Monday, May 31, 2010

ultimate vegan BBQ

i don't like tofu. there. i said it. and forget about those frozen patties and processed soy products (full of neurotoxins). it's tempeh, glorious tempeh that dominates my "meat replacement" preferences. our memorial day menu featured barbecue tempeh sandwiches, carrot-cayenne coleslaw, california guacamole (hass avocados, cilantro, red onion, garlic, cumin, salt, lime juice, serrano pepper or chile powder), strawberry shortcake with balsamic chocolate sauce, and plenty of rum punch.

the sandwich recipe is adapted from bryant terry's vegan soul kitchen (my new bible). one taste of the hot/smoky/sweet sauce and i had really died and gone to vegan heaven.

BBQ tempeh sandwich

  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar (Braggs, if you can find it)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 c. tamari (kyle thinks tamari makes a big difference here so don't sub soy sauce)
  • 1/4 c. your favorite organic ketchup
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c. agave nectar (or honey)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 packages of tempeh, sliced to desired serving size
  • loaf of ciabatta bread
  • veganaise or mayo
  • your favorite coleslaw
Combine all the ingredients (except for the last four, obviously) in a food processor and puree until smooth. If you don't own a grill (neither do we), place the tempeh along the bottom of an oven-safe dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Toast slices of ciabatta under the broil. Assemble sandwiches, dress with mayo and coleslaw. Dig in!

i also made shortcake muffins from this super easy recipe and served them with fresh strawberries, chocolate sauce (1/4 c. plain soymilk + 4 oz. chocolate chips), and balsamic reduction (balsamic vinger + sugar/honey/agave). what I should have known was that reductions take FOREVER. after ten minutes I gave up and turned off the stove. twenty minutes later it was perfectly reduced. and delicious enough to share with our neighbors.

it seems like there are two types of shortcakes: the biscuit variety and the spongy, cakey variety. is there a regional difference? i would love to know.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Simple red lentil dal (updated)

I'm a little afraid of embarrassing myself but here goes... This was a good faith effort to recreate the way that my friend Anu told me her family makes dal. I don't know how authentic my reproduction is but it always tastes really great to me, savory and just a little bit sour.

Red Lentil Dal
Serves: 2-3

1 cup red lentils
1 small yellow onion diced
4 cups water
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tbsp fresh ginger minced (or 1 tsp powder)
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 chili or red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add washed and picked over lentils, onion, tumeric, and about a teaspoon of salt to the water. Let it return to a boil, and then turn down to low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes -- just until the lentils are tender.

In a medium saucepan, add 1 tbsp neutral oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for about a minute until they start to pop. Add the garlic and ginger, coriander, a few dashes of chili pepper flakes, and after another 30 seconds or so the lentils. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes so it will thicken up a little bit (you can smush some of the lentils with a wooden spoon to thicken it a little or I sometimes add a teaspoon or two of corn starch). Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon over the top, and adjust the salt to taste.

Serve with basmati rice and homemade naan (or even easier chapati pictured here), mmmmmmm

UPDATE: Replaced the photo on Sept 8, 2010 with a batch with a much better consistency.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Menu planning like it's the dead of winter

As the title suggests, we did a weird job planning our menu this week: pesto linguine (with almost our whole entire basil plant), a very rich bread pudding, and a hearty potato, leek, and bean stew with biscuits.

Asparagus Bread Pudding
Kristen has made this one once or twice, but this was my first attempt.

It had a couple of things I liked and a couple I didn't. The gruyere and dill were perfect, and the bread bakes with this crisp chewy top layer that is up there with the burnt edges of a lasagna. As some of the comments on Heidi's site say, the asparagus were way overcooked in the oven. I'm not entirely sure how to remedy this. We have tried both black olives and mushrooms and the olive version was definitely superior. Also, I would maybe pull back on the liquid a little bit next time, enough to moisten the bread but not enough to make it soggy (although it is supposed to be bread pudding, what do I know)

Leek and White Bean Cassoulet
Another one from Veganomicon: At this point I feel pretty comfortable saying, best cookbook ever.

After an unnecessarily long day of work yesterday, I actually really enjoyed cooking this big overcomplicated stew (and eating it wasn't bad either). I did not however enjoy stopping everything to drive to the store for corn starch when I realized half way through that we didn't have any.

The flavors were spot on, with a super savory taste from the leeks and a heaping tablespoon of fresh thyme from our balcony garden predominating. We didn't have any earth balance (and I'm guessing I probably won't buy it again any time soon) so I used unsalted butter. Here is the thing though -- unsalted butter is much less salty than buttery flavor EB -- add salt! Also please don't disrespect me real vegans, I am but a hobbyist.

