Food and magazine design

Want to really make me drool over food? Package it in a really creative magazine, unlike others out there. As a print designer, I can appreciate a food magazine where the design is as much a star as the food. And if the slant of the food is vegetarian, vegan or healthy, all the better.

When I saw the just-released vegan Chickpea Magazine (great name!) with it’s clean and simple photography, design and fonts and interesting variety of articles, I was hooked! It asks for reader submissions on what vegan foods and products they love and personal food stories. The online issue is laid out like a magazine, so the design is not compromised.

Lucky Peach is another magazine I’ve heard great things about. A quarterly magazine that has released one issue, it focuses on great food, writing and design. Each issue focuses on one topic, with the first issue being about ramen, so I passed on buying it. The second issue will focus on the Sweet Spot. It explains that as that brief period of time when meat, fruit, chefs, athletes and kimchi are at their peak. It will be available mid-November and I plan to buy it.

Even Bon Appetit and the Wall Street Journal draw me in with their mix of photos and drawings to illustrate a story.

I enjoy a lot of food magazines, but when a magazine can bring together a topic and an aesthetic quality I enjoy, that is a special product I really look forward to.

What makes a magazine special for you to read and look forward to?

Fruit and friends

In many areas, summer ended today. In South Florida, the heat and humidity are still sky-high. My friend Amy was visiting this week from already cooling Minneapolis (that’s in MinneSNOWta, for the uninitiated) and after a long day at the beach, we wanted something light and refreshing. Enter sangria and fruit salsa!

She was my travel companion when I first had sangria in Barcelona. On a particularly hot afternoon next to the beach on the Mediterranean, we sipped sangria and ate tapas. I knew it would be the perfect afternoon drink while catching up on gossip and life.

I went with Sublime Sangria, from The Sublime Restaurant Cookbook. I hadn’t had the sangria at Sublime, a popular vegan restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, but everything I’ve had is great, so I knew if this made it to the cookbook, the drink wouldn’t disappoint. It uses a red Zin and tons of fruits. It was like a fruit salad with some wine. I used lemon and lime soda instead of ginger ale, since that is my preference.

Sangria to drink and salsa to eat!

We needed something light to snack on before dinner while drinking and talking, so I made a peach salsa, full of contrasting flavors that tasted different with every bite. On salty chips it was the perfect balance to our drink.

It was a great light snack and drink, we could pretend it was healthy(ish) and I shared it with a great person I’ve been friends with since seventh grade that I hadn’t seen in years.

Sublime Sangria

Makes four glasses

Ingredients

  • 750 milliliters red Zinfandel
  • 1 orange, sliced into wedges and seeded
  • 1 lemon, sliced into wedges and seeded
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges and seeded
  • 6 large strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, halved
  • 1 medium red apple, cored and slices into wedges
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (optional, I used triple sec)
  • Ginger ale (I used lemon-lime pop)

Directions

  1. Pour the wine into a 2-quart pitcher.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the orange, lemon and lime wedges into the wine. Add all ingredients but ginger ale.
  3. Stir and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
  4. To serve, pour the mixture over ice and splash with the ginger ale.

Peach salsa

About 4 servings

Ingredients

  •  1 ripe, juicy nectarine (I used peaches)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional, I didn’t use it and the honey made it sweet enough)
  • 4 fresh basil leaves

Directions

Dice the nectarine. Add sugar if the nectarine isn’t very juicy and let sit for a few minutes. Add red onion and minced jalapeno. Stir in honey and lime juice. Add a sprinkle of salt or sugar (or both) depending on how you want it to be flavored. Just before serving, cut basil into ribbons and sprinkle over the top.

Zucchini ricotta fritters

After seeing lots of zucchini patty recipes and with the natural abundance of zucchini in the late summer, I felt it was time to try this dish. This particular fritter features ricotta cheese (which I’m still loving to make!) and developed by Mario Batali.

This is warm and crispy on the outside and creamy bursting with fresh flavor on the inside. It makes 20 small-to-medium fritters, and I found they cooked better when smaller rather than medium-to-large size. I might just half the recipe next time, but these are so good that they didn’t last long.

Zucchini fritters with eggplant fries and (to balance the fried foods) fruit.

