It started, as much of my cooking does, with a problem. I had been buying spring garlic at the farmer’s market, and unlike regular garlic spring garlic comes with long green tops, similar to leeks. I’d been using most of them, but I had trimmed a bunch of the tops off. They were a little tough but had a great garlic aroma, and it seemed a shame to just throw them away. I wondered though, what could I do with them? Thankfully I watch a lot of Jacques Pepin, and in one episode when Jacques was trimming leeks he casually mentioned saving the leek tops for stock. So I had part of the answer; I could make a flavorful stock or poaching liquid with the garlic tops. But what would I poach in that liquid? Luckily I had purchased a beautiful little head of cauliflower at the market as well, and the idea took full shape.
I fulled a large pot with water, and added a healthy amount of salt. A few black peppercorns, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and of course the garlic tops. I brought this to a boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about twenty minutes. While it simmered I trimmed the core off of the cauliflower. I added the whole head to the liquid, and brought it up to a boil and then again dropped the heat and let it simmer. It took about 15 minutes for the cauliflower to become tender all the way through; you can check it by poking it with a knife. I pulled the head out of the water and let it sit on a cutting board to cool off a bit, then sliced it into nice chunks for easier eating.
The cauliflower soaks in all of the garlic-y, seasoned water and keeps its buttery texture. For a little contrast I quickly sauteed some kale and zucchini and seasoned that with some red wine vinegar; the cauliflower needed some acidity to balance it out.
Now that I think about it, the garlic tops should really be included in my Vegetarian Offal project; it’s always good to remember that almost every part of every vegetable can be used for something,
After filming our episode of Lost Vegetarian at Bricolage we stayed for brunch. I knew they had a lot of vegetarian options on their regular menu, but I was curious to see what they would do for brunch. I had the vegetarian breakfast banh xeo — a thin, rice flour crepe, in this case topped with mushrooms, beansprouts, pickled onions, and fried eggs. I’ve had banh xeo a few times, and sometimes they can be greasy. Fortunately at Bricolage they do it right. They also offer a full cocktail program, which we tried as well. The best part was that at the end of the meal Chef Lien Lin bought us our meal. As I’ve mentioned before, many Vietnamese restaurants have token vegetarian options, if they have any at all. At Bricolage they have several options, and so far everything I’ve had was great.
Bricolage — 162 5th Ave
I first heard about Rangoon NoodleLab when the Vegan Shop-Up posted a photo on their Instagram account. I like Burmese food, but it’s hard to find here in NYC and it’s even harder to find vegetarian offerings when you can manage to find Burmese food. Rangoon NoodleLab, a pop-up Burmese food event currently happening weekly at The Bodega in Bushwick, solves both problems. They have a vegan dish on their menu: spicy glass noodles with Burmese yellow tofu, sometimes called shan tofu. Shan tofu is made with chickpeas or yellow split peas rather than soy beans, and it has a unique texture. It’s not quite grainy, but almost pudding-like. At Rangoon NoodleLab they toss the shan tofu with a bright and flavorful lime vinaigrette, making a nice counterpoint to the spicy glass noodles.
You can go to the Rangoon NoodleLab Facebook page to check their schedule and their most recent menu offerings.
Rangoon NoodleLab at The Bodega — 24 St Nicholas Ave
It’s been a while since I posted a cooking post, but that’s not because I haven’t been cooking. One of the dishes I’ve been cooking a lot recently is this vegan kimchi fried rice. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the biggest one is that vegan kimchi has become a lot easier to get. For years most commercially available kimchi was made with the traditional recipe, which includes dried fish or shrimp in the seasoning. Over the past few years, though, several brands have been making vegan kimchi for those of us who love the flavor of kimchi but don’t want the fish. Then the Korean-owned bodega near me (the same place where they told me how to make this) started selling homemade kimchi. And in addition to more traditional kimchi they regularly make batches without the seafood. So it’s easy for me to get. The other reason I’ve been making it a lot is because it’s easy to do, and full of shortcuts. I can get a carton of cooked rice from the Chinese restaurant (conveniently located across the street from the bodega) and I only have to cook the veggies. Here’s a simple variation, though you can make it with anything.
