Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blueberry Ginger Buckle (or is it a Cobbler?)

It's been several busy, intense weeks since I last posted, because all of a sudden the long, lazy days of summer starting careening down the hill towards fall at top speed, and then it was time to - GULP - move my son into college. Needless to say, this development produced a rich, complex emotional stew of pride, excitement, nostalgia, panic, and complete denial that left little energy for cooking (or blogging). But now he's settled in, his classes have started, all appears to be well, and it's time for me to settle back into something like a normal routine.

With another Vegan MoFo coming up, that routine includes spending some quality time in the kitchen. My own classes resume next week, so my plan for this year's MoFo is to post two or three times a week, and after careful consideration, and in light of the World War I centenary
I've decided to focus on recipes from between 1914-1918. I learned so much from my World War II austerity project  two years ago, and this theme seems like an appropriate follow-up. I've been doing some research, but would be grateful for any resources that culinary enthusiasts, living history types, material culture-friendly British modernists, etc. might be able to provide; thanks in advance.

But all that lies in the womb - or at least the stomach - of time. There's still a bit of summer left, and today's recipe reflects that fact by using a full pint of sweet, delicious, late August blueberries. So what is this thing, exactly? Is it a cobbler? Is it a buckle? Is it - wait for it - a grunt? What's the difference? And does it really matter when whatever it may be is so easy, and so delicious? Enjoy these last lazy days, and I'll see you in the trenches come September; watch this space!

Blueberry Ginger Buckle 
The Filling
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 1 tbsp. fresh, grated ginger
~ 1 pint fresh blueberries
~ 1/4 cup maple syrup
~ 1/2 cup orange juice
~ 2 tbsp. corn starch

~ In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon juice and ginger and mix well.
~ Add the blueberries, maple syrup, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice; cover and bring just to a boil.
~ Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice until smooth. Add to the berry mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and the fruit has softened slightly.
~ Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

The Batter
~ 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
~ 1 cup corn meal
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, salt, cinnamon
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 1/2 cup brown sugar
~ 1 large, ripe banana, mashed
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1.5 cups almond milk (plain or vanilla)
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1 tbsp. sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and dried ginger

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 12" baking dish with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brow sugar.
~ In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, canola oil, almond milk, and vanilla extract; stir well until smooth.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy batter (you can add a splash more milk if it seems too dry).
~ Spoon a little more than half the batter into the bottom of your greased baking dish, making sure the bottom is entirely covered, and then add the blueberry filling (all of it!).
~ Top the filling with the remaining batter, don't try to smooth it out, but just distribute it in rough lumps, like a cobbler topping.
~ Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, and ginger over the top and bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan about 15 minutes before slicing into squares for serving.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Coconut-Sesame-Peanut Noodles

Back at the beginning of this (all-too-rapidly disappearing) summer, my friend Jess invited my partner, another friend, and me for dinner, which featured some delicious sesame noodles. I meant to get the recipe and recreate them at home, but things got busy, travel plans got underway, and it slipped my sieve-like mind until a few weeks ago, when I was looking for something to bring to a dinner party and thought those noodles would be just the thing: easily transportable, and equally good served hot, cold, or at room temperature. I emailed Jess for the details, but since we were in Iceland at the time, some ingredients weren't available; not to be deterred, I MacGyvered a batch using what was on hand, with excellent (if I do say so) results. Now that we're home again, I present a conflation of the original recipe and my North Atlantic improvisation, so that the gentle reader may be touched by the noodly greatness of a one-dish meal that manages to be comforting, filling, yet surprisingly light: the perfect dinner for a warm summer evening.

Coconut-Sesame-Peanut Noodles
~ 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
~ 6 large scallions, sliced
~ 3 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: Thai red curry paste, brown sugar
~ 1-2 tbsp. Sriracha
~ 1 15 oz. can coconut milk
~ 1/4 cup tahini
~ 1/2 cup smooth, unsweetened peanut butter
~ Juice of 1 lime

~ In a large saucepan, saute the garlic in the sesame oil over medium heat for about a minute. Add the ginger and scallions and cook about two minutes more.
~ Stir in the soy sauce, curry paste, sugar, Sriracha, and coconut milk. Mix well to get everything nicely acquainted.
~ Add the tahini and the peanut butter, and stir until smooth. Continue cooking for about 5-7 minutes, until hot but not boiling. Stir in the lime juice, taste for seasoning (you may want a little more heat, salt, or whatever), and set aside.

Noodles and Veggies
~ 1 lb. linguine
~ 2 cups broccoli florets
~ 1 12 oz, package Wildwood savory baked tofu, cubed (or 1.5 cups homemade)
~ 2 cups shredded carrot
~ 2 cups bean sprouts
~ 1 cup fresh, chopped basil or cilantro
~ Chopped, roasted peanuts (optional, for garnish)

~ Cook the linguine according to package directions. Just before the pasta is done, add the broccoli, cook about one minute, and then drain the whole business, reserving one cup of the cooking water.
~ Rinse the pasta and broccoli with cold water, drain well, and return to the pot.
~ Add the sauce, tofu cubes, carrots, bean sprouts, and fresh herb. Mix thoroughly (this makes a lot, so you'll need to put your back into this part), adding some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture seems too thick.
~ Serve immediately at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve cold later, with extra hot sauce and maybe some chopped peanuts for garnish.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Masala Dosa-Inspired Puff Pastry Tarts

Ever wonder what would happen if a pissaladiere, a puff pastry tart, and a masala dosa had a three-way that led to, er, "issue"? No? Hmmm. Well, I have, and I like to think that in the blessed event, such a a groovy culinary lovechild would look (and taste) something like this.

Masala Dosa-Inspired Puff Pastry Tarts
~ 1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed (Pepperidge Farm is vegan)
~ 1/2 lb. brown mushrooms, sliced
~ 1-2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1/2 tsp. each: mustard seeds, cumin seeds
~ 2 tbsp. chana dal
~ 1 small onion, diced
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. fresh, grated ginger
~ 4-5 small potatoes, cooked and cubed
~ 1/2 tsp. each: black salt, cumin, garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, asafoetida, fenugreek
~ 1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed
~ 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
~ 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
~ In a nonstick or cast iron skillet, cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with a little salt, transfer to a plate, and set aside.
~ In the same pan, melt the coconut oil and cook the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and chana dal over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the seeds start to pop. Add the onions and continue cooking about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened but not brown.
~ Add the garlic and ginger, cook for about minute, and then stir in the cubed, cooked potatoes.
~ Fry the potatoes for about 5 minutes, turning them so they get a bit brown, and then add the dry seasonings, stirring to coat. You can add some water to the pan if things start to stick.
~ Stir in the peas and cook just another minute or two, until they turn bright green.
~ Add the reserved, cooked mushrooms and combine thoroughly.
~ Remove from heat and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
~ Arrange the thawed puff pastry on the baking sheets; gently fold in the edges and crimp to form a rim.
~ Divide the potato mixture evenly between the two sheets, using a spatula to spread it right to the edges.
~ Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown. (Ovens vary wildly, so keep an eye on them; I switched the pans at the halfway point to ensure even baking.)
~ When the tarts are nearly done, sprinkle each one with half the fresh cilantro and return to the oven for about 5 minutes.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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.