BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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All-Purpose Eats

Patience is not one of my strengths, as any members of my family could attest, and this painfully slow, barely visible advancement of spring is driving me mad. Bolting up and out of bed upon spying little green buds through my bedroom window, I race downstairs to assess the weather… Only to discover yet another clammy, grey morning laying in wait. Feeling thoroughly ambushed by this disappointment, it’s difficult to know how best to displace that negative emotion. Typically taking to the kitchen and channeling frustrations and joys alike into something edible, the lack of seasonal produce has made even that a daunting task at times. So, let’s talk about season-less food, because it’s not all frozen or found in an aluminum can.

One could argue that potatoes are best harvested in the cooler months, but unlike so much other produce, these tubers keep so well and for so long, that they’ve effectively lost their seasonality through modernization. Unless you’re growing your own spuds (and more power to you, in that case) anyone and everyone should have easy access to dozens of varieties, all year round. Having them at the average cook’s disposal for 365 days of the year has led them to morph and mutate into dishes appropriate for any occasion, hot and cold, rich and light- You name it, there’s a potato for that.

And so I land at the recipe, with what some might find a boring, nothing-special baked potato. However, I have yet to meet a single soul who could claim to dislike such a dish, so that sounds pretty darned special to me. The real take-away from this piece though are the tofu croutons. If nothing else, ‘taters or not, you’ve got to give those crispy, savory, and somewhat salty little toppers a go. Plus, if you happen to be lucky enough to enjoy a more cooperative spring, you could just as well pile them on top of fresh, seasonal salads. As for me… I’ll just keep enjoying those potatoes a bit longer.

Loaded Baked Potatoes with Tofu Croutons

Crispy Tofu Croutons:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 14-Ounce Package Extra-Firm Tofu, Drained and Pressed for 30 Minutes

Baked Potatoes:

4 Medium Baking Potatoes, Such as Russet

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 – 3 Tablespoons Unsweetened Soy Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Sweet Paprika
2 Scallions or a Handful of Fresh Chives, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Roughly Chopped Steamed Broccoli
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Roasted Peppers
Vegan Cheddar “Cheese” (Optional)
Avocado, Diced (Optional)

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

In a resealable plastic container, combine the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and pepper, and stir well.

Cut your tofu into very small cubes, about 1 cm each, keeping them as uniform as possible to ensure even baking. Place them in the container with the marinade, seal the container, and shake gently to coat the cubes in the mixture. Let rest until the oven comes up to temperature.

Transfer the tofu cubes and excess marinade to your prepared baking sheet, and spread them out into one even layer. Bake for 60 – 75 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so, until evenly browned.

Meanwhile, prepare your potatoes by washing them and cutting a slit into the top of each, to vent the steam. Place them in the oven alongside your tofu, and check for doneness at about 60 minutes. The skins will be slightly crispy, and they should be fork tender on the inside.

Let the potatoes cool for at least 10 minutes, and then scoop out the insides, leaving a thin layer of potato around the skins so they don’t collapse. Place them in a medium bowl, along with the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of soy milk, the salt, and paprika. Use a potato masher or fork to break up the potato and incorporate the other ingredient. Don’t overdo it, a little bit of chunkiness is perfect! If necessary, add more soymilk until it reaches your desired texture, and then add in the scallions, broccoli, and roasted peppers. Mix well to combine. Spoon the mashed potatoes back into the skins, and top with the tofu croutons. Finish off with a sprinkle of vegan “cheese” and/or diced avocado, if desired.

Serves 4

Printable Recipe

Recipe originally written for Nasoya tofu


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Springing Up Everywhere

Stubborn as ever, the lack of spring vegetables and 30-degree sunshine doesn’t deter me from celebrating the premature arrival of the new season. Besides, the tiny buds of crocuses are already beginning to peer up from the tender, half-frozen earth, and that’s reinforcement enough for me.

Turning to the only edible that’s is reliably and unfailingly available so early in the season, the fridge has been stocked to the brim with fresh herbs. Mint, parsley, dill, basil, cilantro (even though it tastes like soap to my taste buds)- I don’t think there have ever been so many choices of flavorful greenery on hand at one time. Without a solid plan, it was merely a stroke of luck to see the savory cheese and chive bread being created by bloggers following along on the French Fridays with Dorie group. Even luckier, however, was the fact that I actually had good tasting vegan cheese on hand. Clearly, this one was meant to be.

Because everything is better in cute little individual portions, I fashioned my bread into muffins, while bumping up the herb content to accommodate my vast selection. A cross between a light muffin and a fluffy biscuit, even I was impressed with how well this off-the-cuff adaptation came out. Moreover, I couldn’t help but be surprised at how much I truly enjoyed that elusive “cheese” factor. Yes, it’s true: I’ve officially been won over by Daiya. Any vegan cheesy shreds would do, of course, but Daiya has definitely found a fan in me. Plus, even the omnivores approved of the cheddar-y ribbons strewn throughout, so that’s got to say something.

Both rib-sticking and fresh tasting, thanks to that vibrant herbal addition, these muffins managed to strike that fine balance between seasons that I’m still struggling with myself. Any combination of herbs would likely work just as well, so don’t be afraid to switch it up if you don’t have these exact greens on hand.

“Cheddar” Herb Muffins

1 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
4 Ounces (1/2 Package) Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
1/3 Cup Chopped Scallions
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
3 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Dill
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts, Toasted

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and lightly grease 9 – 12 medium muffin tins.

In a large measuring pitcher, combine the non-dairy milk, oil, and vinegar. Stir well, and let sit for at least 5 minutes for the “milk” to curdle.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt, paprika, and pepper, making sure that all of the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the mixture. Add in the “cheese,” chopped herbs, and walnuts, and mix well.

Pour the pitcher of wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and use a wide spatula to bring the two together, stirring as few times as possible to create a mostly smooth batter. A few lumps are just fine, and certainly beat an over-mixed, tough dough.

Scoop the batter into your prepared muffin tins, mounding it up in the centers. Depending on how large you want you muffins, fill the tins either just to the top, or pile the batter on well over the rim. Naturally, I like my muffins big and bountiful, so I got fewer out of the mix.

Move your muffin tin into the oven, and bake for 16 – 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean and dry. If the muffins seem slightly anemic at that point, just run them under the broiler for 1 – 3 more minutes, until nicely golden brown.

Let rest in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm or toasted, along side a hearty bowl of soup, stew, or just with a faint smear of buttery spread.

Makes 9 – 12 Muffins

Printable Recipe


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Baking Burn Out

Baking holiday cookies and cakes at such a break-neck pace, I suppose it was bound to happen; Palate fatigue of the worst sort. A sweet tooth turned sour, here we stand with just a few days remaining until the big x-day, and the last thing I want to think about are treats filled with sugar and spice. Yes, even a dessert-obsessed vegan baker has her limits.

But, a girl’s still gotta eat, and in many cases I’m sure, feed lots of hungry guests descending upon the house and expecting goodies of all variety. Rather than assaulting them with sweetness, try easing into the festive feast, and passing out a few savory appetizers. Especially if you have a big dessert planned for later, it’s best to shy away from excess candies before the big event anyway.

Tasty enough for omnivores and vegans alike, these easy, cheesy rice balls are an Italian classic, with a little seasonal twist. Although the time for Hannukah has long passed, it could still tie in the tradition of cooking in oil, if you’re a multi-holiday family like us. The only thing you need to plan in advance is cooking and cooling the rice, and deciding on your favorite red sauce to accompany these moreish little morsels.

Pumpkin Arancini

2 Cups Cooked and Cooled White Rice
2 Tablespoon Garbanzo Bean Flour
2 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Black Pepper

4 Ounces Vegan Mozzarella (I used Follow Your Heart, but pick your favorite!)
1 Cup Seasoned Vegan Bread Crumbs

Canola Oil, to Fry

To Serve:

Marinara Sauce
Fresh Herbs

To assemble your rice balls, simply place the cooked rice, garbanzo flour, nutritional yeast, pumpkin, and spices in a large bowl. Mix together thoroughly until fully combined. Set aside.

Cut your vegan mozzarella into little cubes, each about 1/2-inch on each side. Use two spoons or a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop out balls about the size of golf balls, and press one “cheese” cube into the center of each. Use your hands to gently round the rice balls out, fully covering the little “cheese” nugget inside. Make sure no parts of the “cheese” are sticking out, or else it will melt and ooze out into the oil. Toss each ball gently in bread crumbs to fully coat the exteriors.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a high-sided sauce pan or skillet to about 350 – 375 degrees, and add in 3 – 4 rice balls at a time, depending on the size of the cooking vessel. Fry for about 1 minute on all sides, until evenly golden brown all over. Carefully remove finished arancini and let drain on wire racks briefly, until cool enough to handle. Repeat with the remaining rice balls. Serve as soon as possible, with marinara sauce and fresh herbs on the side, or spooned right on top.

Makes About 1 Dozen Arancini

Printable Recipe


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A Hannukah Miracle

Take it as evidence that I’m a bad Jew, if you must, but the rumors are true; I had never made latkes before. Picture thin shreds of white potato that have sopped up gallons of oil and yet remain pale and flaccid, to be served with dairy-rich sour cream or overly sweetened apple sauce- Can you blame my resistance? Admittedly, the latkes my parents painstakingly make every year are never like this, but out of laziness and sheer stubbornness, I refused to remove my blinders and give them a chance. Despite the connection I felt to the ritual of their preparation, I found myself unmoved, year after year. Working as a tag team, my mom in the kitchen working with the raw ingredients, my dad out back doing flame-control, the smell of smoke and canola oil permeating the air, it’s this tradition that epitomizes the Hannukah experience to me. That’s why we’re unofficially pushing back the date of celebration, so that my dad can be home to fry them like usual. Whether that means standing outside at the grill in the snow, rain, or just freezing cold, it doesn’t matter. He knows that the hungry hordes need their crispy, golden brown latkes, and there’s no way on earth we’re deep frying that much potato matter inside the house.

And there starts my prejudice; Anything that requires cooking outside of the kitchen must be too much of a hassle. What with all the holiday cookies to bake, why waste time making boring old potato pancakes anyway? Deep fried food doesn’t disagree with me per say, but it loses quite a few brownie points if I’m the one doing the frying. Who wants third degree burns as a holiday parting gift? That’s why, with the actual Hannukah week free and clear, I stuck to what I know best and fired up the oven, set on breaking my latke-less streak at last.

Notice, these are baked latkes, not fat-free; They still need ample lubrication to prevent sticking and tearing. Most notable, however, is not the method by which these nouveau potato pancakes are cooked, but the subtle flavors I chose to wake up these potentially snooze-worthy staples. Taking inspiration from Chinese scallion pancakes, short ribbons of green onion are woven amongst the strands of potato, punctuated by the gentle warmth of ginger. Sure, purists may turn up their noses, but these nontraditional spud bundles have made me a convert. Latkes can be a beautiful (and yes, delicious) thing, when treated with a little extra love and attention. And yes, please, go ahead and fry them if you prefer. Just keep that vat of hot oil far away from me.

Baked Scallion-Ginger Latkes

1 1/2 Pounds White or Gold Potatoes
2 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Generous Bundle Scallions (about a dozen), Cut into 1-Inch Pieces
1 Tablespoon Minched Fresh Parsley
1 1/2 Tablespoons Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
1/4 Cup Garbanzo Flour
1 Tablespoon Flax Seeds, Ground
1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

2 – 4 Tablespoons Canola Oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and use 1 or 2 tablespoons of the canola oil to generously grease a baking sheet. Don’t be shy; you need to really smear it on so that nothing stick later.

Peel and grate the potatoes, placing them in a colander in the sink or set over a large bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and salt, to prevent browning and extract some of the water, and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes. Squeeze the potato shreds with your hands to extract the excess water. Don’t be shy, really wring those spuds out, because too much water now will mean less crispy latkes later. Transfer the significantly drier potatoes into a [dry] large bowl.

Cut the scallions into one-inch lengths, and add to the potato. If your scallions are on the chunkier side, slice them in halves or quarters first. Add in the parsley, ginger, flour, ground flax, and pepper, and toss to combine.

Scoop out about 1/4 cup of potato mixture for each latke, and use your hands to really press it all together. Place each latke on the prepared sheet fairly close together since they don’t spread. Flatten each mound down as thin as possible to get crispier results. Brush the tops of the pancakes with 1 – 2 tablespoons of oil, and again, don’t be skimpy about it. Side your sheet of latkes into the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. At that point, flip them all over, and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately, with vegan sour cream if desired.

You can also make them ahead of time; Prepare as stated up to this point, but let them cool completely. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge until you’re ready to serve, and then just pop them in the toaster oven to warm through.

Makes 8 – 12 Medium-Sized Latkes

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