Sunday, July 29, 2012

Deep-Fried Vegan Mac and Cheese





































These are the best things I've ever made or eaten. After spotting fried mac and cheese bites in the frozen section of Trader Joe's last week, I've had this internal battle about veganizing it myself at home. I've made vegan mac and cheese before and I certainly know how to deep fry, but does that mean I should combine those two things together in one dish? Probably not, but I did anyway.

After eating a few of these, I slipped into a wonderful fried food coma. This mac and cheese has the perfect amount of richness with just a hint of acidity from the coconut vinegar, which gives it an overall authentic cheesy (with no trace of coconut) flavor. The texture is gooey and silky, and it's all perfectly encased in a crispy panko shell. With a tiny tap, they kind of break open and ooze immediately. The large batch you make can also be frozen after they are fried, and then simply refried again (let them defrost for 10-15 minutes first) in smaller batches, with perfect results.

If you don't want to fry, you can also bake this. Just let the mac and cheese cool completely in the refrigerator, then transfer to a greased cast iron skillet and bake at 350 until warmed through. Top with a generous amount of panko breadcrumbs during the last 10 minutes of baking or until a nice golden color is achieved.

INGREDIENTS
One can of full-fat coconut milk
1 tsp coconut vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp agar powder
a few dashes of white pepper
1 TB tapioca flour dissolved in 1 TB water
2 TB nooch
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
plenty of canola oil for frying

METHOD
Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.

While the pasta is boiling, place the coconut milk into a separate small saucepan and whisk over medium heat. Add in the coconut vinegar, salt, agar powder and white pepper. Whisk briskly until it comes to a small boil. Remove from the heat and add in the tapioca flour/water mixture and the nooch. Whisk until well combined.

When your macaroni is ready, use a skimmer to transfer the pasta to the cheese mixture. Stir well and place the entire pot into the freezer for about 45 minutes. Stir it occasionally and, if it gets too thick or cold, remove it from the freezer.

Spray a large pyrex glass dish with a little cooking spray. Shape the cold macaroni and cheese into golfball-sized bites and place them into the glassware. Then return it to the freezer for about an hour and a half.

When you are ready to fry, place plenty of canola oil into a small saucepan over medium high heat. After about seven minutes, insert a wooden spoon into the bottom of the pan. If bubbles form around the spoon immediately, you are ready to fry.

Remove the macaroni from the freezer. Set up a shallow bowl with the Ener-G/water mixture. In another shallow bowl, mix together the panko, cornstarch and salt.

Dip the macaroni bites first into the Ener-G, then coat in the panko mixture. Slowly slide it into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Only fry 2-3 bites at a time. Overcrowding the oil with cold items will reduce the oil's temperature and you'll be left with soggy and oily macaroni.

Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle immediately with a little salt. Serve immediately.




Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Minted Red Quinoa, Fava Bean and Cashew Salad


Although I always keep lots of dried fava beans on hand for making falafel, I rarely buy them fresh, simply because they usually aren't available at Whole Foods. However, this past weekend, I spotted a ton of these dull green pods, so I scooped up plenty of them. Once I brought them home, I broke open their double layer of tough outer husks to reveal the small and vibrant green-colored beans inside. I gave them a quick boil and saute in Earth Balance and garlic, then combined them into a salad with tons of fresh mint, red quinoa and raw cashews. Everything tasted amazingly crisp and clean and summery together here, and was a great way to use the fava beans in a new way. Top with a little squirt of olive oil at the end when serving to add another layer of richness and complexity to this gorgeous and satisfying salad.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup red quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
fresh fava beans, any amount
1 TB Earth Balance
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
One small red onion, minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh mint, packed and chopped chiffonade
1/2 cup raw cashews
olive oil, for serving

METHOD
Place the quinoa into a fine-meshed sieve and rinse it very well for several minutes. Heat an empty medium-sized saucepan over medium heat for a minute or two. Add in the quinoa and toast until all the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Now add the water to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place a lid over the pot and reduce the heat to its lowest setting to simmer for about 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this time.

