Friday, December 24, 2010

Cheezy potato soup

Yes, I have a documented fondness for potatoes and nooch (nutritional yeast to the uninitiated). This recipe makes perfect sense. If cheezy sauce and potatoes are perfect, why not just combine them into a single pot? Remember, this is a soup recipe, and quantities are estimates. Taste as you go, you can always adjust quantities. This does come together pretty quickly and makes it good for a weeknight when you don’t have a lot of time but want something homey. Since I came up with this, I’ve been making it about once a week. The leftovers are great as well, and because the “cheese” is nooch and not actual cheese, it reheats well without the curdling or emulsion separating issues of some real cheese soups. Good vegetable stock will make a big difference here (I use roasted vegetable stock when I can), but in a pinch you can use water. Sorry, no pictures for this one, but it’s a great dish that you really should try.

Cheezy Potato Soup

1 large onion or 2 leeks, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tsps olive oil
¼ cup white wine
5-6 medium yellow potatoes cut into ½ inch pieces
Vegetable stock
1-2 cups of almond or soy milk
½ - ¾ cup of nutritional yeast (depending on how how noochy you want it)
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce, optional for serving (I like Frank’s Red Hot)
Lemon wedges, optional for serving

1. Heat a Dutch oven or 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onions or leeks, carrots, and garlic and some salt and sauté until the vegetables are slightly browned, about 7-8 minutes.
2. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the potatoes and enough vegetable stock or water to just barely cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and turn to medium low heat and boil until the potatoes are tender and starting to break down slightly (about 15-20 minutes).
3. Add the almond of soy milk and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. I usually keep a few lumps in it to keep it interesting.
4. Add the nooch and stir to combine. Add more soy or almond milk if it seems a little thick. Taste for salt and pepper.
5. Serve with the hot sauce and lemon wedges if desired.

Vegan terrines and pates

OK, I’ve been kind of lame about writing anything since Vegan MoFo ended. I will admit it was tough to make time to write about food every day but I’m hoping to get back to several posts a week. Anyway….

I’ve been obsessed with terrines of late. I’ve always been interested in terrines and pates, but it’s largely thought of as the realm of meat, but it doesn’t have to be. Gather restaurant in the Bay Area is making a name for itself with a Vegan Charcuterie plate that’s getting rave reviews from across the board but also angering a few carnivores who are upset about the use of the term charcuterie for something that’s vegan. Frankly I think a couple of years ago, when I did a lot of charcuterie, it would have gotten me righteously indignant as well. But charcuterie is part of Garde Manger, the cold kitchen of the classical French kitchen, and the realm of an overwhelming number of vegetable dishes, most of which can be made vegan.

First up, I have a mushroom pate, which is fairly basic and a good jumping off point. It’s a dish that’s easily modified. This was my first vegan pate attempt, but it was successful enough that I’m planning on making it as a starter for Christmas dinner. This is the basic version, but I’ll be modifying it for Christmas.

The second recipe is for a piquillo pepper and almond terrine, with Spanish pimenton and sherry vinegar. It’s almost like a solid form of Romesco sauce. In some ways, it’s also a jumping off point because it shows that any vegetable puree can be turned into a terrine by the magic of agar agar.

Mushroom pate
Mushroom pate

8 oz. cremini mushrooms
8 oz. white button mushrooms
2 tsps olive oil
½ cup cashews, toasted and finely ground
2 slices of sandwich bread, processed into bread crumbs, and then toasted in a dry skillet to dry them out
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 oz. Brandy, or wine, but brandy is really worth it
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the bread in a food processor and process to coarse crumbs. Put in a dry non-stick skillet and toast over medium heat until toasted slightly and dried out. Reserve
2. Toast the cashew pieces in the skillet and when slightly browned, remove and process to fine crumbs in the food processor. Reserve.
3. Put all of the mushrooms in the food processor and process until almost completely pureed.
4. Heat the olive oil in the skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook until they mushrooms give up their liquid and the pan is almost completely dry, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Deglaze with the brandy and cook it briefly to burn off the alcohol. Add the bread crumbs, cashews, and dried thyme. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.
6. Remove from the pan to a plate and allow it to cool for several minutes, until you can handle it. Roll it into a rough log shape (it should pretty much hold together). Put it in a long sheet of plastic wrap and roll it tightly into a log. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Remove and slice. Serve with mustard and cornichons, caper berries, or a few olives.

