10 Amazing Vegetarian Street Foods Around the Globe

The phrase “street food” often conjures up images of strange meats and undecipherable signs in faraway lands, but it's also known as being regional, cheap, and easy to eat. Traveling often as a vegetarian isn’t always simple, but sniffing out the best non-meat street foods has been wildly satisfying, especially while traveling with carnivorous companions who seem to stumble upon new culinary adventures around every corner.

Some countries and cities are friendlier to vegetarians than others, with India and Israel coming in at the top of the list, and some have been so difficult that I’ve ended up eating salad and fries for days - not that I’m complaining about that. Overall, these street foods have kept me sane and satisfied across the world, causing me to crave and recreate them the moment I land back home.

1. Sabich, Israel

Israel is one of the most vegetarian-friendly countries I’ve encountered and their phenomenal street foods go well beyond the much lauded hummus and falafel. The ultimate Israeli street food, in my opinion, is the sabich, which is a warm, fluffy pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus or yogurt, and Israeli salad (typically diced tomato, cucumber, onion, peppers, and herbs).

Photo by eatingeast

Photo by eatingeast

2. Aloo Tikki, Pakistan & India

Fried potato patties mixed with onions and spices are widely found throughout the Indian subcontinent, but this version is most commonly found in Pakistan and India and served with a sweet and spicy tamarind sauce.

Photo by Rajesh Pamnani

Photo by Rajesh Pamnani

3. Pelmeni, Russia

Very similar in appearance, but not flavor, to Japanese gyoza or Chinese jiaozi, these little dumplings are both adorable and filling. I found pelmeni filled with mushrooms, onions, and turnips and served with a side of, what else, sour cream.

Photo by Jorge Cancela

Photo by Jorge Cancela

4. Rustico, Italy

Italy has plenty of vegetarian-friendly street foods, like pizza, arancini, and gelato, but I prefer to seek out dishes that aren’t as easily found back home. Rustico, a traditional snack from Puglia, is a little pastry with a goldmine of béchamel sauce, mozzarella, and tomato hidden inside.

Photo by Flavio Massari

Photo by Flavio Massari

5. Dosa, India

A popular Southern Indian breakfast or snack food, dosa is a sort of crepe made from rice and lentils. There are dozens of versions, but a very common filling is spiced potatoes with a variety of chutneys served on the side.

Photo by Anant Nath Sharma

Photo by Anant Nath Sharma

6. Sarma, Turkey

If you’ve ever had grape leaves stuffed with rice, sometimes referred to as dolma, then you already know about sarma, which is just another way of saying “stuffed leaves”. My favorite variation - squash blossoms stuffed with rice and herbs - were found in Istanbul. Typically served cold, these were an entirely welcomed snack (along with a local Turkish beer, like Efes Pilsen ) on a very hot day.

Photo by Shauna Burke

Photo by Shauna Burke

7. Veg Scotch Egg, United Kingdom

Normally a boiled egg that has been wrapped in some sort of meat or sausage, then breaded and deep-fried, vegetarian versions are widely available if you know where to look. Popular foodie destinations, such as Burough Market or Maltby Street Market, have endless varieties of scotch eggs to choose from, including some made from lentils or chickpeas.

Photo by Robert Nunn

Photo by Robert Nunn

8. Tamagoyaki, Japan

You may recognize tamago (a rolled and grilled omelet made of eggs, rice vinegar, and sometimes sugar, Mirin, or sake) from just about any sushi restaurant’s menu, but the Japanese take this popular street food very seriously and it is well worth seeking out. The Tsukiji Fish Market should most definitely be on your must-see list in Tokyo, even if you don’t eat seafood. You’ll find vendors selling tamagoyaki on sticks, with herbs, with shellfish, with mushrooms, or just plain, which is actually my favorite version. 

Photo by Andy Yeo

Photo by Andy Yeo

9. Tacos de Nopales, Mexico City

Finding vegetarian tacos is super easy these days and is certainly not restricted to any one place, but one of my favorite and most common variations is a nopales (aka cactus) taco in Mexico City. Some of my other favorites to look for are chard and cauliflower.

