Sunday, December 30, 2012

Capital Finale: District of Columbia: Senate Bean Soup

For a relatively small place, DC has its share of distinctive foods.  One of you sausage gurus needs to work out a veganized half-smoke.  Also, mumbo sauce is often (but not always) already vegan, and is good on much more than Chinese food.  (Mumbo sauce recipes are splattered across the internet -- see this one and this one, for starters.)

Whenever I visit DC, I head out for excellent Ethiopian and Eritrean fare, as well as authentic mouth-numbing Szechuan (cold ma la noodles, ma la cucumber, ma po tofu, etc).

One of the most famous DC recipes is the bean soup served in the Senate dining room.  You can find the original recipe on the Senate website.    Of course, we will remove the grotesque ham hock, but we need to add flavor.   What better to add than some Ethiopian berbere and Szechuan peppercorn?   If you are not familiar with berbere, it is an Ethiopian spice mixture.  You might be able to find prepared berbere, or you can make your own.  I like the recipe in kittee's Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food.  There is another very fine berbere formula in Terry Romero's Vegan Eats World.   The import of Szechuan peppercorns into the US was illegal until 2005.  Thankfully, the FDA got over itself, and you can now enjoy that special tingly feeling without looking over your shoulder for the Feds.

Here's my new and improved version of Senate Bean Soup:

1. Soak 1 lb navy beans in cold water in the refrigerator, at least 8 hours or overnight.

2. Drain and rinse the beans.   Put them in a pressure cooker with 10 c water, 1 large carrot (chopped), 1 T olive oil, 1 t berbere, and 1/2 t ground sichuan pepper.  Bring to high pressure, and cook for 14 minutes.  Allow pressure to release naturally.   (If you have never used a pressure cooker, be sure to read the directions for your device carefully!   Of course, you can make this soup without a pressure cooker, but it will take a lot longer.)

3. While the beans are cooking, fry 1 onion (chopped) and 2 stalks celery (chopped) in 1 T olive oil until the onion browns.  Add 2 cloves garlic (chopped) and cook for another minute or two.

4. Once the pressure has been released, carefully remove the lid of the cooker.   Add the onion mixture and 1/4 c chopped parsley to the soup, and simmer for a couple of minutes.   Add celery salt and additional berbere and sichuan pepper, to taste.  (I added 1 1/2 t celery salt, 1 t berbere, and 1/2 t sichuan pepper.  This resulted in a fairly spicy but not incendiary soup.   Go slowly and taste frequently until it is the way you want it.)  Finally, add about 1 c dry/instant mashed potatoes (not all brands are vegan - check carefully) to thicken the soup, and simmer another few minutes.

While I was making the soup, I chopped injera into triangles and baked it on a silicone baking mat at 275F until it was  crispy.   (It takes longer than you might expect, as injera is very moist.)  A handful of these were very nice, alongside the soup.  If you cannot buy injera where you live, and don't want to go through the rather tricky process of making it, kittee's zine and Terry's cookbook (linked above) both have easier/quicker copycat recipes which yield good results.

This is the final post in this series, which I began back in October for the annual Vegan Month of Food:  50 states, 5 territories, and 1 federal district!  I've certainly enjoyed this journey, and I hope you have, too.   This blog will probably go dark for a little while, but will return in due course for the next VeganMoFo, if not before. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Oregon: Brown Rice Hazelnut Burgers

A vegan recipe for Oregon should not be a challenge.  After all, Portland must be one of the most vegan-friendly cities on earth.  While plant-based cookbook authors, bloggers, food carts, grocers, and restaurants abound, it was hard to put my finger on something distinctively Oregonian.

Finally, I decided to go with a recipe involving hazelnuts, as the vast majority of North American hazelnuts are grown in Oregon, and thus it is a crop often associated with the state.  One of my favorite Oregon residents is vegan cookbook author Julie Hasson.   In her wonderful book, Vegan Diner, she has an Oregon-inspired recipe for Brown Rice Hazelnut Burgers, which fit the bill nicely!  The burgers have a lovely, hearty flavor, and are definitely on the "make again" list.  If you don't have Julie's book, you need to pick up a copy.  We've made many recipes from it, and all have been superb.   While you are waiting on your copy to arrive, you can find the recipe online here.  

(The buns are the excellent 50/50 Burger Buns from American Vegan Kitchen by Tamasin Noyes.  They have become our standard buns for hamburgers and hot dogs.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

50 States of MoFo: South Dakota: Tempeh Chislic and Apple Kuchen

South Dakota is one of the most beautiful states I have ever visited, and I hope life takes me back there one day.   I was there for a brief time, and I don't have any helpful food memories so I had to do a little research.

Chislic - fried meat on a toothpick - appears to be uniquely South Dakotan, in name if not in concept.  As we've done a lot of gluten/seitan during this project, it seemed time to break out the tempeh.   I looked at a number of online recipes for chislic marinade (such as this one) before stirring together something which I hoped would work well with the tempeh.

1. Cube an 8 oz block of tempeh, and steam the cubes. You can steam the cubed tempeh in a saucepan with a little water and lemon juice (and maybe a dash of salt) for about 15-20 minutes.  Or put your water, lemon juice, salt, and tempeh in a micowave-safe dish, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes.   Both methods work!  You can probably skip the steaming, but I thought it would promote better absorption of the marinade.

2. Make the marinade by stirring together: 1/4 c vegan worcestershire, 1 T brown sugar, 1/2 t liquid smoke, 1/4 t black pepper, 3/4 t Lawry's seasoned salt, 1/2 t onion powder, 1/2 t garlic powder, and 1 1/2 t chili powder (hot or mild as you see fit).  Taste and adjust the seasonings to suit yourself.  Toss the tempeh in the marinade and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.   

3. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet.  Fry the marinated tempeh cubes until well-browned on all sides.  Serve with toothpicks, with saltine crackers, hot sauce, and garlic salt on the side.

The chislic made a very pleasant snack dinner.  I think I will make tempeh this way again, and perhaps toss it into a salad.

We also made the official state dessert of South Dakota, which is kuchen.  There are a number of quasi-similar baked desserts which go by that name.   Helpfully, the South Dakota Secretary of State has provided a recipe for authentic South Dakota apple kuchen, in the 2011 South Dakota Legislative Manual.   We put it through the veganizer, and here's the result:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.   Grease and flour a 9x13" baking pan.

2. Make the crust:   Place 2 c all purpose flour, 1/2 c unrefined sugar, 1/2 t vanilla, and 1 c vegan margarine in a food processor.  Process until combined, and press into the prepared baking pan.   Bake 12-15 minutes until it looks baked, but not really browned.

3. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F and make the filling:  Mix together 1/4 c plain unsweetened soy yogurt and 2 T ground flaxseed, and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine:  16 oz vegan cream cheese (homemade or store-bought), 3/4 c unrefined sugar, and 1 t vanilla.   Beat until well combined, and then beat in the yogurt-flax mix.  Pour into the baked crust.

4. Make the topping:  Stir together 2 T unrefined sugar and 1 1/2 t cinnamon, and set aside.  Peel, core, and thinly slice 3-4 Granny Smith apples.   Place the apples on top of the filling, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.   Bake 30-40 minutes until nicely brown and set.

Not diet food, but very tasty!

Monday, December 24, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Delaware Raisin Cake

I had trouble determining what to make for Delaware.  I found a large number of seafood recipes, which were uninspiring, difficult to veganize, or similar to the non-crab cakes we made for Maryland.  There were also a number of peach dishes - as peaches are the state fruit - but nothing that caught my fancy.  I used to visit Delaware with some frequency, and my primary food memories involve good Italian food -- but nothing distinctive.

We usually make a fruitcake at Christmas, but I did not get to it this year.   Thus, I was pleased to find a recipe for "Delaware Raisin Cake" floating around the internet.   With a few small changes, here you have it:

1.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.   Heat the oven to 325 F.

2. In a saucepan, combine 16 oz raisins, 1 1/2 c apples (peeled and chopped), and 2 c water.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes.

