No Murders In The Rue Morgue


Plum overload!

My good friend Erika has a plum tree in her back yard that has been off the hook lately, so I found myself with a windfall of fresh, delicious plums. I normally buy the larger black plums when they’re in season, but Erika’s tree bears Santa Rosa plums, common in California, so I branched out to a new variety this time around.

Back in Canada, I have a box containing all my cookbooks, including one that I looked at and drooled over all the time but never used much: The Moosewood Dessert Book. I have a love/hate relationship with all the Moosewood cookbooks. I love many of their old standby recipes (the Six-Minute chocolate cake helped many people bake vegan before baking vegan was cool, and the menestra, while the name sounds like some kind of menopause drug, is delicious and one of the first things I ever cooked for people), I don’t like the reliance on eggs and dairy and much of the language the recipes are written in. Regardless, I love the style of the dessert book – delicious cakes and confections without all kinds of cutesy nonsense. One of the recipes I’d been meaning to try for ages was the Plum Upside Down Cake. I never got around to it, partly because plums were often so expensive back in Canada, but when Erika handed me the 9-pound bag of beautiful Santa Rosas, I knew I had to finally make it. Unfortunately, my book was still in the box in Canada, so I had to find another recipe.

Inspiration came, as it so often does, in the form of Alton Brown. I’ve got a bit of a crush on Mr. Brown, and I’ve been very into his book, I’m Just Here For More Food lately. That book contains a recipe for pineapple upside down cake, so I figured with a few tweaks, I could veganize it, substitute plums for pineapple, and be off to the races! While I’m not 100% satisfied with the result, it is a gooey, tasty, plum-y treat that, with a little more work, will be a real winner!

Plum Upside Down Cake

Gooey Plum Topping
8 tbsp Earth Balance
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup plum cheeks (the sides of the plum, sliced parallel to the pit from either side of the plum)
2 – 3 tbsp pomegranate juice

Cake
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Egg replacer for 3 large eggs
5 tbsp water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Put the Earth Balance in a cast iron frying pan and melt it over low heat. Add the sugar and cook until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir to make sure it doesn’t burn. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and press the plum cheeks, cut side down, in circles into the sugar mixture in the pan. Pour the pomegranate juice over the top of the whole thing.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix, and stir until combined. Don’t overmix!

Pour the cake batter over the sugar mixture and plums in the cast iron pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.



Beans and Rice
July 8, 2009, 9:04 am
Filed under: Cheapo, Cooking, Easy, Uncategorized

That’s right. I’m blogging beans and rice. What are you going to do about it? You’re going to love it!

To get you up to speed: I’m broke. I eat. Therefore, I’m trying to eat cheap.

I can’t think of a “real” dish that’s much cheaper than rice and beans. My recipe is basically what I ended up making with Food Not Bombs scaled down to a reasonable, 2 – 4 person size. The great thing (well, one of the great things) about this recipe is that pretty much all the ingredients are available either in bulk (cheap!) or at whatever cheapo produce stand you frequent (also cheap!). Here in San Francisco, there are a number of produce stands that sell fruits and veggies for ridiculous prices (my favorite is a place that sells about-to-go stuff for 75 cents per giant bag – score!). I usually head down there and see what’s cheap that day. If you don’t have this luxury, just hit up whatever’s cheap in your neighborhood. The key produce ingredients for my rice and beans are onions, tomatoes, and peppers, so if you can score bags of those for cheap, then you’re golden. If not, they’re all usually pretty cheap anyway.. except for the tomatoes. If you can’t find cheap tomatoes (and be sure to check all the varieties at your store – sometimes you will be surprised at what varieties are on sale), feel free to buy a can of cheap diced tomatoes. They’ll work just fine for this. Other than those four ingredients, you can feel free to experiment and add whatever looks good to you when you’re produce shopping. I’ve added spinach and chard with great success, and I suspect squash (either summer or winter) would be good too. Or mushrooms. Or broccoli.

The other great thing about this recipe is that it’s really only a suggestion. My recipe here will give you a good, basic pot of rice and beans, but it’s very amenable to experimenting, so go all New Mexico with squash and corn and chipotle and sage! Go french(ish) with carrots, celery, thyme, and wine! Go American and add a whole bottle of ketchup! The sky is the limit, friends!

Beans and Rice That’s Nice

1 large diced onion (whatever colour is fine with me!)
1 or more diced non-hot peppers (any variety, however many you want)
3 or more large-ish diced tomatoes (or one 14 oz. can of diced, though you could use more if you like)
1 – 2 tablespoons chili powder (or add/substitute whatever kind of spice you want to accompany whatever veggies you throw in)
2 cups long-grain brown rice (though don’t freak out if you have short or medium grain – they’ll work!)
6 cups veggie stock (or you can use water if you don’t have stock – just add salt to taste while it’s simmering)
2 cups soaked beans* (I use red kidney beans most of the time, but you can use whatever you like – even chickpeas!)

Saute the onion in a bit of oil in a large pot (I usually use a stock pot for this) over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and saute for 5 more minutes. Add your tomatoes and your spices, and let it go for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the onions and peppers are cooked and just beginning the caramelize, and the tomato is juicy and cooked down a bit.

Throw in your veggie stock (or water) and your beans. Reduce the heat to medium low, stir the whole thing up, and cover the pot. Leave to simmer (checking periodically to stir and make sure things aren’t sticking or burning) for about 20 minutes. Add the rice, stir the whole deal up, and cover again. Leave this for about 45 minutes (again, stirring and checking periodically), and you’re done!

Let the rice and beans cool a bit before attempting to eat, because you’ll regret it if you don’t. I like to garnish this with some green onion, diced avocado, and diced tomato (and even some cilantro if I have it), doused liberally with Crystal hot sauce, which is like my crack. You can top your beans and rice with whatever you like (you can even wrap it in a tortilla and call it a burrito if you like!), just be sure to bask in the smug satisfaction that comes with eating a cheap, satisfying, healthy meal that you cooked yourself. Good job!