Monday, July 5, 2010

Red Bean Desserts




As a person with a sweet tooth, I have eaten a wide variety of desserts in my life. Some of my personal favorites are red velvet and carrot cakes; pecan, lemon icebox and key lime pies; bread and banana puddings; and coconut macaroons. Most of them are traditionally made with plenty of unhealthy ingredients like sugar, butter and bleached flour and are deliciously unhealthy morsels of goodness with very little nutritional value. In the United States, the concept of a healthy dessert is the ultimate blasphemy to a mainstream pastry chef. I can rarely think of examples of truly healthy desserts that have garnered widespread acceptance. The top contenders for that award would probably be the N.O.I. bean pies, fruit tarts and whole grain breads and muffins in the baked goods category. Then, there's the frozen treats like yogurt, sorbet, parfait, and fruit pops. A google search for "healthy desserts" retrieved 1,320,000 results and here's a list of healthy dessert recipes from the world famous Mayo Clinic: Dessert Recipes.

Then, there was Chinatown. Here in Philadelphia, there are several Asian bakeries in Chinatown. The average U.S. American would probably think of many of the baked goods there as "bizarre". I've noticed pastries with meat such as pork, green tea, sesame paste, taro, duck egg, and my personal favorite--red bean. My first red bean dessert was a puff pastry ball. It was so delicious and faintly sweet that I have been eagerly trying all Asian products containing red beans. Here are some of the great finds:

Sweety Red Bean Ice Bar

These are pretty light and are filled with red bean pieces.



Red Bean Pancakes

I had these for breakfast this morning and I think I prefer them to pancakes and waffles.



Che Ba Mau

This is my Vietnamese obsession that my friend Ngoc introduced me to. It has red beans, Vietnamese jello, mung bean and coconut milk over shaved ice.



Do you know how healthy red beans are? WHFoods: Kidney Beans They are easily becoming one of my favorite dessert ingredients. I encourage you to give them a try.

Che ba mau image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andreelau/1062749392/

Red bean spoon image: http://www.thedailygreen.com/cm/thedailygreen/images/ln/red-beans-spoon-lg.jpg

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Cake


I generally love anything with garbanzo beans (a.k.a chickpeas) in it. So, I naturally had to try out the recipe I received for Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Cake. The recipes only calls for 5 ingredients. It's really easy to make. It's also flourless (gluten free), healthy and packed with protein.

The resulting cake is dense and tasty and probably more "brownie" than "cake". I topped it with fresh whipped cream and raspberries but I'm considering a peanut butter icing since chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite combinations.



Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.
  2. Place the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Cook in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds after the first minute, until chocolate is melted and smooth. If you have a powerful microwave, reduce the power to 50 percent.
  3. Combine the beans and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Add the sugar and the baking powder, and pulse to blend. Pour in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth, scraping down the corners to make sure chocolate is completely mixed. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Monday, June 21, 2010

French Omelette

This morning, I made the PERFECT French Omelette thanks to Julia Child. It's a technique that requires a little maneuvering but is done in no time. I served it over some homemade jambalaya (last night's labor of love) with a piece of cornbread on the side.

Monday, May 3, 2010

10 Best Soul Food Restaurants in America


This Mother's Day, I will be gifting my mom with a soul food cookbook. I have been painstakingly searching online for the absolute best there is available. In the process, I discovered this gem, a listing of the 10 Best Soul Food Restaurants in America. I've dined at two of these establishments--Alcenia's and Sweetie Pie's--and I've heard about a few of the others. So, I'd say this is a pretty solid list.

At Alcenia's in Memphis, I was fortunate enough to receive one of her legendary hugs. She serves up some serious food and I'm always happy to go back.

I hit up Sweetie Pie's over spring break while visiting a friend in St. Louis. We happened to be in the neighborhood around dinnertime so I indulged. It was pretty good eating.

As for the others, I'll add them to my list.

