My original inspiration for this menu was Eastern European, and I’d intended to use kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) as the grain in the cutlet. But as sometimes happens, I changed my mind and substituted quinoa for the kasha. Although I’d never tried the quinoa-potato combo before, I reasoned they’d go together well because both originated in the Andean cultures of South America. The side vegetables were meant to provide contrast in flavors and cooking styles: long, slow cooking for the braised vegetables, quick cooking for the cabbage sauté, raw in the case of the cucumber salad. We served lentil soup as a first course and date-walnut muffins for dessert. More detailed descriptions of these dishes after the jump…Quinoa-Potato-Tempeh Cutlets: The quinoa was cooked as usual, but with a little extra water, so it would be sticky. Russet potatoes were boiled skin on, mashed and seasoned. The tempeh we diced and baked with a seasoning of soy sauce, mirin, garlic and rosemary. In addition, we added sautéed diced onion, celery and carrot. All these ingredients were combined, seasoned with umeboshi vinegar and soy sauce, formed into cutlets and pan fried.
Red Onion Gravy: The red onions were peeled, diced and slowly sautéed until they began to caramelize. Then we added vegetable stock and simmered this for about fifteen minutes. To finish, we seasoned it with red miso, salt and pepper and then thickened it with a slurry of rice flour and water. Finally, we whisked in tahini to add a richer flavor.
Braised Root Vegetables (burdock, onions, carrots, turnips): The burdock and onions were sautéed then slowly oven-braised in a broth of water, soy sauce and mirin. Because we wanted the burdock to be tender, we braised it for almost two hours. The carrots were blanched and then oven braised in a similar broth. The turnips, because they are more watery, were only oven braised. Just before serving we mixed in a light sauce made with parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Cabbage and Caraway Sauté: Green cabbages were chopped, sautéed in olive oil, and seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and caraway seeds.
Crisp Cucumber Salad: The English cucumbers were cut in half lengthwise, then sliced on the diagonal. Yellow onions were peeled, halved and thinly sliced. I combined rice vinegar and mirin, and cooked this mixture down to reduce it and burn off the alcohol. After this mixture cooled I marinated the onions in it, adding a little salt. Just before serving I mixed the marinated onions with the cucumbers, adding chopped garlic chives, salt, pepper and umeboshi vinegar.