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:

Monday, November 14, 2011

20-minute Monday - Wonderful quinoa bowl with tahini-miso dressing

Quinoa cooked in broth, steamed sweet potatoes, cabbage, kala chana, edamame beans, and broccoli, topped with chopped avocado, red onions, and cucumbers, and dressed with that splendid simple sauce of 3 parts tahini to one part miso with enough water to thin, and finally dusted with cilantro and shichimi togarashi--sometimes simple is just the best!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Seitan-stuffed tomatoes with Moroccan spices

This is sort of a making-lemons-into-lemonade type of post.  Yesterday's seitan being pretty much of a disaster, it all went into the food processor to be ground into bits.  Here's a good use for some of those bits.

This is my entry into the Vegan MoFo November challenge, which is to make something original involving breadcrumbs as an ingredient.  Thanks to the organizers for keeping the spirit of MoFo alive during the 11 non-MoFo months!  I did not make a breadcrumb-themed three course meal, but these were pretty good, and a great way to salvage misbegotten, tasteless, generally old or texturally peculiar seitan.

Seitan-stuffed tomatoes with Moroccan spices
(I'm not giving a serving size, and the reason will become evident below)

2 tbsp almonds, roasted and ground
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
200g (about 2 cups) crumbled seitan
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried ginger
black pepper

2 fresh tomatoes
1 tsp harissa (substitute red pepper flakes or hot sauce if you don't have harissa or the time to make it)
2 tbsp soy sauce

1/4 cup currants
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped coriander

1 cup cooked rice or other grains (any kind)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Start by roasting your almonds and grinding them up in a food processor to a granular consistency (you can just leave them in the food processor when you're done).

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and, when hot, add the chopped onions.  Stir and fry for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent, then add the garlic, the spices, and the seitan:

Stir and fry for six or seven more minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the seitan is beginning to brown.  The mixture will be dry.

Meanwhile, cut the tops off your tomatoes and set them aside (you'll need them later).  Scoop out the tomato guts and chop them; place them in a small bowl with the harissa and the soy sauce.  Mix this all together.  The reason for this is that harissa is super-hot and also rather thick and will need to be incorporated--I assure you, no one, even the most dedicated chili-head, wants a mouthful of harissa:

Add this to the seitan:

...and stir and fry for a few more minutes, just to warm everything up.  If it's still dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.  Then take it off the heat and let it cool a bit.  When it's cool enough, add the rice and the currants, parsley, and coriander, and run it all through the food processor to make a coarse paste.  Add the breadcrumbs:

...and mix everything up together:

Now taste for salt--depending on your seitan, you may have to add a little more soy sauce, or just plain salt.  You should have a nice thick mix, easily moldable into, for instance, balls...because, as you have probably already guessed, you're going to have a lot more mix than will fit into two tomatoes.  This mix could have myriad uses, but I am very into Moroccan cuisine at this moment and have specific plans for it that involve its intermediate metamorphosis into meatballs.  So, if you're me, you'll stuff your two tomatoes (putting their little hats back on afterwards):

...and make the rest into these:

The ones in the back are rolled in seasoned flour, because I seem to remember reading somewhere that this would make them look awesome when cooked.

Okay, I was wrong about that.  Probably it was awesome when fried rather than baked, which was what I did, at 375F for about 20 minutes.  Anyway, these flour-coated balls will be great in a stew, just wait and see!

Meanwhile, put your tomatoes in at 400F for about half an hour.  Watch them, and don't let the little fellas collapse:

Hey, they rose in the oven!  Cool!

Meanwhile, in true Moroccan fashion, I was steaming couscous: my homemade couscousiere.  As you can see, I have cleverly Photoshopped out the messy kitchen background.  That aside, even using just a colander and a pot, once you've tried steamed couscous, you'll never want to cook it any other way.

So the whole meal?

The stuffed tomatoes, some zucchini-lemon couscous of my own devising (just mix the steamed couscous with some lightly stir fried zucchini, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and pepper); and an orange-radish salad with mint, cinnamon and a few drops of orange flower water.  Yes, I cooked with orange flower water!  First time, and absolutely delish.  I bought it years ago to use in handcreams or some such thing, never guessing how handy it would prove to be in the kitchen.  Seek it out, peeps, it made this salad amazing.  Mmmmmmmoroccan!

Friday, November 11, 2011


A tragic day in the kitchen.  Needless to say, I did not succeed in creating a white seitan.  Not by any means.  I didn't even succeed in creating a very tasty seitan.

Look for a lot of posts involving crumbled seitan in the future, is what I'm saying.


To the left are images of my carrot- and beet-based experimental seitans, pre-steaming.  They look rather promising, but the result was pretty bready and unappealing.  It was a learning day.

For the sake of others and their experiments, these vibrant colours fade in the steamer.  Also, rice flour is not a proper ingredient for steamed seitan, no matter how white it is.  Boiled, okay, but not steamed.

ON EDIT:  There was definitely something wrong with this batch of gluten flour.  Further experiments with recipes I've made before proved that it was adulterated with starch.  I did manage to make some excellent okara popcorn seitan with it, however (see sidebar for recipe), which worked equally well steamed and (surprise!) baked, but dissolved when boiled.  I guess the moral of that story is to bring some water with you when you go to buy and, if you can, moisten a little of the gluten flour between your fingers to ensure it glutenizes immediately instead of just turning into a floury paste.

I had high ambitions for today's meal.  It involved the beet risotto from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which she describes as "jewel-like".  This had its moments:

...but the end result was like something you'd find on an operating room floor:

Fairly tasty, however, though nothing like yesterday's mushroom one.  Check the beet and carrot spiral seitan!  Too bad it wasn't more delicious, or more brilliant, or something.  Zoa creeps away to her secret lab to try, try again.  Maybe I can figure out a way to isolate some soy protein or something...

I promise to post on the braised yuba in the very near future, as I've got another packet that I'll have to use soon.  Too humbling that some little dish I toss together in a hurry with miscellaneous bits of stuff turns out stupendous, while this agonized-over spread was so very...blah...

30-minute Thursday: Mushroom risotto + spinach salad

More mushrooms, shown here in my adorable new baby cast iron pan (almost as cute as a kitten, isn't it, and I have an oval one too!  Shopping for Christmas presents, I nearly always find some little treat for myself; too much altruism in a shopping trip just isn't healthy).  This is almost the last of the mushrooms...but while I had them I thought I would try the mushroom risotto from Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes.

I don't make risotto much, but that is about to change.  This was fun and easy, and you get a great big bowl of warm, comforting deliciousness for a measly quarter cup of rice. 

I used, by the way, sushi rice rather than arborio.  I think I have some arborio rice, somewhere, probably at the very bottom of the freezer, but it would have taken me longer than 30 minutes to find it.  In any case, the sushi rice worked fine, and the risotto turned out soft and creamy (or oozy, as the recipe puts it).

This is Jamie Oliver's meal, slightly veganized, and without the dessert.  His recipe can be found here, with a video here, and the Web Goddess has done a very detailed step-by-step of the whole meal here.  I subbed almonzano (see sidebar for recipe) for the parmesan, and my salad was made with mixed greens, roasted red peppers, and pumpkin seeds because that's what I had around, rather than spinach, oil-packed sundried tomatoes, and pine nuts.  Andrea had suggested the pumpkin seed substitution; I liked it--the taste is milder than that of pine nuts and not as overpowering, and what I really wanted to taste in this meal was the risotto.

Which was incredible.  The genius part of it was that you start by grinding up a few dried mushrooms in the food processor (Jamie used porcini, but every dried porcini I've ever found has been full of grit so I don't cook with them anymore and only use them for stocks that I can strain--I used a mixture of dried mushrooms from here and there, mostly oysters).  So you get the dried-mushroom flavour, and the flavour from raw mushrooms that you stir into the risotto while it's cooking, and the grilled mushrooms that go on top as a garnish, so the whole dish is a soft, fragrant, mushroomy extravaganza!  (Sorry, mushroom haters; this recipe is not for you.)

The salad was basic but good...and I wanted something more with this meal.  The protein in it comes from the parmesan and the nuts in the salad and the hazelnut-cheese-based dessert, which I didn't make.  I felt like a few slices of tofu would have rounded it off nicely, something like this:

...which is basically one of the braised seitan marinades from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine, but with fresh yuba rather than seitan--and which will definitely be the subject of a future post very soon.  This was a Chinese-type meal from a few days ago, also mushroom-based.

But enough of mushrooms for now.  Today I'm taking some time to experiment with seitan, specifically to experiment with staining it with beet and maybe other vegetable juices, and to create if I can a tender steamed white pork-type seitan that can be, for instance, marinated in Korean barbecue spices and grilled or braised--that braised yuba is the kind of thing that makes me nearly swoon with its beauty and I'm eager to explore the technique.  Ooh, I'm excited!

I've been on holidays all this week, shopping at all my favorite food stores, stocking up for the winter which is fast approaching, making arrangements for the next steps in my home reno, getting ready for the holiday season (our family gets prepared for this stuff way early so we can just enjoy it later, stress-free) and generally doing all kinds of nesting-type activities.  Really, my ideal job would probably be as a housekeeper in some upper-middle-class Victorian household--if you hear of any openings, let me know--

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Super-easy, super-fast mushroom filo pie

Fancy mushrooms have been on special at the oriental market lately, so I've been stocking up, but you don't need anything so tony as these oyster, crimini, and king mushrooms for this dish--just plain buttons will be fine.  This is actually made with the leftover Vegan Brunch omelet mix and filo pastry from the other night's 30-minute meal.

Well, I have extolled the virtues of that omelet mix over and over again.  When I actually make omelets with it, I thin it down a little with water, but for pies, obviously you want it rather thick, so I followed the recipe exactly, making it in a food processor rather than the Magic Bullet, and this pie uses a little more than half of one recipe.  Among the other delightful things about this omelet mix is that it will keep in the fridge for a few days, so if you think you might be wanting an omelet or another pie or one of the other multitudinous dishes you can use this for later in the week, you can save some.

The method for this pie is from Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes, but the recipe is all mine, and it is so simple and fast you could chuck it together any night after work.  Also, the leftovers are delicious at room temperature or even cold...I've been eating pieces of this for lunch every day since I made it.

This pie is made in a 7-inch cast iron frying pan, but if you're not concerned about doing more dishes than you absolutely have to, of course it can be cooked in a casserole dish of comparable size.  If you want to see the original recipe, it's (among other places) over here, and to see a video of Jamie Oliver actually putting his pie together, it's here.

Super-easy, super-fast mushroom filo pie
makes 1 7-inch pie

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 small onion
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms (any kind)
2 cloves garlic
2 big handfuls of arugula or other greens
1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 to 1 cup Vegan Brunch omelet mix
1/4 cup almonzano (see sidebar for recipe)
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Start by heating the frying pan.  When hot, add the oil, and when the oil is hot, add the onions and fry until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and garlic, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of it has evaporated away, and the mushrooms are just beginning to brown.

Toss in the arugula or other greens, and stir fry until they are wilted and have released any of their own water.  Add the lemon juice, and stir to caramelize a bit.  Remove from heat, pour the vegetables into a mixing bowl, but don't wash the pan.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the filo.  Take a generous-sized sheet of parchment paper and crumple it up.  Mostly uncrumple it, and spread it out on a cutting board or counter.  You will probably have to cut your filo--how big is a bit of a judgment call; just remember that you need the sheets big enough to spread over the bottom and up the sides of the pan and partially overlap the top of the pie.  Lay three (for a small pie; four according to Jamie, who was making a larger one) sheets of filo, one after the other, over the parchment paper, overlapping at the edges in various ways - you want the top to be irregular and a little messy, not a neat square:

Brush the third sheet with olive oil, and add three more sheets.  Again, brush the top with olive oil, and do it one more time, so you end up with nine sheets total.  If you're using scraps, just make sure they're layered in various different orientations to each other.  This is a great dish for using up filo scraps.  Transfer everything, including the parchment paper, carefully to the frying pan, and mold it around the bottom to create a hollow for the filing.

The filling is just your vegetable mix added to the omelet mix with 1/4 cup of almonzano for a little bite.  Stir that together, add a pinch of nutmeg, taste for salt and pepper, and pour it in on top of the filo:

Now just take those overhanging edges of filo and fold them onto the top of the pie.  No coordination whatsoever is required, and you don't have to be neat, just cover the top of the pie with the filo and brush with olive oil:

Bake this for about half an hour (Jamie Oliver bakes his for a shorter time in a hotter oven, but because of the omelet mix I opted for a slightly longer cooking time).

Ooh, it's done!  Is this impressive for about 20 minutes' total work, or what?

You can lift the pie out by the parchment paper and either slide it off the paper and onto a plate, or serve it right off the parchment on a cutting board.  It's best if you let the pie cool a bit before serving--these spanikopeta-type dishes really are best just warm.

The texture of the filling was perfect.  My pies have tended to be flakier than the ones I've seen elsewhere, and I'm sure that's because I'm using less oil than other cooks.  Nothing wrong with a nice crunch, though!

I am so off to the store to stock up on more filo.  This is actually easier than an omelet in that you don't have to be always standing there fussing over it (particularly if you're cooking for more than one), it cooks by itself so you have time to do other stuff while it's in the oven, all or some of it can (but doesn't have to) be made ahead of time, and lusting over the leftovers will keep you up at night.

Bon appetite, my friends!

Monday, November 7, 2011

20-minute Monday - Lime-cilantro rice, chick'n tofu, steamed vegetables, green goddess dressing

Well, the title says it all.  The rice is from Viva Vegan, the tofu from Bryanna Clark Grogan, the Green Goddess dressing from Appetite for Reduction, and the rest...that's to say the steamed vegetables and the garnish of red onions, cucumber, and radish, from me.  A successful group effort, culminating in a wonderful, very quick meal!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Botanical balls, improved

I've blogged these before, where I made them according to the recipe in the Rebar ModernFoodCookbook, in their original incarnation as botanical burgers.  Click the link to see the Rebar recipe.

The original burgers look peculiarly like ground beef patties, which I suspect was one of the main reasons for the recipe being written as it was, with mashed potatoes, rice, and bread crumbs as binder/base.  This makes for a meaty-looking but mushy burger (unless, I suppose, you added a whole lot of breadcrumbs, which in my opinion makes a bun superfluous and far too much starch-on-starch going on in the recipe).  The idea of them, however, with their gorgeous and tasty vegetable palette, the insanely fragrant combination of roasted hazelnuts, dill, and tarragon, haunts my dreams.

Here's an altered version which ups the protein content considerably, gives a crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside texture, and will freeze beautifully.

I'm also confident that you could use pretty much any combination of dryish squashes and/or root vegetables in this recipe and it would still be delish.  Think of carrot-parsnip-butternut, for instance, or zucchini-potato-rutabaga with walnuts in place of the hazelnuts, and a nutmeg-based spice mix...yes, you'll probably see all that and more here, in time, because I really, really love this template.

Botanical balls, improved
inspired by Rebar's Botanical burgers
makes about 50 balls

1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow or red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated turnip
1 cup grated beets
1 cup grated zucchini (give this a good squeeze over the sink to remove some of the water)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp cracked pepper
1 cup cooked white beans (I used limas)
1 cup cooked rice, any kind (I used a rice/grain mix)
2 tbsp peanut butter, almond butter, or tahini (optional)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp dried tarragon
2 tbsp minced parsley
1 cup (or more) dry TVP

A food processor is your friend in almost every step of this recipe, so if you have one, you should use it.

Start by roasting the hazelnuts in a large, dry skillet over medium-low heat while you chop and grate the vegetables and assemble the other ingredients; no need to remove the skins.  Once the nuts are fragrant and turning brown, remove from the skillet and set aside to cool.  Add the olive oil to the skillet and, when hot, the onions.  Fry the onions over medium-high heat until they begin to brown at the edges, then add the garlic and the other vegetables, sprinkle with the salt and the dill weed, and continue to fry, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until there is no more water in the bottom of the pan and the vegetables are beginning to want to start to brown.  Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

While they're cooling, grind the hazelnuts finely in the food processor, then add the beans, rice, and peanut butter (if using).  Pulse it all together until well combined and most of the rice and beans are broken up.  Tip into a large bowl:

It's kind of mauve from the red rice in my mix and some residual beety-ness in the food processor
Add the cooled cooked vegetables to the food processor and pulse them too.  Add them to the bowl with the rice mix and the remaining ingredients except for the TVP, and mix well:

Subbing beans for mashed potatoes, this mix is much more red and less "beefy" than the original
The mix will be quite soft and moist.  The fragrance of the hazelnuts and tarragon will fill your kitchen with intoxicating aromas, even raw like this.  Now you need to add something here to soak up some of the moisture and make the balls firm up and hold their shape during cooking.  The Rebar recipe uses breadcrumbs, and you could too, or oatmeal, or those crumbs at the bottom of a package of Soy Curls given a quick whiz in the food processor, or oven-dried okara, or, my choice, dry TVP.  Start with a cup and see how it feels.  If it's still moist, continue to add more in 1/4 cup increments until the mixture seems fairly firm, like it would take molding into balls without sticking too much to your hands.  I ended up adding about 1 1/4 cup.  Now set the bowl aside for the TVP to absorb some of the moisture from the other ingredients for about 20 minutes while you tidy up the kitchen and/or work on other dishes.

Form the mix into balls and place on a lightly-oiled baking pan or a silicone mat:

I forgot the trick of rolling them in whole wheat flour, which makes them look better once they're cooked, but you can do that if you like.  These balls are lightly sprayed with canola oil; however, on the second tray I tried them without oiling them at all, and they turned out exactly the same in looks, texture, and taste, so from now on I won't bother.

Bake in a 375F oven for about half an hour, turning them at least three times so that they'll brown more or less evenly.  Here's what they look like when they're done:

Beautiful firm texture and lovely colour inside!  Nor did they threaten to squash or fall apart or stick to anything in the oven.  These are really wonderful.  I served them with some of the Super-quick tomato basil cream from Vegan Yum Yum, but actually, as nice as that sauce is (and it is nice), it's better with pasta, and the botanical balls are so flavourful and rich-tasting on their own that they're best with a simple side of some yogurt- or sour cream-type substance, either incorporated into a warm sauce, or just alone, straight from the fridge.

Also seen here are some mixed mushrooms fried up with garlic, steamed green beans, and mashed sweet potato.  Next time I'll try coating the balls in something before baking them, or serve them stirred up with a sauce, but here you see the naked thing in all its honest splendour.