Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin French Toast



Happy Halloween, Mo'foers! Hard to believe that we've already come to the end of the month, innit? Over the last 31 days, I have been so impressed by the creativity, skill and talent of the vegan bloggers who participated in our annual month of compassionate gluttony; if we get to even half the recipes we want to make before December, it will be this year's Miracle of Christmas! In honor of All Hallow's Eve, my last post for Vegan MoFo III features everyone's favorite member of the squash family in the uncannily delicious Pumpkin French Toast. This is basically a mash-up of a couple different recipes, along with my own messing around, but believe me when I tell you that the appeal of this breakfast staple is only enhanced by some sweet, jack-o-lanterny goodness. The trick to making this treat is chickpea flour; it imparts an astonishing (dare I say it?) "egginess" to the batter and helps it crisp up as it fries, so if you don't have any, go get some right now, okay? This is especially perfect on a crisp October day, but it's yummy enough to be a frightfully (Okay, I'll stop now) welcome breakfast--or brunch, or dinner--at any time of year.

Pumpkin French Toast

Ingredients
~1 cup pureed pumpkin
~1.5 cups plain soy milk
~2 tbsp. maple syrup
~2 tsp. vanilla extract
~1 tsp. cinnamon
~1/2 tsp. salt
~1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~2 tbsp. corn starch
~1/2 cup chickpea flour
~Oil or cooking spray
~8 slices stale or lightly toasted bread (I used Ezekiel, because that's what we had; a stale baguette would be even better)

Directions
~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the toasted bread and whisk thoroughly. The batter doesn't have to be totally smooth, but everything should be well combined. Place two slices of the bread in the batter and let it sit for a few minutes to soak up the pumpkiny goodness.
~ Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray or about 2 tbsp. canola oil.
~ Add the soaked bread to the pan and cook on each side for about 3-5 minutes, until miraculously brown and crispy; as you cook the soaked slices, put two more in the batter to await its turn in the pan.
~ Adding more oil or cooking spray as necessary to prevent sticking, continue until all the bread is cooked, transferring the finished slices to a baking sheet to keep warm in the oven.
~ Serve with Earth Balance, maple syrup, and maybe some stewed apples on the side, for a meal so good it's SPOOKY!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Fat "Turkey" Tetrazzini



When I was a little girl, one of my favorite games was "school" (as opposed to "house," which is also fun, but different), and if no human playmates were available, I conscripted stuffed animals as my hapless students. Well into my adulthood, my mother told the story of the autumn afternoon when I began teaching at the university level. I lined up my bunnies, puppies, kitties, etc. for their first lesson, the text for which was my own composition: "Big fat turkey, gobble, gobble, gobble." This anecdote followed me, yea, even unto graduate school and beyond; only a few months ago, my sister wished me luck on a conference paper via a text reading: "Don't forget 'Big Fat Turkey.'"

I'm reminded of that first whiff of academia's rarefied, ivy-scented air as November draws near and images of those strange yet oddly noble birds begin appearing - especially since I'm mired in mid-term obligations and want nothing more than to escape into the kitchen. You see, singing sophisticated, turkey-related songs puts me in mind of Thanksgiving, which inevitably leads to thoughts of food, and thence to (Oxfordian, perspiring) dreams of casseroles. If you are anything like me, nothing says autumn-shading-into-winter like a beautiful pan of baked carbohydrates, and so today I offer a reimagining of that classic Thanksgiving leftover dish: (big, fat) turkey tetrazzini.

This casserole has everything you could possibly want: noodles, mushrooms, creamy sauce, and crunchy topping; all without harming our feathered friends. Best of all, it was only about 90 minutes between the time I started chopping vegetables and my family's first appreciative yummy sounds. So what are you waiting for? Pop this baby in the oven, belt out a rousing chorus of "Big Fat Turkey," and enjoy a dinner like Mama used to make; only so much better, healthier, and kinder.

Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Big Fat "Turkey" Tetrazzini
Ingredients
~ 1 lb. pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions (I like fusilli)
~ 4-5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. vegan "chicken" bouillon (I swear by Better Than Bouillon)
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 yellow onion, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 3 cups mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, sage, parsley, marjoram, paprika
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1-2 tbsp. flour
~ 1/2 cup vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast, divided
~ 1 package Trader Joe's or Gardein "chickenless" strips, cut into 1/2" pieces
~ 3/4 cup frozen green peas
~ 1 cup finely crushed Ritz crackers
~ 1 tbsp. melted Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 1/2 tsp. each: parsley, paprika

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a large baking dish with cooking spray.
~ In a large beaker, combine the soy milk, the bouillon, and the bay leaves. Cover and microwave until hot but not boiling (you can also do this in a pot on the stove; just keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over). Set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, saute the onions and garlic in the oil over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms and dry seasonings; cook about 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their liquid.
~ Add the flour and 1/4 cup of the parmesan or nooch, and stir for a minute or two.
~ Fish out the bay leaves from the soy milk/bouillon mixture, and begin adding in half-cupfuls, stirring constantly until combined.
~ Add the "chicken" and the frozen peas, mix thoroughly, and cook another minute or two until the peas are bright green. Remove from heat, add in the cooked, drained pasta, and transfer the whole business to your prepared baking dish.
~In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, melted margarine, paprika, parsley, and remaining 1/4 cup of the parmesan or nooch; sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole.
~Cover with foil and bake at 400 for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 15-20 minutes until browned (watching carefully to be sure the topping doesn't burn).
~Allow to set up for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welsh Rabbit


Welsh rabbit is a funny thing. To me it represents (along with rice pudding and any number of potato-based things covered in gravy) the quintessence of childhood comfort food. Yet many Americans have never heard of it, and the basic definition - "melted cheese on toast"- is sadly inadequate to describe its ineffable homespun charm. The inexhaustible fount of wisdom that is Wikipedia tells us: "The first recorded use of the term Welsh rabbit was in 1725, but the origin of the term is unknown. It may be an ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously poor: only better-off people could afford butcher's meat, and while in England rabbit was the poor man's meat, in Wales the poor man's meat was cheese."