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zagatbuzz/3441640678/

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Sentimental Mood


I wanna go outside, in the sun
See the sunshine
Feel the sunlight
Smell the sunflowers
Open the sunroof
Wear those vintage sunglasses
Feeling the warm breeze upon my face

I wanna go home, to the Sun Belt
Walk out on the sun deck
Eat an ice cream sundae
Make a tequila sunrise
Brew some sun tea
Watch the evening sunset
Relaxing for the moment and leaving worries behind

I wanna go up yonder, be with the Son
Put on my sun hat
Do a sun dance
Marvel at the sun dog in the sky
Sing like a sunbird
Live everyday like it's Sunday
Walking around heaven all day long

-Brother Soulistic

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jesuscm/3745854254/

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hummus Plates


This past week has been all about my hummus plates! It's a concept that I discovered three years ago while living in Richmond, VA. It was probably during the time that I first became pescetarian considering I was dining out at one of my favorite pizza joints in the city, Sette. I will never forget the symphony of flavors that I experienced while eating that dish. The warm and smooth hummus contrasted perfectly with the robust flavor of the olive oil. The fresh tomato juices were like a midsummer's night fireworks show in my mouth. The cucumbers were cool and crisp. The red onions were crunchy and potent. The olives and feta cheese were sharp and salty. And, the pepperoncinis were juicy and sweet.

The thought to do hummus plates actually came to me by chance earlier this week: I returned from my weekend trip to DC with a healthy appetite and a limited supply of groceries in my apartment. After a few moments of thought and frustration, I decided to go with hummus for some protein. I didn't have much left so I decided to do a mix of hummus, olive oil and pita bread a la Italian restaurant (crusty bread and olive oil). It turned out to be amazing as I heated the pita bread and added fresh ground black pepper and coarse sea salt to the olive oil mix. And voila! It hit me then and there that I should do hummus plates. The rest is history.

Hummus plates are inexpensive, really easy to make and are ready in no time. They can be made in the style of a vegetable platter with the hummus as a dip or they can be built as a salad. I personally prefer to build mine as salad. I start with a heaping mound of hummus as my base. Then, I add tabouleh and a generous pour of olive oil. Next, I add chopped tomatoes, feta cheese and olives. I finish the salad off with some fresh ground black pepper and a few sprinkles of coarse sea salt. If I'm motivated enough, I like to make falafel for a little something extra (tonight, I decided to blacken some sardines and the salad turned out great). Then, you eat the salad using the pita bread (I recommend heating it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds or warming it in the oven is even better). This salad is meant to be eaten dip style. Tear off small pieces of the pita bread and then scoop up the salad to eat and enjoy.

Hummus plates can be made with a wide variety of ingredients: eggplant, artichoke, eggs, chicken, steak, falafel, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Mac and Cheese

This video is amazing. It's an entertaining ode to comfort food: "FREEZE! Somebody bring me back some mac and cheese. I got a million ways to cook it. Choose one!" Check it out.



True to the artists' lyrics, there are millions of variations of macaroni and cheese in the range of creamy, baked, battered and deep-fried, sharp, medium, mild, spicy, w/vegetables and w/meat. Ina Garten--aka Barefoot Contessa (Food Network)--knows a thing or two about putting a gourmet touch on classic comfort foods and I trust her judgment. In the recipe linked below, she adds sliced tomatoes to my favorite comfort food.

During my two-year quest for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe, I came across two great recipes. I combined them to make one stellar dish that I've gotten rave reviews of and several recipe requests. I just might have to try that recipe with tomatoes and breadcrumbs. Maybe even for Easter to go with my carrot cake. Hmmm...

How to Cook Magnificent Mac and Cheese Eat + Drink: GQ.com

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hot Dog!

One of the lessons that I learned while living in the Chicago area is that there's always room for interpretation with food. The city's food scene is pretty innovative. There are chefs toying around with molecular gastronomy. Mexican restaurants are just about as ubiquitous and unique as the city's legendary pizzerias. There's a vegan soul food restaurant. And, Doug's is doing wonderful things with hot dogs. I like to think of each hot dog I make as an ode to Doug's. That's actually funny considering that I've never been to the actual restaurant.

Exhibit A: Veggie Dogs with Egg over Hard, Tomato, Avocado, Onion, Mustard and Sweet Pickle Relish on Whole Wheat Buns
Verdict: I must'a had some really good avocados because that's all I could taste. This could probably be improved by using pico de gallo with a small hint of avocado.

