Friday, December 30, 2011

Dead Easy Coconut Macaroons

These three-ingredient cookies are the easiest in my repertoire and come together in under two minutes for all of your late night "wait, the holiday party is tomorrow?" moments. With one important caveat:  do NOT attempt these without lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  I've got many memories from days of yore pre-parchment proliferation, and my poor mother chiseling caramel-colored pools of cemented condensed milk off of her baking sheets, only to find the dog had eaten the several dozen fruits of her labor by the next afternoon.  Don't let this happen to you.

The sweetened condensed milk in this recipe also gives the coconut a toasted nutty flavor, while still keeping the cookies sweet and chewy.  So it's not "all-natural" (what does that mean, anyway?), but you won't have to whip egg whites which I consider a procedural win.  Use non-stick paper, train your dog better, and enjoy.

Quick and Easy Coconut Macaroons
Recipe from my Mom

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies
Total time: one hour (Active time <5 minutes)
  • 16oz (450g) grated coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 14oz (400g) sweetened condensed milk 
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract (or vanilla in a pinch)
Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir until well-mixed.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.

Move the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool.  Store on waxed paper in airtight containers, or freeze.  Good for several weeks, if they last that long.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spicy Cranberry Chutney

Controversial statement: the best character on Friends is Chandler Bing, but only between seasons 1 and 4.  During the first part of the show's run, he was a Woody Allen-esque hyper self-critical schmuck, hapless but ultimately good-natured.  Once he starts dating Monica, I guess the producers decided that he was best served as a man-accessory and all significant character development is removed.  Because what else do you do when characters get married and boring to maintain viewership?  Have everyone get crazy!  And thus they become exaggerated caricatures (OCD! Smoking! Baby crazy! Dog hating!) of the lovable poor decision-making fools they once were.

So in very last Thanksgiving episode of Friends ("The One with the Late Thanksgiving"), Chandler's story arch centers around the flaccid unitask that his wife allowed him to contribute - the cranberry sauce.  He rises and falls by the cranberry sauce, traditionally the lamest of the Thanksgiving condiments, since there's nothing else for him to do.  And that was me this past Thanksgiving.

As I mentioned before, I arrived very very late on Thanksgiving Eve and was set to be exhaustingly busy on Thanksgiving morning, so the cranberry sauce was my only contribution.  And it needed to sing!  So we have spicy cranberry chutney - a tart and peppery sauce to cut through and enhance your sweet and mushy holiday sides.  I've since added it to eggs, turkey and ham sandwiches, burritos, and I'm told the leftovers were also incorporated into a baked brie.  Because if you only have one thing to offer, it better go the distance.  Assuming of course, it doesn't get used up in a gratuitous physical gag.

Spicy Cranberry Chutney
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated (via The Bitten Word for those without a subscription like myself)

Makes 3 cups (750mL)
Total time: 90 minutes (Active time 10 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (one with seeds and one without)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (220g) packed brown sugar
  • 12 oz (340g) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 green or yellow apple, shredded on a box grater and peels removed
Heat oil in medium pan over medium heat.  Add shallot, salt, red bell pepper, and jalapenos; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add water, vinegar, and sugar.  Increase heat to high and bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add half of the cranberries and the grated apple and return to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have almost completely broken down and mixture has thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

Add remaining cranberries and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to burst, 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool for at least 1 hour before serving.  Keeps just fine refrigerated for several weeks.  Travels well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Turkey Day 2011: Reflections and Recipe Rundown

Part one of the spread from Thanksgiving 2009
Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I'm giddy with excitement the way that children look forward to Christmas morning.  I believe with steadfast resolve that Thanksgiving is the best American holiday of the year.  Worldwide, I think it might be either tied or a close second to Guy Fawkes Day, but if we're talking strictly non-pyrotechnic food-centric holidays, Thanksgiving is tops.

Why?  Because despite it's dubious beginnings, Thanksgiving these days is about celebrating time spent with your loved ones and preparing a fantastic meal together, and there is really nothing that can top that.   Unlike other feast days, there aren't any religious overtones, pressure for perfect gift-purchasing, and every family can make up it's own traditions.  No family that you can visit? Thanksgiving spent with friends is an equally special experience.

My parents live in Boston, and since Thanksgiving Eve is notoriously the worst travel day of the year, I usually like to go up early Thursday morning and have my own personal cook-off at home for my dishes the night before.  This year, my sister has goaded me into participating in a gratuitous athletic display on Thanksgiving morning.  Since I also have a zero vacation balance, I will braving the masses on Wednesday evening, sweating/panting Thursday morning, and going to be completely deprived of cooking time

But I'm not going to leave you gentle Trash Salad readers high and dry.  I've prepared a rundown of my favorite dishes that I've made over the years.  As a parting pro-tip: do not waste your cooking time or valuable stomach space on soups and breads.  You've got all of winter ahead of you for that.

Thanksgiving 2009's stuffing-heavy spread.  Courtesy of my sister for these photos, but Trash Salad worthy nonetheless.

Tried and true traditional flavors:
AllRecipes Yummy Sweet Potato Casserole
Serious Eats Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (I'm actually supremely fussy about my stuffing, but this is the recipe that comes closest to what I usually do, though eggs are completely unnecessary. Stuffing post forthcoming.)
Simply Recipes Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Gourmet Cranberry Sauce 
Cambell's Green Bean Casserole (My Mom's version has lots of cheese, completely canned ingredients, and is absolutely amazing.)
Martha's Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Tyler Florence Oven Roasted Turkey with Sage Butter
Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie
Jell-o Chocolate Pudding Pie (Another family favorite!)

A little something different:*
My Coconut and Ginger Sweet Potato Casserole
Bon Appetit Lemon Roast Potatoes
My Kale Salad
Williams-Sonoma Spiced Cranberry Chutney
Dave Lieberman Tangy Almond Green Beans
101 Cookbooks Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Apples
Giada de Laurentis Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus
Oprah's Pumpkin Gingersnap Pie with Sugared Cranberries (I know. But it's really good!)
Alison Kave's Blue Ribbon Ginger Bourbon Pecan Pie

*Having tried many stuffing variations including cornbread and wild rice, this is the only place where I will say do NOT mess with the classic.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pickled Shiitakes and the Return of the Graphs

This tangy mushroom side dish has been on my mind for about nine months now since I first had something similar at Angelica Kitchen, and in my bookmarks list for at least two since getting a bang-up deal on dried shiitakes at the local Asian market.  If you like mushrooms and Asian flavors, these are absolutely amazing for an incredibly low amount of effort.

