Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Melon-Cucumber-Tomato Salad

This salad just makes me feel good. I call this my "farmer's market" salad, because I make it on many Saturday afternoons in the late summer and early fall here in Fargo after a trip to our local market on the banks of the Red River. I happened to have the components on hand today, so here you go. I especially love the taste of the melon with salt, pepper, and olive oil, which brings out a whole new dimension. The only fresh green herb I had on hand was parsley, but fresh dill would be perfect here. I'm sure a variation of this salad will be back this summer, with North Dakota/Minnesota grown fruits and veggies.
Melon-Cucumber-Tomato Salad
2 cups canteloupe, in roughly 1 inch cubes
1 cup cucumber, sliced in half vertically and 1/2 inch slices on the horizontal
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (or diced big tomatoes)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper, a half teaspoon or so
a light sprinkle of sea salt
1/2 cup fresh green herb of your choice, coarsely chopped
1. Toss it all together. Eat on your porch on a sunny afternoon.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tempura Nori Rolls

Since I saw these on another food blog, I've been meaning to give the tempura treatment to veggie nori rolls. I love nori rolls, and I love fried stuff, so it seemed like a lock. Here's the result. They kept together very well during the application of the tempura batter and frying, but I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be. In frying, the rolls lose the essence that I like about them, with crispy raw vegetables and rice all with their distinctive tastes. Given the tempura treatment, the roll filling just seemed to melt into one general taste, and the veggies seemed to lose something. That said, this was still pretty good, but next time I make nori rolls I probably won't be in a big hurry to go this next step. But sometimes I'm in a deep-fried mood, so I'll revisit these sometime.

Be-Bop-A-Re-Bop Rhubarb (& Raspberry) Pie

I have two new recipes up this weekend...both were pretty good, but neither quite measured up to my expectations when I set out in the kitchen. Rhubarb plants are just starting to produce here in Fargo after what has been a chilly spring, so I picked some on Friday afternoon. Saturday I made this pie. It tastes fantastic, but didn't set up quite as firmly as I was hoping. I cooked the rhubarb and raspberries on the stove-top with arrowroot powder and sugar, and a little water. I think the water might have been just a little too much. I baked the pie for about 40 minutes, and chilled it overnight. The flavor is wonderful, but the filling is just a little runnier than I wanted - as the photo shows. The topping is a tofu-maple syrup whipped combo. I didn't knock either of these recipes (the tempura nori is the second) out of the park, but them's the breaks. We still loved the pie.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Crispy Tofu Fishy Sticks

Here's another recipe of the vegan comfort food variety. I was living just fine without fish sticks since I went vegan, but I really enjoyed these little faux fish sticks. They're extra firm tofu on the inside, with a nummy, cruncy cornmeal breading. The breading has a hint of seafood flavor thanks to a crushed sheet of nori, and the tartar sauce is a perfect match for the traditional version. Score another one for the vegans.
Crispy Tofu Fishy Sticks
1 14 oz. package extra firm tofu (frozen, thawed, and pressed to drain extra water)*
2/3 cup unsweetened soymilk
1 tbsp. arrowroot or corn starch

2/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 sheet toasted nori, crushed to fine flakes (other sea vegetable powders or flakes, like dulse, would work fine too)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika

Tartar sauce:
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon sweet pickle relish (mine was made by my Mom and canned last fall...just perfect for this)
Juice of one key lime (about a tablespoon)

Preheat oven to 375 F
1. Cut the thawed and drained tofu block into fish-stick sized pieces.

2. Mix soymilk and starch in a shallow bowl. Mix breading ingredients in a separate shallow bowl. Mix tartar sauce ingredients in another bowl.

3. Dip fishy stick tofu pieces, one by one, into soymilk mixture, then into breading mixture. Shake off excess breading, and arrange on a baking sheet so they're not touching. Bake for about 25-30 minutes.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mango Black Beans and Rice

This is somewhere between a salad and a stir-fry and straight up beans and rice. Whatever it is, you can't go wrong when a mango is involved. We now have a local place (in Detroit Lakes, MN) that raises fantastic greenhouse tomatoes year round - the best off-season tomatoes I've ever had - almost as good as from the garden. A good dose of picante flavor comes from Asian-style chili-garlic paste, which is fast becoming one of my favorite seasoning shortcuts.
Mango Black Beans and Rice
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 mango, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped and loosely packed
1 tbsp. Asian chili-garlic paste
a few dashes of cayenne chili pepper hot sauce
1 lime

1. In a saucepan, combine the beans and cooked rice with the chili-garlic paste. Cook on medium-low heat, until it's nice and warm.

2. Remove from heat, add diced tomatoes and mangos, give it a stir, and top with cilantro and a spray of fresh lime juice. Break out the cayenne pepper sauce if you like things spicy. This would be a good place for some tofu sour cream too.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Couch Potatoes

They don't always sleep like this, but here's Maya (left) and Otter on the couch. Because if there's one thing the internet needs, it's more photos of people's pets in funny poses. But come on, aren't these two the best? (they're unrelated, and both proud street dog mutts, by the way...American Kennel Club, kiss my ass.) Another thought - both of these dogs' primary food is a vegan dog food sold by Nature's Recipe. Dog food was my last change since going vegan about three years ago...they've been eating vegan dog food for about a year now. They are both supercharged with energy on their long daily runs, but here's the interesting thing. For about a year before the food change, Otter (on the right, about 7 1/2 years old) had started to develop arthritic pain (according to my vet) once in a while. After a long day outside, the next day she would whimper a little bit when getting up or coming down my stairs...I was feeling really bad for her, and didn't know what to do. Vets I talked to suggested that she take it a little easier outside on our runs, which I knew was up to her, not me. Anyway, since we've switched to a veggie dog food, those whimpers and pains (at least as perceptible to me) have completely disappeared. I know this is just anecdotal and not exactly a scientific experiment, but it seems like a pretty common sense conclusion that if dogs (or us) stop eating the garbage we're told to eat by the mass culture and corporate advertising, good things will happen. Ask Otter when she's tearing down the trails and through the fields with a big, goofy, dog smile on her face.

Buttermilky Blueberry Pancakes

Work was mostly rained out this morning, so I had time at home to make these pancakes for the pups and me. I used whole wheat pastry flour and a liberal dose of ground flaxseeds, so they had a substantive texture, just chewy enough to be interesting. The buttermilk essence comes from adding lemon juice to soy milk, which curdles up in a buttermilk kind of way when left to sit for a few minutes. That's due to the lemon acid's reaction with the milk, I seem to remember. By the way, it's May 10 and it snowed for about an hour today. But if it was sunny, I probably wouldn't have been inside making pancakes this morning.

Buttermilky Blueberry Pancakes
Dry ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 heaping tbsp. ground flaxseeds
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
a dash of salt
Wet ingredients:
1 cup nondairy milk (I used soy)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. canola oil or vegan margarine (Earth Balance, of course)
2/3 cup blueberries
little oil for frying pancakes

1. Preheat a nonstick pan on medium heat.
2. Mix the milk and lemon juice, and set aside to let the buttermilk magic happen.
3. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients plus margarine or oil in another bowl.
4. Combine the two mixes, stir until everything is moistened, and fold in the blueberries.
5. Add a tablespoon or so of oil to the pan, let the oil heat for a couple of seconds, and add about 2/3 of a cup of pancake batter. Cook for about 4 minutes on either side, until golden brown. Serve with fresh blueberries or banana slices and your syrup of choice.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Sub Supreme

I took an extended lunch today, and had a little picnic in the park with Otter and Maya. It was so nice today, and it's been a chilly spring. This sub sandwich for me, peanut butter biscuits (and this sandwich) for them...we shared. The ingredients were determined by what I had in the fridge - it was kind of a clearinghouse for leftovers. It includes marinated and roasted portabello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, avocado, slices of roast seitan, noochy hummus, a little marinara sauce, vegan mayo, and a pesto made with Thai basil, parsley, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and lemon juice. The bread is from Fargo's Grand Junction, my favorite sub shop - their fries rock too, made right there from the potato.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sweet Potato Falafel

I used store-bought falafel mix, combined with mashed sweet potatos, for these patties. The recipe is from The Complete Vegan Kitchen, by Jannequin Bennett, with minor changes. The patties weren't quite as firm as regular falafel, which may be because I used boiled mashed sweet potatoes. Next time I'll try roasting them instead. For a dipping sauce, I used a couple tablespoons of masaman curry paste with a half cup of coconut milk and a little lemon juice. I love masaman curries, and I'll have one of those up sooner or later.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My new favorite veggie burger

What's a vegan food blog without a bunch of veggie burgers? Here's my first entry, though I can't take credit. It's the "Ultimate Veggie Burger" from Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet, so you can find the recipe there. We've all followed veggie burger recipes that end up as crumbly, soggy messes in the frying pan, and this corrects those common problems. It prominently features brown lentils and walnuts, parsley and onion for seasoning, and wheat gluten flour and ground flax seeds as binders. The texture and taste were great (the wheat gluten is minimal, so it doesn't get that gummy texture when gluten is excessive or improperly cooked), and these would hold up very well on the grill. I would cook them in a frying pan or in the oven first, and save them to be re-heated on the grill.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Here and there

I added a link to Thailand Travel and Food - it's not all vegan, but the vegetarian recipes look informative and easily veganized. I'm hoping that the next time I buy a plane ticket it takes me somewhere in Asia. Until then, it's a universe of food that I'm just at the edge of exploring. Food is so much like music or books or any other art - you find something new, and it's so exciting to think of all of the places this new thing might lead you. Even the most mundane day can be so exciting if you keep your eyes open. That said, tonight I'm making veggie burgers (from Vegan Planet) and fries. Home has its comforts too.