Sunday, March 29, 2015

Perfectly Simple Yellow Dal

This deceptively simple dal packs a lot of flavor, and with its smooth, porridgy texture and cheerful yellow color, it's like a big, warm hug for your stomach. I served it alongside saag (minus the tofu) and ginger-garlic sweet potatoes, but it can easily be a meal on its own ladled over basmati rice.

Perfectly Simple Yellow Dal
~ 1 cup chana dal (yellow split peas)
~ ½ cup red lentils
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 2 tsp. fresh ginger
~ ½ tsp. turmeric
~ 1 tbsp. each: canola oil, Earth Balance
~ 1 cup chopped shallots
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 large tomato, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin, garam masala, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, asafoetida, coriander, white pepper
~ ¼ tsp. cayenne (more to taste)
~ ½ cup fresh, chopped cilantro

~ In a saucepan, combine the chana dal, lentils, broth, bay leaves, and ginger. Cover, bring to a boil, and turn the heat to its lowest setting. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and mushy, adding a little extra water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking. (We’re going for a texture like porridge.)
~ When the legumes are cooked, combine the oil and margarine in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the shallots for about 5 minutes, until softened but not brown.
~ Add the garlic, tomatoes, and dry seasonings and cook about 5-7 minutes more.
~ Tip the cooked dal into the skillet, remove the bay leaves, and combine thoroughly. Continue cooking another 5 minutes, stir in the fresh herb, and serve hot with basmati rice and/or naan, chutney, and a good, spicy pickle.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

White Beans with Leeks and Carrots

This thick, creamy stew makes a comforting dinner on a chilly evening, or any time you're feeling a bit bashed about. Flavor-wise, it put me in mind of my mother's pot pie filling, only less podgy; perhaps because I used beans instead of fake meat. We ate ours in shallow bowls atop a pile of champ - thereby redressing any potential podge imbalance - which was a perfect pairing of flavors and textures, but it would be lovely ladled over noodles, rice, or biscuits, too.

White Beans with Leeks and Carrots
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. "no chicken" bouillon
~ 1 bay leaf
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large leek (or 2 small), cleaned and chopped
~ 2 large carrots, diced
~ ½ tsp. each: thyme, marjoram, white pepper, Adobo seasoning
~ Dash each: mace, turmeric
~ 1 14 oz. can white beans (I used cannellini), drained and rinsed
~ 1/2cup frozen peas
~ 2 tbsp. flour

~ Combine the soy milk, bouillon, and bay leaf, and heat almost to boiling (a few minutes in the microwave will accomplish this nicely). Set aside.
~ In a largeish pot, saute the leek and carrots in the olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until beginning to soften.
~ Add the seasonings and beans, and cook about 5 minutes more, crushing some (but not all!) of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon.
~ Stir in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds, then begin adding the soy milk/bouillon mixture, stirring constantly to proven lumps.
~ Add the green peas and allow the stew to cook for about 10 more minutes, until thickened.
~ Serve hot over rice, noodles, biscuits, or - my strong recommendation - champ.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Egg" Foo Yung

Full disclosure: I have never, to my recollection, actually eaten or even seen egg foo yung, which Wikipedia defines as "an omelette dish found in Chinese Indonesian, British and Chinese American cuisine." Although a standard offering in old-school American Chinese restaurants, this menu staple somehow passed me by (or vice-versa) back in my omnivorous days, along with hybridized offerings like chop suey and chow mein. (The queasy-making orientalism surrounding putatively "Asian" food and culture in twentieth century American pop culture is another topic for another blog post. Then again, maybe not.)

Anyway, I became curious about this dish after a friend posted about making it; I wasn't entirely sure what it was, and a little Googling piqued my quixotic culinary interest. After consulting several sources (including "traditional" egg-based versions and Robin Robertson's To-Fu Yung from Vegan Planet), I headed into the kitchen, and basically just played around a bit. Today's recipe is the end result of my experimentation, and while I can't say how it compares to the original (whatever such a term even means), I can say that it's delicious, and makes a somewhat "fancy" impression that belies its easy preparation. Best of all, no eggs, hens, or chicks are involved!

The "Egg" Foo Yung
~ 1 14 oz. package firm or extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
~ ¼ cup each: chickpea flour, nutritional yeast
~ 1 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 2-6 tbsp. water
~ 1 tsp black salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, ground ginger, garlic powder, white pepper
~ 4 large scallions, chopped
~ ½ red bell pepper, small dice
~ 1 small carrot, shredded
~ 1 stalk celery, small dice
~ 2 cups bean sprouts, roughly chopped

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
~ In a food processor or blender, puree the tofu, flour, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, sesame oil, and dry seasonings, adding as much of the water as needed to make a smooth mixture about the consistency of a thick muffin batter.
~ In a large mixing bowl, combine the scallions, bell pepper, celery, and bean sprouts; stir in the tofu mixture and combine well.
~ Wet your hands and form the mixture by 1/3-1/2 cupfuls into round “omelettes” about ½” thick, spacing them evenly on your prepared baking sheet. (I got ten from this recipe, but your mileage may vary.)
~ Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes, flipping halfway, until golden brown and firm.
~ While that's happening, you can make...

