Pickled Chanterelles (Vegan)

Infographic: What are we pickling at 4 am? Mm-hm.

In my defense. Many of you are already well familiar with my chronic 4 am insomnia, which can nearly always be traced to a violent allergy attack, though sometimes I just wake up at 4 am for no particular reason, I guess out of sheer habit. According to my mother, this has been happening since before I could read. At this point in my life I am far beyond being angry or annoyed about it; I’d describe my attitude about it these days as existentially fatigued resignation. Mind you, this hasn’t always been the case. When I was young and restless and didn’t know any better, I used to get out of bed and write feverishly in my journal all night, or sneak out of the house to do god-knows-what (honestly, I don’t remember, but I’m sure it was nerdy and emo). Later in life, frustrated at the injustice of my plight, I would simply toss and turn, in vain hopes of returning to sleep (which wouldn’t ever happen until around 6:30 am, about a half hour before it was time for me to get up). In recent years, due to the advent of smart phones, I have become more zen and used those quiet solitary hours between 4 and 7 to read random things on the internet, which has helped me stay current on important topics like the feeding habits of deep-sea frilled sharks and the etymology of the ampersand.

In a strange new twist, however, the last several times I’ve woken up at 4 am, I have been overcome with the desire to cook something. Through the first few episodes I managed to resist the impulse, yielding to the voice in my head that said “Really? You know how nutty that sounds, right?” Ultimately, however, my urge to do something with the fresh chanterelles aging in my refrigerator won out. Hence, these pickled delights.

This recipe isn’t my invention; I gaffled it from Chez Pim, who adapted it from someone else. In any case, I stand by it as a great way to preserve your chanterelles or any mushrooms you might have on hand. Whip them up, chill overnight, and then serve them as a tapa, use them as a condiment with your favorite neutral entree, pile them on top of a sandwich, toss them into a salad, or just nom them alone.

Pickled Chanterelles (Vegan)

  • 1 lbs mushroom
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 tbsp whole coriandar seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1/4 c. golden raisins
  • 1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp  sea salt

Clean the chanterelles by brushing them or wiping them with a damp cloth. If they are super dirty, go ahead and just rinse them in cold water.  Pat them dry and cut them into medium pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the mushrooms to the pot and let boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.  With a slotted spoon, scoop them into a colander, being careful to leave any dirt that boiled off in the pan.  Run cold water over the mushrooms to stop them cooking, and leave them to drain.

Heat another pot on medium and add a bit of the olive oil. When the oil is hot,  add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring constantly, over medium to low heat until the shallots are translucent.  Add the pepper, coriandar, raisins, vinegar, olive oil, and salt.  Stir to blend and bring to a simmer.

Add the blanched mushrooms, stir to blend and remove from heat.  Transfer the mushroom into a glass or ceramic container.  Cover and let them rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using.

The Artist Formerly Known as Vegan Sonoma

Friends, family, beloved blog audience … You may have noticed it’s been quite a while since my last post. You may have wondered – was I just busy? Had I fallen off the blog wagon? Was I going through a period of writer’s block? Was I going through a period of chef’s block? As the silence continued, you may have felt a bit abandoned. You may have wondered how I could be so cold. I am so sorry to have put you through that. Sadly, however, I am afraid that some of you, when you learn the real reason for my distance, may feel even more betrayed. But I have to come clean. I can’t live a lie. It’s time you know the real reason I haven’t posted any new recipes, vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise.

Deep breath …

After I’m not even sure how many years of being vegetarian (and more recently, mostly vegan), J and I have made a huge and shocking lifestyle change. We have decided to include meat and animal products in our diet. There was one very big, very important, very good reason that we made this choice, which I will explain forthwith.

Whew! Feels good to get that out.

There are so many things we both have to say about the whole thing, due to the risk of losing you through the course of what is shaping up to be a rather long post, I’ll state my agenda, and if there’s a topic of particular interest to you, please feel free to jump ahead:


The reason?

Short story: cardiovascular health.

