Whole30 Week 3: Vegan and Not-So Vegan

Asparagus & Fennel Soup by Amy Roth Photo

This week’s post is dedicated to Kenji Lopez-Alt, that test kitchen god (and managing culinary director at Serious Eats) whose recipes formed the backbone of the best meals I made this week. Only minor tweaks were necessary to make them Whole30-compliant; though I’m really starting to hate the word compliant, the adjustments seem to be coming to me naturally now. I’m still constantly hungry despite eating all the time and adding even more fat to my diet, but the cheese cravings aren’t constant, so I’m headed in the right direction. No tiger blood, either, but I always thought that was a long shot, anyway.

Lunch today was a fan-freaking-tastic soup of asparagus and fennel, found on Lopez-Alt’s Instagram feed. I took the basics and tweaked them a bit with what I had in the house and fell head over heels. I sautéed 1/2 large chopped onion with a small thinly sliced bulb of fennel and a finely chopped stalk of celery in olive oil until they were soft, then added one bunch of chopped asparagus (minus the tips, which I steamed) and half of a sliced russet potato and cooked them together for a few minutes. One quart of chicken stock, salt to taste and some simmering later, I blitzed the soup in my Vitamix and lunch was served. I love simple, seasonal recipes, don’t you? I may try to accentuate the fennel flavor next time with a splash of Herbsaint, but honestly found the soup to be perfectly balanced this way. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Cast Iron Steak & Vegan Creamed Spinach by Amy Roth Photo

A more substantial meal came in the form of a stovetop-cooked ribeye and vegan creamed spinach, which may sound like an odd combination, but hear me out. When you’re eating so much meat in one sitting (though not that much — Gil and I split the steak), there’s no need to go overboard with real creamed spinach. It’s just too much. And honestly, I found the flavors of this vegan dish much more pleasing and less muted than I do with the standard recipe. Blended cauliflower and almond milk form the base of the “cream” and are just brilliant at that job. I did add a little nutritional yeast for a cheesy tang, but otherwise cooked it according to the recipe.

The steak followed the Serious Eats recipe I use exclusively during winter, when the thought of standing at my grill would be enough to keep me from eating steak at all if not for this method of indoor cooking. I did use ghee instead of butter and could definitely taste a difference, but the steak was excellent anyway, so no complaints there.

I did have a couple of small cheats this week. When I couldn’t stand the thought of preparing one more meal, Gil whisked me away to a BBQ joint where I had smoked beef with a side of mashed potatoes that might have (probably) had milk and/or butter in them. I felt fine after, so no worries for me! Then, at a meeting I attended Tuesday, I had one Terra Chip which was The Best Thing I’ve Ever Tasted In My Life. I can’t even lie. Fried potatoes (though this was taro, I believe) are absolutely my trigger food and that chip was like a drug that left me wanting more. I don’t know where I got this self-control, but am very happy for it, because otherwise I’d be sitting on my living room floor covered in grease and crumbs.

Then again, Benny would probably take care of the crumbs situation. I haven’t really shared about it here, but we lost both Ru and Otis over the last two years, which was just heartbreaking. Ru left us only in December of last year, so we waited as long as we could, but finally adopted another greyhound just three weeks ago! He’s the sweetest little guy with a funny bark and a much bigger brain than Ru and Otis put together — it’s a little scary to watch him figuring things out. He’s still a little camera-shy, so no decent photos yet, but if you’d like to follow him on Instagram, he’s precocious and has his own account. And while you’re there, follow me, too! I try to post everyday, so there’s always something delicious to see.

I’m planning to end Whole30 a few days early next Thursday, when I’m going out to lunch with friends. We’re planning for dim sum and I don’t want to miss out on everything but steamed vegetables. But I’ll behave. Mostly. See you next week!

Asparagus and Fresh Garlic — It MUST be Spring

Gluten-Free Spring Dining

UPDATE: Congratulations to Sarah Cordes, winner of the cookbook Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan! 

It feels like an eternity since I’ve had fresh, local asparagus, so I didn’t waste much time this morning getting it from the refrigerator to my belly. Heaven to me is asparagus with a sunny-side up egg, so I riffed on that to come up with a breakfast I’ll enjoy until the season marches on.

