vegetarian

These garlic pickles are a great introduction to fermentation. They’re a familiar flavor, and you can use the brine to marinate chicken breasts for my fan-favorite Gluten, Grain, and Garbage-Free Chick-fil-A Nuggets recipe (which is nearly seven years old – yowza!).

But really, this recipe is just the start of a beautiful relationship with fermented foods. In addition to those you can find in my books, I have a few on the blog. Here are some other fermented or pickled recipes if you’re ready to try out something new:

Kabees el Lift (Pickled Turnips)
Guineitos en Escabeche (Pickled Green Bananas)
Fermented Ketchup
Takuan (Pickled Daikon Radish)
Pickled Watermelon Rinds)

One last note – it’s important to seek out organic (or fresh from the farmer’s market) cucumbers for this recipe, because you want that natural Lactobacillus bacteria that forms on its skin to kickstart the fermentation process. Don’t have access to organic cucumbers? Just add a spoonful of that liquid that forms at the top of yogurt (aka whey) to your brine during step #1.

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Super simple recipe this week, for Preserved Lemons. The process highlighted in my recipe below is modeled after the North African tradition of preserving lemons in salt — salt helps prevent microbial growth, and the citric acid found in the lemon (and as a byproduct of fermentation) helps to further preserve the lemons. But what we’re most interested in — that is, the deep, lemony flavor that comes from cooking with preserved lemons — will be in next week’s recipe.

Don’t have three to four weeks to spare preserving your own lemons? Check your local Middle Eastern grocery, they often have these shelf-stable favorites. Or, they can also be found online at a surprisingly affordable price.

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As we enter into November, I have exciting news – I’m just about done with developing and photographing recipes for my next cookbook! I’ve been at it for nearly two years straight – researching, testing, and retesting. I’m looking forward to moving to the next stage of the book-writing process, as I organize the contents, design the layout, and edit the manuscript. To be honest, editing is my favorite part of writing books; I like making small, incremental tweaks to refine my voice, and perfectly lining up every little element of the narrative.

So in celebration of moving on to the next (and arguably the most complicated) stage of the process, let’s enjoy this simple Greek stewed okra recipe. These okra fall into the lathera (λαδερά), or oil-based, dishes commonly found among Greek home chefs – simple to prepare, but packed with flavor. This dish works well as a hearty side, but really shines during Lent or other fasts, since it is remarkably filling thanks to its generous helping of olive oil.

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Every once in awhile, I get a big craving for beets. The craving doesn’t hit me often, but when it does, I typically turn to my Vinegret (винегрет) recipe from The Ancestral Table. So without further ado, here is the text from the book:

Vinegret is the name of a Russian salad that is likely not of Russian origin, but rather borrowed from German or Scandinavian cuisine. In traditional Russian cuisine, salads were pretty rare. Vinegret is often cited as the first Russian salad, first mentioned in the 19th century.

Another Russian favorite is Olivier salad, which has a much more interesting history. It was invented by Lucien Olivier, a Belgian chef working in Moscow in the 1860s. The original recipe was a closely held secret and was never truly duplicated. Documents reveal that the salad likely included caviar, crawfish tails, aspic, and veal tongue. Over the years, these rare ingredients were replaced by common ones. Instructions for making Olivier Salad are also found below, as the method is similar.

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Salad Shirazi is a herb and vegetable salad from the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. It’s enjoyed year-round as a side dish, but is often served as a full meal during the hot summer months. While the vegetables are often diced – giving them an appearance not unlike Pico de Gallo – I have found that using larger chunks give each ingredient a bit more distinction, and results in a livelier eating experience.

There isn’t much to this recipe; theoretically, you could just throw all of the ingredients together and chow down. But I prefer to soak the onions in cold water first, which removes some astringency, and to salt the tomatoes and cucumbers to leech out a bit of their juice. That way, most of the salad’s moisture comes from more flavorful sources, like olive oil and lime juice.

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Everyone needs a steady, foundational salsa recipe. One that is worlds better than the jarred stuff you find in the store, but also won’t take a million years to throw together. I like to think that my Simple Salsa Roja easily fits that requirement: unbelievably fresh just as you pull it off the heat, and even richer the following day.

Two elements make this salsa unique. First, I like to use one dried morita chile pepper to add a hint of smoked fruitiness. Next, I simmer the salsa with a couple tablespoon of lard, for a balanced bite and smoother mouthfeel.

Moritas sound exotic, but they are just smoked red jalapeños (also known as fresno chiles), much like chipotle peppers. The difference between morita and chipotle chiles is that moritas are smoked for less time, retaining a bit of fruitiness. To make things even more complicated, this pepper goes by several other names, like blackberry chile, chipotle colorado, mora chile, or black dash red chile. My advice: check out the dried pepper section of your local grocery store (or latin food market), and if you can’t find a morita or chipotle, pick them up online for relatively cheap. They are worth the extra bit of effort, and since only one pepper is needed for the recipe, one bag will last you a while.

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Mangú is a staple food of the Dominican Republic, and often served with breakfast. It is a signature element of los tres golpes (“the three hits”), served alongside fried eggs, fried cheese (specifically, a firm, salty cheese called queso para freir), and salami or longaniza (a dry-cured sausage not unlike chorizo).

There are two ideas as to the origin of Mangú. The first, and likely more accurate, story is that the dish and name are both byproducts of the Dominican slave trade. But there also exists a popular folk tale, in which this dish of mashed plantains was served to American soldiers during the American occupation of the country in the early 20th century, and that one of the dining soldiers exclaimed, “Man, good!”, and the rest is history.

Regardless of its etymology, there’s no denying that Mangú is an excellent way to start (or end) your day – it’s equal parts hearty starch and tropical comfort food – all topped with pickled red onions for a bit of extra zing.

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One of my favorite popular dishes in Indian cuisine is Saag, a leaf-based side commonly served with bread or rice. Years ago, I found myself ordering it in local restaurants, often for a steep price, and wondering how to recreate this dish at home. It’s been a staple in the house ever since, and I even included a popular variation, Saag Paneer (served with homemade, pan-fried cheese), in The Ancestral Table.

While I love Saag Paneer, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with making your own cheese, it is pretty time consuming. Lately, I often stick with a simple version of Saag, which is basically just the greens with some basic spices. Additionally, my friends at Primal Palate recently added Garam Masala to their collection of spices, so it felt like to perfect time to post my Simple Saag recipe.

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The other weekend, I was killing it in the kitchen. I had just finished off development and photos for a couple new recipes (my recent Curried Beef Stew and Garlic Smashed Potatoes dishes), and I was digging into two new creations: this week’s Skillet-Roasted Winter Vegetables, and next week’s Center-Cut Pork Rib Roast. Everything was going well, and my timing was just right – the dishes were going to finish just as the afternoon sun would be in the perfect position for photos.

But as anyone who’s visited Florida can attest, the weather can change in a blink of an eye. Case in point was this day, because in the course of a few minutes, my early afternoon sunshine transformed into a late evening sky, just as a tornado watch warning chimed on my phone. Clouds rushed in, winds gusted; the ambient light near the window I use for photography disappeared. So, picture this: in the middle of a storm, I rushed outside to our screened-in porch, laid down my photography surfaces, and desperately snapped some photos in near-dark conditions. Sure, I probably could have just waited for a different day, but I also enjoyed the challenge that mother nature threw my way.

The point of this story is to say that sure, my picture came out a bit blurry, but I will likely have fond memories associated with this photography session for years to come. I think it’s moments like those that I appreciate having a food blog in the first place; while cookbooks are often very particular – run through a team of editors and designers – blogging can be as fluid as the author defines. And really, the photo looks much better than some of the photos from this site’s early days, anyway!

This week’s recipe isn’t glamorous, and one we make often. Since the vegetables have varying cooking times, the best approach is to par-boil the hardier vegetables – carrots and parsnips, in this case – and then finish them all off together in the oven. Feel free to swap out the carrots and parsnips with other vegetables, like turnips or beets.

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While we typically eat Basic Mashed Potatoes with our daily meals, you can’t deny the fun that is Smashed Potatoes. In few other recipes can you treat a food so poorly–smashing it with the heel of your palm!–and still come away with something that’s both perfectly crispy and secretly fluffy.

This recipe takes a bit longer than a typical mashed or roasted potato, mostly because you’ll need to cool the potatoes for about 10 minutes, but the extra effort is an excellent way to periodically spice up your relationship with America’s favorite tuber.

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