Good Morning (afternoon)

Hash browns have always been my favorite part of a full breakfast. Some consider them a mere side dish, but they’re the part I relish the most. To get into the intricacies of how to make good hash browns, I leave to the experts.

What I thought could really improve mine for the morning after was to make them slightly more nutritious. In this case, flax and sunflower seeds  cook up beautifully with the potatoes and provide vital calcium, protein, iron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, selenium and omega oils.  Fluffy and warm scrambled eggs from silken tofu with fresh fire-roasted New Mexico green chilis is so much nicer this (late) morning and more convincing than any heavy “tofu scramble” from extra firm. Serve this whole meal with plenty of coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Hot black tea is a delight and warm atole is delicious as well. To make atole: in a sauce pan warm some coconut or rice milk on the stove and add a pinch of salt and a handful of cornmeal, masa or even grits will work.  At its simplest this is atole— some people may even omit the salt. I added a few spoonfulls of sugar,  nearly a tablespoon of cinnamon and a 1 oz. cube of baker’s chocolate. Simmer at least thirty minutes.  The longer it cooks, the thicker it becomes. It’s also known as “pinole” and ranges from very loose and drinkable to vey thick like a pudding, which is really delicious. Play around with the ingredients and proportions till you get an atole you enjoy.

Breakfast for a lazy day.

Here are the recipes.

Have a lovely morning and a happy New Year!

—Chili

Cloudy With A Chance of Mētballs

Back in the dizzle, my family used to love eating at a place called Tien Ren (formerly “Wonderful Vegetarian”) It was a most bountiful Chinese buffet that closely adhered to the Taoist philosophy of pure foods. The food was fresh, hot and amazingly delicious, but we also loved the sometimes funny use of the English language. One of my favorite things was a veggie meatball called “vegetables ball.” We used to crack each other up over the simple misplaced “s.” So, in developing my  quinoa and seitan meatball, I laughed a little to myself about “vegetables ball” before trying to think up a clever name for a vegetable-based meatball.  I’ve heard of some people calling it a “cheatball,” but I didn’t really like that one because cutting out animal torture from your eating habits is hardly cheating.

If anything, I’d say it’s the other way around. I really liked “discreetball” (I’m laughing a little to myself right now as I type it). But ultimately, that makes no sense. I realized that calling any food product a “ball” just sounds weird and gross. We’ve just become so used to hearing “meatball” that we just accept it. So I’m keeping the name and simply updating it with a single “e” topped with a macron for added clarity.

Admittedly, this recipe takes awhile to make. But the good news is that it yields 3 dozen. So make them one weekend and stick ‘em in your freezer. When you want to enjoy a few, just simmer them in marinara sauce until they’re unfrozen and softened up a little. We enjoyed these little gems last night with spaghetti and Newman’s Own Sockarooni (my personal favorite pasta sauce). My next feat will be to put them on a baguette with fresh tomatoes and some velvegan. Get creative with the spices in this recipe if you like. I just went with what I had on hand.

Here’s the recipe, y’all!

Enjoy!

—Chili

Pâté (aka faux gras)

Did you know that Pâté is made from fois gras which is just a fancy French word for the liver of tortured geese? Often the geese get their feet cemented into a block to keep them from moving around (too much exercise apparantly ruins the flavor) thereby making their livers balloon up with fatty deposits before their lives of suffering are brought to a premature end. It’s true.

Aren't geese beautiful?

Now, normally I don’t advocate those of my herbivore friends to run around preaching. I’m with Isa Chandra that the most revolutionary, socially transforming action you can take is to cook delicious plant-based food for your friends (and enemies, perhaps) to show them how delightful a life without causing suffering can be. But in the case of fois gras, it’s pretty evil and something has got to be done to stop it!

Now, I sing in a choir and for our Advent Lessons and Carols, we are all to bring something for a festive reception afterwards. I enjoy situations like this because I like to imagine some dish that people would traditionally serve and then try to reinvent it in a more healthy, friendly and sustainable way. So when I asked myself the question “What would a classy elderly person enjoy at a holiday gathering?” I answered myself, “pâté.”