Duck Egg Yolk with Buttered Miso Asparagus | Amy Roth Photo

This took me about 10 minutes to get on the table, including prep time, so you might want to give it a try on a busy weeknight when you’re tired but just can’t face ordering in again. The asparagus would make a nice side dish on its own, but as we all know, nearly everything tastes better with an egg on top. And if you have access to duck eggs (like I do, from Edgwick Farm), DEFINITELY sub that for the standard chicken egg. The rich, sunny yolk does beautiful things to the garlicky miso coating the asparagus. I’m so sad I didn’t pick up two bunches of asparagus last Saturday; now I’ll have to wait another week before making this again.

If you’ve been here before, you may notice that I’m trying a new recipe feature from GetMeCooking. Starting with this post, recipes will be printable and uniformly formatted with information about ingredients that may trigger common food-related allergies. Someday, I’ll have the entire site updated and indexed all the way back to 2006, but I think this is a good start. Any thoughts or suggestions for making it even more user-friendly?

Also, just a reminder that I’m giving away a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, an essential cookbook filled with stellar recipes written in her easygoing, encouraging voice. You have until this Friday at 11:59pm ET to register using the entry form at the end of this post. Good luck to you!

And happy asparagus season, if it’s springtime in your neck of the woods!

Buttered Asparagus with Miso and Fried Egg

Serves 1
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 5 minutes
Total time 10 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Enjoy Spring's first and finest (IMO) dish — buttered miso asparagus with a fried duck egg.

Ingredients

Asparagus

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2-3 teaspoons yellow miso
  • 1 teaspoon garlic (chopped)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (woody ends snapped off)

Sunny-Side Up Egg

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg (duck, if you have it)

Note

This recipe works with fat, woody asparagus. I haven't tried it yet with delicate, slim stalks, but when I do, I probably won't cover the pan because they won't have to cook for quite as long. 

Directions

FOR THE ASPARAGUS
In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus in one layer, combine water, butter, miso and garlic. Stir over high heat until miso and butter have melted into the water.
Add asparagus, bring to a boil, and cover. Lower heat to medium and steam for two minutes, then remove lid and cook until liquid has evaporated. Keep an eye on the asparagus at this point, because miso will burn if you're not careful. Asparagus is ready when it's crisp-tender; test it by inserting the tip of a knife into the fattest part of the stalk. It should slide in easily, but the asparagus should still be firm. Serve immediately with fried egg.
FOR THE SUNNY-SIDE UP EGG
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. When butter stops bubbling, crack the egg into the pan. Add 1 tablespoon water and cover. Cook until whites are set, but yolk is still runny. Serve over buttered miso asparagus.

Field to Feast: Green Garlic & Radishes

Instead of the Farmers’ Market Feast I’ve run for the past few summers, I’ll be doing things a little differently around here this year, partnering with my friend Kasha Bialas of The FarmGirl Cooks. In fact, I’ll just let her introduce you to our new endeavor:

Once upon a time there was a food photographer in New Jersey who loved to shop at farmers’ markets. This photographer was an avid cook and blogger who took advantage of the local bounty, cooking for herself, her husband and her two loving pups.  It just so happened that the farmer from whom she purchased vegetables, a single mom born and raised on a veggie farm in New York, was also an avid cook and blogger. What started out as a very businesslike transaction over radishes and onions has blossomed into a friendship based upon food, its preparations and the photographing of the results.

Join Amy of Minimally Invasive and Kasha of The FarmGirl Cooks, as they take you on a culinary journey documenting their challenge to create unique dishes using the same in-season ingredients. Because there’s nothing more beautiful than an artfully arranged plate of simply-prepared ingredients at the peak of freshness, the primary ingredients in each pair of dishes will be chosen based upon what looks best growing in the fields and purchased at local farmers markets. Amy’s and Kasha’s goal is to show readers that incorporating seasonal foods into daily cooking is quite effortless and can have stunning results. Please follow along as our chefs bring you the season’s best foods prepared in creative and delicious ways!

Combining the first and second weeks of the summer market into one mega-post, we’re kicking things off with green garlic…

Green Garlic @ Minimally Invasive

and radishes.

Radishes @ Minimally Invasive

In my excitement over finally (FINALLY!) having fresh garlic, I used it in all of the old standards — sautéeing it for asparagus pizza, or serving it with bacon and asparagus topped with a farm-fresh duck egg for breakfast.

