BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


29 Comments

Lox of Love

Old Man Winter sure doesn’t fight fair, unafraid to hit below the belt and then kick you when you’re down. Dirty tricks are just half of the relentless assault, adding in mind games that could soften anyone’s resolve to the consistency of over-boiled ramen noodles. Surely, one would think that by the last day of March, spring would have been able to fend off this attack, but the snow currently accumulating on top of the delicate, freshly sprouted crocuses would say otherwise. The month is going out like a lion, indeed.

Beaten and bruised, I officially accept defeat. Winter can continue its reign of terror as long as it doesn’t stop me from dreaming about spring. Let’s forget about the weather, planning instead for the garden parties and spring celebrations that are sure to come. Demanding lighter fare, fresher flavors, and easy offerings to share with any number of hungry guests, the classic brunch spread is where my thoughts wander first. Bagels, cream cheese, and lox are the anchor of this idyllic vision, a taste preference that could arguably have been genetically inherited from both of my Jewish parents. Despite the great advances in vegan food technology, fish have remained largely out of reach, residing only in fantasies… and sometimes a kelp-infused tofu patty that tastes of little more than soybeans and sadness.

Until now.

Sophie’s Kitchen, innovators of numerous frozen fishless delights, has the answer to every pescatarian’s dilemma. As soon as I caught wind of this unrivaled smoked salmon offering, I scoured the stores, only to turn up nothing for months on end. It still eludes me in the open marketplace, but I was lucky enough to score a few packages through my mother’s co-op. Despite being so pricy and difficult to find, the positives far outweigh the negatives, beginning with the high fiber content and soy-free ingredients.

What really matters though is the taste, and let me assure you that it doesn’t fall short. Incredibly, unbelievably, it could truly pass for fish, at least by my inexperienced palate. Woodsy, smoky overtones define these thin sheets, with subtle oceanic notes adding in a touch of realism. Lovely striations embellish the peachy rectangles, presenting beautifully to even the most discerning artistic eye. I’d like to believe that it could almost fool one into believing it came from a new breed of square fish. Satisfyingly rich, with a realistic oily sheen, this salmon substitute has the same bouncy, slippery texture as Sophie’s Kichen’s other konjac creations; not quite authentic, but more than passable, especially when eaten in other recipes or loaded onto a toasted bagel with the works.

Though I would have happily scarfed down my entire cache of smoky, savory slices in the aforementioned bagel assembly, such a rare treasure demanded further experimentation. Harkening back to the classic fish spreads of yore, a creamy base proves to be the perfect foil for these alternative smoky, salty strips as well. Load up a platter with chips and cut vegetables, and I promise that it will be the first thing to go, no matter how discerning the crowd. Beyond the party setting, it’s truly stellar in sandwiches, running circles around the tired old tuna salad.

On the other hand, this dip is a versatile ally, capable of dressing up with great aplomb should the situation demand. Pipe that salmon spread into neatly carved cucumber cups and top with vegan caviar, and no one will be able to contain their awe. Trust me: If you need a recipe to impress, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Fish-Free Smoked Salmon Dip

1 12-Ounce Package Extra-Firm Silken Tofu
3 Tablespoons Tahini
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon White Miso Paste
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1 4-Ounce Package Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Smoked Salmon
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Dill
1 – 2 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Thoroughly drain the tofu before tossing it into your food processor along with the tahini, vinegar, oil, miso, and nutritional yeast. Puree until completely smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with your spatula to ensure to all the ingredients get incorporated. Make sure that there are no chunks of tofu hiding below the blade before proceeding.

Separate the smoked salmon slices and add them to the mixture, pulsing the machine to break the pieces down but not entirely blend them. You want to leave some texture here, keeping the pieces about the same size as grains of rice. Finally, introduce the fresh herbs, zest, and pepper, stirring them in by hand. The salmon slices are fairly salty as it is, so you shouldn’t need to add extra salt.

Transfer the spread to an air-tight container and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Refrigerated, it should keep for up to a week.

Printable Recipe


34 Comments

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Now where did I put that recipe? My filing system is hardly fool-proof, and probably completely incomprehensible to anyone other than me, but rarely do I lose recipes entirely. All works in progress are always digital, at least, so there aren’t a hundred scraps of splattered and stained paper piled high on tables or shoved into desk drawers. Most are now carefully organized into the graciously all-inclusive cloud, always searchable and instantly backed up, putting my anxious mind at ease. That’s why it’s confounding when things still slip through the cracks, despite the care taken to prevent such disasters. Misplacing a recipe for something as stunningly delicious as this hummus recipe, for example, was nearly a snacking tragedy.

Dramatic words indeed, but this particular mash-up of both that beloved garbanzo bean spread and cool, creamy cucumber tzatziki exceeded even my own expectations from the very first batch. Lighter and fresher than the typical dip, crisp cucumbers added textural contrast so often missing from hummus. Zesty lemon and dill brightened the flavor profile considerably, imparting an unmistakably summery flavor, even if made in the heart of winter. I had made it numerous times before and thought for sure that such a winning savory delight must have surely made it on the blog already. Searching through the archives turned up precisely zero matches though, much to my growing fear, and the hunt was on. Nope, not in the aforementioned cloud. Not on the laptop. Not on the external hard drive. Not even published anywhere- Which it truly deserved to be. How could I let something as wonderful as that hummus go extinct?

Dejectedly accepting that it was gone for good, it was only then that the recipe found me. Hiding in the darkest corner of the desktop computer, in a long forgotten file, there it sat, waiting patiently to see the light of day. Introductions are long overdue, but thank goodness you can finally meet the one that almost got away. Snatch up the recipe and save it well! After trying it just once, you’d feel the sting of longing if you misplaced it, too.

Hummiki (Hummus-Tzatziki)

1 6-Ounce Container (3/4 Cup) Plain, Unsweetened Soy Yogurt
1 15-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cup) Chickpeas, Drained and Rinsed
2 Large Cloves Roasted Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Zest and Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Dill
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup Seeded and Finely Diced Cucumber

Toss all of the ingredients into your trusty food processor or blender, except for the cucumber, and puree thoroughly, until silky-smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to get everything mixed in, and give the machine ample time to blend. For the best consistency, it may take as long as 5 – 10 minutes, so be patient. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the chopped cucumber by hand, and chill for at least 2 hours before serving for the best flavor. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week… If you can resist eating it all long before then.

Makes 3 1/2 – 4 Cups

Printable Recipe


53 Comments

When Food Bites Back

Eggplant, my dear, you are one cruel mistress. I’ve professed my love to you time and again, but nothing will tame your harsh bite; the most delicate preparations or careful peeling does little to lessen the fire. I’ve come to realize that it’s honestly not you, eggplant darling, but me. The burning sensation that inflames my whole mouth, throat, and stomach, comparable to an intense and wide-spread heartburn, is the sign of an intolerance.

Given the prevalence of food allergies, and allergies in general, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I can eat my gluten with gusto, and relish my peanut butter-smeared apple slices, unlike many Americans these days. Complaining about something so mild as a slight discomfort when eating eggplant feels incredibly petty in comparison. It’s nothing life-threatening, does no permanent damage, but only removes a beloved vegetable from my diet. Admitting that though still stings a bit, too. Sometimes the pain will be worth it, and I’ll dive into that plate of spicy, garlicky, and meltingly tender Chinese eggplant anyway, but now that I’ve given it a name and told the internet about it, I may not be able to do so as easily anymore.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, once the brief mourning period passed I set to work devising ways to work around that purple nightshade. Closely linked in my mind, for their mild flesh and similar squash lineage, zucchini has now started vying for the title of “most popular vegetable” in my fridge these days.


Dishes provided by Steelite

Baba ganoush was my first introduction to eggplant, before I even knew what was in the mellow, smoky dip, and is still a top pick. Given that the squash would be mostly ground up, it seemed like a good test to see how my new zucchini friends would fare, replacing that original love. Anticipating from the get-go that nothing would ever replace those eggplant, or even come close, I was startled at my first taste. The simple addition of smoked salt helped to pick up the deeper, woodsier notes that the delicate flesh couldn’t replicate alone, and it made all the difference. With a flavor far closer that I could have hoped to come to the original inspiration, this mild but wonderfully savory, lightly roasted taste sensation gives me hope for life without eggplants.

I’ll admit to secretly holding out hope that the intolerance is just a passing phase, but until there’s actual evidence of that, I think I’ll get along just fine with my glorious, green zucchinis instead.

Zuke-anoush (Zucchini Baba Ganoush)

1 1/2 Pounds Zucchini (About 2 Large or 3 Medium)
6 – 8 Garlic Cloves, Separated From the Head but Not Peeled
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, Plus Additional to Garnish
Pinch [Table] Salt and Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Sesame Tahini
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Applewood or Hickory Smoked Salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds, and toss them in the oil, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Lay them out in one even layer, with no pieces overlapping, on your prepared baking sheet. Place the whole cloves of garlic grouped in the center of the sheet so that they don’t burn. Roast for 30 minutes, until the zucchini are nicely browned. Let cool.

Once the vegetables have come to room temperature, peel the garlic cloves, and toss them into your food processor along with the roasted zucchini. Add in the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and smoked salt. Pulse to combine, until you create a rough and chunky sort of paste. You don’t want it to be smooth, so err on the side of less processed if you’re not certain. It should only take about 5 – 10 one-second pulses, depending on your machine.

Transfer the finished dip into an air-tight container, and ideally let it cure in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight before serving. It’s delicious eaten immediately, but the flavors do meld and improve with a bit of time. Serve with an additional drizzle of olive oil over the top, if desired.

Makes 1 1/2 – 2 Cups

Printable Recipe


21 Comments

Curry in a Hurry

Few fast-casual eateries can lay claim to formulating their own signature curry powder, creating a distinctive blend of both warming and sharp spices unique to the establishment. Naturally, Health in a Hurry is no typical grab-and-go place, despite having all the speed and ease of ordering there. Though far from the only spice blend that we utilize in the kitchen, it has captivated me with its subtle sweetness and mellow heat; an incredibly flavorful mixture without the harsh bite of more potent chilies. It’s what keeps our signature Lemon Curry Rice on the menu year round, and a perpetual best-seller, too. With so much spicy potential right within arm’s reach every time I came in to work, I couldn’t leave this one alone. Pinching off a small container of the powder with permission from the wonderful chef and owner, Sue Cadwell, I took to my own home kitchen and began to play.

Keeping it simple was the best course of action to allow the delicate balance of ingredients to really shine. Hummus, that perfect blank canvas and familiar friend, is an ideal way to showcase such an ingredient. Gentle enough to embrace the most timid of palates, a similarly sweet curry powder is key here. Though I can’t divulge the secret formula of spices ground and mixed in-house, there are plans in the works to make bottles of the finished blend available for purchase online. For the time being, go with your favorite homemade blend, or Madras curry powder.

PS, if you’re in the area, you can grab a half-off Groupon for another day and try out curry (and other seasonal dishes) first hand!

Curry in a Hurry Hummus

1 (15.5 Ounce) Can Chickpeas, Rinsed and Drained
1 Garlic Clove
1 Tablespoon Sweet Curry Powder, like Madras
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Tahini
1 – 2 Tablespoons Water
Salt, to taste
Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, Chopped

Measure out and reserve a tablespoon or two of the drained chickpeas for topping. Take the rest of the beans, along with the garlic, curry powder, and 2 tablespoons of the oil, and combine them in your food processor. Pulse until the beans are mostly broken down. Add in the lemon juice, tahini, 1 tablespoon of the water, and salt as needed. Puree thoroughly, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure everything is getting incorporated, until completely silky-smooth. To achieve the best texture, have patience; this could take 5 – 8 minutes. Add in the remaining tablespoon of water if the mixture seems too thick for your taste. Though best when allowed to sit and chill for at least 24 hours, the hummus is still quite delicious if served immediately.

Transfer the creamy puree to a serving bowl, and top with the reserved chickpeas, remaining tablespoon of oil, and chopped herbs. Finish with an additional light sprinkle of curry powder if desired.

Makes a Generous Pint (A Little Over 2 Cups)

Printable Recipe


53 Comments

Hummus Lovin’

The internet needs another hummus recipe like I need another final exam to cap off this grueling school semester, and yet, like a moth drawn to the light, I simply can’t help myself. Enlivened with fresh veggies, roasted gently to reveal their natural sweetness, that humble bean dip has reinvented itself and squeezed its way back into my chickpea-loving heart. It’s like a familiar tune played on a new instrument; comforting, beckoning, yet altogether novel once again.

After the sparks had waned and the romance dwindled over a frigid winter season, it only makes sense that the love affair should resume alongside spring fever. Warm weather calls for cold food, plus the call for potlucks and outdoor dining demand an agreeable staple that needs little fussing over in advance, and so returns hummus, with a vengeance. I have yet to meet a more perfect spring or summer party companion than well-chilled hummus.

Just like a proper primavera, what’s so endearing about this little number is that nearly any fresh, seasonal veggies that are ripe and ready are ideal for swapping in. Think asparagus, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, even fresh peas! My only advice is to keep the shiitake, onion, and garlic constant, and they make up the backbone of this flavor profile, quietly hinting of umami in the background.

Hummus Primavera

3 Medium Zucchini
1 Medium Carrot, Peeled
1 Medium Yellow Onion
4 Fresh Shiitake Mushroom Caps
4 Cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 14-Ounce Can Chickpeas, Drained and Rinsed
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Water (If Needed)
Black Pepper
Fresh Parsley

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Roughly chop the zucchini, carrot, and onion, and place in a large bowl. Add in the mushroom caps, whole, peeled garlic cloves, and toss with the oil to coat. Spread all of the veggies out in one even layer on your prepared baking sheet, and roast for approximately 30 minutes; until the vegetables are all fork-tender and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, place the chickpeas in your food processor along with the lemon juice, tomato paste, salt, and spices. Blend to combine, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. The mixture should be somewhat dry at this point, as the veggies will add a lot of moisture. Introduce about half of the roasted vegetables to the food processor, and thoroughly puree, until super smooth. Have patience, because depending on your machine, this may take up to 5 minutes.

Once silky-smooth (or as smooth as you can get the consistency), add in the remaining roasted vegetables, and pulse to incorporate. I like to leave it a bit chunky so that you actually know what you’re eating here, and to give it a bit more color and texture. Add more water only if needed, along with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and parsley to taste. Transfer to an air-tight container, and thoroughly chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Printable Recipe

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,081 other followers