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 #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 #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).

Who Is Vera Kelly? (and adventures in Argentinian cooking)

The book: Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht.

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to broaden what I read, specifically by reading more books by women, people of color, and/or queer authors – and to read books featuring non-white and queer characters. Who is Vera Kelly? is my first read of 2019 that I found by actively searching LGBTQ+ book lists. It is the story of a young CIA agent who is tasked with infiltrating a student activist group in the volatile political climate of Argentina in the 1960’s.

Who is Vera Kelly? is amazing for many reasons. First of all, the plot is thrilling. After a certain point, Vera’s adventures in Argentina became so fascinating that I couldn’t stop reading. In addition to creating a compelling plot, author Rosalie Knecht skillfully weaves chapters about Vera’s backstory throughout the novel. These chapters help paint a more complete and complex image of Vera, and because they’re intertwined throughout the book, they also build suspense to the Argentinian spy plot.

Another strength of Who is Vera Kelly? is Vera herself. She is a complex, well-developed, and admirable character. Despite being young, Vera knows exactly who she is, and she’s confident in herself. She’s cool, competent, and focused – but not without empathy for others. I found Vera incredibly likable, which only fueled my interest in the novel more – I was rooting for her and wanted to see how her story would play out!

I’ll also mention that Vera’s sexual orientation plays a key role in who she is as a person. When Vera was a young teenager, her mother forcefully separated her from her best friend (for whom she had romantic feelings). This experience played a huge role in who Vera became as an adult, and it is a memory that she frequently revisits. Yet as a CIA operative, Vera’s queerness is irrelevant. She is skilled at her position, and her work never suffers for her being gay. This is so important, and this is another reason why I love the way that Knecht portrayed Vera’s character.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book. It’s not a typical spy novel, but it’s thrilling and compelling. And Vera Kelly is a wonderfully complex and interesting character! I hope that Knecht continues to write Vera Kelly adventures, because I am so curious to see what she’ll do next!

The bake: vegetarian empanadas, two ways.

Who is Vera Kelly? is all about Vera’s adventures in Argentina…so I decided that I would venture into the realm of Argentinian cooking! By making these vegetarian empanadas. This recipe seemed perfectly appropriate, because the author of the blog is Canadian – and in the book Vera’s fake spy identity is a Canadian student!

I tried two of the fillings: the sweet potato lentil, and the onion and cheese. I loved the onion and cheese filling – the oregano gives it a lovely flavor – but I found the sweet potato lentil one a bit bland. I would just add extra spices to taste next time…

This is the onion and cheese filled pastry – my favorite of the two I tried.

…but to be honest I’m not sure if there will be a next time! I really wanted to like this recipe…but the dough gave me problems. Like to the point that I couldn’t use it. So I tossed the dough (side note: I hate wasting food and I still feel bad about this), and thawed some frozen puff pastry sheets from my freezer. Is using puff pastry dough to make empanadas the authentic way? Probably not. But the goal of my bake had changed from authenticity to not wasting anymore food. 

The savory pastries – I won’t call them empanadas – were good, but I don’t think I would make them again. That being said, I’m not upset about how the bake turned out. It was a fun adventure, and the hiccup with the dough was just an interesting plot twist.

The final product: puff pastries with tasty savory fillings. Not empanadas, but still very tasty.