CAULIFLOWER MASH, ROSEMARY ROASTED ACORN SQUASH

I'm currently eating a bowl of peanut butter, tahini, and jelly.

I'm standing in my truth. 

I sprinkled it with Maldon salt to like, elevate it. 

I also made some cauliflower mash because I wanted something fall-feeling without eating an entire pumpkin pie. Also, the temperature dropped to below freezing, and I wanted to kill myself. Coming off the heels of yolo-living in Oaxaca for holiday, and some big-ass holiday eating (MY PRECIOUS) on the horizon, I figured trying cauliflower mash would check off the aforementioned needs while still being primarily a vegetable/easier on the conscience. 

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Is subbing cauliflower for beautiful Yukon golds low-key annoying? Yes. Did it taste good? Also, yes. Did it taste like mashed potatoes? No. No it didn't. And it never will. But I will repeat the recipe all winter (very riffable with seasonings!) because it was good and great and #health.

Acorn squash. Almost as autumnal as Starbuck's official PSL calendar countdown. I sliced it up crosswise, drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. In the oven at 400° F for about 30 minutes. Va bene!

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C A U L I F L O W E R  M A S H

Adapted from The Kitchn

Yields: 4 normal servings; 2 Sogoal servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (I’ve done it with 2 which tasted great ...obviously more butter tastes better, BUT JUST GIVING YOU THE OPTION)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 

RECIPE PREPARATION

  1. Remove bottom center stem and finely chop the cauliflower. Cut ‘em small, and they’ll cook faster.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and sauté, stirring regularly, until the cauliflower has come just barely translucent in parts, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the cauliflower.
  5. Place the drained cauliflower, black pepper, and reserved cooking liquid in food processor and blend until creamy, dreamy smooth. Eat. (I DID GRATE SOME PECORINO ROMANO WHICH WAS UNNECESSARY BUT GOOD.) 

ROASTED EGGPLANT WITH FETA AND TAHINI SAUCE

You know what rules? Making something that looks like it involved a lot of time and skill when in actuality it was easy peasy lemon squeezy with time to online shop and watch a rerun of New Girl, while getting supes deep into a Daquan 'gram hole. To my surprise, this roasted eggplant was just that. After reading up on how to avoid soggy-ass mush (soggy ass-mush?) when oven-roasting the particular nightshade, I gave it a run and decided to dress up "Middle Eastern."

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Non-soggy-ass-mush roasted eggplant feat.:

-Tahini sauce: copped the recipe from master of Israeli cooking, chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Will be a staple in my household go forward.

-Pomegranates: holy shit just buy one, man/woman/gender non-binary up and do the work because IT. IS. WORTH. IT.).

-Pistachios: roasted them a bit with some olive oil and salt at 400 degrees. Burnt the first batch and was too lazy to roast another, so I mixed in some non-roasted. You can judge me. I can handle it.

-Feta: nothing compares to the feta in brine from the rather pungent but perfect Middle Eastern supermarket my family in San Diego still frequents. But the packaged brick from Trader Joe's worked just fine.

Will repeat. Will top with other random crap. Will entire eggplant in .32 seconds.

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Just some emotionally supportive snacks during the cooking process.

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T A H I N I  S A U C E

From JerusalemYotam Ottolenghi

Yields: about 1/2 to 3/4 cup

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup tahini
  • ¼ water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ medium garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt to taste

 

RECIPE PREPARATION

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined and smooth.
  2. Salt to taste

R O A S T E D  E G G P L A N T

Method from The Kitchn

Yields: 2ish servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

 

RECIPE PREPARATION

  1. Slice the stem end off of the eggplant, then slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1-inch-thick steaks.
  2. Lay the eggplant out on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Sprinkle each side of the steaks with the salt and let the eggplant sit for 30 minutes. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
  3. Rinse the eggplant under cool water and then dry thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and spread out into a single layer. Brush olive oil onto both sides and edges of the steaks. Sprinkle a bit more salt.
  5. Roast the eggplant for 20 minutes. Flip and roast until golden-brown and tender, 15 minutes more.
  6. Plate with drizzled tahini sauce, crumbled feta, pomegranate arils, roasted pistachios, and a bit of chopped parsley.

