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Vegetarian? Vegan? Make some collard greens on New Year’s Day with “salt-pork” made from eggplant!

This is a complex recipe, but the payoff is well worth the prep time!

Ingredients:

1 bunch collard greens (do not substitute kale or some other such silliness), chopped
2 medium japanese eggplants, peeled and diced
3/4 c cider vinegar
1/3 c water
2/3 c canola oil
1/4 cup Braggs liquid aminos
1 tbsp liquid smoke
3.5 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp turmeric

STEP ONE: EGGPLANT

1. Marinate the night prior to serving:
2. Toss the eggplant in 2 tbsp of the salt. Set aside in a colander to drain for 2 hours.
3. Mix the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, whisking well to make sure they’re completely mixed.
4. Toss the eggplant into the marinade– be sure it’s entirely submerged– and refrigerate overnight.

5 . The next day, before starting on the greens, bake the eggplant in the marinade at 200 degrees for 2 hours. You’re essentially making a quick confit with the eggplant.
6. Drain eggplant, but reserve the marinade.
7. Add 1/4 cup of the marinade to a saute pan; saute the eggplant in the marinade for 15 minutes.

STEP TWO: GREENS

1. In a large pot, bring the cider vinegar and water to a boil.
2. When the vinegar begins to boil, add the eggplant. Cover and simmer on low for 45 minutes.
3. Add the collard greens. Let cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar and/or water to taste as needed.

Serve with cornbread to soak up that delicious potlikker!

On the left, collards with salt pork. On the right, greens from the recipe above. YUM!

greens

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not-pictured-largeThe time of holiday meals is upon us, and it strikes me that I haven’t yet posted the recipe for my extra-technical-and-complicated-yet-remarkable green bean casserole. I’d intended to document the process this Thanksgiving, but Kraken Rum happened, and the casserole was eaten before I could take any pretty snapshots. That’s how good it is– it moves too quickly for pictures. So no pictures– if you want to see what it looks like, you’ll need to make it for yourself.

I notice with some chagrin that the “official Campbell’s recipe” has been modified to include “98% Fat Free or Healthy Request®” Cream of Mushroom soup. Which, ewThe point behind green bean casserole is to take delicious, crunchy, healthy green beans and make them bad for you. (Also: soy sauce? Whut?)

Not that there’s anything wrong with the traditional version: dump some canned green beans, some canned soup and some milk in a casserole dish, stir it up, top it with French fried onions, and bake. Okay, comforting, easy, but what would a *real* green bean casserole taste like? What would it be like if you took the time and effort to make this dish without any of the canned or processed nonsense, and added copious amounts of cheese?  What if green bean casserole, instead of a quick toss-together cop-out any schmo can do, was mind-numbingly inconvenient and terribly complicated? 

Well now, you are about to find out. The answer is: This is the Gold Standard of Green Bean Casseroles. Many will attest.

You’ll need:

  • ~2 lbs fresh green beans
  • ~1 lb grated mozzarella cheese
  • ~1 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pint+ whole milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • unflavored oil (canola? peanut?) for frying
  • unbleached flour
  • salt
  • paprika
  • nutmeg
  • white pepper

Total prep time: A lazy holiday afternoon. Probably plan on at least two glasses of wine worth of prep. At least.

Total cooking time: 1 hour or thereabouts.

1. Wash your green beans, snap off the ends, then French cut them. You’ve had French cut beans– they’re split down the middle. The best way to do this is with a peeling knife:

JA_Henckels_Twin_Cuisine_line_peeling_knife_2

The curvy tip is perfect for inserting into the seam and splitting in half. Or a paring knife would work, too. They don’t have to be perfect, but this is a holiday, not a marathon, so don’t rush it.

2. Fill a big stockpot with water, and salt it. Bring to a boil, and place the beans into the water to taste, until they’re mostly tender to the tooth (about 10 minutes?). They’ll cook when baked, too, so don’t make them too soft. And definitely don’t leave them all crunchy– crunchy beans = healthy beans, and we don’t want that! Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside.

3. Slice your onion REALLY thin, like paper thin, then chop into segments (about 1 inch). Place in a bowl and cover the onions with milk. Set aside to soak for at least 10 minutes. (This makes a difference!)

4. Mix together a large portion of sifted flour (depending on how big your onion is, this is probably about 1.5 cups), 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp white pepper and 1 tbsp paprika.

5. Coat the onions in the flour mixture, then fry in the oil. You’ll likely need to do batches. You want lots of these, as they tend to get eaten while you’re cooking. Once they’re all fried, set aside. Eat some. Share a few. But save most of them.

6. Preheat the oven to 350.

7. Grease a large casserole dish or baking dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with some of your shredded mozzarella cheese (not all of it, now!).

8. In a saucepan on Low, melt the butter into the whipping cream (slowly, now!). Add about 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp pepper.  Using a whisk, stir constantly, adding pinches of flour so it gets smooth and starts to thicken.  When it’s slightly thick, begin adding about 3/4 of the grated cheddar, a little at a time. Alternate with milk– delicately– some cheddar, some milk, some cheddar, some milk. Some lumpiness is to be expected. Eventually, you will end up with a delightful, smooth cheese sauce.  Feel free to play with this sauce. Add stuff, take stuff away, try some different textures, but be sure it’s not at all watery, or you will end up unhappy.

9. Toss the rest of the shredded mozzarella with the green beans, then pour the beans/cheese into the casserole dish.

10. Using a spatula/smoother, scrape the sauce over the beans, smoothing it down so it drips into the nooks and crannies of the green beans.

11.  Top it off with all of the rest of your cheese, then a thick layer of fried onions.

12. Bake for one hour. Or, longer if the temperature is lower because pies and poultry and such are also baking. Or, if you want it faster, jack that sucker up to 450 and back for 1/2 hour.  You can cook this over a period of time. If the onions get really dark without burning, it’s done.

Also, don’t pre-make this the night before to bake the next day. Why spoil a delightfully inconvenient process?

I’m telling you, you will never go back to the icky Campbell’s version again, ever. Well, maybe, but you’ll never be able to eat any green bean casserole again without thinking of this one. And I am serious, here!

UPDATE! The lovely E has procured the only known photograph that proves the existence of the Gold Standard Green Bean Casserole! In spite of the blurry, sasquatch-photo-like quality of this image, you can FEEL the golden glow of its power calling you!

FEEL IT!

FEEL THE POWER

This is a great way to use up your leftover brown rice, especially if you just happen to have dried wakame seaweed hanging around the house. What, you don’t usually keep dried seaweed around? Why not?

We also call these either “bluffins,” since they’re kind of a mix between muffins and biscuits, or “seabiscuits,” because that’s kind of funny!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 cup dry wakame seaweed, reconstituted (should result in about 2 cups seaweed)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 tsp powdered buttermilk
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Drain the seaweed thoroughly, squeezing as much excess liquid out as possible. Chop coarsely.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt and butter together until well-mixed. There may be small lumps, which is fine.
  4. Add the rice and seaweed to the liquid, once again mixing thoroughly.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix well, until a dough is formed. Add flour as needed. The dough should be clumpy, but should hold together well.
  6. Grease a standard 12 cup muffin pan (nonstick spray works great!).
  7. With a large spoon, fill each cup with dough.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until an inserted fork comes out clean.

Seabiscuits are good with any meal, as a savory accompaniment to pretty much any dish, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time!

 

3 days to go, 18 backers, $866 pledged! We still have $2134 to go– if you’ve been thinking of backing, now’s the time to do it. 

And, of course, thanks a ZILLION to everyone who has backed so far!  Regardless of whether we end up making the goal, we’ll be thanking our backers with a concrete prize of some kind (as yet to be determined…).

Now then– are you in?

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1787931793/meat-no-meat-a-cookbook-for-the-biculinary

While shopping for ingredients for our traditional Super Bowl Nachos, it occurred to me that traditional jars of pickled jalapeños (like the ubiquitous versions of Mezetta) can cost as much as $4.00, depending on where they’re purchased.

MEZETTA, WHY YOU NO CHEAPER?

Sauntering over to the fresh produce section, I find that fresh jalapeños are a mere DOLLAR A POUND!

JALAPENO, WHY YOU NO COST MORE?

Plus, they’re more delicious!  So, instead of spending almost $4.00 on a jar of old peppers that’s probably been sitting on the shelf for a long time, I picked up $0.50 worth of fresh jalapeños (1/2 lb. — more than enough for a couple of  heaping piles of nachoy goodness) and took them home to play.

Warning: cutting jalapeños (or any hot pepper) should be done with care! Those bad boys will burn anything you stick your fingers in after you’ve cut into them (wink wink! What? No, I’m talking about your nose!). You could wear gloves, or you could just be sure to wash the dickens out of your hands, especially under your fingernails, when you’re done preparing.

QUICK-PICKLED JALAPEÑOS

1. First, slice the peppers into little disc shapes (of course, you could cut them into any shape you think works best, but I’m a traditionalist). (At this point, you could remove the seeds if you want milder peppers, but what are you, a wuss?)

2. Next, put the peppers into a glass container.

3. Next, measure enough white vinegar to cover the peppers and pour the vinegar into a small saucepan. Add 1 tsp salt per cup of vinegar. At this point, you can mix it up a little and go crazy!  I tossed in some salted ginger and some allspice. Bring this mixture to a boil until the salt dissolves.

4. Pour the vinegar mixture, still hot, over the jalapeños.

5. Cover, chill for at least an hour, and serve.

These are not mine, but look basically identical

Of course, depending on what you add to the mix, the longer these puppies sit, the more flavor they develop. I let mine sit overnight, and YUM!

These should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Did I mention this cost me FIFTY CENTS? Yeah.

Make some quick-pickled jalapeños today!

One of the amazing things about living in Seattle is how one day of sunny, 60-degree weather cancels out about 30 of the darkest, coldest days of the winter. This past weekend brought some of the most delightful sunshiny days in months, and we decided to take advantage of the relative warmth and start prepping the garden beds for an upcoming planting.

I’d covered most of the beds with landscaping fabric during the off-season, since we didn’t do any winter gardening this year (new baby and all), but a couple of plots remained uncovered because we still had some radishes and carrots hanging around in November. The uncovered plots had, of course, become covered in little seedlings, which have to be removed prior to planting.

The seedlings were almost all dandelions, so, rather than simply chuckin’ ’em into the compost pile, I took the nicest samples and placed them in a bag. We found a few other goodies as well:

Yum!

From top to bottom:  radish greens, stray radishes, stray baby carrots, baby dandelion greens, another carrot, baby bittercress (aka shotweed), some green onions on the side.

We had more than enough to make a nice little salad. It was  too bitter for Emily; next time we’ll probably mix the weeds in with some other kinds of greens. I’m more of a fan of strong flavors, so I enjoyed the salad with some oil and vinegar, and I especially enjoyed the fact that it was completely free of charge!

We’re happy foragers, and love looking for wild foods in our local urban parks, but once you’re familiar with edible weeds, you’ll be amazed at how much free food you’ll find growing in your very own yard! And, you don’t have to use it all in salads. We’ve featured dandelion salsa on this site, and will include some other wild food recipes if we can get our book funded.

(Warning: never eat weeds that have been treated with chemicals or poisons, because Yuck! Instead of poisoning your dandelions, pick them and eat them.)

(Continued from Part 2)

So, in an attempt to create the perfect vegetarian Country-style Sausage for Scotch Eggs, we came up with a product using bulgur wheat, black beans and powdered buttermilk that tasted almost exactly like the real thing:

I'm Vegetarian Sausage! SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS....

The problem: the binding agent, or lack thereof, caused the mixture to break down into crumbles.  Although this is dandy for other recipes– dolmes, sausage casserole, and stuffed peppers come to mind– we really need something for Scotch eggs that will hold together well enough to wrap around a hardboiled egg.

The problem is that most binding agents come with their own flavors. Since this mixture tastes and feels almost perfect, we don’t want to alter the flavor or texture palate to a huge degree. We thought of a couple of possibilities.

– Regular wheat flour seems the obvious choice, but we’re concerned about how it might affect the flavor and texture.

– We could try some egg, but since the recipe is based on hardboiled eggs, we’re worried it’ll be too eggy.

We ransacked the pantry, and found a couple of items we thought might fit the bill: soy flour and gluten. We divided the remaining batter from the original batch and measured soy flour into one and gluten into the other. Since we’re still in the development stage, our measurements were fairly inexact; mixing was performed by hand and enough of each substance was added to better bind the batter (say that five times fast!).

The results of both were fairly underwhelming.

The soy flour gave the sausage a “green” flavor, like we’d mixed in edamame. Blech. It also didn’t hold together well enough. Better than the original batch, but not well enough to wrap around an egg.

The gluten held together wonderfully, but imparted its own flavor to the mix that almost overwhelmed the sausage-ness. In fact, the mix which included the gluten tasted almost exactly like the fake sausage brand we buy at the store. So, we know how they do that, but we’re trying to avoid the flavors of store-bought veggie sausage. Gluten won’t work.

Frustrating! But now’s not the time to quit, not when we’re close enough to taste that Scotch egg and its tangy intersection with HP sauce and our bellies. So, what next?

Next, we hit the grocery store again to procure a couple of other possible binding agents. A quick bit of research gives some possible clues. I’d like to try arrowroot starch– supposedly high on binding ability but low on flavor. Another thought is unflavored whey protein powder. (At this point, it’s beginning to feel like the Ingredients Playoffs.)

Of course, this will have to wait until we can afford to run out and buy some new ingredients, so it’ll likely be next week before we post the next installment. If you’ve been following along so far, thanks a mil! And, if you’d like to help support this project, check out Meat/No Meat: A Cookbook for the Biculinary, and maybe consider becoming a backer!

(Continued from Part 1)

In our quest for the perfect vegetarian sausage, we decided that a base of bulgur wheat mixed with black beans should pretty closely approximate the “mouth feel” of ground pork sausage. So, to start our first test recipe, I decided to cook 1/2 cup of bulgur wheat and mix in a cup of black beans, which will give us enough of a base to stretch out through a couple of test sessions.

Every step in the process will eventually contribute to the final flavor. With this in mind, and because I’m not a fan of cooking grains in plain old water, I decided the wheat needed to be simmered *in* something. What might add an earthy, slightly bitter complexity to the grains? Vegetable broth would be too sweet, and not quite on the mark in the flavor category. How about…. coffee?

Sounds strange, right? But coffee has a nuttiness that I think just might work in the final product.  So, one cup of brewed coffee and 1/2 cup of bulgur wheat into the pot, boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes, and step one is complete. Upon tasting the cooked grain, I did think the coffee flavor was a bit too strong, but a quick rinse under cold water in a mesh strainer mellowed the excess flavor.

To the mixing bowl! I added the black beans (canned) and, since we don’t have a food processor, smushed them into the wheat with a potato masher.  Next, it was time for the Secret Ingredient:

Powdered Buttermilk

"'Atsa good buttermilk!"

Although in the last post we thought we might try powdered milk as the binder, the store was out of it. They did, however, have this lovely canister of powdered *buttermilk*, featuring this handsome, red-cheeked chef of vaguely European mien. His charming smile all but called out to me in mock Italian: “Hey, you! Forget about powdered milk, try-a my powdered buttermilk, capice?” Why not give it a whirl? The sournesss of buttermilk might add something traditional vegetarian sausages miss, and anything with butter in the title can’t be that bad, right?

I added the buttermilk, measuring as I went, and it seemed to be working wonderfully. 1/4 cup did the trick. I then added a combination of other  ingredients to approximate that inimitable sausage archetype. Since this is a test recipe, I’m not going to provide their exact measurements here, but I will tell you that I used soy sauce, sage, thyme, nutmeg, pepper and salt. A quick taste let me know I was on the right track.

The Mix, Mixed

Flavor seemed right. Consistency seemed right. So, it was time to toss some of this stuff into the old frying pan and see who saluted.

By the way, I do mean OLD frying pan. Wondering why we’re trying to raise some seed money to get this project started? It’s to replace equipment like this:

Help me! HELLLLLPPP MEEEEE.....

Since our eventual goal is something that will be deep-fried, we need to know that a) it won’t cook too unevenly in oil; b) it’ll hold together if wrapped around an egg; and c) it will taste delicious. To that end, I decided to make a few patties out of half of the mixture and fry ’em, leaving enough left over to muck with if the first batch didn’t work. I put about 1/4 cup of Canola oil* in the pan and turned that sucker up to 7.5 (out of 8). When it had a nice sizzle, I spooned in three patties of varying thicknesses and let ’em have it!

I'm Vegetarian Sausage! SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS....

As the mixture started cooking, it really began to develop a distinctly delicious sausage-like smell, a perfume  you’d imagine wafting from the kitchen in a Southern grandma’s house at breakfast time.  True fact: when Emily came into the kitchen, I asked her whether she thought it smelled like pork sausage. Her reply? “That’s not real sausage?” I was on to something.

Then it happened. Before my eyes, the lovely little patties I’d created began to break down into crumblies. I tried to hold them together, to retain their shapes as I inserted the spatula under each one. They simply weren’t holding together. Part of the problem was the condition of our little frying pan, to which even the oiliest ingredients will stick like evil glue. However, I believe that what was happening was that the buttermilk was breaking down and absorbing the liquid as the sausage cooked, losing its consistency and causing the patties to crumble.

Still, holding together is one small part of what we’re looking for from our sausage. more importantly, how did it taste? After it had browned, quite nicely, I used a slotted spoon to remove the sausage to a plate, and called in Emily for a test:

There is no meat in this picture

It is delicious!

The flavor, the mouth-feel, the texture, are almost exactly identical to country-style pork sausage. The ingredients as used, in the proportion they were used, were nearly perfect. It was slightly salty, so I’ll need to cut down on that just a bit, but otherwise it tastes closer to real pork sausage than any store-bought substitute I’ve ever tried. I sincerely doubt that a meat-eater would even be able to notice the difference if unaware. We mixed the crumbles into a tomato sauce and served over butternut squash ravioli, and oh my goodness, you guys! This stuff is REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

Still, it’s not quite ready. It just needs one more something that will help it stay together as it cooked. What would that something be? Tune in shortly for the exciting conclusion and find out!

And don’t forget to visit our Kickstarter page and help support this lil’ project!


*It’s always tempting to use olive oil, but don’t forget that olive oil has a flavor. I don’t want that flavor in this dish, so to the Canola I went.

Some other recipes that will definitely appear in the book:

– Spaghetti Pie
– Oven-poached fish in olive oil
– Scotch Eggs (hardboiled eggs, wrapped in sausage and DEEP FRIED)
– Picadillo (a kind of Cuban chili)
– Redneck Sushi (involving bacon and asparagus)
– Chao Tom (Vietnamese Sugar Cane)
– and many more!

If, of course, we manage to raise the funding.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1787931793/meat-no-meat-a-cookbook-for-the-biculinary/widget/video.html

Visit our Kickstarter Page for more!

http://kck.st/tRD0k3

Let’s say we’re interested in making a vegetarian version of Scotch Eggs, those delectably delightful staples of British Pub Food, hardboiled eggs wrapped in pork sausage and deep fried. We could always pick up a package of prefab vegetarian sausage substitute– Lightlife’s Gimmee Lean certainly fits the bill, even though it’s sticky and difficult to work with. However, in the interest of the Meat/No Meat philosophy, we want to figure out our own version.

So, let’s think about sausage. The kind we use is country style, which I suppose we could categorize as “plain sausage”: think Jimmy Dean, breakfast patties, salty, juicy goodness.  (We don’t want anything too exotic at this point, since we’re just making the basic, so no chorizo (yet)). The best kind is, of course, fresh, purchased from a butcher shop or other purveyor of ground, spiced pork, especially since Jimmy Dean usually has copious amounts of MSG and nitrates, which many find categorically yucky. Typical sausage seasonings usually include sage, maybe some thyme, nutmeg, perhaps a couple of fennel seeds tossed in for good measure.

When we think about our vegetarian version of sausage, we want to compare it to the pork version. Pork sausage is slightly crumbly, moist, fatty, salty, juicy. It isn’t usually consistently textured; in with the ground meat we usually find little pockets of gristle and grease. This is a big difference between store-bought veggie sausage substitutes and the real thing. The kind we find in the store is often smooth and pasty.

For our version, we’ll need some kind of base. Since we want to come close to the texture of the real thing, we’d like to have at least two components to our base, a main ingredient and a secondary. We think crumbly, moist, so a grain of some kind– perhaps quinoa? It would do the trick, especially since once it’s cooked it can be mashed and has an interesting mouth feel. But alas, the store we visit is out of quinoa (only in Seattle) so we need some other possibility. Looking around, most of the other grains are too large to work. Amaranth is a possibility, but it’s kind of obscure, and would need to be ground further at home. We settle on cracked bulgur wheat, familiar to most people from tabouleh.

What about the second ingredient? We’ll want less of it, and it should be interestingly textured and readily mash-able. How about beans? Black beans have a nice, meaty flavor and would add some proteins to the mix, so we’ll go with a can of those.

Now we need something that, when mixed with liquid, will bind it all together.  The problem with many of the usual binding agents– flour, for instance, is that they have a bad habit of drying out whatever you’re trying to cook. Since Scotch Eggs are deep fried, this is an even greater concern; we don’t want our sausage substitute to turn the egg into a crispy asteroid with a sandy interior. We need something that will help retain moisture.

We also want to add some kind of fat to the mixture. This could be oil, but we are going to fry them in oil, so we run the risk of a final product that’s too oily. It could, theoretically, be butter. We can try these as possibilities, but let’s explore other options and think outside of the box a little bit. What kind of binder could both hold our veggie sausage together and add a little fattiness and sweetness to our sausage? How about powdered milk? It’s sometimes added to pork sausage for the exact same purpose, so let’s give it a whirl!

Now we’ve got the basics for our first test batch of veggie sausage: bulgur wheat, black beans, powdered milk. We’ll use water and a little soy sauce as our liquid, since soy salt adds a little saltiness. For seasoning, we’ll use sage, thyme, savory, nutmeg, salt and pepper– traditional sausage spices.  In the next installment, we’ll whip up our first test batch and see how it goes.

Continue to Part 2: The First Test Recipe