November 20, 2013

Recipe: Vegan Larb (Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups)

On Monday I announced that I'd won the "Urban Foodie" spot in Field Roast's "Cooks in the Field" recipe contest. Field Roast will be publishing one of my original recipes on their website each month from December 2013 through September 2014, and I am so ridiculously excited about this opportunity. I'll be sharing these recipes on the blog as soon as Field Roast has published them… starting today! Field Roast is sharing all three winners' entry recipes on their website this week: Adam's Mexican Chipotle Mushroom Boomers, Sarah's Linguine alla Checca, and my own recipe (!!!) for Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups (aka "Larb").

For my entry recipe, I decided to highlight the underappreciated cuisine of Laos, Thailand's neighbor to the east. Laotian food is often mis-labeled as Thai due to the cultural cross-over between the two countries, and as such flies under the radar of most foodies. Larb - a minced-meat "salad" often served in lettuce cups or alongside sticky rice - is considered the national dish of Laos. It's a wonderfully flavorful mix of rich meat, tart lime, bright lemongrass and ginger, funky fish sauce, a dash of dried chili, and a healthy amount of fresh mint, cilantro, and scallions. Yum, right?

My vegan Larb uses Field Roast's Classic Meatloaf to create a juicy, savory ground meat alternative - a few pulses in the food processor, and you've got minced meat! The only other necessary twist was replacing the fish sauce with my favorite combo of soy sauce and red miso (a trick from my Vegan Pad Thai). It's a simple dish to make, with a ton of complex flavors and textures. The addition of toasted rice powder - dry-toasted grains of rice that are pulverized in a spice ginder - gives the salad a surprising crunch and nuttiness, so don't be shy in sprinkling it on. You'll be glad you did.

Vegan Larb (Laotian Minced Meat Lettuce Cups)
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon red miso
1 pound Field Roast Classic Meatloaf, roughly chopped
1/4 cup uncooked Thai sticky rice (sweet glutinous rice)
1 teaspoon neutral oil (peanut)
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass or lemongrass paste
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger (I used a microplane)
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water, to deglaze the pan
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts divided
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/3 cup chopped mint, divided
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried

Whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, and miso in a small bowl until miso dissolves. Set aside. In a food processor, pulse chopped meatloaf until it has texture of ground meat, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Place a large pan over medium heat and add the uncooked rice. Cook, stirring often, until grains are deeply golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool, then grind into a fine powder with a spice/coffee grinder. Set aside.

Return the large pan to medium-high heat and add oil, swirling to coat pan. Add lemongrass, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook briefly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground meatloaf to the pan and stir to combine with the oil and spices. Add white scallions and cook ground meatloaf for 2-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until hot and slightly browned. While cooking, deglaze the pan as needed by adding a bit of water and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen all the "brown bits" (you want that flavor inside your larb, not stuck to the pan). When done, remove pan from heat, stir in the sauce, and transfer ground meatloaf to a bowl to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, stir in the green scallions, 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted rice powder, and 1/4 cup each of the cilantro and mint. To assemble lettuce wraps, place 1/4 cup of the ground meat mixture in each lettuce leaf, then garnish with remaining cilantro, mint, and toasted rice flour. Serve alongside sticky rice.

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer. Please note that my contract with Field Roast does not include any sponsored posts on Braisen Woman - all words and content of this post are my own. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such.

November 18, 2013

Field Roast "Cooks in the Field" Recipe Contest: I won and stuff!

I am BEYOND excited to announce that I've been chosen by Field Roast Grain Meat Co. to develop ten vegan recipes using their wonderful selection of products! The "Cooks in the Field" Recipe Contest is an amazing opportunity for three different styles of cooks - Grill Master, Urban Foodie, and Healthy Homemaker - to share their recipes with the Field Roast community. I submitted my entry recipe a couple weeks ago, crossed my fingers, and waited for the winners to be announced. When I got the call last week that I had been named "Urban Foodie", I was all:

Seriously, you guys, I was pumped (Sidenote: I'm pretty sure Jennifer Lawrence is my spirit animal). The initial burst of excitement has mellowed to a more manageable level over the weekend. Now I'm mostly:

Which is good, because I have a LOT of cooking to do.

If you're not familiar, Field Roast is an American company located in Seattle that produces insanely delicious vegan "grain meats" (a.k.a. seitan). I have adored them for years, ever since I discovered their Smoked Apple Sage Sausages at the Ann Arbor Whole Foods. Field Roast merges modern European flavors with traditional Asian seitan craftsmanship, and the results are incredible. Which is why I am so honored to be chosen as their "Urban Foodie" recipe developer!

Here's the deal: I will be creating ten original recipes that feature one (or more) of Field Roast's delicious products. One recipe will be published each month on the Field Roast website from December 2013 through September 2014, but I'll also share them here shortly thereafter. As their "Urban Foodie", my goal is to create modern, full-flavored recipes that embrace current food trends in an accessible way. Field Roast will be sending me a box of products to cook with this coming week, and I cannot wait to get started! The first round of recipes will be posted on Field Roast's website and blog around December 15th, but you can read more about the winners and see our entry recipes this week!

I'd like to give a shout out to my fellow "Cooks in the Field" recipe developers, "Grill Master" Adam Rosen of Hold the Pigskin, and "Healthy Homemaker" Sarah Creighton of Veggie Kids. Congratulations, guys!

I am thrilled to be working with Field Roast as a "Cooks in the Field" recipe developer. Please note that my contract with Field Roast does not include any sponsored posts on Braisen Woman - all words and content of this post are my own. In accordance with FTC guidelines, any and all sponsored content will be clearly disclosed as such. 

November 8, 2013

Recipe: Spiced Pear Muffins with Black Pepper & Ginger

Growing up in Michigan, each Fall involved a family trip to our local apple orchard. We'd drive out to the country for an afternoon of apple gathering, freshly-pressed cider, and hot-from-the-fryer pumpkin and apple donuts. It was a tradition that I looked forward to immensely. Then I moved to Washington. Despite producing more than half of the apples in the United States, Washington has surprisingly few "u-pick" orchards. After two years of orchard-less autumns, I was jonesing hard for some apple-picking action. It seems fitting, then, that Jones Creek Farms came to the rescue.

Jones Creek Farms is an hour and a half drive north from Seattle, and worth every minute. What it lacks in fresh donuts, it makes up in its epic groves of nearly 100 varieties of apples and pears. I was familiar with Jones Creek Farms from their stands at the Broadway and University District Farmers' Markets in Seattle, so when I found out they offered "u-pick" in September and October, I called up my friend (and fellow Michigander) Alyssa and made plans to orchard it up. We went in late October, and while many of the trees had been picked clean, we were able to find plenty of late harvest apples and pears. Daniel and I picked over 15 pounds of apples and pears, including Calville Blanc D'Hiver apples, Aerlies apples, Winesap apples, Conference pears, and Bosc pears.

Alyssa with her husband, Brian, and baby, Leah; Me and Daniel

Looking back, it's pretty clear that I was tripping on my two-years-in-the-making orchard high, because 15 pounds of fruit is A LOT of fruit for a household of two. Daniel, level-headed as always, kept saying "Honey, I think we have enough….", but I was too excited to listen to his totally-accurate estimation of our bounty. The amount of fruit we'd picked didn't really sink in until we got home and I saw the mountains of fruit in context. The same fifteen pounds of fruit that appears diminutive on a 34-acre farm is actually MASSIVE in a small craftsman kitchen. Oops.

Me, before realizing I've picked far too many apples

Needless to say, I'll be cooking (and baking) a lot of apple and pear-centric recipes over the next few weeks. Today's recipe - Spiced Pear Muffins with Black Pepper & Ginger - used the first round of perfectly ripe Conference pears, though you could use any variety of pear you have on hand. The delicate flavor of pears can be a bit challenging to highlight in a recipe, as their quiet "pear-ness" is easily drowned out by other flavors. These muffins are nicely balanced, with floral black pepper, freshly-grated ginger, allspice, and nutmeg providing a warm, spice-cake-y background for jammy pockets of sweet pear.

Don't let the black pepper freak you out - its pleasant, gentle heat and heady aroma are absolutely at home in autumnal baked goods. I was inspired by old-school gingerbread recipes, which often called for black pepper in addition to the requisite ginger. One last note - I'm really happy with the texture of these 100% whole wheat muffins. They have a beautiful, moist crumb and are surprisingly light (the ultimate whole grain baking victory!).

Spiced Pear Muffins with Black Pepper & Ginger
makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups chopped pears, cored and peeled before chopping (2 or 3 pears, ripe but firm)
1 cup plain non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper (freshly ground is important)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup natural cane sugar, plus additional 1 tablespoon for sprinkling muffin tops
1/3 cup neutral oil (I used rice bran oil, but canola, grapeseed, or the like will work)
2 tablespoons finely grated/microplaned fresh ginger (a generous 2 inch piece)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a muffin pan and set aside.  In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the nondairy milk and vinegar and set aside to sour. 

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, soured milk, ginger, and vanilla until sugar has mostly dissolved, about 1 minute.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir briefly until the batter just comes together.  Gently fold in the chopped pears, being careful not to over-mix. 

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, sprinkle the tops with remaining tablespoon of sugar, and bake for 20 minutes or until a knife placed in a muffin's center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake!  Let muffins rest for 5 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

November 4, 2013

Cooking the Books: Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za'atar from "Jerusalem"

Oh, Jerusalem. You beautiful, delicious cookbook. I am SO glad I bought you. This past week I cooked my third recipe from Jerusalem, and much like the first two (Pistachio Soup and Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, & Herbs) it was fantastic. It's possible that I lucked out and chose three exceptional recipes, but based on the popularity of this cookbook, I think it's more likely that the entire book is just that awesome. The recipes and flavors are solid, even if some are a bit labor or time intensive. Thankfully, today's recipe was a breeze.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar is a simple roasted vegetable medley elevated to new heights with a few carefully chosen condiments. Once the squash and onions are roasting away in a hot-as-the-sun oven, you whisk together a quick sauce of tahini, lemon juice, garlic, water, and salt. It's so simple that your expectations of its effect may be low, but the creamy sauce is this dish's secret weapon, balancing out the sweet squash and onions with its lemony tang and slight sesame bitterness. A sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and za'atar (a spice mix of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt) finish off the dish with a nutty, earthy flourish. You can absolutely enjoy this as an entrée as-is, or pair it as a side to some simply-prepared legumes or grains (lentils, chickpeas, bulgur, and farro sound like good options).

My recipe notes:

1.  The tahini sauce was on the thick side for me, so I thinned it out with a little water and some extra lemon juice. Again, this is SO GOOD. Don't be skimpy when drizzling - I used a heavy hand and enjoyed every last bit. I would suggest drizzling right before serving, though - if you mix the sauce in with the vegetables beforehand the texture of the dish gets a little chalky.

2.  When I went shopping for the ingredients I had written down "1 large butternut squash" without noting the pounds called for (2 1/4 pounds). I ended up choosing a monster-sized squash that was over 4 pounds. Oops. No worries, as the rest can be used for another recipe (maybe this Curried Butternut-Coconut Bisque?), but I'd suggest weighing your squash in the store to avoid buying more than you need. One other squash-related note: The recipe asks you to leave the skin on the squash, which weirded me out since I always peel butternut squash. I left the skin on and, what do you know, it's good - similar to delicata squash skin (thin and not at all tough to chew). Lesson learned - butternut squash skin is edible!

3.  Unless you cook a lot of Palestinian food already, you'll likely need to purchase za'atar for this recipe. I couldn't find any at my local co-op, but I did find ground sumac, one of za'atar's star ingredients. I used this recipe from Gourmet to make a quick homemade za'atar with the sumac, some thyme (I used 2 teaspoons of dried), sesame seeds, and salt, and found it to be quite tasty. You can make your own or purchase za'atar at a local Middle Eastern market or spice shop.

4.  The recipe calls for a small amount of pine nuts (less than 1/4 cup), and while I had some In my freezer already, I can understand not wanting to splurge on an expensive ingredient when it's not the focus of the dish. I think you could use a less expensive nut like walnuts or almonds instead, or you could be super thrifty and toast up the seeds of the butternut squash! My squash provided over 1/4 cup of seeds that toasted up into crunchy, roasty bits of goodness that would fit in wonderfully atop this dish. I used the same technique as directed for the pine nuts, pan-toasting the seeds in a teaspoon of oil with a dash of salt until golden brown and fragrant (about 10 minutes on my stovetop). You can see how similar the outcome is below.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini & Za'atar
slightly adapted from Jerusalem
makes 4 entree or 6 side servings

1 butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds), seeds removed and cut into 3/4 inch by 2 1/2 inch wedges
2 red onions, halved and cut into 1 inch-wide wedges
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon za'atar
Kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. In a large bowl, add the squash, onions, 3 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a generous amount of black pepper and toss to coat vegetables. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet or two, being careful not to crowd the vegetables (you want them to roast, not steam). Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing halfway through, until vegetables are caramelized and tender. The onions might cook faster than the squash, so keep an eye on them and remove early if necessary. When squash and onions are done, remove from oven and let cool.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the tahini sauce and roast the pine nuts. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, water, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice until smooth. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and/or additional water if the sauce seems too thick - you're looking for sauce that's easily drizzle-able (totally a word). Set aside. Bring a skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil, pine nuts, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are golden brown and fragrant, about 2-5 minutes. Transfer nuts and oil to a plate to cool.

When ready to serve, top warm or room temperature vegetables with a generous drizzling of the tahini sauce and sprinkle with the pine nuts and za'atar.