Archive for the ‘Delicious & Original Vegetarian Recipe’ Category

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September 27, 2015: Tri-color “Salt” Potatoes

September 27, 2015

Tri-Color Salt PotatoesOne is never sure what will work. Sometimes, what can seem at first mundane, is virtually unheard of to the world at large.

Back in December of 2010, I was stuck for a topic/food/recipe for the blog, and I got a brainstorm: I had never seen a recipe for “Salt Potatoes” in any of the sundry food blogs and magazines I subscribed to. At the time I thought that was because I couldn’t imagine anyone documenting such a common dish.

How wrong I was.

Growing up, salt potatoes were at least a weekly dish. We kids didn’t mind. Salt potatoes are tasty, go well with many meals, and with eight kids to feed…cheap and plentiful! Having an Irish woman as a mom probably added to the frequency with which she added them to the weekly menu.

Writing the original article, what I didn’t consider was how common this dish is to my locale and why. You see, I hail from Syracuse NY, which in an earlier American history was where much of our salt came from. The natural deposits of primeval salt in the local lakes made salt production easy and cheap. One main street of Syracuse is named “Salina Street” due to the impact the industry had for residents.

So, with cheap salt supplies and Irish workers digging the nearby Erie Canal, salt potatoes were pretty common. They are still often sold at open markets and fairs, often replacing french fries as the potato treat of choice.

So, I was pretty surprised when my (to my mind..a very, very basic) recipe was picked up by a national food blog! The recipe was “featured” as best recipe of the day and yielded my best day for the blog, with a total of 125 hits!

My sister Mary Lou, happened to call that day and I was excited to tell her the news. When, knowing my range as a chef, she asked what recipe was featured, and I told her…there was long pause. “WHY?” she asked! Turns out what a native Syracusan considers commonplace was not so for the rest of the world!

Salt Potatoes are indeed so basic, it is hard to improve them, but recently I picked up these tri-color baby potatoes in a local farm stand and these upped the ante! As well as color, each potato had its own individual taste, and I was surprised to find the inner part tinged with a slight color of the outside. The one that appears black, is actually a dark purple like a beet, so the inner potato had light purple color!

A good chef is always looking to improve on even the most basic recipe! Adding this one to my repertoire of cheap, easy, aesthetic, fun, and unusual dishes!

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September 17, 2015: Cucumber Soup

September 17, 2015

Cucumber SoupAs I mentioned in my last article, when my family visited last month we went to the Colonial Inn in Concord, Ma. Cooking for myself like I usually do, I’m very impressed when I go out to eat these days to find almost every restaurant caters to the vegetarian palate to some degree. Sometimes it’s just soup and bread, but I can almost always find something to eat.

Once in a great while I find a restaurant that raises the bar on their vegetarian dishes to the unique and noteworthy. Such was all the dishes we  tried at the Colonial Inn.

My niece ordered the Colonial’s Black Bean Burger. I saw this on the menu as was almost going to order it, but changed my mind at the last second. As she was on the other side of the table, I didn’t hear her order and was very pleased when she offered to share a taste with me.

One problem with black bean burgers, homemade and store-bought, is that they often add just a tad too much cumin in the mix. Cumin is one of those spices that it takes an expert hand (and tasting while tweaking the addition) to keep the balance from interesting that can quickly shift to overwhelming. The Colonial got that balance just perfect. Topped with a tiny corn relish and a fine roll, the taste was easily the best of any black bean burger I’ve ever had. The texture was very close to a meat burger, which shows the skill of the chef, as veggie burgers often fall to pieces when soft like this, but because we’ve never had one with such a delicate texture, both my niece and I agreed that it was rather unfamiliar.

I was pleased to find Truffle Fries on the menu and they were very good at the Colonial and seemed to be fried in truffle oil. But after one taste, I realized the down-side of knowing a master chef like Yoshio. He makes truffle fries and tops them with real grated truffle (which makes the dish far too expensive to make for mass distribution.) Yoshio has forever spoiled me this way, but the Colonial’s fries were a very delicious and welcome second.

I also ordered what the Colonial called their Cucumber Gazpacho Soup. The name was a little confusing (as gazpacho is usually a tomato-based broth and cucumber soup is usually a cream-based broth) so I asked the waitress to describe the soup. She explained that it was a cold, creamy cucumber soup with a topping of salsa. I loved the addition of a tiny bit of heat into the cool, slightly sweet, very smooth, cucumber base and I was inspired to make my version. Again, made for mass-consumption, there was nothing wrong at all with the Colonial’s soup….I just tend to like my soups a bit more on the savory side and I don’t mind a slight amount of texture that the Colonial carefully got rid of.

Cucumber Soup

2 Medium Leeks (washed thoroughly; chopped; green part for stock)

6 Large Cukes (washed; de-skinned (save skins for stock); de-seeded

2C. Baby Kale (washed; chopped)

6 Tblsp. Fresh Dill Weed   2 Bullion Cubes

2 C. Heavy Cream         3 Tblsp. Butter

Make stock of cuke skins, green part of leeks, and baby kale stems. Sauteé veggies in oil until tender. Add 1 Qt. H2O. Add bouillon cubes to fortify. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain.

Sauteé white part of leeks in butter until tender. Add de-seeded cukes (cubed into 2″ pieces) and baby kale. Add stock and H2O to cover veggies. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover until veggies are tender. At the end of the simmer, add dillweed, salt & pepper and grind with an immersion blender. Add cream.

Top with a splash of hot sauce, then sour cream and a dab of mild salsa.

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March 08, 2015: A Riff On A Classic

March 8, 2015

Riff On A ClassicMost of my adult life I have been prone to slam my mother’s cooking. In recent years, I’ve come to realize how unfair my attitude has been.

Like most children, I suppose, we don’t find the true worth of a parent until it is far too late. My mother had to cook, daily, for ten people. If she sometimes found shortcuts to stretch my dad’s salary and cover what must have been a huge drain on our household…well, now that I am older and perhaps a bit wiser, I realize she did a pretty decent job, all in all.

Like most women of post-WWII, my mom took advantage of popular foods of the day. Many of these included, frozen and canned foods. Some were bland and awful…and a few were pretty spectacular! One dish my mom made often was “her” tuna fish casserole. I seem to remember that it came right off the back label of a Campbell’s mushroom soup can. It was a combination of boiled noodles, a can of tuna fish and two cans of the mushroom soup (plus milk) then baked. It was cheap, fast, fed a lot of hungry kids, and was a no-brainer. Best of all, as kids, we loved it! No wonder my mom made it often!

I thought I could make a healthier, veggie-based, slightly more jazzed-up version of this dish:

Peel skins off 3 large portobello mushrooms (I put these in a sandwich bag and keep them frozen until I make my next broth.) Slice them 1/2″ thick, and saute in 4 Tblsp. melted butter until soft. Add the juice of 1 lemon and a splash of sherry. Continue cooking a little until the shrooms almost absorbs all the liquids.

Chop 1 head of broccoli. (In keeping with my mom’s economy sense, I used the stalks as well, but chopped them a bit finer.)

I set about 4 Qts. H2O to boil while I made my veloute. This is always slightly different, depending on the dish, but this one was:

4 Tblsp. of melted butter+4 Tblsp. flour whisked together on medium heat until it has turned a slightly tawny color. Add 2C. whole milk and 1 can mushroom soup and continue whisking until just thick enough to pour easily. I had some organic mushroom gravy so I added 1C. of that. Normally, I would have used veggie broth instead.

When the H2O came to a boil I added 1 bag (12 Oz.) wide egg noodles. These usually boil for about 7 minutes, but I did them for 6 (knowing I was to bake the dish, a bit al dente is best) adding the broccoli for the last 2 minutes. Drain.

Butter the bottom and sides of a large (18″ X 12″) Pyrex pan and add drained noodles and broccoli. Top this with mushrooms and add veloute. I then topped this with 1/2C. each grated Swiss, Asiago, and Colby Jack cheeses and a sprinkle of each ground pepper and herbs de Provence and baked at 325°F for half hour.

A crunchy, cheesy top with tender noodles and veggies underneath. Best of all was the earthy, tangy, lemony shrooms that accented every bite.

Mom’s dish was more easily made than mine, but with just a tiny bit more effort and time, this classic turned into a real treat!

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December 25, 2014: “Chrome for the Hollandaise”

December 25, 2014
Photo by Daniel Winkler

Photo by Daniel Winkler

It is interesting to me to trace the origins of meals that I have made. This one began with a  joke from social media.

Last week,I was fairly certain that I would be spending this Christmas away from family, at the same time my friend, Dan, was sending out feelers for what my plan was for this Christmas. He (kindly and humorously) sent me a post on Facebook that pictured Eggs Benedict on a hubcap, with the caption “There’s No Plate Like Chrome For The Hollandaise.”

Funny enough, I was thinking of Eggs Benedict for my Christmas breakfast, and he thought that it was a grand idea to join me. In actuality, Dan is the kind of guy that searches out us lonely former-Christians/non-denominationists to help us through the holidays. At the last count, he has netted at least three of us so far this season…and bless him for his efforts. I constructed a menu that I thought would temper the company with the season. Dan and I usually eat quite spare and wholesome. We mutually agreed to splurge on my decadent concoctions. It is testimony to our rather Spartan diets that we had to space out our decadence to stretch this meal over about four hours. I still feel the need to run a few miles to burn off the extra calories, but I feel it was worth it.

Christmas Brunch 2014: Eggs Benedict Broccoli Latkes Veggie Sausage “Poinsettia” Cocktail Fruit & Nut Dessert Crepes Espresso

Eggs Benedict: My rather untraditional (and vegetarian) approach to a classic recipe was to take  a slice of a sunflower loaf bread and to toast it under a broiler until lightly toasted. I then covered the top of the toasted bread with a slice of hickory-smoked Tofurky and then, grated Monterey-Jack cheese, and re-broiled until the cheese had melted. I then added a poached egg and topped with Hollandaise Sauce and a sprinkle of chopped chives.

Hollandaise Sauce for Two: .5C. Butter (melted) 1.5 Tblsp. Lemon Juice (warm) 3 Egg Yolks 4 Tblsp. hot H2O Over a double-boiler, melt butter, put aside. Over medium heat, whisk egg yolks until they thicken. Tblsp. by Tblsp. add hot H2O while whisking. Add lemon juice and finally butter, whisking all the while. Put Hollandaise aside and add to double-boiler just before serving to re-heat.

Broccoli Latkes: 1/2 Large Vidalia Onion. Diced, fried in 1 Tblsp. Butter until browned. 1 Washed, skinned and grated large baking potato. (I put this in a paper towel lined bowl for a while, to absorb H2O) About 1C. finely chopped Broccoli 2 Beaten Eggs 4 Tblsp. finely chopped fresh parsley 1/4C. Flour Dusting of freshly ground pepper and Italian spices. Form into patties and pan-fry in vegetable oil until browned on both sides. Top with sour cream and sprinkle with tarragon. [12/26/14 update: Tried these as leftovers this morning. The grated potatoes alone, made them too tough and chewy. I think the next time I will mix half mashed potato to half grated. It’ll take more time, of course, but it will be worth the effort to get a creamier latke. I think fresh chopped tarragon cooked with the onions would add more and better flavor, also.-SV]

I’ve prepared regular crepes many, many times before, but I’ve never made a strictly dessert crepe before, so this was an interesting derivation:

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Dessert Crepes: .5 C. + 1 Tsp. Flour 2 Beaten Eggs 1 Tblsp. Brown Sugar 1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract .75C Milk 1.5 Tblsp. Butter (melted) Whisk eggs, then flour, then everything but the butter together. Rest for .5 hour. Add butter just before making crepes. On a non-stick pan, coated with melted butter, using a small ladle (a coffee scoop works well) over medium-high heat about 3 scoops in the pan. Cook each side until slightly brown. Flip. Place on a plate. Layer each crepe between a piece of parchment paper. When room temperature, cover with plastic wrap.

Crepe Filling: .25C. each, coarsely chopped pecans and walnuts. 1 Tblsp. Butter 1 Tblsp. Brown Sugar  for fruit (+ 1   Tblsp. for nuts) .25C Grand Marnier 1C. Blueberries .25C. Dried Cherries Wash blueberries. Combine with cherries, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Refrigerate. Shake occasionally. In a pan, melt butter and nuts. Lightly toast nuts. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon,  nutmeg, and sugar. Add fruit and cook (stirring often)  until fruit exudes juices. Add fruit/nut mixture to a crepe. Fold. Top with sour cream and a then a sprinkle of cardamom.

“Poinsettia” A cocktail I’ve adapted from a Christmas recipe book. My derivation substitutes vodka with Grand Marnier (my favorite liquor.) I do this glass-by-glass, when it is just a few people. In a champagne glass, fill 1/8th with Grand Marnier, then fill to almost 1/2 with champagne. Fill the rest with cranberry juice. I add a single cranberry to each glass. You may add crushed ice and/or an orange twist to this cocktail.

We also did a taste comparison between his gift of Makers 46 Bourbon vs. Regan’s gift of a regular Makers Mark. We both found the 46 to be more complex in flavor, but both quite enjoyable.

Photo by Daniel Winkler

Photo by Daniel Winkler

As a gift, I was able to give Dan my Christmas Bark and he deemed it “The best candy he’s ever had!”

As entertainment, I opted to introduce Dan to one of my favorite Christmas films, “Love, Actually.” Although Dan enjoyed the food, he detested the movie, finding the characters shallow, trite, and unrealistic. But, such is friendship. Dan and I might go back-and-forth on our opinions of this film forever, neither actually ever likely to budge. I’m dreamer…he’s a realist. C’est la notion d’amour. C’est la vie.

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June 15, 2014: “Green Brain” Sushi

June 15, 2014

%22Green Brain%22 SushiTwo weeks ago I helped Yoshio cook for his daughter’s wedding. Yoshio had a tough job as he had all the responsibilities of a father of the bride plus he was also food designer and had to make sure his creations were made to his specification…all this for close to 100 people! It was also a tough job for the wedding couple, Katrina and Jonah, also to whittle down Yoshio’s immense list of food options to what they wanted. They did a fantastic job choosing dishes that were personal, as well as visually pleasing and delicious!

My job was to help organize the food and do as much prep work as possible. The true star of the food crew, ‘tho was Baba Takashi. A friend of the family, Baba was imported from Japan by Yoshio as a sushi chef for the reception. Yoshio had ordered all the sushi supplies, including the fresh fish, which arrived on ice just before Baba himself arrived from Japan.

Baba and I worked together for almost eight hours, the day before the reception. I can’t tell you how hard it was to work with a master sushi chef in the room! All I wanted to do was to watch every move he made, and it was only my dedication to Yoshio, the wedded couple, and to my obligations, that kept me from doing just that! The great part of working with a sushi-master (and a kind and generous one at that) was being offered a few of his creations as the evening progressed. Every once in a while, Baba would come over with one of his unique (vegetarian) sushi variations. Not only was each piece visually stunning, but absolutely delicious!

One of my favorites of Baba’s sushi I nicknamed “Green Brain” sushi.This was thinly sliced avocado wrapped around sushi rice. Simplicity itself…right?

Not so simple when I tried to make it for myself. Remember what I said about wanting to watch Baba? Well, I never got to see how he created “Green Brain” sushi. It took me several trials to get the thickness of the avocado right. Then, when I formed it, it was a decent effort, but not even in the ballpark of correct.

I got to catch up with Yoshio this weekend. We were so busy working the weekend of the wedding, we never got to visit. Between sips of a very good bourbon, delicious cheeses and  frites  truffe (truffled french fries…made the correct way by Yoshio) he was able tweak what I had done wrong and to shorten the road to my making Baba’s sushi better. My second effort came closer to what I wanted….not perfect, mind you, but better…thanks to Yoshio’s input.

The day of the reception, I was very busy, but I occasionally caught glimpses of Baba’s work: Every one of his creations a masterpiece! The queue of guests waiting to partake of his sushi was wrapped all around the yard! At one point, just about every guest was chanting his name! If any sushi chef ever came close to rock-star status, it was Baba!

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I only wish I was able to flatter Baba more. I only hope that sometime in the future I can get the chance to see Baba (my new rock-star friend) in action again!

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April 17, 2014: Wendy’s Surprising Breakfast

April 17, 2014

Wendy's QuinoaI enjoy the unexpected perk of having the owner of the company I work for, being not only an excellent cook, but very generous with his creations. The other day, he offered his most delicious veggie lasagna and a Hungarian borscht (his addition of paprika and cabbage making it Hungarian) for lunch. I welcomed and enjoyed both, but I was most intrigued with the dish he did not offer. “What’s the quinoa dish?” I asked. Jim made a kind of gagging face and replied, “Oh. That’s Wendy’s breakfast.”

Jim is considered to be quite adventuresome when it comes to food. If you remember, he was the one that once prepared “Boar’s Head.” It seems Jim will try anything once, but he also has specific things, that once tried and disliked, are stricken from his palate forever! Wendy, his wife and the company’s co-owner, is more of a middle-of-the-road culinary adventurer. Knowing not very many people who have even tried quinoa….and never for breakfast, I had to follow-up.

Wendy’s Quinoa Breakfast is simplicity itself: cooked quinoa, chilled, and yoghurt added. Fruit and nuts optional. As easy as oatmeal, yet far more healthy. Wendy says she switched to quinoa, because she wanted a lower glycemic index, higher protein, and lower fat than oatmeal. She realized that a lot of traditional American breakfast is so much “junk food” (eggs, pancakes, processed cereal, etc.) at the same time she  found how important breakfast is to her. She finds this quinoa dish to be filling, but also light. It easily lasts her to lunch, and makes her “more focused” and her day “more complete.” She tries to have this dish 5-6X a week.

Of course, I could not help to make my own version, but this comes very close to what Wendy had made. Wendy adds flax seed to this dish as well (which I did not….but only because I forgot that I had some at the time of cooking.)

Wendy’s Quinoa Breakfast
Wash 1C. Red Quinoa and add to 1.25C. H2O. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Chill.

I added 1/4C. crasins half way through the simmering. A greek yoghurt laced with honey seemed right. I topped it with a sprinkling of cardamom and toasted pecans.

I found this dish to be as tasty and rewarding as Wendy had made it out to be. Wendy made the mistake of giving Jim the cooked quinoa before adding the yoghurt, hence his “face.” I know very few people who can take their quinoa straight like this. Wonderful as a side dish or mixed with other foods, quinoa has a distinctly “earthy” flavor. Since making Wendy’s breakfast, I have found other quinoa breakfast dishes. One, by another fellow-food blogger is “Quinoa Grits” which is cooked white quinoa, lightly spiced and fried in oil.

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December 08, 2013: Sushi Class and Flamenco

December 8, 2013

Yoshio Teaches Sushi LCHCEarly this week, it was my honor and pleasure to once again don the uniform of a “Okonomy” sous-chef. “Okonomy” is Master Chef Yoshio Saito’s catering restaurant and is what this blog is named after. This week, it was to assist Chef Saito in teaching a sushi class at the Lowell Community Health Center in an effort to promote healthier options for diet. There were two classes scheduled with an expected 60 people per class, so we had our work cut out for us!

There is a saying in the East: “Give a man a fish, and he will stave off hunger for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will stave off hunger for a lifetime.” My experience with Yoshio and Okonomy, up to now, has been more of “giving of a fish” (literally and figuratively) to patrons. This time, it was a “teaching to fish” kind of affair. Okonomy was to provide all the materials ready to make temaki roll. This is sushi in a cone wrap of nori (seaweed sheets.) Yoshio would teach history, techniques and procedure to allow the health center administrators to learn the hows and whys of making sushi and then (best of all) teach them to make their own delicious combinations!

Considerable preparation was needed to buy, cut, package, and store all the separate elements of the temaki roll Yoshio was teaching. Those items were:

Nori Wraps             Toasted Sesame Seeds               Trefoil (or Beefsteak) leaves
Cucumber               Brown & White Sushi Rice         Shoyu (soy sauce)
Natto (fermented soybean)      Pickled Ginger         Daikon (Japanese Radish)
Fried Tofu Sheets          Scallions              Wasabi (Japanese Horseradish)
Imitation Crab             Avocado

Yoshios Sushi Rice

Brown Sushi Rice from Rice Cooker Photo: Y. Saito

Most troublesome to Chef Saito was the huge quantity of rice (we ended up with close to eighty pounds, between the white and brown) and most important, to keep such a huge quantity consistently warm until serving. Yoshio came up with  very clever technique of putting the rice batches in huge sealed bags and keeping them in a large thermos with hot water bottles. Yoshio flavored the rice with his special mixture of seasoning, stirring each batch under a fan to cool the rice to the proper temperature.

Chef Saito also made his home-made wasabi, which is much more hot (as well as more flavorful) than store-bought brands. [I observed more than one patron with watery eyes after applying just a tad too much!] Yoshio tempered such heat in the temaki rolls with the cool, bright, and tangy trefoil leaves, as well as the slightly sweet daikon and pickled ginger. He rounded out his temaki with the nutty toasted sesame seeds and salty shoyu.

The most delicious cucumber soup ever!

The most delicious cucumber soup ever! Photo: Y. Saito

Cooking with Yoshio is always such a positive experience in so many ways: not only is the work a lot of fun, but I learn so much every time just by being around a master and asking questions (which Yoshio is always pleased to answer.) It certainly helps to work for a master chef around break time. For dinner, he took the leavings from the cucumbers I was working on and whipped up a wonderful cucumber soup on the fly! He combined the cucumber with stock and milk and topped it of with white truffle oil, finely chopped trefoil, and crumbled feta cheese. I can honestly say it was one of the most spectacular soups I’ve ever had!

During an earlier break, Yoshio played a flamenco piece on his guitar (something I didn’t know he was training for) to perfection, but I was curious, “Why flamenco?” Actually, this style of playing from Southern Spain has more schools in Japan than Spain! It seems the flamenco style is hard on guitars and that guitar makers consider a flamenco guitar as “disposable!” After prepping was all done, Yoshio treated me to my favorite bourbon as we watched “Toast” which I was happy to find that Yoshio and his wife Dorcas liked as well as I.

Temaki by Mark; Photo: M.Raymond

Temaki by Mark; Photo: M.Raymond

As not as many people showed up as expected to both classes, Yoshio sent me home with a few leftovers. As I had lost a day at work, I thought it only fair to share the sushi fixings with those at work. The guys at work were making perfect tamaki rolls by their third go-around and we enjoyed a varied, healthy, tasty lunch, while taking pride in developing our make-it-yourself  skills!

Preparing Sushi; Photo: M.Raymond

Preparing Sushi; Photo: M.Raymond

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