Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chickpea & Yuca Encebollado

It snowed another 8 feet or something (ok, maybe 8 inches) last night, breaking an 80 year-old snowfall record for December in Fargo. It all looked so pretty this morning, until I got my work pickup stuck a couple of times on the way across town. Work in general was snowed out by noon, so I went home to make soup and pretend I was in the tropics. Or any place where you can walk outside without your face freezing solid in 30 seconds. But I'm fine, really.

The soup in question is an encebollado. The Spanish word translates to something like "onioned," as if onion were a verb. Maybe it should be. But I'm getting off track, and over my head liguistically. I got to know tuna encebollado pretty well in Ecuador in my omni days. The soup has a reputation as a hangover cure, and as such is usually sold in the mornings at street carts and market stalls. Steaming bowls are served with lime quarters, or even a plastic bottle of fresh lime juice. Toasted corn or popcorn are used in the same way as saltines, to scatter over the soup.

Encebollado takes to the vegan treatment really well, since bold flavors like onion, lime, tomato, and cilantro don't need those poor fish to make a good soup. To add a sense of sea flavor, I boiled the yuca chunks with a piece of kombu, and sprinkled the soup with some kelp powder. The sea veggies aren't totally necessary, but I liked the evocative effect.

Encebollado de Chickpeas y Yuca
1 big red onion, halved, sliced exceptionally thin, and rinsed in lots of cold water*
1 medium yuca, peeled and cut in chunks
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups canned unsalted tomatoes, pureed in the blender
1/2 cup tomato juice
Juice from a half dozen limes
1 cup fresh cilantro
Toasted corn or popcorn for garnish
avocado slices, also optional
kombu and kelp powder, both optional**

1. Once you've tracked down yuca and kelp powder, this is a pretty easy soup. Boil the yuca chunks in just enough water to cover them, and with the piece of kombu if you like. They should be tender in 15 to 20 minutes, and soft when poked with a fork.

2. Strain the broth to remove the yuca. At this point I like to rinse the yuca chunks in cold water, and then remove the little spine/stem thing that runs through the center. It falls right out, and in some yuca I've found it cooks too and gets soft. I'm no yuca expert, but I guess it probably depends on the size of the tuber. Maybe.

3. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, chickpeas, and yuca chunks back to the cooking broth. Bring to a simmer, add half the cilantro, and remove from heat.

4. Ladle into bowls, and add as much lime juice and popped/toasted corn as you like. Sprinkle a handful of sliced onions and more cilantro on top. Avocado is perfect over this too.

* Rinsing those onions takes away some of the raw bite, and my friends in Ecuador always did it. This way you get the crunch and onion flavor, but it's more mellow.
** Kelp powder has a mildly salty taste. Salt to taste if not using kelp.

There you go. I had fun veganizing this, although the whole deal is wildly inauthentic. But next time you get a craving for popcorn, tomatoes, and kelp powder, this is the soup for you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I'm heading even further north for Christmas, so I'll be gone for a few days. Just wanted to send a message of happy holidays to everyone out there who has helped me have fun with this blog for the past year. I have found so much inspiration and amazing food and ideas doing this, so thanks so much to all you wonderful vegan bloggers! No food content today, but I have a couple of shamelessly cute animal pictures to say thank you to everyone who has spent the past year trying to live compassionately and reduce suffering in whatever ways we can. Be well everyone.

One of the year-old calves at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, CA, from this past March. That green grass and blue sky looks pretty good right now.

Finally, Maya, when she was even more pint-size. This is last summer, scrunched up in her favorite sleeping spot. Peace everybody!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dengaku Tofu

Lunch today was my latest Farm Sanctuary recipe test. I hadn't heard of Dengaku tofu before, so this was educational and tasty. The tofu is traditionally served with bamboo skewers, and the name refers to the stilts used by performers in the Japanese Dengaku festival. Dengaku tofu features a sweet (traditionally red) miso sauce, but I used yellow miso I had on hand. The miso glaze includes ingredients I was pretty familiar with - miso, mirin, sake, sugar, and water from rehydrated seaweeed - but after a reduction on the stove the combined taste was all new to me. Very distinctive, sort of like a gravy, with sweet and tart notes. I love this stuff, and it would be perfect with any variety of stir-fried, roasted, or raw veggies. The tofu is battered in panko crumbs, fried, and served over a tamari and fresh ginger sauce, alongside a little napa cabbage-wakame-cashew salad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow day cooking!

