Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dragon bowl

A dragon bowl is simply an Asian-inspired meal in a bowl (with a very kewl name), but otherwise as far as I can tell, the rest is totally flexible. This recipe is for a soup-like dragon bowl with a Thai red curry and noodle base. If you're cooking the noodles right in the dish, you'll want to make just as much as you'll eat at one meal. Here's how simple it is:

Dragon bowl
serves 2

Sauce:
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 medium carrot, in small cubes
1 tsp red curry paste
4 cups vegetable stock (I used powdered)
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
zest and juice of 1/2 lime

Additions:
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped cauliflower
Rice or wheat noodles (approx. 1/4 lb)
1 cup tofu (any kind) in small cubes
4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
sambal olek

Heat the peanut oil in a medium saucepan, and add the ginger, garlic, and carrot (plus any other vegetable that you're adding that you think would benefit from a quick sauté), and sauté them together until the garlic is translucent. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir well. Depending on the saltiness of your stock, you may need to add salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

Now add the cauliflower and tomatoes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is nearly tender. Add the rice noodles and tofu, partially cover, and let simmer until the noodles are just done.

Add the green onions and cilantro, season with sambal olek if desired, and serve immediately.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Basic bruschetta

Well, this is without doubt the simplest recipe you will ever see on this blog, and one of the very best.

Take some bread--any kind--the one to the left was "Greek-style" pita from Costco which tastes pretty crummy by itself; the one in the image below was the ciabatta bread (also from Costco) which was awesome.

No matter. Take whatever bread you have, and toast it lightly.

Meanwhile, cut a clove of garlic in two.

Take the bread out of the toaster, and rub with the garlic. Be generous. Little bits of garlic may rub off onto the bread. That's okay.

Now slather the bread generously with extra-virgin olive oil, and dust with a little coarsely-ground sea salt.

Oh, heavenly day! It doesn't matter what you serve this with. Above, the Chipotle, corn, and black bean stew from Vegan with a Vengeance. Below, baba ganoush, plus a chickpea salad with a tahini dressing from Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. Whatever. I'm saying, what food would I want to take with me to a desert island? This bread/garlic/EVOO thing, hands down, without a doubt, I'm bursting but I think I'll have a little more right now...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summertime


Mmm, I was craving these all day. Homemade vegan (okara!) hot dogs, from here, via the freezer. (I did not, however, trust myself to make the buns.)


Served with a side of oven fries and the tangy, refreshing Midtown Greek Salad from American Vegan Kitchen.


Yes, it's summer!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Black bean salad with coriander pesto

This gorgeous mess is brought to you courtesy of Lorna Sass's Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.

It's the Black bean salad with coriander pesto, along with the Warm kale and potato salad.

The black bean salad was especially outstanding. I'm so sorry that I couldn't find the recipe for it online, but the pesto was something like this, with the addition of some chili powder, cumin, and a dash of cinnamon.

Mix it up with black beans, chopped carrots, cooked corn, a little extra lime juice, and some diced roasted red pepper. The recipe didn't call for avocado, but I added it anyway--though strangely to my grief, because the salad was better without. If you own this book, this is highly recommended! If you don't, sorry to cruelly tease you. Really what I'm doing by posting this is killing time so that my stomach has time to catch up with my mouth and I don't run down and eat all the rest of it tonight!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Drying okara | okara crepes

What with all the chocolate malts I've been drinking (I am pretty much in need of an intervention on the chocolate malts) and soymilk recipes I've been trying recently, The Airy Way has seen a large accumulation of okara. Freezer space being at a premium and life being rather hectic, instead of making things with it right away, I've been drying it.

There are different ways to dry okara, but this is how I do it.

First, squeeze as much milk out of the okara as you can. I use a square of cloth cut from an old sheet for this purpose. The okara shouldn't be wet; it should hold its shape in a clump when released from the cloth, so that it can be broken apart like this:

Spread it out flat on a baking pan. A silicone mat is your friend here:

Bake it at 225F for about half an hour, then scrape it up and crumble it with a spatula:

Put it back into the oven, and cook for another half hour or so. The timing will vary, depending on the composition of your okara and its initial wetness. My okara is spiked with oatmeal and dates and smells scrumptious as it cooks. When it's dry, take it out of the oven and let it cool. You can also turn off the oven with the okara still in it, and let it cool and continue to dry inside. It has to be very dry:

I store it in a container in the refrigerator or freezer at this point until I have accumulated enough to make getting out the food processor worthwhile. One batch (1 1/2 cups wet) okara will yield approximately half a cup of the dried. Process the okara crumbles very finely:

Dried okara looks good, it tastes good, it's a good thing! What can you do with it?

