Not ready for banana ice cream? Here’s a good ol’ banana bread for ya

Austin360Cooks: Hippie bowl with tahini miso dressing

The Buddha Bowl from Main Squeeze, a restaurant in Columbia, Mo. Photo from Main Squeeze.
The Buddha Bowl from Main Squeeze, a restaurant in Columbia, Mo. Photo from Main Squeeze.

Do you have a favorite hippie bowl?

If you live or have lived in a college town or other community with a strong vegetarian culture, you know what I mean.

I found mine many years ago when I was a student at Mizzou: the Buddha Bowl at the Main Squeeze, a juice/smoothie/sandwich/salad cafe in downtown Columbia, Mo. that serves this glorious assembly of ingredients. I’ve had other grain bowls like this — always with a whole grain, some raw vegetables, some cooked, a lightly cooked protein, crunchy seeds, wispy sprouts and a tangy dressing — and sometimes make more simplified versions of them at home.

Ever since I had that tofu brown rice bowl at Main Squeeze, I started marinated and baking tofu for my own, very humble grain bowls.

Mine aren’t nearly as elaborate as the one in the restaurant or this version from Sara and Hugh Forte, authors of “The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon” (Ten Speed Press, $25).

Their hippie bowl, like the one from the Main Squeeze, has lots of components that each require attention, but once you have some of the ingredients prepared, it comes together quickly.

They use millet here, but brown rice is easier to find and just as good. Feel free to use your own kinds of sugar and hot sauce, or swap out the tofu for leftover roasted or grilled vegetables or meat. The authors note that these grain bowls travel well, so if you’re tired of airport or road trip food options, consider packing one to go.

This grain bowl has millet, tofu and a tangy sauce. Photo by Hugh Forte.
This grain bowl from ‘The Sprouted Table Bowl and Spoon” has millet, tofu and a tahini miso sauce. Photo by Hugh Forte.

Hippie Bowl

For the marinated tofu:
2 (14-oz.) packages extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup coconut sugar
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
3 Tbsp. sambal oelek (chili paste)
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
For spiced sunflower seeds:
3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. muscovado sugar
For the bowl:
1 cup millet
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups stemmed, chopped kale
4 cups (about 5 oz.) baby spinach
Sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 carrots, shaved into ribbons
1 cup sprouts (broccoli, pea, or microgreens)
2 avocados, peeled and quartered
For the dressing:
1/2 cup tahini
2 Tbsp. white or yellow miso
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. Sriracha or other hot sauce
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 large orange (about 1/3 cup)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste

Drain and press the tofu between the layers of a folded dish towel to absorb any excess liquid. Cut each block into 1-inch squares.

In a shallow dish, whisk together the coconut sugar, soy sauce, sambal oelek, vinegar and sesame oil. Toss the tofu with the marinade and let soak for at least 30 minutes — a few hours is even better — flipping them halfway through.

For the spiced sunflower seeds, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and toast the sunflower seeds until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, cayenne and sugar and toss them around until the sugar is hot enough to stick to the seeds, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a piece of parchment and spread out in a single layer to cool. The seeds can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, add the millet and toast for a few minutes until you hear them start to pop. Add the broth, bring it to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and cover and cook for 15 to 18 minutes, until millet is tender. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Cover it again and let sit until ready to use.

Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the tofu on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the edges are browned.

To sauté the greens, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the kale and spinach in batches with a pinch of salt and the lemon juice and sauté just until wilted, about 2 minutes.

Whisk together dressing ingredients.

Assemble your bowl with a portion of the millet, and then add your other toppings in quadrants on top: a scoop of tofu beside the warm greens, the carrot ribbons next to the sprouts. Top with some avocado, a hearty sprinkle of spiced sunflower seeds, and a generous drizzle of the tahini dressing. Serves 4.

— From “The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon: Simple and Inspired Whole Foods Recipes to Savor and Share” by Sara and Hugh Forte (Ten Speed Press, $25)

Austin360Cooks: Classic Cajun dish inspires spicy veggie burger

These veggie burgers are made with red beans and brown rice and are from Austin blogger Heather Hunsaker, who writes the blog Kitchen Concoctions. Photo by Heather Hunsaker/@kitchenconcoctions
These veggie burgers are made with red beans and brown rice and are from Austin blogger Heather Hunsaker, who writes the blog Kitchen Concoctions. Photo by Heather Hunsaker/@kitchenconcoctions.

