Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chorizo Polenta Hash

Chorizo-Polenta Hash with Collards

Even though I'm not going to include the sausage recipe, Ima call this a recipe post since you could easily make this with storebought chorizo and polenta.  Just fry up the collards first with some garlic, then add in chopped vegan chorizo and polenta slices.  Bam.  You can also easily make polenta from scratch, as I describe below.

I finally got around to making some of the sausages in the Vegan Brunch cookbook.  Cuh ray zay... so this is why one buys vital wheat gluten in a box instead of washing one's flour (how it was done back in Appleton, WI, seriously).  This was really easy, and felt like nothing short of a miracle.  The texture, I think, is as much like melted cheese as it is like sausage (as it steams, it gets firmer)... but maybe I am not sure what I am talking about. 

Gluten is not the enemy!  (Well, for almost all of us).  It's one of the healthiest, simplest sources of protein around, and when isolated from the other parts of flour (starch and fiber), as here, it has nearly magical properties.

Anyway, I made the chorizo recipe.  I thought the lemon zest was particularly odd (it also had sage, oregano, smoked paprika, tomato paste...), but it ended up being a killer flavor, though perhaps a bit too dominant.  The sausage looks absolutely disgusting up until the end, but (as was the case with this ravioli filling), I suppose real sausage would be far grosser.

Finally, after steaming for almost an hour, these really resembled sausages!  I also made some fast polenta by combining 1/3 c cornmeal to 1 c boiling water (though I think a bit less water would have been better), along with 1 TB earth balance and some salt.  Left in a bowl in the fridge, this happened:

After this, there was nothing left to be done but fry up a sausage (the recipe made 4 large ones) with the polenta (chopped up), and stir in some leftover sauteed collards.  Unfortunately, the polenta sort of, er, melted, but it nevertheless mellowed out the incredibly spicy-salty-sour sausage, and the overall flavor was fantastic.  After I left the other polentas I had made uncovered in the fridge for a day, they were much drier and firmer.


I also recently remade my old standby of Marinated Broccoli Lentil Salad, adding garlic and olives this time.  It reminds me of a fantastical forest full of pebbles and jewels.  Or maybe a riverbed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chickpeas and Split Peas with Mint and Tamarind

Mint and tamarind are interesting additions to an otherwise pretty standard chickpea dish.  My using a can of tomatoes instead of a few fresh ones probably helped steer this dish towards its chana masala friends, too.

The flavors here were great, but I found myself wishing it were less dry.  I used canned chickpeas, and I cooked them and the mung beans for a really long time, so I can only guess that cooking with more oil might have helped?

Chickpeas and Chana dal in a Tamarind-Mint Sauce
(adapted from taste space)

1.5 c cooked chickpeas
1/2 c chana dal or yellow split peas, picked over, washed, and drained
1/2 TB peeled and finely chopped garlic
1/2 TB finely chopped ginger
1-2 fresh hot green chiles (seeds removed), finely chopped [we used 3 deseeded red volcanic peppers]
1/2-1 c mint leaves, packed, washed, and coarsely chopped (we used 1/2 cup and this wasn’t minty, so you could use more)
1-3 TB canola oil (I used 1 TB--see headnote)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes and juice
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garam masala
1-2 TB thick tamarind paste (or fresh lemon juice), to taste

1. Simmer split peas in water (I added a pinch each of salt and turmeric) 1.5 to 2 hours, or until tender.  Add chickpeas and set aside.
2. Combine the garlic, ginger, green chiles, and mint leaves in the container of a blender.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of water as needed and blend, pushing down the mixture with a rubber spatula several times, until pureed.  Set the minty mixture aside.
3. Heat the oil in a wide, medium pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and stir and fry until they are a rich, reddish brown.  Add the tomatoes. Stir and cook until the tomatoes reduce and darken and the oil begins to show at the sides of the pan.  Add the green spice paste and stir over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Add the chickpeas and their cooking liquid, then stir in the salt, coriander, cumin, garam masala, and tamarind paste, mixing thoroughly.  Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes.  Serves about 4.


Other culinary silliness: Chocolate T-Rexes, using one of several amazing cookie cutters that Sarah gave me for my birthday.  Chocolate wiener dogs also occurred.


And a delicious breakfast: sprouted rye bread with miso and tahini, then mashed avocado, lemon juice, and pepper.  Will I ever be able to leave southern California?  Happiness is an avocado tree in October.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Baking

Halloween has snuck up on me once again, and this weekend I am making these finger cookies again.

Here's a list of some things that might be fun to bring to a Halloween party, or the office, or just your own stomach.

Witches' Fingers Cookies
Marbled Pumpkin-Chocolate Cookies
Best Pumpkin Cookies
Best Ginger Cookies
Pumpkin Bread
Ginger-Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Vanilla Buttercream

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spicy Coconut-Lime Noodle Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu

In my busy/laziness, I think I've made versions of this soup three times in the past month.  This last time was the best.  Infinitely versatile, you really only need: the basic garlic/ginger, some veggies/tofu, something salty (miso or tamari or stock), water, something creamy (peanut butter or coconut milk), some lime juice and hot sauce to finish it, and maybe something carby (rice or noodles) to add in at the end.

Mushrooms gave a wonderful meaty/fishy texture (adding a piece of nori or kombu might also be great!), and tofu and noodles made this soup a complete meal.  I kept the noodles separate from my leftovers as they had a tendency to disintegrate if I mixed them with the broth and then refrigerated it overnight.

Spicy Coconut-Lime Noodle Soup with Mushrooms

1/4 c scallions, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece of ginger as big as your thumb, finely chopped
1-2 chilies, seeded and finely chopped
8-16 oz tofu, cut into cubes
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
1 can coconut milk
1 can water (or more)
miso and/or stock paste
3 servings rice noodles
juice of 1-2 limes
chili garlic paste, to taste
mint, chopped (optional)

1. Cook rice noodles separately, drain, and set aside.
2. In a medium-large saucepan, heat oil and saute scallions, garlic, ginger, and chilies several minutes.  Then add tofu and mushrooms; cook until tofu is browned (totally ok if some sticks to the pan) and mushrooms release their liquid.  Deglaze with a tiny bit of tamari.
3. Add coconut milk and water; depending on how liquidy you want the soup, you may want to add more than 1 can of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.  Stir in miso and/or stock paste to taste--the magic amount should probably be 1-2 TB, but you don't want to overdo it.
4. After simmering 10+ minutes, turn off the heat.  Ladle into individual bowls, add noodles, and add lime juice, chili garlic paste, and fresh mint according to taste.  Serves about 4.

In other news... my back steps appear to have become squirrel central.  This dude is aggressively claiming his territory.

It rather reminds me of when these guys ruled the block.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Food in Asheville

Here's some stuff I made with my mom while in Asheville, NC.  They had just moved in, and the challenge was to make a meal using what was already in the cupboards.  I tend to find cooking in other people's kitchens a little stressful--it takes so much more effort to find things, and there might not be the staple ingredients or the knives or the other tools you expect.  The upside, though, is discovering new foods.  For example, we found some awesome dried mushrooms in the pantry and use them to make a soup that was slightly inspired by Green Curry Broth: I used toasted cumin, fennel, coriander, and lots of ginger, garlic, and onion in the broth; then I strained those out and added other ingredients.

We also had a carrot Salad sort of like this one, but with a more Asian flavor palette--rice vinegar, ginger, etc.  Not too exciting.

The most thrilling accomplishment, I think, was remaking fat mints in multicolor!  We left the cocoa out of part of the dough and added green food coloring.  The food coloring rather scared me (even before we realized it was from 1978!!), but I figure if you only do this once every several years, how much harm can it do?  Or, if you're really into green food, you could go buy some natural food coloring at Whole Foods.


We also ate a lot of great meals at restaurants, my favorite of which by far was Plant (we went back a second time!).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Zucchini Baba Ganoush... several times over

I am so. busy.  It's strange to look at the flurry of activity going on associated with the vegan mofo and feel rather left out... but come Thanksgiving/December, I'm going to be cooking up a storm!  By then, I'll have a lot of bookmarked recipes to inspire me.

As it turns out, that zucchini baba ganoush is quite versatile.  Here are some ways I had it after making a new batch last week:

On sprouted rye bread with avocado and smoked paprika, with veggies and sparkling white wine

Tossed with whole wheat linguine and topped with pan-fried tempeh, smoked paprika, and fresh mint

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pumpkin Curry with Coconut Milk, Sauteed Greens with Still More Coconut

Here's a second pumpkin curry.  Tempeh paired well with pumpkin and spices, but a) we overcooked the stew and the pumpkin turned to mush, and b) I would have liked a more sour element in it to cut some of the gooey/sweet/meaty tastes and textures--tamarind? lemon?

The greens were sauteed in oil with mustard seed and cumin seed, garlic and onion, and unsweetened coconut.

Pumpkin Curry with Coconut Milk (2)

onion, chopped
garlic, minced
cumin, toasted and ground
cinnamon, ground
cayenne pepper or fresh chilies
tempeh, cubed
pumpkin/squash, peeled and cubed
coconut milk + water
salt and more cayenne, to taste
tamarind paste? or lemon juice?

1. Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add onion and cook several minutes, then add garlic, spices/chili, and tempeh and cook until tempeh is slightly browned.
2. Add pumpkin and liquid, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until pumpkin is tender.
3. Season with salt, cayenne, and maybe tamarind or lemon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pumpkin Coconut Curry

I'd say that I'm increasingly convinced that South Asian food is the best food in the world, but I wouldn't even be sure what I was referring to.  After all, a Sri Lankan pumpkin curry, a Keralian dosa, a Hyderabadi porridge, and a Punjabi chana masala share almost no spices or incredients with one another, and my friend Samir tells me that Gujarati cuisine is also really different.  Not to mention Bengali food, Pakistani food, or (like the last two posts) the Desi food that comes via England.

This is the first of two pumpkin coconut curries I've made recently.  I think I wanted it a little less pungent (there's lots of fenugreek, fennel, and mustard seeds) and a little more creamy, hot, and garlicky.  Still, the spices add a really interesting dimension to pumpkin, which so often shows up in rather bland dishes.  Also, the tamarind paste is great in this, adding an acidity that nevertheless matches the sweetness of the squash.

Pumpkin Coconut Curry (1)

2 TB canola oil
1 red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 green chilies, diced
1 tsp of each fenugreek, mustard and fennel seeds
250g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
pinch of turmeric 
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 TB curry powder
200 ml coconut cream
400 ml water

1. Heat oil in a large pan, sauté onion, garlic, and green chili until they are aromatic. Stir in fennel, mustard, fenugreek seeds, followed by pumpkin chunks.
2. Season pumpkin chunks with turmeric powder, black pepper, tamarind paste, curry powder and salt to taste. Stir well till pumpkin chunks are coated with spices.
3. Add coconut cream and 400 ml water, mix well and cook covering the lid for 5-10 minutes till pumpkin is soft.  Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Paneer" Tikka Masala

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Asheville, NC, where I ate a lot of vegan food (especially amazing at THIS PLACE), sampled some badass local IPAs, climbed a few mountains, and hung out with the coolest 60-somethings in the world.  I'm savoring the campfire smell on my sweater and jacket, and I hope it doesn't go away too soon.

But to catch up.  In keeping with the British-Indian-fusion theme, I made this dish, which was like a breath of fresh (and spicy) air.  I've really been digging this blog I recently found!  The mixture is quite a bit like that of the Asian Vegan Kitchen cookbook.

Using tofu for paneer and coconut milk for milk/yogurt was a breeze!  I've never had this dish in its dairytastic form, but the combination of textures and flavors here was pretty damn near perfect.  Toasty, tangy, richly nutty, pungent, all at once.  Pressing the tofu and frying it made it nearly impossible to differentiate from paneer... and even though the recipe made a lot of sauce in relation to the tofu, it was so delicious that I was happy to just eat that with rice when I ran out of tofu.  A serving size of 4-6 seems super optimistic.  For one package of tofu, I'd say 2-3 servings, with a generous helping of sauce.

I served this with my old favorite, stir-fried cabbage with South Indian spices...

Now, I like spicy food, but I was a little freaked out by the instructions to use four dry chilies and 1 TB cayenne.  I halved each of these amounts, and it was still medium-high hot.  When in doubt, lowball it and add more later.  On the topic of spices, also note that the recipe calls for two premixed spice blends: tandoori spice powder (recipe follows) and garam masala.
Other substitutions were of convenience: I used 1 TB tomato paste instead of a tomato, and for the TB dried fenugreek leaves, I used 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek.  Actually, this dish still had a really strong fennel/fenugreek flavor, so you might even want to use less. 

Tofu "Paneer" Tikka Masala

1 lb extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes
2 TB tandoori spice powder (see below for recipe)
1/4 c lite coconut milk (I only use lite because it's what Trader Joe's carries; I'm sure full fat would be great)
canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 TB tomato paste
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 piece of ginger, peeled minced
handful of cilantro leaves
2 dry red chilies, soaked in hot water with some of the water reserved
4 TB canola oil
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel
1/4-1 tsp cayenne
2 TB tomato paste
300 ml light coconut milk
100 ml water (or, however much water it takes to finish the can of coconut milk and get up to 400 ml)
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek (or less--see headnote)
salt to taste
juice of 1/2-1 1/2 lemons, to taste

1. Mix together tandoori powder and 1/4 c coconut milk; add tofu and stir until they're totally coated; marinate for around 30 minutes.
2. Combine the onion, 1 TB tomato paste, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and chilies in a food processor and process (adding reserved chili water as necessary) until it's a coarse paste.
3. In a large sauce pan or saucier, heat the oil to a high heat and fry the marinated tofu till slightly crispy.  Remove from pan and drain.
4. Separately to make the gravy, heat oil and fry onion paste for about 5 minutes till fragrant.  Add dry coriander, fennel, and cayenne, stir well.
5. Add tomato paste, remaining coconut milk, and water, stir well, close the lid and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. When gravy starts to simmer add fenugreek, garam masala, and salt to taste.
6. Turn off heat, mix tofu with gravy, and add lemon juice to taste.  Serves about 3.


In adapting a recipe for tandoori masala powder, I toasted and ground as many whole spices as seemed feasible... surely it can only make things more flavorful?  I also omitted mace and substituted a LOT of paprika in place of food coloring.

Tandoori Masala Powder
(adapted from indianfoodforever)

1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger 
1 tsp cloves, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 TB cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 TB coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp fenugreek, toasted and ground
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
 1 tsp black peppercorns, toasted and ground
1 tsp cardamom seeds, toasted and ground
1 TB paprika

With the exception of the non-toasted ingredients, toast each ingredient separately, taking care not to burn them.  Set aside to cool, then grind and combine with remaining ingredients.  Store leftovers in an airtight container.  Makes about 1/4 c.