Tag Archives: vegan

Today we answer the question: Munchkins: Can you eat them?

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Yes!

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No.

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Maybe so?

The question was originally posed by a friend a few months ago, when I was giving a tour of the pumpkins in my hallway. My response at the time was, “I don’t know, but we’re going to find out!” The time for finding out finally came a few weeks ago, as one of my original three Munchkins had gone bad (the floor life on that one was apparently only 5 months) and another one was starting to show a little mold ring around the collar. Or you know, MRATC as they say in the business. Or as I just made up right now.

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MRATC, here visible with the Munchkin now right-side up. Its lack of a middle piece stemmed from my little niece having a good time moving it one day from the hallway to the kitchen, and back, on repeat 🙂

I figured the best way to answer the question would be to bake the Munchkins as if they were regular pumpkins. So I cut them in half, then cut them in half again, scooped out the seeds, and popped them in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees.

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After cutting away the MRATC, I wound up with six pieces to bake. I also baked them face down, as shown in the last picture above (the one with the pumpkin disco effect, #nofilter). When I took them out of the oven, they looked, felt, and……….drumroll…………tasted pretty much like regular-sized pumpkins.

So, Munchkins: Can you eat them??? Yes!!

They’re not just for decoration anymore.

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Munchkins with Maple Syrup, Mmmmmmm.

If you’re feeling the fiber, you can even eat the skin, which is fairly thin. I baked the mini seeds too, and they also turned out well. I added a little olive oil and salt, and put them in the oven until crispy. I actually liked the Munchkin seeds better than the regular pumpkin seeds that I had made recently – the mini ones were less woody, more crispy, and easy to chew. I’ll try this again in the fall come pumpkin time, but I think we’ve found a keeper, in particular for the seeds. Good and crunchy. Has anyone else ever cooked with Munchkins? If you have some great uses or ideas, let me know!

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Chocolate Covered Matzoh

Chocolate covered Matzoh!

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This is one of those recipes where the name is 100% descriptive of the final product. And how about that final product.

Sweet, chocolatey, easy, and yes, there is matzoh there, but now it’s sweet, chocolately matzoh. Eating a piece for the first time is like discovering Cocoa Krispies after having eaten plain Rice Krispies your entire life.

I was the last of my relatives to sign up for which Passover dessert to bring to the second seder on Saturday, which meant that twelve others had already selected their category by the time I got the website. Waiting for me when I got there was the following: “Kosher for Passover, non-dairy cake, cookies or something else.”

I figured I’d figure it out Saturday morning, which is what I did in terms of the recipe and the production, but the actual idea came on Thursday during our weekly group run. I mentioned my pending Passover dessert duty, and the girl I was running with said something like, “Chocolate covered matzoh is really good and easy,” to which I said, “That sounds great! I’m going to do that. How do you make it?” to which she said, “You just melt some butter and sugar, brush it on the matzoh and bake it for a few minutes, and then add the chocolate,” to which I said, “Oh, that’s going to be good, I’m going to win the desserts!” Then I assured her that it wasn’t a contest but rather just a lot of people bringing something, and that it was the first time it was a little more organized. I also noted that to my knowledge, no one had ever made chocolate covered matzoh before, which meant that my contribution would have the potential of being not only good, but new.

I was feeling good about the pending baking experiment, and on Friday while I was hanging out with my brother and his girlfriend, we got to talking about the desserts we were going to make. Up for them was the following: homemade macaroons dipped in chocolate, and with chocolate drizzled on top (it’s a good thing I don’t have a picture of these because you might like them more than my chocolate matzoh 🙂 ). It came out during the conversation that my brother hadn’t signed up for a dessert slot, which in no way deterred the macaroon-making that followed, and that I had glossed over a small detail about my dessert category, which in a large way would have left me embarrassed had I not realized it in time. Kosher for Passover, non-dairy cake, cookies or something else. “Ahhhhh, yes, so maybe it’s a good idea if I don’t use butter when making the chocolate covered matzoh,” I said to myself and out loud. “Or milk chocolate.” The result: a delicious vegan dessert.

