Friday, April 11, 2014


I seem to be in a pattern of making/posting about things about which I know nothing at all, and today's offering is no exception. I had never even heard of okonomiyaki until this past Shrove Tuesday (i.e. pancake day), when I saw them on a "pancakes around the world" Buzzfeed list. But one look and I had to try one - or something like one - at the earliest opportunity. 

As luck would have it, when my partner was in grad school he lived upstairs from a place that churned them out in quantity, so I had an educated palate to give me feedback as I compared the relative possibilities and merits of various recipes. The end product was a sort of semi-crispy veggie frittata/pancake hybrid; my partner gave it the thumbs-up, and I'll admit that it was pretty damned good. And anyway, what could possibly be wrong with learning another way to eat pancakes?

~ 12 oz. firm silken tofu
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk 
~ 1/4 cup rice wine
~ 2 tbsp. mellow white miso
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1/2 cup each: all purpose flour, chickpea flour
~ 1 tsp. each: chili powder, ground ginger
~ 1 tsp. black salt
~ Blend all ingredients in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl. You should have a texture similar to a pancake batter; add a little extra water if it seems too thick.
~ 1 large onion, quartered and sliced into thin crescents
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
~ 1 cup sliced mushrooms
~ 3 cups shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and/or brussels sprouts
~ 1 large carrot, shredded
~ 1/2 cup chopped scallions
~ Place a nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.
~ Coat a large, deep skillet with cooking spray and cook the onions, garlic, bell pepper,and mushrooms over high heat for about 5-7 minutes.

~ Add the cabbage and/or bean sprouts, carrots, and scallions, and cook another minute or two, until ever so slightly wilted. 

~ Remove from heat, add the cooked vegetables to the pancake batter, and mix thoroughly.

~ Set aside for at least 10 minutes.

~ Wipe out the skillet, place over medium-high heat, and add another coating of cooking spray.

~ Pour in half the okonomiyaki mixture and allow it to spread out to form a pancake.
~ Cook over medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, then flip (carefully!) and cook 10-15 minutes more, until browned and crusty. 
~ Remove the first pancake to the preheated baking sheet and cook the remaining half of the batter as above.

~ Cut the cooked okonomiyaki into wedges and serve with tonkatsu sauce and spicy mayonnaise. (I mixed 1/2 c. Vegenaise with a healthy shot each of hot sauce, soy sauce, and agave; not traditional, I'm sure, but good!)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ričet (Slovenian Bean & Barley Stew)

I was inspired to make this when my lovely new friend Tina, who hails from Slovenia, posted about it on Facebook. Since I know little to nothing about Slovenian cuisine and am always excited to try something new, this bean and barley stew seemed like the perfect antidote to a cold, sleety, nasty day. (Also note that this was March 31, fully 11 days after the vernal equinox. Enough, already!) I consulted the prototype my friend had posted, did a bit of Googling to look at various recipes - most of which traditionally contain sausages, pork, and/or (gulp) lard - and came up with the following rendition. Since I've never had The Thing Itself, I can't comment on whether my dish remotely resembles the original, and take full responsibility for any egregious departures I might have made. But  it was certainly a delicious, hearty stew, and everyone in our house hoovered it up with enthusiasm; so thanks, Tina!

~ 1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight (or at least 8 hours)
~ 1.5 cup barley, soaked for an hour or two
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 10 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 2 tbsp. oil
~ 1 red onion, chopped
~ 2 large carrots, sliced into half moons
~ 2 large stalks celery, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 3 fist-sized potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, thyme, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cumin, sage
~ A few generous grinds black pepper

~ Drain and rinse the kidney beans and barley, and place them in a large, deep pot. Add the broth and the bay leaves, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.
~ Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, potatoes, and dry seasonings. Stir to combine, cover, and continue cooking for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
~ When the beans and barley have cooked for an hour, add the vegetable mixture to the soup pot, stir, and replace the cover. Continue cooking for another hour or so, until everything has softened and you have a thick stew. (If it seems too thick, you can add a bit of broth or water; if too thin, crack the lid and cook a bit longer, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick.)
~ Remove from heat, fish out the bay leaves, and serve. This stew is so substantial that it's really a meal all by itself, but to carb-loving people like us, a hunk of good crusty bread never comes amiss (we opted for rye).