It started out like most Sundays: Woke up, brewed a liter of French press coffee, read, and eventually pulled myself out of bed and into less-casual attire. It was time to 'adult'. You know, do the things you're required to do like laundry, pay bills, send important emails, and, if you're like me, run a business (which translates to always being busy). On this particular day, however, I decided to keep my adulting to a minimum and enjoy the rest of the lovely Sunday sun and do a bit of cooking before going on yet another food adventure.
But what to make for breakfast? Biscuits? Soft-boiled eggs? Swirled poppyseed Babka? Wild mushroom frittata? I searched my pantry and refrigerator for ingredients that might grab my attention: "Choose me. No, no me!" They said, "You know you can't resist my fresh, herbaceous charm." And how could I ignore the herbs? They that spoke the loudest of my ingredients, just begging to be used in my next meal. One by one, I reached for them all: one bunch cilantro, two bunches parsley, two limes, and jalapeño and garlic.
Into the blender the ingredients went with a pinch of smoked Hungarian paprika, toasted, ground coriander, just a pinch of citric acid (helps preserve the bright green color), a touch of kosher salt and cracked black Tellicherry peppercorn, and a large handful of toasted almonds. As I pulsed the ingredients to marry them in flavor, slowly streaming in the olive oil, I daydreamed of it's use as a dipping sauce for vegetables, accompaniment with mushroom, elk meatballs, and four bean salad.
I call this creation: Green Romesco
If you're a romesco purist, I know I have you squawking, "This can't be romesco! Where's the tomato and red bell pepper?" True, there aren't any of those ingredients, but I can't help but think of this as it's younger, spicier sister. You can easily swap out one sauce for another, and it's good to challenge your palate. Sometimes, I'll even add mint, or other hot green peppers -poblano, say- to this recipe to further its complex flavor profile. Regardless, you'll end up drizzling, draping, dashing this sauce on just about anything - from meats to fish to vegetables, and everything in between.
Prepares 2 cups.
1 bunch cilantro
2 bunches parsley
1 lime, freshly juiced
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp Hungarian smoked paprika
1 tsp toasted, ground coriander
pinch citric acid
1 whole jalapeño (seeds can be removed)
kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/3 cup almonds, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Combine all ingredients into a blender and slowly add oil and water until you've reached desired consistency.
A food memory, and recipe, from guest author Adrian Daniel Schramm
...Or, more specifically, learning to love the eggplant.
The eggplant that sat on a porcelain plate in the center of the dinner table; a vegetarian pièce de résistance in all of its terrible glory.
Diversity was the name of that table growing up. My sisters and I out playing in the dirt. My mother was home in the kitchen, and she's still there: Painted yellow with turmeric and red with paprika and chili, smelling of butter and salt from the rolls turning golden brown in the oven, humming along to songs (Whitney Houston, Bette Midler, Cher, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John...) that played on old records. My father had kept the record player from when he was a teenager in the 70's. Analog has a different sound. The house smelled of old wood and creaked in noises as you moved through it - but the kitchen, the kitchen was music and spice; sweet and soulful sounds and sweeter pastries, and always something new to smell, see, taste, touch.
My mother was a musician herself. She played the piano. She played the dulcimer. She played the marimba and the flute. She viewed her music in the same way she viewed her food: A way to express herself, and a way to share herself (share that expression) with the people she loved most.
I loved her music, except for Bach and his Sonatas (which I found to be a little dull after a while), and I loved her cooking, too - I loved just about every-and-anything she'd make for the dinner table, the breakfast nook, for my lunchbox I brought with to school.
Except, of course, for that one thing. Everything, except for eggplant.
Not an egg or eggy at all was this eggplant. This aubergine. This purple, spongey, meaty nightshade that still gives me a shiver (an increasingly brief shiver; I am still learning) when I think back to it.
But the problem didn't lie solely with the fact that I disliked eggplant (immensely). No. The problem was also that my mother liked it so very much. She rather loved to cook with eggplant - couldn't resist adding it to pasta sauce, her ragù, and atop her morning quiche. She'd make baba ganoush in the spring. She'd roast it on the grill, skewered on warm summer nights. She'd stew it with chickpeas and tomato come winter cold.
