Wednesday, March 28, 2012


My mysterious, tough, and handsome roommate R's parents are in town this week, so we did a family dinner this past Sunday.  He grilled up some fish tacos, I contributed some homemade oreos... and the other guys mostly ate food off of our work surface when I wasn't looking.  It all made for the loveliest of evenings :-).
I started the day planning on making a vegan fig tart with a pear and red wine cream.  How did that progress to homemade oreos you ask?  Well, apparently figs aren't in season (which I should have known) and there are none to be found in the Bay Area.  So the only logical conclusion was to make a dessert whose main ingredients are butter and chocolate.

Oh, that isn't the most logical conclusion?  Well don't judge, because it was the decision I made.  And oh boy, it was a delicious decision.  This is the infamous Thomas Keller Oreo recipe that consists of a chocolate shortbread cookie made from high quality cocoa powder with white chocolate ganache sandwiched in-between.  The dough took a little bit of love to come together, but once it did, it turned into this sultry, uber chocolatey business... whose flavor I BARELY tasted while baking, nope... not even a bite.  I wasn't really interested in the buttery chocolate mess that covered my hands.  Nope, not me.  Lucky for me, while rolling the dough out, my wild-eyed and unwashed roommate M (who hadn't slept more than 4 hours in 2 days) came crawling in and eagerly stuffed this dough into his unshaven face.  So with him as my taste tester, I confidentially put the chocolate shortbread cookies in the oven.

In walks my jovial but special (also my partner in all beignet related crimes) roommate N, to assist with both the post-baking taste testing and with the disposal of the excess dough (he is taking a pottery class that came in handy).

I allowed the chocolate shortbread to cool, and then piped the white chocolate ganache between two cookies.  If you can get through this whole recipe without losing at least 6 cookies worth of dough, then I commend you (and that is with or without living with 3 male engineers).  Another thought, kindly put forth by tall, dark, and handsome R's mom, was that this dough would make a delicious pie crust... genius!  I'm thinking filling it with some sort of banana coconut business?

Thomas Keller's Oreo
  • 1/2 heavy cream
  • 8 oz white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpous flour 
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baked soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks and brought to room temperature 

For the filling

  1. Bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate.
  3. Allow to sit for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and incorporated.
  5. Place in refrigerator while you make the cookies.

For the cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Work in the butter, one chunk at a time until it forms a dough.
    • I did this by hand, and it ended up taking a while... so don't be alarmed if at first it is a crumbly mess... just keep working it!
  4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into two balls.
  5. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick.
  6. Cut out the cookies with a 2 inch cookie cutter.
    • Confession: I don't own any cookie cutters, so I used the rim of a wine glass.
  7. Transfer the cookies to baking sheet.
  8. Repeat this for the second ball of dough, and then again for any scrap pieces.
  9. Bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool on sheet for about 5 minutes, for the cookies will be very fragile at this point.
  11. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool.

To assemble

  1. Lay out half off the cookies with the bottom side up.
  2. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator and whip to fluff up and then transfer to piping bag.
  3. Top each bottom with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the filling.
  4. Top with another cookie and press lightly to disperse filling.
  5. I suggest popping them in the refrigerator for a few before serving, to allow the filling to set up again.
  6. Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Food Photography Class

I had the pleasure of attending a food photography class with the folks over at Digital Media Playground this past weekend.  The class was given by the wonderful Danielle Tsi, of Beyond the Plate.  I skipped in with my point-and-shoot camera and three month old blog, and they were so encouraging and helpful.  It made for a great day of playing with light, composition, and food with some great people!
I really learned where my strengths and weaknesses are.  Another big take away?  I need to get a new camera.  It is something I have been thinking about, but didn't want to drop the money... but I think I have taken my photography as far as my point-and-shoot will allow.  Either way, I can't wait to keep playing and practicing on my own.  I will keep you updated on my camera purchase, and for now... enjoy some pictures from the class!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stinging nettle risotto stuffed portobello mushroom and some science

