Chili Garlic Oil

Have you ever noticed those fancy flavored oils at the grocery store? They seem like a great idea, another way to infuse extra flavor into your food. Trader Joe’s used to make an amazing chili oil that I loved, but then they discontinued it and I was so bummed. Then I found that my local CostCo had introduced a delicious garlic oil…that cost $12 per Liter, yikes. It also seems to have been discontinued.

But there is really no need to go on a big hunt or spend a lot of money on delicious flavored oil. I know I’ve mentioned garlic oil in a few other posts, but it is really really ridiculously easy to make your own. It is cheap to make, and YOU control the quality of the ingredients.

I love home made flavored oil and use it as a base for building all kinds of flavorful meals. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use it to make popcorn
  • Brush it on pizza crusts before topping and baking
  • Dip crusty rustic bread into it
  • Start your soups and stir fries with it
  • Put it in your pan for grilled cheese, instead of buttery stick
  • Make a spicy salad dressing
  • Use it anywhere you would use oil or fat, to add a little extra kick

This stuff is so good, that I plan to get some cute little bottles and give it away as gifts at holiday time, along with some recipes. I will probably make two versions, one that is just garlic and one that is just chili. But the recipe I’m giving you here covers both. If you just want garlic oil, leave out the crushed chilis and vice versa.

So try it and let me know what you think. You can try this method with other aromatics too, I think cinnamon and cloves would be a fun combination, useful for sweets and Lebanese or Moroccan dishes. What else would you try? What would you use it for?

Chili Garlic Oil

Ingredients

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup crushed red pepper, depending on your tolerance for heat (I like to use the really spicy kind)
  • 12 cloves (about one bulb) garlic, chopped or pressed
  • 4 cups olive oil (suitable for sauteeing or frying, NOT extra virgin), or canola, or other relatively flavorless oil

Method

Put chilis, oil, and garlic into a deep sautee pan and place over low heat.

Note: DO NOT be tempted put the spurs to the heat in order to speed up the process; trust me, you will burn the garlic and the chilis and that will make you a very sad panda.

On my stove, I set the heat to 3 (out of 10), then when the garlic starts to sizzle a little, I turn it down to 1. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the sizzly-garlic stage, but this may vary depending on the quantity of oil you are preparing and the power of your cooktop. Once you have sizzly-garlic, let the oil sit over low heat for about 15 minutes, then kill the heat.

Let the oil cool for about an hour before handling. Seriously, don’t try to strain boiling hot oil.

Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve into a clean container. Discard solids into the trash can (your kitchen plumbing doesn’t want all that oily goop). Strain a second time through a paper towel (see photo above) or coffee filter to clarify and catch all the tiny pieces that slipped through the first time.

Note: Don’t try to skip the first straining, if you go straight to the paper towel it will take a very long time. Also, it is important to strain the second time in order to remove all the garlic for food safety reasons.

Store in a clean, closed container at room temperature for a few weeks…maybe longer, I don’t know exactly because we go through this stuff pretty fast. If it develops any off odors, gets cloudy, grows anything funky, or talks sass to you, discard.

White Bean and Sage Dip


I was originally not going to post this recipe because I whipped it up in a hurry and thought it was too simple. But then I took it to a party with me last night and was surprised to find that it was a huge hit! I guess simple is often better.

Originally I was inspired to make this because I have a sage plant growing in my kitchen that was looking a little scraggly, and was desperately in need of a trim. As I’m sure you are aware, pruning your herb garden means cooking with the cast-off trimmings. I think most people think of sage primarily for things like turkey and stuffing, but since we are vegan and gluten-free, I had to come up with another way to use it. I remembered that sage pairs really well with white beans, and since I knew I had a party coming up, I figured I’d make a dip to stand in for the ubiquitous hummus platter.

Working with sage is a really enjoyable experience. If you’ve never played with fresh sage in your kitchen before, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Not only does it smell amazing, but the tactile experience is fun too. Sage is furry! And it chops up really fine without getting crushed and soggy like some other herbs can.

This dip is great with veggie crudites, the same way you’d eat hummus. But also really does well as a spread on crackers or bread. I spread my leftovers on a raw gluten-free “bread,” topped it with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and a tiny bit of fleur de sel for an open-faced sandwich. Heaven.

I used cannellini beans for this, but I think navy or great northern beans would work great too. I also opted to use garlic oil instead of putting raw garlic into the dip because I wanted only the tiniest hint of garlic, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the sage. If you are a garlic nut, go ahead and toss a few cloves in and see how it goes.

NOTE: You can easily make your own garlic oil by slicing the cloves from a bulb of garlic and warming them gently in about a cup of oil. You don’t want them sizzling violently and jumping out of the pot, just heated through enough to infuse flavor into the oil.

White Bean and Sage Dip (or Spread)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound (1 cup) white beans, soaked and cooked OR 2 cans beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lemon (meyer lemon if available)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup garlic oil or fruity olive oil
  • A large palmful of sage leaves, chopped fine

Method

Place the beans, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into a food processor and process until a thick paste forms. Using the feeder tube and with the food processor still running, add the oil. Continue to process until the texture is very smooth. Add the sage leaves and pulse a few times just to mix them in.

Serve as a dip or a spread. Will keep in the fridge for several days.

Makes about 3 cups

Spanish Chickpea Stew


So this blog has been quiet for a little while…

A few weeks ago, my husband was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity and was advised to immediately and permanently eliminate gluten from his diet. Since I am a good wife (or at least trying to be), I decided to go gluten-free as well to support him. It has been a big adjustment for both of us, and it has also meant that I have had to give up one of my favorite hobbies: baking. But we’re finding new and exciting foods to try, and we both feel great. So this blog is probably going to take a slightly different direction from now on as I explore vegan, gluten-free foods.

To kick it off, I’m going to start with this hearty Spanish-inspired chick pea stew. When I first made this shortly after Will got the instructions to go gluten-free, he was excited. He said it filled his desire for “junk-food fast-food taste” without actually being junky. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to sell this dish, but I will tell you it is easy to make and it is damn good. The chick peas really make this a hearty and filling dish.

One of the things you will need to find in order to make this dish is a gluten-free soy chorizo. Trader Joe’s has one that is labeled gluten-free, and that’s what we used. If you aren’t concerned about gluten, then use whatever veggie sausage you like, just dice it up before adding it to the pan.

You could serve this tapas-style with a few other small dishes, I think it would go nicely with a selection of marinated olives, garlic mushrooms, and wrinkled potatoes. Or, sit down to a bowl of it with a salad on the side and some crusty gluten-free bread (does such a thing even exist??).

Spanish Chickpea Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 12 oz package soy chorizo
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped OR 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley (plus extra, for garnish)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the soy chorizo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chick peas, tomato and paprika. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently to keep everything from sticking. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, garnished with more parsley if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Spicy Ginger Peanut Noodles


I cannot tell a lie: this is one of my favorite noodle recipes to eat.

It’s not because I love peanut butter, and ginger, and sesame. It’s not because I love that you can make this as spicy or as mild as you like. It’s not because it’s super easy, although all those things are nice too.

It’s really because every time I make it, it’s a little different. Depending on what fresh ingredients I have in my fridge or growing in my herb garden, I can always change it up a little, and it always tastes amazing and fresh. And because of that, it’s easy to customize the recipe to include ingredients that you love, so that you can make it just the way you like it. Like a little extra heat? Just go for the max number of thai chilis. Like it a little milder? Seed one jalapeno and use that instead. Hate carrots? Leave ’em out. Crazy for ginger? Up the quantity to two tablespoons….

TIP: Smaller chilis are more potent than larger chilis of the same variety. Chilis grown in a hotter, more humid climate are spicier than those grown in a cool, dry climate.

TIP: If using the optional vegetarian “chicken,” read ingredients carefully before you buy to make sure that your variety is vegan. Also, look for brands that are made in the USA; brands made in taiwan or china may not include all ingredients on the label, and may not be vegetarian at all. If I am using vegetarian “chicken,” I go to my local asian mega-mart and look there. They carry US brands, and they are typically much cheaper than popular grocery store brands such as Morningstar Farms.

What other fresh ingredients would YOU add to these noodles?

Spicy Ginger Peanut Noodles

Ingredients

  • 12 oz spaghetti, preferably whole wheat
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter (chunky, smooth, or other)
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 -4 thai chilis, chopped (or 1 jalapeno, chopped, or 1 tsp tabasco sauce)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp black (or white) sesame seeds
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 4 spring onions, sliced on the bias
  • 8 oz vegetarian “chicken” shreds, or strips sliced into long, thin pieces (optional)
  • Any other veggies or herbs  you want to add (i.e. celery or chilis sliced on the bias; shredded raw kohlrabi, turnip, or jicama; fresh parsley, mint, or chives; etc.)

Method

Break spaghetti in half before cooking (this will make it easier to distribute the rest of the ingredients evenly at the end). Cook pasta to al dente in salted water according to package directions. Drain, and place in a very large bowl. Add toasted sesame oil to the pasta, and use tongs to toss the spaghetti in the oil; this will keep it from sticking.

Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a dry pan, and toast over medium heat until aromatic and just starting to brown a little. Set aside to cool a little bit.

Place peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chilis or hot sauce, brown sugar, and toasted sesame seeds into your blender. Blend until smooth. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the consistency of cream.

Pour the dressing over the noodles. Add the black sesame seeds, carrots, spring onions, veggie  chicken, and any other veggies or herbs to the bowl. Use tongs to toss. Serve room temperature or cold.

Makes about 8 servings.

Date Night Mini Pizzas

Even though we are married and see each other every day, Will and I still try to have a date night at least once a week; we’re both pretty busy people and it’s nice to have some time that is dedicated for us to just relax together and really talk.

One of our favorite date night things to do is make mini-pizzas together. This is really fun because we each prepare our pizzas side by side, share toppings, fling sauce at each other, and comment on how we each choose to arrange our toppings.

Into the oven they go… Then we pull them out, swoon over how beautiful our pizzas are, and sit down together to eat. We are never disappointed, because the beauty of mini-pizzas is that we each get make our pizza exactly the way we like it!

As if having a fun and tasty activity with your S.O. wasn’t good enough, it gets better…the crust is FAST and EASY. And it’s got whole wheat flour in it. And delicious herbs. And even though it has yeast in it, it only needs to rise for 15-20 minutes, which I’ve found is just enough time to prepare the toppings.

Here’s another great thing about the dough recipe, you can easily double or triple it for a crowd. Or double it, portion it, and refrigerate or freeze whatever you don’t use. Just remember that if you are going to store it, you should coat the inside of a zip top bag with cooking spray or a thin coat of cooking oil to make dough retrieval a snap.

TIP: You don’t really need any special equipment for this recipe, but a pizza stone is really going to make a huge difference in the quality of your crust, especially if you like a crispy crust. I would definitely recommend using one if you can.

Toppings are limited only by your imagination. Mini-pizzas are a great way to use up little odds and ends of produce that may be accumulating in your fridge. 1/8 of an onion? Slice it up. One lonely jalapeño? Adds some zing.

Will tends to like tomato sauce, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, and daiya cheese on his pizza; he is pretty consistent. I like to try different things, so this week’s pizza was topped with pesto, daiya cheese, sauteed onions and garlic, and veggie sausage crumbles; I also put a big handful of torn arugula on top when the pizza was hot out of the oven. YUM!

What kind of toppings do you like on your pizza?

Date Night Mini Pizza With Herbed Whole Wheat Crust

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast (about half a package)
  • 1/4 tsp sea or table salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped herbs of your choice, OR a few pinches of dried herbs, crushed between your fingers (oregano, basil, thyme, whatever you have lying around)
  • 1/2 cup hot water (115º-125º F)
  • 2 tsp agave nectar

Method

Preheat oven to 425º F.

In your mixer’s bowl, combine AP flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt and stir. Add water and agave nectar, and mix until smooth.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes (–OR– knead by hand on a floured surface, 5minutes), adding whole wheat flour 1 tablespoon at a time if dough sticks.

Using a bench knife or sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough in half and shape it into smooth balls. Invert your mixing bowl over one, and place another deep bowl (or piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap) over the other and let rest 15 minutes.

