Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cooking With Mollie #17: Very Green Rice

This recipe sounded like so much fun. Very! Green! Rice!

You can find the recipe on Cook the Book right here. They seemed to like it.

Me? Not so much.

My issues were:
1. It calls for brown basmati rice, which is a little dry to me. If I tried this again, I would use the deliciously plump little short grain brown rice.
2. I had to buy 4 different herbs at a cost of $6 - and I didn't have a lot I wanted to do with the remainders of giant bunches of mint, parsley, watercress and cilantro. I should have planned better.
3. The herbs gave the rice a weird, squeaky texture. Texture is really almost as important as taste, isn't it? And squeaky rice is not a good texture.

Here's the procedure, should you care to give it a swing - you wash a bunch of herbs and scallions:

Pulverize them in the food processor:

Saute them up with some garlic:

And mix them with cooked rice:
Very green rice

Voila. Bon appetit. Try at your own risk. Hey, they can't all be winners.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cooking With Mollie #16: Fennel with Oranges and Beets

Fennel, Orange and Beet Salad

Oh what a beautiful salad! Mollie takes us into a world bursting with color and flavor with her recipe for Fennel, Orange and Beet Salad. (Recipe at link).

I first encountered fennel when my housemate John returned from a college year in Florence, studying architecture and getting fancy ideas about food. I was intrigued by the licorice flavor of fennel, which he served plain in slices with a little good olive oil and salt.

I have to warn you: if you don't like licorice flavors, and many people don't, give this recipe a skip.

It's easy: paper thin fennel slices, sliced beets and oranges in a simple raspberry vinaigrette.


I thought it would be pretty to use pink and white beets (Chiogga variety) and the almost pink Cara Cara orange, which is quite sweet. This would also be gorgeous with purple beets and regular oranges.

Mollie says to section the oranges, which I believe is a fool's errand. As that viral video says, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

I simply peeled the oranges like I peel most fruit - cut off the top and bottom, then run my knife down the sides between the peel and fruit.


I tried sectioning for about 5 minutes, then got bored and just cut the oranges in half, took out the pithy middle core, then sliced them into half-rounds. Quick and easy.

All the orange sections I made before I grew tired of it.

It does need a couple hours to marinate, so leave time for that. The appearance is jazzed up by a last-minute sprinkle of fennel fronds. The tiny baby ones are especially nice for that.

Bon appetit!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cooking With Mollie #15: Maple Mustard Brussels Sprouts


Look, Ma, more Brussels Sprouts! You'd think I'd get sick of them. Nope. I never do. I really do eat them almost every day during the season, and I'm sorry to see the season go.

Yes, I'm a freak.

Fortunately Mollie Katzen has given me a bunch of new, delicious recipes from her book - "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without."

Once again, the recipe is online at Culinate.

The process is easy. Peel the ugly leaves off the outside of about a pound of sprouts, and cut them in half if they are big, in quarters if they are giant. But try not to buy giant sprouts - the bigger they get, the more tough and bitter they are.

Saute a little minced onion in a large frying pan (I used my faux-wok), then add the sprouts and saute for 5 minutes.

Add 4 Tbsp water, put the lid on and saute until the sprouts start to get tender, another 5-8 minutes. Stab one with a knife and you can feel whether it has gotten softer (but still a little firm).

Meanwhile, mix up 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard and 2 Tbsp of real maple syrup (don't go for the fake stuff. Please, don't) and some pepper into a smooth emulsion.

I made a mistake at that point, thinking somehow that 2 Tbsp was the same as 1/4 cup. It's not - 1/4 cup is 4 Tbsp, so I accidentally doubled the maple syrup. It was still pretty tasty, though a little sweet. But I'm an American. We LOVE our sugar.


Pour this over the sprouts and cook just til heated through.

I used less than one pound of sprouts, so mine was kind of saucy. I think with 1 lb, it would make the perfect amount of sauce.

You can serve this hot, warm or cold. It will please any sprout lover. It is zippy and a little sweet. I'll never lose my love for roasted Brussels Sprouts, but this is a refreshing change of pace. It would be a nice side dish with ham, I'll bet.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cooking With Mollie #14: Coconut Ginger Carrot Gratin

Coconut Ginger Carrot Gratin is something I would never have thought of on my own. Carrots, yes, ginger yes, but coconut? The only other time I have encountered this combination is in Morning Glory muffins (carrot, pineapple, coconut and raisin) and my imagination wouldn't have stretched that mix to a vegetable side dish.

But Mollie Katzen does it in the book I'm cooking my way through - "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without."

It starts with a saute of sliced fresh carrots, onions, garlic, salt and fresh ginger.

Toward the end of the cooking, you add diced crystallized ginger and lemon juice. The mixture is spread in a baking dish, baked for 20 minutes, and taken out of the oven.

The top is sprinkled with shredded coconut, and baked until the coconut gets a little brown. Voila.

I was afraid when I made it, because so many coconut things are vile to me. I remember trying one coconut shrimp after hearing about how great they were. I was appalled to find this giant hairy looking shrimp on my plate, tasting for all the world like a macaroon with a shrimp jammed inside. Yuck.

This is tasty, though. The carrots are quite strongly flavored, and, as Mollie says, reminiscent of the Caribbean. It might make a nice side dish for fish.

Bon Appetit.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Cooking With Mollie #13: Parmesan Nut Crusted Portobello Fritters

photo (5)

Most of the recipes I have made so far from Mollie Katzen's "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without" have been vegan or practically vegan. This is the first one where I have had to bust out the eggs that have been languishing unloved in my fridge for a few weeks.

That isn't unusual. I use maybe 6 eggs every 6 months. I don't bake a lot and I like eggs better if someone else cooks them for me, usually into a tasty breakfast burrito.

This recipe is super simple, especially if you get some almond meal, which is, thanks to our wacky Paleo diet friends, increasingly easy to find. (Paleo friends, I jest. And admire your muscle tone).

Slice some big portobello mushroom caps in 1/2 inch slices. One big mushroom per person is more than enough.

For four mushrooms, mix 1 cup of almond meal and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Just a guess, but you might want to throw in some garlic salt or fresh herbs, too. Mix it up and put it on a flat plate.

Beat some eggs - 3-4 eggs does it for 4 mushrooms. Put them in a flat dish like a pie plate.

Dip the flat edges of the mushrooms in the egg, then press into the nut mixture. Fry them for 5 minutes a side on a well-oiled skillet over medium heat until they are lovely and browned. Remove to a wire rack.

photo (3)
Good golly, Miss Mollie, they are tasty!

You can serve these hot, warm or room temp. I put a few drops of spicy vinegar on mine. Mollie suggests mayo and/or capers, but I bet a really garlicky aioli might be good, too.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Cooking with Mollie #12: Wasabi Peas

Wasabi Peas
Wasabi Peas

I'm making progress getting through Mollie Katzen's magical vegetable book, "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without." This is recipe 12, so I figure I'm about 1/10 of the way through. It has been a tasty, delightful, palate-enlightening pleasure so far (mostly).

The recipe is for Wasabi Peas. No, not the crunchy kind in the can, though I love those, too. I especially love when you get a can where the wasabi is very unevenly distributed, so you eat them and 9 peas are mildly spicy and the tenth is OH MY GOD MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE WOW MY SINUSES, WAIT, IS THAT JESUS?

That's fun.

But I have to admit I've never been much on regular peas. I grew up on mushy, canned, grey-green peas, or overcooked frozen peas, so as a kid, I couldn't imagine anything worse. As an adult, I just tend to forget they exist. Too many other vegetables.

The hardest part about this recipe is finding fresh peas. Mine came from Guatemala (well, actually from Trader Joe's, but they started out in Guatemala). Mollie says you can use frozen. I say "No, thank you."

Then it's pretty simple. One might even be tempted to say easy PEAsy, if one had a sick, punny sense of humor. Ahem.

Saute some onions. I used shallots - I'm a rebel. And I had some shallots that were about to go bad. Meanwhile, make a sauce of wasabi paste, olive oil, and water. Mix with the peas. Put the whole mess in with the shallots and cook. That's it. Oh, and let it sit 15 minutes before serving.

Did I like it? Not at first, but then again, I didn't wait 15 minutes. It really did help the flavors to combine. I don't think I used enough wasabi paste, and I think the stuff I bought was a little old. I got it at an Asian market that is really more a liquor store with some Asian stuff. So it was a little funky to me.

I'd like to try it again, either with real fresh Wasabi (which is rare and about $40 per pound when you can find it) or at least fresher wasabi paste.

But yeah, it's a nice way to zip up peas. I ate it cold at lunch, and I can't say that was bad, either. Thumbs up! Bon appetit.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Cooking with Mollie #11: Pear, Avocado and Beet Carpaccio


Ok, I messed this recipe from Mollie Katzen's "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without" up bad. I was one of those nightmare people who doesn't follow instructions, leaves out ingredients, changes the preparation method, then leaves a comment saying "I used kidney beans instead of shrimp and it just wasn't very good."

The difference here is that the recipe still turned out very good, despite me doing my worst to mess it up.

The original recipe, found here on, complete with a nice photo, is for a layered salad.

The base layer is arugula, with thinly sliced beets, pear and avocado all arranged on top, sprinkled with gorgonzola and some optional garnishes.

I decided it needed to be more of a tian, something with the ingredients pressed in close proximity, so the pear could absorb some pink beet juice and it could look all exotic and colorful.

I layered the ingredients in a small plastic container, pressing on them as I went.

I didn't have gorgonzola or blue cheese, so I used cotija. I also forgot to put any walnuts in.

And then I turned the whole pile out onto a plate, arugula-less, but slippery and, yes, quite delicious:

The flavors were magnificent together - delicate, interesting, and distinct. I think the cotija was a good call, because it was salty, but otherwise mild-flavored. Gorgonzola might have been a bit much.

If I hadn't been so hungry, I would have let it sit an hour or two to get all colorized, but I didn't. I just ate it up.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Cooking with Mollie #10: Pea Shoots with Garlic


I took a couple days off. Of writing, not of cooking. So here I am, back to share my latest discoveries from Mollie Katzen's "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without."

Pea Shoots with Garlic is a pretty simple recipe. It is, in fact, exactly what it sounds like. Pea Shoots sauteed with garlic.

The problem arises in the Pea Shoots part. Unless you have an Asian market, a Farmer's Market with at least one grower of Asian specialties, or your own pea vines, you'll probably have trouble finding the key ingredient.

Even here, where we do have an Asian specialties grower (lemongrass! Thai basil! Daikon!) pea shoots have a brief season, so when they appeared, I sprung into action.

Wash the pea shoots and remove any big stems. Dry them. I use a salad spinner:

Mince some garlic, heat some oil (Mollie recommends roasted peanut oil, which I did not have, so I used olive oil), throw in the shoots and the garlic, and toss about. Saute five minutes, more or less.




They have a delicate, slightly sweet flavor and make a nice change from sharper-flavored greens like mustard, heartier ones like kale, or chard, which always tastes a little muddy to me. These are fresh and the very essence of spring.

Enjoy your bowl of greens. I ate mine with my fingers.