Vegan Chocolate Covered Matzoh

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 8-10 matzohs
  • 15 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Steps

  1. Mix the oil and sugar
  2. Brush and coat the top side of each matzoh with the oil and sugar mixture (I used a spoon for this step)
  3. Arrange the matzohs in single layer in your baking dishes
  4. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees (or was it 400 degrees? I’m missing this detail in my notes. What is important is taking the matzoh out before the edges start turning black. The rest of the matzoh will have a golden look.)
  5. Now take the baking dishes out of the oven, and add a handful of chocolate chips to each matzoh (about 1.5 oz per piece). Once the chocolate chips have melted (this may take about 5 minutes or more), spread the now-melted chocolate chips over the matzoh to cover the entire top side (I used the back of a spoon to do the spreading).
  6. And then put the matzohs in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes (for the chocolate to cool and harden)

When I made these this past Saturday, I also played around with a few different oil and sugar ratios. The first one was 1/2 cup oil with 1/4 cup sugar, which turned out to be a lot of sugar (and sweeter!):

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I also tried 1/2 cup oil with 1/4 cup brown sugar, which likewise turned out to be a lot of sugar. On the matzohs where I used these mixtures, you could see extra grains of sugar sitting on top of the matzohs after the 15-20 minutes of baking.

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How everything looked after adding the chocolate chips to the baked matzoh

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And a close up: chips melting, sugar showing

I also tried the following with the oil and sugar, in a second batch that I made:

  • Using and brushing on the same oil and sugar mixture as above, but scraping away the excess sugar before baking
  • Brushing some of the matzohs with plain oil and then sprinkling a small amount of sugar on top, and then baking

The results for these sugar-lighter pieces seemed as good as the results for the ones I had made earlier with more sugar, so I went with the sugar-lighter version for the recipe above. The 1/2 Tbsp of sugar is a good estimate for what I’d sprinkled on (if you do the math, that’s 3/16 tsp sugar per piece of matzoh..want more or less sugar? Go for it! The semi-sweet chocolate chips also already have sugar in them). In the recipe, the first two steps are, ‘Mix the oil and sugar, and then brush this mixture on,” but as noted here, another option is you could also brush the oil on first and then do a sugar sprinkle.

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Here in mid-spread: Some soon-to-be chocolate covered matzoh (L), and chocolate covered matzoh (R)

In the end, assuming that everyone who had signed up for a dessert brought a dessert, plus my brother and his girlfriend, we had 14 desserts altogether to choose from. If you figure that each dessert had about 15 servings and that about 30 people came altogether, that’s a whopping 7 dessert servings per person! There’s always room for dessert, though, from the fresh fruit to the sponge cakes to the apple kugel to the macaroons and to the chocolate covered matzoh and all the rest.

One day, I’ll probably give the butter version of Chocolate Covered Matzoh a try. Maybe I’ll also try adding salt, cinnamon, or various nuts, as I saw in some recipes, or adding something simple like orange zest. A fresh hint of orange to go with the chocolate? I have a feeling that would be even more chocolate-covered-matzoh-y good.

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An Ethiopian Double – Injera and Ye Atakilt Alicha

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Let us see, what here do we have… A large bowl, used for something. The contents – empty, with a film remaining, dried. Used recently, a batter of some type, yes last night! A cutting board, similarly splattered, an upturned pot and pan behind. But why upturned? The shelves past the stove, full, a recently used bowl, close, yes the dishes! Not cooking now, but the morning after, the dishes all done but one, a bowl to go. Dish rack full, pots inverted, pots in place, pots not in place, yes pots drying! The bowl, posing, waiting, take my picture, speaking what? To the brim, over, no more, no matter, well used, well spent, alive, and dried.

Yes, two nights ago I made an Ethiopian dinner and had my parents over, and the night before that I went to McCarter Theater and saw Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. As you may have deduced. 🙂

Injera, the Ethiopian spongy flatbread, was on the menu Saturday night, as was Ye Atakilt Alicha (Green beans and carrots), Misr Wat (Red lentil stew), and Ayib (Cottage cheese). That’s four items, so yes, actually it was an Ethiopian quadruple, but it’ll be a double here for recipe-writing purposes. I shared the cottage cheese recipe last month, and I’ll do a write-up the red lentils later after I make it again.

Like the cottage cheese recipe, I got the other recipes from the Ethiopian cooking class I took in December and January. I made them all during a 3-4 hour window on Saturday afternoon (except for the first part of the injera, which you have to start earlier), and it turned out pretty good. I also got two good reviews.

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This is how everything looked on my plate right before I ate it. The injera was actually lighter in color (more pictures below), and yes, the shiny metal thing at the top left corner was a fork. Whoops! I played with cropping out the fork, but then the rest of the picture didn’t look balanced. We actually didn’t use forks – gotta use just your fingers and the injera! – but the forks were there on the table, at least for a minute anyway at the beginning before I remembered to put them away. The place-settings were the product of my pace-setting, that is, of my efforts to finish and bring the final few things together at the same time, and timely. Coming up after dinner was Café Improv at the Arts Council.

I wouldn’t call the injera recipe complicated, but it was a two-pager – page 1 was how to make the irsho (sourdough starter), and page 2 was how to make the injera once the starter was ready. Here are the recipes and how it all worked out.

Irsho (Sourdough starter)

  • 2 cups teff flour
  • 2 cups warm water
  1. Mix the teff flour and water in a large bowl
  2. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth, and store in a warm place with good circulation
  3. Stir the batter well at least once a day
  4. The starter will be ready in a few days (depends on environmental factors). When you see tiny bubbles forming at the surface, it’s good to go.

Injera

  • Sourdough starter (the mixture from above)
  • 5 cups warm water
  • 2 cups teff flour (plus 1 Tbsp more)
  • 2 cups buckwheat flour (if you want gluten free) or barley flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp teff flour
  • Oil for coating the frying pan (I used a 12″ non-stick pan)
  1. Mix the starter, water (5 cups), teff flour (2 cups) and buckwheat flour (2 cups). It should have the consistency of thin pancake batter.
  2. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth, and store in a warm place to ferment for at least a day.
  3. During this time, stir the batter a few times.
  4. Then, once you’re ready to cook the injera, add the salt (1 tsp), baking soda (1 tsp), and extra teff flour (1 Tbsp). Mix together, and then let the batter sit for five minutes.
  5. Heat the frying pan over medium heat, and lightly coat with oil.
  6. Pour the batter (about 1/2 cup at a time) into the pan, and quickly turn the pan around as if making a crepe (so the batter is spread as thinly as possible and covering most of the pan).
  7. Cover the pan with a lid as the injera cooks.
  8. Cook until holes appear all over the injera. Around the same time, you’ll notice the outer edge of the injera also beginning to curl up from the pan. Together, these mean the injera is done (you only cook the injera on one side – no flipping).
  9. Remove the injera, and place on a clean cloth to cool (I stacked them on a single plate, with paper towels between each one).

As I keep trying this and make injera again in the future, I have a feeling I may tweak or combine the two recipes in some way. Some of the injera recipes I’ve seen online seem to omit the starter step, so that’s one thing I want to ask our instructor about. I also forget why we included some buckwheat/barley flour rather than using all teff flour – another question to follow up on with her. On the flip side (remember, no flipping the injera when you cook it), you know what making more injera means, right? That’s right! It means also making more Ethiopian dishes to go with it! And sharing them with friends and family. The recipe handout from the class was 17 pages long.

