Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ridiculous Tofu Stroganoff

This recipe makes me happier than Vladimr Putin wrestling a bear with his shirt off! It's the height of vegetarian comfort food: elegant, balanced, rich. It's not something I'd eat every day... but I could. A meal fit for a Czar. Serve with vodka and liberal amounts of government suppression!

Prep time: 3 cocktails

2 TBSP vegetable oil
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4" cubes
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP miso paste
1 TBSP Worcestershire
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup juice (apple, orange, pineapple are all fine options)

1 TBSP vegetable oil or butter
1 large onion, chopped
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup veggie stock, store-bought or homemade
2 tsp dijon
scant 2 tsp lemon juice
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 cup sour cream (don't use nonfat)
1/3 tsp dill
1/3 tsp thyme
Black pepper

Other stuff:
8 ounces dried egg noodles or rotini
Finely minced Italian parsley or paprika for garnish, optional

Prepare noodles and set aside.

Once your noodles are started, get going on the tofu. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes and fry, flipping the tofu around with a spatula almost constantly until tofu is browned but not burned, about 10 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients for the tofu. Continue stirring until all the liquid is absorbed/evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove, transfer to a plate and put in the freezer until the cubes are cold (but not frozen).

Now time for the sauce. In a large dutch oven heat your 1 TBSP oil or butter over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms and saute--covered--for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and increase to medium-high and saute until the liquids have cooked off and the veggies are starting to brown, about 6-10 more minutes. Add garlic and brown sugar. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and cook another minute or two.

At this point you should have some stuff starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Deglaze your pan with the white wine. and simmer for 3 minutes until it's mostly evaporated.

Stir in stock, dijon, lemon juice, soy sauce, sour cream, dill, and thyme. Simmer until you've about reached your desired thickness. Grind some black pepper and stir in along with your cooked noodles. Remove from heat and stir in tofu just enough so it's well distributed but no more. Garnish with parsley or paprika. Done!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Most Amazing Tempeh Ruben Ever. Really.

We need to have a talk. Just you and me. You know how foodies and snobs with blogs like this are always telling you to spend a half a paycheck on the best, freshest ingredients or else your meals will be crap? You know how you always ignore us because you've got more pressing priorities than to hand over 20 bucks to Whole Foods for a jar of artisanal mustard? Well, this is the one time I have to be firm. If you take the cheap way out, your sandwiches will suck. Trust me. They'll be like the soggy, tasteless lump that passes for a tempeh Ruben at the dive sandwich shop over by the university in your town. But if you spring the extra 10 bucks for top-quality bread, cheese, and sauerkraut and take the extra 3 minutes to make your Russian dressing from scratch, these will be the best vegetarian sandwiches you've ever had. Really.

So what should you buy? First, with the bread, don't buy the pre-packaged, 2-week-old rye sandwich bread at the supermarket. Instead go to your local bakery and get a loaf of real, fresh, amazing rye bread (I prefer the sauerkraut rye that our local Whole Foods makes). Now with the cheese: no crappy tasteless 'Swiss.' Find a cheesemonger or at least a store with a good selection and grab a hunk of high-quality Jarlsberg or Emmentaler. No off-brand shit or pre-sliced garbage allowed. I know it's an extra three bucks. You'll thank me later. Finally, the sauerkraut. No canned stuff. Ideally you have homemade in your refrigerator (recipe here). If not, don't get anything from a can or jar at the store that's unrefrigerated. Sauerkraut is a living food, and processing it to stay 'good' on a store shelf kills a lot of the nutrients and much of the flavor. Instead, head to the refrigerated section to find a jar or package of sauerkraut that hasn't been heat processed. I know it's also a bit more expensive, but it's infinitely better.

The other critical key is that we're actually cooking the tempeh in a corning brine. So it really does a great job of providing the corned beef flavor that you expect in a Ruben but it's a step that most restaurants that sell tempeh Rubens don't bother with. Believe me, it's well worth the (small) additional effort!

There. I just saved you from miserable Rubens. Aren't you glad we had this little chat?

Prep time: 2 cocktails

1/2 cup + 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 tsp ground allspice
5 juniper berries
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 bay leaves

1/3 cup mayonnaise (store-bought or homemade)
2 TBSP ketchup
2 TBSP sweet pickle relish
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp prepared horseradish (not some dumpy 'horseradish sauce'; it should have few other ingredients besides salt and vinegar)
1 tsp Worcestershire
Several (or more) grinds black pepper
A few dashes Tabasco sauce (optional)

The rest:
4 TBSP canola or vegetable oil
2 8-ounce packages tempeh
Sauerkraut, high-quality (refrigerated section) store-bought or homemade
Emmentaler or Jarlsberg cheese, sliced
Rye bread, fresh from local bakery--no tasteless prepackaged rye sandwich bread!
Butter, melted

Slice the tempeh in half lengthwise. Now place it on it's side and gently slice each slab into 1/2 the original thickness. A very sharp knife helps. (In general, you have to treat the tempeh gently in this recipe gently to avoid breaking it. Though if you do end up with a couple broken pieces, it's not the end of the world.)

Whisk together all the brine ingredients in very large frying pan (12 inches). Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Gently lay the tempeh slabs in the brine and simmer until 1/2 the liquid is absorbed. Gently flip tempeh and cook until remainder of liquid is cooked off.  Immediately transfer tempeh to a plate to cool.

While tempeh cools, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and whisk well. Put sauce in refrigerator or freezer to get a bit colder and thicken up.

Clean and dry the pan you cooked the tempeh in. Add oil and heat pan over medium to medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Gently lay the tempeh in the pan and saute a few minutes until bottoms are a bit browned. Flip, repeat, and transfer to a plate.

Now take a new clean frying pan or clean and dry the one you've been using and heat it over medium-low heat. Build the sandwiches by brushing butter on one side of each slice of your bread. Then with the buttered sides facing out, layer the cheese, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Transfer to the frying pan and cook until the bread is toasted on both sides and the cheese is melted--just like you're making a grilled cheese.  Remove from pan, open up and add sauce. Now enjoy the best damn meatless Ruben on earth!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vegetarian Jamaican Curried Goat

1. a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.
2. vegetarian goat meat.

1. highly pleasant to the taste.
2. vegetarian goat meat.

Like Microsoft Works or Congressional ethics, this dish might seem a little contradictory. I must confess that I too am sometimes skeptical of non-meat items masquerading as their meaty counterparts. However, unlike such culinary oxymorons as boneless ribs or fat-free ice cream, this dish is something that I can guarantee you'll swoon over. Served over some rice and maybe some fried plantains, this curried goat will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about oxymorons, even British fashion. 

Shopping hint: for the seitan, there are a lot of different types out there. Go with traditional flavored (not barbecue, bacon, chorizo, or any other varieties that are now available). And there are also strips or other "cuts" also now out there; just go with the plain old chunky stuff.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

6 TBSP canola oil, divided
10 cloves garlic, minced and divided
16 ounces seitan pieces, broken into bite-sized chunks, if necessary
5 TBSP curry powder, divided
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 large onion, chopped
2" piece of ginger, minced
1-2 habanero peppers, minced
2 tsp allspice
lots of fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp thyme
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
Juice of 1 large lime
2 cups veggie stock
2 TBSP agave nectar
2 medium-large potatoes, cut into 3/4" cubes

Heat 2 TBSP of the oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add seitan. Stir fry the seitan for about 5 minutes stirring regularly, until it starts to turn crisped and golden brown on some sides. Now add 2 cloves' worth of garlic and continue to stir fry a couple minutes. Add 1 TBSP of curry powder and the soy sauce. Continue to cook another 20 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.

In large saucepan or wok, heat the remaining oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent. Next, add ginger, habanero, and the remaining 6 cloves' worth of garlic. Continue to saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Now add the remaining 4 TBSP curry powder, allspice, pepper, and thyme. Stir constantly for about 30-45 seconds. Add coconut milk, lime juice, stock, and agave. Stirring frequently, bring to a simmer then add potatoes. After adding the potatoes, cover, reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes cook all the way through, about 30 minutes. Remove the lid every 5 minutes or so and stir. If things are sticking to the bottom or the consistency is getting too thick, add water.

Once the potatoes have cooked fully, stir in the seitan. Cook for a minute and adjust curry, salt, lime, or agave as necessary. You can serve it topped with a little plain yogurt, if desired. Enjoy your delicious, oxymoronic meal!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Authentic Jungle Curry (Kaeng Pa)

Jungle curry is a primitive dish that comes from the remote regions of Thailand. It is a blindingly hot dish that was traditionally made with bush meat and whatever other ingredients were on hand. Today, it remains a popular dish in Thailand, and although it is still an incredibly spicy dish, the random jungle meats have been largely replaced by duck or pork (I use seitan). The reason for the severe hotness of the dish is twofold: first, hotness was often used to mask sometimes dubious meats or vegetables used, and second, there is no coconut milk used to add sweetness and creaminess to absorb the heat. This is a watery curry—almost a stew. This is an adventurous dish.

Shopping hints: for the seitan, there are a lot of different types out there. Go with traditional flavored (not barbecue, bacon, chorizo, or any other varieties that are now available). And there are also strips or other "cuts" also now out there; just go with the plain old chunky stuff. Also, there's some unusual ingredients here, such as karachi, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and lemongrass. All these are available at most Asian grocers. 

Prep time: 2 cocktails

For the paste:
1-3 habenero peppers, stems removed and halved (amount should vary depending on your tolerance--I use 5 peppers)
4 fingers of krachai, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
¼ cup shallot, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic
2 TBSP galangal, chopped
Pinch white pepper
1 Anaheim pepper chopped

For the curry:
3 TBSP peanut oil, divided
1 8-ounce package seitan, torn into thin strips
3 cups veggie stock
2-3 TBSP fish sauce
3 Anaheim peppers, chopped
2-3 cups mixed vegetables (can include broccoli, bamboo shoots, zucchini, carrot, cabbage, eggplant, etc.)
2 TBSP drained green peppercorns, out of a jar (available by capers and other condiments at the store)
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
5 fingers of krachai, chopped finely
1 large tomato, sliced
Handful Thai basil (tear largest leaves in half)
Prepared forbidden black rice, sticky rice, or sticky noodles

Prepare the paste by combining all the paste ingredients in food processor, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle. Process until you have a smooth paste.

Heat 2 TBSP of the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add seitan. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until it begins to get a bit browned and crispy on the exterior. Remove from heat and set aside.

With your burner on medium, heat the remaining 1 TBSP of the oil in a large wok or pan. When hot, add 1/3 cup of the paste (save the rest of the paste for another use). Stir constantly for 90 seconds. Add stock and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and then add Anaheim peppers, vegetables (but NOT the tomato), peppercorns, lime leaves, and krachai. Stir frequently for a couple minutes until veggies becomes a bit tender.

Stir in tomato and Thai basil remove from heat. Let sit for a minute or two then add Seitan and serve over warm rice.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Filthy, Dirty Rice

Dirty rice is a Creole dish that gets that name because it is traditionally speckled with chicken liver and giblets. Er, no thanks. Instead, I opt for a hearty combination of cajun spices to give this dish some serious kick. But fear naught, dear reader! This substitution sacrifices nothing in terms of authenticity or awesomeness. In fact, if anything, it makes my recipe superior to the giblet-centric version, thus making it not just dirty rice but filthy, dirty rice! Maybe even despicable, grimy, filthy, dirty rice. How could you not want to make that for your family?! 

Prep time: 1 cocktail

3 TBSP olive oil, divided
2+ cloves garlic
½ cup chopped onion
3-5 stalks celery, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1-2 Tomatoes
1.5 cups water
¾ tsp ground thyme
¾ tsp oregano
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
1 TBSP Cajun seasoning
3-5 bay leaves

Heat 1 TBSP of oil and add the garlic and onion, sauté a couple minutes Add celery and pepper and sauté another couple minutes. Remove from heat.

In separate saucepan with lid, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add rice and stir very frequently until the rice turns nice and toasty brown.

Add vegetable mixture, tomatoes, water, all spices, and bay leaves to the rice. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the rice is done (45 minutes-1 hour). Remove and let rest, covered, a couple minutes, fluff with a fork and adjust seasoning to taste.

Meatless Louisiana Red Beans

How could you not love a food that was supposedly invented by a gaggle of people with such a drinking problem that by the time Monday morning rolled around, this was all they were able to stomach? That's the tale behind this dish. The fine citizens of New Orleans have served red beans on Mondays for generations because by the time the weekend was over, this was the only food up to the task of soaking up all those Sazeracs. Note that cooking beans takes a looooong time--about 8 hours at my altitude (though a pressure cooker reduces this time to minutes) plus soaking the beans overnight. But cooking this dish from scratch is well worth it! So go fix yourself a French 75 and get into the kitchen! Serve with dirty rice

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1 pound dry red beans
1 large green pepper, chopped 
1 medium onion, chopped 
5 medium stalks celery chopped 
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 ounce Tabasco sauce (ONLY use Tabasco, no other hot sauce is acceptable)
6-8 bay leaves
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tomato, minced (optional)
2 tsp salt
1 TBSP soy sauce
Vegetarian Andouille, Kielbasa, or other spicy sausage (optional) 

Slow method: rinse beans and soak in cold water overnight before cooking. Fast method: Instead of soaking overnight, rinse beans and throw in a pot of boiling water. Boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 2 hours. Discard water.

Next, cover the beans in a pot with fresh water and bring to boil. Then add all other ingredients except salt and soy sauce. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cover. Stir occasionally until beans are soft, adding more water if necessary.

Stir in salt and tamari. Adjust seasoning. Cook a few more minutes and serve over rice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pappa di Pomodoro (Rustic Italian Bread & Tomato Soup)

This is an old family recipe from a dear friend of mine. Her mom is straight off the boat from grand old Italy and shared it with me. I, in turn, hand it over to you, dear reader. Using garden-fresh tomatoes, good olive oil, and top-shelf Parmesan, this dish is as authentic as the Super Mario Brothers, body hair, and tax evasion. Kidding! Calm down. But one thing this soup is: amazing! It is hands-down my favorite Italian dish of all time! It's a total crowd-pleaser and is easier to fix than a Sicilian mafia betting pool. Try it!

Prep time: 3 cocktails

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 onion, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups tomatoes, vine ripened chopped small (this is about 3-5 tomatoes)
5 large leaves fresh basil, minced
3 large celery stalks (with leaves) chopped in half to fit in pot
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 cups water
7 medium slices toasted rustic Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated very finely--only use top-quality cheese!
2 sprigs Italian parsley, minced

Heat the oil over medium-high in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. When warm, add garlic and onions. Saute until they begin to color a bit.

Add tomatoes, basil, celery, and pepper. Cover and simmer over low to medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, bring it back down to medium low and keep at a low boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove and discard celery. Add salt and bread. Cook 10 more minutes on low. Add Parmigiano and parsley. Simmer 5 more minutes and serve. Be a hero!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spot-on Seaweed Salad Dressing

I've been on a mission to create the perfect seaweed salad for some time. Virtually all seaweed salads you eat at sushi restaurants or buy at Asian grocers are imported--frozen--from one of a few big factories in China. While I love the crap outta some seaweed salad, I'm not a huge fan with the lack of freshness and factory production associated with these products. (Not to mention that the obnoxious Boulderite in me is bummed out with the carbon footprint involved with shipping frozen products 7000 miles). So I've embarked on what has become my life quest: to create the perfect seaweed salad from scratch. Basically, you can think of me as the King Arthur of salads. And after years of searching the vast wilds for the holy grail of seaweed salad dressings, I've found it! While it won't earn you immortal life, it will win ridiculous amounts of praise from all who are blessed enough to partake in this life-altering amazingness.

Prep time: pretty much nil

1 TBSP peanut oil
1 TBSP neutral oil, such as canola, grapeseed, avocado, or safflower
1 TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
3/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
A few pinches sesame seeds
A tiny dash agave nectar

Step 1: Combine everything into a small container with a airtight lid. Shake well and immediately toss with salad. 

Step 2: Try your best to handle the massive compliments and praise that come your way. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vegetarian Hong You Chao Shou! Boom!

