Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fruit, Rice, and Seed Salad

What do you take to a Wild Boar Roast?

That was what I asked myself during the last week before the end of the semester, when one of the other women in my program invited me to come join her (and 20 other people) for a boar roasting--an in-law had provided the Alabama boar at Thanksgiving and in May my friend and her husband had yet to eat the thing. Fortunately, the (well meaning) in-law had only given them 1/2 the pig.

Since I didn't plan on eating the boar and the woman who was hosting the roast is an excellent baker and cook, I wanted something 1) I would eat and 2) she probably wouldn't already make--which ruled out all desserts, hummus, and bread.

The next question was, "What do I have on hand?" I'd been trying to eat down the perishables (and non) since I wasn't going to be there over the summer and didn't really want to run out to the grocery store for anything.

I flipped through a couple of my Moosewood cookbooks and Madhur Jaffery's World Vegetarian until I found a couple of rice salad recipes I thought sounded good, but not great (mostly because I didn't have all the ingredients for either salad on hand). I tried to figure out what I thought would be the best aspects of both salads and combine them to create this dish. The sesame seeds were a last minute addition--and add a nice, nutty flavor to the entire dish. If you can't eat sesame seeds because of diverticulosis, try substituting 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil for toasted sesame oil.

Orange Rice Salad with Fruit
1 1/2 cups basmati rice (1/2 cup may be wild rice, if you have it)
3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon frozen pineapple-orange juice concentrate, or the zest of one orange

Dressing

2 tablespoons of frozen pineapple-orange juice concentrate, mixed with 4-5 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, or ½ teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½- ¾ cup currants, dried cranberries, or raisins
10 ounces canned pineapple chunks, cut in half if desired
1 small tart apple, chopped
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

In a small saucepan with a tight fitting lid, bring to a boil, the water, rice, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoons pineapple-orange concentrate. When wells start to form in the rice, cover tightly and cook on low for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside. When the rice is done, place it in a large bowl and allow to cool at least 10 more minutes. Add the dressing and toss well. Stir in the fruits and sesame seeds. Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sour Cream M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

After a pre-Cinco De Mayo party I held this weekend (it's finals week, although we all seem to have more time, none of it's co-ordinated), I had leftover sour cream. Since I don't really like sour cream for eating--I'm that person that always asks the Mexican restaurants to leave it off--I knew I had to find some other use for it.

I'd already made a cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream cake for the Tres De Mayo party dessert, but still had more sour cream. I searched the internet, thinking I might make muffins or biscuits--but then couldn't decide when I'd want to actually eat them.

Last night I had a final at a professor's house. He was going to cook for us, but asked us to bring beverages or food. I took some of the cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream cake, some vegetable purses that I made spur of the moment to use up some phyllo dough, and these cookies.

I found the original recipe, which called for more fat, no oatmeal and no cereal, online. I always tinker and I didn't want to wait for extra butter to come to room temperature from frozen. Who really has time for that, most days? It was one of the few recipes that didn't contain nuts or fruit combined with spices. The one person who reviewed it "didn't care for the recipe," but an identical recipe that used yogurt instead had pretty good reviews. I decided I had to try it out--the worst that could happen was that I wouldn't like the cookies and my professor could take them into the mailroom tomorrow. I know from experience that any food that winds up in the mailroom gets eaten by grad students (who love free food because we get paid so little to teach!) and professors.

Sour Cream M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

This egg-free cookie turns out crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. Be careful not to over bake. It should be soft in the middle when you pull it out and only lightly golden on the bottom.

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup light sour cream
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
½ cup old fashioned rolled oatmeal (quick oats works too, do not use instant)
¼ cup (about 1 handful) plain cheerios, lightly crushed[1]
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
3-4 ounces semi-sweet baking chips
2-3 ounces small candy-coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 375º F. In a large mixing bowl combine sugars, butter, and oil. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sour cream, sea salt, and vanilla. Blend until light and fluffy. Add in oatmeal, mixing by hand. Add the cheerios, if using, and flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Stir in the chocolate chips and candy-coated chocolates.

Drop dough 1 ½ teaspoons at a time onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. These cookies will spread slightly while baking. Bake for 9 minutes, or until the edges have started to firm and turn golden. Cool for 1 minute on pan before transfering to wire rack.

Yields: Approximately 48 cookies.
[1] If you do not have plain cheerios, you can use an additional quarter cup oatmeal

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Baked Falafel

Since I'm a student, two things are important: eating inexpensively and meals that go together quickly. One solution is of course, fast food in the traditional sense: burgers or tacos, burritos or pizza, from some greasespot.

It's tempting sometimes, especially when I spend most of the day on campus and when I'm done with the day, the dog still needs to be walked, MY students have a million questions they've emailed me to ask, all of which are naturally very pressing, and then my coursework to complete.

Once or twice a week, as a way of destressing and making sure that I don't become too involved in just school work, I either host dinner or go to at one of my friends' houses. The great part about this is that it's cheaper for all of us. The unwritten code is to bring something, anything, to help make the meal and if you don't know what to bring, ask.

The other day, I was craving falafel. The falafel I ate growing up were pan-friend green disks. I love them, but don't have the time or equipment to make those falafel, which involve dried chick peas (garbanzo beans) and a mega food processor. I wanted something easier. I had a baked falafel recipe I'd tried before that I wasn't thrilled with and I'd recently seen a baked falafel recipe come across from another blog which seemed akin to the labor-intensive ones I ate growing up.

This recipe combines the flavors of the second recipe with the simplicty of the first. The falafel turned out well. The texture is fairly smooth, unlike some of the grainier ones you get from restaurants or when you make falafel from a mix and if you have cilantro (I didn't have much), add about 2 more tablespoons, chopped.

Baked Falafel

1 medium potato, chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 generous tablespoon tahini
½ tablespoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon sea salt (fine)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon paprika
Black pepper, to taste (about ¼-1/2 teaspoon)

Flour or bread crumbs, if needed

Preheat oven to 375º F. In a small saucepan, over high heat, boil the chopped potato in water until it is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well.

Place all the ingredients, including the potato, in a medium to large bowl and mash well a pastry cutter, potato masher, or a fork, until only slightly chunky. The falafel dough should be slightly sticky (this will depend on the type of potato you used). If it is very sticky, stir in flour or fine bread crumbs 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is only tacky.

One at a time, take spoonfuls of the mixture in your hands and form 15-20 balls (each about the size of a ping pong ball) and place them gently on a greased cookie sheet, pressing down lightly to form a thick disc.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the falafel over, and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown and slightly crispy. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.