31 December 2012

Christmas dinner: the dessert

pears in coffee syrup

Vegan desserts are easy: just go for the fruit. Since it's winter, we went for pears. It also helped substantially that we've been watching a lot of Jacques Pepin videos (what else is new?) and had just seen him make a delightful-looking dessert of pears in coffee syrup. Pears in coffee syrup it is!

We didn't want to have to watch a video while cooking, so I went searching and uncovered this article on Jacques Pepin's pears in coffee syrup from a Chicago Tribune article originally published when I was nine. Um. Hooray! We ended up combining the two recipes a bit, and doubling them besides. I left the amounts as is for six servings here.

You can use any pear you have for this. We decided on tiny seckel pears, which we kept whole for presentation. If you use larger pears, you might want to halve and seed them.

pears in coffee syrup

Poached pears in coffee syrup

pears for 6 (we served 2 little ones apiece)
2 cups coffee
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
dash brandy
sliced almonds
dark chocolate

Start by washing and peeling your pears.

We had a slight issue deciding what to do about the pear seeds. The recipe said to core the pears out from the bottom. This did not work so well. So we decided to just remove the blossom scars and leave the seeds for people to eat around. I thought this might turn out to be a problem, but when it came down to eating my pears, I discovered it was actually not a big deal at all. So. Don't worry about it.

Make a syrup by gently heating your coffee, sugar, and vanilla over medium heat. Add your pears, in one layer if possible, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until your pears are tender to the point of a knife.

Remove and reserve your pears. Keep cooking the coffee syrup until it reduces by about 1/3. To thicken, mix a couple spoonfuls of the syrup with half a teaspoon of arrowroot in a measuring cup. Add a bit of arrowroot mixture to the syrup and stir well; it will thicken on contact. You can add as much of the arrowroot mixture as you prefer. Keep in mind that the coffee syrup will also thicken a bit off the heat.

Next, add a glug of brandy (or other liqueur of your choice--kahlua, frangelico?), stir, and remove the syrup from the heat. Pour it over the pears.

Chill your pears and syrup until you're ready to eat.

pears in coffee syrup

Serve a pear or two per person, with a spoonful of syrup. You can choose to serve the pears over something like pound cake, or to add ice cream or whipped cream, but we just left ours as is.

Garnish each dish with shaved chocolate and sliced toasted almonds. We used this exciting dark chocolate we found at the East Lansing food co-op.

delightful chocolate

The finished product was pretty adult and sophisticated, with an edge of bitterness to contrast with sweet fruit and sugar syrup.

So that was our massive Christmas feast. Now all we have to do is sit down and breathe and wait for the new year. Oh, and go get bagels and cream cheese and champagne and orange juice. But we can handle that, right? Right?

I hope all of you guys had an amazing holiday, and are looking forward to a wonderful new year!

Christmas dinner: the vegetables

christmas dinner: green salad, white bean butternut squash soup, peas with pearl onions & endive, roasted vegetables

Oh boy. Where do we start?

Since we were feeding a selection of omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans, we wanted to keep everything but the roast and its accoutrements vegan. This way everyone could eat everything without worrying about it at all. This also meant the vegetable selection was quite extensive. Good deal, but a lot to write about in one go.

We started the night before with vinaigrette and white bean butternut squash soup (and the roast sauce, but we've already covered that).

Our standard vinaigrette comes from the Bouchon cookbook and consists of only three ingredients. It's super easy, although you do need a blending device of some kind.

Red wine dijon vinaigrette

1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups canola oil

Mix together your mustard and vinegar in a blender or with some sort of blending device. We used an immersion blender this time; it worked admirably. Slowly pour in half a cup of your oil, blending the entire time to emulsify. Now pour your mixture into an appropriate mixing bowl and whisk in the rest of the oil in a steady, slow stream. Voila! A delightful vinaigrette that goes well with practically any salad.

The soup was one of our two main vegan/vegetarian protein sources. We knew we wanted to do something white bean-based, since white bean soups are generally excellent. But we hadn't decided on the exact soup until we actually got to John's mom's house and discovered three big butternut squashes on the kitchen counter.

white bean butternut squash soup

White bean butternut squash soup

butternut squash
olive oil
cooked white beans
bay leaf, fresh thyme, sage, marjoram, salt & pepper
water/vegetable broth/bean broth
optional dry vermouth or white wine
chives or parsley to garnish

This is a pretty standard vegetable and bean soup. You can probably figure out what to do just by looking at the list of ingredients.

Start by peeling, seeding, and cubing your butternut squash. We used two squashes to serve eleven people. This is by far the most arduous part of this recipe. Peel and dice your onion, mince your garlic, and chop up your scrubbed carrots and celery while you're at it. I'd use about one medium to large onion, a handful of garlic cloves, a big carrot, and a couple stalks of celery per squash. Since we had two squashes, we doubled everything up.

In a large soup pan, warm a slug of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery; saute over medium to medium-high heat. Season with a bit of salt, a branch or two of fresh thyme, a couple bay leaves, and some dried sage and marjoram. Congratulations! You now have garlicky vegan mirepoix!

When your mirepoix is soft and aromatic and delicious and starting to turn golden, add your cubed squash. Mix everything up and cook, stirring occasionally, for a good five to tem minutes. If necessary, deglaze the bottom of the pan with a couple glugs of dry vermouth or white wine.

Next, add your white beans to the pot and cover everything with water or the broth of your choice. We used three cans of beans, drained, since making dry beans from scratch was a little much to do on top of everything else. If you make your own beans from scratch, go ahead and use their broth in the soup.

white bean butternut squash soup

Bring your soup to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer until all your vegetables are tender. Take the pot off the heat, remove the bay leaves and thyme branches, and puree with an immersion blender. Then put the pan back on the heat to reduce down to your preferred thickness. Taste and correct seasonings, adding some black pepper at the least.

When the soup is to your liking, serve it with the garnish of your choice. Hooray!

Both of these went into the refrigerator to wait overnight.

The next day, we were up bright and early (read: by eleven) and got into the kitchen to start cooking everything that needed to be chilled before serving. So we made lentils vinaigrette and our dessert, which is getting its own post later.

The lentils were obviously our other big protein source.

I've talked about lentils vinaigrette a couple times before. The recipe, again, comes from the Bouchon cookbook (and yes, you should go to the library and take a look). They are super easy, although time-consuming, and worth a search for puy lentils. We found ours in the bulk bins at the East Lansing food co-op (which, incidentally, is well worth a visit if you're in town). If you can't find puy lentils, this would still be well worth a try with standard green or beluga lentils. Don't use red; they'll disintegrate.

We doubled this recipe for as many lentils as possible.

Lentils vinaigrette

puy lentils
herb bouquet: garlic, bay leaves, fresh thyme, peppercorns
salt, pepper
red wine vinegar
red onion
chives & parsley

First, make the herb bouquet. Tie up a halved head of garlic, 12 peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, and 3 thyme branches in a piece of cheesecloth. We did not have cheesecloth, and ended up using coffee filters sewed together with thread. Okay then.

Pick over and rinse a cup of lentils. Put them into a large saucepan or dutch oven, along with your herb bouquet, half an onion, a whole scrubbed or peeled carrot, and a halved and washed leek. Cover with water by two inches.

lentils vinaigrette

Bring the whole shebang to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through.

Next, pour the whole pan of lentils, vegetables, and liquid into a casserole dish or other wide, deep dish. Add two tablespoons of salt and two teaspoons of red wine vinegar, stirring gently to combine. Let the lentils cool in their liquid. This will take awhile. When the dish is cool, remove and discard the herb bouquet and the vegetables, leaving just the lentils behind.

Strain the lentils in a sufficiently fine sieve. Mix them with half a cup of finely diced red onion and dress them with vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When you're ready to serve, garnish with more finely diced red onion and a big handful of snipped fresh chives and parsley. If you're not keeping it vegan, a dice of hard-boiled egg is really good too.

After we finished making the lentils and dessert, we stuck them in the refrigerator and took a wine break.

Next: mashed potatoes. You know how to make mashed potatoes. The only thing we do differently is poaching our garlic in olive oil.

christmas dinner

Mashed potatoes with garlic poached in olive oil

olive oil
rice milk
salt & pepper
chives & etc to garnish

Peel and quarter as many potatoes as you want to eat. Bring a sufficient pot of water to a boil, add the potatoes and a bit of salt, and boil until tender. Depending on your potatoes, this may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

While your potatoes are cooking, poach your garlic. Start by smashing a bunch of garlic cloves with the flat of your knife and removing the peels. Put a small saucepan on the heat, add enough olive oil to sufficiently season your potatoes, and add the whole smashed garlic cloves. Cook very gently over the lowest possible heat for at least twenty minutes. Congratulations: you now have a beautiful garlic-infused oil.

When your potatoes are done cooking, drain them well. Mash them with a couple splashes of rice milk or other non-dairy milk of your choice. Add in the oil, garlic cloves, and some salt and pepper to taste, and beat together until well mixed.

Garnish with chopped fresh herbs. Voila!

Peas, pearl onions, and endive

Peas, pearl onions, and endive

olive oil
bag of peeled red pearl onions
several heads of endive
two bags of frozen peas
salt & pepper
white wine

John made this one, so I'm not entirely sure how it went down. Let's ask him.

"Ok. So. Put oil in. Cook the pearl onions. When the onions are soft and have some color on them, core the endive and cut them into quarters. Put the endive in with a little bit of water and white wine. Stock is fine too. When that was soft I added the peas, salt and pepper, and a little bit of oil. And that's it."


In last-minute prep, we made a green salad. This was very simple, and just consisted of washed & dried salad greens tossed with some of our vinaigrette. No worries there; we just had to make it immediately before we sat down to eat. I believe we used a mix of romaine hearts and baby spinach.

Then we all sat down to eat as much as humanly possible.

Here's my plate.

christmas dinner

Needless to say, no one left that table the slightest bit hungry. Success!

Next: dessert.

29 December 2012

Christmas dinner: the meat

Vegans, you may want to look away for this portion of the evening. I'm just saying.

rib roast of beef

The problem with cooking a huge piece of meat is that we don't normally do it. This made the angsting over this part of christmas dinner fairly extreme. I was all for making a much more standard main dish, but John really wanted to do something big and fancy, and why not? It's christmas dinner; when else are you going to be so fancy?

