Friday, July 13, 2018

Cold Tofu with Fragrant Oil

Hello, my darlings! Are you having a wonderful summer? A too-hot and too-much-work summer? A fuck-you-Trump summer of despair? Some combination of all of these, like me?


If you are a longtime reader, then you know that summer is kind of my family’s peak season. We only have Ben on and off—he’s with friends, he’s working, he’s moving into the world as his own person—but he’s joined us for our two trips, and it’s been so lovely and precious to be together, all four of us.


First we went to Niagara, not only to eat a fabulous horseradishy something called “beef on weck,” but also to see the falls, which blew us away with their power and majesty.


Then we went camping. And it was pretty much the best week of my life. Also, I had to read a book about the Amish (in my pajamas on the beach) in the hopes that it would explain why all the Amish people in the world were at Niagara Falls, and how they got there, but it didn’t come up.

I did, however, learn that Amish men wear a little bow tie with their Sunday best, but then they grow their beards long enough to cover it, so as not to seem vain. Somehow, this feels like a metaphor for my entire life.
But mostly I am here to share this recipe, because it is just the thing you want to eat on a hot summer night, when you feel like your family actually needs more nourishment than you can cram into another smoothie, but nobody wants to cook or eat cooked food.
Cold tofu, raw carrots, roasted cashews, and flash-fried bok choy.
It is pretty much perfect: creamy-bland cold tofu with a burstingly fragrant hot oil that sings a sputtery song of ginger and scallions when you first spoon it on. Plus, it takes about 5 minutes to make, which is just the right amount of time. Everyone in my family loves it.

This oil would be great with cold chicken or salmon, but I am feeding a vegetarian still, and also I am still cheap.


Cold Tofu with Fragrant Oil
If you don’t have or like Chinese fermented black beans, you can skip them, of course. But they add a kind of chewy umami funkiness that is both hard to understand and hard to replace—like raisins infused with soy sauce and blue cheese. Try them! Or don’t. The tofu will be delicious either way. In fact, I’ve made a way pared-down version with just the oil, scallions, and chile flakes, and even that was delicious. Please note that I am kind of cheating, adding the vinegar, which turns this into something more like "Cold Tofu with Fragrant Vinaigrette," which just sounds kind of weird.

¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely slivered ginger
3 scallions, cut into 2-inch sections and then slivered (or, more simply, sliced into rings)
½ - 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 teaspoons Chinese fermented black beans, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and cut in half lengthwise, and then crosswise into slices 1/3-inch thick
¼ coarsely chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in your smallest pan over low heat. Add the ginger and scallions and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is browning at the edges.

Add the chile flakes and the black beans and stir just until fragrant (about 15 seconds—you don’t want the chile to burn), then add the vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil (I measure these into a small bowl before I start cooking), and boil for a minute or two until just slightly syrupy.

Arrange the tofu on a plate or platter and pour the hot mixture over it, then top with the cilantro and serve.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What? Oh, nothing much.


While I have your attention, with this INSANE / WTF? picture of Ben's graduation, about which I have been joking--What if he was ever actually going to graduate from high school, since he's still sucking his thumb and hanging onto a hank of my hair from inside the back pack?--for nearly two decades, won't you please sign up for my mailing list? I promise I won't email you more incessantly than is strictly necessarily. In fact, it is actually possible that I will, sigh, *never* email you. That's kind of how we roll. Also, it's entirely likely that I've set the email harvester thingy up wrong. 










("Bennnnnnn! Can you please help me with the email harvester thing?" I'll yell in a second. Once he wakes up from the blessed sleep of the newly-graduated-not-quite-yet-employed-for-the-summer.)


Meanwhile, the world. Sigh.

Warm, buttery lentil salad with or without bonus kielbasa. So effing delish.
But also, I have been making a lot of food and, oddly, keeping all of it a secret from you! This is related to the potential that I will never email you, and I think the word for the umbrella category of thing that this falls under is inertia or maybe technolaziness. 

