Thursday, May 30, 2013

Peppery Tempeh with Cauliflower and Asparagus

"I can resist everything except tempeh." ~ Oscar Wilde

Tempeh is one of the many gifts bestowed upon us by the noble and generous soybean. Like its better known relative, tofu, it is packed with protein, and the fermentation process by which it is produced makes it a good source of B12 as well; it also has a nutty flavor that lends itself well to hearty applications like IndianThai, and Indonesian curries, "wings," and the ever popular Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch. As an adult I love the stuff, but I remember trying it as a newly vegetarian teenager and being...underwhelmed by its putative greatness. This probably had something to do with the fact that (being the aspiring retro-hippie I was) I sliced it and ate it raw in a sandwich with sprouts and tahini rather than marinating, steaming, and/or sautéeing it like a reasonable person. But we live and (with any luck at all) we learn, and over time tempeh has taken its place in our ever-more-exciting diet. I am particularly fortunate to have a partner who makes frequent trips to Canada and returns with delicious Henry's Gourmet Tempeh, which has ruined me for anything else until the day I decide to A. visit Indonesia,  or B. hunker down and make my own. (NB this is not the only way I'm lucky in my partner; it's just the one most relevant to this post.)

This dish came about - like so many others - because I felt like cooking something new but was fresh out of inspiration. My available main ingredients were a head of cauliflower, a bunch of asparagus, and a package of tempeh; a quick Google brought me to my beloved Guardian food page (source of many a Quixotic veganization), from which I culled and combined several ideas to produce the dish below. Hearty and full of peppery goodness, it made the perfect dinner for a gloomy, coolish spring evening; so go ahead and give in to the tempeh. You know you want to!

Peppery Tempeh with Cauliflower and Asparagus
~ 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 medium onion, diced
~ 2 tbsp. each: grated ginger, minced garlic
~ 1/4 cup each: soy sauce, water
~ 1 tbsp. agave nectar (or sugar)
~ 1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
~ 1 tsp. each: red pepper flakes, chili powder
~ 1 8 oz. package tempeh, cubed (again, I do love Henry's)
~ 1 small bunch asparagus, cut into 2" pieces (about 3 cups)
~ 1 generous tsp. fresh black pepper

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange the cauliflower pieces, coat with another squirt of cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until tender and just starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
~ In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, agave nectar, curry paste, red pepper flakes, and chili powder; set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, melt the coconut oil and sauté the onion over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until softened and starting to color.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and cubed tempeh; cook another minute or two, adding a splash of water as/if necessary to prevent sticking.
~ Pour in the soy sauce mixture, stirring to coat, and add the asparagus. Stir to combine, cover the pan, and cook about 5 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green.
~ Remove the lid, add the roasted cauliflower and the black pepper, and cook another few minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more water if needed. Serve hot over steamed, short grain brown rice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Smoky White Beans and Kale with Garlicky Grits

I'm a big fan of leafy greens - spinach, chard, collards - but if I were pressed to pick a favorite, kale would probably take the prize. A cursory search of this blog will yield numerous uses for this nutritional powerhouse, but its unique charms also lend themselves to the simplest applications; as often as not we just sauté it with garlic and copious quantities of nooch. The recipe below came about when a craving for something smoky coincided with the acquisition of some beautiful dinosaur kale and the realization that there were about a million cans of white beans in the cupboard. I do love me some white beans, and while I'm sure this would also be good with kidneys or pintos, there's something particularly wonderful about the combination of greens, navy beans, garlic, and smoke. Serve hot over rice or - my strong recommendation - cornmeal grits/soft polenta for a meal that's delicious and substantial but not at all "heavy," and just gets better as leftovers.

Smoky White Beans and Kale
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 medium onion, chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 carrots, diced
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 green bell pepper, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, sage, marjoram, chili powder
~ 2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
~ 1 tbsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (I used Frank's)
~ 2 bay leaves
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 2 15 oz. cans white navy beans, including liquid
~ 1 head kale, stripped and chopped
~ 2 cups broth or water

~ In a large, deep pot, sauté the onions in the oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
~ Add the celery, carrots, and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes more.
~ Add the bell pepper and the seasonings and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another few minutes (you can add a little water or broth as necessary to prevent sticking).
~ Add the beans and the kale and stir to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the kale is just wilted.
~ Pour in the broth, cover the pot, and raise the heat to high. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and you have a semi-thick stew. In the last few minutes of cooking time, you can make the grits!

Garlicky Grits
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1/4 cup minced garlic (or less, but don't be a wimp!)
~ 8 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 2 cups cornmeal grits (I use Bob's Red Mill)
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

~ In a biggish saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic for about 3 minutes.
~ Add the broth, raise the heat to high, and bring to a rapid boil.
~ Pour in the cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Stir in the nutritional yeast and continue cooking about 10 minutes until you have a thick, creamy texture. Mound on plates, ladle the beans and kale on top, and serve with extra hot sauce. Yum.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Potato, Spinach, and Chickpea Curry

"Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of ‘Green Sleeves’; hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here…"

Ye gods, it feels like I haven't posted since the Taft administration. With one thing and another things have been ridiculously busy around here, so there hasn't been much time or energy for cooking (or blogging). But I'm hoping to change all that now that the semester has been put to bed, and I thought we'd start with a relatively simplecurry that kicks some serious ass (you're welcome).And watch this space, because - to loosely paraphraseMartha and the Vandellas - summer's here and the time is right for cooking and for eats!

Potato, Spinach, and Chickpea Curry
~ 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin seeds, black mustard seeds
~ 1 tsp. each: mustard oil, coconut oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 2 tomatoes, diced
~ 2 tsp. each: fenugreek, cumin, curry powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, chili powder, coriander
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, asafoetida
~ 1 lb. frozen spinach
~ 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
~ 1 cup vegetable broth

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Pierce the potatoes with a knife and microwave on high for about 5-7 minutes, until they are mostly cooked but not mushy.
~ Once the potatoes are cooled a bit, quarter them and cut into approximately 1" cubes.
~ Place the sliced potatoes on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle on some salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so they brown evenly. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large, deep pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat; add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the seeds begin to sizzle and pop. You might want to be wearing an apron while you do this. And safety goggles. And a breastplate. (Just kidding...well, sort of.)
~ Add the onions and cook 5 minutes, until softened and starting to color, and then add the garlic and ginger. Cook a few minutes longer, adding a little water if/as necessary to prevent sticking.
~ Stir in the tomatoes and seasonings, then reduce heat to low. Partially cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until a thin film of oil starts to form on the surface.
~ Add the spinach, chickpeas, and broth; stir to combine, cover, and simmer another 10 minutes.
~ Add the roasted potatoes, stir to combine, and continue cooking until everything is just hot. Serve with basmati rice and spicy pickle.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Strawberry Banana Muffins

Yes, it's true: I make a lot of muffins. This is partly because I often buy too much fruit that needs using up it when it gets overripe, and partly because people in my house are always happy to eat a lot of muffins. But mostly it's because muffins give the most bang for your baking buck: with very little time and effort, you can produce a warm batch of fresh, fluffy goodness, and everyone thinks you're some kind of domestic deity. This last batch was particularly fine, and is destined to become a summer morning staple once the annual Inundation of Berries gets underway. Muffin?

Strawberry Banana Muffins
~ 2 super ripe bananas, mashed
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1/4 cup applesauce
~ 1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
~ 3/4 cup plain or flavored non-dairy yogurt (I used TJ's blueberry)
~ 3/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
~ 2.5 cups flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. each: baking soda, cinnamon
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, ground ginger
~ Dash of nutmeg
~ 1 generous cup chopped strawberries

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl or beaker, combine the bananas, oil, applesauce, agave, yogurt, milk, and the extracts and combine until smooth.
~ In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Add the chopped strawberries and toss them around until they are coated with the flour mixture.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the banana mixture; mix until just combined.
~ Spoon into your greased muffin tin (I got 15 fluffy muffins from this recipe, but your mileage may vary depending on the size of your tin) and bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack; these are delicious warm or at room temperature. You can split them in half and add some PB, almond butter, jam, and/or whatever, but they're really good just as they are!