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The starter at step 1 – the teff flour and water, doing a good imitation of chocolate pudding mix.

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The starter after two days (also after having sat unmixed for 8 hours overnight) – a frothy top, plus bubbles bubbling up when mixed.

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The starter ready, so now time to add the (additional) teff flour and buckwheat flour and to make the batter bigger.

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The injera batter, half a day later – with a thick, chocolate mousse-like consistency (until I mixed it).

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And the injera batter a day after the initial mixing – temporarily settled in anticipation of the cooking step.

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It was the best of injera times

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And not the best of injera times

But overall it was a good time. One note to self for the next time: Remember to cover the frying pan when cooking the injera. My mom and I were trying to figure out why the injera wasn’t cooking evenly, and one by one and by trial and error, we settled on the following as the optimal system: use about a 1/2 cup to 5/8 cup of batter at a time, do a quick swirl-turn of the pan to spread the batter out (and do the swirl-turn fast so as to not have the pan off the burner for too long), and also move the pan around as needed to give more heat to certain parts. But the cover! I forgot about that. That may have been the single key to the question of ‘how to cook the injera evenly, and easily.’ The recipe above made about 15 pieces of injera. Together I think we ate 5. Good, spongy, slighty tangy: injera.

At this point, I know there might be another question out there: “Yes, there’s been a lot of talk about injera, and those bowls of brown liquid look lovely, but how hard is it to find flour?”

To this question, I will say, It’s not as teff as you think.

If you live in the greater Princeton area, you barley have to go far at all.

You could even ride your bike to the store, if you’re a young buckwheat like me.

Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t the best, but you gotta admit, the first one’s a good starter.

Pero en serio, we have some options. Store-wise, the best one-stop options for flour are the Whole Earth Center and Whole Foods. Both have teff, buckwheat, and barley. The rest that I checked out were kind of hit and miss, yes-this and no-that. Wegmans has teff and buckwheat, McCaffrey’s has buckwheat, and Shoprite has barley. Wegmans had the lowest-priced teff, but otherwise the prices were about the same – a little more here, a little less there. So unless you really like food-shopping and driving around (or perhaps biking or walking, if you’re buck-wheating the trend), hitting up one of the W stores should work fine for all your injera needs.

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Ye Atakilt Alicha (Green beans and carrots)

  • 3 red onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed and cut into two pieces
    (or 1 small cabbage, chopped into pieces)
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ long pieces
  • 4 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
  • Water, added as needed to prevent sticking
  1. Heat the oil a in pan over low heat.
  2. Add the onions and salt, and cook until soft or browned.
  3. Add the tomato paste, ginger, and garlic, and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, and cook for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the green beans, and cook until the carrots and green beans are mostly tender.
  6. Add the jalapeños, and cook for 5 minutes.
    Note: if the mixture is sticking to the pan along the way, add a little water. You can also cover the pan to have the carrots and green beans cook more quickly.

This is one of those recipes that is simple, easy to make, and tastes great. I’ve made it twice now with green beans (pictured below) and also twice with cabbage.

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Even when I played around with the recipe – like by cooking the onions without the oil (just with a little water) and adding the oil later, or by cooking the onions in half the oil, or by cooking the whole recipe over medium heat and adding more water as needed along the way – it always turned out good.

When we made it during the class, I also realized the following: you don’t need to chop off the bottom ends of the garlic – you can mince everything and then toss it all in! I’m not sure why I had never thought of that before, but doing that is awesome – several seconds saved, and my sense of conservation satisfied. In the class, we also sometimes used a grater/shredder for the ginger and garlic. So that’s an option too if one day, you know, you find yourself in an extra grate mood.

In any case…here a few final notes and pictures on the alicha. For the carrots, first I cut them into pieces about 2″ long. Then I took the fatter pieces (the ones that had come from the big ends of the carrots), and I split them in half the long way to make them closer in size to the rest. They don’t have to be perfect – any size is fine – but this made the pieces about the same size.

