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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quick Winter Salad

Looking for something light and fresh, and determined not to hit the grocery store, I threw together this mostly raw salad for lunch today. A delicious combination of local butter lettuce and broccoli stems along with shaved fennel, blanched asparagus tips dressed in a whole lot of fruity olive oil and shaved parmesan - it was just what I needed. A splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper,  and some chopped parsley made it complete. Try it when you want something super healthy yet still satisfying.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Broccoli - Give it a makeover

My new Burg article on Broccoli talks about some ways to makeover that familiar green vegetable. It also spends 3 entire paragraphs discussing roasting, because roasted broccoli is god's gift to our dinner table.

Check out my recipes for Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Lemon & Feta as well as a great way to use those stalks - Broccoli Stems with Pecorino Romano!

Broccoli – Rethinking an old standby (originally printed in The Burg)

Broccoli is one of the most ubiquitous green vegetables on the American table. It has been there since we were kids, alongside mashed potatoes and a piece of grilled chicken. In my experience, it also tends to be one of the few vegetables that kids are willing to eat – simply because of its familiarity.

And yet, even though this veggie is an old standby, I find that sometimes we don’t use it to it’s full potential. When I was young, my mother would serve me boiled broccoli with little flavor that completely disintegrated when I put it in my mouth. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t exactly ask for seconds.

And then, when I became interested in cooking, I discovered something that made broccoli a vegetable that I now crave, as opposed to tolerate: roasting.

What’s so special about roasted broccoli? I have no idea. All I can say is that by giving the broccoli crispy brown edges, and keeping some of the firm texture of the vegetable, a whole new flavor is created. It reminds me of popcorn. And as proof of its power, I once made simple roasted broccoli for my father-in-law, a former broccoli nonbeliever, and I am told he know requests it for dinner. That is evidence enough for me.

To create your perfectly roasted broccoli, simply remove the florets from the stems, cut into somewhat equal size, toss in olive oil (about 2 tablespoons for each head), salt and pepper, and roast on 425 for 12-14 minutes. It can be eaten as-is, or tossed with any number of different ingredients for a delicious side dish. My recipe for Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Lemon, & Feta is quick, easy, and completely satisfying.

Of course, there are many other ways to cook broccoli florets. Boiling is not the enemy to this vegetable, but what is important is to do it briefly to allow the texture and the flavor to remain intact. It can also be fried, sautéed, stir-fried, steamed, or eaten raw.

But what about the stems, do we just throw them away? Heck no! Although they may seem tough and fibrous, their insides are tender and tasty. After peeling the thick skin from the stems with a pairing knife, slice or shred the tender stalk and use it much like cabbage or zucchini. Or, you can cook the stems to make broccoli stock for the classic cheddar broccoli soup. My recipe for Broccoli Stems with Pecorino Romano is not really a recipe at all – just a way to eat the stems that allow their bright flavor to shine though.

Broccoli in all its forms goes well with a number of flavors & ingredients, including butter, almonds, pasta, cauliflowers, mustard, garlic, lemon, chiles, capers, red pepper flakes, cheese, anchovies, olive oil, rice, scallions, soy sauce, ginger, and more. It is a staple in Italian cuisine as well as many Asian foods.

Broccoli is a vegetable that certainly deserves a second look. I hope these recipes help you transform this familiar vegetable into something new and exciting for your dinner table this week.

SPICY ROASTED BROCCOLI WITH GARLIC, LEMON, & FETA
Ingredients1 Head Broccoli, stems removed and florets evenly cut
6-8 cloves garlic, thoroughly smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 lemon, zested
2 oz Feta cheese

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Toss broccoli florets, garlic cloves, olive oil, red pepper flakes & sea salt in large mixing bowl. Spread out onto large baking sheet evenly.

3. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are brown and crispy.

4. Meanwhile, in the same mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, & anchovy paste.

5. Once broccoli is cooked, transfer to mixing bowl and toss briefly with anchovy mixture, lemon zest and feta.

BROCCOLI STEMS WITH PECORINOIngredients
2 heads broccoli stems
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
1. Peel fibrous layer from broccoli stems and slice into thin rounds.
2. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vegan Super Bowl #1

It's time for the Super Bowl, an annual event that I anticipate about as much as Flag Day. I know, what kind of American am I? Well, as someone who doesn't really get into football, and with the halftime shows of the past few years turning out to be giant, multi-million dollar train wrecks, there is not much to look forward to.

