BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Mushroom Bacon

  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 50 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $5
  • 3 Comments

I was a vegetarian from early childhood until I about six years ago (a long story involving the Sonoma County Fair's petting zoo and an ill-timed slice of pepperoni pizza). Even today, though I do enjoy meat, the person I share most of my meals with keeps kosher, so it's just easier to cook predominantly vegetarian and pescatarian meals for both of us.

Throughout my time as a vegetarian, and now, as a someone who still loves vegetarian food, I have been continually frustrated by vegetarian products masquerading as meat. It just seems like an insult to vegetables, which, in my opinion, are perfectly delicious as they are--no meat-ification needed. 

Besides, some vegetables can even be naturally meaty...which brings me to Exhibit A: The King Oyster mushroom. 

Mushrooms have long been a meat "substitute," especially in hearty dishes like pasta, or on vegetarian sandwiches, where their chewy texture and deep umami essence satisfies carnivorous cravings without the use of animal products.  

On Friday night, to welcome Evan home from a sad but important trip he took, I cooked a special Shabbat dinner of whole wheat challah, crunchy tofu, kale salad, and thickly cut, slow-roasted slices of King Oysters with onions, smoked sea salt, fresh parsley, and olive oil. 

"These are so smoky and meaty," he commented between mouthfuls. "They're almost like bacon."

And with that, the foodie floodgates in my brain were opened and, until I could get back into the kitchen to experiment, I could think of nothing other than how to turn the remaining mushrooms in the refrigerator into sweet, smoky, crispy bacon that even my kosher, mostly vegetarian boyfriend could eat. 

I am pleased to tell you that I was blissfully successful. With some inspiration and guidance from this Serious Eats recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt I created something I know I will make again and again, whether alongside fried eggs, tucked inside a BLT or grilled cheese, or crumbled atop a Cobb salad. 

In the Serious Eats recipe, smaller mushroomse are called for, but one reason the King Oysters seemed like an ideal base for this recipe is because of their size. Sliced lengthwise, they nicely resemble a halved slice of real bacon. 

This also makes them an ideal size for sandwiches.

In the Serious Eats recipe, Alt-Lopez takes his mushroom chips to the next level by actually smoking them. Lacking a stovetop smoker (and being the owner of a smoke alarm that cries wolf at the tiniest amount of steam), I decided to try to coax some smoky flavor into my mushrooms with gorgeous smoked paprika...

...as well as a little smoked salt. This brand of the latter, from Trader Joe's, has apparently been discontinued, but I had about 1/2 a bottle in my cabinet. If you can't find smoked salt for a reasonable price at your grocery store, it's pretty easy and cheap to make at home

I mixed these smoke-ifiers with some brown sugar (which always goes beautifully with bacon), and plenty of black pepper, and tossed the mixture with my mushroom strips, after giving them a dousing of extra virgin olive oil to help them further mimic bacon's fatty deliciousness. 

The strips went onto a lightly greased baking sheet and into the ovenat a relative low temperature (325 F) to get bacony and crisp.

 The results? Crisp, meaty, umami-like-crazy mushroom bacon. 

 Like whoa.

 

Ingredients

  • extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar Pantry
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt (if you can't find this, use regular kosher salt) $3 for 3 ounces
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika $1.50 for 1 ounce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper Pantry
  • 2 large (or 3-4 smaller) King Oyster mushrooms, sliced into bacon strip-sized slices (about 1/8th inch thick) $0.50

Recipe Serves 4

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 
  2. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with the extra virgin olive oil.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, smoked (or regular) salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. Place the sliced mushrooms in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and toss well to combine. 
  6. Add the brown sugar mixture to the oiled mushrooms and use your hands or a spoon to toss well, ensuring each mushroom slice is well-coated.
  7. Arrange the mushrooms on the oiled baking sheet with space in between each one.
  8. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the mushrooms turn dark brown.
  9. Flip the mushrooms gently, using a spatula.
  10. Bake for another 15-17 minutes, until very brown.
  11. Let cool for at least 10 minutes (this will also crisp the mushrooms). 
  12. Serve immediately. Unused bacon will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Cherry Pepper Romesco Sauce

  • Prep Time 5 minutes
  • Cook Time 10 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $7
  • 2 Comments

I resolve to cook more in 2015.

I know that sounds absurd, since you are right reading my blog all about cooking, but hear me out. 

I want to cook more, better, and deeper in 2015. I want to eat real, whole, lovingly-prepared food, even when I'm tired. Even when I've been in meetings and on airplanes all day long and all I want to do is order dumplings and eat them in bed. 

I want to shop locally for fresh ingredients in small quantities, and cook them within a couple of days. Then I want to shop again.