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The green beans don’t have to be perfectly uniform, either. And in fact you (or perhaps some helpful friends or kids) can do this step with just your (or their) hands – no knife necessary. That’s how we did it in the class – we snapped the ends off and then snapped the beans in half.

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With the jalapeños, if you like things a little hotter, you probably know what to do. I didn’t add any seeds to the alicha, but they’re there if you want them, and the jalapeños can also cook for more or less time at the end.

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And that’s it! An Ethiopian Quadruple Double. Give them a try, and see what you think. It’s no mystery I think they’re pretty good 🙂

Hot Not Tabbouleh

Let’s file this one under hearty, midweek, easy, and good. I made an initial version of it earlier in the week, and I was like, “Hmmm, this is pretty good for being pretty simple,” and then I made it again yesterday so that I could give it to a friend and also refine it/write about it.

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While the first goal will be a goal-postponed – given the snow, my friend and I decided to connect on another day – the second goal is in the process now of being a goal-realized. 🙂

As many a cook knows, many times or perhaps most or even all of the time, what you make often turns our a little different every time. This is especially true when you keep the ingredients (mostly) the same and don’t worry (too much) about the exact amounts. In this case, I knew the ingredients that I’d used the first time but not the precise amounts. I also decided to make a small spice swapperoo at the end. The result? The second version was indeed different from the first, and better.

The dish’s slightly different appearance the second time I made it also moved it a little further from how it reminded me of tabbouleh (the dish’s brown rice and spinach looked a little darker this time, I think because I used a little more tomato paste), but no matter for the name. I like the original name I gave it; it’s more interesting than calling it, say, vegetable-bean-spinach-baked-tofu rice; and in the end, it’s still a hot version of something somewhat reminiscent of tabbouleh, yet something else.

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First version

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Second version

Hot Not Tabbouleh

The igredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • 16 oz (1 can) light red kidney beans
  • 1 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 16 oz spinach
  • 2.5 cups cooked brown rice (1 cup uncooked)
  • 3 oz tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 16 oz extra firm tofu
  • 2.5 Tbsp soy sauce

[Wow, 17 ingredients! That might be the longest list in this space so far. It’s possible you have all or most of them already, though. The only things I didn’t have until that first day were the spinach and the corn, which I happened to buy (frozen) on a whim while wandering Wegmans.]

The steps

  1. Make the rice. (I used a rice cooker.)
  2. Bake the tofu. (Press out extra water, cut into small slabs (I made them about 1/2″ x 1″), mix with the soy sauce in a bowl, and bake on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, flipping them once half-way through.)
  3. Then do the rest. Start by sauteing the onions and garlic in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté until mostly soft.
  4. Add the red peppers and sauté until mostly soft
  5. Add the beans, corn, and spinach
  6. Add the rice, tomato paste, wine, and water. If there is any soy sauce left in the bowl, add that too.
  7. Mix everything together and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, chili powder, and lemon juice
  9. Cut the baked tofu pieces in half lengthwise, and add them to the pan
  10. Mix everything together and cook for another 10 minutes
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Most of the ingredients

Partial progress (just after the sauté)

Just after sauteing the onion, garlic, and red pepper

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The tofu, baked

Tofu, halved

The tofu, halved

And all ready to go

And the final dish, ready to go

If you’ve never had Hot Not Tabbouleh before (and if you made it through that last dependent clause), let me tell you, it’s got some substance to it. There’s a touch of sweetness from the corn kernels in most bites, a hint of smokiness from the chili powder, and a spinach smoothness that makes you wonder if there isn’t some melted cheese somewhere in there too.

As I was making it the first time, my general thinking was that I wanted to try new combinations of ingredients (using what I had on hand) and ultimately make something new. This included using a spice that I had only used once in a while – Chile Con Limon.

