Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chickpea & Yuca Encebollado

It snowed another 8 feet or something (ok, maybe 8 inches) last night, breaking an 80 year-old snowfall record for December in Fargo. It all looked so pretty this morning, until I got my work pickup stuck a couple of times on the way across town. Work in general was snowed out by noon, so I went home to make soup and pretend I was in the tropics. Or any place where you can walk outside without your face freezing solid in 30 seconds. But I'm fine, really.

The soup in question is an encebollado. The Spanish word translates to something like "onioned," as if onion were a verb. Maybe it should be. But I'm getting off track, and over my head liguistically. I got to know tuna encebollado pretty well in Ecuador in my omni days. The soup has a reputation as a hangover cure, and as such is usually sold in the mornings at street carts and market stalls. Steaming bowls are served with lime quarters, or even a plastic bottle of fresh lime juice. Toasted corn or popcorn are used in the same way as saltines, to scatter over the soup.

Encebollado takes to the vegan treatment really well, since bold flavors like onion, lime, tomato, and cilantro don't need those poor fish to make a good soup. To add a sense of sea flavor, I boiled the yuca chunks with a piece of kombu, and sprinkled the soup with some kelp powder. The sea veggies aren't totally necessary, but I liked the evocative effect.

Encebollado de Chickpeas y Yuca
1 big red onion, halved, sliced exceptionally thin, and rinsed in lots of cold water*
1 medium yuca, peeled and cut in chunks
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups canned unsalted tomatoes, pureed in the blender
1/2 cup tomato juice
Juice from a half dozen limes
1 cup fresh cilantro
Toasted corn or popcorn for garnish
avocado slices, also optional
kombu and kelp powder, both optional**

1. Once you've tracked down yuca and kelp powder, this is a pretty easy soup. Boil the yuca chunks in just enough water to cover them, and with the piece of kombu if you like. They should be tender in 15 to 20 minutes, and soft when poked with a fork.

2. Strain the broth to remove the yuca. At this point I like to rinse the yuca chunks in cold water, and then remove the little spine/stem thing that runs through the center. It falls right out, and in some yuca I've found it cooks too and gets soft. I'm no yuca expert, but I guess it probably depends on the size of the tuber. Maybe.

3. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, chickpeas, and yuca chunks back to the cooking broth. Bring to a simmer, add half the cilantro, and remove from heat.

4. Ladle into bowls, and add as much lime juice and popped/toasted corn as you like. Sprinkle a handful of sliced onions and more cilantro on top. Avocado is perfect over this too.

* Rinsing those onions takes away some of the raw bite, and my friends in Ecuador always did it. This way you get the crunch and onion flavor, but it's more mellow.
** Kelp powder has a mildly salty taste. Salt to taste if not using kelp.

There you go. I had fun veganizing this, although the whole deal is wildly inauthentic. But next time you get a craving for popcorn, tomatoes, and kelp powder, this is the soup for you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I'm heading even further north for Christmas, so I'll be gone for a few days. Just wanted to send a message of happy holidays to everyone out there who has helped me have fun with this blog for the past year. I have found so much inspiration and amazing food and ideas doing this, so thanks so much to all you wonderful vegan bloggers! No food content today, but I have a couple of shamelessly cute animal pictures to say thank you to everyone who has spent the past year trying to live compassionately and reduce suffering in whatever ways we can. Be well everyone.

One of the year-old calves at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, CA, from this past March. That green grass and blue sky looks pretty good right now.

Finally, Maya, when she was even more pint-size. This is last summer, scrunched up in her favorite sleeping spot. Peace everybody!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dengaku Tofu

Lunch today was my latest Farm Sanctuary recipe test. I hadn't heard of Dengaku tofu before, so this was educational and tasty. The tofu is traditionally served with bamboo skewers, and the name refers to the stilts used by performers in the Japanese Dengaku festival. Dengaku tofu features a sweet (traditionally red) miso sauce, but I used yellow miso I had on hand. The miso glaze includes ingredients I was pretty familiar with - miso, mirin, sake, sugar, and water from rehydrated seaweeed - but after a reduction on the stove the combined taste was all new to me. Very distinctive, sort of like a gravy, with sweet and tart notes. I love this stuff, and it would be perfect with any variety of stir-fried, roasted, or raw veggies. The tofu is battered in panko crumbs, fried, and served over a tamari and fresh ginger sauce, alongside a little napa cabbage-wakame-cashew salad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow day cooking!

The good part of living in a state where blizzards come in to stop civilization a few times every winter is the snow day. After getting the call yesterday morning to take the day off (woo hoo!) I made these spinach gyozas (another wonderful Farm Sanctuary recipe test). It's so cool how you can pack a whole bag of fresh spinach into a dozen or so little gyoza wrappers. These were great, with a burst of green goodness inside each gyoza. The dipping sauce was tamari, pineapple juice, chili oil, and green onions.

After work today I broke out that rye bread and made a reuben. Slices of seitan-lentil roast replace the meat, with lots of sauerkraut and a combo of Nasoya vegan mayo, ketchup, lime juice, and sweet pickle relish in the dressing. I like this bread - it has a milder rye taste, as the recipe calls for around 2 parts all purpose flour to one part rye. The flavor fits a reuben really well, but since it's not a really dark rye bread it still works well for PB & Js. The recipe is from the new Vegetarian Times mag.

If you've been paying attention, that's puppy Maya's nose in the photos. The dogs' standard routine goes like this - they roll up, drop a nose down next to the plate, and then look at me like I'm severely neglecting them by not putting the whole mess of food on the floor immediately.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Banana Lime Napoleon

I'm snowed in, Fargo's snowed in. A spectacular blizzard is rolling through the north country this weekend, and we're baking bread and making breakfast. Above is the latest recipe test for Farm Sanctuary - it looks like the breakfasts alone are going to make this cookbook a big hit. The recipe is actually a Plantain Lime Napoleon, but I used bananas. To help illustrate the photo, those are a pair of coconut milk pancakes on the bottom, with a layer of bananas on top of each. Crushed macadamia nuts are next, with a sweet and tangy lime juice and sweetened soy yogurt combo. On top is a waffle that was supposed to come out more as a crispy wafer. I fumbled that somehow - I haven't made many waffles, and it was a first run on a borrowed machine. It was really nummy, with maple and cinnamon and ground cardamon on top.

Yesterday I made this rye bread with caraway seeds, with a recipe from this month's Vegetarian Times. I'll be back with a reuben soon!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Grilled Tofu with Mushroom Sauce & a Lentil Tagine

I'm still loving The Asian Vegan Kitchen, by Hema Parekh. The book has chapters on nine cooking traditions, from India to Malaysia to Korea, and includes a huge variety of recipes. This is an adaptation of a Chinese tofu and mushroom sauce - I added some spinach and wakame. Not so long ago I was one of those people freaked out by eating seaweed, and I'm happy I've gotten over it. Shiitake, beech, and white button mushrooms are the basis for a sauce spiked with mirin and sake.

My second recipe test from Farm Sanctuary was this lentil tagine. Please, just take my word for it that this is way, way better than my rushed photo might suggest. Technically, I guess this is a lentil cast iron frying pan, since I don't have a tagine. Tagine is a much prettier word, for the traditional Moroccan clay cooking pot with the cool conical top. This was sweet and spicy and delicious. I baked this, just covering the frying pan with foil. If you have a tagine, you probably don't need me to tell you that's the right way to make this. It's a recipe that warrants a return trip soon, and maybe I'll be back with a better photo.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Banana Nut Terrine

I'm happy to add a new feature to the blog this month. The good people at Farm Sanctuary (if you feel like making a holiday donation, their link is on the right!) are putting together a cookbook, and I get to do some recipe testing...I have a few excellent looking recipes I can't wait to try out, the first of which is this lovely banana-nut terrine. I put it together yesterday, chilled it overnight, and breakfast was a real treat this morning. The interior is a sweet mixed-grain Kashi filling, with cinnamon and allspice and juicy raisins. Chilled bananas form the exterior, with toasted walnuts and a little maple syrup on top. If this is any indication, I'm going to have a hard time coming up with critiques for these recipes besides "mmmm." This was amazing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Stuffed Poblano Breakfast Peppers

I picked up a couple of perfect poblano peppers last night, ideally shaped for making some version of chiles rellenos. These are a couple of steps removed from typical rellenos, as they're oven-roasted rather than battered and fried. For the filling, I used one of those tofu scrambles we all love so much, mixed with my favorite greasy hashbrowns. I was going to top these with salsa, but googled a recipe for nacho cheezy sauce.

There are all kinds of ways to roast peppers, from broiling to grilling to charring the skins over a gas stove. My favorite is on a charcoal grill, but the last couple of times I've roasted peppers I've fried them in my soup pot in some canola oil on maximum high heat (another tip from a Rick Bayless book). The peppers crackle and sputter and it seems like you're going to burn the kitchen down, but this works really well. A soup pot works well because the oil stays mostly contained. I'm sure when more competent cooks do this there's less oil spattering around, but I don't see the fun in that. I fried these for a few minutes on each side, until the whole pepper is black and charred and generally looks a disaster. After letting them cool for 20 minutes or so, the blackened skin rubs off easily. What remains is a nicely roasted pepper - cut a small slit into the cooled pepper, and gently rinse out as many seeds as you can.

My tofu breakfast scramble is never the same twice, but this time it includes a few shredded leftover baked potatoes, tofu, half a white onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, nooch and seasonings. Here I used cumin, turmeric, ancho chile powder, lemon juice, paprika, and probably some other stuff that was within arm's reach. The basis for my tofu scramble will always be the Vegan with a Vengeance recipe.