Zucchini-Ricotta Fritters

Makes 20 fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini, coarsely shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 3 large scallions, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh sheep-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, garlic, scallions, ricotta, eggs, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir well, then stir in the flour just until incorporated.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil until shimmering. Working in batches, add 2-tablespoon mounds of the zucchini batter to the hot oil, spreading them to form 3-inch fritters. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes.
  3. Drain the fritters on the paper towels and serve right away, with lemon wedges.

Make ahead: The fritters can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours and recrisped in a 325° oven.

The original, sent by my brother when he went in July.

Although I generally try to have only one fried food at a time, I thought since I was frying and wanted to try eggplant fries, they would go good with the fritters. I tried baking a few and it did not work. I got kind of baked, floury eggplant. The frying worked well, and they turned out crispy and hot.

The recipe is from the Art Institute of Chicago, a place I want to check out. If you aren’t aware, the Art Institute is home of American Gothic, a famous painting by Grant Wood, who is from my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And he painted huge murals depicting middle-American life in the library of my alma mater, Iowa State University.

So back to the eggplant fries. Now that I’ve made them and since I want to go to the Art Institute, I think it’s only fair I try their version soon!

Eggplant fries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped kosher pickle or pickle relish
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1-pound eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2 rounds, then into 1/2-thick strips
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons za’atar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more for seasoning

Directions

  1. For the dipping sauce, whisk yogurt, chopped pickle, lemon zest, and oregano in a small bowl to blend. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Place eggplant in a large bowl. Add 2 cups ice and enough water to cover. Place a plate on top of eggplant to weigh it down. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.
  3. Pour oil into a large deep pot to a depth of 2″. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of pot and heat oil over medium heat to 325°.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk rice flour, lemon zest, za’atar, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon sea salt in a medium bowl to blend. Drain eggplant. Working in batches, toss damp eggplant in flour mixture to coat.
  5. Working in batches, fry eggplant, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with lemon juice and sea salt. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

As you have seen, I love making fries out of any vegetable. And I have a few more vegetables in mind. What vegetable makes the best fry that you have had?

Stuffed mushroom roll (and spanakopita)

We are halfway through National Mushroom Month. What fantastic fungus have you been eating? For a simple-yet-flavorful meal, I made a stuffed mushroom roll.

This was my first (maybe second?) time using phyllo dough, but I love the buttery and flaky properties of it. And anything with mushrooms and greens is great in my book.

It was a little tricky to work with the dough, and everywhere I read gave a few tips:

  1. Have everything ready before opening the phyllo dough,
  2. Place plastic wrap and a damp towel on top, and
  3. Work quickly, but there will be some tears. If there is a tear here or there it’s OK since there are seven layers of phyllo.

Beyond those tips, the only thing I would change the next time I make this is to use morebutter to make the phyllo brown better. (I always err on the side of caution for extras like butter, sugar and salt.)

Mushroom and greens phyllo roll

Stuffed mushroom roll

Makes 2 to 3 servings

Ingredients

  • 7 sheets phyllo dough, thaw according to package directions
  • 16 oz (7 cups) sliced fresh mushrooms (I used portobello and button)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh Thyme (or 1/2 tbsp dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup kale leaves, roughly torn and stems discarded
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • ~1/2 cup melted butter or olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Thaw phyllo dough according to package directions.
  2. In a large skillet, add sliced mushrooms and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes until the water cooks off.
  3. Add the garlic, oil, onion and kale. Cook for another 5-7 minutes on medium-low heat. Add seasonings to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
  4. Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough onto prepared baking sheet. Brush or spray on butter or oil. Repeat for 7 layers.
  5. Scoop on mushroom filling, roll the edges inward and then roll into a log. Brush log with oil or butter. Bake at 350° for 25-35 minutes until golden.

Spanakopita with drying phyllo dough. Must work faster!

I had a lot of leftover phyllo, so I kept going and decided to make spanakopita. At this point my phyllo was starting to dry out a little too much so the spanakopita cracked a little, but still tasted great. Maybe I will put another layer of phyllo on next time, or work quicker with the phyllo since I got the hang of it as I went along. Also, I used frozen chopped spinach instead of fresh.

If spanakopita isn’t your thing or you still have phyllo left, here are even more phyllo triangle filling suggestions.

