Asparagus & Edamame Salad with Green Garlic

Edit 2/26/07: Hi Readers! If you’re visiting from the Bariatric Eating forums, please check out my post about the use of this recipe. Thanks, and enjoy your visit!

This is another dish from a what’s good in the produce section? moment. There was green garlic on offer, and that happens so infrequently that I cannot pass it up. It’s a springtime-only item.

Those of you who eschew soy, take heart; you could make this with lima or fava beans and achieve a lovely result as well. I had this all on its own for a light dinner. It would also work well over pasta or with a risotto.

I only used one stalk of green garlic in this – it came in a bunch of five. Green garlic looks like an overgrown scallion or a 98-pound weakling leek, but it is orders of magnitude stronger than either. Be sure to taste a thin slice before adding it to anything so you get a sense of how to harness its power rather than be overwhelmed by it.

The mustard in the dressing might seem a little incongruous. It does something to the lemon juice, though – it provides a mediating factor so that you don’t just taste the sharp acid note.

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Sorites Paradox Pesto

I had to ask my husband the professional philosopher tonight, “What’s the name of the idea about how much of something you have to take away before it ceases to be that thing?”

“The Sorites Paradox.”

“May I call this Sorites Paradox Pesto?”

“It’ll be clear that you’re married to a philosopher. It’s also called the Paradox of the Heap.”

“That’s okay. ‘Sorites Paradox Pesto’ sounds better than ‘Paradox of the Heap Pesto’ anway. ‘Heap’ isn’t really a good word for a recipe title.”

Classic pesto: Basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt. This shares only the last two ingredients and the method, and is by dint of that vegan and still interpretable as pesto. The method is what’s really important.

We put big dollops of this on top of an otherwise very plain-Jane white bean soup, a place I sometimes put gremolata. It would be good applied to just about anything that would hold still long enough – broiled on bread, tossed with pasta, incorporated into an oil-and-vinegar dressing, heated and mixed with wilted greens.

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An Ordinary Dinner

One day almost two years ago now, I was chopping carrots for split-pea soup. We had returned from a trip a couple days before and there wasn’t that much in the house. Split-pea soup – with chipotles for smoke flavor and copious butter to impart some of the fattiness that ham would – was one of my standard end-of-the groceries dishes. Butter, onions, garlic, a chipotle, carrots, some fresh herb if there was some in the fridge.

It was May 29, 2004, 5:45 p.m., three hours and twenty minutes after the linked post above. Having cut the carrots lengthwise, I began to cut them crossways into neat bits the size of the split peas so the dish would be harmonious, when what felt like an invisible wall of water slamming into my back and sucking me away from shore came over me. I felt frightened and disoriented; I set down my knife and gripped the edge of the counter, holding myself up, and reassured myself that I was just feeling momentarily strange for some indefinable reason, probably just one in my occasional series of panic attacks, and that it would pass if I would just keep breathing normally.

To make a long story short and sort of cliched, I am still waiting.

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Pea and Lettuce Soup

Check out them housewares – way louder than the bright green soup, even. Food blogging from the 70s, here…I had two shots before the camera died, and eating was a higher priority than waiting for the batteries to charge and getting a better picture. My apologies.

The inspiration for this is peas and lettuce. If you’ve never had the pleasure: fresh peas are turned in a pan with butter and a little bit of chopped onion or shallot. (I’d recommend shallot.) Torn Boston (also known as butter) lettuce is added and cooked until just wilted. A little salt and pepper is added, and you’re there.

This version is lightly adapted from Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. This soup is the easy way to welcome spring, because it uses frozen peas. Frozen peas don’t feel very springlike when you’re dumping them out of the package and they’re rattling into the work bowl of the food processor, but if you can get past that to cooking them, they’ll feel much more verdant when you’re done.

If it’s not quite springtime where you are, even better; though the peaches, plums, nectarines and almonds are all blooming up a storm out here, I know not everyone is as lucky. This will bring a little vernal spirit to your kitchen if the weather is still raw outside. It may make you yearn to go bare-legged, though.

This soup is a bit of a puzzler for what to serve with it; it’s so green that you feel you should hardly put anything green with it. Most of the springtime vegetables are green, and it starts to feel like folic acid overload around this soup if you add one of them. So instead, go for something with sharpness and earthiness that will help balance the soup’s creamy ethereality. This is just the place for a lentil and radish salad, which happens to be in the same book as this recipe.

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Ginger & Garlic Roasted Tofu

I’m going to have used every one of my housewares in a shot in a minute, here.

Okay, I’m making some changes to this, which I’ve previously done with mushrooms included.