These spicy Szechuan tempeh wontons are amazing. Full stop. Ordinarily, these are made of pork, but this tempeh version is just as good (seriously). The origin of these dumplings (according to the interwebs) is that the Sichuanese traditionally wore wear large robes in cold weather under which they put their hands in the opposite sleeves to keep warm. This gesture--chao shou translates to 'folded hands'--resembles the shape of the dumpling with opposite corners of the wrapper pinched together. In fact, you can go into a restaurant in Sichuan to this day and wordlessly cross your arms and they'll bring you this dish, knowing exactly what you've just asked for by gesture alone. However, if you make it at home, you'll likely associate a massive fist pump and a dance around the dining room with this dish because that's what you'll do after tasting the first bite. It's that good.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

4 TBSP peanut oil
8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
2" piece of ginger grated with Microplane or finest side of cheese grater
5 cloves garlic, minced
White parts of 4-5 scallions, chopped
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
3 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP rice wine
1 egg, beaten
Store-bought wonton wrappers (you can use small for pot-stickers or big for egg rolls)

1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 TBSP Hong You (Szechuan chili oil), recipe here
2 TBSP soy sauce
2-3 TBSP Zhenjiang (or Chinkiang) black vinegar (available at any Asian grocer)

A small drizzle of toasted sesame oil
Green parts of 4-5 scallions, sliced into small wheels
Sesame seeds (optional)

Heat peanut oil over medium-high heat in frying pan or wok. When hot, add tempeh and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and scallion whites. Continue to stir fry until tempeh begins to turn golden brown, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in white pepper, soy sauce, and rice wine and cook for a few more seconds. Remove from heat and stir for a few more seconds.

Start the sauce by combining all sauce ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally. Also, put medium to large pot with water on the stove to boil--this pot will be for boiling the wontons.

Now fold your mixture into wontons. If you're using big egg roll wontons, you'll use about 1/4 cup of tempeh mixture; if you're using small pot-sticker-size wontons, it'll be more like a TBSP of mixture. Place the mixture in the middle of each wonton sheet, then brush the edges of the dough with egg using a pastry brush. Now fold the wonton over to make a triangle and use your fingers to firmly seal the edges. Traditionally, you'll also fold the two points of the longest section of triangle back together and connect these tips to make a "cap" shape, but this step is optional.

Now gently lower the wontons into your pot of boiling water. Boil until they have had time to cook through--about 3 minutes for small wontons or 5-6 minutes for large wontons. Remove with slotted spoon. Serve with generous portion of sauce and add garnishes.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hong You (Szechuan chili oil)

Don't buy chili oil at the Asian grocer! That foul, artificially-colored garbage is the surest way to screw up an otherwise perfect Chinese meal! This takes only a few minutes to throw together and will keep almost indefinitely. Also, it is great as a finishing oil, in salad dressings or marinades, and can add awesomeness to just about any sauteed dish. Note, however, that you need a deep-frying or candy thermometer. You can get one for a few bucks at any kitchen store or big box store that sells kitchen stuff.

For the chilies, you can use plain chili flakes from any grocery store or go to an Asian market to buy specific types of chili flakes. You can also buy whole dried chilies and puree in a food processor.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

2 cups canola or peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your knife and peeled
6 1/2" sections of ginger, also smashed with the side of your knife
4 whole star anise pods
6-10 black cardamom seeds
6-8 whole cloves
1/2 cup chili flakes
1 cinnamon stick broken in half
1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns, (optional, grind in a cleaned coffee grinder after a brief dry fry)
1 tsp sea salt

Heat the oil (with the thermometer in it) in a small pan over medium heat until it reaches 285 Fahrenheit. AS SOON as it hits 285, remove from heat and add ginger and garlic. Don't stir.

While oil is heating or right after you add garlic and ginger, combine star anise, cardamom, cloves, chili flakes, broken cinnamon stick, and peppercorns in a small dish. AS SOON as the oil temperature drops to 250, add this dish of spices. Also, don't stir.

As soon as the temperature drops to 200, use a wooden spoon or tongs to fish out the ginger and garlic. If you don't do this, they'll cause the oil to go rancid over time.

