet and peppery. I peeled my radish before slicing, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I also skipped the very spicy and bitter slices near the end. The outer flesh has a lot more bite, and the end slices which contained most of that flesh weren’t tasty. Radishes have nearly as much potassium as a banana, and are a good source of fiber.

Misato radishes may pop up at farmers markets in the fall, or at your local co-op in the middle of winter. This radish is from Blue Moon Farm.

I enjoyed my radish as a snack with some cucumbers and a vegan cashew cheese spread. The recipe is random, and contains about 1.5 cups of soaked raw cashews, some white miso, garlic, white pepper, rice wine, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, and salt. It’s like a smoky cheese spread.

 

Turnips, Take One

roasted turnips with caramelized onions

I tried turnips this week. I like them.

They were tossed with a little bit of olive oil, about 1/2 tsp of agave nectar, salt, and pepper, then roasted in a 400 degree oven. While the turnips cooked in the oven, I made some caramelized onions on the stove, then I threw them both together at the end.

The verdict: I like. I am starting to think my radio nickname really should be Root-Vegetable Rachel. But we would have to switch it to Rhubarb Rachel in the spring.

 

Produce on the Edge

You know that random produce that you find in the drawer that needs to be used right now before it goes bad? We worked with that this week, and also came up with a new taco filling.

tempeh burrito

I had a four-day weekend the past week due to a day off to prepare food for my niece’s birthday party on Friday, and Martin Luther King Day on Monday. I finally got around to making some tempeh taco filling. I’ve been meaning to try this for a while. I didn’t really follow a recipe. I simmered the tempeh loaf in a shallow pan for about 20 minutes, cooled it a bit, then broke it up with a fork. In the same pan while it was cooling, I sauteed some onions, and added Penzeys Arizona Dreaming seasoning (one of my favorite spice blends ever), smoked paprika, salt, and some vegetable broth. I think it could have used some tomato paste, but I didn’t have any on hand. I tried to approximate the proportions of water and seasonings that one would get using a dry packet of taco seasoning.

Our tacos had lettuce, onions, salsa, and cilantro.

tofu scramble

Lance requested scrambled tofu for breakfast, with mushrooms. I was using the last of the mushroom blend that I chopped and cooked up before the mushrooms went past their prime. I like this technique for vegetables that are about to go bad. I can always cook them up and freeze them to add to soup later, or to blend into something like a sauce or even a smoothie. I’m getting better at not wasting produce. We also added spinach and mini sweet peppers to the scramble. It seemed like the right thing to do.

golden beet and pomegranate salad

This salad is made with some lovely Blue Moon Farms golden beets, apples, dinosaur kale, romaine lettuce, chickpeas, and pomegranate seeds. I’m a fan of fruits and vegetables in a salad, and chickpeas go with everything. It’s not pictured, but I topped this with a simple honey dijon dressing (dijon mustard, agave syrup, a bit of onion powder, and black pepper.)

chickpea salad and starfruit

The leftover chickpeas were made into chickpea salad, in which I used the remainder of the green onions before they went bad. (See the theme here?) I was going for a chicken salad-like version this time with fresh celery, onions, and some Penzeys BBQ 3000 seasoning. We picked up a few new spices over the holidays and are trying some of the blends.

This is the first time I’ve actually enjoyed star fruit. I bought it as a garnish for a fruit salad, but it’s tasty when it’s properly ripened. Here we had it with sliced kiwis and a banana that needed to be eaten that day.

On Sunday, Lance was our special guest on Food for Thought Radio, with Vegan Linda and myself. (A 7-year-old on live radio… what could possibly go wrong?) He did a good job talking about things he likes to eat, and packing lunches for school. For some reason known only in the mind of a 7-year-old boy, he also dreamed up a race in which the participants run 100 miles and drink beer. (I know a few people who would actually attempt something like that.)

Lance on Food For Thought

Lance on Food For Thought Radio