Sunday, December 26, 2010

Linzer Lattice Cookies

We always made several kinds of Xmas cookies every year when I was a child. For some reason, they all seemed to be labor intensive - lots of rolling out and shaping and squeezing of things through tubes or decorating with various sprinkles. Maybe that's part of why I haven't had these particular cookies in years. I realize there are plenty of less demanding linzer cookie recipes out there, but these were always my favorite growing up, and there's something about the process of rolling out and cutting the dough over and over. It's like cookie meditation. Not to mention you feel like you've really earned those cookies by the time they're all done.

Linzer Lattice Cookies

(I asked my mother to send me this recipe about a month ago, and apparently all she had were the ingredients and bake time written down on a scrap of paper. I copied that out of the email she sent me word for word - the directions I had to recreate from memory.)

1 c butter

1 c sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp lemon zest

2 c flour

2/3 tsp cinnamon (odd, isn’t it?)

½ tsp cloves (or nutmeg - oh, I lied. This is my addition. I never have cloves in the house, but I always have nutmeg.)

1 c ground almonds

10-12 oz. jar raspberry jam

one: In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest, almonds and a pinch of salt. In another (larger) mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. When uniform, add egg yolks one at a time and continue to beat until smooth.

two: Stir dry ingredients into wet until all combined. You will have a very thick, heavy dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hr.

three: Preheat the oven to 350. Cut dough approximately in half. Roll each half of the dough out between two large pieces of wax paper. I should be as uniform in thickness as possible – and should be no more than about an 1/8 of an inch thick. Place half of the rolled-out dough in the freezer.

four: Remove top wax paper from remaining half of the dough and trim edges with a pizza cutter or sharp knife so that you have a rectangle. Save the scraps in a pile on your wax paper. Spread about ½ the jar of jam over the dough using a spatula.

five: Remove the other half of the dough from the freezer and remove top wax paper. Cut dough into strips about ½ an in thick, using your same pizza cutter or sharp knife. Lay the strips diagonally, about ¾ of an in apart, across the jam-covered rectangle, first going in one direction and then in the other so that you have a lattice-work of dough across the top of the jam. Trim the ends off the lattice so it fits the base rectangle – again, be sure any extra dough gets saved. Slip a cutting board or baking sheet under the large rectangle of cookie and return to the freezer for several minutes to aid in further cutting.

six: Remove rectangle from the freezer when it seems stiff and cut into squares of desired size. Transfer to lightly greased baking sheet with spatula. These cookies do expand slightly, so be sure you give them enough room. Bake for about 15 min or until lightly browned.

seven: Repeat steps three through six until dough is no more.

eight: Before serving, place cookies on wax paper and dust with powdered sugar.

Remember, the freezer is your friend with these cookies. You don’t want the dough to be too cold when you roll it out – otherwise it will take forever and you’ll be sweating by the time you’ve got it – but once it’s rolled out, it can quickly become too warm to work with. The strips won’t maintain their integrity when you try to peel them off of the wax paper, and the cookies will be impossible to transfer cleanly from wax paper to baking sheet. So don’t be afraid to stick things in the freeze as soon as they start giving you trouble. It doesn’t take long for them to calm down in there and get ready to behave.

White Chocolate Almond Biscotti

I like biscotti because they tend not to be too sweet. Even when you add a little white chocolate.

White Chocolate Almond Biscotti

2 ¼ c all-purpose white flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 large eggs

1 c sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1 cup sliced almonds

¾ cup white chocolate (chips)

one: Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease your baking sheet(s) and set aside.

two: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In another (larger) mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond extract until thick and pale. (About 3 min with an electric mixer on high.)

three: With a wooden spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the wet, followed by the almonds. (The dough will be soft and sticky.)

four: With two rubber spatulas, form the dough into two or three 10-in-long logs on the prepared baking sheet. (The do

ugh doesn’t expand much when baking, so consider how long you want your biscotti to be and that should dictate how many logs you want. That is - how wide you want the logs to be and thus how many you can make at about 10 in long.) They should be about an inch thick. Smooth the logs with a spatula or moistened hands.

five: Bake for 30 min or until the logs are lightly browned and spring back when pressed in the center. Lightly. Transfer logs to a cutting board and slice crosswise into ½-in-thick-slices. Stand the slices upright on the backing sheet about ½ inch apart and return to the oven for another 10 to 15 min. Or until they are lightly colored and crisp. Transfer to a rack to cool.

six: Melt white chocolate carefully – i.e. in a double boiler. I just put a smaller pot in a larger pot filled with a couple inches of

simmering water. Stirring constantly. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, if you have one of those, as long as you do it in short installments so you don’t burn it by accident. Stirring in between.

seven: Using a small spatula, spread white chocolate on bottom side of cooled biscotti. Place – top or chocolate side down – on wax paper to cool. Once the chocolate has hardened, remove from wax paper and enjoy!

Especially with coffee.

Winter Slaw: Cabbage & Grapefruit

It's easy to get bogged down with starch in the winter. The holidays are all about stuffing and potatoes - mashed, baked, candied, au gratin - and meat. Which isn't a starch but is often a similar color. Not to mention all of the cheese - cheese plates, on crackers, in balls, mixed into the stuffing and potatoes and meat...tis the season of beige food. It makes sense, of course. If we were actually eating with the seasons, it would be nothing but root vegetables and meats, and preserved things, like cheese. Very few fresh veggies and fruits - mostly fresh from a can or a jar. So it's nice to have some interesting salad options to brighten up our plates. Cabbage - which gets a bad rap, I know - is much hardier than lettuce and thus makes a good cold-weather raw option.

