Thursday, August 21, 2014

Polenta Pizza, 2014 Summer Conference

It was my great pleasure to teach at the 2014 Kushi Institute Macrobiotic Summer Conference in beautiful Becket, Massachusetts. I gave about a dozen classes during the two-week conference, and the most popular one was on vegan pizza making. I showed how to make autumn pizzasummer pizza, and a gluten-free pizza with a polenta crust.

1 cup polenta
3 cups water
1 teaspoon oregano
pinch of sea salt
olive oil

Bring water up to a boil. Stir in salt and oregano. Whisk in the polenta. Lower the flame and stir until the polenta is cooked. Follow the directions on the package. I use Bob’s Red Mill organic polenta, which has a cooking time of five minutes. Spoon cooked polenta into two oiled nine-inch pie pans and spread it out evenly. Set these aside and let them cool.

Carrot-onion topping
2 cups red onion, sliced into thin half-moons (about one onion)
1 cup carrot matchsticks (about one small carrot)
1/2 cup mochi, grated
1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar

Mix the onions and the umeboshi vinegar. Water sauté the onions until they are a bit tender. Stir in the carrot matchsticks. Add three tablespoons of water. When the water boils, stir the grated mochi into the vegetables and simmer for another minute or two. Remove from heat and set aside.

Tempeh-mushroom topping
2 ounces tempeh
3 crimini mushrooms
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons brown rice miso
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
olive oil

Cut the tempeh into four pieces. Steam tempeh for 15-20 minutes. Chop the tempeh, mushrooms and garlic and mix with the miso, thyme, vinegar and pepper. Sauté this mixture in two tablespoons of olive oil. If it begins to stick, you can add a little water. Sauté until it is golden brown, and then set aside.

Lightly oil a sauté pan big enough to accommodate one of the the polenta crusts. Heat the pan over a medium-low flame. Slide the polenta out of the pie pan and into the sauté pan. Spread half of the sautéed carrots and onions over the polenta. Top with half of the crumbled tempeh and mushroom mix. Cover the pan for the first few minutes to warm the toppings, and then uncover and keep the polenta frying in the pan until it is crispy on the bottom. Gently slide the pie out of the pan onto a cutting board, garnish with fresh basil, slice into six pieces and serve. Repeat with the second polenta crust and the other half of the toppings.

If you're feeling brave, you can flip the polenta in the pan and brown both sides of the crust before you top it. Also, you can bake or grill this pie like regular pizza.

On the day after pizza-making, I gave a class on sourdough bread. I showed how to make dough that can be used for pizza crusts, pan loaves or free-form loaves.

This is a round loaf we baked inside a cast-iron dutch oven.

Another conference highlight for me was teaching one of my favorite subjects: pickle making.

We made (clockwise, from top) shoyu onion pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. We also made tofu no miso zuke.

It was a fun conference. I enjoyed teaching, and attending classes by other teachers. It was great to be among friends from the macrobiotic community. And it was great to see the natural beauty of the Berkshires in summer...

Photos by Chris Jenkins and Claire Johnson.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pressed Cucumber Salad

Pressed salad is light and refreshing. It's not quite raw, and it's not quite pickled. The veggies are tossed with a little bit of salt, and then pressed to make them tender and tasty. The salt goes in, and sweet juices come out.

This is a simple pressed salad made with cucumbers and red radishes. Slice the vegetables fairly thin. Sprinkle on a little bit of umeboshi vinegar, which supplies salt and a little sourness. Toss the veggies and vinegar together, and massage them gently. Put them in a pickle press, or under a plate with a weight on top. Let the salad press for about an hour. Remove salad from the press, and taste. If it tastes salty, rinse it in cold water. Sprinkle on a little bit of lemon juice, toss, and serve. It's a nice side dish for a summer meal.

Another one of my favorites is pressed salad with cabbage, turnips and pickled shiso.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Vegetable Kakiage

Kakiage is a style of Japanese tempura. Tempura is any battered and deep-fried vegetable or fish. Kakiage is a light, crispy handful of vegetable sticks coated with batter and fried until golden brown. Traditionally, chopped shrimp is included. This is a vegan recipe using shiitake mushrooms instead of shrimp. When I deep-fry at home, I like to use a heavy cast-iron pot. You will need about a quart of safflower oil. As long as you don't burn it or fry fish in it, you can re-use this oil a few times.

1/2 cup carrot matchsticks
1/2 cup burdock matchsticks 
1/2 cup yellow onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup green beans, sliced thin, diagonally
2 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 quart safflower oil, for deep-frying
2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup tempura batter (see below)
tempura dipping sauce (see below)
grated daikon

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder

2 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon shoyu
1 teaspoon mirin
pinch of grated fresh ginger

Simmer the shiitakes and water together in a covered saucepan for 2 minutes. Remove the mushrooms. You can use these mushrooms in your kakiage. Add the shoyu and mirin and simmer for another minute. Add a pinch of grated ginger and set aside.

Begin heating the oil in a heavy pot over a medium-high flame. While it’s heating up, toss your vegetables together with 2 tablespoons of whole wheat pastry flour. Add 3/4 cup of tempura batter and mix throughly. When the oil comes up to 350ºF (180ºC) you can begin deep-frying. Pick up a loose “bird’s nest” of batter-coated vegetables about the size of your palm, and gently place it into the hot oil. Depending on the size of your pot, you can fry 2 to 4 pieces at a time. Don’t crowd them. Fry the nests until they are golden brown, about two minutes on each side. Serve with grated daikon and dipping sauce.

