Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tahini and Miso Dressing

Salad dressing has been a contentious topic in our household for many years. My daughter seemed to have been born with hypersensitive sour receptors, rejecting anything with vinegar, whereas my son tended toward flighty fickleness with most flavors. But somehow, while tinkering with a dressing inspired by this recipe, I've hit upon our family's secret sauce: a dressing with just the right balance of creamy (tahini), salty (miso), sweet (honey), and sour (sherry vinegar). It seems to go with everything (above, red lettuce with pears; below, bell peppers with baby bok choy). Best of all, both kids love it so much that they sneak spoonfuls of it straight. I'm happy to turn a blind eye to stealthy salad eating.

Tahini and Miso Dressing
enough for one salad for four
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp white miso
1/4 tsp honey
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients into a well-mixed dressing. Taste and adjust flavors with additional tahini, miso, honey, vinegar, or oil to your preference.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

One Egg Omelette with Radish Microgreens

The official first day of spring has arrived after many spring-like winter days. Among our spring treats in our Good Food Easy CSA, we've been enjoying their various microgreens.  I've found that these delicate bites of spring are especially tasty in micro-omelettes: a single beaten egg cooked like a crepe, with some sharp cheese to complement the slightly spicy greens.

These make a perfect weekend lunch, individualized to each person's taste. I like to eat mine on a toasted, buttered multigrain bagel, with a dollop of harissa.

One Egg Omelette with Radish Microgreens

1 egg
1 pad butter
salt and pepper
1 slice sharp cheese
1 handful radish microgreens

1. Beat the egg and season with salt and pepper. 

2. Heat a 9 inch crepe pan or cast iron skillet over medium low heat. Put in a pad of butter and let it melt. Off the heat, pour in the beaten egg and tip the pan around so that the egg coats the bottom of the pan. Return the pan to a low heat and cover the egg "crepe" with cheese pieces. Allow the cheese to melt for a minute. Then place the radish greens in the center of the pan and fold over the edges of the omelette to make a square.

3. Serve the omelette immediately. It's very tasty sandwiched between the halves of a toasted, buttered bagel with a dollop of harissa. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Prune and Almond Pie

I couldn't let today, Pi Day (3.14.15), go by without baking a pie. 

I'd recently remembered an old favorite recipe from Patricia Wells' Bistro CookingTart aux Pruneaux et aux Amandes. Technically a tart, but certainly in the phylum pie. Prunes are soaked in strong black tea (I used the dregs of a pot of this), and then bathed in a ground almond and creme fraiche filling. Wells spikes hers with plum eau-de-vie, which I didn't happen to have on hand (mon dieu!), so I added a bit of vanilla extract, for a more kid-friendly version. A lovely way to celebrate this memorable, once in a century day.

Tart aux Pruneaux et aux Amandes
from Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking

2 cups brewed strong black tea
1 lb (500 g) prunes, pitted
1/4 cup (35 g) whole unblanched almonds
1 large egg
5 Tbsp (60 g) granulated sugar
2 Tbsp plum eau-de-vie or brandy (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3/5 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
1 Pate Sucre shell (recipe below) partially baked and cooled
1 Tbsp confectioners' sugar to garnish (optional)

Pate Sucre
1 1/4 cup (175 g) all purpose flour
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
~4 Tbsp ice water

1. Make the dough. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter pieces and pulse about 20 times until the butter is in pea sized pieces. Add the ice water and pulse about 8 more times until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a silicone mat or work surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in the silicone mat or saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

2. Shape the tart shell. Lightly flour the dough and roll it out on the silicone mat or a floured work surface, rotating to ensure the dough is not sticking, into a 12 inch wide disc. Transfer to a 10 1/2 inch loose-bottomed black tart tin and gently press the dough into the corners. Trim the overhang, leaving one inch of dough. Tuck the overhand inside and fortify any thin parts with the trimmed dough. Shape the edges and prick the bottom all over with a fork. Chill the shaped dough for at least 20 minutes. 

3. Partially bake the shell. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the shell with aluminum foil and some pie weights (some rice or dried beans that you can reuse for years). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake another 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Prune and Almond Tart
1. At least 1 hour before preparing the tart, pour the hot tea over the prunes and set aside to marinate.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. In a food processor, grind the almonds to a fine powder. Add the egg, sugar, liquor (or vanilla extract), and creme fraiche. Process until very smooth.

4. Thoroughly drain the prunes, discarding the soaking liquid. Carefully arrange the prunes in the cooled tart shell. Pour the almond filling over the prunes.

5. Place the tart in the center of the oven, and bake until the filling is set and the tart shell is nicely browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven. If you like, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Simple Miso Soup for a Cold


Being at the tail end of my second nasty cold in the past month, I've been craving nothing much but soup. Steaming pots of long simmered chicken broth are wonderful, but when cold viruses have sapped every last drop of energy from your body, such a broth can seem like a mirage. In contrast, a restorative miso soup, prepared with a quick kombu broth, is well within reach. 

As described in Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, Japanese broths made with kombu, or dried kelp, takes just as long to prepare as to bring water to a boil. I've shared both her dashi (made with bonito flakes) and a vegetarian version made with shiitake mushroom. These broths can be the backdrop of a flavorful soup when you layer in greens and mix in miso paste (avoid cooking, to preserve the full benefits of the fermenting microbes). A few bowls of this soup (with any number of variations in vegetables and protein) can do wonders for restoring one's spirits and health. 

Dashi (basic sea stock)
12 square inches kombu
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup loosely packed dried shaved bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi)

Place the kombu in a pot of cold water and heat over medium heat. When small bubbles begin to break the surface, remove from the heat. Sprinkle over the bonito flakes. Allow the flakes to settle, and then remove the kombu and strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. You can scale up this recipe for more stock,which can be stored for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but the flavors will not last if frozen.

Kombu Jiru (basic vegetarian stock)
12 square inches kombu
1 dried shiitake mushroom
2 cups cold water

Place the kombu and mushroom in a pot of cold water and heat over medium heat. When small bubbles begin to break the surface, remove from the heat. Allow to sit 3-4 minutes, remove the kombu and mushroom, and then strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the mushroom cap for cooking. You can scale up this recipe for more stock,which can be stored for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but the flavors will not last if frozen.

Simple Miso Soup for a Cold
makes 1 large bowl
2 cups broth
1 rehydrated shitake mushroom cap, sliced
1 slice baked tofu, rinsed and diced
1 handful tender greens like baby spinach
1 Tbsp miso

Heat the strained broth to a simmer. Add the sliced mushroom cap and tofu to the simmering broth. Place the greens in a large soup bowl. In a small bowl, mix the miso and a ladle full of the broth. Pour the rest of the simmering broth into the soup bowl and mix in the thinned miso. Eat right away.