Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tom Kha Soup

I was watching an America's Test Kitchen last week with the hated (by me) Becky Hayes, who was making a Tom Kha soup with chicken. Though I despise her chirpy delivery, she had some good tips, especially as to straining and cooking times. This soup can be made with a variety of proteins: chicken, seafood, or tofu would all be appropriate and delicious. 

Tom Kha Soup with Scallops:
1/4 cup finely diced yellow or red onion or shallot (preferred)
1 serrano chile, chopped with seeds and ribs intact
1 tbsp. minced lemongrass, fresh or jarred
1 tbsp. galangal, fresh or jarred (you can substitute fresh ginger)
1 tbsp. kaffir lime leaves, fresh or jarred
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
5-10 cilantro stems

Other Ingredients:
1 can Lite Coconut Milk
3 cups vegetable stock
1/4 yellow onion, sliced into ribbons
6 button mushrooms, sliced
6 scallops (can substitute 1/2 package of tofu, cubed)
6 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cucumber, julienned
1 tbsp. mint leaves, sliced in the chiffonade style
1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped roughly
1 tsp. Green Curry paste
1-2 tsp. Sriracha
3 tsp. neutral-flavored oil
Lime juice

Prepare your aromatics, leaving out whatever you cannot find, or substituting with comparable ingredients. Alternately, you can saute a teaspoonful of the Green Curry paste with the rest of aromatics, as it contains many of the same ingredients. 

Heat a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, with about 1 tsp. neutral-flavored oil. Add the aromatic ingredients, except for the cilantro, and saute until the onion is softened. Add the vegetable broth, half the can of coconut milk, and the cilantro stems, and turn down the heat to low. Cook this mixture for about 5 minutes, taking care to not let the liquid come to a full boil, as the coconut milk will separate.

During this time, set a small frying pan over medium-high heat, with 2 tsp. neutral oil added. Salt and pepper your scallops (or whichever protein you have chosen) and sear the scallops on both sides, for about 3-5 minutes per side. 

Once the scallops have taken on good color, place them on a cutting board and chop roughly. They will not be cooked through, but will finish in the soup later. 

Strain the aromatics out of the soup, and return the liquid to the pot. Add the remaining coconut milk, chopped scallops, onions, and mushrooms, as well as the Green Curry paste and Sriracha, and cook for 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms darken. Taste the liquid and salt as necessary.

Turn off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients: tomato, cucumber, mint, and cilantro.

Serve over some jasmine rice, and garnish with a squeeze of lime juice and cilantro, if desired.

No-Work Rolls with Whole Wheat Flour

Having been so pleased with the results of Jim Lahey's No-Work Bread, I wanted to start tinkering slightly and see how things turned out. My idea was to add in some whole wheat flour and make a batch of rolls rather than a whole loaf. 

Follow the instructions for the Double Oven Bread, substituting a cup of whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour. For seasoning, I relied on the salt (part of the recipe) as well as some fresh-ground black pepper. 

This time around, I successfully took a picture of the dough in its earliest form, right after mixing.

Once the dough has risen and bubbled, divide into 12 equal-ish portions (you can see that I was only mildly successful in this endeavor), and let it rise for 2 hours. 

Heat a pot in the oven at 450 degrees, but reduce the cooking times to 10-15 minutes covered, and an additional 10-15 minutes uncovered, until the rolls are golden brown.

I tried forming the rolls in two different ways to see how much of a difference can be made in the shape last minute, and found that you can made a flatter bun kind of shape by simply placing the dough seam side up without futzing with it. If you want a rounder kind of dinner roll shape, reform the dough into a ball, pinch the seam and place seam-side down in the pan.

Here you can see the difference in shape, with the round ones in the lower right-hand corner (and in the above picture):

Friday, March 27, 2009

Slow Week

I have been a bit of failure in creating new foodstuffs this week. I mostly survived by eating the leftovers of a serviceable but not particularly interesting bean soup, and eating out (twice!). There were some bright spots in a roasted fennel and arugula bruschetta (with the Double Oven Bread) that went undocumented because of time constraints, and a tasty beet salad that was not very pretty. 

Right now I have a new batch of bread yeasting about, and have designs on a soup. Plus, an upcoming post about cat poo. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Double Oven Bread

One thing that has surprised me about feeding myself since becoming veganesque is that most breads are not vegan. There is very often a secret low-fat milk or egg ingredient. It is very annoying, but has spurred me on in my baking attempts. Paging through Bittman (yes, him again), I saw an intriguing recipe for "Jim Lahey's No-Work Bread" that involved no kneading, and cooking the bread in a pot in the oven. It turns out that Jim Lahey is something of a guru, churning out remarkable loaves and pizzas from his bakery. I was in good hands.

Jim Lahey's No-Work Bread:
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus additional for dusting
1/2 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups water at 70 degrees (this is colder than you think)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Cornmeal, semolina, wheat bran, or whole-wheat flour, as needed
Any herbs you want (optional)

This works best if you do it late at night to enhance the Christmas-like unveiling of the dough.

Combine the yeast salt, and flour, and mix them together well before adding the water and mixing well with a fork until the dough balls together. You made need an extra tablespoon of water or so, depending on your flour. The dough will be a bit of a shaggy sticky mess [Note: There are, alas, no photos of this stage due to the aforementioned shaggy stickiness], but do not fret. Simply coat the biggest bowl you have with a bit of olive oil and plop the dough inside. 

Cover with plastic wrap, or, if you're me, an old Home Depot shopping bag, and set aside, in a happy yeast location, preferably around 70 degrees. Go to bed dreaming of delicious things.

Wake up the next morning, and gaze upon the magic the yeast has wrought. Behold!

Once your dough has bubbled like this, it is ready for the next rise, but there is no need to rush. Your dough is patient and will wait nicely for you to proceed. Keep in mind that the second rise takes about 2 hours, and the cooking and cooling time combined is almost an hour and half when considering the ideal time to continue.

Okay, once you're ready, prepare and liberally flour a work surface. If you are planning on incorporating herbs, sprinkle them on top of the flour. Turn out your dough onto the floured work surface, and coat the top with more flour. Work quickly to fold the dough a couple of times and pinch the bottom shut, making as compact of a ball as possible.

Cover a cotton kitchen towel with a moderate amount of cornmeal, flour, or what have you, and let the dough rise, covered with either more plastic wrap, a bag, or another cotton towel, for 2 hours.

Once 1.5 hours have elapsed, place a large (at least 4-quart capacity, but you can go bigger) pot or dutch oven in a 450 degree oven. Make sure that the pot you choose has a tight-fitting lid. When the 2 hours are up, carefully remove the pot from the oven, and invert the kitchen towel over the pot, thereby depositing your dough inside, seam side up. It's going to make a huge mess of cornmeal/flour/etc. but you'll have plenty of time to clean up while it's cooking. 

Spray or sprinkle a tablespoon of water on top of the dough, cover, and return to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes with the lid on, and 15-20 with the lid off. Let the bread rest for 20 minutes before digging in. 

It is delicious simply toasted and soy buttered, and is oh-so-pretty to look at to boot!

Breakfast Potatoes with Pasta Sauce and Snow Peas

I know. It sounds weird. But bear with me here. The pasta sauce (preferably a garlicky type) is a nice addition because it helps everything gel together and adds a full tomato flavor (that sliced tomatoes would not supply). 

Breakfast Potatoes with Pasta Sauce and Snow Peas:
3 medium red potatoes, sliced
4 good-sized crimini mushrooms
1/4 to 1/3 yellow onion, sliced
12 snow peas, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/4 package tempeh, chopped fine
1/4 cup garlicky pasta sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or put through garlic press
1 tsp. Sriracha
Smoked paprika
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Begin by putting your potatoes in a microwave-safe dish, covering with water, and cooking until they are fork tender, but still have a bit of resistance. In my microwave, this took 14 minutes, but I would start with 8 and work your way up in 3-minute increments so as to not overcook the potatoes. Once the potatoes are done, drain and rinse them in a strainer, and then dry well with paper towels.

Heat a large pan or cast-iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat, with a good amount of olive oil coating the bottom of the pan. Place the potatoes carefully in the pan, so that they will all fit and can brown evenly. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika, salt, and pepper and let brown for about 5 minutes. 

Using tongs, flip the potatoes and rearrange as you see fit, in order to give each potato slice a chance to reach its full browning potential. Cook for 5 minutes on the second side as well.

Add the onion, mushrooms, and tempeh and cook for 3-5 minutes, just to give them some time to brown slightly. Lower the heat to low, add the snow peas, tomato sauce, Sriracha, garlic and another hit of salt and pepper, and cover, uncovering every once and bit to stir the mixture and avoid sticking or burning.

Your breakfast is ready once the snow peas have cooked. They will still have some crunch, a pleasant contrast with the softness and creaminess of the potatoes. Garnish with fresh herbs if you like.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Roasted Tofu and Vegetable Enchiladas

I had a totally delicious tofu scramble breakfast wrap the other morning, and decided to do something similar for dinner that same day. Knowing that I had a least a few corn tortillas at home, I thought of enchiladas, bought some green enchilada sauce, and went for it.

Roasted Tofu and Vegetable Enchiladas:
1/4 package tofu, pressed for at least 10 minutes and cut into 2 steaks
1 zucchini, julienned
1/3 red onion, sliced
1/2 poblano pepper, cut into thin slices
2/3 red pepper, sliced
1 green onion or 2 scallions, sliced
1 - 1 1/2 cup green enchilada sauce
2 tbsp. Sriracha
Corn tortillas
Olive oil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Combine the enchilada sauce and Sriracha in a small pot over medium-low heat, and cook until it has thickened. Place your tofu steaks on foil-lined cookie sheet, and coat in the thickened sauce. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. 

In the meantime, make sure your vegetables are all ready to go, and put 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. 

Once your pan is hot, put in all of the vegetables, spreading them out evenly.

Let the vegetables brown very well by tossing the vegetables and giving them 4 minutes to cook, then tossing again.

It will take about 25 minutes to brown the vegetables. Once the tofu is ready, cut it into cubes and add to the pan. 

Fill your tortillas with the vegetable filling, and place them in an oiled oven-safe dish. Pour the remainder of the enchilada sauce + Sriracha over top, adding additional enchilada sauce as necessary to cover the tortillas.

Cook 10-15 minutes in the still 375-degree oven, and serve it up with whatever sides you please. I went for some Cuban-style black beans, a brown rice salad with corn and tomato, and some avocado. The filling is delicious over rice as well.


I just realized the other day that you can click on all the pictures and see a jumbo-sized version, in case you're interested. I find the huge pictures mesmerizing. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Roasted Fennel and White Bean Soup

This soup was kind of vaguely thought-out before I began cooking, but was mostly a "throw some things in a pot" kind of creation. Despite this, it turned out really good, especially when served with toasted Olive Oil Bread for sopping up soup liquid. 

Roasted Fennel and White Bean Soup:
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 fennel bulb, cut into sections (leave root end intact)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 leek, cleaned well and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
7 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 15-oz. can Great Northern Beans, drained
3 smallish red potatoes, chopped into small cubes
Olive oil
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. Sriracha (you can substitute cayenne, but only use 1/4 tsp. and work your way up)
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Fresh oregano, or herb of your choosing, for garnish

Began by heating your oven to 350 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with foil. Place your fennel sections on the sheet, along with the canned tomatoes. It's a good idea to let the tomatoes sit in a strainer over a bowl for at least 5 minutes, but be sure to save the juice as it will be added to the soup later. Toss the fennel and tomatoes with a liberal amount of olive oil to prevent burning, and salt and pepper well before placing the cookie sheet in the oven. 

Let everything roast away, turning about 20 to 25 minutes in, until the fennel is well-browned on both sides, about 45 minutes. 

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor. And in a note about tomatoes, I am not bothered by tomato seeds and didn't bother to clean them out of the tomatoes pre-roasting. However, if you'd rather remove them, go for it.

Place a large pot over medium to medium-high heat, and add about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add your onion and mushrooms, some salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, letting them take on a bit of color. Add the leek and 1 tsp. of the smoked paprika and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the beans, potato, tomato, and garlic, and the liquid ingredients (the tomato juice and the vegetable stock). Once the liquid has been added, add the bay leaf and season again with salt and pepper, as well as additional smoked paprika and Sriracha (or cayenne) to taste. 

Let the soup burble away over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have softened, about 30 minutes. Once the soup is nearly ready, chop the roasted and cooled fennel and add it in.

Remove about half of the solids in the soup and process them until they are well-blended, then add back into the soup and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes to remarry the ingredients. 

Serve the soup in a large bowl, with some generous slices of bread and a bit of fresh herbs. You could also drizzle a little bit of high-quality olive oil on top for a bit of richness.

Vegan Banh Mi with BBQ Roast Seitan

There is a Very Important Sandwich in my life. It is the banh mi, a delectable combination of tofu, thinly-sliced carrot, daikon, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, and mint, served on a lovely French roll or baguette. There's a sweet-chili mayo option for the vegetarian crowd, and a less exciting sweet-chili sauce for the vegans. Either way, this is the sandwich of my dreams. 

Using the perfect form of banh mi as a jumping-off point, I decided to make my own version using what I had in the house. This is to say that I do not mean this to be a full-scale attempt at the banh mi (though that day will come) but, rather, a devotional meal of sorts.

Vegan Banh Mi with BBQ Roast Seitan:
Seitan, augmented with 1 tsp each smoked paprika, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, cumin, salt, and pepper
3 tbsp. BBQ sauce
1 tbsp. Sriracha
1 tsbp. Hoisin sauce (optional; add more BBQ if not using)
Pinch salt
1/4 tsp. Sambal
1 tbsp. chopped pickled ginger
1 medium to large carrot, sliced or grated very thin
One medium tomato, sliced
Mint leaves

Begin by combining your seitan ingredients, mixing the herbs and spices in with the vital wheat gluten. 

Prepare your gluten for cooking by letting it rest in a cool water bath for one hour, before kneading out the excess starch. Shape your gluten, and preheat an oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the BBQ sauce, Sriracha, Hoisin, Sambal, ginger and salt.

Cook your gluten roast on a well-oiled cookie sheet (or on well-oiled aluminum foil for easy clean-up *tip brought to you by Reynolds Wrap*) for about 10 minutes per side, then coat the roast in the BBQ sauce and let cook for an additional 10 minutes, turning as necessary.

In order to approximate a duck-like texture, I really wanted to up the crispiness of the seitan roast, so I gave it a quick fry-up before assembling my sandwich. 

Prepare your veggies and herbs while the seitan is cooking/frying so that everything is ready to go once the protein is done. 

Assemble your sandwich by slathering your bread in any desired sauce (I went without, having decided that the BBQ sauce was plenty flavorful), and layering the roast seitan, carrots, herbs, and tomato. You can see that I used the Olive Oil Bread as my happy bread product. 

Olive Oil Bread with Onion and Mint

Having recently begun my foray into pizza doughs, I was inspired to move into general baking, and found a recipe in Bittman for Olive Oil bread. I only made a few changes to his recipe, having basically no idea what I was doing, but did add some vital wheat gluten and cut down on the amount of onion.

Olive Oil Bread with Onions and Mint:
3 cups all-purpose or baking flour
3 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
2 tsp. bread-machine or instant yeast
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
1/3 yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp. minced fresh mint leaves

Begin by proofing the yeast in 1 cup warm water, letting it sit for about 10 minutes until all the happy yeasties have melted. In your food processor (or in a bowl), combine the flour, gluten, and salt, mixing them well. Add the olive oil, and the yeast + water mixture and mix together, adding water about a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured work surface, add in the onion and mint, and knead together. Knead for a minute or so, and then form a smooth, round dough ball, pinching the undercarriage together, and place into an oiled bowl in which the dough can comfortably rise. 

Let rise at least an hour and half, at which point you can leave the dough whole or divide in two. This is also the point at which you can place your dough into a plastic bag and freeze. 

Let your dough rise again, on a well-floured surface for up to 2 hours. Once you have determined the dough is ready, heat a pizza stone or cookie sheet (oiled, or lined with parchment paper) in a 425-degree oven. Score the top of the dough with a kitchen knife.

Cook in the 425-degree oven until the top begins to brown, then lower the heat and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees. Let your bread rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.