Red beans and rice are perfect in a bowl, but what about in a bun?

That’s the idea behind these vegetarian burgers from Austinite Heather Hunsaker, who writes the blog Kitchen Concoctions (kitchen-concoctions.com and @kitchenconcoctions on Instagram). She found the original recipe in the magazine they hand out at H-E-B and adapted it for her site. You could use other beans besides red beans, and Hunsaker used a microwavable quinoa and brown rice mix she found at the store; the original recipe called for Central Market’s brand of microwavable barley and lentils.

These veggie burgers are a great way to use up just about any kind of leftover grains, and you can make them vegetarian by leaving out the egg and adding more bread crumbs. If the mixture is still dry or won’t hold together, consider adding one of those vegan “eggs” made out of chia or flaxseeds.

You could also serve these patties on a bed of arugula or spinach, top them with an egg, or form them into small patties and serve on a hoagie for a vegetarian po’boy.

Editor’s note: This post is part of our #Austin360Cooks social media project. Each Wednesday, we share recipes, tips and cooking ideas from readers, and you can submit yours by adding the hashtag to your posts on social media or by emailing me at abroyles@statesman.com.

Cajun Red Beans and Rice Burgers

For the burgers:
2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 Tbsp. Tabasco hot sauce
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. each Kosher salt and black pepper
For the sauce:
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. stone ground mustard
2 Tbsp. green onions, minced
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. each Kosher salt and black pepper
For serving:
6 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
6 iceberg lettuce, spinach or arugula

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan on medium‑high heat. Add onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour beans into a large mixing bowl. Using a fork or potato masher, mash beans until almost smooth, leaving some large pieces of beans. Add cooled quinoa and rice blend, cooked vegetables, Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, egg, panko bread crumbs, salt and black pepper. Mix well. Divide bean mixture into six equal portions and shape into six patties. Set aside.

Return pan to heat and add remaining oil. Working in batches, cook patties in hot oil for 3 minutes per side. Transfer cooked patties to a plate lined with a paper towel and cook remaining patties.

To form sauce, in a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, mustard, green onions, parsley, salt and black pepper. Spread sauce on toasted buns, then add burgers and lettuce. Serve.

— Adapted from a recipe in My H‑E‑B Texas Life magazine

You asked for it: Three recipes to kick-start your own month of cooking

A roasted chicken turned into three meals, including a chicken tortilla soup with extra tortilla chips. Photos by Addie Broyles.

In last week’s food section, I wrote about my monthlong home-cooking challenge and included an overview of some of the dishes I made. A number of you wrote, called and emailed to ask for specific recipes, including for that indispensable no-knead bread.

The other much-requested recipes were for the chicken tortilla soup and roasted chicken. Instead of writing those out in a traditional manner, I’ll explain how I made them because I cooked them on the fly. But I wanted to reprint the no-knead bread recipe in case you don’t have a clipping handy from when we originally published it several years ago.

For the roasted chicken, I rubbed butter between the skin and the meat and coated the outside with a random spice mix I pulled from the cabinet. Which mix? Well, I have a handful of “steak seasoning” blends because I just don’t cook steak that much, so I used one that included garlic, coriander, dill and black pepper. I’m a firm believer that those spice mixes can be used for far more than their labels dictate. I baked the chicken at 400 degrees for as long as it took for the internal temperature to reach close to 165, which was between 35 and 45 minutes. When roasting whole chickens, I rely heavily on the temperature, not the time, to tell me when it’s ready.

