Meal Ticketers Drew and Felicia have been accused more than once of having a carnivorous bias. It's not that we don't like vegetables — it's just, well, why waste the valuable stomach real estate on salad when there is so much lovely meat to be consumed? Sorry. The good news is, not only do know vegetarians, we count a few among our very best friends. Joining us for our SUPPER feature today is Janina Larenas: vegetarian since she was in the womb, gelato-master at Capogiro Gelato Artisans and creator of Little Isobel all-natural fruit preserves and herb jellies.
Janina developed her recipe for a long-cooked, hearty vegetarian stew by combining several beef stew recipes, making substitutions and adjustments. Seitan (wheat gluten meat substitute) is layered with a variety of vegetables and aromatics in a slow cooker; just a cup of red wine and a splash of apple cider vinegar extract maximum flavor. Janina picked up a $12, 4-quart Crock-Pot at the thrift shop at Eighth and Wolf; prowl your local second-hand shop for a good deal. The stew can also be made in a covered pot or deep, lidded baking dish and placed in the oven for 4 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
A few recommendations on slow-cooking: Choose a fuller-bodied wine with some residual sugar for cooking, like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, over lighter wines like Pinot Noir and Côtes du Rhône that have less sugar and more acid. No matter how horribly tempted, do not lift the lid of your slow-cooker. Dramatic temperature drops from lifting the lid add cooking time and subtract moisture.
Layer your way to a stick-to-your-ribs veggie dinner with Janina Larenas' Slow-Cooked Seitan & Veggie Stew, after the jump.
|Janina peels broccoli stems for her stew.|
|All Photos l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Janina Larenas' Slow-Cooked Seitan & Veggie Stew
Go Get This:
One 12 oz. package braised seitan (wheat meat, wheat gluten), crumbled
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Favorite vegetables, peeled if necessary, cut in finger-size pieces
Like: peas, potatoes, carrots, one apple, onion, parsnips, celery root, sweet potatoes, squash, garlic, peeled broccoli stems
1 cup full-bodied red wine
1 cup water or veg stock
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
Now Do This:
Layer all ingredients, beginning with seitan, into slow-cooker or pot. No need to chop or strip herbs, just pick out stems as you serve the stew later. Cook on low setting for at least 4 hours, or in a 200 degree F oven. Serve by itself, or over noodles if desired.
|At least the lemons are in focus.|
|Fuzzy Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Dmitri's, the diminutive Greek BYO on the corner of Third and Catherine streets, glows like a jar full of fireflies and hums like a bee drunk on a fine vintage of honey. The octopus swims in olive oil seas and corks are popped in bouncy bubble-wrap rhythm by waitresses who squeeze through the narrow alleys between two-tops with utter aplomb.
The menu, like the cooking, is simple. Baba ghanouj and triangles of pita warm from the fire. Grilled octopus, grilled whole fish, all dressed with lemon wedges. Cioppino or seafood fettuccine in lively broth. Mussels, steamed or sautéed. Wait, sautéed mussels, you say? I'd eaten a whole ocean's worth of those tiny mollusks before ever having them served up crispy.
Each plump little mussel is freed from its shell by a quick steam, then shucked out and tossed lightly in some seasoned flour. Dmitri's calls theirs sautéed, but what you're really doing is shallow frying those suckers to get a bit of a crust on, then serving them as hot as possible with lots of lemon wedges for squeezing over.
Recipe for Dmitri's Sautéed Mussels after the jump.
Dmitri's Sautéed Mussels
Go Get This:
3 lbs. mussels (or cheat and buy 2 cans shelled mussels)
Flour seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne or whatever you like for dredging
About 3 tbsp. canola/peanut/vegetable oil, enough to coat the bottom of your frying pan
Now Do This:
Rinse and de-beard your mussels. The beard is a little ugly stringy teenage-facial hair-looking thing hanging off the mussel. Grab it and yank it off. Discard any cracked, broken or open mussels. They're dead already and no good for eating.
Pour about half an inch of water in a large pot. Add mussels and cover pot. Over high heat, steam mussels just until they open. Remove from heat and transfer mussels to a large colander.
Remove mussel meat from shells by using one shell as tongs to grab out other mussels and reserve them to a smaller bowl. Don't puncture their sweet plumpness with a fork or angry tearing gestures.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large, shallow frying pan until hot and shimmering.
Dredge mussels in seasoned flour and remove, shaking off excess. Drop one test mussel into pan. If it sizzles, add the rest.
Shake the pan around and turn mussels over with tongs to brown and crisp evenly. Once they develop a crisp, brown crust, remove with tongs to drain on paper towels.
Serve hot with lots of lemon wedges. Eat with lots of white wine.
|Curry, minus Katsu|
|All photos l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
At a post-wedding brunch this summer, a cousin inquired if I liked to cook. "Oh yeah," I replied glibly. "Cooking is practically all I do. Then eating." He pressed on. "What do you like to cook?" What do I like to cook...
Grandmother food. My grandmother's, yours, everybody's. And everything from The New York Times. I am in a long-term relationship with the Times; we've been seeing each other since I was old enough to rummage Dad's discarded broadsheets in search of the Style and Dining In sections. Sunday's Magazine, in particular, has outlasted five boyfriends and three cars.
In the October 26, 2008 issue of the Magazine, the food page was lit by a floating, halo'd, panko-crusted pork cutlet. Tonkatsu Curry, it read; the bacon cheeseburger, the meatloaf and gravy, the fried-goodness, hangover-curing food of Japan. The writer, Sam Sifton, explored this magical mashup of European, Indian and Japanese cuisine and come out on the other end with a recipe that turns a lot of butter, a big lump of ground pork and Cuisinart full of fruit and vegetables into something that flies far beyond the definition of delicious.
Charmed by the photo and lured by the essay extolling the porky roux and "heroic in size" pork cutlet, boyfriend and I got busy assembly line-style on our first batch of katsu curry. The resultant bowl of fragrant sauce over sticky rice, crowned with a huge McPiggy nugget, was heavenly. And heavy.
This is a big meal. Hangover-killers are always comprised of grease, eggs, meat and hot sauce, not salad. In the second iteration of katsu curry, we simply left out the giant fried pork cutlet to focus on the aromatic curry and rice element. It's no less satisfying, and cuts about a thousand calories off the dish.
Drool over Sam Sifton's recipe for Tonkatsu Curry; make the call on keeping or chucking the pork cutlet depending on your personal weather. S&B Oriental Curry powder, which makes the dish, as well as tonkatsu sauce, are available at Hung Vuong Supermarket, Wing Phat Plaza, 1122-1138 Washington Ave., 215-336-2803.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
One night, when Israeli wunderkind Michael Solomonov ran the show at Marigold Kitchen, he turned his kitchen and staff over to fellow chef Ana Sortun for a dinner celebrating her new cookbook, Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. The meal started with a variety of mezze (small bites) that Sortun serves at her Boston restaurant, Oleana. Crisply layered spinach falafel with pickled ramps brought more yummy noises than was appropriate out of an adult dining table, and Turkish-style steak tartare lured with aromatic teases of spice. The most-coveted mezze, however, was a warm ball of butter-stuffed hummus wrapped in basturma, a dry-cured, thin-sliced beef.
Nearly two years later, Solomonov is chef and owner of one of 2008's most-lauded restaurants, Zahav. A variety of hummus is served with laffa, a unparelled bread fired to order in the brick taboon oven, as a palate-warming first course. Like the country cousin of Sortun's cosmopolitan basturma-wrapped balls, Turkish buttered hummus makes an appearance as a hot dip, glistening with pale yellow pools of everyone's favorite fat. Though I wouldn't even attempt laffa — without a 750-degree brick oven and a training course in Israel, why even bother? — the Turkish hummus is just too good not to try at home.
This recipe was inspired by my trip to Cappadocia, in the center of Turkey... In Cappadocia, they make hummus without tahini, and they use butter instead of olive oil because of its quality and availability.
Ana's recipe uses dried and soaked chickpeas, which you cook and then pulse in the food processor while still hot. Since I am fundamentally lazy and wanted to get to the "hot buttered" part as quickly as possible, I used canned chickpeas (which were one dollar a can at the Acme, natch).
After the jump, check out my interpretation of Zahav's, and Ana Sortun's, Turkish Buttered Hummus. You're on your own for laffa-imitation.
Turkish Buttered Hummus
(adapted from Ana Sortun, p. 200 in SPICE, and Mike Solo's version at Zahav)
Go Get This:
Two 16-ounce cans chickpeas (also called garbanzos), drained and liquid reserved
Two cloves garlic, diced small or mushed through a garlic press
7 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
Several glugs extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Two teaspoons cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Now Do This:
In a very small sauté pan, melt a tablespoon of the butter. When it foams, add the diced garlic and gently cook until soft. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, six tablespoons of the cut butter, the juice of one lemon and cumin. Add the olive oil a glug at a time as you begin to process the mixture. If more liquid is needed for through blending, use some of the water the chickpeas were packed in. Blend some more. Blend the hell out of it until smooth and creamy. You could leave the food processor on max and go take a shower and the hummus would be better for it.
Turn the machine off and taste the hummus. Add salt and pepper to taste, or more olive oil if it needs it. Blend!
Use a rubber spatula to pour the hummus into a small ovenproof casserole dish. Smooth into an even layer. Dot the top of the hummus with the reserved pieces of butter. Sprinkle with a bit more cumin.
Bake in the 350 degree oven until butter is melted and hummus is hot all the way through.
Serve hot with pita, raw vegetables, laffa and olives. Pretend you're at Zahav, or on a pastoral dairy farm in Cappadocia.
Yesterday when I set out to bake, I could not face the Acme one more time. The frantic South Philly mamas clutching every bar of bittersweet chocolate and tube of red frosting to their sweatered breasts, while "Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" clangs through the atmosphere, is like Fellini's worst nightmare.
Lacking nuts, chocolate and the will to roll out any more gingerbread, I searched the Internet for a cookie recipe that could be constructed from the contents of the pantry. Chowhound, that archive of culinary snitfests, delivered a simple brown butter, brown sugar cookie recipe gleaned from Cook's Illustrated. With nothing more than flour, brown sugar, plenty of butter and a few eggs, I turned out a few dozen crisp-on-the-outside, tender and chewy-inside cookies infused with the nutty aroma of brown butter. Package with festively colored tissue paper in tins or boxes tied with baker's string. Nevermore, Acme. Nevermore.
Recipe after the jump.
Brown Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 Dozen Cookies
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (about 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a pan over medium-high heat until melted. Continue to cook the butter until it is browned a dark golden color and smells nutty, about 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer the browned butter to a bowl and stir the rest of the butter into the hot butter until it melts- let this rest for 15 min. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a baking dish, mix granulated sugar and a ¼ cup of the brown sugar until combined well; set this mixture aside to roll dough balls in. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Add 1 ¾ cup brown sugar and salt to cooled butter and mix until there are no lumps. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla to butter mixture and mix well, then add flour and mix until just combined. Roll dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter, and roll balls in brown sugar and white sugar mixture. Place balls about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake sheets one at a time until cookies are puffy and lightly browned, about 12- 14 minutes. (It says the cookies will look slightly raw between some of the cracks and seem underdone, but be careful not to overbake.) Cool on sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool.
|Rockets, shooting stars and one outer-space octopod.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Like the Grinch and rich old Scrooge, I heartily dread the Christmas season. The irrational consumer spasms of otherwise normal people, the breathy voices full of fake wonder emanating from every speaker, the obligatory purchasing of useless candles and fancy lotions in discount flavors. It really brings out the dread in dreadful.
This year, rejecting the dominant paradigm is less a statement and more of a necessity. Doom-ish pronouncements for earnings, employment and life itself are repeated incessantly from every news outlet, and have cowed all but the oblivious into cutting back on Christmas. In order to show appreciation for those I really care about but cannot afford to spend money on, I'm baking.
I am not a baker. I am hardly a cook — just an avid eater who makes the necessary moves to get fed. Baking is a alchemical blending of precision and a talented hand, neither one an attribute that appears on my résumé. Yet cookies it had to be, so I picked out my favorite seasonal treat and set about improvising.
Gingerbread is the most seasonal sweet of them all, and tends to summon up big grins from the recipients of a ribbon-tied box of iced treats. Gingerbread men and ladies being just too predictable, I figured rolling out some unexpected shapes would help my spicy crew stand out.
Foster's Urban Homeware (399 Market St., 215-925-0950, shopfosters.com) stocks a whole wall of tin cookie cutters at a $1.50 each, from traditional snowflakes and Santa hats to dinosaurs, letters and bugs. Rolled cookies like gingerbread have a well-deserved reputation for being a pain in the nether regions, so selecting cutters with a minimum of tiny details is critical. Gingerbread also has a tendency to go from perfect to overbaked in a nanosecond, so choosing a cookie cutter that allows for bigger finished cookies also increases success. I chose three cutters, based on a theme of a Combustion Christmas: rocket ship, shooting star and motorcycle.
I also picked up four gel food dyes for tinting icing at Foster's, $2 each, and stopped at the grocery store for confectioners' and brown sugar, as well as a shaker of cinnamon and ground ginger for spicing. A knob of fresh ginger stored in the freezer was my secret weapon. I was going to put some serious zing in those cookies.
The blog Gillian's Goodies yielded up a simple fresh gingerbread recipe, as well as suggestions on baking. My improvisations for baking when you're not a baker after the jump.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
1. Don't sweat the small stuff. If your eggs and butter are room temp, textures will be right. Don't fudge the technique, but don't freak out if you don't have every little thing. For example, I had no rolling pin. I used the Pam canister instead.
2. Measure everything ahead of time. Measure salt over the sink, not over the mixing bowl.
3. Mix dry ingredients together, separate from wet ingredients. It's critical to developing the right texture.
4. Make a pastry bag by mixing a little royal icing (1 cup confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice) with a drop of food coloring in a sandwich-size plastic bag; then snip a TINY corner off the bag and pipe decorative icing on to your cookies. Go all Jackson Pollock on them if you're not the neat type.
5. Cool cookies thoroughly before icing.
6. Chill the gingerbread dough overnight before rolling out a little at a time; the cold dough will be infinitely easier to work with and less sticky on the board, your Pam canister, and your hands.
Mark Bittman is the author of How to Cook Everything as well as the "The Minimalist" columnist for The New York Times. His approach to eating well is always streamlined, reducing every recipe to its elemental bones.
Veal osso buco made an appearance in his Recipe of the Day feature, and takes the classic Italian supper to a new place with just a bit of chicken stock, a few mashed anchovies and cloves of garlic. Omitting the typical aromatics speeds the braising process along, with the whole recipe taking only 2 hours, largely unattended. Omitting osso buco's constant companion, gremolata, make the dish faster but on the whole less satisfying. The fork-tender veal and melting marrow get a friendly punch from the traditional accompaniment.
Gremolata is a condiment made of mashed or finely diced garlic, chopped parsley and lemon zest. It brightens the homey braised veal and adds color to an otherwise brown plate. For those who don't enjoy the bite of raw garlic (me, for one), roasting the whole bulb adds sweetness and depth to the gremolata without sacrificing the lemony acidity and peppery parsley contrast.
Roasted garlic technique and gremolata recipe after the jump.
My recipe for instant polenta, a soft pillow upon which to rest your tender veal.
Roasted Garlic Gremolata
Go Get This:
One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed, dried and chopped
The zest of two lemons
Two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
One bulb of garlic
Now Do This:
Roast the garlic, either in a specific garlic-baking clay utensil or just on a baking sheet covered with foil. To do this, slice off the top of the bulb, revealing the cloves but leaving the papery skin. Slice just a bit off the bottom so the garlic stands steady.
Place the cut bulb on the baking sheet or in the baker. Douse the bulb with one or two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Cover with foil or the lid of the baker and place in a preheated 350 degree oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and golden but not burnt.
Scoop the cloves out of the bulb and place in a bowl.
Add the parsley, chopped fine, and the lemon zest to the garlic, season with salt. Mix and mash with a fork to obtain an evenly mixed paste.
Use gremolata as a condiment on meat, fish, vegetables or whatever. It's good on pizza, too.
|Click to enlarge|
Pub & Kitchen chef Jonathan McDonald (read Trey Popp's Nov. 13 review here) is featured in the January 2009 issue of Men's Journal. Jonnymac shares his recipe for shepherd's pie, the UK classic. They do plan on working the dish onto P&K's menu at some point in the near future.
His shepherd's pie is fairly traditional but has a few modern twists. Specifically he suggests using mutton, the meat from older lamb, instead of young spring lamb, as well as adding turnips and parsnips (or any root vegetable) to the mix. And he insists that cooking shepherd's pie should be as unhurried and soothing as eating it: "I like to make it on a Saturday afternoon at home with a few pints going."
|One, two, three, baby.|
|Photos l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Sabrina's Cafe is rightly famous for their ample brunch portions and epically long waits for said portions on the weekend. For a nominal upcharge, one can add their divine polenta fries with spicy tomato sauce to any sandwich. The crisp bricks of polenta are the most satisfying thing you can make with cornmeal and a little bit of water, and wonderfully cheap, as well. Minimal kitchen skills are required to covert cornmeal dust into happy little fritters — the ability to stir fast for 5 minutes is the main requirement.
Polenta served hot from the pot is an ideal comfort food, with all of the pooling butter and spoonablity of a good mashed potato, and none of the tedium. Hot polenta cooled in a shallow baking pan or casserole can be cut into bricks and then fried, for a great second-meal iteration.
Pick up a bag of Italian Instant Polenta from Di Bruno Bros. for $2.99 and ignore the totally useless directions on the back. One Tsp serving? What in the name of Fabrizio Moretti does that mean?
Recipe and method after the jump.
Polenta Fries A-Go-Go
Go Get This:
One cup of instant polenta
5 cups water
Olive or vegetable oil for frying
Little bit of flour for dredging
Now Do This:
Boil the water in a medium-sized pot. Once boiling briskly, whisk in a little of the polenta at a time, whisking away like mad continuously. No lumps! Keep whisking.
Keep adding polenta and whisking until all of the polenta is incorporated into the boiling water. Keep stirring away for about 5 minutes, until the polenta is thick, with a texture similar to Cream of Wheat.
Pour the hot polenta into a baking or casserole dish and allow to cool in the fridge, at least half an hour, until the polenta is firm to the touch. You should eat some hot, too, with heaps of butter and salt. So good.
Once firm, slice the polenta into little bricks, any size you like.
Heat olive or vegetable oil in a medium sauté pan until hot but not smoking. Roll the polenta bricks in flour to just coat, and place gently in the hot oil.
Fry for about 3 minutes per side, until crisp and brown.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt. Eat solo or with a spicy tomato sauce, hot sauce, or as the starch with a stew or soup.
Photos | Felicia D'Ambrosio
Monday morning, the alarm is buzzing, the sky is gunmetal gray, promising rain; and last night's dishes are still strewn about the kitchen.
This is not the time to put together a healthful lunch. You don't even have time to wash your hair, much less pack a nutritionally balanced meal. That is why you should devote your Sunday afternoon to prepping the elements of a few quick suppers and lunch-box items.
The goal here is not to impress the world with your laser-like palate or casual knowledge of 10 kinds of baking potato: The idea is to avoid buying your lunch from a grease cart or giving up and going out to dinner on a Tuesday. The monetary savings of cooking at home and bringing your lunch to work are significant; better still is the sense of accomplishment when you realize you went the whole damn day without spending any money.
Take inventory of the fridge and cabinets on Saturday afternoon, and make a grocery list of needs. Shop the fresh foods at the perimeter of the supermarket for maximum nutritional impact, and supplement the freshies with some dried pasta and beans, canned tomatoes and a big bar of dark chocolate for dessert.
Today I am offering up two super easy recipes that can help you get a jump on eating in, and never capitulate to the corner bar and their overpriced burger.
Spicy sriracha chicken salad lettuce wraps and vegetarian onion soup can travel to work in Tupperware, or be on the table in 5 minutes when you finally get home.
|Spicy Sriracha Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Spicy Sriracha Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Go Get This:
One package chicken breasts (boneless/skinless)
Head of romaine lettuce, picked over, washed and drained
Big dollop mayo to taste (full fat, light, or nonfat is fine)
Same goes for sriracha
Blob of Dijon mustard
One red bell pepper, diced small
Now Do This:
Cook your chicken breasts. You can do this however you like: pan-seared in a hot skillet with a few tablespoons of oil, poached in barely simmering chicken stock, grilled in a grill pan, or roasted in the oven. Whatever you want, just don't dry them out.
Dice the cooked chicken breasts into small cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the diced bell pepper, dollop of mayo, sriracha and dijon mustard. Mix well until coated. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve the chicken salad wrapped in a leaf of romaine. If bringing this to work, keep lettuce and chicken separate and put together when ready to eat.
Trés Easy Onion Soup
(adapted from Cooking 4 The Week)
Go Get This:
4 big onions (bigger than baseballs)
2 tablespoons of olive oil, or a chunk of butter, or both
A quart of vegetable stock, or water
2 cups red wine, white wine, beer, or brandy
2 bay leaves, or dried thyme, or both
salt and pepper to taste
dashes of soy or Worcestershire sauce (Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian)
Now Do This:
Cut the onions in half and peel. Slice each thinly.
Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add a splash of olive oil or healthy chunk of butter. Add the onions to the pot and sweat, until very soft. This could take up to an hour. Stir often to ensure they don't burn.
Once the onions are completely cooked down, turn the heat up and deglaze with your alcohol of choice. I used a Belgian brown ale, Dupont Moinette Brune. As the liquid bubbles, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate the browned-on bits. (This is deglazing). Allow all of the liquid to evaporate, and deglaze again. Allow liquid to evaporate one more time, then deglaze once more. This builds flavor and ensures you will end up with a rich, not flat, soup.
After the final deglaze, add the quart of veggie stock, dried bay leaves and/or dried herbs and the parmigiano rinds and allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the soup tastes flat, add dashes of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce and keep tasting.
Serve with toasted slices of bread with cheese melted on top, if you like.
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