Sunday, January 23, 2011

Seitan piccata

This is my back yard right now, which readers of this blog have seen in all seasons, but never with so much snow in it.  For those interested in extreme weather in Edmonton, Canada, there are some more pictures of mine accessible through my Flickr link on the sidebar.  I've been having fun plunging about in it once the temperature rose above -30C and practicing snow photography with the polarizing filter my brother Bert gave me for my birthday last year (thanks, Bert, now I get it!).

We've been under heavy snow for more than two weeks.  I am luckier than most for the odd reason that I don't have a car and am used to getting around without one.  My little street has been more or less impassible all this time so the Moon Goddess and I haven't been sprinting around in her car buying stuff the way we normally do.  Until now, when we are experiencing a chinook (which means unseasonably warm, above freezing, windy weather...I have to say that despite the inconvenience, I love this climate, always something new ;-), it's been so cold that any groceries I could buy would freeze in my backpack on the way home from the store.  Not a worry for a food packrat like me, so I've been eating from the freezer and dry goods and pickle jars mainly.  Here's one of those meals, the seitan piccata from Veganomicon

The recipe for it is on Google Books, here, so I won't reproduce it.  What you do is start with some good-tasting seitan cutlets, dredge them in flour (or in my case, seasoned flour that I had in the refrigerator), and fry them in plenty of olive oil:

This is a Mark-style Zoa-style chick'n-type okara seitan, basically
my okara seitan recipe (see sidebar for link) with Mark's seasonings
Fry it until both sides are golden and crispy, then remove it to a heated plate and keep it warm while you make the sauce in the same pan:

Don't wash the pan, and don't get rid of the oil.  Use what's left to fry shallots (or red onions in this case) and garlic until softened and beginning to brown:

Add white wine, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, and thyme, and reduce down to a fragrant, though not particularly beautiful, sauce:

To the reduced sauce, add capers and pitted kalamata olives:

Cook a little more, then add parsley and lemon juice:

It always pays to have some frozen parsley on hand
Just warm this up, and it's ready to be poured over the cutlets.  Served here with mashed sweet potatoes, jade blend from Bulk Barn topped with caramelized onions, and some mixed peas and edamame beans from the freezer.  The seitan was actually to die for, even without the piccata sauce, which nevertheless was very good, and as the header notes to the recipe implies, seriously serious-looking for such an easy dish.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quick-marinated tofu

Want to marinate tofu, but also need to have supper on the table in 20 minutes?  Never learned to stop time for everyone but you?  Here's an easier way to solve that problem, and it works with any tofu marinade recipe. 

This technique is for grilling the marinated tofu in a frying pan, but it works just as well if you're planning to bake or broil it; you just can't do the whole meal in one pan.

First, assemble the ingredients for the marinade in a large non-stick frying pan.  This is a tofu marinade from the Rebar cookbook, but you can use your favorite.  What you see here is light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sambal olek, brown sugar, lime juice, pepper, and a little Thai basil (frozen).  You will also need to add a bit of water or vegetable stock.

Meanwhile, quick-press the tofu, like this (note that this works only with firm or extra-firm tofu, not soft or silken).  Cut the block of tofu into two, three, or four pieces widthwise:

Take a clean tea towel, fold it in half lengthwise on a counter, and place one of the tofu slices on it, leaving enough room on the bottom end of the towel to fold over the tofu:

Fold the bottom part of the tea towel up over the slice of tofu, and place another tofu slice on top:

Now fold all that over, sandwiching your third (or third and fourth) tofu slices into the cloth so that each slice is surrounded by cloth and you have a neat packet:

Now place your open palms over the packet and lean hard.  As long as the weight is evenly distributed, the tofu can take it!  Lean very hard, until you feel your hands becoming damp from the water the tofu is giving up.  Turn the packet over and do the same on the other side.  The pressing process will take two minutes at most.  When you unwrap the packet, the cloth will be wet and the tofu will be fairly dry.  Now place the slices in the marinade:

Turn them over to coat:

...and turn the heat on just to Min to warm everything up a bit.  The tofu will absorb as much of the marinade in five minutes once it's been quick-pressed and warmed in the marinade as it will in an hour.  You can cut your vegetables while you wait.  It's done!

Pour off as much of the marinade as you can (but save it), and the tofu is ready for frying:

For a fast meal, remove the tofu pieces from the pan, leaving the oil behind, turn up the heat, and stir fry a few vegetables, adding some of the marinade to flavour them.  You can get fancy and make a little sauce of the marinade by adding extra water and a bit of cornstarch, but I didn't do that:

Here's the whole plate, sprinkled with chopped cashews, cucumber, and red onion, and served over jasmine rice.  Start the rice cooking before you assemble the marinade ingredients, and your meal will be ready when the rice is.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chili cashew dosas

Click for a stupendous closeup of lacy dosa-ness
This is a recipe that's just sort of stuck into Vegan Brunch.  No fanfare, no colour picture; it's just a recipe.

