Tag: vegetarian

The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Three: Chinese Home Cooking and Tea Glazed Eggs

One of the best things about being home at my parent’s house is the likelihood that any given moment – approximately 89.75% of the time – the Bean and I can walk into the kitchen and there will be delicious Chinese food cooking.  Yep. It’s pretty sweet.  There’s a lovely Chinese couple, Jenny and Don,  living there who help our Dad around the house and also cook tummy filling and seemingly effortless and homestyle Chinese food.

Quite often these dishes are aesthetically pleasing and easily replicable, like the black tea and spice glazed eggs above.

Other times, these dishes are neither easy to prepare nor particularly attractive…

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Sugar and Spice is Nice at the Rambling Restaurant

Bright colors are nice too.

At the last Rambling Restaurant of 2009, we served a trio of richly colored dips – chickpea hummous, beetroot hummous, and carrot cumin dip. So pretty in pink.

For maximum dippability, we prepared straight-out-of-a-hot-oven-and-onto-the-grill flatbreads. Take Moro flatbread recipe (recipe below), multiply by 15 (eek!) and you have a lot of steaming hot fresh bread  in your future. Also a lot of rolling pin action. Stop whining, it’s good for the arm muscles.

I know making your own bread for a meal sounds thoroughly unrealistic, but this pita-like bread only needs about 20 minutes to sit. This means you can take about five minutes to make the dough, let it sit while you chop vegetables or prepare something else, and have WOW-YOU’RE-AMAZING homemade bread to accompany your meal. Even if it’s only yourself you’re impressing, it’s totally worth it. Especially when you fold it over and stuff it with sauteed spinach and halloumi cheese and roasted eggplant and other such delights.

We followed up the onslaught of foldable starch and pretty bowls of mush with a Turmeric Lime Chili Chicken over a Roasted Eggplant, Pomegranate Seed, Scallion, Parsley, Mint, Tomato Fattoush with a dollop of Cumin Yogurt Sauce. It’s a lot of ingredients that somehow all work in symbiotic grace to produce a happy mouthful of amazing.

But a discussion of odd-sounding ingredients that don’t really seem like they’d work together but actually will blow your mind would not be complete without Chef foodrambler’s dessert: Orange Blossom Almond Polenta Cake with Coriander Syrup.  You might not think you like coriander, but I DARE you not to like this cake. I like this cake so much I am actually going to make it right now for a Christmas Eve Day Brunch.  I also like you enough to show you this pretty picture which does no justice to the rich, moist, exotically sweet and just a touch of spicy cake perfection.

Garnish with a twist of orange, a sprig of cilantro, and a spoonful of honeyed syrup with dots of coriander seeds.  Staring at this picture makes me very happy that this cake is only several hours in my future.  For those of you gluten-free people out there (sis Irene Bean is testing out a potential gluten allergy),  this cake is made with polenta and not flour. Woohoo!

Now go find yourself some cake too. Happy holidays!

Moro Flatbread

What You Need:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried yeast
a bit less than 1/2 a cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil

NOTE: this amount makes about four small-plate size flatbreads, enough for one very very hungry carb fiend like me, or two normal people. Multiply appropriately depending on your eating party’s level of carbophilia.

What You Do:

1. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl and activate the yeast in the water, if necessary.

2. Slowly pour the water and yeast into the flour and incorporate by hand. Once all the liquid has been mixed in, punch the dough around for a few minutes. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour. Add the oil and keep kneading until you have a single ball of dough with a relatively smooth texture and a bit shiny with oil.

3. Let sit, covered with a damp tea towel, for about 20 minutes.

4. Pull off small balls, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball, and roll them out to your desired thickness onto a sturdy floured surface. A good rolling pin is handy here, but floured wine bottles work just as well.  We decided to go super-thin at Rambling Restaurant, but I like the thick and fluffy kind too.

5. Once the dough has been rolled out, you can either put them on a lightly floured baking tray or a lightly oiled pan. At RR, we decided to do both – stick it in a hot oven until they puff up and lose their wet doughy sheen, then finish off on a griddle pan for some tasty brownedness. Either way is delicious.

6.  Cook until puffy, browned, and yearning to jump into your mouth. Dip in something tasty and pat yourself on the back for having produced your very own homemade bread. That is, if your hands aren’t busy tearing apart your creation and stuffing it in your mouth.

like you enough to leave you with a picture so you can start drooling yourself.

Roasted Lemon and Vegetable Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

bulgur wheat pilaf with roasted vegetables

One of the exciting things about living in a new place are all the new and different ingredients  to sample, eat, delight in, purchase, cook with, and integrate into your kitchen repertoire.  Thanks to my dear friend Michelle and her excellent dish from the stunning Feast of Strangers, I’ve become acquainted with bulgur wheat, which tastes to me like a cross between couscous and brown rice.  The grains are slightly larger than the average couscous and a little rounder than rice grains and apparently have more fiber and vitamins, as well as a lower glycemic index than either of those two close cousins (at least for white rice). More importantly, they’re delicious as well as inexpensive and versatile.

I’ve taken to buying various cereals and grains in bulk for those exact reasons. Any given evening, I generally have enough fresh vegetables or canned items or refrigerated goodies to toss into a very simple bulgur pilaf or couscous. The following recipe can be adapted depending on whatever items you may have around but what makes the recipe a bit more special is Michelle’s roasted lemon trick. Tangy, zesty and slightly caramelized, the browned lemon rinds add a fantastic and unexpected kick of flavor.

The rest of the recipe is fairly nebulous, which, if you’ve read any of my other recipes,  you will most likely find unsurprising. But I think that’s the best part – it’s not particular or demanding or complicated or requiring of your full undivided attention. Essentially, you roast the vegetables that need roasting, sauté the vegetables which would taste better sautéed, slice up any delicious items you might have in the fridge like marinated olives or peppers, and boil the bulgur. Combine in dish, stir, and eat. Easy peasy. But don’t worry, I’ve also spelled out directions after the jump…

orange peppers and uncooked bulgur

Bright orange peppers and uncooked bulgur!

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Food Tours of London, One Highly Excitable Eater at a Time

London is, without a doubt, a world-class eating city. The first week I moved here, I found myself within walking distance of an organic grocery, Chinese dim sum, Turkish gözleme, Caribbean jerk, Nigerian stew, and more Vietnamese restaurants on one short block than can be found in some American cities.   You can find food in London from all cultures and countries, of all price ranges, as down-and-dirty as deep fried street food on the corner and as elevated as a Michelin-starred molecular gastronomextravaganza. Sure, there’s bad food to be found, as is the case anywhere.  But put in just the tiniest bit of effort and you’ll never have to waste stomach space on inferior edibles. And when it’s good, the food here is oh..so…orgasmically…amazingly…good.

So why does the myth still exist in the States that British food is horrible? I’ve made it my personal mission to introduce every single one of my visitors to the wonders of London eating.  I’ve been lucky enough to have over  a dozen friends and family stop by the Hackney Hostel since I moved here and the tourist itinerary doesn’t involve Westminster Abbey or the British Museum. No, the most important sights of the trip are Borough Market for  toasted cheese sandwiches, Broadway Market for cupcakes and Ghanaian food and mushroom risotto, Gwilym’s coffee cart at Columbia Road Flower Market, Tayyabs for lamb chop and curried baby pumpkin feasting, the Breakfast Club for bacon butties (and mini-discos), the Brick Lane Upmarket for octopus balls and dulce de leche filled churros…and I’ll stop now because i’m getting very hungry.  Thankfully, every single one of my visitors cares about food just about as much as I do, which is probably a main reason we’re friends in the first place.  I don’t waste time with non-excitable eaters.

My friend Lex is one of these people.  She left just last week, after five straight days of talking about food, venturing off to procure food, deciding what to eat, eating, digesting, and then talking about what to eat next. In other words, my kind of girl. Oh yeah, and we cooked Chinese food for 20 strangers in my living room.  But although I always have to show off my favorite eating spots, the best part about visitors is opportunities to try new and exciting markets, cafes, and restaurants.

One happy new find is the Bedales Wine Bar, tucked into a tiny storefront in Spitalfields Market. It’s easy to overlook with the sprawling chains like Wagamama, Giraffe, and Leon taking up massive real estate, but we ducked into this charming  little  spot to get out of the rain and were happily surprised by excellent glasses of wine, a bowl of fresh bread from St. John and a board teeming with multiple varieties of cheese, pickles, olives, and a piquant little bowl of ratatouille.

wine and cheese board in spitalfields market

Apparently you can purchase a bottle of wine and drink it there without the hefty restaurant markup…I’ll certainly return to prove that hypothesis (and eat more cheese…yum).

Another solid winner in our rapid-fire London food tour was the wooden-beamed, vintage-wallpapered, elk-skull-bedecked,  dreamy-design-geek-fantasy restaurant and bar The Elk in the Woods on Camden Passage in Islington. This miniscule  cobblestoned passageway is one of my favorite streets to show London visitors, both for its quaint historic charm and its abundance of tantalizing eateries.  We snacked on a potato and pancetta skillet with baked eggs, peppers, and tomatoes with toast…

pancetta and potato skillet Read the full article »

my new addiction: dangerously quick and easy scallion pancakes

scallion pancakes with a smashed garlic scallion soy dipping sauce

i am in the midst of a very dangerous scallion pancake obsession. if you’ve ever had these flaky fried disks dotted with slivers of green onions, you know that they have potential to become a serious addiction.  you pick up a piping hot triangle, shimmering lightly with a bare trace of sesame oil and threatening to pull apart into thin layers of nearly translucent dough.  you dip a corner into the smashed garlic soy vinegar sauce and bring it to your mouth, inhaling the scent of crispy seared scallions and the nutty warmth of the lingering sesame flavors.  and then you bite down, the doughy inner layers dissolving on your tongue as the crispy outer shards of the browned pancake crack into pieces like the icy surface of a frozen pond as springtime approaches.

oh…it tastes so good. and then you want to do it again. and again. and again.

and when you have perfected the quick and easy scallion pancake recipe to the point that it takes a mere stomach-rumbling twenty minutes to go from a bag of flour and a handful of scallions to the tastiest of pan-fried snacks…well, it’s dangerous business. because you will do it all the time. trust me, i know.

so i give you this scallion pancake recipe with a warning: with great power comes great responsibility.  after trying these pancakes, the mere sizzle of the pan or scent of freshly chopped scallions may cause you to relinquish control, churning out pancake after pancake and consuming every bite. cook at your own risk…

step by step scallion pancakes recipe in photos

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the veg bag game: easy roasted tomato zucchini bread soup

note: parts of this (the non-rambling, correctly punctuated parts) were originally published here at eat.drink.better. read there and support an awesome green blog.

roasted tomato potato soup

one of my favorite parts of the week is picking up my growing communities veg bag from hackney city farm. every time, i still feel really lucky to live in a place where i have access to locally grown and organic produce from an incredible organization and i can pick it up less than a block away.  i also still feel a little weird using the phrase veg bag – it sounds like an insult (you dirty veg bag!) – but hey, when in rome…

this week, i’ve got:

potatoes, onions, and zucchini from ripple farm organics in kent

carrots from hughes organics in norfolk

cherry tomatoes and eggplant from wild country organics in cambridge

and finally, a salad bag locally grown in my very own borough of hackney. amazing!

this week’s salad bag had numerous unidentifiable bits of greenery including baby lettuce, basil, what looked like yellow chard, and a bizarre mottled green lilypad-esque leaf with a peppery bite. hilariously enough, i tweeted about it, and a farmer from georgia randomly told me that it was probably nasturtium leaves. after a quick google search, i think they’re right.  man, these interwebs.

following on my veggie burger and carrot potato explorations, i’m doing more fun kitchen experiments figuring out how to use all the random vegetables that come my way.  it’s the veg bag game! can’t beat anything that combines games and food: two of my favorite things on the planet besides panda babies.

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The Veg Bag Game: Carrot Potato Pancakes and Veggie Fritters

potato-carrot-pancakesevery week, i pick up a two bags full of dirty straight-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables from the growing communities organic veg box scheme at hackney city farm.  every week, the contents of the bags are a surprise and an opportunity for cooking fun, experimentation, and learning. what’s the best way to cook summer squash? can i eat these cauliflower leaves? (answer: yes! recipe here). how did i end up with so many freaking oranges? are the carrots multiplying on the counter to taunt me?

to counteract the carrot invasion, i’ve been playing around with a bunch of recipes that showcase the root vegetables that always seem to be  hanging around the kitchen. go read them here on eat.drink.better and support the green blog network of green options. i’ll reprint them here in a few days. while you’re waiting, go read this excellent article by michael pollan in the sunday times magazine last week on cooking as a spectator sport. why do so many people watch cooking on tv but never turn on their stove? don’t get me wrong, i love the food network but i love playing around in the kitchen even more. it’s creative, entertaining, and most importantly, results in something delicious to eat. one such experimentation resulted in the delicious fried veggie fritter meatball thingamajigs below. who doesn’t like deep fried balls? mmmm….go cook something!

a-cup-of-fried-vegetarian-meatballs

Easy Veggie Burger with Carrots, Zucchini, Chickpeas and Halloumi Cheese

i’m still in a bit of a recovery mode from yesterday’s rambling tea party and banquet, so here’s a post originally published on eat.drink.better.com.  it’s the first recipe in a series inspired by the what-the-hell-am-i-going-to-do-with-all-these-vegetables game i play (and very much enjoy) every week when i pick up my organic veg bags. read the original here and support an awesome local healthy eating website!

happy saturdays,

mei

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Zucchini Carrot Veggie Burger on Salad

A lot of supermarket vegetarian burgers try so hard to resemble meat that they ignore the fact that vegetables actually taste delicious in the first place. Why try to replicate a beef burger with a monotonously colored brown thing full of mysterious ingredients and even weirder textures when you can eat a vegetable burger that actually showcases the flavors of the vegetables? Here on Eat.Drink.Better we’ve seen fantastic burgers made of black beans, white beans, lentils and portobello, and and even beets! Here’s another veggie burger that’s brightly colored, packed with exciting flavors, and simple to make with both fresh and canned vegetables. Plus, it’s healthy but still deliciously tasty thanks to the freshness of just-grated carrots and zucchini with the heft of canned chickpeas and the salty tanginess of halloumi cheese.

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how to eat wild and exotic mushrooms without dying!

here’s a post of mine that was originally published at eat.drink.better, an awesome sustainable food website, as five ways to serve wild and exotic mushrooms.  all you need to eat exciting and rare mushrooms is to let someone else do the work of finding them. less effort and less likely to kill you! yay farmer’s markets for both improving and saving my life.

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I’ve always loved the idea of foraging for food, but the idea of dying from a poisonous mushroom overdose has always put me off from plucking edibles from the ground for dinner. Luckily, you can often find a carefully selected array of wild and exotic mushrooms at grocery stores or farmers markets. Sometimes, when there’s potential for serious injury, I find it’s best to leave things up to the professionals.

I found this gorgeous array of exotic mushrooms at the Sporeboys stall at London’s beautiful Broadway Market. Mushrooms are easy to cook, good for you, and have a deliciously rich, almost meaty taste that’s a great vegetarian substitute. I made a simple sautéed mushroom mix with olive oil, herbs, and cheese that tasted great on toast as well as pasta. It could also top a number of other dishes that you’ve already got in your kitchen. It’s simple, versatile, and oh so tasty…and no fear of poison! What more could you ask for?

Here’s an easy way to cook your mushrooms and a number of ways to serve them too:

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organic one-pot veggie udon soup (2 meals for under $8!) woohoo!

based on several recent posts stuffed chock-full of food porn and serious meat eating, you may think i have absolutely zero self-control when it comes to eating out, and you might be right. as much as i believe that we should all eat less meat for health and environmental reasons, i have trouble turning down a really delicious meat dish that has been sustainably sourced. and luckily (or not, depending on your viewpoint) there are ample bay area restaurants (linked above) that make it a point to get their meat from local, humane, non-industrial producers.

however, i rarely cook meat when i’m cooking for myself since it’s much cheaper and healthier to cook vegetarian, or at least mostly vegetarian. one of my goals is to make this blog at least marginally useful and share some ideas for cooking affordable, healthy, easy meals that are ideally local, organic, and/or sustainable. thus, i present the all-organic–asian-inspired-under-ten-dollars-one-pot-veggie-udon soup. word.

first, the grocery list:

organic-vegetable-udon-soup

1  package organic planet udon – $2.22

1/2 box pacific organic free-range chicken broth – $2.04

1 bunch organic kale – $2.29

1 head of organic broccoli – $1.15 (or so)

your shockingly low two-meal total? – $7.70!!!

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