Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cardamom-Pistachio Coconut Macaroons

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I love the the spicy and nutty taste of cardamom and pistachio together. Adding in a bit of shredded coconut to that pairing introduces a subtle rich flavor and interesting texture, which is perfect for applying to breakfast and dessert dishes. Here I've created tiny and tasty macaroons using this flavor combination, which perfectly complimented their light and airy quality. These smell amazing coming out of the oven, and taste heavenly once cooled and set.

1 cup flax or almond milk
2 TB flour
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G
1 TB coconut oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup raw pistachios, ground into a fine powder
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat your over to 350 degrees. Whisk the flour and Ener-G into the cold vegan milk until well-blended. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and warm over over medium heat. Add in coconut oil, sugar and salt. Whisk for about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add in the ground pistachios and cardamom and stir. Add in one cup of the coconut and stir, then add in the other cup and stir until well-blended. Remove from the heat.

Drop rounded tablespoons of the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes, ensuring that the bottoms are browned, but not burnt. Transfer to a cooling rack to set. These taste best once cooled down completely.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fresh Vegan Mozzarella Pizza

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The first time I tried Daiya was at Pizza Pi in Seattle, Washington, about two years ago. I hadn't had cheese or anything cheese-like for the past four or five years, so biting into that first slice of amazing dairy-free Daiya-laden pizza was sort of shocking and weird, but in a very good way. Trying out this soft and slightly gooey fresh soy- and nut-free homemade vegan mozzarella brought back that same kind of omgwhatisthisamazingness feeling, although the taste of this cheese is very different from Daiya's flavor and texture. To give this mozzarella its uniquely soft and velvety texture, I tweaked the the original recipe by adding in some tapioca flour and slightly increasing the amount of coconut vinegar, which reduced the agar's ability to fully gel and set. This final texture is perfect for dolloping on to a pizza and, when removed from a piping hot oven, is beautifully melted and releases an amazing cheesy aroma.

1 can good-quality coconut milk
1 tsp coconut vinegar
2/3 tsp salt
3/4 tsp agar powder
1 TB tapioca flour

Place the coconut milk into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk until well-emulsified. Add in the vinegar, salt and agar and whisk frequently for about 15 minutes, or until a small boil occurs. Reduce the heat immediately, then whisk in the tapioca flour and heat for 5-10 minutes more. Transfer to a flat-bottomed glass pyrex dish to slightly gel for about an hour.

Place small dollops of the cheese onto a homemade or prepared pizza crust with other desired toppings and bake on a pizza stone at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Roasted Eggplant and Hummus Sandwich

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One day during work, I ran out to a small sandwich shop nearby to pick up a very late lunch. By the time I got there, the only vegan items that were left were eggplant slices and hummus, as the shop had already begun to disassemble everything from the lunch rush. However, this unlikely combo of rich, tahini-heavy hummus and crispy roasted eggplant tasted amazing together and, next to the tempeh reuben, is now one of my favorite sandwiches.

1 medium-sized eggplant
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
1/8 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced and slightly sauteed
focaccia bread, sliced
balsamic viniagrette, for serving

Preheat your oven to 350. Rinse the eggplant and slice off both ends, then slice the eggplant in half, lengthwise. Using a mandoline slicer, slice both pieces of the eggplant into thin strips. Place on a greased, foil-lined baking sheet in a single llayer. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, checking it after 15 minutes.

Make the hummus by blending the next five ingredients in a small food processor. Set aside.

The eggplant is ready when it is nicely browned and crispy. Remove it immediately from the baking sheet or it will stick. Assemble the sandwiches with the eggplant and hummus and serve with a side a balsamic viniagrette.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kiwiberry, Kumquat and Pomegranate Kanten

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Since I began blogging, ideas for recipes, plating and combining ingredients hit me at odd times, like during the morning commute to work, at 2 a.m. or while I'm having a conversation with someone else that has nothing to do with food. The last idea I had was this: use my silicone cube tray to make "ice cubes" with tiny slivers of fruit suspended in a gelled solution of agar. The goal was to then lay these perfect cubes out in a row on a narrow serving tray to be photographed. As I got to work making the cubes, everything seemed to go according to plan, but when I released the finished gelled cubes from the tray, they slithered out in one big blob. After a little googling, I found out that the high acidity level in the fruit I used for this interferes with agar's ability to gel properly. After a few brief moments of frustration, I carefully scooped some of the kanten into a martini glass and discovered that it was still really pretty to look at—and also tasted fantastic.

