Category Archives: Vegetables

Carrot Ginger Salad (Dressing)

You know the default salad dressing at most Japanese restaurants, the sweet golden emulsion of carrots and ginger that’s so perfect on a bed of lettuce? I can’t get enough of it. I often wish it were appropriate to eat this salad dressing on its own, but the usual recipe is secretly full of oil and added sugar, which doesn’t make me feel so great.

I’ve adapted a lighter version of my favorite salad dressing, and it’s healthy enough to eat as a salad. If you’re planning to serve it over lettuce, make it a bit thinner. Make it a little thicker to serve on its own. You can also follow the variation below for a shredded carrot salad.

I’ve been making my own at home expressly for the purpose of eating it by the bowlful. And sometimes, I even mix in a bit of lettuce.

Carrot Ginger Salad (Dressing)

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1/2 c ginger
  • 1/2 c shallots (substitute 3 cloves garlic)
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce (I used gluten-free)
  • 3/8 c rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1/2 c water

If your carrots are especially fresh and tender, you won’t need to peel them. Just trim off the tops, cut into chunks, and toss into your food processor along with the ginger and shallots. Process until mostly chunky, then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil and process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times. Add water a little at a time while the processor is running. You might not need all the water, depending on the moisture level of your carrots. If the texture is too thick, add a bit more water and process again. And remember, I’m already omitting a cup of canola oil, so you can use some of that in place of the oil. Refrigerate one hour to allow flavors to meld, if you can wait that long. Then serve over lettuce, or just spoon it up. This dressing can be used for about two weeks, but it will lose some of its fresh flavor after a few days.

Variation: If you’re looking for a Frenchier version of this salad, grate carrots on a box grater for fluffy texture. Mince shallots. Grate ginger (easier if it’s frozen) on a Microplane. Mix all ingredients together.

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Filed under Dressings and Sauces, gluten-free, Side Dish, Vegetables

New Leaf

Hi there. It’s been a while, but I’m back. I’m not here to scatter handfuls from my bushel of excuses on lack of posting over the past month–that’s so 2005. Instead, I’ve got more posts that involve acutal cooking and pretty pictures of food. About time, right?

I’ve recently partnered with a certain Ian to get into some healthier habits. I haven’t been very interested in cooking lately, and I feel like everthing I eat comes out of a crackly plastic bag. Sloppy nutrition makes me tired and I don’t want to cook when I’m tired, so I end up in a not-too-pleasant cycle. So in order to feel better, and feel better about myself, I’m going to concentrate on cooking healthy foods more often.  I’m a bit of an amateur nutrition buff, so I’ll be writing about the health benefits of the things I cook. Dessert lovers, don’t worry–this isn’t going to become a shame-dispensing health site. I promise only to share the most delicious recipes and ingredients, including plenty of cookies, jam, custard, and ice cream.

That said, I’m turning over a new leaf–literally (you knew that joke was coming). This bundle of joy is Red Russian Kale, one of my favorite leafy greens. It’s much milder than other kales, and one of the prettiest brassicas around. When it’s young like this bunch, you barely need to cook it at all, and it could even serve as a salad green once de-stemmed, or shredded in a delicate slaw. The leaves are so tender I couldn’t stop myself from taking a bite of one on the way home, even though I prefer them sauteed. I cooked this kale the way I cook most leafy greens. Just a quick stir fry with some oil (about 2 Tbs) and a minced clove of garlic, and it’s ready to go. I chop everything up, heat the oil on high, toss in the stems, stir about 2 minutes, add the leaves, stir for 2 minutes, add the garlic, & stir 2 more minutes.

Everyone knows that the dark green leafies contain lots of iron, calcium, manganese and vitamins A, C , and K. But did you know that they fight cancer and aid brain function? Dark brassicas are commonly used as a liver detoxifier; high fiber content means they cleanse the colon as well. That brings to mind their high sulfur content (it’s why they smell a bit like an unlit match as you cook them), a clever inclusion gives them slight antimicrobial properties.

But forget about all that for a minute, and listen when I tell you that they are delicious. Cooked in a little oil, with some garlic and maybe a bit of red pepper, these greens are soft, rich, fresh, and nourishing. I don’t salt them because their mineral content makes them taste salty enough. And you know, for health. These might be just the thing to wean me off of my Peanut m&m habit. So here’s to the new me, the new you, and the new crop of kale. Consider this new leaf flipped.

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Filed under dinner, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables

Fun Guy

That’s right, kids, the age-old mushroom joke has hit grocery store shelves.  Passed down through the ages by science teachers and other assorted nerds, the “I’m a fun guy” punchline has finally reached its full marketing potential. At least, the packaging induced my roommate to buy these. No word on whether they taste more fun (or “gourmet”) than regular old button mushrooms.