After 15 minutes, remove the quinoa from the heat and let it sit for 5-7 minutes, covered. Then remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the fava beans, remove the tough outer husks and discard. Them pierce the light-green skin covering each bean with a knife to reveal the small, bright green fava bean inside.

Bring a small pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Throw in the fava beans and boil them for about three minutes. Drain and rinse the beans off in very cold water. Set aside.

Next, give them a quick saute in the Earth Balance and garlic, about a minute or so, just until the garlic is softened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

I love raw onions, so kept them that way in this salad, but if you want to saute them to make them milder, give them a saute in the same pan before assembling the salad.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, fava beans and garlic, red onion and fresh mint. Serve with a little olive oil drizzled over the top.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Creme Brulee French Toast


We finally got our new oven delivered late this week, and it's been great to finally have a fully functioning kitchen up and running again. Our old 1980-ish model oven worked fine up until the igniter died, but because it was such an eyesore in the kitchen, a little part of me went yay when it was hauled away and replaced with a pretty and new stainless steel oven. This french toast was one of the first things to come out of it, and it tasted absolutely amazing: it was soft and cakey in the middle, and that texture was perfectly sealed in by a glazey sear on the outside. Thanks to The Vegg, this featured a custard-like flavor and an airy quality I haven't been able to replicate before in a french toast.

I've never had "real" challah before, but decided to use it to make this french toast due to its described cake-like quality. Challah recipes traditionally include eggs, but I was able to easily swap that out with equal parts of The Vegg and Ener-G. Our entire house smelled like a bakery while this was in the oven last night, and managed to linger around through to the next morning. This bread was so good straight out of the oven, I could have eaten an entire loaf of it in one sitting. It was rich, puffy, buttery, cakey, slightly sweet and just perfect on its own.

INGREDIENTS
for the challah
I followed this recipe, but substituted a mixture of 1 tsp of The Vegg with 1 tsp of Ener-G, mixed with 1/4 cup water for the egg. Instead of glazing the bread as instructed, I just sprayed it with some cooking spray during the last 10 minutes of the baking time.

for the french toast
One loaf of challah or other bread, sliced and left out overnight to dry out
1 tsp of The Vegg
1 tsp of Ener-G egg replacer
1/4 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup of almond, soy or hemp milk
1 tsp whiskey
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 tsp vanilla extract

for the coconut cream
optional. Side note: I loved this on the french toast, but my husband was not a fan.

remaining coconut milk from can
1 tsp Ener-G
1/2 tsp salt
1 TB powdered sugar
1 TB coconut oil

METHOD
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place The Vegg, Ener-G and water in a Kitchen Aid mixer. Mix on high, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix again. Add in the rest of the ingredients and whisk on medium high for 2-3 minutes.

Pour half of the mixture into a large glass pyrex dish that's been sprayed with a little cooking spray. Place the slices of bread into it, swirling it around to ensure all pieces are well coated. Pour a bit more of the mixture over the top. You want the bread to be moist, but not swimming in the mixture.

Place it into the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and flip all of the pieces over. If any of them look a little dry, add a bit more of the mixture over the top. Place back into the oven to bake for about 15 minutes more.

If you want to make the coconut cream sauce while you wait for the french toast to finish baking, rinse out the Kitchen Aid bowl and mixture, then place all of the ingredients into it, and whisk on medium high for three minutes. Then, place it in the freezer to slightly chill.

To sear your french toast, preheat a skillet over medium-high heat for about two minutes, Spray with a little cooking spray, then place the french toast pieces into it for about two minutes per side, or until a nice sear forms.

Top with the chilled coconut cream, or powdered sugar and syrup.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Flowering Chive and Garlic Dumplings






































There is a Thai takeout place near us that has the best dumpling appetizer. The dough is soft and stretchy, packed with perfectly seasoned greens and served with a beautifully spicy soy-ginger sauce. Because I've made my own dumpling wrappers before and love the meditative and repetitive process involved, I decided to try to make these supple and gorgeous dumplings myself this weekend. To replicate them, I pulled some steps from this recipe and method as well as this one, and the end result was pretty close to the takeout version. The trick here is to use parchment paper to sandwich the dough in while rolling them out into the thinnest shape possible—it prevents sticking and helps to produce a perfect vessel for stuffing the garlic and sesame seasoned chives into.

INGREDIENTS
for the dough
1 cup wheat starch
1/4 cup tapioca flour or starch
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oil
1 cup vegetable broth

for the filling
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups flowering chives, chopped and tips reserved
1 TB dark sesame oil

for the sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB fresh ginger, grated on a microplane grater
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
pinch of red pepper flakes

METHOD
Place all of the wrapper ingredients, except for the boiling broth, into a Kitchen-Aid mixer. Attach the flat beater and mix on low for a few seconds to combine. Heat the broth in the microwave until it comes to a boil and then add it to the mixture and knead at a high setting for several minutes, until the dough is soft and pliable.

Roll the dough into one large ball, then separate them into four small balls. Roll each ball into a cylinder shape, about six inches long. Place three of them onto a greased plate and cover with saran wrap while you make the first four wrappers.

Divide the cylinder into four equal pieces. Take one piece in your hand and mold it into a flat circular shape. Place it in between two sheets of parchment paper, then use a mini roller to get them as thin as possible. They don't need to be a perfect circle.

Place the finished wrappers under the saran wrap while you make the rest of the wrappers.

To make the filling, heat the sesame oil over medium low heat, then add in the garlic and chopped chives. Gently saute for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the garlic doesn't burn. Remove from the pan to cool and set aside.

Make your sauce by combining all of the sauce ingredients. Set aside.

To assemble your dumplings, place a small amount of the filling into the center of one of the wrappers. Pull one side up to the center and continue with all sides to make a nice scalloped shape, then flatten them out between the palms of your hand. They don't need to look perfect.

To fry the dumplings, heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts smoking, place as many dumplings as you can in the pan without having any of them too close or touching each other. Sear for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the bottom is nicely browned.

Now add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup water into the pan. Be really careful, because the water will sputter. Quickly cover the pan with a tight lid and reduce the heat to low. Let it steam for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, flip the dumplings and dial the heat back up to medium and saute until the water has all evaporated.

Repeat these steps until all of the dumplings have been fried, then serve immediately with the ginger dipping sauce and garnish with the reserved flowering chive tips.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Muhammara


The first time I heard of, saw and tasted muhammara was the same day I had a bag of it literally tossed at me. Let me explain: I went into this small Turkish takeout restaurant during lunchtime with a friend one day, ordered a little container of it, waited in line and purchased it from the typically surly guy who is always at the register. On this particular day, however, this guy was especially irate. As my friend and I stood to the side waiting for our orders to be called, this guy came out from the behind the counter with my order and rudely tossed it at me. Although it was kind of embarrassing and insulting at the time, it was worth the mini-drama in the end ... that muhammara was rich, tangy, bright orange and tasted amazing!

I haven't had muhammara from that restaurant since then for obvious reasons, so I decided to make it myself this weekend with great results. The concept here is similar to hummus or baba ghanoush, and it was easy to replicate the flavor and texture to produce a very similar-tasting dish.

INGREDIENTS
2 large red bell peppers or 2 large roasted jarred red bell peppers
1 piece of sandwich bread, any kind
1/3 cup walnuts
1 large shallot, sliced
4-6 gloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp cumin
1 TB sriracha or 1 tsp red pepper flakes

METHOD

If using fresh peppers, brush them all over with a thin coat of olive oil and place them on a hot grill. Roast each side about 4 minutes, until they are charred and black all over. Then place them into a deep pot and cover with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes. Rub off any of the black char, then chop off the stem, and scrape out the seeds. Set aside.

Toast the piece of bread, then cut off the crusts and place it into a food processor. Pulse a few times to create breadcrumbs. Add the roasted red pepper to the food processor and pulse again.

Place a small sautepan on your stovetop and let it become very warm over medium heat, about two minutes. Place the walnuts into the pan for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, and then transfer them to the food processor.

Place about a teaspoon of olive oil into the same saute pan and add in the shallot slices. Saute for about a minute, then toss in the garlic for about a minute more, stirring to prevent the garlic from burning. Transfer this to the food processor, then pulse a few more times.

Add in the rest of the ingredients, then pulse again until the desired smoothness is achieved. Serve with crackers or pita wedges. Also tastes fantastic on toast or as a sauce for grilled tofu.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dried and Fried Sriracha Chickpeas






































Chickpeas and sriracha taste amazing together. I originally wanted to douse these these chickpeas in sriracha and roast them but, last week, the igniter inside our oven broke, so I used my dehydrator to dry them out instead. After about 10 hours, they emerged from the dehydrator smelling and tasting fantastic, but the texture was still slightly too chewy. So I threw a handful of them into a saute pan with some oil which transformed them into a perfectly crispy and addictive chickpea. Store the dehydrated chickpeas in an airtight container (they'll last about a week) and throw in handfuls of them into a saute pan as you'd like (they taste best straight out of the pan).

INGREDIENTS
1 19 ounce can of chickpeas
3 TB sriracha
1 TB sugar
1 tsp salt

METHOD
Rinse the chickpeas well and place them on a kitchen towel. Pat dry.

Place the sriracha and salt in a large bowl. Add in the chickpeas and coat evenly. Sprinkle with the sugar and transfer to a dehydrator tray lined with a fruit tray. Set at 130 degrees and dehydrate for for 10-12 hours. Seal in an airtight container.

To saute them, add a little olive oil to a saute pan over medium-low heat. Throw in a desired amount of chickpeas for a minute or two only, shaking the pan to prevent scorching.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vegan Mozzarella, Cherry Tomato and Basil Skewers




Although I've made melty vegan mozzarella cheese before with success, getting the texture just right for a solid mozzarella cheese has been a bit of a challenge. You need the right ratios of agar for firmness, xantham gum for binding, tapioca flour for stretchiness and potato starch or arrowroot for bulk to get that firm-yet-springy texture of real mozzarella cheese. This version hits the mark not only in texture, but also in taste, and looks lovely skewered caprese-style with some fresh basil and tomato, and finished with a few drops of fresh balsamic vinegar.

INGREDIENTS
for the mozzarella
1 TB potato starch powder or arrowroot powder
1/2 TB tapioca flour or starch
5 TB water
1 can good quality, full-fat coconut milk (403 mL)
3 tsp agar powder
1 1/2 tsp coconut vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 TB coconut oil
1 tsp xantham gum

to serve
cherry tomatoes
fresh basil leaves
balsamic vinegar

METHOD
Combine the potato starch and tapioca flour or starch with the water in a small bowl and stir until fully dissolved. Set aside.

Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a low boil. While you are waiting for the coconut milk to boil, place the coconut oil and xantham gum in a Kitchen Aid mixer on its highest setting and blend for a few seconds. Once the coconut milk has achieved a low boil, add in the agar powder and whisk briskly until dissolved, then add in the vinegar and salt. Reduce the stovetop heat to its lowest setting, then add in the flour mixture and the xantham gum/oil mixture, whisking very quickly to combine, then transfer to a small-cubed silicone ice cube tray before it gets too thick to pour. Speed with this step is very important. Then place into the refrigerator to fully set for a few hours.

When ready to serve, assemble the mozzarella cubes with the tomatoes and basil leaves on skewers or a toothpick. Spoon or pipe some fresh balsamic vinegar over the top and serve immediately.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Easy Refrigerator Pickles with Flowering Chives






































These pickles are addictive, gorgeous and ridiculously easy to put together in minutes. Use whatever spices you already have on hand, a vinegar with 5% acidity and, in addition to cucumbers and red onion, any raw fresh vegetables you want. I added in the tips of some flowering chives I bought in Chinatown a week ago—besides looking lovely in the brine, they also tasted amazing and provided a contrasting spicy bite that complimented the other pickled components perfectly.

INGREDIENTS
3 cups of cucumber, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
6 gloves garlic, halved and smashed
several springs of fresh dill
several springs of flowering chives
3 cups pickling vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water (optional, if you want a milder-tasting pickle)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp black mustard seed

optional spices to add:

1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp caraway seed
1 tsp cumin seed
2-3 bay leaves

METHOD
Pack the cucumber, onion, garlic, dill and chives nicely into 2-3 Ball jars. Combine the rest of the ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, uncovered.

Pour the hot vinegar mixture into each of the jars and place the lid on immediately, then place in the refrigerator to marinate for 1-2 days without opening the lids. Use within two weeks.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Product Review: The Vegg (and a Vegan Creme Brulee)


When I came across this website a couple of months ago, I was excited to see a product called The Vegg there—a vegan equivalent of an egg yolk that looks, tastes and feels just like the real thing. So when the creator of The Vegg sent me a sample to try out last week, I decided to use it to make a vegan creme brulee, a fantastic dessert that uses only the yolk portion of an egg. Traditionally made with cream and sugar as well, this is a tough dish to veganize, as replicating the egg component is virtually impossible to do with other typical vegan ingredients.

More about The Vegg:

Ingredients: The Vegg uses all-natural ingredients like nutritional yeast flakes, kala namak and beta-carotene and contains sodium alginate, which allows the yolk mixture to be transformed into a spherical egg yolk shape if you want—you'll just need some calcium chloride to make that happen—but it's not necessary to do that for most applications of the product.

The texture, look and taste: You'll have to blend this product in water before using it (1 teaspoon of The Vegg powder mixed with 1/4 cup water will make the equivalent of two to three yolks) in a blender or a Kitchen Aid Mixer on the highest setting. It will instantly yield a mixture that looks, smells and acts just like a real egg yolk. One package of The Vegg contains enough powder to make 30-40 yolks.

The verdict: Silky and rich, with an authentic egginess throughout, this creme brulee was easy to make, addictive after the first bite, and is now my favorite dessert. For this reason alone, I love this product, endorse it 100% and look forward to using it in other dishes and applications.

Availability:
You can currently purchase The Vegg in stores listed on their website, online at Vegan Essentials or on amazon.com. 10% of net sales of the product are donated to Compassion Over Killing.

INGREDIENTS TO MAKE THE CREME BRULEE
1 can of full-fat coconut milk
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp agar powder
1 1/2 tsp of The Vegg
1/4 cup, plus 1 1/2 TB water
1/4 cup superfine sugar
extra superfine sugar, for topping

METHOD

Preheat oven to 325. Combine the coconut milk, vanilla and agar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it just starts to slightly boil, then dial the heat back to the lowest setting.

I used a Kitchen Aid mixer on its highest setting, but you can also use a blender to combine The Vegg powder with the water until well combined, about 15 seconds. Do not mix by hand or it will not work correctly. Then add in the sugar and blend again. Pour The Vegg mixture into the saucepan through a fine-mesh strainer. Whisk vigorously to combine. Keep over the heat for a minute or two so the sugar can dissolve. Turn off the heat and remove the mixture from the burner.

Create a water bath by placing two ramekins in a glass pyrex dish. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, then pour water into the glass pyrex dish until it comes up to about half the height of your ramekins.

Place it into the oven, ensuring that none of the water spills over into the ramekins. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Cover the ramekins with saran wrap, making sure it does not come into contact with the mixture. Place in the refrigerator to set overnight.

When you are ready to serve the creme brulee, sprinkle about a tablespoon of the superfine sugar over the top. Using a butane torch, sweep the flame over the top until a golden caramel color is achieved. Serve immediately.