Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bean and potato tacos


This meal is kind of a mess, but man, was it delicious! It was based on the Bean and potato tacos from Anna Thomas's Vegetarian Epicure: Book 2.

Apparently there has not been enough potato love in this house lately, because I'm still craving them.

What I made: refried beans, fried potatoes and onions; whole wheat tortillas.

What I had on hand: salsa, tofu sour cream, savoy cabbage, cashew cheese, green onions.

The result: paradise. There is a lot to be said for the kind of meal where you just pile everything on. In Helping 2 I added sriracha sauce and it was even more awesome.

Plus, today only, you get a free bonus beauty shot of my cat Isabeau sleeping on her window ledge in the sun this afternoon. Have you ever seen anything so adorable? Feel free to download it and use it as your desktop background...oh, pardon, what was that? You have? Your cat? Oh, very well...


Garden cleanup, phase 1


In the last three or four days, it seems, we suddenly have seagulls, cumulus clouds, thunderstorms, robins, and one ant. Is it spring yet? Well, it is snowing right now, but nevertheless, I believe it may be!

Before it started snowing, there was quite a bit of sun, and it was windy and dusty but warm enough to do a little work outside, namely garden cleanup.

I don't do much in the fall except top dress with compost, so when the snow melts things can look pretty dire. I had done some thinning out at the end of last summer, though, so it wasn't too bad; nevertheless, today I went out and tidied up, not digging, just chopping and removing last year's dead foliage and raking a bit. Above is the pre-image; below is the post. Where did all the dead plant material go? Into the composters (they're way in the back right hand corner)!

I can hardly believe that it will ever get from that to this:

Welcome, Spring! You can't come too soon for me!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fassoulia yakhni (Cypriot lima bean stew)



This is a neat little stew, based on a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. What you do (in my version) is boil chopped potatoes, carrot, and red pepper until the potatoes are tender, and when nearly done add cooked or frozen lima beans.

But meanwhile, you fry an onion, some garlic, and whole red chile in lots of olive oil, and when the onion is browned add some chopped tomato and a little tomato paste. I followed the recipe, sort of, but this is the sort of dish it's easy to improvise.

Pour the fried sauce into the stew like an Indian tarka (the Cypriot version is apparently called tiganissi), taste for salt, and serve. Nice! The stew has a fresh bright colour, as you can see.

I had it with Sindhi flatbreads with black pepper, which are chappati with coarsely ground pepper added. They were good, the meal was great!

You all must be wondering by now if I ever cook something I don't like. Now and then it happens, but not tonight ;-)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gobi ka paratha with tarka masoor dal


I came home from work tonight craving parathas--specifically cauliflower parathas--which is strange, since I've never had them before, though I have made aloo parathas (with a potato filling), but there has been far too much potato love around here in the last few weeks.

They were great! My recipe came from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, but it is very, very similar to what Manjula is doing on her website here.

Parathas are stuffed flatbreads. The basic steps are these:

1. Make the paratha dough and the filling (grated cauliflower, ginger, hot chili, cilantro, salt, and pepper):

2. Roll out a circle of paratha dough about 5 inches across, and place about a quarter cup of filling in the middle:

3. Pinch up the edges to make a little sealed packet:

4. Roll it out flat:

5. Cook it on a cast iron pan, flipping every 30 seconds and adding dribbles of oil and/or Earth Balance now and then until it's speckled a beautiful brown and heated through (check my speckles ;-):


But as delicious, and surprisingly quick and easy, as the parathas were, even more surprising is the rather drab-looking lentil dish I served them with. This was an extremely simple tarka dal, sort of like this one, but the only spices in my tarka were green onions, whole cumin seeds, and cayenne. Really, I just made it because I needed something to serve with the parathas, but it was excellent in its own right. Served along with a dab of Aki's Corriander [sic] Chutney, to which I have been addicted for several years.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Salsicca (vegetarian hot Italian sausage) - with okara!

Why, if I'm posting a sausage recipe, do I begin with this image of a potato gratin? Only because it's so much more lovely. This gratin rocked. It's the New potato gratin with tomatoes and olives from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The recipe is over here, so you too can enjoy this wonderful dish. It's got fried onions, it's got chopped olives, it's got tomatoes, and capers, and garlic, and that food of the gods, potatoes. But the lemon slices just make it. I've historically always been leery of gratins that don't involve a bechamel, but from this day forward I am casting aside that irrational and pointless prejudice.

So, okay, the sausage. This is the Salsiccia (vegetarian hot Italian sausage) from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Italian Kitchen, with the important difference that instead of 1/4 pound tofu I used 6 oz okara (recipe follows below). Now, I've made the recipe before with the tofu so I was interested to note any differences. Why I was so pepped to try this is that, unlike my favorite chicken-style seitan, it only asks for 1/2 cup gluten flour to one batch of okara, as opposed to 3 1/2 cups gluten flour to one batch of okara for the seitan. I like gluten as much as the next person, and more than many, but sometimes enough is just enough, and this is a nice proportion of TVP/gluten flour/tofu (or okara). Here's the mix. No discernable difference here:

Form it into balls and place them in the steamer...they are a little more crumbly than usual:

The steamed balls. This is the whole recipe, containing an entire batch of okara. They look a little dry but actually they're not. You can see the okara fibres on the outsides of the balls. Will they disappear when the balls are browned?
You have to click past this beauty shot of the finished potato gratin to find out...

Yes! The balls are nicely brown, hold together well, and have great flavour. Served here with the gratin and Brussels sprouts with mustard butter (mustard and Earth Balance mixed, a little more of which was dribbled over the balls, not as delicious-looking as I hoped it would be, but even more tasty):

Salsicca (vegetarian hot Italian sausage)
from Nonna's Italian Kitchen
(recipe found uncredited here)

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable broth, heated and still very warm
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup textured soy protein granules (TVP)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 lb medium firm tofu, mashed (or 6 oz okara, well squeezed in a twist of cloth)

Seasoning mixture
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup pure gluten powder (vital wheat gluten)

Mix the broth with the wine, tomato paste and sesame oil in a small bowl.

Stir in the textured soy protein granules and allow to soak for about 5 minutes.

Add the tofu and seasonings.

The gluten powder should not be added until the mixture is cool (otherwise it creates "strings"). To speed this up, you can spread the mixture out on a plate to cool in the refrigerator. When the mixture is cool, add the gluten powder and mix well with your hands.

Press firmly into 10 thin patties or 14-20 firm links or balls.

Steam on a plate or steam basket (with little holes) over simmering water for 20 minutes.

These can now be browned right away or refrigerated/frozen for later.

To brown, use a non-stick skillet with a little olive oil or brush all the sides with a little olive oil and grill on both sides.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The things you find under the snow


In the last few years, my garden has mostly just been "happening." I keep it weeded, thin things out a little, maybe move a few plants around, but mostly I leave it alone.

We're still largely under snow here, and have had several small snowstorms in the last week or so, but in between Spring is coming!

Here's proof. Remember, my friends, the ground is still frozen quite solid...










Crocuses...


Tulips...

Lion's bane...


The rock garden! Most of this stuff never really dies back in the fall. (You have to click on this one to see its full splendour.)

My first really cute insect of the year:

Moss in a soggy planter:


Sigh...some of that red daisy stuff with leaves that look like feathers (this is a young leaf):


Like so many northern people, I have been dying for colour. Our world is still dusty gray brown from a foot away. This is colour you don't see until you're out specifically looking for it--and then it almost makes you cry.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scrambled tofu with spicy tomatoes, Punjabi-style kale, and more

This was one of those perfect meals that come together serendipitously from next to nothing.

Yes, I've been crabby lately. No, I haven't been exercising. Yes (Mom, I know) the two are related. So between downloading variations on white, pink and brown noise for my iPod to drown out screaming babies/inane conversations/general irritations on the bus, and griping about soy milk that isn't up to my standards of perfection, I made this meal.

What is it?
Well, most of it is from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. What you see here is her Mustard greens or broccoli rabe (or in this case, kale), cooked in the Punjabi style, which means basically pureed with fried cornmeal and hot spices; and Scrambled eggs with spicy tomatoes (read: scrambled tofu); and dosas, whose batter has been happily fermenting away since yesterday.

How I love dosas! Back in August/September of last year I was experimenting with the difference between dosas made with rice and urad dal, and dosas made with rice flour and urad flour. I've done several tests between then and now and they really are much tastier--and frankly, not so much extra work--made from the rice and beans directly, rather than the flours. That said, I'm using up the rest of my flours, and these dosas were pretty good.

This was a fiery meal, despite its tame-looking appearance, and the Punjabi-style kale was really, really good, despite the fact that to me pureeing greens seems basically wrong. Call it an irresistible sin, then...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Teriyaki stir fry with seitan and nori


Here's the somewhat sinister-looking stir fry I had for supper last night.

The ingredients are chipped chicken-style seitan, fried separately in a little canola oil, then shredded sweet potatoes and sweet red peppers, green onions, and baby boks stir-fried together and tossed with homemade teryaki sauce, over soba noodles, topped with a little shredded nori and a little more teryaki drizzled on top. Yes, I am eating in colour again ;-)

On a product-related note, have any of you tried the new Silk Plus Omega-3 DHA Fortified Soy Beverage? I bought some in a moment of absent-mindedness, thinking it was regular Silk after briefly focusing on the usual "new packaging, same great taste" tag somewhere on the box. Normally I don't buy food that claims to be medicine or medicine-like because (a) I'm sceptical about package advertising; and (b) the fortifying items can make the product taste odd.

The "vegetable-source" DHA in this Silk drink is algal oil, apparently (from algae), and this soy milk tastes like fish, especially when heated. Honestly, my palate isn't that sensitive, but I thought when I first tried it in a latte that I had dropped a chunk of cat food in there by mistake, it's that bad. Went back and read the packaging, realized what I had bought...researched it...now I've tried it in both coffee and tea, and it's undrinkable. I'm going to have to find some other use for it or just toss the rest. Two thumbs down, Silk. Or is it just me?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Potato-Brussels sprout omelet


What do I do when I'm not blogging?

1. Seasons 1-3 of Prison Break
2. Working on my unpublishable novel
3. Gradually emptying out the freezer

Mostly 2. How fantastic is it to have an alternate life? My friends, it's better than great. I would rather be my fictional heroes than myself any day of the year.

That said, the alternate universe is not always accessible, but when it is, I'm there.

Eating very basically, not exercising, losing my health...how long can it last? This is the most ambitious I've been in a while, a nice potato-Brussels sprout-onion-Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese omelet with salsa and tofu sour cream. Yummy, but it's not quite making it out of the really shaming starch-fest my life has been for the last few weeks. But you must be sick of that sandpot with "meats." I'll be back...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sandpot tofu with "meats"


This is one of those recipes that, for me, come under the heading "weird but good." It's also one of those dishes from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine that I doubt get made that often. But I've been eyeing the recipe for a while with strange cravings and finally tried it. Bryanna, I'm here! Essentially, this is a bunch of different kinds of vegan "meats" cooked up with reconstituted dried mushrooms in a little sauce. My "meats" were:

yuba
baked seitan balls
seitan meatballs
tofu

Is it good? Yes! I added some baby bok choy but that kind of got lost in the mix. Not so colourful, but it really was tasty and I felt very, very vegan both cooking and eating this dish ;-)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ying yang salad with peanut-sesame dressing

We had a real "spring-type" day here in Edmonton, Canada today—don't get excited, no portion of my back yard or garden is yet not still covered with snow, but I could sit in the sheltered area of my patio and enjoy the rays (against a black background to attract radiant heat) for the first time since September. Woo hoo! Also, it's been such a carb-fest around here lately, for no reason other than that carbs taste so good; I made up the rest of the Mexican parathas from yesterday for lunch today—and you haven't even seen this yet, which is the spinach-noodle kugel from Veganomicon, delicious and now dearly departed:




…that I thought I'd try a salad. This is the Ying yang salad with peanut-sesame dressing from the Real Food Daily Cookbook. I'm going to provide a link over to 101 Cookbooks for the recipe, since Heidi Swanson reprinted it with permission, which I don't have.

Anyway, yum! The dressing is fantastic if you're a cilantro-lover. I obtained my cilantro from my aunt Katee, who bought it thinking it was parsley. Tragic for her, 'cause she had to wash her hands three times to get the smell off, and my gain. Funny how Katee and my mom both hate cilantro to the point where my mom, for instance, doesn't even like walking around my garden because I've got some growing there, and yet my sister Diane and I adore the stuff. They say it's genetic…but who knows? Yes, cilantro smells like soap. So it tastes like dirt…but in a good way, you know?

However, I do have something original to contribute to this post, which is a technique for cooking tofu on short notice. If you read the recipe for this dish, you'll see it calls for marinating the tofu in a little sauce for some hours and then baking it. But when you're cooking for supper and it's already five o'clock, you may not have time for all that fuss. I am here to tell you that, most of the time, you don't have to marinate tofu. On short notice, what you can do is put together the marinade ingredients, and braise the tofu pieces on the stovetop. So in this case (I was halving the recipe) you see a pound of tofu in the marinade recommended minus about 1/3 of the tamari—because you don't want the tofu too salty—and plus 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar—because you do want it to caramelize.

Tofu in:

Tofu out:

Altogether a really nice meal. Heidi mentions in her post the "backlash" she got from another Real Food Daily recipe she posted, for Spelt macaroni with cashew cheese. That's the cashew cheese recipe that's my current absolute wonderful favourite. Not cheese, but dang good, and I applaud Heidi's open-mindedness in trying it despite the fact that she is vegetarian, not vegan—and not celiac either for that matter!

Parathas, Mexican-style


More leftovers from that happy day of torta d'erbe, this time the yeasted pastry dough, which kept beautifully in the refrigerator, rising just a little, patiently waiting for new uses, and what better than flatbread?





The filling is super-simple, a stirfry of olive oil, sweet and hot red peppers, garlic, corn, pink beans, and salt and pepper, with mashed potatoes added at the end, but not cooked.


