Monday, September 17, 2007


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Vegan "Katsu"(crispy breaded cutlet-- the recipe for the cutlet is in my book World Vegan Feast) with Lemon, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Jam, and rice with chanterelles

I like to blog twice a week, but it hasn't been happening lately! Not only am I testing recipes for the upcoming Vegan Feast newsletter (and I don't like to reveal too much ahead of time and spoil the surprise for subscribers!) AND a book I'm co-authoring, so that doesn't leave alot of time for blog recipes!

The following unusual but delectable "jam" recipe was inspired by one in Sally Schneider's wonderful book "The Improvisational Cook", which was inspired by a recipe from Mario Batali-- "Lemon Oregano Jam". It attracted me right away because I love just about anything lemony, and I thought it would make an unusual accompaniment to a simple dish such as the Japanese dish "Tonkatsu" (crispy, thin, breaded cutlets), an example of "yohshuko", or Japanese-style Western dishes.

I just call it "Katsu", which means "cutlet", because the "ton" part of "tonkatsu" means "pork"!  (I just dredged my vegan cutlets in flour, then soymilk curdled with a little lemon juice, then panko [Japanese breadcrumbs] and pan-fried them in a little oil.)

Ms. Schneider used a little more oil in the jam recipe and about 1/3 of the salt that Mr. Batali did, as did I. They both used pepper, but I omitted it-- it just didn't appeal to me in this recipe. I replaced the oregano with fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (recalling the Simon and Garfunkel song). It was really easy to make, and did indeed emulsify into a creamy, but not oily, mixture. I had it on a Tofurkey slice sandwich with my Italian Plum Jam (I didn't have any vegan mayo made!), and it was delicious. I also had it on steamed potatoes-- equally yummy! Ms. Schneider also suggest folding into mayonnaise for a cold sauce for meatloaf, spreading it on hazelnut-butter sandwiches, stirring into yogurt, stirring into warm potato salad...

"The Improvisational Cook" is an interesting volume (NOT vegetarian, but that never deters me!) , well worth at least checking out of your library for a perusal:

Amy Sherman writes on the KQED Food Blog, "Bay Area Bites",:

"...You have a better chance of successful improvisation and creativity if you have a very firm grasp of the basics. Creativity can be inspired in many ways, a meal in a restaurant, a new cookbook, a trip to the market, etc. But improvisation is a different matter.

Improvisation is "a performance given without planning or preparation". So basically you are relying on your brain for inspiration. Sally Schneider's new book, The Improvisational Cook is an exploration into the concept of improvisation in the kitchen and provides some wonderful recipes and ideas along the way. Schneider explains how recipes work in a section called "Understanding", and then various riffs on a single recipe.

How does it work? Here is an example of an idea and recipe--the author begins with a Lemon Oregano Jam that she first tasted at Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo. She explains that the technique of pureeing the whole lemon is crucial and that the addition of oil helps to round out the flavor and creates an emulsion. In addition to the original recipe, her variations include Lemon Lavender Jam, Tangelo Jam, Tangerinesicle Parfaits, and Meyer Lemon Dessert Sauce and Filling.

Just as in jazz, the best improvisations come from the best musicians and Schneider is an accomplished cook who you can trust and will in all likelihood inspire you as well." (KQED is a well-known San Francisco public broadcasting station, with which I am quite familiar, since I grew up there.)

For my first improv on her recipe (I didn't want to get too far from the original the first time-- I wanted to get a sense of the original before branching out further) I just changed the herbs, using what I had in my garden. This is the result:

Printable Recipe

3 medium lemons (preferably with thin rinds)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh thyme

Scrub the lemons with 3 parts water plus 1 part white vinegar, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut each lemon into thin slices and remove and discard the seeds.

Place the lemon pieces, sugar and salt in a food processor and process to a coarse puree. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream; the mixture should emulsify, becoming honey-like in consistency. Add the herbs, pulsing to mix.

The jam can be prepared up to this stage and kept, refrigerated, for several weeks. Transfer it to a clean glass jar, placing a piece of plastic wrap between the top of the jar and the lid to keep the lid from corroding. Bring to room temperature before serving (it solidifies), stir to re-combine.

Yield: about 1 1/3 cup

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 2 Tbs. serving):
56.6 calories; 58% calories from fat; 3.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 86.5mg sodium; 45.6mg potassium; 7.8g carbohydrates; 1.4g fiber; 4.5g sugar; 6.4g net carbs; 0.4g protein; 1.2 points.



Anonymous said...

did you use meyer lemons or regular small ones?

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

I just used regular lemons, jocelyn.

Meg Wolff said...

This recipe looks great...I didn't know katsu meant cutlet. Yum!

Unknown said...

thank you bryanna, for always inspiring me and sharing your great wealth of knowledge. you are one of the most generous folks i know--u really mean it.


Unknown said...

There is also a corn Panko on the market in Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

I really like the sound of that jam - very unusual.

catherine said...

Sounds great...