One of my favorite things about cooking is playing with my food. Composing a salad, the perfect toast or (in this case) sushi, allows me to have fun each step of the way! For some, making your own sushi can sound daunting, but it’s actually simple. You don’t even need a sushi mat to make it (although it helps).
In this recipe, I made a vegan sweet potato and avocado sushi roll. Sushi is versatile, so play up your favorite flavor combinations! For the gals at What We Eat, we constantly make many variations of a carrot and avocado salad. So, in light of that inspiration, here is what we came up with!
What you’ll need:
A clean dish towel
A bowl of cold water (to help the rice not stick to your hands)
2 cups sushi rice, cooked and cooled with a splash of seasoned rice vinegar
Julienned Vegetables of choice (I did sweet potato, cucumber, daikon, avocado, cilantro)
Place a big square of plastic wrap on top of a sushi mat and place on top of a dish towel. (The towel is there to help with the mess). Place a single piece of nori on top of the plastic.
2. With wet hands, place a decent size scoop of the rice onto the nori and press down until even thickness throughout. The water will help the sushi rice to not stick to your hands. Life hack!
3. Add vegetables of choice in a straight line about ⅓ of the way in. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and top with cilantro.
4. Now the fun part! Using the sushi mat and plastic as a guide, tightly roll the sushi. Make sure the pressure is even when you roll to help prevent lumps. (Note: Chef hands in dire need of a paraffin treatment!!)
5. Allow to sit for 10 minutes rolled in the plastic before cutting.
6. Slice sushi into 8 pieces and enjoy dipped in your favorite sauce.
After a week eating my way through Italy, then an indulgent Thanksgiving holiday with family in New England, I was ready to be return to my own kitchen in Brooklyn on Sunday.
It’s funny that the same reason I crave vacation, namely to bust out of my well-worn routines, is the same reason I can’t wait to get home.
Because I cook for a living, being fed by others for a sustained period is heaven. No menu planning. No grocery shopping. No cooking. No dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but we all need a break.
Before I leave, I obsessively peruse the internet, reach out to friends and read through favorite travel guides to discover the best of what’s to eat wherever I go. Then, with every delicious bite at every carefully selected restaurant, it’s like I’m consuming a little bit of that chef’s culinary point of view.
But there comes a time when I am ready to eat my food again. To return to the meal routines that work for me. Namely, meals that revolve around vegetables.
The very first thing I made when I got home was this massaged lacinato kale, roasted wild mushroom and avocado salad. It touches on all of the elements of a crave-worthy vegetable dish: ingredients that are seasonal, both raw and cooked, and vibrantly colorful, and that provide contrasting textures, a little indulgence and a few surprises.
Both kale and mushrooms are at their peak during fall and winter. In fact, kale gets better as the weather gets colder. For this salad, I roast the mushrooms to concentrate flavor, essentially transforming them into little crunchy umami bombs. I top the salad with deep red, slow-roasted cherry tomatoes for color. (I added them after taking the salad shots this time because they were still hot from the oven and I was too hungry to wait…typical.) The additions of avocado, toasted walnuts and shaved parmesan lend both contrasting texture and enough indulgence to keep me coming back for more. And finally, I finish the dish with lemon zest, thinly sliced scallions and a tiny bit of fresh mint and basil for a touch of freshness to balance the earthy mushrooms.
I’ve made this kale salad about a gazillion times since I first threw it together on a whim and realized I was onto something. While I see the kale, mushrooms and avocado as mandatory, all other ingredients are flex. Don’t have time to slow-roast tomatoes? Leave them out! Prefer shallots to scallions? Swap’em! #Putaneggonit and/or serve it over a cooked grain like farro to make it more of a complete meal. You get the picture.
Lacinato Kale, Roasted Wild Mushroom and Avocado Salad
1.5-2 lbs mixed mushrooms (oyster, king oyster, hen of the woods and maitake are great wild varietals but the more widely available shitake is equally delicious – this will seem like a lot but they shrink up when roasted)
Pinch red pepper flakes
Few shakes of granulated garlic (1/2-1 tsp)
2 bunches lacinato kale, washed, de-stemmed and torn into bite size pieces
½-1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (hazelnuts are equally delicious)
½-1 cup shaved parmesan (use a vegetable peeler)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Small handful of fresh torn basil
Small handful of fresh torn mint
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Roast the mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 425.
