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.
(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.)
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.
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.
Do you have a bottle of mirin in the back of your fridge or cupboard? Do you remember what you bought it for? I used to forget about my mirin until a recipe like Heidi’s Black Sesame Otsu came along, and then afterward I’d let it get pushed back into the shadows all over again. Thank goodness it takes a very long time to go bad. But over the past year I’ve been reaching for it a bit more frequently and experimenting with it in some less obvious ways.
I’ve been spending a lot of time at the grocery store. Not shopping, but standing there behind a little sample table, proselytizing my Made by Lukas veggie burgers. I walk into the store and press play on the soundbite that’s tattooed into my brain—”Care to try a fresh vegetable veggie burger? Here, have a taste! These are Made-by-Lukas fresh-vegetable-veggie-burgers! The orange one is Carrot-Parsnip, the red one is beet. Yes, absolutely please do try both! Eighty percent fresh, locally sourced vegetables—our kitchen is up in the Hudson Valley—and quinoa, seeds, millet, and spices make up the rest! No soy! No wheat! Right over there in the cold case next to the tofu!” Repeat a thousand times.
And when I walk out, it takes about an hour before I can turn it off. Don’t get me wrong. I like—I love—these veggie burgers, and I’m proud of the product and even the spiel. It’s incredibly exciting to introduce them to the eaters who are going to get them and love them as I do, and gratifying when that happens. And while it’s occasionally exhausting, it’s mostly amusing when I step back to assess: So this is where my life has taken me. How interesting.
Last week at R&D Foods in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, I got a quesadilla that was just perfection. These types of assembled lunch meals can seem so simple—R&D has a creative, flavor-forward menu and is very mindful about ingredient sourcing, but the set-up is loosely based on the same model as a sandwich shop or deli, where all the sauces and fillings are prepped and pre-made, so that sandwiches only need to be assembled and heated up to order—but it’s so easy for things to go wrong.
When the ingredients are fresh, flavorful, and used in balance; when the sandwich (or in this case, quesadilla) is heated properly to create all the right crisp and gooey textures and isn’t flecked with the burnt bits of fifteen other meals that were cooked on the same sandwich press; and when it hasn’t been sitting in a paper bag for very long, so that when it’s unwrapped from the parchment and eaten out of hand on a park bench, in a patch of some of the last of the hot, early-afternoon sun for the year . . . In other words, when every little detail is exactly right, it can make a person pretty happy to be alive. Such was my Friday afternoon.
That’s right: More! Salad! I eat at least one salad a day. I love an elaborate, unusual one like Crack Salad or a Salad Treat, but most often it’s something simple, just some greens topped with whatever vegetables, nuts, and crumbles or shavings of cheese I’ve got lying around. Thus it was a pretty obvious subject when I started organizing the next issue of my digital magazine, Feast by Lukas. “Season’s Salads” has a melon salad spiked with ginger and fresh chilies, a smashed cucumber salad with a nubby sesame dressing, a pear and greens salad topped with savory granola, a torn tortilla salad with tomatoes, avocados, and a chili-lime vinaigrette, and several more.
This is the 4th issue of Feast by Lukas, which completes the first volume! It’s been so much fun and I feel like it’s starting to click. I hope you’ll check out Season’s Salads issue—the app is free to download in the iTunes store, and within it subscriptions and individual issues are available for purchase ($3.99/issue, or $13.99 for a yearly subscription). And if you’ve read it and like it (or don’t like it, that’s fine and fair), would you…. I hate asking for this, but…. give it a rating and/or review in the iTunes store?