Wordless Wednesday: Bar Verde

The Abuelito

Smoked Huitlacoche Croquetas

Paloma

Maitake Tempura Tacos

Huitlacoche Flautas

Hearts of Palm Ceviche

Guey Mojito

Esquites

Bar Verde
65 2nd Street
New York, NY 10003

Dog Days of Summer

It’s hard to imagine a world without hot dogs. Such a critical touchstone in American culture transcends the boundaries of age, income, and upbringing. Everyone knows and can appreciate hot dogs on some level, even if they aren’t overt fans. Indeed, as variants on more highly seasoned sausages, the art of tube meat has been around for centuries, making a brief cameo appearance in Homer’s Odyssey, no less. The dog that we all know and love today, however, has only been around since the 1600’s, invented by a butcher in Germany.

Yes, this all-American staple, like so many others, is not American at all! It was imported with the immigrants making it and quickly became adopted as an affordable mealtime staple. Given their popularity, versatility, and the fact that they don’t actually resemble any animal known to mankind, I find it strange that vegan options are so lacking. There aren’t a ton of choices, especially in mainstream grocery stores. Quality has improved dramatically in recent years, but they’re still highly processed, and if you’re avoiding soy or gluten, you’re simply out of luck.

Homemade vegan hot dogs are a lot easier to make than you may think! My version only takes 10 minutes of steaming before they’re ready to grill. Unlike seitan, there’s no kneading, no blending, no fancy equipment at all. Humble chickpea flour is the high-protein, high-fiber base for our upgraded franks, making them gluten-free, too. A tiny pinch of xanthan gum lends just the right firm yet springy texture, not quite chewy, yet perfectly toothsome.

What defines a hot dog is not so much the base, but the seasonings. Some are more smoky, some are more sweet, but polls show that most people generally favor a balanced, beefy taste that’s slightly salty, and gently spiced, but not so much that you’d think of it as such. As with hamburgers, much of the overall experience comes from the condiments and toppings, which means that less is more when crafting the ideal meaty vehicle.

Maybe you can guess where I’m going with this by now. Sugimoto shiitake mushroom powder is the only ingredient capable of creating the perfect meatless hot dog dupe.

How is it possible that shiitake powder, made from 100% shiitake with no additives, fillers, or preservatives, could taste like anything other than mushrooms? It’s all about umami, which is simply savory, transcending the boundaries that would otherwise separate the plant and animal kingdom. So much of what turns off mushroom-haters is the texture, which becomes a non-factor when dried, ground, and integrated seamlessly into other foods. Used as seasoning in the dry hot dog mix, you only get a juicy, substantial bite, sealed with a kiss by the smoky sear of the grill.

Serving Suggestions

I like to keep mine classic, with minimal toppings piled into a soft white bun, but the beauty of a proper hot dog is that it can pair beautifully with an infinite variety of garnishes. Here are some ideas for servings your dogs in style:

  • Sauerkraut and mustard
  • Chili and cheese
  • Caramelized onions
  • Guacamole, pickled jalapeno, and salsa
  • Sliced tomatoes, relish, and shredded lettuce
  • BBQ sauce and vegan bacon

There are no bad choices here! Dress your hot dog like you would any sandwich; exactly as you please.

Make Ahead Advice

Hot dogs are classic party food. To feed a group, you don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, which is why these are such a great option to prep ahead of time to simply heat and eat later.

    1. You can double, triple, or quadruple the recipe for a crowd, but you may need to steam them in batches. May sure you don’t crowd them in the steamer, so there’s room for the hot air to circulate around each one.
    2. Cool after steaming and store the hot dogs in zip top bags, squeezing out as much air as possible before sealing. You can store them in the fridge for 5 – 7 days like this, or toss them into the freezer to keep for at least 6 months.
    3. When you’re ready to serve, just toss them on the grill. If you’re preparing them from frozen, let them thaw at room temperature first, or defrost in the microwave.
    4. Leftovers can be stored in exactly the same way as the plain steamed dogs. You can reheat them in the microwave for 1 – 2 minutes, or toaster oven for 2 – 4 minutes, until hot all the way through.

Have You Tried Cooking with Hot Dogs?

Don’t forget, hot dogs can be so much more than a stand-alone entree. They’re an excellent source of protein with unlimited potential for use in other recipes. Some of my favorites are:

Other dishes that hot dogs would be great in include:

Hot dogs do seem like a natural pairing for a prime summer day, to be enjoyed in the sunshine with an icy beverage, perhaps after a quick dip in the pool. The good news, though, is that hot dogs never go out of season. Long after you bundle up the grill and winterize the yard, this recipe will still serve you well for the colder months ahead.

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Pasta Gone Bananas

Following the success of my sweet banana flour experiments, I knew there was still more ground to cover. Since green bananas have more starch than sugar, being harvested and processed before they have time to ripen, the flavor inherently lends itself to more savory preparations.

Little did I know that banana pasta was a legitimate thing when I embarked on this mini project. Alas, I couldn’t find any hints about their formula, but it wasn’t too difficult to dissect. This was all before I got my trusty pasta maker, which makes it an excellent low-tech way to ease into gluten-free pasta making if you’re not ready for the full investment. I believe it could be adapted to the machine with a little tweaking of ratios; if you give that a shot, let me know!

Is Banana Flour Pasta Healthy?

Compared to whole wheat pasta, banana pasta is higher in protein, lower in fat and calories, and even cheaper to produce. As an added bonus, it’s keto– and paleo-friendly, too. This is a pasta everyone can enjoy, regardless of allergies, intolerances, and dietary restrictions.

What’s The Best Way to Serve Banana Flour Pasta?

  • As seen here, it doesn’t take much to dress up homemade pasta of any sort. I went with a generous handful of garlic sauteed in olive oil, with crisp green asparagus and snap peas thrown in at the very last minute. It’s simple, fresh, and full of flavor.
  • You can’t go wrong with a classic red sauce, vodka sauce, cheese sauce, alfredo, or pesto. Rich and creamy or light and bright; all flavors are complimentary to this fairly neutral base.
  • For those hot summer days, don’t forget pasta salad! Immediately shock the cooked pasta in ice water to stop the cooking, then toss with vegetables and your favorite vinaigrette for a picnic-ready side dish or entree.

Can Banana Flour Pasta Be Made In Advance?

  • You bet! You can store the prepared dough in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to 24 hours before rolling out.
  • Once shaped, you can freeze the pasta on a sheet pan, arranged in a single layer. Once solidly frozen, transfer the pieces to a zip top bag and store in the freezer for up to 1 year. Cook normally without thawing.

Honestly, the hardest part of this whole recipe is having the patience to cut and shape the pasta. You could always skip the bow ties and just cut straight spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine to speed ahead to the good part: Dinner time!

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Macha, Macha, Wo/Man

I distinctly remember my first encounter with salsa macha because it was a completely confounding experience. Staring at this strange, violently red jar of oily seeds, it was introduced to me as “seed salsa.” Up to that point, “salsa” had only been used to describe mixtures of finely minced vegetables, sometimes fruits, accompanying Mexican food. Usually tomato-based, fresh and punchy, I couldn’t connect the dots between that condiment and this one.

Taking the tiniest spoonful to test the waters, I watched rivulets of glistening toasted seeds ooze down my plate, soaking into everything it touched. One bite, and I was hooked. Instantly regretting that timid serving, I bellied up to the bar again and again, dousing my entire meal until my lips tingled and my nose turned red from the heat. It’s the good kind of pain the unlocks all sorts of endorphins, creating an undeniably addictive experience.

The allure owes something about the combination of textures and tastes, with toothsome, crunchy seeds tumbled together in this slick miasma of fiery, nutty, tangy oil. It doesn’t sound like it should work on paper, but it exceeds all expectations in real life. Suspend doubt long enough to give it a try, stop trying to put it to words; you’ll understand in an instant.

What is salsa macha?

Consider it Mexican chili crisp; spicy, savory, and impossibly addictive. Salsa macha is an oil-based condiment that goes with just about everything. It was born in the Mexican states of Veracruz and Oaxaca. As one might guess, the name is derived from the feminine version of “macho,” resulting in gender ambiguity, and its base recipe is ripe for tweaking.

Naturally, I had to take my rendition in a completely inauthentic direction that most people would say has gone off the rails. Sorry, not sorry. It all started with an extra bottle of everything bagel seasoning, when I realized that half the ingredients I needed were all neatly bundled together within. Why not take that idea and run with it? Thus, Everything Bagel Salsa Macha was born.

Most salsa macha recipes are at least slightly blended after cooking, but I wanted mine totally chunky and extra crunchy. You could always pulse the mixture briefly in the food processor to break it down a bit, or completely puree it for a smoother sauce. Make it your own! The only rules for salsa macha is that it must contain chilies, seeds, nuts, and oil. Everything else is up for interpretation.

How can you use salsa macha?

Basically, anything edible is a viable canvas for this chunky, seedy salsa. A few of my favorites and top suggestions for this particular variation include:

  • Bagel with cream cheese
  • Avocado toast
  • Tofu scramble
  • Hummus
  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Rice pilaf
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables

Like some of the best things in life, the flavors in salsa macha continue to develop and deepen over time. It’s fantastic right away, enjoyed while still warm, but continues to improve over the coming days. Don’t try to keep it too long, though; the garlic and seeds prevent it from keeping longer than 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge without turning rancid. Of course, that deadline is unlikely to pose a problem. I can barely keep a jar around for more than three days.

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Fig Newton’s Laws

Physics are not my strong suit, but I do know one thing is for sure: Sir Isaac Newton understood the laws of cookies. It was all cleverly disguised as the principles that govern motion, but I can see through that ploy. It’s all written out, clear as day.

Law #1: A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion, unless it is acted upon by an external force.

Unless you start preheating the oven, it will never get hot. These cookies won’t bake themselves, you know.

Law #2: The force acting upon an object is equal to the mass of that object multiplied by its acceleration.

A rolling pin must be wielded with both gentle yet firm pressure to properly flatten the dough.

Law #3: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Though tempting, if you eat a whole batch of cookies by yourself, you WILL get a stomachache.

Whether or not Fig Newtons were named for the mathematician is still up for debate, though we can all agree that they’re logically sound snacks. They’ve been around since the 1850’s, changing very little over the years. Take a wholesome, lightly sweetened pastry dough and wrap it around a whole fruit filling for surefire success. Sure, they’re not as glamorous as chocolate-coated, sugar-encrusted, or sprinkle-topped sweets, but they’re deeply comforting in a way that such flighty trends can’t even touch.

For their latest evolution, I’m bringing healthy back and taking out the gluten and refined sugars. With a touch of lemon juice mixed with the lightly simmered fig jam, these humble little bars taste so much brighter and fresher than anything sitting around on grocery store shelves.

I think Mr. Newton himself would be proud.

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Slimy Yet Satisfying

Like many great inventions, this recipe was borne of an abject failure. Any reasonable person would have admitted defeat and tossed the initial results without a second thought, but then again, no one has ever accused me of such distinction.

It all started with a used pasta maker, the catalyst for a deep-dive into all sorts of noodles, common and obscure, simple and complex, to see what I could churn out at home. After working through soba and pappardelle and more, I hit upon rokube. Served on Tsushima Island, this local specialty is made of sweet potato flour mixed with grated yams as a means of creating more nutritious noodles during times of scarcity. Though rudimentary recipes do exist, they aren’t well detailed, leading to some very questionable cuisine.

Obviously, sweet potato flour is different from sweet potato starch, and perhaps they meant actual sweet potatoes instead of what I assumed were nagaimo. Thus, my attempt was doomed from the start. Nagaimo are known for having a uniquely slimy texture when grated or pureed; also known as “neba neba” in Japanese. This gooey mouthfeel is difficult for many western palates to accept, so be forewarned that what follows may not suit all tastes.

So, merrily, I measured out all the wrong ingredients and was surprised to see that it didn’t work at all- What a shock! Though the dough seemed stiff and difficult to knead, it refused to come out of the nozzle and when at rest, it appeared to liquefy. It was such a bizarre consistency that it defies easy explanation.

This is where I should have given up, but thrifty and scrap-happy cook that I am, I racked my brain for any way to salvage the mess. How about… Drying it out in the oven? Sure, why not? Into a greased sheet pan it went and it did indeed set into a sheet of odd, floppy, white and translucent starch. Next, still stuck on the idea of noodles, it only made logical sense to slice it into ribbons and proceed as planned.

Shockingly, flying in the face of all common sense, it actually worked. The strands cooked up as intended, remaining intact yet tender, and incredibly, extremely chewy. Very neba neba.

Served chilled and topped with additional nagaimo, this is a taste experience for the adventurous, seeking something refreshing and cool that offers textures not otherwise found in most common cookery. Slippery, springy, and slightly gooey, you must be able to embrace slime to appreciate it. Other neba neba ingredients can be added to enhance the sensation, like natto and sliced fresh okra.

There are probably easier ways to arrive at such a result, but through the process of experimentation, I’m just happy to land at such satisfying end results. It never hurts to keep trying and pushing forward, no matter the questionable path!

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