Cauliflower and olives is not too common of a combination but its a classic Italian pairing, especially around Marche. Cauliflower has a remarkable flavor of its own, but it pairs with strong flavors very well - gojuchang, olives, horseradish, even cocoa if it’s done right. The simple flavors in this dish become more than the sum of their parts and make a startling contrast to the essentially white-on-white presentation.
Sweat the shallots, garlic and almonds in ¼ cup of olive oil with a teaspoon of salt over low heat, covered. When that’s soft and flavorful, after about 10 minutes, add the cauliflower. When they’re tender, add the white wine. Reduce until the pan’s almost dry, then add 1 cup water. Simmer for 3 minutes or so until the cauliflower is soft. Blend thoroughly, pass through a chinois and season with salt.
Boil the pasta
Warm the cauliflower cream gently and add in the olives, capers, and almonds. Toss in the pasta. Adjust the thickness of the sauce with water if necessary. Toss in the parsley and serve.
This satisfying wintry dish is all about a well-stocked larder. Lentils, onions, dried pasta, preserved vegetables. The real star is this fermented escarole. It’s another idea from Ideas in Food, although it’s basically saurkraut. Escarole has always been my favorite green, but I always thought it would get stringy and mushy if fermented. Not true. You could put this on anything.
This is a very good salad if you are craving fresh vegetables but still want a warming winter meal.
Ginger is a strange part of a plant called a rhizome. Other well-known rhizomes include ginseng and turmeric. Ginger can elevate a lot of fall/winter flavors and it coincidentally helps warm the body. Rhizomes are very tough and fibrous and so their flavor is usually infused into dishes by grating, infusing oils, juicing, or drying and making into powder. But there are a few ways to make their intact flesh edible - namely through pickling or cooking them slowly in oil. This latter method makes ginger into little flavor bombs while simultaneously mellowing it’s harshness by drowning it in fat. It also works beautifully on fresh turmeric.
Split peas have a very unique flavor that’s at it’s best when balanced by salty and savory. This soup is brothy and fatty and full of flavor. One alternative to the miso bits that I want to try is to drizzle in a little fermented black beans with chili.
Seitan? Fake meat? Not so much. It takes a little bit of work, and I haven’t mastered making it from scratch yet, but seitan is a legitimate food product in it’s own right. It’s no more processed than bread and one cold even argue that it takes less equipment to make. It has hundreds of years of tradition behind it and making the good stuff is truly an art form. And just because it cooks a lot like meat doesn’t mean it’s trying to be meat. Now that we’ve gotten that out of our way, this is a super-exciting dish to me. I love manischewitz wine. Deal with it. It’s fermented concord grapes. But to cook with, I highly suggest Mogen David brand concord grape wine - it’s still sweet but the flavor is much clearer. I also include fresh concord grapes in the recipe even though they’re season is already done for the year. they add a nice touch but the dish stands without them. This dish is a lot like the common Port Seitan that’s served at a lot of vegan restaurants, also similar to Veal Marsala. It’s just better than them.
Their texture is more like rice gnocchi than rice dumplings or rice cakes. And their flavor is concentrated like nothing else - if you use jasmine rice you really do taste jasmine. This recipe is from the Dumpling book, and even though I wasn’t a fan of the Indian stew they made these with, the dumpling recipe was spot on. I have some plans to make these italianish sometime soon, but for now, here’s a nice red curry, based on one I found in David Thompson’s uncompromising book: Thai Food. In this picture, I used Chinese black rice, which has it’s own unique flavor. And although I used a perfectly ripe hachiya persimmon - a fuyu one or pineapple chunks or pomegranate seeds would also work.
In the colder months, when I want something very fresh tasting, pesto is where it’s at. Since they’re so small, most herbs grow well all year round in greenhouses, and when done right, you don’t need much more than pasta and sauce. It’s always good to have a little something to contrast the fatty, intense flavor of a good pesto - in summer, peak tomatoes do the trick perfectly but in late fall and winter, I really enjoy using baby turnips. A perfectly poached turnip, especially something like a white hakurei, stands up perfectly to pesto. It’s subtle but not bland, moist and crisp. And if you can get them, turnips greens are some of the sweetest, most flavorful greens available - useful raw or braised. Radishes or beets are also good stand-ins, prepared the same way.
This is a more composed dish than I usually do, which is even more reason I should have taken a picture. On the other hand, beyond the cooking time for the potatoes, it’s a pretty quick dish to put together. In that sense, this is sort of in the style of how we put together the gnocchi at Talula’s garden over the course of my year working there. The Spanish do a lot of various mixtures of olives, clementines (or oranges), almonds, sherry vinegar and cinnamon. Then cinnamon and potatoes is actually something I first did with Chinese food, but it fits. More than anything, though, I like the combination of textures on this plate. Creamy almond puree, juicy clementines, crisp dandelion stems, tender gnocchi, crunchy almonds, fatty and bright vinaigrette. Yum.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how much I love bread. Stuffing, done right, is possibly the pinnacle of bread cookery. It doesn’t go with just anything, but simple rubbed and grilled seitan, a half of a roasted squash, roasted fingerling beets, or even a seared portabello or maitake could be a great foil.
This is a great thanksgiving side dish for a number of reasons. 1. It’s delicious. 2. It mixes well with a lot of other stuff. 3. The rawness of it is a good contrast from all the heavy, long-cooked flavors of a traditional thanksgiving. 4. If you’ve got a mixed thanksgiving, this is a good place for some supplementary vegan protein. And this is especially important if you’re with family or any gathering where you don‘t know everybody: there is a direct relationship between the quality of the food you bring vs. the amount of leniency stupid americans will allow you when you start drunkenly (or if you’re really good, soberly) ranting about genocide and slavery and the real foundation of this country and how we could all work together to make a radically better future.
Toast the pistachios in a single layer in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes or so, until fragrant. Combine the rice vinegar, succanat and ½ cup water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour over the kumquat slices. Let cool.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil and salt it aggressively. When it’s boiling, add in the beets. Cook, covered for 30 minutes or so, until the beets are tender. When they’re still warm, slip them out of the skin and cut them into wedges.
When the pistachios are cool, put them in the bowl of a food processor along with the red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and salt to taste. Season with salt and vinegar to taste.
About a half hour before you’re ready to serve, chiffonade the kale and put it in a bowl. Season lightly with salt, red wine vinegar and olive oil and smash it with your fists. Crush it up real good so that the vinegar and salt can start tenderizing it. When it is time to serve, combine the beets, kumquats, croutons, pistachio dressing and kale. Toss, taste for seasoning, and serve.