Pumpkin Seed Salsa (Sikil Pak)

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I love entertaining, even if I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be. I’m always a little too ambitious, where my guests find me sweating over a few simmering pots and an open oven when they arrive; too adventurous, excited to try out a brainy, untested dish over a failsafe standby; and I hate this but I sometimes I just choke in those crucial last minutes, sending rookie mistakes like under-seasoned or cold dishes out to the table. One reason I like to entertain is that it’s a muscle, and you can develop it, but more than that, hanging out at a dining table with new and old friends is one of my favorite things to do, and if I could do it every night I would.

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So last weekend, after a very long dinner party hiatus, I had some friends over. I’d been rereading my Diana Kennedy books and was discovering Rick Bayless ones, so I decided a few Mexican-inspired dishes would be nice on a balmy July day. I made:

  • A batch of creamy poblano rajas from More Mexican Everyday, to which I added a sheet pan’s worth of mixed roasted mushrooms; this was taco filling and I’ll write up the recipe sometime soon.
  • This corn salad: a hit.
  • From a pound of Rancho Gordo Bayo Chocolate Beans—one of the fruits of their partnership with Xoxoc—some vaguely refried beans. I cooked them with bay leaf and onion until creamy, then fried them in a bit of olive oil and garlic and mashed them with some of the bean-cooking liquid until creamy, but still a little chunky. Very good, and great with breakfast the next day.
  • And because I’d bitten off more than I could chew, I enlisted the help of two of my guests for the rest of the menu: genius guacamole, from Kristin Miglore’s wonderful book Genius Recipes 
  • . . . and a platter of ceviche, served cold and heady with grapefruit zest, serrano and fresno chilies, and lots of herbs.

It was quite a feast. There was even a galette for dessert. I should have taken pictures, but—too much to do.  Continue reading

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Filed under Appetizer, Gluten-Free, Recipe, Snack, Vegan, Vegan option, Vegetarian

A Chopped Salad of Sorts

Chop salad final

Someone once told me that the intended glory of a chopped salad is that you can eat it with a spoon. This sounds silly and I wasn’t able to verify it it, but I did glean that a “chopped salad” is derivative of classic, component-based salads like the Cobb or Nicoise. In the past several years, it’s evolved into a bastard child of those, something no longer tied to lineage or ingredients but to method: hacking up a bowl of lettuce and toppings with a mezzaluna, assembly-line style, at one of its namesake franchises here in the Northeast. Enthusiasm for the chopped salad has since waned a bit, but there were strong opinions on this subject during its heyday.

cutting off grapefruit peelgrapefruit supreme Continue reading

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Recipe, Salads, Side, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

A Basic Grain Bowl

easy rice bowl_finalHere’s a quick recipe for a style of meal I’ve been eating a lot lately. It’s one of those “component” bowls, a cousin of a Korean bibimbap, that I make so often that I rarely think it merits a recipe. If I were to post a photo like the one above on Instagram and someone asked me for the recipe, it would seem sufficient to just say: Fried egg + soy-glazed tofu + sautéed greens + hot sauce, over mixed grains.

pan-fried tofu

But there are a few tricks and details that elevate a rice bowl from a patchy mishmash to the kind that that you’ll crave. As with most things in the kitchen, it comes down to details: tasting along the way, cooking with care, making sure that each individual component is something you’d want to eat on its own. Here I’m sharing my favorite method for tofu—the results are slightly sweet, a bit caramelized and crispy around the edges—and it requires no time pressing or marinading. Continue reading

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Filed under Entrees, Gluten-Free, Uncategorized, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Entrees

Zucchini-Hazelnut Cake with Lemon Curd Whip

cake slice

Every year, I look forward to making my own birthday cake. A few years ago there was an orange blossom and cardamom scented angel food cake with a drippy dark chocolate shellac. Before that, a pink, double-layered sugar-butter bomb from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s BreadLast year I tried out zucchini and hazelnuts in a different cake format, as a two-layer thing frosted with Hervé This’s Chocolate Mousse. That was fine, but—and maybe this is something that happens as one gets older—it was a bit much. I guess I’m getting picky.

lemon curd whip

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Salad Re-do: Kimchi, Spinach, Sharp Cheddar, Fried Egg

Kimichisal1900wThis time of year, I love the idea of offering something quick and indulgent to fix for yourself right when you get home from a holiday cocktail party. I only shared such a recipe one other time, and that was three years ago, but this particular scenario for cooking looms large in my mind. It comes in handy all year long.

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You know how it is. You go to a party after work, have a drink or two ( . . . or three or four . . . ) while snacking on finger food that does more to stimulate hunger than satisfy it. You get home and you need sustenance. Of course, you should eat a pile of raw kale and a bowl lentils, but it’s the holidays, and you’ve got a buzz going. And really, step back and assess this situation: It would have been so much easier to just pick up a slice of pizza or some takeout, but no, you are cooking for yourself! Congratulations! You can eat whatever you want for dinner. Continue reading

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8 Gift Ideas + Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

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I’ve never done a gift guide before, mostly because I don’t think I have terrific taste and have never thought of myself as an especially good gift giver. But this year, I’ve introduced some fun new food things into my life. And having spent much of it shilling my Made by Lukas veggie burgers, I’ve also met lots of makers of unique, terrific stuff. It made sense to take a stab at a gift guide, geared to the people in your life who like food. Below are eight of items, some whackier than others.

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(And if you want to skip the gifts and just scroll down to the recipe: Just before Thanksgiving, I shared a vegetarian and gluten-free holiday main dish on Charlotte Today, the morning show down in Charlotte where some of my family lives. It aired the day before Thanksgiving, so I doubt anyone had time to whip it up for their Thanksgiving spreads. I’m including the recipe here in preparation for upcoming holiday feasts [the recipe is at the end of the post]. Here’s the video.)
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Deconstructed Black Bean & Grain Soup

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Martha Rose Shulman, the prolific author of some of my very favorite, whole foods-oriented, weeknight friendly, never boring recipes, has written a few times about her habit of using up the lingering odds and ends of her dry goods—beans, pulses, grains—before the end of the year. This makes for a clean slate in January, and prevents any of those items from going bad while hidden up in the corner of a top shelf for a few years. It’s always seemed like a good idea to me, but I’ve never really made a point of doing it. But this December, we’re on. I began with this perfect, post-Thanksgiving meal.

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This recipe is really more of an idea. I thought about going the soup route with my lingering black beans and farro, but instead I landed on something like “dry soup,” or a “black bean and farro soup bowl,” or—bingo—”deconstructed soup.” The idea is to take the elements of the soup I might have made, strip it of its broth, and amp up the garnishes. Furthermore, when I combine beans and grains in a soup, one or the other often turns to waterlogged mush as the leftovers sit, and this method eliminates that.

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Filed under Beans, Entrees, Recipe, Vegan option, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Entrees