Sunday, November 30, 2008

More testing...

I know. It's mean to post testing photos, but I can't resist. Here is another biscotti recipe for Isa and Terry's cookie book, and a chocolate cinnamon babka (yes, vegan babka) for Peter Reinhart.

Faux Korean Noodle Lunch

I swear I haven't disappeared. My life was taken over by work and Thanksgiving for a few weeks. Today for lunch I made a fake Korean dish to use up some of the items in our kitchen, loosely inspired by ideas from Copeland Marks' The Korean Kitchen.

I was very happy with the results and am recording what I did as much for my future use as for the benefit of anyone reading this. Here goes:

Rehydrate half a package of Soy Curls according to package directions. Drain well and press out excess liquid. Mix the Soy Curls with sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili powder to taste. (Korean chili powder is really hot. As I was feeding someone who does not like incendiary food, I used not-hot-at-all American chili powder and it was fine.) Set aside.

Heat a small amount of oil in a large pot. Chop two small sweet potatoes and several ribs of celery (including the leaves). Stir fry these vegetables until they begin to soften. Meanwhile, combine 3 cups of water, 4 small scallions (white and green parts) and 3 cloves garlic in a blender and blend very well. Add this green liquid to the pot, bring to a boil, and cook 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Then add a small handful of somen (Japanese wheat noodles) and cook a couple more minutes until the noodles are done. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and stir in the Soy Curls (or put them on top if you are feeling fancy).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Cobbler

The camera is away from home again, but I am sitting here biting my nails over the election. Last night, as I had a bunch of apples (from a relative's trees) and the need to do something ... anything... to keep from refreshing the internet news every two seconds, I made cobbler.

I like fancy cobblers, but this is your plain-jane, straight-up cobbler, the way my Great Aunt Cora did it. This recipe is so easy, you can make it with your mind full of election paranoia (and even with a few drinks in your system, if the evening calls for it).

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan. Mix together 1 cup self-rising flour (I did 1 cup white whole wheat flour + 1 1/2 t baking powder + 1/2 t salt), 1 cup sugar (Zulka unrefined, in my case), and 1 cup milk (Almond Breeze unsweeetened original). Pour this into your pan. Spread a quart or more of prepared fruit (peeled, chopped apples) over the batter. Dot with marg or coconut oil or give it a spritz of canola oil. Into the oven for 1 hour. It's done.

Now, you can add all sorts of spices and extracts to the batter and/or the fruit. You can pre-cook the fruit if too hard, and add sugar to it if it is too tart. Eat with ice cream, mimiccreme, soyatoo. Do what you will. But it's plenty good plain and unadorned.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day of the Dead

Today being the Day of the Dead (All Souls), we made kittee's fabulous recipe for Pan de Muertos (the bread of the dead).

Other Sunday cooking included: braised radishes, cabbage (with onion, garlic, ginger, and panch paran), mixed greens (greek-style with olive oil and lemon), and cranberry relish (just because, even though it goes with nothing else I made). I also made a tofu and vegetable roast as a test recipe for the much-anticipated Yellow Rose Recipes II. Joanna has kindly put a version of the recipe on her blog.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trance-Channeling Nigella, or making Lahmacun

At the insistence of the wonderful Mat Winser, I picked up a copy of Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. Boy howdy, was he right. We just made Lahmacun for lunch - little Turkish flatbreads, with a "meat" topping. We veganized with a super-secret test seitan which performed beautifully, but I think any tasty and soft-ish seitan (like this recipe) would work. Thanks Mat!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 31: Happy Halloween, and the End of MoFo 2008

Whew! The Vegan Month of Food draws to a close.... My posts have not always been well thought out, carefully edited, or decently photographed, but I have tried to keep them coming. Fear not - I have no plans to disappear behind a veil of turnip greens (although I do plan to attend Nashville's annual Turnip Green Festival - Nov 9 at the downtown Farmer's Market). Posting here will continue, although at a slower pace, at least until Isa rings the gong and decrees another MoFo.

My office is having a Halloween party and I'll be bringing cookies (see photo above - another fantastic test recipe from Terry), hummus (stereotypical...), and hot pepper jelly.

In other news, last night I was so excited to receive a box of Teese - more mozzarella and the new cheddar. Mac 'n Teese is mine! The linked recipe was simply perfect when made with Teese mozzarella (with green chiles tossed in) and it is even more perfect with the cheddar.

Thanks, readers, for coming along for the Vegan MoFo ride. That's all for now, but I'll be back soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 30: Spicy Butternut Squash

This year must have been perfect for butternut squash, as I have been totally overrun with the stuff from family, friends, and our community supported agriculture box. Thankfully, I like it and it keeps well.

I have been thinking soup, as kittee recently reviewed a very good-sounding recipe. I also pulled out Sublime Soups by Lenore Baum, a wonderful vegan/macrobiotic cooking teacher from Asheville. Her millet / butternut squash soup is one of my fall favorites. Then, in a flash of insight, I knew what I wanted: Jamie Oliver's spicy roasted butternut squash! (The soups will follow soon.)

