Thursday, December 29, 2011

Savory French Toast (or Got My Mojo Workin')

I've really been enjoying getting back in touch with my kitchen mojo this past week or so, and the (temporary) leisure has awakened my (temporarily) dormant urge to experiment. Today's brunch/lunch was a perfect example, because it's something I've been wanting to try but for which I have had neither time nor energy: French toast that isn't sweet!

When it comes to breakfast foods, I rarely see the appeal in sugary things if there's a savory alternative. Don't get me wrong; I like a stack of pancakes with maple syrup just fine, but I'll get a whole lot more excited if those are potato pancakes or (better yet) black pepper biscuits with gravy. Every time we go to a place that does vegan brunch - of which there are increasingly numerous examples these days, thanks be to god - there's a plethora of French toast offerings featuring stuff like berry sauces, whipped cream, and (what??) chocolate chips, but there's a conspicuous lack of a savory version of this ever-popular breakfast staple. So it became apparent that if I wanted such a thing, I had to make it my own damn self.

To my knowledge, the closest non-sweet analogue is a dish served in the UK made from stale bread soaked in milk and beaten egg, fried in butter, and seasoned with salt and pepper. They call it by the refreshingly straightforward name "eggy bread," but since my version is ovum-free I've opted for "savory French toast" despite its cross-Channel spirit. The beauty of this is its versatility: we had ours with sautéed mushrooms and Hollandaise sauce (recipe below), but it would be great with asparagus, garlicky greens, roasted tomatoes, or anything you please. Then again, it would be fine served as is, or as an accompaniment to roasted potatoes, baked beans, stewed tomatoes, or tofu scramble. Bon appétit!

Savory French Toast
~ 1.5 cups plain soy milk
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, paprika, marjoram, dry mustard
~ A few generous grinds of fresh black pepper
~ 2 tbsp. corn starch
~ 1 cup chickpea flour
~ 8-10 slices stale or lightly toasted baguette
~ Canola oil or cooking spray

~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the 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.
~ Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray or a very thin coat of 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 their 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 hot as is, or topped with sautéed mushrooms, asparagus, leafy greens, or whatever you like. If you're feeling fancy, you might also drizzle on a nice sauce like this hollandaise (think of it as the new maple syrup).

Hollandaise Sauce
~ 3/4 cup raw cashews
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy (or other non-dairy) milk
~ 1/4 tsp. saffron threads
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, turmeric, dry mustard
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 1 tsp. tarragon
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ Juice of 1 lemon

~ Heat the soy milk almost to boiling, add the cashews and the saffron threads, and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
~ In a food processor, combine the milk/cashew mixture, the nutritional yeast, salt, turmeric, mustard and pepper. Blend thoroughly until smooth.
~ In a saucepan, melt the margarine over low heat, then add the garlic and tarragon. Saute briefly before adding the flour to make a roux.
~ Raise the heat to medium, then begin gradually adding the blended milk/cashew mixture, stirring continually.
~ Cook about 5-7 minutes, continuing to stir, until heated through and thickened; if the sauce gets too thick, add a little water to thin it out to the consistency you like.
~ Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice, and serve hot.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Neo-Classic Green Bean Casserole

I'm baaaaack! Having successfully completed my first semester of PhD School (as we like to call it), I'm now on break for a few weeks, which allows me to feel totally justified in rattling some pots and pans. This is A Good Thing, since A. I love to cook and have really missed it, and B. Christmas dinner happens at our house. So, like this multi-tasking lady about to baste what appears to be a levitating Tofurky, I donned my pearls, cocktail dress, and festive holiday apron to reassert Absolute Sovereignty over the domestic space. (Except that my festive apron reads, "Come, woo me, woo me; for now I am in a holiday humour, and like enough to consent." It's also a full rather than half-apron, because I am a slob.)

This year's menu included maple glazed carrots, roasted potatoes, mushroom gravy, Field Roast in puff pastry, and - something new! - green bean casserole. Now, having grown up in these great United States, I could hardly have reached adulthood without being aware that many people consider this an indispensable part of a holiday meal, but it never appeared on the table when I was growing up. (Ditto for those canned sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top.) In fact, until yesterday, I'd never even tasted green bean casserole because, with all due respect to the makers of Campbell's Soup, French's Fried Onion Rings, and whatever other packaged foodstuffs comprise this seasonal delicacy, it sounds kind of gross.

So obviously I had to make it, right? But what I had in mind was a sort of bionic green bean casserole. I wanted to make it better than it was: better, healthier, less...canned. I hunted around online a bit, and finally settled on two recipes as general models: one from Martha Stewart and one from someplace I've already forgotten, which doesn't really matter since I'm constitutionally incapable of following a recipe to the letter anyway. Basically I got some ideas for proportions, cooking times and temps, etc., and then made it taste the way I wanted. And guess what? The way I wanted turned out to be excellent! So excellent, in fact, that what started as a quixotic, semi-ironic twist on an American "classic" will very likely be making future appearances on my own British/Greek/Canadian holiday table. And not a can opener in sight. God bless America, and God bless us, every one! (NB that the sweet potatoes with the marshmallows will in all likelihood remain unexplored territory, because I mean damn.)

Neo-Classic Green Bean Casserole

The Filling
~ 2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram
~ 1 tbsp. vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 cups mushroom gravy (homemade is always good, but Imagine brand is vegan if you can't be arsed)

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes; set aside.
~ In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and the beans, return to a boil, and cook 5 minutes, until they are bright green but still retain a bit of crunch.
~ Drain the beans in a large colander and transfer immediately into the ice bath to stop them from cooking. (This is called "shocking," and I imagine it must be as applicable to the green bean experience as it is for those crazy feckers who go skinny-dipping every New Year's Day.)
~ Drain the beans again and set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet, melt the margarine and sauté the onions over medium heat about 4 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, mushrooms, the seasonings, and the Worcestershire sauce. Cook another 6 minutes or so, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid.
~ Add the flour and the nutritional yeast, stir to coat, and pour in the gravy.
~ Add the cooked green beans, combine thoroughly, and remove from heat.
~ Transfer to your prepared casserole and make:

The Topping
~ 1 medium onion, chopped
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1 cup panko crumbs
~ 1/4 cup vegan parmesan (optional, but nice)
~ 1 tsp. each: paprika, parsley

~ Toss the onions with the flour to coat.
~ In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and fry the onions in batches, turning frequently, until crisp and golden (not brown!). Remove to paper towels to drain and cool.
~ In a food processor, combine the drained, cooled onions with the remaining ingredients; pulse a few times until blended.

And now....
~ Sprinkle the topping evenly over the green bean mixture, cover with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until bubbling.
~ Remove the foil, raise the heat to 425 and cook another 5-10 minutes, until the topping is lightly browned. (Watch to be sure it doesn't burn.)
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adopt a turkey!

