Recipe: Hot and Sour Soup

This is a lighter, vegan take on the Hot and Sour soup you get at Chinese restaurants. It’s a bit spicy, a bit tart from a shot of rice vinegar at the end, and AMAZING for anything that ails you. I tend to make this for friends when they have colds; it’s also nice for a quick dinner on a winter’s night.

The veggies you put in this soup are entirely up to you; the only thing that’s important is the woodear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, garlic and carrots. Aside from that, I’ve used zucchini, broccoli, snow peas, and many other veggies.

For about four people, start with:

  • 1–2 big cloves of garlic
  • 1 carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 small can of bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 block of firm tofu, cut into smallish chunks or 1/4-inch thick slices
  • any other veggies you want in there

Sauté these in a wok with vegetable oil until the garlic starts to pop, then add:

  • 1 quart veggie stock (I make my own, but Kitchen Basics also works)
  • Rooster Sauce (Vietnamese chili-garlic paste, which has chunks in it, or Sriracha, which is smooth) to taste
  • 1 handful of woodear mushrooms (you can get these at any Asian market)

Turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until mushrooms are rehydrated and carrots are soft. Before serving, add

  • 1-2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (to taste).

Serve on its own, or with rice.

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is based on the “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipe in Cook’s Illustrated (May/June 2009), with some modifications. Personally, I prefer a cookie with less sugar than most, so be aware that these are not overly sweet; also, the bit of rye flour is important, because it gives them a lovely texture.

Start with:

  • 1/4 cup rye flour
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (you can buy it at Whole Foods, or take rolled oats and work them through a clean coffee grinder, or Vitamix)
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp chunky salt (Fleur de Sel is nice, but kosher salt will do just fine. Just don’t do something like Morton’s Table Salt. You want the occasional crunchy bite of salt in the cookie)

Sift all of these together in a bowl and let sit. Then, in a sauté pan, melt

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter

and swirl until the butter starts to brown (about 1-3 minutes). Transfer the butter into a largish glass bowl and add

  • another 4 tbsp unsalted butter

into the browned butter, and whisk until everything’s melted. Now, add:

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg (optional) OR
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper and a dash of cinnamon (optional)

Whisk this together until it’s fully incorporated, then add:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk

and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Let it sit for 3 minutes, then whisk for another 30 seconds, then let sit again for 3 minutes, then whisk another 30 seconds. For those counting, that’s whisk for 30 seconds 3 times, with 3 minutes between each whisking episode. The mixture should be smooth, thick and shiny, similar to melted caramel sauce.

Add the flour mixture slowly, and stir everything together with a rubber spatula until it just comes together (about 1 minute). Then add

1-1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cups chopped nuts (if you like)

and mix everything together into a nice, lovely dough.

Now, you can drop them on a cookie sheet covered with a silicon sheet (or parchment paper), about a tablespoon at a time, and bake at 375°F for about 10-14 minutes until the edges are set, but the center’s still soft. Cool on a cookie rack and enjoy.

By the way, these also store really well as dough. Just roll them into balls, put them on a silicon-covered cookie sheet (flatten them a little bit so they’re easier to bake later), and pop them in the freezer until set. Then remove them from the cookie sheet and store in a gallon Ziploc in the freezer until you need them. When you’re ready to make them, bake at 375°F (or in a toaster oven on the “Bakery” setting) for 20–25 minutes.

Baked Beans

Every fall since childhood, I've watched my grandmother make these beans. When I was 18, and finally moved out into my own place, one of the first things I purchased for my kitchen was a bean pot. You can't find too many of them in stores anymore, but you can find them online at Amazon and a few other places. You don't need to spend more than about $20-30 to get a good one.  Amazon does have one that isn't too expensive. You want one that looks like this. You can also use a Le Creuset dutch oven with the cover, although you don't need to.

I make a big batch of these babies at least once a month from September to February. The molasses and mustard give it a nice complex flavor, and the apple gives it a bit more sweetness. Try them over a baked potato with just a bit of Gorgonzola or sharp cheddar. Or just as they are.

 

To make it: 

The recipe is pretty simple: soak about a cup and a half of beans overnight. I use a few different varieties, including Money and Calypso beans (available from a small grower here in MA), but I also use Dark Red Kidney beans quite often. 

