Hello!

traveling

 

It’s been a long hiatus, but I’ve returned to Veggicurious after a time spent traveling, exploring, thinking, and eating. Over the next few weeks, the site will debut a new look, with new information, a new project, and much more. And, of course, the blog will continue! Check back for more information, or subscribe, and I’ll keep you updated with new exciting developments! I’m thrilled to have new energy, ideas and foods to share with you, and I hope that you are too! 

Fall Grain Salad with butternut, shitake, leek, sage and brown butter

fall grain saladI love hearty winter wheat berries , the little brown grains have such a wonderful spring-back after cooking, and hold-up to heavier additions in a fall or winter salad. Last evening I was looking for a recipe that could incorporate my fall ingredients – leeks, butternut squash, sage, and some dried shitake mushrooms, but nothing seemed quite right. So I just made one up. This is a perfect comforting, hearty lunch if you’re stuck in an office with a microwave. And if I had a log of goat cheese, I might have put some in, but it’s delicious without.

Fall Grain Salad with butternut, shitake, leek, sage and brown butter

2 cups cooked hard winter wheat berries (you can actually cook these in your rice cooker!)

2 cups roasted butternut squash cubes (about 1/2 of a medium squash)

1 large leek

butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/8 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped

1/4 c. dried shitake mushrooms

white wine

salt and pepper

While the winter wheat is cooking is the squash is roasting, thinly slice the leek, up to the leaves, and saute on medium-low heat in butter (or oil) until it softens. Add the chopped garlic and sage,  and saute until the garlic softens. In a separate saucepan, melt 1 Tbs. butter (if you are using oil, skip this step). Allow the butter to cook, periodically scraping the saucepan, until it becomes brown and toasty. Stir-in the dried mushroom, and then add 1 cup of white wine. Allow to simmer until the sauce reduces to about 1/2 cup. Combine the winter wheat, squash, leeks, and mushrooms with sauce together. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sri Lankan Cashew Curry

Sri Lankan Cashew Curry

Sri Lankan Cashew Curry

After a wonderful Sri Lankan meal at Sigiri in the East Village, I couldn’t get the savory, sweet, spicy cuisine out of my mind. A late-night search of local Sri Lankan restaurants yielded disappointing results (maybe I’ll see you someday, Sigiri in Edison, NJ) a well-researched though impulsive Sri Lankan cookbook purchase was the obvious next step. I had big weekend plans, and crossed my fingers that Amazon would deliver late Friday afternoon so I could spend the evening reading and plotting and ingredient list-making. Saturday morning I was up early, on bicycle with backpack and headed to a favorite Indian / Pakistani grocery for essentials.

I was also entertaining for the weekend, and the weather promised to be sunny, but brisk ; a perfect night to stay in and cook a Sri Lankan feast! By the end of the day, I had made a pickle, two chutneys, some festive coconut rice and five curries – far too much food for three, so I invited over a few more friends to round out the celebration.

One of our favorite curries that night was the cashew curry, pictured above. This curry is rich (in fat and flavor) and usually served in Sri Lanka for special occasions and celebrations. As a vegetarian curry, it is also served to Buddhist monks on holidays. While the cashew and coconut milk provide richness, spices and fresh curry leaves lend a savory balance to the gravy.

You can find numerous cashew curry recipes online, and nearly all call for soaking the cashews in water for one-eight hours ahead of time. You can by-pass this step with an aggressive boiling. I chose to boil mine until the water dried out of the pan, slightly roasted the cashews in the process and lending and extra nuttiness. You will need a lot of organic, unsalted cashews (at least two cups). I was lucky that my dear, visiting friends John and Laura happened to have a bag of cashews with them direct from Panama!  While the amount of “gravy” in the recipe can be adjusted to your liking, make sure you don’t let the curry cook too dry, as the savory coconut base is necessary to balance the entire dish.

spices

Above, some of the spices and essentials I purchased with plans to explore Sri Lankan cooking. Shout out to Patel Brothers – another favorite grocery – in Chicago!

<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/3/39585/restaurant/East-Village/Sigiri-NYC”><img alt=”Sigiri on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/logo/39585/minilogo.gif&#8221; style=”border:none;width:104px;height:15px” /></a>

What to do with green tomatoes?

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My tomatoes went wild this year, and let’s just say, I maintained a fairly “hands off” approach to the garden. As sad as I was to see those wild vines go, I had to rip them out this weekend or miss my fall crops entirely. While I love pickled green tomatoes, I don’t actually drink enough bloody mary’s to justify pickling the whole crop, so I did some research for nontraditional options. I did pickle a few, but went with an interesting, spicy szechuan version I found here:

 

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A few keys to pickling tomatoes: Only go with the very firm, unblemished tomatoes, and use a pickling additive, or you just won’t get those crisp pickles you’re looking forward to. Also, remember that while you can change the spice in pickles, you can’t change the acidity.And let them sit at least three weeks before you give them a try! 

Last weekend I had some amazing pimento cheese spread at Strangelove’s, and so I jumped on this recipe from NPR for green tomato and pimento cheese biscuits. Of course, I had change the recipe up a little bit, so I substituted pickled red cherry tomatoes for pimentos.

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I thought about salsa verde, another common use for green tomatoes, but the breezy fall day pushed me towards a green tomato chili. I made a green tomato puree, added kidney beans, and then decided to also ad some TVP (texturized vegetable protein). It’s not an ingredient I use very often, but I noticed that many green chili recipes make use of chicken or pork, and I thought that that TVP might give a similar texture. A dab of yogurt, some chili and a lemon zest, a squeeze of lime – delicious.

