Archive for October, 2009
Ok, I know I haven’t had anything fancy to post lately, even with my insufferable insomnia the past couple days (I went to bed at 6am this morning! WTF, mates?) but tonight, with a little help from Ina Garten and the Food Network, I have some beautiful stuff to show you!
Sometimes, when the Barefoot Contessa isn’t filling her food with butter and cheese and meat, she makes some drool-worthy dishes. This roasted butternut squash and arugula salad is one of those. My stomach rumbled when I saw her make it, and it’s a perfect autumn salad, especially for a San Diegan who’s still complaining about the heat (IE me).
I didn’t need to make many substitutions. In fact, I would only have had to leave out the parmesan or make dairy free parmesan to make it vegan in the first place, but I thought some ingredients were a bit unnecessary. And by unnecessary I mean I didn’t have them in my house and I didn’t want to go to the store to get them.
So, as usual, my list of recipe changes:
1. Left out the apple juice/cider in the dressing. The squash was already super sweet, like, caramelized, from roasting with maple syrup. That Ina loves her sugar! I did add a bit more maple syrup to the dressing though.
2. Used garlic instead of shallots.
3. Used candied pecans (that I happened to have lying around from a month or so ago), which were really awesome.
4. I guess I used “good” olive oil? This is one of the things I hate most about Ina Garten. She always says to use “good olive oil” or “good vanilla extract” or “good butter.” Does “good” mean imported? Expensive? Extra fattening?
The sandwich accompanying the salad is a delicious Chickpea-Hijiki sammich, my favorite tuna substitution, courtesy of Vegan with a Vengeance. Since there’s apple cider vinegar in that, too, it complimented the salad nicely. Thanks to the b-fri for the beautiful pic, even with such low lighting!
I was going to post my own “Food Network Friday” type entry tonight, but I lost energy somewhere around 3pm, so I will have to save it for tomorrow. Substitution Saturday maybe?
Speaking of substitutions…I tried the seitan I made last night tonight. I don’t think I marinated it enough though…I grilled it on my grill pan, and the really crispy dark brown bits were tasty, but the rest of the bits, I’m sad to say, weren’t up my alley. The flavor of the plain seitan was not what I was expecting, I suppose.
Please give me suggestions! I would be ever so grateful.
I also tried my hand at a well known vegan alfredo sauce made with silken tofu, but alas, I found that lacking as well. It tasted too much like the silken tofu! I guess my tongue has a penchant for tasting my least favorite flavor the most, and ignoring the yummy flavors all around it. I do think I can tweak it by adding more stuff to cover up the silken tofu flavor, I’m just not sure what yet. It is very creamy though! If I ever make it again, I might just leave out the tofu altogether. As the French say, Le sigh! Not a great night for cooking experiments.
I made seitan for the first time tonight, using Joanna Vaught‘s recipe from her Yellow Rose Recipe blog. I’ll post the recipe here since the all-mighty intarwebs seems to have failed to archive it. (Hopefully she doesn’t mind that I’m re-posting!)
I have heard soo many good things about this seitan. I made it chicken cutlet style, and now have 20 or so cutlets waiting to be prepped and cooked however I please. Boy howdy I hope I like them! I left out the nutritional yeast and replaced it with chickpea flour, so I probably will.
I was told not to actually let them boil and just simmer them, but I have a flat-top electric stove I am still getting used to, so you could say that was a stove-top fail. Im reely gud at those, aktshually. Supposedly the texture gets rubbery if you do boil them, but I tasted a small piece after they came out of the pot and lo, they had a very pleasing texture indeed! So I guess…be careful of that, but don’t worry too much! Maybe the nooch makes them rubbery; I wouldn’t put a move like that past it.
The cutlets aren’t very pretty in their current state, but I’ll cook with them tomorrow so I can take pictures! What have YOU done with them? (besides breading and frying them like you were the KFC colonel)
Without further ado, feast your eyes upon the recipe:
Chicken-Style Seitan Cutlets
2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour or chickpea flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 T onion powder
1 tsp salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cold water
2 T grapeseed or light olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
suggested bouquet garni:
Parisien Bonne Herbes
Place a large heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot on the stove filled with 2-3 quarts of cold water. Assemble a bouquet garni and place it in the pot. I like to use a tea bag designed for loose leaf tea and tie it off with a piece of string, but I’ve also used cheesecloth successfully. You could also just put the herbs directly into the water, which is what I used to do, but then the herbs get stuck to the seitan, and you have to strain the broth into the storage container… it’s a lot easier to just use a bouquet garni and then toss it in the trash or compost.
Combine your dry ingredients in one bowl and your wet ingredients in another bowl. Add wet to dry and mix well, then use your hands to knead the seitan mix gently for a few minutes until uniform and homogenous.
Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out golf ball sized pieces of seitan dough as thinly as you possibly can. If a cutlet tears a little from being rolled out too thinly, no big deal! Just re-form it into a ball and have another go at it. When it’s very thin, slip it into the cold broth and repeat with the rest of the seitan dough. There is no need to be a perfectionist about this.
When all the cutlets have been rolled out and placed in the pot, allow them to rest in the cold water for 10 minutes or so. Then bring the water to a gentle boil, reduce to a low simmer, cover, and allow seitan to cook for an hour.
When you come back, all the cutlets should be at the top and some will be sticking together slightly. Don’t worry about that. Take the pot off the heat and leave them in the water for at least a half hour, until cutlets are easy to handle.
You can cook with them right away, but I prefer to transfer them at this point to a container with the broth, refrigerate them for a few hours or overnight, and then cook with them later.
You will need “cook” these before eating them. Think of them as you would raw tofu: it’s safe to eat right out of the container, but it needs to be flavored and cooked for maximum taste. The cutlets pictured above were pan-fried in a small amount of olive oil until they began to brown. I took half of these pan fried cutlets and tore them into small pieces to make a chicken salad, and then I marinated the rest in a balsamic-maple syrup-mustard glaze and lightly pan fried them again.
I was in Napa Valley the other weekend for a couple combined in-lawish birthday celebrations. While no one in the family is vegan, a couple are cutting dairy out of their diets for health reasons, so I was asked for tips on making soy ice cream! The b-fri’s mom has a big beautiful ice cream maker, and I had access to the best soy ice cream blog ever: http://veganicecream.blogspot.com/. I said I would not only give tips, but I would make it myself!
There were a couple of hitches:
1. No arrowroot in the house. I used cornstarch instead.
2. A couple family members were also trying to cut out sugar, or at least cut down on it. They suggested adding splenda instead of sugar to the mix, but since we were using mostly Hazelnut Soy Delicious creamer (and some So Delicious coconut creamer), I decided that rather than adding fake sugar (which really puts me off), I wouldn’t add any, figuring if the ice cream wasn’t sweet enough people could add their own. I was fairly certain I would have no problem without adding any.
It turned out delicious, if even a bit too sweet for my tastes! The texture was perfect. I was also lucky enough to get some vegan brownie from Whole Foods to go along with it (while everyone else ate very not vegan Tiramisu cake). Terrible cell phone picture follows:
That night I was also able to try out Amy’s Rice Crust Vegan Spinach Pizza, which I would never buy myself (it’s so expensive!) but was happy to have for dinner there. It was a lot tastier than I expected, actually, even after I left it under the broiler for a bit too long. And really, who doesn’ t like a bit of burnt soy cheese now and then?!
Oh I should also mention the sandwich I had for lunch today from Whole Foods (I don’t usually splurge there, but the sandwiches are HUGE and very tasty and reasonably priced, especially since I split it.)
Anyway, we opted for sourdough with dijon, olive spread, grilled veggies, pickles, lettuce, tomato, pepper, and the curried eggless tofu salad, which is my favorite tofu salad no question. Let’s just say I will be getting this exact sandwich every time I go there for lunch now, since they started using Daiya cheese on their vegan pizza. Boo, but yay.
The other day I had no energy for grocery shopping or cooking, so we got out our recently created restaurant spreadsheet (this is the best thing ever; I don’t care how nerdy it is!) and sorted by price range since we wanted something cheap (we can also sort by distance and ethnicity, and we’ll probably add a personal rating system in there, too).
The winner? The Loving Hut, an all vegan Asian fusion (cultish, but not freakish) restaurant only a couple miles away. When this place first opened we lived about 5 blocks away, which was really awesome, but also bad. Any inkling of laziness and we’d be calling in our order or taking a quick walk/ride over. We moved recently, and I’ve been cooking more, so now eating out is more of a treat, and a better cheap treat we couldn’t ask for.
The weather was finally a bit chillier that day, so the b-fri said “bring on the soup!” (Ok, I’m sure he didn’t say those words exactly, but that was the vibe I got.) Pictured above you see a huge bowl of wonton soup with tons of lovely veggies and TONS of wontons. The price? 6 bucks!
Next we have my favorite, the BBQ noodle bowl. Thee most amazing beef-like seitan, rice vermicelli, mint, lettuce, cucumber, pickled radish, and do you see those golden fried cylinders there? Those are by far the best bestest fried spring rolls I’ve ever had. I think they put crack in them, or maybe they lie about using no MSG. And then when you pour that sauce over everything…PURE HEAVEN. I’m really full right now and my mouth is watering. Oh, how much you ask? ONLY SIX FITTY! ($6.50). I don’t know how they do it, but whatever it is I love them for it.
Lastly, here’s a bonus picture of me with the food before the mouth-shoveling began. I had to keep my fist in there while I waited for the picture to be taken, otherwise my face would have been in the bowl.
For the past few months I have been a freelance web designer. I am crazy and quit my job at a fairly large corporation to seek to better myself by learning new skills and building my portfolio, thus enabling me to get a better job where I get to be creative and not under appreciated.
What does this mean? Well, what I thought it would mean is that I’d have tons of time to focus on my professional skills, and be a much more productive member of society, at least in my own space (the last couple months at my job, that whole “working hard or hardly working?” question was always answered “hardly”). What I’ve found is that sometimes I feel much more productive doing housework or cooking a delicious meal rather than doing the work that gets me, oh, you know…money. Unfortunately being a freelance computer anything means I work from home, and therefore don’t always leave the house. Some days I sit at the computer until dinner time and realize I don’t have the ingredients to try that new meal I was planning, and definitely don’t have the energy to go to the store and then cook.
These are the times I cross my fingers and open the fridge with my eyes closed, hoping that when I take a peek I will see at least some ingredients that can come together to make something resembling a meal. The other night I had a block of tofu, onions, garlic, wine and some almost too old crimini mushrooms. Luckily both me and the b-fri are fans of all these things (as long as they’re cooked), so pan-fried tofu with white-wine mushroom sauce it was! After that we scrounged and snacked to fill the rest of our hunger, but I was pretty proud of how quickly this came together.
Feeling the pressure, I used a big plastic ziploc bag and filled it with flour, a bit of salt and some freshly ground pepper, dumped the tofu triangles in and shook. I am not a fan of wasting plastic bags, but the bag was in its second use, I swear! And man is that easier than dredging.
After frying the tofu in some olive oil, I moved it to the oven to keep warm while I made the sauce. I let some olive oil, a diced yellow onion and the mushrooms, some garlic, a tablespoon of the flour mixture, and a bunch of white wine reduce in the pan till it thickened, then poured it over the tofu. Easy peasy! Oh, and tasty, too. It’s nice when something fast can be elegant and flavorful as well. Hooray!
The title is a little much, I know, but this caramelized vidalia onion quiche from Vegan Brunch is so good I want the world to know; even if it takes a cheesy title to make people notice.
I’ll admit now though, I made the crust from Vegan Brunch without doing any research about it first.
The bad: there was a misprint in the crust recipe, which left me using A WHOLE LOT of earth balance. I’ve never made my own crust before however, so I assumed once I let the uncooked dough refrigerate for a while the gooey-ness would be taken care of. I was wrong!
The bad/good: Again because I’d never made crust, I decided to use my hands instead of a pastry knife to mix, which inevitably lead me to add more flour, and again add more flour when I was rolling it out, so it baked up just fine.
The absolute good: the crust was so buttery and rich and flaky (and a bit crumbly) it couldn’t NOT have been delicious.
The picture below shows some fresh steamed broccoli alongside the quiche, perfect for cutting the richness. The cashews processed in with the tofu and onion made the perfect texture, and the cinnamon I substituted for the nutmeg (never been a nutmeg fan, really) complimented the sweetness of the onions beautifully. Next time I’ll add less cinnamon though, I kinda dumped a full teaspoon in by accident. Oops.
Just goes to show though, if you’re making something with ingredients you love, it’s hard to screw up.
If you’re a vegan in San Diego, you’ve probably been to Pokez Mexican eatery. While I can defend neither its customer service nor cleanliness, the vegan options are many, cheap, and by golly they’re real tasty, too!
Potato everything (rolled tacos, enchiladas, burritos, you name it), tofu everything…and though I have ordered many different menu items over the years, I have come to settle on one of these as my Pokez staple: Tofu Fajitas. The b-fri likes to call it Chinese Mexican food because they put lots of garlic, soy, and ginger in the fajita sauce, but I don’t care!@ (and apparently neither does he since he orders it every time now as well.)
I made the above plate, which includes fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, beans, rice, chips, the fajitas themselves (made with San Diego Soy Dairy tofu, super firm and herby), and my favorite vegan tortillas in San Diego. Looks like a lot of food, don’t it? Well, that’s less than HALF of what they give you, and it only costs around 9 bucks! Parking sucks around there, but that’s why we often get take out. Oh yeah, forgot to mention the lightly vinegary cabbage salad on there, too.
Slightly different angle below, just ’cause I can.
When I say “easy” brunch, I mean “use what you have in the fridge and throw it all together at the last minute” brunch, but also “not much preparation” brunch and “tastes so good” brunch. I wonder how many times I can type the word brunch before it loses all meaning…
Another time, another place.
The beauty you see before you consists of a bowl of seedless red grapes (on sale and really crunchy and sweet) to balance out the richness of the mushroom gravy from Vegan Brunch (there’s that word again…), the topping that really pulled together the mess of ingredients underneath it: Italian style Tofurkey sausage, sliced and pan-fried with yellow squash and mixed dark greens (mustard, collard, kale, etc.) Some whole wheat toast awaits its true calling of scooping up any leftover bits and gravy. The fresh apple juice from Trader Joe’s we drank with the meal was camera shy, but it also went really well with everything. Even my vegan vitamin (iron, B12, folic acid, vitamin C.) Tasty!
I have a secret to tell the non-vegans reading this blog: a lot of vegans still crave very NOT vegan things. Shhhhhh! We’re always striving to create or find substitutes for the things we miss. Some are lucky and forget their old eating habits, but not me! I was practically a cheese connoisseur before taking the plunge.
And it didn’t get any better than my mom’s mac and cheese, so of course I’ve always wanted to find a suitable veganized version. Please don’t get mad, but this vegan don’t like no nutritional yeast, and every recipe I came across had an unfortunate amount included in the recipe list. I’ve never understood the claim that “nooch” makes things taste “cheez-y.” Any amount of the stuff, even a pinch, becomes the most prominent flavor to me. You know how it is…when you don’t like something it becomes the strongest flavor? (Another ingredient like that for me is celery, but I won’t get into that now.)
Anyway, you can imagine my excitement and surprise when VegNews posted this recipe. No nutritional yeast in sight! I’ve made it a few times, once with only a third of the earth balance where I replaced the rest with olive oil, and every time has been better than the last. Boy do I wish starch was really healthy to eat a lot of all the time. Now feast your eyes, then go make it for dinner!