Thursday, January 31, 2008

Potato almost success

The big cold continues in Fargo...I think even penguins would say this is bullshit. So it's a good time to stay in at night and bake bread. This is a potato bread I made, using a potato roll recipe as a jumping off point. Honestly, it didn't turn out that great, but it smelled good and was acceptable. I'm not bothering reposting the recipe at this point, since I didn't quite nail it - just google a recipe if you're in the mood. I left the dough a little moist - it baked well, but the bottom was just a little on the underdone side. I'll post the picture anyway, since I think it has a nice peasant vibe. The point is, baking bread is always a good way to spend your time, even if the results aren't quite what you were hoping for. It'll be better next time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thai Basil, Cashew, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

On the way home for lunch Saturday I was craving something green and tangy and filling. I grabbed a bunch of Thai Basil leaves (from Fargo's wonderful Asian & American Market), tossed them in the blender with a few other odds and ends, and had this rocking pesto-spread ready by the time my bagels popped out of the toaster. Yes, I was proud of myself.
1 bunch Thai Basil leaves
1/2 cup raw cashews
5 sun-dried tomatoes*
1 key lime, juiced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped (the blender will do the rest)
Salt and pepper to taste
* - I sometimes use the ready to eat kind (not oil packed, but like dried fruit) that don't need hydration. If you have the really dry kind, soak in hot water for a few minutes before using - consult the package.
Throw everything in the blender or food processor, and pulse until it's nice and pasty. With a blender, you may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times to get all the kids on the dance floor. Enjoy as you would any pesto, but I love this on toasted bagels.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Applesauce Muffins

Last weekend was brutally cold here, so I settled in the kitchen Saturday afternoon and made these muffins. Part of the goodness is due to the homemade applesauce I made a couple months back - it really is fantastic, if I do say so myself. This recipe is an adaptation of the applesauce-oat bran muffin recipe in Isa Chandra Moskowitz' and Terry Hope Romero's fabulous Veganomicon.

3/4 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup applesauce, preferably Mike's Homemade Applesauce, available in my kitchen
3 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup wheat germ
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 F, and grease a 12 muffin tin with vegan margarine or canola spray.

Mix soy milk and apple cider vinegar, and let sit for a minute to curdle - the result is pretty neat, and buttermilky. Add applesauce, canola oil, and sugar, and stir up.

Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Fold the whole mess up, and mix until just combined - don't overdo it, because the texture will suffer.

Distribute batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for about a half hour - they're done when you can insert a fork and pull it out clean, without anything sticking. Just keep an eye on them in the last 10 minutes or so - you want them nicely browned, not burned...but I probably don't need to tell you that.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Winter Stew, with Polenta

Here‘s my answer to the classic beef stew, the kind that's marketed in commercials with lumberjacks and NFL players. This shames those cans, with the added bonus that it uses fresh ingredients and doesn't smell like cat food. Enjoy this hearty stew over some hot polenta on a cold winter‘s night.

Winter Stew with Polenta
2 tbsp. canola oil
½ lb. Roast Seitan (a recipe which I haven't posted yet...patience, grasshopper)
1 lb. russet potatoes
2 ribs celery
2 medium carrots, diced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup water, vegetable broth, or vegetarian “beef” broth
1 large onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

1. In a large soup pot, heat oil on medium high heat. Add chunks of roast seitan and saute for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. The idea is to brown them a little bit.

2. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes, until they start to turn translucent. Add garlic and celery, and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.

3. When the garlic just starts to brown, add carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, broth, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low. Cover and simmer for up to an hour. Check the stew every 10-15 minutes, stirring in case anything is starting to burn. Add enough liquid so that there is always at least an inch of broth in the pot, to avoid burning. Excessive liquid will result in more of a soup.

4. When the potatoes and carrots are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork, remove the bay leaf and add the green peas. Heat for another 10 minutes - the peas go in last so they don’t overcook and lose their bright green color and crisp taste.

5. Remove from heat, let stand 10 minutes to cool a bit, and serve stew over polenta, rice, or on it’s own.

It’s stew, which almost by definition includes whatever ingredients you have on hand. I find that soups and stews are great places to use up vegetables that aren’t exactly in their prime, but a waste to throw away. Trust your instincts. Also, this tastes great a day or two later, after everything sort of melts together.

Nori rolls are where it's at

Here's one of my absolute favorites. They take a little time, but are easier than you might think. When I make nori rolls, I make enough to fill a tupperware container, so I can snack on them or throw a few in the lunch bucket throughout the week.

Fargo Vegan Nori Rolls
4 sheets toasted nori
1 avacado
1 smallish cucumber
1 medium carrot
Roasted red peppers
1 cup sushi rice
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp. sugar or agave nectar
Shoyu or other quality soy sauce for dipping

Necessary tools: bamboo sushi rolling mat

1. To prepare sushi rice, place 1 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups water in a saucepan with cover. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes. Although everyone says you can't lift the cover, check it once or twice to make sure it's not burning.

2. While rice is cooking, prepare the veggies. Slice everything but the avacado in matchsticks - this is easier with a julienne device if you have one. Since they're much softer, the avacado and red pepper can be a little chunkier - keep them less than 1/2 inch wide.

3. When the rice is done cooking, add the vinegar and sweetener, mix to combine, and let sit, covered tightly, for another 20 minutes or so - it will be easier to work with when it's cooled a bit.

4. To assemble rolls, place 1 nori sheet on bamboo rolling mat. Add about a third of a cup of rice, and spread around the bottom 2/3 of the mat. Press with a spoon or your fingers to make the rice layer even and thin.

5. On top of the rice, add a thin layer of each vegetable, each right on top of the next.

6. Using the mat - this will be clear once you do it - roll up the nori and rice like you're making a burrito. Moisten your fingers and wet the dry edge of the nori, and press onto the body of the roll. Use the mat to press the roll as tightly as possible while maintaing a nice cylindrical shape.

7. Tightly wrap the roll in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, use your sharpest bread-style knife to cut rolls into 1 inch sections. The knife must be pretty sharp, or you'll end up tearing the rolls unevenly.

8. Serve the little beauties up. I prefer shoyu soy sauce to dip each one, but go crazy with the pickled ginger and wasabi if that's how you nori roll. Man, am I funny or what?