The good part of living in a state where blizzards come in to stop civilization a few times every winter is the snow day. After getting the call yesterday morning to take the day off (woo hoo!) I made these spinach gyozas (another wonderful Farm Sanctuary recipe test). It's so cool how you can pack a whole bag of fresh spinach into a dozen or so little gyoza wrappers. These were great, with a burst of green goodness inside each gyoza. The dipping sauce was tamari, pineapple juice, chili oil, and green onions.

After work today I broke out that rye bread and made a reuben. Slices of seitan-lentil roast replace the meat, with lots of sauerkraut and a combo of Nasoya vegan mayo, ketchup, lime juice, and sweet pickle relish in the dressing. I like this bread - it has a milder rye taste, as the recipe calls for around 2 parts all purpose flour to one part rye. The flavor fits a reuben really well, but since it's not a really dark rye bread it still works well for PB & Js. The recipe is from the new Vegetarian Times mag.

If you've been paying attention, that's puppy Maya's nose in the photos. The dogs' standard routine goes like this - they roll up, drop a nose down next to the plate, and then look at me like I'm severely neglecting them by not putting the whole mess of food on the floor immediately.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Banana Lime Napoleon

I'm snowed in, Fargo's snowed in. A spectacular blizzard is rolling through the north country this weekend, and we're baking bread and making breakfast. Above is the latest recipe test for Farm Sanctuary - it looks like the breakfasts alone are going to make this cookbook a big hit. The recipe is actually a Plantain Lime Napoleon, but I used bananas. To help illustrate the photo, those are a pair of coconut milk pancakes on the bottom, with a layer of bananas on top of each. Crushed macadamia nuts are next, with a sweet and tangy lime juice and sweetened soy yogurt combo. On top is a waffle that was supposed to come out more as a crispy wafer. I fumbled that somehow - I haven't made many waffles, and it was a first run on a borrowed machine. It was really nummy, with maple and cinnamon and ground cardamon on top.

Yesterday I made this rye bread with caraway seeds, with a recipe from this month's Vegetarian Times. I'll be back with a reuben soon!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Grilled Tofu with Mushroom Sauce & a Lentil Tagine

I'm still loving The Asian Vegan Kitchen, by Hema Parekh. The book has chapters on nine cooking traditions, from India to Malaysia to Korea, and includes a huge variety of recipes. This is an adaptation of a Chinese tofu and mushroom sauce - I added some spinach and wakame. Not so long ago I was one of those people freaked out by eating seaweed, and I'm happy I've gotten over it. Shiitake, beech, and white button mushrooms are the basis for a sauce spiked with mirin and sake.

My second recipe test from Farm Sanctuary was this lentil tagine. Please, just take my word for it that this is way, way better than my rushed photo might suggest. Technically, I guess this is a lentil cast iron frying pan, since I don't have a tagine. Tagine is a much prettier word, for the traditional Moroccan clay cooking pot with the cool conical top. This was sweet and spicy and delicious. I baked this, just covering the frying pan with foil. If you have a tagine, you probably don't need me to tell you that's the right way to make this. It's a recipe that warrants a return trip soon, and maybe I'll be back with a better photo.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Banana Nut Terrine

I'm happy to add a new feature to the blog this month. The good people at Farm Sanctuary (if you feel like making a holiday donation, their link is on the right!) are putting together a cookbook, and I get to do some recipe testing...I have a few excellent looking recipes I can't wait to try out, the first of which is this lovely banana-nut terrine. I put it together yesterday, chilled it overnight, and breakfast was a real treat this morning. The interior is a sweet mixed-grain Kashi filling, with cinnamon and allspice and juicy raisins. Chilled bananas form the exterior, with toasted walnuts and a little maple syrup on top. If this is any indication, I'm going to have a hard time coming up with critiques for these recipes besides "mmmm." This was amazing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Stuffed Poblano Breakfast Peppers

I picked up a couple of perfect poblano peppers last night, ideally shaped for making some version of chiles rellenos. These are a couple of steps removed from typical rellenos, as they're oven-roasted rather than battered and fried. For the filling, I used one of those tofu scrambles we all love so much, mixed with my favorite greasy hashbrowns. I was going to top these with salsa, but googled a recipe for nacho cheezy sauce.

There are all kinds of ways to roast peppers, from broiling to grilling to charring the skins over a gas stove. My favorite is on a charcoal grill, but the last couple of times I've roasted peppers I've fried them in my soup pot in some canola oil on maximum high heat (another tip from a Rick Bayless book). The peppers crackle and sputter and it seems like you're going to burn the kitchen down, but this works really well. A soup pot works well because the oil stays mostly contained. I'm sure when more competent cooks do this there's less oil spattering around, but I don't see the fun in that. I fried these for a few minutes on each side, until the whole pepper is black and charred and generally looks a disaster. After letting them cool for 20 minutes or so, the blackened skin rubs off easily. What remains is a nicely roasted pepper - cut a small slit into the cooled pepper, and gently rinse out as many seeds as you can.

My tofu breakfast scramble is never the same twice, but this time it includes a few shredded leftover baked potatoes, tofu, half a white onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, nooch and seasonings. Here I used cumin, turmeric, ancho chile powder, lemon juice, paprika, and probably some other stuff that was within arm's reach. The basis for my tofu scramble will always be the Vegan with a Vengeance recipe.

So that's about it. I stuffed as much tofu hash into the peppers as they could handle, and then put in a little more. I popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 F or so. The topping, pictured below, is a mix of nutritional yeast, canned roasted red peppers, rolled oats, cashews, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and onion powder. Blend it all up, saute it for a few minutes, and you have a nifty blob of nacho cheeziness. Sort of a mess, but there's breakfast.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tequila Pumpkin Chili

Tequila plays a minor role in this nummy chili, but I include it in the title because tequila just demands attention. I whipped up this chili during my lunch stop at home today, using some leftovers from the weekend. The whole thing was ready to go in about 10 minutes, but the prep time for the components makes this recipe a little more involved. I made a pot of black bean and onion puree, and a roasted sugar pumpkin over the weekend - those are the two main ingredients. To save time, canned pumpkin and beans would be fine. This would retain more of the glowing golden-orange color of the roasted pumpkin puree if I had used cooked whole black beans, but I wasn't as interested in appearances as in using up leftovers. The requisite chili chunkiness comes from a handful of cubed chunks of lentil-seitan roast:Trust me, these are perfect in chili. Since I was going back to work, I was responsible and added the tequila while frying up a little onion and garlic, and the alcohol almost certainly evaporated. That said, the smell of a shot of tequila tossed into a hot pot of onions and garlic makes a lunch break much more dramatic - it was great, and lent a nice hint of tequila flavor to the finished product.

Tequila Pumpkin Chili
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 cups roasted and pureed sugar pumpkin or other squash
1 cup black bean puree, or a 14 oz. can of rinsed black beans
1/2 cup cubed lentil-seitan sausage, or your fave faux meat, or more beans
3/4 cup sweet corn
1 8 oz. can salt-free tomato sauce
1 cup tomato salsa (I used homemade from family)
1 tsp. cumin
1 heaping tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. or so fresh lime juice
canola oil
1 shot Tequila (I had a one of those little tiny bottles of Cuervo)
green onions, corn tortilla chips, and vegan sour cream for topping
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Saute the onion and garlic in hot oil on medium high heat in a soup pot. When they begin to soften and brown, add the tequila. Continue to cook a couple of minutes, as the alcohol evaporates the the onion and garlic browns a little more.

2. Add the dry spices, and all of the remaining ingredients - like I said, this was done in 10 minutes at most. Bring to a simmer and you're ready to roll, but like most soups/stews/chilis the flavors are better if this sits a while. Top with green onions, crushed chips, and vegan sour cream right before serving.

A parting shot, with pumpkin grown by my sister and brother-in-law back home. Salud!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wild Rice Salad and a Lentil-Seitan roast

I'm back from spending Thanksgiving back home - hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a good one, as it can be a challenging holiday for vegans. My contribution to the family meal was this salad, adapted from a recipe in the current Vegetarian Times. I liked the variety of flavors, with wild rice, dried cranberries, maple syrup, pine nuts, and mint leaves.

Here's the latest iteration of the baked seitan sausage that stormed the vegan blogs way back when. I hadn't made this for quite a while, and wanted to come up with something that modified the texture of seitan - which I'll admit to finding a little rubbery sometimes. I've had amazing seitan made by others, but the texture often doesn't quite work when I make it. My idea was to add cooked lentils, and the results are pretty good - I wish I'd paid more attention to the ingredient quantities as I was making this. Cooked lentils, raw onion and garlic, and wheat gluten flour are ground finely in the food processor, with lots of spices and sesame and mustard seeds. Guessing, I think I used about a cup of lentils and 3/4 cup of flour, and just enough water to form it into a firm roast. It was wrapped in foil and baked for about 45 minutes at 350 F. It is firm, but tender to cut and eat, with a texture similar to Tofurkey brats and sausages.