Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Grapefruit, Cilantro, and Star Anise

brussels with grapefruit, cilantro, star anise

Roasted brussels sprouts with grapefruit? I know it sounds strange, but this dish, based off of “Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pomelo and Star Anise” from the new Ottolenghi cookbook, Plenty More, turned out like so many dishes from Ottolenghi. Your first reaction might be “Really? Those things all together?” but the end result is surprising and delicious.

I was cooking in the Midwest, where I’ve found that brussel sprouts often cost significantly more than they do on the East Coast.  I decided to supplement the brussels with some carrots, which I roll cut for visual appeal, and roasted with the brussels. Instead of shallots, I caramelized two onions, which brought some sweetness and umami to the dish. And I couldn’t find any pomelo – a citrus fruit that is a cross between a sweet grapefruit and an orange with a very thick pith – so I just used a regular old pink grapefruit, to great results. The fresh cilantro is a must, and don’t skip on the star anise syrup either — both of these elements bring interesting South East Asian influence to  the dish. Simple, beautiful, interesting — what more could you want?

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Fava Bean, Pea, and Jersey Tomato Salad

fava bean salad

We’ve reached that wonderful part of summer when we still have access to spring crops, but the later summer crops, like vine-ripened tomatoes, are starting to appear in farmers markets and Co-Ops. Here in Philadelphia, most of our earliest tomatoes come from New Jersey, which is famous for their juicy fruits. Combining spring and summer produce, I put together this very simple, and very delicious, salad with fresh fava beans, snap peas, tomatoes, and red onion. You could also add fresh herbs with abandoned! It’s perfect for these days when the weather really begins to heat up.

Fava Bean, Pea, and Jersey Tomato Salad

fresh fava beans, steamed in their shells, and then pealed.

sugar spap peas, ends trimmed and strings pulled

some big juicy tomatoes, of any type, vine ripened and chopped

a large red onion, finely diced

Toss the vegetables together – only the favas will need to be cooked. To avoid refrigerating the tomato (which destroys its flavor and texture) you can put this salad together ahead of time, adding the tomatoes before eating.

Whisk together a vinaigrette of good quality olive oil, white wine vinegar, sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and the zest and juice of one lemon. I like to balance my vinaigrettes 1/3 oil to 2/3 acid (the vinegar and lemon juice) but some people prefer to reverse those proportions.

Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables, add any chopped herbs that you enjoy (I suggest mint, parsley, basil, oregano, tarragon and/or sage) and toss. Let marinate at least 15 minutes before serving.

Steamed Eggplant with Miso-Tomato Sauce

steamed eggplant with miso-tomato sauce

I bought some adorable little asian eggplants, and there they lay, lingering in my fridge, waiting for me to make myself a dinner. I love asian varieties of eggplant, as they tend to be more tender, and less bitter than their larger, Italian cousins. With not much time or desire to put together a large meal for just myself, and even less desire to spend time over the stove on a sweltering 98 degree Philadelphia day, I pulled a recipe from Joe Yohan’s very fun cookbook, “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook.” All recipes in this cookbook are vegetable-based, and intended for solo meals.  Not too many ingredients, not to much time, but a whole lot of flavor.

I altered the recipe a bit to use what I had available – some homemade Coconut Vinegar that my friend Joel gave me (and warned me to open quickly, as the yeast was still alive!) and some roasted almonds instead of peanuts. I also used the same pan and boiling water which I used to steam the eggplant for boiling the udon noodles. Less time – less mess! Altogether, about 6 minutes of total hands-on cooking, and a great, quick dinner.

A brief recipe summary, with my alterations:

 

Steamed Eggplant with Miso-Tomato Sauce 

One small eggplant, or a few tiny asian eggplants. Slice into rounds, salt, and steam until soft (about 20 minutes)

A nice hunk of ginger, diced, and cooked in 2 teaspoons of sesame oil until soft

2 Tbs. of miso, whisked with 1 Tbs. of vinegar (I used homemade coconut vinegar). Add the miso sauce to the ginger, stir.

A big diced tomato, or 3/4 cup organic crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce. Added to the sauce.

1 serving of cooked udon noodles (or soba). Top the noodles with the eggplants and the sauce, and then garnish with chopped almonds (or peanuts, or roasted sesame seeds) and diced scallion.

Sloppy Janes

Sloppy Jane.jpgIt’s Memorial Day weekend, and many of us will be attending BBQs, potlucks, and other early-summer food parties. If you’re looking for a grill or BBQ alternative, sloppy janes are an easy, and delicious option. I cook part-time at a Quaker retreat center that focuses on local, organic and plant-free menus, and we recently made these “sloppy joe” – type sandwiches with crumbled and fried tempeh instead of meat. If you’re new to tempeh, remember to boil it before cooking, otherwise it can have a bitter aftertaste. Then crumble, and fry like you would hamburger for sloppy joes. I fried the above tempeh with onions and garlic, and then added my own special sauce, a spicy vinegar-based BBQ cut with tomato sauce, some spices, extra cider vinegar, and a touch of mollasses. The fried tempeh can then be stirred right into the sauce, until you achieve your desired “sloppy” consistancy. Easy! Like traditional sloppy joes, this is also an easy dish to throw in the crock pot and take along to a BBQ or potluck.

I served sloppy janes on a crusty sourdough roll, with carmelized onions, cheddar, and plenty of mustard and hot peppers, but these sandwiches go great with any kind of traditional BBQ sandwich topping, including pickles, hot sauce, sourkraut or coleslaw – the list goes on! Add some mac & cheese and some greens and youve got a great Southern-Style BBQ meal. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Fingerling Potatoes with Creamy Worcestershire Sauce

ImageHave you hear of the vegan restaurant Vedge? This upscale Center City restaurant does amazing things with vegetables, and is justifiably famous outside of vegetarian circles – in fact, chef / owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby have won numerous awards for Vedge, which is widely considered to be one of the best vegan restaurants, and restaurants period in the country. If you’re in Philadelphia, it’s definitely worth a visit, but even if you’re not, you can get a taste of the inventive, flavor-forward, vegetable focused menu.

I just got my copy of the new Vedge cookbook, and I’m so excited to work my way through it. I’m most struck by how simple most of the recipes are, and with not many ingredients, but the flavors really shine. For a recent fancy picnic I brought their Fingerling Potatoes with Creamy Worcestershire Sauce. This time of year, new potatoes are so buttery and perfect, and the roasting, combined with the savory mayonnaise, really highlights this Spring treat. I know that Worcestershire sauce is usually not vegan, but it is possible to find both vegan mayos and worcestershire if you would like to keep the recipe vegan. Landau and Jacoby suggest smashing the fingerlings and tossing them with the mayo sauce, but since I was looking for a finger food, I kept mine whole and served the sauce on the side.

Homemade Chili Oil

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I like a little kick in almost everything that I cook, but even if you’re on the lower end of “spice tolerance,” chili oil is a bright, flavorful condiment to keep in your refridgerator. You can purchase ready-made chili oil, but it is usually produced with roasted seseme oil and intended as a finishing oil – not a cooking oil. In many dishes where chili oil would add a nice zing – sautés, pizza topping, risotto, etc. – the flavor of seseme would either be too overpowering, or just plain off-putting. No problem! You can easily and very cheaply make your own chili oil with a neutral, high-temp-friendly base oil. Remember, the chilis will continue to release heat into the oil as it is stored, so always test a bit before adding to any dish or recipe!

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Homemade Chili Oil

2 cups nuetral cooking oil, such as safflower

3 fresh serrano or dutch chilis*

3 dried thai chilis

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In a heavy-bottomed pot or  ceramic-lined dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of the oil until it shimmers. Add the fresh chilis and garlic, thingly sliced, as well as the dried chilies. Saute carefully until the chilis begin to release their heat (you’ll smell them!), but do not let the chilies brown. Remove from heat, add the remaining oil, and stir. Store in an airtight jar in the refridgerator for up to two months.

*You may used whatever kind of chili you prefer – ancho, chipotle, etc. The flavor of your oil will change accordinging.

 

Welcome Spring! Wheat Berries with Roasted Radishes

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After a long Winter, everyone is eager for Spring. It’s so wonderful to go into farmers’ martkets and co-op, or maybe you visit a local farm or are participate in Community Supported Agriculture, and see these first Spring vegetables arriving. Though I have planted my spring garden, all I currently see are little, encouraging green shoots and leaves, and so I was excited to find some beautiful radishes at the farmer’s market last weekend. I was tempted to slice them up immediately and spread them on whole wheat bread with a nice slab of butter sprinkled with Maldon salt (on of my favorite ways to eat new spring radishes), but I held off in order to make a version of the “Thyme Farrotto with Roasted Radishes and Radish Greens,” from the wonderful cookbook “Whole Grains for a New Generation.” image

I didn’t have any farro in the house, so I substituted wheat berries, which are similar (though do take quite a long time to cook). I cooked the wheat berries in vegetable stock and thyme , and when it was soft but toothsome, finished it with a tablespoon of butter and a bit more yogurt (instead of the creme fraiche in the original recipe. Meanwhile, I roasted the radishes and greens (after tossing in olive oil, salt and pepper) until the radishes browned and started to shrivel, and the greens crisped. While they look beautiful here (and in the cookbook) the greens will be easter to eat if you chop them a bit first!  This simple recipe really let the radishes shine.