Monday, October 31, 2011

Best of My MoFo 2011 & Bonus Rye Biscuits

Another MoFo (this blog's fourth) draws to a close. There are many recipes I thought of making this month, yet didn't get to. Perhaps I will surprise y'all and post at a non-MoFo time of year... maybe a run up to Christmas with items like blackberry jam cake with caramel icing? We'll see what the future holds.

At first, I intended to use this post to list my favorite 5 recipes from other MoFo blogs, but I haven't had a chance to read many other blogs this month, much less cook any of the recipes! I guess that is what I'll do in November. So, just for fun, I'll give you my top 5 from this past month of nostalgic experimentation here at The I-40 Kitchen:

1. Sausage Balls
2. Squash Mold
3. Fried Okra, Green Tomatoes, and Tofu
4. Coconut Cake
5. Party Rolls

As a little bonus, here are some lovely rye biscuits adapted from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery. I suspect these biscuits were inspired by the flavors of old-timey Rye & Indian Bread, which you can see over at the Panda with Cookie blog.

1 c all purpose flour
1 c rye flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3 T vegan shortening
1 scant cup nondairy milk + 1 t cider vinegar

Mix together the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening. Add the milk + vinegar, and stir with a fork until it just comes together. Pat to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into biscuits. Bake at 450F for about 10 minutes.

Thanks for hanging out with me this month!

Vegan MoFo Day 31: Stack Pie: An Educational Post

Stack Pie, at least in my experience, comes in two major forms:

Form A: Make a bunch of pies, preferably a bit smaller/thinner than usual. Don't leave much crust sticking up above the filling. Chess or pumpkin would be typical flavors, and thin tarts with straight-up vertical (not slanted) sides are perfect. Carefully slip them out of their pie plates or tart pans, and stack them into a multi-layer pie. If you are crazy (or trying to send your kinfolk into a sugar coma) you can add icing between the layers and/or frost the entire thing after it is stacked. I think icing is overkill, although it can be fun. A fully iced stack pie looks like a cake, but when you cut into it--- pie!

Form B: This is much closer to the more widely-known stack cake. You bake discs of pie crust, and stack them with your preferred pie filling, jam, applesauce, or fruit.

(Edited to Add: I am told that there is a Form C: thin, double-crust pies which can be easily stacked for carrying, but are eaten separately, and not as a stacked unity. I've never had this kind, but found a recipe in Mark Sohn's Mountain Country Cooking. He compares them to giant fig newtons.)

There is also Form X: Cold Pie. Take leftover biscuits, split them in half. Cover the bottom of a pan with biscuit halves, then cover with fruit & sugar, applesauce, jam, or what have you. Add another layer of biscuit halves, then more fruit or filling, and so on until you run out of biscuits or fruit. Let this sit a few hours or overnight until it melds into one thing. It is similar to cobbler, made from leftovers.

Today, we are making a version of Form B: a gingerbread crust stack pie filled with canned apricots and cherries, reworking a recipe from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery.

3/4 c vegan shortening
1 c sugar
1 T ground flax mixed with 3 T warm water
1/2 c molasses (I used blackstrap, as I like it in gingerbread)
2 c all purpose flour
1 t ground ginger
1 t ground cloves
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Cream shortening and sugar. Add flax and molasses. Sift the dry ingredients together and then mix into the rest. Divide into 4. This dough is soft and sticky. You will need to use damp hands, and roll it between sheets of waxed paper. Roll each piece out into a rough circle. You could trim and make them perfect, but I went for the artisanal/lazy look. Bake on parchment at 350 F for about 10-15 minutes. You can cool them on a rack, so they are rigid and flat (like giant cookies) or use while still warm, in which case they will drape around the filling before they cool and harden.

Take canned fruit (yes, you could use fresh, too, I'm sure) and fill in between the crust layers. I used a mixture of cherries and apricots. The fruit will soak through and soften the interior crust layers, while the top remains crispy. Slice and enjoy! This makes a really big pie, so holler for the neighbors when it is almost ready.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 30: Cushaw

At farm stands in the fall, you might see this odd, rather large, green-striped squash. This, friends, is a cushaw, and a cushaw is a wonderful vegetable with a fascinating history running back into Native American days. I suspect its size may have something to do with its fade from popularity. One cushaw yields a lot of food! However, it keeps pretty well, raw or cooked, in the fridge, and you can freeze cooked squash for longer storage. It has a lovely, gentle flavor, and once you try it, you may be hooked.

Last night, I split open the smaller of the two above, removed the seeds, chopped it into manageable chunks, put them into a roasting pan, and covered with foil. I let them bake at 400 F for 90 minutes. Once baked, it was very easy to remove the skin with a small knife.

Tonight, I made two recipes and did not even use half of my cushaw! I guess we'll be eating it for days to come! First I made a very simple soup inspired by one in Mark Sohn's Appalachian Home Cooking: In a soup pot, bring a generous 3 cups to water to boil with a veg broth cube. Add approximately 10 oz chopped potato and boil until it softens. Cut up approx 10 oz roasted cushaw and add to the pot, along with salt, black pepper (lots!) and sage to taste. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add about 1/2 cup soymilk. This was wonderful with a few crackers.

I also made Susan Voisin's Impossible Pie. If you didn't grow up in the rural South, an impossible pie is a concoction usually involving Bisquick. The batter is poured into a pie pan and forms its own crust as it bakes. Susan's recipe is super-easy (5 minutes in the blender plus baking), vegan, gluten-free, and has no added fat. It is also very delicious! We might have to make a second pie, as it don't think this one will last long!

