Saturday, December 31, 2011

Green bean salsa

Actually, this is a vegan take on the Thai salad called som tam--or rather, the dressing for that salad, which is supposed to be served with shredded green papaya.  I didn't have any papaya, but I wanted to try the dressing anyway because of its peculiar (to me) use of raw green beans as an ingredient.  Here you see all the ingredients for the dressing, which are:

4-6 green chilis (depending on the heat of your chilis and how hot you like your dressing)
2 cloves garlic
1 cup (100g) green beans
3 tbsp tamarind paste or lemon or lime juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp roasted peanuts
2 medium tomatoes.

All you do is coarsely chop the chilis and garlic and blend them up in a food processor:

Add all the other ingredients except the tomatoes:

And, finally, add the tomatoes and process.  My recipe didn't specify what the texture of the final result should be, so I left it a little chunky.  It made about two cups:

Now, this stuff is really good--the green beans add a very unexpectedly nice freshness that is complimented by the acid from the tamarind and the tomatoes--but it didn't scream salad dressing to me.  What it really tastes like is salsa.  Nevertheless, I had it for lunch in a salad of shredded vegetables and shirataki noodles.  This whole giant bowl of salad, including the dressing, has about 100 calories:

When you stir it all together, the shiritaki noodles take on a lovely colour from the beets:
...and it was quite good, and very filling if you eat enough of it.  I did eat enough of it and was ready for a little less raw roughage for supper, so I made a thick soup out of some of the vegetables I had around.

Here you see Step 1, onions, garlic, mushrooms, parsnip, thyme, marjoram, and fennel seed sauteed in a little peanut oil:

Stir fry these until they begin to be tender.  Step 2 is the addition of savoy cabbage:

...then bean stock and water, some vegetable broth powder, kabocha squash, lima beans, and 2 tbsp brown bulgur wheat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the bulgur and vegetables are tender (the lima beans fell apart and gave this stew its substance):

And I added some of the som tam dressing as a topping.  This is where it belongs, at least in my kitchen!  This soup was stupendous, a little over 400 calories for the whole thing (two really big bowls).  In fact, it was so good I think I'll make another variation on it tomorrow...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

After the fall...

Happy holidays, everyone.  While it's delightful to get together with family and friends, there's something about waking up on Boxing Day after an extra long weekend of festive fun, games, and overindulgence in food and drink that makes one feel...well, seedy and heavy and just wanting to curl up in the dark under blankets for another hour or ten.

Live alone & can do whatever I want, did that, rejuvenated myself with the help of the gym and the steam room, long walks, couch, quilts, cats, William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal and Anita Amirrezvani's The Blood of Flowers in audio form beautifully narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo (the actress who played the wife in the movie House of Sand and Fog) now I don't feel seedy anymore, but I sure do feel heavy.  In fact, this whole last month or two have been a slippery slide into bad old habits.  So before I slide any further, I'm taking the opportunity of The End of Holidays to recoup a weight gain of several pounds, but I know a lot more than I did last year and instead of just disappearing for a few weeks thought I'd share what works for me in the way of strategies and actual dishes, in case any of my readers is interested...and of course you all are

Early last year I lost about 30 pounds and have, mostly, kept it off since then, which is my sole credential for giving dieting advice.  Over time, I've learned a few more tricks for losing weight and keeping it off, and this is what I do:

Apart from the obvious (count calories, exercise, ahem, eat less):

1.  Don't go too fast.  I did, because I wanted to "get the weight off and worry about maintaining later," which is all very well, except that it all seemed to come off my arms and bust which were not huge to begin with and not the hips and thighs I was targeting, so I ended up losing all the weight I wanted to and still looking embarrassingly freakish, because I lost muscle too, to the point where even though I was "thin" I didn't look or feel all that great for another few months until it all balanced out.  I would have been better off just going more slowly and steadily, which is how I do it now.

2.  Have fun!  Can dieting be fun?  Sure.  Cooking diet food is like learning to cook vegan, disconcerting at first until you get into it.  Try new vegetables, go out and buy different teas and finally learn the difference between gunpowder and oolong, slim down your favorite recipes or experiment with dishes and techniques from other cultures.  Exercise?  Is it ever fun when you're not a jock?  Not really into music/can't work out to Stravinski and Wagner isn't your thing/heard your favorite tunes so many times they make your head ache?  I listen to audiobooks at the gym and that sweetens it for me.

