19 September 2008

Eating With the Bloggers

Yellow and green night (a/k/a Kale and Potato Enchiladas) was prompted by this post on Vegan Eats & Treats, although it's been heavily blogged elsewhere. Sure, it was okay, but merely okay. The Vegonomicon is full of near misses except where anything dessert is concerned (that is the chapter where it lives up to its ominous name).

But then Heidi Swanson posted her "TLT Sandwich," which really made our week. Tempeh is always good, and the roasted tomatoes work really well on a sandwich—something I'd never have though to do (the tomatos are sort of Wolfgang Puckish, only better). Oh, and it's great for a lunch to take to work the next day.

14 September 2008

Great Bread From Southern Maine That Is Also Real Food

Mother Oven bread is baked in an earth goddess oven … seriously. Rosario's makes the only decent completely whole wheat baguette I've ever had.

08 September 2008

Little Lad's Popcorn

My internet oracles tell me that the only post on this blog to generate any interest is my review of Little Lad's, and even that post only receives hits because people are scouring the web for advice on making Little Lad's awesome popcorn. In the interest of satisfying the masses, here is my version of it:

1st: Pop your corn according to your favourite method (my weapon of choice is a cast iron skillet). I assume below that you've popped 3/4 Cu. of corn, which is all my skillet can manage without blowing its lid off.

2nd: Choose your fat. The Little Lad's label says that they use soy bean oil, but you can do better than that. Try melting some Earth Balance (which, admittedly, is not really food), or just use some light vegetable oil (such as canola), or go one step further and make an oil infused with dill and garlic and pepper or something along those lines. Toss 2 – 4 Tbs. of your fat of choice with your popped corn.

3rd: Toss your corn with 1/4 Cu. or more of nutritional yeast. It's best to add the yeast a little bit at a time, or else you end up with a mess—in fact, you'll end up with a mess anyway as the yeast tends to fly away (which is one reason you need to coat the corn with the fat first).

4th: Add 1 tsp. of dried dill (or better yet, somewhat more than that amount of finely chopped fresh dill) and salt to taste; toss the corn well to mix it all in.

5th: Yum.

24 August 2008

Kohlrabi: The Sputnik of Veggies

I'm really appreciating the limited season of some veggies this year. For example: kohlrabi, which is seemingly part turnip, part cabbage and looks a lot like sputnik:

It's been missing from the farmer's markets for a week now, and I never really got to experiment with it.

Kohlrabi with Tomatoes, Pseudo Indian Style
Probably adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's, World Vegetarian (1999), but only because this is how she cooks most veggies in the book, so I gave it a try.

  • 3 green kohlrabi heads, trimmed and skinned (you have to be thorough about trimming the skins off, the skin is very tough).
  • 1 tsp. of cumin seeds
  • a few dried hot chiles
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 cu. of diced tomatoes
  • veggie stock
  • salt, pepper
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the pan, saute the cumin seeds and chiles until the chiles look dark brown. Add garlic and saute for a minute longer before adding the kohlrabi. Stir in the tomatoes and about a 1/2 cup of veggie stock. Season with salt. Cover ands simmer until the kohlrabis are tender. You may need to add more stock, or you may need to remove the kohlrabis and reduce the liquid to make a sauce.

Stephanie's Kohlrabi Slaw was an awesome mix of kohlrabi, apples, radishes and some onion run through a mandolin and dressed with oil and vinegar.

A quick pickle of kohlrabi would have been good too.

Punjabi Potatoes

Freedom Farm is always the star of the Portland Farmer's Market. Here's what we made for dinner from their veggies.

Heirloom tomatoes, punjabi potatoes, broccoli with walnut sauce (which was a bit of a failure) and salad.

Punjabi Potatoes
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey, World Vegetarian (1999)

  • 1 large onion diced (to yield about 1 cup of diced onions)
  • 1.5 Tbs. grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cu. diced tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • pinch each of tumeric, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper
  • 1 lbs. red potatoes
  • garam masala (sprinkled on at the end)
Fry the onions in plenty of oil until they are lightly browned. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook for a moment more before adding the tomatoes, chili and spices. Add the potatoes and 1.5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, then uncover and simmer for about 10 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has reduced to a nice consistency. Don't overcook the potatoes. If you're sauce is too watery but the potatoes are tender, remove them with a slotted spoon and reduce the sauce.