Well, what about subbing part of the flour in crepes? I've now made this two days in a row (a new batch every day) and the okara adds a nutty, sweet touch to an already superb recipe. These crepes are more delicate than the originals, and brown faster, but I think they're lovely. Here's the recipe, adapted from the one in Vegan Brunch.

Okara crepes
makes 3 crepes

3/4 cup soymilk
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp dried okara
2 tbsp chickpea flour
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
pinch salt

Place all of the ingredients into a Magic Bullet or blender and mix for about 30 seconds, until well blended. The batter should have the texture of a very fine pancake batter, easily pourable. Refrigerate the mix while you make your filling.

My filling was crimini mushrooms fried with chopped onion; I sprinkled this with a little flour, added some of the tofu broth from the Betta feta and simmered until a thick sauce formed. Some asparagus pan fried in Earth Balance completed the dish.

Now heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, spray on a little canola oil, and pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan. Tilt the pan around a bit to spread the batter out (if you have to use a spoon for this your batter is too thick). Cook for about 2 minutes on one side, until the top of the crepe looks dry, then carefully loosen the edges and flip the crepe. Cook another 30 seconds on the other side. Set the crepe aside on a plate and cook the others the same way.

These were served with a topping of Veganaise sprinkled with chopped cucumber, radishes, and chives. A delicious meal, and fairly quick to put together too!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Betta feta

Today I want to highlight a recipe from a book that I don't feature enough here, Joanne Stepaniak's The Uncheese Cookbook. I own both it and Vegan Vittles, and this is one recipe that has intrigued me for a long time, though I'd never tried it. How can these ingredients possibly come out tasting even remotely like feta cheese? I mean, tahini? But, actually, they do! Not exactly, and the texture is different, but it's pretty close, full of tart, salty flavour, and very delicious!

What spurred me on to this experiment? Greek night for Mother's day. Each member of our family brought something. I brought dolmades (I'm flattered to report that my recent post on dolmades was the inspiration for Greek night), Douglas made wonderful lemon-roasted potatoes, and Diane made a Greek salad and Something Else of Which We Will Not Speak in this sacred vegan space. Anyway, I was feeling a little sorry for myself apropos of the Greek salad, because although Diane considerately had feta cheese on the side, it was still there, and say what you will, Greek salad isn't Greek salad without some kind of feta-like substance. So, the day before, thinking I had little to lose, I tried this recipe:

Betta feta
from The Uncheese Cookbook, by Joanne Stepaniak

1 lb regular tofu (I recommend extra-firm), cut or crumbled into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
2 cups water
2 tbsp All-season blend (recipe follows)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic granules

Place the tofu cubes, the 2 cups of water and the All-season blend in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and place in a bowl.

[I have to insert here that the broth was so amazingly tasty that I kept it to use as stock. This looked very yellow, possibly owing to a misreading of the recipe for All-season blend on my part in which I used 1/2 tbsp instead of 1/2 tsp turmeric. No matter, it was still good, and magically the yellow faded out to almost-white after a day in the fridge, as you can see from the photograph heading this post.]

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour over the tofu and toss carefully.

Cover and chill several hours, stirring occasionally to make sure tofu cubes are evenly coated. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

All-season blend

1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast flakes
3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp onion granules
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp marjoram leaves
1/4 tsp ground dill seed

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until finely ground. Store in a covered container at room temperature.

All-season blend was a first for me, too, and well worth making. I can see I'll be using it often as a broth substitute when I have no vegetable broth, or to flavour this and that.

The Betta fetta needs to be chilled to reach its full potential. Two days later, the herbal flavours are starting to take over. But it's still very good.

I had it in the stupendous supper salad you see at the top of this post, which was composed of:

cucumber
radish
green onion
parsley
mint
avocado
escarole
sweet red pepper
Zoa's "chicken-style" okara seitan, shredded

with a bit of mustard vinaigrette and some toasted Quick sun-dried tomato bread from Donna Klein's The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, which is a quick bread leavened with beer, which did not taste like sourdough bread as claimed, but which was still pretty good, if crumbly. I only had a bit left, and some of it I cut into cubes for the salad, and some of it went into this teeny tiny panini:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Great Soymilk Challenge, Part 4 (the real wrap up)

I owe Julie Hasson an apology. I was unkind about her recipe for soymilk made with the SoyQuick Premier Milk Maker 930P that she demonstrates on the SoyQuick site.

Sorry, Julie!

The reason was because, despite literally hours of research, I didn't know the difference between barley malt powder, and barley malt extract.

Okay, I still don't. Barley malt powder tastes better, and it's awesome with soymilk, half a frozen banana, some cocoa powder, and a little sugar as a chocolate malt, but added to hot soymilk it gives it a gritty texture and I didn't really like it much.

Plus, it's hard to find. I had to order mine from Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Barley malt extract, however, I located today when my mom and I were buying homebrew wine supplies at our local homebrew supply place, within walking distance of my house. It tastes less "malty" than the powder. You wouldn't, for instance, want to eat it plain, where I've seen people post that they ordered the powder, didn't know what to do with it, and ended up just spooning it up dry.


They stocked light, medium, and dark. For the record, so my readers don't imagine I am entirely hopeless, I had called this exact place during my initial search, and the usually so helpful owner said, "What, never heard of it. Try a health food store." Today the same person said, "Oh, yeah, we always carry this." Gah!

See where the package says "Use as a direct replacement for sugar, lb for lb"? Barley malt extract is sugary. Barley malt powder is floury. Why is the Internet so silent on this issue? However, now I have cleared it up for all time.

So...uh...how was that barley malt extract in the soymilk? Not bad! I was untrusting, so I made my usual recipe, but when it came time to flavour it I poured a little of the hot soymilk into a glass and experimented. It's reluctant to separate from itself and join with the soy milk, but you can convince it with a mere whisk. Actually, it's a really nice taste, and I think that at least until this packet is used up I will continue to add it as at least part of the sweetening.

Barley malt extract isn't as sweet as sugar, despite the lb for lb, which is no doubt why Julie Hasson adds so much of it to her recipe.

I'm going to give the two recipes again--they're the same as before, but in a kinder, gentler post. Julie doesn't say so, but if you want to try her recipe, it would be a good idea to soak the rice with the beans, or maybe separately, but just soak it. The milk won't be affected either way, but the okara comes out with little chunks of rice if you don't soak it first.

Warning: let me just repeat, do not use barley malt syrup or date syrup as a soymilk sweetener. It will make the soymilk separate when heated. I don't know why this is, but if you doubt me, then try it.

Julie Hasson's SoyQuick 930P soymilk recipe

(2 cups that come with the maker; I am assuming here) soy beans
1 tbsp jasmine rice
1 tbsp rolled oats

Flavorings:
4 tbsp barley malt extract
2 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
vanilla to taste

* * *

Zoa's favorite soymilk recipe (for lattes; for drinking plain, decrease the oatmeal to 2 tbsp):

2 cups soy beans
3 tbsp rolled oats
2 tbsp chopped dates

Flavorings:
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seitan and herb dumplings (plus another okara experiment)


This was a wonderful meal. It's the Seitan and herb dumplings from American Vegan Kitchen, and probably my favorite recipe of the few from that cookbook I've tried so far.

I'm fascinated by the recipes in this book...many of them are like dishes I've tried before, but there is often some spin on them that I could never have invented such as, in this one, the addition of soy creamer (or in my case, very rich soy milk) to the stew broth. But it was delicious! I'm also trying to be fair to the recipes by following herb/spice recommendations exactly, something I usually don't do, so I'm experiencing new (to me) flavours as well.

So why stew, when everybody else is grilling burgers and making sandwiches and salads? This is why. We had the mother of all spring storms last night and this morning, and this is the aftermath. The actual math was zero visibility, wet snow whacking everything sideways in 60km winds and generally just swirling around at high speeds and sticking to things:

Here's the stew in the pot, with the dumplings on top. I adore dumplings, and these were adorable.

The only substitutions I made were a combination of kale and green peppers for the green beans, which I didn't have, and my own seitan for Tami's. The seitan I used was a new batch of my Zoa's "chicken-style" okara seitan, only I was out of almonds, so I used walnuts instead. This part of the experiment was successful; the walnuts changed the colour of the finished seitan from a light brown to a rich, dark brown, and gave the taste a pleasing complexity.

I also decreased the amount of gluten flour to 1 1/2 cups, so that the gluten flour and okara were in equal volume (and decreased the amount of water accordingly). Well, I had to try! I mean, what if you could make great seitan with 1/4 part gluten flour to 3/4 parts okara--wouldn't that be outstanding? Maybe you can...in some alternate universe, but in this one 2 cups gluten flour to 1 1/2 cups well-squeezed okara is about as far as you can take it. The result wasn't a disaster, but though I steamed the seitan for almost two hours it remained quite soft--firm enough, however, to hold its shape during frying and cooking in the stew. The taste was fine, but the texture was a little strange. I cooked it separately in case it fell apart, and added it to the stew with the peas:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Besan omelet


Does this look familiar? It's the leftover salad from the other day (sans dressing), plus some chopped onions and garlic. Yes, you can cook salad. Yes, I do it all the time.

Into the non-stick pan it goes with a little canola oil, to be cooked covered until the vegetables (i.e., carrots) are tender. By then the lettuce and cucumber will have nearly vanished, but that's okay.

Should you not have any leftover salad to fry, you can use plain chopped white or green onions, or grated or finely sliced zucchini, or any other vegetable you think would taste good, or nothing.

While that's cooking, put together the omelet. Nothing could be easier:

Besan omelet
Serves 2

1/2 cup besan (chickpea) flour
pinch tumeric
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water (or however much you need to get the texture you prefer)

Mix the dry ingredients in a 2-cup measuring cup or comparable bowl. Slowly add the water, whisking until you obtain the desired texture. It should be like pancake batter. These omelets can be delicate and crispy, or they can be thick and chunky; it's up to you.

Pour the omelet mixture into the hot pan over the vegetables (if using) or into a hot pan with 1 tbsp oil, cover, turn the heat to medium low, and cook until just crispy on the bottom, about five or six minutes depending on the thickness of your omelet. Invert onto a plate, slide the omelet from the plate back into the pan, cover again, and cook a few minutes more until the omelet is golden (but not browned) on the other side as well, and the inside is firm and tastes cooked. How do you know if it tastes "cooked"? Well, taste a little of the batter first, and when it no longer tastes like that, it's cooked: raw besan is very "beany"; cooked besan is not.

Served here with a number of other leftovers that I was pleased to get out of the fridge in such a tasty way; readers of this blog over the last week or so may recognize some of them:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Salisbury seitan with vegan crab cakes


Here's another dish from American Vegan Kitchen, the Salisbury-style seitan with mushrooms, which, if you have seitan on hand, comes together in just a few minutes. You can't actually see the seitan in this photograph, since it is buried under a delicious mushroom/onion gravy, so I've provided a picture of it below. You rub it with a herb mix and fry it lightly, remove it from the pan and make the gravy in the same pan, add the seitan back in to warm up, and voila.

Doesn't it look lovely on its own, right out of the frying pan? It was good, too, just like that!

Since I have unlimited quantities of it, I used my own Zoa's chicken-style okara seitan (for boiling) --with most of the broth it was stored in pressed out first; I just wrapped it in a few layers of paper towel and squeezed it out over the sink; it held up bravely under a lot of hard squeezing--but otherwise followed the recipe exactly; plus I used the savory seitan storage broth for the vegetable broth in the gravy, which was satisfyingly economical.

This was served over my okara pappardelle, which had been frozen in nests. I dropped a few of the nests in boiling water and they separated beautifully into individual strands (I had been a little concerned that it would clump together) and which cooked, from frozen, in about 40 seconds, mixed with a little Earth Balance, poppy seeds, and pepper.

The sides were a simple salad of finely sliced cucumbers and celery with shredded lettuce and a mild viniagrette, and the Crab cakes Claryn from Hell Yeah It's Vegan posted about during Veganmofo last year. The spice mix for the crab cakes is a work of genius, and the cakes were good, although I'm wondering now if the addition of a little chickpea flour would make them crispier. Next time! Claryn's post is worth checking out just for its closeup food porn value--

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lentils with Mediterranean "zow bing"


Next up in my recent series of high-fat favorites, lentils with onions, garlic, and spinach, and a sort of very inauthentic version of a Chinese flatbread called zow bing (by Madhur Jaffrey in World of the East Vegetarian Cooking).

According to that recipe, zow bing is a kind of green onion cake rolled in an unusually messy way, and it is not made with yeasted dough, as mine was, but with a plain white flour-and-water mix. Unlike most recipes for green onion cakes I've seen, however, there's no sesame oil.

Just as an semi-related aside, Andrea did a recent post about how one's tastes can change with a change in diet, which got me thinking. Probably everyone who has made the transition from omni or vegetarian to vegan has experienced this, after a while. A few months ago I was at my mother's and we made lattes, mine with soy milk, hers with cow's milk. The cups were the same; we were carrying them around with us and I inadvertently picked hers up and took a sip, and was astounded at how thin and acidic and generally unpleasant it tasted in comparison with the rich and flavourful soy milks I was drinking. And yet…she won't drink soy milk because she hates the taste. And I hated the taste too when I first tried it.

The same goes for cheese. I can honestly say that though it took a few years, because I really, really used to love cheese, it doesn't appeal to me anymore. I make cashew cheese, and I like it, and it can sometimes take the place of cheese in recipes, but it isn't much like milk cheese, it's its own thing. Tofu and the kind of seitan I make are nothing like meat, or I wouldn't want to eat them.

But new vegans can't just catapult themselves into this mode by an act of will; it has to happen naturally and gradually. Meanwhile, what to do? You have cheese cravings that make your head whirl, your favourite dishes are (you think miserably) barred from your diet forever, Earth Balance tastes like toxic waste and soy milk like sweet chalk, you're eating iceberg lettuce salad with unripe tomatoes at restaurants and your friends think you've lost your mind, your mom's worried that you'll die of malnutrition and frankly you yourself have your doubts.

I can help you with a simple one-word piece of advice that may seem controversial to some but that saved me once I cottoned onto it: oil.

What is cheese except a combination of fat, salt, and protein? What's whole milk? Fat and protein. What's butter? Fat. What's so delicious about chicken? Fat and protein. Hamburgers? Bacon? Get it? Now you're vegan and suddenly you're not ingesting any of that. No wonder you feel like you're going into withdrawal. I lost 20 pounds in my first months of veganism, and hadn't been overweight before that. But then I discovered oils. As a vegetarian I used to keep some canola oil around for stir frying, and a little olive oil for salad dressings. Now I started to experiment with other oils: different types and grades of olive oil, sesame oil roasted and unroasted, walnut oil, hazelnut oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, chili oil. They all have different tastes! Some of them taste so good you can pour them over whatever you're eating like a condiment. And believe it, I did. Uh, do.

At one point in my vegan career, inspired by Neal Barnard's writings, I tested all this by going completely fat free for six months. My aunt and I did the experiment together and we were very strict, to the point where I even stopped eating tofu because soy is a relatively high-fat bean. She was an omnivore who of course had to go vegan, and discovered that removing milk from her diet cured the endometriosis which she had to have Demerol shots every month for before that (we did this experiment some years ago; she still eats meat but as long as she stays away from milk her problems don't recur). Me, I felt unhappy and not very healthy, lost a very little weight, and developed weird bean cravings.

So, with a clear conscience, even now when a recipe calls for frying something in a teaspoon of oil, I just pour in a few glugs. Why not? Because you'll get fat? I didn't, and I'm not naturally skinny. You see the kind of food I eat on this blog. I'm no nutritionist, and different body types may metabolize differently, but it's the combination of refined sugar and starch that makes me gain weight and feel bloated and ill, which is why you don't see a lot of cookie and cake action on The Airy Way. Oil though, gets carte blanche.

Which is a segue into the recipe for zow bing. As readers of this blog know, from time to time I'll make a batch of yeasted bread dough and leave it in a large container in the refrigerator for a few days, just taking out and cooking what I need each time I want bread. What kind of dough? Any kind, so long as it's yeasted (unyeasted dough like chapatti or wheat tortilla dough tends to go off after a day or two). Use your favourite recipe. This is a half white, half whole wheat mix, but I've used all whole wheat and all white, and it's all good. The dough sours over time in a nice way.

If you were making zow bing the way Madhur Jaffrey's recipe advises, you would mix a cup of white flour with enough water to make a supple dough.

Then roll it out flat into a long rectangle, brush it with a mild-tasting vegetable oil, and sprinkle on finely chopped green onions and a little salt:
Roll the rectangle up like a jelly roll, cut it into three or four long pieces, and roll the pieces together into spirals. There are a hundred ways to shape flatbread, and this one gives a relatively coarse, messy shape:

Flatten the pieces, roll them out again into rough circles, and fry them in a skillet coated with canola or peanut oil to cover. Zow bing is a fried bread, not a relatively dry bread like a pita. Even the next day, this picture almost makes me want to cry:

The lentils were good too, a plain, simple, and delicious preparation I'll give the recipe for:

Lentils with onions, garlic, and spinach
Serves 2

1 medium onion, cut into long strips or rings
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup green lentils, picked over and washed
2 cups chopped spinach, packed
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When hot, add the onion and garlic and stir fry until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the lentils and 3 cups of water, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the lentils are just tender, about 25 minutes. Now add the spinach, cumin, and about 1 tsp salt and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted. Test for salt, and add pepper to taste. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. This will keep well for a few days in the refrigerator.