June 2, 2013

Chipotle Mac & Cheese With Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves 4
Total time: 30 minutes || Active time: 15 minutes

Chipotle Mac & Cheese

Chipotle Mac & Cheese! Okay? I probably don’t need to say anything else, you’re already rummaging through your pantry for a can of chipotles and some cashews to soak. Mac & Cheese is, after all, the ultimate comfort food. A box of macaroni might as well come with sweatpants, a cozy blanket and an entire season of Mad Men DVDs.

This version is creamy, of course, but also spicy and smoky. But what really sets it apart is how EASY it is. That’s ALL CAPS and throw in an italic EASY.

1) Boil some macaroni 2) Throw some stuff into the blender 3) Put it all together. 4) There you go. I roasted some brussel sprouts, too (as I do), but you can add any manner of veggie; steamed kale, grilled asparagus, sauteed zucchini…you get the picture. I do highly recommend the brussels, though, because they roast away effortlessly, and you are free to prepare everything else. Oh, and of course, they’re also super delicious.

The only thing that’s a little fussy is getting the seeds out of the chipotle. But follow my notes below and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Happy macking, everyone!

Recipe Notes

~ If you forgot to soak the cashews, have no fear. You can boil them for the same creamy effect, and still have this on the table in 30 minutes. Just submerge in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain, and proceed.

~ Sometimes people forget that chipotles are still HOT and can give you jalapeno hands if you touch the seeds. You can use small pieces of plastic wrap when handling. Seed them by placing one flat on the cutting board, splitting down the center with a paring knife and using that knife to scrape out the seeds. Immediately scrape the seeds into the sink and wash them away, to prevent and further contact, then place the seeded one into the blender, and repeat the process.

~ The reason we’re removing the seeds, in case you’re wondering, is that seeds are really spicy. With the seeds removed, you can use more chipotles, thus getting more smoky flavor without all the heat.

~ Update! If you’d like to make this was blanched, slivered or sliced almonds, go for it! People have been reporting back that it works well.

~ For a non-spicy version, try one roasted red pepper (homemade or from a jar) in place of the 4 chipotles.

~ I love a milder miso here. I used chickpea, but mellow white would be nice, too. The kind of miso you use will determine the saltiness, and so I suggest salting to taste before and after adding it to the macaroni.

8 oz macaroni (gluten-free, whole wheat, or any type)
1 lb brussels, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
4 chipotles, seeded (see note)
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons miso (I used chickpea miso)
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F for the brussels, and prepare a pot of salted water for the pasta. In the meantime, prep the brussels and make the sauce.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the quartered brussel sprouts with olive oil and a dash of salt. Bake for 18 minutes, until lightly browned. No need to flip them, just let ‘em roast.

To make the sauce: Drain the cashews and place all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend away until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Depending on the strength of your blender this could take from one to five minutes.

When the macaroni is tender, drain it in a colander. Immediately place it back in the pot you boiled it in and stir in the sauce. Place pot on low heat and stir for 3 minutes or so, until the sauce is thickened a bit and everything is deliciously creamy. Taste for salt, toss in the brussel sprouts and serve!

(In the pic I put some extra chipotles in, but that was just for show. Unless you like things REALLY spicy you can skip that.)

May 18, 2013

Seitan Negimaki

Makes 16 rolls
Total time: 3 hours || Active time: 40 minutes

Seitan Negimaki

I always swoon over photos of negimaki. Beautifully grilled teriyaki rolls stuffed with vibrant scallions. See? Did you swoon?

A vegan version is easy enough. The meat = seitan and the scallions = well, those are already vegan, silly! I tried to keep the ingredients list as simple as possible. The characteristics that I wanted to really shine were the charred grilled flavor and, of course, the scallions. The simple marinade of hoison and mirin really does its job, keeping things juicy with the perfect marriage of sweet and savory.

Don’t feel like you can’t serve these unless you’re having an all-out Japanese feast. If you’re hosting a little garden soiree (or just watching TV, or catering a bar mitvah…) you can serve these rolls right along hummus and stuffed mushrooms. I guess I take a fairly laid-back approach to menu planning; it’s more about the balance of the overall menu rather than following a strict flavor profile outlined by national borders. So I just try to have a good mix of fresh and cooked items, grains and proteins. The more flavors the merrier.