3.  While you're losing, cut out all simple sugars and starches.  This means white bread, white pasta, white rice, alcoholic beverages, any kind of actual sugar.  Not only are these foods fattening without a whole lot of nutrition, they magically make you ravenously hungry no matter how much of them you eat.  How many pierogies can you eat?  Have you ever had enough?  Lasagne, anyone?  To more or less quote Louis J. Aronne in The Skinny on How to Lose Weight Without Being Hungry (who gives the science for all this) why do you think restaurants offer  free bread before you order?  So you'll fill up right away and order less?  Somehow it doesn't work that way.  And a drink before dinner is guaranteed to turn me into an unstoppable Eating Thing.  The hardest thing about dieting for me, by far, is to refrain from drinking wine while I cook.  If you must consume these items, consume them with or after other foods.

4.  Weigh or measure high calorie foods like grains, potatoes, beans, tofu, seitan, and oil, but don't skimp on vegetables, herbs, spices, or flavorings.  Some dieters consider vegetables "free"--I don't, I count them, but on the whole you can eat an awful lot of food if most of it is veggies.  The whole big pot of deliciousness shown at the beginning of this post contains about 400 calories, and it includes 85 grams/160 calories of surprisingly high-calorie commercial "flavoured" tofu that I happened to have in the fridge and needed to use up.

5.  Unsweetened almond milk has only 35 calories per cup and it's actually pretty tasty.

6.  Shirataki noodles.  They take a bit of getting used to, but give them a chance.  I love them.  I eat them often even when I'm not reducing.

7.  Apples have a low glycemic index rating.  This means that even though they're sweet they don't have the evil enravening magic of white bread.

8.  You can eat peanuts and not gain weight!  I've actually found this to be true by eating a lot of peanuts.  Really a lot of peanuts, okay, you'll gain, but even then, not as much as you might think.  It's a scientific fact (go on, google it) but no one really knows why this is.  Plus, they do fill you up.  Even a tablespoon of peanut butter in your morning (whole grain, not instant) oatmeal will keep you going for hours.

9.  Go ahead and fry in a small amount of sesame oil.  It's not against the law or anything.  Sesame oil isn't just for drizzling.

10.  Give yourself twenty minutes after eating before you do the dishes or put away the leftovers.  Just walk away and do something else for a little while.

This is one of the simplest lo-cal dishes to make, and one of my favorites.  It's so versatile it doesn't require a recipe, it's quick, it's tasty, and best of all, you can pretty much eat as much as you can stuff into yourself, guilt-free.  For the oriental version, just fry some onion in a teaspoon of sesame oil, add garlic and ginger and hot pepper, and when the garlic is fragrant, add vegetable broth (or just water and a bit of soy sauce) and, one at a time, longest-cooking first so they're all done together, whatever vegetables you like, as well as a protein item such as tofu, beans, seitan, Soy Curls.  Here you see turnip, celery, oyster and shimeji mushrooms, kabocha squash, Brussels sprouts, tofu, green onions, and cilantro.  Served over shirataki noodles (cooked separately), of course.  Fresh and pretty now, it will be gross tomorrow, so either eat it all today, or, if there are leftovers, you can do what my Grandma Dee always did and give them new life by pureeing them with a little [soy or other vegan] milk and reheating them as a cream soup.

What do you do to recover from the effects of your holiday festivities?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Two great stews

As readers of this blog may know, I've been in a Middle Eastern food phase.  Beans are frequent players in peasant and street dishes throughout the Middle East, and I've been eating a lot of them lately.

I've also learned something recently that was sort of shrouded in confusion for me in the past, and that is that you don't have to soak your beans before you cook them.  Half the people on earth probably don't soak their beans, but I always did, thinking in a vague way that the soaking water ("Never, never cook your beans in the soaking water," how many times have you read that?) was mildly poisonous or something, that beans would remain tough in the centre if you just tossed them into boiling water, that precious enzymes would not develop if the beans weren't allowed to soak overnight.  Bryanna Clark Grogan has an enlightening discussion on this topic in her World Vegan Feast, and comes to the conclusion that there are a lot of different ways to cook beans, but soaking is totally optional.  I've been playing with this novel concept of not soaking, and as usual she's right.  So far I have not been poisoned or blown up with gas: my beans take a little longer to cook, but that's it.  Not even that much longer, to be perfectly honest.

How liberating to know that you can cook with bean mixes like the one shown above with impunity.  Because you can't soak these bean mixes overnight as they contain red lentils and barley and split peas, which will decompose in the soaking water.  (Then why do they sell them like that?  The whole issue, as I say, has been a snarl of contradictions for me, which I am happy to have finally unraveled.)

This particular bean mix is a mixture of mixes, kind of a button box of beans where I put odds and ends and trouble beans like those innocent-looking white kidney beans that would not soften no matter how long I soaked them, cooked them, etc.  I had been reduced to picking them out of cooked dishes in the past but, frugal as I am, didn't actually throw them out, thinking that one day I would find a way to make them as tender and tasty as other beans...and I have.  The slow cooker will do it.

I had the day off work and a million things to do and no time to hang about the kitchen watching pots, so I washed two cups from the bean box and put them into the slow cooker on high while I shopped, cleaned house, went for a long walk, wrapped Christmas presents, and completed all the 999,996 other urgent missions on my list.

After a few hours, when the beans were tender--even the white ones, to my joy--I [took some out to freeze for another day and] fried up onions, garlic, eggplant, sweet pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, and pepper:

and added that to the slow cooker, along with tomatoes, some kabocha squash, chopped parsnip, and a handful of dried apricots and prunes:

This soup is loosely based on the Iranian bean and vegetable soup in Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, in which she remarks that "It is the type of soup you will find in the bazaar at the earliest hours of the morning, dished out for breakfast from huge cauldrons in which a sheep's head and feet have given their special richness, and where all the vegetables in season find their place."  I skipped the sheep parts and added some additional broth powder, swapped TVP for the ground meat in the recipe, and, near the end, added a dusting of bulgur to thicken it, which it didn't really need, I just wanted to try it.  In fact, I just kept adding bits of this and that until the slow cooker was full, went off to do some more errands, and by suppertime it was a great big slow cooker full of fragrant flavour.  The eggplant, kabocha, tomatoes, and most of the beans melted into silky nothingness, the dried fruits were plump and sweet and wonderful...mmmm...

So what I did with it was take as much out as I wanted to eat that day and put it in a little pot and wilted in some spinach and cilantro, topped it with red onions and tofu yogurt, and it was one lovely meal, ready in only 12 hours from start to finish:

What to do with the other five quarts or so?  Well, I froze most of it in batches, but saved some in the fridge.  Ms. Roden further remarks that "In Iran it is served with bread and bunches of fresh herbs such as cress, mint, cilantro, and also scallions, radishes, and pickles."  Doesn't that sound good?  Language like that I find intoxicating and I was looking forward to mixing and matching all those lovely fresh ingredients with the stew (leftovers, yes, but you can do something different with them every time).

So last night I got home late, and had planned just to have the stew again, maybe with scallions, etc., this time, but looking for a salad recipe in another book, was struck with cyclonic force by a recipe that is going to change my culinary life, the Pumpkin and sweet potato stew from a book called The Food of Morocco, one of those big picture books they sell in Chapters/Indigo ("recipes by Tess Mallos" in tiny little white letters practically dissolved in the photograph of a silver serving dish behind them--not even on the cover but on the inside title page, and the name of Jane Lawson, the supposed author according to Amazon, doesn't appear anywhere at all--what's the deal with that, anyway?  Most of the books in this series don't actually even have authors, though the recipes and the writing in general are in my opinion both good, and the pictures are superb).

