Saturday, February 27, 2010

By Special Request

I hadn't planned to post C's recipe for cabbage slaw both because it's dastardly simple and . . . well, I hadn't thought of it. After Beth specifically requested it, though, in order to perhaps recreate our Sloppy Joe extravaganza, I decided to dedicate a blog post to it. A Brief Ode to Cabbage. A Special Comment on the Cruciferous. There are no hard and fast rules for slaw-making, but C confirms that the primary ingredients are as follows:

Cabbage (red or green)
Olive oil
Vinegar (we use apple cider, because it's tasty and delicious)

And that's it! Shred the cabbage as finely as you like. You can mix up the colors, shred in some carrot, live dangerously with fennel, get randy with radish, etc. In a bowl sufficiently large for the task, drizzle the slaw with some oil, a bit of vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Go light. You can always add more. Then toss the slaw together thoroughly. Taste it. One of the reasons C is the primary slaw chef is that this kind of dish takes practice and patient tasting. He doesn't mind (in fact, try to stop him!) tasting assiduously as he cooks whereas I'm inclined to fly by the seat of my pants or cook with my pants on fire or some such metaphor involving pants and reckless behavior. All this is by way of saying taste the dressed slaw and adjust the oil to vinegar to spices as necessary. If you're feeling spicy, try it with some crushed red pepper flakes, but use less than you think. These perk up and get even hotter after soaking in the slaw, consider yourself duly warned. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour (or as long as you have before your other dishes are ready). 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Late February Romance, aka Brunch

We put off Valentines Day this year. Of course, C and I have never exactly been the kind to go all out over nationally prescribed holidays. We humbug most of them, actually, with two exceptions: Halloween and Thanksgiving. The former offers all the delights of drunken debauchery and inappropriate attire, and the latter gives us a good excuse to get our eat on--something we can rarely turn down. A V-day bug must have crawled under C's skin this year, though, because he gave me lots of warning--weeks and weeks, actually--to keep my schedule clear for February 24th. Knowing C, as I do, I was eventually able to figure out part of the plan and to decipher the motivating factor behind the selection of the date. A local community college was hosting a screening of Night of the Hunter that night, and the other plans sort of fell into place around it. I kept asking what I should be doing to contribute to the celebratory tone of the day, and he kept shrugging until we arrived at the perfect solution: brunch.

I'm pretty much down with any excuse to make a fussy meal, especially if it gives me the excuse to make from scratch ingredients that are easily available at the grocery store. I thought about this for a while, though. I contemplated coffee cakes and cinnamon rolls, pancakes made from unusual flours and filled with decadent nuts and chocolate, pastries filled with fruit and more chocolate, etc. Eventually I opted to steer clear of these sweeter options not for lack of sweet-tooth on either of our parts (though if you give him the opportunity, C will swear he doesn't really have one, ahem), but because we're both feeling like our pants are a little tighter right now than we like them to be. C blames all the beer we've been enjoying from breweries in the North Bay. Personally, I blame the multiple pints of Coffee Biscotti Hempmilk ice cream that we couldn't stop eating all through January. And there was an apple pie. And pistachio muffins. And cornbread laced with caramelized onions. And Black Forest cake. And. And. And. And now it has to stop. Well, mostly. For a little while.

I decided to make the Tofu Benny from Vegan Brunch. I'd made it once before, so to make it a bit more interesting this time I decided to make my own English muffins. The process of doing this raised many questions about the difference between an English muffin and a crumpet. They're pretty similar, right? Crumpets are slimmer, I think. In any case, the muffins were really fun to make, just like Isa said they would be, and something I'm definitely going to make again. You knead up a basic bread dough, let it rise, cut out the muffins, and lightly fry them before baking. C has a thing about buttering breadly things and dipping them into a bit of coffee (invariably stolen from my cup!), and these fit the bill quite nicely. The bennies themselves are lovely little stacks composed of half a toasted muffin, and slice of tomato sprinkled with black salt and liquid smoke, a slice of (marinated and fried) tofu, veganized hollandaise sauce, and herb garnish. I served them with steamed asparagus, grapefruit, and coffee.

I made the sauce the evening before and marinated the tofu overnight. (One of the side benefits to making my own muffins is that I was able to choose a drinking glass roughly the diameter of the tomatoes I planned to use and cut out the tofu and the muffins to match! No more tomato slopping over the side of the tofu or other such mismatching disgruntlements.) In the morning, I kneaded up the muffin dough and let it rise while we ran to the gym (see above disclaimer involving hempmilk ice cream). When we got back, I kneaded it a bit more while I heated up the oven and a griddle. After that, everything came together very quickly. We followed brunch up with a few episodes of Lost, dinner at Seed, a few beers at a dude-tastic Belgian brewery, and
the aforementioned film screening. I would be remiss, however, not to mention the V-day gift C got me: truffles! I had been whining incessantly about a place downtown that advertises "All Dark Chocolate Truffles" which are, nevertheless (and to my incredible disappointment), NOT vegan. He assures me, though, that even before this happened, he had ordered me some from Lagusta's Luscious. The sea-salt truffles, in particular, make my head explode. He also got me some salt and pink peppercorn chocolates in an anatomical shape. (!) Quite an excellent date day.

As I write this, only one muffin remains for my lunch. When it's gone, we've promised ourselves to stay off flour for a little while, maybe a few weeks. That's okay, though, since I'm already contemplating more veggie-centric dishes and have some serious plans for when our CSA subscription finally comes through.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Humble Suggestion

Of course you made those fabulous dinner rolls from my last post, right? Of course you did. You had them for a few meals, dipped them in sumptuous stews, munched them with a delicious seitan roast, shared them with the people you love/tolerate, and now you still have a few kicking around the counter and clogging the river of your desire to make yeast-raised breads. I have a solution, a humble proposal, if you will. And such a simple thing. A daydream. A bit of childhood whimsy.

A Sloppy Joe. Many efforts have been made to come up with a suitable riff on the name that would summon up memories of the factory-farmed original while signifying the critical difference. There's the Sloppy Steve, most notably. There are tvp versions, lentil versions, others made with ground up seitan, crumbled tofu, and so forth. I've researched them. One thing that most of them have in common is that the recipes call for copious quantities of ketchup. Though, as a professed condiment lover, I adore me some ketchup, I just can't get into squeezing a half cup of the stuff into a recipe as an "ingredient." Can't do it. Yet this has seemed to be the thing that stands between me and a vegan version of that Sloppy Joe that I had as a kid. Other versions without the ketchup just didn't fit the bill. Then I tried the Fantastic Foods Sloppy Joe mix.

The box has a few suggestions for how to prepare the mix. One is a sort of bare bones version where you simply combine the dry mix with boiling water and some tomato paste. Another is a bit more complicated and has you mix simpler version with diced tomatoes and some other stuff. I very much recommend that you ignore both of these and follow this advice. And, seriously, can you think of a better use for those extra dinner rolls?

Sloppy Joes (An unoriginal take on the Fantastic Foods version)

1 box Fantastic Foods Sloppy Joe mix
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with basil (I use the kind with basil)
3 T tomato paste
1 med diced sweet onion
1-2 T chili powder
1-2 T basil
1-2 T oregano
2 t garlic granules
1 c water

In a medium saucepan, saute diced onion until just translucent. Add oregano and basil and cook one minute. Add diced tomatoes with juices, tomato paste, garlic, and water. Heat until bubbly. Stir in dried mix. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

To assemble, heat the rolls in the oven or the microwave until warm and soft. Split and butter both sides lightly. Ladle the Sloppy Joe mix generously over the buns. We had these with a spicy cabbage slaw, courtesy of C. Cabbage slaws are rather his specialty.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Commentation Frustration

I've just realized that the comment function is not working, and I'm trying to figure out why that might be. Bear with me while I wade through the muck of amateur html and attempt to fix it.

Two and a Half Successes

I had been waiting for an opportunity to make these wheat dinner rolls again. I made them last week, but then had to let a few days elapse so that C wouldn't accuse me of trying to kill him with carbs. I was a little disappointed with them the first time. While the recipe specifies instant yeast, I had only had active dry on hand and had subbed that in. The resulting rolls were soft and delicious but didn't quite satisfy me aesthetically. They just didn't rise as much as I thought they should. Since that modified disappointment, I had picked up some packets of instant yeast in anticipation of my next opportunity to make another run at them. So when yesterday (my day to cook dinner) shaped up to be cool, misty, and cloudy, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to see how much of a difference instant yeast could actually make. Following the recipe more to the letter definitely produced a bigger and fluffier result. Total win.

Here's the recipe, copied from the above blog. My notes follow.

Maple Wheat Pull-Apart Rolls


1 1/2 cups warmed unsweetened soy milk (microwave about 30 seconds)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 pkg. instant yeast (quick-rise)**
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour***
1 teaspoon salt
Oil for brushing

In a large bowl, combine soy milk and maple syrup. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Cover and let sit until bubbly, about 5 minutes.

To yeast mixture, add canola oil, whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, and salt. Stir until well mixed.

Generously flour a work surface with some the remaining flour and place dough on it. Knead dough, gradually incorporating remaining flour (until the dough you’ve incorporated enough that the dough doesn’t stick to your hands). The kneading will take 10 to 12 minutes. By the end of this time the dough should be slightly sticky but it should not stick to your hands (add a little more flour if it does). Place dough in a large oiled bowl, turn dough in bowl to coat with oil, and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place. Let rise until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.

Lightly oil an 9″x16″ glass baking pan. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces, shape into round balls, brush lightly with oil, and place in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm place, and let rise until until doubled, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls until golden brown, 20 minutes.

I found that I need quite a bit more flour than this calls for above, but the author mentions that this is due to differences in altitude. Also, just a word on yeast for those of you unaccustomed to it. When proofing your yeast (waiting for it to prove itself to you), it's very important not to overheat your milk/water. You want it warm to the touch, but nothing close to hot or you risk killing your yeasties and having all your efforts be for naught. Also, I used a rather smaller pan than the one called for above because on my wayward first attempt the rolls didn't fill the pan in that delightful, plumpish way that rolls can.

That was one success. The other came in the form of an unexpected side dish. We eat so much steamed and braised greens--collards, lacinato kale, curly kale, broccoli rabe--that I occasionally get desperate for some other veggie side. I decided on broccoli. In truth, I wanted broccolini (so cute!) but these were $2.00 for the tiniest little bunches. In the end, I chopped up the broccoli and tossed it with a little olive oil, blood orange slices, salt & pepper, and toasted pepitas. I roasted the whole bunch for twenty minutes (or so) in a 400 degree oven. Quite tasty, but if I had it to do again, I'd throw in some thinly sliced shallots.

The half success was my lentil stew. Full disclosure: When it comes to soups and stews, I'm kind of a one trick pony. Those I make are delicious, but all close variations on a fairly predictable theme. The one I made last night would have been better, too, but I got a little overzealous with my prolonged, slow simmering of the lentils and squash, and in the fullness of time, the lentils just couldn't take it anymore. They lost all their integrity and dissolved into mash--proteiny, tasty mash, but mash. All of this wouldn't be quite as disappointing if I hadn't made a shit. ton. of it. I plan to futz with it a bit today and see if I can coax it back to some kind of self-respect. Get them to remember their lentil-hood, or at the very least, not be such a embarrassment. I feel the need to note, though, that the dish was in large part rescued by the presence of a delicious and delightful butternut squash. Even when full cooked, this squash was toothsome (what a weird word, that), sweet, and buttery.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The (Now Famous) T Day Cake; Or, Adventures with Whipped Cream

C said Black Forest? This was not so much an emphatic demand as a tentative request. Not necessarily what you would expect from someone on the verge of unapologetic dudehood. I had made one such venture in the past, for B's birthday the year before last. His only request at the time, if memory serves, was that it be chocolate &. Raspberry is the traditional path, but I had been down it too many times to make it the source of much ongoing excitement. I remembered, though, as a child loving black forest cake. My mom used to get these sorta (for us!) gourmet cake mixes, and my fave was the dark chocolate cake with cherry pie filling. I don't remember much else about it. I made a stab at recreating this cake for B, though I didn't use a bundt pan. It was a dark, dense chocolate cake with cherry pie filling (homemade, of course. That canned stuff is crap). I had one piece and it disappeared up the stairs in the hands of a smiling and cherubic ginger.

When C asked for one, just a few weeks ago, I had a bit more time to ruminate, research, and obsess, as I do. I learned that the traditional German Chocolate Cake has a chocolate base that is usually soaked in cherry liquor or kirshwasser and topped with whipped cream. Pretty sure. The internets is full of false leads, kiddies, so do your own research. I've been trying for different kinds of whipped cream ever since the strawberry cake incident surrounding Lizz's birthday. For that, I experimented with basically every possible variation on the tofu whipped cream phenomenon, all to extremely unimpressive results. Seriously, I don't know how people can get excited about that stuff. It makes a mockery of the word "fluff." It's like sweet, beany pudding. I'm sure there's a place for it somewhere, but it isn't on my _____________ (insert whatever you would normally cover with whipped cream). As full of failure as that experience was, however, I'm glad I made those mistakes so that I could never again be lead sweetly down the primrose path to promises of a "tofu whipped topping."

Hannah came to my rescue. If you scroll all the way down to the end of the page from that link, you'll see a recipe for a white chocolate mousse made from melted white chocolate, whipped Soyatoo, and agar agar. My suspicion, more or less confirmed after more hours than I care to admit to spent combing the internet for similar experiments, was that the agar might stabilize the whipped cream enough to use it as a suitable (or not completely embarrassing) cake topping/filling. Also extremely helpful and inspirational in this regard was this blog posting from prettytastycakes. She also combined agar with soyatoo, but she combined the result with a cherry cream (see above "tofu whipped cream" plus cherries/juice). She also didn't include any information on ratios. I wondered how much the success of her resulting mousse had to do with the introduction of the tofu, in which case even if the whipped topping totally deflated, it would simply add a fatty (and therefore delicious!) boost to the heavier tofu. Similarly, I wondered how much Hannah's lovely mousse had to do with the melted white chocolate, which, once cooled, could not help but be a firming influence.

Clearly, my adventures with whipped cream are long and tedious, and probably more interesting to me than to anyone else. Suffice it to say, I made two batches of said whipped cream, each with a slight variation, and ended up combining them into one because they weren't substantially different. The introduction of powdered agar into the whipped cream did seem to give it more oomph than it would have had otherwise, and it fared pretty well even over the few days that the cake hung (uncovered, because we don't do plastic wrap) in the fridge. A feat, to be sure. A little thickened cherry juice made this cream (note the lack of ironic quotations marks) even tastier. While I always have my gripes, it was pretty damned good.

The resulting cake was put together like this: I baked a double layer dark chocolate cake and split it into 4 (after slightly over-baking because I've not yet cultivated a healthy sense of trust with my new oven). Inside the layers I put sour cherry jam and a melty chocolate ganache. Between the two big layers and on top I put cherry filling (basically, the saucy cherries recipe from VCTotW) and mounds of whipped cream. Sorry the pic is small.


It all started with leftover pepperoni crumbles. I made a double batch of this recipe from have cake will travel. We are, as a couple, very into seitan and most of the faux meats, meat analogues, protein intensives, and what have you. So anytime I come across a new way to prepare seitan, I hit it. And hit it hard. First, I made pizza pockets with some leftover phyllo dough.

(The phyllo, incidentally, was leftover from making Joni's amazing recipe for Seitan en Croute. Maybe I'll review that the next time I make it. I did end up subbing phyllo for the puff pastry specified in the recipe because I couldn't find the latter.)

While the pockets were a big hit, I ended up with lots of leftover seitan crumbles. I really like the flavor of these crumbles, but they disappoint me when they're mixed in with anything saucy or in any way given an opportunity to soak up extra liquid. The crumbles are thirsty little bastards, and I didn't like the way they sort of dissolved into gumminess in the pockets. Tasty gummy, but gummy. Thus, I wanted to use the remainder in a way that took advantage of their dryness and didn't compromise it or expose them to watery temptation.

C and I brainstormed a bit about what to do with the remaining, and the resulting dish was actually his idea. Though it was my execution, please understand. He said "Gnocchi." I concurred. The following is an approximation of my recipe, which we both thought was delicious. We sprinkled the pepperoni crumbles on top, but I think you could easily eat this just as is and find it quite tasty.

Gnocchi with Greens, Tomatoes, and Fennel

(I really need to get a better feel for naming recipes)

1 pkg gnocchi
1 bunch collards, chopped
1 small head fennel, sliced thinly
1 head garlic
4 large roma tomatoes, largely diced
ground black pepper
1/8 c - 1/4c nutritional yeast
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. On a baking sheet, toss fennel and garlic with some olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, stir, and roast for 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot. When it reaches a rolling boil, toss in gnocchi and cook for 2-3 minutes. They float when they're ready. Dump the gnocchi into a colander and return the pot, with a small amount of water in it, to the stove. Cook the collard greens for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened and bright green.

Combine gnocchi and roasted vegetables with greens. Add a few tablespoons olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt. Stir to coat and serve hot.

At this point, we topped with pepperoni crumbles, but, of course, you don't have to.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This is the new blog! I've wanted to have my own foodie blog since I became a devoted reader of such things years ago. Transitioning to veganism was really the inaugural event of my culinary life. Before I became vegan, I was an occasional cook, though an adventurous one. Veganism introduced a completely different set of challenges and opportunities. Once I realized I needed to cook to eat really well--which, of course, is true for everyone, vegan or not--I started to learn. And much of that learning happened on the internets. I spent (and continue to spend) hours looking at different food blogs, research ingredients, perusing recipes. Though I've most stuck with other vegans over the years, I have a lingering fondness for some vegetarian ones. A caveat: I can't photograph for shit, so that will also be a learning experience and hopefully not a total failure.