Asparagus, Garlic and Eggs @ Minimally Invasive

But after a week of gorging on asparagus, I was ready to try something new. A few years ago, I made garlic confit for a triple-garlic pizza and thought it might be an interesting way to use this green garlic. So I chopped up everything but the roots of the garlic, threw in some black peppercorns, added olive oil to cover, and let the dish bathe in a 300-degree oven for two hours. (I made A LOT, so it took a while to cook down to a soft, slumpy mess.) The house smelled nothing short of amazing as the garlic was cooking, by the way. Check out the link above to make garlic confit of your own.

Green Garlic Chopped @ Minimally Invasive

The confit wasn’t falling apart or jammy the way whole garlic cloves get with the same treatment, but it was divine in its own right; in fact, I’m embarrassed to tell you how much of it I ate straight from a spoon, sprinkled with a little salt, my brain working on how to incorporate it in recipes.

The first dish that presented itself was, again, asparagus, which I blanched in very salty boiling water, then marinated at room temperature with a copious amount of garlic confit and its oil. Just before serving, I sprinkled the dish with finishing salt and added a big grind of fresh black pepper. Anything more would’ve been gilding the lily.

And after two days in the refrigerator, it’s even better than when I first made it:

Asparagus with Green Garlic Confit @ Minimally Invasive

Then I used some confit to mellow out the radish green pesto I’d prepared as a topping for marinated, grilled purple potatoes. On its own, the radish pesto was quite bitter, as you’d expect from such spicy greens and the handful of walnuts I used, but with about 1/3 cup of garlic confit whirred into the mixture, it became something entirely different — mellow, silky, and completely satisfying.

Confit and Pesto @ Minimally Invasive

After the pesto was made, I was left with a bunch of juicy radishes. While my favorite way to eat them is raw with a little anchovy butter, this is a cooking blog, so I got to work on a recipe. I began by halving and tossing them with a little olive oil:

Sliced Radishes @ Minimally Invasive

Then roasting and tossing them with a brown-butter miso glaze, all the while liberally sampling and adjusting here and there until it tasted juuuuust right.

Miso Glazed Radishes @ Minimally Invasive

It’s so simple to make delicious meals this time of year with farm-fresh ingredients. Attempting any overly involved recipe is almost a shame at the start of the season, when our winter-deprived taste buds are crying out for something new; it’s all so delicious when treated with respect and a light touch. I can’t guarantee I’ll stick to that philosophy with every dish, but it’s a great place to start.

Be sure to check out Kasha’s post on green garlic and asparagus and drool over her gorgeous risotto!

Brown Butter and Miso-Glazed Radishes

1 bunch radishes, cleaned and trimmed with 1/2-inch of greens still attached
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons white miso

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Halve radishes vertically, then toss them with the olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Pour onto a greased baking sheet and turn radishes cut side down. Roast for 20 minutes, or until a knife slips easily into a radish.

While the radishes are roasting, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until the milk solids turn golden brown and develop a nutty smell. Remove from heat and add maple syrup and lemon juice, stirring to combine. Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes, then stir in the miso until the mixture becomes a smooth paste.

Toss the radishes with the miso mixture in a big bowl and serve immediately. They’re also great at room temperature, if you want to serve them in a buffet setting.

From the Market: Think Pink Edition

Strawberry & Rhubarb Smoothie with Lemon Basil | Minimally Invasive

When the unrelenting greigeness of the winter landscape weighs heavily on my soul, especially so in March when my internal calendar — still set to Southern seasonal rotations, even after all these years — says the world should be warm and bursting with life, I dream of color. By May, our yard is awash in yellow forsythia and tiny purple blooms in the grass — probably weeds, but I don’t care — and I begin to recover. Still, the really vibrant colors don’t come until later, and not until the Farmers’ Market starts up again around Memorial Day do I bother to buy fruit. There’s just no comparison between the beautiful but insipid berries you see at the market and the beautiful and flavorful ones you get locally. (The strawberries taste like strawberries, and the snozzberries taste like snozzberries!) So last week I decided to think pink.

Rhubarb Syrup and Strawberry & Rhubarb Smoothie with Lemon Basil | Minimally Invasive

Though rhubarb seems to be long gone by now, I still have a bottle of lovely rhubarb syrup in the fridge that mixes will with all sorts of things, and is still a classic with strawberries. I blended up a little shake to get me through the morning — strawberries, rhubarb syrup, lemon basil, goat’s milk yogurt and ice. Nothing fancy, but so delicious and fresh, I feel healthier just remembering it.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Smoothie with Lemon Basil | Minimally Invasive

Honestly, couldn’t you just have a glass of that right now? Aaaahhhh…

But one can only drink so many strawberries and they don’t last forever, not even close, so I had to come up with something else for them. Lucky for me (and all of us, really), Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for strawberries & cream biscuits a few weeks ago.
Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive
whimper

I converted the original recipe to gluten-free, using Jules Gluten-Free AP Flour. Because the last batch of biscuits I made with this flour blend turned out fairly dry, I played with the proportions of ingredients, adding more butter (two extra tablespoons) and cream (an extra 1/4 cup). Like that’s ever a bad thing. With all of the extra liquid, they had to bake a while longer to turn golden brown, but they eventually did, after about 25 minutes. The tweaks certainly took care of the dryness, but I think there’s something about the GF flours that kept the juices from spilling out of the biscuits. The cornstarch, maybe? Not that I’m complaining; they were awfully tasty anyway.

Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive

But boy, do they ever not reheat well. Just a warning for you.

Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive

Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive

I think we still have a few weeks of strawberries before they’re gone for another year. I fully intend to enjoy these ephemeral beauties until then and store the memories for the long winter ahead.

Strawberries | Minimally Invasive

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market: Think Pink Edition”

From the Market: Memorial Day Edition

Gluten-free recipe from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges
Asparagus from Orchards of Concklin

Well, hello! It’s good to be back from my extended self-imposed exile. It’s a long, tedious story that involves dealing with a vexatious situation for the past two months with no end in sight. Also? Mid-life crisis and the eternal question of what do I really want to do with the rest of my life all tied up in a nice, black bow. My heart’s telling me food photography is the way to go: I love it and already have made some money at it without self-promoting too crazily, but is it something I can really do as my almost-sole source of income? Maybe it’s time for a leap of faith.

*****************************************

Last weekend marked the start of our weekly farmers’ market in Ringwood, which also means the start of my 2012 Farmers’ Market Feast series. Above, you see my first local (delicious, amazing, worth-waiting-all-winter-for) asparagus of the season treated very simply using an idea from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges, one of my new favorite cookbooks: toss blanched asparagus with a tiny bit of butter instead of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with parmesan shavings and lemon zest. I added a little truffle salt and turned it into breakfast with the addition of a sunny side-up egg, and it really lightened my mood.

gluten-free
Spinach & radishes from Bialas Farms, strawberries from Orchards of Concklin, salad greens from Nina’s Red Barn Farm

Then I got a little creative for lunch Sunday afternoon. I was far too sweatystanky to bother cooking with any form of heat because our air conditioner is not only merely dead, it’s really most sincerely dead. The panting and lethargy going on in our house was ridiculous, and it wasn’t just the dogs this time. So I made a fresh version of a summer salad roll with spinach & salad greens, fresh mint, peppery radishes, green onions, and the sweetest strawberries you can imagine rolled up in a softened rice paper wrapper. I went with a spicy fish sauce-based dipping sauce that provided a perfect salty accent to the rolls. Sure it would’ve been a lot easier just to have a salad, but where’s the fun in that? This could be a nice treat to serve at the start of a dinner party or to bring to a cookout, provided you keep the rolls covered with a damp paper towel.

This probably doesn’t seem like much cooking for three days, but I’m doing another cookbook shoot on weekends. It’s a lot of work, but a good time doing what I love — cooking and taking pictures. I’m not sure of the release date yet, but I’ll certainly keep you posted.

And on the cookbook front, I can’t let the unofficial start of summer go by without telling you about Grilling Vegan Style by John Schlimm. I spent a bit of last summer shooting it and just got to see the fruits of my labors a few weeks ago, just in time for grilling season. So exciting. If you’ve spent any time here at all, you know I’m pretty far from vegan, but these recipes were delightful. It’s a lot of fun to be able to eat your work at the end of a long day.


Grilled Corn on the Cob with Piquant Sauce (left) and Shiny Happy Poppers (right)

A great thing about John’s recipes is that little twist he adds that elevates them beyond normal everyday fare.


Two-Faced Avocado Sandwiches (left) and Mojito Mojo (right)

I also love the creative names and funny introductions he gives to each recipe.


Romaine Holiday (left) and Tattooed Watermelon Salad (right)

I’d never HEARD of grilled watermelon till I shot this book. Now it’s all I want to eat, and I never really liked watermelon at all.


Presto Pesto Lasagna

No need to turn on the oven and heat up the house when you’re making a vegan lasagna. It’s the perfect summer recipe!


S’More is Always Better!

How is it possible that I never had s’mores until I shot this book?! They might just be the perfect dessert and there really isn’t a meal that isn’t made better by a s’more finish. I speak from experience. (Vegan marshmallows and graham crackers can be a little tough to find, but many Whole Foods carry the Sweet & Sara brand, which are virtually indistinguishable from the animal-based thing. In fact, I might give the nod to the vegan grahams, so you definitely should give this a try.)

From the Market — The Kickoff

Grilled potatoes, radish green pesto, shaved asparagus

We went straight from winter to summer around here, and not a moment too soon. I’m stuck in an office today instead of out enjoying perfect grilling/hanging out/whatever weather, but at least it gives me time to reflect on last weekend’s fixin’s.

We’re going to have some green on this blog and lots of it now that our local farmers’ market is back for the season! It was a bittersweet opening, as some of you know — our market is now dog-free. Poor Gil looked like a lost soul just wandering around without the boys, while I did what I always do and loaded up on good stuff to carry home. We’ll probably venture out to other markets that are dog-friendly in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for a full report.

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

I felt like an appetizer to get the ball rolling, and ended up with one that would be just as good for barbecues as for a light dinner during grilling season — grilled potato rounds with radish-green pesto and shaved asparagus. It’s vegetarian, nutrient-dense and good hot or cold (though I give the nod to hot-off-the-grill because crispy grilled potatoes just can’t be beat).

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

It’s easily adapted to use what you have in the house. The radish-green pesto came about because I hate throwing anything away, and a pesto is just about the easiest way to use extra greens. If you don’t have radish greens or just don’t like them, use any kind of pesto you prefer. I had some garlic confit in the fridge, so I tossed the asparagus with garlic oil and lemon juice, but go ahead and use olive oil if that’s what you have.

Springtime pie

For lunch, I rejiggered my triple-garlic pizza, adding quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions and shaved asparagus and radish-green pesto leftovers. Really good stuff.

These quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions were inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s pickled onions.

after baking

A thin layer of mozzarella and grated parmesan and garlic confit (natch) tied the whole pizza together. We made short work of it, I’m afraid, but I still have the makings for one more pie, which should be just the thing to kick off this next weekend.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market — The Kickoff”

All ’choked up

Baby artichokes inspire a fervor almost unrivaled by other springtime produce. Sure, ramps have their devotees and noses are wrinkling in bathrooms across the nation right now over love of asparagus, but cooks go pretty nuts for baby artichokes, too. If you’re not so impassioned, it might be hard to imagine what causes such devotion, apart from the general cuteness of miniaturization. Me? I like ’em for the purest reason of all: laziness. They’re about a squazillion times easier to deal with than their full-grown brethren.

To wit: prep time for 10 baby artichokes, including rubbing the cut sides with lemon juice, was somewhere in the neighborhood of five minutes. Try trimming that many full-grown artichokes in the same amount of time. OK, maybe you’re a champion artichoke-trimmer for all I know, but I’d still be in the kitchen, weeping and cursing my bright idea for a meal.

Unfortunately, the weekend weather didn’t cooperate enough to allow me to grill these, so I used the broiler instead. I’d like to get that smokey flavor next time, but as a quick substitute, I was more than happy with these. Once they came out of the oven cooked through and a little charred, I drizzled them with bagna cauda and lemon juice and promptly died of pleasure.

I’m one of those people who LOVES salty, pungent foods, so bagna cauda’s one-two wallop of anchovies and garlic is right up my alley. But then there’s just something about it with artichokes, the way it accents the vegetal flavor.

I devoured as much as I could and grudgingly made an offering of the toughest outer leaves for the artichoke god. It’s the least I could do for such bounty.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “All ’choked up”