Grow Your Own Sprouts, Dummy

I want to dedicate this post to a one-time co-worker from back in my Whole Foods days. Through his willingness to overstep boundaries, call me names and tell me like it was I learned never to buy those wickedly overpriced prepackaged sprouts again.

Because growing your own sprouts is as easy as (if not actually easier than) 1-2-3.

Not to mention it’s cheaper than a crocus in March.

All you’ll need is:

  • Seeds — Alfalfa or bean (such as mung and garbanzo) are perfect for first-timers. The latter choice will yield “crunchy” sprouts and the former those delightful long strands you may know so well. Your best bet is to pick these up from bulk bins at your local natural foods store. For alfalfa you’ll only need about 1/4 cup for 1 batch. For the others, about 1/2 cup. It’ll likely set you back about $2.
  • Mason jar or comparable container
  • Cheesecloth or mesh
  • Rubber band

This time around I kept it at alfalfa.

The first step is to soak your seeds. Place 2-4 tbs of the alfalfa seeds (1/2 cup for beans) in the bottom of your jar and cover with cool water. Soak for roughly 6 hours (beans can sit for 8-10):

The second step is to drain your seeds. Place two layers of cheesecloth over the jar and secure with a rubber band (you’ll only need one layer for larger seeds). Find a place where you can keep the jars upside-down to allow the seeds to drain. If they’re on a solid surface, be sure to remember to lift them to remove excess drippage when you can:

The third step is to rinse your sprouts twice a day. Just fill the jar with water, drain and replace.

The final step is to watch them grow. Seriously. That’s it.

DAY 1:

DAY 2:

DAY 3:

There is one optional step — place your sprout-packed jar by a window for a few hours and BAM:

Chlorophyll is a wondrous thing. This is a great way not only to beautify your sprouts, but also to enliven them. Exposure to sunlight increases their level of chlorophyll, and while claims are contested, many agree that this life-giving molecule may offer fauna some of the same power it lends to basically 99% of the floral world. So why not. Use your window.

As if this whole process wasn’t already the simplest and most amazing thing ever, just wait until you unload your jar. With just $1-2 in the game, you’ll come out with about $25 worth of prepackaged alfalfa sprouts:

They don’t last too long in the fridge, so definitely plan on a few days of sprout-related meals in a row, but really – who’s complaining?

So next time I see you at the Whole Foods checkout line trying to hide your $10 plastic container of sprouts in shame, I’ll be the one calling you out. GROW YOUR OWN SPROUTS, DUMMY!

Go Cephalo with Squid Adobo

I love squid.  If you think you don’t like squid, I hope you’ll try it again.  I love cooking squid.  If you’re afraid to cook (or eat) squid, I hope you’ll do it anyway.

Because it is super easy.  And super delicious.  And (high cholesterol aside) super healthy.  Think low calorie; high protein; and copper, riboflavin (which can ease migraine headaches) and selenium (a powerful anti-inflammatory mineral that provides immune support and may reduce the risk of cancer) rich.

My favorite quick and easy squid preparation comes from the Philippines, a place where squid is abundant and home cooks rule.  It’s a style known as Adobong (or Adobo), which involves cooking your protein in a wonderfully tangy mix of vinegar and soy sauce, seasoned with peppercorn and bay leaves.  While it’s often used for preparing pork or chicken, I prefer to use Pusit (or squid).  Hence: Adobong Pusit, or Squid Adobo.

Boasting 30 minutes max from start to table, there’s no reason not to go-cephalo tonight!