I don't know about most of you, but I'm seldom up for any heavy cooking before 2:00 p.m.  Just a soy latte and orange juice for me, thanks.  So brunch for me is basically supper, and that's generally how I've been cooking from the excellent Vegan Brunch.  Today's offering is no exception.  The recipe is online at Google Books, so I won't reproduce it here.  But in case you've been wondering how this rather odd-looking recipe pans out in real life, here's a little photo-essay.

First, you mix together Cream of Wheat cereal (semolina), rice flour, chickpea flour, salt, peppercorns, and cumin seeds:

As far as I am aware, these are not traditional dosa ingredients, but for me, no matter.  We're not about tradition here at The Airy Way, so this gives me no pause.  It sounded to me like a winning combination, and so it is!  Add a whole bunch of water:

Isa Chandra Moskowicz writes, "The batter should be very thin, almost alarmingly so, and even thinner than crepe batter.  It will appear similar to thick soy milk."  And it does.  I admit, I threw in all that water with a blithe heart and then panicked.  This stuff is watery, and separates in seconds.  Oh, well, in for a penny...

Then you leave it for at least half an hour, and, since this is dosa batter after all, you can leave it for quite some time (up to a day or two) to ferment.  I have to admit that I was intrigued enough by this recipe to make the whole thing and split it.  I cooked half tonight and half is fermenting overnight on my counter.  (If you're going to do that, don't add the cashews etc. yet.)

When you're ready to cook, add finely chopped cashews, red onions, and jalapeno to the batter:

Now heat a crepe pan or non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and brush it with oil.  You need at least a teaspoon.  Don't stint on the oil or, non-stick as your pan is, the dosa will stick to it.  Once the pan and oil are hot, pour in about 1/3 cup of the well-stirred batter:

Oh, hey, look, it all stays together!  Fry it for two or three minutes until the middle is set and the edges are beginning to brown.  Then flip one half over:

And cook each side for another minute, still on medium-high heat.  The dosa will be hot and crispy and that's the best way to eat it, right out of the pan.  There's a recipe in Vegan Brunch for Spiced apple cider chutney to go with it, but I didn't make that, since I'm unfortunately snowed in and have no apples or cider.  Instead I used some of the Moon Goddess's rhubarb chutney, which was great with this.

Served here with the rhubarb chutney, some reheated dal from the other night, and jasmine rice:

A very good meal!  Dosas are easy to make and so delicious.  These are quite wonderful; the cashews are a touch of genius in my opinion, so don't leave them out.  A word of warning though, the recipe claims it makes enough for four servings.  This means four servings if you're not having anything else (dal, rice, etc.) in the meal.  And believe me, once you've made them, you won't be able to stop eating them, and they don't keep, so beware!

Monday, January 10, 2011


I get to eat a lot of truly awesome food.  Here, for instance, to the left you see an example of a perfect meal: lentils with caramelized onions and garlic, hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, kalamata olives, some pickled red onions, and some sourdough-type foccaccia it's taken a full 5 days to make (more on this in a future post).  Oh, my god.  Who on this whole planet gets to eat as well as this?  I feel so very fortunate.  Even more than usual when I've got people whom otherwise I respect proudly describing themselves to me as "meatatarians."  So, meatatarians, eat this!  Seriously, why wouldn't you?
Only my miserable plating skillz have prevented me from posting several of the meals I have enjoyed since January 1, but, you know, I'm making it one of my blog-related resolutions to do better on this front, and so as not to allow some most excellent vegan food to sink unrecorded into oblivion, here are a few examples. 

Some more awesomeness from Viva Vegan.  First rule of plating (broken here):
Never photograph the amount you're actually going to eat.

Pot barley, macro and super-macro

Pot barley soup, with beans and kale, and, because that wasn't exciting enough, kimchi!
Plus a tomato and pickled red onion salad and some wretched commercial white pita
bread elevated to heights it did not deserve with olive oil and crushed garlic!
Then I found some fresh yuba that was more delicate than the frozen kind I had been buying, that came in packets like the ones on the left, that you could pull apart like the one on the right.

So I pulled it all apart and marinated it in the Buddha's chicken marinate from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine:

...and put it back together and braised it instead of steaming/frying:

...and ate it like this:

A dang good meal.  Those shoestring thingies are very lightly stir-fried potatoes a la chinoise. 
The yellow stuff is homemade daikon pickle coloured with turmeric: stinky, but good.
Below is the first incarnation of the sourdough foccaccia (with raisins) and hummus, which was amazingly awesome I think because I finally overcame the prejudice of the first hummus recipe I ever read, which said something like, "Leave chunks."  This was creamy smooth, no chunks.  I much prefer it this way!  Plus some stir fried cherry tomatoes which made a huge mess of my stove, floor, wall, etc., but it was worth it, and some Italian-style kabocha squash.

Sigh.  It's been a pretty good week after all.