Wednesday, March 25, 2009

sushi, bokchoy,enchiladas

Again, I'm falling far behind on both cooking and eating. But, for once, it's because I'm catching up on school! so, yay.

Let's see, recent successes decidedly worth repeating:

I made the v-con sushi and it was, as Jasmine said of it, the hit of the party. I wouldn't have thought to try it (doesn't sound that special to me) if not for your comments on it, so thanks a lot! I didn't have seitan, so just replaced that with the broiled tofu. I also left out the mayo, which I feel made it a little too dry, but nobody complained.

I made the baby bok-choy from v-con and my test subject looked thoroughly surprised and said "wow, this is better than any boy choy i've ever made!" (he loves bok choy). His surprise was lessened when I admitted to using a recipe, and "exotic ingredients like mirin", but I was still happy.

Recent failures:
I made the vcon enchiladas. These were kind of cute, and certainly not unpleasant, but I didn't really care for them. Luckly Guy ate most of them (there was a huge amount) and seemed to like them. It may just be because I don't like any of the ingredients (except for the roasted peppers) that much. But, I was kind of turned off of cooking for a while after making these. It took me over a week to recover and make the two things above. Maybe I ought to stop making huge quantities of things... but it *was* worthwhile with the moussaka.

I made the "muffin donuts" from vcon and didn't like them that much. They weren't really bad enough to classify as failures, but I prefer plain muffins. Some people did seem like them, but I won't be making these again.

Your reviews are so helpful. Next in the lineup (and some have sat there for a while) are the roasted cauliflower soup, the spinach paratha, and the irish soda bread. I know I really ought to be making lentils, but I just don't have the enthusiasm for them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Meal

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, J and I had shepherd's pie and Irish soda bread tonight (both Veganomicon recipes).   They are both excellent.  I don't know that shepherd's pie is traditionally Irish, but it involved mashed potatoes, so that was close enough for me.  The Irish soda bread recipe from V-con is my favorite ever, even if it s not very authentic.  The millet gives it a wonderful chew, and it has just the right sweet/salty balance.

Other recent culinary experiments included punjabi chola and spinach paratha.  Both were delicious, and I'd recommend them if you feel like branching out with Indian cooking.  If Indian cooking is new to you, I'd recommend starting with chana masala and chapati, because the recipes are more streamlined and closer to popular restaurant cuisine.

As a side note, Manjula's dosa recipe with aloo masala is also awesome and does not require a multi-day fermentation, which is a major plus in the world of dosa making.  Pair it with sambar (I always just do it from a mix) and some coconut chutney and you'll be in South Indian heaven.

Two good meals

Doesn't this photo look like a smiling, googly-eyed dinner? :)
Sorry I haven't posted in awhile -- I was out in California eating good food with J, and then there was one thing and another when I returned home. A couple days after I got back, I decided to try out the French Lentil Soup from Veganomicon that everyone has been talking about. Yum! It was quite tasty, not noticeably different from other basic lentil soups, but easy and good. The leftovers, which I served over rice left from another meal (below), were even better. We made a salad with leftover roasted veggies, included roasted paprika potatoes that V had made the night before (no recipe, just tossed salt and paprika with the chopped potatoes before baking). Since there's paprika in the soup, it was perfect. And we used Trader Joe's artichoke and hearts of palm topping with sliced red onion and a crumble of feta over multigrain bread to go with it. We were happy campers!
I was tearing recipes from some old cooking magazines so I could toss the rest in the recycling and came across a recipe for Saag Tofu in Eating Well (such a great magazine -- not vegetarian, but so much plant-food based stuff that I use many of their recipes). It was super! As you can see by comparing my photo to the one shown if you follow the link, mine looks less creamy. That's because the yogurt, which I had brought to room temp and stirred in over very low heat, separated. It's really hard to keep yogurt from separating. I think next time I'll just leave it out. This was such a good dish, I will definitely be making it again. Also, the sauteed tofu (cooked more slowly than I usually do) was really tasty with just a sprinkle of salt. I was thinking it would be fun to cut it into thin sticks and cook it like that, then serve it with some dipping sauces (kind of like the tofu fries at Zao's in Palo Alto, for those of you that have been there).
V made our usual cauliflower and potato dish (alu gobhi) to accompany this. SO GOOD! I think it was even better than usual -- I may just turn all the cooking over to V! The recipe comes from Lite and Luscious Cuisine of India by Madhu Gadia, who is a dietitian from India. Many of our favorites come from that book. In looking up the link on amazon, I see she has an Indian vegan cookbook coming out in October -- though this one is pretty much vegan. I'll have to get the new one anyhow! I couldn't find this recipe anywhere on the web, so I'll post it here:

Alu Gobhi (Potatoes with Cauliflower)

Heat in nonstick frying pan (that has a lid) over medium heat:
2 tsp oil

Add and cook for a few seconds:
1/2 tsp cumin seeds

Stir in:
4 cups cauliflower flowerets
2 medium potatoes, peeled and
cut into 3/4” cubes

Add and stir well to coat:
1-1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
4 shakes cayenne pepper

Heat through, then cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for about 10 min, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender but still firm. Remove lid, increase heat, and stir in:
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp lemon juice

Drizzle around inside edge of pan and stir fry for a few more minutes:
2 tsp olive or canola oil

Before serving, top with (optional):
chopped fresh coriander

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dinner Theme: Caramelized Onions

So, these recipes weren't on the list, but for dinner on Saturday I decided to make two dishes built around one of my favorite things: deeply, deliciously sauteed onions. The menu was:

-- Potato and Smothered Onion Soup (Marcella Hazan's "The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking")
-- Fresh Pear, Blackened Onion, Roast Beet Salad (no recipe, just awesomeness) with Cranberry-Mustard Vinaigrette (Heidi Swanson's "Cook 1.0").

The soup was really easy to make; aside from some labor intensive onion chopping and some (very fun) mashing of the potatoes once they're boiled, it pretty much takes care of itself. The onions provide a lot of flavor, and a little parmesan and parsley tossed in at the end are a good touch. (The soup could easily be made vegan; I already substituted oil for butter and veggie broth for meat with no deleterious effects, and I'm sure something similar could be done for the cheese.) As you can see in the picture, we also crumbled up some soy bacon to put on top--mmm.

The salad is one I put together this fall and really like: mixed greens, blackened onions, roasted beets, fresh pear, slivered almonds, and crumbled bleu cheese. The cranberry-mustard vinaigrette was a perfect compliment, tangy but sweet.

If you'd like the recipes, I'll happily post or send them!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

no fuss Italian dinners

So the last week has been my week for minimal effort recipes.  I made my version of whatever-i-have-in-the-pantry minestrone. (It's similar to the pasta e fagioli recipe posted by jovaliquilts, but easier, and probably less gourmet-tasting.)  You could easily adapt her recipe to mine by subbing canned beans--I know it's not the same, but it's ready in 20 minutes that way!  I also increase the tomato-to-water ratio for a more tomato-y broth.  I use a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes including juices, or throw in a canned tomato sauce, and reduce the water to 6 cups.  This time I put in a potato and a few lima beans and green peas, frozen chopped spinach, and even a little eggplant.  Not authentic but it's what I had.  

This type of soup recipe can take a lot of abuse and still come out quite tasty, in my estimation.  A good grind of black pepper or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar at the end can up the flavor quotient and turn it into something quite delicious.  Anyway, if you have the time, make jovali's recipe, but if it's 8 pm already and you haven't been to the store in days, then the abbreviated version can still hit the spot.  

Continuing the Italian theme, I made this spinach mushroom lasagna last night.  Again, there are probably more gourmet lasagna recipes, but this one scores major points for requiring less than 15 minutes of prep before you throw it all in the oven.  I even mashed the tofu with my hands (they were clean, i promise!).  It seemed really saucy when I put in the oven, but because the noodles weren't precooked, they seemed to absorb much of the excess sauce and it came out just fine.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cauliflower Soup

I just made the Roasted Cauliflower Soup from Fatfree Vegan, and it was awesome. I used a hand held blender and so I got a few small chunks, but the soup was thick, creamy, and delicious. We didn't have any truffle oil, but we drizzled on a little of the Chilean peppery olive oil that I got B for Hannukah and some paprika. It was really great, and I think the truffle oil would have taken it that extra mile ... I will be making this again.

Also made Mac Daddy. Despite my love affair with nutritional yeast, I was a little underwhelmed. It was good, but not great. B really liked it - which was good, because we made the full recipe which serves 10 and have frozen it so he can eat it whenever.

Setting out on your suggestions

On Friday I made the bruschetta, using the San Marzano tomatos (only 50c more here than the muir glen! possibly because the others are more expensive to begin with). When it was warm it tasted extremely gourmet. As soon as it cooled, it tasted totally mundane. So I made them two by two (in the toaster oven). As you can see in the picture, at some point I was just eating toasted tomatoes, having run out of bread (half of it went to another cause). All in all though, C and I agreed that this is a huge hit in terms effort-taste tradeoff, and definitely a food with which to impress guests. Thanks Jasmine!

Between slices of bruschetta, I made the moussaka from Veganomicon. Three votes for "really good" (I think I just love sliced toasted potatoes covered in cream-like-things) and one for "weird". The mock-cream paste (tofu, pinenuts, lemon) tasted terrible before being cooked, but wonderful after (to all the three of us who liked it...). I kind of like this dish for its heaviness, and because it's clearly a complete meal (though I served it with two of my favorite sides: microwaved broccoli and (pan fried) swiss chard). 

I also made and enjoyed the quinoa almond muffins from Veganomicon. But, really, I think I enjoyed the raw almond paste more. I could just eat that all day. But the muffins were nice too. I wish I'd tried to sub the 1/4 oil with 1/4 cup of applesauce though, since I'm pretty sure I wouldn't know the difference. In other words, I agree with Jasmine's review-- kind of delicious, but not the best ever.

On Wednesday, at 5 am, I made the pumpkin cupcakes from the cupcake book. Everyone who had these said they were fantastic. Much bigger hit than any of the muffins I've made recently. I'll admit they were good, but I wasn't raving over them. 

And, thanks to you guys, I bought ingredients for broiled tofu, pasta e fagioli, Spicy Tempeh Nori Rolls, Grilled Yuca Tortillas. I'm really looking forward to these!