Monday, October 31, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Thirtieth and a New Year's Resolution

For the last mystery picture of Vegan MoFo 2011, I've chosen something very, very vegan.  Vegans will get it right away, omnis...well, go ahead and guess!

So, farewell to another MoFo, and Happy New Year if you are wiccan.  I am not wiccan, but this really does seem to me to be the ideal time for the year to begin, like seeds planted in the ground that need some germination time before they can sprout forth.

I've made a resolution!  Some of you may know that near the beginning of 2011 I lost quite a bit of weight.  Well, to my horror, I find that despite working out every day like a mad fiend, it is starting to creep back on.  Noooooooo!!!!!  No no no no no!  However, the reason isn't a mystery, it's because I like to drink wine while I cook.  I won't go into the gory details, but that's it in a nutshell.  The only really feasible way for me to drink less is to make cooking last a shorter time, which is what I did when I was dieting, but what I ate when I was dieting was pretty samey and boring. resolution is that on Mondays and Thursdays (at least), I will be cooking superfast but interesting meals and, I hope, blogging them.  To that end, welcome to The Airy Way's inaugural 20-Minute Monday!  Since my own cooking style is leisurely in the extreme (especially after a few glasses of wine), I thought I would consult an expert for tips and tricks, and have chosen Jamie Oliver and his Meals in Minutes.  I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Jamie Oliver--he looks like someone's brother, and wears hoodies, he gardens, and he appreciates vegetables not just as colorful stuff to put beside a hunk of meat, but as having beauty and dignity and a general awesome deliciousness on their own.  This cookbook looks amazing, and is filled with gorgeous step-by-step photos.  It is not a vegan cookbook, but contains many vegan and vegetarian recipes.  It's organized into menus, and the instructions are for the whole menu, to make the cooking go as fast as possible.  He asks in the introduction that you don't mess with the menus, picking and choosing and changing things, at least at first, but I'm going to do just that (sorry, Jamie) in order to:

1.  Make them single-serving-sized;
2.  Veganize them;
3.  Lower the fat content somewhat;
4.  Skip the dessert.

Otherwise, I'll try to follow along as faithfully as I can.

First step: get your ingredients together, and broccoli is, of course, the subject of yesterday's mystery picture
This is the very first menu in the book: broccoli orecchiette, zucchini and bocconcini salad, and a prosciutto and melon salad I didn't make.  I subbed the faux feta from American Vegan Kitchen for the bocconcini, and almonzano (see sidebar) for the parmesan in the broccoli (and, see, I'm weighing my pasta, another diet tip that I faithfully adhere to at all times these days).

The genius part of the broccoli orecchiette is this:

You puree the stems of the broccoli along with garlic, red pepper, and a few other things, and fry this in olive oil and a little pasta water while the pasta boils to make a sauce.  Is that brilliant or what?

The zucchini salad was wonderful, and very simple to put together, with a dressing of mint, chili, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  I served it with tomato drizzled with balsamic reduction:

Yum!  This was really, really good, and once all the ingredients were assembled did indeed come together in 20 minutes.  This is one resolution it shouldn't be hard to keep.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-Ninth

We all know what this one is, but what I really want to know is what are those white specks, which are invisible to the naked eye?  This is, unfortunately, the best focus I could get in my current lighting conditions...but this vegetable was washed pre-photo...and, um, it's now been eaten, specks and all!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Iron Chef Challenge #4 - Carrot and oatmeal...balls

Today I'm taking a break from mystery pictures to participate in the Vegan MoFo 2011 Iron Chef Challenge #4.

The pictures on this post may not be superfantastic, but the recipe really is!  For those of my readers who are not all into Vegan MoFo, the challenge was to come up with an original recipe two of whose ingredients were carrots and oatmeal.

Well, I've been experimenting obsessively lately with "meatball" recipes inspired by Jennifer McCann's The Magical Loaf Studio, where you can input your ingredients of choice and come out with a recipe for a loaf (or in my case, balls) of protein-rich awesomeness.  So far, everything I have made has totally rocked, so check it out for yourself and go to town.

Just for the record, what I really like about the recipes that come from The Magical Loaf Studio is:

1.  The high protein content (from nuts, beans, AND powdered beans of one kind or another; plus my own original addition of TVP);
2.  The texture: my versions at least have a perfect, firm texture that holds together through baking, saucing, and freezing; and of course:
3.  The versatility: use the spice mix of your choice, more or less heat, different vegetables, etc.  The recipe I'm going to give here is basically original; you can't generate it from The Magical Loaf, but it's based on those proportions.

