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I always feel guilty about not using broccoli stems, but in the middle of weeknight dinner prep, I don’t have the patience for dealing with them, & they inevitably end up on the compost pile. A week or two ago, I impulsively started saving them in a plastic container in the fridge, with a nebulous idea of making some kind of crunchy salad with them. When the container was full, I had to put up or shut up, so I went digging in the far recesses of the fridge & came up with this magical slaw. It tastes a lot like seaweed salad, but brighter & more crunchy & less likely to get wedged in your teeth for days.

slaw

Crunchy Asian Compost Slaw

Makes 4-6 servings

6-8 broccoli stems

2-3 carrots

2-3 scallions

1/2 c kimchi (I used Kimchee Pride brand, nothing fancy – this brand is not vegetarian & uses anchovies, but there are vegan brands available)

2 t rice vinegar

Peel the broccoli stems to remove any tough & woody bits, & scrape or wash your carrots. Using a mandoline, box grater, or sharp knife, shred the broccoli & carrots into fine julienne strips or as close as you have the patience for. Slice the scallions into 1/2 inch strips, & chop your kimchi into similarly sized strips. Combine everything in a non reactive (glass/ceramic) bowl with the rice vinegar, cover tightly, & let chill overnight or for several hours.

Furikake (a Japanese rice seasoning made with sesame seeds & seaweed flakes)

Toasted sesame oil

To serve, top with a hearty shower of furikake & a fine drizzle of sesame oil. Have as a light lunch on its own, or pair with seared tofu/tuna & steamed rice.

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I was dorking around on Youtube last week while I ate lunch & stumbled across the absolutely delightful Food Wishes, a cooking channel hosted by April-sunshine-voiced Chef John Mitzewich. It’s like listening to Bob Ross, but with food instead of paint. One of his recipes was for the Syrian roasted pepper spread known as muhammara, & tonight I threw together my own version to have with our dinner of leek bourek, salad, & warm flatbread. 

Traditionally, muhammara uses several ingredients that may be tough to find unless you’re in a metropolitan area or have a sizable Syrian/Lebanese/Middle Eastern population, so I’ve made sure to include easier-to-source options.

muh2

Muhammara

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 T olive oil

2/3 c bread crumbs/panko (you can totally use gluten-free)

In a medium saute pan over medium heat, warm the oil, then add the breadcrumbs & stir to fully incorporate the oil. Toast the breadcrumbs for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until evenly golden brown.

2-3 cloves garlic

1/2 t salt

While your breadcrumbs are toasting, grind the garlic & salt in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the breadcrumbs to the processor bowl as soon as they’re toasted.

1 c walnuts, halves or pieces

Add walnuts to your still-warm saute pan & toast over medium heat, stirring often for about 5-7 minutes, until your walnuts are lightly browned & glossy from the oil starting to emerge. Add the walnuts to the processor bowl as soon as they’re done.

2-3 large jarred roasted red peppers, drained

2-3 T lemon juice

1-2 t balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses

1/2 – 1 t red pepper flakes (Aleppo, if you can find it)

1-2 t za’atar (or use a blend of cumin, sesame seeds, & thyme)

1 t smoked or regular paprika

Add the remaining ingredients to the processor bowl, pulse to get everything moving, then puree for several minutes. Scrape down the bowl several times to make sure everything is combined evenly, & taste for salt, lemon, & seasonings. Traditional muhammara is pretty spicy, but you can adjust the heat to your liking.

Serve at room temperature or chilled, with warmed flatbread or pita for dipping. It would also make a spectacular sandwich filling with spicy greens & feta cheese spread, & I bet it would be amazing with grilled chicken in a warm pita…

 

I miss a WHOLE LOT about living in Chicago, but one of the top three things is having easy access to a broad array of markets & stores catering to all kinds of nationalities besides white bread American. You can keep your Trader Joe’s & your Whole Paycheck – give me a decent Korean/Polish/Caribbean supermarket & I will cook you under the table on half the money. I’d been making trips to Maryland to get my squishy tea bun fix, but last year, a new Asian market opened across the river in Lancaster. We are now less than half an hour away from house made tofu, fifteen varieties of soy sauce, & every other ingredient I’ve been missing. To be fair, this level of shopping really doesn’t fall under the #eatlocal banner when just about everything is shipped in from overseas, so I don’t rely on it, but it is a delicious & economical indulgence that I am taking full advantage of.

dumplings1

Chinese Chive & Faux Pork Dumplings

Yields about 3 dozen

36+ frozen dumpling skins/wonton skins/gyoza wrappers, defrosted

1/2 c cold water

2 t corn starch

Keep your dumpling skins wrapped, but put them out to bring to room temperature. Mix cold water & corn starch until fully combined & set aside. Have ready a sheet pan, a few damp paper towels, & a small, clean paintbrush.

Appx 1/2 pound Chinese chives

Rinse chives & chop into 1/2 inch lengths, discarding the thick root ends. Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil, add 1 t salt & the chives & stir. Cook 1 minute, just to blanch the greens, & strain, rinsing the chives under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out as much moisture as you can to prevent a soggy filling.

1/2 c dried TVP

1/2 c boiling water (use the chive water if you’re organized enough to save some)

1 T hoisin sauce

2 T soy sauce

1 t sugar

2 t toasted sesame oil

A few dashes of rice vinegar

A squirt of sriracha

Combine TVP, boiling water, & seasonings in a heat proof bowl, stir to combine, & cover with a plate to keep the steam in while the TVP rehydrates. After 6-8 minutes, stir & add the chives. Taste for seasoning – you want a nice tasty filling, so add a bit of salt & more sriracha if it tastes a little flat.

1 t corn starch, more as needed

Add 1 t corn starch to your filling & combine. If your filling is really juicy, add a second teaspoon to help thicken things up.

dumplings2

To fill & shape dumplings (right handers):

Stir up your corn starch water with your brush, & put it to your right on your work surface. Unwrap your dumpling skins, cover them lightly with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out as you work, & put them to your left. Place your bowl of filling in front of you, & your clean sheet pan in easy reach.

Cup a dumpling skin in your left hand & paint a little corn starch water around the edge to help your dumpling seal. Put about 2 t filling in the center of your dumpling skin – the amount will vary depending on the size of your wrapper. Fold your wrapper over into a half moon shape & press to seal, easing out any trapped air. Fold & firmly pinch the edges into 4-5 pleats, & place your happy little dumpling on the sheet tray under another damp paper towel. Repeat until you run out of either filling or dumpling skins!

Here’s a quick IG video that SB took while I was making dumplings last night that should help you visualize the process.

At this point, you can cook your dumplings right away, wrap & chill them for a few hours until you’re ready, or freeze them for later – slide the whole pan in the freezer until your dumplings are frozen solid, then transfer them to a ziploc bag or freezer-safe container.

To cook your dumplings, you can boil them in a wide saute pan until tender, steam them over boiling water, or do potstickers, which is my favorite:

Heat 3 T oil in a wide saute pan over medium high heat until the oil shimmers, then carefully place 10-12 dumplings into the pan. Fry undisturbed until the bottoms are golden brown, then carefully add about 1/4 c cold water to the pan & quickly cover with a lid. Let the dumplings cook undisturbed until the water has steamed off. Flip the dumplings & let them brown slightly on the other side before transferring to a plate.

Eat dumplings hot with friends & some good dumpling sauce! (Eat the sauce, not your friends. Unless your friends are into that, I don’t know.)

olives

I started making baked olives a few years ago, and they’ve grown to be a hotly anticipated part of our holiday feasting. Plush & aromatic & salty & luxurious, they are a quick, easy contribution to pot lucks & parties that make you look like Someone With Their Shit Together.

First, buy a mess of your favorite olives: jarred or from the grocery store olive bar, whichever you like. For the batch pictured, I used all jarred olives, available on the shelf at our local supermarket: jumbo Spanish, kalamatas, unpitted oil cured, & super mild & buttery castelvetranos.

Preheat your oven to 350F, drain your olives, & dump them into an oven safe baking dish. Toss them with a big slosh of good olive oil, a smaller slosh of balsamic vinegar, lots of pepper, and your favorite aromatics. (I use a ton of fresh sliced garlic, orange or lemon zest, fennel seeds, rosemary, & a pinch of red pepper flakes.) Spread your olives out evenly in the dish, & slide it (uncovered) in the oven. Stir them once in a while as they bake, & pull them once all the olives look nice and relaxed & the garlic has softened, maybe 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your dish.