3.  Into the hot fruit mix, stir 1/2 c vegan margarine, 2 c unrefined sugar, 1 T baking soda, 1 T cinnamon, 1 t nutmeg, 1 t cloves, and 1 c water.    This will foam up because of the baking soda, so be sure there is enough room in the pan, or switch to a larger container.   Gently stir in 4 c all purpose flour.

4. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake at 325 F for 1 hour.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bonus Territory: US Virgin Islands: Callaloo and Fungi

Our final territory takes us to the Caribbean and the US Virgin Islands.   The US VI has its own version/s of the wonderful cuisine of the larger Caribbean.   Being somewhat overwhelmed by recent holiday baking, we opted for a healthy dinner.  (These recipes are also gluten-free, for my xgfx pals.)

Callaloo is always some form of cooked greens, but which greens, how cooked, and with what other ingredients?  The answers vary widely.   We opted for this recipe from the VI, which is already vegan, and includes sweet potato, eggplant, and okra, in a 50-50 mix of spinach and chard.

Fungi - which goes by other names in other parts of the Caribbean - is a cornmeal-okra mixture, which is astonishingly fluffy (and delicious).   I started from this recipe, but made a few small edits.  Here's our version:  Chop 10 oz fresh okra, and boil for about 5 minutes (until soft) in salted water.  Drain.   Mix together 1/4 c fine yellow cornmeal and 3/4 c cold water, and set aside.   Bring 2 1/2 c water to a boil.  Pour in the cornmeal-water mix, whisking constantly, and cook for about 1 minute.   Gradually pour in 1 1/4 c additional cornmeal, continuing to whisk.  It will thicken quickly.  Pull off the heat, and stir in the cooked okra, 2 T vegan margarine, 1/4 t salt, and black pepper to taste.   Return to a low heat, and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes.   You will be surprised by the texture!

Serve the callaloo over, or alongside the fungi.   I'm looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow!   I doubt I'll get to another post before Christmas, but the remaining states (Delaware, Oregon, South Dakota - plus a DC finale) will be coming along in the near future.   Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Nebraska: Runzas

Nebraska has been the secret headquarters of American veganism for many years.   At the time that George Burke wrote his very important vegan cookbook, Simply Heavenly, his monastic community was located in Geneva, Nebraska.  (They later moved to California, and are now located in New Mexico.) More recently, the prominent vegan cookbook author, Isa Moskowitz, moved to Omaha, Nebraska.  What is it about Nebraska?

The runza is often associated with Nebraska, and it seemed only right to make Isa's recipe for seitan & sauerkraut runzas for our Nebraska post.  These were easy and completely delicious.  Highly recommended!

Nebraska must have a special fondness for sauerkraut.  In addition to runzas, it claims to be the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich.  By the way, if you've never made sauerkraut, you should!  It's so simple.  Sandor Katz will show you how:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

50 States of MoFo: New Jersey: Trenton Tomato Pie

When pondering New Jersey, I gave serious consideration to the New Jersey Italian Hot Dog -- a deep fried hot dog served in bread made from pizza dough, and topped with onions, peppers, and deep fried potatoes.  It is most certainly a project for the future, along with its variant form in which said hot dog is served in a folded slice of pizza.

I also investigated Disco Fries, the New Jersey version of poutine, perfect for a wee hours meal after a wild night across the river at Studio 54.  However, Wonder Vegan has already tackled these in her 50 States project.  You can find her worthy veganized version, with a mix of potato, sweet potato, and turnip fries, here.

Thus, I finally settled on tomato pie, from New Jersey's capital, Trenton.  Trenton tomato pie is a thin crust pizza, on which the cheese is under the sauce.  The sauce is usually very simple, being canned Roma tomatoes broken into chunks, with little (sometimes nothing) else added.   Trenton tomato pie has even been the subject of a documentary film.

