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).