Now let the oil cool to room temperature. Stir in salt. Transfer to a glass jar with good lid and let sit at least 24 hours before using. The taste will improve over time and it'll stay good unrefrigerated for at least 3 months. After three days, you can strain out all the solids if you think the taste is vibrant enough, but they can remain in as long as you want to continue to infuse the oil with additional flavor. Also, if the oil is too strong for you, dilute with a cup of plain canola oil.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The World's Most Amazing Vegetarian Cuban Black Beans

I was going to wax poetic for paragraphs about how wonderful these beans are, about how they have the potential to bring about world peace, about how they would delight even the most hardened serial murderer, and how, if there is ever a cure for cancer, it will likely involve this recipe in some way. But rather than ramble on at length about how good this is, I outsourced the job to Erin. Here's her take:

You might think "black beans, so what?" What's the point of spending time making beans from scratch when you can easily open a can? Who would ever know the difference? Wrong. Just...totally wrong. These are completely worth the time and I would challenge you to disagree once you've tried them. I have sampled black beans in almost every country in Central America, and these are seriously the most delicious I have ever tasted. The flavor is amazing, the sofrito is perfect. There is just enough kick to injure your enemy, but not cause any permanent damage. You'll probably want to put these on everything; don't let anyone try to stop you. Best beans ever. It doesn't hurt that the chef is pretty darn cute too.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

1 pound dry black beans
3 bay leaves
2 large bell peppers (green, red or one of each), coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
2 Jalapeños, coarsely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 TBSP dried oregano
1 TBSP salt
2 tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
¼ cup full-bodied red wine (shiraz, zinfandel, or cabernet sauvignon)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
A few drops of liquid smoke (optional)

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse well. Place beans in large Dutch oven with the bay leaves and top with water until beans are submerged. Bring the water to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook the beans uncovered, stirring occasionally until beans soften—this can take all day, depending on your beans and elevation (you can prepare the beans in a pressure cooker to save a lot of time). As you cook, keep topping off the water when it drops below the beans.

While your beans are cooking, you want to make your sofrito. Sofrito is a simmered, fragrant sauce and a critical element in many Latin American cuisines. To whip it up, place the bell pepper, onion, cilantro and jalapeños in a food processor and process until everything’s broken down, but still a bit chunky—don’t make a smooth sauce. Next, over medium heat, warm up a large frying pan with the olive oil in it. When hot, add the bell pepper/onion mixture. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Next stir in the cumin, oregano, salt, and tomato (if using). Continue stirring frequently another 5 minutes. Viola! You just made sofrito. Remove from heat and have a rewarding sip of the cocktail you're enjoying.

When beans are almost completely cooked in the pot, add your sofrito, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. Stir frequently and cook another 30 minutes until the beans are fully cooked, you have the desired amount of liquid, and the flavors have all mingled. Adjust any seasoning and add a little liquid smoke to taste (if using) before serving.

Smoked Haitian Rice

Rice with native mushrooms and smoked meat is common in Haiti. Instead of native mushrooms, I use shiitake; in place of pork, I chose liquid smoke; and rather than using the traditional white rice, I go with far awesomer Bhutanese red rice (available at most natural grocers). The result is a nutty, smoky, earthy flavor that as a great contrast to the spicy and sweet notes in other Caribbean dishes, especially Cuban Black Beans or Vegetarian Jamaican Curried Goat

Prep time: 1 cocktail

3 TBSP peanut or vegetable oil
¼ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Bhutanese red rice
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped coarsely
16 drops liquid smoke
2 cups veggie stock
Several good grinds of pepper
¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans or macadamia nuts
1 scallion, chopped

Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. When warm, add onion and sauté for two minutes, or until they begin to turn just slightly transparent. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Stir in rice and continue to stir constantly until rice starts to change color and gives off a nice toasted aroma, about 3-4 minutes.

Add mushrooms, liquid smoke, veggie stock, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover until the rice is fully cooked—about 45 minutes.

When it’s done, remove from heat, add nuts and scallion and fluff everything well with a fork. Adjust liquid smoke or salt as necessary.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spicy Pickled Cauliflower: For the Hipster In All Of Us

Ever woken up and thought, "Gee, I really would love to give all this up to live in an overpriced apartment in Willamsburg where I can wear skinny jeans, ride a fixie, smoke American Spirits, and eat trendy artisanal pickled foods"? 


Well grease up your fauxhawk, we're going to make what is absolutely the best and easiest pickled food known to humanity! Try it now, to hone your hipster cred before you drop that $7k deposit for the moldy, windowless basement room where you'll no doubt spend your best years in a PBR haze, frantically Googling "treatment for bedbugs." Because if your future life as a barista is going to suck, you should at least be able to eat well.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

1 head cauliflower, florets well broken up
6 Fresno chilies, sliced into thin rings
3 carrots, thinly cross cut at 45-degree angles
3 thin slices ginger
3/4 tsp whole cumin seed
1 1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
3-4 cloves garlic, quartered
5 cups water
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
2 1/2 TBSP salt
2 Pinches sugar
Tiny pinch turmeric (optional, if you want the cauliflower to take on a golden color)
1/2 onion, sliced into thin rings

Fill 3 one-quart jars with equal amounts of each of the pickle ingredients. In a saucepan, combine all the brine ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let it all boil for 1-2 minutes, then pour over the pickle ingredients, making sure to get about equal amounts of onion in each jar. Let the jars cool, then place in the refrigerator for 3 days before eating.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Shepherdless Pie

It's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers! This means it's time to put a bunch of hearty fall vegetables into a big pan and cook it with a ton of cheese on top. Obviously. If you're a non-shepard vegetarian, you'll be substituting some veggies for what has historically been lamb or mutton or whatever it is that shepherds shepherd around and eat in pie form. True fact: shepherd's pie has been in existence since 1791, yet it has never been perfected until now. Really.

If you want to make this dish vegan, just substitute plain almond milk for the milk, olive oil for the butter, and omit the cheese. It's just as awesome either way.

Also, note that the filling is really whatever you want to make it. So feel free to swap out the mushrooms, beans, and corn for anything you might want more.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

2 pounds potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
4 TBSP butter, divided
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
4 sticks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few TBSP minced fresh herbs: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley are all great
1 1/2 TBSP arrowroot powder
1/2 can garbanzo beans, liquid drained
A handful frozen corn and/or peas
2 tsp lemon juice
A few handfuls grated extra sharp English cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325.

Boil the potatoes in water that is salted to taste like seawater. Once they are soft enough to be pierced with a fork easily, remove and strain water. in a medium mixing bowl, mash the potatoes with 2/3 cup of the milk and 2 TBSP butter. Add more salt, pepper, butter or milk after everything is good and mashed, if you want to adjust the seasoning. They should taste like good old fashioned mashed potatoes.

In a large frying pan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the onions and celery. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onion starts to get transparent, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms, garlic and herbs. saute 5 more minutes. as the mushrooms cook, combine the arrowroot in a small bowl or drinking class with 3 TBSP of the milk. Whisk with a fork until the arrowroot is fully dissolved. Then pour in the rest of the milk and stir. After the mushrooms have sauted with the onion mixture for 5 minutes, add the arrowroot/milk mixture, garbanzo beans, corn/peas, lemon juice. Stir as this simmers for a couple more minutes. Salt and pepper this mixture to taste.

Now assemble your pie: In a 9x13 Pyrex pan or baking dish, pour the mushroom/onion mixture. Smooth it all out evenly with a rubber spatula, then layer the mashed potatoes over this mixture in the same manner. Then sprinkle cheese over the top of everything.

Put the baking dish, uncovered, into the oven and cook about 25 minutes, or until it is bubbling more than just at the edges. Turn the oven up to broil and cook about 5 more minutes or until the top is looking extra bubbly and delicious, but not to the point that the cheese is dried out.

remove from the oven and let it rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and some minced parsley, if you want to add some color.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Perfect Summer Garden Marinara

This is the raddest mid-summer pasta sauce you will ever make. Enough said. 

Don't have a garden? No problem. Head to the Farmers' Market and buy a big bunch of local (preferably heirloom) tomatoes. Mid winter? Substitute a 28-ounce can of whole San Marazano tomatoes and a couple tablespoons of raw sugar. Now stop making excuses and get into the kitchen! (And plant a garden next year!)

Prep time: 1-2 cocktails

24 ounces fresh garden or Farmers' Market tomatoes
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil
¼ cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
½ tsp ground dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Red chili flakes to taste (optional)
5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup herb-infused olive oil (omit the garlic in the recipe)

Place all ingredients except herb-infused oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low, add infused olive oil. Simmer, uncovered until you have reached pasta sauce consistency, usually about 30-60 minute, stirring frequently.