Strawberry Season: Come and Gone.

Strawberry picking season has long since come and gone; it was sadly cut short by heavy rain back in July. Note to self for next year: pick more berries next time, because they're gone before you know it.

What did you do with strawberries this year? Our favourites were:

1. Freezing them for the winter.

2. Vegan strawberry shortcake from Angelica Home Kitchen.

3. Vegan strawberry parfait with the most amazing nut cream sauce ever (also from the Angelica Home Kitchen).

4. Vegan strawberry ice cream from the Veganomicon.

5. Insane Smoothie Bonus: a smoothie from strawberries, avocado, bananas, soy milk, soy yoghurt and honey.

Thankfully blueberry season lasts a lot longer.

The "Pulled Tempeh" Sandwich: An Idea Perhaps Better Left Untested

BBQ "pulled tempeh" sandwich: so meaty, they fool even the most dedicated carnivore. We used the barbecue marinade from the Angelica Home Kitchen book to make a sort of sloppy joe. The results were pretty decent, if a bit ugly. "Cutlets" of tempeh baked in this marinade are far better.

Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Leslie McEachern, The Angelica Home Kitchen (2003)

  • 2 cu. sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water for several minutes
  • 1 dried hot red chili, rehydrated together with the tomatoes above
  • 1/2 cu. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cu. tamari
  • 1/3 cu. maple syrup
  • 1/2 cu. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
Purée all of the ingredients and pour the resulting mixture over strips of tempeh before baking in an oven for about 40 minutes. You've reached the right consistency when the marinade has cooked down to a gooey mess.

Restaurant Review: Red's Eats

We interrupt this healthy blog for a bit of tacky…

Red's Eats
U.S. Route 1, Wiscasset, Maine

Either by dint of an effective guerilla marketing campaign or by its own merits, Red's Eats is widely believed to offer the best lobster roll in Maine. If you're from the area, chances are you've never actually eaten there, because (1) you're from Maine and why the hell would you wait in the gruelling two hour long line to obtain a mere lobster roll, and (2) being from Maine, you know there is little atual scope for culinary expression where the lobster roll is concerned. I mean how great can it really be? I set out to find out. I'm your lobster roll mythbuster.

First off, prepare yourself for the gruelling Olympic level endurance feat of waiting in the line that perpetually surrounds the place: stretch out, hydrate yourself and, above all, bring protective ear wear to guard against the sonic onslaught of the passing semi-trucks. The line will appear to move at a snail's pace. In fact, it is moving slower. I suggest eating a complete meal before you go. If you are completely stuffed when you arrive, you will probably be ready to eat again by the time you order. If you are hungy when you queue up, you'll most likely resort to cannibalism.

If you come unprepared, the establishment may, in a show of mercy, hydrate you. There is, I should note, a serious opportunity waiting to be exploited here for a concession stand or busker or a sun-shade salesman.

Bring someone you love. Here we find Serge and Lynda comforting each other as we near the home stretch.

Before ordering, take a moment to pay homage to Red himself—he passed away only a few months ago as I write this.

So, is it the best lobster roll in the Pine Tree State? To be fair I have not visited every lobster shack from York to Lubec, but I've certainly visted a fair few over the years, and all I can say is this: Red, may he rest in peace, clearly ascribed to the school of size matters. What separates Red's roll from your average lobster shack fare is that it's bloody enormous. If you're a tourist trying fill your lobster quota during a week's stay in Maine, then, I guess, sure it's the "best." But if you're just looking for lunch, then I'd say it's just an expensive pile of lobster with a roll adjacent to it. In my view, the best lobster rolls have lobster cut into bits that actually fit in your mouth, are dressed in mayonnaise, and are served someplace quaintly picturesque. If the place smells like bait fish, there are lobster boats tied up within a stone's throw of your table, and the smell of grease permeates the air, you're probably in the right place. If there's no bathroom and you had to take dirt road to get there, you're most definitely in the right place.

A parting note: fried zuchinni for the win!

23 August 2008

Wild Rice Salad

I like Peter Berley's [yeah, he let his site implode] cookbooks. Not everyone does. Hell, I even like his books notwithstanding the fact that unlike any other microcelebrity I've contacted on the web, he's never responded to any of my email. A note on that last link: Now I'm not a vegan, even though I eat that way much of the time, but even I was a bit put off by Berley's remarks on how vegetarianism is "adolescent." The irony of his comment isn't so much that he's built his entire reputation (as far as I can tell) on vegetarian cooking, it's that Flexitarian Table is by far his weakest work. The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen is quite good though, even if he seemingly takes every opportunity to resort to dairy.

Wild Rice Salad
Adapted from Peter Berley, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen (2000)

  • 1 Cu. wild rice
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 handful of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2/3 Cu. sliced, blanched almonds
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cu. red, yellow, orange sweet peppers, cut in a largish dice
  • 1/2 Cu. dried currants
Simmer the wild rice in two quarts of water until tender (about 40 minutes) then drain and cool in cold water and drain again thoroughly. Boil the tomatoes in water for a few minutes, then remove from the heat and let soak for about twenty minutes. When the tomatoes are done soaking, drain, dry and chop them. Roast the almonds in a cast iron skillet. Steam the carrots and onions for a few minutes, then cool in the cold water. Assemble all of the prepared ingredients above in a bowl and dress with a vinaigrette of sherry wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, chopped dill, salt and pepper.

30 June 2008

Swiss Chard With Chickpeas and Tomatoes

Summer is in full swing and CSA is coming through with the good stuff now.

If you can get past the hungry goats that is.

As the veggies come in, we find ourselves turning more and more to Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian to make sense of things like Kohlrabi. We made her recipe for swiss chard stewed with tomatoes and chickpeas, which was simply the best chard dish we've had in a long time.

28 June 2008

Moroccan Night (First Attempt) and a Book Review: Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco

We recently had Moroccan night straight out of Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco. The book is a classic and deservedly so. It's the most interesting cook book I've read in a long time. Not only are the introductory sections filled with food history and footnotes to obscure old (really old) food and travel books, but she keeps the book interesting throughout recipe descriptions and chapter introductions. It's a bit less versatile than I would like, with only a few vegetarian recipes—a handful of salads and some breads and pastries. And it's not easy to get a sense for how to make vegetarian versions of some of the couscous dishes either, even though she suggests that such dishes are commonplace in Morocco.

A Prerequisite: Preserved Lemons

Paula writes:

There is, and I cannot emphasize this enough, no substitue for preserved lemons in Moroccan food. ... To not use preserved lemons is to completely miss the point, and also to miss a whole dimension of culinary experience.
Not wanting to miss out on "a whole dimension of culinary experience," I dutifully preserved a batch of lemons. The basic recipe is readily available, but it takes a month or more for the lemons to cure, so you have to plan well ahead. On the other hand, I see preserved lemons in Whole Foods now, so that may be an option. Also, I used myers lemons, which seemed at the time to be an appropriate choice, but I wouldn't use them again. While the lemon flavour was certainly strong, it had a certain tinge to it I didn't care for and that wasn't present in any other preserved lemons I've ever tasted.

The lemons were needed for her excellent Chicken with Lemons and Olives Emshmel. We also made an orange and black olive salad and a salad of roasted peppers and tomatoes.

Tomato and Green Pepper Salad, Fez Style
Adapted from Paula Wolfert, Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco (1973)
  • 3 green peppers
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with some 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of sweet paprika
  • 1/2 freshly ground cumin
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, rinsed, flesh removed, peel cut into a dice.
Grill the peppers over a flame until blackened, then remove their skins, stems and seeds. Cut the peppers into smallish chunks. Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for a few minutes to remove their skins. Slice the tomatoes open and remove most of the seeds before also cutting into smallish chunks. Mix the tomatoes and peppers with the remaining ingredients other than the lemons, which are sprinkled on top. This was excellent.

02 June 2008

Grilled Tempeh Fajitas With Apple Salsa

Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet continues to provide great recipes a year or more after we bought it. This was a successful vegan "fajita" dish with grilled jerk(ish) tempeh and peppers, and a salsa made from green apples, jalapeños, scallions, lime juice and mint leaves. The salsa really worked well with the spicy tempeh. I would add papaya to it next time and maybe use a hotter green chili.

01 June 2008

Ramps: Trendy Springtime Eating

Spaghetti with Ramps and Breadcrumbs

Three weeks back when ramps were the all consuming ingredient of the food blogosphere we made this recipe of Mario Batali's (available on, alas, MarthaStewart.com). Totally recommended, but sadly you have to hold that thought until next spring.

31 May 2008

Restaurant Review: Little Lad's Bakery & Cafe

[Edit: Were you instead looking for a recipe for Little Lad's herbal popcorn?]

Little Lad's Bakery & Cafe, 482 Congress Street, Portland ME.

Ok, so when I said that the Green Elephant might be Portland's only fully vegetarian restaurant, I completely forgot about Little Lad's. Little Lad's is a family run, completely affordable, totally vegetarian, quirky restaurant and pusher of the infamously addictive Little Lad's Popcorn. The place is part buffet, part short order restaurant, part ice cream stand, part grocery store, part snack emporium. I often see the wait staff from the Green Elephant eating there. Best part: when I walk in, I am invariably greeted by a "Hello brother!" It sort of makes my day.

The food is of the old school vegetarian style—mostly one pot dishes. But that's what this place is all about: super affordable, completely accessible, healthy, simple. Filling a plate from the buffet will cost you less than $5.00. The dishes may not all be whole foods, but they mostly are. The only drawback to the place is that you have to prepare to be indoctrinated by the VCR in the corner, which plays speeches by, oddly enough, vegetarian Christians, and documentaries about religion and nutrition. But somehow, it's not too in your face. The family running the place is so sincerely nice, that's it's really hard to be bothered by anything while you're there.

There are other Little Lad's too: one in New York City and one in Corinth, Maine, of all places. And another about to open (I think) in Boston.

30 May 2008

Restaurant Review: Green Elephant

Green Elephant, 608 Congress Street, Portland, ME

The Green Elephant is one of the few, if not the only, fully vegetarian restaurants in Portland. We finally had a chance to eat there last month and it was fantastic. While there are a few vegetarian "friendly" spots in town—and I appreciate them—almost none of them deliver on the promise of high quality vegetarian meals. The Green Elephant does. Sure, it's not quite the vegan haute cuisine you can find in New York City, but it is upscale and, in the case of every dish we tried, exceptionally well done. Perhaps because it draws people who are genuinely interested in what the place is serving, the wait staff are sincere and friendly. And it's not even particularly expensive.

Green Leaves [collards] Wrapped in Mango and Herbs [mint, purple basil, cilantro] with Tamarind Dipping Sauce. Nice to see a raw dish on the menu. That trend hasn't really reached Maine yet apparently.

A Malaysian curry with brown rice. I can't remember now all the wonderful things that went into this. It was the best tasting, even if not the best looking, dish of the night and composed entirely of whole foods. I am envious of how good their brown rice is.

I think this was the "Siamese Dream Curry Noodle," which was a bit lacking compared to the others things, but still quite good.

The menu does run afoul of one pet peeve of mine. I hate it when a vegan menu tries to sound appealing to meat eaters, as though vegan food were merely a substitute for carnivorous dishes and couldn't otherwise stand on its own. Veggie Citrus "Spare Ribs," Soy "Ham," Veggie "Tuna" Salad. Oh come on. But that's a minor point compared to how good the food is and what a relief it is to have someplace to go out to eat in town now.

23 April 2008

Classic Cookbook Night: The Complete Asian Cookbook (Also, Grilled Chicken Show Down)

Sticking with the mid-1970s retro-ethnic cookbook theme, we turn from Tess Mallos's The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook to Charmaine Solomon's The Complete Asian Cookbook. Why? Because it has the best grilled chicken recipe in history. (Or at least that's what I thought until my most recent foray into China Moon.)

Two Recipes Enter; One Recipe Leaves!

Kai Yang (Garlic Chicken)
Adapted from Charmaine Solomon, The Complete Asian Cookbook (1976)

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces for grilling
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2-3 Tbs. lemon juice
Crush peppercorns in a mortar. Add salt and garlic and grind nearly into a paste, keeping some small chunky bits of garlic. Mix the cilantro and lemon juice into the garlic mixture to form the marinade. Marinate the chicken overnight before grilling. Sure, it seems stupidly simple, but I defy you to find a better grilling recipe for chicken (except maybe this next one).

Grilled Chicken With Orange Zest
Adapted from Barbara Tropp, The China Moon Cookbook (1992)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces for grilling
  • zest of two oranges
  • 2 Tbs. garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. ginger, minced
  • 2-3 scallions, roughly chopped and smashed in a mortar
  • 0.25 cu. tamari
  • 0.25 cu. China Moon five flavor oil
  • 2 Tbs. China Moon Hot Chili Oil
  • 1 tsp. China Moon roasted szechuan pepper salt
See here for links to recipes for making the China Moon ingredients. Mix together the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken overnight before grilling. Baste the chicken pieces with excess marinade while grilling.

So which recipe wins? They are both so damn good!

Time Machine Curry Paste

We also had fun veganizing some of the curry recipes in the Thailand chapter of the The Complete Asian Cookbook, which required making a curry paste. We opted for a red curry paste to make chili fried rice and also a tofu curry the next night. I had borrowed the book from my mom and was surprised to see how fast time flies. She made this curry for the first time nearly thirty years ago now!

Red Curry Paste
Adapted from Charmaine Solomon, The Complete Asian Cookbook (1976)
  • 7-8 hot dried red chilis
  • 1-1.5 yellow onions
  • 1.5 tsp. black peppercorns, toasted and ground in a mortar
  • 3 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar
  • 1.5 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar
  • 2 Tbs. cilantro, roughly chopped
  • zest of one lime
  • 1-2 Tbs. lemon grass, shaved through a microplane
  • 1-2 Tbs. galangal root, shaved through a microplane
  • 1 Tbs. garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1-1.5 Tbs. shrimp paste (the paste, not the dried shrimp paste that comes in a block)
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 2 tsp. paprika
Whiz everything to a paste in a food processor. Hey presto. It gets better as it sits. Also, it's not as concentrated as the curry pastes that come in a can, so you need to use a fair bit more than most recipes call for. The recipe doesn't seem very authentic, but it's nonetheless fairly good.

Things learned: just don't even bother cooking with a low or reduced fat coconut milk. (Also, making your own coconut milk is easy.)

20 April 2008

China Moon Popcorn

Now China Moon is even invading my popcorn.

China Moon Popcorn
Pop the corn in peanut oil and mix in 2-3 Tbs. of five flavor oil and 1-2 tsp. of hot chili oil. Dust with roasted szechuan pepper-salt. This was so good.

19 April 2008

China Moon Night: Dragon Noodles and Grilled Eggplant With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Dragon Noodles, Grilled Eggplant with Spicy Peanut Sauce, and Grilled Broccoli

The China Moon pantry made another appearance tonight. The big discovery is how enjoyable Tropp's cold noodle dishes are. The Dragon Noodle were really good. (Here's a recipe, but use 1/4 cu. Five Flavor Oil, 1 Tbs. China Moon Hot Chili Oil—see link below—and 1 tsp hot chili sauce, in place of the first two ingredients listed.) They'll make a great lunch tomorrow. We took the dish even further afield from traditional Chinese noodles by using whole grain soba noodles instead of the refined noodles she calls for, but the substitution worked well.

It's pretty popular and thoroughly vetted online, but here's my mini book review of The China Moon Cookbook anyway: First, be prepared to spend a whole day making all the ingredients needed to cook any of the recipes in the book. But don't let that fact hold you back; none of the ingredients are particularly difficult to make and the process is actually quite fun. The China Moon Hot Chili Oil alone is worth its weight in gold, and it and many of the other ingredients will certainly be useful when you're not cooking China Moon style.

Also, although we've picked out the quicker recipes to prepare so far, many of the dishes are quite involved (though not difficult certainly), so this is more of a weekend than workaday book. (An exception: the cold noodle recipes.)

If all of the above discourages you too much, than know that there are so many interesting techniques described in the book, and so many great side bars filled with anecdotes and history, that just reading the book is worthwhile even if you never cook from it. But why wouldn't you? Just about everything in it so far has been quite good verging on "awesome." Wholeheartedly recommended.