Adobong Pusit (Squid Adobo)

Serves 2

  • About 1/2 lb. baby squid (buying pre-cleaned is easier, but if you want an adventure and something much cheaper, go for the whole baby squid — there’s a wonderful video on how to clean and break them down here)
  • 1 mid-size tomato
  • 1 small yellow or sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 dried hot pepper and/or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Prep your squid — IF PRE-CLEANED: rinse the squid well under cold water and cut the bodies into rings about 1/4-1/2 inch wide — IF WHOLE: watch the video, clean your squid, and cut your bodies into rings.
  2. Chop your tomato and onion into half-moons about 1/4 inch thick, and dice your garlic.
  3. Heat a dutch oven or wide pot at least a few inches deep and coat with non-stick spray.
  4. Add onion and saute until soft and brown (5-10 minutes).
  5. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  6. Add tomato and saute until tomato is broken down (5-10 minutes).
  7. Add vinegar, soy sauce, water, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaf and pepper (if using).
  8. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened (as you like it).
  9. Incorporate squid and cook for 3-5 minutes ONLY until just cooked through (feel free to pick one up and poke it — it’s done when opaque and just firm).
  10. CLICK THE PHOTO TO SEE ADOBO IN ACTION:
  11. Serve on brown rice!

PS – I served my Adobo with a variation on Ginisang Ampalaya, or sauteed bitter melon, another quick and easy traditional Filipino dish made with onion, bitter melon and scrambled egg!  And just because my boyfriend accidentally bought them instead of normal chives I also added garlic chives (aka chinese chives or nira grass), which ended up serving as a delicious — and green — addition to the dish!  Recipe forthcoming.

Yes, Your Grandmother’s Mole

Remember those times when you were a kid and you thought you knew better than your grandmother so you did something your own way and then it turned out you were wrong and she was right and you felt like a huge idiot and a real jerk?

Basically, that’s what happened to me when I tried to make a mole last Tuesday night.

Mole is a family of traditional Mexican sauces famous for their breadth of ingredients, length of preparation and complexity of flavor. They are the kind of thing you could spend days putting together. And I decided to try for one on a week night. And not just any normal mole. In the typical “emily” fashion, I was determined to make this mole lard-less, carb-less and very low in fat.

Even though I pursued a relatively simple varient of the sauce, Mole Colorado–one of Oaxaca’s seven traditional moles–it still proved to be an endeavor I will never take on after a full day of work again. That being said, I will be making it again after a restful night’s sleep and a strong coffee. Because MAN was this good. Like, really good. Like, maybe one best things I’ve ever made good. Warming, satisfying, rich and complex, you really can’t beat this sauce.

Make a day of it. You won’t regret it.

Thyme-Roasted Kabocha and Tofu with Mole Colorado and Poached Oyster Mushrooms

vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free

Serves 3-4

Mole Components
  • 3-4 dried ancho chilis
  • 1 peppercorn
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 tbs chopped onion
  • 1/2 tomato, in chunks
  • 1/4 tsp Mexican oregano (or marjoram)
  • dash dried thyme
  • 6 raisins
  • 1 tbs sliced almonds
  • 1/4 large banana, sliced
  • 1/2 tbs sesame seeds
  • 2 tbs chopped Guajillo-spiced Mexican dark chocolate (OR 1-2 dried guajillo chilis for use in combo with anchos, 2 tbs bitter chocolate, and 1/2 tsp darn brown sugar)
  • Nut or sunflower oil
  • Stock
Not Mole Components
  • Mid-size kabocha squash
  • 1/2 block firm or extra firm tofu
  • 4 nice looking chunks of oyster mushroom

FIRST PREP CHILIS

  1. Boil a pot of water.
  2. Halve dried ancho chilis (and guajillo chilis if you have them), remove seeds and stem.
  3. Toast chili in a dry skillet moving constantly until lightly browned.
  4. Blanch toasted chili in the boiling water for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from water and let cool slightly.
  6. Place in food processor or blender with about 1/8 to 1/4 cup water and blend, adding water as necessary to make a smooth, but still thick, paste.
  7. Set aside.

THEN PREP OTHER INGREDIENTS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Halve squash, remove seeds (reserve for roasting, if you have it in you) and cut into wedges (you can and should leave the skin on and eat it – it’s good!).
  3. Place squash wedges on non-stick sprayed baking sheets and dust with ground allspice, dried thyme and ground pepper.
  4. Cut tofu into 4 rectangular strips about 3/4 inch thick.
  5. Combine peppercorn, clove, allspice, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  6. Combine garlic and onion in another small bowl.
  7. Combine tomato, Mexican oregano and thyme in a third small bowl.
  8. In ANOTHER small bowl, combine raisins, almonds, and sesame seeds.

GET MOVING

  1. Put the squash in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes while you work.
  2. Dry toast the peppercorn bowl ingredients in your cleaned skillet until fragrant, about 3 minutes or so, moving constantly. Place back in small bowl.
  3. Add garlic and onion, and dry toast until they begin to brown, blacken or char. Remove, and cool slightly.
  4. Combine peppercorn bowl ingredients, garlic and onion in food processor and blend, using as much stock as necessary to make into a paste. Set paste aside.
  5. In same skillet, cook tomato and spices until the tomato begins to lose its juices and dry out, about 5-10 minutes.
  6. Place tomato in food processor and blend that. Set that aside too.
  7. Clean your skillet and heat 1/8 tsp of nut or sunflower oil.
  8. Add banana and let brown.
  9. Add almonds bowl ingredients and continue to cook all until brown and toasted (adding non-stick spray if things get sticky).
  10. Combine all that jazz in the food processor with about 3/4 cup stock and combine that too. Yet again, set aside.
  11. Before you start on finally making the actual sauce, throw the tofu slices onto the baking sheets with the squash to roast as well.
  12. In the deepest, heaviest dutch oven or soup pot you have heat 1/8 tsp oil.
  13. Slowly add the chili paste, stirring constantly to prevent splatter. Cook over med-high heat for about 10 minutes.
  14. Add tomato mixture, and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
  15. Add onion & spice mixture, and simmer for about 5-10 more minutes.
  16. Add banana nut mixture, and simmer for ANOTHER 5-10 minutes.
  17. Add stock to reach a slightly loose consistency, about 3/4 to 1 cup, and the chopped chocolate, stir and let simmer, cooking down, for about 20-30 more minutes. Stir regularly!
  18. While the sauce simmers, keep an eye on your squash, which will probably take about 30 minutes to roast. The tofu will take less time, and is done when toasty and brown. If anything is done early, just remove it and reheat at 400 degrees before serving.
  19. Put enough stock in a small soup pot to cover the bottom by 1/2 inch. Add a bay leaf and some celery seeds and boil. Add the oyster mushrooms and let simmer with the lid slightly open for 3-4 minutes or so.

TO SERVE

  1. Put the tofu down on your plate and encircle or top with kabocha wedges. Generously ladle your sauce over the squash and top with a poached oyster mushroom bunch. And potentially more sauce. It’s that good.
  2. If you were REALLY industrious, like I attempted to be, you may have also saved some of the kabocha seeds and roasted them as well. If so, top with those (or some pumpkin seeds you may have lying around) for a nice touch.
  3. HOPHEADS ONLY: consider serving with this deliciously juicy beer, a relative newcomer to the Philadelphia scene: The Gauntlet, an Imperial IPA from San Diego’s Iron Fist.

Go Pig or Go Home at Alla Spina

When I do eat meat, I like to go big.  Or in this case, pig.

Last night during our first foray out to the hip, happening–you know, GQ-approved–new spot from Philadelphia’s beloved Marc Vetri, Alla Spina, there was no way I was going to resist the chalk-scrawled depiction of a pig’s head on the specials blackboard. I never pass up an opportunity to try something new. Especially when it’s a true snout to tail eating.

We were greeted by this fellow:

And, well, all I can say is that we quite enthusiastically welcomed him to the table:

So, as you can see by the lack of brains and eyeballs in that pile of debris, this experiment in “will I be able to survive when we finally make it to Mongolia for my dream trek across the steppe” was a complete and total success. Yum!

No seriously, yum. Eyeballs are delicious.