Archive for ‘Savory’

November 6, 2014

Gluten-Free Gleefully: Tips for How to Host a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

by Jen Wanous

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be a complicated dance with dietary restrictions. A gluten allergy is a new food red flag to pop up around many dinner tables. In this post, we’ll figure out how best to host a gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner so that you and your guests strike a savory samba, without too much stress.

It may seem daunting at first to make an all gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner, but let’s think about it, really all you have to worry about is the stuffing, gravy and pie. The turkey, cranberry, vegetable side dishes- even the mash potatoes are all already gluten-free. Great. Feels more manageable already, doesn’t it?

Here are some general tips for making a gluten-free Thanksgiving meal and following is how to modify the traditionally gluten-full dishes: stuffing, gravy and pie.

  • Keep it simple: choose to make the whole meal gluten-free. That way you won’t have to worry about cross-contamination and you’ll be making fewer dishes overall.
  • Don’t skimp on the fat. You’re already taking out one comfort food, gluten; you don’t need to take out the other, butter.
  • Have store-bought rolls available to appease your guests who eat gluten.
  • Be careful of hidden gluten ingredients. Gluten is in some sausages, gravy thickeners, bullion mixes and is in cream of mushroom soup. (Make fresh roasted vegetables instead of the traditional green bean casserole.)
  • For your vegetable sides dishes, always start with the highest quality, fresh, organic vegetables you can find. A simple side dish is olive oil, salt and rosemary roasted root vegetables (like carrots, yams, potatoes and beets).
  • Be open to creating new family traditions. It may be hard for you or other family members to adjust to new recipes for such a traditional meal but they will prove to be delicious in a whole new way.

Stuffing:

Forego stuffing your turkey, besides the bacteria risk of possibly undercooking your poultry, your bird will cook faster and you’ll avoid any potential gluten cross-contamination. Bite the bullet and make your own stuffing. Of course it’s not as easy as the classic Stove Top, but you can make something much more robust and flavorful. I recommend making a gluten-free cornbread a couple days before and using that cornbread to make your own stuffing. Easily make your corn bread gluten-free by substituting a gluten-free flour mix, like Bob’s Mills in place of regular wheat flour.

Gravy:

Could there be anything more flavorful than roasted turkey drippings? It’s a great place to start! Add onion, carrots and celery to your roasting pan for an even more flavorful gravy. You can make your gravy just as you would before, by using pan drippings and turkey stock-only switch out the flour with an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix to thicken your gravy. Be careful when using a brined turkey, it can make for a gravy that is too salty. Be sure to taste your gravy as you go along, being careful not to add additional salt.

Pie:

In my family, the guests always brought dessert. We would end up with plenty of pie, (enough for our tradition of pie for breakfast the morning after). You can ask your guests to bring dessert too, this way there will be lots of options for everyone. Just make sure you have at least one that is gluten-free. You can make a gluten-free version of pumpkin pie by foregoing the crust all together to make a personalized pumpkin flan in a ramekin. Or you can also make a nut crust to go with most any pie filling. For a basic nut crust add 2 cups of roasted nuts, a little sugar and some melted butter into a food processor. Press into a pie plate and add your desired filling.

thanksgiving 14

May 29, 2014

Four Unique Ways to Prepare Fish

by Jen Wanous

1) Open a can! We all know how to make a tuna fish sandwich but there are other options in the canned fish department. Try a smoked fish like trout. Give the fish a quick sauté in a pan with olive oil, deglaze with a little white wine, add roasted cherry tomatoes, and combine with pasta.

2) Pack with spices and grill. Using a sturdy fish like salmon, create a spice mixture to press on the fish and grill on the stove top with a slatted pan. For a serving of four try: ¼ cup brown sugar; zest of one orange; 2 teaspoons smoked paprika; 1 teaspoon ground cumin; ½ teaspoon ground coriander; ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon salt; and cayenne to taste.

3) Sear. For this type of preparation, you’ll want to use the highest quality fish available-look for the “sushi-grade”. Portion the fish into 4-5 ounce pieces. Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium-high heat, add olive oil, place the pieces in the pan and sear each side for just 30 seconds. Serve with a soy-wasabi dipping sauce.

4) Bake with a salt crust. This is a sophisticated way to prepare fish and has a built in flavor enhancement and moisture lock: salt. For this you’ll use one whole fish like red snapper or sea bass. Rinse and pat the fish dry. Add whole stems of fresh herbs to the inside of the fish. Whip 4 egg whites until they create soft peaks. To this, add 2 cups of kosher salt. Spread ¼ of this mixture on a large baking dish, place the fish on top and cover the fish with the remaining mixture. Bake for 40 minutes at 450. Crack and remove the crust to serve.

For information on the sustainability of the fish you procure, please visit: http://blueocean.org/programs/sustainable-seafood-program/

Photo courtesy of Elaine McCardel, blogger at: http://theitaliandishblog.com

Photo courtesy of Elaine McCardel, blogger at: http://theitaliandishblog.com

February 11, 2014

Eat Your Heart Out: a Valentines Day Menu

by Jen Wanous

Valentine Chef

Did you know that garlic is an aphrodisiac? Yep, it gets your blood pumping. Its flavor can be too sharp sometimes, so I like to mellow it out with some slow roasting. Here, in this full menu, I’m inspired by Valentines Day. The menu starts off with a homemade pasta with shrimp in a tomato and garlic sauce. Of course, to simplify things, you can get a nice package of linguine and prepare that aldente, but making homemade pasta is a lot easier than you think. It’s a fun way to get hands-on with your meal and your sweetheart can help too! I always feel fancy when I eat shrimp, so I added some to this dish. Fancy. Oh and asparagus. Balsamic reduction, yeah, sexy.

Tiramisu tops off this sensuous menu. It is simplified from its original version but still has layer upon layer of creamy chocolaty sweetness. Go grab your Boo, Bestie or Bubbie and cook up this special meal for two.

Handmade Pasta with Shrimp in Tomato and Garlic Sauce

Serves 2-4

Fresh Handmade Pasta

Be creative with your pasta shapes, just be sure they all have the same thickness so they cook evenly. If you are making this with your sweetheart, divide the flour in half and you each can have one mound of flour and one egg.

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 extra large eggs

Procedure

1. On a clean dry surface, mound the flour. Create a well in the center and crack the egg into the center. With a fork, gently beat the egg, slowly gathering in the flour as you go around in a circle. Try to keep the outer rim of the flour intact to keep the egg from running out.

2. When about half the flour is incorporated, begin kneading with your hands, adding in more flour as you go if it is too sticky. Once the dough comes together in one big mass, knead it with your hands for three minutes. The dough should be elastic and just a little sticky. Add dustings of flour when needed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.

3. With a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll out the dough on a floured surface making sure that the thickness is similar all around. Cut into your desired shape. (I like to make rectangles.) Set aside on a floured surface until you are ready to boil them.

4. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and gently boil for about 3-7 minutes. Test for doneness along the way. Your pasta is finished when it is cooked all the way through and has a pliable, yet not mushy texture. Gently drain and do not rinse pasta.

Shrimp in Tomato and Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

1 pound cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

6-9 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

4 tablespoons butter

pinch of red pepper flakes

½ pound medium shrimp (15-20), de-veined, peeled, pat dry

¼ cup dry white wine

Salt to taste

Cracked fresh pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large rimmed baking sheet, add tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, tossing quickly with your hands to coat all. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges of the garlic turn golden brown.

2. Right before the tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Melt butter and red pepper flakes 2-3 minutes until butter is slightly nutty and light brown. Add the shrimp and sauté 3-5 minutes, until shrimp are entirely pink (no gray).