That seems fair enough. My mother (who introduced me to this dish, probably in the womb) grew up during WWII, and there were times she'd have been lucky to get anything on toast, so we've got the poverty thing covered. The interesting part about my own early experience with Welsh rabbit is that, for some unknown reason, it was always associated with Sunday evenings in our house; I'm honestly not sure if we ever ate it on any other day of the week. Sometimes my mom made it, and sometimes my dad did, but in my memory it is inextricably linked with an early bathtime followed by The Wonderful World of Disney (each week, as Tinkerbell flew up to Cinderella's Castle and tapped it with her wand, you'd hope for something like Lady and the Tramp or Sleeping Beauty, but more often than not it would be one of those tedious offerings like The Love Bug, The Nutty Professor, or The Apple Dumpling Gang. *YAWN*). On such occasions, a few slabs of toasted crusty bread covered with gooey, mustardy, vaguely beer-scented cheese were the high point of the evening.

Now, the weirdest thing about this is that my partner recalls having exactly the same experience, right down to the Sunday-night-specifics! Since he grew up about 600 miles north of me, we are left to speculate that it must have something to do with my mother being British and his parents being Anglo-Canadian: perhaps, in their tender, formative years, Churchill had extolled the virtues of eating Welsh rabbit on Sunday as a means of defeating the Hun? My inner folklorist wonders if a tradition of having a comparatively "light" meal in the evening might have arisen as a result of the big "Sunday lunch" so beloved by the English at midday, but research into the matter has thus far yielded nothing to link this poor Welshman's treat to the Lord's day of rest. So if anyone out there knows anything about this, let me know, okay?

At this point in my ramble down Memory Lane, the gentle reader would be forgiven for thinking, "Oi! You don't eat cheese or rabbits, innit? So wot's yer bleedin' point?" (Assuming the gentle reader is an '80s skinhead.) Well, last week it occurred to me that some melty cheesy stuff on bread might be just the thing to temporarily chase away those overscheduled mid-semester blues. There was about a cup remaining in our dwindling hoard of cheddar-flavor Daiya, but with the addition of some Coleman's mustard and help from the one lonely beer in the house (among other things), I was able to come pretty close to the taste of those long-ago Sunday nights. I've now made it twice, with excellent results; first on a Tuesday evening, and then on a Saturday morning. The fact that this radical departure from tradition caused no discernible tear in the space:time continuum leads me to believe it would be perfectly safe to whip up a batch any day of the week, so go mental! That said, I think I'll wait for a Sunday to make it next time, then get into my pajamas and fire up 101 Dalmations for old times' sake.

Who says you can't go home again?

Welsh Rabbit
Ingredients
~2 tbsp. Earth Balance
~1/4 cup finely minced onion
~2 tbsp. flour
~1/2 tsp. each: salt, paprika, turmeric
~1 heaping tsp. dry mustard (I used Colman's)
~A few grinds of black pepper
~3/4 cup beer or brown ale (not stout)
~1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1 generous tsp. Marmite
~1 cup cheddar flavor Daiya (or other vegan cheese; I love Cheezly when I can get it)
~1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~1 tbsp. lemon juice
~A shot of hot sauce (optional)
~8 slices ripe tomato, patted dry, salted & peppered, and/or 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced and browned in a very hot pan (also optional, but nice)
~1 large baguette, sliced lengthwise, cut into 8 slab-like slices and toasted lightly

Directions
~Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit (my oven tends to be slow; you know yours best, so adjust accordingly).
~In a saucepan, melt the Earth Balance and saute the minced onion over medium-low heat about 5 minutes, until softened but not browned.
~Stir in the flour, salt, paprika, turmeric and mustard. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, another 3 minutes or so.
~Whisk in the beer, Worcestershire sauce, and Marmite; keep stirring!
~When the mixture is smooth, turn heat to low and add the Daiya cheese and nutritional yeast, stirring until you get a smooth, uniform texture.
~Add the lemon juice and hot sauce and cook another minute or two. Remove from heat and allow to sit about 5 minutes. (It will get a bit gloppy as it cools; no worries!)
~Spoon the mixture onto the toasted baguette slices, top with a tomato slice and/or sautéed mushrooms, if using, and place on a baking sheet.
~Cook at 450 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. If you like, turn the broiler on for the last minute or two, but keep a careful eye so they don't burn!
~Allow to cool for a few minutes and devour. Blimey!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quasi-Persian Eggplant Stew



Ever since reading my friend Bazu's lovely post about her grandmother, I've had Persian food on my mind. This is a cuisine with which I'm not very familiar apart from a few memorable restaurant experiences; while it shares some elements with my father's Greek heritage (both feel the eggplant love in a big way), there's a certain sweet-smoky-spicy-sour-something that really sets it apart.

Today's recipe came about on a rainy Saturday when our refrigerator had some eggplants burning a hole in its metaphorical pocket; I searched around a bit online, and what resulted was a sort of mash-up of various recipes incorporating the ingredients on hand. So while I make no claims to authenticity, I will say that this was pretty damned good, and it definitely hit the rainy-night-at-home spot, helped along by a pomegranate martini and a showing of The Letter on TMC.

Quasi-Persian Eggplant Stew
Ingredients
~ 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 cups onion, chopped
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, parsley, cumin
~ 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne pepper
~ 2 tsp. brown sugar
~ 2 small eggplants, cubed (about 6 cups)
~ 3 cups mushrooms, sliced
~ 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
~ 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
~ 6 tbsp. tomato paste
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~1 cup toasted chopped walnuts (5-7 minutes on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven should do it)

Directions
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion 5 minutes over medium-high, until glassy.
~ Stir in the garlic and dry seasonings. Stir to combine and cook another few minutes.
~ Add the eggplant, stir to coat, lower heat to medium and cook 5-7 minutes, until the eggplant begins to soften.
~ Add the mushrooms and cook 5-10 minutes more.
~ Stir in the tomatoes, broth, lemon juice, liquid smoke and tomato paste. Mix thoroughly, raise heat to high and bring briefly to a boil, then cover and turn to low.
~ Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Add the soy milk and toasted walnuts, stir to combine and remove from heat.
~ Serve hot with rice or couscous, and maybe some garlicky greens on the side.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chile Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu Po’ Boys



Hi again, Elizavegan fans; guest post partner blogger here with another yummy recipe for you. Wednesdays are particularly nuts for our local goddess, so I thought some good comfort food would be just the thing at the end of the day. Looking for ideas, I flipped through the Veganomicon, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s bible of culinary delights: it’s adventurous, eclectic, sometimes traditional, sometimes gonzo, and you’ll never get to the bottom of it. This is a pretty minimal revision of their version of a fishy po’boy. I first tasted a (fishy) po’boy in New Orleans some years ago, and I remember liking it a lot, despite the fact that (i) the party I was with had real trouble getting a restaurant table in the Faubourg Marigny at a busy weekend time (ii) we had consequently been substituting drink for food (iii) it got to be very late, and (iv) when the Po’ Boy finally appeared before me, though it was truly delicious, it seemed that the bread was too firm for the overall mise-en-scène, and the result was somewhat of a mess in my mouth and on the plate and table, and my lap. I daresay this was the point of the whole dish, and I’m just finicky, and perhaps had had one too many drinks at that time. Excellent nonetheless, and well worthy of adaptation. As I say, I didn’t mess much with Isa and Terry’s recipe. The main differences are:

(i) For the mayo, I started with dried chipotle peppers and soaked them in boiling water for an hour or two, instead of using canned peppers. It’s pretty similar – I just enjoy soaking dried things.
(ii) Instead of making coleslaw, I just bought broccoli slaw from the supermarket and threw it right into the mayo.
(iii) I thought a baguette might be too stiff for this sandwich (perhaps I was still traumatized by the big mess in NOLA), so I substituted a “Portuguese Roll” (???) from the same local supermarket, which seemed to me a step up in soft trashiness from the ubiquitous “bulkie roll.” Whatever – this stuff is going to taste good on anything!

Chile Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu Po’ Boy
(slightly adapted from Veganomicon)


The Tofu

Ingredients
~Corn or other vegetable oil for frying
~1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed for 1 hour (following Desdemona’s lead on this, I put several layers of paper towel underneath it, several above it, then wrapped it in a small towel and put a cast iron frypan and a couple of big cans of food on top. A lot of water will come out of it)
~1 cup soy or rice milk
~2 tablespoons cornstarch
~1 cup cornmeal
~2 tablespoons chili powder
~1 teaspoon ground cumin
~½ teaspoon cayenne
~1 tablespoon grated lime zest
~1 ½ teaspoons salt

Directions
~Slice the tofu widthwise into eight slices, then cut each of those slices in half diagonally – from the upper left corner to the lower right corner – so that you have sixteen long triangles. Set aside.
~Combine the soy milk and cornstarch in a wide, shallow bowl. Mix vigorously with a fork until the cornstarch is mostly dissolved.
~In another shallow bowl, toss together the cornmeal, spices, lime zest, and salt.
~Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a large skillet (cast iron or nonstick) over medium heat. To test if the oil is ready, sprinkle in a pinch of batter. When the batter sizzles and bubbles form rapidly around it, you’re good to go.
~Dip each individual tofu slice in the soy milk mixture. Drop it into the cornmeal with your wet hand and use your other (dry) hand to dredge it in the mixture, so that it’s coated on all sides. I managed to do it all in one large pan without crowding; if it seems crowded, do two batches.
~Fry tofu for 3 minutes on one side, use tongs to flip over each piece, and fry for 2 more minutes. Admire it while it cooks, cuz it’s so purty.
~Drain the fried tofu on a clean paper bag or paper towels.

The Spread

Ingredients
~½ cup vegenaise
~2 dried or canned chipotles
~½ cup slaw (I used brocolli/carrot/cabbage slaw, but any bought or homemade slaw will do)

Directions
~If you’re using dried chipotles, soak them in ½ cup boiling water for two hours, then chop them finely. Combine all ingredients. If you want to thin it out a bit, pour in a little of the soaking or canned liquid – it will increase the agreeably smoky spiciness.
~Slice and toast your rolls or bread. For extra excitement, discard the frying oil but leave a bit in the pan, then grill the rolls in that for a minute or so. Yum!
~Put three triangles of tofu and a dollop of spread on each roll, and laissez les bons temps rouler!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Samosa-esque Chickpea Pancakes



The past few weeks have been a blur of stuff - some good, some bad, and some downright ugly - with the result that I haven't been doing as much cooking as usual. There are the evenings when I'm out, but also a fair few when I'm home but just too tired and/or lacking in ambition to get busy in the kitchen. This is unfortunate, because I generally use cooking as a way to unwind and decompress: a little music, a cheerful cocktail, some chit-chat with my partner, kids, dog, cat - typically some combination of these - and I'm able to gain some temporary distance from whatever's pressing my stress button.

That being the case, I've found myself compensating by cooking at weird times, like weekday brunch (one of the many sweet things about being a grad student living with a professor who is currently on leave!). In fact, this very morning I announced my intention to "do something crazy with chickpea flour and that bowl of leftover mashed potatoes," a threat upon which I proceeded to make good. The result was something between a pancake, a crepe, and a dosa, with a vaguely samosa-like filling. They were really good, and really filling; we only managed to finish one apiece, so there will be plenty of leftovers. Most importantly, making this satisfied my craving to cook while providing the necessary fuel for yet another multi-faceted day. On to the next thing!

Samosa-esque Chickpea Pancakes
The Filling
Ingredients~1 tbsp. oil (I used canola)
~1 cup onion, chopped
~1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~1 tsp. each: salt, paprika, curry powder, cumin
~1/2 tsp. dill
~1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
~A few grinds of black pepper
~3 scallions, thinly sliced
~1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
~2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes

Directions
~In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil and saute the onion over medium-high heat about 5 minutes.
~Add the garlic and all seasonings and continue cooking another few minutes.
~Raise the heat to high, add the scallions and mashed potatoes and mix thoroughly. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, being careful to keep the mixture moving so it doesn't stick (you can add a splash of water if necessary).
~Add the green peas, stir to combine, and cook 5 minutes more, until the mixture is getting browned and slightly crispy.
~Cover and set aside to keep warm while you make...

The Pancakes
Ingredients

~1 1/3 cup chickpea flour, firmly packed
~1/2 teaspoon each: salt, curry powder
~1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
~1 1/4 cup water
~Vegetable oil for cooking

Directions
~In a large beaker, sift the chickpea flour, salt, curry powder and turmeric.
~Slowly add the water, stirring well to eliminate any clumps.
~Coat a large non-stick skillet with a thin layer of oil and heat to medium-low.
~Stir the batter and pour about 1/2 cup into the skillet. Turn and tilt the
skillet to spread the batter into a circle about 6" in diameter.
~Cover the skillet and let cook for about 5 minutes; the pancake should be slightly
crisp at the edges and bottom.
~Carefully ease a plastic spatula underneath, lift it and place on a plate. Cover the plate with foil to keep warm until all the batter has been used.

The Assembly (this is the easy part)
~Place a pancake on your plate (warmed plates are nice!), then spoon about the filling across one side.
~Fold over, et voila! Serve immediately, ideally with some sweet mango pickle or chutney. (This would actually make a great dinner, especially with some dal and a green vegetable on the side to round things out.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rainy Day Biscuits



As I type this, it is a grey, windy, pleasantly dreary Sunday afternoon, with a rainy/snowy mix of precipitation coating the red and orange leaves: in short, a perfect day to stay at home in my jammies (especially since my luck may have finally run out, and I feel like I'm getting sick). We were also out pretty late last night--damn you for a bad influence, Joe Nugent!--and by the time we were up and caffeinated "brunch" was in danger of becoming "lunch." Nonetheless, I was seized by the idea that biscuits and gravy might make me feel better, so into the kitchen I shuffled, wondering all the while if it might not be a better idea to just go back to bed. About an hour later, as we were happily chowing down, I was glad I'd acted on the impulse, because these were easily the best biscuits I've ever made. As I mentioned in a previous post, our curiosity about Daiya vegan cheese finally got the better of us, and we ordered some from Vegan Essentials. On the whole, I like it, and it's very easy to cook with (ask me about the Welsh rarebit I made last week: aye-yi-yi!), so I thought I'd throw some in and see what happened; you can see the results in the picture. We had them with my own recipe for "sausage" gravy and now, despite my stuffy head, scratchy throat and achy muscles, my stomach is warm and happy. And as God is my witness, I can't imagine that I'll ever be hungry again!

Rainy Day Biscuits
(NB: if you don't have any vegan cheese or don't want to use it, just make the recipe as is but add an extra 1/4 cup margarine to the amount listed.)

Ingredients:
~ 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose, if you prefer)
~ 5 tsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, sage, dill
~ 1/4 cup chilled Earth Balance or other vegan shortening (I freeze it and then grate it into the flour)
~ 1/3 cup grated cheddar flavor Daiya (or other vegan cheese)
~ 2/3 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk

Directions:
~ Preaheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and seasonings.
~ Add the shortening and "cheese," if using. Mix with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.
~ Add the soy milk, and mix with a fork until you have a smooth dough (don't overwork it or your biscuits will be tough!).
~ Turn out onto a floured surface and roll or press until the dough is about 1/2" thick.
~ Use the floured rim of a glass to cut the dough into circles, and place on the baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and beautiful.

The "Sausage"

Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1/2 cup chopped onion
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 carrot, finely diced
~ 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
~ 2 veggie burgers, crumbled (I used Amy's California burgers, but any vegan burger or crumbles would do)
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, thyme, parsley
~ Fresh black pepper


Directions
~ In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion for 2-3 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, carrot and spices; cook another few minutes then add the mushrooms.
~ After about 5 minutes, add the crumbled veggie burgers, raise the heat to high, and cook 5-10 minutes more, stirring often and adding a splash of water if necessary to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and set aside.

The Gravy

Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2-3 tbsp. flour
~ 2 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. each salt, thyme, sage, dried parsley
~ 1 tsp. Liquid Smoke (or 1 tsp. smoked paprika)
~ Lots of fresh black pepper
~ A good shot of hot sauce, to taste

Directions:
~ Combine the soy milk and vegetable broth and heat to almost boiling, either on the stove or in the microwave.
~ In a saucepan, warm the oil over medium-low heat and add the flour and the spices, stirring to make a roux.
~ As it begins to thicken, add the broth/soy milk mixture gradually, stirring constantly.
~ Raise the heat to medium and continue cooking 5-10 minutes, until you get the consistency you like (you can always add more liquid if it's too thick, or turn the heat up to reduce it if it's not thick enough).
~ Add the "sausage" mixture and combine thoroughly.
~ Ladle generously over your biscuits for a delicious and astonishingly filling breakfast. Or lunch. Or whatever.
~ Go back to bed and take a nice, long nap, ideally with a dog, a cat and/or a person you love.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Khichari with Dill and Tomatoes



Greetings food fans. This is Desdemona’s spoiled-rotten partner here, hopping on the Elizavegan/Vegan MoFo bandwagon. As careful readers of this blog might have sussed out, Desdemona is currently participating in that steeplechase of the knowledge industry, graduate school. Contrary to what many people believe, this does not just involve lying in a hammock, reading all your favorite books, taking sips from a fruity drink, and waving a quick hello to your friendly professor from time to time. This year’s MoFo coincides with an actual mofo of a semester, and although messing about in the kitchen is a major source of pleasure and relaxation for her, she is instead grading her way through a muddy torrent of midterm exams. I’ve been doing somewhat more cooking as she slaves away, and am happy to contribute a post to bump up the count a little; it’s the very least I can do in thanks for the love - and the astonishing food - with which she showers me every day.

OK, enough mushy stuff. Tonight’s dinner is an Indian khichari (a stew of dal and rice), which seemed like the perfect thing to make as the weather cools and snow flurries drift down on our little corner of the world. Indian food has been a go-to cuisine for me for many years: it is much easier to make than people think, it tends to get enthusiastic responses from guests, and North America is blessed with so many immigrants from the subcontinent that most ingredients are now available in any large or medium sized community, and in many smaller ones.

Best of all for the herbivorous crowd, most of the various cuisines of India have deep-rooted, vigorous, and complex traditions of vegetarianism. This one is adapted from Yamuna Devi’s Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, which is one of the biggest and most impressive Indian cookbooks out there. The dish comes from Gujarat, the pronged bump on India’s west coast, just below the Pakistani border, the source of some truly excellent cuisine. If you’re ever in Toronto, go way out into the suburbs to the Exotic Indian Cuisine Restaurant on Albion Road, and thank me later.

Some notes on ingredients and preparation:
(i) This recipe calls for chana dal, which is readily available at any Indian grocery store. If you don’t have it in the house, substitute yellow split peas – you won’t notice the difference! Devi recommends soaking the dal for 5 hours, but in fact I cut myself short on time and ended up soaking it for only an hour. It was fine.

(ii) Lord Krishna’s Cuisine adheres to Ayurveda, a traditional system of diet and medicine that does not use onions and garlic, which are thought to inhibit meditation and devotion. I’ve always been an enthusiastic consumer of these two ingredients, but it’s an interesting fact that I had been cooking out of this cookbook for several years before someone pointed out the absence to me! Although I’ve never been tempted to add onions and garlic to the excellent recipes in this book, you could always give it a try if you feel like it.

(iii) Many of the recipes in this book include hefty quantities of ghee or clarified butter. In my pre-vegan days, I enjoyed both the smell of cooking ghee and its taste in the dishes, but I often found myself eating three spoonfuls of something and feeling uncomfortably stuffed. Now many Indian restaurants are cutting out the ghee for health reasons, and I find that these recipes are much better all-round with vegetable oil instead. I also bumped up the spices by a factor of 1.5 or 2, as I always do with Indian recipes.

Khichari with Dill and Tomatoes
Ingredients
¾ cup split chana dal or yellow split peas
¾ cup basmati or other long-grain white rice
6½ cups water or vegetable stock
1 tsp. turmeric
¼ cup chopped fresh dill or 1 heaping tbsp. dried dill
1 tsp. garam masala
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
2 whole dried red chili peppers
¼ tsp. asafoetida powder (½ tsp. if you dare; we do!)
3 medium-sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions
1. Soak the dal or split peas in hot water for 5 hours, or as much of 5 hours as you have time for. It’ll be fine.
2. Place the dal, rice, water, turmeric, dill, and garam masala in a 3-4 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and slowly cook for 1-1½ hours. The dal should be soft and the rice cooked; basically, the consistency of a nice bowl of oatmeal at breakfast. Remove from the heat.
3. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When it is hot (about a minute), stir in the cumin seeds and red chili. Fry until the cumin seeds are brown. Sprinkle in the asafetida powder and immediately add the tomato pieces. Fry for 1-2 minutes or until the tomatoes soften and glisten with oil. Pour the fried seasoning into the cooked dal, stir in the salt, the lemon juice and serve hot. This isn’t a very spicy dish, so go ahead and heat it up with a bunch of Indian pickle if you’ve got it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Scrambled Polenta (or, "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery")




I know, right? It's genius! I was inspired to make this by Cupcake Kitteh's Vegan MoFo post from about a week ago. I love polenta, but don't make it very often, so I confess that the brilliant idea of using it in a scramble had never occurred to me. But it's so good! It's also dead simple, really fast--especially if you already have leftover cooked polenta--and makes a nice change from tofu. I put scallions, onions, mushrooms, red bell pepper and basil in our scramble because A. that's what was handy, and B. we like a lot of veggies, but go ahead and use whatever's available, and in less lavish quantities, if you wish. We also had some blue Sheese languishing in the fridge, which I figured couldn't possibly be a bad idea (it wasn't), so in it went. The result was creamy, delicious and a perfect late breakfast on a cool October morning; that said, I can see it making an appearance on the dinner table very soon, maybe with some pine nuts for a little extra excitement. (I should also mention that this makes a pretty huge amount, so you might want to halve it; then again, the leftovers were amazing!)

SCRAMBLED POLENTA
The Polenta
Ingredients
~6 cups vegetable broth (or water)
~1 3/4 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
~1 tsp. each: kosher salt, sage, thyme

Directions
~In a large pot, bring the broth or water to a full boil.
~Add the polenta, salt, sage, and thyme, stirring constantly (I used a whisk to prevent lumps).
~Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking--and stirring!--for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is soft.
~Remove from heat, then set aside to cool and firm up for about an hour.

The Scramble
Ingredients
~2 tbsp. olive oil or vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
~1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
~3 cups sliced mushrooms
~3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
~1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
~1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil leaves
~A few grinds of fresh black pepper
~1/2-3/4 cup grated blue-flavor Sheese, or other vegan cheese, depending on how "cheesy" you like things (optional)

Directions
~In a large skillet, melt the margarine (or heat the oil), and saute the onions over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until just beginning to brown.
~Add the mushrooms and bell pepper and continue cooking another few minutes.
~Add the scallions and black pepper and cook another minute or so, until the scallions are just wilted.
~Scoop in the cooled polenta, about a cup at a time, bashing it up and stirring to mix with the veggies.
~Keep the mixture moving so it doesn't stick to the pan; if it does, you can add a splash of water or broth to deglaze the pan and scrape up the bits.
~Add the fresh basil and the Sheese (if using), and stir to combine. After another minute or so remove from heat and serve hot. This was so good--and so filling--that we just ate it on its own, but you could easily make it the centerpiece of a more substantial meal with sauteed greens, roasted veggies or a nice green salad on the side

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tom Kha Gai: Good for What Ails You!



In these days of burgeoning swine-flu mania, I confess to being one of those recalcitrant skeptics. I'm not opposed to vaccinations or anything, but I do object to the media's ongoing campaign to manipulate the public, and am not about to drink that particular variety of Kool-Aid. One recent, blustery afternoon, I was running around, cruelly squeezed between various obligations, and felt as if I "might be coming down with something" - a feeling which often manifests as a craving for soup. That being the case, rather than run to the barber surgeon demanding to be bled like the guy in the picture, I headed to the Buddha Hut, one of the growing number of vegan restaurants in our fair city. I settled into a table by the window, fished out my book, gratefully accepted the proffered pot of tea and ordered a bowl of "Thai spicy coconut soup." For $3.95 I received a portion I could barely finish, and was quickly restored to a sense of health, well-being, and the ability to get on with my day.

Anyway, as I was slurping it up, I decided to ignore Mr. Wizard's warning to kids like us and try this at home. Which I did, with (I must say) rather spectacular results. I make no claims to any type of authenticity, but was just bashing around in the kitchen trying to recreate the flavors, textures, etc., associated with those rich, complex soups that make you go "mmm" in ways you don't fully understand beyond wanting another spoonful. I used soy curls to replace the Buddha Hut's faux "chicken," but if you don't have soy curls, just marinate some pressed, cubed tofu instead. I also omitted the traditional baby corn because it's one of the only foods my partner actively hates (along with parsnips, which he insists have "an aura of evil"), and the finished product was received with great enthusiasm. I'll definitely make this soup again, especially with flu season coming on; thus far there's not so much as a curly tail or snout in sight, and I plan to keep it that way!

TOM KHA GAI
The Marinade
Ingredients
~ 1 cup lite coconut milk
~ 1 cup "no chicken" broth
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: dried basil, Thai green curry paste
~ 1-2 tbsp. hot sauce, or to taste (I used Sriracha)
~ 1 tsp. dried lemongrass
~ 1 cup Butler soy curls (or 1/2 lb. pressed, cubed extra-firm tofu)

Directions
~ In a large beaker or bowl, mix all marinade ingredients thoroughly.
~ Add the soy curls or tofu, cover, and allow to marinate for 1-2 hours (the longer the better).
~ Drain, reserve marinade, and set aside.

The Soup
Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 cup thinly sliced onion
~ 1 tbsp. garlic
~ 1 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
~ 2 cups mushrooms, very thinly sliced
~ Marinated soy curls
~ 2 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 3 cups lite coconut milk
~ 1 cup scallions, thinly sliced (seeing a pattern here?)
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh basil leaves

Directions
~In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the coconut and sesame oils and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
~Add the peppers and mushrooms; cook another 5 minutes.
~Add the soy curls, broth and coconut milk. Cover, raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
~Taste for seasoning (you might want more salt, a shot of hot sauce, etc.), then add the scallions and chopped basil. Cover and cook another 5 minutes.
~Serve hot and feel any incipient snout, tail, etc. symptoms settle themselves down with contented grunts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Muffins



I love muffins: they're warm, comforting, make the kitchen smell great and have no equal in terms of sheer, instant baked-goods gratification. In case you haven't noticed, it's now full-blown autumn, in all it's multi-hued, Octobertastic glory, which means that pumpkins, squashes, pears and apples are to be found in abundance, begging to be cooked and eaten as the chilly evenings draw in. That being the case, I looked at the big bowl of apples on my kitchen table this afternoon and thought, "Hmmm, I bet I know what you'd like to be." These muffins are not only full of yummy fall flavors like nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, etc., they're also really (dare I say it?) healthy, with a mere 2 tbsp. of canola oil and the same amount of maple syrup in a whole dozen, so you can sprinkle a little extra cinnamon sugar on top and feel virtuous! (Please excuse the crummy photo; I'm a cook, not Cecil bloody Beaton, dammit!)

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Ingredients
Dry:
~2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
~1 tbsp. baking powder
~1 tsp. cinnamon
~1/2 tsp. each: nutmeg, ginger, salt
Wet:
~1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin, canned or fresh
~1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
~1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soymilk
~2 tbsp. canola oil
~2 tbsp. maple syrup
~1 tsp. vanilla extract
~1 1/2 cups chopped apple (this was about 2 small Macs)
~1/2 tsp. each sugar and cinnamon, mixed (optional)

Directions
~Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and grease a 12 cup muffin tin.
~In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and sift together thoroughly. Add the chopped apples and toss to coat; this will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins.
~In a separate container, mix the wet ingredients.
~Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon. (Be careful not to overmix, just make sure things are combined!)
~Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin; if using, this is the time to sprinkle your cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top.
~Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.
~Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before turning out.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Our new friend, Bubbles!



As the leaves turn orange, the air gets cooler and Thanksgiving (whether Canadian or American) approaches, lots of people start thinking about turkeys, and we are no exception: we love them! Last year, on the day before our Thanksgiving, my son and I were driving down a wooded road when we encountered a line of seven turkeys, crossing the road in an admirably calm, orderly fashion. We stopped to wait for them to pass, as did the car coming in the opposite direction, the other driver and I exchanging broad, delighted smiles as we watched their slow, stately progress. After all seven were safely in the woods, I drove off thinking how happy and grateful I am to be vegan, and hoping that, if that woman was not already a vegetarian/vegan, she might think more carefully about what she put on her plate when she sat down to dinner the next day.

Nearly a year has passed since that November afternoon, and the holidays are once again practically on our doorstep. As they draw nearer, it's tough to think about all the animals who suffer so needlessly to fulfill people's skewed notions of what constitutes a "celebration," and my partner and I gird our loins for the inevitable onslaught of moronic advertising, masturbatory foodie rhetoric and ham-handed (you should excuse the expression) "jokes" about tofurky, People Eating Tasty Animals, etc. But. After reading a post by Susan over at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen (http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/), I was inspired to do something positive by taking part in Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-A-Turkey Project. To quote their web-site: "Since 1986, this program has encouraged people to save a turkey at Thanksgiving through sponsorships that help us rescue animals and provide care for them at our sanctuaries, as well as educate and advocate for turkeys, and other farm animals, everywhere." For a mere $25 (probably about the same price as one of those wretched, pathetic carcasses filling the freezers of the local grocery stores), you can sponsor a single turkey, or even adopt a whole flock for $150. So go ahead, adopt a turkey; you know you want to! Then we can start pondering all the delicious, healthy, vegan dishes we want to make this Thanksgiving!

http://www.adoptaturkey.org/aat/adopt/sponsor.html

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cheezy Potato Mushroom Pie



Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a cold, wintry day on which I had a bunch of little kids, no car, and nothing in the house but some onions, a few potatoes, a block of cheddar cheese, and the makings of a pie crust. (The gentle reader who gets the impression from my posts that I have a long history of forgetting to stock my larder would be entirely correct in this assumption.) Anyway, this makeshift recipe was so successful that it became one of my signature, go-to dishes, and was in fact amongst the first dinners I made for my partner when we were cresting that scenic hill upon which courtship gives way to The Domestic Horizon, based on its tried-and-true ability to elicit appreciative "mmmmmm, yummy" noises. After going vegan, I continued to indulge my lifelong passion for savory pies, but it took awhile for me to get around to a cheezy one because I was unimpressed by the melting capacities of the available dairy-free options. (Although I have always been perfectly happy alone in a dark room with some blue-flavored Cheezly and a box of oatcakes. DON'T JUDGE!) Fortunately, major advances in the field of vegan cheese have changed all that, so now this old favorite again features regularly on our table. And now it can appear on yours, too!

Cheezy Potato Mushroom Pie
The Filling
Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 cup onions, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1/2 cup carrots, cut into small dice
~ 1 cup chopped mushrooms
~ 4 smallish potatoes, baked (I used the microwave) and cubed
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, parsley, dill, paprika
~ 1/2 tsp. each: marjoram, smoked paprika
~ Prepared 9" pie crust, store bought or homemade

Directions
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a large skillet or wok, warm the oil over medium heat, add the onions and carrots and saute for 5 minutes, until softened.
~ Add the garlic, mushrooms, and seasonings and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms have given off some of their liquid.
~ Add the potatoes and stir to combine; reduce heat to low and cook another 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. (You can add a splash of water or - if you're feeling cheffy and/or drinking - white wine as needed to prevent this.)
~ Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

The Cheeze
Ingredients
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, Marmite
~ Healthy shot of hot sauce
~ 1 heaping cup grated cheddar flavor vegan cheese (I used Daiya)

Directions
~ In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, Marmite, and hot sauce.
~ Begin adding the cheese gradually while stirring constantly. As the mixture thickens, continue stirring until you have achieved a "cheezy" texture.
~ Add the sauce to the vegetable mixture, combine thoroughly, and pour into prepared pie-crust.
~ Sprinkle on a little extra paprika and/or parsley for garnish, and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until the top is browned and set. (If it seems to be browning too quickly, you can cover it with foil for part of this process.)
~ When a knife inserted into the center comes out (mostly) clean, remove from oven and set aside.
~ Allow the pie to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pasta Alfredo/Carbonara Mash-Up



I'm baack! Yes, it's insanely busy around here, but people still need to eat, right? The weather has turned sort of weird, wild and windy in the past day or so, and it occurred to me that pasta would be just the thing. My carbcentric fantasy centered around a sauce that would combine the best elements of both alfredo and carbonara: creaminess, smokiness and (dare I say it?)"bacon"-ness. So last night, on the heels of a really long day, I decided to take a break from my current pile of reading and give it a go. The result was not only delicious, but fast and easy, too; the perfect meal to eat curled up in front of the TV in your pajamas at 7pm, while looking forward to an early bedtime (oh, the glamour)!

THE "BACON"

Ingredients
~1 pkg. tempeh, cut into small dice
~1 cup vegetable broth
~1 tbsp. maple syrup
~1 tsp. each: black (or regular kosher) salt, paprika, liquid smoke (or smoked paprika)

Directions
~In a bowl or beaker, combine all the liquid ingredients, add the tempeh, and microwave (or heat in a pot) until almost boiling, about 2 minutes. Cover and set aside to marinate at least one hour.
~Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~Drain the tempeh (reserving the marinade), spread it evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, shuffling it around occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn.
~Remove from oven and set aside.

THE SAUCE

Ingredients
~2 tbsp. olive oil
~1 tbsp. minced garlic
~1/4 cup flour
~Reserved tempeh marinade
~1 tbsp. chopped chives (optional, I had them in the cupboard)
~1 tsp. salt
~1/8 tsp. nutmeg
~Fresh black pepper
~2 cups unsweetened plain soy (or other non-dairy) milk
~2-4 tbsp. vegan parmesan and/or nutritional yeast
~1/2 cup frozen peas

Directions
~In a saucepan, heat the oil over a low flame; add the garlic and saute for about two minutes.
~Add the flour and reserved marinade gradually, stirring constantly to make a roux.
~Gradually add the soy milk, stirring continually, for about five minutes.
~Add the vegan parmesan and/or nooch and continue stirring until the sauce reaches a cream sauce consistency.
~Stir in the frozen peas, cook another minute or two, and remove from heat.

ALSO
~1 lb. pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions (I used these cute little shell thingies in the photo).

~In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, sauce and tempeh bacon. Mix thoroughly and serve hot, sprinkled with a little parsley if you have some on hand. We had ours with a side of beautiful roasted local zucchini and carrots, and a bottle of cold white wine. Yum.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Curried White Bean Soup




All right, you guys, I just want everyone to know that I love being vegan more than (almost) anything, and I am extremely happy and honored to participate in this glorious month-long celebration of cruelty-free cooking, eating and blogging. I also want to come straight out and say that every single post I manage to contribute will be a virtual miracle, because October is off the hook in terms of sheer, mindblowing overscheduling here in Desdemona-Land (which is usually way more fun than Disneyland, partly by virtue of being hyphenated, partly because Disney is the Embodiment of Evil, and partly for reasons that should be obvious). So. I'ma do my best, but in the next few weeks I have a whole bunch of academic commitments, as well as some major family stuff to deal with, so please bear with me!

Okay, now that we've dispensed with the obligatory disclaimers and mea culpas, I give you: Last Night's Dinner! This was inspired by a yummy and comforting autumny soup my BFF Heather Feland fed me for lunch last week. NB that this is not her recipe, which I will make as soon as she actually gives it to me (hey, Heather!), but just me throwing stuff into a big ol' pot after churning out 4 hours worth of what I fear may be the purest drivel for my post-colonial lit class (hey, Steve!). All the same, I think it turned out pretty well, and it did the trick on a Sunday night. Happy Vegan MoFo, everybody!

Curried White Bean Soup

Ingredients
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance (or more oil, I just like a combination here)
~ 2 cups chopped yellow onions (1 big one)
~ 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
~ 2 potatoes, diced
~ 2 heaping tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. kosher salt
~ 1 tsp. each: paprika, thyme, sage, rosemary
~ 1 tbsp. each: curry powder, basil
~ 1/4 tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne pepper
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 3 15 oz. cans navy or other white beans
~ 4 cups vegetable stock
~ 1 cup soy creamer, mimicreme or other vegan "cream"; you could also sub soy or other non-dairy milk

Directions
~ Melt the oil and EB in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute about 2 minutes.
~ Add the celery, garlic, potatoes and spices; stir to coat and cook another 5 minutes or so.
~ Add the beans and 1 cup of broth, stir to combine, and cook 10 minutes.
~ Add the remaining broth, raise the heat just long enough to bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer another 20 minutes.
~ Remove from heat, stir in the "cream," and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
~ Serve hot; we had ours with pita chips because we had stale pita and no time to bake or go to the store!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pureed Fruit Pancakes




It's that time of year when there's lots and lots of apples and pears around, which is a wonderful thing, except when you have too many and not much time to do anything with them. These pancakes are a good way to use up autumn fruit that's just a little past its prime (that is, too mushy for pies or eating plain, but still too good to waste); in this particular case, I had some over-ripe pears and a pretty brown banana on hand, but apples or some combination of those would do just as well. Mix up a batch of these on a chilly fall morning and be ready to face the day!

Pureed Fruit Pancakes
Ingredients
~ 1 cup mashed, over-ripe fruit (I used a banana and 3 pears)
~ 6 oz. plain or vanilla soy yogurt
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/2 tsp. each: ground nutmeg, ginger, salt

Directions
~ Preheat a non-stick baking sheet in a 200 degree fahrenheit oven.
~ In a large bowl, mash the fruit thoroughly; if using apples or pears and you want to leave the skins on, it might be best to do this in the blender.
~ Add the yogurt, oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract and stir to combine.
~ In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet mixture, stir to combine and set aside.
~ Coat a large skillet (cast iron is perfect) with cooking spray, and place over medium heat.
~ When the skillet is hot but not smoking, pour about a half cup of pancake batter into the center, and smooth out lightly.
~ Cook for about 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook another minute or so. As you finish each pancake, transfer it to the oven to keep warm.
~ Repeat until all the batter is used up; I made eight humongous pancakes from this recipe, but you could easily get a dozen of a more, er, reasonable size.
~ Serve with Earth Balance, maple syrup, and maybe some extra stewed apples and/or pears on the side: it's fall!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Classic (Not) Tuna Salad



Happy Vegan MoFo, everybody! I am kicking off this year's month-long celebration of exhaustive blogging with a veganization of a childhood favorite. When I was growing up, tuna sandwiches made frequent appearances at lunch-time, and I daresay this was (and probably remains) true for many North American families. Of course, the differences between my mother's version and yours could be many, if subtle. For instance, I've heard tell that some people actually use - wait for it - sweet pickles in their recipes. (I know! Can you imagine?) Anyway, the way one's mom made stuff is always the "right" way, and my mother's take was pretty old school: lots of celery, a generous amount of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and very little else...maybe a dash of dill or parsley if the mood struck her. This combination, on toasted white bread with some potato chips on the side, was ambrosial to my notoriously picky childhood palate, duking it out over a number of years with grilled cheese for the position of favorite sandwich.

These days, I don't actually eat all that many sandwiches, because there's usually leftovers, or I'm out at lunchtime, but sometimes you just want one, you know? One of the major discoveries I've made as a vegan is that when you get a craving for some longstanding comfort food, or a dish you particularly loved back in your animal-chompin' days, the first thing to do is take a step back and really think about what it was you liked so much about it. More often than not, it isn't the now "off limits" elements to which you were attached, but rather a combination of textures, aromas and flavorings. Once you realize this, a nearly limitless horizon of veganization opens before you (I say "almost" because if what you were really into was a huge hunk of dead, bleeding flesh, I'm afraid I may not be able to help you). "Creamy" textures can be recreated without dairy, "eggy" ones without eggs, smoky flavors can hit that sweet spot where "bacon" used to be, and the humble chickpea can recreate a tuna salad sandwich.

Of course, there's no shortage of chickpea salad recipes out there, so it's hardly rocket science; this just happens to be the way we like it. This is also one of those relatively infrequent times when I'm going to include a - gasp! - processed, packaged foodstuff by brand name (in this case, Vegenaise), because A. I can't be arsed to make my own vegan mayo, and B. I love that stuff so hard that I'd probably marry it, except that I refuse to get married until everyone in this country has the same rights as heterosexuals and mayonnaise. That said, if you have a favorite recipe, by all means go for it and whip some up! But I digress. Let's make some sandwiches.

Classic (Not) Tuna Salad
Ingredients
~ 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
~ 2 ribs celery, finely minced
~ 1/2 cup Vegenaise, or vegan mayo of your choice; more or less to taste
~ 1 tsp. each: dill, parsley, paprika
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ Fresh black pepper to taste
~ 1 tsp. crumbled, dried seaweed (optional, if you want a somewhat "fishy taste; I usually can't be bothered)
~ Dash of hot sauce

Directions
~ Place the drained chickpeas in a largeish bowl. With a potato masher, mash them until they are crushed but not totally pulpy; you still want some texture, but nothing that screams "Oi, I'm a chickpea!"
~ Add the celery, Vegenaise, and spices, and stir to combine thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and texture.
~ Cover and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve in a sandwich on some good toasted bread, maybe with some lettuce; potato chips are de rigueur, and a dill pickle (as long as it's on the side, where it belongs!) is nice, too.