A lovely vegetarian sandwich is today’s offering. I grilled a big portobello mushroom (having drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper and a little onion powder) and layered it with romaine lettuce, baby arugula, avocado, and a slice of killer beefsteak tomato. For bread I used a couple of slices of organic 7-grain with flax seeds from Rudi’s bakery, which I toasted on the grill until warm and just slightly charred. I schmeared the bread with Vegenaise on one slice and some good dijon mustard on the other. It was a lovely creation.
And it was the perfect thing for Meatless Mondays. I’m omnivorous, as the blog title tells you, and I love meat, but a little respite from the carnivorous life is always welcome for your health, for your mind, and perhaps your soul.
At lunch, presiding over a mountain of plump and juicy shrimp & yellow leek dumplings, my good friend Ping was telling me about her “paleo” diet, whereby she eats a fairly restricted diet of lean proteins, healthy greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes. No refined sugars or flours. Based on her description, it’s a pretty solid approach to healthy eating, although (she admitted) it was pretty ironic we were discussing it over a gluten-laden early lunch at 101 Noodle Express, an amazing SGV outlet for Shanghainese beef rolls, crab dumplings, cold soy-poached chicken, and hand-made noodles in spicy beef broth. But our Ping knows her shit; that is, her food knowledge is broad and impressive and so, when she mentioned her diet, I pricked up my ears.
Now I love granola. If you know me at all you know I’m not a huge fan of cereal. No Captain Crunch fanatic am I; breakfast-wise I’m a sausage-and-over-easy man of the old school. But I LOVE grains — I do like oatmeal, I do like flax, I adore quinoa, although saying such a thing could probably get a man killed in less-populated regions of Mississippi. So when Ping mentioned her “paleo” granola, I knew I had to make it. It’s my kind of thing. Heck, it’s not even the granola itself, but the making of the granola. I’m a man who needs his projects.
In the spirit of the new season and starting fresh, I made this very light vegan chowder yesterday. It was delightful, cleansing, and very satisfying. And incredibly easy.
This vegan soup is a great way to start off the new year!
I peeled a large yukon gold potato and a large russet. I cut these into biggish chunks and added a cut stalk of celery, the white part of a leek (well-cleaned), a hunk of fennel bulb, a garlic clove, one small basil leaf, a pinch of raw sugar, and plenty of salt and pepper. I topped that with a quarter cup of dry white wine and a good, clear veggie stock.
I brought that to a boil and then reduced heat to a simmer. I cooked it at a low temperature for about thirty minutes until everything was very tender. I added a tablespoon of flax seed oil to the soup and then pureed it in the blender until super smooth. I think I added a little water to it to get the right consistency.
Caution: puree hot soup in small batches in the blender and remove the center handle from the lid, using a kitchen towel to cover the aperture. You can cause a scalding soup explosion if you’re not careful.
Before I served it I scattered a handful of fresh corn niblets into the soup and topped with a few snipped chives. It was yummy!
Delicious cold-weather noodle soup with a Thai-style broth.
Maybe it’s because I’m half-Vietnamese and was raised eating them all the time, but I just love noodle soups. Of course pho (the national dish of Vietnam) is my favorite, but I also crave all sorts of ramen and Chinese mein and laksa and soba and udon. Nothing is more soothing and restorative than a hot, savory broth with slippery, tender noodles topped with bits of veggies and meats and seafood. I absolutely love the way you can personalize the dish to suit your tastes in the moment, by choosing your own toppings and herbs and by tweaking the dish with dashes of hot sauce or soy sauce or fish sauce or vinegar.
Man, I love salmon! Salmon is flavorful and rich and super-versatile. You really can cook it hundreds of different ways, and it has the added benefit of containing a wealth of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which, unless you’ve been hiding in a cave in Tora Bora, you know are extremely good for you. Whenever I cook fish, which is frequently, I have to make an assessment based on nutritional value, cost, environmental impact, and, of course, taste and quality. So it’s kind of a pain in the ass to balance all this information just to make something tasty and healthy for me and my family. But in this day and age of uncertain food sources and diminishing fish stocks we have to take all these facts into account and make our own educated decisions.
I was feeling a bit peckish yesterday so I made this excellent sandwich from ingredients on hand; the result was super-delicious. Now normally I’m not a big fan of raisins used in a savory way. However, I am a big fan of the line of sprouted-grain breads (with and without raisins) sold under the Ezekial moniker. The multi-grain bread is dense with nutrients and fiber, the flavor is hearty, and the bread crunches nicely when toasted or grilled. For a pre-sliced sandwich loaf, it’s about as good as you can get. And it was the only thing I had on hand anyway, so it was that or no sandwich. Not an option.
I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of persimmons. If you’ve ever tried to eat an unripe “astringent” persimmon you’ll find that the tannins make it virtually impossible to choke one down. It tastes “furry” on the tongue and is truly horrible on the palate. Most or all of this astringency will dissipate as the fruit reaches full ripeness, but by that point most persimmon varieties turn translucent and gelatinous. I can’t say I’ve ever been a real fan of this jelly-like texture, and the flavor of persimmons can best be described as “acquired”.
Lunch today was another crazy, mixed-up salad thrown together of every possible disparate thing in my fridge: iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, nappa cabbage, baby arugula, watercress, sliced grilled chicken breast, a little celery root, blanched kale, celery, fennel, red bell pepper, tomato, carrot, a few small chunks of mimolette cheese, cilantro, and a dressing made of cider vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, Vietnamese fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.