Sunday, December 3, 2017

Peppery Glazed Tofu

Welcome to winter! It's been an extremely busy autumn around here, and between teaching, various professional and personal obligations, and staring in open-mouthed horror as the world burns down, I haven't had much time to conduct or write about kitchen experiments. But people need to eat, and the other night I decided to try my hand at Yotam Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu, which I'd been eyeing for awhile. As is often the case with his recipes, the prototype is needlessly elaborate, deploying multiple steps, esoteric ingredients, and a shedload of unnecessary fat - oil for frying and 11 tbsp. (?!) of butter? For four servings? - on its circuitous mission to destroy the kitchen. 

My version is less messy, more pantry-friendly, and much easier on the arteries and waistline. Besides dialing back the grease, I thought a glaze/sauce would be a nice addition and departed radically from the original recipe, which wound up being more inspirational model than actual source. But I'm happy to report that the results were hugely successful; served with steamed, short grain brown rice and stir-fried green beans, this made a totally delicious and satisfying dinner. My one caveat is that it was gobbled up so quickly that there were nearly no leftovers, so if you're serving four or more hungry people you might want to double it. (I will certainly do so next time!)

Peppery Glazed Tofu
~ 1 package firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 2 tbsp. cornstarch
~ ½ tsp each: salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder
~ 2 tsp. canola oil
~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 small red onion, chopped fine
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 1 cup water mixed with 1 tsp. “no chicken” bouillon ~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste
~ ½ cup ice water whisked with 2 tsp. cornstarch

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil and place in the oven.
~ Slice the block of tofu in half horizontally, and cut into approximately 1” cubes.
~ In a bowl with a lid, combine the 2 tbsp. cornstarch, salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder. Add the cubed tofu, cover the bowl, and shake to coat the tofu thoroughly.
~ Place the tofu cubes on the preheated baking sheet, shaking off and reserving any excess coating as you go. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden and crispy, turning at the halfway point. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola and sesame oils over medium-high heat and cook the chopped red onion for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute or so, until fragrant.
~ Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and hot sauce and cook for a few minutes more before adding the broth and tomato paste.
~ Stir well, raise the heat to nearly boiling, and then turn the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until somewhat reduced in volume.
~ Add the ice water and cornstarch mixture and whisk thoroughly.
~ Add the cooked tofu and any leftover reserved coating and mix well. Continue cooking for ten minutes more, taste for seasoning, and serve hot over steamed rice.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Adorable Stuffed Honeynut Squash

[Insert by-now standard disclaimer/apology for dilatory blogging habits and hopes for more regular updates in the upcoming months. TL;DR: 2017 sucks beyond all reasonable suckage levels, and maintains so politic a state of evil that - with a very few exceptions - it will not admit any good part to intermingle with it. So it’s a bloomin’ miracle anyone even manages to wake up and wash themselves, let alone devise interesting meals to post on the internet.]

On a recent stop at our local health food store I spotted a basket of these adorable mini-butternut squashes. The produce boffin told me they’re a relatively new variety called honeynut, and gave them such a glowing recommendation that I brought a few home, where they sat on the kitchen table for a few days, awaiting their destiny.

Mollie Kaizen’s Moosewood books were an important resource back in my nascent cooking days, and I briefly considered veganizing one of her classic (albeit egg-&-dairy-laden) stuffed squash recipes, but decided instead to lighten things up and go freestyle. The result was a super-autumnal and surprisingly filling meal; I’d envisioned a half squash per person, but in the event we wound up getting eight servings from this recipe.

Honeynut squash has a sweeter, more intense flavor than regular butternut and a deeper orange color; it would be delicious simply baked with salt & pepper and some olive oil or Earth Balance. It’s also a lot easier to handle in terms of slicing and cutting, so I definitely see more of it in our future. That said, if you can’t find these little darlings, you could easily use any winter squash instead, with the cooking times adjusted accordingly.

Adorable Stuffed Honeynut Squash
~ 2 honeynut squashes, sliced lengthwise with seeds removed
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (I used baby bellas)
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 slices whole grain bread, toasted and crumbled
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, marjoram, parsley
~ ½ tsp. thyme
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ Dash nutmeg or mace
~ ½ cup water or vegetable stock (as needed)

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil.
~ Score the cut sides of the squashes and season well with salt and pepper; you can also rub a little olive oil into them if you like.
~ Place the squashes cut side down on the baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork.
~ Remove from oven and set aside; when they are cool enough to handle, scoop out the cooked flesh, leaving about a ¼” around the rim.
~ Get a large skillet very hot, and sauté the mushrooms in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, sauté the onions, garlic, salt, marjoram, parsley, thyme, black pepper, and nutmeg (or mace!) over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not browned.
~ Stir in the cooked mushrooms, crumbled bread, and cooked squash; mix well and continue cooking another 5 minutes, adding the water or stock as needed to get a “stuffing” consistency.
~ Divide the filling among the scooped-out squash skins, pressing down with a spoon to get it all in there.
~ Turn the oven up to 425 degrees and bake the filled squash, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, or until browned to your liking (ovens vary wildly; you know yours best).
~ Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Platonically Ideal Banana Walnut Muffins

What's not to love about muffins? Sweet or savory, full-sized or mini - there's something inherently cozy and comforting about a basket of these little darlings on the counter. And because they require so little time or effort, you get a lot of domestic street cred bang for your buck! Today's recipe has everything you could wish for in a muffin: a little sweet (bananas), a little crispy (walnuts), and pretty healthy into the bargain, so they are equally suited for breakfast or a random snack. I get a dozen from this recipe, but people will almost certainly eat more than one at a time (the batch I made yesterday is disappearing at an alarming rate) so if you have a hungry household like ours you might want to make double; they also freeze or refrigerate well.

Platonically Ideal Banana Walnut Muffins
~ 1 cup plain unsweetened soy(or other non-dairy) milk
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ ⅓ cup canola oil
~ ⅓ cup maple (or agave) syrup
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 4 large, very ripe bananas 
~ 2.5 cups white whole-wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, salt, ground ginger
~ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
~ ¾ cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 tbsp. brown sugar

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a beaker, combine the soy milk with the vinegar and set aside for a few minutes. Add the flaxseed, and whisk vigorously for about a minute.
~ Stir in the oil, syrup, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas and mix well to combine.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). Sprinkle in the walnuts and toss to coat; this will give them some "grip" in the batter.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, stir in the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.
~ Spoon the batter evenly into your prepared muffin tin, and sprinkle the brown sugar and nutmeg (if using) on top.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (NB ovens differ wildly, so your mileage may vary.)
~ Remove from oven and allow the muffins to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. These are equally good eaten warm or at room temperature, by themselves or with a schmear of whatever you fancy.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quick & Easy Herb Bread

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight." ~ M.F.K. Fisher

There are few things nicer than bread fresh out of the oven, but too often the idea of actually making it conjures up images of long hours in the kitchen (see above, but without Zorn’s charming brushwork). Of course, the truth is that baking bread needn't be an arduous ordeal; with a little planning and minimal effort you can have a proper yeast-raised loaf in a couple of hours. 

But there are those times when even that level of forethought and/or organizational skill eludes us, and that’s where quick breads come in. Cornbread, soda bread, zucchini bread, and even savory muffins are handy on such occasions, and today’s recipe is a worthy addition to that list: a fragrant, flavorful, and eminently sliceable herb bread that can go from your imagination to your dinner table in just over an hour.

Quick & Easy Herb Bread
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ ⅓ cup good quality olive oil
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, garlic powder, white pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted (or more olive oil)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.
~ In a bowl or beaker, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, and flaxseed. Add the olive oil, mix well, and set aside.
~ In a separate mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour through dry seasonings) and combine thoroughly.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the soy milk mixture; stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.
~ Transfer the batter to your waiting loaf pan, smooth with a spatula to make sure it spreads evenly. Pour the melted margarine (or olive oil) over the top and add a few grinds of black pepper.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a board to cool for another 10 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Peanut Curry

Sometimes you just need a hug in a bowl, and that's exactly what today's recipe delivers. My family has been going through a rough time, and I brainstormed this curry one recent evening when we were all in need of a little cheering up. The result is a warming, colorful one-dish meal that pushes all the comfort food buttons - the accompanying fancy rum drinks didn't hurt, either - with the bonus factors of being 1. ridiculously healthy, and 2. even better as leftovers. Since there are a lot of flavors going on here and people in our house like a variety of hot sauces, I didn't add too much heat to the dish itself, but you can obviously adjust the spiciness to suit your tastes.

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Peanut Curry
~ 2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 2 large sweet potatoes, cut in cubes
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 1 red bell pepper, large dice
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, curry powder, chili powder, thyme
~ ½ tsp. each: cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne (more to taste)
~ Dash nutmeg
~ A few healthy grinds of black pepper
~ 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 can black beans
~ 2 cans coconut milk (lite or hight-test, your choice)
~ ½ cup smooth peanut butter
~ 1 small head kale, cleaned and chopped
~ Juice of 1 lime (2-3 tbsp.)
~ Handful of chopped, toasted peanuts or cashews

~ Place a nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ Melt 1 tbsp. of the coconut oil and toss with the cubed sweet potatoes and a little salt and pepper. Spread the sweet potatoes out on the preheated baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, until slightly browned but not mushy. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the remaining 1 tbsp. of coconut oil and sauté the onion and celery over medium heat for 5 minutes.
~ Add the bell pepper, garlic, and ginger and cook another few minutes more before adding all the dry seasonings and stirring to coat.
~ Add the tomatoes and black beans (including their liquid), stir to combine, and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Combine the coconut milk with the peanut butter and heat to almost boiling; whisk thoroughly until smooth and add to the pot along with the roasted sweet potato. Mix well and continue cooking another 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the chopped kale and cook for 5 minutes, until wilted but still bright green. Add the lime juice, taste for seasoning, and serve hot over brown rice topped with the chopped nuts and hot sauce(s) of choice.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Crab Mornay En Croute

Sacre bleu! 

In our current, ever-more-bizarre world, carbohydrates often feel like our best defense. (Regular exercise is also key for this coping strategy to remain effective; resistance needs to be quick on its feet!) I made today's recipe one recent evening - in the mood for something nostalgic and a bit naff - and it absolutely hit the spot. NB that the "crab" mixture has multiple applications: a perfect filling for puff pastry, it's also an excellent stuffing for baked mushrooms, makes a nice dip for crudités, crackers, and/or crusty bread, and would be equally good in a sandwich, or served on English muffins under some melted vegan cheese for brunch.

Crab Mornay En Croute
~ 1 package puff pastry, thawed (Pepperidge Farm is vegan)
~ 2 packages Gardein crabless cakes, cooked and mashed
~ 1 tbsp. each: canola oil, vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 cup chopped scallions, shallots, or a combination
~ 2 cups chopped brown mushrooms
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, tarragon, mustard powder
~ ½ tsp. each: white pepper, marjoram, cayenne
~ Dash nutmeg
~ ¼ cup dry sherry
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk

~ Cook the crabless cakes according to package directions; mash and set aside, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ In a large, deep skillet, combine the oil and margarine over medium-high heat and saute the scallions/shallots for about a minute. Add the mushrooms and seasonings and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and started to brown.
~ Pour in the sherry to deglaze the pan, making sure to get any bits that may be sticking. After about a minute, add the flour and a little of the soy milk and mix well until the vegetables are coated.
~ Gradually add the remaining milk and stir well; turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken.
~ Stir in the mashed crab cakes, combine thoroughly, and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
~ When the crab mixture is cooled,  arrange the thawed puff pastry sheets on a nonstick baking sheet and divide the filling between them, spreading it evenly along the lefthand third of each sheet.
~ Fold each sheet over the filling to form an envelope, carefully crimping the edges to seal.
~ Prick the tops of the pastry several times with a fork, and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown (ovens vary wildly, so check occasionally).
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Leek & Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms

In times like these, with the world getting weirder by the minute, sometimes you just need to shut the door, get into your pajamas, and curl up with a big bowl of soup. I whipped up a pot of this one on a frigid January night and it was exactly what was called for: hearty yet light, earthy yet sweet, a perfect vehicle for crusty bread, and an all-round, comforting hug for body and soul. My only regret is that I didn't make three times as much, because it was so popular (even my once-picky-and-suspicious son declared it "fucking delicious") that there's hardly any left over. Live and learn!

Leek & Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 large leeks, chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 lbs. parsnips, diced
~ 2 large potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, smoked paprika
~ ½-1 tsp. white pepper, to taste
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne
~ cup dry sherry
~ 7 cups "no chicken" broth (or other good vegan stock)
~ 4 bay leaves
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 lb. brown mushrooms, sliced

~ In a large, deep pot, saute the leeks and the celery over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.
~ Add the parsnips, potatoes, and dry seasonings, and mix to coat the vegetables. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Stir in the sherry to deglaze the pan; cook another minute or so, until some of the alcohol burns off.
~ Pour in the broth and the bay leaves, cover the pot, and bring just to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 30 minutes, giving it the occasional stir.
~ After 30 minutes, fish out the bay leaves and puree the soup with an immersion blender until the mixture is completely smooth. Keep the soup hot over low heat.
~ Now get a large, non-stick skillet screaming hot and cook the sliced mushrooms in the remaining tbsp. of olive oil until brown and slightly crispy. Stir the cooked mushrooms into the soup and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Roasted Eggplant & Coconut Milk Curry

Goodness gracious, but it's been a long while since I've posted! As ever when these droughts occur, I've been insanely busy with Other Stuff, which means that even though people at our house are still eating, I tend to fall back on old standbys, and when/if I do conduct an experiment, I lack time and energy to rationalize the quantities, type things up, and post. But today I have something new, to kick off the new year. (Let us pass over the various horrors that have occurred in recent months, avert our attention from those looming on the horizon, and concentrate - at least for a moment - on our stomachs, shall we?)

I present to the gentle reader a simple and delicious curry, concocted on the sort of dark, rainy winter day when a warm kitchen is the only sensible place to be. I served this dish alongside a simple yellow dal (to which I added sautéed mushrooms at the very end), South Indian coconut rice, onion naan, and a shocking variety of chutney and pickle. There are lots of eggplant curries in my repertoire, but usually the vegetable breaks down to become one with the sauce; this recipe calls for roasting the eggplant first, which helps it keep some structural integrity. In fact, this strikes me as the kind of dish that would lend itself to many vegetables; next time I may add roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and/or cauliflower to the mix, so I encourage you to do the same if fancy strikes you that way.

Happy new year, and bon appétit!

Roasted Eggplant & Coconut Milk Curry
~ 1 large eggplant, cut into 2" chunks
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 2 tsp. panch phoran
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, garam masala, ground coriander, chili powder
~ ½ tsp. each: cardamon, turmeric, white pepper
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne (more to taste)
~ 1 14 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
~ ½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Toss the eggplant pieces with the olive oil to coat and spread out on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn them over and roast for 10-15 minutes more, until golden and softened but not falling apart. Set aside to cool.
~ In a large deep skillet or pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat and add the panch phoran; cook for a minute or two, until the seeds begin to crackle.
~ Add the chopped onions, stir well, and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, until quite soft but not brown (add a splash of water if things start getting sticky).
~ Stir in the garlic, ginger, and dry seasonings; cook for about a minute, then add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Mix to combine and raise the heat just long enough to bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and allow the sauce to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the roasted eggplant, stir well, and continue cooking over low heat for 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and coated the eggplant.
~ Stir in the fresh cilantro, remove from heat, and serve over basmati rice.