Has anyone else seen these or other jokey vegetables in local stores?

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The Newest Year

Happy Inauguration Day! It feels like New Year’s Day, for real this time. This is the newest year we’ve had in a decade, maybe more. So in honor of this fresh start, I cooked up a quick (gotta have time to watch all the coverage) and cheap (economy won’t recover overnight) meal full of luck-bringing foods.

This quick semi-stir-fry has all the beans, greens, and pork of a traditional New Year’s feast, and using dried chickpeas and frozen spinach makes it affordable and healthy – not to mention delicious.

What are you up to on this historic day?

Inauguration Beans

  • 1 small Mexican chorizo, (about 3oz) casing removed, crumbled
  • 1 cup chickpeas, cooked and drained (canned is ok)
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach (or fresh if it’s handy)
  • 1 Tbs snipped fresh basil

Sautee the chorizo over medium high heat about 4 minutes. Drain as much of the fat as you can, probably about 2 Tbs. Stir in the chickpeas and cook 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook a few more minutes, until heated all the way through. Turn off the heat. Snip the basil over the spinach and stir in. Serves 2 as a side, can be multiplied indefinitely.

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Deskmates 4: Winter Bounty

Winter fruit is like a secret treasure. Of course, in September the locavore in me is all set to eat nothing but storage apples and berry preserves through the colder months. But by December, I give in and buy the glowing clementines and persimmons that have traveled from warmer latitudes just to brighten my winter. I love walking through Chinatown and looking at all the streetside fruit vendors, and I can never resist taking home a few fat persimmons. Usually I buy the fuyu variety since they can be eaten when firm, and I don’t want to wait for their taller cousins the hachiyas to ripen. To remember which is which, I just repeat to myself “short and sweet” as I choose my fruit.

I count myself among the lucky since I have convenient access to the best greenmarket in the city. Even when the farmers are down to the same sturdy storage apples, greens, roots, and squash, I still walk through knowing I’m in the presence of greatness. I roasted a kabocha and sauteed some kale with garlic, and ate them together for days. Can you believe such delicious things are just out there, growing from the ground?

Another of my new favorite apple varities is the Winter Banana. I first read of it in Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts book, and I was intrigued by the name and description. It’s a lovely pale yellow with a slight blush, and tastes warm and fruity like a golden delicious (one of my least-liked apples), but has a saving tartness that keeps me coming back.

And just to give the reins fully to my apple obsession, here’s a picture of another very special winter banana. I’m a sucker for fruit with leaves attached, especially when said leaf has left a rub mark on the fruit under it. I’m all out of apples at the moment, but it’s Wednesday and I know Union Square has bushels of them, so I’ll have to make time to adopt a few more.

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Deskmates 3: Early Harvest

Every fall, Angel and I await the return of The Grapes. Their name is always capitalized because they’re good enough to merit it. Officially, they’re a variety called Reliance, but that doesn’t quite cover how great they are. They’re not just any juicy red grapes, they’re bursting with the tangy grape-y flavor of Concords, though seedless and not quite as tannic. (I also love Concords, both the seedless and seeded varieties.) We first came across The Grapes at farm stands in upstate New York a few years ago, and ever since, we’ve hunted them down in the city greenmarkets.

One of my new favorite apple varieties is the Spitzenburg, and I’m in good company because apparently it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. I’m not quite sure where that bit of trivia comes from, unless there’s a piece of vellum somewhere listing Teenbeat-style likes and dislikes of the hunky 3rd president. Anyway, the Spitzenburg is firm and juicy, with light cider and lemon notes. I always choose apples that still have leaves attached. It gives them so much more character, don’t you think? This particular apple was doubly attractive because in addition to its two perky leaves, it also has three dried flower buds. It was the only blossom among its four branchmates to survive into applehood.

It’s a well-known fact that I am partial to purple vegetables. But really, I could take or leave any of the other purple vegetables (potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, kale) – as long as I could still have their paler siblings, of course. These purple carrots are the ones I really love. It just makes me so happy to slice one open and see its bright orange heart and little orange veins poking through the purple layer. One of my long-held food theories is that colors affect taste (really, if you ate a spinach leaf or a raspberry blindfolded, you’d know what color it was). I think these have a slight bittersweet edge and a hint of fruit flavor. They can keep their color if cooked carefully, but more often than not, they just dye the rest of the food they touch.

The dusky apple in the foreground is an experimental hybrid called NY 428. (Behind it is a Honeycrisp, the indie darling of the apple world). According to its label at the greenmarket, the NY 428 has excellent flavor but does not last long in storage, so it never got a real name. It does indeed have good flavor; it’s fruity, tart, and slightly vinuous. I don’t remember its parentage, but it has some of the qualities of Winesap and Macoun apples. It would make a killer pie, I think, and I’m hoping to test it soon.

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Filed under Deskmates, Fruit, Things I Did Not Cook, Vegetables, Work Lunch

Deskmates 2: Beet Around

I love beets. When they’re roasted for a few hours, they’re so sweet and tender, and the way the deep red flesh moves (and looks) is almost muscular. I’m intrigued by this root that so closely resembles a beating heart.

I also love raw beets. They’re especially good thinly sliced and paired with cucumbers in a light rice wine vinegar and sesame oil dressing. And the striped chioggia beets are prettiest raw. Their colors blend together once cooked, and even if they’ve just been sitting in the salad dressing too long.

The slight astringency of these raw chioggias pairs well with cooked quinoa, more cucumber, chopped parsley and a strawberry vinaigrette. This salad made a brief appearance at a work lunch potluck – it was completely gone by the time I headed back for seconds.

Though I can’t say enough about their texture, taste, and versatility, I think I love beets best for their longevity. I roasted a bunch of beets about a month ago, ate a few, and forgot the rest. Yesterday I discovered them waiting patiently in the back of the fridge without even a hint of mold or decay, and promptly added one to my lunch. There’s one left from that batch, and I’m sure it will still be fine when I get around to eating it in a few days. Then I’ll need to re-stock.

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Filed under Deskmates, Grains, Side Dish, Vegetables, Work Lunch

Getting with the Program

I’ve been more than a little zoned-out lately, and even though I’ve been cooking, I haven’t had the drive to publish photos and recipes. (Like that’s never happened to you.) I spend long hours at work, and by the time I’m home at night (after a yoga class if I’m lucky) I’m totally uninterested in anything else that takes mental or physical energy. (Cry me a river, right?) Most of the food I’ve made in the past few months has been very simple – the kind of thing that I think doesn’t merit measurement or recording – and I’ve been eating more prepared foods, both good and bad (Sabra hummus, Luna bars, street meat and Rainbow falafel) than ever before.

In an effort to slow my simultaneous eventual downswing both into expensive just-ok convenience food and total thoughtlessness about said convenience food, I’m going to start posting some of the things I toss together when I’m home and have 15 minutes free. I’m also going to start a new category, Deskmates, to chronicle the little snacks, goodies, and concoctions that fuel my workday.

So. Here’s the first step back into the weblog program.

Tonight I was craving yogurt-marinated lamb with a pile of yieldingly soft braised nappa cabbage. But the nearest grocery store is almost a block away, so I decided to ignore my craving and make do with my admittedly ample pantry ingredients. It turned out to be much quicker and it allowed me to avoid putting on flip-flops and spending 10 minutes away from home. I know, it’s pretty sad. But at least if this trend continues, I’ll be able to make room  in my cupboards for more homemade jam and pickles.

So I rooted through a cupboard, and behind my spice grinder and a cardboard canister of rolled oats was a lonely can of tuna. I pulled that out, and remembered the shelled edamame in the freezer. Some shredded carrot and ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar, rounded out the motley crew into a delicious asian-inspired salad. It turned out to be just what I needed, and all that fresh clean protein and vegetable matter gave me the energy to make a quick dessert, too (recipe to come). This is shaping up to be a program I think I can stick to – at least when it involves meals like this.

Tuna, Carrot, and Edamame Salad for a Lazy Sunday

  • 1 can of tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 c frozen shelled edamame
  • 1/2-inch piece of ginger, grated on a microplane
  • 3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce ( I used wheat-free low-sodium tamari)
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp Korean red pepper flakes

Put a small pot with about 1 quart of water on to boil. Measure 1/2c frozen edamame and set aside. Grate the carrot into a medium bowl. Add the ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, oil and red pepper and stir with a fork. Scrape the tuna on top. When the water boils, add the edamame and cook until bright green and tender, about 4 minutes. Strain and dump into the bowl. Stir everything together and add more vinegar or soy sauce if you like. Eat with a fork while checking your RSS feeds for the first time in a week. Feel stronger.

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Filed under Main Dish, Meat & Fish, Pantry, Recipe, Vegetables

Corn and Basil Chowder

fresh and clean summer soup

This is a variation on a corn, basil, and tomato salad that I made every week in August last year. The tomatoes are not quite worth their $4.50 a pound at the greenmarket, so my sweet corn and basil had to cosy up to some pimentòn de la vera instead. The barest hint of smoke and spice adds a bacon-esque richness to what is otherwise a very lean soup, and a squeeze of lime brightens the flavors. Making a stock from the cobs and basil stems gives the soup a little more depth. I made sure to keep boiling time to a minimum, since the entire point of summer cooking is to stay away from the stove whenever possible. We all know that time is better spent at the beach.

