Saturday, May 26, 2012

Aloo Kale (Indian Style Greens and Potatoes)

The other night, my partner was whipping up some rice and chana dal khichari, and I wanted to make something vegetabley to go alongside. Since we had just picked up a crapload of kale at the market, leafy greens seemed the way to go; but while spinach is quite common in South Asian cuisine, its denser, chewier counterpart gets less in the way of subcontinental love. That being the case, I decided to cherry-pick ideas from a few different sources, and just get in there; with kale, potatoes, and a bunch of Indian spices, how far wrong could things possibly go? Well, I am happy to report that they did not go wrong at all, and this wound up being a very successful side dish. I toyed briefly with the notion of adding some coconut milk near the end, but opted for a drier texture as a better complement to the relatively soupy khichari. Served with some naan and spicy pickle, these two dishes made a very filling meal with plenty of leftovers, which (as everyone knows) are always even better the next day

Aloo Kale
~ 1 tbsp. mustard oil
~ 1 tsp. each: mustard and cumin seeds
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 onion, diced
~ 3 potatoes, diced and cooked as you would for potato salad (i.e., not falling apart)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, chili powder, fenugreek, asafoetida
~ 1 large bunch kale, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped
~ 1/2 cup water

~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to sizzle and pop. 
~ Add the garlic and the onions and cook for about a minute. 
~ Add the potatoes and spices, stir to combine, and cook another few minutes until the potatoes have browned just a bit.
~ Begin adding the kale by handfuls, stirring with each addition to mix everything up. When all the kale has been added, stir in the water and cook about 3-5 minutes, until the greens are wilted but still retain some texture. Serve hot alongside your favorite dal and some spicy pickle.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Veggie Kielbasa with Potatoes and Onions

Just to be absolutely clear, my mother would never have said such a thing...well, not out loud, anyway. But this is the kind of dinner that could appear on on those nights when she just sort of pulled stuff out of the refrigerator and put them into her avocado-green, 1970's vintage countertop electric skillet (stuffed bell peppers and chicken cacciatora also come to mind). The great thing is that it's actually quite yummy and satisfying: perfect for when you want a starchy, comforting one-dish dinner, or even a substantial breakfast/brunch on a weekend morning. I've made it a bit healthier by using veggie sausage, and by roasting the potatoes in the oven rather than frying them in the skillet like Mom would have done. You can obviously substitute whatever vegan sausage you happen to like, but my mom used kielbasa so I proceeded accordingly. Serve with ketchup and horseradish mustard, and a side of whatever the hell you want. (Or starve!)

Veggie Kielbasa with Potatoes and Onions
~ 3 lbs. potatoes, cubed
~ 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ A few grinds of fresh black pepper
~ 1 14 oz. package vegan kielbasa, sliced (I used Trader Joe's)
~ 2 large onions, diced
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. each: dill, paprika
~ 1 tsp. parsley
~ 1/4 cup white wine

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Arrange the cubed potatoes on the baking sheet, then add about 2 tbsp. of the olive oil, the salt, and pepper. Coat thoroughly (it's best to just get in there and do this with your hands).
~ Roast the potatoes in the oven for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown but still tender on the inside.
~ While the potatoes are roasting, coat a large skillet with cooking spray and sauté the sliced kielbasa over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until browned on both sides.
~ Transfer the kielbasa to a plate, then add the remaining olive oil to the skillet. Add the diced onions and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Add the minced garlic, the dill. paprika, and parsley, and continue cooking another 10 minutes, until the onions are golden and just beginning to caramelize.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, and cook another minute before adding the cooked kielbasa and the roasted potatoes. Combine thoroughly, and serve hot with a little ketchup, mustard, and/or hot sauce on the side if you like.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tofu "Scallops" in Ginger Garlic Cream Sauce

This was inspired by a staple dish on the menu of a local seafood restaurant, where we often go for veggie sushi. By substituting tofu "scallops" for the brethren of the unfortunate bivalve pictured above, I whipped up a dinner that felt sort of fancy, despite being super easy. A Google search for "ginger garlic cream sauce" revealed a number of recipes, and aside from the butter and cream - easily exchanged for vegan analogues - it was very simple to create with things that were already in my kitchen. (I think this would also be good with scallops made from king oyster mushrooms, and am hoping to try that when I can lay my hands on some.) Anyway, grating the ginger was the most time-consuming part of the process, and it made the house smell like absolute heaven, so who's complaining? In fact, the one thing I'll say is that you really should use fresh ginger for this; the jarred stuff is all very good in a pinch, but the real deal adds the brightness and kick that make this taste like Special Occasion Food. We served it over rice pilaf, with some glazed carrots on the side, but it would be equally nice with couscous, quinoa, or even a simple pasta. 

Tofu "Scallops" in Ginger Garlic Cream Sauce
The Tofu
~ 1 lb firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 1 cup vegetable broth
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: olive oil, minced garlic
~ 2 large, firm apples, cut into chunks
~ Cooking spray

~ Slice the pressed tofu in half horizontally, then cut into "scallop"-size pieces; I got a dozen from a 1 lb. package of Nasoya. (You could use a round cookie cutter if you want to go for scallopy verisimilitude, but bear in mind that you'll have fewer pieces.) Place the "scallops" in a shallow bowl or baking dish.
~ Whisk together the broth, lemon juice, ginger, olive oil, and garlic. Pour over the tofu pieces, flip to coat with the marinade, and then cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (the longer the better).
~ Reserving the tofu marinade, coat a large skillet with cooking spray, and fry the tofu over medium heat until browned on all sides (turn it over frequently to make sure it doesn't stick). Remove the cooked tofu to a plate and set aside.
~ Add the apple to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until just lightly browned. Add them to the plate with the tofu while you make...

The Sauce
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 3 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ Reserved tofu marinade
~ 2-3 scallions, sliced thin 

~ In the same skillet, melt the margarine over medium-low heat. Add the ginger and the garlic, and cook for a bout minute, until fragrant.
~ Add the flour, the salt, and the turmeric, and stir to make a roux.
~ Raise the heat to medium, and begin adding the milk and reserved marinade, whisking to prevent lumps.
~ Continue cooking for 5-10 minutes, until just beginning to thicken. 
~ Add the scallions, the tofu, and the apples, and stir to coat. 
~ Continue cooking about 5 minutes more, and serve hot over rice, or the grain of your choice.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Coconut Curry with Cashews

This is the result of my humble - but fortunately successful - attempt to approximate one of those brothy, coconutty curries you find in Vietnamese or Malaysian restaurants. It's quite mild (and thus pretty kid-friendly), but go ahead and add a shot or two of hot sauce if you're so inclined. On a rainy, unseasonably chilly spring night, this was just the thing to accompany the latest episode of Mad Men...imagine Don Draper's reaction if Meghan put this in front of him after a few Manhattans!

Coconut Curry with Cashews
~ 5 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk
~ 1 generous cup finely grated coconut
~ 1 tbsp. each: Thai red curry paste, hoisin sauce, bouillon (insert obligatory plug for Better Than Bouillon's "no chicken" flavor), curry powder
~ 1 tsp. chili powder
~ 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric (for color)
~ 1 lb. tofu, pressed and cubed
~ Oil for frying
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ About 1 cup each: sliced carrots, sliced red bell peppers
~ About 2 cups each: sliced mushrooms, broccoli florets
~ 3 small potatoes, cubed and boiled for about 8 minutes (until cooked but not falling apart)
~ 3 large scallions, sliced thin
~ 1 cup raw cashews

~ In a large beaker, combine the soy milk, grated coconut, curry paste, hoisin sauce, bouillon, curry powder, chili powder, and cinnamon. Whisk together, cover, and bring to a boil in the microwave (about 4-5 minutes). Leave covered and set aside. Depending on how finely grated your coconut is, you could puree this in a food processor or with an immersion blender; I didn't bother.
~ In a wok or deep skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil and fry the tofu cubes over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-lined plate and...
~ In the same skillet, add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, before adding the carrots, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Cook another 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are giving up their liquid.
~Add the broccoli and the cooked potatoes. Cover and cook a few minutes, until the broccoli is bright green.
~ Stir in the cooked tofu, the soy milk/coconut mixture, and the scallions. Cook about 10 minutes more, until all the flavors are blended.
~ In a skillet, toast the cashews over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until they give off a lovely, toasty aroma.
~ Stir the toasted cashews into the curry, and serve hot over steamed rice.