Fresh cabbage has a nice peppery bite that can stand up to the bright citrus of grapefruit, and hot peppers and toasted cumin seed add warmth to this refreshing mid-winter, xmas-colored slaw.

Cabbage-Grapefruit-Cumin Slaw

1 1/2 lb green cabbage (1 lg head), thinly sliced

1 - 2 grapefruit, peeled & "diced"*

5 - 10 red orchid peppers (or other red chili or even green chilis)**, halved the long way, seeds removed & thinly sliced

1/2 tsp toasted cumin seed***

1 tbsp Mirin (rice cooking wine)

1/2 tbsp brown sugar, packed

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp olive oil

one: Whisk cumin seed, Mirin, brown sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste in the bottom of a large (serving) bowl.

two: Toss cabbage, grapefruit and peppers in dressing. Let sit for 1 hr.

three: Serve. (about 6)

*Once you've peeled the grapefruit, cut it in half top-to-bottom. Then slice each half into about 1/2 in. slices cross-ways. You can then pull apart the slices into neat, bite-sized segments.

**If you can't find the bonnet chilis - which I happen to get at my local farmer's market - you may of course use any chili that you can find. Just beware of how spicy the chili you've chosen is, and how spicy-tolerant anyone you might try to feed this to is. Adjust pepper amount and the size of your slice accordingly.

***Heat a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Shake tsp of cumin seed over the surface of the pan and toast until fragrant - shaking the pan gently once or twice. This shouldn't take much more than a minute.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Carrot Relish

Now that money's tighter, and I'm living more on my own again, that is not that I wasn't living alone before but I was sharing more meals, I'm on a kick to use everything up in the fridge before:

a) it goes bad and
b) I go shopping again.

I always have carrots around because they last forever and they make a good snack when I'm frantic running
out the door and don't want to eat another goddamn cracker, but aside from that I don't really put them in much. They go in tomato sauces sometimes or on sandwiches maybe, but I don't like them in salads unless they're grated and I'm too lazy to grate things on a serving to serving basis. I hate cleaning the grater; I always cut myself. But the more carrots get grated at once, the more meals the grating is spread out over, the greater the cost:benefit.

Carrot Relish
(serves 2-3)

2 carrots, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno (or several random chilies) or to taste, minced*
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Salt to taste

one: Mix carrot, garlic and jalapeno in a bowl.

two: Add lime juice and salt. Taste and adjust.

three: Serve.

Particularly awesome on a burrito in place of salsa when you accidentally buy salsa that isn't spicy enough. Also good on humus sandwiches and def with any sort of peanut anything, including chicken or even red meat!

*note about the chilies: I like things uber spicy. It can be a problem for other people. In my case, I chopped up the chilies whole (I used about three small spicy red and yellows I got at our neighborhood farmer's market) seeds and all, but if you're not that into it, you could consider removing the seeds. Then you get some of the spice from the pepper's flesh, but it won't be as painful.

Monday, September 20, 2010


3 limes
1 bunch cilantro
1 red onion
1 white onion
1 bag spinach
1 bottle white wine (Las Brisas - a white from the Rueda region of Spain. You see the $$)
1 bottle buttermilk

I often stand there in line at the grocery story wondering what my groceries say about me. Making snap judgements about the guy behind me with the three packages of ground beef, corn chips, chocolate milk, case of red Gatorade and bag of Gala apples.
Meatloaf, perhaps?
So I thought I would just put it out there. I think it's especially interesting now that I live in a neighborhood - um, maybe city - that doesn't really put much stock in full-on grocery stores, thus I have been doing a lot of shopping for a little of things.

In this case my friends just gave me the gift of seven homegrown California avocados. Guacamole? Cold soup? Etc. Etc.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Peach Cobbler: Look No Cans

This is my take on the easy peach cobbler recipe that's all over the internet. I know it's a little late in the season for peaches in many places, but I just visited the local farmer's market in my new neighborhood and came home with a mound of them. I wouldn't normally go here, but I have a friend who hates to bake and has adopted this recipe as her one and only. Now that we don't live in the same town, I find I miss it, so I'm making it my own. I suppose it's a great recipe whatever way you slice it, but most of the versions I've found call for self-rising flour and canned peaches, two things that never darken my pantry door.

Easy Peach Cobbler

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp (loose) freshly ground nutmeg
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk
16 oz. (about four) peaches, pealed and sliced

one: Melt butter in the bottom of an 8x10 baking pan.

two: Mix dry ingredients thoroughly with a fork. Add sugar and mix. Add milk and stir until smooth.

three: Make sure butter is evenly distributed over the bottom of the pan - i.e. it's on a flat surface - and poor batter over butter without mixing. Lay fruit slices over the top, again no need to mix.

four: Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes or until the edges are a nice golden brown. Let cool for a cool 15 and enjoy.

I'll see if I can come up with a nice bourbon vanilla ice cream recipe to go with this one.

