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Parsley Tacos

Oh, CSA, you giveth, then you giveth some more. 

Last year, it was an over abundance of bokchoy, a vegetable that I have come to…not hate. This year, it seems to be parsley. I found myself with two huge bunches of parsley and, tired of throwing away good greenery, resolved to find a recipe.  The internet yields a treasure trove- here are a few of the ideas I found:

  • chimichurri sauce
  • parsley pesto
  • angel hair pasta with parsley sauce
  • cream of parsley soup
  • baked creamy parsley rice
  • parsley risotto
  • simply chopping up the parsley and freezing it

Nothing was quite as intriguing, though, as parsley tacos. Apparently quite common in the street cart taco establishments south of the border, it consists of nothing more than fried tacos and slices of lemon. The Chowhound who suggested it had no recipe, but it seemed simple enough. 

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First, the tortillas. A good New Yorker in a 300 square foot 2 bedroom apartment and 4 cupboards always keeps a bag of Masa Harina in stock, as well as her trusty tortilla press. A pinch of salt, some masa and some water and I end up with a soft dough that I divide into little balls. It goes in a ziploc bag, then on the deadly press.

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Then, SQUASH! Flat as a…well..tortilla, then into a dry cast iron skillet.

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A couple of minutes on each side, then into an warm oven covered with a damp paper towel while the other tortillas cook.  Onto the PARSLEY!

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Wash the parsley and dry VERY, VERY, VERY well. You are about to drop this into boiling oil and you don’t want any water on those suckers. 

Bring about an inch of vegetable or other neutral oil to 375 degrees. Then, PARSLEY BOMB! This will sizzle and bubble up, so take precautions.

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Fry until dark green, about 30 seconds. Remove from the hot oil and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle immediately with fleur de sel or fine salt.

Wash a lemon very well, then slice it paper thin. Drop these slices into the hot oil. (Here’s a mystery: lemon slices don’t really splatter in hot oil. Strange.) When the slices start to caramelize with some golden spots, pull them out of the oil.

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To assemble, take a soft, warm tortilla, a handful of crispy parsley, then top with slight sweet, caramelly, tangy lemon slices. You will be tempted to put crema on them. Maybe cheese. Maybe some tomatoes or something like that. You don’t need it. These simple tacos are surprisingly tasty, complex and satisfying.

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I make my own bread, soymilk and seitan. Yes, I’m that person. It makes me laugh, too.

That said, most of my weekly culinary chores are easy. The bread is from the Artisan Bread in Five recipe. I make a big tub of dough once every two weeks and just pull out enough to make a boule of bread any time I want it. The soymilk literally involves putting soaked soybeans into a machine and pressing a button. There. The magic is gone.

The one big PITA that I don’t do quite as often (because it’s such a PITA) is seitan, the vegan wheat-meat. Oh, seitan-making used to be easy: grab a bag of Vital Wheat Gluten from the store shelf, mix it with some water and seasonings, then boil, bake or steam for a lovely cutlet, sausage or steak. But then, I discovered making seitan from scratch: making a ball of whole wheat dough and kneading it for an eternity to develop the gluten, then washing it for hours under running cold water in order to get rid of the starch and be left with the all-important protein. The difference in taste and texture was amazing: the scratch seitan was nutty and meaty, whereas the one made from powder was just sort of..well..rubbery.  Nothing else would do now, I would need to eat only that kind of seitan. So, logically, I stopped making it because 1) It’s a PITA;  2) I’m an omnivore! I’ll just go get an actual steak! and 3) All that starch washing away from the dough ball was making my frugal heart ache.

Yesterday, I decided it was finally time to give it another go (mostly because the Darling Fiance was bugging me to).  I have no pictures of the attempt, so the actual seitan-making is for another time. This time, however, I saved all of the starchy liquid from the washing…also a PITA. I left the water to sit overnight so that the starch could settle.

The next day, I poured off all the excess water and kept the pancake-batter like slurry on the bottom. Now, what to do?

A quick google search revealed that my beloved Liang-Pi noodles are made from the remainders of seitan making!! What?? Immediately, I took a tagine, laid two chopsticks parallel to each other on the bottom of it, then laid a plate on top of that. I poured water into the tagine and set it to boil. When the whole shebang was hot enough, I ladled the batter onto the plate and spread it around, much like a crepe. Close tagine, wait 3 minutes and pray.

When I opened it up, SUCCESS!! A translucent chewy wheat crepe was waiting for me. I peeled it from the plate (also a PITA..I sense a theme. Maybe next time I’ll oil the plate) and continued with the rest of the batter. As the batter cooked, I prepared myself a Liang-pi sauce. I have no idea if it’s authentic, but it tastes close enough.  (Recipe below.) Taste explosion in my mouth!!! I had none of the veggies or lamb or seitan pieces (well those, I did, but I got lazy) but the noodles and sauce were amazing! I continued to cook away.

Now, I don’t know if you are aware, but making 2 lbs of seitan makes a shitload of starch water. After about two hours of steaming these individual noodles, I was ready to shoot myself. Then the bag of whole wheat flour I’d used caught my eye: “Chapati Flour”! From there it was a short skip to Indian food then a hop to dosas. “I’m going to make dosas!!” I cried, and my cat looked at me funny.

I pulled out the trusty crepe pan, ladled it in and swirled the batter around to make a thin layer. After about a minute, the dosa had set up and I flipped it to brown the other side. So far so good. Then, through a series of events I don’t quite understand, I found myself in the shower where I realized I’d left a crepe cooking on an open flame for lord knows how long. I jumped out of the shower and ran to the stove, where I saw what used to be a beautiful dosa/crepe all shrunken and wavy. Ah well. I picked it up and was surprised to see it wasn’t burned at all. On the contrary, it was a beautiful golden color and crispy all over. I broke off a piece and it was heavenly! And so here we are, at 11:25pm with a woman who had started out to make seitan and instead spent all her calories on roasted starch water. Mmmm.

Serve these “crackers” or flatbreads just the way you would serve any other crackers…or serve them with liang pi sauce to dip in. It’s the same dish, but with a crispy twist. Be more vigilant, and end up with a crepe/dosa and prepare it as such. Or steam the sucker and end up with glossy chewy noodles that you can top with this spicy sauce, some julienned cucumbers, cilantro, celery and some steamed greens.

FAKE LIANG PI SAUCE

  • 2 T Soy Sauce
  • 1 T Sesame Oil
  • 1 T Peanut Butter
  • 1 t Sriracha
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated

Put all the ingredients in a jar, close and shake.  When well blended, add some water, maybe about 1/2 cup or to dilute to your taste.

Scavenger Crackers

Not bad for leftovers.

Pickled Papaya

You can marinate the meats in the Silver Swan Soy Sauce, and dip them in the Datu Puti vinegar, fry the rice in enough garlic to keep Dracula’s minions away for a hundred years but, unless you have Atsara, your Filipino meal isn’t really complete.  It’s that sweet, sour, crunchy explosion in your mouth that goes so well with the hot, salty, sometimes spicy, sometimes fried, sometimes grilled meats and fish of Filipino cooking.  Much as I scoured the streets of Manhattan, I couldn’t find it premade.  Walking back home through Chinatown, I spied the green papayas making their seasonal appearance. What the heck, I figured. It can’t be that hard to pickle.

Atsara

1 green papaya, coarsely grated/julienned, salted and left overnight

1 large carrot

1 green bell pepper, julienned

1 red onion, julienned

2 T raisins

Peppercorns

3 c vinegar

2 c sugar

1 inch ginger

2 cloves garlic

Atsara In The Making

So the first thing I’m going to make you do is cut butterflies out of carrots. It’s easier than you think, plus it gets the kids to eat their sweet-sour-pickled vegetables.

Peel the carrot and cut off the narrow end and the stem end so you end up with a fairly even cylinder. With a very sharp paring knife, cut out grooves vertically along the carrot.  This will end up being the spaces between the petals or butterfly wings (What it ends up being on my end is almost always an accident).

Getcher Groove On

When that is done, use a chef’s knife or mandoline to slice the carrot (horizontally this time) about 1/8 inch thick. Voila, Orsino! Girly carrot shapes!

Ooh...Aaahh!!

Boil the vinegar and the sugar with the rest of the ingredients until the sugar is completely dissolved.

While the syrup is boiling (keep an eye on it!), bring out the papaya and squeeze as much water out of it as you can. Toss it in a large bowl with the onions, carrots, bell pepper and raisins.  If you are going to use it in the next week or so, just pour the syrup over the vegetables, cover and let cool before moving it to the fridge.

Ready for canning

This makes a shitake-load of pickle though, so you might want to “can” some– give some away and keep some for a rainy, Filipino day.  A little goes a long way.

To do this, sterilize a few mason jars by boiling them in a large pot of water.  Dry them thoroughly. Fill them with the veggies, making sure to push down so no air gets trapped within (that leads to bad news bears).  Pour the boiling hot syrup into the jar, up to the top (again, so as not to leave room for beasties) and close tightly with the mason lids. As the pickle cools, you’ll hear the jar lids pop in from the suction. At that point your store of atsara is safe for the next nuclear fallout.

Ignore the Mess.

The Long-Awaited Chickfu

The first recipes on this blog featured my then-obsession, Chickpea Tofu, also known as Shan or Burmese Tofu.  I had it and Mingala, a Burmese restaurant on East 6th street which, I found out yesterday, has closed!!! NO!!!!

In memory of the great Mingala (and also because I promised a recipe almost a YEAR ago), here is how to make the precious Chickfu.

The process to making Chickfu is much like polenta in that you boil the chickpea flour in water until it is thick then put it in a mold to cool.  In this sense, you don’t get that satisfying ooh! aah!! that you might get when watching traditional soy tofu clump in the pot like magic alchemy, but that’s also why you’ll be making this a lot more often than you’ll be making soyfu.

First thing to do is get your hands on some chickpea flour. You can find this for beaucoup bucks at Whole Foods or, if you’re lucky, for about $5 for 5 lbs at the local indian grocery store.

Chickpea Flour, graceful and melodic.

I usually weigh my ingredients out on a small digital scale.  I simply press the tare button to reset the scale to zero every time I add a new ingredient.  This is super convenient because not only can I dump all the ingredients directly in one bowl, I also don’t have to wash any annoying measuring cups or spoons.If you’re the washing type, though, I’ll give you those measurements too.

Take 9 cups (4.5 lbs/2040g) of water and mix it up with 3 cups (15 oz/437g) of chickpea flour.  Set it aside to soak for 12 hours or more.

Now, in Myanmar (Burma to those of a certain age), these would be made with real chickpeas, soaked then ground. You’ll find recipes online like this one that tell you to soak in much more water than I indicate, strain it, then skim off the top 6 cups of water.  As far as I can tell, that harkens to the traditional mode of preparation where you would need to strain off hulls or stones, the skim off scum and any remaining hulls floating on the surface. Working with chickpea flour eliminates the need for all of that. Besides, every time I tried to do it the “traditional way”, I ended up with flavorless yellow jello that never solidified. This was probably because “straining and discarding solids” as indicated gets rid of much of the starch which we will need later to coagulate the tofu.

Okay, assuming reading that paragraph took you 12 hours, your chickpea slurry is ready. A yellow sludge should have settled on the bottom of the container, with a cloudy liquid floating above.

Before 12 Hour Paragraph

After 12 Hour Paragraph

Carefully pour this cloudy liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until it has reduced by a third.

Add 1/2 t turmeric and 2 tsp kosher salt and whisk well.

While on medium heat, pour the settled sludge into the saucepan, whisking constantly for 5 minutes.

Sludge Time

It should start to thicken considerably. Make sure to keep whisking to keep lumps at bay.

Chickfu-to-Be

At this thick porridge-like state, the Burmese like to serve it on noodles, garnished with crisped peanuts, chilis, garlic, onion, soy sauce, vinegar and cilantro (kinda like a creamy pad-thai). Taste it. It tastes a little like polenta, doesn’t it?

Pour this mixture into an oiled mold (I usually use a loaf pan), and refrigerate until it sets.

Chickfu

When ready, you can cut it into triangles and fry it in the traditional manner and serve it on a salad like I do here. Cut it into sticks and make chickpea fries or croutons. Cut thin slices straight from the fridge and throw it in a sandwich.  Use it any way you would use regular tofu. Just expect it to be yummier.

Chickfu will last about a week in the fridge. Any longer than that and you should freeze it, either whole or in slices. Defrost slowly in the refrigerator as opposed to the counter top.

Creamy Tofu Sauce

So I haven’t posted in three months. So sue me. If you can find me. MWAHAHAhahahaha..

I am so backlogged with a camera full of delicious things that I have no hope of catching up with in the next month (though I will try..), but while eating my lunch, I literally paused the documentary on Loving and Cheating on Hulu and opened up a new tab to write about this amazing stuff I have in my mouth RIGHT NOW.

Creamy. Tofu. Sauce.

I know that one-third of the above statement is not quite appealing to you but, believe me, you need to try it.  Not only is it healthy No, it isn’t. I just put the ingredients through a calorie calculator and it’s 88% fat. What? Obviously, food science is not my forte.

I have no pictures because I’m too busy shoveling it into my mouth while I’m eating, but this is a very versatile sauce that you could pour on anything: use it as a dip for fresh veggies, put it on top of pasta or a rice bowl, or pour it on some chicken or fish (though, then you would defeat the purpose of the utterly vegan recipe. But who cares. It’s yummy.)

Imagine it as an unholy alliance between that onion dip you stand next to at the buffet, hoping nobody notices you double dipping, and tahini/hummus, goddess dressing, caesar salad dressing, and cheese sauce. Ok, I don’t know how that sounds to you, but to me that sounds frickin’ awesome.

Creamy Tofu Sauce
adapted from a thousand sated vegans on the web

  • 8 oz firm tofu
  • 6 T hazelnut oil (or any nut oil or neutral oil..olive oil might be too bitter)
  • 6 T water
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 T nutritional yeast (available at Whole Foods as Red Star, or in the bulk section of your local E4th St Food Co-op)
  • Pinch o’ salt
  • Pinch o’ onion powder
  • Pinch o’ garlic powder
  • Pinch o’ dried basil (or a cube of frozen chopped basil)
  • 1 t of lemon juice
  • 1 t of tamari (if you don’t have tamari, just substitute more soy sauce)

Dump it all in a blender and blend. You end up with a creamy, versatile sauce that you can serve hot or cold, and that you can pretend is healthy despite being 88% fat. <—I still don’t believe it.

This is easy to change up the flavorings to, too! Don’t have basil? Try rosemary! Want a little kick? Cayenne pepper! Doing some moroccan action? Add some couscous spice, sumac or za’atar. The possiblities are endless.

The Kitchen Quiche

It was the first cold snap in ages. Too cold to go out to dinner or to go grocery shopping. What does one do? Go to the freezer, of course!

Upon my return from the Paleolithic excavation, I extracted from my rucksack a pack of frostbitten bacon, some broccoli, and a ziploc bag labeled “heavy cream”, which I took at its word. In the fridge were some eggs, my sourdough starter, Grover, and a jar of bacon grease, poured off from breakfast frys, saved for special occasions like the odd bowl of bacon-popped corn. It called to me from its waxy prison: “Quiche!” it said breathlessly, “You can make a quiche! With bacon lard pate brisee.”

Never one to go against a pot of fat, I did.

Sourdough Bacon Pate Brisée
The starter gives the crust a bit of tang, while the bacon gives it smokey goodness.
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cold bacon grease
1/4 cup cold butter, diced

Mix together the flour, salt and baking soda. Cut the fats into the flour mixture until it resembles crumble topping. Though I like using my hands to mix most of the time, this is one case where you don’t want to: the heat from your fingers melts the cold fat, and the pastry won’t be as flaky as it could be.

Stir in the starter until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate for at least 20 mins to keep the butter cold and to let the gluten hydrate, both of which make the pastry easier to roll.

Busy yourself with making the filling.

Cut 4 to 6 strips of bacon into 1 inch pieces. A pair of scissors makes it easy. Cook in a hot pan until the edges are crisp, they are golden brown, but still a bit chewy. Remove from pan.

In the same pan, caramelize one large sliced onion. Once soft and caramelly-brown, set aside.

Turn the heat up way high and throw in some chopped broccoli florets. You want them about 1/2 in max. Sauté them for about a minute, till they turn bright green. Set aside.

Roll out the rested dough and line a pie pan with it. Trim the edges. Poke the raw crust several times with a fork, then stick it in a 450• oven for 5 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and spread the bacon, onion and broccoli evenly over the bottom of the crust. Top it with some shredded cheddar cheese you found behind the Bisquick that expired in 2008.

In a bowl, beat together 3 eggs, a cup of that defrosted cream, and 1/2 a cup of milk. Add a big pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour this mix over the whole shebang and stick it back in the oven for about 30 mins, or until the top is a lovely golden brown.

Serve with some salad that has miraculously survived the vegetable drawer. Not bad for Macgyver meets Survivor meets Iron Chef Tuesday night dinner. Imagine what you could do with real ingredients!

This parsley sprig is bigger than my hand. Given to me by a man on the train from Poughkeepsie who harvested it from his friends’ garden upstate. It got so many admiring looks, he gave sprigs away to everyone who mentioned it. That’s 1/2 cup of chopped parsley right there: perfect for another of my favorite cold weather stews.

CHICKPEA SAUSAGE STEW
from Real Simple Magazine

1lb Italian Sausage (I prefer spicy to sweet)
1 large onion, chopped
1 T tomato paste
1 mutant sprig or 1/2 c chopped parsley
1/4 c cilantro
15 oz can of chickpeas
10 oz pkg frozen leaf spinach
2 cups chicken stock

Sauté the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil. Remove the sausage from their casings and crumble them up into the hot pot. Cook until brown.

Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute– until it starts to smell slightly sweet and caramelized. Add the herbs. Cook a minute more.

Rinse and drain the chickpeas and add them to the stew with the broth and the frozen spinach. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve over a toasted slice of sturdy bread and cracked black pepper, mutant or otherwise.

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