Drawing to some extent on the recipe given in the film, here is my version:

1. Make the crust.   Dissolve 2 1/4 t dry yeast and 1/4 t sugar in 3/4 c lukewarm water.   Add about 1 1/2 c bread flour and 1/2 t salt.  Knead this for about 5 minutes.  You can add a little extra flour if it is too sticky, but go easy.  Let it rest 5 minutes.  Then, knead 2-3 minutes more.  Some authorities claim that for a proper thin crust, you should not allow the dough to rise, but use it right away.  I didn't let mine rise at room temperature, but I plonked it an oiled bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

2. Make the sauce.   Drain one 14.5 oz can of plum tomatoes (whole tomatoes packed in juice), and put the tomatoes into a bowl.  Mash with your hands until chunky.    If you are hardcore, stop right here.  Your sauce is done.   However, you can stir in a little salt, pepper, basil, garlic, and/or olive oil to taste.   I made the sauce the night before, also.

3. Make the pizza.  Heat your oven, with a pizza stone in it (if you have one), as high as it will go -- in my case 500 F.   Gently work the dough into a thin circle - as thin as you can go without it tearing.   Sprinkle with your choice of vegan cheese (I used Daiya mozzarella with a little of Miyoko Schinner's vegan parm) - not too much.    Cover with the sauce - again, don't overdo it.  Slide it into the oven, and watch carefully.  It will cook quickly -- about 5-7 minutes.   Slice and enjoy!   Pizzas which have the cheese below the sauce (like this one and Chicago-style pan pizza) seem to make the best of the qualities of most vegan cheese.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bonus Territory: Guam: Kelaguen, Red Rice, Chamorro Cucumbers, and Fina'dene

While in the Pacific, it seemed right to make Guam the next stop on this culinary tour.  As I looked for recipes on the internet, I found several which seemed like they would be best if served together.  Before I knew it, I was cooking a full dinner of dishes from Guam.  It was a delicious meal, full of flavor, and one which we will definitely repeat.  I started with recipes posted on by user ChamoritaMomma, and made various modifications and veganizations.  If you use a wheat-free tamari instead of regular soy sauce, and are careful of hidden ingredients in the vegetable broth, this could be a gluten free meal.

1. Fina'dene (a sauce to serve alongside the other dishes)

1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c thinly sliced green onion
2 jalapeno peppers, roasted over a gas burner, seeded and chopped
1 c grape tomatoes, finely sliced

Combine everything, and let sit in the refrigerator, preferably for several hours, for the flavors to blend.

2. Chamorro Cucumber

3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded (if necessary), and sliced
1/4 c chopped onions or green onions or (in my case) shallots
1/8 t black pepper
1/4 c soy sauce
juice of 2 lemons
1/8 c water

Combine everything, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

3. Soy Curls Kelaguen

6 oz Butler's Soy Curls
2 c vegetable broth
1/4 c chopped onion
6 T thinly sliced green onion
6 T fresh lemon juice (from approx. 3 lemons)
1 t salt
1/8 t MSG (yes, MSG!  if you are sensitive to it, leave it out)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
6 T finely grated fresh coconut (I hammered open a coconut for this!)

Rehydrate the soy curls in the vegetable broth.  Then, drain them, and squeeze out excess moisture.   Combine everything else, and then mix in the soy curls.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

4. Red Rice

2 1/2 c short grain rice  (ChamoritaMomma suggested Calrose, so that is what I used)
2 1/4 c water
2 T oil
1 T Bakon Yeast
1 t achiote paste
1 (1 1/2 oz) packet Sazon Goya with coriander and achiote
1/4 c chopped onion
3/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/8 t MSG  (again, leave it out if you are sensitive - or horrified!)

Rinse the rice in a colander under the water runs clear.   Place it in a saucepan along with the 2 1/4 c water and all the other ingredients.  Stir to combine well.   Cover and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a full boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for approximately 20 minutes.  Allow to sit, covered, off the heat, for 10 minutes, and then fluff with a fork.  (All of these recipes were good, but the rice may be my favorite.)

Make yourself a plate and enjoy!