According to the internet, the most popular inspiration for pickled shiitakes is a recipe from David Chang's Momofuku cookbook.  Once David Chang served me a parfait of goat cheese, tapioca, beet root, and walnuts, and it was fantastic.  But I've never been to any of the Momofuku restaurants, even though I'm sure I would love the food, because I'm of the opinion that, when in a city as large and exciting as New York, you should never ever wait more than 20 minutes when you want to eat.  I refuse to believe that any pork bun, fried chicken, or bowl of ramen, regardless of the quality, is worth three hours of my time that could be much better spent elsewhere in the area on loftier pursuits.  I feel so strongly about this, that I've brought back the cost-benefit analysis graph to illustrate my point.

Take the case of the simple falafel sandwich. One of my all-time favorite foods, I'm lucky to have access to no fewer than 8 different falafel establishments within walking distance of my apartment. A solid and tasty meal that I enjoy for dinner at least once a week in Hoboken, I would never ever consider going to the mirror establishment on MacDougal Street for the exact sandwich, even when I'm in the area, since there is a perpetual line of 5+ customers deep.  Consider at least 3 minutes per customer, and my favorite food is suddenly not worth it. Whereas, the sort of bland, not super exciting noodle soup that I can get across the street from my office is absolutely worth it compared to the several hours of wait time at trendy ramen places.

The point I'm dancing around is this: I don't know how these marinated mushrooms are supposed to be served at Momofuku since I will never go there.  What I do know is that they are really really delicious, even when you half-ass the ingredients as you see in parentheses below.  I don't think they would go well with a normal noodle soup since they're quite salty, but could gussy up the bland one from across the street quite handsomely.  Really, you can use these mushrooms like kimchi: kind of a side, and also a punchy flavor addition to whatever the hell you want.  A trash salad, for instance.

Pickled Shiitakes
Adapted from Saveur (coopted from Momofuku)

Makes 2 cups (480mL)
Total time: 45-60 minutes (Active time <10 min)
  • 1.5 oz (43g) dried shiitake mushrooms (about half of a normal package)
  • 1/2 cup (120mL) soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup (120mL) sherry vinegar (or a half/half mixture of rice wine vinegar and Chinese cooking wine if you don't keep things like sherry vinegar on-hand)
  • 1/3 cup (70g) sugar (I used brown, and don't think it matters)
  • 3" (7.5cm) piece of ginger, peeled (or 3 tsp of dried ginger, in a pinch)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
Put mushrooms in a large bowl and cover with 2.5 cups (600mL) of boiling water (they will try to float, so push them down until covered).  Soak for at least 15 minutes.  Drain, reserving 2 cups (480mL) of liquid.  Chop the mushrooms into slivers if you like them that way.

Combine the drained mushrooms, reserved mushroom liquid, and remaining ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove pan from heat, let cool, and transfer to a jar or other container.  Will keep in the fridge for at least a month.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Drunken Fig Jam

I recently had the incredible good fortune of being given a large bag of fresh figs, straight from the tree (in New Jersey, who knew?). Several weeks have passed now, during which I've decided that figs are absolutely my favorite fruit in the entire world.  Because they are usually incredibly expensive and hard to get?  Probably.  They're also high in fiber and minerals, not too sweet or juicy, and are excellent raw or baked into a variety of snack cake-like items.

My first attempt at cooking something with the figs - rather than inhaling them out of the bag - was this fruit and sour cream gratin recipe and substituting blueberries for raspberries.  It was good?, but got kind of watery and had the overwhelming taste of burnt sugar.  I wanted something figgier that really showcased the fruit instead of used it as a filler on which to pile sugar and cream.  Also, I don't really know how to pronounce gratin, so it feels rather fraudulent to even be writing about it in passing.

And in the midst of all this hemming and hawing, the figs started to turn and I was left with jam as the only viable option.  Fortunately I stumbled upon this fantastic Bon Appetit recipe, which I scaled down and adjusted the proportions to my tastes (i.e. more on the Drunken and less on the sugary Jam side of things).  It's a great unique flavor that is perfect for your fall cocktail parties on top of goat cheese crostini.  If you're not the type for fancy finger food, this jam is awesome on toast, stirred into yogurt, and on top of salty cheese chunks.  Yet more reasons to befriend a fig tree owner today.

Drunken Fig Jam
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 1 pint of jam (475 mL)
Total time: 1 1/2 hours-1 3/4 hours (Active time 15 minutes)

  • 1 lemon
  • 20 ounces (565g) ripe (or overripe) fresh figs
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80mL) dark booze of choice (whiskey, cognac, or brandy)
  • pinch of salt

Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler into wide strips (yellow part only).  Cut the zest into matchstick (or smaller) size pieces (about 1 1/2 tablespoons). 

Chop the figs into 1/2 inch (1cm) chunks, removing the hard stem (you should have about 3 cups).  Juice the lemon into a heavy saucepan and add the zest, sugar, booze of choice, and salt.  Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.*

Bring the fig mixture to a boil on high heat, and simmer over medium heat until the mixture has thickened and reduced to 2 cups, stirring frequently and breaking up large chunks with a fork/potato masher (about 20-30 minutes).  Remove mixture from heat and pour into a jar.**  Store in the freezer or fridge, where it will keep  for a month or more.

*I'm not convinced this step is necessary and was going to skip it, but ended up forgetting and doing it anyway.  I'd consider it optional.

**If you have a LOT of figs and want to do the whole canning-to-preserve-forever thing, follow the directions here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fail: Eggplant Curry

A cautionary tale.

I've used the AllRecipes Baingan Bharta recipe many many times over the years for a quick and easy on-hand-ingredients type of dinner.  A few days ago, I got lazy and just chopped and stir-fried the Japanese eggplant I had with spices, added chopped tomatoes, kale, and a can of chickpeas.  Go to add a bit of yogurt to finish it off, and things came to a screeching halt.  Instead of a creamy sauce that integrated well with the tomatoes, I had a watery pile of vegetables flecked with white yogurt curds.  Gross.

So, why the horrendous error? The original recipe has you cook the yogurt for 10 minutes with tomatoes, and you'd think the acidity and heat would cause separation anyway. AllRecipes commenters have also apparently stir-fried eggplant in this recipe successfully. My only suspicion is that I somehow stuffed it up by adding kale and chickpeas, though in theory these aren't super acidic so shouldn't affect anything. Is the lowfat yogurt to blame? I'll try this again with regular eggplant, no additions next time to see what I end up with.

For the curious, yes I still ate this over the course of a week. With eyes closed, I could pretend that the curdy things were cheese chunks and that made everything okay.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2012: A Hypothetical Food Bucket List

One of the more ridiculous things I've come across on the internet lately is this guy who made an off-hand New Year's resolution to his buddy to eat 2011 chicken wings in 2011.  But he's actually doing it!  And profiting from it!  And bringing the publicity show to Hoboken!

Now, do I have the drive or attention span to devote a year of my life to one particular thing in order to become an internet sensation?  Certainly not.  But here are a few things of similar volume or caloric content to wings that I could easily EASILY eat 2012 of next year, and not make a big deal out of it.

Things that would probably do me some good:
  • Ounces of kale - I made a conservative estimate to a friend last weekend that I eat kale ten times every week. When I'm at home more in the winter, it's more like 15. And if you don't think that putting away 20 ounces of kale per week is a lot, consider that one of the big bunches in the supermarket is usually less than a pound. I KNOW.
  • Toast + fatty spread + vegetable - Bit vague of a combination, but think along the lines of mayo/tomato, avocado/spinach, goat cheese/grilled veg; the possibilities are endless.  From 2005-2006, I ate a toasted sandwich almost every day for breakfast and lunch until I got sick of toast (as you do). But it's been 5 years, and I could get the roof of my mouth back into shape in no time.
  • Cups of tea - I'd probably need to integrate some decaffeinated nonsense at some point, but I hit about 3-4 English breakfasts or green teas on a normal day. I've also been wanting to get into Yerba mate. Has anyone tried this? Thoughts? 
  • Tacos - Perhaps counter-intuitive, but tacos can indeed be healthy when made vegetarian with a small amount of cheese/sour cream (you know, not this kind or this kind [YUM]).

Things that would probably kill me:
  • Eggs - I've been known to put an egg or two on just about anything with excellent results.  But the cholesterol is mind boggling here. And I refuse to be one of those sterile no-fun egg-white only people. But I've got low blood pressure to start with, so this could definitely happen.
  • Cheese sticks - The stringy fun of single-serve 'mozzarella' cheese has the similar interactiveness of a chicken wing, without the saucy mess. Refer to above potential heart disease-inducing issues.
  • Scoops of ice cream - Impossible in the winter months? Nope. My summertime daily average would more than carry me here. If working at Friendly's didn't kill my love of frozen dairy, nothing will.
  • Shots of whiskey - Easy.  It's the rest of life that would be difficult to keep up with.

So. Dare I pose any of these challenges to myself? Is my effort better channeled more productively into something else ridiculous like running 2012km?  I've got 3.3 months to figure it out.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Sweet and Spicy Fresh Corn Fritters

    Many members of my family hail from upstate New York, where cheap fresh corn is readily available for most of the year.  There is actually a rather competitive bragging streak about being able to find the lowest price at so-and-so's farm stand, which I usually just sit and listen to and seethe with envy.  So when I do finally see bargain-priced end of season corn in my local, I jump on it without any hesitation or cooking plan in mind. 

    Yes, plain boiled ears are delicious and totally underrated as a vegetable, but I've been eating them to the point of overdose lately and there's something about that sweet, uncooked corn flavor that I love even more than the chargrilled version topped with cheese and mayo.  These fritters are a great side to serve with other late summer treats like fresh tomatoes and grilled zucchini, the availability of which I fear is quickly coming to an end.

    I've streamlined the original recipes quite significantly (whipping egg whites? no thank you sir!), reduced the salt, and increased the spice here, so I think this is the easiest and tastiest version.  They're also best eaten right away to maintain the crisp texture (otherwise they get a bit spongy), so store some of the batter for a day or two in the fridge if it looks like you'll have leftovers. 

    One day I'll turn the oven on again, but until then, I'm more than happy to survive on tomato sandwiches, caprese and kale salads, and these. And I'm always seeking more summer veg recipe ideas, so do send them my way!

    Fresh Corn Fritters
    Adapted from Alexandra Cooks (originally from WSJ)

    Serves 4 (about 16 fritters)
    Total time: 30 minutes (all active)

    • 1/2 cup fine-ground cornmeal or quick-cooking polenta (I subbed medium-ground cornmeal which worked fine)
    • 2 fresh ears of corn, kernels removed and separated
    • 1/4 of a large onion, minced
    • 1 small jalapeño, minced (leave out the seeds if you don't like it spicy)
    • 1/2 rounded teaspoon of cumin seeds, smashed with the back of a knife (or mortar and pestle for the fancy)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
    • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (greek, lowfat, or regular)
    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus extra for frying
    • 2 eggs
    • Optional for serving:  cilantro, sliced tomato, extra plain yogurt

    Mix cornmeal/polenta, corn kernels, onion, jalapeño, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Add yogurt, olive oil, and eggs and stir until blended.

    Set a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Once hot, add 1-2 heaping spoonfuls of batter to the pan for each fritter and spread into small circles (I did about 4 batches of 4 at a time).  Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side, then flip when the top looks somewhat dry and cook for another 1-2 minutes until both sides are golden.*  Remove fritters to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Repeat until all batter is used up (adjusting the seasoning if necessary), or refrigerate remaining batter for up to a few days.

    Serve with cilantro, sliced tomato, and additional plain yogurt.

    *A cautionary note: try to get all the rogue corn kernels out of the pan in between fritter batches as they have a tendency to spit and pop with each splash of oil you add!

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Thoughts on the NYTimes Turning Trash into Dinner

    Image via NYTimes

    The New York Times's latest feature on "stem-to-root" style eating was forwarded to me by several people last week and, indeed, it was right up my alley.  While I love that this topic is trendy enough to be given a lead in the Style section, it was odd and kind of off-putting that it was framed as such a novel concept (wait, what? you can eat the skins on potatoes?!).  But there were definitely both interesting and controversial ideas buried within the article, which I will now break down in the same manner as fellow intellectuals at The Frisky approach their in-depth analysis of The Bachelorette.

