Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lavender Vinaigrette


On my last trip to Minnesota, I had a salad with a lavender vinaigrette.  I've recreated it here, with a twist: I blended a tiny piece of roasted beet with the dressing for a vivid color.  Clearly, this is optional.


Ground dried lavender gives a subtle aromaticness to a basic vinaigrette, one which works well either to accentuate the aromatic aspects of something like arugula, or to balance out heavier flavors like roasted beet or avocado.

I've been able to find lavender at Jon's (under the name of alucema), and I think I've seen it at the spice station.  I'm pretty sure, however, that you could also just use the flowers from the plant (which grows everywhere) and dry them yourself.

Lavender Vinaigrette

1/4 tsp dried lavender flowers
3 TB canola 
1 TB red wine vinegar 
pinch salt 
1 oz cooked beet, in small cubes

1. In a spice grinder, grind the lavender to a powder.  
2. In a small food processor, combine all ingredients.  Blend until the beet is fully pureed and mixed into the dressing.

More beet violence

Gingerbread pancakes from Vegan Brunch

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Easy Spicy Eggplant with Basil and Scallions

I made this three times in the past few weeks.  Spicy, sweet, caramelly, aromatic, chewy, crunchy... It's a perfect combination of textures and tastes.  And, if you make it with tofu, it's a complete meal.  When I did add tofu, I had a hard time getting both it and the eggplant to cook properly, so I think adding pre-fried tofu later on is probably a more reliable method.

Easy Spicy Eggplant with Basil and Scallions (and here, Tofu)

1-2 TB oil
1 large eggplant (or 2-3 small), in small cubes
1-2 hot chilies, seeded if desired and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1-inch cube ginger, peeled and finely chopped
8 oz pre-cooked tofu in cubes
splash tamari
splash seasoned rice vinegar (or mirin would be better)
water as needed
1-2 tsp sugar
1/4 c basil leaves, coarsely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
sesame seeds

1. Heat oil in a large wok or frying pan.  When it's very hot, add eggplant cubes and cook a few minutes, then add chilies, garlic, and ginger.  Continue cooking and stirring until the eggplant is slightly browned, and juicy throughout. 
2. Add to the pan the tamari, rice vinegar, sugar, and as much water as you need to steam everything without it sticking.  If using tofu, I'd add it now.  Reduce heat and cook a few more minutes.
3. Turn off heat and stir in basil and green onions.  Remove from heat and serve with rice or noodles, garnished with sesame seeds, sriracha, and more basil and green onions.  Serves about 4.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Foraging, Part Two

Hi everyone.  I made this jam from the rose hips Jenelle and I foraged.  I followed these directions for preparing the rose hips, but I have to wonder if it's really worth the effort.  Each little fruit-thing has to be opened and de-seeded, and even after you do that, there are tiny fibers in the fruit that are like fiberglass to your stomach.  I ended up simmering the de-seeded halves forever, then straining out the fibers, then adding sugar and lemon juice (I threw in some lemon rind, too).  A bit of arrowroot (or pectin, I guess) would have helped firm it up a bit more.

The flavor is mild (except for the lemon rind I added), reminiscent of winter squash, but slightly more floral.  I don't like the flavor or consistency enough to use this as a jam, so I think I'm going to turn it into a savory sauce or chutney, something like the chutney on this site.

Nearly every day that I'm outside with a friend, I learn about something new that is edible.  My friend Will and I saw huge clumps of beautiful (and tasty!) miner's lettuce on our recent hike in Elysian Park.  I forgot to photograph the lettuce, but we also saw things like this:

I think the reason the skyline looks like it's floating is because the lighter patch in front of it is Dodger Stadium.  Blogging might be (even more) patchy in the next few weeks as a parade of awesome guests passes through Los Angeles.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sick Soup

When I was sick last week, one of my professors recommended I make a Lebanese soup that has lentils, greens, and lots of lemon.  I'm not sure if this is exactly what Saree had in mind, but it was delicious.  I used better than boullion's no chicken stock as a base, and compared to their normal veggie stock the flavor was simpler but richer, cut nicely by the lemon juice.  I can't prevent myself from adding chilies to everything these days, but the sweeter and milder flavor of aleppo pepper flakes (which Janet turned me onto) was nice here.

