Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vegan Doughnuts with Cardamom-Pistachio Glaze

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When I lived in the South several years ago, my house was located only a few miles away from a Krispy Kreme doughnut factory. If I drove down a specific stretch of 291 at the right time of the morning, the unmistakable and glorious aroma of silky dough being fried to perfection would slither through the air vents of my car, creating the most ingenious, olfactory-based advertising campaign ever. In the effort to partially recreate this experience, I veganized Alton Brown's doughnut recipe this weekend, with delicious and addictive results: fresh out of the oil, these are crisp and golden on the outside and light and spongy on the inside. To add a twist on the traditional plain glaze application, I added a touch of almond extract, cardamom spice and crushed pistachios at the end to complete these lovely loops of fried perfection. 

for the doughnuts
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 TB vegetable shortening
2 1/4 tsp active yeast
2 TB warm water
2 tsp Ener-G
1 1/2 TB sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
vegetable or canola oil, for frying

for the glaze
2 to 3 TB almond milk
3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup pistachios, ground into a fine powder

Heat the almond milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add in the shortening and stir until well-blended. Pour the contents into a Kitchen Aid mixer bowl.

Combine the yeast with the 2 TB warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Make sure that the almond/milk shortening is at a lukewarm temperature, then add in the yeast/water mixture. Add in the Ener-G, sugar and salt and blend slowly with the flat beater attachment.

With the beater running, add in half of the flour, scraping down any flour that may have stuck to the side of the bowl. Increase the speed slightly until smooth, about a minute. Add in the rest of the flour, resuming the speed until well-blended, about a minute more.

At this point, the dough should be slightly silky and smooth, and should start to pull away from the bowl while the blade is running. If it is still slightly sticky, add a few more tablespoons of flour until a good consistency is reached.

Swap out the flat beater with the dough hook attachment and continue to mix to the dough on medium to medium-low speed until the dough is very silky and smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove from the bowl, shape into a ball, and place in a slightly greased bowl. Cover with saran wrap and let it rise for about an hour.

On a slightly floured surface, roll out about half the dough into a round shape, using a rolling pin. It should be rolled out until it is about the width of a pancake. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out circular shapes. (I used the small cap from a water bottle to pierce a hole in the center.) Any leftover dough can be kneaded again with the remaining dough and rolled out again. Place the doughnut circles on a greased cookie sheet and cover with saran wrap to slightly rise for 30 more minutes.

When you are ready to fry, heat plenty of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when you insert a wooden spoon into the oil and bubbles immediately form around the spoon.

Drop one of the doughnuts into the oil and let it fry for about 30-45 seconds. Using a skimmer, flip it over and fry for 30 seconds more. Remove with the skimmer and place on a cooling rack. Repeat until all of the doughnuts have been fried. Any leftover oil can be cooled completely and stored in a plastic container in the refrigerator for future use.

While the doughnuts are cooling, make the glaze. Heat the almond milk in a small saucepan and whisk in half the powdered sugar until combined and then whisk in the rest. Remove from the heat and add in the almond extract and cardamom. Glaze the doughnuts by dipping them face down in the saucepan and twirling slightly. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle with some of the powdered pistachios.

Any leftover doughnuts may be stored in a plastic container and reheated in the microwave for about 7 seconds.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Homemade Bagels with Tofutti, Capers and Caramelized Shallots

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I like making easy-to-buy items like vegan butter, sriracha and granola at home at least once, because learning the processes and method involved makes me feel an instant connection to and appreciation for the end product as well as the ingredients that comprise it. This weekend, I thought I'd give homemade bagels a try, since I love nothing more than one that's been freshly toasted, smothered in Tofutti cream cheese and adorned with capers and caramelized shallots. The process for making these is incredibly easy and the aroma it emits when coming out of the oven is amazing ... these bagels are warm, heavenly and happy. Recipe adapted and halved from Serious Eats.