Stretch or roll or toss each dough ball into desired shape and place on parchment paper (or a baking sheet, if you are not using a pizza stone). Turn over a small lip all around the edges and seal with your fingertip by pressing slightly. Have fun with toppings.

Cook in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until dough is browned around edges and as crisp as you like it.

Yield: 2 mini pizza crusts

Luscious Lime Ice Box Cookies

Food-091115-0004Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life has been crazy, between work and school and a hard drive crash on my home computer. But I’m easing back into it today with one of my favorite flavors: LIME.

Food-091115-0001I can’t take credit for this recipe, as it is just a minor tweak of the Grapefruit Ice Box Cookies from the book Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar by the amazing Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. The original recipe is here, but I’ve listed it again below with my changes to make it limey.

While I thought the original recipe featuring ruby red grapefruit sounded excellent, my DH has an aversion to anything grapefruit. But after a foolish CostCo run recently where I found myself in possession of 10lbs of limes (why??), I decided to use some of them up on these cookies. And I am *so* glad I did! The sweet lime flavor of these cookies is so bright and citrusy, and the shortbread has just the right balance between tenderness and crispness. I love them!

Food-091115-0002DH loves them too…he walked into the kitchen this morning to announce that they were a hit, as he had eaten several for breakfast; I considered this a victory as he had seemed less than lukewarm about the lime idea when I had originally pitched it to him. Go lime!

Other modifications: I used waxed paper to roll up the cookies instead of parchment, and I baked them on a silicone baking mat. I was able to fit all the cookies on one cookie sheet, because they don’t spread out very much. Also, I really only needed about half of the glaze, so I cut the quantities in half for the recipe below. For the entire recipe, you will probably only need about 3 limes, maybe 4 if they are small. Remember to zest your limes before you juice them!

Luscious Lime Ice Box Cookies

IngredientsFood-091115-0003

For cookies:

  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons lime zest for sprinkling

Method

In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed, cream together the margarine and shortening. Beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla, lime juice, and lime zest. Add flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt, and beat until a soft dough forms. On a piece of parchment paper from the dough into a log about 14 inches long. Roll up in parchment paper and fashion the log into a rectangle by rotating and pressing the dough to square off the sides. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and slice rectangle into ¼ inch thick slices and place on cookie sheets. The end slices are going to be wack, that’s ok, just discard them or make 2 weird looking cookies. Bake 15 minutes, edges should be lightly browned. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Make the glaze and assemble: In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together sugar, juice, and vanilla. It should fall from the fork in thick ribbons, if it seems to thin add a little extra sugar. Too thick, add more juice by the teaspoon. Spoon onto cooled cookies and spread a bit. Sprinkle with a little zest. Let set for at least half an hour. If it’s warm in the kitchen, place cookies in the fridge to set. Store in a container until ready to use.

Pomegranate Party Trick

pomegranate-091021-0001Autumn brings us so many tasty delights, I look forward to it every year. I think Autumn may be my favorite season. In addition to beautiful fall foliage, we get beautiful squashes and pumpkins, gorgeous greens, and of course…pomegranates! I always get so excited when I pick up my first pomegranate of the season, and this year is no exception.

pomegranate-091021-0003Pomegranate seeds are not just pretty to look at and tasty as all get-out, but they are packed with nutrition too. They are high in vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber, and are low in calories.

I love to put pomegranate seeds on just about everything, and they work really well with both savory and sweet dishes. I will sprinkle them on salads, soups, ice cream, overtop of pumpkin bread…anywhere I can think of.

One of my favorite things to do with pomegranate seeds is to float them in a carbonated beverage. Yes, pomegranate seeds can float! So today instead of a recipe, I offer you this formula for an impressive party beverage:pomegranate-091021-0002

  • Carbonated Beverage
  • Slice of lime (optional)
  • Pomegranate seeds

I love to use sparkling water for this, it is an almost-no-calorie treat. The pomegranate seeds sink to the bottom of the glass at first, but then float up onto a wave of carbonation. For a more adult beverage, I like prosecco, or even champagne.

TIP: I promise this trick can make even cheap champagne more impressive!

What other carbonated beverages can you think of to try? (Please don’t say beer!)