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.

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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

Kohlrabi and Turnip Spicy Asian Slaw

kholrabi slaw-091017-0003One of the cool things about doing a CSA is that from time to time something shows up in your share that you’ve never seen before. This week for me, it was kohlrabi.

If you’ve never tasted it, kohlrabi has a very mild, pleasant flavor. I found it to be kind of cabbagey tasting, in a very good way. It also has a very satisfying crunch which reminds me of broccoli. Apparently when kohlrabi is very young, you can eat it without having to peel it. But the outer layer of the large specimen we got was fibrous and tough, and it definitely needed to be peeled.

Our share this week also contained a bunch of turnips, and I had some left over carrots from the farmers market too. In light of this, I figured it was slaw time.

The dressing on this slaw is one that I use all the time with a shredded cabbage base, so feel free to sub in about a half of a head of cabbage if kohlrabi and turnips aren’t your thing.

This makes about 6-8 cups of slaw. When I’ve made (the cabbage version of) this in the past, I’ve often doubled it because it’s so tasty, and it does not last long in our house!

Kohlrabi and Turnip Spicy Asian Slaw

For the Dressing:

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1.5 tbsp tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • 1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 5 thai chilis, sliced on the bias (or a seeded and chopped seranno  or jalapeno)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced

Method

Whisk together all ingredients except for the onion (you can also use a blender for this). Pour the dressing over the sliced onion in a large bowl, and set aside for half an hour to let the onions macerate slightly in the liquid. Stir occasionally.

For the salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large kohlrabi
  • 3-4 small turnips
  • 2 small carrots
  • 2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds
  • 1 handful mint leaves, chopped
  • Other herbs of your choice (optional, but chopepd cilantro or parsley or thai basil would be nice)
  • Veggie “chick’n” strips (optional)

If your turnips still have their green tops attached, cut them off and set them aside for another use. Peel and trim all the veggies.

A food processor with the disk for shredding works best for the veggies. Shred all the veggies, and add them to the bowl with the onions and dressing. Add the sesame seeds, mint leaves, and “chick’n” strips and other herbs (if using). Toss the slaw to coat with dressing. Garnish with extra sesame seeds and herbs.

Serve right away, or tuck it into the fridge until you are ready. This lasts about 4 or 5 days in the fridge, but is best the day it’s made.
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Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

tomato-091002-0001Tomato season is almost over! We might have one more good week left here on the mid-Atlantic east coast before it’s gone.

This makes me sad. But fortunately for me, it’s been a great season for tomatoes.

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And fortunately for me, I’ve been getting these lovely bags of tomatoes the past few weeks from my CSA. There have been abundant heirlooms, romas, beefsteaks, cherry, and pear tomatoes. They have all been amazing, but it’s these little bitty cherry and pear tomatoes that really inspire me.

They have been showing up in mouth-watering shades of red, yellow, orange, and tiger striped. They are intensely sweet and delicious; I’d have to say that on the Tomato Flavor Scale™ of one to ten, these go to eleven. I love to eat them plain, but mixing them with a few other ingredients out of my CSA delivery really brings up their flavor.

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When I make this little salad, I tend to just leave it out on the counter and snack on on it as the mood strikes. Taking a few minutes to treat your tomatoes this way also makes them great to use for pizza topping or in wraps.

Also, I think it pays to take the time to chop your garlic by hand for this one. The texture and appearance is better than pressing it. It won’t take too much time to do this, I promise…it’s just one clove!

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you…

Tip: If you weren’t already aware, you should store your tomatoes at room temperature whenever possible for best flavor and texture.


Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

Ingredients

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  • 1 generous pint cherry, pear, or small roma tomaotes
  • 1 generous handful basil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil (optional)

Method

Quarter your little tomatoes and put them in a bowl (romas may need to be cut into smaller pieces). Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt to start pulling out some of the juices.

Chop your basil and mince your garlic, and add it to the bowl. Give the whole thing a splash of red wine vinegar, a splash of olive oil (if using), and a grind of pepper. Toss to combine, taste for seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary.

Let the mixture sit in its own juices on the counter for about 30 minutes, if you can wait that long. (I often cannot!)

When ready to use, strain out the juices and set aside. Enjoy your tomatoes at room temperature.

tomato-091002-0001-2Tip: You can also add a few other things to play with the flavors here. I’ve tried this with different combinations of herbs, including parsley and mint. I’ve also tossed in some diced roasted red pepper when I’ve had it on hand, and a little diced jalapeno for some kick.

BONUS TIP: Don’t throw away that liquid once you’ve strained your tomatoes! Everything that has been sitting in the bowl and marinating has given some flavor to that juice. You can use the liquid to replace some or all of the cooking liquid in your pizza dough or a savory bread. Use it to make a light salad dressing. Or add it to your next batch of soup or stock. If you don’t think you’ll use it right away, freeze it and it will be ready when you are.

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