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Archive for the tag “vegan”

It Can Only Be… Stir Fraud!!!

I haven’t really thought about this blog in a while. Cooking creativity was slumping, broken camera issues and a lacklustre pantry due to this Capitalist Crisis we’re in were the main reasons. But tonight, I made a spur of the moment decision to try something new: tofu stir-fry that has no oil whatsoever! Now some recipes I’ve tried before call for swapping oil for water (and nothing else different) and my opinion is that they all suck. It tastes steamed and bland, keeping health food stereotypes obese with justification. Mine is way better!

no-oil stir fry

No list of measurements/time.¬† ūüė¶ My apologizes, but I wasn’t thinking I’d post about this until I was eating it.

Pre-prep: Making rice, chopping veggies and setting your oven to something around 275-300 F.

1. Take a non-stick pan over a medium-high heat. Take tofu (always extra-firm!) and place them in thick slices onto the pan (no oil!) You could cube them now, but if you leave them lengthwise for now it’s easier to sear them. Wiggle gently and turn when just a little brown onto another side. Keep doing this until all sides are done. Carefully remove and cube your tofu to desired morselness.

2. Lower the heat a bit and begin to assemble the sauce of your choosing. If do this in an empty pan the better, as you can adjust it easier. Soy sauce, broth, minced garlic, five-spice powder and pepper was all I can remember adding to mine. You can borrow from any recipe you like with this rule: no prepared sauces or thickening agents! This is a braise, meaning liquid. Those GM Party Banned items will just turn to gel, not seep into the tofu and probably burn all over your pan.

3. When you’ve got your sauce tofu/protein goes in, veg goes in and for a nice braise you do not want things completely covered 60% is a rough basis. Too little and dry out could happen (BAD!); too much and heat just wont transfer quickly (NOT GOOD.) Then into the oven for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables. Turn food over once or twice to give everything a dunk and check the liquid (evaporation will only be a problem if you had a pithy puddle to start with.)

4. When you feel confident in your braise’s done-ness remove (CAREFULLY) and place back on the stove top. Now you need a slurry, which is not in this case a way to describe weather in my homestates of MI and OR, but a mix of cornstarch and water. Make it in a bowl, about a tablespoon should be plenty and enough cold water till you can whisk it to solution. Never add the cornstarch directly to hot liquid because that just makes corn lumps.

5. Put the heat fairly high on the stove and wait for a boil to begin. Keep stirring and add the slurry in doses (you can always add more but never take out.) The slurry will start to thicken the sauce. When it’s to your liking, you’re finished! Serve over rice, noodles, nachos, whatever and consume. (Note: you can make slurries with other thickeners like flour or arrowroot, but only cornstarch has that oily mouthfeel to it.)

no oil stir fry 2

Though I’m not on a “diet” by any means, I’ve been working out a lot more and naturally eating well is crucial. I’m estimating that rather huge dish was about 700 calories. And use the fork for comparison, it’s an especially large plate. 700 calories in a main meal isn’t a lot for an active person’s diet. My daily needs are about five times that. But the good thing is while this had more calories than a Big Mac, it had 1.5x the protein and half the fat.

Leftover Raddichio–Riddichoulous

Some ingredients can be tricky to work with when you have leftover portions from other dishes. Happened to me with raddichio, which is an amazing but excessively bitter green. Like all members of the lettuce family the countdown was on to use it fast or risk wilted spoilage, and I’m too poor for lost produce.

Cheap, easky and delicious solution was Balsamic Roasted Raddichio with Polenta.

Polenta cooks differently depending upon the size of the grain. But if you’re usually cooking rice or pasta don’t be surprised if the recommended time is quite high. A good, evenly cooked polenta can take up to 40 minutes on a low heat if the cut is coarse–the package you’re reading is no typo.

As your pot of polenta gets lovely, you can dress your raddichio. Cut the stem portion off but you can leave them in wedges or thick pieces.. Sorry that I’m not one to measure, but the mixture is salt, pepper, olive oil and a lot of balsamic. If you can’t gauge the appropriate amounts of these things chances are you probably shouldn’t be trying this at all. Just go easy on the salt, the rest with drip off. Set your oven to a hot 450 degrees (F) and when it heats you can pop those leaves in for about 13 minutes. Let them cool and then slice or chop them to your preference.

With the polenta… polenta is great but usually made poorly so few incorporate it as a food staple. Here’s my trick: you have to heavily season that shit. Milk, butter and salt. Start piling it in as you taste. For healthier versions go with stock and aromatics. Thing is, polenta has marvelous texture, but falls short on flavor.

I finished my lunch with a small bit of simple, store-bought marinara sauce (no shame in buying pre-made product if you use it well) and some diced red pepper and arugula for color. I sometimes go overboard with garnishing but I love color.

Oh, and I have soy milk and vegan butter substitute (I’m mainly lactose intolerant) so this was also 100% vegan. Light, simple, comforting.

My (Famous) Spicy Coconut Hash

I used to make this all the time for people I’ve lived with. At least once a week. It was rather popular, not to mention cheap for us college students.

For a single serving breakfast for myself I am taking:

1/2 russet potato, diced (I hate using half because they store poorly, but so it goes)
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup of black beans (not pictured, but when I make this for more people it’s worth adding for color, taste and good health)
cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds
half a handful of shredded coconut
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Dice your vegetables.

2. On a medium heat add oil in a thin layer to a wide frying pan. When hot add your onions and your spices. I recommend whole seeds if you have them–cumin is almost essential; mustard, coriander, fenugreek also add a nice “pop,” but you can substitute powder or even just curry powder. Either way, add them right away so they have time to open up and develop. Give it about 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the potato and jalapeno (if using.) I would lower the heat. My electric stove has a 1-10 heat level and I cooked this on level 3. You have two basic choices with hash, low and slow or hot and with lots of oil. I prefer the first. Takes a long time, but doesn’t come out slippery. Stir frequently to prevent the potatoes from sticking.

4. Cooking time is going to vary by the size of your dice on the potato. After about 15 minutes I start testing pieces. When you are satisfied, crank the heat up to medium high and add the coconut, green pepper, lemon, tomato and black beans. Here, it’s like wok cooking, you want to bring those flavors out fast, but keep stirring or you’ll have potato crust on your pan. Just a couple minutes is all.

5. Season with salt and pepper. The red drizzle in my picture is sriracha sauce. If you like heat it adds a nice brightness too.

It’s been years and years since I made this but it is just as amazing as I remember. Sort of like hash browns you’d expect in the Caribbean. Now I remember why people were always begging me to make this.

Also, this is a totally original dish. I’m afraid that if I Google it I’ll find other people have done the same; but, this is one of my prouder inventions.

Also, also, I need to get a camera that is able to focus on an inanimate object  in plain daylight. All my pictures look like crap here.

Broccoli Romanesco Con Besciamella Arancio

No idea if I got the Italian even remotely right there, nor is this an Italian dish in any sense. But mmmmmmmm… did I enjoy this. This maybe the best broccoli of my life. And as I said in my last post, features the unique and mathematically beautiful features of broccoli romanesco–more or less just your average broccoli with only a slight passing for cauliflower too. And as promised, I made it totally vegan.

First thing you need to do is steam the broccoli. That’s just a matter of a pot of¬† boiling water with a steaming basket. Ask you can see, I quartered a carrot too, mostly for color but why not, right?

That sauce you see on the broccoli and the plate is just a standard bechamel sauce with the addition of the juice of a blood orange. Bechamel and its base of a roux I feel can sound intimidating, I imagine, being so French-y but conceptually it’s very simple. First you need a fat, butter is the standard, but I was going vegan so I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan on medium heat (and aim your medium towards low, depending on your stove, burning is the greatest danger here.) When the oil heated I tossed in a heaping tablespoon of regular flour (plus maybe another small half, this wasn’t a good measuring day.) Just as the flour goes in you whisk–with a whisk or a fork–the ever-loving crap out of it. Do this until the oil and flour are mixed into a single substance and you notice some *slight* browning. Then start adding soy milk (or regular milk, either way) a bit at a time, still whisking your ass off, until it coats the back of a spoon nicely.

Comrades! What does it mean “coats the back of a spoon?” This is a common trick for getting sauces to a nice, velvety consistency. As you go you can take an ordinary spoon and run it through your sauce, then pull it up, turning the “bowl” of the spoon upside down. If the spoon is evenly coated–no glaring lumps–good start. Then draw your finger across the spoon, if the sauce holds form, doesn’t run into the gap created where you parted it like the Red Sea. You’re good. Also, as always, just use good instinct and add more milk or keep cooking to reduce liquid content if it seems too dry or too wet. A low heat and lots of stirring will save you.

Finally, at the end, take an orange (I used blood oranges because they’re in season and I love the color, but navel, tangerines, mineolas, etc. are all most exceptable) and juice it it. Add the juice to the sauce, mix to incorporate and serve on your broccoli or other steamed vegetable right away.

I like my work here because the citrus really adds the perfect flavor to the sort of sulphurous and semi-bitter flavor of brassica vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, but without the fat and over-powering taste of cheese. A bechamel sauce also lets you skip on the dairy completely while keeping the texture and much of the taste of a creamy sauce. I give this one an A.

Slow Week Going

Been trying to account for each penny spent this month, which hasn’t lead to a lot of grandoise kitchen experiments. But I made this yesterday and I thought it was worth at least a mention, if only to serve as reminder that I am still eating food

These purple potatoes made an appearance on my Peruvian steak night, and the co-op by me still has them on special so I nabbed a bunch to roast. For the potatoes, it’s just laying them on a baking tray (preferably metal for more even heating) in¬† a 425 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on the potato size.

For an accompaniment I just made a fast relish out of onions–a yellow onion sliced about the width of a fingernail–which was slathered in olive oil and roasted sitting on top of the potatoes. Chopped it up with dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil in mostly equal parts. I also threw a frozen veggie burger in the oven in time to go with this. Was pretty good, but nothing to rock your socks off. But it does reveal my love for one culinary thing: relish.

I have checked dictionaries and seems there really isn’t a very specific term for what counts as a “relish,” but it’s also not just the chopped up pickles as you see in stores or associate with hot dogs. A relish is basically any fruit or vegetable prepared as a condiment to another dish. I have no problems with traditional cucumber pickles in any form, but there are also a lot of relishes that I also adore. Red onions marinated in red wine vinegar and chilis make a great, “cooling” addition to many Mexican dishes. A fast “pickle” of carrot and daikon in vinegar and sugar make the fabulous addition to the classic, Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. Cwikla (my Polish keyboard set up seems non-functional, but it’s pronounced “ch’veek-wah”) is a relish of minced beets and horseradish that I’m also highly partial too and owns the crap out of ketchup on hamburgers.

I think the whole concept of a relish is very neglected. In a country where obesity is a national crisis and everyone wants to talk about eating more plants, why not the relish? It’s not the focal point of a dish, but uses the subtle flavors of plants and seasonings to enhance the protein or whatever main staple of a full meal. Along with a side dish it can double your fruit and vegetable intake even if you’re not a fan of plants. And the varieties are quite endless; tart, savory, sweet… it’s a creative cook’s free form design!

And coming later today, speaking of things that are good for you, I’ve seen these at my co-op regularly and I was finally tempted to buy:

Brassica! Romanesco broccoli! Another thing about me, I am sort of a math geek, so a food that perfectly resembles a fractal cannot help but earn my admiration. I don’t want to chop or break its form though, and the only way I’ve eaten broccoli straight up was when my family slathered it in Velveeta. For reasons of want and necessity, I want to dress it with something vegan without resorting to the stand-by vegan substitutes–should you follow this blog regularly you might note on my vegan entries that I am not a fan of “substitution.” So that is my culinary task for the day.

First Post. Tonight: Peanut Butter and Jelly Tacos!

It has been suggested to me over the years once in a while by friends that I should start a food blog. But I kind of have the impression that having a food blog is like how people all wanted to have SUVs in the 1990s;¬† the number of people who think they need one is much smaller a ratio than those who actually should have them. Another analogy might be people’s pictures of their pets, a thing more people want to share than there are people who actually want to see it. But I’m having, because until now I’ve just been sharing recipes and cooking experiments on Facebook, which is just too frustrating with the way things display plus the annoyance of Facebook’s less-than-mediocre interface.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY TACOS!

That’s right, you heard me. I had been thinking about the use of jellies and marmalade in savory cooking and this idea just popped to mind, why not use jalapeno jelly, a south-east Asian-esque peanut butter concoction and make tacos?

To make this you will need these ingredients and some good sense of portion because I didn’t do any measuring.

corn tortillas
1 jar of jalapeno jelly
peanut butter
3cups of cooked rice (brown or white)
red cabbage
carrot
onion (go with your preference for what you like raw – I picked yellow)
green apple
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp of green curry paste (adjust to heat preference or sriracha could do fine)
1 tbsp of lime juice
cilantro, if you don’t have the “it tastes like soap” gene (which is an actual gene, FYI.)

First, get the rice cooking. If you have a bit of turmeric  add just a dash for color.

Next, get your peanut butter and a small bowl. Add the peanut butter to the bowl. I’m guessing I’d just just shy of a half a cup followed by the lime juice. Mince your ginger* and to the bowl along with the curry paste. Mix together, adding more lime or water if it’s too thick to mix, however, this is a spread and not a sauce so don’t let it get runny. This can just sit while the rice cooks to let the flavors mingle.

*Advice comrade: To mince ginger the easy way. One you have the skin off and a piece approximately the size of a soda bottle cap either place it on the cutting board and smash it with the flat-side of the chef’s knife and smash it, or if you’re not comfortable smacking a sharp knife, putting the ginger between cling film or wax paper and crushing it with something like a can of tomatoes works just as well. This will not only make it easier to mince, but smashing breaks the cell walls of the ginger root releasing a lot more flavor. Also works on garlic and even fresh herbs.

Once your rice is or is close to done, start prepping your vegetables. Best thing is to shred and julienne. Cabbage, apples and onions should be done with a knife. I think the large setting on a four-sided cheese grater do better for carrots, daikon and firmer vegetables. What I wrote down is what I used, but any vegetables you like can go in. Just keep it raw if you can, you’ll want the crunch.

Organize a station for setting up the tacos. Heat the tortillas in a microwave real quick to keep them pliant (5 sec for each tortilla. ) Spread your peanut base across the middle of the taco. Next lay down the jalapeno jelly. Rice and vegetables plus cilantro and you’re good.

Advice, comrade: I personally found my tacos were sweeter than I’d expected at first, but that didn’t bother me at all. Marinated onions would’ve been good. If you wanted to add meat to this I think you could really go just about anywhere. Grilled meats would all be perfect; this would also make a killer summer party meal. If you want to make it tasty and sound totally horrible, trade tortillas for nacho chips, use chopped cooked white fish, make the peanut sauce runny and just go with Peanut Butter, Jelly and Fish Nachos.

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