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As mentioned last week, I went a little soy crazy in Flushing. This is the rest of the story.

 

Hot and Sour Edamame with Tofu
(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cool Everything Vegetarian)

1/4 cup neutral oil, divided
8 oz tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 hot dried red chiles, minced or the equivalent in red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fermented black beans or other salty bean product (miso, etc.)
1/3 cup shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup stock or water, mixed with 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups edamame

Heat your wok/skillet. Put in half the oil. When it’s hot, add the tofu and brown.

Add the rest of the oil and, after it’s hot, add onions and saute until soft. Add garlic and ginger and chili (flakes) and saute until they’re soft and fragrant, too.

Add liquids: wine, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and stock. Add salty bean product.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to low. Add browned tofu and edamame. Simmer until edamame is tender, 5-7 minutes, and adjust seasonings.

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Edamame is certainly not new to me, although I’ve never bought it in this format and I’ve never cooked with it, so I’m counting it in the tags. I’m more used to it in the bento boxes at the Korean lunch place and as bar snacks. But these were quite affordable and much less of a hassle than peeling a gazillion pods myself.

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Tofu, mid browning. I’d drained it earlier. I’ve got a system going involving one of my cooling racks, a cutting board, and the Gourmet cookbook (all thousand pages and two tons of it). It’s less complicated than it sounds and is more effective than just resting cubes between weighed-down dishes.

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Browned tofu, onion, and then garlic and ginger. I may have been a little generous with the ginger.

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The brown pastes that have lived in the back of my fridge since the Clinton administration, at least. The one on the left is miso and, yes, I got rid of the spoon contamination from the chili paste on the right.

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The serving suggestion from Bittman is over rice. The first time, pictured at the top, I ended up doing it with kasha because that’s what I pulled out when I stuck my hand into the back of the freezer looking for the rice. (I have portioned containers of both for easy dinner.) It was tasty and nutritious. For leftovers, I used my spinach noodles:

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It was also tasty, if not necessarily as nutritious as the kasha.

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And there was dessert.

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The most recent excursion to Flushing saw me going a little soy crazy. I came home with soy milk, frozen edamame, and tofu. The latter two went into a recipe that’ll be up here in a few, but I was a bit perplexed about what to do with the soy milk. I bought because, hey, I’ve never tried it and for $1.19, I can afford the experiment. But once the initial tasting was complete, that still left most of the quart left over.

As for that experiment, I cannot imagine how anyone with functioning taste buds could confuse unsweetened/unflavored soy milk with anything that came out of a cow. Or a goat or a sheep, for that matter. It’s not awful. It’s not even bad. It’s just… not milk. It tastes like plants. And I would never consider pouring it over my generic-brand Lucky Charms, let alone pouring it into my coffee.

That does not mean I couldn’t find other uses for it.

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It was close to a hundred degrees in NYC for much of the week, so it’s no surprise that my whim took the form of something cold – frozen, in fact. I have a selection of fruit hanging out in the freezer – blueberries, cranberries, and a bag full of overripe bananas because I always buy more than I can finish before they start to go.

There is no recipe because I didn’t measure anything and, really, it will all depend on what you’ve got going on and how sweet your fruit is and how sweet you like your smoothies. But this is all I used, except for a splash of vanilla.

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Possibly by blind luck, this came out spectacularly. It was creamy beyond any reasonable expectation and there were no grassy undertones. Also, it held together as a thick, smooth liquid until the end, not separating out the way my usual milk-and-yogurt shakes do – it held together like a fast food shake with its added stabilizers and emulsifiers and whatnot. Except it was smoother and tastier and definitely kosher to accompany a hamburger.

(I didn’t have a hamburger; this was dinner. But you could have it with a hamburger and it would be okay with a rabbi.)

On a day when it was still 92F at midnight, this was a win.

 

As a related aside, since I’ve burbled happily about a vegan treat, let me briefly mumble less than happily about vegan cookbooks, since I’ve taken out a few from the library over the past several months. I skipped the (in)famous Veganomicon because it weighs a ton, but I did borrow books separately written by the two authors of that, Terry Hope Romero’s Viva Vegan and Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction. I don’t know what the two of them are like together – I had no patience to sit through their old public access show – but separately, they take wildly different paths to reach their audiences. Viva Vegan, focusing on Latin American cuisine, is very inclusive: here are tasty recipes you might like to try and oh, by the way, they’re vegan and I don’t think you’re going to miss the meat and dairy. There are also a bunch of interesting recipes to try. Appetite for Reduction, which is a healthy-eating book, is… not inclusive. It takes for granted that you think “meat is murder” and all of the other tropes that make PETA look like goofballs when they take it too far. I found the author’s tone extremely off-putting to the point that I didn’t even finish browsing it for ideas. There are many reasons to choose a vegan meal either in isolation or as part of a lifestyle choice and most of them aren’t based on personal ethics. I don’t need my dinner with a side order of shame.

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I own rye flour. I own caraway seeds. But sometimes, it’s better to leave it to the experts.

I went into Zabar’s for coffee and while I usually skim past the cashiers straight to the coffee and tea section, this time I took the scenic route to check out their supply of block chocolate. (Result: Fairway is much better.) And between the desserts and the coffee is the bakery section, which is usually blockaded by a queue. Except it wasn’t. And there was the lady depositing hot loaves of rye bread into the basket. And so I bought bread for the first time in a few years.

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I have no excuse for the smoked whitefish spread; I had to double back for that.

Saveur recently did an article on the best rye in the US and Zabar’s earned special mention. For good reason.

food to google

 

I consider myself to be a fairly adventurous eater within my normal boundaries. I’ve got no interest in offal or other ‘fun’ parts of snout-to-tail eating, but that’s entirely because I’m not a big eater of the more standard parts of our meat animals. But give me a new cheese or fruit or vegetable or starch, and I’m totally game.

Downtown Flushing is a great place to spread one’s wings in any direction, animal, vegetable, or mineral. Mostly it’s because they’ve got a very wide variety of stuffs that aren’t familiar to Western palates, almost none of it labeled in English.

For vegetables, my usual method of post-purchase identification is to pull out Bruce Cost’s book and flip the pages until I find a picture that matches what’s on the counter. For fruits, however, the search can be a little harder and, occasionally, impossible.

In other words, I have no idea what these are:

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They look like pears, but there is nothing pear-like about them. They feel like a succulent almost, like they’d be the fruit of some kind of cactus. But they come from something leafy – the pile at the market had a few attached to stems with long green leaves.

Tastewise, they’re pretty mild with a little bit of muskiness and sourness. Of course, I don’t know if you’re supposed to eat them raw or if they’re incredibly underripe. I tried half of one raw and the other half I steamed along with some greens.

The register receipt called these kamtai, but Google gives me nothing related to food on that front, so I’m still not sure.  

So the story goes like this: Pal S took one look at that picture and went “oh! Jamrul! We got that in Calcutta!” and from there, the mystery rapidly came to a successful conclusion.

The rest of my mystery pile was a little more straightforward:

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These are both gaya melons. Or, at least, they were both labeled as gaya melons on the grower’s sticker.

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They might both be gaya melons, since this is clearly not some mutant cantaloupe nor is it the right color to be an Israeli melon. (Although what an Israeli melon would be doing in a Chinese market anyway is beyond me.) Very sweet and tasty, like a honeydew.

 

The groceries by work also have interesting fruits on occasion, but I’m as likely to pick up a new cheese there as anything else.

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This is called buenalba, which is a raw sheep’s milk cheese. It’s purple because the rind’s been washed with merlot. It’s tasty, although I don’t think it’s a life-changing cheese. It’s certainly a striking element for a cheese plate.

 

And thus concludes this week’s investigation into the weird stuff in my fridge.

The problem with trying to write regularly on a food blog is that it presupposes you always have something to say. And that you’re always trying something new, or at least new to the blog, and that something has some merit in being shared. And for me, that’s not always the case.

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An egg mcmuffin with cheese and a salad is a tasty treat for dinner, but hardly worth a post on its own.

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There was yet another attempt at a respectable rice pudding that doesn’t involve a pint of heavy cream and lots of egg yolks, but I have not yet arrived at the One True Pudding, so detailing the ‘certainly edible but not yet there’ attempts is also not an effective use of blog space.

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I’ve made mapo tofu a few times with the same recipe, but a lot of my changes to it involve swapping out what’s asked for and substituting the various brown pastes that have been hiding in the back of the fridge for a decade. And while obviously I’m okay with how it comes out, it’s not exactly a method I can or should advocate to others.

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There’s actually kind of a funny story about the first time I made my own crème fraîche. It’s a very straightforward concept and seemingly impossible to goof up… except I sort of did. It’s supposed to take 12-24 hours, but it took me almost a week and involved adding all kinds of cultured dairy products to finally get it to set. Why? Best I can figure out is that my house was too cold – it was February and my oil burner is more than half a century old and, well, it took forever.

The second time, of which this is a photo, it only took a little longer than it was supposed to. Both times, however, it was very tasty.

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Pesach has come and gone, although there’s still matzoh on the table. In general, I’m responsible for two elements of my cousin’s seder, the charoses and dessert. The former is why I’m really invited – I make a quart for a small seder and it’s never enough. The latter is an annual experiment with my family as the willing guinea pigs. This year, I made almendrados (lemon-almond macaroons) and some frosted brownies from Marcy Goldman’s book, neither of which I remembered to take pictures of because I was running around like a headless chicken at the time of their creation. I thought the brownies came out all right – with that much chocolate, how can it be bad? – but I think they could have been better.

But after the seders are done, it’s time for more pedestrian fare. Normal people can look forward to a week of meat and potatoes, but I will admit that I sometimes struggle with what to prepare. It’s not the bread or pasta that I miss, it’s the rice and beans and tofu and the spices that are verboten because of one reason or another.

Also, there was corn on sale at the grocer and every day that I passed it, I started really craving the corn-and-mung-bean salad I sometimes live on in warmer weather. But, of course everything but the basil is chametz, so there was none of that.

Of course, some parts of Pesach aren’t so bad – the first matzo brei of the year is always a treat.

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I’m in the wetting-the-matzo-beforehand camp – yes, this is a point of contention – and I generally use a 1:1 egg to matzo ratio. I’ve made both sweet and savory matzo brei; this is a sweet one – a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and a lot of cinnamon.

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Something I tried for the first time this year was to make a kind of pancake – I was really going for crepe-like pancakes I could slice up as noodles for soup, but they ended up with a little bit of lift as they cooked – they flattened out once they got off the heat.

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They tasted nothing like pancakes, but they could fake it from a distance.

 

Something that had to wait for Passover to end:

IMG_3666 My cousin who hosts the seder just got back from a trip to Australia. In an attempt to head off the possibility of a kangaroo plushie or koala baby-doll t-shirt as a souvenir, I told her that I wanted Tim-Tams. I’d had them years ago when some Aussie acquaintances brought them along to a gathering; I presume they’re sold somewhere in NYC, but I’m sure these are fresher. And so much better than a stuffed kangaroo – imagine a chocolate-covered oreo except the cookie and cream are both tastier.

My cousin and her friend were most generous and I have a selection to snack from:

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Considering that I have baked my own treats for years and have never been a consumer of supermarket cookies… I have rarely been this excited by processed food.

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So lazy, I didn’t even take a picture of it plated.

 

I went into Zabar’s for coffee the other Friday evening and, halfway between the cheese and the dried fruit, I realized that I didn’t feel like cooking dinner. Luckily, halfway between the cheese and the dried fruit is the fresh pasta, so I picked up some tortellini.

It’s not quite spring, no matter what the calendar says, and so this is not quite pasta primavera, although I suppose it is because there’s no such thing as a definitive recipe, is there?

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One zucchini, having come up against the box grater and lost.

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The last of the spinach I had lying around; this is not the knife to chop spinach with, but it was the one that was already dirty.

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One very messy stovetop as I sauté the veggies with some olive oil, garlic, and capers. I added some freshly grated pecorino later, but forgot to photograph.

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I think this was tomato and gorgonzola tortellini, the former explaining the orangey tint. It was tasty, as most of Zabar’s fresh pasta is.

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Dessert was kiwis. The ones on the left are golden kiwis, the ones on the right are the standard variety. Golden kiwis, at least the ones I got, are a little sweeter and don’t have a fuzzy exterior.

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