Friday, February 27, 2015

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Teriyaki Sauce and Nori Dust

Several months ago, I tried a salt-roasting technique from the Vedge cookbook, and loved the silky texture that was coaxed out of this rock-hard root by simply placing it on a bed of salt and slow-roasting it for a couple of hours. Since then, I've tried out a variation which involved encasing the unpeeled beets with salt before placing them on the bed of salt. What the salt does here is gently steam the beet, while keeping it at an even temperature during roast time—producing a silky, soft and luxurious texture. 

Either way, although the slow roasting time is, well, slow, the end result is worth it. Marinating the beets in toasted sesame oil and coconut vinegar (always my acid of choice, but you could probably also use white balsamic or even apple cider vinegar) at the end makes these already soft and silky beets even more so. 

The marinated beets are then drenched in a homemade teriyaki sauce right before serving, then piled over steamed rice and accented with a little ground nori. I used ochazuke wakame seasoning (which can be found in most Asian supermarkets) instead of nori for leftovers, which also worked nicely with the texture and flavor of the teriyaki beets. 

for the teriyaki sauce (yields 1 cup sauce)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake (if you don't want to use sake, just use 1/4 cup extra of the mirin)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 TB toasted sesame oil
1 TB minced ginger

for the beets
1 lb golden beets, (3 small beets)
2 cups coarse salt, plus more if needed
1 TB toasted sesame oil
1 tsp coconut vinegar

for serving
steamed rice
1/3 to 1/2 cup cup teriyaki sauce 
1 tsp nori dust (grind 1/4 sheet nori in coffee grinder) OR ochazuke wakame seasoning, to taste
2-4 scallions, chopped
1 TB sesame seeds
steamed broccoli or other green vegetable

To make the teriyaki sauce, whisk the brown sugar, mirin, sake and soy sauce in a bowl. Set aside.

Warm the toasted sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add in the ginger, making sure it's coated well with the oil. Saute for 1 minute only.

Pour the contents of the bowl into the saucepan, whisking it initially to dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to a small boil, reduce the heat to its lowest setting. Allow to reduce for 30-35 minutes, whisking it occasionally, then remove from the heat.

Chill the teriyaki sauce to allow it to thicken before using. If it become too thick, a few seconds in the microwave will loosen it up enough to pour.

To slow roast the beets, preheat oven to 375.

Pour the salt into a glass pyrex large enough to place the beets on in a single layer. Trim the stems from the tops of the beets, but do not slice off the top of the beets themselves. Trim any tails off the beets, making sure you don't lop off the base of the beets. Rinse the beets and place into the salt while wet. Make sure that the beet has a good layer of salt on the bottom, and the beet itself does not actually touch the bottom of the pyrex. Place into the oven to roast for 2 hours.

For a different, more "meaty" texture around the edges, place one cup of salt in the bottom of a pyrex large enough to place the beets on in a single layer. Place the other cup of salt into a bowl. Rinse one of the unpeeled beets, then place into the bowl of salt. Pack as much as you can around it, then place it onto the bed of salt in the pyrex, ensuring there is enough salt on the bottom so the beet doesn't make contact with the bottom of it. Repeat with the remaining beets. Place into the oven to roast for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven. Allow the beets to cool slightly and remove from the salt. You'll want to peel and mandoline them while they're still slightly warm.

Slice thinly with a mandoline or sharp knife and place into a clean glass pyrex. Whisk the sesame oil and coconut vinegar in a medium-sized bowl. Toss the thinly sliced and still-warm beets into the mixture to coat. Cover and allow to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

To serve, spoon the rice into two bowls. Toss the beets with the desired amount of teriyaki sauce and place over the rice. Sprinkle with the nori dust, and garnish with the scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with steamed broccoli or other green vegetable of your choice.

To make a swirl pattern like this, just lay the sliced beets on a long row so they are overlapping each other. Once you have about 5-6 inches of beet slices laid out, just roll them up to create a swirl pattern. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ready, [Re]set, Go! My First Two Weeks at Rouxbe

What's happening in this picture? What does it make? Why am I doing this? 

This is from a mise en place exercise, based off one of my "go-to" dishes, and is one of the first tasks I've immersed myself in during my first two weeks at Rouxbe's Plant-Based Professional Online Certification Course. Before I reveal what it is, you may be wondering: how does an online cooking school work?

So far, very well! The technology behind Rouxbe's platform is user-friendly, seamless and well designed. The construction of the platform allows you to navigate to and digest each piece of it easily to make learning as approachable as possible. The course is set up into units, and each unit contains smaller lessons, while each lesson is comprised of tasks. A task can simply involve reading information, visual learning, quizzes or watching a video, while others require an action like preparing a dish or learning a hands-on technique. So far for me, opening each task has been kind of like unwrapping a mystery package: it's always fun to see what's inside! Some of my "action" tasks to date have included "resetting" my kitchen space, which has involved cleaning out and reorganizing my kitchen (I had no idea how disorganized it was), basic knife skills (I finally know how to slice and dice an onion correctly!) and sampling and describing the taste of selected food (which is harder than it sounds).

The majority of tasks this early on in the course have been centered around thinking differently and more critically in the kitchen—with the focus on learning prep techniques behind recipes and why they are importantWhat I am learning at Rouxbe circles back to why I love cooking so much in the first place: there is always something to learn, a skill to improve upon or something to discover. And the support from instructors and opportunities to engage with other students taking the course via live webinars and student discussion forums has added a new dimension to the learning process. 

But most notably, what I've experienced and discovered during my first two weeks at Rouxbe is:

  • I know more than I thought I did in some areas (thanks self-assessments and hello confidence!),

  • there are amazing prep techniques I never knew existed, but now can't imagine not knowing and learning more (and practicing+perfecting them!), and

  • Chef Chad Sarno has designed incredible course content that expertly shares his deep knowledge of and experience with the foundational principles of plant-based cooking. Absorbing this information has been fun and challenging, and I'm looking forward to learning more in the coming weeks and months.

If you'd like to see what I'm up to at Rouxbe in between my Olives for Dinner posts, follow me on Instagram! I'll be documenting some of the tasks there as I proceed through the course. 

But if you are ready to learn how to become a better cook, take a positive step towards making healthier food choices or hone your already fabulous plant-based cooking skills, now's the time to sign up! Rouxbe is offering $300 off full tuition for their May 7 seating between now and March 13. Sign up here or click on the picture below for more information. 

And stay tuned for another update some time in March—I can't wait to share with you some of the things I've been up to at Rouxbe in the coming month!

It makes one of my favorite weekday recipes, a
heavily modified-over-the-years tofu and mashed potato dish with kale

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Beer-Battered Hearts of Palm with Dill Slaw and Quick Pickles

Serves 2
Time: 45 minutes

Hearts of palm are magic: if it's a faux-fishy texture you're after, use it to make vegan tuna salad. If you're looking for a faux-crabby quality, use it to make vegan crab cakes. But if you want something reminiscent of flaky white fish, use it to make these beer-battered faux fillets.

This decadent and heavy dish is paired with the clean flavors of dill and cabbage, while the sharp tang of the quick pickles helps cut and balance out the richness. I used watermelon radishes because I love the pattern created by their vivid pink spokes, but you can also use cucumber, cauliflower, turnips, onions or zucchini here. Or serve with panisse fries for a fish and chips-type dish.

for the pickles

1 cup water
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 bay leaf
1 cup of sliced watermelon radish pickles, cut on a mandoline (about 2 radishes)
2 carrots, sliced on a mandoline
sesame seeds, for serving (optional)

for the slaw

2 cups chopped cabbage
4-5 TB chopped fresh dill
1 TB vegan mayo, or more to taste
1 TB reserved pickle liquid (or more to taste)

for the hearts of palm fish
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup beer (use a strong IPA for best results)
14 oz. can of hearts of palm, whole

grapeseed or vegetable oil, for frying

First prepare the pickles a few hours or the night before. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a small boil. Place the radish and carrots into a bowl. Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and place the pickles into the refrigerator to chill.

To make the slaw, combine the cabbage and dill in a medium-sized bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the vegan mayo and reserved pickle liquid. Just before serving, dress the slaw. Once you dress it, it will get soggy after a few hours, so keep them separate as needed.

Once you are ready to prepare the faux fish, follow the steps below:

To prepare the batter, place the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Combine, then slowly pour in the beer. Gently stir until just combined, do not overmix. Set aside for 20 minutes.

To prepare the hearts of palm, cut each piece diagonally down the middle to create two long triangular pieces.

When you are ready to fry, place several inches of grapeseed or vegetable oil into a small heavy pot*. Heat over medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, or until it reaches 350 degrees. Carefully drop in a little bit of the batter. If it sizzles immediately, you are ready to fry.

Working in batches of two, gently drag the hearts of palm through the batter until well coated. The batter will be a little goopy—you'll just have to drag it through lengthwise and carefully but quickly transfer to the oil to ensure you have a good coating of breading. (I kind of think of it like "balancing" as much of the batter on the hearts of palm and keep in it a horizontal position from bowl to hot oil.)

Fry until golden brown, just a few minutes, flipping it over once to ensure even cooking. Transfer to a papertowel to drain while you fry the rest of the pieces.

Serve immediately with the dill slaw and quick pickles. Spoon some of the reserved pickle juice in a small bowl to dip the faux fish into, or serve with malt vinegar or vegan tartar sauce.

* I recommend using a 2-quart cast iron Lodge pot for deep-frying. It's heavy and helps maintain a good temp for frying.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Purple Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Garlic Oil

Serves 2
Time: 30 minutes, plus one hour to chill the crust mixture

I've been in a bit of a funk lately—lately meaning the past few months. When we first moved to LA's South Bay from Boston, I hopped right into a job search that seemed to take forever and when I finally secured a position I thought was the right fit, it turned out to be all wrong. When I quit as graciously and honestly as possible, I drove home feeling free but lost and more unsure than ever of what I wanted to do here. After several more interviews with people almost half my age offering about half the salary I was making in Boston, (and two job offers that offered no pay, but experience and exposure!) I was exhausted from my headfirst and singular mission of chasing something that literally wasn't going to pay off. 

Not working feels like wearing clothing that's the completely wrong size and probably always will, but for now, I have decided to fill my days differently. I recently joined Harmony Yoga in Redondo Beach and love it. I'm definitely a bit stiff and sore from not practicing regularly, but it feels good to be surrounded by other students during the day and following a set schedule has improved my mindset and outlook. And immersing myself in course tasks at Rouxbe is giving me the creative outlet, challenge and structure that's perfect for escaping into here and there during the week as I continue my job search with a more balanced intention. 

Since I've become more physically active with yoga and more mentally challenged with Rouxbe, new ideas have begun to pop into my head more frequently to translate into content for this space. And although the idea of making a cauliflower crust pizza certainly isn't mine, it was fun to come up with my own version of it this weekend. This purplish crust is crispy and chewy around the edges and firm but soft towards the center. It looks beautiful once baked and is sturdy enough to pile on with whatever vegetables you like. 

for the crust
3-4 cups chopped cauliflower florets, any color or variety (enough to yield about 2 cups grated)
1 cup water
1 cup panko crumbs
2 TB Ener-G
1/2 cup water
2 TB olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
a few pinches of pepper

for the garlic oil
4-6 large cloves garlic, halved and smashed with the flat end of a knife
1/4 cup olive oil

for the topping (this is what I used, but whatever toppings you want will work)
shiitake mushrooms, sliced and sauteed until soft
red onion, sliced into rings and sauteed until soft
cherry tomatoes, halved
yellow bell pepper, chopped
katamala olives, chopped
leftover golden garlic from making the garlic oil


To make the crust, place the cauliflower florets and water into a blender and chop until finely crumbled. Transfer the cauliflower to a tea towel and gather up the edges, twist and squeeze to get rid of all the water. You'll want the cauliflower to be very dry. Transfer to a large bowl and add in the panko crumbs. Stir to combine.

In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the Ener-G, water and olive oil until creamy. Drizzle into the cauliflower and panko mixture. Stir to combine. Add in the spices and stir again. Cover and place into the refrigerator to chill for about an hour. 

To make the garlic oil, place the olive oil into a small saucepan over low heat. Add in the smashed garlic and allow to develop a golden color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When you are ready to bake the crust, place a silpat onto a baking sheet and preheat your oven to 350. Gather the cauliflower mixture into a ball, then press it into any shape you want. It should be no more than 1/2-inch thick. Brush with some of the garlic oil (you don't need to use all of it), then bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges are slightly crispy, but not burned. Let it rest on the silpat for about 10 minutes before removing it with a large spatula.

To assemble, saute whatever vegetables you want in some of the leftover garlic oil and top as desired. No need to place back in the oven to bake again.