Today I made two kinds of balls, the first based on carrots, to satisfy the Challenge, and the second based on beets, just because I love beets.  Both were great; honestly, some of the best balls I've ever made.  Today I'll focus on the carrot ones.

Zoa's carrot-oatmeal balls
makes approximately 30 balls

1/2 cup uncooked jasmine rice
1 + 1/4 cup carrot juice
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked lima beans
1 tsp tomato paste
1/4 cup oatmeal
2 tbsp urad flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander

1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp salt
2 tsp All-Season Blend (see sidebar)
1 cup dry TVP

For the beet version, make the following changes:

  • use plain cooked jasmine rice (i.e., you don't need to cook the rice in beet juice)
  • add 1/2 packed cup of grated raw beet to the onions and garlic for the last five minutes or so of cooking
  • use besan flour instead of urad flour
  • leave out the turmeric and the lime juice, but add a pinch of allspice to the spices
  • if you need to add extra liquid and don't have access to beet juice, then vegetable broth or carrot juice should work fine and/or add more grated beet to the onion mix, and/or a little raw finely grated beet at the end (I did, however, add 1/4 cup of beet juice to the mix which is I think what turned the beet balls their blinding violet hue)
Start by cooking the rice.  Pour 1 cup of the carrot juice into a small pot, add the turmeric, the rice, and the grated carrot, and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down to simmer, and cook covered for about 12 minutes, until the rice is done.  Remove from heat and let cool a little:

This is really delicious, as is.

Meanwhile, sweat the onion and garlic in the canola oil until translucent.

In a food processor, grind the almonds into a sand-like consistency.  Add the cooked carrot-rice, 2 tbsp of the oatmeal, the urad flour, lima beans, the remaining 1/4 cup carrot juice, and all the spices, and pulse to mix well.  Turn into a bowl, and add the second 2 tbsp of oatmeal and the dried TVP.  Stir to mix, and set aside for about 20 minutes to allow the TVP to absorb some of the moisture from the surrounding ingredients.  The final mixture should be quite stiff:

Preheat the oven to 350F while you form the mixture into walnut-sized balls and place them on a cookie sheet lightly oiled or covered with a silicone mat.  Brush or spray lightly with canola oil:

These are the beet balls, but the principle is the same.
Bake for about half an hour, turning at least three times to get them evenly browned.

Served above with a bechamel sauce, and steamed green beans and sweet potatoes and tomatoes with some leftover carrot-ginger dressing from the other night.  So, so good!  The carrot (or beet)/almond/jasmine rice/oatmeal combination made them sweet and savory all at once, and the texture was perfect, crunchy on the outside, soft but still firm on the inside. In fact, I would class both kinds of balls, beet and carrot, as "of genius" if I could take total credit for them myself. 

As for yesterday's mystery picture, those of you who guessed dried fruit of some kind were right on; it was golden raisins, way close up:

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-Eighth + Dan dan noodles

This little item went beautifully translucent under my bright lights!

And I had Bryanna Clark Grogan's Dan dan noodles for supper last night.  I've posted about these before, with a version of the recipe that's online but taken without credit from her Authentic Chinese Cuisine.  This is one of my go to recipes--I make it often and absolutely love it.  If you're fast-moving and well-prepared, you can have this meal ready in 20 minutes or so.

This time, instead of using the dried mushrooms and white onions the recipe calls for, I used red onions and those adorable little beech mushrooms:

Why they don't sell these everywhere I can't imagine!  Click for a closeup ;-)
The red onions turned the TVP-based topping a gorgeous colour:

...and here it is in all its glory, resting on soba noodles in a bath of peanut-butter infused vegetable broth!

So good!  It looks like a lot of food, and it is, but this is a single serving, and, all-inclusive, has only about 500 calories, according to the book.  Actually, though, it's less, because I took a couple of shortcuts to lower the fat:

1.  If you're cooking dishes involving frying something that also call for a drizzle of sesame oil, like this one, you can actually stir fry in the sesame oil and just leave out the initial frying oil;

2.  I buy the "natural" type of peanut butter which is just 100% peanuts with no additives.  This tends to separate in the jar, so some of the oil floats to the top.  Instead of stirring it in, I pour off this oil, save it, and use it for cooking and salad dressings.  This oil is delicious, and gives a light peanut flavour to a dish.  You may ask, doesn't that make the peanut butter at the bottom of the jar get all hard and tough?  A bit, sure, but have you ever tried that stuff on toast?  It's like peanut butter fudge!  I do the same with almond butter...

