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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Home, Sweet Home

Building your dream home from scratch is no small project. Between location scouting, permitting, designing, and actual construction, you’re looking at years of hard work and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t give up hope, though; there’s a better way to start building! You don’t need to be a millionaire or even remotely handy to enjoy the instant gratification of a newly constructed gingerbread house.

‘Tis the season for erecting walls redolent of cinnamon and spice, frosted with freshly fallen confectioner’s sugar snow. Anyone and everyone can call this place their home, at least in spirit, for a short but sweet holiday memory. Only slightly more complex than making gingerbread people, there’s definitely an art to this edible architecture. For anyone daunted by the task but drawn to the cozy abodes, I’m here to help. This is everything you need to know to make your best gingerbread house yet.

Start With The Right Recipe

You can’t build a house with shoddy materials, and the same goes for the edible version. Your foundational cookies must be strong, resistant to spreading in the oven, but still delicious. I will not compromise flavor for function, which is why my Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies are always my go-to solution. You can make a batch of each to add color variation between components, or stick with something more classic for the nostalgic simplicity of it.

Measure, Cut, Then Bake

Some recipes suggest baking off large sheets of cookies and cutting them afterward to ensure the sharpest, most accurate lines. That would make sense if we were talking about woodworking or sewing patterns, but that same logic doesn’t hold up to baking scrutiny. This approach is more likely to cause walls to crumble or crack in the process, leave rough, crumbly sides that can muck up the icing, and either under-baked centers or over-baked edges. Measure carefully, cut the shapes you want first, then bake.

Prep Royal Icing In Batches

As the edible glue holding everything together, royal icing is critical for sturdy construction. The thing is, it hardens very quickly once exposed to air. Only make a small amount at a time to prevent crustiness or excess waste at the end. Only make enough to fit in a piping bag at a time.

Seek Support

Putting up the walls and keeping them up is always the most difficult step. Use unopened canned foods to prop them up and keep them in place until the icing has set. Don’t rush this, and don’t add the roof until you’ve removed the cans!

All About That Base

Use royal icing to adhere the foundation of the house to a sturdy base, like a flat plate, platter, or cake cardboard to prevent it from sliding around. This also gives it greater stability, and makes it easier to transport if needed.

Don’t Sweat The Details

Even if your best efforts look more like a run-down shack than a grand Victorian mansion, no one will care if it tastes good. Lavish it with candies, make a mess, and just have fun!

Barring any premature nibbling, your gingerbread house will be good to eat for 5 – 7 days after baking.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Side panels baked unevenly or don’t measure up?

You can use coarse sand paper (new, never used for wood or anything non-edible!) to carefully remove some height.

Pieces cracked before assembling?

Use royal icing to glue it back together, letting it set on a flat surface first. Let it dry completely before continuing. If it’s very noticeable from the outside, use more icing, candies, or fondant decorations to cover it.

Royal icing won’t set?

It might be too hot or humid where you’re building your house. If need be, scrape the failed icing off and make a new batch with much less liquid to start again.

Can’t find vegan candies for decoration?

Colored sugar and simple sprinkles are still plenty festive! You can always emphasize royal icing designs instead for a more elegant approach.

The beauty of gingerbread houses is that they’re only short term dwellings, meant to house the holiday spirit, which is always a gracious guest. If you build it, Christmas cheer is sure to come.

Best Vegan Pumpkin Recipes to Fall in Love with Autumn

Pumpkins have sustained and inspired us for centuries, rising to great acclaim as a social media darling after centuries in the root cellar. They were one of the first domesticated crops, dating back over 9000 years in Mexico. Those earliest ancestors were comparatively tiny, bitter, and tough, with little in common with any of the 45 different varieties that currently exist. It’s a good thing that all parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the leaves, flowers, and stems, securing the pumpkin’s place on homestead farms as it continued to evolve.

Of course, the pumpkin’s greatest claim to fame today has more to do with the associated spices than any of its natural charms. My feelings for the trend have come full circle. I’m no longer dismayed by the disconnect, but encouraged by the possibilities. Now we’re primed to fully embrace all the squash has to offer.

Get ready to fall harder for pumpkin this year. I’ve got the very best vegan recipes right here for you to explore both the sweet and savory sides of pumpkin, ranging from wholesome to indulgent, simple to complex. Canned puree is always available, but pumpkin cravings only peak this season. Don’t waste another autumn without knowing just how incredible pumpkin can taste.

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Chickens Coming Home to Roost

As a summer-lover, sun-worshiper, and heat-seeker, I never thought I’d be so grateful to say goodbye. I’ve also never experienced a year with nearly 70 days at or above 100 degrees before. When you can’t go for a walk midday without burning to a crisp, or using your car for anything but baking cookies, it shifts the script significantly. There’s still a lot to love, from ripe heirloom tomatoes to warm late night swims, but for the first time ever, I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to embrace fall with open arms.

To that end, I’m diving head-first into cozy comfort foods. Bring on the pasta drowned in browned butter, the sautéed mushrooms dancing in white wine. It’s the season of wild mushrooms, flourishing in cool, damp weather. Nestled at the base of oak trees or hidden beneath fallen leaves, they cluster together like a bouquet of flowers, blooming in earthy shades of browns and greys. Springing up where you’d least expect it, luck is often a more important factor than skill when it comes to foraging.

This is my favorite type of backyard chicken. Hen of the woods mushrooms get their name from those feathery, frilled caps, said to look like a sitting hen. Given that they can grow into masses upwards of 50 pounds, I’d like that think there are no barnyard animals that can really measure up.

What makes hen of the woods mushrooms so great?

Also known as maitake mushrooms, they’ve long been touted for their medicinal properties, such as:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Reducing cancer risks
  • Stabilizing blood sugar
  • Helping regulate blood pressure

What I’m most interested in, however, is their culinary value.

What do hen of the woods mushrooms taste like?

Both subtly nuanced and boldly earthy, delicate yet peppery and assertive, hen of the woods mushrooms are a brilliant bundle of contradictions. One moment they’re soft and tender, buttery and supple, the next they’re almost audibly crunchy, chewy and crisp. There’s no alternative that exactly replicates such a unique eating experience.

Pair that with a luscious blanket of caramelized onions, slowly browned over low heat, with a cascading sauce of nutty browned butter, spiked with a splash of dry white wine. Vegan tortellini tumble and tangle within the wilted mushroom fronds, springs of curly kale sprouting wildly like an overgrown forest floor. It’s a rustic, untamed, and understated plating for a powerhouse of flavor. Toasted pecans rain down like a gentle shower, ending with a clean, clear crunch.

While it’s a dish that could exist in any season given greater accessibility to farmed mushrooms and imported produce, the heart and soul of it can only exist in autumn. In the growing darkness and increasing cold, let it envelop you in warmth. Take comfort knowing that there’s so much good to come of this new season.

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Cucumber Confessional

I love cucumbers. Full stop. People profess their love to many types of foods, saying they could eat them everyday and never get bored. I actually do; everyday, I’ll eat at least one whole cucumber, sprinkled with just salt and pepper, or dipped in hummus, or chopped up in salad. Tiny Persian cucumbers, large English cucumbers, plain pickling cucumbers- I love them all.

Why hasn’t this obvious obsession factored more clearly into my writing or recipes? It’s not interesting, quite frankly. I’m not doing anything exciting with them, just eating them in mass quantities. Even this idea that I’m here sharing today is far from earth-shaking. Barely the tiniest twist on a time-honored classic, surely it’s been done before. However, it’s good enough that it bears repeating: Make shirazi salad while summer produce is at its peak, but replace the tomatoes with watermelon.

That’s it, that’s the whole recipe. Adding a whole recipe card with formal measurements is really overkill when so much of the dish is based on the produce itself and personal taste. If I can be honest and break down that fourth wall for a minute, the recipe card is for Google. For you, I trust you can figure it out.

Consider the chopping an opportunity to practice your knife skills, to meditate, or simply revel in the aroma of summer. The minute you slice into a cucumber or watermelon, that aroma floods the air, setting the mood like candles for a romantic evening, only with notes of whimsy, sunshine, and a cooling breeze.

To anyone complaining about the amount of liquid leftover at the bottom of the bowl: Congratulations! You completely missed the point. That heavenly elixir, my friend, is a beautiful meeting of the worlds, the best parts of fruits and vegetables, sweet and savory, existing in harmony as one. Don’t you dare dump it out. When you pick up the mostly empty bowl, the only option is to bring it to your lips and drink every last drop.

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Jam Session

Tomatoes are the calling card of summer. Plump, red orbs growing heavier on their vines with every passing day, they tease in shades of green and yellow as they slowly ripen. Gradually darkening like rubies glistening in the sun, suddenly, they’re all ready for harvest at once. It’s now or never; grab them by the fistful or regret your mistake for another year. If you don’t take advantage, hungry critters stalking your garden surely will.

That’s how even a modest plot of land can drown a single person in tomatoes. Big or small, standard or heirloom, it’s sheer bliss for the first few days. Then, after a couple rounds of tomato salads, tomato soups, tomato sauces, and tomato juice, tomatoes may begin to lose their shine.

Don’t let it get to that stage. Take your tomatoes while they’re still new and fresh, concentrate them down to a rich, umami-packed tomato jam and you’ll never grow tired. Burning through two whole pounds right off the bat may feel like a sacrifice, but it’s a wise strategy in the long run. There’s going to be plenty more to come to enjoy every which way, without ever reaching your upper limit of enjoyment.

What Does Tomato Jam Taste Like?

A little bit sweet, a little bit savory, I do use sugar in my recipe but not nearly as much as with berry or other fruit jams. It should be just enough to balance and heighten the other inherent flavors. A touch of jalapeño adds a subtly spicy bite, which you could omit or double, depending on your heat-seeking sensibilities.

How To Make Tomato Jam Your Own

  • Use half or all tomatillos instead of tomatoes
  • Increase the garlic; there’s no such thing as too much
  • Instead of jalapeño, use sriracha, smoked paprika, gochujang, or harissa to spice things up
  • Swap the apple cider vinegar for balsamic or red wine vinegar

What Can I Use Tomato Jam On?

The only limiting factor is your creativity! A few of my favorite uses include:

  • Avocado toast
  • Sandwiches or wraps
  • Hot pasta or pasta salads
  • Swirled into creamy soups
  • On a cheeseboard
  • As a burger topping
  • Used for dipping alongside or on top of hummus

How Long Will Tomato Jam Keep?

While this jam isn’t properly canned and thus not shelf stable, you can preserve the harvest by storing it in your freezer for up to 6 months.

You don’t actually need to grow your own tomatoes to make tomato jam, by the way. Store-bought tomatoes taste just as sweet- And savory.

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