Friday, February 27, 2009

Black Bean Soup and Friends

Another cold snap has brought on a renewed interest in soup for me. We made a black bean soup a few weeks back, and I decided to reprise it, changing the recipe up a little bit for soup experimentation. I began with a bag of dried beans. This is something I'd never really done until I made that falafel the other week, having always chosen canned beans for ease of use. However, I have realized that canned beans are, for the most part, pointless. Dried beans are much cheaper, and you can control the seasonings, rather than accepting over-salted or odd-flavored beans from a can. Also, the packing liquid in canned beans is often upsettingly slimy. 

Again, learning from my chickpea debacle, I measured the beans before and after the soaking and cooking process and learned that black beans have a 1:2 uncooked to cooked ratio. A one pound bag of beans (3 cups) will yield right around 6 cups of cooked beans, so measure accordingly. 

Delicious Cooked Black Beans:
1 pound bag black beans
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. garlic powder
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. Sriracha

Begin by looking over your beans, making sure that there are no small rocks or other detritus mixed in. Rinse the beans well under cold water before adding the beans to 6-8 cups boiling water. Boil the beans for 2 minutes, then cover and let soak for at least an hour off heat. Once this time has elapsed, put the beans back over heat, add your seasonings, and cook over a low to medium-low heat until the beans have softened to a pleasant texture. They should remain within their skins but yield easily to pressure.

Black Bean Soup and Friends:
6 cups cooked black beans with 1 cup cooking liquid
5 cups stock of your choice
1 cup beer
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 small or one large sweet potato, cut into cubes
6 cloves garlic (approx. 2 tbsp.)
2 squares dark chocolate
3 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne
Salt and pepper

Begin by heating your soup pot over medium-high heat with a good pour of oil inside. Add the onions and mushrooms, salt and pepper well, and cook about 5 minutes until the onions are softened. Press the garlic into the pot, add the cumin and cook 1 minute, before adding the remaining ingredients. 

Leave the pot over medium heat and let the soup cook for 10 minutes before lowering the heat and simmering for 30 minutes. 

Ladle out a good amount of the beans and other vegetables and pulse in your food processor, creating a thick bean mixture. This will add good body to your soup and help thicken it. 

I served this soup with a rice salad, which provided a fresh counterpoint to the earthiness of the soup:

Rice Salad:
1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup red onion, diced fine
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Here's everything all put together. Garnish with a bit of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of citrus, either lemon or lime.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vegan Pizza Happiness

So I know that I should have made my own pizza dough, but there was so much else going on last night in KitchenLand that I'm really glad I just bought some dough at Trader Joe's. Plus, it's really good.

Vegan Pizza Happiness:
Pre-made dough
Small handful flour
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and then sliced
4 crimini mushrooms, sliced
Assorted cherry tomatoes, sliced
Approx. 1/3 package Utpon's Natural Italian Sausage-style Seitan
4 artichoke heart pieces, cut in half
Fresh herbs, like oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc., chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced or put through a press
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place a cookie sheet in the oven, allowing it to heat as your oven heats. Prepare your veggies and take the dough out of the fridge, allowing it to rest for 20 minutes before working with it.

I originally wanted to caramelize the onions for this, but changed my mind and just let them cook through really well. Add the onions first and let them cook over medium heat, until they have taken on a good bit of color. Add your garlic, and the red pepper flakes before then adding the mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and seitan. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the mushrooms look delicious and then turn off the heat as you prepare your crust.

Spread a good amount of flour on your work surface and knead your dough a couple of times before pulling it into about a 12-inch-round shape. You may find that the dough will spring back on you. Let it rest a bit longer and try again. Tear out a piece of aluminum foil, oil it well, and place your dough in the middle, folding up the edges of the foil to avoid spills. Spread the oil onto the top of the crust as well, to promote good browning.

Add as much of the sauce as your prefer and then carefully pour out the cooked veggies and seitan, arranging the toppings as evenly as you can. Place the tomato slices, and then sprinkle the top of the pizza with your chopped herbs and any additional salt and pepper that you may desire.

Place your pizza in the oven by moving the tin foil onto the hot cookie sheet, with the rack adjusted in an upper-middle position, and cook until the crust is golden-brown on top and beneath. For me, this took between 12 and 14 minutes, though the package claimed 5-7. Let the pizza rest for 3 minutes before cutting.

Some beauty shots, emphasizing the crust:

This was so yummy, and delicious reheated today as well. Next time, I will try with my own pizza dough and let you know how it turns out.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Pasta Sauce

I've made this recipe for a Chicken and Penne Casserole at work a couple times now, and thought I'd whip up a batch to use at home. The eggplant, so often categorized as a bland vegetable, adds a spicy brightness to the sauce, and the color is so pretty once everything is blended together.

The basis for this sauce was this Casserole recipe, from a fellow food blog that is not particularly vegan-friendly, but has some great basic recipes and is perfect for cooking ideas for kids. 

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Pasta Sauce:
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped roughly
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1 to 1 1/2 cups eggplant, peeled and chopped
6 pieces artichoke hearts (optional)
3 tbsp. olive oil
Dried basil
Dried oregano
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. Sriracha
Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, coating the foil with a bit of olive oil to discourage sticking. Place the whole tomatoes on the cookie sheet and set the juice aside, as it will get added back later. Insert the garlic slices into the tomatoes, making sure that they are well-concealed. Add the chopped onion, and sprinkle the cookie sheet with the herbs, salt, and pepper.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven and let the tomatoes roast and the onions soften for 20 minutes. While the tomatoes are cooking away, prepare the eggplant by removing the skin and slicing into chunks, allowing for the maximum browning area. 

Also, check out this eggplant! It's freaking yuuuuuge! Apparently, its size is making me shifty-eyed and nervous.

Heat a medium or large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat, adding a good amount of olive oil, as the eggplant is going to soak it up aggressively before calming down and releasing some of it back. Once your plan is hot, add the eggplant and the artichoke hearts (if you're using them) and really let everything caramelize well in the pan. This may take up to 10 minutes, moving the eggplant around occasionally to stimulate browning but avoid sticking.

Once your eggplant is done, place it into the food processor where it can wait for the tomatoes to finish in the oven. 


And now the required food processor before and after:

Put the processed sauce into a large saucepan and let it burble away at low heat, mostly covered, for at least an hour and preferably more like 2 hours. Add the thyme and Sriracha and salt and pepper to taste, though take care not to over-salt too early as this sauce will reduce a bit as it cooks.

Shrimp Stock

We bought some frozen shrimp about a week ago and used most of it that night. The remainder was left to the delights of the freezer. When I started thinking about making vegetable stock I realized that the shrimp could be put to use in a stock of its own. Huzzah!

Shrimp Stock:
6 shrimp, deveined and chopped roughly
1 small onion, chopped (don't bother to peel)
1 small carrot, diced
1/4 cup chopped leek (or celery)
Olive oil

If your shrimp are already cleaned and defrosted, just chop them roughly with the shells still on. As mine were frozen, but not yet deveined I had to thaw them out. Place the shrimp in a strainer to hold in any bits of shell and place under running cold water.

Once they are unfrozen enough to work with, use a sharp knife to slice the shrimp in the middle of its back and remove the vein. It does not have  good flavor and should be taken out, though it is time-consuming. Chop roughly, keeping the shells and tails. Prepare the rest of your vegetables.

Prepare a stock pot or deep pan (with at least 6 cups capacity) by adding 2 tbsp. olive oil and heating over medium-high heat. Add everything at the same time, sauteing well, and letting the shrimp get good color. Add 4 1/2 cups of water and simmer for 15 minutes. (Don't ask why this photo is sideways; my camera has a mind of its own.)

After the 15 minutes have passed, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for 15 minutes or so, straining this mixture over a bowl. Your shrimp stock can keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but should really be frozen if you don't have immediate plans for it. 

Vegetable Stock

I have some soup-making plans in place, and didn't want to scramble to make stock and then build a soup on top of that, so I got to work tonight. I made my first vegetable stock a few weeks ago, and it is clear to me that there is no reason to buy pre-made stock. Too often, they have strange off-flavors, or taste like a pile of old celery, one-note and not even a delicious note at that.

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything again provided the jumping-off point, though the main difference here is that I forgot to buy celery and used a leek instead. 

Vegetable Stock (makes around 9 cups):
4 large carrots, diced small
3 medium onions, chopped (don't peel)
1 large potato, chopped
1 leek, well-cleaned and chopped roughly
8 cloves garlic (again, don't peel)
1 package chopped mushrooms
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 end parsley and cilantro each (this can be frozen ahead, once you finish the leaves of a bunch)
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Prepare all your vegetables.

Heat a large stock pot with 3-4 tbsp. olive oil over medium/medium-high heat. Add the onions, leek, and mushrooms and allow them to saute around 10 minutes, giving them a bit of color. Spoon in the tomato paste and saute for 3 minutes or so. The paste will take on a deeper color. Add in the rest of the vegetables and herbs, followed by 14 cups of water. 

Bring the stock to a low simmer, and let it go for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours, though you will lose some volume the longer the stock cooks. Add pepper to taste.

You can see how much the colors change during the cooking process:

Once you've decided the stock is to your liking, turn off the heat and let it cool for at least 20 minutes, so that any spills (and there'll be some) will not scald. Ladle the broth and veggies into a strainer placed over a bowl and press with a spoon or spatula, extruding as much juice and flavor out of the vegetables as possible.

Your broth will store well in the refrigerator for about a week, or you can freeze it and use within 2 months.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posts this weekend. We sort of ran out of food all of a sudden, so we went out for dinner two nights in a row and finally got to the store yesterday. Good things to come, though, this week, including Mushroom and Barley Soup, Vegetable Stock (gotta re-up my supply!), Ratatouille, and Eggplant and Artichoke Heart Pasta Sauce. The eggplant I bought for the last two things is freaking huge. You'll be impressed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Living Harvest Hempmilk

When I went home for Christmas, I espied some hempmilk in my friend's fridge and started in with the mockery. "Hempmilk?! You hippie." Little did I know that this stuff is delicious, especially with cereal and oatmeal projects, and nutritious. Check out these nutritional facts, from the Living Harvest site:

Serving Size: 1 cup (240 mL)
Calories: 130     Calories from Fat: 35
Total Fat: 4g
Total Carbohydrates: 20g
Protein: 4g

Vitamin A: 10%       Magnesium: 20%
Calcium: 40%          Iron: 10%
Thiamin: 8%            Niacin: 6%
Vitamin D: 20%       Vitamin E: 15%
Vitamin B12: 20%   Phosphorus: 40%
Riboflavin: 25%       Folic Acid: 4%

And, 800 mg of Omega-3 and 2600 mg of Omega-6, to boot!

And it really is good, with a sort of nutty richness. So often milk substitutes are sort of thin and sad, but this is not. It is also available at Jewel, so it's very easy to find.

Breakfast Scramble with Tofu and Chorizo Seitan

While lying in bed this morning I began mentally taking stock of our breakfast options and put together some plans for a breakfast burrito, using tofu as the "egg" and Upton's Naturals chorizo seitan as the "sausage". I was so pleased with this plan, that I was spurred to immediate action and got right to work.

Breakfast Scramble with Tofu and Chorizo Seitan, with further Burrito Instructions:
4 small red potatoes, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
6 largeish mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pepper of your choice, diced fine
1/2 package tofu
1/2 package Upton's Naturals Chorizo-Style Seitan
1/3 cup black beans
1/4 cup salsa
2 large garlic cloves
Sea salt and black pepper
3 Campari tomatoes
Avocado slices (optional)

Begin by slicing the potatoes. Place the slices in a microwave-safe dish, and fill the dish with enough water to cover the potato slices fully. Cook the slices in the microwave until they are fully cooked, but not falling apart. Our microwave took 15 minutes to accomplish this, but it is small and not always very functional.

Prepare your other ingredients while the potatoes are cooking. Cut the tofu into thin slabs, rather than cubes, so that they will closely mimic eggs once scrambled with everything else.

Drain the potatoes once they are finished cooking and set them aside. Heat some olive oil in a large pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook 2-3 minutes before adding the peppers and mushrooms. Saute these together, salting and peppering as you go, until the mushrooms have taken on good color.

Press the garlic into the pan and cook about 30 seconds, until the garlic is very fragrant. Add in the tofu, and sprinkle the tofu with the cumin and turmeric. Lower the heat to medium/medium-low and cook the tofu until it takes on the color of the turmeric and begins to brown. Add the beans, salsa, seitan, and potatoes and toss everything together, making sure everything is heated through. 

Heat another pan over medium-high heat with any oil of your choice. Roll your burritos with the scramble filling, some tomato slices, cilantro, and avocado if you wish, and brown on both sides in the heated pan.

My burritos kind of failed, because the tortillas were much smaller (and older) than I had remembered, but the scramble was really good on its own, and it makes for a filling and delicious weekend breakfast.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fun with Leftovers!: Falafel and Charmoula

Our fridge has been inundated with bits of leftovers lately, and kind of silly amounts, where you don't really have enough for a meal from any one item. Undaunted, I decided to combine some things and see what sounded good. I had a small amount of leftover Charmoula sauce and Falafel mix, and decided to mix the two together and use the mixture as a breading for tofu steaks, knowing how well the falafel would brown. 

First, I had to prepare the tofu, which really needs to be pressed if you intend to make a nice compact steak out of it. Left alone, the tofu will be watery and more inclined to break apart. I let my tofu sit with weight on top of it for about an hour, pouring out the accumulated water every once and a bit, so the tofu wouldn't be sitting in the water and reabsorbing it.

You can see how much liquid comes out of the tofu:

Rather than just pressing the falafel mix onto the tofu and hoping for the best, I decided to go with a classic dredging procedure, albeit with very non-traditional ingredients.

Falafel-crusted tofu steaks:
Tofu steaks, cut to slightly over 1/2" thickness
1/3 cup flour
Smoked paprika 
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Falafel mix
Charmoula Sauce

Mix together the flour and the spices with your fingers on the plate you intend to use in the dredging line-up. Make sure you break up any clumps of spices. I didn't give amounts on purpose, because all amounts were in the vein of "3 shakes of spice container". Just trust your own tastes and know that not very much of this mix will actually make it onto the steaks.

Mix the ketchup and sriracha, using only as much of the second as you are comfortable with. Thin out with water until the mixture is of a similar consistency to beaten eggs. 

Mix the falafel mix with a bit of the charmoula sauce. For two steaks, I used approximately 1/3 cup falafel and 2 tbsp. charmoula.

Begin to heat your pan on medium to medium-high high with a good amount of mild oil coating the bottom of the pan, and get your dredging line-up in order.

Begin by placing the steaks in the flour mix and coat the steaks on all sides, slapping off the excess flour before moving to the next step. Quickly dip the tofu steaks in the ketchup mixture, before placing in the falafel and charmoula mix. Coat the steaks well, using your hands to press the mixture all over the tofu and compacting the coating as much as possible to keep it in place on the steaks.

Brown the falafel-crusted tofu in the pan, taking care when placing them into the pan, as the oil will react to the moisture of the falafel mixture. Flip the steaks when you see that the first side is well-browned, about 3-4 minutes, and brown on the second side. You may attempt to brown the edges, but it is not necessary.

I served this with some basmati rice with peas, dill, and mint, and colored with turmeric. Salt and pepper this rice to taste, and enjoy!

I really enjoyed this meal, especially the contrast of the crunchy falafel coating with the creaminess of the tofu. The rice, which was almost an afterthought, was delicious, and I will certainly be using this preparation again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fun with Leftovers!: Dharma Garden

I love leftovers. The food gets more delicious in the fridge, it takes no time or work to have a delicious meal in front of you, and you can dress it up to improve anything you didn't love the first time around. 

We went to Dharma Garden, a Vegetarian Thai place, last night. I got "Veggie Garlic and Pepper" with imitation duck, which I thought would be garlicky and peppery. It was neither, though the veggies were all very fresh, so this time around, I augmented the meal with Sriracha and some spoonfuls of leftover green curry sauce. So good...

Note the "forbidden" rice:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Any Ideas?

I'm at a loss here.

Adventures in Lunchtime

My original blog idea, before I went down the vegan route, was to document my sad work lunches, as they were both innovative and depressing and I thought that people might get a kick out of the offal I was eating. For instance, a favorite dish of mine was a package of Uncle Ben's microwave rice, pasta sauce or salsa, and a vegetable of some sort microwaved together with Hungarian smoked paprika and topped with cottage cheese. This is what happens when you have no control over what goes in the refrigerator and pantry. 

Anyways, these days are no more, or, you know, slightly marginally better as a direct result of my veganism switch! I've been bringing more things from home, which is good, but also my boss, having been informed of the change as I bashfully put my hempmilk in the fridge one morning, let me add things to the PeaPod delivery, thereby widening my options at least a bit.

Today, though, I was worried. Having been left to my own PeaPod devices, I gleefully checked item after item, removing it a minute later for fear that I was inflicting my preferences with a hostile refrigerator- and freezer-space takeover. I ended up purchasing some WestSoy seitan (pictured below) and a can of vegetarian chili with tofu as my sole protein choices. 

I made some brown rice early in the day, knowing that whatever I eventually made would need a starchy vehicle, but as lunch time closed in, I began to suspect that my "sad lunch foods" blog would briefly get a time to shine. And then a glowing beacon in the freezer meant that all was not lost! 

From then it was easy enough. Sauces and protein in tow, I settled on stir-fry.

Teriyaki Stir-Fry (for 1):
1 serving plain seitan
1 small onion, cut in rainbows (I've never known what else to call this)
5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 carrot
1 small head broccoli
Frozen Asian mixed veggies
Teriyaki Sauce
Ponzu dressing
Salt and pepper to taste

Set your pan over medium-high heat with a mild-tasting oil (or sesame oil, if you like). Prepare the broccoli and place it in a steam-pan over medium heat, or be bad and cook it in the microwave, covered in water, for 3 minutes. Saute the onions and mushrooms until they begin to take on a bit of color around the edges. A bit of dark brown is good, as it will contribute greatly to the dish's flavor. 

My preferred method of adding carrots to a stir-fry is to use a peeler to just peel the carrot into the pan. Julienneing the carrots can take so long, and the texture of the carrots when peeled in is very light and is delicate enough to allow the carrots to cook through quickly. 

Add your other vegetables, the seitan (shred it with your hands into the frying pan), and a good amount of the sauces (but only as much Sriracha as you prefer) and cook until the frozen vegetables are cooked through. Add the broccoli last so that its color remains bright and cheerful and doesn't get overdone.