Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tofu with General Tso's Sauce

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Serves 2
Time: about 45 minutes

General Tso's Tofu is one of the best dishes I've ever tasted. Although this deep-fried delight is perfect just the way it is, I wanted to see if I could achieve a similar taste and texture without going through all of the steps it takes to deep fry it. To do so, I simply browned some tofu using my quick and easy saute method, then smothered it with some General Tso's sauce to create an easier and lighter version of the original. The result was a success, yielding a slightly different but equally satisfying texture as the original. Served with rice, steamed broccoli and extra sauce, this quick and easy dinner is packed with crisp and vibrant flavors.

for the sauce

1 TB toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup minced ginger
1/8 cup minced garlic
1 cup chopped scallions
habanero or cayenne powder, to taste (optional)
2 TB mirin or vegetable broth
1 TB soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 cup vegetable broth
2 TB sugar
1 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 2 TB cold water

for the tofu
1 TB canola oil
1 block of firm tofu (no need to press it)

to serve
crushed peanuts
fresh thai chilis. sliced
raw scallion green tips, sliced
steamed broccoli and rice

To make the sauce, place the sesame oil into a small saucepan over low heat. Add in the ginger and garlic, toss with the oil to coat, and allow to soften for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the garlic or ginger to brown.

Add in the chopped scallions, stir, then increase the heat to medium. Saute for about 2 minutes, or until the scallions are bright green, then increase the heat to medium high.

Once the pan starts to sizzle, add in any hot pepper powder (if using), then deglaze it with the mirin or 2 TB of broth. Next, add in the 1 cup of broth, soy sauce and rice vinegar, then stir in the sugar. Allow the mixture to come to a small boil, then whisk in the cornstarch slurry and stir until thickened. Set aside to slightly cool.

To make the tofu, heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cut your block of tofu into 4 slabs, then cut each slab diagonally to make 8 triangles. Carefully place the tofu into the hot pan, then cover and increase the heat to medium high. It will pop and sputter for about 10 minutes. Carefully lift the lid up to prevent and water from hitting the hot skillet, flip the tofu and allow to saute, uncovered, on the other side for about 5 minutes or until nicely browned. If the tofu starts to stick, reduce the heat and add a little more oil, shimmying the pan back and forth over the heating element to loosen.

Remove the skillet from the heat, then toss in some of the sauce directly in the skillet to coat. Serve with steamed broccoli and rice, drizzling with any extra sauce. Top with raw sliced scallions, peanuts and thai chilis, if desired.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Beer-Battered Cauliflower

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Makes 4 servings
Time: 30-40 minutes

As I was eating roasted cauliflower while sipping a beer the other night, I thought: why not combine these two delicious things, and deep fry it? It turned out to be a good thought—these gorgeously golden, celery-seed flecked florets were rich without being heavy and perfectly complemented by a light and sweet rice vinegar sauce served on the side.

for the batter
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 TB chickpea flour
1 cup beer
2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

for the sauce
1 cup water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
5 TB sugar
1 tsp salt
a few dashes of celery seed

3 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 8 TB water

plenty of canola or grapeseed oil, for frying

1 head of cauliflower, separated into florets

Whisk all of the batter ingredients together until smooth. Set aside.

To make the sauce, place the water and rice vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add in the sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved, then remove from the heat. Sprinkle some celery seed over the top and allow to cool.

Whisk the Ener-G and water together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Place several inches of oil into a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat. After about 7 minutes, throw a pinch of the batter into the oil. If it bubbles up immediately, you are ready to fry.

Working in batches of 3 florets at a time, toss in the Ener-G/water mixture, then coat in the batter, letting any excess drip back off into the bowl. Using tongs or chopsticks, place into the hot oil, holding it for a few seconds in the oil before releasing it. (Otherwise, the battered cauliflower will stick to the bottom of the pan.) Allow the cauliflower to fry for a few minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain, sprinkling with salt immediately.

Sprinkle the fried cauliflower with fresh parsley and serve immediately with the sauce.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sambal Seitan Skewers

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Yields about 7-8 cups
Total active time: about 1 hour
Total passive time: 45 minutes, to simmer the seitan

I don't eat a lot of seitan—the few prepared brands I've tried and recipes I've made were just okay, but not great—so I rarely think about or use it. However, when I received my latest issue of Bon App├ętit magazine with this gorgeous cover photo, I instantly wanted to develop a seitan that I could marinate in their spicy glaze recipe, skewer and grill with similar results. After a few experiments with different flours, I found that cutting the vital wheat gluten with a blend of chickpea and whole wheat pastry flours yielded a soft yet sturdy texture which held up nicely on the grill. The thick, spicy and sweet reduced marinade clings beautifully to the seitan, producing a gorgeous caramelization around the edges while locking the smoky and salty flavors of miso, sesame oil and fermented black bean sauce inside. A quick brush of leftover marinade at the very end gives these skewers an extra spicy kick.   

for the seitan*
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour (reduce to 1/4 cup if pan-frying instead)
1 cup cold vegetable broth 
2 TB dark sesame oil
1 TB white or chickpea miso
1 TB fermented black bean sauce
*the seitan may be made, simmered and stored in the broth until ready to grill.

for the simmering broth
6 cups cold vegetable broth
several cloves of garlic, smashed
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB raw agave
1 cup of ice cubes

for the marinade (adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2013 edition)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup rice vinegar
2/3 cup sambal oelek
1/2 cup sriracha
2 TB vegan Worcestershire Sauce
1 TB grated ginger

To make the seitan, combine the flours together. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the seitan ingredients, then add it to the flour mixture. Knead in a Kitchen Aid mixer using the dough hook attachment or knead with your hands for one minute to form a cohesive ball of dough. Tear off small, jagged skewer-sized pieces and place to the side. (The pieces will double in size during simmering time.)

To make the simmering broth, combine the broth, garlic, soy sauce, agave and ice cubes in a medium-sized pot. Do not turn on the heat yet—you want the broth to be very cold when you add the seitan to it. 

Next, place enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a cast iron pan or any other non-stick pan. Heat the oil over medium heat. Place the seitan chunks in the pan and allow to brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Drop the cooled seitan chunks into the broth. Bring to a very small simmer, then maintain that heat for about 45 minutes. Cover with a lid that allows some steam to escape during cooking time. Do not allow the broth to boil at any time—it will affect the texture, making it spongy. 

To make the marinade, add all of the marinade ingredients in a saucepan. Toss the seitan chunks in the marinade, then thread onto metal or wood skewers. (If you are using wood skewers, soak them in water first for about an hour to prevent them from burning.)

Now bring the leftover marinade to a small boil in a small saucepan, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer and thicken for 7-10 minutes.

Grill the seitan, turning and basting often with the reduced marinade. Serve immediately, drizzling any extra sauce over the top.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

4th of July Roundup

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Below are some standard and not-so-standard recipes for the 4th of July holiday. Whether you are vegan and looking for food ideas or are hosting a get-together and looking for dishes to please a vegan guest, these are all delicious options for the upcoming holiday. For more ideas, click here. Happy 4th of July!

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Spread

Roasted Garlic and Sriracha Hummus

Black Lentil, Pistachio and Shiitake Mushroom Burger

Sweet Potato, Farro and Walnut Burgers with Homemade Pickles

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

Easy Refrigerator Pickles with Flowering Chives

Garlic-Sriracha Vegan Buffalo Wings

Miso and Brown Sugar Glazed Shiitake Caps

Buffalo Chickpea Soft Tacos with Avocado Sour Cream

Clementine, Basil and Lime Sorbet