Whew! We made it to the end of another Vegan Month of Food! I've noted so many good ideas from the MoFo bloggers. It will take me a year to work through them. Today, I procured ingredients for the top two recipes on my MoFo list: Kim's Cream of Mushroom Soup and Dianne's Welsh Rabbit. Above you can see the Cream of Mushroom in process. It is everything you once loved about Campbell's, but about 1000 times better. The Welsh Rabbit will follow in the next day or two. Tonight, while waiting to load up the neighborhood children with candy, we'll be enjoying Jeffrey's Tater Tacos. Have a fun, safe Halloween, y'all!
Being big fans of Joanna Vaught's Yellow Rose Recipes, we were excited to test for her second book. After she made a decision not to continue with the project, I carefully guarded my precious print-outs of test recipes. There are so many excellent ones, including the best hummus ever. Really. Above you will see a photo of a bean salad, which I am making again tonight for a work party. If you have been living under a rock with no wifi access to the vegan internet, Joanna is about to release the tested recipes in zine format. Such good news!
Yesterday, I received a copy of Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day in the mail. Here's the FTC full disclosure part: I was a tester for this book, but no free copies were involved. (There were literally hundreds of testers, so tester copies weren't possible.) I made almost all the recipes, and enjoyed them immensely. I have been a big Reinhart fan ever since Brother Juniper's Bread Book, which remains a favorite.
The good news: In the introductory material, Reinhart clearly states that substitutes for dairy, eggs, and honey will work well in the recipes, and mentions some specifically, e.g., agave for honey. He was always open to my veganizing during testing. The less useful news: Individual recipes don't have vegan suggestions, and - especially with eggs - some substitutions work better in certain cases. If anyone needs input on a specific recipe, let me know. I am happy to share my experiments with you. Above you see the challah, which worked shockingly well with Ener-G Egg Replacer, which I do not normally enjoy in baked goods. I replaced the egg yolks with 1/4 c Ener-G whisked together with 1/2 c soy milk. I think the vanilla in the dough cancelled out any possible off-taste from the Ener-G. Instead of an egg wash, I brush the tops with some dark coffee, into which I had mixed a spoonful of maple syrup. With the chocolate babka, I replaced the eggs with a mixture of mashed banana and ground flaxseed, again with success. Every recipe was a little different - and some were already vegan.
It's a great book - really a must-have, in my opinion, if you are interested in baking.
Attention FTC: Amazon sent me a free copy of Robin Asbell's New Vegetarian for review. I haven't made anything from it yet, but it did inspire my dinner tonight. It looks like a good book. While not vegan, there are lots of vegan recipes and suggestions for vegan substitutions. And the entire dessert chapter is vegan. Chocolate raspberry napoleons, anyone?
I significantly transmogrified her French Lentil Cassoulet recipe based on what we had in the house and needed to use up. I more or less followed her technique with a lot of changes in the ingredients - which is something I often do to cookbooks. Here's what I did:
Cook 1 c French lentils in water to cover, with a bay leaf, for 30 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, melt some vegan margarine in a heavy pot, and fry some butternut squash cubes, a couple of chopped potatoes, and a chopped onion with 1 t sage and 1 t thyme. Add 4 chopped garlic cloves, and 1 bunch of Lacinato kale (ribs removed, and chopped). Then add a 28 oz can of tomatoes, 1 c of water, and a bouillon cube or some broth powder. Add the cooked lentils, dried parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook another 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes and squash are as soft as you want them.
In a food processor, whiz up 3 cloves garlic, 3 cups bread crumbs (I used homemade from the freezer), 1 cup almonds, 3 T olive oil, 1 t thyme, and a little salt. Put this in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and stir until the mixture is dry and toasty. Spoon over cassoulet right before serving.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a mention in the newspaper of making oven fries from butternut squash. As I have an abundance of butternuts, sitting in a closet waiting to be used, I paid attention. I have made unusual oven fries before, turnip fries with chili pepper being a particular favorite, but never winter squash. I hauled out my trusty, deadly mandoline, and (carefully, carefully) put the squash through the crinkle-cut setting at 1/4 inch. I then applied a little olive oil, Goya Adobo (salt, pepper, garlic, turmeric), and smoked paprika. 15 minutes at 400F, flip, 10 minutes more. They are like sweet potato fries in many ways, but very sweet and creamy on the insides. I'll definitely do this again.
My maternal grandmother struggled with debilitating arthritis, and tried a number of alternative health approaches. For a time, she experimented with a raw diet, using the "No-Cook" Book by John H. Tobe. I don't think she stuck with it for long, and I don't remember it having any significant results. When my grandparents passed away, this book found its way to me.
Tobe's book is not vegan. He includes some dairy, eggs, honey, and quite a bit of fish - all raw. However, there are many vegan recipes. I'm glad to have the book for sentimental reasons, but I have never really put it to work in the kitchen. I suppose the idea of raw food from 1969 didn't seem too appealing. However, strengthened by Vegan MoFo, I decided to give it a go.
The recipes are organized into menus for every day of the year. Thus, I turned to October 26. The breakfast looked intriguing - grinding corn, millet, oats and rose hips together, mixing with water and allowing to set overnight, and then adding fruit and nuts. However, I decided to go with the lunch item: Pineapple-Stuffed Tomatoes. You simply make a salad of fresh pineapple, walnuts, and celery (he gives no amounts - just eyeball it), and stuff into tomatoes which you have hollowed out with a spoon. Flavorless, hard October tomatoes actually work well here, as their primary role is to provide a stable salad bowl.
The dressing is as follows: 1 pint cider vinegar, 1 t dill seed, 1/2 t celery seed, pinch of mustard seed, 1 clove garlic, 1 T agave nectar (original recipe called for honey), 1 t salt, 1/2 t paprika, 1 c oil (Tobe calls for sunflower seed oil, but I used a mix of grapeseed and flax oils). Whiz this in the blender until smooth. Spoon a small amount onto each tomato.
The finished product was delicious, and encourages me to try more recipes from this book!
In a dark corner of my reptilian brain, there is a little spot known as "pot roast." It rears its meaty, overcooked head on grey, drippy, autumn days. I now have a way to feed it.
After seeing multiple positive comments on Facebook, I bought yet another new cookbook: Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia C. Simpson. I've only made one recipe so far - the "Wait-For-You Stew," but this one is a winner. It's very close to my ancient memory of pot roast. It came together quickly and easily, and bubbled along in the crock pot while I cleaned the house. The recipe has an error. It does not list the liquid needed for making the seitan. I just added water until it looked right. Also, I added more of all the vegetables and half a chopped onion which was sitting, alone and drying out, in the refrigerator. The flavor was very satisfying and the texture of the long-simmered seitan was perfect. I am looking forward to leftovers tomorrow, and to making this again.
My office always has a big Halloween party, and I have been thinking about what to bring. I have a gluten-free colleague, and, understanding the challenges of parties without appropriate food, I want to make something that she can eat. While cleaning house today, I decided to experiment.
Happily, Joni recently posted a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie that calls for coconut flour - and I have coconut flour in the pantry from a past baking adventure. I pulled out a bowl, and in no time flat I had a super-tasty xgfx cookie dough. (Some xgfx dough, especially if it involves bean flour, can taste nasty when raw. Not this one!) You can see the results above. I can't imagine anyone objecting to this cookie, vegan or gluten-free or not. The texture is a bit sandy, but in a perfectly good way: think back to the pecan sandies of your childhood. (If you have rice-flour-sandiness trauma, it is not like that.) Thanks, Joni!
The Italian All Saints bread is out of the oven. As you can see from the mashed crumb in the photo, I didn't wait for it to cool before I cut into it. Too bad, bread perfectionists! It's really nice - super-crunchy-crispy crust, and very soft innards, no doubt because of all the olive oil. There is only a slight sweetness from the raisins. It is definitely more savory than sweet. The combination of flavors from orange rind, lemon rind, and black pepper is wonderful. I'm putting a big star by this in the cookbook.
Today's MoFo post is sliding in late in the day.... My plans for yesterday were waylaid, as I broke a tooth and had to attend to it. It was a fragile tooth, due to some antique fillings, and my meal really had nothing to do with the break. I was enjoying some Gobi Manchurian at an Indian place near my office. I am an obsessive fan of this dish, and not even breaking a tooth will deter me from finishing my plate.
