Monday, August 31, 2009

Dosas with potato filling, and tofu lemon ch*ck*n

Holy heavenly fusion! Everybody should eat so well on a Monday night. Here we have:

1) The lemon "chicken" from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine;

2) The "stuffed rice pancakes," very loosely based on the very inept and disgraceful recipe in a book called Vegetarian, whose author(s) is/are anonymous, in the Practical Cookery series, which I bought on sale a few years ago for its beautiful illustrations, but whose recipes leave something to be desired;

3) Something I'll call "deconstructed guacamole," by me.

So the deal is, I can't give away Bryanna's recipe because I couldn't find it online, but it essentially involves marinating tofu slices in her breast of tofu "chicken" marinade, then re-marinating them in a mixture of soy sauce and dry sherry, then dredging them in cornstarch, pan-frying, and re-cooking in a special lemony sauce…my only criticism was that the tofu pieces lost their crispiness in the lemony sauce, and next time (like tomorrow, it was that good), I'm going to try making the sauce separately and simply pouring it on top of the fried tofu pieces.

However, I am taking control of the "Practical Cookery" recipe, because it lists a lot of weirdly proportioned ingredients such as three fresh chillies to one pound of potatoes, in addition to 3 dried chillies—if they mean chillies like jalapenos, I'm the compleat chilli-head but this is way too hot for human consumption, plus 2/3 cup oil for basically two large potatoes—practically an equal oil/potato ratio—it can't be real. Plus the picture is of something entirely other than what you can cook even marginally following the recipe (though it is a truly lovely picture)…you get my meaning. The following is my recipe, and it is essentially an Indian pierogi (bow down and worship because it is fantastically delicious):

Dosas stuffed with potato filling
Serves 4

¼ cup urad dal flour
¾ cup rice flour
¾ tsp salt
oil for frying

1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp oil
1 jalapeno chilli
½ tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp dried red chillies
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the dosas:
Mix the urad dal flour, rice flour, and salt together, and add enough warm water to make a thin batter. Set aside overnight to "ferment"—I'm not sure exactly what this means, but the taste and texture did change considerably after this step.

Heat about 1 tsp oil in a large non-stick skillet, and drop about ¼ cup of the batter into the hot oil. Tilt the skillet to spread the mixture. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side for a further two minutes or so, until the pancake is cooked through and browned in places. Repeat with the remaining batter, and keep the cooked dosas warm in a 200F oven.

For the filling:
Steam or boil the potatoes until just tender. Drain and mash lightly with a fork. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the mustard seeds, chillies, turmeric, and salt, for about two minutes. Pour this mixture, with the lemon juice, over the mashed potatoes and mix well.

Spoon potato filling on one half of each of the dosas and fold the other half over it. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve hot.

The guacamole I leave to you to figure out. Suffice it to say that there was enough garlic in it to compensate fully for its non-appearance in the other dishes.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tendron de Soy Curls with Lemon

This really is good. Well, okay, it's better than good. Excellent. I love Soy Curls. My instinct is to bread them, but don't go there, it's a mistake. Really, they should always be cooked something like this, soaked in a tasty marinade and then squeezed and pan fried.

Tami's an awesome cook and photographer and one of the founding inspirations for my blog, but in this case I think she worries too much about (1) soaking the Soy Curls; and (2) squeezing them dry. Half an hour is sufficient for the soaking, and the squeezing can easily be done by hand over a colander. You don't want them dripping with liquid, so squeeze hard, but not to worry about the auxiliary paper-towelling; in my opinion that's not necessary. This picture is of the Soy Curls post-frying: see, no issues whatsoever:

I did make the Bryanna "Chicken" powder (and the poultry seasoning as a matter of fact; both turned out really well), but I did not use a bouquet garni, since all of the herbs in it except the bay leaf are already represented in the dish itself and including it seems like the kind of mean kick in the teeth that Anthony Bourdain is infamous for—just my opinion; maybe I'm over-sensitive.

I'm also not keen on the taste of the Soy Curls soaking water. This may have something to do with the crummy store I mail ordered mine from (not Butler Foods) sending me Soy Curls two years past their "best before" date, but at any rate, what I did was soak the Soy Curls for a while in hot water, then drain them, squeeze them, and put them back into half the amount of fresh soaking water with all the herbs and spices and flavours added. This worked well.

