Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beer Bread

I'd been meaning to make my colleague Simchi's beer bread for months.  When life handed me an almost-full, slightly-flat bottle of Fat Tire, I knew the time had finally come.

This recipe uses quite a lot of baking powder, so my guess is that the beer doesn't really serve a functional role so much as a taste role.  The beer (naturally) made the bread taste yeasty, as if it wasn't just a soda bread.  The texture, however, was still closer to that of a soda bread--no net of gluten going on here, despite the fact that the dough was quite doughy (as opposed to the battery consistency of many quick breads). 

I thought this bread was fast and delicious, but be warned that it is rather dry.  Acceptable accompaniments include: soup, or lots of melty butter.  Peanut butter is not recommended unless you want to glue your tongue to the roof of your mouth (or, wash it down with a lot of tea/coffee/soymilk).

Beer Bread

2 c white flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 TB sugar
1 TB baking powder
pinch salt
splash olive oil
1 bottle room temp beer

Preheat oven to 375. Grease loaf pan with olive oil.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add olive oil and beer; don’t overmix.
Transfer dough to greased loaf pan.
Bake at 375 for about 40 min, until a wooden chopstick comes out clean when inserted.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Home Sweet . . . LA

I am back from a wonderful week in Santa Fe!  If this were a different type of blog, I might go on and on about the fraught relationship between newness and historicity in that place--attempts to locate any "authentic" Santa Fe are contradictory and enact things like effacement and surrogation: for example, the fake-but-regionally-appropriate "Pueblo" architecture that all dates from the past century, the marketing of indigenous cultures to a white tourist population, etc...

But instead, I will just note that this town held surprisingly few food adventures for a vegan from LA.  I've  gotten spoiled by living in this city, where the variety of things to eat is enormous.  One notable exception in Santa Fe was ChocolateSmith, whose sake-soaked-and-dark-chocolate-dipped ginger and spicy-chili-pistachio dark chocolate bark made my day.  What I will remember more about Santa Fe is its smells: dust and mud and snow, evergreen, campfire and BBQ smoke, burning sage, cedar, pinon.  The most achingly perfect smells for a cold, bare, sunny place.

My first day back in LA involved some tasty brunchings. But, this stuff could just as easily serve as a hearty roast-style dinner.

The tempeh was basically a combination of this recipe for tempeh sausage with this cooking method (recipe below).  This was smothered in the mushroom gravy recipe I posted earlier this year.  I cannot get enough of this gravy; it tastes like Thanksgiving.  Potatoes were easy and delicious, though there's a danger of undercooking them if they aren't all the same size.

NB: I prefer this method for tempeh sausage

Tempeh Sausage Triangles and Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, Mixed Green Salad with Avocado, Toasted Walnuts, and Balsamic Vinagrette
Tempeh Sausage Triangles

8 oz. tempeh, cut into bite-sized triangles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf, ground
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
ground black pepper
1 TB tamari
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
water as needed
generous canola oil for pan frying

1. Heat oil in large cast iron skillet.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tempeh and garlic and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden underneath. Turn and cook the other side for another 5 minutes, or until golden.
2. While tempeh and garlic are frying, combine remaining ingredients separately.  Add water to make 1/2-2/3 c of liquid.
3. Pour liquid into the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated or been absorbed.  Serve warm, topped with mushroom gravyServes about 3.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
about 1.5 lbs little waxy white potatoes (7 or so)
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
sea salt
ground black pepper

1. Wash potatoes and cut into bite-sized wedges.  Toss with all other remaining ingredients and spread out on a baking sheet.
2. Bake at a high temperature for 20 minutes or so.  When potatoes begin to soften and sizzle, broil for 3 more minutes to get the skin crispy.  Serves about 3.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Finals week

Miso Soup, Vegetable Sushi, and Condiments
This is a bit of a cop-out post.  I actually did do some cooking on Friday; a friend and I made sushi and tempura.  But I haven't been cooking too many recipes.  Between writing forty pages of my own papers, and grading over a hundred pages of students' papers, I knew this would be a busy week (*understatement!*). 