Yield: six four-inch pieces.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ginger Cookies

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup barley malt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Dry ingredients:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of sea salt

Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Whisk all of the wet ingredients together. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together to make a uniform dough. Roll dough out onto a cutting board, and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Oil a cookie sheet, or use parchment paper. Transfer the cut-out cookies onto the baking pan. You can make smiles on your cookies with the rim of a round spoon. Bake cookies for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven and let cool.

Makes about 30 cookies

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Seeded Rye Bread

Rye flour is a bit tricky to work with. It has a lower gluten content than wheat flour. Wheat flour plus water forms a nice elastic dough, but rye flour plus water makes paste. Bread made with all rye tends to be heavy and dark. If you want to make a relatively light rye bread for sandwiches, you need to add wheat flour. I make one that is 70% wheat and 30% rye, with a combination of fine and coarse rye flours and caraway seeds.

375g water
350g white all-purpose flour
130g regular rye flour
20g coarse rye flour
150g sourdough starter
15g caraway seeds
5g sea salt

Mix the water and starter. Combine the wheat and rye flours, and add them to the water and starter. Mix thoroughly. Once you make a uniform dough, cover with a kitchen towel and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Add the salt and the seeds, and then turn the dough, stretching it and folding it over. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 4 hours, or until it begins to visibly increase in size. If you have time, gently turn the dough a few times during this first rise.

Next, shape the dough into a tight ball. Turn it out onto a lightly floured cutting board. Stretch and fold it onto itself a few times. Turn it over, and then pull it toward you across the board to tighten up the surface. Give it a quarter turn on the board and pull it toward yourself again. Do this four times and you should have a nice round ball. Let it rest for 30 minutes, and then repeat. Turn the dough ball into a basket or a bowl lined with a flour-dusted cloth. Let it rise another 4 - 5 hours.

Pre-heat your oven to 400ºF (205ºC). Use a pizza stone if you have one. When your oven is hot, turn the dough over and slit the top with a razor. Slide it onto the stone or into an oiled pan, and bake it for 40 - 45 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool completely. Slice and enjoy...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Squash Pie

I recently gave a class on holiday desserts. We made squash pie, ginger cookies, chocolate truffles, and poached pears with raspberry coulis. Here is my squash pie recipe:

Dry Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of sea salt

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup safflower oil
1/2 cup apple juice

6 cups winter squash, like buttercup, peeled and cubed (or 3 cups pumpkin purée)
1/2 cup rice syrup
1/4 cup barley malt
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon agar powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of cloves
pinch of sea salt

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. Mix the wet ingredients, and then mix the wet into the dry ingredients. Mix well to make a uniform dough. Let it rest for a few minutes. Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface, and roll the dough flat with a rolling pin. Put the dough into an oiled pie pan. Poke holes into the bottom of the crust with a fork. You can decoratively shape the rim of the crust if you like. Bake the crust for ten minutes, and then set aside.

To make the filling: Steam or bake the squash until it is very soft. Purée all of the filling ingredients together in a blender or food processor. If the purée is too thick, you can add a small amount of rice milk.

When the crust is pre-baked and the filling is mixed, put the filling into the crust and level it with a spatula or spoon. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven, let it cool completely, and then slice and serve.

Makes one ten-inch pie

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Macrobiotic Cooking in the Netherlands

I had a great time teaching at the 2013 Macrobiotic Summer Conference in the Netherlands put on by the Kushi Institute of Europe. The people there were very friendly, the food was good and the classes were fun. My wife Yukiko taught some excellent classes on desserts, Japanese cooking, and salads and spreads. My first class was on sourdough bread and focaccia. I brought some active starter from home in a vacuum flask, and fed it when I arrived. The next day, I began mixing dough and preparing ingredients for focaccia.

The flour there was different from what I use in the US. I had my choice of 70% gebuild tarwebloem85% gebuild tarwebloem and volkoren tarwemeel. These refer to percentages of whole wheat. Is it hard wheat or soft wheat flour? All-purpose flour? Essentially, I chose a mix of white flour, fine whole wheat flour and coarsely ground whole wheat meal. It workedThe dough rose, and the bread came out pretty well.

I was making bread and focaccia for students to sample in class. While waiting for the bread to rise, I started pickling vegetables to serve in a pickle making class later in the conference.

I let the focaccia rise in a pan, and it got very airy and light. I topped it with sautéed onions and garlic, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and fresh rosemary. It was tasty.Two days after my bread class, I gave a talk on the benefits and process of making fermented food. We discussed amazake, naturally-leavened bread, lacto-fermented vegetables, tempeh, natto and miso.The conference site is near the town of Helvoirt, surrounded by beautiful woods and farmland. Between teaching and preparing for our classes, Yukiko and I enjoyed taking walks around the area. We also sat in on some good classes by other teachers.

After a day trip to Amsterdam, I led a workshop on making condiments. We made gomashio (sesame salt) and kombu tsukudani (kombu seaweed cooked with soy sauce and other seasonings).

Next was the pickle making class. I demonstrated how to make sauerkraut, onion shoyu pickles, a kind of kimchi and tofu pickled in sweet white miso. The pickles I started a week earlier were ready for tasting.

After that, I gave a class on snacks and travel food. I showed how to make onigiri (rice balls) and three kinds of nori maki: futomaki (fat rolls), uramaki (inside-out rolls) and temaki (hand rolls).

My last class of the conference was on seasonal soups. I made a light, clear broth soup for summer, a sweet autumn pumpkin soup, and for winter, a hearty root vegetable stew with sourdough croutons.

Everyone I met at the event said they enjoyed the cooking classes, the lectures, the meals, and the warm family spirit. Overall, it was an inspiring Summer Conference!