Recipe #9: Corn Chowder with Irish Soda Bread

In honor of the first day of Spring (even though it snowed) and to celebrate my Irish heritage during the week of St. Patrick’s Day, I made Corn Chowder and Irish Soda Bread, respectively. The soda bread was a bonus because I actually just googled a recipe, so it doesn’t count towards my challenge. But the Corn Chowder does because it came from one of my cookbooks!

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The cookbook the chowder recipe comes from is The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health. To be brutally honest, I don’t recommend this cookbook. In fact, I’m planning to sell it or trade it in at used bookstore because the recipes are too simplistic and obvious. The table of contents has good ideas, but the recipes are unnecessary. For instance, I think I could figure out on my own how to make linguine with mushrooms or stamed bok choy. That’s because I grew up with parents and aunts and sisters who are great cooks, and I watched A LOT of The Food Network in my formative years. If you have trouble boiling an egg, this cookbook might be helpful, but anyone with some basic cooking chops doesn’t need it!

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That said, the Corn Chowder was scrumptious! It was super easy — throw some roasted peppers and potatoes and onions and corn into a pot with veggie broth and almond milk, et voila! It’s the type of thing that can be made from memory and changed around depending on what’s in the fridge. It would be really hard to mess up. I will definitely make a version of it again.

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On the side, we had some really tasty Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread (recipe here). Per the suggestion of a random guy in the elevator in my office building last week, I threw some caraway seeds in…and wow, that was a great idea. I used to loathe caraway seeds, but I’ve acquired a taste for them and actually really like their unique flavor.

 

Happy [belated] St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Spring!

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Recipe #8: Homemade Tortilla Feast

Tonight’s meal was all thanks to a few women who showered me at my bridal shower last spring. Julie and her daughters gave me a kitchen toy that I used for the first time, and Katelyn gave me the book from which the recipe (Soft Tacos with Mushrooms, Greens, & Mushrooms) comes.

The Toy: A tortilla press! Thanks, Julie, Carly, & Maggie!
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The Book: Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite by Sarah Copeland; Thanks, Katelyn!

 

Sean’s best friend is visiting from Vancouver, and he sticks to a gluten-free diet, so corn tortillas were perfect. We had chips and salsa to start, the tacos for dinner, and some gluten-free chocolate cookies for dessert (have you tried Enjoy Life brand? Tasty stuff!).

 

Copeland explains clearly how to create perfect, pliable corn tortillas. I love making homemade tortillas because they don’t have the unpronounceable additives that a lot of store-bought ones do, and making them with a tortilla press made me feel particularly awesome. Unfortunately, due to the sheer weightiness of it, we left our cast-iron skillet in Vancouver. I had to use my regular frying pan, and that actually worked just fine (so don’t fret if you don’t have a cast-iron skillet; and rolling out tortillas is also very possible without a tortilla press).

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Because I had them on hand, I added a red bell pepper and some tempeh to the taco filling mixture. If you haven’t tried tempeh, give it a shot! This is going to sound gross, but have an open mind….it’s made from fermented soybeans (which I’ve read somewhere is less bad for us than unfermented soy products like soy milk and tofu) and can be fried or sautéed and added to any dish for some protein. On its own it is quite flavorless, so it needs to be liberally salted and spiced.

 

The soft tacos were a hit. Garnishes included salsa, hot sauce, harissa, goat cheese, and lime juice. ¡Deliciosos! 

Recipes #6 and #7: Samosas from Scratch and Salad with a Fancy Ingredient

I am in the midst of my very own 30-day recipe challenge. By March 25, I will have made 14 recipes from various sources. Today, I share with you my sixth and seventh culinary conquests.

I had first heard of the Moosewood Cookbook on my favorite foodie podcast, The Splendid Table. Lynne Rossetto-Kasper loves the author — Mollie Katzen — and now I do too! I found her beloved book at a garage sale at my sister-in-law’s apartment in Vancouver last fall. The book is so charming with its handwritten pages, cute doodles, and healthy-yet-comforting vegetarian recipes.

I chose homemade samosas (stuffed with potatoes, onions, peas, mustard seeds, and coriander), and I am happy I did. On any given weeknight I would probably skip making samosas from scratch because it sounds tricky and time-consuming. But because I am challenging myself, I went for it and discovered that they’re actually quite simple to make. The basic recipe also seems like a jumping off point for awesome variations like using whole wheat pastry flour (for the fiber and a different texture) or stuffing them with different ingredients (other veggies, different spices, etc.). These samosas are not deep-fried like the ones found at Indian food restaurants, but they still tasted great and the fact that they’re baked in the oven probably makes them healthier. (Though I’m sure one could deep-fry them if so inclined!).

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To accompany these tasty little pockets of spicy goodness, I made a salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty More.

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Sean bought me both Plenty and Plenty More for Christmas this year, which at first was very exciting, but later felt very intimidating! Ottolenghi’s recipes are — how can I say this? — involved. They’re a little more difficult than what I’m used to and they require some rare ingredients. But again — this is a challenge — and I rose to it the other night…by making the easiest recipe I could find in the book! I chose the aesthetically pleasing and refreshing Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad (with only one obscure ingredient and a lot of delicious well-known ones like fresh sage, red onion, and parsley). Luckily, I know about the glorious Kalustyan’s spice market in Midtown, so finding pomegranate molasses was a cinch. Pomegranate molasses, by the way, is slow like molasses and sweet like molasses, but has that signature pomegranate tang instead of the deep black liquorice flavor of blackstrap molasses. I love it! (And I found that mixing pomegranate molasses with some hot sauce makes a tasty chutney-esque sauce for samosas!) I forgot to mention one other somewhat obscure ingredient — pomegranate seeds. I actually had to omit them because I couldn’t find a fresh pomegranate in late winter in New York (no surprise there; they’re a fall fruit!). I suppose that the best time of year might be late summer/early fall to make this salad, because that’s when one would be most likely to find both delicious fresh tomatoes and a fresh pomegranate at the grocery store. I’ll be ready then!

Recipes #4 and #5: Splendid Soup and Laurel’s Pancakes

Last year, while living and commuting in Bangkok, I became a huge fan of podcasts. One of my favorites was Lynne Rosetto-Kasper’s, The Splendid Table. Lynne interviews chefs, writers, and famous foodies about interesting ingredients, cookbooks, and the historical or cultural relevance of different dishes and cuisines. It’s a fun, entertaining show that I always come away from feeling inspired. A couple nights ago I finally tried a recipe from a Splendid Table newsletter. Winter Wilted Greens and Potato Soup (by Nathan Williams, from his book The Kinfolk Table) was easy to make and super delicious. It warmed me right up on yet another chilly March evening. Angelique, a lovely friend I made while living in Vancouver and my favorite French person in the world, told me that creme frâiche makes everything better, and she is right! I recommend putting a dollop in this soup to add richness and creaminess.

This morning for breakfast I made Buckwheat Pancakes with Hot Orange Sauce. The recipes for both the pancakes and the sauce came from Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey. My best friend’s mom gave me this cookbook years ago, and I love it. It’s chock full of vegetarian recipes and information about a balanced vegetarian diet. The authors also provide a bunch of cooking techniques and tips: a great addition to a vegetarian’s cookbook collection!

The pancakes had a great texture, and the sauce (made with an orange juice-based roux) was sweet, citrusy, and creamy. Now I love making things from scratch, but I also appreciate a short-cut that doesn’t sacrifice taste or quality. The pancake recipe calls for buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, and baking powder; and guess what’s in Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Pancake and Waffle Mix…buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, and baking powder! It worked out great, I saved some money, and now I’ve got extra mix for next time. An acceptable short-cut in my books!

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Recipe #3: Chocolate & Beer, What a Combo!

This Californian does not understand snow in March (or snow in any month, for that matter). To ward off the cold (and confusion) yesterday, I made Stout Chocolate Brownies, a recipe I’ve had pinned on my Baking Pinterest board for a long time. The recipe was written by a blogger named Heidi; her blog is called FoodieCrush. It’s easy to follow and the brownies turned out great. I’m not really a stout fan (unless it has a shot of Bailey’s at the bottom…), but the rich, dark beer seemed to make these brownies extra gooey.

I chose, based on its local-ness and the word “chocolate” in its name, Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout, but any stout is fine to use.

Heidi suggested that we wait two hours before cutting into the brownies, but Sean and I felt that that was an unreasonable request. So, about 10 minutes out of the oven, we dug in. The results? Kind of a mess, but a delicious mess! (Letting the brownies cool completely will prevent them from collapsing. See below what happens when you disregard this step!)

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I recommend this treat any time of year, but the brownies’ warm gooeyness was extremely welcome on a chilly pre-spring evening. They’d also be great for St. Patrick’s Day, especially if you use Guinness!

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Recipe #2: Magical Spice Store and Jerk Sloppy Joes

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By March 25, I will have prepared 14 different recipes from various sources — cookbooks, Pinterest, my recipe binder, and The Splendid Table newsletter. Last night was the night for Recipe #2, a fantastic dish from an awesome vegan cookbook that my aunt gave me for my birthday last year. The book is called Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, written by Post Punk Kitchen’s founder, Isa Chandra Moscowitz. The recipe I chose was Jerk Sloppy Joes, and while the recipe was indeed simple, it had a lot of ingredients, including many spices that I have not yet purchased after moving. Good thing I love to go grocery shopping. Unfortunately, the Whole Foods in my neighborhood does not have bulk or bagged spices (everything is in glass or plastic containers, and I have my own that I want to fill up), so I did a little research on cool places to buy spices in New York. I stumbled upon a Serious Eats article entitled “The Best Spice Shops in NYC”, chose the one closest to me, and went for a nice walk up to Midtown.

The store: Kalustyan’s. The location: 123 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan
This place is spice Mecca. I have not been this thrilled by a market since my friend Casey and I pursued the spice section of Pasar Beringharjo in Yogyakarta, Java. OK, it wasn’t quite as exotic, but it brought back some great memories! The second I entered the store, my nose was met by scents from around the world — curries, peppers, spices from India, Asia, Latin America, Europe, oh my! I ended up purchasing star anise pods, sweet Hungarian paprika, and allspice for my recipe, plus two types of Harissa (Tunisian and Moroccan), Chinese chilli garlic sauce, Greek oregano, and Moroccan rosemary just for fun!

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I found yet another Serious Eats article when looking into what in the world “jerk” really is. In Jamaica, where the spice combo and cooking technique originated, cooks use the following spices: allspice berries, thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper, scallions, and fresh ginger. In Isa’s sloppy joe recipe, she calls for ground allspice, fresh thyme, red chilli flakes, yellow onions, fresh ginger, lime juice, and cinnamon. The red mixture (with seitan and a tomato-based sauce) and the green mixture (coconut-creamed spinach) get smushed together on toasted whole wheat buns. These joes were jerk-y, sloppy, and fabulous!

Are you a gluten-free eater? This dish could be made with tofu instead of seitan and serve over rice!

Two Bridges in Two Days

Over the weekend, Sean and I walked over the Williamsburg Bridge on a sunny (but freezing) Saturday and over the Brooklyn Bridge on a snowy Sunday.

MANHATTAN –> WILLIAMSBURG (BROOKLYN) IN THE SUN

We live pretty close to the Williamsburg Bridge, which we discovered on Saturday when walking aimlessly (Sean just wanted to see the river). We found the river, and even walked over it. Pardon my lack of photos; my fingers were freezing without gloves on! We stopped and had a lovely vegan lunch at Bliss on Grand Street. Highly recommended (pictured is my Hummus Wrap with kale salad and cole slaw on the side).

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MANHATTAN –> CARROLL GARDENS (BROOKLYN) IN THE SNOW

We were inspired by our ability to walk to Brooklyn, so when Sean’s cousin and her family invited us over for dinner yesterday, we decided that we would brave the snowstorm to walk the 3.5 miles downtown, over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Brooklyn Heights, and into the quaint neighborhood of Carroll Gardens for a great evening spent with family.

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We’re looking forward for some warmer weather for more walks (though we have fun in the cold too).