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.
There are a lot of things I love about the fall. Football, colorful crunchy leaves, thick socks and most of all – the abundance of pumpkin EVERYTHING. As I was going through Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cook book, “Sweet”, I stumbled upon a delish spice cake recipe that uses pumpkin pie spice! So in the spirit of Halloween, I had to test it.
Growing up, my mom would make the most delicious spice cakes every year (she’s an amazing baker and constantly gets asked to make her famous rum cakes, spice cakes and chocolate rolls). So, as I try to channel my mom and Ottolenghi, here is what I came up with! Of course I had to give it a flare, so I added toasted hazelnuts, fresh sage and dates to the batter. And let me tell you, the kitchen smelled AMAZING.
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
¾ packed cup dark brown sugar
¾ packed cup light brown sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
3 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 heaping tsp pumpkin pie spice (YUM)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp apple cider vin
Rian’s Mix In’s (add anything you like! )
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
½ cup sliced dates
1 tsp flour
Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Grease a standard 9×5 loaf pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
Place the butter, sugars and orange zest in a bowl and beat until lightened and smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract until smooth
4. In another separate bowl (lots of bowls!), sift the flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt together.
5. In alternate batches, slowly mix the egg mixture and flour mixture in with the butter and sugars. When almost combined, stir the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl until it fizzes and add to the mixture.
6. In my version of the recipe, I added in toasted hazelnuts, dates and chopped sage to the batter! Stir the additional ingredients with a pinch of flour. This will ensure that they won’t sink to the bottom of the cake. Mix to combine.
7. Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.
8. Allow the cake to cool and serve with a glass of wine or a hot coffee (I prefer the wine). I smothered mine with homemade butternut squash and cream cheese icing, but the cake itself can stand alone. Enjoy! And have the happiest Halloween!!
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!)
Chickpeas are an ingredient we know and love. They’re satiating and a great source of plant-based protein. And, like most legumes, they provide an excellent canvas for flavor. You can really dress them up in any way you like.
We eat them chilled in our summer bean salads, warm in our winter stews. Pureed in our hummus, fried in our falafel. We love to roast them to crispy, baked perfection. To munch on them as a snack, to include them in our kitchen sink salads. Basically, we love to consume chickpeas pretty much any way, at pretty much any time.
But how often do you find yourself cooking with chickpea flour? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably not too often.
Chickpea flour—traditionally made by grinding raw chickpeas—is gluten free and nutrient dense. Like whole chickpeas, it’s a fantastic source of protein, and one that doesn’t come with an ominous use-by date. It has a really nice flavor and a rather dense texture, so it holds up well during cooking and tastes delicious once it’s done.
You can use chickpea flour in many ways, most of which are easy, fast, healthy and economical. Read: this is an ingredient worth getting to know.
Not sure where to begin? I can’t think of a better way to break the ice than by making socca.
Socca, native to France, is an unleavened pancake that can be made from equal parts chickpea flour and water. The process will seem friendly to even the most novice cooks. It requires little more than whisking flour and water, heating a lightly oiled pan and cooking a pancake. Isn’t that lovely?
But there’s room for adventure, too.
For instance, you could amp up your socca with egg a la this genius recipe for “cromlet”, a chickpea-omelette hybrid developed at Bon Appetit and beloved by the team here at WWE.
Or perhaps you’d like to use it as a gluten and dairy free roux in your next vegan sauce, as Lindsey Love, a fellow chickpea flour evangelist, suggests.
Love also wrote this recipe for za’tar spiced chickpea crackers, which look to be delicious, healthful and minimalist all at once. They consist of little more than chickpea flour, olive oil and water.
Other intriguing uses: pizza, wraps, baking (it’s a trustworthy binder) and soups, to name a few.
But don’t let me get carried away. If you’re new to chickpea flour, how about a simple, anything-goes, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Salad Socca? The guidelines are straightforward:
Purchase some chickpea flour (also called garbanzo or gram flour), then head to the farmer’s market and fill your tote with spring produce. Make your way home. Make a salad, then make socca, then top the socca with the salad. Easy, right?
Below, a bit of inspiration: a recipe for a Salad Socca of my own creation. Let me know what you think of yours. Happy cooking!
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon tahini
1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed
1 lemon, juiced and zested
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups baby greens
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
Olive oil to taste
½ teaspoon sumac (optional)
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tahini, garlic, half of the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Separately, combine greens, fennel and cucumber. Toss well with olive oil, remaining lemon juice, some lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, sprinkle with sumac.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 cup water and a healthy three-finger pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.
Heat a medium (10-in or so) skillet, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat surface.
Pour socca batter into skillet and let cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on bottom. It will fill the entire skillet. Flip and repeat on other side.
Once done, top socca with a generous serving of tahini-yogurt. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, spread mixture to evenly coat. Using your hands, top with fennel and cucumber salad. Enjoy.