January 10th, 2013 § § permalink
I’m in search of simple. Usually, my day-to-day kitchen adventures tend to be quick and straightforward – then I come on here and show a few glimpses of something special and idealized. It’s usually not how I cook. Also, I wanted to share this as a precursor to something more complex and sweet (for Monday). After that it’s going to get especially Asian on this blog, for a month or so.
Tonight, however, I am making some socca. I’d be lying if I told you I’ve been to Nice, but if I were to go, I’d eat this three times a day. Socca is a pancake made from chickpea flour. It’s been blogged about a million times, though I never would have believed how amazing it was if I hadn’t made it myself. It’s savory and filling – something that’s hard to achieve in vegan dishes. Everyone loves socca, trust me.
There are of course a million variations for making socca, but my usual accompaniments are these: caramelized red onions, sautéed red bell peppers, and capers. Be sure to mix the batter well in advance for better digestion – I think it also makes a better tasting socca! You can top them with anything from butternut squashes to kale or even a fresh salad. Tonight I am serving this with a golden, chunky borscht and a simple baby kale salad.
1 c. chickpea flour (it is best to use flour made from cooked chickpea – or make it yourself)
1 c. 2TB water
1TB Olive Oil
1 ts. salt
pinch of ground cumin
Toppings: 1 caramelized red onion, 1 sauteed red bell pepper, 1 TB capers
+ Mix socca batter and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. You can use this time to prep your toppings.
+ Turn on your broiler. Heat your cat iron skillet on the stove and put in about 1 TB of olive oil. My skillet is about 10 inches so it makes 2 pancakes from this recipe. Once your oil and skillet is hot, pour in your batter and allow to cook while you top it with your desired toppings*. Your batter will get solidified and crispy around the edges. Immediately place your skillet into the broiler to roast. The toppings and pancake will get crispy and nearly burnt – similar to the socca cooked in fiery flames in Nice. Serve immediately.
*If you want to top it off with raw, fresh ingredients, skip this step.
December 19th, 2012 § § permalink
It’s hard to talk about a salad. The leaves will inevitably wilt by the time I can think of something clever to say. Sometimes, their simplicity is betrayed by a lengthy narrative. I can only talk about a salad by how it found me.
This salad found me by way of a random recipe – or rather, a suggestion of a recipe I saw online, a glimpse of potential that manifested in a complex and comforting wintry dish: chunks of pistachios and honeyed dates with crisp watercress support a warm and gingery mix of pears and parsnip. I think it’s a contender for my Christmas dinner.
I’m currently obsessing over watercress. There were some bags of baby kale at Whole Foods the last time I was there but I hesitated to buy it because the bag would require me to eat nothing but kale salads for the remainder of the week. I’m kind of a flimsy salad devotee. For me, a salad necessitates some warm soup, or crusty bread, or a heavy pasta. Or all of the above. God forbid someone serves me iceberg lettuce.
One day I’m going to enjoy eating iceberg lettuce again but I think I am too underwhelmed with my history of terrible salad bars and equally depressing “house” salads.
Ginger Pear and Parsnip Salad
2 small parsnips, cut into strips
1 small pear, sliced thinly
1 ts finely grated ginger, I used my trusty Microplane
1 TB olive oil
1 bunch of watercress
2 ts chopped pistaschios
4 dates, deseeded and chopped
3 ts olive oil
1 ts sherry vinegar
Salt & Pepper
+ Mix oil and vinegar in advance.
+Heat olive oil in a skillet and brown the parsnip with 1/2 of the grated ginger until they are tender to the fork. Remove the parsnip from the skillet and repeat with the pears. Do not overcook, unless you like your fruit soft. I prefer them a bit on the crisp side so I cooked it on medium heat for only about 3 minutes. Place the parsnip back into the pan to keep them warm while you mix your salad.
+Toss the watercress, pistachios, and dates in dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put warm parsnip and pear on top and serve immediately.