But this year, I am excited. As I do with most holidays and events, I am using this as an excuse to make delicious vegan food.

I polled many of you to determine what you like to eat on Super Bowl Sunday, and the answers were as follows: wings, chili, nachos, WINGS, bean dip, buffalo dip, Mexican dip, onion dip, rotel dip, and some WINGS to wash it all down. Now, I'm not hatin' on this food. In my pre-veggie days, I took down some rotel dip like it was my job. But now, I would rather make some vegan alternatives to these, so I feel less like a linebacker at the end of the day, and more like a running back. See how I made a football analogy there?

So, what kind of vegan goodies can you make? Well the good news is, some of the classic staples are already vegan. Salsa, guac, hummus - these dips are actually some of the healthiest super bowl snacks you can throw on your table. OK yes, if you eat an entire bowl of guacamole yourself, that may not be the best thing for you. But i am talking normal human portions here.

My favorite Super Bowl food is chili. Who doesn't love it? It is super easy to make, cheap, healthy, and can feed a whole crowd. Plus, your guests can customize theirs with a bunch of yummy toppings. If chili is your plan for tomorrow, try my Spicy Vegetarian Chili.

What I did today was a little less than healthy, but I needed to respond to all the calls for WINGS WINGS WINGS. I was actually not that big of a wing fan even before I went veg, but did always love a good buffalo chicken sandwich. So today, I went for the whole wing experience in a slider. These Buffalo Tofu Sliders will satisfy that buffalo wing craving, no problem. They are also super messy, and will end up all over your face, hands, and clothes, just like wings.

What I like about sliders is that they are manageable. They are gone in 4 bites, which allows you to enjoy it without committing to an entire burger. I don't like to commit to just one thing at a party, when there is so much good food to be had.

Although it would undoubtedly be easier to use store-bought chicken nuggets as the base for this sandwich as opposed to tofu, I have this rule. If a veggie food is over $4, I don't buy it. Ok so I do buy things like nutritional yeast, and maple syrup, which are both expensive - but those are ingredients. I will not buy a $5 box of "chicken" nuggets. I also patently refuse to buy a $6 bag of Daiya cheese. Yes it tastes good. But not $6 good. The vegan sour cream I use in the creamy dressing - $3. This "rule" is obviously subjective, but it works for me and my budget.

The good news is that freezing and then thawing tofu gives it a chewy texture that makes this sandwich much more like the real thing. It is an optional step, and I know it takes some planning. But it really does make the difference between "yeah this is yummy tofu" and "holy shit what IS THIS." I am going for the latter.

I know this recipe takes a bit of work, but if you want a vegan sandwich that will blow your friends out of the water, or you just want something all for your vegan self tomorrow, make it. You will be so happy that you did.

This sandwich is also fantastic as a wrap, so through it in a tortilla if you are feeling frisky. Also, if you want to make this sandwich without going full vegan, replace the creamy dressing with your favorite blue cheese dressing. 

Enjoy!


Buffalo Tofu Sliders
Makes 6-8

Sandwich Ingredients
1 block extra firm tofu
3/4 cup mild hot sauce (like texas pete or crystal)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
1/2 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
canola oil for frying

8 white or whole wheat dinner rolls split in half

2 carrots, shredded
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1/4 head iceburg lettuce, finely shredded

Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1/4 cup vegan mayo
2 scallions, finely diced
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
1. Drain tofu, squeezing out any excess water. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
2. Remove tofu from freezer and let thaw for at least 5 hours. (this is best to do first thing in the morning).
3. In small bowl, mix dressing ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate until use.
4. When tofu is completely thawed, squeeze out as much water as possible. Tofu should have a spongy consistency now. Cut into small cubes.
4. Add canola oil to high-sided skillet and heat over medium high. There should be enough to liberally cover the bottom.
5. In a shallow bowl, mix corn starch, garlic powder, and salt. Dredge tofu in the mixture, shake off the excess breading, then place in hot skillet. Fry until golden brown and crispy on all sides, turning with tongs occasionally.
6. Meanwhile, in small bowl, heat butter and hot sauce in microwave until hot.
7. When tofu is done, toss in hot sauce mixture. Let sit for only 1 minute. You want the tofu to soak up the sauce, but you also want to retain its crispiness.
8. On each dinner roll, place some buffalo tofu, celery, carrots, and lettuce. Top with a spoonful of creamy dressing and serve!