Ras el Hanout

December 30th, 2008

Ras el Hanout is spice mixture hailing from Morocco whose name literally translates to “head of the shop.” It is known to be the best spice mixture a merchant or vendor has to offer. Some varieties can contain up to 27 spices, though this recipe is not quite that ambitious. From Cooking Light magazine, this combination of 12 ingredients creates a smokey, spicy, yet subtly sweet mixture perfect for flavoring grains and vegetables.


Above: Yes, that is about $5 worth of saffron.

Be prepared to part with a large amount of your spices, particularly if you do not buy in bulk. This recipe calls for saffron, which basically wiped out my supply. If saffron is a bit too rich for your blood, turmeric would be the best substitute, though nothing really compares to saffron’s unique bitter taste. I added my own touch with a pinch of cardamon, which is my favor spice. If you would like to dial down the heat, reduce the red pepper to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika.

Ras el Hanout
adapted from Cooking Light

2 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Spice mixture should last about 1 month.

To use: add about 1 teaspoon to rice, couscous, roasted vegetables, or other vegetarian cuisine.


Above: The warmth and scent of all these spices combined is practically intoxicating. It makes my kitchen feel far more exotic.


Above: Be sure to mix thoroughly, avoiding clumps of any one spice.


Beef & Cabbage Lo Mein Noodles

December 24th, 2008


Originally Beef-Broccoli Lo Mein from Cooking Light magazine, I found this recipe on MyRecipes.com and adapted it to the ingredients I had in the kitchen. I substituted cabbage for broccoli and used angel hair pasta instead of spaghetti. The result was a very delicious, easy to prepare dinner that was ready in no time flat. Feel free to use the vegetables you have on hand to make this dish a penny-saver.

During Veganomics, I had purchased red chile paste and lamented that I was afraid I would not use it again. I was glad to find another recipe that called for it, though the original recipe called for red chile paste with garlic. Either one would work fine in this dish. This is also an all-in-one type meal with vegetables, meat, and pasta all in the same dish, which saves time in the kitchen and avoids having to make unnecessary side dishes to compliment the main course.


Beef & Cabbage Lo Mein Noodles
adapted from Cooking Light

4 cups (8 oz uncooked) angel hair pasta
1 tsp dark sesame seed oil
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 head cabbage, cored and sliced
1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 lb beef, thinly sliced (cut for stir-fry)
3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp red chile paste
green onions, chopped (optional)

Bring a medium pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions, omitted any salt or oil. Drain and toss with sesame seed oil, keeping warm. Meanwhile, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce, and red chile paste in a small bowl.

While pasta cooks, in a large skillet or wok, saute ginger and garlic in olive oil over high heat for 30 seconds. Add onion and saute for 1 minute. Add cabbage and saute until slightly wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside in a large bowl.

Add beef strips to pan, sauteing on one side for 2-3 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture and toss to coat beef. Return cabbage mixture to pan and toss to coat. Continue to sauteing, adding cooked pasta, until beef is just cooked through (do not overcook). Serve immediately, topped with chopped green onions if desired.


African Peanut Stew

December 23rd, 2008

soupified-500-logo.jpgThis recipe originally came from Real Simple magazine, though I made a few adjustments. What better to compliment South African wine than with some local cuisine? To be honest, I am not sure how authentic this recipe really is, as African is one global cuisine of which I know the least. This soup, however, is an all-in-one dish of substance: vegetables, protein from peanuts and peanut butter, and grains. The peanut butter ups the calorie content, making it heavier than most soups, but offers a vegan stew that really sticks to your ribs (yes, pun intended).  

The original recipe called for chicken stock, which I substituted with Simple Garlic Broth. Another vegan option would be vegetable stock. Because I used garlic stock, I omitted the garlic in this recipe. If you are using chicken or vegetable stock, also add 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 tbsp of oil to saute. I also used diced tomatoes with basil and oregano for an earthier flavor.


African Peanut Stew
adapted from Real Simple

1 (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes (do not drain)
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
3 large carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups garlic broth
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup uncooked white rice
6 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

In a large stockpot, combine tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, peanut butter, broth, vinegar, salt, and cayenne pepper. Whisk together over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Add rice and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and top with green onions and peanuts.


Simple Garlic Broth

December 22nd, 2008

soupified-500-logo.jpgThe New York Times recently ran a recipe for “a simple broth with a mild kick,” full of heart-healthy garlic. The recipe looked like a great vegan alternative to chicken stock, so I decided to give it a try. The recipe is very simple, but a bit time consuming as the broth needs about an hour of simmering time to develop flavor. Aside from being a vegetarian option for preparing soup, this recipe also gives you complete control of the fat and sodium content (no mystery “msg” ingredients here). In total, I used less than 1/2 of a teaspoon of sea salt (a little salt is required to bring out the taste of the broth, as is a small amount of fat from the olive oil).  

The recipe called for a bouquet garni, which is basically herbs tied together with kitchen string and allowed to simmer in a dish to impart flavor. By tying the herbs together, it makes them easier to find and remove before serving. Since the broth already needs to be strained, I skipped that step and just tossed the herbs into the stock pot. Smashing the garlic cloves slightly allows the flavor and healthy benefits to steep into the broth, but do not chop or the broth will be too strong.


Simple Garlic Broth
adapted from the New York Times

5 cups water
2 heads garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 fresh bay leaf
2 fresh sage leaves
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
salt, to taste

Separate garlic cloves and smash each one slightly. Peel garlic cloves and cover with water in a large stock pot. Add olive oil and herbs. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered tightly, for 1 hour. Remove from heat and strain, discarding herbs and garlic. Add salt, about 1/4 or 1/8 of a teaspoon at a time, whisking and tasting between additions.

If not using immediately, allow to cool to room temperature before storing, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Yeilds about 1 quart of garlic broth.

Instead of discarding the garlic, consider using in another recipe. The softened cloves will mash into a paste and would be great to mix into mashed potatoes or hummus.

Bitter/Sweet: The Blog

December 16th, 2008

Normally, I try not post unrelated items on the website, but recently a few have snuck in here and there. Rather than bog down the recipe categories, I decided to create a new outlet for these thoughts.  

Introducing Bitter/Sweet: The Blog, where I shall rant and rave about all things bitter and sweet. After each rambling, I will deliver a verdict of bitter or sweet, but if you disagree please feel free to comment otherwise. You can leave comments by clicking on the subject heading.

Why Bitter/Sweet? The idea actually came from James, who was throwing various names out as ideas. Bitter will include that which angers, annoys or frustrates, while Sweet will encompass the cool, awesome, or just plain neat items I find while roaming the Internet.

The posts for Bitter/Sweet will not appear on the main page, to view please click the link above in the menu bar. Bitter/Sweet is also listed as a category to the right.