The Food Matters Project: Chocolate Tofu Ice Cream

Boy, do I miss ice cream as we start to get into the summer months. Sure, there are some decent frozen yogurt and sorbet flavors (my favorite is black raspberry chocolate chip) and it can feel nearly as decadent, but most ice cream shops have a limited froyo selection. There’s just something about strolling on a warm summer evening with a cone of ice cream.

In the header for Mark Bittman’s Chocolate Tofu Ice Cream recipe, he says, “If you think vegan ice cream is too extreme, stick to real ice cream, but be aware that silken tofu produces a surprisingly creamy and delicious alternative.” I was intrigued from the get-go.

Turns out he was right. I made a few modifications to my batch, but found it incredibly rich. I found myself digging into it straight from the freezer with a spoon, and it was like cold fudge.

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This also goes great with Strawberry Cabernet Sorbet, another take on a Food Matters Cookbook recipe (I used strawberries in place of raspberries). Together, they make sort of a neopolitan swirl minus that pesky vanilla.

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I made a few modifications to this recipe: I didn’t have bittersweet chocolate, so I used dark chocolate and cut the amount of sugar down to 1/4 cup. I also just omitted the vanilla extract entirely.

Check out other Food Matters Project takes on it here.

Chocolate Tofu Ice Cream, from The Food Matters Cookbook

3/4 cup sugar
1 lb soft silken tofu
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the sugar and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool a bit.

Put all of the ingredients (including the sugar syrup) in a blender and puree until it is smooth, scraping down the sides when necessary. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the instructions, or transfer the mixture to an airtight container and freeze until it’s firm, at least 4 hours. When it’s ready to eat, break it into chunks and puree it or just let it thaw a bit until it’s scoopable.

The Food Matters Project: Chipotle Chili-Lime Spiced Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes

This week’s Food Matters Project recipe was Japanese Spiced Roasted Beets, chosen by Sandra. I was lucky enough to find some adorable baby beets at the farmer’s market last week and I love roasted beets!

I was missing some of the ingredients that would give this the Japanese flair it called for so I went the opposite direction and made a chipotle chili-lime spice mix instead. I also threw in a sweet potato with the beets to mix things up a bit. Turns out the beets probably needed more time than the sweet potato did, even though I chopped them much smaller, so I might recommend adding the sweet potatoes after you’ve cooked the beets a bit. It ended up working out fine, but some of them were just a bit too soft to be tossing effectively in the spice mix.

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Chipotle Chili-Lime Spiced Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes

1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into disks and then in half
2 medium beets or several small beets, peeled and cut into small wedges
vegetable oil
zest of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
ground black pepper
salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the vegetables in a bit of oil and spread them on a roasting pan. Roast them 20 minutes undisturbed, then toss everything and turn over all the sweet potatoes. Continue roasting them until the beets are soft enough to be easily pierced with a sharp knife.

Meanwhile, combine the last four ingredients in a small bowl. When the vegetables are finished roasting, pull them out of the oven and sprinkle the spice mix over them. Toss everything together, then put them back in the oven for another minute or two, just long enough to toast the spices.

Market Finds: Flower power

On Tuesdays in the summer, Orchard County Produce comes to the National Geographic courtyard and sets up a farmers market stand. They’ve got pies and cookies, homemade jams, eggs, and meats along with delicious, seasonal fruits and veggies. I headed over there Tuesday to get an apple in order to satisfy a craving and, as always happens, ended up with more than I meant to buy. But they had these adorable edible flowers and my curiosity was piqued.

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The sign simply said “Edible Shoots and Flowers” so I asked what they tasted like. He said it tasted like broccoli and encouraged me to taste one. It did! He said he eats them raw as snacks, but they also work well in stir fries and salads.

I used them to pretty up some vegetarian tacos, adding them at the last minute to the sauté pan so they wouldn’t wilt.

I also got some adorable baby beets to use for this week’s Food Matters Project recipe. Stay tuned for that post!

Stir-Fried Fennel, Pink Grapefruit and Orange with Salmon, plus Serendipitous DC

DC is an interesting place to drive. There is a weird combination here of people who learned to drive in the north and people who learned to drive in the south, plus a confusing street naming system that requires you to know where you are in relation to the Capitol building and a wealth of tourists. The combination is really not great.

I myself have a pretty good sense of direction, and I found this city easy to learn. That said, I prefer to not deal with virtually nonexistent parking and dodging legions of confused out-of-towners. And then there’s the worst part of driving in DC: getting lost when you know exactly where you are.

This morning I was trying to get to 20th and Constitution NW for DC Yoga Week’s Yoga on the Mall event. I had, against my better judgement, chosen to drive so that I could leave my mat in the car and go for a run afterwards. In the course of looking for parking, I found myself forced from a regular street directly onto a highway on two separate occasions. Two. Roads just turned into highways and there was no way to get off of them until the next “exit.” The second time, I was forced over a bridge with no warning and I was suddenly in Virginia.

In frustration, I turned off and pulled into the parking lot for Theodore Roosevelt Island, which sits in the middle of the Potomac River on the Virginia side. By this time I didn’t want to return to parking hell. So I got out of the car and decided to go for my run on the island instead.

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It turned out serendipitous. I’d never visited the island before, but it turns out it’s a gorgeous trail oasis. The air feels clean and it’s small enough to not worry about getting lost. There were some hikers out for morning walks, but it was a welcome respite from crowded runs in downtown DC.

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After I’d calmed down a bit, I got a text from a friend at the yoga session saying they were just getting started. So I gave parking one more try and got there for the last hour of the event.

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Such a lovely day called for something crisp and refreshing to eat, and Camilla had chosen a perfect recipe for this week’s Food Matters Project: Stir-Fried Fennel and Pink Grapefruit with Shrimp. I was in more of salmon mood, so I swung through the fish market to pick some up. I got a salmon steak instead of fillet because I love how smooth and buttery they are when broiled or seared, although some people don’t like having to pick around the skin and bones.

I’d never tried fennel before, and I asked the man at the booth I bought it from at Eastern Market what it tasted like. He found it hard to describe, and now that I’ve tried it I know what he means. The original recipe called for just the bulbs, but I used the whole plant and really enjoyed the flavor. A bit like licorice, but lighter. It worked especially well with the crisp citrus fruit.

Check out the rest of the Project members’ takes on this one here. I’m sure there will be some creative ones this week!

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Stir-Fried Fennel, Pink Grapefruit and Orange with Salmon

2 tablespoons + 1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 fennel bulb, stalks and leaves, sliced thinly and chopped
1 grapefruit, peeled and chopped
1 orange, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Thai chili paste
1 lb salmon steaks

Preheat the broiler. Brush the salmon steak with one tablespoon of oil on each side, then sprinkle salt and pepper over each side. Put the salmon on crinkled foil under the broiler. The amount of time it takes to cook will vary according to its thickness and proximity to the broiler, but when the top is brown flip it over and cook the other side. When both sides are brown, cut into it to see if it’s cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, ginger, and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the fennel and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the grapefruit, orange, soy sauce and chili paste and simmer until the fennel is cooked through. Serve alongside the salmon steaks once they’re done.

The Food Matters Project: Chickpea Salad with Walnut Chutney

A week ago today, I got home from a seven-night cruise with my parents and siblings. We had a fantastic week island hopping, visiting St. Thomas, St. Martin and the Bahamas and enjoying the lovely Caribbean in between. I’m working on a longer post about the trip, but suffice it to say that it was lovely enough that I’ve had a bit of a rough time rejoining society this week. Do you ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? It feels chilly here in DC after soaking in the tropical sun for a week, and they don’t have chairside drink service in my office, for some reason or another.

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On a more serious note, a horrific event happened in my hometown of Boston while we were gone. We found out while flipping channels late Monday night after seeing a headline on CNN, and it was a terrifying day and a half before we were on land and able to text our loved ones, and we were so lucky that they were all okay. However, there are many families back home that suffered losses, and my heart goes out to them. As I’ve caught up via social media on all the amazing and heroic stories we missed that week, I have never been prouder of where I come from and the incredibly strong people that make it great.

After two roller-coaster weeks, all I wanted to do this weekend was relax and catch up on sleep. Yesterday, D and I took a leisurely bike ride to Alexandria and today we caught up with a friend at Eastern Market over lunch. I wanted something light and clean to wrap up the weekend, and this week’s Food Matters Project recipe was a perfect fit. Jessica chose Chickpea Salad with Cashew Chutney, which proved a great combination of sweet, salty and spicy.

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I modified the recipe to use walnuts instead of cashews and added cucumber, which complimented the Indian flavors nicely. I served the salad alongside roasted sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts, but I think it’ll be great cold tomorrow at lunch, too.

Check out what the rest of the Food Matters Project members did here.

The Food Matters Project: Reverse Fondue

Leave it to Mark Bittman to take something as decadent as fondue and make a version that feels more reasonable without losing any of that great bread-in-hot-cheese goodness. And leave it to me to discover in the middle of the recipe that we had eaten right through our cheese reserves in the fridge (I have a thing for Cabot’s Seriously Sharp, okay?!) and I only had four ounces left while the recipe called for eight.

I made the recipe for my book club meeting, so of course 15 minutes before I was supposed to be there I was shoving veggies into the oven to roast (because why would I make these things easy on myself by cooking in advance?) and panicking on the discovery of the last of the cheese.

I ended up making up the difference with a bit of shredded parmesan and 3 tablespoons of silken tofu. With a good sprinkling of salt and pepper, the strong flavors of the cheese held up. I grabbed the pot and the platters of veggies and bread I’d roasted and brought it the two blocks over to my friend’s house where the book club meeting was being hosted to finish it on her stove, since it really needs to be poured right away after the cheese melts.

I’m not sure if it was the lesser amount of cheese, the tofu or if I just didn’t keep it cooking long enough, but my sauce never quite turned creamy. And the downside of this dish is that plain white sauce doesn’t look as appetizing poured over food as it does in a beautiful fondue dish, especially when it’s a bit on the thinner side. It still tasted good and cheesy, but didn’t exactly look as lovely as a traditional fondue spread.

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The other thing about making this for something like a book group is that it’s invariably going to sit on the table for awhile as people pick at food and chat. Bread that’s sitting in cheese sauce for awhile tends to get this weird combination of stale and dense, so for this setting perhaps a dippable version with the lower-guilt sauce like what Aura did would be better.

Either way, I’m always happy to try out recipes that involve bread, roasted veggies and cheese. Make sure to check out what the rest of the Food Matters Project members did and find the original recipe at Lexi’s blog.

The Food Matters Project: Dal with Lots of Vegetables

The past couple of weeks have been quite hectic around here, to say the least. I traveled to Austin earlier this month for work and got to eat some pretty amazing food in the meantime. (Read: guacamole at breakfast, lunch and dinner.) Austin is a cool place, and I can’t wait to go back sometime when I’ll get to spend more time exploring the city. My coworker and I did take a break from the craziness to run in beautiful Zilker Park and dip our feet in the water.

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When I got back, I had about a week to play catchup at work before my best friend came to visit. We did all my favorite DC activities, including shuffleboard and oversized jenga at H St. Country Club, crabcake, crawfish and softshell crab at the Maine Avenue Fish Market, veggie shopping at Eastern Market, and grabbing growlers at Chocolate City Beer. (Did you notice most of those things involved food and/or drink?)

So as you can probably imagine, I was in the mood for something quick and easy for a Monday night meal. Dal is one of my standby easy meals from the Food Matters Cookbook on a busy weeknight, so I was glad to see Anita chose Dal with Lots of Vegetables for this week’s Food Matters Project recipe. I had never made the full recipe with browning the vegetables and using the full variety of spices, usually opting to just throw everything in the pot together with some curry powder. But this version was still pretty quick.

I love that this, like many recipes in this cookbook, is easily variable for whatever you have in the fridge. I used cauliflower, carrots, and onions, plus threw in some slices of cabbage at the last minute and let it just start to soften without losing its crunchy texture. I served it over a buttery baked potato.

You can find the original recipe, posted along with other delicious Indian recipes, at Anita’s blog, and read the other project members’ takes on it here.

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