Waldorf Salad

Celery, you guize!

Celery

Look, it’s so green!  It’s also something I usually have no idea what to do with it when it arrives in my veggie box.

Probably because I used to hate it.

Celery was my most-despised vegetable growing up.  I thought it was bitter and stringy and I absolutely could not understand why anyone would insist on ruining perfectly good food with its presence.  My mother used to try to get me to eat it because of the allegedly magical weigh-loss effects it would have on my fat little body.  But even in those days of self-loathing, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, no matter what the promised effects.

I grew up and my tastes changed (both in food and the best way to deal with living in a fat-hating culture).  I’d occasionally buy a stick of celery to put into pot of stock, or even a mirepoix. But it wasn’t until the last year or so that I’ve come to actually like the stuff (and even sometimes – shockingly! – crave it).  It’s so deeply associated with diet-culture in my mind, and it’s hard to enjoy any sort of food if you’re eating it as punishment.

Anyway, a lovely bright green half of celery turned up in my veggie box, and since my freezer is full of as much stock as it can hold, I needed to find another way to use it.  Also in my veggie box were some of the crispest, pinkest sweet-tart apples I’ve ever eaten.  The solution was obvious.

Waldorf Salad

I haven’t eaten a whole lot of Waldorf salads in my life (see above re childhood hatred of celery), and what few I have sampled tended to be drowned in overly sweet dressing.  Don’t do that.

This salad is crisp and crunchy. It makes a lot of noise in your mouth. It’s sweet and juicy and tangy and nutty.  It’s in-season. It’s refreshing.  It’s surprisingly satisfying. I want more.

Waldorf Salad
Serves 2

2 red apples (pink ladys are excellent)
3 stalks of celery
A couple of handfuls of walnut pieces
Half a bunch of parsley
Radicchio or other lettuce leaves (optional)

Dressing:
2-4 tblspns mayonaise (I used home-made aioli because I just happened to have some leftover, and the garlic was an excellent addition)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Combine all the  dressing ingredients in a jar, shake vigorously, taste, season and set aside.  You want the dressing to be tangy-but-creamy, thick-enough-to-coat-but-not-too-thick. You know, perfect.

Core the apples and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Finely slice the celery.
Chop the parsley.
Put them all into a bowl with the walnuts.
Pour over enough dressing to lightly coat everything without drowning it.

I hear the done thing is to serve this up on a bed of radicchio leaves, but I just ate it straight from the bowl. And it was delicious.

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Warm Carrot & Bean Salad

This is a good salad.  A delicious salad.  A surprisingly hearty salad.  Well, maybe not that surprising, given the beans, but tasty and satisfying nonetheless.  It’s also a simple salad, easy to make and even easier to eat.  Try to leave some leftovers, though, because it’s pretty damn tasty the next day (though I’d recommend gently reheating in order to maximise the tastiness).

The recipe originally comes from 101 Cookbooks, and I made a few changes according to taste and what was in the pantry.  I added a lot more lemon juice because I love the zinginess.  I used two tins of beans, one large butter beans, the other borlotti because that’s what I had.  My carrots weren’t particularly young (but coming from my Greenline veggie box, they were characteristically sweet and delicious).  That is to say, it’s an adaptable salad as well.  Make it with whatever you have.  I promise it will be delicious.

 

Carrot & Bean Salad
from 101 Cookbooks

For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
a good pinch of salt
3 shallots, thinly sliced

For the salad:
Olive oil
2-4 carrots, sliced
2 tins of white beans
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
2 tblspns brown sugar
Sliced almonds (optional)

Mix together the dressing ingredients.  Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, and set aside.

Put a largish pan over medium head. Add a good glug of olive oil, then add the carrots in a single layer.  Still occasionally until browned and softened.

Toss in the beans and the dill and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until everything is heated through.

Tip the mixture into a large, heat-proof bowl.  Sprinkle with the sugar and about 3/4 of the dressing, and mix gently.  Let it sit for 10minutes or so to absorb the dressing and allow the flavours to mingle.  Add the rest of the dressing if necessary (or keep it aside to liven up any leftovers).  Sprinkle with flaked almonds if you’re using them.

Grab your fork and eat!

Vegan Pho

It’s cold in Melbourne.  I’ve been in the US for the last couple of months, and I’ve returned to a welcome-home dose of tonsilitis.  So I’ve been staying in, rugging up, and eating soup.  Specifically, pho, which is quite possibly the best soup ever invented. Rich and aromatic and spicy and delicious pho.

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup traditionally made with beef stock and flavoured with cinnamon and star anise. I find a rich mushroom stock to be an excellent veg*n alternative to beef, but if you’re pressed for time or just don’t feel like making stock from scratch, you can use any good vegetable stock.

I wasn’t going to post about it until I remembered to take some photos, but I’ve been talking about it on the twitters and had a few requests for the recipe, so here it is.  Pictures may come later.

Vegan Pho

For the broth:
1 litre of good vegetable stock
1 large onion, quartered
1-2 inch chunk of ginger,
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise pods
3-4 cloves
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

For substance:
Noodles
Tofu
Broccoli or other greens

For the garnishes:
Chilli
Lime
Coriander or Vietnamese Mint
Bean Shoots

Put a large pot over high heat.

Cut the ginger into 3-4 pieces and whacked with the side of the knife to bruise.  Add the onion and ginger to the pot and cook for around five minutes, until scorched and charred.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the spices. Toast the spices for 1-2 minutes, just until they become aromatic. Be very careful not to burn or everything will be bitter and ruined.

Add the stock, starting with a little at a time.  It will splutter against the hot pan, so be careful.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce, taste, and add more if you think it needs it.

Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients. Cube and fry the tofu. Prep the noodles according to packet directions. At the last minute, very lightly steam your greens.

Prep the garnishes. Finely chop the chilli, clean and pick the coriander or Vietnamese mint, cut the lime into wedges, and wash and trim the bean shoots.  Put them all in separate dishes ready to serve.

Your broth should be done by now – have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Get a big bowl. Fill with noodles. Top with tofu and greens. Ladle over steaming hot pho broth. Serve with the garnishes on the side.  I recommend squeezing a metric tonne of lime juice over everything, but go easy on the chilli because it tends to sink to the bottom and get hotter as you go.

Eat and be happy.

Orange Radish Salad

I’m currently in the US.  I’ve been here for six weeks now, and I’ve been eating while I’ve been here – boy howdy, have I been eating!  I will tell you all about it soon, promise.  But first, a couple of catch-up posts, of the last things I ate before I leaving Melbourne.

Orange & Radish Salad

This salad is good.  It’s juicy and refreshing and sweet and bitter and crunchy and delicious.  The orange is what makes it.  And the radish.  And the onion.

It came about because I was craving radish.  It’s not something I usually crave, but for whatever reason, I was hankering after these bitey little red globes.

Radishes

I also had oranges from my veggie box that needed eating.  Orange and radish.  So good together.

Orange Radish Salad

1 small butter lettuce, or mixed leaves, or whatever leafery you’d like

½ red onion, finely sliced

3-4 small radishes, finely sliced

pinch of salt

2 oranges

¼ cup olive oil

½ tsp mustard

1. Wash the radishes and slice as finely as you can.  Sprinkle with a little salt.

2. Slice the onion as finely as you can.

3. Segment the oranges by taking a sharp knife and cutting as close to the membrane as possible.  Work over a bowl so that you can collect the juice as it drips.  Give the membrane a good squeeze to get all the juice out.

4.  Combine ¼ cup of juice with the olive oil and mustard in a jar.  Seal tightly and shake.  Season to taste.

5. Break the lettuce into bite-size pieces if necessary.

6. Toss all ingredients together with dressing (there will be leftover dressing).

7. Serve as a side salad, or with some good, strong bread for a light meal.

Monk Bodhi Dharma – Breakfast Degustation

Monk Bodhi Dharma seems to be the one southside cafe all the northsiders get excited for.  Personally I like it well enough, but I don’t think it’s the best my neighbourhood has to offer – I’d put Carlisle St favourites Batch and Las Chicas both ahead of MBD.

It’s exciting to have a veg-only venue, and one that has plenty of vegan options, but I still have a few complaints.  The first is that the blocks of wood they use for seats are damn uncomfortable.  It’s true I have a spectacular arse, but I’ve eaten there with svelte friends who found the accommodations equally uncomfortable.  That said, I love the fit out, and find the use of the tiny space endlessly fascinating.

The second is that I think the food is overpriced – $15 for beans and rice is, frankly, a bit much.  The third is that I find the meals, while always flavoursome and hearty, sometimes lack one element that would bring them together and lift them above what I usually make at home – a bit more protein, say, or a little creamyness; perhaps some yoghurt to cool the spiciness.  I certainly wouldn’t apply this to all the dishes – the corn hotcakes are perfection – but I’ve eaten a few almost-but-not-quite -perfect dishes, too.

Complaints aside, I am very fond of MBD, and it’s on semi-regular rotation for breakfast out (if I ever make it past Batch, that is).  And I was *super excited* when I booked a table for the Breakfast Degustation way back at the beginning of December last year.

The MBD Breako Dego (as I took to calling it) is 100% vegan and consists of three courses plus chocolates and coffee for $40.  I opted to pay the extra $10 for fancy coffees to go along with the courses.

The coffees (all pourovers) were amazing – hardly surprising given coffee is one of MBD’s great strengths.  They know their coffee, have a variety of different beans on offer, and are happy to make recommendations.  As much as I love coffee I’m happy to admit my ignorance once things get past a certain level, but I appreciate the knowledge that goes into the selections.

The first course was ‘summer vegetables with tomato water and horseradish vinaigrette’.

This consisted of thin slices of squash, heirloom radishes, tomato, herbs, and peaches in a light broth.  It was a beautiful dish, though I thought there was just a touch too much olive oil, which overwhelmed the delicacy of it.

Next up withs a ‘king oyster muchroom and avocado carpaccio with grated summer truffle, drizzpled with jalepeno oil & served with fresh bread’.

Now I love king oyster mushrooms, and I love avocado, so this dish was always going to be a win.  The jalepeno oil added a gentle heat and complexity to this delicious dish.  My only complaint was that there wasn’t more of it – but any tummy rumbles were kept at bay by the two fresh bread rolls served alongside.

I love bread, too, and having both the seedy grainy and the crusty sourdough was excellent.  Some good butter would have made these perfect, but I guess that would’ve spoiled the vegan-ness (Nutelex, perhaps?).

The last ‘proper’ course was a ‘sweet potato and coconut breakfast custard on a macadamia and ginger cookie crumble, served with Cointreau caramel and a balsamic tamarillo reduction.

This was truly spectacular!  The sweet potato custard tasted exactly like pumpkin pie, the crumble had a good ginger spike, the caramel was sweet but not over sweet, but the true genius of the dish is the balsamic tamarillo reduction.  Those dark smears on the plate had an incredible intensity of flavour – sweet and tangy and caramelised and lively and truly amazing.  I wanted to lick the plate, and probably would have were we not seated at the communal table with eight or so other Dego diners.

The final course was a selection of handmade organic vegan chocolates.

Look, they have gold on top!  These were amazing.  I’m actually not always a huge fan of dark chocolate (I realise this makes me a complete failure as a foodie snob), but these didn’t have the harsh bitterness that I sometimes object too.  They were smooth and moderately sweet, and intensely flavoured with orange and cocoa.

The breakfast degustation was a pretty spectacular start to the day, and I left feeling perfectly satisfied but not stuffed.  It was a highly enjoyable experience, and I’d probably go back next time I have $50 to spare on breakfast.

Monk Bodhi Dharma
Rear, 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava (next to Safeway)Ph: (03) 9534 7250
www.monkbodhidharma.com.au
Breakfast Degustation: $40 + $10 for matching coffees

I’ve been meaning to do a lot of things

Well hello again.  Yes, it’s been a while (again).  Things keep getting in the way – not of cooking and eating, I have been cooking eating – oh, I have been cooking and eating!  But of photographing and writing and, well, doing anything with this blog at all.

I’ve been meaning to tell you all about the cooking and eating, though – about the incredible meals I’ve eaten at Attica and Ezzard (kindly subsidised by my amazing housemate who takes pity on my student budget).

And I meant to tell you how those meals inspired me to cook a 10-course degustation meal for my mother’s 60th (So much work! So much delicious!).

I wanted to tell you about the delicious vegetarian pancakes and vegetarian pho at Thanh Na Nine (I had the faux pho, but there’s faux-free pho as well):

And I wanted to tell you about the bbq “beef” at Yong Green Food. And also their blueberry vegan “cheesecake”, which I didn’t take a picture of because I was too busy eating it.

About making dulche de leche the old fashioned way (by boiling tins of condensed milk on the stove top for 2-3 hours.  Some people are scared of this method, due to the threat of exploding hot caramel, but you just have to use a big pot and make sure you check the water levels frequently.  Also, let the tins cool completely before opening, otherwise, yeah, exploding hot caramel.  Nobody wants that.)

And about the “pie party” we had for new years, which included Smitten Kitchen’s incredible Cauliflower & Caramelised Onion Tart, and a Mushroom, Blue Cheese & Caramelised Onion tart inspired by Sweet Source in North Carlton, and Cindy & Michael’s scrumptions vegan sausage rolls (ok, I was lazy and used the butter puff I had in the freezer, so mine technically weren’t vegan, but damn they were delicious – much nicer than “real” sausage rolls!).

I was going to mention the new (double!) oven that the landlord (finally!) bought to replace the old one which had holes melted through the door.  And the food processor I bought with my xmas monies (Best. Appliance. Ever).

I wanted to tell you about Ilona Staller, which is Ciccolina‘s sister restaurant and opened just before Christmas around the corner from me.  Verdict: delicious food, great drinks, fantastic service, in desperate need of more vegetarian options (there’s only one veg entree and one main, though there’s a good selection of sides, and their deserts are incredible).

I wanted to tell you about Misty’s Diner, which is outstandingly kitsch and serves wonderfully artery-clogging clogging food that conforms to every US cliche you can think of (deep fried! giant serves!) and I don’t care because it makes me happy.

I wanted to tell you about Rachael Kendrick’s kinky brownies because they may well be the best brownies I’ve ever eaten, and I’m compulsively pimping the recipe to the rest of the world.

I wanted to tell you about Mamsita (the corn! THE CORN!) and Naked for Satan and HuTong Dumpling (which I think is totally worth the 100% mark-up over Camy, if you can manage to get a table).

I wanted to tell you about my favourite hangover cure (because a lot of this eating has been accompanied by a lot of drinking).  It’s called shakshuka, and it’s the best.

I wanted to confess that this blog is basically a recap of all the food blogs I stalk.

And that I’m a bit embarrassed by my iPhone photos, but I bought a shiny new camera which takes much better pictures and will be debuting soon.

And that I’m taking off on a Big Fat US Adventure in March and April, and I’m very excited about all the amazing food I’ll eat there.

And there’s still more things I wanted to tell you about, but maybe I’ll leave those for another post.  If anyone’s still reading.

Dear Gretel

I’m sorry I haven’t written you in a while.  Things have been busy around here.  You already know I’m working on a thesis, but have I told you I’m about to start tutoring as well?  It’s true, I am!  I’m both excited and terrified, and more than a little mystified as to why anyone would entrust me with the shaping of impressionable young minds. (My plans are all coming together!  Soon I will take over the world!  Mwuahahahahaha.)  Ahem.

Yes, things have been busy, but I’ve still been cooking and eating, oh yes.  Many, many delicious things. I just haven’t been writing them up.  I could say it’s because my old camera, which was gifted to me when the flash stopped working, finally died and I’ve been forced to resort to phone photos.  But we both know my photography was never what you’d call good to begin with, and actually, I often get better photos with the camera phone anyway.

No, dear Gretel, the real reason I haven’t written in so long is Masterchef.  Yes, I have been watching it.  On any given evening you may find me in front of the tv with a glass of wine in one hand and a twitter stream full of #masterchef snark in the other.  Oh, I love it!  But I’m also a little ashamed of just how much that show has been influencing my cooking.  I like to think I’m somehow above it all.  Above the product placement, the food porn, the emotionally manipulative editing. But then Kylie Kwong makes this eggplant dish full of chilli and coriander and buckets of oil* and, well, I’m sure I’ve told you how much I love eggplant.  I couldn’t help myself!  I didn’t mean to go to the website, or download the recipe, or try to cook like a masterchef cooks.  But it was eggplant! I’m sure you understand.

I wish the eggplant was all I had to confess.  But I also made the Salt & Pepper Tofu that was in the same episode.  Salt and pepper tofu is one of my favourite things ever, and oh my, this was good.  The mushrooms that go with it? Well, they were disgusting…ly good.  Sweet and gingery and soy-sauced and delicious.

Not satisfied with having sullied my kitchen once, I decided to make the whole thing again a week later for dinner with one of my favourite new friends (Hi, Sam!).  This time I left out the mushrooms, but added yet another Masterchef-inspired recipe, Chinese Money Bags.  I altered all these recipes a fair bit (I used spring roll pastry rather than rice paper for the money bags, for example, and seriously reduced the amount of oil in the eggplant).  I also remembered to take poor-quality camera phone pictures to show you, so here they are:

Delicious, crispy parcels of mushroom and tofu goodness.

This photo is all wrong in terms of priorities.  Rice in the forground, delicious eggplant on the left, steamed greens on the right (not a Masterchef recipe, this is a Michael & Cindy recipe), and salt and pepper tofu behind that.

I am sorry about the photos, and if we do indeed ‘eat with our eyes’ as everyone on Masterchef keeps insisting, then I suggest cooking up these dishes yourself and looking at them in the (non)flesh, rather than through the my phone.  Mostly I suggest cooking up these dishes yourself and eating them with your mouth, because that sounds like much more fun.  Especially when there’s chilli involved.

____________________

*Actually way too much oil for me, and I love oily eggplant.  I cut it down significantly the second time I made it.