Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dandelion Green and Goat Cheese Empanadas

Our favorite Argentinian restaurant here in Houston is Marini's Empanadas.  We order a big assortment of empanadas every time we eat there. Our favorites include the Dulce de Leche dessert empanada, and the Humita with creamed corn and cheeses.  At just over $2 each, they're so affordable and delicious, we never planned to make empanadas at home.  But then we discovered this recipe in the L.A. Times, and couldn't resist making empanadas using our Red Rib Italian Dandelion greens from the garden.  The ribs of the dandelion greens keep their red color when cooked, making the filling as pretty as it is tasty.  This is a time-consuming recipe, so save these empanadas for a weekend project, or break it up into two nights.  The unbaked empanadas keep in the fridge for up to two days.

Dandelion Green and Goat Cheese Empanadas

adapted from


1          cup              whole-wheat flour
1 1/4    cup              unbleached A.P.flour
                                sea salt and black pepper
1/2       cup               (1 stick) butter, cubed and cold
1/2       tsp                cider vinegar
1                              egg, separated
                                ice water
3                              large bunches dandelion greens
1 1/2    cup              onion, finely chopped (about 1 onion)
1          cup               leek sliced thinly (about 1 leek)
1/4       cup               olive oil
3                              cloves garlic, minced
1/8       tsp                red pepper flakes
1/4       tsp                cayenne
11        oz                goat cheese
1/2       cup              grated Pecorino Romano
                                Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is reduced to pea-sized pieces. 
  2. In a measuring cup, whisk together the vinegar and egg yolk (reserving the egg white) and add enough ice-cold water to bring the volume to one-half cup. Add the liquid to the processor in a steady stream while pulsing. 
  3. Continue to pulse just until the mixture looks crumbly and damp, and the dough just adheres when pressed together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the dandelion greens for about 1 minute to bring out the color and soften slightly. Drain and immediately run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Coarsely chop, then squeeze the chopped greens in a towel to remove as much liquid as possible and set aside.
  6. In a large pan, cook the onions and leeks in the olive oil over medium heat until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the garlic is aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt, the pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp black pepper and the cayenne. Remove from heat and cool. 
  7. In a large bowl, combine the cheeses, dandelion greens and onion mixture. 
  8. Divide the chilled empanada dough into 8 disk-shaped portions. On a floured work surface, roll out each portion of dough into an approximately 7-inch circle. Place one-third cup of the filling in the lower middle section of the circle. Whisk the reserved egg white in a small bowl and use it to brush the outer edges of the lower half of the dough. Fold the dough in half over the filling, pressing the edges and making sure there are no air pockets. Trim any rough or uneven parts and either crimp the edges with your fingers or use a fork to seal the edges. 
  9. Place the empanadas on a silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake until puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack. The empanadas will keep, unbaked and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Salad of Bitter Italian Greens, Strawberries and Parmesan

Here in Houston we are straddling winter and spring.  Temperatures jumped to the 80's before we were hit by a dramatic cold snap that sent temperatures dipping down into the 30's.  The sudden cold weather had us scrambling to save our tomato, cucumber and eggplant seedlings, while the warmer temperatures sent our cool-weather greens into overdrive, with many plants all hitting maturity at once.  We are now harvesting gorgeous Lettuces, Chicories, Arugula, Kale, Swiss Chard and Asian Greens to name just a few.  The Cilantro, Dill, Parsley and Fennel are also amazing.
When local strawberries showed up at our market, we knew it was time to combine them with something from this abundant harvest. We created a seasonal salad which uses escarole (below), fennel and barba di cappuccino chicory (above) from the garden for a dish that is seriously bitter.  We love these bold flavors which play off the sweet strawberries and salty cheese to perfection.   The recipe makes a filling meal for two, but the salad is so pretty that it would also be a wonderful accompaniment to a main course.  Just be sure to pair it with an entree that has equally strong flavors.
Salad of Bitter Italian Greens, Strawberries and Parmesan
serves 2 as a meal

3            Tbs          minced shallot (about 1 shallot)
2            Tbs          fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1            tsp           red-wine vinegar
1/2         tsp           fine sea salt
1                            escarole head, torn into pieces
1                            barba di cappuccino head (or frisee or radicchio),
                              torn into pieces
1                            small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/4         cup          olive oil
1/4         cup          parmesan, thinly sliced or shaved
1            cup          strawberries, washed and thinly sliced

  1.  Combine shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.  Slowly whisk in olive oil.
  2. Combine greens and fennel in a big mixing bowl.
  3. Toss greens with dressing to coat.
  4. Divide between two plates, top with sliced strawberries and parmesan.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Arancini with Fresh Mozzarella , Petit Pois and Toasted Pistachio

These arancini are deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with fresh mozzarella, peas and pistachios.  That description alone was enough to sell us on the concept.  They take some time to assemble so don't make our mistake and start the process at 8:00 on a weeknight.  That being said, if you have the time to prepare these, the results are well worth the effort.  They are crunchy, creamy, and gooey all at the same time, with wonderful Italian flavors that make a fantastic dinner.  If you are lucky enough to have fresh peas in the garden now, so much the better.   Fresh chickpeas, another vegetable we're harvesting now, would make a delicious alternative.

Fresh Mozzarella, Petit Pois and Toasted Pistachio Arancini
from Food and Wine December 2009


2 1/2           Tbs              unsalted butter
1                                     small onion, minced
1 1/2           cup               arborio rice
1/2              cup              dry white wine
                   pinch            saffron threads, crumbled
                                       sea salt and black pepper to taste
3                 cups             vegetable stock, warmed
3                 Tbs              parmesan, grated
1/2              Tbs              unbleached A.P. flour, plus more for dusting
1/4              cup              plus 2 Tbs milk
                   pinch           nutmeg
4                 oz                fresh mozzarella, finely diced
1/2              cup              plus 2 Tbs chopped, salted pistachios
2                 Tbs             petit pois or baby peas, removed from pods
2                                    eggs, beaten
1 1/2           cups            panko bread crumbs
                                      vegetable oil for frying
                                      deep fryer or thermometer

  1. In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until well coated with butter. Add the white wine and saffron, season with sea salt and black pepper and cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add the warm stock 1/2 cup at a time and, stirring constantly between additions, cook until it is absorbed. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente, around 25 minutes total. Stir in the grated cheese, transfer to a bowl and let cool.
  2. Melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan. Add the 1/2 tablespoon of flour and whisk constantly over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the milk and cook, whisking, until thickened. Add nutmeg and set aside to cool completely. When cooled, add mozzarella, pistachios and peas.
  3. Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper. Put the eggs, panko and flour for in 3 separate shallow bowls. Using lightly moistened hands, shape the rice mixture into 16 equal balls. Working with one ball at a time, make an indentation in the center with your finger and press the sides to make the hollow larger. Spoon a scant tablespoon of the pistachio filling into the hollow and press the risotto around the filling to enclose it. Transfer the ball to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto and filling. Roll the risotto balls in the flour, tapping off the excess. Then roll them in the egg, and last roll them in the panko.
  4. Heat vegetable oil in deep fryer or pot to 350°. Fry the arancini, turning occasionally, until golden and heated through, about 6 minutes. Remove to paper towels to dry, then serve hot.
Vintage platter in photo is "Raffia" pattern by Vernonware

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Panini with Braised Escarole, Apples and Walnuts

    Escarole is a type of endive, all of which are chicories.   Like other chicories, escaroles prefer cool temperatures and are grown in Houston as a winter green.  This variety is Natacha from Johnny's Seeds.  We started seeds in August and September, and our garden is now full of rows of escarole ready for harvest. 

    Escarole forms big heads of mildly bitter, soft leaves.  The leaves in the center are supposed to be milder in flavor, but we always use the whole head together.  Escarole is rich in folic acid, fiber, and vitamins A and K, and makes a wonderful cooked green.  Here we continue our sandwich series* with a panini stuffed with braised escarole, sautéed apples and toasted walnuts.   The sweet apples, bitter greens and earthy nuts meld perfectly in this filling panini.  Using escarole fresh from the garden makes it taste even better.
    Panini with Braised Escarole, Sautéed Apples and Toasted Walnuts
    makes 2 panini


    2           Tbs            butter
    1/2                          Granny Smith apple, thickly sliced
    1                             shallot, thinly sliced
    2                             garlic cloves, minced
    1                             escarole head, cut into 1/2" pieces
    1/2       tsp              cider vinegar
    1          Tbs             water
    1/4       cup             walnuts, chopped and toasted
    4                             slices sourdough or similar bread
                                   sea salt and black pepper
                                   olive oil for pan

    1. Sautée apple in 1 Tbs butter over medium heat until soft and starting to caramelize, about 2 minutes.  Remove apples from pan and set aside.
    2. Add remaining 1 Tbs butter to pan and sautée shallot over medium-low heat until softened.  Add garlic and cook briefly, then add escarole and sautée until it starts to wilt.  Add vinegar and water and cook until tender, about four more minutes.  Add apples, walnuts, and salt and pepper to taste and sautée briefly.
    3. Top bread slices with braised escarole filling and grill on panini press or in pan lightly coated with olive oil.  If using pan, use another pan to press sandwich, and weigh down with a tea kettle or similar.  Flip to evenly grill both sides and serve immediately.
     Check out our other sandwiches in this series:
    Panini with Anjou Pears, Caramelized Walnuts, Brie and Arugula Pesto Mayo
    Caramelized Apple Melt with Aged Cheddar and Arugula
    Green Apple, Caramelized Onion and Brie Panini

      Monday, March 22, 2010

      Boca Burgers with Pureed Mache and Sauteed Dandelion Greens

      This was one of our quick dinners created after surveying the vegetable garden for ideas.  Mache and Dandelion Greens have both thrived this winter with no attention from us.  The mache is growing in our window box where it gets very little sun or water, but the plants are thick and full.  In the backyard, we are growing both Green and Red-Ribbed Dandelion Greens.  Both varieties have grown into large, full plants with the longest leaves reaching well over 18 inches.  We topped boca burgers with the mache puree, although it is tasty enough on its own to use as a vegetable dish.  For our side, we sauteed dandelion greens which were bitter and wonderful at the same time.
      Pureed Mache

      1 1/2          Tbs          sea salt
      1                 lb            freshly picked mache, washed and dried
      1/4              cup         vegetable stock
      1/4              cup         half and half
                                        pinch of nutmeg

      Sauteed Dandelion Greens

      1              lb              freshly picked dandelion greens, rinsed
      2              Tbs           salt
      1/8          cup            olive oil
      2                               garlic cloves, minced
      1/8          tsp             red pepper flakes
      1/8          tsp             sea salt

      Pureed Mache
      1. Bring large pot of water to a boil, add salt and mache.  Blanch, uncovered, until just softened, about 2 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.   Gently press out extra water.
      2. In food processor, puree mache with vegetable stock and half and half until smooth.  Season with nutmeg and sea salt to taste.
      3. Use on a sandwich like we did, or serve as a side dish.  This would also be fantastic tossed with some pasta and a wonderful cheese.
      Sauteed Dandelion Greens
      1. Bring large pot of water to a boil, add salt and dandelion greens.  Cook uncovered until ribs are soft, about 10 minutes.  Drain, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Gently press out extra water.
      2. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium, then saute garlic and red pepper about 1 minute.  Increase temperature to medium-high, add greens and sea salt, and saute until greens are coated with oil, about 4 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
      3. Serve immediately.

      Thursday, March 18, 2010

      Panini with Anjou Pears, Brie, Caramelized Walnuts and Arugula Pesto Mayo

      Another in our fruit and cheese sandwich series*, this panini was such a success at home that we are now offering it as a special at Be-Wiched.   The arugula pesto mayo, made with arugula from our garden, is an amazing condiment that would work on many sandwiches.  The recipe makes more pesto mayo than you'll need, so use the extra to make more sandwiches or to experiment with other combinations.  Here we combined it with our favorite creamy brie, Saint-André, anjou pears and caramelized walnuts.  Add some sourdough bread and you've got a panini to remember.
      Anjou Pear, Caramelized Walnuts and Arugula Pesto Mayo Panini
      makes two sandwiches


      Arugula Pesto Mayo

      3            cups           packed arugula
      1/4         cup            toasted pine nuts
      1/4         cup            freshly grated parmesan
      1/4         cup            olive oil
      3 1/2      tbs             mayo
                                     sea salt and black pepper

      Caramelized Walnuts

      1            cup            walnuts
      2            tbs             light corn syrup
      1            tbs             sugar
      1/2         tsp             salt
      1/4         tsp             ground black pepper


      4           slices         sourdough bread
      1                            anjou pear, sliced thinly
      4                            thick slices brie


      Arugula Pesto Mayo
      1. Combine arugula, pine nuts and parmesan in food processor until smooth.
      2. With machine running, gradually add olive oil and mix until well blended.
      3. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
      4. Add mayo and blend well.
      5. You will have extra after making the sandwich.
      Caramelized Walnuts
      1. Preheat oven to 325°.
      2. Use silpat or spray sheet pan with non-stick spray.
      3. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well.
      4. Spread out on sheet pan and bake, stirring occasionally to break up clumps, until deep golden brown and sugar is bubbling.
      5. Remove from oven and cool.
      6. You may have extra caramelized walnuts after making the sandwich.
      1. Spread arugula pesto mayo on both sides on bread.  One one side, layer pears, then cheese and walnuts.  Add top slice of bread and toast on panini press or in a pan lightly coated with olive oil.  If using a pan, weigh down sandwich with another pan on top and a tea kettle or similar for weight.  Flip over to grill evenly.
      2. Eat warm.

      Check out our other Sandwiches in this series:
      **Caramelized Apple Melt with Aged Cheddar and Arugula
      **Green Apple, Brie and Caramelized Onion Panini

      Wednesday, March 17, 2010

      French Breakfast Radish and Mache Sandwiches

      While clearing out the garden for spring vegetables, we discovered a row of French Breakfast radishes we had forgotten about.  The plants have been completely ignored since we started the seeds last September, but they have thrived nevertheless.   If you think of radishes as nothing more than a salad garnish, this recipe will open your eyes to the potential of radishes as the star ingredient.  With a great peppery flavor, crunchy texture and beautiful color, our radishes are incredible.  Here we combine the radishes with mache from the garden, another vegetable that has loved our long, cold (well, Houston's version of cold) winter.  One bunch of radishes and their greens combined with the mache makes a wonderful salad and sandwich.  Eaten together, an amazing meal celebrating the radish.

      French Breakfast Radish and Mache Salad and Sandwiches
      adapted from Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells



      1/2       Tbs             fresh lemon juice
      1/8        tsp             sea salt
      1/4        cup            1/2 and 1/2 or light cream
      1           oz              finely minced green bunching onions or chives

      Salad and Sandwich

      3          cups           mache (photo above) or butter lettuce
      8                            french breakfast radishes, washed,
                                    thinly sliced, and leaves reserved
      2          Tbs            unsalted butter at room temp
                                    zest of 1 lemon
      4                            slices pumpernickel bread
                                    coarse sea salt

      1. Make dressing:  Combine lemon juice and salt well.  Add half and half and onions and blend well.  Season to taste.
      2. Tear mache into bite-sized pieces.
      3. Slice radishes into thin rounds.  Set aside one quarter of the radishes, then cut remaining radishes rounds into thin strips.  Finely chop the radish leaves.  Place radishes and leaves on paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
      4. Combine butter and lemon zest.  Add radish strips and chopped radish leaves and mash everything together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
      5. Spread mixture on toasted rye bread slices.  Add radish rounds on top, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.

      1. For the salad, combine remaining radish rounds with mache leaves.  Add dressing to lightly coat the greens.  Season with sea salt and serve.

        Monday, March 15, 2010

        Butternut Squash, Feta and Jalapeno Quesadillas

        Living in the heart of Tex-Mex country, quesadillas are ubiquitous.  Restaurants, however, tend to stick to the classic cheese and meat fillings.  At home, the quesadilla is so versatile that we have successfully created many different vegetable and cheese combinations depending on what's growing in the garden.  Our favorite combines butternut squash and feta with a jalapeño and lots of fresh cilantro from the garden.  The jalapeño adds only subtle heat, so we sometimes add a finely diced dried cayenne pepper left over from last summer's harvest for a stronger kick.
        Butternut Squash, Feta and Jalapeño Quesadillas
        serves 2 as entree


        1                   1-lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" cubes
        1                   jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed, finely chopped
        1                   dried cayenne pepper (optional)
        4                   flour tortillas
        4      oz         sheep's milk feta, crumbled
        1/4  cup        cilantro, chopped
                             sea salt and black pepper
                             vegetable oil

        1. Boil a big pot of salted water and add cubed butternut squash.  Boil until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and cool slightly, then puree in food processor.  
        2. Add jalapeño to pureed butternut squash, then add salt and pepper to taste.  If you like more heat, add a finely diced dried cayenne pepper to the mixture.
        3. Spread butternut puree on a tortilla, then sprinkle cheese and cilantro.  Use second tortilla to make a top for the quesadilla.  
        4. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high.  Add quesadilla and cook until browned, then flip over and repeat.
        5. Garnish with more cilantro and serve immediately.

        Thursday, March 11, 2010

        Momofuku Crack Pie Bars

        We went to Momofuku Milk Bar in New York a few years ago to try their famous desserts.  We spent and ate way too much, but the only dessert that we vividly remember is the crack pie.  A rich, gooey, custard pie with hints of butterscotch and caramel on top of a cookie crust, it was unlike anything we have had before or since.  We couldn't deconstruct the ingredients (though we really tried), so we were excited when the recipe started circulating last fall thanks to Martha Stewart and our friend Mae of Peas Love Carrots.   With almost a pound of butter and eight egg yolks, this is a seriously rich dessert, and we would have never guessed it included milk powder and oats. 

        The recipe we used, from the L.A. Times, makes two pies.  Since we prepared these with our boys and wanted to keep it simple, we instead made bars using one big baking dish.  If you prefer pies, you can follow our recipe and just divide the crust and filling into two pie pans.  The original recipe gives measurements by volume and by weight, but the volume measurements are a bit odd (2/3 cup plus 2 Tbs flour, scan 1 cup oats, etc.), so we chose to use our digital food scale in order to be precise.  In doesn't hurt that our kids love weighing everything, making the baking process especially fun for them.

        The bars have been a huge hit with all of us.  However, if you don't want your family baking time to be converted into a "just say no" conversation, feel free to change the name.  We haven't come up with anything brilliant so in our house they're Crack Pie Bars.  Regardless, you are sure to be hooked after you take your first bite.

        Momofuku Crack Pie Bars
        recipe from The L.A. Times


        Cookie for Crust

        3                      oz              unbleached A.P. flour
        scant 1/8           tsp            baking powder
        scant 1/8           tsp            baking soda
        1/4                    tsp            salt
        1/2                    cup           (1 stick) butter, room temp
        2 1/2                 oz             light brown sugar
        1 1/4                 oz             sugar
        1                                        egg
        3 1/2                 oz             rolled oats


                                                  crumbled cookie for crust
        1/4                    cup            (1/2 stick) butter
        3/4                    oz              light brown sugar
        1/8                    tsp             salt


        10 1/2               oz              sugar
        7                       oz              light brown sugar
        1/4                     tsp            salt
        3/4                     oz             milk powder
        1                        cup           (2 sticks) butter, melted
        3/4                     cup           plus scant 2 Tbs heavy cream
        1                        tsp            vanilla
        8                                         egg yolks
                                                   9x13 pyrex baking dish or similar
                                                   powdered sugar


        Cookie for Crust
        1. Preheat oven to 325° convection (375° conventional) and place shelf in the middle.
        2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
        3. Cream butter, brown sugar and sugar with in stand mixer until light and fluffy.
        4. Add egg and mix well.
        5. With mixer running on LOW to prevent a cloud of flour in your kitchen, slowing add flour mixture until fully incorporated.  Fold in oats.
        6. Spread in a thin layer on a butter baking sheet and bake until golden brown and slightly crispy around edges, 12 minutes in our oven.  Remove to a rack to cool.
        1. Crumble cookie when just very slightly warm.  
        2. In food processor, combine cookie crumbs, brown sugar, salt and butter and blend well until evenly combined and crumbs are fine.
        3. Press into a even layer in the bottom of a well-butter pyrex or similar baking dish.  Press well to compact and even.
        1. Reduce oven temperature to 300° convection (350° conventional).
        2. Combine sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder in bowl of mixer.  Add cooled melted butter and combine well.  Add heavy cream and vanilla and combine well.
        3. Add egg yolks and combine on very low speed to avoid incorporating too much air.
        4. Pour filling on top of cookie crust, and bake at 300° about 20 minutes, then lower temperature to 275° and continue to bake until top is golden brown and set around the edges, about 30 minutes, with filling still slightly jiggly.**
        5. Remove and cool to room temp, then refrigerate.  The official recommendation is to serve cold with powdered sugar dusted on top, but we prefer to eat these warm and gooey so we heat the bars for about 20 seconds in the micro.  Stored in refrigerator, extra keeps for several days.
        ** We used a low temperature with our convection oven, so the bars baked quite slowly and evenly.  If you use a conventional oven with higher temperatures, you may need to reduce the baking time considerably to avoid over-baking or burning the top, and be sure to rotate your pan regularly for even baking.

        Wednesday, March 10, 2010

        Green Apple, Brie and Caramelized Onion Panini

        Because our restaurant specializes in panini and soup, we rarely make either at home.  The last thing David wants to do is come home and cook more of what he spent all day preparing at Be-Wiched.  But for some reason, we've been on a bit of a sandwich kick at home the last few weeks.  It started with our Caramelized Apple Melt with Aged Cheddar and Arugula last week, and the theme, albeit unintentional, seems to be fruit and cheese on bread.