17 April 2008

Classic Cookbook Night: The Complete Middle East Cookbook

Falafel, Avocados and Oranges In Honey Sauce, and Baby Artichokes With Lemon Vinaigrette.

I think of Tess Mallos' The Complete Middle East Cook Book as a classic (it's been in print for nearly thirty years after all), but perhaps that's just because I grew up with it on the shelf. I remember my mom making phyllo, which was crazy. Why would you do that to yourself, mom?

I don't know if this falafel recipe is even remotely authentic or not (it seems dumbed down a bit), but these were some of the best falafel we've had in a while, even if a bit dry.

Falafel ("Felafel" from the Israeli chapter of the book)
Adapted from Tess Mallos, The Complete Middle East Cookbook (1979)

  • 1 cu. dried chick peas
  • 0.5 cu. bulgur
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs. roughly chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. each of ground coriander and cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 0.25 cu. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
Rinse the chickpeas, then place them in a container with 3 cups of cold water to sit for 20-24 hours. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the bulgur and let sit for 10 minutes before straining thoroughly. Grind your own cumin and coriander. Combine chickpeas through black pepper in a food processor and whiz them until finely ground and nearly a paste. Stir flour and baking soda into the chickpea mixture. Form the mixture into little balls, using about a 1 Tbs. for each falafel, then let the uncooked falafel sit for 15 minutes to half an hour. Deep fry the falafel in batches in oil heated to 350°F until golden brown (about five minutes).

Oddly, Mallos gives you no real advice on how to serve them or for a sauce to go with them. We made an overly garlicky tahini sauce and served them in pita pockets with veggies.

Avocado Im Dvasch (Avocados in Honey Sauce)
Adapted from Tess Mallos, The Complete Middle East Cookbook (1979)

The picture in the book of this dish looked thoroughly unappetizing, and yet I had to try it, which was a lucky thing because it's quite good.
  • 1 sm. yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 0.25 (a bit less) honey
  • 0.25 cu. lemon juice
  • 0.33 cu. olive oil
  • 1 grapefruit and 1 navel orange with wedges cut from the membranes and skin
  • 1-2 avocados, sliced
Whiz together the onion, mustard, honey and lemon juice in a food processor, then gradually stream in the oil. The sauce doesn't emulsify very well, so prepare for the sauce to look a bit broken with the onion purée a bit proud. Toss the sauce with the fruit and avocados, them make a nice arranged salad completely unlike the ugly mess seen in the picture above.

16 April 2008

Dinner Tonight: Taking the China Moon Pantry For A Spin

We flexed our flexitarian sides with this Cold ("No-Poached") Chicken Salad With Peanuts and Rice Sticks. The China Moon Cookbook really delivers. This salad was nice, but the grilled chicken with orange zest and garlic was perhaps the best grilled chicken I've ever made. Hey check out those pot-stickers with whole wheat wrappers—those are food.

12 April 2008

Toil, Trouble and Hot Chilis (Or, What I Did With My Saturday Night)

Five Flavor Oil, Hot Chili Oil, Preserved Lemons, and Pickled Ginger.

We've been cooking from some older books that require one to make a number of ingredients before actually jumping into the core recipes of the book. Last week I picked up Paula Wolfert's classic Couscous and other Good Food From Morocco. I was eager to bust out tagines of lemon, chicken and olives only to read Paula's admonition against using anything but real preserved lemons. Preserving lemons still freaks me out a bit, even though my mum seemingly always had some in our cupboard when I was growing up (it's her book afterall—in print since 1973). I decided I had to preserve some lemons myself, but they need a month to set up in their briny home. Once the lid was on the lemons, my dreams of Moroccan night faded somewhat and I picked up another older book to pass the time while I waited for the lemons.

Ironically, I picked out the late Barbara Tropp's China Moon Cookbook. I had forgotten that China Moon is the ultimate example of a cookbook that makes you pay your dues before you get to play with its fun recipes. And the fun recipes in this case require you to make several oil infusions, a number of ground spice mixtures, a pickle and several other concoctions besides. I was up all night tending my boiling vats of oil, chilis and fermented black beans.

