Monday, July 29, 2013

Rhubarb Curd

It's a rhubarb party and everybody's invited!  We got our first fruit share from Grant Farms CSA this season and it's, you guessed it, a whole buncha rhubarb.  As soon as I brought my armful of pink and green stalks home, I started perusing the interwebs for recipes.  Not rhubarb and strawberry recipes, but rhubarb recipes.  Now, I'm definitely not hating on the combo, but I just really wanted to find something that allowed the flavor of rhubarb to shine, not just to be a tangy counterpart to a sweet strawberry.

Enter, rhubarb curd.  The recipe is from Food52 and after making it once I'm already in love with it!  This sweet and sour concoction is both delicious and beautiful with it's pale pink hue and silky, spreadable texture.  I paired mine with this Plum & Strawberry Sour Cream Cake for a supremely summery dessert.  The next morning I spread some of the curd on a toasted baguette for breakfast.  I'm pretty sure it would be ridiculous on a good buttermilk scone.  The possibilities are many!

In order to get the pudding-like texture of curd, the recipe calls for pushing your cooked mixture through a fine mesh sieve.  This process admittedly takes a lot of work but will yield a more elegant final result.  Give it a try!

Rhubarb Curd
fills a 16 oz jar to the brim

3/4 pounds rhubarb (6-8 stalks)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup plus a scant 1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
6 T butter, diced

Wash rhubarb well and trim the ends.  Cut into 1-inch chunks.  In a small saucepan, heat rhubarb, 1/4 cup sugar and water on medium.  Cook, stirring often, until rhubarb falls apart and all the pieces have dissolved, lowering heat to low when the mixture becomes thicker.  Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture well until it's pulpy but smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Add a couple inches of water to the pot of a double boiler and set over medium heat.  Add the egg yolks, butter, remaining sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice and cook over the double boiler, whisking constantly until butter is melted and sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Add the rhubarb puree by the spoonful, whisking constantly, and cook mixture until it thickens and is warm to the touch, about 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Using a flat-ended wooden spoon, push the curd through a fine-mesh strainer to refine the texture.  Pour curd into a 16 oz jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Grilled Wedge Salad with Honey Jalapeño Dressing


Grill all of the things!  Summer is a time for grilling, that much is obvious, but there is still a lot of room for creativity when it comes to what you choose to grill.  In this case, we're grilling a whole mess of vegetables to create one glorious, grilled wedge salad.  Radicchio and cabbage make a bittersweet pair and look ever so pretty on the plate.  I topped that off with fresh, grilled corn, jalapeños, red onions and shaved rainbow carrots to make this flavorful, crunchy and quintessentially summery salad.

When grilling your veggies, make sure to pay attention to the cooking times for each item since they come in lots of different shapes and sizes.  The radicchio will grill the fastest, being somewhat light and delicate, followed by the jalapeño.  The cabbage and corn are much thicker and sturdier, so they take more time, and red onions are somewhere in-between.  I may or may not have grilled an extra cob of corn just so I could do this to it:

What the heck is that weird looking sauce, you ask?  If you haven't tried this Chicago-made but Alabama-inspired barbeque sauce, Lillie's Q Ivory, you need to immediately drive to Marczyk Fine Foods and go get yourself some.  It is a mayonnaise based sauce with lots of tang from the addition of cider vinegar and lime juice.  It's seasoned with lots of fresh black pepper and some other magical, wonderful and undisclosed secret spices that came from Grandma Lillie's genius brain.  I salute you, Grandma.  Your BBQ sauce is ridiculous.

Grilled Wedge Salad 
with Honey Jalapeño Dressing
serves 2

1/2 a small head of cabbage
1 small head of radicchio
1 cob of corn
1 red onion, sliced into rounds
1/2 jalapeño, halved and seeded
peanut oil
2 small rainbow carrots, shaved
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
1 handful cilantro leaves

Juice of 2 limes
2 tsp honey
1/2 jalapeño, grilled and minced
2 T peanut oil
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat your grill to medium-high.  Slice the cabbage and radicchio into quarters and brush lettuces, corn, onion and the whole jalapeño with a little peanut oil.  Place your veggies onto grill and cook until each side gets a good char.  Remove from grill when done and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Set vegetables aside and allow to cool slightly, then mince the jalapeño and set half of it aside for your dressing.

For the dressing, whisk lime juice and honey together in a small bowl until well combined.  Slowly drizzle the oils in as you whisk continuously, then season with salt and pepper to taste and whisk in the minced jalapeño.  

Assemble grilled wedges on your plates or serving dish.  Slice corn kernels off the cob, chop the grilled onions, and mix the corn, onion, shaved carrot and jalapeño together with a little bit of dressing.  Drizzle desired amount of remaining dressing over lettuce wedges, then top with remaining salad ingredients, garnishing with the queso fresco and cilantro leaves.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Seitan Stir-fry with Pickled Plum Sweet & Sour Sauce

Once upon a time, on a crazy whim, I decided to go vegan. There, I admitted it! Really it's no secret... especially to our friends and family, almost all of whom complained about our veganism (my husband, though somewhat hesitantly, also went vegan with me). For many, the challenge with making the transition to plant based is the food, itself. For me, that part was the most fun! I really loved exploring an entirely different way of eating and cooking with things that were totally new to me like nutritional yeast, tapioca starch, and seitan.

During my adventures in veganism, I found that a lot of vegan meat substitutes were available, but there weren't many that I felt wholly good about eating. Sure, they were made without any animal products, but what about all the other crap on that paragraph-long ingredient list? Many vegans will tell you that one of the reasons they changed their diet is to have a smaller footprint, to eat more sustainably. But what’s so sustainable about an over-processed veggie burger that has thirty different ingredients and comes plastic-wrapped and in a box and is shipped from far away? 

All rants aside, I think veganism can be great for some people but I discovered that it just wasn’t for me.  Maybe I just love food too much to restrict my consumption to a diverse but limiting category. But the point is, I still really love vegan food when it’s done well and find myself revisiting old recipes from my all-time, absolute favorite vegan cookbook, Veganomicon (vegans everywhere… if you have not purchased this marvelous, incredibly useful cookbook you are doing your diet a disservice!). 

Veganomicon taught me the merits of seitan. Not only is it a protein packed and entirely plant derived meat substitute, but I would venture to say that it’s the best tasting one at that. Making it from scratch will save you a ton of money, so if you eat it a lot it makes sense.  For those occasional seitan eaters, I say go for the pre-made stuff. It makes for an incredibly fast and easy meal and usually has far fewer ingredients than frozen “chicken” nuggets and the like. The packaged stuff is more dense and chewy so it is actually much better suited for frying or sautéing and is easier to work with overall. 

This recipe also calls for another somewhat unusual ingredient, which is pickled plums. Here in Colorado we are lucky enough to be able to find them almost everywhere, because MM Local sells them all over the place. They are a beautiful purple hue, sweet and tart in flavor, and incredibly versatile. So far my favorite use for these little pickled gems is sauce. You might also come across pickled plums in specialty or Asian markets, but be sure that you use soft fruit in liquid and not the dense, vacuum-packed umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums). Pickled cherries could also work well in this recipe, or even just fresh plums if you can’t find any of the above (just use more vinegar and less sugar to get the right sweet and sour balance). 

If you’ve never made your own sweet and sour sauce before, this is the recipe to try.  It’s incredibly quick and simple and uses much more wholesome ingredients than are typically found in the red dye and corn syrup laden versions found in typical Chinese take-out joints.  This sauce gets its sweetness from the fruit and organic sugar, and the plums also act as a thickener so you don’t need any cornstarch.  So, this recipe is a bit of an homage to my days as a vegan and to all the folks out there that think meat is the only delicious protein.  I promise that if you serve this sweet and sour seitan to the most vociferous naysayer, they will be hard pressed to find any fault with this hearty, meaty and incredibly flavorful dish. 

Seitan Stir-Fry
with Pickled Plum Sweet & Sour Sauce
serves 4

Plum Sauce:
1/2 jar MM Local pickled plums and juice (about 8 oz)
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup organic sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 T soy sauce

1 lb seitan
1 head broccoli
1 bunch rainbow carrots (about 8 small carrots), gently scrubbed but not peeled
1 jalapeno, sliced
vegetable oil
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sliced green onions
sea salt

First, make your sweet and sour plum sauce.  Add ingredients to a small saucepan, whisk together and bring mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce to low heat.  Cook, whisking until relatively smooth, until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.  You may find little bits of plum skin, which you can remove with a slotted spoon if you desire a smoother consistency.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Break the seitan apart into bite-sized pieces and douse with a little extra plum juice, if desired (it makes the seitan a little pinkish which makes it look more like meat, if that’s your thing).  Set aside while you prep your vegetables.  Slice broccoli into 3-inch long (or so) spears.  Quarter the carrots lengthwise and also cut into 3-inch lengths.  In a wok or a large pan, heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil over high to medium-high heat.  Add carrots and sliced jalapenos first and stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 6 minutes.  Season with a little salt and set aside once cooked, then add broccoli (with a little extra oil, if needed).  Stir fry until florets begin to brown slightly, then add a splash of water to allow broccoli to steam, slightly.  Continue this method, adding a little water if the broccoli browns too fast, until broccoli is tender-crisp, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and set aside with carrots and jalapenos.
Drain your bits of seitan and dredge in rice flour until coated.  Fry in the wok with additional vegetable oil until browned and crispy, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and add sweet and sour sauce.  Mix well to coat seitan.  Plate vegetables with sweet and sour seitan on top and serve with cooked rice.  Garnish with sliced green onions.