Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cooking in the City

It's been awhile since I've taken a class at The Natural Gourmet in New York, a culinary school which offers chef training as well as public classes in vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, and gluten-free foods.   So when I found myself with a free afternoon recently, I decided to hop on the train in search of inspiration.

This evening's three-hour excursion was a course called "Easy Go-To Vegan Sauces" taught by former executive chef of Angelica Kitchen, Peter Berley.  Sauces are essential for the vegan chef.  Once you master a few outstanding recipes, you can pretty much expand your repertoire of meals simply by varying one or two ingredients or even how the sauce itself is utilized as a component in a dish.  What follows is a visual summary of some of the classic sauces and accompaniments we learned how to make.

Roasted Red Pepper Rouille 
(served here with crudites, but can also be paired with roasted vegetables or baked tofu)

Creamy Red Lentil Dal Over Brown Rice (can also be served as a soup)

Coconut Curry Sauce on Paprika Tempeh (this would be great with tofu and lots of veggies)

 Tangy Carrot Ginger Sauce with Millet Sunflower Seed Croquettes  
(I'd eat this sauce as a soup, or it would be nice with a veggie stir-fry)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jeera Thai

A few months ago when I was doing some holiday shopping at the Project Storefronts pop-up shops in New Haven, I spotted a new Thai restaurant on Crown Street.  It's wedged between a Nail salon and Bubble Tea place, all of which are making a go of it across from the new cooperative arts and humanities school.  I made a mental note to give the restaurant a try next time I was in the neighborhood, which is where I happened to find myself today.

After a week of summer-like weather, today's chill set the perfect stage for a bowl of noodles.  Jeera Thai does not disappoint in this arena, as there are many options to choose from.  There are also plenty of soups and curries as well.  I decided on the Pad Thai Miracle Noodles, which came with a good amount of my favorite veggie, baby bok choy.  You can choose from noodles made from tofu, yam or rice; I went with the traditional rice noodle.  The dish was topped with ground peanuts and had a flavorful combination of citrus and soy with a bit of sesame oil.

I started the meal with an order of Triple Mushroom Spring Rolls with Hawaiian Pineapple Dipping Sauce.  This was a good portion of super crisp and hot rolls filled with smoky mushrooms and cabbage.  The sweet and sour dipping sauce was the perfect contrast.

I jumped ahead and ordered dessert not realizing how filling my meal would be, but I was intrigued by the Yam Coconut Custard with Purple Sticky Rice.  Most of the time I get Mango Sticky Rice for dessert and have never had this dish before.  My server assured me it was vegan, so I decided to give it a try.

Served warm, the custard is light and spongy, and the sweet coconut cream is a luscious contrast to the savory sticky rice underneath.  I'm happy to know I now have a place for vegan dessert in New Haven!

Jeera Thai is a lovely little spot for a quick bite to eat serving creative dishes that surpass most Thai restaurants in the area.  There are only 4 stools beneath a narrow counter for seating, so unless you're prepared to bump and twist during your meal to allow diners and servers to squeeze past, I recommend takeout rather than dining in.  Or, once the weather warms up again, be sure to grab one of the 2 streetside tables for dining al fresco.

Monday, March 12, 2012

This Week's Menu

We're seeing green here at Well on Wheels headquarters... that is, St. Patrick's Day and all things Irish.  This week's menu features a traditional Irish side dish, Colcannon, made by combining mashed potatoes with chopped greens.  Any kind will do.  I used parsley, green onion and kale, but you can do this with green cabbage instead.

I was also making butternut bisque soup today, so I decided to throw in a bit of the squash, too, turning the potatoes a bright chartreuse color.  I kinda liked the glowing quality of the end result.  The Colcannon was served with pan-fried tempeh and a tahini mushroom gravy.

Also on the menu was a Teriyaki Seitan Stir-fry with broccoli, carrots and red onion.  I love the color contrasts, as well as the sweet and spicy flavors.  For textural interest, I tossed some roasted salted peanuts on for a finishing touch.

The final item on this week's menu was a Stewed Black Beans with Dirty Rice and Cumin Spiced Zucchini and Yellow Squash.  I've been doing variations on enchiladas the past couple of weeks, and this was sort of a deconstruction.  A delicious deconstruction.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This Week's Menu

I've recently been playing around with various combinations of colorful quinoa after discovering a box of black quinoa at my local health food store recently.  The black quinoa look similar in size and color to poppy seeds, which is slightly smaller than the more common white quinoa.  They take a little longer to cook (otherwise, you end up with a slightly crunchy pop when you bite into them).... but I'm liking them.  This week I decided to try mixing black and white quinoa for a paella.

I sauteed some sliced Tofurky Italian sausage in a pan, then added chopped onion, carrots, and mushrooms.  I finished it off with a can of Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, some sliced kalamata olives, green peas, and a squeeze of lemon.  The flavor combination was slightly smoky and savory.  I topped the dish with a fan of steamed asparagus which made a nice color contrast.

The second meal this week was Black Bean and Garnet Yam Enchiladas since a client requested something Mexican.  I topped the enchilada with some homemade sauce spiced with chili powder, paprika, onion powder and cayenne pepper, and paired it with Cumin Spiced Zucchini which had been broiled in the oven.

The final entree was a simple tofu tir-fry since I found some baby bok choy at my health food store and thought it would be perfect with the plump snap peas that are coming into season soon.  Sesame seeds make a nice garnish for this dish.