Brooklyn is confused; this ain’t Texas, but the weather lately sure feels like it. Only in Texas will you see lingering snow on the ground from the one snowfall of winter and people running around in shorts and tank tops, sun blazing. Last week I was tanning in Coney Island and sweating at night, too hot to sleep. Two evenings ago I needed long johns to walk to the neighborhood bar. And today? I’m walking around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in shorts again. What does this have to do with a recipe? I’m sick, damnit, and I blame it on the weather. And now I want some pho!
This isn’t the real deal. But it’s close, it tastes good, and it’s easy to make. Especially when you live a 25-minute train ride away from Chinatown and you just don’t feel like taking a bus across Brooklyn.
You can easily change up the ingredients here. All of the vegetables are optional! Pho is traditionally made of beef broth with ginger and spices, but vegetable broth works wonderfully. Use whatever you have on hand and add your favorite veggies. If I’m making pho, I’m usually sick, so I don’t feel like going to the store and getting extra ingredients. And it’s still delicious.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 c vegetable broth (buy it or make your own)
1/4 c tamari
Optional spices: 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 c leafy green, roughly chopped (spinach, kale, collards)
1 c sliced mushrooms
1/2 block firm tofu, cubed
1/2 package Pad Thai (flat) rice noodles (about 4 oz.)
Optional garnishes: basil, bean thread, green onion, lime juice
In a soup pot, saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add ginger, pepper, carrot, and any other vegetable (except the leafy greens!) and sauté for 5 minutes. Add broth, tamari and spices and simmer for 10 minutes. Add leafy greens and cubed tofu and bring to a boil. Add rice noodles and continue to boil, stirring frequently. Be careful not to overcook the noodles or they’ll be mushy. They’ll be done in 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add optional garnishes (or don’t!) and serve in a nice big bowl. Watch some internet tv and go to bed early. Feel better soon!
… And some Cherry Blossoms to awaken your allergies:
As a young baker in the food co-op where I received my first formal baking training, there were several older baker-mentors I looked up to: Chris, the experimental drummer who taught me the diference between baking soda and powder, and Rosie, the young mother of two whose toddler taught me to spray my plants with soap to kill the aphids without harming my herbs. I really looked up to these thirty-somethings who were excellent chefs and mentors, doling out advice from feminism to psychedelics. Though I eventually rejected feminist advice from Chris to stop shaving my armpits— “it looks like shaved rats!”— and in some ways outgrew my mentors in baking and aspirations for the culinary world, many of their words of wisdom have stuck with me, and I credit them with my vast love of the field.
I always remember Rosie’s advice to have as much color in each meal as possible— combine a green with an orange, always. And I think of her family meals for the kitchen staff as I’ve ventured into the macrobiotic offerings NYC’s restaurants have to offer. While delicious and nourishing, I’ve realized the expensive gems these places call “macro” are really just a plate (or bowl) of healthy grains, greens, a seaweed, steamed fresh vegetables, and a delicious dressing. Can I make this bowl at home for my friends and save a ton of money? Yes. And you can, too.
Elements of a bowl:
Brown rice or quinoa
Beans (black, pinto, azuki— a macro fave— are all great choices)
Protein (tofu, tempeh)
Supergreens (collards, bok choy, kale)
Roasted vegetable (squash, carrot, pumpkin)
Sliced avocado, preferably in a “fan” shape
So some of the things I use aren’t macro— I like sweet potatoes, and they are definitely not on the approved macrobiotic list. I also don’t add seaweed to my bowls at home because I live in Crown Heights and the quinoa here is $13 a bag and the seaweed is twice that, and I am too lazy and embarrassed to take the train to Whole Foods in Union Square and cart a big bag of seaweed home for my yuppie macro bowl completion. You choose what you want to put in your bowl. The most important thing is that eating healthy grains and fresh, vibrantly colored vegetables are good for you and that’s enough to make anyone feel amazing.
I won’t patronize you with steps on how to cook your grains and beans, though I will recommend roasting your squash on a pan with a little olive oil in the oven at 400° until easily pierced with a fork and baking your tofu strips in a smaller pan coated with tamari and sesame oil for 20 minutes on each side. I will, however, share with you my recipe for a delicious dressing you can spread over your meal that will complete your healthy meal.
Sesame Ginger Dressing
1/4 c cashews
1/4 c sesame seeds
3 Tbsp ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp agave or honey
1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 c water
1/4 c- 1/2 c+ olive oil
Salt to taste
Optional: Soak cashews and sesame seeds overnight in water, drain before making dressing for a “raw” version.
Pulse cashews and sesame seeds in a blender until a powder forms. If soaked, just blend until smooth. Add other ingredients and up to 1/4 c of the olive oil. Blend until smooth; taste and check consistency. Add salt and, if desired, olive oil until your preferred consistency is reached. Place in a jar. Dressing keeps for a week; dressing will thicken in fridge. Add a small amount of water and shake before using.
My older brother Jeff was married over the holidays, and I was lucky enough to be home for the weeks surrounding the event. Months earlier, we had decided that Kristin should go with a Houston baker for the actual wedding cake, as I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to stay home from New York to bake. In the end, I was able to be there much longer than expected, and offered to make the desserts for the rehearsal dinner my parents were throwing.
