Inga's Indulgence

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Slawin' it up

Cabbage - the cruciferous vegetable. Sounds pretty brutal doesn't it? High in a multitude of vitamins and nutrients and known to have certain cancer preventive properties, the only brutality that comes with this veg is its ability to kick some serious butt in the health department. FYI, cabbage leaves, used in the form of a compress, have also been shown to help breastfeeding mothers treat mastitis infections.

Now that we've got the health talk out of the way, I can get to why I like to cook with this "cruciferous" fellow (although my favorite preparation of  cabbage entails no actual cooking). As of lately, I've found myself somewhat addicted to the sweet, crunchy qualities of raw cabbage. My addiction has inspired experimentation in the slaw department.

Here's my latest creation:

Red Cabbage Slaw with Sesame Miso Vinaigrette 
yield: 4-5 servings

2 tbsp miso paste*
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
2 oz sesame oil
1 small head red cabbage, shredded
2 cups carrots, shredded
4 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 scallion, thinly sliced on the bias

Make the Sesame Miso Vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk the first 4 ingredients together. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in the oils.

Place shredded cabbage, carrots, and sesame seeds into a large bowl, and toss with prepared vinaigrette. (The slaw should be salty enough because of the miso paste, but if you require more now is the time to add it) Garnish with scallions.

This slaw gets yummier with time, so don't feel guilty for letting it sit in your fridge for a few hours.

*Miso Paste is a fermented soy bean paste. You can find it in any Asian market, and often in the international aisle of major supermarkets. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is market research going a bit too far?

Okay, so there's a whole industry that exists for the purpose of getting consumers to spend more. From strategically arranging items in the aisles of a grocery store to altering your emotional state with the "sexy" lighting in a coffee shop, market research has come a long way in really manipulating our desire to buy and to spend.

But have market researchers gone too far in developing a new technique that will allow them to literally rack our brains?

After reading this article, I don't think I will ever shop the same way again. Check it out...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hemp - the unsung supercrop

Contrary to what many may think, hemp is not marijuana. The list of functions which industrial hemp can serve goes on and on, but what intrigues me most about this super crop is its unique flavor and versatility as an ingredient.

Recently I've been working on some recipe development and testing for I was amazed to learn how many different culinary forms hemp takes on. Hemp seeds, hemp flour, hempseed oil, and hemp protein powder are among the many hemp products currently on the market.

Its delicious nutty flavor makes hemp an awesome ingredient to work with. But beyond flavor, hemp's nutritional value is something truly noteworthy. An incredible source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, this super food is great for pregnant or nursing women, let alone anyone.

The other day, I cooked up a storm of hemp-based recipes for a photo/video shoot. They will all eventually be up on, but here's a little taste:

Penne with Spinach & Hempseed Pesto
yield: 5-6 servings

4 cups baby spinach
2 cloves garlic
1 cup hulled hemp seeds
1 cup grated parmigiano regianno, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup hempseed oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1 lb Penne
1 cup heavy cream

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor, until a smooth puree forms. With the machine still running, slowly drizzle in the hempseed oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Cook penne  to al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

3. Place prepared pesto into a pan that is large enough to fit all of the pasta. Place pan over medium-low heat, and stir in the heavy cream and reserved cooking water. Once the sauce is completely smooth, add the pasta and mix gently to coat. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Sprinkle with more parmigiano reggiano.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Meatiest of the Meatless

Never have I ever had any notions of becoming a vegetarian, or a vegan for that matter, but when my dear friend approached me about creating some vegan recipes that she could cook during lent, I began to think like one.
I suddenly had a flashback to a vacation she and I took around the time when Lent overlaps with Passover. Our collective list of things we couldn't eat made dining a complete nightmare. Even though my abstinence doesn't begin for another 3 weeks, I really do feel for all those in that position now; those who are stuck eating the same blah foods everyday because they assume that there is no room for experimentation with the short list of things they are actually allowed to eat.
The first thing that I thought I would want more than anything if I were in my friend's shoes was a burger. A meaty, hearty, satisfying vegan burger. The challenge - making this burger flavorful and filling enough so that its meatlessness would not be an issue, and also finding a vegan binder to prevent the whole thing from falling apart.
Here's what I did:

The Ultimate Vegan Burger
yield: 6-8 servings

2 1/2 cups cooked multi-grain rice (slightly overcooked)
1 scallion, finely chopped
1, 15 oz can red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 of a small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil + more for frying
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (you may also use regular flour)

1. Place first 6 ingredients into a large bowl, and mash together using a potato masher (You may pulse a few times in a food processor). Add 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil, spices, and salt. Add flour, and stir to combine. Divide the mixture into 6-8 parts (depending on how big you want the burgers to be) and form into balls.

