Monday, February 23, 2009

A Week of Soup

I have to start by giving credit where it's due because this was Darlene's idea. She thought the week of breakfast was fun and since it's winter it might also be fun to try a new soup recipe every night for a week. This started after she made a variation of the Pho recipe from Quick Fix Vegetarian. This recipe is itself a variation on a Vietnamese beef noodle soup, using seitan instead of beef. We didn't have seitan so she made a quick seitan batter (wheat gluten and water), then tore off little pieces and cooked them with the soup. She also added a can of coconut milk, which isn't authentic but sure was good.

The next night our fridge was looking sparse but we did have canned chickpeas so I made this chickpea soup recipe I found in a back issue of Vegetarian Times. It was fairly light, like more of a first course, but we had it with a salad and bread and it made an OK dinner. Here it's garnished with chopped parsley and chili oil.

We started next on a trio from Veganomicon. First up was the Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Soup. Only we couldn't find eggplant so we went with sweet potatoes instead. I know, sweet potatoes are quite different from eggplant but they really worked well with this peanut butter and tomato based soup.

Next it was a quick minestrone from Quick Fix Vegetarian. Honestly I've had better minestrone but this was thrown together quickly with canned tomatoes and chickpeas and frozen vegetables and it made for an easy weeknight meal.

Then it was back to Veganomicon for the Baked Potato and Greens Soup with Potato-Wedge Croutons. We baked the potatoes ahead of time so the soup came together fairly quickly, but it definitely took me longer than the 30 minutes suggested in the book. But I admit to being a rather slow cook. At any rate, it was worth it as this was an awesome potato soup with kale and earthy spices (I never would've thought to put fennel in potato soup). And the cornmeal-breaded and fried potato wedge on top was the perfect accompaniment.

The last in our V-con trio was the Ancho-Lentil Soup with Grilled Pineapple. I never would've thought to put pineapple in lentil soup either but it worked well. This was another weeknight meal so we simplified it considerably by skipping on the homemade ancho chile powder and just using store-bought chile powder. I'm sure it's much better with homemade but this was the quick version. It would also be better with fresh grilled pineapple but in our quick version we used canned pineapple that we sautéed in a little Earth Balance.

Last but certainly not least was the Taco Soup from Nava Atlas' Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons. This is a newly released re-issue of her excellent book Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons. This particular recipe is not much different from a chili. It was excellent on its own, but was made even more so by the addition of some righteous vegan cheese. And that's a story for another post.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I'm finally getting around to posting about last weekend's brunch. When our baby was born, a number of friends from work brought dinners over for us. And nine months later we finally got around to returning the favor and feeding them. Here was the menu:
  • Praline Baked French Toast
  • Herb Roasted Potatoes
  • Roasted Asparagus
  • Tofu Scramble Caribbean Style
  • Seitan Breakfast Patties
  • Cranberry Crumb Muffins
  • Vanilla Scones / Chocolate Chip Scones
The French toast is a veganized Food Network recipe that we've posted about before and it definitely seemed to be a crowd favorite. The potatoes were Yukon golds roasted with olive oil, rosemary, salt & pepper, and the asparagus was roasted almost the same, sans rosemary.

My Sweet Vegan and Vegan with a Vengeance were the source for the muffin and scone recipes, respectively. And if you don't have either of these books, rush out to your nearest bookstore (or to Amazon) and buy them now. Go! For the scones I used the basic scone recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance, added the insides of a vanilla bean and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, then I divided the batter in half and added chocolate chips to one half.

I've posted about my seitan patties a number of times before and I'm always futzing with the recipe but I think I've settled on a definitive (for now) recipe for the breakfast-style patties:

3/4 c. + 2 Tbs. wheat gluten
1/4 c. chickpea flour
3 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 c. white beans (cooked or from a can)
3/4 c. water
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. soy sauce

In a large bowl, mix together wheat gluten, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, salt, herbs and spices. In another bowl, mash the beans very well with a potato masher then mix in water, oil and soy sauce (you could do this in a blender too). Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix very well then divide into 8 equal portions. If you have a kitchen scale now would be a good time to use it but if not you can just eyeball it. Form each portion into a thin 3" patty and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, flip patties then bake another 10 minutes. You could serve them straight from the oven but to bring them up to another level fry them in a little Earth Balance margarine for a couple minutes on each side first.

That brings me to the tofu scramble. In all the time I've been writing this blog I've never posted my tofu scramble recipe. That's in part because there are a bazillion tofu scramble recipes already on-line. And I think it's like what I've heard said about curry powder - that there are as many recipes for curry powder as there are cooks in India. I think there are also as many tofu scramble recipes as there are vegan cooks. All that said, here's how I like to do my tofu scramble and also how I changed it up for this brunch.

Basic Tofu Scramble

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 c. diced onion (1 small or half a large onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. turmeric
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 lb. firm or extra firm tofu, drained and pressed (or at least patted dry)
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbs. nutritional yeast

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until it starts getting soft, then add garlic, paprika, turmeric, salt & pepper and cook another minute or so. Add lemon juice and stir quickly then crumble tofu into the pan and stir well to coat with all the seasonings (it doesn't have to be finely crumbled - a few larger chunks are OK). Continue cooking and stirring occasionally for 6-8 minutes, then mix in nutritional yeast. Cook for another minute or two then remove from heat.

For Caribbean style replace the lemon juice with lime juice and add to the spices:
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. allspice

Then towards the end, stir in the following:
3 Tbs. diced mango
3 Tbs. diced papaya (or more mango)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large carrot, shredded
2-3 Tbs. chopped cilantro

Not the best picture but here's how it looked for brunch.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

3 Weeknight Meals

As I was moving around some cookbooks and magazines the other day I came across an old issue of Vegetarian Times that had a section on "5 Weeknight Meals". And this must have been from back in the good 'ol days of Vegetarian Times because all five recipes were vegan. I thought it would be fun to get away from our old standbys and try some new recipes for a week. The only thing is, a couple of these recipes didn't seem to me to be as quick as promised so I only made three of them.

First up was a red lentil soup with spinach and cauliflower. The recipe called for parsnips and I couldn't find parsnips at the store but we did have cauliflower on hand so I thought, well... they're both white... I think I like cauliflower better anyway. I didn't quite make this in the less than 30 minutes that was indicated in the recipe but it was worth the extra time.

Next we tried a warm chickpea salad that we served over mesclun greens and this one was quick, easy and delicious. Quick because the main ingredients came from a can or jar - chickpeas, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. Pretty much anything with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes is a winner in my book.

And that brings us to the Seared Tofu with Orange Glaze. The recipe called for a side of watercress but we had collards instead. The tofu is just dipped in flour and pan fried, then the glaze that goes on top is reduced orange juice, soy sauce, sake, scallions and garlic. This was a simple and tasty way to cook tofu, one we'll have to file away for future reference.

Update: I didn't take the time to look up the recipes when I originally posted this but they're all on-line.

Red Lentil Soup
Warm Chickpea Salad
Seared Tofu with Orange Glaze

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Follow me on Twitter?

All the cool kids are using Twitter these days so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. It's kind of an experiment and for now I'm mainly using it as an extension of this blog. Either I don't have time to update the blog as often anymore or more likely, we're cooking things that just aren't very blog-worthy. I'll use the Twitter feed to post short but more frequent updates (that will most likely be all food-related). So follow me on Twitter if you want (@eatair) or just check the feed on the sidebar of the blog to see what we're up to food-wise (when we're not updating the blog).