Saturday, April 23, 2011

Crabby Bisque

In my omnivorous/pescatarian past, one of my most dearly beloved soups was lobster and/or crab bisque. It was one of those things that I'd order in a restaurant, but it would never have occurred to me to make at home. But as with so many dishes I've made since becoming vegan, the notion of veganizing this old favorite has become a veritable maggot in my brain. So when my partner saw some fake crabmeat in the freezer case of our local Loving Hut, he knew what to do, and this thick, creamy, and slightly spicy soup is the happy result. I used some dried seaweed to try to achieve that oceanic je ne sais quoi, and will probably up the quantity next time (I may use toasted, crumbled nori instead of dulse; watch this space). We had ours with salad and crusty bread, but for a more authentic touch, try getting your hands on some of those little oyster crackers that New England restaurants always serve alongside seafood soups or chowders!

Crabby Bisque
~ 4 tbsp. vegan margarine
~ 1 cup finely chopped onion
~ 1 cup diced carrot
~ 1/2 cup diced celery
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, tarragon, thyme, paprika
~ 2-3 tsp. crumbled dulse or other seaweed
~ 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
~ Pinch nutmeg
~ A few generous grinds of fresh black pepper
~ 8 oz. vegetarian crabmeat (thawed and rinsed, if frozen)
~ 3/4 cup dry sherry, divided
~ 4 tbsp. flour
~ 2 cups unsweetened vegan creamer (such as Silk or Mimicreme)
~ 1 tbsp. each: tomato paste, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 4 cups vegetable stock
~ 1/2 cup soft, silken tofu or vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti)

~ In a large, deep pot, melt the margarine over moderate heat and add the onions. Saute for about 3 minutes.
~ Add the carrots and celery, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes more.
~ Add the garlic, bay leaves, and dried seasonings (through the black pepper), and cook another minute or so.
~ Add the "crab" and cook for a few minutes, until it is broken up and coated with the seasonings.
~ Pour in 1/2 cup of the sherry to deglaze the pan. When it has mostly cooked off, add the flour and 1/4 cup of the creamer. S
tir to combine, and then gradually add the remaining creamer.
~ Add the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and vegetable broth. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil before lowering the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.
~ Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the bay leaves, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup sherry and the cream cheese or silken tofu, and puree with an immersion blender until completely smooth.
~ Return to heat until almost but not quite boiling, and serve hot.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Super Simple Herbed Lentils

This is a supremely easy, basic preparation for lentils; probably one of the earliest ways I learned to cook them (sans the wine, of course;
as a teenaged hippie,
I wasn't that sophisticated). It is also - like many simple dishes - both tasty and satisfying, and needs only a bed of rice or couscous and a salad to impart the virtuous glow that comes of putting "a proper meal" on the table. (The fact that it
takes almost no time to make only makes it better; who's going to argue with that?)

Super Simple Herbed Lentils
~ 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, tarragon, parsley, basil
~ 1/2 tsp. oregano
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1/2 cup dry white wine
~ 1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1.5 - 2 cups vegetable broth

~ In a largeish saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions and celery about two minutes.
~ Add the garlic and dry seasonings, and cook another minute, until fragrant.
~ Raise the heat to high and pour in the wine; combine thoroughly and cook another minute or so, until most of the wine has evaporated.
~ Add the lentils, the bay leaves, and 1.5 cups of the broth.
~ Bring to a boil, then cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed. (You can check occasionally; if it seems too dry, add that extra 1/2 cup of broth.)
~ Remove from heat, fish out the bay leaves, and serve hot (or at room temperature) over rice, bulghur, couscous, or your grain of choice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pan Fried Ravioli with Mushrooms and Kale

Let me just start by saying that I have no idea why this (apparently happy) couple is sleeping inside a can of ravioli; just more proof that you never can tell what will turn up when you type something into a search engine. On the other hand, this image does illustrate something about the place of ravioli in mainstream American culture. When I was growing up, my only exposure to these doughy, cheese-stuffed pillows was fresh out of a can sporting the name of a certain Chef Boyardee (who, by the way, I don't believe attended any reputable culinary school), and swimming in a sugary red sauce. This is actually kind of funny, since my mother had a killer spaghetti sauce recipe, and was even known to make her own egg noodles from time to time, but I suppose it was hardly to be expected that the British GI bride of a first-generation Greek would be making ravioli from scratch. In any case, those canned ones were okay - the sort of thing that might occasionally appear in your "soup" thermos, or for a Saturday afternoon lunch in front of the TV - but I was never all that crazy about them.

