I learned how to make sauerkraut patties (essentially vegetarian burgers) from the lovely people down at Camp Mainusch. Soon I will use them to take over the world. Once properly aged (hardened) they also make good frisbees/hand grenades. This is also one of the most flexible recipes of all time, and every single one of the ingredients involved is incredibly cheap (plus the flexibility means you can use it to make use of whatever you have around). Once you get the basic idea there is no end to the patty flavors you will be able to make, and sauerkraut is one of the healthiest foods there is. These are instructions for my standard sauerkraut patty.
>sauerkraut (one or two bags, yes you can purchase sauerkraut in bags, but probably not if you are in America, here in Germany a bag is about 40 cents)
>oats (the amount will depend on how much moisture you’ve got in your patty dough)
>a few pinches of the flour of your choice (optional, but can help with the consistency, I usually leave it out)
>salt/pepper/garlic/spices of choice
>onions (optional, despite their high super-hero factor)
>grated zucchini/carrots/other grate-able veggie (also optional)
>beans or whatever else you have around (lentils, sunflower seeds, quinoa, or crushed nuts all work well)
>your frying oil of choice
Fry the onions and the beans (if using) until the onions are browned and the beans softened. In a large bowl, combine the sauerkraut, grated veggies, onions, beans, and spices (salt, pepper, garlic, and curry paste, if you’re me most of the time) with a few handfuls of oats. Keep adding oats and pinches of flour until the mixture reaches a consistency just sticky enough to form patties that do not fall apart in your hand. Heat up a generous amount of oil in a frying pan and fry patties until browned on both sides, adding oil as necessary. Wa-la! You are finished. Commence to gorge.
Disclaimer: The Beard and I attempted to make these in the United States, but could only find sauerkraut in a can, AND IT WAS AWFUL. So awful that we, dumpster divers both, actually threw away the whole bowl of dough and started again sans kraut. You have been warned. There ain’t no kraut like Kraut kraut.
Further disclaimer: Sauerkraut patties will not actually save your life.
It never would have occurred to me to put flowers in pancakes, until I saw one of my Platz-mates do it and became enamoured. Now when the elder trees begin to bloom—and we have a dearth of them on the property—it’s one of my favorite things to do with them. Besides failing at making syrup out of them that is. (Hopefully I’ll be trying that again this year, and this year no one will take the brew out of the fridge and leave it to grow a mold sweater in the sun while I am away. Grrrz.)
The process is simple: make some pancake batter like you usually do (which for me consists of equal parts flour and raw milk, and a pinch of baking powder and salt), slap it in the pan like you usually would, and then break off some blossoms from the thicker bits of green branch and stick them in the dough. You’ll want to let the pancake cook through as much as possible before flipping it as excessive flower-on-pan action can lead to excessively blackened flowers.
Afterward they’ll look like this, you’ll feel like a god damn gourmet, and your pancakes will have the light, sweet taste of elderberry blossoms.
Yesterday evening I cooked what is likely to be the last wood stove-top soup of the season. The tulip heads in the garden are over an inch tall, and though the weather has taken a decided turn for the crisp, I can smell spring in the air.
In the last couple of years I’ve gotten out of the habit of cooking a lot—laziness, plus a realization of how good I feel when I eat a lot of fresh salads and raw vegetables, plus the fact that the Beard is an amazing (and frequent) cook having staid my enthusiasm—but when I do get to it, I approach the matter as if I’m a witch stirring potion in her many red cauldrons, a maker of alchemous elixirs whose ingredients fall from hand to pot from the lips of glass vessels of all shapes and sizes. Cooking is magic, and cooks are the witches and wizards we overlook in the real world, overlook because we have already closed the pages of our favorite science fiction and fantasy novels.
Though I love reading cook books (sweet inspiration!), when I cook I don’t use recipes. Baking is another story, though in the case of baking I still like to modify recipes, and the handful of cookbooks I do own are filled with handwritten notes about additions, subtractions, and modifications. The way I approach it, cooking is a matter of general methods. It does not involve complications or exact details. And when I pass recipes along, they generally involve only vague measurements and a lot of tasting along the way.
In the matter of soups, I always start in the same way: a heap of onions simmering in oil sprinkled with salt. While the onions simmer I slowly add a heap of parsley root (pictured above) which is, in my humble opinion, the crux of getting a good flavor in your soup without using any sort of vegetable broth, powdered or otherwise. After that comes whatever I have on hand: broccoli, carrots, fennel—it’s all fair game—which I simmer with the onions and parsley root until my patience runs out, at which point I add a couple of jugs full of water (depending, of course, on how many people I intend to feed over how many days).
At some point after that I’ll add a heap of garlic, more salt, pepper, and whatever else fits with the vegetable combination I’ve picked out. Today it was a bit of coriander, a bit of cumin, a bit of chili, and a bit of tomato paste, as the goal was to have a red-ish three bean number at the end of all the sizzling, simmering, and bubbling. Though last week’s corn-bread-baking bent (three loaves! mmmmmm) would have fit well with this concoction, today’s draught was sided with a fresh salad and bread courtesy of the Gemüsemann (vegetable man) from our local vegetable market.
Fall air brings dreams of canning and visions of beautiful rows of glass jars filling old wooden shelves. Despite my constant apocalyptic reverie, I still hadn’t learned anything about canning. But my pirate friend, who is actually a wise old grandma in disguise, brought the ingredients and the recipe, and I had a try. Unfortunately this recipe tastes so good that the glass is already almost empty.
Zucchini Relish ala Martin
1. Get a really big pot. Cut 3 kg zucchini and 1 kg onions into smallish chunks and toss them in. Stir in 3 Tablespoons salt and let sit overnight. This draws some of the extra liquid out of the vegetables.
2. The next morning, pour out the water that has collected in the pot. Add 1 kg sugar, 1 liter herb vinegar (we couldn’t find any and used apple vinegar instead–worked just as well), 3 Tablespoons mustard, stir, and then simmer for 1.5 hours.
3. Stir in 3 Tablespoons curry powder, 3 Tablespoons sweet paprika, 1.5 Tablespoons cayenne pepper, and 4 Tablespoons flour. Simmer for ten more minutes. (Don’t let it cook too long or things will start burning onto the bottom of the pan and the flavor will become a bit smoky.)
4. Put into clean glass jars. Let cool. Smear on everything.
My mom used to make a version of this cake when I was a little kid. The internet tells me this kind of cake was popular in the depression, when people didn’t always have eggs and milk around. Wa-la, awesome vegan/poor man’s cake. If you want to make people oo and aah, bake them this cake. If it’s somebody’s birthday, bake them this cake. If you have to bake lots of cake for a Sunday matinee concert to raise money to repair a moldy concert room, bake this cake—it makes 20-25 pieces. If you have a big cake pan and a fork, but no bowl, bake this cake—you make it right in the cake form. If you have a friend convinced that all vegan baking results in heavy flour bricks, bake them this cake. It is delicious, even without frosting.
Click Clack Cake!
In a pretty big cake pan (we’re talking like a foot by more than a foot here, for all smaller pans, halve everything) combine:
6 cups flour
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup cocoa
and, if you have it lying around, a few pinches of vanilla or vanilla sugar. If not, no big deal.
Mix everything together with a fork until the cocoa is evenly spread out among the flour. Don’t forget to get the extra bits in the corners.
Dig two little holes in your dry-ingredient mixture. In one hole pour 1 + 1/2 cups vegetable oil (any kind is fine, but I wouldn’t recommend olive oil because then the cake ends up tasting kind of weird) and in the other, 4 tablespoons vinegar. Then pour 4 cups of cold water all over everything, and mix with your fork until smooth and even.
Bake for 45-55 minutes at—oh crap, my oven doesn’t have temperatures on the knobs, just numbers from 1 to 8, so bare with me— about 4 or 5. To check if it’s done stick a knife in the cake. When it comes out clean it’s finished.
Once upon a time on an Amtrak in Amieland, I got wasted sick on acrtic air conditioning and “no we don’t have any vegan food in the dining car” during the 18-hour ride to Greensboro, North Carolina. That’s when Helena taught me how to make Dragon Slayers. And I thought, you knowing so much about my life and all, that I should give you the recipe. It might sound a little gross at first, but these’ll keep you from getting sick, cure you if you already are, and wake you up quicker than a cup of joe.
1/2 fresh lemon
1 medium-sized clove garlic, minced
a dash of chili powder
Squeeze out the lemon and place juice in a small cup. Sprinkle in minced garlic and top with chili powder. Down in one go and marvel at the force of nature that is vitamin c mixed with garlic and sweet, sweet (spicey) chili.