Miso Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

There are many, many wonderful things you can do with tofu; I suspect readers of this here blog can think of at least a couple. Well-known for its versatility, tofu also can be stunningly delicious if you subject it to enough indignation. Miso vinaigrette dressing is one of the many ways Jen found to comfort tofu that had, by the time it reached your plate, been frozen solid, defrosted, drained, squeezed dry, marinated and baked. But don’t feel bad. This edification process leads, ultimately, to tofu’s favorite and best destiny - to be loved by vegetarians and omnivores alike. 

Miso vin is also terrific as a marinade for pork or tofu, though of course you’ll want to pair the finished product with something with a similar miso-soy flavor backdrop. 

The most frequent Orbit’s use of this recipe was on the Thai Salad, a relative latecomer to the menu, but a very popular one. Of course, in order to create the Thai Salad, you’ll need marinated tofu, a recipe that’s forthcoming. In the meantime, enjoy this with your own favorite salad, one that perhaps features shredded carrots, bean sprouts, red onions sliced impossibly thin, chopped cilantro, radishes, cucumber, sliced apples and your favorite lettuce (don’t turn your nose up at iceberg - there’s a time and a place for it, and in those times and places, it’s incredible).

  • 1/2 c red wine vinegar
  • 1 scallion, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 2 t black pepper
  • a little garlic salt
  • 1 T miso (we used barley miso, I believe)
  • 1 T tahini
  • 1 T peanut butter
  • a little ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 c vegetable oil

Whirl all ingredients except the oil in the Cuisinart until well blended. Add oil gradually as you continue to blend.

Black Bean Hummus

There’s a whole lot of delicious hummus kicking around some pretty unexpected places—Barcelona, Paris and Berlin come to mind. Three weeks ago I was gleefully mopping up a plateful of it with warm, soft pita bread in a tiny restaurant full of chatty Germans who were efficiently scarfing down platefuls of felafel and shawarma. Less unexpectedly, I had my mind blown a few years ago as I stood on the street in Dubai in 118ºF heat, eating a light, olive oil-infused version that kicked every hummus recipe I’ve ever made right in the ass. Call it experience, call it progress, call it learning, but my standards for hummus have changed a whole lot since I penned the recipe for the Orbit’s version in 1997 or so. 

Don’t get me wrong, my old recipe has its Moosewood sort of charm, but to me it’s a better spread or dip than it is a version of hummus. It’s got a heavier, grainier texture, and a flavor that’s more appropriate for dipping tortilla chips into (a practice I am happy to recommend). Spread on a flour or corn tortilla and topped with sautéed vegetables, feta cheese, grilled tofu or tempeh, braised asparagus or grilled chicken and it’s a star. 

Were I you, I’d use the following original recipe as a starting point for some fun experimentation. Two things come to mind as I type this. 1) Lighten it up a bit by decreasing or eliminating the tamari (add salt as needed) and decreasing the amount of tahini. Oh, and for crissakes, use really good olive oil rather than the “oil” this recipe calls for. (What was I thinking?) 2) Maybe try for a southwest sort of flavor by adding some cilantro or even a bit of sweet, hot chipotle sauce. Whatever you decide, enjoy the process. It’s a healthy, delicious treat almost no matter how you make it. 

This is a half-batch, which will make a little more than 3 cups of hummus. It’ll keep for about a week. 

Whirl the following ingredients in your cuisinart:

  • 3 c cooked black beans (or an equivalent amount of drained canned beans)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 T tahini
  • 1/8 c oil
  • 1 1/2 T minced garlic (or equivalent # of cloves)
  • 1/4 c scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/8 c tamari
  • 1 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 1/2 t cayenne

Serve and enjoy.

Corn Bread

I am not one bit southern. My mother, or even my father, for that matter, never made corn bread. My mother’s northern family and my father’s midwestern folks all lit out for California when they were kids. I wasn’t fed grits, I knew no greens other than spinach, and I didn’t taste a biscuit until my first trip to Popeye’s in high school. And you know what? I’m not wild about corn bread. It’s fine, as far as it goes, but I can take it or leave it. Kind of funny, then, that I’d ever be anyone’s source for cornbread. But cornbread and I have a relationship now, and it’s been going on for years. 

My husband adores cornbread. Raised in the south by southern parents, he loves his cornbread like he loves his sweet tea and his grits. I lovingly make cornbread for him from time to time, but usually I don’t eat so much as a slice. Why deprive him of even a crumb of something he loves so much? 

You’d think this wouldn’t come up much in Germany. Corn is still largely considered a new world food here, and though I can see it growing in the fields near our house, locals tell me it’s nearly all destined to be animal feed. Small quantities of corn on the cob do make an occasional appearance in supermarkets here, but I suspect it’s for the benefit of the sizable American population in these parts. And I, for one, appreciate it. 

Anyway, after a few months of frequenting a local bakery, my German improved enough to communicate, with limits, with the friendly lady behind the counter. Once we had established an ability to understand each other, the first thing she asked me was if I had a recipe for “Amerikanischer Maisbrot”. “Ja,” I said in disbelief. “Ich habe eins.”

So here it is. Made in the Orbit’s kitchen, my kitchen, the German baker’s kitchen and now, perhaps, yours. This is copied, including my snappy instructions (!) from the recipe card we used, and it makes 2 loaves. 

Pre-heat oven to 350º F. 

Mix in big-ass bowl:

  • 2 c. corn meal
  • 2 c flour
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t baking soda

In another bowl, mix:

  • 2 c milk
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 c grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 c melted margarine (I have since evolved. Please use butter, for crissakes.)
  • 1 chopped jalapeño

Mix the two bowls together and bake in greased loaf pans for 45 min. (Center should be firm.)

FWIW, Jamie has since added the following notation:

For 2 8” pans + convection = 25 minutes. 

Enjoy with chili if you like. 

2013 edit: Try this with different grains and cheeses! I recently substituted einkorn for half the white flour, and a Blue Shropshire for the jack cheese. Hot damn, it was fantastic. 

Crepes

My perspective on the crêpe/crepe/galette has changed a bit since the Orbit’s days. For one thing, they went through quite a trendy period in the US, what with crepe stands showing up on boardwalks and in shopping centers (and now likely in food truck form) and becoming a hot new hand food, again, so they seem less an Orbit’s thing to me now (silly, I know) and more a part of a larger, completely opaque to me at the time, North American crepe resurgence. Also, I’ve sampled this classic food wrap in places as unlikely as Auckland, Stuttgart and Edinburgh and as stereotypical as Paris and Strasbourg. I’ve learned to love a wide variety of crepes. 

Another change? I use a far wider variety of grains now. Of course, buckwheat is the classic grain for the galette, and white (wheat) flour is the preferred ingredient for the crepe. But Kamut (Khorasan wheat), rye, whole-wheat and multi-grain flours, and others, I’m sure, are all wonderful in crepes; proportions will vary depending on the grain, but maybe shoot for 40% interesting grain to 60% white flour (for a total of 4 cups) and flex from there. Play around with it! Cooking isn’t serious, and you get to eat your (often delicious) mistakes. 

Also - skip the silly, expensive crepe pan. I mean, if you’re rich, and have unlimited counter/storage space, get yourself a no-shit crepe griddle. But if you’re like me, and you just want to make crepes now and then and don’t want a single-purpose cooking implement in the house, whip out an inexpensive, non-stick, 10-inch or so pan and get yourself ready to make crepes. 

What follows is the recipe we used at the restaurant. We settled on a 50/50 corn meal/white flour mix; adjust this as you please and experiment to your heart’s content. This makes a decent-sized stack of crepes—about 18, maybe?—just stack them on a plate as you take them out of the pan and when you’re done, you’ll have tonight’s dinner plus a stack of crepes you can wrap up, right there on the plate, and store. They keep beautifully and re-heat like a dream. 

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 5 cups milk (whole, lowfat, whatever)

You can do this the way I did it: throw the dry ingredients, eggs, oil and 3 cups of the milk into the Cuisinart and whirl until mixed, and pour into a bowl and mix in the remaining 2 cups of milk by hand. Or you can do the whole thing in the Kitchenaid, which is another way I saw it done. Or, I suppose, if you shun the electric assistance, you can do the whole thing by hand. It’s essentially pancake batter, right? Do what you please. 

Unlike pancakes, though, these won’t rise a bit, and you want them to be thin. So, get your pan hot on a medium-high flame (you’ll probably back this down a bit as you go along, so be watchful) and heat a little oil (we’re talking about a teaspoon or so).

Once the pan is hot, roll the heated oil around a bit by taking the pan off the flame and rotating your wrist. Get used to this pan-handling (ha!) ‘cause crepe-making is all about keeping things moving. Then, ladle about a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and immediately start the lifting, wrist-rotating motion so that the batter completely and evenly covers the bottom of the pan. Now, watch. You’ll see the batter cook. If it needs more rotating (you’ll know by noticing if there’s pooled batter in the center of the pan) rotate some more. 

Once the batter is cooked on one side, just this first time, take a spatula and tenderly, carefully, lift an edge, slide your spatula under it and flip it over. The first one often sticks a little, so the spatula crutch is necessary. Don’t get used to it. After the first one, you’re gonna flip them with the power of your wrist. And your mind

You’ll be able to tell when the crepe is ready to come out of the pan. It’ll just look and smell cooked. The second side doesn’t take long, so don’t screw it up. When the time comes, just slide that puppy right onto the waiting plate. 

Now, add a little oil to your pan and do it all again. This time, though, your pan is nice and evenly heated, the oil has done its magic, and when flipping time comes you can lift the pan off the stove, and, holding it parallel to the stove surface, push it away from you quickly and then, slightly less quickly (but still, move fast), bring it back toward you in an upward, then downward, arc. Executed correctly, this should launch the crepe off the back edge of the pan, creating a backwards “c”, open side facing you, as it leaves the surface of the pan, and then dropping in flat down on the uncooked side. 

If you’ve never done this before, it sounds difficult. It’s really not. Try it. It’s a small thing, but it makes making crepes more fun, and it’s a good skill to have for general sautéing, omelette making and such. 

Once you’ve made your way through the batter, you’ll have a stack of gorgeous, fresh crepes to do with as you wish. They’re terrific spread with cheese, filled with vegetables, or wrapped around pesto, hummus, slices of prosciutto, mustard, olive tapenade, caramelized onions, roasted eggplant…really whatever you can imagine. If you add a little dried spice, hot sauce, chopped capers or other wonderfulness to the batter before cooking you expand your options even more. Sweeten the batter and make with white flour and you’ve opened up dessert possibilities. Spread with jam or chocolate (or both!) these babies are the perfect sweet fix. Hell, the recipe as written is fine for dessert, too, just a little less delicate that you might prefer with your peaches and cream. Think of it as a hippie dessert and you’ll love it. 

And the best part is that you’ve made a decent-sized batch, so anytime in the next week or so you can pull one out, throw it in a pan and have a filled crepe in minutes. Voilà!

Artichoke Dip

I’m sure I’ve posted this one elsewhere at some point, but in the interest of having everything in one place, here it is again. 

According to people who know, if you substantially change a recipe, you can call it yours. If you’re a nice person, you say it’s “adapted from” or “inspired by” someone/somthing or another. The thing is, though, the original recipe came off the back of a box or can of something and I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was. Perhaps a can of artichoke hearts? A jar of pimientos? We did change it pretty significantly, but in the interest of fairness, I’ll try to track down the source, and if I can find it, I’ll post it. Otherwise, let’s just say it was adapted from the marketing department at a huge food company somewhere, and we changed it to match the Orbit’s menu and style a little better. 

So. Get excited. Preheat oven to 375ºF. 

  • Get yourself a pound of grated Monterey Jack cheese. This stuff is soft and difficult to grate, so it you can acquire it pre-grated, it’s worth the extra cost. If not, grate it while it’s super cold. Put it in a big bowl, or better yet, directly into a crock or ceramic baking pan.
  • You’ll need about 24 ounces of artichoke hearts, in water. (The ones packed in oil are lovely, but you don’t need any extra oil in this recipe, believe me.) Most cans are between 14 and 16 ounces, though, so 24 ounces is hard to pull off. If you’re a little over or under, don’t sweat it. I aim for about 28. Drain them thoroughly, give ‘em a rough chop and toss them in with the cheese. 
  • 1 1/2 cups of mayo. Add to rest.
  • 3 or 4 medium mushrooms; chop them up kind of small. To the bowl or pan with them. 
  • 1/2 a red pepper. Dice. Add to the mix. 

Mix it up, and, if it’s not already in a baking vessel, make that happen. 

We stored it cold and nuked it to order at the restaurant, so I haven’t baked this stuff in years. When the recipe was passed off to me ages and ages ago, the instructions were to bake for about 25 minutes, or “until all melty and gooey and good”. Nothing special needs to happen here other than getting it hot and melting the cheese, so aim for that. Once it’s in a proper state of melted deliciousness, take it out and serve immediately. 

In the days before restaurant ownership, this dip was often hauled to parties pre-mixed, then heated on site and served in a bread bowl. For those unfamiliar with such things, you take a nice, fresh, boule-type bread and cut a sort of round-ish wedge out of the top, leaving thick walls around the edges and a sturdy, thick bottom. Imagine you’re creating bowl from the boule, which is exactly what you’re doing. That big hunk you cut out? Cut that into dipping-sized pieces, and arrange the bread bowl and the dipping pieces on a plate together. Then, dump the warm, melted dip into the bread bowl. Serve to your friends and loved ones, keeping in mind that the best part is the bowl itself, which by the time you eat it will have sucked up all the yumminess from the dip. 

Enjoy! And, of course, this stuff re-heats beautifully, so if you make too much, don’t risk a heart attack by eating it all in one sitting. 

Veg Chili

When people ask me about this recipe, I tell them it’s really nothing more than a can-opening exercise, and I’m not kidding. Sauté a few veggies, throw some canned goods at them and that’s that. Really. 

I’ve halved this recipe and it still makes a pretty big batch, but why make soup if you don’t want to end up with enough to eat at a couple or more meals? Use a big-ish pot—six quarts or so.

Also, and important: a few days ahead of time, you should freeze a block of extra firm tofu. Pull it out a day ahead and thaw it in the fridge. Or, if you’re fortunate enough to have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you can get away with using their house brand extra firm tofu without having to freeze it. The idea is to make the texture more chewy; freezing does the trick nicely. I just keep a block or two in the freezer all the time so that I can grab and thaw as I wish.

Ok. Ready?

Chop into 1/2-inch or so cubes, or some other shape if you prefer:

  • 3 onions
  • 2 bell peppers

Sauté them in a little oil and add:

  • 3 T chili powder
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T turmeric
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 2 T garlic salt*
  • 1 T black pepper

(I like to add some chipotle powder, too, but that’s not in the original recipe.)

Once the vegetables are cooked, add the following, which, if you’re organized, you will have pre-opened (all) and drained (just the beans). 

  • Two 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • the tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 2 cans garbanzo beans
  • 2 cups of water

That’s it! Simmer about an hour and adjust spices as you please. Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, some kind of hot sauce or whatever you like! 

* I read a book by Judith Jones a couple of years ago wherein she describes garlic salt as a “travesty”. I roll my eyes to this, but if you feel similarly, do feel free to chop up some fresh garlic and adjust the salt accordingly. 

Tempeh Reuben

This is probably one of the least healthy and most delicious items from the menu. If you could have seen the 6 quart bucket filled with vegetable oil, tamari, lemon juice, garlic and black pepper that the sliced tempeh lived in, and the drippy trail of yumminess these slices of tempeh left in their wake as they were plopped onto the grill, you’d never think of tempeh as healthy again. But hey, delicious isn’t always pretty, is it?

So, step one is creating this mass of marinating tempeh. We just kept it marinating at all times, so I suppose your best bet is to make this a day ahead if you can. If you eat tempeh often, perhaps keep a bucket of it prepared thusly in the fridge, though I’m guessing if you leave it in this marinade indefinitely you’ll probably end up with a lot of mush, so use your brain and decide what you need. 

Here’s the recipe: keep in mind, I’ve sized this down from an Orbit’s-sized batch, so enlist math to help you get it up or down to whatever size you need. 

  • 2 blocks of tempeh, cut into quarters. Then cut the quarters in half in such a way that it makes the slices the same size but half as thick, if you know what I mean. I’m referring to a block of tempeh the size an shape of this brand; adjust as needed for what you’ve got. 
  • 2 cups veg oil
  • 1 generous T garlic
  • 3 T tamari
  • 3 T lemon juice 
  • 1 t black pepper

Whisk the ingredients together in a storage container and add the sliced tempeh. Cover and shake it up; get it all agitated and melded. Put it in the fridge and forget about it until tomorrow. 

When tomorrow comes, you’ll need:

  • 1000 island dressing (Really, just make a little bit rather than buying a bottle of this horrid stuff. Reubens are the the only legitimate use for it, so do this: mix a little ketchup with mayo and diced (NOT sweet) dill pickles. There, done, and you don’t have have it around.)
  • A good rye, pumpernickel or rye/pump swirl bread
  • Sauerkraut. Canned is fine.
  • Swiss cheese. 
  • Your pre-marinated tempeh. 

Ready? Ok. Heat up a large pan or a griddle—whatever you want to do a little grilling on. While it heats, spread 1000 island dressing on one side (each) of two pieces of bread. Grill your tempeh and throw the kraut on the heat, too, so that it gets hot and dries out a bit. (Make sure the sauerkraut liquid is completely cooked off before you proceed, as there is nothing worse than wet bread. Giving it a good squeeze over the sink before you put it on the grill sounds like a good idea.) 

Once the tempeh is nice and brown on both sides, and the kraut is hot and no longer wet, put your bread on the grill, 1000 island-side up, and put your tempeh on one slice and your kraut on the other. Add a slice of cheese to each side, and melt the cheese. You can do this by putting a lid over it, or by sticking the whole mess under a broiler. 

When you’re done you have a high-calorie, reasonably high-fat but amazingly delicious sandwich that seems healthy. (Yay!) If you don’t like kraut, consider doing the exact same thing but with (cold) homemade coleslaw instead. Enjoy! 

Oh, and if you’re like me, preparing and fermenting your own tempeh and sauerkraut might sound like fun. Nourished Kitchen is a good source for learning how to do these things.