I’ve never actually tasted fois gras but whatever it’s like, there’s no way it could be tastier than this “faux gras” concocted in my laboratory (bwa-ha-ha!). For the mushrooms called for, I chose about 1/3 shiitake and 2/3 crimini mushrooms, but would have used all shiitakes if I could afford it. You could probably use any kind of mushrooms you like.

If I had had cognac, I surely would have used that. 2T in the recipe and 2oz in my belly. But of course, I didn’t have that, or even red wine. I just used some amazing herb-infused vinegar that was a gift to us from Chow Chow’s dear friend and mentor Janisse Ray, handmade at her Red Earth farm. You could basically use anything with some acidity to it.

Finally, the secret to toasting walnuts is to put them under the broiler and leave them there only long enough that you begin to smell their fragrance in the air. Keep your eyes on the prize, because walnuts burn in next to no time! Burnt walnuts have a seriously bitter flavor, so if you do forget about ‘em, it’s better just to put those in the compost and try again.

et voilà— that was easy.

This is a recipe I am truly proud of.

—Chili

Simple as sauerkraut

Have you ever heard the phrases “easy as pie” and “piece of cake”? Pie and cake aren’t nearly so easy as sauerkraut, so what about “simple as sauerkraut”?

I grew up making sauerkraut in crocks, and I got spoiled on the homemade. I never bought a jar of kraut in my life. Lots of people in Tennessee make their own. The Tennessee I grew up in has many folks who preserve food in various ways, and I hope to goodness that’s not changing now. Please learn to ferment your own sauerkraut, because the old-timers need us to carry on tradition.

Here we go. Ready?

1. Go out and get yourself a couple heads of cabbage. About five pounds. The reason I’m making it now is that if we had grown cabbage this year, it would be coming in right about now. Sauerkraut is a seasonal celebration. It is a way to prolong the fruits of the last harvest, as cabbage is a cold season crop. We weren’t able to have a garden this year, as we moved in the middle of the summer, but it’s easy enough to find local cabbage. So do that.

2. Then, take off the outer leaves and start choppin. Chop it as thin as you like. I call my kraut “rustic,” meaning that the pieces are larger than you might think. It’s wonderful that way, but grate it if you like. I mix each grated or chopped head in a bowl with about a tablespoon and half of salt.

3. After tossing with salt, throw cabbage in a clean, sanitized crock. Don’t have a crock? You could ask a local restaurant for an extra five-gallon bucket, but I shy away from plastic, as it contains carcinogens. That’s your call. Make sure you’re not using anything metal or porous, such as wood or terra cotta (I know someone who tried that: not good). If you’d like a crock, search around at antique stores, thrift stores, or estate sales. There are many out there to be had. It should look something like this:

4. You should have around five pounds of cabbage and three tablespoons of salt in your crock, all thrown around a little.

Next, get a plate that will fit into your crock. We have only square and rectangle dinner plates, so I used a smaller round plate until I can get a full-size one at the thrift store. It needs to be washed well with hot water. Then you’ll want to find something that will sit on the plate to weigh things down. Usually best is some kind of container of water. Today I used a mixing bowl filled with water and lowered it in. I don’t recommend this. If you have a container with a lid that you can fill with water, use that. A pitcher, jug, whatever. The important thing is that it is relatively heavy. You can improvise, as I often do, but just think “plate and weight,” and you’ll be on the right track. They are going to keep pushing the cabbage down as it ferments and leaches liquid out.

5. Cover with a towel to keep out debris. Now wait three to six weeks. Throughout that time, you want to check on your baby kraut every few days and get the hooch off the top. Your kraut is fermenting, and it will be releasing its liquids and its natural lactic acid. Don’t be scared. This is a beautiful, mysterious process that might make you feel religious. Certain bacteria are drawn to the cabbage that make it turn into kraut. They’re really good bacteria! They fight bad bacteria that come into your body. Fermented foods are known to be cancer-fighting warriors in your body. So embrace these vehicles of bold bacteria!

cute crock!

I will keep you updated as my kraut progresses.

Love, Chow Chow

Lemony Quinoa & Beet Tabbouleh

Those of you who follow my recipes will know that I am not afraid of out-there, even taboo flavor palettes, but esteemed plant-based food guru Crescent Dragonwagon went somewhere that surprised even me: vanilla bean in a salad. “What? Hang on,” I thought, “vanilla beans would be kind of nauseating in a savory context, surely.”