November 19th, 2012 § § permalink
Day 5 of my 7 Days of Thanksgiving posting brings you Grilled Cabbage with Lemons – I can hardly think of a better $2 well spent. I can’t remember when the tradition started, but I’ve always liked making cabbage in its various guises for Thanksgiving. It’s so easy to prep, and I never fret about “messing it up” because it’s 2/$1 at my corner store. It’s purely peasant fare and tends to be overlooked this time of year when everyone makes such concerted efforts to impress. This dish is not the typical cabbage soup of Russian winters or a pickled kraut to sit aside sausages. It’s more like a crispy salad that cleanses your palate so you can feel a little lighter after two plates of heavy food.
I made this a few years ago during my first Thanksgiving in San Francisco. It was the first time I had access to a charcoal grill on turkey day so I turned my typical cabbage dish – shredded and sauteed with pine nuts and soy sauce – into this simple grilled affair. It looked curious and vibrant on the table next to brown casseroles and mashes but it was devoured completely by the end of the night. I had a request for the dish the second year so I think this is my new Thanksgiving specialty. I especially love how quickly this dish comes together in about 15 minutes.
I wanted to test this out on the stove and in the oven since the grill is not an option for everyone and it fried up perfectly on my skillet. I tried the broiler first but it took way too long, but the skillet managed to “grill” the wedges of my giant cabbage in 10 minutes. Not bad. You can also pre-cut and oil the wedges in advance, but it takes no more than a minute for the minimal prep.
Grilled Cabbage with Lemon
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Salt, Pepper, and Olive Oil
+ Slice cabbage into 1.5″ thick wedges and brush liberally with olive oil. Dust salt and pepper onto the cabbage wedges and grill them on a skillet or hot grill until cabbage start to wilt. They will be slightly burned yet still crunchy. Squeeze lemon onto the wedges and serve immediately.
November 17th, 2012 § § permalink
Day 3 of my Thanksgiving posting brings me to a nice mash with lovely smoky flavors and a use for all of those green cherry tomatoes that refuse to ripen this time of year. I’ve pickled a few and made a jam of others, but they are so great roasted. Here – I’ve paired them with brussel sprouts for my favorite mash recipe. I know everyone like fried green tomatoes but they are great as little sweet and sour bites that adds a fruity contrast to this very savory dish.
If I was not a cook, I’d find someone to make this for me it’s so good. It’s basically a bunch of my favorite vegetables in one dish and it is fitting for a vegetarian on Thanksgiving. I also love it for the smoky flavor – an easy achievement without smoking anything. I chose a smoked gouda for this recipe, but you can substitute any smoky cheese to your liking.
2 lb sunchokes
1 lb potatoes, choose a thin skinned variety so you don’t have to peel it. Russets are terrible for this I’m afraid .
1 c basic vegetable stock
8 oz smoked gouda
1 ts smoked paprika
1/2 c cream
pot and metal bowl large enough to hold mash – for a double broiler
Roasted Soy-Maple Vegetables
1 lb brussel sprouts, quartered
12 oz green cherry tomatoes, halved
9 oz baby shiitake mushrooms (sliced them into 1/3″ thick strips if they are large)
2 TB maple syrup
2 TB soy sauce
zest from 1 orange
+ Turn your oven on to 250
+ Begin by cleaning your sunchokes. I do this by covering them with water in a small pot and boiling them for 10 minutes. Remove them from the dirty water and put them into an ice bath. Scrub their skin with a hard bristled brush and rinse completely.
+ Boil your potatoes and sunchokes in 1 cup of vegetable broth and just enough water to cover them. They usually take no longer than 30 minutes, but be careful towards the end when the water gets low. You’ll want to cook off as much of the moisture as possible.