As I had several days to plan the rehearsal cupcakes, I started by making pink (Kristin’s favorite color) sugar paste roses and pansies.
The day of the dinner, I woke up early and baked and decorated one hundred cupcakes. They ended up having three flavors: vanilla, tiramisu (always a favorite!), and double chocolate. Jeff stopped by for “shots” of frosting to calm his nerves before heading to the church for rehearsal.
Kristin loves chocolate, so I made double chocolate cupcakes with ganache frosting as one of the flavors.
Everything came out beautifully, and my dear father declared himself the “delivery driver” and meticulously packed the cupcake boxes in his car and drove to the restaurant.
The dinner was beautiful, and the treats were well-loved, especially by my Godson who refused to leave without trying each flavor. He of course couldn’t sit still for an actual photograph.
The next day, my brother married sweet Kristin. And the best part of the whole event? I now have two sisters!
A lot has happened since Switzerland, and without getting into the gritty details, let’s start with: things are looking much better, I am feeling more creative than I have in three years, and I love my neighborhood. Who said moving to New York would be easy?!
View from my bedroom window
Also, a recipe!
My current job has enabled me to meet some of the amazing residents in my little neighborhood of Crown Heights. One of these inspiring people is Marisa, who owns an organic prep kitchen down the block dedicated to helping working parents cook healthy, homemade meals for their families with a little bit of prep help. My day is always a little brighter when she shows up for her morning americano (or evening mint tea). She works relentlessly and is always in a good mood. She recently delivered to me a bag of leftover organic vegetables from the day. The bag was FULL of bok choy, and I got to work cooking dinner for my house.
I admit that I’ve never really made a bok choy side dish I loved, but this dish, though simple in preparation, changed my mind about cooking these greens. I accompanied this amazingly simple “Brooklyn” Bok Choy with Sesame-Ginger Tofu and brown rice for a beautiful dinner. Roommate approved!
Brooklyn Bok Choy
8 c bok choy, chopped
1 c mushrooms, sliced (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp white wine (optional) or water
1 Tbsp tamari
Trim the bottom ends off of bok choy stalks. Rinse well, then roughly chop greens— I sliced the stalks. Set aside. Sauté garlic and ginger in wok or large pan until fragrant, about 3 min. Add white wine or water and greens and mushrooms. Stir to incorporate, then place lid loosely over pan or wok to steam greens. Steam until greens are bright in color and softened, about 5 min. Remove lid and stir greens, adding tamari. Enjoy!
If you’ve noticed I haven’t posted in awhile, I have a very good excuse! Everything in my life is a-changing, and I couldn’t be happier! During this past year, my third as a Texas public school teacher, I decided that life was flying by too quickly for me to not follow my passion of being in the kitchen. Even as a teacher, it seemed I was constantly incorporating cooking into my lessons: multiplying fractions became “Cupcake Wars”, in which students formed teams to triple my favorite plain cupcake recipe and added their own ingredients and cupcake names for the grand prize of me baking and delivery 150 winning cupcakes to class the following Friday. The winner? “Unicorns and Fireworks” Cupcakes, containing a rainbow cake with vanilla frosting (the unicorn), pink sprinkles (unicorn blood, of course), and Pop Rocks (fireworks).
I also began e-mail relationships with several parents of my students who had food allergies: I would send recipes, hints, advice and also lend an ear to their frustrations with the medical industry not caring about the state of health of our children. The pills prescribed to their children did not make their stomachs feel any better. The zine I made was in honor of those students and I passed them out to any student, parent, and coworker curious about gluten-free, vegan cooking. I started this blog to share even more information. But it’s just not enough. As much as I adore my beautiful, sweet, caring sixth graders, I needed to get out of the classroom and back into a kitchen. It’s only been a month and I miss them like crazy, but I know eventually my two passions, teaching children and healthy, cruelty-free cooking, will intertwine. My family didn’t produce 4 teachers in vain: education is in our blood, and we are passionate, strong educators. It is for now that I say goodbye to teaching, but I know I will find it again.
Henry and I have been in Europe for two weeks now. Our initial excuse to fly to Europe was that Henry received a two week internship position at Nieves, an adorable, independent art book publishing company based in Zurich, Switzerland. We have spent the previous two weeks in Berlin, Prague, and then stunning Croatia, where long hours in the shade of trees and swimming in the crystal clear water gave me time to acknowledge that for the first time in my life, everything feels very right.
We have made it to Zurich. Months ago, while looking for something to do myself while he was hard at work reading and scanning zines, I found The Vegan Kitchen and made contact with Lauren, the owner. We formed a fast friendship via the internet, and she offered us a place to live in her beautiful top-floor apartment in the heart of Zurich, Langstrasse. Henry goes to work in the day and Lauren and I roam the city, sometimes on bike, and she shows me the best farmers’ markets with local, organic vegetables, the best swimming and nature spots, and shares her vast library of cookbooks while we plan events in her Vegan Kitchen space. This Friday, we are hosting a fake wedding party, centered around the notion that I can make a vegan wedding cake. The details of the event unfolded over a drink at Xenix, a nice bar nearby with outdoor seating in the cool Zurich weather.
When we leave Europe, we will be living in New York City, where I plan to find a full-time kitchen position in a restaurant that cares about the quality of its ingredients as much as it cares about its customers. I am so happy and thankful for the supportive people in my life who urged me to jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down.