With a temporary crown in place, I am back in the culinary saddle. As I type, a loaf of pane co' santi, an Italian bread for the feast of All Saints (Nov 1) is rising in the kitchen. Photo above. I found this already-vegan recipe in a Catholic cookbook called A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz. It contains a ridiculous amount of olive oil (1 cup per loaf), raisins, citrus rind, anise seed, toasted nuts, black pepper, and other things. There's not much sugar in it (2 T), so it is not a cakey item. I will be very interested to see how this turns out!
On a Wednesday night, in a busy work-week, late in MoFo, I don't have much for you. But dinner had to be on the table, nonetheless. We made Jo Stepaniak's classic "Greens & Noodles" from Vegan Vittles. I cut back the soy sauce, as the original recipe is a bit salty for me. I shelled some leftover boiled peanuts and threw them in, along with a spoonful of the Bakon seasoning I bought last weekend. With collards and boiled peanuts and bakon seasoning, it was a very Southern dish, despite the udon noodles!
Alongside, we made one of our favorite recipes from Isa Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch: Lemon Pepper Tofu. It's such an easy, quick, and pleasing recipe! It is not necessary to press the tofu, but I used my TofuXPress, and, boy howdy, did it make for a nice result.
In other important news, Yvonne alerted me that pizza with vegan Teese mozzarella is now available at Italia Pizza on Woodland Street in East Nashville. Needless to say, I'll be heading that way very soon! Gluten-free friends, take note: their website says they will have a gluten-free crust in the near future.
The Day of the Dead (All Souls, November 2) is approaching. This year, I have been looking for different recipes to add to my Day of the Day repertoire. My first test run was an Italian cookie called fave dei morti: the beans of the dead! From what I read, these tiny cookies (made to be the size of a fava bean or lima bean) were given to the poor, or put out for the dead to "eat", or simply enjoyed. As you can see, I didn't do a great job with my bean-shaping, but I can work on it between now and 11/2. Taste-wise, these micro-cookies are great! I started from a recipe in Evelyn Birge Vitz's A Continual Feast, and made a number of changes:
Blanch 2/3 c almonds (or buy them already blanched): Pour boiling water over them, leave one minute, drain, pop the skins off. Put them on a baking sheet in a 200 F oven for 10 minutes to dry.
Grind the almonds till fine in a food processor: pulverized bones of the dead. Then add 3/4 c flour, 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 t salt, and 1 t cinnamon, and continue to grind until very fine and powdery.
Mix 1 T ground flaxseed with 3 T hot water unti it gets goopy, and add to the food processor. Then add grated rind of 1 lemon, 1/4 c vegan margarine, 1 t vanilla, and 1/2 t almond extract. Pulse briefly until it comes together in a ball. (I think oil - even olive oil - would work well in this recipe instead of margarine. And I saw recipes online that called for different alcoholic additions - anise liqueur, grappa, etc - if you want to vary the flavor.)
Pinch off bean-sized lumps of dough. It is sticky, so keep your hands wet. Flatten into desired shapes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes. The time totally depends on the size of your beans, so keep an eye on them. Hungry ghosts will likely be circling the oven, waiting....
Last night, I took a little inspiration from Bianca. After all, it is her birthday season! For anyone not already addicted to her blog, she has the powers of roasted okra and vegan jelly donuts, and her forthcoming cookbook is eagerly awaited. Not to mention that she's super-nice, and a fellow Tennessean.
Recently, she posted about a butternut squash and macaroni recipe from the Whole Foods iPhone recipe app (which is free, and quite useful). With a lot of butternut squash on hand, I decided to give it a try. It's not the most photogenic recipe, but it's completely delicious. As Bianca points out, the coconut milk gives it a delightful creaminess. I changed the recipe a wee bit by caramelizing the onions, and adding a big spoonful of the Hickory Smoked "Bakon" seasoning I bought in bulk yesterday at Wildwood. If northern Georgia is not close to you, Food Fight carries this magical seasoning. We'll be making this very pantry-friendly recipe again soon!
ETA: For non-iPhone people, the recipe is on the WF website.
I finally made it to Atlanta, despite more rain and wind and cold on Friday! Upon arrival, I didn't feel like heading out into the night for food, so I just went downstairs in our building to Stella. This was my first time in Stella, as they don't have anything explicitly vegan listed in their online menu, and I was afraid they would not be able to extract the cheese (or eggs in the pasta). However, the waiter was very well-informed, and gave me lots of options. I wound up ordering a pizza (photo above) and it was delicious. The waiter, the chef, and the host all stopped by to be sure I was happy. I'll definitely return.
On Saturday night, I went to a meet-and-greet for a city council candidate. (For you Atlanta voters, take a good look at Adam Brackman.) The gracious hosts had quite a spread of food, including vegan tacos from Holy Taco. These were excellent - black beans, rice, avocado, Ecuadorian salsa, and - most interesting - thinly sliced radish. The radish was a wonderful touch , and I will be copying this at home.
Last night, I had a lovely noodle soup with friends at Nickiemoto's.
Today, driving home, I stopped off in Wildwood, Georgia, near Chattanooga. The Adventist-run Wildwood Lifestyle Center has a great store or stores (as there is a an herb market, a grocery, and a bookstore). I bought Tartex in rural Georgia! And who doesn't need a big bag of Hickory Smoked Bakon Seasoning?
This Sunday brings a word of appreciation for everyone's favorite vegan food scientist, Susie. When she's not cracking the code of egg replacers, or deep in chemistry studies, she can be counted on for good recipes. Above you see her Polenta Seitan, which I made the other night when a friend came to dinner. It's a delicious and versatile recipe. (And, yes, Susie, this is a shameless attempt to get you to return to your blog!)
When I moved from Nashville to the Bronx in 1987, I had never heard of a plantain, much less seen one. I noticed the boxes of large, strange bananas (labeled platanos) at local bodegas, but I was too busy with New York's other attractions to explore. Some months later, a Jamaican coworker of mine invited several friends to dinner at her apartment in Brooklyn. A hurricane was moving up the Atlantic coast toward New York. Despite the weather warnings, I headed to Brooklyn. The hurricane veered off in another direction, and I was introduced to the wonder of fried ripe plantains - soft, sweet, and caramelized.
As plantains were cheap and filling, they quickly became a regular part of my diet. When I didn't want to prepare them myself, the all-night, bullet-proof Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood offered a big serving of fried plantains for only $1. I later branched out into green plantains, and dishes such as mofongo (easily veganized) and tostones. Peeling green plantains can be annoying, but there is now a gadget which makes it very easy (despite being alarmingly phallic).
Decades later, I can't eat plantains without thinking of hurricanes, Brooklyn, and Jamaican food. I'll be enjoying those memories, and some plantains, this weekend.
You may recall that I started the Vegan Month of Food by making tinctures. The first of them, made from lemon balm, is now ready. I strained it yesterday. I tried to get a decent photo, but it would not cooperate. It looks very dark in the jar, but it is really a deep, crazy, wild green color. The flavor is similarly intense. A little will go a very long way. I see this headed for some sorbet or ice-type-product in the near future.
VeganDad is one of my favorite food blogs, and one of the very few that I check religiously no matter how busy I am. After all, he is the source of the best veggie burger recipe I have ever made. The other day, I made his pumpkin custard. As you can see in the photograph, we now have even more reason to appreciate him. It's very close to traditional custard. The texture does thicken somewhat as it cools, so if you like your custard very soft and jiggly, please enjoy while still warm. (The photo above was taken when it had cooled to about room temperature, and you can see that it remains fairly soft.) My only word of caution is that the caramel browns quickly, so keep the heat low and watch it.
If one is driving through rural areas of the Carolinas and Georgia (as I often am), boiled peanuts are available to sustain one on the journey. Taking the back way from Asheville to Atlanta, there is a boiled peanut and fruit stand every mile or so. The proprietor hands them over, hot and dripping in salty brine, encased in a plastic bag. Shelling, eating, and a delicious mess follow.
As this is a food I associate with car trips, it is very rare that I make it at home. However, one of my coworkers received some raw (or "green" peanuts) in her weekly Community Supported Agriculture box, and did not want them. I greedily snapped them up and decided to make boiled peanuts. Most directions say that you should soak them in cold water for 20-30 minutes, and then rinse. I think this is primarily for cleaning purposes.
Having rinsed, put the poor little peanuts into a crockpot, cover with water, and add 1 cup salt for every gallon of water. You can also add spices if you like - a big spoon of Cajun seasoning will nuclearize a whole pot of peanuts. Put the lid on, turn heat to high (if your crockpot has a setting) and let 'er run. I did mine overnight - probably 10-11 hours - and they were about right.
Any that aren't slurped up hot from the pot can be stored in the refrigerator in brine, and reheated as desired. People seem to love or hate boiled peanuts. If you want to try them and you aren't in the South (and aren't growing peanuts in your back yard), look for raw peanuts at Asian markets. I have seen them in Nashville at the K&S World Market on Nolensville Road.
I admit that, when I first heard of the TofuXpress, I mocked it mercilessly. Why in the holy bejeezus would I need a tool for pressing tofu? Heck, half the time, I do little more than blot the stuff off with a paper towel. I am here to tell you I was wrong. (And, if you are the FTC, no one gave me a free one, or has ever given me anything for the blog. I bought it myself, thank you.)
When Julie wrote about this thing, I started wondering, as I find her very trustworthy. After watching some YouTube videos, I broke down and bought one. You will not believe what a good job it does at pressing tofu, with no mess at all. You put it in the press, slide the lid on, and (if you are me) put it in the fridge for hours and forget about it. When as pressed as you want it to be, you can use the box for marinating (see photo). The base becomes a lid. (Warning: it is not super-tight, so don't shake it.) In the photo, I was making this Bryanna recipe, and it was perfectly marinated.
The manufacturer gives instructions for other uses. They indicate that you can press grains and veggies together to form a block, and then slice and serve - or slice, bread, fry - or whatever you fancy. I am eager to try some of these other uses, but for now, I can't stop pressing tofu!
First of all, sorry for the shadowy photos, but you can tell it to stop raining in Tennessee!
I first encountered raw food in childhood, when my grandmother tried it as a way of addressing her arthritis and other health problems. She used The "No-Cook" Book by John Tobe, which was published in 1969. It's mostly vegan, but with a little honey, dairy and fish. When my grandparents died, this book is one of the items that found its way to me. I really need to try some of the recipes... maybe later in MoFo...
Some years ago, when living in New York City, I rediscovered the wonders of raw or living cuisine. I obviously have much love for cooked food, too, and I don't buy into the philosophy that sometimes accompanies the raw movement, but I thoroughly enjoy the occasional raw day. At the very least, it is a fun and healthy way to vary one's diet.
I didn't try making raw food for myself until I moved back to Tennessee, and met Laura Button, founder of Journey to Bliss, a local raw food company. Laura teaches wonderful and inspiring classes. After taking some of Laura's classes, I've gradually accumulated a few raw "cookbooks" which are great for ideas. One of my favorites is Ani's Raw Food Kitchenby Ani Phyo. We've liked everything we've made from it. Photographed above is the Walnut Cranberry Squash "Rice" which we have made so many times I have lost count. The recipe can be found on the internet. I have taken it to many potlucks, and to last year's office Christmas party. It is always popular with everyone. The original recipe is a bit salty for me, so I usually cut the salt amount in half. You might start with a small amount of salt, and taste as you go.
This should keep you going while I'm away: a very good, very easy pancake recipe. It makes a great Sunday breakfast. I doubled the recipe recently and make them for a work brunch, and they were very well received. I adapted a recipe I found on the internet.
Mix together: 8 oz oat flour, 8 oz wheat flour, 1 t salt, 1 t sugar, and 1 heaping t commercial yeast.
In a separate container, combine: 1 1/2 c water and 1 1/2 c nondairy milk (I like to use SoDelicious Coconut Milk in this recipe, but anything would work.) Heat the liquid until just lukewarm, and combine with the dry ingredients. Mix well, cover, and let rise for an hour. Cook on a lightly greased griddle, just like regular pancakes.
(I think the measurements in the original recipe are imperial, and are intended to give a thinner, crepe-like pancake. My measurements are American, and yield a result similar to the typical American pancake. Suit yourself!)
Your dutiful mofoer is going to be away at an undisclosed location in Atlanta for the weekend. Fear not, I will schedule a post for tomorrow so that the mofo goodness will not stop before my return to Nashville. Our secret base in Atlanta is located just around the corner from Stone Soup Kitchen. They do a fabulous tofu scramble with grits, which is very likely to be my breakfast on Saturday. The photo above is from a few weeks ago.
