Okay, I know this is a little out there for some: every once in a while you get a craving for a nice creamy vegan rice bowl. Lots of almost bitter tahini dressing, a bunch of dark leafy greens, probably some seeds and a heaping of flavorful brown rice. It’s the kind of thing you find at a place like Life Alive in Cambridge. They’re right, it’s the kind of food that makes you feel great after eating it.
And during, too. I find that the more veggie-based meals I eat the more I want them,—I’m establishing a craving. Try it at least once, and I suspect you’ll return.
Besides which, it’s very easy and comes together quickly for a good weeknight meal.
Rice tahini bowl
Chard, or other dark leafy green
Sunflower, pumpkin, or other seeds or nuts
Apple cider vinegar
Garlic and/or ginger (optional)
Salt, pepper, and other spices as desired
Start with the rice. I highly recommend cooking it with coconut milk (adds an extra depth); cook as usual (cover with a half inch or so of water, bring to a boil, then simmer until cooked). Add more hot water if necessary to prevent burning.
Chop the chard and sauté with a little olive oil. When almost cooked (it will go fairly quickly; although kale takes a little longer to get soft), stir in some apple cider vinegar.
Make the dressing: Stir a big spoonful of tahini in with a little vinegar and some more oil, if desired. Add finely minced garlic and ginger (doesn’t need much) if you like as well. I recommend mixing in a jar and then putting on a lid and shaking it up. Taste, add salt and pepper and any other seasonings you like.
Rice-chard-seeds-dressing. Mix, taste, adjust, garnish with fresh herbs, lemon, and/or tomatoes if you have any lying around.
Dive in, and be happy.
It’s good with tofu too, other vinegars, coconut flakes, avocado, other veggies… and you can add cheese or stir in a little yogurt if you like too.
Corn! How exciting. And so many ways to eat it. Raw on the cob, raw off the cob, roasted, grilled, in a tart or pancakes… or in salsa. Or a salad.
I’m calling it a salsa salad because it could be either. I was happy eating it as a meal but it would also make a good potluck dish or topping for tacos or in a burrito. It takes approximately five minutes to throw together so you’re in luck if you’re running late to a party or to your empty stomach.
Corn gets a lot of flak (which, by the way, is different from flack, a person who deflects criticism. Although someone receiving a lot of flak might need a flack) in the media these days for being one of the single crops causing America’s obesity epidemic, either in the form of syrup in everything, as animal feed contributing to suffering, or because it’s often a GMO. There was a fascinating piece about corn wars with China in the New Republic the other day, reflecting the importance of research money, the power of corporations, and the grandness and challenge of trying to feed a political world. You may also be interested in “How corn made its way into just about everything we eat” from the Washington Post. Or checking out the picture in Vox about the evolution of corn (and other crops). Humans are good at making things work for us. Corn also plays a significant role in sustainable ag of the future, especially where it was native and there are still people to uphold its traditional uses and growth patterns.
Most notorious corn is not that which we eat, but whatever is grown for animal feed or biofuel. Sweet corn, the kind we’re used to consuming, is not a large part of the corn production in the U.S. It is instead a happy contribution to summer, and perhaps to your next meal.
Corn Salsa Salad
3 cobs of fresh sweet corn
1 zucchini or summer squash
1 large tomato
Hot pepper or a dash of chile sauce
Shuck the corn, and cut the kernels from the ears. Chop up the scallions and the zucchini.
Heat up a little oil in a pan over high heat, then add the scallions, zucchini, and corn. Stir frequently until soft, squeezing in a little lime halfway through; the corn should get toasty in the high heat and the scallions will wilt. Chop up the tomato (and pepper if using) in the meantime, and grate the cheddar. Put the corn in a bowl with more lime, the hot sauce/pepper, and the chopped tomato, then add the cheddar and mix it all up. Toss with a little salt too, to taste. Serve over rice, with beans if you like; an avocado would also definitely not be amiss. Good hot or room temperature, but best eaten fresh.
Otherwise known as The Best Brunch Eva or The Sauce I Am Always Thinking About. Hollandaise is a phenomenal invention. Light and airy but rich and bright, so satisfying on so many items.
I’m presenting it with eggs because it’s where I first discovered it, and the classic, but please please please do not stop there. Asparagus, green beans, fish, fiddleheads, on a spoon—this sauce could go on anything.
Eggs Florentine is much like its cousin Benedict, except that it has spinach to go along with the poached eggs and hollandaise instead of ham (there’s also Arnold, which has smoked salmon). I like spinach better, both for the purposes of decreasing meat consumption (I never have ham lying around) and to make it a little lighter, fresher, greener. Chard or kale is also lovely (make sure to cook the kale enough, since you want it soft and velvety so as not to disrupt the luxurious smoothness of the hollandaise). Mmm.
So, three different components to this dish: 1) Poached egg, 2) Hollandaise (yumm), and 3) Spinach/greens. The third is by far the easiest, and can be creamed or just sautéed (creamed=sautéed with cream and maybe a little nutmeg). I prefer a light sauté with some olive oil, to keep it fresh and light. Item 1 I find the trickiest to get quite right, I suspect because I haven’t done it much. I manage it successfully much more often than not, I just flail around a bit when it’s cooking and get all nervous. The Kitchn has some good tips if my instructions aren’t clear enough.
There are a bunch of ways to make hollandaise. The classic (Julia Child’s version) is to cook egg yolks with lemon juice first (whisking constantly), then add soft butter and whisk like mad until it’s emulsified. On the other end of the spectrum is blender hollandaise, where you put eggs yolks and lemon juice in a blender and blend, pouring in melted butter while in progress. I like the mid ground, where I get to whisk a bunch and feel it come together and get all foamy, but it remains relatively foolproof. I imagine that whisking and cooking also achieves a thicker sauce than the blender version, because you cook the eggs a bit first, other than just being heated by the melted butter.
If you really want to be fancy, you can clarify your butter before you begin, by melting and skimming off the foamy bits and or even straining them out. Clarified butter has more fat (you are skimming off water content and milk solids), so you can use a little less of it. I haven’t been bothered yet, but I shall have to try it just for experiment’s sake sometime.
Toast, or English muffins
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, melted
Put a pot of water on to boil for the eggs, then prep the spinach: I like mine sautéed gently (it should be soft) with a little olive oil and some garlic. Add cream if you like.
To poach an egg: Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add vinegar. Turn down the heat so the water isn’t rolling, but at a light simmer, and start swirling the water so it spirals. It helps to have an assistant here, but is doable solo too. Crack in your egg and keep swirling so the whites wrap around the egg. Cook for 3-4 minutes, depending on the size of the egg and how runny you like it (ideally the white is cooked but still soft and the yolk is runny). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a towel, being careful not to break the yolk. If making for company, you can poach a bunch of eggs ahead of time and then right before the hollandaise is ready, put them back in boiling water for a scant minute to warm up again. In that case, definitely go with a shorter cooking time in the beginning because you don’t want to overcook them.
And now, the Sauce. Mm. Melt butter in the microwave (or stovetop if you prefer), preferably in a glass Pyrex with a pouring spout. In a double boiler—not heated yet (I use a glass bowl and later place it over a small pot of boiling water), whisk yolks, then whisk in lemon juice, and keep going until it gets foamy and a little lighter. Heat until slightly thickened, whisking constantly (you don’t have to do this for long, just until a little thicker). Continually whisking, add the melted (clarified if you like) butter in a stream. It should emulsify and become yellow and light. Whisk in cayenne and salt, taste for lemon and add more as needed.
Serve: Toast an English muffin or bread, top with spinach, warm egg (dunk in boiling water to warm up if needed), and warm sauce. If sauce gets too thick, whisk in a little water. If you wait a little bit to serve it, keep warm and whisk often (I decided to take hollandaise to a brunch potluck once and as I was driving over I was reaching over to the passenger’s side to whisk frantically every few minutes to keep it emulsified. Turned out splendidly and was well appreciated, and I didn’t crash to boot).
Broken sauce tips here (fear not, it’s probably saveable).
It feels almost like I’m cheating myself when I do recipes like this. I could provide you with so many more if they weren’t so discretionary! But this is about empowering you to create your own exquisite dishes anyhow, not about me.
At the risk of writing something that is too similar to the NYTimes Cooking Newsletter (which is worth subscribing to, by the way), today I offer you a quick sauté. Kind of like a warm salad?
Salads are important summer staples. As long as you keep around an assortment of seeds, nuts, beans, cheeses, vinegars, and other random additions (meats, other veggies, avocados, fruit, grains, hummus!), once the greens start coming in you no longer have to think too hard about what to bring to lunch. Very helpful. I’ve probably mentioned that before.
Well, you can do something similar with non-salad greens, too.
This isn’t really recipe worthy but for consistency’s sake:
Weeknight cabbage sauté (warm salad)
1/4 small cabbage (per person)
A large scallion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
A large dash sesame oil
A large spoonful whole grain mustard
Pumpkin or sunflower seeds (toasted, preferably)
Chop up a bunch of cabbage and a scallion or two and throw them in a pan with some olive oil and a little sesame oil, if you feel like it. Pull out that fancy mustard we used last week, add it to the cabbage, toss in a few pumpkin seeds or other seeds and voila! Dinner.
The beauty of this is that you can do it with anything. Kale, napa cabbage, chard (although chard is a little more watery), throw in ginger or turmeric if you want, or apple cider vinegar instead of sesame oil, almonds as well as other seeds… you get the gist. 15 minutes, tops (cabbage is super quick to chop).
We Millennials might be so food-obsessed because it gives us a sense of control. I’ll buy it; I feel better about my way of life when I know the origins of what I eat, and that it is grown without too much suffering (except perhaps from the vegetables, as it turns out). It is also true that we should use food as a lens to view larger issues within our society: sustainability, justice, equality… Food happens to be a good entry point because everyone has to eat, and luckily most of the time tastier food (well, once you’ve acclimated to non-super fatty/sugary foods, which is certainly a larger hump than I’m making it out to be) is more sustainably produced and nutritious. There are parts of the food chain that aren’t so pretty; maybe if we worked to make our lives AND everything that contributes to them Instagram-worthy, we’d live in a better place. I’m clearly putting far too much faith in the the visually appealing here, there are delicious and -beautiful- things that would not make it on Instagram (this cabbage, for example). It’s a start, anyway.