While China Moon isn't exactly an herbivorous book—in spite of the fact that Tropp started out as a vegetarian and only succumbed to omnivory when greatly outnumbered by carnivores in Taipei—it's pantry filling array of infusions and spices are great for any herbivore to have on hand. In fact, we're thinking of giving bottles of the hot chili oil away as gifts. Crap, there goes the surprise.

Fennel and Citrus, Everyone's Doing It.

This salad of fennel, greens, olives and oranges was worthwhile, if a bit out of season. I was just overwhelmed by the sheer blogiquitousness of this combo last week. (You know, I try not to like The Kitchn, but I can't seem to stop following it.)

04 April 2008

Springtime Reminder: CSA

Hey, Spring is here and has been for a few weeks. Have you bought a share in a CSA farm yet? Here is MOFGA's list of CSA farms in Maine by county. About one hundred CSA farms produce four thousand shares of organic veggies in Maine.

03 April 2008

Pizza Night

Whole wheat pizza with basil-walnut pesto, caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, spinach, red peppers and tomatoes.

Basil-Walnut Pesto
Conflated from recipes all over the web

  • 2 Cu. basil
  • 2 Cu. parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice together with a small amount of zest
  • 1.5 Cu. walnuts or pecans or both (toasted in the oven then cooled)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 to 1.5 Cu olive oil
  • Maybe some miso or nutritional yeast
But what was really good about the pizza was slicing crimini mushrooms and mixing them with some oil, salt, pepper and crushed garlic and then roasting them in the oven at 400° until they form little mushroom chips. These are so good it's hard not to eat them all before putting them on the pizza.

29 March 2008

Dinner Tonight: Caesar Salad With Sea Veggies

Adding nori and powered, toasted dulse to a caesar salad doesn't make it any less cliché, but it tastes damn good.

Vegan-ized Caesar Salad Dressing
Adapted from Leslie McEachern, The Angelica Home Kitchen (2003)

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. umeboshi paste
  • 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. yellow miso
  • 4 oz. silken tofu
  • 1/3 cu. grapeseed oil
  • 2/3 cu. olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
Whiz up the everything but the oils, then make an emulsion by whizzing in the oil gradually. Season. So good.

26 March 2008

Dinner Last Night And A Book Review

I haven't been as obsessed with almost any cookbook as I am right now with Angelica's Home Kitchen. The trend with vegetarian and vegan cookbooks seemed to be for a long while focussed on supposedly satisfying simple recipes. That's great for someone who either doesn't enjoy or is new to cooking and who is looking for an entrée point into the world of healthier eating; but what about people who really enjoy cooking and learned some small technique in their omnivorous days? They don't want to give up what's fun for them about cooking just because they've sworn off the cream and egg based sauces! No, I say!

Other than perhaps some ethnically centered books, there just didn't seem to be many sources for experimenting with vegan "haute cusine" (a term I now employ only semi-facetiously). It wasn't until we discovered Peter Berley's books a few years back that we finally got to itch that scratch. But in Angelica's book you have the perfect mix of challenging recipes, informative advice, odd little stories and new ingredients and techniques that we were looking for. It's a truly excellent book that I can't seem to stop cooking from.

Case in point: lasagna, which when vegan-ized often ends up being bland and disappointing. This version is built with a "no-mato" sauce of carrots and beets, and layered with steamed kale and beet greens, roasted zucchini, roasted mushrooms, onions, olives and topped with the ridiculously, near-ubiquitously popular tofu ricotta. There is a lot of real food compressed into that little baking dish and the taste is far far from bland.

Grinding, It Isn't Just For Pepper Anymore

The best tip I've read in a while (and I credit it to Peter Berley via the Angelica) is that it's worth grinding your spices fresh, rather than using stuff that's already ground and who knows how old. Granted, one doesn't always have the option or time to do this, but for things like fennel, cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper (obviously) and even (or perhaps especially) cinnamon, it's the bee's knees. Seriously, roasting the seeds and then grinding them right before use creates a whole new set of flavours.

Maybe I should have picked up a coffee grinder for this purpose, but I'm finding this granite molcajete-like mortar and pestle way more versatile and fun to use. Here's our executive sous-chef, looking a little tired, but determined to grind out the perfect masala: