Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thai Salad Roll Wrap

I am a huge fan of Salad Rolls. They're light, fresh, and not greasy at all like a Spring Roll can be. Usually they are filled with some combination of herbs, like basil and cilantro, vermicelli noodles, tofu, and sprouts, though there is some wiggle room, it seems, when it comes to fillings.

I had a yen for a Salad Roll-type wrap and used what I had on hand to make a delicious spin on this Thai restaurant favorite.

Thai Salad Roll Wrap (makes 2):
2 whole wheat tortillas/flatbreads/what-have-you
2 thick slices tofu
2 large romaine lettuce leaves
1 carrot, peeled into strips
6 thin slices of cucumbers, sliced again
4 large leaves basil
14 mint leaves
2-3 tbsp. cilantro, chopped roughly
1/4-inch amount soba noodles (measure with your index finger wrapped around the dry noodles)
1 tbsp. green curry paste 
2 tbsp. soy sauce, divided
1/4-1/3 cup water
2 tbsp. vegan sour cream
2-3 tsp. Sriracha, divided
Juice from half a lime
Salt and pepper

Begin by heating your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare your tofu, coating it with a mixture of 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. Sriracha, and salt and pepper. Once the oven is heated, place the tofu on a well-oiled piece of aluminum foil and put it in the oven on a high rack. 

The tofu will cook for about 15-20 minutes, and should be flipped halfway through the cooking process. This will give you plenty of time to prepare your vegetables.

Next, heat some water in a medium-sized pot. Once the water is boiling, add your noodles and cook about 5 minutes until they are done. Return the noodles to the cooking pot with 1 tbsp. soy sauce, the green curry paste and as much water as needed to cover, and cook on the lowest possible heat setting, stirring occasionally. 

Mix together 1-2 tsp. Sriracha, the sour cream, and the lime juice. This will be used to coat the wrap, adding flavor and keeping the wrap from being too dry. 

Once the noodles have absorbed their cooking liquid, and the tofu has been removed from the oven, and cut lengthwise into thirds, you are ready to assemble your wraps.

Begin by coating your wrap with the sour cream and Sriracha mixture. Place the romaine leaf down, and fill it with three slices of the tofu, and about half of the carrots and cucumber. Next to this, add the herb ingredients, the basil, mint, and cilantro, and top with half of the soba noodles.

Wrap everything together as snugly as possible, and enjoy!

Fun With Leftovers!: Tamale Filling Breakfast Tacos

This was such an easy repurposing of our leftover filling, and the flavors were even more delicious the second time through. Three of these babies made for a perfect breakfast.

Tamale Filling Breakfast Tacos:
Approx. 1/2 cup each tamale filling, rice, and beans, stirred together
3 half-inch thick slices of tofu
1/2 tsp. each cumin, turmeric, and Sriracha
1 leaf romaine lettuce for each taco
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
1/3 avocado, sliced
1 tsp. neutral oil
Corn tortillas
Vegan sour cream and green salsa to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat your oil in small frying pan over medium-heat. Once the pan is ready, add the tofu, cumin, turmeric, and Sriracha, and cook until the tofu breaks up, mimicking a scrambled egg, and is well-browned.

Heat your tamale filling, rice, and beans mixture, as well as the corn tortillas, in the microwave, and begin your assembly. Place the leaf of romaine on the bottom, followed by the tomatoes and avocado. I used about three slices of tomato and one slice of avocado per taco. Add as much tamale filling as the tortilla can accommodate and top with sour cream and salsa. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice, and enjoy your breakfast!

Tamales, Tamales!

A few days ago, I had a vision for making tamales while I was driving back from dropping Adam off at school. I had gotten very far in my masa-filled fantasy when I remembered that, in fact, I had to work late and would be having dinner at work. Alas!

The desire for tamales remained, and the next time we did our shopping for the week, supplies were purchased. I would say that I have room for improvement with this recipe, but I think you can do better than I. For one, I was too impatient with my olive oil (and think I'm going to use corn or peanut oil next time) and didn't let it completely solidify. You'll understand later. The filling, though? Yum. 

Tamales with Pan-Roasted Vegetables:
Corn Husks
3 cups dry masa harina
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed and pulsed in the food processor
1 cup neutral oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

2 Mexican squashes/calabacitas or 1 zucchini, julienned
1/2 red onion, sliced 
1 1/2 bell peppers of your choice (though green is not recommended), sliced
1 small poblano pepper, sliced really thinly
3 stocks green onion, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 ounces crimini mushrooms, cut into largish pieces
Approx. 1/2 tsp. each garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, Sriracha
Salt and pepper, to taste

Begin by rinsing your corn husks and soaking them in warm water, at least 3 hours before you plan to assemble your tamales. 

Next, prepare your oil. Now, tamales are traditionally made with lard, a fat with a very different texture than your common household oil. In order to even come close to a lard-like texture, the oil needs to solidify in your freezer. This is going to take a while - I would even give yourself 2 hours of potential hardening time, as the one hour that Bittman suggested wasn't even close. As to vessels for containing your oil, I went down the flattened freezer bag route, but would also recommend a Pyrex pan lined with Parchment paper for easy removal.

Once your oil is well on its way, prepare your vegetables as indicated above.

Saute your vegetables over medium-high heat until they are well-cooked and have taken on good color. This technique is is the same as used in the Roasted Tofu and Vegetable Enchiladas.

Next prepare your corn masa, by combining the dried masa flour, salt, baking powder, and the chopped corn in a bowl and mixing well. 

Next, transfer this mixture into your food processor and add in the cubed oil, pulsing well until the oil mixes in and the color of your dough lightens considerably. Here you can see the telltale signs of insufficiently hardened oil in my processor bowl. Le sigh. 

Once all of your filling mixtures are prepared, dry some corn husks and begin filling, first spreading the corn mixture over a four-inch square section of corn husk, and then adding a good portion of the vegetable filling in the center area of corn mixture. Wrap the corn husks tightly, and tie off the ends with kitchen string.

Prepare a steamer and steam your tamales for 35-40 minutes. Let the tamales cool for about 5 minutes before unwrapping. 

Serve it up with whatever sides you fancy. We went for some home-cooked black beans, and topped everything off with a squeeze of lime juice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Look upon its shining brilliance. It is so easy to make, too!

I feel like everyone has a guacamole recipe, and for this reason, this is kind of pointless, but I'm throwing caution to the wind and going for it nonetheless. 

Guacamole (serves 2-3):
1 1/2 avocados (use the rest for other things, or double the batch for company)
2 thin-ish slices red onion, diced fine
6-8 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through garlic press
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2-1 tsp. Sriracha
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Begin by mashing your garlic with a good bit of sea salt until the mixture takes on a creamy coloration and is very well-combined. Add the avocados, and mash a few times. Then add the tomato, red onion, jalapeno and roughly combine. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add the Sriracha and salt and pepper to taste. You will not be disappointed. 

Serve with tortilla chips and the Mexican cerveza of your choice. 

Austin, TX: Magical Tofu Creations

I am a lady who likes her sandwiches. Austin offered a wealth of sandwich varieties, and managed to do delicious things with tofu that I hope to replicate at home.

First up was the Vegetarian Bahn Mi Sandwich with lemongrass tofu from Lulu B's food cart. [Myspace here]. Sara and I had expressed our love of the Bahn Mi to each other in a mildly hilarious conversation that went sort of like this:
Sara: So, there's this sandwich...
Antonia (interrupting): A Vegetarian Bahn Mi Sandwich?!!
Sara: YES!
Antonia: Me too!
*various squeals and yelps*

Lulu B's offers up a Bahn Mi that, if it may be said was a little light on the pickling and basil, really comes through with the flavorful tofu. Sara sent me this recipe for lemongrass tofu soon after our conversation, and though I have not yet made it, the tofu is now purchased and is ready to go. 

Here you can see our full eating tableau, complete with various coffee drinks, and an abundance of napkins.

And here's a detail shot, with the tofu pieces visible on the far side of the sandwich.

Next up was the Kool Summer Sammich with Tofu Bacon from Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse and Cafe. This beauty combines tomato, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, and red onion with chipotle-basil pesto and a mild-boggling tofu bacon. 

I do not understand how this bacon was created but I am determined to figure it out. I think it involves broiling, and a perfect spice-and-brown-sugar rub. You can see some of its blackened deliciousness peeking out from the near sandwich half.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Boston, MA: Red Curry Vegetables with Roasted "Duck"

My last day in Boston I had pretty much to myself, and though it was rainy, I did a fair bit of walking around the downtown area. I totally stumbled by accident into Chinatown, and remembered a vegan Thai restaurant in the little guidebook Sarah and Dan had. The name had changed from Buddha's Delight to My Thai vegan cafe, but the fake meat is still really really good. Service is pretty terrible, but I had time to kill so it was alright with me. 

I vascillated between a Green Curry with "Chicken" and a Red Curry with "Duck" and eventually went for the duck, because I have a mild obsession with Asian mock duck. Look how pretty it turned out:

And yeah, there's a giant "duck" roast under that pile. It was sort of cut into little riblet shapes, which made for nice portioning, and the vegetables were cooked very well. I also liked that it was served on a bed of mesclun greens, as I am a general fan of adding salad to things. 

Here you can see the "duck" looking awesome. I honestly don't understand how they managed to achieve the poultry-like texture in this fake meat. It actually had a grain to it! Plus the leftovers were so nice to have on the plane.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No-Work Bread with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins

Alright, we're finally back in business here. Two weekend vacations with only a two-day rest in between was harder on the old bod than I thought. When I got home for good I began a careful sleeping regimen that was hard to bounce back from. 

Anyways, I made this loaf of bread for my friends Dan and Sarah as a hosting gift, along with some Stumptown coffee. [Side note: Stumptown's online ordering is fast and awesome. Do it.] I neglected to take a picture of it once sliced so there's no big picture payoff, but I thought this bread was really good. It was made more impressive by the level of fretting and worrying over the addition of alcohol to a living yeast mixture, and the need to bring the loaf with me on a plane without somehow ruining it en route. 

No-Work Bread with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins:
1/2 cup yellow raisins
2 tbsp. dried black currants
1-2 tbsp. ginger nibs, or minced candied ginger
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Bourbon, to cover
No-Work bread dough, with one cup wheat flour substituted
4 tbsp. sugar, divided
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup rolled oats, ground in food-processor
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Additional flour for coating work surfaces and such
2 tbsp. water

Begin by combining the first five ingredients in a small bowl, and mix well, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar. Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator, where it will await your return. I gave my fruit about a 24-hour soaking time. You can go longer if you wish. I probably will next time. 

On the same night, prepare your bread dough as per instructions in the original recipe. Add 2 tbsp. sugar and cinnamon to the top of the dough once it has been placed in its final rising bowl.

As I was going to have to wait about 24 hours before I could remove the dough and give it its second rise, I decided to cover and store the dough in the refrigerator as well. I have found that around 14-16 hours is all the time the yeast needs to activate in the original Double Oven recipe, and didn't want the yeast to exhaust itself, especially because the bourbon-soaked fruit was to be mixed in later. 

Once it's time to move along to the second rise, drain and lightly rinse the fruit, in order to remove the surface alcohol and prevent rapid yeast death. 

Remove the dough from its rising bowl and turn it out on a well-floured work surface. Make a little space in the dough and pour the rinsed fruit in, working quickly to knead in the raisins so that they are well-distributed throughout the dough. 

Combine the whole what flour, 2 tbsp. sugar and rolled oats in the food processor and pulse into well-ground and mixed. This will be used for coating the dough and providing a nice resting place during the second rise.

Here you can see the loaf after it has been rising for about an hour and a half, which is the time that you should begin preheating your oven, with the cooking pot inside.

Follow the cooking directions in the original recipe for cooking times and temperatures, and here's what you will be able to enjoy upon removal:

Boston, MA: Oysters and Lobster Roll!

Before this last weekend, I had never before tasted the scrumptiousness that is the oyster. I am so glad that this was remedied. On a friend of a friend's recommendation (one that turned out oh-so-fortuitous), we went to Neptune Oyster. My very first oysters were of the following varieties: Island Creek, Pemaquid, Wellfleet, and one other type, which I cannot remember. Sarah? Dan? Better memories than I?

Here's the during and after:

Also, in this same eating experience, I aggressively flouted my veganism in order to check out the hot buttered lobster roll. I will let it speak for itself:

Oh hell yeah.

Cambridge, MA: Giant Pizza Piles, Ahoy!

I was visiting friends in the Boston area last weekend, and took care to record what we ate (for the most part - some delivery Indian food was neglected, though it was an impressive smorgasbord). Our first full day took us around the Cambridge area and the Harvard campus, and after taking in the sights, it was decided that food was necessary. Through some remarkable navigation skills by Dan, we found Veggie Planet. We were surprised to discover that it was primarily a pizza place, though not unhappily surprised, as evidenced by an order heavy on pizza.

Some local-brewed beer was chosen as part of the meal, an IPA made by Cambridge Brewing Company. It had a pleasant citrus-y character.

Here is my pizza, the most obviously vegan of the bunch. It came with a basil-tofu mash, something approximating mozzarella and pesto, Kalamata olives, and a roasted red pepper and almond sauce, the name of which now alludes me. As I have been getting more and more interested in sauces, specifically in making and jarring my own sauces, I was very much intrigued. 

Here's Sarah preparing to dig in to her own order, something in a more traditional tomato-basil-mozzarella variety. The whole-wheat crust on all of our choices (Dan got a "roasted butternut squash and goat cheese" variation that looked awesome) was also delicious.