Mayonnaise-less, Brussel Sprout, Apple, Walnut Slaw

Since we are discussing end of summer/beginning of fall recipes (and using up apples) let’s talk about this slaw.

This summer, I was on a mission to invent some coleslaws that achieved classic potluck coleslaw level creamy-ness without mayonnaise. Driving this mission, was my deep love for cabbage and my deep hatred for mayonnaise as a salad binding agent. Sure, I like to dunk fried potatoes in inappropriate amounts of aioli, but for whatever reason I shutter when faced with salads–whether or tuna or cabbage based–coated in mayonnaise. In July, I decided that 20 years of mayonnaise salad aversion had forced me to pass up too much cabbage and it was time to do something  about it.

Since then I have been tinkering with how to make sufficiently creamy coleslaws by combining all sorts of cabbage with various nut-based dressings. For Noah’s birthday, I tried red cabbage with tahini and parmesan, which worked pretty well, but which I have not quite perfected. For lunch one week, I experimented with a broccoli and peanut slaw, which also still needs work. For our potluck break fast tonight, however, I think I nailed it.

To make this I used a miso-walnut dressing from 101 Cookbooks that I learned about last year from BigGirlsSmallKitchen. I made the original recipe for this dressing with soba noodles a lot last winter, and I suddenly remembered it a few weeks ago as the perfect creamy dressing with no mayo or cream. So, last night, I tossed it with shaved brussel sprouts and finely chopped apple and let it sit for 24 hours. Today, it tastes like my dream coleslaw. Creamy, sweet and savory all at once but with no mayo at all. Perfect for the last round of picnics.

Brussel Sprout, Apple, Walnut Slaw:

– 10 ounces brussel sprouts

– 1 mutsu apple

– Handful of walnuts

For dressing: (From 101Cookbooks via BigGirlsSmallKitchen)

– 1/2 cup walnuts (The original recipe calls for them toasted. I do not have a toaster and am generally too lazy to toast them in the oven or even a pan. It has never been a problem.)

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 2 cloves garlic

– 2 tablespoons white miso paste

– 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

– 1 teaspoon honey

– 1/ 4 cup warm water

* Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in the blender until smooth.

* Finely chop apple and put in large bowl.

* Remove brussel sprout ends and any bad leaves. Cut each brussel sprout in half and then slice into fine slivers.

* Add slivered brussel sprouts to apple and toss to mix.

* Add walnut-miso dressing and toss until brussel sprouts and apples are finely coated.

* Cover and refrigerate over night.

* Toss a handful of walnuts on top before serving.

Apple-Ginger Financiers

New Haven is not a large city. It’s the kind of place where you really should look behind your back before you start talking about someone behind theirs. (Yes, I do realize that better still would be to not talk about people behind their backs at all. I’m working on it.) While I’m relearning what it means to live somewhere where you are never far from someone you know, this weekend I was delighted to realize again that living in a small city means you are very close to the country. It takes only fifteen minutes to drive from our apartment to an apple orchard.

I got home from Boston Friday night and told Noah I wanted to find someone to go apple picking with me.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one with the idea. Before I could put my plan into action, our good friends called up to ask if we wanted to go apple picking. Noah, diligent student that he is, stayed home to work. But, the rest of us headed off to the orchard Saturday afternoon.

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I came home with about 10 pounds of apples. I’m going to need to find some more apple intensive recipes stat to use up my haul, but, although it only used one apple, this was a good place to start. These homely little cakes, are a kind of New England twist on a financier. Financiers are french cookie-cakes that are made from a base of almonds and brown butter. For fancy people, there are even special financier molds. For the rest of us, there are muffin tins.

The great thing about financiers is that there are recipes out there, like this one from smittenkitchen and GlutenFreeGirl that don’t call for any gluten; you can make them entirely with almond flour. I tinkered with this recipe a few weeks ago when trying to make a gluten-free version of Melissa Clark’s fig-hazelnut financiers. The results were pretty good and very pretty, but I thought a bit too buttery.

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More elegant, more buttery fig financiers.

Faced with a pile of apples, I decided to retry the recipe, cutting the butter substantially and folding in apples and grated ginger. The end result looks pretty humble–less like something you might find in a French pastry shop and more like something you would find on a breakfast table in Maine–but they taste like the beginning of fall. They aren’t heavy and dark like the almost winter deserts of Thanksgiving, but light and crisp. A gentle, warm, little cake that still has a bit of spring in it from the ginger. I think it would be good with a cup of tea or a scoop of ice cream.

