Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tofu Feta Cheese

I posted this recipe earlier in the summer in the context of a Greek Salad, but since lots of Mediterranean dishes call for feta cheese, it occurs to me that sharing this method on its own might be a good idea, especially given my current MoFo theme. So here you go; mix up a batch of this stuff, keep it handy in the refrigerator, and you can easily add a little Grecian something to salads, sandwiches, and pizzas, in recipes like spanakopita and tyropita, or wherever you like.

Tofu Feta Cheese
~ 1 14 oz. package extra firm tofu, pressed for at least an hour
~ 2 tbsp. each: red wine vinegar, lemon juice, dill pickle brine
~ 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 tsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2 cloves crushed garlic (or ½ tsp. garlic powder)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, basil, mint
~ ½ tsp. dill

~ Once your tofu is well pressed and has given up most of its water, crumble it into small, rough cubes.
~ Mix all the remaining ingredients thoroughly in a container with a lid, then add the tofu.
~ Put the lid on and give it a few good shakes to make sure all the tofu is coated with the marinade.
~ Refrigerate for at least a day (a few days is better) before using, to let the flavors infuse the tofu.
~ Use anywhere you'd have used dairy feta back in the days of pre-enlightenment!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tourlou Tourlou (aka "Dooda")

Welcome to Vegan MoFo 2015! This marks my - GASP - eighth time participating in this annual event, and after careful deliberation I've decided on a Greek theme for this year's blogging challenge. Since starting this blog, I've veganized and posted a number of fondly remembered dishes that my (Greek) father and (British-but-Hellenic-friendly) mother used to make, and my goal for the coming month is to expand this repertoire while revisiting some already tried-and-true favorites. So without further ado, let's get down to business, shall we?

To kick things off, I happily present an incidentally vegan casserole that was one of my mother's signature dishes. Its real name is tourlou tourlou - which apparently means something like "all mixed up" - and it has a close Turkish analogue called briam, but for some now-forgotten, almost certainly baby-talk-related reason our family has always called it "dooda." Its combination of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, garlic, and tomatoes - along with its endless adaptability -  is reminiscent of ratatouille, but unlike that Provençal stew, this vegetable melange is baked. It also calls for potatoes and sometimes rice, and employs more "Greeky" seasonings like dill and rosemary (I give the envelope an extra push by adding za'ataar, because I am Officially Obsessed With It).

Of course you can add or subtract ingredients to suit availability and personal taste. Some versions call for okra, but my dad hated it so it never appeared on our dinner table; others call for capers, which strikes me as totally weird, but if you're into that sort of thing, by all means go for it. My mother always included butternut squash, so I've followed her lead here and, as ever, I tend towards a generous hand with seasonings; you should feel free to adjust quantities according to your own likes and dislikes. 

The main thing to remember with a dish like this one is that it is both informal and extremely user-friendly: precision and fastidiousness need not apply, just a craptonne of fresh vegetables! This admirable flexibility extends to serving as well, because it is equally good hot, cold, or (my personal favorite) room temperature. The finished product makes a delicious meal all on its own, or you could add a salad, or some white beans, or some green beans, or some crusty bread, or even all of the above for an extravagant Greek feast just like Yia Yia (and Papou) used to make.

Tourlou Tourlou
~ ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 large red onion, rough dice
~ 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
~ 1 large eggplant
~ 1 large green zucchini
~ 1 large yellow zucchini
~ 1 small butternut squash
~ 2 large potatoes
~ 2 bell peppers (any color)
~ 1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, drained, with liquid reserved
~ 2 tsp. each: dill, oregano, marjoram, basil, parsley, salt
~ 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled in your fingers
~ 1 tbsp. za'ataar
~ A few healthy grinds black pepper

~ Oil a large, deep casserole and preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Chop all the veggies except the onions and garlic into approximately 1" chunks.
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the sliced garlic and cook about one minute more.
~ Remove the pot from the heat and gradually mix in the chopped vegetables, drained tomatoes, and seasonings, making sure everything is well combined and coated with the seasonings.
~ Transfer the vegetable mixture to your oiled casserole and cover the whole business tightly with aluminum foil.
~ Bake at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes, checking once at about the halfway point. The vegetables should provide plenty of moisture, but if things do seem to be drying out, you can add up to a cup of the reserved tomato liquid and/or water to a corner of the pan (don't pour it over the vegetables!).
~ Remove the foil and test for "doneness"; the vegetables should be soft, and the potatoes fork tender.
~ Stir well, test for seasoning (you might want to add more of something; adjust to taste), and continue baking uncovered for another 30 minutes.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. This dish gets better as it sits, so if you have sufficient time and/or organizational skills, you can make it a day or two ahead with excellent results.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Baked Curry-Marinated Tofu

Today's post was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's grilled paneer kabobs in a recent Guardian. Since I don't currently own a grill, I usually adapt such recipes for the oven if I like the look of them. I found this one sufficiently intriguing to have a go at veganizing it, and share the happy results with you here. We served our tofu with rice and a whole bunch of roasted veggies as part of a "clean out the perishables on the eve of a trip" dinner, but it would also be great on top of salads or leafy greens, added to vegetable curries, tucked into pitas with favorite sandwich fillings, or what you will.

Baked Curry-Marinated Tofu
~ 1 14. oz. package extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into ½" cubes
~ 2 tbsp. each: hot water
~ 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
~ 1-2 tsp. red curry paste (to taste)
~ ½ cup plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
~ 1 tsp. each: fresh ginger, minced garlic, agave nectar (or sugar)
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, cumin, garam masala, fenugreek, coriander, smoked paprika
~ Dash of mace

~ Dissolve the curry paste in the hot water, and then mix together all the remaining ingredients save the tofu to make a smooth paste.
~ In a shallow baking dish or similar container, arrange the tofu cubes in a single layer and pour the yogurt mixture over them. Toss the cubes gently to ensure that they're all coated with marinade.
~ Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours; all day or overnight is even better.
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the marinated tofu on the baking sheet - it will have absorbed most of not all of the marinade - spritz with another good hit of cooking spray, and bake for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice during the process. (NB ovens vary wildly, and mine tends to be slow; just keep an eye on it so your tofu is beauteously browned and not burned!)
~ Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Spicy Nooch-Roasted Broccoli

After a few unprecedentedly glorious weeks in the original England - seriously, we were rained on once the whole time - we returned to high summer in the new one, which translates to lots of salads. Now, I love a big bowl of raw, leafy greens as much as (okay, probably more than) the next girl, but it's nice to shake things up with some cooked veggies, and this roasted broccoli (or cauliflower) adds a nicely spicy, salty toothsomeness to the mix, with the added virtues of being A. practically effortless and B. idiot simple. And with all the beautiful cruciferous veggies turning up at farmer's markets and grocery stores, there is no excuse not to fire up that oven - first thing in the morning before things get hot - and roast some up. Your dinnertime self will thank you!

Spicy Nooch-Roasted Broccoli 
~ 1 head broccoli or cauliflower (or both) florets, stalks chopped into bite-sized pieces
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
~ 1 tsp. each: garlic powder, smoked paprika
~ ¼ cup nutritional yeast

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, mix together everything but the broccoli to form a smooth, thick, paste.
~ Add the broccoli in several batches and mix well with your hands to make sure it is well coated. (At this point you can cover the bowl and refrigerate to cook later, or simply proceed to the next step.)
~ Arrange the broccoli in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and roast at 425 for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the broccoli over, and cook another 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crisp but not burned.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. This is equally good served hot, cold, or at room temperature. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Greek Salad with Tofu Feta

Like all good (half) Greek girls, I used to love me some feta cheese, although - as with black olives - it took me awhile to come around to appreciating its salty, briny charms. But once converted I was a big fan, and since being vegan, I've tried a few commercial non-dairy versions, in hopes of finding a decent approximation. Unfortunately, there was always something missing: too dry, too bland, too grainy, wrong seasonings, etc. And then one day, while snacking on the fantastic house-cured olives from our local Mediterranean grocery, it occurred to me that the brine might be just the thing for transforming pressed, crumbled tofu into feta.

I gave the notion a shot, and while the results were good, I still felt it needed more oomph, so I mixed and measured and sprinkled and stirred and came up with today's recipe, which I am happy to share with you. This stuff is so simple that I can see it becoming a weekly occurrence, especially now the weather is heating up. We've been mixing tofu feta into green salads like the one below, but it would also be a great addition to tabbouleh or couscous salad, which I'll be trying as we get further into our summer salad days. Because I am not so green in judgment that I don't know a good thing when I've found one!

Tofu Feta
~ 1 14 oz. package extra firm tofu, pressed for at least an hour
~ 2 tbsp. each: red wine vinegar, lemon juice, dill pickle brine
~ 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 tsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2 cloves crushed garlic (or ½ tsp. garlic powder)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, basil, mint
~ ½ tsp. dill

~ Once your tofu is good and pressed, slice or crumble it into roughly 1" cubes
~ Mix all the remaining ingredients thoroughly in a container with a lid, then add the tofu. Put the lid on and give the whole business a few good shakes to make sure all the tofu is coated with the marinade.
~ Refrigerate for at least a day (a few days is better) before using, to let the flavors infuse the tofu.

The Salad
~ 8 cups crunchy salad greens (romaine lettuce is perfect here)
~ 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
~ 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
~ 1 cup cubed cucumber
~ 1 cup cubed bell pepper (yellow looks pretty)
~ ¾ cup quartered black olives
~ Pita chips (homemade or store bought)

~ Transfer the marinated tofu to a colander and allow it to drain for about 10 minutes.
~ In a large bowl, combine everything but the pita chips.
~ Add the drained tofu feta to the salad and mix thoroughly. I like to use a bowl with a fitted lid so I can give everything a few really good shakes.
~ Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes, or refrigerate if you're making it ahead.
~ Serve topped with pita chips.
(NB - many Greek salads call for red onion, but I have an intolerance for any and all uncooked onions and eschew them religiously. Those not similarly afflicted may add a handful if they so choose!)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Peanut Butter & Banana Pancakes

As the youngest of four children, I grew up with a lot of hand-me-down books from my older siblings. One of these was Danny and the Pancakes, the story of a little boy with a positive mania for his favorite breakfast: an obsession that leads, if not to disaster and grief, then at least to indigestion. I liked the pictures of pancakes, and the fact that Danny shared entire stacks of them with his dog, Brownie, but I was troubled that his family left him alone at home all day, where he proceeded to do the scariest and most forbidden thing possible by cooking on the stove. As a rule-follower who always sided with The Cat in the Hat's super-ego-embodying fish, I was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by Danny's culinary hubris; the fact that I still remember this discomfort attests to its effect on my tender, infant psyche.

Years passed, and before you could say "carbohydrates" I was cooking for myself and - eventually - my own children, all of whom share Danny's taste for pancakes, if not for danger and gluttony. Today's recipe for Breakfast Nirvana was inspired by the Puffy Pillow Pancakes from Isa Does It, which are absolutely fail-safe and endlessly adaptable. Mashed, ripe bananas, cinnamon, and a little extra sugar add sweetness, and peanut butter replaces the usual canola or grape seed oil to work its ineffable magic, resulting in pancakes that will disappear immediately into the mouths of your adoring and appreciative loved ones.

I got an even dozen pancakes from this recipe - as opposed to the even one hundred produced by Danny's - which proved more than ample for four people not intent on a visit to the ER. (NB we are big peanut butter fans at my house, but those who are allergic and/or averse can easily substitute another nut butter like almond or cashew with equally happy results.) I served these as is with Earth Balance and maple syrup, but ½-¾ cup chopped apples, nuts, raisins, or fresh berries would make nice additions to the batter if you're feeling adventurous.)

Peanut Butter & Banana Pancakes
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy or almond milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flax seed
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ ¼ cup natural peanut butter (or almond, cashew, etc.)
~ 3 very ripe bananas, mashed until smooth
~ 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
~ ¼ cup sugar
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, cinnamon
~ Dash nutmeg

~ Place a non-stick baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.
~ In a beaker, combine the milk and the apple cider vinegar and allow to rest about 5 minutes. Add the flaxseed and whisk vigorously for a minute or so.
~ Add the vanilla extract, peanut butter, and mashed bananas and stir until combined.
~ In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the peanut butter/banana mixture. Stir until just combined to make a relatively thick batter (you can add an extra splash of liquid if it seems too gloppy).
~ Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat.
~ When the skillet is hot but not smoking, ladle about 1/3-1/2 cup batter into the pan and smooth it out to form a circle; I usually cook two pancakes at a time.
~ Cook the pancakes for about 2-3 minutes, until bubbles start to form on the surface. Flip and cook another minute or so, and then transfer to the oven to keep warm. Continue in this way until all the batter is used up.
~ Serve hot with Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine) and maple syrup.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Once again, I must  apologize for my recent radio (i.e. blogging) silence. Once The Winter That Would Not Die finally turned up its toes, spring arrived and got very busy very quickly with conferences, end-of-semester stuff, grading, projects, etc. All of which means I haven't had much time or energy for culinary experimentation, but now that everything is blooming and the farmers' markets are in full swing, I'm hoping the influx of fresh local produce will spark some ambition. In the meantime, here's an ass-kicking, nutrition-packed chili that is filled with everything good. (One note: the idea to use coffee for part of the liquid came from several recipes I've seen online, and I decided to give it a shot. And while I think it did add a certain something, you could easily do without it and simply make up the difference with more broth or water.)

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
~ 3 large portobello mushroom caps, chunky dice
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ ½ lb fresh tomatoes, diced (I used grape tomatoes)
~ 2 tsp. each: cumin, chili powder
~ 1 tsp. each: smoked paprika, marjoram
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, white pepper, cinnamon
~ ¼ tsp. cayenne (more to taste)
~ 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
~ ½ cup red lentils
~ 4 tbsp. tomato paste
~ 1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1.5 cups "no chicken" broth
~ ¾ cup strong brewed coffee (or more broth)
~ ½ lb. frozen spinach
~ Juice of 1 large lime
~ ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (for haters)

~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
~ Add  the sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and garlic; cook another 5 minutes, stirring to make sure things don't stick (you can add a little water as needed).
~ Add the diced tomatoes and dry seasonings; stir to coat, and cook another 5-6 minutes, until the tomatoes are beginning to soften.
~ Stir in the black beans, lentils, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well and cook another minute or two.
~ Pour in the broth and coffee, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have broken down and the vegetables are soft.
~ Add the spinach and cook another 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the lime juice and the fresh herb and serve hot with rice and/or cornbread. (A margarita wouldn't come amiss, either.)