Pine Nuts and Anchovies: Caesar

Real Caesar is based on anchovies, but appeals even to people who Hate anchovies. We made a popular version (“the best!”) at Rico’s, using traditional ingredients: raw yolks and anchovy paste, garlic, olive oil. Don’t bother going for it, as they’ve taken it off the menu. But I’d like to tell you how I made it so that you can make your own.

Caesar Salad
Yield is about 1 1/2 or 2 cups of dressing; use 2 Tablespoons or more per salad.
We made anchovy puree by the tin and then used spoonfuls in each batch of dressing. It is hard to get a smooth puree from a small amount of anchovies in a large food processor, but just use what equipment you have and try to make it as smooth as you can. Adding a little water may help (although the puree does not last as long with water added). If you are using a mortar and pestle, you’ll only need to puree a few anchovies per batch of dressing. This step does smell fishy, it caused baristas to gag when they washed our Cuisinart bowl.

1 tin anchovies
2 egg yolks
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
heaping Tablespoon prepared mustard (we used the yellow stuff!)
extra virgin olive oil, as needed (1 cup?)
fresh cracked black pepper

romaine lettuce

To Make the Dressing:

-puree the anchovies in a blender or food processor, or smash them by hand using a mortar and pestle, adding a little water as needed.
-place the yolks in a small-medium mixing bowl and add a heaping Tablespoon of anchovy puree. Add the garlic, mustard, and a large pinch of black pepper. Whisk all this together, then, while whisking, gradually stream in the olive oil until the mixture is glossy and the consistency of a thinnish pudding. Whisk steadily the whole time you’re adding oil, or the mixture can separate. Add salt if needed (the anchovies are salty), and more pepper, mustard, or garlic to taste.

For the Salad:

-use plenty of dressing!
-clean, dry and chop the lettuce. Toss the lettuce with dressing and some croutons if you like them, and grated hard cheese such as parmesan (or you can top the salad with parmesan). Put extra anchovies on top of the salad if you like.
-the dressing will keep a day or two, refrigerated, if you don’t use it all at once

On the Other Hand, if you Don’t Eat Anchovies…

At Quintessence, the original raw food restaurant in the East Village, we made Raw Caesar with blended pine nuts and Himalayan pink salt. We used flax oil for the health benefits, but it also gave the dressing a fishy taste. I don’t remember the recipe, but can give some general guidelines for those who like to experiment:

-pine nuts
-Himalayan pink salt (or your favorite salt)
-garlic? probably
-miso? I think
-flax oil

It was a simple dressing based on the creaminess of pine nuts and the richness of flax oil. Use plenty of salt to approximate the anchovy saltiness in real Caesar. I think a mild miso would add some of the pungency of fish, too. And garlic if you like it. Place everything in a powerful blender (we used a Vita-mix, but those are too pricey for the average home cook) and blend to a smooth creamy dressing. Adjust the seasonings to taste and add water to thin the dressing if needed (pine nuts are expensive, too, after all).
Garnish this one with crumbled Nori seaweed, or for an even saltier Caesar, Dulse strips.


Cucumber Spears

Today I read in Tassajara Cooking (by Edward Espe Brown) that cucumbers might be better cut into spears rather than sliced into rounds.

I had already cut my cucumber (into rounds) but next time I’ll try it.

Two Cookbooks

Piss me right off, when I bother following a recipe and then it fails. But sometimes cookbook authors know just the right way. The problem is choosing a cookbook you can trust. I’ve been cooking from these two recently, and they haven’t let me down.

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
by Peter Berley

This guy used to run the kitchen at Angelica Kitchen, the macro-vegan restaurant in New York. He uses a little butter here and there, but pretty much all of the recipes can easily be made vegan. The desserts are spectacular–I have been making the chocolate cake and the lemon rice pudding at a vegetarian restaurant I work in, and selling them out like crazy. The vegetable recipes are simple, but just a little better than what you might throw together without a recipe; they have that one extra ingredient that makes the dish memorable. And almost above all, included in this book is a recipe for BBQ tempeh, aka, vegan pork ribs.

Baking Illustrated
from the America’s Test Kitchen editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine

This is a big-ass book of recipes that almost all contain eggs, butter, and/or milk. BUT, the authors and test kitchen bakers tell you why they used what, so if you do need to make substitutions you will have some idea what might work. My friend and I once stayed up all night baking Christmas cookies in Queens, with this book as our guide. The ginger-snap style turned out especially nice with our vegan substitutions, and you can read about my experiments with the Baking Illustrated soda bread, vegan-style.

Have any trustworthy cookbook suggestions of your own?

Cerignola Olive Sourdough

Cerignola Olive Sourdough
3 Large or 4 Smaller Loaves

1/2 cup rye sourdough starter
1 cup water
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed

-mix the starter and water with enough flour to make a thick batter, leaving it loosely covered in a large container until it is risen and bubbly (a few hours, depending on the temperature)

bubbly sourdough starter, from above
3 cups water
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
1 level Tablespoon fine sea salt
1 pint green Cerignola olives, pared of their pits and chopped course

-mix the bubbly starter with the water, 4 cups of the flour, and the salt to combine, adding more flour and mixing until a very wet dough forms (this is the key to airy ciabatta-type loaves)

-stir/knead the dough with a sturdy wooden spoon, adding just enough flour to make a dough; you will very nearly have to pour the dough into whichever container you wish to raise it in

-once the dough is mixed, stir in the chopped olives and continue mixing until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough

-place the dough in an oiled bowl or bin, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, in a warmish place for 40 minutes

-after 40 minutes, turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold it like a letter. Rotate it and fold once again like a letter. Use plenty of flour, as the dough should still be very wet and almost batter-like. If you don’t quite understand the folding part, no big deal. Just fuck with the bread a little bit, forming some gluten and maybe incorporating a little flour if it is super sticky. You will notice the dough is getting springier. Return it to rising in the bowl or bin for another half hour, then repeat the folding. Repeat this rising/folding twice more

-after all the rising and folding, turn the dough out (it should be getting pretty airy and risen by now) onto a floured board and cut it into 3 or four even-sized pieces. Roll each one loosely like a rug.

-oil 3 or 4 bowls (depending how many loaves you are making) and dust them with semolina or cornmeal. Heat the oven at 475 degrees with a heavy pot in it*.

-take the dough pieces one-by-one and roll them into round loaves, careful not to deflate them if you want airy bread. The dough should be very soft, sticky and full of air bubbles. Place each loaf bottom-up in one of the oiled bowls. Wrap loosely in a plastic bag. Place 2 of the loaves in the refrigerator and keep 1 or 2 out to rise. They will take a half hour, maybe more, to rise. Perhaps. It depends on the temperature. Let them rise fully if you want airy bread, but if one deflates when you put it in the pot to bake, let the next one rise a little less.

-once the first loaf is risen, and the oven is hot, turn the loaf out into the pre-heated pot. Slash the top to let steam escape and place the lid on the pot before closing the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the loaf carefully from the pot onto the oven rack to continue baking for another 15-20 minutes. You can put the next loaf in the pot to bake at this point. Remove the loaves one-by-one from the refrigerator as the room-temperature loaves go into the oven.

-bake the loaves all the way. The crust should be caramel brown and will be very hard just out of the oven, but will soften to the crispy texture as the loaves cool. Cool them all the way before eating, or the texture suffers.

-for more bread baking instruction (more patient bread-making instruction!) see the Sesame Sourdough post. But remember, nobody can teach you to make bread, you just have to make some and learn. Homemade bread never turns out that bad!

*baking bread in a pot is nothing new, but the idea was made popular by Mark Bittman’s NY Times article featuring Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread. It is a technique worth learning, for kneaded bread or un-kneaded.

Instant Bread made with Buttery Spread

Real bread takes hours to ferment, proof, and bake. Plan ahead or you’re shit out of luck.

I just was reminded of Irish Soda Bread when reading through Baking Illustrated, a scientific baking manual by the positively anal America’s Test Kitchen crew. Here is a cheater’s–or an Irishman’s–way to home-baked bread, with, as the Test Kitchen crew describes it, “a tender, dense crumb and a rough-textured, crunchy crust”. It only takes a couple of hours from measuring flour and heating the oven to spreading on sweet strawberry jam and eating half the loaf.

The original recipe (Irish Brown Soda Bread on page 43 of Baking Illustrated), calls for buttermilk, of course. By mixing cider vinegar (use Bragg’s brand, ‘With the Mother’!) into soy or regular milk, you can avoid buying a carton of buttermilk just for this recipe. Also, the original recipe calls for butter, where I substituted Earth Balance organic vegan “Buttery Spread”.

Finally, the original recipe also includes cream of tartar, to react with the baking soda for leavening and preserve the buttermilk’s sour flavor in the finished loaf. Might as well add baking powder, if you’re going to do that (as baking powder is just soda with an acid–such as cream of tartar–added, anyway), and call it American Baking Powder Bread. The buttermilk, or vinegar, reacts with the baking soda to leaven the bread while vegan butter and a bit of maple syrup, along with the whole wheat flour, provide more than enough flavor. Besides, who has cream of tartar?

Using a portion of whole wheat pastry flour, which is finer and softer than regular whole wheat flour, keeps the bread from being too course.

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread
Since this is a quick bread, kneading it will only increase toughness. Stir the wet and dry mixtures together just enough to moisten all of the flour, then pat gently into a rough-shaped loaf on your oat-strewn counter before transferring the loaf gently onto a baking sheet or into a hot Dutch oven.

2 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cup regular whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
1 1/2 cups plain soy milk or EdenBlend soy/rice milk blend
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
quick rolled oats, as needed (1/2 cup approximately)


Heat the oven up to 400 degrees (F). If you have a heavy cast-iron or clay Dutch-oven type pot with a lid, put both the pot and lid in the oven to heat up also. Otherwise, lightly oil a sheet pan and dust it with a few of the oats.

Combine the whole wheat pastry flour, regular whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-large mixing bowl. Rub the Earth Balance in with your hands until the mixture is even and feels kind of like wet sand.

Combine the soy milk with the vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes until it is thick and curdled. Stir in the maple syrup.

When the oven is heated–and only then, as the baking soda reacts for just a short time and your bread will rise and fall if it has to wait to go into the oven–add the soured soy milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Make sure that the flour is all moistened, but the mixture doesn’t need to be totally smooth. Don’t over-mix it.

Sprinkle the oats across your counter-top and turn the just-mixed dough out onto them. Turn it over once to coat the other side with oats, and pat it into a rough round, about 8″ across and 2-3″ high. If you are heating a Dutch oven, remember that this dough has to fit into it!

Use a serrated knife to cut a large “X” into the top of the loaf.

If you are baking the loaf in a Dutch oven, carefully pull the hot bottom of the pan out from the oven and gently transfer the loaf, “X”-up, into the pan. Place the lid on and put it back into the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking the loaf for another 15 minutes or longer, until it is dark golden brown and a cake-test (skewer or toothpick) inserted into the center comes out clean.

If you are baking the loaf on a sheet pan, gently transfer the loaf to the sheet-pan, “X”-up, and place the sheet-pan into the hot oven (middle rack or upper-middle rack). Bake for 45 minutes, or until dark golden brown and a cake-test (skewer or toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean.

Either way, spread a little bit of Earth Balance over the outside of the loaf while it is hot out of the oven, to keep the crust soft. Allow the loaf to cool almost to room temperature before cutting it open and digging in.

Makes one great big loaf.

Greenberg’s Food Combining Principles

The book Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford (North Atlantic 1993) offers advice on traditional, healthy food-pairing. Pitchford looks to ancient Chinese medicine and current nutrition research. He claims the only vegetables good to eat (combine) with fruit, for proper digestion, are lettuce and celery, and that beans are best eaten with green vegetables (such as kale).

But the movie Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller and directed/written by Noah Baumbach, offers alternative, intuition-based food combining principles. Here are the top three combinations from the movie, followed by one example that is not a food combination exactly but relevant nonetheless. See the movie for more.

1. Whiskey and Ice Cream Sandwiches
The movie’s plot revolves around Stiller’s character, Greenberg, watching his brother’s house while his brother is gone on business in Vietnam. When his brother’s assistant swings by to get her paycheck, she offers to pick up anything Greenberg needs from the store. “Make a list,” she says. Greenberg writes a list including, and limited to, whiskey and ice cream sandwiches. The most interesting thing about this food combination is that it is exactly the opposite of what anyone sincerely interested in food combining would choose if asked to plan ahead.

2. Whiskey and Raisins
Greenberg makes a habit of writing letters of complaint to companies that piss him off. His snack during one particularly eloquent letter-writing session (to Starbucks) is whiskey with raisins. The two most interesting things about this combination/scene are first, that Greenberg takes the opaque inner bag of raisins out of the box, so that the fact he is eating raisins is not explicit. Second, this combination is like a recipe for chocolate sorbetto (sorbet), made from cocoa powder sweetened with whiskey-soaked raisins.

3. Whiskey and Instant Noodles
There are a lot of eating scenes in Greenberg but Greenberg never cooks. His dinner one night is cup noodles and whiskey at the living room coffee table. Did you know that George Ohsawa, the founder of macrobiotics, is said to have enjoyed whiskey? The Japanese are also fond of noodles. And, the MSG in cup noodles is one thing that might stand up to the strength of pure whiskey when tasted together.

4. Whiskey and Inappropriate Behavior
All whiskey drinkers know about this classic combination. Actually it works best without any food at all! Greenberg gives several examples combining whiskey or another booze with inappropriate behavior; sexual and vulgar. See for yourself in the movie, as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Beelzebub Gravy

Once you’ve been vegan for a good long-enough while you’ll feel fine about pouring straight oil on your food. Got to get those calories, or whatever.

Until then, try making this gravy for your seitan. Use the broth from the seitan in the previous recipe. You might try using soymilk instead, but I have not done that. It could be alright, at best.

Beelzubub Gravy

2 Tablespoons olive oil
ΒΌ cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
pinch hot red pepper or black pepper
salt if needed
broth as needed

-make roux with flour and oil; add yeast and pepper, then whisk in stock and thicken to gravy