The Gastronomist Manifesto

Chefs of the World Unite!

Archive for the tag “vegetarian”

Celebrity Meat Snobs Can Go Tofuck Themselves

CAUTION: This post contains a fair amount of vulgar language and no recipe. I don’t know who follows me or what your personal line of decency is, but things get a little R-rated today. This may turn you off to beef wellington.

 

I like meat just fine. I don’t eat a lot of it compared to most Americans. I like tofu too and certainly consume more of it than the median level in this country. I also consume a fair number of shows related to cooking. But what I find completely inedible…

“Guuuuurrrrrr brrrrggg…. something about how gross tofu is. Vegetarian-option?! Here’s a carrot!”

-Sayeth numerous celebrity chefs

I get the whole macho image thing just fine. We all get it. No one has ever deeply questioned why meat is a slang term for a penis. The real connundrum is why people in a community that seems to cherish non-normative passions and behaviors, celebfaces suddenly develop WASP-y fratboy Tourette’s the moment “vegetarian” gets mentioned. Your cracks at the non-meat eaters echoes what I heard from my conservative aunts and uncles when I was sixteen, for whom salad was any sort of plant dressed in mayonnaise. Edgy!

“Tofu! Bland, white and flavorless!!” Yeah, you know what else is? A potato. And Americans consume the ever-living shit out of them and every gourmet raves about ’em. I think the real problem with these Star Chefs is that they simply just can’t cook outside of their petty little comfort zone. Yes, I’m calling you out… or I would if any of ’em read my trivial food blog.

If you can’t make tofu taste good, you suck or you’re not trying. It’s a blank canvass for sure, which is why anyone who’s cooking with inspiration can make it shine. And of all the “foodies” I know, vegetarians are very well-represented, which is believable as they’re obviously commited in some way to thinking about the food we grow, fix and consume. And given that a healthier, more eco-friendly sort of diet for America has solid numbers to support it, some of the top food minds in the media maybe should stop circle jerking it onto their beef wellingtons for a hot second, learn how to transform bland product to something tasty, and cut the really played-out veg-o-phobia.

 

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One Last Bake of the Season – Eggplant and Polow

Yesterday was cold, today was cold, the end of the week is supposed to go up to 80 degrees. So what better reason to fire up the oven one more time? And I just happened to have one of my favorite vegetables to oven roast, eggplant!

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Roasted Eggplant

1. Pre-heat the broiler of your oven with a rack close to the top. As that’s heating take an eggplant and slice into rings. Optional: You may want to dose them with salt on both sides to draw a little of the bitterness out. Wash the salt off and dry them with a towel after about 10-15 minutes. Season the eggplant slices and coat with a thin layer of olive oil, both sides.

2. Place eggplant slices on a baking sheet and pop them under the broiler. When I made mine I wanted my eggplant to have little contact with the cooking surface so I rigged a sort of roasting rack out of rolled up aluminum foil. This prevented sticking and slightly better heat distribution, but is optional.

3. Check on your slices after 6-7 minutes. The tops should be slightly browned, give or take depending on your oven and the eggplant itself. If so, flip them over and let them go for another 5 minutes to brown the other side and soften the middle.

4. When you are satisfied with their doneness, sprinkle on some feta cheese and pimento peppers (i.e., what green olives are often stuffed with and readily available in jars.) Throw them back under the broiler for a minute or two if you want the feta to soften a little.

5. Garnish with some fresh herbs if you have some (parsley or mint = best; I had cilantro which also went well), some good olive oil and/or some cracked black pepper as you like it.

Polow

Polow is a transliteration of an Iranian rice dish, similar to pilaf in other countries. There are numerous types and interpretations on this basic dish, here is mine.

1. Cook basmati rice–brown or white–per instructions with a few shakes of turmeric or, if you’re a baller, some saffron threads (more traditional, but also more $$$.)

2. With the rice going dice plenty of onion (I made 1 cup of cooked rice and about 1/43 cup of onion), a couple garlic cloves–minced, a small handful/palmful of dried dates, the same of raisins and one tomato. Sautee the onion in olive oil over a medium-low heat until it turns translucent and begins to take on some color. Add the other ingredients to the pan and continue to cook until the fruits/veggies soften and meld flavors. Don’t rush this step. Let it cook slowly and gently.

More options! Polow is frequently made with meat. Diced chicken, beef or lamb can be cooked with or seperately with the onion. I kept things vegetarian and threw some TVP in with a little water–not flavorful but upped the protein content. Other common & tasty additions: pomegranate seeds, lentils, peas and nuts.

3. When your rice is done and your sautee mixture soft and happily married, combine with the rice along with about a level teaspoon of cinnamon or a little less than, plus some lime juice (about half a lime.) If you have garam masala spice that can be substituted for a deeper, more complex spice profile. I wanted to keep my flavors simple this time; choose what suits your mood.

