Friday, December 31, 2010
Fruity chile slaw with creamy ancho chile dressing
Venezuelan-style black beans (Caraotas)
Homemade soft corn tortillas
Pan-grilled vegetables in chile-lime beer
Creamy avocado-tomato salsa
What a feast! New Year's Eve is traditionally a time in my family when we don't get together. We are close and we've had at least five events in the last week or so, which is one reason I haven't been posting over the holidays: I haven't had to cook. Wah, in our family of mostly adults, even though I am old enough to be a grandma, I am still considered a child! Mom does the cooking and I'm sometimes allowed to help with the side dishes. So anyway, we're early-to-bed-early-to-risers, and we don't watch the apple drop or whatever. We're all in bed by nine, up bright and early on January 1 to start the new year off right. Which is to say, well-rested and sober. The remainder of the year I can't vouch for, but January 1 is pretty predictable.
So, Viva Vegan. Maybe most of you already have copies, but I just got mine today so I'm all excited. Terry Hope Romano has an enthusiastic and cheerful writing style that I quite enjoy, and the recipes are full of ingredients and techniques I haven't yet tried. Here's one, sofrito. There's a recipe for it over here if you want to try it (not Terry's, but similar). Basically what this is is caramelized onions, with garlic and green peppers and sometimes other ingredients, that you cook ahead of time and can then store in the refrigerator or freezer for use in, for instance, bean dishes, like the Venezuelan-style black beans. The picture at the top of this post is one-half of the recipe in Viva Vegan. As you can see, it fills up a regular-sized cast iron skillet, so to make the whole recipe, either you would need a very large skillet, or more than one. You cook it down until it turns into this:
The green peppers keep it from totally stinking up the kitchen as it cooks for about 40 minutes in total. I made mine con Aji (with hot peppers). I only needed half a cup of it for the recipe, but am trusting the remainder will come in handy very soon. For the beans, the recipe only gives instructions for cooking them from dry, but I had cooked black beans in the freezer, so...
...add to the thawed black beans some sofrito, tomatoes (in this case the best tomato I had was a yellow one so I used that), cumin, salt, and pepper. Add a little water to lubricate the dish and cook on low until done to your liking. This was pretty quick for me, but it's okay to leave it on warm for a while. So good! I've been craving beans during this (for me) vegetables-only-with-a-little-tofu-on-the-side holiday season.
Same thing, stirred up and pretty:
Next up, the Pan-grilled vegetables in chile-lime beer. In this case, the "vegetables" are mo qua, which isn't exactly Latin, though it could be; here it is, having marinated five minutes in its delectable beer sauce and now being pan-grilled:
Here's my second attempt at corn tortillas. My first one, a long time ago, was such a dismal failure I didn't ever bother trying again until now and have had a bag of masa harina in my freezer for time out of mind as a result. Not too bad...but I still think I prefer wheat tortillas, taste-wise, though these are certainly very easy.
And finally, the whole meal all together on one plate:
Yeah, so one of my resolutions is to try very hard to keep to one or two servings...in this case (it's not even the new year, I know, I know!) I wish I hadn't bothered and could have three or four helpings of this!
Happy new year, everyone!
Thursday, December 30, 2010
The leaves taste nothing like curry powder, but they are a frequent ingredient in many curry mixes, so I'm assuming that's where it got the name. This leaf and all the ones you'll see in this post were purchased fresh about a month ago and have been in my freezer ever since. They freeze pretty well! The leaves have a strong, very pleasant, popcorny scent. Usually when they're sold fresh they're packaged in largish bundles with their twigs attached. I've made several recipes with them and they are seriously wonderful, worth seeking out.
This is another dish from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. The recipe is over here and I'm reproducing it (in half quantities, the way I made it). I always feel a little funny when I do this and hope that cookbook authors do not mind. World Vegetarian has very few pictures, and this really is a form of advertising for a superb cookbook that my pictures (I hope) may help make less challenging and encourage others to purchase it.
You actually start by making a curry powder, with curry leaves, and then there are more curry leaves in the dish itself.
Sri Lankan raw curry powder
from World Vegetarian
makes 1/2 cup
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 1/2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1 tbsp whole fenugreek seeds
3 whole sprigs fresh curry leaves (about 60) or small handful of dried leaves
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 1/2 tsp raw rice (I used jasmine, which was great)
1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
Spread all the spices, leaves, coconut, rice grains etc. on a tray and put them in a 150F oven for 1 hour (mine took about half that in a toaster oven; I brought them out when the coconut began to brown).
Cool. Transfer to a clean coffee grinder or other spice grinder and grind as finely as possible. Store in a tightly lidded jar away from heat and sunlight.
Many of the curry powder mixes you can buy contain some ingredient (I believe star anise) that I have a real aversion to. This is a different kind of curry powder with milder, more savory flavours, and no turmeric, for instance, so it won't colour the dishes you use it in.
Now for the curry itself:
Green bean and potato curry
from World Vegetarian
1 medium potatao (about 1/4 lb), peeled and cut in 3/4 inch dice
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
8 fresh curry leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or red onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 or 2 fresh hot green chiles, cut crosswise into fine rings
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (or smaller) on the slant
2 tsp Sir Lankan raw curry powder
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 2-inch stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Put the potatoes in a medium pot with enough water to cover and 1/4 tsp turmeric. Bring to a boil, cover partially and reduce heat and cook until potatoes are nearly done but retain their shape. Drain. The turmeric turns the potato pieces a lovely bright yellow:
Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, heat canola oil and when hot add the curry leaves, cook for 10 seconds, then add the shallots, garlic, ginger, and green chiles.
Saute for two or three minutes, then put in the green beans and saute for another minute.
Add the curry powder and stir. Add the coconut milk, 1/2 cup of water, the remaining 1/4 tsp turmeric, the cinnamon stick, salt, and the potatoes:
Cover, turn the heat down to low, and cook about 15 minutes, or until the beans are just tender. Add the lime juice and stir it in:
You're done. This is a very pleasant, mild curry. You could make it without the curry leaves and it would still taste good, but you'd be missing out on the dish's special taste (by the way, the curry leaves can be eaten whole and do not need to be picked out like bay leaves).
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Everything shown in this post is from World Vegetarian. Although I found it frustrating at first, in my current phase of experimentation with different global cuisines I'm liking its arrangement by ingredient rather than by ethnicity. The bandora m'li recipe, for instance, is bracketed by a tomato sambal from Sri Lanka and a Greek-ish recipe for tomatoes stuffed with lentils and rice. How I now work with it is to initially pick an "anchor" recipe based on an ingredient I want to use, in this case tomatoes, then figure that's Middle Eastern and I'd also like to have beans, so I flip through the beans section until I find a Mediterranean-type dish that sounds likely, and then finally ask myself what would go well with all that, and pick a third thing. I.e., you have to stay focussed: with over 650 recipes, it's easy to get lost in this book. In this case, all three of the recipes I chose were linked together by the author herself through header notes, which made my researches easier.
The recipe for the bandora m'li has been posted here (reprinted with permission), complete with header notes, so I'll reproduce it.
from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
2 medium tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
5 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and well crushed
1/2 to 1 tsp very finely chopped fresh hot green chile
3/4 cup canned tomato juice (I used ground canned tomatoes with their liquid)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
[A note on freezing: the mise-en-place at the beginning of this post shows some of the ingredients, including parsley, which is frozen. I'm generally cooking for one, and usually have to buy far more of a thing than I can use right away, so I freeze nearly everything that can be frozen. Parsley and cilantro freeze extremely well, as do most of the Asian herbs I've been experimenting with, like curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal. Basil and Thai basil, not so much, unfortunately. So if you see some of these things and want to try them but are afraid of waste, don't be. Just cut them up fine and place them in sealed containers in the freezer and they will wait for you.]
Take skin-thin slices off the very top and bottoms of the tomatoes and discard them. Cut the tomatoes crosswise into 3 slices each. Lightly salt and pepper the slices on both sides.
|The tomato slices as they go into the pan|
|Flip them after a minute|
|I was still kind of unsure about the whole thing...|
|...but I got over that...|
Or you can do what I did and tip everything into a bowl and mix it all up for maximum messy scoopability:
This is truly one of those meals that you practically inhale it's so good, then wonder where all the leftovers are.
Monday, December 20, 2010
This stuff hasn't taken very long to grow on me, after the initial surprise of it. I get the "comfort food" thing. Here's a more traditional recipe, based on this one, for fermented bean curd in a stir fry:
Chinese squash with fermented bean curd sauce
1/4 lb silk squash (loofah) or winter melon (I used fuzzy melon, mo qua, and zucchini would also be fine)
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red finger-length chili, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 square of fermented bean curd
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp water
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 spring onion, cut into lengths, to garnish
Peel the squash or winter melon (or don't, if you're using a thin-skinned squash), remove the seeds, and cut into large chunks lengthwise.
Combine all the sauce ingredients, stirring to break up the bean curd, then set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok until smoking and stir-fry the garlic, ginger and chili for 30 seconds.
Add the squash or winter melon, stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, and stir in the sauce. Cover; reduce the heat to low, and cook until soft, 4 or 5 minutes.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the squash, stir well, cover, and cook 1 more minute for the sauce to thicken. Garnish with the spring onions.
You don't really taste the fermented bean curd as such, but it gives a pleasant sour-ish depth of flavour and complexity to the dish. I liked the effect, and will certainly be trying more recipes with this ingredient.
The squash was served with a simple sweet and sour stirfry, along with some experimental seitan meatballs which were quite good but my recipe for those is not quite yet The One.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
|When you just can't go...|
Anyway, I ended up having some time, and since one of the things this kitty loves to do is lie on my lap while I read, I got out The Artful Vegan this morning, pre-vet, and began perusing. With this book, I--and I know many others as well--have kind of a love/hate relationship. I love to read the recipes, but hate to make them. They're inspiring, but (often, apparently) untested, faulty, missing steps and ingredients. Sometimes, for instance with the Non-macho cornbread on page 218, they're totally impossible. No doubt the meals at the restaurant are to die for because the people who make them are excellent chefs, but too often the recipes in this book let the home cook down. The upshot is that I don't quite trust them, but they still fascinate me. I've never yet made an entire "page" from the book because I've never had all the ingredients for a page together in one place...and my kitchen is pathologically well-stocked. So I've given up making the recipes as is, and I now take a more relaxed approach and use them as guidelines, and also mix and match pieces of pages, which is what I was doing today.
I do want to feature a new ingredient, which is: fermented bean curd. This is part of the "Gruyere-style tofu cheese" described in the recipe header on page 42 as "cashew 'Gruyere'"--confusingly, since there are no cashews in it. This is, unfortunately, typical of The Artful Vegan. Is there some version of this recipe somewhere in the Millennium Past that has cashews? I don't know. Maybe. Cashews would probably be good in it, but the recipe doesn't actually call for them.
Anyway, the header notes say that fermented bean curd is "an excellent source of what we call 'funk'--that bizarre, musty flavor associated with ripe cheese or anchovies..." Well, okay, and I was also interested, since this is a Chinese product, in how it is used in Chinese cooking. So I took a little field trip to the oriental market. This is a popular item! It comes in all kinds of flavors, but this is the plain kind:
There were two ingredient lists, and the difference to English-speakers has to do with translation of the word "liquor". I think from the taste and texture of this that "cooking rice liquor"--i.e., the liquid in which rice has been boiled--would be about right. I don't think there's any alcohol in this. Anyway, this is the colourful jar it comes in. The fermented bean curd is in cubes that look deceptively like cubes of tofu, which is no doubt what they once were:
But, my friends, learn from me and please don't make the mistake of trying to eat one! This stuff is disgusting! Okay, disgusting in a good way, but all the same it is not meant for human consumption as is. For one thing, it is slimy. I mean sssssllllliiiimmmmyyyyy. It's slime in cube form. There's nothing tofu-like about the texture at all. And it's bathed in an almost equally slimy sauce (or "liquor"). Just don't. It's an ingredient, not a food. But having taken that unwise step, what does it taste like? Well, kind of like miso gone off (as I would imagine; in real life miso never does seem to go off). Kind of like blue cheese, that kind of momentarily breath-stopping taste-smell. Not exactly cheesy but punky, and very strong. To call this "Chinese cheese" as some do is very misleading, like calling nutritional yeast "vegan cheese" because it has a taste vaguely reminiscent of some aspects of cheese. It's stinky, but not as stinky as kimchi. It belongs in that type of fermented family, though. And it is fermented. The lid gave a little pop when I took it off, and the whole jar was wrapped up tight in two layers of plastic when I bought it to keep the contents from escaping. In Chinese cooking, it is used like garlic and ginger, to flavour stir fries and so on (I will be trying this soon and will let you know how it goes).
So the tofu Gruyere. Here are the ingredients:
Firm tofu, umeboshi plum vinegar, white miso, nutritional yeast, fermented bean curd. Put them all in a food processor (not a blender, for God's sake) and process for 6-10 minutes. The recipe isn't kidding. That's how long it takes for this stuff to become "creamy." But actually, after many minutes, it does:
This was a day of experimentin', and I wasn't sure what this would be like. What it's like is a savory ricotta. The original recipe calls for it to be layered with potatoes, which actually Liz has done over on Cooking the Vegan Books, so check out her story and pictures if you like. I had other potato-related experiments to get on with, so I made it into stuffing for a little sweet red pepper. Taste and texture-wise it was okay, but not stupendous, not better than the offerings of, say, Bryanna Clark Grogan or Joanne Stepaniuk. It certainly had no resemblance to what I remember of Gruyere. I was tempted to chuck in another cube of fermented tofu, but refrained this first time.
Next up in my experimental day, potato gnocchi with urad flour. This is not in The Artful Vegan as such, though there is a recipe in there for potato gnocchi. This is what I did:
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1/2 cup unbleached flour
3 tbsp urad flour
1/2 tsp salt
Peel the potatoes and chop them into large pieces. Steam them until just tender, then mash with the other ingredients:
Mix well, and knead a few times. My mixture was still very soft and sticky, but I was relying on the urad flour to keep it together. Roll a piece out into a snake about 1 inch in diameter, then cut half-inch slices off the snake. Pinch the slices in the middle to make a gnocchi shape:
Put the gnocchi on a floured board or cookie sheet and freeze for at least an hour:
|This recipe makes two sheets' worth|
Now to finish them off, heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick pan, and, when hot, add a clove of minced garlic. Fry for 30 seconds, then add half the gnocchi and cook on medium-high heat until they begin to brown. My recipe wasn't a total success, but hey, this wasn't a total failure either:
Even the first batch, which was an admitted failure because I left the gnocchi boiling a few seconds too long, wasn't total. I can hardly wait to finish this off for lunch tomorrow. In fact, yeah, I can see myself doing this again just to get:
What I finally ate:
The gnocchi, the "Gruyere"-stuffed pepper, a little zucchini stir fry that was more or less okay, some cilantro pesto that was decent but not fantastic (both also from TAV)...I'm still about 50-50 conflicted over The Artful Vegan. And when a book is that pretentious, that's not good.
But on the other hand, my lunch is never this cute...all my plates should have these little dividers...
Mayan Soy Curls with spicy orange paste
3/4 cup dry Soy Curls
1/2 tsp broth powder
1 tbsp anchiote (annatto) oil or 1 tsp annatto seeds + 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup bitter orange juice (or 2 tbsp orange juice mixed with 2 tbsp grapefruit juice)
2 tsp finely minced scotch bonnet or habanero peppers
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cornstarch + 1/4 cup cold water (optional)
First, place your Soy Curls in a container and cover them with hot water. Stir in the broth powder, and leave them to reconstitute for about 10 minutes or until they're soft, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
If you are making your own annatto oil, you need to heat the annatto seeds in the oil for a few minutes, then strain off the oil. Instructions are here if you need them.
Mix all of the remaining ingredients together in a measuring cup, and add the annatto oil:
Stir it all up to make the marinade/cooking sauce:
Now drain the reconstituted Soy Curls, and squeeze out as much water as you easily can. They should be spongy but not dry. One of the great advantages that Soy Curls have over, say, chicken, is that they are so spongy, and, like sponges, almost instantly absorb the sauces they're marinated in.
Pour all the sauce over the drained Soy Curls in a bowl and stir to mix. All or almost all of the sauce should be absorbed:
Once that happens, and it should take just seconds, there's no reason to marinate it any longer, and it can go right into a hot non-stick frying pan. Stir and fry until the Soy Curl mixture is beginning to brown, about five minutes. The color of the annatto oil will come out and the dish will turn beautifully orange:
At this point the recipe is technically done, but since the curls seemed a bit dry, I mixed 1 tsp of cornstarch into 1/4 cup cold water and poured it over. The result was a beautiful lacquered glaze that I would recommend:
And serve immediately. I had it with a light vegetable stir fry, jasmine rice, and sliced avocado, and it was great: tart and hot and spicy all at once. This method of cooking meat substitutes or tofu, braised or stir-fried in small pieces with highly-flavoured sauces, is perfect for vegans and is freeing me to explore a whole world of omni recipes that I wouldn't even have looked at before. I'm looking now, though...
Saturday, December 11, 2010
So welcome to perhaps the best seitan you'll ever eat!
How did it begin? Well, it began with me trying to replicate the texture of the (to me) extraordinarly beautiful commercial seitan "duck" recently featured on the Post Punk Kitchen. Total failure.
However, I did manage to turn it around. I've been doing a series of experiments lately with my new miracle additive, urad flour, and I wondered what would happen if I added it to seitan. I incorporated it into kimchi pancakes this morning and it was, I have to admit, brilliant, but I didn't take any pictures so that post will have to wait. My seitan experiment today was:
1 cup gluten flour
3 tbsp urad flour
1 tbsp rice flour
with enough cold water to form into a ball
This turned out to be a lucky mix, and I wound up with a seitan that was very, very white, and I've been looking for a white seitan recipe (to sub for chicken) for some time. Seitan with these additional ingredients was not rubbery at all, but just firm yet tender. It also has no taste, so this is a recipe you want to use in a highly-spiced marinated and/or braised dish, and not, for example, as cutlets. I cut the ball of seitan into thin slices and pulled them into pieces, like this:
Boil those pieces for five minutes, and they turn into this:
Ooh, still so white! Encouraged, I looked around for recipes that would take advantage of this no-colour bonus, and lucked out. Vegan friends, if you make just one seitan recipe this year, it should be this one. I promise you, you won't be disappointed!
1/2 lb white seitan (of the kind shown above; the seitan recipe above will make about three times as much as you'll need for this recipe)
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sake
1 green onion, finely minced
1 1/2 tsp ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, put through a press
1 tbsp cornstarch
oil for shallow frying
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp cornstarch
Place the cooked seitan in a bowl, and add all of the ingredients listed in the first batch up to and including garlic. Mix, and set aside to marinate while you prepare the rest of your meal.
And serve immediately. Lemon seitan. So good it's practically candy.
I served it with a Burmese salad from The Asian Vegan Kitchen, except that I didn't have most of the salad ingredients and ended up putting the dressing over sliced avocado and tomato and grated cucumber. It was awesome too, but I don't want to overwhelm my readers with awesomeness, so that will have to wait for another day. Suffice it to say that this altogether made a perfect meal and I can't imagine there could be anyone out there who wouldn't have relished it as much as I did. Bon appetit!