Anger Burger

Eating a Tiny Quantity of Vegetarian Crow

Posted by Sunday on Sep 2, 2011 at 11:53 am

I have a great conflict inside of me.  Not the one where I wonder if I should shower today.  It’s the one where I enjoy eating healthy, whole foods but I am too infuriated by the contemporary vista of the smug hipster foodie to discuss it much.

I’m a little exhausted by it all, to be honest.  At first it was thrilling – decent coffee in almost every town!  Regular grocery stores carry artisan breads!  Different salt for different uses!  But then it started to weigh everything down; recipes became complex for complexity’s sake.  Homemade goldfish crackers, really?!  People don’t blink twice at $40 and 48 hours of active prep time just to make two servings of David Chang’s Momofuku ramen at home.  There’s an iPhone app for ordering 50 pounds of tomatoes from your local farm so you can put up your own tomato sauce.  I may have made that last part up, but there’s also a good chance it’s a real thing.

Being local didn’t stop a third of these potatoes from being rotten inside.

Anyway, I get it:  food should come from somewhere reasonably nearby.  It should be free of poisons.  If grandma didn’t recognize it, don’t eat it¹ — believe me, I’ve sipped of the HFCS-free, naturally-colored açaí berry Kool-Aid and it is good.  But I’m just not going to pay $10 a pound for heirloom beans and as much as I would dearly love to “source” some hand-rendered organic leaf lard for my pie crusts, I can’t, so I guess some fucking Crisco will have to do.

I admit that my irritation extends to people that don’t deserve it.  Or mostly don’t.  Heidi Swanson of the website 101 Cookbooks is one of those people, and I felt vindication when I checked her book Super Natural Cooking out from the library.  In the comments section of this page I tried to summarize my dislike of the cookbook, which largely boiled down to that the recipes were vaguely repetitive and required the acquisition of unusual grains and legumes that I’d never again use.  Anger Burger reader Jodi of Feral Cook advised that I try the sequel book, Super Natural Every Day, and that I’ve done.  And?  Jodi’s right, it’s a good book.

I’m going to stop griping and tell you about this recipe.

Heidi calls it “Broccoli Gribiche” but I think the gribiche part might throw some folks.  Also, by the time I was through with it it wasn’t really gribiche any more, so you can see where this particular devolution is going.

Normally sauce gribiche is a French sauce for meat made with cornichons, vinegar, capers, boiled egg and herbs.  It is delicious, but Mike the Viking thinks that capers are poison, so I can’t use them.  It had also never occurred to me to serve gribiche with vegetables, and this is where Swanson gets her bitch-slap on.  This shit is dope on vegetables.

It’s milder than you might think it would be, and richer at the same time.  The egg yolks in the sauce are soothing and creamy, the herbs are intentionally mild, and if you’re so inclined, the capers and cornichons are merely starry points of brightness in an otherwise perfectly autumnal dish.

Any vegetables at all would work, and certainly the aforementioned more common meat.  I can absolutely imagine this as a heavily-dressed mix of vegetables spooned over roasted chicken.  Lord, I can imagine it.

I tried it with chopped oil-cured olives on top, and it was good, but not as good as cornichons — which are, if I’m not too late to tell you, very sour and otherwise largely unseasoned little pickles.  I can and do eat them by the jars full.

Vegetable Gribiche
deeply inspired by Heidi Swanson
i tried making this sauce as Heidi advises with a single yolk and a hand whisk, but found that more yolks and a food processor made the version that i preferred.  you can of course make it with a whisk, but it will never fully emulsify.  it tastes good, but that thick, perfectly silky perfection will never happen.

2 1/2 – 3  pounds roast vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces
4 eggs, hard cooked
1/2 C. mild olive oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar (red wine is traditional, apple cider and balsamic are tasty too)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 shallots, chopped fine
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
2 or 3 cornichons, chopped fine (optional)
1 Tbsp capers (optional)
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon (optional – see note below)

*A note on tarragon: tarragon is a supposedly mild herb that to me tastes of licorice and quite neatly overpowers almost everything else.  I like the flavor, but I feel that tarragon should be used with serious moderation, particularly for American palates that aren’t as keen on the taste of licorice or anise.  Taste if first before you buy a fresh $2 bundle of it that you almost certainly will not use, then consider buying dried tarragon. This is the only time I’ll advise buying a dried herb, but there it is: at least it won’t rot before you someday use it again.