3. Take the tomatoes out of the oven and deglaze by pouring the white wine onto the baking sheet and with a wood spoon, scrape up any brown bits (this is where the good flavor is). Add the tomatoes and garlic to the butter and shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked pasta. Garnish with basil and parmesan.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Reduction Drizzle

Serves 2-4

1 pound asparagus, woodsy stem removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Procedure

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

2. While the asparagus is baking, in a small saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Tiramisu for You and Your Boo

Serves 2-4

Assemble the dessert in a wine goblet or 6 ounce dessert cup. (You can also assemble one big tiramisu and scoop it out.) This is best enjoyed within a couple hours of assembling.

Ingredients

1 cup fresh, strong coffee (can be decaffeinated)

4 tablespoons bourbon, whiskey, or dark rum

8 ounces cream cheese (low fat is fine)

½ cup confectioners (powdered) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

½ cup whipping cream

12 ladyfingers

2 tablespoons unsweetened coco powder (optional)

6 raspberries, sliced in half vertically, for garnish (optional)

¼ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, grated, for garnish (optional)

Procedure

1.In a wide bowl, combine the coffee and 3 tablespoons of the liquor. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the liquor until well incorporated. Gradually add the powdered sugar until fluffy. If using a stand mixer, transfer mixture to a large bowl.

3. In a now empty bowl (no need to wash bowl), whip cream 2-3 minutes until the cream holds stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the two cream mixtures together.

4. In your dessert cups, begin to assemble the tiramisu starting with a few tablespoons of the cream mixture. Next, prepare the ladyfingers by quickly (2-3 seconds) dipping and flipping the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. (Break the ladyfinger to fit your cup size.)  Add a layer of ladyfingers and alternate with a layer of the cream mixture until your cup is near full and you finish on a cream layer.

5. Garnish with a dusting of coco powder, sliced raspberries, and shaved chocolate. (To dust, put the coco powder in a fine mesh strainer and gently tap the edge over the top of the dessert. You might want to do this over the sink if you’re using small dessert cups.)

December 29, 2013

Get Spicy This New Year: a greens recipe

by Jen Wanous

Some believe that the more greens one eats, the larger one’s fortune will be for next year! Lord knows we can all use some more greens in the form of dollar bills. After all the sweets and meats I ate over Christmas, I’ll take any excuse to eat some hearty veggies.

Invigorate your New Year’s day with this spicy dish of greens and may prosperity fill your new year!

Ingredients

3 pounds of mixed winter greens like collards, beet greens, mustard greens and kale

1 cup red onion, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

red pepper flakes to taste

olive oil

Procedure

1. Thoroughly soak and rinse the greens. Remove the stem of the leaves and coarsely chop.

2. In a large 6 – 8 quart heavy pot, over medium heat, add two tablespoons olive oil and sauté the red onion. After 5 – 7 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring often.

3. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add mixed greens, brown rice vinegar, spicy brown mustard, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes. Sauté for 5 – 7 minutes, stirring often until the greens are fully wilted and the ingredients are fully incorporated.

sfksfksfk.tumblr.com

sfksfksfk.tumblr.com

September 16, 2013

Tips for Staying Healthy on a Budget – recipe for fish tacos too!

by Jen Wanous

Eating healthy on a dime, let alone 50 dimes, is not so easy these days. With a few simple tips, you can save money while at the same time main a healthy diet. Here are some simple ways to stay healthy on a budget.

Prioritize Your Organics

The price of organic foods is daunting. The good news is that not all food needs to be organic. Some foods are exposed to more harmful pesticides than others and you can save money by prioritizing organic food where it really counts. The “dirty dozen” list below outlines the most important items you’ll want to shell out for organic.

1. Meat

2. Milk

3. Oil

4. Coffee

5. Peaches

6. Apples

7. Sweet bell peppers

8. Celery

9. Strawberries

10. Lettuce

11. Grapes

12. Potatoes

Buy in Bulk

Dried goods in bulk at your local natural market are a treasure trove of money saving ingredients. The beauty of buying bulk is that you can get exactly how much you need. If you’re cooking for one or two, this can really help save money.

