Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

I’m excited to share this recipe with you since I am sure you will love it as much as I do!  White quinoa usually does not make it to the top of my list of preferred grains.  I don’t care for its lack of texture, non-descript flavor, or sweetness.   But this recipe is different!  It turns the grains usual negatives into positives.  First, the lack of texture (mushiness?) allows for little cakes to be shaped and maintain said shape during the browning without the addition of eggs.  Second, the browning step creates these little cakes that are crispy on the outside and delicious and moist on the inside.   If you are still on the fence about trying this recipe, all you needed, at its simplest, is quinoa, water and a little oil for browning.   Then, the possibilities for flavor combinations are endless, and even the kids are inspired by the blank canvas that these quinoa cakes provide.  One kid suggested adding apples and cinnamon next time (according to this child, there is nothing that cannot be enhanced by the addition of apples).   Served with a little maple butter?  Sounds good to me!   I can feel a future Cooking With Kids post coming….

Adding a little bit of vinegar to sweet potatoes while sautéing helps to preserve their structure and prevents them from turning mushy.  The cell walls of plants are made of cellulose held together by pectin and hemi-cellulose.  While cellulose remains unchanged when exposed to heat and moisture, both pectin and hemi-cellulose tend to become soluble causing cells to loose their structural integrity resulting in vegetables that soften and eventually become mushy.  The acid in the vinegar helps to keep the sweet potatoes firm by preventing pectin and hemi-cellulose from dissolving.  If you do not have the recommended apple cider vinegar on hand, any acid will do: citrus juice, or any other vinegar.

vegetables

a leek supreme vegetables

quinoa cakes

red cabbage slaw

red cabbage slaw

red cabbage slaw

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and Red Cabbage Slaw

Read more…

black beans fried egg vegetables

Black Beans and Fried Eggs

Among the many things that complement rice and beans, few things are as satisfying to me as a fried egg on top.  The crispiness of the egg white edges adds a pleasing crunch to the otherwise soft meal and the richness of the yolk makes it satisfying and filling.

When you first crack the egg open and let it run into the skillet, the egg white is transparent and runny.  Then, as it cooks, the egg whites turn opaque and solidify.  This occurs because of a change in the structure of the proteins during the cooking process.    According it Harold McGee, egg whites contain roughly 1 protein for every 1000 molecules of water (but each protein can contain as many atoms as 1000 water molecules or more).   Initially the proteins are folded up on themselves, independently floating in the water.  In fact, their sticky parts are hidden inside holding on to other sticky parts within the same protein.  Heat opens the proteins up, exposing their sticky parts, and they start holding on to other nearby proteins.  This occurs throughout the egg white creating a solid mesh that reflects light.  The water is now trapped within that mesh and is responsible for the gelatinous quality of cooked egg white.

ingredients

vegetables

black beans rice fried egg vegetables

black beans fried egg vegetables

An interesting note since we are talking about eggs:  have you heard of aquafabaThis NY Times article is the first time I have run across it.  I am very intrigued.

Read more…

french lentil salad lemon vinaigrette

French Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

According to Harold McGee, a vinaigrette is a water-in-oil emulsion, which means that tiny vinegar droplets are dispersed within the oil, while the oil is the continuous phase, meaning it coats each droplet and fills the empty space between the vinegar droplets. Compare this to, for example, mayonnaise, which is an oil-in-water emulsion with oil droplets suspended in water.

A vinaigrette is usually made by first adding the salt and vinegar to a bowl and allowing the salt to dissolve. Next, the oil is added.  According to Michael Ruhlman in the book Ratio, the manner in which the oil is added determines the texture and longevity of the emulsion.  If oil is added all at once and briefly whisked with a fork, the vinegar droplets in the oil remain relatively large and only temporarily combine.  Adding the oil in a thin stream while the vinegar is being blended continuously with an immersion blender results in droplets of vinegar that may be as small as 3 thousandth of a millimeter across (Harold McGee) forming a thick and stable emulsion with a consistency similar to mayonnaise (depending on the water content).

lemon peel

lemon vinaigrette

vegetables

vegetables

vegetables

The ideal ratio for a vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or other acid such as citrus (Michael Ruhlman).  3:1 is roughly the ratio I use in this lemon vinaigrette, which also has the lemon peel added for additional flavor.  I use a fork to briefly blend the lemon juice and olive oil, creating only a temporary emulsion.  Alternatively, an immersion blender could be used to whisk the lemon juice while slowly incorporating the oil.  When I make this vinaigrette with an immersion blender, I often add the herbs to the vinegar and salt mixture, creating a lovely pale green (and delicious) dressing.

Read more…

yogurt

Yogurt

Milk is composed of almost 90% water.  In addition to water, the three main components in milk are: Fat, sugar (lactose) and protein.  When making yogurt, proteins are the main players involved in the process of solidifying the milk.  Milk contains two main groups of proteins, curds and whey.  The two groups of proteins can be distinguished by their behavior under acidic conditions.  Curds, or casein proteins coagulate under acidic conditions forming insoluble protein aggregates, while whey proteins stay suspended under acidic conditions.  It is the curd proteins, which enabling yogurt and cheese making processes.

In milk, the four proteins within the casein family are suspended as micelles, or clusters of a few thousand proteins intermixed with calcium in the form of calcium phosphate.  The calcium phosphate helps to keep the proteins from scattering.  In addition, the surface of the micelle is covered by a specific casein protein known as kappa casein.  Kappa casein is negatively charged, which keeps the individual micelles from aggregating, and helps keep the micelles suspended in solution.

Milk is slightly acidic, with a pH around 6.7.  Further acidifying the milk, either through natural or controlled fermentation results in molecular changes to the casein micelle.  At a pH around 5.5, two important things happen, first, the negative charges of kappa caseins are neutralized, and second, calcium phosphate begins to dissolve.  Both of these changes result in micelles that begin to scatter. Even further acidification, to a pH around 4.7, results in casein proteins that begin to re-aggregate.  However, instead of forming micelles, a fine network of casein strands are produced, which give yogurt its structure.

serving suggestion yogurt

20-IMG_5018

water bath yogurt

21-IMG_5020

yogurt culture milk

Read more…

tempeh bacon blt

Tempeh Bacon BLT

Tempeh is a popular Indonesian soy bean ferment that could be considered a “meat analog” according to Shurtleff and Aoyagi due to its texture, flavor and protein content.  There is some uncertainty regarding the origins of tempeh (Shurtleff and Aoyagi, 1985).  The earliest written record of tempeh comes from a compilation of Javanese tales and teachings, written in 1815.  However at that time, tempeh was already widely used in Indonesia and estimates as to its origins range from 1600 A.D. to over 2000 years ago.  One possibility for the origins of tempeh is that Chinese traders brought soy beans to Indonesia, where they were then used in place of coconuts in a ferment that was already well established (coconut press cake tempeh or Tempe bongkrèk).  Alternatively, the Chinese brought both the soy beans and the idea of fermentation, since soybean were already being fermented in China using the Aspergillus mold to make soybean koji, a step in the production of soy sauce.  The recipe was then adapted to a mold better suited to the tropical climate of Indonesia.

Tempeh is a firm cake, composed of dehulled soybeans surrounded by the white mycelium of the Rhizopus mold. Tempeh is made by taking soybeans and soaking them overnight in water.  The tough outer covering of the beans is then removed and the beans are cooked.   Once cooked, they are traditionally subjected to a lactic acid pre-ferment in order to provide a more hospitable environment for the Rhizopus mold, although today this step is often replaced by the addition of an acid, such as vinegar.  The soybeans are then inoculated with Rhizopus oligosporus and left to ferment at 30C for 24 hours.

The mycelium, which grows around the soybeans, is the vegetative part of the fungus, and it is responsible for breaking down and absorbing the nutrients of its substrate enabling the fungus to grow.  The mycelium secretes enzymes, capable of breaking polymers of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates into their respective monomers.  By breaking down the polymers, the fungus renders the soybean more readily digested by humans.  In particular, some of the carbohydrates in soybeans which are associated with indigestion are reduced in tempeh.

27-IMG_5035

28-IMG_5040

29-IMG_5042

1-IMG_5045

31-IMG_5049

1-IMG_5052

34-IMG_5071

Read more…

fried rice resistant starch retrogradation

Fried Rice and Retrogradation

The key to making great fried rice, with individual kernels of rice intermingled with eggs and vegetables is to use cold, leftover rice. This is because of the molecular changes that happen to the starch molecules during the cooking and subsequent cooling process.

According to On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, Starches, which are mainly made up of glucose (sugar) molecules strung together, are a plants way of storing extra energy. The two main starch molecules used by plants to store energy are amylose and amylopectin. The difference between amylose and amylopectin is that amylose is mostly a linear molecule (imagine a chain) while amylopectin is highly branched. A typical amylose molecules in made up of about 1,000 glucose molecules, while a typical amylopectin molecules is made up of about 5,000 – 20,000 glucose molecules.

red pepper zucchini carrots and scallion

shredded vegetables

06-IMG_4940

Read more…