Couple notes for myself for next time: smaller biscuits will probably cook up a little better. And this should've been obvious, but undercook the potatoes slightly because they'll finish in the oven.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ginger chocolate chip cookies

These Heidi Swanson cookies are some of our favorites, and oh so easy. I made them a bit bigger than she does and just sprinkled with turbinado before baking. Yum.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Beet and black bean burgers

Beet burgers were Kristen's idea. Apparently she had them at this little hippie retreat on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala (jealous). So she found a recipe that looked promising and bought the ingredients and left them both conspicuously laying around the kitchen for when I got home from Colorado.

These little babies were/are delicious. They are approximately equal parts beets, black beans, and brown rice with a little parsley, lemon juice, and spices. I loved the sweetness of the beets, but they were not at all overpowering.

The recipe from The Kitchn is really well written, and I didn't change anything, so no need to reproduce it here. I did cook them in a non-stick pan, which was not recommended but it worked ok. It is kind of ridiculous that we only have non-stick pans, health-conscious, progressive liberal foodies that we imagine ourselves to be (anodized aluminum skillet is on the List right after pizza stone and above pressure cooker)

Unlike every other veggie burger I've made, these didn't need to go through the food processor -- you just mash the beans and little bit with a fork and then mix it all together. This is one of those "less is more situations" -- it really would have been a shame to lose the textures of all the different components. I'm definitely going to try it this way on the next batch of chickpea burgers

Photography note to self: natural light is amazing, cook in the afternoon more.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Red Lentil Sloppy Joes (and an obnoxiously short depth of field)

It's a little bit strange to go to such great lengths to recreate a dish that is so completely meat-centric, especially one that I never ate as a child (thought they were gross for some reason... had no problem with hamburgers or taco salad, but put them together? No sir). I can at least promise I won't be making seitan chicken fingers or soy pot roast any time soon.

We mostly followed the recipe in Veganomicon and used the Vegan Dad recipe for how to handle the red lentils (I've done it once before but they turned into interminable mush). So where Veganomicon says to add the cooked lentils, we instead added the dried lentils and water, along with all the sauce, tomato paste, and spices. This cooked for maybe 30 minutes. Open-faced on a toasted roll it was totally delicious, though I have to admit it evoked "french bread pizza" for me a little more than sloppy joe. And while it was not wholly unlike the chili I made last week, contextually it fulfilled a completely different craving.

Kristen par-cooked, smashed, and pan fried some yukon gold potatoes on the side, and they were awesome. Think this might be my new preferred method for cooking potatoes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Soba noodle bowl

We finally made a trip back up to San Francisco (I lived there for about three years and Kristen for one before moving to San Diego) earlier this month. A couple of friends met up with us one night, and we walked around Japantown/Marina/Western Addition for a while, eventually stopping at Osaka sushi for dinner and sake. I think Kristen was thinking of their soba with tofu dish when she suggested this. (Also we saw Laurine from Top Chef catering a party. None of us could remember her storyline, so Kristen just said "Hi!" and then we all turned around and walked away a little sheepishly)

Sorry the recipe is pretty rough; I didn't measure anything, just added stuff until it tasted good. It's a little bit (a lot) Otsu from Super Natural Cooking and a little bit Sam the Cooking Guy's broiled salmon marinade...

Soba noodles with tofu
Serves: 2-3
  • 6oz soba noodles
  • 1/3 cup tamari sauce
  • honey
  • a 1" cube of ginger grated or diced very fine
  • red pepper flakes
  • half a block of firm tofu
  • sesame seeds
  • nori
  • chopped green onions
  • diced jicama

Put the soba noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes or until done, drain and set aside.

Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces, something like 1/4" x 1/2" x 1". Heat a pan over medium-low heat and add the tofu to the pan (with no oil). Let it cook for a few minutes (don't touch it!) until it starts to turn a nice golden brown. Flip and repeat on the other side. It takes a little while, but I think it's worth keeping the heat relatively low... Easy to burn the tofu otherwise.

Meanwhile, mix the tamari (soy sauce would work too) and ginger, and add honey to taste, probably something like a tablespoon. It should be just a little bit sweet. Add a couple dashes of red pepper flakes, and toss with the soba noodles.

Top the noodles with the tofu, pieces of nori, green onions, sesame seeds, and diced jicama (probably should be cucumber, but we had jicama which was actually really great)

That's us (well everyone but me) looking out over the bay (you can JUST see the top of the golden gate bridge on the left). It reminds me just a little bit of this picture looking out at Guanabara bay, which makes me happy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vegetarian chili and cornbread for a crowd

This was fun. Some friends from college came out and rented a beach house in La Jolla last week. We were hanging out drinking and got to talking about how I was into cooking lately. Eventually I offered to bring over dinner on Tuesday if they would let me suffer through Lost with them.

