29 March 2008

Dinner Tonight: Caesar Salad With Sea Veggies

Adding nori and powered, toasted dulse to a caesar salad doesn't make it any less cliché, but it tastes damn good.

Vegan-ized Caesar Salad Dressing
Adapted from Leslie McEachern, The Angelica Home Kitchen (2003)

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. umeboshi paste
  • 3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. yellow miso
  • 4 oz. silken tofu
  • 1/3 cu. grapeseed oil
  • 2/3 cu. olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
Whiz up the everything but the oils, then make an emulsion by whizzing in the oil gradually. Season. So good.

26 March 2008

Dinner Last Night And A Book Review

I haven't been as obsessed with almost any cookbook as I am right now with Angelica's Home Kitchen. The trend with vegetarian and vegan cookbooks seemed to be for a long while focussed on supposedly satisfying simple recipes. That's great for someone who either doesn't enjoy or is new to cooking and who is looking for an entrée point into the world of healthier eating; but what about people who really enjoy cooking and learned some small technique in their omnivorous days? They don't want to give up what's fun for them about cooking just because they've sworn off the cream and egg based sauces! No, I say!

Other than perhaps some ethnically centered books, there just didn't seem to be many sources for experimenting with vegan "haute cusine" (a term I now employ only semi-facetiously). It wasn't until we discovered Peter Berley's books a few years back that we finally got to itch that scratch. But in Angelica's book you have the perfect mix of challenging recipes, informative advice, odd little stories and new ingredients and techniques that we were looking for. It's a truly excellent book that I can't seem to stop cooking from.

Case in point: lasagna, which when vegan-ized often ends up being bland and disappointing. This version is built with a "no-mato" sauce of carrots and beets, and layered with steamed kale and beet greens, roasted zucchini, roasted mushrooms, onions, olives and topped with the ridiculously, near-ubiquitously popular tofu ricotta. There is a lot of real food compressed into that little baking dish and the taste is far far from bland.

Grinding, It Isn't Just For Pepper Anymore

The best tip I've read in a while (and I credit it to Peter Berley via the Angelica) is that it's worth grinding your spices fresh, rather than using stuff that's already ground and who knows how old. Granted, one doesn't always have the option or time to do this, but for things like fennel, cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper (obviously) and even (or perhaps especially) cinnamon, it's the bee's knees. Seriously, roasting the seeds and then grinding them right before use creates a whole new set of flavours.

Maybe I should have picked up a coffee grinder for this purpose, but I'm finding this granite molcajete-like mortar and pestle way more versatile and fun to use. Here's our executive sous-chef, looking a little tired, but determined to grind out the perfect masala:

Oh then for some Oden

The image in my head of oden is something like this:

Which is to say: starchy with lost of fried floating bits. I mean the little fried fish cakes taste great, but they're not exactly what I classify as food these days.

Here's an updated version that looks more like the romantic image in my head of it being served from big iron pots by a magical fox chef like in xxxHolic:

24 March 2008

Tahini and Soba, Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together

Where does the "classic" pairing of soba and tahini come from? I first encountered it at Cafe Brenda, and there's a great recipe in the Cafe Brenda Cookbook that features the two ingredients. But it's also everywhere else: it's in Vegan Planet, for example, and if you google it, you'll find thousands of hits (over sixty-seven thousand actually).

Soba, of course, is japanese, but tahini is middle eastern. The japanese version of tahini is a sesame butter called shiro neri goma (white sesame butter) or kuro neri goma (black sesame butter). While you can apparently substitute tahini for neri goma—as western vegetarian chefs apparently do—some insist there is a strong difference between the two, although it's not clear what. I think that the sesame seeds may be roasted before grinding when making neri goma.

But, in any event, are neri goma and soba a common traditional japanese pairing? Or is this some early western vegetarian creation? A quick search doesn't suggest that traditional Japanese cuisine puts the two together frequently—at least not in the way you see it featured in our vegetarian cookbooks. Ok, well here's a possible modern exception:

So how did it become so popular among western herbivores anyway?

Tahini Sauce for Soba Noodles ("Soba Sensation Sauce")
Adapted from Leslie McEachem, Angelica Home Kitchen (2003)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs. ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbs. dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cu. brown rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cu. tamari
  • 1/3 cu. brown rice syrup
  • 2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/3 cu. tahini
  • 1/3 hot water
  • cayenne
Whiz them all together. Go light on the cayenne, it will really stand out in this sauce.

The "Soba Sensation" sauce is a gift that keeps on giving. Here it is in something that really is a classic use of neri goma: gomae (Next to it is Angelica's vegan reuben—holy crap that's a seriously good sandwich):

  • 1 bunch of spinach, blanched very quickly (into the boiling water and right out again), and cooled under cold water, then drained and squeezed dry in a toil or bamboo sushi roller
  • 2 Tbs. neri goma
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. mirin (or just sake),
  • 1 Tbs. shoyu
  • pinch of salt
Just mix them together; it's one of those simple recipes that turns surprisingly well.

