Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perfect 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

Wontons:
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)

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

Garnish:
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;l 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.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Vegetarian Jamaican Curried Goat



ox·y·mo·ron
äksəˈmôrˌän
1. a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.
2. vegetarian goat meat.

de·li·cious
diˈliSHəs/
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, habenero, 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!

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"? 

ME TOO! 

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

Pickles
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
                        
Brine
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.

Herb-Infused Olive Oil

This is a simple and awesome preparation that makes for a great stand-alone dip for bread, a good substitution for normal oil in homemade mayonnaise, and is a home run in homemade marinara.

You can also use other fresh herbs instead of (or in addition to) oregano... I love basil, arugula, parsley, rosemary, and even a bit of thyme or dill. Because I'm crazy like that. Fuck yeah. 

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1/3 cup good cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated BUT NOT peeled (optional)
1 very big handful FRESH oregano, leaves off the stalk, but not chopped
2-3 pinches salt (or to taste)

Put the oil in an 8" frying pan. If you're using a larger pan, you'll have to make a bigger batch. The oil must have a minimum thickness in the pan of about 1/4 - 3/8 inches. So if you're using a 10" or 12" pan, scale up your oil.

Heat the oil on medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add herbs and garlic. Toss well. If necessary, adjust the heat as low as you can go. You want the oil to be just hot enough so that the garlic is barely sizzling… No hotter.

After a few minutes, add salt.

Stir every few minutes. Garlic is done when it becomes very soft. Depending on size and age of garlic this can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Remove the garlic. You can continue cooking herbs as long as you like. The longer you cook them, the richer the oil becomes. I've cooked the herbs and for oil for over an hour with great results. The herbs will become crisp and appear burned; don't worry—they're fine!

After removing, you can peel the 'roasted' garlic. You can spread the garlic on bread almost like butter, put it whole on pizza, or just eat it plain.


There's no need to remove the herbs, though you may wish to crush them up with a wooden spoon or by hand after it cools a bit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Horseradish Black Pepper Vinaigrette

This is literally the best salad dressing ever. How do I know? I Googled "best salad dressing ever" and came up with a bunch of insipid, lame-as-shit recipes written by people with poor grammar and weird taste. And we all know that The Google don't lie. So this is therefore the best salad dressing ever. Airtight logic. Case closed.

Don't believe me? Go ahead and fix up a batch. Send me an angry email* if you don't like it.

*All angry emails will be ignored.

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

1 TBSP prepared, hot horseradish
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper 
1 TBSP white or cider vinegar
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp light agave nectar
1 tsp soy sauce
Poppy seeds, dill, or sesame seeds (all optional)

Combine everything into a small jar with an airtight lid. Seal and shake until everything is well mixed. Dressing is ready! 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chermoula: The New Humble Star of Your Summer


While it looks like an unassuming--even lowly--green paste, don't be fooled. Chermoula can transform anything you make this summer into a hero's meal. Traditionally used as a topping or rub for fish or grilled meat in Moroccan cuisine, it is super versatile and can also be made into a mayonnaise for hamburgers (or beet burgers), added to marinades, incorporated into salad dressings, or snorted through a hundred-dollar bill off a hooker's belly. Yup, it's that good. It'll add a nice, exocitic ring to anything.

Prep time: 1/4 cocktail

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2/3 bunch coarsely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (don't use curly parsley)
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 pinch saffron (I know it's expensive. Get over it.)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp grated ginger
Juice of 1 large juicy lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil into the food processor. Pulse until it's broken down pretty well, but not to the point of being a smooth paste. Now, with the food processor running, drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. It's that easy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Nashif: An Ethiopian Breakfast (Kind Of)


After living in Ethiopia for two years, I saw this food only twice--at two restaurants on opposite sides of the country. I never saw anybody eating it at home, nor have I seen or heard of it anywhere else, including online. So I have no clue whether this is a legitimately common food someplace, or if a couple random restaurant owners are the only ones who offer it as a way to offload old bread. One thing I am sure of, however, is that this is a freaking amazingly delicious breakfast. It's kind of a stove-top savory bread pudding. And it will completely cure any hangover. Think of it as the African equivalent of chilaquiles. And there's really no reason this needs to be a breakfast food; you can really serve it for any meal.

Prep time: 2 cups of coffee

6 slices bread, left out overnight to dry (Rudi's Whole Wheat works great)
1 small onion, minced finely, divided
6 TBSP butter
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
2 jalepenos or fresno chilies, minced
1 TBSP berbere
1 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
Plain yogurt, lowfat or full-fat only (no nonfat)
A handful of chopped tomato

Cut the dry bread into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Put a dry saucepan over medium heat and add all but a handful of the onions. Stir the onions frequently until they become fairly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add butter and stir until it's melted, then add garlic, salt, and chilies. Saute for another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the berbere and saute another couple minutes. Next add the water and stir in the bread. Stir really well until the bread is nice and evenly coated with the spices and all the water is absorbed. You want the bread to soften up, but not be totally mushy; it should still have a bit of texture to it, so add a bit more water if necessary.

Remove the bread mixture from heat and cover. On the same burner increase to medium-high and heat a bit of butter or oil in a frying pan and scramble the eggs.

Now dish it up by scooping the bread mixture onto two plates and topping with the remaining onion, eggs, tomato, and a few generous dollops of yogurt. Shit, that's good!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Poor Man's Red Pepper Hummus


So as a purist, I used to scoff at people who advocated using peanut butter in hummus as a cost-cutting work-around of having to use tahini. Mostly, I saw these people as an inferior class who deserved little more than spiteful disregard.

Then I became one of them.

I was at a friend's house making some hummus and they didn't have tahini. After I was done with my too-loud passive-aggressive sighs and eyerolls, I finally gave in and used peanut butter and threw in a roasted bell pepper to liven things up. Turns out the peanut butter and bell pepper compliment each other magically and the hummus was among the best I've ever had. From proud purist to hummus heretic, I've fallen from my pedestal. And it couldn't be more delicious down here.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1 large red bell pepper
15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
2 TBSP peanut butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 TBSP water
Fresh ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to broil. Poke holes in the pepper with a fork and set it directly on the oven rack. Cook until the top gets totally charred, then rotate with the tongs so a non-burned side is facing up. repeat until the entire pepper is well-blackened. remove the pepper from the oven and place in a small paper bag. Seal the top of the paper bag well and let cool 15 minutes. When it's cool, take the pepper under cool running water and remove the charred skin from the flesh with your hands. Also remove the top, seeds, and innards. Discard everything but the flesh.

Combine the red bell pepper flesh and all the other ingredients in a food processor and puree super well.

Optional garnishes include additional olive oil, paprika, and minced parsley.


I Love Rice, But Do Jollof Rice?


Sorry. That pun is Gawd-awful. Thankfully, the rice is much, much better!

Jollof rice is ubiquitous across West Africa. It's prepared differently in different areas. So consider this only a starter recipe. You can add about any types of vegetable, spice, or protein that you think would go well in here. I've added sauteed seitan, fried plantains, carrot, peas, corn, peanuts, and shrimp powder. Those who are meatier among us commonly add chicken or sausage.

This rice goes great with anything West African. We made it with some kick-ass roasted fish and veggies, but you can also serve it with red-red, meat, or anything else that grabs your fancy. Jollofit! (sorry)

Prep time: 1 cocktail (3 cocktails, if you count cooking time)

1 large onion, very finely minced
3 TBSP oil
1 1/4 cup rice (I usually just use long-grain brown)
3 ounces tomato paste
2" piece of ginger, chopped
1-2 habenero peppers, chopped
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup water
1 cup veggie stock
1 cup very finely minced tomatoes


Heat the oil in a big saucepan that has a snug lid over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring occasionally until the onions start to turn transparent, about 5-6 minutes.

While onions are cooking, combine tomato paste, ginger, habenero, thyme, cumin, coriander, and nutmeg in a food processor with a couple tablespoons of water. Puree it all into a smooth paste and set aside.

Once onions have turned transparent, add the tomato paste puree and the rice. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes.

Add water, veggie stock, and tomatoes. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all liquid is absorbed. If rice is still crunchy but all the liquid is cooked off, add some more water or stock. Cooking time takes over an hour.