Archive for October, 2011
When my good friend Robin Asbell asked me to be part of an online potluck celebrating her brand new book, Big Vegan, I said “Yes!” real fast. Robin is an accomplished and prolific food writer and brilliant cooking teacher. She knows food and cooking, and her inspired recipes remind me how much pleasure there is in eating good-for-me food. Though Robin lives up in Minnesota and I’m way down here in North Carolina, she got me in on today’s potluck feast, along with fellow bloggers around the country. Our various posts make up a meal from her book, giving you the flavor of its wide-ranging recipes, from scones and smoothies to soups, stews, pastas, sweet and savory pies, and more. Robin ends this volume with a luscious round-up of dessert recipes, including Pistachio Thumbprints, Lemon Cake with Pomegranate Filling and Orange Glaze, Pumpkin-Cherry Bundt Cake, and Ginger-Mango Rice Pudding. My potluck contribution is a rustic and satisfying Korean-style soup, made with a hearty miso-powered stock and boasting a beautiful bowlful of textures and flavors: daikon radish, fresh shiitake mushrooms, tofu, potato, zucchini, and red peppers.
By the way, Robin is providing me a copy of Big Vegan to give away to one of you wonderful readers. Leave a comment after this post, and I will draw a name to see who wins that treasury of great eating. Comment by November 10 to be included in the drawing.
Here are the ingredients for the soup stock. At 12:00 o’clock, you’ll see squares of dark green kombu, a sturdy and intensely flavored seaweed with a feisty little pile of coarsely ground chiles on top. To the right are garlic cloves and onion, dried shiitake mushrooms at 6:00 o’clock, slices of daikon radish and fresh ginger at 9:00 and 10:00 o’clock respectively. In the center is the engine that drives this soup to flavorful heights: Miso, a fermented soybean paste beloved in Asian kitchens for centuries and an essential ingredient in the traditional cooking of Korea and Japan.
After simmering these ingredients together to make an excellent stock, I strained out all the taste-makers, keeping their mighty flavors and composting their remaining elements. Then I returned the soup pot of great stock to the stove and added the tasty items pictured below. At the top are green onions thinly sliced on the diagonal along with small strips of red Fresno chile. Had I not found red Fresno chile, I think red bell pepper would have worked just fine. Next are chunks of zucchini, slices of fresh shiitakes, and cubes of both potato and soft tofu.
Once the stock was ready, I could have set it aside for later, or even frozen it for future soups. It would be a marvelous frozen-pantry item to have ready, definitely one to consider making in quantity to keep on hand. Big Vegan includes several recipes for making a quantity of vegan stock with various flavor profiles. The soup stock was rich and fragrant, and we were hungry, so I quickly forgot all thoughts of putting it aside and instead finished up the recipe, in the time it took the potatoes to cook. Then in went the zucchini and tofu, and supper was ready; fast, fresh, and fine. I wanted to make the soup with whatever I could find at my local Whole Foods. This meant using a dark miso with rich, very deep flavor. With red or white miso from an Asian market, this soup would be a little more delicate, a good choice for springtime meals. All in all, the recipe gave us a hearty, gorgeously-hued bowl of soup/stew, perfect for the rainy fall evening on which we ate it for supper. The true test of its deliciousness was when my high-school aged daughter (who had eaten dinner) wanted a bowl of Korean Miso-Tofu Soup with rice as an 11:13 p.m. homework snack. This Big Vegan soup would work well as one of several dishes in a rice-centered meal, or paired up with a salad and Quick Indian Flatbreads (page 106), or Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits (page 103), or your favorite sandwiches. For the recipe, scroll down to the end of this post. To learn more about Robin Asbell, and to check out all the bloggers and recipes in this Big Vegan Potluck, look at these links below. A baker’s dozen of recipes by food bloggers who love Big Vegan: Here we go!
This is Robin’s website and blog:
You can find Big Vegan wherever books are sold, as they say. For a link to independent booksellers around the country, click here:
To find Big Vegan on Amazon, click here:
To enter my drawing for a copy of Big Vegan: leave a comment on this blogpost, and do so before November 10th. Many thanks to Robin Asbell and Chronicle Books for providing a big, gorgeous copy of this excellent, gorgeous and worthwhile book to share with one of my readers.
Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
4 large dried shiitake or black mushrooms
3 oz/85 g daikon, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 6-in/15-cm piece dried kombu
7 tbsp/90 ml dark miso
4 slices/11 g fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, halved
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups/360 g cubed zucchini/courgette
8 oz/225 g cubed red potato
4 ox/115 g fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
12 oz/3400 g silken tofu, cubed
1 large red Fresno chile, slivered, for garnish
2 large scallions/spring onions, diagonally sliced, for garnish
1. Put 2 qt/2 L water in a large pot and add the dried mushrooms, daikon, onion, kombu, miso, ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. (I let mine simmer 45, since I wasn’t in a hurry and wanted its flavors to have more time to blossom). Line a colander with a sturdy paper towel/absorbent paper and set it over a bowl. Strain the liquid through the paper, carefully shifting the vegetables to the sides to help it drain completely. Discard the solids.
2. Add the broth to a large pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the zucchini/courgette, potato, and shiitakes and cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked all the way through.
3. Add the tofu and simmmer for about 5 minutes to heat through. Serve the soup in bowls garnished with the chile and scallions/spring onions.
My good friend Virginia Willis is a lot like the title of her brand new book: Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company. Virginia is basic, as in down-to-earth, real, practical and good; and she is also brilliant, as in creative, intelligent, accomplished, and inspiring. In this book, her second, she provides us with an extraordinary repertoire of recipes for snacks, feasts, picnics, beach trips, romantic suppers, family reunions — each and every excuse for a food-graced gathering can be deliciously handled by anyone in possession of this superb cookbook. Virginia sets us up with a library of knowledge about cooking, both for everyday and for company, drawn from the hearty and gracious Georgia cooking of her childhood, and the classic French culinary expertise she gained during her years studying and then working in France at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. Particularly interesting are her chapter introductions, ranging from a thoughtful discourse on the economics, ethics, and people behind the meat we put on our tables, to a meditation on rice culture and the goodness of grits, and a valentine to vegetables, the latter with delicious detours into life on the set in the many television studios where Virginia worked as Kitchen Director for folks like Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree. Her introductions fascinate, educate and captivate me, but they never take me too far away from the food. Don’t you want to get in the kitchen and make Mama’s Sausage Swirls; Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Veloute; Beef Daube Provencal; Pinto Beans with Side Meat; Chateau du Fey Cherry Clafoutis; and Dede’s Burnt Caramel Cake? I know I do, and with Virginia’s clear, inviting voice flowing off the page, I know I can do so, even the ones for dishes I’ve never tried to cook, and thought could only come from the hands of bona fide chefs. You need to invite Virginia Willis into your kitchen, and this book allows you to do just that. You can learn more about her at her website:
I broke in my brand new copy, which I was thrilled to receive from Virginia’s publisher, Ten Speed Press, with a dish my father adored, and one I had to come around to as a grown up: Brussels sprouts. “Of course you don’t like them if the only way you’ve ever had them was cooked to stinky mush!” Virginia notes on page 195 of the Vegetable chapter in Basic to Brilliant, Y’all. She cooks them with bacon, onions, and apples, a dandy little chorus for the beautiful tiny cabbages I’ve learned to adore. Virginia calls for Granny Smith apple, but I like a sweeter apple such as a gala or a fuji myself.
Virginia Willis’s Sautéed Brussels Sprouts With Apples and Bacon
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half (or peeled according to directions below)
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch dice
Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the apple and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and toss to coat. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a warmed serving platter and serve immediately.
To make it brilliant: Cut about ¼ inch off the stem end of each sprout and begin peeling off the leaves. When difficult to peel further, trim off another ¼ inch and continue removing leaves. Repeat to peel all leaves from the sprouts; discard the tiny cores. Follow the basic recipe above, but no need to blanch the sprouts. Add the leaves to the onion and apple. Sauté until the leaves are bright green and slightly wilted but still crunchy, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6
Copyright Virginia Willis @2011. Published by Ten Speed Press. All rights reserved.
This is delicious and you can make it at home. I came across the recipe on Leite’s Culinaria, which is a food-and-cooking destination which I recommend to you with enthusiasm and pleasure. There you’ll find excellent writing, superb and varied recipes, gorgeous photographs, opinions, ideas, and all-around food fun. My friend Jess Thomson has written a new book for fall: “Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Cook”, based on the delectable creations at Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle, where Jess resides, cooks, and writes. I was headed out to the first regular meeting of a new local organization, Culinary Historians of Piedmont North Carolina, and the photo drew me in while the simple-to-make recipe called out, “This will work!” I was off to the grocery store to grab a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, milk, and eggs. The pudding was simple, speedy, and super-loved by one and all. Served many people due to its rich goodness.
Jess’s writing and recipes on her blog, “Hogwash”, are better than the doughnut bread pudding, and you can sign up to get her posts in your e-mail inbox, as I do. Here are links which you can paste into your browser, in order to find the recipe, Jess’s blog post about the book, and info about Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle, and where to buy the book. Keep it sweet, now….
For the Doughnut Bread Pudding recipe, visit Leite’s Culinaria, at this address:
For a behind-the-scenes, typically brilliant, witty, fascinating essay by Jess Thomson, author of the doughnut book, go to her blog, “Hogwash”, at this address:
For info on Jess Thomson’s mighty-fine doughnut cookbook, “Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker”, and the bakery behind the book, visit Top Pot Doughnuts’ website, at this address: