Thursday, October 1, 2015

Beet Tartare with Mango Yolk

Yields about 2 1/2 cups + 10 mango yolks
Time: about 2 hours, plus overnight and up to 2 days to marinate the beets

I got the idea to do this dish during the recent heatwave in Southern California, but there was no way I was going to turn on my oven for an hour and a half to slow roast something. Although the heat finally lifted and the cool air oozed its way back into our home, I still wasn't crazy about turning the oven on, but this turned out to be worth it.

Tartare is technically raw, but this isn't meat and that's not a egg yolk, so there are multiple infractions against the term here. But how fun is it to say beet tartare? This is a soft and velvety beet dish with a little salt, a tiny bit of acid, the right amount of umami and rounded out with some fat. The toasted walnuts add a little contrasting crunch while the vegan sour cream balances out the acidity and adds a subtle creamy note. 

The mango yolk is made using a molecular cooking technique called reverse spherificationwhich sounds difficult but is really easy to do. It's not critical to this dish, but it looks really pretty and it's also kind of fun to nick the membrane and see it run onto the plate just like an egg yolk. 

for the beets
4-5 small red beets
2-3 cups coarse sea salt
2 medium shallots, minced

for the marinade
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp coconut vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dijon mustard

for the mango yolks
3 cups cold water
1 tsp sodium alginate
6 oz. pureed mango
3 TB plain vegan yogurt (I used Kite Hill brand)
1 tsp calcium lactate

to serve
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup minced raw kale
vegan sour cream, for serving
toasted crostini

To salt-roast the beets, preheat your oven to 375. Using a glass pyrex that's large enough to accommodate the beets, pour a layer of salt onto the bottom of the dish. Scrub and rinse the unpeeled beets and place them into the pyrex wet. You'll want the layer to be thick enough so the beets don't make contact with the bottom of the pyrex. Now pour salt over them until they are mostly covered, then place into the oven for an hour and a half.

What happens during this time is the beets are lightly steamed, giving them a super-soft texture.

Once the roasting is done, allow them to rest until cool enough to handle. Using a sharp knife if needed, peel the beets and set aside. It's easiest to do this while the beets are warm.

Dice the beets as uniform and small as possible. Place into a bowl. Give the minced shallots a little saute in a lightly oiled pan, then add to the beets.

Make the marinade by whisking all of the marinade ingredients together. If you have a little more or a little less than 2 cups of beets, just adjust the marinade components accordingly. Pour over the beets, cover, and place into the refrigerator overnight at the least and up to two days for the best flavor and texture.

To make the mango yolks, pour three cups of cold water into a large measuring glass cup. Add in the sodium alginate and, using an immersion blender at its highest speed, blend for a full two minutes. Set aside for about 30 minutes to allow the air bubbles to settle.

Combine the mango puree with the calcium lactate and stir well by hand. Set aside.

Find a drinking glass with a circular base, no more than 2-3 inches in diameter. Pour a very small amount of the sodium alginate mixture into the bottom of the glass. Then spoon a little less than one tablespoon into the glass. It has to be dropped carefully and in one shot to achieve a perfect yolk shape. Now, tip the glass to a 45-degree angle, then very slowly pour more solution over the top until it's covered, then slowly raise it back up to a 90-degree level (sort of like pouring a beer carefully into a glass). Now swirl the yolk around in a circular motion for about 30 seconds to create the yolk shape. Set it down and leave it undisturbed for about two minutes.

By now, the yolk should be very sturdy. Rinse it off under cold water or place it into a bowl of cold water while you make the rest of the yolks. 

To toast the walnuts, preheat a small cast iron pan over medium heat. Add in the walnuts, and allow to toast for a few minutes giving them a shake every now and then. They are done when you can smell them, and they've developed a little color. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning.

To serve, place one or two tablespoons of vegan sour cream onto a plate, smeared over a toasted crostini or on the side. Spoon the desired amount of beets over the top, topping with the toasted walnuts and minced kale. Finish with a mango yolk.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Vegan Macarons

Basic vegan macarons have four ingredients: chickpea brine (aquafaba), almond meal, caster sugar and powdered sugar. How hard can something with so few ingredients be to make?

Actually very hard!

Well, at least for me. I'm no baker and I'd rather just buy a dessert instead of trying to make it myself. However, I wanted to try them out of complete curiosity after seeing a basic macaron recipe from the lovely Charis over at Floral Frosting. After three failures in a row that had nothing to do with the recipe, but my complete inexperience with macaron-making, I got a bit obsessed with trying to make them correctly myself. Here's what I learned from making multiple batches:

MEASURE. If you have one little ratio off with any ingredient, your macarons will not turn out correctly.

The MACRONNAGE. If you undermix or overmix the batter, your macarons may be too thin, too thick, collapse in the oven or not develop feet. See the 1:26 mark on Floral Frosting's macaron video on how to do the macronnage correctly

SMACK the piped macarons on the counter to release any air bubbles. Don't be shy with smacking them and don't skip this step or your macarons will turn into a mess in the oven.

DRY the piped macarons for two hours or until the tops are dry. If your house has any humidity, your macarons will not develop feet. Run your air conditioning for several hours before and during making macarons, or only make them when the air is cold and the humidity is low. I learned this the hard way! 

The reason you want the tops dry is that the heat causes the air inside the batter to expand, pushing it upwards. Dry tops are stronger tops that aid in forming feet. Not-dry tops will result in the batter squishing through the tops, destroying your chance of getting pretty-shaped macarons.

Lots of instructions will tell you to turn the batter 10, 20 even 50 times, but I found that turning the batter until it fell back into the bowl when lifted with the spatula and settled immediately worked better than counting. It took several batches to "get" how this should look. 

BAKING: Our oven is kind of possessed. It preheats very slowly, then jacks up very quickly, and the heat isn't quite even. But we have a thermometer which helps with predicting the oven's behavior/current mood.

I first tried putting the piped macarons in a cold oven and bringing them up to 225 degrees, putting them into a preheated 225-degree oven, turning off the heat, venting the oven and leaving them inside until the oven was cool again. 

What I discovered is that using a pizza stone lined with parchment paper in a cold oven first worked best. However! All ovens are different, and what may be successful in one oven may not work in another.

In all, making macarons was a fun, but sometimes frustrating, experience. Watching your macarons get feet for the first time is totally worth all the work.

Once your macarons are baked and cooled, they store well in the refrigerator or freezer.

So that's it! I won't be baking or doing any technical desserts for a while now, but this was a fun project to figure out and tackle. Check out the Vegan Meringue - Hits and Misses! Page on Facebook for more tips on vegan+aquafaba macarons from some really amazing and experienced vegan bakers. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

VegNews Magazine | The Summer Issue!

About 4 and a half years ago when I was working on my very first post for the blog, I remember spinning a bowl of fried tofu I made around the end of our dining room table with one hand while snapping pictures of it with a small point and shoot camera in my other hand. I was scratching the table with the bottom of the bowl, and couldn't get the "right" angle no matter what I did, but I kept going anyway. Jeff walked into the dining room and said: 

What are you doing?
Me: Taking a picture of tofu.
For what?
Me: The blog.
Me: Maybe you can take some pictures for the next recipe I make?
I guess I could try. I've never taken pictures of food before.
Me: I think you'd be great at it!
That seems optimistic.

The following week, Jeff got out his "real" camera he occasionally used for doing landscape photography, I made french toast, and we took our first "real" shot togetherSince then, creating new content for this blog has been something that we always enjoy doing together. Food styling is something that I love almost as much as recipe development, and Jeff loves the photography portion, so it works!

Partnering together like this is always fun, but when an entity like VegNews Magazine (which I've been a regular reader of for years) takes notice and asks if we would like to do a few photos for the interior portion of their upcoming (and now here!) issue, it takes it to a whole new level! 

We were so excited and grateful for the opportunity to make and shoot some recipes by Julie Hasson and Jenny Engel & Heather Bell of Spork Foods for this issue, plus a fun shot for an aquafaba piece on the back page (partially pictured here). 

Many thanks to VegNews for being so wonderful to work with and congratulations for putting together such a gorgeous summer issue! 

And that amazing cover shot below? It was done by my fellow blogger and friend Jackie over at Vegan Yack Attack ... check out more of her beautiful work at Jackie Sobon Photography!

The new VegNews issue is out now! Most large bookstores and Whole Foods carries it, or get a subscription!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Nom Yourself | Review, Recipe + Giveaway! [closed]

Nom Yourself, by Mary Mattern, is going to be released in just a few days, and I have a sneak peek ready here for you today!

Creating and celebrating American food with a vegan twist that's appealing to both vegans and the veg-curious, Nom Yourself presents an array of decadent and creative comfort food, like Half-Baked Macaroni and CheeseBBQ Seitan SkewersSweet Potato Waffle SandwichRoasted Garlic Parm Carrots and Whisky Lady Cupcakes.

What I like best about Mary's style is that she doesn't use a ton of ingredients, all of her recipes are very easy to follow and are mostly built around fresh produce, nuts and grains.

What I tried first from Nom Yourself is Mary's Fried Eggplant Sticks. Super-decadent, this appetizer mimics the creaminess of mozzarella, and is surrounded by a crispy panko shell that holds up well after a drag through some marinara or kale pesto. Sound good? Read on! 

The kind folks over at Avery/Penguin Random House have not only allowed me to share the recipe here, but are also offering a free copy of Nom Yourself to one reader through this post!

To enter, just leave a comment below that includes your favorite American and/or comfort food dish. Please include your email, twitter handle, instagram username or some way to contact you in case your comment is drawn as the winner. Shipping is restricted to US only, and I'll announce the winner on September 9 ... good luck! 

The winner of this giveaway is Eric ... congrats and thanks to everyone who entered!

Fried Eggplant Sticks

Reprinted from Nom Yourself by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2015, Mary Mattern

Mozzarella sticks are the ultimate crowd-pleasing appetizers. Who doesn’t love a snack you can dip? 

My favorite vegetable has always been eggplant, and it turns out that when eggplant is breaded and fried, it makes a perfect creamy filling, even better than mozzarella.

Zucchini sticks are great as well, but they tend to fall apart more often than not. So I’ve found that eggplant works best for an irresistible vegan twist on a favorite that everyone will want to eat by the plateful. This appetizer is by far my personal chef clients’ favorite.

Makes about 20 sticks

1 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ Peanut oil, for frying teaspoon kosher salt
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into sticks

1. Place the flour in one bowl and the almond milk in another bowl.

2. In a third bowl, mix the bread crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and kosher salt.

3. Place the bowls next to one another in this order: flour, almond milk, bread crumbs.

4. Add enough peanut oil to a large skillet to have the oil ½ inch deep. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees F. Use a deep fry candy thermometer.

5. Dip each stick of eggplant in the flour, then the almond milk, then the bread crumbs.

6. Place the eggplant sticks in the hot oil and cook until golden brown, around 45 seconds. You may need to turn them depending on how hot your oil is.

7. Place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.

Serve with Kale Pesto (recipe in cookbook) or marinara sauce.