There's a Maggot in My Flour

That is, we live in the south.
That is, life must eat and goddamn but don't we have a lot of life down here.
That is, have you seen Suspiria?
That is, it's not poverty it's a Dario Argento movie.
That is, my friend stopped by the other day and brought my attention to something I never thought worth a second glance. It was so necessary and it seemed so intuitive.
Here's the story:
About two years ago I lived in this lovely little shack back in the BR with a very fabulous, if a little cook-lite, friend. Let me set the scene. When my friend rented the place for us - I was out of the country - our landlady mentioned that people 'keep telling me to put some work into these places, really renovate and up the rent, but I don't want to do that. I want to be able to provide cheap housing for students." Sweet isn't she? Very generous. Your average slum lord. Upon moving in, one of the first things I discovered was that when the oven was turned on, the scent of roasting shit permeated the entire house. Turns out.....well actually I don't think what I found under that oven need be described, but let me just say I baked nothing for the rest of that year. Not one thing.
So there I am, in our tiny, hobbled kitchen sauteing bok choi for my peanut noodles when something hits me on the head and bounces, landing on the stove about an inch to the left of my frying pan. Huh, I think and bend over to see.
To see a big, fat, white, writhing worm thing, Like a maggot. About half-an-inch long and thisthisthis close to having fallen in my food. What if I had stepped away for a moment and it had fallen in the pan? I wouldn't have even known.
And so I look up - really look - and there they are. All of these blanched streaks squirming around on the top of the walls. On the ceiling. And little brown, worm-shaped cocoons stuck to the white paint. I couldn't help it. I screamed.
And then I got mad. What the fuck, I thought. We're vegetarian for god's sake. It's not like there's a new shipment of meat stored up in our attic rotting away.
Is there?
No, of course there wasn't. It didn't take long to figure out where the wormies were coming from - much less time, in fact, than it took me to get up on a chair and wipe my ceiling down with bleach. They were, you guessed it, coming from the flour. All of our dried goods, which we had up until that point been keeping in our open-air open-face cabinets. No matter the container, no matter how air tight the seal, there were moths and well-fed larvae in all of our pasta, flour and bulk grain.

I threw out everything. And I started keeping my flour in the freezer.

So a week ago, my friend comes over - a fellow baker - and I reach into the freezer to get us some gin.
"You're a genius," she says.
"What?" I say.
"Your flour," she says. "We keep getting bugs in our flour. You've got it in the freezer."
"Oh, yeah," I say. "It helps."
"Pure genius," she says. "You should blog about that," she says.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Snob Review: Raising Cane's, Baby

What better way to end days and days of eating off the highway (if I never eat Subway again...) but with Baton Rouge's best home-grown fastfood!

Raising Cane's began as a homework assignment for a business class at LSU. Todd Graves, Cane's founder, apparently got a terrible grade on his chicken finger business plan, but there's no dream quite as strong as the dream of fried chicken. After years of hard work out in the real world, he raised enough capital to get it going and finally opened the first store outside LSU's north gate in 1996. It was off to a bustling, finger-licking beginning, and the business has since expanded beyond our little sleepy BR berg into 13 other states of this our great nation.

One of the best thing about Cane's, I think, is the simplicity of their menu. They really have only 6 items from which to assemble your meal: chicken fingers, french fries, coleslaw, Texas toast, super-secret Cane's sauce and soda. You can order any of these a la carte, or you can go with one of their meals - various numbers of fingers, fries, toast, sauce and a drink or the Cane's sandwich: chicken fingers on a bun. That's it. That's all she wrote.


Of course, what makes this simplicity pay off is the quality of the (fast)food. There's no denying the fastfood fried-ness of these meals. But everyone needs a little fastfood in their lives, and if you're gonna do it why not do it right. Do it local...or at least not BIG business. Do it yum.

First and foremost, these are some serious chicken fingers. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for chicken fingers. They were the very last meat I ate after I had become vegetarian - I ordered them delivery to my dorm in Boston and snarfed them in the common room, hoping no one would catch me and tell the vegetarian police. These chicken fingers are no McDonald's processed crap. They are clearly chicken - all white meat, flaky like chicken can be, tender and with the right meat:fried ratio. (I.e. more meat less fried. But still very very fried.) Definitely Cane's crowning glory. As they should be. The fries are fries - not particularly potato-y but salty like fastfood fries were meant to be - and while the sauce could use a little more kick in my opinion, it was creamy, saucy, good. Nothing here is pretending to be good for you, and so maintains its high taste level, but everything is quality. KFC should hang its head in shame.

Lastly, just a word about the ambiance. The original store, the one where I purchased these lovely fingers, is a real LSU staple. College kitsch on the walls and tiger print upholstery. Def worth the visit. And you see that guitar on the wall behind me? Enter to win.

Friday, July 9, 2010

the Fuckin Neat-o

Since I've been on the outs with food, we'll kick off this month with a drink.

This one is sunny New York summers with a slug of Texas trouble. Credit where credit is due, this was my mother's stroke of genius. We were mixing our first drinks - in honor of two June birthdays, mine and my mother's Texan friend - when my mom pulled out the jalapeno vodka.

As for the name, well, we asked my mom to do the honors, but she refused, claiming to be bad with names. Physicists are silly. Thus it was left to the children, and so in honor of my imaginary fan club, I present to you:

the Fuckin Neat-o

- 2 parts (oz.s) jalapeno vodka (or other spicy booze)
- 1 part (oz.) cucumber juice (approx. 1/2 cuke)
- Juice of 1 substantial lime wedge
- Strawberries, halved in sugar
- Cracked ice

makes 1 drink

Puree half a cucumber. Place mush in a mesh strainer or perhaps a cheese cloth and strain juice into a bowl. Combine booze and cucumber juice in a martini or rocks glass. Squeeze lime juice over the top, add strawberries and ice, stir and serve!

The strawberries, btw, where prepared beforehand. Halved and mixed with sugar and a dash of Grand Marnier or like liqueur. This brings the strawberry juices out a little, but you could simply use fresh ones if that's what you have on hand. It doesn't take long, however, for the sugar to take effect.

Consider mint.

By the way, genius in the arena of drinks and food is nothing new coming from my mother. Stacie Nunes is our resident gourmand up in New Paltz, NY. A physicist at SUNY New Paltz, she's begun catering friends' parties on the side and keeps threatening to start her own blog. Let's hope she makes good on this threat. What can we do to force her hand?

