Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The Brunch of Champions
Okay, enough musing and introspection, let's get back to talking about food! By this point in our species' ongoing development, everyone knows that brunch is the World's Most Civilized Meal, right? And that Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch has made an important contribution to the acknowledgement of this universal truth. I've been cooking up a storm from this thing ever since it came out last spring, but one of the recipes it's taken awhile to tackle is the tofu omelet, because I was waiting to get my hands on some black salt, which every foodie I know has been raving about for the last year or so. Finally, while browsing in Williams-Sonoma about a month ago, I was seduced by a rather silly variety pack of fancy-ass gourmet salts, including the fabled black stuff (hey, my shoes cost $6.99 at Urban Outfitters, okay?).
Of course, the weather then turned too hot and humid to even think about entering the kitchen for anything but ice cubes, so there my indulgent purchase sat, waiting for me to bestir myself and discover its wonders. Finally, courtesy of Tropical Storm Danny ("Danny?" Are they serious?), we got a cool, wet weekend, and after a much-needed Saturday morning lie-in, I decided to give the omelets a try. And I have to say that they did not disappoint. Not only were they delicious, but beautiful, which isn't well represented by my crummy photo, alas. But trust me: they looked for all the world like the "real" thing, but refreshingly free of avian menstrual matter (sorry, omnivores!). As with the Fronch Toast from Vegan with a Vengeance, I think the secret lies in the chick-pea flour: an amazing substance with a texture somewhere between flour and corn starch that lends a unique and fascinating je ne sais quoi to any recipe that calls for it.
The black salt is undeniably interesting, and it does have a distinct taste, although not one I'd necessarily characterize as sulphurous or "eggy," which is fine by me. Sprinkling a little extra over the top of the finished product was a nice touch, but you really don't need to spend major $$$ on crazy gourmet salt to make this recipe; just get in there and do it. The good news is that it's quite easy, but one caveat I would offer is to follow the directions closely in terms of the amount of batter used for each omelet; more than 1/2 cup and they may spread out too much and be difficult to flip. I actually opted for the more traditional (in my family, anyway) approach of putting the filling on one side of the almost-cooked omelet and folding it over before transferring to a warm oven while I made the others, rather than stacking them and folding them over the filling afterwards. I filled my omelets with caramelized onions, and served them with roasted potatoes, steamed asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, which kept us full until well after dark. Next time, my cunning plan is to veganize the western omelets my Dad used to make when I was little; I'll report back on how that goes!
Tofu Omelets (slightly adapted from Vegan Brunch)
1. Prepare your filling. I used caramelized onions and garlic this time, but you can use pretty much any combination of sauteed veggies, vegan cheese and/or fake meat you like, just as you would with the egg-based variety. Just be careful not to overfill; about 1/3-1/2 cup is plenty!
2. Make the omelets!
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 lb. firm silken tofu, drained (I followed Isa's suggestion and used Nasoya)
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1/2 tsp. turmeric
~ 1/2 tsp. paprika
~ 1 tsp. black salt (or plain kosher)
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1/2 cup chickpea flour
~ 1 tbsp. cornstarch
~ Lightly oil a non-stick baking sheet and place in a preheated 200 degree oven.
~ In a food processor, combine the garlic, tofu, nutritional yeast, olive oil and seasonings. Puree until smooth.
~ Add the chickpea flour and cornstarch and process again until thoroughly combined; it should be like a thick pancake batter.
~ Preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat; coat lightly with cooking spray or a thin layer of oil.
~ In 1/2 cup increments (seriously, don't use more than this!), ladle the batter into the hot skillet and gently spread out into a circle about 6" across with a rubber spatula.
~ Cook for about 3-5 minutes, then spoon about 1/-1/2 cup of your filling across one side of the circle.
~ Very carefully, use a rubber spatula or soft lifter to fold the empty side over the filled one, making a crescent shape. Cook another minute or two before transferring the finished omelet to the oven to keep warm.
~ Repeat the process until all the batter--and as much filling as needed--is used up. (I got 5 omelets from this recipe)
~ Serve with whatever brunchy sides make you happiest. We had ours with roasted potatoes (http://elizaveganpage.blogspot.com/2008/10/vegan-mofo-28-roasted-potatoes.html), steamed asparagus and the easiest Hollandaise sauce in the history of the world, the recipe for which I herewith append:
World's Easiest (read: laziest) Hollandaise Sauce
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 1 cup unsweetened soy milk, heated to almost boiling (microwave for a minute in a Pyrex beaker)
~ 1/2 cup cold soy milk, mixed with 1 tbsp. corn starch
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, dried tarragon, turmeric, dried mustard
~ Juice of one lemon
~ Over low heat, melt the Earth Balance in a saucepan. Add the nutritional yeast and stir with a wooden spoon to make a roux, adding about 1/2 cup of the soy milk gradually, to keep it from getting too thick.
~ Add the seasonings and remaining soy milk, stirring constantly.
~ Raise the heat to medium and cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add the lemon juice.
~ Stir in the soy milk/cornstarch mixture and combine thoroughly. Bring to almost boiling, and continue cooking another few minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats the spoon.
~ Remove from heat and spoon over your steamed asparagus, your tofu omelet, your roasted potatoes, and whatever else you would like to cover in sunshiny yellow goodness.
Bon appetit! (and if you eat all that, you have my permission to take a nice, long nap!)