A two-part culinary festival by N., A., and Me.
Roasted vegetable terrines with goat cheese and pine nuts (N)
Curried carrot soup with croutons and yogurt (N)
Beet latkes with rice vinegar and yogurt (A)
Pistachio souffles (Me)
Cranberry-almond (-orange-white-chocolate) biscotti (not pictured due to excessive nibbling) (A)
Artichoke-olive galette with feta and pine nuts (Me)
Truffled arancini with peas on endive (N)
Roasted asparagus (N)
Beets with citrus vinaigrette (N)
Mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy (See below) (A/Me)
Pine nut torte with citrus caramel and kumquats (N)
The mushroom gravy was my favorite part, surprisingly. It's a vegetarian/vegan classic:
+Saute onions or shallots in oil
+Add mushrooms and brown
+Add (LOTS of white) wine, some vegetable stock, and some soy sauce
+Season to taste (I like onion powder and a little rosemary)
+Thicken with flour and/or corn starch
NB: I tried pureeing it at Thanksgiving, but I definitely prefer it chunky--cleaner flavors, more palatable texture, and more appetizing aromas.
I don't really know how the galette turned out--it was pretty, but my taste buds were a little confused and no one made any comments on it (which is generally a bad sign). The risotto was delicious but the arancini cooled a bit before we ate it, which sort of muffled the flavors and muddled the consistency. And the torte was tasty, but all that dairy was less than kosher for my poor little stomach. Luckily, the spiked soy nog saved the day...
Wednesday, December 26
A two-part culinary festival by N., A., and Me.
Tuesday, December 25
The holidays are here, and so are holiday foods. One classic holiday food: roasted chestnuts. I attempted to recreate this classic, first boiling the chestnuts a bit to soften the skins, then scoring them (so as to prevent oven explosions), then roasting them in a 425 oven for 10-15 minutes. They were...pretty gross. One member of our little party might even say "REALLY gross, yuck, yuck, yuck." I think perhaps the boiling was not the best idea, as the predominate flavor I identified was "boiled peanuts." But how else can you score them? Etc. I now have a pan of badly roasted chestnuts demanding a purpose. Ideas thus far include chestnut pancakes, chestnut sauce for (soy) ice cream, chestnut sauce for my vegetable galettes, and chestnuts-in-the-garbage.
Other mainstream holiday foods include ham, fruitcake, egg nog, potato pancakes, plum pudding, Yorkshire pudding, almond roca, Ferrero Rocher, creamed vegetables, green bean casserole, truffles, and champagne.
Few of these foods are included in my own alimentary associations with the holidays. I think of grapefruits, shipped every year from Texas by Aunt Lucille (who was really great-Aunt Lucille). Colin Street Bakery fruit cake from Aunt Barbara (a legitimate aunt), and Harry and David pears for grandma, from my dad (which would reach the pinnacle of their ripeness simultaneously, necessitating a deluge of pear-eating over the 48-hour window of pear perfection). Uncle Terry's ubiquitous snacks of salami, cheese, crackers, olives, and mixed nuts (on the good years, just cashews). My father's stocking stuffers of Power Bars, which would actually be palatable after hanging in the stockings above the fire; my grandmother's more traditional stocking stuffers of clementines and Hershey's kisses (and, fittingly, toothbrushes). A. laughed at me this year when I cracked open a bottle of Johnny Walker, inhaled the alcoholic fumes, and reported, "This smells like Christmas!"--a byproduct of years of sniffing, disdainfully, grandma's somewhat related scotch-on-the-rocks.
Last year I was in southern California with A., and we had a proper southern Californian Christmas weekend, complete with fish tacos; this year fish tacos were one of the few things she mentioned missing. My roommate, from western Pennsylvania, has mentioned sundry gelatin-based salads and desserts, which she defended rather forcefully. My favorite little jew mentioned potato pancakes, unsurprising after her enthusiasm throughout our expedition to Zabar's in NYC.
I suppose the ultimate rubric for a "holiday food" relates to your memories of the holidays: personal meaning, tradition, ritual, and the like. And I think this might be why holiday foods hold such a dear place in so many of our hearts and palates--I think in many ways Americans are ritual-starved, and we cherish and savor those we do have, particularly those that are enforced in our national culture (but don't get me started on how exclusive and oppressive Christmas-as-a-national-holiday is in my eyes). Despite my opposition, the traditions of Christmas still remind me of home, comfort, community, and sharing. Which may actually be part of the opposition. Ah well, there's plenty of good food.
Tuesday, December 18
I'm sharing this somewhat relevant and quite humorous video for your non-Food-TV enjoyment. I wanted to post the first episode I saw, but the steak au poivre was a little too unvegan. I think you'll see why this video is particularly germane to my lactose-intolerance theme, although I'll take this opportunity to note that real extra-sharp cheddar is 100% lactose-free. The aging process eliminates the lactose sugars, and real cheddar is aged at least six months, hence, no lactose.
You can find more episodes here.
Sunday, December 16
On this typically domestic but atypically lazy Sunday, I spent several hours perusing online personals ads and eating whole-wheat fig bars. When these things failed to satisfy my heart and stomach, I turned towards the kitchen, just in time to notice my wonderful roommate whipping up some sort of culinary delight. I postponed my plans to saute kale and returned my attention to menu-planning for the holidays. Shortly after, there appeared on the stove a perfectly baked (and perfectly vegetarian) shepherd's pie, which was apparently almost as easy to make as it was to eat!
She combined vegan meat crumbles, frozen mixed vegetables, vegetable stock, and seasonings in a casserole dish. She topped this with instant mashed potatoes augmented with plenty of parmesan cheese, and baked it until it just started to brown. So good! And easy, and quick, and relatively nutritious (better than another few whole-wheat fig bars anyhow). Brava--next time I'll try making it myself.
Wednesday, December 12
I don't have a photo, since I've eaten almost all of it, but let it be known that I made pumpkin bread pudding, the almost-vegan way. I used a standard bread pudding recipe but used brioche for the bread (and a bit of whole wheat to add a chewier texture) and a combination of soy nog and soy milk for the liquid. I also added canned pumpkin puree, spices, dried cranberries, and pecans...and a nice dose of rum for some holiday cheer. It went quickly.
One of my roommates and I went grocery shopping together this week. Our cart overflowing with vegetables, soy products, canned goods, and two packages of Fig Newtons, we were stopped in our tracks in the "prepared foods" aisle. We had actually just vacated the produce section, where S. painstakingly deliberated purchasing a pre-cut fruit bowl. Frustrated and overwhelmed, we debriefed her consternation amidst the soup mixes and packets of instant rice. She/we want to eat well, which for both of us (in large part due to our respective upbringings and introductions to the culinary world) entails home-cooked meals invariably made from scratch and involving many laborious hours in the kitchen. However, she/we also need to eat quickly and often on the go. We find ourselves grazing a lot, and ironically end up eating more refined crap because we're hesitant to find the middle ground of, for instance, pre-cut fruit or rice-in-a-box. (Does that sound appealing though? Really?)
Exasperated--even rather angry--S. brings up a point I've often considered. How do you eat well, quickly? I feel like more often than not I end up grazing or snacking instead of having a meal, because I feel that I "ought" to prepare some sort of elaborate, balanced, colorful creation (that supports local farmers, encourages organic methods, and fights world hunger). And then I end up feeling unsatisfied and undernourished, getting most of my calories from simple carbs (including lots of sugars). I know there are options that dodge the world of preservative- and artificial-coloring-ridden world of prepackaged foods and mixes, but even *healthy* frozen foods and canned goods still seem like cheating. I know I have to find the middle ground, but I wish I could just learn to whip up easy stir-frys, sandwiches, and pastas without the unnecessary addition of stress.
Monday, December 10
Knowing that at least a few fellow beer geeks peruse my un-vegan findings, I wanted to offer this link about BEER. I was searching for info on the American Eats segment on Beer, and the subsequent Modern Marvels episode on distilleries, when I came across these lovely beer-centric videos. Sadly, the Family Guy links don't work, but do check out my personal favorite: Beer Drinking Pig