Apologies for the lack of recent posts; things have been busy, busy, busy! I hope that I'll have a bit more time to cook (and to blog about it) once the winter break arrives, but right now it's time for my annual plug for Farm Sanctuary. As the air gets cooler, the days get shorter, and the holidays approach, lots of people start thinking about turkeys. And we are no exception: we love them! With this year's round of festive occasions - and meals - practically on our doorstep, it's disturbing to think about all the animals who suffer so needlessly to fulfill people's skewed notions of what constitutes a "celebration." Every autumn, we 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. (To say nothing of the whole "But turkeys are stupid" rationale: #1. Wild turkeys are not stupid! They have mad skills appropriate for turkeys; the fact that these aren't necessarily mad skills according to human standards is irrelevant. #2. If intelligence is the criteria for who gets eaten in our society, there should be a lot more cannibalism. Just sayin'.)

Anyway. Several years ago, a post by Susan over at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen, inspired me to do something more positive than snapping off the television and muttering darkly to myself: participating 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." This year, we're sponsoring Elizabeth, the avian namesake of my historical heroine, and for a mere $30 (probably about the same price as one of those wretched, pathetic carcasses filling the freezers of the local grocery stores this week), you can sponsor one of her friends, or even adopt a whole flock for $210. So go ahead, adopt one of these fine specimens of the genus Meleagris gallopavo; you know you've always wanted to!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Savory Autumn Crumble

Today's recipe is some seriously autumnal stuff. It's the brainchild of an October Sunday when, after a weekend of nonstop reading and grading (oh, midterm: exactly WTF is your problem?), I was A. starving, and B. incapable of doing any more work.  The happy result was this crumble, which is like the product of a wholly unsanctified - yet passionate - union between a savory casserole and a dessert: the dish that dare not speak its name!

Savory Autumn Crumble
The Filling
~ 1 cup brown lentils
~ 3 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 big onion, diced
~ 2 large carrots, diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 3 medium potatoes, cubed
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, marjoram, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, thyme, rosemary
~ Lots of black pepper
~ 10 oz. package mushrooms (about 4 cups sliced)
~ 3 medium apples, cubed
~ 1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1 tsp. Marmite
~ 3/4 cup frozen peas
~ 2-4 tbsp. flour

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a casserole dish with cooking spray.
~ In a saucepan, bring the stock to a boil and add the lentils. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are quite tender. Remove from heat and set aside. (NB the lentils will cook more quickly if you've soaked them for an hour or two beforehand.)
~ In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil and margarine and sauté the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
~ Add the potatoes, garlic, and dried seasonings, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often.
~ Add the mushrooms and apples, stir to combine, and then cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and the vegetables are getting tender.
~ Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, Marmite, frozen peas, and the lentils with whatever is left of their cooking liquid. Stir to combine, then mix in the flour. (You want enough flour to make a gravy, but not so much that the filling becomes too solid; remember, it still has to bake!)
~ Transfer the filling to your prepared casserole while you make...

The Topping
~ 1.5 cups flour
~ 6 tbsp. cold vegan margarine or shortening
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, sage, black pepper

~ In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, sage, and black pepper.
~ Chop or grate the cold margarine into the flour mixture, then rub the whole mess together with your fingers until it resemble coarse crumbs.
~ Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the filling, then bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until the topping is crisp and golden.
~ Allow to cool briefly before serving.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Great Pumpkin Banana Bread

I feel like I'm totally tanking on MoFo this year, but in the current circumstances, it's a wonder we aren't living on toast (yet). This afternoon I had a few over-ripe bananas and a bit of time between a pile of reading and jumping into my car (again) to collect my kid from his school and then drive to mine, so I thought I'd whip up some bread. Here in New England, October=pumpkin, so I tossed in some of that, too, and within an hour: voila! Banana pumpkin bread: quick, easy, and yet completely sincere.

Great Pumpkin Banana Bread
Dry Ingredients
~ 2 cups white whole-wheat flour
~ 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
~ 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. baking soda
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Wet Ingredients
~ 2 very ripe bananas
~ 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract

~ Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
~ In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, and then stir in the remaining wet ingredients.
~ Add the wet mixture to the dry, and combine thoroughly, being careful not to overmix.
~ Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan, and bake at 350 in the center of the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean. (Ovens vary; mine tends to be a bit slow, so keep an eye on things.)
~ Allow to cool in the pan at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Easy Peasy White Beans with Autumnal Veggies

Actually, it's even easier than it looks. (What? I'm talking about food, for heaven's sake!) Beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, garlic...what more could you need or desire for a delicious, nutritious, easy meal on a busy weeknight? Now take your head out of the gutter and start cooking, why don't you?

Easy Peasy White Beans with Autumnal Veggies
~ 1 large sweet potato (or two small ones)
~ 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 red onion, chopped
~ 2 generous tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, tarragon, parsley
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1/2 cup white wine
~ 1 lb. chopped, frozen spinach
~ 1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed (I used cannellini)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
~ On a baking sheet, coat the sweet potato cubes in a little olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, tossing once around the middle of the roasting time, until brown and quite tender, but not falling apart. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for about 7 minutes, until just starting to brown.
~ Add the garlic, mushrooms, and dried seasonings; cook another 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have given off most of their liquid.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, and cook another minute.
~ Add the spinach, and cook another 5-10 minutes, until you have a thick stew.
~ Stir in the beans and the roasted sweet potato, cook another minute or two until everything is heated through, and taste for seasoning.
~ Serve over rice or couscous.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Super-Fantastic Noochtastic Kale

You know you've been meaning to, anyway, and here is the perfect way to do it! This is my long-established, go-to approach to leafy greens, and while it hardly qualifies as a "recipe," it's so delicious that I figured I'd finally type it up for the Good of Humanity. (It's also MoFo, and I need fodder for blog posts, dammit!) This works well with spinach, collards, chard, or whatever greenery strikes your fancy, but I think that the sturdiness of kale (i.e. "Nature's Wonder Food") is particularly toothsome when coated in garlic and nooch. So no more excuses: get out your wok and get ready for a massive infusion of iron and B vitamins. Whoo-hoo!

