Pickle Porn

I mean like food porn. Geez, I say pickle and look where your mind goes!

I’ve been really into making refrigerator pickles these days. They’re easy and super gratifying.

I made dill pickles for the first time, with my friend Iris, and when they were finished we were so excited because they looked exactly like dill pickles! It was like making a cake that looks exactly like the one on the magazine cover. Only really, really easy to achieve.

As exciting as the dill-pickle-looking pickles were, my visual favorites this time around were the carrot pickles. Iris brought us beautiful carrots that were not only a variety of colors but also had rings of color going towards the core. Sliced in half and pressed up the side of a pickle jar they are gorgeous.

The recipes I used during this particular pickling session were for dilly beans, sweet and spicy daikon and carrot pickles, and dill pickles. We also threw some garlic and some cherry tomatoes into leftover brine. For the record: putting cherry tomatoes into a jar of brine does not lead to pickled tomatoes. Which might be for the best, because I’m not sure I’d like pickled tomatoes.

In terms of flavor my favorites are the carrot and daikon pickles. But that’s because the dilly beans and the dill pickles both have a strange, chemically aftertaste to them that Iris and I can taste but other people seem not to be able to discern. I used a super cheap gallon jug of white vinegar, on the assumption that all white vinegar is created equal, but I’m wondering if it was the culprit in the off flavor.

Anyways I am now always on the lookout for fridge pickle recipes to feed my new addiction. Any favorites?

In other news, I have a guest post up today at xgfx for Vegan MoFo!

More mint, GF tabouleh, and a review

When I bought my giant bunch of mint at the farmer’s market to use for my milkshake experiments, I bought a giant bunch of parsley at the same time. There’s something about huge gorgeous bunches of fresh herbs that are almost impossible for me to pass up. Maybe it’s because I’ve always hated that $2 at the supermarket will only get you a teeny bunch with a few stalks of mint, so when I see a veritable bouquet of herbs for the same price, I have to take it home with me.

This of course leads to entire shelves in my fridge being devoted to herb storage, and then there’s the anxiety and pressure that comes from worrying that I won’t use them up in time and they’ll wilt and I’ll feel wasteful. (Yes, I know, I’m a high strung person these days…) The answer to the question of what to do with huge bunches of herbs is, of course, to make herb salads. One of my favorites, tabouleh, is something I haven’t had in years. Tabouleh is made with bulgur; people often ask me if bulgur is among the gluten-free grain options, but it’s not, sadly bulgur is actually the name for wheat that has been parboiled and dried. Another food that people ask me if I can eat is couscous. Most don’t realize that couscous isn’t a grain at all – it is made from semolina (wheat) flour, just like pasta. Couscous is teeny tiny pasta!

Staring at my mint and my parsley, I could just taste the lemony, herby deliciousness of tabouleh on the palate of my mind. (Is that a weird thing to say? You know what I mean, right?) I even had a bunch of cherry tomatoes leftover from making raw kale salad the night before. (I never buy tomatoes out of season except the few times a year I need a total health and yumminess infusion from raw kale salad, and then I’ll sneak a box of cherry tomatoes, which are the only decent-tasting tomatoes I can find in the off-season.)

So the big question that remained was what to use in place of the bulgur. I could use quinoa, which is a great go-to substitute, and which people use in place of bulgur and couscous and wheat berries, etc., all the time. But quinoa lacks a sort of soft quality that bulgur has. Because bulgur has been parboiled, when you cook it you are essentially rehydrating it, rather than really cooking it, and so it has a soft, chewy texture that is quite wonderful. I had recently picked up a new (to me, at least) product at Rainbow made by Lundberg Farms, a local rice farm. It’s called Roasted Brown Rice Couscous, and I assume it has been processed in some way and parcooked, because, like regular couscous, it cooks very quickly.

The rice couscous was perfect for tabouleh. The texture was a bit soft, fluffy, a bit chewy, and altogether delightful. I loved how quickly and easily it cooked up, and the “grains” of couscous absorbed the dressing well, which meant the tabouleh got more and more delicious the longer it sat. It’s been a few years since I’ve eaten regular semolina couscous, so I can’t compare the two closely. But I do remember that my favorite part about couscous was how fast it was, and that part definitely carries over here in the rice version.

To make my tabouleh, I used a wonderful recipe I found on the blog Whole Grain Gourmet. The author there talks about how she (he?) made tabouleh many times, and it was good, but never as good as what she had in restaurants. Then she made this version, which involves a tiny bit of cinnamon, and suddenly all the flavors came together in a way that was exactly “right.” I tried this recipe and had the same experience! The cinnamon makes all the difference. I loved this so much (and had so much parsley and mint) that I made several batches, and so ended up creating my own, slightly tweaked version of the recipe. The flavors are so clean and bright and fresh. The rice couscous feels light, not doughy or heavy. I could eat a mountain of this stuff (and I did!).

Gluten-Free Tabouleh Salad
Adapted from a recipe found at Whole Grain Gourmet

1 package Lundberg Brown Rice Couscous
1 1/2 cups minced parsley
1/4 – 1/2 cup minced mint leaves
1/3 cup minced green onion
2 tomatoes or a large handful of cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 – 1 cucumber, diced

Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (you may want to start with less)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Prepare rice couscous as directed on package. (It will take about 15 minutes plus time to bring the water to a boil.)

While couscous is cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl: olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Don’t put all the lemon juice in at once – I like my dressings to have a lot of acid, but I know not everyone feels the same way. Start with about half the amount and keep adding to taste.

Fluff couscous and put in a large bowl. Toss with the parsley, green onion, mint, tomatoes, and cucumber.

Pour the dressing over the couscous and toss until well coated. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving. The flavors will get even better if it sits overnight!

Going Dutch on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Duck is an amazing thrifter. He has amazing skill and amazing luck. Practically our entire house is furnished and decorated from thrifted or free furniture, artwork, cookware, appliances… I could go on and on. The best was when we needed a new sleeper-sofa. Duck picked out the exact one he thought would work best for us from the Ikea catalogue. Then he used his incredible powers of thrifting to find both pieces – the mattress and the frame – from separate people on craigslist, one for free and one for a fraction of the original cost.

lecreuset_top

His most recent conquest is our very shiny, very beautiful, very orange Le Creuset Dutch oven (well, according to them it’s a French oven, but I think they’re just being snobs). We’ve been wanting a Dutch oven for a long, long time, but even used they still sell for hundreds of dollars. I’m not even going to say how much (or little, rather) Duck found this one for, but I will say the woman we got it from was fully in her right mind and understood what a treasure she was bestowing on us, and when she showed us her stunning, brand-new set of cobalt blue Le Creuset cookware we felt quite equanimous about accepting from her our incredible bargain.

We lugged it home (they tell you and they tell you, but still nothing prepared me for how heavy this baby actually is) and thunked it proudly on the stove. Where it sat, admired, for several days.

lecreuset_side

“Do you remember why we wanted a Dutch oven?,” I finally asked Duck as we basked in the warm glow from our stovetop.

“I just like how they look,” he told me, gesturing to the vibrant enamel glaze that starts out fiery orange at the bottom of the pot and then fades up to almost sunrise yellow.

“But what did we want to cook in it?”

I remembered that at some point I decided I needed a Dutch oven, that there was something I just couldn’t cook without it, but now more than a year later I had no idea what that was.

Duck shrugged. His job was done. The prize had been attained. But as I wracked my brain and scoured the internet, I had to wonder – had we just gotten the world’s best deal on the world’s heaviest paperweight?

(Here’s the thing, in case you’re wondering if I’ve never cracked a cookbook in my life. I know what you use a Dutch oven for, but, you see, we’re vegetarians.)

Finally I came across a recipe online for Wine Braised Lentils over Toast, with credit given to Deborah Madison from her cookbook Vegetarian Suppers. This is one of my favorite cookbooks, and so when I saw that, memories clicked back into place. Debbie M. to the rescue again, this time incarnated as the Queen of the Meatless Dutch Oven.

So, without further ado, I present you with a meal plan designed for a week of glorious, vegan, gluten-free celebration of that enameled treasure of the stovetop, that weighty jewel of the kitchen, the Dutch oven.

Monday
Wine braised lentils over toast with Tuscan kale and pearl onions (Vegetarian Suppers)

Tuesday
Butternut squash green curry with mushrooms, eggplant, and tofu (Vegetarian Suppers)

Wednesday
Brussels sprouts and mushroom ragout with herbed vegan, GF dumplings (Vegetarian Suppers)

Thursday
Braised fennel with saffron rice timbale (Vegetarian Suppers)

Friday
Grits and greens with spinach, chard, scallions, parsley and dill (Vegetarian Suppers)

Saturday
Moroccan chickpea stew with harissa and apricots

Sunday
Greek-style braised green beans
Gigantes in savory tomato sauce (using canned gigantes beans)
Tzatziki

This week I have the honor of hosting the weekly Gluten-Free Menu Swap, and of course I self-servingly chose Dutch ovens as our theme! Check back as the day goes on for more wonderful gluten-free menu plans from all over the web.

Heather at Celiac Family is getting her Thanksgiving planning in gear (hmm, I should be doing that, shouldn’t I?) and on top of that she has a delicious, ambitious week planned. Butter chicken, boneless pork ribs, and GF pizza will all be new recipes this week, capped off by a Leftovers Buffet that’s sure to be gourmet if the rest of the menu is any indication of the contents of Heather’s fridge!

Kim at Gluten Free Is Life is enjoying glorious weather and a perfectly Fall menu. Bourbon chicken, honey-baked lentils, and sweet potato hash browns just conjure up crisp, clear days with lots of running around outside followed by tummy-warming suppers. She also just celebrated her anniversary – Happy Anniversary Kim & Aaron!

Deb at Green V-Neck is miserably hung-over but still managed to put together a fabulous vegetarian, gluten-free menu with international flair. A little visit to the British Isles with lentil and rice shepherd’s pie, all kinds of Indian goodness with rajma masala and bean curry, and some Mexican heat to banish that hangover for good with her taco salad and black bean soup with guacamole. Hope you feel better soon, Deb!

Cheryl at Gluten Free Goodness is still hampered by her kitchen remodel, but she pulls off a spectacular menu as well. (Maybe our theme this week should be “triumph through adversity”!) More fall flavors, with turkey and celery in chestnut sauce, rosemary salmon, and something I’d never heard of before that has now become the new object of my obsession – hazelnut butter cups. Yum!

Esther of The Lilac Kitchen is trying to get more veggies back into her meal plan, and she succeeds wildly this week with a mouth-watering menu that includes sweet potato rostis, bean and veg stew, and butternut squash gratin. And just so things don’t get too wholesome, there’s an amazing white wine and cream sauce in there as well…

For a huge compendium of menu plans (most not veg or GF), check out the Menu Plan Monday round-up over at OrgJunkie.

Oh! And if you’ve been meaning to share a favorite bean, lentil, or other pulse or legume recipe for the Steady Pulse event, it’s not too late! Just send it to me by tomorrow (Nov. 17th) and it will still make it into Wednesday’s round-up and of course into the final Recipes You Can Count On compendium.
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Triumph and disappointment in a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

tofu_menu

It’s so nice to be back again after so long away! Here are some notes from the trenches of another (retroactive) vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday…

This week I tried to check out Veganomicon a bit more for inspiration, but I still get the feeling I might be happier with their previous book, Vegan with a Vengeance, since all the “basic” recipes I look for – tofu scramble, chocolate chip cookies, etc. – aren’t in the fancier V’Con because they already appear in the humbler first effort. I think that was a poor choice on the authors’ (or publishers) part. By including all those basic recipes in V’Con, they could have created a book that would be the cooking bible, the Joy of Cooking for vegan folks, but instead their big book is just one more on the shelf.

We have switched our Farm Fresh to You CSA box to a smaller size because we were getting a little overwhelmed, but we did a good job this week of using up all the veggies that came, even the lettuce, which is usually our downfall. Duck has also been volunteering at the food bank in our neighborhood, and they always insist on sending him home with some nice organic veggies, so those informed our meal choices this week as well. Last night I rediscovered a huge bunch of gorgeous black grapes that had gone past the point of eating raw (Duck and I like our grapes very, very firm) but were in no way rotten, so I tried something I’ve never done before and improvised a little gluten-free, vegan grape cake. It turned out a bit more like a grape bread pudding, but it was delicious!

grapecake

This week’s menu post is light on recipe links, but that’s because the potato leek soup, the biscuits, and the tofu scramble were all first-tries and all disappointments. (Not so bad that dinner was ruined, but I wouldn’t recommend the recipes to anyone else.) If anyone knows a recipe for fantastic vegan, gluten-free biscuits, let me know and I will be forever in your debt!

For a massive dose of menu plans, check out the giant Menu Plan Monday compendium over at OrgJunkie. The Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted this week by Asparagus Thin, with the theme of Superfoods. I got to feel all smug and healthy at how many superfoods from her list I used this week, and not even intentionally to meet the challenge. Avocados, chick peas, dark leafy greens, eggplant, flax seeds and hemp milk in the cake, garlic in everything, lots of nice fermented and sprouted soy, sweet potatoes, tea, whole grains, and yogurt – nearly her entire list!

Monday
Homemade falafel with tahini sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, and sriracha
Middle Eastern-style turnip pickle
Steamed kale with kale sauce

Tuesday
Semi-Nicoise salad with butter lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, steamed green beans, and red onion with Nicoise dressing (no anchovies)
Hot-sauce glazed tempeh (V’con)
White rice

Wednesday
Southern-style collard greens and beet greens with tempeh bacon and tomatoes
Deborah Madison tofu
Quinoa

Thursday
Potato leek soup made with scrap stock
GF biscuits
Green salad

Friday
Bengan bharta (Indian eggplant)
Raita (goat yogurt with cucumber, mustard seeds, and spices)
Cucumber sunomono salad
Brown rice

Saturday
Pasta “alla California” (GF noodles with broccoli, red pepper flakes, and avocado) (VCon)
Roasted root vegetables (beets, carrots, red onion, sweet potato) with fresh rosemary

Sunday
Tofu scramble
Sweet potato fries with aioli
Tempeh bacon
Grape pudding-cake

Have a great week, everyone! And, if you have a favorite Bean, Lentil, Legume, or Pulse recipe, don’t forget to send it to me for the Steady Pulse round-up!