Waste Not, a cookbook review

Being earth friendly is something that makes me anxious or angry.

I really don’t understand people who litter.  It’s an eye sore.   It’s a complete disregard for the community.  And it’s pretty much going to stay there forever unless someone threw away something like a banana peel.  I can’t tell you how many pieces of plastic, glass, and foil I see walking down just a few blocks on my street.  I swear that there’s someone out here who likes tucking in empty potato chip bags in the nooks and crannies of trees and fences consistently.  That’s when I get angry.

But a more complicated relationship between me and the earth happens in the kitchen.  To start, there were two summers where I shared a vegetable CSA with my sister and I had trouble getting through my share.  Sometimes, I had items that I didn’t like (fresh gooseberries and fresh currants for example).  But more often I had vegetables that I just didn’t cook soon enough and they’d start to rot.  So I don’t participate in CSAs anymore.

But I feel guilty even over normal kitchen waste like apple cores, bell pepper seeds, etc.  It makes me anxious.  I installed a composter in my backyard just to help alleviate my guilt.  But half of the time, I don’t even make it to the composter.  And it’s only good for vegetable scraps.  I can’t compost animal products.  

Oh, and whey!  Since I make my own yogurt, I like to strain it sometimes, but I don’t know what to do with the leftover whey.

So, my new experiment is to try to use up food scrapes whenever possible.  I recently received a copy of Waste Not by the James Beard Foundation.  The book is a collection of recipes and tips from different chefs on how to be less wasteful.

The book is sectioned into five chapters:

  • From Stem to Stem
  • Meat, Bones, Skin and Scales
  • Tops and Bottoms, Pits and Peels
  • Second-Day Solutions
  • Prolonged and Preserved

There is a recipe for leftover whey and that is whey cooked heirloom grains (specifically grits).  I’m really looking forward to trying that.  Other recipes that I’d like to use in no particular order:

  • Rainbow Chard Noodles
  • Squash Seed Tahini
  • Baked Potato Stock
  • Schmaltz Mashed Potatoes
  • Chicken Liver Dumplings (don’t worry, the liver is mixed with dark meat and lots of seasoning)

The only thing I don’t care for in this book is the photography.  It’s like someone went crazy with Instagram’s Lo-Fi filter and then some.

For recipe testing, I picked out the kale stem crackers (because my mother unexpectedly gifted me with a bunch of kale… like a mother does).

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Prepping kale stems

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It was very easy to put together, but my crackers didn’t firm up at all.  I rolled them out by hand to 1/4” which is what was the thickness in the directions, but I think I should have made it thinner.  Or maybe bake halfway, cut, and then bake again like you would with biscotti.  Not sure.

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Kale stems in a dough

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More importantly, they were surprisingly tasty and very savory!  I’m now thinking I should try dinner rolls with kale stems and garlic.

I’ve tried salvaging kale stems before by pickling them but this was much more my speed.  (I’m not a huge fan of pickles.  Kimchi, yes.  Pickles, not so much.)  So I can safely say that this book as a lot of good ideas on how to use up those items in your fridge that you might not realize are edible or were going to toss in the trash.  Since the recipes were written by different people, it’s hard for me to gauge if other recipes may need tweaking like I think the cracker recipe needs.  Regardless, it’s a great place to start if you want to move to a more zero-waste lifestyle or just need some inspiration.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Rizzoli for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Reference Links:

https://www.rizzoliusa.com/book/9780847862788/

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Kenji’s Vegan Ramen, a Kitchen Conclusion (and a spice blend for you)

I’m a huge fan of Serious Eats.  Besides referring to it for general cooking questions I might have, I really adore their series “The Vegan Experience” (and I’m not vegan… heck, I’m not even vegetarian).

One of the vegan recipes that I bookmarked but was intimidated by the number of ingredients and steps was Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Ultimate Rich and Creamy Vegan Ramen With Roasted Vegetables and Miso Broth.  What does one do when they are not sure they can pull off a recipe on their own?  In my case, it was finding a friend who said “So when you want to cook together? I want to do something new and crazy.  Just something fun, y’know?”

