Groats!

I bought some oat groats because they looked really interesting.  Oat groats are hulled oat kernels that look like streamlined wheat berries, which apparently could also be called “wheat groats.”  Oats have a huge amount of fiber, which is a really good thing, but I’ve always found oatmeal in any form to be boring unless a lot of extra stuff goes in.

Various online recipes recommend cooking I cooked 1 cup of dry oat groats with 3 cups of water for 50-60 minutes.  I used a rice cooker on the “brown rice” setting  because I know it goes 50-something minutes.  This rice cooker is one of the most useful things I’ve ever bought.   The cooked groats retained far less water than rice would and I’d say that no more than 1.5 cups resulted.  [The photo is not meant to show relative amounts of what went in and came out.]

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Breakfast

If oatmeal tastes good with butter and brown sugar, what about groats?

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The answer:  the groats themselves taste like oatmeal — meaning like not much.  They’re a vehicle for the butter and brown sugar.  Nothing wrong with that.  The advantage of the groats is that they’re definitely chewy and I like that.  Oatmeal just lies there, while the groats fight back.  In this respect I prefer the groats to oatmeal.

I’ve tried wheat berries before and they’re very chewy to the point of being too much work; oat groats are a bit more tender.

 

A Groaty Stir Fry

I had some Trader Joe’s Super Firm Tofu on hand, along with mini sweet peppers, and decided to stir-fry them in sesame oil with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.   I considered tossing in leftover chayote squash from last week’s assignment, but found I hadn’t yet recovered from the trauma.  I often stir-fry super-firm tofu with various accompaniments and toss brown rice into the pan toward the end of the process.  I’m a fan of brown rice and can definitely taste it in a stir-fry like this.

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I liked the result.  The oat groats, as with breakfast, don’t impart any noticeable flavor, but their chewiness makes the meal interesting.   This is not gourmet fare, but it doesn’t take long and it’s pretty healthy.

 

Pinto Beans & Onions on Groats

Being low on time I once again used what I had on-hand.  This time I sauteed some chopped vidalia onions in olive oil in a 2-quart pot and added some of the sweet red and orange sweet peppers until they looked soft.  Then about 1.5 cups of cooked pinto beans, about 1/2 cup of water, and a half package of Mrs. Dash Salt-free Taco Seasoning.  I let these all simmer for about 20 minutes until I liked the consistency, and called it “chili.”

This time I left the oat groats on their own — about a cup — and treated them like brown rice, adding the chili on top.

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Possibly a little more oat ‘flavor’ came through with the groats not actually mixed in and, once again, I liked the chewiness.

So in the end I didn’t get fancy, using the groats in place of brown rice in things I often eat and in place of oatmeal at breakfast.

The drawback of flavor blandness is easily compensated by adding additional flavors from The Triangle, and I definitely like the texture.  Chewy, but not too chewy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything on Thyme

I was short on time for this assignment, but I did have on hand a new bottle of thyme, and having liked this spice from a previous class experience, decided to use it as much as possible.

I bought jicama, chayote [chi-OH-tay] squash, endive, and French golden beets at Byerly’s in Roseville, thinking that I’d select two of these for the assignment.  At some point in my life I’ve prepared beets, but the first three are foreign to me — except maybe one of my kids brought home jicama sticks from school, once.

I thought I’d try roasted, sauteed, and more-or-less raw versions of these vegetables.

Roasted Endive

There are a number of published recipes online — here’s one.  It’s pretty simple; cut each endive head in half length-wise, brush with olive oil, sprinkle on spices [thyme, salt, & pepper], and roast in the oven on an oiled cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F.  I took the advice of one online respondent, reduced this to 350 degrees, and watched it fairly closely.  Even at reduced temperature the endive was turning brown and quite tender at 20 minutes.

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I liked this.  Raw endive has a noticeable but pleasant-enough bitter taste.  Roasting and seasoning reduces this.

