breakfast soup: a way of life.

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When Jacob and I were on vacation in Hawaii in January, we got a big bag of organic quinoa and made some for breakfast every morning. Coconut milk, maple syrup, some local fruit, some nuts, and hot quinoa. It was great, and I felt great. But I knew I wouldn’t be up for quinoa breakfasts when we got back home, because when I’m in work mode (11 months out of the year), I wake up and want to get to work and start working, not making food since making food (well, candy) is my job all day long.

Also I got really tired of quinoa.

In an attempt to get me to continue the quinoa thing, or some kind of breakfast thing, since its effects (calm clearheadedness, minimal food-rage outbursts) were obvious, Jacob turned to me one day and said dramatically, “I would like to invite you to join me in a club. A secret club.

.

.

.

A breakfast club.”

And how do you say no to that?

So I’m trying.

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We talk a lot at work about Ways To Not Become Crazed With Hunger, for two reasons.

First, most of us at the shop are women and women are taught by a patriarchal society that martyrdom is an exalted and appropriate lifestyle choice and therefore putting aside one’s own desires (i.e. eating when hungry) in favor of serving a wider society (i.e. getting more done) is OK. Second, because the nature of working at the shop is to just bump along from one thing to another thing then to get interrupted from those things by another thing, so that soon five hours passes and you’re not only working on five things at once but also you suddenly and with a huge flash of rage-hunger realize you passed a few hours ago the calm and sane equilibrium that rational and regular meal consumption provides.

We are all working hard to not do this. 

Kate is our breakfast inspiration, really. Last fall, Kate, who is better at eating meals than anyone I know, gave us a Snack Seminar which attempted to get us to eat more regularly. Her other big campaign is for everyone at the shop to eat breakfast. She’s probably the only one who eats a true breakfast every morning: a serious meal, complete with pour over coffee and multiple home-cooked components (tacos! avocados! sautéed greens! pancakes! wraps! sometimes all on the same plate!). The rest of us traditionally either grab whatever’s hanging around, or eat nothing at all. I wake up with lots of morning energy that I’m desperate to harness, so I get to work as quick as possible in order to have a little quiet time before the rest of the crew arrives. This habit is not conducive to a morning meal, and I usually feel the effects around 1 PM, when I suddenly want to kill everyone in the immediate vicinity and desperately eat a Turtle because I tell myself that at least it contains protein (five pecans!).

Most of us at the shop are giving a really good go of The Breakfast Club 2014. Maresa’s doing something involving soy yogurt and a special kind of muesli, Jacob transitioned straight from quinoa into oatmeal then grits then steel-cut oatmeal then back to quinoa again, Erin has minions of girls willing to bring her a bagel with tofu cream cheese with a quick dispatch of the shortest of texts. We’re trying. Brendan is still living on cigarettes, Marena on ketchup packets from The Bistro, but we’ll all get there, eventually.

My thing is Breakfast Soup. I’ve been doing it around a month now, and maybe it’s too early to say it’s utterly and completely transformed my life, but I’m going to say it anyway.

I love it so much that I’ll even eat it on Saturday mornings right next to freshly fried delicious doughnuts and not even bat an eye. (Then I’ll eat two doughnuts for lunch—I’ll tackle eating a balanced lunch maybe in 2015 or something.)

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Breakfast Soup fits me like a fair isle sweater with a floral Lanz dress, mismatched leggings and hair that’s wild from being contained into Heidi braids all day: it’s weird, and I freaking love it.

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I love it much that I want everyone to be eating it. So here goes, my attempt to indoctrinate you into the cult of breakfast and specifically into the ways of Breakfast Soup.

Salient points first, then a loose recipe:

  • Breakfast Soup is an almost-instant meal. I make mine once a week or so, and once it’s made it’s ready in the time it takes to boil water for tea (if you have a wild fancy induction stove like we do at the shop, this is 1 minute and 30 seconds). The making of the soup itself is quick too. In truth I’m sort of always making soup, and because of that it takes almost no time at all. I just sort of set aside scraps for it from meals throughout the week, and it makes itself. More about this below.
  • I prefer not to do this, because I love BS so much I never want to get tired of it, but on ultra-rushed days BS can easily become LS: Lunch Soup. Add some noodles, fry up some vegetables and toss it in, and you have more of a hearty meal.
  • Breakfast Soup is a perfect and elegant way to efficiently use leftover scraps of food,  which makes it mighty cheap.
  • Breakfast Soup is protein-heavy and sugar-free, which are important components of a meal if, say, the rest your day involves mandatory sugar consumption. Though I joke about eating two doughnuts, in reality I heavily monitor my sugar intake, and don’t want to waste it on a gross sweet breakfast when I have to make RSSCs or something later in the day and need to taste appropriately.
  • I want to describe to you how good Breakfast Soup makes you feel. You feel good on two levels: you’ve eaten a healthier breakfast than anyone you know and therefore have bragging rights all day (and I know not what makes one feel better than bragging rights) but you also literally feel amazing because you’ve eaten the healthiest breakfast of all time. It truly is a magical meal.
  • Everything good in life should include miso, and BS does too. If it wasn’t already midnight and I had more time to put into this manifesto I’d Google around to find you stories about Japanese citizens who ate miso soup every day (for breakfast!) & got radiation sickness when we dropped horrifying bombs on them at much lower rates of other Japanese who had abandoned this traditional practice. So not only does Breakfast Soup make you feel good in the moment, who knows what the future may hold and maybe it will prevent against horrors yet to come as well.
  • Man oh man that got dark. Let’s move on to the recipe and stop thinking about World War Three.

BREAKFAST SOUP RECIPE!

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There are three components to a great Breakfast Soup:

  1. Broth.
  2. Stuff that goes into the broth.
  3. Things you add in at the end.

Broth.

The broth has to be made from kombu or kelp.

There are very few rules to Breakfast Soup.

There is actually only one rule to Breakfast Soup, and this is it: make a dashi (the Japanese term for a broth made from kombu). Without dashi your soup will be bland.

Let’s talk here for a minute about breakfast flavors.

In my previous life as a savory chef, I prided myself on how much I pushed my flavors. Because people think of vegan cooking as bland, I made sure my dishes were balanced and flavor-forward like crazy. More acid! More umami! More richness! Those three are still my trifecta. Rarely can a dish not be improved by lemon zest, shoyu, and olive oil. Or vinegar, porcini mushrooms, and ground cashews. Or yuzu juice, tomato paste, and coconut milk. Acid/umami/fat—my babies.

But breakfast is different, obviously. My BS is savory, but not bursting with flavor. It still has a breakfast vibe, and it’s important to preserve that. I don’t want something super acidic, or very rich. My BS has almost no fat in it at all, which differentiates it from 99% of the other dishes I make, which are pretty fatty. I feel best when I eat a lot of high-quality fats: olive oil, tons of nuts, lots of avocados. But not at breakfast.

So I hold myself back when making Breakfast Soup, but I also don’t want a plain, flavorless, watery breakfast. There is a fine line between purity and elegance of flavor and blandness. Classical Japanese cuisine, particularly the naturally vegan shojin ryori style I’m obsessed with, walks this line with elegance and style, and I want my Breakfast Soup to do the same.

All this is to impress on you how essential kombu is to the dang dish. Kombu is this huge thick seaweed. You don’t need to eat the kombu, is the thing. If you don’t like sea vegetables, just tell yourself you’ll only use it to make the dashi. Within a few weeks I bet you’ll be doing what I do: using it to make the dashi, then using scissors to cut it into bite-sized pieces you then add back into the soup because actually the taste is pretty lovely.

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I get my kombu and kelp from Ironbound Island sea vegetables, in Maine. I started buying from them because Sandor Katz recommended them and I love Sandy so much. I kept buying from them because they have the best, and most local, sea vegetables I’ve ever tasted. If I have a headache from eating too much sugar, their dulse brings me right back into balance. I nibble on it plain, it’s briny and amazing and I’m alive again. Then, when some nuclear reactors melted down in Japan and the fallout can still be measured as far away as California, I decided to be more circumspect with the Japanese foodstuffs I buy. So now I use Maine sea vegetables out of love for their flavors and also fear of more far-flung seaweeds.

What a tragic world we live in.

Back to soup!

If you want to make Breakfast Soup but you don’t like seaweed, I suggest two things:

  1. Learn to like seaweed. Or:
  2. Don’t make Breakfast Soup.

Seriously! I promise that if you eat Breakfast Soup for two weeks straight you’ll crave that seaweed, and all its trace minerals, its natural iodine and anti-carcinogenic properties, like crazy. Promise. I’ll give you a caramel if I’m wrong, OK? Call me on it!

So kombu is the thing that saves Breakfast Soup from being bland. You could use some dried mushrooms in addition. Just bring some cold filtered water to a boil, toss in 6″ or 12″ of kombu or so, and simmer it for a while. A half hour, fifteen minutes—whatever. It’s good to do this at night, then let the kombu sit in the broth overnight. There. You’ve made dashi. Take out the kombu and throw it out or chop it up and put it right back in. Broth: done.

But there’s an easier way to make the broth, too. Yep, easier than adding one thing to some water and bringing it to a boil.

Every time you cook something tasty and not in the cabbage family (cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc), save the cooking water. Pasta, potatoes, the water under your vegetable steamer, etc. Put that water in the fridge with some kombu in it. No need to heat it, especially if the water is still hot. Instant dashi.

In time, when you get into the flow of Breakfast Soup, you’ll find that while you’re cooking throughout the week you’re sort of unconsciously thinking about ways to steal parts of your dinner you ordinarily would have thrown out for BS. Mushroom stems, onion and carrot and potato peelings, even scraps of lemon rind: put them in the same container with your kombu stick. When you run out of BS and need to make a new batch, you’re mostly done already.

Stuff that goes into the broth.

You really need very very little stuff that goes into the broth.

It depends on how hungry you are and what you like to eat in the morning. Also on what’s in season, and how much money you can spend.

Sometimes I feel really unhungry in the morning. On those days I basically make Breakfast Soup Tea: just broth and miso soup and maybe some spinach leaves. Most mornings I add wakame to the soup (two seaweeds, I know I know what a hippie) and something green. Right now, much to my locavore heart’s horror, that something green is either pre-cut pre-washed baby kale you get in plastic boxes at the health food store, or asparagus, because for some reason my health food store has had a good price on California organic asparagus for two weeks now. New Paltz asparagus won’t be up for like three months, but I am enjoying fragrant asparagus pee now! Decadent. If you’re a better locavore than me, you can use local homegrown greens you’ve frozen or fermented in your soup.

I defrosted this vacuum-sealed milkweed to put in my BS, but then I saw some pasta dough in the freezer too, and instead I mixed it with soft cashew cream cheese and made little raviolis for dinner. Oh wintery freezer! Sometimes you're OK, you know that?

I defrosted this vacuum-sealed milkweed to put in my BS, but then I saw some pasta dough in the freezer too, and instead I mixed it with soft cashew cream cheese and made little raviolis for dinner. Oh wintery freezer! Sometimes you’re OK, you know that?

I put some kimchi in sometimes, if I feel like I’m getting sick. (I always want spicy, fermented foods when I feel like I’m getting sick. I’m probably jinxing myself here, but I haven’t had a full-blown cold or flu in years, and I truly think it’s because of going crazy on spicy foods—and the neti pot—at the first sign of stuffiness.)

I shy away from noodles or root vegetables in my soup, unless, as I said, I’m making it into a rare Lunch Soup. Lightness and freshness is my whole thing, again. Herbs are nice, leafy ones like cilantro and parsley, or chervil and tarragon if you’re getting fancy. The tops of celery, those tender, celadon leaves, are nice. Fennel tops, too. Anything gently green. beet greens wouldn’t be my thing here, nor swiss chard. But baby spinach, sure. You can put in whatever you want. I tend to put greens and herbs and other fresh things into each little morning batch instead of reheating the entire soup every day with them in it, so they are still green and fresh-tasting.

Usually when I’m making soup I want to pump up that savory umami richness so I sauté most everything that goes in it in olive oil for another layer of flavor, but for Breakfast Soup I just drop it in the broth (which you want to strain first if it has things like onion peels and stuff in it, naturally).