More mushroom pate

Piquillo Pepper Terrine

10-12 oz. jar of piquillo peppers, drained
½ cup of slivered almonds, toasted
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsps Spanish pimenton
1-2 tbsps sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of water
1 tbsp agar agar powder

1. Combine the peppers, almonds, garlic, pimenton, sherry vinegar and ½ cuip of water to a blender. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper. Season it generously, since it’ll be served chilled and that tends to mute flavors.
2. Bring the other 1 ½ cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the agar agar and cook until it thickens, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add the agar agar mixture to the blender and blend again. Taste for seasoning again.
3. Pour into a small loaf pan, or any other container. Place in the refrigerator for atl east two hours to set. Remove, slice it and serve with bitter greens in a sherry vinaigrette on the side and a few olives.

Piquillo pepper terrine on a large white plate

OK, I know I said serve it with bitter greens and those are cornichons.  But at least there's a little less white.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What to Cook When There's No Time to Cook

OK, I vowed I would get in one last Vegan MoFo post. I used to cook food that was a lot more complicated and I also used to spend a lot more time plating food. I even used to diagram plates for dinner parties, but I’ve kind of mellowed a little with time. Part of it is that life is more complicated than it used to be and I don’t always have as much time to cook as I’d like. Last night was a good example. I really wanted to make ravioli, but I got out of work a little late, and because our furnace was acting up, I was resigned to cleaning it, which means opening it, disassembling some of it, vacuuming various parts, removing gas jets and cleaning them and all kinds of other things that don’t include making ravioli.

Vegan MoFo is supposed to be a celebration of vegan food, and I’ve felt guilty at times for making pretty common dishes. If you want to turn people on to vegan food, you have to show them impressive dishes, but sometimes there’s no time for impressive dishes that will photograph beautifully (assuming I could actually take decent photos, but I digress). But as I thought about it, I realized there is a lot to celebrate in those simple dishes you make when you have no time. First, I’m still cooking as opposed to going and getting some pre-made scary fast food. Second, it gives credence to my idea that you have to use the free time you have during the week to make things for later, whether it’s kitchen staples like braised garlic or soy pickled shitakes, or a pot of homemade baked beans. If you do a little bit of planning, you can always have something good you can make quickly without resorting to frozen, processed crap or fast food. Real food is worth the time and commitment you have to make in order to prepare it. And that is something to celebrate. So here are three quick meals of real food that bailed me out in the last week. No pictures, and sometimes nothing more than descriptions. All of them are simple and that’s something to celebrate.

Potatoes and Cheezy Sauce

We love cheezy sauce. It’s good on almost anything, but it’s killer on potatoes of any kind. The cheezy sauce recipe makes about 2 ½ cups of sauce which is more than we use in a sitting, so often times there’s some sitting in the fridge. Need a quick meal? Frozen shredded potatoes (aka hash browns) and cheezy sauce. We always keep a bag or two of potatoes in the fridge because sometimes you need dinner in 10 minutes. Plus potatoes are comfort food. Stressful day? Hash browns and cheezy sauce. No hashbrowns? Microwave some russet potatoes for 15 minutes and then throw them into a 500 degree oven for 5-10 minutes to crisp and you have baked potatoes and cheezy sauce.

Noodles and soy pickled shitakes

I use somen, udon, or soba. Any Asian noodle will work. Boil noodles, drain. Top with soy pickled shitakes, scallions, and toasted sesame seeds. Aren’t you glad you made that jar of pickles now?

