Sunday, October 28, 2012

Peanut Butter and Sambal Wontons with Chocolate Sauce



































I am very nervous about the hurricane. I've been staying away from US and local news reports, but checking weather.com like a hawk. Our basement floor has been cleared out, water has been purchased and other preparations have been made to brace ourselves for the strong winds and rain coming our way. I can actually feel a little buzz in the air although there is barely any wind and only a little rain sprinkling right now. So there is not much to do now but wait and see what will happen.

Mindless and repetitive tasks help to take my mind off of the inevitable, so I've been in my kitchen most of the afternoon making wontons and broth for this soup, and filling the extra wrappers I had with peanut butter and sambal to create a savory dessert. I love combining hot sauce with peanut butter as well as chocolate (or both in this case) and, although it sounds a little strange, there is something quite good and completely comforting about it


INGREDIENTS
for the wontons
vegan wonton wrappers
freshly ground natural peanut butter
sambal oelek
vegetable oil, for frying

for the chocolate sauce
2 TB raw virgin coconut oil, melted
2 TB unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghirardelli brand)
1-2 TB powdered sugar


METHOD
Assemble your wontons by placing 3/4 tsp peanut butter and 1/4 tsp sambal into the center of a wonton wrapper. Fold your wontons and place to the side on a greased plate, covered by a damp paper towel until you are ready to fry them.

Heat plenty of vegetable oil in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. After about 7 minutes, insert a wooden spoon into the oil, touching the bottom of the pan. If bubbles form immediately around the spoon, you are ready to fry.

Fry only 2-3 wontons at a time, flipping them over once to ensure even frying. After 1-2 minutes, they should be golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain.

Once all of your wontons are assembled, make your chocolate sauce by whisking together the coconut oil, cocoa and powdered sugar. Serve immediately with the wontons.








Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tofu Tikka Masala
























I had bookmarked Guy Fieri's Chicken Tikka Masala recipe months ago with the intent to veganize it once the weather got a bit cooler. I've never had tikka masala before, but the concept sounded amazing to me: tons of tomato with intense and fragrant spices and rich coconut milk. So I put on my vegan thinking cap, rolled up my sleeves and enjoyed every minute of layering these components and flavors together to produce a dish that is colorful, tangy, a bit exotic and intensely spicy. This dish was so good that I not only ate this for dinner the day I made it, but also ate it for lunch at work for the next three days. This is one of those dishes that tastes great freshly made, but is even better the next day, after the flavors have had more time to mingle just a bit.

INGREDIENTS
for the marinade
2 cups canned coconut milk
1 TB paprika
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 TB dried cilantro
1 TB cumin
1-2 tsp dried habanero
one diced fresh red chili (optional)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 block firm tofu, pressed

for the sauce
2 TB vegetable oil
2 TB Earth Balance
1 onion, chopped or sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB tomato paste

2 tsp garam masala
cinnamon stick
14.5 oz. fire-roasted canned tomatoes
1 TB red wine vinegar

1 tsp salt
reserved tofu marinade 

1/4-1/2 cup fresh cilantro

cooked rice, for serving
extra chopped cilantro, for serving

METHOD

First, slice and press one block of tofu very well. Then, make your tofu marinade by combining all of the marinade ingredients (except for the tofu) into a large glass pyrex dish. Then slice your pressed tofu any way you like, and place it into the marinade, flipping once to coat. Cover and place into the refrigerator for a few hours to overnight.

When you are ready to make the dish, heat the oil and vegan butter in a medium-sized dutch oven over medium heat. Add in the onions and saute for about 4 minutes. Then add in the tomato paste and garam masala and stir to combine. Saute for another 4 minutes. Throw in the cinnamon stick.

Now add in the canned tomatoes, vinegar and salt and stir. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat.

After 30 minutes has passed, remove your tofu from the refrigerator. Preheat another skillet over medium heat. Remove the tofu from the mariande, tapping off any excess sauce and place onto the skillet. Reserve the leftover marinade. Saute on each side until golden brown, about 7 minutes each side.

Return to your sauce and transfer any leftover marinade into your sauce using a rubber spatula. Stir to combine, remove from the heat, and stir in the fresh cilantro.

To serve, place the tofu onto a plate or bowl and spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with extra fresh cilantro and serve with rice. 








































Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Raw Tahini Butter Chocolate Cups











I rarely eat desserts simply because the amount of sugar in them is way too strong for me. I also don't make desserts that often, because doing so is way out of my comfort zone. However, after repeatedly seeing the method for making these raw chocolate cups on several other blogs, I decided I'd try to make them myself but scale back the sweetness to create a rich and semi-savory dessert instead. And instead of filling these with peanut butter, I decided to fill these instead with a mixture of raw tahini for richness, ground raw cashews for texture and a touch of raw mellow miso for a hint of saltiness. The end result was a unique-tasting and adorable dessert that was also easy to make in less than 20 minutes.

INGREDIENTS

for the filling
1/4 cup of raw cashews
3 TB raw tahini
1/8 cup water
1-2 tsp of mellow or chickpea miso

for the chocolate

2/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghirardelli brand)
1-4 TB of raw agave syrup, to taste 

METHOD

Place the raw cashews into a small food processor and grind into a fine powder. Add in the tahini and water and blend until well-combined. Then add in the miso and blend again. The mixture should be firm like peanut butter and easy to mold into a small disc in your hands.

In a small measuring cup, melt the coconut oil in the microwave. Whisk in the chocolate and agave. Pour a thin layer of the chocolate into the bottom of 4 cupcake liners. Place in the freezer to set for a few minutes.

Take about a teaspoon of the filling and roll it into a ball. Flatten it out into a disc. Repeat until 4 discs are formed. Remove the cupcake liners from the freezer, place the disc on top, making sure a thin ring of chocolate is still exposed at the bottom of the cupcake liner, then pour more of the raw chocolate on top, until the disc is completely covered and the top is smooth. Then place in the freezer for 8-10 more minutes to set. (You may have some of the extra filling left over.) 

Miso is perishable, so keep the cups in the refrigerator unless you are serving them immediately.




Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vegan Scallops in a White Wine Cream Sauce over Pasta









About 10 years ago, I would occasionally go to an Italian chain restaurant for dinner near my house in South Carolina. I would get the same thing every time I went: bow tie pasta drenched in cream and butter and topped with tons of salmon lox, capers and freshly grated Romano cheese. Although it was kind of fantastic at the time, I can't imagine consuming those ingredients any more. Last night, I randomly recalled this dish and decided to whip up something similar, but decided to use sliced king oyster stems in place of the salmon and a bit of coconut cream to replicate the richness and creaminess of the sauce. This was a cinch to throw together in about 45 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight dinner. It is pretty, simple, smells amazing and tastes heavenly.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups bow tie pasta
2 TB Earth Balance, divided
4-5 shallots, minced (about one cup)
a few pinches of salt
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup vegetable broth
1 TB canned coconut milk (skim the cream off the top of the can)
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped and divided
1 TB fresh lemon zest, divided
4-5 king oyster mushroom stems, sliced and soaked in warm water for 30 minutes to an hour
1-2 TB capers
fresh cracked pepper

METHOD
Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil, then add some olive oil and salt and cook pasta according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, make your sauce. Melt one tablespoon of Earth Balance in a skillet over medium heat, then add in the minced shallot and sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, then stir to coat and saute for about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes more. Increase the heat to high. After about a minute, pour in the wine white and allow to sizzle for about 30 seconds. Dial the heat back to medium, then add in the broth. Allow to simmer and reduce for a few minutes. Add in the coconut cream and stir to combine, then add in half of the fresh parsley and half of the lemon zest.

By this time, your pasta should be done. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, drain and transfer the cooked pasta straight from the pot by spoonfuls into the sauce. Stir to combine. Let simmer under the lowest heat possible while you prepare your scallops.

In a separate skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of Earth Balance over medium heat. Remove the mushrooms from the water (no need to dry them), then add them to the skillet and cover. Allow them soften for about 7 minutes. Remove the lid and allow the liquid to evaporate. As it does, the mushrooms will develop a slight caramelized color. Once that golden color is achieved on both sides, remove them from the heat. Add them to the skillet with the pasta and sauce, and toss to coat.



Transfer the pasta to serving bowls and sprinkle with the leftover fresh parsley, lemon zest and capers. Sprinkle with a little fresh cracked pepper and serve immediately.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

White Bean and Mushroom Soup with Dill-Pepper Dumplings







































The other day, I was craving soup and dumplings, but didn't want to use tofu or some kind of faux chicken product as the protein. So I dug through my pantry and landed upon some cannellini beans that I decided would probably taste good in the soup and added in some leftover mushrooms from my refrigerator. These two things ended up tasting really good together, and were perfectly complimented by dill and fresh thyme. To make the dumplings, I used Bisquick (I love Bisquick) and added fresh dill and cracked black pepper. These dumplings were light and fluffy and melted into the soup, creating a dish that's warm and cozy and perfect to tuck into at the end of a chilly day. 

INGREDIENTS
4 TB olive oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
5-6 cloves or garlic, minced
1 TB fresh thyme, minced
1 TB dill, dried
1 TB mirin or broth
5-6 baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, sliced and chopped
1 can of cannellini beans (15 oz.), rinsed
1-2 TB Earth Balance, optional
5 cups homemade stock (use onion and mushroom to make stock if you can) or Imagine brand No-Chicken broth
2/3 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk

2-3 TB fresh dill, chopped
several dashes of fresh cracked pepper
2 cups Bisquick
mellow miso, to serve

METHOD
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add in the flour and stir to combine. Add in the onion and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, lowering the heat a bit if the flour starts to brown.

Sprinkle the onions with the garlic and mushrooms and saute for 4-5 minutes, then add in the fresh thyme and dried dill and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium high. Once it starts to sizzle, deglaze the pan with the mirin or broth and lower the heat back down to medium. Add in the beans and add a little Earth Balance if the mixture is dry. Add in the stock and allow to come to a small boil. Dial the heat back down to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the soup is simmering, make your dumpling batter. Combine the unsweetened almond or soy milk with the chopped dill and cracked pepper in a measuring cup. In another small bowl, measure out the dry Bisquick. Slowly pour the liquid into the Bisquick, stirring gently until combined. Do not overstir or the dumplings will be tough.

Drop tablespoon-sized spoonfuls of the Bisquick batter into the soup. Cover and  allow to simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the dumplings to rise and soften.

The dumplings taste best fresh, so if you want to make a smaller batch, just transfer some of the broth to another bowl and refrigerate until ready to use and reduce the amount of Bisquick batter accordingly.

Before serving, remove about a cup of the hot broth and add 1-2 TB of mellow miso. Stir until dissolved, and add in back into the pot. Then ladle the soup into bowls and top with the dumplings. Serve immediately.











Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Mac and Cheese







































This roasted red pepper cheddar can be prepared in two ways: as a firm shreddable cheese or as a melty sauce. Either way, it creates a rich, cheese-like base to drench pasta in, and makes an addictive mac and cheese. This recipe is similar to this deep-fried version I made a few months ago, except I threw in a roasted red pepper for flavor and color, and then baked it. The end result was a crispy-topped mac and cheese, with a rich and gooey center, making it a perfect comfort food dish for fall.


INGREDIENTS
One can of full-fat coconut milk
1 tsp coconut vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp agar powder
a few dash of ground white pepper
1 TB tapioca flour, blended with 1 TB cold water
2 TB nutritional yeast
5 oz. prepared roasted red pepper
1 cup elbow macaroni
1/4 - 1/3 cup almond or rice milk
panko breadcrumbs

METHOD
To make shreddable cheddar
Combine the coconut milk, vinegar, salt, agar powder and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk briskly until it comes to a small boil, and continue to whisk for a minute or two more. Remove from the heat, then whisk in the tapioca/water mixture and nutritional yeast. Throw in the roasted red pepper and combine it by either using an immersion blender or quickly transferring to a blender to puree. Pour the contents into a glass pyrex, cover, then allow to set in the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to make the macaroni, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil, add in the dry macaroni and cook per the package instructions. Reduce the heat to low, then drain the pasta well and return it to the pot. Then, using a cheese grater, grate as much of the cheese as you want over the top. Stir well to combine. Add a little almond or rice milk to moisten. Bake for 15 minutes in a heat-resistant vessel. Add some panko breadcrumbs to the top and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the panko is slightly golden brown. Serve immediately.

To make melty cheddar
Follow the instructions in the first paragraph above, but reduce the agar amount from 2 tsp to 1/2 tsp and omit the addition of almond or rice milk. Pour the cheddar on top of cooked macaroni and bake at 400 per the instructions in the second paragraph above.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Soft Pretzel Bites







































The other day, I spotted a bag of Combos while I was in a gas station. Combos! I used to love these, and am kind of irritated that they have to use cheese in every single flavor (and while googling, I found out there are some particularly bizarre flavors that not only feature dairy, but also this strange abomination.)

So I decided I'd try to whip up a batch of my own homemade combos, and used Alton Brown's Homemade Hard Pretzels recipe as the base, leaving out the egg wash portion. However, this dough was super-soft and basically impossible to cut and mold into a combo shape with a hollow center, so I decided to bake them according to the instructions in his Homemade Soft Pretzels recipe, even though the ratios were not correct. Although they didn't resemble anything near what I originally intended them to be, they were soft and delicious, and tasted amazing straight out of the oven with mustard and horseradish (I brushed the tops with raw agave instead of an egg wash, which gave it a nice and subtle sweetness).

I'm going to try to make vegan combos again, as I did create a vegan cheese filling that tasted very similar to the real thing. Until then, if I need a junk food fix, I'll just grab a bag of vegan Doritos





Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodles





















There are several recipes and sauces that I prepare by feel instead of by measuring, simply because I've made them so many times. This sauce is one of those recipes, which I use in tofu dishes, stir frys or noodle dishes once or twice a week. I love using dark toasted sesame oil in this sauce—it imparts a complex and earthy flavor into whatever it's put on, while the sharp bite of freshly grated ginger balances everything else out perfectly.

INGREDIENTS
1 TB dark toasted sesame oil
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 TB mirin (or broth)
1 TB soy sauce
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp sriracha

1 serving of buckwheat noodles
2 TB fresh kale, finely chopped
black and white sesame seeds


METHOD
Heat the sesame oil in a small saute pan over low heat. Throw in the sliced shallots and saute for about 4 minutes.

Add in the minced garlic and grated ginger and saute for about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high. When it has sizzled for about a minute, add in the mirin or broth to deglaze the pan, then reduce the heat back down to low. 

Add in the soy sauce, vinegar, agave and sriracha and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In another small pot, bring plenty of water to a boil. Add in the soba, stirring to prevent sticking, and boil for about 4 minutes. Test a noodle to make sure it's ready before rinsing it thoroughly in a strainer under cold water. 


Toss the noodles with the sauce and sprinkle with the minced kale and sesame seeds. Serve by itself or with a side of simple sauteed tofu.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Figs and Shallots with Herbed Socca
























When I lived in South Carolina several years ago, I had a friend who lived in a house with a couple of fig trees in the backyard. She had grown up in that house, and fresh figs had always been available to her for as long as she could remember. Because of this, the figs weren't that much of a novelty to her, but I found this endless supply of supple and expensive fruit growing just a few feet away from her home an amazing concept. Those beautifully fresh and vibrant figs tasted much better than what I could find in the supermarket, and they were free.

Because of this, I always grumble a bit at having to pay a few dollars for a handful of them at the supermarket, so I rarely buy them. However, this morning, I saw some really pretty black mission figs at Whole Foods that I couldn't resist, so I picked them up and decided to pair them with shallots and walnuts for a sweet and savory roasted dish. Served with a side of simple herbed socca, this makes a perfect appetizer or light dinner. Both components are very easy to prepare and look really beautiful together fresh from the oven.

INGREDIENTS

for the socca
1/2 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup water
a few dashes of salt and pepper

1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 TB olive oil


for the skillet
1 TB olive oil

4-5 shallots, skinned and halved
8-10 fresh figs, halved
a handful of walnut halves

1-2 TB balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme


METHOD
To make the socca, whisk together all of the socca ingredients and one tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place a small cast-iron skillet in the oven during the preheating time. Remove it, and place the remaining  tablespoon of olive oil into the pan. Tilt the skillet to ensure coverage, then pour the batter into the skillet. Tilt it to ensure the batter is evenly coated in the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the socca by flipping it onto a plate. Set aside.

Place one tablespoon of olive oil back into the skillet. Throw in the halved shallots and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, then flip them over and roast for an additional 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Now place the halved figs and walnuts into the skillet, and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the top. Stir gently to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. During the last 3 minutes of roast time, throw in a few sprigs of fresh thyme of top.

Serve straight out of the skillet with the herbed socca.


























Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Homemade Thai Sweet Chili Sauce with Fried Tofu



































Fried food + spicy sauce = magic. Although I love all vegan foods fried, my favorite thing to fry is plain tofu coated in cornstarch that's been dredged first in an Ener-G and water slurry. Once placed into oil to fry, the edges become perfectly crisp and sharp, as if they've been starched and ironed (and I guess they have been, in a way). It looks beautiful and tastes amazing.

Last year and again this year, a friend of mine gave me several pounds of fresh hot habanero peppers from her father's garden (yes, pounds). I used them to make a batch of homemade sriracha like I did last year, and it's currently been marinating on my counter for the past week. I reserved a few extra peppers this year, and made a thai sweet chili sauce with one of them. A
lthough you can buy this sauce prepared in a bottle, this made-from-scratch version is simple to make in minutes, contains no additives or preservatives and tastes really fresh and vibrant. I made the heat level in this batch pretty intense (fresh-from-the-garden habaneros are hot!), but you can adjust the spice level any way you want, using any type or amount of hot sauce.

INGREDIENTS
for the sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 TB sugar
1/8 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 TB sambal oelek (more or less, to taste)
very finely minced fresh hot pepper, to taste (optional)
1 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 1 TB cold water

for the tofu
1 block of firm tofu (no need to press it)
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB cold water
3/4 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil, for frying

METHOD
Place the first four sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the g
arlic, sambal, fresh hot pepper (if using) and allow to simmer for about a minute. Give it a taste, adjusting any of the flavors as needed. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes to slightly reduce. Then add in the cornstarch/water mixture and whisk until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Cut the tofu block in half and then those halves into halves. Then cut the pieces into right-angle triangles. Set aside.

In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil (enough to submerge the triangles in) over medium-high heat. After about 7 minutes, test the oil's readiness by inserting a wooden spoon into the pot—if bubbles immediately form around the spoon, the oil is ready.

Dip the tofu triangles into the Ener-G mixture, and then coat it in some of the cornstarch, making sure all sides are covered and tapping off any excess. Place the triangles, two at a time, into the oil and fry until golden, about 4 minutes. Make sure that they do not touch each other or stick to the bottom of the pan by using heat-resistant tongs to move them as needed. Carefully remove from the pot and place on paper towels to drain.

Serve immediately with the thai sweet chili sauce.








Monday, October 1, 2012

Vegan Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Paprika Cream Sauce
























I've never had a bacon-wrapped scallop before, even when I ate meat. However, I wanted to replicate this dish simply because I love the concept of tinyfancy and sushi-shaped food. These one-bite appetizers were easy to make, used only a few ingredients and tasted amazing. Here I've used sliced king oyster mushroom stems for the scallops (an idea I read about in Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook), Lightlife's Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips and a garlic cream sauce with a pinch of smoked paprika added in at the end. This is succulent, smoky, rich and salty—and perfect to make for a small dinner gathering or as a starter for two.

INGREDIENTS

for the sauce
1 tsp Earth Balance 
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TB coconut cream (skim it off the top part of the can)
4 TB homemade stock or Imagine brand No Chicken broth
1/8 tsp smoked paprika

2 king oyster mushroom stems, sliced and soaked in water for 20 minutes
1 TB oil
6-8 slices of tempeh bacon
liquid smoke
fresh cracked pepper

METHOD
To make the sauce, melt the vegan butter in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add in the garlic and allow to soften for about 30 seconds. Add in the coconut cream and saute for about a minute. Turn the heat up to medium and add in the broth. Allow to sizzle for a minute or two, then whisk in the paprika. Remove from the heat and transfer the sauce to another bowl.

Return the pan to the stove and allow it to heat for about a minute over medium heat. Add in a little olive oil or vegan butter, then very carefully place the mushrooms into the pan. (Since they contain water, they will sputter once they hit the heat.) Place a lid over the top and allow the mushrooms to cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they are slightly brown on top. Remove from the heat and transfer to another plate to cool.

In the same saute pan, add a little more oil if the pan is dry, then add in the tempeh strips. Allow to cook on each side for 4-5 minutes, checking them occasionally to ensure they do not burn. Once they are almost done, add a few dashes of liquid smoke, then allow it to sizzle, then remove from the heat.

To assemble them, wrap a piece of tempeh around the scallop so both end slightly overlap each other. Cut off any excess, then spear with a toothpick. Spoon an little of the sauce over the top and serve immediately.