  • Have hard boiled eggs ready before you start anything else – they don’t have to be cooled, just cooked.
  • Roast the vegetables by coating them in a light drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and putting them in a 425° oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are browned in places and cooked through.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, peel the hard boiled eggs, cut them in half and remove the egg yolks to the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Set the whites aside for now.  To the yolks add the oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and salt.  Blend until very smooth, about 30 – 60 seconds.  Add the chopped shallot, parsley, cornichons, capers and tarragon if using.  Pulse to blend briefly, maybe 5 seconds worth, just to incorporate the chopped bits.  Taste for seasonings.
  • Finely julianne the egg whites and put them in a bowl large enough to hold the roasted vegetables.  Add the yolk sauce from the blender.  This is now sauce gribiche.
  • When the vegetables are done roasting and screaming hot, add them to the gribiche and stir quickly to coat.  Serve hot or warm either with some crusty bread or as a side dish.
  • Leftovers are totally excellent cold the next day, dur.

¹ For the record, though, my grandma used Sweet’N Low, ate Spam, loved Cool Whip and would walk a mile for a Twinkie. I realize that Pollan actually advises to not eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, which means we’re getting back further than I am familiar, though I suspect she would have eaten just as poorly or worse than myself if faced with a box of donuts and a tall, glistening glass of Sunny Delight.

September 2nd, 2011 | Make It So

16 Responses to Eating a Tiny Quantity of Vegetarian Crow

  1. Jen M. says:

    “But I’m just not going to pay $10 a pound for heirloom beans and as much as I would dearly love to “source” some hand-rendered organic leaf lard for my pie crusts, I can’t, so I guess some fucking Crisco will have to do.”

    I wanted so desperately to “like” this line. Clearly facebook has rotted my brain. Still, love that line. So true.

    • Sunday says:

      Oh, it hasn’t rotted your brain. Maybe just a little bit. But I appreciate the gesture nonetheless.

      Also, I love that we say “source” now instead of “find”.

  2. Chef Shelley says:

    We are tarragon soul mates, you & I :)

    • Sunday says:

      The crazy thing is that there’s a tarragon tea from Simpson & Vail called Citrus Dragon that I really like. It’s part of why I started realizing that I didn’t hate tarragon, I just didn’t like as much of it in my food as recipes sometimes suggested.

  3. Pingback: Five Things Friday « min/min

  4. meg says:

    I bought Heidi Swanson’s latest book first and loved it, so I bought her first one. I appreciate the approach–that you can use grains other than white or brown rice and sweeteners other than sugar or brown sugar–but she clearly misses the point. She seems to think everyone interested in healthy/vegetarian/inventive food must be fairly well-to-do AND live in San Francisco where all the ingredients she uses are a mile’s walk away from her front door. I’m glad she wised up to that.

  5. Daisy says:

    I love your blog. A great mix of wit, verve, and sass! I, too, love tarragon so it’s nice to find this recipe. I actually just planted some in my garden and so far it’s happy.

  6. Phil says:

    I used to peruse Heidi’s blog pretty regularly a while back, and I have to say that she was rather generous with substitution suggestions. I haven’t looked at either of her books, so I won’t assume she does the same there, but I wish people would stop losing their minds about not having the exact ingredients listed for a recipe. There are usually 2 or 3 essential components (and even that may be a high estimate) that are required to achieve a certain flavor, but grains and vegetables are infinitely interchangeable, so people should shut the fuck up if they can’t source farro, and just go with brown rice. Chances are those folks didn’t deign to step outside of Safeway to try and find it anyway. . .

    And just because–I respect hyperbole, but having made Chang’s ramen from scratch, it’s more like 8 bowls for 40 bucks.

    • Sunday says:

      And here’s the thing: a recipe for fried rice made with millet does actually make it neccessary to find millet. Otherwise it’s just fried rice. And this is my gripe: these are recipes that yes, can easily be substituted with another grain (which she offhandedly suggests, but never includes within the actual recipes), but with other grains they are often not worthwhile.

      And sadly I won’t shut the fuck up about not being able to FIND farro, because I can’t. I found unhulled farro at a local co-op, but then when I tried to cook it it took 3 hours (no hyperbole) and was still so chewy that it didn’t make the breakfast porrige I was trying to make from a recipe as much as a sort of dry farro salad. Which was not what I wanted at all. So apparently I got the wrong kind of hard-to-find grain. These sorts of frustrations are what are driving me away from “modern” healthy cooking.

      Having not made the Chang ramen myself, you’re right in correcting me, though from what I remember the recipe claimed to make only like 2 servings or something – I just remember laughing at the absurdity of it.

  7. Phil says:

    Sorry, I don’t think I meant to come across so dickish and disrespect the ‘Burger before. I just think that we have differing pet peeves about the same thing. I just do not blame certain foods for being unavailable in certain areas. It’s not the farro’s fault! If more people would pipe up and demand whole grains be available in there grocery store, then more stores would carry them. The problem is that no one is really interested in them, be they too exotic, or too difficult to use (as seems to be your beef with the unhulled farro) or simply that they unpalatable. Not that I don’t believe you–I do–but I find it hard to believe that you can’t find anything your heart desires in LA.

    I’ve come to equate grocery shopping in a way with buying records back when people actually did that–that sense of the hunt for a certain album that you know must be out there somewhere if you can just manage to look in the right place, or perhaps get lucky. In this regard, I’ve come to really enjoy shopping, and I’ve discovered a ton of neat little grocers and co-ops and things like that, and I used to go to them almost exclusively for my shopping before I started getting a ton of free shit from New Seasons. I don’t know, I’m starting to ramble here, but I guess I just patently disagree with your take on the pathways of healthy cooking and the “contemporary vista of the smug hipster foodie.” Maybe there’s a California component to your gripe that I’m missing up here, because I truly haven’t experienced any of that, with, of course, the exception of Whole Foods.

    • Sunday says:

      It’s cool, I didn’t think you were being a dick. Food passion can be fierce.

      Overall I am in total agreement with you. No one had heard of farro two years ago, and all of a sudden it’s showing up at Safeway, and entirely because people are looking for it. And my statement about finding the wrong farro – and to a greater extent, to something like leaf lard – was meant to focus on the everyday availability and the quieter judgement associated with not using it. I don’t have a car and am on an extremely fixed budget – it’s possible to find the pearled farro and the leaf lard, but it isn’t convenient or economically feasible. And this is where a great deal of my eye-rolling comes into play regarding Swanson and other online food personalities I’ll continue to derogatorily call “hipster foodies” for lack of a better description: it isn’t just about the fun experimenting of new ingredients, it’s also about the lifestyle of requiring those ingredients.

      In fact, here’s an even more to-the-point anecdotal pet peeve of mine: I currently live in a house that for the first time in my adult life has a pantry. A pantry! I can actually store back-up jarred and canned goods! This has literally never been possible for me before. And yet, it’s still so small that I turn down appliances and other items (recently I decided against a traditional enameled canning-pot, for example) because there still isn’t enough room to store them. So when I say this, I say this earnestly: if I bought even half of the flours and grains and sugars that whole-food cooking requires, I’d need an even bigger kitchen. Which is insane to me, because this is the biggest kitchen I’ve ever lived in. In many ways I’m profoundly jealous: I want drawers just for dumping flour into. I want a spice rack that will actually hold on my spices and not just the ones I use most often while the others are in a storage bin in the laundry closet. I want an icecream maker. I want to be able to make and store enough jam to get me through the year. And I read these blogs where people are talking about using 4 or 5 different kinds of flours in a single recipe, and what always crosses my mind first is “Where the hell are they storing all this stuff?” Or even buying a whole cow or something – do you have an outside freezer? If the power goes out, do you also have a generator?

      Look, clearly I’m pro-food. I want other people to make food and eat healthy and all of that. But there’s a lot of culture involved that is really, really smug and annoying, and I’m not the first person to complain about it, nor the most vocal, and I do feel a little like you’re being deliberately obtuse about that aspect.

  8. Phil says:

    ps I checked it out, and the recipes for Momofuku Ramen in the book are meant to yield 10 servings. . .

  9. LauraHelen says:

    I loved your footnote… the first image that came to mind about not eating what your grandma wouldn’t recognize: my grandma putting cool-whip on a jello shot (or three) and eating it with a spoon. =) I would happily eat the way my grandma did!!

    • Sunday says:

      Yeah, my grandma poured the leftover liquid bacon fat from the frying pan over a plate lined with slices of Wonderbread, which my grandpa then folded up and ate along with the rest of his breakfast. And I should add that he did not die of heart failure.

  10. Lindsay says:

    On your footnote: It’s true that our grandmother’s may have collectively mainlined their share of Twinkies, but the Twinkie of yesteryear was actually healthier than Twinkies now. HFCS wasn’t used widely until the late 1980’s.

    We’ve managed to make junk food more junky, and largely more sucky. It’s why coke from Mexico is pure magic. I bet our grandmother’s Twinkies tasted like fairies.

    …that sounded dirty.

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