Exhibit B: Veggie Dog with Egg over Hard, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Cream Cheese on a Potato Bun
Verdict: Wow. Orgasmic! My creative juices really kicked into high gear with this one. I hereby relinquish my palate to sun-dried tomatoes from this day forth. I wonder where this could go with some basil, oil and vinegar added to the mix. Uhhh, I could probably do a homemade basil relish for this one.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chopped Salad: I Need My LVCS


Make tonight a chopped salad night!

"What is a chopped salad?" you ask... Good question!

A chopped salad is a salad in which all the ingredients have been chopped to be uniform pieces and tossed together. In my opinion, the perfect chopped salad must include a hardy lettuce, lots of fresh vegetables, a robust cheese, and a flavorful salad dressing.

Lettuce: You'll probably want romaine or iceburg. I recommend romaine since iceburg has no real nutritional value. I also like to throw in some spinach for added flavor and nutrition. Don't use too much lettuce, though. You want the salad to be mostly vegetables so be conservative on the lettuce. It's always better to ADD more than to have too much.

Vegetables: It's hard to go wrong. For my salad, I used edamame (soybeans), jicama, corn, red and yellow bell peppers, red onions, yellow onions, blanched carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini.

Cheese: The cheese will honestly make the salad by providing a needed flavor contrast in each bite. Otherwise, you're just eating mixed vegetables. I used Maytag Blue Cheese. This stuff has a cult following; it's like the Maybach of Blue Cheese. It was smooth, rich, creamy, and robust. I think feta, goat, gorgonzola, or a white cheddar would also work well in this salad.

Salad Dressing: Whatever you like. I made a homemade tomato aioli (tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper) that I thought would complement the salad well and mixed it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Go light on the dressing. A little goes a long way on chopped salads because there are so many flavors in each bite.

Lagniappe: Lagniappe is a creole word with disputed origin and definition. I like the definition I was given by a boutique owner in Canton, Mississippi. He said it means "a little something extra". It usually refers to a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase. For this salad, I added a little something extra by throwing in some canned tuna. But, oh, do I wish I had some sardines on hand!

In summary:
Chopped Salad = Lettuce + Veggies + Cheese + Salad Dressing (LVCS)

INGREDIENTS:
SALAD
  • 3 Romaine hearts
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1/2 - 1 lb of blue cheese
Vegetable Mix
  • 2 carrots, peeled and blanched
  • 1 cup edamame (could substitute black beans or chickpeas)
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized jicama (can substitute 1 large apple)
  • 1/2 small red onion, skin removed
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, skin removed
  • 10-12 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 6 pieces of defrosted eggplant and zucchini frozen mix (Trader Joe's)
Tomato Aioli
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
Individually chop the vegetables and try to get all the ingredients the same size. Unless you're serving multiple people, I recommend storing the chopped vegetables in a large sealable container in the refrigerator. That way you'll have a ready supply of vegetables to easily assemble a chopped salad in the days to follow.

For the tomato aioli, combine the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. The prepared tomato aioli can be stored in the refrigerator for about one week.

To assemble the salad (1 serving), use a large bowl. Begin by adding a few leaves of romaine lettuce (chopped) and one handful of spinach (chopped) to the bowl. Add 3 or 4 scoops of the vegetable mix. Add 2 - 3 tablespoons of cheese. Add 2 tablespoons of the tomato aioli along with a splash of balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix to combine. Add more veggies/cheese/dressing if needed.

Enjoy with entertainment crackers!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mississippi Delta Regional Cuisine

The Mississippi Delta is one of the United States' most unique and culturally dense regions. The alluvial plain hugs the mother of rivers, The Mississippi River, and has endured a number of floods by the nutrient-rich river. The worst flood happened in 1927 and some historians have credited the event for accelerating the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the North. The river was subsequently tamed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers through an aggressive levee system.

Historically, the MS Delta's fertile soil was used to produce cotton with the use of chattel slaves. Years later, the region became ground zero for civil rights abuses with a strong presence of the Klu Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council in the region. The images of racial unrest linger in the nation's collective memory and to this day many outsiders are hesitant to step foot in Mississippi. I would be amiss to say that these concerns are unwarranted. Racism still exists. Actually, Morgan Freeman recently sponsored the first integrated prom in his MS Delta hometown to strong resistance from whites in the community. That's highly problematic but it definitely doesn't represent my experience growing up in North Mississippi. Also, I don't think racism is solely a Mississippi problem. As a person who has lived in 7 states, I can say there are covert and overt forms of racism throughout the country. However, many people are reluctant to talk about race and the Deep South, Mississippi in particular, remains a convenient scapegoat in a stagnant sea of oblivion. I digress. Just come to Mississippi to get a breath of the progressive New South.

Many decades ago, immigrants were brought to the Mississippi Delta to help build the railroads and toil in the fields. These workers came from Mexico, Italy, China, and other places. The workers brought their exotic foods and cultural traditions along with them and slowly made their mark on another aspect of MS Delta culture, the regional cuisine. Today the region is slowly becoming a food mecca of sorts. The Viking Range Corporation (founded by a native Mississippian) has its world headquarters in Greenwood, MS. Martha Foose, winner of the James Beard Award for American Cooking, has set up shop. Then, there's the Alluvian. There's Giardina's. There's Doe's Eat Place. The list goes on. There happens to be a whole lot of down home blues, shade tree jive talk, juke joints, pork, catfish, cornbread, meat and three (meat entree with three side items), and hot tamales.



I could easily see myself in Greenwood. My friend JJB would be quick to call my bluff. Apparently, I have a new dream city every six months... New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Austin, Portland, Chicago, DC. LOL. Yes, this is true! This indecisive traveler is in pursuit of adventure with an open mind, open palate, and open map.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trader Joe's: 4 Great Finds

It's official. Trader Joe's is my favorite grocery store. The Philadelphia store that I frequent is actually the only grocery store in Center City besides Whole Foods. So, I usually go prepared for a mob scene. The high demand sometimes leaves the store bleak and lifeless, but I really can't complain. I always manage to find healthy, tasty treats for the low low. Here are 4 great finds from my most recent visits:

JOE-JOE'S: These were my initiation to Trader Joe's. My first visit was at their Chapel Hill, NC store where I accompanied a friend to buy a box of these naturally delicious morsels of goodness. During our brief stint as roommates in Illinois, he would drive two towns over to make the obligatory Trader Joe's run for Joe-Joe's. Yeah, I'm kind of addicted now. These babies have real vanilla bean speckles. Ooh wee!!!


SWEET POTATO CHIPS: Oh, how I love sweet potatoes! A gift from God! Seriously, I was tempted to finish the entire bag in one sitting.


PUMPKIN BUTTER: Apparently, I'm the only one in my family who likes pumpkin flavor. More for me! My palate is open, baby... Just like my mind. LOL. Don't take me too seriously... This was GOOD on homemade buttermilk biscuits.


FIG CEREAL BARS: Delish and only $1.69 for a box of 6

Friday, January 15, 2010

Katrina's Letter to Haiti

Haiti my heart is heavy for you
Wrenched by the havoc that came like a thief in the night to beset you
The cosmic dust rising high over Hispaniolan Pine is thicker than London’s fog
Desperate cries of misery bellow out from stark silhouettes hidden beneath the rubble
I wince!

The images are much too familiar
The sadness still lingers
The grief is unbearable
I am an-gry as hell!

Those were MY people that you abandoned and left for dead!
Those were MY people that you slandered and called looters!
My people that you simply forgot about

You didn’t write back.
You didn’t return my phone call.
You didn’t even text.
How rude!
Kij an yo rele sa an kreyol? (What do you call that in Haitian Kreyol?)

I’m a true patriot, you know
Born and raised in the hills of Mississippi
Everyone I knew growing up ate fried chicken and watermelon with their KOOL-AID
The black faces that you forgot about

Collards on the stovetop
Cornbread in the oven
Can I get some plantains, patees, and poisson with that?
I try some piklis thinking it’s like coleslaw
UHHHH…. HOT! HOT! HOT! My mouth is on fire.

We are one people
Unity is our strength
Kisa ou bezouen? (What do you need?)
I am here to help you.

-Brother Soulistic
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