+ While the potatoes and sunchokes are boiling, pan sear the green tomatoes in a cast iron skillet with 1 TB of olive oil. They will look lightly charred. Next, put them into a roasting pan and toss them with the soy sauce and maple syrup. Place them into the oven to slowly roast. Next, pan char the brussel sprouts and shiitakes. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and toss in the mushrooms and sprouts with the orange zest.
+ Once the potatoes and sunchokes are cooked (they should be falling apart at the touch of a fork, if not, add more water and cook them some more), use a food processor to turn them into a puree. Do this in 3 batches along with the heavy cream to help liquefy the mixture. Place the puree into a large metal bowl .
+ Next, over a pot with about 3″ of boiling water, place the metal bowl and mix in the cheese and paprika. This is a great way to heat mashed potatoes without burning it.
+ By now, your tomatoes should be adequately roasted – they should be very tender. Check the brussel sprouts, and if it is soft but still slightly crunchy it should be good to serve. I like the slow roasting because It’s a great way to keep things warm on Thanksgiving Day and it allows the flavors to soak in a bit longer. Just be careful to not overcook your brussel sprouts. You can pre-sear all the vegetables and just throw into the oven before dinner. This also goes for the mash. Just use your double broiler to reheat.
November 16th, 2012 § § permalink
This is Day 2 of my 7 Days of Thanksgiving Posts, and I’ve chosen a not-so-fussy roasted pumpkin soup. Its simplicity, literal wholeness, and amazing savory flavors make my autumnal toes twinkle. The first time I made this was for a Halloween dinner, when my friend Nathan said, “I don’t want this to end.” He also apologized for eating it so quickly.
You bake and serve this vegetal soup in its own shell – pretty awesome on so many levels I don’t understand why no one told me about this until this year. This ‘recipe’ is adapted from Bon Appetite, but I’m here to tell you about how I dealt with some issues I had with the recipe. They are few.
First, choose a squash with a fairly hollow core as this will allow you to put more broth in it. Obviously this exclude the turban and butternut squashes. You also want a squash that will sit flat. I’ve chosen the typical pie squashes. They also produce a lot of seeds for roasting. I haven’t tried the ambercup variety, but you will need to cut the bottom so it can sit flat. This might make a mess of the broth in the baking process as the shell keeps the broth from oozing out onto the baking pan.
You’ll want to cut a hole that is at least 4-5 inches wide so that the squash’s flesh is easily accessible at the dinner table. When cleaning out the seeds, you will want to remove as much of the stringiness as possible. They tend to make scooping the flesh a harder task.
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
adapted from bon appetite
6 Small Pie Pumpkins*
~ 3 quarts of Basic Vegetable Broth (3/4 Recipe) – or a low/no-sodium broth
2 c bread crumbs
6 bay leaves
6 garlic gloves, minced
3 cups of grated gruyere cheese
2 ts. finely ground fennel seeds
1/4 ts. smoked paprika
+ Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut a wide hole from the top of each pumpkins to make a lid. Remove seeds and scrape out strings. Rub pumpkin flesh with butter and salt. Pumpkins are sweet and the salt enhances the savory flavor of the soup, but if your broth is particularly salty, don’t put too much salt on the pumpkins. The gruyere also adds a bit of saltiness.
+ Sprinkle fennel and paprika inside each pumpkin. Place a bay leaf inside each pumpkin and evenly distribute bread crumbs and cheese, saving some cheese for garnish. Top each pumpkin with broth, leaving at least 1 ” from the bottom of the flesh’s edge. Place the lids back onto the pumpkin and bake for about 1 hour.
+ Remove the pumpkins from the oven and place the lids with the flesh side up for roasting. The pumpkin should take no more than another hour. It is ready when the inside flesh is scoop-able with a spoon.
*The first time I made this, I did not have a squash with a particularly hollow core, so when I dumped the bread crumbs into the squash along with the cheese, it solidified into a cheese ball… So, if you choose to roast one giant pumpkin, you can serve it with the broth, just put in no more than 1/2 c of breadcrumbs and 1/4 c of cheese per cup of broth. When the pumpkin is done roasting, scoop out the flesh onto bowls and cover with hot broth. Salt to flavor.
September 24th, 2012 § § permalink
My leafy friends are usually the likes of chard, kale, and spinach and they wrap me in fronds of comfort - a hermitic sanctuary brimming with gustatory habits and occasional visitors with weird names and even weirder textures.
For a quick moment my roost of repose was filled with saluyot. I bought it from a farm stand whose advertisement of ‘okra greens’ enticed me with a bizarre mucilaginous vision; I didn’t know what the chimera looked or tasted like but surely it would be slimy.
Neither of us knew what to do with each other, so for a large portion of two days we exchanged curious glimpses and posed wordless questions. Even when I did decide the fate of those serrated leaves, there was an inquisitive,yet peaceful pause wherein the storm of intent hurdled me towards dumplings unfamiliar.
I began the saluyot de-stemming two hours before it was finished. Obviously, I had much more than anyone should have for a small experiment so the experiment ballooned… avalanched even. By the time I added shiitakes I had enough for 24 gyozas, a miserable number if the experiment proved unsuccessful.
Words will fail me here, but I shall try to describe the Thing I created. I’ve had plenty of vegetable dumplings. I’ve have plenty of mushroom dumplings. I’ve also been fed pork dumplings ages ago. This lies somewhere between all those: scallions lent the fillings a rare crunch, shiitakes made a fatty presence infused with a healthy dose of soy sauce, and saluyots bounded everything together in an eerie way that vegetables ought not to do. I fed my boyfriend a handful and he said it tasted like pork dumplings, a big exaggeration but the dumplings certainly possessed an indescribably flesh-like quality. It was rather bizarre.
If you are curious, try this recipe and visit the uncanny valley of sticky saluyot dumplings. I also have a dozen in my freezer… come visit?
Saluyot and Shiitake Gyozas
If you look up saluyot, you’ll quickly discover that it is a cochorous, or jute. The stems and branches are much too tough to eat but make an affordable natural fiber, which is spun into coarse thread of admirable strength. Only the mallow leaves are eaten. They have a mucus-like juice that is noticeable when raw or cooked. Saluyot is an old world vegetable that is eaten for its anti-aging properties.
24 homemade Gyoza Wrappers or store bought Potsticker Wrappers, cut into rounds
4 generous cups of coarsely chopped saluyot leaves (spinach or chard things would work great without slime)
1 c. shiitake, thinly sliced
2 TB finely chopped ginger
2 TB finely chopped garlic
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB mirin
2 TB sake
2 TB corn starch
1 egg (optional)
1 pt. soy sauce
1 pt. rice wine vinegar
a dash of hot sauce
a dash of sesame oil
+ Using about 1TB of oil, cook saluyot until tender. Allow to cool and squeeze out as much liquid from the saluyot as you can.
+ In a skillet with some oil, cook shiitakes with garlic and ginger until tender. Add soy sauce, mirin, and sake and stir to mix. Allow seasoned shiitake to cook for about another two minutes on low heat.
+ In a bowl, combine mushrooms, saluyot, scallions, egg and corn starch. Fill each gyoza wrapper with a teaspoon of this filling – it will be a little runny and sticky. Here is a nice photo tutorial on how to fold gyozas.I keep my work surface clean by wiping after each wrap with plenty of paper towels. Keep a clean, wet towel over the wrappers to prevent them from drying.
+ To cook, brush lightly with oil and steam in a bamboo vegetable steamer until the wrappers are transparent – about 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of your wrappers. Another method is to fry them until golden in a tablespoon of hot oil, adding a scant 1/3 -1/2 cup of water to steam them in the same pan for an additional 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.
