Monday, 27 August 2007

Fudge Truffle Cheesecake

Or as we call it, simply Chocolate Cheesecake. I clipped this recipe from a magazine many years ago, and I don't even remember which one or when. Maybe it was even from one of those promotional cookbooklets? I don't remember.

I used to make this during Cheesefare Week**, but it rarely gets done anymore at that time of year. We're just so focused on so many different rich foods, and it's just too much to eat a whole cheesecake by ourselves, along with all that other stuff. So, when Paul recently mysteriously found my recipe on the dining room table (not sure how it got there...) and he asked, "oh, are you planning to make chocolate cheesecake?" I said no, but when he said, "could you?" I said, okay.

And I meant to get a picture of it! But I didn't remember to do so until I was on my last bite of it. I was going to snap one of that, but the camera's battery was depleted. So you'll just have to take my word for it: this cheesecake is utterly dark and lovely. It's not too hard to make, either.

Oh and sorry--no vegan alternatives for this one. :-)

Fudge Truffle Cheesecake

First, make the Chocolate Crumb Crust:
In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 15 wafers), 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa and 1/3 cup melted butter. Press firmly on bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.

Note on the crust: I sometimes use chocolate wafers, or even chocolate sandwich-type cookies, and omit the cocoa and some of the sugar, to good results. Maybe use a bit more crumbs. It's easiest to make cookie crumbs in a blender or food processor.


3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened (I *love* the Gina Marie cream cheese, from the Sierra Nevada Cheese Company; you can buy it at New Seasons or Food Front locally. Non-locally, you're on your own!)
1 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes or until center is set. Cool. Chill. Garnish as desired (garnish? Who needs garnish?) and refrigerate the leftovers.

**Cheesefare Week, also called Butter Week in the Russian church, is the time in the Orthodox church right before Lent begins. It's the equivalent to Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday in the Catholic Church. Except, of course, that fasting is null and void (practically) in the Catholic church during Lent. In the Orthodox church we really know how to *fast.* :-)

Monday, 20 August 2007

Caldo Verde

So simple, so good, so good for you!

I had an infestation in my kale, which had grown to a huge bush, of bugs just before we left on vacation. So I cut it down to the roots, and when we returned, it was all ready to harvest again! I love greens that do that. Anyway, I hadn't gotten around to making anything with it until tonight. This morning Hibi reminded me that it was there, definitely ready to cook with. So I made her favorite--Caldo Verde, or Portuguese Greens Soup. I have adapted it from the Joy of Cooking cookbook, where it originally called for sausage. It is delicious without! And the kale has never tasted better--so tender! I think this was the best kale I've ever eaten.

You can, of course, use other greens in this soup. I've tried chard, collard greens, I think I even used rapini once. But kale is the best, in my humble opinion.

Caldo Verde

Chop one onion and two cloves of garlic and saute them in a soup pot in one tablespoon of olive oil, until softened and golden brown. Add 4 thinly sliced potatoes OR 2 potatoes and 2 turnips or rutabegas (I used turnips from my garden tonight), 8 cups of vegetable broth or water or a combo, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat; lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, until potatoes are very soft. Use a potato masher to coarsely mash the potatoes, or use a stick blender to lightly puree.

Chop one bunch of kale coarsely (about 4 cups chopped) and add to the soup. Stir it in, then turn off the heat. Add a half a lemon's worth of juice and serve with lemon wedges and parmesan cheese. Serve alongside some freshly baked raisin bread!

Red Vegetarian Pozole

A friend of mine makes a wonderful Green Vegetarian Pozole (we first found out the difference while in Mexico) and I love it. But I was first introduced to Pozole by my friend Lisa in San Francisco. I'd been to gatherings where pozole was served before, but it always had pork in it and so I never tried it. Lisa's red pozole was so good I had to email her after I got home and ask her to send me the recipe! She says it's from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook. Recently I made it using all produce from my garden. Well, not the avocadoes! I don't think those will grow anywhere close to Portland, unfortunately! Oh, yeah, not the limes either. But the tomatoes, squash, peppers and cilantro were from my garden.