A roasted chicken turned into three meals, including this chicken tortilla soup. For the month of January, I tried to only eat home-cooked food. There were a few exceptions, but I cooked nearly every day. I baked bread and lemon bars, roasted vegetables and meats and tried totally new dishes, like a loose meat (or Maid Rite) sandwich from Iowa. Photo by Addie BroylesA few days later, I used some of the leftover meat from that bird to make tortilla soup. Start by sauteing a chopped onion, from 1/2 to a whole one, and then adding 3 to 5 cups broth or stock. I used a spoonful of Better than Bouillon because I hadn’t thawed any stock from the freezer. Add the chopped chicken and as many crumbled tortilla chips as you like — which in this case was a lot, because I was really craving a thicker soup — and top with cilantro. I also had half a can of green enchilada sauce in the fridge that I added, which gave the soup just the right tang from the tomatillo and a little extra heat and body.

No-Knead Bread

Baking your own bread can save you money, even if a batch doesn’t come out quite right. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Baking your own bread can save you money, even if a batch doesn’t come out quite right. Photo by Addie Broyles.

This recipe is based on Jim Lahey’s highly adaptable no-knead bread recipe, which uses roughly the same technique and amounts of flour, yeast, salt and water. I like to sprinkle Kosher salt on top of the loaf before baking, which is why I reduce the salt in the initial recipe. You could also add endless herbs, spices, olives or grated hard cheese — such as Parmesan — when mixing the dough or on top right before placing the loaf in the oven.

I’ve started to make this recipe entirely with a scale, which is why I’ve included the weight measurements. Some no-knead fanatics use a little more salt, 400 grams of bread flour and 300 grams water. A lighter hand measuring flour by the cup might only end up with 375 grams by weight and need slightly less water, which just goes to show that baking is rarely as exacting as we wish it were.

The good news is that 3 cups of flour costs less than 50 cents, even if you’re using the nice stuff, so it’s not an expensive mistake if your dough is too wet or dry and doesn’t turn out just right. After the first day or two on the counter, this loaf does start to get crusty, but that’s nothing that a quick stint in the toaster can’t fix. I can rarely finish an entire loaf over a workweek, but I don’t feel as guilty throwing out the last quarter because the loaf didn’t cost $4 in the first place.

3 cups (430 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp. (1 gram) active dry yeast
1 tsp. (6 grams) salt
1 5/8 cups (345 grams) water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and sticky.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at least 12 hours — preferably about 18 hours or, in the fridge, for up to two days — at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball, tucking the folded parts underneath.

Generously coat a clean cotton dish towel (not terrycloth) with flour, semolina or cornmeal and place on top of the dough. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours.

When it is ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least half an hour before the dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enameled cast iron or ceramic) in the oven while it’s preheating. (Make sure that the lid of the vessel can withstand such high heat. Some Le Creuset models have plastic knobs that can melt at more than 400 degrees.)

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Carefully place the dough, seam side down, in the pot and cover with the lid. Bake for 20 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the loaf is browned. Remove the pan and cool completely on a rack.

— Adapted from a Jim Lahey recipe

Making a creamy tomato soup without dairy

We strongly associate tomatoes with summer, but tomato soup doesn’t sound very appealing in June.

In the winter months, canned tomatoes are a great base for this cozy dish. Cookbook author Ellie Krieger has another trick up her sleeve for smooth, creamy tomato soup: cashews. Unlike many nuts, cashews — technically a seed — puree into a nearly cream-like consistency, which is helpful for making all kinds of vegan cheeses, milks and butters.

This is one of the dishes from Krieger’s new book “You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30) that she’ll be teaching when she swings through town next week for Lake Austin Spa Resort’s monthly culinary experience week. The classes are only open to spa guests, and you can check out the lineup atlakeaustin.com. (Planning ahead? James Beard-winning pastry chef and former Food Network host Gale Gand will teach a class March 14, and Paris-based cookbook author Dorie Greenspan has a class scheduled for April 11.)

Cookbook author Ellie Krieger makes this creamy tomato soup without any dairy. Her secret? Pureed cashews, which give the soup a smooth, hearty texture. Photo by Quentin Bacon.
Cookbook author Ellie Krieger makes this creamy tomato soup without any dairy. Her secret? Pureed cashews, which give the soup a smooth, hearty texture. Photo by Quentin Bacon.

Creamy Tomato Soup

My husband was shocked when I told him there was no cream in this velvety tomato soup. He was also surprised at how well it satisfied his hunger. What makes all that rich taste and contentment is cashews, which have a mild, creamy flavor and easily puree to a smooth consistency, so they are perfect to add to soups when you want extra body and creaminess, as well as the extra satisfaction from their protein, fiber and healthy fats. You can easily make a double batch of this for freezing.

— Ellie Krieger

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 (28-oz.) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
3/4 cup raw cashews
2 Tbsp. tomato paste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, 1 1/2 cups of water, cashews and tomato paste.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, for about 15 minutes, then puree in three batches until smooth, transferring the puree to a pot or storage container as it is pureed. Reheat the soup in a pot over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Serves 4.

— From “You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals” by Ellie Krieger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

Like Via 313? How to make Detroit-style pizza in a brownie pan

An 8-inch-by-8-inch pan can do so much more than make brownies. That’s the idea behind Kathy Strahs’ new book “The 8×8 Cookbook: Square Meals for Weeknight Family Dinners, Desserts and More — In One Perfect 8×8-Inch Dish” (Burnt Cheese Press, $24.95), which advocates that this everyday baking pan is the perfect vessel for making food for a family. Instead of the 9-inch-by-13-inch pan, the smaller, so-called brownie pan is perfect for baking or roasting whole cuts of meat, casseroles, enchiladas, quiches, frittatas, pot pies, lasagnas and, yes, brownies, blondies, bread puddings, cakes, bars and even cookies.

One of the highlights of the book is this Detroit-style deep dish pizza, which Austinites might not have heard of if not for Via 313, the pizzeria that started as a food truck and now has a brick-and-mortar location near the “Y” in Oak Hill. Via 313 still has two trailers open near downtown, and it has a second fixed location planned for Guadalupe Street, just north of the UT campus.

Detroit-style pizza from a brownie pan. Photo by Kathy Strahs.
Detroit-style pizza from a brownie pan. Photo by Kathy Strahs.

Strahs’ take on this deep dish pizza requires a little foresight: You have to start the dough the night before, but the long, slow rise makes for an extra-flavorful crust. She purees a no-cook sauce in a food processor, but you could definitely use store-bought sauce if you’d like. As for the toppings, she goes with sausage and green bell pepper, but you could use whatever you and your fellow diners are in the mood for. One key to authentic Detroit-style pizza is that the sauce goes on top of the other toppings, usually with the pepperoni or other meat on the bottom, and the cheese is pushed all the way to the edge, to create a crispy top to the outer edge crust.

8x8-BookCover-comp-Final-091415_1024x1024One note about the baking vessel: The best of these regional pizzas are baked in steel pans, not aluminum. (Common lore has it that the first Detroit-style pizzas were baked in unused oil drip pans.) You can use a regular metal 8-inch-by-8-inch pan, but avoid glass or ceramic dishes or a nonstick metal pan, which can’t withstand such high heat. You could bake the pizza at a lower temperature, but it will take longer and the edges won’t be quite as crispy. For top-of-the-line square pizzas, you can buy what are called blue steel pans online through sites such as detroitstylepizza.com or lloydpans.com.

Detroit-Style Deep Dish Pizza

2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
For the sauce:
1 (14.5 oz.) can no-salt added canned diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the toppings:
2 cups (about 8 oz.) shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
1/2 lb. bulk Italian pork sausage
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced

The night before, combine the flour, salt, yeast and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Add in the water and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. Knead the dough in the bowl for several minutes, until the dough comes together and becomes too sticky to handle. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature overnight (at least 8 hours, and up to 15 hours).

The next morning, add the remaining olive oil to an 8-inch-by-8-inch metal baking pan (without a nonstick coating) and spread it all over the bottom and sides with your hands. Punch down the dough and transfer it to the baking pan. Turn the dough over once in the pan to coat it with oil. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.

Ninety minutes before baking, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it rise and spread at room temperature. Thirty minutes before baking, make sure an oven rack is in the middle position and heat the oven to 550, if it can go that high. If not, heat to its highest, non-broil setting.

Drain the tomatoes for the sauce in a colander. Give them a good 20 minutes to drain all the excess water,which will keep your pizza from getting soggy. While the oven is heating and the tomatoes are draining, brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it’s cooked through and no longer pink. Once the tomatoes are drained, blend them with the garlic, salt, basil, thyme, oregano and pepper in a food processor. Set the sauce aside.

Gently push and stretch the pizza dough into the corners of the baking pan, as well as up the sides if the dough allows. Sprinkle a handful of cheese on top of the dough. Add sausage. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, all the way to the edges (you’ll be rewarded with irresistible crusty cheese on the sides). Add peppers and olives, then dollop the sauce on top — as much or as little as you’d like.

Bake until the cheese is melted, browned and crusted around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the edges of the pan to help release the crusty cheese, if needed, as you lift the pizza out of the pan. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “The 8×8 Cookbook: Square Meals for Weeknight Family Dinners, Desserts and More—In One Perfect 8×8-Inch Dish” by Kathy Strahs (Burnt Cheese Press, $24.95)

Taco cleansing with kale, caramelized onion enchiladas

These enchiladas verdes are filled with sauteed kale and onions and topped with a cilantro, feta cheese and avocado slices. Photo by Addie Broyles.
These enchiladas verdes are filled with sauteed kale and onions and topped with a cilantro, feta cheese and avocado slices. Photo by Addie Broyles.

During my enchilada kick for last week’s column, I made an almost-vegan contribution to the taco cleanse party.

What’s a taco cleanse? Only the biggest food trend of 2016. OK, the biggest food trend *so far*, but you can check out my story from today’s paper to find out why the Austin-based cleanse has gone big.

For these kale and caramelized onion enchiladas, I used a canned green sauce, which was a little thin for my liking, but the tacos were quick for a weeknight meal. I ended up sprinkling a little feta on top, which disqualifies them from a true Taco Cleanse taco, but I wanted a little salty cheese kick to offset the earthy filling.

I was only making one serving, but if you are making more, place the enchiladas in an oven-safe dish and heat briefly under a broiler before garnishing with cilantro and avocado and serving.

Kale and Caramelized Onion Enchiladas

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 small white onion, sliced into thin strips
4 kale leaves, stems removed, leaves chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup green chili sauce
2 corn tortillas
Chopped cilantro, sliced avocado and feta cheese, for garnish

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions until they start to soften, or until they are fully caramelized, whatever you have time for. Add kale and saute for another 5 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a small saute pan and place the green sauce in a small plate. Using tongs, cook one tortilla at a time for about 20 seconds on each side. Dry off excess oil with a paper towel, and coat the tortilla in sauce. Place on a plate and either fill or top with the sauteed vegetables. Spoon on more sauce, garnish with cilantro, avocado and feta and serve. Serves 1.

— Addie Broyles

Mushrooms, pecans are the secrets to this better tomorrow vegan chili

Justin Warner's Better Tomorrow Vegan Chili (right) uses pecans and mushrooms to mimic the flavor and texture of ground meat. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Justin Warner’s Better Tomorrow Vegan Chili (right) uses pecans and mushrooms to mimic the flavor and texture of ground meat. Photo by Addie Broyles.

In tomorrow’s food section, I’m running a pair of recipes from the #MyHomeTable cooking challenge I’m attempting this month. (Here’s the scoop behind 30 days of cooking at home.)

The first is for that killer cornbread recipe I blogged last week, and the second is for a vegan chili (recipe below) that I made for a food swap.

For better or worse, we’ve been eating a lot of chili this month. One reason — my 5-year-old decided that he finally loves my regular pot of chili made with beef, pork, sweet potatoes, black beans and has been asking for it every day — but I also wanted to try this vegan chili from Justin Warner’s cool new cookbook, “The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them” by Justin Warner (Flatiron Books, $35)

I was interested in the idea that pecans could mimic the mouthfeel of meat, as well as the idea that mushrooms would add what he calls the “forest-floor bass note” we expect from such a hearty dish. I was really impressed with the results. Several coworkers commented that it had too much cinnamon, so you might use less if you’re not a huge fan, but other than that, it’s definitely a dish I’d made again, even for non-vegan friends.

A note about Warner’s book: We’ve seen quite a few science-focused cookbooks this fall, including “The Food Lab” and the second edition of “Cooking for Geeks.” But what I liked about Warner’s was that it was nerdy, but not quite so encyclopedic as the others. Over the course of his career, he’s deconstructed why certain foods work on a very macro level and make the taste receptors in our brain go crazy.

The law of lemonade, for instance, is sour meets sweet, which explains the appeal of pickle-brined Chick-Fil-A chicken and honey mustard sauce. The law of bagel and lox is smoked meat plus acid and fat. Knowing that helps a vinegar sauce-smothered brisket (or a brisket sandwich with no sauce and pickles) make a whole lot more sense.

This vegan chili follows the guacamole law, which is that fresh sources of fats, such as avocados, coconuts, nuts, olives, kidney beans and legumes, can be just as creamy and satisfying as the animal-based ones.

Better Tomorrow Vegan Chili

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
16 oz. button mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean, and quartered
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups pecans (about 7 oz.), toasted, very finely chopped
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon or garam masala (optional)
2 (15-oz.) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 cups vegetable stock (or vegetable broth, and cut the salt by half)
1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 oz. dried mushrooms, pulverized in a blender (optional)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
Ideas for garnish: Shredded cheese or vegan cheese sauce, sliced scallions, avocado slices, tortilla chips, pickled carrots, sour cream, scrambled eggs

In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring only once, until browned, about 6 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot and stir to incorporate. Simmer until the vegetables and nuts are soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight, and reheat before serving. Keep the chili in the fridge for up to four days. Serves 6 to 10.

— From “The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them” by Justin Warner (Flatiron Books, $35)

 

Love muffin tops? Check out this soft pecan cookie recipe

These date and pecan cookies have a surprisingly tender texture and softness. Photo by Addie Broyles.
These date and pecan cookies have a surprisingly tender texture and softness. Photo by Addie Broyles.

What a nice treat to come back to work from a long weekend and be handed a cookie.

My co-worker, Josefina Villicaña Casati, who runs the Ahora Si newspaper, loves to cook, and over the weekend, she made these date and pecan cookies that she first made last fall. It’s a recipe from the New York Times’ much-debated “United States of Thanksgiving” package in 2014. I’m not a huge fan of dates, but I’m definitely happy to eat a cookie for breakfast.

At first bite, I knew I wasn’t eating any old cookie. This super soft cookie reminded me of a muffin top — not *that* kind of muffin top, silly. I’m not sure if it was the dates, pecans or just-right chewy texture, but they tasted healthier than they probably are, which also made me think of muffins. Seriously, I just came off of a season of eating cookies, and I hadn’t had any cookies like this.

The original recipe called for walnuts, but I always pick pecans over walnuts. You could use raisins instead of dates, but, boy, the dates were tender and flavorful here.

Date and Pecan Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1
tsp. salt
2
tsp. cinnamon
1/2
tsp. ground cloves
1 cup
soft unsalted butter
1 1/2
cups light brown sugar
4
large eggs, lightly beaten
1
Tbsp. baking soda
4 cups
chopped pitted dates
4 cups
chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line one or more baking sheets with parchment. Place flour in a bowl and whisk in the salt, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.

Cream butter and brown sugar together by hand or in an electric mixer. Beat in eggs. The mixture will not be smooth. Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon hot water and stir it in. Stir in the dates and nuts. The batter will be heavy and not easy to mix. Work in the flour mixture, about a third at a time. If your electric mixer has a dough hook, use it for working in the flour.

Scoop heaping teaspoons of batter onto prepared baking sheet or sheets, making craggy mounds about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Space them about 1 1/2 inches apart; the cookies will not spread very much. (Alternatively, for neater cookies, you can roll the batter into balls between your palms, then lightly press them down with the back of a spoon or the tines of a fork.) Allow to sit at room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking. Depending on the size of your oven and your baking sheets, you can form the cookies ready to bake on sheets of parchment paper on your countertop, then transfer them to baking sheets in shifts.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned. Let cool, then dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar. If you plan to freeze some of the cookies, do not dust them with confectioners’ sugar; wait until after they thaw. Makes about 5-6 dozen cookies.

— Adapted from a recipe in “Treasured Recipes Old and New 1975,” a community cookbook by the Schuyler-Brown Homemakers Extension in Iowa Falls