I start by cooking up some sliced shiitake mushrooms and some firm tofu; I let everything get crisp and crunchy, and season it with salt and pepper. While that’s happening I steam some bok choy, and then set it aside for later. When the mushrooms and tofu get crisp I add the vegan kimchi to the hot pan, and stir it around with the mushrooms. When the kimchi is heated through I move everything off to one side and add the cooked rice to the open space in the pan. I season the rice with some soy sauce and let it cook for a few seconds before mixing it with the mushroom/tofu/kimchi. I check it for seasoning and adjust as necessary; sometimes it needs more soy sauce, sometimes it needs a splash of cchili sauce. When it’s seasoned properly I stir in the steamed bok choy, turn off the heat, and add a splash of sesame oil.
As I said you can make this with any combination of veggies you want. Youc ould even do it with just kimchi and rice, no extras. The point is that making the dish is super easy, all you have to do is cheat.
I’d heard good things about the celery root schnitzel at Werkstatt, a relatively new restaurant on Coney Island Ave. I’m a fan of celery root, but I couldn’t quite figure out how they would make schnitzel out of it. I imagined that maybe they formed some mashed celery root into a patty and then fried it, which sounded pretty good to me. It turns out I was wrong, though. I went with some friends for my birthday, and in addition to a yummy giant pretzel and some tasty cocktails I ordered the aforementioned schnitzel (they also have more traditional meat varieties). They take a large slice of whole celery root, boiled until soft in what I’m guessing is seasoned water, and then bread it and fry it. It’s got great flavor and texture, and topped with a squeeze of lemon and some tartar sauce it’s a fantastic dish. As with most Austrian fare the schnitzel come with some tasty salads — cucumber, potato, cabbage, and tomato — but the celery root schnitzel means vegetarians don’t have to make a meal out of those side dishes.
Werkstatt — 509 Coney Island Ave
I worry about a lot of things, usually things that I have no control over. When I heard that Emily, the pizza place in Clinton Hill, was opening up a second location I worried about it. Sure they make delicious pizzas, but they’ve only been open for a few years. And this would be in a completely different location, and a different style of pizza. Emmy Squared specializes in what they call Detroit-style pizzas. They are rectangular pies, with a thick, crisp-edged crust. It’s not as deep-dish as you would get in Chicago, but way deeper than NY or Neapolitan-style.
I needn’t have worried. There’s been a lot of hype about Emmy Squared, but they sure delivered. The Classic, topped with sauce and cheese, was quite good. But the real winner was the namesake pie, the Emmy (pictured above). Topped with mozzarella, banana peppers, red onions, and ranch dressing, the pizza was a marvel of balanced flavors. The creamy ranch and the banana peppers were a particularly nice match; I don’t know if they would work on a thin-crust pizza, but the thick crust made a perfect base for them. The Emmy didn’t even need the side of tomato sauce that came with it.
Bonus points: the leftover cold pizza made a great breakfast the next day.
Emmy Squared — 364 Grand Street
I love Vietnamese food, but there can be a lot of pitfalls for vegetarians. Even innocuous-sounding dishes may have a healthy sprinkle of fish sauce in them. At Bricolage in Park Slope, though, Chef Lien Lin has a number of great (fish sauce-free) vegetarian options like banh xeo (a crepe made with rice flour) and a veggie banh mi. Even better is the dish she made for us in the newest episode of Lost Vegetarian: banh canh noodles with tofu. The dish, which is meant to be eaten at room temperature, features a great mix of textures and flavors. The noodles, made with a mix of tapioca and rice flours, are dense and chewy, while the vegetables are crisp and light. The coconut-based sauce adds just the right amount of seasoning, offset by the bright acidity of the pickles.
Camera – Donny Tsang (http://www.donnytsang.com/)
Camera – Scott Lindrup (http://www.scottlindrup.com/)
Music – Bayard Russell (https://bayardrussell.wordpress.com/)
Bricolage — 162 5th Ave