27 May 2016

Memorial Day for Vegans

More and more of my friends have decided to be mostly or full-time vegan, which makes good sense for a number of reasons. I am probably eating more meat now than I have for most of my adult life, but that still only means I'm including meat in about one out of every ten meals or so. Grilling is a perfect way to eat vegan, and even trick others into joining you, because you're getting all of the smoky goodness from the charcoal without actually charring flesh. And hot dogs are so fucking gross, anyway. (PS-If you are using a gas grill, we need to talk.  That is not grilling. It's one step beyond using your daughter's Easy Bake oven on your back patio.)

And that brings me to Memorial Day, because it is national law that we grill at some point this weekend. So whether you're throwing a party or just being a reclusive nuclear family this holiday, you can impose your hippy agenda on all in your orbit without even having to listen to much whining.  Case in point:

Grill tofu steaks (pressed first to remove excess water), thick rounds of eggplant, squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes and top with one of my favorite condiments, homemade chimichurri sauce. Or cube it all and make kabobs.

Grill a pizza! It's delicious. You can make this nice whole wheat crust and put whatever you want on there. Don't want cheese? Don't bother. Here are some ideas to get you started (sorry, there are some reviews to sift through, too).

Make a veggie burger.  Here's one I published a few years ago, and here's another one I think sounds very clever, because I love corn (thought I'm not sure I'd bother to put it on a bun).

You need a dip for your chips or bread, right? How about...

Baigan Bharta

2 medium sized eggplants
3 tablespoons oil
¾ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
2 tomatoes, blended into a puree
2 green chilies, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons minced cilantro

Place the eggplant on a corner of the grill. (For future reference, if neither of these are options, then place the eggplant in a 350 degree oven and bake until soft and then broil until the outer skin is charred.) Back to the open flame eggplant, cook until it is soft and the outer skin is completely charred. Set aside to cool.

Heat the oil on medium heat for about 1 minute, and add in the cumin seeds and when they begin to sizzle, add in the red onion and sauté lightly until the onion softens and wilts and finally gently turns pale golden in corners. Add in the ginger-garlic paste and sauté lightly until the paste is somewhat dry and begins to turn fragrant.

Add in the tomatoes and the chilies and begin to cook this mixture to allow the tomatoes to turn into a thick fairly dry sauce, you should begin to see the oil leaching again from the edges. While the tomatoes are cooking, peel and discard the charred skin from the eggplant and mash lightly. Add into the tomato spice mixture and mix well.

Stir in the cilantro and mix well. Use as a dip or serve over rice.

24 May 2016

Who needs broccoli rabe when you have broccoli (and kale)?

Everyone's in love with broccolini/broccoli rabe, but it's expensive and, if you live in the sticks, it may not even be available in your local grocery store.  Now, I have a ton of kale in the garden, so perhaps I'm unaware of how difficult that is to find in a store, but I think this combination of kale and good old-fashioned broccoli comes pretty close to the fancy rabe stuff. (PS--An idiot family in Antarctica could grow kale in their yard, so you should try if you like it. It even overwinters in my Zone 4 Northern Colorado garden.) Fix it however you want; garlic, oyster sauce, and soy sauce would be pleasant too.  This is my pseudo-Italian version, great as a side or tasty just tossed with pasta.

Lemony Broccoli and Kale

Serves 6 as a side

2 teaspoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large bunch broccoli (about 3 cups chopped)
3 cups washed, chopped kale leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lemon, zest of ½ the lemon
1 tablespoon capers
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

First things first: wash and chop ALL of that broccoli!  Don’t throw away the stem or leaves—they’re delicious!  They taste like broccoli!  Just slice the stem kind of thinly and then chop those rounds in half so they cook to crisp-tender perfection.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Now, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the kale in batches, stirring constantly until it begins to wilt and then adding more.  When everything is bright green and a little wilty, shove the kale around to the outer sides of the pan and throw the broccoli into the middle, making sure each piece gets some contact with the pan. Alternate between stirring and sitting so that you get some charred bits on the broccoli. (Optional, but nice.)

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and capers.  Cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any brown bits in the skillet, until garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and serve hot or at room temperature. 

20 May 2016

A quick stop in Utah

I went to the Moab area and up to SLC this week.  It was pleasant, though I cant say they have anything on Colorado in terms of food or beer.  In Moab, I hiked in Arches (best) and Canyonlands (also nice) National Parks, and stayed in nearby Green River, which was a sad little town but way cheaper.  There was a darling taco stand set up at a brokedown gas station, and the barbacoa was delish.

In Moab, both the food and beer disappointed at Moab Brewery, but Sabaku Sushi was great, and the garden veggie roll was probably the best vegetarian sushi I have ever had. The poke was good, too.

Here's some of what I saw in Arches:


And Canyonland:

In Salt Lake City, which I had visited briefly before, I hung out mostly in the Capitol (downtown) district, where I had great coffee at a little neighborhood cafe called Alchemy, OK beer and a funny pizza thing with corn and shrimp at Red Rock, and took a pleasant walk on the Capitol Building grounds, which are lovely.

The Great Salt Lake is indeed greatly salty, though there's really no place to walk unless you go to Antelope Island (Utah Lake in Provo is kind of a better park, though smaller and not tasty).


On the way out of town I hit the university neighborhood for some tasty Vietnamese rice noodle salad at Indochine (the chicken curry was nice, too).

17 May 2016

Almond Poppy Seed Cake for Chiarra!

Remember how I was in New Orleans, all too briefly, last month, and I stopped in for coffee and dessert at Rue de la Course near Tulane after totally stuffing my face at Jacques Imo's?  Well, I was there with one of my favorite travelling and eating companions, Chiarra, and we actually split that almond cream cake at Rue de la Course.  It was delicious, and it got me thinking about an almond poppy seed cake (well, muffins) I used to make in college. Now, combine that train of thought with Chiarra's recent request for a dessert recipe and the fact that I just missed her birthday, and you have this cake recipe, slightly altered from the way I used to make it in the 90s. So,

Overeating in NoLa     +       Chiarra likes dessert

Almond cream cake      +        Remembered Chiarra's birthday

Almond Poppy Seed Cake

For the cake:
Baking spray, for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoon poppy seeds

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup orange juice
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8" x 4" loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Beat butter and sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with flour mixture, just until flour is incorporated. Fold in poppy seeds. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove to rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: Whisk together sugar, orange juice, and a pinch of kosher salt in a bowl. Add a little water or milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach desired consistency. Drizzle over cooled cake and serve.