A new day is dawning for vegetables in the culinary world. No longer are they just rogue companions to humorless rice on the plates of vegetarians. Veggies, as they are affectionately known, are being embraced by everyone from celebrities to school systems to home cooks. Even European chefs, who once disdained vegetarian food as a form of punishment, have elevated baby peas and Brussels sprouts to levels of haute cuisine.
It’s a position that hasn’t been easily won. Ever since Frances Moore Lappé’s “Diet for Small Planet” took off as a bestseller in 1971 – declaring that more resources were used to raise cattle than feed the world – eschewing meat has been something of a political statement that railed against food waste and the unethical treatment of farm animals. For decades, nonmeat eaters and vegetables sagged under the labels of “vegetarian” and “agenda.”
But suddenly wild ramps and zucchini blossoms are hip, and school children, who once fled at the sight of spinach, now munch on sesame kale chips with gusto. Take note: Vegetables are en vouge.
“I’ve always struggled with the ‘vegetarian’ label,” cookbook said author Deborah Madison, who has written about vegetables for more than three decades, to The Washington Post. “When I began writing it was so much about a lifestyle. You were or you weren’t and people didn’t cross that line.” Ms. Madison has recently published “Vegetable Literacy,” which strives to educate home cooks on the delight of discovering flavor relationships within the vegetable family tree.
Eating less meat has had its periodic revolutions in American culinary history. Rev. Sylvester Graham, father of the graham cracker, advocated against eating meat, pepper, and milled flour in the 1830s. A Vegetarian Society gained traction in the mid 1800s. During World War I the United States Food Administration promoted Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesday to save resources, and during World War II the government asked Americans to cut back on meat consumption and grow their own vegetables in Victory Gardens to support the war effort abroad.
While those efforts faded after World War II, Meatless Monday was reintroduced in 2003 as a public health awareness program as part of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Britain adopted a similar campaign in 2009, Meat Free Monday, launched by rocker Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary.
In fact, Mary McCartney has just published a cookbook, “Food: Vegetarian home cooking.” The mission of her cookbook is simply, “food that’s healthy but doesn’t feel righteous,” she told The New York Times, thankful the political discussions that would inevitably flare up when carnivores discovered she was a vegetarian are mostly a thing of the past. “I was shocked by how many debates I’d get into when I had dinner,” she told the Times. “Excuse me, I just met you, I’m having dinner – why are you on my case?”
In addition, best-selling author Michael Pollan (“Ominvore’s Dilemma,” “In Defense of Food”) has advocated for an American diet of less meat and more plants. And New York Times minimalist-cook-turned-food-columnist Mark Bittman has recently published “VB6,” shorthand for “vegan before 6 p.m.,” as a life-transforming manifesto he swears by for better health.
But while environmental and diet advocates have long rallied under the banner of carrots, peas, and beets, it seems that vegetable-based diets are finally catching on at the alfalfa sprout level.
“P.S. 244 in Flushing has about 400 students in pre-K through 3rd grade who now munch on meatless meals every day of the week, and if they’re buying their lunch these days – they’ve gone veggie,” reported PIX Channel 11 at the end of April. “The school started by serving meatless meals three days a week, and gradually increased to four, before announcing they’d dropped it altogether....”
As a culinary renaissance continues to gain momentum in the US with two 24-hour cable channels dedicated to food, scores of food bloggers, and an avalanche of cookbooks infused with ethnic cuisine, the average diner’s palate is reaching a new level of sophistication. And suddenly, more people are open to the possibility of vegetables carrying the main course of a meal.
“We’ve brought so many cultural influences into the conversation,” Diane Morgan, author of “Roots,” told The Washington Post. “The granola-era people weren’t making risotto. They were turning spaghetti and meatballs into something else – the meatballs had brown rice, but they weren’t sophisticated. Now the volume of ethnic cookbooks coming into the conversation changes that.”
Indeed, vegetarian and vegan diets have long culinary traditions in Asian cultures. But perhaps the most stunning sign of a vegetable was recently reported by The Wall Street Journal declaring that, “haute-vegetarian menus are conquering Europe.”
“There is a growing demand for vegetarian dishes from our clientele, which is very international,” chef Christophe Moret of Paris’ Lasserre told the Journal.
Food writer Alexander Lobrano was skeptical of this new direction but even he became a convert once he tasted what highly skilled chefs could do with the humble offerings of the ground. “I am convinced we’ve left the hair-shirt brand of vegetarian gastronomy behind,” he wrote.
Vegetable lovers, rejoice.
We were in St. Louis a few weeks ago, visiting our friends Rich and Laura. As usual, we ate lots of good food there. Scoops of Ozark black walnut ice cream at Crown Candy Kitchen. Heart healthy (and satisfying) egg white breakfast sandwiches at the bustling Nadoz Euro Bakery and Cafe. Local, seasonal-focused classic French cuisine at Franco, housed in the former Welsh Baby Carriage Factory across the street from Soulard Market.
But our favorite meal was prepared in our friends’ hardworking, beautiful open kitchen. Laura is a vegetarian whose diet skews mostly vegan, with detours into pescetarian. That doesn’t keep her from cooking meat for her omnivorous family and friends, though.
The meal in question involved a wonderful mushroom-stuffed rolled pork tenderloin, pan seared, then roasted. Don’t be surprised if a version turns up here one day. As delicious as the tenderloin was, this week’s recipe was inspired by her show-stealing side dish – steamed asparagus topped with sautéed grape tomatoes finished with garlic and balsamic vinegar and topped with dollops of goat cheese. The big flavors of the tomatoes and asparagus are enhanced by the vinegar, and everything is balanced by the creamy goat cheese. To give it a starring role, I turned this flavorful side into a vegetarian pasta main course.
Asparagus is in season now, beckoning from produce shelves everywhere. For this dish, you don’t need the pencil-skinny spears, but you definitely don’t want the chunky asparagus cigars (I mean seriously, who ever wants those?). Skinny to medium spears will work best.
For the tomatoes, smallish grape tomatoes are best. If all you can get are cherry tomatoes, halve them before cooking.
Linguine with Asparagus, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
12 to 16 asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
7 ounces linguine (or fettuccine or spaghetti)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 ounces goat cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. When it comes to a full boil, blanch the asparagus pieces by dumping them in the pot of water, cooking them for 1 minute, then transferring them to a bowl of iced water with a slotted spoon.
2. Cook the pasta to al dente, following the package instructions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium flame. Add the tomatoes and sauté until they begin to soften, burst and brown slightly, stirring frequently, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Drain the asparagus pieces and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Season with a generous grind of black pepper. Add garlic and oregano to pan and cook, stirring, until just fragrant, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.
5. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Add pasta to asparagus and tomato mixture and toss to coat. If the dish seems dry, add pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Divide between two pasta bowls, crumble goat cheese over pasta and serve.
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Leaf through the pages of any old Southern community cookbook, and you are likely to come across a version of this cake. And it might not draw your eye, being so plain and simple. I am sure I flipped past many times before I actually stopped to read one. But once I get intrigued, I search these recipes out and combine, refine and test them until I have an updated version with more accurate instructions.
And I am glad I didn’t let this one languish, because it is now a go-to summer cake. It is immensely simple to make – no heavy equipment needed. Its simplicity makes it the perfect vehicle for all manner of summer toppings. Add any sliced fresh fruit or berry, maybe sugared to produce a little syrup, and a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream and you’ve got a fresh, homemade beauty of a dessert.
I planned this post to highlight the cake, and how useful it is. But I wanted to try something a little more interesting than just fruit so I stumbled around in the kitchen until I came up with the sauce. I know it is tooting my own horn, but it is a stunner. Rich, sticky caramel sauce with this amazing background note of strawberry and the added bonus of chunks of fresh berries. It is magnificent with the cake, but try it over ice cream, or, as I admit to doing, simply with a spoon.
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Hot milk cake and strawberry caramel sauce
I use a plain tube pan, often called a coffee cake pan, but a fluted or fancy one works just fine. You could also make it in a 9 by 13-inch pan. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for up to three days. Delicious warm or cold.
For the cake:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-cup tube pan (or alternative pan) thoroughly.
2. Combine the milk and butter in a medium saucepan and heat over medium just until the butter is melted and the milk is hot. While the milk is heating, beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour in the hot milk and stir until completely combined.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and firm and tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. The cake will keep, well wrapped, for several days.
For the strawberry caramel sauce:
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
1 cup of diced strawberries
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
3/4 cup heavy cream
1. Place the diced strawberries in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons sugar. Leave to sit for several hours until the strawberries have released quite a bit of juice.
2. Pour the juice off the berries into a measuring jug and add enough water to make 1/3 cup of liquid.
3. Stir the liquid and 1-1/2 cups sugar together in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Up the heat to high and boil the mixture until it turns a lovely caramel brown, the color of sweet tea, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch it like a hawk because it goes from caramel to burnt quickly at the end. Stand back a bit and pour in the cream. It will roil and bubble furiously and seize up a little. Just stir it until it all smooths out and combines, then turn the burner off and stir until it settles down.
4. Let it cool for about 3 minutes, then stir in the diced strawberries. Cool to room temperature.
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We're coming to the tail end of wild ramp season here in the Hudson Valley so we made one more push to harvest a few more yesterday and we couldn't have picked a nicer day for it.
Just a reminder to please harvest sustainably if you are fortunate enough to find a big enough patch to sustain some picking. You can only take a fraction of the plants without impacting their ability to thrive next year. If you're not sure how much is too much, my friend and fellow Woodstock Farm Festival-er, Rick is a big proponent of snipping just the greens instead of digging up the entire plant.
And don't forget that you can – and should – start your own patch by planting seeds and transplanting bulbs! We started this process last year by ordering ramp bulbs and seeds from Facemire's farm.
The bulbs we planted last year are up again this year and seem to be doing well though it will be a number of years before they've spread enough to harvest any of them. We'll just keep at it, though, and eventually should have a stellar patch of these singularly tasty spring onions.
If you want to start your own patch (do it!) keep in mind that ramps like sandy, loamy soil near streams or on hillsides in deciduous forest – I've heard that maple and oak trees are their favorites – where they can enjoy the early spring sunshine before the trees leaf out and benefit from the natural mulch of leaf litter in the fall. They do not like the acidic soil and limited sunlight of conifer (pine/evergreen) forest.
Now that my little lecture has been delivered, back to the grilled ramps.We made these last night to accompany some grilled salmon with mustard and thyme and we are hooked! Even our 4-year-old son who does not typically like onion-y, garlicky foods attacked them with great enthusiasm.
Very simple, too. Just toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill. Enjoy!
Serves 2-4 as a side
1 bunch (roughly 20) amps, cleaned with root ends cut off
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Clean and preheat your grill.
2. While you're waiting for the grill to heat up, toss the ramps with the olive oil, sea salt and pepper in a large bowl until well-coated.
3. Lower flame to medium and lay the ramps out in a single layer. Cook until grill marks form then turn to the other side – this should only take 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
4. Remove to a platter and serve.
Sure, it was 70 degrees F. and gorgeous in Chicago today but just a few days ago I was tugging my down comforter up to my ears at night. Such is our Midwest spring.
My husband first made this soup years ago. We found it in cookbook called 1,001 More Low-Fat Recipes. It is one of those recipes that we keep forgetting about and then resurrecting, and wondering why we forgot about it. The spices are minimal and turkey is often bland but somehow the ingredients all come together to make a simple but flavorful soup.
Though any pasta shape will work, we have found that the wagon wheels combined with the meatballs and the colorful carrots and beans make fun soup “fishing” for the kids. If you want to freeze this soup, I suggest leaving the pasta out until you thaw it and then bring it to a boil and add the pasta.
Now, I’ll start to focus more on peas and rhubarb and all the other spring treats that should front and center in our produce aisles.
Italian turkey meatball soup
Slightly adapted from 1001 More Lowfat Recipes
Makes 8 servings
1-1/2 pounds ground turkey
2 egg whites
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
2 cups green beans, diagonally cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
8 ounces pasta, wagon wheels
2 medium plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Mix ground turkey, egg whites, bread crumbs, 2 cloves of garlic, and Italian seasoning until well blended. Shape into 32 small meatballs. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Cook meatballs until browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add chicken broth, water green beans, carrots, onions, remaining 2 cloves garlic, and remaining 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning to saucepan. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are almost tender, about 8 minutes.
3. Heat soup to boiling, add pasta and tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Butterflaps have long been a favourite on the Guyanese food-scene. Butterflaps are white bread dough that's been cut into pieces, rolled, liberally spread with butter, folded over twice (hence the flap), and baked. Just as they come out of the oven, they are loving caressed with some warm, melted butter!
For excellent butterflaps you have to start with a really high-quality salted butter. I recently brought a can of some good Dutch salted butter that I used in this recipe. You can use any white-bread dough recipe but the following recipe is the one I like to use.
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1 plus 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons high quality salted butter
1 medium-sized bowl
1 dinner fork
1 large bowl, oiled
Damp kitchen towels
2 baking sheets
2 wire racks
1 small pastry brush
1. Add sugar to medium bowl, pour in water and stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in yeast. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in warm place to proof for 10 minutes.
2. Add flour to large bowl along with salt and mix thoroughly.
3. Make a well in the center of the flour; pour in the yeast mixture (scrape the bowl) along with oil.
4. Using the fork, stir mixing the flour and yeast mixture until combined. Turn dough and remnants onto work surface and knead for 3 – 4 minutes, dusting lightly with flour to avoid stickiness.
5. Place dough in oiled bowl and dab a little more oil on top of the dough to avoid a skin, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour and 15 minutes or until dough bulks up.
6. Punch down dough, knead for 1 to 2 minutes, cut into half, and shape into logs then cut each log into 6 equal pieces.
7. Working as quickly as you can, form each piece of dough into a solid round ball and then roll into a round disk on a lightly floured work surface. Disk should be about 3 to 3 and half inches in diameter.
8. Take 1 tablespoon of butter (or more if you like) and smear the butter all over the insides but not close to the edges.
9. Fold over dough to make like a half moon; now fold across to form a triangle. Press down the edges. Place dough on baking sheet; repeat until all the balls have been shaped, rolled, buttered and folded.
10. Cover with damp cloth and leave to proof for 1 hour in a warm place.
11. 20 minutes before the hour is up, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. You will need to use both oven racks.
12. Add pans to the oven and bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until the butterflaps are nicely browned (not dark brown).
13. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and brush the butterflaps as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool on wire racks.
14. Serve warm or at room temperature.
1. As soon as the pans are removed from the oven you can turn the butter-flaps upside down so that the melted butter inside trickles down to the top. This can be done before basing it.
2. The basting with melted butter must be done when the butter-flaps are hot!
3. Do not grease the baking sheets.
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For a step-by-step pictorial guide on how to make butterflaps from Tastes Like home, click here.
There is no doubt that garlic butter is magnificent on warm bread. My garlic butter butterflaps are usually snapped up in no time as they come warm and fragrant to the table. But this savory and highly aromatic compound butter can be used for a lot more.
Garlic butter is a compound butter. A compound butter is a butter that is mixed in with other ingredients to create a flavored butter. Fresh herbs, spices, and roasted aromatics such as garlic are mixed into butter; the mixture is then transferred to plastic wrap or parchment paper, rolled up and chilled to make cutting into slices easy.
Compound butters are melted on top of hot food items such as meats and vegetables, used as a spread and to finish various sauces. Because they are used in such prominent ways, it is important that you make the compound butter using a high quality butter. Yes, you can use margarine but the flavour would not be the same.
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The most popular compound butter we make is garlic butter and most of the times we use it exclusively to make garlic bread but there many other ways in which garlic butter can be used to impart flavor and lift the ordinary to the extraordinary. While you can buy garlic butter, it is easy to make at home. Splurge on getting the top quality butter instead of buying the pre-made version from your supermarket.
Start by roasting the garlic (see recipe below). You can flavor the butter even more by roasting the garlic with fresh thyme, rosemary, or marjoram. Mix the roasted garlic pulp with room temperature butter along with some finely minced parsley or chives, scallions/green onions, and you’re done.
- Spread garlic butter on hot toast or savory scones such as cheese scones.
- Add a thick slice or two on top of your hot steak and watch it melt and baste the meat while making a sauce in which you can drag each slice of steak.
- Steam fish and add a dollop of the butter and let it flavor, baste and sauce the fish.
- Massage a chicken with a generous amount of the flavored butter and roast it for a garlic flavored chicken and a sauce that would have you licking your fingers.
- Sauté shrimp with it.
- Garlic butter is great for quickly stir-frying quick cooking vegetables such as cabbage and spinach (callaloo).
- Bake potatoes whole, cut open and drop a thick slice of garlic butter and let it melt and quickly absorb into the flesh of the potato.
- Boil pasta and toss with garlic butter.
- Cook rice and stir the butter into the hot rice. Yum!
- Boil and slice ground provisions while still hot – cassava, plantains, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, and flavor with garlic butter.
- Brush onto boiled or roasted sweet corn.
- If steaming vegetables is your preferred way of having vegetables, then add a little garlic butter while still hot and make those steam veggies into something sumptuous.
I’m confident that you can find many other ways to use this wonderful flavored butter.
2 large heads/bulbs of garlic (use 3 if the heads/bulbs are small)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons oil
8 ounces salted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cut off about 1/4 inch of the bottom of the garlic heads/bulbs to expose some of the flesh of the garlic (the part that is pointed).
3. Add the garlic heads/bulbs to a large piece of foil (about 12 x 12-inch square). Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the garlic loosely with the foil and
transfer to the oven. Cook for 45 to 50 minutes or until the garlic is softened and lightly browned.
4. Remove garlic from oven, carefully open foil and let cool to room temperature. Squeeze pulp of garlic into a medium sized bowl. It you like, you can remove the cloves whole from their wrapper.
5. Add butter, parsley and black pepper, if using, and mix well.
6. Take a large piece of plastic wrap and transfer butter creating a 4-1/2-inch log along one side of the plastic wrap (leave a 2 inch space from the edge). Take the piece of plastic closest to the edge of the butter and place it over the butter. Roll the butter, wrapping it until it reaches the other edge. Twist the ends until the butter is tightly secured. Refrigerate to harden until you are ready to use it. Use parchment paper if you do not have plastic wrap or simply transfer the butter to an airtight container.
7. To use, unwrap and slice or simply cut through the plastic or paper.
- You can flavor the garlic by adding fresh thyme, marjoram or rosemary on top of the garlic as it roasts.
- If you use unsalted butter, add salt to taste when mixing the butter with the herbs and garlic.
- Thinly sliced green onions (using the green parts only) can be added in addition to or instead of the parsley. Tarragon and dill would work well, too.
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That’s right. The guy who never bakes has baked again. But a bread like this is so easy that it doesn’t feel like baking. There’s no sifting, no kneading, no waiting for dough to rise (and punching it down and waiting some more). You don’t even need to haul out the mixer for this bread – a wooden spoon will do just fine.
Of course despite the name, mango banana bread is really more of a loaf cake than a bread. And therein lies some of the ease. You’re not producing a temperature-humidity-time-sensitive dough; you’re making a batter. At least for me, batters are much more forgiving.
For everyone else, too, it seems. In looking at banana bread recipes, my starting point for this one, I found that ingredients (and quantities of said ingredients) varied impressively. Three bananas, five bananas. Two cups of flour, a mere 1-1/4 cups. One egg or two, milk or no milk. Baking soda only (and not much of that) or baking soda and powder. Butter or oil or (yikes) margarine. And yet all produced results people were happy to share.
So why mangoes? For starters, they’re in season right now. Yes, since they’re grown everywhere from Asia to South and Central America, Spain, the United States (Florida, California and Hawaii), Australia and Africa, you’ll find them in the supermarket pretty much year-round. But from April through June, they’re especially plentiful, flavorful, and affordable. The mango’s orange/melon/apricot flavor works equally well with sweet and savory dishes, showing up in salsas, sorbets, chutneys and even cocktails.
And in this delicious, moist bread. The diced mango pieces soften into bits of tropical brightness that melt on your tongue. The bananas add the trademark mellow sweetness that makes banana breads a perennial favorite. And the chopped walnuts deliver an earthy, nutty, delicate crunch.
Mango banana bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or cooking oil (plus extra for greasing baking dish)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large, ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Grease a 5 by 9-inch glass baking dish with a little of the oil. Set aside.
3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir to mix thoroughly.
4. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, bananas, sugar, oil and vanilla. Add banana mixture to flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Fold in mango and walnuts. Transfer batter to baking dish.
5. Bake in center of the oven until a wooden pick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean, about 50 minutes (check at 45 minutes – oven temperatures vary).
6. Transfer baking dish to a wire cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully work around the edges of the bread with a thin, flexible baking spatula to loosen it and turn it out onto the rack. Let the bread cool completely before serving (that was the hardest part of this recipe).
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There are some flavors that make you feel like it’s spring, no matter what the temperature is outside. Take dill for example. There’s nothing “winter” about dill. No matter how you shake a stick (or magic wand) at it. Mint is the same. So while the snow was falling and the temperature dropped to below 0 C., I decided to eat “spring” until it decided to show up.
I have good news!
Spring is here. There are no sub zero temperatures in the forecast, in fact it will be down right balmy. Balmy for Canada at any rate. If the forecast holds true (pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top), this girl just might have an outdoor shower in her future.
And the second reason I know spring is here: I heard something magical this morning. Not the chirp, chirp, chirp of birds singing, but rather the thud, thud, thud thuthuthuthtut, of the grouses mating call, who just happened to be in my yard this morning. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. It’s a sound I’ve never heard before coming out to this place. I liken it to a generator starting up, but with less shrill, and much more deep and guttural. It was a glorious way to wake up. Spring is indeed here.
And second, this warm salad is so delicious I couldn’t stop eating it. I actually made my way through two heads of cauliflower in a matter of days. Embarrassing? A little. But yeah, if one is to chow down on something, far better to be cauliflower than say, brownies or poutine. Which I have been guilty of both in the past.
The hemp seed “bread crumbs” are completely addicting and fabulously grain free and nut free. I look forward to trying it out on a vegan style mac and cheese soon. If you don’t feel like running out and buying some just to make this, please don’t feel obliged. It’s delicious either way. I know because I finished eating the “breadcrumbs” out of the bowl, not leaving myself any for my second helping.
So long story to say I had it both ways and it's good either way.
The longest part is the dressing. Which in all honesty is not complicated, but is better made ahead. At least in my blender making the cashews creamy takes about 5 minutes, maybe a little longer. This makes the dressing warm. I like the dressing at room temperature, so it’s nice to let it rest in the 'fridge for 30 minutes. The rest just kinda gets thrown together. Use as much mint or as little mint as you like, the cauliflower – however much you think you might eat. I left measurements for the salad ingredients, but the amounts are flexible. Because this salad is perfect at room temperature, it also makes a great party or potluck salad.
Roasted Cauliflower Salad
2 lb. head of cauliflower
1 onion, sliced into wedges
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup fresh mint, chopped
Citrus Cashew Dressing (recipe to follow)
Hemp Seed “Breadcrumbs” (recipe to follow)
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a single layer on 1-2 baking sheets. Add the onion wedges and sprinkle with olive oil.
3. Roast for 25-30 minutes. Turning once during the last 10 minutes.
4. Place the cauliflower in a large salad bowl. Toss with raisins and mint.
5. Drizzle with Citrus Cashew Dressing and sprinkle with hemp seed bread crumbs. Serve immediately.
Citrus Cashew Dressing
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in 1 cup of water
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons each, olive oil and red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup, honey or agave (adjust to taste)
1 garlic clove minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon each orange rind and lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Soak the cashews for 1 hour.
2. Drain the cashews.
3. Add the cashews and all the remaining ingredients to the blender. Blend until smooth. Stop the blender from time to time to push the cashews that splatter along the side of the blender back down to get the entire mixture smooth. This will take 5 – 10 minutes. It depends on the power of your blender.
Note: This recipe will stiffen after refrigerated. If you find the consistency too thick, you can thin it with a couple tablespoons of water.
Hemp Seed “Breadcrumbs”
I used hemp hearts (raw shelled hemp seeds) from Costco. They’re a good deal and at least for me, relatively local, being grown in Manitoba. If you have a nut allergy, they are a good replacement in pestos as in this one here, and make a great addition to smoothies.
3 tablespoons hemp hearts
1/2 teaspoon oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (I use La Chinata)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
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One of the great joys of my life in food is meeting other food writers in amazing places. This winter, I had the great pleasure of spending an amazing week at a writing workshop in Tepotzlan, Mexico at Cocinar Mexicano. Iconic food writer Betty Fussell lead a spectacular group of women through the birth of some great writing projects.
Tepotzlan is nestled in the mountains of central Mexico and the stunning scenery lends a magical air. And it is the loudest place I have ever visited. I was there for the festival of the Three Kings, which went on for days, but there were several other festivals that week as well. Locals assured us that with the different barrio festivals, saints’ days and general holidays, there is pretty much a festival every week of the year. The sounds of bands playing in processions, cars honking in celebration, dogs barking with excitement, church bells pealing and intermittent bursts of fireworks makes the town a cacophonous but joyous place. The experience inspired me and opened my mind and really got my creative juices flowing.
Adding to the wall-to-wall inspiration was some of the best food I’ve had the pleasure to eat. The central market is bursting with chilies of every type, fresh and dried, and more varieties of corn than I can begin to list. Stallholders make and sell fresh tortillas made to order from that corn, filled with all manner of delicious things. I ate squash blossoms every day, sampled several delicious mole sauces, experienced huitlachoce (a rich, mushroomy corn fungus) in all manner of dishes and even crunched on some fried crickets. I learned to make tamales and tortillas myself, and reveled in devouring the results.
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But I knew pozole was the dish I would try to re-create at home. I had a number of versions of this classic Mexican hominy soup, at the cooking school, the lovely hotel and in the market. Some were red with chiles, others were so rustic, the bones were still in the bowl. I had it with pork, chicken and a combination of the two. The prettiest and freshest version was served by the wonderful cooks at Cocinar Mexicano, a simple, rich, flavorful broth with tender meat and hominy , served with a beautiful array of toppings. And this dish is all about the toppings. Bright and colorful with different textures, they elevate this soup. This is interactive eating at its best. I had never had radishes as a soup garnish, but I am a convert and I promise the slight peppery crunch adds a wonderful touch.
Posole (Mexican Chicken and Hominy Soup)
When I make stock and want to include the meat in the finished dish, I use chicken pieces instead of a whole bird because you end up with more meat. You’ll have some leftover, which is never a bad thing.
3 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 ounces salt pork
1 large white onion, cut in half
3 celery sticks, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in half
1 jalapeno pepper
1 red pepper, like Fresno
1 head garlic, cloves separated
7 – 8 stems cilantro
2 limes, cut in half
1 (30-ounce) can white hominy
Finely diced radishes
Finely diced red onion (I soak the diced onions in water about 30 minutes to take away the bite)
Crumbled queso fresco cheese
Crispy fried tortilla strips or crushed chips
1. Place the chicken pieces, pork and vegetables, cilantro and lime in a large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven or stock pot. Add 12 cups of water. Bring almost to a boil over high heat, turn down to low, cover the pot and simmer for 4 to 6 hours, until you have a nice, rich stock.
2. Line a large colander with cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Remove the chicken pieces to another bowl or plate, then carefully strain the stock through the colander. Let the stock cool, then skim the fat from the top. I always refrigerate the stock, then simply remove the solidified fat from the top of the liquid.
3. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones, removing any fat or gristle as you go. Shred the chicken into thick strands.
4. You can make the stock up to two days ahead. Place the chicken meat in a zip-top bag, cover the stock and keep in the fridge.
5. When ready to serve, transfer the stock to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Rinse the hominy thoroughly and drain. Add to the simmering stock, cover and cook for 30 minutes until the hominy is tender. Add about 4 cups of shredded chicken and simmer until heated through.
6. Spoon the soup into large bowls, making sure there is plenty of hominy and chicken in each bowl.
7. Serve with the beautiful array of toppings for everyone to add as they please.
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