Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rapberry Banana Raisin Smoothie

I had a big bag of raisins in the fridge so I decided to throw some into my lunch smoothie to add a little sweetness.  I've done that before with dates, which are heavenly blended with fresh fruit, so I figured I'd get a similar result with the raisins.  Success!  This 5-minute meal was perfectly refreshing on a 95 degree day.

Raspberry Banana Raisin Smoothie
1 frozen banana
1 cup frozen raspberries
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tbl coconut milk (from a can)
4 ice cubes
enough water to blend smooth (maybe 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup)

Throw all of the above ingredients into a Vita-Mix or high powered blender, gradually adding only enough water to blend until smooth but still thick and icy.  Enjoy!

This Week's Menu

So I was having a discussion the other day with a vegan friend about what to do with tempeh, and both of us agreed that we like tempeh when other people make it, but not when we cook it ourselves.  Why is that?  Do the fermented soy properties somehow magically transform in the hands of another?  Alas, while I cannot solve that mystery, I did come up with a recipe idea for this week's meals:  Deconstructed Tempeh Reuben with Oven Roasted Potatoes and Stringbeans.

This delectible dish is made the same way you'd make a reuben, only without the toasty bread.  First, I panfried some thinly sliced tempeh in a hot pan with a little olive oil, sea salt and fresh black pepper.  After a few minutes when the tempeh gets golden on one side, flip each slice over, and add enough oil to coat the pan again with a little more salt and pepper.  When this side crisps up nice and brown, transfer the tempeh to a dish and spread each slice with about a teaspoon of either Dijon or stoneground mustard.  Then you'll start assembling stacks.  Take one slice of tempeh, top with about a tablespoon of Eden Organic sauerkraut, add another slice of tempeh, then top with more sauerkraut.  If you like things spicy, you can throw down a little horseradish in each layer for good measure.  These stacks go nicely with some thinly sliced oven-roasted potatoes and green beans fresh from the garden.

I was on a green bean kick this week since they're abundant this time of year.  One of the other meals was a luscious Gado Gado, which is an Indonesian peanut sauce made with coconut milk, spiced with chili powder, and stirred together with cauliflower, potatoes and grean beans.  It's topped by fresh carrot, cucumber, red onion, and mung bean sprouts.  A little squeeze of lemon juice brightens the flavors and brings it all together.

The third meal this week was Three Sisters Salad with Baby Spinach and Cherry Tomato Gremolata.  The three sisters are beans, squash, and corn, and they make a perfect little family since they're all in season right now and look so pretty.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gluten-free Vegan Carrot Cake

We celebrated my brother's birthday today (happy birthday, Joey!) with a cookout on the grill.  My dad made some awesome thin, crisp, on-the-verge-of-charred grilled potatoes to go with oven baked tofu, stringbeans, collard and kale.  I had to help myself to two servings of everything.  (sorry there aren't any pictures - I was too hungry to wait)

For dessert my mom made not just one, but two carrot cakes - one gluten-free and vegan for me, and one for everybody else.  And yes, I really could've been a piggie and eaten the whole thing by myself.  The icing was made with silken tofu, which had the look of cream cheese when it was in the fridge, but once it hit the 90 degree kitchen, that icing welled up in a soupy pool.  Delicious, nonetheless, and I kinda like it all gooey anyway. 

Look at that!  Would you look at that??   Mmm... rich, dense, sweet and oh soooo goood!  (thanks, mom!!)

Carrot Cake
1/2 cup soy flour
1/2 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup Sucanat
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup vanilla soy milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbl ground flax seed plus 3 Tbl water
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, Sucanat, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix the flax seed mixture with oil, soy milk, vanilla, walnuts and carrot.  Stir the liquid into dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Pour into oiled 9” cake pan and bake 20-30 minutes.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. 

Maple Tofu Crème
12 oz. container of extra firm tofu (Mori Nu)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup rice syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
2 Tbl Earth Balance soy margarine

Mix the tofu, maple syrup, rice syrup, soy powder, vanilla and cornstarch in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Heat for about 5 minutes on med-low until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and whisk in vegan cream cheese and soy margarine until thick.  Store in refrigerator for several hours before frosting. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lemon Basil Tofu with Zucchini and Shiitake Mushroom

Mmmm... leftovers never tasted so good.  Earlier this week I found a bag of Lemon Basil at my local health food store and decided to give it a shot.  I used it for a client's weekly meals to make a simple dressing with rice vinegar and olive oil which I tossed with zucchini ribbons.  The unexpected tang of lemon, which was reminiscent of lemon verbena, was a little sharp at first, but as the dressing sat and the flavors mingled, it really mellowed out nicely.

