Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

October 24, 2011

Yellow + Blue = Grins

Yellow? That's the color of this super simple, uber delicious soup (Vitamin A!). Blue? That's me. Grins? One taste & that's all you'll see.

This sweet potato & split yellow pea pureed soup recipe is adapted from one Whole Foods posted about a week ago. I'm sure their vegan version would be just fine, but a few basic alterations make the flavor soar.

My Way is the High Way
8 cups+ low-sodium chicken broth (Trader Joe's brand or Swanson Natural Goodness are best, short of homemade)
1 tablespoon each, olive oil and butter
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated or chopped fine
2 cups dry yellow split peas
2 medium sweet potatoes (Hannah variety), diced 1/2" thick (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Sriracha or Cholula hot sauce
salt & pepper
toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for garnish
(Hannah Sweet Potatoes)
Heat the oil & butter in a large soup pot. Saute the onion until translucent. Stir in the ginger & heat through. Add the sweet potato, peas, and 8 cups of broth. Season with about 2 teaspoons kosher salt (sea salt is saltier, so better to add a little now & more later if needed) and about 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 1 hour, or until peas are soft. Puree with an immersion blender, or carefully transfer to a blender in batches, and puree until smooth. BE CAREFUL - it's very hot. Add more broth or water to thin out the soup. Adjust the seasoning with nutmeg and hot sauce. Serve with toasted pepitas for added flavor and texture. Goes great with my jalapeno corn bread!

Soup will continue to thicken as it cools. Cool before storing in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to 6 months. Boil to reheat, and thin with more broth or water as needed.


(photo from Whole Foods)

October 6, 2011

Gnoc-Gnoc-Gnocchi at Heaven's Door

Part Deux of my Rainy Day Woman Homage to Deliciousness is homemade gnocchi with pesto. This is my 3rd attempt at gnocchi, and I nailed it. The recipe I used has very good instructions, but since I don't have a Nona to show me the light (and perhaps you don't either), I wanted to add some helpful photos & a few extra tips that made a big difference in my results.

Here Are My Top 5 Tips for Good Gnocchi

  1. Work with confidence. Reading through the recipe and staying organized will keep you ahead of the game. If you execute each simple step, you will get a great final product.
  2. Set out all of your ingredients ahead of time. Once the potatoes are cooked, you'll want to work quickly to combine the dough and shape the gnocchi.
  3. Steam adds unwanted moisture. Let the riced potatoes cool a bit before mixing in the other ingredients. You can use less flour this way, resulting in light, tender dumplings.
  4. When shaping the gnocchi, keep your hands, work surface, and tray floured to prevent sticking.
  5. Freezing the gnocchi before cooking helps. Make sure you have a large roomy pot of salted boiling water, and let them cook for a full 2 minutes once they rise to the surface. Keep the tray in the freezer and cook the gnocchi in batches.
Cooling the riced potatoes on the counter.
A well in the potatoes, filled with yolks, cheese, and seasonings.
Using a bench scraper to quickly & cleanly combine the ingredients.
Once the flour is added, test the dough for firmness. It should give slightly & hold its shape. Only use enough flour to get to this point. 
Separating the dough into 1/4s, rolling it out, and cutting even pieces.
Roll each piece on a gnocchi board, or use the back of a fork using a "somersault" motion. Dust with flour to prevent sticking.
The crevice in the gnocchi helps it cook quickly & remain tender. Freeze on a floured tray. Don't crowd them. 

Here is the recipe I used. It has terrific instructions. I hope my tips & photos help you achieve the same success I did. Good luck! (Makes 3-4 servings)

1 cup of washed & dried basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper

Using a mini-prep or blender, pulse the basil leaves & garlic until finely minced.
Add the pine nuts and cheese, and drizzle liberally with olive oil (about 3 tablespoons to start)
Blend, and check the consistency. Add more oil until you get a pesto.
Season with salt & pepper.
Either refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze in ice cube trays, then transfer to a freezer bag. Defrost cubes of pesto as desired.

Makes about 3/4 cup

Pitter-Pat Rice Patties (Glorious Leftovers for a Rainy Day)

It is a universal (to me) truth that the more I have to do, the more I will take on. Somehow in the ADD din, this comforts & makes sense to me. Today I am committed to many projects, including making gnocchi, & finishing a costume for SFBP tomorrow night.

So what do I do? Make a delicious brunch, of course! Since it's raining, I wanted something hot, & luckily this meal was simple to prepare. The hardest part was stopping to take photos before I ate.
I've seen several variations on how to turn leftover rice into a tasty hot patty, but I think the one I made up worked very well. I used just enough egg to bind the rice together, and a little cheese to add creaminess and character. Depending on what kind of rice you have, add complimentary ingredients & moisture as needed. Goat cheese would make an amazing binder for these cakes. Instead of mixing it into the batter, I would hide a dollop of it inside each patty, or let it melt on top of the fried patties.

I started with leftover yellow curry rice. I make this rice often & eat it with diced tomato, avocado, salt & pepper. See recipe for rice below. Since this blog is about the leftovers, I will start with the patty recipe.

To Make the Rice Cakes
2 cups leftover curried rice
2 large eggs
1/2 an onion, diced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (or goat cheese if you have it)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
Sriracha or other hot sauce
olive oil

Saute the diced onion in some butter & oil until brown & caramelized. Take about 1/2 cup of the rice along with the cooked onions, and blend them in a mini prep or blender until somewhat emulsified. This step is not necessary, but will add a creamier texture to your patties.

Combine the rice, eggs, rice/onion mixture, parmesan cheese, most of the parsley (leave some for garnish), in a bowl. Season as desired with hot sauce, salt & pepper. Since the eggs are raw here and I can't taste, I go easy on the salt & sprinkle a bit more on before frying.

Form into patties and refrigerate for about 20 minutes (also can be left overnight, but who can wait that long?) Chilling will help set the patties and ensure they stay together when flipped.
Heat the pan from your onions, and add more butter. Once it starts to sizzle, add the patties and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side. You want a nice crispy crust on these, so be patient and only flip once.
I served these with a fried egg on top, extra hot sauce & parsley. Aside from adding color, the parsley kicked the flavor into high gear.
A hot cup of cardamom coffee is a delicious accompaniment to this dish. Simply add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom to 2 packed tablespoons of grounds. Makes 3-4 cups, depending on how strong you brew it.

To Make Yellow Curry Rice
Boil 1.5 cups of water and set aside.
Measure 1 cup dry white rice (I find that jasmine, or any regular medium-grain rice works well)
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a quart-sized saucepan (one that has a lid)
Stir in the rice, & add 1 tablespoon yellow curry (I like the Sun Brand Madras Curry), 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Pour the 1.5 cups of boiling water over the rice. It will come to a rapid boil. Stir, cover with the lid, & turn the heat all the way down. A gas burner should be barely going. On an electric burner, use the lowest setting.
Set your timer for 15 minutes. Do not take the lid off the rice during this cooking time.
Once the timer goes off, turn off the burner but LEAVE THE LID ON THE RICE FOR ANOTHER 5 MINUTES.
After the full 20 minutes, remove the lid, and fluff the rice with a fork.
If you prefer, omit or change the seasoning as desired. Just remember that salt it key. You can also use veggie or chicken broth for more flavor. Add onion, herbs, & almonds or pine nuts for a pilaf.
Store leftover rice in a container in the refrigerator.