One of my goals in this cooking adventure is to get a little more technical with my cooking and a little more fancy with my plating.  Furthermore, I like trying to pick up random produce at the farmers market and see what I can make with it.  Today's post is going to include all of the above.  I played with stinging nettles, sauces, and plating.  And honestly, I am so proud of myself!  It was not only gorgeous, but it was beyond delicious.  Today was a bit of a rough day, so when I got home I had to channel some energy somewhere, and I felt much better taking a step back and looking at this beautifully tasty dish.
Stinging nettles are a leafy green with a flavor like that of spinach.  But here is the catch, they are covered in needle like spikes that inject histamine into you when you touch them.  Ouch.  On the flip side, they are super healthy, and have traditionally been appreciated for its medicinal powers.  It has a really high protein content and can act as an anti-inflammatory agent... of course along with all of the other good things that come with being a green leafy vegetable (vitamin A, C, iron, calcium).
Raw stinging nettles... they look so unassuming!
So i'm going to use this to go off on a little bit of a science/philosophical tangent (this is something you can expect more of... so hold on).  Our world is rich with natural medicines.  I could start by quoting Hippocrates ("Let food be thy medicine...") or Edison ("The doctor of the future will no longer cure the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.")... but I would be here all day quoting people, because turns out that people have known this to be true for a long time.  It is only recently that we have become obsessed with removing ourselves from nature, and furthermore holding ourselves over nature.  Today, while listening to a professor speak, she was talking about how scientists often discover something, and think they are so brilliant... only to find out nature has been doing it for a long time.  We have this idea in our head that we can beat nature.  But is that really a noble cause?

I would much rather help prevent someone from getting sick in the first place, than treat them once they are sick (although that certainly isn't to say that I don't want to help people once they are sick).  Similarly, wouldn't you rather not get sick in the first place, than to get sick... but have a cure for it?  Most of the diseases that afflict the civilized world today are newcomers.  I am here to show you that it doesn't take any work at all really to put yourself in the "not getting sick" category.  Our environment has changed a lot in the last 10,000 years (a blink of an eye, really), but that isn't nearly enough time for us to change... so our bodies are at a bit of a discord with our modern environment.  Roughly 70% of what we currently eat would have never been available to humans before agriculture and the industrial revolution.  This includes dairy, refined sugars, processed oils, fatty meats, many cereals... not to mention the huge uptick in salt content.  Our bodies, and the microbes that live in our gut, literally don't know what to do with a lot of this stuff.  I think a good rule of thumb, is that if you can't recognize the food source of what you are eating... then maybe it isn't a great thing to put in your body.

Now, don't take this as a slam against science... it isn't that at all... it is more of a campaign for nature, and how I wish science and nature could work more closely.  To bring this discussion back to food, do yourself a favor and take joy in the bounty that nature has provided for us.  I hope that through this blog, I can provide you with simple and convenient ways to do so.  Even this next recipe, while it may look fancy and unapproachable... it was a simple Wednesday night dinner for me... and I hope it can be for you too!      


  • 1 portobello mushroom, stem and gills removed
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 bunch stinging nettles (I bought a bag at the farmers market, and dumped the whole bag in)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • water
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

To prepare the mushroom:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put portobello mushroom in a ziplock bag with rosemary, salt, pepper, and a dash of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Place portobello mushroom on baking sheet and put in oven for 10 minutes.

To prepare the risotto:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Dump stinging nettles into water (DO NOT TOUCH THEM).
  3. Blanch the nettles for about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Drain, remove stems, and give a rough chop.
  5. Heat the oil in a large pot.
  6. Add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant.
  7. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until it begins to become translucent.
  8. Add the white wine and stir until it has evaporated/been absorbed.
  9. Continue adding the stock, ladleful at a time, until the rice is cooked, but still has a bite.
    • Add the nettles when about half of the stock has been added.

To prepare the cashew cream:

  1. Place the cashews, rosemary, garlic, and a pinch of salt and then just enough water to cover the cashews in a blender and blend until it has a smooth and creamy consistency. 

To put the whole thing together:

  1. Turn oven down to 350.
  2. Fill the mushroom with as much risotto as will fit without spilling out.
  3. Place the whole thing back in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer stuffed mushroom to plate, and dot the cashew cream around it and drizzle some over the top.
  5. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A beet allergy is no laughing matter.

Waitress: "Now, does anyone at the table have any food allergies that I should know about?"
Boy (with panicked look, said in his head): "Please no, please no... don't do it Alex, this is a nice restaurant."
Me: "Umm, yes, I actually have a meat allergy."
Waitress: "Oh!  Well I don't think we have any on the line tonight, maybe in a garnish... I will make sure to keep it away from your meal."
Waitress: "Here is your crusted tofu dish, EXTRA BEETS, tee hee!"
<Insert confused look between boy and I>

So I do this thing that the boy hates (comes right after loving him too much on the con list).  Sometimes, when I don't feel like talking about being a vegetarian, but I want to be assured that no meat will come anywhere near my food... I will say that I have a meat allergy.  Another gem was when I told this to our waiter at a fancy french restaurant, and when he responded with, "Is that a real allergy?," I quickly assured him, "Umm, I carry an epi pen!  Ask him!"

I really am a treat sometimes.
Peeled beets are so pretty!
Now, I tell you all of this because beets made their way into my farmers market bounty this past week (Gasp!  No one was there to protect me from their allergy ridden ways... :-/).  I hemmed and hawed about what to do with them.  I had an assortment of ideas, but when my mom suggested I do borscht, I figured a nice nod to the Eastern European half of my heritage would be appropriate.  I had also picked up some carrots and cabbage at the farmers market, so I was well on my way.  Some internet searching taught me that borscht recipes are vast and varied, so I tried to extract the key flavors and then made the best with what I had.  Those flavors are beets (or dirt, as my roommate told me), cabbage, and vinegar.
Done and done.

Russian Approved Vegan Borscht       

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 medium beets, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large carrot, chopped (or a few smaller ones)
  • 1 medium potato, cleaned and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 small head of cabbage, sliced (I used a mandolin)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large pot.
  2. Add the onion and garlic, sauté until the onion is soft.
  3. Add the remaining vegetables.
  4. Meanwhile, heat up vegetable stock.
  5. Continue sautéing vegetables for about 5 minutes, then add warmed vegetable stock and bay leaves.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
    • (I had some remaining veggie meat balls in my freezer from the Italian Wedding Soup, so I threw those in the pot with 10 minutes left)
  7. Add the vinegar, and then salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve immediately and piping hot.
  9. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rainy days are made for baking

Wait, did I say baking?  I mean working...  Because that is what I did today... ya.... worked.

I "worked from home" today (wait, I thought you were a scientist... how do you do that from home?).  We all know working from home isn't a thing.

But in all seriousness, I have to give a lecture to an undergraduate human nutrition and disease class on the gut microbiome and diet (google it, super interesting) in a few weeks, and need to have a rough draft of it by Friday. So I figured if I was just going to be reading papers and working on a power point, I could do that from the comfort of my couch while watching the rain over San Francisco with my fuzzy babies snuggled up next to me.  Oh ya, it has been raining for 2 days straight here with no sign of letting up.  Awesome.

However, the rain isn't particularly conducive to wanting to do work.  It is more conducive to baking.  So that is what I did.

My lovely roommate had eaten a green tea donut somewhere a few months ago, and texted me about it, emphatically insisting that we try making them sometime.  Luckily, my lovely sister gave me a mini donut pan for Christmas a couple of years back.  I immediately fell in love.  Every donut making experience has been such a joy, both to make and to eat, and the donuts have always been a big hit whenever I take them somewhere.  So far I have done vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin spice, and apple cider.  Now to add green tea to the list!  I picked up some matcha powder a little while back and today was the day for it to make its way into some mini donuts.
Now, after much searching, there just don't seem to be any recipes for green tea donuts out there.  Much less vegan ones.  So I started with a somewhat basic baked mini donut recipe, veganized it, and then matchaized it (that last one isn't a word...).  I bestow upon you a delicious recipe for vegan green tea baked mini donuts!

Green Tea Donuts
Baked.  Vegan.  Mini
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons baked powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons green tea powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 dairy-free "butter"
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • mini donut pan

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix the ground flax seed with water and set aside for a few minutes.
  3. Mix together all of the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the remaining wet ingredients to the flax seed.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until combined.
  6. Transfer ingredients to ziplock bag and cut the corner off, creating a make-shift pastry bag.
  7. Pipe the batter into the donut pan, one generous swirl per donut, filling it about 3/4 full.
  8. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until all of the batter is used (makes 36 mini donuts).
  10. Eat at least 6 immediately.
  11. Enjoy!

Optional (I did this for half of the batch and actually prefer it like this): 
  • Dunk(in) donuts (like that Boston reference?) in melted "butter" and then toss in sugar with a few dashes of green tea powder.


Monday, March 12, 2012


Per the suggestion of one of my bests, I created a twitter account for this blog:!/Vegwithacause

I have no idea how to use twitter (I am such a grandma), but please follow me and help me get the word out about my culinary creations!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I really outdid myself this time...

Ok, I'm going to get straight to the point here.  This morning I made brunch, and I served eggs benedict on cornbread with a chipotle hollandaise.  Did you hear me?  Eggs benedict on cornbread with a chipotle hollandaise.  Do I even have to tell you about the euphoric state that was my mouth upon the first bite of this bad larry?