Long story: Two years ago we learned that J – fit, vegetarian, active, moderate J – had insanely high blood pressure. At rest, it would regularly exceed 170/100, spiking as high as 180/110 with fair frequency. As a med-tech copywriter who spends a great quantity of time reading, researching and writing about the connections between various health disorders and cardiovascular disease, you don’t have to say “hypertension” twice to have me flipping out and sermonizing about the importance of keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level. In case you haven’t heard my spiel, I’m here to tell you not to mess around with high blood pressure – it’s a significant first step toward a host of serious issues that should not be taken lightly. I have a particular beef about the fact that its ubiquity has led our society to develop a collective apathy and blasé attitude towards it. “You have high blood pressure? So do I, it’s no big deal.” Not cool, dude. You only get one heart and it has a lot of beats to perform over the course of your many long, happy years. You want that lifelong ultra-marathon of heartbeats to be an easy one, not an uphill battle. So if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, do something. Lose 5 lbs. Walk for 20 minutes every day. Eat more fiber and spinach and bananas and reduce your sodium intake. If you snore, get tested for sleep apnea – it’s a common cause. And if none of that works, take the bloody medication.

Or, if you’re vegan, try eating meat and cutting out carbs.Yep. I’ll explain.*

See, we know about every little thing under the sun you can do to lower your blood pressure without medication, in fact I could recite to you the average drops in mm HG associated with each diet or lifestyle change (e.g., daily exercise = 10+ point drop). We tried every last thing under the sun, and we were very dedicated, and nothing made a difference at all. But the thing is, J really didn’t want to take medication for the rest of his life. So we went about our lives, at slight loggerheads on occasion over our differing opinions on whether he should take medication or not, and over the past two years his blood pressure has stayed firmly planted in the red part of the chart, to both our great chagrin. Since I’m already rambling quite a bit, I won’t go off about how much anxiety, fear and frustration the situation has caused us both. Oh, and did I mention that J’s father died of a heart attack at age 60? Let’s just say the whole situation has been a source of major disquietude.

And then one day this summer, we met a guy who shared a phenomenal tale of losing more than 100 lbs in a very short period of time by adopting a high protein, low carb diet. Before even losing all the weight however, the diet immediately lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol and improved all the vitals that correspond to heart health. We were stunned and impressed. Not so much that we thought we should try it ourselves. Just impressed.

But then we kept thinking about it. And we started thinking about what our diet consisted of. And we started evaluating more critically the ratio of protein to carbs we were getting. And it became increasingly apparent that our diet was imbalanced. And we learned a lot of other things that I won’t bore you with, but all added together amounted to a compelling argument for considering eating meat. So, we took a deep breath and decided to give it a chance.

Results? Next blood pressure reading – 125/85

Within just 3 days, J’s next blood pressure reading was 125/85. Not only RADICALLY lower, but within a completely normal, healthy range. Since then, we’ve measured it regularly and it’s fluctuated and gone up sometimes, but the systolic has averaged towards 140 and the diastolic has stayed under 100. For those not familiar with blood pressure woes, these are significant improvements. Like, kind of unbelievable.

I’m not even going to speculate about why it worked – actually, I am, I think that protein deficiency may have lowered his red blood cell count which can cause high blood pressure – but whatever the case, it did. So. That was that. And now we’re omnivores.

Omnivores? Weird

Needless to say, it is very strange to be living with this new diet. After being vegetarian for most of my adult life, it’s a total identity crisis. Buying meat at the grocery store is such a foreign experience, it’s so surreal. And as I go about my culinary tasks, picking recipes, making grocery lists, choosing to make something that calls for butter and chicken, I feel like I’m doing something totally decadent and illicit, like playing hookie or drinking mimosas at brunch – like I just decided to relax, blow off the rules and let everything go. But I guess that’s kind of exactly what is happening.

Except we’re not blowing off the rules. We just have new rules. So I guess it’s kind of like moving from one culture to another, and now what once was taboo is standard, and what once was standard (in our case, grains) is now taboo. Very bizarre experience. Not without its good points, but there have been some ….

