Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Was a Vegetarian


I traveled to Philadelphia with my mom on Tuesday to visit my sister. It was my mom's 60th birthday! We are taking a trip to Napa in August to celebrate, but it was really nice to spend time together yesterday as well. I spent a little time the day before making a few snacks for us to enjoy together. I had run out of ideas for a meaningful gift and so I decided that a gift of time in the form of some yummy and healthy food might just fit the bill. We had roasted beet sandwiches on foccacia with goat cheese. I also made a salad with ribbons of cucumbers and a light asian vinaigrette. Finally, we indulged with chocolate tarts.

The foccacia is a Betty Crocker recipe, and the first yeast bread I'd ever had success with. I think it's perfect for sandwiches, because it's hearty but not too thick.

Foccacia (courtesy of Betty Crocker's New Cookbook)

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 pkg yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup warm water (120-130 degrees)
olive oil
2T dried or fresh herbs (I used dried herbes de provence)

1. Mix 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Add 1/4 cup oil and water. Beat in a stand mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping down sides occasionally. Stir in enough remaining flour until dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl.
2. Replace paddle with dough hook. Continue adding flour, if necessary, and allow mixer to knead for 8-10 minutes, or until dough is elastic.
3. Place in greased bowl and allow dough to rise (in warm place, and covered) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Dough will double.
4. Punch down dough. Create desired shape (I made on large round bread). Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
5. Prick the center of the shapes with a fork, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with desired toppings. (possibilities: sauteed peppers and onions, parmesan cheese and herbs, olives, etc)
6. Bake 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees or until golden brown.

To create the sandwiches, I simply roasted some onions and then mixed them with softened goat cheese, 2 tsp balsamic dressing and 1 tsp olive oil. I slathered the goat cheese on the foccacia, layered some roasted beet* slices overtop, and finished with a little leaf lettuce. The sandwiches were warmed in the oven briefly.
*note: to roast beets, simply wrap unpeeled beets in aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 until tender, skins will simply slip off

Asian Cucumber Salad (courtesy of epicurious)
* 1/4 cup rice vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon "hot" sesame oil
* 1 1/2 cucumbers

Bring vinegar and sugar to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then cool to room temperature. Stir in soy sauce and sesame oil.

Cut cucumber lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick ribbons using a mandoline or other manual slicer. Toss cucumber with dressing and let stand 5 minutes before serving (any longer will result in soggy cucumbers). Top with toasted sesame seeds.

Chocolate Tart (courtesy of epicurious)
For crust:

* 9 (5- by 2 1/4-inch) chocolate graham crackers (not chocolate-covered), finely ground (1 cup)
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
* 1/4 cup sugar

For filling:

* 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
* 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 65% cacao if marked), chopped
* 2 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

For glaze:

* 2 tablespoon heavy cream
* 1 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
* 1 tablespoon warm water

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto bottom and 3/4 inch up side of tart pan. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 to 20 minutes

Make filling:
Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.

Make glaze:
Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then warm water

Pour glaze onto tart, then tilt and rotate tart so glaze coats top evenly. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

After our little snack, we headed out to enjoy the city. I like to "eat my way through" anywhere I visit, and yesterday was no disappointment! We started at Trader Joe's, and would you believe they gave my mom a bunch of flowers for her birthday? I'm not sure how they manage to keep their prices so low or their selection so varied, but that place rules!

We then went shopping at Ten Thousand Villages, here is what I bought.

After that we went to the Sansom Kabob House (a traditional Afghan restaurant). It's been a few years since we first ate there, and I remember my brother-in-law ordering a stewed eggplant dish. Thankfully they still had it on the menu and believe me when I tell you that I don't make a statement like this lightly, "it was one of the best things I've ever eaten". My goal in life (and tonight) is to re-create this dish. I'll keep you posted.

I totally didn't miss the meat in my diet yesterday, I happen to love vegetables, I'm just not sure I could go through the rest of my days without bacon. I could be happy (very happy) subsisting on a Mediterranean diet for the rest of my life.


  1. Sounds like a fun day. I really want to hear more about your upcoming trip to Napa Valley. How exciting.

  2. Where & what is Ten Thousand Villages & What did you buy????

  3. Knocker mom - I'll go into the Napa trip in detail soon!

    Jean - Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit company that hires third-world artisans to create products and pays fair market prices. I checked and there are stores in Iowa: The World's Window in Cedar Falls, Worldly Goods in Ames, Crowded Closet in Iowa City, and The Work of Our Hands in Pella.
    I bought a really cute necklace....I was totally drooling over the tablecloths ($48, which I didn't think was too bad)...but I was afraid that we'd stain such a pretty thing beyond recognition!! They've got really cute (and affordable) jewelry, textiles, coffee, etc.

  4. That sounds SO fun! You are blessed to live near so many big cities...I would be taking day trips to Philly and NY all. the. time. :) Congrats on the yeast success! Yay! That bread looks amazing. Excited to see you next month-- I'm pretty sure we can't eat our way through Parkersburg...that would take all of an hour, haha, but we can definitely eat some Casey's taco pizza!!! YUM. ;)

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Abbie...taco pizza does sound downright delish! :)

    Jean--I forgot to tell you that I did include a hyperlink in the text of the blog, but for some reason the word that's highlighted doesn't appear any on the "here" is what I bought at Ten Thousand will see what I bought and it's their website as well.

  6. I'm not looking at that chocolate whatever it was...I have no willpower whatsoever and I'm still working off chocolate pudding pie.

  7. Oh, Mrs P...the chocolate whatever it was is absolutely divine! Don't look!