Anyway, my lord!  The recipe is here--this is pretty much the exact recipe, except that mine doesn't call for saffron or give the option of ground cinnamon (don't use ground cinnamon, it will muddy the look of the dish).  Using cooking pumpkin or butternut squash would likely give a more chunky stew, as kabocha tends to melt under any kind of heat, but kabocha is so...absolutely...wonderful...sweet and melt-in-your-mouth buttery may have noticed I've been putting it into everything lately.  It's my favorite food so I'm sure it's a superfood ;-)

Start with browning onions in a large pot.  If, like me, you pour the oil off the top of your jar of peanut butter rather than stirring it in, this is an ideal time to bring out that roasted peanut oil.  You don't need much, but it adds a perceptible layer of flavour to the stew.  When the onions begin to turn golden, add garlic, ground ginger, turmeric, a cinnamon stick, harissa or cayenne, the chopped sweet potatoes and squash, and a handful of raisins.  I did not add any sweetener--the dish was sweet enough without it.

Then you just cook it down, which takes about 15 minutes:

Words just don't do justice to how good this is.  You can't stop eating it, and what a colour!  It's like a bowl of sunshine.  Most definitely something to serve on the winter solstice if you celebrate it (and if you don't, you should start, just so you can serve this stew).  I cooked the kabocha with the skin on, but you don't have to, and of course if you're using another kind of squash that might not be practical.  I really wouldn't have thought of combining orange squash with sweet potatoes, but the mixture is peculiarly divine, and the raisins add sweetness and a tangy, tart edge, and it's hot from the harissa too...sigh...maybe I'll have it again tonight...

Continuing the sunny theme, I served it with some sauteed peppers and red onions with fennel seed that I saw Michael Smith do on the Food Network (monkey see, monkey do, especially when the monkey sees it at the gym in a state of semi-starvation):

The whole meal?  Why, it looks a lot like most of my other meals, a big colorful mess...

In this case, the parts are greater than the whole, at least visually, but where is it written that you can't serve two stews in the same meal?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meatballs with eggplant sauce + rice pilaf with bok choy + tomato-chili salsa

Eggplant sauce as a concept used to seem odd to me, not quite right somehow, until I reflected how delicious creamy, falling-apart-tender eggplant is in stews and don't need a recipe to make an eggplant sauce that can be served with pasta, as a bed for steamed or roasted vegetables, or, as in this case, as a warm bath for spicy vegan meatballs.

The whole key to a great eggplant sauce is grilling or roasting the eggplant properly, if in the oven on the highest shelf under the broiler, turning at least twice, until the skin is blackened pretty much all over and the inside is squishy-soft.  This would be even better grilled over an open flame, but we don't have one of those here at The Airy Way.

Take it out, let it cool (you can store it in the fridge for later use if you want), and when you're ready, slice it open and scrape out the soft insides.  Here's where the flavour is, in that lovely caramelized white flesh:

You can chop the flesh if you like your eggplant sauce chunky, but I wanted mine to be relatively smooth, so I put in in a bowl and processed it for a few seconds with an immersion blender.  While I was at it, I did the same with my peeled tomatoes:

Yes, you can leave the sticker on, so long as you peel them in the end!

Canned tomatoes would work fine in this recipe, and be easier, but my free fridge space is limited for the leftovers and I did have these nice ripe fresh ones.  For a sauce like this, you really do want to peel them.  This is easiest if you just cut a shallow cross into their bottoms, drop them (carefully!) into a pot of boiling water, and boil them for a minute or so until the skin starts to peel back.  Drain, cool a little, and then the skin comes right off. 

To make the sauce, start with sweating half an onion, finely chopped, in a frying pan with a little oil.  Once the onion is translucent, add some minced garlic to taste.  I like garlic, so I added two big cloves:

When the garlic is fragrant, pour in the tomato puree:

Season with salt and pepper, and let it reduce a bit, then add the pureed eggplant:

Everything's already cooked at this point, so all you're doing is heating it to let the flavours meld and to reduce to the texture you want.  Once that's been achieved, you can add your meatballs:

Hmm, there really are meatballs in there...
Gluten-based meatballs, the kind you steam, are pretty robust and can stand some simmering, but the TVP based meatballs I've been experimenting with lately are delicate and should only be warmed up very briefly in the sauce, unless you want them to fall apart, in which case you'll end up with an eggplant-TVP sauce, also good ;-)  I used this latter type, from the freezer, which were very spicy, one reason why I didn't add much seasoning to the eggplant sauce.

Mmm, served here with a rice pilaf, a sort of spanikorizo made with Shanghai bok choy rather than spinach and cooked in vegetable broth on the advice of my aunt Katee, who is an expert at this dish.  The bok choy adds a buttery flavour and retains a little crunch.  Also seen here is an easy and very fiery salsa made with chopped tomatoes, red onions, turmeric, one powerful fresh red chili, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice.

Some meals are best savoured in little bites of one item at a time.  And some, like this one, are best in a state of entropy:

Monday, December 5, 2011

20-minute Monday - (Vegan) eggs in purgatory, deconstructed

Delicious, single-serving comfort-type food that really did come together in 20 minutes, from scratch.  This is the vegan poached egg, but instead of trying to make it into any kind of egg shape, I tore the microwaved tofu into pieces and poached it for just a few minutes in a very fresh tomato sauce (just raw canned tomatoes whizzed together with an immersion blender with some garlic, salt, and pepper--add olive oil if you're not serving it with a rich additional sauce like my egg yolk-- heated for a few minutes in a little pot).  The yolk part I made separately and drizzled onto the finished dish.  Served on jasmine rice with a side of fried mushrooms and garlic, the whole thing sprinkled with black salt. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

30-minute Thursday: Quinoa bowl with root vegetables

I was wanting something light and plain as well as fast, and this was perfect.  A bowl of quinoa with steamed baby potatoes, rutabagas, parsnip, cauliflower, green beans, black-eyed peas, topped with red onions, capers, and the Green goddess dressing from Appetite for Reduction.  Sometimes simple really is best.

Monday, November 28, 2011

20-minute Monday - Green split pea dal + braised carrots and parsnips, etc.

It was 20 minutes because I had the split peas pre-cooked, and although there would have been time to steam some plain rice, this fancy dish was leftover Shirini polow (sweet rice with carrots and orange peel) from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.  The rice recipe is similar to this one, and I used Soy Curls in place of the chicken, but next time I'll leave them out--the rice is superb on its own.

And for the green pea dal, I had one eye on this recipe from the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, but changed it around by having the dal pre-cooked, adding all the spices and whatnot with the tarka at the end, including an onion in the tarka, and leaving out the coconut milk.

There was all this wonderful spicy caramelized stuff left in the pan after the tarka, so I braised a little cabbage in it to take advantage of that.

And, finally, you see carrot and parsnip coins braised in a speck of Becel Vegan and the juice of a clementine.

Not exactly a one-pot meal, but it came together fast, I can say that ;-)  And it was very, very yummy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sultan's Delight

I have been having some seriously amazing food days lately.  This is partly due to the fact that I lost control recently and have bought a whole bunch of cookbooks, mainly omni cookbooks whose styles aren't at all what I've been used to cooking, so I'm in a veritable froth of eagerness to try every single recipe in every book, with various veganizing challenges to give spice to the process; and partly because I recently discovered a Middle Eastern grocery store within easy walking distance of my house.  When I lived in Montreal many years ago, my apartment was in the neighborhood called Outremont, at a sort of ethnic hub of Arabs, Hasidic Jews, North Africans, and Greeks.  The grocery shopping was heaven, but my favorite place by far was the Arab store.  This one in my Edmonton neighborhood now has been there for years, in a crappy little strip mall, and the reason I never went in before was that its name is Halal Meats.  So I figured it was a butcher shop.  And it partly is, but that part is tucked away out of sight at the back.  Recently the mall was bought by a big company that's been doing renovations, and Halal Meats for some reason has replaced whatever was in its windows before with giant appetizing pictures of vegetables and naturally that sucked me in like electromagnets.  And the name of the store is actually Halal Meats and Grocery.  And lo, inside is all kinds of wonderful stuff, plenty of which you'll be seeing on this blog in days to come.  Zatar, sumac, fereek, split hulled fava beans, Turkish "pale" style bulgar, oh my good lord!

And to top it all off, Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.  Once again, I have discovered the true cuisine of my heart!  Every single recipe makes me want to cry with joy when I read it, the way some of Blake's poetry does, or Shakespeare's.  And it's got stories, it's got explanations of ingredients, it's got medieval recipes and quotations from personal histories, it's got a bibliography, for pete's sake.  I love it.  Family, I want all of her other books for Christmas except the one on Spain, because I bought myself that one too--in fact it was the first one I bought, so enchanted by it in the bookstore I paid full price instead of waiting to get it discounted online.

