Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wild rice and mushroom pilaf




This recipe is about making marriages happy. You see, I hate mushrooms. My wife hates rice. So obviously, a dish that is made mostly of mushrooms and rice is bound to make nobody happy in our home, right? Well that's what I thought too. So I waited until Thanksgiving to make this so we could pawn the leftovers off onto our friends once the missus and I agreed that it was not our cup of culinary tea. But then something beautiful happened: I found a mushroom dish I love and she agrees that this is the first time she's ever savored a rice dish. The key, obviously, is a lot of butter, bringing out complementary flavors with thyme and sherry, and (possibly) the several cocktails we drank before dinner. But in the end, we kept 100 percent of the leftovers and voraciously wolfed them down over the next few days, while our friends were sent home with mushy potatoes and overly crumbly stuffing. We won.

So you don't actually have to use wild mushrooms--store-bought will do just fine too. Either way, mixing it up with a couple different varieties will definitely add complexity. I also just added 12 ounces because I was afraid of this dish being too mushroom-ee. But even speaking as somebody who normally steers clear of fungi, this could have certainly been increased. And if you love mushrooms, you could probably double the toadstool quotient and be quite happy.

I've read that Wisconsin wild rice is desirable because the growing and harvesting regulations are more controlled (and thus sustainable) there. Some folks even claim the rice tastes better. However, I have so far been unable to track down anything that was explicitly labeled as such here in Boulder. So I go with what's on hand. But certainly grab the real thing if you can.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

6 TBSP butter
1 medium leek, white portion only, rinsed well and chopped
12 ounces mixed fresh mushrooms, such as white button, shiitake, morel and wood ear, brushed clean, sliced
2 cups wild rice, rinsed and drained (use only wild rice, not a blend)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus additional for garnishing
8 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2/3 cup dry cooking sherry, (do not use cream or sweet sherry)

Bring 8 cups water to a boil. Stir in rice, then reduce heat so liquid is just simmering. Cover and cook until rice grains puff up and the inner, lighter part is visible, about 40 minutes. Drain excess liquid from rice and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released their liquid and are mushrooms are darkening and have mostly cooked all their moisture out and are sticking a little to the pan. Deglaze with sherry and add thyme. And cook the sherry almost completely off.

Now, to the mushroom mixture, add the wild rice, pine nuts, parsley, salt, pepper to taste. Cook for another minute or so.

Stir in thyme and pine nuts and garnish with some additional parsley, and transfer the pilaf to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Vegan Cassoulet (yes, you read that correctly)

Prep time: 3 cocktails

1 pound flagoulet, navy, or other small to medium white beans
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 ribs celery, finely chopped
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, pulsed in food processor into 1/8 inch bits (about 8-10 pulses)
12-15 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz dried mushrooms, ground into a slightly coarse/chunky powder
5 cups homemade veggie broth
1.5 cups red wine
3 TBSP soy sauce (fish sauce is also great)
1.5 tsp liquid smoke
6 Bay leaves
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 whole cloves
Salt and pepper to taste (usually about 2.5 tsp tsp salt)
¼ cup Italian parsley, minced
Breadcrumbs

Soak beans overnight. Rinse well and drain.

In a large, oven-safe dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and add onions, carrot, and celery. Saute until starts to turn translucent to a little golden, about 12 minutes. Add fresh mushroom bits and garlic. Saute until liquid is mostly cooked off and bits are sticking to pan (but not burned), about 15 minutes, while scraping the stuck-on bits occasionally with a metal or wooden spatula. Add dried mushroom powder and cook another 6 or so minutes, while also completely scraping the browning bits on the bottom of the pan every 30 seconds or so using your spatula. Let the mixture cook and brown to the bottom one last minute without scraping.

(Note that these browned--but not burned!--bits that you scrape off the bottom of the pan give the cassoulet the majority of the flavor. So, extend the process of scraping and stirring even longer, if it seems as though you can)

Deglaze (unstick the delicious browned bits at the bottom of the pan) mushroom mixture with wine, soy sauce, and liquid smoke. Bring to boil. Now add veggie stock, drained beans, bay leaves, thyme, cloves, rosemary and bring to a boil and cook until beans are soft and excess liquid has cooked off (adding water, if necessary).

Now, preheat oven to broil.

Fish out thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and rosemary.

Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in Italian parsley. Toss bread crumbs with a little olive oil and sprinkle top of cassoulet. Put it all in the oven and broil until bread crumbs brown (but don’t burn!).

Friday, November 9, 2018

Vegetarian Meatloaf


1 1/2 cups veggie stock, store-bought or homemade
2/3 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup TVP
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, chopped up a bit
4 TBSP butter or a vegan substitute
1 onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup raw cashews
2 cups bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup ketchup + more for topping and serving
1/4 cup barbecue sauce (homemade is best) + more for topping and serving
2 eggs (or egg substitutes like ground flax and water)
2 TBSP dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
A couple handfuls of grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F.

Bring the stock to a boil and add lentils. Cook until lentils are soft, adding more stock or water if necessary. Once lentils are fully cooked, simmer off any excess moisture. Remove from heat and mash lentils with potato masher.

While your lentils cook, bring a couple cups of water to a boil in a small pan.Once boiling, add TVP and and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes, then strain TVP and it set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until they are finely minced.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Then add mushrooms and cook until they turn a shade darker and release some of their juices, about 4 minutes. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper and saute until they become nice and tender, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, saute a couple more minutes then transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.

In your food process now process cashews into fine little pieces.

Add lentils, TVP, and cashews to the veggie mix in the mixing bowl, as well as bread crumbs, cumin, cilantro, ketchup, BBQ sauce, eggs/egg substitute, and Dijon. Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste (I usually have to add at least a teaspoon of salt and a good amount of pepper).

Spray a medium-sized loaf pan with cooking spray and transfer the mixture into the pan. Mold it into a meatloaf shape and make sure there's a small gap between the edge of the pan and the loaf so that when you add cheese and additional sauce later, it won't all dribble over the edges of the pan and make a mess.

Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes, or until the top starts to get a bit browned and a tad crusty. Now take the pan out of the oven and slather the top with additional BBQ sauce and/or ketchup. Sprinkle the cheese on top of it all and return it to the oven. Increase heat to 375 and cook 12-15 more minutes.

Remove from oven and let it cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with additional ketchup and BBQ sauce on the side.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Divine Intervention Sapporo Ramen



Last night, we had a religious experience. My wife's eyes rolled back in her head and she started speaking in tongues. I started weeping out of a profound, unexpected joy. Even the dog made odd noises. Of course, we didn't find Jesus; I just made the most amazing ramen ever. The wife's expression happened to be "domo arigato gozimus" and my profound weeping was because I nailed the broth perfectly. And the dog turned out to just be gassy. So even though we didn't find eternal salvation, it turned out to be a pretty remarkable night, nevertheless.

This is a slight revision to Sapporo-style ramen. That ramen uses butter to add a richness to the broth. However, as a not-huge fan of butter, I opted for coconut milk instead. Also, since the broth is traditionally cooked with various animal bits to add umami, I make a few vegetarian-friendly tricks, like incorporating mushrooms, browning the miso, and adding some fermented black beans. The result is a perfect, harmonious balance of savory, rich, satisfying bowl of noodles and vegetables with just a touch of sweetness.

Note that you can get the needed Japanese ingredients at any Asian grocer, including kombu, wakame, hijiki, mirin, bonito flakes, fermented black bean paste, and buckwheat noodles.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

Egg marinade:
2 eggs
2-3 TBSP soy sauce
2-3 TBSP mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
1/2 cup water

Broth base:
2-inch square kombu or 3 TBSP wakame or hijiki
5 good-sized shiitake mushrooms
6 cups water
1 cup bonito flakes
1 tsp anchovy paste (optional)

Seasoning mix:
1 TBSP sesame seeds
2 tsp untoasted sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece ginger, grated with microplane or finest side of a box grater
3 scallions, chopped
2 TBSP miso paste
2 TBSP fermented black bean paste
1/4 cup mirin or sake
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 cup coconut milk