The only better chicken recipe I know than these long-roasted thighs is, perhaps, my own chicken wing magic. Forgive my immodesty!
Most of these recipes are over at the diaTribe (making sense of diabetes) website, which I get to write and develop for because it's the enormous project my beloved friend and college first-year roommate Kelly Close. It's a wonderful site, and I'm giving them some of my best-ever recipes, so I hope you'll visit! There's a low-cost, low-carb series of recipes here, and a straight-up low-carb one here. Also lots of other recipes. And if you aren't managing diabetes, please understand that these are all just my normal sorts of recipes, spun this and that direction to fit the categories, if you know what I'm saying. In case you're picturing, like, those xylitol hard candies in the diabetes section of your 1978 supermarket.
I have gotten more fan mail about these cottage cheese pancakes than about, possibly, anything else I've ever written, including crack broccoli and the open letter to the guy who harassed Ben in the men's room of a ski lodge.
I've also been making lots of seasonal recipes from this very blog. The Ben and Birdy blog that you're reading right now! This rhubarb cake (I sub in gf flour), these stuffed grape leaves, this smoothie (which I've been sweetening with dates), this tabouli (I sub in quinoa for the gluteny bulgur, and I've been adding feta, pickled red onions, and loads of slivered pepperoncini), this strawberry-rhubarb crisp, this cold brew iced coffee, this granola (I seem to use more and more pecans, coconut, and almonds, and fewer and fewer seeds, because life is so perilously short).


Oh, there is more, my darlings! Books to recommend. Rites of passage to describe. Cats to celebrate. I am going to write a summer update soon. I know that lots of you are in the same life moment as me, what with the driving and the graduating and the plummeting estrogen. Sending love to all of you.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Quick update! Popsicle book winner!

Shannon, I can't stand that you've had the book in your cart for 2 years! You're the winner! Send me your address, please. Thank you all for chirping in and playing. You are rhubarb lovers and popsicle lovers and lovers period. And I love you so. xo

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Vanilla-Rhubarb Popsicles (plus a buried spontaneous give-away)

These are an almost opalescent green-pink. So beautiful and achingly delicious that it's worth the delayed gratification of needing to wait for them to freeze solid.
It is all I can do not to rush outside into April’s slushy mud to yank up the first stalk of rhubarb and crunch into its juicy pink-and-green silk and strings just to feel slapped awake by spring. But I am a hoarder of the early stalks. I wait until there are enough to make something with: a speckled cake or an oozing crumble or these popsicles or, really, anything that brings the rhubarb into my home and cramps my jaw with the tingly smell of it.


There is nothing like it—the way rhubarb smells. I was just stirring it at the stove, thinking about trying to describe to you, and words failed me. It’s so sharp and strange, like grapefruit-scented bubble bath but with bright green leaves in it, and also a fist that sproings out of the bottle to punch you in the mouth.

This was on our after-dinner walk two nights ago. Couldn't the seasons, I don't know, kind of divide up their treasures a little bit? I'd be so mad if I were one of the seasons that wasn't spring.
Spring is such a relief this year. I feel the way the cats seem to feel, watching the squirrels from the back door in a kind of ecstasy of hunger and excitement. 

Imaginary hunting is very tiring.
The bright mornings! The peepers peeping and the red fox yelling from the woods for a mate! The fresh-faced violets and dandelions! The flying ants in my bedroom! Okay, not so much the flying ants. I have always loved spring, only I used to also tell a story about how I love winter too—the coziness and candlelight and stews and sudden-onset nighttime so you can get early into your pajamas with a very small little glass of whiskey—only I’m not sure it’s true. I mean, I do love all those things, but winter! My god. Except I couldn’t bear to wish it away because our Ben? He is leaving us at the end of the season after this one. I am willing time to pass slowly. Take your time, time! No rush.


Where was I? Rhubarb popsicles! Because not only is it spring, it is actually suddenly the dog days of summer and everyone is broiling and cranky at the end of the school day. At least yesterday they were. So I popped these in the freezer this morning to be ready by the time those poor schoolkins return home. Like every popsicle recipe I post, this one is from the brilliant People’s Pops recipe book, and if you still haven’t bought it on my recommendation, after all these years, then you should buy it now. It is just so strangely brilliant: every popsicle is the perfect flavor and sweetness and texture. You’ll wonder what you were thinking, waiting for so long. (Hey, spontaneous give-away! Comment to enter and I’ll pick a winner next Thursday and send you the book! You’ll love it.)


The only two rhubarb recipes in the book are kind of *perfumed*--one with jasmine tea and the other with elderflower—which is not something my family can deal with. My family who gags and chokes and cries out that they’ve bitten into a seashell-molded bar of guest soap if someone serves them so much as a spoonful of lavender ice cream. (Okay, they don’t actually complain. But they don’t like it.) So I just went with vanilla, which is my favorite flavor pairing with rhubarb, even more than strawberries. I know! That might be the most shocking thing I’ve ever written here. I happened to have a semi-pent vanilla pod in a bottle of homemade extract, so I used that, but you can just use vanilla extract. 
Shoulda saved some for a vanilla whiskey sour, ammiright?
Or skip it. Or sub in some strawberries for the rhubarb, ya animal.



Vanilla-Rhubarb Popsicles
Makes 10 popsicles
Adapted from the brilliant People’s Pops cookbook.

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced (this will be 3-5 stalks, depending on how robust they are)
1 cup vanilla simple syrup (recipe below)

Pour about ½ inch of water into a shallow, heavy, non-reactive saucepan and add the rhubarb. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally and then more frequently, until the pieces have mostly broken apart into a thick puree, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir until smooth then pour into a large measuring cup with a spout. (And if you don’t have a 4-cup measuring cup, get one for god’s sake. You will use it all the time and wonder why you cheaped out on yourself all these years.) You should have between 2 and 2 ¼ cups of rhubarb mash. Stir in the vanilla syrup, pour the mixture into your popsicle molds (leave a little room), insert sticks and freeze until solid. The recipe says 4-5 hours, but I find it takes more like 6-8 for mine.

Vanilla Simple Syrup
Makes 1 cup

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
½ a vanilla bean, sliced open or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is transparent. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla bean or vanilla extract. Once the syrup has cooled a bit, fish out the vanilla bean and use a pointy little knife to scrape the seeds into the syrup and then use your fingers to swish the pod around into the syrup and then put the spent pod in your ice coffee, because why not.

Before...
And then when you by accident made oatmeal. Sigh. My rhubarb has too much green in it to stay pink, but I swear it is gorgeous-tasting.


Sunday, April 08, 2018

Perfect (cough *GF* cough) Banana Bread


Where does the time go? Honestly. Forgive me. Because I know there is nowhere else on the internet you can go for recipes! [crying-laughing emoji] Life sure gets busy, no? We’ve been marching for gun control and packing lunches. Despairing over injustice and reading excellent books. I have been awake more than usual in the night and also going religiously to zumba. I have been an asshole and a good friend, mortified and happy and compassionate and irate in equal measure.


We’ve been watching America’s Funniest Home Videos before bed, in the hope that it will help us all sleep, and we laugh, because the people and animals are so wonderfully crazy, everybody getting hit in the crotch because of  piñatas, and also some of it is so depressingly sad and weird, and people actually get hurt, and I never know what to think anymore. Or sometimes, maybe, I still do.


Anyways, as many of you know if you’re been following along, we are dealing with an Extreme Gluten-Free Situation in our household, and I am doing more baking than ever, trying to nail certain favorite things and create certain other new favorite things. This banana bread is the former, and it’s absolutely perfect: tender-crumbed and moist without being gummy; deeply browned and crunchy-edged without being gritty. 


Only other GF bakers will understand why I need to praise this bread in reverse, by listing its un-negative qualities. There are just so many pitfalls! Like the thing where a loaf or cake comes gloriously out of the oven looking glorious? Only then what it really is is a gorgeous shell filled with a kind of treasure trove of inglorious raw batter.


If you are not catering to the non-glutens, then use whatever mix of flour you like, and it will be delicious! Still totally worth making, because it is actual good banana bread, I promise, not some weird diet loaf. Unless you’re on a weird diet! And then make it with apple water and aloe dust, or whatever you need to do. I am with you 100%. Believe me.

That is an insanely delicious product called "vanilla creme fraiche" that arrives in vast donated cases at the soup kitchen where I volunteer. Soup and vanilla creme fraiche for all! It is crazily good, but cream cheese would be a fine thing to spread on your already-moist banana bread, if you found it just needed a certain something.
Perfect Banana Bread (that is gluten-free—or not)
I think I already said everything I wanted to say up top. xo

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar (I use ½ white sugar and ½ coconut sugar, but you could use a mix of white and brown sugars, or whatever you like. It doesn’t really matter.)
2 ripe bananas (you could use a 3rd banana and skip the sour cream, but I wouldn't)
Sour cream (around ½ cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour (see note below)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
¼ cup small gluten-free oats—the instant kind—or regular gluten-free oats buzzed briefly in a blender

Heat the oven to 350 and grease and flour a loaf pan.

Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer, and leave it creaming while you mash the bananas. Measure the bananas and add enough sour cream to make 1 ½ cups. Stir in the vanilla.

While the butter and sugar is STILL creaming, sift or whisk together the flour(s), baking soda, and salt. Stir in the oats.

Now add the eggs, one at a time, to the creamed butter, beating each one in well. Add the banana mixture and beat well again, then add the dry ingredients and beat just until mixed. (I’m never sure, if you’re using gf flour, if it even matters if you overbeat something! I mean, there’s no gluten to develop, so who really gives a fuck? But still I err on the side of caution because #goodgirl.)

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until the loaf looks done and a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs on it. Cool briefly in the pan—3 minutes?—then tip onto a cooling rack and really, really try to cool it completely, or for at least ½ hour, before slicing.

Note about the flour: I use 1/3 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (from Trader Joe’s), 1/3 cup coconut flour, and 1/3 cup of this crazy and delicious whole-grain flour I mix up to make the beautiful breads from this book. That blend is equal parts brown-rice flour, teff flour, sorghum flour, and (gf) oat flour. I know. I might as well add bone meal and pine starch, but what can I tell you. It’s a blend I love. And it has xanthan gum in it—around 1 teaspoon per cup of flour, I think, is how it works out. What I recommend is using either ½ cup of a flour with xanthan gum in it, or adding 1/2 teaspoon to the recipe if none of your flours have xanthan gum. Does that make sense? (I just drank a beer really quickly.)


You could just use 1 ½ cups of your favorite GF flour, or try a mix of almond, oat, rice, whatever you think would be good. Please report back!

A note about oats: Oats are only gluten-free if they say they're gluten-free, and this is for one of two reasons: some oats are grown in fields where wheat seeds blow in and grow companionably alongside, everyone harvested all together to the bellyache of unsuspecting celiac folks; other oats grow unaccompanied by wheat, but are processed in gluten-contaminated facilities. Gluten-free oats are safely unmolested by other sneaky grains.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Slivered Collards with Brown-Butter Pepperoncini Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumbs

I got the idea of making a raw collard salad, like the kindof kale we all know and love, from the “Shaved Collard Greens with Cashews and Pickled Peppers” recipe in the the exciting, inspiring book Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, which I have now had to return to the library (sigh). 
I am also reading this book, and it is so, so deliciously good.
The collards are a little smoother than kale, a little silkier and stronger tasting, both sweeter and more bitter both, if that makes sense. The pepperoncini is in his recipe; the brown butter is all me. And boy is this a delicious late-winter dish: spicy and zippy, but rich; green tasting, but also deeply brown tasting; leafy and crunchy and well-loved by everyone. You could, of course, make it with kale if you prefer. I haven’t, but I am completely confident it would be great.
Is this a good place to tell you I have a new column up over at Motherwell?
Slivered Collards with Brown-Butter Pepperoncini Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumbs
I have made this salad a number of times, and sometimes I have put grated parmesan in it. You can do that, but I actually think that the flavors are cleaner without the funk of cheese. Although maybe something is wrong with me, since I have never thought that anything ever would be better without cheese, and I am suffering from dementia, and you should ignore my advice. I am mentioning that the collards would ideally be room-temperature because the dressing is butter-based, and it will have a slight inclination to congeal on cold greens in a cold bowl. Starting with everything a little warmer than cold is ideal. (What if you put raisins in the dressing? Mightn’t that be good, in an agrodolce kind of way? I am just thinking out loud here.)

1 bunch clean, room-temperature collard greens (or kale)

For the crumbs:
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the dressing:
½ stick salted butter
½ cup pepperoncini rings
¼ cup liquid from the pepperoncini jar

Prepare the collards: Strip the leaves from their stems by holding the stem in one hand and hand-jobbing the leaf off with your other hand, if you know what I’m saying. Save the stems to make this. Chiffonade the leaves: stack them, roll them up tight, and sliver them across into fine ribbons. You should have around 5 cups of slivered collards—more or less is fine, just adjust the dressing accordingly—and you should put them in a large salad bowl.

Toast the crumbs: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat, then add the crumbs and salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are crisp and golden, around 5 minutes. Scrape the crumbs into a bowl so they can cool without burning.

Make the dressing: Melt the butter in the crumb pan over medium heat, then continue cooking it, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter gets golden-brown and smells nutty and insane, another 3 or 4 minutes. It will foam up at some point, and then the foaming will subside, which is around the time you will notice that it’s just about done. Immediately dump in the pepperoncini and their liquid, and cook for a minute or two, swirling the pan, until the liquid is a little bit reduced.

Pour the hot dressing over the collards and toss well. If you like, you can use your hands to massage the kale, which will soften and excite it, but you’ve already given it the hand-job treatment, so this added sexual favor is totally up to you. Taste for salt (it may not need any), then top with bread crumbs, and serve immediately. 





The prize for reading to the end! This newly minted fifteen-year-old. What the?