Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Risotto with Mint-Basil Pesto

Apologies for the radio silence; we've been traveling for the past few weeks, and while I haven't exactly been sleeping on the job (the image above notwithstanding), there 
hasn't been much time for blogging, and the things I cook on holiday tend to be pretty basic. Rented cottage kitchens being the wild cards they are, I'm a dab hand at McGyvering up meals according to the vicissitudes of what's available  in British barn conversions and the like, but this trip also saw us in a downtown Reykjavik flat, which was a Whole Other Thing. Despite our worries, we actually found it far easier to be vegan in Iceland than in Quebec City (a lovely place, but a veritable food desert for herbivores, as we discovered on a weekend visit this spring), but more on all that in another post.

I made this risotto for a dinner party shortly before we went away, and even though I posted a recipe for Risotto alla Milanese only a couple months ago, this dish is so bright, flavorful, and summery that I want to share it before the season slips away. (Since getting home, I've already started seeing ads for "back to school" sales, to which I say "Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion...Thou has made me giddy with thy ill tidings." Or, to express the same sentiment in more succinct terms: "STFU!") 
I used fresh peas and asparagus for the vegetables, but you could easily substitute broccoli, zucchini, or baby spinach. I would, however, suggest sticking with the green palate, because it looks so fresh and pretty on the plate!

So happy summer, and bon appetit! And watch this space, because I have a refrigerator full of produce, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Mint-Basil Pesto

~ 2 cups chopped, fresh mint
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh basil
~ 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
~ 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1/4 cup olive oil
~ 1/4 cup water
~ Juice of 1 large lemon

~ Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Risotto with Asparagus and Peas
~ 2 cups asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
~ 5 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 3 cups Arborio rice
~ 1/2 tsp. salt (more to taste)
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ 1 cup white wine
~ 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas

~ Steam the asparagus until just bright green (2-3 minutes) and rinse immediately with cold water; drain and set aside.~ In a large saucepan, bring the broth almost (but not quite) to boiling, and then it keep warm over low heat.
~ In a large, deep pot or dutch oven, cook the onion in the olive oil for 7-10 minutes on medium heat, until soft and golden but not browned.
~ Add the rice, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly so that the grains are coated.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, stirring well to remove any bits that may have stuck to the bottom. 
~ Once the wine has cooked off, begin adding the broth to the pot by ladlefuls, stirring with each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
~ When the stock is about halway gone, begin adding an equal amount of pesto with each ladleful of liquid. Continue this process until you have only about a cup of stock remaining.
~ With the last addition of stock, stir in the peas, mix well, and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until the mixture is creamy but still retains a teensy bit of “bite."~ Add the cooked asparagus, combine thoroughly, and serve hot.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pasta Primavera

Back in the '80s, when carbohydrates were virtuous and fat was evil (or something) pasta was all the rage. Even the Smurfs were in on the craze, although I'll admit that "Papa Smurf's Special Sauce" sounds less than appetizing. This carb-curious atmosphere was great for vegetarians, since pretty much any restaurant menu would offer several options, especially for those not opposed to eggs and/or dairy. High on this list was the ubiquitous pasta primavera, which was apparently the brainchild of some wankster foodie back in 1975, who felt jaded from a week of eating "lobster and boar" and decided to blow everyone's minds by cooking spaghetti. (Seriously, you think I can make this stuff up?)

And lucky for me and my kind that he did, because pasta primavera - drenched in a creamy sauce and topped with a blizzard of Parmesan; so much for that whole "low fat" thing - was among my go-to eating out dishes for several years. Time went by, Cyndi Lauper faded from our collective consciousness, men stopped wearing pastel sportcoats, shoulderpads dwindled in size and (like Princess Di herself) eventually disappeared, and it had been ages since I'd even thought about this old favorite until it occurred to me that pasta might be a good use for the fresh English peas that hadn't wound up in this soup.

And so it proved! In fact, this dish turned out so well that it's going on my "dinner party menu list"; if you really want to go for that Reagan-era gusto, you could serve it with white zinfandel (do you remember that stuff? It was like mildly boozy Juicy Juice), but personally I'd opt for a nice, dry sauvignon blanc.

Pasta Primavera
~ 1 tbsp. each: olive oil, Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 2 cups sliced mushrooms
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1.5 cups halved grape tomatoes
~ 1 generous tsp. each: salt, basil
~ ½ tsp. oregano
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric (for color)
~ A few healthy grinds black pepper
~ ½ cup vegan Parmesan (homemade or store-bought)
~ ¼ cup nutritional yeast
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk
~ 1 container vegan sour cream (I used Tofutti)
~ 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
~ 2 cups broccoli florets
~ 2 cups asparagus spears, cut into 1” pieces
~ 1.5 cups fresh green peas
~ 1 lb. radiatorifusilli, or other bite-size pasta
~ Chopped, fresh basil and/or parsley

~ In a large, deep skillet, melt the olive oil and margarine together and sauté the mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, tomatoes, salt, basil, oregano, turmeric, and pepper; cook about 2 minutes more.
~ Turn the heat to medium-low, add the Parmesan and nutritional yeast, and stir to combine. Gradually add the soymilk, stirring constantly.
~ Add the sour cream and mix well; continue cooking about 5 minutes more, until the sauce is smooth and thick. Stir in the fresh lemon juice, remove from heat, and set aside.
~ Bring a large, deep pot of water to a rolling boil and add the pasta, stirring once. When the pasta has about 4 minutes left to cook, add the broccoli, asparagus, and peas to the pot.
~ Drain the pasta and vegetables into a large container, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
~ Return the drained pasta and vegetables to the pot and add the sauce, stirring well to make sure everything is coated. If necessary, add a bit of your reserved pasta water to get the consistency you want.
~ Reheat gently just until hot, taste for seasoning, and serve immediately. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and additional Parmesan and/or nooch as desired.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fresh Pea and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk

This lovely green soup is very loosely adaptated from a recipe in Deborah Madison's Local Flavorsrecommended in response to a Facebook plea for interesting uses for the English peas my partner brought home from Trader Joe's. The prototype looked interesting but a little dull, and having already taken my friend's suggestion to substitute Thai curry paste for oh-so-pedestrian curry powder, I decided to just throw away the playbook (does this sound at all familiar?) and "fix" it. I didn't have any fresh cilantro on hand and decided to substitute dried basil, but a generous handful of either fresh herb (or even mint) wouldn't come amiss, especially if added late in the process, so I've included them in the ingredients list. You can either partially puree the finished product or blend it until completely smooth; I chose the latter approach, and although I served it hot,  I think it would also be nice cold or room temperature soup in the upcoming, swampy summer moths. 

Fresh Pea and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk
~ 4 cups no chicken broth
~ 2-3 tsp. Thai red curry paste
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
~ ¼ cup white basmati rice
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, basil, garam masala
~ 2 heaping cups fresh, shelled English peas
~ 1 lb. frozen spinach, thawed and undrained
~ 2 cups coconut milk
~ ¼ cup fresh lime juice
~ A good handful of chopped, fresh basil, cilantro, or mint (optional)

~ In a large beaker, mix the broth with the curry paste and heat nearly to boiling. Set aside.
~ In a large, deep pot, melt the coconut and toasted sesame oils over medium heat, and add the onions. 
~ Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, and then add the garlic and ginger. Continue cooking for a minute or so, until fragrant.

~ Add the rice, salt, basil, and garam masala, and stir well to coat.
~ Pour in the broth/curry paste mixture, cover the pot, and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the rice is quite soft.
~ Return the soup to a boil, add the peas and thawed spinach, and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, and fresh herb if using. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth (you can add a little water at this juncture if it seems too thick).
~ Gently reheat the soup until hot but not boiling, and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Grilling "Cheese"

Yes, I realize that the image above is absolutely terrifying. But now that I've seen it, I'm not not about to keep it myself. (Sorry.)

Now let's talk about grilled cheese sandwiches: sometimes you just need one. I'm not generally a big buyer of commercial vegan cheese; lots of it is fine, some of it is great (OMG blue Cheezly when I can get it), but on the whole it's more of an occasional treat around here. So when that grilled cheese craving strikes and there's no processed analogue available, the options are limited: one can go shopping, give up on the idea entirely, or allow necessity to become the happy mother of invention. One recent craving hit on a day when I was disinclined to shop, and I really wanted that sandwich, so I chose option three and headed into the kitchen to see what could be done.

Google led me to the "gooey grilled cheese" from Jo Stepaniak's by-now classic Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, which I used as my basic model with one or two tweaks. The end result was a yummy, semi-soft, just spreadable  Welsh Rabbit/Cheez-Whiz hybrid, perfect for smooshing between two slices of bread and grilling. The finished product firms up as it sits, especially once it's been refrigerated, but softens quickly when heated; some additional liquid would give you an easy sauce for vegetables or pasta.

