Batter Licker

March 31, 2011

smoky black bean and spinach soup

A few weeks ago, Jay and I enjoyed a weekend in Bodega Bay with his five other former roommates from college and their significant others. After a late morning and early afternoon of local wine tasting, we ventured upon a cute little cafe (whose name now escapes me) for lunch. It was in that cafe that I made a fatal error: I did not order the black bean soup. But luckily, our good friend Matt was up for swapping bites, and that one spoonful inspired this post.

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Subtly smoky from cumin and smoked paprika and very creamy thanks to pureed black beans, the soup was also lightened by the fresh, raw flavors of lime, cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers that clearly contributed more than just a colorful garnish to the bowl. (more…)

March 24, 2011

asian cabbage rolls with spicy lentils

When I saw Faith Durand’s recipe for Asian Cabbage Rolls with Spicy Pork, I immediately decided that I had to make it, but with lentils in lieu of pork. Lentils work very well with garlic and ginger in Indian food, so I expected them to do just as well with the same base flavors augmented by the quintessentially Asian combination of sesame, soy, green onion, and cilantro. And they did.

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These spicy lentil-stuffed cabbage rolls were so packed with flavor (not to mention nutrients and other healthful qualities) and so satisfying that I craved them for a few days afterwards. (more…)

March 17, 2011

aloo palak dal (indian-spiced lentils, spinach and potatoes)

To those of you who didn’t jump the gun like I did to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with cabbage and celery root in drunken mustard last week (and then again last weekend with a full-on family shebang), I hope you’re wearing green clothes, drinking and cooking with whiskey and beer, picking on your favorite leprechaun, and planning to make cheesy corned beef hash bread tomorrow with your leftovers.

As for me, it’s time for more whiskey and beer some Indian food that’s equally cheap as cabbage and potatoes (but isn’t boiled to death while everyone is distracted by adult beverages and rowdy conversations and then smothered in a spicy mustard disguise at the dinner table because obviously, after several whiskey shots and black and tans, this is the best cabbage ever!).

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One of the benefits of eating vegan (or reducing meat and processed foods, at least) during the week is how cheap my grocery bill has become. I’m talking $20 per week for two people cheap, which, compared to my formerly $60-70 per week bill, is ridiculously low. I should probably go buy a new toy to play with a very necessary device for my kitchen to reward myself.

The other major benefit comes in the form of Indian food. (more…)

March 10, 2011

celery root and cabbage in drunken mustard sauce

Growing up, my mother always made corned beef, cabbage and potatoes for St. Patrick’s Day. I can’t recall eating cabbage any other day in the entire year, but I really looked forward to it each March. This year, I couldn’t quite wait for the holiday to arrive (and I didn’t have any corned beef left over quite yet to make corned beef hash and cheese bread), so I got my cabbage fix in a little early, swapping out traditional potatoes for the lighter, foodier celery root in the process.

If you have not tried celery root (also called celeriac) before, it’s a really strange-looking type of celery that’s grown as a root vegetable. Don’t be intimidated by its furrowed surface, as it actually has a very mild flavor that seems to be a cross between a potato and celery. But unlike its root vegetable brethren, celery root is very light in starch. Give it a try; you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised that this ugly root can taste so light and fresh!

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As for cabbage, I know it’s not the most popular leafy green vegetable in the produce section. And if you’ve ever had it cooked to death in a soup or stew, or boiled to death for St. Patrick’s Day, I don’t blame you for hating it. But if you give cabbage another chance, you might find that it can taste positively delightful when cooked properly to an “al dente” texture that retains the slightest bit of crunch. And it’s usually dirt cheap.


The combination of al dente strips of cabbage and tender cubes of celery root creates a surprisingly light and fresh-tasting dish, as contrasted with the heavier boiled cabbage and potato combination. (more…)

March 3, 2011

heirloom beans, broccoli rabe and pea shoots no-oil stir fry

Hardly a revelatory combination, beans and greens are typically spruced up with the standard flavors of Italy and southern regions of the United States. But I can only eat greens sauteed with garlic so many times before I start thinking I’m sick of the greens when, in fact, I’m actually sick of the repetitive flavors.

So I decided to branch out a bit and added some Asian flare to this hearty yet healthy dish.

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Part of my inspiration stemmed from the greens themselves, as broccoli rabe’s slightly bitter profile would clearly benefit from the bright and zesty ginger and the mild sweetness of the pea shoots. And, as I’ve mentioned before, pea shoots themselves taste similar to the snap peas found so often in Asian stir fry recipes, so I knew they’d be a natural match for a spicy Asian dish. But beans?

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Well, I can’t recall ever seeing beans featured in any of the wide variety of Asian meals I’ve had, except my favorite Vietnamese red bean and coconut milk drink dessert. Certainly not in a stir fry. But I had these lovely heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo on hand and already cooked, and I wanted to do something different with them. And why shouldn’t I?

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So I got to stir frying. (more…)

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