September 17th, 2012 § § permalink
The grape harvest is an exciting time of year in northern California so I am once again revisiting Tuscany for another culinary inspiration. I found this dish, grape focaccia, while perusing Nigel Slater’s new book, Ripe, which horrified me from the first few pages: pheasant with apples, blood sausage with apples, guinea fowl with sausage and apple… let’s just say that it took a few chapters before I was convinced Nigel was capable of writing recipes for the vegetarian in me. Don’t get me wrong, I think meat tastes great, but I don’t eat it so after 310 pages, I was glad to have found this focaccia recipe, and it’s a great one.
The best part about this classic harvest bread is that it can be subtly adjusted for a more savory flavor. Here, Nigel uses sugar to make a sweet caramelized grape crust, but I have also seen grape focaccia with rosemary and fennel toppings. I’m sure they are all amazing.
My first focaccia attempt earlier this summer was a recipe from a lovely book, which I have otherwise found many treasures… but a whole grain focaccia as a basal effort? I should know better than to start running before I learn to crawl. Working focaccia dough is like quicksand, the more you struggle, the more you sink. This was a hard lesson for me after some sticky, disastrous attempts until I tried the stretch and fold method for kneading bread. Don’t get me wrong, I love kneading bread and all of its glorious exercises but sometimes, it’s worth abandoning for the sake of sanity.
Schiacciata con l’uva (grape focaccia) inspired by Nigel Slater’s Recipe
3 1/4 c. white bread flour
1 package of yeast ~2 ts.
1 ts. sea salt
1 tB sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water
14 oz black seedless grapes
2 TB olive oil
2 TB raw sugar
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
+ Mix yeast and sugar in warm water (115°F) and allow to sit for five minutes until it begins to bubble a bit. In a large bowl, mix salt and flour together and stir in yeast water once yeast is finished activating.
+ Once the dough has been mixed in very well, allow to sit for five minutes and dump the dough onto a floured surface and stretch dough out using this method: The stretch and fold technique from Peter Reinhart.
+ Allow folded dough to sit for 45 minutes and repeat stretch and fold. Allow to sit another 45 minutes, but on the last dough stretch, fold in half of the grapes and allow dough to rise until doubled in size.
+ Preheat oven to 425°F. Top dough with olive oil, the remaining grapes, and place into the oven to bake for about 35 minutes. Once finished, dust the top of the focaccia with powdered sugar. Serve with butter.
September 10th, 2012 § § permalink
Nothing makes me feel more rabbit-like than a bowl of lettuce, poorly dressed and carelessly presented. Sadly, I could feed an entire colony of rabbits with all of the uninspiring salads I’ve been served. Their usual lack of nutrition makes me dislike them even more when offered as the ‘vegetarian option’. Cake is a vegetarian option.
I got particularly distressed when I had a long, hot Georgia summer of CSA boxes loaded with lettuce. This prompted a salad making frenzy that enabled me to grow out of my silly exasperation and embrace their raw, crunchy temperament. I still don’t order lettuce-y salads in restaurants but I make them a few times a week in the hopes of clearing out the fridge.
Making salads can be extremely rewarding once the craft of it gets into your bones. It’s a chance to paint with texture. Naturally you’d want to work with only local, seasonal, and fresh ingredients, but aside from the obvious factors, I think they are about as fun as anything improvisational gets.
This shaved cauliflower salad was inspired by Nigel Slater’s Fennel and Green Bean Salad in his epic vegetable book, Tender. I’ve made significant changes to the original, but I still liken this to his because I can’t stop putting green beans in my salad since. Also, I can’t live without cauliflower – when these cruciferous vegetables are shaved, they are subtle and delightful; a perfect backdrop for tomatoes, green beans, parsley, and toasted almonds.
2 c. shaved cauliflower
1 c. green beans, blanched for 3 mins and cooled in ice water
1. cherry tomatoes
1 c. loosely packed parsley leaves
1/4 c. toasted, sliced almonds
1 egg yolk
1 TB sherry vinegar
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
3 TB finely grated parmesan
+ Whisk dressing ingredients together well and toss half of the dressing with shaved cauliflower, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, and parsley. Top with almonds. Drizzle additional dressing on top right before serving.