You can use any winter squash in these recipes, but search out cushaw if you can find it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bonus MoFo: Three Seasons Pie

In the course of looking through Bill Neal's wonderful book on Southern baking, Biscuits, Spoonbread & Sweet Potato Pie, I noticed a recipe for Three Seasons Pie. This amazing pie contains a mixture of green tomatoes (summer), pears (autumn), and cranberries (winter). It is gently flavored with fresh ginger, cloves, and orange zest. If you are looking for an unusual pie for a holiday dinner, here you have it.

Neal's recipe is already vegan, as long as one takes care to use a vegan pie crust, and vegan cookies for the topping. We had some little ginger cookies sitting around, which I crushed for the topping. Neal says to use a plain cookie - like a vanilla wafer or digestive - but the ginger was nice.

Vegan MoFo Day 29: Squash Casserole!

The South has a love affair with squash casserole (made from yellow summer squash only, please) and there are many variants. Above you see my paternal grandmother's "squash mold." I'm a great fan of this, and can't believe it has been such a long time since I made it. Mr. K is a confirmed hater of both yellow squash and casseroles, and he ate 3 servings.

1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed yellow squash *
1 c shredded vegan cheese (Daiya Cheddar worked well, but you can leave this out)
1 c bread or cracker crumbs (I used finely crumbled saltine crackers)
1 c scalded nondairy milk
1 T minced onion
1 T melted vegan margarine
2 T chopped pimento
1 Ener-G egg replacer (1 1/2 t powder + 2 T warm water) **
1/2 t salt
black pepper to taste

* Don't go steaming this squash for a few minutes and then putting it in the casserole. If you do, I don't want to hear the results. You'll have too much liquid and the wrong flavor. Proper Squash Cooking Instructions: Chop, place in salted water, and bring to a boil. Don't overdo the salt as you won't be draining it off. Once the squash softens, mash it. (Do not drain, just mash it in the pan with the liquid.) Continue to cook until the liquid is mostly or completely gone, and the texture is like mashed potato. This can take 60-90 minutes. (Sorry. Do it the night before, while the laundry spins. ) If you were going to eat the squash on its own, you would add some black pepper and a dollop of corn oil, and keep cooking until you can hear the oil sizzling in the bottom of the pan. But you are using it for this casserole, so those last steps are not needed.

** I'm not a regular user of egg replacer. I was going to use plain soy yogurt + a little baking powder instead of Ener-G, but I had it out for something else, and it worked well.

Mix everything together, pour into a greased casserole, and bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Try not to eat the whole thing.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 28: Green Bean Casserole from The Picnic

I live a few moments' walk from a Nashville institution, The Picnic Cafe, which I almost never visit as their menu is, ahem, Not Vegan Friendly. (Let's see if they notice this.) Of course, they sell a little spiral-bound book of recipes from the cafe, and I thought I should try something from it during this month. With the US Thanksgiving holiday approaching in only a few weeks, I was drawn to their version of Green Bean Casserole. It's just a bit of a twist on the classic - a fusion of the usual with grean bean almondine. Reworked to be vegan, here it is:

1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced
2 12 oz packages frozen french-cut green beans
1/4 c vegan margarine
1 small onion, diced
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Saute the onions in margarine until clear. Mix them with the frozen beans, mushrooms, soup substitute, and basil. Pour into a greased one-quart casserole. Top with slivered almonds and paprika. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.

(I'm sure you could combine the making of the soup sub with the onion process to speed this up, but I wanted to leave the soup sub link, as it might be useful to some readers who are veganizing family holiday casseroles. Also, if making again, I would trim back the amount of fat.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 27: Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies

The, shall we say, less high-class end of Southern cooking contains a number of confections made from potato chips. After all, who doesn't like sweet and salty together? If you spend any time among the food videos on YouTube, you have likely encountered Jolene Sugarbaker, the Trailer Park Queen. Some years back, she posted a recipe for Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies, which was just begging to be veganized. I also cut the recipe in half, and still had 40 small-ish cookies.

Cream together:
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c vegan margarine
1/2 c oil (I used peanut)

2 1/2 T soy yogurt (plain, unsweetened)
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 c crushed potato chips

Gently stir in:
2 c all purpose flour
(Add more flour if it seems too wet. I added about 2 T more.)
1 c vegan chocolate chips

Scoop balls of dough, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 26: The Frozen Tomato

The Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville is the kind of place where (for better and for worse) tradition is valued and change comes slowly. A few years ago, the New York Times revealed the recipe for the "Frozen Tomato" which has been on the menu for many a long day. It was quite easy to veganize:

If you don't have a large blender you may need to do this in batches. Blend until smooth:

3 c tomato juice (the kind from the jar)
3 c vegan mayo (I used Vegenaise)
1 small onion
3/4 c crushed pineapple
1/4 c vegan cream cheese
1/4 c silken tofu
1 T vegan worchestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco
salt & white pepper to taste

When completely smooth, taste, adjust seasoning, and (if you wish) add enough red food coloring to achieve a ripe tomato color. If you don't want to use red food coloring or can't find a clearly vegan version, don't fret - it will be pink, but just fine.

Pour into a container, and freeze until solid (several hours or overnight). Serve balls of the frozen mixture (via a warm ice cream scoop and a firm hand) on lettuce.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 25: St Hubert Rolls

I'm breaking theme again today, in order to make something seasonal but not at all Southern. I'm a big fan of the whole Halloween - All Saints - All Souls cycle that arrives at the end of this month. At the very end of it, we have the feast day of St Hubert on Nov 3. Old St Hubert is the extremely not-vegan patron of hunters -- scary enough, but doubtless he's more enlightened from his current perch in the heavens...

