Monday, September 29, 2008

Soy Curls, North Alabama style...

When I am home alone, my meals get simpler. Today's lunch (and quite possibly dinner) is a soy curls sandwich with North Alabama white bbq sauce.

If you have not discovered Butler's Soy Curls, they are a wonderful and convenient ingredient. They are made from the whole soybean, and can be quickly rehydrated in the liquid of your choice. As they do not contain preservatives, we store them in the freezer to keep them fresh longer. For the recipe below, I simply rehydrated the soy curls in hot water according to the package directions, and then drained them well, pressing out any excess water.

The South is famous for debates over proper bbq sauce - should it be a thin brown vinegar-based stuff, or thick and ketchupy, or (heavens!) bright yellow from mustard? Hot or sweet or mellow? The true heretics in this matter reside in North Alabama, where bbq sauce is made from mayonnaise! As North Alabama is just over the border from Tennessee, we occasionally see this strange and delicious substance, which is traditionally used for poultry bbq. It is sometimes cooked onto the meat, or used as a condiment, or both. You can find it in jars, but, being mayo-based, it is always non-vegan. However, with the availability of excellent vegan mayo (such as Vegenaise), it is easy to make your own.

As this blogger rightly points out, there are only four essential ingredients: mayo, vinegar, salt, and pepper. However, other ingredients (especially horseradish) are often in the mix, and there is a contingent that strongly believes in lemon juice instead of vinegar. I have made the recipe in the linked blog post as written (only using Vegenaise instead of egg mayo), and it's really good - I encourage you to try it. But white bbq sauce lends itself to improvisation... a little white balsamic vinegar here, granulated garlic there, maybe smoked paprika on a wild day... insert finger, taste, adjust. Today's version went something like this:

1 1/2 cups Vegenaise (I used the grapeseed oil kind with the purple lid)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 T freshly ground black pepper
1 t salt
1/2 t granulated garlic
1 t prepared horseradish
1 t vegan worchestershire sauce

Mix thoroughly. Combine with rehydrated soy curls, and make a sandwich with a couple of crunchy pickles. Mmmm!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

DIY Challenge, Week 2: Jam/Jelly

My camera is still away until the end of this week.... I will try to remember to add a photo when it is back.

The DIY challenge at The PPK continues with jam/jelly. I decided to make hot pepper jelly which is a key component of one of my favorite party foods. If you are inviting me to your house for a party, please do the following: Invert a jar of hot pepper jelly over a block of (vegan) cream cheese (such as that made by Tofutti) and then serve with seeded crackers. Around here, everyone uses Nabisco Sociables, but homemade would be even better. You use the cracker to scoop up a blob of combined jelly and cream cheese.

Hot pepper jelly runs the gamut in terms of heat and color. It can be mild and sweet, or blazing out of control. The amazing 28 Cooks suggested this recipe, which adds garlic and black pepper to the mix, and I couldn't resist! It's extremely tasty, easy to make, and her simple canning method worked perfectly for me. I used jalapeno peppers, apple cider vinegar, and unrefined cane sugar (from Zulka). For God's sake, remember to wear gloves when you are chopping so many hot peppers.

If you hate garlic or the 28 Cooks recipe is too strong for you, here is my mother's considerably milder recipe, which I have made in the past:

1/4 c. chopped hot peppers
1 1/2 c. sweet green bell peppers
6 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 pack liquid pectin (Certo)

Mix peppers, sugar, and vinegar and boil hard for 3 minutes. Add pectin and continue to boil for 1 minute longer. Remove from heat, fill hot sterlized jars, and seal according to your preferred method.

I was worried about finding the liquid pectin (which both recipes use) but it was in my local grocery store next to the canning jars.

When I pondered what to make this week, I also considered FROG Jam - a marmalade-style jam that mixes figs, raspberries, oranges, and ginger, hence the name. It is common at fruit stands in Georgia and South Carolina, and it can be ordered on the internet from numerous places. However, I did not have any luck finding a recipe. So, being lazy, I went with the hot pepper jelly. I plan to work out a recipe for FROG Jam in due course. If you have one, send it to me!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sorghum Ginger Cookies

I'm sorry there is no photo. The camera is traveling with the other half of the household and won't be back home for 2 weeks. Y'all will have to bear with me.

With the weather finally turning cooler, we are approaching sorghum molasses season. This magical substance is produced every autumn, usually appearing in October. Nashvillians can see a demonstration of traditional sorghum production at the upcoming Music & Molasses Festival. If you live around here, the best place to buy it is the farmer's market. Whole Foods also carries a good quality local sorghum molasses, but the price is high. (I'm sure you are shocked.) If you have time to get out of the city into sorghum territory (e.g., around Ethridge in Lawrence County, TN), you can buy directly from the farmers who make it, often in gallon tins. Sorghum molasses (a.k.a. sorghum syrup) can be ordered from a number of on-line retailers, but be careful that you are getting 100% sorghum, and not sorghum-flavored corn syrup. Ew.

Years ago, sorghum was used extensively in the South for all sorts of sweetening purposes. It is great in pies, and makes a wonderful corn light bread (for the uninitiated, this is a term for sweetened corn bread). A popular (and exceedingly non-vegan) Nashville restaurant makes amazing peach preserves using sorghum. Those preserves and the iced tea are probably the only vegan items on the menu. Sorghum molasses is wonderful poured over pancakes, waffles, and hot biscuits. I was a teenager before I knew there was any other kind of molasses.

My favorite recipe for sorghum is that for my great-grandmother's "Ginger Cakes." Sorghum molasses has a bright, fresh, tangy flavor that is fantastic with the ginger and lemon in these crisp cookies. You could use regular cane molasses and the cookies would still be good, but not the same. Yesterday, I made them using MimicCreme, a new vegan cream made from nuts, and it worked very well. If you don't have MimicCreme, any vegan cream sub would likely be fine.

This makes a lot - enough for an army of great-grandchildren. The cookies keep well when stored in an airtight container, so go ahead and make the full recipe:

Mix together:
1 1/2 c. unsweetened MimicCreme (or vegan cream of your choice)
2 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/4 c. sorghum molasses
2 T. ground dried ginger (be generous)
2 T. grated lemon rind (be generous)
2 T. baking soda
some salt (around 1 teaspoon or a little more)

Stir for 10 minutes. I put the stand mixer on the lowest speed and walk away. Then add:

9 c. all purpose flour

It may get too thick for your mixer, and you will have to finish by hand. Cover and refrigerate for several hours (up to several days) so the dough is firm. Roll out *thin* on a well-floured board. The dough will still be sticky and you need a lot of flour to roll these without them bonding to the counter top. Cut in shapes and place on greased baking sheets. Brush the top of the cookies with water. Bake at 350 for approx 15 minutes. The baking time can vary widely depending on the size and shape of the cookies. Watch, as thin crisp cookies go from done to burnt very quickly. Cool on racks, and store in an airtight tin. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Homemade Pita

Morgyn over at The PPK has started a homemade challenge series, and the first week is pita bread. I used the recipe that she posted, and it worked very well! Morgyn advised that it is important not to roll the dough too thin, or it won't puff, and this proved to be true. I found that my dough rose faster than the recipe indicated (approx 1 hour) and my baking time was a minute or two longer than written. You have to watch very carefully as they go from not-done to burnt very quickly.

We are very spoiled by living near a great pita bakery (Baraka Bakery on Nolensville Rd in Nashville). Mine were nowhere near their standard of perfection, but they taste great and certainly have inspired me to make pita again. It's easy - try it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Local Vegan Foods

During the Vegan Month of Food, among other things, I plan to post about some local foods from TN and NC. As a preview, here are three of my favorite local vegan products from the Nashville area. If you find yourself within reach of Middle Tennessee, you must try them - and if you live here, by all means, please put your dollars in the pockets of local producers. The websites include information on where to buy.

Primm Springs Soysage - I've gotten all DIY with veggie sausage of late, but this stuff is damn good, non-GMO, and made right here by a real person (who is also a veg*n caterer). It's even been on the Food Network. It comes in hot and mild, and keeps well. Sliced and fried, it makes a great sandwich.

FarmSoy Soygurt - The best soy yogurt, ever. Really. It's unsweeetened and has no added junk: only soymilk and live cultures. If you are making Indian or Middle Eastern yogurt sauces, this is what you need. FarmSoy also makes wonderful, fresh, local tofu.

Journey to Bliss Pistachio Cheddar - A soft, spreadable, fermented nut cheese. We could eat the whole package in one sitting, easily, but we try to restrain ourselves. It's rich, tangy, and complex. The other nut cheeses and raw foods made by Journey to Bliss are also excellent. Now that cooler days are upon us, we plan to indulge in their raw chili soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vegan Month of Food

I am starting this blog for the annual Vegan Month of Food, which is October this year because Isa says so. Hopefully, I will start posting before October, also.