Today I used the lemon basil to perk up a simple stirfry with tofu, zucchini, and shiitake mushroom.  I started by sauteeing some red onion in a little coconut oil.  Then I added the half moons of zucchini and slices of shiitake.  I wasn't quite sure how I would season everything, though I knew I wanted an Asian flair because of the mushrooms, so I added a bit of tamari.

Then I looked in my fridge and found a jar of Shredded Mango Chutney, which I knew was slightly sweet and slightly spicy.  This was the perfect balance to the savory flavors I already had developing in the pan.  The slightly sour kick of the lemon basil really pulled it all together.  Again, lunch in less than 15 minutes.  Yum! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

dirt candy, CocoaV

Every once in awhile I like to take a trip to the city to explore vegan eateries and get inspired.  About a year or so ago I had heard about a new vegetarian restaurant called "dirt candy" - I liked the name, and the concept that veggies are like nature's candy, and so I wanted to check it out.  I finally got my chance this week.

The bright white obelisk illuminating the entry

The owner of dirt candy, Amanda Cohen, is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet (where I've also taken classes!) and former chef at Pure Food and Wine, one of the country's finest raw food restaurants.  If you want to see Chef Cohen in action, she will be competing against Iron Chef Morimoto on Iron Chef America Sunday, August 29, at 10:00 p.m. - exciting!!

The summer menu

The food here is more about chemistry and presentation than having a good hardy dinner, but it was still an enjoyable experience.  I do have to note, however, the space is TINY, even by NY standards.  Nine two-tops and a narrow alley down the center meant that if you wanted to get out of your seat you had to push aside the table next to you, inhale deeply, and hope that none of your clothes or body parts bumped up against fellow diners.  Seriously.  While in the bathroom I half expected to hear an announcement that we were free to unfasten our seatbelts and walk around the cabin.

I ordered the Mushroom Mousse appetizer, which according to the website is the restaurant's signature dish.

"The dish itself consists of a cube of the mousse, some thinly sliced grilled portobellos, a scoop of pear and fennel compote and little bits of truffle toast. After watching some folks struggle with their knives and forks (heartbreaking) we now recommend that people spread the mousse on the toast, top it with the grilled portobellos, add a bit of the compote for some sweetness, then stuff the whole thing in their mouth."  

So I had to try it.  The compote was made with apricot preserves, and it was a pleasingly sweet contrast to the savory mushroom.  For any vegans who miss the taste and texture of liverwurst, this will surely be pure heaven.  For me?  I've never really been a fan of the stuff.

For the entree I chose the Crispy Tofu with Broccolini and Orange Beurre Blanc.  The flavors were rich, coconutty, and Thai curry spiced. . . I just wish there was some jasmine rice or something to soak it all up.  I normally have to pass on the complimentary bread because of my gluten sensitivity, but in this case I wanted to sop up every last drop of that sauce, and I was still starving (come on:  one little slice of tofu??).

I was happy to be on my way across town for dessert at CocoaV.  Chocolates, bon bons, truffles, cupcakes, milk shakes, organic wine... yeah, the perfect way to end an evening.  For your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sesame Crusted Tofu

I read an article yesterday form the Chicago Sun Times proclaiming that tofu is quickly becoming one of the hip new trends on restaurant menus.  While I'm glad for its elevated status (it would be nice if it were no longer the butt of jokes any more), I hope it doesn't become too pretentious, lest we vegans suffer another wave of backlash.  For now, I'll celebrate by making some delicious dishes with it, like this Sesame Crusted Tofu with  Zucchini Ribbons and Shredded Carrot.

2-3 Tbl tamari
1-2 Tbl tahini
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 lb. block of extra firm tofu, cut into 8 rectangular slices
1 cup sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, stir together tamari, tahini and sesame oil.  Place sesame seeds in a shallow dish.  Dip tofu slices in tamari mixture, then coat thoroughly with sesame seeds.  Place tofu slices on oiled baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes on each side, carefully turning tofu when bottom is golden.  Serve topped with spiralized zucchini tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, fresh basil, salt and pepper and shredded carrot.  

No ordinary sorbet

This Sunday we celebrated my parents' 45th wedding anniversary at Cafe Allegre in Madison.  It's a lively, medium-sized restaurant just an exit away from Hamonassett State Park.  Good times were had by all, and I was pleased with their ability to accommodate my vegan needs, particularly for dessert.  My entree was a tasty concoction of portobello mushroom, white beans, olive oil, garlic and broccoli with a side of their delicious house marinara, but alas, it wasn't photo worthy. 

The dessert was another story:  a big heaping pile of lemon sorbet stuffed into a whole lemon, then frozen, and plated in this pretty presentation.  It was a refreshing end to a lovely meal.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Today's lunch

This morning I cooked for a client who had a "no salt" dietary restriction.  One of the entrees I made was a chickpea and quinoa pilaf with sauteed baby bok choy and shiitake mushroom.  It was tough restraining myself from adding tamari to the saute, so I decided to reserve some of the shiitake to freely augment according to my tastes for my own lunch.

I had half a block of tofu in the fridge which I decided to panfry since I didn't have the patience to marinate and bake it.  The key to getting the right texture is having a really hot pan (non-stick works best).  First, I swirled about a tablespoon of oil in the hot pan and let it heat up for about 30 seconds.  Then I added the sliced tofu, which sizzled as soon as it hit the oil (this is a good sign).

I let it go for about 5-10 minutes, while I did some weeding in the garden.  When I returned, the tofu was golden and firm enough to flip.  I tossed in some chopped red onion, then headed back out to the garden for another 5-10 minutes. 

While I was outside, I decided that the dish needed something green, so I rummaged the fridge where I knew I had half a bag of baby spinach.  That got tossed on top, then stirred together with about a tablespoon of tamari and cooked for several minutes until wilted. 

I added a sprinkling of sesame seeds and a drop or two of toasted sesame oil right at the end, just before plating.  Another quick and easy 15-minute meal!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pretty produce

I stopped by my local independent grocery store, The Whitneyville Market, this morning to hang a flyer and caught a glimpse of these pretty little tomatoes and weird looking pepper on the produce shelf.  I couldn't resist, so I brought a couple home with me and vowed to create something with them for lunch.

I decided a simple stack alternating veggies and polenta topped by sauteed spinach would make a nice light meal.  I sliced a few tomatoes and chopped up a nice fat clove of garlic for the sautee.  Then I stacked the polenta and tomatoes and popped them in the microwave for 2 minutes while I wilted the spinach. 

Once the timer rang, the spinach was ready, and I assembled my stacks, garnishing with a few twists of the pepper mill.  In less than 15 minutes, my farm fresh lunch was ready to be enjoyed!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Teeny Tiny Potatoes

There are many things I love about summer:  the warm sun, cicadas making their unmistakable call, birds singing their summer songs, butterflies, fresh veggies from the garden... ahh, the list is as endless as the day.  Another thing is finding specialty seasonal produce at the grocery store or famers market, like this bag of Teeny Tiny Potatoes I picked up from Trader Joe's.  They're about the size of a plump quarter.  I wasn't sure what I'd do with them, but they were so cute I couldn't resist scooping them up and taking them home with me.  

Earlier in the day I had picked a handful of stringbeans and a zucchini from my garden, and I had a ripe tomato and half an avocado in my fridge.  I envisioned it all coming together for dinner, kinda like this:

First I sauteed the stringbeans and squash in a skillet, then crumbled some extra firm tofu from The Bridge on top and seasoned it with nutritional yeast and chili powder.  Meanwhile, I boiled the itty bitty potatoes until tender and then sauteed them with onion in Earth Balance margarine, and I threw in some chopped up kale at the end.  The tomato wedges and sliced avocado made a lovely garnish and really brought all the flavors together as if I had planned it that way.  Nice.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fire & Spice

Tonight I'm feasting on leftovers from Fire & Spice Vegan Restaurant which I also enjoyed for lunch today.  The restaurant is primarily for takeout, a tiny little space on Sisson Avenue in Hartford formerly occupied by the short-lived and long-loved Kebra Negast.  Essentially, it's the same location, same decor, same owners, and nearly the same West Indian menu (but with less faux meats and more raw foods. . . and just as delicious).

Vegans on a budget should definitely make a point of dining here.  For a measley $7.95, you get a HUGE pile of as many of the offerings you can cram into one medium sized container.  I ordered two and chose the I-tal Stew (West Indian for "vital" and traditionally made with yams, cassava, okra, beans and spices), Red Beans and Rice (which had a nice coconutty undertone), Chana (curried chickpeas), Barbeque Tempeh (generally, I'm not a tempeh fan, but I always seem to love it when somebody else makes it, as was the case with theirs), Spiced Potatoes (again, a nice mellow coconut undertone), and Sauteed Kale and Greens.  This was more food than three of us could handle for lunch.

If you're planning a visit, let me know.  I definitely want to check it out again!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chelsea Clinton's Vegan Wedding

By now you've probably caught at least some of the hubbub around Chelsea Clinton's recent wedding... most notably, that it was nearly 100% vegan and the cake was gluten-free.  I think this is a huge step forward in taking the concept of vegan dining into the mainstream, and I hope it sets a trend.  So exciting!

The event took place at a lovely estate on the Hudson River called Astor Courts in Rhinebeck, NY.  This makes me wonder, did the newlyweds make a visit to Farm Sanctuary, also in Rhinebeck, and was Gene Bauer on the guest list?

Food was catered by Gendron Catering, a Hudson Valley catering business which promises "an explosion of flavors and a riot of colors."  Owner and Executive Chef, Daniel Gendron, is a graduate of the CIA and has worked at some of New York's finest restaurants, including Tavern on the Green and Windows on the World.  With a catering budget of $750,000, that would include a pretty big Mediterannean spread on the buffet table.

While I don't have the exact menu, rumor has it the gluten-free vegan wedding cake was provided by Babycakes gluten-free vegan bakery in New York City.  The $11,000 cake (or cakes, most likely) could potentially be the first gluten-free vegan dessert these 500 wedding guests have ever tasted.  I hope it was amazing!

If you're thinking about having a vegan menu for your next special event, why not consider contacting Well on Wheels to cater it?


Monday, August 2, 2010

This week's menu

I'm really enjoying the cooler weather lately; nonetheless, cold salads are still making an appearance on my weekly menu.  One of this week's entrees was introduced to me by a friend who claims not to be skilled in the kitchen, but I beg to differ.  It's got color, crunch, taste and texture, and most important it's so easy to make.  How can you beat that? 

I like to call it a Super Protein Salad since the main ingredients are shelled edamame (frozen and thawed) and black beans (canned, drained and rinsed).  To this you add a bunch of corn (I used fresh off the cob, but frozen is fine), red onion, carrots (which you can get shredded), and cherry tomatoes sliced in half.  The original calls for Trader Joe's tahini dressing to bind it all together, but I made my own version with tahini, tamari, lemon juice, agave syrup and a little kick of Dijon mustard.  Delish!

Here it is with a closeup of the Quinoa Tabouleh I served it with:

And the rest of the meals:
  • Ratatouille with Stewed Butter Beans and Polenta
  • Red Lentil Coconut Curry, Brown Basmati Rice and Stringbean Mallum

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Red Lentil Soup with Green Beans

I picked my first handful of stringbeans from my garden today, and that is what inspired tonight's dinner.  I was looking for something quick, easy, and of course made with ingredients I had on hand.  It was a day for relaxing, after all.

I decided on a Red Lentil and Jasmine Rice Soup similar to dal, but less complicated.  People always ask me for recipes and when I honestly tell them I generally don't use any, I think they must either think I'm lying or protective of some culinary secrets.  Neither is the case, at least when I'm cooking for myself.  So this soup is as simple as can be, just make up your own measurements:  rinse some red lentils and jasmine rice, then place in a pot with a chunk of fresh ginger, a little bit of turmeric, and a generous amount of water, bring to boil, cover, and lower the heat to simmer about 15 minutes.  When the lentils and rice are both soft, season with sea salt and fresh squeezed lemon juice.  That's it, really.  Oh, and maybe stir in some fresh cilantro leaves, too.  If you have some.

Then for the topping:  sautee a bunch of cut up green beans in about a tablespoon of coconut oil, pinch of turmeric and sea salt, and dried coconut.  Do this until the stringbeans start to "pop" and the coconut gets brown and toasty.  I also cut up a baby zucchini from my garden and threw that in, too.  This all got poured sizzling on top of the soup.  Simple, and delicious.