Prep mushrooms and break them into bite-size pieces. For shitake, this means removing their stems and tearing them into halves or fourths. For king oyster, this means slicing off a tiny bit of the root end and thinly slicing them lengthwise. Prep varies by varietal so purchase shrooms you’re comfortable with or Google proper prep technique.
Place shrooms on a sheet pan (lined with parchment for easy clean-up) and drizzle generously with olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper, a few shakes of granulated garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Roast in the center of the oven for 25-35 minutes, turning the mushrooms halfway through, until they shrink down by nearly half and are very crisp around their edges. Cool on sheet tray.
Make the vinaigrette:
Zest lemon and reserve for salad. Juice zested lemon into small bowl, add in a large pinch of salt, then drizzle in an equal amount of olive oil by volume or a little more. Add in the two crushed garlic cloves and allow to steep while finishing the rest of the salad.
Assemble the salad
Combine the prepped kale (watch Char’s video tutorial!), cooled mushrooms, sliced avo, slow-roasted tomatoes (if using), toasted walnuts, shaved parm, sliced scallions, torn basil and mint and lemon zest in a large salad bowl. Remove garlic cloves from vinaigrette and drizzle over vegetables. Using clean hands or salad tongs, gently toss salad until every nook and cranny of every vegetable is dressed.
Everyone direct your attention to the nearest produce section, brimming with veggies in every odd shape and color of the rainbow. It’s time to familiarize yourself with the scraggily, weird looking veggies, pulled straight from the ground that have settled on produce shelves for the winter. They include such favorites as carrots, celery, parsnips, radish, turnips, beets, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic and rutabaga… well maybe not that last one but it’s just so fun to say! Besides rutabaga these are some of the most common things we find in the crisper drawer, probably because they last much longer than your fruits or your greens. They’re something we’re confident using two weeks in a row, which makes our job all the more experimental and exciting.
There’s almost nothing I find more comforting than biting into a warm roasted carrot, which is why, when I surveyed my supermarket this weekend, just as the temperature finally dropped below 60, I ended up with mostly carrots in my handcart. I love the way they’re equally delicious raw as they are cooked and how they add just the right amount of sweetness to a dish.
A few more things you should know about carrots:
You don’t need to peel them unless you’re eating them raw.
While carrots are very nutritious (vitamin A, C, potassium, etc.) most of the nutrients in carrots actually reside in or just bellow the skin so it’s best not to peel away too much.
For candy-like caramelized carrots drizzle a little honey or maple syrup on them before roasting.
As we know carrots come in many colors. But when carrots were first cultivated (some ten thousand years ago) they were actually purple, not the orange color we associate them with most today (www.carrotmuseum.com).
You really will turn orange if you eat too many of the orange ones!
The second root-veggie I find it hard to resist is beets. When I see them on a menu I must have them, especially when they’re paired with goat cheese… mmmm. I love the sweet smell of the steam when you unwrap their foil. I don’t even mind that my hands will look like an art project for the rest of the day (pro tip: feta juice takes it right off).
A few more things you should know about beets:
To steam beets, rinse well, pat dry, sprinkle with salt and wrap in foil. The foil-wrapped bulbs can be placed directly on the oven rack. Just be sure they’re wrap doesn’t have any tears of holes.
They take a long time (sometimes over an hour) – so plan ahead! For steaming it’s important to try to pick beets that are relatively the same size so they’re tender at the same time. If you’re crunched for time, use smaller beets or cut larger ones into wedges with their skin on and roast them just like you would any other veggie with salt, pepper and olive oil on a sheet tray at 425 degrees. The skins get nice and caramelized that way!
You can eat them raw: shredded like you would carrots or shaved like you would radish.
Keep a loose piece of foil or sheet tray on the rack below the beets to collect any spills, saving yourself from that horrible bubbly, smoky mess on the bottom of your oven.
I could go on and on about my favorite root-vegetables because, truth is, I love them all, these are just the ones I’m craving this week:
I saw this carrot recipe in the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (just hit shelves last weekend and totally worth a peruse) that immediately caught my eye. Because carrots, tahini, crispy chickpeas. But I wanted it to be substantial enough for my whole meal so I decided raw carrots we’re enough and I roasted big chunks instead.
I also added smoked paprika to the chickpeas because it’s delicious.
4-5 carrots quartered lengthwise or cut in coins
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry on paper towels
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. paprika
1 medium garlic clove
Juice of one lemon
3 Tbs. tahini
2 Tbs. water, or more as needed
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup chopped pistachios, roasted
2 sprigs parsley leaves
Roast carrots: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange carrots in a single layer on a large, parchment lined sheet tray. Season with salt, pepper and oil, toss and roast for about 25 minutes, until the carrots are deeply roasted and caramelized.
Chickpeas: Toss chickpeas with oil and seasonings. Spread them on a sheet tray and roast alongside the carrots until crisp and crunchy, about 15-20 minutes.
Vinaigrette: Whisk ingredients in a large bowl until smooth, but not too loose. You may need to add more water to achieve this consistency. Don’t worry this is normal!
Assemble salad: tumble carrots, chickpeas, pistachios and parsley into a large bowl and drizzle with tahini vinaigrette. Enjoy!
Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh’s beautiful book, Sweet, highlights a couple unlikely root vegetable baked goods. Of course the one that seduced me wasn’t the carrot cake, which is a personal weakness, but the beet cake! With spicy candied ginger and tangy cream cheese frosting it’s certainly a contender!
2/3 cup walnut halves
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 red beets, peeled and coarsely grated
Finely grated zest of one orange (1 tbs.)
1/2 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger (they instruct you to steep these in boiling water for 15 minutes, however, I skipped this step to create a little more intense flavor)
2 large eggs
¼ cup soup cream
½ cup sunflower oil
5 ½ cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted (plus more if necessary)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/3 inch piece of ginger grated into a fine sieve placed over a bowl and the flesh squeezed to extract all the juices; reserve the juice.
To make cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
Toast the walnuts in a skillet in the oven for 15 minutes.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine and aerate. Add the beets, orange zest, walnut and ginger, but do not stir.
Place wet ingredients: eggs, sour cream and oil in another small bowl and whisk to combine.
Pour mixture into the cake pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan.
To make frosting: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place and beat for about 10 seconds until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add the cream and beat for about 1 minute, until the frosting is thick and smooth. Add the ginger juice, beat for a few more seconds. If the frosting seems a little loose just add a little more confectioner’s sugar. Once the cake is cooled, frost with an offset spatula and slice to serve!
For those who love to cook, there is possibly no outing quite as enjoyable as a trip to the farmers’ market. Getting to see what’s at its peak and speak with the people who grew it feels like a privilege in comparison to shopping at the grocery store.
I like to go without a plan, grab whatever looks best and then spend my walk home daydreaming about what I can make. While I have a terrible memory when it comes to things like names, my brain has a crystal clear index of every recipe I’ve ever read, most of the ingredients within it and where I can find it. It also catalogs all food images from places like Instagram and food magazines.
This week, when I scored the most beautiful, deeply purple eggplants with taut, shiny skin and cherry tomatoes so sweet I could have popped an entire pint as if they were berries, I was reminded of a picture I’d seen on Canal House’s Instagram feed.
These days, I prefer to cook from pictures rather than recipes. The former allows for creativity and spontaneity, while the latter is time consuming (re-referring to the written word) and/or disappointing (I usually know how to produce the flavors I prefer). As the famous Italian chef Lidia Bastianich said in a recent interview, “Release yourself from the recipe!”
So, with that in mind, I hit my kitchen to make a braised eggplant dish sweet with cherry tomatoes, rich with olive oil, and spicy with garlic and red pepper flakes. Chris and I sat down to dinner with the dutch oven between us, a fresh ball of burrata cheese, sliced crosswise and drizzled with our best Italian extra virgin olive oil, and pan-fried and garlic-rubbed peasant bread to serve as a bed for it all. I also made a shaved fennel and arugula salad showered with plenty of lemon juice and more olive oil because I always like to have something bright to cut through something so rich.
This is the rustic fair that dreams are made of.
EGGPLANT BRAISED WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND GARLIC
2 small to medium eggplant
4 cloved garlic, thinly sliced
¼ tsp red chile flakes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 pints cherry tomatoes, left whole
Several handfuls of basil, torn
1 ball burrata or a couple of balls of fresh mozzarella (optional)
Grilled or pan-fried and bread rubbed with garlic (peasant loaf, ciabatta, or any other bread you like)
Salt and pepper
Prep the eggplant: Peel long strips down the eggplant from stem to end, leaving them with a zebra print. Next, make a partial slit lengthwise down the center of the eggplant but try not to cut all the way through. This is just so the flavorful broth has an easier time penetrating the eggplant. Season them lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper, massaging them into the eggplant a bit.
Preheat a braising pot over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, pan fry the eggplants, turning them every two minutes until they are well-browned on all sides. Remove them to a plate.
Add remaining two tablespoons olive oil and add 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes. Once garlic is very lightly golden, add in the 2 pint whole cherry tomatoes, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and stir to combine. Place top on braising pot and let it do its thing over medium-low heat.
After about 20 minutes, most of the cherry tomatoes will have popped open, producing a juicy liquid. Taste it and correct seasoning with more salt if necessary. Carefully add the eggplant into the juicy tomatoes, slit side up and ladle a little of the braising liquid inside the eggplant. Add a sprig of basil, pushing it into the liquid, cover and continue to braise for 20 minutes. At this point, the eggplant will be meltingly tender and flavorful.
To serve, remove the sprig of basil and add a fresh shower of leaves over the braise. Present the whole pot on the table with several spoons to dig in, grilled garlic-rubbed bread and burrata or sliced fresh mozzarella. Enjoy!
Serves 4 (Any leftovers can be smashed into a delicious pasta sauce for later in the week!)
Nothing says great 4th of July party like a busy grill, packed to maximum capacity with juicy burgers, hot dogs and their ever-so-slightly burnt accompanying buns.
It’s festive, it’s fun and it’s worth it. It’s red meat, gluten, dairy and beer. It’s a whole bunch of condiments made who knows when, containing who knows what. And you know what? That’s okay! It’s important to make room for moments like these.
But just because there’s red meat and gluten on your plate doesn’t mean there’s not room for veggies, too. A healthy lifestyle is just that; a lifestyle. It’s sustainable, balanced living.
Besides, it’s summer! The beginning of the season marks an exciting turning point in our food lives, and it’s not only because of cold beers and burgers.
Suddenly, we’re going to the local green market and filling our totes to the brim with corn, arugula and strawberries, munching as we go. Packing picnics consisting of nothing but heirloom tomatoes, butter and bread, and loving every bite. Enjoying perfectly ripe and juicy stone fruit at pretty much every moment possible.
In other words, we’re beginning to enjoy a whole lot of healthy, raw fruits and vegetables. Our gravitational pull towards the stovetop is less strong; we crave chilled soups, made in the Vitamix and served straight out the refrigerator. We become reacquainted with big salads full of shaved veggies and herbs.
When we do cook, we try to do it outdoors, at night and with a cold glass of rose in hand. And the shopping list is often minimal. A good selection of vegetables and a few cuts of meat is all we need to entertain our palettes, as well as those of our friends.
So, this 4th of July, let’s not forget how lucky we are to be enjoying this new crop of ingredients. There’s so much to work with, and the list of possibilities extends far beyond holiday classics like corn on the cob, potato salads and slaws.
If you’re going to a party or throwing one of your own, why not try to add some umph to the selection of vegetable sides and salads? It doesn’t need to overshadow the other fun stuff, but we think it deserves some love, too!
Not sure what to make? We’ve left you with some loose inspiration below.
Corn and Nectarine Salad
Toss grilled corn with fresh nectarines, some torn basil and a bit of goat or Cojita cheese. I think this would be delicious tossed with lime juice and olive oil, but Bon Appetit makes it with a toasted spiced vinaigrette. I have to admit, it looks absolutely delicious!
Take grilled asparagus one step further by tossing it with some olive oil, lemon juice and minced garlic. And we doubt anyone would complain if you topped it with some shaved parmesan, too.
Tomato and Peach Salad
Toss heirloom and cherry tomatoes with peaches. Add a bit of torn basil and thinly sliced red onion into the mix, and dress well with olive oil and sherry vinegar. Optionally, top with crumbled feta, torn mozzarella or goat cheese.
Cold Pasta Salad with Edible Flowers, Veggies and Herbs
Make summer produce the star of your pasta salad by adding lots of fresh, raw veggies, herbs and edible flowers into the mix. Almost anything goes here! My mom used to make this with tortellini, bell peppers of every color, whatever herbs she was growing (usually tons of basil, parsley and chives) and nasturtiums. It was totally simple, but always a big hit! The key here is a heavy hand with the produce. And don’t forget to dress well with a good glug of olive oil and some red wine vinegar.