Soup elements:
8 ounces dried buckwheat noodles
1/2-1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 bunch spinach, stems removed
1/2-1 cup frozen sweet corn
1 block tofu, chopped into 3/4" cubes (can be firm or silken/soft, depending on preference), optional

Optional garnishes: 
Bonito flakes, chopped scallions, and/or a drizzle of toasted sesame oil

A couple hours before you start the soup, you'll need to make the eggs, since the need to marinate. You want to medium-boil your eggs by gently dropping them in boiling water and reducing heat to a very low boil. Boil them for 7-8 minutes. Remove and place under cool running water and remove shells. Then combine the peeled eggs with the rest or the marinade ingredients in a small Tupperware container or zip-lock bag and put in the refrigerator.

Now make the broth by combining all the broth ingredients in a pressure cooker. With the lid off, bring to a boil but remove the kombu right before you boil or it will become slimy (if using hijiki or wakame, no need to remove). Once boiling, put the lid on it and bring up to normal pressure for your altitude for 10 minutes. Then remove from heat and let pressure drop completely. Remove lid and strain out mushrooms and any remaining seaweed.

While your broth is cooking, you can pre-prep the some of your soup elements. Cook the noodles according to the directions on package and cool them under running water and set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the bean sprouts for 1 minute and strain them out. In the same water, you can then blanch the spinach for 3-4 minutes and strain out. Let cool and then squeeze all the moisture out and chop it up coarsely. Finally, add the corn to the boiling water for a couple minutes, then drain and set aside (you can obviously make all these veggies in separate pots of water, if you would prefer).

Next, start on the seasoning mix. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add sesame seeds and toast for a couple minutes, stirring pretty frequently. When they are lightly toasted, transfer to an electric spice grinder and grind into a powder. Set aside.

Now in a large pot or dutch oven, heat the untoasted sesame oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and scallions and saute for 1-2 minutes. Now add miso and bean paste and stir constantly for a couple minutes. You want some of the paste to get browned stuck to the pan, but don't let anything fully burn. Next, deglaze the paste by adding the mirin/sake and sesame seed powder. Once everything is incorporated and the bits that were stuck to the pan are unstuck, add the soy sauce and coconut milk. Stir everything well and add the broth from the pressure cooker (after removing mushrooms and seaweed). Adjust seasoning if necessary by adding salt or soy sauce to taste. Add tofu cubes and bring to a low boil for a couple minutes. Then it's ready to serve!

In a bowl, combine your noodles, corn, spinach, sprouts, and tofu. Pour the broth over the top and slice your marinated eggs in half lengthwise and add a half an egg. Top with any of the additional garnishes of your choice and serve!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Quick Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

You can make this in just a few minutes. Great as a marinade, stir fry sauce, or topping all kinds of good stuff!

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup soy sauce
2-3 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp ginger, grated with Microplane or the finest setting of a box grater
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBSP mirin cooking wine
The greens of 2-4 scallions

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 3 TBSP water until fully incorporated.

Combine all ingredients except the scallions in a small pan on medium-low to medium heat and bring to a boil for about 4 minutes.

Let cool to room temperature, stir in scallions. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water until you get it how you want it.




Goddamn Delicious Sriracha Aioli

This is delightful on fusion sushi, sandwiches, or as a dressing or dip. In fact, I like it so much, I'd even recommend it on cereal, in coffee, or as a facial cleanser. It's that good!

Note that if you want wasabi aioli, you can swap out the Siracha for an equal amount wasabi paste.

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

1 egg yolk
1 TBSP Siracha 
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp agave nectar (you can adjust this up or down to taste)
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Roughly 3/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed--NO olive oil 
A small handful of sesame seeds

Combine everything except last 2 ingredients in food processor and puree until well incorporated (scraping the sides down with a rubber spatula once or twice). 

Then, with the processor running, slowly drizzle the oil in. Add until you reach your desired consistency--meaning that it may vary a bit from the recommended 3/4 cup.

Adjust siracha, soy sauce, and/or agave to reach desired taste. 

Once it is all incorporated, transfer to a bowl and stir in sesame seeds and serve!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Handmade pasta

This is my stock pasta recipe--good for any type of noodles or ravioli and tortellini. You can mix it up with herbs, squid ink, or spinach in the pasta. I prefer 00 flour because it is milled finer, which means the final noodles end up more soft and pillowy.

A vegan pasta is also easy to make, just substitute ground flax whisked with water. Use 3-4 TBSP of the flax meal and 3/4 cup of water.

10 ounces 00 flour
1 tsp salt
2 whole eggs
4 additional egg yolks

Mix ingredients well, then knead at least 10 minutes in stand mixer, add a touch of water or flour if the dough consistency isn't right--you want something like slightly firm Play-Doh that is smooth, firm, and elastic. Cover and let rest for 60 minutes, if possible (this will also enhance the texture, but you can skip if you're in a hurry). Divide into 4 equal balls and roll out dough with a rolling pin or pasta roller and cut noodles to desired thickness.

Toss directly into boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes or dust with flour and freeze.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I'm going to upma Indian food game with vermicelli upma


We had a dinner party last night and I wanted to balance a lot of dals with one or two lighter starch dishes. Since it was also the first time we had met some of the guests, I wanted to have something mild, in case any of their sensitive Montana palates couldn't handle some of my more adventurous interpretations of Indian food (and then I'd never invite them back again). So I settled on this noodle dish. Vermicelli upma comes from southern India, where it's a common breakfast dish. But it's great any time of day, especially because it is quick and easy to whip up. And it's so good that everybody got upma grill asking for the recipe. So here it is!

Since I made this dish intentionally a little mild, you can dial up the garam masala or adapt the other seasoning and hot pepper content if you want a bigger flavor.

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

4 TBSP oil or ghee, divided
8 ounces dried vermicelli noodles, broken or cut into quarter-length sections
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
8-12 fresh curry leaves
1-2 serrano chilies, diced
1-2 handfuls of chopped veggies (cabbage, peas, red bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped

Heat the half of the ghee or oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. When oil shimmers, add dried noodles. Stirring very frequently, saute the noodles until they become toasted and brown, but not burned. Once noodles are fully toasted pour water over them (be careful, as this will splatter), stir in tumeric, and bring to a boil. Cook until the noodles are al dente, then drain and give a quick rinse of cold water while still in the colander.

As the noodles are cooking, heat the remaining oil or ghee in a large saucepan on medium. Once hot, add the mustard seeds. Cook the seeds in the oil until they begin to pop, then add the garam masala. Stir constantly for 10-15 seconds, then add the curry leaves (be careful, this will also splatter!) and cook for 5-10 more seconds then add all the veggies and a TBSP of water. Stir well, reduce to medium-low, and cover, opening this to stir the veggies every minute or two. Add another TBSP of water if the veggies and spices start to stick.

Once veggies are tender but not mushy, stir in the pasts (you might have to use the Dutch oven you cooked the noodles in, if the saucepan is too small for everything). Stir in lemon juice and salt. Cook for a couple minutes until everything is well heated and mixed together. Adjust lemon and salt to desired taste, stir in cashews, and serve immediately.

Idli: making strangers into friends since... last night


So we joined a supper club last winter. However, since we have been traveling abroad for the last 6 months, we had never actually met our supping amigos until last night. Having not cooked for our 6 strange new companions before, I was a little apprehensive about what to make. Would they have weird food allergies? Would they hate spicy food? What if they weren't into my default Ethiopian or Afghani dishes? My solution: make idli! Our new friends wouldn't be able to complain about something as delicious and mainstream as Indian food. And idli, in particular, is an amazingly versatile dish--little mild, pillowy dumplings that can be loaded with flavorful chutney. As it turns out, our supper club companions were a marvelous batch. And they loved the idli--almost too much! So a note to anybody out there: if you're not good at accepting compliments or you don't want to have new friends pestering you to make amazing Indian food every time you see them in the future, then this recipe isn't for you. But if you are into making a bunch of strangers think you're a marvel in the kitchen and clamoring for seconds, then this is your jam!

