Thursday, November 21, 2013

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Cookie

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Cookie
Vegan Mexican Chocolate Cookie

I was really in the mood for some spicy chocolate the other day so I made these for the art opening at Pile of Bricks, around the block from my house. This is a slight variant of a tester cookie I made for Little Baby's Ice Cream. We have never made them there yet. I was worried about them being too spicy for a general audience so I toned them down a bit. I used a guajillo and an ancho chile, both dried. The ancho is a mild. smoked poblano pepper and the guajillo is also mild. They add a lot of flavor without too much heat. I probably could have used 2 of each without the cookie being crazy hot. Instead, not realizing this until the batter was made, I  added 1 tsp cayenne to a bowl of sugar and rolled the cookies in that before baking. It worked perfectly. Now they were pretty, chocolatey, and spicy.

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Cookie

352g unbleached all purpose flour
6g baking soda
6g salt
40g cocoa powder

218g earth balance margarine
190g unbleached cane sugar
203g brown sugar
1 guajillo chile
1 ancho chile
1tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom

21g flax seed
83g water
13g vanilla

1 bag of non dairy semisweet chocolate chips

200g unbleached cane sugar
1 tsp cayenne powder

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa. (This recipe has tons of salt, chocolate cookies can handle more and spicy food can handle more. Keep it all balanced. Or use less if your concerned about saltiness but cookies are probably not the thing to make if you have any health concerns.) 

Grind the dry chiles in a clean coffee grinder, ideally an extra one that you don't use for coffee. Then cream the butta with chiles and spices. This helps the spices absorb into the fat, retaining the essential oils and becoming more evenly distributed throughout the cookie. Once the butta is softened up and full of flavors, cream the sugar into the butta in 2 additions. 

Next grind the flax seeds in the coffee grinder that you used for chiles. This will help clean out all the chile. Put the ground flax in a very small bowl and add the water. Whisk vigorously.until fully incorporated. Let sit for 1 -2 mins, depending on water temperature and vigor while whisking. The flax while get thicker and more gelatinous. This is how to make vegan eggs for baking recipes.

Add the fleggs to the large bowl with the butta/sugar mixture and stir well to combine. Add vanilla and stir again. Add the flour mixture to the everything else mixture in 2 batches. Stir just until combined, no floury spots but don't overmix. Cookies do not need to be kneaded, we arent trying to develop the gluten. Chewy cookies are created by caramelization of sugar, not through chewy glutinous dough like pretzels and bagels.

 Scoop cookies with a tiny ice cream scooper/ cookie scoop that is 1 Tablespoon. Roll several at a time in spicy sugar. Put 20 on a half sheet pan. Press down gently on each one with the palm of your hand. Bake 11 1/2 minutes at 350. Let cool 10 minutes on pans then remove to cool completely. This spacing and pan fullness and cooking time will produce perfect results. Less full pans will cook quicker, bigger cookies will cook slower. Do whatever you like but I urge you to try my way if at all possible, they will come out barely crisp on the edges, super chewy all through and a tiny bit doughy right in the center.

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Cookie

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Vada Pav

Vada Pav in Mumbai, courtesy of the internet.

There is this wonderful weird street food common in the state of Maharashtra in India. Maharashtra would be the 12th largest country in the world if it were in fact its on country, by population size not by land mass. It is in Western India just north of Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and contains the city of Mumbai. This food is both very Indian and very Western colonialism inspired at the same time. It involves a well seasoned ball of mashed potatoes, battered in chickpea flour, deep fried and served as a small sandwich. The bun is schmeared with mango chutney on one side, a dry spice chutney on the other, and sometimes sliced onions. It is so good. I've never had one in India nor an Indian restaraunt, but one of my favorite Indian internet chefs, Chef Vah, taught me how to make it, through youtube.

Vada Pav

6 medium/small boiled potatoes

2 Tbl coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tspcumin seeds
10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch hing (asofoetida)
1/2 tsp chili powder (i had a blend leftover- gujillo, ancho, chipotle although smoked chilis are not common in indian food..)
1 tsp salt
small bunch cilantro (i made without)
1/2 lime, juiced

4 cloves garlic, minced 
1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
1 fresh green chili (jalapeno), diced

1 C besan (chickpea flour)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt

Boil the potatoes whole.

While boiling heat oil in a small pan. When hot, add mustard seeds. When they pop (a few seconds) quickly add cumin, curry leaves and hing. Stir for 20 seconds or so then add turmeric, chilis, garlic, ginger. Make sure the spices do not burn. Take it all out of the pan if necessary when finished or just let cool in pan if its not getting over done. 

(If you are in Philadelphia, you can get fresh curry leaves in the fridge at International food & Spice, next to 7-11 at 42nd & Walnut. If not, unless, you are in India, they are fairly hard to find and may be omitted. Madhur Jaffrey often substitutes basil for curry leaves for a different but still interesting flavor that is easier to find. I think the cilantro added later is probably enough fresh green herb if you dont have curry leaves though...)