Corn and Basil Chowder

4 ears of sweet corn

4 c water

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I used agridulce, but hot or sweet would also work)

1c basil leaves, lightly packed (reserve the stems)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 lime

Using a sharp knife, slice the kernels of corn from the cob. Reserve corn, and place the cobs and basil stems in a large pot. Cover with the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.

Chiffonade the basil leaves, set aside. Mince the garlic.

In a small skillet, heat the butter on medium-high until it foams. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from heat. Stir in paprika and salt.

Turn off the simmering pot of cobs. Discard the basil stems. Lift the cobs out of the water with tongs and shake excess water into the pot. Transfer to a cutting board and hold with the tongs in one hand while you scrape the last bits of corn off with the back of your knife. Discard cobs, add corn scrapings to the pot.

Add garlic mixture, corn kernels, and basil to the pot of corn stock. Squeeze the lime half over the pot and add a few grinds of black pepper. Stir everything up and taste it. Add more salt or pepper if you like.

Serve warm, room-temperature, or cold. The flavors develop after a day or two in the refrigerator, and the soup keeps up to a week. Makes an excellent breakfast on days you don’t want to cook.

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Work n Roll

This evening I got out all my sushi-making supplies and made some rolls to get me through the working week. I used brown medium-grain rice (didn’t remember to get more sushi rice when out, didn’t want to go back out), and cooked it pretty much the way I cook sushi rice, but with more water and for a longer time. I filled the rolls with batons of pickled daikon, fresh cucumber, slender blanched asparagus, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and a streak of Sriracha. All my favorite sushi vegetables together in one roll, at long last.

I’ve only made sushi once before, so the first roll of this batch was a little loose. But by the time I got to the last one, I was able to turn out a compact, even roll with all the vegetables nicely centered. I’m already thinking of all the things I’d like to roll up in rice and seaweed: avocado (note to self: buy one tomorrow so it will ripen by next week), kimchi, cooked & drained tatsoi, mango, chives, carrot, all kinds of pickles, pear, mushrooms, and watercress stems. What else should I try?

Though I think these rolls turned out well, there;s one thing I’ll do differently next time. I couldn’t find a recipe for brown sushi-style rice in under two minutes, so I made one up. The top half of the rice was perfect, but the bottom half was a little soggy. So I’ll reduce the water, and I’ve noted that change in the recipe below. I cut two rolls into eight pieces each and tucked them (minus the two slices I ate for quality conrol) into the bottom of my steel lunchbox. The other two I left whole and wrapped in plastic to keep them from drying out until I get to use them.

I’m so looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

Vegetable Sushi

For the rice:

  • 1 cup brown medium grain rice (or short-grain, if you can)
  • 1 1/2 c water, plus more for rinsing
  • 1 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Measure the rice into a bowl and cover with water. Stir with your hands, then drain the cloudy water – a fine-mesh strainer makes this foolproof. Repeat the rinsing and draining 3 times, then put the rice and 1 1/2 cup water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 30 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. (Don’t uncover the pot during these 40 minutes.) In the meantime, stir vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. When the rice’s time is up, add it to the bowl and gently stir to coat each grain with the vinegar mixture. Spread the rice up the sides of the bowl and let cool to room temperature. Makes about 3 cups.

For the rolls:

  • 4 sheets nori
  • Sushi rice (above)
  • 4 spears asparagus, blanched (boil 1 minute, cool in ice water)
  • 4 batons pickled daikon (about 1/2-inch thick)
  • 4 batons cucumber (about 1/4-inch thich)
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • Sriracha chili sauce, optional

Lay one sheet of nori on your sushi mat, shiny side down. Cover with 1/4 of the cooled sushi rice, leaving 1/2-inch bare at the side of the nori farthest from you. Wet your hands and rice paddle to make spreading easier. Sprinkle the rice with 1/2 tsp sesame seeds. Arrange 1 of each vegetable in the center of the roll, and squeeze a thin stripe of Sriracha alongside. Using your mat, bring the side of the rice-covered nori closest to you up and over the vegetables and press. Pull the mat away from you with one hand, keep the other on the sushi lump inside the mat, and roll all in one go, thinking cylindrical thoughts all the while. Unroll your mat and inspect your sushi log. If it seems a little loose, you can tighten it a bit with your mat. Making a good roll takes practice, and you’ll improve noticeably by your fourth try.

Slice each roll into eighths, and eat with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger (all available at Asian grocery stores). Since they’re just vegetables and rice, these rolls will keep in the refrigerator 2 days when cut, and about a week uncut.

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Filed under Main Dish, Pantry, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables