We’ve been trying Imperfect Foods for a couple of months now and I’ve found it to be convenient and I like seeing what the “imperfections” are and then getting mad that people don’t know that misshapen sweet potatoes taste exactly the same as regular ones. It can be a bit of a game, too, figuring out the savings over Woodman’s since there’s a shipping cost involved. Anyhoo, that link up there will get us both $10 off if you sign up.
Why did I tell you about that? Because I had a head of broccoli from Imperfect that needed to be used up and a craving for antioxidants. Weird, I know.
The picture above contains only a few of the actors in this delicious musical. I added garlic powder, turmeric, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, a little almond butter, and another carrot (the one looked lonely).
To start, the diced aromatics go into some heated coconut oil until translucent. I then added all of the spices and seasonings, including some agave nectar, along with a tablespoon of that delicious bouillon (the vegetarian style is as good!) along with about a cup of water. This results in the magical concentrate of a germ-killing concoction.
It doesn’t look super pretty, but the best things are not.
To this, add a can of coconut milk. I’m not really sure the tastable difference between light and regular, but I had a can of not-light and used it happily. The solids that hang out at the top of the can will melt eventually. I find it looks like a barista trying to make a latte.
Once the seasonings, spices, flavor, and milk are melded together, add the vegetables and bring to a simmer.
After it’s got a good simmer goin’ on, turn the heat down a bit, cover, and set a 10-minute timer.
Serve, eat, enjoy, relish, share, comfort, be.
Coconut Curry Veggies
Packed full of germ-fighting spices and vegetables, you'll feel amazing (at least) while eating it!
Saying chèvre like an annoying American is funny to me. Probably because I know a few French words but not enough to be useful, like when looking for the bathroom or asking for a beer. However, I distinctly recall learning my first French swear-word: at the end of 9 to 5, the boss’ assistant was coming back from her trip to France and said, “merde.” In fact, I think I learned a great deal about life from that film.
This salad was born of an overabundance of beets and the desire to have Grampa’s PIzzeria‘s beet salad without leaving the house. Seriously, it’s the best beet salad ever.
Preheat the oven to 400º and grab your knife. After honing, cut the top and bottom off the beets. Depending on your zero-waste level, throw the beet greens in with the rest of the salad, save ’em to make a pesto, or compost ’em.
Put the beets into foil pockets and drizzle, spray, or otherwise apply some kind of oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 45-60 minutes. Check with a fork after 45, even tho I’m not sure it’s possible to “over roast” a beet.
Now that I look at that photo, I realize it’s not at all necessary to individually package the beets; a simple foil tube would be just fine. But, this makes them feel more special. Once you can poke a fork in ’em without much resistance, they can come out and cool down. It’s not proof of any super-powers if you can peel a beet that’s 400º ON THE OUTSIDE. Since they are plated relatively room temp, you could roast the day before or hours before you’re ready for dinner.
The rest of the salad is whatever you want. We’ve been digging these greens from Wisconsin (Woodman’s just started carrying this brand) because you can tell they didn’t sit on a truck for a week on their way up to the northern states. Slice up some red onion, cucumber, radish. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. This time around, I added pine nuts and hemp hearts because I was feeling like we needed more crunch.
When the salad is well coated, plate and set aside.
Now comes the magic part: cheese. But, not just any cheese. Goat cheese. And, not just ANY goat cheese. AIR-FRIED GOAT CHEESE in BALL SHAPE!
I regret that I don’t have pictures of the process because it’s a two-handed one, and it’s messy, and my iPhone isn’t insured.
Preheat your air fryer and get your separate whisked-egg and panko bowls ready.
Take the log of chèvre and cut pieces to shape into balls slightly smaller than the size of a ping-pong. If we’re using food for reference, you’re looking for a bocconcini-sized ball, not ovaline.
Coat with egg, coat with panko. Repeat.
When the fryer is hot, pull out the basket and lightly spray with avocado oil. Place each cheese ball so they’re not touching and “fry” for about eight minutes. When done, carefully scoop each ball out with a spoon and place gently on the salad like a rescued bird’s egg into its nest.
Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese
A delicious salad with the added wonderfulness of beets and "fried" cheese.
There isn’t much that’s more satisfying than a crunchy corn tortilla slathered (you heard me) with beans, topped with diced onions, cheese, tomato, and lettuce.
First, though, I need to hop on my high horse, so gimme a boost here. OOMPH, thank you!
WHAT in the ACTUAL F*&K are food dyes doing in CORN TORTILLAS? Woodman’s carries five or six brands of tostada shells and all but two have artificial food dyes. I have a long-standing personal grudge against and will go out of my way to avoid buying foods with added yellow, red, and/or blue in them. Especially considering that a corn tortilla is, and only needs to be: corn, salt, and water. I mean, it doesn’t need to be YELLOWER.
HOT TIP: Full Circle uses turmeric instead of yellow #5 in their pickle products.
Whoah, Nellie! *hops off horse*
Aaaanyhoo, the El Milagro brand is without weird substances: stone-ground corn, corn oil, salt, and Cal (about which I just learned). They also have the best soft corn and flour tortillas in the world (or at least in my world).
Choose your tortilla pairs carefully because they have to sort of stack together. The curvy bendy of them makes this a little like a puzzle, but you’ll get it. Find (or make!) your favorite refried beans and schmear enough to cover the top of each of the bottom half of the pair (that was confusing… let’s look at a photo):
Top the bottoms with diced white onion and cheese and grab the tops and schmear the bottoms of those with more beans! This is getting nuts. Or beany.
Finally, more beans go on top of the top, along with more onions and cheese. We like beans, onions, and cheese in this house.
In the oven that I remembered to preheat (this time!), these go for 10 minutes and then get another three or four, depending on hunger and cheese meltage.
While they’re getting toasty, chop the tomatoes and lettuce, and gather your assortment of topping notions.
Preheat oven to 350º and line a cookie sheet with parchment (this is not entirely necessary, but I don't like washing cookie sheets).
Spoon a layer of beans onto half of the shells, cover with onions and cheese. Spoon a layer of beans onto the other half and make a bean sandwich and spoon beans onto the top of those shells. Cover with onions and more cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes and then check cheese for the desired doneness. If you like it meltier, leave 'em in for three to five more minutes.
Remove from oven and plate; top with tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and any other thing you'd like!
Madison, WI is famous for its summer festivals. There is at least one grand one per month that attracts a hungry crowd. You see, at all of these fests, there are a lot of food carts. Some of these are extensions of restaurants that most people can’t get to for lunch. Some of these are carts all on their own with specialties like cheese curds, falafel, more falafel, and 42 other places that I can’t think of right now.
While celebrating what bookends the season for me at the Willy St. Fair this summer, I had the pleasure of experiencing, for the first time, arepas—an unassuming corn disc stuffed with black beans, plantains, and cotija cheese—from the Caracas Arepas food cart.
Sometimes, when I discover something new, I get kinda pissed off that it took so long for me to find it. This exact thing happened with the aforementioned falafel, nearly 20 years ago at the same festival.
I get a little fixated on certain things, and this little maize pocket of goodness is no exception. So, I set about recreating this “simple”, homey, delectable delight—I quoted simple because it only has three ingredients, but it needs to be perfect.
I spotted the flour on the bottom shelf at Woodman’s and my eyes lit up like a kid’s on Christmas morning. I had pictured looking for one of those little boxes of polenta, but A WHOLE POUND?! Do you even KNOW how many arepas that will produce?! I don’t, actually. But I know it’ll be a lot.
I let a couple of weeks go by cuz I like to ruminate over some things (and elope to Mexico over others) and then decided it was time to dive in. I whipped up a batch of Braulio’s beans and got to work searching YouTube for instructions. I found The Frugal Chef and her arepas video. Water, a little salt, and flour. “Simple.”
I don’t have an action shot of me making the patties, cuz it takes two hands, but it’s important not to overwork the dough cuz that makes them less fluffy inside and then they won’t want to become pockets (you’ll see my solution to this shortly).
I pulled out my Green Pan griddle (holy crap, it’s more than twice the cost now) and let some butter dance around on it before gently placing these cakes of wonderfulness onto the surface.
After a short while—probably five minutes—I flipped them and put some more butter down in case Side A soaked it all up. Side B should look roughly like the above, and if done correctly, you should be able to slice it crossways and stuff it with beans. This batch turned out a little close-textured (as Mary Berry might condescend), so instead of putting the beans inside, I simply plated them on top! Problem solved. I’m not letting a little overworked dough get in the way of putting these in my face.
Top with cotija cheese and dig in.
Since I will never tire of Mexican or Hispanic foods, I thought I ought to throw together some Elotes.
Wisconsin’s corn on the cob season was quickly drawing to a close, but we were still able to grab a few ears. My intention was to grill them on the, well, grill… but, it wasn’t a beautiful summer evening (in fact, it was a freezing fall night), and fixing up the grill for corn seemed too much work. So, I used the next best thing: a gas stove!
Five roasted cobs later, I carefully sliced the kernels off into a bowl. A bowl already prepared with Mexican crema, mayonnaise, cotija, and Chili powder. Stir it up, throw in a little salt and pepper, and serve.
Elotes y Arepas
Tasty, corny, and very much worth the effort*.*This recipe does not include ingredients or instructions for whatever you want to put in, on, or around your arepas.
Roast the cobs either on the grill or gas stovetop until an appropriate amount of grill marks appear. Stand a cob on one end and slice the kernels off from top to bottom, leaving none behind. Repeat until cobbed out.
While the cobs are roasting, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl.
Stir in kernels and pop into the fridge to cool.
In a large bowl, dilute the salt into the warm water. Gradually add flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is pliable enough to use your hands. Mix with hands, being careful to not overwork the dough. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Make a ball with the dough and work between hands to form a patty—mix oil and water in a bowl to coat your hands to keep the dough from sticking—keeping the edges smooth.
Heat a griddle and melt butter. Put patties on the griddle until golden brown spots appear on one side. Keep flipping until both sides are nice and golden.
Slice and stuff with your favorite anything and eat it like a sandwich. Alternatively, top with that same anything and eat it with a fork. Adiós!
Seitan isn’t for the faint of heart; nor the gluten-intolerant. It’s made from wheat gluten, the endosperm of the wheat berry, to be precise. Wheat gluten is chock full of protein and, when cooked, makes a really nice meaty substitute. You can also use it as a binder for vegetarian meatballs or meatloaf. Maybe I’ll put that on the “To Make” list.
My favorite seitan recipe comes from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day. I made quite a few modifications, both because I wanted to be able to publish the recipe and because it’s not gyro-specific.
The one thing I miss from eating four-legged-meats 100 years ago is a Zorba’s gyro (they were waaaay better than Parthenon’s). The peppery meat constantly turning and dripping and shaved to order onto an olive-oily pita, topped with onions that were too big, lots of tomatoes, and dripping with tzatziki sauce. Of course, the fries were required to soak up the drips. One barely needed any ketchup.
Anyhoo. Seitan! It’s some wheat gluten, nooch, a little bitta chickpea flour and lots of yummy seasonings. I didn’t take pictures of this process because, well, it’s not very photogenic.
Once the seitan is done and cooled (a process that takes 8 hours to cook and about the same to cool), you slice it up and grill it in a pan. I ended up squirting it with Bragg’s Aminos, which provides the saltiness that soy sauce has, but it’s “better for you”.
While that’s cooking or even the day before, the tzatziki sauce can be prepped (most things are better after sitting around in the fridge for a while). I used a small container of fat-free Fage Greek yogurt, a little bit of cucumber, dried and minced garlic, and some lemon juice.
Chop an onion and a tomato and heat the pitas over the burner and you’ve got yourself a delicious facsimile of a Zorba’s gyro. Minus the yelling and grease.
In a large bowl, combine the flours and nutritional yeast.
Put everything else (except the broth) into a food processor and combine.
Mix the spices into the dry ingredients and add the 1 1/4 cus of broth to mix everything together. If it's too wet, add more gluten, if it's too dry, add more broth.When it's all combined, make it into a loaf-shape and wrap with cheesecloth to keep it that way. Place into a slow cooker and cover with the remaining 6 cups of broth. Cook on low for 8 hours. Let it cool in the broth.
Mix everything together. Let it rest.
Slice the seitan into meatly shapes and cook in a grill pan over medium until it's crispy on the edges. Spritz with Bragg's Aminos for color and salt.
Heat the pitas in a toaster oven or on the stovetop. Assemble with seitan first, sauce, onions, tomatoes. Serve with extra napkins.
My neighbor just got a bunch of really nice landscaping done on the side of her house that I can’t see. The other night, she brought me over to show me all the basil and mint and thyme and wonderfulness that she had put in. It’s not all edible, but most of it is.
Anyway, she said, “take all the basil you want!” referring to a holy basil bush that was roughly the size of a kitchen table. I said that I would because I was seeing my mom for brunch the next day and she loves holy basil. Well, apparently, mom has enough of it, too.
This morning, I got a text that neighbor had left some on the back porch. I replied that I looked forward to turning it into pesto.
After 136 years of picking leaves off stems, I ended up filling the 2 qt. Pampered Chef mixing bowl.
I cleaned up a bit and assessed the pesto ingredient needs, pulling the lemon juice, pine nuts, and parm out of the fridge. I decided to use EVOO instead of another fancy oil. I popped three garlic cloves off the head and peeled them.
Since the food processor will be busy making swift work of the basil and pine nuts, it’s best if you use the smaller side of the cheese grater for the parm.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any action shots because I was mostly worried about how I was going to get all of this pesto made without it taking another 136 years.
I scooped two loose handfuls into the Hamilton Beach 8 Cup Food Processor, sprinkled some lemon juice, tossed in a garlic clove, poured in about 1/8th of a cup of pine nuts, and did a swoosh of oil. These steps were repeated three times until I ran out of basil and did one last spin with salt and pepper added.
I haven’t made pesto in a long time, and don’t care at all for the jarred variety (it’s too oily and salty). This turned out, if I may say so, perfect.
Added bonus: it was exactly enough to fill one of my silicone ice cube trays.
Before I cleaned off the cutting boards, I harvested enough basil seeds to plant next year with our bucket tomatoes.