You can also totally cheat and do them in the microwave – cook in 2-minute intervals, stirring regularly, until soft and yummy.

Let your olives cool a little before serving, or cool completely, cover & refrigerate until needed – they’ll keep about a month before the garlic starts to go mushy. Reheat in a low oven, or just let them come to room temperature before serving.

Serve with fancy cheeses & salamis & crusty bread – use the bread to sop up the olivey juices left in the dish, because life is too short to waste that kind of deliciousness. Pack up the leftovers for work the next day & revel in your grown-up Lunchable.

oli

* Leek and Feta Bourek

Yeah. I know. I’m reviving a four-years-latent blog. Shut up.

Leek & Feta Bourek

Yields one 12-inch bourek, enough for a modest dinner/healthy lunch for 4

8 ounces phyllo pastry sheets, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator & brought to room temperature

2 T unsalted butter

2 T olive oil

1 pound leeks, washed & sliced thinly

1/2 t salt

1 T dried oregano

2 t smoked paprika

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 c baby spinach leaves, chopped roughly

Ground pepper to taste

8 ounces feta, crumbled (use full fat if you can, it’s absolutely worth it)

For assembly:

3 T unsalted butter, melted

3 T olive oil

 

Preheat oven to 375F, & oil a 12-inch round pan – I used a cake pan, but you can use anything oven-safe with a solid bottom (no springforms/tart pans) at least 1 inch deep.

Heat the butter & oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, & add the leeks & salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until the leeks are very soft & starting to gently brown, about 10 minutes. Add the seasonings & spinach, lower the heat a little, & stir & cook until the spinach is wilted. The mixture should be moist, but not wet – if there’s a lot of moisture in the pan, raise the heat again & cook off some of it for a minute or two. Transfer leek mixture to a bowl & let cool 10 minutes before adding the feta & stirring gently just to combine. Add pepper to taste.

Unwrap & unroll the defrosted phyllo & cover it immediately with a layer of moist paper towels or a damp tea towel – keep it covered at all times or it will dry out & split & be a complete pain in the butt. Combine the melted butter & oil & have ready a large soft pastry brush. Arrange the prepared baking pan in easy reach, with the phyllo, oil/butter, & filling at the ready.

Place one sheet of phyllo horizontally on your work surface & quickly brush with oil & butter – it doesn’t have to be sopping, just a few generous swipes with the brush. Spread about 3 T of filling in a rough line along the bottom of the phyllo – it doesn’t have to be perfect. Add another sheet of phyllo to cover the first, & brush this one with oil & butter as well.

Working gently & quickly, start at the bottom edge & roll the phyllo into a cylinder, enclosing the filling. Coil it into a spiral & place it in the center of your prepared pan. Continue with more phyllo & filling, continuing the spiral to fill the pan – you should use all the phyllo & filling, so pack things in firmly.

When you’ve filled the pan & run out of phyllo & filling, gently brush the remaining oil over the top of your bourek & slide it in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until very golden brown with no pale doughy spots left in the phyllo. Cool on a rack for ten minutes or so before serving, cut into wedges. Bourek is super good with a fresh crunchy salad & some olives.

You can totally experiment with other fillings – finely chopped mushrooms, ground meat/TVP, fresh herbs, harissa paste, leftover mashed potatoes, go nuts!

 

 

J works for the local college, at a suit & tie job involving lots of data & numbers & statistics & whatnot. He is a complex & highly entertaining man, however, & a few years ago commandeered a sunny patch of his building’s landscaping for a tiny vegetable garden to take the place of our now defunct neighborhood plot. Tucked in among the decorative shrubbery, he’s grown hot peppers, herbs, & lots & lots of tomatoes. This year’s Romas did particularly well, as did a lovely low acid yellow salad variety. It’s pretty great when your husband brings home gorgeous tomatoes all summer long.

Alas, it is mid October, & they’re forecasting our first real frost this weekend. This means certain death for the tomatoes, so J picked all the remaining green ones & brought them home for me to play with.

Fried green tomatoes are super, but with such small fruits, they would have been a pain in the butt to do with these particular tomatoes. I know there are green tomato jam recipes out there, but that’s just one hurdle I can’t get over. But what I can get behind is chutney.

I grew up on cheese & chutney the way most kids grow up on PB & J. Cold, or run under the broiler til the cheese bubbled merrily, a thick layer of Branston Pickle under sharp cheddar is still one of my favorite lunches. A few years ago, I started playing with micro batches of home made chutney, & while they’re no Branston, they certainly get the job done when you need that sweet, vinegary, spicy crunch to offset a tasty cheese.

A lot of green tomato chutney recipes call for apples & more sugar than vinegar – I’ve tried that, & the end result has been just too darn sweet for my taste. This year, I dialed back the sugar, left out the apples, & added some more savory accoutrements. I won’t know for a few weeks if I have a total winner, but fresh out of the pot, it’s pretty darn good.

Which is comforting, as I only used half of the green tomatoes I chopped. Oy.

Note: I use whole spices in my chutney, which soften significantly as they cook down, but still pack an entertaining punch when bitten into. If this isn’t your bag, feel free to put them in a muslin sachet or tea ball that can be fished out after your chutney has finished cooking.

***

Savory Green Tomato Chutney

Makes appx 7 8-ounce jars

12 c diced green/barely ripe tomatoes

2 large red onions, diced

8 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

2 c vinegar (I used half red wine, half standard white)

2 c light brown sugar

1 T brown mustard seeds

2 T yellow mustard powder

2 t ground ginger

1 T whole black peppercorns

1 T whole juniper berries

2 t whole allspice berries

1/2 t red pepper flakes

Appx 1 T salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients except the salt in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil & simmer lively for approximately two hours, stirring frequently as the liquid begins to evaporate. When volume has reduced by half & all the vegetables have turned completely translucent, add salt to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then pack into sterilized jars & water process. Alternatively, let cool, pack into clean jars & refrigerate, using within 3 months. You can also freeze your chutney in smaller plastic containers if that’s more your style.

Serve cold with sharp cheese, charcuterie platters, pork dishes, or even as an accompaniment to Indian curries.

But mostly with cheese.

View this post on Instagram

Nyom. #chutney #jamonit #eatcheap #eatlocal #tomatoes

A post shared by The High Saponatrix (@paintboxsoapworks) on

OK, you know what? I’m not even going to apologize for the months it’s been since an update, nor for the crappy phone pictures on this post. This hummus is THAT GOOD.

Hot damn!

I’ve had this idea for a sweet potato-based hummus rolling around in my head for a while, but nothing came of it til this afternoon. I’ve been making jam all day, the kitchen is destroyed, it’s hot as balls, & oh hey, what’s for dinner?

We do a lot of what I call pick-a-nibble dinners in the summer – sort of a poor man’s mezze, salad & steamed veggies & a bit of cheese & whatever else I can throw together with a minimum of cooking. Tonight, J’s making guacamole, because he is amazing. We’ll have greens, steamed cold potatoes with parsley, a tin of oil-packed sardines, & this gorgeous hummus.

If you have pre-cooked chickpeas & a microwave, this goes together in a snap, with virtually no heat. Winning!

Sweet & steamy

Ethiopian Style Hummus

Makes about 3 cups

1 large sweet potato

1-3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 t salt

1 16-oz can/about 1 1/2 c cooked chick peas

1/2 c hummus (Soom brand is my absolute favorite)

3 T lemon juice

1 T Berbere seasoning (find it at The Spice House, along with lots of other amazing spices)

1 t ground ginger

1 roasted red pepper from a jar

Water as needed

Using a sharp knife, stab your sweet potato a few times, nice & deep, & microwave according to your machine’s instructions for a standard baked potato – mine cooked for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, grind the garlic & salt until finely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients save the water.

When your sweet potato is nice & soft, cut it in half & scoop out the flesh into your food processor, using a large spoon. Hold your potato in a dish towel so you don’t burn your fingers!

Process just to combine, then add about 1/4 c of water. Process continually for about 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides & add more water as needed so the mixture moves smoothly in the bowl. Look for a nice smooth, gently fluffy texture & a gorgeous orange color. Add a pinch more salt if you like, then serve warm, or chill until needed.

Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, or warm naan.