Photo by Jessica Hayssen

Photo by Jessica Hayssen

10. Empanada de Arroz, Bolivia

If I had to pick a favorite item from this list, it’d be this one. Made from yucca and rice flour, filled with cheese, wrapped in a banana leaf, and then baked until bubbly, this is the most soul-satisfying, sweet, salty, and savory little snack I could imagine. I’ve tried desperately to replicate these at home, but it’s one of those things that will just never be the same. If I'm being honest here, I'd rather go to Los Andes Restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island to get my fix...they are amazing.

Photo by Aosinagag

Photo by Aosinagag

Winter Citrus: A Little Blood Orange Tart with Salted Poppy seed Caramel


To some, citrus seems like a very summery ingredient, but It's no wonder to me that most citrus is in season during the winter. Citrus makes everything taste a little fresher and a little brighter, which this season desperately needs. A squeeze of lemon juice can brighten up most savory dishes, from salads to soups to pastas, and a pinch of orange zest can take a plum pudding to new levels.

I also love to decorate the kitchen with big bowls of fresh citrus - a big bowl of lemons, another of blood oranges. For Christmas dinner, I even used satsumas to decorate the table - everyone just loves their little attached leaves. It could be the dreariest of Januaries out there, but filling your kitchen with citrus somehow makes it all a little brighter.

This recipe comes from the need to use up some of that citrus that I insist on filling my kitchen with! Whatever I made, I knew I wanted to use slices of blood orange because I think the color is just so beautiful. What I did was make a tart shell, pour in warm salted poppy seed caramel, top that with blood orange mascarpone, and then layer thin slices of candied blood orange to finish it off. It's scrumptious, bittersweet, and somehow fresh. It hits all the spots.

There's nothing wrong with using a pre-made tart shell for this recipe. The recipe below is for one tart and I used a rectangular tart pan (13 3/4" by 4 1/2"), but I'm sure this would work great as a round tart also!

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Tart Shell

Candied Blood Orange

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candied-blood-orange.jpg

Salted Poppy Seed Caramel

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Blood Orange Mascarpone

Assembly

While the caramel is still slightly warm and pourable, pour an even layer of caramel into the tart shell. (Keep any leftover sauce for ice cream!) Pop it into the fridge and let it harden a bit. When the caramel is no longer warm to the touch, top it with blood orange mascarpone and spread it evenly into the tart. Pop it back into the fridge to allow it to firm up - preferably, about an hour. If you cut into it while the caramel and mascarpone are still at room temperature, the layers might start to ooze out. (If you're good with that, so am I. I don't judge.) You don't want the tart to be ice cold, you just want it to be firm enough to cut into it. When you take it out of the fridge, layer the blood orange slices over the top. Cut and serve! 

Handling the Leftovers: Thanksgiving Benedict, Colcannon, & Cranberry Grilled Cheese

Let's face it: the leftovers are pretty much the best part of Thanksgiving. If you're like most people, you're left with dish after dish of leftovers and, after a few days, the last thing you want to see is a forkful of stuffing or yams, so here are some great ideas for using Thanksgiving leftovers that don't require a long list of other ingredients! 

THANKSGIVING BENEDICT

Thanksgiving Benedict

Thanksgiving Benedict

One of my favorite post-Thanksgiving meals is the Thanksgiving Benedict. A handful of stuffing bound together with egg and breadcrumbs creates a scrumptious little stuffing cake that can be topped with a poached egg, the easiest hollandaise recipe on earth, and some chopped fresh herbs. 

COLCANNON

A big pot of colcannon

A big pot of colcannon

If I have my way, I'll make colcannon for Thanksgiving dinner. But if I haven't had my way, I'll make it the next day anyway! This is a traditional Irish recipe, made with mashed potatoes, milk, either kale or green cabbage, BUTTER, and scallions or chives. Of course, there are about 1,000 ways to make this, so feel free to add your own spin on it with whatever you have in your refrigerator. Some people will also make it with bacon or pancetta, but obviously that's not happening here. 

I make mashed potatoes with Yukon gold potatoes (with skins), buttermilk, butter, salt, and pepper. I like the buttermilk because it adds a little depth of flavor to bland potatoes...and I am very generous with the salt and pepper. So, these are the leftover mashed potatoes that I'm starting from and I'll always have a bit of buttermilk left over as well. If you use regular milk and that's all you have, that's completely fine! 

CRANBERRY GRILLED CHEESE

If you've ever ordered a cheese plate, you've seen all the fun condiments that come alongside. One of my favorite condiments with hard cheeses, but especially white cheddar cheese, is actually cranberry jam. Using the same idea, I'm  making a simple grilled cheese sandwich with rustic bread, sharp white cheddar cheese, and leftover cranberry sauce. The cranberries work to cut through the richness and add a beautiful little flavor bomb to the mix. You can even add some turkey, if you're into that kind of thing. 

All or Nothing: Choosing Wine for the Thanksgiving Table


When it comes to choosing wine for the Thanksgiving table, we've all heard different traditions or rules to follow. The bottom line is that it's absolutely impossible for one wine to pair perfectly with all the elements of a Thanksgiving meal. Forget about pairing wine with turkey - it hardly tastes like anything! Think, however, of all the other stars of the table: savory stuffing, fatty gravy, bitter greens, sweet yams, creamy potatoes, and probably others that I am forgetting. I really think there are two options to consider:

Option 1: Choose a versatile wine that has a chance of pairing with at least a few bites

Option 2: Forget about everything on the table and choose wines that you already know you enjoy

I am partial to option one. I don't really want to discuss Beaujolais Nouveau, but I do think the Gamay or Pinot Noir grape is one of the most versatile options for Thanksgiving. And continuing on with tradition, let's choose an American wine for an American holiday. Sounds reasonable, right? Here are some wines to consider:

2014 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County

A great value. Fresh and bright, with aromas of red fruit and strawberry. Nice acidity and mouth filling intensity make this a versatile food-friendly wine. 

2013 Argyle Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

A classic, affordably priced Oregon Pinot Noir. The palate is lively and graceful, building density and focus as the silky tannins build into the long, energetic finish. 

2011 Bow & Arrow "Rhinestones", Willamette Valley

A blend of 60% Gamay and 40% Pinot Noir, this unique wine is fantastically food-friendly, ripe, juicy, and with just the right amount of acidity. Bow & Arrow also makes a lighter Gamay Noir that is worth a try. 

If you're going to go with option two and choose wines that you know you and your guests already like, do yourself a favor and limit yourself to two or three wines. Thanksgiving can be a stressful day and the last thing you need to do is open 11 bottles of wine to cater to every single person's needs. If there's one thing that I've found, it's that guests can typically fit themselves into three categories of wine drinkers: white, light red, and big red. 

White: I'll always choose a classic Chardonnay; not too heavy, buttery, or oaky. I would choose something like Chablis, from Burgundy. 

Light red: Like the three wines I listed above, I would choose a light Pinot Noir with nice acidity.

Big red: For the sake of versatility, I tend to choose a great, hearty red blend. There are SO many red blends out there and if you don't have a particular preference, here's a great opportunity to visit your local wine shop and have someone help you find exactly what you're looking for. The most popular blends seem to be Bordeaux blends based on Cabernet Sauvignon - and that's exactly what I'd recommend.

Just remember, as long as you have good wine you will always enjoy yourself. Happy Thanksgiving!

Simple Autumn Spins on Classic Cocktails


I recently realized that I drink far more cocktails during the autumn and winter months and tend to stick to sparkling wine, beer, and red wine during hotter months. Haven't quite figured out why, but I promise I'll look into it. Perhaps one too many family gatherings could make a person sprint to the local bar for a stiff drink - who knows? The point is, in light of this recent discovery, I've been playing around with some ways to autumn-ize some of the most classic cocktails. 

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Short note: Making cocktails is no different than cooking, really. Choose high-quality, natural-ish ingredients to elevate something simple into something extraordinary! 

Gin & Tonic

Up first, the mighty Gin & Tonic. I've had a troubled relationship with this drink, but we've worked out our differences and I'm now Team G&T. Honestly, the first time I ever had one that I loved was at Jose Andres' Jaleo in Washington, D.C. It had a depth and brightness that was so lacking in every other one I'd ever tried. It converted me. 

