Vegetarian Archive

Thursday, November 20, 2014

crispy sweet potato roast

crispy sweet potato roast

I have a complicated relationship with sweet potatoes. I think they’re one of these wonder vegetables — impossible to mess up cooking, pretty consistently delicious whether you buy them freshly-dug from the farmers market or from a grocery chain, aglow with vitamins A and C and chock full of fiber. [Which I mostly think about because I’m the mother of a sweet potato junkie.] I like them in cake, sweet biscuits and pie. I like them with goat cheese and a light vinaigrette, gratin-ed with a tangle of chard, with a strange-but-addictive mix of spices and roasted in wedges, and one-bowl-meal-ed with roasted broccoli, black rice and miso sauce. But I also have all sorts of quibbles with them. They’re never crispy enough. They’re rarely savory enough — basically, if you get within 10 feet of my savory sweet potato dish with cinnamon, I go into hiding. For me, the louder the contrast between their sweet, soft nature, the happier I am eating them.

sweet potatoes everywhere
peeling

Which means that it was only a matter of time before I took this pretty-pretty crispy potato roast from the archives and tried to put a Thanksgiving spin on it. The ta-da factor is strong here and the workload manageable. You thinly slice a whole lot of sweet potatoes and arrange them in a butter and olive oil-brushed dish, and brush them with even more. You can slide slivers of shallots between the sweet potato pages. You’ll want to shower the whole thing with salt and black pepper or red pepper flakes. You bake it with foil on long enough that the insides get tender and without foil long enough to get the tops brown and crispy. This is not your standard holiday sweet potato mash.

you'll have a lot

Continued after the jump »

Monday, November 10, 2014

pickled cabbage salad

pickled cabbage salad

I first discovered the peculiar subcategory of chopped raw vegetables called “health salads” some 14 years ago when a friend introduced me to the many wonders of the prepared foods aisle at Zabar’s. Even then, I found the idea of one type of salad being labeled “healthy” while my other favorite in the same refrigerator case, the Mediterranean Pepper Salad with Feta and Olives was, I don’t know, something akin to a heart attack on a cracker, somewhat eye-rolling but I now realize that it was the coleslaw-like salad’s mayo-free dressing that designated it such a lofty nutritional status.

what you'll need
lots of cabbage

Regardless, ever stubborn, I did not eat it because it lacked much-maligned mayo, because it was chock full of folate-rich cabbage or because it was branded wholesome, but because I liked it. Crunchy, bright, as good on day 2 as it is on day 7, it was the perfect light meal or side to a sandwich and even though I lived nowhere near the store and found shopping at Zabar’s, even on the slowest day, to be a shopping-cart-rammed-into-the-back-of-my-heels level of annoying (though, really, I should know better than to pause between locals and their smoked fish counter), I was a loyal customer for life so long as they could keep providing me my lightly pickled cabbage fix.

i like it colorful

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

squash toasts with ricotta and cider vinegar

squash toasts with ricotta and cider vinegar

Lest you operate under the idea that when I go in the kitchen to work on a new recipe, adorable forest creatures gather around, bringing me my whisks and measuring cups, tiny birds whisper in my ear all the right seasoning notes and then, when I snap my last photo, my team of minions file silently in to wash the dishes while I go out on the deck to ponder my next free-form food essay, the single, completely unexciting reason I am late to share a new recipe this week is because I was chasing an exasperating salted peanut butter caramel-flavored ghost. Five rounds in, I have concluded that while there are no bad salted peanut butter caramels, the one I want isn’t yet within my grasp and it was time to take a break. One cannot live on peanut butter, cream, butter and brown sugar alone, after all, fun as it was for a few days there.

what you'll need + a new non-crooked label for me
peeling the squash

And so I shifted focus to the kind of simple dinner I’d love to eat before or after Friday’s candy deluge, a seasonal, cozy and hearty entry in one of my favorite food categories: meals masquerading as toasts. But don’t be deceived by the name; these are no simple, wan crostini. A winter squash of your choice is roasted in the oven while on the stove, you cook an onion with cider vinegar and maple syrup until it’s soft and jammy. You use a fork to half-mash this tangy confit together with the roasted squash, a pile it on bread you’ve toasted in olive oil and spread with ricotta or soft goat cheese. Don’t forget the mint on top; it makes something already good unquestionably perfect.

sliced squash

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, October 23, 2014

cauliflower cheese

cauliflower cheese

What, you’ve never had cauliflower cheese before? Why, it’s right up there on the American Heart Association’s recommended diet, above the kale and below the oat bran. Okay, well, maybe just the cauliflower is. I realize this dish may sound strange if you’ve never heard of it. The first time I saw it on a menu in the UK last fall, I thought a word was missing, perhaps “with” or “and.” I mean, you cannot make cheese out of cauliflower or vice-versa, or at least I hope not.* And then I tried it, bubbling and brown in a small ramekin aside my roast** at a tiny Inn in the middle of nowhere that looks like something you’d see in a Bridget Jones Diary (basically where I learned everything I knew about the UK before I got there, well, that and Morrissey songs) and I stopped talking. I stopped thinking. My heart may or may not have stopped beating for a moment, though I’m sure it was love, not fibrillations. How could it be anything but, when cauliflower florets are draped with a sharp cheddar cheese sauce spiked with mustard and a bit of cayenne and then baked in the oven until bronzed and, wait, what were we talking about again?

cauliflower, spice, s/p, butter, milk, cheese
chopped florets

This is a British dish, if the sharp cheddar, mustard powder, cayenne and charmed name didn’t give it away. I realize that British food has long been a punching bag for other supposedly superior world cuisines, but I found this to be anything but the case. Even if I had, the awesome names of national dishes — toad in the holes, bubble and squeaks, spotted dicks, singing hinnies, jam roly-polys and doorstop sandwiches — would have more than compensated for any failures in the flavor department.

cook until firm-tender

Continued after the jump »

Monday, October 20, 2014

homemade harissa

homemade harissa

One of my secret food shames is that I don’t love spicy foods as much as would probably make me cool these days. I’ve got no Thai chile-eating bravado, no Sichuan peppercorn count to throw around, and I never even once in college went to one of those Buffalo wings places where they make you sign a waiver (such as the delightfully named, late Cluck U Chicken near Rutgers University) and lived to brag about it, the way others might boast about how much they bench press or how fast they run a mile (nope, nothing to swagger about there either). My ideal hot sauce can’t be found among my husband’s collection of Tapatio, Cholula and Sriracha, but in this Mild Sauce for Hot People, one of the few little orange bottles that I feel really understands my appreciation of heat in food, but not so much that it overwhelms everything. I accept that this makes me culinarily a wuss.

the chiles I used
boiling water to soften dried chiles

Yet I adore harissa, a Northwest African chile pepper paste with red peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic, coriander, caraway. Of course, when a condiment is used everywhere from Tunisia and Libya to Algeria and Morocco, you’re bound to find as many versions of it as there likely are people who make it, so there are recipes with cumin, lemon juice or even smoked chiles. There’s no one correct way to make it.

a very roasted red pepper

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