A near-random picture of some clementines, to break up the monotony of all this text
Today's offering is the veganization of a Turkish dish called Hunkar begendi, which is in its omni form a lamb stew with a creamy eggplant bechamel.  There are large salad and vegetable sections in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, and I'll be cooking from them a lot, but today I wanted to spend time in the kitchen and make something special with ingredients I had in the fridge, and/or needed to use up and/or wanted to try, and picked this one mainly for the intriguing eggplant sauce.  I ended up following the recipe for the sauce but running more with my instincts for the stew.  The original recipe is pretty much exactly the one given here.  What I did for the stew was cook up the onion/garlic/tomato part (with some finely chopped mushrooms just because they were in the fridge and/or needed to be used up and/or I thought they would add a nice flavour), along with just a dusting of cumin, coriander, and nutmeg for spices, then adding large TVP chunks.  This was actually the first time I've ever cooked with the chunks, and I was pretty impressed.  Here's the stew shortly after tossing them in, in their dry unrehydrated state--like the TVP crumbles, you might as well just add them to what you're cooking so they can absorb those flavours:

And this was okay, but it was looking a little meh to me, so I added a big handful of red split lentils to thicken things up a bit and add more flavour.  I had to add quite a bit of water, a little at a time, and then ended up cooking it down into a wonderful silky softness:

Very, very tasty, and quite beautiful too, in its way.  You serve this on a bed of eggplant puree added to a thin bechamel flavoured with nutmeg and a little finely grated cheddar-type cashew cheese:

...and that may not sound superfantastic, but believe me, it was.  The only thing that kept me from scarfing down the entire potful was that I want to try it cold tomorrow.

The whole meal is shown at the top of this post: the stew on its bed of eggplant puree, roasted beets, a baked purple yam that I had no idea whatever would be purple inside until I cut it open after it was cooked but what a thrilling colour bonus, some steamed snap peas, a cucumber salad with mint, lemon juice, and orange flower water, and a cute little clementine. 

I have three pounds of clementines.  They were like kittens, too adorable and little and helpless to leave in the store.  Any ideas?  Seriously, especially for savory dishes...?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Whole wheat vegan spaetzel

...dare I say it...of genius?  Maybe I should just come out and say that urad flour has been very, very lucky for me.

So I'm at the gym after work, pounding out my cardio and feeling rather faint with hunger, so that I'm automatically translating into veganese anything I'm seeing on Food TV and wanting it all right now, and Michael Smith comes on and he's making a sort of pot roast and spaetzel to go with it.

Well, I veganized the pot roast in my mind instantaneously and have an idea for creating one of my own with okara seitan rolled around a Middle Eastern-style stuffing made with dried fruit, but as I don't get home from work until after 6:00 there wouldn't be time today.  The spaetzel, the time the bus ride was over I was practically running to get into the kitchen and put my plan into action.  Here's the recipe I used:

Whole wheat vegan spaetzel
serves 1

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp All-season blend (see sidebar; you could substitute plain nutritional yeast or black salt or a mixture of both)
1 tbsp urad flour
pinch nutmeg
enough soy milk to make a sticky, soft, but not runny batter

Have a big pot of salted water rapidly boiling.  Mix the ingredients together.  The batter should be soft enough not to hold its shape, but thick enough not to be actually dripping off the spoon.  There is probably an easier way to do this, but I did what Michael did, and forced batter with a wide spatula through the large holes in a grater from the inside.  The grater here is used just for its holes, not for grating anything.  You put a glob of batter into the grater and squish it out with the spatula into the boiling water.  In my kitchen, this got a little messy.  Little blobs of dough fall out of the grater and into the water, and after a few seconds they rise to the top.  They're done!  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon into a colander to drain.

They're done, but not quite cooked.  They need a little more in a non-stick skillet with a tiny bit of vegan margarine (I used Becel Vegan):

Ooh, I was stoked!  Aren't these cute?  And they tasted as good as they look.  The All-season blend has nutritional yeast in it and a little bit of turmeric, which gave them their yellowish colour and a lovely brothy flavour.