And here it is yet again in my lunch: a sandwich with leftover baked marinated tempeh, daikon and sauteed hiziki with scallions.

And I still have a few cups of the stuff left over for a sandwich with just the "sensation" sauce and roasted caramelized onions and lettuce.

18 March 2008

Cinnamon Orange and Chile Glazed Sweet Potatoes

I'm trying to learn to love sweet potatoes. Isn't that the vegan thing to do? I used to dislike them, or at least I thought I did. My last sweet potato experience warmed me up to them, but this one finished the job. No picture, but they looked great, smelled great, and tasted great.

Cinnamon Orange and Chile Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Mexican Kitchen (1996)

Chile Paste

  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 6 ancho chiles split in half, seeded
  • 1tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (ground yourself in a mortar or suribachi)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves (again, freshly ground)
  • 1/2 cu. veggie stock or water
Place the garlic unpeeled in a clean cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat, turning, until they blacken slightly (15 minutes). Peel the garlic. In the same skillet, toast the chiles, pressing them against the skillet on each side until they make popping sounds. Remove the chiles, let them soak in hot water for half an hour, then drain. Combine all of the ingredients in a small food processor and blend into a paste. Force the mixture through a sieve.

Sweet Potatoes
  • 5 or 6 sweet potatoes, not peeled
  • 1 Tbs. of orange zest
  • 1/2 cu. orange juice
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
Preheat your oven to 350°. Slice the sweet potatoes into wedges and place in an oiled baking dish. Whisk the zest, juice and honey together with some of the chile paste. Keep adding paste until you like the flavour. Add the salt. Spoon the mixture over the potatoes. Bake covered for half an hour; then uncover, mix up the potatoes to cover them in the glaze, turn the oven up to 420° and roast for 15 more minutes. Garnish with cilantro and orange zest.

15 March 2008

Vietnamese Tempeh Salad

Our tempeh kick continues with this salad from The Cafe Brenda Cookbook. We picked the book up from a friend who used to work there—it’s even signed by the author! Things sometimes read better on the menu then they actually tasted at Cafe Brenda, but there were some outstanding dishes too, and this salad is one of them (though the soba noodles with tahini were truly memorable as well).

Vietnamese Warm Tempeh Salad
Adapted from Brenda Langton and Margaret Stuart, The Cafe Brenda Cookbook (1992)

The Marinade:

  • 1.5 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. of ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cu. mirin
  • 1/4 cu. tamari
  • 3 Tbs. orange juice
  • tempeh
Saute the garlic and ginger in a skillet for a few seconds, then add the liquid ingredients, reserving 1 Tbs. of the juice. Add the tempeh and simmer, covered, for a few minutes on each side. Set the tempeh aside and reserve the marinade. Add the remaining Tbs. of juice to the marinade to reconstitute it and keep it for use as a sauce later.

The dressing:
  • 1/3 cu. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cu. veggie oil
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 Tbs. soy
  • 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • pinch of cayenne
Whisk it, whisk it good ....

The salad:
  • Just use some lettuce and a mixture of whatever looks good: carrots, cukes, peapods, sprouts, tomatoes, scallions, onions ...
  • Rice noodles
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Mint and ginger, for garnish
Cut your veggies as you like for a salad, blanching anything too crunchy, like carrots. Prepare the rice noodles and chill. Brown the tempeh, which will burn very easily after the marinade step above. Dress the lettuce with the toasted sesame dressing, and use it to make a bed for the rest of the salad. Add noodles and top with some of the marinade. Cut and add the tempeh. Garnish with scallions, mint, cilatro, and peanuts.

09 March 2008

Orange Roasted Beets And Shallots With Orange-Mint Gremolata

These roasted beets from Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet are a real treat.

Orange Roasted Beets and Shallots with Orange-Mint Gremolata
Adapted from Robin Robertson, Vegan Planet (2003)

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • About 1 1/2 cu. orange juice reduced to about a 1/4 cu. or less
  • 8 beets (a mixture of red and golden beets would have looked nicer), trimmed, scrubbed, quartered
  • 4 shallots, peeled, halved
  • salt, pepper
  • Orange Gremolata (recipe follows)
Fire up your oven to 450°. Whisk the olive oil and orange reduction together and mix together with the beets and shallots. Spread the beets and shallots into an oiled baking dish or tray. Season with salt, pepper. Cover the baking dish. Roast covered for about 50 minutes. After about 25 minutes have elapsed, stir the veggies; after about 40 minutes have elapsed, remove the cover. Serve topped with some of the orange gremolata.

Orange-Mint Gremolata
Adapted from Robin Robertson, Vegan Planet (2003)

The mint really works here in a way that makes me wonder if the traditional parsley might not.
  • Zest of one large orange
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/3 cu. chopped fresh mint
Ideally, you would place all the ingredients into a small food processor and whiz them up a bit, but not too much—you want a nice even mixture, not a paste. Alternatively, mince the ingredients together with a knife.

08 March 2008

Open-Faced Tempeh Sandwich With Mushroom "Gravy"

We've been rediscovering tempeh lately. It's always at it's best for me when browned and then given something flavorful to simmer in. Here, Peter Berley avoids the vegan first resort of nutritional yeast when it comes to vegetarian gravy. This sandwich is apparently still on the menu where Berley was once head chef, the Angelica Kitchen. There, he apparently had a more involved preparation, and I'd like to know what it was. I'm sure the presentation at the Angelica is really pretty, whereas, well, let's just say I know it's not a flattering photo (by the way, those dark carrots aren't burnt they're just purple carrots). Still, this was a really satisfying dinner, close to comfort food.

Open-Faced Tempeh Sandwich With Mushroom Gravy
Adapted from: Peter Berley, Fresh Food Fast (2004)

  • 1 cu. onions, sliced
  • 2 cu. crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cu. olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tb. of sage, chopped
  • 2 packages of tempeh cut into strips
  • 3 Tb. flour
  • 1/4 cu. soy sauce
  • bread for serving
  • parsely for garnish
Saute the onions, then add the mushrooms, sage and garlic and cook for a couple minutes. Stir in the tempeh and flour and cook, stirring, for three more minutes. Add 3 cu. of water or vegetable stock (or even chicken stock if you an omnivore) and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce thickens. Serve over good bread.

07 March 2008

"Baja" Style Grilled Tempeh Tacos

Back to the 'nomicon, which we have been diligently working our way through while trying to avoid some of the more wtf recipes hidden within. Those missteps aside, there are some great ideas in the book, like these tacos:

Baja-style Grilled Tempeh Tacos
Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, Veganomicon (2007)

Taco Slaw:

  • 3 cu. shredded cabbage
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/4 cu. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 pickled jalapenos, diced
  • salt, pepper
Lime "Crema"
  • 3/4 cu. soy yoghurt
  • 3 Tbs. lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. grapeseed or avocado oil
  • 1/3 cu. cilantro
  • salt
Tempeh Marinade
  • 3/4 cu. beer
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 Tbs . soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. tamari
  • 3 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • tempeh
  • corn tortillas
  • the usual taco suspects: radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, salsa, etc...
For the slaw: Mix all of the ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and then place a weight on top of the slaw (something like a small plate or other flat object with heavy jar top of it). Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. If it's very juicy, you can squeeze the juice out of it before adding to your taco.

For the "crema": blend all the ingredients together and let it chill for an hour.

For the tempeh: Divide the tempeh into thin, grill-able portions then throw them into a pot of boiling water and let them simmer for 10 minutes. Mix all the marinade ingredients together and marinate the tempeh for an hour, turning occasionally.

Now you have an hour to kill, if you can wait that long. Dos Equis anyone?

Afterward, grill, broil or pan fry the tempeh, spooning some marinade on them as you go. Heat up the corn tortillas and set up a little taco buffet. These are some kick ass tacos.

Also, in the background of the photo is the quinoa, black bean and mango salad, also from the 'nomicon, which is a really great salad.

06 March 2008

Sri Lankan Sweet Potatoes with Cardamom and Chiles

OK, sure it's not a flattering picture, but these were the best damn sweet potatoes I've ever had.

I generally turn to Julie Sahni for Indian cooking, but we somehow ended up with a copy of Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian a few years ago. The problem with the book is that it's a big dense thing with no readability at all. It's not a book you can just leaf through and find yourself saying, "oh that's what we're having for dinner tonight." And so it sat on the shelf until this post on Serious Eats reminded me that it was there.

It turns out that the secret to World Vegetarian it is to approach it like a reference book, looking up ingredients in the index that you need to cook. So, we had these sweet potatoes and Madhur gave us...

Sri Lankan Sweet Potatoes with Cardamom and Chiles
Madhur Jaffrey, World Vegetarian (1999) (attributed to Cheryl Rathkopf).

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks (3/4")
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 5 Tbs. peanut or olive oil
  • 3 dried chiles
  • 4-5 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 handfuls of curry leaves or, alternatively, basil
  • 3 onions, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 tsp. crushed hot chiles
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. lime juice
Boil the sweet potatoes with the tumeric for 5 to 6 minutes, then drain. Add the oil to a frying pan and cook the chiles over high to medium high heat. Quickly add in the cardamom and cinnamon, followed after a few seconds by the curry leaves. Next stir in the onions and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Next add the sweet potatoes and stir fry them for a few minutes. Finish it off with the crushed chiles, salt and lime juice, then drop the heat and keep cooking until the potatoes are tender enough to eat. Remove pods and sticks before serving.

