Saturday, September 28, 2013

Homemade Bread Love

I've written before about gifts of food and how powerful they are in conveying love.

I got to experience a dose of this the other day when I came in to my office to find this note on my desk:

And this beauty:

It was such an unexpected treat, and one that made me feel cared for in ways that went far beyond just the bread itself. It got me to thinking about how closely tied food and love are, what it means to feed another person, how we convey a deep sense of investment when we sustain others in that way--whether it's a volunteer shift at a soup kitchen or a mother breastfeeding her own child.

I, for one, would almost always prefer a gift of food to most others. It is edible, temporary, supportive.

So I took that beautiful loaf and turned it into a beautiful sandwich, savoring every bite:

Here are a few others' takes on gifts of food:

BBC: Love bites: Is food the risk-free gift?
29 Homemade Food Gifts from Martha Stewart
And a great big Pinterest board of food gifts

What's the best gift of food that you've ever gotten?!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vegetarian Korean Burritos

I'm pretty proud of these beautiful jars of kimchi that I made with a friend a few weeks ago:

We used the recipe of David Chang, founder of Momofoku, though we cut the garlic in half (and I went light on the dried shrimp). Here I am, with the sliced, over-nighted napa cabbage in my right hand, and the other veggies and flavorings in my left hand.

Although the kimchi is delicious in its own regard, the real reason it's blog-worthy is that it is a crucial ingredient in one of my new favorite foods: the [vegetarian] Korean burrito.

Picking up on the Korean/Mexican fusion trend that has made it so big in Los Angeles through the Kogi BBQ Taco Truck, my friend TY and I came up with this winning combination of flavors, all wrapped up in a burrito. I'm constantly craving them these days, and am pretty much always ready for more. Here's a rough attempt at a recipe, though it's very flexible. Let me know how yours turn out!

Vegetarian Korean Burritos
(serves 6-8)
  • 1 block firm tofu
  • seasonings for tofu (soy sauce, chili paste, etc.)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-5 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 pint kimchi (using David Chang's recipe or another, or buying pre-made), chopped
  • 1 can beans (soybeans, black beans, or navy beans work well)
  • 3 cups crunchy veggies, sliced thinly (cabbage, carrots, radish, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, etc.)
  • 8 tortillas
  • 4 T mayonnaise
  • 1 T sriracha
  • a handful of cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
  1. Drain tofu and squeeze gently between your heads* to get rid of excess water. Cut into 3/4" cubes. Toss with a mixture of soy sauce, chili paste, and oil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes, until golden and firm (can use a toaster oven for this step if you have one).
  2. Meanwhile, saute onion in 1 T oil over medium high heat, until softened and beginning to brown. Add cooked rice and chopped kimchi, stirring to combine. 
  3. Prepare other ingredients. Drain and warm the beans. Slice your crunchy vegetables thinly to make a sort of slaw mixture. Mix mayonnaise and sriracha in a separate bowl until pink and spicy.  Warm tortillas until they are pliable. 
  4. When you are ready to assemble, spread about a 1/2 T of the mayo-sriracha mixture on a tortilla, layer on the kimchi rice, baked tofu, beans, slaw mix, and cilantro (if using). Tuck in both ends, and roll up! Repeat for all 8 tortillas. Dive in! 
  5. These burritos keep well for several days if you wrap them in foil after assembling. But they are really delicious right away. And you have any leftover ingredients, mix them together for a quick fried rice!

 * You could see if you could find a friend who would lend you his/her head so that you could squeeze the tofu between your heads, but my mom gently points out that perhaps it would be better if you used your hands.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chipotle vs. Big Food

Chipotle has come out with a great little film that I'm totally saving for use in future classes. It's called "The Scarecrow" and is worth three minutes of your time:

Eliza Barclay over at NPR's The Salt has a great article on this video: Taking Down Big Food is the Name of Chipotle's New Game.

She offers a review of the commercial, and of the aesthetic that Chipotle is trying to convey with its alignment with small food vendors and against the sterile corporation.

It raises fascinating questions about what "Big Food" actually is, and how Chipotle does and does not fit under that label? Does being "Big" make a food company part of "Big Food"? Does "Big" here stand in for all kinds of other values that Chipotle does not espouse.

What do you think? 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vermont Valley CSA Food Preservation

The flavors of summer are my favorite. Crunchy cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, juicy watermelon, rich basil! All leave my salivating and wanting more.

The only problem with these flavors (like all seasonal treats?) is that they're fleeting.

So when we heard that our CSA farm, Vermont Valley, was offering U-pick tomato and basil events, we jumped at the chance to load up on extras that we could preserve to have a hint of those summer flavors later in the year.

We drove out to beautiful Blue Mounds, WI to wander through the fields and gather the bounty. I forgot my camera, though, so some images from the Vermont Valley website will have to do. You can see the tomato fields on the left and the basil fields on the right:

 These images all from

We picked alongside lots of other CSA members, overhearing snippets of conversation about the differences in basil varieties, how people would prepare the tomatoes that night for dinner, and some frustrated parents telling their kids that no, you can't have the iPad right now. This is outside play time.

All CSA members got 10 pounds of roma tomatoes for free and all the basil they could handle. So we came home with just over 10 pounds of tomatoes and a plastic grocery bag full of bright green basil leaves.

Within a couple of hours, those tomatoes and basil had turned into tomato soup and delicious pesto (plus a tofu creole dish that JH whipped together).

I blended the pesto up in the food processor, spooned it into ice cube trays so that it could freeze in individual portions and then, once the pesto was frozen, dumped the cubes into a ziploc bag for later enjoying. Later, we'll mix it with pasta, spread it on pizza dough, or mix it with grains for satisfying salads in the winter months. (I didn't really follow a recipe, but here's a simple one that offers the basic method. Mine has basil, lots of olive oil, some roasted almonds, small amounts of parsley, garlic, balsamic vinegar, Asiago cheese, plus salt, black pepper, and some sugar to offset a little bitterness I detected--all to taste).

As for the tomatoes, I decided that tomato soup would be the perfect way to put these up for the winter months. So, following this basic recipe (times 5) I roasted a whole 10 pounds of roma tomatoes, along with garlic, onions, some red bell pepper, basil, salt pepper, olive oil, and vineger (a mix of balsamic, red wine, and apple cider). Then I just transferred all these roasted vegetables and seasonings into two soup pots, used an immersion blender to puree it all, and then added vegetable broth until it reached the desired consistency. I ended up using a lot less liquid than the recipe called for. I also added a bit of half-and-half at the end, mostly because we had some on hand that needed to be used.

After it cooled, I transferred the soup into some freeze-able containers we had, and popped them in the freezer. In total, this made about 22 cups of soup. Can't wait to dive in later in the year!

Anyone else putting up the summer bounty to savor for later? Freezing, canning, drying--or just eating?!