Beaned By Lucky Edamame

Soybeans have long been celebrated as a high-protein superfood, but beyond their nutritional prowess, did you know that they can chase away demons, too? Japanese people have taken advantage of this for centuries with stellar results: Not a single demonic incident since setsubun!

What Is Setsubun?

Celebrated on February 3rd, setsubun means “seasonal division,” marking the end of winter and beginning of spring according to the old Japanese calendar. Since I’d do anything to speed through this dark period every year, I’m all for that! Many people have come to describe it as the “bean-throwing festival” in reference to the most important annual tradition.

Mamemaki, “bean scattering,” is the practice of throwing dried soybeans either out the front door or at a family member wearing a demon mask to drive away bad fortune. I’d always argue that it’s more fun to throw food at loved ones, but your mileage my vary. After cleansing the home of evil spirits, you’re then supposed to eat the leftover soybeans, counting out one for every year of your life, plus one more for good luck in the coming year.

This time around, let’s make soybeans that are so addictively spicy and savory, you’ll only want to throw more of them into your mouth.

Seven is a lucky number in Japanese culture, which is why ehomaki (large, uncut sushi rolls) are filled with exactly seven ingredients on this day, too. Shichimi togarashi, a spice blend made with seven components, is the perfect seasoning to follow suit.

What’s Sichimi Togarashi Made Of?

Also know as simply shichimi, there are no hard and fast rules for what makes the cut, but most blends include the following:

  • Sansho pepper or Sichuan peppercorns
  • Chilies
  • Ginger
  • Orange, mandarin, or yuzu zest
  • Sesame seeds
  • Poppy seeds
  • Nori

Use it anywhere you would black pepper for a bolder, more intense heat and complex flavor overall.

How to Make Crispy Soybeans

The dried soybeans traditionally used for setsubun are what we might refer to as soy nuts here. Personally, I much prefer the fresh, buttery taste of green edamame instead. The trick to getting them crispy is to cook them low and slow, gently removing moisture without burning the outsides. Believe it or not, your air fryer is just the tool for this job! Most air fryers have dehydrator settings now, offering temperatures as low as 90 degrees. Naturally, you could use a conventional dehyrator if you have one handy.

Demons had better keep their distance when these tiny fireballs are on the table; they really do bring the heat! Smoldering with the spice of powerful chili peppers, every bite has a resounding crunch and zesty finish that will bring you back for more. Pack them up as healthy snacks on the go, enjoy with a glass of sake, or eat them like popcorn while you Netflix and chill.

More Ideas For Using Crunchy Edamame

Aside from just eating the crispy beans out of hand, they’re an incredibly versatile ingredient in many other dishes.

  • Toss into leafy green salads
  • Top soups and stews
  • Crush roughly to use instead of breadcrumbs
  • Mix into energy bars
  • Use instead of pine nuts to sprinkle over pasta or risotto

鬼は外! 福は内! – Devils Out! Fortune In!

Slam the door shut on misfortune this year and eat your way to better luck. Crispy shichimi edamame will never do you wrong.

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Congee Is The Cure

Have you ever eaten something that was spicy enough to wake the dead? Though not for the weak of stomach, that might be just what the doctor ordered.

That was the literal inspiration for this recipe, glutinous rice porridge, AKA congee. Of course, the original dish is incredibly mild, sometimes seasoned only with a pinch of salt, if that. Meant to soothe an upset stomach, it’s classic sick day food that’s easy to digest and gently nurse the unwell back to health. Now I’m beginning to think that the opposite approach might be more effective.

Mo Dao Zu Shi (魔道祖师) is far from a food-focused donghua, but stick with me here. The protagonist, Wei Wuxian, is known to make his meals unbearably spicy, to the point that you’d think one’s spirit would depart their body after a single bite. This turns out to be an asset that ultimately cures those suffering from corpse poisoning.

There’s good sense to back this theory up. Hot peppers have genuine medicinal properties granted by that characteristic burn. Capsaicin is the compound responsible for its culinary prowess and health benefits.

What are the benefits of capsaicin?

  • For short term pain relief, biting into a blisteringly hot food releases endorphins, creating a mild “high” and dampening other discomforting sensations, like headaches, joint pain, and beyond.
  • Chili peppers are great for improving heart health! Studies have shown they can reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and increase blood flow.
  • Stress less with a calming dose of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). Deficiencies in these vitamins can lead to added anxiety or trouble regulating moods over time.
  • Have tissues handy because this stuff will clear out your sinuses and ease congestion. Plus, capsaicin has antibacterial properties which are effective in fighting and preventing chronic sinus infections.

Most importantly, this is medicine you’ll WANT to take.

Toppings for congee are entirely up to the eater. Creamy rice porridge can do no wrong as a gracious base for anything your heart desires. Aromatic ginger and garlic are a classic starting foundation, amplified by savory, salty soy sauce.

Consider the following ideas to customize you own invigorating and restorative hellbroth:

  • Shiitake mushrooms are brilliant here, chopped finely to infuse every grain with umami.
  • To satiate a heartier appetite, bulk it up with plant proteins, like baked or braised tofu, or cooked beans.
  • Add textural contrast with toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds.

The only non-negotiable is the chili crisp. This is what transforms a bowl of mush into a downright addictive meal. While it’s tempting to eat it straight from the jar, try to keep at least a 1:1 ratio of chili crisp to congee, for the sake of your stomach.

Whether it’s a cold, flu, or corpse poisoning, this flaming hot chili crisp congee will cure what ails you.

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Radicalized Radicchio

I do not like radicchio.

Full stop.

Maybe that’s not the most enticing way to start a post about a radicchio recipe, but I’m nothing if not honest here.

Radicchio, miniature heads of tender red leaf lettuce, have a delicate, feathery appearance. They seem ethereal, soft as if they could float away, yet eye-catching for their molted mulberry hue.

Bitterness is not a bad thing in itself; it’s essential for contrast and balance in a dish, to fully appreciate sweetness when it rings true. The bitterness in radicchio, however, is something else. It’s bitter like a freezing rain whipping in a cold wind. It’s bitter like Ebenezer Scrooge before his encounter with three spirits.

Radicchio macro

How can you tame the bitterness of radicchio?

All is not lost when radicchio darkens your vegetable crisper. The secret is really quite simple:

  1. Cut it into thin strips or finely shave it.
  2. Soak it in ice water for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Drain and thoroughly dry.

That’s it! Like magic, the once biting acridity has been de-fanged. Now the question remains…

What’s the best way to cook radicchio?

Actually, that’s a trick question. While it is suitable for stir-frying, sauteing, braising, and roasting, I happen to find the milder version quite pleasant raw.

Radicchio Purple Potato Salad

Allow me to introduce: The Purple Potato Salad.

Unlike conventional takes on the concept, the potatoes are roasted with autumnal herbs and spices for a warm finish and crispy edges. It’s still all about contrasts here, with fresh radicchio providing a tender-crisp bite against the creamy flesh of purple sweet potatoes. More floral and fragrant than their orange brethren, they’re worth seeking out for a truly showstopping magenta masterpiece. Nutty, buttery roasted chestnuts round out any remaining sharp edges to the radicchio, coupled with the crunch of toasted pine nuts. Like any thoughtful salad, it’s not just a random pile of leftover ingredients, but a carefully assembled composition.

How can you make this recipe your own?

Think seasonally and you can’t go too far wrong. Other complimentary additions could include:

Radicchio Purple Potato Salad

Still think radicchio is beyond redemption?

Take it from a reformed hater: It’s all about proper prep. Anything can be made delicious with the right care and attention. If this Radicchio and Roasted Purple Potato Salad doesn’t change your mind, I don’t know what will.

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How to Build a Vegan Cheese Board

For any gathering big or small, a well-appointed cheeseboard has always seemed like the height of sophistication. Arranged just so over a distressed wood plank, discrete piles of sweet and savory morsels sparkle like jewels in a treasure chest, waiting to be plundered. Carefully curated selections manage to dance in step no matter the pairing, as if they were all destined for this stage. How is it possible to create such a winning cheeseboard at home, with little experience, limited budget, or particular tastes?

If you’ve ever enjoyed cheese and crackers together, believe it or not, you’re already an expert. Putting together a selection of snacks for grazing isn’t rocket science. Start small and keep building as the occasion demands, breaking it down into five distinct categories for easy execution.

1 – 3 Types of Vegan Cheese

This is the star of the show here so don’t hold back. Plan on at least 1 – 2 ounces per person as an appetizer or snack. For a small party, it’s perfectly fine to focus on just one superlative cheese, but it’s always nice to offer different options to compare and contrast. Think of them in three categories while shopping or cooking:

Something Sweet

Personally, I wouldn’t go with desserts like cookies or truffles, but a more moderate, natural source of sweetness. The idea is to help balance the savory notes of the cheeses, rather than overpower them. That means relying on nature’s candy with no added sugars:

  • Fresh fruit (grapes, sliced apples or pears, berries)
  • Dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs)
  • Jam or preserves

Something Salty

There’s a lot of potential overlap in this category with the following, so you can pick one or the other for a smaller spread. For concentrated pops of salty contrast, I’d suggest at least one of these:

  • Pickles
  • Marinated artichokes
  • Olives
  • Capers

Something Crunchy

Texture is critical! It’s especially important to have something crispy when you have a soft, spreadable cheese on deck. There should be a vehicle for any schmear, and maybe even a crunchy topper to finish it off:

Something Neutral

There’s a whole lot going on with the rest of the board, so it’s nice to provide some blank space as a palate cleanser. These are also great options for those that really want to put the cheese first, but not just shove a whole plain wedge of it in their mouths. Use these as fillers when you have blank space:

  • Soft bread
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Cucumber slices

BONUS: Charcuterie

If this was a genuine charcuterie board, you’d want to go heavy on the sliced plant-based meats. That, however, is a whole separate topic in and of itself. Consider it a wildcard addition if you want some extra protein to make it more of a meal.

Don’t Forget…!

There’s plenty of overlap that exists and you shouldn’t let these simplified lists restrict your creativity! Consider candied nuts for a sweet, salty, and crunchy component, for example, or a spicy pepper jam that’s more hot than sweet.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with paring it down to the bare essentials; all you need is a really great cheese and hearty crackers to start a party on the right foot. Perfect for the holidays or everyday entertaining, a plant-based cheeseboard offers a little bit of something for everyone.

We Need to Chaat

Chaat is more than just a dish or singular culinary concept; chaat is a whole lifestyle. In much the same way that almost anything could be defined as a salad, with minimal rationalization, everything and anything is chaat. In fact, salad could qualify as chaat and vice versa. You could eat chaat for every meal, even though it’s commonly thought of as a snack. It’s a solo savory treat and also a party starter. Everywhere you go in India, chaat is found everywhere tucked away in back alleys, hawked on the street, packed into kids’ lunchboxes, and spread lavishly across top restaurant tables.

So… What Is Chaat?

Known for its aromatic spices and tangy sauces, chaat is an entire genre of Indian street food that offers a symphony of exotic tastes and textures. The range of possibilities spans beyond conventional limits; there are no wrong answers. Every region has certain affinities or specialties, but that’s only the beginning of the story. Chaat is a living recipe that continues to evolve with every subsequent cook that puts their own spin on it.

How Can You Build Your Own Chaat?

Formulas can be simple or complex, ranging from a half dozen ingredients to a list that’s longer than your average CVS receipt. The key is to balance contrasting flavors and textures by including elements that are crunchy, creamy, spicy, sour, fresh, sweet, and savory. When crafting your own chaat, here are the basics to start with and some suggestions for making it your own.

All About That Base

Carbs are the foundation to build upon, which usually means potatoes for me. That’s why I call mine aloo chaat anyhow, but that doesn’t mean we can’t invite more players to the party. Cut carbs and swap half or all for roasted zucchini or cauliflower. Switch it up with sweet potatoes, or dig other root vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga, or turnips. Other traditional selections include smashed samosas and crushed papad.

Veg Out

Consider this the salad portion of the program. Raw vegetables are chopped finely for a refreshing foil to the often heavy base. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions are common. If you want a shortcut, you can always pick up some prepared pico de gallo, or any chunky fresh salsa, and no one would be the wiser.

Awesome Sauce

Chutney will never go out of style. It’s like an accessory that goes with everything and pulls the whole outfit together. You don’t have to choose just one, either; stack them to make a bigger statement. Top choices include cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, and mango chutney, which are respectively herbaceous, tangy, and sweet to make a well-rounded trio. Don’t forget a drizzle of unsweetened yogurt for a bit of creamy richness.

Crunch Time

This is what I consider the fun stuff that really sets chaat apart from the average pile of foodstuffs. Sev, which are fine strands of deep fried chickpea noodles, are most popular. They can be a bit tricky to find in the US, so I like to use wheat-based crispy chow mien noodles instead. Crunchy chickpeas, either store bought or homemade, are another excellent addition especially for adding more plant-based protein. Don’t forget toasted nuts or seeds, pomegranate arils, and even crispy rice cereal.

The Spice Is Right

Arguably the single most important component of any chaat is the chaat masala, AKA chaat spice blend. This one is distinctive for its heavy use of kala namak, also known as “black salt” even though it’s a light pink color in real life, which contributes an unmistakable sulfur aroma. This is the primary culprit for eggy flavor in vegan scrambles, but it takes on all new life alongside a pungent blend of toasted spices. Already boldly umami, that savory taste is further heightened with the addition of Sugimoto shiitake powder. It comes alive when the powder touches moisture, becoming even more potent than a regular fresh shiitake mushroom. For best results, I like to toss the base with the chaat masala, infusing those flavors right into the core. You cal always finish it with a second sprinkle once fully assembled for extra oomph.

Want to simplify your chaat?

  • Start with a ready-made chaat masala spice blend and simply add shiitake powder to amplify those spices.
  • Use prepared chutney, and if tamarind eludes you entirely, try a drizzle of pomegranate molasses instead.
  • Cook the potatoes in advance and store them for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat them for 1 – 2 minutes in the microwave when ready to serve.

Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. Everything is optional, adaptable, and open to interpretation. I haven’t even scratched the surface on all that chaat can be. Worry less about authenticity and focus on flavor first. There are endless ways to make chaat, and if you focus on creating a delicate balance between seemingly disparate, contrasting tastes, you will never go wrong.

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Just Trolling

Horror is not my first genre of choice nor area of expertise. For that, you should really be following Video Creep, videographer, comedian, and horror professional. With his guidance, I’ve picked out the perfect entertainment for your Halloween evening: Troll 2.

What is Troll 2 about?

Described by some as the “best worst movie” and “most disrespected horror films in recent history,” Troll 2 is not going to keep you awake at night. It’s not even going to make you remotely uneasy. The basic premise is laughable right from the start, seeing as there are no trolls to be found during the entire 95-minute runtime, only goblins. It’s also worth noting that it has nothing to do with the preceding movie, Troll, which has only marginally better reviews.

Without spoiling anything, one of the key features is green goop being offered at every meal, which no one seems to find suspicious. Unfortunately, just one bite will turn people into their own sort of human sludge, which is then fed to the hungry goblins.

Naturally, it’s the food element that I find most captivating. Between the implausible story line and iconic acting, the goblin goop is a standout success in terms of execution. I didn’t pity the people that were dumb enough to miss all the warning signs and thoughtlessly indulge in their own demise. Quite the contrary, I envied the goblins; I’ll have what they’re having.

Join me in feeding your inner goblin with the finest human goo that plant-based ingredients have to offer. It’s every bit as nutritious as dissolved people, but without all the fat and gristle! Besides, no one has time for that kind of messy cleanup. Save yourself the hassle of ensnaring and poisoning your own middle class nuclear family, and let’s pull out the blender instead, shall we?

A base of frozen mango and banana creates a naturally sweet, creamy, and subtly tropical foundation for some bright spices. Turmeric adds a bold sunny yellow hue that harmonizes brilliantly with ginger and cinnamon. The real crowning jewel is the swirl of green goo, of course. This comes in the form of fluid gel made from green juice and agar.

What is a fluid gel?

Despite the fancy molecular gastronomy term, it’s really a very simple concept: Set any fluid with a thickener, then blend it to break down the structure into a substance that straddles the line between liquid and solid, AKA, goo.

What’s the best green juice?

You can make your own green juice from scratch, or buy bottled green juice at the grocery store. I’d suggest going with the latter for the sake of simplicity. A subtly sweet blend with a mix of fruits and vegetables is my preference here to pair with the smoothie itself, particularly if pineapple is involved. Top mainstream brands include:

At the heart of it, Troll 2 is a movie made for the plant-based crowd. The goblins were vegetarian, after all, so the only way they could enjoy their human feasts was by turning them into inert substance. Let’s raise a glass to these visionaries that were ahead of their time. Cheers, and Happy Halloween!

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