You can save dollars per pound compared to the canned or boxed versions. (Plus it’s a lot less sodium.) And the silver lining is that there is no silver lining! Canned food is almost always coated with BPA which is a harmful endocrine disruptor linked to a higher risk in diabetes, prostate cancer, and heart disease. Steer clear of this and save money too by buying in bulk.

Penny-Pinch Proteins

Anyone who has perused the meat case lately can tell you that grass-fed beef is worth a pretty penny, sometimes up to $8 a pound for ground beef. One way to save money is to re-think what the star of the plate is. With bold flavors and creative portioning, you can have the protein in the meal make up 25% with vegetables at 50% and a grain at 25%. This will help keep your heart healthy too.

You can also select cuts of meat that are less expensive. I like to use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. This saves me money and I enjoy the flavor more. When making fish, talapia or catfish can be substitutes for cod or the more expensive mahi-mahi. Both Tilapia and catfish are rated as “best choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Food Watch website.

Using selective organic ingredients, bulk dried goods, and more economical proteins, you can create menus that are gentle on your bank account and good for your health too.

—————–

Here is a menu for fish tacos. It shows you how to utilize an inexpensive piece of fish, talapia, and also works with an inexpensive vegetable, cabbage making a vibrant tart slaw. There is also a recipe for a simple pot of black beans. They are easy to make with some forethought and a bit of slow cooking. There are many accompaniments to add and a must of course, are the corn tortillas. As a bonus, this meal is a great gluten free option for you and your guests.

Serves 4

Fish for Fish Tacos

2 limes, zested and juiced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder, try chipotle if you have it

2 gloves garlic, pressed or chopped very fine

1 teaspoon salt (less if desired)

1 pound Tilapia

1-2 tablespoons cooking oil

Procedure

1. In a baking dish, combine lime, cumin, chili powder, garlic, and salt. If the fish is frozen, first defrost it in its packaging under cold running water for about a half hour until thawed. Add the pieces of fish making sure all sides are coated in the marinade. Leave out to marinate for 15 minutes.

2. In the meantime make the slaw (recipe below). Warm a slated grill pan or regular skillet over medium- high heat. Add oil, wait a few minutes for the oil to warm, then place the pieces of fish down. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until the fish is cooked through. You can tell the fish is ready by sticking a fork in the thickest partt, it should be completely opaque (white and not shiny) and should flake off easily. Break fish into small pieces and place on a serving platter.

Purple Slaw

2 cups purple cabbage, shredded

2 limes, zested and juiced

2 green onions, sliced thin

½ cup cilantro, chopped

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt (less if desired)

Procedure

1. Combine all ingredients and serve on top of tacos.

Black Beans

– 2 cups black beans, pick over and soaked

– 8 cups water

– 1 onion, quartered (any variety of onion will do)

– 3 cloves garlic, smashed

– 1 tablespoon salt (optional)

– 1 bay leaf

Procedure

1. Pick over dried beans to make sure there are no pebbles. I like to spread out my beans on a rimmed baking sheet. Then, in a large pot, cover the beans with at least two inches of water and soak overnight or for 8 hours.

2. Rinse the soaked beans in a colander. Cover with water, add all other ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-4 hours. Taste the beans as they cook. You’ll want a firm but easily yielding bean. Alternately, you can put the soaked beans and other ingredients in a slow cooker to cook while you’re away. Simply add the soaked beans and all other ingredients to cook on low for 8 hours. Remove bay leaf and onion before serving. Keep any leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

Accompaniments for the Tacos

– Corn tortillas, warm on a flat skillet and hold in a clean dishtowel until ready to serve

– Sour cream, as a garnish (optional)

– Slices of avocado, as a garnish (optional)

– Slices of lime, as a garnish (optional)

– Hot sauce, as a garnish (optional)

April 24, 2013

Voilà: Vegan Steak Frites

by Jen Wanous

I often cook for people with dietary restrictions. These restrictions have ranged from no dairy, soy, nuts, to the stricter, no gluten, sugar, or refined carbohydrates. I look at these restrictions as fun challenges. It’s kind of like being on Survivor (though with access to the greatest organic coop in the country) and trying to make the best out of what you have within the parameters you’re provided. (Wait, is this already a Food Network show?) I particularly like to make oxymoronic dishes like vegan and gluten free lasagna or, like I was most recently asked to create, vegan steak frites.

