Sunday, January 29, 2012

Portabello and Shallot Ravioli with Toasted Walnuts

This weekend, we took a trip to Portland, Maine. While we were there, we visited one of my favorite shops—Leroux Kitchen—located in the Old Port, right on the waterfront. I love this shop because there are about 20 different infused oils and vinegars to taste, an upstairs full of cookware to check out and literally hundreds of kitchen gadgets to look through. Among those gadgets was a ravioli cutter, which inspired me to come up with a ravioli dish as soon as I threw it into my basket. Similar to an earlier pasta dish and savory tart I've made before, this ravioli is rich, filling and full of complimentary flavors and textures. I used leftover frozen shumai dough to make the ravioli, which cut the prep time in half and provided the perfect texture to seal in some rosemary-laced portobellos, salty oil-cured olives and sweet sauteed shallots.

INGREDIENTS
for the ravioli wrappers
1 cup pastry flour
1 cup rice flour
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 1/2 cup water
3/4 tsp salt

for the raviloi filling
8 oz baby portobello mushrooms, minced
1/2 TB crushed dried rosemary
1 tsp dried fennel seeds
2 shallots, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
5-7 oil-cured olives, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper

for the sauce
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/4 cup canned coconut cream (skim the cream from the top)
1/4 cup chopped spinach
toasted walnuts

METHOD
To make the wrappers, place the flours, Ener-G/water and salt into a mixer. Blend until the dough is smooth and pulls away easily from the sides of the bowl, adding a bit more water as needed. Remove the dough, roll into a ball and place into a greased bowl and cover with saran wrap. Allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.

Separate the dough into four equal pieces. On a well-floured surface (I kept a small bowl of rice flour nearby), flatten the dough out as thinly as possible, using a rolling pin. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out perfect circle shapes, re-rolling any unused dough. Reroll each piece to maximize the thinness of the dough.

To make the ravioli filling, saute the portobello in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat for about 12 minutes, or until most of the moisture has evaporated. Sprinkle with the rosemary and fennel and saute for one minute more. Remove the mushrooms, add a bit more oil to the skillet, and saute the shallots and garlic for about three minutes. Remove from the heat and combine them with the mushrooms and olives. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

To assemble the ravioli, place about a tablespoon of the mixture onto a piece of ravioli wrapper. To create a seal, run a thin layer of water around the edges. Top with another wrapper and press down gently but firmly. It's important to do this to ensure the ravioli does not break open during boiling. Using the ravioli cutter, cut out a nice round shape and place on a lightly floured surface.

Once your raviolis are all assembled, bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add some salt and olive oil and slowly slide the ravioli into the water. Boil for about 5 minutes, then gently flip over and allow to boil for about 5 minutes more. Carefully remove the ravioli from the water and place in a serving dish.

Lightly toast the walnuts by placing them into a dry saucepan over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside. To make the sauce, melt the Earth Balance and coconut cream over low heat. Stir in the spinach and drizzle over the pasta. Top with the toasted walnuts and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ginger-Garlic Tofu with Fiery Chili Oil






































Venturing into Chinatown is always exciting for me. I love the frantic yet warm energy you can practically feel in the air upon entering a grocery store or noodle shop. Everything is urgent yet orderly, the smells and colors are unique and distinguished, and the sense that you are about to discover something you've never seen before is always a possibility. Sometimes this discovery is as simple as scoring a piece of mysterious produce or an exotic sauce that is only labeled in Chinese—which I happened to stumble across during my last trip there. This fabulous chili oil, which is practically fluorescent orange and highly viscous, is the hottest sauce I've ever consumed. Because of its intense heat level, I applied it sparingly to a mild vinegar sauce, and discovered that it suspends beautifully in the liquid. When paired with a seared ginger-garlic tofu, this makes a really pretty dish that delivers a well-balanced kick of heat.

INGREDIENTS
1 block of firm tofu
1 cup vegetable stock
1 TB soy sauce
1-2 TB garlic, grated on a microplane grater
2 TB ginger, grated on a microplane grater
1/2 cup boiling water
1 TB sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
dash of salt
olive oil
hot chili oil
chopped scallions

METHOD
Slice the tofu any way you like. Brush the bottom of a glass pyrex dish with olive oil and place the tofu in the dish. Place in the freezer overnight. To defrost the tofu, place it in the oven at the lowest setting for 15-20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and press it thoroughly for an hour, ensuring that it is almost bone-dry before placing it into the marinade, which you can make by whisking together the broth, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. You can skip freezing/defrosting the tofu for this recipe, but thorough pressing is a must. Freezing/defrosting transforms the texture of the tofu by making it more "meaty" and dense. Marinate for at least 4 hours.

When you are ready to make the tofu, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, then add the vinegar and dash of salt. Set aside.

Saute the tofu for about 5 minutes on each side over medium-high heat, or until a good sear is achieved.

To plate the tofu, pour some of the vinegar mixture into a shallow bowl. Arrange the tofu on top of that, sprinkling with the chopped scallions. Finish by adding several droplets of the chili oil. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Basil, Kumquat and Blueberry Canapés


Kumquats are an intensely sour and delicious winter fruit. They can be eaten in their raw form, but also pair well with other components containing a good amount of fat, which helps balance out the acidity level. Here I've pulverized raw kumquats—skin, insides, seeds and all—and blended with some fresh basil and a rich vegan cream cheese to create a tart filling that is subtly sour, slightly savory and decadently rich.

INGREDIENTS

10-15 firm kumquats, halved
2 ounces Tofutti cream cheese
1 tsp palm sugar
2 TB fresh basil, finely chopped
dash of salt
one package of frozen phyllo cups (usually vegan, but double-check the label)
handful of fresh blueberries

METHOD
Place the kumquats into a food processor or blender, and pulverize. Add in the next four ingredients and blend again until well combined. Place in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Prepare the phyllo cups according to the directions on the box, and let cool completely. Fill with the kumquat mixture and top with a fresh blueberry.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Raw Almond and Chickpea Miso Spread

This spread was created after an original failed attempt to make a vegan caesar dressing. Although the dressing had a wonderful flavor, the consistency did not work well with the salad—it was too clumpy and bold to work well with the delicate texture of romaine leaves. However, it was delicious on toasted bread, so I adjusted the recipe slightly to make this tangy, complex and salty spread. When paired with the richness of raw almonds and tahini, miso's potent flavor becomes even more decadent and addictive. And because this spread requires no heating, which can and would destroy some of the miso's strong and well-documented health boosts, it is a wonderful, delicious and simple way to best reap those benefits.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup raw almonds
1-2 TB raw, unpasteurized chickpea miso
1-2 TB raw tahini
2 TB good-quality olive oil
2-4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
the juice from 1/2 fresh lemon, plus 1 tsp of the zest
a few dashes of cracked white pepper
1 TB capers, plus 1 tsp of the brine
a few TBs of water and/or oil, to thin out as needed


METHOD
In a small food processor, grind the raw almond into a fine powder. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth, adding a bit more oil or water to thin it out to a desired consistency.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chocolate-Sriracha Shortbread Cookies






































I loved making these delicately spicy sandwich cookies this weekend. The cookies themselves are incredibly airy and light, while the center is rich and intense—and everything works well together here to create a strange yet fabulous bite. Applying sriracha into a batch of melted dark chocolate will cause it to immediately seize up, which usually isn't a good thing, but perfect for the purpose of making these cookies. Once the sriracha-chocolate has cooled, it can be rolled into a small ball, flattened and sandwiched in between two layers of rich and buttery shortbread cookies. A liberal sprinkle of large crystal salt at the end balances all of the flavors perfectly. Shortbread cookie recipe adapted and halved from food.com.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup Earth Balance, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 TB vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup Guittard extra dark chocolate chips
1 tsp -1 TB sriracha
1 TB large crystal salt
cooking spray

METHOD
Using a mixer, beat the vegan butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla. Combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and then slowly add it to the mixer on the lowest setting possible. Do not overmix. Form the dough into a ball, place into a bowl and cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will allow the gluten to slightly relax and ensure a lighter cookie.

Preheat your oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spray liberally with cooking spray.

Separate the dough into two pieces and roll of out one of them. The dough will be really fragile, so you can just press it out flat using your hands. Cut out small circles in the dough, using a small biscuit cutter. Transfer to one of the cookie sheets and place in the oven for 11 minutes.

While this batch is baking, repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Cut out a small circle shape in the center of each cookie. (I used the cap of a water bottle.) Place on the other cookie sheet and bake for 11 minutes.

Let both batches rest on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring over to a cooling rack. Baking the cookies will cause them to spread slightly, so if you'd like to keep a perfect circular shape, recut them, using your biscuit cutter/water bottle cap.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips. Once they are fully melted, add in the desired amount of sriracha, stir, and remove from the heat. Once it is slightly cooled, you can roll the chocolate into small balls, and flatten slightly between the cookie layers. Sprinkle with large crystal salt while still warm.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Celery Root Hashbrowns with Basil Cream


Despite its knobby and odd-looking exterior, celery root happens to be quite lovely on the inside, emitting a delicate scent of celery upon slicing it. The first time I tried it was in a Tal Ronnen soup recipe, which he had paired with granny smith apples and chives. The flavor of this delicious root was so clean and fresh, I began to think of different ways to use it as well as other flavors to pair it with. Because it is very similar in texture to a potato, I grated it up like hashbrowns and fried it to see what would happen. The outcome was delicious: the texture was slightly softer than potatoes, and it paired perfectly with tart granny smith apples and a fresh basil cream sauce.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup Tofutti non-hydrogenated Sour Supreme
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
One large celery root
2 TB olive oil
1/2 granny smith apple, finely diced

METHOD
Combine the vegan sour cream and basil, set aside.

To peel the celery root, slice off both ends of it so you can lay it flat on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice off the skin in strips, keeping as much of the root intact as possible. Quarter the fully peeled root, and grate each of the sections on the coarse side of a grater.

Heat the oil In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the grated root and saute until well-browned, about 15 minutes.

Serve with the basil cream and a sprinkle of the chopped apples.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Garlicky Lacinato Kale























A slow saute of lacinato kale in a bit of Earth Balance, olive oil and soy sauce transforms into perfection on a plate. This easy-to-prepare kale is a nutritional powerhouse, delivers a rich and buttery taste and offers a complex array of textures. This dish can stand alone as a meal or serve as a perfect compliment to almost any main course.

INGREDIENTS
2 TB Earth Balance
1 TB olive oil
One whole head of garlic, peeled and separated
One bunch of lacinato kale, chopped
2 tsp soy sauce
1-2 TB sesame seeds
red chili pepper flakes, optional

METHOD
Melt the Earth Balance in a large, flat-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Smash each of the garlic cloves with the side of a broad knife and throw them into to melted vegan butter. Add in the olive oil and soften the garlic for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn't burn. Once it is softened, remove the garlic from the skillet, but leave the remaining liquid.

Increase the heat to medium and place the kale into the skillet and cover. Allow to slightly wilt for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the soy sauce.

To serve, sprinkle with the softened garlic, sesame seeds and chili pepper flakes.