So, it's helpful to just have large amounts of food around that can easily turn into a meal.  I prepared several meals' worth of sushi fixings, and chopped up some tofu and scallions for quick miso soup (essentially instant!).  I also made a huge vat of a chili-ish soup that's not really worth blogging about here--potatoes, black beans, carrots, chipotle and jalapeno peppers, etc.

Avocado "Quesadilla" and Spicy Potato-Bean Chili

I did want to note the delicious avocado quesadilla--just mashed avocado and lemon on a lightly toasted whole wheat/corn tortilla.  You could add lots of other things, too.  What made this really fantastic was the quality of both the avocado and the tortilla.

It's surprisingly difficult to find a decent whole grain tortilla in the supermarket.  Now, there are plenty of tortillas in Jons, but I picked up these Mission multigrain tortillas that just tasted bad.

A comparison with the similarly sized Organic Whole Wheat and Corn Flour Tortillas from Trader Joe's was illuminating:
  • Though both tortillas were about 140 calories and 5 g of protein, the Mission one had 4.5 g fat (of which 1.5 g saturated) to Trader Joe's 1 g (of which 0 g saturated) -- even though the TJs one is more tender.  What's still more icky is that while TJ's has 7% of your daily sodium, Mission has 19%.
  • Mission has 34 (!) ingredients, including hydrogenated soybean and/or palm oil AND various preservatives, cellulose gum, and "dough conditioners" including something called "fumaric acid."  TJ's ingredient count?  9, and I know what all of them are (note that they do contain honey).
I don't get it.  The TJs tortillas have kept for two weeks in the fridge with no problem, and considering the Mission ones tasted bad to begin with, I'm not sure the preservatives are doing much good.  And of course there's the organic thing as well.  The real shame?  The TJs tortillas are significantly cheaper.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Savory Sesame Herb Shortbread Cookies

Yesterday I battered and fried some avocado.  Today, this.  I must be trying really hard to prove that you can be still be unhealthy on an unprocessed vegan diet.

Last summer, I walked into an Armenian bakery in Pasadena and had "salty" cookies for perhaps the first time--flaky, buttery, shortbready "cookies" that weren't sweet but had little seeds in them.  Now, I could get them in my neighborhood any time, but they have butter and eggs in them.

After looking at a bunch of recipes online, I decided to start with this recipe.  I veganized it, changed the herbs, and added sugar (as many other recipes include a bit of sugar).  One thing that's nice about this recipe is that you can make the dough ahead of time and take it out, slice it, and bake it right when you need it.  Like those storebought dough-sausages that can be turned into cookies.

These taste really delicious.  Fragrant herbs and garlic smells, melt-in-your-mouth butter texture, and a bit of sesame crunch and sugar sweetness as well.  Perhaps serve with wine, olives, other classy hors d'oeuvres?  And I had the dough in the freezer for over a week before baking off the cookies, with no detriment to them.  You could of course experiment with herbs, sugar, etc.

Savory Sesame Herb Shortbread Cookies

1 c white flour
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp sea salt (or less, as earth balance already has salt in it)
1 TB sugar
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 c vegan butter (i.e., earth balance), at room temperature
2 Tbs olive oil
sesame seeds

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients (except sesame seeds). Add butter and oil, and use a fork to cut the butter into the dough until it is mixed thoroughly and there are no recognizable butter clumps left.
Form dough into thin little logs (you may need to refrigerate dough for a bit to make it easier to handle), and roll in sesame seeds. Freeze dough for 30 min (or until needed).
Using a sharp knife, slice the log into ½-inch thick discs. Bake on parchment paper at 350° F for about 20 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Marinated Tofu

This morning I made some marinated tofu to put in sushi.  This stuff costs $3-4 a pack, even at Trader Joe's, and it's pretty easy to make it yourself from a $1 block of tofu.  I created this recipe after looking at the recipes in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and Veganomicon--one had more flavor and the other had more liquid.  Using pre-seasoned rice vinegar and the garlic chili paste obviates the need for additional sugar and garlic.