It was a French themed party, after all, and what is more reminiscent of a late night café rendezvous in Paris than steak frites? The berets could stay on their shelf; I had tofu to work on! From my vegan stint in the redwoods of Santa Cruz, I recalled a thing or two about dressing up tofu. One trick I learned there was that freezing tofu gives it quite a meat-like texture.

According to Cooks Illustrated, May and June 2013, “Tofu is about 86% water; as it freezes, the ice crystals expand, pushing apart the protein network. When thawed, the water drains away, leaving the tofu with a spongy consistency that is highly absorbent.”

With this in mind, I fashioned a solid block of tofu into three “steaks”. First, I sliced the block into thee planks and rounded the corners. (This made for wonderful meaty dramatic effect!) I then popped the planks into the freezer and left them to their meat-tastic transformation. In the morning, I took them out to defrost in the fridge and added a steak-like marinade, invoking the help of the flavor classics of A-1 and Worcestershire sauces.

For real dramatic effect, you could grill the tofu steaks on a slated grill pan. I opted to bake mine with the frites. You guys! Making French fries is so easy;  you, too, can enjoy this comforting snack at home with just a little bit of knife precision. The mini-recipe for the frites is as follows:

Slice two large potatoes into ¼ inch planks then slice again into ¼ inch sticks. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, toss, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees, flipping after 15 minutes. Top with Maldon flake salt, truffle oil or minced fresh parsley, if available.

The next time you find yourself caught between two conflicting culinary worlds, let the accommodating versatility of tofu come to your rescue. Et Voilà! C’est parfait.

 

vegan steak frites

Vegan Steak

Serves 3

Time, active: 30 minutes; inactive: 7 hours

Ingredients

1 Block of firm tofu

2 tablespoons A-1 steak sauce

1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (Amy’s brand makes one and so does Trader Joes)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 clove garlic, smashed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, groun

Procedure

1. Slice tofu length-wise into three planks. Fashion into any meat-like shape that appeals to you. (I like to round off three corners and keep one end pointed.) Place in a large Ziplock bag and place in the freezer until frozen, at least five hours.

2. Add to the bag the remaining ingredients to make the marinade. Mix well, making sure all sides of the tofu are covered in the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 10 hours.

3. Heat the oven to 425. (Cut your potatoes now for the fries.) Place the tofu planks on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve with frites!

July 31, 2012

Cooking with Fire: Baba Ganush

by Jen Wanous

Smokey, savory, so satisfying: Baba ganush. The guest star of this week’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was eggplant. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make this Middle Eastern specialty at home.

Please the eggplant directly on your range top. If you have an electric stove, you can use the broiler.

Rotate the eggplant a few times until they are well charred, about 10-15 minutes.

Let cool.

Peel all the skin/black parts off and discard the top stem.

In a food processor, add 1/4 cup tahini; 2 tablespoons lemon juice; 1/2 teaspoon salt; a pinch of cayenne; and one clove of garlic pressed.

Add the peeled eggplant. As the food processor is running, drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil.

And there you have it: baba ganush in three easy steps and only five ingredients. Enjoy with pita bread, chips, or on a sandwich. The flavors meld well after sitting over night- not that it will last that long!

Ingredients

6 small eggplant

¼ tahini (sesame paste)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 pinch cayenne

¼ olive oil

*This was originally posted on Snap Guide which is a cool app for your iPhone on how to do things. The founder went to the same culinary school as I did. Check it out.

May 28, 2012

Choice Cuts and Ethical Decisions

by Jen Wanous

With the thermometer (or iPhone) pushing 90 for the first time this year, I welcomed this holiday weekend with sunglasses and flip-flops. Ahh…summer is on its swift way. Last year, on Memorial Day weekend, I posted about pork and the different cuts of meat you can use for grilling. Turns out, this has been one of my most popular posts. (It’s hard to contend with the most popular search term: “How to Make a Vagina Cake.”) I wanted to share more details on the different cuts of pork. Below is a diagram and a recipe for Rosemary Pork, but not without some ethical reflections first.

While looking for this diagram of pig parts, I found it hard to scroll through the various images. There is an innate moral contradiction to being an animal lover (and dog owner) and supporting the slaughter of certain other animals. We live within a ethical hierarchy of consumption (as long as we’re not in Vietnam). I recently attended a local food conference in which this exact topic was discussed. I was on board with most of it, but then someone started talking about how you shouldn’t eat the roots of plants (carrots, onions, garlic, etc) because doing so kills the plant. I might have chuckled out loud. I certainly found it “tweet” worthy but overall, it reminded me that there is a wide spectrum of ethical consumption.

I’m not completely on the mindless side of the spectrum and yet every time I order a taco, “Carnitas!”  inexplicably pops out of my mouth. Well, there is a reason: pork simply tastes good. I negotiate this ethical space by decreasing the frequency and portion size of the meat I eat. I often spring for humanely raised meat, too.

Humanely raised pork is available at some farmers markets, Whole Foods, and can be sourced here: http://www.localharvest.org/. In the recipe described below, the meat can be charred on the BBQ. Happy grilling season: may your side dishes be plentiful and your meats flavorful!

Rosemary Pork

This recipe is from chef Jay Weinstein’s cookbook: The Ethical Gourmet. Serves 6.

The key to cooking meat that has great impact in small portions is to make each morsel an intense flavor and texture experience. Brining and marinating are two techniques to achieve that.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns

2 thick rib chops (at least 1 inch thick, about 6 oz each)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

¼ cup olive oil

Procedure

Make brine by combining the salt, brown sugar, half the garlic, the bay leaf, and half the peppercorns with four cups cold water. Submerge the pork in this brine and allow to cure for 4 hours.

Puree the rosemary and olive oil together in a blender; stir in the remaining garlic and peppercorns. Remove the chops and discard the brine. Pat the chops dry, and rub the rosemary oil into them well. Marinate at least 30 minutes.

Heat a stovetop grill, barbecue grill, or heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Grill or sauté the chops until the internal temperature reads 150°f on an instant read thermometer, about 4 minutes per side. The meat should be slightly pink and very juicy. Set aside and rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting away the bone and slicing the chops thinly on a bias. Serve as an accompaniment to salads, grain dishes, and pastas.

April 30, 2012

A Brunch Date with Ramps

by Jen Wanous

Ramps are a fair-weather bunch that make their appearance for only a few short weeks a year. Being from California, I had never tried them until I moved to the East Coast where they are more abundant. Their reputation preceded them when one day I heard a co-worker proudly announce: “The ramps have arrived!”

I discovered many perks of my job in the past month; one is that I walk through the country’s largest Farmers Market to get there. I saw a small bushel of these rarities one morning and was wooed by their bulbous bottoms and their light leafy tops. With ramps in hand, my mind started turning with ideas for what to do with them.

Since this was a new vegetable to me, I decided to keep things simple and let their flavors really come through. I sautéed up the bulbs first and then the leaves with a little olive oil and salt. Part of the leek family, the aroma was like a shallot or mild onion, with a little essence of garlic too. The greens were so delicate, it only took a minute to wilt. Their accompaniments were two poached eggs and a piece of toast. This was a simple and satisfying brunch with a special seasonal addition.

The other half of the bunch, I pickled to preserve past its short window of offering. To do this, in a small jar add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Add the sliced ramp bulbs and pour boiled vinegar over it. This will keep for weeks and can be used as a taco topper or paired with any other rich, meaty meal.

