Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Very Special Brunch

I love brunch. It seems as though there are endless possibilities for brunch. It's more creative and daring than say lunch or breakfast, and can be just as complex and filling as a good dinner. Not to mention it makes it okay to have vodka, beer, or even champagne at around 10am. Spencer and I regularly go out for brunch on the weekend, generally to one of the pubs we frequent. This dish was inspired by a dish served up at The Royal Tavern, a tofu and tempeh scramble of sorts. I served mine wish some seriously mediocre blueberry pancakes which I won't even bother posting. Oh, and be warned... this recipe is for the patient, there's steps involved and you might just want to save this one for a nice dinner with that special someone if you're too cranky for all this prep in the morning hours.

for tofu marinade:
3 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves minced
1 t black pepper
1 t ground mustard
1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, soaked (save liquid)
1 package tofu, cubed

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper, mustard and liquid from tomatoes in a shallow dish. Add cubed tofu and set aside.

1 T butter*
1 T oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 package tempeh, cubed
toasted sesame seeds

In a large skillet, caramelize onion in oil and butter. Add garlic and saute until soft. Remove from pan squeezing out as much oil as possible. Turn up the heat to high and in the same pan saute the marinating tofu until browned on either side. Add vegetables, including sliced sundried tomatoes previously soaked, tempeh, and a few tablespoons of the marinade to the pan. Saute until peppers and zucchini are soft but not falling apart. Season to taste, serve with homefries and top with toasted sesame seeds.

This was really good, I was pretty impressed with myself anyway. I think next time (once I get a box grater, hint hint) I'll make hash browns instead of fried potatoes to go with it. Also, I think chopping the zucchini into smaller pieces would have made for a little better texture and visual variation, most of my ingredients were the same size. I used the sundried tomatoes which were nice but there wasn't nearly enough of them. I think perhaps fire roasted tomatoes would make for better flavor and moisten this dish a bit more. Over all though, I could eat this again at any time of day. And trust me, if you're trying to make something special for a sexy guy or gal, they'll love it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homage to Julia - A Simple Soup

Of course I love Julia Child. Who doesn't? Why wouldn't you? If you've read her biography/autobiography, "My Life In France" then you know what a remarkable woman she really is. She had never cooked until she was married at a very late age. She went to France, tasted the most amazing thing she had ever put in her mouth and a few months later was one of the only women to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu. She proceeded to write one of the most influential and well known cookbooks in the nation. Not only did she write it, but she tested and retested every single recipe in those 700 some pages. I'm no Julie Powell here, I'm not about to go and make a beef flavored aspic with a soft boiled egg suspended in the middle, but you bet your ass I'll make a soup with 4 ingredients:

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb. leeks, thoroughly rinsed and sliced
2 quarts water
1 T. salt
5 T. butter*
3/4 c. cream*
parsley for garnish

Place potatoes, leeks, water, and salt in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil a cover slightly, simmer for about 40 minutes until potatoes are soft. Transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, working in batches if needed. Add butter and cream to pureed soup mixture and top with pepper and parsley. Yum.

Ok, so brutally good soup. I wish I could take credit but this one belongs to Julia and the wonderful people of France. To accommodate both myself and Spencer I put 1 T real butter and 2 T cream in my bowl and then added the soup. For Spencer I put equal amounts of earth balance and soy cream in his bowl. We ate it with some delicious fresh bread from the bakery up the street and both agreed that it was amazingly good. And as a testament to that, he didn't even run to the kitchen for more salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes. Thank you, thank you.

A Most Cumbersome Apple Strudel

The other weekend the beau and I ventured north through the beautiful rolling mountains of New York state (and the not so beautiful factories of New Jersey) to his parents' house in Connecticut. Aside from my car basically dying by the time we arrived to our destination it was a fantastic little trip to New England. Part of the whole point of our trip was to go to a little orchard and grab some apples and pumpkins. Unfortunately, because of the state of my car and its inability to make the journey back to Philly we had to forgo the pumpkin getting but still managed to procure a nice $20 bag of mixed up apples straight off the tree. I don't really eat food that hasn't been cooked yet so of course my go to for this overflowing bag of pommes was of course an array of desserts. Upon looking through my various cook books I decided on an apple strudel that seemed very simple and incredibly easy to turn into a vegan snack. Before I waffle on any further, I'll post MY version of this recipe and then rant about what a torturous affair it was.