Super-Fantastic Noochtastic Kale
~ 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 big bunch kale, cleaned and chopped
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ ⅓-½ cup nutritional yeast (or more, depending on your nooch jones)
~ Healthy shot of hot sauce (optional; I like Frank's)

~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic for a minute or so.
~ Add the salt, and begin adding kale in batches, stirring until it just wilts.
~ Continue cooking for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly (you can add a little water if it starts to stick).
~ Stir in the nutritional yeast and hot sauce (if using) and cook another minute, making sure that all the greens are coated.
~ Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Chicken" Pot Pie

My belief that any foodstuff is better when encased in pastry is well documented; hence my abiding love for the pot pie. There's something wonderfully homey about a ginormous casserole on a chilly evening, and this quintessential comfort food seemed appropriate this week, since the dreaded First F$#%ing Cold of the Season has officially arrived. In fact, as I type this, my heroic partner is bustling about in the kitchen making soup, noochy kale, and - YES! - biscuits, all while delivering medicinal draughts of hot gin and lemonade. (If it's good enough for Dickens, it's good enough for me.)

Anyway, I made this pie on the weekend, and it provided enough food to sustain our hungry household for several days: "indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight...they hadn't ate it all at last!" On the whole, this is a go-to recipe for when you're craving a plateful of that "Mummy loves you" feeling - a feeling exacerbated by the addition of mashed potatoes or champ, glazed carrots, and/or sautéed green beans. (Would Mummy lie to you? About food? Exactly.)

"Chicken" Pot Pie
The Filling
~ 3 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 cup raw cashews
~ 1 tbsp. No Chicken bouillon
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 cups chopped onion
~ 1 cup sliced carrots
~ 1/2 cup diced celery
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, marjoram, thyme, parsley
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 3 cups sliced mushrooms
~ 1.5 cups cubed vegan "chicken" (Gardein, TJ's, soy curls, seitan, etc.)
~ 3/4 cup frozen peas

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ Combine the soy milk and the bouillon and heat to nearly boiling; add the cashews and soak for at least an hour (the longer the better). When the cashews are nice and soft, puree the mixture in a food processor and set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onions, celery, and carrot over medium heat for 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, dried seasonings, mushrooms, and seitan, and cook about 5-7 minutes more, stirring frequently to make sure things don't stick.
~ Stir in the pureed cashew mixture and the peas, cook another minute or two, and transfer to your prepared casserole.
~ Set aside to cool while you make...

The Topping
~ 2 cups all-purpose flour
~ 1/2 cup cold vegan margarine or shortening (I use a frozen stick of Earth Balance)
~ 8-12 tbsps. ice water

~ Put the flour in a mixing bowl, and cut or grate in the cold margarine or shortening. Mix with your fingers until you get a texture like course crumbs.
~ Add 8 tbsps. of the ice water and mix; add as much additional water as necessary to make a rough, slightly sticky dough.
~ Form the dough into a ball, then turn it out onto a floured board, and use a rolling pin to shape it fit your casserole dish. Carefully transfer the pastry on top of the filling, crimp around the edges to seal, and poke a few holes in the top with a fork.
~ Brush the top with a little plain, unsweetened soy milk, and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.
~ Allow to sit briefly before serving.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Risotto with Roasted Squash, Spinach, and Saffron

Happy MoFo, MoFoers (and non-MoFoers)! Sorry to arrive a bit late to the annual party, but things are kind of cuckoo-bananas around here this fall. Even so, I'm going to keep my hand in, and try to post at least once or twice a week (and with all the amazing vegan bloggers participating - over 700 this year! - I'll never be short of inspiration). And so, without further ado...I give you a hearty, filling risotto: just what the doctor ordered on a chilly autumn evening. We happened to have butternut squash on hand, but acorn, pumpkin, or even sweet potato would do as well; it's really the saffron that gives it that certain special something. Since this recipe has an orange vegetable and leafy greens, we had it as a one-pot dinner, but it would also make a nice side dish for a more elaborate meal like a Sunday dinner or - GASP! - Thanksgiving, which is just around the corner.

Risotto with Roasted Squash, Spinach, and Saffron
~ 2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes
~ 6 cups strong vegetable broth
~ 1 tsp. saffron threads
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 cups chopped onions
~ 2.5 cups arborio rice
~ 1/2 cup dry white wine
~ 1 8 oz. package fresh baby spinach, chopped (about 4 cups)
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 1/3 cup vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
~ On a baking sheet, coat the cubed squash in a little olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, tossing once around the middle of the roasting time, until the squash is brown and quite tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ Pour the stock into a pot and place over medium heat. Keep it very hot while you cook the risotto, but be careful to reduce heat if it comes close to a boil.
~ Toast the saffron by placing it in a metal spoon, then set it over a low flame to toast until fragrant. Add the toasted threads to the simmering broth.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 7-10 minutes. Depending on how salty your stock is, you may or may not want to add a teaspoon of salt at this point.
~ Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the rice. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, until the grains are coated and giving off a toasty aroma.
~ Add the wine, stirring constantly until it has been absorbed and making sure to scrape up any bits that have stuck to bottom of the pan.
~ Ladle in about a cup of the stock, and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Continue this way until all of the stock has been added and the rice is creamy, but still has a bit of a bite to it.
~ Stir in the roasted squash and the spinach, and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the Earth Balance, the vegan parm or nooch,, and a few grinds of black pepper.
~ Mix thoroughly, remove from heat, and serve immediately.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kale and Tempeh Coconut Curry

Yet again, I tender my apologies for being the World's Worst Blogger, but this whole coursework thing translates to a lot more time reading than cooking (or even thinking about cooking). That said, we still need to eat, and we don't want to get rickets or scurvy or that wholly-imaginary-but-nevertheless-dreaded Vegan Brain Fog I keep hearing about. So last night I stopped dallying with my new boyfriend, Geoffrey Chaucer - see above for his picture; he is SO HOT! - long enough to whip up this quick, easy, veggie-packed curry, which not only kept body and soul together, but was pretty tasty, too.

The super settee, back I went to my joly lovere; ther is namoore to telle.

Kale and Tempeh Coconut Curry
~ 2 tbsp. canola (or other) oil
~ 8 oz. tempeh, cubed
~ 1 tbsp. soy sauce (or Bragg's liquid aminos, if you're a hippie)
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. each: chopped garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
~ 1 large (or two small) sweet potato
~ 1 large head kale, cleaned and chopped
~ 2 14 oz. cans coconut milk
~ 2 tbsp. mellow white miso
~ 1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
~ 1- 2 tsp. hot sauce, or to taste

~ Cook the sweet potato in the oven or microwave until it's cooked enough to cut into chunks, but not falling apart. (It took about 8 minutes to nuke a gibloodynormous specimen; your mileage may vary with a less gargantuan tuber.) When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into 1" chunks and set aside.
~ Toss the tempeh cubes with the soy sauce, then add the olive oil to a large, deep skillet and sauté for a few minutes over medium high heat, until lightly browned on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
~ Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and bell pepper to the skillet, and cook about 5 minutes.
~ Add the sweet potato and the kale - you'll probably need to do the latter in batches - and stir until the kale just wilts.
~ Combine the coconut milk, miso, curry paste, and heat until nearly boiling. Add to the vegetables, turn the heat to low, and cook another 10-15 minutes.
~ Add the tempeh cubes and the hot sauce, stir to combine, and serve hot over rice, noodles, quinoa, couscous, or whatever wacky grain takes your fancy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unusually Yummy Tofu Stir-Fry

Yes, I know what you're thinking: what kind of helpless, hapless hippie needs a recipe for a tofu stir-fry, right? But the fact is - as many a vegetarian can attest, having been obliged to make do with the pedestrian version offered by many restaurants as the sole concession to the non-carnivorous - all stir-fries are not created equal. This very quick, very easy meal is a case in point and (as M. Tofu reminds us in his passionate, Gallic way) has the additional benefit of being trés nutritif. It derives its particular yumminess from the combination of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors, and from the simple, extra step of frying the tofu separately, then setting aside to be added to the veggies at the last minute, thereby ensuring that it retains crispiness and structural integrity, and that you will have a happy mouth and tummy. Everyone's a winner!

Unusually Yummy Tofu Stir-Fry

~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 4 teaspoons cornstarch
~ 1/2 cup vegetable broth
~ 1 tbsp. agave nectar
~ 2 tsp. sesame oil
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 heaping tbsp. each: minced garlic, freshly grated ginger
~ 2 large carrots, juliennned
~ 2 cups mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced
~ 2 cups broccoli florets
~ 3 cups bok choy, cut into bite size pieces
~ 4 large scallions, thinly sliced at a diagonal
~ 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (more to taste)

~ Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and pat dry. Sprinkle the tofu evenly with 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch.
~ In a small bowl, whisk together the broth, soy sauce, agave, sesame oil and remaining cornstarch. Set aside.
~ Heat the canola oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat.
~ Add the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
~ Transfer the cooked tofu to a plate, then add the garlic and ginger to the wok and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
~ Add the carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli; stirfry for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the bok choy, scallions, and red pepper flakes, and continue cooking about 3 minutes more, until the greens are just cooked.
~ Add the tofu cubes and the broth mixture and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. (This should only take about a minute or two.)
~ Serve hot over short grain brown rice.

Friday, September 2, 2011

American Chop Suey

American Chop Suey, for the uninitiated, is one of those working-class New England staples, ubiquitous on diner menus and harried weeknight meal plans. I imagine this is because it's A. cheap, B. fast, C. filling, and D. pleasing to even the most childish of starch-loving palates.

My mother made this dish pretty often when I was small, and continued to do so well into her career as World's Most Compulsively Over-Feeding Nana, when her refrigerator often held a big Tupperware container of the stuff for after-school noshing. I have no idea from whence the appellation "chop suey" came, and had never given it much thought, but Wikipedia tells us that the dish does appear in other regions, where it is "sometimes known as American Goulash, Macaroni Goulash, or Macaroni and Beef," the last of which seems uninspiringly literal-minded.

Since we are currently heading into yet another busy school year, I've been brainstorming meals that can be prepared in large batches and fed off during the week. Casseroles and stews are obvious choices, but it recently occurred to me that a humongous batch of ACS might fit the bill perfectly. And so it proved! Aside from replacing the hamburger with a more compassionate and less disgusting alternative,  I kept things pretty old school, and the results were received so enthusiastically that all those hoped-for leftovers disappeared much more quickly than planned. (Dammit.) The first lesson of the semester? Always make twice as much as you think you'll need; that's why Mother Nature invented the freezer.

American Chop Suey

~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 onion, chopped
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 1 carrot, small dice
~ 1 green bell pepper, diced
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, chili powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: basil, parsley, marjoram
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1 tbsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, HP Sauce, hot sauce (I like Frank's)
~ 1 package Trader Joe's "Beefless" Ground Beef or 1 package Nate's or TJ's veggie meatballs, baked and mashed
~ 3 cups marinara sauce (homemade or jarred; your choice)
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked and drained according to package directions

~ Boil and drain the elbow macaroni, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
~ In a large skillet, sauté the onion, celery, bell pepper, carrot, and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until soft (about 10-12 minutes).
~ Add the salt, oregano, chili powder, basil parsley, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and the ground "beef," and cook another minute or two.
~ Stir in the marinara sauce and the nutritional yeast, and combine thoroughly.
~ Turn heat to low, and continue cooking another 5 minutes.
~ Remove from heat, stir into cooked, drained macaroni, and serve hot. To keep that Mom's Diner vibe going, we had ours with green beans and corn on the side, but it's so filling that a green salad is really all you need.
~ So what are you waiting for? Eat, eat; you're skin and bones!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Perfect Old School Risotto

Okay, I'm back. The past few weeks have been fairly - if pleasurably - hectic, what with house guests, visiting family, etc., so I haven't had much time to type things up. Since I'm starting coursework for my PhD (YESSSSS!) in a couple of weeks, there's also the whole "back to school" thing looming on the horizon, which may mean a little less cooking/blogging for awhile. I'm hoping to be sufficiently organized to do a lot of food prep on the weekends, and revert to my wonted once-a-week posting schedule. We'll see how that goes, but it's probably safe to expect lots of vaguely food-related references to Chaucer, British modernism, and gothic fiction; the possibilities seem limitless!

But for today, let's just Be Here Now, shall we? Here we have a simple, classic, saffron-infused risotto, just like Mama used to make. (Of course, my Mama never actually made risotto; she also looked nothing like the fine lady in the picture, who seems to have included shrimp, which would never happen. But you take my point.) This was, without exception, the best damn risotto I have ever made, and is loosely based on a version found while Googling "best classic risotto" or something. I stress the "loosely," because the model I chose to adapt insisted that the magic ingredient for a perfect risotto is - wait for it - bone marrow. Yes, you read that correctly. Now that you've got the old gag reflex back under control, I'll spare you the typically swoony, masturbatory, self-satisfied foodie rhetoric that accompanied this assertion, and just say that a few tablespoons of olive oil accomplished exactly what was required, without anyone's carcass being hacked apart. As my partner put it: "Gee, and to think I never even missed the bone marrow!"