 

 

 

March 28, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons: Make a Citrus Dipping Sauce

by Jen Wanous

I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the past few weeks, and with good reason — I took the plunge and submitted myself to a 9-5 (or 6, or 7). You see, post-culinary school I enjoyed my days of piecemealing jobs together, working with a variety of small food businesses- from cookie baker, to Korean taco restaurant consultant, to ice cream sales person. I loved this exposure, but I needed something more consistent to pay for the Le Creuset I’ve been wanting (paying back my culinary school loan and health insurance would be nice too). I was excited to see the posting for a job as an Events Director at StarChefs because the position perfectly combines my background in event management with my culinary training.

I started the position a few weeks ago and, as ideal as the position sounded, it has proven to be a hard transition. I have been taking big gulps of air to stay afloat in a work culture that is filled with chaos and urgency (think The Devil Wears Prada meets Top Chef). It’s a small office of 18 people with an open work space — no walls. I have been tasked with executing a 3,000 person, three day culinary symposium with workshops, demos and culinary competitions. The event will host 90 star chefs, 80 sponsors and a large staff and vendor battalion to keep everyone full and happy. The event is called the International Chefs Congress and will be held in the last week of September.

I am confident in my ability to execute this major production and I even get glimmers of optimism when someone from the office brings a daffodil for everyone or has a staff tasting of homemade beer. Wading through a new workplace environment can be very complex. Trusting myself and staying hydrated has been key.

Through all this, I am definitely learning a ton, which I am grateful for. I consider this to be another great chapter in my culinary adventure book. So, stay tuned for more posts, from workplace triumphs to kitchen adventures, I hope to write now once a month now.

Sushi Party on the Fly

I recently had a couple friends over for dinner and we had an impromptu Sushi Party. With a few simple improvisations to the traditional methods, it’s fun and easy to host your own.

The idea is to do a build-your-own sushi hand roll. Hold the sheet of nori seaweed in your hand (like a diamond), then smear the inside quinoa (not too much) and fill with fresh accompaniments. Fold the tip of the diamond (closest to you) in (like a burrito) and drizzle on different sauces. Every guest will be having fun making their own unique sushi hand roll.

Serves 4

Essentials

Package of Nori sheets (big sheets of seaweed)

Quinoa sticky rice sushi-style (recipe below)

Optional Accompaniment Ideas

– Sushi grade raw fish such as salmon or tuna

– roasted tofu (recipe below)

– avocado

– mango

– cucumber

– threads of green onion

– pickled carrot (recipe below)

– Sesame seeds (toasted)

– thin slices of jalapeño

– Suracha mayo dip (1/4 cup may plus 1-2 tbs Suracha)

– pickle ginger (click here for how to make)

– wasabi (can reconstitute powdered wasabi)

Quinoa – Sticky Sushi Rice Style

Ingredients

1½ cups quinoa, rinsed

3 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup brown rice vinegar

Procedure

1. In a medium pot, combine the quinoa and salt with the cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20 mins. Remove lid and stir in rice vinegar with a fork.

Citrus Dipping Sauce

This recipe was inspired by a favorite cookbook author and blogger: Heidi Swanson.

Ingredients

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons agave syrup (or sugar)

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

Procedure

1. In a small pan, combine just the citrus juices and agave. Bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 mins, add the soy sauce and vinegar. Return to a boil, cook another min or two. It will be slightly thick. Stir in the zests.

Tahini Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

½ cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 inch ginger minced

1 clove garlic, chopped

s&p

Procedure

1. In a mini food processor, combine all ingredients. That’s it.

Tofu Planks

Ingredients

1 block firm tofu

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon olive oil

s&p

Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the tofu block into ¼ thick pieces that are about 1×3 inches.

2. On a rimmed cookie sheet, combine all ingredients. Slather on the tofu. Bake on 350 for 20 mins, flipping half way. Cut to thin threads (about the width of a chop stick).

Quick Pickled Carrots

Ingredients

2 carrots, julienned (cut long and thin)

¼ cup brown rice vinegar

couple drops sesame oil

salt to taste

Procedure

1. Combine ingredients and let sit for at least 15 mins, up to a few days.