Fat of the Land

The original “liquid gold” was not a processed cheese food. The true gilded elixir is every bubbie’s secret ingredient, the indescribable element that always made her matzo balls better than the rest. A staple of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking, schmaltz is made from rendered chicken fat cooked with onions. Even in the height of the farm-to-table cooking craze when duck fat fries were all the rage, this humble grease never gained more attention. To this day, I have yet to see a single vegan alternative offered. In a world where we have plant-based ghee, browned butter, and niter kibbeh, I’m not asking, I’m demanding: WHY.

Vegan shmaltz is everything you want as a cooking catalyst and nothing you don’t. It’s free of cholesterol, completely kosher, full of flavor, and won’t leave your kitchen smelling like a barnyard for a week. As a nice side benefit, you’ll end up with a tidy pile of caramelized onions to lavish over meatless burgers, toast, scrambles, pasta, and anything else that could use a little umami assist.

Step up your matzo ball game by making this easy swap to replace the bland vegetable oil originally called for, but don’t stop there. Anywhere you might use melted butter, try using schmaltz instead. It will open up a whole new world of riches, bathed in a golden glow.

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Pearls Before Wine

Given the choice of any bottle on the shelf, red wine is probably the last variety I would reach for when I want a drink. Why, then, do I keep buying it regularly, and sometimes even more often than my preferred whites and roses? Few ingredients can unlock such a wide range of flavors, transforming an average dish into something spectacular. Red wine is my secret ingredient for many savory recipes.

The science behind cooking with wine really is fascinating. The alcohol content is almost completely nullified, leaving behind great taste without the buzz. Much like salt, the alcohol itself doesn’t exactly add to the final flavor but instead helps other elements taste more like themselves. It adds acidity for brightness, and umami for greater depth and savory richness.

Although you shouldn’t cook with something you wouldn’t drink, the very best bottles are not great cooking wine, especially when it comes to reds. Your best bets are a merlot, cabernet sauvignon, or red blend, and should cost somewhere between $3 to $15 a bottle. Choose a young (not aged) wine with low tannins, since these can impart a bitter aftertaste.

The best red wine to cook with, of course, is whatever you have leftover! That’s where this simple, comforting, yet dazzlingly luxurious side dish comes in. Acini di pepe take center stage, which are really just a fancy way of referring to pearl couscous in Italian. The Translation means “seeds of pepper,” which makes a final flourish of cracked black pepper only fitting.

Balancing out these intense, robust flavors, candy cap mushrooms introduce an unmistakably sweet flavor, shockingly much like maple syrup with an added earthy undertone. The combination is complex, nuanced, and truly greater than the sum of its parts. Even if you’re not much for red wines either, you’ll want to keep some on hand to whip this dish up in 15 minutes flat.

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20 Soup-erb Vegan Soup Recipes

Every season is soup season if you ask me, but January is legitimately designated as National Soup Month. Considering the colder temperatures, it really is the best time to cozy up with a hearty bowlful, be it creamy, brothy, chunky, or otherwise. Just like salads, almost everything can be categorized as “soup” if you try hard enough, so where does the intrepid, undecided cook start?

When you want to get something on the stove without stressing over the best recipe, I’ve got you covered. These are my 20 most popular plant-based soup recipes that are all tried and true. I’ve made each of them scores of times myself, and if you don’t believe me, the glowing comments don’t lie.

Pull out your biggest stock pot and get ready to stew up a double batch. These foolproof formulas will bring you comfort and joy all year long.

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Perfect Pairings

Anyone who appreciates good food knows that a careful balance of harmonious and contrasting flavors is essential. That starts with choosing not only the best raw ingredients, but ones that work well together. Similar to how you might pair wine with food, olive oil has so many unique characteristics that can make or break a meal, it deserves particularly careful consideration.

While there are no hard and fast rules on the subject, consider the following guidelines before heating up your frying pan.

Intensity is probably the most important element to bear in mind. A mild, buttery olive oil would be lost in a strong, garlicky stew, while a peppery and assertive option could easily overpower a delicate green salad.

In general, extra virgin olive oils fall into three categories of intensity: mild, medium, or robust.

  • Mild olive oils have a delicate, buttery, or floral taste, with a light peppery finish. This is typically what I choose for baking, since it’s a healthier option than many other neutral vegetable oils, without imparting a strong taste itself. It’s also great for popping popcorn or making mayonnaise.
  • Medium olive oils can be bitter and pungent, but fade to the background quickly, with a light peppery finish. This is my pick for sauteing or roasting vegetables, making pesto, and tossing pasta.
  • Robust olive oils are on the upper end of intensity, often with a strong, lingering peppery bite. I prefer these options for dipping bread, caramelizing onions, and slow simmering braises.

Provenance is a large contributing factor to the flavor of the olive oil. Beyond what it says on the bottle, you can expect certain countries to produce a predictable range of tastes due to the climate and soil conditions.

  • Spanish olive oil is typically a golden yellow color with a fruity, subtly nutty flavor.
  • French olive oil is often more mild, pale green, and overall light.
  • Italian olive oil tends to be a darker green with herbaceous, grassy notes

Don’t forget that the time of harvest also affects the taste, with earlier pressings being more bitter and pungent, while later batches become more buttery and smooth.

It’s a lot to juggle when you just want to make a simple dish. Thankfully, you can’t go too far wrong; even if it’s not the most complimentary pairing, simply starting with quality European olive oil ensures delicious results every time.

The Flavor Your Life campaign aims to educate North American consumers about authentic extra virgin olive oil from Europe. Flavor Your Life is empowering consumers by educating them about the rich history and delicious properties that these oils display—and sharing the delicious extra virgin olive oil culinary culture that’s been harvested in Europe for generations.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Flavor Your Life. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Discomfort Food

Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t make yourself at home. This won’t be a nice, soothing, easy read. No; this is the opposite of soup for the soul. Sorry to spoil it for you, but isn’t a classic happy ending either.

There is no foolproof recipe for success. Don’t be fooled by the ratings or praise; sometimes, even the most sound advice, the easiest path, the most obvious choice, is doomed to fail. It’s not you. It’s not even the recipe. I don’t know what it is- Bad luck? Destiny, or fate? Some things can’t be explained away by science or reasoning. Life is unpredictable like that, both infuriatingly incomprehensible and exhilaratingly changeable.

Even presumed constants are forever in flux. That’s to say nothing of the random accidents, the drops, drips, splashes, and spills. The bumps and bruises, the cuts and burns. Everything that can go wrong, at some point or another, will, and sometimes all at once.

Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Dishes blow up in the oven like a volcano in a pressure cooker. Stews overflow their stockpots to leave impermeable stains on the countertop.

Shit happens, and shit happens to all of us. At least, when it comes to food, you can clean up to try again another day… Or just order takeout.

Take solace in this heaping serving of discomfort food; you’re not alone.

Ode to Avocados

Prized as a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, avocados have been cherished since the early Aztecs first harvested the wild fruit over 10,000 years ago. While that’s an impressive history, proving its long term staying power, I’m disquieted to imagine any point in time that this most precious, indispensable stable didn’t exist. Rarely does a day pass without some form of avocado appearing on my personal menu, and often more than once. I hate to play favorites when there are so many incredible fresh finds out there… But I know avocado is the one I couldn’t live without.

Once the underdog of the produce world, avocados have enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity only during the later half of the 20st century. Now ubiquitous, Americans alone account for over $2.6 billion in avocado sales annually. No wonder millennials can’t afford to buy houses anymore. The buttery flesh may be green, but its really worth it’s weight in gold.

As National Avocado Day looms ever nearer on July 31st, the whole event seems curiously redundant. Don’t we already pay our respects at the shrine of the ahuacatl more religiously than most conventional deities? I don’t really need to suggest a celebratory round of guacamole, as if it wasn’t the most obvious serving suggestion in the book? Besides, you have a whole separate holiday to rock out with your guac out, on September 16th.

There’s no wrong way to eat an avocado. In fact, my favorite method is to scoop it right out of of shell with a spoon, gilded with tiny pinch of flaky salt over the top. If you’d like to pull out all the stops for this party and try something special, however, I do have a few more ideas that are sure to make any avocado lover swoon.

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