Smart Dogs and Baked Beans

We normally keep smart dogs around too. They’ve got no fat and actually taste good, plus they cook in 2 minutes (literally). OK, they’re kind of processed, but they’re vegan and no fat, so I’m willing to turn my head about the processed part. I make a lot of baked beans – maybe not every week, but probably every other. They’re easy and they’re way better than anything out of a can. And who doesn’t l;ike franks and beans. The recipe is approximate because I don’t really measure anything.

Baked beans

1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of oil
1 lb. white beans (I use small white beans)
½ cup of molasses, plus maybe 1-2 tablespoons more right before serving
2 tablespoons of mustard (brown or Dijon)
Salt, pepper

Cook the onion and garlic in the oil. I add some salt to pull moisture from the onion. Add the beans and some water. Add the ½ cup of molasses and the mustard, plus salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then throw it into a 250-300 degree oven for 3-5 hours. Check it now and then and make sure it has enough water, but other than that you don’t need to do much. Alternately, cook them in a crock pot on low overnight. You’ll never go back to canned beans again.

Thai Noodles

It’s the end of Vegan MoFo and I’ve been a little remiss because I had a busy time since Thanksgiving and haven’t posted a lot recently. But I’m hoping to knock out two final posts tonight. First up, we have Thai style noodles. Some people would call it Pad Thai but I’ll stick to Thai style noodles since it’s not authentic, but it is really good. It’s something that’s easy enough to make for two, but if you’re cooking for four, you’ll need to do it in batches because you’d need a huge pan to pull it off. On the side, I made some Thai style fennel salad (it’s part of my “it’s just wrong” repertoire). I bought fennel because it looked great, but wanted Thai food, so decided to use the fennel for a Thai salad. You could easily sub cabbage or any other crisp vegetable that you can slice really thin.

Thai style noodles

¼ cup of palm sugar
1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
¼ cup of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of chile paste (or more to taste)
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
3 oz. Rice noodles, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
3 scallions, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
1-2 cups of bean sprouts, rinsed, trimmed if they’re budding
1 block of firm tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 handful of Thai basil, washed and coarsely chopped
1 handful of cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
Lime wedges for garnish

1. Make the sauce. Combine the palm sugar, tamarind paste, soy sauce, chile paste, ginger and about ½ a cup of water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and let it boil for a few minutes to reduce slightly. It should be syrupy.
2. Sauté the tofu in a large non-stick skillet or wok in a little bit of oil or spray oil. Cook it until most of the water has evaporated and it’s browned somewhat. Add the scallions and cook for another minute.
3. Add the noodles and the sauce and toss to combine everything. Because the noodles were soaked for 15 minutes, they should only need about 3-4 minutes to cook completely; by which time the sauce will have coated everything. Add the bean sprouts and half of the herbs and toss again.
4. Divide between two plates and add the remaining herbs and roasted peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.

Thai fennel salad

¼ cup of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon chile paste
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 head of fennel, finely sliced on a mandolin

Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add the fennel and mix. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 26, 2010


When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’m still pretty much a traditionalist. It’s a meal where everyone has pretty strong opinions of what’s appropriate and what’s not. This was my first vegan Thanksgiving, and except for not having a turkey, our meal was pretty traditional. We had seitan and chickpea cutlets with smoked mushroom gravy, onion, sage and apple dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes with roasted garlic cashew cream, and roasted Brussels sprouts with onion and apple. The seitan and chickpea flour cutlets were something I came up with previously. The mushroom gravy was also a repeat, but I made a double batch and I used smoked mushrooms, which gave an incredible, almost bacon like flavor. One of the keys was making a batch of roasted vegetable stock, which is richer, sweeter and more intense than plain vegetable broth. I used it in the gravy and the dressing. In retrospect I should have used some to it in the cutlets instead of water, but they cutlets still had plenty of flavor. Hope the rest of you had a great Thanksgiving as well.

Roasted Vegetable Stock
Makes about 2 quarts

3 large onions, peeled and quartered
4 large carrots, halved lengthwise
6 button mushrooms, cleaned
3 leeks, washed thoroughly and halved lengthwise
Handful of celery leaves
4 stalks of celery, chopped into 2-3 pieces each
6 dried shitakes mushrooms

Toss the onions, carts, leeks and white button mushrooms with the oil (or spray with spray oil). Roast at 450 degrees until browned, around 30 minutes. Add to a stock pot with the celery leaves and stalks and the shitakes mushrooms. Bring to a boil and simmer for 60 minutes.

Cranberry Sauce

12 oz. whole cranberries
½ cup of sugar
Zest from two oranges
Juice from two oranges
1 inch piece of ginger grated

Combine everything in a sauce pan and cook until the cranberries break down, about 15-20 minutes. Cool. Serve room temperature or slightly cooler, but not too cold.

Onion, apple and sage dressing

1 large onion, finely diced
2 large or 3 small apples, diced (go for a mix if possible)
4 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoon of dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dry sherry
¼ apple cider
12 oz. dried bread
¼ cup olive oil
2-3 cups of roasted vegetable stock

Sauté the onion and apples in half of the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute and then add the sherry and apple cider. Cool slightly. Put the dried bread in a bowl and add the remaining olive oil. Add enough stock to moisten everything and have it come together, but be careful not to add too much to where it becomes a large sodden mass.

Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and cashew cream

½ cup of cashew pieces
½ cup of water
4 heads of roasted garlic
2 ½ lbs. of yellow potatoes
Almond milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the cashews, water and garlic in a blender and blend until it’s creamy. Boil the potatoes until they’re tender. Mash them, add the cashew cream and as much almond milk as you need to make it smooth and creamy. Taste for salt and pepper.

Roasted Brussels sprouts, apples and onions

2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
2 apples, cubed
1 large onion cut into 3/8 inch wedges
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the Brussels sprouts into halves. Toss the Brussels sprouts, onion, and apples with the olive oil. Add the salt and pepper. Roast on a sheet pan for 30 minutes until they’re lightly caramelized.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homemade pasta with Roasted Garlic, Lemon, and Black Pepper Cream Sauce

I’ve always loved making pasta (well, except for that first time which was a horrible experience which is best forgotten). For years I made all of my own pasta. I did it enough that it was fast an easy. I could make enough pasta from scratch for one person in the time it took to bring a pot of water to a boil. I’ve done less of it over the years, and frankly haven’t made any since I became vegan. Why? It’s an egg thing. Yes, a lot of pasta is made from 100% semolina flour and water. But that’s dry pasta, not fresh pasta. Fresh pasta had to have egg. And most of the vegan egg alternatives seemed like a bad idea in pasta (flax seed pasta anyone?). I’m vegan and proud, but I won’t compromise my food just so I can say it’s vegan. So I thought I was stuck with dried pasta.

Then we went to Portobello a few weeks ago and the food was eye opening. Astounding, amazing, game changingly good. And all of their pasta is handmade fresh pasta. OK, it’s time to rethink the whole “you can’t make fresh pasta without eggs thing.” I did a little more research. In the Artful Vegan (one of the Millennium restaurant books), they say that they make their pasta with semolina, water and a splash of olive oil. I’ve tried using 100% semolina flour in the past for pasta and didn’t like the texture. It lacked the fine suppleness that fresh pasta should have. So I read up on egg substitutes and thought about tracking down the Ener-G egg replacer, even though Vegan with a Vengeance says it can give a weird flavor. But then I discovered Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer: soy flour, wheat gluten, corn syrup solids, and align (from algae). Corn Syrup Solids? But it is Bob’s Red Mill. Hmm, corn syrup solids? Really? But I trust a man who gave his company to his employees when he retired.