This was served with meatballs made from leftover port wine uncheese (from Joanne Stepaniak's The Uncheese Cookbook) which is excellent but a little too salty for me--her recipe called for "sweet miso" but I'm not sure what that is, and so used regular white miso.  Anyway, I cut it with some tomato sauce, TVP, and a bit of oatmeal, formed it into balls, baked it for a while, and rolled it in mushroom gravy.  Also featured are some wonderful braised kabocha squash, green beans, and for a tart flavour balance, sliced tomato.  Great supper!

On edit:  I did a little more research after the fact, and here are some links to other vegan spaetzel recipes:

  • You can get at the Urban Vegan's recipe on Google Books if you don't already own her book (no pictures though)--it's like a runny basic dumpling recipe
  • The queen of links on technique, of course, is to Bryanna Clark Grogan's blog: though it does not include a recipe, there are lots of pictures and sub-links of various machines and contrivances you can use to make spaetzel
  • Tofu666 makes his with tofu
  • The Village Vegan uses a bit of soy flour and has a picture of spaetzel made in a ricer (long and skinny as you'd expect); she suggests serving them with lentils, onions, salt and pepper--yum!
  • Veggies Have a Heart uses EnerG and pressed her dough through a colander
  • The Vegan Epicurean adds herbs to her tofu-based spaetzel

...and they all look just as good as mine.  I think it's wonderful that there are so many inventive vegans out there, experimenting away...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

30-minute Thursday: A great big plate of deliciousness

Heavens, is this not stupendous?  And it contains so many treasures!  The main idea was suggested to me by my friend Jeanne, who came up with the salad as a creative use for red rice.  Check out her website, which is gorgeous, though it's about her writing, not food.  She wrote to me:
So I had it for lunch today. It's a little dry and requires some effort to chew, so I added juicy things--celery and pineapple--and also green onions (still have them in the garden), some toasted cashews, and a few slices of avocado. I mixed up some mayonnaise and lime juice for dressing (I have a ton of limes and lemons right now), and sprinkled everything with salt and pepper. It was good--might have been even better with some curry powder and some currants. 
 Jeanne, as you might imagine, does not live in Edmonton, Canada, but in California, and has a large and productive garden (we actually met online on a gardening mailing list).  While my garden is producing nothing but snow these days, I do have access to excellent grocery stores, and had all this stuff (and more) in my pantry and refrigerator.  How could I resist?

There is only 1/2 cup cooked red rice in here, the dressing is about 1 1/2 teaspoons of Vegenaise along with about twice that amount of lime juice, so it was very tart and hardly sweet at all.  I mixed in celery and green onions and cilantro, and I did adopt Jeanne's suggestions and added some Sri Lankan curry powder (from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, a great all-purpose non-sweet curry powder) and a few currants, and roasted a few cashews for sprinkling.

So that took about 10 minutes to put together, since I had cooked my red rice yesterday and just warmed it up a little in the microwave today.  With 20 minutes to go I decided to try frying the pineapple chunks, which I did in just a few drops of oil and some of their own juice.  Yum!  And then there was some good caramelized stuff left at the bottom of the pan, so I tossed in some lightly steamed cauliflower and the juice of half an orange and some finely chopped hot red chilis and stir fried it on high heat for about 5 minutes.  Check the closeup:

Tantalizing, isn't it?  And no extra oil!

And finally, an experiment from yesterday that went right--vegan tomato aspic:

I'd never eaten aspic before, though my mom makes it every holiday.  Before I turned vegetarian I was a child and thought it was gross, and then afterwards, well, it isn't vegetarian, so...but yes, you can make an absolutely perfect vegan aspic with agar.  Bryanna shows you how.  I find agar tricky because there are so many different kinds.  I'd say, don't trust recipe authors for agar amounts, since they may not be using the same type you have; just use the recipe as a guideline and follow the ratios on the packet your agar comes in, and you'll be fine.  Oh, and this was made in a silicone muffin cup that I found at Safeway.  Genius for jellies!  I made four of them and they all came out beautifully.  Bless you, Ricardo!  I feel I ought to know who you are but I don't, but these little cups are a lot of fun.  I've tried the aspic right out of the fridge and today took some for lunch where it warmed to room temperature in my desk drawer before lunchtime, and it was brilliant both ways.