As I alluded to a couple of posts ago, I had big brunch plans this weekend.  Big.  I planned my menu, loaded up on some groceries from Berkeley Bowl, and invited some friends/taste-testers over.  One of my taste-testers is a raw foodist and another is allergic to eggs (what needy friends she has!  I know, you're telling me... Is she going to continue with these parenthetical conversations with herself? Probably...), so I also whipped up, in my humble opinion, some pretty awesome raw taco boats with a chipotle cashew cream.  I should note that these were a big hit across the board: enjoyed by carnivores, vegetarians, and raw foodists alike.  I should also note that I plan on putting this cashew cream on everything.  It was simply amazing.  The texture was that of the love child of silk and kool whip.  The flavor was slightly nutty and coated your mouth luxuriously.
There was also this guest, who did a good job babysitting Bianca while we ate.
This feast was then rounded out by some fruit salad with fresh flowers, rosemary garlic roasted potatoes, and freshly juiced orange/pineapple/carrot/ginger juice.  Like I said, I really out did myself.

Eggs Benedict with a Chipotle Hollandaise on Cornbread

For the eggs benedict, I went off of recipes I have already posted.  So go here for the basic eggs benedict, here for the vegan cornbread, and make with the following modifications:

  • Chipotle hollandaise: add 1 tablespoon canned chipotle in adobo sauce to the finished hollandaise sauce.

Can you even handle how good this looks?!

Raw Taco Boats with Chipotle Cashew Cream
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • water
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 bunch radishes, tops/bottoms removed and diced
  • Corn kernels freshly shaved off of 1 ear of corn
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 head romaine lettuce hearts

Chipotle Cashew Cream
  1. THE NIGHT BEFORE: cover the cashews in water, cover, and place in refrigerator overnight.
  2. Drain the cashews.
  3. Throw cashews, lemon juice, and chipotle in a blender, add enough water to just cover the cashews.
  4. Blend on high for about 5 minutes until it has a super smooth and creamy texture.
  5. Season with salt to taste.

Taco Boats

  1. Mix together the remaining ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Spoon mixture into romaine hearts, using the lettuce as your shell.
  3. Drizzle chipotle cashew cream on top.
  4. Get messy and eat with your hands, just like a taco!

Rosemary Garlic Roasted Potatoes
  • 1 pound marbled potatoes of various colors, quartered
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Toss the potatoes with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Spread out in singe layer in baking dish and cover with tin foil.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Remove tin foil, stir, and return to oven for additional 30 minutes.
Fruit Salad with Fresh Flowers

You don't really need a recipe for this.  Toss together your favorite fruits and throw in a package of edible flowers, if available.  Today I used blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, mango, and banana.

This meal concluded with many full and happy bellies.  Another plus is that pretty much all of this can be made ahead, with the exception of the hollandaise, but that takes all of 5 minutes to whip up.  All of these things certainly don't have to be made together, so don't be too intimidated by the length of this post!  But please, be sure that at least one of these things makes their way into your mouth ASAP, you will not regret it!   

Every dish was basically licked clean.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

As promised, a vegified classic southern gumbo

The south isn't very veg friendly.  Because of that, I didn't get to enjoy any traditional gumbos during my brief jaunt in New Orleans (I legit only ate beignets for 2 days straight).  I was going to buy a Louisiana cookbook to play with, but then I realized it would be a waste of money, for most of the recipes were meat based.  BUT, I can be reealllll sneaky, so I snapped a few iPhone photos of some veg recipes (ummm, that isn't called being sneaky, it's called stealing... ya, tomatoes/tomatos, or however you spell that phrase...).  The first southern classic to grace my stove was a Shrimp and Okra Gumbo (wait, she eats shrimp?!  Hypocrite!).  Oh, and by shrimp, I mean this vegan shrimp substitute that I recently discovered.  The book gives this description:

"Shrimp & Okra Gumbo is one of the most delicious, most popular dishes ever created for a cold winter day in south Louisiana."

Well, it was a little chilly in Berkeley the last couple of days... so why not.

I will warn you, the ingredient list is a tad lengthy, and it is a big time commitment (think on the scale of hours).  However, it gives the kitchen this wonderfully spicy aroma and will feed an army for a week.  This gumbo is the definition of hearty, I am stuffed after only a small bowl of it.  It is chock full of vegetables and flavor, and the okra is what gives it the stewy consistency.  Oh how I wish you could try it, its a spicy stew with fake shrimp (ok, and vegetables... you know how I like to do that), you would love it!

Vegan Shrimp and Okra Gumbo
Adapted from a book that I don't remember the name of, but it was legit.

  • 1 package (8 oz) vegan shrimp (see link above), cut in thirds
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cayenne
  • 1 pound okra (I used 1 package of frozen okra), cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced thin
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable stock concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Dashes to taste of hot sauce (I used a bunch of this spicy concoction I bought in Nola)
  • 1 tablespoon+ of dijon mustard
  • Parsley, fresh and chopped for garnish
  • Hot cooked barley (I made 1 cup dry barley + 2 cups water in my rice cooker)

  1. Combine the "shrimp" with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the okra and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, green onions, bay leaf, vegetable stock, and white vinegar. 
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the water, paprika, hot sauce, and mustard.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  7. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  8. Add the "shrimp" and cook for 30 more minutes
  9. Serve over barley and garnish with parsley.
  10. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Raw broccoli salad

My body needed to do some serious recovering from the weekend.  So Monday I vowed to eat only fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  Ok, after I ate my heavy first class breakfast, that is.  Lunch consisted of some almonds and dried apricots, and then dinner was this light but filling and delicious broccoli salad.  I don't have too much to say about it, for I would prefer you use your reading time reading about my trip to New Orleans :-).  But if that last post had you craving some pretty unhealthy stuff, I also wanted to post this so you had something to balance it out!

Considering I threw this together with what produce I had left in my refrigerator, I was pretty impressed with the outcome.  The marinating of the broccoli softens it a little bit, but you still have the crunch from the apple and then the moistness of the tomatoes.  The vinaigrette is tangy and delicious and brings it all together.

Raw Broccoli Salad
  • 1 crown of broccoli
  • 1 chunk of a head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt pepper 
  • 1/2 apple
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes

  1. Using a mandoline, slice up the broccoli and cauliflower.
  2. Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard.  While still whisking, slowly add in the olive oil.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss the broccoli and cauliflower in the vinaigrette and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, julienne the apple and halve the cherry tomatoes.
  6. Mix together the crucifers with the apple and tomatoes.
  7. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Beignet Overload

Picture this:  It is a quiet Wednesday evening, and you are enjoying dinner (specifically, the last dinner that was posted here) with a roommate.  You are chatting about his upcoming trip to New Orleans to meet up with some family, when he says, "Gosh, I don't know why I didn't think of this before... but you should come!  Look up what a last minute ticket would cost!"

Well that scenario is exactly how my Wednesday evening played out...and $5 and some United miles later, and I had myself a ticket to New Orleans for the weekend!

Now, anyone who knows me will say, "But you don't eat meat or really drink that much... what are you going to do in New Orleans?"  Well, my friends, the answer to that is, "Eat my weight in beignets.  Every. Day."  The likelihood of me developing diabetes this past weekend was pretty high, but alas, I survived.

Our trip started with a visit to the famous Cafe Du Monde.  It is a bumping coffee stand filled with locals and tourists alike being served up beignets and coffee and chicory by these Vietnamese beignet angels in a cloud of powdered sugar.
Here, the 4 of us consumed 8 orders of beignets.  Now for some math: 1 order contains 3 beignets... multiplied by 8... divided by 4... comes to 6 beignets per person.  The waitress looked at us in horror when we ordered our second round.  They are that good.  Beignets are basically fried dough.  They are a completely soft, a little chewy, warm, covered in powdered sugar heaven in your mouth.  I am in love.      
We stumbled around New Orleans in a fat and sugar induced coma the rest of the day.
Scenes around Jackson Square, New Orleans
That night we took on Bourbon Street.  Or rather, Bourbon Street took on us.  I think in the end we won, but it was touch and go there for a while.  Bourbon street is like nothing I have seen before.  You can buy a drink at one bar, then wander the streets with your drink, and then go into the next bar with your drink still in hand.  I didn't actually drink at all, but it was still fun to be a spectator!  Although, since I didn't drink... I don't have much of an explanation as to how I ended up on stage rapping at a karaoke bar... hmmm...
Bourbon Street by day and night.
We needed a good brunch to get us going on Sunday, so we stopped at Cafe Adelaide.  We got a southern version of eggs benedict: poached eggs on biscuits with a creole mustard hollandaise served with a lima bean succotash.  Holy mother of deliciousness, why didn't I think of this sooner?!  The tender, flaky, moist biscuits just soaked right up the delicious hollandaise and egg yolk.  Also, turns out succotash is delicious. My own twist on a southern eggs benedict will be coming to a food blog near you this weekend :-). 
The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, so we took the opportunity to stroll about the Garden District and look at all the mansions.  We then headed back to the French Quarter to do some more shopping and such.
Of course I couldn't leave New Orleans without another dose of beignets.  This time, we tried Cafe Beignet.  They were also delicious, and they were enjoyed while sitting outside surrounded by tropical plants listening to jazz music.
I took a 6 am flight back to San Francisco yesterday, on which I was upgraded to first class!  Turns out I really do prefer flying first class... I was served breakfast and then curled up in my oversized recliner and slept like a baby until the captain announced we were making our final descent into SFO.

So there you have it, my trip to New Orleans in a nutshell.  May it not be the last :-)!

Two things can be expected here this week: vegetarian versions of southern food... and vegetable dishes to counteract both my weekend and my continued obsession with southern food.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A friendly PSA and some simple cooking

Let me start by taking you back a few months to a trip to the Indian grocer I made with my dear Indian roommates.  I was on a mission to find cilantro chutney and pickled lime.  So there I was, happily skipping down the isles, an Indian bounty in my basket, when my said dear Indian roommates see an innocent can of jackfruit and begin to exclaim about it's deliciousness.  I, being open to new things, threw a can in my basket.  I promptly went home and put it in the back of my cabinet, where it remained for many months.  In the meantime, I had come across a few recipes highlighting jackfruit, specifically for it's "meaty" texture.  I excitedly dusted off my can and settled on a jackfruit coconut curry.  I eagerly began preparing it a couple (2, to be exact) of nights ago... some indian spices, many vegetables, jackfruit, coconut milk, and then some quinoa in the rice cooker.  It was going to be glorious.  I could see the post then, about how I have discovered this magical jackfruit and how many things I was going to make with it...
The devil. Canned.
That is until midnight of that night when I woke up doubled over in pain.  Horrendous pain.  I took a couple antacids and tried to go back to sleep, but no luck.  While awake, I couldn't fight this sneaking suspicion that the jackfruit was the culprit, since it was the only new thing I was exposed to.  I began googling "jackfruit stomach..." and google filled in "ache" for me... hmmm.  Long story short: APPARENTLY IT IS A THING.  Apparently some people can't tolerate it all, others can only eat it in moderation... and one should never eat too much of it?!?!?!  Why did no one mention this in all of those recipes glorifying jackfruit?!  It could have gone something like "entrée: heavenly jackfruit clouds served on a bed of money... dessert: crippling stomach ache."  Just a thought.  Anyways, avoid jackfruit.  And as a friend of mine said, "what can I say, not everyone can handle jackfruit."

After that experience, I wasn't feeling terribly adventurous last night.  I didn't want to experiment.  I didn't want to play with flavor.  I just wanted some honest to goodness simple eats.  I had some cauliflower and brussels sprouts in my crisper and a variety of grains in my pantry.  Deal.  I set the oven to preheat while I tossed the leftovers of my jackfruit curry and got to breaking down the crucifers.  A little salt, pepper, olive oil, and love later... I sat down to a simple, clean, healthy meal.

Garlic Roasted Cauliflower
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • italian seasoning

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Cut cauliflower into bite-size florets. 
  3. In a bowl, toss the florets with a drizzle of olive oil, garlic, a shake of italian seasoning, a couple shakes of salt, and a crack of pepper.
  4. Spread out evening on sheet pan.
  5. Place in oven for 10 minutes, stir, and return to oven for 15 more minutes.
  6. At this point in time, if it so fancies you, stir in some parmigiano. 
  7. Enjoy!

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • However many brussels sprouts you feel like eating
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt 
  • pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Remove the base and outer leaves from brussels sprouts.
  3. Quarter each sprout.
  4. Toss in bowl with drizzle of olive oil, drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a shake of salt, and a crack of pepper.
  5. Spread out evenly on sheet pan.
  6. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes.

Harvest Grains
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Handful of white button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 scant cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Mix

  1. Heat olive oil in small sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add mushrooms to pan.
  3. Saut?é for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms start to give up their juices.
  4. Deglaze the pan with white wine.
  5. Turn heat to high and allow the white wine to reduce.
  6. Add vegetable stock to pan and bring to a boil.
  7. Add the grain mix, stir, return to a simmer, and cover.
  8. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, until the grains have absorbed all of the liquid.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put a healthy serving of each on a plate, and enjoy!