Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

With episode 127, I have officially begun the 9th season of Good Eats. It’s crazy to think how much has transpired since I started this project and how many recipes/methods I have attempted. In case you have not heard, Alton is bringing Good Eats back to TV with new episodes starting in August, so that is definitely something to look forward to. By the way, I have read online (It must be true then, right?) that this episode was the only Good Eats episode that was actually filmed in Alton’s home kitchen, so there’s a random fact for you! With that, onto peas!

Curried Split Pea Soup

To first showcase the mighty pea, Alton begins this episode with a recipe for split pea soup. Requiring less than 10 ingredients, this soup is one that can easily be whipped up on a weeknight. To start, rinse 12 ounces of dry split peas under cool water and place a large saucepan over medium-low heat.

IMG_2592

T Twelve ounces of dried split peas.

Add 2 T butter to the pan and, once the butter has begun to melt, add 1 C chopped onion and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let the onion cook for a couple minutes or until softened.

IMG_2595

Onion and Kosher salt added to melting butter.

Next, add 1 T minced garlic and let the garlic cook for a minute or two.

IMG_2596

Garlic added to the pan.

Add 1 T curry powder to the pan, increase the heat to high, and pour in 5 C chicken broth. At this time, also add the rinsed split peas.

Bring the liquid to a boil, decrease the heat to low, and cover the pot. Let the soup cook for 45 minutes, or until the peas are falling apart. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

IMG_2602

Soup after cooking for 45 minutes.

Finally, puree the soup with an immersion blender.

IMG_2603

Pureed split pea soup.

IMG_2605

Alton’s curried split pea soup.

I served this soup with goat cheese toast for a light dinner and we both thought it was pretty tasty. I opted for a Madras curry powder in my soup, which resulted in a medium level of spice. The curry flavor was definitely prominent, so you really won’t care for this if you do not care for curry. I found this dish to be comforting home fare, and it is certainly healthy. Split peas are packed with protein and fiber, and you could easily make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. This is just a good, simple, everyday soup recipe.

Split Pea Burgers

Speaking of vegetarian recipes, Alton’s split pea burgers are a protein-packed vegetarian entree. Veggie burgers are not something I make regularly, so it was funny that this recipe happened to pop up right after I had made some other veggie burgers the week prior. At least this was good for comparison’s sake! For Alton’s burgers, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat, adding 1 T olive oil, 1/2 C chopped onion, 1/2 C chopped red or green bell pepper, and a big pinch of Kosher salt.

IMG_2470

Onion, bell pepper, and Kosher salt added to olive oil.

Stir the vegetables until they have softened and add 2 t minced garlic and 4 ounces of sliced mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for four minutes.

IMG_2473

Mushrooms and garlic added to softened veggies.

Next, add 1 C dry split peas, 1/2 C uncooked brown rice, 1 t ground coriander, 1 t cumin, and 3 C vegetable broth.

Increase the heat to high and bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low, place a lid on the pan, and simmer the mixture for one hour.

IMG_2477

Mixture after simmering for an hour.

After simmering, transfer the contents of the pot to a food processor and pulse the mixture 5-6 times or until combined; you do not want to puree the mixture, as you want to retain some texture.

Transfer the pea mixture to a bowl and add 3/4 C bread crumbs, and Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes. To cook the burgers, divide the pea mixture into five ounce portions, flattening them and lightly dredging them in bread crumbs. Cook the patties for 3-4 minutes per side in a nonstick skillet over medium heat that has been lubed with olive oil.

IMG_2539

Veggie patties cooking in oiled skillet.

Serve the burgers on buns with your desired accompaniments.

IMG_2541

Alton’s split pea burgers.

These burgers weren’t the best veggie burgers I have ever had, but they were decent. I found their texture to be a little one-note, but they were pretty flavorful. We ate our burgers with some spinach, tomato, pickles, and mustard, and they were pretty good. If you happen to have a vegetarian in your family, these are probably worthy of a try. Otherwise, they are just kind of okay. You can freeze the portioned patties for later use, which does make them super convenient for a fast meal.

Green Peas with Cheese and Herbs

And now, for my favorite recipe of this episode:  peas with cheese and herbs. For this recipe you will need a pound of shelled fresh or frozen peas; I chose to go with frozen peas, as it takes a lot more time to shell fresh peas. Regardless of whether you are using fresh or frozen peas, boil three quarts of salted water and add your peas.

IMG_2563

A pound of peas added to salted boiling water.

If you are using fresh peas, cook them for three minutes, while you will only want to cook frozen peas for one minute. Dump your cooked peas into a colander and set the colander in ice water to cool the peas quickly; I actually just ran my peas under very cold tap water until they were cool.

IMG_2564

Peas, running under cold water after cooking.

To make the dressing for the peas, mix 2 T red wine vinegar, 1 t Kosher salt, 1 T minced shallots, and 1/2 t pepper in a medium bowl.

IMG_2565

Red wine vinegar, Kosher salt, shallot, and black pepper to make the dressing.

Once combined, drizzle in 3 T olive oil as you whisk the mixture to emulsify.

IMG_2567

Olive oil, ready to whisk into dressing.

Add 2 t chopped mint and 2 t chopped parsley, along with four ounces of cubed Ricotta Salata, Fontina, or Swiss cheese. I had a shaved mixture of Parmesan and Fontina, so I used that. Last but not least, fold in the peas.

Cover the salad with plastic and place it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

IMG_2575

Alton’s peas with herbs and cheese.