Grilling "Cheese"
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1/2 tsp. each: onion powder, salt, smoked paprika
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric (for color)
~ 2/3 cup water
~ 3 tbsp. tahini
~ 1 tbsp. ketchup
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, prepared English mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (optional; I used Frank's)

~ In a mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside.
~ In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the water, tahini, ketchup, Marmite, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce (if using). Mix well and keep stirring until the ingredients are beginning to blend together.
~ Gradually add the combined dry ingredients and keep stirring constantly, until everything is incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
~ Bring nearly to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (this will only take a minute or two). You can add a splash of water if it gets too gloppy; we're going for a texture similar to a thick tahini.
~ Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before spreading between sliced bread of your choice and grilling until browned. Any further additions like sliced tomatoes, tempeh bacon, sliced onions, etc. are entirely at your discretion.
~ Refrigerate any remaining cheese in an airtight container for further use.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Risotto alla Milanese

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible.

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Risotto has an unfair reputation for being labor-intensive and time-consuming, but it's actually a pretty simple proposition: all it requires is that you stand at the stove and stir for a half hour or so. This makes it an ideal choice for those nights when you feel like hanging out in the kitchen, optimally with someone you enjoy chatting with (NB this person can also perform helpful services like refilling your wine glass, changing the music, and dealing with pets who invariably begin begging the minute anyone gets busy at the stove). I make risotto fairly often, and have posted a number of different versions over the years, from the classic to the expedient to the iconoclastic and/or countercultural.

Today's iteration came about because I spotted some beautiful mushroom stock at Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville (a veritable Aladdin's cave of culinary riches) and immediately knew its earthy, starchy destiny. If you don't have access to prepared mushroom stock, you can easily make your own, or use regular vegetable or no chicken stock if you can't be arsed. (But let's face it, everything is more fun with fungus; as Ms. Plath notes above, resistance is futile.) However you choose to proceed, I encourage you to whip up a pot of this soon; in addition to its other charms, it makes great company food, because people imagine that you've slaved over it, and - especially at this time of year - all you need is a green salad and/or some roasted asparagus on the side for the perfect springtime dinner. 

Risotto alla Milanese
~ 6 cups strong mushroom stock (homemade or store-bought)
~ 1 tsp. saffron threads
~ 1 large bay leaf
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large yellow onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 cups Arborio rice
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 1/2 cup dry white wine
~ 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
~ Juice of one lemon

~ In a saucepan, combine the mushroom stock, saffron, and bay leaf. Heat almost (but not quite) to boiling, and keep on a low heat.
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray and sauté the mushrooms over high heat for 5-7 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with a little salt and set aside.
~ Place a large, deep saucepan or dutch oven on medium heat, and cook the onion in the olive oil for 7-10 minutes, until soft and golden but not browned.
~ Add the garlic and the Arborio rice, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly so that the grains are coated.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, stirring well to remove any bits that may have stuck to the bottom. 
~ Once the wine has cooked off, discard the bay leaf and begin adding the mushroom stock to the pot by ladlefuls, stirring with each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
~ Continue this process until you have only about a cup of stock remaining (this is the part where your helpful glass-refilling chum comes in).
~ With the last addition of stock, stir in the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and reserved sautéed mushrooms. Mix well and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until the mixture is creamy but still retains a teensy bit of “bite.”
~ Serve immediately with a green salad, steamed or roasted vegetables, and more wine!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Selsig Morgannwg (Glamorgan Sausages)

The idea for today's recipe came from that perennial font of culinary inspiration, the Guardian's food section. Glamorgan sausages are a fixture on UK pub menus, and there are many frozen, commercial versions, but they always contain cheese and eggs so I never get to have them. I hadn't thought about just making some myself until Felicity Cloakes featured them in a recent "How to Make the Perfect..." column, and thought I'd give it a shot, the results of which I'm happy to share.

As with Welsh Rabbit, one has the feeling this meatless dish has its roots more in austerity than in ethics, but any alternative to eating ground-up sheep, pigs, and cows (or rabbits) is all right in my book, regardless of its generating impulse. The recipe originally called for Glamorgan cheese (made from the milk of Glamorgan cows, pictured above), but since the breed is now all but extinct, Caerphilly or cheddar are most frequently recommended. My version improves on its prototype by sparing the calves and chickens as well; substituting margarine, ground flaxseed, and Daiya cheddar shreds (Cheezly would be even better if you can lay hands on it) for their animal-sourced analogues.

The finished product is more like a croquette than a sausage, but that sounds dangerously French so never mind. Whatever you choose to call these crispy little darlings, they're deliciously addictive in that particular pub-food way, and eminently kid-friendly. (NB that they're traditionally fried, but I chose baking for maximal crunch and minimal grease. If you'd rather fry them, go for it, but I'd keep a close eye because the crumb coating could burn easily!)

Glamorgan Sausages
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 2 leeks, chopped
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, thyme, parsley
~ Dash nutmeg
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2 cups grated vegan cheddar 
~ 2 tbsp. ground flax seeds
~ 6 tbsp. water
~ ¼ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. English mustard
~ 1 tsp. Marmite
~ 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs, divided
~ ¾ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ Melt the margarine in a skillet and sauté the leeks over medium heat until well softened; about 5 minutes.
~ Stir in the cheese, salt, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper; mix well, and continue cooking until the cheese has melted. Remove from heat.
~ In a bowl or small beaker, whisk the flax seeds with the water until viscous (this will take a minute or two). Add the milk, English mustard, and Marmite, and stir to combine.
~ In a large mixing bowl, combine the leek and cheese mixture, the flax mixture, and 2 cups of the breadcrumbs. Mix well and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
~ Shape the mixture into sausages (I made mine about 4” long), and chill in the refrigerator for ½ an hour.
~ While the sausages are chilling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the soymilk and remaining breadcrumbs in two separate dishes. Dip each sausage in the milk, and then roll in the breadcrumbs to coat.
~ When all the sausages have been coated, place them on your preheated baking sheet, and give the tops a good shot of cooking spray.
~ Bake the sausages for 20-25 minutes, turning once at the halfway point, until golden brown.
~ Serve immediately with mashed potatoes (I made champ), onion gravy, and the vegetables of your choice.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tofu and Green Beans in Coconut Sauce

Okay, it's not that bad, but I have been a bit off the whole cooking (and blogging) thing lately. Between the semester winding down, with classes ending, grading to be done, summer plans to make, my son's college applications and decision (!), and trying to get some Actual Writing done so I can get going on More Serious Actual Writing, I haven't had much time or inclination to hit the kitchen. No one is going hungry, but meals chez nous have generally been fast, simple, and/or old favorites long since posted here. I'm anticipating my annual jolt of renewed energy once summer arrives, with its farmer's markets and piles of fresh produce; meanwhile, I've got enough on my figurative plate without worrying too much about the literal ones.

That said, I did MacGyver this tasty dish one recent night. It's not quite a stirfry, and it's not quite a curry: it's one of those things that
 come about when whatever's in the house winds up becoming dinner (hence the unimaginatively literal title of this post). Happily, it turned out to be delicious, and I'm sure it would lend itself to whatever other vegetables happen to be lying around; lightly steamed broccoli and/or snow peas would make nice substitutions or additions. Onward!

Tofu and Green Beans in Coconut Sauce 
The Tofu
~ 1 block extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1/2” cubes
~ 2 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: lime juice, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 1 tbsp. each: crushed garlic, grated ginger
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 tsp. English mustard powder
~ 1/4 cup water

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl and add the tofu cubes, turning them a few times to make sure they’re thoroughly coated.
~ Set aside to marinate for at least half an hour.
~ When the tofu has had a nice, long soak, arrange the cubes on your prepared baking sheet.  (Be sure to reserve the marinade!)
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes turning occasionally to make sure it browns on all sides.
~ Transfer the baked tofu to a plate and set aside, leaving the oven at 400.

The Vegetables and Sauce
~ 1 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
~ 2 tbsp. canola or other neutral oil
~ Salt and black pepper
~ 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin matchsticks and then halved
~ 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
~ ½ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. corn starch

~ Arrange the green beans on a baking sheet (you can just wipe down the one you used for the tofu) and coat thoroughly with the oil and a few grinds each of salt and pepper.
~ Roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring them around periodically to be sure they don’t burn.
~ While that’s happening, coat a large, deep skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high flame. Add the red bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until they are slightly charred (but not burned!).
~ Stir in the coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, and reserved tofu marinade. Combine thoroughly, turn the heat to medium low, and cook for about 5 minutes.
~ In a small bowl, combine the soy milk and the corn starch and beat with a fork until smooth.
~ Add the corn starch mixture to the sauce and cook another 5 minutes or so, until it has thickened a bit.
~ Add the baked tofu and roasted green beans to the skillet, mix thoroughly with the sauce, and allow to heat through.
~ Serve hot over short grain brown rice.