I’ve been getting little bags of maitake mushrooms and adding them too, thinly sliced. If I don’t have any sometimes I add some dried porcini mushrooms or thinly sliced cremini or shiitake mushrooms. A friend gave me a Woodland Jewel DIY oyster mushroom kit for Hanukkah and it’s still pumping out little oysters I’ve been adding, too. Basically, add any kind of mushroom you like. Mushrooms are a gentle way to add deep flavor.

At this point I also add either shoyu (good-quality soy sauce) or tamari (for gf buddies). Sometimes if I want the soup to be extra comforting and warming I add either some spicy sesame oil or toasted sesame oil, too.

When/if we ever get out from under four feet of snow, Breakfast Soup will make an ideal use for the little bits of foraged foods that you can easily collect in the springtime. The first dandelion shoots, tender and sweet, field garlic, garlic mustard, wood sorrel, chickweed, wild lettuce, maybe a morel here and there, even—Breakfast Soup can be almost free with a little effort and a little bit of help from a springy earth.

I also finely dice tofu and add it to the soup, or I often add misozuke, which is just tofu fermented in miso. I started making it for the Shanghai dinner we did last year and never stopped. Speaking of miso…

Things you add in at the end.

As you can see, the stuff you put into your broth is absolutely a matter of personal preference, but I have strong ideas about what you should make your broth from. Similarly, I want to really really press for you to add miso to your soup. Otherwise it’ll be bland and sort of not useful, really.

Miso is a very powerful food, and I’m convinced it starts your day with magical powers. You need to treat it with some care however: add a little broth to your bowl, then mix in a spoonful of miso and the rest of the broth. This way you won’t boil the miso and kill all the fermented loveliness of it. You can just get plain old Miso Master miso from the health food store, or any brand from an Asian market (just make sure it’s made from organic soybeans, so you’re not eating a bunch of GMOs for breakfast), but if you want to treat yourself right, make your own miso (Wild Fementation, the Art of Fermentation, and The Book of Miso all have instructions) or buy South River Miso’s luxuriously handcrafted misos. They sometimes release seasonal misos (ramp miso! dandelion miso!) that are worth waiting for.

I ramble on a lot more about miso here. And this is a blog post I wrote about many many other ways you can use miso. I REALLY LIKE MISO, OK?

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I finish my soup off with two more elements: scallions, if I have them, sliced super thinly, and a lot of shichimi togarashi. When I tell you that shichimi togarashi is a spicy Japanese condiment you’ll immediately think, “cool, I’ll use sriracha,” and you so totally can use sriracha. I love sriracha too! But shichimi togarashi is more than just acidic and spicy, like your roostery BFF: it’s a blend of seven spices and they all add up to the finishing touch for a soup that’s well-rounded and deep without being heavy or unbreakfasty. Yuzu peel, sesame seeds, a lil bit of ginger, chilies, a tiny bit of nori (third seaweed of the day and you’re only at breakfast!!!)—it’s a whole world of a meal in of itself, but it’s never overwhelming (though it does get crazy spicy if you add too much, so go slow).

For a meal which takes 10 minutes to make enough to last a week, I sure managed to ramble a lot. I hope it’s been useful for you.

Go make some soup!! And let me know how it goes.

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Cabbage rolls stuffed with sauerkraut, apples, and rye bread with creamy dill sauce

A customer of ours was browsing the archives of this blog, and asked if I could post a recipe of the Cabbage Rolls, because the photo looked so tantalizing. It does, they are, and I can.

I’m happy to, because I love this recipe so, so, SO much.

Like most good recipes in this world, it’s adapted from Bloodroot.

Like most good recipes in this world, it’s a bit of work. Not too much though. And it’s fun work.

And look what you end up with:

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Cabbage rolls stuffed with sauerkraut, apples, and rye bread

with creamy dill sauce

makes about 30

 

2 large onions, chopped

4 stalks celery, stems and leaves, chopped

olive oil and grapeseed oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2  c diced tart, crisp apples, such as Mutsu or Fortune or Pink Lady

2 packed c sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed

1 Tb. caraway seed

1 1/2 Tb. sugar

3 Tb. apple cider vinegar, or to taste

sea salt

fresh pepper

1 1/2 c cubed rye bread, toasted until crisp

1-2 large cabbages, depending on size

small amount ground seitan, optional

  1. Sauté onions and celery in a mix of ¾ grape seed oil and ¼ olive oil until lightly browned. Add apples and sauerkraut to frying pan and turn heat to high. Add more oil as necessary. Add caraway seeds and sugar and fry until sauerkraut begins to brown a little. Add garlic and sauté one more minute, stirring often to make sure garlic doesn’t burn. Turn off heat and add vinegar. Season to taste rather aggressively with salt and pepper.
  2. If using seitan, roast or sauté it until lightly browned, then add to mixture.
  3. Turn mixture into a bowl and mix with breadcrumbs. Let cool and adjust seasonings.
  4. Use a small knife to cut out the core of the cabbage. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and place cabbage in, stem end down. Cook until leaves begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes, depending on size of cabbage. Remove cabbage to a colander over a bowl and gently pull off as many leaves as are par-cooked. Return cabbage to pot as often as necessary until all leaves are par-boiled.
  5. If center vein of leaf is thick, cut most of it out. Hold one leaf at a time in your hand or on a plate, top generously with filling, and roll up. Tuck sides in and place in a shallow baking dish. Repeat. The smallest inside leaves of the cabbage will hold just a little stuffing like a cup.
  6. Lightly brush tops of rolls with oil and refrigerate until serving time. Rolls will need ½ hour to 45 minutes in a 375°F oven to heat thoroughly and to glaze the tops. If you want, you can baste the rolls with the Dill Sauce as they bake.

Creamy dill sauce

Makes about 5 c—you definitely won’t need this much, but I like to make a lot and freeze it. It’s great on roasted vegetables.

¼ c grapeseed oil

¼ c flour

3 Tb. prepared mustard

2-3 Tb. shoyu or tamari

2 Tb. nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

fresh pepper to taste

3 Tb. chopped fresh dill

  1. Heat grapeseed oil and flour, whisking constantly. When mixture begins to bubble, add remaining ingredients except dill along with 4 c water. Bring to a boil, whisking until thickened.
  2. Remove from heat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as necessary, and add chopped dill.

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That’s it! Go forth! Make them, post photos of ’em on Instagram and tag them #lagustasluscious! Then eat up.

Oh, and psst, if you like Eastern European heavy duty wintery dishes, you’ll probably go crazy for my Cabbage and Onion Pie. 

Enjoy!

 

Celery Root Rémoulade

My pal Randy needs to use up lots of celeriac (also called celery root) he grew this summer. Here’s my favorite way to use it:

First, make your almond mayo. Here’s my recipe. It’s the best! (Not to brag or anything).

Now that you have your almond mayo, you can use it as the basis for a classic French rémoulade sauce. Related to tartar sauce, rémoulade is a mayonnaise-based condiment. It’s zippy and creamy and wonderful.

Rémoulade

Whisk another two tablespoons of good prepared mustard into the basic Almond Mayonnaise recipe (see above), and toss with a tablespoon or two each of chopped cornichons or other pickles, chopped parsley, chopped capers, and chopped fresh tarragon. That’s it!

I like rémoulade best in the dish Céleri Rémoulade (Celery Root Rémoulade): thinly sliced celery root (also known as celeriac) mixed with a mustard-flavored rémoulade. Celery root is not a widely-used vegetable, and if you’ve never cooked with it this is a great entry into the wonderful world of this tasty root vegetable. It’s a round, celery-flavored root often available at farmer’s markets in the fall. Choose a medium-sized root, as large ones can be woody inside. Celery root is usually served mashed or roasted, but you can eat it almost raw if served with a flavorful sauce—like rémoulade!

To make Celery Root Rémoulade, peel one celery root and slice very thinly with a mandoline slicer or vegetable peeler. (Optionally, to be super traditional you’d then cut the slices into matchsticks.)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then stir in the celery root. Cook until just tender, 1-3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water, then toss celery root with rémoulade sauce. Let the flavors meld in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Randy, if you make it, take a photo I can steal for this page! No pressure or anything to make this AMAZING DISH WITH ALL THAT CELERIAC I KNOW YOU HAVE…. ; )

Cranberry Citrus Compote and Candied Orange and Cranberry Bonbons

As I write this at 1 am on Halloween (I’m a night owl!), I can’t quite wrap my mind around November being here already. But here it is, and I’ll welcome it warmly, because this last week has been so tough for so many of us that turning the page seems like the best thing to do.

We’ve had a wild month at the shop, too, but less fraught with weather-related nightmares, thankfully. Oprah and Halloween (which brought with it a truly bittersweet surprise) bookended a month of intense busy-ness, which will (hopefully!) only intensify as the holiday season approaches.

Which brings us to this month’s chocolate: Candied Orange and Cranberry Bonbons, which are inspired by an amazing Cranberry Citrus Compote I make every year for Thanksgiving, and think about making the rest of the year but never do because of that weird thing where it’s almost impossible to make holiday foods when it’s not that particular holiday.

In case you’d like to start and end your holiday meal with the fresh flavors of cranberries and zesty citrus, here’s my recipe for the compote, which I adapted from Fine Cooking magazine years ago. Don’t forget the chocolates, too!

No photo of the compote, but I’ll add one after Thanksgiving!

CRANBERRY CITRUS COMPOTE

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Makes 5 cups

Keeps a week. If making far ahead, stir in scallions at last minute. Let come to room temperature before serving.

19 oz. fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed

optional: 5 oz frozen currants. I like using currants because you can get them locally. I usually freeze some during the summer for this dish.

zest of 2 lemons

zest of 2 oranges, preferably blood oranges

3 shallots, finely chopped

1 ¼ c sugar

½ c orange juice

1/3 c thinly sliced scallions

pinch salt

  1. Heat oven to 350. Combine cranberries, currants, zests, shallots, and sugar in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Turn into 2 (2 qt.) baking dishes and drizzle orange juice over the mixture.
  2. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and a few berries have popped open, about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven, let cool thoroughly (the pectin in the excess liquid will firm up when cool), stir in scallions, cover, and refrigerate.

no secrets

A fellow chocolatier in London recently contacted me saying she wanted to add a vegan line of chocolates to her business. She asked for some tips on how to make vegan ganaches, caramels, and white and milk chocolates. Yay! This is exactly why I’m in business—to make tasty things that are so ridiculously delicious that no one cares they’re even vegan (um, except for us vegans). To make treats so amazing that they reassure aspiring vegans that vegans can have treats that are just as decadent and amazing as ones made with dead and dying animals. To this end, I don’t really have secrets. Here’s what I wrote back to her:

Hello xxx!

What a lovely email! Your chocolates look so great. I’m so happy you’re working on a vegan range!

OK, here are my tips:

Our “white chocolate” and “milk chocolate” aren’t truly tempered or anything, they’re more like ganaches. I make the white chocolate with coconut milk, coconut oil, cocoa butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and sea salt. We just melt everything down and process it in the food processor and it hardens up just fine, though you can’t use it like regular tempered chocolate, obviously. We mostly use it as a filling. Then our milk chocolate is just the white choco plus regular tempered chocolate.

I’ve talked with some bean-to-bar makers around here who have said they could make me real white and milk chocolate that’s vegan with coconut milk, but I’d have to buy big quantities, so it’s a dream for another day.

As far as caramel and ganache—we mostly use coconut milk and coconut oil in everything you’d use butter and cream for. Coconut oil is about 15-20% more fatty than butter, though, so you need to use less of it and play around a bit. We use a refined coconut oil that doesn’t taste coconutty, and the coconut milk doesn’t taste coconutty once you add chocolate or make it into caramel.

Let me know how it goes!

Sweetest,

Lagusta

A How-To for Vegan Sugared Flowers. And about a million photos of same.

Once I wrote a blog post about how to make vegan sugared flowers (also called candied flowers).

These days I candy my homegrown flowers every week or so (helloooooo summer!) for these simple flower tablets I’ve been making for sale in the shop (too delicate to ship, sorry!)—just candied flowers and pure chocolate, inspired by this—and Maresa makes a lot for her cupcakes too, so the two of us have learned a lot of tips since I wrote that post.

Here’s an update to the above-mentioned post:

  • Don’t use the flax seed eggs I recommend in that blog post. In time, your flowers will get yellowy/brown from it. Also, it’s a bit of a pain to make.
  • These days we just use any old starch instead of the flax seed eggs: Maresa started using that egg replacer powder stuff you can get in health food stores, then I used cornstarch one day, and now we mostly just use a quick cornstarch slurry. Heavy on the cornstarch, light on the water. You need to stir it up pretty often. I have a feeling xanthan gum or potato starch would work just fine too. 
  • Maresa and I do this technique of roughing up super fresh flowers with our thumbs before we paint on the starch slurry—just-picked flowers are sometimes so dewy that the starch just slides right off. 
  • Obviously, be sure to use organic cornstarch, since you don’t want some gross GMO cornstarch on your beautiful flowers! (And if you aren’t using organic cornstarch, it almost definitely is genetically modified.)
  • My newest thing is backwards candying. I really like the effect of putting flowers on whatever you’re putting them on (in my case, chocolate) backwards, so I often candy the least-pretty side. Backwards flowers have a pretty sugary edge, and a brighter (non-sugary) face, and they seem to hold up just as well as ones that are candied on both sides (I can’t say for sure how long they hold up because the tablets usually sell within a few days…). I’ll try to remember to take a photo to show you.
  • Like this guy, I spent a lot of time this spring candying lilac petals. I cannot tell you what a giant pain this was. I have no tip. Just giant pains. 
  • Like Joe Pastry mentioned above, I also color my sugar (regular organic evaporated cane juice sugar I make superfine by whizzing it in a food processor for a few seconds, as mentioned in the original post). I use organic food colorings from Nature’s Flavors. They’re hella expensive, beware.
  • Did you know peonies are edible? Neither did we. Did you know peonies taste awful? Neither did we. Now we know both.

OK, that’s all I’ve got.

Have fun! HAPPY SUMMAH!

making soup, redux.

I went to title this post “Making Soup,” then I had a funny feeling and went and looked it up, and sure enough, I’ve written a post about how much I love making soup before. Well, just like every soup is different depending on the mood of the soup-maker, every blog post about making soup is different, so here we go again.

Lordy, lordy, I love making soup. The other day I had two (two! 2!! DEUX!) days off. Everyone said that after the wildness of Valentine’s I should just go home and relax for a while, so I did. Maresa worked all by her lonesome for two whole days, and I came home and answered all my emails, mailed my tax papers off to the accountant, did my yoga, put some curtains Maresa gave me up in my office that I’d been meaning to put up for six months,

cleaned my entire house, mended a huge pile of clothes—and made soup.

Well, I got the “go home” part right, even if the “relax” part is too boring to me, anyway.

A quiet day all by myself, some food podcasts playing softly in the background but nothing, really nothing to turn off, and soup-making. Yes.

I made a clean-out-the-fridge soup, a Chinese kind of one, sorta. And I think I invented something, too. It’s all very exciting.

All I wanted to make was a simple dumpling soup. A light brothy thing. Some greens getting wilty in the fridge. Some tofu rapidly aging. Maybe some dumplings, stuffed with ground tempeh, a nod to the ground pork in Chinese dumplings, and lots of ginger and garlic and scallions—a burst of flavor in the middle of a calm soup. But when I went to make the dumpling dough, I realized I didn’t have a rolling pin at home. I have seven (yep) at work, but instead of

1) Rolling them out with a glass, or

2) Driving two minutes to work,

I instead drove to the store to buy prepackaged dumpling wrappers. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t step a foot into the shop, and rolling dough out with a rolling pin substitute is really no fun. So, the store.

But there were no vegan dumpling wrappers at the store, so I called up Jacob, busy mixing some indie band in NYC, and talked about my day off and whined about how Things Weren’t Going Perfectly With A Plan That Wasn’t All That Important Anyway (a constant theme in my life). He suggested making dumplings with some rice paper wrappers hanging out in our pantry we use to make summer rolls in the summer. I told him that would never work, they’d dissolve in the soup too quickly and anyway, Chinese dumpling soup is made with wheat flour dumplings. I’m the cook in this family! His dumplings idea was ridiculous!

Soup plan on hold, I mopped all the floors in the house and mused on this ludicrous rice paper wrappers idea.

I decided to go for it with the rice paper dumplings. What a cross-cultural mix! Chinese soup with Thai rice paper wrappers? I’m not much of a fusion girl, really, and had wanted a more Chinatown-ish dumpling soup, but if the flavors work, they work, who cares about authenticity, right?

So I made my broth.

I had some dried galangal hanging around, that flowery, beautiful cousin of ginger that adds such depth to….ahh, to Thai food! So already my soup was fusioning itself, leaning more and more Thai. I put the woody rhizome into the pot, thinking wistfully of the gorgeous  young fresh-dug galangal that Jacob’s stepmother, Warunee, grows in her garden in Hawaii and is always giving to me, and added some thinly sliced ginger and garlic. I had some wild lime leaves (another Thai flavor!) in the freezer, and added some too. Eating Warunee’s wonderful Thai soups—fragrant with homegrown galangal, ginger, garlic, and lime leaves, on fire with hot homegrown chilies and tamed with coconut milk—had taught me that big chunks of flavorings you didn’t exactly want to chew on weren’t the worst thing in a soup, so I left the galangal in big huge slices and the lime leaves whole. They’d add the flavor to the soup then we’d take them out as we ate.

I added some kombu seaweed, which I add to every soup broth, no matter what ethnicity it happens to be, because of its umami depth and lusciousness. When I’m not making a Japanese soup where kombu seems appropriate, I take it out after the soup cooks but before we eat it, and then sometimes I chop it up and use it less like a broth base and more like a vegetable in the next soup i make. Italian-style soups, like minestrone and bread soups (real clean-out-the-fridgers, those), are nice with some chopped kombu, it melts right into the Lacinato kale I always seem to add. (And if anyone needs sea veggies I do, me with my cupcake-a-day diet and endless RSSC scrap noshing, and and and and…). Hmm. I’m more of a fusion cook then I want to believe, I guess. If it works, it works.

Back to my Chinese-Thai dumpling soup. I added some dried aricula, those tree ear mushrooms that come in impossibly compressed form and don’t taste like much but add some juiciness and a bit of depth.

Some scallions, too. I added some water—but not just water, pasta cooking water. Thanks to ten years working at Bloodroot, an intensely frugal, traditionally-minded restaurant (that just so happens to make the best soups in the universe), I never boil pasta or potatoes or any starchy thing at all, really, without saving the water. My mentor Selma‘s voice will call out to me–“DON’T WASTE THE POTATO WATER!” if I do. (She saves hers for rye bread and…oh my, that rye.) Even if I’m not making soup soon (which is rarely), I will boil tomorrow’s pasta in the pasta water of two days ago, convinced it adds untold flavor to the dish. Rice for breakfast cooked in potato water? Awesome. Anyway, it’s my little habit, I can’t stop now. Really this soup should have been more brothy, dumpling soup isn’t exactly thick, but I like a nice slightly viscous broth.

So I put my not-so-Chinese-by-the-minute soup with its broth made from two day old double pasta water on to boil, then to simmer.

Then I fried up some maitake mushrooms (organic maitake mushrooms at the health food store, what a world!) and added them to the soup with chopped dandelion greens, thinly sliced scallions, more shoyu, a bit of garlic vinegar (my homemade secret ingredient to everything—apple cider vinegar with green garlic steeped in it for a few months. We sell it at the shop!).

I loaded the dishwasher as I went, and smiled at how fun it was to cook at home—if my shoes were drying on the dish rack, no one need care or know. (It was muddy out the day before when I was modeling leggings, if you must know!)

I made my dumplings: rice flour wrappers with some ground tempeh fried in grape seed oil with a ton of chopped ginger, garlic, scallions, chile paste with garlic, and shoyu added and a little cornstarch to encourage it to all stick together. Just a bit of all that in each little package. Rolled them up.

Simple soups like this don’t need a long cooking time. By the time the dumplings were done, the soup was done. I stirred in some roasted sesame oil and added a bunch of dumplings to it and sat down to eat, while drinking tea and reading the newest Bust magazine. Day off stuff.

The soup!

It was all brothy and clean-tasting, with these insane chewy dumplings right in the middle that exploded with rich wild flavor, a burst of fresh, barely-cooked garlic and ginger and allium deliciousness mixing with the fried tempeh and the rice paper wrappers—wow.

I said at the beginning of the post that I invented rice paper dumplings, but as you can see, Jacob invented them. But I made them, so I’ll take credit, too.

Day off soup. Sigh. Nothing better.