Then came the the great pasta craze of the 1980s, opening the door to a brave new world of carbohydrates, many of them boasting names evocative of Renaissance masters (or Ninja Turtles, depending upon one's frame of reference). Capellini, cavatelli, tortellini, and - yes! - even that party dude, ravioli, all enjoyed a new lease on life. For vegetarians, this macaromania was a positive boon: suddenly there were loads of restaurant options, especially for people who ate eggs and cheese. Like everyone else, I inhaled huge plates of pesto linguine, and loaded up the grocery cart with multiple packages of fresh pasta, to be drenched in butter and/or various sauces once I got them home. Of course, the whirligig of time eventually brought in her revenges, as the carb-loving '80s gave way to the protein-obsessed '90s; but since I don't give a rat's ass what Oprah or Cosmo or anyone else says about anything, pasta has always retained its status as a dinner table staple chez nous.

All of which is an extremely roundabout route to the following public avowal: one of these days, I am going to make my own, fresh ravioli. From scratch. This has been on my "to do" list for awhile, and I swear that I'll get to it. Eventually. In the meantime, imagine my excitement when I saw that our local health food store had begun carrying Soy Boy tofu ravioli! Having heard good things about them, I immediately snatched up a package and began thinking about how best to prepare them. Since I've always been of the belief that boiling ravioli is a travesty in a world where they can be pan-fried, it was a given that olive oil and a hot skillet lay in their immediate future, but what else? A quick glance at the produce section answered this question with some babybella mushrooms and head of beautiful dinosaur kale so fresh that a wee little worm came crawling up my arm while I was cleaning it. (NB that he was relocated to the mint patch outside the kitchen door, and that no bugs were harmed in the making of this dinner.) A little garlic, a little wine, a few herbs, and the result was far beyond Chef Boyardee's wildest dreams. With garlic bread and some sauteed onions, peppers, and Field Roast sausage, this was the sort of dinner you'd get in a really good, old-school Italian restaurant. Definitely a make again; maybe even with homemade ravioli next time!

Pan Fried Ravioli with Mushrooms and Kale
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
~ 1/2 cup onion, minced very fine
~ 10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1/2 cup dry white wine
~ 1 tsp. each: basil, parsley
~ 1/2 teaspoon salt
~ A few generous grinds of fresh black pepper
~ 1 cup vegetable stock
~ 1 small head kale, stripped and chopped (about 3-4 cups)
~ 2 tbsp. vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
~ 1 package Soy Boy (or other brand) tofu ravioli

~ Cook ravioli in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
~ Heat 1 tbsp of the oil and 1 tbsp. of the margarine in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes.
~ Increase heat to high and add the mushrooms. Sauté, stirring, about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, salt, basil, parsley, and pepper, and cook another minute.
~ Pour in the wine and cook until liquid is mostly evaporated (about 2 minutes). Stir in salt, pepper, basil, and parsley.
~ Add the kale and cook about 3 minutes more, until the kale is wilted but still green.
~ Add the vegetable broth, cook another few minutes; then stir in the vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast. Remove from heat.
~ In a separate skillet, heat the remaining 1 tbsp. of oil and 1 tbsp. of margarine over moderately high heat. Add the drained, cooked ravioli; fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and ever so slightly crispy.
~ Add the vegetable mixture to the skillet with ravioli, stirring gently until combined. Serve hot.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Patatas Bravas

Oh, never, surely, was a dish
So served by hand of dame,
As served were these, a breakfast wish,
When from our beds we came.

So might Cervantes have written, had he been in the kitchen when I made this adaptation of a classic tapas recipe for a recent, outrageously filling brunch. (Realizing that it's always best to be fortified for a long day tilting at windmills.) The main changes I made to the source recipe - found, like many an inspiration, in the food section of my beloved Guardian - were to increase the seasonings in the red sauce, and to roast the potatoes rather than frying them. Instead of the traditional aioli, I made a saffron-garlic sauce, but if you're feeling lazy, you could just substitute your favorite vegan garlic mayonnaise. Like most quixotic enterprises, it took a little time and effort to pull everything together, but the ensuing praise from my knight in shining armor made it all worthwhile.

The Potatoes
~ 5 lbs. potatoes, cut into rough chunks (I used Yukon Gold)
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ Kosher salt
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: paprika, parsley

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and parsley. Mix everything together with your hands, making sure all the potatoes are thoroughly coated.
~ Divide the potatoes between the two baking sheets, and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown.
~ While that's happening, you can make...

The Red Sauce
~ 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 small onion, finely diced
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 28 oz. can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, smoked paprika, chili powder, cilantro, cumin, sugar
~ 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
~ Pinch of nutmeg
~ 1 tbsp. each: sherry, balsamic vinegar

~ In a saucepan, saute the onion in the oil over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, until softened and golden.
~ Add the garlic and cook another minute.
~ Add the canned tomatoes (including liquid) and all the seasonings except the sherry and vinegar.
~ Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce has reduced to thick, dark, deliciousness.
~ Add the sherry and the balsamic vinegar, stir to combine, and remove from heat.

The Yellow Sauce
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 1.5 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
~ 1/2 cup raw cashews
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, tarragon
~ 2 tsp. Dr Gonzo's Garlic Mash (optional, but awesome:

~ In a saucepan or the microwave, heat the soy milk, saffron and cashews to nearly boiling and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before blending in a food processor until completely smooth.
~ In a saucepan, melt the margarine over low heat, then add the garlic. Saute briefly, then add the flour to make a roux.
~ Raise the heat to medium, then begin gradually adding the blended cashew/soy milk mixture, stirring continually.
~ Add the lemon juice, salt, tarragon, and Garlic Mash. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, continuing to stir, until thickened; if it gets too thick, add a little water or soy milk to get the consistency you like.

And now...
~ Ladle some red sauce onto a warmed plate, arrange potatoes on top, and spoon on some of the yellow sauce. Top with a sprinkle of cilantro or parsley and serve immediately, accompanied by the flourish of (probably imaginary) hautboys.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Martian Food (aka Spinach Souffle)

This is my attempt to reproduce something akin to those frozen spinach souffles many of us remember from childhood. My parents - both excellent cooks - almost never had stuff like that in the house, but I was always fascinated by their strange green, brick-like appearance. (My brother-in-law grew up referring to this product as "Martian food"; hence the title of this post, and the accompanying photo.) Anyway, one recent evening I was trying to think of something different to do with frozen spinach, and this is what I came up with. The result is kind of like a frittata, kind of like a quiche, and kind of like a souffle; it is not, however, anything at all like a brick. I think that Marvin would approve.

Spinach Souffle
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 lb. frozen spinach, thawed
~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/4 cup tahini
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1/4 cup chickpea flour
~ 2 tsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. cornstarch
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, basil, garlic powder
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ Pinch of nutmeg

~ Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a deep-dish pie plate (or baking dish) with cooking spray.
~ In a skillet, saute the onion, garlic, and spinach in the olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ In a large blender or food processor, puree the remaining ingredients. Add the cooked, cooled spinach mixture, and puree until smooth.
~ Spoon the mixture into your prepared baking dish, smoothing with a rubber spatula to cover.
~ Sprinkle the top with a little paprika, and bake uncovered in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the batter is set and the souffle golden brown on top. (Check on it occasionally during the process, since ovens differ).
~ Allow to sit another 10-15 minutes before serving.