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Commonwealth Ciders – local, dry ciders have arrived

commonwealthIt’s Fall in Philadelphia! The air has finally begun to crisp, the leaves to turn, and I’m digging my cardigans out from storage. Fall means, apples, and apples mean, among other things, delicious cider. I love a cup of hot spiced cider when the weather cools, but the rest of the year, cider, especially the bottled, alcoholic kind, doesn’t make my “must have” list. I have nothing against fermented apples, in general, I just haven’t enjoyed the overly-sugared, cider-pops that I find on grocery shelves and neighborhood bar “anti-gluten” lists. It’s not the apples’ fault!

Recently, at a happy hour fundraiser for one of my favorite Urban Farms, Greensgrow, I had the pleasure to taste (and by taste I mean drink) a new local “dry” cider made by local brew heroes, Philadelphia Brewing Company. Rolling out under the name Commonwealth Ciders, these deliciously dry, apple-based beverages have NO ADDED sugar. What does that mean? For starters, drinking a Commonwealth Cider, vs. a Woodchuck or other standard sugared brand, is the difference between sipping a sparkling dry cava, and popping open a bottle of fizzy Moscato. Now, you might love a sweet fermented drink, but they’re just not for me, which is why I’m so excited to discover this new local option.

Even better? They come in a variety of flavors purely derived from the source – with no artificial flavors or sugars. The “Gregarious Ginger” blew my ginger-loving mind, and the Raspberry promised exactly what it delivered – a clean, dry, hot off the bush raspberry flavor. Of course, you can stick with the “Original Dry,” too, now appearing on tap across Philadelphia. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the gorgeous, boudoir-worthy brand concept.

The representative I spoke with promised cases at distributors by Fall — have you seen any yet?

Pumpkin-Sage Savory Waffles

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I’m the very lucky owner of an industrial waffle-maker that I believe was once stolen from a waffle house, and many years and owners later, gifted to me. It’s gigantic, unwieldy and makes incredible waffles. Unfortunately, I always prefer savory breakfasts (and lunches, and dinners) and so I like to play with savory waffle recipes. My friends still talk about the cheddar habanero waffles I made one Easter (wowsa!).

My super-handy and wonderful father was in town last weekend, and gave me some much-needed help with difficult home projects. Before he jumped in has car and headed away, I wanted to make him a special brunch, so I got out the waffle maker.

It’s still pumpkin season to me, so I used the Bittman “How to Cook Everything” waffle recipe, pumpkin variation, which adds 1 cup of pumpkin puree to your recipe (and I ALWAYS whip the egg whites separately). To mix I also added the last of my fresh sage, chopped, about 6 Tbs. And what do you top a savory pumpkin sage waffle with?

- Sherried baby Portabella mushrooms (butter, garlic, mushrooms, sherry, touch of cream)

- an over easy egg – blue cheese cream

- crumbled blue cheese

- more fresh sage , course sea salt

Of course, I buttered the waffle, too, and dad added maple syrup to his for a touch of sweetness. Feeling a bit guilty about richness of the meal, we had carrot-orange juice on the side, and my version of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s kale salad from The Pump Room.

While I can’t share all of the recipes with you, I can share the Blue Cheese Cream, because I made it up on a whim. 

Blue Cheese Cream

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

half-and-half

Heat is a small saucepan, stirring often, until the blue cheese melts. Cool in a metal bowl in the freezer, until the cream mixture is COLD. Begin whipping with an electric mixer on the highest setting, slowly adding half-and-half until the cream reaches the consistency you desire (about 1/4 cup for the thick cream pictured above). The cream will begin to melt on contact with your hot waffler (or anything else). Delicious.

Winter Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables

 

Quinoa is a near perfect food, and an easy grain to fold into almost any soup, salad, casserole, or main dish. This quick fall salad braises instead of roasts your winter vegetables, without sacrificing that golden flavor. I was treated to a similar dish the other night at a friends how, but she used roasted turnips, onions, rutabaga, sweet potato, and garlic – delicious! Many different combinations of fall / winter vegetables can be delicious in this dish. Just keep in mind their cooking times!

Fall Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables

1 cup quinoa

1 T. Olive Oil

2. Tbs. unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves

1 small onion

4 ounces extra-firm or high-protien tofu

1 cup cremini mushrooms

1 small butternut squash

fresh sage leaves

1 cup finely sliced kale

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

red wine

salt and pepper 

garnish with chopped nuts or seeds, if you wish

 

Put 1 cup on quinoa in a medium saucepan with 2 cups vegetable or mushroom broth. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the “tails” on the quinoa appear (about 25 minutes).

 

Meanwhile, peel and dice into one-half inch cubes 1 small (orn on-half of a large) butternut squash. Place the dice in a dish with a bit of water and microwave until “al-dente” (about 5 mintues).

 

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter. Add 4 ounces of finely diced, extra firm tofu and fry until it begins to crisp. Lower the heat, and Add 3 cloves chopped garlic and 1 small sliced onion, cooking on medium-low until soft. Add the mushrooms, raising the heat to medium-high, stir frequently until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the squash dice, and 6 -8 sliced fresh sage leaves,  turning every few minutes until the squash starts to brown .When all the vegetables are deep golden, addthe kale, and stir. Add the fresh cranberries and a generous splash of red wine, then cover the saucepan. The sugars from the wine and the cranberries with caramelize the vegetables. Sprinkle the vegetables generously with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 

Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Add the roasted vegetables and either cheese (feta is good, or gorgonzola) or a vegan cheese sauce.

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