Category Archives: vegetarian

Sunday Farmers Market Trips and an Easy Cheesy Recipe

Since I moved to West London about a month ago, I’ve been trying to make it to my local farmers market at Queen’s Park almost every weekend.  It’s a different style of market for me  – my favorite markets back east were all about discovering and eating the incredible prepared food, from eating extravaganzas and grilled cheese happiness at Borough Market to wild mushroom risotto and salted caramel cupcakes at Broadway Market just behind my old flat.  In contrast, my new local market has some good snacks, but here it’s more about the grocery shopping  – you can buy everything from excellent free-range meat to fresh eggs to heritage cheeses to lots of local produce all grown within 100 miles of the M25.  I’ve been trying to maximize farmers market shopping and minimize supermarket shopping as much as possible, so each Sunday has been a big shopping spree to buy as much as we can for the week.

We’ve been obsessively experimenting with happy chickens – here you can see Old Hall Farm and Fosse Meadows Farm stands, both of which offer a perfect bird for a Sunday night roast with market vegetables. And pretty bunting.

Perry’s Farm and Ted’s Veg are great for stocking up on produce – I’ve been trying all sorts of fun and colorful things like green and red kale, red cabbage, Isle of Wight tomatoes, sorrel, cress, local apple and pear varieties, rhubarb stalks, and purple sprouting broccoli.

It’s all excellent quality, grown by small farmers and producers, and a great way to get involved in supporting the local community. Plus, it’s delicious.  Showing up at the market and buying whatever looks exciting is a great way to try out new vegetables and play around with different recipes.

I love broccoli, especially when it’s pretty and purple. I think it’s delicious on its own, but let’s be honest…isn’t everything a little bit extra awesome when you add cheese into the mix?

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Real Bacon, Real Excitement, and a Really Delicious Caramelized Garlic Tart. Obviously, With Bacon.

If  you’ve ever met me, you know I have a thing for bacon.

I love bacon enough for my sister and I to make an all-bacon Thanksgiving feast with 8 dishes including bacon stuffing, bacon mashed potatoes, and bacon-wrapped turkey. I love bacon enough to go to a Bacon Camp and make bacon sushi and take random photos of beautiful bacon dishes. I love bacon enough to do a 4-course Iron Chef-style bacon smackdown that included bacon chocolate and bacon cookies and have been known to make bacon cupcakes and even bacon macaroni-and-cheese cat cakes. Don’t ask. I even love bacon enough to tattoo it on my face.

So you can probably comprehend my fat-kid-in-a-candy-shop-on-Christmas-morning level of excitement when this package arrived in the mail. I actually jumped up and down and squealed like a pig.  A delicious, dry-cured British pig.

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A Tart Very Full of Vegetables in a Month of Meatlessness

A moment to savor: I am less than one week away from the end of a Month of Meatlessness.  Cue the shock. The horror! Why?! Well, after eating a few great vegetarian meals recently, my steak-obsessed boyfriend was interested to continue the trend. Out of a sincere desire to experiment with minimized meat consumption (combined with high-reaching ambition and some serious self-delusions), he audaciously proposed an entire month of vegetarianism. Within about 9 painful days, he was found ravenously destroying a blue cheese- draped venison burger at Borough Market. I, however, despite my love for all things bacon, took it as a personal challenge to finish the month without letting a piece of animal flesh cross my lips. To be fair – it actually hasn’t been too much of a lifestyle change for me.  I cook almost exclusively vegetarian at home and can be completely satisfied with a veggie entree when eating out. I only found myself mourning my meat-freeness once or twice when an entire side of smoked salmon tried to seduce me from the fridge and when an entire table of Malaysian meat dishes taunted me from a communal table while I sobbed quietly from the corner.

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Pastravaganza, and other Portmanteaux: A recipe for basic pasta dough, and a non-recipe for the craziest ravioli you’ve ever had

In the midst of our insane winter solstice kitchenfest, we performed the questionable American tradition of watching TV as a family and tuned into the Food Network’s Iron Chef America: Super Chef Battle White House. A lot of great stuff happened on the show (Michelle Obama’s numerous references to sweet potatoes in combination with her sweet-potato colored dress, Alton Brown’s almost-excessive-but-sort-of-really-great dramatism, etc). The greatest thing for me, though, was the beautiful, orgasmic looking and sounding uova di raviolo – a raviolo with an egg inside -which Mario Batali stuffed with ricotta and spinach and characteristically covered with an absurd amount of shaved truffle.

