Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vegan Brunch!

At our house we probably love brunch more than any other meal, because it not only incorporates the best parts of breakfast and lunch, it can be eaten in pajamas while drinking a cocktail at 1pm and still be culturally acceptable. This past weekend, we attended the final show of my son's band, Verse (http://www.bridge9.com/verse), which was both amazing and exhausting, then slept in accordingly the next day. Such 11.30am risings call for substantial refuelling, which was accomplished in the form of roasted potatoes, caramelized onion quiche, tempeh "crab" cakes with vegan remoulade sauce, and mixed berry muffins. The source for all this delicious awesomeness was none other than Vegan Brunch, which for anyone who's been living under a rock this past month or so is Isa Chandra Moskowitz's latest publication. You can read all about it here: http://www.theppk.com/vegan-brunch.html, but believe me when I say there are so many great things in this cookbook that we'll be eating brunch morning, noon and night for the foreseeable future. My advice to the gentle reader is as follows: go buy a copy, then immediately figure out which ten things you want to cook first so you can stop at the market for supplies on the way home from the bookstore. Then get busy, because brunch is the most important meal of the day, no matter when you eat it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Maximum Shroomage Pasta

Okay, I know I've been really, really bad about blogging lately. It's not that I haven't been cooking, but overall it's been a bit spontaneous and (occasionally) experimental, and I haven't had the time or energy to measure things and write them down. Anyway, if you missed me, mea maxima culpa. If you didn't, well fine, be that way; I didn't miss you, either. Sheesh.

Now that the apologies are sorted, I can tell you about last night's dinner. If you don't like mushrooms and weren't tipped off by the title of this post, you should probably stop reading now, because this is all about putting extra "fun" in the fungus. My partner and I recently celebrated an anniversary, which we marked in traditional fashion: a picnic in a graveyard. Ever since our First Official Date, at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, this has been our standard grand day out. Yesterday's was at the locally notorious, supposedly haunted Friends Cemetery popularly known as Spider Gates. What does this have to do with mushrooms, you ask? Well, hang on a minute and I'll tell you! On the way we stopped at a local "gourmet" shop to pick up some wine, and while we were there I spotted this beautiful mushroom linguine. It was dark, earthy, and all kinds of "artisanal" (a word that makes me stabby, but there it is); so of course it had to go home with us despite its vaguely obscene price.

Okay, but once I got it there, what to do with it? This was not Prince spaghetti that you pour a jar of marinara over, dump onto a plate and then shout "Anthony!" out the window. For one thing, there's no Anthony in my family, and if someone started shouting in my neighborhood, people would freak out. No, no, no, this was special pasta, the kind that has to be perfectly al dente, the kind that mustn't be overwhelmed by lashings of crude and vulgar sauces, the kind that restaurants serve with morels or capers or shallots or truffle oil. Well, guess what, Jack? I just happened to have shallots and white truffle oil right in my very own cupboard, and they provided the starting point for what follows. I also had fresh basil, some baby portobellos and a container of soy creamer, none of which I was in the least afraid to use. Mind, if you don't have any fancy flavored linguine on hand, this would work equally well with any good pasta; just don't be shy with the shroomage, right?

Maximum Shroomage Pasta
~ 1 lb. linguine
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 4 cups sliced mushrooms (I used baby portobellos)
~ 1 cup chopped shallots
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, tarragon
~ 3/4 cup dry white wine
~ 3/4 cup vegetable broth
~ 1 cup soy creamer
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ 1/2 cup sliced scallions
~ 1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil
~ 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
~ 2 tsp. white truffle oil (optional, but lovely)

~ Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Set aside.
~ In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil; saute the mushrooms for 3 minutes over medium heat.
~ Add the garlic, shallots, salt, pepper, thyme and tarragon; cook another 5 minutes or so.
~ Pour in the white wine and simmer until wine is reduced by (about) half.
~ Add vegetable broth, soy creamer, and nutmeg; simmer until sauce thickens.
~ Add scallions, basil and lemon juice; cook another 2 minutes and remove from heat.
~ Add drained pasta to sauce and tossing gently to coat; if necessary, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to get the consistency you want.
~ Drizzle on the truffle oil (if using) and serve with a green salad and cold white wine.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Emerald Green Soup

In what has become an all too familiar scenario, my partner and I have been up to our ears in end of semester writing projects, meaning that neither of us has had much time or inclination to shop. Sunday evening, after 2 solid days spent staring at my laptop, I realized that I really wanted soup, and some sort of fresh bread. Since I had limited ingredients and not much time, I began rooting around in the fridge to explore my options; things were looking pretty grim until I discovered a bag of frozen spinach in the back of the freezer (we usually have fresh greens, but this is an illustration of why it's smart to keep random frozen veggies on hand). The resulting soup was very fresh, herbal and seriously green, as in, it's probably what the Wizard of Oz eats when he comes out from behind the curtain for a little sustenance. A yeast-raised bread would have taken too long, so I made a batch of super yummy (if I say so myself) double cornbread to go alongside it: http://elizaveganpage.blogspot.com/2009/01/double-cornbread.html. And so it was that within an hour, we had an Actual, Home-Cooked Meal: the perfect complement to the brains we'd been frying all weekend!

Seriously Green Soup


~ 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
~ 1 cup each: chopped celery, carrots, broccoli stalks (I had the stalks in the fridge & wanted to use them; don't feel obliged!)
~ 2 cups zucchini squash, chopped
~ 1 lb. frozen spinach (or fresh)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram, dill, tarragon (I told you it was herbal!)
~ 1/4-1/2 tsp. nutmeg
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1 cup fresh, chopped parsley
~ 1 15 oz. can lite coconut milk
~ 1 cup unsweetened soy milk

~ In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic over a medium flame for about 3 minutes.
~ Add the celery, carrots, broccoli (if using), zucchini and dry spices. Stir to combine and add a splash of water if necessary to prevent sticking.
~ Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.
~ Add the spinach and fresh parsley, lower the heat and cover. Cook another 10 minutes or so, until everything looks blendable.
~ Add the coconut and soy milks, and puree with an immersion blender, or by transferring in batches to a food processor. The end result should be emerald green, fragrant and perfectly smooth.
~ Reheat to almost (but not quite!) boiling, and serve garnished with a little chopped parsley for some extra greenness.