Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Daddy's Seitan Sandwiches

In honor of my father turning the big 6-0 today, I thought I'd post a recipe he taught me. In fact, eating this seitan sandwich is one of my earliest food memories with him (second only to his famous omelets, which is for another time). I know some people are going to be incredulous about cooking with seitan. If you think about it as meat substitute, then yes, I'm with you that eating meat would be preferable. But if you think of it as just seitan, then I believe you will be surprised at how much you like its pillowy texture and slightly sweet flavor.

I grew up in a quasi-vegetarian household where Dad's non-meat-eating habits usually predominated. Mom also tended to eschew dairy and simple carbohydrates (this was way pre-Atkins, mind you). Sauteed seitan with onions and BBQ sauce on a (white) baguette was a happy medium. I don't remember ever really eating red meat as a child, so I was delighted with these spicy and savory sandwiches that Dad made. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan were all weekly stars at the table.

For all you students and folks on a budget, seitan gains additional bonus points for its price, which is pretty dang cheap. I found mine at Whole Foods, though I'm sure it's available at most health food stores and co-ops. For BBQ sauce, I'm going to give a shameless plug for KC Masterpiece, which was developed by a physician, no less. A second good option is Bone Suckin' Sauce. Buy a really delicious crunchy loaf of French bread. It will take the sandwich to a whole new level.

Daddy's Seitan Sandwiches
generously serves 2
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 oz package seitan, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/3 c your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 loaf French bread
In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10-12 minutes. Add seitan and cook until just warmed through. Add BBQ sauce and stir to coat onions and seitan. Serve immediately in French bread. Leftovers are good reheated the next day!

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Week's Recommendations

I can never say no to a Mark Bittman recipe. That man always seems to be one step ahead of me, anticipating what I might desire to cook before I even know myself. I just picked up tamarind paste to make this pad thai.

This next recipe might be a little advanced/involved, but if there's anyone who has wanted to attempt baking bread, this Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread from food52 is incredible. I made it last week and ate the whole loaf myself in 48 hours.

I recently made this fragrant squash dish from Saveur: Kabocha Squash with Ginger. I used butternut squash and was amazed at how simple, but flavorful it was. This would be great served with another Asian-inspired dish, such as last week's Furikake Tofu.

Also, I just discovered that the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a whole slew of recipes for sustainable fish developed by all-star chefs. The halibut with herbs and flowers looks especially gorgeous.

Alright, now go forth and cook!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Week in the Blogosphere...

I officially have stopped subscribing to cooking magazines. With the exception of Saveur, I just don't find them relevant anymore. Most of their recipes you can find online and I've grown weary of the stacks of bookmarked magazines that accumulate on my bed, coffee table, and counters. Our generation is going paperless, last I heard. Of late, I prefer trawling through the interwebs for tonight's dinner inspiration, cheering on my fellow foodie bloggers and picking up a few tips along the way. Every week I'm going to share with you my finds, keeping in mind the Student Epicure's mission: to cook delicious meals that won't leave you strapped for time or cash.

Here's is what I've stumbled upon this week:

Cambridge-based blogger Oui, Chef creates a current twist on a classic with Quinoa Tabbouleh. Looks good for a weekday lunch.

Dr. Winnie of Healthy Green Kitchen blends up a quick & healthy breakfast with her Cherry Flax Smoothie.

From the kitchen of the inimitable 101 Cookbooks comes a hearty fragrant Coconut Red Lentil Soup.

I recently discovered James Ramsden and who could not be somewhat seduced when he describes the kind of goat cheese you should use for his tomato & goat cheese gratin as " one that honks like an entire stenchy herd and crumbles when prodded." Delight!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad

This post is a little early because I'm supposed to leave for London tomorrow AM. Looks unlikely, but just in case, wanted to make sure I didn't depart without posting this week's recipe!

I suffer from PDD - Pasta Deficiency Disorder. I could eat pasta morning, noon, and night. But I'll admit that a diet of unfettered carbs just isn't healthy. Lucky for me, Mark Bittman wrote an article some time ago encouraging us to continue eating our pasta, but to shake it up: instead of preparing a lot of pasta with a little sauce, make a lot of vegetable-inclined sauce with a small amount of pasta. This changed my life. This week's recipe is inspired by this concept -- it's a leafy green salad with pasta mixed in, along with tuna, olives, and tomatoes.

Until recently, I had almost stopped eating tuna, due to the high levels of mercury and the large amount of bycatch from tuna fishing. However, I was delighted to discover that troll or pole-and-line caught tuna in the US is actually OK (for more information, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium). I jumped for joy and immediately went to track some down. I will admit, the can I bought was more expensive than Sunkist, but when I tasted the tuna, boy, I promise it was worth the price. Canned tuna often has a bland, almost tinny flavor. This one actually tasted like fresh, robust fish.

A few notes about this recipe: a good quality olive oil is a must. There are many good $15 bottles out there and it's worth the investment for the flavor it will bring to your salads. I had also wanted to include capers, but could not open the new jar I had bought. I ran it under hot water, tapped it with a knife, tied a rubber band around the lid, but to no avail. I think it would add a nice zing, so feel free to add a teaspoon if you have some in your fridge.

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad
generously serves 2
  • slightly more than a quarter-sized round of angel hair whole wheat pasta (I like Barilla's fortified protein version)
  • 3.5 oz arugula (two generous handfuls per bowl)
  • regular olive oil for cooking
  • 1/2 t red chili flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 c chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 can tuna, preferably troll or pole-and-line US caught
  • 4 Campari tomatoes, chopped
  • good quality olive oil
  • a few squirts fresh lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
First put medium pot of water on to boil. Follow cooking directions on package for al dente angel hair.

Divide arugula between serving bowls/plates. Toss with good quality olive oil (~1 T per bowl), a little lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

As pasta cooks, in a small saute pan, heat about 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add chili flakes and anchovy. As oil heats, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up anchovy until it has "dissolved" into the oil. Add olives and stir briefly to coat. Add tuna and break up chunks into smaller pieces. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

By now the pasta should be fully cooked. Drain and return to pot. Pour in the tuna and another tablespoon of the good quality olive oil and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and olive oil as necessary. Divide between bowls of arugula and serve immediately. Arugula will wilt a bit -- don't worry, that's what is supposed to happen!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Furikake Tofu with Sake Spinach

My latest cookbook obsession is Everyday Harumi, which I picked up at the Harvard Book Store last week after reading about it on Saveur's Top 100 List. Harumi Kuirhara is a housewife turned TV star in Japan. She has been called the Martha Stewart of Japan, but from this cookbook, that does not seem quite apt. Harumi is sweet, kind, and warm and her recipes are elegant and simple. I love her emphasis on textures and vegetables. I had never thought about how ginger tastes different when it is minced, grated, and julienned.

These recipes are inspired by Harumi, though not from her cookbook itself. I was actually introduced to both dishes by my parents, who like this for a quick weeknight meal. I don't usually eat rice (all my time in China instilled in me that it's filler food!), but I think these recipes lend themselves well to being served over steamed Japanese rice.

A note on furikake: it is a delicious Japanese condiment that comes in a wide variety of mixtures and is meant to be sprinkled over food. The kind I use is called nori katsuo furikake and consists of toasted sesame seeds, nori, bonito flakes, dried egg, and other seasonings. I bought this one at the Super 88 in Allston, but I think you should be able to track it down at Whole Foods or other specialty food shops.

Furikake Tofu
serves 2
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • soy sauce
  • furikake
  • canola or peanut oil for cooking
Drain and slice tofu into 1/2 inch slices along the short horizontal (like you are slicing a loaf of bread). Place tofu on a plate lined with paper towels. By drying the tofu, it will color better when cooked. Over high heat, heat a nonstick frying pan big enough to hold all the tofu. When hot, pour in just enough oil to lightly coat surface. Add tofu slices and cook until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Flip slices and cook until the other side is golden. Remove from heat and drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with scallions and furikake.

Sake Spinach
serves 2
  • 1 10 oz bag spinach (not baby spinach!)
  • canola or peanut oil
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 t sake (you can substitute dry vermouth)
  • a couple squeezes of fresh lemon juice
  • sesame seeds to garnish
Rinse the pan used for the tofu. Return to high heat and add 1 t canola oil. When hot, add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and roughly chop. Season with salt, sake, and lemon juice to taste. Serve garnished with sesame seeds.

Special THANK YOU to Uncle Daniel & Aunt Jill for the beautiful bamboo serving plate!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Salad with Yogurt Dressing

My fellow Cantabrigians, I believe we can safely say that spring has sprung! The past few weeks I have longingly read about the rhubarb, asparagus, and ramps that fellow foodies in warmer climes have been enjoying. But with the leaves unfurling and the daffodils blooming, I feel I can say that I'm done eating kale and potatoes for the next six months.

For me, this salad encompasses that greenness of spring: a mixture of herbs paired with chopped lettuces and crisp cucumber. I wish I could take credit for the original inspiration for this recipe, but that belongs to the inimitable Ana Sortun, the chef and owner of Oleana and Sofra Bakery. These are two of my favorite foodie haunts around our fair city. When I don't have the time, money, or transportation to visit either place (Sofra is located on the edge of Watertown), I'm mollified by Ms. Sortun's cookbook Spice. Many of the restaurants' best recipes are included, though they are not for the novice chef or anyone who doesn't have at least an hour to spend on cooking dinner. The recipes are intricate, yes, but always delicious. As I've cooked my way through, I've found ways to cut corners and adapt so that I don't find myself bursting into tears when I realize that I've forgotten to make my own ras-el-hanout from scratch.

This salad is adapted from the recipe for "Chopped Romaine and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing." I've changed some of the proportions and omitted a number of steps (by the time I start making dinner, I could care less about toasting nuts). Basically, this is a simplified version that any chef armed with a good cutting board and sharp knife can tackle.

Spring Salad with Yogurt Dressing
below are the quantities per single serving
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 generous handful arugula
  • 2 T chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 T chopped mint
  • 1 T chopped dill
  • 2 T chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 of an English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 1/2 T yogurt, preferably fat-free Greek
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 t fresh lemon juice
  • fresh ground pepper and salt
  • cayenne pepper
Coarsely chop romaine and arugula and place in a serving bowl. Top with herbs, walnuts, and cucumber. In a small mug, mix together with a fork yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. Pour over salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with several dashes of cayenne.