Spiky and sophisticated: I taste and create

We interrupt this ultimate vegan gluten-free Thanksgiving broadcast to bring you a LONG overdue Taste & Create update. For the November round of this event, which pairs food blogs and has them each make a recipe from the other’s blog, I was paired with the blog Little Ivy Cakes. Little Ivy Cakes is a supremely energetic blog documenting all sorts of amazing baking adventures. Luckily for wheat-intolerant me, she blogs about other cooking adventures as well.

I was so consumed by Thanksgiving this month that I did not have a moment to spare on a non-Thanksgiving-related cooking project, but finally the the stars aligned. I found myself with many baby artichokes, and Little Ivy Cakes offered up a recipe for braised artichokes that sounded perfect. I cut my lil’ guys in quarters and realized I didn’t even have to remove the chokes – these babies were too young to grow a beard! (They were choke-free.)

Braised baby artichokes

I followed the Little Ivy Cakes recipe to the letter and the artichokes came out really lovely. For relatively little effort I thought these artichokes looked great, sophisticated and ready to be part of an antipasto platter or something. The only hitch for me was, how the heck do you eat them?

Growing up in California, artichokes were a regular part of my diet. We ate them often, boiled or steamed and then served with a little dish of mayo (which I eschewed because mayo is gross). The way to eat them was to peel off each leaf, scrape your teeth along the meaty part at the base, and then toss the spent leaf into an empty bowl my mom had placed on the table. Once you reached the heart, you used a spoon or a particularly stiff artichoke leaf to scoop out the prickly choke. My mom would always say then, “Oh, the heart is the worst part, you don’t want that, let me take it off your hands!” but even at a young age I could see right through her tricks. This was the reward for all that patient scraping. The sweet and tender heart and the bitter but still delicious stem. After finishing my artichoke I would drink a glass of milk to enjoy the strange chemical reaction that makes the milk taste particularly sweet.

But what to do with these braised artichokes? Was I still to start at the outside and work my way in, layer my leafy layer? Even in baby form the outer layers of leaves were too stiff and prickly to even consider eating the artichoke quarter whole. Duck and I settled on a technique where we sort of gnawed at them, starting at the bottom inside edge where the heart and stem were, and chewing through the tender inner leaves until the unpalatable outer leaves were reached. They were delicious – Duck, especially, was crazy for them – but the whole gnawing thing was a serious erosion to the sophistication I remarked on earlier. So, basically, great recipe, but where are the operating instructions? I’ll have to follow up at Little Ivy Cakes and see if she’ll share her secret!

Don’t forget to check out Little Ivy Cakes’ adventure with my recipe for Sauteed Radicchio with Balsamic Vinegar!

Recipe follows… Continue reading

Box gets spicy: I taste and create!

Duck and I took the train on an adventure last weekend with my niece and her mom. During lunch at an Indian restaurant my niece (who I can, without bias, report is the cutest, smartest, and most awesome three year-old in existence) asked about her meal, “Is everything here vegetarian?” When Duck asked her what vegetarian meant she reported knowingly, “Vegetarian means delicious!”

Big kudos to her mom not only for raising a healthy and thoroughly nourished vegetarian kid, but for providing the kind of quality meals that lead to such synonymous linkage. I came across some other synonyms for “vegetarian” while reading through the food blog Spice of Life, a “homecooking made simple” chronicle of one couple’s kitchen adventures. Spice of Life is my partner for this month’s Taste & Create event, which pairs food blogs and has them each make a recipe from the other’s blog.

Spice of Life is a lovely blog with beautiful photography and very yummy and sophisticated recipes, including some intriguing Filipino recipes (the chief blogger is originally from the Philippines). I had the same problem picking a recipe, though, that I had with my last partner – most of the recipes are meat or wheat!

I finally came across a recipe for Chili-Glazed Tofu over Asparagus and Rice that sounded delicious and also well within my parameters. It was here that I learned some new synonyms for vegetarian, and, let me tell you, I wish I lived in Jescel’s world! Over there, vegetarian is synonymous with “healthy” and also with “feel[ing] like we could eat more and still not feel guilty at all.”

As someone who is entirely vegetarian, I wish I wish I wish this were true! I wish I could be healthy and eat as much as I wanted as long as I just never, ever, ever let a piece of meat cross my lips. Oh beautiful world, I will dream of you as I devour my mountain of lovely, spicy, sticky-sweet tofu fried in peanut oil.

The tofu was even better than I imagined it would be. It’s a pretty similar technique to my everyday Deborah Madison tofu, but the sweet and spicy glaze was sooooo good. It’s not asparagus season, and I feel like I’ve been eating too much rice lately, so I decided to serve the tofu over a quinoa-sesame pilaf prepared Chinese-restaurant-style, little frozen-veggie bits of corn and peas and all!

Thanks so much to Jescel at Spice of Life for a great recipe that will probably get added to my regular weeknight repertoire, to Min at Bad Girl’s Kitchen for organizing this month’s Taste & Create, and to Nicole at For the Love of Food for inventing T&C! You can check out Jescel’s adventure with my recipe at her post, here.

Box Gone Bad: I taste & create!

Taste & Create is a very cool monthly blog event that assigns participating food blogs together in pairs. Each blogger of the pair reads through the other’s site and chooses a recipe to create, taste, and blog about!

This round was my first time participating, and I couldn’t wait to see who I would be paired with, and what dishes we would choose from each other’s offerings. I was paired with the lovely Cowgirl Min, over at the blog The Bad Girl’s Kitchen. Ooh, how saucy! Let’s see what bad girls are cookin’ up these days…

The first thing I noticed and enjoyed about BGK is that it is something of a collective site. Min is not the only bad girl sharing her recipes, although she is the main contributer, and the “life story” you get to follow throughout the posts (which is half the fun of a food blog) is mostly hers. But other friends contribute both recipes and personality, which makes the site extra fun to read.

Breakfast casserole, In My Box-style

Breakfast casserole, In My Box-style

And then, well, it turns out that what bad girls are cooking these days… is mostly meat and wheat. One I don’t eat, and the other I can’t eat. I think I was as bemused as Min was reading my site. I’m going, “What on earth can I make here that doesn’t involve meat or wheat?” and she was asking, “Where the heck do I find Laura Chenel aged goat cheese when the nearest, minuscule grocery store is 35 miles away? And they’ve never heard of goat cheese?” You can read more about Min’s adventure with my blog over at her post about making my decadent breakfast tacos.

In keeping with the theme of my blog, I wanted, if possible, to make a recipe that would use something from my CSA box. I found recipes at BGK for marinated mushrooms and for roasted green beans that sounded good and fit my dietary needs, but neither mushrooms nor green beans would be showing up from Eatwell any time soon. I decided to make something that truly represented the down-home, rich ‘n’ filling spirit of the Bad Girl’s Kitchen, something using the lovely farm-fresh eggs I get every week in my box. I decided to make Min’s yummy-sounding breakfast casserole.

I found gluten-free bread with the proper texture for this sort of dish at Mariposa Bakery in Oakland. I was going to just skip the sausage component, but when I stopped at Trader Joe’s for cheese, I lucked out and found some soy chorizo that contained no wheat gluten! (It’s very rare for fake meat not to be based on wheat gluten.) I already had at home a can of Amy’s Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup (which does contain a small amount of wheat flour), a half-full quart of Silk soy milk, and, of course, my eggs. The only thing I was missing was a can of condensed milk, which I picked up at the corner store by my house. I decided to make a half-recipe since Duck wouldn’t be able to share in this very un-vegan treat.

Look at my ingredients - they live in packages!

Look at my ingredients - so conveniently packaged!

I cooked the sausage, mixed everything together, and popped the casserole in the oven. Since I’d gotten pre-shredded cheese, there was barely any work involved at all, which was a huge relief because this has been a very tired week. It emerged looking browned and gooey and delicious, which it turned out to be. Except for one thing… Okay, so I am not an expert on the canned goods section of the market. Is there an unsweetened variety of condensed milk? Because I thought that condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk were the same thing, until I tasted the oddly sweet, mushroomy topping of my breakfast casserole. Somehow, despite having poured a highly concentrated sweetener over my casserole, I was still expecting a mouthful of savory, egg-bread-sausage goodness. But instead I taste sweet, sweet, sweet, and my mouth gets all confused and doesn’t know what’s going on. [EDIT: I’m a bit of an idiot. Shortly after I posted this post, a reader commented to point out that the original recipe calls for evaporated milk. I know evaporated milk is not sweet and condensed is, but somehow this entire time, and I even thought I went back and checked, I have remained convinced that the recipe called for condensed milk. Did I mention it was a very tired week?]

Nonetheless, the casserole is rich and filling and yummilicious, and I consider this a very successful visit to someone else’s world of food. I don’t know if I would make it again, because I found it as arduous to gather the ingredients (Oakland for GF bread soft enough for this kind of use, TJ’s for soy sausage, etc.) as Cowgirl Min found it to track down my fancy-pants Bay Area stuff. But overall my first round of T&C was a great deal of fun – I got to know someone else’s food blog intimately and I got to walk on the bad girl side of the kitchen. As Min’s blog says, “Try a new recipe… You know you want to.”