Roasted Jicama, Roasted Chayote Squash

If you look online, you see that jicama and chayote are known as mild-flavored generalists that take on the flavors of those around them.  Roasting instructions are so varied that I decided to wing it.

I didn’t know what to expect from the chayote — is it a summer or winter squash?  When
you slice it open, you see that it’s neither.   It’s not hollow and there are no seeds to speak of.  The appearance is somewhat like a pear, or even an unripe avocado with no pit.

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I cubed the jicama and sliced the chayotte.  Some recipes say to “drizzle” on the oil.  I don’t know how to drizzle; it sounds messy.  I  brushed them with oil, sprinkled on thyme, salt, and pepper, and but them in the oven for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F.

20 minutes wasn’t long enough for either vegetable.  At thirty minutes they looked better.  I can’t say they tasted any better.

Roasted jicama the way I prepared it is edible in pinch, but very woody and chewy.  Not really crunchy.  The roasted chayote could be an acquired taste — sort of a zucchini flavor that would be pleasant with a bit more work, but to me it was more like under-done potato slices.
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Sautes

I didn’t look up any recipes for this, as I think a saute (or “low heat pan-frying” as I should define it) is pretty basic.  Being enamored with thyme, I continued to use it.

Jicama, French Golden Beets, and Vidalia Onions

I put about 3 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan [a bigger pan is is better — I learned that last week], cubed some jicama, diced an onion using classroom cutting technique, and sliced a big beet fairly thickly, as I’d seen some online recipes use big hunks of beet.  The onions and jicama are not distinguishable in the photo, but they’re both there.

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I used thyme, salt, pepper, and some garlic powder.  Yes, real minced garlic would have been better but I was low on time.    I used a cover with this saute since I wanted to make sure that the thick beet slices got a lot of heat above and below.  The onions of course went translucent first and I kept on cooking until the beets were tender.  15 minutes or so.

This looks great and a sample tasted great.  The beets dominate the flavor.  They’re sweet, the jicama is sweet, and so are the vidalia onions.  My daughter ate this with brown rice and spiced it up with sriracha sauce.  She loved it.  I’ll make a meal of it tomorrow.

Sauteed Endive and Chayote

Why not?  I’m experimenting, right?  I used the same approach as above but without the garlic powder.

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I sauteed the chayote for about ten minutes first with thyme, salt, and pepper, then added the endive thinking it would cook quickly.  Five more minutes and it was translucent.

The  endive was excellent when eaten by itself, much like the roasted form.  Sauteeing takes an edge off of the bitterness.  The chayote, I’m afraid, still tasted like under-done potato, even though thoroughly cooked.   Eating the two sauteed veggies together tasted like the chayote.  Enough said there.
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Raw

As a really healthy plate, I made a salad, sort of a coarse slaw of  beets, endive, and jicama matchsticks.  I couldn’t stomach the thought of raw chayote.

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I used a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing on the slaw alongside cottage cheese and some raspberries.  I thought that this would be boring, but it was a very nice surprise.  The sweetness of the beets and jicama, the relatively strong bitterness of the raw endive, and the whatever — saltiness? — of the cottage cheese all went together very well, and the crunch of the vegetables worked as well.
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Some conclusions

Winners

The sauteed beets, jicama, and onions is very, very good and I’ll remember this.

In second place is the simple raw combination of jicama, endive, and beets.

The roasted and sauteed endives were fine, but it turns out I like the raw endive better.

Losers

Well, anything involving the chayote.  I’m not sure how you’re supposed prepare or serve this vegetable.   Thyme certainly isn’t the way to season this, unless you like under-done potatoes.

Roasted jicama has some potential, but I didn’t hit the mark.   Maybe at a lower heat than 425 degrees, and not with thyme.  Probably something hot, like cayenne pepper.

Vegetarian Chili (sort of) and Cornbread from The Moosewood

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I went to school in Ithaca during the late 1970s , visited the Moosewood Restaurant frequently, and remember seeing the cookbook on display.  So when I saw a deluxe 2014 hardbound edition of the the Moosewood Cookbook at the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis a couple of weeks back, I thought, “Hah! I’ve got the original, from the source!”

After almost 40 years confabulation and real memory collide, as I found when this class assignment was assigned.  In small, neat, red cursive, I wrote “Target, Roseville, Mn, February 15th, 1982.”   OK, at least I bought it at Target #0001 of the 1807 that exist today.

My Moosewood saw many battles in the 1980s, mostly making vegetarian chili with bulghar wheat, but we don’t keep as much wheat in the house as we used to due to my wife’s gluten intolerance.  The assignment was to use on hand ingredients, so I chose brown rice as the grain.

With apologies to Ms. Katzen, here’s the recipe, from page 110 of the 1st[?] edition:

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Substitutions

Based on what was on hand, I  made the following substitutions:

2 cups cooked brown rice instead of 1 cup dry bulghar.
Instead of 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes and 1 cup tomato juice, 1 cup halved grape tomatoes and 2 cups canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes.
For green peppers, orange and yellow sweet peppers.
For 3 tbsp. tomato paste, 3 tbsp. ketchup.
For the juice of 1/2 fresh lemon, 3/4 oz. bottled Realemon juice.
For crushed garlic, minced garlic instead because our garlic press broke a couple of weeks ago.
For 1 1/2 cups chopped onion, 1/2 cup dried minced onions with enough water to reconstitute to 1 1/2 cups.
And, instead of 1 tsp. each of ground cumin and chili powder, 1/2 package of Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Chili Seasoning.
I omitted the red wine since we didn’t have any.

Making It

I soaked pinto beans for about 6 hours in the pot I would later use to boil them.  Toward the end of that time I did my mise en place:

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The reconstituting onions are in the measuring cup to the left.

I used a rice cooker for the brown rice as the thing really does what it says, and I can’t cook rice well any other way.

The pinto beans were ready after about an hour of boiling and I poured off the bean stock, knowing that the cooked rice wouldn’t absorb much liquid.  I kept the stock just in case I need to pour some back in.

Aside from the substitutions mentioned above, I followed the Moosewood recipe as closely as possible.

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And I was pleased with the result.

What Didn’t Work Well

Real chopped onions are much, much better than reconstituted minced onions, especially when sauteing — the tiny reconstituted mincees stick.  My saute pan was too small; I have a larger one that I’d use next time with a little more oil.

The lemon juice is unnecessary as the result is pretty tart.

And, finally, the rice itself tastes fine, but it just doesn’t have a “chili” appearance or texture to it.  So in the end it’s a bean-vegetable-rice hot dish, not really chili.  But definitely tasty.

 

The Cornbread

This was from page 178 of the Moosewood Cookbook.  Again, with apologies to Ms. Katzen:

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Fake Buttermilk

This time I had everything except for the buttermilk.   A quick consult with my classmate [and spouse] Miriam revealed that I can fake a cup of buttermilk by putting 1 tbsp. lemon juice.  I didn’t see anything obvious happen, like curdling milk, so I’ll just trust that it tastes like buttermilk.

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I used a small covered bowl and a microwave oven to melt the 3 tbsp butter for 1 minute.   This was probably too long as there was some splash on the cover.

Instead of real butter I used PAM cooking spray to grease the pan.  Here’s before and after:

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I fumbled with the [new] oven’s timer, overestimated my fumbling time, and set it to 16 minutes instead of the 20 minutes specified in the recipe.

The baked cornbread showed “done” using the Fork Method.  It would have been criticized as under-baked by a professional — a little too moist and dense — but I thought it was great.

 

Dinner

At the end of it all:

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I was happy with this.  I would normally call this a “small” portion.  I should start making this normal.

 

Enthusiastic Cleanup:

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The pot is old and I use HOT soapy water…