Tag Archives: salad

CSA #4 & Asian Slaw!

The third week of our CSA was the most adventurous yet, what with cauliflower, green kohlrabi, and a big bunch of bok choy. I’ll get to the eventual fate of the kohlrabi and bok choy in a minute, but first: CSA #4!

From left: kale, salad greens, brown rice.

Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli

Green onions and radishes

There was a large patch of black raspberries growing, so one of the volunteers offered to make a batch of jarred preserves for the CSAs this week. We ate our way through it most of the weekend, smearing it on whatever neutral surface we could find. I tried to convince James to eat it with a spoon, but he had to draw the line somewhere.

Whatever.

Anyway, as to the fate of the green kohlrabi and bok choy, I was a little worried about spoiling if I held onto them past this week, so I made it one of my meal-planning objectives to figure out a good way to use them. A few of you had some really great suggestions. I especially loved the idea of making a nice vegetable stock with the bok choy, but with the summertime heat and the lack of open windows in my kitchen, it was a tad too warm for anything that needed to simmer for a long while on the stove top.

I was still riding on a cold salad high from last weekend, so I decided to take it a step further and experiment with a slaw based off of the bok choy, the kohlrabi, cabbage, and a big yellow bell pepper. Because I don’t have quite the right equipment to make a really shredded slaw, mine came out a bit chunky and extra crunchy. For a finer crunch, really shave down those veggies. A microplane works nicely – and I should get one, along with a knife-sharpening kit.

Summertime Asian Slaw

Ingredients
– 1/2 pound bok choy stalks, sliced down into thin strips
– 1/2 pound green kohlrabi, peeled and thinly sliced or shaved
– 1/2 pound green or purple cabbage, chopped and shredded
– 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 tbsp soy sauce
– 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
– 1 tbsp canola oil
– 2 tsp powdered ginger

– In a large bowl, combine sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, canola oil. Mix until well combined.

– Throw in veggies and toss in dressing. Add the ginger one teaspoon at a time. Mix until all ingredients are evenly coated. Allow to chill for an hour.

A Tale of Two Salads


Between having guests over on Friday evening, going to a picnic on Saturday, and our usual Sunday brunch-at-home, I feel like I’ve been spending every other hour of my weekend in the kitchen. Which, at least some weekends, is exactly how I like to be spending my time.

I don’t like going empty handed to any function, especially a picnic, so I thought I would whip up two cold salads and then cross my fingers and hope that they would remain tasty even after surpassing room temperature in the outdoor heat. I really need to invest in a proper cooler and cold packs if I’m going to be traveling with food. Luckily for this time around, both dishes survived the mugginess.

The first salad I made was a white bean, radish, and pea salad that was a modified variation of a member-submitted recipe on Chow. The radishes we had gotten in our first CSA had long since been devoured but we still had the half pound of pea pods. Everything else was simple stuff that I had on hand, substituting vegan cream cheese for the recommended tablespoon of yogurt.

The second salad was an improvisation based on both an orzo salad they commonly serve at Zenith and a suggestion from Mike on what to do with all the CSA garlic scapes we had received. The result was a garlicky pesto salad with a touch of oregano. I think it could have used more black pepper, but it was still pretty good. The recipe works the same whatever kind of pesto you want to make, so go with whatever you have on hand. Want an added crunch? Throw in about a half of cup of pine nuts. For non-vegans, a little Parmesan really gives this salad an extra boost of flavor.


White Bean, Radish and Pea Salad

Ingredients
– One shallot, minced
– 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
– 3 tsp lemon juice
– 1 tbsp vegan cream cheese
– 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 1 15 ounce can navy beans, drained and rinsed
– 3 –  5 radishes, thinly sliced
– 1/2 pound pea pods, cut in bite-sized chunks
– 2 tsp dried dill
– Tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely minced (optional)
– Salt and pepper

– In a bowl, combine shallot, vinegar, oil, lemon juice, and vegan cream cheese. Toss the veggies and herbs in the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well combined then chill for at least an hour.


Orzo with Garlic Pesto

Ingredients
– Half pound of garlic scapes, chopped
– 2 tsp fresh oregano
– 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
– Garlic pepper seasoning (to taste)
– 1 pound orzo, cooked as directed on box
– 3 tomatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
– 1 zucchini, cut into bite-sized chunks

– In a food processor or blender, process the garlic, oregano, and olive oil until smooth. Add the garlic pepper to taste. Toss pesto with orzo, tomatoes, and zucchini, until pasta and veggies are well coated. Allow to chill for at least one hour.

CSA #2: Seriously, it’s really easy being green

I don’t think I’m going to get tired of this. Every Thursday is like Christmas, only instead of reindeer socks that I won’t wear, I’m getting a huge haul of fresh veggies to eat through to next week.

(Oh, and Mom, I’m just joking about the socks. I really like the slippers you gave me this past year, although it does look kind of funny to be wearing Christmas-themed slippers past the holiday itself, but you know me. I don’t mind looking silly.)


(From left clockwise) Kohlrabi, more garlic scapes (woo hoo, pesto here I come!), mustard greens, and lovage.


Peas! And pea shoots!


More bagged salad mix and a large bunch of collard greens.

Mmm, collard greens. Looks like someone’s making some barbecue this weekend.

Good Morning, Vegan Southwest Quiche!

Are you a quiche eater?

A 1982 bestselling book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, firmly defined the egg, cream and cheese savory pastry as feminine and therefore beneath the standards of masculinity for any man who didn’t want to been seen as some namby-pamby New Age sort. The book goes on to describe this man as the sort who refers to his significant other as “life partner,” and who likely make the quiche, serve it to his partner, and wash up afterward. Needless to say, this man is not to be aped but to be despised and dismissed.

Due to the book’s 55 weeks on the bestsellers chart, “quiche eater” became briefly synonymous with a person too fancy to get his hands dirty. Having made more than a few quiche crusts, I find the insult to be a little ironic, considering how quickly the hands get floured, crummy, and sticky while forming the dough. But maybe the idea is that the quiche eater doesn’t make the crust.

Actually, going even further on this line of thought, the book admits that it’s perfectly masculine for a man to eat an egg and bacon pie that his spouse might offer him, but to make it himself would be deemed less than masculine. So it’s somehow less dainty to be waited on? Bruce Feirstein, you’ve got me thoroughly confused.

Anyhoo, there are many good vegan quiche recipes among my collected cookbooks, but for Sunday morning’s pie, I used what I had on hand and made a sort of Tex-Mex, Southwest pie with red onion, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and some of the field garlic we received in our CSA this week. Filling in for the egg and cream, I mashed in a pound of extra firm tofu. You can take or leave the turmeric in the recipe, but I think it gives the overall look a nice, rich color.

Word to the wise on tofu-based quiches: I don’t mind mine being a little loose and crumbly, but if you want a tighter, more gelled pie, use a food processor to blend the tofu smooth before adding it to the sautéed veggies.

Southwestern Quiche

Ingredients
– 1 9″ vegan pie crust
– 1 medium red onion, chopped
– 1 small red bell pepper, diced
– 5 or 6 fresh mushrooms, chopped
– 1 stalk field garlic, finely chopped (optional – but tasty)
– 1 pound extra firm tofu
– 2 tsp chili powder
– 1 tsp garlic pepper seasoning
– 1 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– Turmeric (optional)

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

– Saute the onions in oil until translucent. Add the bell pepper and continue cooking for three minutes. Add mushrooms and seasonings and saute until everything is tender.

– Crumble in tofu and turmeric, then stir briskly with a fork until everything is well combined and fairly smooth, adding a tablespoon or two of water if needed. Pour into pie crust.

– Bake the quiche for 40 minutes in the oven, until the edges are browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes before eating.

The Black Bean

Appearances aren’t everything. Take The Black Bean, for example. Housed in a former Chinese restaurant on Atwood Street in Oakland, it’s the epitome of barely renovated. The long bar that is the major visual focus for the main room lacks any stock or lighting. The cooler of 20 oz. sodas on the left of the bar seems completely out of place, as does the water cooler and plastic cups for self-serve. There’s a little side room of tables. The bathrooms are in the basement. Even some vibrant paintings on the wall don’t quite make up for the restaurant’s lack of atmosphere. It feels like a take-out spot.

And it is, certainly. The price range for appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and entrees are on par with other takeout options, and in a neighborhood like Oakland, a restaurant could make a considerable sum on pick up orders alone. Still, for a place still putting the operation together – for example, as of my visit, their liquor license hadn’t come through yet, thus the empty bar – there’s a kind of low-key charm in the unfinished details.

When I came in, The Black Bean was empty. The friendly girl at the bar gave me two menus, told me to sit anywhere, and that I needed to order at the bar when I was ready. Pretty straightforward, no fuss, no frills.

The Black Bean on Urbanspoon

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Bocktown Beer and Grill

You get spoiled living in the city. Everywhere you turn there is another decent-to-great restaurant to try, each its own singular culinary voice in a crowded eater’s paradise. Consider each city neighborhood and their busiest streets. How many good restaurants, for example, are on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill? And not all of Murray Avenue, just the stretch between Forbes Avenue and where Murray hits Forward Avenue.

I suppose it depends on personal preference, but in my mind, the answer is somewhere around ten. Ten. In the span of a few blocks. And yes, that’s a Pittsburgh perspective. Someone coming out of a city like New York would laugh at that number.

“Ten decent restaurants in a few blocks?” they’d repeat. “My block alone has nearly a dozen places to eat, and that’s not counting the street vendors! That seems downright… suburban!” They would go on, but I have either tuned them out or punched them in the face, cause while they may be right that urban Pittsburgh doesn’t (and probably shouldn’t) pack in the businesses like urban New York, they seem to have forgotten what being out in the suburbs is like, especially for diners.

That’s not to disparage suburban eating. Dormont is quasi-suburban, and I go on and on about how terrific it is for diners. I’m not thinking suburban neighborhoods so much as those areas that are, for lack of a better term, vacant of “charm” and abundant with “commercial.” I’m thinking of places like Robinson.

Robinson, with its myriad of big chain stores, its endless strip-mall-esque sections of businesses, it’s gigantic and labyrinth-like parking lots. When I think of Robinson the visual that pops out most readily in my mind is IKEA, emerging from the highway like a monolith tribute to shopping. Its vibrant blue and yellow call the eye’s attention like a shopping siren bringing cars into its parking harbor.

It may say something about my own particular Robinson experiences that the only place I recall eating in the area is the cafeteria at IKEA. (Oh, I could totally go for some Lingonberry soda right about now. I’ll pass on the Swedish meatballs, however.) Most of the nearby restaurants don’t really offer much competition. For most people in and out of Robinson, food is a secondary notion, to be eaten immediately before or immediately following the grander purpose of shopping. Why do malls have food courts and only a few full-restaurant options? Because most shoppers are in a retail-heavy area to shop.

Fortunately, someone was bound to challenge the status quo of the eateries in Robinson. Before the newly formed Settlers Ridge started bringing in restaurants that would be unique to the immediate area, Bocktown Beer and Grill was the first strike against the mediocre and mundane that comprised most of the Robinson dining options.

Bocktown’s Robinson location is in a strip mall segment across a vast lot from the Target. Its long, narrow interior is brightly lit and lined on one side by a bar area and the other side by booth and table seating, eventually leading back to an outside beer garden area. The inside is a surprise – warmly painted and lit, tasteful decor, and comfortable seating – compared to its mostly staid exterior, although the hand-drawn chalkboards advertising specials, events, and the various online locations for Bocktown was a nice touch, livening up a dimly lit concrete sidewalk.

The staff is dressed supremely casual, but move with quickness and efficiency. We were assured of a short wait, then quickly sat in a corner near the front,  slightly isolated from the rest of the dining area. A few moments to peruse the beer list, then our server, James, introduced himself and took our drink and appetizer order.

Bocktown Beer and Grill on Urbanspoon

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Good Morning, Steelers Sunday!

I grew up a misfit teenager shunning all jock trappings. Due to my commitment to the South Park High School Eagles Marching Band, I was an unwilling witness to many, many football games, none of which I paid the least bit of attention to, preferring the company of a small penlight and book. I even got homework done in the stands. Playoffs time, when we lost, I was secretly overjoyed for the end of the football season. No more Friday nights spent shivering on the metal bleachers. No more playing halftime shows that people in the stands used as an excuse for bathroom breaks. No more pretending (albeit poorly) to care.

Then something happened in college. No longer expected to care, I started keeping track of pro football (as well as a few other sports, but more on that another time),  although I stayed fast and loose with game-time commitments. Still, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2006, I whooped and hollered celebrated with my then-housemates. After the game, we ran out to Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill and celebrated with the rest of our neighborhood. I saw people running around shirtless in the snow, sliding down Forbes by holding onto moving cars and buses. I saw people knock down a dumpster and dance on top of it. The young and the old, the drunk and the sober. I saw how this city celebrates their team. And it was exhilarating. (And a little scary.)

The 2009 Super Bowl win against the Cardinals held a different kind of significance for me. I had my heart broken in the Fall of 2008 by no less than a devout Seahawks fan, who loved to claim that our city’s team had stolen their Super Bowl title due to a bad call. Months after the final conversation of our relationship, I sat in a roomful of friends, cheering out of equal parts love for our team, our city, and spite for that guy from Seattle. Mature? Not really. But we won. Again. Damn right.

Going into this most recent season, I cooled on the Steelers a bit. It was a mix of reasons, but mostly the Ben Roethlisberger stuff and a new-found enjoyment of college football, specifically the team of my partner and his family, the West Virginia Mountaineers. Still, seeing the unruly mane jutting out of the helmet of #43 Polamalu, catching the sunny/frightening smile of #86 Ward, the hulking frame of #34 Mendenhall… There’s really nothing like rooting for the home team.

That’s my abridged history with football. For the AFC Championship weekend, we cooked up something that might have to make a Super Bowl reappearance. This recipe is based on the traditional “Pittsburgh” salad, but it’s also based on a failure. I was all set to make lentil burgers, but upon their completion in the oven, they were just too crumbly to make it on the buns. My intrepid dining companion and partner came up with this terrific solution to our dinner problem. So this recipe truly belongs to him.

The Vegan Pittsburgh Salad

Ingredients
– 1 lentil burger patty, crumbled (I haven’t included my recipe, cause it’s still a work in progress, but the Veggie Table has a good one.)
Iceberg salad mix
– Sweet & Sour dressing (not the same as the sauce used in Asian cooking – we used the tangy Giant Eagle variation.)
– 1 avocado, thinly sliced
– 1 small tomato, chopped
For the potatoes:
– 5 to 6 small red potatoes, cut into even chunks
– 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
– 2 tsp turmeric
– 1 tsp cumin
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tbsp olive oil

– Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss potatoes in oil and spices and cook in the oven for 25 minutes, tossing a few times as they bake.

– Once the potatoes are done, assemble the salad:

  • Iceberg salad mixture
  • Crumbled lentil patty
  • Avocado & tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Dressing

Grab a fork and enjoy! Just don’t get any on your Terrible Towel.