The Everyone-Can-Eat-It Brownie

No matter how healthy my eating habits, I have one big weakness: sweets. Put a giant bowl of mac and cheese in front of me and I’ll be able to stop eating after a few bites. Make it a big piece of cake or a pint of ice cream or a slice of warm pie and I make no promises.

I used to take down full-size ice cream sundaes at the age of two. They were from a local ice cream parlor called Betsy Ross, where the sundaes came topped with tiny paper American flags. I saved these, like a serial killer collecting trophies. I am a sweets killer. I show no mercy.

Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for healthy-ish snacks that will satisfy my post-dinner sweets craving. Fresh fruit, dates, chocolate-covered dried cranberries, almonds and dried apples are the usual suspects. But as much as these snacks quiet the sweets monster, none are real desserts, not like a flourless chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream or a salted caramel tart.

But you know what is a real dessert? A brownie. What is special about this particular brownie is what isn’t in it — it’s vegan, gluten-free and raw — and the fact that it tastes rich and decadent, like a real dessert should.

Raw pulverized walnuts and raw cacao powder take the place of the usual flour, butter and melted chocolate, while dates add sweetness and a fudgy texture. I didn’t strictly make mine raw — I toasted the almonds in the oven! call the Raw Police! — but I was surprised by the nutritional difference between raw and regular cacao powder. The latter has significantly more fiber, iron and magnesium. It also costs a lot more, so feel free to use any good-quality cocoa powder; the brownies will still taste good.

I made these particular brownies for a Paleo dinner party for my gym (happy one-year anniversary, CrossFit 323!), so these are also Paleo-friendly. I was told later that certain guests were found hiding outside with the platter at the end of the party, scarfing down the remaining brownies. Doesn’t that sound like a real dessert to you?

Get the recipe: The Raw Brownie at My New Roots

I also wrote a brief review of this recipe on The Kitchn. That’s how good it is — two write-ups in one week!

Slow-Roasted Goat Tacos

I brought too much cash to the farmers market, that was the problem. If I hadn’t been carrying around more than twice what I usually bring, I wouldn’t have felt flush enough to consider buying meat from the vendor who sells pork, lamb, rabbit and goat alongside his excellent carrots and spinach. But it happened: I bought a goat leg. It was expensive.

It was a pretty big goat leg, to be sure. And I was excited about cooking goat for the first time. With with a third fewer calories than beef and half the saturated fat of chicken, goat is healthy, and because the animals live on pasture cows don’t like, it is also a sustainable meat choice. But this leg was definitely a luxury, and as I walked away with it, I thought, This better be the best damn leg I’ve ever eaten.

Goats, rangy little creatures that they are, do well when moist-roasted, which keeps the meat from being tough. An overnight marinade infuses the meat with flavor and further tenderizes it. I will fully admit I had no idea how my goat leg would turn out while I was making it. A Chow.com thread about cooking goat made me realize I didn’t know if I was dealing with a comparatively tender young kid or a gamey old nanny goat. (The label said simply “GOAT LEG.”)

Goblin likes goat legs too.

But after three hours of slow-roasting, I dared taste a shred of meat. It was tender and tasted a little like lamb, but with a deeper, richer flavor and none of the gameyness I expected. I knew I had a winner. And probably a kid, not a nanny.

I served it shredded, alongside soft corn tortillas and all the taco truck fixings, for Rob and a couple friends, all goat newbies. We polished off almost all of it, to cries of “So tender!” “So good!”

I’m happy to report it was the best damn leg I’ve ever eaten.

 

Slow-Roasted Goat Tacos

Yield: 4 generous servings

{ Ingredients }

For the goat:
3-pound goat leg
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground coffee
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 onion, roughly chopped
Black pepper

For the tacos:
12-15 corn tortillas
Salsa
Optional toppings:
Cilantro, chopped
Crumbled queso fresco
Pickled red onions
Lime wedges

{ Directions }

The night before cooking the goat, in a medium bowl whisk the vinegar, coffee, sugar, salt, cinnamon and cumin until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add ½ cup oil, garlic, bay leaves, onion and pepper to taste. Place the goat in a shallow baking dish and pour the marinade over, rubbing to make sure all surfaces are covered. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, turning once.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Remove the goat from the marinade and pat dry. Don't toss out the marinade -- you'll be using it.

Heat a dutch oven on the stove over a high flame until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons oil and brown the goat on both sides. Remove from the pot and set aside. Pour the marinade into the pot and bring to a boil. Put the goat and any accumulated juices back into the pot, cover, and place in the oven. Bake, basting occasionally, for 3 - 3½ hours, or until the meat is tender and pulls easily from the bone.

Let the goat cool in the cooking liquid until cool enough to handle. Remove from the pot and strain the liquid into a measuring cup or jar, discarding the solids. Using two forks and your hands, shred the meat, discarding any fat or gristle. Spoon off as much fat as possible from the cooking liquid and pour the remaining juices over the shredded meat.

Serve immediately or keep covered in the refrigerator. To reheat, warm covered in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes.

To assemble the tacos, heat the tortillas one at a time in a hot skillet until warm and pliable, about 15-30 seconds per side. Cover and keep warm as you heat the remaining tortillas. Serve the goat alongside the tortillas and toppings, and let everyone build their own tacos.

Additional Notes:
• Look for goat meat at farmers markets, specialty butcher shops or ethnic markets specializing in halal, Mexican, Indian or Greek food.

Friday Links: March 9, 2012

A rainbow of carrots. (Follow me on Instagram: anjaliruth.)

 

What I’ve been reading:

Sous-Vide Cooking in Plastic: Is It Safe? – CHOW

Jonathan Gold’s 60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know – LA Weekly

Seattle’s First Urban Food Forest Will Be Open To Foragers – NPR

What’s Really Making Us Fat? - The Atlantic

 

What I’ve been cooking:

Cornmeal Pancakes With Vanilla and Pine Nuts – New York Times

Southwestern Pulled Brisket – Smitten Kitchen

Northern Spy’s Kale Salad – Food52

…and thinking about cooking:

 Almond & Yogurt Waffles with Orange Honey Syrup – Roost

Crisp, Chewy Parmesan-Roasted Carrots – Gilt Taste

Fussy-But-Worth-It Pickled Red Onions

When Rob and I eat at a new restaurant, he can always predict what I’m going to order. It’s always the thing on the menu with pickled vegetables on it. Whether it’s a Vietnamese noodle dish with quick-pickled radish or an old-school hamburger with house-made pickle slices, “Uh-huh,” he says. “That has Prasertong written all over it.”*

I love acid and crunch and sweetness and spiced brine. I’m a pickle addict, what can I say?

So when my sister, who may or may not be a fellow pickle addict, suggested that I turn my unused red onions into pickles, I remembered that I’ve always wanted to try the red onion pickle recipe from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

It’s a rather fussy recipe, requiring three rounds of precisely-timed dunkings in boiling brine, with chilling in between. I don’t usually go for fussy, but I made an exception for good pickles, as well as Judy Rodgers, whose precision has never led me astray. I mean, have you ever had a Zuni Cafe-style roast chicken? The instructions are like three pages long and it takes several days to brine, but the crisp-skinned, juicy, perfectly-season bird is the best I’ve ever had. Totally worth the fuss.

As are these bright-pink pickles. The raw onion bite is softened by the spiced brine, which has a nice balance between acidic and sweet, and because the onions are cooked in such brief spurts, they retain their crunch. And they’re beautiful. How many shocking-fuchsia foods do we get to eat in our lives that aren’t loaded with Red Dye #40? Not enough, friends.

Get the recipe: Pickled Red Onions at Orangette

* Yes, we call each other by our last names. And no, I didn’t change my last name to “Kerkovich” when we got married. And no, we never for a moment considered hyphenating, which would have created a 19-letter monstrosity. Instead, collectively we go by “Kerkotong,” as in Let’s invite the Kerkotongs over for dinner tomorrow. Feel free to use it.

The CSA Project, Part 2: The Reckoning

Where did the week go? And perhaps more importantly, where did all the vegetables from my CSA box go? Time for the truth: what I ate and how I ate it (or didn’t eat it) over the past week and a half.

The large bunch of celery became a surprisingly satisfying celery, apple and walnut soup that I’ll definitely be writing up as a recipe soon. The best part was it used up all the celery leaves, which were plentiful.

I simmered the small bunch of turnips in a Japanese-ish sauce made with water, soy sauce, mirin and a little sake, which cooked down to a glaze by the time the turnips were done. I ate them on a salad, which put a small dent in the head of red lettuce.

I roasted the broccoli with shiitake mushrooms. Tossed with oil and salt and roasted in a 425° oven for 20-30 minutes until browned and crispy, this was dinner, along with brown rice and a Thai omelet. I ate the leftover broccoli and mushrooms as a snack the next day instead of the salt and pepper potato chips I was craving. With my fingers, to make it a little less virtuous.

By the way, ROASTED BROCCOLI LEAVES. Crunchy and toasty and almost as good as salt and pepper potato chips when they’re right out of the oven. Seriously.

I chopped up the red mustard leaves and added them to some leftover chicken and rice soup. I love adding greens to soup — even bagged arugula or frozen spinach work — although red mustard is definitely a cooking-for-myself-who-cares addition, because it turns the soup a deep purple. Mustard is one of those greens that can be unbearably bitter unless boiled, and eating it in a soup ensures you get all the nutrients that would normally be dumped out with the blanching water.

Half the cabbage was cut into 1-inch chunks and roasted like the broccoli, until it was soft and crispy and sweet. Can you tell I like roasting any vegetable I can get my hands onto? The other half of the cabbage awaits its fate in the fridge. Probably a future salad, with or without smoked fish.

The arugula was, as far as I know, tucked into prosciutto sandwiches and eaten by Rob.

A small portion of the cilantro was chopped up and used to marinate fresh sardines. After the sardines were grilled, more cilantro and some of the romaine leaves were rolled into rice paper wrappers with the sardine fillets. As a dinner, it was just okay. I’m still figuring out fresh sardines.

The 4 oranges were peeled and eaten, happily.

Where I really dropped the ball was on the lettuce. I just don’t make many salads at home, especially at this time of year, when I like turning on the oven because that is the only way my frigid kitchen will warm up a little.

I’m also not a fan of raw onion, so I haven’t used either of the red onions yet, but they’ll keep long enough for me to caramelize them or otherwise transform them into something I want to eat.

I never expect to use up all the cilantro when I get a bunch because Rob is one of those weirdos who thinks it tastes like soap. Yes, I’ve heard it might be genetic and yes, I’ve heard Julia Child hated cilantro too. He’s still a weirdo.

What would you do with a mountain of lettuce? And are there any vegetables that you never know what to do with?