Monday, January 28, 2013

Hummus and Apple Cider Vinaigrette

I keep hearing how good raw apple cider vinegar is for you so I've tried to use it more but the flavor is a little stronger and more sharp than I like. However, when mixed with a little hummus it makes a lovely creamy vinaigrette.

1 heaping tsp. dijon mustard
1 small drizzle of pure maple syrup
Small pinch of sea salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar (the raw fermented kind if possible)
2 heaping Tbsp. hummus (I used my Edamame Hummus recipe)

Place all of the ingredients into a small jar and whisk or shake until blended well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mung Bean Dal

I'm calling this Mung Bean Dal, but you could use any kind of split peas or lentils. If you use lentils or split peas you will need to reduce the cooking time to about 35-45 minutes. Once you begin the cooking process things go quickly at first, so have all of your vegetables prepped and spices measured and ready to go.

Often times when making Indian food it's OK to make substitutions when you don't have a certain spice. However, I think that the fenugreek seeds are what give this recipe the most delicious aspect of it's flavor. You can find fenugreek seeds at Indian or African grocery stores, specialty spice stores, some well stocked spice sections in the regular grocery store, or online. They look like a malformed tan grain (maybe kind of like buckwheat groats). Once you smell them you will recognize the scent if you eat a lot of Indian food.

Since fenugreek is a big, chunky, whole spice (as are some of the other spices you'll be using) you either need to toast it and then grid it, or cook it in a screaming hot pan until it explodes (I prefer the second method because it's easier).

2-3 Tbsp. unrefined coconut oil or canola oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. corriander seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 large white or yellow onion, minced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 large tomatoes, minced with their juice or 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 c. mung beans or split peas or lentils, sorted, rinsed and drained
Vegetable broth (8 c. or more)
Juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon, about 2 Tbsp.
Fresh cilantro (1/2 c. or more as you like)

1)  Heat the oil over high heat in a large soup pot. Once small wisps of smoke arise from the oil add the cumin seeds, corriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds. Quickly throw the seeds into the oil and place the lid on the pot. The seeds should immediately begin popping and then calm down after about 30 seconds.

2) After 30 seconds of popping seeds, turn the heat down to medium and put in the onion, garlic and ginger and stir to mix. You want to do this step quickly so that you don't burn the seeds. Continue to saute the onions, garlic and ginger until soft but no browned, about 5-7 minutes.

3) Once the onions are softened add the other spices (curry powder, salt, turmeric, paprika, and cumin powder. If you happen to have some amchur around you could toss in 1/2 tsp. of that as well).

4) Mix the spices with the onions to coat and then add the 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste and let it melt as you stir it around to mix it with the onions.

5) Add the diced or crushed tomatoes, the mung beans and about 4 c. of vegetable broth (or more if you need it to submerge the beans). Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a low boil/high simmer, and let it cook for at least1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are completely tender. Make sure to add more liquid as necessary if it starts to evaporate too much, I usually end up adding another 4 c. of broth as the beans cook.

6) Once the beans are completely tender, continue to let it cook until the liquid evaporates to your desired thickness, keeping in mind it will continue to thicken a bit after it cools. Add about 1/2 c. of fresh cilantro and the fresh lemon juice, and stir to incorporate. Serve garnished with additional cilantro over rice or with naan bread.

This makes about 8-10 servings.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pad Thai

As I said earlier in my Pad Kee Mow recipe, Thai food is my favorite. I will go to any length to enable myself to make good Thai food. There is a secret to making great tasting Thai food at home. The secret is to seek out authentic ingredients rather than trying to create shortcuts by using ingredients like ketchup. It will never taste right unless you take the time to find the right ingredients.

For Pad Thai, tamarind paste is what you need to try to find. It's a thick, tangy dark paste made from...tamarind. There are several places you can look to find it. Your best bet is to go to an ethnic grocery store (Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Mexican) if you live near one. You may also be able to find it in one of the various ethnic sections of your local grocery store (ours used to carry it but now they don't). If all else fails, and you really love Thai food, you can order it online. It's not expensive.

Note: Sometimes tamarind comes in a brick form and if that is all you can find it's fine to use that, but make the sauce in a blender instead if you have a brick of tamarind (or in a sauce pan and melt it over low heat). Also note: you can make the sauce saltier with more shoyu or tamari, tangier with more vinegar or tamarind, sweeter with more sugar, or richer with more peanut butter, but you really should add the lime and Asian hot sauce at the end.

I use peanut butter in my sauce even though Pad Thai normally has crushed peanuts in it. I don't like to use crushed peanuts because they get soggy in the left overs. If you'd rather use peanuts, go right ahead.

For the Sauce
3 Tbsp. shoyu, tamari or light soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar (I don't usually like to use sugar, but you need it for this sauce, this amount is greatly reduced from most Pad Thai recipes)
2 Tbsp. distilled white or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp. natural peanut butter
2-3 Tbsp. tamarind paste (there is no substitute for this)
1 Tbsp. paprika (not smoked)

For the Stirfry
2-3 Tbsp. canola or peanut oil
1 lb. firm or extra firm tofu, cubed into 1/2" (1 cm.) squares
1 large white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced (yes, 5)
8 oz. mushrooms (crimini/baby bella or button), sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 c. cilantro leaves
10-14 oz. rice stick noodles, the thickest ones you can find
Lime wedges and Sriracha hot sauce to garnish

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat off and place the rice noodles into the water. Give the noodles a stir and then let them soak according to the package directions. This is usually somewhere between 7-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the noodles you are using. Err on the undercooked side because you're also going to stirfry them. It's an art, really, if you over soak them they will fall apart but if you under soak them they will be crunchy in it for just the right amount of time.

2) As the water comes to a boil mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl, making sure to dissolve the sugar, tamarind and peanut butter, and set aside.

3) As the water comes to a boil and the noodles soak, prepare all of your stirfry ingredients and have them ready to go. Heat the oil in a large wok or your largest pot over high heat and then add the tofu (if the heat isn't high enough the tofu will stick to the pan). Let the tofu sit and fry while you finish chopping the vegetables.

4) After about 5 minutes the tofu should be browning. Give it a toss and then add the onions and toss to combine. Let the onions cook with the tofu for another 3 minutes until the onions begin to soften.

5) When the onions are just softened add the garlic and toss to combine. Cook for 1 minute and then add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Right now would be the perfect time for the noodles to be done, but if they still need time turn off the heat on your stir fry until the noodles have finished soaking.  Once the noodles are done you can turn the heat back on the wok as you drain the noodles.

6) Once the noodles have been drained and the mushrooms are softened a bit, add the noodles to the wok. Pour the sauce over the noodles and add the peppers. Toss to coat all of the noodles with the sauce and continue to stirfry for about 5 more minutes.

7) Remove from the heat, add the cilantro and toss to combine.

This makes about 4 servings (or more if you have a light appetite and are serving other items) and should be served with fresh lime wedges and Sriracha hot chili sauce.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Stuffed Bell Peppers

My Mom-in-law, Karen,  made some delicious stuffed peppers spiced with cumin and cinnamon when we were visiting for Christmas, and they were so good it inspired me to experiment (I'm copying the quinoa, greens and mushrooms from her recipe, and I guess I'm also bragging that my Mother-in-law makes delicious vegan food for us when we visit).

The sauce I use for this recipe can be used for many other things: a marinade for roasted or grilled vegetables or tofu, salad dressing, something else? The stuffing for these peppers could also stand alone as a pilaf of sorts. In fact, my two and 6 year old daughters spooned it up like I had just given them dessert (how lovely to hear your kids ask for more quinoa with beans and vegetables!). My picky eldest daughter turned her nose up at it, however, I know she would have liked it if I could have gotten her to try it. There is enough filling for 10-12 pepper halves (5-6 peppers) depending on how full you stuff them and how large they are. I only had 4 peppers (8 halves) and so I saved the extra stuffing to eat as a salad for lunch later on.

These peppers are quite beautiful and could serve as a main dish with a vegetable side and a salad. They could also be used as a side dish for a meal with soup or pasta.You could also choose to top them with vegan cheese or some bread crumbs.

For the Peppers and Stuffing

4-6 bell peppers, a variety of colors (try to get ones that will make nice big cavities for the stuffing)
1 c. quinoa (I used a mix of red and brown this time), rinsed and drained well in a fine mesh strainer
2 c. vegetable stock, water, or a combination (I used 1 c. of each this time)
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
8 oz. crimini/baby bella mushrooms, diced
1 medium-small zucchini squash, diced
1 small bunch greens such as kale, watercress, collards, baby spinach, washed & chopped
2-3 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
1 c. cooked navy beans
1/3 c. pinenuts
1/3 c. sundried tomatoes, diced
4 dried mission figs, diced

For the Sauce

3 Tbsp. vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or less, if you want)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. shoyu or tamari
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced

1) Cook the quinoa according to package directions, but err on the shorter end of the suggested cooking time. Most quinoa suggests a 10-15 minute cooking time, I would go with around 12 minutes so that it's still a bit moist but not too soupy. Once the quinoa is done cooking, remove it from the heat and set it aside.

2) As the quinoa cooks, slice the peppers in half lengthwise to make two flat pepper "boats." I like to leave the stems on and try to cut through them because they look pretty when the stems are in tact, but you could remove them. Use a paring knife or spoon to scrape out the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper halves.

3) Preheat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the diced onion. Cook the onion until it just begins to brown (7-10 minutes) and then add the diced mushrooms and zucchini. Continue to cook the mixture until the zucchini until they are softened (about 5 more minutes). Then add the greens and saute until they are just wilted, anther 2-3 minutes, and remove the pan from the heat.

4) As the onions and other vegetables cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the minced fresh basil, cooked beans, pinenuts, diced sundried tomatoes and died figs into a large bowl.

5) Once you are done sauteing the onions, mushrooms, zucchini and greens, add them to the large bowl with the beans and other vegetables. Add the cooked quinoa. Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to mix well.

6) Use a large spoon to stuff the mixture into the hollowed out peppers, pressing the stuffing deep into the peppers. Place the stuffed peppers carefully into a large baking pan and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes while covered. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until browned on top.

This makes 8-12 bell pepper halves.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cornbread Stuffing

When we lived in Chicago we had an apartment in the East Rogers Park neighborhood just down the street from The Heartland Cafe, which remains one of my favorite restaurants to this day. The other day my husband reminded me of the Cornbread Stuffing that used to be on their menu and I had to try to recreate a vegan version of it because it's been over 5 years since I've had it. I often used to order a side of the cornbread stuffing and a side salad for lunch, and now I can recreate that wholesome lunch anytime I want.

I suggest vegetables to use, but you could replace ingredients as you like. If you don't want hot peppers use a green bell pepper or diced zucchini. You could add corn kernels, black beans, cilantro, whatever you want. It would be nice topped with some salsa or avocado slices as well. I suggest using water or vegetable broth for the liquid or a combination. I do this because sometimes I have a little vegetable broth left over in the fridge and cooking grains is a great way to use it up as well as flavor your dish.

When I used to order this at The Heartland, it came looking like it had been scooped with an ice cream scooper, so that is one good way to serve it. You could also pour it into an oiled 9 x 13 inch baking dish and let it thicken in the fridge and then cut slices and pan sear them to serve. 

Lastly, if you're ever in Chicago, take the Red Line up to the Morse/Lunt stop and have a delicious meal at The Heartland Cafe right outside the Lunt exit, you won't regret it!

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, diced
1/2 a red onion, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano or anaheim pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, cut into thin rounds
1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced
4 c. water or vegetable broth or a combination
1 1/2 c. coarse cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chile powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 c. vegan cheese (optional)

1) Prep all of your ingredients by chopping the vegetables and measuring out the liquids, spices and cornmeal.

2) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add all of the chopped vegetables. Saute until softened, about 10-15 minutes. When the vegetables have softened remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.

3) Once the vegetables are done cooking heat the water and/or broth in a large soup pot (a 4 or 5 quart pot would be large enough). When the liquid comes to a boil slowly add the cornmeal and spices as you whisk constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to whisk the mixture for 8-10 minutes until it is thick and creamy. (Note: I recommend not cooking the vegetables at the same time as the cornmeal because the cornmeal needs to be whisked constantly or it will bubble and splatter all over the place).

4) Once the cornmeal is thick and no longer crunchy add the sauteed vegetables and stir to incorporate. Then add the vegan cheese if you are using it and continue to stir until the cheese is melted.

5) Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture thicken, it should be almost the consistency of a wet cornbread.

I'd say this makes 6-8 large servings.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Beer Battered Tempeh "Fish" Sandwiches with Vegan Tartar Sauce

This recipe is my virgin voyage into the world of deep frying. I don't think I'll make a habit of it since it's not good for you, but for a special treat once or twice a year this is a fantastic sandwich. It's so good, in fact, that I would pay money for this in a restaurant. Besides, just one sandwich and I was full for the night!

In addition to the high fat issue, I have avoided deep frying because it always seemed like a huge hassle. Most recipes have you heating about 3 cups of oil in a huge pot and using a thermometer to track the temperature of the oil. Since this recipe only makes 4 patties I decided to use a small (heavy bottomed) pot with about 1 cup of oil and then just fry them one a a time. I tested the heat of the oil by placing the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, once bubbles form around the submerged handle the oil is ready. Those techniques made this recipe surprisingly easy.

For the Tartar Sauce
1 c. veganaise or other vegan mayonaise
1 medium shallot, finely minced (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 dill pickle, finely minced
8 green olives, finely minced (you can remove those gross red things in the middle if they disgust you like they do me)
A dash each of cayenne and black pepper
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1 wedge)
1 tsp. malt vinegar

1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a  small bowl and set aside.

For the Beer Batter
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Dash of cayenne to taste
8 oz. beer, pale ale or pilsner both work well
2 Tbsp. malt vinegar
1 tsp. agave nectar or pure maple syrup

1. Place the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and then add the wet ingredients and stir to mix. Set aside until ready to use.

For the Sandwiches
1 16 oz. package of tempeh (try to get a brand that comes in a long rectangular shape rather than a fat square)
1 - 1 1/2 c. high heat oil such as canola or peanut (the amount depends on the size of your pot, you want it do be about 1 1/2 inches deep)
4 large rolls (we used home made sourdough rye rolls)
Lettuce, tomatoes, sliced onions or other garnishes as desired

1. Slice the tempeh half width wise into two squares and then cut each half down the center (like you're cutting a piece of bread off of a loaf) to make two thin square patties.

2. Prepare your rolls and garnishes and set them aside until you're ready to assemble the sandwiches.

To Cook and Assemble the Sandwiches:

1. Heat the oil over high heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Once you hear the oil start to crackle just a tiny bit, or you see it rippling, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the bottom of the pot. If little bubbles form around the handle, turn the heat down just a bit and begin to fry.

2) Dip 1 tempeh patty into your batter and coat it well. Scrape some of the excess off, but it's okay if it's pretty saturated with the batter. Carefully lower the patty into the oil with a pair of tongs, it should begin bubbling immediately - your oil should only appear to "boil" when a patty is in the oil, when you take the patty out it should not be boiling. If the oil boils when there is nothing in it, turn the heat down. Let the patty cook for 2 minutes, then flip it with your tongs and let it cook for another 2 minutes.

3) After the first patty is done, remove it from the oil with your tongs and place it on a plate lined generously with paper towels. Repeat the frying process for the 3 remaining patties.

4) When your patties are done frying, put about 1-2 Tbsp. of the tartar sauce on both the top and bottom of your rolls. Place lettuce on the bottom bun, place the "fish" patty over the lettuce and add any additional garnishes over the tempeh. Place the top of the roll over the sandwich and secure with a tooth pick or a similar device.

This makes 4 servings. Option: if you would rather have "fish sticks" (like the photo to the right) you could leave out the bun and just slice the tempeh into stick shapes, batter and fry it, and then dip it in the tarter sauce.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Marinated Roasted Portabello Mushrooms

Normally when I come up with what I think is a great recipe I preface my description with something like, "I don't want to brag but..." Not so in this case. I'm bragging, this recipe is excellent.

Once these mushrooms are marinated you could grill or roast them. They can be sliced and added to a salad of mixed greens with canillini beans, red onion and avocado (using the left over marinade to flavor a vinaigrette). They can also be used as mushroom burgers or breakfast bagel sandwiches. The flavor is very rich and savory, you won't be disappointed. This recipe is for 2 mushroom caps, but it could just as easily be doubled or tripled for more.

2 large portabello mushroom caps
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. shoyu or tamari
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a small baking dish and whisk together with a fork or small whisk.

2) Remove the stems from the mushrooms and clean any dirt or debris off with a dry cloth or paper towel. Coat the tops of the caps with the marinade and then set them under side up in a baking dish and spoon the marinade into the cap (tilting the dish to get nice big spoonfuls if need be). Let the mushrooms sit in the marinade at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

3) Turn the mushrooms back over (stem side down) and cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.

This makes 2 servings.
Photo to the left: Roasted Mushroom bagel sandwich with mixed greens and shallots sauteed in a little vegetable broth.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Edamame Hummus

I've been buying the edamame hummus from Trader Joe's for a long time, it's my very favorite. But then I realized that frozen edamame is sold everywhere and it's pretty affordable, so I decided to try to make my own but I was afraid it wouldn't be as good. As it turns out it tastes exactly like the store bought variety, delicious.

If you have a high powered blender you can use it for this recipe and you'll get a really creamy texture. If you don't, I would  recommend using a food processor instead because it might be too thick for a regular blender.

12 oz. frozen edamame, blanched in boiling water for 3-4 minutes to thaw
1/4 c. water
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon, about 1/3 cup
1/3 c. tahini
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

1) Let the edamame cook in a pot of boiling water for about 3-4 minutes and then strain it and rinse with cold water.

2) As the edamame boils add the other ingredients to a blender (liquid first).

3) Once the edamame has been cooked, strain it and rinse it in cold water and then add it to the blender.

4) Blend the mixture in a blender until very smooth, adding more water if necessary to aid in blending and scraping down the sides until blended well.

This makes just over 2 1/2 cups of hummus and is delicious with raw vegetables, or in a wrap with lettuce, olives, peppers, cucumbers, micro greens or sprouts and even baked tofu, or with a garden burger.