Wednesday, February 03, 2010

adventures in cooking

It's been a morning of cooking and experimentation! This morn I made an early grocery store run so I could cook the next recipe on my list:
Sesame Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges with Broccoli (also from Vegetarian Times magazine).

But first, I had to juice because I had so many vegetables they would hardly fit in my refrigerator! My juicer was still sitting on my countertop from the Master Cleanse (thank God for Jack Lalanne's juicer! That was one most excellent expenditure). I decided to make Dr. Oz' Green Juice. My friend Gia shared this yummy fresh juice with me, and the recipe, a couple years ago and I've made it before but not in a while. Here's the recipe from Oprah Winfrey's website but I halved it.

2 cups spinach
2 cups cucumber (I just used one cucumber)
1 head of celery
1/2 inch or 1 tsp fresh ginger root
1 bunch parsley
2 apples
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lemon

You can modify it to taste. I added 4 carrots because that was on the recipe Gia gave me (you can't add too many carrots - they give it a nice sweetness). I omitted the parsley because I didn't have any, and I add more ginger root. For my taste buds, the ginger root really makes the drink. I also accidentally used the full amount of lemon/lime while halving the recipe so it was too lemony this time, but still drinkable. It's "a glass of fresh" according to Dr. Oz! You basically throw it all in a juicer - I don't know any other way! I save the pulp in a freezer bag and use it in the veggie (stone) soup I make.

I also tried to cook some millet in my steamer, but little experiment is proving more difficult than imagined. I have used millet for a couple years, but always in soup. It's a grain that doesn't have gluten (the ingredient in wheat, oats, barley that many people are allergic to or that causes digestive problems). The first time I bought and used it, I was like, this looks like bird seed! Then I realized, this IS bird seed! Yep. Millet is the same little round grain that makes up bird seed. Who knew, it's also good for people! I've never made it as you would simply make say rice, so this was quite an experiment. I read that you should not use water but vegetable or chicken broth or it's hopelessly dull. You can use broth even if you intend to use the grain as a breakfast grain cereal, which I do. I used organic chicken broth because I had some that I got super cheap because it was past expiration (not a big deal in a vacuum-sealed container, at least for me).

Well I looked online and it said you can either boil it on the stove, requiring constant supervision (which I'm awful at) or use a steamer. I have a steamer - wha- la! However I usually cook veggies in it not rice or grain.

So the first time I tried to steam the millet, I poured in 1 cup and it was so small it went right through the holes into the container thingie below... I didn't know if this was ok or not but I went with it. Put it on for 30 min or so. After it was done, I looked and the grain was cooked around the edges of the steamer but not in the middle (you can see that in the above picture - to the left is cooked millet, and the rest is uncooked). Grr.

And when I took the inner basket out I realized the chicken broth had caked onto the bit that heats up the steamer. So I cleaned it off and tried again, using the same grain I just threw it all back in the steamer, but this time I put it in the basket. Maybe that is where grains are actually supposed to go?! I guess I should find the directions... I put more water in (no broth this time) and cooked another 40 minutes. This time more was done but still not all! I added another 20 min to the timer and it's finally all done now! I think the conclusion is that a little millet goes a long way, and I probably put too much volume in there. I have some yummy recipes to make this into brakfast cereal, like adding dried fruit (apricots, prunes, raisins, whatever) and nuts. I will also make a recipe using millet and chopped veggies! Will share, when I do.

Back to the main recipe: Sesame Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges with Broccoli
• 4 cups bite-size broccoli florets, halved lengthwise
• 2 small sweet potatoes, each cut into 16 wedges (1 lb.)
• 6 green onions, each cut into 4 segments
• 3 Tbs. toasted sesame oil, divided
• ¼ tsp. coarse salt
• 2 Tbs. orange juice
• 2 Tbs. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
• 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
• 1 Tbs. mirin
• 1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
• 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
• 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
• 6 cups baby spinach (8 oz.)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place broccoli, sweet potato wedges, and green onions in large bowl. Add 2 Tbs. sesame oil and salt; toss well to coat. Spread vegetables on baking sheet, and roast 20 minutes, turning with spatula 2 or 3 times. Increase oven temperature to 500°F. Roast vegetables 10 minutes more, or until tender and browned.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together orange juice, tamari, rice vinegar, mirin, sesame seeds, ginger, garlic, and remaining 1 Tbs. sesame oil in small bowl. Place spinach in large serving bowl, add roasted vegetables and orange juice mixture, and toss well to mix.

In case you don't know what the heck mirin is, I didn't either! I asked at the grocery store, and discovered mirin is used in Asian cooking and my grocery store sells it over by the fresh sushi, but instead of paying $5 a bottle I decided to look for a substitute. I found that Cooks Thesaurus says 1 Tbsp Mirin = 1 Tbsp dry sherry cooking wine + 1 tsp sugar (I used corn syrup so I didn't have to melt the sugar). You can also use white wine and sugar instead of sherry and sugar.

So how did it turn out? I think my oven cooks high (it's a gas range) and so the broccoli got a bit too browned for my preference but not burnt. I think next time I'll turn down the temp. I sliced the sweet potato wedges about 1/3 inch thick and that turned out to be the perfect thickness as they cooked perfectly in that cooking time. The sauce was delicious! I think my sesame seeds are a bit stale as I've had them in my pantry for years and I finally dragged them out for a recipe! I toasted them in my toaster oven set on the lowest setting (if you put it higher than low, they will burn - I learned this from toasting nuts).

My biggest disapointment was putting the whole thing over spinach. I prefer a saucier veggie mix, and by adding all that spinach you really dilute the flavor of the sauce. It seemed like it was missing something, so I tried adding a few chopped yellow and red bell peppers, but I don't think that went too well with it. So I think overall, this was a 2.5 out of 5. I think if the sesame seeds were not stale, the broccoli didn't get overcooked, and I just put the sauce over the broccoli and sweet potato wedges it would get a 4 or 4.5 out of 5. So I'll have to try again! :) You can learn from my experimentation.

The broccoli and sweet potato wedges in the oven ready to roast!

The final product, over spinach. You can see the yellow and red bell peppers I added into the "salad" -I don't recommend this. I think the veggies would be best with the sauce without salad or anything else. :) If you try it, let me know how it turns out for you!

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