This recipe calls for urad dal, a split black lentil, which can be found at many Asian grocers or online. You'll also need to purchase an inexpensive idli steaming stand. The one I use makes 24 idlies with depressions that are roughly 3" across by 2/3" deep. This batch leaves me with just a little bit of batter at the end, so you may want to adjust the quantities based on your idli maker and needs.

However, if you end up with a lot of leftover batter, fear not! Leftover idli batter makes excellent uttapam! Uttapam is basically just like a crepe or pancake. To make these, just take your old idli batter and add any veggies you might like (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, and cabbage are all great) plus some extra salt, onions, and garlic. Ladle this mixture into hot, frying pan that has been sprayed with some cooking spray. I've had best results from cooking these covered and flipping each one halfway through.

Anyhow, back to the idli. You want to have a pretty good blender for this. I use a Vitamix, but anything of reasonably high quality will have the horsepower to break everything down.

You'll also want to serve the idli with coconut cilantro chutney or any other chutneys, dals, or other toppings of your choice, as the idlis themselves are fairly mild.

Prep time: 1 cocktail (after a couple days of fermentation)

1/2 cup urad dal
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup parboiled rice
Salt to taste
2 pinches baking soda
Optional toppings - including sauteed minced onions, brown mustard seeds, curry leaves, or diced chilies

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dal and both types of rice. Cover with a lot of water, as the contents will triple in volume as they absorb the water. Let soak 24 hours.

After soaking, drain the water off, but do it kind of half-assed. I like a little bit of the soaking water to make it into the final batter, as I think it accelerates the fermentation process a bit. In any event, after you have mostly drained the grains, transfer them to a blender. Add some fresh water and blend until the grains have totally been broken down--this can take several minutes. IMPORTANT: you want this batter to have the consistency halfway between crepe batter and pancake batter. So add as much fresh water as you need to in order to achieve this consistency.

Transfer idli batter to a mixing bowl and stir in salt. The amount will vary, but it should taste pretty damn salty. Stir well, cover with a wet towel and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, until the fermentation has expanded the batter and it has a consistency similar to that of lightly whipped cream (the amount of time varies, depending on how warm the batter is--a really warm environment will achieve this in as little as 4 hours).

Now the batter is ready to use (alternatively, it can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a wet towel, for up to 2 more days). Before cooking, sprinkle baking soda on surface of batter and VERY GENTLY fold it in a little bit with a rubber spatula. You need to be gentle because you want to preserve the foamy structure of the batter.

Now boil an inch or so of water in a pot with a lid that's tall enough to fit your idli steamer. Once water is boiling, spray the idli trays with cooking spray and ladle batter into each mold--filling each one 75-80 percent, allowing enough space for a little expansion. Sprinkle the tops of idli with any of the toppings you're using.

Transfer idli tray to pot, cover, and steam until idlis have steamed fully and are a bit firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. For me, this is 25 minutes, but will vary depending on batter, size of idlis, and snugness of your steamer lid. Remove and serve right away with chutney.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Vegetarian Thanksgiving pizza ideas

I just found our pizza menu from our big Thanksgiving pizza party 2 years ago!! Everything turned out amazing! All pizzas were Neopolitan style!

Pizza 1
No tomato--use olive oil
Fried sage
Ricotta
Roasted butternut squash cubes with fresh grated nutmeg
Home candied walnuts

Pizza 2
No tomato--use olive oil
Flash fried kale (at super high heat)
Carmalized apple
Gorgonzola
Sage (optional)

Pizza 3
(Okay, it's not a Fall pizza, but I need a margherita pizza as a baseline no matter where I am--even at home!)
Preserved farmers' market tomatoes
Mozerella
Fresh basil
Egg (optional--cracked in the middle and cooked until just solid in the whites)

Pizza 4
Parsnip puree as a sauce
Nutmeg
Roasted carrots and potatoes

Pizza 5
Mushroom slices sauteed in butter, salt and a touch of red wine
Thyme, fresh
Garlic confit
Parsley
Fresh arugula after taking it out of oven (optional)