Unexpected consequences

Hey, remember me, the author and chef behind Vegan Sonoma? I think I was a fairly decent chef, if I may say so myself, and my beloved partner J was certainly very talented in the kitchen. How’d we get there? Oh, years of practice. Guess how many years of practice we have cooking meat between the two of us? Zero. So my sabbatical from the blog has been about more than just trying to figure out how to rename and re-purpose it, it’s been about the fact that I haven’t felt like I had any cooking expertise to share with anyone in the realm of the recipes I’ve been making lately. If you want to know how to get more flavor out of your mushrooms, I’m your lady. If you need advice on how to do the most basic thing with the most pedestrian cut of meat, I am going to slip quietly out the back door and go cry beside the barbecue. I have no idea what I’m doing. So what does that mean for my blog? Great question, one that I will answer momentarily, right after I complain about the biggest problem I’ve had …

Cooking meat makes my kitchen stink!

Mind you, I was never one of the vegetarians who gag at the smell of animal flesh. I grew up in Kansas, a land of smokehouses and outdoor grills a’plenty. These things don’t bother me. The once-pleasant aroma of chicken I baked three days ago loitering in my kitchen, however … it gives me a mini-barf every time I smell it. We’ve tried everything – opening windows and doors, burning candles, taking out the trash immediately, scrubbing the kitchen and the sink and everything else immediately – all for naught. What do I need to do, hose the place down with chlorox? JEEZ. I’d welcome anyone’s thoughts on how to combat that problem.

Meanwhile, what’s next for VS?

From the people we’ve come out to already about the meat-eating, one of the first questions has been, “Uh-oh, what about your vegan recipe blog?” And my response has been basically, “Umm, yeeeeeeaaaaaah … first I have to get over my own shock about eating meat, then I need to come out as a meat eater to my readers, then I will probably eventually start posting recipes again when I have something worthy of sharing, but first I need a new name, because I can’t live a double life.” So, here we are. Except I still don’t have a new name. Working on that. Ideas welcome.

As for you, my beloved readers … I know that you are a diverse mix of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and omnivores. Some of you will be happy about our lifestyle change (several of our friends have hugged us when they heard the news), some of you will not have an opinion one way or another, and some of you may be disappointed. For the latter category, all I can say is that we made the choice based on what we believe is best for J’s health, because that is more important to us than being vegan or vegetarian. We still believe in being conscientious about one’s diet choices, not just for our own health but that of the environment and economy. We will still strive to use the most natural, humanely farmed, local, and seasonally appropriate ingredients as we can, and we will continue to share our experience as we go about our lives in pursuit of delicious food.

*Please remember that J’s results are not typical. This post is not intended as medical advice or dietary guidance. You should always consult your doctor before making significant diet changes.

Blueberry Cucumber Smoothie (Vegan)

Speaking of cucumber weirdness, I’ve been loving this unlikely marriage of everyday cukes with our magnanimous friend the blueberry almost enough to ease my sorrow over giving up bagels.

Got the idea for this one from Vegetarian Times, but I have made a handful of changes to a) make it vegan; b) add protein; and c) enhance the flavor immeasurably, IMHO. (Side bar – can an opinion ever be humble? Seems like a rather unctuous turn of phrase to me … please accept my apologies.)

Anyway, for a detailed account of changes I made (which you are free to unmake), see the Notes section below.

Blue Cue Smoothie

  • 1 c. fresh blueberries
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded (I just scoop out the seeds with a spoon)
  • 1/2 c. unflavored non-dairy yogurt (I use Soyogurt)
  • 1/8 c. sliced raw almonds (unsalted)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/8 c. (or more, to taste) non-dairy frozen yogurt, vanilla-flavored

Chop the cucumber and toss it in a food processor or blender with the other ingredients. Pulse several times until you reach desired consistency, and voila – a quick and healthy breakfast or snack containing vitamin C, protein, fiber and hella antioxidants, under 300 calories all told. The quantity here is enough for two servings – they’re pretty filling.

Notes

The Veg Times version calls for twice as much cucumber, twice as much yogurt (the latter being dairy and vanilla-flavored), lemon instead of lime, and no almonds or frozen yogurt. The almonds are critical for me – they add a smooth richness that makes it much more filling as well. And the fro-yo adds a bit of sweetness and structure. As for the lime, it was just because I had lime and not lemon, but I’m sure either is fine, though lime may be milder.

Play with the ratios all you want – personally I prefer to go heavy on the blueberries. And of course, feel free to use dairy versions of either the yogurt or frozen yogurt. You could make it with only frozen yogurt, but be careful with that because it could end up uber-sweet, and a strong vanilla flavor will mask the cucumber. (Learned this the hard way.)

 Blueberry pic from Interbay Farmer's Market

A Review of Mexican Gherkins (Vegan)

What are they?! Aren’t they weird?! Whatever will I do with them?! These are just a few of the questions that flooded my brain the first time I saw them. Followed by, “GHERKINS?! I need to know everything about a vegetable with a name like GHERKIN.”That ain't no Jelly Belly

So I bought some. And I researched them. And I washed them. And I tasted them.

Hold on to your socks, folks, because I don’t have much to report. They taste like slightly lemony cucumbers. That’s all I got.

But still. If you like cucumbers, you’ll probably love gherkins. Tiny, crunchy, fresh-tasting and tart, they look like jelly bean-sized watermelons. Munch them down like Fritos, toss them in oil with grape tomatoes for a minimalist salad, add them to a glass of water, or use them in some kind of cucumberish martini concoction, if you’re feeling adventurous. They’re tasty, refreshing, bite-sized – a handy snack and easy garnish. That’s about it.

Many people will tell you to pickle them, as with other kinds of gherkins. I can’t speak to this, but it seems perfectly reasonable, and I could imagine a number of other uses for a pickled version. For instance, you could chop them up and add them to your favorite potato salad (or egg salad, if you’re an egg eater). Or you could tuck them into a falafel pita, drizzled with tahini sauce and za’atar. In fact, you could do either of those things with unpickled gherkins. Mind you, I haven’t tried any of these yet – just some ideas I’ve been tossing around while trying to decide whether to buy some again. Meanwhile I figured I’d share what I’ve learned and let you make your own decision.

So, that’s my 75 cents on the new and trendy Mexican gherkin.

Mushroom Croustades or Stuffed Mushrooms, Your Pick (Vegan or Vegetarian)

The choice between making these as croustades or as stuffed mushroom caps depends on whether you want them to be vegan (croustade shells are not vegan) and/or whether you happen to have any croustade shells handy. In my case, I did just so happen to have some handy as the result of discovering these puppies at Ikea (weird, eh?) and stockpiling about 5 dozen of them like the freakshow that I am. Also I did not have enough mushrooms to do caps. Hence, the croustades you see pictured at right.

Note that you also have a further choice in whether or not to use vegan cream cheese or make a non-vegan goat cheese version. Obviously the goat cheese version is much richer and tangier, but they are both super tasty and perfect as a party appetizer.

Lastly, I garnished these with sauteed porcini mushrooms, but you can garnish them with any kind of mushroom, or chives, or parsley, or whatever floats your boat. If you have access to porcini, I’d say spring for them – they are a bit pricey but you only need about 1/10th of a pound (2 or 3 small ones). Note: Take care when selecting porcini – avoid any with soggy, yellow or greenish parts, and inspect them for holes or little trails – unfortunately, they can be wormy.

Stuffed Mushrooms or Mushroom Croustades

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb baby bella mushrooms OR 1 lb if you’re making stuffed mushrooms (Note that each version requires different mushroom preparation – see below)
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 2 – 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • Cheese – either:
    • 8 oz vegan cream cheese, OR
    • 4 oz goat cheese and 4 oz regular cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 – 2 tbsp minced chives, for garnish (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set out the cheese to soften. Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth or mushroom brush.

If you’re making the croustades, slice the mushrooms in about 1/4 inch thick slices, reserving 2 orf 3 big ones for garnish (or you could use the stems), if desired. If you’re making stuffed mushroom caps, break the stems from the caps and chop the stems coarsely, taking care to slice off and discard any tough ends. Set the caps aside.

Heat a large skillet on medium. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallot and garlic and saute for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Add the mushroom slices and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. After a couple minutes, cover, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have juiced (3 – 5 minutes or so). When they’ve juiced, remove cover and continue to cook, stirring regularly until the juice is reabsorbed (1 – 2 minutes).

Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse the mushrooms a  couple times until they’re a quasi-duxelles. (Yeah, okay, I just really wanted to use that word. Color me ostentatious.) Add the cheese and cayenne and pulse a few more times until well blended. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into croustade shells or mushroom caps (it will probably fill around 2 dozen or so; if you have filling left over, serve it as a dip or use it as a spread). Place them on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven, 5 to 8 minutes for the croustades. For the caps, oil the baking sheets before adding the caps. Bake them for about 12 – 15 minutes or so (basically until the caps are tender), but keep an eye on the filling so it doesn’t burn.

While that’s baking, if you want to make a mushroom garnish, coarsely chop the remaining mushrooms or mushroom bits and saute quickly in olive oil with a bit of garlic, following the directions above. Salt to taste and spoon onto the tops of the baked croustades, and/or sprinkle with chives.

Serve immediately.

Little Green Hot Peppers from Padrón (Vegan)

As the proverb goes, “Ones are spicy, anothers don’t.” Indeed.

Ones are spicy, anothers don't.

The little green hot peppers in question are known as “Pimientos de Padrón” and originally hail from the state of Galicia in Northern Spain. I first learned about said peppers while living in Santiago de Compostela several years ago. I can’t speak for the rest of Spain, but I do know you can’t spend much time in Santiago before you notice that every 10th tourist is sporting a t-shirt proclaiming the celebrity of the tasty peppers in a delightfully awkward translation from the Castilian Spanish, “LITTLE GREEN HOT PEPPERS FROM PADRÓN, ONES ARE SPICY, ANOTHERS DON’T” (pictured at right).

In Castilian Spanish, the proverb actually goes “Algunos te pican, otros no,” for which the direct translation is “Ones sting you, others do not.” Which clearly doesn’t translate well to English either. Essentially, this particular saying just highlights the disparity between how Spanish and English treat indefinite pronouns, not to mention how we express spiciness – as a state versus as an action. Personally, I like to think of spiciness as an action, and I think the mistranslation captures the truth of the matter more concisely and appropriately in its inobeisance of grammar constructs. (No, inobeisance isn’t a word. I made it up because it meant what I meant. My kitchen is free from the tyranny of language rules.)

Anyway. These little green hot peppers are so ubiquitous in Galicia that it’s hard to even have one drink at a bar without someone serving you a few as a free tapa. I do not exaggerate. They’re so everywhere all the time that people are giving them away for free. Which is how I quickly came to learn to prepare them myself. And the truth is, they are super easy to make as a quick appetizer or snack at home. The hardest part (in San Diego, anyway) is getting your hands on some of them. They sometimes have them at Whole Foods or other grocery stores. We usually get them from  Suzie’s Farm at our nearby Farmer’s Market. You could also join their CSA and presumably have access to peppers of Padrón whenever they’re in season, as well as plenty of other awesome vegetables.

Pimientos de Padrón

  • 1/2 lb peppers of Padrón
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Lots of salt

I was taught this method of preparing peppers of Padrón by a lifelong resident of Galicia. He basically said to me, “Heat a lot of oil in a pan. When it is hot, throw in the peppers. The oil will splatter. Ignore it. Well, don’t burn yourself on it, just don’t be stupid. Afterwards, stir in an amount of salt which is far more than you think you should, and after you’ve done that, add even more. You will probably never put enough salt in, because you will think nothing should have that much salt. But you will be wrong.”

It’s true. Every time I’ve made these, I’ve thought I put an insane amount of salt in, and afterwards I’ve thought, “Gosh, that really could have used more salt.” Though they’re still delicious anyway.

So, fry them in salt, stirring frequently, until the peppers are blistered and browned. Serve hot, but not too hot (don’t want to bite into boiling oil, you know).

And by the way, beware. Some of them are spicy and others aren’t.

Not Remotely Vegan Mushroom Leek Omelet (Vegetarian)

Let’s face it. There are times in life when you have no choice but to eat a delicious omelet. Unless you’re strictly vegan, in which case there may be times when you have no desire to eat a delicious omelet but would certainly still enjoy a nice tofu scramble. If that’s the case, I promise you I will post a vegan alternative to the aforementioned omelet one of these days. Promise. Pro. Mise.

In the meantime, however, all I have is this totally non-vegan omelet, with nothing to say for myself except that I love this omelet.

