Wordless Wednesday: Munch and Brunch

Bistro Vonish – Monte Cristo Sandwich and Chickpea Scramble
Brunch Bird (CLOSED) – Bird’s Nest
Capital Taco – Vegan Breakfast Taco and Caesar Chavez Taco
Masa y Mas – Mushroom Tacos, Brussels Sprouts, Guacamole and Chips
Counter Culture (CLOSED) – BLT Salad

Goldie Lox and the Three Beets

Once upon a time, there was a little vegan that was invited to brunch. At the table in the kitchen, there were three types of cured vegetables. The little vegan was hungry. They tasted the tomato topping from the first bowl.

“This one is too fishy!” they exclaimed.

So, they tasted the carrot strips from the second bowl.

“This one is too bland,” they said.

Finally, they tasted the golden topping in the last bowl.

“Ahhh, this one is just right,” they said happily, and piled it high on an everything bagel with cream cheese.

And that’s the story of how Goldie Lox came to be.

There are many vegan smoked salmon options in the sea of plant-iful alternatives, most of which are really quite good, but none that I would crave. Carrot lox have come close, though are naturally just a touch too sweet, which overrides some of the more subtle seasoning.

One day, while fawning over a beautiful bouquet of leafy gold beets, it hit me. The pun was too perfect; it was meant to be.

Briny but not super salty, oceanic but not overtly fishy, silky and not mushy, rich but not unctuous. It’s a delicate balance that defines the best smoked salmon substitute. Mild-mannered gold beets make the best base, shining from beneath any garnishes with a gorgeous golden glow as a side benefit.

Beyond bagels, consider greater serving adventures, such as…

  • Tossing into a crisp green salad
  • Chopping finely and mixing with cream cheese and mayonnaise for an unbeatable dip
  • Wrapping around cucumber or carrot sticks for a killer app
  • Lavishing over avocado toast
  • Mixing with pasta and cream sauce
  • Blending with almonds or cashews to make a rich pate
  • Folded into an eggless omelette

While this fairy tale will definitely end with “happily ever after,” when you have Goldie Lox show up for brunch, that’s only the beginning of this story.

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Ruffle Some Feathers

For all its ready-made convenience, frozen phyllo dough can still be a beast to work with. Forget to thaw it out overnight and you’ll be stuck waiting for hours until it’s pliable. Wait too long, however, and it’ll become as brittle as a dried out twig. Bake it too close to the heating element and the top will burn before the center ever feels a blush of warmth. Under-cook a carefully layered tower, and all your intricate assembly can turn into one murky morass of pastry. It’s enough to make you want to crumble the whole sheet into a ball.

Well, have I got the dish for you! Ruffled milk pie is exactly the catharsis for anyone that’s struggled to deal with fickle phyllo. Traditionally a sweet type of galatopia, which in the simplest terms is just a Greek milk pie. Sometimes there’s semolina involved, sometimes it takes the form of a crustless baked pudding, but the best ones involve that gossamer-thin golden pastry, phyllo.

Before you slam the freezer door shut on this idea, hear me out. Rather than stacking up sheet after sheet in a precarious towering column, all you need to do is roll them into little rosettes, fit them into a pan, and bake without a worry in the world. Since the bottom is immersed in custard, the lower sheets stay soft like bread pudding, while the tops that jut out become shatteringly crisp, without any careful oven calibration required.

Naturally, I could never do anything completely traditional, so my version is savory rather than sweet, designed as a showstopping entree for any brunch, garden party, celebration, or casual affair. It’s so quick and versatile that there’s no reason why you couldn’t just whip it up on some random Tuesday, too. A blend of chickpea flour and nutritional yeast gives it a distinctly eggy flavor, like a quiche or frittata with the crust on top.

Fresh mint and lemon zest add bright pops of flavor in every bite, highlighting tender fresh asparagus that’s woven throughout the matrix of phyllo and custard. Any seasonal vegetable would be fantastic here:

  • Consider peas or chopped artichokes for a change of pace while spring is in high gear.
  • For summer, switch it up with diced zucchini, green beans, corn kernels, or bell peppers.
  • When fall comes around, beets, diced pumpkin, or acorn squash would make a vibrant splash.
  • Finally, consider some wintry options like shredded Brussels sprouts, carrots, or chopped kale to see you through the colder months.

There’s truly never a bad time or place for such a versatile, deeply satisfying, and reasonably healthy meal. It’s certainly a good reason to embrace phyllo again, even if you’ve been burned before. This one is perfect for beginners and believers alike.

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