As for yesterday's mystery picture, to my surprise, many of you did get it--this one would have stumped me, I think: it was indeed corn silk:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-Seventh

Wow, October is nearly over, and so many pictures remain to be taken!  Good luck with this one, which is totally fair, totally kewl, and I bet no one gets it!

As for yesterday's, Cara was closest: it was a piece of a plum (the pit plus some of the torn off bit around it):

Not easy, but neat-o...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-Sixth

A little harder today...

Yesterday's?  Stacy and j and s got it -- it was nori:

I do not, however, recommend this brand; it looks good, but something in thepackaging makes it taste like plastic.

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-Fifth

I fear this will be an easy one, too!

And, yup, yesterday's was indeed garlic:

Monday, October 24, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-Fourth


Yesterday's mystery picture was indeed cracked black pepper.   I don't know what that crystal sappy stuff is either...maybe really come kind of sap or resin?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-third + all kinds of awesomeness

Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

You use it every day--who knew?

In more current news, here is tonight's supper:

Whoa, this was good.  It's a combination of some balls inspired by Jennifer McCann's The Magical Loaf, except that I have an irrational prejudice against loaves, and so made balls, with several of my own additions, the Tahini creme with peas and morels from The Artful Vegan (made with beech mushrooms instead of morels; check out the recipe on Google Books), a baked sweet potato, and the Brussels sprouts roasted with plums, maple glaze, and pine nuts from the Zesty Cook.  Yeah, he totally sold me with his enthusiasm! Except that, having suffered from pine mouth all last week and figuring it was a symptom of some terminal disease until I discovered what it really was, I subbed the pine nuts in this recipe for cashews.  It will take some courage for me ever to eat pine nuts again...

So...want to know the recipe for these delicious balls?  Here it is:

Zoa's Magical Balls
makes 24 balls

1/4 cup peanuts
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large carrot, grated
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 cup cooked split peas (I used mung beans)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 tbsp chana flour (besan)
1 tsp spice mix I made up from some Gordon Ramsay (I think) recipe on the Food Network and never written down; just use your favorite; curry powder or sambhar will be fine
1 tsp All-Season Blend (see sidebar for recipe)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup dry TVP
Grind the peanuts to a coarse meal in the food processor.  

Saute the vegetables in the oil until soft, then add to the food processor and grind coarsely.

Tip the contents of the food processor into a medium bowl and add the remaining ingredients; mix well.  Form into walnut-sized balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Brush with canola or peanut oil.

Bake at 375F for about 40 minutes, shaking or turning them once or twice so that they are evenly browned.


And yesterday's mystery picture?  I'm totally disgusted that Cara got it right away.  Stacy was right on in her estimate of my present wariness of starchy foods, but I do eat them, carefully measured; woman cannot live on green veggies alone, I'm finding, without encountering all kinds of problems with gastric distress (more on which in a later post).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-second + a little haute cuisine

You guys are getting too good at this!  Before the confirmation of all your guesses, behold my supper tonight.  I've been messing about again in The Artful Vegan, mixing up recipes from various pages to suit me.  Surprisingly though, perhaps because I was determined to be organized today, or because of the particular recipes I chose, it didn't take all that long to put it together.

Here are the pieces:

Here you see, clockwise from the upper left, a baby bok choy split in half for braising, the Roasted beet lasagnette filling (basically raw beets mixed with a kind of spicy vinaigrette which will be oven-roasted), some okra stuffed with a spice mix from Asian Vegan Kitchen (I had the spice mix left over from another dish and of course, had some okra lying about), polenta firming in a little pan, Carrot-habanero sauce, and finally tofu marinating in a Tamarind-cardamom glaze.

And here's the whole finished thing, plated...except the okra, which I forgot in their little frying pan:

Pretty!  Colorful and fun to do as well.  The Tamarind-cardamom glaze and the Carrot-habanero sauce especially were quite wonderful; I believe the whole of The Artful Vegan is up on Google Books if you want to look them up for yourselves.

And for anybody who didn't get it, the answer to yesterday's MoFo mystery picture was cloves:

Tomorrow, something diabolically difficult...

Friday, October 21, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twenty-first

Good luck!  There are clues in here, but still, this one astonished even me...

And yesterday's was, as so many of you recognized, okra.  Those round little seeds do give it away!

So cute!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Twentieth

Wow, almost every picture I took of this item turned out fantastic.  This is just one random shot among many...maybe y'all can guess it, maybe you can't...

But many of you did get yesterday's mystery picture.  Of course it was:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MoFo Mystery Picture the Nineteenth

A little easier?

And yesterday's, which stumped everyone?  This is, I promise, the most obscure food I will post this month!

Shimeji or beech mushrooms.  So little, so cute!