Tofu gets such a bad rap, even now, for not tasting like anything, when that, really, is the point. I had to acquire a taste for tofu – I certainly did not have one when I became a vegetarian. I’ll admit, I drink plain unsweetened soymilk, but I’ve been to a Japanese restaurant or two where there was plain ol’ unadorned tofu in my hot pot, and I found I had to try to just be all Zen about it to enjoy it. (Apologies to my friend the Asian philosophy expert for the colloquial use of be all Zen about it.)

There is tofu you can buy that not only tastes like something, it tastes great right out of the package – there’s all sorts of baked and marinated stuff, like the baked tofu from White Wave. It’s in half-pound packages, though, and plain tofu comes in pound packages, and the flavored stuff will really set you back.

So I’ve posted something like this before, but I’ve done it a couple more times and wanted to put it down, first of all, and build on it. I’ve increased the paprika as it improves the browning, and I’ve removed the lemon juice, as it adds liquid that needs to cook off but little flavor in this application. I realized I used more soy sauce than I had originally indicated. I haven’t used the fresh ginger here, as the idea was to create something that was really, really easy and could just come from pantry ingredients.

For now, I’ve got this one recipe worked out, but there are other flavors that could be applied to tofu that would benefit it. Consider this the first in an occasional development series.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1 lb. extra-firm tofu
1/2 t. ginger powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. paprika
1 T. canola and/or sesame oil
1/4 c. tamari

First, liberate the tofu from its container and pat dry thoroughly. Cut into 1/2 in. cubes. Mix the remaining ingredients together to comprise the marinade. Add the tofu and stir to mix. It will only take it a minute or two to take up the marinade. Place the marinated tofu into a 13 x 9 inch roasting pan (glass will work better than metal) and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 30 minutes.

Makes about four servings, unless you are preaching to the tofu-converted, which may happen after they taste this.

Refried Beans

Refried – one of the greatest misnomers in food? Perhaps not quite up there with the difference between sweetmeats and sweetbreads, sure, but deceptive nonetheless.

This is more work than opening a couple cans. It’s very good, though, and dry beans are a much better deal than canned.

2.5 c. dry pinto beans, sorted, soaked for 8 hours or quick soaked

oil for the pan
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chili, minced
1 jalapeno chili, minced
1 T. cumin
1 T. paprika
2 T. Whole Food Market 365 Hot Sauce
juice of one lime
1 c. minced cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

I use a pressure cooker for anything dry bean-related. It cuts the cooking time by at least half.

Place the soaked beans, water to cover and salt to taste to the pressure cooker. Bring it to pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Release pressure under running water. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid, and set liquid aside. Mash beans coarsely, using a potato masher, adding cooking liquid as necessary to make workable.

While the beans are cooking, sauté the onion in a large pot. Cook until the onion is well-softened and some pieces have brown edges. Add the garlic, chilies, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until the garlic releases its fragrance and the paprika colors slightly.

Turn the mashed beans into the pot, add the hot sauce, lime juice, and cilantro and stir to mix. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary and heat through.

Makes about eight cups cooked beans.

French Bread Pizza

I have no idea why this suddenly sounded good to me today. I don’t know if I’ve made it in the last ten years. It’s such a slumber party kind of food, isn’t it? A whole gaggle of girls around the oven, peeking in the glass window, heating up frozen french bread pizza.

Because that’s its inspiration, it’s not much of a recipe, so to speak – it’s really just component assembly, but that does make for an easy meal if that’s what you’re after.

I don’t usually go for much white bread but it’s sort of necessary here. I picked up a part-whole-wheat baguette in the store and put it back down again after smelling its delicious half-sour wheaty smell. Not right for french bread pizza.

You can cut just the top off the bread to make a deep-crusted pizza, or cut it uniformly through the middle for two slightly thinner pizzas.

After you make this, cut it with a serrated knife, put it on plates and take it out to the living room, where you’ve already arrayed your slumber bags on the floor, and watch a rented movie on laserdisc.

2 baguettes, cut in half and then split horizontally lengthwise
1 15oz. can Muir Glen Pizza Sauce
2 small zucchini, sliced into rounds
1 red bell pepper, cut into small, narrow lengths
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
about a pound of suitable cheese, (asiago, provolone, romano, dry jack) grated

Of course, any other toppings can be used. My beloved added mushrooms, which are not a favorite of mine. If I had more room, I would have likely added artichoke hearts and spinach.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cut bread on a large baking sheet. Spread the pizza sauce evenly over the bread. Add a little more than half the cheese, then the toppings, then the remaining cheese, and sprinkle with oregano. Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for about 13 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread has started to brown just slightly. Turn on the broiler and move the rack to about six inches from the heat. Broil for two to three minutes, or until browned.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.