And so, without further ado, I give you:

Perfect Old School Risotto
~ 5 cups stock (I'm addicted to Better Than Bouillon's No Chicken flavor)
~ 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 cups Arborio rice
~ 1 cup dry white wine
~ Salt to taste (depending on the saltiness of your stock)
~ 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ Fresh black pepper

~ Pour the stock into a pot and place over medium-high heat. Keep it very hot while you cook the risotto, but be careful to reduce heat if it comes close to a boil.
~ Toast the saffron (NB that this only takes a few seconds, and will make you feel totally cheffy!). Just place it in a metal spoon, and set it over a low flame to toast until fragrant. Add the toasted threads to the simmering broth.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 7-10 minutes. Depending on how salty your stock is, you may or may not want to add a teaspoon of salt at this point.
~ Add 1/2 cup of stock, and stir until mostly evaporated.
~ Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the rice. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, until the grains are coated and giving off a toasty aroma.
~ Pour in the wine, stirring constantly until it has been absorbed.
~ Ladle in about a cup of the stock, and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Continue this way until all of the stock has been added and the rice is creamy, but still has a bit of a bite to it.
~ Stir in the chopped parsley, the Earth Balance, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix thoroughly, remove from heat, and serve immediately. We had ours as an accompaniment to a huge pan of eggplant parm, for the perfect Italian dinner. Abundanza!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Last Minute Baked Beans for the Lazy/Organizationally Challenged Person

This total lazy cheater approach to baked beans came about because I got a last-minute craving for some sweet, smoky legumes to accompany the mac & cheese and garlicky greens I'd made for dinner. Since I hadn't planned ahead for this contingency (see above in re: lazy, last minute, etc.), and it was already almost 7pm, I took a quick look at the available supplies, considered the options, et voila: about an hour later, the idea had become reality! If I say so myself, the addition of mashed sweet potatoes was a stroke of genius. By the time the dish had been baked, they were unidentifiable as sweet potatoes, but they did something really nice to the sauce's flavor and texture, while adding nutritional value to an otherwise seat-of-the-pants, cupboard staple dish.

~ 2 large yams or sweet potatoes
~ 1 tbsp. oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. chili powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, thyme
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2-3 tsp. Liquid Smoke (or to taste)
~ 1/4 cup maple syrup
~ 2 tsp. hot sauce (or to taste)
~ 1 tbsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2 cans Heinz (or other brand) Baked Beans

~ Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven or microwave until soft. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash.
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the onions are quite soft; about 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, then add all the remaining ingredients.
~ Combine thoroughly and pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish.
~ Bake, uncovered, at 350 for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
~ Serve hot!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nigella-Inspired Boozy New Potatoes

I'm currently in the midst of a passionate love affair with new potatoes; they're so tiny, so versatile, so delicious, and - let's face it - so damned cute. One recent, steamy evening, the only thing that sounded good was salad, but it needed to be substantial enough to count as dinner; enter the wee, adorable, darling new potato.

My affection for the über-posh, bawdy, and unapologetically buxom Nigella Lawson is well-documented, and I remembered seeing some "boozy potatoes" on her blog. This seemed the most felicitous word pairing that might be wished, and a quick Google search led me to the recipe, which I altered to suit personal taste and the contents of our larder. The results were so good that I can easily see this becoming a go-to preparation; along with some falafel, shaved carrot, plum tomatoes, and a simple tahini dressing, these little beauties turned a simple plate of greens into a Proper Dinner.

Of course, the primary virtue of a method like this one is that the sky is pretty much the limit; you could change up the spices, omit the lemon juice and/or mustard for less tanginess, add chopped onions or scallions, and really do whatever suits your potato-based fancy. That said, I do suggest you make them (at least) once as written; you won't be sorry!

Nigella-Inspired Boozy New Potatoes
~ 2 lbs. tiny new or fingerling potatoes
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. prepared mustard
~ Juice of one lemon
~ 3/4 cup white wine
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, chili powder, marjoram
~ A few grinds of fresh black pepper

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Wash the potatoes, and halve some (if not all, depending on their size). Add to the baking dish in a single layer.
~ Mix together the remaining ingredients, and pour over the potatoes. Combine to make sure they are all thoroughly coated (I like to do this with my hands; it's not only fun, but moisturizing!).
~ Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in the center of the oven for about 35-40 minutes.
~ Remove the foil, stir the potatoes, and continue baking another 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown and glazed with the (by now somewhat reduced) liquid.
~ Serve hot or at room temperature, as a side dish, or for a perfect hot weather dinner, atop a beautiful salad with some added beans, falafel, or baked tofu/tempeh for protein.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peanuty Noodles with Tempeh Croutons

Iwis it is not halfway to her heart.
But if it were, doubt not her wish should be
To eat some noodles with a peanuty sauce,
And twirl her fork and use it as a tool.
~ The Taming of the Shrew, 1.1.61–65 (sort of)

At this time of the rolling year here in central New England, the idea of hot - in the temperature sense - food seems pretty unappealing, so meals that can be prepared ahead and eaten later are a welcome option for those of us whom the heat makes a bit...well...shrewish. Cook these peanuty, slightly spicy noodles early on a warm day, and you can be assured of a great dinner in the evening, without having to turn the accursed stove back on. Better yet, they are delicious when eaten at room temperature, and make excellent straight-from-the-refrigerator leftovers the next day. Of course, if you're in a more temperate zone (or blessed with a less fiery temperament), go ahead and eat them hot; Iwis they'll taste just as good!

The Tempeh

~ 2 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: toasted sesame oil, hot sauce, agave nectar
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ Juice of 1 lime
~ 8 oz. tempeh, cut into crouton-sized cubes

~ Combine all the marinade ingredients, then add the tempeh cubes and mix to coat. Set aside to marinade for at least an hour.
~ Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, arrange the tempeh cubes (reserve any remaining marinade), and bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure they don't burn.
~ Remove from oven and set aside.

The Sauce

~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, hot sauce, tomato paste
~ 1 cup smooth peanut butter
~ 1 cup vegetable broth
~ 1 10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed

~ In a saucepan, heat the oil and saute the garlic and ginger over medium-low for about a minute.
~ Stir in the soy sauce, hot sauce, the tomato paste, and any leftover tempeh marinade.
~ Add the peanut butter bit by bit, stirring constantly. As it begins to thicken, add the broth until you have a smooth, creamy sauce.
~ Stir in the spinach and cook a minute or two more, until it is well incorporated.

You will also need...
~ 1 lb. noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed (lomein are nice, but linguine works just as well)
~ 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
~ 4-5 cups stir-fried veggies of your choice (I happened to have scallions, red bell peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms)

The Assembly
~ Transfer the cooked, drained noodles to a large pot or serving bowl.
~ Add the stir-fried vegetables, the tempeh, and the sauce; mix thoroughly. (If it looks too thick, you can add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin it to the consistency you want.)
~ Serve hot or cold, or at room temperature ("...not hot, but temperate as the morn"). Sprinkle with some extra chopped scallions, peanuts, and/or hot sauce, as you like it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

There and back again

We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.
Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!
I can't think what anybody sees in them.

Well, here we are, back from three lovely weeks in England, and my feelings are the usual bittersweet mix: happiness at being home, and reunited with my beloved furry friends, combined with the sadness that comes with leaving a place I love so well. This particular trip took us to a flat in Bloomsbury, a farm in Yorkshire, and a strange, three-story townhouse in Witney (a market town near Oxford, where my partner was looking at some manuscripts). Overall, it was a combination of work and play, with a couple of conference papers thrown in for that added soupçon of virtue. We visited loads of museums, saw a few plays, took walks, hung out with friends and family, visited some wonderful churches, ruins, and pubs, and drank a lot of excellent beer and cider. One of the best things about being away is the break it imposes on our usual routines - not just what we do, but what we read, see, and think about. For three solid weeks, hardly a thought was bestowed upon American politics, current events, or popular culture. During that brief time, we were dimly aware of, yet somehow separated from the good (NY legalizing gay marriage: W00T!), the bad (the already-looming specter of the 2012 presidential race), and the tawdry (the horrendously sordid and sensationalized Casey Anthony trial) events taking place in the USA. On the other hand, we had front-row seats for the breaking shitstorm of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, heard about red-top paparazzi favorite/victim Amy Winehouse's death as it was first reported, and spent hours each morning reading newspaper articles filled with information about people, places, and things that don't necessarily get much space on this side of the Atlantic. (We also managed to miss what was by all accounts some filthy, record-breaking heat and humidity, which suits me just fine; there's a reason I spend my summer holidays in a place famous for cool, damp weather.)

So now we're home, which is nice, but still feels a bit...weird. It's a sort of liminal state of mind in which I'm not really here or there; this seems particularly true in the domestic sphere. I have thrown a few meals together, but don't feel that I've quite reconnected with the kitchen. When we're away, my culinary horizons are determined by the random vicissitudes of rented kitchen; I adjust my expectations accordingly, and tend to cook very simple things. Being back on my own turf means that the sky is - in theory - the limit, but those vague ideas I stowed away for future exploration have yet to find expression in any edible form. That said, I did have some ideas (all based on classic, podgy British comfort food, so be forewarned), and I'd be happy to entertain any thoughts, opinions, and/or suggestions. The first thing I'd like to do is a proper "fish" and chips, inspired by a really great version we had in a pub in London. At the time I was too jetlagged/overwhelmed by the medieval reliquary exhibit at the British Museum to ask how they did it, but damn, was that some good fake fish; any and all suggestions as to how this might best be achieved are welcome. The next thing is the replication of a proper, raised crust "pork" pie (for the cognoscenti, think Melton Mowbray, without the grossness). I've got a pretty good idea about the filling, but it's the hot water pastry that has me stymied at present; again, any and all advice would be most appreciated. The last thing is sausages; one of the things I lament as an Anglophile vegan in America is the utter dearth of proper, English-style veggie sausages, and whenever we're there, one of our chief pleasures is exploring the variety of available commercial renditions. Having tried several types of Fry's, Redwood, and Linda McCartney on this trip, we found LM's the best (albeit a bit salty) for flavor, and Redwood's the best for texture. Alas, since I despair of ever being able to purchase such products in this benighted former colony, we have no choice but to make our own; my partner and his daughters have made seitan sausages with excellent texture, so that's sorted, but what I seek now is the seasoning combinations for Cumberland, Lincolnshire, and Glamorgan varieties. So - please feel free to share whatever knowledge you may possess pertaining to this Very Important Matter.

And I guess that's it, for the moment. It's kind of hot here, so tonight's dinner is a big salad topped with falafel and some previously roasted potatoes (recipe to follow, b/c I kind of stole it from Nigella and it rocks), after which a bath with some of the wonderful homemade soap from the Kelmscott village crafts fair seems indicated. Thanks in advance for whatever help you may be able/inclined to offer on my upcoming experiments (and for continuing to read my ramblings).

Roads go ever, ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Curried Roasted Chickpeas

It's kind of ridiculous to even call this a "recipe," but these chickpeas are so great that I don't care. You could sprinkle these crunchy little darlings on a salad, stir them into soup like croutons, or just eat them all by themselves as the world's greatest snack: think of all the crispy, deliciousness of popcorn with nooch and curry powder, only loaded with protein and B vitamins!

Curried Roasted Chickpeas

~ 1 28 oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
~ 1 tbsp. chaat masala (or curry power, garam masala, or some combination)
~ 2-3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ Cooking spray

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with non-stick foil.
~ In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, chaat masala, and nutritional yeast. Mix thoroughly to make sure all of the chickpeas are coated.
~ Place the chickpeas on the baking sheet in a single layer, and coat lightly with cooking spray.
~ Roast for about 30 minutes, shaking the pan every ten minutes or so, until the chickpeas are crisp and golden.
~ Allow to cool for a minute or two, and then serve; these are good hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Banana Raisin Muffins

Well. Today marks the first full year since my mother passed away; to say that the past twelve months have been a strange, sad, bittersweet, illuminating, mind-expanding, and soul-searching time would be to say nothing original or particularly insightful. It is enough to mark the occasion, and to reflect upon and appreciate the past, even as we look ahead to the future. So in that spirit, I give you what my mom was always so good at providing: FOOD. This is essentially my take on my mom's classic banana bread, veganized and interpreted as muffins (although you can also bake it in a loaf pan; it will just take another 15 minutes or so in the oven). To those who knew her, such an assertion might be seen as silly and/or impossible, given my mother's belief that all baked goods should include the maximum quantity of butter and/or eggs, as a matter of principle. On the other hand, I am pretty much a professional at this sort of thing by now, and I think the fact that a dozen muffins lasted less than 24 hours amongst my kids (historically, perhaps the greatest fans/consumers of my mother's banana bread) speaks for itself.

Banana Raisin Muffins

~ 2 cups all purpose flour
~ 1/2 cup brown sugar
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, cinnamon, salt
~ 1/4 tsp. each: allspice, nutmeg
~ 3/4 cup raisins
~ 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
~ 2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy (or other non-dairy) milk

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg), until thoroughly combined.
~ Add the raisins and walnuts (if using), and toss to coat with the flour mixture.
~ In a separate bowl, mix together the bananas, oil, applesauce, and milk.
~ Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the wet ingredients.
~ Combine thoroughly, the spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.
~ Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Baked Pasta Florentine

Cassio: I humbly thank you for't.
I never knew a Florentine (pasta)
More kind and honest.
~ Othello, 3.1.43-45

While it is true that - in this particular case - "Florentine" is really just a fancy way of saying "with spinach," the fact remains that this casserole is not only kind and honest, but delicious and filling; it was the perfect dinner on a recent, unseasonably cold and rainy evening. Of course, " vouch this is no proof, Without more wider and more overt test," so you'll want to try it out for yourself. But it's very sobering to think of the tragedy that might have been avoided, if Desdemona had spent less time listening to Iago and more time thinking about pasta!

The dinner made, the meal is to ensue;
That pasta's yet to come 'tween me and you.
(Good night.)

Baked Pasta Florentine

~ 1 lb. pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions (I used fusilli)
~ 1 cup raw cashews
~ 2 cups vegetable broth
~ 2-3 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 1 large onion, diced fine
~ 1 tsp. each: paprika, marjoram, onion powder, dried mustard
~ 1/2 tsp. salt (optional, depending on how salty your broth is; I use Better Than Bouillon, and don't add any salt)
~ 1/2 tsp. turmeric
~ 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
~ 1 tbsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, hot sauce
~ 1 cup nutritional yeast
~ 3 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 16 oz. package chopped, frozen spinach
~ 1/2 - 3/4 cup panko crumbs
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance, melted
~ 1 tsp. paprika

~ Bring the vegetable broth to a boil, then add the cashews, cover, and allow to soak for at least an hour. After they have cooled, puree the cashews and broth in a food processor until completely smooth. Set aside.
~ In a large, deep pot, melt the margarine and saute the onion over medium heat until very soft, about 10 minutes, being careful not to let them brown.
~ Add the dried seasonings, mustard, Worcestershire, Marmite, and hot sauce.
~ Pour in the pureed cashew mixture, then gradually begin adding the nutritional yeast, stirring constantly.
~ Add the soy milk, and continue cooking about 7-10 minutes more, until the sauce has thickened a bit.
~ Stir in the chopped, frozen spinach, and combine thoroughly. Cook another few minutes, until the spinach has wilted and become incorporated into the sauce.
~ Remove from heat and mix the sauce with the cooked pasta.
~ Coat a 9 x 12" casserole with cooking spray, and fill with the pasta mixture.
~ In a small bowl, combine the panko, melted Earth Balance, and paprika. Sprinkle this mixture over the pasta, cover the casserole with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
~ Remove the foil, raise the heat to 425, and bake another 10 minutes, until browned and bubbling.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Egyptian-Style Red Lentil Soup

Cleopatra: Give me some music; music, the moody food
Of us that trade in love.
Or about some soup? Soup, the tasty food
Of us that feed on lentils.
~ Antony and Cleopatra, 5.1.1-4 (sort of)

Okay, I added that last part. But that's what she might have said, because even the serpent of old Nile must occasionally have fed herself with something other than delicious poison. And what could be more welcome at the end of a long day of intrigue, seduction, and spectacular barge outings than a hot, nourishing bowl of soup? This one was inspired by the version served at Zooroona, an excellent Middle Eastern restaurant in Kalamazoo, MI (where we frequently attend the annual Medieval Congress), and I have to admit that I pretty much nailed it on the first try. Unlike most lentil soups, this one is pureed until mostly smooth, and the usual earthy flavors are brightened with fresh parsley and lemon juice, making for a hearty but surprisingly light repast. Or as Enobarbus might have put it,

...other soups cloy
The appetites they feed: but this makes hungry
Where most it satisfies.

So the next time you have immortal longings in you, forget about ordering that basket of asps and whip up a batch of this fine Egyptian cookery instead. That way, you shall have the fame - minus the unsightly snakebites - and a damn fine dinner, too!

Egyptian-Style Red Lentil Soup

~ 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 cups chopped yellow onion
~ 1 cup each: diced celery, carrot
~ 1 large potato, cubed
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. each: cumin, dill
~ 1 tsp. each: sweet paprika, smoked paprika
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, turmeric
~ 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
~ A few grinds of fresh black pepper
~ 2 cups red lentils
~ 1/2 cup chopped, fresh parsley
~ 4 cups chopped, fresh baby spinach (or 1/2 lb. frozen chopped spinach, thawed)
~ 8 cups vegetable broth (I recommend Better Than Bouillon's "No Chicken" flavor)
~ 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
~ 2 tsp. za'atar
~ Extra parsley and lemon wedges to serve (optional)

~ In a large, deep pot, heat the oil and saute the onions, celery, carrots, and potato over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic and the dry seasonings, and cook another minute or two.
~ Stir in the lentils and the broth, and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for an hour (stirring occasionally), until all the ingredients are very soft.
~ Add the baby spinach and fresh parsley and cook until just wilted.
~ Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the lemon juice and za'atar and puree with an immersion blender until mostly (but not totally) smooth. If it looks too thick, add a little water until you have the consistency you want.
~ Reheat the soup and serve hot with a sprinkle of parsley and lemon wedges. (A few glasses of "the juice of Egypt's grape" wouldn't come amiss, either; you know Cleopatra would have wanted it that way!)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Banana Blueberry Pancakes

These sweet, fluffy pancakes are not only an excellent use of the overripe bananas that always seem to accumulate at this time of year, but a perfect summer breakfast (especially if you get up and make them early, before it gets too hot to eat anything). I'm pretty generous with the blueberries, but you can adjust the amount to your own taste. Served with Earth Balance and maple syrup, a stack of these babies is guaranteed to satisfy all of your hungry piggies, big and small.

Banana Blueberry Pancakes
~ 1.5 cups all purpose flour
~ 2 tbsp. corn starch
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cinnamon
~ Pinch of nutmeg
~ 2 very ripe bananas, mashed until smooth
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 2 tbsp. maple syrup
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy (or other non-dairy) milk
~ 2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and stemmed

~ Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit and place a nonstick baking sheet inside.
~ In a large bowl, sift together the flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
~ In a separate bowl, combine the bananas, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and milk.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the wet mixture, and stir to combine. (If the batter looks too thick, you can add up to about another 1/2 cup soy milk to thin it.)
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat.
~ Add the batter by large spoonfuls (I usually do just one at a time). As the pancake begins to set around the edges, sprinkle a handful of blueberries into the batter. When the surface begins to bubble, flip the pancake and cook another minute or two on the other side. Remove the cooked pancake to the baking sheet in your warm oven and continue until the batter and blueberries are used up (you may have some extra berries left over).
~ Serve hot with Earth Balance, maple syrup, and maybe those extra blueberries.

Friday, June 3, 2011

(Not Elvis Presley's) Memphis BBQ Tofu

Sorry to have been such an infrequent poster lately; things have been busy, and thus not super-conducive to blogging. I have been cooking, but we've had a bunch of parties, graduations, and cookouts to attend, so it's mostly been garden variety, crowd-feeding stuff like pasta and/or grain salads that get thrown together with no thought of measuring, quantifying, or other types of rationalization. But today I have an actual recipe, and it's a pretty good one, too: a sort of happy mash-up of Vegan Dad's Memphis BBQ Tofu and my own Sweet & Spicy Tempeh Wings, improved by the addition of some whisky.

Now, I realize that there may be some who find a certain degree of incongruity in the idea of a Memphis-inspired "dry rub" for pressed bean curd, but I feel constrained to point out that A. it's really more a flavorful coating than a "rub," per se, to be applied before the tofu gets pan-seared, doused in smoky, boozy sauce, and baked until sticky and delicious; B. my version includes nutritional yeast, which confers upon it unimpeachable hippie street cred; and C. it's totally pig-friendly, which is more than can be said for more "traditional" renditions. So fire up the stove, crack open the Jim Beam, and let's cook us some tofu!

The Tofu
~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. each: smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper
~ Oil or cooking spray

~ Slice the tofu in half horizontally, then divide into eight equal slices (this should give you 16 pieces). Pat dry.
~ In a shallow dish, combine all the dry ingredients, then coat each piece of tofu thoroughly with the mixture. Set aside for at least 30 minutes (I made the sauce during this time).
~ Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray or a very thin layer of oil. Cook the tofu for about two minutes on each side, until you get a nice sear on the outside. Remove to a plate.

The Sauce
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 medium onion, chopped fine
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: smoked paprika, chili powder,
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2-3 tsp. hot sauce (or to taste)
~ 1 tbsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1/3 cup maple syrup
~ 1/3 cup ketchup
~ 1/4 cup bourbon

~ In a saucepan, heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until softened.
~ Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and raise the heat to medium until the mixture bubbles.
~ Reduce the heat to low and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened (if it gets too thick, you can add up to 1/2 cup of water, but remember we want a coating for the tofu, rather than a lake for it swim in).

And now...
~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the fried tofu pieces in the baking dish, and then pour on the sauce, flipping them over to coat.
~ Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, turning the tofu over once or twice to make sure the sauce gets cooked on. Ovens vary, so keep an eye on it; it's okay if the sauce gets ever so slightly charred around the edges, but you don't want it to burn.
~ Serve hot with the accompaniments of your choice. (We had ours with mac & cheeze and creamed spinach, for that old-school, south of the Mason-Dixon vibe: highly recommended!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Open Sesame Couscous

I love couscous: it's versatile, easy, and super quick, which makes it especially nice during the warmer months, when you don't want to steam up the kitchen too much. The warm weather has yet to reach us here in New England (we're currently on the eighth in a series of cool, rainy days), but this one-dish meal arose from one of those all-too-familiar situations when both time and supplies are in limited supply. The sesame seeds added a nice touch to an otherwise pretty standard empty larder, "make a virtue of necessity" dinner; in fact, this
turned out so well that it deserves to make regular appearances. I happened to have smoked tofu on hand, but you could subsititute plain, or use cubed tempeh, or just leave it out altogether; the best part is that the whole thing comes together really quickly, so whether you want it for a main dish or alongside something else, you'll be out of the kitchen in about fifteen minutes. Open sesame, doc!

Open Sesame Couscous
~ 1-2 tbsp. vegan margarine (or oil; I just like the "butteriness" of EB here)
~ 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
~ 1 small onion, diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 1 carrot, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, marjoram
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 6 scallions, sliced thinly
~ 8 oz. smoked tofu, cubed
~ 1 cup couscous
~ 2 cups vegetable broth

~ In a saucepan, melt the margarine over medium-high heat, and stir in the sesame seeds. Cook for about two minutes, until they turn a pale golden color, and start to give off a yummy aroma (don't let them brown!).
~ Add the onions, celery, carrots, and dry seasonings; cook about 5 minutes, until vegetables are getting soft.
~ Add the scallions, tofu, and the couscous; stir to combine.
~ Raise the heat to high, pour in the vegetable broth, and bring just to a boil.
~ Cover the pot, remove from heat, and allow to stand 5-7 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve hot.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Crispy Oyster Mushrooms

“But wait a bit,” the Oyster [
s cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed—
Now if you’re ready, Oyster [mushroom]s dear,
We can begin to feed."

One of our favorite places to get a non-home-cooked meal these days is a terrific vegan restaurant in Somerville called True Bistro (and since I'm doing my PhD right around the corner at Tufts, they'll be seeing a lot more of us in the upcoming; coincidence?!). Among their many offerings is an appetizer of cornmeal crusted oyster mushrooms, which is exactly the sort of thing with which I'd like to be left alone with an
an inexhaustible supply
. Failing that, I'd be perfectly happy to get several orders and make a meal of them (except that it might be embarrassing for my dining companions when I refused to share. At top volume).

Anyway, I love those things with a burning passion, so imagine the excitement when - several days after celebrating my birthday at TB, with fond memories of crispy, shroomy goodness dancing in my head - I spotted some fresh oyster mushrooms at the local health food store. S
uffice to say that a little impromptu dance was performed as into the cart they went. Upon getting home, I started looking for recipes that might approximate TB's approach, and this is what I came up with. Obviously, my home kitchen lacks some of the accoutrements of a professional establishment, but if you happen to have a deep fryer, by all means go for it and report back (as it was, I used
a deep skillet with excellent results). And in the end, it must be said that our oyster mushrooms had a pleasant run; although when asked,

Shall we be trotting home again?”
answer came there none.
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d [been] eaten every one.

The Mushrooms
~ 1 lb. oyster mushrooms, cleaned
~ Egg replacer for 5 eggs, prepared according to package directions (I used Ener-G)
~ 1 cup chickpea flour
~ 2/3 cup fine cornmeal (not the coarse, polenta-style stuff)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, chili powder, garlic powder
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ Pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional)
~ Oil for frying

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit, and place a nonstick baking sheet inside.
~ In a mixing bowl, prepare the egg replacer.
~ In a separate bowl, sift together the chickpea flour, cornmeal, and dry seasonings.
~ Dip each mushroom in the egg replacer, shake off the excess, then dip into the flour mixture. (It helps to have a "wet" hand and a "dry" hand during this part of the process.)
~ As each mushroom is coated with flour, shake off any excess and place on a platter. Repeat with remaining mushrooms until they are all coated and ready to fry!
~ In a large, deep skillet, heat about an inch of oil (I used canola) over medium-high heat, until a mushroom placed in the pan sizzles and rises to the top.
~ Working in batches, fry the mushrooms for about 2 minutes on each side, removing to the baking sheet to keep warm as each batch is completed.
~ Transfer the mushrooms from the baking sheet to a platter lined with paper towels (an old brown grocery bag works just as well). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some extra red pepper flakes if you like, and serve, accompanied by...

The Sauce
~ 1 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Vegenaise, but use whatever you prefer)
~ 1 tsp. each: dill, hot sauce
~ 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
~ A few grinds of salt and pepper
~ Plain, unsweetened soy milk, as needed

~ In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients. If you want a thicker, more tartar sauce-like consistency, omit the soy milk; if you prefer something more akin to a salad dressing, add about 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk until you get the texture you want.