Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Broccoli Marrow & Parsley-Caper Salad

Marrow. It is the last word you'd expect to see on a vegan blog, and yet, it definitely got my attention when I saw Hiram Camillo's Instagram post with rough instructions for this starter course. 

Broccoli Marrow is modeled after, well, you know what. It's sort of an off-putting image, but worth getting over to try this. The roasted broccoli stems deliver a sweet, silky, mashable "butter" that pairs fantastically with a crisp salad. I've opted for a Parsley-Caper Salad, which is a traditional accompaniment to the real thing. It's fabulous. It's so simple. You'll be done in less than 30 minutes.

You will need: 
4 Large Broccoli Stalks (1 per person)
2 cups Fresh Parsley

1/2 Lemon, juiced
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-4 tbsp Capers

Crusty Bread, toasted
Salt/Pepper, to taste

Choose broccoli that has a large, robust stalk. Remove the florets and any stray leaves. With a large knife, cut stalks in half. Coat with oil and sprinkle with salt, before roasting in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes. I flipped mine once towards the end and roasted for a few extra minutes to achieve a nice crispy stalk with charred edges and a smooth, soft interior. That's what you're looking for: charred, tough exterior, spreadable interior.

While the stalks are roasting, you can throw together a simple and tangy salad that will provide a little texture and contrast to the marrow.

In a mixing bowl, combine the Parsley, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, Capers, Salt/Pepper, and mix to combine. Set Aside.

Once your Broccoli Stalks are finished roasting, you're ready to plate! Serve with a few slices of toasted crusty bread of your choosing, and drizzle with a little extra oil, if desired.

Be sure to include a small spoon so "marrow" can be scooped onto the bread.

And finally, top with a generous scoop of the Parsley-Caper Salad before shoveling it into your mouth. If you're not into the salad, I'm sure it could be wonderful with garlic butter or an aioli. 

That's basically all it takes to make a dish that you don't see everyday. I can't wait to whip this out at my next dinner party. So easy! So yum! And I will never waste a broccoli stalk again! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

5 Simple Ways to Use Strawberries in 15 Minutes (or Less)

It's finally U-Pick Strawberry season in North Carolina! When my fiance and I met a little over 2 years ago, we created an ever-growing list of fun activities we wanted to do together. We've since crossed off just about everything on the original list, except one thing: Strawberry Picking. I'm happy to say that this oversight has finally been corrected.

Last week we visited Lyon Farms in Creedmoor, NC. The farm itself was enormous, and overflowing with ripe berries. On a Thursday morning, picking was very laid back. We were the only ones in the field, and quickly filled a few crates totaling about 14 pounds. That was slightly more than we were planning to pick, but it's easy to get carried away! At home, I had to get creative in a hurry to make use of them all.

First and foremost, if you pick from a farm, I highly recommend you carefully wash all of your fruit immediately. Once that's done, sort it into a few different piles based on which berries that are very ripe and need to be eaten immediately, and down to berries that have some shelf life left in them. This helps tremendously with cutting down waste. All that's left is to decide what to do with them. This year I challenged myself to branch out and not make any jams. I also challenged myself to be practical, and not spend more than 15 minutes on any given recipe.

Here are 5 delicious and extremely simple ideas that take advantage of one of the most delicious perks of early summer: Strawberry Season!

1. Dried Balsamic-Strawberries

How I love "non-recipe" recipes. Try this if you're every concerned that you're about to waste any of your bounty (Right... like that would ever happen). There's really no need to add salt or sugar, but every now and then a certain flavor serves to enhance. Here, I've just sliced the berries thinly, tossed in balsamic vinegar and dehydrated for about 6-8 hours, or until they are no longer wet.

Another option that I want to try one day: toss sliced strawberries in maple syrup and cocoa powder, and dehydrate for chocolate strawberry snacks. Someone please do this and tell me how it turns out!

2. Strawberry-Balsamic Dressing

It's an overdone flavor combination, I know, but this dressing is a little different. In this version of Strawberry-Balsamic Dressing, I do not add any oils, sugars or salts. I use steamed garlic and shallot to impart savory and creamy characteristics without overpowering the strawberry flavor. Simply combine the following ingredients in a blender:

2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
4-6 cloves steamed garlic
1/4 cup steamed shallot (or sweet onion)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Fresh herbs to your taste - I like mint and thyme
Fresh cracked pepper to your taste

This recipe makes about 24-28 ounces, or two large bottles of dressing. It also freezes easily and I suspect it could be a delicious tofu marinade. If you make the dehydrated balsamic strawberries, you can use any leftover vinegar in this dressing.

3. Grilled Strawberries

Easy, unexpected, and ridiculously delicious. Grilling strawberries gives them a very subtle smokey flavor and enhances natural sweetness. Plus, for anyone who hates waste, it makes the tops of the berries crunchy and very palatable - you can eat them whole, stem and all! I brushed these skewered strawberries with olive oil and black pepper while grilling. If you feel so inclined, you can add a little maple syrup for sweetness or sprinkle with salt on their way off the grill. An absolute must-try for grill junkies. 

4. Strawberry-Vanilla Coconut Flake Snacks

In a blender combine: 5 ripe strawberries, 1/2 tbsp maple syrup and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. Toss that with 1 1/2 cups large, unsweetened coconut flakes. Spread thinly across a foiled baking sheet and bake in an oven for about 15-20 minutes at 250 degrees, tossing once with a spatula midway. They should be ever so slightly toasted and crisp when cooled. If not, just pop them back in the oven for a few extra minutes.

I chose to bake these rather than dehydrate them because the oven gives the coconut flakes a toasted aroma, and this is perfect for a dessert application. Try these on their own as a snack or over ice cream. They are so fantastic that it is almost unbearable at times. Unbearable because I literally cannot stop shoving these into my mouth right now. Expect a post in the near future devoted solely to the many uses of coconut flakes.

5. Strawberry & Mint Enhanced Water

Is this a recipe? Heavens no. Is this a cop-out? Perhaps. But this really is the fifth thing I did with those berries. There's something about hot weather that prompts me to use herbs, fruits, and vegetables to enhance my water. Often it's so delicious that I "trick" myself into drinking more water, and stave off hunger for a little while longer. A few other combinations I love are: Strawberries & Jalapeno, Strawberries & Orange, and Strawberries & Mango. Use soda water and it's almost like having a cocktail... almost.

Now that I've shown you mine, you show me yours! Leave a comment or link me to your blog. I'd love to see how you've gotten creative with strawberries this season.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cauliflower French

Allow me to present yet another riff on a dish that I grew up eating (only this time it turned out much better than its inspiration). Chicken French is a dish I don't see often around North Carolina, but in Western New York it still is very common. The traditional dish is made with pounded chicken that is fried and then smothered in a very simple sauce of butter, wine, lemon juice, parsley and more butter. My Cauliflower French remake just plain tastes better. It's lighter because I've significantly reduced the amount of added fats. Also, cauliflower is basically "The Giving Tree" of vegetables. It is versatile enough to emulate hearty foods, but is much lower in starch, sugars, and calories. It tastes delicious when "Frenched." 

Cauliflower French
Serves 2-4, 30 minutes, start to finish

You will need
1 Cauliflower
1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1-1 1/2 cups Water
1 tsp Kala Namak Salt (optional)
1 tbsp. Egg Replacer
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/8 tsp. Black Pepper
2 cups Vegan Chicken Broth
1 cup Dry White Wine
4 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp. Dried Parsley (or 1-2 tbsp. fresh)
Juice of 1 Lemon
2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Earth Balance

Start by preparing the cauliflower. Take a sharp knife and cut the entire head in half. Carefully cut the head into 1/2 inch slices. The cauliflower needs to be in flat slices and not florets because you are going to sear it on the stove. The slices may fall apart a bit and that's alright. We're not looking for cauliflower steaks here; we just want large, flat pieces as such:

Perfect! Set those aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, Kala Namak salt (if using), egg replacer, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Slowly pour in the water while stirring until the mixture has the consistency of a slightly loose pancake batter and there are no lumps. Toss in about half of your prepared cauliflower and gently coat them in the batter. Set these aside for just a moment.

A note about Kala Namak: Also known as the "egg" salt, Kala Namak is processed in a way which results in a very high sulfur content. This causes it to smell and taste similar to eggs. Chicken French is traditionally dredged in an egg batter that gives it an almost crepe-like coating. I added Kala Namak because I felt like it might give a similar depth of flavor. It is completely optional and this dish will taste phenomenal without it.

Bring a skillet (preferably cast iron) to medium-low heat, or about a 3.5 out of 10. Add 1 tsp of olive oil or Earth Balance and gently swirl around the pan to coat. (You can also reduce the amount of oil by using a very light spritz of spray oil instead. Just keep the heat low and steady to avoid burning.) When the pan is at temperature, begin adding the battered cauliflower. 

It should only take about 3-5 minutes per side to crisp the batter and cook the cauliflower. Use the second tsp. of oil for the second batch of cauliflower. Remove from the pan when they are a golden brown and set aside. You're almost done.

In a saucepan, bring about 2 cups of vegan chicken broth to a low boil. Add garlic, parsley, wine, and nutritional yeast. Simmer for about 5-7 minutes, or until the wine has cooked off. Add the juice of 1 lemon, and season with salt and pepper to your taste. You can also use a dry sherry in place of the wine if you prefer that flavor. Either are delicious. 

Plate your cauliflower over pasta, sauteed greens, or simply on their own. Ladle a handsome amount of sauce over top and serve hot.