Her most-favorite lunch was an eggplant sandwich from the small neighborhood restaurant, called Muffaletta, on Como Avenue just down the street.
(That restaurant, sadly, is now closed).
And I tried (as much as a child can) to do my best. To chew and swallow dutifully. To quiet down and didn't I know that there are starving children in... As I did with the other things I didn't enjoy (I also didn't understand the beauty of the mushroom until later in life, for example). But eggplant was the one thing that I simply could not, would not stand. Something to do with the texture, maybe, as no other vegetable, no other food for that matter, really has the same texture as an eggplant. Or maybe it was that slightly off, slightly of mold-tasting blandness I perceived as its only offering of flavor.
Perhaps, probably, it was something of a combination of the two.
And my mother tried as well, as a mother does. She'd cook it different ways - How about like so? she'd ask. One week like this, another week like that; one week sliced thin and cooked with rice, another week diced and fried with breakfast potato hash. (I actually did enjoy baba ganoush until I discovered what I was eating. My mother, exasperated, asking me what difference did it make if I knew what it was? I liked it just fine before, for chrissake!). But there was something about just knowing what it was that turned my stomach inside out and left it in completely unappetizing pieces.
Then, one night in (let's say) late May. A Friday night, I remember, and the start of a long weekend. My backpack left and forgotten on my bedroom floor. The sun starting to set, turning the sky a deep red and orange as I came in from playing tag and kicking up sand with the neighborhood kids in the playground across the street.
And for dinner? Pizza! No child can resist.
Pizza, yes. Eggplant pizza. I watched curious at the counter. But not the eggplant pizza you're thinking of. Eggplant not on top, but rather for the crust. You see? It's a normal pizza, just no need for dough. Eggplant will suit just fine as a base, my mother said, to hold up all the other things that make pizza such a wonderful thing.
Curious. Sausage? Okay. Cheese? But of course. Onions? If you like. And... pineapple? She smiled at me and put her hand through my hair. And me, standing there, dubious. Skeptical? That most certainly. But, pizza, oh, mom, what else can I say?
The eggplant sliced into discs about a half-inch thick. Covered in her (incredible) tomato sauce and too much (or, just the right amount of) mozzarella cheese, and any/all other toppings I wanted. Then roasted in the oven. The smell of tomato and basil and cheese and meat all melting together; I could see what looked like an oh-so-perfectly-round personal-pan-pizza cooking hot through the oven door and I was hooked.
Mom, of course, and of course as always, triumphant at last.
The Recipe: Eggplant Crust Pizza
1 eggplant, cut into half-inch thick slices
1⁄4c your favorite red sauce recipe
1⁄2 - 1c shredded mozzarella cheese
4tsp olive oil
Additional toppings (optional):
1 white onion, sliced thin
1/2c pepperoni slices or prepare sausage
1/2 cup mushrooms of your choice
1/4c fresh basil
1c crushed tomatoes
Preheat the oven (a toaster oven works as well) to 425F.
Paint both sides of your eggplant slices with olive oil, and sprinkle salt and pepper evenly.
Place on a baking sheet. Bake until the eggplant is browned, turning tender/creamy in the center, approx. 7min. Turn once.
Spread one tsp of your red sauce on the top of each slice of eggplant.
Cover with mozzarella cheese and whatever toppings you like.
Bake until the cheese melts, approx. 5min.
Serve hot from the oven.
Everyone had their one thing (or sometimes more) that they simply couldn't stomach growing up. Did the thought of spinach or broccoli or liver and onions give you nightmares? Share your own story, and how you learned to love it (that is, if you did - maybe it still makes you shiver?), in the comment section below.
Even though I'm no longer five, I still enjoy my classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or, even more nostalgic ants on a log as a snack. I'm sure you do it as well, but wouldn't it be nice to jazz it up a bit? After all, food is fun, meant to be enjoyed by you and more importantly, your taste buds.
(Some of you may remember my 2017 experiments with peanut sauce here: Peanut Sauce)
I've put together a list of my favorite recipes that use nut butter spreads made with atypical ingredients (i.e. not only peanuts). Feel free to mix and match: There are endless nut and seed spreads available for purchase now in local grocery stores, and my hope is that these recipes will expand the way you view the application of them. You can, and should, play around and swap out the 'vehicles' as well, i.e. instead of endive leaves as the base, try apple or cucumber slices.
Let's get nutty:
nut butter series
Peanut Butter Bites
½ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon five spice powder
½ cup apple, small dice
4 celery stalks cut into 4” ‘logs’
1 tablespoon celery leaves minced
1. In a small bowl, mix peanut butter and five spice. If it’s too thick to stir, you can add water to thin it out, adding drop by drop.
2. Assembly: on each celery, spread peanut butter leaving enough room to top with apple and optional minced celery leaves.
Sunflower Butter Bites
½ cup sunflower butter
1 pear, cut thinly into matchsticks
4 radish, pickled or fresh, cut thinly into matchsticks
1 tsp black sesame
25 rice crackers
1. In a bowl, mix pear and radish with black sesame.
2. Assembly: on each rice cracker, apply sunflower butter, then the pear/radish mix.
Almond Butter Bites
½ cup almond butter
½ cup shredded carrot
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tablespoons raisins
20 endive leaves
1. Mix almond butter in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of water if too thick and add cinnamon.
2. Assembly: On each endive leaf, spread almond butter and top with shredded carrot and few raisins.
What do you make with nut butter? I'd love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below with your favorite nut butter variations, and don't forget to share this with your friends so they can add their voice to the conversation as well.
for the love of crumpets
I woke up early this past Saturday morning craving crumpets. Crumpets, the Anglo-Saxon-invented griddle cake made of flour and yeast, are incredibly easy to make. As long as you have patience, anyone can prepare these "curled-up cakes".
A large French pressed coffee and book kept me busy as I waited for the batter to rest. I didn't have the standard shallow rings every recipe requires, so I used my cookie cutters and went crazy with MN state, skull, circle, and various other shapes. Not exactly ideal, but easy enough to handle, and, as it turns out, a lot more fun. In a pinch, one can also use thoroughly cleaned and rinsed tuna cans.
The best part about making these chewy, English-style cakes, is that when left slightly undercooked, they reheat nicely... like in my trumpet crumpet recipe (see below).
Side note: if you want my crumpet recipe, you'll have to subscribe to my newsletter and read about it this week (wink, wink). Otherwise, stick to the store-bought for now.
the king of mushrooms
King trumpet mushrooms, the largest of the oyster mushroom species, are one of many varieties of mushrooms that can be used in this recipe. It was certainly the key mushroom highlighted in this dish. I like to mix many varieties together, as each mushroom has a different texture and flavor that offers your taste buds something unique every time. Try a few different kinds for yourself.
-more on trumpet and other species of mushrooms in the this weeks newsletter as well-
trumpet crumpet recipe
2 crumpets, fresh* cut in half
8 oz mushrooms chopped (any will do: King trumpet, button, crimini, shaitake, mix and match)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp truffle salt (or Kosher)
1/4 onion, half-moon shaped
2 oz gruyere, grated
1 tablespoon butter
side of greens: pictured here is arugula and pear in a fennel vinaigrette
*substitute store bought English muffins if crumpets are not in the cards
1. Caramelize onions by heating a large sauté pan with butter on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions into the pan and cook until translucent, 1-2 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium low and stir every few minutes. If the onions start to stick too much and brown around the edges, reduce your heat. Continue to stir for 30-40 minutes, depending on how soft you prefer your onions to be. If the pot starts to burn, add a bit of liquid (water will do).
Just before the onions finish cooking, about 5-8 minutes, toss in the mushrooms with truffle salt and garlic. Preheat oven to a broil
3. Allow to cook until mushrooms are tender. At this time, arrange crumpets on a baking sheet. Place onion/mushroom mix on top, then with cheese. Put in the oven and toast until browned, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your eggs: sunny side up, poached, fried... the choice is yours
5. Arrange the crumpets on a plate, place an egg on top, and serve with side salad.
There you have it, a complete meal: great source of protein from the eggs, vitamins/minerals from the veggies, and fiber from the whole-grains
What's the deally yo?
Yes, there are differences between soy sauce and tamari: While both are derived from soy through fermentation, they surprisingly have different taste profiles largely due to the presence of wheat. Soy sauce always contains wheat (beware, you gluten-free folks) and tamari has little-to-no wheat. Yes, you may actually find brands of tamari out there that do contain wheat (ahem, gluten), but the label will indicate if it is gluten-free or wheat-free.
The next key distinction is the country of origin.
Soy Sauce: A Chinese byproduct of soy products now made throughout Asia
Tamari: A Japanese byproduct of miso paste, typically less salty (read your labels), and thicker
Production of soy sauce vs. tamari
Soy sauce is made through fermentation or by hydrolysis (chemically engineered), with different methods and durations of fermentation and water, salt content, soy, and other non-specific added ingredients. Therefore, there are remarkable differences in flavor between soy sauce brands. You'll have to test them all, or whatever you can find, and choose the one that makes your personal taste buds scream for more.
Traditionally speaking, soy sauces take months to make. For simplicity's sake, the sauce is made by mixing roasted/cracked grains with cooked soy beans, mold cultures, and yeasts in brine. Here are the steps in case you want more deets:
Tamari, the "original" Japanese soy sauce
Tamari, on the other hand, is the liquid run-off from miso paste, fermented soybeans with salt, and koji [a more specific fungus, Aspergillus oryzae], rice barley, or other ingredients. Typically, the ratio of wheat and other grains to soy is much smaller than soy sauce, and often contains NO wheat. Homemade tamari can provide people with celiac disease, wheat sensitivities or an intolerance with an tasty alternative to soy sauce. Be sure to read the label on commercial tamari to be sure it specifically says "gluten-free".
Now, the steps of producing tamari:
Battle of the sauces
Time to experiment! Divide this recipe by 2, then make the recipe using soy sauce and make the recipe again using tamari. Compare each recipe after your taste test with friends, family, or just yourself. Do you notice anything different between the two? Which has more depth? Is one noticeably saltier than the other? Leave your comments below to share your opinion.
Asian Grain Bowl (vegan)
8 oz tofu, cubed
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1” piece grated ginger
1 cup short grain brown rice, rinsed and drained
8 baby bok choy, sliced in half
1/2 cup lotus, bite sized pieces
1/2 cup assorted vegetables (carrot and red cabbage shown)
1 cup assorted pickled vegetables*(optional)
1. In a pot, add 1 ¾ cup water with rice and 1 tablespoon tamari. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, about 40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, toss the tofu and lotus in the following marinade ingredients: sesame, rice wine vinegar, and grated ginger. Allow to sit until you begin assembling the bowls.
3. Ten minutes before the rice is finished, assemble your steamer and begin heating the water, about ½ “ high in the pan holding the steamer. When ready to steam, place bok choy in steamer and cook for 3-5 minutes.
4. Assemble each bowl, dividing each of the ingredients equally: rice, bok choy, tofu, lotus, carrot, red cabbage, pickled vegetables, and drizzle some of the leftover tofu marinade on top (green onions and sesame seeds make for great garnishes if you want to be showy).
You can choose any kind of pickled vegetables, including: carrot, asparagus, beets, green beans, watermelon, cucumbers (quick pickles), or radish variety.
I recommend keeping both sauces stocked in your kitchen to experiment in your recipes. Swapping out one for another will certainly change the flavour, but it won't affect the overall dish in terms of 'turning out'.
Looking for more recipes to experiment with using soy sauce/tamari? No worries, I've got you covered:
lotus root, carrot, & daikon slaw
-or- make your own fried rice: toss soy sauce/tamari in leftover rice sautéed with scrambled egg and veggies (bok choy, mushrooms, carrot, onion).