About the gin: I prefer the London Dry gin style since it tends to be sort of mellow and not so abrasive. My #1 choice is Plymouth, but I'll use Beefeater if I can't find it. Plymouth also makes an excellent sloe gin. I also LOVE Leopold's gin from Colorado, which is becoming a bit easier to find these days, so see if you can.

About the tonic: I truly believe the secret to a good Gin & Tonic is the tonic. I can't deal with the syrupy, unnatural taste of Schweppes tonic water. Opt for something with less sugar - or, at least, real sugar. Try Q or Fever-Tree. 

To add a holiday kick to a traditional Gin & Tonic, I simply add a splash of sloe gin and a cinnamon stick as a stirrer - that's it! Here's the recipe:

Old-Fashioned

The Old-Fashioned is a deceptively simple concoction: sugar, bitters, whiskey, twist. Like so many simple things, it's disastrous when not done well and extraordinarily satisfying when a mustachioed mixologist takes care to make it properly. I have to be honest, I made my own apple bitters (I call them Yuletide bitters, appropriately enough) for use in this cocktail, but there are plenty of fancy bitters out there these days. Find anything in the way of apple, cinnamon, maple, or warmly spiced (think baking spices and gingerbread) bitters and you'll be all set.

Manhattan

Instead of using bourbon entirely, I introduce Calvados (apple brandy) to add a bit of autumn warmth to a traditional Manhattan. I was surprised that it didn't take a whole lot of fuss to turn this into a great winter drink - it may already be one on its own!

Sangria

I was recently asked to test some recipes for mulled wine for the holidays. I made a number of versions, both red and white, and discovered that my favorite holiday mulled wine was very similar to my favorite sangria recipe, except that it's a bit sweeter and is served piping hot. I did also enjoy it the next day, on ice, so it can go both ways.

The Smell of Cinnamon Banana Bread & Autumn Air

I don't know about you, but I have a serious problem when I buy bananas. I seem to always end up with too many. I walk by my fruit bowl every morning and see them sadly waiting to be eaten. Then I decide I've waited too long and they get tossed in the freezer with that one I forgot to eat last week and the five I forgot to eat last month. As they say, "everything happens for a reason". My subconscious is obviously trying to force me to hoard bananas so I can make a delicious loaf of banana bread on some future lazy Sunday! 

Honestly, the only way I will make banana bread now is with my weird overripe frozen bananas. If I've planned in advance, I'll take the bananas out of the freezer and let them come to room temperature. If I haven't planned in advance, I'll throw the bananas in the oven (let's say, 300-350 degrees) for a couple of minutes until they're soft (or in the microwave for just a few seconds). Tip: if all you have are bright yellow bananas, simply separate them and place them (whole) on a lined sheet pan in a 300 degree oven for about 30-45 min., until they are completely blackened and soft. Let them cool before using them.

This recipe is super easy and only contains ingredients that I absolutely always have in my kitchen. Even better, it's seriously delicious - a dark, crisp top and moist on the inside - and fills the house with that fantastic cinnamon-baked goodness. 

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Cinnamon Banana Bread

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup thick vanilla yogurt (I use Siggi's 0% Vanilla or Greek yogurt)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup (approx.) overripe bananas, mashed

Cinnamon Sugar:
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together for about a minute, until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until well-combined. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together until well mixed. Add to the bowl with butter and egg mixture. Stir until just combined. Add all remaining ingredients and stir just until combined. Take care not to over-mix. 

For the cinnamon sugar, simply combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. 

Pour about half of the batter into a buttered 9-inch loaf pan. Add all of the cinnamon sugar on top, taking care to leave a small border of batter around the edges (otherwise the sugar may leak out and burn), and then pour the remaining batter on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 50 min. or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. 

