Sunday, March 31, 2013

Vegan Port Wine Cheese

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The first time I tried roasted red pepper hummus, I had to keep rechecking the package ingredients to make sure it didn't have any actual dairy or whey in it, because it just tasted so cheesy to me. Since then, I've used roasted red peppers and raw cashews (because of its neutral taste and high fat content) to replicate this flavor in things like this dish, and this one, as well as a 
coating for kale chipssimply because it tastes so rich and complex. Here I've incorporated that same concept into a port wine cheese ball. This mixture is packed with quinoa and raw tahini for bulk, an array of nuts for texture, and a splash of port wine to give it a depth of flavor and a little boozy kick.

1 cup vegetable or Imagine brand No-Chicken broth
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup raw cashews
10 oz. prepared roasted red peppers
3 TB port wine

1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 TB raw tahini
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts, roughly crushed
3/4 cup almonds, crushed into a fine powder.

To make the quinoa, place the broth into a small saucepan over medium heat. While you wait for the broth to come to a small boil, place the quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water to remove the bitter saponin coating. Then transfer the quinoa to a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat. Toast for a few minutes. By now, your broth should be at a low boil. Scrape the quinoa into the broth, stir and cover it with a tight lid. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. All of the broth should be fully absorbed by the quinoa. Set aside to cool.

Place the raw cashews into a food processor and grind into a fine powder. Add in the roasted red peppers and port wine. Pulse until fully combined. Add in the nutritional yeast, tahini and salt, then pulse again. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, and stir in the crushed walnuts and cooled quinoa.

Place in the freezer for about an hour to allow the mixture to slightly firm up so you can form it into two large cheese balls or several small cheese balls. They can then be placed into the refrigerator or set out at room temperature for 45 minutes before rolling them in the crushed almonds to serve. This can alternatively be served as a cheesy spread—just place it directly into the refrigerator after combining the mixture.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Miso and Brown Sugar Glazed Shiitake Caps

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Shiitake mushrooms are fantastic for several reasons: they are cheap (when the flower variety is chosen), they boast a variety of health benefits and have the ability to produce faux-meaty textures with minimal ingredients and effort. I often use them fresh or dried to produce soups, patés, sushi and gravies, and love their ability to easily impart a unique woodsy flavor into any dish or application. Here I've filled some shiitake caps with a blend of mellow miso and brown sugar to create a double dose of umami, then topped it off with some freshly sliced thai chilis and flowering chives to balance everything out and give them a little pop of color.

3 TB sweet white or mellow miso
3 TB vegetable broth
1 TB brown sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
1 tsp rice vinegar
8-10 shiitake caps (use the strong and sturdy "flower" variety)
1 thai chili, sliced
sliced chives or scallions, to serve
black and white sesame seeds, to serve

Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with a silpat. Set aside.

Destem the shiitake caps and rinse well and pat dry. Place them, cap side up, into a saute pan. Fill the pan with enough water to cover the bottom 1 inch. Place a lid over the top and heat for a few minutes to slightly soften them.

Combine the first six ingredients into a bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Remove from the pan and set onto a paper towel to slightly drain. Place the caps, gill-side up, onto the silpat. Spoon the miso mixture into each of the caps. Place into the oven to bake for 30 minutes. The mushrooms are done when the tops are bubbly and slightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool.

Garnish with the chilis, chives and sesame seeds. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. These taste best at room temperature.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pistachio-Crusted Tofu with Horseradish Cream

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Next to molecular cooking, deep-frying is my favorite thing to do in the kitchen. I love the process of slathering batter over a piece of tofu or something a little more exotic, dunking it into hot oil, then seeing something beautifully crispy, decadent and golden emerge from it. To deep-fry simply and properly, you only need the following:

  • A small 1 to 2-quart stainless steel saucepan (don't use non-stick)
  • Some good quality canola oil (you can reuse it a few times, just allow the used oil to cool completely—then strain and store in a container in the refrigerator until it's ready to use again)
  • Ener-G: this product is gold when it comes to frying. It allows the oil to repel perfectly off the food, leaving you with a non-greasy and crispy coating.
  • Heat-resistant tongs or chopsticks
  • Paper towels, for draining

Here I've used a combination of cornstarch and crushed pistachios to make a crispy and savory crust for tofu. The rest of the dish was made from bits and pieces of leftover items in my refrigerator: the sauce is a tangy and melt-in-your mouth concoction made from coconut milk and horseradish, and everything is served over a bed of equal parts fresh parsley and couscous.

for the horseradish cream
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
1/4 tsp coconut or apple cider vinegar
1/2 TB prepared horseradish, or more, to taste
1/2 tsp dried mustard, or 1 tsp prepared mustard

for the couscous
1-2 TB Earth Balance
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 TB raw pine nuts

for the tofu
1 cup raw pistachios, coarsely crushed in a food processor
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water
1 block firm tofu, sliced into four slabs, then sliced diagonally to create 8 right-angled triangles (no need to press it)
plenty of oil, for frying

Whisk all of the horseradish cream ingredients together. Set aside or place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the rest of the dish.

Heat the Earth Balance and broth in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Add in the couscous and salt and stir to combine. Cover and remove from the heat. Allow to sit without removing the lid while you make the tofu.

Combine the pistachios and cornstarch together in a wide and shallow bowl. In another wide and shallow bowl, whisk together the water and Ener-G.

Place plenty of oil into a small saucepan (I use a small, 1 quart pan, filled about 3/4 full of canola oil.) Heat over medium-high heat. After about 6 minutes, throw a pinch of the pistachio-cornstarch batter into the oil. If it bubbles immediately, you are ready to fry.

Working one or two triangles at a time, dip the tofu into the Ener-G/water mixture, then place it into the pistachio-cornstarch mixture. Press the coating all over the tofu, and tap off any extra. Place into the oil and fry for about 3 minutes. Using heat-resistant tongs, make sure the tofu doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, and use the tongs to turn the tofu around int he oil to ensure all sides fry evenly.

Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle immediately with a little salt. Repeat until all 8 triangles are fried.

Return to the couscous. Stir in the parsley. Place the pine nuts in a dry pan, and allow to toast over medium heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally and watching it closely to prevent burning. Add to the couscous and stir well.

To serve, place the couscous on the bottom of a plate. Stack the tofu on top, and spoon some of the horseradish cream onto the side. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shiitake Bacon

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Isa Chandra Moskowitz is right—vegans will make bacon out of anything. Eggplant, coconut, mushrooms and tempeh have all been used to recreate various crispy and salty bacon analogs. While some may balk at the concept, I happen to love it, as it shows that the smoky, savory and greasy quality of bacon—the aspects that make it so endearing to foodies and meat eaters—can be easily replicated using completely vegan ingredients. 

This idea certainly isn't minebut I decided I'd try it out after after buying a huge bag of shiitake mushrooms in Chinatown late last week. I've seen two varieties of shiitakes in Boston—"flower mushrooms" (花菇) large, meaty ones with thick stems and "winter mushrooms" (冬菇) lighter, spongier ones with slender stems. I used the larger (and significantly cheaper) kind for making these, and they were perfect in this application. They came out of the oven crispy along the edges, and slightly chewier and succulent towards the center. Besides eating them as is, these would be perfect sprinkled on top of a vegan clam chowder or split pea soupserved alongside a tofu scramble or french toast, tossed in roasted brussel sprouts or used in a sandwich.

1 TB olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
2 cups shiitake mushroom caps, sliced thinly

Preheat oven to 350. Place a silpat over a baking sheet, set aside.

Combine all of the ingredients except for the sliced shiitake into a shallow glass pyrex or bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add in the sliced shiitake, and stir gently to combine. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes to an hour.

Place the shiitake in a single layer onto the silpat. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake for an additional 15 minutes*. Increase the heat to 375, then bake for 10 minutes more. Flip, then finish for 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on them towards the end to ensure they do not burn.

Remove from the oven and place on paper towels to drain. As they drain, the edges will become crispy. Serve immediately.

*Baking times will differ based on the thickness and type of shiitake you are using. After baking for 15-20 minutes, just keep an eye on them to prevent burning.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nut Butter Universe, by Robin Robertson: Review and Recipe

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I am a huge fan of Robin Robertson's cookbooks. Her recipes always turn out fantastic, and her cookbooks are all written in an approachable and thoughtful way. I have several of her books at home and use them often, so when Vegan Heritage Press sent me her latest release, Nut Butter Universe, to review on the blog, I was excited to see if it would measure up to her other books. 

Nut Butter Universe contains more than 100 completely vegan recipes, all of which incorporate some kind of nut butter to impart a richness and depth into each dish. In most of the recipes, the addition of nuts allows the need for added oil to be significantly reduced or eliminated, creating an alternative for those seeking to reduce "bad fats" in their diet. 

The first section of the book includes recipes for making basic nut-based items, like cashew sour cream, tahini and sesame butter. These recipes can either be used on their own, or incorporated into other recipes contained in the following chapters. If you want soup, you can make Robin's cream of chesnut soup or her artichoke-walnut butter bisque, or any of the other 10 soup recipes inside. There is a wide array of dip and spread recipes here, like smoke and spice almond hummus, as well as salads and side dishes, which include roasted sweet potato salad with almond butter and curried cashew chicory fritters. Main dishes include a szechuan stir-fry with fiery peanut sauce and linguine with Thai pesto and, if you're in the mood for sandwiches, there's a recipe for peach-almond butter quesadillas and roasted eggplant pita with garlicky lemon-almond sauce, among others. Breakfast and brunch items are also included, so there's a recipe for ginger-walnut scones and apple-almond butter pancakes inside, as well as some desserts and treats, like pistachio butter biscotti and orange decadence chocolate-almond truffles. 

Needless to say, I had a hard time deciding what to make first, but ended up choosing Robin's Indonesian Eggplant with Peanut Sauce. The recipe and method looked simple yet decadent, and I had every ingredient that it called for already on hand. This dish is served with a satay-like sauce which delivers a little kick of heat (the recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, but I used a sliced Thai chili instead), which is then poured over the baked eggplant to produce a gorgeous and delicious dish. I loved how this recipe created so much flavor from only a few simple ingredients. 

I am excited that the publisher has kindly allowed me to share this fantastic recipe on the blog. Robin has created another great theme and concept here, and I look forward to trying out more recipes from this must-have cookbook.

From Nut Butter Universe by Robin Robertson. ©2013 Robin Robertson. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press.

Indonesian Eggplant with Peanut Sauce
In the classic Indonesian dish, called Petjel Terong, the eggplant is usually deep-fried. In this healthier version, the eggplant is baked in the oven with a small amount of olive oil. The creaminess of the coconut milk and the peanut butter are heavenly. As a side dish, this serves 4, but will serve 3 as a main dish.

1 large eggplant, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon natural sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Halve the eggplant lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the eggplant slices on a lightly oiled baking sheet, brush them with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake, turning once, until softened and browned on both sides, about 15 minutes.

While the eggplant is baking, make the sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, tamari, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a platter and top with the sauce. Garnish with the parsley.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Homemade Vegan Sausage and Cheese Calzones

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Ever since I discovered "00" flour, I've been smitten with the way it produces a perfectly soft and silky dough every single time I use it. So when I came across this fabulous pizza dough recipe that called for "00" flour, I knew I wanted to try it, and decided I'd use it make calzones. After I kneaded the dough, I placed it on top of one of our radiators for about an hour, which allowed it to double in size perfectly. 

When I initially formed and stuffed these, they were a bit imperfect and lopsided, but came out of the oven looking really rustic and beautiful. One of the best parts about making these was the aroma that's emitted during the baking time, which lingered throughout our house through the following morning. (It was kind of nice to wake up once or twice during the early morning hours and inhale a strong and bready aroma each time.)

And these taste fabulous: the rich vegan cheese and sausage kind of melt into the other components here during the baking time, and slicing into it reveals an amazing array of flavors and textures. I was surprised at how easy these were to make, and how close they tasted to the calzones I used to order many years ago at restaurants. Although I used leftover homemade vegan sausage and cheese to stuff these, prepared Field Roast sausage and Daiya or Follow Your Heart cheese would work nicely here as well. 

Jamie Oliver's Pizza Dough Recipe (I halved this recipe, which still produced 4 large calzones)

olive oil, for sauteing
4 shallots, sliced
10 oz bella mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 vegan sausages, sliced thinly
8-10 oil-cured olives, pitted and sliced
1-2 cups prepared marinara sauce
homemade mozzarella cheese (I halved this recipe)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Place a pizza stone into the oven on the lowest rack. Allow to preheat at 500 while you prepare the other ingredients and roll out the dough.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil over medium low heat in a saute pan. Add in the shallots and allow to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and place into a small bowl.

Add a little more oil to the pan and add in the mushrooms. Allow to soften for 6-8 minutes, then add in the garlic and saute for about a minute more. Transfer to another small bowl.

If needed, re-oil the pan and add in the sausages. Saute until slightly browned, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Separate the dough into flour equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll them out to form circles with a 8- to 10-inch diameter. They don't need to be perfect.

Fill one side of each of the calzones with all of the components. Fold the dough over the top, and pinch the sides together to form a seal.

Once the pizza stone has preheated at 500 for about 30 minutes, place the calzones on it (I did two separate batches). Brush with a generous amount of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, checking the bottoms to ensure they do not burn.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tofu and Shiitake Stack with Bok Choy-Ginger Puree

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I went into Chinatown late last week and came out with a huge bag bok choy, a few hunks of fresh ginger and about 20 monster-sized fresh shiitake mushrooms—which all cost me around six dollars. I bought all of these things because they looked so fresh and pretty, but I had no real plan about how I was going to use them, and was certain that I wouldn't be using them all together in one dish. After some thought, I finally decided that stacking the shiitakes between some marinated tofu would work fine and look nice, and ended up pureeing the bok choy with the ginger to give the dish some color as well as a little bite and vibrancy.*

To properly prepare this tofu, you'll need to get every drop of moisture out of the tofu before placing it into the marinade by thoroughly pressing it. I always press tofu using this method, and would strongly recommend it for this dish as well as any other marinated tofu dish. This method always produces tofu that is succulent, full of flavor and comes out of the pan beautifully textured and seared. 

for the marinade and tofu
1 cup vegetable broth
2 TB dark sesame oil
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB raw agave syrup
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 block of firm tofu, pressed using this method

for the puree
4 TB of the leftover prepared marinade (above)
1/2 TB grated fresh ginger
3 cups chopped bok choy
1/4 tsp salt

6 fresh shiitake caps, stems removed

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large and shallow glass pyrex. Cut each of the slabs in half to create 8 squares, then place the tofu into the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Flip the tofu at some point in case the tofu is not totally submerged in the marinade.

When you are ready to make the dish, place 4 TB of the marinade into a skillet over medium-low heat. Add in the ginger and saute for about a minute. Add in the bok choy and salt, and allow to soften for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to a blender and allow to cool while you prepare your tofu.

In the same pan, add in about 3 TB of the marinade, then add in the tofu. Increase the heat to medium. Allow to saute for about 5 minutes. Check the bottom of the tofu—if it is nicely browned, flip it over, then allow to saute for an additional 5 minutes. Check it occasionally to ensure it does not burn. Transfer to tofu to a separate plate to slightly cool.

Add in 3 TB of the marinade to the pan. Place the shiitake caps into the pan, then cover. Allow to steam for 3-5 minutes, then remove them from the heat.

By now, your puree should be cooled enough to safely puree it. Puree until smooth, adding a little bit more of the marinade if needed. To serve, stack the tofu and shiitake, then drizzle with the bok choy puree. 

*This dish also tastes nice as a stir fry. Just prepare everything as described above, then toss the puree with some soba noodles and serve.

Don't toss out the bok choy stems when you are done—reserve and freeze them for making vegetable stock later.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Veganissimo A to Z: Book Review and Giveaway [closed]

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One of the reasons I first decided to be a vegetarian—and then eventually vegan—was the thought of an animal suffering to produce a completely unnecessary end product deeply disgusted and saddened me. I wanted to know more about things like factory farming and cosmetic testing, but this required seeing disturbing images and reading about practices that left me feeling angry and completely helpless about the amount of cruelty and waste I observed. So I eventually stopped with all of that and focused instead on vegan cooking.

Becoming an ethical vegan for me, then, was a decision based purely on emotion. When I select vegan literature to read, I am drawn to titles that are written in a purely neutral and intellectual way, as it allows me to focus on the facts at hand—opposed to angering me to the point where inaction is the end result. 

Veganissimo A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Ingredients of Animal Origin in Everyday Products by Reuben Proctor and Lars Thomsen, is the kind of book that appeals to me, as it provides a solid set of facts and a call to action by promoting conscious consumerism. They achieve this by outlining and describing the hidden animal products that permeate our daily lives in likely and unlikely products like cosmetics, LCD computer screens, explosives, medications, plant fertilizers, nutritional supplements and detergents, to name a few.

As I scanned through the book, my first thought was: do I have to inventory all of my belongings and remove them accordingly in order to be vegan ... or a veganissimo? I initially thought yes, but after reading through it a few more times, I understood the authors' intent here, which is to empower readers of the book to identify and therefore reduce their reliance on hidden animal products. The eventual effect of this is a lowered demand for them, thereby potentially eliminating their cruel and unnecessary production practices.   

This book is well-thought out and nicely organized. Veganissimo presents ingredients that are listed alphabetically, accompanied by a symbol that clearly shows whether an ingredient is animal-, vegetable-, synthetic-, mineral- or microbiological-based. The reader can therefore quickly decipher that Potassium Undecylenoyl Hydrolyzed Collagen is animal derived, Zea Mays Silk Extract is completely vegetable-based and Montan Acid Wax is a synthetic product. A full list of vegan, organic and non-GMO logos are included, with detailed descriptions of what they each mean. Veganissimo also includes a a section that provides vegan alternatives to common animal products.

Because I found the concept of the book to be so fascinating in its approach, I am excited that the publisher, The Experiment, is offering a free copy of it through this blog post. If you'd like a chance to win the copy, just include as a comment below a seemingly harmless ingredient or product you have discovered not to be vegan. For example, I learned recently that photography paper almost always contains gelatin. Or, if you'd like, just pin the cover of this book to Pinterest, and tell me you did in a comment. Or do both! 

Please leave your email or some way to contact you in your comment in case you are the winner. I'll use to draw and announce the winner on Sunday, March 10. (Shipping is limited to the US only.)

UPDATE: The winner of the drawing is Bobbie {the vegan crew}. Congrats Bobbie!

And, if you like, follow the book's publisher, The Experiment, on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates and news.