We'll definitely pick this book off the shelf more often now.

05 March 2008

Fettuccine and Broccoli with Miso Pesto

Lorna Sass's The New Soy Cookbook is a notably omnivorous tofu book and it's just plain awesome. Miso pesto might sound weird to the soy uninitiated but, trust me, it just works and couldn't be any easier.

Fettuccine and Broccoli with Miso Pesto

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • fettuccine
  • 1/2 cu. miso pesto (see below)
  • ground pepper
Trim the broccoli into little florets. Cook the pasta. Once the pasta is nearly done, add in the broccoli and cook it right in the pasta water. Drain and dress with the pesto and some pepper.

Miso Pesto

Seriously, how did she come up with this?
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cu. basil leaves
  • 1/2 cu walnuts (toasted, cooled)
  • 2 Tbs. barley miso
  • 1tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cu. olive oil
It's pesto, so you already know what to do: In your food processor, whiz up the garlic first, then add everything up to the oil and give it hell until it becomes a thick paste. Next, stream in the oil until you get the familiar consistency of pesto. She recommends that you let it set up for a while, which makes good sense, but even if you don't it will be terrific.

04 March 2008

Steamed Won-Tons and Jicama-Watercress-Avocado Salad

The Vegonomicon (from the semi-infamous (and apparently story-game friendly) Post Punk Kitchen)) arrived in our kitchen not too long ago and this was our first experience of it. The ‘nomicon gets points for being generally fun to read and getting creative with simple recipes. If you're an omnivore, it may seem too hung up on fulfilling vegan dessert cravings, but there‘s a lot more to it than vegan cupcakes. This jicama salad was very nice. It‘s one of those salads, however, where you have to engineer each bite to get a little bit of all of the ingredients before it will deliver the intended effect. The citrus dressing is sort of east, sort of latin, sort of somewhere in between—something you can definitely use elsewhere, like as a sauce on …

steamed won-tons filled with veggies and tofu! The won-tons came to us from the weirdly annoying bald guy on Discovery “health.” His weirdness aside, these were a huge hit.

01 March 2008

Chicken in Mole Negro with Pickled Veggies

We're big fans of Peter Berley: he divides his books into seasons, gives you good menus, has a macrobiotic influence but doesn't shy away from nightshades, and his latest book, Flexitarian Table, helps cohabiting omnivores and herbivores achieve kitchen harmony. He has a perfectly good molé recipe in his Winter chapter, but the pickled veggies he pairs with it really stole the show.

Pickled Vegetable Salad (adapted from Flexitarian Table)

For the brine combine 4 cu. of water, 2/3 cu. of unpasteurized cider vinegar, 2 Tb. of sugar, 1 tsp. of coriander seeds, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, some dried chilies and a couple bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes and then let it cool while you prepare the veggies.

He suggests a mixture of onion, carrots, cauliflower, fennel and red cabbage. Cut them as you please and combine them with the brine. Let them pickle in the refrigerator for at least two days before serving. Predictably, the red cabbage bled out and dyed the other veggies red and pink, which was fine but ruined the colorful mix, so you might substitute another cabbage in its place. The fennel and onions, however, were terrific, and are still making appearances on salads and sandwiches.

Chicken or Tempeh in Molé Negro (adapted from Flexitarian Table)

And here's the clever bit of Flexitarian Table: he writes at least one recipe in each menu two ways—one to please the omnivore and one to please the herbivore.

The omnivore should dismember a whole bird, remove the skin, season it and refrigerate for an hour or so. The herbivore may sit smugly by.

For the molé:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 dried ancho chilies
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 Tb. sesame seeds
  • 2 Tb. pepitas (wait, still more seeds needed)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo
  • 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Fry the anchos in the oil until they blister, then remove from the pan and let them cool. Break them open and remove the seeds. Put the chilies in the hot water and let them soak for 20 minutes. Drain them but keep the liquid for the molé.

Back at the skillet; heat it up again and cook the onions for a few minutes before adding the raisins, seeds and nuts. Let them toast until they are fragrant.

Scrape it all into a blender (but leave your skillet out for more hot simmering action), add the chipotle chilies, 1 tsp. salt, the ancho chilies, and 1 cup of the reserved chili water. Puree the mixture while slowly adding the remaining liquid until smooth. Return the puree back to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Now stir in the chocolate and add the cinnamon stick. Let the molé simmer for 20 minutes.

Bringing it all together is simply a matter of browning the chicken or tempeh and then covering it in molé and simmering it until done.

He suggests serving a creamy masa as the starch but we opted for rice with limes, garlic, parsley, cilantro and spinach.