When you're ready to make the beans, drain them and rinse them with cold water. In the beanpot, combine:
1/2 cup of molasses;
1/2 cup of brown sugar;
a heaping tablespoon of good stoneground mustard;
a pinch of salt and pepper;
one apple, quartered and cored;
one onion, peeled and quartered.

Pour the beans into the pot and give it a good stir, then cover with cold water and stir again. Cover the pot and bake it in a 350°F oven for about 6 hours, stirring about every hour or so, until beans are soft and most of the liquid has thickened into a sauce. You may need to add a bit of water during the cooking process; the beans should always be covered with water. Also, many recipes call for salt pork or some bacon; you can absolutely add that if you want to, but I never have, and the beans come out wonderful.

Pasta with tuna & roasted tomatoes, onions & garlic

It may seem foolish to turn on the oven in the middle of summer. Okay, actually, yes, it was foolish. But when you spend the day watching the Cooking Channel, and you come across this recipe which just happens to involve many things you already have in your pantry, and you get inspired... you can imagine where this goes.

This version is decidedly different, primarily because part of my all-day food-porn-fest involved watching Jamie Oliver do a fantastic episode of Jamie at Home that was all about onions, and we happened to get a big bunch of smallish red spring onions from our farm share. This, combined with about a pound of grape tomatoes that looked like they would go bad immediately if I didn't use them soon, led to the following adaptation.

The important things to note about this recipe are the following:

  • When I talk about "spring onions," I don't mean scallions, which are often referred to as spring onions. What I mean is the small, fresh onions that have long, scallion-like tops on them. You can find them at most farmer's markets, and they're DELICIOUS. They should have a small to medium sized bulb that gets bigger as the season moves forward.
  • Oil-packed tuna is very important in this recipe, as it has significantly more flavor than the water-packed variety. There's an Italian brand that I like, but the Trader Joe's oil-packed Yellowfin is what I used for this, and it was great.
To make it: 

Preheat the oven to about 350°F. In an oven proof skillet, combine:

  • 1 lb grape tomatoes, whole, or 1 lb halved cherry tomatoes
  • 3-4 smallish spring onions, cut in quarters or halves (depending on size - you want them about the size of a largish orange segment)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, whole (cut them in half if they're particularly large)

Dress with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and shake in the skillet to coat everything evenly. Put in the oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, shell and prep

  • about a pound of fava beans

To do this, you first want to snap off the top of the bean and drag the top down. There should be a string that goes along with the top of the strip, like a zipper. Pop the shell open and pop the beans out of the shell. Then you'll want to blanch the beans quickly (in the pasta water is fine) for about 30 seconds to a minute depending on the size of the beans. When they're done, immediately put them under cold water and pinch off the white skins of the beans, revealing the green loveliness underneath. Hold these aside, and put

  • about half a pound of pasta

into the boiling water. When the veggies have been roasting for about 30 minutes, check them; they should be a bit caramelized. If not, put them in for another ten minutes or so, but first add

  • a handful of oil-cured black olives (optional)
  • the fava beans (only if they aren't cooked - they should be soft, but not mushy)

When the pasta is done and the veggies are ready, drain the pasta and toss it into a bowl with the vegetables, the fava beans, and

  • a can of olive oil-packed tuna, drained
  • a handful of julienned basil
  • a healthy drizzle of balsamic vinegar

mix it all together and serve with a bit of feta cheese.

Cilantro/Coconut Pesto (ChimiChurri)

For two seasons now, we've gotten more cilantro than we can possibly imagine finding useful in our farm share. Last year, in an effort to figure out what to do with it, I made this sauce. Served over salmon or steak, it is impossibly tasty.

You make it pretty much the same way you would pesto - although you want it to turn out a bit more liquid than a pesto. The key to this is the acid - you want a bit of citrus and vinegar to cut the cilantro.

To make it: 

1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed

3 garlic scapes, chopped roughly

1/2 tsp good dried chiles (Aleppo or Chipotle work, although I used a Mediterranean pepper)

pinch of salt

juice of 1 orange

juice of 1 small lime

about 1 tbsp rice vinegar or red wine vinegar

1/4 cupish coconut oil

 

Put everything but vinegar and oil into a mini-chopper or food processor. Process everything until relatively smooth, then add coconut oil in a slow stream. Add vinegar towards the end to taste.

Serve over salmon or steak, but it's also amazing on chicken or tofu.