PS - I didn't really go to Atlanta, as we had a big storm. But I am leaving this prescheduled post where it is, as you should know about the awesomeness of Stone Soup's tofu scramble with grits.
Big nasty storms ruined my plan to go to Atlanta this weekend. I already preloaded some weekend posts, so you get a bonus from my unexpected cooking tonight.
I was thinking about Kim's MoFo posts, in which she is veganizing family favorites, comfort foods, and the like. Once upon a long ago day (more decades ago than I will freely admit), I enjoyed my mother's Pepper Steak, a sort of faux-Chinese-food concoction. Seeing several bell peppers in the fridge, and 3/4 of a bag of Butler's Soy Curls, I set out to see what I could do.
I made a broth from 4 c water, 4 t Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base, and 1 t Champagne Marmite. I brought it to a boil, poured over the 6 oz of dried Soy Curls, and rehydrated for about 10 minutes. I drained the Soy Curls well, pressing out the extra moisture.
In a big frying pan, I heated some peanut oil, and fried 3 cloves garlic (chopped), a generous 1 inch chunk of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped), 1 t kosher salt, and some black pepper. After a few minutes, I added the Soy Curls and fried until they started to brown - maybe 5 minutes or so. I then removed everything from the skillet, and set it aside.
Next, I added a little more peanut oil and 2 chopped onions, and fried until they were caramelizing nicely. I then added 1 t sugar, the reserved Soy Curls mixture, and a mix of 1 T cornstarch, 3/4 c water, and 1/4 c soy sauce. When it thickened up, I added 3 sliced bell peppers (2 green, 1 red, to be exact) and cooked a few more minutes. It will be served over rice, very shortly.
I love turnip greens the traditional, overcooked way as much as any other Southerner. However, tonight I looked at my big bag of greens and wondered if they could be prepared in a raw way, like massaged kale. The answer: YES!
I sliced them into thin ribbons, and then massaged them with red wine vinegar, walnut oil, and salt until they softened, beccoming similar to a cooked texture. As turnip greens are much more tender than kale, it only took about 1 minute. I originally planned to use pepper vinegar, corn oil, and salt (for a more traditional flavor) but decided to branch out.
I think this would be great as a side dish, but I ate it piled on top of a bowl of tomato soup.
This afternoon, I picked up our weekly box of vegetables from Delvin Farms. It is always fun to see what we have - fresh, organic vegetables whose purchase supports a local farmer. (When I posted the photo on Facebook, the long Italian eggplant in the center was, well, veeeery popular.... ) If you are in the Nashville area and are interested in Community Supported Agriculture, all the information you need is here.
I then made a big salad for dinner tonight and work lunches, consisting of items from Delvin boxes from last week and this week, and other things I found in the pantry:
1 smallish spaghetti squash, which I roasted the other day while making soup
1 chopped red bell pepper
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped, boiled 15 minutes
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28 oz can tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/4 c grapeseed oil
LOTS of sage
salt, thyme, granulated onion, granulated garlic to taste
My mother emailed me today to let me know that her fall crop of turnip greens is starting to come in. As I started to think about turnip greens, I suddenly realized: I am almost out of pepper vinegar! I can enjoy greens without pepper vinegar, but it sure is nice to have.
Despite being a tired mofo tonight, I pulled open the vegetable drawer, and found a respectable number of hot peppers of various kinds. I had to break some of the long ones in half to fit them into a quart jar. (This will increase the heat of the final product, but that is OK by me.) I then covered with apple cider vinegar, capped, and stuck it in the back of the fridge. My grandmother always kept her pepper vinegar in a big cruet on a shelf, so I don't think you need to refrigerate. It would be best to wait for a couple of weeks, but I will probably break into it sooner.
It's been a long, busy Monday, and the weather is murky, cool, and wet. I want something warm and comforting for dinner, so I reached for Jo Stepaniak's Vegan Vittles. Her Creamy Potato Kale Soup is easy, fast, and an all-time household favorite. You can see it in its very early stages above. It is bubbling in the background as I type.
My earliest attempts at a plant-based diet took place in an ancient era that is almost lost to memory (the late 80s to early 90s), so authors like Jo Stepaniak and Louise Hagler will always have a special place on my cookbook shelf. I mean, Jo is the woman who brought us a whole cookbook about making tasty "uncheese" (Crock Cheez, anyone?) at a time in history when commercial vegan cheese was uniformly awful. And she is still churning out excellent work today!
In other news, while cutting through the Ellington Agricultural Center tonight, I noticed the signs are up for this year's Music and Molasses Festival, coming up on October 17-18. Unfortunately, a lot of the food is very non-vegan, but the entertainment is good, and it is a great opportunity to stock up on my favorite local sweetener, sorghum molasses.
I like complicated bread recipes as much as any other crazy baker, but life gets busy and I don't always have time to plan, purchase unusual ingredients, etc. My fall back approach to our weekly bread baking is the following simple approach to sourdough.
1. I made my own starter a couple of years ago, following the directions in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. His "pineapple juice solution" really helps avoid common problems in getting a starter underway. I think the directions will appear also in Reinhart's new book, Artisan Breads Every Day, which is due to hit stores later this month. Once a week (or at least once every two weeks), I pull out about 2-3 oz of starter (a big spoonful), and mix it with approximately 2 c flour and 1 c water. You can see the consistency in the photo above - just a little wetter than final bread dough. Depending on how much flour I scooped up, I will have between 12-16 oz of starter. I put it in a bowl with a loosened lid on the kitchen counter for 4-6 hours and then punch down, cover tightly, and refrigerate. During the week, I may open the lid a couple of times to give it some air.
2. I then take the rest of the previous week's starter (10-12 oz, more or less), and mix it with flour, salt, and water, according to how many loaves I want. For two sandwich loaves, I put about 5-6 cups of white or wheat flour, 1-2 cups other flours (chickpea, rice, fava, coconut, oat, etc), 2 t kosher salt, and other stuff if I feel like it (e.g., a handful of nutritional yeast). Then, I start with 2 c water, and begin kneading, adjusting with flour or water as necessary to get a soft, supple, slightly sticky ball of dough. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise on the counter for at least 6 hours. The long rise is necessary due to the lack of commercial yeast, and contributes to a strong sourdough flavor. I work half-days on Fridays, so I set the dough to rise before I leave and continue when I get home.
Punch down the risen dough, put into greased loaf pans and let rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or whenever it looks ready to go. Bake at 350 F for about 50-55 minutes. I usually leave one loaf out for us, and freeze the other one, so it stays fresh for later in the week. It's good bread, and simple.
Note: Both of the Reinhart books above are vegan-friendly. There are certainly some non-vegan recipes, but many vegan ones and many others that are easily veganizable. I tested for Artisan Breads Every Day and made almost all the recipes. I was very happy to find that his challah recipe veganized with ease. The rye bread is the best I've ever had outside of a NYC Jewish deli (and it could give some delis a run for their money). The wild rice and onion bread is delightful and perfect for autumn. If you enjoy baking, don't miss it!
Behold the mighty bean frencher! I love french-cut green beans, but I am not a fan of the slow and annoying process of slicing them by hand. A bean frencher makes short work of this task - and it is a small and inexpensive item. I'm not sure it can do anything other than cut green beans, but if you have discovered multitasking potential in this gadget, let me know.
I usually steam the beans, and serve them with toasted slivered almonds, and you cannot go wrong with that approach. However, a friend recently introduced me to a Dutch recipe called blote billetjes in het gras (naked bottoms in the grass). It's very simple and pleasing in a comfort food way: Boil the french cut green beans with an equal weight of chopped potatoes. Drain and mash with a little nondairy milk and vegan margarine. Add salt and nutmeg to taste, and stir in some cooked white beans (these are the bottoms). For 8 oz of green beans and 8 oz of potatoes, a 15 oz can of white beans (drained and rinsed) is about right. Easy!
Kitchen tools can add a lot to the fun of cooking. I'm not a big fan of tools that do things I can do just fine without them - rice cookers, bread makers, and such. (However, if these items will get you into the kitchen, don't let me stop you.) But I will shell out cash for fun toys like a spiralizer... a miraculous item (mostly from Japan, it seems) that will turn any reasonably solid vegetables into ribbons or noodles or other shapes. The one I have is called the "Benriner Cook Help," but there are a number of brands. The Benriner is easy to use and to clean.
Today I ran a small butternut squash through it with the most narrow blade. I then mixed it with some arugula (rocket to some of you...), about a teaspoon of olive oil, a half a teaspoon of umeboshi plum vinegar, and a few good shakes of Arizona Jalapeno Salt (from the amazing and talented Kim). A light and yet autumnal lunch, prepared in less than 10 minutes. And pretty much raw, too!
I'm glad the weekend is here so I can catch up on MoFo reading and commenting!
Anyone who knows me knows that I have, well, a few cookbooks... and I love them all! I have recently acquired two particularly good ones that are definitely worth sharing with you. The photos are acting up on me (sizing, turning) but it's just going to have to be that way!
First, having long been a fan of Dynise Balcavage's blog, I was thrilled when her cookbook, The Urban Vegan, appeared. With her creativity and encouraging voice, both new and experienced cooks will find much to adore here. So far, we've made two recipes. While holed up with the flu, I nursed myself back to health with her Hearty Adzuki Bean Soup. It looks similar to a pureed black bean soup, but when you put it in your mouth - woah. Mushrooms, seaweed, sesame, general flavor explosions... Two nights ago, we made the Spaghetti alle Melanzane (Spaghetti with Eggplant) for supper. This definitely ranks right up there with my favorite eggplant dishes of all time, which says a lot. It's a superb pasta sauce that only improves with time, so the next day's lunch will be a special one. I added a little thyme and black pepper to her recipe, but she encourages such branching-out!
After a couple of dry years, we have had a lot of rain in 2009, and excess vegetables. Thus, I have become a canning, freezing, drying, pickling machine. I have a number of home preserving books, but the new edition of Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Pickling truly belongs on the top of the pile. Her general guidance and directions are clear and easy, while her recipes are imaginative and delicious. You will see her pickled cantaloupe above. I have had a lifelong love affair with pickled peaches, and pickled cantaloupe is a close relative. I've also made her pickled watermelon rind and full sour dill pickles, both of which were excellent. There are a few nonvegan recipes, but they form only a small portion of the book. Ziedrich's book on jams and jellies is equally helpful, so pick up a copy of that one, too!
The Vegan Month of Food (Vegan MoFo) is back! As is this blog. I seem to be able to post about food regularly on Facebook, but I have been very negligent in transferring such posts to this blog or the PPK. Vegan MoFo is here to rescue me!
We are finally seeing some cooler weather in Tennessee, which brings to mind the inevitable upcoming frosts, a few weeks down the pike. Our herb garden is overgrown, and I am committed to salvaging as much of it as possible before it dies off for the winter. One easy and fun way to do so is to make herbal tinctures. You can simply throw fresh herbs into Everclear or vodka, cap the jar, stick it in a cabinet, and wait. However, this year, I am following a more complicated process.
I picked a LOT of lemon balm, and dryed it in my dehydrator at 95 F. I then ground it fine. A food processor or coffee grinder will do the job, unless you feel like an old alchemist and want to use a mortar and pestle. Dehydrating first lets you get a large amount of herbal matter into a smaller amount of alcohol, with a more intense result. I put the ground lemon balm in a jar and added 1/4 c Everclear for each ounce of dried herb. (I am not 100% sure that Everclear is made through a strictly vegan process, and was unable to confirm online. However, most hard liquor is vegan.) I placed a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the jar (to prevent contact with metal), and screwed on the lid. I then wrapped the jar in foil to keep it dark. It lives on the counter and I give it a shake once or twice a day.
After about 3 weeks, I will strain the tincture (using a coffee filter) and put it away for use. It will keep indefinitely. A few drops will great flavor to sorbet or mixed drinks. A single drop brings mystery to a salad dressing. This weekend, I hope to start more tinctures - maybe lavender and basil.
Today my father gave me a bag of morel mushrooms which he had gathered on one of his farms. These are a delicious spring treat, and can be quite plentiful in Tennessee if you know where to look. Morels should not be eaten raw. Locally, they are usually split in half, battered or breaded, and then shallow-fried in oil or melted margarine.
As with all wild mushrooms, if you aren't extremely familiar with what you are seeking, start by accompanying someone who is or locating an experienced mushroom-hunting group. Mushroom identification is hard to learn from books, even very good books, and personal instruction is the safest way.