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May 11, 2017

Pineapple-Mushroom BBQ Jackfruit

My favorite pizza at the choose-your-own-topping place lately has involved a ton of mushrooms, fresh pineapple, roasted garlic, sweet cherry tomatoes, and ricotta on top of mozzarella cheese.  So when I came across jackfruit at Trader Joe's, a novel ingredient to me, and had to come up with a barbecue sauce to simmer it in, I turned to those ingredients.   

This is what the raw canned jackfruit looks like.
The jackfruit is a species of tree that comes from Southeast Asia, in the same family as mulberry and fig.  It's been cultivated in India for thousands of years.  It's a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C & B6. 

I've had jackfruit tacos from Danny Trejo's taco joint when they catered to my film sets at work.  But I was afraid to try the commercial version as it was so similar to meat, when as a young vegetarian I had taught myself not to like meaty tastes.  Making this at home allowed me to control the flavor profile, to add a sweetness that would balance the smoke flavor.  That's where pineapple comes into play.  I also added a can of pears for additional texture and sweetness.

I have my grandma's potato masher.  It has one last flake of red paint left on the handle; otherwise all the finish has been rubbed away through use.  She raised nine children with this tool, and I think of all the holiday meals it was pressed into commission.  I rarely make mashed potatoes, so I was thrilled to have an occasion to use her beloved kitchen instrument.  

Lots of the recipes I saw online said they were able to mash the jackfruit immediately after rinsing it, but I found it to be pretty tough, so I allowed it to cook in the crockpot whole, and instead of stirring the pot, would use the potato masher to combine everything once an hour or so while cooking.  By the end, it was fairly well stripped to a bbq consistency.  I liked the chunkiness that remained, as it gave a full flavorful hit of this or that in a bite. 

the mashed jackfruit mixture before adding roasted mushrooms

Mushroom - Pineapple BBQ Jackfruit

2 20 Oz Cans Green Jackfruit in Brine
1 20 Oz Can Pineapple Chunks in Juice
1 15 Oz Can Sliced Pears in Juice
1/4 onion, minced
1 bag frozen mixed Mushrooms

3/4 c Ketchup
1/2 c packed Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried ground Mustard
1/8 tsp ground Cardamom
1/4 tsp minced Garlic
3/4 c water

1.  Rinse Jackfruit well to reduce sodium.  Drain Pineapple and Pears.  Place first four ingredients in crock pot with lid and turn on high.

2.  In a bowl, add all sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Pour sauce into crockpot over the fruit, stir, and cover.   

3.  Cook on high for approx 4 hours, mashing with a potato masher every hour or so.  

4.   Roast the mushrooms in an oven or toaster oven at 375 for 20-25 mins.  Mix into the crockpot mixture and serve on buns, toasted bread, or hearty crackers. 

Next time I make this I will use reserved pineapple juice instead of water for an extra fruity kick.  I reduced the liquid based on how soupy the sauce seemed to be.  And I reduced the amount of liquid smoke called for in my "inspiration" recipe that I found online and adapted.  That family clearly likes their smoke flavor!  I find I like it as an accent, but smoke flavor can get overwhelming very quickly.  This became my own adaption with the addition of more spices, mushrooms and pineapple, but the recipe I found was a great basis for a bbq sauce.  If I'd been able to mash the jackfruit before cooking, I would have cooked the mushrooms in the crockpot with the other ingredients.  Roasting the mushrooms in the oven allowed me to mash the other ingredients throughout the cooking process. 

What's the most novel meat-substitute you have experimented with?  What's your favorite barbecue sauce recipe?  Feel free to leave me some tips in the comments!

May 7, 2017

Crockpot Dulce de Leche Caramel Sauce

The latest restaurant trend in the southland is an empanada shop.  There's even a new one at the Original Farmer's Market at 3rd & Fairfax called Nonna's Empanadas.  My favorite for years has been a Dulce de Leche Empanada with apples from a little place in Burbank.  I had never heard of this magical Argentinian sauce until I tried it there.  Turns out it's simply a slow-caramelized version of sweetened condensed milk. 

Stirring Dulce de Leche into my morning coffee
Dulce de Leche is one of the most decadent treats you can have at home.  Making the caramel sauce could not be easier.  There's no need for a recipe, as there's really only one step to the process.  Buy canned sweetened condensed milk.  Place the entire can in your crock pot, and submerge in water, with at least an inch to cover the top.  Put the lid on the crockpot and turn on low for 9-10 hours.  I have a standard 2.5 quart slow cooker, and I have fit up to four cans of condensed milk in at one time.  The hardest part is actually opening the dulce de leche, as the heated cans may tend to pop when you peel back the top.  I then use a spatula to scoop the sauce into an airtight glass dish and store in the refrigerator.  If perhaps you forgot about the crockpot overnight (cough), you'll find you have an extra thick caramel.  Simply whisk in a little milk until you have a smooth consistency once again. 

Pumpkin Dulce de Leche Latte and the sauce itself
I took Dulce de Leche to a picnic recently with a plate of strawberries, bananas, and apples on the side to dip into the caramel.  It's great as a topping for ice cream or layered into baked goods.  But my favorite way to use it is to mix a tablespoonful into my morning pumpkin coffee, then make a latte. It's the perfect sweet treat to see me through morning traffic. 

Dulce de Leche sauce

April 27, 2017

"In My Kitchen" with Deborah Madison and Melissa's Produce

Turns out Deborah Madison and I have more in common than vegetarian cooking - she too is a dog lover! I had the pleasure of meeting the fourteen-time cookbook author and James Beard Foundation Hall of Fame inductee at Melissa's Produce, where she was touring for her latest book, "In My Kitchen:  a Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes."

This press tour is one I could not have been more ecstatic about.  While I'm always interested to learn new things that widen my experience, it isn't often I get to meet someone who is concerned with my own interests.  Not only is "In My Kitchen" a reference tome for vegetarians, it's the best of Ms. Madison, updated to the way she cooks today, with prose that speaks to each choice.  I consider it similar to recipes from my grandmother, as they are time-tested.  I'll treasure this cookbook, and its inscription, for years to come. 

The author demonstrating Breakfast Bread with Rosemary and Lemon, pg 56

Ms. Madison spoke casually at her book signing, explaining how she'd culled the collection and updated each recipe.  Her Breakfast Bread on pg 56 is the Holiday Bread in "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," changed from a yeasted bread to a quick bread.  She complimented Melissa's corporate chefs on the beautifully prepared spread from her recipes, while remarking that the desserts looked nothing like hers.  Each chef cooks according to their experience, upbringing and culinary background, which leads the exact same recipe to look and taste slightly different from cook to cook.  

Baked Ricotta Infused with Thyme and Served on Crostini, pg 215-217
The whole concept of baking ricotta was new to me.  It made a creamy sponge-like consistency that soaks up spices.  This recipe is high on my list of experimentation! Deborah Madison also taught us to reuse leftovers by pointing out the baked ricotta can be made into croutons for soups and salads the next day. 

Close-up of Baked Ricotta

Caramelized Onion Fritatta with Sherry Vinegar pg 176-179
This Fritatta was my favorite item at the Melissa's event.  It was so meaty that I thought it contained mushrooms.  I could easily eat this served warm or cold, any day of the week.  Ms. Madison pointed out that the sherry makes the onions pop, and she was correct.  

Citrus & Avocado Salad with Shredded Greens, Ojai Pixie Tangerines & Kumquats
Dressing of Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette, pg 94-96
 I loved the look of the kumquats in the Citrus and Avocado salad.  I had a kumquat tree in my last apartment, and I made a chutney on a regular basis.  It was great to see the whole fruit used here fresh.  The dressing for the salad was so thick and inviting.  Whole segments of citrus were visible.  I almost expected the greens to be a mint, but the kick from the cumin was unmistakeable.     

Hearty Lentil Minestrone with Kale, pg 144-145
I'm not a fan of most savory flavor profiles, but this Minestrone soup was excellent.  I so enjoyed its warmth, and would make it at home, which is actually saying a lot.   It was served with a nice hard cheese shredded alongside - that alone makes a huge difference.

Potato & Chickpea Stew with Sauteed Spinach, pg 192-194
The Potato & Chickpea Stew was served with a Romesco Sauce alongside to swirl in, which made a lovely topping and complimented the chunkiness of the stew.  I would serve the sauce on top of a spaghetti squash, or as a stuffing for a portobello mushroom.  

Romesco Sauce, pg 218-219

Rhubarb-Raspberry Compote, pg 210-211, Served with Shortbread Cookies
We grew Rhubarb in our garden in the first house I grew up in, Chicago suburbs, till I was nine years old.   I remember the stalks, and huge leaves like elephant ears; my mom making pie.  This compote from Deborah Madison has all the flavor of rhubarb with the sweetness of raspberries. 

Walnut Nugget Cookies, pg 264-265
The Walnut Nugget Cookies are a wonderful treat for everyday, as well as special holiday occasions.  Easy substitutions can be swapped if you prefer a different nut or even dried fruit.  Ms. Madison reiterated that the cookies are crumbly when first out of the oven but set when cooled. 

My plate from the Melissa's buffet

To see all of Deborah Madison's work in one place is awe inspiring.  Of course the aubergine cover of "The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" is familiar; at this event I discovered the rest of her catalog.   As I mentioned, the thing I like about this latest book, is that these are not only great recipes, but they have been time tested and updated for modern cooking. 

A well-loved copy of Ms. Madison's Vegetable Literacy.  The dog-eared pages are inspiring!

Ms. Madison listed several of the recipes in "In My Kitchen" as her personal favorites, one of which is the souffle.  She spoke of how traditional her recipe is, yet how flexible, and that it is so much easier to make than most expect.  I was amused, since my mom's cheese souffle is a staple that I grew up on, and was one of the first I put into my blog.  Revisiting my post for Tapiocha Cheese Souffle, I cringe at the food photography from my tiny dark apartment, but the flavor is exactly like my mom's comfort.  I'll have to update the post as Ms. Madison did in her book. 

April 13, 2017

Fryman Canyon Hike

Caitie in Fryman Canyon
I've hesitated to post hikes around LA on my blog, because I wanted to stick to crafts and food that most anyone could do and enjoy.  A lot of my readers are family members in other states.  Plus, the hikes I've done aren't rare hidden finds that no one knows about; because I have asthma, I tend to stick to beginner or level-ground hikes that are fairly straightforward and popular. 

I have posted free events on the blog before though, and hiking is definitely a great way to enjoy the outdoors while improving your health.  I've enjoyed some spectacular views lately.  Decidedly, any positive reinforcement that comes from sharing my fun can only encourage me to stick with my new activity level.  I'm going to stick with regular exercise this time, and I know this because I'm willing to talk about it publicly.

View toward the San Fernando Valley mid-hike
So one of my favorite hikes of late has been Fryman Canyon.  The base of the trail is off Laurel Blvd.  There's decent parking, the path is wide, and dogs are expected to be on-leash.  I took my five pound chihuahua mix, and Caitie loved it.  I was having to keep up with her.  The round-trip hike took about two hours and had a total elevation of perhaps five hundred feet, so for me this was fairly challenging.  I stuck to the main trail, though for more experienced people there are paths which branch off in several areas.   Always take your water bottle in LA, even on a cool day.  Good shoes are a must, but this is a groomed trail so basic footwear will do.  Be aware of snakes off-trail; another good reason to keep a dog tethered to you. 

I just celebrated the third adoption anniversary of my puppy, Caitie, and I took her on this hike for a little one-on-one time as a celebration.  It was a great way to enjoy a spring day!  If you come out to visit me, I'll add this to our tour.  

Caitie, Claire, and I on Caitie's third adoption anniversary

April 12, 2017

Feasting at King Solomon's Table with Joan Nathan and Melissa's Produce

Joan Nathan demonstrating Preserved Lemons
A bountiful feast was held at Melissa's Produce to introduce the legendary Joan Nathan's new cookbook, King Solomon's Table.  It's a tome not only meant to be cooked from, but one meant to be read, with thoroughly researched history and anecdotes introducing each recipe.  The event to celebrate Joan was a wonderful opportunity to see my blogger friends.  

Photo courtesy Sara De Leeuw
This beautiful book will be referred to time and again for Jewish holidays and everyday cooking.  Melissa's sampled dishes from the book and introduced Joan Nathan herself to speak about it.  She graciously signed copies for the attendees. 

The menu from Melissa's event and bio of Joan Nathan
The Quinoa Salad served at the event is on pg 98 of the cookbook
My favorite dish served at the event was a Quinoa Salad with butternut squash, feta and pecans.  It was light and healthy.  The squash was a surprising, flavorful ingredient. 

Herbert Samuel's Tomato Salad on pg. 102
The other wonderful offering at Melissa's buffet was the tomato salad inspired by Herbert Samuel.  Of course the tomatos were in perfect season, but I loved the balance of greens and other ingredients.  It's so fun to think of summer's coming and salads coming back into season!  There's nothing prettier on a plate than fresh cut cherry or grape tomatoes.

Harira, Spiced Moroccan Vegetable Soup, pg 122
The spiced Moroccan Vegetable soup known as Harira was a little too hot for me, but that should not come as a surprise, since I like everything mild.  I'm sure it hits just the right note to others, and I like the idea of a chickpea-lemon based soup. 

Sapphire Grapes
Sapphire variety Grapes are sweet and delicious.  Their long fingers are delicate, juicy, and seedless.  I've never seen them anywhere else.  I will horde them when I do!

Pizza Ebraica, pg. 319
Pizza Ebraica, an elaborate dessert with a scone-like texture, was studded with pine nuts and dried fruit soaked in wine.  Its light sweetness goes well with coffee.  I can picture my mornings beginning with this treat.  

Shtritzlach, Toronto Blueberry Buns, pg. 35
Shtritzlach is a 1950's Canadian recipe for a dessert bun studded with blueberry pie filling.  Its sweetness contrasted with the savory flavor of the Pizza Ebraica. 

I couldn't wait to dig into the buffet at the event.  The textures of the dishes were even more inviting when they were next to each other on the plate.  The produce was perfectly ripened. 

The entrance to the warehouse/office where the demonstration kitchen is located

The demonstration kitchen at Melissa's is decorated with shadowboxes of memorabilia from Julia Child's kitchen, and photos of extraordinary chefs at events with Melissa's staff.  It's fun to imagine all the stars that have come through their kitchen. 

Utensils from Julia Child's Kitchen
Signing my copy!
In Joan's presentation, she demonstrated her technique for making preserved lemons (see the first photo).  I'll absolutely be testing her method this summer, so I'll leave the step-by-step directions for another post.  Having known little about Jewish cooking before this event, I was so absorbed with all of Joan's stories.  She impressed me with the way she put the history of Jewish food in context not only across time, but across the continents.  The recipes in this book come from France, Italy, El Salvador, Canada, and beyond. 

I came away from the event with a box packed full of wonderful Melissa's products.  I'll be cooking for the next month with the ingredients I brought home - ginger, dried cherries, pine nuts, chestnuts, fresh tomatoes, potatoes, lemons, butternut squash, lentils, all organic and all delicious.  I'll be sure to photograph my box after the next event.  For this first time, I was so excited I couldn't wait to use it all!  The first thing I made was an egg white quiche with Melissa's organic Butternut Squash, basil pesto, and Jarlsburg cheese.  It was the perfect touch of comfort for a Sunday at home, and the leftovers are tiding me through the week. 

My Butternut Squash, pesto and Jarlsburg Quiche
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