But we didn't know what to do, so we decided to let the meat selection decide for us. We asked John's mom and future stepdad for a butcher recommendation and drove out to Merindorf Meats in Williamston, MI.

The real question is why neither of us had ever been there before. John grew up maybe five miles away. Of course, John is also a vegetarian, so that's probably why, right? Still. It was a really excellent market, with super knowledgeable people who not only practically picked out dinner for us, but also gave us detailed cooking instructions for everything. WELL WORTH IT.

So we bought a rib roast. Except we didn't buy just a rib roast--we bought an entire massive side of beef. Like, a 16 pound quarter-cow-torso. The extremely helpful butcher cut off eight pounds of it for a swanky dinner rib roast, and then chopped the rest into eight 1-lb steaks. So we made the rib roast for one big family dinner and took the eight steaks to the gathering for the other half of the family.

rib roast of beef

The cooking was pretty easy. For one thing, the butcher had packed the meat in an herbed marinade for us. I have no clue what was in it. What I do know is that we didn't have to do ANYTHING to the meat before cooking. Zero.

John (who was in charge of meat) started things off by browning the roast on all sides in a hot frying pan while the oven preheated to 400F/200C.

When everything was brown and crusty, the roast (prepped with meat thermometer) went into the oven. We left it for 20 minutes at 400F/200C, and then turned the heat down to 325F/160C for the long haul, which was approximately another two hours. At maybe an hour in, John added a bunch of cut potatoes, carrots, and pearl onions to the pan. (Yes, we sat there and peeled a sack of pearl onions. YAY.)

rib roast of beef

When the internal temperature read 135F/57C, we took the roast out of the oven, tented it with foil, and let it rest for half an hour. According to the recipe the butchers gave us, medium rare is 140F/60C, but, like everything else, a big roast will keep cooking a bit after you take it out of the oven. So.

When John's mom sliced the roast, we discovered we had gone a bit over--it turned out just about medium--but that was ok. It was still really beautiful and juicy, with a fine grain and excellent texture. Hooray!

sour cream horseradish sauce

We served our roast with a simple pan jus and a sour cream horseradish sauce, which we made the night before and left in the refrigerator overnight. This was super simple: mix sour cream with jarred horseradish, season with salt and pepper, and chill. That's it. Needless to say, this was not only excellent on the meat, but also on mashed potatoes.


Next up: all the vegetables in the land. SUBSTANTIAL vegetables.

27 December 2012

Post-Christmas wrapup

leftover garlic mashed potatoes with horseradish sour cream sauce and lentils vinaigrette

I swear, I am getting something posted today.

So hi! I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday. We saw a whirlwind of family and friends in Michigan, and then topped it off with ten hours of travel on Christmas day. After the last stage of the journey (which consisted of car, bus, plane, train, train, and train) we walked up to the only thing open--CVS--and got frozen pizza and wine for our Christmas dinner. Hooray!

Our big family dinner went off with only the most minor of hitches. The menu, which needed to satisfy children, omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans, went as follows:

- Rib roast with sour cream horseradish sauce
- White bean and butternut squash soup
- Green salad with homemade dijon red wine vinaigrette
- Lentils vinaigrette
- Peas, endive, and pearl onions
- Mashed potatoes with garlic poached in olive oil
- Pears braised in coffee syrup with shaved chocolate

Recipes and discussion to follow. It was a very long day of cooking, but we did it. Hooray x2!

I spent the next two days eating leftover mashed potatoes with sour cream horseradish sauce and lentils vinaigrette for breakfast. Then we came home, where I sat on the couch and exhaustedly played puzzle games for a full day, and then tried valiantly to catch up on my feed backlog of 632 posts. And here we are.

More to come on our big dinner in the near future. Hope your holiday feasts went well!

22 December 2012

Check in

Michigan in the snow

Hey! what's going on? We are in MICHIGAN and have been running around like crazy seeing all our family and friends. More family and friends are forthcoming. I need a nap. How about you?

Tomorrow John and I are cooking a large holiday feast for 11, including two children, one vegan, one official vegetarian that I'm aware of, three people who only eat meat on limited occasion, and four omnivores. We have acquired a truly prodigious amount of supplies for the occasion. Tonight is for soup and vinaigrette-making; tomorrow is for the full feast. I'll let you know how it goes.

18 December 2012

Another use for lavash

Make it into nearly instant pizza!

lavash pizza

Then take terrible pictures of it late at night (read: at about 6:30p) in winter! Hooray!

Using a premade crust for a super-fast homemade pizza is nothing new. For a long time my crust of choice was storebought pita, split in half if said pita was amenable. Then I discovered the joys of using naan for pizza crust. If you haven't made pizza on a piece of naan bread, you know what you have to do the next time you bring some home with Indian takeout leftovers. It's perhaps the perfect chewy crust.

But lavash? That's the perfect thin and crispy crust. If you like thin-crust pizza, you want some of this.

We made two pizzas, both with standard red sauce and mozzarella. John had green pepper and onions; I had both of those plus mushrooms. Of course, you can go any direction you choose. Pesto, pears, hazelnuts, brie--you name it.

Nearly instant lavash pizza

lavash bread
olive oil
sauce of your choice
toppings of your choice
shredded cheese of your choice

Brush a piece of lavash bread with a little bit of olive oil. Spread a thin layer of the sauce of your choice over the top. (Our sauce is generally olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flake, and tomato. Voila!) Add whatever you like best on your pizza, top with shredded cheese, and pop the entire thing in the oven. Five to eight minutes at 400F should be more than enough time to get your crust crisp and your cheese bubbly and brown, although it will depend on the amount of toppings.

Pull your finished lavash pizza out of the oven, slice it up, and eat it. Green salad is the obvious addition here. We like to throw big handfuls of arugula on top of your pieces of pizza and eat them all together.

Now gloat over having saved twenty bucks on delivery pizza. (And if delivery pizza doesn't cost twenty bucks where you live, just be happy about that, okay?)

What's your favorite way to make homemade pizza?

17 December 2012

Post-launch cocktails

cranberry orange liqueur

Well, I did it. I launched my service.

Then I didn't say anything about it, because last week ended up being a very bad week for happy announcements.

My launch has nothing to do with food, but that's ok. It does have to do with applying for law school, so if any of you guys have friends or acquaintances panicking over their application essays, go ahead and send them over to my new online course, Launch: Personal Statement. I'd definitely appreciate it.

That's definitely not about food. However, it does require a celebratory cocktail or two.

So I went over to Boozed and Infused and made up a batch of cranberry-orange liqueur and one of gingerbread liqueur. I reduced the sugar in the cranberry-orange liqueur to 1/3 cup, but otherwise made just about zero changes. Bonus: Orange zest from the backyard!

Too bad I can't really have any of said liqueur for another couple weeks. The cranberry-orange needs to keep marinating; the gingerbread, though already strained, needs some time to age. A preliminary taste was REALLY GOOD; I can't wait to see how it tastes after maturing a bit.

Of course, they will be just about perfect for New Year's Eve. Now I just need to be patient.

11 December 2012

Lavash rolls with hummus & spicy cabbage

lavash with hummus and vegetables

Hooray! Sandwiches!

For some reason, I have only really gotten into lavash bread in the past several months. Probably this is because we never had a good source of lavash until we moved somewhere with an easily walkable yet amazing Middle Eastern market. But then I still spent a couple years ignoring the lavash and instead eating lots of labneh. It's not as though I never went out and ordered lavash sandwiches at any of the local Middle Eastern restaurants, because I definitely did. I don't know, man.

Anyway. We have started buying lavash, filling it with a variety of delightful items, and eating it. What were we waiting for? Clearly, it's one of the best ways to get as many vegetables into your system as possible.

Lavash rolls with hummus, spicy cabbage, and assorted other veg

olive oil
ginger, sumac, red pepper flake, mustard seed, cumin seed, sesame seed
salt, pepper
lavash bread
pickles (peppers, turnips, cucumber)
fresh herbs
any additional veg you think sounds good

We're going to start by making a panful of spicy cabbage. Peel, crush, and mince a couple cloves of garlic; throw them in a frying pan with a slug of olive oil.

If you have fresh ginger, peel a chunk, mince it up, and add it to the pan. If not, use several shakes of ground ginger. Season the garlic and oil with several shakes apiece of sumac, red pepper flake, mustard seed (yellow, brown, whatever), cumin seed, and/or sesame seed. If you don't have all of these, that's ok--you can always use a bit more of whatever you do have on hand. You can also go a totally different direction with curry powder or sriracha sauce. Improvise! It's all good.

shredded cabbage with Middle Eastern spices

Cook your spices and garlic together over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mustard seeds start popping. It should take three minutes or so, depending on heat. This is going to infuse the garlic and spice flavors into the oil and make your entire kitchen smell amazing.

While you're waiting, shred up as much cabbage as you want to eat. I used about half a cabbage for two sandwiches. You could also cook some additional shredded veg here if you want--carrot, kohlrabi, broccoli stems, beets, or what have you. Add the shredded cabbage to the pan, along with a big pinch of salt; stir to coat well in the oil. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted and tender to your taste. Correct the seasonings as needed. If you aren't having pickles in your sandwich, you might want to add a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice off the heat.

lavash with hummus and vegetables

Warm your lavash in a foil packet in the oven or toaster oven. Shred a carrot (purple or not) and slice up whatever additional vegetables you want to eat raw in your sandwich. I did one version with lots of sprouts and pickled peppers, and another version a few days later with thinly sliced garlic dills, cilantro, and labneh. Both of those were excellent.

When your cabbage is done, it's time to make sandwiches. Get out a piece of warm lavash and spread it with hummus. If you want to mix it up with baba ghanouj or any other delicious spread, now is the time. Layer your cabbage on top of your hummus and top with your raw vegetables and herbs. Roll everything up into a delicious sandwich. Skewer with a toothpick and cut in half as needed.

Now eat it!

lavash with hummus and vegetables

This sandwich seems very simple, but it's so much more than the sum of its parts: crunchy and tender and warm and spicy and crispy and amazing. It's perfect with a hot bowl of soup, but it's also pretty delicious on its own.

Hooray for lunching!

07 December 2012

Almond poppyseed cookies for all & sundry

almond poppyseed cookies

December is the height of cookie season at my house. Actually, we tend not to have any cookies at any other time, so I suppose it's the only part of cookie season. Um.

It's cookie season! Let's make some cookies!

Nearly every winter I bake a batch of our now-traditional Swedish farmer cookies. You may have heard of these, since they're one of the few kinds of cookies I ever make. But this year I decided it was time to step it up a notch. So yesterday I not only made a batch of Swedish farmer cookies for our annual cookie exchange, but also a totally new-to-me cookie: almond poppyseed cookies.

This was a great choice for a few different reasons.

1. I have a big bag of poppyseeds hanging out in our spice cabinet, and it's hard to find ways to use more than a tablespoon at a time.

2. There was significant ingredient overlap between the two cookie recipes, so I didn't have to do much prep at all between batches. I also completely used up the almonds, which is good, since my freezer is still just as full as ever.

3. Both recipes are for refrigerator cookies, so it was more than plausible that I'd bake only some of each batch and freeze the rest. Now I have all the cookie dough in the land hanging out in my freezer, waiting for emergency late-night cookie-baking sessions. Hooray!

This recipe comes recommended by my friend Veronica, who is a pretty amazing baker in her own right. The original version is from Penzey's.

almond poppyseed cookie dough

Almond Poppyseed Cookies

1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt
additional sugar for decoration

Cream the butter with the sugar. If you are unfamiliar with the term "cream" as used in this context, it's ok; it just means "beat until light and fluffy". Add your egg and vanilla and beat well.

Mix all the dry ingredients (minus decorating sugar) in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in several batches, beating well after each addition. Or, if you are me, you can add the almond meal, poppyseeds, and salt to the wet mix first, beat well, and then add the flour in smaller increments. I used a cup and a half of plain all-purpose flour and half a cup of whole wheat, because that's how I roll. I would also like to note that it is not necessarily the best idea to grind your almonds in a coffee grinder if you have other options available. I'm just saying.

almond poppyseed cookie dough

The finished dough will be pliable and easy to handle. Gather it into a ball, divide it into equal parts--the original recipe said two parts, but I made four, because I like smaller cookies--and roll each part into a log. If you want to end up with cookies edged in sparkling sugar, roll your dough logs in the sugar of your choice. I rolled two of mine in raw sugar, but found that the large granules were not super interested in sticking to the dough, so I left the other two plain.

Wrap your dough logs in waxed paper, plastic wrap, or tinfoil, and stick them in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can also freeze a few of the rolls for super easy slice and bake action later, if you prefer. I highly recommend this course of action.

unbaked almond poppyseed cookie

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325F. Slice your dough into 1/4 inch cookies, arrange on parchment or silicone-lined baking sheets, and bake for about 12 minutes, or until just starting to brown around the edges.

Cool on a rack until you can't possibly wait any longer.


almond poppyseed cookies

These guys are very buttery, not too sweet, and excitingly full of seeds that pop under your teeth. They're also very good with tea, as all shortbready cookies tend to be. Really, is there a cookie on the planet that is bad with tea?

Which cookies are holiday traditions at your house?

05 December 2012

Purple carrot soup

purple carrots

Look what was at the farmer's market this weekend!

That's right: purple carrots. But stick with me; my story gets better. You know how cutting open a purple carrot usually reveals a slightly streaked but overall normal orange core?

Not these guys.

purple carrot

It's like working with beets. The juice is actually blue.

Obviously we needed to eat these carrots in one of the most pure and carroty forms possible. This means carrot sticks soup.

This is a pretty standard vegetable soup. Soften alliums; soften veg; season; deglaze; add broth; simmer; puree. Voila!

While it's obviously more than possible to use regular grocery store carrots, the fresh farmer's market variety are super exciting to work with. They're also a bit sweeter and taste more intensely carroty. However, I find that even the worst, most shriveled and ancient carrots--you know, the ones you find under a deflated eggplant when you clean out the the crisper--can still make a very tasty soup. It's all good.

purple carrot soup

Purple carrot soup

butter/olive oil
optional hot pepper
lots of carrots (purple or mixed colors)
sage, thyme, marjoram
salt, pepper
dry vermouth
veg or bean broth of your choice
garnishes: parsley, yogurt, etc.

If you don't have broth, start a batch of it first.

Peel and chop a small onion and a shallot. Soften them in a soup pot over medium to medium-high heat with a slug of olive oil or some melted butter. I actually used both butter and oil, so I'd get butter taste with a higher smoke point. Yay!

If you like the spice, finely mince a hot pepper of your choice and add it to the pan. I used a not-very-hot jalapeno, but it's totally fine to leave the heat out altogether.

Give the onion mix five minutes to soften. While you're waiting, scrub and chop a handful of carrots and a stick of celery. I used three orange carrots and only one of the super purple kind, and yet the end result was still ultra-purple 3000.

Add the carrots and celery to your softened onions. Season with salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and marjoram. As always, I don't measure; use as much as tastes good to you.

purple carrot soup

Also, be advised not to accidentally grab the cinnamon and dump some into the pan, even if it has the same lid as the thyme and generally lives in the same quadrant of the spice cabinet. A swift and frantic internet search didn't reveal any spice blends that worked with both sage and cinnamon, so I had to start over. Boo! At least I didn't have the carrots in the pan yet when that happened.

Anyway. Cook your vegetables, stirring occasionally, for another five to ten minutes. When the vegetables are soft, deglaze the pan with a bit of dry vermouth or white wine. Then add your broth. I used about four cups of black bean broth, which added protein and contributed to the overall purpleness of the end product. Any kind of vegetable or bean broth that you think sounds good with carrot should work out fine.

Bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about ten minutes, or until the soup gets close to your preferred solid/liquid ratio. Then take the pan off the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender (or, you know, an actual blender. Whichever).

Taste your soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. If you want to tweak your finished texture, go ahead; add more broth or water if it's too thick, and cook it down a bit if it's too thin.

purple carrot soup

Serve your finished soup with chopped parsley and your choice of other garnishes. I tend to go for yogurt, sriracha sauce, and chopped cilantro, which work surprisingly well, since the soup itself is mostly centered on straight carrot flavor. Other garnishes that might be good include croutons, garlic-sauteed winter greens, toasted sliced almonds or pumpkin seeds, or sour cream and dill. It's definitely a good idea to have toast or a sandwich on the side. We initially had ours with hummus lavash rolls, which worked out very well.

Hooray for purple carrots! What interesting winter vegetables are you guys cooking with lately?

03 December 2012

Pasta in December

angel hair pasta with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, eggplant, parsley

Hey. It's December. How are you guys holding up?

I am doing okay. I am seriously done with my launch except for one single item which is in someone else's control. So now we wait. I mean, we do work too, but we wait.

Also we eat.

I made some pasta. It is perhaps not what one thinks of as an appropriate dinner for December, but that's okay.

This is exactly the kind of food I intend not to write about, because I make it over and over and over again. Then I get busy and I end up writing about it anyway.

It's really good. Pungent and swift and easy.

angel hair pasta with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, eggplant, parsley

Angel hair pasta with eggplant, olive, tomato, artichoke heart

Toss some chopped garlic and onion in a pan with olive oil. Cube some eggplant and sear it up with the garlic and onion. It'll take five minutes or so. Add chopped olives left over from Thanksgiving, chopped artichoke hearts, chopped tomato. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and red pepper flake. Deglaze with vermouth. Toss with angel hair and sprinkle parsley over the top. Done.

Now you can get back to work.

I am in fact planning on some more interesting cooking soon, guys. I just need some time to recover. We'll get there.

How's it going with you?

28 November 2012

I win Thanksgiving leftover breakfast!

Thanksgiving leftover scramble with egg, mashed potato, olives, artichoke hearts, parsley, mushroom gravy, and a side salad

For Thanksgiving leftover breakfast, I made an omelet. Okay, really it was a scramble. It consisted of egg, mashed potato, chopped olives, artichoke hearts (not from Thanksgiving but in the fridge) and parsley. I grabbed a handful of lettuce and made myself a little side salad with red wine dijon vinaigrette.

Then I put a lot of hot mushroom gravy on my omelet. (Er, scramble.)

What? It was one of the best breakfasts ever.

25 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you had one of these:

pumpkin pie

We had plenty of leftovers. Fortunately, pumpkin pie also makes an excellent breakfast.

The final menu went as follows:
- crackers, pickles, olives, pretzels, and various snacky business
- black bean sweet potato soup
- mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy
- green salad with homemade red wine dijon vinaigrette
- coconut oil & cashew pumpkin pie

We were also supposed to have copious roasted veg--two trays--but managed to burn both of them through not paying attention. That's ok, though--there was certainly plenty of everything else.

A good time was had by all.

I hope everyone in the US is having a great holiday weekend!

20 November 2012

Red curry broth with tofu, vegetables, and somen noodles

Red curry broth with tofu, vegetables, and somen noodles

There haven't been a lot of vegetarian recipes around here lately, largely because twenty different "I had another burrito" and "I put some veg dumplings in broth again" posts would be so thoroughly uninteresting as to be almost unbelievable. However, rest assured: we've certainly been eating them.

For instance, we had a block of soft tofu that I bought for instant miso soup purposes. Then we wanted a more substantial dinner than miso soup. A good rifle through the cupboards produced some coconut milk, curry paste, and somen noodles. Okay! Let's make curry broth!

Needless to say, this is not remotely authentic. It is delicious, however. It's also fast and easy, which is great, because I am somehow STILL NOT QUITE DONE with my release, and therefore have no brain or energy left to deal with much of anything else. Um. Hooray?

Red curry broth with tofu, vegetables, and somen noodles

Red curry broth with tofu, vegetables, and somen noodles

olive, peanut, or neutral oil of your choice
green onion
red cabbage
veg broth
Thai red curry paste
coconut milk
soft tofu
somen noodles
rice wine vinegar or lime juice
cilantro & green onion greens to garnish

Okay! If you don't have any veg broth, put a pot of that on to cook first. It should be ready by the time you want to add it.

Get out a large soup pot and soften a handful of minced garlic cloves, a knob of finely chopped ginger, and the whites of a green onion or two in the oil of your choice. Scrub and chop a carrot; add it once the green onion and garlic have had a few minutes to soften. Cook together, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes.

Shred up some cabbage with a sharp knife. I used about a third of a red cabbage, which gave the overall broth some exciting purple overtones, but green would also be fine.

By this point your veg broth should be done, so strain it and add it to your pot of ginger & garlic. I used about three cups.

Bring the pot to a boil and add your cabbage, coconut milk, and red curry paste. The amount of curry paste is totally up to you & your spice preferences. I used a good three tablespoons. Since I don't go for super-creamy coconut broth, I used a small 6-oz can, but you can use more if you prefer. Stir, let the pot come to a boil again, and reduce the heat a bit to simmer. Give it about five minutes for the cabbage to soften.

Cut your tofu into half-inch squares. I don't think I've ever actually worked with soft tofu before. It was a little awkward, but no big deal.

Add your tofu to the pan, stirring gently to incorporate. Cook until hot through, and then add your somen noodles. These will cook in one minute, literally, so don't add them until you're sure everything else is cooked.

When your noodles are done, take the pan off the heat. Stir in a teaspoon or so of rice wine vinegar or the juice of a lime. Serve in big bowls with a garnish of chopped green onion tops and cilantro.

Feel better.

19 November 2012

Sandwiches for breakfast

Turkey on sourdough with romaine, dijon mustard, mushrooms, and pickled peppers and green beans sauteed with sambal oelek

Sometimes you just want a sandwich, even if it is 8 in the morning. What's wrong with that? Nothing.

This was my breakfast several days ago. Turkey on toasted sourdough with romaine, dijon mustard, mushrooms, and pickled peppers; green beans sauteed with sambal oelek. It was entirely delightful.

16 November 2012


Um. You guys? It's just under a week until Thanksgiving, and I for one have not really prepared.

We're having our 3rd vegan Thanksgiving running with our friend Chrissy. Yay! You know there will be Boggle, if nothing else. But otherwise...

A few standards come to mind. We'll have a pan of some mix of root vegetables, winter squash, and/or brussels sprouts tossed in dijon vinaigrette and roasted with stalks of rosemary. We'll make a big bowl of olive oil mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. We'll definitely have wine.

The main course is kind of up for grabs, however. We've had both a field roast and a tofurky before, and while both were pretty good, I could be convinced to forego them in favor of some large beany something-or-other. I really like our black bean and sweet potato soup, but a soup as a main course is a slightly iffy proposition. Maybe some sort of pan-fried white bean concoction, done with the hugest dried white beans we can possibly find? Or if we want to expend more effort, we might make some befenneled seitan sausage, to be used in a mess of white beany stew.

Cranberry sauce is not high on the list. I, for one, hate it--and I grew up with sauce made from actual cranberries. Still, something cranberry has to happen. I'm thinking about making a batch of Spabettie's spiked cran-raspberry granita. My friend Cookie has also mentioned splitting a batch of her cranberry-orange relish, so that may happen too. WE'LL SEE.

Greens of some sort have to happen. I really have no idea what I want on this one. I mean, a standard garlic-sauteed kale or cabbage braised in red wine would be good. A dark green or mesclun mix salad would work well too. Salad seems reasonable and easy, right?

Making an outstanding vegan pumpkin pie is a real challenge. This year I'm planning to try Gena's vegan pumpkin pie with coconut oil crust and cashew-creamy filling, which looks amazing. I'm not going to test it in advance--we can't possibly eat an entire pumpkin pie a week before Thanksgiving--but I have high hopes.

And now I must clean out the refrigerator in preparation for the most food-centric holiday of the year.

What are you guys planning for your holiday feasts?

14 November 2012

Baked flounder with cherry tomatoes, onion, and lemon

Baked flounder packets with cherry tomatoes, onion, and lemon

I'm almost ready for launch! In the meantime: fish and tomato, oh my.

Last weekend--no, actually two weekends ago now--I went to the De Anza Flea Market at 5:50 am to help my friend Gus sell all her US appliances and other bits and bobs before she moves to Europe.

When you're at a flea market for eight hours, it turns out that you find some excellent things.


handthrown pottery bowl

I now have a lovely handthrown pottery serving bowl. It was $2.

This picture doesn't really illustrate the size well. Okay. Behold again!

sungold cherry tomato harvest

It's currently holding a good chunk of the season's last cherry tomatoes (which are finally winding down--I think the plants may come out in about a week) until I can eat them. And I can certainly think of a few ways to eat them.

How about throwing a bunch of them into a foil packet with a filet of flounder, some lemon slices, onions, and olive oil, then baking everything until awesome? That sounds pretty good to me.

You can make one big packet if you have a huge piece of fish for everyone, or make little individual packets if you have smaller filets. I was just cooking for me, so quantities listed are for one.

Baked flounder packets with cherry tomatoes, onion, and lemon

Baked flounder packets with cherry tomatoes, onion, and lemon

flounder (or other whitefish)
cherry tomatoes
olive oil
thyme, fresh if possible
red pepper flake
salt, pepper
aluminum foil or parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Get yourself a sheet of foil or parchment big enough to wrap up all your fish and veg. Put your piece of flounder in the middle. Rub it with olive oil and salt and pepper it on both sides. If you're using dried thyme, season the fish with it too. Add a couple shakes of red pepper flake if you like heat.

Wash your tomatoes and pile them around the fish. I used about ten or twelve. They'll shrink, so use more than you think you need.

Finely slice enough onion to cover your fish and tomatoes, and then do the same with a lemon. Layer all your slices into your packet. I used maybe five or six thin slices of both onion and lemon. Needless to say, this is an excellent use for that odd quarter of an onion or half a lemon hiding somewhere in your fridge.

Top with a couple branches of fresh thyme. Drizzle a final bit of olive oil over everything, and add a final dusting of spices.

Close the packet by bringing the top and bottom edges together in the middle and folding them over a couple times. Fold the left and right side. You should end up with a rectangular package with one long seam across the middle, and one on either side.

Put your packet in a baking pan and put it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your fish. If you have a particularly thin filet, you may find that it's done in a shorter time; if you have a massive filet, you may find that you need more time. When you think it might be done, unfold the packet and check for flakiness. You can always refold it and stick it back into the oven to cook some more.

When you're done, you'll open your packet to find a gout of steam and a lot of delicious tomato-lemon-olive oily juices. Clearly, this would be great over a plate of couscous or mashed potatoes, so you can soak everything up as efficiently as possible. I just ate mine by itself, and it was delicious nonetheless.

For future application, I'm going to keep a variation in mind: lemon, tomato, garlic, olives, and fresh oregano. Why not make my fish the Provençaliest of the Provençal? I might even add in a little bonus Pernod.


12 November 2012

Angel hair pasta with chicken sausage, red bell pepper, and broccoli

angel hair pasta with chicken sausage, red bell pepper, and broccoli

Yeah, things are still pretty busy. We're getting there, though. SOON.

In the meantime, have some pasta.

Emergency pasta
AKA Angel hair pasta with chicken sausage, red bell pepper, and broccoli

chicken sausage
olive oil
green cabbage
red bell pepper
salt, pepper, red pepper flake
angel hair or your choice of pasta

Boil water and cook your pasta at an appropriate time in the cooking process.

Slice up your chicken sausage and sear on both sides in a hot saute pan of your choice. Most sausages will have plenty of fat, but you may want to add a bit of olive oil to the pan anyway.

When your sausage bits are beginning to turn golden brown, reduce the heat to medium and add in some chopped onion or garlic. I honestly have no idea which I used here; either will be fine. Stir it up and let cook while you prep the other veg.

Chop the head of your broccoli into little florets. Peel the stem and dice it up. Finely shred some green cabbage if you happen to have a quarter of a cabbage lying around. Seed and dice a red bell pepper.

When your onion is soft, add your broccoli and cabbage to the pan. Salt, pepper, and red pepper flake it up. Cook, stirring occasionally. until the veg is just barely tender.

Add your red pepper to the pan for the last minute or two of cooking. When it's done, you're done.

Drain your pasta and toss it into the pan of veg and sausage. Stir everything together and serve.

Do you want parmesan cheese? You can have some. Or you cn have some parsley. Whatever you like will be good.

Now collapse on the couch and go to sleep.

06 November 2012

Election day champagne cocktails

It's election day in the US! Go vote if you haven't already!

Those of us who will be watching the results tonight will definitely need some beverages. I imagine that plenty of people wil be drinking El Presidente cocktails--rum, dry vermouth, and orange curaçao--or some variety of honey ale in honor of the White House homebrew.

But the best election night drink is champagne, of course. Champagne means you have won.

I am choosing to be optimistic. As such, let's make some champagne cocktails.

The first choice is the classic original champagne cocktail. We do two variations: one with sugar and one with gin. Both are delicious, adult, and potent.

Champagne cocktail: the classic

Put either a sugar cube or a big pinch of white sugar in the bottom of a champagne flute (or, in our case, bowl). Soak with several drops of bitters. Top with champagne and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Champagne cocktail: variation

Pour a little good gin and several drops of bitters into the bottom of a champagne flute (or, again, bowl). Top with champagne and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Of course, if you're feeling fancy, you can branch out and use both sugar and gin. I recommend the French 75.

French 75

1.25 oz gin
.25 oz simple syrup OR 2 tsp powdered sugar
.25 oz lemon juice
dry champagne
twist of lemon

Shake the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a champagne glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Be sure to eat something with this last one, as it's super potent.

Happy election night! What are you guys drinking?

05 November 2012

Fooding, swift and sure

Whose week is not going to be completely crazy? Raise your hand.

Yeah, not me.

I'm going to release my product in T minus one week. Tomorrow I have to go vote. (Note: go vote, everybody in the US!) Wednesday I have to go into San Francisco. It's going to be this busy for a while, let's just say. So here is what I've been eating.

toasting corn tortillas on the gas jet

We made tacos with refried black beans and corn tortillas toasted over the gas jet. Shredded cabbage on top. Maybe some lime. Tacos are always a good emergency dinner.

migas and refried black beans

Then I made migas and ate them with the leftover black beans. MORE MIGAS, PLEASE.

baked penne with marinara, red pepper, and spinach

Pasta is a default food at our house. Baked pasta takes a little more effort, but it's worth it. This one is baked penne with marinara, red pepper, and spinach. There was also a lasagna that somehow escaped without a single picture.

homemade pizza with lavash crust

On an even easier note, we bought a package of lavash and used it to make pizza with all the onions and peppers in the house. Lavash pizza is the ultimate emergency food if you like thin crust. I'm just saying.

toast with labneh and pickled peppers

And of course there is always toast. This time I had toast with labneh and the last of my first batch of pickled peppers--tangy and amazing. Fortunately, pickled peppers are one of the most instant pickles on the planet, so I threw together a new jar after I hit up the farmer's market yesterday. I'm going to have some delicious sandwiches, is what I'm saying.

What do you guys eat when you're too busy to do, um, anything?