Sunday, June 29, 2008

City Park Fresh Market

On my way to DIA to pick up some visiting relatives, I stopped by the City Park Fresh Market. Although it was early, the market had a number of visitors.

There were several stands selling produce, including organic produce. The spiced nuts, tamales, bread and pasta (including some gluten free pasta) found at other local markets were also present.

Edited to Add: Great tips for shopping at farmer's markets, including questions to ask when buying produce, here.

City Park Fresh Market
Colfax & City Park Esplanade (in front of East High school, across from Tattered Cover)
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays, through October 26

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thai Red(-flecked) Curry Paste

I've been trying recipes from The 30 Minute Vegetarian Thai Cookbook, by Sarah Beattie.

I decided to start by making a homemade red curry paste. The recipe begins with the instruction to soak "large dried red chilies," but the book did not provide much detail about the types of chilies to use. A website that I found on-line stated that it would be fine to substitute dried Mexican red chilies, but in retrospect, I'm not sure that was right. My chilies stubbornly floated, instead of soaking as contemplated by the recipe.

The recipe then directs that the chilies be blended in the food processor until a paste forms. However, no matter how long I pulsed the food processor, there was no paste - just stubborn red chunks, and a whole lot of seeds.

Garlic, ginger and shallots are then added to the food processor, followed by lemongrass, "15 peppercorns, ground," coriander seed, salt and lime zest.

Chopping the lemongrass was my favorite part of the preparation. Not only does lemongrass smell wonderful, but it has lovely purple streaks inside.

Because I could not figure out what "15 peppercorns, ground" would look like, I decided to throw 15 peppercorns into the food processor.

Mistake. Rather than pureeing the peppercorns, the blades of the food processor just bounced them around the inside of the machine. (You might be able to make out two blurry whole peppercorns towards the back of the photo up top.)

The nice thing about this recipe is that the paste can be assembled in advance, and refrigerated, in order to expedite the cooking process. While the appearance may be off, when combined with coconut milk, the paste creates a curry sauce that tastes like one served in a Thai restaurant.

As for the cookbook, the basic information is there, and there are some good recipes, but as someone who is not familiar with Thai cooking techniques, I could have used some more detailed explanations. I will use the red curry paste recipe again, but I'll substitute fresh red Thai chilies for the dried chilies that gave me so much difficulty.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Crepes in the Park

Wednesdays, you can find crepes in Civic Center Park, as a part of the Civic Center Café and Outdoor Market. Other stands sell pasta, fresh tortillas, baked goods, smoothies, and seasoned nuts and other snacks. There was also a produce stand this week.

The veggie crepe ($8) comes with melted mozzarella, tomatoes, sliced red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, onions, spinach and pesto. Strict vegetarians should know that the vegetables are cooked on the same side grill, and with the same utensils, as meat. However, the dessert crepes ($5) do not appear to have any contact with meat.

My crepe was tasty, with a good blend of cheese, vegetables and pesto. However, in the future, I might try a veg tamale from another stand, along with a crepe for dessert, since I'm not wild about having my veggies cooked alongside meat.

Civic Center Café and Outdoor Market
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday through September 24 (except August 27)
Civic Center Park

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chard and Polenta

More lovely rainbow chard from a generous co-worker with a green thumb and a home garden.

Once I finished admiring the chard leaves, I washed and trimmed the greens, sautéed them with garlic and some red pepper flakes, and served them over homemade polenta. Although I did not cook the greens in the same pot as the polenta this time, I still added olive oil to the polenta while it was cooking, because I love the rich flavor it creates. (Apart from that small variation, I used the basic polenta recipe from Jack Bishop's Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

My mom and I got a ton of blueberries on sale in Fort Collins last weekend. I washed and froze mine as soon as I got home, but I knew that they would not be staying in my freezer for long.

This weekend, I decided to make blueberry lemon muffins, using a recipe from Elise's Simply Recipes website. Blueberry-lemon is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and I had never seen a muffin recipe which called for yogurt before.

These were easy to put together. I don't usually keep plain yogurt on hand, but it turns out that two six ounce tubs of plain yogurt will give you the amount needed for the recipe. The one problem I encountered was that I had enough dough for 13 muffins, but room for only 12 muffins in my muffin tin.

I solved the problem by making 12 blueberry lemon muffins and one blueberry lemon "scone." The "scone" baked up very nicely on a buttered cookie sheet. In the future, I might skip the muffin tin and use a baking sheet instead, since its always a struggle for me to get the muffins out of the tin in one piece (as you can see from the tasty but tragic Frankin-Muffin below).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mom's Smoothies

My favorite smoothie is homemade, but not by me. My mom makes them on the weekends, which is conveniently when I am most likely to visit.

Orange juice, banana, vanilla yogurt and lovely ruby colored raspberries... (The flavor is predominately raspberry.)


1 banana, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup crushed ice
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup frozen raspberries

Combine ingredients in blender and whirl until smooth.

Makes three 1 cup servings (or one 3 cup serving!)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

D Bar Desserts

D Bar Desserts is a new addition to Restaurant Row, and the creation of celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard. Offerings at D Bar range from cookies and chocolate candy-studded rice krispy treats, to prepared desserts like tiramisu, to the (somewhat pricey) desserts assembled, sushi-bar style, at the dessert bar.

A friend and I tried the tiramisu ($4.50) on a recent visit to D Bar. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts; I love the ladyfingers soaked in espresso and liqueur. The tiramisu at D Bar looked beautiful, but was somewhat unbalanced in terms of flavors. In particular, there was a disappointingly small amount of my beloved ladyfingers, and a disproportionate amount of mascarpone. However, the coffee which we ordered to accompany the tiramisu was excellent, and provided a much needed contrast to the excessive amounts of mascarpone in the tiramisu.

While I will be getting my tiramisu elsewhere, I will likely be back at D Bar to try one of the dessert bar creations. These include helado domingo (flan, plantains 2 ways, ice cream, rum cream and caramel sauce - $9), "tasting of strawberry" (almond lavender cream, sable breton shortbread and strawberries 6 ways - $10), and liquid center chocolate cake with cherries and ice cream ($10).

Dessert may be taken on the patio out front, at one of the few tables inside, or sitting at the dessert bar itself.

D Bar is open from 11 a.m. to midnight.

D Bar Desserts
1475 E. 17th Ave (near 17th & Humboldt)
Denver, CO 80218

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Take Two on Hibiscus Tea

Still drinking hibiscus tea. . . Sometimes with mint, sometimes with ginger, and sometimes plain, or with lime.

To make hibiscus-ginger tea, peel and thinly slice a one inch square piece of fresh ginger, and simmer the sliced ginger with the dried hibiscus flowers in place of the mint.

My preferred method of sweetening the tea is still agave nectar. However, on the days when I accidentally leave my bottle of agave nectar at work (where I use it to sweeten hot tea), I add 2-3 tablespoons of sugar to the pot to simmer with the hibiscus flowers.

The instructions on the package indicate that you can also stir in the sugar (to taste) after the tea has been removed from heat and cooled.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Taste Testers: Meatless Meat Products

Serving Tofurky was a mistake that I will never repeat (thankfully, my dad has a good sense of humor).

I do want to try to soy chorizo.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Beans & Greens

When a co-worker brought me fresh rainbow chard and arugula from her garden, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it: there's a recipe for Italian Beet Greens and White Beans in Gil Mark's Olive Trees and Honey cookbook that I've been wanting to make for a while now. Unfortunately, even combining the arugula and chard, I had nowhere near the two pounds of greens called for in the recipe. And so, I tweaked things a bit, while attempting to stay true to the original.

While you can use broth in place of the water in the recipe, the greens, sautéed onion, beans and tomatoes create their own broth while simmering.

Although the beans take some time to cook, I suspect that you can sautée the onions, toss them with the greens, and then transfer everything to a slow cooker to simmer during the day, while you're at work (or gardening... or hiking...).

3/4 cup dried Great Northern or cannellini beans, picked over, soaked for 8 hours, and drained
4 cups greens, washed and chopped (if using beet greens or chard, tear the green portion of the leaves from the center veins before chopping)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, washed and chopped
ground black pepper to taste
1 and 3/4 cup chopped tomato (or 1 14 ounce can chopped tomato, of the no-salt-added variety)
3 and 1/2 cups hot water
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, over medium heat.
Add the onions and sautée about 5 minutes, until soft.
Remove from heat and stir in the greens and pepper.
Remove half the greens from the pot, and place in a bowl.
Pour the beans over the greens remaining in the pot, and top with the greens from the bowl.
Spread the tomatoes over the beans and greens mixture.
Pour the hot water over the greens, beans and tomatoes.
Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer (for me, this was medium-low).
Cook the beans, without stirring, for an hour.
After an hour, add the salt and simmer, uncovered, another 30 minutes.
Serve warm, with slices of fresh multi-grain bread.

Serves 4-5.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Department Store Cookie

I was assembling the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies when I realized that I only had one of the two sticks of butter needed for my recipe. Halving the recipe would require more math than I cared to use on a Saturday morning, so I jumped on Google and searched for chocolate chip cookie recipes using only one stick of butter.

The first hit on Google was for Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies. The department stores in my hometown didn't serve cookies, but then again, we didn't have Neiman Marcus either. I was also intrigued by the fact that the recipe called for the cookies to be baked at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, instead of 375 degrees for 10 minutes. I had most of the ingredients -- except espresso powder -- and so I decided to see what department store cookies would taste like.

Since I didn't have espresso powder, I used cinnamon, which is something my grandma put in her chocolate chip cookies. I also threw in a handful of oats (for texture) and some chopped pecans.

The result was a cookie that is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. I really liked the technique of cooking the cookies longer at a lower temperature, and expect to use that when baking other cookies in the future. (It might be the altitude or my oven, but the cookies seemed to need about 23 minutes instead of the 20 called for in the recipe.) However, I'm not sure I'll use this exact recipe again, as the cookies are almost too sweet for my taste. Eating the cookies with milk helps cut the sweetness.

As for using only one stick of butter - the recipe also yielded about half the cookies that I usually get.

Edited to add: The history of the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe can be found here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gyoza: Easy to Eat, Hard to Pronounce

With their green wrappers, puffy centers and half-moon shape, Taki's vegetarian gyoza dumplings resemble giant snow peas. The resemblance ends there, however. The gyoza wrapper is made of dough, not plant fiber, and instead of peas, a tasty mix of vegetables and tofu is tucked inside. Taki's serves the dumplings with rice (although yakisoba noodles can be substituted), vegetables, diced tofu, pickled ginger and a spicy soy-sauce for dipping.

I'm told that "gyoza" is pronounced "gyoh-zah;" however, it's been my experience that you can successfully order the dumplings even if you bungle the pronunciation.

341 E. Colfax (corner of Colfax and Logan)
Denver, CO 80203