Year of Yeh #9: Cauliflower Shawarma Tacos

Whenever I’m figuring out what to cook for the week, one of my biggest considerations is what leftovers I already have in the fridge. At the beginning of this week I had a lot of leftover beans, so I decided to make something that would work with a side of beans. And so I made Molly Yeh’s cauliflower shawarma tacos, which are tacos that feature seasoned cauliflower instead of meat.

The recipe: Cauliflower shawarma tacos
Difficulty level: Easy
Time: ~1 hour

The process of making this recipe is straightforward: toss cauliflower with curry powder, cumin, and garam masala; bake the cauliflower for 30-40 minutes; then put the seasoned cauliflower (and any other toppings) into a tortilla and enjoy! Since the cauliflower bakes for a while, you can work on the other components of the recipe – like the fried onions and tahini sauce – during the roasting period.

Before making this recipe, I had been kind of skeptical about it; I wasn’t sure if mediterranean tacos would work. But they did work, and this recipe is one of my absolute favorites! The cauliflower gets really crispy in the oven, and the seasoning is…*does chef’s kiss.* Because the baked, seasoned cauliflower is so delicious on its own, it would also make a great side dish, salad component, or sandwich filling.

Technical notes:

  • This recipe calls for a lot of cauliflower! To bake it all at once, you will likely need two sheet pans.
  • If you own a lot of seasonings and spices, but NOT garam masala…you can make your own garam masala blend out of coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg.
  • This recipe tastes best when the cauliflower is fresh out of the oven (it doesn’t get as crispy after being refrigerated and reheated).
  • You can take the Mexican/Mediterranean fusion even further than Yeh did by adding toppings like guacamole, pickled jalapeƱos, and/or shredded cheese to the tacos.

Year of Yeh #8: Cardamom Cupcakes

Happy belated Valentine’s Day! Last week, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day and romance and my Year of Yeh project, I baked Molly Yeh’s cardamom cupcakes with jam filling and cream cheese frosting.

The recipe: Cardamom cupcakes
Difficulty level: Easy
Time: ~90 minutes (including inactive time)

Making these cardamom cupcakes was so much fun! In fact, this recipe reminded me how much I love baking. The cardamom cake batter is straightforward and quick to make. Once the cupcakes are baked and cooled, you punch/scoop out a small hole from the top (I used a small cookie cutter, but an apple-corer or spoon would work too), fill the hole with jam, cover the hole, and frost the cupcakes. Adding jam filling to the cupcakes surprisingly doesn’t require too much additional prep time.

One modification I made to these cupcakes was using mixed berry instead of lingonberry jam. I was able to find lingonberry jam at the supermarket, but I thought it was pretty bitter. Since these cupcakes were for other people, and strong/bitter flavors can be controversial, I decided to go with the more crowd-pleasing mixed-berry jam.

These cupcakes were delicious! Cardamom elevates the flavor of the cake so much, and tastes really nice with the cream cheese frosting. Adding the jam filling to the cupcakes made them a bit more challenging to make than regular cupcakes, but not that much harder! And the extra prep time is absolutely worth it for the tart, fruity flavor that the jam contributes. I would like to try this recipe again sometime using the lingonberry jam, because I suspect the contrast between the bitter lingonberry and the sweet cream cheese frosting is excellent.

Technical notes:

The finished, decorated cupcakes!
  • If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use regular milk spiked with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or use half a cup of plain greek yogurt and half a cup of regular milk.
  • Wait for the cupcakes to cool completely before starting on the jam filling! Hot cupcakes will be crumbly and difficult to disassemble, and the heat might melt the jam too.
  • Don’t discard the cupcake pieces that you scoop out! Save them, and when you are done filling the cupcake-holes with jam, re-seal the cupcakes with the pieces you punched out. This will make the cupcakes easier to frost.
  • If you can’t find lingonberry jam (or are skeptical about the flavor), any tart fruit jam (or even a curd) will work well with this recipe.
  • Take the cupcakes out of the cupcake pan before you frost them. It is quite challenging to remove frosted cupcakes from the cupcake pan; I learned the hard way!

Year of Yeh #7: (variations on) Pizza

Bold or surprising flavor combinations are a hallmark of Molly Yeh’s recipes. The key to many of Yeh’s recipes is trusting her flavor combinations – even when they seem odd – and then being blown away (by how good tahini is in a milkshake, or how adding what seemed like way too much ginger actually resulted in the perfect carrot salad).

But when it came to Yeh’s pizza recipes…I just wasn’t feeling her flavors. The pizza recipes in Molly on the Range are: Hawaiian-inspired pizza pockets, squah-and-arugula pizza, walnut-and-zucchini pizza, and butter-and-salami pizza. Maybe this isn’t very open-minded of me, but I am somewhat of a pizza traditionalist: I don’t really like toppings like butternut squash or walnuts on pizza. So my husband and I made three pizzas of our own, following Yeh’s recipe for pizza dough, but then using our own inspiration for the sauces and toppings. We ended up making three pizzas: (vegan) sausage, cilantro-garlic-corn, and pesto with sun-dried tomatoes.

The recipe: (variations on) pizza
Difficulty level: Moderate
Time: 1 hour (longer if you make pizza dough from scratch, but a lot of that time will be inactive)

Vegan-sausage pizza with spicy tomato sauce.

Making pizza from scratch (the recipes as they are written in the cookbook have you make your own pizza dough) was a learning process! The components and process of making pizza dough are similar to (maybe even exactly the same as) those of bread dough. But pizza dough is a bit tougher because you have to stretch and shape the dough. It took a lot longer than I expected to work the dough into a reasonably thin pizza crust. It’s also tough to transfer your uncooked pizza to a pizza-stone in the oven. My husband and I accidentally deformed a pizza doing this.

Luckily, pizza is robust to mistakes! You can deform your pizza, burn or dry out some of the toppings, and/or leave the dough too thick…but the pizza will most likely still taste good. The cilantro-garlic-corn pizza got deformed, and the corn dried out a bit in the oven…but it was still pizza with creamy cilantro-garlic sauce: it was delicious. The sun-dried tomato pizza wasn’t stretched thin enough, so it was pretty bread-y…but again…it’s pesto pizza: it was still very good. The (vegan) sausage pizza had the fewest technical mistakes, and was also very tasty – and as a bonus, our non-vegetarian friends really liked the vegan sausage too.

Maybe someday I will be more daring and non-traditional, and try Molly Yeh’s actual pizza recipes with toppings like butternut squash, zucchini, and walnuts. But regardless of what pizza toppings you like, I am a huge proponent of making your own pizza! (And side note: I think that getting store-bought/pre-made pizza dough is just as valid as making your dough from scratch)

Technical notes:

  • It’s hard to get pizza dough thin and perfectly round. The key to stretching the dough to an ideal thinness is patience; it just takes a while. As for the key to getting your dough perfectly round…I still don’t know.
  • It’s also challenging to transfer pizza from your work surface to a heated pizza stone in the oven (this was how my husband and I accidentally deformed our first pizza). The best solution that we came up with was putting our pizza on a sheet pan, and then putting the sheet pan on top of the pizza stone. If you know of a better way to get pizza onto a pizza stone, please let me know!
  • Pesto is delicious, but more challenging to work with than marinara or white sauce because it is so oily! Our pesto pizza leaked some oil in the oven.
  • Some toppings shouldn’t be put on until after your pizza has been baked and removed from the oven. Sun-dried tomatoes burn quickly at 500 degrees F, and corn dries out.
  • Pizza freezes really well! If you are making pizza and end up with extra pizza dough…just make an extra pizza and freeze it!

Year of Yeh #6: Spinach & Feta Rugelach

Last Sunday was the NFL’s Super Bowl (in which my hometown’s team squandered their lead in the last few minutes of the game, but it’s just a sport so whatever). My husband and I had a couple friends over – not so much to watch the game, but rather to watch the kitten bowl, play games, and eat snacks. Snacks that included Molly Yeh’s spinach & feta rugelach (i.e. spinach-feta filling wrapped in pie dough).

The recipe: Spinach and feta rugelach
Difficulty level: Moderate
Time: ~1 hour (longer if you make a pie dough from scratch)

Spinach-feta rugelach are essentially a spinach-feta filling rolled in pie dough. In her recipe, Yeh says that you can either use store-bought pie dough, or make your own dough from scratch using a recipe of your choice. I made dough from scratch using this recipe for buttery pie crust. Making your own pie crust in advance makes this recipe more time-consuming, especially since some pie crusts require a chilling period in the fridge.

So, once you make your pie dough (or thaw your frozen pie dough), you prepare a spinach-feta filling on the stove. You then roll out your pie-dough into a 1/4″-thick circle, spread a thin layer of spinach-feta filling over it, cut the circle into 8 slices, and roll up each slice. I found it difficult to roll out the pie dough into a perfect circle (how do bakers make this look so easy?), but luckily the rugelach can still turn out nicely even if the dough wasn’t rolled perfectly. Once you have your rugelach rolled, you brush them with an egg wash and bake them.

Once they are baked, the rugelach are absolutely delicious: the pie dough is buttery and flaky, while the filling is cheesy and deliciously seasoned. I do have mixed feelings about using such a buttery pie recipe, though. While the buttery taste and flaky texture are lovely, I found the buttery flavor a bit too overpowering. I think that a plainer dough would have allowed the flavor of the filling to come through a bit more. If I were to make this again (and I don’t know if I will, because it was a lot of work), I would probably use a less buttery pie dough.

Leftover rugelach! Yes, it is delicious as leftovers.

Technical notes:

  • If you follow the recipe exactly, you will end up with more filling than you can put in your rugelach. Don’t try to overfill the rugelach! The filling is delicious on its own, so you can save the leftovers for something else (perhaps an omelette).
  • It is so hard to roll out perfectly round pie dough. But because you end up cutting and rolling the pie dough anyway, it doesn’t really need to be perfect.
  • When you roll your rugelach, some spinach-feta filling will be exposed. This is fine! It won’t leak out.

Year of Yeh #5: Goulash with Scallion Knodeln

Sometimes you just need a soothing soup. With colds and flus going around, below freezing temperatures, and few hours of sunlight – now is the perfect time for a warm, comforting bowl of soup. At least, it is for me. That’s why I made Molly Yeh’s “Goulash with Scallion Knodeln” earlier this week! The dish is a hearty tomato-based soup, topped with flavorful bread dumplings.

Recipe: Goulash with Scallion Knodeln
Difficulty level: Easy/moderate
Time: 1.5+ hours (it varies depending on your preparation method)

Nothing about this recipe is difficult…except having the patience/stamina to make it. It is time consuming! I prepared my goulash entirely on the stovetop (as opposed to using a slow-cooker or transferring it to the oven, as suggested in the recipe), and it still took me well over an hour to make everything. The reason why I didn’t use a slow-cooker or the oven is because I made a vegetarian version of this recipe, and the purpose of slow-cooking or oven-braising the goulash would be to tenderize the meat.

And on the topic of modifications, I made quite a few. Here are all of them:

  • I didn’t slow-cook or oven-braise my goulash. I made the whole thing on the stove.
  • I used vegan meatballs (frozen, not homemade) instead of beef.
  • I didn’t have Worcestershire sauce, so I added a mixture of soy sauce, hot sauce, maple syrup, and lemon juice instead.
  • I used fennel seeds instead of caraway seeds.
  • I used breadcrumbs (instead of stale bread pieces) and one extra egg in the knodeln dumplings.
The cooked knodeln/dumplings.

So, this recipe is a bit of work. You need to chop your vegetables, make a soup, make the knodeln dough, then boil the knodeln. But here’s the thing: all of that work is so worth it for this soup! The soup is hearty and comforting and so, so flavorful. And the recipe makes at least six servings of goulash, so you will get a lot of food out of it. I definitely recommend this for a comforting winter meal!

Technical notes:

  • If you want to make a vegetarian version of this recipe, you don’t need to slow-cook or bake your goulash. You can do the whole thing on stovetop.
  • If you want to make a vegetarian version of this recipe, you don’t need to substitute the meat with anything. I subbed vegan meatballs in mine, but the goulash would have been just as delicious without them.
  • Two tablespoons of paprika seems like too much…but it’s not!
  • The cookbook version of this recipe calls for 1/2 cup of red wine in the goulash, but the online version doesn’t include this. I did use wine, and would recommend it. It deepens the flavor nicely.
  • The goulash is a bit thin at first (maybe because I made it on the stovetop), but it will thicken nicely in the fridge (if you have leftovers).

Year of Yeh #4: Tahini Blondies

After making three savory recipes from Molly on the Range, I decided it was time to indulge in something sweet! I attempted to make the tahini blondie bars that are featured in the “Tahini Blondie Ice Cream Sandwiches” recipe. I only made the blondies (didn’t assemble them into ice cream sandwiches), though, because it has been really cold where I live (like 15-25 degrees F)! Definitely not ice cream weather!

The recipe: Tahini blondies (as featured in Tahini Blondie Ice Cream Sandwiches)
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 35-45 minutes

This recipe is straightforward. All you have to do is mix your dry ingredients together, mix your wet ingredients together (in a separate bowl), and then add the wet mixture to the dry. But even in a straightforward recipe, there is still room for error! My error was this: I assumed that the full amount of tahini (as listed in the ingredients section) went into the batter – when, actually, some of it is supposed to be reserved for ice cream sandwich assembly (which I didn’t even do).

The tahini bars I made ended up with a crumbly texture…but still tasted delicious!

The result was that I had nearly double the necessary amount of tahini in my batter, making it more like cookie-dough than brownie-batter. The final bake was kind of crumbly, with a consistency somewhere in between cookie and brownie. It was still very good (how can something consisting of tahini, sugar, and butter be bad?), but I wouldn’t say that I actually made Molly Yeh’s tahini blondies.

I want to try this recipe again, especially since I now know what can go wrong (yay, learning from mistakes!). And while I still probably won’t make the full ice cream sandwich recipe anytime soon…I can see how these treats would be absolutely delicious with vanilla ice cream!

Technical notes:

  • The quantity of tahini listed in the ingredients section is meant to be divided: some of it is for the blondie batter, and some of it is for the ice cream.

Year of Yeh #3: Scallion Pancakes (and carrot slaw)

This week I continued my “Year of Yeh” project with a versatile recipe that works as a breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer, side, or snack: scallion pancakes! The Molly on the Range cookbook lumps the scallion pancakes with a maple syrup carrot slaw, so I did the same.

The recipe: Scallion Pancakes with Maple Syrup Slaw
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1.5 hrs

This recipe was time-consuming, but lots of fun. The carrot slaw that accompanies the pancakes is straightforward: just shred carrots and combine them with the other slaw ingredients (vinegar, maple syrup, and ginger). The pancakes are a bit more challenging.

Fresh scallion pancakes.

First, I found it tough to get the pancake dough to the right consistency. To get the dough to a smooth and “slightly sticky” consistency, I had to add at least an extra half cup of flour to the dough. It also took me a LONG time to understand the shaping instructions (the recipe said to roll the dough like a “jelly roll” and I didn’t know what that meant) – but that is on me, not the recipe.

This recipe was the most challenging one I have tried so far, and also the most delicious! The scallion pancakes are perfect when they are hot off the pan! And the tanginess of the carrot slaw nicely complements the scallion-and-sesame-filled pancakes. I will probably remake this recipe again at some point.

Technical notes:

  • The carrot slaw recipe calls for minced fresh ginger. This was the first time that I used fresh ginger (as opposed to powdered) and it makes a world of difference!
  • The pancake dough recipe as it is listed in the recipe just doesn’t seem right – I ended up requiring at least an extra half cup of flour to get it to a “smooth and slightly sticky” consistency.
  • The pancake dough will seem too salty if you taste it before frying your pancakes. But once the pancakes are fried, they are perfect. Somehow the too-salty taste goes away once they’re in their final form.
  • It is okay if some oil/scallion filling spills out of your pancake. You can sprinkle a bit of flour over it.
  • These pancakes are best when they are fresh off the pan. If you are going to re-heat them, do so over the stove (they don’t microwave well).

Year of Yeh #2: Basic Challah

This weekend, I tackled another recipe from Molly on the Range…with help from my husband, who is an excellent bread baker! There were several bread recipes (especially challah recipes) in Molly on the Range to choose from, but we decided to start with basic challah.

The recipe: Basic Challah
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 3+ hours (but much of that time is hands-off)

This challah was the perfect lazy weekend bake. It was slightly time-consuming to make, but much of the prep time was hands-off, leading to lots of down time while the dough rose. This challah was also a lot of fun to bake with a partner. My husband and I split the dough into two balls, and each braided a challah simultaneously.

On the subject of braiding the challah: that was the most challenging part of this recipe. My husband made a 5-stranded braid, and I made a 4-stranded one, but we both found that our braids were a bit loose on one end (the end where we started the braid) and tighter on the other end. Luckily, the second rise (and the third rise, or the bake) allows the dough to expand and correct any looseness.

Husband’s 5-stranded challah on the left; my 4-stranded challah on the right.

All in all, this recipe took us over 3 hours…and it was so worth it! This challah recipe is honestly perfect. The bread is soft and airy, with a smooth golden crust. Because the challah uses an enriched dough, the bread is rich and just slightly sweet, making it one of the few breads that is enjoyable on its own. But it is also excellent with butter, jam, fresh fruit, or probably anything else you want to put on it.

Sliced challah with butter and passionfruit.

Technical notes:

  • You will need a VERY LARGE bowl if you follow the recipe as it listed in the Molly on the Range cookbook (it calls for 6.5 cups of flour, as opposed to 3.5 in the scaled-down version on KAF)
  • If you have a kitchen scale, weight out your dough so that your braid strands are roughly the same size. This will make the braiding easier.
  • DON’T flour your work surface before you roll out the strands! It’s easier to elongate your dough strands if they are not coated in flour (I learned the hard way).

Year of Yeh #1: Spaghetti & Meatless Balls

This is my first “Year of Yeh” post, wherein I document the process of making recipes from Molly Yeh’s cookbook Molly on the Range. A couple nights ago, I kicked off the project by making her “Spaghetti & My Ex-Boyfriend’s Meatless Balls” recipe. The recipe utilizes spaghetti and marinara sauce as a vehicle for vegetarian meatballs.

Recipe: Spaghetti & My Ex-Boyfriend’s Meatless Balls
Difficulty level: easy if you have a food processor
Total time: ~30-45 minutes (longer if you make sauce from scratch)

The cooked meatless balls.

I had a great time making this recipe! The meatless balls are pretty straightforward as long as you have a food processor. All you have to do is: measure out your ingredients, pulse them all together in a food processor, roll the mixture into balls, and then fry them. The frying was the most challenging part of the process. For one thing, hot flying oil particles are scary! But it was also challenging to get each meatball perfectly browned on every side. Many of the meatballs I cooked had a semi-burnt spot.

The meatless balls are the star of this recipe – author Molly Yeh says so herself in the book. But she recommends serving them with spaghetti and marinara sauce, as this is one of her favorite ways to enjoy the meatless balls. I mostly followed her recommendation: I served the meatless balls over spaghetti with tomato-garlic-pesto sauce (I wanted to use up leftover basil in the fridge).

So how did the meatless balls taste? Really good! The predominant flavors were parmesan cheese and toasted almond, with pleasant seasoning from the garlic, pepper, and parsley. Smothered in sauce, these meatless balls might pass as turkey balls. On their own, they don’t really taste like meat…but they don’t need to. With their savory, slightly nutty flavor, these meatless balls absolutely hold their own.

Meatless balls served over spaghetti; topped with tomato-garlic-pesto, parmesan cheese, and basil.

Technical notes:

  • The recipe calls for toasted almonds. If you can’t buy toasted almonds, it is absolutely worth your time to toast your own almonds (just bake in the oven for 3-4 minutes at 350 F). Toasting the almonds changes/improves their flavor so much!
  • If you don’t have dried parsley, dried basil or oregano will work well too.
  • I didn’t think the meatballs needed to be fried in 1/4″ oil – just enough oil to perfectly coat the pan worked pretty well for me.
  • Marinara sauce seems like the perfect sauce for these meatless balls (I served with tomato-garlic-pesto, which was good, but marinara sauce would be better).