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Vegetable centric cooking

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Beet pickles

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Okay, I admit it.  I live in Brooklyn, and I pickle things.  Bring on the Portlandia jokes.  Usually, I do a quick pickle — salt + vinegar + overnight in fridge.  This is the first time I have used boiling brine.   This recipe would work with many vegetables, such as green beans, red onion, fennel, or cauliflower.   You don’t need to cook most vegetables; rather, cover in hot brine, let cool, cover and refrigerate.  But do boil more toothsome vegetables such as beets or carrots for about 10 minutes, until they are just crisp-tender.   These are not a shelf stable pickle — the jar is not airtight or sterilized.   Keep in fridge, and eat within about two weeks.  We tend to finish ours in a few days! 

Makes 5 or 6 servings, as a side

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Corn pesto

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I am hooked on yet another summer pasta, a vegan pesto of fresh raw corn pureed with parsley.  The result is creamy and incredibly bright.  Parsley is underrated.  I like it for many reasons — it’s cheap, it keeps well and it adds a fresh note to dishes. Cooking the corn cobs in pasta water is a nice touch here that adds starchiness and flavor to your sauce.

Serves 2

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Summer pasta w/ salsa cruda + roast eggplant

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This summer pasta could not be simpler.  Roast eggplant tossed with fresh tomatoes and basil.  Although it is absolutely delicious vegan, it is even better topped with a little creamy Bulgarian feta.  I wish I could make this dish in gloomy January.  If only tomatoes were nice year-round!

Serves 2

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Summer rice noodles

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There are only about six things I can stand to cook in summer in a New York City apartment.  Rice vermicelli fit the bill.  That is, you barely need to cook them — just soak a few minutes in hot water. These days, I like to eat them room temperature, topped with grilled tofu and a mix of grilled, blanched and raw vegetables.   Swapping a poached egg for the tofu is a delicious variation.

Serves 2

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Warm Israeli hummus w/ greens

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Lately, I have been obsessed with eating hummus warm, as is popular throughout the greater Middle East.  I think I am shooting for a hearty baked hummus I ate in Turkey a few years ago in a stone terrine.   We also just received Jerusalemthe new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, with a recipe for Israeli hummus masubha — topped with warm whole chickpeas. This hummus is my simpler weekday version of the Ottolenghi recipe.  I skipped the steps of soaking overnight and serving with extra tahini.  This dish is my absolute favorite lunch with pita, caramelized onions and sauteed greens; microwaved at work, heated properly on a weekend.

Serves 2 or 3

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Toast w/ Sicilian tuna

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Google Sicilian tuna salad and you get a ton of variations — with anchovy dressing, poached in olive oil or chilled for hours.  At the least, none have mayo and all have lots of fresh herbs, some crunchy veggies and something cured like olives and capers. Maybe somewhere in Palermo there is a wizened proprietor of a paninoteca who knows the secret of true Sicilian tuna.   For now, this recipe is quick and tasty, and has lots of other uses — bruschetta topping, chunky dip for vegetables or salad-as-a-meal with a whole grain like farro.  Avocado or white beans are excellent additions for a heartier dish.

Serves 2

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Thai steamed halibut w/ sweet potato

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This is largely based on a recipe by Thai food guru Andy Richter, founder of Pok Pok. I just added vegetables to give the dish body in place of the traditional jasmine rice.  We have had amazing meals at the original Pok Pok in Portland as well as the new place near us in Red Hook.  He is a true student of classic Thai cooking, especially street food — no pad Thai.  I bought a bamboo steamer just to make this dish. So much fun — I loved cooking the sweet potatoes on one level and fish on another, and it left an amazing broth.  We had the miso slaw w/ daikon on side.

Serves 2

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Cauliflower w/ roasted garlic chimichurri

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I sure do like to roast vegetables and garlic.   Pop a baking sheet in the oven, go out for a run and return to a fine-smelling apartment and a nice side dish. The little crumbles stuck to foil are really great.  In the odd chance you have leftovers, they make a great crunchy topping for soup, pasta or a green salad.

Serves 2

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Charred Brussels sprouts

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You can use this method with nearly any firm vegetable – I have done it with cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, green beans and squash.  Caramelize onions, brown the vegetables and cook through in a stock.  You get charred and tender – no mush.

Serves 2

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Borscht (hearty or as a shooter)

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As you may tell, I love blended soups.  So pure and simple, based on one good ingredient.  Beets are the absolute star here — a perfect, concentrated fall soup.  Bulgar and blended white beans make this a filling and complete meal.  Or you can skip both and serve cold in tea candle glasses, as a shooter.

Serves 4

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