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Tag: vegan (page 2 of 2)

Begone, Infidel Dips: Homemade Hummus with Za’atar

hummuszaatar1I was chatting yesterday with a friend who was complaining of a stomachache after lunching on baby carrots (*argh*) and hummus with caramelized onions from WF. After my initial reaction–”duh”, followed closely thereafter by “eew”–I suggested that perhaps caramelized onions were not necessarily a boon to the world of hummus. But then, it seems that in its anodyne ubiquity, anything can be mixed into mass-produced hummus these days and then find its way onto the blighted buffet tables of every social occasion from white-hat keggers to mommy-and-me play dates.

It’s not like store-bought hummus isn’t bad enough already–it is, what with the excreable flavors of stale tahini, the metallic tang of straight-up citric acid, and that ineffable whiff of plastic tub. BUT when the powers that be start adding artichokes, chipotles, olives, horseradish, extra garlic, red peppers, forty (FORTY?!) spices, and tomatoes OR basil–nevermind both–we have a problem. These things do NOT belong in my hummus. And god only knows what French Onion hummus is about. Blech.

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Protean Vegetable Soup: Fit for a Blizzard or Anytime

vegetablesoup1Even when not faced with crises like the 2010 Snowpocalypse, it is good to have a few flexible, vegetable bin-clearing recipes that, regardless of the inputs, will result in something tasty. This vegetable soup is one of those things. Of course, being somewhat profligate in the produce-buying department does help, but I like to think that most refrigerators would provide enough variety to make this work.

More of a technique than a recipe, I started out wanting to add body without adding dairy. Cream is a many-splendored thing, particularly for thickening and enriching soups and sauces, but is definitely what Cookie Monster would call a “sometimes food”. (And for some of us more like a “really probably almost never food”.) Pre-cooking and pureeing the onions, garlic, and potato seemed an appealingly cleaner, lighter method of adding body without resorting to cream, cornstarch, or a roux. All of those methods have their place, certainly, just not in my soup. Then, in goes everything else. Cut your ingredients into even pieces, and add them in order of cooking time, most to least.

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Turning Japanese: Dashi & Miso Soup

misoOk, so, I was SUPPOSED to do a Dashi-Off this weekend, comparing homemade and instant versions of kombu dashi, the kelp and dried tuna stock that forms the backbone of Japanese cuisine. Due, however, to my inability to calculate things with any degree of accuracy–I rely on a calculator for everything, and even then Mr. T has to check my math–I had nowhere near the 30 grams of fluffy dried bonito shavings necessary to make the homemade dashi. Whoops. Instead, I just used the instant kind, and lo, the world did not end. I will still do a comparison at some point, but CW seems to be that instant is permissible. So, a lightly fishy, umami-full stock. Now what?

While you can go in nearly any Japanese direction starting with dashi, getting to delicious miso soup is probably the shortest journey. The result is so, so, SO much better than those nasty misbegotten dried soup packets. (Even when using instant dashi–I know, I know… consistency FAIL. Whatever.) It’s a lovely, savory, healthy, restorative little bowl, and can be just the answer for everything between a quick afternoon pick-me-up to the opening salvo of a major production Japanese dinner. Furthermore, the miso paste, wakame, and dashi components last practically forever. While there is a bit of specialty shopping to be done up front, once you do have everything, you’ll never be more than a few minutes away from miso soup.

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Divalicious Moroccan Oranges

Continuing with everyone’s new years obsession with all things citrus, here we have a tasty and refreshing orange salad. Unlike the more savory version that Mark Bittman has on offer this week in the NYT, this version is sweetly dessert-worthy.  While it is, in fact, Moroccan, it could easily conclude a Chinese dinner or shine as part of a brunch. I was first served this by my lovely friend Alissa. It is, like the lady herself, the essence of elegance. Upon first seeing it, however, I was slightly taken aback–cinnamon-dusted oranges? Really? But the combination really is quite amazingly tasty. I have since seen it gussied up with dates, sugar, pomegranate molasses, liqueurs, and other such things, but I prefer to keep it simple, with just oranges, cinnamon, and a sprinkling of chopped pistachios for color and crunch.

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Beyond Raw Radishes

Osterguss Radishes

I’m overwhelmed these days by the bounty and variety of radishes at the farmers markets and often a bit stumped as to finding the best way of preparing them. We all have simply tossed them into a salad for color and heat, a role they serve quite nicely–and ubiquitously. I’ve always loved a plate of French breakfast radishes–with their delicate, pink/white icicle look–accompanied by some fleur de sel and a few slices of baguettes with soft butter. Just gorgeous. But how else to prepare without defaulting to the traditional?

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When I Dip You Dip We Dip: Tuscan Bean Dip

tuscanbeandipThis tasty spread was inspired by–actually, I can’t remember what it was inspired by–some random Italianate chicken dish with similar flavors? How enlightening I am… But, even without a fascinating backstory, this dip is totally worth the minimal time it takes to pull it together. Pungent garlic, earthy sage, spicy chili, creamy cannellini beans, and bright lemon combine to make an irresistible spread for crostini or crudite.

I depend on it at parties big and small, set out with a bright jumble of vegetables, to make even the most decadent hors d’oeuvre spread look healthy and colorful.  It doesn’t hurt that the stuff is delicious–personally, I’d keep it on tap if I could.

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Smelling a Rat…atouille

In keeping with my Provençal kick, let’s dish on ratatouille. Not the rat, the movie about the rat, or even the Thomas Kellerized version of the dish made for the rat to make in the movie about the rat.  Still with me? Good, because this Niçoise dish of gently stewed eggplant, peppers, squash, and onions can be truly, truly delectable. At its best a hearty melange of summery vegetables napped in a lightly herbed tomato sauce, ratatouille often ends up both blandly watery and overcooked. By efficiently melding and concentrating the flavors, though, you’ll have even the most vociferous carnivores lining up for more.

IMG_0940There are several schools of thought when it comes to ratatouille. While some disagreement may arise over the exact herbs and seasonings, the major bone of contention remains how the vegetables are cooked.  Some, including the indomitable Julia Child, advocate for sauteeing the components lightly and separately before baking it all together in a sauce (ALSO prepared separately).  For me, not so much–primarily because I like the vegetables to be a bit more…relaxed than I usually would, and the all together now approach does the job just fine.

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