1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp yeast
1 TB sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 ounces hot water
3/4 TB raw agave nectar

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer (using the flat beater attachment) and stir until blended. Slowly add in the hot water while the blade is still moving and continue mixing until the dough gathers around it. Remove the dough from the blade, form into a ball and place in a slightly oil bowl. Cover with saran wrap and let it sit for about an hour.

Separate the dough into four small balls. Slightly flatten them out and poke a hole in the middle with your finger, then set them on a lightly greased plate. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a large pot about halfway with water over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add in the agave. Using a skimmer, slowly lower the bagels in to the boiling water and boil for about 45 seconds, flipping it over and boiling for about 45 seconds more.

Remove from bagels from the pot onto a kitchen towel and gently pat them dry. Arrange them onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until they are golden brown on the bottom. Flip them over and bake for about 5-7 minutes more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Scallion Pancakes

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For some reason, I've had savory pancakes on the brain lately. Maybe its due to the sudden change in temperature—food that is warm and bread-like just tastes really good to me around this time of year. Besides tasting really fantastic (think greasy, crispy, savory), I love the process-oriented method for creating these. The repeated kneading, rolling, coiling and shaping steps required is meditative and relaxing, and taking the first bite into one of these fresh-off-the-skillet pancakes is completely and blissfully comforting. Adapted from Serious Eats.

for the dipping sauce
2/3 cup mirin
4 TB soy sauce
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
1 tsp sugar

for the pancakes
2 cups flour
1 cup boiling water
toasted sesame seed oil
2 cups thinly sliced scallion greens
olive oil for frying

Whisk together the dipping sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Blend together the flour and water until smooth, using either a food processor or the flat beater attachment with a KitchenAid mixer. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead a few times on a floured surface. Separate the dough into four round spheres.

Using a rolling pin, flatten out the first sphere into the thinnest, roundest shape possible. Place about a tablespoon of the toasted sesame oil in the center. Using a pastry brush, distribute the oil so it covers the top of the pancake, adding more oil as needed.

Now, roll up the pancake tightly, so it forms one long, thin cylinder. Coil the cylinder into a round shape, like a snail shell. Taking your rolling pin, flatten it out again and shape into a thin round pancake.

Take a handful of the chopped scallions and scatter them evenly across the surface of the pancake.
Roll up the pancake tightly, so it forms one long, thin cylinder again. Coil the cylinder into a round shape again, like a snail shell. Taking your rolling pin, flatten it out again and shape into a thin, round pancake. Set aside and make the other three pancakes.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a flat-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Place one of the prepared pancakes in the skillet and fry until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes) on each side, regreasing the skillet as needed.

Using a pizza slicer, cut into wedges and serve with the dipping sauce and any extra chopped scallions.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Star Anise and Cinnamon Tea

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Fuzzy Slippers Designs kindly gave me this elegant and petite TeaPosy Set (thanks Moriah!), which is perfect for stuffing with a variety of different spice blends and is small enough to keep the water hot in between refills. I like making my own tea from fresh herbs or selected leftover ingredients, as it yields a unique and subtle depth of flavor, and is a nice change from using prepared teabags. For this tea, I selected some star anise for its beautiful shape and pungent licorice notes, and a stick of cinnamon for its sweet and warm aura. I then added some bruised cardamom pods and finished it off with some whole cloves before steeping it in hot (not boiling) water. This spice blend immediately releases a beautiful aroma and each sip is laced with a subtly spicy flavor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Grilled Tofu with Lemongrass and Cilantro Stuffing

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I was excited to score a bunch of beautiful fresh lemongrass and cilantro in Chinatown this weekend, and even more excited that it only set me back three dollars. The produce was vibrant and crisp and looked and smelled so beautiful together that I decided to use them both as the dominant flavors in a tofu dish. I combined them here with some spicy notes of scallions and galangal root to make a kind of herbed stuffing, which I then filled into some fresh-off-the-grill tofu and topped with crispy shallots and red pepper flakes. The result: instantly adorable tofu.