You might argue that he does a lot of things that are absurd. Especially if you are his son, who is obviously responding to his own probably forcibly donned gem-studded crocs with a classic pose for the camera: palm to forehead accompanied with expression of serious psychic pain.

But I digress. There are few things that are not improved with a fried egg with an oozy, slightly runny, richly yellow yolk. I just never thought that thing would be pasta. It was an “I didn’t know you could do that!” sort of moment. Sort of like a lot of feminist theory. Too far? Okay. I digress again, obviously.

We didn’t have a pasta roller (we have since acquired one), but we did have a lot of bicep power between the three of us (Baniel, Captain Tinyfeet, and Beanpie), so with the guiding light of Mario Batali shining upon us and our almost embarrassingly low level of experience, we started to make pasta. We also turned to Alice Waters and Alton Brown for support, and learned that we were to use semolina flour (which comes from durum wheat and is higher in protein) for a better, yellower, more beautiful and pliable dough. Some people just use AP flour, and some use a mix, but we got semolina flour at Weggie World, so we decided to go for it. We didn’t have a recipe guiding us, so we played it by ear.

We experienced failure – heartbreaking, I-guess-we-just-won’t-eat-any-dinner-because-we-don’t-deserve-it failure. But we learned from our mistakes. And also Skyped with Amin, who had actually read Alice Waters’ guide to making pasta dough. And we did way better the next time.

Our improvised pasta dough recipe and a guide to uova di raviolo after the jump. You don’t need a roller, but if you need your arms the two days after, you might want one.

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The Easiest Recipe Ever, or, (Insert “In a Pickle” Pun Here)

Pickles are just one of those things. Salty, sweet, sting-y and sour, pickles can really transform an eating experience (or, if you’re like me, they can be an eating experience in and of themselves). So, when I learned how to make pickles, I was converted – I’ll never buy pickles again. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t either…

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Three: Chinese Home Cooking and Tea Glazed Eggs

One of the best things about being home at my parent’s house is the likelihood that any given moment – approximately 89.75% of the time – the Bean and I can walk into the kitchen and there will be delicious Chinese food cooking.  Yep. It’s pretty sweet.  There’s a lovely Chinese couple, Jenny and Don,  living there who help our Dad around the house and also cook tummy filling and seemingly effortless and homestyle Chinese food.

Quite often these dishes are aesthetically pleasing and easily replicable, like the black tea and spice glazed eggs above.

Other times, these dishes are neither easy to prepare nor particularly attractive…

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Two: The Wake and Bake

I am a gloriously productive person every time I return to the States. Blessed with a five-hour time difference from London, I arise at the I-do-lots-of-useful-and-important-things hour of 7am (a time of day I am generally unacquainted with, especially on vacation) and…I do lots of useful and important things.  Like bake lots of focaccia.

Okay, so obviously this is a relative usage of the words ‘useful’ and important’.’  But I do consider baking to be a valuable activity, particularly so over the holidays when the day’s activities consist primarily of getting together with family and eating, meeting up with friends and eating, catching up with old family friends and eating…you get the picture.  In such a gastronomically focused time, baking and other food production techniques grow to paramount importance.

Thus, I present to you the newest addition to my useful brunch party repertoire: The Wake and Bake Eggs. Simple, cheap, non-labor intensive, adaptable, and basically idiotproof.

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The Family Styles Holiday Eating Escapades, Part Two: The Wake and Bake

I am a gloriously productive person every time I return to the States. Blessed with a five-hour time difference from London, I arise at the I-do-lots-of-useful-and-important-things hour of 7am (a time of day I am generally unacquainted with, especially on vacation) and…I do lots of useful and important things.  Like bake lots of focaccia.

Okay, so obviously this is a relative usage of the words ‘useful’ and important’.’  But I do consider baking to be a valuable activity, particularly so over the holidays when the day’s activities consist primarily of getting together with family and eating, meeting up with friends and eating, catching up with old family friends and eating…you get the picture.  In such a gastronomically focused time, baking and other food production techniques grow to paramount importance.

Thus, I present to you the newest addition to my useful brunch party repertoire: The Wake and Bake Eggs. Simple, cheap, non-labor intensive, adaptable, and basically idiotproof.

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Insanely Indulgent Butter-Fried, Onion Soup-Simmered Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta

butternut squash butter roasted pasta

This may look appear to be normal pasta – if anything, a bit mushy and brown looking,  but otherwise nothing special. But no. This is some seriously, insanely, unnecessarily butteriffic pasta.

Butteriffic: (adj) infused with a completely superfluous amount of butter to the point of unsurpassed deliciousness and extreme caloric overload.

TV is generally full of all sorts of useless drivel, which is why I don’t own a television. However, sometimes TV teaches you important things. For example,  how to take a decadent and already relatively unhealthy dish such as macaroni & cheese and then infuse it with more deep, rich, buttery flavor to the point of…well, I was going to say heart attack, but I’m still standing.  So then, more accurately, to the point of AMAZING.  For this knowledge, I owe thanks to the final episode of MasterChef, which, based on my one viewing, appears to be  a British show of similar concept and nearly identical name to Top Chef.  In the ultimate challenge to determine a winner, the contestants had to recreate the dishes from a Michelin-starred chef for thirty other Michelin-starred chefs.  Yikes. I learned that Michelin-starred food is precise, complex, innovative, boundary-pushing, technological, demanding, beautifully presented, really ridiculously complicated, and most importantly – you guessed it, butteriffic.

The macaroni & cheese, elevated to Michelin-starred standards, involved dried pasta pan-roasted in butter,  simmered in veal stock, covered in stock glaze, cut into perfect circles, and stacked into a tower with layers of butternut squash and another over-the-top indulgence, duck confit.  Apparently the dish took four hours to make,  and that’s along with the 18 ducks that Steve, the ultimate winner, had to simultaneously roast.  Obviously I have neither the skill nor the time to recreate this dish, although maybe I should try because then I could eat it. But pan roasting in butter and simmering in stock? That I can do.

And now you can too, if you’re looking for that extra hefty dosage of calories. But hey – it’s also an extra hefty dose of seriously tasty comfort food, perfect for curling up in a comforter on the couch on a cold day.  This would also be an excellent dish if you were a bear looking to stock up on fat for hibernation. If you’re not a bear…well, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the buttery goodness is worth the fat.

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Roasted Lemon and Vegetable Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

bulgur wheat pilaf with roasted vegetables

One of the exciting things about living in a new place are all the new and different ingredients  to sample, eat, delight in, purchase, cook with, and integrate into your kitchen repertoire.  Thanks to my dear friend Michelle and her excellent dish from the stunning Feast of Strangers, I’ve become acquainted with bulgur wheat, which tastes to me like a cross between couscous and brown rice.  The grains are slightly larger than the average couscous and a little rounder than rice grains and apparently have more fiber and vitamins, as well as a lower glycemic index than either of those two close cousins (at least for white rice). More importantly, they’re delicious as well as inexpensive and versatile.

I’ve taken to buying various cereals and grains in bulk for those exact reasons. Any given evening, I generally have enough fresh vegetables or canned items or refrigerated goodies to toss into a very simple bulgur pilaf or couscous. The following recipe can be adapted depending on whatever items you may have around but what makes the recipe a bit more special is Michelle’s roasted lemon trick. Tangy, zesty and slightly caramelized, the browned lemon rinds add a fantastic and unexpected kick of flavor.

The rest of the recipe is fairly nebulous, which, if you’ve read any of my other recipes,  you will most likely find unsurprising. But I think that’s the best part – it’s not particular or demanding or complicated or requiring of your full undivided attention. Essentially, you roast the vegetables that need roasting, sauté the vegetables which would taste better sautéed, slice up any delicious items you might have in the fridge like marinated olives or peppers, and boil the bulgur. Combine in dish, stir, and eat. Easy peasy. But don’t worry, I’ve also spelled out directions after the jump…

orange peppers and uncooked bulgur

Bright orange peppers and uncooked bulgur!

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