Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sesame-Citrus Broccoli Salad

This salad is adapted from a recipe in one of my favorite new cookbooks, Bryant Terry's awesome Vegan Soul Kitchen. I say "adapted" because, as noted in previous posts, I seem incapable of following any recipe to the letter and am compelled to tinker (except with baked goods, because that's like science, which frightens and confuses me). In this case, it occurred to me that sesame oil and a little heat might add some Asian flair and make things more interesting; I made a vat as part of the ginormous spread my boys and I put on for their Nana's 80th (!) birthday party, where it was received--and eaten--with enthusiasm, so I hereby pronounce it a success. Please note that this makes enough for a party, so go ahead and halve it if you want a more "normal" quantity. (Also note the trippy Broccoli Universe above...I mean, WHOA!)

Sesame-Citrus Broccoli Salad

~ 2 heads broccoli, florets separated, stalks peeled and sliced thinly
~ Juice from 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange
~ 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 1 heaping tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tbsp. sugar
~ 1 tbsp. dried basil
~ 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 tsp. hot chili oil, or a shot of hot sauce (optional)

~ Steam the broccoli 3-5 minutes, until just bright green. Rinse immediately with cold water and set aside.
~ In a bowl or beaker, combine all remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
~ Transfer the drained, cooled broccoli to a large bowl and pour the dressing over it. Mix (use your hands; it's more fun and ensures the dressing coats everything) until all the broccoli is coated.
~ Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour; the longer it sits, the better it will taste. (Wasn't that easy?!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cherry-Blueberry Pie

"Can she make a cherry pie, Billy-boy, Billy-boy?
Can she make a cherry pie, charming Billy? She can make a cherry pie, Quick as a cat can wink an eye, She's a young thing, And cannot leave her mother."

I actually left my mother some time ago, but the pie part is right. Of course, there's no great trick to that, either (hence the expression, "easy as pie"), but the fact remains that a cherry pie is a fine thing, especially when the cherries are combined with blueberries. This is a simple, fast, and delicious use for all the fresh berries available this time of year, and since it has a minimal amount of sugar, it's pretty healthy, too. Please note that I haven't included a recipe for a pie crust, because I confess that pastry dough is not one of my strong points, so I use prepared whole wheat crust from the health food store; if you are fortunate enough to have the knack for it, however, please use whatever home-made crust you like best! That said, there is something so archetypically "homey" about a lattice-top pie fresh from the oven that, even with store-bought pastry, your family is virtually guaranteed to "ooh" and "aah" when they come in and see this cooling on the windowsill. (You may as well complete the picture by putting on a gingham apron; it couldn't hurt, right?)

Cherry-Blueberry Pie
~ Pie crust dough for 1 lattice-top pie (about 1.5 recipe for a 9" pie, or 2 prepared pie crusts)
~ 2 cups pitted, stemmed cherries, sliced
~ 2 cups blueberries, stemmed
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 1/4 cup sugar
~ 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ 1/4 cup flour

~ Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Roll out pie crust and line a 9" pie dish, reserving enough for a lattice top.
~ In a large bowl, mix together the berries, vanilla and lemon juice.
~ Sift the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour, then add to the berry mixture.
~ Combine thoroughly and pour into prepared pie crust.
~ Cut extra dough into strips and lay across the top in a criss-cross pattern.
~ Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
~ Reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30 minutes until browned and bubbly.
~ Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.
~ Serve with soy ice cream, or Bird's custard (yes, it's vegan!).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Easy Herb Bread

This bread is based on a recipe from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Vegetarian Epicure (Book Two), by Anna Thomas. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the VE books, along with Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, played an important role in my life when I was an adolescent vegetarian learning my way around the kitchen. Over the years, I've continued to dip back into them for sentimental reasons, but also because so many of the recipes are just really good. Since becoming vegan, I've found it relatively easy to revise lots of these old favorites by simply subbing margarine or oil for butter, non-dairy milk for moo juice, etc.; even eggs are pretty easy to remove from many things. In fact, someday when I have nothing else to do for an entire afternoon, I'm going to tackle that outrageously complex and delicious Wild Mushroom Crepe Cake, which required every pot, pan and dish in my then-boyfriend's parents' house, but was totally worth the trouble.

Anyway, back in the day, my go-to accompaniment for a big pot of soup was usually "an easy herb bread": in the fine tradition of hippie cookbooks, there were no capital letters in the VE recipe titles. It's a proper yeast-raised bread, but it can be accomplished relatively quickly, and yields a dense, substantial loaf that slices nicely fresh out of the oven (which is the best way to eat homemade bread, isn't it?). Adapting the original was a simple matter of removing an unnecessary egg and replacing the cow's milk with soy, so I can't really take credit for how delicious this recipe is, but I will encourage you to use it the next time you get the urge to make some soup; you won't be sorry.

Easy Herb Bread (makes one loaf)
~ 1 and 1/4 cup unsweetened soy (or other non-dairy) milk
~ 1 package active dry yeast (1 tbsp.)
~ 2 tbsp. sugar
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2.5-3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, tarragon, basil, oregano
~ A few grinds of fresh black pepper

~ Heat the soy milk to lukewarm (about 1 minute in the microwave).
~ Add the sugar and yeast; stir to combine and set aside about 5 minutes, until foamy.
~ In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic about 3 minutes, until they just begin to color.
~ In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with about 1 cup of the flour and mix until smooth (the original says to do this with an electric mixer but I can't be bothered).
~ Add the sauteed vegetables, along with their cooking oil, and all the seasonings; mix again until smooth.
~ Gradually add another cup of flour and mix until you have a soft dough (less than 5 minutes should do it).
~ Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 more minutes, mixing in another 1/2 to 1 cup of flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
~ Form the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, flipping it once to coat it. Cover with a clean cloth or tea towel and leave it to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
~ Punch the dough down and knead again, briefly. Form a loaf and place it in an oiled bread pan. Cover the pan and allow to rise again for 30 minutes.
~ Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you turn it out and rap on the bottom with your knuckles.
~ Allow to cool briefly; slice and serve warm with a big bowl of hot soup.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Roasted Potato Salad

Yeah, I realize there's been a lot of potato action on this blog lately; funny how that happens sometimes, innit? Anyway, this one came about because it's finally, actually summer: fish are jumpin', the cotton is high, and people are eating potato salad. When I was growing up, potato salad meant boiled spuds swimming in a bath of mayonnaise along with chopped onions, parsley, salt, pepper and (wait for it) sliced, hard-boiled eggs. It appeared on the dinner table pretty often during the dog days, but I never liked it: the raw onions upset my stomach, and the eggs--an aversion long before I officially "stopped" eating them--made me want to gag. I suppose it's a pretty classic all-American recipe; my mom still makes it that way for family cookouts, etc., and lots of people love it, so who am I to argue, right?

Well, I'll tell you who I am: I'm the pesky vegan at your barbecue, that's who, and I have completely different ideas about what should and should not be in a potato salad! One thing I'm sure we can all agree on, though, is that it should definitely, absolutely include potatoes. But what sort of potatoes, hmmm? Well, I was musing about what to contribute to a recent potluck when it occurred to me that roasting them instead of boiling couldn't possibly be a bad thing. Think about it: brown, crispy, and beautiful vs. white, pasty and mushy...what sounds better to you? So I roasted up a whole mess of those cute little fingerling potatoes, along with some red bell pepper and onions and kind of winged it from there: a little of this, a little of that, a little more of this, etc. The result was really good, and I'll certainly make it again as the summer progresses. If you decide to try it, bear in mind that this recipe makes enough for a party, so if it's just your own little family you might want to halve it. Then again, it gets better as it stands, so you could just make the whole thing and feed off it for a few days!

The Vegetables
~ 4 lbs. fingerling potatoes, cut into 1" slices (or other potatoes cut into 1" chunks)
~ 2 red bell peppers, cut into about 1" dice
~ 1 large onion, thinly sliced
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ Black pepper

~ Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Spray 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray. Spread the potatoes on one, the peppers and onion on the other.
~ Divide the olive oil, salt and pepper between the two pans, and coat the vegetables well.
~ Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is browned and beauteous (the peppers and onions will probably be done before the potatoes, so keep an eye on them).
~ Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.
~ When cool, transfer potatoes and vegetables to a large bowl.

The Dressing
~ 1 tbsp. roasted garlic (I used the kind from a jar)
~ 1/3-1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise, like Vegenaise
~ 1/3-1/2 cup vinaigrette, prepared or homemade
~ 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, tarragon, smoked paprika
~ 1/2 tsp. hot sauce; more to taste
~ Black pepper to taste
~ 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
~ 1/2 cup celery, chopped
~ 1 carrot, grated
~ 4 scallions, thinly sliced

~ In a bowl or beaker, whisk together everything up until the parsley. Use more or less mayo and/or vinaigrette depending on how "saucy" you like your potato salad.
~ Pour over the potato mixture, add the parsley, celery, carrot and scallions. Stir to combine, and chill thoroughly for at least an hour before serving.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Spinach Potato Pancakes

We like spinach, we like potatoes, and we like - and really, who doesn't? - pancakes. So it was that this Sunday, while contemplating what would best hit the family brunch-spot, I asked myself the gastronomical question: why not combine them? Which I then proceeded to do, and with excellent results; they're kind of like the Mashed Potatoes with Greens I posted a few months ago, only interpreted as crispy, fried pancakes. This is an excellent way to use up leftover cooked potatoes (which my dad used to do), but since we didn't have any on hand I pierced and microwaved a few, and then mashed them up with the other ingredients. With some sauteed mushrooms and stewed tomatoes on the side, this was a relatively quick, delicious, and filling mid-day meal.

Spinach Potato Pancakes
~ 4-6 medium potatoes, pierced and microwaved until mashable (or boiled)
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 small onion, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 10 oz. baby spinach, finely chopped
~ 1/3-1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, paprika
~ Pinch nutmeg
~ Black pepper to taste
~ 1/2 cup flour
~ Oil for frying

~ Place a lightly greased baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 300 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for about 3-5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ Cut up the cooked potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add the soy milk, dry seasonings, and spinach and mash until well combined.
~ Add the flour and mix to get a stiff batter; you should be able to pick it up and form a patty with it.
~ Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet (cast iron is great). Form the batter into patties about 3" across and fry in barches of four over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side.
~ As each batch is finished, transfer them to the preheated baking sheet to keep warm until you've used up all your batter.
~ Et voila! It's spinach, it's potatoes, it's's spinach potato pancakes!