Monday, August 30, 2010

Remember Hypercolour?

Those shirts? I'm not sure how big these actually were as a trend, but I can say they were height of fifth grade fashion in 1988. (Everyone who was anyone was sporting a splotchy hand print.)

So imagine my surprise when the beautiful purple beans I'd bought at the farmers' market started to turn green in a very hypercolouresque way (left) once they began to simmer.

In both cases — shirt and beans — colour change is the result of a chemical process. (Ah, the eighties — when it wasn't at all weird to wear chemically reactive clothing to make a statement.)

With the beans:

"What happened was the heat from the cooking broke apart the molecules on the surface of the bean [i.e., pigments called anthocyanins] and exposed the chlorophyll which is green." (Source: MadSci Network)

Anthocyanins also give purple carrots and potatoes their pigment. But unlike the beans, they retain their colour though the cooking process (right). I'm guessing that's because, as root vegetables, they lack the chlorophyll of vegetables that grow above ground.   

Is that right, Mr. Wizard?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vegetarian stuffed bell peppers

The making of this dish marked a watershed moment for me — it was the first time I actually improved on an originally meat-based recipe by making it vegetarian. A welcome surprise, as I was getting pretty tired of consistently making some of favorite recipes worse through substitution.

I swapped the ground beef in these stuffed peppers, not with imitation "veggie ground round" but with black beans — an often overlooked ground meat substitute. Here's the recipe:



4 medium red yellow, or orange bell peppers, cored and seeded, 1/2 inch trimmed off tops
1/2 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can (10 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
3 medium cloves garlic , minced
1 can (14 1/2 oz or equal to 1/2 a large can) diced tomatoes, drained, 1/4 cup juice reserved
1 1/4 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup ketchup


Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot over high heat. Add 1 tbsp salt and bell peppers. Cook until peppers just begin to soften, about 3 min. Using slotted spoon, remove peppers from pot, drain off excess water, and place peppers cut-sides up on paper towels. Return water to boil; add rice and boil until tender, about 13 min. Drain rice and transfer to large bowl; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°.

Meanwhile, heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until hot, about 1 1/2 min; add oil and swirl to coat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 min. Stir in garlic and beans, and cook until fragrant, about 30 sec. Transfer mixture to bowl with rice; stir in tomatoes, 1 cup cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir together ketchup and reserved tomato juice in small bowl.

Place peppers cut-side up in a 9-in baking dish. Using soup spoon, divide filling evenly among peppers. Spoon 2 tbsp ketchup mixture over each filled pepper and sprinkle each with 1 tbsp of remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is browned and filling is heated through, 25–30 min. Serve immediately.

And the best part of this little experiment? This is recipe was adapted from America's Test Kitchen. So I'm also claiming to have improved on an ATK "best recipe." Christopher Kimball, I await your cease-and-desist letter.

Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers (Zeytinyagli Biber Dolmasi) on Foodista

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pasta in almond garlic sauce

Some recipes just don't make sense. And, yet, still work. This is that kind of recipe.

I got a strong "What am I doing?" feeling as I was puréeing garlic, blanched almonds and water into a milky slurry. But, that's not the only WTH moment in the recipe. You are also called upon at different points to reserve 3 cups of pasta water and mix a bag frozen peas in with a relative truckload of fresh herbs. Huh?

Here's the Gourmet recipe:



3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup water
1 lb cavatappi
2 tbsp extra-virigin olive oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 small package frozen peas
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup basil leaves (torn if large), divided
1/3 cup mint leaves (torn if large), divided
1/3 cup chopped roasted almond 


Purée blanched almonds and garlic with water and 1/4 tsp salt in a blender until smooth.

Cook cavatappi in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost al dente. Reserve 3 cups pasta water and drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add almond purée and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 3 min. Add 2 1/2 cups reserved cooking water, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 min. Whisk in remaining 2 tbsp butter until melted. Add pasta and peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente (sauce will be thin), 2–3 min.

Add cheese and lemon juice and stir until combined well. Remove from heat and stir in half of basil and mint and salt and pepper to taste. Serve pasta in bowls topped with chopped almonds, remaining herbs, and additional cheese.

This is a really satisfying fresh summer pasta, but despite all the almonds used, I couldn't detect a distinct almond flavour in this dish at all. Just one more strange thing about this recipe, I guess. I wonder how the test kitchen came up with this one.




Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vegan Strawberry ice cream — secret ingredient: vodka

I haven't been making ice cream for long, approaching 2 years, but this much is clear: David Lebovitz is the authority on the subject. He wrote the book, after all, and he spends his off-time on twitter lamenting the existence of things like "astronaut ice cream."

This to say that he puts a lot of effort into perfecting his ice creams, so, while the idea of vegan strawberry ice cream would normally intimidate me, knowing just how much heavy cream and egg yolks go into the average ice cream, the fact that David co-signed this recipe convinced me to try it.

This recipe uses rice milk and alcohol (kirsch, vodka, or orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier) to give the ice cream its creamy texture. (The rice milk is the milk substitute while the alcohol prevents the mixture from becoming too hard in the freezer.)

Here is my adaptation of the recipe:



1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups plain rice milk
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp vodka


Slice the berries and toss them with the sugar and honey, and let them macerate for 1 hr at room temperature.

Puree the berries and their liquid with the rice milk, lemon juice and liquor with a standard or immersion blender. You can puree it until completely smooth and strain out some or all of the seeds by pressing the mixture through a mesh sieve. Or you can leave it slightly chunky and omit straining it. (I strained.)

Taste, and add more lemon juice or liquor, if desired.

Chill well (I chill overnight), then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

The finished product had an incredible fresh strawberry flavor and a pretty good texture to say nothing of the fact that it's actually healthy; however, it's definitely more sherbet than ice cream. I think that was either due to possibly using too many strawberries (I eyeballed it at the farmers' market) or using berries that were very juicy, resulting in a more watery mixture. I could have also added more vodka, since it's still a little hard when it first comes out of the freezer (David says that you can add up to 3 tbsp of liquor to the mixture), but I was worried about blurring the line between strawberry ice cream and strawberry daiquiri.

I will try this again soon with a wider fruit-to-rice milk ratio because it did taste great, and I have a mostly full box a Rice Dream™ in the fridge that's not going anywhere.