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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dried Fig Tapenade

Makes about 1 ½ cups.


I live for fig season. But when fresh figs aren’t handy, I don’t let that stop me from getting my fill of these pleasant little flavor bombs. Try this on a cracker with faux cheese, on a hummus sandwich, or, if you’re a real maverick, ladled over nice cream.

1 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the figs and water over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and cook until the figs are tender and most of the liquid is gone.
  2. Crunch up the rosemary and thyme in a mortar and pestle. You don’t want big hunks of rosemary in there. (A coffee mill would do, too, but it’s more brutal than a mortar and pestle, so go lightly.)
  3. Take the figs off the heat and add in the oil, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, olives, and garlic. Mix well.  (If you’re nervous about raw garlic, don’t be. It gets all mixed in with everything else in a lovely way. But if you’re really nervous, go ahead and roast that little clove in the oven for 20 minutes or so.)
  4. Meanwhile, put the walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until just fragrant and starting to change color.
  5. Taste the fig and olive mixture for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to please your palate. Add in the walnuts, which will make a wonderful hissing and crackling noise because they’re hot.

Refrigerate in an air-tight container for four hours or overnight. It gets better after a day or two, but I can never wait that long.



Monday, February 1, 2016

Broccoli Soup for One



The wind howled all night, and although it’s calm and still now, the temperature must be nearly 20 degrees below what it usually is for this time of day. You'd best make soup to warm up your bones!

¼ cup raw cashews
1 ½ cups water or vegetable broth
¼ onion, chopped fine
1 cup broccoli, chopped coarsely
Pinch dried basil
½ cup cooked white or brown rice
Salt to taste
Pinch ground pepper
  1. In a blender, whirl the cashews and ½ cup of the water or broth until it’s smooth, about a minute. (You could replace this with ¾ cup of non-dairy milk of your choice.)
  2. In a saucepan, add the rest of the water or broth (a cup), and add the onion, broccoli, and basil. Bring the whole thing to a boil, turn the heat down a bit, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli is tender but not mushy.
  3. Add in the rice and the cashew milk and some salt and pepper. Bring the soup back to a simmer.
  4. Either use an immersion blender or let it cool a bit and send it through the blender or food processor, whirling away until it’s smooth and creamy. Reheat, if necessary. Add salt and pepper, if necessary.


Shown here with chopped pistachios and a little mushroom. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Homemade Oreo Cookies for One


Makes 3 cookies plus a straggler.
Everyone likes Oreos, and everyone has their own way of eating them. As this recipe makes three cookies, I propose that you dip one in almond milk or cocoa, disassemble one and lick off the icing, and chomp the third like a sandwich. The best of all worlds!
For the Cookies:
1 teaspoon ground flax seed
1 TBLSP water
Pinch baking soda
Pinch salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 TBLSP cocoa powder
2 TBLSP vegan butter, softened
2 ½ TBLSP brown sugar, packed
1 TBLSP granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Filling:
1 TBLSP vegan butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
3/4 TBLSP teaspoon non-dairy milk (I like almond milk, but soy, rice, or coconut would do too)
Slosh of vanilla extract

To Make the Cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.
  1. In a small bowl, combine the flax seed and water and set aside to become a glop.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk together baking soda, salt, flour and cocoa powder. Set this aside too.
  3. In a third small bowl, cream the butter and both sugars until it’s fluffy and well combined.
  4. Add the flax-seed glop and vanilla to the butter and mix until it’s well combined. Then add in the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Using a tablespoon measure (you want the cookies to be roughly identical), make balls of the dough and place on the cookie sheet about 2-inches apart. You’ll want an even number of cookies. I got 6 regular-sized and 1 tiny one. (I probably should have made them a little smaller.) Flatten the little balls with the bottom of a juice glass. Keep the glass handy because you’ll be doing this again.
  6. Bake for 7-8 minutes, and then take the pan out and press the little darlings flat with the bottom of a glass or a spatula—they will have puffed up a bit. Put them back into the oven for another 4 minutes, or until the edges are golden.
  7. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a baking rack.

Let them cool completely before frosting. Make the filling while the cookies are in the oven to give it a chance to “set” before slathering on the cookies. If it’s a warm day, consider letting it rest in the refrigerator, too.

To Make the Filling:
  1. In another small bowl (or one of those other ones, cleaned and dried), cream the butter until it’s smooth and a little fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar a little at a time until it’s crumbly, like rough sand.
  2. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix until it’s smooth. If you need more milk to make it spreadable, go slowly. You want this to be thick icing.

You might want to refrigerate it for a little while, like half an hour or so, while the cookies are cooling.

Assemble the Cookies:
  1. Frost the bottoms (the flat side) of half the cookies and sandwich the bottom of the other half on top of them.

Variations:
  • Try adding 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder to the frosting for chocolate filling.
  • You could create the complex taste of chocolate and oranges by adding 1 TBLSP of orange zest to the dough and then replacing the milk with orange juice in the filling.
  • You could make a smear of raspberry jam on top of the vanilla icing for a more grown-up cookie.
  • Add a little peppermint extract and a drop of green food coloring to the filling for a little zing.
  • Put ½ teaspoon of instant espresso powder in with the cocoa and flour mixture for a mocha cookie. You could use coffee instead of milk to make the filling, too. 




Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fennel and Mushroom Pasta for One



I love fennel. From its licorice-flavored fronds to its celery-shaped stalk, it’s something I could eat very nearly every day. When you fry it a little, the flavor gets milder, but no less delicious. Yummmmm.
1 serving spaghetti or fettuccini noodles
1 TBLSP olive oil
1 TBLSP vegan butter
2 thin slices yellow onion, cut into crescents
3 mushrooms, halved and sliced
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup white wine or 2 TBLSP vodka and 1 TBLSP water
Sprinkle of flour (use corn starch if you’re gluten free)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, get the water boiling for the pasta. Don’t start the sauce until the pasta’s in the water—it goes fast! Once the water’s boiling, put the pasta in and start the sauce.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and butter, and sauté the onion and mushroom for a few minutes, until the onion is soft but not yet translucent.
  3. Add the fennel and continue stirring and sautéing until the fennel is relaxed, the onions are transparent, and the mushrooms have lost and reabsorbed all their water and are turning a little brown.
  4. Add in the garlic, give it 20 seconds or so, and then add in the wine or water and vodka mixture. Sprinkle the flour and stir it in to make a thicker sauce.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on a bed of cooked noodles. Yum!


Monday, January 18, 2016

Squash and Protein Soup for One



It’s raining and the middle of a workday. What to do, what to do? Oh, here. A nice, comfort-laden soup! Ta-da!

1 cup squash (butternut, banana, pumpkin etc.), peeled and cubed
1 TBLSP coconut or vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, diced finely
1 scoop unflavored vegan protein powder (about 2 TBLSP)
3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I like almond, but coconut would be delicious)
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (orange would be lovely too)
1 TBLSP lemon juice (orange would be lovely too)
Salt and pepper
Garnishes:
Cilantro leaves
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Flaked coconut
Green onion
Sliced radishes
Lemon zest
Chiffonade of spinach leaves
  1. In a covered saucepan, steam the squash over water until it’s tender enough to puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender. It will take about 20 minutes to soften the squash. You could also use a cup of pureed pumpkin from a can (not pie filling).
  2. In a measuring cup, combine the water/broth, milk, and brown sugar/agave with the protein powder. Don’t leave any lumps! (A whisk works pretty well.)
  3. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Toast the garlic until just fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the squash and the water/broth/protein/sugar mixture to the pan, and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add in the lemon juice and zest, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with any or all of the garnishes—go wild!
Variations:
  • Try it with banana squash, or really go wild and use yellow zucchini! Any of those lovely turban-shaped squashes, like kombacha, will do nicely too.
  • Use coconut milk and add some curry or garum masala, and substitute lime for the citrus, and use coconut as a topper for an Indian flavor.
  • You could skip the protein powder for a less filling soup if it was a first course or you have a hefty salad to chomp through.
  • Instead of the veggie broth or plain water, try green tea!
  • Rice would make a nice addition. You could either blend cooked rice up with the squash for a creamy and unctuous offering, or add cooked rice at the end for a few nice morsels in each bite. Probably ½ cup to 1 cup of cooked rice would do it, either way.

The picture at the top of the page is with the protein powder, at the bottom without the protein powder but with rice. It’s yummy, either way!




Thursday, January 14, 2016

Bread Pudding for One



Some people make crunchy bits for their salads with day-old bread. But here’s a better and sweeter option that will get your engines purring like a Ferrari.

7 TBLSP non-dairy milk (I like almond, but soy, rice, or coconut will work just fine)
2 TBLSP brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons maple syrup
Slosh of vanilla extract
Sprinkle of salt
1 ¼ cups bread cubes
TBLSP raisins
Sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large ramekin or oven-proof bowl
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.
  2. Plop the bread cubes into the milk solution and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, sopping up the delicious mess. You could toss in a few sprinkles of cinnamon if you’d like. Add in the raisins. (You could put them in earlier, especially if they’re a little hard. They’ll puff up a bit.)
  3. Once the milk solution is absorbed, place the bread and etc. into the prepared baking vessel. Sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until it’s puffed and golden and the milk has been absorbed.

 Variations:
  • Use a slosh of rum instead of the vanilla.
  • Try dried apricots, diced small, instead of the raisins.



Monday, January 11, 2016

Brown Rice Congee (Jook) for One



The first time I had this satisfying and filling breakfast, it was as a late night snack in a San Francisco restaurant. I had it again when I was hiking in China, and that’s where I became a real fan. The nice thing about this savory meal is that it’s never the same twice, and you can make a big batch to reheat and eat all week, if time is a problem.

4 or 5 dried shiitake mushrooms (or fresh)
Slosh of vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
3 thin slices of fresh ginger,
¼ cup long-grain brown rice, rinsed and drained
2 ¼ cups water or veggie stock
¼ cup thinly sliced greens (bok choy, spinach, kale, fennel, broccoli, etc.)
Salt or soy sauce
Pepper to taste
Garnish Ideas:
Sliced scallions
Fried shallots
Chopped fresh cilantro
Parsley
Roasted or fried peanuts
Toasted sesame seeds
Pickled ginger
Soy sauce, sesame oil, chili paste
  1. If you’re using dried shiitake mushrooms, set them in a small bowl of water to soak for 20 minutes or so. You can discard the water, or toss it in with the rice, if you like. Remove the woody stems from the mushrooms and slice them thinly.
  2. In a heavy pot, sauté the garlic, ginger and mushrooms in the oil until the mushrooms are droopy.
  3. Add the rice and water or stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking. Cook for about an hour.
  4. Add in the greens and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, or until it is like oatmeal or porridge. Some people like it soupy, some people like it pudding-y. It’s up to you. If you simmer too long and need it thinner, add boiling water.
  5. Season to taste with salt or soy sauce and pepper. Serve hot with the garnishes of your choice.


Doubles well.