Lemony Lebanese Lentil-Greens Soup (Adas Bil Hamud)

olive oil
1/2 onion
1 tsp cumin
red pepper flakes (see note above)
2 c beet greens or other greens
6 c stock (+ water as desired)
3/4 c lentils
4 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
onion slivers
lemon wedges

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil and saute onion, cumin, and pepper.  When onion is softened, add greens and continue cooking until greens have softened slightly.
2. Add stock and lentils, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30+ minutes, adding water to thin if it looks like the lentils are absorbing too much liquid.
3. Towards the end of cooking, in a small frying pan, saute garlic until golden, then turn off heat and add lemon juice to the pan.  Add this to the soup just before removing from the heat.
4. Adjust seasonings.  Serve hot, garnished with cilantro, onion, and lemon.  Serves 4-6.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cocktail Magic

I spent years in awe of my little brother's liquor-infusing abilities before I realized how easy it was.  This sage-infused whiskey is one of the most delicious things I've drunk, and all it is is fresh sage and whiskey.  Step one: put sage in bottle (see above).  Step two: add whiskey (see below).  Step three: wait at least a day, and then use it.

Here's what I've been doing with it.  I don't like sweet drinks, but this is just enough sugar to make it really smooth.  Any good names for this cocktail?

2 ice cubes
one lemon wedge, squeezed
up to 0.5 oz simple syrup (I used equal parts water and turbinado sugar to make this)
1-1.5 oz sage-infused whiskey
soda water to fill

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Party Pizzas and a Pair of Sour Soups

I threw a party recently and made a bunch of last-minute snacks.  My go-to is always hummus, baba ganoush, etc., etc., but I wanted to try something a little different.  So I made snack pizzas!  Essentially, all the same foods-- and your guests have less control over what they're combining on their plates-- but nevertheless there was something fun and pretty about this.  Of course, I forgot to take photos until everything was eaten.

Pizza One:
Brushed whole wheat dough with mixture of olive oil, zaatar, and salt; sprinkled slivered onions on top, then baked.

Pizza Two (cold):
Brushed garlic-herb dough with olive oil and baked.  When cooled, sliced into pieces, reassembled, and topped with hummus, olives, and salad greens.

Pizza Three:
Made baba ganoush from scratch with flame-roasted eggplant and harissa.  Spread it generously on unbaked whole wheat dough, then topped with chopped sundried tomatoes.  Baked, then added avocado slices as well.

I made mouhammarah as well but couldn't fit it on a pizza, so I served it with some other homemade flatbread.


I know I've made a hundred soups like this one, but this one's worth noting because the broth was invented to address a specific problem.  When I saw that my new udon noodles had 40% of one's daily sodium per serving, I decided to attempt a broth that was flavorful but not salty, since the noodles were going in the broth anyway.  First, I sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and ginger in a sauce pan; then, I added carrots and continued cooking.  When the mushrooms had expressed liquid, I deglazed with about 1 c beer, simmered, and then added some water and chili garlic paste as well.  Finally, near the end, I added kimchi+juice, seasoned rice vinegar, and lime juice.  The mushrooms gave the broth a meatiness, and the kimchi, vinegar, and citrus gave it brightness and a little bit of pungency.  I couldn't believe it didn't have any boullion, tamari, or miso in it!  This was served hot with the infamous salty noodles, green onions, basil, and cilantro.


Secondly... here's a smoky mushroom-sauerkraut-lentil stew.  It started out as a tester for Vegan Eats World, but after I realized that testing was closed, I added some other things, like lentils and liquid smoke.  Mushrooms and sauerkraut balance each other out nicely here.