Actually, I do have one more thing to say for myself, which is that we went on a lovely trip to the Russian River for the 4th of July holiday this past weekend, and stayed with our friends Ben and Harley and Harley’s awesome parents at their river house. And the house was full of animal products all weekend. And everyone had brought more eggs than anyone knew what to do with. And we had a house full of hungry friends each morning. And we had me, always wanting to cook something that will make everybody happy. And me, always one to throw rules to the wind for festive reasons. And me, additionally harboring twice as many mushrooms as I knew what to do with. And so I invented this omelet. I was forced to really, I had no choice. I couldn’t let all those eggs and mushrooms and potential omelets go to waste, could I?

But why am I being an omelet apologist? You don’t have time for that. You have a fantastic omelet to devour, and now I’m just standing in your way. So onward. The omelet. Let the fruits of our Independence Day revelry live on.

Mushroom Leek Omelet

The filling

  • 1 leek, thoroughly cleaned, sliced
  • 8 oz baby bella (cremini) or chanterelle mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (Note: If you’re not opposed, replacing the oil with butter makes it extra delicious. I know, I’m miserable at being vegan.)
  • 1 c. fresh corn from the cob (canned or frozen also works)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 c. shredded gruyére (optional)
The omelet
  • 4 cage-free organic eggs
  • A bit of water or (if you must) milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the filling. Heat a medium sized pan on medium to medium high. When hot, add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks, stirring to cover thoroughly with oil. (If you’re using butter, let the butter melt completely before adding leek.) Saute a while, stirring often, until leek begins to soften, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Continue to cook for another minute, stirring regularly. Cover, and leave the mixture a while for the mushrooms to juice, about 2 or 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms have juiced, remove cover. Add corn and cook another 2 or 3 minutes, being mindful that the leeks and mushrooms don’t overcook. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat to a bowl.

For the omelet. Crack the eggs into a medium sized mixing bowl, being careful to remove any bits of shell that may get involved. Add a bit of water (or milk, if that’s what you’re using); approximately 1/8 to 1/4 cup. Whisk briskly until mixture is fairly uniform, being careful not to over whisk. (Whisking eggs too long introduces bubbles and can make them intolerably fluffy. Just my humble opinion.)

Heat a large skillet on medium high, add oil. When oil is hot, pour in one half of the egg mixture slowly (my brilliant friend Ben ladles it in with a 1/4 c. measuring cup, letting the egg solidify as he adds the mixture). This part of the omelet takes omelet talent. Let the egg cook through on bottom, occasionally tipping the pan to let any liquid reach the edge of the pan.

When the egg mixture seems mostly cooked through, spoon about half of the mushroom filling in the middle of the omelet. (Note: Eyeball it to make sure the amount of filling makes sense. Too much filling is a common source of fallen omelets.)

Allow the omelet to cook just a bit longer, and if you’re using the cheese, now would be the time to sprinkle it in. Flip one side of the omelet over to cover the other. If you are omelet-inept, using a combination of a spatula and spoon may be advisable. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that omelets take practice and finesse. But if your omelet falls, don’t despair. It tastes the same, no matter what shape it’s in.

When you have folded over the omelet, cook on each side until slightly browned.

Voila. So there’s my favorite omelet.

Make your own soup stock (Vegan)

So many recipes call for soup stock and the store-bought kind is boring and sodium-tastic. Make your own! It’s easy and it will make all of your recipes vastly more delicious. The trick is just to try new things, remember what works, write it down, and pair it wisely with the other ingredients in the dish you are cooking. More on that in a moment. First, how to make a stock:

  • Put a lot of water in a large pot
  • Bring the water to a boil
  • Throw in a lot of vegetables, scraps of vegetables, and/or their parts. For instance, corn cobs & onion skins are great in stocks, in case you didn’t know. So you don’t need to do a lot of cutting or peeling or prepping. Just chop things roughly, enough so that they fit in the pot and have exposed parts through which to leak their juices
  • Simmer everything for about an hour or so
  • Add salt and pepper while simmering, to taste

When the stock is done, allow to cool and then pour through a strainer to separate the vegetable parts from the stock. This will probably require doing it in batches. Discard the vegetables and refrigerate or freeze the stock until it’s ready for use.