So that's about it. I stuffed as much tofu hash into the peppers as they could handle, and then put in a little more. I popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 F or so. The topping, pictured below, is a mix of nutritional yeast, canned roasted red peppers, rolled oats, cashews, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and onion powder. Blend it all up, saute it for a few minutes, and you have a nifty blob of nacho cheeziness. Sort of a mess, but there's breakfast.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tequila Pumpkin Chili

Tequila plays a minor role in this nummy chili, but I include it in the title because tequila just demands attention. I whipped up this chili during my lunch stop at home today, using some leftovers from the weekend. The whole thing was ready to go in about 10 minutes, but the prep time for the components makes this recipe a little more involved. I made a pot of black bean and onion puree, and a roasted sugar pumpkin over the weekend - those are the two main ingredients. To save time, canned pumpkin and beans would be fine. This would retain more of the glowing golden-orange color of the roasted pumpkin puree if I had used cooked whole black beans, but I wasn't as interested in appearances as in using up leftovers. The requisite chili chunkiness comes from a handful of cubed chunks of lentil-seitan roast:Trust me, these are perfect in chili. Since I was going back to work, I was responsible and added the tequila while frying up a little onion and garlic, and the alcohol almost certainly evaporated. That said, the smell of a shot of tequila tossed into a hot pot of onions and garlic makes a lunch break much more dramatic - it was great, and lent a nice hint of tequila flavor to the finished product.

Tequila Pumpkin Chili
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 cups roasted and pureed sugar pumpkin or other squash
1 cup black bean puree, or a 14 oz. can of rinsed black beans
1/2 cup cubed lentil-seitan sausage, or your fave faux meat, or more beans
3/4 cup sweet corn
1 8 oz. can salt-free tomato sauce
1 cup tomato salsa (I used homemade from family)
1 tsp. cumin
1 heaping tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. or so fresh lime juice
canola oil
1 shot Tequila (I had a one of those little tiny bottles of Cuervo)
green onions, corn tortilla chips, and vegan sour cream for topping
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Saute the onion and garlic in hot oil on medium high heat in a soup pot. When they begin to soften and brown, add the tequila. Continue to cook a couple of minutes, as the alcohol evaporates the the onion and garlic browns a little more.

2. Add the dry spices, and all of the remaining ingredients - like I said, this was done in 10 minutes at most. Bring to a simmer and you're ready to roll, but like most soups/stews/chilis the flavors are better if this sits a while. Top with green onions, crushed chips, and vegan sour cream right before serving.

A parting shot, with pumpkin grown by my sister and brother-in-law back home. Salud!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wild Rice Salad and a Lentil-Seitan roast

I'm back from spending Thanksgiving back home - hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a good one, as it can be a challenging holiday for vegans. My contribution to the family meal was this salad, adapted from a recipe in the current Vegetarian Times. I liked the variety of flavors, with wild rice, dried cranberries, maple syrup, pine nuts, and mint leaves.

Here's the latest iteration of the baked seitan sausage that stormed the vegan blogs way back when. I hadn't made this for quite a while, and wanted to come up with something that modified the texture of seitan - which I'll admit to finding a little rubbery sometimes. I've had amazing seitan made by others, but the texture often doesn't quite work when I make it. My idea was to add cooked lentils, and the results are pretty good - I wish I'd paid more attention to the ingredient quantities as I was making this. Cooked lentils, raw onion and garlic, and wheat gluten flour are ground finely in the food processor, with lots of spices and sesame and mustard seeds. Guessing, I think I used about a cup of lentils and 3/4 cup of flour, and just enough water to form it into a firm roast. It was wrapped in foil and baked for about 45 minutes at 350 F. It is firm, but tender to cut and eat, with a texture similar to Tofurkey brats and sausages.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie Pie

Confession - baking is still a little intimidating for me. I love checking out the amazing baked creations on so many vegan blogs, with fancy icings and designs and other high baking art. These people clearly know what they're doing, and I salute the vegan baker-bloggers of the world. You rock. On the other hand, when I have a sweet tooth I have two standards: muffins, or making a filling for my beloved graham cracker pie crusts. Here's the latest entry, a pie-based celebration of the strawberry-banana smoothie. I'll get around to posting a vegan tiramisu any day now, just wait.

This was adapted from the Pastry Cream recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, a great ambassador for vegan baking. Unlike me. I whipped up that book's pastry cream/custard, mixed in a blended jumbo strawberry-banana smoothie, and chilled. It set up perfectly, and is topped here with a blended soymilk-banana-tofu-sugar mix. I find these pie pieces don't look like much in photos, so here's a slice of pie with Otter. Now that's art.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mujaddara (Lentils and Rice with Fried Onions)

I've fallen for this lentil and rice plate, known as mujaddara, mujadarah, mejadra, mudardarah (yes, thanks wikipedia) and probably a few other names across the Middle East. It only stands to reason that a dish with such elemental ingredients - lentils, rice, onions, and spices - would pick up a few names along the way. Anyway, I'm crazy about the stuff, largely thanks to the stellar version offered at Cafe Aladdin in Fargo. I used brown basmati rice, brown lentils, and a big yellow onion. The red spice on top is sumac, which adds a distinctive lemony taste and aroma to the affair. Here's my take on a very old recipe, great with hummus, warm pita bread, and salad.
1 cup cooked brown basmati rice (any rice is fine, but I like brown basmati in any pilaf or salad because it doesn't get mushy unless you really overcook it, and I think brown rice just tastes better).
1 cup cooked and drained brown lentils
1 large yellow onion, in quarter inch slices
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
1 tbsp. sumac
salt to taste
1. Because the cooking time on any kind of rice and just about any kind of lentil is a little different, I like to cook them separately until each is just tender. Cook rice and lentils and set aside.
2. While the lentils and rice are cooking, it's time to carmelize some onions in the canola oil. If you're impatient, fry them on high heat and keep stirring until they're nice and golden brown. I took my time, giving the onions a quick fry on high heat for the first few minutes, then letting them slowly cook over medium-low heat, 20 to 30 minutes, until they are meltingly soft. Season with a little salt as they cook.
3. I use a big cast iron frying pan for things like this, so when the onions are done remove them
and put the frying pan back on a medium-low flame. There should be enough leftover oil for the rice and lentils, but if not add a little more. Add cooked lentils and rice, and all of the spices except the sumac, and heat up, stirring frequently. If it seems a little dry, add a few tbsp. water, which will soak into the lentils and rice and help incorporate the dry spices.
4. That's it! Top the lentils and rice with the fried onions, and sprinkle with a liberal amount of sumac. If you can't find sumac, paprika and a squeeze of lemon juice or hot pepper sauce would be nice alternatives.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Butternut Squash and Red Bean Soup

Last night I made roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds, from Veganomicon. I put a pot of dried red beans and onions on a slow simmer for a couple hours too, and blended the results for a multi-purpose bean puree - I see lots of burritos for lunch this week. I used the leftover beans and squash as a base for this very American soup, along with a roasted poblano pepper and some pasilla chile salsa. I kept the water to a minimum, resulting in a very thick soup. This could double as a nice tortilla chip dip too - the pasilla salsa has a smoky flavor, similar to canned chipotles or other smoked chile salsas.

2 cups roasted butternut squash
1 cup red bean puree, or your choice of canned beans
1 roasted and peeled poblano pepper, seeds and stem removed
1/2 cup pasilla chile salsa, or your salsa of choice
2 cups water
Salt, pepper, and hot chile sauce to taste

That's all there is to it - I processed everything in the blender, and heated it up for a quick, spicy, and very easy soup. Here's a pic of the butternut squash with coriander, another winner from Veganomicon.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chickpea Cutlets with Green Pipian (Pumpkin Seed Sauce)

New and old traditions come together with this one. I'm still in Rick Bayless mode, and the green pipian sauce is inspired by Mexico - One Plate at a Time. I love how Bayless incorporates Mexican history in his writing, making it more than just another cookbook - why do they call this sauce "pipian," for example? For any food/Spanish language/history geek, this is ideal reading. Traditionally this sauce features tomatillos, but I used some of the green tomato salsa/general Mexican cooking sauce I canned last month. Toasted pumpkin seeds, ground in a blender with the salsa, make for a thick, creamy sauce.
I think most vegans on the planet will recognize the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon. I baked them, and the only change was using cumin and chili powder to give the cutlets a Mexican twist. The green sauce under the cutlets is my green tomato/chile salsa.
I'm not done talking about Barack Obama yet, and this recipe is a good excuse. Weekend Edition (on NPR) did a story about Bayless a few weeks ago, since his restaurant in Chicago is a favorite of the Obamas. It's worth looking for online - I'll recommend the NPR Food podcast too, if you're into that sort of thing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

First, I want to say how glad I am that in his first post-election press conference, Barack Obama confirmed they intend to get a shelter dog for the family. Hearing a president-elect advocate for shelter animals in a press event covered nationwide just rocks so much. If I may presume to speak for them, thanks from Otter, Maya, and every other shelter dog-street mutt who've spent time with me.
On to the muffins. The primary motivation for making muffins last night was an excuse to turn the oven on for a while - the downstairs neighbors control the thermostat and weren't home, and the place was frigid. These are ensemble muffins, with fun stuff like ground flax seeds, apple sauce, pecans, dried cranberries, fresh grated ginger, and allspice. Here's my recollection of the ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose white flour
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp. ground flax seeds
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup brown sugar (up to a cup if you like very sweet muffins - I like them just sweet enough to notice the sugar)
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup of the apple sauce I just made
3/4 cup soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/2 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
a dozen pecans for topping

1. Preheat oven to 425 F, and grease or spray with oil a muffin tin. This recipe made a dozen muffins, of what I consider a "standard" size.
2. Mix the dry ingredients - flour, flax seeds, baking powder, and spices - in one bowl; the wet ingredients - pumpkin, canola oil, soy milk, applesauce, ginger, plus sugar - in another. Mix both bowls together, and fold in the cranberries.
3. Divide the batter evenly in the muffin pan. I pressed a pecan or two into the top of each muffin. Bake for about 15 minutes - they're done when they turn a golden brown, but I know you already knew that.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roasted Applesauce, Yes We Can

I've been lazy about posting lately, which I'll blame on pre-election stressing out - I live in North Dakota, after all - and too much work. Thankfully, this country proved Tuesday that we are better than the last eight years. Work was blissfully rained out this afternoon, so I spent my time at home with the dogs and a bag of apples from my sister. On the radio was NPR's "Talk of the World," and I've never been so happy peeling apples - the good feelings from around the world about Obama's election make me really believe, for the first time in a long time, that we can do things differently. I know it's all optimism and hope right now, but it's nice to feel good again about our place in the world. In his speech on Tuesday night the next President partly quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s "the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice." Whenever I feel hopeless about the issues we care about, I try to remember that.
I guess this post is about applesauce. I've made canned applesauce a couple of years now, and for this recipe I relied heavily on the roasted applesauce entry from Vegan With a Vengeance. I had around 40 small to medium sized apples. After peeling and removing the cores, I had just over four pints of sauce. The recipe includes brown sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice, allspice, and cinnamon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Knoephla Soup

Knoephla (pronounced "neff-la") is part of the German heritage around these parts. The word refers to the dumplings, from a German word that means "little knob/button" (thanks wikipedia). Knoephla soup is still pretty easy to find - they were serving bowls of it at the cross country state meet I was at yesterday (my niece Sydney took first!). The soup is so easy to make vegan - I just substituted vegan sour cream instead of regular cream, vegan "chicken" broth for chicken stock, and made the dumplings with vegan margarine and no eggs. I think it would fool anybody used to traditional knoephla soup. It's really hearty and comforting - a lot of the old German food I grew up around featured lots of flour and potatoes in various forms of noodles and dumplings. The first snow of the season is swirling around outside today, so it's perfect knoephla weather.

Knoephla dumplings
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. enerG egg replacer
2 tbsp. vegan margarine (softened if refrigerated)
tsp. salt
enough water to make a firm, pliable dough - 1 1/2 cups or so
Soup ingredients
1 tbsp. canola oil
3 medium red potatoes, in one inch cubes
2 stalks celery, diced
6 to 8 cups water
2 tbsp. vegan chicken broth powder, or your favorite veggie stock
1 tbsp. dried dill
1/2 cup vegan sour cream (optional - leave out if you like a clear, not creamy, soup)
salt and pepper to taste
Oyster crackers or saltines to serve

* The egg replacer is optional - I just tried it to see how the texture was - dumplings hold up find without it.

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry dumpling ingredients, and fold the soft margarine into the dry mix. Add a cup of water, and stir to combine - the dough will still be pretty dry. Continue adding water, a few spoonfuls at a time, until the dough is dry enough to work with in your hands. If it becomes too moist, dust with more flour and continue kneading for a few minutes. The dough is pretty forgiving, and if it is a little low on moisture, that will only result in a firmer dumpling - no big deal. I just work it until it’s not sticky and I can cut off sections that hold together completely and are dry enough to work with. Cover the dough until you’re ready to make dumplings.

2. Heat oil in a soup pot, and saute diced celery for about 2 minutes. Add about six cups of water and broth powder or stock, bring to a boil, and add potatoes. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook potatoes until they just begin to soften. While the potatoes are cooking, start cutting up the dumplings. This is the only tricky part of this soup - if the potatoes are pretty soft by the time you add the dumplings, the potatoes might become a little mushy by the time the dumplings are done cooking. This varies by type of potato too - just something to keep in mind.

3. I find that the easiest way to make dumplings is to break off tennis ball-sized pieces of dough, roll them into long cylinders - about ¾ inch wide - and snip off dumplings with a scissors or very sharp knife. You can snip them directly into the simmering soup - this way they don’t get stuck together in a bowl, and they tend to keep from sticking in the soup if they are added one by one.

4. Keep the soup at a steady simmer, and continue cooking until about 5 minutes after the last dumplings have been added. Sprinkle in about a half tbsp. of dried dill. If using sour cream, add it just before turning off heat. Stir until it is “melted” and incorporated into the soup. Season with salt and pepper. I like to sprinkle a little more dill into the serving bowls, and eat it with saltines or oyster crackers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Creamy Mini Lasagna Hotdish

With fall coming on strong, I wanted some good stick-to-your-ribs comfort food last night. The star of this hotdish with mini lasagna noodles is the cashew-tofu ricotta recipe from Veganomicon. The only change was adding a spoonful of nutritional yeast - I was going to make mac and cheese, so I was in a creamy cheezy mood. For the sauce, I fried up some diced eggplant, button mushrooms, and chopped asparagus, along with onion and garlic. When they were lightly browned I added a pint of canned tomatoes, an 8 oz. jar of salt-free tomato sauce, and one of my frozen basil pesto cubes which I posted about earlier. I mixed the cashew ricotta, tomato sauce, and cooked noodles in a baking pan, baked it for 20 minutes or so, and had this very satisfying lasagna hotdish - pretty easy stuff, and perfect cool weather food.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Enoki Mushroom Pancakes with Cucumber Kimchi

Here's another dish from Hema Parekh's The Asian Vegan Kitchen. Both of these are from the Korea chapter - I made the cucumber kimchi a few weeks ago. This is a sort of quick refrigerator kimchi - not the traditional fermenting process with the vegetables.
The vegetable pancakes use a batter consisting of all-purpose wheat flour, rice flour, and potato starch. Instead of straight potato starch, I used a spoonful of ener-G egg replacer, which includes potato starch as it's main ingredient. The batter was fairly thin and velvety smooth - more like a crepe than a pancake. Parekh uses red bell peppers and leeks, but I subbed enoki mushrooms, lots of chives, and a few red chili peppers with the seeds removed. Instead of mixing the vegetables into the batter mix, they are placed on top of the pancake in the pan, and lightly pressed into the batter before flipping. These pancakes would be great with any number of thinly chopped or shredded veggies, and are nicely complemented by a dipping sauce with tamari, sesame oil, sugar, seasoned rice vinegar, and sake. I have yet to be dissapointed by a recipe from this book - tasty food, interesting ingredients, and lots of attractive recipes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Salsa Variations

I haven't been able to keep up with the post-a-day goal of Vegan MoFo, but I'm enjoying those of you who are staying on pace. On the couple of nights this week when I've had time to goof around in the kitchen, I was busy cleaning, chopping, roasting, boiling, and canning tomatoes. Since we had our first hard frost this week, I picked the last of my tomatoes, including a few dozen green ones. They're all canned or eaten now, so this is the last of my tomato posts, I promise.
I made three batches of salsa, turning out 25 or so canned pints and half-pints. Two recipes featured green tomatoes, which were oven roasted. I blended a can of chipotle chilies and a cup of crushed pineapple into one green salsa. The second green variation was pretty straightforward, with onions, cilantro, garlic, chilis, and lots of lime juice. I used the last of my ripe red tomatoes in a salsa with roasted garlic and a couple of cups of diced mango, along with more onions, chilis, and cilantro. I wonn't post any exact recipes, since I tinkered with each pot of salsa until I had something I liked. This was an opportunity to use a lot of my chilis, but I still have a box of them.

I might try some chili-ginger or chili-garlic paste to can or freeze, or just freeze them as they are. Either way, I won't need to buy chilis for a long time. Finally, a response to a question from Ali about any tricks for growing tomatoes up here. I grew my plants in a freshly tilled garden plot, so I suppose the soil was pretty rich and full of nutrients. All I added was some peat moss - one bale in a plot about 10' by 5' - in the spring, since Red River valley soil tends to be pretty dense - I tried to make it looser and easier to work. After that, all I did was pull weeds and water late at night or early in the morning in the couple of dry stretches this summer. The plants were in full sunlight after mid-morning each day. I didn't use any other fertilizer or pesticides, though there are lots of organic and homemade techniques out there.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Summer's end, goodbye tomatoes

The Vegan MoFo project is a good motivator to keep posting some new vegan food every day, and nothing is more vegan than a plain old tomato. Or a bunch of tomatoes. These are pictures I took in early September when I picked the bulk of my tomatoes. That's Otter, sitting on my cucumber plant and guarding the product.

I know you've seen tomatoes before, but I'm proud of these. Check this out - with only three plants, I've picked over 230 tomatoes this summer. That's counting a few golf ball sized green ones lately, but a nice return on my investment of 4 bucks or so. I'm not a numbers-oriented person at all, but I thought it would be fun to keep track of the production in the garden. Here's some glowing jars of stewed tomatoes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lentil Molotes with Green Tomato Sauce

Back to the library for inspiration on this one. I picked up Diana Kennedy's From My Mexican Kitchen, which is an informative catalog of ingredients and techniques for traditional Mexican food. Kennedy is apparently a master of the craft. The book is not remotely vegan, but helpful and interesting, with some mouth-watering recipes. I used up some of my green tomatoes as substitutes for tomatillos in this sauce. That may be a problem for traditionalists, but was good enough for me. The tomatoes were cooked just until soft, and added with green chilis, garlic, onion, and cilantro (all raw) to the blender. When I lifted the lid after a thorough puree, the chilis and garlic had me very close to tears - the smell was overpowering, but in a way that had me fired up to use this in a meal. I used some sauce essentially raw, which was very hot. I simmered some of the sauce on the stovetop, which mellowed out the garlic, onion, and chilis substantially. I think I've decided what to do with the load of green tomatoes in my garden that aren't going to ripen before the freeze - a great sauce for canning.

Molotes are made by encasing a filling with a corn masa dough. A molote has a specific shape - sort of an elongated football - which distinguishes it from the array of other stuffed corn masa foods in Mexican cooking. I used a mixture of lentils and walnuts (inspired by the walnut taco filling on the My Vegan Spoons blog -thanks!), seasoned with lime, cumin, ancho chili powder, and roasted garlic, for the filling. After a quick spin in the food processor, the mix makes an awesome taco/enchilada/whatever filling. The molotes are fried in a whole lot of canola oil, until golden brown on all sides. The ultra-spicy sauce is the perfect counterpoint to the rich, warm flavors of the fried corn dough and lentil-walnut filling. The combo was topped with a sprinkle of fresh lime juice and some shredded cilantro.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Grilled Eggplant with Basil-Artichoke Pesto

They keep rolling in from the garden, so here's another eggplant recipe. This time I marinated eggplant cutlets in a mix of olive oil, vinegars, and herbs, and grilled them on my trusty George Foreman grill. I try to keep the kitchen as gadget-limited as possible (partly because my kitchen is tiny, partly because I try to avoid accumulating stuff), but the Foreman is perfect in the right situation. It's great for grilling tofu and tempeh, and all kinds of veggies. These are topped with lots of lemony basil pesto and artichoke quarters, and a handful of toasted pine nuts.

1 medium-large eggplant
Eggplant marinade ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar

1. Cut the eggplant vertically in 1/2 inch slices. Combine the marinade ingredients, and pour over eggplant slices in a baking dish or ziploc bag. Let sit for at least an hour, or overnight, tossing the pieces around a couple times to make sure everything gets seasoned.

2. I grilled the eggplant for around 10 minutes, shifting halfway through to get some nice grill marks. The outsides were just a little crispy, and the interior was tender and creamy.

2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup canned quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed

1. Use a food processor or blender to grind up everything but the artichokes. I mixed the artichokes in next. Top the eggplant slices with the pesto (preferably at room temperature) and sprinkle with lightly toasted pine nuts or more walnut bits.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Garden in a Jar Pasta Sauce

Things are getting ominous around here. There have been frost warnings each of the last few nights, but we haven't gotten that growing-season-ending freeze yet. Still, I can almost hear the clock ticking as we roll into October. I am trying to preserve as much as possible from my garden, and this week came up with this all-purpose tomato pasta sauce. I used tomatoes, eggplant, and basil as the main ingredients, with rich flavor from roasted onion and garlic. Here's the ingredients, which netted five pints of canned sauce:

4 lbs. roasted tomatoes
1 roasted medium-large eggplant
2 cups diced basil leaves
1 medium white onion, roasted
1 bulb garlic, roasted

I allowed the roasted ingredients to cool before blending in a food processor to something thick but not completely pureed. Bringing the roasted and chopped vegetables to a simmer on the stovetop, I started working on additional flavors. Seasoning included dry oregano, 2 or 3 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, a liberal sprinkle of salt, some black pepper, and a spoonful of balsamic vinegar. I played around with these until I had something I really liked, so these quantities are rough guesses. I added the basil leaves at the very end of the simmering and seasoning on the stove top, to avoid overcooking them.
Canning is much easier than I used to think, but I recommend you follow the directions on whatever canning materials you're using, or find a reliable online source. If you've never tried canning before, I can't recommend it enough. It feels great to take food processing into your own hands, and the results are almost always better than what you'll find on grocery store shelves, which tend to be overly salty and loaded with an alphabet soup of chemicals and preservatives. Canning is time-consuming, but I enjoy my fall canning nights. The warm, steamy kitchen feels pretty good when the temperature drops outside. It is all worth it when I pop open those garden flavors in January to use on pasta or pizza.

Apple-Walnut Turnovers

This is a very simple take on apple turnovers, with spring roll wrappers instead of a more typical pastry dough. These were my first apples of the season, from back home. I know I'll have bags more coming soon, so I'll be busy with apple recipes in the coming months.

7 spring roll wrappers
4 medium-sized apples
1/2 cup walnut bits
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
vegan margarine (Earth Balance, as always)
1 tsp. cornstarch, mixed with a half cup of water

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel, core, and dice the apples to quarter inch cubes. Mix apple with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice, and stir to combine.

2. Place one spring roll wrapper on a clean work surface. Cut in half from top to bottom with a non-serrated knife, to avoid tearing. Place a heaping spoonful of apple mix about a half inch from the bottom center of each spring roll half. Lightly coat the bottom edge of the wrapper with the corn starch-water mixture - I just dab a finger - and fold the wrapper bottom over the apple mixture from bottom left to the right side. This will form a little triangle, with the bottom edge affixed to the lower right edge - I hope this is making sense, but I'm doing my best. Seal the edge by lightly pressing along the seam. Fold the triangle up, keeping the right edge even. To finish the turnover triangle, you should be able to fold the apple-filled envelope from bottom right to the top left edge of the wrapper. Moisten the top and top left edges with the starch-water mix, and gently press to seal. You should half a neat little triangular turnover, without apple spilling out the sides. Trust me, this will make more sense in actual practice, but I hope my directions are helpful.

3. Repeat with remaining wrappers. Brush turnovers lightly with melted margarine, and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. I found they're best served crisp and warm out of the oven.

Vegan MoFo

All the cool kids are ahead of me again and have this on their blogs. Sounds good, and I guess the general idea is to blog as much as possible about vegan munchies throughout October. Vegan bloggers of the world, UNITE! (I'm slamming my desktop Mussolini-Schrute style...I need one of those webcams).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tostadas Guatemaltecas

These tostadas are inspired by the street stalls and markets in Guatemala, where I spent some time last summer. I worked near Sumpango, a highland town, and my favorite lunch was a tostada with black beans, fresh salsa, and avocado from the vendors who set up shop on the corners for the lunch crowd. These aren't entirely authentic - my black beans don't match theirs, and the preferred salsa included shredded cabbage. I used fresh cucumber and tomatoes in the salsa, and added roasted garlic and carmelized onions to the black beans. You can make your own tostadas by frying corn tortillas in oil, but prepared tostadas are pretty easy to find at the stores here.

1 package corn tostadas

Cucumber Salsa
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. lime juice
dash salt

1. Combine all ingredients. You might want to add some jalapeno or other pepper, but I left them out.

Simple Guacamole
1 ripe avocado, mashed
1 roma tomato
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. lime juice

Pretty Good Black Beans
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup white onion, diced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil, and fry onions over medium-low heat until very soft and translucent. Sprinkle with a dash of salt during frying.

2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, or mash with a potato masher or spoon. I used a food processor, and whipped the beans to a fairly smooth, hummus-like texture.

Finally, since I'm thinking about last summer, here's little Maya, chilling along the river downtown. She's doing great, and slowed down long enough for me to snap a picture. Still very much a puppy at the one year plus mark.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Green Beans, Red Peppers, and Tofu

Here's another stir fry, from lunch yesterday. I had to snap a picture of these vivid colors. The green beans and peppers are from the Fargo farmer's market, mixed with deep-fried tofu. The sauce was simple - tamari, sesame oil, a little sake, and a little sugar. Drizzled with hot chili oil and more sesame oil, and a few chives.

Soft Tacos with Collard Greens

I picked up Rick Bayless' Mexican Everday at the library this weekend. One of the recipes is for Swiss Chard tacos, which I adapted with my endless supply of collard greens for these tasty corn tortilla soft tacos. The greens are added to lightly sauteed onions and garlic, along with a half cup of chicken-style vegan broth and red pepper flakes. After the liquid has been simmered off, I was left with pretty good taco/enchilada filling. Served with a simple avocado-lime-tomato-cilantro salsa (basically un-mashed guacamole) and drizzled with lime juice. I'm amazed by the productivity of my collard plants - if the first freeze wasn't coming soon, I wonder how long they would keep growing. I've been getting cuttings for over three months now, and they're only getting more productive. Here's some, cut in ribbons for this recipe.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Moroccan-spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I wasn't quite sure how well brussels sprouts and this mixture of Moroccan-inspired spices would pair until about 20 minutes into the oven roasting. The aroma of roasting shallots, garlic, and spices makes me want to go to north Africa, or at least watch Casablanca again. I picked up this lovely stalk of brussels sprouts yesterday at the FM farmer's market, along with a bag of other goodies.

I've been in the mood for this meal since I read the Morocco story in this month's Vegetarian Times. The spice blend is a mixture of a couple of recipes, with additions from my spice shelf. Roasting brussels sprouts is by far my favorite way to cook them - they're good steamed or pan-fried, but roasting really does them justice. I paired this with some couscous specked with walnuts and golden raisins. I forgot to add a dollop of plain soy yogurt, but recommend you do so.

1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts
2 medium shallots
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. sumac
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup water
fresh lemon juice
fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a blender, grind the shallots, garlic, spices, olive oil, and water to a smooth paste.

2. Toss the shallot-garlic paste with the brussels sprouts in a medium sized baking dish. You could also mix the sprouts and spices in a bowl and use a cookie sheet. Toss until all the sprouts are well coated with the spice mixture, which should adhere pretty well to the brussels sprouts.

3. Bake covered with aluminum foil for the first 15 minutes, and uncovered for another ten minutes. If an average sized sprout is easily pierced with a fork or toothpick, they're ready.

4. Serve hot alongside couscous or other grain. Sprinkle with lemon juice and a little extra sumac powder. The sumac adds nice red color, plus additional lemony flavor. I have a big bag of sumac, so I tend to use it whenever I have a chance. If you don't have any, this is still great without it.