Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cooking with Dino

I remember when I first started discovering all these great vegan sites on the web and I started lurking in the Vegan Freak forums. There was a guy over there named Dino who would rail against poorly-prepared vegan food and post his own great imaginative recipes. Since then I've enjoyed checking in on the forums from time to time to see what Dino's cooking, and also listening to his segments on the Vegan Freak podcast. Now he's sharing his passion for food in his new cookbook, Alternative Vegan. This is more of a cookbook that you sit down and read, rather than just a collection of recipes. Though it's a great collection of recipes too, many of them Indian-inspired, from basic soups and one pot meals to more elaborate concoctions. Oh, and if you're not familiar with Dino, he eschews all so-called "omni-subs" (meat & dairy substitutes), even things like tofu, tempeh or soymilk. Personally I don't have a problem with these things but I like that there's a cookbook out there that tries to get you out of that box.

It's pretty simple, but the first recipe I tried was the Basic Kale Soup. Sounded good-for-you I guess, but it was quite yummy too. The thing about this book is that Dino really wants you to use his recipes as a guide and then go your own way with them. Many recipes have a lengthy list of suggested variations at the end, from which you can pick and choose. And if you go for something that's not on the list, so much the better. For this soup I generally followed the basic recipe (cumin seeds, onion, garlic, salt & pepper, water, kale, parsley), and I added a couple of the suggested variations (kidney beans and potatoes), along with a couple of my own variations (beet greens and tomatoes). The result was a hearty, tasty and good-for-you soup.

Next up was something from the "More Complex" section - Split Pea Croquettes. Although these turned out to be super-easy to make (and super-delicious to eat!). The story preceding the recipe tells you that these are sort of Dino's variation on falafel. All you do is soak a cup of split peas in water overnight, drain the water, then grind 'em up in a food processor. Add salt and a small amount of minced vegetables (cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic), form into patties and fry in oil. The whole idea sounded intriguing but I was a little unsure about how it would come out. I tasted a bit of the batter for seasoning and it wasn't very appetizing but after frying the patties in peanut oil until they were nice and brown it was a whole different story. Crispy on the outside and soft but not mushy-soft on the inside - perfect! Especially when served with some kicked-up ketchup (that would be ketchup and hot sauce). Oh, and more kale and some carrot sticks on the side.

Alternative Vegan is not your average everyday cookbook but I'm glad we've added it to our collection.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Feast 2007

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! As has become our tradition, we cooked up a huge vegan feast just for the two of us (or two and a half of us now). If you include all the dish washing I spent close to 8 hours in the kitchen yesterday, but it was a fabulous meal and with all that's left over we probably won't be cooking for the rest of the weekend. The menu was very similar to our last two years' posts; the exception being that we didn't do the puff pastry thing this year. Instead we dusted off and updated an old roulade recipe that we hadn't made in several years. Here's the whole menu:

  • Red Lentil-Roasted Garlic Roulade with Mushroom-Red Pepper Filling
  • Apple-Walnut Stuffing
  • Roasted Root Vegetables
  • Mushroom-Walnut Gravy
  • Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Bananas
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Cranberry Conserve
  • Pumpkin Pie
See our 2005 post for the roasted roots, stuffing and gravy recipes. Like last year, the sweet potatoes and cranberries are modified Food Network recipes. The brussels sprouts were just mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, agave, salt & pepper and roasted on a sheet pan. And the pie was a fairly standard (but oh so delicious) tofu-pumpkin pie recipe that we have in a back issue of Vegetarian Times. Speaking of that magazine, it was in another back issue that we found the roulade recipe. We used a different filling and updated the outer layer with the addition of roasted garlic. It was a little tricky to put together as the outer layer was a little crumbly, but in the end it came out good and sliced up pretty well (a picture is below, but first some other pics).

Here's the brussels sprouts about to go into the oven.

And the sweet potatoes coming out of the oven.

The roasted roots just out of the oven.

A couple slices of the roulade (see recipe below).

The whole spread on the table.

That's a full plate!

It took a while but finally we had room for dessert.

Red Lentil-Roasted Garlic Roulade with Mushroom-Red Pepper Filling

(adapted from Vegetarian Times and The Meatless Gourmet by Bobbie Hinman)

3/4 c. red lentils
1 1/4 c. water
1 whole bulb roasted garlic
1 c. bread crumbs
1-2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
olive oil

For the filling:
1 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 lb. fresh cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. bread crumbs
1 roasted red pepper, chopped

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan and add lentils. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are tender and water is absorbed. Allow lentils to cool slightly and add to a food processor along with roasted garlic, bread crumbs, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, salt & pepper. Process until a smooth dough is formed, scraping down the sides as necessary. Depending on how much moisture is left in the lentils, you may need to add more water. If the mixture seems to be too crumbly, add water (or more lemon juice) a tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together well. Put in a bowl and set aside

For the filling, cook onions and mushrooms in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the mushrooms are getting soft, add garlic, thyme, salt & pepper and cook a couple minutes more. Put this mixture in a food processor with lemon juice and bread crumbs and process until well combined and very finely chopped. Add red pepper and pulse several times until the pepper is minced well.

Now press the lentil dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper so that it's a uniform thickness and about a 9" x 13" rectangle. Spread the mushroom filling over the top, leaving about a 1" gap at the borders. Using the plastic wrap or wax paper to help you, gently but tightly roll up the roulade starting from a short end. Once it's rolled up, you could store it in the fridge for a while if you need to. When ready to bake, brush the top liberally with olive oil and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Slice it up and serve with gravy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Seitan Piccata

It's that cooking with alcohol thing again. And yet another one from Veganomicon. This was one of the first recipes that caught my eye when I got the book because, well what's not to love about wine, capers and olives? I think I made a bit of a mess with the plating and I overcooked the green beans just a bit but still it was a nice dinner. I have to say though that I'm not totally sold on the idea of serving it with mashed potatoes. Maybe it's a texture thing or maybe it's just that the piccata sauce just seems too sophisticated for the lowly mashed potatoes. Maybe next time I'll try it with pasta, or better yet polenta.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Baja Tempeh Burritos

First off, thank you all so much for the wonderful comments and well wishes. We're looking forward to the ride.

For now it's back to digging into Veganomicon. Darlene's away for a few days visiting her sister in North Carolina and that means I can kick up the heat level in my dinner more than I usually do. Now it also means that I can cook with alcohol. Doubtful that cooking with a little wine or beer would do anything to the baby but we're playing it safe and steering clear. For her anyway. So when she left I went straight to the Baja-Style Grilled Tempeh Tacos recipe and the chile-beer tempeh marinade. Only we didn't have corn tortillas so I used whole wheat flour tortillas. Which I guess makes these burritos rather than tacos but either way they're awesome. You might notice that I especially had fun playing with the Lime Crema after I put it in a squeeze bottle. I couldn't decide which picture I liked best so I loaded 'em both.

And this is completely unrelated to dinner - it's more for Darlene. Here are the kitties looking out the window waiting for mom to come home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 years, 500 posts, 1 big announcement

Time flies. It's been two years since we started this humble blog and whadya know, this is our 500th post. Well..... maybe I sorta planned it like that. Still, that's a long time and a lotta posts. Life was hard a year ago and we didn't do much for our blog anniversary then but we wanted to have something fun for dinner tonight. We just posted about savory pancakes, now it's time for the pancake's skinny counterpart the crepe. Actually Amey beat us to it but I swear this meal was already planned before I realized that. I was looking back through our archives recently and I realized that we've posted about The Flat, our local take-out crepe stand, and about making sweet crepes for breakfast, but we hadn't made savory dinner crepes yet. So I whipped out the crepe pan... wait, we don't have a crepe pan - it's just a standard 10" fry pan. So I got that out and made a batch of crepes, which we filled with sautéed mushrooms, spinach and tofu (the Veganomicon Braised Tofu recipe - quite yummy).

But even better than that was this fabulous chocolate cake that Darlene made for dessert. Chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting no less. The recipe was from Sinfully Vegan and it packs a powerful punch. Normally I'm one for getting seconds on dessert but one piece of this cake is enough to satisfy the most serious chocolate craving. The frosting didn't get extremely firm but that didn't detract from the delicious-ness of the cake.

Now I also promised a big announcement didn't I? How's this for big?

We're having a baby!!

Our little one is 15 weeks along now so that means that by May next year our lives will be changing in a big way. Our lives are already changing. Has anyone noticed we've been eating more greens? Small changes now, larger ones to come. So far mama Darlene is doing pretty well - feeling sick quite often buy not terribly so. And it hasn't affected her appetite much so we'll keep eating and hopefully posting about lots of healthy vegan food. For the time being anyway. I'm not sure what this blog will become - maybe we'll post less, maybe it'll be more about vegan pregnancy and parenting, maybe once the baby comes we won't have time for posting at all anymore. But we hope you'll stay tuned to find out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chickpea Cutlets

Typically I might make it a point not to do something that everyone else is doing, but I couldn't have that attitude when Chickpea Cutlets are involved. This was probably the Veganomicon recipe I most wanted to try so even if they've been blogged about multiple times already, well I just had to jump on the bandwagon. Isa and Terry sure have done some wonderful things with the humble chickpea and these chewy cutlets are sure to become a regular in our kitchen. They were great with the mustard sauce but their versatility is apparent. Next time maybe we'll have them with smashed taters and gravy. Or how about baked with marinara sauce? Possibilities abound.

Oh yeah, on the side this time was sautéed yellow squash and a yummy salad I threw together with romaine, baby spinach, carrots, walnuts, chickpeas, dried cranberries and avocado with a balsamic vinaigrette. I only wish we had more of the cutlets leftover. If you haven't made this recipe yet, do yourself a favor and just go ahead and make a double batch the first time. Trust me on this.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Savory Southwestern Pancake

Last weekend in Asheville we had brunch at a cool place called Rosetta's Kitchen. The special that day was an omelet served with soy sausage, salsa and a creamy sauce. The vegan version of this that I had was more like a savory pancake and it was so good I decided to create something similar at home. So here's what I did for the batter:

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chili powder
pinch turmeric
3 oz. silken tofu
1 c. + 1 Tbs. plain soy milk
1 Tbs. olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a food processor or blender, whir together the tofu and half the soy milk until creamy. Add the rest of the soy milk and the oil and mix briefly until combined. Pour this into the dry ingredients and gently mix until combined. Cook like you would any other pancake and make them as large as you can handle. I used a 1/2 cup scoop per pancake and ended up with three large ones.

To assemble, I spread some Nacho Cheeze Sauce (from Ultimate Uncheese) on half the pancake, topped with soy sausage, salsa and cilantro, and folded the other half of the pancake on top. Then I added a little avocado, home fries (Veganomicon recipe) and some fresh baby spinach drizzled with a bit of flax oil and Bragg's. We ended up with a huge pile of dishes but it was worth it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Chickpeas Romesco with Saffron-Garlic Rice

A post title like that can only mean one thing. That our copy of Veganomicon has arrived (and quickly too). With all the hubbub in the vegan blogosphere about this book I was beginning to feel like I was missing out on membership to some cool club. But now we have our invite and our taste buds will be better for it. We have a slew of pages bookmarked but we started out with a couple of recipes that were fairly simple and for which we had all the ingredients readily on hand. Our Halloween leftovers are almost gone so last night I decided we needed something to snack on and I made the Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies. They were so fabulous that I lost count of how many I ate today.

For dinner the Chickpeas Romesco was perfect because I cooked up a big batch of chickpeas a few days ago and needed to use them up. Plus there were those roasted red peppers sitting in the fridge. Perfect since a romesco is a classic Spanish sauce of ground tomatoes, red peppers and almonds, among other things. It's often served with poultry but chickpeas really are a more compassionate choice and they hold their own with the bold flavors of the sauce. And I took Isa & Terry's suggestion and paired our beloved legume with their Saffron-Garlic Rice. Garlic indeed. Five cloves in there - that's some garlicky goodness! Add some steamed kale on the side and we had ourselves a meal! Our dance with Veganomicon has begun...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Smashed Cauliflower and Chickpea Gravy

I'm a little wary of my chef's knife at the moment but after not cooking much for the last several days I had to buck up and get back in the kitchen tonight. We traveled to western North Carolina this past weekend for my cousin's wedding and we got some great vegan food in Asheville on the way there and on the way back. In particular, the Laughing Seed is just plain awesome and how we wish we had a restaurant like that here.

Anyway, we had cauliflower and collards still in our fridge from before we left so we decided we better use them up tonight. We ended up with a good meal, if not anything new. I steamed the cauliflower until it was almost falling apart, then mashed it good with Earth Balance, plain soy milk, salt & pepper. That was most excellent with the Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy from Vegan with a Vengeance. On the side I did our standard thing with the collards - steamed 'em and mixed with lemon juice, agave, salt and Spike seasoning. And though I couldn't resist any longer and just lit up the 'ol credit card ordering Veganomicon, I'm sure we'll still go back to VwaV for this gravy recipe because it really is punk rock.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Snobby Joes

Suddenly it seems I've become a menace in the kitchen but hopefully the bad luck will be over soon. I planned to post last night about our tasty Veganomicon Snobby Joes from the night before and about handing out healthier-than-candy Halloween treats. But as I was hurriedly chopping a pepper to put in a tofu scramble I damn near chopped off the tip of my pinky finger. We had to leave the Halloween treats by the front door and head to the ER, where I ended up with 5 stitches in my finger. So yet another lesson. Knives are sharp. And your fingers have no business being underneath them.

But the Snobby Joes sure were good. Car repairs blew a hole in our budget this past month so we've been holding off on ordering Veganomicon. I think we'll have to break down and get it soon, but in the meantime we're glad for the sample recipes Isa posted.

We're also glad that our leftover Halloween treats make good snacks for us any time. Though it can be a challenge finding vegan candy for Halloween, that's what we've done in years past. Then we've ended up eating too much of the leftovers ourselves. This year we decided to go a different route and we got little peanut butter pretzel snack packs and micro-sized boxes of raisins to hand out. I don't know if the kids appreciated it but maybe their parents did.