Category Archives: vegan

Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

fiddlehead fern 4It's Spring! Spring is here! This week was all 70 and 80 degree weather, bright sun, flowers, and sneezes. I'm in heaven. I'm also in San Francisco, but that's beside the point. fiddlehead ferns 5 This week I hosted Book Club, which meant I fed a group of people that I haven't cooked for before but who know I write this blog (not to mention the cookbook), which is a scenario that gives me panic attacks. What if they don't like what I'm serving? What if it's awful? What if I fail? My answer to these questions is to make something I know I do well, so I served up a grits bar and a Bloody Mary bar. And, despite my deepest insecurities, it was a hit. fiddlehead fern fiddlehead fern 3To add a little pizzaz to the Bloody Marys I pickled a batch of fiddlehead ferns, a Spring delicacy on par with ramps and garlic shoots. As my friend Katie described them, they taste like a blend between okra and green beans, the perfect taste of this fleeting season. A season I am whole-heartedly enjoying. fiddlehead ferns 2Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns 1 cup fiddlehead ferns 1 cup apple cider vinegar 1 tbsp sea salt 1 tbsp green peppercorns 1 garlic clove, minced Quick pickles: Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and rinse in cold water. In a non-reactive saucepan, heat all ingredients to a low boil. Simmer 10-12 minutes. Transfer into a jar/covered dish and store, refrigerated, for up to two weeks. Cupboard pickles: ed note: These ratios make 1/2 pint of pickled ferns. Multiply ingredients as needed.  Begin by sterilizing your jar and lid in a pot of hot water. Set aside. Leave the pot of water boiling. In a non reactive sauce pan heat vinegar, water, and salt. Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and rinse in cold water.  In your sterilized jar, combine ferns with remaining ingredient. Pour vinegar and salt into jar, wipe the rim down, place a clean lid on the jar, and screw band on tightly.  Process in your large pot (with rack) for 10 minutes.  Remove from water, give the band another squeeze, and allow to sit.  Once the jars have sealed (you’ll know if you can’t pop the lid up and down), set them in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks.  They will stay for up to a year.

Fried Plantains

plantains 1 Last weekend I headed to sunny Georgia to surprise my dear friend Kellie at the opening of her first show in her new city of residence, Atlanta. Kellie, an incredible painter, has shown her work in galleries all over the world, from New York to Germany. And in the years since we graduated from MICA I haven't ever been able to attend one of her shows. But now, with her here in the South just a mere 6 hours drive due West, I had my chance! plantains 5I love surprising people but I'm horrible at keeping secrets which means I'm mostly just plain bad at surprises. So the fact that Kellie was so surprised and happy to see me when I walked into the gallery that she cried and fanned her face with her hands like a teary old lady is pure gold. And a testament to the sneakiness of Kellie's boyfriend Corey, who kindly acted as my accomplice. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset plantains 3 The weekend, in its entirety, was perfect. Beyond the opening we enjoyed two days of beautiful in Atlanta- enjoying the warm Spring weather that felt like summer, walking around the botanical gardens, catching up. That's the best thing about old friends, you just pick up where you left off, even if it's been months or years since you've really spent time together. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset plantains 2Kellie and her family are from Trinidad, and on Saturday Kellie threw a party for her friends and family with mountains of Trinidadian food, made locally at a place in Marietta. It was all delicious, especially the doubles, but I spent the majority of my time hovering over the tray of fried plantains. When fried, plantains, a starchier relative of the banana, are the quintessential summer treat. After eating basically my body weight in plantains at Kellie's I immediately came home and fried some more for myself. I have no regrets. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset  Fried Plantains 4 over-ripe plantains 3 tbsp coconut oil Honey or sour cream for dipping Cut your plantains thinly, about 1/4", and on the diagonal so the pieces are long and slanted. Melt coconut oil in the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot on their own or with honey or sour cream to dip.

4/100: Wayne County Pickled Radishes

pickled radishes 4 One late summer day I sat on the front porch of our family home in Morehead City, a house we call the Swamp House, with my five siblings. At the time our ages probably ranged from 8 or 9 to 14 or 15, my sister Lauren and I at the top and my baby brother Ryan at the bottom. Ryan, bless his heart, was the willing participant in a series of dares in the late 90’s and early naughts. Being the youngest of six with a penchant to prove himself (not to mention the desire to actually win some cash) meant that he would accept any dare thrown his way from doing a naked somersault on the trampoline during Thanksgiving dinner to, on this beautiful Crystal Coast afternoon, drinking all the liquid in a gallon jar of pickles. pickled radishes 1

Our weeks at the Swamp House meant pimento cheese, pickled okra, pound cake, freshly caught fish fried in the small kitchen, big pasta dinners, seafood boils, and, of course, gallon jars of Mt. Olive dill pickled cucumbers. Eight or nine people can go through an alarming amount of pickles, especially when some of those people are teenage boys, and by the end of the week we were left with just the dregs. The brine. Normally dumped into the marsh but on this occasion repurposed for our entertainment.

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Ryan got ¾ of the way through the jar before he started (forgive me) looking a little green. Not really wanting to part with the money I’d bet (because that money was reserved for buying sour straws at the City New Stand) I was torn on whether to encourage him. His success meant an amazing feat of endurance and a lighter load in my wallet. And while I may have started out rooting for his failure it’s difficult to watch someone take on such a task without getting behind them. Ryan was the underdog. He was David and that brine was Goliath. Unfortunately, his story ends a bit differently than King David’s. Instead of defeating the legendary warrior Ryan sucummbed with mere cups of brine left, and puked into the marsh. I can’t say for sure but I’m fairly certain this experience may have soured him on accepting bets.

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Years later that is still what I think about every time I see a Mt. Olive pickle. Mt. Olive Pickle Company, located at the corner of Cucumber and Vine in Mount Olive, Wayne County, North Carolina, was formed in the mid 1920s as a way to save cucumbers that were going to waste. A Lebanese immigrant from nearby Goldsboro by the name of Shrickey Baddour teamed up with a sailor from Wilmington named George Moore to execute his plan of taking local cucumbers, brining them, and selling them to area pickle plants. Unfortunately for Baddour and Moore they weren’t able to scrounge up any buyers. With the help of the local business community money was raised to create a plant that would process and sell pickles and the Mount Olive Pickle Company was born, the fledgling investment of thirty-seven shareholders. Moore became the factory superintendent, Baddour became the salesman, and Wayne County was forever changed.

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As we walked through the streets of Mt. Olive in late April I thought about Ryan and his pickle juice and how that act of determination and will was more of a tribute to pickles than the North Carolina Pickle Festival (founded in 1986 by Mt. Olive Pickle Co). In fact, our house in late summer probably has more pickled products than the North Carolina Pickle Festival in its entirety. But that's another story for another day.

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Wayne County is overwhelmingly agricultural thanks to a mild year round climate and long no-freeze season. And while Mt. Olive does employ as many 500-800 workers depending on the season, you’ll also find manufacturing and processing of other animals and vegetables. Not to mention the three local colleges. Its county seat is Goldsboro and it is surrounded by Wilson to the north, Johnston and Sampson to the west, Duplin to the south, and Green and Lenoir to the East.

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It seemed only fitting that for the Wayne County edition of Tasting North Carolina I honor the pickle, but it was also important to me that I stay within the confines of the local growing season, which meant that no cucumber pickles were put up this weekend (though my cucumber plants are doing wonderfully in the front yard garden). I picked up two bunches of radishes at our food co-op; one bunch went into a jar with salt, water, ginger, and rose peppercorns to lactoferment and the other went into a jar with vinegar, salt, ginger, and rose peppercorns to vinegar pickle. My vinegar pickles will be done by the end of the week and my fermented pickles will be done by the end of the month, which means before I know it I’ll have crunchy, delicious, sour pickles just waiting to be thrown in a salad, tossed on top of a sandwich, or mixed into pasta. No drinking the brine, though. Those days have passed.

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Lacto Fermented Radish Pickles

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorns

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups filtered water

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Dissolve the salt in the water. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger and peppercorns. Pour water over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Loosely cover and store in a cool, dark, place for 10-14 days, checking every few days to make sure everything is submerged. After the pickles have fermented they can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

Vinegar Pickled Radishes

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorn

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups distilled white vinegar

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger, salt and peppercorns. Pour vinegar over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Let sit 24-48 hours before eating. These will last in the fridge for up to a month.

Almond Grit Cakes with Clementines & Honey

clementine grits 7 One of the very best things about the internet is the community. It has it's ups and downs, definitely, and sometimes having a public blog that is open to criticism leads to reading, well, criticism of my person and my recipes and my life which sucks but the trade off for the positive is huge. I've met people and made connections and friendships that I wouldn't trade for the world. Not to mention of course that this blog and everything that it is and has become wouldn't be possible without a supportive community. The readers, the commenters, the people who email to tell me that the like/love/adore the blog make it all worth it. So, thanks friends. clementine grits 1 clementine grits 2 Through some chain of mutual friends (real and internet) I met the lovely Carrie from Plums in the Icebox on twitter. She's a Baltimore native and we became friends on the internet and in real life.  She's great- sweet, intelligent, witty, talented, and a Jill of all trades. Professionally she writes for Bliss Tree and recently she reached out to me about contributing to a "Brunch Off" series she has in the works. The concept is simple- two food bloggers create a brunch menu using the same seasonal ingredient and readers vote on which one they prefer. The ingredient was clementines (something I've been buying in bulk for a few months) and I love a good challenge, so count me in! clementine grits 3 clementine grits 4 My goals with this challenge were to create something fun, tasty, and unique to my niche, Southern food. Surprise to no one I chose grits as a foundation ingredients (are you getting sick of grits?). Sweet grits made with cinnamon, ginger, and almond milk formed into cakes and lightly fried. Topped with fresh clementines that had been tossed in local raw honey. Something light, full of flavor, and designed for brunch. That is to say, complimentary to mimosas and bacon. clementine grits 5 Dan and I tried some this morning and I'm happy with how they turned out. The grits were the perfect base- not overwhelmingly sweet with a good crunch thanks to the slivered almonds and a richness thanks to the almond milk. The clementines in honey were so simple and amazingly delicious, the perfect tribute to two of nature's most wonderful ingredients. I like that it isn't anything audacious (like fried chicken eggs benedict) or overdone (like french toast), just an unassuming combination of complimentary flavors and textures. Head over to Bliss Tree to see the Brunch Off, make both recipes, and tell me what you think! clementine grits 6   Almond Grits Cakes with Clementines & Honey Serves 4-6 grits: 2 cups almond milk 1/2 cup stone ground grits 1 tbsp honey 1 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp powdered ginger 1/2 cup corn flour 1/4 cup slivered almonds Dash of cinnamon/ginger topping: 3-4 clementines 2 tbsp honey Pinch of salt (optional) The grits cakes need to be formed at least an hour before being fried, though the night before is ideal. In a medium saucepan combine grits, almond milk, honey, and spices. Cook over medium heat unti the grits are thick but still creamy. Pour into cupcake pans and chill for 1 hour or overnight. Chop clementines in half or thirds and toss in honey. Let sit. Combine corn flour, almonds, and spices and heat 1/4" of oil in a heavy pan. Carefully (I used a fork so my hands didn't warm the grits) coat the grits cakes in the flour mixture and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until crispy. Top with clementine mixture and a sprinkle of salt.

Winter Chili

winter chili 5 I'm the first one to admit that over the course of the past year or so I've gotten obsessed with running. I really love the act of running (most of the time) but I also have found myself voraciously hungry for running related reading. I've subscribed to Runner's World and Running Times, I've read Born to Run twice in recent memory, along with Running on Empty and most recently Scott Jurek's Eat and Run. This morning I downloaded Ultramarathon Man, which I'm excited to jump into. Something about these books and magazines motivate me and make me more interested in the sport. Which is helpful when it's freezing and you've got a cold (that you've had for a month) but you have to run because you're training for a marathon and you think you might be crazy because 26.2 is a lot of miles but also you're considering your next step which could be 30, 40, or 50 miles. Or more! The world is you oyster as long as you religiously stretch your IT band and stop falling all the damn time! IMG_6205me finishing the neusiok trail race. my sister gen ran the last 1/4 mile with me. Despite all my enthusiasm for running-related reads and how intrigued I was by his role in Born to Run, I was hesitant to read Eat and Run. The book chronicles Jurek's career and trajectory from rural Minnesotan to world famous ultramarathoner and vegan. I think it's great and as a former vegetarian of many years and an advocate of eating whole, complex foods, I understand. What put me off was the tone of the snippet I read in Runner's World. And that tone was "eat clean or you're doing it wrong." Now, I have a MAJOR problem with the phrase "clean eating" in reference to plant-based diets. Bully for you that you don't eat animal products but the implication that those of us who do are eating DIRTY is incredibly condescending. So anytime someone calls it clean eating I immediately want to walk away. And I've considered veganism (a lot, especially lately) so it's not as though I'm all don't-understand-damned-sissy-vegans-in-'Merica-we-eat-fried-chicken. Because of this I was not interested in the book, assuming it would just rile me up. Then my sister in law Megan, someone whose opinion I value highly, recommended it and I thought well hell, I have a plane ride to kill let's read a book. winter chili 4 I really enjoyed a lot of the book. The story of his running career and putting himself and everything he had into a passion for pushing himself was amazing and inspiring. Nobody can argue that he's had an astonishing career. And I found the story of how he became vegan, how he evolved from a four-times-a-week McDonalds eater to someone who makes his own rice milk to be very interesting. I also empathized with his desire to run to find clarity, to push your body beyond what you think your body can do, and to see what is on the other side. I'm not a very fast runner so what intrigues me about the sport is the idea of finding my limits, physical and mental, and pushing them. What I did not like about the book was that he paints a very black and white picture. In his eyes (or at least in the way it is portrayed in the book) it's either "clean" eating or "dirty eating"- 100% vegan or fast food junkie. I take major issue with that. Dan and I eat very well. We make as much as possible from scratch, we don't buy much processed food, we aim to eat locally and organically with a focus on whole foods. But we also eat meat. Only a few times a week but we eat it. And dairy. Not much milk but plenty of cheese and yogurt. And whipped cream. I love me some whipped cream. And butter. And cheese, can we talk about how delicious CHEESE is? We focus on eating responsibly- both for our health and for the environment. And I don't think there is anything wrong with that. But Scott Jurek does. Maybe he would say that he doesn't, but the impression that I got from Eat and Run is that he would have contempt for the way that we eat. Which frustrated me and made the book inaccessible. winter chili 3 On a more book-club side of things I thought the writing was at times difficult to read, too casual, a little forced. And there were moments when he included offensive or off-putting stories that weren't essential to the plot line, like his friend Dusty (to whom this book is an homage) coining the phrase "getting chicked" (getting passed by a girl. The fear of getting "chicked" was apparently a great motivator for Jurek to run faster) at one of his races. That line alone almost ruined the whole book for me. But the overall message was interesting and some of the recipes look great. I'm excited to try his chocolate and bean brownies and I love the idea of taking simple refried bean burritos on long runs. I also really enjoyed this recipe, his Minnesota Winter Chili. Since I'm not a big fan of meaty chilis the omission of meat was fine with me, but Dan loves traditional chili and still enjoyed this. I made a few adaptations but the core recipe is a strong one, something I'll definitely repeat in winter months. In summary (tl;dr), I had a lot of issues with Eat and Run, both as a book and Jurek's point of view and opinion on plant-based eating. But it was a compelling story and a lot of the recipes have value, so came out pretty even. Can't say I'd recommend it, but I wouldn't slap it out of your hand if you were interested. winter chili 1 Scott Jurek's Winter Chili Adapted from Eat and Run 2 tbsp olive oil 4 garlic cloves 1 yellow onion 15-20 cremini mushrooms 1 green bell pepper 1 red bell pepper 4 carrots 1 jalapeno 1 cup frozen corn kernels 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp cayenne pepper 1 tsp chipotle 1 tsp red pepper flakes 2 tbsp chili powder 2 tsp sea salt 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes 1 can adzuki beans 1 can black eyed peas 1 can red beans 1/2 cup dry bulgar wheat 1 cup water Roughly chop onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and carrots. Mince garlic and jalapenos. Heat oil in a large pot. Add garlic first, followed by onions. Once the onions have softened add remaining vegetables and spices. Simmer 20 minutes. Stir in bulgar wheat and water and simmer and additional 30-45 minutes. Serve topped with cilantro and Greek yogurt or sour cream.  

Vegan Grits & Stewed Vegetables

20130111-203741.jpg 2012 was a year of big changes for me, especially in the eating/activity departments. While some of those changes were chronicled here, most of it happened outside of the blog. Dan and I drastically cut down the amount of meat, dairy, sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods that we eat. We were already focused on homemade whole foods and real foods, and this year pushed is further in what we think is the right direction. Now, I don't plan on going vegan (or vegetarian) anytime soon, but cutting down on these foods has forced us to get creative with our cooking and eating. This recipe, which was a response to cooking dinner for a vegan family, got me thinking about how we could adapt some of our favorites to fit our "weekday" eating plan (weekends are for sometimes foods, like chips and queso or chicken biscuits). Last week I ran a 21 mile trail race through the Croatan National Forest, which was amazing and excruciating and taught me so much about myself. This weekend I'm at Disney with the Turcottes watching the nieces while Megan and John race the half marathon, which is incredible. I have had many moments of reflection and amazing conversations with family and friends during the past months about nourishing our bodies, spirits, and community. I think we're on the right path. Vegan Grits & Stewed Vegetables 4 cups almond milk 1 cup grits 1 small sweet potato 1 cup soaked black eyed peas 2 cups whole peeled tomatoes 1 onion 3 cloves garlic Salt Pinch of red pepper flakes Pinch of chipotle Olive oil Bunch of collard greens In a medium bowl heat drizzle of olive oil. Toss in chopped garlic. Add chopped onion. Peel and chop sweet potato, add it to the pot. Add tomatoes and peas. Stir in spices. Let simmer until peas and sweet potatoes are softened. Break up tomatoes with a spoon as they cook down. Heat almond milk. Add a dash of salt. Stir in grits and stir over low heat until thickened. Chop and sauté collards in olive oil with a clove of diced garlic. Sauté until wilted. Serve with collards and vegetables on top of grits. Enjoy a delicious vegan meal high in calcium, fiber, and protein.