Now, I just ned to figure out to do with the remaining 20 apples.

Apple-Ginger Financiers: 

– 1 cup finely chopped tart, green apple (I used a Mutsu)

– 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger.

– 1 1/4 cups almond meal

– 3/4 cups powdered sugar

– 1/3 cup egg whites (from about three eggs)

– 4 tablespoons salted butter

* Grease muffin tins. (I ended up making 10 financiers using a standard sized muffin tin.)

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

* Melt butter until it just starts to brown and then turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.

* Toss chopped apple and ginger together and set aside.

* Whisk together almond meal and powdered sugar using a fork to losen any clumps of almond meal.

* Whisk egg whites into almond-sugar mixture to make batter.

* Fold apple and ginger mixture into batter.

* Fold melted butter into batter until it is completely incorporated.

* Spoon batter into prepared tin, filling each well about half way.

* Bake for 10-15 minutes until tester comes out clean and sides are golden brown.

* Allow to cool.

Quick Asian (and Trader Joe’s) Inspired Salad

Today I began another research trip, but this one is going to take a few months. I’ll be in New Haven on weekends but spending my weeks in Boston. While I’m here, I’m incredibly lucky to have free and lovely housing. It’s day one though, and I didn’t feel totally comfortable making a mess of my wonderful hosts’ kitchen when preparing myself dinner tonight. So, when I found myself grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, I ended up looking for things I could make easily.

The project actually brought me back to some of my first forays into cooking dinners for one. When I lived in D.C. the closest grocery store was Trader Joe’s so I put together most of my meals based on what they had. Any frequent Trader Joe’s shopper knows that their selection is quirky, but I actually think it’s great for inspiring interesting combinations. In D.C. my roommates and I regular cooked their pre-cut sweet potato spears in the toaster oven to make the most delicious home fries. I liked mine doused in cumin and olive oil and tossed in salads with feta cheese. I also remember a delicious salad I regularly brought to work composed of fingerling potatoes (which Trader Joe’s used to sell ridiculously cheaply in a microwavable bag, but which I can’t find anymore), peppers, edamame and spinach.

My snack of choice at the moment is wasabi roasted seaweed, which you can get at a lot of grocery stores these days including Trader Joe’s. Tonight, I decided it would be good on top of a salad so I let it dictate what else I bought. I picked up a bag of arugula, a bag of snap peas, some cherry tomatoes, a sweet potato, and their teriyaki tofu. At home I microwaved the potato; chopped up all the ingredients; dressed it all with some olive oil, some rice vinegar, and a splash of soy sauce; and crumbled some of the wasabi seaweed sheets on top.

In my own kitchen, I might have cooked and marinated the tofu myself, but frankly this was delicious. More importantly, I only used one knife, one cutting board, a bowl and two forks. Perfect for easing myself into someone else’s kitchen.

(In my own kitchen I also would have taken a picture.)

Quick Asian Salad for One: 

– Arugula

– Sweet potato

– Chunk of firm seasoned tofu (I used Trader Joe’s Teriyaki tofu.)

– Cherry tomatoes

– Snap peas

– Sweet potato

– Roasted wasabi seaweed

– Rice vinegar

– Soy sauce

– Olive oil

* Microwave sweet potato for five minutes and then chop into small pieces. (Make sure to stab a few holes in the potato with a knife before you stick it in the microwave.)

* Halve cherry tomatoes and cut snap peas and tofu into chunks.

* Toss tomatoes, potato, peas, and tofu with arugula.

* Drizzle with olive oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to taste.

* Crumble seaweed on top.

Asian-Style Quinoa Patties with Miso-Mayonnaise Dressing

The summer I was 18, I moved to Seattle to work on a voter registration campaign with six friends. We lived in a three bedroom apartment in the U district. Our only pieces of furniture were our seven air mattresses, a folding camp chair, and a desk we scrounged up off the side-walk. We also hung some maps on the wall, which I’m sure made us look more than a little suspicious–not that anyone was looking.

For some reason, we decided that we needed to cook and eat every dinner together for an entire summer. We paired up in twos–each pair got responsibility for a night–and designed giant weekly grocery lists for things you could cook in very large pots.  This is not the pathway to either domestic harmony or good cooking. That may be one of the most valuable lessons I learned the year I was 18.

Almost no dishes stand out from the pots of spaghetti and beans that we ate that summer (although there was a pasta with sausage and peppers that I would happily eat again any day of the week), but I do remember my first encounter with quinoa.

It didn’t go well. One friend described it as looking like tiny, unrolled condoms–an image that is so accurate it is forever in my mind when I eat quinoa. More importantly, it tasted boring and kind of bitter.

Subsequent encounters with quinoa did not change my first impression. This was probably because it kept showing up at cafeterias, brown bag lunches, or picnics–basically whenever people are trying to feed large quantities of people–and it was always mixed with some sort of dried fruit or canned beans and feta.

But here’s the thing, quinoa kept showing up in these settings for the same reason we ate it during my summer in Seattle. You can easily make a lot of it.

I’ve been making quinoa lately not because I need to feed seven, but because I can make a lot of it on Sunday and eat it for lunch for the rest of the week. One of the best things about making quinoa for a week of lunches is it can change forms as the week goes on. For example, quinoa patties have become one of my favorite things.

Basically any bowl of leftover quinoa can be mixed with eggs, some binding agent (I like almond flour for a gluten-free patty, others use bread crumbs), a leafy green or a bunch of herbs, and baked or pan fried into a delicious and highly portable lunch.

I’ve made a lot of quinoa with pesto over the last year and it always transforms beautifully into patties. This week, I decided to try this recipe for Japanese quinoa from Chocolate and Zucchini. I ate it with hardboiled eggs for the first part of the week and then switched over to turning it into asian style quinoa patties at the end of the week.

Usually I eat my quinoa patties straight or on top of a bed of vegetables, but, since this was Asian style quinoa, I decided to dress them with a quick miso-mayonaise dressing. It made the whole lunch seem a little decadent, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing on a Wednesday.

Asian-Style Quinoa Patties with Miso Mayonnaise: 

Note: Since this is a recipe for leftovers, I’m doing it for one patty, but you can scale it up easily for as much quinoa as you have leftover. If you scale it up enough it becomes worth baking the patties, but for lunch for one I find it easier to pan fry. 

For Patty:

– 2/3 cup leftover quinoa from Chocolate and Zucchini recipe.

– 1 egg.

– 1/4-1/3 cup almond meal.

– Oil.

For Miso Mayonnaise Dressing:

– 2: 1 ratio of mayonnaise and miso paste.

– Splash of vinegar.

– Chili powder to taste.

* Mix all patty ingredients together in a bowl.

* Heat oil in pan.

* Press quinoa mixture down into patty in pan. Cook until crisp and brown on one side and then flip.

* In the meantime mix together miso, mayonnaise, chili powder and vinegar.

* Serve finished patty on bed of vegetables (I used tomatoes one day and leftover green beans the next) with miso-mayonnaise.

Za’atar Beet Dip

We celebrated Labor Day in style, by starting the morning with a 5 K fun run and then cooking up a storm for a picnic by a lake. It seemed like we needed one last day lying in the sun and splashing in the water before we truly gave up on summer. (And I, at least, heard the proposal for a day at the lake and thought, “I bet I’ll be able to read a lot of Game of Thrones while I’m there.”)

Nevertheless, fall (and tomorrow) loomed as I planned our lunch. We had offered to contribute a bunch of sides to the feast. Noah made delicious potatoes that had no purpose beyond today. I, planner that I am, decided to contribute considerably less carefree spreads that could become sandwiches later in the week.

Despite its practical intent, I think we can all agree that this beet spread is far from having a practical color. In fact, I’m pretty sure it looks like the inside of a fourth grade girl’s bedroom. It tastes more interesting than it looks.

I adapted the recipe from this Ottolenghi recipe in Food and Wine. It could not be simpler. This was the second batch I’ve blended this week. It works as well on a chip as it does on a sandwich with goat cheese or hummus.

Za’atar Beet Dip: 

– 6 medium roasted, peeled beets or, and this is what I’ve been doing, one package of Trader Joe’s pre-cooked beets. I’m sure this is better with home roasted beets, but we’ve been shopping at Trader Joe’s where it’s hard to get your hands on a raw beet.

– 2/3 cup plain, greek yogurt

– 1/2 Habanero pepper, seeded

– 2 garlic cloves

– 3 tablespoons olive oil

– 2 tablespoons za’atar

– 1/4 cup walnuts

– 1/4 lemon

– salt to taste

* Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (I blend the yogurt and beets together first and then add everything but the salt. I do the salt at the end, carefully.)