This was a delightful salad to have as a side dish, though we both felt it could use more mint. I will make this salad again, but I will be sure to double the mint next time. The sweetness of the peas pairs fantastically with the salty richness of the cheese, and the vinaigrette adds a pop of acid and brightens the whole salad up. Add a touch more mint and this one is a keeper!

We eat a lot of produce in our house, but I feel like we sometimes get in a rut with our veggie side dishes; our go-tos are usually steamed asparagus or broccoli with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. For whatever reason (probably laziness), I tend not to venture too far out of my side dish comfort zone, unless I take the time to find an actual recipe. The 125th episode of Good Eats forced me to try some different side dishes, as it included three recipes for different types of greens, the first being collard greens.

Pot O’ Greens

I can really only recall eating collard greens one time, which was in a Southern-themed wedding buffet. I remember liking them, so I had no qualms about prepping them with Alton’s recipe. Collard greens need to be trimmed and cleaned properly, as they have woody stems and they grow in sandy soil. To trim collard greens, fold a leaf in half along the stem line and use a sharp knife to cut out any stems thicker than 1/8″.

Stack the trimmed flat leaves on top of each other, fold them in half as you did before, and roll them from the bottom up.

Cut the roll of leaves in half the long way and then slice the greens perpendicularly.

Place your chopped greens in a sink full of cold water, swishing them around and allowing them to sit for several minutes; this will allow any sand/dirt to sink to the bottom.

IMG_2231

Trimmed/chopped greens placed in a sink of cold water.

To drain his greens, Alton likes to put his greens in a large zip-up pillow case. He then places the pillow case in his washing machine for one minute on the spin cycle. I did not have a zip-up pillow case, so I opted to roll my greens in a stack of paper towels.

IMG_2233

Cleaned greens on paper towels to dry.

To store trimmed/clean greens, place them in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator. For Alton’s collards, put a 1 1/2 pound smoked turkey leg in a large pot; I could only find a raw turkey leg, so I had to roast it in the oven first. Add a quart of water to your turkey leg, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the turkey simmer in the water for 10 minutes.

Next, add 1 t sugar and 1 t Kosher salt to the pot, along with 2 pounds of trimmed/cleaned/chopped collard or turnip greens.

Place the lid back on the pot and gently simmer the greens for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Be sure to keep the heat very low, as you only want a very gentle simmer.

Use tongs to place the greens in bowls and serve them with hot sauce. To be like a true Southerner, try sipping some of the cooking liquid, which is called “pot liquor.”

IMG_2249

A bowl of Alton’s collard greens after cooking for 45 minutes.

You can also bag and freeze the cooked greens for later use. To thaw frozen collard greens, run the frozen bags under cold running water. I have to be honest that I didn’t enjoy this recipe as much as I expected to. The turkey gave the greens a meaty flavor and the greens were cooked well, so as to maintain a bit of texture instead of being mushy. I found that I needed to add a fair amount of salt to the cooked greens, as they were really lacking in seasoning. Hot sauce definitely gave the greens a needed punch of flavor, as they were otherwise not very exciting. I won’t go out of my way to make these again, but I do hope to encounter collard greens more often, as I hope to sample other preparations. Maybe I am just not as fond of collard greens as I thought I was!

Lemon Sesame Glazed Greens

Alton’s second greens recipe utilizes kale, and you will need 1 1/4 pounds of cleaned/trimmed kale. As with the collard greens above, remove thick stems from the kale leaves, chop the kale, and rinse the chopped greens in a sink of cold water.

While the kale soaks, place a roasting pan over two stove burners on medium heat. I chose to use a large skillet instead of a roasting pan because my burners are different sizes and the roasting pan does not heat evenly. Either way, brush your pan with 1 T olive oil and add 2 cloves of minced garlic and the zest of one lemon.

IMG_2437

Oil, garlic, and lemon zest in the pan.

Next, add 2 t fresh lemon juice to the pan, along with 1 T honey. Follow the honey with 1 1/2 t Kosher salt and 1/4 t pepper, and add your just-washed greens; don’t worry about drying the greens here, as you want some water in the pan. If necessary, add up to 1/2 C additional water.

Use tongs to toss the greens until they have cooked down to resemble thawed frozen spinach. At this point, remove the greens from the heat and stir in 1/2 t red pepper flakes and 1 T sesame seeds.

IMG_2441

Kale cooked down until very wilted. Sesame seeds and red pepper flakes stirred in.

Serve the kale immediately. We liked the flavors in this dish, as the lemon brightened up the greens, while the red pepper flakes gave subtle heat and the sesame seeds gave a bit of nuttiness. The honey served to lightly glaze the greens.

IMG_2443

A bowl of Alton’s lemon sesame glazed greens.

I have never been a huge kale fan, as its chewy texture is just not my favorite, and I found that to be the case with this recipe as well. I think kale lovers would really like this recipe, however, and it comes together super easily with ingredients often on-hand.

Mustard Green Gratin

The third type of green Alton uses in this episode is the mustard green, which he uses to make this gratin. As soon as I saw Alton prepare this recipe, I recognized it from the beet episode. Sure enough, this mustard green gratin is nearly identical to the beet green gratin in episode 83. For the gratin, butter the bottom and sides of a 2 or 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Beat three eggs in a large bowl and add 10 ounces ricotta, 2 ounces grated Parmesan, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

Next, melt 1 T butter in a roasting pan placed over two burners on medium heat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan, along with 12 ounces of sliced mushrooms. Add a large pinch of Kosher salt and toss the mushrooms until they have browned.

Add a pound of stemmed/rinsed/chopped mustard greens and toss until the greens have wilted.

Remove the pan from the heat and use tongs to add the greens to the egg/ricotta mixture. Stir the mixture to combine.

