Friday, January 29, 2016

VCTM (Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala)

Today's recipe is my take on the ubiquitous curry that has apparently supplanted fish and chips as Britain's "national dish." Most cuisines that achieve popularity beyond their native countries and cultures undergo some hybridization in the process (witness putatively "Chinese" American dishes like General Tso's Chicken, or Mexico's north-of-the-border culinary incarnation, Tex-Mex), and this is certainly true of the sub-continental cooking styles of former British Colonies.

In the case of CTM - as the cognoscenti call it - its origins are both murky and hotly contested, but the dish's status as a go-to, crowd-pleasing takeaway and/or hangover cure attests to its enduring  popularity, however shaky its pedigree may be. And for the purposes of this blog post, whether CTM was invented for a Mughal emperor, a Glaswegian restaurant menu, or Something Completely Different is wholly beside the point, since questions of "authenticity" are immaterial in a chicken recipe where no chickens are harmed or eaten.

I used Beyond Meat grilled strips for the "meaty" base because 1. that's what I had in the house, and 2. I knew from experience that they stand up to baking and to sauce. That said, I feel sure  TJ'sGardein, or May-Wah would work just as well, so go ahead and suit your own tastes and/or the contents of your larder. For that matter, well-pressed firm tofu would also be good, although I'd increase the marinating time so it could soak up more flavor. What I was really after was that particular sweet, spicy, tangy flavor balance you find in the best tomato-based curries, and if I say so myself, I nailed it on the first go. The inaugural batch was gobbled up with hardly any leftovers, and I've already had requests from two of my kids for the recipe and repeat appearances, so I call that a success!

VCTM (Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala)

~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, fenugreek, garam masala, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: coriander, turmeric, asafoetida
~ ¼ tsp. each: cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne pepper (more to taste)
~ 1 9 oz. package Beyond Chicken (or other vegan chicken), cut into 1” pieces
~ ½ cup plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin seeds, black mustard seeds
 1 tbsp. each: grated ginger, minced garlic
~ 1 yellow onion, diced
~ 1 red bell pepper, diced
~ 1 14 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes (including liquid)
~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste
~ 1 cup water
~ 1 cup lite coconut milk
~ 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
~ ½-¾ cup chopped, fresh cilantro

~ In a small bowl, mix together the dry seasonings until well combined. Whisk about ⅓ of the spices with the yogurt, and place in a bowl with the vegan chicken pieces. Stir well to coat, cover the bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and place it in the hot oven for about 5 minutes. Arrange the marinated vegan chicken in a single layer, and bake for 15-20 minutes, giving it a stir at the halfway point. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the coconut oil and fry the cumin and mustard seeds over medium-high heat until they just begin to splutter and pop.
~ Add the ginger and garlic and cook about 30 seconds before stirring in the onion and bell pepper. Add the remaining dry seasoning mixture and a splash of water; mix to coat and continue cooking for a minute or two, stirring constantly.
~ Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and water, and mix well. Cover the pan, bring just to a simmer, and then turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until you have a rich, fragrant gravy.
~ Stir in the coconut milk and the baked vegan chicken, mix well, and continue cooking another 10 minutes or so.
~ Stir in the lemon juice and the fresh cilantro, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with steamed basmati rice and/or naan bread, and some spicy pickle and chutney alongside.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wintry Mushroom & Barley Risotto

Well, after a freakishly warm and dry start, we find ourselves properly stuck into winter at last, complete with sub-freezing temperatures, punitive wind chill factors, and an honest-to-goodness blizzard on the horizon. In times like these, our best defense lies in carbohydrates, and today's recipe delivers them in the form of one of my favorite grains; with its warming combination of barley and mushrooms, this is a hearty dish that will help you feel better about Life, the Universe, and Everything even as you contemplate the frozen landscape outside and put on yet another layer.

Wintry Mushroom & Barley Risotto
~ 1 package dried mushrooms (porcini, oyster, shiitake, maitake; you choose)
~ 6 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 2 large bay leaves
~ 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
~ 1 lb. mixed fresh mushrooms, chopped (I used 50/50 enokitake and king oyster, but plain old portabellas would do)
~ 1 generous tsp. Marmite
~ 1 large onion, small dice
~ 2 cups pearl barley
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, sage, crushed rosemary
~ A few hefty grinds of black pepper
~ 1 cup dry white wine
~ ½-¾ cup fresh, chopped parsley

~ Several hours before you plan to cook the barley, combine the dried mushrooms, broth, and bay leaves in a large, covered pot and heat to almost boiling. Allow this mixture to steep for as long as possible to extract the maximum shroomness before straining out, chopping, and reserving the reconstituted mushrooms.
~ Coat a large, non-stick skillet with cooking spray and cook the chopped, fresh mushrooms in over medium-high heat, adding them in small handfuls to avoid crowding the pan. Once the mushrooms are all brown and fragrant (this should take about 10 minutes), stir in 1 tbsp. of the oil and the Marmite and make sure they are coated with umami goodness. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat, add the chopped onions, and sauté for 10-12 minutes, until they are quite soft but not browned (add a splash of water or broth if necessary to prevent sticking).
~ Add the barley, salt, sage, rosemary, and pepper, and stir to coat. Continue to cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the barley gives off a faint toasty smell.
~ Stir in the wine and cook, stirring, until it mostly absorbed.
Fish out and discard the bay leaves from the broth, and begin adding liquid by cupfuls, stirring until the barley soaks it up. This process takes a bit longer than it does with rice, but it's also more forgiving, so you can step away from the stove for a few minutes between stirs to refill your wine glass, throw together a salad, pet your doggie, or whatever. 
~ Continue adding broth every 5-7 minutes or so, until you have achieved a creamy, risotto-like texture that retains just a little bite. This should take about 35-40 minutes in total, but - as with most things - your mileage may vary.
~ Stir in the cooked and reconstituted mushrooms and the chopped parsley. Combine thoroughly, taste for seasoning, and serve hot.

Friday, December 18, 2015

How Green Was My Salad? (With Creamy Basil & Avocado Dressing)

A green salad? In December? Heresy!

I realize that today's post might seem incongruous during this festive winter season, but giant piles of raw veggies - which my sister hilariously refers to as "mast" - feature on our table year round. More to the point, the bizarrely fine weather we've been enjoying makes leafy greens at least as appealing a vision as sugar plums and gingerbread.

And so I present my recreation of/improvement upon one of my standard restaurant favorites: the "pea diddy" salad at Somerville's Five Horses Tavern, minus the ubiquitous cheese found in the original, and with the addition of a few more vegetables. One of the things I love about this dish is that it is entirely, completely, and unapologetically green: light, dark, and bright greens, all mixed together in a fragrant, beautifully green dressing. Indeed, with nary a tomato, carrot, or beet in sight, this salad would be right at home at a banquet in the Emerald City, and as we approach the solstice and the return of the sun, this optimistic sentiment seems especially appropriate.

The Salad
~ Mixed greens (a mix of baby kale, romaine, and arugula is nice)
~ 1 cup broccoli florets
~ 1 cup asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
~ ¾ cup fresh or frozen peas
~ ¾ cup shelled edamame
~ 1.5 cups pea shoots

~ In a vegetable steamer (or a pot of boiling water), cook the broccoli, asparagus, and peas very briefly, until just bright green; this should only take 2-3 minutes, tops. Drain, rinse immediately with cold water to stop further cooking, and turn out onto a clean tea towel to dry.
~ In a large bowl, toss the broccoli, asparagus, peas, pea shoots, and edamame with the leafy greens. Cover the salad and chill in the refrigerator while you make the dressing.

The Dressing
~ 1 perfectly ripe Haas avocado
~ 2 cloves garlic
~ 1 generously packed cup fresh basil, rough chop
~ ¼ cup fresh lime juice
~ ½ cup each: water, unsweetened plain soy milk
~ ¼ cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ A few grinds black pepper

~ Place the avocado, garlic, basil, and lime juice in a food processor or blender and puree for about a minute.
~ With the machine running, gradually add the remaining ingredients and puree until you have a smooth, vibrantly green mixture. If the dressing seems too thick, add a little more water to get the consistency you want.
~ Drizzle the desired amount of dressing over the chilled salad, toss, and serve. Alternatively, you can plate the salad and dress servings individually. Either way, you'll likely have some dressing left over, which should be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Apples & Currants

Yes, it's another muffin recipe, and a really good one at that. In fact, I've made three batches of these babies in the past two weeks alone, because they A. disappear so quickly, B. taste like the distillation of late autumn/early winter, and C. make the house smell absolutely wonderful. And with pumpkin, apples, currants, and relatively small quantities of fat and sugar, they're not only delicious but pretty healthy, too!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Apples & Currants
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used cashew)
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree (scant 2 cups)
~ ¼ cup each: canola oil, maple syrup
~ 1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
~ 1 tsp. each: vanilla extract, rum extract
~ 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom, black pepper
~ 1 medium-size apple, small dice
~ ½ cup dried currants
~ 1-2 tsp. brown sugar mixed with ¼ tsp. nutmeg (optional)

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a beaker, combine the soy milk with the vinegar and set aside for a few minutes. Add the flaxseed, and whisk vigorously for about a minute.
~ Stir in the pumpkin, oil, maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla and rum extracts.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through black pepper). Sprinkle in the currants and diced apple, and toss to coat; this will give the fruit some "grip" in the batter.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, stir in the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.
~ Spoon the batter evenly into your prepared muffin tin, and sprinkle the brown sugar and nutmeg (if using) on top.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
~ Remove from oven and allow the muffins to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. These are equally good warm or at room temperature, and are so moist they really don't need anything; that said, adding a schmear of almond or peanut butter makes a substantial mid-afternoon snack.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Savory Corn Pudding

Every year, as the winter holidays approach, it's interesting - and occasionally confusing - to hear about dishes considered de rigeur at various people's festive meals. Just as sweet potatoes topped with marshmallow or the infamous green bean casserole never appear on my family's table, I'm sure the spanakopita and pastitsio (or Cornish pasties and boozy trifle, for that matter) that show up at our holiday feasts seem incongruous to some people, but it's fun to learn about new dishes, and occasionally take inspiration from them.

Which is exactly how today's recipe came about. I've always been fascinated by regional dishes, particularly the plethora of casseroles - common in the American South - that are virtually unknown/unheard of here in New England. A recent Facebook post about corn pudding caught my attention, but while the accompanying recipe sounded good, it called for tofu, and one of my Thanksgiving guests has trouble with soy. So I defaulted to my usual approach: find a regular/omnivorous/"traditional" recipe and fix it by removing the animal bits. Google brought up a number of options, many requiring more sugar than I find appealing as part of the main course (see above in re: marshmallows), but I finally found a few savory approaches and decided to have a go at them.

Now, all this just happened to coincide with my first shipment of a product the vegan interwebz have been buzzing about for a month or so: Follow Your Heart's VeganEgg. This mixture claims to scramble, bake, make omelets and quiches, and generally behave like its bird-based inspiration in all sorts of recipes. Since my corn pudding recipe prototypes called for eggs - and I'd had good results with Western omelets on this product's maiden voyage - I opted for a straight-up, one-to-one veganization. 

And I'm happy (and thankful) to report that the resulting dish was an unqualified success. Cheesy comfort food, with a nice textural contrast from the corn and a little hit of heat from the cayenne and chili powder, it was gobbled up by my dinner guests,  and is destined to make future appearances. Since I was already embracing the spirit of adventure, I also made my first pecan pie - which was met with equally great enthusiasm - so who knows what surprises Christmas may bring? 

Savory Corn Pudding
~ 2 tbsp. vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 yellow onion, small dice
~ 1 red bell pepper, small dice
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram 
~ ½ tsp. each: dill, thyme, chili powder, white pepper
~ 5 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk 
~ 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar (I used Daiya)
~ ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
~ ½ tsp. each: dry mustard, cayenne pepper (more to taste)
~ 1 tsp. each: Liquid Smoke, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 4 tbsp. Follow Your Heart VeganEgg, whisked with 1 cup ice water
~ ⅓ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
~ Sweet or smoked paprika for garnish

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Melt the margarine in a large, deep skillet and sauté the onion and bell pepper for 5-7 minutes, until softened but not browned. 
~ Stir in the dry seasonings and corn kernels; continue cooking about 5 minutes more.
~ In a small saucepan, combine the milk, cheese, nutritional yeast, mustard powder, cayenne, Liquid Smoke, and Worcestershire sauce over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese melts and you have a smooth sauce.
~ Add the cheese sauce to corn mixture, and then fold in the prepared Vegan Egg. 
~ Mix well, transfer the whole business to your greased baking dish, and top with a sprinkle of paprika (I used smoked because I love it).
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until puffed and golden. (Keep an eye on it; ovens vary wildly and mine is a bit slow!)
~ Remove the casserole from the oven and allow it to set up for at least 20 minutes before serving. This is a great dish to prepare a day in advance and reheat in the microwave or a conventional oven. (If you choose the latter option, be sure to cover the casserole with foil so the top doesn't brown too much.)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Herb and Olive Muffins

For me, olives are a prime example of how our tastes can change in adulthood (see also: parsnips and brussels sprouts, which means there's hope that my lifelong aversion to turnip, swede, and rutabaga may yet abate). Until I was about thirty, I considered all olives - black and green alike - to be nasty little nuggets of pure evil. I liked the oil extracted from them, but olives as themselves elicited no love from me. But somewhere along the line that all changed, and now I can't get enough of the wee darlings, whether in cooked recipes, in green, pasta, and/or potato salads, in martinis (obviously), or just on their own.