New?  Check.  Crazy?  Check.

Let’s do this thing!

Our observations:

The ingredient list isn’t all that bad.  It would have been nice if there had been a condensed shopping list.  It’s essentially this:

eggplant
onion
garlic
ginger
oil*
fresh shiitake
fresh maitake
kombu*
dried porcini
dried shiitake*
napa cabbage
leek
scallions
sweet potato
shichimi togarashi*
mirin*
soy sauce*
miso*
tahini*
noodles

Everything with an asterisk were things already in my pantry.  Well, except for the shichimi togarashi but we’ll get to that later.  And for the ramen noodles, Jared and I decided to be extra experimental and try the pasta with baking soda trick.  Several times, we asked each other if we had forgotten something because our shopping cart seemed like it didn’t have nearly enough ingredients waiting to be paid for.

One hurdle done.

But the doing?… ah, this was the real challenge.

And half the challenge was matching the ingredient list with the ramen component we were working on.  We both really wanted to reformat the whole recipe for easier reading in the kitchen.

On my own, I had read the recipe through a couple of times but I wish I had studied the photos in the blog post more.  We didn’t notice that the sweet potatoes and the maitake were not mixed on the baking sheet.  It made for a slight inconvenience to pick out sweet potato chunks for the blender.

For the soy-tare, I would leave the ginger and scallions in large identifiable pieces because you have to separate it from the quartered shiitake caps when done.

We also recommend upping the eggplant from 1 small to 2 small.  We had very little eggplant compared to the number of servings when all was said and done.  Also, you don’t get a lot of cooked liquid from 1 small eggplant.  Spinning out said liquid felt fiddly.

But more importantly, how did it taste?

The components of the ramen are their own were good but nothing I felt impressed by.  The baking soda noodles were really interesting!  The baking soda made the noodles a bit chewier, and taste very eggy.  The sweet potatoes baked in the spice blend gave a nice heat that quick dissipated.  But, altogether, the dish was very lovely and satisfying.  Jared’s wife got a gluten free version for health reasons.  We replaced the soy sauce with GF tamari in the recipe, and made a separate pot of rice noodles just for her.  Her reaction was “This is amazing!”  We also fed a friend of theirs who is vegetarian and planning to go mostly vegan.  The friend thought it was one of the best things she had had in a very long time.  In short, those with dietary restrictions are probably going to enjoy it best.

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Making flavored oil

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I can definitely see myself making parts of the recipe for other noodle and soup recipes.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever make the whole recipe on my own (but if I do, I think I would spread it over two days).  Jared and I may make it again, but not for at least 6 months and we’ve had time to recover from the amount of steps this ramen involved.

I will definitely make the sweet potatoes again.  I never thought to bake them with shichimi togarashi before, and I like the idea blending some of it to give the broth more body.  True story, I’ve never cared for shichimi togarashi before.  So I didn’t have it in my pantry, nor did I see the point in buying it for just this recipe.  So I made it with ingredients I did have in my pantry.  The spice blend is supposed to be a blend of seven spices.  (Shichi means seven.)  I used five, so I’m going to start calling my blend “five-mi togarashi.”  It is not traditional but I was quite happy with it.  (I suppose I could also call it go-mi togarashi since go is five in Japanese).

FIVE-MI TOGARASHI (GO-MI TOGARASHI)

1 tablespoon mandarin orange dust
4 teaspoons gochugaru
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Mix altogether, and store in a tightly fitted lidded jar.

Reference Links

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/how-to-make-the-ultimate-vegan-ramen-rich-and-creamy-vegan-experience.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/02/vegan-ramen-miso-creamy-vegan-vegetarian-food-lab-recipe.html

http://penandfork.com/recipes/cooking-tips/mandarin-orange-dust/

Tiny House Cooking, a cookbook review

I have a fascination with tiny houses and the tiny house movement.  I’m not the only one. My brother-in-law and I have lofty plans to build a tiny house in the Berkshires.  Maybe it’ll happen. Most likely it won’t. But it’s still fun to dream.