You can find an exact recipe in The Naked Chef, but you don't need it. You split the squash open, remove the seeds, and then slice it into long spears (approx 8 of them - more or less depending on the size). In a bowl, mix up some olive oil with microplaned or pressed fresh garlic. Dump in a bunch of spices. The original recipe calls for coriander, oregano, fennel, chili, salt, and black pepper. Add to the list or subtract, whole spices or ground... you can't really go wrong. (OK, no whole black pepper, but beyond that...) Smear this mess all over your butternut squash spears. (See pre-baking photo above.) Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Sometimes mine take a few minutes longer. You want them to be tender and roasty. For dinner, we had these with rice and Vegan Dad burgers (from my stock in the freezer).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 29: Green Tomatoes

Heeding warnings of cold temperatures, we harvested all the remaining frost-vulnerable items from our little backyard garden, including a bunch of green tomatoes. When I was a kid, we would put all our green tomatoes in paper grocery sacks in the basement and they would slowly ripen. I am more likely to turn these into fried green tomatoes.

There are a number of different fried green tomoato philosophies. Lately, I have seen many FGTs that are completely encased in a cornmeal crust. Beyond the fact that these are likely to involve eggs (and thus be non-vegan), such a complete shell is contrary to the way I learned to make them. (I am equally opposed to encased okra.)

To make fried green tomatoes, my way, do this: Slice tomatoes, and toss with a mix of equal parts flour and cornmeal, with some salt and pepper. You can add other seasonings, and I often go for thyme and cayenne. Fry in a hot cast iron skillet with a thin layer of oil, until well-browned on each side.

I would be tempted to make a green tomato pie, but we have been very over-sugared of late (tester cookies and a delicious pear crisp from The Joy of Vegan Baking). If you are interested, most traditional green tomato pie recipes are easy to veganize, requiring only a substitution of vegan margarine or oil for butter - for example, this recipe looks very similar to that made by relatives of mine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 28: Square Meals (a.k.a. George Burke Appreciation)

My early, tentative forays into vegan eating were much assisted by the publication of Simply Heavenly! - The Monastery Vegetarian Cookbook by Abbot George Burke. Not only is it a large and comprehensive vegan cookbook, but it also includes lots of information on unfamiliar ingredients and where to find them - which was incredibly valuable in a pre-internet era.

Burke has traced a complicated spiritual pilgrimage, as can be seen in his autobiography. At the time that this cookbook was published, he headed an independent sacramental christian community called the Gnostic Orthodox Church, apparently now defunct. Burke's Hindu influences (esp. Paramahansa Yogananda and Anandamayi Ma) have been important throughout his adult life. He and his community now follow a Hindu path as the Atma Jyoti Ashram. Today, Burke is known as Swami Nirmalananda Giri.

Simply Heavenly! is an unfortunate casualty of the transitions in Burke's community, and has been out of print for some years. It remains one of my favorite cookbooks, and I use it frequently. I have made Burke's recipe for Anadama Bread at least a zillion times. Thanks to Burke, I own (and love) a steam juicer which makes truly excellent broth, among other uses.

When I have leftovers that need repackaging, or random items that need using (tonight: some leftover chicken-style seitan, chopped up in a skillet with a little red bell pepper and bbq sauce), I often turn to his formula for "Square Meals" - an Americanized relative of the pierogi and the calzone. He provides a number of recipes for fillings, but you can use whatever you have. He also gives a separate recipe for a sweet dough, and a number of sweet fillings. As the book is out of print, and used copies are often hard to find and pricey, I will give you the basic recipe for savory square meals:

2 T yeast
1 c. warm water
1 t. unrefined sugar
3 T. vegetable oil
3 c. flour (white or whole wheat or a mixture)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
1/2 t. onion powder
1/4 t. garlic powder

Mix yeast, water, and sugar, and let stand 10 minutes. (I don't find this waiting necessary, and usually proceed with the recipe without waiting for the yeast to proof. Your mileage may vary.) Whisk in the oil. Sift the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the wet. When well-combined, turn the dough out on the counter, and knead for a few minutes until you have a smooth ball. Roll out until approximately 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into 4 inch squares. Moisten all four edges of a square with water, and then put 1/3 cup of your chosen filling in the center. Fold in the corners toward the center (like folding an envelope). Pinch the center and the seams carefully to be sure they are sealed. Place on lightly greased baking sheet (or parchment, as in my photo), seam side down. Prick the top with a fork several times. You can brush the tops with oil or vegan milk if you want. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes. These freeze well and make great work lunches.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 27: Thank you for my breakfast, Brendan Brazier

Some months ago, I bought a copy of The Thrive Diet by vegan athlete Brendan Brazier. I bought it on-line, following a friend's recommendation, and was a little worried that the book might be a commercial for the Vega products that Brazier formulated. I have never tried Vega, and it is not exactly in my budget. However, I shouldn't have worried, as The Thrive Diet is a very useful and solid book, containing excellent nutritional information and a wide range of recipes. While Brazier certainly mentions Vega, he makes it clear that you don't need those products to follow his program, and gives easy DIY recipes for making your own versions.

Even the quickest glance at this blog will demonstrate that we don't follow Brazier's diet recommendations with any great strictness. Nonetheless, we consume his smoothies very frequently for breakfast (ginger-pear in the photo above), and we also like his nutrition bar recipes (easy and better than any of the commercial ones). We haven't gotten too far beyond smoothies and bars, but I hope to do so, soon. He has some intriguing pizza recipes that beg to be made!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 26: I wouldn't call this fasting...

Most traditional religions include periods of fasting through the year, and the Orthodox Church is no exception. Orthodox fasting rules vary according to the season or holy day, but during some parts of the year the fast amounts to veganism (sometimes also excluding oil, which results in interesting low-fat and fat-free vegan recipes).

I'm not a fan of seeing vegan food as a cleanse or fast or detox or whatever. It's a satisfying and wholesome way to eat, period. Regardless, the Orthodox fasting rules have resulted in many (mostly vegan) fasting or Lenten cookbooks. Even regular Orthodox church-lady cookbooks usually include a large fasting section. Whenever I am near an Orthodox church or bookstore, I look for cookbooks, and now have quite a collection. (In Nashville, check out the Alektor Cafe and Bookstore - they usually have several in stock.)

I had some eggplant that needed to be used, so I pulled down The Festive Fast: Greek Meatless Cooking in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition by Marigoula Kokkinou & Georgia Kofinas, a consistently reliable source of good ideas. I messed around with their "Baked Eggplant with Walnuts" recipe, altering it enough that I don't mind giving you the details of what I did:

Preheat oven to 400. Wash 1 lb eggplant, trim off ends, and slice lengthwise into thin slices. (As my eggplant were young and organic, I did not peel them. In retrospect, I suggest using 2 lbs of eggplant, as the recipe makes plenty of topping.) Drop the eggplant slices into boiling salted water for only 2-3 minutes, and then drain. Place them in a casserole dish, and sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika to taste. Pour a little olive oil over the eggplant, add about 1/3 cup of all purpose flour (or 2/3 if using the larger eggplant amount), and toss until combined. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put 7 oz walnuts in the food processor with 4 cloves of garlic, 4 T red wine vinegar, and about 2-3 T water, and process until you have a thick paste. (To make it easy to peel multiple cloves of garlic, gather them on the counter, and give them a good smack with the back of a cast iron skillet to loosen their dry outer skins.) Spread the walnut paste over the top of the eggplant casserole, lower the oven temperature to 350, and bake for 20 more minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 25: Freezer Time!

Grow Peace tagged me for the freezer game, so I have to show you my scary freezer. I'm afraid I cram it full of stuff, and sometimes forget what is in there. We also have a lot of houseguests, so I find welcome and unwelcome surprises - such as the two boxes of vegan frozen waffles, gluten-free and regular/flax.
Other items of note: frozen tofu (which I just transformed into the very tasty Tofu Nuggets from Don't Have a Cow No. 4), leftover soup, the inside sleeve of my ice cream maker, Rice Dream ice cream, a single peach-vanilla popsicle, corn on the cob from my mother's garden, a Folgers can full of Cafe Najjar, a bag of Sunergos Coffee, a bunch of different kinds of nuts, and a big bag of Vegan Dad burgers. We almost always have Vegan Dad burgers (TVP, tempeh, and/or sausage varieties), and some version of the famous Julie Hasson steamed sausages (which are in there, but hidden behind other things) in the freezer. The sausages are useful for so many things, and the burgers make a quick work lunch choice.
Many of the bloggers I read seem to have been tagged already. I don't have time to sit here and search for more! So, if you are reading this and have not been tagged yet, show us your freezer!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 24: Hot Gluten, Nashville Style

Every town has its own crazy food, if you look for it. Nashville has the usual array of Southern specialties, but there are also a few "only here" items, chief among them being Hot Chicken. It is not just spicy fried chicken. Keep reading.

If you grew up here, you have surely had Hot Chicken in the wee hours of the morning. Most of the establishments which serve it (including Prince's, the originator) stay open all night. It is a food that seems most compelling when one's judgment is impaired by alcohol or other substances. I've had it in my head to veganize this, and last night was my first try. I'm quite pleased with the results. With a little fine-tuning, I may enter a vegan version in next summer's Music City Hot Chicken Festival. You can still set yourself on fire with no animal cruelty and no cholesterol!

Non-Nashville people, in order to understand Hot Chicken, you need to watch this film. Sorry for all the meat in it, but it's a very well done film and will teach you what you need to know. Once you have educated yourself about the subject in general, here's how to make your own vegan version at home:

First you need vegan meat. I made Joanna's Chicken-Style Seitan Cutlets, which worked well. You want your vegan meat and your breading to be very plain. You will be adding enough flavor in due course. (There is at least one place in town that marinates the meat in hot pepper sauce before frying, but that is insane overkill.) Joanna's cutlets are quite thin when made as directed, which results in a high breading-to-gluten ratio. If you are going to make your Hot Gluten really really hotttt, you may want a more substantial cutlet to help balance it. You could make a thicker version of Joanna's recipe, or go with something like the DEOTS chicken-style seitan, or the Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon, or even steamed tempeh.

Once you have your vegan meat, dredge it in self-rising flour. (If you don't have self-rising, you can add 1 1/2 t baking powder and 1/2 t salt to a cup of all purpose flour.) Don't go adding seasoning to the flour - plain, plain, plain. Heat up some oil in a cast iron Dutch oven and fry away. You will see mine above. When done, put the fried gluten on a brown paper sack to drain.

Here comes the hot part. You need a hot pepper paste, which you can make in advance. I tried two versions. First, I veganized this year's winning recipe, by simply subbing vegan shortening for the lard. Then, on impulse, I made a second paste out of 3 T Indian chili powder (which is mostly ground red peppers), 1 T + 1 t coconut oil, 1/2 t salt, and 1/2 t unrefined sugar. The second paste did not taste Indian or coconutty at all. It still delivered the same knockout blow as the cayenne paste, but with a little more grace. See photo above.

Put on gloves. While the fried gluten is still hot, gently rub on the desired amount of paste. Fingertip action works well. You don't want to break the breading. Try to be very even - no remaining globs of paste (as such a glob would kill you if you suddenly met it in your mouth). Use much less than you think you need to. Traditionally, you want the whole thing to be dark red, and this happens pretty quickly, even with a very light application. Warning: Even "Mild" hot chik'n is "Hot" by any other standard.

Place your Hot Gluten on a couple of pieces of bread. We used french bread as that is what we had, but that is an outrageous heresy. Spongy nutrition-free white bread of the Wonder Bread / Bunny Bread sort is traditional. After applying hot paste to the first side of the gluten, you can flip it onto the bread to work on the second side, so that some of the hot red greasiness of the first side runs into the bread. Finally, throw a few slices of cucumber pickle on top. Some people go for a spicy pickle, but that's c.r.a.z.y. Regular pickles will be fine. There is a contingent that believes in mayo, so feel free to apply a little Vegenaise if you see fit. I didn't get a photo of our assembled Hot Gluten - it was (appropriately) late and it went fast!

Enjoy carefully, and with respect. As Ms Andre says in the film, "It's a cleansing, and we need it."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 23: Testing, testing

Last night was devoted to a first round with a french bread test recipe for Peter Reinhart's next project. I still have a lot of dough, so will be baking more (and working on improving my shaping) later in the week. (Report: So very good, and the best crust I've made in a home oven.)

I enjoy recipe testing for cookbook authors. I wind up trying recipes that I would not have picked out of the published book. I also learn new tricks and techniques. Thanks to all my cookbook- and cookzine-writing friends for the opportunity!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bonus MoFo: Bluegrass Soy Sauce in The NY Times!

While this is the I-40 Kitchen, and not the I-65 Kitchen, I heart our neighboring state to the north, the beautiful Commonwealth of Kentucky. It's less than an hour away, I was born there, and I have family in Louisville.

I was so delighted to open The New York Times food section on-line today, and find an article on Bluegrass Soy Sauce, a small-batch soy sauce made in Kentucky. Go read about it, and buy yourself some. It's really good stuff. PS... the company also makes bourbon smoked paprika...

Vegan MoFo Day 22: Some of my favorite things...

... Louise Hagler recipes, french fries, and the American Miso Company!
Louise Hagler lives just down the way at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. She has been churning out creative vegan food, and cookbooks, for almost 40 years! At a class a couple of months ago, she told us how excited she and her colleagues were, in the early 1970s, when they first figured out how freezing tofu would change the texture. It is hard to believe that such knowledge is so recent, and that the innovators are still working on vegan cuisine today!
Above you will see the Spicy French Fries from Louise's book, Miso Cookery: miso, garlic, chipotle, and other things, smeared onto french fries and baked in the oven until crispy. Need I say more? To make it even better, we used local organic miso from the American Miso Company in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, not far from Asheville.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 21: Postal Blessings from Tofu Queen

So I think we all know by now that I'm fond of swap boxes! Today brought some great treats from the lovely and talented Tofu Queen! I wish you could smell the coffee! The beans are a wonderful heirloom type. (What should I do with them? Suggestions for a Tofu Queen Dinner are welcome). Thanks to the late day glare in the photo, you can't see how beautiful the olive oil is. Fun, fun, fun! We shall make delicious things!
See, children, drunk posting on Facebook leads directly to heirloom beans!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bonus MoFo: A Small Nod to the Iron Chef Challenge

Once again this weekend, I had no time to summon creativity and do the VeganMoFo Iron Chef Challenge, but it did motivate me to try the Peanut Cheeze as a sushi filling - really tasty!

Vegan MoFo Day 20: Peanut Cheeze

PPK readers may recall my earlier experiment with the "Chedda Polenta" recipe in the Seven Secrets Cookbook by Jim and Neva Brackett. This is a vegan cheeze based on peanuts and cornmeal. (Gluten-free and soy-free people, take note: this cheeze is for you.) My first try was tasty, but looked a bit funny, as I put it in a loaf pan that was too large. This time I used my smallest individual mini-pan: much better, and the texture is also improved.

As with most vegan cheeze, this is not going to mimic dairy. But it is very tasty in its own savory right. A few recipe notes: I used smoked paprika instead of regular paprika, because I love it (and have to be physically restrained from putting it in everything). Next time, I will probably reduce the baking time by a few minutes. You can see in the photo that the edges are a little crumbly. For the peanuts, I used plain, store-brand, salted, roasted peanuts from the snack aisle. (Watch ingredients, as some brands of roasted peanuts include gelatin. Bizarre, but true.) I cut the salt in the recipe slightly, as the peanuts were already quite salty.

This is good on crackers, shredded into tofu scramble, or (as above) in a sandwich with struan, vegenaise, arugula, and tomatoes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 19: Lemon Pickle (for Kittee)

Kittee is an avatar from the exalted cosmic dimension of Vegan, bringing kitchen wisdom to the rest of us. When she recently blogged about Indian lemon pickle, I decided I had to make some. Besides, pickles are this weeks's DIY challenge at the PPK Forums. I used the recipe from Dakshin, which she suggested - easy and scrumptious (and SPICY!).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bonus MoFo: Music & Molasses Festival

This morning I stopped by the annual Music & Molasses Festival. If you are in the Nashville area, it is running all weekend. The Guenther family is there, demonstrating the traditional method for making sorghum molasses. (If you have received sorghum in a swap box from me, this family probably made it.) You can see the cane and the cooking process above, as well as cookbooks and a sorghum popcorn ball.

The cookbooks are from the National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association. From the Sorghum Treasures cookbook, here is the popcorn ball recipe, veganized (the original has butter):
3/4 c. sorghum molasses
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. vegan margarine
1/2 t. baking soda
Cook the molasses and sugar over low heat until the firm ball stage (250). Add the margarine and baking soda. Pour over approx 8 quarts of popped popcorn. Dip hands in cold water and form balls.
If you go to the festival, get a sorghum sucker. They are vegan and tasty (and the recipe is in the book).

Vegan MoFo Day 18: Sourdough Biscuits

Whatever you are doing now, please stop. You have a new mission if you choose to accept it: Sourdough Biscuits. These are not traditional sourdough - they have a weird pre-ferment that (in our veganized version) involved soy yogurt and commercial yeast. Given my cultural background and location, I can be picky about biscuits. These are flat-out fantastic. If Southern biscuits got together with dinner rolls and had a baby, this is it.

Not too long ago, I bought a baking video made by the aunt of a friend of a friend. It's not vegan, but most of the recipes are veganizable. Think whole (peeled, cored) apples, wrapped in crust and baked in a deep bath of syrup. Not health food, but really good - and well-demonstrated with lots of tips and tricks. This odd biscuit recipe intrigued me, and I decided to try veganizing it. Here's what I did:

The day before, mix up 2 cups of soy yogurt, 2 cups of all purpose flour, and 1 T yeast. I used FarmSoy yogurt, as it is delicious, local, and contains only organic soymilk and live cultures. Cover this, and leave it out on the counter for approximately 24 hours.

When ready to make biscuits, mix 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 T baking powder, 1 T unrefined sugar, and 1/2 t salt. Work in 1/2 cup of vegan margarine or shortening. (I used Earth Balance. If you are avoiding palm oil products, I think almost anything would work - probably even a mild oil like canola, as she used very soft butter in the demonstration.) Then add 2 cups of the "sourdough" pre-ferment, and stir until just combined. The dough will be sticky. Turn it out on a floured counter and knead for just a minute or two - not much.

I made small biscuits, as that is what I wanted, but in the DVD, Bonnie Hamilton demonstrates making big tall ones. However you do it, cut the biscuits out, place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425. Bake 12-15 minutes until they look done.

In the DVD she gives more details and tips, and instructions for how to keep the pre-ferment going. Not to mention a bunch of other good recipes!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 17: When your superpowers are running low (a.k.a. Thursday night)...

Even vegan superpowers sometimes run down. When you've worked all day, early-voted, walked the dog in the rain, and have bills to pay and laundry to do.... well, your display might be showing only one bar of power. I've noted quite a few MoFoers posting quick weeknight meals, and this is ours, tonight:

Sweet Potato Oven Fries: I don't have to tell you how, do I? (Chop, olive oil and salt, 400 til done)

Crispy Tempeh Bits: After the manner of Mark Bittman in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, but upgraded with some amazing Oregon-made chili-garlic sauce, which I scored in a trade with Julie. Crumble the tempeh in a hot skillet with some oil, salt, and pepper, cook till crispy, season to taste.
Greens and Noodles: After the manner of Joanne Stepaniak in Vegan Vittles, but simplified, and with the protein cut out as we had the tempeh. Chop the greens (in this case, a mix of tatsoi, kale, and turnip greens) and boil until soft (15 minutes or so). Add a big handful of udon noodles and cook until done (12-13 minutes). Drain and then toss with some olive oil, soy sauce, and ume plum vinegar. I added some liquid smoke, too. Check out Joanne's book for a more complex (and delicious) version, and a number of variations.

I did all of the above while emptying and reloading the dishwasher, paying bills, cleaning up after myself, and playing with the dog. A healthy, fast dinner, made from stuff we had on hand!
(PS - Ume plum vinegar is the best thing ever in greens. All homage to Gabrielle Mittelstaedt former head chef of the much-missed Peaceful Planet restaurant in Nashville for pointing this out to me.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 16: Community Supported Agriculture

We are halfway through the Vegan Month of Food!

Today is the weekly pick-up day for our Community Supported Agriculture box. If you are not familiar with how CSA works, you pay a local farmer at the beginning of the season, and then receive a box of fresh produce every week (or every other week, or however your farm's plan works). Today's box includes turnip greens, tatsoi, bell peppers, eggplant (read: more caponata), arugula, sweet potatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, radishes and tomatoes.

CSA is a great way to support local farmers, and to eat in a local/seasonal way that does not involve shipping food around the world. The cost is very reasonable when you consider the amount of produce you receive over the year, and the quality. Our CSA, Delvin Farms, offers both a regular season (May - October) and a Nov-Dec extension for those who want the kale, sweet potatoes, and winter squash to keep flowing through the holidays. I am always excited to see what vegetables, fruit, and herbs each week will bring. It can be a challenge to use (or preserve) everything, but it prompts me to try new recipes and helps to ensure we eat lots of fresh vegetables. We split our box with the neighbors which also helps. If one household is unified in dislike of a vegetable, the other household can take it.

If you are in the greater Nashville area, you can find information on local CSAs here. Asheville area readers can look here. For the rest of you, google should do it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 15: Cookies and Wine

So, Terry is a genius. We made a biscotti test recipe for the cookie book that she and Isa are working on. I have to take some of these to work today before we eat them all.

We enjoyed the biscotti last night after dinner with a glass of muscadine wine. Muscadines are a thick-skinned grape that is native to the southeastern United States. They come in red/purple, and in a greenish/bronze variety called scuppernongs. My great aunt had muscadine vines in her back yard, and I ate many of them as a child. It is a different experience from eating other grapes, as the skin is too thick to eat, so you are only after the innards. It can get messy, but it is fun.

Aunt Cora was a strict Baptist so she only made jelly and juice from her muscadines. However, many other people in the South turn them into wine. The kind Bryophyte recently procured some local North Carolina muscadine wine for us. It's fresh, grapey, sweet, and best when chilled. If you like dessert wines, you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bonus MoFo: Wild Mushrooms

If you have been around Asheville's food scene, you have probably encountered Alan Muskat, who teaches classes and conducts tours about wild mushrooms. Alan has put the 4th edition of his book, Wild Mushrooms: A Taste of Enchantment on-line for free download, with a suggested donation of $5. The 5th edition is in the works for next year. If you are interested in wild mushrooms, check it out!

Vegan MoFo Day 14: Trade Boxes and DIY Update

One of my favorite things about participating in the forums at The PPK is the opportunity to trade with folks in other areas, sharing regional treats, personal favorite items, and so on. Today is a federal holiday, so there was no mail - but DHL left a most amazing package on our stoop, from efcliz in England. I always enjoy efcliz's posts and blog, as she is as obsessed with cookbooks as I am - and that says a lot. You can see the contents above - and, yes, my jealous friends, that is indeed a wheel of Blue Sheese. She also indulged my Marmite obsession! T and I may battle to the death over the Marmite breadsticks! Liz, anytime you need more sorghum or grits, you let me know.

The DIY challenge at the PPK is stetching the tortilla project into two weeks. As I made corn tortillas, I thought I would give flour tortillas a try, using this recipe linked by Morgyn, using almond milk instead of dairy. These are the kind with baking powder in them, so they are fluffier than the ones I get at the local Mexican places - but, damn, are they good! We had them with roasted yellow summer squash, chopped fresh tomatoes (from the back yard), and lemon pepper tofu (a fantastic recipe from Isa's forthcoming brunch book). I want to try making the other sort of flour tortilla also, but I'll definitely make this recipe again. It was very easy, and we both liked it a lot. Results also pictured above.

The next week of the DIY challenge is devoted is pickles. I made pickles recently, using the recipe that Julie posted at EverydayDish. My cucumbers were large, so I sliced them. If you examine our jar above, you will see that we have made short work of the gallon we started with. I may have to make them again.... Does anyone have a good idea for another sort of pickle I should try? (Kittee, I know I should make lemon pickle.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 13: The Complete Book of Pies

I wish I was able to do the Vegan MoFo Iron Chef Challenge that Katie is orchestrating, but life and travel keep getting in the way. (I just drove back to Tennessee.) Maybe next week. In the meanwhile...

I have been eyeing the Spiced Apple Pie recipe in Julie Hasson's The Complete Book of Pies. It's on the cover of the book. As I had all the ingredients, I decided to give it a go tonight. If you really need another reason to buy this book, here you have it. This apple pie manages to be traditional and homey at the same time that it is complex and interesting. (It's not even finished cooling, but I had to cut into it!) I was lazy and had no shortening in the freezer, so I made her Sweet Oil Crust - excellent texture, foolproof, and fast.

Julie's book is not vegan, but it has many, many vegan recipes, all of which are clearly marked. And I strongly suspect that, with a little creativity, even the recipes not marked vegan-friendly can be veganized.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 12: Black Walnuts

If you are the foraging sort, this is the season for black walnuts. I picked up the ones in the photo (and many more) along the side of my street in Asheville. The opposite side of our street is public right-of-way, as it falls down a sharp hill to the street below. There are several walnut trees, a couple of green apple trees, and a crabapple in the neighborhood right-of-ways - the produce of which is all free for the taking. Thank you, Asheville: City of Trees.
Black walnuts have a strong, distinctive flavor. If you haven't had them, they are not like English walnuts at all, at least to my taste. The first chore is removing the green husk. This is a pain, and the husk (which is used in some traditional dyes) will stain the beejeesus out of your hands and clothes. The best method I know is to put them in your driveway, and drive over them for a few days. Seriously. Once you are free of the husks, you have to break open the nuts, which (again) is none too easy. It can be done with a very sturdy nut-cracker, although a hammer comes in handy and is my weapon of choice. And then you will need a good nut-pick, as the nut-meats are not particularly easy to extract. Did I mention that black walnuts are so delicious that humans have been willing to put up with all this nonsense for centuries, to get at them?
Black walnuts are one of my mother's favorite foods, so we used to gather large quantities from my grandparents' farms. While not as passionate as my mother, I do enjoy them. They are wonderful in any chocolate concoction - chocolate chip cookies, cake, brownies, or fudge. Black walnut ice cream will bring all the boys (and girls) to the yard. And they are delicious in faux-chicken salad (made with tempeh, loosely following the recipe here) and vegetable stir-frys.
Black walnuts are very nutritious, but you'll eat them because they taste good! If you see these strange green globes along the roadside or in your yard, pick them up!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 11: Amazing Savings

I'm in Asheville, and it is a beautiful Saturday. This morning, I went to a place that is maybe 5 minutes from our house, on Sweeten Creek Road, not far out of Biltmore Village. It is called Amazing Savings, and is a close-out grocery that specializes in whole/natural/health food. As you can see from the photo above, it is not much to look at from the outside. I have driven by it at least 100 times and never noticed. But Bryophyte from The PPK told me I had to go, and I did. Lord, have mercy. It's a wonderland of cheap food! MimicCreme for 99 cents! A big container of pistachio oil for $4.99! Avocado oil, soba noodles, organic produce, flax seeds, mung beans, local sorghum molasses, quinoa cookies (99 cents for the box) and the list goes on. If you spend over $50, you get an extra 10% off. Like any close-out place, you have to keep an eye out for any visible problems and the expiration date, but this place is truly amazing.

When I got home, one of my elderly neighbors said, "I trade at Amazing Savings a lot. They have the good vitamins." He also reports that there is another close-out grocery in Asheville which draws from conventional stores, called GO Grocery Outlet, and that the prices there are even better than at Amazing Savings. I am definitely going to check it out for items that I buy from the "regular" grocery store.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 10: Theosophical Society Appreciation Post

The Vegan Month of Food continues. As people seemed to like the SDA post, here's another chapter of the veg story:

The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 by H.P. Blavatsky and her associates. The story of the TS is a long and interesting one, but for our purposes, it may be enough to know that this society played a crucially important role in increasing awareness of Asian religions (especially Hinduism and Buddhism) into the West, and that it is the great-grandparent of many of the new religious movements of our day. The TS and its spin-offs have also made a significant contribution in promoting veg*nism.

From its beginning, the TS has advocated but not required vegetarianism. This was a radical position in the late 19th century. A close associate of Blavatsky, Countess Constance Wachtmeister (photo above) composed a cookbook called Practical Vegetarian Cookery to help members make the dietary transition. From the recipes posted on-line, it appears the Countess relied rather heavily on eggs and dairy. Ah well. Theosophical vegetarian cooking continues today. I have had wonderful vegan meals in the cafeterias of the Olcott Center in Wheaton, Illinois (the national center of the TS in the United States) and the Melbourne Theosophical Society in Australia. In Sydney, Australia, the local TS lodge is next door to (and in some way associated with) a great cafe called the Bar Adyar, where I had a lovely spinach-pumpkin salad for lunch. If you are near a branch of the TS, check them out. Their bookstores almost always have veg*n cookbooks as well as works on spiritual vegetarianism, and you might find a hidden cafeteria. It was a delight to discover the Melbourne cafeteria, which is open to the public, but tucked away on an upper floor of the TS building on Russell Street.

Like all organzations, the TS has had its splits over the years. One of the most important schisms was the exit of Rudolf Steiner and a large part of the German Section in 1913. Steiner and his students then founded the Anthroposophical Society. Steiner is perhaps best known for his central role in the origins of Waldorf education and Biodynamic agriculture. Much like Blavatsky, he often recommended vegetarianism to his students, but did not require it. (See his lectures collected as Nutrition and Stimulants, Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Assoc., 1991) Steiner gave some interesting indications to bakers which are included in the Nutrition and Stimulants volume. You can find a (veganizable) bread recipe worked out from Steiner's guidance here. The Waldorf and Biodynamic movements have produced a number of books on food and cooking, few of which are strictly vegetarian, but most of which are veg-friendly. The books of Wendy Cook are a good example, and one might note the forthcoming lacto-vegetarian cookbook by Hermann Spindler.

To give only one more example, travelers to southern California may have encountered the Rosicrucian Fellowship's beautiful headquarters in Oceanside (between San Diego and Los Angeles), complete with a vegetarian cafe. This organization was founded in 1909 by a former Theosophist named Max Heindel, who also had connections to Rudolf Steiner. Heindel's organization promotes vegetarianism and publishes a couple of veg cookbooks.

The world of late 19th / early 20th century occultism can be a strange one indeed, especially to the newcomer. Regardless of one's evaluation of these organizations and their teachings, we owe them a debt of gratitude for promoting a veg*n diet for ethical and spiritual reasons, long before it became fashionable.

I am headed to Asheville later today. If I can get internet access, I'll post from there. Otherwise, MoFo posting will return on Monday.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 9: Product Review: Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes

This is our new favorite breakfast item. I bought it at the local Whole Foods, but it is widely available on-line, and can be bought in bulk from the manufacturer. The flakes are steam-rolled organic quinoa. It looks like tiny oatmeal, and cooks up super-fast into a smooth porridge with a light taste and gentle texture. According to the box, it can be used in baking, and for other purposes like thickening soups. We haven't gotten that far, yet. If you are a quinoa fan, you'll love it. And when you are enjoying your quinoa flakes with a splash of hemp milk, you can ponder just how far down the vegan rabbithole you have fallen!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bonus MoFo: Pupusas

Pupusas are not beautiful food to begin with, and with the dark, cloudy evening here, all my efforts at a decent photograph failed miserably. I thought I had a good one of a pupusa in my hand, but when I downloaded it was blurry. So it goes.

I had leftover taco fillings (refried beans, corn relish, spinach, taco-spiced soy curls) from the other night, and lots of masa, so I decided to try my hand at pupusas. I love to order this wonderful Salvadoran food at Las Americas - they will make me a vegetarian-beans-only pupusa, and they are really nice about it. There is at least one other place nearby that makes them (Delicias Mary Chuy Restaurant) but I have not strayed from Las Americas.

There are apparently many ways to make a pupusa. After some internet research and watching the guys at Las Americas, here is what I did:

1. Mix masa harina with hot water from the tap until you have a soft but not sticky dough. Let rest for 30 minutes or more.

2. Pick up a golf-ball sized lump of masa, and hollow it out to make a cup. Put filling down in the cup, pull the sides around as far as you can, and then place a cap of masa on top to seal it.

3. Roll the ball around in your hands until it is smooth and sealed. Then gently flatten until it is 1/4 inch thick or a little more. If it breaks around the edge or filling pops through, just repair the best you can, and keep going. No worries - imperfections won't hurt. I found it easier to do most of the flattening in my hand and then finish on a plate.

4. Place in a hot skillet and fry on both sides until done. A dry skillet was recommended in a number of sources, but I saw someone on YouTube use just a wee bit of oil, so I did that. I think it was a good idea.

5. Eat! Tomato salsa and a cabbage/carrot slaw are the usual sides. We had the salsa but not the slaw, because I am lazy. You need the tomato salsa to point up the flavor, especially if the fillings are mild. When I make these again, I think I'll experiment with adding a little salt and/or seasonings to the masa.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

VeganMoFo Day 8: SDA Appreciation Post

I'm sorry the photo is sideways. I've been fighting with flickr and blogger, and it won't rotate. I give up. Anyhow...

I am sure that the first intentionally vegan meal I consumed was during one of several childhood visits to the Country Life restaurant which was formerly located in Nashville. (The building is now an Adventist-run whole foods co-op, at least the last time I checked.) My mother, while a confirmed omnivore, was interested in health food, and Country Life was near the old Sunshine Grocery.

Country Life was run by members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which encourages but does not require a veg*n diet for its members. This "health message" has a number of theological roots. For example, in the Bible, God gives only plant foods to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with no instruction to eat meat until after the Flood. Thus, one might conclude that a veg diet is the original divine intent for humanity. Also, as our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we should care for our health, and the veg diet is healthy. If you are interested in Adventist views on these matters, there are a number of books by early SDA leader Ellen White which explore the subject. Those who enjoy cold cereal might note that John Harvey Kellogg was an Adventist vegetarian. These are the people who brought us corn flakes! If nothing else, the Adventists are a reminder to the rest of the veg community that people eat veg*n for a wide variety of reasons, including conservative religious reasons.

My great-great-grandfather was a Seventh-Day Adventist, and I like to think that he would be pleased with my dietary choices, although he might not approve of some of my other views!

The Adventists are a great resource as they run restaurants, food co-ops, and bulk buying clubs, often in areas that are not so veg-friendly. Their church bookstores frequently have a section with pre-packaged veg foods and cookbooks. Despite the fact that I am not Adventist (a fact which is probably quite clear from my appearance), I have never met anything other than friendly helpfulness in their stores in both New York and Tennessee.

SDA cooking tends to be down-home, comforting, and nourishing. Think gravy and veggie loaf and casseroles. This is what you need after a long day of weeding the kale and picking the okra on your vegan homestead. The famous and useful Magical Loaf Studio on Jennifer McCann's website is a computerized version of a flexible veggie loaf formula often given out at Adventist cooking classes. Of course, Adventist cuisine continues to evolve, and new directions can be seen in books like the Seven Secrets Cookbook by Neva and Jim Brackett. There are also some wonderful SDA veg bloggers out there.

If you are new to SDA cooking, I suggest starting with the Country Life Vegetarian Cookbook. No vegan can go wrong with this classic. You can explore further in the cookbook listings at the Adventist Book Center and Country Life Natural Foods. If you happen upon any older Adventist cookbooks in a used bookstore, snap them up! They give a fascinating look into the veg cuisine of an earlier era, and you might find yourself whipping up a batch of protose while remembering those who were veg before us!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 7: DIY Tortillas

The DIY task appointed by Morgyn at The PPK forums for this week is tortillas. I bought a press yesterday (inexpensive, and worked like a charm), and already had masa harina and water (the only ingredients) on hand.

I followed Rick Bayless' instructions from Authentic Mexican, which are very detailed and helpful. A couple of notes, though - He said the masa should be like soft cookie dough. Mine was too wet at first, and I had to adjust. Also, he mentions using thick plastic on the press, but offers no explanation of where to obtain such. A little internet exploration revealed that one can cut squares from a freezer bag - and they are durable enough to wipe off, keep, and re-use. (If you are trying to avoid plastic, waxed paper works, too, although you don't get many uses from a sheet. I tried both waxed paper and the freezer bag pieces.)

Condensed instructions: Mix masa harina with hot water from the tap until you have a soft but entirely non-sticky dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes or more. Place one iron skillet on medium-low heat, and one on medium-high. (No oil. Both skillets are dry.) Use your tortilla press to make a tortilla: Press a walnut-sized ball of masa in-between sheets of plastic or waxed paper, turn 180 degrees, press again, and peel off into your hand. Drop the raw tortilla in the medium low skillet for 20 seconds or so, then flip into the hot skillet for another 20 seconds, then (still in the hot skillet), turn over for a final 20 seconds. It should puff up like a pita (it does, it does!). Wrap the finished tortillas in a kitchen towel, while you continue working.

Having made these once, I have a much better sense of the proper dough consistency, timing, how hot the skillets should be, and so on. It's really easy once you get the hang of it, and if my first tortillas are not so pretty, that's a sacrifice I'm happy to make for the education. Much like yeast bread, there is a tactile learning process here - you have to get your hands in the masa to understand it.

Results: SO much better than the tortillas in the store. I don't think I can buy the pre-made anymore. It's a whole different world. We had them with Soy Curls cooked with taco seasonings, baby spinach, and Cahill Desert Corn Relish (another crazy-delicious swap package score from ViT).

Go make tortillas!