    The Good
    • New ideas for preserves: asparagus end sweet relish, pickled nasturium leaves.  I might also be inspired to finally try pickled watermelon rind, since I've been put off by the labor intensiveness of it.
    • Broccoli stalk salad: outer peel removed, shaved raw with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and lemon zest.  I tried this, it's actually really good and tastes very similar to this.

    The Bad
    • The target audience for this article:  poor poor urbanites who, in a misguided attempt at frugality, are just overwhelmed by their CSA shares.  "The kind of home cooks who make the extra effort to go the farmers’ market and support local agriculture, but whose schedules and lack of skills cause them to feel stressed by a refrigerator full of raw ingredients."  Yes, having a refrigerator full of food is incredibly stressful. We should be so lucky!
    • General Greenmarket wankery. "You feel more invested in the carrots you buy from the farmer than the ones you buy at Key Food. You feel sentimental about them, you have more respect for them.” Completely counterintuitive. Shouldn't you go to more of an effort to not waste imported goods and food that's traveled a long distance since it was more taxing on the environment to begin with?

    The WTF
    • NYTimes wants to poison you, but not be sued. An entire paragraph is devoted to Andrea Reusing and her technique of infusing things with things such that new flavors are imparted.  Fine, but one of the subtle new flavors suggested is almond-scented cyanogen which apparently you can obtain by cracking open cherry pits. Cyanogen begets cyanide in the body, hence a second full paragraph follows up with a disclosure statement relinquishing the NYTimes from responsibility should you actually BE poisoned by Andrea Reusing's cream.  I mean, any part-time viewer of CSI/Matlock/Law and Order/Murder She Wrote knows that an almond scent on a dead body is indicative of cyanide poisoning (at least on tv, where everybody closely sniffs dead people)!
    • Or do they?  These contradictory paragraphs represent poor and unconvincing writing to be sure, but is there any legitimate value to the cautionary bottom-covering statement against cyanide in food?  The typical exposure scenario considered by toxicologists is the consumption of CN-high (1 mg/g) bitter cassava root in Africa which can cause neurological ataxia and goiters if improperly prepared.  Poisoning for real.  However!  Cyanide in the body is countered by amino acids and goiters are fixed with the ingestion of iodide (commonly found in table salt).  So though there aren't any articles detailing the specific concentration of hydrogen cyanide in cherry pit panna cotta, it is fairly safe to say that the American with a typical diet will be just fine here.

    And as anecdotal evidence in this episode of you'll be fine if you eat that, I've eaten at least two apples a week (cores, seeds, and all), for the past several years.  I highly recommend this as a fiber source/peanut butter delivery system.

    So I'll leave you with an experiment suggestion for you budding scientists: take hammer to cherry pits, warm with cream, strain and whip into something tasty.  Acidify, add coloring agent, perform simple colorimetric test.  Save the world, or laugh in NYTimes's face.  You can thank me with coauthorship.

      Wednesday, August 3, 2011

      Blueberry Sauce

      What do you do when you encounter large amounts of fruit at rock bottom prices, but you're on vacation and can't carry it around with you?  Turn it into a delicious ice cream topping of course, and pawn it off on your family and friends.  Don't worry, they will be forever grateful.

      I've made this sauce a few times in the past couple weeks and am working on a way to somehow integrate this sauce into a cake.  Of course that would require me not eating the entire batch, so needless to say it is a work in progress.  It's excellent on pancakes, waffles, ice cream, yogurt, cocktails,  a spoon, anything.  

      Blueberry Sauce
      This sauce is a lot more tart than those you encounter at IHOP, so adjust the sugar accordingly if you like.

      Makes 4-5 cups
      Total time: 25 minutes + cooling (Active time <5 minutes)

      • 1 quart (4 cups/600g) blueberries
      • 1/2 cup (120mL) orange juice
      • 1/4 cup (60mL) lemon juice
      • 1/2-3/4 cup (100-150g) sugar (or to taste)
      Combine all ingredients in a medium pot and stir to combine over medium-high heat.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15-20 minutes until thickened to your liking.  Stir every few minutes to help break down the blueberries.  Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for a few hours before using.

      For instant gratification warm sauce:  Mix 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with a splash of water and add to the pot during the last few minutes of cooking.  The sauce will thicken up instantly, but might be a little too thick for pouring after refrigerating.
      For a bit of added spice:  Add a cinnamon stick to the pot while cooking and/or a dash of nutmeg.
      For a rich sauce indeed:  Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter towards the end of cooking with a pinch of salt.  Excellent with biscuits and cream.

        Monday, July 25, 2011

        5 Ways to Drop a Lot of Dough at Smorgasburg and Walk Away Happy

        Smorgasburg: gratuitous chalk board and beagle shot
         Remember my friend Jill, of The Rum House fame?  She and I are kind of extreme around each other when it comes to all kinds of activities.  To the point where I'm glad that she lives 4 hours away since I think I might otherwise be 50 lbs fatter, have a 50% less functioning liver, and spend all of my money on dressing fabulously and exotic Bikram yoga retreats.

        Since our friendship goes back 20+ years now (!), I knew to prepare myself for our visit to the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg by stretching, budgeting, and dieting ahead of time.  We each allowed ourselves $80 for the day (a historically modest sum for the two of us), and with the exception of a small wall hanging and one round of drinks on the way home, the entirety was spent at Smorgasburg.

        Ah, Smorgasburg.  The seasonal food-centric outpost of the Brooklyn Flea on the Williamsburg waterfront is a fantastic destination unto itself.  As expected, we flitted around for hours and hours like giddy children overwhelmed by all of the tasty treats and appealing chalkboard signs until we were too full to flit anymore and had to roll ourselves back over the bridge.

        Here are five tips for visitors of the future:

        How to Drop a Lot of Dough at Smorgasburg and Walk Away Happy

        1.  Keep your fluid intake up.

        Smorgasburg is located in an unsheltered parking lot during the height of summer with no shade in sight and zero breeze; you will require lots of drinks, and must embrace this.  If I had to estimate, I would say there are 6 gabillion different beverages to choose from.  Some overpriced, some not, all delicious.

        Rhubarb shaved ice ($2.50) from People's Pops
        Blood orange iced tea ($3) with miscellaneous tapioca ball from Thirstea

        Rhubarb limeade ($3) from The Stand, SO GOOD

        Kyoto style iced coffee ($4) from Blue Bottle - yes this is a lot for iced coffee but YOWZA it was strong.

        2.  Go early.  Smaller vendors sell out quick, and desserty things can suffer from hours in the heat.

        While this didn't slow us down a bit, it did result in facial frosting coverage on more than one occasion.  We also did no research beforehand and mostly stuck to stalls with limited lines, but if you have a particular item in mind, the earlier the better.  I'm told they open at 9am, and hipsters don't get up that early anyway, right?

        Earl grey dark chocolate doughnut ($2, deal of the day!) from Dough, invoking Jill's omgthisissogood face and associated frosting trail
        Doughnut remnants
        Mini cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery, including the most excellent banana with peanut butter frosting and bacon ($2)

        Salted caramel macaroon ($2) from Danny Maccaroon

        3.  Bring a friend. Try more things.

        This is just basic economics.  A friend creates twice as many purchased tasting opportunities with half of the stomach space occupied.  Example: this delicious-despite-the-photo chicken biscuit sandwich from King's Crumb cost $10 (ouch!) but was the size of a softball (score!).  Add a friend, and a costly gut-bomb instantly becomes an affordable tapas plate.  More or less.

        Moist fried chicken breast, flaky biscuit, herby pickle mayo sauce, red onion, there is nothing not to like here.
        Or go alone, and you can easily subsist on the free samples.  This is my plan for my next visit, so keep your eyes peeled for the girl wearing dark sunglasses and making several sneaky passes by the brownie and pecan stands.

        4.  But don't waste your time with the most of the Greenmarket vendors (with two notable exceptions).

        I guess Smorgasburg is technically a farmer's market under the Greenmarket umbrella, and offers about 5 sad little stalls with overpriced produce and a poor selection.  But why would you bother with the fresh stuff?  You came here for cupcakes and sesame noodles after all.  On Saturdays, there are any number of other markets that are cheaper and closer to home so you're not left carting around that bunch of radishes for hours around the city

        Of course I still managed to find things to buy in this section, and walked away with a delicious wedge of ultra-stinky cheese from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and cheap local honey.  But do avoid those radishes.

        Spring wildflower honey ($5) from Nature's Way Farm

        5.  Think delayed gratification.  You can take it home!  Or find it elsewhere.

        It's overwhelming.  So many delicious things everywhere you look.  But you don't have to eat yourself sick!  I've also seen several of the prepared foods I first had at Smorgasburg at area Whole Foods stores offered for the same price.  My personal favorites were the grapefruit and smoked salt marmalade and rhubarb and hibiscus jam ($5 for 4oz) I picked up from Anarchy in a Jar.  Whoever decided to pair them at a table with Roberta's bread.. genius.

        Another take-home was a pound of Barry's Organic soy, oat and barley tempeh ($9).  This was a rather pricey novelty gift for a tempeh-lover, as I generally think it tastes like crumbly rancid feet.  But it fried up nicely, no foot odor to be seen.  Not a convert yet though.

        I consider myself somewhat of a ginger-beverage connoisseur, and daresay that Q ginger ale ($5 for 750mL), lightly sweetened with agave nectar and spiked with cayenne pepper is the best I've ever had.  This is not an exaggeration.  If the bottle wasn't fancy frosted glass, I would probably carry it around with me at all times.

        So prepare yourself.  Or you could end up like this.  She still thinks it was worth it.

        Monday, July 18, 2011

        Creative Booze: Tim's Chocolate Vodka

        Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Tim, the at-least-this-one-time-hopefully-more-often newest contributor to The Trash Salad.  Specializing in cheap and creative booze projects, I think he'll fit in quite well and provide some excellent lifestyle tips to our dear readers. 

        Hi.  I'm Tim. 

        I'm a friend of Abbey's.  Irrelevantly and specifically, I used to date Abbey's best friend ~5 years ago for ~6 months.  I was a bit of a jerk to her before we broke up.  Sorry!  I'm actively trying to be less of a jerk these days, I hope it shows! (Editor's note: We'll accept this and future guest posts as penance paid).

        More relevantly, I fancy myself a bit of a writer, although the finest examples of my writing can be found in my "emails to self" folder.  I'm likely an extremely mediocre writer - I suck at being concise, I avoid commas at all opportunities, I swear unnecessarily and I abuse the fuck out of adverbs and hyphens - I suppose I'll try to be a blogger (Ed: Worked for me!).

        Most relevantly, I'm a big fan of The Trash Salad - it resonates strongly with me because it accurately captures the way I cook.  I hate recipes but I love recipe ideas.  I hate grocery lists, so I don't make them - I simply buy whatever looks good to me at the time.  I also don't grocery shop often, because I despise doing it.  As a result I'm faced with a refrigerator that lives in varying states of empty.  I'm currently embarked on a be-less-fat life project, so my challenge is to make delicious, healthy meals from whatever I have lying around.  I manage!  Successfully! (55lbs down in 4 months! Doctor-approved nutrition! </bragging>)

        I'm also a bit of a boozebag.  Not as much as I used to be, and not in the bad way, but I enjoy a cocktail or three from time to time.  For the same reason that my refrigerator is often mostly devoid of food, it's also mostly devoid of mixers.  This is part of the reason why I'm such a big fan of scotch - all you need to make a good scotch drink is an ice cube - and most times that's not even necessary - all you need is a glass. Sometimes, even that's not even necessary - all you need is the scotch.  I like that.

        I love to play "Invent-a-drink." I try to make the scotch ethos carry over into most other drinks I create.  I jokingly say that I like to make "man-strength girly drinks."  I consider them "girly" drinks because they taste delicious, and I consider them "man" strength because I always aim for a 70+ proof final product.  My drinks are not nearly as sexist as I seem to be in this paragraph, but they are equally enigmatic. 

        So I present my latest experiment: Chocolate Vodka.  Being on my stop-being-a-fatass plan, I try to not imbibe anything that's shitty for you.  To clarify: I consider non-alcoholic quantities of vodka good for you.  I also consider non-chocoholic quantities of 90% dark chocolate good for you..  Luckily, with Tim's Chocolate Vodka, you only need a little.  I poured about 750mL of Smirnoff vodka into a 1L flippity top bottle, and finely shaved about 2 tablespoons of really really dark chocolate.  Be sure not to fill the bottle all the way, as this will decrease the effectiveness of the necessary shaking. I put the shavings into the flippity top bottle and flipped the top closed.  I shook the shit out of the bottle every time I remembered for the next few hours and threw it in my liquor cabinet for a week. 

        A week later, I had a milky, shit-colored gross-looking brown liquid with visible shavings of chocolate in it.  It was strangely appealing.  I tried it over ice and decided the ice needed to go, so I sent it to the freezer for a night. 

        The next night, a Tuesday, my frosty-cold Chocolate Vodka was unveiled to the world, or at least to the five people in my neighbors' apartment.  The reviews were overwhelmingly positive – the result is a delicious, sweet-tooth-satisfying drink that's sipped like a fine scotch.  I also learned that it (unsurprisingly) functions very well as a shot.

        In summary: infuse vodka with things other than fruit.  It can be done, since many flavor-molecules are soluble in ethanol. Experiment! Taste! Keep me posted!

        Thanks for reading, and double thanks for telling me how great I am or how much I suck.  Both (or anything in between) are equally appreciated.


        I'm skeptical, yet whipping up a batch of this tonight in the interest of research.  Feedback forthcoming!

        Tim's Chocolate Vodka
        Makes ~750mL 
        Total time: A few days - 1 week (Active time <5 minutes)

         Shave dark chocolate as fine as you can with a sharp knife or grater - you should have about two tablespoons.  Add to vodka bottle (or a flippity top container), give it an aggressive shaking, and store at room temperature for a few days.  Serve ice-cold, straight-up.

        * I want to take a minute to rant about vodka and vodka marketing:  Vodka is simply a chemical - ethanol, mixed with water.  The “goodness” of vodka is determined by the relative lack of impurities.  All vodka above the “plastic bottle grade” is basically the same, and is indistinguishable in blinded taste tests.  When I choose vodka, I choose the cheapest big brand name with industrial-scale manufacturing, because that’s best set up to remove impurities.  If you’re paying $40-$60 for a fancy bottle of vodka, just know that you’re paying for the sandblasted bottle, because the vodka is the same.  I don’t want to hear your “oh I had a worse hangover with cheap vodka” stories, but I certainly do want to hear if you choose to do a blind taste test with some statistical power.  If you had a worse hangover with Svedka than with Grey Goose, that’s because you’re too much of a cheapass to binge drink the good stuff, but are happy to do so with the hooch.  </rant>

        Monday, July 11, 2011

        Garlic Scape Salsa Verde

        I love a good food challenge, and if I had a more stable existence that allowed me to cook for multiple people every night, a CSA-share would be perfect.  I actually signed up for a 6-week one a few years ago which unfortunately coincided with being sent to work in Buffalo for a month.  I remember flying back and forth on the weekends with carry-ons full of beets and radishes, and the effort of trying not to waste anything was rather stressful.

        So in lieu of this and more in line with my erratic lifestyle during farmers market season, I like to play a game where I buy something that I'm completely unfamiliar with and figure out how to make something delicious out of it.  And this week's subject was garlic scapes at the bargain price of 8 for a dollar.  You know that little green shoot that happens when your garlic is too old?  If it's growing in say, soil for a few months instead of your pantry, you'll have a garlic scape.  Kind of similar to a skinny, twisty green onion but harder and more pungent.

        And when combined with summer herbs and a dose of heat, garlic scapes make a fantastic salsa verde. It's garlicky (but not overly so), it's bright and spicy, it's awesome.  I adapted a recipe from for the love of yum who suggests grilling the stems for 15 minutes to get a nice char beforehand, but I was hungry and lazy and didn't want to heat up my kitchen more than necessary so skipped this step.  I also left it a little chunky because it adds an element of risk to possibly have something stuck between your teeth which I enjoy.  I served the salsa on seared tilapia fillets with an asparagus, cucumber, tomato, and feta salad, but I think the sauce would be equally good as a topping for tacos or scrambled eggs.

        Garlic Scape Salsa Verde on Seared Tilapia
        Inspired by for the love of yum

        Makes 1 1/2 cups (350mL)
        Total time: 20-30 minutes (all active)

        For the salsa:
        • 8 garlic scapes
        • 1/2 a bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems
        • 1/2 a bunch of basil, leaves and stems (this was a smaller bunch)
        • 1 jalapeno with the stem removed
        • juice of 1 lemon
        • salt and pepper to taste
        • 1/3-1/2 cup (80-120mL) olive oil 
        • water to loosen (maybe 1/4 cup)
        • 2 teaspoons honey (optional)
        For the fish:
        • butter
        • a few fillets of tilapia (or other white fish)
        • salt and pepper to taste
        • garlic scape salsa verde
        Salsa Verde:  Roughly chop the scapes, herbs, and jalapeno (including the seeds if you're bold) and add to a food processor with the lemon juice and a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Pulse a few times to break things down, then add the olive oil while the processor is running.  Process for a few minutes, adding splashes of water to loosen if necessary until everything is broken down into a saucy consistency.  Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper if needed (I used a particularly spicy jalapeno so used 2 teaspoons of honey to mellow things out).

        Fish:  Melt a small knob of butter in a heavy pan over medium heat.  Rinse tilapia and pat dry with a towel.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  When the butter has started to brown, add the fish to the pan and cook for 1-3 minutes (depending on how thick your fillet is) until browned on one side.  Flip and sear for 1-3 minutes until browned on the other side.  Top each fillet with about 2 tablespoons of garlic scape salsa verde.

          Monday, June 27, 2011

          NYC Cocktail Week at The Rum House

          I'm not the biggest fan of Restaurant Week in New York, mostly because I'm cheap and would spend less than $35 on food for myself in an entire week if left to my own devices.  But equally because I enjoy a drink with dinner and that can get very expensive very quickly.

          But sometimes special occasions present themselves, like a friend's birthday excursion to see a show in the Theater District.  And isn't it always better to be drinking when you have to go through Times Square on a Friday night?

          With this in mind, we ventured to The Rum House at the Hotel Edison - the only remotely midtown-area bar participating in the grand NYC Cocktail Week.  The bar is a recently revived old-timey lounge and piano bar, and the scene was a fascinating people-watching mixture of 50/50 wandering tourists and destination minded hipster cocktail snobs (I like to think that we fell into the grey ether being a bit of both).  Thankfully, it wasn't too busy even during the post-work happy hour time that usually floods the downtown bars.

          The Cocktail Week deal continues until this Wednesday and for $20.11, you get two full-sized cocktails with an appetizer.  I'm told it is "very New York" to consider this a bargain, but keep in mind: 1) well-crafted cocktails in these bars normally go for $12-$15, 2) this is the Theater District where it's tough to find a beer for less than $9, 3) you can split the deal!

          And thank goodness for point number three, since apparently this can't be done at all participating bars.  You get a choice of four cocktails and either spiced almonds or hard-boiled eggs with smoked salt (okay, not the most spectacular appetizer choices, but they don't serve food here normally).  The almonds were surprisingly good and seasoned with a flaky sea salt/smoked paprika/cayenne mixture which was a really nice change from the shellacked sugary coating that I was expecting.

          I ordered the Pathallus Molly (which I'm appreciating even more now due to the word play),  a gin-based slightly salty sinus-clearer served with spicy pickled green beans

          Belated birthday girl Jill had a variation on a Negroni which was slightly sweetened with added whiskey.  Both drinks were rather perfect for our tastes, and accordingly, very very strong.  A single sipper cocktail to last you an entire evening?  I consider that a bargain, even if it is a bit "New York."

          Thursday, June 16, 2011

          Fact or Fiction: Aluminum and Alzheimers

          Yesterday I had the very weird experience of being told that I was drinking my way to dementia.  At work.

          I'll back up a bit.  It shouldn't be news to anyone who has read more than one post here that I have a rather severe sweet tooth as well as constant internal conflict trying to control it.  My usual 5-fold strategy to deal with this in my cubicle is as follows:
          1. Chew a piece of gum.
          2. Eat a small sesame crunch candy.
          3. Eat a piece of fruit.
          4. Drink a diet soda.
          5. Eat a delicious yet vastly more caloric treat.
          Lately I've been trying to cut back on the gum/the convenience store downstairs hasn't stocked my favorite kind in awhile, I haven't yet replenished my stores of candy, and fruit seems to attract flies in the heat.  So that leaves the diet soda, which isn't exactly the healthier option if recent news articles are to be believed.  But aside from the dubious science, I'm really just trying to avoid caffeine in the afternoons.  The solution that a fantastic Stop N Shop special (2 12-packs for $5!) revealed to me is seltzer water.  I seem to have a pavlovian response to the can pop noise, and it seems like any form of carbonation will do the sugar-curbing trick of stopping my descent past the critical step 4.

          So needless to say I've been drinking the stuff like gangbusters.  Anyway, I'm dropping an empty can in the recycling bin yesterday evening, and a woman I don't even know says: "you know you're going to get Alzheimers by drinking that."  What??

          Follow-up: "Yeah, you know, the aluminum from the can affects your brain tissue and makes you senile.  You can actually see the shiny particles when you pour a can out in the sink, and if you use a straw, it just goes straight into your brain."

          The ridiculousness of the shiny particle/straw thing aside, I wanted to investigate this further for my own piece of mind.  I really do drink a lot of seltzer.

          Image via Amazon

          Does aluminum leach into canned beverages?
          Based on at least 30 minutes of scholarly research and limited access to full-text articles, I can say YES - but only a toxicologically negligible amount (<0.3 mg/day) when compared to normal dietary intake.  Bare aluminum containers (e.g. old canteens) DO have the potential to significantly leach when filled with a more acidic beverage like lemonade and left to sit for a few days, however all aluminum packaging containers are now internally lacquered.

          Lacquer? Yes, all food/beverage cans are coated with a polymer on the inside to insulate the product from the packaging material, and cans actually have to go through a de-lacquering kiln during the recycling process.  And this barrier polymer directly in contact with 100 billion Al beverage cans consumed by North Americans each year is loaded with, yep, BPA.  In fact, canned foods are actually thought to be the primary route of BPA exposure, but let's leave that for the moment..

          Okay, so the lacquer prevents Al from significantly leaching in cans.  But the average adult still consumes approximately 2-5 mg/day of Al from antacids, cosmetics, food additives like baking soda, naturally occuring sources like fruits and vegetables, and even minor leaching from Al cookware.  Also, there currently is no enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL, for those in the industry) for Al in drinking water.  Is this something to worry about?

          What's deal with aluminum exposure and Alzheimers?
          In the 1970's, a connection between aluminum bioaccumulation and dementia was discovered from studies of long-term hemodialysis patientsDialysis encephalopathy is a syndrome specific to those with chronic renal failure on dialysis; phosphate-binding aluminum gels are used during treatment, and Al can accumulate in the brain due to the patients' inability to excrete it, causing degenerative neurological impairment.

          But that doesn't seem to mean much for the general population with functioning kidneys and regular dietary exposure.  The link between Al and Alzheimers was first proposed 40 years ago, and scientists still haven't come to a conclusion whether or not there is a relationship at all, and if so, whether it is a correlation or causation situation.

          In any case, the CDC has established a minumum risk level (MRL) of 1 mg/kg/day for 15-364 days for immediate duration oral exposure to aluminum.  This translates to 10 times the upper-average adult intake for a 110lb person, and much more than that if you've got any meat on your bones. 

          So to summarize: unless you are actually eating the can itself, you're probably okay.  Aside from the BPA thing of course, but hey at least it's not Al-related.  If you want to be really really neurotic, studies proved that refrigeration and shortened storage time reduce leaching significantly, so drink fast and keep it cold.

          And as a final piece of advice, don't listen to old ladies on the elevator.

          Monday, June 6, 2011

          Repurposing Leftovers: Trash Noodle Soup

          This dish was inspired by a lonely little container of rice noodles leftover from a Thai food order that I discovered in the fridge.  Noodles can sometimes be incorporated into stir fry situations if they're in good condition, but these were at least a week old and had congealed into a sort of stringy brick that would definitely not have held up to a frying pan.

          The solution?  A brothy soup to rehydrate the noodles into an edible form, while delivering a delicious and healthy dinner.  This isn't really a recipe so much as a rough ratio of ingredients and flavoring suggestings since I don't think I've ever made this the same way twice.  And as I write it out, it's not unlike fried rice in it's basic components and adaptability.  The version pictured is miso/hot and sour flavored with tofu, cabbage, edamame, and some rehydrated black fungus I bought in Chinatown ages ago, though this dish certainly doesn't need to have asian flavors or ingredients if that's not what you have on hand.

          Here are a few winning flavor combinations:
          • for bastardized minestrone: use 1 cup of white/kidney beans, 1/2 can of diced tomatoes in juice, a small chopped zucchini, fresh spinach, splash of red wine, oregano, basil, and finish with parmesean cheese
          • for simple, rustic, and healthy: sautee 1/2 a thinly sliced onion and 2 cloves of garlic before heating broth, use 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, a few handful of shredded green cabbage, and finish with a drizzle of tasty/expensive olive oil
          • for cheaters' thai: substitute half of the broth with a can of coconut milk, use shredded chicken or tofu chunks, mushrooms and red peppers, season with 1 teaspoon or so of green curry paste, fish sauce (start with 1/2 tablespoon), a lime wedge, and fresh cilantro
          • for quick and dirty pho: simmer broth with whole star anise and a cinnamon stick, serve hot broth over noodles and thinly sliced raw beef, and garnish with basil, mint, bean sprouts, and sriracha
          • for salty, hot, and sour (or the Chinatown special, a personal favorite): use rehydrated shiitake, black fungus, or seaweed, tofu chunks, frozen edamame pods, and green onions, seasoned with 2 tablespoons of miso paste mixed with an equal amount of warm water, a big squirt of Sriracha or other chile paste, and 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar

          The only caveat I would add is do make this in small batches since it's best when eaten right away.  If it sits, the noodles keep absorbing more and more moisture until they completely disintegrate to turn your soup into a gelatinous mass of starch and veg.  Quick-cooking rice noodles are especially susceptible to this.  If you wanted to do a noodle soup lunch the next day, just keep the broth/meat/veg mixture separate and heat it with the noodles right before you eat it.  I know, I know, that makes two separate containers to wash and that's the worst.  But isn't it worth it for a (very nearly) free lunch?

          Trash Noodle Soup

          Serves 2-4
          Total time: <10 minutes
          • 4 cups (1L) low-sodium stock or broth
          • 1 cup quick-cooking or pre-cooked protein (small chuncks of tofu, poached and shredded chicken, shrimp, and even white beans would work great)
          • 1-2 cups quick-cooking or pre-cooked vegetables, chopped (edamame, scallions, small broccoli/cauliflower florets, mushrooms, tomatoes, green beans, sprouts, cabbage, greens, or rehydrated random ingredients from Chinatown)
          • seasoning (see above)
          • 1-2 cups dry leftover noodles

          Heat broth to a boil while you chop and assemble the rest of your ingredients.  Add protein and veg to simmering broth and cook 5 minutes or until heated through.  Add seasoning to taste.

          When you're ready to consume: break up the noodle mass with your hands as much as possible and add to the broth.  Heat and stir until separated and resembling noodles, and serve immediately.

          Sunday, May 29, 2011

          The Opposite of South Dakotan Food: Vegan Coconut Pancakes with Tropical Fruit Salsa

          My sister, brave soul that she is, moved to South Dakota last summer and while I helped to drive her out there, I had to turn around and fly out the next day so never really got to experience her new home.  There was of course other road trip scenery to be experienced along the way, but I'm back for the long weekend to see everything Rapid City has to offer.  Bless her - I couldn't live somewhere that is an arctic tundra for 10 months out of the year.  Coming from upstate New York, she's rather used to it by now and luckily she has an amazing 3-bedroom house for which she pays far less than I do for my portion of a 3-bedroom New Jersey apartment with no laundry or parking.

          2010 Sight-Seeing
          We've certainly had our fair share of steak, potatoes, and cheese-covered things the past few days (indeed, more on that later), so this breakfast was both the opposite of everything else we've been eating in South Dakota as well as a nod to the 80 degree sunny weather we're missing on the east coast this weekend.  And it's also a special occasion for my sister to use up the fancy organic ingredients (coconut/coconut milk/coconut oil/agave) that she's been stock-piling from various trips to Las Vegas and Denver.  And I can't think of a better meal to have during a 50 degree thunderstorm.

          These pancakes are much denser and less fluffy than your refined-flour IHOP variety to be sure, but have a fantastic spice and coconutty texture that you're not going to find in a Rooty Tooty Fresh N' Fruity (which is worth looking up on Urban Dictionary, but which I will not link to for my mother's sake).  You can swap up the fruit in the salsa for anything ripe and sweet, but do keep the banana since it adds a nice  creaminess that almost makes you forget that these are vegan.  As you can see, everyone was a fan.

          Vegan Coconut Pancakes with Tropical Fruit Salsa
          Adapted from Bon Appetit

          Total time: 1 hour (All active time, but I'm sure it would be a lot less with a griddle instead of tiny pans)
          Makes 20 pancakes (6-8 servings)

          • 2 1/2 cups (300g) whole wheat flour
          • 1/4 cup (25g) flaxseed meal (optional)
          • 1 cup (75g) unsweetened shredded coconut
          • 2 teaspoons baking powder
          • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
          • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
          • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
          • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt
          • 14 oz can (400mL) light coconut milk
          • 1 1/2 cup (350mL) warm water
          • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or maple syrup)
          • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
          • vegetable (or coconut) oil
          • handful of chopped and toasted cashews (optional garnish)

          • 1 1/2 bananas
          • 3 kiwifruit
          • 1 mango
          • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or maple syrup)

          For the fruit salsa:  Quarter bananas lengthwise, then chop into 1cm ish pieces.  Chop kiwi and mango into similarly sized chunks.  Add all fruit to a small bowl with agave and stir.  Can be made up to 2 hours ahead of time, refrigerated.

          For the pancakes:  Preheat oven to 250F (120C).  Mix all dry ingredients (whole wheat flour through salt) in a large bowl.  Mix coconut milk, agave, vanilla, and warm water in a smaller bowl.  Add the liquid bowl to the dry bowl and mix until thick but pourable.  Add additional warm water if batter is too thick (we added another 1/4 cup or so).

          Heat a griddle (or multiple frying pans) to medium heat and melt a small pat of coconut oil (or use a small amount of veg oil).  Add batter to the pan in 1/4 cup lumps and spread out with a spoon into a circle.  Cook 2-3 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface and the bottoms are golden-brown, reducing heat if browning too quickly.  Flip and cook until the opposite side is golden-brown (another 1-2 minutes).  Move pancakes to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.

          Top pancakes with fruit salsa, chopped nuts, and additional agave/maple syrup to serve.