I want to cook, serve, and eat food that is utterly delicious in its simpleness. I want to be inspired by the seasons, not by food or diet fads. 

And I want to do it every day. 

This is not always easy (see aforementioned meetings/airplanes/dumplings scenario), but I still want to try. So I'm going to start with sauce.

Building a meal around a sauce might seem counterintuitive (most people build meals around proteins), but it really helps me to plan meals better. Take, say, peanut sauce. If I make peanut sauce in the beginning of the week, I can make at least two or three meals with it. I can serve it with spring rolls and salad one night, then toss it with grilled chicken and broccoli and serve it over rice noodles. If I'm lucky enough to have more left, I can spoon it over grilled salmon and sauteed kale and serve it with brown rice. 

Romesco sauce is a similarly versatile sauce. It hails from Catalonia, Spain, and is often served with grilled bread. Here I've tailored it to my tastes, using sweet-hot cherry peppers in place of the traditional roasted whole red bell peppers. They give the sauce a pleasant but gentle kick of spice.

I've also omitted the sometimes-called-for bread or bread crumbs, which I think make the sauce taste starchy. It's just peppers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, almonds, good extra virgin olive oil, pepper, and salt. 

The sauce comes together in just a few minutes. An immersion blender makes the process easier (P.S. If you have a small kitchen, an immersion blender is a must-have appliance. It can do the work of several larger appliances, and it's small enough to be stored in a drawer), but a regular blender or food processor will also do the trick. 

Once the sauce is pureed, it will keep in a jar for up to a week, but I highly doubt you'll be able to wait that long to start using it. 

For dinner tonight, my plan is to grill some sausages, slice them up, and then cover them in romesco and Parm, and pop them under the broiler. Tomorrow, the leftover sauce will be my base for shakshuka for lunch, and then I'll toss some with roasted cauliflower to have with dinner. 

Meanwhile, for lunch today, I spooned a little over a bit of ricotta and ate it with some seed crackers. 

The romesco was garlicky, a little bit sweet, and just a touch on the spicy side. The creamy ricotta proved the perfect balancing addition, and the nutty crackers played nicely with the bits of almond in the sauce. 

So what about you? What are your cooking resolutions for this year? Whatever they are, I invite and encourage you to get your sauce on. 

Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce jar cherry peppers packed in vinegar (I love the kind from Trader Joe's$3
  • 1 15-ounce jar diced tomatoes (preferably the fire-roasted variety) $1.50
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped Pantry
  • 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds $1.50
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf or curly parsley, chopped $1 for a bunch
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil Pantry
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper Pantry
  • salt to taste Pantry

Recipe Serves 6

Directions

  1. Drain the cherry peppers, but reserve about 1/8 cup of their vinegar.
  2. Combine the cherry peppers, the reserved vinegar, and all remaining incredients except for the salt in a pot over medium heat and stir well. 
  3. Cook for 5-10 minutes, just to gently mellow out the garlic.
  4. Puree using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender until desired consistency is reached (I like it slightly chunky).
  5. Season with salt to taste.
  6. Use the sauce immediately (see headnote for suggestions) or store in an airtight container for up to a week. 

Root Vegetable Latkes

  • Prep Time 20 minutes
  • Cook Time 20 minutes
  • Estimated Cost $8
  • 2 Comments

When I think about the exterior caramelization that happens when a shredded sweet potato hits hot oil, there's just nothing else for me.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I prefer sweet potatoes.

I know, I know. As an American Jew (two groups known for their deep love of the white potato), it's practically blasphemous for me to shun the humble Russet. And yeah, I can see its place in a recipe now and then: The toothsome steak fryThe knish. The pierogi--potatoes do makes sense there. But still, given the choice, I go for the yams.

It seems like the latke should be the kind of potato exception that a non-potato-lover like myself should make. But when I think about the exterior caramelization that happens when a shredded sweet potato hits hot oil, there's just nothing else for me.

Here, I've taken things over the top by adding more sweet root vegetables: carrots (I used rainbow carrots, but any kind will work), and beets, which add a pop of bright purple color, as well as earthy sweetness. I've kept the seasoning simple--just thinly sliced scallions, salt, and pepper, but these would welcome a bit of grated ginger, fresh turmeric, and/or minced garlic, too. Feel free to get creative. 

But whatever you do, be sure to eat these hot, right out of the pan (or oven, where you'll warm them), with plenty of sour cream and/or applesauce. Tonight, I'll be serving these alongside mouthwateringly tender brisket and some roasted broccolini. But between you, me, and the applesauce, these latkes will be the star of the show.  

I mean, just look at that. How could they not be?

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (orange-fleshed) sweet potatoes, scrubbed and grated (no need to peel) $2.50
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and grated $1
  • 4 small beets, cooked, peeled, and grated (Trader Joes' Steamed and Peeled Baby Beets are a great shortcut here) $2
  • 3 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and sliced thinly $1 for a bunch
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly cracked black pepper Pantry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten $1.50 for 6
  • 1/3 cup flour Pantry
  • oil, for frying (I like the flavor of a half-and-half blend of olive oil and cocont oil, but vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oils all work well) Pantry  

Recipe Serves 6-8

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet potato, carrots, beets, scallions, salt, pepper, egg, and flour. Stir well, using a spoon or your hands, until well-combined.
  3. Pour the oil into one or two large frying pans until it comes up about 1/2 inch in the pan. 
  4. Heat the oil over medium-high heat, until it sizzles when a piece of grated sweet potato is added. 
  5. Wet your hands under running water, and form a latke into 2-1/2-inch rounds that are about 1/2 inch thick. (though you should feel free to make them larger or smaller as desired). 
  6. Add the latke immediately to the hot pan and continue forming latkes and adding them to the pan, until the pan is full, with plenty of space between each latke. (To give you an idea of what this looks like, I cook 4-5 small latkes at a time in my 12-inch frying pan.)
  7. Cook for 1-2 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning. 
  8. Flip the latkes in the order you added them to the pan so they brown evenly, then cook for another minute or two, until the latkes are crispy on the outside.
  9. As the latkes finish, transfer them to a baking sheet (make sure to leave space between them), and keep warm in the oven.
  10. Serve the latkes hot, with sour cream, creme fraiche, or Greek yogurt, and applesauce (my favorite is this one, which features cardamom). 

Sweet Potato Latkes

  • Prep Time 0:15
  • Cook Time 0:10
  • Estimated Cost $5
  • 4 Comments

T’was the night before Hanukkah and all through the shtetl
Not a person was stirring, not even dreidel
The tzimmes were simmering in the slow-cooker with care
In hopes that the mishpocha soon would be there
The kinder were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of sweet potato latkes danced in their heads!

Just try them, you’ll see. These are latkes you fall asleep thinking about and wake up craving.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb garnet yams, grated (I like to leave the peel on) $2
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced $1 for a bunch
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated $0.50 for a whole onion
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour Pantry
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten $1.50 for 6
  • 1 tsp salt Pantry
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper Pantry
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (vegetable or canola oil will work too, but I prefer the taste of olive oil) Pantry

Recipe Serves 6-8

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine grated yams, scallions, onion, flour, egg, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until viscous.
  4. Form about 3 tbsp of sweet potato mixture into a ball and flatten it gently between your palms. 
  5. Slide it into the oil, and repeat with the remaining mixture, working in batches, so as to leave room between the latkes as they cook. 
  6. Drain cooked latkes on paper towels, and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Lamb Tagine with Golden Raisins and Almonds

  • Prep Time 0:30
  • Cook Time 2:30
  • Estimated Cost $18.50
  • 1 Comment

Tagines were the original Crock-Pots—the very first “set-it-and-forget-it” appliances. Tagines (the name for both the stew and the dish it’s cooked in) hail from Morocco, but their popularity now spans worldwide—and for good reason: cooking meat over low heat for long periods of time in flavorful spices and liquid yields a tender, aromatic result. The cone-shaped top on traditional tagines helps in this, promoting the return of all condensation to the bottom, allowing the stew’s ingredients to cook evenly.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a tagine though—you can also cook this in a dutch oven or other large pot with a fitted lid.

Note: Remember to buy your raisins and almonds in the bulk section for the best prices.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil Pantry
  • 1 pound boneless lamb stew meat (cut into 1" pieces) $7
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced $0.50
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped Pantry
  • 1 1" piece ginger, peeled and grated $0.50
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 2" strips $1
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into coin $0.50
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes $3
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon $1.50 for 1 oz.
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric $1.50 for 1 oz.
  • 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper Pantry
  • 1 tablespoon honey Pantry
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins $1
  • 1/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds $1
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped $1 for a bunch

Recipe Serves 4

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or tagine over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on both sides, working in batches if necessary. Place browned meat on a clean plate and set aside.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and garlic to the pan (there should be enough fat left from the meat to cook them, but if not, add a touch more oil). 
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until onions begin to wilt. 
  4. Add the ginger, bell pepper, carrots, diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup water. 
  5. Stir in the cinnamon, turmeric, salt, pepper, honey and raisins.
  6. Return the lamb to the mixture, stir well to combine, and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, undisturbed, for 2 1/2 hour, or until lamb is very tender
  7. Serve in bowls, plain or over rice/couscous/quinoa, garnished with the almonds and chopped cilantro.
  8. Other good toppings are harissa (or other hot sauce), plain yogurt and/or chopped kalamata olives.