Exploring Burgundy: Classic Wines & a Bit of Beaune

I had mixed feelings traveling to Burgundy. I was hoping that I would find a magical wine region where I'd fall in love with dedicated winemakers and regional dishes, not something that resembles the Napa Valley of France. Luckily, I did find a magical wine region...winding through tiny little streets, from town to town, I seemed to be the only person on the road and I felt as if I was discovering a secret, even though Burgundy might just be the most famous wine region on the planet! 

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One big issue in Burgundy is getting to a vineyard or getting into a winery. Job number one is finding a winery to see. It is well understood that most winery owners in Burgundy don't care about having tasting rooms and don't care to have their time wasted with your visits. After all, they're busy actually making the wine and tending to the vines! Winemakers in Burgundy are very hands-on and they don't have a huge problem selling their sought-after wines, so you really have to be with a tour, be in the wine industry, or "know someone" if you want to get up close and personal. You also really must have a car (or, again, get in on a small tour) to explore the region the way it needs to be seen, but if you're short on time you can certainly stay in the city of Beaune and still soak up a bit of Burgundy. 

Oeufs en Meurette at Restaurant Le Fleury, Beaune

Oeufs en Meurette at Restaurant Le Fleury, Beaune

When in Beaune, I recommend heading over to Maison Joseph Drouhin for a tour and tasting. You'll get to see the caves and, if you're lucky, you'll also get a great history lesson. After the tour, you'll taste three Chardonnays (their 2013 Meursault was exceptional) and three Pinot Noirs (even some Grand Crus!), some of which are excellent! Afterward, head over to Restaurant Le Fleury, where I had the BEST oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce, an outstanding regional dish) my entire time in Burgundy. For dinner, Le Clos du Cèdre was a fantastic and memorable meal. Since I was on an ouefs en meurette kick, I had to order their fancy deconstructed version...while good, it just wasn't as good as Restaurant Le Fleury. 

You must also stop by La Moutarderie Fallot to tour the Edmond Fallot mustard factory and taste all the mustard you possibly can (unless, of course, you absolutely hate mustard...then you don't need to do this). Thomas Keller taught me about Edmond Fallot and I am forever grateful. It is the best mustard in the world and assists me in the kitchen almost every single day! It's just...the best. 

Ancient wine press, Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

Ancient wine press, Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

Caves at Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

Caves at Joseph Drouhin, Beaune

Vineyard in Vosne-Romanée

Vineyard in Vosne-Romanée

Clos Napoléon, Fixin

Clos Napoléon, Fixin

I absolutely do suggest renting a car, if you can, and spending at least a couple of hours driving through the region. I drove from Lyon to Dijon (Beaune is right in the middle), so I had a chance to see a great deal and it was the best part of the trip! I traveled to Burgundy just before harvest (or during harvest, depending on the vineyard) and saw lots of beautiful, mature fruit hanging on the vines. Since you're out in the middle of nowhere and probably need some sustenance at some point, make a lunch reservation at Au Clos Napoléon in Fixin, where they have an unbeatable atmosphere and view - literally surrounded by vineyards. They also have an excellent version of oeufs en meurette, if you want to stay regional. 

The country roads in Burgundy

The country roads in Burgundy

The famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

The famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Vosne-Romanée

Vosne-Romanée

There is so much to see - you just need to show up with an adventurous spirit to get the most out of the region. If all else fails, taste wines in Beaune and Dijon and ask for regional wine pairings with dinner - just taste as much as you can and always, always, always ask the sommelier for his/her help. Get a feel for each appellation, what it offers, and what you do or don't like about those wines. For whatever reason, I seem to always choose reds from Aloxe-Corton and Nuits-Saint-Georges. Maybe it's wrong, but I have strong preferences! And those preferences may or may not change with each vintage. 

There are also so many hidden gems and indescribable landscapes. If you love wine and need a break from Europe's big cities, head to Burgundy right now!!! Also, if you make it up to Dijon (essential if you're heading back to Paris on the train), be sure to make a reservation at Loiseau des Ducs - wonderful, wonderful food and an imaginative, modern wine program. 

By the way, Julia Child has a great recipe for oeufs en meurette in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Find it under "Oeufs à la Bourguignonne [Eggs Poached in Red Wine]". There is no need for me to come up with a recipe for this...some stuff is just classic and untouchable. If you can't make it to Burgundy, you can at least recreate this fantastic dish at home! 

Save Water, Drink Dry-Farmed Wine

It's not exactly news that California is struggling with water issues. Grapevines, however, are extraordinary creatures and, with careful planning, they can thrive in difficult conditions if planted in the right soil and in the right area. Dry-farming basically relies on the right type of soil, typically clay-based, to store the area's natural rainfall. This practice was, and is again becoming, the new norm for many wineries across the state - saving countless gallons of precious water in the process.

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Historically speaking, large-scale agricultural irrigation is a relatively modern luxury. Although irrigation has been practiced for thousands of years, it wasn't until the mid-1960's in Israel when drip irrigation really revolutionized global agriculture, including the wine industry. In Europe, dry-farming has been the only option in many renowned wine regions throughout France, Italy, Spain, Greece, etc. for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, it is illegal to irrigate wine grapes in many regions, like Bordeaux and Burgundy, due to the belief that irrigation will lower the quality of the wine. 

The trouble with California is that our climate is much drier and, in many areas, much hotter than a lot of Old World European vineyards. However, many winemakers hold strong that dry-farming is better for the grapes. Since dry-farming tends to produce lower yields, some believe that this will intensify the grape's flavor and produce better wine. The idea is that more irrigation = watered-downed grapes and, therefore a watered-down wine. After all, some of the finest wines in the world are produced from dry-farmed grapes! 

Here are some lovely dry-farmed California wines to try:

Frog's Leap 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

Frog's Leap is famously dry-farmed and they have a great example of dry-farmed, organic Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is everything you want out of a light summer white: it's bright, citrusy, with great depth and minerality

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Tablas Creek 2014 Dianthus Rosé, Paso Robles

A blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, and Cunoise, this rosé is one of the best in the region. It is bright and floral, with rich stawberry notes throughout. The finish is long and clean, delightful as a slightly chilled summer sipper. 

Emeritus Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County

Since Pinot Noir is the wine Emeritus produces, it's no surprise that they do it well. Easy-drinking with great fruit character and mild acidity, this is a versatile summer red. 

Chappellet Vineyard 2012 Zinfandel, Napa Valley

It's no surprise for a Chappellet wine to be exceptional and this growing season certainly made it a little easier. This wine is ripe, with notes of jammy cherry and blackberry. It's rich and intense. An excellent example of dry-farmed, mountain-grown Zinfandel.

Stolpman Vineyards 2012 Grenache, Los Olivos

Grenache is under-appreciated in the United States and seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Stolpman's Grenache is sweet on the nose, but don't let that fool you - this is a bold wine with some tannin and spice on the palate. 

Meat-Free Grilling Series #3: Shaved Asparagus Salad with Pecorino

When I first made this, I was convinced that these dainty little pieces of shaved asparagus would fall straight through the grates of my grill and turn into a huge mess. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case, but you can always use a piece of foil underneath the asparagus to stay mess-free. Using a mandoline, I sliced the asparagus spears about 1/4" thick and simply tossed them with olive oil and salt before grilling them. You can also do this in a grill pan on your stovetop and be just fine. It is simply dressed, topped with shaved Pecorino cheese and some toasted nuts...simple, satisfying, and easy to make ahead!

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Ingredients

1 bunch green asparagus, trimmed and sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. olive oil, separated
1 tsp. good quality Dijon mustard (I use Edmond Fallot)
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1-2 oz. Pecorino cheese, shaved
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. almonds or hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Method

A mandoline really makes slicing the asparagus a breeze...but if you must use a knife, you may want to just slice each asparagus spear in half lengthwise. In a medium bowl, toss the asparagus in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place the asparagus spears on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side, until they are soft but not falling apart. Remove from grill and let cool slightly. 

In the meantime, prepare the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, capers, and some salt and pepper, until thick and well-combined. 

To serve, lightly drizzle dressing over asparagus, then simply top with shaved Pecorino cheese (I use a vegetable peeler to shave hard cheeses), toasted nuts, and a pinch of freshly-ground black pepper. 

Meat-Free Grilling Series #2: Grilled Carrots, Pickled Fennel, Carrot Top Crème Fraîche

Grilled carrots are rich, flavorful, and smoky, so they don't need much more than a generous sprinkling of salt and a squeeze of (preferably grilled) fresh lemon once they come off the grill! But if you want something a little more suited to salad/appetizer status, this recipe does the trick. Grilling carrots is a great way to add depth and flavor to a vegetable that can sometimes be a little too common and boring. I always have carrots in my fridge for snacking (specifically, dipping carrot sticks into Edmond Fallot mustard), but I desperately needed to get out of this snack rut. 

I love the presentation of this dish because it allows people to create their own little plate. It can be put together in a myriad of ways and I always love that option...

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GRILLED CARROTS

1 bunch (approx. 6) carrots, with tops attached
2 tbsp. olive oil or neutral cooking oil
Sea salt, to taste
1-2 cups arugula
2 tbsp. hazelnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

Heat up an outdoor grill or a grill pan on your stove on high heat. 

Wash carrots and greens, then cut off all but about 2 inches of the green tops. Set the tops aside. I don't peel my carrots because they're organic and I think it's a waste, since there's nothing wrong with the skins! (but if you're not using organic carrots, go ahead and peel them)

Cut the carrots in half lengthwise (smaller, skinnier carrots can be left whole) and toss in a large bowl with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. 

Grill on both sides until you see nice grill marks and the carrots are tender, but not mushy. 

Assemble:

On a large plate, create a bed with the arugula and place the grilled carrots on top. Garnish with chopped hazelnuts. Serve carrot top dressing (below) and pickled fennel (below) on the side, which allows people to make their own salad! 

Note: If you don't have pickled fennel, substitute: thinly sliced/shaved fennel tossed in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Let this sit for at least 30 min. until fennel is soft. 

CARROT TOP CRÈME FRAÎCHE

1/2 cup crème fraîche (homemade! see below)
1 tbsp. carrot tops, finely chopped
1 tbsp. arugula, finely chopped
1 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated lemon zest
Pinch of cayenne pepper 
Salt, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until well-combined. Taste for seasoning. 

When testing this recipe, all of my guinea pigs preferred to spoon a dollop of the crème fraîche onto their plates because thinning it out into a dressing and tossing everything together just lost some of that indulgence factor. Play around with it until you reach a consistency that you love!

HOMEMADE CRÈME FRAÎCHE

Heavy cream + buttermilk + 12 hours = homemade crème fraîche!

If you're not familiar with how ridiculously easy it is to make crème fraîche at home, I hope you'll give this a try! All you need to do is combine 1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream and 2 tbsp. buttermilk in a bowl or container and let it sit overnight at room temperature (for 12-14 hours) until thickened. Keep in mind that, at room temperature, it will still be a pourable consistency, so cover the container and place in the refrigerator for a few hours until cold. It should be thick, rich, and creamy, just like any expensive crème fraîche that you'll find at the market! (But you'll get the satisfaction of casually saying, "oh yes, I made this myself")

PICKLED FENNEL

I have this thing about pickling and fermenting things. I love the process... and pickled fennel is one of my favorites because I usually just pull together all of my fennel scraps to turn it into something that adds great freshness and acidity to a dish! I use pickled fennel in salad dressings, on veggie burgers, to garnish a piece of seared fish, or even mixed in with other pickles (cucumbers, radishes, cauliflower, etc.) as a snack.

1 medium-large fennel bulb,  very thinly sliced
3/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1 whole star anise
1 garlic clove
pinch of red pepper flakes
2-inch strip of fresh lemon rind

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add peppercorns, fennel seeds, star anise, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pot and allow to cool slightly. 

Meanwhile, place the strip of lemon rind on the bottom of a glass pint jar and top with shaved fennel. I packed the fennel pretty tightly into the jar and was left with a small gap between the fennel and the rim of the jar, which is good - it allows the fennel to swim more freely in the brine. 

When the picking brine is still warm, but cool enough to touch, pour over the fennel to the top of the jar. You might have some liquid left over, but be sure all of the spices end up in the jar. 

Allow to sit overnight or up to one week.