This fondness is enthusiastically shared by my whole family, so a batch of these muffins disappears in about 48 hours. In fact, it seems like I'm always baking them these days, which is fine because they are delicious. Fresh-baked muffins make a perfect snack, and are welcome additions to breakfast or brunch, but they are also so simple and fast that you can easily whip up a batch to have with dinner (they make a particularly nice accompaniment to Greek lentil and avgolemono soups).

Herb and Olive Muffins
~ 1.5-2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, basil, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, thyme, oregano, white pepper, garlic powder
~ 1 generous cup chopped black olives (I use kalamata)

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a beaker, combine 1.5 cups of the soy milk with the vinegar, flaxseed, and olive oil; whisk vigorously for about a minute.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through garlic powder), the sprinkle in the olives and toss well to coat.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet mixture, adding up to ½ cup extra soy milk as needed to get a relatively smooth batter.
~ Spoon the batter evenly into your prepared muffin tin, and bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Ovens vary wildly and mine tends to be slow, so proceed accordingly.)
~ Remove from oven and allow the muffins to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mexican-Inspired Spaghetti Squash

Ebony canned black beans,
Ruby-hued tomato,
Make a sauce, bake the squash;
Thrill me with a marrow.
(With apologies to Crosby, Stills, and Nash)

Now that autumn is officially here in New England, the markets are overflowing with various types of squash, and we love them all: from the last zucchini and patty pans of late summer to the butternuts, acorns, pumpkins, and mighty blue hubbards that help make the colder months more palatable. 

As its name suggests, spaghetti squash is set apart from its brethren by its distinctive (and admittedly rather weird) texture; when roasted or baked, its flesh comes away from the skin in long, thin strands, and is often substituted for noodles by the health-and/or-carb-conscious-and/or-gluten-intolerant-and/or-averse. It also differs from its seasonal cohort in that it doesn't have much flavor, so many people think of it as bland and watery. But I've found that these very qualities make it an ideal candidate for stuffing: simply combine the strands of squash with more assertive ingredients, stuff the whole business back into the shell with a tasty topping, and bake.

I'm planning to mess around with other flavor profiles for the filling as the season progresses;  mediterranean and good old-fashioned sage & onion both seem like good candidates. But for today's recipe I used the type of filling I'd usually make for tacos or enchiladas to transform a boring old squash into a delicious, filling - yea, verily, even exciting - meal.

Mexican-Inspired Spaghetti Squash
~ 1 largeish spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 4 large scallions, sliced
~ 1 small carrot, diced
~ 1 small green bell pepper, diced
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
~ 1 cup chopped, fresh tomato (I used quartered grape tomatoes)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, cumin, chili powder, marjoram, smoked paprika
~ ½ tsp. each: cinnamon, thyme, white pepper, cayenne
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 1 cup cooked black beans (homemade or canned)
~ 1 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
~ ½ cup shredded vegan cheddar (I used Daiya)
~ ¼ cup nutritional yeast
~ ⅓ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I used Frank's)
~ ½ tsp. Liquid Smoke
~ Guacamole, salsa, and/or vegan sour cream to serve (optional)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Line a baking sheet with foil and coat it with cooking spray. Sprinkle the cut sides of the spaghetti squash with salt and pepper and place them cut side down on the pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
~ In a large skillet, sauté the scallions, carrot, and green pepper over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, corn, tomato, dry seasonings, and black beans. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have broken down a bit and everything is fragrant.
~ With a fork, scoop out the "spaghetti" strands from the cooked squash and add them to the skillet. Stir in the fresh cilantro and combine thoroughly.
~ Pack the filling - yes, all of it! - back into the stopped-out squash halves and nestle them snuggly in a rimmed baking dish coated with cooking spray. You can press down with a spatula or wooden spoon to get it all in there.
~ In a small saucepan, combine the cheddar, nutritional yeast, hot sauce, and Liquid Smoke and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the cheese melts and you have a thick sauce.
~ Carefully distribute the cheese sauce over the filled squash halves and sprinkle with a little paprika.
~ Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until the topping is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing; if you like, you can top each serving with a dollop of guac, salsa, and/or sour cream. (I got three helpings - so six in total - from each half, and served it along with rice pilaf and a big salad. Everyone at my house was happily full!)