Spanakopita Triangles

Makes about 30 pastries

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound fresh spinach (coarse stems removed if ‘grown-up’ spinach; baby spinach can be used in full)
  • 3/4 pound feta, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 (17- by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Melt one tablespoon butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, add onions and garlic and saute for a minute, then cook spinach, stirring, until wilted and tender, an additional 4 to 8 minutes (less for baby spinach, more for grown-up spinach).
  2. Remove from heat and cool, about 10 minutes. Press mixture in mesh colander (or wring in cheesecloth) to remove as much liquid as possible, then coarsely chop.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in feta and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let filling cool.
  4. Take one phyllo sheet from stack and arrange on a work surface with a long side nearest you (keeping remaining sheets covered) and brush with some butter. Top with another phyllo sheet and brush with more butter. Cut buttered phyllo stack crosswise into 6 (roughly 12- by 2 3/4-inch) strips.
  5. Put a heaping teaspoon of filling near one corner of a strip on end nearest you, then fold corner of phyllo over to enclose filling and form a triangle. Continue folding strip (like a flag), maintaining triangle shape. Put triangle, seam side down, on a large baking sheet and brush top with butter. Make more triangles in same manner, using all of phyllo.
  6. Bake triangles at 350° in middle of oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool slightly.

Do ahead: Pastry triangles can be formed, but not baked, three days ahead. Arrange in one layer in heavy-duty sealed plastic bags, then freeze. Bake frozen pastries in same manner as above.

Do you like the challenge of working with tricky ingredients or do you just leave that to others and eat the fruits of their labor?

Lentil samosas

This blog post started out as “uses for egg roll wrappers (that aren’t egg rolls),” but once I made these lentil samosas, I knew they deserved their own post. That, and I used all the egg roll wrappers to make this because they were so good I couldn’t stop!

But other uses will be an upcoming blog post.

I’ve been wanting to make samosas for a while. Samosas, for those who don’t know, are stuffed pastries popular in Asia and India. I figured a vegetarian samosa would include potato, peas and onions and, while that is good and all, when I saw this recipe for lentil and onion samosas (and since I wanted to use egg roll wrappers anyway) I knew I was going to make it.

The recipe isn’t hard, it’s just a little time-consuming. Especially if, like me, you triple the recipe because you like it so much. Sometimes I get carried away and say I’m going to make a lot of something and freeze it for later, and then I am stuck doing the prep work forever. But when I have an awesome frozen meal or snack in the freezer for later, the time is worth it. Am I the only one who does this?

Anyway, so not only is the food great and easy, but if you read the story from the woman who shares this recipe, she tells of making these with her mother when she was young as a beautiful memory. Reading the post, I can tell her love of the meal and her mother, and it’s wonderful she shares it with us. And now I share it with you.

Lentil samosas with a green salad and butternut squash fries

Lentil Stuffed Samosas

Makes 10-12

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • Salt to taste

Glue

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp water
  • Egg roll wrappers (4 square sheets cut into 3 inch rectangles)

Directions

  1. Boil the lentils in water until they are cooked through but still retain the shape. Completely drain the lentils so no water is left. It helps to keep the lentils in sieve for 10-15 minutes. Mix all the ingredients in the filling with a light hand so as to not break the lentils and keep aside.
  2. Mix the ingredients for glue and keep aside.
  3. Cut the egg roll wrappers into 3 inch wide rectangles. Cover it with a damp cloth while working with it so it doesn’t dry out.
  4. Holding the rectangular pastry at the middle, take the bottom left corner and fold it towards the right into a triangle. Then take the bottom corner of the triangle you just formed and pull it upwards towards the left into another triangle to form a cone.
  5. Fill about 2 tbsp of filling into the triangle and pressing it down with your finger.
  6. Once you fill the cone, take the bottom left corner up towards the right side. Then brush the flour and water glue on the end of the pastry and fold over the top of the filled triangle to seal.
  7. It’s important that the samosa is completely sealed so oil doesn’t seep into the filling while frying. If you see any openings close it with the glue mixture.
  8. Heat oil in a wok and drop the triangles in it. They are done when light golden brown, a few minutes each side. Serve with ketchup.

A few of these were perfect with a side salad and butternut squash fries. What are those, you ask? I came up with butternut squash fries to tame my overflow butternut squash. They are more fry-shaped roasted squash, sprinkled with olive oil and salt, then baked at 400° for 30 minutes in the oven. But they are addictive and I trick myself into thinking I’m eating fries.

What is your favorite alternate use for an egg roll wrapper? Or if there is something you want me to try for my upcoming post and report back on, please let me know!