So I tried it. The instructions are 1 tablespoon of egg replacer plus 3 tablespoons of water equals one egg. I use the basic measurement for pasta that I learned from Giuliano Bugialli: one egg per cup of flour, plus a little bit of olive oil, but I had to alter that somewhat.  Since Millennium used semolina, I decided to add some. Here’s what I came up with:

Fresh pasta

1 cup of white flour
1 cup of semolina
4 tablespoons of Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer
¾ cups of water
A splash of oil (1-2 teaspoons, maybe)

Remember, it’s pasta and humidity, your flour, etc. will affect how much water you need. So these quantities are approximate but they are pretty close. Mix the flours together. Mix the egg replacer, water and oil together. Put the flour on a board and make a well in the middle. Add the liquid to the well. Mix it with a fork, incorporating more flour as it thickens. When it’s thick enough, start to mix it by hand. Work it into a stiff dough. When it’s stiff, start to roll it with a rolling pin. Divide it into two or three parts and run it through a pasta machine. Mine has 7 settings but I normally go until number 5 and then cut it as tagliatelle. Put it on clean dish towels and let it dry somewhat.

This sauce is almost directly out of the Millennium cookbook. I wanted something sort of rich and creamy, but also something that wouldn’t completely smother the pasta. But it does have a fair amount of black pepper. Start with a little less, taste it (you should always taste as you go), and decide if you need more.

Lemon, Black Pepper and Caper Garlic Cream (adapted from the Millennium Cookbook)

¾ cup braised garlic
1½ cups almond milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon white miso
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Zest from one lemon, finely chopped
Juice from lemon
½ to ¾ teaspoons of coarsely cracked black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of capers

Mix all of the ingredients except the capers in a blender. Blend well. Heat in a small sauce pan. Don’t let it boil. It will thicken as it gets hot. Hold on the side, keeping it warm.

Cook the pasta. Remember, fresh pasta cooks in a few minutes. Toss the pasta with the sauce, add the capers and serve. If you go by traditional Italian standards, you may have a little too much sauce, since they don’t like the pasta drowned in the sauce. If you like it a little saucier, use all of the sauce – pasta police be damned. If I was Julia Child, I would tell you to serve a green salad, but I’m too lazy tonight. But like Julia, I will recommend a good medium bodied red wine or a good beer (I could see going NW IPA to cut the cream or something golden and Belgian to add complexity. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


One of the interesting things about blogging for me is seeing how I go through cycles with food. I return to recipes and modify them a lot – I guess it’s a process of refining as much as it’s a desire to eat something I’ve enjoyed in the past. This is a modification of an earlier pizza recipe. The mushrooms are smoked briefly with hickory. The smoking isn’t essential but it does add a really great note to the pizza, so smoke them if you can.

There are a couple of differences in this version. The herb aioli is out of the Millennium cookbook, but this version has less lemon juice. I also added some seitan sausage to it. It’s a recipe that you can adapt to whatever suits your fancy.

Pizza dough

2 cups of white flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of dried yeast
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 1/3 cups of water

Mix the dry ingredients together and add the water. Knead the dough on a floured board for several minutes until it’s smooth. Let it rise for several hours until doubled and then punch it down.

For the toppings:
6-8 large white button mushrooms, sprayed with oil and smoked for an hour, and then sliced
4 jarred piquillo peppers, julienned
20 black olives, halved
1 seitan sausage, sliced into thin slices
Herb aioli (recipe follows)

Herb Aioli

1 - 12.3 oz. package of silken tofu
1/3 cup of roasted garlic
2 teaspoons of white miso
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped (or cheat like I do and use the frozen cubes of basil from Trader Joe’s – I use four cubes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Lemon zest from 1 lemon finely minced
¼ cup of lemon juice
1 - 2 tablespoons of water

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Assemble the pizzas: Divide the dough into 4 pieces and stretch or roll it until it’s thin. Add some herb aioli to each as a base. Divide the seitan sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and olives between the four pizzas. Bake in a 500 degree oven until the crusts are just starting to crisp, about 10-12 minutes