Sunday, March 29, 2015

Perfectly Simple Yellow Dal

This deceptively simple dal packs a lot of flavor, and with its smooth, porridgy texture and cheerful yellow color, it's like a big, warm hug for your stomach. I served it alongside saag (minus the tofu) and ginger-garlic sweet potatoes, but it can easily be a meal on its own ladled over basmati rice.

Perfectly Simple Yellow Dal
~ 1 cup chana dal (yellow split peas)
~ ½ cup red lentils
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 2 tsp. fresh ginger
~ ½ tsp. turmeric
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 cup chopped shallots
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 large tomatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin, garam masala, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, asafoetida, coriander, white pepper
~ ¼ tsp. cayenne (more to taste)
~ ½ cup fresh, chopped cilantro

~ In a saucepan, combine the chana dal, lentils, broth, bay leaves, and ginger. Cover, bring to a boil, and turn the heat to its lowest setting. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and mushy, adding a little extra water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking. (We’re going for a texture like porridge.)
~ When the legumes are cooked, melt the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the shallots for about 5 minutes, until softened but not brown.
~ Add the garlic, tomatoes, and dry seasonings and cook about 5-7 minutes more.
~ Tip the cooked dal into the skillet, remove the bay leaves, and combine thoroughly. Continue cooking another 5 minutes, stir in the fresh herb, and serve hot with basmati rice and/or naan, chutney, and a good, spicy pickle.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

White Beans with Leeks and Carrots

This thick, creamy stew makes a comforting dinner on a chilly evening, or any time you're feeling a bit bashed about. Flavor-wise, it put me in mind of my mother's pot pie filling, only less podgy; perhaps because I used beans instead of fake meat. We ate ours in shallow bowls atop a pile of champ - thereby redressing any potential podge imbalance - which was a perfect pairing of flavors and textures, but it would be lovely ladled over noodles, rice, or biscuits, too.

White Beans with Leeks and Carrots
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tsp. "no chicken" bouillon
~ 1 bay leaf
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large leek (or 2 small), cleaned and chopped
~ 2 large carrots, diced
~ ½ tsp. each: thyme, marjoram, white pepper, Adobo seasoning
~ Dash each: mace, turmeric
~ 1 14 oz. can white beans (I used cannellini), drained and rinsed
~ 1/2cup frozen peas
~ 2 tbsp. flour

~ Combine the soy milk, bouillon, and bay leaf, and heat almost to boiling (a few minutes in the microwave will accomplish this nicely). Set aside.
~ In a largeish pot, saute the leek and carrots in the olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until beginning to soften.
~ Add the seasonings and beans, and cook about 5 minutes more, crushing some (but not all!) of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon.
~ Stir in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds, then begin adding the soy milk/bouillon mixture, stirring constantly to proven lumps.
~ Add the green peas and allow the stew to cook for about 10 more minutes, until thickened.
~ Serve hot over rice, noodles, biscuits, or - my strong recommendation - champ.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Egg" Foo Yung

Full disclosure: I have never, to my recollection, eaten or even seen egg foo yung, which Wikipedia defines as "an omelette dish found in Chinese Indonesian, British and Chinese American cuisine." Although a standard offering in old-school American Chinese restaurants, this menu staple somehow passed me by (or vice-versa) back in my omnivorous days, along with hybridized offerings like chop suey and chow mein. (The queasy-making orientalism surrounding putatively "Asian" food and culture in twentieth century American pop culture is another topic for another blog post. Or not.)

Anyway, I became curious about this dish after a friend posted about making it. I wasn't entirely sure what it was, but a little Googling piqued my quixotic culinary interest. After consulting several sources (including "traditional" egg-based versions and Robin Robertson's To-Fu Yung from Vegan Planet), I headed into the kitchen, and basically just played around a bit. Today's recipe is the end result of my experimentation, and while I can't say how it compares to the original (whatever such a term even means), I can say that it's delicious, and makes a somewhat "fancy" impression that belies its easy preparation. Best of all, no eggs, hens, or chicks are involved!

The "Egg" Foo Yung
~ 1 14 oz. package firm or extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
~ ¼ cup each: chickpea flour, nutritional yeast
~ 1 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 2-6 tbsp. water
~ 1 tsp black salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, ground ginger, garlic powder, white pepper
~ 4 large scallions, chopped
~ ½ red bell pepper, small dice
~ 1 small carrot, shredded
~ 1 stalk celery, small dice
~ 2 cups bean sprouts, roughly chopped

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
~ In a food processor or blender, puree the tofu, flour, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, sesame oil, and dry seasonings, adding as much of the water as needed to make a smooth mixture about the consistency of a thick muffin batter.
~ In a large mixing bowl, combine the scallions, bell pepper, celery, and bean sprouts; stir in the tofu mixture and combine well.
~ Wet your hands and form the mixture by 1/3-1/2 cupfuls into round “omelettes” about ½” thick, spacing them evenly on your prepared baking sheet. (I got ten from this recipe, but your mileage may vary.)
~ Bake at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes, flipping halfway, until golden brown and firm.
~ While that's happening, you can make...

The Sauce

~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 2 large shallots, minced
~ 1 clove garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 2 tbsp. dry sherry
~ 1 tsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, sugar
~ 1.5 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water

~ In a saucepan, sauté the shallots in the sesame oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
~ Add the garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds or so.
~ Add the soy sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and sherry. Stir for a few seconds to let the alcohol burn off a little.
~ Begin adding the broth slowly, stirring all the while; turn the heat to simmer and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.
~ Whisk in the cornstarch and water mixture and combine thoroughly. Raise the heat back to medium-high and cook another 5-7 minutes, until thickened.
~ When the egg foo yung is finished baking, place each omelet on a bed of steamed brown rice and ladle the sauce over the top to serve. Stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms, and/or bok choy make a nice accompaniment.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Apple Banana Muffins

Well, despite the calendar's claim that we are within two weeks of spring and today's marginally warmer temperatures, the snow piled up outside my door makes it look a lot like winter. And so the heat remains on in my drafty old house, which in the absence of both insulation and money to burn translates to fuzzy socks, sweaters, and plenty of baking.

These big, puffy muffins are perfect for those days when you've got bananas that are too far past their prime to be eaten "as themselves," but not so far gone to be of no further use. Mash those babies up, toss in some chopped apple, maple syrup, and wintry spices, and you've got the recipe for a warmed-up kitchen;  add a cup of tea and you've got a perfect afternoon snack.

Apple Banana Muffins
~ 4 very ripe bananas
~ ¼ cup each: canola oil, maple syrup
~ ½ cup each: plain (or vanilla) almond milk, orange juice
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1 tbsp. each: apple cider vinegar, ground flaxseed
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger
~ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
~ 1 large, ripe apple (any type), small dice

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas until smooth. Add the oil, maple syrup, almond milk, orange juice, vanilla, and cider vinegar, and mix until smooth.
~ Stir in the ground flaxseed and stir well for about a minute.
~ In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
~ Add then diced apple and stir well to coat with the flour mixture.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the banana mixture. Stir to combine, being careful not to over mix.
~ Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin (the batter will be quite puffy, but not to worry!).
~ Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.
~ Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to rest in the baking tin for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.