While looking for a unique way to season beets in a salad I was planning, I came across a recipe in The Passionate Vegetarian where she made a beet salad with vanilla bean as the key ingredient. I just happened to have a single vanilla bean left from my trip down to Quintana Roo this past summer, but I was worried that a vanilla bean flavor mixed with a vinaigrette flavor would be too weird. I finally decided to try it. I had  never had any recent to doubt the all-knowing Dragonwagon so, why not?

I knew that I would have celery hearts in my beet salad because I feel there’s a natural affinity between them. The addition of quinoa, the cousin of the beet, adds healthy calcium, protein and b vitamins; it’s also what prompted me  to classify this salad as a tabbouleh. Although bulgar wheat is the grain used in the traditional version, it seems like tabbouleh is an ever-widening circle of grain and green salad surprises. In this incarnation, the flat-leaf parsley teams up with carrots and parsnips— all three are of the Queen Anne’s Lace family— and the tomato is replaced by the beets. The whole thing is fortified with tender baby chard, tatsoi, arugula and spinach leaves from Organic Girl. If I’d had the beet greens, I’d have used them as well. The strong, bright acidity of lemon puts a polish on the sometimes sharp notes of the beet flavor. Think of it as putting a cap on the earthiness. A little champagne vinegar brings a nice complementary zing.

When it came to cooking the quinoa, I used a little culinary lavender because we did our final harvest of the perennial garden. If you don’t have culinary lavender, any of the long-cooking herbs such as thyme, rosemary or sage could have been used here.

I waited to toss the quinoa and the greens till the very last minute so as not to let the greens get too wilty. I arranged the beet slices on top and was in love with the colors orange and green and gold in stark contrast to the deep blood color of the beets. Perfection. Autumn tabbouleh, and every flavor in perfect balance— oh how the church potluck crowd raved— hooray! Crescent Dragonwagon, I swear I will never doubt you again!

Here’s that recipe— go ahead and try it y’allselves!

—Chili

Lazy Day Junk Food

Even the most health-conscious among us need to let loose every now and again and enjoy some junk food, which will hereafter be known as “comfort food.” The other night I was feeling lazy and wanted something fast and delicious. The co-op had BBQ sandwiches on their hot bar and that inspired us to make some of our own. Now, being from Texas, I will admit my bias, but I do truly believe that Stubb’s is the best barbecue sauce around.

C.B. Stubblefield was a Texan chef who opened his restaurant in Lubbock in the 60s. His food was so popular that he eventually opened a club in Austin where folks like Johnny Cash and Stevie Ray Vaughn played whenever they were in town. Even now, most artists who come to play Austin, will do a lo-key or even a secret performance at Stubb’s BBQ. Everywhere I travel in the U.S., I find Stubb’s sauces and marinades for sale at supermarkets, so you can probably pick up a bottle no matter where you live. I really just enjoy the Original flavor, though all of them are delicious (except the honey one which is kind of yucky, Lord knows ol’Stubb didn’t invent that recipe). I suppose you could use a different kind of sauce, but I certainly would not endorse such a haphazard decision.

I wish I had an outdoor grill, but I don’t. And it was raining. So what I did was to sautée a half of an onion at a medium-low temperature for a good long while till it caramelized. Then I added a 16oz package of seiten, discarding the water. I continued cooking for a few minutes before adding the sauce and stirring everything up real good. I stuck the whole skillet under the broiler to sort of blacken the tips and while that happened, I fried up some ‘taters. I took the skillet out once and stirred it up again before returning it to the broiler to finish.

In Texas, barbecue is served with raw onions, fresh jalapeños, and coleslaw. We had all that plus some astounding dill pickles canned fresh this summer by Chow Chow herself.  On a sourdough bun, it was absolutely perfect. No need to link to a recipe for this “comfort food,” cause it was so simple, fast and  mindnumbingly delicious.

—Chili

Fall Crudités

Growing up, I loved Green Goddess salad dressing. In fact, everyone in my family did. Even now, my mouth waters when I think of the tangy, herbal, creamy goodness.

