Archives for category: rants / raves

Even though the snow hasn’t really hit in full force yet, the long, cold, gray winter is upon us. But don’t despair, vegephiles! There are still treasures to be found, they just grow hidden beneath the Earth’s surface. Take it away, Leo.

Y U NO GET THE JOKE?!

If you haven't seen Inception or don't troll the Internets, I'm sorry for you.

The answer isn’t a dream within a dream within a dream (you brought your totem, right?), but instead the root vegetables that come to harvest during the winter months. For most specimens, the cold weather actually concentrates the natural sugars, giving a sweeter flavor. Taking a stroll to see what I could get locally, I landed some carrots, parsnips, turnips, and sweet potatoes.

Phallic? Yeah, I can admit that.

Mother Nature's bounty during the winter months.

The tap roots and tubers spanned a decent spectrum of texture and flavor, from the hard and sweet carrots to the softer and spicy turnips, which I figured would do well mixed and cooked together. Vegetables, you say? Yeah, it’s a safe bet I’m going to roast the little bastards.

Getting a tan in a non-stick pan.

Tiny size, big flavor.

Given the freezing temperatures, though, I wanted to add some additional warmth (and not an insubstantial amount of flavor) to my vegetables as well. To meet and exceed all of my needs, I went for whole cumin. The whole seed retains the deep warmth and smokiness of the spice, and just like coarsely-ground black pepper, pieces of cumin release their flavor when you bite down in a pleasantly intense way.

CRUSH THEM AND THEY WILL THANK YOU.

Sometimes it's good to have kitchen toys. Sometimes, though, you don't really need them.

In order to get the most out of whole spices, a simple dry toasting is all it takes. Any small pan over medium heat for 5 minutes or so will not only release all of the flavor of the cumin seed, but it will also perfume your kitchen. TAKE THAT, YANKEE CANDLE. NO MORE $27 HOUSEWARMER JARS FOR ME. Afterwards, many recipes suggest you crush whole toasted spices with a mortar and pestle or grind them in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Don’t have either of those? Neither do I. A bowl and a small glass (or Ball jar, in my case, being a country boy) work just fine.

Sugar and spice and everything nice.

Peel, dice, toss with the standard olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, and sprinkle with the crushed and toasted cumin seed. Roast hot (400 degrees for 20-30 minutes) until tender and enjoy.

Do you really need step-by-step instructions? I just gave them to you above anyway. I have faith in you, just try it.

– Max.

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pennoni dressed with cold-pressed olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, and traditional gremolata

pennoni dressed with cold-pressed olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, and traditional gremolata

Boiling yourself some pasta on a weeknight is hardly a new idea, and certainly not some gourmet shit. However, its also one of those go-to meal ideas that can easily be brought up from depressing to delicious with a few simple steps. Good pasta, with a few adornments, doesn’t always need sauce (delicious though some tomato sauces may be).
 

WORTH IT:

  • Cold-pressed olive oil, which preserves the fruity and grassy flavors of the olives. Used for dipping, dressings, and finishing, never for frying chicken breasts.
  • Real parmigiano reggiano, not the shit in a green can, and not the cheap store-brand imitation. Look for the dimpled, capitalized lettering on the rind that spells out “parmigiano reggiano.” The flavor is nutty, creamy, salty, and slightly sharp. Eat it on your pasta. Eat it on some bread. Eat it with cured meats. Eat it with a fork.
  • Imported dried pasta or freshly-made noodles may seem unreasonably expensive compared to a box of Barilla, but when your goal is to appreciate the subtle nuances of wholesome, traditional ingredients, the same goes for your pasta as well.

But remember: sometimes there’s just no replacing Annie’s mac and cheese. Or Kraft, I guess, if you’re a total sucker.

~~~~~

Gremolata is designed specifically to be added to a dish right before eating, often times to liven the flavor of long-cooking roasts of meat. However, the bright, pungent, acidic hit is fantastic over pasta. The traditional recipe goes as follows:

  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • Handful of parsley (flat-leaf, if possible), minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Squeeze of juice from lemon, just to bring the mixture together

Simply mix and sprinkle over whatever needs a punch of flavor. In addition to pasta, try it over bread with some of that wonderful cheese and cured meat, or on some roasted vegetables after they’ve come out of the oven. The basic formula of aromatic (garlic, or even onion) + herb (parsley) + citrus  (lemon, zest and juice) is incredibly flexible. Here’s my short list (which I’ve tried and love):

  • garlic + thyme + lemon + orange on roasted chicken (especially good with some dark meat and a piece of crispy skin)
  • garlic + red onion + cilantro + lime on avocado slices with toasted bread
  • garlic + onion + parsley + lemon on ripe tomato slices = deconstructed bruschetta (also good on bread)

I’m bound to get all weird with this concept, so I’m sure I’ll have more ideas sometime soon. Something Asian, perhaps? That sounds like it could be promising…

– Max.

For your listening pleasure: “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard (1995)

It’s the winter holiday season! Family, friends, gatherings, celebration, gifts! Awkward conversations with estranged cousins and people you haven’t seen since high school! But we all know what’s most important: THE FOOD.

Oh, the food. Why is it so easy to totally pig out during the holidays? Is it because things seem to taste better when surrounded by loved ones? Have we become too good at rationalizing a second (or third) piece of pie because it’s “just this once?”  The problem for most of us my fat ass, regardless of how I manage to explain it away, comes down to basic self-control. IT’S JUST SO EASY TO STUFF MY FAT FACE. Ok, no more Carrie Bradshaw. Her lifestyle is completely unattainable on a part-time writer’s salary. What is she, a junior-year Journalism major? Please. That show is faux-realistic escapism at its finest. And also, the characters are gay men written as women.

BUT I DIGRESS.

The answer for holiday gluttony isn’t some crash diet or terrible barley-water gluten-free acai berry hollywood cleanse. If (like me) you’re looking for some lighter fare, just get creative with your vegetables.

Your slicing blade may look slightly different, but it should be a similar metal disc with a NINJA-SHARP BLADE attached to it

Your slicing blade may look slightly different, but it should be a similar metal disc with a NINJA-SHARP BLADE attached to it. Go ahead and use those cucumber slices for your exfoliating facial, Samantha.

For this raw broccoli salad, most of the hard work is done by the slicing blade attachment of your food processor. Whether it’s adjustable or you have multiple discs, just made sure you use the thinnest slice possible. The goal is actually a sort of slaw than a traditional salad, which works well to mediate the raw bitterness of broccoli and the pungent fire of shallots. The extra-lemony vinaigrette also does well to combat the rawness of the vegetables. I’ll forego my usual narrative play-by-play for simple directions this time, if only because I don’t have many good pictures.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 to 2 pounds broccoli (with or without stalks, your preference), cut into small pieces
  • 2 medium shallots, skins removed
  • Up to one dry pint of cherry tomatoes (one standard package), depending on how much tomato you want
  • About 3/4 cups raw, unblanched (skin-on) almonds

For the vinaigrette

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Splash of white wine vinegar
  • 1 -2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • About 1/3 to 2/3 cups of olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Feed broccoli pieces through the food processor with the slicing disc set to the smallest/thinnest setting. Repeat with the shallots.
  2. Halve tomatoes and add to the broccoli and shallots.
  3. Chop the almonds roughly and add to vegetables as well.
  4. Whisk mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar, and salt/pepper together. Once thoroughly incorporated, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until dressing comes together.
  5. Toss dressing with the salad. Eat immediately or refrigerate for a few hours.

If you’re going to let the salad sit overnight or longer, I would add some fresh lemon juice before eating, as the broccoli will absorb some of the liquid and the dressing will lose a bit of its acidity and fresh citrus flavor. The dish, as a whole, is bright, acidic, and so fucking healthy that your bloated waistline will shrink just thinking about it. Perfect for those waiting for gyms to start their bullshit new year resolution sales.

Even as winter's cold gray skies arrive, there is green in the world.

Even as winter's cold gray skies arrive, there is green in the world. And hope.

All things in moderation. Including cookies.

– Max.

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