That said, these would be wonderful served alongside sushi or a Japanse noodle dish. Maybe with a fresh, gingery salad? You can even serve negimaki over rice, with some steamed veggies, as a main course.

However you choose to serve, have fun with it! It’s a really playful and delicious grill recipe that is worth the extra effort. SWOOOOON.

Seitan Negimaki

Recipe Notes

~To simmer the seitan, you’ll need a pot that is at least 9 inches at the base. A 5 or 6 quart pot oughtta’ do it. If you’ve only got a 4-quart, then slice the seitan log in two before simmering.

~ Make the seitan a day in advance, so that it can cool in the gingery broth overnight. Or at least give it plenty of time to cool.

~ If you’re looking for a gluten-free variation, tofu might work, but if it’s not perfectly sliced, there’s a chance it will be too finicky about wrapping.  Yuba or Soy Curls might be better options?

~ This recipe makes more seitan than you’ll need, but that’s ok! It may take a couple of tries before you get the strips perfectly thin for wrapping. And any left over seitan will be great in a stir-fry.

~ I made these on an indoor grill, but they’ll work outdoors, too! You might want to soak the toothpicks in water, so that they don’t burn too badly.

For the simmering broth:
8 cups vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup fresh sliced ginger

For the seitan:
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup soy sauce

For the marinade:
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup mirin
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Sriracha (plus extra for garnish)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, microplaned or minced to a paste
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Also:
2 bunches scallions, green parts only, sliced 3 to 4 inches long
A few tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Plain wooden toothpicks

Make the seitan:
Place all the ingredients for the simmering broth in the pot and bring to a boil. In the meantime, make the seitan.

Combine wheat gluten and nutritional yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the water and soy sauce and knead until it forms a stiffish dough, two to three minutes.

Form dough into a flat log that is roughly 8 inches long and 4 inches wide.

When the broth is boiling, lower heat to a simmer and submerge the seitan. Simmer for 30 minutes, leaving the lid ajar so that steam can escape. Let cool completely in the broth.

Marinade:
Once seitan is cool, start the marinade. Simply mix all ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl.

Now, slice the seitan. You want it to be about an 1/8 inch thick, but it doesn’t have to be perfectly even (you can see in the pic that mine wasn’t.) Just make sure that a the slice can wrap around your pinky nicely, without breaking or being unruly.

Once you have 16 slices, place them in the marinade for an hour, flipping occasionally.

Assemble and cook:
In the marinade bowl, move all the seitan to the side, and add the sliced scallions, coating them in sauce. So your bowl should be one side seitan and one side scallion, more or less.

Form the rolls on a dinner plate, to avoid messiness. Take a slice of marinated seitan and place it on a dinner plate. Place 4 or 5 scallions across, so that scallions will poke out of the ends an inch or so. Now roll the seitan around the scallion, and secure it with a toothpick or two. Make sure that the toothpicks are going in the same direction, so that you’ll be able to grill them without toothpick interference.

Once rolls are formed, heat the grill over medium heat. Spray or brush grill with oil, and cook rolls until grill marks appear. I did 8 at a time, and it took about 4 minutes on my indoor cast iron grill. Use a metal spatula to get under the rolls and flip them, spraying more oil as necessary. Cook on the other side until grill marks appear.

Transfer rolls to a serving plate. When ready to serve, drizzle with leftover marinade, and some Sriracha (if you like it spicy, it’s ok to leave off) and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve!

May 15, 2013

Strawberry Mâche Salad

Serves 4
Total time: 20 minutes || Active time: 20 minutes

Strawberry Salad

My midwestern summer has been severely stunted. I’ve planted at least three times because: SNOW IN MAY?!??! But hopefully things are on the right track now. Snap peas are poking their little green heads out of the soil, and I’ve even got some strawberries that look like they might ripen any day. But, thankfully, I’ve also got the grocery store and I’ve been stocking up of fresh, juicy pints of organic strawberries almost every single day.

I use strawberries in a million ways, from ice cream to barbeque sauce, but I really really love strawberry salads, especially when the little guys are at their ripest. The berries take to tangy ingredients so beautifully, their aromatic sweetness providing a perfect balance. I love this simple salad with mâche, which, if you’ve never had it, is a velvetty salad green with a complex flavor; earthy, nutty, grassy and peppery all at once! It’s pronounced like “mosh” for all you punks, and sometimes it’s called “corn salad” or “lamb’s lettuce.” I know that gardens and CSA boxes are overflowing with mâche this time of year, and I was even able to purchase some at my local Whole Foods.

The end result is dizzyingly delicious with the addition of fresh basil and toasted almonds. If you’ve never strawberried a salad, now is the time.

Strawberry Salad

Recipe Notes

~ If you can’t find any mâche, then a spinach/arugula mix would be really nice, too.

~ I love the look and texture of whole grain mustard in the dressing, but some regular old dijon would be just as delicious!

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, microplaned or minced to a paste
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Pinch salt
Fresh black pepper

For the salad:
1/2 cup slivered almonds
4 oz mâche
12 oz strawberries, stems removed, berries quartered
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
10 basil leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade)

To make the dressing, just mix all of the ingredients together in a little bowl.

Next, toast the almonds. Preheat a small pan over medium low heat. Toast for about 5 minutes, tossing frequently, until honey brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble salad, In a large mixing bowl, toss together mâche, strawberries and red onion. Add the dressing, and toss to coat. Top with almonds and basil, and serve!

May 9, 2013

Salad Of Garlicky Zucchini Ribbons

Serves 2 to 4
Total time: 15 minutes || Active time: 15 minutes

Zucchini Salad

I love that zucchini can be cut into noodly strips and called “raw pasta.” But I also love that you can make a raw zucchini salad!

Despite what a lifetime of overcooked zucchini might have you believe, zuke actually has flavor. It’s delicate, yes, but fresh and verdant. When eaten raw, it’s delightfully crunchy, and perfect for a light lunch or alongside a sandwich or veggie burger.

I dressed it really simply, but don’t be deceived, it still has flavor to spare. There’s lots of garlic; like, enough to ward of kisses for at least several days. A touch of olive oil and some fresh tomato dress it beautifully. And basil makes everything pop like a springtime garden in your mouth.

Sometimes it’s the simple things. Enjoy!
Zucchini Ribbons

Recipe Notes

~ If you’re looking for a more substantial salad, you can bulk it up. Add chickpeas, toasted walnuts, and avocado. Yum!

~ Don’t worry about getting the zucchini into perfect ribbons. Simply give the zuke a preliminary peel so that you don’t have too much skin (unless you like that.) Then place on a cutting board and peel into rustic ribbons, turning the zuke as you go. You might have a little nub left over, so just slice it up and add to the salad. Really, you can’t go wrong. Anyway you slice it (har har) it’s going to be great.

~ Use a non-serrated peeler if you can, or your ribbons will have ridges. Not the biggest deal, but probably worth mentioning.

~ You want to serve this as soon as possible, to retain its crunch and freshness. If you let it sit for awhile, it will become more like a slaw.

1 cup diced fresh tomato (from 1 average sized tomato)
10 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (plus extra small leaves, to garnish)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 lb zucchini, peeled into ribbons (see note above)

Sea salt
Fresh black pepper

Tomato basil

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the tomato, basil, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Add a big pinch of salt and some fresh black pepper. Let that sit as you prep the zucchini.

When zucchini is ready, add to the bowl and using your hands, toss to coat. Taste for salt. Garnish with basil leaves and serve!

May 2, 2013

Rice Paper Rolls With Red Curry Peanut Sauce

Makes 16 rolls
Total time: 45 minutes || Active time: 45 minutes

Rice Paper Rolls

I just took my first trip to London and I’ll write more about that soon, but the first thing I felt like making when I came home was…Vietnamese-inspired food! Perhaps my palette was overloaded with mashed potatoes and delicious gravies, and I needed the bright fresh flavors of ginger and mint.

I have an obsession with Southeast Asian food, and until I take my dream trip to Vietnam, I’ll gratefully settle for my favorite Vietnamese here in the states, like Lan in NYC and Jasmine 26 in Minneapolis. And, of course, whatever I make at home.

This time, it’s rice paper rolls. Call them summer rolls, if you prefer! They are the perfect appetizer for any occasion, really. I served these with a rich coconut curry, but they’d be just as at home at a summer BBQ or on their own for lunch.

For me, the most important characteristic of a rice paper roll is freshness. Fresh ingredients and fresh wrappers. The rice paper should be supple, and the temperature should be chilly. Inside, there should be crunch and clean flavors. I like to save the spicy assertive notes for the sauce.

I love how beautiful my cutting board looks with the simple ingredients for stuffing inside!

Ingredients for rice paper rolls

Here we’ve got my favorite cabbage to eat raw, nappa cabbage. It has a gardeny flavor and the perfect amount of snap; not too difficult to chew. Carrots, cut into matchsticks, for their color and crunchiness. Avocado to add a creamy fattiness that is the perfect foil for all of the veggies. And you can’t have rice paper rolls without fresh herbs! Mint and cilantro make these rolls pop. Since I served these as part of a larger meal, I didn’t feel a need to add tofu, but you totally can, if you like. Baked or sauteed and sliced into strips is ideal.

The peanut dipping sauce employs a little cheating ingredient: red curry paste. This way, we don’t have to do any more chopping or cooking, everything goes into a little blender and 30 seconds later a spicy, peanutty, gingery, tangy sauce appears. Magic! Just double check your red curry paste for fishy ingredients. Thai Kitchen paste is widely available and vegan.

If you’ve never worked with rice paper wrapper before, don’t be intimidated! Follow my notes below and you can not go wrong. And even if you do, no big deal. There are, like, a million wrappers in a package last time I counted. But really, it’s all about the fun, so grab a friend and get rolling! You’ll be a pro in no time. Now go get fresh.

Rice Paper Rolls

Recipe Notes

~ These tips are all going to be for how to keep your rice paper rolls from ripping. But as I said, if one rips, it really doesn’t matter. Either eat it anyway (as a test subject!) or empty out the ingredients and start again. NBD.

~ When adding the wrappers to the warm water, add them one at a time. If you put them all in at once in a pile, they’ll stick together. Do 3 or 4 at a time, adding them into the bowl individually.

~ Keep a clean towel nearby, to wipe your hands and keep them dry. This keeps the slipperiness to a minimum. Also, wipe down your rolling plate every now and again to keep it from being too slippery.

~ Don’t overfill the rolls. I’m including a pic to give you an idea of how much filling to add, but don’t worry, if you’re using too much filling, you’ll figure it out quickly.

~ Avoid having pointy sharp ingredients right at the surface of the wrapper. Carrot sticks and cilantro stems like to poke through the wrapper, so as best you can, try to prevent that.

~ Reserve extra nappa cabbage leaves for serving. The wrappers like to stick to the surface of plates, but they lift easily away from cabbage leaves.

For the Red Curry Peanut Sauce:
3 tablespoons creamy, natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon agave
1 teaspoon sriracha (or more to taste)
1/4 cup water

For the Rice Paper Rolls:
22 cm rice paper wrappers (8 or 9 inches)
1 head nappa cabbage, a few leaves reserved, the rest thinly sliced
1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled, sliced into matchsticks
1 cup fresh mint leaves
A lot of fresh cilantro springs (about a 1/2 bunch)

First, make the sauce. Just put all of the ingredients into a small blender and blend until smooth. Add a few tablespoons water if needed, to thin. Taste for seasoning and keep sealed until ready to use.

OK, now let’s get rolling!

Prep all ingredients and lay them out on a cutting board. Drizzle the sliced avocado with lime or lemon juice to prevent browning.

Have ready a dinner plate to roll on. Also, have a baking dish lined with moist paper towels, to place the rolls once ready. This will keep them fresh and prevent sticking.

Use a large bowl, wide enough to accommodate the rice paper wrappers. Fill the bowl with really really warm water, that is not too hot to handle. You’ll have to refresh the water a few times while rolling, to keep it warm.

Add 3 or 4 wrappers to the warm water, one at a time, and dunk them in to submerge. Let steep for a minute or so, until nice and soft.

Remove a wrapper from the water. Handle gently and patiently, and spread it out on the plate. It won’t be perfect, but that’s ok, just get it as flat as you can without being too fussy.

Place a bit of cabbage, a few carrot sticks, a slice or two of avocado, and a generous amount of cilantro in the lower third of the wrapper. Add a few leaves of mint. Like so:

Now fold the sides over the filling, and roll up the bottom of the roll, tucking it over the filling, and continuing to roll until it’s, well, a roll!

Place each roll in the baking dish and cover with damp paper towels to keep fresh. You can even make these a day in advance, wrapping the dish tightly in plastic wrap, until ready to use.

Serve with sauce, and if you’d like to be fancy, you can cut them in half and place standing cut-side up on a cabbage roll. Pretty!