This weekend I needed to make crudités for a nonviolence luncheon. I wanted to go beyond the generic crudités that have become so ubiquitous—carrot sticks, broccoli and tired-looking cauliflower with some hfcs-laden ranch dressing in the center—and come up with something that celebrates autumn and looks beautiful on the plate.

I wanted that green goddess but I did not want all the weird things that Wish-Bone puts in there. Naturally, I turned to Martha Stewart for some advice and was able to adjust her recipe slightly by using Soy-free Vegenaise instead of the cholesterol-heavy mayonaise she called for.

When the blades finished turning on my food processor, I cautiously dipped a carrot in and put it in my mouth—Success! It was superb, it was sublime, it was (dare I say) better than the bottled variety. It turned out so amazing, and was really quite simple to make.

Then came the vegetables. To start with, carrot sticks are obviously the backbone of a good crudité platter. You may remember from previous posts how obsessed I have been lately with rainbow carrots from our co-op. I cut these into segments, splitting the thicker parts in half or quarters lengthwise. Turnips are one of my favorite vegetables, so I cut them into long french fry-like shapes and blanched them for just a few minutes in boiling water before immediately plunging them in ice-water (the “stop bath” for those of you budding culinarions). Next, I broke up some brocolli into florets and blanched them ever so slightly, just till they brightened and again with the stop bath. Raw broccoli is okay, but there is a slightly bitter flavor that goes away if you just barely blanche them—seriously for a minute or two—not to mention how vibrant the color becomes. I also cut beets into big pieces and blanched them a little longer than the other vegetables—testing them with a fork. I wanted the beets to be soft to the tooth but firm enough to still be able to dip. I blanched them last so they didn’t stain everything else. The final touch was some absolutely stunning watermelon radishes cut into rings. The finished platter was like a work of art.

Everyone raved about how delicious the dip was and how beautiful the platter looked. I was glad. It seriously took me less than thirty minutes to do the whole thing.

Try this recipe today, and you will not be disappointed.

—Chili

Pumpkin: Supper for a Po’Girl

Behold the almighty, great pumpkin!

Pumpkins grow prolifically, they’re portable, store well, and are exceptionally nourishing. That makes them great food for when times are hard.

And they’re downright rich in nutrition! Although we may think of punkins as starchy, turns out not all starches are the same, and pumpkin’s special starches have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic, insulin-regulating properties. (Who would’ve thunk it?!)

They are through the roof in Vitamin A & Vitamin C and also very full of potassium, fiber, manganese, folate, Omega 3s, and Vitamin B1.

I remember when Chili and I moved after a summer of farm work so that I could accept an internship somewhere else. Our pockets were pretty bare, so we took about twelve pumpkins that we harvested from the farm. When we got to where we were going, strangers took us in while we looked for a place, which ended up taking a month. Each time a new set of strangers let us set up our tent in their yard, we offered them a pumpkin. Then we would roast it and sup together. It always seemed special and festive for the fall season, and it fed everyone. That is the power of pumpkin.

Well, we are really trying to stick to our meager budget these days, so the pumpkin has become a staple these past few weeks. We weren’t able to plant any this year, but there’re plenty available at the markets everywhere right now.

Chili’s at church tonight, and I’m stuck home doing work. So here’s what I made. It turned out so tasty.

First, I started some basmati rice on the stove. I put about five cardamom pods, a dash of chili powder, and maybe a teaspoon of some lemon curry in the pot with it. I have an amazing rice cooker. It’s actually just an enameled cast iron pot. It cooks rice in 15 minutes! I don’t know, but it’s a miracle. I basically only use the pot to cook rice in, though I know it’s not really a “rice cooker.” I do everything the same for cooking rice, except I set the timer on the stove for 15 minutes instead of 45 or 50.

Behold the magical cardamom pod.

In my Lodge cast iron skillet, made right here in Tennessee, I scraped out about a quarter of a roasted pumpkin left over from the other night. I poured in about a half cup of water and simmered the pumpkin while the rice cooked. I added a half package of the store-bought tempeh (maybe we’ll make our own one day) and one diced jalapeño. Then, some dashes of the following spices: cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, smoked paprika, red chili flakes, thyme, white pepper, and allspice. Then a tablespoon of Bragg’s liquid aminos—Chili and I basically put that in everything, just so you know. It adds saltiness without using salt. All that was left to simmer while the rice cooked and I went back to work.

When the timer went off, I turned the rice off and let it sit five minutes while the pumpkin continued.

Then I dished up! It was daaaaaaang good. I crushed some black pepper on top and drizzled a tiny bit of flax oil. Oh my goodness, it was good. And the jalapeño and chili powder warmed me up enough to take my extra sweater off.

That’s the whole recipe, so I won’t include a link.

Here’s to pumpkin season!

—Love, Chow Chow

Our pumpkin harvest some years ago

Soup of the Evening, Beautiful Soup

BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green, 
Waiting in a hot tureen! 
Who for such dainties would not stoop? 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup! 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

—Lewis Carroll

Unlike Americans, who are largely indiscriminate, Italians prefer ravioli with tomato sauce and tortellini served in a clear broth of some sort. Well, Three Rivers Co-op doesn’t sell tortellini, so we decided to defy tradition and go with Rising Moon’s organic Florentine Ravioli in our soup. Our friends Tomato and Paprika are in the process of moving (still!—since that one post forever ago!), and we remember how starving we were during that stressful time. We wanted to cook them a real nice meal to help them out because they are always so kind and generous to us. What the co-op did have are some tiny little  Japanese mushrooms that we adore—scrumptious!For a perfect green finish on the soup, I grabbed some fresh tarragon, or “little Dragon,” and curly-leafed parsley.

When we got home I kneaded up some sourdough from our heirloom culture that’s older than either of us to make a rosemary foccacia, and Chow Chow had the grand idea to throw some shipped-from-Mexico Roma tomatoes (I know, tomato season is supposed to be over!), sliced into rings on top of the dough before baking. Some celtic grey salt and fresh-ground pepper and that beauty was ready to go in the oven.

For the salad, it was fresh baby greens with shredded carrots—maroon, red, pink, orange, and white shredded fine and mounded in the center. I garnished the whole thing with artichoke hearts and green olives— just in time for Tomato and Paprika.

They brought two bottles of Post Familie Muscadine Juice, a red and a white. I waited to add the ravioli to the soup broth till they arrived to avoid overcooked, starchy dumplings. Raviolis should be a clean affair. We munched on the tomatoey bread dipped in olive oil while we waited. As soon as the pasta was serenely al dente I finished with the fresh herbs and the miso paste. Always add the miso at the very end, because simmering or excessive cooking can kill the natural, healthy probiotic cultures in this magical food. The salad was beautiful, and the soup was nourishing. The muscadine juice was incredible, and at the end of the night I enjoyed a coconut milk ice cream sandwich. First one half, then the other.

Enjoy this recipe, y’all!

—Chili

A message from Chow Chow: The broth of this soup was staggeringly sensuous. It was rich, profound, and finished with a spice of pepper in the back of the mouth. Make it now!

Butternut Bliss

It’s been getting kind of chilly here lately, so on Sunday I decided to make a soup to warm us up. I like cauliflower puréed in soups because it makes things creamy without using cream, ya dig?

Turnips are always welcome in my soups because, despite their sharp flavor when raw, if you simmer them for awhile, they add an amazing summin’ summin’ to the broth that no one can quite put their finger on. Three Rivers Market has some beautiful turnips right now.

Parsnips add a nice mellow sweetness and round the whole thing off nicely, so I picked the two fattest parsnips I could find.

I chopped up those three veggies, tossed them with olive oil, sea salt, thyme and red chili flakes and roasted them in the oven at 475*F. I put a butternut squash in to roast at the same time.

When they were nicely browned (the squash actually keeps roasting for awhile while you do the next part) I pureéd them all with a lot of coconut milk, some turmeric, a tiny bit of curry and a few dashes of Spanish smoked paprika.

Once that was simmering, I chopped the butternut squash, added it to the milky white purée and finished with some finely minced fresh sage from Chow Chow’s garden and voilà!

That was so easy, I ain’t even gonna link a recipe.

—Chili

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