Place the egg/mustard green mixture in your buttered baking dish, avoiding packing down the greens. Sprinkle the top of the greens with 1 C of crushed Ritz crackers.

Bake the gratin at 375 for 35-40 minutes and let cool slightly before serving.

IMG_2177

Alton’s mustard green gratin.

We were not huge fans of Alton’s beet green gratin, but we both really liked the mustard green version. Mustard greens, if you didn’t know, truly do taste like mustard, so they bring a lot of flavor to the party. To me, I specifically tasted a Dijon mustard-like flavor in this gratin, which I found to pair very well with the creaminess of the egg/ricotta mixture. The cracker crust adds some crunchy texture and buttery flavor. This is really good and we both said we would like to eat it again. I’m surprised Alton didn’t make this addition, but I would personally add a little bit of ground nutmeg to the ricotta mixture. This was by far our favorite recipe of this episode, though it doesn’t look too pretty in the photo. Honestly, though, casseroles are just never pretty, right?

Since it appears that spring has officially sprung, this leek episode seems super appropriate, both for the ingredient and for the episode title. I have used leeks in many recipes in the past, but they have typically assumed more of a back-up role to other ingredients. In these recipes, however, the leek takes center stage.

Grilled Braised Leeks

This recipe is (or, at least was) Alton’s favorite leek preparation. If you have ever worked with leeks before, you will know that it is crucial to clean them thoroughly, unless you enjoy sand and grit in your teeth. To clean leeks as Alton does, barely cut off the white root tip of each leek, discarding the tips. Next, cut off the dark green leaves of the leeks and discard them.

IMG_8115(1)

Trimmed leeks.

Place a leek on a cutting board such that the center oval inside the leek is perpendicular to the cutting board.

IMG_8116(1)

Leek, placed so its oval is perpendicular to the cutting board.

Use a sharp knife to cut straight down through the top of the oval, slicing the leek in half lengthwise, while keeping the leek layers together.

IMG_8118(1)

Leeks split in half.

To rinse the leeks, hold onto their white ends as you dip/swirl them in a large bowl of water; any grit should fall to the bottom of the bowl.

IMG_8120(1)

Leeks, swirling in water to clean.

To store cleaned leeks, wrap them in a layer of damp paper towels, followed by a layer of plastic. This recipe uses a grill, so preheat your grill such that one end of the grill is hot and the other is cool. While the grill heats, brush the cut sides of eight leek halves (prepped as above) with bacon drippings. We happen to keep a jar of bacon drippings in our refrigerator, so I just melted some of the drippings in the microwave. After brushing the leeks with bacon fat, sprinkle them liberally with Kosher salt.

Place the leeks, cut side down, on the hot side of the grill, and check them after three minutes of grilling.

IMG_8125(1)

Leeks placed, cut side down, on the grill.

You want your leeks to have grill marks, but you do not want them to get charred. My leeks were ready after three minutes. When your leeks have grill marks, transfer them to a large piece of foil and brush on some balsamic vinegar; Alton said he used about 1 T of balsamic vinegar, but he appeared to use more than that in the episode.

Reassemble the leeks by placing two matching halves together and fold the foil closed to make a tight pouch. Place the foil packet over indirect heat and grill for 10-12 more minutes, or until the leeks are tender.

Serve the grilled leeks with any combination of black pepper, goat cheese, artichokes, and greens. This leek recipe really showcases the leek. I served my leeks with pepper, marinated artichoke hearts, and goat cheese, and it was a fantastic combination of flavors.

IMG_8133(1)

Grilled braised leeks served with pepper, goat cheese, and marinated artichoke hearts.

I do think my leeks could have used more time on the grill, as the outer layers of the leeks were pretty chewy and had a strong onion-like bite to them. The inner layers, however, were tender and had the sweetness of cooked onions. I definitely want to make these again, but I think I will let them sit on indirect heat for at least a good half hour. Next time, I will also purchase the smallest leeks I can find, as the larger leeks seemed to have much tougher outer leaves. These would be a perfect accompaniment to any summer (or spring) barbecue.

Leek Rings

For a twist on onion rings, Alton turns here to the leek. This recipe uses 12 ounces of leeks, and you’ll first want to remove their root tips and their dark green leaves. Next, slice the leeks into half-inch rings, separating the layers to form rings.

IMG_7825(1)

Leek layers separated into rings.

To set up the breading stations for this recipe, combine 2 C flour with 2 t Kosher salt and divide the mixture between two containers. For the third station, combine 1 1/2 C milk with a beaten egg in a third container, and place the liquid container between the two flour containers.

Preheat three quarts of oil (vegetable, safflower, or canola) in a large Dutch oven to 375 degrees. While the oil heats, you can bread your leek rings by using your left hand to place a handful of rings into the first flour container, tossing them to coat.

Next, with the left hand, move the floured rings to the milk and toss the rings with your right hand.

IMG_7834(1)

Rings into the milk station.

Also with the right hand, move the milked leeks to the second flour container and use a fork to toss.

Remove the breaded leeks with your left hand, transferring them to a spyder or to a plate. Use the spyder to gently drop the leeks into the hot oil, frying them for 30-90 seconds, or until golden brown.

Transfer the fried leeks to a rack over a sheet pan to drain.

IMG_7845(1)

Fried leek rings.

We ate these a side with dinner one night and they were pretty fun. We thought they looked a lot like calamari rings. The nice thing about these was that they stayed pretty crispy, while onion rings can sometimes get a bit soggy. Before eating these, I wondered if they would need some sort of dipping sauce, but a little extra Kosher salt was all these needed for me. They have a slightly sweet onion-like flavor and a crispy outer shell. It was a little tedious to separate the leek layers and to bread them, but these were a fun thing to do for something different.

Leek Potato Soup

Alton’s take on Vichyssoise soup is the final recipe in this episode. It starts with melting 3 T butter in a lidded six quart pot over medium heat.

IMG_7787(1)

Butter in large pot.

While the butter melts, prep a pound of leeks, as done above for grilling (trim, cut in half through the oval, wash). Slice the leek halves into thirds lengthwise, and then chop them.

Add the chopped leeks to the melted butter, along with a large pinch of Kosher salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the leeks sweat for 20-25 minutes.

Once the leeks are tender, add 14 ounces of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped, along with a quart of vegetable broth.

Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to a simmer, put a lid on the pot, and cook the soup for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, use an immersion blender, or a regular blender, to puree the soup to a smooth consistency.

Combine a cup of heavy cream with a cup of buttermilk and stir the dairy into the soup; combining the dairy prior to adding it to the soup will help to prevent curdling.

IMG_7809(1)

A cup of cream and a cup of buttermilk.

Finally, stir in a teaspoon of white pepper.

IMG_7813(1)

Dairy and white pepper added to soup.

Serve the soup topped with chopped chives.

IMG_7818(1)

Leek potato soup

This was a really delicious and simple soup. It was rich, without being heavy, and the leeks contributed a sweet flavor and aroma. This is a soup that could be eaten year-round, as you could serve it hot in colder seasons or cold in warmer weather. It is also a great vegetarian option, and it really highlights the flavor of leeks.

I have not been able to bring myself to write up a Good Eats episode. My dad died on March 18th, after spending three weeks in the ICU; those three weeks were a roller coaster ride, as his condition fluctuated often and rapidly. At times, we thought he would soon be leaving the hospital to head to a rehab facility, but then he would head downhill again. Finally, on March 18th, he succumbed. We received a great gift that day, as Dad was suddenly the most lucid he had been in weeks. He was able to tell us that he was ready to go and he said his goodbyes to all of us.

Needless to say, my dad’s funeral was two days ago and I am still completely devastated, as I lost one of my very best friends, and also my key life adviser. Dad and I shared many common interests, but food and Good Eats were among them. Dad always loved to chat about the recipes I was cooking for my next blog post, and he often recalled watching particular episodes with me in earlier years. Although it is emotionally tough to write a post without him here, I also know he would want me to continue my project, as he thought it was really “neat.”

Carrot Slaw

For a make-ahead side dish, try Alton’s carrot slaw. Begin by washing two pounds of carrots. If they are thicker than an inch at their bases, peel them also.

IMG_1596

Two pounds of carrots.

Next, use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrots into thin strips. This was quite a noisy task in my house, as our coonhounds are obsessed with carrots, and they howled for the duration of my peeling!

IMG_1597

Two pounds of carrots, peeled into ribbons.

Place the following ingredients in a lidded container that is twice the volume of your carrot strips:  1/2 C mayo, pinch of Kosher salt, 1/3 C sugar, 1/2 C drained crushed pineapple (canned), 1/2 C raisins, 2 t curry powder, a pinch of caraway and/or celery seed, and 1 t minced garlic.

Whisk these ingredients together to form a dressing.

IMG_1609

The combined dressing.

Finally, add the carrot strips, place the lid on the container, and shake the carrots until they are thoroughly coated with the dressing.

IMG_1617

Carrot slaw.

You can eat the slaw immediately or refrigerate it for up to a week. We ate this slaw as a side dish with dinner and both found it to be a flavorful vegetable option, though I felt it was a little sauce-heavy. I don’t know about you, but we tend to get in a rut with our vegetable side dishes, so this was definitely a different choice. My carrot strips were pretty long, which ended up being a bit tricky to eat (like super long noodles), so I would recommend trying to make slightly shorter carrot strips. This recipe is a mix of sweet and savory flavors, and the raw carrots maintain a slight crunch. This could be a good make-ahead option for a summer potluck.

Glazed Carrots

In this episode, Alton refers to this recipe as his all-time favorite carrot recipe. When purchasing carrots, Alton recommends buying carrots with fresh-looking green ends; be sure to trim the stems to a length of one inch once you are home, as they tend to pull moisture from the carrots. And, if you want to store carrots as Alton does, keep them wrapped in bubble wrap. I tend to just opt for plastic wrap, myself. To make glazed carrots, cut, on the bias, a pound of carrots into coins that are 1/3″ to 1/4″ thick.

Place the carrot discs in a 12-inch skillet, along with an ounce of butter, a large pinch of Kosher salt, and a cup of ginger ale.

Heat the burner to medium heat, cover the pot, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Once simmering, decrease the heat to medium-low and cook the carrots for five minutes with the lid on.

After five minutes, remove the lid, add 1/2 t chili powder, and increase the heat to high. Resist the urge to stir the carrots, though you can gently shake the pan. Continue to cook the carrots until the liquid is almost gone, which should take about five minutes.

Check the carrots with the tip of a sharp knife – they should be just knife-tender. Sprinkle the carrots with a tablespoon of chopped parsley and serve immediately.

IMG_1709

Glazed carrots.

I have to agree with Alton that these glazed carrots are delicious. This recipe comes together super quickly and is perfect for any weeknight. I highly recommend this one for a side dish.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake seems to be the most polarizing type of cake. For me, carrot cake is way up at the top of the list, so this recipe gave me a good excuse to have a few slices. To make Alton’s version of carrot cake, preheat your oven to 350 and lube the bottom and sides of a cake pan with butter. Coat the pan with flour, removing any excess, and line the bottom of the pan with a disc of parchment paper. When I watched Alton prep his pan, I recognized the pan immediately as the same one he used to make his cheesecake in episode 61.

IMG_1717

Buttered and floured pan, lined on the bottom with parchment.

Next, shred 12 ounces of carrots on the large side of a box grater and place them in a bowl. Yes, this part is a pain, but at least your arm burns some calories, so you can eat a larger slice of cake later.

Dump the following ingredients into the bowl of a food processor:  12 ounces of flour, 1 t baking powder, 1 t baking soda, 1/4 t allspice, 1/4 t  cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg, and 1/2 t salt. Pulse the dry ingredients until combined and add them to the carrots, tossing them until coated.

Next, combine 10 ounces of sugar, 2 ounces of dark brown sugar, 3 eggs, and 6 ounces of plain yogurt in the food processor. With the machine running, drizzle in 6 ounces of vegetable oil. Add the wet mixture to the carrots, mixing ten times with your hands.

Pour the carrot mixture into your prepared pan and bake the cake for 45 minutes.

IMG_1741

Batter poured into prepared pan.

After 45 minutes, decrease the heat to 325 and bake for 20 more minutes, or until the cake has an internal temperature between 205 and 210 degrees (mine was at 208 after the initial 20 minutes). Oh, and when taking the temperature of a cake, place the thermometer half-way between the center of the cake and the rim of the pan.

IMG_1742

Cake after baking for 65 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting. I let my cake cool in the pan for the first half hour, and then removed it from the pan for the remainder of the cooling process.

IMG_1745

Cake, removed from pan after 30 minutes of cooling. Allowed to cool completely on rack.

For Alton’s cream cheese frosting, combine 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese with 2 ounces of room temperature butter.

IMG_1747

Softened cream cheese and butter in mixer.

Add 1 t vanilla and 9 ounces of sifted powdered sugar, mixing until smooth.

Chill the frosting for 5-10 minutes before using it to frost your cooled cake.

IMG_1757

Frosted carrot cake.

IMG_1760

A slice of Alton’s carrot cake.

As I said before, I love carrot cake, and this is a simple one. I like the fact that the carrots are really the star of this cake, as there are no pineapple chunks, or walnuts, or raisins in this one. Also, since this is a one-layer cake, it is a cake that can easily be made on a busy day. Alton’s carrot cake is moist, dense, and has just the right amount of sweetness to balance with the sweeter cream cheese frosting. The frosting is smooth and creamy, and the recipe makes the perfect amount to frost the top of this carrot cake. I am actually making this cake again this weekend, as it is my dog’s 13th birthday on Sunday and he adores carrots. He will only get a tiny nibble, but we humans will eat the rest in celebration of him.

Garden Vegetable Soup

As with the last episode of Good Eats, Alton’s goal in this episode was to develop kid-friendly recipes; this time, though, he tackled soup. The first soup he made was a vegetable soup. This soup starts by heating 4 T olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add to the oil 2 C chopped leeks (be sure to wash them well), 2 T minced garlic, and a pinch of Kosher salt.

IMG_0139

Leeks, garlic, and salt added to hot oil.

Cook the leeks and garlic until they have softened.

IMG_0141

Leeks and garlic after sweating.

Next, add 2 C peeled/chopped carrots, 2 C peeled/diced potatoes, and 2 C green beans, broken into bite-sized pieces.

Increase the heat under the vegetables, cooking them for 4-5 minutes. Pour in 2 quarts of chicken or vegetable broth; Alton says he is fine with using purchased broth here. Of course, homemade would always be better, though!

Once the broth is in the pot, increase the heat to high, bringing the broth to a simmer. When simmering, add 4 C peeled/seeded/chopped tomatoes, 2 ears of corn kernels, and a few grinds of black pepper.

IMG_0147

Corn, tomatoes, and pepper added to the soup.

Turn the heat to low, place a lid on the pot, and simmer the soup for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.

To finish the soup, stir in 1/4 C parsley and 1-2 t fresh lemon juice.

IMG_0163

Lemon juice and parsley stirred in.

IMG_0169

A bowl of Alton’s vegetable soup.

This is a pretty basic vegetable soup recipe, and I have to admit that I assumed it would be quite bland. I also was unsure of whether Ted would like it, as he is not a huge tomato fan. Ted and I, however, were both pleasantly surprised at the amount of flavor in this soup! The individual vegetables maintained their textures and vibrant colors, and the soup had a bright, fresh vegetable flavor. The lemon gave the soup a perfect pop of much-needed acidity. The only thing you may need to adjust is the amount of salt, depending on how much you sprinkle in when sweating the leeks and garlic. This is a super easy, healthy recipe that you easily could make with kids in the kitchen, and it is a great way to eat a bunch of fresh vegetables.

Grape Gazpacho

Now that the weather is cooling off, we really aren’t in gazpacho season anymore. The ingredients needed for Alton’s grape gazpacho, though, are available year-round. Gazpacho is always better if allowed to sit for a few hours before eating, so plan to make this a few hours ahead.

IMG_0196

Tomatillos, cucumber, and Granny Smith apple.

The soup begins with seeding and chopping one cucumber.

IMG_0198

Seeded cucumber.

Place half of the cucumber in a food processor and the other half in a large bowl. Next, peel, seed, and chop a Granny Smith apple, placing half of it in the food processor and the other half in the large bowl.

IMG_0199

Peeled apple.

Chop 1 C husked tomatillos, and do the same as with the cucumber and apple, placing half of the tomatillos in the food processor and half in the large bowl.

Add the following ingredients to the food processor:  1 pound green grapes, 1 C toasted walnuts, 1 C plain yogurt, 1 C white grape juice, 1 t rice wine vinegar, and 6 mint leaves.

Pulse the ingredients in the food processor nine or ten times, until blended but still maintaining some texture.

IMG_0209

Mixture after pulsing 9-10 times.

Pour the mixture from the food processor into the large bowl with the cucumber, apple, and tomatillos, stirring to combine.

IMG_0212

Blended mixture added to bowl of fruit/vegetables.

Cover the soup with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for two-three hours before eating.

IMG_0242

Green grape gazpacho.

As with most cold soups, this one comes together super quickly, and it is super convenient since you can make it ahead of time. This soup was just okay for me, though it did have some interesting flavors. I found that it really called for the addition of some Kosher salt. The soup was certainly light and refreshing, and the walnuts gave it some body. I would definitely prefer this soup in warmer weather, as it has a slightly sweet and tart flavor from the grapes and tomatillos. This is another healthy and easy recipe that kids could certainly aid in making, but this wasn’t a favorite for me.

This episode of Good Eats sees Alton in the kitchen with his “nephew,” striving to whip up some kid-friendly sandwiches. Alton has four rules for making sandwiches:

  1. Soft fillings and spreads pair best with soft breads.
  2. A barrier (mayo, butter, oil, etc.) should be used to keep bread from getting water-logged from wet ingredients.
  3. The order of sandwich ingredients matters – slippery ingredients are not to be placed next to each other.
  4. Quality of bread is crucial, and you should only utilize bread that you would happily consume plain. Pre-sliced bread tends to be loaded with preservatives, so should be avoided.

Pan Bagnat

The first sandwich Alton makes is a pan bagnat, which translates to “wet bread.” What is a pan bagnat? Basically, it is a French version of a sub sandwich, consisting of several layers of ingredients. This sandwich is designed to be made a couple hours before consumption, as it is best to let the flavors mingle. This sandwich starts with a vinaigrette made by placing 1/2 t Dijon mustard in a bowl, and whisking in 1 T red wine vinegar, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and several grinds of pepper. While continuing to whisk, drizzle in 3 T olive oil to form an emulsion. Set the dressing aside while you build the sandwich.

This sandwich serves four people, and I only needed enough for two, so I cut the recipe in half. Bread-wise, for four servings, you want to get a 16-inch baguette. Slice the loaf in half horizontally and use your fingers to dig out trenches in the center of each half of bread, as if you are creating bread canoes. You can discard the removed bread, or use it to make bread crumbs.

Fill the trench in the bottom half of bread with 12 ounces of drained tuna fish (you can use either oil or water-packed tuna).

IMG_0225

Bottom bread trench filled with tuna fish.

Next, add a layer of 1/3-inch thick green bell pepper slices, followed by a layer of 1/3-inch thick red onion slices.

Next, add two hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced.

IMG_0228

Tuna topped with green bell pepper, red onions, and hard boiled eggs.

On top of the eggs, sprinkle on 1 C of pitted/chopped Kalamata olives.

IMG_0229

Tuna topped with green bell pepper, red onions, hard boiled egg, and Kalamata olives.

Top the olives with 4-5 slices of very ripe tomato and drizzle on the red wine vinaigrette, letting the dressing drizzle down between the ingredient layers.

Place the top bread on top of the sandwich. Wrap the sandwich very tightly in plastic wrap; you will need to overlap sheets of plastic to have a sheet wide enough for the length of the sandwich. Once wrapped, let the sandwich sit at room temperature for two hours before slicing and eating.

I made this sandwich last Friday, as we were taking a short road trip out of town. The sandwich sat in the car for the duration of our drive, and was then ready to eat for dinner when we arrived at our vacation rental.

IMG_0240

Alton’s pan bagnat. Excuse the poor lighting in this photo, as our vacation rental had horrible lighting.

Personally, I really liked this sandwich, but Ted doesn’t like canned tuna, so he was not a huge fan. He did, however, say that he would really like this sandwich if it were made with a different protein. Basically, if you’ve ever had a niçoise salad, this sandwich is that salad in sandwich form. Alton did not follow his second sandwich rule of using a moisture barrier with this recipe, so I wondered if the sandwich would end up soggy from the tuna, tomato, olives, and dressing, but it really was not soggy at all. What I liked most about this sandwich were its contrasting flavors, colors, and textures. The veggies gave the sandwich a crunch, the tomato and dressing kept the sandwich from being dry, and the eggs gave a slight creamy texture. Flavor-wise, the vinaigrette and olives were tangy, bright and salty, while the red onions gave a bit of spice/heat. The tomato added fruitiness and the tuna contributed a slight fishy flavor. It was also convenient to be able to make this sandwich ahead. I will definitely make a version of this sandwich again, though I likely will substitute something else (chicken salad?) for the tuna unless I am the only one eating it.

Cuban Sandwich

The second sandwich recipe in this episode is for Alton’s take on the classic Cuban sandwich. To make Cuban sandwiches, slice hoagie rolls in half horizontally and liberally spread yellow mustard on both halves of the rolls.

Top the mustard with a thin layer of baked ham, followed by a thin layer of roast pork (I made a small pork roast for these sandwiches).

Top the pork with two slices of provolone or Swiss cheese (I used Swiss) and two long, thin slices of Kosher dill pickle.

You can wrap the sandwiches in plastic and save them for later, or you can cook them right away. To cook the sandwiches, brush/spread them with butter and press them in a panini press for about 10 minutes.

If you do not have a panini press, you can still press the sandwiches by wrapping three fireplace bricks in foil. Place the bricks on a sheet pan. Place three more bricks (they do not need to be wrapped in foil) on a second sheet pan. Place the two sheet pans of bricks in a 500-degree oven for an hour. Remove the sheet pans from the oven and brush the foil-covered bricks with butter. Place the sandwiches on the foil-covered bricks and brush the sandwich tops with butter. Place the sheet pan of unwrapped bricks on top of the sandwiches and let the sandwiches press between the bricks for about 10 minutes.

IMG_0176

Alton’s Cuban sandwich.

I really enjoy Cuban sandwiches because I love their zesty flavor, and I thought this was a great, fast version to make at home. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of roasting pork for this recipe, you could always substitute sliced turkey, or at least that is what Alton says. I’m sure some Cuban sandwich classicists would pooh-pooh Alton’s version with provolone and turkey, but if it tastes good (and it does), who cares?

Roasted Vegetable Spread

The last recipe in this episode is for a vegetarian spread that you could use on any sandwich, or just on crackers or bread. Preheat your oven to 400. While the oven heats, toss the following vegetables with 1-2 T olive oil:  1 sliced zucchini, 1 sliced (into rings) red bell pepper, 1 sliced (into rings) onion, and 4-5 crushed cloves of garlic.

Spread the veggies on a foil-lined sheet pan and sprinkle them with Kosher salt. Roast the vegetables for 45 minutes, stirring them occasionally.

IMG_0319

Zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, and garlic tossed with olive oil, spread on a sheet pan, and sprinkled with Kosher salt.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and let them cool to room temperature.

IMG_0323

Vegetables after roasting for 45 minutes.

Place the veggies in a food processor, along with eight ounces of cream cheese, and pulse to combine.

IMG_0325

Roasted vegetables in the food processor with cream cheese.

IMG_0329

Alton’s vegetable spread, served with bread slices.

Alton recommends serving his spread on soft bread (see sandwich rule number 1 above). This spread has a sweet veggie flavor from the caramelized vegetables. While I would not be able to identify zucchini in this spread, the flavors of red bell pepper, onion, and garlic are easily identifiable. I did feel that the spread could use a bit more Kosher salt, though. We enjoyed this as an appetizer on sliced bread, though I can attest it is also good on crackers. This is a recipe that would be great to keep in mind for when you are cleaning out your produce drawer, as you could roast a variety of leftover vegetables and have a different spread each time. I plan to make this again the next time we have leftover veggies.

Episode 109 centers around wonton wrappers and the different ways to use them. Wonton comes from the Cantonese term “wahn tan,” which means “cloud swallow.” While it is possible to make your own wonton wrappers at home, Alton was adamant that it is not worth the time and effort to do so. Instead, do yourself a favor and buy the wonton wrappers that are readily available in the produce section of almost any grocery store.

Perfect Potstickers

This episode starts with Alton’s version of potstickers, featuring a pork and vegetable filling. The filling is made by combining in a bowl 1/2 pound ground pork, 1/4 C chopped scallions, 1 beaten egg, 2 T finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1 t light brown sugar, 1/4 t cayenne pepper, 2 t Worcestershire sauce, 2 t ketchup, and 1 t yellow mustard.

Mix the filling thoroughly with gloved hands.

IMG_9715

The mixed potsticker filling.

As you fill your wonton wrappers, be sure to keep the remaining wrappers moist by covering them with a damp paper towel.

IMG_9716

Wonton wrappers.

To form the potstickers, place a wrapper so it is a diamond in front of you. Brush the two edges furthest from you with water and place a melon baller of filling (about 1/2 t) in the center.

IMG_9722

Wonton wrapper with the two far edges brushed with water and a melon baller of filling.

Fold the bottom of the diamond over the filling to form a triangle, pressing the edges together and squeezing to remove any air bubbles.

Make two pleats on each short side of the triangle by folding the wrapper under itself and pressing (see photo).

IMG_9725

Pleats made on each short side of the triangle.

Set the formed potstickers on a sheet pan, covering them with a damp towel until you finish filling the rest of the wrappers. For long-term storage (these will keep for 6+ months in the freezer), freeze the potstickers on a sheet pan and then transfer them to ziplock freezer bags. To cook the potstickers, heat a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat. Ideally, you do not want to use a nonstick skillet to cook potstickers, as you want them to stick to the pan. I, however, do not have a large skillet that is not nonstick, so I had to work with what I have. Heat the skillet until water droplets will “dance” across the surface of the pan. When the skillet is hot, brush the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil and place 8-10 potstickers in the pan. Let the potstickers cook for two minutes, resisting the urge to lift or move them.

When the potstickers have begun to stick to the pan, add 1/3 C chicken stock to the pan and quickly put the lid on the pan. Decrease the heat to low and cook the potstickers for two more minutes.

If you need to cook more potstickers, transfer the cooked potstickers to a foil cone and place it in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.

Be sure to deglaze the pan between batches by adding water to the pan and scraping up any stuck bits. Alton recommends serving the potstickers with hoisin sauce (you can buy this in the grocery store) or a mixture of soy sauce and honey. I served my potstickers with a mixture of soy sauce and lemon juice.

IMG_9742

A plate of Alton’s potstickers.

These potstickers are fantastic. They are far superior to the frozen versions you get at any store. The filling is a perfectly balanced mixture of sweetness, spiciness, and tanginess. The wrappers are nearly translucent after cooking, having the texture of an al dente noodle on top and light crispiness on the bottom. I found that soy sauce overpowered the flavor of the filling, so I opted to eat mine with just a small amount of Asian mustard. Yes, it does take a little bit of time to fill and form the potstickers, but they are worth the time. I will absolutely make these again.

Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings

Another way to use wonton wrappers is to make steamed dumplings. If you do not have a steamer, Alton has a hack for you. To assemble his steamer, you will need a wide pot with a lid, a few pastry rings or tuna cans with the tops and bottoms removed, and disposable pie plates that you have perforated with scissors or a knife. To assemble the steamer, place 1/2″ water in the bottom of the pot, followed by a pastry ring or can. Top the ring/can with a perforated pie plate. Continue layering rings and pie plates to the top of the pot and put on the lid. You can then steam your dumplings by placing five dumplings in each pie plate layer. We have a bamboo steamer, so I used that. Anyway, back to the recipe. Cut 1/2 pound of tofu in half horizontally and place the layers between paper towels for 20 minutes. It helps to place a plate or pan on top to press out excess liquid.

Once the tofu is ready, cut it into small cubes and place it in a bowl.

IMG_9825

Cubing the tofu.

To the tofu add 1/2 C grated carrot, 1/2 C shredded Napa cabbage, 2 T chopped scallions, 2 T chopped red bell pepper, 2 t minced ginger, 1 T chopped cilantro, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T hoisin sauce (in the Asian section at the grocery store), 2 t sesame oil, 1 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t pepper, and one beaten egg.

Lightly stir the filling, as you do not want to break up the tofu.

IMG_9839

Dumpling filling.

Place your wonton wrappers in damp paper towels to keep them moist as you fill. To fill, place a wrapper so it is a diamond in front of you and place a melon baller (~1/2 t) of filling in the center. Brush all four edges of the wrapper with water and bring opposite corners together.

Press the edges together, squeezing out any air bubbles.

IMG_9844

Folding opposite corners together and pinching the seams.

Place the filled dumplings on a sheet pan and cover them with a damp towel while you fill the remaining wrappers. You can freeze them for later use or cook them immediately.

IMG_9846

Dumplings on sheet pan.

To cook the dumplings, heat water in a steamer until you can see steam. If using Alton’s steamer, spray the pie plates with oil. Place the dumplings in the steamer, put the lid on, and cook the dumplings for 10-12 minutes.

Alton recommends serving these dumplings in a bowl of chicken stock. For vegetarians, you could use vegetable broth. I had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so served my dumplings in that.

IMG_9855

Alton’s vegetarian steamed dumplings in chicken stock.

This is another wonderful recipe. In fact, we probably liked these vegetarian dumplings more than the pork potstickers. The filling of the dumplings is spicy and sweet, with occasional punches of fresh ginger and cilantro, and the dumplings look quite pretty when folded in this manner. Serving the dumplings in a bowl of warm stock makes for a delicious meal. Great recipe.

Pear Walnut Wontons

Dessert wontons? Yep, Alton has a recipe for those too. The filling for these wontons starts by combining 1/4 C sugar and 1/4 C water in a saucier. Bring the water and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, or until the sugar has dissolved.

IMG_9987

Sugar and water over medium heat.

Meanwhile, split a vanilla bean and scrape out its seeds.

IMG_9988

Vanilla bean to be scraped.

When the sugar has dissolved in the pan, remove it from the heat and add 1 T orange liqueur and the vanilla bean scrapings. Let the syrup cool.

Next, chop 6 ounces of dried pears and place them in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse the pears until they clump together.

IMG_9998

Dried pears pulsed until clumpy.

Add the cooled sugar syrup to the pears and pulse until smooth.

Place 1 1/4 ounces toasted and chopped walnuts in a bowl (I toasted mine in a skillet over low heat) and add the pear mixture, stirring to combine.

Place the filling in the refrigerator for an hour or up to overnight. For these wontons, Alton used a different forming method than for the two previous recipes. For these, he placed a wonton wrapper on top of his fist, pressing the center of the wrapper down into the hole of his fist. He brushed on a little bit of water and filled the little indentation with filling. He then crimped the edges around the ball of filling, pushing out the air and forming a little octopus shape (at least, that’s what it looked like to me).  Okay, so this method of filling just didn’t work for me, though the little octopus-like dumplings were cute in the episode. I found that the filling leaked all over, the wrappers tore, and it was impossible to put much filling into the wrapper with this method. I gave up after throwing away several wrappers, and opted to fold my wontons as in the vegetarian dumpling recipe above.

IMG_0030

Attempting to fold wontons Alton’s way.

So, instead, I placed a wrapper so it was a diamond in front of me and placed a melon baller of filling in the center. I brushed all four edges of the wrapper with water and brought the opposite corners together, pinching the seams and pressing out any air bubbles. As with the other recipes, be sure to keep your empty wonton wrappers in moist paper towels as you fill, and place filled wontons on a baking sheet covered with a damp towel.

I chose to freeze a bunch of these right away since we only planned to eat a few, so I placed the sheet pan of wontons directly in the freezer. These babies get fried; afterall, it is dessert! To fry these wontons, heat 1/2 gallon of vegetable or peanut oil to 360 degrees.

IMG_0036

Oil heating to 360.

Add eight wontons to the hot oil, cooking them for two minutes, or until golden. Transfer the fried wontons to a rack over a sheet pan to drain and cool.

Alton recommends serving these guys with ice cream.

IMG_0044

Fried wontons with ice cream.

We had these for dessert last night, and they were a really fun dessert to have. The wonton wrappers were golden brown and crispy, while the still-warm filling was reminiscent of warm fruit pie filling. The walnuts gave the filling a little bit of texture. The filling is not overly sweet, so these really do pair well with the sweetness of ice cream. I plan to fry up some more of these for dessert over the weekend.