Ramp Latkes!

Ramp latkesRamp latkes

🎵 Aaaaat laaaaaast spring has come along🎵 [sung in extremely Etta James voice]. It’s here! It’s finally here! I cannot recall a spring that took so goddamn long to arrive, but it’s finally here. I’m celebrating by soaking up all the sun and eating all the spring fruits and vegetables I can get my hands on. Ramps are very trendy where I live in the Northeastern United States of America and are on just about every restaurant menu in the area. No, I’m not talking about the incline you walk up to enter a building: Ramps are a species of wild onion that have long, smooth leaves and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. In terms of flavor, ramps fall somewhere between chives, leeks, and the green part of scallions. They impart a subtle onion-y flavor to a variety of dishes and scream “SPRING!”, so I thought I’d try them out in my favorite onion and potato dish: lakes! They’re my favorite Hanukkah food and this just might be my new favorite spring dish.

Ramp latkes Ramp latkes

Ramp Latkes

Yields: 12-14 latkes (depending on size)
Prep time: 25 mins

  • 3 pounds potatoes (I used yellow potatoes)
  • ÂĽ pound ramps
  • 1 small onion (about ½ cup chopped)
  • 2 cups matzoh meal
  • â…“ cup cornstarch
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Vegetable or canola oil

Peel the potatoes then grate them using the shred blade on a food processor or against a box grater. Finely chop the onion. Remove the bulbs on the ramps and slice the leaves into thin ribbons. Combine the onions, potatoes, and ramps with the cornstarch, stir, and set aside for a couple minutes.

Add the matzoh meal, plus several hearty pinches of salt and pepper. Stir well and set the mixture aside for another 10-15 minutes. Magic happens and the whole thing should turn into a sticky batter (not crumbly).

Heat a skillet or shallow pot with oil. Press a small handful of the batter into a hockey puck with your hands. Place the latke in the pan and cook 5 or so minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Serve with applesauce, sour cream, or ricotta and a sprinkle of finely chopped ramps!

Ramp latkesRamp latkes
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Tahini Rice Krispie Treats

tahini rice krispie treats

I am of the mind that tahini could (and should) be used in pretty much everything. Tahini in my mac and cheese? Done. Tahini on my toast? Yep. Tahini in my cereal? Why not? Tahini as toothpaste? Alright, I’ve gone too far.

I have such a big crush on tahini (So smooth! So nutty!) that I decided to try it in my Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispie Treat recipe. I figured that the cloying sweetness of vegan marshmallows would be mellowed (MALLOWED?) out by the earthy, nutty flavor of tahini and I was totally right. [#nailedit]. I added black sesame seeds in for an extra little crunch and sesame flavor.  Ben thought they were ants. YES, BEN. I WENT OUTSIDE AND SCOOPED UP ALL THE ANTS TO PUT IN THE DESSERT. Anyway, these are my new go-to when I have a hankering for Rice Krispie treats (or ants).
tahini rice krispie treats

Tahini Rice Krispie Treats

Makes roughly 24 squares

  • 1 bag of vegan marshmallows (I use Dandies)
  • 6 cups Rice Krispie cereal
  • 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup black or white sesame seeds

Melt the vegan margarine and 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a medium saucepan. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the marshmallows are totally melted. Add the tahini and stir until the mixture is smooth and there are no clumps.

In a large bowl, combine the marshmallow mixture, cereal, and sesame seeds and mix well to combine. Press the mixture firmly into a 9×13 pan. Place in the fridge and let set for 15 minutes. Slice into squares and serve.

tahini rice krispie treats
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Vegan Guide to Boston

I grew up in Boston but didn’t become vegan until I had moved halfway across the country to cheese-lovin’ Wisconsin. I would come home every summer hungry to see what was popping up on Boston’s vegan/vegetarian scene. Last week an article came out on CBS Boston’s site called “Boston’s Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants.” While the list had a couple of my favorites (helllllooooo Veggie Galaxy!) it was tragically indicative of Boston’s lack of all things vegan. The article only featured five restaurants on the list. Is that bananas or what? I make lists longer than that in my sleep. I will update this list from time to time, so check back for updates.

A While I’m still new returning to the community, I thought it a good time to do some research on what’s what in Beantown. Plus, the type of research where I get to go out and eat food is exactly the type of research I like to do. This is by *no* means a comprehensive list, but a work in progress. I have a long list of places I want to try, but here’s what I’ve got so far.

  • Life Alive If I could eat one thing for the rest of my life it might be the Swami Bowl from Life Alive. I don’t know what they do, but something about the flavors in this bowl are like scooping crack into my mouth. The menu is full of forget-it’s-good-for-you-because-it’s-just-that-tasty items and some bomb ass smoothies.
  • Blue Shirt Cafe This place is unpretentious, inexpensive, and tasty. You order at the counter and they call your name over the loudspeaker when it’s done. It’s nothing fancy, but it delivers with some really good wraps and bowls. The Thai Peanut Tofu wrap is duh-lish.
  • Red Lentil  It’s in Watertown, so it may be a little off the beaten path for some, but the food is worth the drive. Nirvana Delight is Tandoori-marinated tofu, a tasty quinoa salad, beet relish and cucumber (vegan) yogurt. I try to order things other than this, but usually fail. They serve wine and beer, and would be a great first date (you can feel free to take me! Sorry, Ben).
  • Veggie Galaxy  All-around baller diner-style food. Food like your mom or grandma made (if they hadn’t used all of that meat and butter). The Glazed Seitan Loaf is everything I want in my comfort food. The vegan mac and cheez is actually to die for. I’d actually die if I knew heaven had this mac and cheez. STAY. FOR. DESSERT.
  • Deluxe Town Diner  They’ve got the most bomb vegan breakfast burrito I’ve had to date. Scrambled tofu, soy cheese, guacamole, tomato, black beans and soy sausage wrapped in a tortilla. There’s something about this thing that I just can’t manage to emulate at home. So. Good.
  • Elephant Walk While French food doesn’t exactly scream “veganism!” the other half of this fusion cuisine is thankfully Cambodian. They have a slew of vegan options, the best of which is the Tofu Amrita (organic tofu sautĂ©ed in a sweet and spicy satay sauce with coriander, cumin, cardamom, galangal, cinnamon, ginger, peanuts, star anis and lemon grass).
  • SOFRA Bakery & Cafe Much of the menu isn’t vegan, but the mezze plate is, and that alone is worth mentioning. Pictured below are: smoky eggplant with pinenuts, Moroccan style carrot salad, Brussels sprouts salad with barberries & walnuts, Muhammara (red pepper & walnut purĂ©e), squash skordalia with pepitas. DUHLISH. A great spot to sit outside for lunch.
photo (57)
  • All Star Pizza Bar – this place rules. They make all different kinds of pies including five delicious vegan pizzas (you can also build your own). I think my favorite is the “Sweet N Sassy”: almond milk bĂ©chamel, daiya cheddar, pickled red onion, kale, roasted butternut squash, chili flakes. “Baked and Tofused” is also delicious. Okay, they’re all tied for first place.
  • FoMu – every vegan in Boston knows FoMu (with good reason). They make 100% vegan ice cream, cookies, poptarts, ice cream cakes, and magic bars, but also just kick ass and take names in general. The ice cream is coconut milk-based and they rotate seasonal ingredients and flavors in. I could swim in a vat of their slightly boozy holiday cookies & nog flavor. I would probably never get out, but I’d be okay with that.
  • Whole Heart Provisions – this is a new venture between Roxy’s Grilled Cheese owner James DiSabatino and chef Becca Arnold (of Alden & Harlow and Sarma). I have a huge, crazy crush on everything I’ve ever eaten at Sarma, so I knew this would be good. The concept is simple bowls with delicious combinations of veggies, beans, crunchy things and to-die-for sauces. Plus, they are obsessed with tahini, so WE GOOD. I am a huge fan of the seared avocado with crunchy lentils, za’atar and tahini (picture below. No, that’s not an avocado and a smooshed oreo ice cream cake).
  • True Bistro – this all-vegan restaurant is pretty top notch. It’s on the fancy side of plant-based joints (re: a little more expensive) but if you’re used to eating salads and side dishes when you eat out, it’s fun to go to a fancy restaurant where you can order any nice goddamn thing you want. The Phyllo purse is really tasty (brandy braised tempeh, heirloom winter squash, green mole, sour cream) and do. not. skip. the Death by Chocolate cake.
  • Arax Market – I grew up in Watertown, which has a large Armenian population. It’s only slightly hyperbole to say that baba ghanoush was more normal to me than peanut butter. Watertown has a number of great Armenian markets and bakeries, which are brimming with naturally vegan options. I recommend: hummus (more tahini-rich than anything you’ve ever bought in a store), baba ghanoush, pita, vegetarian lahmajun, grape leaves, cous cous, vegetarian kibbeh, and more.
  • Clover – Clover. CLOVER. CLOVER. I feel like one of these days I should get the Clover logo tattooed on my butt or something. I really do go there at least 4-5 times a week. It’s located across the street from my office and their sandwiches kind of inspire a cult following? Am I the cult? Shit, I am the cult. Anyway, there’s pretty much nothing not to love about Clover’s food because it’s fresh, fast, incorporates local ingredients, and just tastes good. You can order more sandwiches in a pita pocket (which they make themselves) or sans bread as a platter. The Japanese Sweet Potato (known as JSP within the cult) is my all-time seasonal favorite, but the Chickpea Fritter is a terrific go-to when JSP is not around.
pita3pita2 clover

Veggie Crust – located in my home sweet home Somerville, this pizza spot has some pretty dope IndoChinese fusion pizzas and pretty much everything can be made vegan! My favorite is the Cauliflower Manchurian pizza which has this super delicious sauce and ginger, garlic, and fresh basil and MMMMM.

veggie crust

al FreshCo – OK this is technically not a restaurant, but a cool, Boston-based food business that I totally dig. They deliver meal kits of locally-sourced veggies and grains BY BIKE. Most of the ingredients are grown or processed in Massachusetts and are super simple to assemble. Check them out.

Punjabi Dhaba  I was really late to discover the magic of Punjabi Dhaba, but I’ve gone at least five times in the last two months, so that’s something. They have a variety of veggie options and they’re all fucking delicious and come with different chutneys and are just the greatest. It’s cash only. You’ve been warned!

(Chacos and my disgusting feet not included)

J.P. Licks – I grew up going to this place and have been delighted to see a variety of soy-, coconut- and hemp-based flavors that are pretty awesome. They rotate flavors in and out, but I particularly like the Chunky Peanut Butter, which is hemp-based!

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Vegan Kasha Varnishkes

I studied in Russia for a year in college. I have a lot of good stories from that era.

There was the time I went to a club called Jesus and a rando picked me up and spun me around the dance floor on his head. There was the semester when my friend Sasha and I taught at an after school program called Galactica at the far end of the subway lineđź’«. There was thee toothless friend I made on a 48-hour train ride to Rostov-Na-Donu who bought me candy and made me balloon animals. Let’s not forget the elderly women who swatted my friend Izzy and me with bundles of dried sticks while we held hands, naked, terrified, side by side in a public bath house.

Or the time I embarked on a cruise around Lake Onega on a boat called the Karl Marx (and subsequently got locked in my bel0w-sea-level cabin). Or the time my parents came to visit and I lost them in a crowd and thought I’d never see them again. And let’s not forget the time I went to the Steppe and couldn’t stop making Ciara puns. Anyway, one of the interesting parts of living there was eating all the food in sight, but also remaining vegan. If you’re familiar with the mayo-drenched nature of Russian cuisine, you might be wondering what I ate. The answer is: A whole fucking lot of grechka.

Grechka (toasted buckwheat) is as common in Russia as white bread is in the United States. It’s served as a side dish at every single restaurant (sometimes with fried onions) and is super cheap to make at home. It was sort of my Russian answer to rice and beans for dinner when you’re totally broke.

Last summer I went to Brighton Beach with my friend Izzy and picked up some grechka (I absolutely lost my shit when I saw it for sale on the sidewalk in Brooklyn). I’d been saving it in my pantry and decided to use my prized grechka in Kasha Varnishkes. This is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish that combines grechka with bowtie noodles. Most of the flavor comes from the grains (super earthy and a bit smoky from the toasting) and ultrasweet caramelized onions.

Vegan Kasha Varnishkes

2 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2 large onions)
½ cup sunflower oil or other cooking oil
Âľ cup grechka (buckwheat groats)
Salt and ground black pepper
½ pound bowtie noodles (farfalle)

Place onions in a large skillet with the cooking oil over medium heat. Add a generous sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes until the onions are brown. Set aside.

Set another, smaller pot on to boil and combine about 2 cups water, the buckwheat, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer until the buckwheat is fluffy, 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat and set aside, covered.

Place a large pot of water on to boil and cook the bowtie noodles according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and combine in a large bowl with cooked, fluffy buckwheat and caramelized onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste and a splash more oil if desired. Serve hot.

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