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.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Frozen Basil Pesto Cubes

It's canning and freezing time here, as summer comes to a close. Today the temperature climbed up to almost 90 F, and we can probably expect the first hard frost in the next couple of weeks. Welcome to North Dakota. I have been canning tomatoes and freezing baggies of chopped collard greens, and would like to make some dried chilies and sun-dried tomatoes if I get around to it. My basil is still growing like wild, so I cut a bunch last week and made frozen pesto cubes. I'll add these basil pesto cubes to soups and pasta sauces over the winter, or thaw them to use anywhere else pesto would be nice.
I kept this simple - lots of basil, a cup or so of walnuts, a few spoonfuls of lemon juice, 2 cloves of garlic, a half cup of decent olive oil, and some salt. Blend it all well, freeze in ice cube trays sprayed lightly with canola oil for easy removal, and store the cubes in aluminum foil or a freezer bag. I'll appreciate this in the middle of winter, though I'm doing my best not to think of that right now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Peppery Peanut and Tomato Soup

When I got back from Chicago, I had a bunch of really ripe tomatoes in the garden (from just three plants, I've picked over 100 tomatoes so far). I canned a bunch earlier this week, but my vegetable shelf is still overflowing with tomatoes. Enter this tomato and peanut soup. I love how creamy and rich this is, with the tang of a variety of fresh peppers and the unmatched taste of ripe garden tomatoes. I usually use diced tomatoes along with tomato juice or sauce, but here I just made a sauce of ripe tomatoes in the blender.

1 tbsp. canola oil
2 cups quartered fresh tomatoes
1 medium yellow or white onion
1 clove garlic
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 banana pepper, seeded and diced
1 green chili pepper
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup nondairy milk
1 tbsp. flour
1 tsp ground red pepper
1 tbsp. tamari, or 1/2 tsp. salt
ground raw peanuts and diced green chili pepper for garnish

1. In a blender or food processor, blend tomatoes until smooth.

2. Saute the onions, garlic, bell pepper, banana pepper, and green chili until everything is softened and fragrant - about five minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add flour and stir constantly for about a minute, until the veggies are coated in a light flour paste. Add nondairy milk, along with peanut butter, and stir everything until it is smooth and well mixed.

4. This is optional, but at this point you could let this cool a bit and pulse it a few times in the blender until velvety smooth. If you like a chunkier soup, skip this step. Add the tomatoes and tamari to the onion-pepper mixture, mix well, and bring back up to a simmer. Remove from heat, and garnish with peanuts and chilis. Chives or cilantro would be great too, since the raw chilis can be a little intense - I liked the bite of a little raw chili scattered around.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Gyozas and Muffuletta

I have a couple of food photos from two of my current favorite cookbooks. First up is this plate of gyozas, from Hema Parekh's The Asian Vegan Kitchen. I let this book sit on my kitchen shelf for a while after picking it up, and now I'm using it all the time. It's becoming one of those cookbooks that gets all crinkled and grease-spattered as it does it's time on the counter. My copy of Vegan with a Vengeance looks like puppy Maya used it as a chew toy, but that's what happens to my cookbooks. Anyway, here's the gyozas. I subbed some ingredients based on what I had on hand (iceberg lettuce passes for napa cabbage if you don't pay too close attention). They are great, and I have enjoyed and learned from everything I've made with Asian Vegan.

Second, it's my first try at the roasted eggplant muffuletta sandwich from Veganomicon. The recipe includes spinach, and my version would have benefitted from some greens. The big story with this one is the olive salad relish, which is simply amazing. I think I could live on that stuff. The photo in the book is much prettier, but here's mine. This is one good sammich.

That's all for now. I'm off to Chicago in a couple days, and western Illinois for wedding activities after that. I'll be back next week, and we'll see if I shake down any good vegan food in Chicago.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rhubarb Cheesecake with lots of Blackberries

I love rhubarb. It grows like a weed all summer long, works in all kinds of desserts and sweets, and just feels like home. No matter where that is. I can't believe it's already September, and the days of fresh rhubarb are coming to a close. Here rhubarb adds it's distinctive tanginess to a sort of non-cheesecake, topped with a thin layer of cooked blackberry syrup and fresh blackberry topping. When the syrup-glaze cools and thickens, it becomes a tasty way of keeping the sliced berries from slipping and sliding around the cheesecake.

Rhubarb Cheesecake
1 vegan graham cracker pie crust
1 8 oz. package vegan cream cheese (Tofutti here)
1/2 of a 14 oz. package silken tofu
2/3 cup rhubarb puree* (made from about 1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
Blackberry glaze
1/3 cup fresh blackberries (well-thawed frozen berries are fine too)
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup water

1. Prepare the rhubarb puree by simmering chopped rhubarb with just enough water (a half cup or so) to prevent from burning. When the rhubarb is soft, add the sugar, stir to dissolve, and remove from heat. I think it's a good idea to blend this before adding to the cheesecake mixture, but wait a while for it to cool.
2. In a blender or food processor, blend all of the cheesecake ingredients, including the rhubarb puree.

3. In a non-stick pot, bring the cheesecake mixture just to a simmer, stirring frequently. The arrowroot will cause it to noticeably thicken in just a few minutes.

4. Pour in a graham cracker pie crust, and bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes - since oven times vary, check frequently after the first 25 minutes or so and remove once the top just starts to lightly brown. The cheesecake filling may not appear firm, but it will firm up as it cools. Chill for at least 3 hours, preferrably overnight, in the fridge.

5. Prepare the blackberry glaze - bring all ingredients to a simmer in a sauce pan. Use a fork to get the berries all crushed up in the liquid. When the cornstarch and sugar is dissolved and begins to thicken the glaze, remove from heat. You want to use it pretty soon, so it doesn't congeal in the pan.

6. Pour the warm berry glaze over the chilled cheesecake, top with fresh sliced blackberries, and return to the fridge. It will be ready to serve as soon as the topping is well-chilled, in about a half hour.