Edited to add:  The person who "does not like" onion or hot pepper ate all of this happily, as well as a full plate of seconds.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bonus Territory: American Samoa: Paifala

Venturing out into the Pacific, we come to American Samoa.  I was helped along by a wonderful (although very omnivore) blog called Travel by Stove.  This fierce blogger is cooking a meal (not just a dish - a whole meal!) from every country on the planet!   Her project makes my tour of the states and territories look like nothing.   I worked from her recipe for paifala, a pineapple-filled hand pie.  Hand pies seem to have universal appeal.   Here is my modification:

1. Make the filling.   Drain a 20 oz can of crushed pineapple.  This should leave you with about 2 cups of fruit.  Put the fruit in a saucepan with 1/2 c nondairy milk (I used flaxmilk as it was open) and 1 c unrefined sugar.   Heat this on medium while whisking together 1/3 c of the pineapple juice from the can with 1/3 c cornstarch.  Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the hot fruit, and continue whisking until it is quite thick.  Remove from the heat and set aside.   (It doesn't need to cool completely, but you don't want it blazing hot.)

2. Make the dough.  Stir together 3 c all purpose flour and 2 t baking powder.   (If you have coconut flour, you could sub about 1/2 cup of it for some of the ap.)   Using a pastry blender or fork or (better) your hands, cut in about 1/3 c vegan margarine.   Stir in 1/2 t coconut extract and 1 c coconut milk (the fatty kind from the can).   Keep adding coconut milk until the dough comes together as a soft but cohesive ball.

3. Make the pies.   I followed the directions to divide the dough into 5 parts.   These paifala were huge - like pineapple calzones!   I suggest you divide the dough into 10 parts, or even more.   Roll each ball of dough into a rough circle, place a good bit of filling on one half, fold over, and crimp.   Cut a couple of slits in the top, and put on a parchment lined baking sheet.   Bake 30-35 minutes at 375 F.   (If you make smaller ones, they will probably bake faster.)

If you get enthusiastic about American Samoa, Travel by Stove also has a recipe for Keke Pua'a (a relative of the Asian dumpling), which looks like it would be fairly easy to veganize.  The pineapple pies are quite yummy, but my favorite Samoan item remains kava (the beverage).  If I had thought ahead, I would have bought some from the Vanuatu Kava Bar in Asheville, to go with dinner tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Washington: Aplets

Washington (the state in the Pacific northwest, not the national capital) is known for its apple orchards.  Thus, when one searches for distinctive recipes from the state, many involve apples.  I decided to try a candy known commonly by the name of its original commercial version:  Aplets.   According to the internet, aplets (and an apricot version called cotlets) were developed by two Washington orchard owners of Armenian descent, who were drawing on their memories of Turkish delight.    While the ingredients of the original appear to be vegan, many copycat recipes involve gelatin.   Here's a veganized version for you:

1. Grease an 8 inch square pan and set aside.

2. Peel and chop an apple.  Measure about 1 cup of chopped apple and place it in a saucepan.  Cover with an inch of cold water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.   Drain the apples, reserving 5 tablespoons of their cooking liquid.   Place the cooked apples and liquid in a food processor, and process until smooth.

3. Put the apple mixture back in the saucepan, and stir in 2 cups unrefined sugar.  Place back on the heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves and everything begins to bubble.   Pull off the heat.  Whisk 3 (10g) packages of Natural Desserts Unflavored Vegan Jel into 1 cup of water.   Quickly whisk this into the hot apple mixture.  I returned it to the heat for a minute, but I don't think that was necessary.    Stir in 1 t vanilla and 1 c chopped walnuts.  (I think black walnuts would be spectacular, but I didn't have any.)   The recipe I worked from called for rose water (which the other human doesn't like) or lemon juice (possibly too acidic for the vegan jel - the package warns against it), so we went for vanilla.

4. Acting quickly (as the mixture will begin to set up), pour your candy into the prepared pan.   Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.   When completely firm and cold, use an oiled knife to slice it into squares, and toss them in powdered sugar.   Store in the refrigerator.

If you cannot find the Natural Desserts product, you could probably get a similar result with agar or pectin, although some tinkering would be necessary.   In truth, agar might be an improvement.  While these taste great and were easily sliceable into squares, they are a bit softer than I want them to be.  The firmness of agar would likely help them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Nevada: Basque Cake

When considering Nevada, I though of doing an ironic vegan version of the casino hotel buffet, or something old-timey from pioneer mining days.   However, I was drawn aside by the many recipes from Nevada's large Basque community.   Basque cuisine (in its original form, and in its Americanized Nevada permutation) appears to be well worth exploring.   With the winter holidays bearing down upon us, I thought a baked dessert would make a good start.

Basque Cake was rightly described by one blogger as a sophisticated pop tart for grown ups.   It comes with many fillings, but most common are pastry cream and cherry jam.   Bryanna Clark Grogan has an excellent recipe for vegan pastry cream, which would be lovely here.   However, as the other half of the house often describes himself as a fruit bat, I decided to go with the jam.  I looked at a bunch of recipes online, tinkered a bit, and simplified directions.  Here you have it:

In a small bowl, whisk together:
1 T ground flax
4 T nondairy milk

In a medium bowl, whisk together:
2 c all purpose flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

In a large bowl, beat together until fluffy:
5 oz vegan margarine
1/4 c unrefined sugar
1/4 c vegan brown sugar

Add the flax mix to the sugar-margarine mixture, and continue to beat.   Add:
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t almond extract

Gradually pour in the dry ingredients, mixing until just barely combined.  Divide the dough in half.

Roll out each half to roughly the size of your cake pan (8 to 9 inches), between sheets of wax paper.   Flip one piece of dough into the bottom of the cake pan.  You can push, pull, and press to adjust it.  Cover with 3/4 - 1 c. cherry jam (or pastry cream or whatever filling).  Cover with the other piece of dough, and press around the edges to seal.  This does not need to be exact.

Brush the cake with a little nondairy milk, and sprinkle it with about 1/3 c sliced almonds.    Bake at 350 F for 40-45 minutes. (In my oven, a 9 inch cake was done in 40 minutes.)  Let the baked cake rest in the pan for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to finish cooling.  This was easy and yielded a very nice result.     You could make the dough ahead, store in the fridge and bake the cake in the morning to impress your in-laws with your vegan breakfast magic!

I originally hoped to wrap up this 50 States project by Christmas, but I don't think that will happen.  I still have 6 states, 3 territories, and DC yet to go.   Fear not, blog reader!   However long it takes, we will continue until they have all had a turn!

Edited to add:  In response to a question, I did not grease the cake pan.  The dough has plenty of fat in it, and mine popped right out.   However, if you are nervous of cake-breakage, you can certainly grease and flour. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Virginia: "Country Ham" Tofu & Beaten Biscuits

Country Ham and Beaten Biscuits are found throughout the southeastern United States, but both have a very long history (and quite possibly their origins, in their current form) in Virginia.

For the "country ham" tofu and its accompanying red-eye gravy, we used the fantastic recipes in Ann Jackson's Cookin' Southern: Vegetarian Style.  Ann Jackson has a stunning ability to reproduce authentic flavors in vegan form.  No, it's not exactly like country ham, but it will more than fill that greasy, salty hole in your heart.

Beaten biscuits are a pain in the butt to make, following the traditional recipe.  The dough has to be beaten or worked for a very long time.  Earlier in this project, while making Vermont common crackers, I realized that my pasta roller would likely make an excellent "biscuit brake."   Before I could try that idea, the internet told me that a few minutes in the food processor will do the trick.  My lazy self headed quickly in that direction --- with success!   I followed this recipe, just using nondairy milk and vegan shortening.   (Despite the recipe instructions, don't use vegan butter - the flavor will be wrong.   Non-vegan beaten biscuits are usually made with lard, and shortening will yield a closer result.)

Serve on the porch, with a big pitcher of iced tea, for authenticity.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Iowa: Tavern Sandwiches

Some days, I'm up for wildly involved fancy-pants cooking.  Other days (i.e., today), I am tired from work and have to bake a bazillion dozen obligatory Christmas cookies.   Thus, dinner has to be easy and I decided to veganize Iowa's tavern sandwiches.   To be a bit more fair to the potential of Iowa cuisine, maybe I'll make some lovely fresh corn dish in the future.

Taverns are named after a restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa, which helped popularize them.    They are also known as "Maid-Rites" (after a chain which sells them) and "loose meat sandwiches"  (yum...?).   Like most Americans, I had heard the term "loose meat sandwich" on the TV sitcom Roseanne, but I had zero idea of what they are.   Think of a sloppy joe without the sauce, and you are close.

As with many beloved regional foods, there are fights over the "right" way to make them.  Should the onion be cooked with the meat, or left raw and sprinkled on at the end?   Are all seasonings (even salt and pepper) except for onion forbidden?  And so on.   Google if you want to read the internet fights.   There are also more complex variations.   A coworker from Iowa told me that sometimes her mother stirs ketchup, mustard, and a can of condensed chicken gumbo soup into the burger mixture.   The thought of working out a vegan equivalent of condensed chicken gumbo soup put me off that notion, at least for now.   I did adopt a couple of possibly unorthodox yet not uncommon approaches - broth instead of water for simmering, and the use of some dry onion soup mix for seasoning.

I used Boca crumbles for this, but, with some slight variation in the procedure, you could adapt to ground seitan, tofu, tempeh, or whatever your preferred vegan protein may be.   As I have remarked on other recipes of a similar background, sometimes you really have to go with the processed food for authenticity.   (Hush!  I'll have a big salad tomorrow!)

1.  In a large skillet, heat 2 T oil.  Add 1/2 of a medium onion, chopped fine, and a 12 oz package of Boca burger crumbles.   Saute until it warms through and the onion starts to become translucent.

2. Add 1 cup veggie broth,  1 T nutritional yeast, and a little bit of dry onion soup mix (most brands are vegan but check to be sure).  Go easy with the onion soup mix, so the burger crumble doesn't get too salty.  You can always add more.    (I worked up to about 1/2 envelope, before it was finished.)    Simmer gently until most of the liquid has evaporated.   Taste, and adjust seasoning with dry onion soup mix, salt, and/or pepper, as you see fit.

3.  Serve this loose burger mixture on buns with yellow mustard and pickle slices.   To be traditional, set these on pieces of waxed paper to catch the mess which will result as your burger falls apart.  Eat quickly, to prevent too much disintegration!

These were better than you might think -- and a different way to make a quick comfort-food meal.

Monday, December 3, 2012

50 States of MoFo: Minnesota: Wild Rice Soup

When it came time for Minnesota, I was sorely tempted to veganize Cookie Salad or Glorified Rice.  However, health won out tonight, and I decided to make something from wild rice, a crop often associated with Minnesota.  

I like wild rice and most often copy a friend in making a cold salad of wild rice, green beans, red onions, and toasted pumpkin seeds, with a dressing of olive oil, umeboshi vinegar, and dijon mustard.  However, that salad recipe seems more appropriate to warm weather, and the internet revealed many wild rice soup recipes from Minnesota.  After reading through several of them, here's what I came up with:

1. Combine in a soup pot:   6 cups vegetable broth (in my case, 6 cups water + 2 T Better-than-Bouillon paste), 1 T nutritional yeast, 1 t poultry seasoning, 1 T olive oil, and 2/3 c. wild rice.   (That's all the wild rice I had in the cupboard.  When making again, I might add a little more.)   Bring this to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

2.  Add 2 small carrots (chopped), 1/2 of a small onion (chopped), and 4 large celery stalks (chopped).   Return to a boil, cover, and simmer for another 15 minutes.   Check the wild rice.  It should be cooked, or very nearly so.   If it is still too hard, let it simmer a few more minutes.

3. Stir together 1/4 c white wine, 1/2 c water, and 2 T all purpose flour.  Pour this into the soup, and bring back to a boil.  Simmer for a minute or two until it thickens just a bit.   Stir in 1 c plain unsweetened soy milk.  Taste.  Add black pepper and celery salt to taste.  (You'll probably need a teaspoon or so of celery salt unless your broth was particularly salty.)  Continue to simmer just until it is heated through, and then serve.

This made a gentle, pleasant soup for supper.  We served it with thin slices of French bread and green olives --- probably not traditional, but good anyway!