Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chocolate [sic] Cardamom Cookies

What do you do when you want to make Chocolate Chip Cardamom Cookies but you have no chocolate chips?  You use cocoa instead.  That's the only thing that's different about this recipe.  You may be surprised to learn that these cookies are also delicious.

Chocolate Cardamom Cookies
(originally adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

3 “eggs” (ener-G egg replacer)
¾ c earth balance, softened
½ c sugar
¾ c brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ - 1 ½ c white flour
½ c wheat flour
½ c cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cardamom

1. Preheat oven to 375*.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Prepare egg replacer.  Cream butter and sugars.  Add "eggs" and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (flours, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cardamom).  Add dry to wet and mix. 
3. Form cookies into golf-ball-sized balls and place on parchment-lined sheets at least 2 in apart.  Bake for about 14 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.  Remove from oven and allow to stand until cool before moving cookies.  Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Really excellent Tofu Scramble

This might be the best tofu scramble I've ever had.  This is principally because I've had a lot of lackluster ones: they're often bland, and the texture is either too dry or too tofu-ey.  This version, on the other hand, was flavorful, and the tofu was both wet and soft enough to seem "eggy" and had some chewier parts.  This was effected by using a sort of braising cooking method: saute, and then cook in liquid.  The saute part makes possible the browned-and-chewy part, but the liquid cooking makes the tofu more flavorful and gets the right level of moisture (that is, you cook the liquid off until it's right).  Also, miso adds a more savory-umami flavor to the dish than salt would.  Note 7/2012: this is great with some soyrizo thrown in as well.

Really excellent Tofu Scramble with Greens, Avocado, Cilantro, and Tomato

1 TB vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bell pepper, diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 block firm tofu, cubed
1 TB garlic chili paste
1 1/2 TB yellow miso paste
1/4 c warm water
1 tsp turmeric
avocado, tomato, cilantro, chopped scallions etc. as accompaniments

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.  Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper, and cumin for about 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
2. With your hands, squeeze out some of the excess water from the tofu (i.e., into the sink) before crumbling the tofu into the skillet.  Cook for several minutes, until tofu begins to brown.
3. In a pyrex, combine chili paste, miso, water, and turmeric.  Pour this mixture over the tofu, reduce heat, and simmer until all the liquid is evaporated.  Add salt and pepper if needed (remember the miso!).
Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stir-Fried Broccoli and Tempeh

This recipe hardly seems worth recording for its own sake, but perhaps for its representativeness, it'll do quite nicely.  There are very few things more delicious than fried tempeh and fried broccoli, individually, and here they are together!  I've been making a lot of dishes like this--simple, cheap, but oh so good.

Stir-Fried Broccoli and Tempeh over Brown and White Rice

vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
1 large block tempeh (10 oz or so), in small cubes
3 medium crowns broccoli, turned into bite-sized pieces
rooster chili paste
water as needed
sesame oil
sesame seeds
fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Steam broccoli.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet.  Saute garlic for several minutes before adding green onions and tempeh.  Saute a few more minutes.  When tempeh starts to brown, add broccoli and saute still a few more minutes.  Just before turning off heat, add a splash each of tamari and chili paste.  You may want to add some water as well to avoid burning/sticking/dryness.
3. Turn off heat and add just a tiny bit of sesame oil.  Sprinkle sesame seeds over it all, and stir in cilantro.  Serve hot over rice or rice noodles.  Serves about 4.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


And some extras:

Sauteed greens, carrots, and mushrooms with sesame seeds.

The makings of still more chana masala.

Sauteed carrots, zucchini, and chickpeas with fresh basil over whole wheat pasta
Cookie embyro  


Continuing the theme of slop-on-flatbread...

I'm really surprised that this turned out so good.  Devon said that this was one of the best things I've ever made, and it was pulled together from some pretty random ingredients.  I began with the recipe for "Caponata Crostini" in Vegan Planet because I had an eggplant and a pepper.  But I was missing several key ingredients: a can of tomatoes, capers, parsley.  I ended up using some leftover salsa verde to add the acidity the tomatoes would have added.  I also threw in some sundried tomatoes in oil (which had a few capers in with them).  Chopped basil made the dish (I think) more interesting than parsley would have.  And because I had not chopped the veggies nearly finely enough to make it spreadable, I pureed about a third of the finished mixture and recombined it, which yielded a great texture for serving on pita bread.

Eggplant Caponata Spread

2 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/2 c salsa, tomato sauce, or chopped tomatoes (if using fresh tomatoes, use closer to 1 c)
1/4 c sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste (there may be quite a bit of salt and chili in there already)
1 TB red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
water as needed
3-5 TB fresh basil, chopped

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute onion 5 min.  Add eggplant and cook about 5 more minutes, until eggplant begins to soften.  Add pepper, garlic, salsa, and tomatoes.  Add salt and pepper as desired.  Cook 10-15 minutes longer on medium low heat.  Add vinegar, sugar, and water (if needed to make it slightly saucy).
Remove skillet from heat.  Separate 1/3 of mixture and allow to cool before pureeing smaller amount and mixing back with the rest.  Stir in basil.  Serve with warm pita bread or on crusty Italian bread.  Serves about 4.

Adventures in flatbread

April is the cruellest month, at least if it's the month in which you find yourself without internet. I don't intend to be so long from the blogosphere again. :)

A few weeks ago I was trying to think of what to bring to a potluck and decided to just go get some weird things from Jon's, the fantastic supermarket down the street from me that carries many unusual Middle Eastern and Eastern European products. As a sampling:

Pickled Patty Pan Squash from Poland

Eggplant Spread from Armenia
Marinated Tiny Mushrooms from Russia

Sometimes the weird thing in a jar is a bust, as it was in the case of the pickled chili mango from India (which smells like rancid whiskey).  But you don't know unless you try!  The eggplant paste and the squash pickles were great!  And I love how simple some of the products are--no preservatives here:

Anyway, to go with the eggplant paste, I decided to make the olive oil crackers posted on 101cookbooks--they were great.

Olive Oil Crackers

1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix and then knead by hand on a floured counter-top. The dough should be just a bit tacky - not too dry, not too sticky to work with. If you need to add a bit more water (or flour) do so.

When you are done mixing, shape the dough into a large ball. Now cut into twelve equal-sized pieces. Gently rub each piece with a bit of olive oil, shape into a small ball and place on a plate. Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes.

While the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 450F degrees. Insert a pizza stone if you have one, or a baking sheet.

When the dough is done resting, flatten one dough ball. Using a rolling pin shape into a flat strip of dough. Pull the dough out a bit thinner by hand (the way you might pull pizza dough). Set dough on a floured (or cornmeal dusted) baking sheet, poke each cracker with the tines of a fork to prevent puffing, add any extra toppings, and slide into the oven (onto the pizza stone). Repeat the process for the remaining dough balls, baking in small batches. If you don't have a pizza stone, bake crackers a few at a time on baking sheets. Bake until deeply golden, and let cool before eating - you will get more crackery snap.

Makes a dozen extra large crackers.


The recipe ended up making a TON of crackers, and I had some balls of dough left over that I refrigerated for a few days.  Then, I made it into pies! 

Why is it that certain foods are just fun?  Pies, sushi, things like dumplings or wontons... is it the fact that separate ingredients have been refashioned into one coherent object, rather than just a pot or bowl of slop?  There's something about discrete units of food that charms, and little pies are no exception.

Leftovers Pies

I sauteed onion, garlic, tempeh, carrots, peas, and zucchini, with thyme, tamari and a ground chipotle pepper.  I rolled out the dough as before, but not quite as thin.    I placed (now somewhat cool) filling on half of the dough, folded it over, and sealed the edges by folding them over again and pressing them together.  I brushed them and a cookie sheet with oil and baked them at a medium temperature (350?) until browned and warmed through.  I ate them with salsa verde and avocado, but I think next time I would make a spicy mustard sauce.  These pies were a bit culturally confused (a chipotle-tempeh samosa? or pasty?), but they were tasty!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Economy project

I have long been interested by range of meanings embedded in the word “economy.” Etymologically speaking, the word comes from the Greek oikonomia, or “household management,” (from oikonomos "manager, steward," from oikos "house"). Only in the seventeenth century does the word begin to mean “wealth and resources of a country” (short for political economy).

So, today, at the same time that “economics” primarily suggests the networks or systems for exchanging wealth/goods between large bodies (corporations, nations, etc.), “economic” as an adjective continues to be more broadly applicable: “I can’t go out to dinner tonight for economic reasons.” In fact, in French it’s still reasonable to “make economies” (“faire des economies”); i.e., to restrict or closely manage spending in order to save money.

And in addition to its relationship with money, “economy” also retains a still more general relationship with ideas of management, and especially of ingress and egress. In this sense, economy still relates to “household management” (home economics, anyone?), and it can be used to describe other systems that are not necessarily financial: most interestingly, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the term could mean “The proper management of the body; (also) the rules which control a person's mode of living; regimen, diet” (OED).

All of this is to say, that I’m thinking about starting a project, and when I call it the “kitchen economy project,” I want to be clear about what I mean. Before I describe this project, I present the grounds for it:

I have a ton of staples in my kitchen—different types of rice, wheat berries, bulgur, quinoa, pastas, popcorn, dried beans, lentils, nuts, spices, frozen veggies, condiments, etc. These are just some of the prettier ones:

It is wonderful to have a well-stocked kitchen.  As long as I keep oils, vinegars, spices, some condiments, baking stuff, grains, pastas, and dry beans on hand, I really only need to shop for a few things: produce, nuts, soyfoods.  I can go to the farmers market or the supermarket, buy whatever veggies look good, take them home, and make something out of them—no menu planning, and no big shopping lists based on recipes required.

But some of the stuff in one’s kitchen gets old.  You get stuck in ruts—always making brown rice, while the quinoa sits sadly in the corner of your cupboard.  And while bulgur may actually last forever, most “nonperishables” will eventually begin to lose their flavor and/or nutritional value, or even go bad (for example, many oils and nuts).

Moreover, I might be moving house in a few month, and it would be nice to have less stuff to move.

So, I’d like to see what happens if I declare a moratorium on buying staples.  I did this before I left Chicago, and I was amazed at how little money I spent on groceries.  Of course, I will have to stock up again later, so I’m not sure this will be an “economy” project in the financial sense of the word.  I am, however, interested in the challenge.  Learning to cook vegan made me a more creative cook, and I’m curious to see how I cook when I don’t always have everything on hand.  If I end up making black-eyed peas with oregano, garam masala, and slightly-rancid sesame oil, I can always back out.

Any thoughts about how or when I should do this?  How often do other people clean out their pantries?

Breakfast muffins

Julia: Let's make muffins: I have whole wheat flour, white flour, cornmeal; and blueberries, cranberries, walnuts, almonds... [i.e., these are things to choose from]
Dan: Yes.

Blueberries and cranberries are so happy together in this muffin!  All in all a good muffin, but the texture's pretty heavy, so if you're looking for something more cake-like, I'd skip the cornmeal and maybe use less whole wheat flour.  Or, do as we did and slather in earth balance.

Berry Breakfast Muffins
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c white flour
1/2 c (?) corn meal
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 "eggs" (ener-g egg replacer)
1/3 c corn oil
1+ c soymilk (as needed to make batter consistency)
1/2 c sugar
frozen bluberries
fresh cranberries
sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375* F.  In a bowl, combine dry.  Add wet.  Stir in berries.  Put in oiled muffin tin.  Top with almonds.  Bake for 20-22 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.

Eggplant, Kale...

My friend Dan from college visited!  Since we spent so many good times cooking together in the co-op we lived in while in school, it only made sense that we would cook again.  The photos for these dishes aren't great, but the eggplant was DELICIOUS.  It's rich and somewhat greasy, but there's enough fresh stuff (tomatoes, basil) to make it not overwhelming.

Chili Eggplants with Fresh Basil

8 fresh red chilis
10 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic
3 slices ginger
2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB canola oil
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
5 small eggplants, cut into bize-sized pieces
canola oil for frying
1 c fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

1. In a food processor, blend the chilis, shallots, garlic, ginger, lime juice, and salt to a paste.
2. Heat oil in a saucepan and saute the paste from the food processor for 2-3 min.
3. Add tomato and stir; cook covered for 3-4 min.
4. Fry eggplant pieces in very hot oil until slightly brown and crispy.  Drain and set aside on paper.
5. Place tomato-chili mixture in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add basil, salt, and sugar, and stir before adding fried eggplant.  Serve over rice.  Serves 4.

Kale Mushroom Salad

1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
olive oil
1 clove garlic
1-2 c sliced mushrooms
sesame seeds
lemon juice

1. Steam kale. 
2. Saute mushrooms and garlic in olive oil, adding a bit of tamari towards the end. 
3. Combine kale and sauteed mixture (including mushroom-tamari liquid) in a bowl.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and lemon juice and toss.  Serve at room temperature.