Roll out your flatbread and cook it on a lightly-oiled cast iron pan, spread it with the warm filling, top with cashew cheese if you want to, fold the top over, and serve with salsa and/or guacamole. This was transcendently tasty, as most salty, spicy, starchy foods are, and took about 20 minutes to put together.

Spinach-"ricotta" dumplings


If I had to pick one recipe from Nonna's Italian Kitchen to be my favourite, it would be this one. Simple, but at the same time elegant and clever, it works perfectly every time. Plus, owing to my incapacity for basic math, I wound up with a lot extra tofu ricotta from the pie I made in my last post, so all week I've been making recipes that call for ricotta, and, after a trip to the store for this recipe, spinach as well. But, you know, this is one combination that never gets boring.

The recipe for the dumplings isn't online—or at least I couldn't find it—but here are the steps. If you're using fresh spinach, steam it, cool it, and chop it.

Now mix it up with the tofu ricotta, flour, almonzano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg (and that's it, those are the ingredients!).

Chill the mixture for a while to firm it up, and then when you're ready to cook, form it into balls (which freeze well at this stage):

Simmer the balls gently in boiling water for about five minutes until they float to the top, and then remove them to a baking dish.

Meanwhile, I made a very simple tomato sauce, just with canned tomatoes, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil, all pureed raw right in the measuring cup with an immersion blender, and this gets poured on top:


Bake it at 400F for about half an hour:

While it baked, I shredded a carrot and a parsnip, and slowly stir-fried them with a little chopped up sweet red pepper.

Put it all together and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Torta d'erbe (green herb tart)

I'm always buying those big containers of baby salad greens because they look so fresh and pretty, but, regrettably, though we eat plenty of greens you don't see much green salad here at the Airy Way. I keep meaning to rectify this, and so buy more and more salad greens, but usually end up cooking them in one way or another. Why wouldn't you, though, with recipes like this, such an excellent way to use up large amounts of greens of all kinds—and healthy, pretty, and delicious to boot?

Plus, you can really improvise something like this, which is what I did, based on the recipes for torta d'erbe and yeasted pastry from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and the recipes for the tofu ricotta and almonzano from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Italian Kitchen.

The yeasted pastry dough is fun. Some authors claim that if you make it right, it is as light and flaky as short crust pastry, and can be used in fruit pies and other sweet dishes. I don't find this; my dough always remains "bready," but in a savory dish like torta d'herbe that's nice. My version is a veganized adaptation, and made quite a bit more than I needed, but this is what I did. I used my mixer with the dough hook attachments, since the dough is quite sticky:

Yeasted tart dough
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm soymilk
2 cups flour, approximately
4 tbsp Earth Balance, slightly softened

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the soymilk in large mixing bowl and let stand until bubbly. Turn on the mixer and begin adding the flour and Earth Balance alternately, continuing to beat until the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl, about five minutes, adding a little more soymilk if you need to to make a soft, smooth dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to an hour. Now punch it down and use it as you would pastry dough.


While your dough is rising, make the filling. It's hard to give measurements for raw greens, but I ended up with about 3 cups of filling and cooked the tart in a small 7-inch cast iron frying pan. For the greens part, anything goes, but I used:

mixed salad greens (spring mix)
bok choy
parsley
scallions
1/2 white onion
dill

Other great additions would be:

sorrel
chard
beet greens
arugula
mustard greens
turnip greens
basil
you get the idea

The other ingredients are:

2 tbsp Earth Balance or olive oil
1 cup tofu ricotta (I used Bryanna's recipe)
2 tbsp almonzano (again from Bryanna)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the greens and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Heat the Earth Balance or olive oil in a large skillet or wok and sweat the white onion, if using. Add the scallions, dill, and greens and continue to cook, turning constantly, until they have cooked down and are tender, and there's no more water pooling at the bottom of the skillet.

Stir in the ricotta, almonzano, and nutmeg, and taste for salt and pepper. Now, if you're like me, you'll have your first idea of how much filling you have and what size pan you need to cook the tart in!

Roll out enough dough to make a bottom crust (about 1/8 inch thick) and drape it over a pie pan or cast iron skillet. Trim the edge so that it's a little larger than the pan. Add the filling.

Roll out another circle for the top crust. This one should be the same size as the surface of the tart. Place it right on the filling, then fold the longer piece of dough over it. Crimp the edges. Using the tip of a paring knife, score the top of the tart in a crisscross design without cutting through the dough. Brush with a little soymilk.

Bake at 375F until the top crust is well browned, about 35 minutes for a small pie like mine. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Though there are lots of steps, this dish is actually very easy, especially if you already have the ricotta and almonzano made, and it's hard to mess up. Short crust pastry can be rather perilous in my experience, but the yeasted pastry dough is a delight to work with. The fact that it's best served at room temperature (and it really is) makes it a great dish to take to gatherings or picnics.