The Sauce

~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 2 large shallots, minced
~ 1 clove garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 2 tbsp. dry sherry
~ 1 tsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, sugar
~ 1.5 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water

~ In a saucepan, sauté the shallots in the sesame oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
~ Add the garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds or so.
~ Add the soy sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and sherry. Stir for a few seconds to let the alcohol burn off a little.
~ Begin adding the broth slowly, stirring all the while; turn the heat to simmer and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.
~ Whisk in the cornstarch and water mixture and combine thoroughly. Raise the heat back to medium-high and cook another 5-7 minutes, until thickened.
~ When the egg foo yung is finished baking, place each omelet on a bed of steamed brown rice and ladle the sauce over the top to serve. Stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms, and/or bok choy make a nice accompaniment.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Apple Banana Muffins

Well, despite the calendar's claim that we are within two weeks of spring and today's marginally warmer temperatures, the snow piled up outside my door makes it look a lot like winter. And so the heat remains on in my drafty old house, which in the absence of both insulation and money to burn translates to fuzzy socks, sweaters, and plenty of baking.

These big, puffy muffins are perfect for those days when you've got bananas that are too far past their prime to be eaten "as themselves," but not so far gone to be of no further use. Mash those babies up, toss in some chopped apple, maple syrup, and wintry spices, and you've got the recipe for a warmed-up kitchen;  add a cup of tea and you've got a perfect afternoon snack.

Apple Banana Muffins
~ 4 very ripe bananas
~ ¼ cup each: canola oil, maple syrup
~ ½ cup each: plain (or vanilla) almond milk, orange juice
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1 tbsp. each: apple cider vinegar, ground flaxseed
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger
~ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
~ 1 large, ripe apple (any type), small dice

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas until smooth. Add the oil, maple syrup, almond milk, orange juice, vanilla, and cider vinegar, and mix until smooth.
~ Stir in the ground flaxseed and stir well for about a minute.
~ In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
~ Add then diced apple and stir well to coat with the flour mixture.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the banana mixture. Stir to combine, being careful not to over mix.
~ Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin (the batter will be quite puffy, but not to worry!).
~ Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.
~ Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to rest in the baking tin for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nostalgic Chicken & Leek Puff Pastry Tarts

Once upon a time, Pepperidge Farm sold these frozen, single serving puff pastry tarts with various savory fillings. I had an absolute passion for those things, but since my parents weren't big on buying frozen or convenience foods, I didn't get them nearly as often as I would have liked. They eventually stopped making them, and a Google search came up empty so I can't even share a photo or an advertisement with you here.

Fast forward to a recent snowy evening (if the reader is getting the impression that it does nothing but $#@*% snow here lately, they would be correct), when the freezer contained not only puff pastry, but my very first package of the much-talked-about Beyond Chicken. Being in the mood for a project, I decided to recreate those frozen treats of yesteryear on a more family-friendly scale, and the happy result is below. Now that I've made the "chicken" version, I am definitely moving on to my personal favorite from back in the day: broccoli and cheddar. So watch this space!

Chicken & Leek Puff Pastry Tart
~ 1/3 cup olive oil
~ 1 package Beyond Chicken (or other vegan poultry analogue), chopped into 1/2" pieces
~ 1 large leek (or 2 medium), cleaned and chopped
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, sage, mustard powder
~ 1/2 tsp. white pepper
~ Dash mace
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. "no chicken" bouillon
~ 1 tsp. prepared English mustard
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 2 cups frozen spinach
~ Two sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
~ Combine the soy milk, bouillon, prepared mustard, and bay leaves. Microwave for about two minutes and mix well.
~ Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
~ When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the cubed Beyond Chicken and fry, turning occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy on all sides.
~ Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate lined with paper towels, and set aside to drain.
~ Remove all but a tbsp. or two of oil from the pan, and return it to medium heat.
~ Add the leeks, carrots, and dried seasonings, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.
~ Add the flour, nutritional yeast, and about 1/2 cup of the soy milk mixture; stir to make a roux and continue cooking a minute or so.
~ Remove the bay leaves from the remaining soy milk mixture and begin adding it gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
~ Add the frozen spinach and continue cooking 10 minutes more.
~ Stir in the cooked chicken, mix well, and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
~ Arrange the thawed puff pastry sheets on your parchment-lined baking sheet.
~ Remove the bay leaves from the filling and divide it between the two sheets of puff pastry, spreading it evenly along the lefthand third of each sheet.
~ Fold each sheet over the filling to form an envelope, carefully crimping the edges to form a seal.
~ With a sharp knife, cut a couple of gashes in the top of each tart, and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tattie Scones

Tattie scones have been on my "to do" list for awhile now, so when my partner requested them on a recent snow day I was happy to oblige. They're a bit like a hybrid of potato pancakes, flour scones, and American biscuits - in all the podgily pleasing ways that suggests - and as such are the perfect addition to a big, lazy brunch or breakfast. I had leftover mashed potatoes on hand, so this recipe came together very quickly, but even if you're starting from scratch it will be under an hour from start to finish, and well worth the minimum effort required.

We had our scones with fried mushrooms and tofu scramble, but next time, I'll add baked beans, veggie sausages, and fried tomatoes to the mix for the Platonic ideal of a cooked breakfast. (NB traditionally, tattie scones are scored and cut into quarters after cooking. I didn't bother and served them as is, but you can obviously suit yourself. The only non-negotiable part of this picture is a mug of strong, hot tea - and none of your faffie Darjeelings and Earl Greys, either!)

Tattie Scones
~ 1 cup all purpose flour, divided
~ 1 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 2 cups mashed potatoes
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, melted

~ Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit and place an oven-safe plate inside.
~ In a large bowl, sift 3/4 cup of the flour with the baking powder, salt, and pepper.
~ Add the mashed potato and melted margarine and mix to make a stiff dough.
~ Sprinkle the remaining flour over your counter or cutting board, and roll the dough out to about 1/4" thickness, sprinkling a little more on top if it seems sticky.
~ Using a biscuit cutter or the floured rim of a large-mouthed glass, cut the dough into rounds, prick the tops with a fork, and place them on a sheet of parchment paper. (I got 10 scones from this recipe, but your mileage may vary.)
~ Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat it with a light film of cooking spray.
~ Cook the scones for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown, transferring them to the plate in your warm oven as they are finished. Once they are all cooked, serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Crêpes

This morning I awoke to the winter wonderland our local weather boffins had been hysterically predicting for the past few days. (The most recent estimate says we have 33 inches of fluffy white stuff on the ground, which makes this snowfall not only meteorological, but Christological!)

That much precipitation - combined with the travel ban and state of emergency declared by the governor - brought with it the absolute certainty that no one was going anywhere, which in my mind is the perfect excuse for an elaborate brunch. I briefly considered the usual suspects: tofu scramble, pancakes, French toast, etc. but wanted to try something new and exciting, so I decided on crêpes.

Now, I freely confess that I had never made crêpes since being vegan, and had only done so once or twice back in the olden times, so I approached the project with a certain degree of trepidation. Fortunately, a Facebook plea yielded several helpful responses, and I ultimately chose the recipe from Vegan Brunch, which is arguably my favorite of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's great (and growing) list of cookbooks.

The enterprise turned out to be not nearly as difficult or fiddly as I'd feared and the end result was an epic brunch that was exactly what I wanted. Moreover, I'm now emboldened to take on that wild mushroom crêpe cake from The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two: the Moby Dick of my veganization aspirations, and a worthy project for a future snow day. (So watch this space!)

But today, I encourage you to make this restaurant-worthy recipe, which manages to be delicious, filling, easy, and surprisingly quick, while feeling quite fancy for a day spent in one's pajamas.

Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Crêpes

~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 small onion, diced small
~ 2 cups chopped, frozen spinach, thawed
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, garlic powder, tarragon
~ 1/2 tsp. white pepper
~ Dash each: nutmeg, cayenne
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ 1 batch plain crêpes (I used the Vegan Brunch savory variation)
~ 1 batch "good white sauce," with the addition of 2 tbsp. chopped parsley and 1 tsp. English mustard

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray and cook the sliced mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with salt and transfer to a bowl.
~ Add the olive oil to the pan and saute the onion over medium heat for 5 minutes.
~ Add the spinach and the seasonings, and cook a few minutes more, until wilted.
~ Stir in the flour, the nutritional yeast, and a bit of the milk and mix well, until then flour and nooch are dissolved.
~ Gradually add the remaining milk, stirring constantly, and cook another 7-10 minutes, until thickened but still creamy. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ Put about 3-4 tbsp. of filling across the top half of each crêpe and roll it up into a tube. Continue until all the crêpes and filling are used up (I had just enough of each).
~ Arrange the filled crêpes in your greased baking dish. Pour about 3/4 cup of your prepared white sauce right down the middle, and sprinkle with a little extra fresh parsley.
~ Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes, until heated through, and serve the crêpes immediately, applying the extra sauce to individual servings as desired.