Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Candied Yamulkes

These aren’t your old-shul candied yams. They’re a new hybrid designed by organic yam farmers and Hasidic tailors. Pilgrim meets pogrom. The bottoms and tops are roasted yams, and the middle is candied yams. And while most of my celebrations don't require men to don yarmulkes, for this once-in-a-lifetime confluence of holidays, I have asked that my yams wear them—at least while my guests arrive. Since these candied yamulkes are bite-sized, they make a truly amusing bouche. They're also kosher, vegan and gluten-free in case a rabbi or persnickety pilgrim should happen to land. This isn't a recipe per se like my Thanksgivukkah Miracle-of-Light Green Beansbut I've distilled it down to the 10 essentials.

The 10 Commandments of Yamulkes 
(I hope you’re reading this on a tablet.)

1. Thou shalt choose the narrowest yams. Make sure to find ends that most resemble yarmulkes (at two yamulke caps per potato, it requires many potatoes if you’re amusing a lot of people.)
2. Thou shalt cut off the ends for the yamulkes, leaving skins on (this isn't a bris).
3. Thou shalt peel the rest of the potatoes.
4. Thou shalt slice two yam discs per potato for the bottoms.
5. Thou shalt roast them in a 400º oven using coconut or olive oil.
6. Thou shalt boil, steam or roast the rest of the potatoes for the candied yams (if roasting, make sure they stay pliable for mashing).
7. Thou shalt make candied yams according to your liking with dates, nuts, coconut oil or butter, brown sugar, maple syrup or desired sweetener (but no Splenda—feh!).
8. Thou shalt take out discs from oven when brown and caramelized.
9. Thou shalt drain potatoes and mash with said ingredients.
10. Thou shalt assemble yamulkes and let the festivities begin. 

Hats off to you, and happy Thanksgivukkah!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgivukkah Miracle-of-Light Green Beans

This year I'm thankful for not having to eat that heavy, old-school green bean casserole. Sure, I liked it when I was 12, but I also loved Bazooka bubble gum and Danny Partridge. Now that I’m 29, I think of Durkee french fried onions and Campbell's mushroom soup as shameful skeletons in my closet next to my mug shot, ankle bracelet and love letters to Charles Manson. Oops. Did I say too much?

I know I need not expound upon the vegan, vegalicious virtues of these green and yellow beans, caramelized roasted peppers and garlic, and earthy shiitake mushrooms. They speak for themselves. In fact I hear the red, yellow and orange bell peppers are tri-lingual. And much tastier than that illiterate, white-trash green bean casserole. So why be a slave to tradition when you could be the master of your thighs, domain and discriminating palate? Well, at least the palate, anyway. Besides, I'd rather do my fat-loading elsewhere. Too bad I discovered I'm gluten- and egg-intolerant. But now's not the time to get maudlin—I have a blog post to finish.

The recipe, an encore presentation from an earlier post, was originally titled Roasted Green Beans, Peppers and Garlic. But as you can see, you may easily roast some shiitake (or cremini) mushrooms along with the other vegetables to add a deep, robust dimension. This year I'm thankful for the bounty of fresh food that surrounds me in fertile, farm-rich Southern California. What are you thankful for?

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lentil Squash-salad Boats

All aboard the USDA Organic Delicata.
As far as squash boats go, this one is see-worthy, light and won't weigh you down like those Titanic types. So if you’re jonesing for some beefcake like Leo, you’d best board another boat. Even with its deep flavor, this hearty vegan dish is really quite delicate, hence the name of the squash: delicata. And since it's organic, you can also eat the skin—a plus for lazy seafarers. But if the delicata doesn't float your boat, you can use any other squash that floats, like butternut, acorn, kabocha, a pumpkin or even your garden-variety zucchini. 

If you're a landlubber, you can skip the boat altogether and eat this earthy Lentil Squash Salad on good old terra firma—or better yet—a plate. What makes it so earthy and lubbable? It's the robust yet visually camouflaged capers, bold marjoram, caramel-y roasted garlic, zesty sun-dried tomatoes and a zingy Dijon-shallot vinaigrette. Wow, that was a boatload of adjectives.

While you may attribute this Lentil Squash-salad Boat’s brilliance to its shipbuilder (and it would indeed be fitting), it was quite a serendipitous journey. After I had roasted butternut and delicata squash halves and put some of them into the salad, there were two empty delicata vessels just sitting there that I knew could easily transport luscious legumes to the mouth of a hungry river. The Colorado? The Mississippi? The Nile? No, the mighty Lentil Breakdown! Lentil Squash-salad Boats can be served cold, room temperature or warm.* 

*Lifejacket not required

Lentil Squash-salad Boats (vegan and gluten-free)
2 small organic delicata squashes*
3 cloves garlic
Olive oil
1 cup dried French green lentils
1 heaping TBSP sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
2 tsp of capers
¼ teaspoon marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup olive oil
1 TBSP red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced shallot (about half a medium shallot)

Preheat oven to 400º. Cut squashes in half, discard seeds and insides, then rub flesh with olive oil as well as the three garlic cloves (still in their skins). Place squashes flesh down on a cookie sheet along with the garlic, add a little salt and pepper and roast.

Boil lentils in salted water for about 20 minutes until al dente but chewy. Drain and let cool. Make vinaigrette. When squash is soft, remove from oven and let cool. Cut up one of the halves into small chunks and mince the roasted garlic (may be a bit soft, but try to evenly disperse in salad. Golden and crunchy is good too—but not burnt). 

When lentils are cool, add garlic, squash chunks, capers, marjoram, about 2/3 of the vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Let sit at least an hour.

* I used butternut squash also in the salad, but it’s not necessary.
** This makes more vinaigrette than you’ll need. Use the leftover for salad dressing.

Lentil’s Breakdown

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, certified USDA organic means:

Organic crops. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.

Organic livestock. The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.

Organic multi-ingredient foods. The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.

Veggie-stuffed Eggplant