BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Now where did I put that recipe? My filing system is hardly fool-proof, and probably completely incomprehensible to anyone other than me, but rarely do I lose recipes entirely. All works in progress are always digital, at least, so there aren’t a hundred scraps of splattered and stained paper piled high on tables or shoved into desk drawers. Most are now carefully organized into the graciously all-inclusive cloud, always searchable and instantly backed up, putting my anxious mind at ease. That’s why it’s confounding when things still slip through the cracks, despite the care taken to prevent such disasters. Misplacing a recipe for something as stunningly delicious as this hummus recipe, for example, was nearly a snacking tragedy.

Dramatic words indeed, but this particular mash-up of both that beloved garbanzo bean spread and cool, creamy cucumber tzatziki exceeded even my own expectations from the very first batch. Lighter and fresher than the typical dip, crisp cucumbers added textural contrast so often missing from hummus. Zesty lemon and dill brightened the flavor profile considerably, imparting an unmistakably summery flavor, even if made in the heart of winter. I had made it numerous times before and thought for sure that such a winning savory delight must have surely made it on the blog already. Searching through the archives turned up precisely zero matches though, much to my growing fear, and the hunt was on. Nope, not in the aforementioned cloud. Not on the laptop. Not on the external hard drive. Not even published anywhere- Which it truly deserved to be. How could I let something as wonderful as that hummus go extinct?

Dejectedly accepting that it was gone for good, it was only then that the recipe found me. Hiding in the darkest corner of the desktop computer, in a long forgotten file, there it sat, waiting patiently to see the light of day. Introductions are long overdue, but thank goodness you can finally meet the one that almost got away. Snatch up the recipe and save it well! After trying it just once, you’d feel the sting of longing if you misplaced it, too.

Hummiki (Hummus-Tzatziki)

1 6-Ounce Container (3/4 Cup) Plain, Unsweetened Soy Yogurt
1 15-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cup) Chickpeas, Drained and Rinsed
2 Large Cloves Roasted Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Zest and Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Dill
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup Seeded and Finely Diced Cucumber

Toss all of the ingredients into your trusty food processor or blender, except for the cucumber, and puree thoroughly, until silky-smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to get everything mixed in, and give the machine ample time to blend. For the best consistency, it may take as long as 5 – 10 minutes, so be patient. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the chopped cucumber by hand, and chill for at least 2 hours before serving for the best flavor. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week… If you can resist eating it all long before then.

Makes 3 1/2 – 4 Cups

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Sweet Heat

Successful appetizers manage to pack serious taste sensation into a small, bite-sized package. When the food is eaten in one gulp, there’s no room for meek spices or filler of any sort. That’s where these easy, intensely flavorful little snacks come in. After an over-enthusiastic purchase that resulted in many leftover shishito peppers, I soon was forced to scheme up new ways to use up my bounty, beyond the traditional grilling method. Contrasting flavors were the name of the game, and so I turned to the humble sweet potato. The gentle sweetness of those orange-fleshed tubers seems to both accentuate and mellow the heat of those green chiles, effortlessly adding another dimension. Despite how deceptively easily they come together, they’re quite complex in flavor, and had me reaching for a second, and a third, before I knew it.

Shishito Pepper Poppers

1 Pound Sweet Potatoes, Peeled and Cubed
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Pound Shishito Peppers
1 Canned Chipotle in Adobo, Finely Minced
1/4 Cup Coconut Milk
1 Tablespoon Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Pinch Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
Chopped Walnuts or Pecans (Optional)
Chopped Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, for Garnish

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with a silpat, aluminum foil, or parchment paper.

Toss the peeled cubes of sweet potato and with the oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper so that the pieces are all evenly coated. Spread them out on your prepared baking sheet in one even layer, and roast until fork-tender and lightly browned around the edges; about 20 – 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for at least 5 – 10 minutes before proceeding, so that they’re easier to handle.

Meanwhile, you can go ahead and prep your shishito peppers. Slice each on in half, and carefully remove the seeds and white inner membrane. Set aside.

To complete the filling, take your roasted potatoes and add the minced chipolte, coconut milk, margarine or coconut oil, sugar, and cinnamon. Mash thoroughly, until mostly smooth but with a few small chunks remaining for texture. If you really like it hot, go ahead and add in cayenne pepper, to taste, but bear in mind that the shishitos will add a good deal of spice to the party, too. For a crunchy contrast, toss in a handful of finely chopped nuts, in desired. Fold in so that the pieces are well distributed.

Spoon or pipe the mashed sweet potatoes into your halved peppers. You may have leftover filling, but it makes for a fantastic side dish all on its own, too. Line up the stuffed peppers on the same baking sheet you just used. No need to clean it; the leftover oil will help to prevent the peppers from sticking. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the peppers have wilted slightly and are tender. Let cool before serving, top with parsley or cilantro if desired, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Sprung a Leek

Quick to complain and always searching for those little imperfections, it figures that we couldn’t just throw our hands up and celebrate this sudden mid-February thaw. Finally, Isis can actually walk out into the yard without being swallowed up into that white quicksand, and mailboxes are finally extricating themselves from frozen tombs. “Spring” is the word on everyone’s lips, spoken in excited tones, and I can’t hide my enthusiasm either. The winter took a steep toll, the full extent of which is only beginning to reveal itself now, after the storm. Despite all of these encouraging signs outside, all is not well inside.

Walking into the kitchen one day, I noticed a conspicuous wet spot on the tiled floor. Jumping to conclusions I immediately turned to the poor pup, assuming she had an accident in protest of the windy, inhospitable outdoor bathroom that otherwise awaited… But within a few seconds I discovered the real culprit.

Bloop… bloop… bloop…

Turning skywards, it was plain to see that water was dripping at a steady pace from the ceiling. Straight through the beam, down the wall, all across the kitchen counter and floor. Brown, dirty water, melted from snow and ice on the roof, soaking through papers and warping the cabinets. A greater horror in that room, I have yet to see, including my most misguided baking experiments. We had a leak, our first ever in this house, in arguably our most important living space – Not to mention my “office”. Tormented and terrified by these new destructive developments, I could do nothing except strategically position pots and pans to collect the mucky water.

After a solid two weeks of feeling like I’m living in a poorly constructed submarine, it seems that the leak has dripped itself dry, at least for the time being. Fearful glances upward now reveal obscene water damage; peeling paint, multiple holes, and cracked wood, but at the very least, no more water. I’ll take what I can get now, no complaints here.

As an homage to my structurally unsound ceiling, I simply couldn’t resist a very leek-y dish, hoping that perhaps an offering of food would placate the leaky ceiling god. When put in the spotlight, leeks are best prepared very simply if you ask me, and so I kept them fairly plain in this quick appetizer. A little heat to melt them and soften their more pungent edges is all it takes. What elevates the dish to a memorable morsel is the bright red romesco sauce, which provides a slightly spicy pop of creamy roasted pepper to perch those lovely alliums atop.

While I know that this assembly was created with the leeks in mind, I couldn’t help but go back to the romesco sauce, unadorned, for seconds. Versatile to a fault, I’ve already whipped up second and third batches to smoother pasta with, use as a dip, drizzle over salads, thin out for soups… You name it! This is a condiment you’ll want to have on hand at all times- Hopefully you won’t need to be prompted by leaky ceilings to try it the first time.

Leek-y Romesco Crostini

Romesco Sauce or Dip:

1/2 Cup Slivered, Toasted Almonds
1/4 Cup Toasted Wheat Germ
1 Large Clove Garlic, Roasted
2 Medium Red Peppers, Roasted
1/2 Cup Strained Tomatoes / Tomato Puree
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Salt, or to Taste

Sauteed Leeks:

1 Fat Leek, Cleaned and Dark Greens Removed (Save them for making vegetable stock!) (3 1/2 Cups Chopped)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon White Miso Paste (Optional)
Pinch Salt and Black Pepper

Assembly:

Fresh Baguette, Sliced Thinly (About 1/2 cm Thick) and Lightly Toasted
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Beginning with the romesco, throw all of the ingredients for the sauce into your food processor or blender. Traditionally, it’s a bit of a chunky spread, but I prefer mine perfectly smooth and creamy, so I use my Vita-Mix. Blend to your desired consistency, scraping down the sides of the work bowl periodically so that no large chunks are left behind, and set aside. I find it tastes better if you allow it to sit for at least 2 hours before serving, so that the flavors can meld, but it can be eaten right away too.

For the leek topping, slice your thick leek into quarters lengthwise, and then chop it into 1/2-inch pieces. I love the look of rings or half moons, but it’s not so graceful to take a bite of crostini and end up with a big loop of leek hanging out of your mouth, so resist the temptation to leave the pieces larger.

Heat up the oil in a sautee pan over medium heat, loosen up the miso paste in it if using, and toss in the chopped leek. Stir every 5 minutes or so for a total of 20 – 25 minutes, until the leek is soften but not completely mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Both the sauce and leek topping can be made in advance as well. Just store both in air-tight containers in the fridge for 4 – 5 days, and assemble the crostini just prior to serving.

To put the crostini together, just smear a healthy dollop of the romesco on top of the toasted bread, and spoon about 1 – 2 tablespoons of the sauteed leek over that. Finish with a very light sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

Makes About 2 1/2 – 3 Cups Sauce; Servings Vary

Printable Recipe


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Baking Burn Out

Baking holiday cookies and cakes at such a break-neck pace, I suppose it was bound to happen; Palate fatigue of the worst sort. A sweet tooth turned sour, here we stand with just a few days remaining until the big x-day, and the last thing I want to think about are treats filled with sugar and spice. Yes, even a dessert-obsessed vegan baker has her limits.

But, a girl’s still gotta eat, and in many cases I’m sure, feed lots of hungry guests descending upon the house and expecting goodies of all variety. Rather than assaulting them with sweetness, try easing into the festive feast, and passing out a few savory appetizers. Especially if you have a big dessert planned for later, it’s best to shy away from excess candies before the big event anyway.

Tasty enough for omnivores and vegans alike, these easy, cheesy rice balls are an Italian classic, with a little seasonal twist. Although the time for Hannukah has long passed, it could still tie in the tradition of cooking in oil, if you’re a multi-holiday family like us. The only thing you need to plan in advance is cooking and cooling the rice, and deciding on your favorite red sauce to accompany these moreish little morsels.

Pumpkin Arancini

2 Cups Cooked and Cooled White Rice
2 Tablespoon Garbanzo Bean Flour
2 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Black Pepper

4 Ounces Vegan Mozzarella (I used Follow Your Heart, but pick your favorite!)
1 Cup Seasoned Vegan Bread Crumbs

Canola Oil, to Fry

To Serve:

Marinara Sauce
Fresh Herbs

To assemble your rice balls, simply place the cooked rice, garbanzo flour, nutritional yeast, pumpkin, and spices in a large bowl. Mix together thoroughly until fully combined. Set aside.

Cut your vegan mozzarella into little cubes, each about 1/2-inch on each side. Use two spoons or a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop out balls about the size of golf balls, and press one “cheese” cube into the center of each. Use your hands to gently round the rice balls out, fully covering the little “cheese” nugget inside. Make sure no parts of the “cheese” are sticking out, or else it will melt and ooze out into the oil. Toss each ball gently in bread crumbs to fully coat the exteriors.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a high-sided sauce pan or skillet to about 350 – 375 degrees, and add in 3 – 4 rice balls at a time, depending on the size of the cooking vessel. Fry for about 1 minute on all sides, until evenly golden brown all over. Carefully remove finished arancini and let drain on wire racks briefly, until cool enough to handle. Repeat with the remaining rice balls. Serve as soon as possible, with marinara sauce and fresh herbs on the side, or spooned right on top.

Makes About 1 Dozen Arancini

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