What kind of vegetables can go in a stock? Pretty much anything you want, though some veggies are more reliable than others. Some general guidelines:

#1 – Follow the rules of compost: No citrus. No fats. Nothing diseased or spoiled.

Whenever possible, use onion, celery, carrots, thyme and garlic. As much or as little of any of these, but some combination thereof. For the garlic, just smash the clove, no need to peel or press it. I take a blunt object and crack it a couple of times. I usually throw in 4 large cloves per 5 qt stockpot.

Other strong contributors to stock excellence include: potatoes (any variety), brussel sprouts, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, beets, parsley, corn, parsnips, mushrooms, zucchini, and … ??? Totally up to you and what you’re willing to experiment with.

Now. As for the pairing of stock with recipe. Basically I just taste it and imagine what it would complement. It’s not hard. It may seem weird, and some of you who are sensory-challenged may be fearful, but trust me. You really can tell by the taste of a stock what its purpose in life is. And most of the time, stock is so mild, all it can do is enhance, not detract. Just be mindful of the ingredients you’re dealing with, and I am confident you’ll be happy with your results.

Esquites, aka Mexican Street Corn (Vegan)

Oh, I do love me some esquites. The less messy-to-eat sibling of elote(Mexican style corn on the cob), esquites takes a delicious treat and puts it in a bowl or cup so that the people who love it more than words can express are able to eat twice as much twice as fast in huge spoonfuls. MMMMMMMMMM.

From Tlazolcalli cucina

Mmmmmmsquites (pic from Tlazolcalli cucina)

Unfortunately, authentic esquites is made with a million pounds of butter and has about a Jesus-kabillion calories. And baby, that just ain’t cool.

So, here’s my vegan version, which boasts zero butter and a totally non-biblical proportion of calories. Easy to make, low fat, low cal and fun at parties. What more could you want?

Esquites

  • Corn from 4 cobs (around 3 cups) – if you haven’t cut corn from the cob, watch a quick tutorial. (If necessary, you can also use frozen or canned corn.)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp serrano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne (to taste)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp vegan mayo
  • Salt to taste

Heat a medium size frying pan or sauce pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat a few moments longer until oil is hot. Combine the corn and pepper and stir until evenly coated with oil. Heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until corn becomes fragrant. Squeeze in juice from one lime. If it’s not a very juicy lime, consider adding another. Add cayenne and a bit of salt and taste. If necessary, add more salt and cayenne and mix well.

At this point, you have a choice. You could serve it as is, which I personally find delicious, or you could complete the last step of adding the mayo. If you add the mayo, it will obviously be differently delicious, and most people probably prefer it that way. And it’s also more true to the authentic esquites experience. However, not including a barrel of butter is totally inauthentic, so don’t kid yourself too much.

Oh, one last thing. If you want the corn to have a more “roasted” flavor and appearance, you can start by searing it, removing it from heat, and then proceeding through the steps described above.

Basil Guacamole (Vegan)

Consider adding basil to your guacamole. It adds a lovely dimension of freshness. Or if you’d prefer not, omit the basil and just have guacamole. Either way, here’s a quick and easy recipe.

Basil Guacamole

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1/3 c. red onion, chopped and rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp serrano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or rubbed on the mixing apparatus (see Notes)
  • 1 -2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and twist apart, removing the seeds. Scoop out insides with a spoon and mash the avocado coarsely with a fork. Add salt in 1/8 tsp increments until there’s a balance of bite and richness (usually I end up adding about 1/2 to 1 tsp total, depending on the size of the avocados).

Add the juice of one lime – if it’s a super juicy lime, maybe just use half; if it’s a dryer lime, maybe use up to two. You’re going to have to taste and see; the result should be tangy but not sour.

Stir in the onion, pepper and garlic, if applicable (again, see Notes). Add the basil last and serve immediately.

Notes

Regarding the garlic. We usually make guacamole in a molcajete, a sort of mortar and pestle-like  kitchen tool used in Mexican cooking. When making guac with a molcajete, we rub one peeled clove all over the bowl of it, and that infuses the guac with flavor while mixing, such that additional garlic isn’t necessary. If you’re not using a molcajete, just add minced garlic towards the end. Delicious either way.