Tendron de Soy Curls with Lemon
(originally Tendron de Veau Lemon Confit from Anthony Bourdain)
(slightly modified from the version on Vegan Appetite—I have not seen the Bourdain version)
Serves 4 generously

2 1/2 cups Soy Curls
4 cups boiling water (to soak)
1/4 cup tamari
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 bouillon cube
1 tbsp Bryanna's Chicken Powder
salt and pepper

2- 3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Earth Balance

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
14.5 oz can plum tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups reserved soaking water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
salt to taste

pasta or mashed potatoes

Heat your water, then add the Soy Curls and let soak for 20 minutes or so. Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid. Take 2 cups of hot water and add all the ingredients in the upper part of the list. Add the Soy Curls to this new flavoured stock and let soak another ten minutes (or longer if you have time). When you're ready to start cooking, drain the Soy Curls again, but keep the stock this time. Squeeze as much of the excess stock out of the Soy Curls as you can.

Heat the oil and Earth Balance in a large frying pan and cook the Curls until they start to brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then add the onions, carrots, and bay leaf. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, crushing them up as you go. Cook for a few minutes, then add the flour. Add the 1/2 cup of wine and cook until the sauce reduces by half. Add the reserved liquid, garlic, lemon pepper and Soy Curls. Let simmer 20-30 minutes so the Soy Curls pick up more of the flavor. Add the lemon juice and parsley, season to taste with salt and remove the bay leaf.

Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.

Sunday brunch: Bruschetta with falafel burger balls (redux)

I couldn't wait, I was too curious, so I revived some of the Rebar falafel burger balls from yesterday, rolled them in olive oil, and baked them. Nothing burned or fell apart this time during cooking, but when I put a fork into one of the balls, it instantly crumbled to falafel burger dust. It was tasty dust, but dust all the same. Maybe I ground the chickpeas up too fine, but I don't think I'll be making this again.

Bruschetta, on the other hand, is always good, especially when made with sweet, perfectly ripe, fresh-off-the-vine garden tomatoes as this one was. My mix has tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt (I would have scoffed at this a few months ago, but there really is a difference), and pepper on toasted French bread. Oh, yum. My sister makes this for a big group of us sometimes, and what she does is toast a bunch of bread and lay the toast pieces on a large tray with all their edges touching, and then she literally pours the tomato mixture over them, juice and all, and her bruschetta is the best I've ever had, anywhere.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rebar falafel burger with taratour sauce

The book says this makes 10 burgers, but they would have to be pretty big burgers. I halved it, made balls instead of burgers, and got about 30.

The burgers were okay. The batter looks dry, but comes together very nicely in your hands. I haven't given up on them yet, but was disappointed in how they cooked, decomposing somewhat in the skillet so that the oil smoked and burned (and smelled). However, I hadn't refrigerated overnight as the recipe suggests, so I put the rest of them in the freezer and will try coating them lightly in oil and baking them next. The taratour sauce, on the other hand, pink as it looks (that's the miso and chipotle) is really superb. I found the recipe here, so will pass it on to you:

Rebar falafel burgers

1/2 cup bulghur
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely minced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground fennel seed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp red chile flakes
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
6 cups canned chick peas
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 bunch parsley chopped

Spread bulghur out on a baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and grind thoroughly in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until translucent. Add garlic and spices and sauté 5 more minutes.

If you have a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse them together to blend in 2 or more batches. Otherwise, mash the chick peas in a large bowl and mix ingredients in thoroughly with clean hands. Season to taste, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Shape the mixture into patties. Sauté in olive oil until golden brown. Serve on wholegrain buns.

Serve with cucumber, tomato, onion, red pepper slices, and taratour sauce (see below).

Taratour sauce

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp light miso
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup or agave nectar
1 tsp chipotle puree

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste.

On the side are oven fries and a mixture of zucchini, eggplant, pepper, and onion roasted in olive oil and dressed, when out of the oven, with a little balsamic vinegar. The sides were great!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Polpetti with sweet-and-sour sauce

I wanted to make Bryanna Clark Grogan's "chicken" balls today, but, it being a weeknight and all, there wasn't enough time, so I used frozen polpetti. Now I'm out. The polpetti, from Bryanna's Nonna's Italian Kitchen, are much like the "chicken" and "pork" balls in Authentic Chinese Cuisine, and they are all utterly delicious. The smell while they are steaming is absolutely out of this world. The only problem with them is that they are delicate and liable to fall apart. I'm wondering if there would be less of this if more gluten was added to the recipe…surely Bryanna must have thought of this and tried it…but maybe I will too…

Polpetti with sweet-and-sour sauce (original recipe, with a picture, here)
From Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine
Serves 4

2-3 cups reconstituted textured soy protein chunks
OR small chunks of seitan
OR reconstituted Soy Curls® (use 1 1/2 cups to 2 1/4 cups dry Soy Curls®, reconstituted for 5 minutes in an equal amount of boiling vegetarian broth; drain)
Zoa: OR Bryanna's "chicken" balls or polpetti, which is what I used

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, cut into 6ths, layers separated
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch squares
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts (preferably fresh) OR 1 large stalk celery, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 cup frozen petit pois (baby peas) thawed in hot water and drained
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped

Cooking sauce:
3 tbsp tomato sauce (or 1 and 1/2 Tbs EACH water and tomato paste)
2 tbsp rice vinegar, plain (or substitute cider vinegar or white wine vinegar)
2 tbsp light organic unbleached sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
3/4 cup water

1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water

Roll the reconstituted soy protein (or seitan) chunks or Soy Curls® (or polpetti) in cornstarch or water chestnut flour, shaking off the excess starch. Heat about a cup of oil in a wok to 375°F. Fry the chunks in several batches in the hot oil until they are golden and crispy, then drain them on paper towels on a cookie sheet. Keep them warm in a 200°F oven.

Heat a large wok or heavy skillet over high heat. When it's very hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, pepper, garlic, and ginger. Stir-fry until the onion starts to turn translucent, adding a few drops of water, if necessary to keep from sticking. Add the water chestnuts or celery, and the peas, along with the cooking sauce. Bring this to a boil, then stir in the thickener. Stir until it thickens and quickly add the warm fried gluten, soy protein, or polpetti. Stir well to heat through and serve immediately with rice.

Sweet potato pot pies with a biscuit topping

This was a great meal, and surprisingly simple. I'll be making it again for sure. I used whole wheat flour for my biscuits, because I like the flavour. You could use white flour, or do as Heidi Swanson suggests and use puff pastry, which admittedly does look very beautiful.

Sweet potato pot pies
Veganized (but not otherwise altered) from Heidi Swanson's recipe on 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 to 3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies (or more to taste)
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 box puff pastry dough (allow 20 to 30 minutes to thaw) – Zoa: or one recipe biscuit dough: see below

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil, onion, garlic, sweet potato and salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the adobo sauce and corn.

In a small bowl, combine the soy milk and cornstarch, then pour the mixture into the sweet potato pot. Leave the heat at medium-high for a few minutes to bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the filling starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and season with more salt to taste. Pour the filling into small ovenproof bowls, each three quarters full.

Cut a piece of puff pastry dough to fit over each bowl, with some overlap. Place the dough on the bowls and fold over the edge of the dish. Brush with water to create a golden crust.

Using a fork, poke a few holes in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape, and bake until the crusts are tall and deeply golden, about 15 minutes. Tip: Bake the potpies on a baking sheet lined with foil in case some of the filling bubbles over.

Zoa: OR, you can drop biscuit dough or cut biscuit shapes into the bowl, as I did. I modified the basic buttermilk biscuit recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone as follows:

Whole-wheat "buttermilk" biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt (actually, I skipped this, because Earth Balance is so salty)
6 tbsp Earth Balance (or 4 tbsp Earth Balance and 2 tbsp canola oil)
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and cut in the Earth balance with your fingers or two knives until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Stir the soy milk and lemon juice together and pour it into the dry ingredients, mixing until they are evenly moistened.

You can now pat it all into a pancake about ¾ inch thick and cut it into shapes, or just drop teaspoonfuls into the stew, and bake as set out above (or if you are making biscuits separately, you can bake them at 450F for 15-20 minutes).

Big oven, small dishes, the old story: I roasted zucchini coins and cauliflower in the same oven, both tossed with olive oil and lemon pepper, and while that was all happening I made a deconstructed guacamole to serve as a salad.

Mmmmmm…I halved the above recipes, made two individual pot pies, and took one for lunch today. It was still fantastic, but then, I think dumplings and biscuits are fantastic under almost any circumstances. Best eat it all the day you cook it, for maximum enjoyment.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dan dan noodles

I found this recipe online, but it is totally stolen from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine. Buy it. It's worth its price so many times over.

Oh. My. God. Is this good. Serves 2 (oh, very well, 1). If there's a secret to it, it is to use a good vegetable broth, so that the broth-peanut butter mixture is tasty in its own right, though a little under-salted, since the sauce is fairly salty.

I added some frozen edamame beans but you don't have to.

4 oz / 115 g thin rice noodles or 6 oz / 170 g spaghettini or Japanese soba noodles or angel hair pasta
1 1/2 cups hot vegetarian broth
2 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, stems discarded, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Optional: 1 tbsp chopped Sichuan pickled vegetables
1/3 cup soy protein granules soaked in 1/4 cup boiling water or 1/2 cup vegetarian hamburger crumbles
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp brown bean paste or light miso
1 tbsp chili garlic paste
1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp chopped green onion1 tbsp roasted sesame oil

Boil the noodles in plenty of water according to packet instructions. Drain in a colander.Mix the hot broth with the peanut butter. Keep warm.

Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat. When it's hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and the pickled vegetables, if using. Stir fry until the onions soften, adding a bit of water as necessary to prevent scorching. Add the textured soy protein, soy sauce, brown bean paste and chili paste. When it bubbles, stir in the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Remove from heat.

Run hot water over the noodles, drain, and divide them between two heated soup bowls. Heat the broth if necessary and pour over the noodles. Divide the sauce evenly between the two bowls, top with the chopped green onions and drizzle with the sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sweet potato fries

Cut up a sweet potato into fry-shapes and put it in a bowl. Add enough olive oil to coat, plus salt-and-pepper or a spice mix—I here used Montreal steak spice, which was grrrrreat! Turn the mixture onto a baking pan and put it into the oven at about 425F for approximately half an hour, flipping once or twice, and you're in business. I was cooking for one and made this in my toaster oven, which generally I've been shy about using for much beyond toast or roasting nuts, but it worked out fine.

Served here with some of the mango ginger tofu marinade from the other night (divine!), zucchini cakes, and broccoli rabe briefly stir fried with garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and some brown beans. A superfantastic beginning-of-the-week meal which came together in just over the time it took the sweet potato fries to cook.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Walnut miso noodles

I am so grateful to be living where I am in these (temporarily at least, for me personally) amazingly wonderful times. God bless the Internet! With me, it was love at first sight. Since I am fairly aged, first sight was an article in Time magazine, probably around 1990. I was already an adult, stuck in what I was experiencing as a dead end job. DOS ruled. I could (self taught) program in DOS, though I was working as a secretary (this was fairly common at the time). WordPerfect 5.1 had just come out and that was the acme, the pinnacle of word processing. Man, I knew everything there was to know about WordPerfect 5.1! Mice? Non-existent. Windows? They were developing it, but I didn't even really have a grasp of what it was all about. The Internet? Archie, Gopher, WAIS, Pine, Mosaic, remember those? Daisy wheel printers so noisy you had to have a hard plastic cover over them while they ran so you could hear yourself think, but it was pure heaven after carbons and the IBM Selectrics we had also considered a marvel of perfection in their time (actually, they still are—we have several in the office I work in now; those machines never quit). I am fortunate to have been a member of the generation that bridged the manual typewriter-digital world transition, more or less conscious the whole time.

I bought my first real computer inspired by that Time article. Before that I'd had an IBM 86 or some such thing where you had to load your program first with a special floppy disk, then save your data on another. Now, though, I had a separate modem and could connect with other users via the telephone lines. So cool. Now it's hard to imagine living without the Internet; it's like a collective external memory. Even the recipes I blog I don't bother writing down, saving, or, in general, remembering. They're online now: I can always look them up. Could veganism and so many other movements and ways of being really have come into existence without the Internet? Sometimes I wonder.

Heidi Swanson, you of 101 Cookbooks, have inspired this reverie, with your recipe for walnut-miso-noodles. The minute I read it, I knew I would absolutely love it, and so I do! Walnut and miso, what a fantastic combination…that I could never have thought up on my own in a hundred years. Isn't it great that cooks of every level of expertise can go online and explore each other's methods, recipes, ingredients? So thank you, Heidi, for a really lovely meal; I am positively pre-disposed towards any recipe that includes the words "you can make the dressing as you're waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil," but this dressing, though easy to make, really was something special.

The picture at the top of my post was also inspired by you—I'd fried chickpeas before, but mostly with other vegetables, and as it were inadvertently, never really considering frying them separately, on purpose, to make them taste better. But they do.

[Ah, on edit, I see this dish looks suspiciously like yesterday's Shanghai noodles. That's partly because I had some of the blanched vegetables left over, which I used today, but otherwise, I assure you, despite appearances, totally different flavours!]

Vegan omelet with lemon-fried zucchini

This is, once again, the omelet recipe from Vegan Brunch. So good, and endlessly versatile.

Served here with garden zucchini pan fried in olive oil, with added lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper, topped with my mom's excellent salsa, and homemade whole wheat bread with Earth Balance.

Shanghai noodles with coconut curry sauce

The recipe for the sauce I can't share yet, but it was very similar to this one. It was left over from another dish, so I heated it briefly in the microwave while I cooked the vegetables (in this case sweet potato, sweet red pepper, broccoli, and chickpeas) by dropping them into boiling water in stages, timing them to cook until just tender, then scooped them out, added Shanghai noodles to the boiling water and cooked them for a further three minutes, then placed the hot noodles in the bottom of my serving bowl, poured in some of the heated sauce, and topped it with the vegetables, chopped roasted peanuts, and chives. Delicious and literally ten minutes from start to finish. It is so worth while making extra of the sauces you like to recycle like this!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tofu with a citrus glaze

No, I can't leave well enough alone. What was I expecting, when I was disappointed by the mango-ginger tofu in Vegan with a Vengeance? Well, something like this, which is based on a serendipitously stumbled-over recipe for grilled ch****n with citrus glaze in our local paper. (Serves 1)

1 large clove garlic, crushed or put through a press
½ tsp orange or lime rind
½ cup orange juice
juice of half a lime
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp canola or peanut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup or corn syrup
dash salt
dash freshly ground pepper
1 tsp cornstarch
½ pound extra-firm tofu, cut into attractive small shapes

Mix all the ingredients except the tofu together in a shallow bowl. Place the tofu into the resulting sauce and let marinate until ready to cook.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the tofu pieces and about half of the marinade, and cook until the tofu is golden and most of the marinade has evaporated. Remove from the skillet. Stir the cornstarch into the remaining marinade and pour the mixture into the skillet. Cook the sauce over medium heat until it turns translucent and beautifully golden. Pour over the tofu and heave a sigh of bliss. This is citrus heaven.

I served it with the cornbread (onion/jalapeno topping variation) from Veganomicon, which is the best cornbread I ever made, and some broccoli rabe tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and baked along with it. This is a half recipe of the cornbread in a little 7-inch skillet: isn't it cute? And it came out of the pan so nicely, just like a dream.

Crunchy granola (with "fluffy" okara)

At last Zoa reveals her true vegan colour: brown, and feeds into the vegan stereotype: crunchy granola. What's next? Lentil loaf? Brown rice casserole? I've had a few pretty good brown rice casseroles in my day, and I'm not promising never to post a lentil loaf recipe here, but on the whole I like my food colourful, fresh, and pretty. Granola is actually quite attractive, in a macro, golden-brown-palette kind of way (and yes, once I saw the photo, I did find and remove the whole sunflower seed w/shell). I keep this recipe in my private book under the "desserts" section…it makes about 8 cups, and a little goes a long way. It's adapted from this one, which is even more dessert-like.

One addition of mine is the use of oven-dried (sometimes called "fluffy") okara. The okara seems to absorb the oily sweetness of the wet ingredients and cooks up into crunchy delightful little nuggets—I love it. However, if you don't have any okara on hand, just leave it out, or substitute more nuts, and the recipe will be just as good.

These proportions are a guide, not etched in stone. Feel free to substitute, leave out, or add in, anything you wish. The important thing is that, after some mixing and stirring, the dry ingredients are not "dusty" but just slightly sticky and dampened by (but not swimming in, unless you're looking for a butter brickle type product and please don't get me started on that) the wet ones before you put it into the oven.

3 cups rolled oats
½ cup each chopped almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1-1 ½ cups oven-dried okara (see below)
½ cup canola oil
½ cup liquid sweetener (maple syrup, corn syrup, agave nectar, your choice)
1 cup raisins, or ½ cup each raisins and dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Stir together the rolled oats, nuts, coconut, and okara (if using).

Mix the canola oil with your liquid sweetener and add it to the dry ingredients, stirring until everything is well blended.
Turn the mixture out onto a large cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, checking periodically and carefully turning once or twice, until the mixture is toasty, golden, and fragrant.

Scoop everything back into the bowl and add the raisins/cranberries. Stir well and let the whole thing cool, again stirring periodically. This cooling process can take some time, but be patient.

The original recipe says it will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for two weeks, but I generally put it into several smaller containers, freeze all but one, and keep that one in the refrigerator.

Oven-dried ("fluffy") okara

My okara gnocchi recipe calls for okara straight from the machine, but if you are planning to dry your okara in less than four hours, you need to squeeze as much moisture out of it as possible. I use large squares of old sheeting for this purpose, and let the okara cool until I can manipulate it without burning myself, then pour it onto a cloth square, wrap the edges up, and start twisting, until I get something like this:

Spread your thoroughly squeezed okara out in a cookie sheet or pan of some sort and put it into a 200F oven until it's quite dry, but not browned, stirring once or twice.

Mine takes about an hour to dry. I don't fuss about lumps and so on, as I like them in granola, but you can always run the finished product through a food processor if you want perfect crumbs for adding to baking, making Bryanna's okara parmesan, etc.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mango-ginger tofu

From Vegan With a Vengeance

The recipe is online at the PPK, and I reproduce it exactly here. I halved it, and other than adding a little sesame oil to the marinade and cooking the vegetables separately from the tofu (they were baked in the same oven as the tofu), followed it. It was quite good but perhaps a little too fruity and sweet for my taste, though it made a pretty meal. I had quite a bit of the marinade left over, which no doubt will make guest appearances in future posts. It's kind of a cross between a sauce and a chutney, and in my opinion will be better as a condiment than in a starring role. Now over to Isa:

Prep time: 1 hour; cooking time: 35 minutes; makes 4 - 6 servings.

You can prepare this in several ways, it is fabulous as a grilling marinade. Here I give you conventional oven instructions. It's tropical, warm, a little spicy and a little sweet. The marinade will fill your kitchen with the most amazing scent while the tofu is cooking. This amount will feed 4 to 6 if accompanied by some jasmine rice.

2 9 x13 baking pans or 1 huge baking pan
a blender
medium sauce pot with a cover that fits

For the marinade:
3 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons peanut oil or veg oil
2 large mangoes, roughly chopped (note: you will need one more mango when cooking the tofu, see below)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup white cooking wine (or vegetable broth)
fresh black pepper to taste
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoon rice vinegar (use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar if you dont have rice)
juice of two limes
1 cup orange juice

For the tofu:
2 blocks tofu extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 mango, sliced in long thin slices
1 red pepper, seeded and cut in long thin slices

Make the marinade
In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil, add garlic, ginger and jalepeno, sauté on medium heat 7 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add 2 chopped mangoes and sauté 5 minutes.

Add pure maple syrup and wine, cover and simmer 35 minutes; uncover and simmer 5 more minutes.

Add orange juice, vinegar, lime, black pepper, allspice and salt; add mixture to blender, puree until smooth.

Prepare the tofu
Cut tofu blocks into 8 slabs each. Place tofu in marinade in a sealable plastic bag or Tupperware. Marinate in the fridge for an hour and up to overnight. Here's what it looks like (with a little roasted sesame oil drizzled on top):

Preheat oven to 375.

Reserve about half of the marinade. Lay marinated tofu in a single layer in baking pan. Cook for 20 minutes. Flip tofu over and add more marinade. Dredge peppers and sliced mangoes in marinade and add them to pan. Cook another 15 minutes.

Heat up remaining marinade in a sauce pan and put in a bowl on the table (or floor, where ever you're eating) so guests (or room mates, or who ever is eating) can pour it over the tofu. Serve over jasmine rice, with a steamed vegetable, such as asparagus or broccoli.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summery stir fry with ponzu sauce

Can you tell it's starting to feel like fall? The mornings start out cold now but the afternoons are still very warm, and tonight I wanted something light and late-summery (and quick), so I put together this bright and sunny stir fry with late summer vegetables: zucchini, red peppers, greens, carrots, and avocado.

The sauce is based on the ponzu sauce from Rebar, but adapted to what I had in my cupboard:

Ponzu sauce
makes about 1 ¼ cup

2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp rice vinegar
¼ cup dry white wine
½ cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Stir the ingredients together and leave them to blend while you prepare everything else.

For a stirfry involving 3-4 cups chopped vegetables, take ½ cup of ponzu sauce, and add another ½ cup water in a measuring cup. Add 1 tbsp cornstarch and stir to mix. When the vegetables are about three-quarters done (or, say, just when you're ready to add the greens) pour in your sauce and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes on medium-high heat. Serve over rice or noodles. Delicious!

The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so. It's so good you'll almost want to drink it…

Brown and black beans in coconut sauce, with greens

Adapted (very loosely) from Madhur Jaffrey's Red Kidney Beans for Jamaican "Peas and Rice" from World Vegetarian

Serves 2

1 tbsp peanut oil
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or to your taste)
4 tbsp chopped chives or green onions
pinch of dried thyme or sprig of fresh
¼ tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup cooked brown beans
½ cooked black (turtle) beans
2 cups packed chopped greens (I used bok choy)

cooked rice (any kind)

1. Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat, and, when hot, add the onion and fry until it begins to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to stir fry a few minutes more, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the herbs and spices, and fry one minute more.

2. Now pour in the coconut milk and stir to heat and mix; when the sauce is fairly well incorporated with itself, add the beans and greens and continue cooking just until the greens are wilted and the beans are hot. Serve over rice.

Really, you could use any kind of beans, and kidney or even azuki beans would have been very pretty—I just didn't happen to have any on hand.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vegetable besan soup

Adapted from the Vegetable Stew with Chickpea Flour Sauce recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
Serves 4-6

This was intriguing, a soupy stew thickened with a kind of béchamel made from besan flour. My adaptations were mostly to change the spices (from curry leaves or fresh basil, which I don't have, to cumin/coriander/cilantro), and to add a lot more vegetables.

¼ cup peanut or canola oil
¾ cup chickpea (besan) flour
5 cups light vegetable broth, heated
1 cup diced canned tomatoes
2 tbsp finely diced ginger
1 fresh hot chilli or 1 tsp red chilli flakes
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp tamarind paste
6 cups mixed vegetables (I used cauliflour, carrot, zucchini, green pepper, green peas, and shelled edamame beans)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro, or to taste

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat, and, when hot, add the besan flour. Stir to mix and cook for a few minutes. It will start out with lots of body, like this:

but then suddenly collapse in on itself into a more liquid form. When it does so, whisk in the broth, and keep whisking until the sauce is smooth (test the smoothness on a spoon; I ended up using an immersion blender, which did the trick). Add the tomatoes, ginger, chilli, tumeric, cumin, coriander, salt, and tamarind paste, turn the heat down, and simmer for 15 minutes, while you prepare your vegetables. I think it wouldn't hurt to add the spices halfway through the cooking of the besan/oil roux, but I didn't do that this time.

2. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, and add them to the sauce (holding back for a while the things that just need a little heating time like the peas and beans). Bring the heat back up to medium high until it is bubbling, then turn it down again, cover, and simmer a further 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender.

3. Serve over rice (I used jasmine, which was wonderful).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The "coming out" of the pierogi

Tonight was the night. All that work making pierogi, and finally it was time for them to make their debut, at a supper at my parents' house, with the parents, my two aunts, and Grandma Lulu, all pierogi connoisseurs. Ooh, I was so nervous!

I couldn't cook them there, so I followed Grandma Lulu's recipe for making them into a kind of casserole. First, start some onions caramelizing:
Next, cook the pierogi, but do it in batches so you don't crowd the pot. Each batch, though frozen, needs only about a minute or so, since the filling is already cooked:

As each batch gets cooked, fry it lightly, then slide it into a casserole:

When everything is done, put it all together with a little added pepper. It will keep for a while, and can be gently reheated in the oven:

Over to my parents' I go, pierogi in hands. What? I am in charge of the other vegetable dishes too? Well, all right! We are using produce from the parents' garden, so we roasted beets (which I am afraid we forgot about in all the excitement of the other dishes, so they were allowed to caramelize at 400F for about two hours until they looked quite strange, shrivelled and un-beet-like, but tasted fantastic, like lumps of beet-flavoured sugar, so—er—we'll be doing that again), and I cut up zucchini coins, brushed them with olive oil, and broiled them. While they broiled, I made a little sauce of olive oil, lightly fried garlic, and balsamic vinegar to pour over them:

Then I made a salad out of garden tomatoes, garden cucumber, and avocado (from the store: remember, this is Canada), with a light lemon vinaigrette and some garden parsley:

The finished thing: divine! Everybody liked it! Grandma Lulu was even kind enough to say that there was no comparison between my pierogi and the store-bought kind. So, thank you, Isa. I gave you credit then and I give it now. The food was good, but even apart from that, it was a really great evening. I am so fortunate in having relatives I like so very much.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Misumena vatia, the flower crab spider

These pictures are all of a single individual but taken over several days. The prey changes.

I had started out looking for flies to photograph, and almost immediately spotted one, lying on its back on some tall cilantro flowers, and wondered why:

I'd snapped my first picture before I realized:

Although crab spiders in drab browns and greys are found all over the world, Misumena vatia, the flower crab spider, lives only in North America, usually on flowers—and you can see why. Apparently it has the power to change colour over several days from white to yellow or vice versa to match the flower it's on. This one was about 6mm from fangs to anus, and is female—the males are much smaller and less stupendous.

She waits patiently on her flower in her "crab" posture:

When prey arrives, she moves quickly, paralyzing it (or killing it; none of the prey insects I saw moved at all). She holds the immobilized (or dead) prey in her pedipalps while she works on it with fangs to loosen up the liquid contents, which she drinks:

I watched this for awhile, then went away and did something else. When I returned, she had dropped or finished with her fly, but I took a few more of her lovely coloured eyes and gleaming fangs:

This is a tiny creature, but in my camera's viewer at high magnification these things look like monsters. Suddenly the fangs began to open:

They opened very wide indeed, and the spider stalked forward. The ant which had crawled carelessly up there scrambled back into free fall and got away. I was scrambling back too—that thing was scary!

Stir fried greens with garlic, ginger, and tofu

I must have made this dish twice a week all last winter, and now that autumn approaches I'm craving it again. It has the virtues of being spicy, hot, nutritious, comforting, easy, and coming together in about ten minutes total. I do like it really spicy with the garlic, ginger, and chilli flavours, which is why the sauce is so simple. I also tend to serve a lot of the stir fry over a relatively small amount of noodles, like a thick soup, so this recipe serves two small eaters or big noodle-lovers, or just one if you're hungry.

For the stir fry:
1 tsp peanut or canola oil
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped packed robust greens (I like bok choy or gai lan but you can use anything)

For the sauce:
¾ - 1 cup cool water (more will make it "soupier")
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp roasted sesame oil

½ lb fresh tofu
½ cup frozen shelled edamame beans (optional)
black pepper to taste
soba noodles, rice noodles, Chinese flour noodles, or other noodles of your choice

1. Press the tofu, if you're using fresh. You actually don't have to do this, but it does improve the texture, and if you press the tofu in a wire mesh colander while you do the rest of the prep and until you need it for the recipe, that will be enough, plus you can use the same colander to drain the pasta. You could use fried tofu or firm tofu for this recipe, but give the fresh a try; it's so wonderful in this dish that I won't even make it if I don't have some on hand.

2. Start the water boiling for your pasta, which will be cooking while the stir fry is frying. Depending on the type of pasta you're using, you'll drop it into the boiling water at some point during the next steps—timing it to be ready at the same time as your stir fry and not to be sitting around for a while getting soggy. Remember that rice vermicelli and Chinese flour noodles can take literally only seconds to achieve perfection.

3. Heat your wok over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the peanut or canola oil and swish it around, then add the chopped ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes. Stir fry them just until the mixture smells sharp and fragrant—you don't want any of this to brown—and then add the greens and flip them about with a spatula or tongs to get them cooking.

4. Now make your sauce. Mix the soy sauce with the water, add the cornstarch and stir it up well so that there are no lumps. Add the roasted sesame oil.

5. By this time, your greens should be just wilted. They will cook further with the sauce, so they don't need to be completely done. Pour the sauce over them, and then gently add the fresh tofu (cut into large cubes), black pepper to taste, and the edamame beans, if using.

6. Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce is bubbling and translucent, and serve immediately over noodles.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weeknight comfort food

Polpetti from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Italian Kitchen (from the freezer) plus mashed potatoes with Earth Balance and homemade cranberry sauce (also frozen), and a little carrot and zucchini sauteed with garlic.