In parts of the Netherlands and Belgium, a little roll (dimpled or doughnut-shaped) is sometimes made in his honor, and was historically blessed at church. Regardless of one's take on St Hubert, the rolls are delicious. I found a recipe online, but it required some changes to get it to work. It is in European measurements. Americans, get your scales out! When faced with metric, I prefer to measure as given instead of trying to convert.

Mix together:
1 kilo bread flour
1/2 litre nondairy milk, slightly warmed
24 g dry yeast (the linked recipe must have used some other kind)
5 g cinnamon
300 g vegan margarine (really)
20 g salt
50 g sugar

Knead until silky smooth. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour. Divide into small balls (about the size of a golf ball - 55-60 g, since you have your scale out). Let these rest for 10-15 minutes, and then work a hole into the middle of each one - a bigger hole if you want a ring, a smaller hole if you want a dimpled roll. Let proof on baking pans for just a few minutes (10-15 minutes is plenty) and brush with nondairy milk. Bake at 200 C (392 F) for 15-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. (Mine took 20 minutes, but it will depend on the size of your rolls). This made 26 rolls.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 24: Fried Okra, Green Tomatoes, and Tofu

To jazz up your fried okra, add some chopped green tomatoes (mine were turning a bit pink, but not ripe) and cubed firm tofu.

Toss the okra, tomatoes, and tofu with one small handful all purpose flour, one small handful cornmeal, one small handful chickpea flour, and salt and Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's unsalted) to taste. Sorry, I can't give you any more exact measurements. You'll be fine, really. If you are xgfx, leave out the wheat flour and use a little more cornmeal and chickpea.

Heat oil in a heavy cast iron skillet. You want this hot enough to fry, but not too hot. You may need more oil than you might think. Fry slowly, turning regularly with a spatula, until everything is nice and crispy, and just shy of burned in a few places. Patience, patience. This takes a little time. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 23: Sweet Potato Biscuits

If you made yesterday's sweet potato pudding recipe, you now have way too much leftover (unless you happen to have a large and hungry farm family). The only solution is sweet potato biscuits for breakfast!

Put a cast iron skillet with a glob of shortening or vegan margarine in the oven, and heat to 400F. While it is heating, mix:

1 cup all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt

The result will probably be crumbly. Add just a little nondairy milk while stirring with a fork until it comes together into a dough. Go slowly as it does not take much. Pat out on a floured surface, and cut into biscuits. Place them in the hot skillet and bake 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the biscuits) until done.

A lot of recipes for sweet potato biscuits involve adding additional fat, but there is plenty of fat in this pudding already! You can make these using any sweet potato pudding, sweet potato casserole, or even just leftover baked sweet potato, but you may have to adjust the fat and liquid (and possibly sugar and spices) accordingly.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 22: Dueling Sweet Potato Puddings, Part 2

Earlier in the month, I posted my grandfather's recipe for sweet potato pudding. My grandmother's family had a different recipe, which I made today. Try them both and decide which you like. It pleases me to think that, decades ago, my great-grandmother was carrying this dish (in its dairy/egg version) to dinner on the grounds at Mt Horeb Baptist Church in Ethridge, Tennessee. Her father was an Adventist, so maybe he would be pleased with this reworking:

Blend together:
1 (12.3 oz) box Mori-Nu silken tofu
1 cup soymilk
1 t apple cider vinegar
3 T cornstarch

Mix together with:
3 1/2 cups grated raw sweet potato
1/2 cup biscuit crumbs (I'm sure bread crumbs would work, but don't you dare!)
1 t baking soda
1/2 c melted vegan margarine
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 t allspice

Pour into a large casserole and bake for approximately 90 minutes at 300 F, stirring every 20-30 minutes. It will be brown and gooey and bubbling.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 21: Great Aunt Pearl's Coconut Cake

My grandfather loved coconut cake. Occasionally, his sister, my Great Aunt Pearl, would make it for him. I decided to try reworking her recipe for today's post.

The original recipe was for a white cake with a lot of egg whites in it. I decided to start with a vegan white cake recipe which I knew would work - Kittee's Vanilla Double Layer Cake. To match the flavor of the original, I used 2 t vanilla and 2 t lemon extract. (The cake is a little more brown than white as I used unrefined cane sugar. I wasn't heading out into a rainy night to buy beet sugar just to keep it white.)

While the cake was baking, I made a syrup from 1 c sugar + 1/2 c water, cooked until it reached thread stage (around 225-230 F). I added coconut extract - starting with 1 t and going up until I was happy with the taste. After the cake was out of its pans and cooling on racks, I pierced it repeatedly with an icepick (fun times!) and then poured the warm syrup over it - in stages, letting it soak in. (If I had more time, I would have let the layers cool, sliced each in half to make four layers, and then proceeded with syrup soaking.)

There are debates about proper coconut cake icing - seven minute frosting, cream cheese, whipped cream, etc. Aunt Pearl used seven minute frosting, which is heavy on eggs. Happily, Julie Hasson's magical vegan meringue (recipe on the subscriber side of Everyday Dish) is quite close to seven minute frosting in taste and texture, and worked wonderfully. Before the frosting set up, I covered the whole cake with coconut. For real authenticity, one would use freshly grated coconut. I went for the packaged stuff in the interest of time.

My mother's variation: Use pineapple juice to moisten the layers instead of syrup. (Don't overdo it. You don't want them to be soggy.) Fill the space between layers with crushed pineapple.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 20: Okra Fries

At this point in MoFo, I am reaching back for content I haven't blogged before, just to give me a little breathing space! Above you see Okra Fries, which I love like crazy and make whenever the deep fryer is on the counter. We first had these at Chai Pani in Asheville, and discovered they are easy to make at home.

Cut okra into small matchsticks. (This is a little tedious, but get over it. You'll be happy later.) Deep fry at 350 F until crispy. Watch carefully, as they cook very quickly. Toss with salt, Indian chili powder, and a little lime juice. Make about six times more than you think you need, as these will go quickly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 19: Sweet Potato Yeast Bread

Again, I am encouraging you to consider Bill Neal's fine book, Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie. It is not vegan, but - being a baking book - most of the recipes veganize easily. Above you see the delicious sweet potato yeast bread, which is apparently an old Mississippi recipe.

Recipe notes:

*Veganizing only requires swapping out the milk and butter for the obvious nondairy alternatives (almond milk and Earth Balance, in my case).
* The amount of flour in the recipe as written is way too little. While I am a convert to very high-hydration dough, Neal's recipe will yield a sticky mess. I know the moisture in the sweet potatoes will vary and require similar variation in the flour, but this was ridiculous. Just know that you'll probably have to add a lot (2-3 cups) more flour and you'll still have a sticky dough. It is OK for it to be more sticky than normal, as the oatmeal will absorb more moisture as the dough rises. Also, next time, I think I'll use bread flour instead of the all purpose in his recipe.
*Instead of the egg-milk glaze, I brushed with coffee mixed with a little maple syrup, a trick I learned from L.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 18: Party Rolls

My mother used to make little ham party rolls for special occasions. It's a somewhat trashy recipe, but it tastes good and veganizes easily.

1 tray of dinner rolls (storebought or make your own)
Approx 1 cup shredded vegan cheese (Cheddar Daiya in our case)
1 package of vegan ham-style slices (or make your own and slice thin)
1/4 c vegan margarine
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t vegan worcestershire sauce
1 T poppy seeds

Slice the dinner rolls in half. Mix the margarine, mustard, worcestershire, and poppy seeds. Spread this mixture on the rolls. Layer your vegan ham and cheese on the rolls, and wrap them in foil. Bake at 350 F until everything is hot and melty.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 17: Tis the Season for Greens

Yesterday, we went to the farmers' market and greens were everywhere. As the autumn weather gets cooler, they are coming in like crazy. Today's mess o'greens is a mix of turnip, mustard, and a little bit of young kale. To prepare, boil them in salted water for far too long until they are very soft. For seasoning, I like a bit of toasted sesame oil, ume plum vinegar, and maybe 2 drops of liquid smoke. This may sound untraditional, but the end result tastes just right, with no ham hock involved.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 16: Asheville Salad

If you made it past the terrible photo, congratulations! Even the best lighting isn't going to improve this. I've been scaring Yankees and confusing Europeans all month with congealed salads. We rarely ever eat these, but they are part of Southern food culture, so we're revisiting them during MoFo. Besides, you might have a Sunday School covered dish lunch coming up.

Today's lovely item is the Asheville Salad, once served at the long-closed Choices Restaurant on Main Street in Franklin, Tennessee. (I have no idea why it is called Asheville Salad.) Thanks to a little spiral bound book of recipes from the restaurant, we have been able to reproduce it for you. Unlike our earlier congealed salads, this one is savory.

1/2 can (approx 5 1/2 oz) condensed tomato soup
2 c water
1 0.3 oz envelope Natural Desserts unflavored vegan jel
6 oz vegan cream cheese
1 c vegan mayo or yogurt
1/2 c. chopped cucumber
1/4 c. chopped green bell pepper
1/2 c. chopped celery
1 t. grated onion
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Mix soup and water, and bring to a boil. Whisk in the vegan jel to dissolve. With a mixer, cream together the cream cheese and mayo. Add the soup/jel mixture. Stir in everything else. Pour into a casserole dish and chill until firm.

At the restaurant, this was sometimes served as a salad, and sometimes as a dip (with Ritz-type crackers). Heck, you could go all out and add some vegan shrimp. If you ever had a 1950s-style "shrimp mold," this tastes quite similar.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 15: Japanese Fruit Pie

I associate Japanese Fruit Pie with my Great Aunt Cora. I have no idea why it is "Japanese" and the internet does not appear to know either. It is yet another member of the greater "Chess Pie" family, of which Pecan Pie is the best known variant.

To make this pie, I followed Bryanna Clark Grogan's new pecan pie recipe from World Vegan Feast. In place of the pecans in her recipe, I added the following:

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 t cider vinegar

Everything else (ingredients and directions) was true to the recipe in the book. As one would expect from a Bryanna recipe, the results were great!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bonus: Vegan MoFo Hump Day: Leslie Hall Flash Mob!

Yay! Leslie Hall, vegan artiste extraordinaire, has a new song. Clicky, clicky, listen, listen!


The Lyrics:
I eat the finest cuisines, in the finest of places / Stuff my mouth full and always say thank you / But if it's raised in a cage, and it can't even move, if it's hormone filled and in a bad mood / I'm gonna pass on that / Reach for something better / The only milk I'll drink comes from the nipple of a soy bean / Veggies make you live forever, and they seem to taste much better / When they're cooked and grown with love, so give a chef who knows what's up a hug / Momma just can't seem to get it, Papa he just rolls his eyes / When I tell them I'm much healthier, they just say that it's all lies / But beans, nuts, fruits and veggies can really fill the belly / Get you vitamins you need, shiny hair and extra speed / Don't take that meat-wich any further, I want a marinated, deep fried, hand-tied mushroom burger / I like it! / We gotta stand strong for our feathered, furry, sometimes scaly animal friends and their little babies / 'Cuz I wouldn't want to live in a cage in a dark warehouse killed at an early age / Pumped full of hormones, sleeping in my feces / Never met my mother, raised by machines / Never get sunshine never get green, but that's just me / [That girl loves fruit leather!] / So ask us what we're eating, delicious and repeating / Fruits and veggies are so nice, with a slice of tempeh, yes, I'll have that twice / Don't forget the legumes!

Vegan MoFo Day 14: Corn Light Bread, a Quest...

Growing up, "corn light bread" simply meant sweet corn bread, whether in skillet form or as a cakey loaf. What made it "light" was a mystery. If you google "corn light bread" you will find many recipes for various forms of sweet corn bread. In the course of doing some reading on salt rising bread, I discovered that the original form of corn light bread was leavened with the same sort of funky bacteria/yeast culture. While the time-consuming and temperature-sensitive nature of salt rising bread has caused it to all but disappear, the same factors pushed corn light bread away from its origins and toward regular corn bread with sugar added.

I first tried a recipe from the Atlanta newspaper, which yielded pretty good results. However, the recipe as printed has both an error and a mystery. The error is that it says to let the batter sit out overnight at room temperature. Wrong. Room temperature is too cold for good results, except maybe in the middle of a Georgia summer. The batter really needs to hold at about 95-100 F -- think the back of a wood stove or near the fireplace. My oven has a "bread proof" setting at 100F which works well for this purpose. The mystery in the AJC recipe is the use of self-rising flour and cornmeal. The whole point of salt rising bread and corn light bread is the use of a natural bacteria/yeast leavening process, and not commercial yeast or baking powder. I think the most likely reason for this oddity in the recipe is that self-rising flour and cornmeal became very common in the typical Southern kitchen by the early to mid 20th century. Self-rising cornmeal was what cooks had on hand, so they used it even if it did not make sense. If you want to add baking powder to corn light bread for a truly "lighter" texture, you should do so immediately before baking, and not before the overnight fermentation, as the leavening will lose much of its power during that long wait.

Further investigation led me to Bill Neal's Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie, a very non-vegan book which should be purchased immediately by anyone interested in Southern baking. Neal is clear about the parallel to salt rising bread, and gives much better directions. However, he perpetuates the myth that you must use water-ground, not-degerminated cornmeal for success. Untrue! Cheap plain cornmeal from the grocery store works just fine. I think he also overestimates the role of wild yeast vs bacteria in the "raising" process. If we take Neal's recipe and swap out oil or shortening for the bacon fat, we are left with a recipe which is vegan, gluten free, authentic, and very tasty:

Step 1: Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. Slowly (so it does not clump) add 1 cup of plain cornmeal (not self-rising or cornbread mix). If you whisk as you add the cornmeal, you'll be fine. Boil, stirring fairly regularly, for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Stir together 1 c plain cornmeal and 1 c cold water. Let stand 10 minutes.

Step 3: Combine the hot and cold mixtures, along with 1 T shortening or oil. Cover and set in a very warm place (95-100 F - e.g., a very low oven, or a dehydrator) for 8-10 hours (overnight). It won't get as aggressively funky as salt rising bread starter, but you should see a little bubbling and detect a fermented smell.

Step 4: To the fermented mixture, add 2 c plain cornmeal, 1/3 c sugar, 1/4 c sorghum molasses, and 2 t salt. (You can double the sorghum and omit the sugar if you like.) Stir well until completely combined. Cover and return to the very warm place until you can see signs of fermentation. An hour is usually sufficient, although you can certainly go longer if it seems inactive. (NOTE: As with salt rising bread, don't taste the dough. You likely have bacteria growing which may - until neutralized by baking - be unfriendly to your digestion.)

Step 5: Add approximately 1 T (a big spoonful) shortening or oil to a cast iron skillet and let it get hot in a 350 F oven. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and bake until it browns and a toothpick tests clean. Neal says 40 minutes, but I find it takes longer - more like an hour. Your mileage may vary.

As Neal says, the word "light" refers to the fermentation process and "not to the texture or color of these pones." (p.22) The overnight mash leavens it more than you might expect, but not like baking powder or commercial yeast. The final result is a fairly dense (but not unpleasantly so), sweet, and interestingly fermented cornbread. Give it a try!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 13: Carthusian Dumplings

Today's post has nothing to do with my monthly theme, but who cares? I have an annual craving for Kartaeuserkloesse (Carthusian dumplings) every October. October 6 is the feast of St Bruno, the founder of the Carthusians. While I'm not sure that the austere Carthusians really created this recipe, I'm certain St Bruno wants me to have one. (I spent a long time in theological school, including a period studying monastic history, which explains why such obscure things bubble up in my brain and manifest in my kitchen.)

First, you need some stale kaiser rolls (or some similar sort of roll). Carefully trim off the crusts from all sides of the rolls. (If your rolls are not stale, remove the crusts and dry in a low oven for a bit.) If you are frugal like the Carthusians, you will grind the crusts in a food processor to make nice bread crumbs, which are needed later in this recipe. If you are lazy like me, you will feed the crusts to your circling dogs, and open a box of panko.

Next, make a batch of your favorite vegan French toast batter. This time, I used the banana rabanada batter from Isa Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch, but there are plenty of good recipes out there. Be sure your batter includes plenty of vanilla and grated lemon zest. Thoroughly soak your crustless rolls in the French toast batter.

In a deep fryer or cast iron Dutch oven, bring several inches of oil to 350 F. Toss the soaked rolls in the bread crumbs until well-coated, and then deep fry until brown and crispy. When they emerge from the fryer, toss the finished dumplings in cinnamon sugar. You will probably have to fry the dumplings in batches. The finished ones will keep in a 200 F oven until you are completely done.

A crispy-crunchy-sugary exterior and a donutty-french-toasty interior... what's not to like?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 12: Salt Rising Bread

The South has at least two breads which are raised with a fermentation process more dependent on bacteria than yeast: salt rising bread (a wheat bread) and corn light bread (if made in the traditional, time-consuming way). Both have a unique flavor, perhaps best described as cheesy.

I have been doing some recipe research on corn light bread, and I'm fixin' to make a new version for y'all blog readers during MoFo. In the meanwhile, I'm posting my directions for salt rising bread. If you are my friend on Facebook, you've seen this already, but now it is released into the big world.

As the bacteria in the culture is as important, if not more so, than any wild yeast you may have attracted, the key is having an environment which will hold at about 100F for several hours. Happily, my oven's "bread proof" setting will do this. You can also use a dehydrator, crock pot, heating pad, etc. I have used a dehydrator with success, although you need a thermometer to check the temperature, as it may not match the dial. Susan Brown has lots of suggestions on her excellent website. All of the times given below can vary enormously. You have to keep an eye on it. Luckily, it is hard to go "too long" - it is more forgiving than rising yeast dough.

Step 1: Mix 3 T cornmeal (any kind), 1 T flour (any kind), 1/8 t baking soda, and 1/2 c milk (any kind - I used almond milk). The milk should be scalded first and cooled to lukewarm. Put this in a covered mason jar and set it in your warm place for 8-10 hours (overnight).

Step 2: The starter should be frothy and have a funky smell. If you are in any doubt, something went wrong. Seriously. Pour the starter into a bowl and add 2 c lukewarm water, and 1 1/2 c bread flour. Whisk together. Don't worry about lumps. Cover, and put it back in the warm place for 2-3 hours. It should look like the photo above.

Step 3: Add 4 c lukewarm water, and enough bread flour to make a soft, somewhat sticky dough (usually around 10-12 cups). I usually add 4 t salt, 2 T sugar, and 1/4 c canola oil, but none of those are necessary. Turn out on a floured counter, and knead for just a couple of minutes. Traditional wisdom says not to knead it very much. I'm not sure of the reasons, but I have always followed this advice with good results. Divide into four loaves, place in greased pans, brush the tops with oil, cover, and put back in the warm place. In 2-6 hours, the bread will have risen to the top of the pans. It will have a flat top - not rounded like most yeast bread. WARNING: Do NOT taste the raw batter. The bacteria can give you food poisoning. (If you want to make some of the dough into rolls, a muffin tin works well.)

Step 4:Bake at 300F for about 30-45 minutes (or 15-20 minutes for rolls). Turn out on racks and cool. These directions reflect my own experience and tweaking. However, I owe a lot to the advice and recipes on Susan Brown's site - definitely consult it for more detailed guidance, great videos, and trouble-shooting.

Slice thin, toast, apply Vegenaise and sliced tomato. Enjoy a much too rare treat from the past!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 11: Creamed Eyeballs

OK, not really, although you could bill it that way for Halloween. This delicacy is my grandmother's admittedly scary grape salad. It was often produced for family events, or dinner on the grounds (or in the basement) at the Rye's Chapel Methodist Church, in Southside, Tennessee. I never knew what was in it until my cousin Laura (note to sensitive folks - her linked food blog is very omni) unearthed the recipe for me.

I doubt this recipe will have many takers, but if you want to make it vegan, here you go: Mix together 8 oz vegan cream cheeze (I used Vegan Gourmet) and 1 c Nayonaise (which I don't normally like, but it is supposed to be close to the Miracle Whip of the original). Drain one 20 oz can of pineapple, and add enough water to the juice to make 1 1/3 cups. Bring to a boil and stir in 2 packets of Natural Desserts Unflavored Vegan Jel. Add this liquid into the cream cheeze mixture. Fold in one can of Soyatoo Soy Whip. Then fold in the pineapple chunks and 2 lbs of red grapes, cut in half. Refrigerate at least one hour until firm.

Pineapple is a known enemy of vegan jels, and will often prevent them from setting properly. This was the case for me. The gelatin original of this recipe becomes quite solid, and can be sliced into blocks. (Yes, yes, so appealing...) The above veganized rendition set somewhat, but was much more scoopable than sliceable. This was, in my opinion, not a bad thing. Based on some internet research, I think you could achieve a sliceable consistency (should you really want it...) by adding more vegan jel powder.

All joking aside, this tastes surprisingly good -- although I freely admit that its appeal may be primarily due to nostalgia. I may make it only once a decade, but it brings good memories, and its frightening appearance insures that I have it all to myself!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 10: Gobi Manchurian (Party Interlude continues.)

The most popular dish at our party was the Gobi Manchurian. I love Gobi Manchurian in all forms. Frankly, I love all Indian Chinese food, period. Maybe next year, I will do a month of Indian Chinese for MoFo. Anyhow, this was super-good, so I had best write down what I did before I forget.

For the most part, I followed Mark Bittman's directions (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), but with a few changes. Bittman uses an egg batter, so that had to go. I did a little internet research, but decided to stay with Bittman's very simple flavor profile.

Take 1 large cauliflower and cut it into reasonably small florets. You do not have to steam it or bake it in advance. You just need to cut it small enough that it will cook through as it fries.

Whisk together:
2/3 c cornstarch
1/3 c chickpea flour
1/3 c all purpose flour
2 T soy sauce
3/4 c water
1/2 t salt
black pepper to taste

Pour this batter over the raw cauliflower florets, and toss until they are more or less evenly coated. Perfection is not needed.

Heat a few inches of oil to 350 F. (I used a deep fryer for safety.) Fry in batches until well-browned and crispy. Keep the fried cauliflower warm in a low oven or warming drawer until it is all done.

To make the sauce, heat 1 T oil in a pan and fry 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped) for just a minute. Add 1 c ketchup. (I think cheap ketchup is essential - nothing fancy or homemade here.) Cook this over medium heat, stirring, until it bubbles, reduces, and starts caramelizing. Stir in Indian chili powder to taste, and salt if needed. Bittman uses cayenne, but I prefer Indian chili powder. Taste the sauce and amaze yourself with what has happened. I made the sauce earlier in the day and reheated it in the microwave just before using, to avoid multi-tasking while deep-frying.

Gently toss the hot fried cauliflower with the ketchup sauce. The sauce is thick, but it will gradually melt around all of the cauliflower. Serve hot, and watch it vanish!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 9: Party Interlude and Pie

I'm behind on my projects due to a party tonight which has consumed two days of cooking time, but I'll give you a recipe to hold you over until regular posting resumes. (And, yes, I have at least two more congealed salads planned...)

Among the foods for the party, I made the wonderful apple pie from Julie Hasson's The Complete Books of Pies. We're going to serve it with the poured custard from Bryanna Grogan's World Vegan Feast. I've tried a lot of pie crust recipes. While I like the results you can get from very cold fat, and the use of a liquid like vodka (dirty little secret: Everclear works even better than vodka), I almost always default to my mother's easy and foolproof recipe.

With a fork, stir together (for a top and bottom crust): 2 c all purpose flour (or whole wheat or a combo), 1 1/2 t salt, 1/2 c oil (any kind), and 1/4 c nondairy milk (any kind). For a single crust, the amounts are 1 1/3 c flour, 1 t salt, 1/3 c oil, and 3 T milk. Roll out between pieces of waxed paper. If you wet the counter, the bottom sheet of waxed paper will stay in place. When rolled out, peel off the top sheet of paper, and use the bottom sheet to flip the pastry into the desired location.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 8: Fresh Apple Cake

This is a recipe from my grandmother which I veganized a year ago, but I have never blogged it here. It fits with my MoFo theme, and I'm damned busy getting ready for a party, so here you have it! It's a very tasty cake, although perhaps oversweet for some taste buds. If you don't have a major sweet tooth, dial back the sugar a bit. Thanks again to Mark and Huw, who both provided helpful suggestions in the veganizing process.

1. Take a 15 oz can of pears. Drain them and then pulverize in the food processor.

2. Mix the pulverized pears with 2 c sugar, 1 1/4 c canola oil, 1/2 c sorghum (or other syrup of your choice), and 1 t vanilla. Beat until well combined.

3. Sift together: 3 c all purpose flour, 1/2 t salt, 1 T baking powder, 1 t baking soda, 1 t cinnamon. Mix into the wet ingredients until just combined. This will be thick.

4. Add 3 c chopped apples and 1 c chopped nuts.

5. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick test comes out clean.

Once upon a time, I think this recipe had a caramel icing, but no one ever made it, as it is really excellent, as is.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 7: Squash Dressing

I love all forms of dressing/stuffing, especially in the cooler weather. Squash dressing is common in the South, probably because it is a tasty way to use up stale cornbread and leftover summer squash, both common and plentiful items. It is quite easy to make and you don't need a recipe, although I will give you one.

The Basic Law of Squash Dressing: Combine equal parts of crumbled cornbread and mashed, cooked summer squash. Add whatever else you like. Bake until it looks done.

A Recipe for the Cautious (photographed above):
2 c crumbled cornbread
2 c mashed, cooked yellow summer squash
2 oz jar chopped pimentos
1/2 c white onion, finely chopped
1/2 c celery, finely chopped
1/2 c green pepper, finely chopped
1 T oil
1 1/2 t poultry seasoning
1 T nutritional yeast
1 c veg broth
salt and pepper to taste

I mixed everything well, spread it in a shallow casserole dish, and baked at 350 F for 40 minutes until it started to brown and looked done.

This recipe was quite good, and very reminiscent of my grandfather's version (which had no recipe and was based on whatever was leftover at the moment). I ate it hot for dinner last night, and cold for breakfast this morning. However, you can twist this around any way you like: change the spices, make it more wet or more dry, use different/more/less vegetables, add some dry wheat bread or crumbled stale biscuits (or that crouton-like stuffing mix) along with the cornbread, include a little baking powder if you want it to puff up... You get the idea. Anything goes. I've made it with all wheat bread when I didn't have cornbread on hand. It was good, but my brain refuses to accept a non-cornbread version. If you are gluten-free, you are in good shape as long as you use an xgfx cornbread.

CORNBREAD: You can use any kind as long as it is not sweet. I used the following recipe: 2 c white cornmeal, 3 t baking powder, 1 t salt, 1 t baking soda, 1/4 c oil, 1 1/4 c unsweetened soy yogurt, 1/3 c whole wheat flour. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet with 1 T oil in the oven until really hot. Add batter. Bake at 350 for about 30 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. I left some of it sitting, cut up, on a plate on the counter to dry out for a day for use in the dressing.

If you don't know how to cook yellow summer squash like a Tennessee farmer, let me instruct you: Chop squash, cover with water in a saucepan, add a little salt, and bring to a boil. Once it it soft, mash it with a potato masher (don't drain), and add a dollop of oil. Continue to cook until it loses a lot of moisture. For the squash I used in the dressing, I cooked it for a total of 90 minutes and could have gone further. My grandfather always cooked it to the point that the oil in the squash began to sizzle on the bottom of the pan. (Some people call this "fried squash" for this reason, although it looks more like yellow mashed potatoes.) Add salt and pepper as needed. I'm sure any mashed squash would be fine in the dressing, but try it this way sometime! Seriously!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 6: More Congealment

Because you can't have enough congealed salad, I decided to make one which my grandfather produced for every holiday and major family get-together. I always liked it, but haven't had it in years. Vegan lemon jel seems to be a rare item, possibly because of the negative effect of acidity on most vegan jels. By the magic of the internet, I found lemon jel made by a British company called Just Wholefoods. It's quite good, although a bit sweet for my taste. I noticed that acid reducers are included in the ingredients.

To make my grandfather's salad, add one 85g packet of the lemon jel to 2 c boiling water. Grate a medium carrot and approximately the same amount of green cabbage. Obviously, you can add more or less plant matter according to your preference. I like it thick with vegetables, barely held together into a sliceable block by the lemon jel. Stir the vegetables into the jel fairly quickly. As soon the jel begins to set, you can arrange pecans across the top. Refrigerate until completely cold and set.

I warn you that I am on the track of another family recipe which, in its original form, involved gelatin, mayo, and grapes!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 5: Beer Biscuits

So you bought a box of Bisquick to make sausage balls, and now you wonder what to do with the rest of it.... ?? .... Here at the I-40 Kitchen, we have your back.

My friend Richard died 20+ years ago, back in the bad days before there were effective treatments for HIV. He used to make beer biscuits frequently, and I recently found a card where he wrote down the formula for me. Of course, you could make your own baking mix, but since you have that big box of Bisquick, you can use it, just like Richard did.

Mix 1 heaping cup of regular Bisquick with 1 T sugar. While stirring with a fork, add enough beer to bring the dry ingredients together as a soft but cohesive dough. With wet hands, form into balls, and place in a greased cast iron skillet. (It takes a double batch to fill my skillet.) Bake at 425 F until they are brown and appear done -- 10-15 minutes depending on biscuit size and the whims of your oven.

We had these biscuits with a quick vegetable soup: water + broth powder + a bag of frozen vegetables + a half jar of leftover spaghetti sauce + a handful of orzo.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 4: Cornflake Squash

This is one of my mother's favorite ways to cook yellow summer squash. Her version includes a fair lot of cheese, and you could go that way if you have a bag of your preferred vegan cheese on hand. However, I decided to try a different direction:

Roast 5 medium summer squash, split in half, at 400 F for 30 minutes. Scoop out innards, mix with 1 T nutritional yeast, 1 t oregano, 2 T crushed cornflakes, salt and pepper to taste. (As the size of your squash may be different from mine, be sure to taste the filling and adjust seasonings as needed.) Refill squash. Top with more crushed cornflakes, return to oven for another 15 minutes. In the background, you can see roasted okra, just because the oven was on and there was room on the pan.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 3: Sweet Potato Pudding

My maternal grandparents had a divide over sweet potato pudding. They had grown up with significantly different versions of it. This is my grandfather's. Perhaps I will try making my grandmother's version later in the month.

This is a very easy recipe, although it is in the oven for a long time. Mix together 1 c sugar, 1/2 t nutmeg, and 1/4 c thickener of choice. (For thickener, I used 2 T tapioca flour + 2 T instant clearjel. I suspect cornstarch would be fine.) Add 3 c grated sweet potato, 2 c nondairy milk, and 2 T melted margarine (or a neutral flavored oil). Place in a greased shallow casserole or (more traditional) a cast iron skillet. Bake until it is thick and gooey. Mine took about 2 1/2 hours at 350 F.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 2: Congealed Pickled Peach Salad

The South has a strange fondness for congealed salads: food encased in jello, often bizarrely found on the "vegetables" menu in restaurants. This recipe is based on one which was served at the now-closed Choices restaurant on Main Street in Franklin, Tennessee.

I'm sure this would be better with real pickled peaches (which I wasn't willing to risk on an experiment), but Choices made theirs using this cheater method: Take two 15 oz cans of peaches in heavy syrup. Chop the contents and place with the syrup in a saucepan. Add 1/2 c cider vinegar and 12 whole cloves. Bring to a boil, cool, and refrigerate for several hours. Drain and remove the cloves. Mix 2 3 oz packages of Natural Desserts Raspberry Vegan Jel with 3 c boiling water. (The original recipe called for orange jello, but the store happened to be out of orange vegan jel and raspberry looked good.) Stir in the drained peaches and refrigerate till firm. Vegan jels are infamous for not working if additions are too acidic, so I was a little concerned. However, this set up nicely - and tasted great!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bonus MoFo: Cranberry Gardein

We are in Asheville and I've pre-set a few posts until we get back to Tennessee. However, tonight we made a quick meal which deserves memorializing. It is an adaptation of a recipe from the now-closed Choices Restaurant in Franklin, TN.

Make a white sauce: Cook together 1T flour and 1 T margarine. Add 1 c unsweetened soymilk and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until thick. Add 1/2 c canned cranberry sauce, and stir in. I added more cranberry sauce, as we tend to like fruity food.

Fry some Gardein "chicken" tenders - or use your preferred breaded and fried (or baked) protein. Serve over rice, spoon on some cranberry cream sauce, and finish with a tiny bit of fresh rosemary.

Vegan MoFo Day 1: Sausage Balls

Every year at Christmas, my grandmother would make Bisquick sausage balls. I wasn't quite sure how these would work in a vegan version, but they turned out great! They didn't brown much on top, so next time I'll probably spray a little oil on them to help that process along.

The use of multiple processed foods is essential for authenticity! In a big bowl, combine:

2 c Daiya cheddar
2 T olive oil
1 14oz package Gimme Lean vegan sausage
3 c regular Bisquick (which is oddly vegan)
1 t sage
1 t veg worcestershire (I love the one from Bourbon Barrel.)
1 t onion powder
a few drops liquid smoke
black pepper to taste

Knead together thoroughly. It will be crumbly at first, but with time, it comes together. Roll into balls. Bake 25 minutes at 350F.