Marinated Tofu

1/2 lb firm tofu
1/4 c stock
3/8 c water
1/8 c tamari
2 TB seasoned rice vinegar
1 TB sesame oil
2 tsp chili garlic paste
1-in chunk ginger, grated

Press excess water out of tofu.  Slice tofu into 1.5x3-in slabs.  Combine marinade ingredients.  Place tofu in a tupperware and pour marinade over tofu.  Cover and place in fridge several hours (or overnight).
Place tofu and marinade in a small baking dish so that tofu is nearly covered with marinade.  Bake at 350* for about 30-60 minutes (occasionally flipping tofu or spooning marinade over the top), until marinade is boiling and has mostly evaporated.  Either serve hot, spooning excess marinade over the top, or drain and allow to cool before slicing for sandwiches or sushi.

Pumpkin Cookies

One blessing-curse in my life is the fact that vending machines on campus sell cookies made by the Alternative Baking Company.  These are usually quite delicious cookies, made without anything weird in them.  Of course, they are enormous, such that one cookie is really five or so.  Anyway, I recently had one such pumpkin spice cookie and thought, I can do that; why did I just pay $2 for such a cookie?

And here we are.  The problem with pumpkin cookies seems to be their tendency to edge towards the pumpkin muffin or pumpkin bread.  What if you actually want a cookie?  This was a problem in the case of the Marbled Pumpkin-Chocolate Cookies this fall.  And here, again, I ended up with tasty little bites of pumpkin bread.  I thought that using butter would help--and the cookies were a bit crisp when they first came out--but after sitting a few hours they are back to bread.  Perhaps to make a really cookie-like pumpkin cookie, you need to use a ton more butter and sugar.  Anyway, the spices are the same as in my favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe, so it's still tasty.  Edit 10/19/10: Mystery solved: for a more cookieish pumpkin cookie, see the Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies from VCIYCJ.

Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 c earth balance
1 c sugar
1 c pumpkin (canned)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350*. Combine earth balance, sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla in one bowl; combine the other ingredients in another bowl.
Add dry to wet. Mix adequately. Use spoons to drop little blobs on a coookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 13-16 minutes, until lightly browned.   Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate Pumas!

My friends, I have created chocolate pumas.  This is the combination of a) one weird cookie cutter I received as an Xmas gift [see right]  b) the "oreo" recipe from Smitten Kitchen and c) some other stuff.  I have always felt that rolled cookies were a waste of time, and this exercise confirmed this.  If even pumas are a pain, what would possibly make it worth the effort?  First the dough is too cold, then it's too warm, then the dough gets rolled too thin and your cutouts break, etc.  I say, just make a ball and smush it.  But...if you're in the mood for a chocolate puma (or six...oops), this is pretty fun, too.  The cookies are crunchy but richly flavorful, more chocolatey than sweet.

Actually, it might be a bear.

Chocolate Puma Cookies
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 c turbinado or white sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons earth balance
1 "egg" (ener-g egg replacer)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375*.  Combine dry ingredients.  Combine wet ingredients (sugar to vanilla) separately.  Add one to the other.  Place in freezer as needed.  Roll dough out between sheets of waxed paper.  Cut out shapes.  Bake for 6-10 min depending on thickness.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mediterranean Bean and Sausage Ragout

Maybe I should make a tag for food that tastes great but doesn't look so good, as this seems to be a common category in vegan cooking.  :-/

Edit 10/20/10: I recently remade this dish (though with chickpeas), and got a slightly better photo:

I made this for a dinner party tonight, so there's a chance that someone might read about his/her dinner before getting here!  The restrictions: the dinner would be Italian/Mediterraneanish, and I would make something proteiny.  Et voila.  Delectable comfort food made a bit special with wine and thyme, but mostly, really cheap and simple ingredients.  I started with a recipe from Vegan Planet and omitted the fennel and added tempeh sausage and capers (as I think a more traditional dish would probably have bacon or sausage or something in it as a base).  Pureed potato and white beans make this dish incredibly creamy, and the wine and capers give it a bit of zing in contrast to the other earthy, meaty flavors.  It's delicious!  Don't let the photo fool you.  We're having this with a pasta-vegetable salad and Blueberry Cornmeal Coffee Cake.

Mediterranean Bean and Sausage Ragout
(adapted from Vegan Planet)

2 TB olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 TB tomato paste
2 c vegetable stock
1/2+ c dry white wine
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 15-oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 TB capers and brine
tempeh sausage (see below)
fresh parsley (optional)

1. In a large saucepan or stockpot, heat oil.  Add onion and carrots, cover and cook about 5 min.
2. Add potato and garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 sec.
3. Stir in tomato paste, stock, wine, thyme, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 20 min, until vegetables are tender.
4. Add beans and cook 10 more minutes.  Turn off heat and allow to cool a bit.  Remove 1-2 c and puree in a blender.  Place back in pot, and add capers and brine, and tempeh sausage.  You probably will not need to add any salt.  Bring back up to hot and serve, garnishing with fresh parsley if desired.  Serves 4-6.


Tempeh Sausage

8 oz. tempeh, cubed and/or crumbled
1/4 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf, ground
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
fennel seeds (optional)
ground black pepper
1/2 TB tamari
1-2 TB olive oil 
Combine ingredients in a bowl.  Spread out on a baking sheet and broil for 5-6 minutes (or until browned), stirring once.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Whole wheat penne and greens in tomato sauce

I don't eat very much pasta, but I really like it. 

This was supposed to be amazing.  Savory Italian flavors, deliciously chewy pasta, fresh basil... what a great way to trick yourself into eating pounds of dark leafy greens!

I mean, I am not sorry that I just made a huge batch.  But it was a little unphenomenal.  I used too much liquid and too much oregano, so that you couldn't taste the basil (which was higher quality).  And, I got impatient and didn't cook the sauce as long as I needed to for the flavors to really come into their own.  So, do these things, and I bet this recipe will be even better.  Be sure to use high-quality canned tomatoes (like John Muir Glen) as they are really a star ingredient here.

Whole wheat penne and greens in tomato sauce

olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 TB red pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
salt to taste
1 bay leaf
splash (or more) red wine (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 TB fresh)
chopped fresh basil
chopped chives or scallions
stock or water as necessary (I used a little miso broth)
2 c whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
1 lb greens (collard, mustard, etc.)

1. In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil.  Saute onion and garlic for several minutes.  Mix in tomatoes, pepper flakes, salt, bay leaf, red wine, sugar, and oregano.  Simmer for 40+ minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. In a pot or saucepan, prepare pasta according to instructions.  In a separate, large stockpot, cook greens in salted water until tender.  Drain pasta and greens and set aside.
3. Stir chopped basil and scallions/chives into the sauce and cook for about 10 more minutes.  Adjust salt and red pepper to taste (keep in mind you'll be diluting the sauce with the pasta and green).
4. Add pasta and greens to the skillet (if it looks like it won't fit, try the stockpot in which you cooked the greens).  Stir to mix thoroughly, and serve hot.  Serves about 5.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Devon Granola, or, Cookiewad Reconstructed

For a while, my friend Devon had a specialty sweet she always made, a sort of coconut-oatmeal macaroon.  But one day she decided she was never going to make them again, and slowly she's been giving the ingredients to me.  Newly-laden with brown rice syrup, as well as more coconut and cocoa than I already had, and devoid of granola, this seemed like the obvious thing to do.  This recipe is an adaptation of my last granola recipe.  I added coconut and cocoa, and I used brown rice syrup instead of sugar or apple juice.  Due to the added bulk of the coconut, I needed to increase the water, and because brown rice syrup isn't incredibly sweet, I increased that as well.  It's still not too sweet, so you might want to consider using more, or adding some additional brown sugar.

It's pretty good.  Future incarnations will experiment with more sweetener, more coconut, and less cocoa.   Also, you have to be careful not to burn it, because you can't see when it's getting browned.

Chocolate Coconut Granola
4 c rolled oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 c unsweetened coconut
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/8 c brown rice syrup
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325*.
2. In a large bowl, stir together dry. In a separate bowl, mix together wet. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until evenly coated. Spread in a thin layer on a large baking sheet.
3. Bake for up to 60 minutes in the preheated oven. Stir every 30 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Granola will crisp up more when cooled.