4 cups water
4 tsp agar powder
4 TB sugar
the juice of one lime

10-12 sliced kumquats
10-12 sliced kiwiberries
1/2-1 cup pomegranate seeds


Bring the water and agar to a small boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat slightly and whisk in the sugar and lime juice until dissolved, about 7 minutes. Pour the agar solution into a rectangular pyrex and throw in the sliced fruit. Place in the refrigerator for about an hour to slightly set.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Garlic-Sriracha Vegan Buffalo Wings

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Although I've never had a "real" buffalo wing, I get the concept: combine hot sauce and butter and toss piping hot "wings" into it. Shake. Serve with a cooling ranch dressing and crisp celery. Armed with this knowledge, I got to work veganizing the buffalo wing this weekend, using garlic, sriracha, unpressed tofu and my jumbo-sized, stainless-steel prep bowl. Smothering every inch of these deep-fried tofu triangles with a rich, sriracha-laced sauce created a delightfully spicy, crunchy, glazey and altogether addictive vegan buffalo wing.

for the dressing
1/2 cup Vegenaise
2-3 TB fresh parsley, chopped
1 TB onion powder
a few dashes of pepper

for the sauce
3 TB Earth Balance
5-6 cloves of garlic, halved and smashed
1 small shallot, sliced
3 TB sriracha
1 tsp raw agave
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
dash of liquid smoke (optional)

for the wings
1 block of tofu, unpressed, cut into triangles
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water
1-2 cups cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying

To make the dressing, combine all of the dressing ingredients together. Set aside.

To make the sauce, add one tablespoon of the vegan butter into a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add in the smashed garlic and shallots and saute until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and then add in the remaining two tablespoons of vegan butter, sriracha, agave, vinegar, salt and liquid smoke. Let simmer while making the wings, giving it a little stir every now and then.

To make the wings, set up two wide and shallow bowls. Place the Ener-G/water mixture in one and the cornstarch in the other. Heat plenty of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. You can tell that the oil is ready by dropping a pinch of the cornstarch into it: if it sizzles immediately, you are ready to fry. Dunk one of the triangles into the Ener-G mixture, then coat it with a thin layer of cornstarch, tapping off any excess. Drop into the oil (only fry two pieces at a time) and fry until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the oil with silicone tongs and place on paper towels to drain.

Place the buffalo wings sauce into a large prep bowl, then throw in the tofu triangles. Gently toss them until well coated. Plate the wings, drizzling any excess buffalo wing sauce and soft chunks of garlic and shallots over the top. Serve with the ranch dressing, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and crisp slices of fresh celery.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shaved Fennel Salad

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Crisp and clean, with a subtle hint of licorice, raw fennel tastes amazing. Here I've shaved it paper thin on a mandoline slicer and tossed it with a simple dressing that perfectly complimented its fragrant qualities. The wispy and soft fronds—which are completely edible—were added in at the end to add a nice textural element to the dish as well as give it an elegant and pretty feel.

1 large fennel bulb
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1 TB dijon mustard
dash of salt and pepper
black sesame seeds (optional)

Cut off the base of the fennel bulb. (Reserve the stems for making tea later.) Remove the stems and set aside. If it is a really large bulb, slice it in half. Carefully shave it on the mandoline blade, and set aside.

Remove the fronds from the thick stems and place into a small bowl.

In another small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Dress the shaved fennel as desired, and sprinkle with the fronds and seeds. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sweet Potato and Lemongrass Gyozas

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Several years ago, I used to wait tables at a sushi bar. Every once in a while, the chef would allow me into the kitchen when he needed an extra hand with prep work, which usually involved holding a fine mesh screen over a bowl while he extruded something through it, or locating an item for him in the freezer. Although these tasks were mundane, I still loved being in the kitchen during that time of day when it was still quiet and serene, and before that atmosphere was transformed into a symphony of clanging pots, endless puffs of steam and hands moving quickly to produce plate after plate of Japanese dishes.

One day, during prep in the early afternoon, the chef was assembling gyozas, and asked if I wanted to try to make one. As I picked up one of the dumplings, he showed me how to fold it, and how to make the crimping along the edges, pinching them at exact intervals on each side so they looked perfect. Assembling these gyozas this past weekend brought back that nice memory of sitting with him briefly in the kitchen that day while it was still quiet, making pretty things together for others to taste and enjoy.

for the gyoza
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and peeled
2 TB peanut oil
3-4 lemongrass hearts, chopped (reserve the outer stalks for broth or tea later)
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
1/2 fresh cilantro, chopped
1/8 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
vegan dumpling wrappers (I used square, but round is fine too)
1 tsp ground flax seeds (I used a coffee grinder), mixed with 5 TB flax milk

for the sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 TB soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp to 1 TB sriracha
red pepper flakes

Chop the sweet potato into small, dice-sized pieces. Bring plenty of water to boil in a medium-sized pot, add the potatoes, salt and a bit of oil and boil, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. Drain, mash and set aside.

In a small saucepan, saute the lemongrass hearts and shallots in the peanut oil for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Transfer to the sweet potato mash and combine well. Add in the peanuts and chopped cilantro and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

To assemble the gyozas, lay one wonton skin on a flat surface. Dip your finger into the flax seed/milk mixture and run it along both ends of the wrapper to help create a seal. Then place 1 tsp of the sweet potato mixture into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wonton into a triangle shape and run your finger along both edges to seal it. Then, pinch the edges together to create a crimped shape along the edges. Lay the assembled gyoza on a slightly oiled cookie sheet while you prepare the rest of the gyozas.

Once they are all assembled, heat some oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat. Let the pan heat up very well, about 4-5 minutes. Gently place the gyoza in a single layer in the pan, taking care to watch for any oil splashes. Let them sit in the pan for 3-4 minutes, or until well-browned on one side. Take 1/4 cup water and slowly pour it into the pan. It will violently sizzle. Cover immediately, and reduce the heat to low. Allow it to steam for an additional 5-7 minutes. Transfer back onto the cookie sheet to cool, and repeat the process until all of the gyozas have been cooked through.

To make the sauce, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. These can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spiced Taro Root Croquettes

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During my last visit to Chinatown, I picked up a large taro root with the intent to make raw dehydrated taro chips. However, after a little precursory googling, I discovered that raw taro contains calcium oxalate, so I revised my original plan to include through boiling, which makes consumption of the root safe. Boiling the taro resulted in a soft and velvety texture, with a beautifully rich and creamy taste. I decided to add a little Chinese five-spice powder after mashing, which worked well with the starchiness and richness of the taro. These tasted heavenly fried and paired perfectly with a vegan barbeque sauce.

One large taro root, peeled and diced (wear gloves if you have sensitive skin)
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsps Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water
oil for frying

Bring plenty of water to a boil in a small to medium-sized pot. Add a 1/2 tablespoon of salt to the water, then add in the diced taro. Boil, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes. Drain, mash and add the five-spice powder and salt. Set aside to cool.

Set up three shallow, wide bowls. In the first bowl, add the Energ-G and water mixture. In the second bowl, add the chickpea and rice flour mixture. In the third bowl, add the breadcrumbs.

By now, the taro should be cool enough to shape with your hands. I used a square stainless steel form for these, but you can also shape them into little patties or balls.

Bring plenty of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Test the oil's readiness by inserting a wooden spoon into the oil. If bubbles form around the spoon immediately, you are ready to fry.

To coat the croquettes, first dip them into the Ener-G/water mixture. Then coat in the rice flour/chickpea mixture, tapping off any extra flour. Dip again into the Ener-G/water mixture, then coat in the breadcrumbs. Place it immediately into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Only fry 1-2 croquettes at a time, and place on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately.