Roasted and caramelized autumn quinoa

Potlucks can be risky for vegetarians and vegans in mixed groups. You might be tempted to make a dessert or appetizer, either to try a fun new recipe you’ve been eyeing or to save a bit of money over buying the ingredients for a main dish. Then you get there and realize the main dishes ended up all being meaty and you eat a dinner comprised of potato chips and cookies, maybe with a few leaves of salad if you’re lucky.

So last Sunday when I realized I had a potluck to go to in a few hours that I had completely forgotten to plan for, I knew I needed to make something quick but hearty — just in case.

Quinoa salads fit the bill. Quick, high protein, filling, delicious, and infinitely adaptable based on what you put in it.

Since it’s autumn, I wanted something with rich, roasted flavors. Without spending all day on it.

Cue my freezer. Low and slow caramelized onions and roasted garlic bring this quinoa’s flavor to the next level, and luckily I had both stashed in my freezer. If you don’t have these items ready to go, this dish will take a little bit longer to make, but it’s the perfect opportunity to make extra to freeze. (I flash freeze my roasted garlic as individual cloves spread out on a baking sheet, then put them in a labeled freezer bag. I freeze my huge batch of caramelized onions in 1/2 cup portions, then again, put all of the portions in one labeled freezer bag. Seriously though, freeze some caramelized onions.)

Roasted butternut squash and fresh chard and thyme round out the garlic and onion into a hearty, veggie-filled, protein-packed dish that can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. This makes it perfect for potlucks as you don’t have to worry about serving it at a particular temperature. If you’re eating it at home, enjoy it slightly warmed when the air is crisp, and chilled when you just wish it would get crisp already.

roasted and caramelized autumn quinoaRoasted and Caramelized Autumn Quinoa

Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

1/2 a medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed *
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1/2 cup caramelized onions (from about 1 large onion, use only olive oil for vegan dish)
10-12 cloves roasted garlic
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
2-3 fresh chard leaves, stems removed sliced into ribbons
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves stripped from woody stalks
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss butternut squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet (lined with a Silpat if desired to ease cleanup). Bake for 30-40 minutes until pieces are slightly browned and fork-tender. Set aside to cool.

If you do not have roasted garlic ready to go, bake it at the same time as your squash. Cut off the tip of the head of garlic to expose the cloves inside the paper skin. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, then wrap in a square of aluminum foil. Throw it on the pan with the squash and it’ll be good to go at the same time.

Put quinoa in a mesh strainer and rinse with plenty of cool water to avoid having a bitter taste to your cooked quinoa. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Add rinsed quinoa and toast, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add water, then cover and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then remove the pot from heat without uncovering and let sit 5 minutes more. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

Let quinoa cool slightly, then stir in caramelized onions. Properly caramelized onions should melt right in and become almost imperceptible. Fold in the chard, which will then be lightly cooked from the steam from the warm quinoa.

Fold in butternut squash, garlic, and thyme. Taste, then add salt and pepper as desired. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

* Note: wear gloves when you’re prepping the butternut squash to avoid the difficult-to-remove drying residue on your hands.

DeLITcious: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2

Happy MaddAddam day! I will receive my copy in the mail today and plan to begin reading it as soon as I get home from work.

As promised, here is the alternate version of my interpretation of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley from The Year of the Flood.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #2If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start with this previous post about version 1.

What makes this recipe so perfectly God’s Gardener-esque is the option to use any fun fungi (hur hur hur) you can get your hands on — extra points if you forage them. However, I have added some specific instructions for the mushrooms I used. I also like the use of the dark vinegar over strictly white or apple cider; it seems more like something that would have been fermented in the Vinegar Room from the dregs of wine scavenged from nightclub dumpsters by the Young Bioneers. The only thing distinctly un-Gardener about it is that it must be refrigerated.

Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1 is great for stabbing with toothpicks for a cocktail snack (or, let’s be real, a standing-over-the-sink-with-a-fork snack). On the other hand, #2 is more well suited to eat as a side dish with a fork or, even better yet, as a building block in other main dishes. Imagine a scoop of these flavorful ‘shrooms on a sandwich, salad or pasta — the herbed oil and vinegar acts as a built in dressing.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #2Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2 – Refrigerated
Adapted from Herbed Marinated Mushrooms from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich

Makes 1 quart

3/4 cup olive oil, separated
approximately 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms, mixed varieties of your choice, stems trimmed or removed as appropriate (I recommend roaming your local Asian market)

I used:
5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
5 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, stems sliced short
5 ounces fresh white button mushrooms, stems sliced short
5 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, torn into bite-sized pieces
5 ounces fresh enoki mushrooms, bottom of stems removed

2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons diced pimento
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped from woody stalk (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon pickling salt

Rinse all mushrooms to remove dirt or debris. Trim or remove woody stems as needed, depending on mushroom variety. If mushrooms are particularly large, cut into bite sized pieces if desired.

In a skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and sauté, covered, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and sauté again until tender. If your varieties differ greatly in shape or tenderness, add them in an order that will prevent you from overcooking the more fragile ones. (For my mixture, I cooked the white button, crimini, and shiitake for 5 minutes. Then I added the oyster and cooked 5 minutes more. Then the enoki, and cooked for 2 minutes more.)

Once tender, drain any excess liquid if necessary and transfer mushrooms to a heatproof bowl.

Combine garlic, onion, and vinegar in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Simmer gently for about 2-3 minutes until slightly softened. Add pimento, herbs, bay leaf, salt, and remaining olive oil. Heat until just boiling, then pour over mushrooms and toss to coat.

Pack the mushrooms into a clean quart jar. Top with a lid (used is fine since it will not be processed) and screw a ring on to close. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator. (Because the jar contents are hot, you may find that the lid “seals” — this does not make it shelf-stable!)

Let the mushrooms pickle for about a week before eating. In the fridge, the oil may solidify and turn opaque — this is normal. Bring to room temperature before serving and the oil will become liquid again.

Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

DeLITcious: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

Ever since my pre-order on February 21, I’ve been counting down the days to MaddAddam.

MaddAddam, coming on September 3, completes Margaret Atwood’s trilogy that started with Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009). The series focuses on a handful of different characters and their experiences leading up to and after a global pandemic. Oryx and Crake follows the experiences of Snowman (aka Jimmy), a privileged young man who grew up on the HelthWyzer compound (a rich suburb that is walled off from the crime and poverty of the “pleeblands”). The Year of the Flood tells the stories of Toby and Ren, former members of a fringe religious group in the pleeblands called the God’s Gardeners who predicted the pandemic, calling it the “Waterless Flood.”

I’ve just reread both of them in preparation, obviously.

One of the things that I like so much about The Year of the Flood in particular, and much speculative and science fiction in general, is the food. Whether it’s a post-apocalyptic world where the ability to grow and safely preserve food is a necessity, or an alien world where a description of dinner helps paint the vivid picture of a world unknown, well-written food always tickles me in a story.

It’s because of this that I’ve decided to seek out and develop a series of recipes inspired by my favorite books. Which I am of course, calling DeLITcious, because I can’t resist a horrible pun. And what better book to start with than The Year of the Flood as I wait with bated breath for MaddAddam to arrive on my doorstep?

In The Year of the Flood, The God’s Gardeners are nothing if not self-sufficient. In many of the flashbacks to Ren’s and especially Toby’s time with them, the food that they grow and preserve plays a major role in their daily life. They have a rooftop garden for vegetables, a beehive to harvest honey, and a mushroom growing operation, nutritional and medicinal alike, in the bottom of an abandoned condominium building.

When Toby first joins the Gardeners, one of the first foods she eats (among many others) is a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1

“The first evening, there was a modest celebration in honour of Toby’s advent. A great fuss was made over the opening of a jar of preserved purple items — those were her first elderberries — and a pot of honey was produced as if it was the Holy Grail.

Adam One made a little speech about providential rescues. The brand plucked from the burning was mentioned, and the one lost sheep — she’d hear of those before, at church — but other, unfamiliar examples of rescue were used as well: the relocated snail, the windfall pear. Then they’d eaten a sort of lentil pancake and a dish called Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley, followed by slices of soy bread topped with the purple berries and the honey.

After her initial elation, Toby was feeling stunned and uneasy. How had she got up here, to this unlikely and somehow disturbing location? What was she doing among these friendly though bizarre people, with their wacky religion and — right now — their purple teeth?”

Pilar and her place in the God’s Gardeners is not revealed until later. However, given the friendship that grows between them, I really like that part of Toby’s first Gardener meal was a result of Pilar’s labor.

All of this is to say, I wanted to make my own version of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley.

But then I ended up with two versions.

Here’s the deal: The God’s Gardeners most certainly would have canned their wares, both for selling at the Tree of Life market but also for packing into their Ararats (caches of food and supplies hidden all over the city in preparation for surviving the Waterless Flood). And Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley most certainly would have contained a wide variety of mushrooms plucked from the bed in the basement of the Buenavista Condos — puffballs, shaggy manes, morels, and anything else that was available when she went to fill the jars.

Therein lies the problem. There are no tested, approved water-bath canning recipes that I am aware of that utilize anything besides standard grocery store button and crimini mushrooms (which, by the way, are the same species). Other varieties of mushrooms would likely have a different density which could affect the safety of a finished canned product.

Because I’m not in the business of poisoning my loved ones, I decided that two versions would be appropriate. First, behold the Ararat-approved recipe utilizing a “medley” of crimini and white button mushrooms.

Pilar's Pickled Mushroom Medley #1Coming soon, a more exciting and exotic medley that must be stored in the refrigerator. Stay tuned. (Update: Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #2 recipe here.)

Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1 – Shelf Stable
Slightly adapted from Marinated Whole Mushrooms by National Center for Home Food Preservation

Makes 9 to 12 half-pints

3 1/2 pounds small whole white button mushrooms
3 1/2 pounds small whole crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
2 cups olive oil
2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon pickling salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup diced pimento
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in quarters
27-36 black peppercorns

Equipment
9-12 half-pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

Important Note: If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

Select the freshest, smallest mushrooms you can find. Wash to remove dirt, then trim off the stems, leaving about 1/4-inch attached to the cap.

Dump all the mushrooms in the largest pot you can find (or split them evenly between two large pots), then pour lemon juice over. Fill with water until mushrooms are fully submerged. Bring to a boil (this will take a very long time), then simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain mushrooms. (Because the pot was so big and unwieldy, I had a much better time using a skimmer to transfer the mushrooms from the simmering liquid to a large bowl. In addition, I was able to save and freeze some of the mushroom liquid — the lemon juice prevents you from using it as straight broth, but I froze some into cubes which I plan on throwing into soups here and there that need a bit of a pick-me-up.)

At some point you should start your canner boiling, depending on how long it takes for it to get up to temperature. When it is, pop your jars, lids, rings, and tools in for 10 minutes to sterilize.

Mix olive oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, onion and pimento in a large nonreactive saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium heat.

Remove sterilized jars from canner and place on a clean dishtowel. Put a quarter piece of garlic and 3 black peppercorns in each jar. Using a funnel, fill each jar with mushrooms until there is about 1-inch of headspace. Then ladle in hot, well-mixed oil and vinegar mixture until there is 1/2-inch of headspace.

Use a chopstick, small spatula, or other non-metal utensil to stab and stir the jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of each jar with a wet paper towel. Center a lid on top, then screw on a band until fingertip-tight (until you just meet resistance). Using jar tongs, place jars in the canner.

Bring water back to a full, rolling boil, then process for 20 minutes (or longer according to this chart if you are at a different altitude).

Using jar tongs, remove jars from canner upright, without tilting. Place on a clean, dry dishtowel without touching each other. Do not disturb for at least 12 hours.

Check each jar for a good seal (press on the middle or the lid — it shouldn’t move or make noise). Any that didn’t seal can be refrigerated immediately and still used. Remove rings to prevent rust, and clean the outsides of the jars and lids as needed before storage. Store in a cool, dark place for 6 to 9 months. Refrigerate after opening and use within 1 month.

Note on yield: While the original recipe states this recipe makes 9 half-pints, I ended up with 10 and a lot of mushrooms still left. If you don’t have enough jars or room in your canner to process them all, you can store them in non-canning jars (I used those tall salsa jars) and store them in the refrigerator.

Briny bay pickled beans

I’ve been canning off and on for a few years now. Not super seriously, to be honest. I have a pressure canner that I inherited from my mother, but I’m terrified of using it. So I’ve just done a few boiling water canning projects: a marmalade that I thickened too much, a few jams that I never really used, a mustard that turned out completely inedible.

Then I made a batch of hot pickled asparagus the other month.

Holy. Shit.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, pickles are the hipster stereotype of home preserving. It’s the food counterpart to homebrewing (which, for the record, is my mister’s thang). But you know why they’re so popular? Because they’re delicious, and hard to fuck up.

One thing that kills me about canning in general is the fear of botulism preventing me from experimenting. But with pickling, as long as you keep your brine at the correct acidity and use the recommended vegetables and processing times? You can play around a bit with your seasonings without paralyzing anyone’s face. I mean, isn’t that everyone’s goal?

So, these Old Bay infused green bean pickles. They’re spicy-sour, and because they only need to be processed for five minutes, they stay very crisp. I may have eaten an entire jar for lunch one day. When my mister whined that he had tried to find the jar in the fridge for his lunch but they were all gone, I reminded him that six of the jars are destined for my Homemade Trade club and not to eat them. But, I added: I’ll put up another batch while green beans are still in season… if he helped me trim them all up.

He agreed with no hesitation.

briny bay pickled beans

Briny Bay Pickled Beans
Adapted from Pickled Dilled Beans by National Center for Home Food Preservation

Makes 8 pint jars

4 pounds fresh green beans
2 1/4 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
4 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon pickling salt
8 cloves garlic
16 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

Equipment
8 pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

Important Note: If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

Wash your green beans and lay out to dry on a dish towel. Trim ends off beans so you’re left with uniform 4-inch lengths. Peel and rinse garlic cloves.

Fill your canner so the water is at least two inches above the jars, and bring to a boil. (You might want to do this earlier depending on how long it takes your canner to come to a boil — I get mine started while I am prepping my beans.)

Wash your jars, lids, rings, and tools by washing in warm soapy water. Then sanitize by boiling in water. Alternatively, use the sanitize setting on your dishwasher, if desired.
In a large saucepan, bring water, vinegar, and pickling salt to a boil.

Remove jars from boiling water.

Add a garlic clove and 2 teaspoons Old Bay to each jar, then tightly pack with as many upright green beans as will fit. Ladle hot brine into each jar — a jar funnel makes this much easier, but if you don’t have one, just be careful. Leave 1/2″ headroom in each jar.

Wipe each rim with a clean, damp cloth. Center an unused, sterilized lid on each jar. Screw the rings over each lid until “fingertip tight” — that is, screwed on until you just start to get resistance.

Use your jar tongs to carefully place each packed jar in the canner. Bring back to a boil, then process for 5 minutes (up to 15 depending on altitude — see chart).

Remove jars from canner with tongs without tilting. Place on a folded dish towel, away from drafts and not touching each other. Let sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours.

Check each jar for a good seal (press on the middle or the lid — it shouldn’t move or make noise). Any that didn’t seal can be refrigerated immediately and still used.

Store sealed jars in pantry for up to 1 year. Then, refrigerate once opened for up to one month.

Summertime drinkin’ with the Leland Palmer

If there’s one thing I like to do in the summer, it’s going to the park to drink outside and play cornhole. Of course everybody brings loads of beer. But I like to make a big jug of something liquory, but not too liquory; because let’s be real, you’re going to be drinking all day.

My friend Laura posted this recipe on my Facebook wall recently. An adult version of an Arnold Palmer with jasmine tea and gin, with a Twin Peaks-inspired name to boot? Sign me up. She said that she had made it, and that it was delicious! Oh but by the way she substituted Iron Goddess of Mercy oolong for the jasmine, agave for the honey, and homemade kaffir lime liqueur for the limoncello.

So yeah, she totally made a different drink. Which also sounds amazing! But as a fan of jasmine tea and honey, I wanted to make this drink.

However, like Laura, I am a little incapable of trying a recipe without futzing with it in some way. One of my favorite gin cocktails involves lemon juice, honey, and peppercorns; I found myself drifting to peppercorns again when thinking of this drink. That said, I don’t want to rehash the same thing over and over. And pickled peppercorns or black pepper both seem not quite right. Black peppercorns are too bold, pickled green peppercorns are too… pickled. But what about pink peppercorns? Fruity, citrusy, with just a hint of spice?

the Leland Palmer

Aww yeah.

The Leland Palmer
Adapted from The Leland Palmer by Damon Boelte for Bon Appétit

Serves 6

3 cups freshly brewed jasmine green tea (I used 4 teaspoons of DAVID’sTEA Dragon Pearls in 3 cups water) *
1/3 cup honey (or agave nectar for a vegan drink)
3/4 cup gin
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
3/4 cup limoncello
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 12-oz can seltzer, chilled
ice cubes, for serving
lemon slices, for garnish
pink peppercorns, for garnish

Stir pink peppercorns into gin and set aside to infuse for at least an hour.

Brew jasmine tea, then stir in honey until fully dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.

In a large pitcher combine cooled sweetened tea, infused gin (including peppercorns), limoncello, lemon juice, and grapefruit juice. Chill until ready to drink.

Just before serving, stir in seltzer. Pour over ice, then garnish with lemon slice and/or a few additional pink peppercorns sprinkled on top if desired (they’ll float).

* If you are using high quality tea, consider making two half-batches of tea with the same leaves (or making a double batch of the cocktail and making two 3-cup batches of tea with the same leaves, which is what I did).

Hot pickled asparagus for an easy and delicious spring canning project

Have you ever had one of those days when you find yourself at the grocery store with $40 worth of pickles in your cart?

No? Just me?

Not only did this happen, but when I posted about it on Facebook it got more “Likes” than anything else I’ve ever posted about in my entire Facebook career. I don’t even know what to think about this.

To be fair, I didn’t even have that many pickles to add up to that $40. What made it so ridiculous was two jars of rick’s picks. I don’t care. Worth it. I got home and promptly ate an entire jar of the mean beans for dinner. Salty, sour, crisp, and spicy. Almost a little too spicy, but not quite. Just perfect.

Except, uh, they’re $10 a jar.

So I’ve been thinking of making some of my own homemade hot pickled green beans, you know, to try to save some cash while still managing to accidentally pickle my internal organs from over-consumption of salt and vinegar.

But then I thought, waitwaitwait, it’s SPRING. And I kept seeing beautiful asparagus of all colors (green! purple! white!) show up in the farmer’s market and grocery stores. Why not pickle that?

I brought a jar to share with some lovely ladies after a group bike ride the other weekend. None of them had ever tried pickled asparagus before. One of them said: “I’d never even heard of pickled asparagus, but now I can’t imagine a world without it.”

In a word: YEP.

hot pickled asparagus

Hot Pickled Asparagus
Adapted from Pickled Asparagus by National Center for Home Food Preservation and Pickled Asparagus with Hot Peppers and Garlic by Dad Cooks Dinner

Makes 6 pint jars

7 1/2 to 8 pounds asparagus
4 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity) *
1/2 cup pickling salt
6 cloves garlic
18 dried chili peppers
6 sprigs fresh dill
1.5 teaspoons black peppercorns
1.5 teaspoons whole coriander

* You can substitute some or all of the white vinegar with apple cider vinegar to your tastes. I went for all white vinegar in part because I was using my lovely blue glass canning jars, but using half apple cider vinegar gives delightful flavor. The important thing is to make sure it’s 5% acidity.

Equipment
6 pint jars, rings, and unused canning lids
boiling water canner with rack
jar lifting tongs
jar funnel (optional, but recommended)
clean dish towels

An important note: canning is one of those things where if you fool with established ratios you can die from botulism. Spices/seasonings can generally be changed around without worry, which is where you can get a little creative. You just don’t want to change types of vegetables or levels of brine acidity willy-nilly unless you are a food scientist with access to lab-grade pH testing equipment or something. If you’ve never canned before, you will probably want to study up on some basics before you get started. And use common sense when eating home-canned goods — leaking, compromised seals, weird growths, bad smells? Play it safe and throw that shit out.

To begin, prep your asparagus: wash and lay out on a dish towel to dry. Trim the stalks off so your spears fit upright in your jar — around 4 inches long.

(There will likely be some usable stalk left after you trim to size — cut that off and save for later use in stir fry, risotto, soup, etc.)

Peel and rinse garlic cloves. Rinse chili peppers. Rinse dill sprigs. Lay all out on a dish towel to dry.

Fill your canner so the water is at least an inch above the jars, and bring to a boil. (You might want to do this earlier depending on how long it takes your canner to come to a boil — I get mine started while I am prepping my asparagus.)

Sanitize your jars, lids, rings, and tools by boiling in water (or by using the sanitize setting on your dishwasher, if desired).

When you’re ready to pack, remove jars from boiling water. Put 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns, 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander, a clove of garlic, 3 chili peppers, and 1 sprig of dill in each jar. Then pack with as much asparagus as will fit, tips pointing up. You may not be able to fit all your asparagus into the jars, but better to have some leftover than not have enough to fill your jars, right?

In a large saucepan, bring water, vinegar, and pickling salt to a boil. Remove from heat, then ladle hot brine into each jar — a jar funnel makes this much easier, but if you don’t have one, just be careful. Leave 1/2″ headroom in each jar — it is okay if the tips of the asparagus are a little bit above the brine.

Wipe each rim with a clean, damp cloth. Center an unused, sterilized lid on each jar. Screw the rings over each lid until “fingertip tight” — that is, screwed on until you just start to get resistance, no tighter.

Using your jar tongs, place the jars on the rack in the canner. Wait for the water to come back to a boil, then process for 10 minutes (or up to 20 minutes depending on altitude — see this chart). Remove jars from canner, then place on a dish towel on the counter, not touching each other.

Leave undisturbed for at least 12 hours. Stay close by if you want to hear the satisfying “pop! pop! pop!” that lets you know you’ve succeeded.

Check that all jars have properly sealed by pressing down on the middle of the lid — if it moves and you hear a noise, put them in the fridge immediately and you can still eat them, but they will not be shelf-stable.

Remove the rings before storing if desired (they can sometimes rust or get stuck). Do not open for 3 to 5 days before eating to allow the asparagus to fully pickle. Store in the pantry for up to one year (hahaha yeah right, you’re eating these all within a month!). Then refrigerate upon opening, for up to one month.

Spicy pineapple seitan, for the mystery pineapple in your cupboards

Last year for my birthday, I had a hot dog party.

It was awesome.

Basically, we grilled up a bunch of Field Roast Frankfurters for me and the other veg*ns, Hebrew Nationals for the omnis, and provided a mountain of buns.

Then all the guests brought a different topping, potluck style. Toppings ranged from fancy-pants mustard to grilled onions to baked macaroni and cheese to guacamole. There were so many delicious toppings that I cut my hot dogs into pieces so I could do different toppings on each bite, and even then still ate way too many hot dogs.

So like I said, a lot of creative toppings, and surprisingly few repeats. But the one thing that showed up over and over was pineapple. People just brought can upon can of the stuff, crushed and tidbits alike. I’m assuming it was to make Hawaiiany hot dogs. But for some reason, none of the cans were actually opened at the party. And they, of course, all got left behind.

I rarely use canned pineapple, so I kind of forgot about it until recently when I was reorganizing the cupboard. My birthday is in April, so uh, they’d been sitting there for a while. Something needed to be done.

I used my favorite tender seitan, Companion Cha’i-Pow-Yu, which you can usually find at Asian markets. It doesn’t look very appetizing right out of the can, but trust me when I say it cooks up nice — just make sure you drain and rinse it. If you can’t get your hands on it, just use your favorite seitan.

Anyway, if you find some cans of mystery pineapple in your cupboard, this is what you’ve gotta do with it. If you don’t have any, this is worth buying some. Trust me.

spicy pineapple seitan

Spicy Pineapple Seitan
Adapted from Pineapple Marinade by Derrick Riches at About.com

Serves 3 to 4

1/2 cup crushed pineapple with juice
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons honey *
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cloves
1 can Companion Cha’i-Pow-Yu (or 10 ounces of your favorite seitan)
1 small green bell pepper, cut into bite size chunks
1 small onion, cut into wedges
heaping 1/2 cup pineapple pieces (canned is fine)
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced into rounds (remove some seeds/ribs as desired to dial down the heat)
1 teaspoon unrefined coconut oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Mix crushed pineapple, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and cloves in a freezer bag or storage container and stir until combined.

Drain and rinse Cha’i-Pow-Yu, then add to marinade and stir to coat. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix seitan and marinade with bell pepper, onion, pineapple, and serrano pepper. Set aside.

Grease a small baking pan with the coconut oil, then pour mixture into it. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and take a small amount of liquid from the pan. Stir it into a small bowl with the cornstarch until there are no lumps. Pour the slurry back into the pan, stir to combine, then bake for an additional 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Let cool for a few minutes.

Serve with rice that has been lightly coated with melted coconut oil.

* Vegan substitution: Use an equal amount of agave nectar for a vegan dish.

Vegan French onion dip for a Super Bowl snack

So, I don’t give a shit about football, or the Super Bowl.

But I sure do like snacks!

Oh yeah, I guess my city is also going crazy because of this particular Super Bowl. Caw caw, and so on.

But mostly, I’m in this just for the snacks.

But what snacks to make? I considered jalapeno popper dip, but decided I should try something new. Then I got to thinking about how I told y’all to make a double batch of caramelized onions earlier this week. And I figured since one of the hosts of the party I am going to is a vegan, it might be nice for him to be able to eat something besides what he’s making.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

vegan French onion dip

This is a great dish for mixed crowds: people who might normally grumble about a veganized version of a classic snack-food will be so blown away by the real caramelized onions instead of sad freeze-dried bits from a packet. Using tofu instead of sour cream and mayo does give a bit of a lighter taste to it. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing; when navigating a Super Bowl sea of deep fried everything, pacing yourself is key. Not for dieting, mind you, but to ensure you can sufficiently sample all the snacks.

If you already have the caramelized onions ready, this dip zizzes up in a hot minute. If you don’t, I once again must recommend that you make a double batch of the onions. It only takes a little bit longer, and you never know when you might need some.

Vegan French Onion Dip
Adapted from Tofu Sour Cream by Vegan Epicurean

Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Onions:
1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions (about 2 large onions)
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Dip:
2 12.3-ounce packages of Mori-Nu firm silken tofu
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon miso
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Marmite
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
salt, to taste

First off, caramelize the onions. Thinly slice the onions in half moons. In a large pot, heat oil over low heat. Add sliced onions and toss to fully coat. Cover and leave for 15 minutes (20 minutes for double batch) to soften.

Remove lid and raise the heat slightly. Add in salt and sugar, then cook and stir onions frequently for 30 to 45 minutes (50 to 60 minutes for a double batch) — you want them to be paper lunch bag brown, and for the texture to be gelatinous, almost like preserves or marmalade. These can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. If using immediately, set aside to cool. You’ll be left with approximately 3/4 cup of caramelized onions.

Put tofu, canola oil, vinegar, lemon juice, dijon, miso, Marmite, and pepper in a food processor and blend until very smooth. Add caramelized onions and pulse 5-6 times — don’t overdo it!

Scoop into a bowl or storage container, give it a quick stir to combine, and cover tightly. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. It will firm up a little bit in the fridge.

Before serving, give it a taste and stir in more salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve with chips, bread, crackers, and/or slices of apples and pears.

French(ish) onion soup with a Japanese-inspired veggie brown broth

Oh, French onion soup. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a kid, and I remember being devastated when I realized that French onion soup had beef broth in it. It’s kind of obvious, right? I mean, something in there is giving it all that beautiful umami, and so many soups are made with meat broth anyway, especially in restaurants. But to a kid, if something isn’t obviously a hunk of meat, it’s vegetarian, right?

French(ish) onion soup

So I set out to make a brown broth. But despite this being for French onion soup, the broth turned out very… Japanese. I was inspired by classic vegetarian dashi, along with a few little tweaks to get a really deep, beefy flavor.

While the broth adds some good flavor, let’s be clear here — this is an onion soup. Most of the flavor is coming from those lovely little caramelized onions. This may be a cheap meal but it’s not exactly quick. Rushing the onions will not serve you in your quest for deliciousness. If you want to enjoy this as a weeknight dinner, the way to accomplish that is to caramelize the onions and make the broth ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

So with that said: go ahead and double the butter, oil, onions, salt, and sugar in this recipe to make a double batch of onions. When they’re caramelized, remove half to store in the fridge or freezer and continue with your recipe from there. Caramelized onions require a such a slow and active cooking time, so it’s worth it to spend a little more time chopping and have something else to show for your efforts. You can plop them on almost anything (pizza! eggs! sandwiches!), make vegan French onion dip, or even save them to make this soup again, only much faster.

French(ish) Onion Soup
Adapted from French Onion Soup by Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 – 5

Broth:
7.5 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms
2 inch piece of dried kombu
1/2 teaspoon Marmite
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Soup:
1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions (about 2 large onions)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter *
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons cognac (optional)
1 teaspoon miso (optional)
soy sauce and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Gratinée:
1-2 cups grated Gruyere * **
1 tablespoon butter, melted *
12 to 16 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard

* Vegan substitution: use all olive oil instead of a mixture of butter and olive oil to caramelize the onions. If you want to do a vegan gratinée I would recommend Earth Balance instead of the butter, and a 1:1 combination of Daiya mozzarella shreds and your favorite vegan parmesan.

** If a) you find Gruyere a little too strong, b) you like a more ooey-gooey gratinée, or c) your wallet cries at the thought of that much nice cheese: substitute up to half of the Gruyere with grated mozzarella.

Put rinsed kombu in cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove kombu, and add rinsed mushrooms. Lower heat to remain at a simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms and squeeze out extra broth — reserve these for another use or discard. Dissolve in Marmite (I stick the measuring spoon in there to let the brown gold melt completely off), then stir in soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside — you can refrigerate or freeze it for later use.

Thinly slice the onions in half moons. In a large pot, melt butter and stir in oil over low heat. Add sliced onions and toss to fully coat. Cover and leave for 15 minutes (20 minutes for double batch) to soften.

Remove lid and raise the heat slightly. Add in salt and sugar, then cook and stir onions frequently for 30 to 45 minutes (50 to 60 minutes for a double batch) — you want them to be paper lunch bag brown, and for the texture to be gelatinous, almost like preserves or marmalade. These can also be refrigerated or frozen for later use.

Once the onions are caramelized, sprinkle flour over the surface and stir over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until the “raw flour” smell goes away. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pot thoroughly as you stir so the flour doesn’t burn on there.

Pour in the wine and stir to combine. Then add the broth a cup or so at a time, stirring well between each addition. Taste for seasoning, then add black pepper and to taste. Hold off on adding any more soy sauce if you plan on using miso and/or topping with cheese, as both of those will bring some saltiness to the picture. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 30 more minutes.

Remove from heat. If using miso, remove about a quarter cup of the broth, and put in a small bowl with miso. Whisk to combine, then pour back into soup. Then, stir in cognac if using. Both of these things are optional, but… they are really good. Give it a taste, and and add more soy sauce if desired.

From here, the soup can be enjoyed as is (and is vegan, if you use all olive oil to caramelize the onions). But if you’re looking to spoil yourself with that rich, restaurant-experience French onion soup, the gratinéed lid is kind of a requirement.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place six oven-safe bowls on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Bring soup back to a boil and ladle evenly into the bowls. Stir 1 tablespoon grated Gruyere into each bowl. Brush a bit of butter on each bread round then place 3-4 on the top of each bowl to cover the surface. Mound grated cheese over the bread.

Bake for 20 minutes. Preheat broiler, then brown tops under the broiler for a minute or two. (Alternatively, use a culinary torch to quickly brown the cheese when you take it out of the oven.) Carefully handling the hot bowls (use potholders!), serve immediately.

The secret to eggy tofu scramble: Indian black salt

Tofu scramble is one of those dishes that every vegan and most vegetarians have in their back pocket. It’s quick, it’s healthy, it’s infinitely adaptable, it’s suitable for any meal, and it’s damn good eatin’.

But nobody who eats eggs would ever actually say an average tofu scramble actually tastes like egg. It’s a delicious way of preparing tofu. But it doesn’t taste like egg.

That’s not a problem, really. It’s tofu, not egg. But some folks hear the word “scramble” and they get… eggspectations.

I’m sorry.

Anyway, this is where Indian black salt comes in. It’s a mineral salt used frequently in Indian cooking which has a high sulfur content, and thus a distinctly eggy flavor. I picked mine up from a Tea and Spice Exchange that I happened into while on vacation, because I hadn’t been able to find it in my local Whole Foods and hadn’t made it to the Punjab grocery to check there yet. But good places to find black salt in general: Indian grocery stores, health food stores, specialty spice stores, and of course, the internet.

Now, I still wouldn’t say this tastes… eggsactly (*ducks*) like scrambled eggs. But for a vegan who’s really missing eggs? Or someone who has ideas about tofu being gross because it’s “always flavorless”? Black salt is a very nice touch.

As I mentioned, the nice thing about tofu scramble is that it’s infinitely adaptable. I used red onion and baby spinach because I had it, but feel free to substitute with anything languishing in your fridge (or even prepare it plain and top with cheddar Daiya for a childhood throwback).

black salt tofu scramble

Black Salt Tofu Scramble

Serves 2-4

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
5 ounces baby spinach
1 small red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
1 14-ounce package firm tofu
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons Indian black salt
1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
heaping 1/8 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

While preparing the rest of your ingredients, press tofu to remove some excess water. I have this tofu press and I compress the tofu about halfway and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, then add 2 teaspoons olive oil. Warm until oil is shimmery and easily coats pan, then add red onion. Saute until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add baby spinach, toss to coat, and cover. Let wilt for 3-4 minutes, stirring once. Transfer mixture from skillet to a colander and squeeze extra liquid out, then set aside.

Again heat skillet over medium-low and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Warm oil, then roughly crumble pressed tofu (I just use my hands) into the skillet. Sprinkle with black salt, nutritional yeast, turmeric, and garlic powder and stir to combine. Start with a teaspoon of black salt — you can add more to taste after you add the veggies.

Continue to heat and stir until tofu is warmed through and broken up to your desired texture. Add reserved veggies and stir to combine. Taste, and if desired, add additional black salt for more saltiness (obviously) as well as more eggy flavor. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Heat again until everything is warmed through and serve immediately.