Thursday, May 25, 2006


I make a lot of granola. It started because of sticker-shock at the prices health food stores charge for their tiny bags of cereal . And even when I coughed up the four dollars, what I was buying seemed more like deep-fried oats covered in sugar than a real breakfast food. So I started making my own on Sunday mornings, and saving it in a big tin that my housemates and I could dip into it throughout the week. At first, I used very very healthy recipes — oats, cinnamon, and raisins toasted in the oven — which were edible, but not exciting. The best solution came with butter, as in this version.

The great thing about making your own granola, leaving aside how quick, filling, and cheap it is, is how much variation you can add. I love shredded coconut in my granola — the pieces toast and become crunchy and sweet — but if it’s not your thing, don’t do it. You can make it with maple syrup and pecans if that’s what you like, or dried blueberries, apples, and walnuts. And there’s something very satisfying about having a big jar of it on hand, or smelling it baking in the mornings. All in all, it takes about fifteen minutes to prepare, and fifteen more to bake, not much longer than an omelette.

The recipe makes about 6 cups, so you’ll have some left over.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger powder, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup mixed dried fruits such as raisins and cherries
1/3 cup hulled green pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seed (optional)

• substitute other nuts for almonds
• switch up the sweetners: maple syrup, honey, and brown sugar are all good options
• if you happen to accidentally buy sweetened coconut, decrease the amount of sugar to four tablespoons
• substitute vanilla or other extract for almond

Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a large bowl stir together oats, almonds, coconut, seeds, and salt. In a small saucepan melt butter with honey over low heat, stirring until melted. Turn the heat off and set aside. [If the mixture is fairly liquid-y, you can add in the dried fruits and let them soak a little. They will absorb the buttery-sugary-ness and taste significantly better. Before mixing the mixture into the oats, take the fruit out and put it in a little bowl for later, so they don’t dry out in the oven.]

Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined well.

In a large baking pan spread granola evenly and bake in middle of oven, stirring halfway through baking, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool granola in pan on a rack and stir in dried fruits. Granola may be kept in an airtight container at cool room temperature 2 weeks.

Makes about 6 cups
Very loosely adapted from Gourmet Magazine,
 February 1999

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Collard Greens

Technically, this is a winter soup. But it's raining all week here and I can still find all the ingredients in my grocery store. If collard greens aren't available, try kale, spinach, or other dark green leafies.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground coriander or toasted coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 14-ounce can of coconut milk
1 small bunch collard greens, cleaned, stems removed, and leaves cut into strips

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and a little salt. Saute until the onion has softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the sweet potato, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, coriander, and turmeric and saute for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, the coconut milk, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Raise the heat and bring the whole thing to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
4. Add the collard greens and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes, or until tender. If the soup is too thick for you, add some water.

from Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Nigerian Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

I had a bit of a frightening realization this weekend when a bag of dried beans tumbled out of my pantry and fell on my head. Upon further inspection, it turns out that I've managed to accumulate my body weight in assorted dried beans, including such prizes as a 3 pound bag of whole mung beans, which I have no idea how to use.
The problem is, I know that I should eat beans. They're healthy, and about as cheap a food source as any you're likely to find. So I tend to buy them. But... I don't really like beans. They're just so dull, most of the time. But obviously I had an emergency on my hands. So I cracked open my most trustworthy cookbook, and found this. And it's amazing. It's sort of like a falafel, only it tastes ten times as good. It's a little spicier than falafel, and since I didn't deepfry it, it's healthier. Plus, no weird ingredients like tahini.
One thing to note -- unless you'd like to spend the day pounding out black-eyed peas in native African equipment, you'll need a food processor. Also, the peas take forever to soak, so put them in water the evening before you plan to make them.
Put in a pita sandwich, or serve with any sort of dip or sauce. I made a yogurt sauce with tomatoes, basil, and some chopped garlic, and it worked nicely.

1 1/2 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
canola oil

1. Put peas in a bowl and cover by about 5 inches of water. Let it sit about 16 hours or more.
Don't try any sort of quick-soaking method, it won't work out (at least according to Madhur Jaffrey, who would know).
2. Drain peas and put in the bowl of a food processor with the spices and onion. Process until mixture forms coarse paste. Slowly add 5 tablespoons of hot water. It will remain slightly grainy.
3. Put a tablespoon or two of oil on a frying pan over medium heat. Allow oil to heat, then drop in batter by the spoonful.
4. Fry the fritters, pressing down with a spatula so that they flatten slightly, until reddish-brown. Flip and, when done, put on a plate covered with paper towels or napkins. Continue until all are done.

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian