Between-Season Sweet Potato and Kale Curry

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The other night I found myself sitting at my computer thinking about ghee. Several years ago I had a habit of regularly making it, and I’d use it in all manner of curries and sautés—it was fun to keep on hand, and it would last for forever. It’d been a while since I’d made a batch. As I was sitting there, I had the realization that ghee is nothing more than—get this—strained browned butter. It’s not that I ever thought ghee was a complicated thing to wrap your head around—surely others have conceptualized it this way before. But in any case, it was revelation enough that it catapulted me into the kitchen.

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To make ghee, melt a stick—or two or three or fifteen—of butter over medium heat in a saucepan or small skillet that’s not black (it’ll be hard to gauge the ghee’s color if you use a dark pan, such as a cast-iron skillet). As it cooks, sizzling away as the water evaporates, the solids will separate, clinging to the sides and dropping to the bottom of the pan, and they’ll begin to take on color. You’ll want to watch closely, because once the solids start to color, they can go from blond to black in a matter of seconds. Look for them to turn reddish-brown—which is when you have browned butter! Remove the pan from the heat and immediately, carefully pour the butter through a cheesecloth-lined sieve to strain out the solids. (The purpose of separating the solids is to allow the ghee to have a high smoke point.) Once it cools, you can keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks. Continue reading

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Miso Mushroom Sliders + My Ingredient-Themed Dinner Club

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At some point last year, my friend and 61 Local colleague Laura and I were at work, whiling away a slow shift by discussing dinner clubs. We came up with the idea for one that focuses on a curated selection of ingredients, where each 6-course dinner would have an ingredient spotlight, and then each course would have to use it in some interesting way. As we explored the possibilities, we decided that we needed to see this dinner club realized. Laura and I picked the ingredients—olive oil, honey, ginger, miso, mint, and orange—and I assembled our cooks and diners: Camila, Colin, Matthew, Laura, Nozlee, and me.

Roll assembly

Dinner clubs are always fun for someone who likes to cook, eat, and linger over a dining table talking about food. But this one has been so much fun—so exciting, due in part to getting a great balance of food-curious people who are largely new to each other, but also because of all of the creative and delicious dishes that we’ve tasted. A few highlights: For our olive oil dinner, Nozlee made martinis that featured olive oil-infused vermouth. For her ginger appetizer, Laura made ginger-scented meringues stuffed with gingery, curried blue cheese. And at this most recent dinner Colin made a miso-banana ice cream, flavored with kecap manis, the sweet, thick Indonesian soy sauce. Continue reading

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A Simple Green Salad

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A green salad seems so easy, so boring, but it’s one of those essential dishes like pasta, scrambled eggs, or a pot of beans, where the magic is in the details. I make one with pretty much every dinner I serve, and it ranks high in my list of favorite foods—salad with dinner is how I grew up, though I’ve come a ways from the Thousand Island dressing-ed and bagged Caesar salad-ed days of my youth. Nothing is quite as reliably refreshing. A pile of perfectly dressed greens, speckled with few or many adornments, and glistening with some bright zing and rich fruitiness in the form of a vinaigrette, is just what I want to round out a meal.

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Good lettuce is a no-brainer. Save rubbery or wilted lettuce for . . . well, you might sauté it if it’s a hearty green like spinach or arugula or throw it into a smoothie, but for the most part you’ll probably just want to compost it. Some lettuces, if it looks like there’s some life left in them, can be revitalized by soaking them in ice water for 10 to 15 minutes. There are lots of good-quality pre-washed organic baby lettuces and lettuce blends out there, and I’m certainly not embarrassed to buy them. But lately, I’ve been most often drawn to the heads of green- and red-leaf lettuce sold still attached to its roots, from one of the stands at the farmer’s market near my apartment. It’s incredible how long these lettuces last—the one pictured, I bought it over a week and a half ago. I just pluck off leaves as I need them.  Continue reading

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Recipe, Salads, Vegan option, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Entrees

Jeanne Lemlin’s Layered Vegetable Pâté

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If you want a show-stopping vegetarian dish for an upcoming holiday party, this is it. Vegetarian pâté is new to me—I might not be old enough to have experienced it in its heyday, which I’m guessing was the eighties, and I admit I’ve never thought to look up a recipe—but I now understand the appeal. It’s such a striking addition to a feast, such a validating reward for some hard work in the kitchen, and it’s delicious, too, sliced up into thick, cold slabs and smeared on crackers or bread.

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Jeanne Lemlin’s Simply Satisfying is a book I’ve had in my kitchen for a while now. My friend and editor, Matthew Lore, loaned me his copy of the first edition, which was titled Vegetarian Pleasures, published in 1986, and one of the recipes I found there inspired the corn soufflé in Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry. Then I had the pleasure of working on the photo shoot for this recent reissue (with photographer Cara Howe and stylist Maria del mar Sacasa), in which the title changed to Simply Satisfying, and sampled many of the recipes firsthand.

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Filed under Appetizer, Recipe, Side, Snack, Vegetarian

A Vegetable Holiday Feast

Behold, Vegetable Holiday Feast: a small holiday gift for you and fun project for me. It’s an e-cookbook-type thing that you can download, for free, onto your smart phone or tablet and use it in the kitchen, or print out and file away with the rest of your recipe clippings. Click here to download it.

I’ve wanted to prepare a full holiday meal, with no concessions or compromises, all my way, for as long as I’ve enjoyed cooking. But doing so isn’t necessarily in keeping with the spirit of any holiday. These big gatherings are about the collaborative effort, the company, and the various traditions, new and old, at play.

So instead I hosted a mock Thanksgiving and for that I did it all my way. My friends who came over to eat with me were happy to do so—we loosely call this a “friendsgiving” and do it almost every year; no matter who’s cooking or what we’re eating it’s fun—and I had the pleasure of spending a few weeks testing and fine-tuning my dream menu. 

Take a look at the result, some of which I’ll single out here on the blog in the next couple weeks. It’s fully vegetarian, with vegan and gluten-free adaptations offered where the substitutions work. It’s full of vegetable-centric dishes, and hopefully you’ll find it to be a good source of helpful ideas and tips as you prepare your own feasts. Here’s the full menu:

Bourbon Pecans
Tangy Roasted Parsnip Dip
Squash and Chard Patties with Feta-Yogurt Topping
Brussels Sprouts and Roasted Chestnut Galette
Quinoa and Celery Root Gratin
Kale and Caramelized Onion Focaccia
Simple Salad with Clementine Vinaigrette
Hand-Mashed Yukon Golds
Apple and Cranberry Relish
Shallot Gravy
Pumpkin Sherbet with Gingersnap-Pecan Crumble

I’m thinking about hand-binding a few copies to have for sale at some upcoming markets and events—let me know if you’d be interested in that.

I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while, but I hope this will give you enough to chew on for the next few months. Enjoy, and most of all, have a terrific holiday.

[Free download: A Vegetable Holiday Feast (PDF)]

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Veggie Burger Night, Plus More Lunches

Hello autumn! One reason I haven’t had as much time to share recipes here is that I’m training for the 2012 New York City Marathon. I put that in italics because I need to emphatically remind myself, otherwise it doesn’t seem real. It’s crazy! I’ve been running regularly for over 10 years now, I do one or two half marathons every year, I thoroughly enjoy a Saturday morning 10-mile run. But the thought of doing 26.2 miles in one morning has always seemed like some cruel joke on an athlete who didn’t comprehend what he’d committed to when he signed up. Have you done a marathon before? Do you have any tips for me?


So check back on November 5th to see if I’m, you know, still willing to use my legs in order to get places.  But the reason this pertains to vegetables and veggie burgers is that I’m running on behalf of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which means that in exchange for a bib number in the marathon, I’ve agreed to raise money for them. And this is actually a fun distraction from the running: I’ve organized an exciting fundraiser for next week in Brooklyn, called “Veggie Burger Night” at 61Local. I’ll be making three different veggie burgers, and all the proceeds from the sales will go to the Girls Club. If you live in the area, please come! It’ll take place next Thursday, October September 13th, starting at 7pm—click here for more information about the event and to RSVP. (You don’t have to RSVP, but it would help me a lot in terms of making enough veggie burgers.)  Continue reading

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A Few Recent Lunches

I don’t have a recipe today, but I’m still sharing some Instagram shots some of my lunches—on the days I work from home and when, most importantly, the natural light is good—over on the Facebook page, which you can follow if you’d like to. My Instagram is @LukasVolger if you care to follow there.

Hopefully one or two of these will inspire you in the kitchen, give you something new to try, particularly as far as summer food goes. Let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions. Happy July—almost August. I hope you’re enjoying vacations and hikes and summer produce and the steamy outdoors as much as I am.

Up top is a garbanzo salad with upland cress, roasted bell peppers and tomatoes, and a smoked paprika vinaigrette.

Here’s a sandwich with sharp cheddar, avocado, and a spicy corn salad on a toasted baguette. Continue reading

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Filed under Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegan option, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Entrees