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While I liked how the first version of the dish tasted, with the second version I decided to try another type of Chile Con Limon:

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My main reason was I wanted to use more whole ingredients, like real lemon juice in place of what I saw on the El Monte Spices Chile Con Limon label (citric acid, dehydrated lemon, lemon juice, lemon peel, and natural flavors). Of course, as I’m writing this now, it occurred to me that I should also take a look at the ingredient list on the McCormick Chili Powder label. Well, it looks like my Hot Not Tabbouleh, version two, has a small amount of silicon dioxide. Maybe, like the beans, tofu, and spinach also in it, it’ll help make certain things, if you know what I mean, more free flowing? Like it’ll loosen things up and help give a different air?

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Oh, stop, I’m just bean funny.

With my selection of a real lemon, maybe I was also channeling the recipe’s second cousin, actual tabbouleh, for which lemon juice is a standard ingredient.

Whatever the case may be, the second coming of Hot Not Tabbouleh turned out pretty good. I’ll probably make it again at some point in the future – or to be more precise, I’ll make a similar but slightly different version again – and that as before, it’ll be good again, and possibly better.

Rutabaga Rice and Beans

Rutabaga rice and beans.

I could also call it onion, garlic, rutabaga, tomato, salt, chili powder, cumin, and hot pepper flakes rice and beans, but that doesn’t have quite the same alliterative and exotic ring to it.

TFD dot com tells me exotic (adj.) means:

  1. From another part of the world; foreign
  2. Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange
  3. Of or involving striptease

Sounds like a good a good fit!

Rutabaga is believed to have originally come from lands afar (Scandinavia and Russia), the idea of adding it to rice and beans is novel (intriguing! and excitingly strange!), and unless you like your rice and beans extra crunchy, you’ll need to strip the rutabaga first along the way (that is, you’ll need to peel off its outer skin; if the Swedish turnip’s feeling bashful, feel free to give it a gentle tease).

There are a lot of ways to make rice and beans. This is one. With the tomato and spices, it has somewhat of a Spanish Rice feel to it. The hot pepper flakes then add a touch of temperature, and the rutabaga and rest combine to give it a satisfying heartiness. This recipe also helps answer the question, “What should I do with all the rutabaga left over from Thanksgiving?” ‘Helps’ is the right word because, well, in my case I still have some left from the original big one.

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Now only a few pounds left after making this recipe. Props again to the Yuengling for the size comparison.

Rutabaga Rice and Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried black beans (about 2 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1 cup brown rice (about 2 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 5 garlic coves, diced
  • 2 cups diced rutabaga
  • 3 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes

Steps

(Pre-step: Soak the dried beans overnight in a pot of water. Then, right before cooking them, drain the soaking water, rinse the beans, and refill the pot with fresh water.)

  1. Cook the beans until they’re generally soft (about an hour in simmering or lightly-boiling water, covered)
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the the onions, garlic, and rutabaga in olive oil until soft (medium heat)
  3. At the same time, also cook the rice (20-30 minutes using a rice cooker)
  4. Once the beans are done, drain the water
  5. Then add the beans and rest of the ingredients to the sauteed onion/garlic/rutabaga mixture. Altogether, add: the tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, the cooked rice and the drained cooked beans, and the spices and hot pepper flakes.
  6. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until it starts to stick to the bottom (10-15 minutes). Scrape up and mix back in the parts that stick.

With this dish, I like the slight crunch that comes from dried beans that have been cooked. If you want, you could also use canned beans as another option.

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A cup of dried beans

Since the beans were cooking for an hour, I let the onions, garlic, and rutabaga sauté for the same amount of time. You could let these go for more or less time, but here’s how I did it this time.

  • I sauteed the onions and garlic for 20 minutes
  • Then I added the rutabaga and covered the pan for another 20 minutes
  • And then I did 20 minutes more uncovered

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Then I put the tomatos, rice, and beans in.

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And then I added the spices and mixed everything together and was done!