When potatoes are fork tender, roughly mash them. Add all spices from pan along with juice of 1/2 lime, salt to taste, fresh cilantro leaves, and chili powder to taste.

Make a batter. Whisk besan, turmeric, chili powder and salt. Slowly add water and stir. It will get lumpy if you add all the water at once. Make it into a paste with about 1/2 C water first, then slowly add more until it is like a runny pancake batter.

Now form the potato mixture into little balls, we ended up with about a dozen. Dunk them in the batter and roll around to cover completely. It helps to have a spatula or spoon to cover, and only touch them with one hand so you at least have one clean hand to do the frying. Place a few at a time in hot oil and fry for 1-2 minutes, turning after 30-45 seconds. They will only brown slightly. Take them out to drain on old paper bags from the liquor store that are not an appropriate size to ever reuse for anything else anyway, but you never recycle them and they're starting to clog up your bag hutch because of how much alcohol you buy.

We cheated and didn't make the pav this time. We just used tender little dinner rolls. Cut in half or rip open and smear with condiments of your choice. I prefer ketchup, franks red hot and garlic salt. Kj did sour cream and tomatillo salsa, and some kind of salt.

This is our new jawn for the winter. They are really good! They are easy even though there is a bunch of ingredients and I wrote out a lot of directions. I just wanted to be thorough because I don't think most people that might read this have made these very often. I was surprised to learn that the leftovers actually keep very well. Reheat in a toaster oven  at work and use whatever condiments you can find in the break room. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

An evergreen, bittersweet.

It's time once again for Mixology Monday. I skipped last month because Im terrible. This month its being hosting by Booze nerds, a blog near and dear to my heart. These guys are so serious! They geek out on subtle and weird ingredients, and are really into making lots of versions of similiar things and comparing which is best and if its worth doing the subtle variations. I really think they are awesome and you should check them out. I've seen their stuff on Liquor as well as their own site.

The theme that these nerds chose for this month was resin. Check out all the entries here: It stressed me out a little but I like it. It's fairly limited but there is quite a few directions to go within that thematic parameter. My main thought was for resinous herbs, as I grow and love perennial fall favorite herbs like rosemary and sage. Loosely defined, resinous herbs generally have woodier stems, slowly release their flavors and have an almost musky taste compared to the lively, fresh taste of more tender herbs like basil, parsley or cilantro that you might add at the end of a dish.

So, for the past 2 weeks, I have been making old fashioneds and Oaxacan old fashioneds with different quantities of rosemary and sage; muddling, garnishing and making herb tea ice cubes, all to no particularly good effect. I felt like it was very difficult to find a proper balance where these strong flavored herbs were noticeable without being overpowering.

I was drinking one of these on my stoop with my dog yesterday because it is suddenly unseasonably warm in Philadelphia. I wondered if I would post a blog about my lackluster drink and explain my efforts and subsequent disappointments, just to have a voice in the conversation. Then I invited my neighbor to join my for some warm weather whiskey drinkin on the stoop. He came over with  a beer and I explained my situation; that I have blog, and I had cocktail homework. He is a food scientist of sorts and he was really into this.

We began talking about what pairs well with rosemary and how much he liked Victory's new beer, Dirtwolf. Its a whole hop imperial ipa and its really good. That got me thinking about beer cocktails and maybe using hops as the resin ingredient rather than rosemary. After about 6 cocktails, we tweaked out our recipe to something we both really enjoyed that included 4 resinous ingredients!! (maple, rosemary, mezcal{agave}, hops) It was truly a collaborative effort, with us arguing, tasting ingredients and remaking different versions of the cocktail until it was just right.

an evergreen, bitterwseet
mixology monday resin

10 fresh rosemary needles
1/2 oz maple syrup (grade b)

1 oz rye whiskey (bulleit)
1/4 oz mezcal (fedencio)
1 oz lemon juice
dash chocolate bitters (fee bros)

3 oz ipa (Victory Dirtwolf double ipa)

Muddle rosemary and maple syrup in a shaker. Add next four ingredients. Shake with ice, then pour into a collins glass with fresh ice. Top with beer and stir gently. Go easy on the rosemary or it can turn out real gross. The beer is crucial, you want a big citrusy hop flavor to bring it all together. We also made with Founders centennial ipa when we ran out of the victory jawn. It was different and still good but not as good.

I think this combo sounds a little strange on paper but it really is delicious and I urge you to try it. The maple is subtle enough to add sweetness but not be cloying. The rosemary is subtle enough to be herbaceous without tasting like hippy dish soap. The mezcal is super subtle and adds a hint of smokiness without overpowering. The lemon juice is fairly strong  but supports the fruity citrusy hops of this ipa perfectly. And the chocolate bitters still sounds weird to me but chocolate and lemon play well together and it was the clear winner after trying the 6 different bitters in my cabinet. It's the cherry on top, the final accent that brings it all together.

Please let me know what you think if you make one!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kiwi Berry Butter

I grow Actinidia arguta, also known as hardy kiwi or kiwi berry at my parents house. Well actually they grow themselves. I bought plants on clearance at whole foods 8 years ago and planted them different places across town. These are the only ones I know have survived, but I should probably check my old house in West Philly sometime. They grow like a grape vine and are well suited to Philadelphia's climate. They grow vigorously. It is hard to find much information about growing them or processing their fruit. They taste like a kiwi but with a smooth skin that slightly wrinkles as they ripen. They have tons of vitamin C and are delicious. I prefer them to "normal" kiwi.

I am always hesitant to invent my own canning recipes due to long term storage/ safety concerns but couldn't find any for kiwi berry. The best recipe I found was in the Ball blue book for conventional kiwi jam set with pectin. However once I multiplied out that recipe for the quantity of kiwi I had, I realized I didn't have enough pectin and it was an absurd amount of sugar. It was useful if I wanted to really stretch my crop, I could have made 2 dozen half pints by that recipe but that seemed unnecessary. Instead I opted to make up a fruit butter recipe, with Ball's acidity recommendations of 1 Tbl lemon per cup of fresh fruit. I used sugar quantities based on the apple butter recipe I had recently made. I cooked it down a really long time which should make the finished product safer , as the water cooks out the ratio of sugar and lemon to fruit increases, as well as improve the texture without needing to add pectin. I have no moral/healthful issues with pectin I just don't use it much so it makes me a little nervous.

Kiwiberry Butter

2 1/3 C water
9 C kiwiberry (3.5lb)
1/2 C +1 Tbl (9 Tbl total) lemon juice
2 1/4 C sugar

Bring kiwi berry and water to a boil, turn down to medium low and simmer for 20 mins. Puree with an immersion blender and add sugar and lemon juice. Continue to simmer for 1 hr 30 mins. Stir often or the bottom will burn. You can try to rush it at higher heat but you'll probly burn it, so dont get greedy. Perhaps if you dont add quite as much water at the start, you can shave some time off the cook down but it really isnt much water for how much fruit is there...

Testing if it is properly gelled up can be a tricky thing because its gonna be really liquidy while its hot no matter what. So do this: puut a spoonful of jam on a plate. Put the plate in the freezer for 5 minutes or so. That isnt enough time to freeze it but it will cool down that small amount sufficiently. Take the plate out of the freezer. Run your finger through the jammy blob. Eat it. If the jam stays parted without weeping liquid into the center, it is set. If it weeps, keep on cookin' and stirrin'!

Sterilize jars and caps. Water bathe for 15 minutes. Take out and make sure all the lids pop. Eat fancy toast until you run out. 

This recipe turns out a lovely sweet tart finished product. you could probably add more sugar without destroying it but I find it pleasantly tart and still a little sweet at this level. It is more tart than most store bought jams though.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Garlic Chives

garlic chives, coming back to life in early april
Garlic Chives have become the most prolific herb in my garden. A few years ago, we purchased 2 tiny little plants. By the end of the first year, they were huge clumps. By the end of the third year, we are weeding them out of all the herbs and even other garden beds and cracks in the sidewalk. Garlic chives differ from "regular" chives in that they are flat like a blade of grass whereas chives are round and hollow in the center. Garlic chives also have an unmistakably pungent garlic aroma. They are traditionally cooked, rather than used merely as garnish, in Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese dishes.

Due to their conquering nature, I have taken to plucking off all the buds before they flower in mid summer so that they will not spread seeds everywhere. (Now, it should be stated that I do love garlic chives. We just shouldnt be growing them in a bed with other herbs. They need their own little zone to fill up. The flowers are long lasting, beautiful and attract benefecial pollinators. You should grow them. I will give u some!)

At first I was just eating the buds. They are very intense compared to the rest of the plant. Not quite as strong as a clove of garlic but pretty close. So I started picking bagfuls every couple weeks and bringing them home. I put them in a jar with vinegar and shook them up every day, to fully infuse the vinegar and to ensure none were floating, exposed to air for to long. Vinegar creates an acidic environment so as long as air exposure is limited, it is fairly safe for infusions, like alcohol. There isnt really a recipe, but all vinegar infusions are as simple as this. Put anything in a jar, cover it up, shake it everyday for a week or a few months, taste occasionally if you want, strain and enjoy! I had to switch to a bigger jar because there kept being more and more. I let them sit for almost 2 months all in all. Which is probably a little extreme. A week is probably enough to flavor a vinegar. It smells really garlicky now. I forgot/ was lazy/ procrastinated for a while. I will probably use it as a base for my habanero hot sauce or just as a garnish for greens or for dumpling dipping sauce with honey and soy sauce.