As such, I was excited to get a chance to flip through ‘Tiny House Cooking: Satisfying Meals with Minimal Equipment’ by Adams Media and Forward by Ryan Mitchell.  I wasn’t sure what the recipes were going to be. I thought, in addition to stove top only recipes, that the recipes might also use a scaled back number of ingredients.

It turns out that the recipes are all scaled for about two servings.  Some recipes have a long ingredient list, I think the most was 16 ingredients?  But that was including salt and pepper, so you could argue that it’s more like 14 ingredients.  The recipes are fairly varied, and nothing looks intimidating. The book is broken up into these sections:

  • Cooking in a Tiny House
  • Breakfast and Brunch
  • Sandiwches
  • Appetizers and Snacks
  • Soups
  • Salads and Dressings
  • Side Dishes
  • Chicken Main Dishes
  • Beef and Pork Main Dishes
  • Fish and Seafood Main Dishes
  • Pasta, Beans, and Rice
  • Desserts

 

Some of the recipes I want to try in no particular order are:

  • Japanese-Italian Angel Hair Pasta
  • Cavatelli with White Beans and Arugula
  • Scallop and Corn Saute
  • Chicken and Black Bean Stew
  • Chicken and Ricotta Polpette
  • Warm Spinach Salad with Deviled Egg Croutons
  • Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup

But for now, I’ve only made the peanut butter and chocolate pancakes.  In general, I like pancakes but I hate making them at home because it takes forever to make a stack of pancakes.  I’ve made a couple of small batch recipes that I didn’t really like, but to be fair I think they were were all super-duper healthy pancakes.  This one is fairly straightforward and almost ordinary. I like the addition of peanut butter and chocolate chips, but I think I might try to up the amount of peanut butter next time or maybe play with using peanut butter powder.  (I love peanut butter! My whole childhood was filled with a lot of plain peanut butter sandwiches because I was such a picky eater.)

My pancakes look nothing like the book’s photo, but I realized afterward that the chocolate chips in the photo were not cooking in the pancakes to make them look prettier.  That’s cheating! lol! However, the amount of pancakes was perfect for my level of pancake-making-impatience, and flavor-wise were quite satisfactory.

So, I’m happy to say that this book is staying on the bookshelf right now.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Simon and Schuster, Inc. for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Meal prep kit from Purple Carrot and Whole Foods

I heard about Purple Carrot, the vegan meal prep kit, when Mark Bittman left the New York Times to work for them.

I kept my eye on their recipes, but I generally found that I was only interested in *maybe* one recipe a week.  But my interest in Purple Carrot rose when it was announced that they were partnering with Whole Foods in Massachusetts for meal prep kits available in stores.  It was rolled out in Dedham first (I think… or was it Danvers?) which was nowhere near me.  Then last week, a few more stores were announced including the Whole Foods at Alewife/Cambridge.  Finally!  A location that I could get to a little more easily.

So I went on Sunday.  My choices were:

  • a cauliflower/beets/green beans with orange sauce
  • a pesto pasta with brussels sprouts
  • a tofu dish that I would have gotten if I weren’t mildly allergic to soy (sadly, I don’t remember which tofu recipe it was exactly)

I decided on the cauliflower/beets/green beans recipe because it wasn’t something that I’d normally picked from a cookbook.

In hindsight, I wish I had picked the pesto pasta.

Now, some quick disclaimers:

  • I am specifically commenting on the in-store pick up kit.  I have no experience with the online, full-service meal kits.
  • I was not paid to do this.  I paid for this out of pocket because I was really curious.
  • I am not vegan.  However, I think one can never had enough vegetable recipes in their repertoire.  (Maybe because I know it’s something I need to work on?)

Got it?  Good.

The cost was $20 for the kit (which like many kits is only 2 servings).  This seemed a little high to me since there are no at-home delivery costs.  My only consolation was that there was a $2 Whole Foods coupon on the box to encourage the sale of a new product.

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Ok let's try this

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Unboxing

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The kit I picked up had a moldy beet in it.  ONE MISERABLE MOLDY BEET.  The actual recipe on the website says 6oz of beets, and I’m pretty confident that one moldy beet (which was smaller than my fist) was not 6oz.  I tossed it.

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Well… that's disappointing

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Luckily, I had my own beets…

… which I proceeded to not even use out of laziness more than anything.

Then to add insult to injury, the mildly cheap looking instruction card mentioned parsley in the recipe.  There was no parsley in my kit, just a ton of thyme.  Said instruction card also did not have an ingredient list.  I was just smart enough to google it (which I will link to at the bottom on this post).

Overall impression of the recipe?  Tasty but required too much equipment for a meal prep kit.  Technically, it needed a pan to roast the cauliflower, a pot to boil the beets, and a pan to cook the beans.  Oh, and a small pot for the sauce.

I liked the sauce better than I want to admit.  The sauce was just orange juice, water, cornstarch, brown sugar, and ketchup.  I think that it’s the addition of ketchup rubs me the wrong way.  At any rate, I have more sauce than I need for the cauliflower and the green beans so I’m going to serve with with some baked pieces of chicken.

I am aware that adding chicken will void the vegan-ness of the meal.

Maybe I’ll even throw in the beets by then.

Will I try this again?  Well, I’ll be open minded about it but it’s not the only game in town.**

Oh!  And, fair warning, you might want to measure the ingredients against the original published recipes.  The meal kit gave me almost twice the amount of apple cider vinegar than I needed.

Reference Links:

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/cauliflower-l-orange-with-beets-and-fresh-herbs

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/kale-pesto-cavatelli-with-crispy-brussels-and-sundried-tomatoes

** = hint, hint… I have another meal prep kit post coming.  Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

Soup Swap 2017

I haven’t been to a soup swap in a couple of years because I got distracted by other things that required a lot of my time.

This year my schedule opened up unexpectedly and the swap was a couple of weeks later than usual, which meant that I had the time to prepare.

My contribution this year was a butternut squash/white bean/ras el hanout soup.  Even though I tried to bribe people with little bags of rye sourdough starter and kombucha SCOBYs, I don’t think anyone took my soup until round 3 or 4.  (There are 6 rounds total.)  Was it my “sales pitch”?  Was it because the soup was vegan?  Or was it because no one knew what ras el hanout was?  It’s always hard to determine what will be popular.   I did have extra starter and SCOBY on hand, and the recipients of the extras were quite happy to have them.  So, that’s still something.

This year’s first-to-sell-out was a cassoulet, and then a beef bourguignon with spätzle.  I took neither because there were other things that I didn’t want to risk losing out on.

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Let the games begin!

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Scribbles

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Soups that I took home that are not pictured: Vegetarian onion-pho, tomato and avocado, tortellini and chickpea, and parsnip and pear.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I took home.  (^_^)b

A Modern Way to Cook, a cookbook review

With absolutely no prior knowledge of Anna Jones, I waited with bated breath for my copy of “A Modern Way to Cook” to arrive in the mail.  The tag line  on the cover says “150+ vegetarian recipes for quick, flavor-packed meals.”  Considering that I’m trying to make all my work lunches, it sounded very promising.  

The organization of content is pretty smart.  The recipes are grouped by how long it takes to make.  The chapters are 15, 20, 30, and 40 minute recipes, then followed by “investment cooking” (mostly pantry staples), “super-fast breakfasts”, and “quick desserts and sweet treats.”

The overall look of the book is on the drool-worthy side.  Most of the photos are overhead shots that are styled really well.  (No harsh contrast photos here, thank god.)

There are recipes that I want to try:

  • kale, tomato, and lemon magic one-pot spaghetti
  • kale, sumac, and crispy rice salad
  • zucchini noodles with pistachio, green herbs, and ricotta
  • sweet roasted zucchini with crispy chickpeas
  • spinach and lemon polpette
  • lentils with roasted tomatoes and horseradish
  • roasted coconut, lime, and tamarind curry
  • honey rye bread
  • lemon cannellini cake

Another feature of the book that I like are the pages of simplified/master recipes.  These pages are:

  • 10 favorite omelet fillings
  • goodness bowls
  • quick 20 minute stir-fries
  • 10 favorite suppers from 10 favorite vegetables
  • 10 simple baked potatoes
  • 5 one-pan dinners
  • quick flavor boosts

But the longer I mull over the book, the more I find that some recipes really do not inspire me.  In the 10 minute section, Jones has a recipe for pour-over soup.  I’m not saying that her recipe won’t be delicious.  However, it’s not that different from other DIY instant soups that have already been kicking around the internet for awhile.  Examples are:

http://thestonesoup.com/blog/2012/02/the-quickest-easiest-way-to-make-a-hot-meal-without-a-kitchen/

or

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/09/diy-instant-noodles-vegetables-miso-sesame-broth-recipe.html

So I am a little worried that in a few months, I won’t have any interest in this book beyond “coffee table material.”

For those people with allergies, take note that Jones uses a lot of nuts, black beans, chickpeas, and lentils for protein.  She hardly uses tofu in this book.

At any rate, I hope I have the chance to carve out some time this weekend and make a couple of dishes.  Then I can revisit my opinion with experience.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Cookbook Review for Home Cooked by Anya Fernald

In hindsight, I think I wanted to peruse Home Cooked by Anya Fernald for mildly silly reasons.  Don’t get me wrong, the Blogging for Books description sounded enticing enough:

Anya Fernald’s approach to cooking is anything but timid; rich sauces, meaty ragus, perfectly charred vegetables. And her execution is unfussy, with the singular goal of making delicious, exuberantly flavored, unpretentious food with the best ingredients. Inspired by the humble traditions of cucina povera, the frugal cooking of Italian peasants, Anya brings a forgotten pragmatism to home cooking; making use of seasonal bounty by canning and preserving fruits and vegetables, salt curing fish, simmering flavorful broths with leftover bones, and transforming tough cuts of meat into supple stews and sauces with long cooking. These building blocks become the basis for a kitchen repertoire that is inspired, thrifty, environmentally sound, and most importantly, bursting with flavor.

Still… I think I mostly got the book because I liked the cover.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 10.17.05 PM

Anyway!  The rational comments first:

This book is fairly gorgeous.  I loved the photo for the blood orange salad.  It was vivid and delicious looking.  There’s a series of photos for the toma cheese  with green herbs that I think is inspiring.  The pictures for salmon confit are lovely and bright, contrasting the red-orange meat of the fish against the grey-ish countertop and Fernald’s blue-white striped apron.  For people who want lots of pictures in their cookbooks, this one fits the bill.

The recipes themselves are varied.  The chapters of the books are: building blocks, snacks/starters/cocktails, pasta/ragu/risotto/eggs, vegetables, fish/meat, and desserts.  There’s a recipe for liver pate, a savory pie with lots of greens in the filling, cracked crabs with lemon-chile vinaigrette, and twice cooked orange duck.  Each recipe is fairly striped down to the essential ingredients.  The list length of ingredients isn’t intimidating.  If anything is intimidating, it might be some of the ingredients themselves.  Rendered pork fat, trotter broth, and bone broth are examples of ingredients that most people don’t keep around.  (Well, urban dwellers like me anyhow.)  They might get turned off from a recipe for that reason.  From Fernald’s perspective, these ingredients are nothing exotic.  She’s the co-founder of Belcampo, a farm/butcher shop/restaurant.  Belcampo even has a meat camp!

Objectively, I would give this book four out of five stars.

From a more personal perspective, I’m not sure how much use I’ll get out of this book.  At the moment, I’m mesmerized by the cheese-making recipes and the anise seed breakfast cookies.  I haven’t given up on this book yet, but realistically it might not live on my bookshelf for too long.  I guess it’s more of a three star book for me personally.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

Reference Links:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/248626/home-cooked-by-anya-fernald-with-jessica-battilana/

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P.S.  Random comment – the amazake turned out well.  I just kept forgetting to take photos of it.  So I’ll have to make a second batch just to show it off.  (^_^)