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I told some friends at the potluck I made this for that it had rutabaga in it. For everyone else, surprise! 

I also made lentil soup with butternut squash for the potluck (when it’s at your place, it’s good to have a big pot of something; and, progress on the pumpkin front!)

But rutabaga rice and beans. What more can I say but, from another world, different, and good hot or cold. I just finished the leftovers and want some more.

Pumpkin Puree, and the Steps Along the Way

 

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Peek-a-boo!

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Yes, it’s true.

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I have a hallway full of squash.

Look closely, and you’ll see:

  • 1 Light blue pumpkin
  • 1 Jack-o’-lantern pumpkin
  • 3 Acorn squash
  • 3 Butternut squash
  • 3 Munchkins
  • 3 Spaghetti squash
  • 3 Cheese pumpkins
  • 1 Light green pumpkin

Altogether, it was a $23.50 haul way back in mid-October. Yes, October! Can you believe that? It’s been three months, and each one of these pumpkins and squashies are still looking good, no soft spots or anything. In fact, the only thing that’s changed (for some of them) is the color.

The light blue pumpkin? From a cool blue to glow-in-the-dark orange.

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The acorns? From a dark green to brilliant orange.

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And the spaghettis and the light green pumpkin? Yes, them too! The spaghettis (now with orange stripes on their yellow skin) and the light green pumpkin (with slowly-spreading splotches of orange) also got in the game. The other guys, meanwhile, the jack-o’-lantern, munchkins, butternuts, and cheese pumpkins (orange, orange, beige, and beige), decided they were fine the way they were.

Normally when I have a higher-than-typical quantity of local produce, like when I have lots of pick-your-own plum tomatoes from the farm, I’ll arrange them on the table in nice rows so they’re pleasing to look at as well as right there when I need them. I don’t recall exactly how the pumpkins found their hallway home, but I remember that once they were there, the picture looked right. Every day, walking to kitchen, walking to the bathroom, and walking from the kitchen and from the bathroom, there they were, reminding me of how I knew it would be a good idea to empty my wallet that one day at the self-serve farm stand and bring home more squash (if I’m being technically honest) than I needed. I would have started cooking with them sooner if had they started going bad, but in the absence of rot and the presence of beauty, there was nothing to do but to let them sit where they were and feel myself smile as I passed.

This is also a way of saying that the first step to making fresh pumpkin puree is to buy a good-looking pumpkin and think about cooking it one day. For me, the first one up from the October batch would be one of the cheese pumpkins. It was starting to get a few dark spots on its skin, and though they weren’t soft yet, I decided it was time.

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Overall, the process is fairly simple: cut the pumpkin into pieces, remove the seeds, bake the pumpkin, let it cool, peel the skin, and process the flesh.

From my own experience and reading what others do, it seems the details that go with these steps depend largely on your preferences. Some people cut the pumpkin in half or into quarters, while others cut the pumpkin into eighths (or more). Generally, the smaller the pieces are, the faster they will cook. Most people remove the seeds and strings before baking, but not everyone does. The baking temperatures seem to range from 350-400 degrees, the baking times from 30-90 minutes, and the pumpkin-in-baking-dish arrangements from face-down to face-up (and for some people, also with 1/4 cup water in the dish along with the dish covered by foil). A sufficient cooling time seems to be 10 minutes (or whenever it’s cool enough to touch). And the options for processing the baked pumpkin into pumpkin puree range from cranking a good ol’ Foley Mill to plugging in a food processor and letting electricity do the work. I’ve also seen a few suggestions for using a potato masher.

For me and my pumpkin, here’s what I did.

First I cut the pumpkin in half.

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Then, after pausing to enjoy the fresh pumpkin smell that comes with the initial cut (it almost smells like a cantaloupe, but distinctively pumpkin), I scooped out the seeds and strings.

Then I cut the halves in half, cut the resulting pieces in half again, and ended up with eight pieces.

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The next step was to bake the pumpkin pieces. The face-down arrangement is the easiest, so that’s what I went with. To do a comparison, I put two of the pieces in a separate dish with the 1/4 cup of water and covered it with foil. Then I put them all in the oven for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

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1 hour at 375 degrees turned out to be just right for this pumpkin. When I poked the pieces at that point with a knife and the knife went through easily, I knew they were done. The two baking dish arrangements also worked out well, with similar results.

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Two of the face-down pieces after baking

After letting the pumpkin pieces cool for 10 minutes, I peeled the skins.

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And then I got out the Foley Mill.

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This is one of my favorite steps of the process, as there’s a certain mechanical pleasure that comes with turning the mill. The ability to transform pumpkin flesh into pumpkin puree, using only your own power, is also one of those fun forms of culinary magic. If you’re ever at a rummage sale and see one, it could very well be one of the best $1-2 investments you make all day.

Once you have the mill, the only other thing you need is a pot to put underneath it, to collect the puree.

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On this day, the one cheese pumpkin produced close to a full pot of puree.

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I’ll estimate the it’s about 4/5 full, and given the size of the pot (2 1/2 quarts), that means I made 64 oz of fresh pumpkin puree, or the equivalent of more than four 15-oz cans!

Now all that’s left to do is make some pumpkin pie! And pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and pumpkin recipe yet to found or suggested. If you know of a good one, let me know! There is a good chance I’ll have enough pumpkin to make it 🙂

Hello World! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

Hello! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

I’d been thinking of starting something like this for a while now, and today’s the day it’s happening! Are you ready too? Let’s go! It will be a story in words and pictures, a mix of food and life. And even if it doesn’t always turn out as planned or hoped for, it’ll still be good.

Gooda Bartha

Gooda Bartha! But how did you end up looking so good??

So I had Good Bartha (Zucchini puree) for the first time three years ago, and it was one of those times when after tasting it, I thought or said something like, Wow, that’s really good, that’s amazing, let me finish this so I can have some more. I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Illinois at the time, and my uncle was cooking. I think he made rice and dal that night too.

I got the recipe from my uncle a few weeks ago, and now it was my turn. Time for some re-creation recreation.

Gooda Bartha (Zucchini puree)

  • 1 lb zucchini (about 2)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 teasp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teasp black mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh green jalapeno chili
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 teasp salt
  • 1/2 teasp chili powder
The players

But it says 2 zucchini, 1 chili, and 1 onion! That’s okay – let’s make it a double!

Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow!

The players, more prepared

The players, now more prepared

Here’s how to get everything ready:

The zucchini gets chopped,
the onion gets sliced, and
the chili gets seeded and sliced.

And here’s what to do in five easy steps:

  1. Put the zucchini in a saucepan, and cook with water until soft. (I used 1 cup water for 4 zucchini, and I covered the pan to have it cook faster.) Then drain the water, and mash.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the cumin and mustard seeds until the mustard seeds crackle.
  3. Add in the onion and chili, and cook until the onion is soft. (I covered the pan again during this step.)
  4. Add in the mashed zucchini, salt, and chili powder, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until the liquid evaporates.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.
    (Recipe modified from “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon)
Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini mashed up

Zucchini mashed up

Seeds in the pan

Onion and chili added

Onion and chili added

All together now

And now, ready to be introduced:

On the plate

Gooda Bartha close up

Gooda Bartha, with friends

I also made some friendly beaners while I was cooking and let them join the party too. They’re the red and black you see balancing out the picture.

And in the end? It was pretty good! My uncle’s was better (at least according to my memory), but that’s okay. I can compare notes and do some cooking with him the next time I’m in Illinois. Lucky for me, that next time is going to be in two weeks, when I head out there to do the Illinois Marathon and see my aunt and uncle and brother.

I’ll see you later too – here are some Gooda Bartha seeds and spices to chew on until then.

Cumin seedschili powdercumin seedssalt