Altogether, this was such a nice meal, very quick, it used up lots of stuff I had in the fridge, pretty, light, healthy, and plentiful.  I feel like I've just ingested a sunny day.  And in chilly November, that's worth quite a bit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


This was supposed to be my 20-minute Monday dish, but it took longer than 20 minutes to cook, so I didn't count it.

It's going to be my temporary mission to attempt to make veganized versions of egg dishes like these both delicious and aesthetically pleasing, because they are so good and because we should be able to do it!

I had something entirely different planned for Monday, but Laura Calder was making something like this on  French Food at Home, which I usually catch most of at the gym on work days, even though her dishes are appallingly meat-, grease-, and sugar-heavy (I know, this is the French way, though I am hardly an expert on French cooking or Laura Calder, having been introduced to her even as a concept only a few weeks ago).  In any case, I was pretty stoked that she was cooking something vegetarian for once, though she did manage to meat her version up by actually serving it on a bed of prosciutto "to make it taste better."  Sigh.

Anyway, I was starving and her dish looked great and was the type of veganizing challenge I like.  She called it Basque eggs, but it's a popular dish all around the Mediterranean.  I know of it as the Italian uova in purgatorio ("eggs in purgatory"), and it's also called shakshouka in the Arab world, and it probably has many other names as well.  Basically, it's eggs poached in a tomato or tomato-pepper sauce, and the non-vegan version can be gorgeous, with the egg whites melting into a softly bubbling red sauce, and the yolk resting creamy and bright yellow in the middle.  This, vegans, is not something I think we can realistically replicate.  Delicious as vegan "eggs" might be, they're always going to look a little funny.  I actually dreamed about this dish last night and have some ideas for tidying it up, which, I hope, will work, and then I'll post them.  But it will still taste the same.  For now, the dish is worth making even in its chaotic form, for its ease and quickness and all-round deliciousness.  You don't even need a recipe.  Here's what you do:

Fry up some onions (any kind) until they're soft:

Then add garlic and sliced red peppers--and I added mushrooms too, though this isn't traditional, but neither are vegan eggs:

Continue to stir and fry until the mushrooms release their juices and begin to brown and the garlic is fragrant; then add tomato wedges.  My proportions in this were one small red bell pepper and two tomatoes:

I also wanted mine to be a little spicy, even though this dish is usually quite mild, so I added some Jamaican curry mix I had made some time ago (from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian).  Cook that until the tomatoes begin to release their juices, add salt and pepper to taste, and then add your egg replacement.  This is about 1/4 cup of the ubiquitous Vegan Brunch omelet mix stirred together with about the same amount of finely-grated tangy cheddar-type cashew cheese and a little extra water to make it pourable.  Pour it over the back of a spoon into the dish so that it sits on top rather than sinking to the bottom.  Don't stir!

Cover this and cook it gently, because you don't want the bottom to burn, for about 20 minutes, until the omelet mix sets up.  Here it is, nearly ready:

Sprinkle with cilantro or parsley and black salt if you have it and serve with bread.  The cashew cheeze "melted" a bit into the sauce; the omelet mix on its own wouldn't do that.

So this falls into the "glorious mess" category, and is truly tasty, but I want it pretty too, dang it!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

30-minute Thursday: Orzo with sauerkraut and spiced seitan; vegetable slaw

...but on Friday, because my schedule was moved around this week.  The title says it all.  The orzo was inspired by this post over on i eat food, though I didn't have Renae's recipe before me when I was cooking, and ended up doing something quite different with the seitan, which is more of my disaster seitan, spiced up considerably with onions, garlic, cayenne, dill, nutmeg, pepper, tomato juice, and soy sauce.  The orzo was boiled in water flavoured with All-season blend (see sidebar for recipe), then drained and mixed with the sauerkraut.

The salad was simply raw beet, zucchini, daikon radish, and carrot grated and mixed with a little chopped parsley and minced red radish on top, served with an absolutely delicious dressing of Vegenaise mixed with lime juice, lime zest, and tarragon.  M-m-m!  A dressing with three ingredients that takes less than a minute to stir together and is really one of the best there is.

Here it is again, all messed up: