Friday, April 29, 2011

Daring Bakers April Challenge

Soft desserts are not my bag, especially when soft desserts are combined in some way with my old nemesis--meringue. Why oh why does the DBitS taunt me so? Perhaps one day I'll get the hang of it. The Daring Baker challenge this month was to make a maple mousse in an edible cup. The host for this month included a recipe for your standard eggs and cream mousse in a molded bacon cup, alongside a recipe for vegan mousse with some suggestions for cups made of nuts and chocolate. Obviously, since my blog isn't called "Omni-Squared," I opted for the latter. For the cup, I used a recipe for a thin, lacy, almond meal-based cookie, which was actually very similar to a florentine. These thin, flat cookies spread dramatically when baking, and while they're still warm from the oven, you drape them over a cup to shape them. They cool that way, and voila: edible cups. My cookies ended up being a titch more fragile than I had been hoping, so I managed only a subtle cupping shape, which I feel was nevertheless sufficient to this task. For the mousse, I used a recipe from vegweb, largely because I know exactly what you get when you whip silken tofu with maple syrup, and it doesn't approach anything that I would call mousse. Dip, yes. Mousse, no. For the inquiring minds among you, I used this one. I tweaked the recipe for a maple, rather than a coffee-chocolate, flavor and found it altogether pleasant. More like pudding than mousse, but pleasant all the same. It was particularly tasty with a bit of salted cookie, so that's how C and I ate it. It's not suuuper pretty, but we suffered through. It looks kind of like a weird egg, doesn't it? Harumph.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sophie's Kitchen Vegan Calamari: A Meandering Review

Wow, is April a bananas month, dear readers. The world up here in SoCo is warming perceptibly, the daffodils have come and gone, and the roses and wisteria are flourishing everywhere. This year, though, I'm having a tough time focusing on all this craziness because I'm preparing for a two week trip to Eastern Europe. My mom and I are heading to Bulgaria for two weeks, so I'm in full-out twitch mode as I scramble around to locate my passport, check and re-check my itinerary, scrutinize my socks, and stockpile Clif bars like I'm preparing for the apocalypse rather than vacation. Don't get me wrong. I'm really excited. I've always wanted to go to Eastern Europe, and we plan to take the train across the country, wander the streets of Sofia and Plovdiv, and gaze out at the Black Sea from the sandy beaches of Burgas. Sounds pretty sweet, right? From my reading, via Lonely Planet and the internets, though, I fear I may starve. The only results for vegetarian Bulgaria come back as two places in Sofia, which I'm sure I'll hit hard at the beginning and end of our trip. Other than that, it might be beer and bread for me! If there are any surprising culinary delights, or I can track down a Hare Krishna and make him/her cook for me, I'll be sure to document. Otherwise, my foodlog might look depressingly anorexic! Don't worry, dear readers, I will promptly recultivate my piggish ways as soon as I return to the fattest country in the world. Holla, USA!

Perhaps because I'm staring down the barrel at two weeks of culinary deprivation, my own cooking has been pretty boring lately. I've been doing lots of soup and sandwiches. Not that I've been cooking soup or making my own vegan sandwich meats and cheeses. Nothing of the sort. I've mostly resisted the urge to wallow in a vat of pasta, but it's been comfort foods all the way. Speaking of which, I want to tell you about a new line of frozen vegan seafood products by Sophie's Kitchen. Their website is here. As I've said before, I think, the only non-vegan food product for which I experience anything like guilty nostalgia is seafood. In fact, the last non-vegetarian food I ate was calamari. I like seafood, but I don't eat it anymore. I think this is an important point because so many people seem to assume that vegans are vegan because we don't like the taste of meat. The truth of the matter is that ethical vegans don't forego animal products due to considerations of taste. An ethical vegan accepts that the pleasure one may or may not take from consuming animal products is dwarfed by the harm that those products and the conditions of their manufacture do to the rest of the world--the animals themselves, the environment, and other people. When you add to this the fact that vegans actually miss very little due to the excellent analogs and other products that are constantly under development for an increasingly conscientious eating crowd--they've made leaps and bounds, people, leaps and mother fucking bounds, the poverty of appealing to a selfish sense of what is easy and normal becomes strikingly apparent.

So, as I was saying, "Hurray for vegan seafood!" Sophie's Kitchen makes battered and unbattered seafood analogs of calamari, shrimp, and fish. I don't remember how many the package claimed to serve, but in my experience, the answer is 2. And it's a pretty spendy two-serving package. I think they were on sale at Whole Foods for about $5, so I just bought one to start. I feel like I know already what the shrimp will be like, but I'm really interested to see what they managed to accomplish with the fish fillet. When I get back from Bulgaria, wild-eyed with beautiful scenery and only slightly emaciated, I might dig into some fish fillet. I promise to report my results. As far as the calamari goes, though, I thought it was not wonderful, but quite adequate. The actual fish substance, which is apparently derived from some kind of mushroom, is only the tiniest bit fishy, but the texture is quite good. The rings yielded to the tooth while still having a slightly bouncy resiliency, which mimics the experience of eating the remarkably sensitive and intelligent squid. The breading was tasty, though rather too oily for me. All in all, this calamari will definitely do when I want to get my seafood on without contributing to the devastation of the world's oceans.