Category Archives: Vegetarian-ish

Sweet Potato Poutine

For those of you who didn’t know, there’s such a thing in this wonderful world as poutine. As far as I can surmise, it is only found in Canada (though some asshole in Jersey is trying to pass off some bullshit Disco Fries as a facsimile when it is a totally different thing). Poutine is – wait for it – French fries topped with cheese curds and smothered with rich beef gravy. Did your arteries just slam shut in blissful “whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis” ecstasy? I thought so.

Scott and I hunted some down in Vancouver, but it wasn’t that great. It was kidney stone salty, and the gravy was runny and sogged the fries. I didn’t give it much more thought until yesterday, when I got a big old bee in my bonnet about poutine. I wanted desperately to eat poutine after going to the gym (hell, I wanted to eat it at the gym). Oh, this was on.

Last night I made my own, from scratch. With real squeaky cheese curds that took a phone call to source. And salty, homemade sweet potato steak fries for umami-sweet. And homemade gravy from beef and veal demiglace for consummate boner induction. This was so good, I feel like throwing an extra “motherfucking” in. Motherfucking.

It was incredibly fast and easy, too. I hand-cut the sweet potato into thick steak fries and microwaved them with a splash of water for 4 minutes to parcook (this saves a LOT of cooking time). Then I tossed them in a little vegetable oil and kosher salt and baked them at 450 for about 15 minutes. Whilst the fries were getting brown and crisped of edge, I whipped up hella fast gravy by spooning a couple globs of demi into a small pan and adding a jam jar of water shaken up with a few spoonfuls of flour. Simmer for 10 minutes until glossy and thick as a gravy wanna be.

We enjoyed this healthful dinner (it’s actually only like 250 calories for half of the whole bowl – not that I’m counting) with a nice green salad and ham-and-biscuit sliders. Oh don’t worry your pretty lil’ head, I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. Also, stay tuned for future installments of my new poutine obsession. I’m thinking a post-Thanksgiving Poutine Galvaude with turkey confit.

Golden beets with fresh turmeric and ginger

This side dish is from ONE beet. One perfect, golden nugget so sweet I could eat the whole plate for dinner alone. I scrubbed and cubed it, steamed it, then simply dressed it in good butter, a splash of Norm’s homemade Pinot vinegar, and some grated ginger and turmeric rhizome. A pinch of salt and red chili, e voilà.

This simple little plate begs for a curried lamb and fragrant jasmine rice, or maybe a nice paneer crumble and biryani. Tonight, though, I’ll enjoy it in its own right.

Caraway-Gruyère Spaetzle Gratin with Quince-Cranberry Chutney

Because I am completely détritus blanc, I prefer my mac & chee with ketchup. Oh, don’t look at me like that. Some of you are toasting marshmallows onto pork loin chops or eating barbecue sauce on spaghetti. Like that’s a thing. Ketchup on mac & chee is good, and I don’t even get high any more. My point, however, is that creamy-rich and twangy-sweet make excellent bedfellows. They’re best mates.

Okay, I can’t completely take the credit for this. My SE Portland homies will call me out if I try to anyways, so I may as well come clean. I totally stole this idea from the Victory, a cozy little Old Berlin-esque gastropub that makes a stellar spaetzle and cheese with applesauce (and has an intelligent, restrained beer and wine selection). But I knew I could do it better. It is my modus operandi, after all. After tasting my souped-up version with a sweet, spicy chutney of roasted quinces and dried cranberries, Scott admitted he’d been wondering when I was going to pwn Victory’s spaetzle.

This dish is eerily reminiscent of the strozzapreti I made awhile back, but with a Kraut edge. I toasted the caraway seeds in the browning cultured butter (as it transformed flour into roux), then whisked in half & half, a splash of my homemade aqvavit and a few glugs of Spaten Optimator. I whisked and simmered, then added a little mustard powder and S&P. Handfuls of grated Gruyère (and a whole wedge of last-legs Chaubier). Stirred into some cooked spaetzle (store-bought from Edelweiss) and into a buttered casserole it goes (a sprinkle of fried onions is prudent), and a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes.

The chutney is from the quince tree in my back yard. This year it produced less than half the fruit it did last year, which is fine, since quinces are hard to use when you have 20 pounds of them. People just don’t take them, and don’t care about homemade quince paste with Manchego. Last year we had so many that I was draping them all over the house just for their intoxicating rose blossom-pineapple fragrance. If they could only bottle that. But I digress.

Roast the halved, cored quinces (easier with a melon baller) peel on for an hour or so, until soft (I added an apple to the mix for sweetness). Place the roasted halves in a potato ricer skin side up so when the flesh is pressed through the holes the skin stays behind for easy retrieval. This is way easier than peeling quinces, and the flesh will stay much more moist, besides. Stir in a small handful of dried cranberries (chopped), a few spoons of brown sugar, a fat pinch of Seven Spice™ and a drib of pear liqueur. A few drops of balsamic will give a little spank of acid.

We decided to go full bore and served it up with some grilled Weisswurst; bitter treviso and baby bok choy braised with bacon, chanterelles and lemons; and Bavarian-style soft pretzels with lots of crunchy salt and good brown mustard. Oh, and beer. Beer.

Vegetable fried rice

This is all I have to show for my blogless week. I’ve been trying to, once again, wittle down the produce drawer in the fridge, and have been cooking a bunch of uninteresting pasta and stir-fry with the various vegetables. Do you know how “meh” penne with kale pesto and vegetables looks in a photograph? Feh.

The stir-fry from Thursday wasn’t bad, if a little heavy on the hoisin and oyster sauce, but it was Project Runway (and debate) night. So I skipped the photos altogether. Last night saw the conversion of leftover rice and the remaining broccoli, peppers, shiitakes, scarlet runners (I’ve been picking them slightly underripe and slicing them, pod and all) and kale, as well as half a block of silken tofu and an egg, into fried rice. I also added some surimi, but it isn’t crab at all, and didn’t elevate it the way I hoped.

It was good, just not like the salty Chinese-American fried rice I was craving. It was, however, flavorful and healthy. Now I just have to eat the last gallon-sized bags of pattypans and yellow pear tomatoes (the last ones before I compost the vines!). Maybe I’ll just bake the whole lot in cheesy bechamel.

Wild mushroom and cheese tart

I was totally going to do this with more of the last of the pâtisson, but then I saw matsutake mushrooms at New Seasons, alongside gorgeous vermilion lobster mushrooms. The matsutake were $25/lb, but one mushroom was only 75 cents (sliced wafer-thin, it was enough). The lobster mushrooms were much less, as were the maitake and shitake mushrooms I picked up to round it out.

I am going out soon to pick chanterelles, hedgehogs and cauliflower mushrooms, but have to wait until the last of my arduous fieldwork is over. By ‘arduous’, I mean I have to live on a $110/day per diem, which means I stay in the first Motel 6 I can find that has internet and no bloodstains on the mattress. But until I have bushels of the forest’s bounty that I hunted myself, I have to use store-gotten gains. I think I’m okay with that.

I lined a sheet pan with some store-bought puff pastry (don’t look at me like that, making puff pastry from scratch on a work night is for losers) and set the oven to 400. I whisked together 4 eggs and some chopped thyme, marjoram and rosemary, and a little pepper. I heated up a half cup of cream and whisked it in (tempering the eggs as I went), and stirred in a few good knobs of goat cheese, a handful of grated dill havarti and a little manchego for bite (I had these all in the fridge and I tend to forget my cheese drawer for weeks, so cutting off the science-y parts was necessary).

I carefully poured the cheese custard into the pastry shell, and layered on thinly-sliced onion, the sliced mushrooms, and sliced some bits off an old hunk of slab bacon from the freezer. The custard and filling came all the way to the edges, but it was still good. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

My gorgeous friend Stacy gifted me some fancy salts on Saturday, one of which is an intoxicating Salish alder-smoked (the Salish are an ethnographic group of Indigenous/Aboriginal people of the Pacific Northwest coast, although I doubt they actually passed their time by smoking chunks of sea salt over alder fires and then putting it into chic little tins). The salt took a quick crush in the old mortar and pestle, was the perfect final touch.

All that richness was a perfect dinner with a little sliced tomato and quick-sauteed zuke from the garden. These are the very last of the good days weather-wise, and I’m finding that eating the vegetables in less-adulterated ways helps me truly focus on why I’ll miss summer.

…but I sure am glad it’s mushroom season.

Roasted pattypan and garlic risotto

I really love my new camera, by the way.
It’s almost that time of year where all of my vegetables start cracking and splitting under the spank of too much hard rain, and I’ve been frantically harvesting all of the last of my pattypans and tomatoes before they become food for the gastropods. The tomatoes are now coming off the vine green, especially since I discovered that they, like baby okra, are fucking delicious pickled with garlic and chilis in a fiery curry brine (don’t worry, Cookie, I’ll show you soon). The squash, though, require a little more creativity.

Tonight I diced and roasted five or six of the baby pâtisson with some minced garlic in a hot oven until browned. Saute some minced onion (I had an Italian red torpedo that is shallot-like in appearance and flavor) and a handful of arborio rice in a nice big spoonful of duck fat. Proceed with normal risotto-making procedure until about 3 minutes to the end, when you add some slivered green beans (the hangers-on from a late bloom) and the roasted squash.

Finish by stirring in a few spoonfuls of leftover arugula-pumpkin seed pesto, and then swab another spoonful on top. Hit it with some Parm Redge and maybe a chiffonade of squash blossom if you’re feeling flirtatious. Enjoy with an acidic white – we have a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Raphael 2007) that I’m really liking. Grassy, sprightly, with kefir lime and a little bee sting in the kisser.

Chanterelle pizza with arugula-pumpkin seed pesto and chevre

…or, Wherein I Learn to Use My New Camera

So my camera bit the dust. My trusty Nikon Coolpix, which has served me well for the past two years, finally bid adieu to this cruel world. Our waitress at Jules Casual French Bistro accidentally bumped the table, sending the camera tumbling to the floor, and it just didn’t work after that. It was a very awkward situation, actually. She felt appropriately terrible. I was bummed, but didn’t really expect her to pay for it or anything. I mean, it wasn’t a new camera or anything.

The resolution came when she comped us our meal (complete with a nice bottle of wine) and I promised I would still give the restaurant a good review. Which I will, when I get to reviewing it. In the meanwhile, if you find yourself wandering around Gastown and stop in, give that poor girl an extra good tip. In the uncomfortable exchange, Scott and I slipped out and forgot to tip her. We realized on the way back to the hotel, but didn’t have any cash.

But that’s neither here nor there. I made the pizza for you. The Pizza That Will Send Me To Europe. Even though I technically don’t believe in recipes, here it is (copied directly from the Bolla website).

Chanterelle pizza with arugula-pumpkin seed pesto and chevre
Serves four

Pizza Dough
•1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
•3/4 cup warm water (105-115°F)
•2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading and dredging
•1 tsp. salt
•3 tbsp. olive oil

•4 cups (about 6 oz.) arugula leaves, packed
•1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts), toasted
•1 clove garlic
•1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, packed
•1/4 cup olive oil

•2 tbsp. olive oil
•1/4 cup shallots, thinly sliced
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•12 oz. chanterelles (or other wild mushrooms), thinly sliced
•1/4 cup golden raisins (or dried apricots), chopped
•1/4 cup Bolla Soave
•2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)
•1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
•8 oz. chevre (goat cheese)

To prepare dough: Stir together yeast and water in a small cup until the yeast is dissolved. In a large, bowl mix flour and salt. Add yeast mixture and stir until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about ten minutes). Note: this can be done with the dough hook attachment of your kitchen mixer, which gives you time to sit back with a magazine and enjoy a glass of wine. Transfer dough to a large, oiled bowl, and roll dough around to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place for 1.5 hours to rise. You may now return to your glass of wine and magazine.

Turn dough out onto a floured surfaced and flatten with your hands. Cut dough in half and form two balls. Dust the balls lightly with flour and cover with a kitchen towel or inverted bowl (large enough to allow further dough expansion), and leave for an hour until the dough has doubled in size. While dough is rising, prepare pesto and topping. If using a pizza stone, begin preheating oven to highest setting.

To prepare pesto: In a blender or food processor, blend arugula, pumpkin seeds, garlic and cheese to a thick paste. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil to loosen the pesto to a spreadable consistency.

To prepare topping: In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots and garlic for one minute, then add the chanterelles and raisins. After about five minutes, when the mushrooms release their liquid, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring often, until the liquid evaporates (one or two minutes). Add Bolla Soave and balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, and cook another minute until the wine completely evaporates. Turn off heat and stir in thyme.

To assemble pizza: Preheat oven to highest setting. Using a your fingers, flatten each dough ball into 9″ rounds, lifting and turning the dough several times. Dust with flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Carefully slide dough onto a lightly floured baker’s peel or rimless cookie sheet. Give it a quick shake to make sure it’s not sticking (toss a little flour under the dough if is sticking). With the back of a ladle, smear half the pesto onto each dough round,
working in a circular motion, to an inch from the dough’s edge. Top each dough round with half the mushroom mixture (scoop with a slotted spoon or tongs to prevent adding liquid to the pizza) and dot with pinched-off bits of chevre. To transfer the pizzas to the heated pizza stone, line up far edge of peel (or cookie sheet) with the far edge of pizza stone and gently jerk peel (or cookie sheet), pulling back carefully as the pizzas are laid onto the stone. Once the pizzas are on the stone, do not move them until they’re ready to be removed. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the
dough is browned and crisped. Move the pizzas from the oven onto a cutting board and slice into wedges or squares.

(Note: if using a baking sheet instead of a stone, bake at 425°F for 15 minutes.)

I also added a little bacon this time, just for shits and gigs. In a week or two I will be going out picking for the first time this fall, and will have chanterelles coming out of my ass.

Oh, the new camera? A Nikon D40 DSLR. It’s what Peter uses, and I think his photos are the cat’s pajamas. Now if I could only get his huge windows and open daytime schedule…

Chicken croquette salad with lemon-yogurt dressing

Last night my Very Special Friend Jason came over for what will (hopefully) be a weekly Project Runway dinner date. The darling brought a jug of decadent 2% milk (for drinking, I’m a skim girl) and two dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies for us to enjoy during the runway show. Happy sigh! I made lemony roast chicken, mashed potatoes with mushroom and giblet gravy, and peas & carrots. It was like being a kid again, but with better cooking and more homosexuals.

After the gym tonight (I know, I actually went!), I wanted to use up my leftovers, but I was fucking starving! No time for my usual roast chicken leftovers (pot pie with drop-biscuit topping). Plus I had the mashed potatoes to eat. So I shredded the chicken, added a beaten egg and the leftover mashed potatoes, grated up half an onion and mixed it all up with a pinch of S&P. I formed patties and dipped them in panko seasoned with dried oregano and S&P, fried them in a little oil to brown, then finished them in the oven while I got the salad ready.

I chopped up some redleaf lettuce and added some tomatoes, Anaheim chiles and fresh oregano from the garden (and some cuke from the store). I whipped up some dressing from Greek yogurt, lemon zest/juice, minced garlic, a driz of olive oil and some S&P.

It was so good, I forgot to put out the little olive ciabatta rolls I picked up from the bakery! Guess I’ll have them with leftover croquettes as little sammiches tomorrow. Yay!

Corn and roasted poblano pudding with calabacitas and mole chicken

This is just a quick post to get in my five for the week. I spent the afternoon at the river at Sauvie Island with Scott, picking blackberries, drinking a beer with our toes in the river, and then picking up some nice produce at Kruger’s Farm Market. I’ll tell you all about it later, but right now I’m full of delicious burgers and want to watch a DVD and have a cocktail, and not blog. I do wanna tell you about what I did with all those lovely chiles I showed you the other day, though, real quick.

So, it turns out that making chile rellenos from peppers the size of walnuts is a fool’s errand. Instead, after I roasted the poblanos,* I decided to use them in the corn pudding. And hot damn! Am I ever glad I did. The corn pudding was so simple – just sautéed onion, garlic and corn with diced, roasted poblanos mixed with a couple beaten eggs, a splash of cream, a little blue cornmeal and a couple handfuls of grated cheese (jack and sharp cheddar). Bake in a buttered souffle until golden and set. So good scooped onto a plate with some summer squash confetti. Or sliced and browned in a pan with a thick slab of ham and some fried tomato for breakfast (I’ll tell about that later, too).

*anchos are the dried form of poblanos, I forgot that on Thursday’s post.

For the calabacitas (Mexican summer squash vegetable dish), I sautéed diced pattypan and yellow crookneck squash with some of my Royal Burgundy beans (they got a bit big and needed a chop), diced red bell pepper, chopped green olives and chopped dried cherries. Add some cumin and cinnamon, salt and pepper and it’s a thing. Kind of like a vegetarian/healthy empanada filling. Oh snap, I am totally going to make this into an low-cal empanada, Ben!

The salty olives and sweet cherries really brighten up. It looks kinda like circus barf, but it was really good.

I had some chicken thighs that I simmered in a poaching liquid spiked with achiote, Mexican oregano, garlic, dried shallot and bay leaf. Then I shredded it and soaked it with mole I pulled from the freezer (from the venison tenderloin that I cooked for Norm). This busy plate looks a tranny mess, but good lord it was tasty. Add a basket of warm, soft, flour tortillas and a basic Argentinian Malbec (we had Don Miguel Gascón 2007 – the chocolate covered cherry is a no-brainer with the mole, but not too serious for the bright veg medley) .