Carrot, Dill & White Bean Salad

Warm, coin-shaped slices of pan-fried carrots, white beans, and herbs tossed with a tangy-sweet lemon shallot dressing. It tastes good the day you make it, even better the day after.

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I bought a single bunch of bushy-topped carrots the other day. At first glance it was a good looking cluster – bright orange in color with vibrant greens still attached. But it was on second glance that I noticed the tiny carrots nestled beside their larger brothers and sisters. Some of the smallest carrots were no thicker than a knitting needle, not much longer than my pinky finger. I snacked on those after a quick rinse. The bigger guys I put to work in this skillet-tossed, herb-flecked white bean salad.
Carrot, Dill & White Bean Salad Recipe

A Simple Skillet Bean Salad

This recipe isn’t complicated. Warm, coin-shaped slices of golden, pan-fried carrots, white beans and chopped herbs are tossed with a tangy-sweet lemon shallot dressing. It tastes good the day you make it, even better the day after. And although it’s certainly not as pretty, in my opinion, it might taste best on day three as the shallots infused the beans and the lemon mellowed.

Carrots and beans in a cast iron skillet

The Details

  • Carrots: When shopping for carrots, look for young carrots with their greens still attached. This is one way you can get a good sense of whether the bunch is fresh or not. Can you use standard grocery store carrots? Sure! Look for bunches with smaller carrots if possible. Or if those aren’t available, trim your carrot coins into half moons.
  • Beans: On the bean front, I tend to cook the beans from scratch. I like a creamy, smallish white bean for this salad. Alubia beans,  Peruano beans, and cannellini beans have all worked great. And yes! You can use well-drained canned white beans if you want to throw this together on a whim.
  • Herbs: I starting making this bean salad with dill. I like how dill is always a bit unexpected, and it works beautifully to cut the creaminess of the white beans, while maintaining an ability to stand up to the shallots and lemon juice. Basil is a nice alternative if you’re out of dill. Cilantro is great. I mean it’s hard to go wrong with your herb component. Use what you have.

Baby carrots and white beans

Make a Meal of It

This recipe has now been in our repertoire for a few years. One of my favorite things to do is make a double batch. It can hang out in the refrigerator for a couple days, no problem, and makes a great side to many meals. That said, I often turn it into a favorite dinner. Tossing the bean salad with any short pasta like penne, radiatore, or rigatoni and a bit of goat cheese is fantastic. To get a bolt of green into in the mix I often add broccoli florets, or asparagus segments to the pasta water at the last minute. Re-season with salt and lemon juice if needed.

Carrot, Dill & White Bean Salad in a Pink Bowl border=

Variations

There are so many different ways to re-mix this bean salad. Once you have the base of skillet beans and carrots, playing around with the dressing can take it in dramatically different directions. For example, you can skip the lemony-shallot dressing and use a thinned out pesto instead. The crushed walnut sauce I use here is another option.  I’ve also done a roasted red pepper puree thinned out with olive oil and boosted with cayenne for another twist.

Rachel D. mentioned in the comments, “…I added fava beans that I found at the UN Plaza farmers market (I thought fava season was over but I guess not!) and some preserved lemon. Also added less than the 2 tb sugar and it was sweet enough.” Love this idea.

Carrot, Dill & White Bean Salad on a Table with Two Glasses

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Baked Artichoke Dip

This simple artichoke dip hits all the crowd-pleasing notes of the classic version, but cuts way back on the mayo-bomb aspect. And guess what? No-one can tell the difference. I still use a bit of mayo, but incorporate some silken tofu and greek yogurt.

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The foundation of classic artichoke dip is basically the following: a can of artichokes (drained & chopped), a cup of mayonnaise, and about a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The ratio might be slightly different depending on the cook, but many recipes for artichoke dip build on this adding garlic and other seasonings from there. My take-away? That’s a lot of mayo. Some recipes use an even higher ratio. The version I make hits all the crowd-pleasing notes of the classic version, but it cuts way back on the mayo-bomb aspect. Guess what? No-one can tell the difference.
Artichoke Dip with Cracker
I still use a bit of mayo, but incorporate some silken tofu and greek yogurt. I also up the ratio of artichokes to creamy ingredients. You still get indulgent goodness of the original, but this version puts the artichokes back up front, delivers some protein with the tofu and yogurt, and still retains the spirit of the party dip few of us can resist. So let’s get into the specifics.
Artichoke Dip Ingredients in a Blender

Smooth versus Chunky Artichoke Dip?

There is some debate regarding which is better – chunky or smooth artichoke dip? I prefer smooth. A quick pulse in a blender, food processor, or with a hand blender brings things together into a base that bakes up extra creamy. I’ve also found that kids tend to like the smooth version best. Probably because there is nothing identifiable as offensive in there. Laugh / cry. But if you like a bit more texture simply use chopped artichokes and skip the blending stage, or just go super easy on it.Blended Artichokes

Canned versus Frozen Artichokes?

Frozen artichokes are getting increasingly easy to find and, generally speaking, I like their flavor more than the water-packed canned artichokes. It’s kind of like the difference between canned corn and frozen corn. There’s no contest, frozen corn is going to be the winner every time, right? That said both canned and frozen artichokes work great for this recipe. I used jars of artichokes for the photos here and it was delicious as ever. The main thing is to aim for roughly one pound of artichokes – each jar or can usually yields about 1/2 pound of artichokes once they’ve been drained.
Pre-baked Dip sprinkled with Grated Cheese

Artichoke Dip Goes Great With…

The key here is crunch. Artichoke dip is creamy magic best scooped onto your favorite crunchy snack staples. For example:

  • Toasted Homemade Pita Chips
  • Toasted baguette slices rubbed with garlic
  • Seeded crackers
  • Crudités’
  • Tortilla chips or fresh tortillas

Baked Artichoke Dip on a Countertop with Crackers

Put it on Everything!

i alway regret not making more artichoke dip while I’m at it. At the very least a double batch. There are just so many fantastic ways to put it to use. If you make extra you’ve got a great component to slather on everything. Stop thinking of it as a dip and reframe it as a spread or stuffing. Especially this version. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Slathered across good pizza dough before baking. I especially love this for a spring-summer pizza with ingredients like fava beans, asparagus, and artichoke hearts. Dollop with a bit of great pesto or citrus paste just before serving.
  • Use leftovers as a dumpling or ravioli filling.
  • Dolloped on hot baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. Finish with something extra crunchy like fried shallots, sesame seeds or toasted almonds.
  • Seems obvious, but worth saying, it makes an incredible panini or sandwich spread. Even better on your veggie burger.
  • Taco Night! A slather on a homemade tortilla just before adding your other fillings is a thing of beauty.
  • It’s great as a replacement for ricotta in stuffed shells. Or you could go half and half. Throw some citrus zest in there while you’re at it.
  • Up your deviled egg game! Stir any leftover dip into your deviled egg filling, it’s an unexpected twist on classic deviled eggs.
  • Use it as a slather on bruschetta. Top with lots of chives and pine nuts.

Close up of Baked Artichoke Dip

Artichoke Dip Variations

There are so many ways to tweak this recipe. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Spinach Artichoke Dip – add a cup of well-chopped spinach (or frozen spinach) to your artichoke dip. You can add it to the blender ingredients, or you can stir it in later with the Parmesan cheese. The later leaves the spinach flecks visible for a classic spinach artichoke dip result.
  • Spicy Artichoke Dip – I already call for 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne powder in this recipe and that delivers a bit of bite. That said, you can swap in other spicy flavor profiles if you like. Start by swapping  in a tablespoon or so of any of the following, and adjust from there with more to your liking: green curry paste, green harissa, or zhoug.
  • Artichoke Dip Finished with Indian Tempering Spices – This is absolutely delicious. If you toast  a handful of curry leaves in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then add mustard seeds, a bit of cumin, chopped garlic, and some extra crumbled dried chile you’ll have an incredible finishing oil. Pour, hot from the skillet, over the golden-baked artichoke dip just before serving.
  • Artichoke Dip with Garlicky Breadcrumb Topping – I usually finish this dip with a simple dusting of grated cheese. But if I’m feeling a bit more ambitious, I’ll pile a generous amount of day-old bread crumbs that I’ve tossed with lots of olive oil, minced garlic, and the grated cheese. It results in the perfect crunch top to counter the dippy smooth and creamy.

Baked Artichoke Dip in Ceramic Dish

One last thing – this is actually a great do-ahead recipe. You can bake it off in any sized dish you like and the smell of the baking artichokes and toasting cheese provides a deliciously fragrant backdrop to any get together. Pop the artichoke dip into the oven roughly half an hour before friends come over, just in time to welcome everyone!

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Heidi’s Coffee Cake

A stunner of a coffee cake with extra thick streusel topping and blueberries bursting into the tender crumb in dramatic fashion. Rustic and rye flour based.

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There are two main reasons people love this coffee cake. First, the streusel topping doesn’t skimp. There’s plenty piled on for the crumble fans. Second, it’s wonderfully rustic and full of freshly baked flavor. There are a lot of coffee cake recipes out there that are beautifully cinnamon-streaked and sweet, but I like a bit more depth and range of ingredients in my buttermilk-based batter. Rye flour, old-fashioned oats, and brown sugar are my secret weapons here.
Heidi's Coffee Cake

This is a great cake to go along with an afternoon espresso and chat with a friend. Or to take on a picnic or day in the car. It’s a stunner of a cake without being fussy. The blueberries burst and bleed into the crumb of the cake in dramatic fashion. The crumble crust plays off the tenderness of the cake nicely, so be sure to get a bit of it in every bite.
Berries for Coffee Cake

Favorite Coffee Cake Variations

Maple Huckleberry Coffee Cake: This has long been a favorite variation of mine. I like to add a bit of thyme and rosemary from my herb garden. Just a hint to play off the berries and perfume the cake – barely a whisper.  Swap in whole wheat pastry flour for the rye flour. And Add 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme and 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary. Lastly and the zest of one lemon to the dry ingredients of the cake. And if you can get your hands on wild huckleberries trade those in for the blueberries

Cherry Almond Coffee Cake: It’s cherry season right now, feel free to swap out the blueberries for chopped (pitted) cherries. Use chopped almonds in place of the walnuts, and almond extract in place of vanilla extract if you have it.

Michelle in the comments used chopped mission figs in hers, a brilliant idea. Generally speaking, on the fruit front, if it’s juicy, fruity, and goes with maple I suspect it’ll be good here, so play around.
Heidi's Coffee Cake

How to Store this Cake

I like to enjoy this cake warm, or at room temperature. That said if you have leftovers after a day or so I tend to slide it right back into the pan on its parchment paper, cover, and refrigerate from there for up to 4-5 days. Bring up to room temperature before eating or pop it a hot oven to reheat for ten minutes or so.

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Cucumber Salad

A refreshing chopped cucumber salad loaded with peanuts, spices, toasted coconut, and chiles.

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I have two new cookbooks on my desk. Two books to really dive into. Tender V.1 by Nigel Slater, and How to Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor. Today’s Cucumber Peanut Salad was my first foray into Sanjeev’s book and it doesn’t disappoint – chopped cucumbers, spices, toasted peanuts, coconut, and green chiles come together in a refreshing but surprisingly substantial salad.
Spicy Peanut & Cucumber Salad

A Special Cucumber Salad

After my book signing in Berkeley recently, I was invited by the shop to choose and take home any book I liked. How to Cook Indian was it. I tucked the massive orange Indian volume under my arm, went home, and spent hours the next morning tagging recipes – so many! Today’s cucumber salad was one of them. I took a few liberties with it based on personal preference and the ingredients in my kitchen. I mean, that’s how I approach many recipes. I don’t always have all the ingredients on hand, but I try not to let that deter me. Instead of trying to get thing perfectly “authentic” or as written, I like the spirit of winging it a bit, based on what I think will taste good within the general framework of a recipe.
Spicy Peanut & Cucumber Salad
That’s what you see here. So, for this cucumber salad – I didn’t have the fresh coconut Sanjeev calls for, but I did have big, dried coconut flakes. I knew I could toast them, and they’d be great- so I went with it. I like to leave some of the peel on my cucumbers – so that is what you see here. That sort of thing. If like me you I forgot to grind the peanuts, whole peanuts are great here too.
Half-peeled Cucumbers

What Kind of Cucumbers Should I Use?

You have options! I grow multiple types of cucumbers in our garden. Favorite varietals for a cucumber salad like this include Japanese cucumber, lemon cucumber, Persian cucumber and English cucumber. Select cucumbers with healthy looking skins, and a plump, tense feel overall. You don’t want limp, sad, dehydrating cucumber. A long way of saying that choosing a great cucumber can be more important than the type of cucumber.
Spicy Peanut & Cucumber Salad on a Serving Plate
The perfect salad for a hot summer day. Pair this cucumber salad with whatever you have coming off the grill, it goes beautifully with so much. We’ve enjoyed it alongside kebabs, grilled quesadillas, veggie burgers, and tofu burgers.

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Braided Onion Bread

This braided onion bread is made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture.

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One of my first memories related to baking was a demonstration conducted at my kindergarten where bread dough was shaped into turtles, and birds, and elaborate braids. Scissors were used to create the tiny bread spikes on the backs of alligator and hedgehog-shaped loaves. Lobster claws got a snip up the center for visual effect and each figure was placed in an oven until puffy, golden, and fragrant. We were each allowed to take one home. The whole experience blew my five year-old mind. Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese
I still like to bake elaborate braided loaves. Especially when things in my life are tumultuous. I made this one a couple of times prior to the holidays, and decided to make it again last week to photograph and share with you. It’s made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture. If you’ve never baked a braided loaf before, I’ll admit that stuffing the strands adds a layer of complexity, but the whole process is incredibly forgiving if you commit and keep going. If you look at the shape below and think “no way” just remember it’s a simple braid coiled into a snail shape. 
Braided Onion Bread Prior to Baking

The (Stuffed) Braided Bread Process

To make this bread you start by making beautiful yeast dough. You roll your dough into a rectangle, cut that rectangle into four strips, and then stuff each strand with awesomeness. I usually prepare the stuffing a day ahead of time, or the morning of the day I plan on baking. This gives the filling some time to cool. I’ve locked onto this onion-cheese combo lately, but you can imagine endless variations.

To fill the dough, you run the filling in a line up the middle of each of the four strips of dough. Fold them each in half, and then pinch the seam to seal the filling in. Now you have four filled strands that you’ll arrange side-by-side (below). Pinch them together at the top and start braiding (see diagram below). Coil the braid into a tight round, snail shape, let the dough rise, brush with an egg wash, and bake! 

Diagram of a Four Strand Braid

A Four-strand Braid

First, let me say – if you’re worried about trying the four-strand braid, I understand! If you want to fall back to a chubby three-strand bread braid the first time through, go for it. The main thing is to commit to the braid either way. Even if you’re convinced things aren’t going well. This feeling can be triggered by a few things. A common problem is strands splitting open to reveal the filling – just re-pinch and keep going. Or, you might feel like your strands keep stretching and getting longer and longer? It’s ok, you will coil them into a round shape. Keep braiding even if your strands are longer than your sheet pan. Boss the dough around a bit. If it’s too sticky, dust with a bit of flour. The main thing? Don’t get discouraged, keep going.

Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese just After Baking
Please let me know if you bake a braided loaf, or send me a message on Insta. Or if you experiment with other fillings, please leave a comment. I can’t wait to see what you do with this one. I loved seeing all of you posting soup pics last week. xo – h

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Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

Ravioli salads are the best! Plump raviolis tossed with toasted hazelnuts, lemony chard, and caramelized onions are at the heart of this ravioli salad recipe. The colorful platter is finished off with a dusting of cheese, snipped chives, and lemon zest.

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If you’re invited to a potluck this winter, consider bringing this. I first published the recipe over a decade ago, and still cook it regularly for a whole host of reasons. We’re talking about plump raviolis tossed with toasted hazelnuts, lemony flecks of chard, and deeply caramelized onions. You’ve got crunch from toasted hazelnuts, and brightness from a bit of zest. It’s delicious, flexible, and totally satisfying. Also, appropriately, it makes a great vegetarian main for gatherings like Thanksgiving. I’ve updated and streamlined the instructions and ingredient list here so it reflects how I make it today. For example, I used to cook the chard on the side, but now I don’t bother, and just massage it with lemon juice. Little tricks and improvements, and in this case, one less pan to clean.

Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

You can prepare most of the components ahead of time, and throw it together in less than five minutes when you’re ready to serve it up family-style. Whenever I have a window in the days prior, I wash and chop the chard (or kale), caramelize the onions, and toast the hazelnuts.

Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

Keep in mind, this whole idea is super adaptable. You can play around with the type of raviolis you use – vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.

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Heirloom Apple Salad

The sort of hearty apple salad I love. It has heirloom apples, shaved celery, and toasted nuts of your choosing. The dressing is creamy and spiked with rosemary, garlic and champagne vinegar.

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If you’re looking for a simple apple salad, you’re in the right place. There’s a reasonable chance that you have the ingredients needed to make it sprinkled around your kitchen – on counter tops, or in the crisper. And if not, there are lots of ways to make substitutes. It’s hearty and substantial, colorful and crunchy – made with heirloom apples, shaved celery, and toasted nuts of your choosing. The dressing is crème fraîche (or sour cream) spiked with rosemary, garlic and champagne vinegar. 
Heirloom Apple Salad

Apple Salads – All About the Crunch

This salad is big on crunch. And that alone is likely the reason it has become a fall favorite. There’s crunch from crisp apples, celery, and nuts. Pair that with the creaminess in the dressing? It’s a nice contrast. My main tip? Seek out crisp apples with good flavor. And pass on mealy apples.
Heirloom Apple Salad

Substitutions

Think of this recipe as more of a sketch than anything else. I used arugula because it’s what I had on hand, but the baby gems at the market looked great and would have been a nice substitute. Same goes for the nuts. Toast whatever you have on hand – pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts. And on the dressing front, crème fraîche brings a beautiful luxe texture into the mix, but  you can certainly use sour cream or even yogurt, and whatever good-tasting white wine vinegar you like.
Slicing Apples for Apple Salad

Slicing the Apples

Another variable you can experiment is the cut of the apple. You can see my preferred slices up above. They thick enough to retain some snap, and bite-sized. I like them sliced this way so you can get a bit of everything on a fork – some arugula, apple, nuts, etc. But if you really love apples, add more and slice them thicker. I also have it in my notes to do an apple salsa of sorts – with everything chopped smaller & a few serrano chiles chopped and added to the mix. For use on winter panini, and the like.
Bowl of Apple Salad in the Kitchen

The Dressing

The dressing is great on all sorts of things. Not just apple salad. It’s decadent drizzled over roasted potatoes (or sweet potatoes!), as a finishing kiss for mushrooms, or as a slather on panini. I also love it drizzled over oven-roasted broccoli, or a medley of sheet-pan baked vegetables.Heirloom Apple Salad

Your Apple Salad Ideas

Over the years you’ve left some great suggestions and variations in the comments. I’m going to highlight a few and also encourage you to let us know of any riffs on the recipe you enjoy in the future!

  • Amanda says, ” I grated a half a celery root into the salad as well, which boosted the yummy celery flavor and added another texture. So good!”
  • Chase brilliantly swapped in pears, “I have made this salad 8 times in the last 10 days!!!! An instant favorite! Hazelnuts were the nut of choice and a pear/apple mix with some added Rosemary crostini crumbled in gives it a great crunch!!!”
  • Dana turned it into more of a main dish, “I added some cooked and cooled wheat berries to this salad and it was divine! Nutty crunch and great nutrition to bulk it up for a main course dinner.”
  • Kara introduced a few ingredients, ““Hallelujah!” is what I thought when I bit into this salad today for lunch! I substituted baby broccoli for the celery, used walnuts, and some sliced Parmesan.”

Have fun and poke around for more salad recipes, or more fall recipe inspiration. I love this Genius Kale Salad, this Shaved Fennel Salad from Super Natural Every Day, this pure Cilantro Salad for the cilantro fans out there, and for more of a main, this Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad is always a go-to.

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Grillable Tofu Burgers

Seasoned with a good amount of cumin, cayenne and mustard, these are hearty, filling, easy to make, dump-everything-in-the-food processor grillable tofu burgers.

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Wayne calls this the “1996 Veggie Burger.” It’s basically an old-school hippie burger. I love them for a few reasons. First, they’re grill-able. Second, they’re made from ingredients I understand – organic tofu, seeds, nuts, eggs, spices, and breadcrumbs. And third, they’re endlessly adaptable by switching up the spices & your burger toppings.
A Grillable Tofu Burger Recipe

The Recipe

On the cooking front, I’ve been cleaning out some drawers. Primarily going through old magazine clippings (which is part of the reason I’ve been featuring more magazine inspired recipes than usual). I’ve been finding lots of gems, and these tofu burgers jumped out at me. I’ve adapted them from a reader contributed recipe that ran in the October 2004 issue of Sunset Magazine. The recipe was sent to Sunset by Jeremy Wolf of San Francisco, and I enjoyed them so much! They were impossibly easy to make, relying on the “throw everything in the food processor” technique, and called for a quirky mix of ingredients ranging from tofu, seeds, and nuts, to mustard, cumin, and mushrooms. In the years since, I’ve done a lot of variations, and I’ll talk through a few of them below.

I will say, I suspect you’ll be tempted to tweak the seasonings, and you should! But here’s my advice. Don’t skimp on the cumin or mustard, you need some assertive flavors to kick in – keep in mind you’re dealing with ground tofu and eggs as a burger base. Whatever you do think bold!

Ingredients in Food Processor for Tofu Burgers

Tofu Burgers – How To Cook Them

One of the great things about these is you can cook them a number of ways. You can use a skillet, you can grill them, or you can bake them. The main thing you need to do is blend the mixture to a smooth-ish consistency. Then firmly shape and press the mixture into firm patties. I call for the firmest tofu you can find (extra-firm), but each tofu brand has a different quantity of water in it. If your mixture is too wet, simply blend in more breadcrumbs 1/4 cup at a time, and go from there. The mixture also firms up as it sits, so keep that in mind. You can let it rest for 10 minutes or so before shaping if you have the time.
A Grillable Tofu Burger Recipe

Tofu Burger Variations

A number of people have attempted to make these without the egg. I haven’t tested that version yet, but here’s are a few notes from the comments. From Lisa,”For the vegan, I reserved part of the batch before adding eggs, and put in a tablespoon of almond butter as a binder, plus a little extra breadcrumbs.” Jacqui says,”…although I was out of eggs, so I used 2 T of chia seeds mixed with 6 T of water as a replacement. Worked great!”

For a gluten-free option Lisa commented with this brilliance, “I make something similar to these and use masa harina instead of breadcrumbs for a gluten-free option… it definitely gives it a “southwestern” twist, and is SO delicious.”

Cooking Tips

If you’re nervous about the patties falling through grill grates, Judith says,”…my husband was in charge of the grill, started out on aluminum foil, we thought they might fall through the grates, he ended up putting them right on the grates (they firmed up while cooking on the foil for a bit) and they were wonderful!”

Enjoy!!

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Steaming Vegetables

A reminder of what a great cooking technique steaming vegetables is. Fast and flexible for the win.

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Steaming vegetables is an underutilized cooking technique in my kitchen. After my last trip to Japan, I pledged to remedy the issue. This simple, direct method of cooking is one of the reasons I love eating in Japan. I mean, let’s be honest, I probably like steamed vegetables more than most, but I enjoy them exponentially more there. Somehow, many of the things I love about traveling there are summed up in this simple preparation.
Steaming Vegetables - assortment of colorful vegetables
I’d often receive a sampling of seasonal produce as part of a combination lunch. The vegetables arrived at the table beautifully arranged in the bamboo basket they were steamed in. I’d work my way through a rainbow of vibrant, tender potatoes, squash, mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and the like, sometimes adding a pinch of zesty shichimi togarashi, but more often than not, a casual toss of a few grains of salt would be all. Each meal was a vibrant, satisfying reminder of just how good vegetables can be when prepared simply with care and intent. Their natural flavors coming through direct and perfect.

Break out the Steamer!

After this past trip, my inexpensive, tri-level bamboo steamer was promptly dusted upon my arrival home, and put into proper rotation. The thing that never ceases to surprise me is the speed even the most hearty chunks of root vegetables or squash become tender – ten minutes, often less.Bamboo Steamer

Choosing a Steamer

Bamboo steamers are easy to come by, and relatively inexpensive. Go this route if you aren’t sure how often you’ll use your steamer. The one downside is they take up a good amount of storage space, not much more than a big pot, but still. These steamers are available in a range of diameters, and are made of interlocking trays intended for stacking on atop of the other. Placed above simmering water, the steam from the water rises through the trays and cooks the food. It’s a simple premise that works astoundingly well. I use three trays, but you can certainly go up or down a level.
Steaming Vegetables in Bamboo Steamer
I eventually graduated to a ceramic steamer, and also picked up this Mushi Nabe, donabe steamer. Both are nice because you can make a broth or curry in the base, and then use steam the ingredients up above at the same time. Any of the steamers make a nice jump from cooking to table. If you want to expand beyond steaming vegetables, you can also steam everything from dumplings and tofu to eggs, tamales and certain rices.

Colorful Vegetables in a Bamboo Steamer Basket

Some Tips on Steaming Vegetables:

  • While steaming with water is most common, I’ve also played around using miso broth, vegetable broth, vegetable dashi, or tea in place of water. Each imparts a different scent and flavor to the vegetables. More times than not though, I use water.
  • Arrange your slowest cooking vegetables in the bottom basket, working up to the quickest. Another time saver is to get your densest, slowest cooking vegetables started in in the bottom tray, while you prep the quicker cooking vegetables for the mid and top baskets. Place the lid on whatever basket is on top at the time.
  • Some people line their steamers with cabbage leaves or parchment. I don’t bother, placing the vegetables directly on the steamer instead. I like how it seems to keep the steam circulating. A quick scrub with hot water and the rough side of a sponge makes clean-up simple.
  • When using the bamboo steamer, you can use a wok (steamer sits above the simmering water) or wide skillet (I set the steamer directly in a shallow skillet of simmering water)…A wok is more traditional, and easier on your steamer, but both techniques work well.

Plate of Assorted Vegetables to be Steamed

So, less of a recipe, and more of a reminder today of how good the most basic preparations can be. A few years after I initially posted this, I did another deeper dive into Using your Underutilized Steamer. Have fun! -h

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Pumpkin and Rice Soup

Silky textured and vibrant, the pumpkin soup I made as soon after 40 hours of travel back from India. It has a herby rosemary butter drizzle and lemon ginger pulp, and completely hits the spot.

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The provisions were scarce when we got back from India the other night – my first winter squash of the year still on the counter, brown rice in the freezer, a bit of sad looking ginger on the windowsill, random nuts and seeds in the cupboard, herbs still going strong in the planter boxes out back, and a three week old knob of butter. That was pretty much it. But I felt exhausted after getting off the plane, and after forty hours of travel from door to door, I was determined cook at home. This simple soup was the first thing I made. It was silky textured, vibrant in color, and after a quick trip to the corner store in the morning for a bit of yogurt and a lemon – the lunchtime leftovers were even better. Particularly because of a finishing touch of a rosemary herby butter drizzle and lemon ginger pulp. I hope you find it as restorative as I did. Also! I wanted to tack some photos of one of my favorite experiences from India onto this post – the day Wayne and I had our photos taken on the street in Jaipur.

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

I’d read about this man, Tikam Chand. He has been taking pictures in the Old City of Jaipur using his grandfather’s camera for decades. And, upon arriving in Jaipur, we set out to find him. No luck, at first. But a couple of days passed, and finally, at a moment we weren’t looking, Wayne spotted a guy with an old camera on the sidewalk. We pulled over, hopped out, and it wasn’t ten seconds before we were in front of the camera. Sixty seconds and five frames had been snapped. Sit here, look here, you two together, and so forth. I was thinking it was very much like getting a dental x-ray. Much more fun, but still – all business. And it wasn’t Tikam with the camera, it was Surrender. I’m still not entirely clear on whether the two photographers share the camera, or if they’re related.

Pumpkin and Rice Soup RecipePumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

So, you have your picture taken, and that’s when things start getting incredible. The processing is done right there on the street, and is finished in just a few minutes. A box in the back of the camera functions as the darkroom, negatives made from small sheets of hand-torn photo paper are slapped on a piece of wood, and shot again to make the positives. There’s a bucket for rinsing. Your completed pictures (and negatives if you splurge for them) are unceremoniously wrapped in a zig-zag folded sheet of the daily newspaper. It all goes down fast, and somewhat hilariously. For those of you who are interested in the specifics of how this works, I found this (Jonas also has some amazing Jaipur photos).

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

The head-to-toe shot of us up above might be my favorite shot ever of the two of us together.

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

An out of focus shot of the camera from the front. All eyes on Krishna. There’s no shutter, so to expose the frame, the red foil lens cap is moved to the side for a second or so. Part of what I loved about the whole experience was how unfussy, and non-technical it was. This guy had a good lens on a box set on a tripod that looked like a few sticks of driftwood bound together. And his photos are beautiful in a way you’ll never get with a new camera. Completely inspiring. 

Pumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe
Anyway! I have much more to share with you, in the meantime enjoy the soup. Trick it out with the good toppings, and I’m almost positive it’ll become a staple for you this fall/winter – or, at least, I hope so. xo -hPumpkin and Rice Soup Recipe

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