4. Throw in some fresh herbs just before serving or over top of the dish. In Iran herbs are a crucial ingredient and many types are used if the many recipes I’ve found have anything to say. Parsley and mint again would be the best picks. I again used cilantro just because I had it, and it works splendidly. Basil, dill and tarragon would also be excellent. Just avoid stronger, pungent stuff like oregano and rosemary.

 

It Can Only Be… Stir Fraud!!!

I haven’t really thought about this blog in a while. Cooking creativity was slumping, broken camera issues and a lacklustre pantry due to this Capitalist Crisis we’re in were the main reasons. But tonight, I made a spur of the moment decision to try something new: tofu stir-fry that has no oil whatsoever! Now some recipes I’ve tried before call for swapping oil for water (and nothing else different) and my opinion is that they all suck. It tastes steamed and bland, keeping health food stereotypes obese with justification. Mine is way better!

no-oil stir fry

No list of measurements/time.  😦 My apologizes, but I wasn’t thinking I’d post about this until I was eating it.

Pre-prep: Making rice, chopping veggies and setting your oven to something around 275-300 F.

1. Take a non-stick pan over a medium-high heat. Take tofu (always extra-firm!) and place them in thick slices onto the pan (no oil!) You could cube them now, but if you leave them lengthwise for now it’s easier to sear them. Wiggle gently and turn when just a little brown onto another side. Keep doing this until all sides are done. Carefully remove and cube your tofu to desired morselness.

2. Lower the heat a bit and begin to assemble the sauce of your choosing. If do this in an empty pan the better, as you can adjust it easier. Soy sauce, broth, minced garlic, five-spice powder and pepper was all I can remember adding to mine. You can borrow from any recipe you like with this rule: no prepared sauces or thickening agents! This is a braise, meaning liquid. Those GM Party Banned items will just turn to gel, not seep into the tofu and probably burn all over your pan.

3. When you’ve got your sauce tofu/protein goes in, veg goes in and for a nice braise you do not want things completely covered 60% is a rough basis. Too little and dry out could happen (BAD!); too much and heat just wont transfer quickly (NOT GOOD.) Then into the oven for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables. Turn food over once or twice to give everything a dunk and check the liquid (evaporation will only be a problem if you had a pithy puddle to start with.)

4. When you feel confident in your braise’s done-ness remove (CAREFULLY) and place back on the stove top. Now you need a slurry, which is not in this case a way to describe weather in my homestates of MI and OR, but a mix of cornstarch and water. Make it in a bowl, about a tablespoon should be plenty and enough cold water till you can whisk it to solution. Never add the cornstarch directly to hot liquid because that just makes corn lumps.

5. Put the heat fairly high on the stove and wait for a boil to begin. Keep stirring and add the slurry in doses (you can always add more but never take out.) The slurry will start to thicken the sauce. When it’s to your liking, you’re finished! Serve over rice, noodles, nachos, whatever and consume. (Note: you can make slurries with other thickeners like flour or arrowroot, but only cornstarch has that oily mouthfeel to it.)

no oil stir fry 2

Though I’m not on a “diet” by any means, I’ve been working out a lot more and naturally eating well is crucial. I’m estimating that rather huge dish was about 700 calories. And use the fork for comparison, it’s an especially large plate. 700 calories in a main meal isn’t a lot for an active person’s diet. My daily needs are about five times that. But the good thing is while this had more calories than a Big Mac, it had 1.5x the protein and half the fat.

Purple-Orange Salad

One advantage to living in Oregon is closer access to California produce.  And one advantage of this time of year are blood oranges!

So at the store today I just wanted an easy, light salad for lunch. In these situations I usually will wander the produce department looking for things that seem interesting, well-priced and in good quality. And there… today…. were one of my favorite fruits in the world–the blood orange. If you’re unfamiliar with these, they are produced in Italy, are mostly available this time of year and they are…


PURPLE! Vibrantly purple too. Also, sweet and delicious.

I also saw dandelion greens that we’re cheap, not terribly fresh, but I knew how to crispen them up (more on that in a moment.) Dandelions are another food a lot of people are familiar with because they’re mostly known and hated as the most oppressive weed of them all. But here’s the thing, dandelions are weeds because they were first food. In Europe dandelions have been eaten for ages, used medicinally and naturally European settlers brought this with them to America. And we all know what can happen when you introduce a non-native plant to an ecosystem (not that your lawn is in any sense, an “ecosystem.”)

Dandelions have a rather definite bitterness to them, a bit like escarole with a deeper, plant-y flavor. Fortunately, a great way to cut that bitterness down so that it’s subtle is to add sweet… like orange juice. And it didn’t occur to me until I got home that I’d bought: purple oranges, orange carrots and purple-veined greens, plus had purple cabbage in the fridge. So it just turned into:

How to make:

1/2 of dandelion greens, rinsed and dried.*
1 medium-sized carrot, sliced or julienned
1 loose handful of finely shredded red cabbage
(optional) thin-slices of red onion

*if any greens you have are a bit wilted, but not turning brown/expelling liquid; give them 5 minutes soaking in cold, cold water.

These things just get cut into salad-sized pieces. Next you need a quick vinaigrette of:

the juice of one blood orange
about a teaspoon/dash of yogurt, sour cream or tahini (vegan version.)
salt and pepper
olive oil, or any dressing oil you may have

First juice the orange. The easiest way to do this is to cut it in half and squeeze with your other hand catching seeds as the juice runs through your fingers. Or just juice straight into the bowl and pick the seeds out. Add the yogurt/sour cream, salt pepper and stir. Why not use dijon mustard like most? For one, mustard and orange juice; second the creaminess also tempers the bitter greens; it sharpens the color of the blood oranges. Now you SLOWLY! add olive oil and whisk (whisk or a fork) until you’ve doubled the size of the dressing 1:1 ration. Toss this with the vegetables in a bowl and go.

Again, breaking with tradition of a usual dressing. 1:1 ratio is no way to make a vinaigrette in a classic way. However, these are sweet oranges and not strong vinegar so obviously I don’t need to drown them in oil. Another tip is to actually toss the salad. Salad dressing advertisements pour dressing and serve as presentation; this is great if you want to taste nothing but dressing at first, then have raw greens on the bottom. Final word on this, another way to make a vinaigrette is to add all your items to a small, clean, glass jar and shake vigorously. I don’t find this easier, but if you have trouble coordinating a whisk and slow poor, it works just as well.

First Post. Tonight: Peanut Butter and Jelly Tacos!

It has been suggested to me over the years once in a while by friends that I should start a food blog. But I kind of have the impression that having a food blog is like how people all wanted to have SUVs in the 1990s;  the number of people who think they need one is much smaller a ratio than those who actually should have them. Another analogy might be people’s pictures of their pets, a thing more people want to share than there are people who actually want to see it. But I’m having, because until now I’ve just been sharing recipes and cooking experiments on Facebook, which is just too frustrating with the way things display plus the annoyance of Facebook’s less-than-mediocre interface.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY TACOS!

That’s right, you heard me. I had been thinking about the use of jellies and marmalade in savory cooking and this idea just popped to mind, why not use jalapeno jelly, a south-east Asian-esque peanut butter concoction and make tacos?

To make this you will need these ingredients and some good sense of portion because I didn’t do any measuring.

corn tortillas
1 jar of jalapeno jelly
peanut butter
3cups of cooked rice (brown or white)
red cabbage
carrot
onion (go with your preference for what you like raw – I picked yellow)
green apple
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp of green curry paste (adjust to heat preference or sriracha could do fine)
1 tbsp of lime juice
cilantro, if you don’t have the “it tastes like soap” gene (which is an actual gene, FYI.)

First, get the rice cooking. If you have a bit of turmeric  add just a dash for color.

Next, get your peanut butter and a small bowl. Add the peanut butter to the bowl. I’m guessing I’d just just shy of a half a cup followed by the lime juice. Mince your ginger* and to the bowl along with the curry paste. Mix together, adding more lime or water if it’s too thick to mix, however, this is a spread and not a sauce so don’t let it get runny. This can just sit while the rice cooks to let the flavors mingle.

*Advice comrade: To mince ginger the easy way. One you have the skin off and a piece approximately the size of a soda bottle cap either place it on the cutting board and smash it with the flat-side of the chef’s knife and smash it, or if you’re not comfortable smacking a sharp knife, putting the ginger between cling film or wax paper and crushing it with something like a can of tomatoes works just as well. This will not only make it easier to mince, but smashing breaks the cell walls of the ginger root releasing a lot more flavor. Also works on garlic and even fresh herbs.

Once your rice is or is close to done, start prepping your vegetables. Best thing is to shred and julienne. Cabbage, apples and onions should be done with a knife. I think the large setting on a four-sided cheese grater do better for carrots, daikon and firmer vegetables. What I wrote down is what I used, but any vegetables you like can go in. Just keep it raw if you can, you’ll want the crunch.

Organize a station for setting up the tacos. Heat the tortillas in a microwave real quick to keep them pliant (5 sec for each tortilla. ) Spread your peanut base across the middle of the taco. Next lay down the jalapeno jelly. Rice and vegetables plus cilantro and you’re good.

Advice, comrade: I personally found my tacos were sweeter than I’d expected at first, but that didn’t bother me at all. Marinated onions would’ve been good. If you wanted to add meat to this I think you could really go just about anywhere. Grilled meats would all be perfect; this would also make a killer summer party meal. If you want to make it tasty and sound totally horrible, trade tortillas for nacho chips, use chopped cooked white fish, make the peanut sauce runny and just go with Peanut Butter, Jelly and Fish Nachos.

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