2. Cover the surface of a large non-stick skillet with oil, and heat over a medium-high flame. Place the patties into the skillet, flattening them slightly with the palm of your hand. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Cook burgers about 5 minutes per side, adding more oil if the pan gets dry. Serve on buns with whatever fix-ins your heart desires.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lazy Eats

One of my all-time favorite things to make is hummus. It's easy, but still noteworthy, and it 's a good base for any flavors your imagination may have in store.

My husband brought home the most amazing bread today from a Georgian bakery, and naturally I needed something to dip it into, and quick. So I threw a handful of items into my handy dandy food-processor, and before I knew it I had fresh sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic hummus, a.k.a, my excuse to eat bread all day.

Sun dried Tomato & Roasted Garlic Hummus

1 head garlic
1,15 oz can garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed & drained
1 1/2 tbsp tahini
4-5 sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 oz olive oil
2 oz water
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Using a serrated knife, slice off about 1/2 inch from the top of the garlic head, drizzle with a little bit of oil (olive, canola, or vegetable), wrap tightly in aluminum foil, and place into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

2. Once garlic is done, and has cooled slightly, squeeze head to release all of the softened cloves. Add to food processor, along with remaining ingredients. Process until smooth. If necessary, adjust consistency of the hummus with more water.

3. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. Grab your bread, and start dipping.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baby Gourmet

I think I may have overestimated the sophistication of Zelli’s palette.
 Since introducing solids, I haven’t recieved any fussiness or discrimination from his side. In fact, my only problem has been getting the food into his mouth fast enough.  But just when I thought my baby was the best eater of all time, I found myself in a feeding frenzy.
After an hour and a half of trying to make Zelli eat some freshly prepared chicken, more food had landed on me, than in his mouth. The good news was the feeding session from hell was over; the bad news – I would have to repeat it the next day, since I had one more portion left in my fridge.
 So the next day, as dinnertime slowly crept up on me, I decided to transform the unpopular chicken into something that Zelli would mop up with as much of an appetite as he does most other foods. I steamed some carrots and sweet potatoes, and mixed them into the chicken puree. I added just enough vegetables to sweeten and “disguise” the chicken without overpowering it.
Results: success! Not only did he finish the whole thing at his usual pace (10 minutes), but he made little “mmm” noises the whole time. In the end, Zelli’s tummy and taste buds were satisfied, while mommy was able to sleep at night knowing that her baby was getting the nutrients that he needed.
Chicken with Sweet potatoes & Carrots
1, 1-2 lb organic whole poussin (baby chicken), skin & gizzards removed
2 stalks celery, each chopped into 4 pieces
2 medium carrots, each chopped into 4 pieces
1 yellow onion, halved
3 quarts cold water

1 medium organic sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium organic carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1.       Place first 5 ingredients into a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that floats to the top. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 40 minutes, skimming every 10-15 minutes.

2.       Steam sweet potato and carrots together until tender. You can use a steamer basket if you have one (I have a steamer insert that fits right on top of my stockpot, so I was able to cook the vegetables and the chicken simultaneously, using the same pot). If you don’t have a steamer basket, just place the vegetable chunks into a medium saucepan and add enough water to barely cover the veggies. Cover pan, and steam over medium-low heat, until tender.

3.       Remove chicken from pot, and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid. Place about 1/3 of the strained liquid into a container. This can be used to thin out vegetable and meat/poultry purees for your baby. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3-4 months.

 As for the remaining cooking liquid, spice it up with salt and pepper to taste, and you've got a nice clear chicken broth that you can eat as is, or use as a base for other soups and sauces.

4.       Once the poussin has cooled, remove all of its meat and place into food processor. Puree until smooth, and no chunks are detectable. Add cooked sweet potato and carrot pieces, and puree until a smooth and homogenous orange mixture forms.  

*Keeps in refrigerator for 2-3 days, and in freezer for up to 3 months.
*You can pour mixture into ice trays (each ice cube is about ½ ounce, so if you need 2 ounces you would   take 4 cubes), or measure the appropriate portion size for your baby, and wrap individually in plastic wrap. i.e., my baby eats 4 ounces of puree, so I portioned several individual 4-ounce servings in plastic wrap, put them into zip lock bags, and froze them.