High-Heeled Birkenstocks

I’ve been on a no-meat sort of run lately, trying to resist the cold-weather hankering for braises and such by digging deep into various traditions that know their way around some legumes. Tonight was burritos with quite good black-eyed peas, leftover brown rice, guacamole, and salsa I froze in September. Very satisfying, but not especially interesting or photogenic. Last night I made a version of something I first did a while back, with some unintentional differences as a result of poor planning. The result was still good to eat, I’m happy to report.

The less meat thing isn’t for any one specific reason. It’s healthier, it’s cheaper, and since one of the dangers of having a chest freezer is that there is always some gorgeous piece of animal in there just begging to be turned into stewy greatness, I’m practicing a bit more rotation, going more often to the pantry for some beans as the first step in planning dinner. While this is no doubt good for me and the planet, it may also make for a shitty blog, so be warned.

Last night I wanted to revisit the seared tofu with peanut sauce on quasi-arepas I made a few months ago, so I got to it. I cooked coarse and fine local cornmeal with some black quinoa that I bought on impulse a few weeks ago because it looked so beautiful. It’s free-range, organic, fair-trade, certified humanely slaughtered, and helps Bolivians not grow coca for a living; the package is cacophonously adorned with seals, logos, and smiling farmers. And it cost eight bucks for one pound, so I felt like a complete asshole. Mission accomplished! What does an 8-ball go for these days?

To help this one (and likely only) pound last a while, I mixed a bit of it into the corn for visual and textural interest. When all was cooked al dente, I poured it into a pyrex baking pan and set it outside in the snow to try and cool it off quickly so I could fry it into little cakes. That turned out not to work, because it was too close to dinner time, so I reheated it in the frying pan and served it creamy polenta-style. The tofu got seared, and I whisked up a sauce of peanut butter, lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, and pear miso from the other day and added some of the carrot-cabbage pickle on top.

I also made a quick salad, which could have benefited from a bit more marinating time but whaddayagonnado. It was finely shredded fennel and celery, tossed in a vinaigrette made with the pear miso, two kinds of vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil, topped with a little Espelette pepper for color and gentle heat. It was pretty, very tasty, and extremely crunchy. The shortness of time definitely had an adverse impact on the refinement of both dishes, but the plates helped smooth out any rough edges by helping it all look as good as it knew how. Also helping a great deal was a bottle of Cereghino Smith’s Bianca, a new white they’re making with Malvasia (most often used to make Vin Santo) blended with Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. All the grapes come from California, but the wine is made about 10 miles from here, so it’s at least semi-local. And since it’s off-dry, it cavorts swimmingly with bright, medium-spicy Asian flavors like these, functioning much like a good Riesling or Gewürztraminer would. Unless wines are truly, fully sweet, I prefer them with food like this rather than dessert. The sugar and the spice make everything nice.

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  1. January 7

    mmmm. that looks good! great description of the quinoa packaging, too.

  2. January 7

    Those handmade plates of yours are amazing and as an “almost” vegetarian myself any meatless meals suite my tastes just fine and this one looks delicious.

  3. Peter
    January 7

    Eve: It livened up the corn quite nicely; as an accent/embellishment is probably how I’ll use it from now on. In my defense, the corn was all local so this exotic yuppie ingredient was well under 5% of the whole.

    Mike: I was a vegetarian for 18 years, so I learned a few things. And thanks for admiring the plates; after more then three years, I finally feel like I’m making the stuff I want.

  4. January 8

    ok. i’m exclaiming it for the world to hear. i love you. i do. like not in the biblical sense – but still. it’s love.

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