Sunday, May 31, 2009

Black Bean Pupusas & a Vegan Brunch Omelette

Pupusas are one of a variety of Latin American dishes that feature corn flour - masa harina - prepared with all manner of shapes and fillings and toppings. Of them all, I think the pupusa at least has the best name. I've only eaten pupusas in their native setting once, and it was love at first bite - is that too cutesy? Sorry, really....can't believe I even wrote that. Anyway, it's a corn flour dough, filled with savory mashed black beans (among other filling options), and cooked on a griddle until golden brown and crispy on the outside. I was going to go all out and take pictures of the assembly process, but will instead direct you to SusanV's Fat Free Vegan site, where she does the work for me - thanks! - and saves me from trying to take pictures with hands covered in masa dough. If you want to try these, the photos are really useful.

If you're curious, the day-glo pink onions on top are pickled red onions from a Rick Bayless recipe. Very easy, and a great condiment for all sorts of things - it would be fantastic as a Mexican-style veggie burger topping. Thinly sliced red onions are quickly blanched in boiling water, than soak for a quick pickle in apple cider vinegar spiked with black pepper and cumin seeds. Through some kind of food magic, this makes the onions turn bright pink, and oddly sweet. Check it out.

It's asparagus season, so I dug into these asparagus omelettes from Vegan Brunch for - I almost said lunch - brunch today. These are great, and it's amazing how well they mimic the taste and texture of an egg omelette...not exactly the same of course, but as tasty as any omelette I ever ate. Part of the goodness is the spoonful of topping, which is salsa romesco, from Donna Klein's Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. Almonds, tomato, garlic, olive oil, parsley, dried chilis, and red wine vinegar combine for a brilliant Catalan sauce that would be great in all kinds of places.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mushroom Risotto, Vegan Brunch, and Picnic Beans

This risotto recipe comes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which at almost 1,000 pages is a great resource for veggie cooking. Bittman doesn't totally embrace veganism or even vegetarianism in all of his cooking, but it's still pretty cool to have somebody with his profile - all over the New York Times, the Today show, and elsewhere - promoting green eating. I'd put him next to Michael Pollan on the veg-friendly scale, since they are great advocates of the health and environmental benefits of vegetarian food, but often skirt around the edges of the case for compassionate eating, which trumps everything else in my view. That said, it's still a valuable book with tons of information, and most recipes (with the exception of a lengthy egg and cheese chapter) are vegan or easily adaptable.

The risotto features baby bella and dried porcini mushrooms, and the arborio rice is cooked in vegetable stock. I've started making my own veggie stock the last few months, and it's so worth the extra time. I keep a ziploc bag in the freezer, that I fill with vegetable trimmings - carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, garlic, greens, etc., throughout the week. Usually on Sunday afternoons I make a stock with what's in the bag, along with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. It's always good, and a nice way to turn food trimmings and leftovers into a really handy (and cheap!) resource in the kitchen.

Speaking of cookbooks, I was thrilled (seriously) to find that Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new Vegan Brunch is on the shelves! This book is fantastic and full of great photos and recipes, and I assume that most folks reading this are already well-aquainted with Isa's work. Here's a bowl of tempeh and greens hash...a little less breakfast/brunchy than most of the book, but very tasty. I can't wait to make some of the brunch sausages, and much more. It might finally convince me to buy a waffle iron too.

I had an hour between jobs around noon today, which gave me time for my favorite kind of lunch - a little picnic in the park across the street with the dogs. It was a beautiful, perfect kind of spring day. This was ready in five minutes - a can of black beans quickly fried up with diced red onion, cumin, and Mexican oregano. Chopped grape tomatoes and an avocado were tossed in, with a handful of flat-leaf parsley. Bean bowls like this remind me of the food stalls in Portland, and make me dream of opening a vegan bean and rice bowl joint someday :) Until then, I'm happy with my nice little picnic spot over at the park. I never miss a chance to give the dogs some blog space, so here's pics of my charming guests. That's Maya at left, Otter at right.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rhubarb Muffins, and green & black beans

The first rhubarb of the season was most welcome after a long winter, and it has the honor of going into some sweet and vegan-buttery muffins. I was going to make some frosting to turn these into cupcakes, but they really were good enough on their own, without the lily-gilding of frosting. Muffins are the only baked good where I feel comfortable winging it, since I've learned that they're pretty tough to screw up. As long as the muffin batter is somewhere between bread dough and pancake batter, the results will be pretty good. I know that real bakers have much higher standards, but as long as the ingredients are good, the texture of muffins is really forgiving and encourages lots of experimenting.

These muffins are pretty basic, with benefits of good rhubarb, a healthy dose of ground flax seeds, and a little apple cider vinegar to compliment the rhubarb flavor.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (all purpose flour with a little whole wheat flour would be fine too)
Four 6 to 8 inch stalks of rhubarb, diced
3/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp., brown sugar
2 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1/2 cup softened vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance), or 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
about 3/4 cup of non-dairy milk (I used almond)

1. In a saucepan, heat the diced rhubarb over medium heat, with about a tbsp. of water. After the rhubarb begins to soften, add 1 tbsp. brown sugar, and continue heating and stirring frequently until the rhubarb is very soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 375 F, and lightly oil your muffin pan - this recipe produced 7 muffins, in what I guess is a standard sized muffin pan.

3. In one mixing bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and flax seeds. In a second bowl, mix the sugar, margarine, and vinegar. Combine the two mixtures, and add enough non-dairy milk - about 3/4 of a cup worked fine - to make a smooth batter. It should be too thick to pour, but thinner and wetter than any bread dough. Fairly vague instructions, yes, but I won't pretend to be an expert :) - this is just what worked for me.

4. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin pan, with equal proportions for each muffin. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, and remove from oven when the muffins are golden brown on top. Cool and enjoy!

Here's a couple other tasty pics from the past few days, both from cookbooks I've been enjoying lately:

Here's a plate of twice-fried green beans. Check this out - fresh green beans are fried in peanut oil, next cashews are fried in peanut oil, and than crumbled tempeh is fried until crispy in even more peanut oil. Then, everything is thrown together and stir fried in a little more peanut oil, with a simple tamari, sugar, and red pepper sauce added at the end. Pretty greasy, and pretty awesome.

Finally, this is a black bean tortilla soup, another one from Rick Bayless. The greens are bok choy, and the soup has great texture and flavor from rehydrated and pureed ancho chiles. I want to learn how to use dried chilis more often - it's a whole dimension of flavors that I don't really have any experience with cooking, and I'm looking forward to fooling around with the huge selection of chilies out there. Any ideas for varieties I ought to try?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Edamame, Gnocchi, & Tomatoes, and Coconut Cream Pie

This is one of those meals that just sort of came together by chance, and a pleasant, I love the colors. Home for lunch, I found almost-empty bags of edamame and gnocchi in the freezer, and a can of fire-roasted tomatoes. The gnocchi were boiled in five minutes, and I gave the edamame a quick stir-fry. Mixed with a can of tomatoes, and a weekday lunch is ready in 10 minutes. A sprinkle of lemon juice finished it off, along with a little salt and black pepper.

Here's a slice of coconut cream pie, from this month's Vegetarian Times. The recipe is for cute little mini graham cracker pie crusts, and I just made a full-size one. It's deliciously rich and creamy, made with a can of coconut milk and about a quarter block of silken tofu, and topped with toasted dried coconut flakes. This was gone really fast, with a little help from the pups, who discovered that they're big fans of coconut pie.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mushroom Roulade, Maple Tofu, and Berry Crepes

I spent much of the weekend goofing around in the kitchen - it was pretty cold for May - with lots of good eating. First up is a portabella mushroom roulade, another recipe test for the upcoming Farm Sanctuary cookbook. This one was a little tricky, but the results were worth it - this is special occasion food, and probably not something I'll whip up on a weeknight any time soon. The effort was worth it, and the combination of marinated portabellas, sauted for a *long* time until they become very pliable, and filled with a French bread stuffing was pretty good. This works best with the biggest, widest portabellas you can find - optimally, I think they're supposed to completely wrap around the stuffing...and I suppose I may have overstuffed them. I bet this is something that would be really awesome after a few learning attempts, but it still tasted great. The stuffing was super, with sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, and green olives - apples are suggested too.

This plate of tofu and brussels sprouts it why I love reading vegan food blogs. I was completely uninspired for supper ideas last night, and did a quick little whirl around some of my fave blogs. Within minutes I was overwhelmed with awesome ideas, but these two recipes matched what I had on hand - a nice maple balsamic tofu from Vegan Dad, and a dish of brussels sprouts and pecans from Vegan Crunk. Good stuff! For the latter I just went from the picture, mixing the sprouts and pecans with some extra maple-balsamic goodness from the tofu. Delicious.

This was breakfast on Saturday morning. Easily my most successful attempt at making crepes, but only because the first couple of times were pretty lame - once I could only turn the batter into thickish pancakes, and the other time a thin batter was impossible to flip over without falling apart. This is the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, and I think the trick is chickpea flour, and actually following directions. The filling and topping is super simple, just frozen blueberries and raspberries, defrosted, and warmed up with a little agave nectar and lemon juice. Now that I have a crepe recipe I can rely on, this is definitely showing up again for weekend breakfasts, especially with berry season coming soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dandelion Pesto & Sweet Potato Salad

People with yards might not like to hear this, but I kind of like dandelions. I think they're an invasive species here in the states - people say they were imported by European immigrants as an ornamental flower - but I can't help but root for them in their ongoing resistance against the perfect herbicide and pesticide-laced American lawn. Their bright yellow flowers are one of the first signs that spring is finally here, and if that wasn't enough, the leaves and flowers are edible - and pretty good, at that. I think the leaves taste a little like arugula - on the bitter side, but not as bitter as mustard or turnip greens.

Some stores sell dandelion greens, but they're one of the easiest wild plants to forage, since we all know what a dandelion looks like. I picked these in a little grove of trees nearby where I am sure nobody has ever sprayed for weeds - that's obviously a concern when picking wild plants, though I did think for a moment that I don't give much thought to what's been used on non-organic vegetables that I buy. I've heard they're best in the early spring too, and that the older plants are more bitter. Given the slightly bitter taste, I thought they would make a decent, tart pesto, and this tasted a little like arugula pesto.

Here the pesto is tossed with some roasted cubed sweet potato - the sweetness is a great contrast to the subtle bitterness of the lemon juice and greens in the pesto. It's a simple salad, and you could get more creative with other added veggies - squash, red potatoes, sweet peppers, pasta, and beans would all be great. Here's what I used for the pesto, made in the food processor:

2 cups dandelion greens, washed well
1 cup flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
juice from 1/2 a lemon, 2 tbsp. or so

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recession food, granola, and enchiladas

Hi everybody! I've been away for a while because my computer was in the shop for most of the last week - after four years, it was starting to lock up and generally act funny, all of which seems to have been fixed by the brilliant folks at the computer shop. They also backed up all of my music and pictures - a project I've been putting off for a long time, and felt better having in the hands of pros. While away from the internet, I caught up on some reading -with real books! Imagine that. Also snapped a few food pics, as follows.

Last week, NPR did a week-long series on feeding a family of four for under 10 bucks, asking celebrity chefs for recession food. The only remotely vegan one (and we all know nothing is cheaper than cooking vegan, especially with whole foods, but never mind that) was this Andalusian take on chickpeas and spinach, from Jose Andres. Do check out the link, with a much prettier photo. The creamy, rich sauce comes from frying whole garlic cloves, then chunks of bread, in lots of olive oil. The fried bread, garlic, and oil is blended - which tasted so awesome - and then used as a thickening base for the cooked chickpeas. I eat lots of chickpeas, but this was a revelation - great stuff. Andres did a cool show on Spanish food on PBS too, worth a look.

I hadn't made the Snobby Joes from Veganomicon before this. Here they are, in all their snobby glory, on top of some quick beer bread made with Hamms and sun-dried tomatoes, next to a cabbage coleslaw. The beer bread is from Donna Klein's Vegan Italiano, a good weeknight bread, since the beer is a shortcut substitution for waiting around with yeast and rising and all that jazz. This bread went from mixing bowl to oven to table in less than an hour.

Here's a mess of granola, with golden raisins and dates. I made this with brown rice syrup, which I had almost forgotten in the back of the fridge. The results were super - very crispy, and brown rice syrup will be my new granola standby. It's also the main sweetener in Clif bars, and they're always good.

Here's a bowl of golden granola in breakfast mode, with banana, mango, and almond milk.

Finally, a rocking enchilada recipe inspired by a green enchilada sauce in one of Rick Bayless' cookbooks, which I'm always checking out from the library. The sauce is from my canned green tomatoes with chiles and cilantro, in place of traditional tomatillos, thickened with a little masa harina. The filling is mostly leftovers, with kale, seitan, and baby bella mushrooms. Crumbled on top is some vegan monterey jack cheese, from Jo Stepaniak's The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. It's a block cheese that crumbles very nicely, made with cashews and tofu along with other vegan cheese usual suspects like nutritional yeast, tahini, and lemon juice.