Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not Vegan

I had a hankering for some delicious animal based atrocity the other morning, and since I've got a lot of spare time during the day I tend to cater to my whims. Here we go:

2 Eggs
2 Slices fresh bread
1 T mustard
1/4 onion, sliced
2 pieces bacon
thyme, salt, and pepper

Toast the bread either in a toaster or in the oven. While it's toasting boil up some water, throw a splash of vinegar in there and start poaching your eggs. While your eggs poach, throw your bacon onto a hot pan and cook it to your preferred doneness- I like mine not too crispy. When your toast is done you can butter it, leave it dry, or spread on the mustard, the yummiest idea of all. Remove your bacon from the pan and set it on a paper towel to drain, then throw in your onions and cook until soft. Now assemble your delicious but impossible to eat breakfast creation- toast, mustard, onions, bacon, eggs. Sprinkle it with some salt, pepper, and thyme or any other preferred herb.

So this was pretty good, I've made better breakfast creations in my life but this one did the job. The thing I liked least was that the bread was incredibly difficult to navigate. You can see it was a thick cut Italian bread, this meant a pretty crispy crust and a very chewy center. Holding it like a sandwich was out of the question and cutting it like a steak just made it collapse.

Lots o Lentils

I love lentils. The funny thing is, I don't think I had ever had a lentil until I was in my 20s. But now that they're here, they're here to stay. Cheap, easy to cook, very hearty, everyone likes em. So, I cooked up a batch of tasty lentils as follows (this is approximate, so forgive my vagueness):

1 Onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
2 T oil
1 T butter*
2-3 stalks of Thyme
1lb bag of lentils, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup frozen peas
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 tomato, quartered and sliced
salt and pepper

In a large pan sautee the onion, celery and carrot until just tender in the oil and butter, about 4 minutes. Add the lentils, thyme, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium and simmer with lid off until desired firmness, about 20-35 minutes. You can add more water if you'd like a bit of a sauce with the lentils. Toss in peas, green onions, salt and pepper to taste and let it rest until peas are warm. Serve with rice and top with tomato.

I actually added a little Braggs just to deepen the flavor of the lentils a bit. If you have it around, it's good for adding a little umami to a dish, not to mention some nutrients. However, there is some question as to weather or not this shit is actually good for you...I have to say I'm skeptical and prefer soy sauce and a multi-vitamin myself.

Would I have changed anything? Yeah, it was a bit on the dry side. I think I would have added a little more liquid at some point. Maybe towards the end so that it didn't soak into the lentils more. I also served some of the leftovers with some tahini sauce, which was alright but not perfect.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Going Out

Aside from cooking for me and my boy, there are times when I'd like someone to cook for me. In fact, I really love the whole experience of going out to dinner. Apparently a lot of people do because there are tons of restaurants everywhere and, even though business may be slightly declining in this economic hardship, people still go out to eat. But, I love it for reasons other than having someone do all the work and clean up for me.
I digress.
Monday afternoon I got an unexpected call from work saying they didn't need me to come in. Given that I'd been working pretty much every single night since I started there, I was pretty psyched to not have to go in. In addition, today is my birthday and I knew I'd be working and was hoping for some night off this week to go have a nice birthday dinner.
Finding a place that can accommodate both my needs for animal byproducts and Spencer's disdain for them can be fairly tricky. Especially if he'd like to have more than a dry salad. After a little research I came across a place in Old City, right around the corner from where I work actually, called Farmicia. If you're too lazy to follow the link, they basically do what I love- New and Traditional American food, made from fresh, local ingredients, with a few vegan/vegetarian options. Oh, and lots of delicious, freshly baked bread.
I wish I'd brought my camera so I could provide some pictures on this post, but alas... just look at the website. It's restaurant week here in Philly and so they offered a Prix Fixe menu of three courses for $35. I ordered a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc and Spencer grabbed some sort of delicious alcoholic Arnold Palmer while we munched on some pumpernickle and sourdough bread. For starters I got a beet, fennel, and feta salad with a citrus vinagrette and what looked like pea shoots. For the gentleman, a noodle, tofu, nut, and roasted tomato bowl of deliciousness. We downed our apps pretty quickly and our entrees followed shortly after. A simple but wonderful meat and potatoes dish for myself- A boneless pork chop, buttery mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli. A rustic but interesting old Frenchie for the vegan- ratatouille with corn crusted risotto croquettes. I got pretty full pretty fast, as did Spencer. So we wrapped up the remainder of our meals and moved on to dessert- a flourless chocolate torte with chocolate mousse for myself and some coconut and lime sorbet for my date.
So how was it? My beet salad was incredible! The dressing was fantastic and pretty. Spencer really seemed to enjoy his appetizer as well though I didn't try it. My entree was good but not amazing. The chop was a little on the dry and also fatty side. I would have preferred a thicker cut, bone-in chop, like the one I had in Boston at Coda. The gravy they served it with was good but not plentiful, I wanted more! The potatoes were good but nothing special and the broccoli was naked. Pretty simple stuff really, nothing that wowed me. As for Spencer's meal, he seemed to enjoy it, though he didn't finish it so I'm not totally convinced. I tried it and thought it was alright. In general, I'm not big on ratatouille due to the high volume of bell peppers which, for me, taint everything...which was certainly the case in this dish. I'm also not huge on risotto cakes. It seems like all the ones I've ever tried are gluey and flavorless- again, this rang true here as well. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. Our desserts were pretty good. My cake and mousse were intensity to the extreme. I could only eat a couple bites of it. The cake was more like a slice of dry fudge (excellent)and the mousse was a lot like ice cream. So much chocolate. The sorbet was light and creamy at the same time, a nice touch. I'd like to have some more of that.
So over all, it was a good dinner. I wasn't wowed, but then again, it is restaurant week and we were there at the end of the evening. I'll probably go back some time, if only because it's a nice place that both my boy and I can eat at. Plus, their brunch looks phenomenal and drinks are half price!! woooooooooooo

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blueberry Coffee Cake

My first recipe is a coffee cake. Often, I wake up in the morning craving something very specific, french toast, muffins, pancakes, stew...all kinds of things. When I get something in my head I generally have to get it done. So, yesterday morning I awoke wanting a blueberry muffin (I knew I had some fresh blueberries in the fridge). I grabbed my vegan cookbook and parused the breakfast treats section where I stumbled upon a very doable coffee cake recipe. Listed below is the recipe with the modifications I made to it.

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 t cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
2 T melted margarine
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 T flax seeds (optional)
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1 cup vegan sour cream
1 immitation egg
2 t vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix the first five ingredients together until marge is fully incorporated, then add nuts. Set aside. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish and preheat the oven to 350°

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, flax seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in sour cream, egg, and vanilla until just blended. Fold in blueberries. Spread into prepared pan and top evenly with streusel mixture. Place in oven for 40-50 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

So how'd it turn out? FAN FUCKING TASTIC THAT'S HOW! Let me just say that for the past few months I've been battling baking without eggs and losing the fight. My cakes have been crumbly, dry, glue-like, or miraculously all three at the same time. This has been the first success. It was slightly dense but coffee cake usually is. It held together perfectly, tasted phenomenal and, well, you can see how it looks. The modifications I made to the recipe were adding extra sour cream and the ener-g egg. I also threw in the blueberries because, well, hell yeah blueberries.

Anything I'd do differently? Yeah. That fake sour cream can have a bit of that strange "tofu taste". I know I know, "tofu doesn't have a taste," you might say. Well I say you're wrong. And so does everyone else that doesn't like tofu. That strange tofu taste that one gets when having tofu is from a preservative. Soymilk powder to be specific. Yes, it's soy too, just like the tofu, but it's what gives that sort of off flavor that turns ones nose up to the curdled bean. The soy sour cream has it, as does most packaged tofu. To avoid that flavor and get the most out of this recipe I'd make my own soy sour cream with fresh tofu. Soy sour cream is simple: puree 6 ounces of tofu with some lemon juice and canola oil. Voila. Also, this is a lot easier to find than that expensive Tofutti stuff.

In the picture you can see a nice big tab of butter on that slice of coffee cake. This is where my taste comes in. Sure, earth balance makes some damn good vegan margarine. But I LOVE BUTTER. What you're seeing is 100% delicious salted Amish butter. Aside from that little tab of butter, this is an incredibly healthy recipe. I added a few things to the recipe to up the nutrients (flax, wheat germ, blueberries) and of course left out the hydrogenated oils and cholesterol. So, it's cake...yes, but it's a great breakfast; and Mom, this would go great with your favorite Chai Tea.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In The Beginning

In a small dive bar set in Brooklyn on a chilly January evening I sat down with a Schaefer and a shot and started talking to a cute English teacher from Philadelphia. He was smart and interesting and played guitar, very cool...and then I found out he was vegan. To an average American of similar age this is not completely unusual but is certainly often met with some amount of criticism. However, due to the common lifestyle of the urban American (one whose diet often consists of processed, pre-made, packaged, and ready to eat food) it is generally merely an inconvenience or a target for jibes about ones' masculinity or sexual preference. Let there be no mistake, my vegan teacher has a beard and is at least 95% heterosexual. I am not an average American, however. I grew up in a home where, regardless of the fact that my mother was single, employed full time, and going to college full time, she made dinner every night for my brother and me. I may not have appreciated that act of selflessness at the time, but now that I'm a 20ahem year old who's too poor and too fucking interesting to have someone cook every meal for me, I'm pretty grateful to my mother for teaching me the value of cooking and sharing food. In short, I love everything about food except dishes and I particularly love cooking ridiculously elaborate meals and treats for those I love.
So brings me to the subject of this blog. Seven months after that fateful day in New York I have found myself living in Philadelphia and trying to feed not just myself, but my new vegan roommate. Rather than give up on cooking, or on my sweet boyfriend, I have decided to embrace the challenge and try my hand at vegan dining. Do not misread me though, I am in no way becoming vegan. My meat and dairy consumption will continue, which is perhaps more a challenge than actually switching my diet. I'm trying my hand at cooking for a wonderful (and luckily, not picky) metal head while fulfilling my need for a little heavy cream or rare steak.
How will I do this, you might ask. Well, that's for this blog to find out. So far, there's been a few bumps in the road, but over all I'm managing thus far. I plan on posting not just what I cooked or baked, but also the recipe and how it turned out or if I'd make any modifications.
My hope is that this is not only entertaining for myself, but also informative for those who may be in a similar situation. Not to mention, torturing you all with pictures of incredible foods. So enjoy and let the challenge begin.