Decadence for breakfast, and lunch, and…

Decadent Breakfast Tacos

My visit to the Kitchen Empress in Michigan revolved a lot around food, as all of our visits (and our individual lives) tend to do. As food enthusiasts who have lived in the East, West, Southwest, and Midwest of this country, and who have taken up long-term habitation in several of the other continents of the world, we swap food tales like foreign correspondents share their war stories.

One morning I was telling KE about this new fondness I’ve developed for tacos (they are a terrific, easy vegan and gluten-free meal, and those are in high demand around my house). She swapped back with stories of beloved breakfast tacos from when she lived in Austin. Breakfast tacos with potatoes in them. I could not stop imagining what that would be like – the soft, warm corn tortilla wrapped around the crisped potatoes and the fluffy scrambled egg.

My last morning in Michigan we finally made my taco dreams come true. Using leftover roasted potatoes, we put together some breakfast tacos that were everything I’d imagined and more. I couldn’t stop thinking about them when I got home.

The other night, I worked well past dinner and so on the way back home Duck and I ended up at midnight at one of San Francisco’s all-night restaurants. We ordered the only things you can order in an all-night restaurant that are both vegan and gluten-free: french fries and a small green salad. These weren’t just any fries, these were “desert fries” (at first I wondered if they were misspelled “dessert fries” and pictured them piled with cherry sauce and whipped cream) with spicy Cajun seasoning. You can only eat so many french fries for dinner, and everyone knows fries make terrible leftovers (not least because you don’t want to be reminded of your dietary excess). But the spectre of the breakfast taco compelled me. I packed our fries up to take home.

And boy was I glad I did. For what followed was more magnificent than I could ever have anticipated.

The one consistent bummer about making tacos has been that the corn tortillas get soggy and fall apart halfway through the eating. Taco trucks and other taco professionals get around this by doubling up the tortilla, but my store-bought tortillas aren’t yummy enough that I want to scarf down a plain double layer of them. So I concocted a plan to deal with all these hurdles, little imagining it would lead me to a breakfast taco so decadent that I had to leave most of it on the plate for lunch, and beyond.

Decadent Breakfast Tacos

Take a small stack of corn tortillas and warm them in a pan until soft. Take two tortillas and sandwich between them a thin layer of Laura Chenel aged goat cheese. In a pan, warm chopped desert fries and crumbled tempeh bacon in a little olive oil. Place these on the tortilla, and top them with a perfectly scrambled egg, sliced avocado, and some chipotle-lime salsa. Close your eyes and savor. It’s okay if it’s too rich to finish in one sitting – the tortilla won’t fall apart while it waits.

The fourth way

Back when I still thought my problem with turnips was not having found the right way to cook them (as opposed to simply disliking them in general), I tried them three different ways in one night. Of course I ended up not very satisfied with any of those (because I don’t like turnips). But after trying some raw turnip that evening, I thought they might make good pickles. This, I suggested while the turnip project still had appeal, would be the fourth way to try turnips.

A fresh batch of turnip pickles (with beet for color)

Fast forward many months. A new round of turnip delivery begins. Duck and I eat the yummy greens very happily (and for all the people who find this site by googling “turnip greens” or “how to cook turnip greens” I recommend preparing them, alone or with other greens, steamed and then topped with kale sauce or sauteed “Venice” style or Asian style with ginger and garlic). But the turnips themselves sit in the fridge, unloved.

Then I remembered a favorite culinary memory. In New York, all the falafel places give you these yummy pink pickles with your food. They always seemed like radishes to me, but with a more rubbery rather than crunchy texture. Finally I asked a falafel cook what they were, and he told me they were pickled turnips. As far as I know, these pickles were my main contact with turnips before the advent of the CSA, but I completely forgot about them. The memory returned in my time of need as I stood staring at several bags of turnips nestled amidst the lettuce graveyard in my fridge.

Turnips and beets awating their vinegar bath

But what turns white turnips into pink pickles? It turns out sliced beets do, and a bunch of beets arrived fortuitously in the next box. Google led me to a recipe on the madKnews blog, and I put my turnips in to pickle before leaving on my big Midwestern adventure. (These are “refrigerator pickles” so they don’t get canned, just stuck in the fridge to sit in a vinegar solution.)

Tonight the pickles had their grand unveiling. They’d been hanging out in their vinegar baths for thirteen days, several days more than the recipe recommended, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Duck and I wanted to showcase them in their optimal setting, so we made homemade falafel to put on fresh lavash bread with heirloom tomatoes, tender red leaf lettuce, a squeeze of meyer lemon and a generous spread of Haig’s baba ganoush, a local delicacy and one of my favorite things.

We tried the pickles straight first, and then rolled them into sandwiches with all the other goodies. The first pickle-only bite was so spicy, I felt like I’d licked the maror dish at Passover (that would be a bowl of horseradish for those of you who are seder-uninitiated). And Duck made a face when he tried his that made me certain I was going to be eating two jars of turnip pickles by my lonesome. But then his fingers kept sneaking back into the jar.

“You like them!,” I exclaimed.

“I don’t know if I like them,” he replied, “but I seem to be addicted to them.” At least that’s what I think he said – his mouth was full of turnip pickle at the time.

Subsequent bites proved a little more mellow. And the little guys were absolutely phenomenal in our falafel wraps. I’m having a hard time finding words to describe their flavor. Zesty, certainly. And so yummy I was stuffing another little slice into each bite of my wrap. It looks like, after what ended up being considerably more than four tries, I have at last found a way to enjoy my turnips! Continue reading

Sweet potato and kale

When I think of sweet potato and kale soup, I think of winter, no question. It sounds like a healthy but still sturdy and comforting dish to make when the temperatures drop and just going outside seems to take more energy than usual. But one of the nice things about my box is that it keeps me truly seasonal. And this doesn’t just mean swearing off tomatoes for eight months of the year. It also means discovering that sweet potatoes and kale can be spring/summer seasonal vegetables. How do I know this? Well, there’s no hothouse at Eatwell, and it’s currently June, and there are the tenderest, most adorable sweet potatoes and a beautiful bunch of kale in my box.

Considering that I’m in San Francisco, summer is sadly often the time when you need a hearty, warming meal. Haven’t you heard the quote, widely attributed to Mark Twain? “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup with Fennel Seed and Ginger

In addition to the sweet potatoes and kale, my box this week also included a newsletter featuring a recipe for sweet potato and kale soup. Duck and I decided this wasn’t the best use of our gorgeous bunch of purple-tinged kale (we love it so much plain – no, we crave it plain – that the box can’t even keep up with our appetite for plain kale, much less have anything leftover to be sticking in soups) but then Duck went out of town before we could eat the kale and I just couldn’t stop thinking about this soup.

I decided to make a batch of it, and I am really, really glad I did. The recipe brings out perfectly the sweetness of both the kale and the sweet potatoes, and the fennel seed manages to be interesting without being overpowering. I slightly tweaked the original recipe, which seems to be a home-invented one from another Eatweller. I changed the proportions and only blended part of the soup, so the texture I ended up with may be rather different from the original intent, but I thought it was perfect. I also worked a little FASS magic and added a touch of lemon juice – the dish is already perfect on the sweet and salty, and the cheese or yogurt or cream at the end takes care of fat, but it needed just a hint of acid for my tastes.

The recipe follows… Continue reading