Really this was serendipitous because I had been craving one of my very favorite recipes, Heidi Swanson's Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili, for a while, but wasn't necessarily in the mood to eat it 6 days in a row (it makes A LOT of chili). Other than the fact that it is ridiculously good, the best thing about this recipe is that almost everything in it is dirt cheap. I replenished my dried garbanzo beans, dried lentils, and had some leftover bulgar and barley from the last time. Beyond that it is basically just a couple onions, chilies, some garlic, ginger, vegetable broth (used 3 cubes for 10 cups), and a can of tomatoes. Only a couple bucks to feed 9 people! I used one serrano pepper with the seeds removed and one chipotle from a can and 3 tablespoons of pretty good chili powder. Halfway through cooking I worried it was going to burn everyone's mouths off, but when it was done it was really quite mild. Probably a good thing for mixed company but if you like chili to be hot, I would add another chipotle, or maybe only seed half of the serrano pepper.

I also made a batch of dairy-free cornbread (most calls for buttermilk apparently) to go on the side. I made 1.5x the recipe but left the oil at 1/2 cup, used only 1 tablespoon of sugar instead of the recommended 6 (!) as some people recommend in the comments, added a cap-full of apple cider vinegar for a little bite, and threw in a handful of frozen corn at the end of mixing. It was dry but tasted pretty decent and was definitely good at soaking up chili.

I have never known whether chili is supposed to be a summer food or a winter food, and maybe I don't want to know. It seems like it could be either a perfect fourth of july food or a perfect curl up by the fire on a cold winter's night food (not that I have had a fire or a cold winter's night in several several years).

Everyone seemed to enjoy it (not that I expected anyone to say they didn't it even if they didn't), and I hope it was a nice if brief break from California burritos :)

Oh, and Lost was kind of terrible.

Friday, May 7, 2010

(evil) Zucchini mushroom pies

I learned a little about my culinary self last night. I learned that this kind of food is so emphatically not what I'm about. I don't hate making things that take a long time. I love stirring a risotto, kneading bread dough by hand (who doesn't), rolling out fresh pasta with a pint glass. It is the most relaxing thing in the world. But these dainty, pretty little pies really made me hate life for a couple hours.

The crust was just awful to deal with. I refrigerated it for an hour, cut it into two halves (four quarters would've been better), and then put one in the freezer while I worked on the other one. 5 minutes later it was a hot sticky mess. I'd cut one or two rounds (which usually fell apart on the way across the kitchen to the muffin tin) before having to ball it up and put it back in the freezer.

I was in such a pissy mood when dinner was finally ready that I'd resolved to hate them no matter what, which was difficult because honestly they turned out to be pretty tasty. Way way too rich for a main course (which should have been obvious) but probably a good appetizer.

Here is the recipe; beautiful pictures the siren song of my miserable cooking experience. We substituted earth balance (maybe part of the problem with the crust) for butter and silken tofu+apple cider vinegar for sour cream. It worked out ok but all in all I think I'm content to leave mini-pies in the hands of hippies and professionals

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flashback: Creamless Cream Corn

Corn on the cob last week and some passable cornbread that I made this week (entry forthcoming) have gotten me thinking wistfully of the cream(ed?) corn that Kris and I made for Thanksgiving last year.

It is Tom Colicchio's recipe, And it's just like ... corn with some onions and water and salt and tarragon, and it's a-m-a-z-i-n-g. You wonder why anyone ever felt compelled to make it any more complicated than that.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fig and Almond Barley Pilaf

I want to say I came up with this on my own, but then I looked at How to Cook Everything to get an idea of proportions for a pilaf and he had pretty much this exact thing (with apricots instead of figs). Starting to think that "everything" isn't all that much of an exaggeration. I am a pretty big fan of barley though. It's fun to say, loaded with soluble fiber, and super versatile (equally good as a hot breakfast cereals or in place of rice in a risotto)

Fig and Almond Barley Pilaf
Serves: 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 0.5 cups diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 0.25 cups sliced blanched almonds
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 3-4 dried mission figs
  • Honey
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  2. Cook the onion with a heavy pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until it is translucent
  3. Add the barley and almonds, stir until the barley is coated with oil and let cook for another minute or so.
  4. Add the vegetable broth, thyme, and pepper. I find our bouillon makes a pretty salty broth, so I didn't add any at this point, but you might want to.
  5. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat to low. Let this cook for about 30 minutes until all the water is absorbed. You can add a little liquid if the barley isn't quite cooked or turn up the heat a little and leave the cover off if there is too much.
  6. Stir in the figs (cut into 1/8ths) and a drizzle of honey. I thought a couple of drops of balsamic vinegar on the plate were nice too

I learned what "blanched" almonds were only after dinner, but let's say that leaving the skins on was an artistic decision to give the photo some contrast (and to be honest, it didn't bother me a bit)