        This week, our panini combines rich caramelized onions with tart Granny Smith apples and creamy brie (our favorite is Saint-André).  Wonderful, intense flavors from just main three ingredients.  And, the onions are the only real cooking that is required, making this a quick recipe ideal for a late dinner when you're too tired to make anything elaborate.    The only problem is that it is hard to stop at just one sandwich.

        Green Apple, Brie and Caramelized Onion Panini
        adapted from


        2           Tbs           olive oil
        2 1/2     cups          onions, sliced
        2           Tbs           brown sugar
        1           Tbs           balsamic vinegar
        1                            Granny Smith apple, sliced thinly
        4                            slices thick sourdough bread
        4       oz                  brie, sliced thinly

        1. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil over medium high and saute onions until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. 
        2. Reduce heat to medium and add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar.  Stir frequently until onions are a dark brown, at least 10 minutes.  Remove from heat to cool.
        3. Assemble sandwiches with caramelized onions, brie and apple slices.  Heat remaining olive oil in pan or use panini press and add sandwiches.  If you're using a pan, place another pan on top of the sandwiches and weigh it down with a tea kettle or something similarly heavy to press and toast the sandwiches.  Flip over when the first side is golden brown and toasted and repeat.  Eat immediately.

        Monday, March 8, 2010

        Yangshuo-Style Eggplant and Tofu

        If you're missing Ruth Reichl now that Gourmet magazine has folded, check out her weekly program on PBS.  It is a beautifully-filmed series documenting her trips to foodie destinations around the world with many unusual recipes.  One of our favorite episodes introduced us to the Chinese province of Yangshuo which offers breathtaking landscapes and amazing food.  After watching that program, we were inspired to create our own (vegetarian) version of an eggplant dish from Yangshuo featured on the program.  The recipe includes a few unusual ingredients, but we were lucky to find everything we needed at our local grocer, and our addition of tofu converts the original vegetable dish into a filling meal.  This is a quick recipe ready in just a few minutes once you have your ingredients assembled.
        Yangshuo-Style Eggplant and Tofu
        serves 2 as an entree


        1/2          lb         Japanese eggplant
        2             Tbs      vegetable oil
        2                         garlic cloves, minced
        2             tsp        fresh ginger, minced
        1/2          tsp        chile paste
        1.2          tsp        fermented black beans (see picture above)
        1/3          cup       water
        1             Tbs       vegetarian stir-fry sauce (see picture above)
        1             Tbs       soy sauce
        2                          scallions, white and green parts cut into 3" pieces
        8             oz         extra-firm tofu
        1             cup       sushi rice

        1. Wrap tofu in paper towels and place between two plates for about ten minutes to drain excess liquid.  Discard paper towels, cut tofu into 1" cubes.
        2. Cook rice.
        3. Cut eggplant into thin slices .
        4. Heat wok over high until it smokes.  Add oil and swirl around pan.  Immediately add eggplant and fry until softened and browned, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and continue to fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
        5. Add chile paste and black beans and cook about 30 seconds, then add water, vegetarian stir-fry sauce, soy sauce and tofu.  Cook until eggplant and tofu are coated with a thickened sauce, about 2 minutes.  Add scallions and cook briefly (about 30 seconds).
        6. Serve immediately over cooked rice.

        Saturday, March 6, 2010

        Today in the Garden at Vegetable Matter

        Just some quick snaps taken today, March 6, 2010 in the Vegetable Matter garden

        Chickpea flowering
        Barba di Cappuccino
        Wild Chicory
        Nero Toscano Dinosaur Kale
        Italian Parsley
        Bronze Fennel
        Bunching Onion
        Fava Aguadulce Flowering
        Red Rib Dandelion
        Escarole Natacha
        Elephant Garlic
        Batavian Escarole
        Kojisan (Komatsuna)
        Tokyo Early (Komatsuna)
        Chinese Kale
        Dandelion Greens
        Green Glaze Collards
        Fava Nintoku flowering
        Rubine Brussels Sprouts
        Ruby Red Swiss Chard
        Chin Chiang flowering
        Sasai Purple flowering
        Yaya carrot
        Amish Deer Tongue
        Rouge d'Hiver
        Bull's Blood
        Tang Coriander
        Fennel Florence Finocchio