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.