Vegetarian Pozole

4 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1/8 plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups canned tomatoes with juice, chopped
3-4 cups peeled, seeded and cubed delicata squash (Lisa notes that she uses whatever orange squash she has on hand...however, I think delicata is absolutely the easiest and tastiest to work with)
4 cups coarsely chopped green or red bell pepper (I used the sweet peppers I have growing in my garden)
4 cups drained hominy (2 15 oz. cans)
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2-3 tbsp. minced chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, sage, or epazote
Grated Monterey Jack cheese, avocado cubes, crushed tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded lettuce, sour cream, and/or fresh lime wedges for garnishing

Warm the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and saute on medium high heat for 5-7 minutes until golden. Stir in the garlic and 1/8 teaspoon of salt and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and squash and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the bell peppers, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the squash is tender. Stir in the hominy, lime juice, chipotles, remaining salt, and the oregano, sage or epazote. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite garnishes.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Garden Produce

We've all been at church camp this week, but I've been coming home to pay attention to all the things around here that need attention. Like the garden! Wow, here's the harvest from *just today.* I didn't even plant those pumpkins--they're volunteers, presumably from last year's compost. And there are more out in the garden, some that are just getting started! And I finally realized that the eggplant varieties I have won't get any bigger, and picked them. One is light purple streaked with white, and then there's the three white ones. The big white one, I think, is two that grew together. And lots of tomatoes! That haven't even been added to the tomatoes in the windowsill yet....did I say we were keeping up with the tomatoes? Well, maybe when we're not at camp! I'm thinking perhaps making tomato soup and freezing it for winter would be a good option for tomato excess.

I have to commend the hard-working stupice for the second year in a row! Much as I love heirlooms, and could be happy with nothing but heirlooms on my table, I also am pragmatic and like to have tomatoes consistently. Stupice is the one for that. I pick at least 3 or 4 every other day, sometimes significantly more, and they're early and go late. Pretty tasty too! They're small, but that's okay for just about any use. They're the ones in the front left.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Eggplant Parmesan

One of my favorite summertime dishes! Though I'm disappointed that my garden eggplant are still not ready. But the tomatoes and basil came from my garden. The original recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking; the vegan version is my adaptation. Though really, the "original" I've adapted as well because I don't think the proportions for the coating are correct.

Eggplant Parmesan

Slice two medium eggplants into 1/2 inch thick rounds. (Make sure to trim both ends; they can be tough and overly chewy.) Set up three dishes: the first, a small plate with flour on it, the second 3 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of olive oil, the third a mound of bread crumbs, processed from about 4 slices of bread. First dredge the slices in the flour, then soak in egg, then coat with the breadcrumbs. Lay each slice on a rack and let them dry for 10 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice 5 large-ish tomatoes and put into a colander. Let them drain for 20 minutes. Then toss with 1/2 cup chopped basil, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for up to 30 minutes, or until you're ready to start layering.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, in a large skillet, until the oil is shimmering. Add eggplant in one layer and cook in batches. Turn after about 4 minutes, when golden brown. When golden brown on both sides, remove to a plate. Add more olive oil if needed and finish frying the remaining eggplant in batches. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Coat a 9X12 baking pan with half the tomato sauce. Layer the eggplant, overlapping them as needed, or use an 11X17 pan for less overlapping. Top with the remaining sauce and then dust with 2 teaspoons of oregano and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Combine and sprinkle over the top: 1 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese and 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese. Optionally, you can sprinkle over the top a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly and browned in spots.

We like this with pasta.

Now for the vegan version:
When you're coating the eggplant slices, dredge with flour, then dip in soy milk, then in vegan breadcrumbs. Instead of cheese, use crumbled tofu. That's it!

Monday, 6 August 2007


I've never grown winter squash before, but this year I tried out Delicata squash. It's my favorite winter squash, because it's tasty, yes, but it's also a lot easier to deal with than lots of other squashes. It's small, small enough to serve two or even just one per piece, and it's skin is a lot thinner and easier to peel than types like pumpkin or butternut squash. (I'm cringing just thinking of the time when I was trying to peel a big winter squash using a dull-ish knife....thinking about how many ways I could injure myself while trying to do so!)

I didn't realize it would be ready so soon, though. I just brought these in from the garden today. I thought I had read that winter squash was planted at the same time as summer squash, and they grew for longer to develop the tougher skins. But these were just about as quick as the summer squash. Does anyone have any more info for me on that?

I've also got pumpkins growing out there that I didn't plant! They must have survived our compost pile and planted themselves. There's quite a few of them, and two quite large ones. I don't know if these ones will last until Halloween....that's why it's good that pumpkin can be used for more than just jack-o-lanterns! One very easy way to use pumpkin is just slice it and fry it in oil. Season with salt and pepper, and add other spices that sound good to you if you wish.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

How I began gardening

While watering the garden, I was realizing that in the time since we got home from vacation, almost a week, we've eaten tomatoes every single day. The day we got home it was eggplant parmesan, on Saturday it was a zucchini-tomato bake with fresh basil and oregano, Sunday we made a zucchini tomato frittata, Monday it was Greek green beans (with fresh tomatoes instead of canned sauce), yummy tomato soup on Tuesday, which I had to make sure I had plenty of tomatoes for because it takes three pounds of them, and last night we had a small tomato basil salad along with our white beans and chard. Tonight we'll have pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes. In fact, I've bought no produce since we returned home except for fruit and onions.

It's so satisfying to be able to provide such delicious food for my family, all home-grown. Especially when it comes to tomatoes! We'd get sick of zucchini when it keeps giving and giving (though, sadly, I think my zucchini plant has died!) but we will always be hungry for tomatoes. The satisfying feeling is akin the feeling I got when I realized, after Hibiscus was born, that I could feed her completely from my own body, no formula needed. My body was made to make and feed babies. Nothing short of amazing!

I told about how I started gardening on Deb's blog, and I thought I'd share it here, because it's kind of funny! It's really Hibi's fault, or perhaps it's really Robert McCloskey's fault. Here's the very roundabout story of how I began gardening:

My parents always had a vegetable garden when I was growing up, but to be honest it always seemed so utilitarian, and very standard. I never even liked tomatoes until I tried heirlooms. I don't remember going out to the garden to harvest anything myself, like my kids go and eat cherry tomatoes and peas off the plant. And all those straight rows! (I never garden in straight rows...)

One book that we loved to read together when Hibi was five and six was Robert McCloskey's _One Morning in Maine_. It's the long, meandering story of a little girl's day, starting in when she woke and found that she had a loose tooth. When she lost it later that day, she is told that she should make a wish on the lost tooth and she will get it. Lots of things happen in between, but in the end she gets her wish when one of the village storekeepers offers her a chocolate ice cream cone.

Hibi was taken with this idea, and when it came time for her first tooth to come out, she was very excited about a wish being given. At this point, I was worried--the book didn't come with instructions for parents as to how to find out that wish in order to fulfill it! So I convinced her that the tooth fairy (we merged the "wish" idea with the tooth fairy that we'd grown up with) needed her to whisper her wish just as she was laying down in her bed at night. And what I heard that night was a whispered "a turtle!" (I'd been kind of hoping her wish would be the same chocolate ice cream cone...)

Oh, boy. No way a turtle was going to appear under her pillow! So I left a note from the tooth fairy saying that she had charged her parents with taking care of the acquisition of the turtle. A trip to the pet store ensued, and a tortoise was obtained named Torty. (We decided after that that the *first* tooth lost got a special wish; the following ones just got ordinary money!)

After we had Torty in her aquarium, we really felt kind of bad that she didn't have more room to crawl around. So, in front of our apartment, we created a space that was fenced in where she could crawl around. It was Paul's idea to make it a little garden with plants that she would like to eat. So, we especially for her planted petunias (she loved petunias!) and chard and aloe vera. (No tomatoes or basil back then--this was the fog belt of San Francisco!) And not only did Torty have a beautiful little world to crawl around in, but a gardener was born: me. That tiny space was perfect for a beginner gardener as it wasn't overwhelming, but just the right amount of space to figure out how to grow things.

Fellow gardeners, how did you begin your gardening venture? Please leave a comment, and if you blog about it let me know!