4 medium apples, peeled and sliced thin (appx. 1 lb or 4 cups)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. raisins
1/2 c. slivered, blanched almonds
zest and juice from 1 lemon (about 1t zest and 1 1/2 T juice)
18 sheets phyllo dough, room temperature
1/2 c. melted butter*
Powdered sugar and cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 375° and prepare baking pan with parchment paper or silicon mat. In a large bowl combine apples, sugar, raisins, and lemon.
Unroll dough onto a piece of parchment or kitchen towel and cover to keep the dough from drying out. On a separate piece of parchment or on your silicon mat, lay out one sheet of dough and brush with butter. Layer dough until it is six sheets deep. Pile approximately 1 1/2 cups apple mixture into center of dough leaving a 2 inch border along the entire perimeter of the dough. Fold in one long side then both short sides then roll (it's more like a really awkward fold than a roll, but you'll get the idea) until the seam is on the bottom. If the dough comes apart anywhere just finagle it back together. Repeat this for the remaining dough and filling, you should have 3 whole strudel when finished. Place them on your pan (or pans if they don't all fit on one) and put in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Let the strudel rest for about 5 minutes before cutting it. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Alright, now for the rant. This fucking recipe was one of the most poorly written and hard to follow instruction that I've ever dealt with. It came from a Williams-Sonoma book on baking that I got a couple years ago from the parents of a dude I was dating. It's an alright book, nothing that amazing and if I remember correctly, there's other recipes that have given me trouble in it. This is why I love the internet so much. I can go on numerous recipe sites and find out if other people ran into problems and if it's even worth doing. You don't get that from a recipe book. But, I'm a trusting lady and I thought, "Hey, if it is published and put out by a place with such a reputable name, surely it will work." Hell no! The original recipe calls for 6 large apples with no guide as to weight or measure once sliced. As I sliced my own apples once I got to apple #4 I realized my very large bowl was nearly full. I'd never worked with Phyllo before and I figured that maybe this would make sense once I got it out of the package. Much to my surprise I found some paper thin pieces of dough that measured about the size of a standard letter. Surely not big enough to contain 7 cups of sliced apples. Pissed. Whatever, I made that work to a certain degree, I still had apple mixture left over and wound up using my remaining phyllo in some tiny brioche pans with a little apple mixture. In the end, this tasted amazing and was completely unnecessarily difficult.

For the second part of my rant, let me talk about vegan caramel sauce. When I saw the apple strudel recipe I thought it'd be great with some caramel sauce, a bit of a take on the old caramel apple (which is a forbidden fruit to my animal friendly boy). I searched for something online and ran into something from the post punk kitchen, a bit of a trusty vegan recipe site. The recipe was originally posted on some vegan ice cream blog and seemed to have some pretty good reviews so I went for it. I made it the day before however and when I removed it from the fridge it looked a lot more like buttery wet sugar than caramel sauce. When I reheated it over the stove it turned into a very tasty cement. I tried using it with the strudel and it tasted pretty good but the texture was atrocious. I think I'll try a few more experiments with caramel sauce a la vegan because that's just a damn shame.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Mountain of Chili

Sorry for the lapse in posts. It's not that I haven't been cooking, lord knows I have (as does spencer and my growing stomachs). I still have yet to find my camera charger and just can't get motivated to write without some visual stimulation. However, today is the day I will delve into the depths of the dungeon which is my basement and search that rascally device out. Hopefully I'll be able to update this post with a glorious shot of my beautiful chili.

I found this recipe after a very quick search on the googinator. I'm basically copy and pasting it, so I can't take credit for much of this unfortunately.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
2 (12 ounce) packages vegetarian burger crumbles
3 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and season with bay leaves, cumin, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir until onion is tender, then mix in the celery, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and green chile peppers. When vegetables are heated through, mix in the vegetarian burger crumbles. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 5 minutes.
Mix the tomatoes into the pot. Season chili with chili powder and pepper. Stir in the kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the corn, and continue cooking 5 minutes before serving.

So only a couple modifications to this recipe. Some of you may know my disdain for green bell peppers, the rest of you know now. I used red and yellow ones instead, much to my happiness. Green peppers taint everything they touch and I hate it. I also threw in a little brown sugar because that's just how I roll. Probably could've used a bit more. I also used just one package of fake ground meat. It was plenty, let me tell you. This makes a shitload of chili. It says 8 servings, which seems about right. The proportions are good though so I don't know how you'd half it, considering the cans of beans and whatnot. Anyway, we ate our chili with some premade cornbread from whole foods (his vegan, mine delightfully yellow and full of eggs) as well as some very convincing fake cheese.

So that's it for now. I've got an apple strudel coming up that should be very exciting for everyone, filled with mystery, passion, and intrigue. I'm also planning on making some non vegan desserts so get your senses ready for a taste explosion... or maybe just get ready for another mundane list of ingredients.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Split Pea Soup and Sammiches

I've never made split pea soup before, in fact, I'm not even sure how many times I've even had it. Let's face it, it's generally not a very pretty soup, especially from the can. Well, I had some split peas in the pantry and the rest of the ingredients are pretty standard, just a quick stop at the old Ital for some cheap carrots and I was on my way. Fortunately, my man has an appetite twice the size of his body and convinced me to stop at the market for sandwich stuffs. It was here that I decided I could compensate for lack of ham hock in the soup with a tasty Jambon beurre baguette. Well, enough chatter, let the recipe-ing begin!

3 large carrots, diced
1 medium celery root, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter*
2 T olive oil
1 lb dry split peas, rinsed
6-8 cups water or veg. broth
1 T old style mustard
1 cup frozen peas
Potential herbs:
herbs de provence

In a large soup pot melt your butter and oil and throw in the celery and carrots. Cook until tender but not mushy, about 7 or 8 minutes. Then throw in your onion and garlic and cook for another couple minutes until soft. Add peas and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes (leaving the lid off will cause the soup to be thicker, I left mine on for the first half to make it a little less thick). Add your herbs in the amount you desire. Just before serving, throw in your peas, season with salt and pepper and a hand full of chopped fresh parsley. Voila!

(I'm not writing about Spencer's sammi because frankly, it looked gross and I didn't technically make it. It's some fake turkey salad he gets at WF and it looks like cat food. He likes it but wasn't thrilled about it in comparison to my fantastic soup.)

Skipping the ingredients, straight to assemblage: Slice one demi-baguette almost in half. On one side spread a generous amount of salted butter, on the other side an equal (or more) portion of delicious mustard. Lay a few slices of baked or smoked deli ham in the center and top with cheese of your choice. Toast in the oven. I actually threw in a few sliced cornichons to give it some zing...but you don't have to if you're a wimp.

So the soup pretty much RULES. I cannot think of a single thing that would improve it at all. We both had seconds and our leftovers are already gone. I cooked my peas to al dente rather than to supreme mushy pea soup consistency, but that was a personal choice. One could use regular celery in lieu of the root, but I think the root has a more interesting flavor and it doesn't fall apart the way regular celery does in soup. However, for some reason I can't seem to explain, celery root is far more expensive than celery. I implore you dearest internet, tell me why this is so. Also, it's a bit more difficult to find and maneuver. It's irregularly shaped and covered in dirt in all these crevices, so you end up cutting a lot away. BUT I STILL LOVE IT. In short, make this damned soup and thank me later.

The sammich was also quite good. And it's tangy smokiness really complimented the sweetness of the soup. I only ate half of it because the soup was so good. Over all a very cheap meal and one that I plan on adding to the regular rotation for sure. Now I just have to work on making a vegan sammich to go with this...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

BEHOLD! The Icecream Machine!

For my birthday Spencer got me a fancy new Cuisinart Icecream maker. My first try was some strawberry sorbet. I had found some super cheap strawberries at the Italian Market and it was a simple enough recipe. Not awesome and I didn't try anything exciting with it, hence I'm not including it in Le Blog.

Round Two however, complete experimentation with excellent results. Earlier this year I was deeply saddened to find out that because Nutella contains milk, my dearest had never tried it. Such an atrocity should not be forced (or willingly given up in this circumstance) upon a person and thus I have been determined to come up with some vegan friendly version of this delicious spread. Well, last week at the grocery store I was parusing the faux milk isle and found Hazelnut Milk. o_O I exclaimed! Snatched it up along with some brutally awesome and surprisingly cheap Icelandic chocolate and began my journey towards Nutella Icecream.

I'd had some insanely good Nutella Gelato at this shop in Paris earlier this year and in no way did I replicate it. It was good though, the recipe is as follows:

1 c. roasted, skinned Hazelnuts
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. Hazelnut Milk
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. plain soy yogurt
1/4 t. salt
1 egg*

Put hazelnuts in blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add 1/2 cup milk if mixture is too stiff to blend. Meanwhile, chop your chocolate into little pieces and melt in a double boiler. Add remaining milk and sugar and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove and allow to partially cool. Once cooled, add to hazelnut mixture in blender along with yogurt, salt, and egg. Puree on high until fully mixed. Refrigerate until completely cool then add to icecream maker. If mixture is too stiff after refrigeration, add more hazelnut milk.

This stuff is intense. I put more chocolate in my original recipe and it was too much honestly. So, in the above recipe I knocked it back a little bit. It doesn't exactly taste like Nutella per say but it is still nutty and chocolaty and delicious. The thing about grinding your own nuts is that they wind up like natural peanut butter. It's not completely smooth and amazing the way nutella is, but it is indeed superb. I will say, the use of the yogurt and hazelnut milk is excellent as it doesn't leave that soy icecream flavor.

p.s.- I realize this does not have a picture, which is careless and insensitive, but my camera is out of batteries and my charger got lost in the fray. Hopefully I'll find it before the icecream is all gone.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Holy Dim Sum!

Generally, I'm not big on Chinese cuisine due in part to its greasiness as well as its mystery. However, a couple days ago I got talked into going to this vegan dim sum place. I've never been to a dim sum place and really had no idea how it worked exactly but I was hungry and Spencer had actually made a decision about what he wanted for once. So off we went to New Harmony in China Town.

So there was this big menu and Spencer just named a bunch of different things off it that we would dine on. We first received a small bowl of crispy fried wanton wrappers with sweet and sour sauce. Yum. Then I got wonton soup which was quite tasty indeed, Spencer got hot sour soup or whatever. We finished our soup and an entourage of food reigned down upon our table. Cold peanut and sesame noodles, steamed pork and vegetable buns, General Tso's chicken, rice, sticky rice, pork dumplings, probably other stuff that I don't remember or even know the name of. All in all, this shit was goooood. They even gave us little fried bananas with our fortune cookies. A big thumbs up for this place. My friends Ashley and Jessica would be proud of my dim sum outing and I'll be sure to take them there when they come visit me. This is a great place for both vegans and omnivores alike.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Summer Squash Soup

A few years ago I signed up for a really awesome produce delivery service called Boston Organics. Every other week I got a big box of organic and/or local produce and had to figure out what the hell to do with it. One day I got a fairly copious amount of yellow squash and, having never really cooked with it, just made something up. It turned out quite delicious and I have since put it in the regular line up due to it's simplicity and its low cost. Here it go:

4 yellow squash, sliced
2 T. butter*
2 T. canola oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs of thyme
1 c. milk (soy, almond, cow)
1/3 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1 package tempeh
salt and pepper

Using half the butter and oil, saute the squash in a large pan until soft and golden. Once all squash is cooked, remove from pan and set aside. Saute shallots and garlic in remaining oil and add to cooked squash. Add remaining oil and butter to pan and crumble tempeh into the pan, cook on medium high until golden and crispy on the outside. While tempeh cooks, place squash mixture, thyme, and milk into a blender and puree until smooth. If the temperature has reduced too much, place back on the stove to reheat. Add almonds and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with tempeh and parsley for garnish.

So obviously I've made this before and thus I think it's pretty good. This go around wasn't quite as good as I've made it in the past and I'm not sure why. Could have been the use of soymilk rather than my usual cow milk and cream. I think next time I might try almond milk as it has a bit of sweetness that may compliment the dish a little better. Also, this is a good base to play around with. I'm sure it would be great with some green beans, bacon (what isn't good with bacon?), or even red bell peppers if you're into that sort of thing, which I am not. So, give this one a try, it's super easy and fast.