August 16th, 2012 § § permalink
I love the flavor of grilled foods, but it is difficult to create a satisfying meal of grilled vegetables. I grew up grilling a lot of meat while using the stovetop for sides and vegetables. As I matured in vegetarianism, I missed eating grilled foods and had to adapt a lot of recipes with soy substitutes. It seemed all too simple to exchange tofu for chicken or buy some of those frozen vegan patties and put them on hamburger buns. None of it was satisfying enough, but eventually I just started to experiment by putting whatever was in season on the grill. I grilled pizzas, cakes, brussel sprouts, cabbages, okras, lettuces… it was endless.
I’ve since discovered that the easiest genre of food to grill would have to be Mexican. My two months in Mexico eating street tacos and grilled quesadillas seasoned my Mexican palate with BBQ and smoke. Besides, I once watched Bobby Flay grill some quesadillas filled with apples and cheese. I think this was the episode where I fell in love with Bobby.
I live in a warehouse that hosts two grilled turkeys at Thanksgiving, but for the remainder of the year, the grills lie fallow. This makes me kind of sad. So… I finally invited some friends over for fiery fun. We started with some grilled okra and squash in a spice rub followed by grilled watermelon salad and mushroom quesadillas with corn and peach salsa. I think I nearly converted some meat eaters to vegetarianism. Or perhaps they were just being nice.
Grilled Watermelon Salad:
1 watermelon cut into a large slabs
1/2 c. finely cubed feta
2 grilled jalapenos, chopped
julienned shiso leaves (japanese mint, you can also use regular mint)
lime olive oil (1part lime juice, 1 part olive oil)
+ Grill watermelon slabs on both sides until slightly charred. Remove from grill and cut into cubes while maintaining slab shapes. Top with lime oil combo and evenly distribute feta, shiso, jalapenos on top.
Mexican-esque Spice Rub:
1 part coriander powder
1 part garlic powder
1 part salt (you should taste the rub and salt accordingly)
1 part chili powder (cayenne if you are feeling eager)
2 parts cumin powder
Lime Sour Cream (mix well and serve):
1/2 c. sour cream
+ Coat squash and okras in oil and liberally sprinkle spice rub onto mixture. Grill and serve with Lime Sour Cream.
August 10th, 2012 § § permalink
Being small is a terribly challenging predicament in the kitchen, if not for the pleasure of miniature fruits.
This delightful dish has a lot of serendipity and a little bit of whimsy. During one of those fortuitous trips to Whole Foods I passed by a stack of champagne grapes whose petite clusters roused my childish desires. Unbeknownst to me, I could not resist the little darlings, but I needed a little vegetarian inspiration to provoke some culinary action. With very little Google work, I landed on this particular “salad” of sautéed grapes and scallops which I made into a vegetarian side with a king oyster mushroom substitution. I’ve always thought they shared a peculiar similarity in appearance and texture (not quite precise, but uncanny nonetheless). I also added soy sauce to maintain umami and used sherry vinegar in place of lemon juice. The texture is most gratifying when the little bubbles of sweetness explode into a simple and savory coating of soy and sherry.
Inspired by this recipe @bonappetit.com
1 c. sliced king oyster mushrooms (also called king trumpet mushrooms) – or 16 1/2″ slices.
3 TB butter
1 c. champagne grapes
1 TB minced shallots
2 TB olive oil
2 TB soy sauce
2 ts sherry vinegar
1/3 c. toasted sliced almonds
+ Sauté shallots and grapes in olive oil, sherry, and soy for two minutes. Add parsley and toasted almonds. Lower the temperature to keep warm while you cook mushrooms.
+ Melt butter in an iron skillet and sear each side of the mushrooms until brown. You might have to use a lid to partially steam the first side.
+ Serve mushrooms over warm cooked grapes.