Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sweet Cherry Tomato Tarts

This FS recipe test calls for a good heirloom tomato, so I'll revisit this in summer when more tomato varieties are available. I used some tasty cherry tomatoes instead. The tomatoes are lightly stewed in a sugary broth, and placed atop home made almond cream "cheese" in sweet tart crusts. I don't usually think of using tomatoes in a dessert dish like this, but the tart flavor of fresh cherry tomatoes works nicely with the sweet ingredients.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A poem from Bill Holm

Bill Holm, a poet and essayist from across the river in Minnesota, died yesterday. Here's a poem of his, which I found written on the wall of a camp shelter on Isle Royale a few summers ago. I don't know much about poetry, but I like this.

"August in Waterton Alberta" - Bill Holm

Above me, wind does its best
to blow leaves off
the Aspen tree a month too soon.
No use wind. All you succeed
In doing is making music, the noise
of failure growing beautiful

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Red Beans and Rice and leftover pizza

I've been on a mission lately to do more cooking with dry beans, for the obvious reasons - they're so much cheaper, and I like being able to manage the taste and texture. Plus, winter is a great time to have a pot of beans simmering on the stove for an hour or so. I was looking longingly down south the last couple days, as Mardi Gras came to a close - I participated in spirit by making some really good red beans and rice, using a delicious recipe from Nothing beats a good bowl of beans and rice.

I made this pizza earlier this week, with the last of my block of colby/cheddar from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. The toppings were mostly leftovers or stuff hanging around in the fridge - marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and seitan. The base sauce was super easy and tasty - it's made with almost a whole bulb of roasted garlic, blended with a bunch of Thai basil leaves, spinach, and olive oil.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chermoula Seitan and Squash Kebabs

This weekend I broke out the trusty Foreman grill yet again, and made these kebabs with seitan, zucchini, and yellow squash. Two cookbooks - Donna Klein's Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, and Marcus Samuelsson's pan-African The Soul of a New Cuisine, inspire the chermoula sauce - I have my combined adaptation below, with a little of my own tinkering. Chermoula features fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley, a citrus tang from lemon juice and zest, and an array of ground spices that complement each other very nicely. It's traditional in Morocco and Tunisia, and seems highly versatile - I think it would be great with roasted veggies, in fresh salads with raw ingredients, and as a marinade or rub for anything on the grill.

My take on chermoula sauce:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup parsley (I used flat leaf parsley)
juice from a lemon, plus a tsp. or so lemon zest
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. red pepper powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Chermoula tossed with chunks of seitan, zucchini, and yellow squash.
I processed the chermoula ingredients in the food processor, scraping everything together a couple of times until I had a paste with fairly coarse pieces. The seitan chunks and squash pieces were tossed in the chermoula, left for about an hour, placed on bamboo skewers, and grilled for around 5 to 7 minutes, until the squash and seitan had browned nicely with some blackened grill marks. The squash is still a little firm, but zucchini and yellow squash are soft enough that they really don't need additional cooking time. I drizzled a little more lemon on the kebabs, and the combined flavors of the marinade were tangy and spicy, with just the right amount of heat.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Creamy Walnut Sauce

Today's recipe test produced this souped up version of chiles rellenos, with a creamy walnut sauce. Poblanos are fried and peeled, then stuffed with a vibrant spiced filling of onions and garlic, tomatoes, fruit, and seitan. The recipe suggests pomegranate seeds as a topping - the idea, which I love, is to use the flat leaf parsley, seeds, and sauce to represent the colors of the Mexican flag. I subbed roasted red peppers, but I bet pomegranate seeds would be great with this. The sauce was made with a base of soaked walnuts and home made tofu sour cream. Each bite was full of different flavors, and the filling invites all kinds of variations. Stuffed peppers require some patience, but the payoff is always a treat.

Earlier this week I made a block of cheese of the Colby/Cheddar variety, from Jo Stepaniak's Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. Cashews, tahini, miso, nutritional yeast, and other ingredients are brought together with the magic of agar powder. It's very tasty, and works pretty well for sandwiches and grilled cheez - I crumbled some in a simple beans and rice bowl too, which was great. When it's mixed with hot food, or reheated, the agar softens up and "melts" nicely.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beignets and soup

Today's recipe test for the FS cookbook produced these tasty beignets - the French word for doughnuts, so says wikipedia. To me, they're reminiscent of the fried doughnut pastries my German great aunt would make - I wish I remembered the German name for them. This is happy food - deep-fried dough doused with powdered sugar, and I probably ate more of them in one sitting that I should have. My deep-fryer's basket suffered a serious injury a while back, so my deep-frying is now done in one of my soup-pots on the stove top. I went off script for the recipe, because it was an excuse to use my new dog bone cookie-cutters to make the beignets. I have big plans to start making my own dog biscuits, and picked up these great cookie-cutters at the local True Value, of all places. Even though these beignets are probably not ideal for dogs, my taste-testers were fired up to try a few bits and pieces.

I picked up a couple of new cookbooks, Donna Klein's The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, and Vegan Italiano. In both of these books, Klein focuses on dishes that are naturally vegan in their traditional context, rather than veganizing meat and dairy based recipes. That's a pretty cool approach, as much as I like tempeh meatballs and seitan burritos and stuff like that. The first thing I made was a gigantic pot of minestrone, with loads of fresh veggies and white beans.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Grilled Rum Peaches in Phyllo

This is another FS recipe test I would love to take credit for. I used frozen peaches instead of fresh, since fresh peaches are pretty scarce in these parts this time of year. After soaking in spiced rum and olive oil for about an hour, the peaches are grilled or roasted - I used the Foreman grill again. My phyllo sheets were kind of torn and crumbly right out of the package, but since they're wrapped in multiple layers everything ended up working out fine. This was really good - sprinkled with cinnamon and sliced almonds, and a subtle hint of spiced rum.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seared Tofu with a Miso Glaze

I don't have many kitchen appliances, mostly because of space, but also because so many of them seem a little silly or redundant. That said, I would be lost without my coffee maker, blender, and George Foreman grill. Even though I don't use the grill as often as the first two, I love how well it does its job when called upon.

For example, take this seared tofu, another nummy recipe test for Farm Sanctuary. I made this in a hurry over lunch today, and the grill is great because it presses the tofu and drains extra water while it's cooking. You get to skip that step of tofu prep, and it's done in minutes. I'm starting to feel like I'm doing an infomercial now, so I'll stop singing the praises of the grill.

On to the sauce. This sauce is super simple - just three ingredients, and after a quick simmer you have a sweet and tangy miso glaze for tofu or veggies. Glazed and grilled tofu is topped here with roasted red peppers and shiitake mushrooms, on a bed of just-wilted cooked fresh spinach.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Broccolini Rotini with Raisins and Sun-dried Tomatoes (and some pics from Europe)

I know broccolini isn't trying to confuse people, but it goes by a lot of aliases - I gather that broccoli rabe, broccoletti, and rapini are all the same stuff. Maybe it was in some kind of vegetable witness protection program at some point - it prefers not to talk about its past. Anyway, it's like broccoli, but different, and really tasty. I see it in all kinds of good looking recipes in some of my favorite cookbooks, so finally tried it. It's a little pricey, at least here, but definitely into my greens rotation.

I used half of this bunch in the broccoli rabe-tempeh recipe from Veganomicon, and made this little pasta bowl for lunch today. First I blanched the broccolini for just two minutes or so - it softens in boiling water pretty quick, and I try to retain some crispness. I boiled a cup or so of rainbow rotini in the same water, and poured hot water over some raisins and sun-dried tomatoes to rehydrate them while the pasta was cooking. It's all tossed together with sauteed garlic, slivered almonds, red pepper flakes, and lots of olive oil; and finished with a little salt, black pepper, and a splash of lemon juice.

Now for some trip photos - I got back from my whirlwind tour of Europe a week ago. Most of the first week of my vacation was spent visiting a couple of friends and their significant others in the Netherlands and Magdeberg, Germany. After that, I rushed off and managed to see Prague, Venice, and Paris in just over a week. Ideally, the next time I go to Europe I'll have six months and see the little places in the countryside and learn Italian and all of that jazz, but I was happy to spend time in a few of the great cities.

Venice was like walking into a very wet and beautiful history book. Because it's an island full of tourists, everything was wildly expensive, so that was the only reason I was satisfied having just a day there. Paris was stunning, from the Louvre to the Champs-Elysees to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night. Amsterdam and Prague both surpassed their colorful reputations. Prague especially seemed almost otherworldly in places, with such a variety of architecture and tiny little allies and typical grand castles and cathedrals and the rest. Cesky Krumlov, a smaller town in the Czech Republic, was really nice too - an old medeival town on an oxbow in the Vltava river, very pretty and guarded (dominated?) by a huge clifftop castle. Anyway, let's check out some pics:

A Dixieland jazz band in the middle of Old Town Square in Prague, exactly what you'd expect to find in the Czech Republic. These guys were fantastic, and I could have sat and listened to them all day. In the background is a statue of Jan Hus, Czech hero and martyr.

A traditional gondola jam in Venice. I have lots of pictures of St. Mark's Basilica and beautiful old waterfront buildings, but this captures commerce in modern Venice pretty well.

This cool Egyptian dog/jackal figure at the Louvre attracted slightly smaller crowds than the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, or Venus de Milo.

Paris at night, almost as pretty as Fargo.

Amsterdam around sundown on my last night. The church at the left is the Westerkerk, permanent home of Rembrandt. Just up the street from the church from this perspective is the Anne Frank house, every bit as moving as you would imagine.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chili-Chocolate Mole Seitan

Hi everybody! I'm back at home, after a busy couple of weeks in Europe. I had a great time - which I guess goes without saying - visiting friends in the Netherlands and Germany. After a few days of sleeping on couches, the ultimate budget accomodation, I headed off to be a happy tourist in Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Venice, and Paris. This was my first trip to Europe, and something I've put off doing for years, so I was thrilled and so grateful to finally go.

I'm skipping the full slide show presentation for the moment (so much to say!) to get this vegan food blog deal rolling again. Today's star is a chili and chocolate mole recipe test for the upcoming Farm Sanctuary cookbook. I don't think my photo comes close to capturing how good this was - it was made with lots of home-ground spices, seeds, chilis, and nuts, with tomatoes and a heaping helping of cocoa. The flavor was deep and complex, and I'm glad I still have leftovers. I simmered the mole with seitan chunks from Veganomicon. After boiling the seitan, I cut them into chunks and pan-fry them for a few minutes, and they develop a nice golden-brown color and slightly crispy exterior. Definitely my new favorite seitan approach.

That's about all for now. I think I'm finally starting to catch up on sleep from the past couple of weeks, and once I sort through the pile of photos from the trip I'll get a couple of them up here. I have some more FS recipe tests I'm excited about trying, and hope to get going with some recipes from Europe - no lack of inspiration. In the meantime, as much as I love being out there in the world, I'm happy to be back to my own kitchen and the dogs. Look forward to catching up on everybody's blogs!