Things are Happening

So I've been on a vacation of sorts, but I'm back!

I think.

Depending on my travels.

Partly, I haven't been doing much in the way of cooking lately because it's just too damn hot. I lose my appetite at the beginning of the summer down here while my body takes some time to calibrate. It's much more difficult to write interesting things about food when you're don't find food interesting. However, there are some things to be said about that - about the things that have sustained me in my uncharacteristic period of eating to live.

Rather than living to eat. Yadda yadda.

Partly II, I've been away, and I will be away again starting tomorrow. The summer is the time to get out of the dirty south and head north, so it was New York and now Oregon and then a long drive back through California and across the desert. I don't expect to be doing much in the way of cooking on this trip, but I do expect to find some wonderful - in Portland - and wonderfully terrible - see: I-10 - food on my travels. Which means more Snob Reviews.

Last partly, pictures might be slow coming. As they have been. I'm adverse to posting without pics cuz it seems too dull, but I don't know that I'll get my camera set up on the tiny computer for the trip. You'll have to wait and see.

(A note on snobbing. It came to my attention, while I was home in lovely up-state New York, that my snobetarian lifestyle transcends the bounds of good eating. I discovered this when I tried to make the argument that people from New York were generally neither more upper-class nor more uppity than people from the mid-west. I then proceeded to snob on every topic that came up for the rest of the day. Possibly week. So. What does this mean? Well, what it means to me is that I need to really embrace the snobbing. Writing teachers are always telling you to figure out what it is you do that makes your voice yours and to work it. Apparently, what I do is snob. It doesn't come from a mean place, or a place of judgement, mind you. Not usually. Don't be offended. Expect more snobbing.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wine Snob 101.1

It's the inaugural post from the inaugural BR wine club! Look for monthly notes from your friendly southern Wine Snobs.

Each month, maybe more, we'll pick a theme, pack over some bottles and compare. In honor of the nearing summer solstice and the sudden Louisiana summer heat wave, it's Riesling Riesling Riesling!

Cupcake Riesling $14.99 ish
(check/check -)

Columbia Valley 2009 (13.5%)

nose: green apple, orange blossom, honeysuckle, peach, stemmy straw

mouth: citrus, grapefruit, sour apple, gooseberry, lemon?

This has a strong attack and a mellow fruity aftertaste. It was one of the drier ones we tasted with more of an in-your-face sauvignon blanc tartness than I expect from a Riesling. Perhaps a little imbalanced. Sort of like that guy who talks too much cuz he's insecure. He'll flirt his face off at a party, make you laugh, dance on the table, but don't be fooled. You're gonna have to make all the first moves.

Chateau Ste. Michele “Dry Riesling” $8.99 ish
(check/check -)

Columbia Valley 2008 (13%)

nose: banana, white cherry, pine, round and warm

mouth: eucalyptus, pepper, apricot, vanilla on the finish

A bigger, softer wine with solid peachy Riesling fruit set off by a peppery bite. Like a scoop of sherbert with pop-rocks on top.

Trimbach $22 ish
(check +)

Alsace 2007 (12.5%)

nose: moldy (cheese), wet wool, peach, apricot, faint blossom

mouth: lavender, soy sauce, geranium, orange blossom

This one is smooth smooth smooth with a bit of bite at the end. An acerbic wit, a sardonic soft-talker. You won't realize what she was really saying until you've already turned away. A Redstar Bar hipster. She only listens to early 80s cure. And you just can't get enough.

Pacific Rim $10.39 ish
California I-just-totally-spaced-on-the-year-here? (12.5%)

nose: orange zest, soap, wet cardboard, computer paper in your mouth, melon, peach, kerosene!

mouth: barnyard straw, dried apricot, bing cherries, cooked green beans

Totally surprised me based on the non-standard bottle, the cheesy looking label. A really interesting balance of fruit and other. Not overbearing. Not so cutesy. You go back. You go back.

"It's the velveteen rabbit! It's Blonde Redhead!"

Schloss Vollards Qualitätiswein $16.99 ish
(check -)

Rheingau (10.5%)

nose: honey, grass stemmy, perfume-y floral

mouth: honey, fake grape, peach nectar, pepper?

“It's like eating a popsicle on a dock on a summer evening.”

Clean Slate $11.99 ish
(check -)

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2008 (10.5%)

nose: green apple, yellow raisin, horse, campfire, menthol, slate?

nose: green apple jolly rancher, (sweet), grapefruit on the end

This wine tastes like "colors."

Riesling Qualitätiswein $?
(check -)

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2007 (9.5%)

nose: butterscotch.

mouth: vanilla. One note. We got bored.

Tastes like grandma, plastic couch covers and perfume. Tastes like the night before your quinceÑera.
(And that's all she wrote. Are we drunk?)

Selbach-Oster Kabinett $17.99
(check +)

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2008 (9%)

nose: gasoline, wet dog, burnt sugar, pickled okra, clay, anise, lavender, peach?

mouth: honey, grapefruit, pineapple

This one seemed the most characteristically Riesling, and had the roundest, most complex flavor. A well-fed, well-travled gentleman with a very nice pocket watch who likes to hand out cigars.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Spectacular Sauce

Tomato sauce could be called boring.
Or it could be called simple.

2 sm or 1 lg onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

5 + cloves garlic, chopped

Balsamic vinegar

3 dried chilies, crumbled

1 tsp fennel seed

1/2 oz.can tomatoes, chopped with juice


  1. Saute onions, shallot and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add balsamic, stir for a few seconds and add chiles and fennel seed. Saute until chili skins darken.

  2. Add tomatoes. Bring to a nice simmer and turn the heat down to low. Add Bragg's to taste (maybe about a tsp, but start less and work up). Cook, partially covered, until sauce thickens. Perhaps 20 min.

  3. Done and done.

One thing about tomato sauce is that you really need to add a little sugar to it to cut the acid in the tomatoes, but I don't like sweet tomato sauces and it can be hard to hit the right balance. In this case, the balsamic adds a little sweetness and a nice round flavor. Sugar tastes just sweet. Flat sweet. This is a nice interesting sweet. I like the added flavor of the shallots as well. It complicates the onions. Onions should be complicated to compensate for the simplicity of the sauce overall.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I heart gnocchi, and I've always been interested in trying different varieties. I've had them with basil in them, and that was good, so here's a pumpkin version. These is probably more of a fall dish, but I happen to have some pumpkin that I roasted and froze last fall. It tastes good to mix up the seasons when you can.

1 lb. pumpkin

1 lb. red potatoes

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 + flour

  1. Preheat oven to 400 and place potato(es) and pumpkin on baking sheet. Bake until soft, about 45 min. (I pre-baked my pumpkin and stuck it in the freezer. I can pretty much only find fresh pumpkins for sale during pumpkin season, so I try to stock up.)

  2. Peel potatoes and pumpkin while still hot. Let cool for several min and then push through a food mill or ricer. Neither? Me neither. I put mine through the food processor.

  3. Sprinkle with 1 1/4 c. flour and mix with your hands until you have a smooth dough. If sticky, add more flour, a little at a time. Don't knead or over-work. (I had to add significantly more flour than it seemed one would add if using potatoes alone. The pumpkin is moister, and requires more flour.)

  4. Take 1/4 of the dough and role into a snake about 1/2 in. in diameter. Cut into pieces about 3/4 in. wide. Role into balls or press with the tines of a fork and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour. Repeat until dough is all transformed into balls.

  5. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop gnocchi into the water about 10-20 at a time, depending on the size of your pot. When they rise to the surface, give em a count of twenty and they're done! Scoop out and place aside. Repeat until done. (sometimes they stick to the bottom, so you may want to give a quick stir if they seem to be down there for a long time.)

At this point, they're ready to sauce and eat, however, you can fancy it up by baking them in butter and cheese, or pan frying them. I choose the later. Just heat about a tbsp or 2 (enough to coat bottom) of olive oil in a frying pan and place gnocchi in a single layer over the bottom of the pan. Fry until they have begun to brown on the bottom, sauce and serve!

Sauce soon to follow . . .

Homemade Croutons

I'm not including measurements here - only very approx. - cuz this is a loose type of cooking. It's pretty forgiving, and easy to eyeball. So don't be afraid to take control.

Stale or not bread, cubed (half loaf)

Garlic, chopped (four cloves)

Rosemary, dry or fresh (1 tsp dried)

Ground sea salt (1 tsp)

Olive oil (2-3 tbsp)

Reminder: measurements are super approximate.
  1. Mix garlic, rosemary, sea salt and olive oil in a large bowl.
  2. Toss bread cubes in mixture until coated.
  3. Place on tin-foil covered baking sheet and bake at 350 until the bread and garlic are both brown and crisp.
I've experimented with adding the garlic later, so it doesn't risk burning. This is an option. But since I'm generally lazy, I prefer to put it in at the beginning and not have to mess with things once they're in the oven. If you keep an eye on it, you can avoid absolute burn, but you will end up with very crunchy garlic bits. I happen to like them this way. Everything is subjective.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomatillo Gazpacho

Look at that lovely pumpkin color! Not mud brown at all!

Lookit dem duckies!


10 tomatillos

1 red pepper, cut into strips

2 jalapenos

2 sm or 1 lg onion, cut into rings

5-10 cloves garlic

Olive oil

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 1 in. pieces

1 avocado, cubed

1-2 limes, juiced (about 3-8 tsp)


(1-2 c. veggie broth

Nutritional yeast

Flax seed oil)

  1. Place tomatillos, red pepper strips, jalapenos, onion rings and garlic on a baking sheet (covered in tinfoil for easy clean up). Drizzle olive oil over them and rub to coat. Bake at about 375 until tomatillos are soft and onions and peppers start to brown. Let cool until touchable.

  2. Remove tomatillo husks, peel garlic, peel red pepper, peel jalapenos. (When I did this the red pepper skins basically came right off but the jalapeno skin didn't. So I said fuck it, and it was fine.)

  3. Blend all vegetables plus lime juice in blender or food processor until smooth. Add Bragg's to taste. Add nutritional yeast and flax oil if desired.

  4. Add veggie broth to desired consistency, chill and serve!

serves 4

When I made this, I didn't add any broth because I didn't plan ahead and was too lazy to defrost my broth. I don't think you need it, but for consistency. Without, it tasted great, but sort of had the consistency of baby food. Just don't think about it and you're fine. But in the name of full disclosure and in the name of options for the experimentally-challenged, consider keeping some broth on hand.

The nutritional yeast and flax oil weren't really necessary for flavor – especially not the flax oil, which sort of tastes like crap – but for vegan nutritional optimization. Add if you like, as much as you like, but keep tasting, because both of these things could easily be overdone.

I served this soup with one large garlic crouton and some roasted garlic bits (to the point of crunchy) sprinkled on top, because I just so happened to have exactly two croutons left over from when I made them previously. It was pretty awesome, so I suggest recreating this as well, but it's not necessary.

Crouton recipe to come...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Walnut Sauce (with Pasta)

I know I've been quiet for a while; things are happening. The class I teach. The other job. It's festival season in Louisiana! And in that quiet time, I have come back from the land of vegan with some homemade pizza, a new old fondue set and some incredible cornmeal cookies. That's all on its way, but I have a few more vegan recipes of the moment. Not to say there won't be vegan options sprinkled throughout in the future, but before I move back to mixed terrain, I just have a couple more things to say about being animal free.

I founds this recipe in my "Vegetarian for Everyone" book. It was last summer and I was trying to come up with something to do with green beans, aside from douse them in butter. I don't actually like green beans all that much, but I tend to buy things when they're in season, just to keep it interesting. I still don't <3 style="font-style: italic;">

for the walnut sauce
3/4 c. walnuts

2-3 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp salt

fresh ground white pepper

2-3 tbsp olive oil
  1. With a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind walnuts, garlic, salt and pepper until relatively smooth.
  2. Add olive oil one tbsp at a time until desired consistency.
  3. Done and done.
for the green beans
  1. Boil water with a healthy pinch of salt.
  2. As water boils, trims green beans. When boiling, dump them in and cook for just about a minute or until the beans are a bright green color. No longer, or they get soggy. I would always err on the side of under cooking here, because green beans are still good raw, but they taste like icky mush if they're over cooked.
  3. Drain.
You can do the broccoli similarly, although I usually pan steam my broccoli, because I don't want it to pick up too much water. This means heating a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat, throwing the broccoli in, adding about an 1/8 c. of water and putting a lid over it. Again, cook until broccoli is bright green and tender - easy to test it with the prongs of a fork.

If you have a lot of pots and space, you can prepare the pasta as you prepare the green beans. Since I don't, and I don't have a dishwasher and am always trying to consolidate dirty dishes, I did the green beans first and then boiled more water and cooked the pasta in the same pot. I used whole wheat linguine here, but whatever pasta's your pleasure would work fine. I also see this with bowties.

When the pasta has been drained, just toss together. You'll have to eyeball how much pasta etc you need for how many people you're feeding. I'd say this is generally pretty subjective. This makes plenty of walnut sauce - when I made it it was for 2 and I've eaten it twice since then and there's still a ton, so I would say you could easily feed six with this. You may need to add a little extra olive oil to the pasta. Don't be shy. It's the good kind of fat.

Punjabi Turnips?

This is a recipe that I took from “World Vegetarian” againagain and messed with. Twice. I'm going to put the vegan version because my non-vegan version needs another run, but I'll explain so you can do your own run if it suits.

3 tbsp peanut or canola oil

¾ c. finely chopped onions

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed to a pulp

½ c. finely chopped very ripe tomatoes

1 fresh hot green chile, finely chopped

¼ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp cayenne

1 tsp salt

½ lb waxy red potatoes and ½ lb. turnips, peeled, cut into 1inch dice and put in a bowl of cold water

(3/4 - 1 1/2 c. plain yogurt)

1 tsp garam masala

  1. Put the oil in a large frying pan or wide pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the onions. Stir and fry until they are medium brown. Put in the ginger and garlic. Stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, green chile, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Turn the heat to medium and stir for 2 minutes.

  2. Drain the potatoes and add to pan. Add 1 ½ c. water. Stir to mix and bring to a boil.

  3. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, cooking about 20 min. Stir occasionally.

  4. Uncover, turn the heat to medium, and cook another 10 min or until the sauce has slightly reduced and is thick. Sprinkle the garam masala over the top and stir gently to mix. Serve hot.

First caveat: this is originally a purely potatoes recipe. I added the turnips as part of my ongoing edible turnips project. I don't really like them. There, I said it. I don't really like turnips.

But they're cheap, and there's something romantic about root vegetables. Something about the idea of root cellars and the careful planning that used to have to go into winter eating. Something about the bounty of each season, the turn from strawberries and tomatoes to acorn squash and rutabaga. Something about my penchant for the difficult. I will eat this difficult veggie. I will eat it and I will like it and I will make it so good that you will like it too.

This isn't a bad option. The turnip's texture and flavor suits this style of Indian cooking, and mixing it in with the potatoes dilutes the turnipness of things. It's like a spoonful of sugar; a spoonful of potatoes.

Maybe I'm cheating. But I ate every last bit.

Second caveat: yogurt. I originally came across this recipe when I was trying to get rid of some red potatoes I'd purchased to make potato salad. Forgetting I don't really like potato salad that much – only my mom and one friend can make it worthwhile, and while I have faith that I can also succeed where so many diners have failed, I wasn't in the mood. So instead, this Punjabi dish.

The thing missing for me was the cream. I was hoping for an Indian dish with cream – that texture, that sauciness. So instead of water, I used yogurt. I happen to have had some fresh goat's milk yogurt from the farmer's market, which seemed appropriate. And it was. And it was good, taste-wise.

The problem being, the potatoes don't cook as well in the yogurt. I cooked them as long as I had patience for – which at the moment wasn't as long as I might usually – and they were still to hard. So I would try some water/yogurt combo. Perhaps half and half. This is the next run and I'll report back. Or you should try it, and report back for me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Grandma's Beet Relish

I don't know where this recipe originally came from, but I have a copy my mother hand wrote on an index card. It's a recipe index card, which says:

RECIPE: Beet Relish
From the Kitchen of: Grandma Swingle

2 c. coarsely grated beets (cooked)

2 tbsp chopped red onion

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp dijon mustard

3 tbsp veggie oil

salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend well. Chill thoroughly.

This is a great side dish - it seems to go with everything and adds that beautiful magenta color to your plate. It's tangy, with the underlying sweetness of the beets and that dab of sugar.

As far as the beets go, I prefer to roast them before grating. I usually cut them in half and place them cut side down on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and stick it in the oven for as long as it takes. I'd say 400 degrees or so. Let them cool and the skins should peel right off. Consider gloves or you'll end up with pink fingers. I always do.

End up with pink fingers.

Tofu Overdose

That's what I googled to try to come up with some information on soy protein. Not that I actually think such a thing is possible. Not in the way one od's on, say, heroin or whatever else the kids are doing these days, but I have a suspicion of mono-anything. Like monocropping or monocracy or monogamy. All potentially fraught. Everything needs a little variety. One way or another.

Don't you think?

Especially one's diet. I know that in certain cultures in certain climates, people live on nothing but fish for the majority of the year, but I believe that in general, in the world most of us reading blogs on the interweb inhabit, our most healthful option is to maintain a diet that is varied. This means getting vitamins, minerals, fats (yes, fats), protein and whatall from several sources. Several sources each. One of the things that most concerned me, going into this vegan thing, was the soy problem.

Soy has become damn hip. At the coffee shop I work at, we've gone from ordering two cases of soymilk a week to three. And we still run out. I've noticed in a sort of non-scientific way that I'm reaching for the soy way more often then I was even six months ago. I've noticed that some of my regulars have switched from skim to soy. Why?

I mean, they're not vegan. I doubt it has anything to do with food politics. Why is this happening? What do they think they're doing? What's the draw?

Is it all about health?

I've been drinking soymilk for years. At the beginning, it was because of the candy goodness of vanilla soy, but now that I've gotten over the adult joys of eating brownies for breakfast, it's just because I think milk is a little icky. Personal ish. So I already keep it around the house for my coffee or randomly in baked goods, to drink with cookies, on cereal. Etc. I knew that going vegan would up my tofu intake – since every time I drop cheese partially from my diet, that's what happens – and on top of that, there are about a thousand other soy protein items that are pushed on vegetarians and vegans for the sake of meat-y-ness. Boca burgers, TVP, soy yogurt, Fakin-bacon. All soy based. Even if you don't abide by fakery, you still can't avoid it. It's in all kinds of “normal” processed foods, too. One's that are marketed to you and yourself and everyone you know.

It's like this: normally, I would put buttermilk on my oatmeal, but now it's soy milk. Normally, I take yogurt with me for breakfast when I work early, but now it's soy yogurt. Normally, I eat grilled cheese and put butter in my cookies and feta in my stuffed peppers, but now it's baked tofu, silken tofu, soft tofu. Normally, I buy about two blocks of tofu a month. Now it's what? Five? Six?

So what I'm getting at is simply that I am eating significantly more soy. And. And I noticed I was feeling funny. My stomach was bothering me. Not like nauseous but more like . . . just strange. Off. Sort of like the idea of cramps, but not cramps-actual. A hollow sort of full feeling. And I wondered if it had anything to do with all the soy.

Now I don't have anything particularly smart to say about this. I've done a little research via the internet, and a friend who is studying to be a nutritionist, and perhaps unsurprisingly, results are mixed and often contradictory. Tofu is both super heart healthy and maybe not. It could both reduce the likelihood of breast cancer in women, and "one hundred grams of soy baby formula has approximately the same amount of oestrogen as a contraceptive pill," which seems maybe like a bad thing. Soy is the most complete protein of the legume family, and in its unfermented state it hinders absorption of minerals and inhibits the digestion of . . . protein!?


I bring all this up not to say something conclusive, but rather because I noticed it and if one has been vegan for a while, or is intent on veganism for more philosophical reasons, one might not notice it. I'm clearly not a nutritionist or a food scientist. Just your everyday snobetarian. But I'm also not the soy industry and I don't have any particular agenda here. I think it's interesting to consider this aspect of veganism. It's hard enough to eat a variety of things if you're not vegan, especially if you don't cook, and putting this kind of obstruction on your diet only further complicates the diet variety matter. Like my nutritionist friends says, “In my personal philosophy I believe in a balanced diet. I wouldn't recommend a vegan diet to a client but if they wanted to be on a vegan diet I would tell them how to do it safely. I wouldn't discourage something they wanted to do. Anyways, because the B12 and vitamin D is low in a vegan diet and because the fiber content makes absorption more difficult and protein requirements are harder to fill it can be less safe especially if people aren't eating enough nutrient dense foods.”

In other words, this is a tricky business. There are all kinds of things that could be causing my tummy to feel funny. My carb intake is also up – maybe more on this – and who knows if I'm actually eating as much as I usually do. But while soy has had a lot of great press, it could be a part of my problem, too. It's not a health "panacea", nor is it a vegan panacea. It's just part of ye olde balanced diet. And I wonder if anyone else has anything to say about this.

(Not to mention the monocropping again. If we're all eating so much soy, where's it coming from do you think? If we're worried about the environment and de-rainforestization and the farming industrial complex...why are we purchasing the hell out of soy products? Especially you vegans. I mean, isn't that part of your reasoning? Isn't it partly about some environmental political philosophy? Isn't it? Or is that just me.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Scrambled Tofu

This is a "How it All Vegan" recipe that I have mildly modified and kinda can't get enough of. I don't eat eggs all that much normally, but once and a while I want a really solid salty breakfast - like not oatmeal - like say the I'm-really-hung-over breakfast, but something more than toast. That's where eggs would generally come in.

These fake scrambled eggs satisfy all of my snobetarian vegan clauses - good taste, good looking, no fakery. And they're super easy. And if you're like me and you have no real sense of how much of spice you're wont to go through in any period of time and you have a gianormous bag of tumeric that you've had since 2005, doubly perfect.

Scrambled Eggless Eggs

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 pkg firm tofu, crumbled

1/2 tsp tumeric

1/8 tsp cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne

2 tbsp Braggs

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. When hot add the onions and garlic and saute on medium-high until onions are translucent.
  2. Add tofu, tumeric, cumin and Braggs and mix together. Saute on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until moisture has evaporated and tofu is lightly seared on one side.
  3. Serve.
Whenever I'm frying or sauteing tofu, I like to wrap it in a towel and press some of the moisture out of it beforehand. This is really helpful when you're frying-frying, because, as you know, water and oil don't mix, and if the tofu is super wet still it will spit hot oil all over you. In this case it just expedites the second part of step 2.

I also up the spices in this a little. Probably not by 2x, but maybe by an extra half of the original measurement. Except for the cayenne, which isn't in the original recipe, so that's my true to snobetarian self measurement. If you don't like spicy, feel free to pass it up.

I brought this to a very non-vegan brunch today and it was a pretty big hit all around. Went especially well with our pan-fried hash browns.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vegan Sloppy Joes

This might sound like fakery but aha!

You are wrong.

Or maybe you're not wrong, but we're working with my rules and re: the substance-not-flavored-to-taste-like-meat clause, TVP is not fakery.

Textured vegetable protein is in the same category as tofu, as far as I'm concerned. It's mostly its own thing and doesn' t have a lot of wacky Jersey factory ingredients. Just a particular texture. I still don't use it much, but for some reason I'm all over the veggie sloppy joes. Maybe because the real ones always seemed disgustingly fascinating. Something we didn't do in my fam. I have never had one, but I no longer feel I'm missing out.

So I have to admit, I didn't really measure this as I was making it. I always do it to taste, and unlike my hummus, it pretty much always comes out the same. I have guesstimated measurements for the second half of the ingredients - tomato on - so start under and work up to the amount, and then over if that seems necessary. Trust your taste. This one is pretty true to flavor.

Vegan Sloppy Joes

olive oil

1 med onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 serranos chilies, minced

1 carrot, grated

1 portabella, chopped

1 cup (dry) TVP, re-hydrated

1 cup canned tomato and juice, chopped

2 tbsp Bragg's

2 tbsp molasses

½ cup ketchup

salt to taste

  1. Heat approx. 2 tbsp olive oil over med-high heat in a large heavy duty skillet. I use my cast iron.

  2. When hot, add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and chilies and stir for another minute. When fragrant, add tomato, Bragg's, molasses and ketchup.

  3. Taste; adjust.

  4. Add TVP, carrot, portabella and salt. Stir until thoroughly mixed and bring to a simmer. Turn down heat and simmer for 10-15 min.

  5. Taste; adjust.

Good luck!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vegan Mix Brownies!

When I was 21 I spent a year living in Boston. Rather than finishing up my last year at Tufts, I was working at a gourmet food shop and waiting to hear about my app to transfer into an agricultural program at Cornell. There were 7 of us in that house and we had a sort of veggie coop set up. Every week two people were on shopping duty, and we bought our food collectively and informally cooked for each other here and there. It worked pretty well. In fact, it was one of the best living situations I've ever stumbled into.

One of our small glitches was that two us were vegan while the rest were not. This meant that often things had to become vegan that ordinarily wouldn't have been. To be fair. Communal food.

For example: mix brownies.

I think I mentioned earlier that I freakin love brownies from a mix. Probably because my mother never made them when I was a kid. Everything we baked was from scratch, so mix brownies were pure magical sweetness.

And surprisingly, in and of themselves, often vegan.

Of course, they have a lot of other nonsense in them, but there are worse things. At least no corn syrup, right?

Here's what you do:

Instead of the

1 egg (for chewy ones, the way I like)
1/3 c. water and
1/3 c. veggie oil

that the kind I usually get – Duncan Hinse Chocolate Lover's – calls for, I use

3 tbsp. applesauce
1/3 c. water and
1/3 c. silken tofu (blended smooth).

Now you've cut the oil and the egg, but certainly not the sugar.

Simple Hummus

I have hummus recipe ish. (That's short for 'issue,' btw.) I can't find one I like. The hummus recipe in “How it All Vegan” is like a lot of the ones I have problems with: too complicated. Too many things in there. I think there's one in my “Vegetarian for Everyone” book that's pretty basic, but something about it bugs me, although I can't remember what. I haven't made in a while, though, ostensibly for that reason.

Or I'm just lazy. I hate opening a cook book for something I should just be able to throw together to taste. Something where all the ingredients end up in a food processor.

The problem then becomes my inability to repeat past combos. My hummus comes out different every time. This is fine, but it would be nice, once and a while, to have expectations and then to meet them.

So this time I measured. And I didn't accidentally put too much salt.

Plain Jane Hummus

½ c. tahini

½ cup olive oil (plus some for drizzle)

¼ c. fresh lemon juice

4+ cloves roasted garlic

1 15 oz. can chickpeas

approx. ¼ c. chickpea juice or water

salt to taste


  1. In a food processor or blender, combine tahini, olive oil, lemon juice garlic and some salt (about ¼ tsp?) until smooth.

  2. Add chickpeas and liquid some at a time until all chickpeas are incorporated and hummus is the consistency you desire.

  3. Adjust salt.

  4. Scoop into dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and serve.

This is a pretty mild hummus. Like a base hummus. Feel free to up the lemon juice or garlic, or to add a little cumin (½ – 1 tsp?) to taste. I prefer roasted garlic to regular because I cannot control fresh garlic. The flavor deepens as it sits, and every time I use the fresh stuff the hummus comes out two steps away from purely medicinal. I mean, I like garlic, but come on. Roasting the garlic mellows it out a little, but if you don't keep it around - I generally try to roast a couple bulbs every so often and just keep them in a tupperware in the fridge – fresh will do. Just start fewer and taste as you go.