TOMATO BRAISED CHICKEN, HERBED RICE, TOMATO FETA SALAD AND TZATZIKI

I cook meat I can't eat because not eating meat is one of the rules of being a vegetarian; it might be one of the only rules, but I'm not club president so I'm not going to try to figure it out. As a vegetarian who's willing to cook all the meats for her very loved ones, I depend on Rory's palate (immensely/solely) to determine if a dish is up to par. At the end of a meal, I'll ask if it's a repeat dish, to which he'll say "YAAASSSSS" or "hard pass." Just kidding. He doesn't really say it like that, but it's close. This braised chicken dinner was met with a resounding "YAAAAAS KWEEN SLAAAAAY" or something akin to it. I tasted the braised tomatoes and juices (shhh), and I concur. But Sogoal, you say, you don't eat meat. You know nothing of meat. Can you even spell "meat"? It's with an E and an A. Not a double E. Can you even read? you ask yourself.

Valid concern. My defense: I was raised a [heavy, borderline unhealthy] meateater. I loved it so. I loved the smell and texture and obviously the direct one-way trip to Flavortown. And I miss it. I do, I do, I do. But I like being a vegetarian more. Aside from feeding my lil' family, cooking traditional dishes from my Persian and Vietnamese cultures is something I value and want to instill in any future spawn we create. Food from both Iran and Vietnam is central to each culture, central to celebrations, holidays, and family gatherings. I want to be sure I can recreate the sometimes meaty traditions I grew up with. Also, if I cook the meats for our household, I can make us buy the healthier, way more expensive chickens that had a better upbringing than I did. Altruism in the kitchen.

No one wants to read about vegetarianism because that's like someone telling you they just discovered yoga. I see you, I hear you. It ends here.

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Braising is real easy. You essentially throw it into the pot and let it cook slowly for a few hours. This sounds like a longish time because it's definitely not a thirty minute meal, so maybe you want to save it for a day you get home early from work, and not after a lengthy happy hour. Bless your heart if you do though. This recipe was robust, bright, and just rich enough without being too heavy. The meat fell off the bone. The tomatoes were lushly stewed. BRAISING WINS.

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late summer tomatoes with feta with parsley with lemon with olive oil with toasted pistachios MMMMMAAAAAAGGGGIIIIIIIICCCCCC

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Honestly, throw nuts and herbs into/onto anything, and I'll eat it with gusto.

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I winged this tzatziki. Some Greek yogurt, dill, garlic, cukes, and salt to taste. It got the job done.

T O M A T O  B R A I S E D  C H I C K E N

from Bon Appetit

Yields: about four skinny servings or two real hungry servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into wedges if large
  • 3 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

 

RECIPE PREPARATION

  1. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a medium Dutch oven or heavy shallow pot over medium-high. Cook chicken, skin side down, reducing heat as needed to avoid scorching, until skin is deep golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add onions to same pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and just beginning to brown around the edges, 8–10 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and cinnamon sticks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened and juices have thickened slightly, 6–8 minutes.
  5. Return chicken to pot, arranging skin side up. Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until chicken is cooked through, 45–60 minutes.
  6. Uncover pot and continue to simmer until juices are thickened and meat is close to falling off the bone, 45–60 minutes.
  7. Add lemon juice; taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve with lemon wedges.

UMAMI BROTH SOUP WITH CRISPY RICE & CARROT GINGER DRESSING

Early mornings are chilly. There are gourds at my bodega. I've eaten a three pound bag of candy corn. IT'S SOUP SEASON, PLAYBOYS. And I love it. As a vegetarian, making a soup that's savory and rich enough to satisfy both me and my animal-eating fiancé was trickier than I thought. I can't chug down gallons of trendy bone broth like every other #foodie in New York can, so I turned to a vegan alternative that's equally rich and satisfying. 

Warning: this is not a quick, throw-it-together in your undies while simultaneously online shopping and watching Jeopardy type of meal. Sorry, but as they say, good things take time (I usually don't advocate this because I have no patience, but this time, those people are right). 

Bon Appétit's recipe for Umami Broth was easy to make and packed a punch. It just took a little time to simmer to completion. I made it a few days before I made this full meal. Night-of, I put some of it into a pot, let it come to a boil, and added bok choy and thinly sliced carrots and cooked until carrots were fork tender. Finished it with some chopped scallions, chili flakes, and sliced jalapeno (because I couldn't find Thai chilis and you have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to grocery store visits for one meal).

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Also made this carrot ginger dressing, which made a shit ton. I ate with pretty much everything the days following. It's a bit richer and tastes like a better version of the dressing sushi takeout gives you with your salad... "salad"....three strips of iceberg lettuce and a carrot shred. This soup night, we ate it with a side of boiled broccoli. 

CRISPY RICE. YOU TAKE OLD RICE. PUT IT IN A POT WITH A LIL' MILK, OLIVE OIL, AND BUTTER, AND LET IT CRISP UNTIL A HEAVENLY GOLD CRUST FORMS. THAT'S ALL I NEED TO SAY ABOUT THAT.

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V E G A N  U M A M I  B R O T H  S O U P

Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yields: approximately 2 quarts

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 6x4-inch pieces kombu
  • 2 medium onions, unpeeled, halved through root, very thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, unpeeled, very thinly sliced, divided
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 6 sprigs parsley
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (I subbed a shit ton of cracked black pepper because I didn’t have any. It seemed fine.)
  • 2 heads baby bok choy, base root removed to separate leaves
  • 1 jalapeño or Thai or fresno chili (jalapeño is inauthentic but it’s all I had okay?)
  • 1 scallion, light green and white parts thinly sliced for garnishing

 

RECIPE PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 300º.
  2. Whisk miso, oil, and 2 Tbsp. water in a small bowl.
  3. Crush mushrooms and kombu with your hands over a rimmed baking sheet. Add onions, carrot, celery, garlic, and parsley and toss to combine.
  4. Drizzle miso mixture over vegetable mixture and toss to coat. Bake, tossing halfway through, until vegetables are slightly shriveled and mixture is fragrant, 60–75 minutes.
  5. Transfer vegetable mixture to a large pot. Add peppercorns a shit ton of cracked black pepper and 4 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until broth is reduced by half, 60–75 more like 1-1.5 hours (maybe my burner is trash?).
  6. Let broth cool, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids.
  7. In an appropriately sized pot, divvy out how much broth you’d like to eat right then; freeze the rest
  8. Bring pot to a boil; add carrot slices. Reduce to a simmer, leave for 15 minutes.
  9. Add bok choy; let simmer for 5 minutes
  10. Serve with drizzle of sesame oil, chili pepper slices, and cilantro

C A R R O T  G I N G E R  D R E S S I N G

Adapted from Saveur

Yields: approximately 2 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1⁄4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1⁄8 cup soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1⁄4 medium yellow onion (about 6 oz.), roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

RECIPE PREPARATION

  1. Combine oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, carrots, and onion in a food processor, and process until smooth
  2. Season with salt and pepper. Unused dressing will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

THIS IS MY CONFESSION [READ IN USHER VOICE]

I bake for a living, but I secretly like cooking more. Let's just keep this between you and me, okay? If you blow my cover, I'll find you. I'll find you fast. And you'll soon regret the day your mother decided to pop you out.

Cooking is more fun for me. You can just make a lot more mistakes; you can improvise and experiment with a little more freedom than you can with baking. I think I love that aspect the most. My job as a cookie baker and decorator, which I love with all my heart, is pretty redundant. Sogi's Honey Bakeshop offers one cookie flavor, and at this point, I can measure out and prepare the dough with my eyes closed, my hands tied behind my back, and a gag in my mouth (too much?). A baker's got to let loose every once in a while, y'know?? Cooking at home lets me make a bit more of a [controlled] mess. "WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO EAT FOR DINNER?" has been my favorite question/challenge/project over the last few years*. It's genuinely exciting. Most of the time. Sometimes, I really could care less and would eat our sofa cushions if Rory didn't need a place to sit and watch football.

But most of the time, it makes me really happy. I’ll draft next week’s meal ideas at bedtime; drum up a checklist for groceries along with the specific stores to find them; and obviously, I’ll scour the internet like a frickin psychopath detective on the hunt for the next big break in her murder mystery (except I’m just looking up how to make a proper Persian frittata. Fabulous recipe here.) I mess up a lot, and sometimes it sucks and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ll probably be documenting both of those occurrences here. I don’t think anyone’s actually going to read this. And if someone does, bless their precious heart.

This if for you, future Sogi. Girl, you take so many goddamn pictures of all your food and even put them on your Bakeshop Insta page, this is a healthier outlet. Plus, look how big the photos are on here! Isn’t that neat?

Wise, wise words.

This is my recipe diary, for cooked meals and dishes and some baked sweet things that aren’t iced sugar cookies thank the lawd. 

 

*To clarify, my main squeeze and future husband, Rory, does not actually yell this at me. Nor do I yell it at him. I yell it internally to myself. Like I do everything else.