1 block of tofu (firm or extra-firm), cut into 4 cubes
peanut oil for marinating and sauteing
2 shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp galangal, minced
1 TB lemongrass hearts, finely chopped (about 5-6 stalks)
TIP: reserve the tough outer lemongrass stalks for making tea later
3 scallions, sliced on the bias
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
red pepper flakes

Press the tofu cubes and then marinate in a thin layer of peanut oil overnight, flipping once.

Heat about a teaspoon of peanut oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add half of the sliced shallots and saute until crispy. Remove from the pan and lower the heat to medium-low. Add a bit more oil  to the pan and add in the remaining shallots to slightly soften, about two minutes. Add in the garlic, galangal and lemongrass and scallions and saute for about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.

Grill or saute the tofu and let it cool slightly. To hollow out the tofu, cut a deep X in one of the narrow sides. I used a grapefruit spoon to scoop out about 1/3 of the tofu inside, but a regular spoon would also work.

Using a small spoon or your fingers, gently stuff the tofu pieces with the lemongrass-cilantro mixture, spooning any of the remaining mixture over the top. Top everything off with the crispy shallots and red pepper flakes and serve with a soy-vinegar or dumpling sauce.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Whisky Butterscotch Pudding

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Last week, I watched The Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian make a Spicy Butterscotch Pudding on her cooking show, Ten Dollar Dinners. Until I saw this, my opinion of butterscotch was meh, but turned into something I suddenly needed in my life, so I put on my vegan thinking cap and came up with this recipe. The end result was a beautiful golden-colored pudding, with an incredibly silky texture and a subtle scent of whisky. A modest sprinkle of coarse sea salt over the top upon serving transformed this pudding into a perfectly balanced fall dessert.   

3 tsp Ener-G
3 TB cornstarch
1 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk
1 cup soy creamer (I used So Delicious Coconut Creamer)
1/2 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 TB whisky
coarse sea salt, for serving

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the Earth Balance over low heat. In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1 cup of the soymilk with the cornstarch and Ener-G and whisk until there are no lumps left. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the melted Earth Balance and whisk until well combined. Increase the heat to medium-low.

In the same medium-sized bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup soymilk, creamer and sugars. Whisk until there are no lumps left. Add that mixture to the saucepan and whisk frequently. Once it comes to a small boil, remove it from the heat.

Add in the whisky and transfer the pudding to the refrigerator to chill. (It will thicken as it cools.) Serve with a sprinkle of the coarse sea salt.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vegan Okonomiyaki

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Several years ago, I used to wait tables at a sushi bar. Working on New Years Eve there was especially fun, because of all of the rituals and special food prep leading up to and on the holiday. The day before, the waitstaff would tell me how to perfectly pronounce akemashite omedetou gozaimasu (Happy New Year) while bowing on the gozaimasu—which I repeated countless times during the evening and still remember how to pronounce. The menu was special and decadent and the restaurant was always packed. Before midnight struck, the cooks would frantically clean the kitchen until it was absolutely spotless, so the new year could literally start with a clean slate. Despite all of the elaborate parts of the evening, what I remember most was a special dinner the chef would make before our shift that night, which included a special okonomiyaki, filled with greens and ginger, and served with a tonkatsu sauce. This weekend, I took a stab at recreating the chef's okonomiyaki, and taking the first bite of this brought back all of those memories for me. The sauce I made to serve with it was thick and sweet and delicious and complimented the okonomiyaki very well, but you can also buy prepared tonkatsu sauce.

for the sauce
4 TB mirin
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB vegan worcestershire sauce
1 TB raw agave
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 TB palm sugar
1/2 tsp xantham gum

for the pancake
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup soymilk
1 tsp Ener-G
2 tsp organic apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup kale, finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, grated
3 TB pickled ginger
1/4 cup scallions, sliced
1/4 cup shallots, sliced

To make the sauce, heat the mirin, soy sauce, worcestershire, agave and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a small boil. Reduce the heat and whisk in the palm sugar and xantham gum until dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. (It will become thicker as it cools.)

To make the pancake, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together the soymilk, Ener-G and cider vinegar and let it sit for about 5 minutes to slightly thicken. Then slowly add the liquid into the flour mixture and mix gently until combined. Do not overmix. Add in the vegetables and gently combine again with the batter. Set aside.

Heat a flat non-stick pan over medium high heat. Once it is preheated, spray it with a bit of cooking spray. I used a flat-bottomed 3/4 measuring cup to scoop out the batter and slowly pour it onto the pan. Then I kind of flattened the pancake out using the bottom of the measuring cup.

Cook for about four minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serve immediately with the sauce. Update: this also tastes great with Vegenaise on the side.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Homemade Sriracha Sauce

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I love all kinds of hot sauces, but sriracha sauce beats them all. What makes it so superior to other hot sauces unique is its smooth blend and perfect ratio of chilies, garlic, sugar and vinegar. I've been wanting to make my own homemade sriracha for a while, but never pursued it because it's just so easy to buy a huge bottle of the stuff in Chinatown for three bucks ... and why mess with perfection?  However, when the kind folks over at Location 27 presented me with a pound of fresh, straight-from-the-garden habaneros last week, I took it as a sign to move forward with making my own sriracha*, even though the much-milder fresno is typically used to make the sauce. Due to its dramatically intense heat level, a habanero-based sriracha is best when used very modestly—mixing a small amount of it into Vegenaise, Tofutti sour cream, a tofu marinade or a mild salsa will yield a seriously amazing and intense flavor without burning out your tastebuds.

adapted from Randy Clemens' sriracha recipe
1 pound of chilis
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and minced
3 TB palm sugar
1/2 TB salt
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

Put on a pair of plastic gloves and make sure your prep area is well-ventilated. Destem and half the chilis. Place in a blender with the garlic, sugar and salt. Puree until well-blended. Using a spatula, scape the contents into a glass container and cover. Store it at room temperature, stirring it once a day for seven days. This will allow the flavors to blend and slightly mellow.

After a week, pour the puree with the vinegar into a small pot over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about five minutes. Transfer the contents to a blender and puree again for two minutes.

Strain the puree through a fine-mesh strainer, retaining a bit of the pulp in the end if you'd like. Keep it stored in the refrigerator.

*Habaneros are seriously hot and the fumes alone can cause coughing, sneezing and skin irritation. Wear plastic cloves when handling them and always work in a well-ventilated area during prep.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Faux Fish and Real Chips

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This. is. it. Breaking open these faux fish fillets and taking a bite of crispy, perfectly seasoned breading along with some steaming nori-laced tofu inside made all of my deep-fried dreams come true. Even my husband, who is a die-hard fried fish connoisseur, loved these. This pairs perfectly with homemade russet potato chips, malted vinegar and a squirt of fresh lemon.

1 cup flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 tsp dill
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp salt
10 ounces of your favorite beer
1 large russet potato, scrubbed
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water, mixed with 1 sheet of nori that has been ground into a powder
1 block of firm tofu, cut into 1/2 or < 1/2-inch thick sticks or slices
plenty of vegetable oil for frying

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch and seasonings. Slowly pour in the beer and mix the batter until there are no lumps left. Place in the refrigerator for about three hours.

When you are ready to prepare the dish, start by heating plenty of oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. While you are waiting for the oil to heat, slice the potato into thin slices on a mandoline slicer. Test the readiness of the oil by inserting a potato slice into the oil halfway with heat-resistant tongs. If it immediately bubbles up around the potato, you are ready to fry.

Working in batches, slowly slide about 10 slices (one at a time) of the potato into the hot oil. Fry until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oil with heat-resistant tongs and let drain on paper towels, sprinkling with a little salt. Set aside.

To make the faux fish filets, work with the tofu one piece at a time, dunking it first into the Ener-G/nori mixture, then dunking it into the batter, coating well. Transfer it immediately into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove carefully from the oil with heat-resistant tongs and place on paper towels to drain.

Serve with the potato slices, lemon wedges and malt vinegar or vegan tartar sauce, which can be made by mixing equal parts relish and Vegenaise together.

Any leftover batter can be refrigerated for an extra day or frozen for up to three months and reused.