BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Inspiration Vs. Desperation

What spurs you on to create new recipes? Inspiration comes in countless forms, lurking just beneath the surface everywhere you look. It could be a trip to the market that lights a spark, or a great meal at a new restaurant. Even something as innocuous as watching tv or chatting with a friend might start the wheels turning. Some recipes, however, have decidedly less grand beginnings. Born not in some great flash of genius, but by sheer necessity, the results are by no means any less spectacular. Sometimes it just comes down to what’s already in the fridge.

Adding a single box of phyllo to a recent coop order seemed like a reasonable impulse buy to complete the case- A least until it arrived, and needed somewhere to stay. Freezer stuffed to bursting, there was no choice but to let it thaw out in the fridge, with still no destination in mind. With time ticking and now fridge space dwindling, that phyllo had to go, and not straight into the trash! At times like this, the great interweb is a true godsend.

Still waffling between sweet and savory recipes, it was the idea of Susan‘s Spinach and Artichoke Pie that sealed the deal. Tweaking the seasonings and switching out spinach for kale, it was an impressive outcome for the phyllo that had no clear purpose. Instead of making one giant pie, it seemed more fitting to break the dish up into individual wraps; less messy to serve and easier to store. Shatteringly crisp and flaky, that phyllo is truly what makes the final bundle of gently spiced greens and goodies so compelling. Only when my parcels had finished baking did I realize the strange cultural mash-up at play. Indeed, what emerged from the oven turned out to be glorified Greek burritos.

Greek Burritos
Adapted from the Fat Free Vegan

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
12 Ounces Frozen Chopped Kale
1 Pound Extra-Firm Tofu, Thoroughly Drained
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Teaspoon Salt, or to Taste
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Dill
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Oil-Cured Olives
1/8 Teaspoon Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 12-Ounce Bag Frozen Artichoke Hearts, Thawed and Quartered

1 Package Phyllo Dough, Thawed
Olive Oil in Spray Bottle

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper; Set aside.

Begin heating the oil in a medium or large soup pot over moderate heat. You want a vessel with high sides that can accommodate a good amount of food, so don’t hesitate to spring for one size bigger than you think is appropriate. It’s not a bad thing if it ends up being too spacious either. Add in the onions and garlic, and saute for 10 – 12 minutes until fragrant, softened, and beginning to take on a golden hue. Toss in the frozen kale, stir well, and let it thaw as it mingles with the hot onions. Turn off the heat as soon as the leaves are no longer icy.

Meanwhile, crumble your tofu into a large bowl and toss with the nutritional yeast, salt, dill, oregano, lemon juice, olives, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Once evenly seasoned, stir the tofu mixture into the hot onions and kale until well incorporated. Finally, introduce the artichokes, and mix just to distribute evenly throughout the filling. The mixture should be warm to the touch but not hot at this point.

To assemble your burritos, first lay out one sheet of phyllo on an immaculate flat surface, and lightly spritz with olive oil. Carefully top that with another sheet, lining up the edges to the best of your ability, and spritz oil on top of that. Repeat twice more for a total of 4 stacked full rectangle sheets. Gently distribute about 1 cup of the filling vertically, about 1 inch in from the left edge, top, and bottom. Now, as if it were a tortilla, fold the top and bottom edges over the filling, and roll, starting from the left side, until you have one smooth cylinder resting on the open end of the dough. Gingerly lift the wrap and place it on one of the baking sheets, and finally spritz the top once more with oil. Repeat for the remaining dough and filling, placing no more than three burritos on each sheet.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through if necessary, until golden brown all over. Serve immediately while hot.

Makes About 5 Large Burritos; Feeds 10 with Dainty Appetites, or 5 Very Hungry Vegans

If you’re cooking for a smaller crowd, you can keep any leftover filling and phyllo separate, assembling and baking individual burritos when desired.

Printable Recipe


92 Comments

Wild About Greens

Mothers who once championed the old dictum of “eat your veggies” now have a new refrain to the familiar song: “Eat your greens.” Having risen from the periphery of American grocery stores, once literally lining the deli cases as nothing more than colorful, long-lasting garnishes, kale has paved the way right back into the kitchen for all manner of leafy edibles. Finally, after decades of neglect, those oft-forgotten flowerless bouquets are finally welcome house guests, and there’s more than just romaine and spinach going into summer salad bowls. Still, the trend is only in its infancy, and after so many voluminous raw hodgepodges of discordant ingredients, what can really be done with these overgrown lawn clippings? And moreover, how can we prevent them from tasting as such?

Riding the crest of this wave is Nava Atlas, who brings us Wild About Greens exactly in our hour of need. Introducing a whole palate of varied greens to even the most inexperienced of cooks with a gentle, warm, and inviting tone, Nava will take your hand and guide you from the grocery store to the dinner table, and all spaces in between. Doling out equal parts reassurance and enlightening information, this book is definitely geared towards the greenest of beginners, but provides inspiring flavors to get anyone out of a produce rut. Such a depth and breath of different edible plants are covered, there’s likely to be something new for anyone to try. You may claim to be a kale expert, but how often do you cook with beet greens? What about watercress? Have you ever tried mizuna in your green smoothie?

In a comfortingly familiar cloak of tomatoes and herbs, the Italian Vegetable Ragout with Chard (page 126) would make an excellent introduction for those less enthusiastic about incorporating more greenery into their diets. Adding in the optional chickpeas turns this hearty side into a perfectly satisfying one-pot meal. Enlivened with a pinch of red pepper, the interplay between tomatoes that are both roasted and sweetly sundried is so flawlessly balanced, it’s hard to believe the whole dish came together in mere minutes.

Curry, another common, endlessly accommodating staple in my diet, gets new life with the simple addition of pungent mustard greens and tender spinach. Coconut Cauliflower Curry with Mustard Greens and Spinach (page 186) blends mild spices and coconut milk to create a rich, golden elixir of a stew. Safely falling into a child-friendly heat level, it’s an excellent meal to make for a family, and ramp up the hotter spices on individual servings, to taste. Mustard greens are a newer ingredient to me, and while I would rather eat grass clippings than a couple of its raw leaves, this creamy yet still light sauce can excuse a whole host of flavor flaws- Proof positive that it only takes the right cooking method to make even the most maligned greens easy to swallow.

The salad section is of course abundant with suggestions, and now that the heat of summer has come to stay for the season, those are very enticing pages to explore. Breaking out of my own personal food taboos, I fearlessly took Nava’s lead and combined fruits with savory vegetables (gasp!) and ate watercress raw for the first time, emboldened by the Sumptuous Spring Greens Salad (page 156). It seems silly to rave about a salad, but this one deserves all the praise. Much more thoughtful than just odds and ends tossed together, the combination of sweet yet tart green apples softens the bitter bite of radicchio and peppery flair from the radishes. Creamy avocado brings texture contrast to the party, a welcome reprieve from the crisp and crunch all around. It’s a kick-starter that makes one wonder, “why didn’t I try this before?” Simple even for a side, yes, but every bit as noteworthy as an elaborate main.

Thrilled to have any excuse to pull out my oft forgotten juicer, the section on beverages provides the confidence I frequently lack when it comes to combining greens with sweeter fruits. The Spinach and Lettuce Refresher (page 206) is, as promised, very refreshing indeed! An excellent beginner’s green juice, it’s mild, not at all bitter, and lightly sweet thanks to the addition of apples; no need to add the optional agave at all. Slightly tangy thanks to lemon juice, this beverage may just become the new lemonade around here.

The beauty of the recipes showcased in Wild About Greens is that they’re built to take on whatever you throw at them. Want to swap collards for kale? Go for it! Nava provides plenty of substitution advice, but the versatility of each preparation goes beyond that. It would take a concerted effort to ruin any of these recipes; go ahead and change the veggies, add beans, take away herbs, do your worst! Wild About Greens succeeds in removing the fear of failure from cooking with new ingredients, and can plant the seed for entirely new recipe ideas. It truly has never been easier to eat green.

It would be a downright shame not to spread these delicious ideas further afield, so I’m thrilled that the publisher has so kindly offered to share an additional copy for one lucky reader to win! If you’re looking to get more greens into your diet, tell me about your current favorite leafy ingredient, and how you like to prepare it. Links and recipes are encouraged but not necessary! The basic requirements, as per usual, are names and valid email addresses in the appropriate boxes. Please, only one comment per person, and be sure to speak up before Midnight EST on June 27th. I’ll contact the winner shortly thereafter, so keep an eye to your inbox.

UPDATE: The winner, chosen by the fair and just random number generator is…

The lucky commenter behind entry #7, 3littlebrds! Get ready to load up on the leafy greens, because you’re gonna want to put them to use right away!

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