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

Polenta torte

OK, there’re no pictures with this one. I could lie and say it was because they didn’t come out right, or that one of my dogs ate them, but the truth is that from a presentation standpoint this was a giant polenta fail. But the concept I think is still a good one, and with firmer polenta I think this could be really good.

I had polenta leftover form the other night and I stored it in a square container in the fridge. Polenta sets up really nicely as it cools and if it’s thick enough, you can do all kinds of things with it. The plan here was to cut it into three layers horizontally, and then stack them with filling between them and cook them. Brilliant, it’ll look awesome. It’s an ingenious use of left over polenta. The reality is that my polenta was a little soft and sort of fell apart in the baking process. From a presentation point it was a disaster, but it did taste really good. I had some leftover and it’s reheating now for tonight’s dinner.

Because it’s a work in process this isn’t really a recipe, so much as a “how to” so you can have your own polenta fail in your own kitchen. But I’m convinced it would with firmer polenta. Anyway.

Put the bottom layer of polenta in an oven proof dish (I used an old square casserole). The stuffing for the next layer was caramelized onions and blanched, chopped spinach (about 1 onion to about half a pound of spinach). It also had a little bit of garlic added to it. Then put the middle layer of polenta on top of that. Add a layer of tofu “ricotta” (like from the stuffed shells, but you only need a 12 oz. package of tofu), and then the final layer of polenta. Voila! Polenta tart. Heat it in a 350 degree oven until it’s hot (the time will vary with the size of it). Take it out, pretend it didn’t collapse and sauce it with tomato sauce of your choice and then add a little basil cream (a big punch of fresh basil, roasted garlic and a little silken tofu whipped up in a blender). It was awesome, even if it wasn’t photographable.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Polenta and Mushrooms with Basil Almond Cream

There are two schools of polenta. Some people like it super rich with all kinds of added flavors and fat. And then there are the purists who like it cooked with nothing besides water and some salt and maybe pepper. I confess I used to like the super-rich way, where the polenta is really more of a vehicle for fat and other flavors. But a few years ago, I started to transition to the other school. Now I really polenta that actually tastes like polenta. It’s rich corn and slight sweet and almost nutty flavor is best unadulterated. Served plain, it’s also a great match for stews. In this recipe it’s paired with mushrooms and topped with a little bit of basil almond cream. You can use any type of mushrooms in this, but it’s best to use a mix. I use a mix of white, cremini, and shitakes in this, but you could add any wild mushrooms as well. I normally use sherry with mushrooms, but in this I use white wine because I like the brightness that it brings to the dish.

Mushrooms and polenta with basil almond cream
Serves 2 (can be doubled)

1 cup of polenta
8 oz. white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 oz. shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons of dried sage
¼ cup of white wine
¼ vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Basil Almond Cream
½ cup of almonds
½ cup of water
2 tablespoons of finely chopped basil

1. Cook the polenta. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add some salt. When the water boils, pour the polenta in, while stirring with a whisk so it doesn’t lump. Turn the heat down and let it cook, stirring often, for about 20-30 minutes, until it’s smooth and creamy (not gritty). You will likely need to add water to it throughout.
2. While the polenta cooks, sauté the mushrooms. Add the oil to a skillet (I use non-stock). Add half of the mushrooms and cook on medium high heat, until they start to give up their liquid and brown slightly. Add the other half of the mushrooms and salt and cook, shaking the pan every few minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and sage and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the white wine and let it reduce by about half. Add the vegetable stock. You want a little bit of liquid in this, but it shouldn’t be soupy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add the basil almond cream ingredients to a blender and blend into a smooth paste. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon some polenta into the bottom of two bowls. Add half of the mushrooms to each bowl and top with a dollop of almond cream.

Stuffed shells

I don’t know why I don’t make more stuffed shells, because they’re really good. Maybe it’s because I always think they’re going to be more work than they actually are. There’s nothing fancy about these. Just satisfying comfort food. The pictures are also pretty dull – but we all know what stuffed shells look like, right? This recipe uses a tofu “ricotta” and spinach filling, but you could use pretty much anything. You can replace the spinach with mushrooms, or add mushrooms to it. Pretty much any vegetable will work for the stuffing, but be sure to remove as much water as possible so that it doesn’t make the shells mushy. The tofu ricotta is based on the one from Vegan With a Vengeance, but I use roasted garlic instead.

Before covering in sauce

See why a gave a picture of them before the sauce is added?  Not much to see here.

Stuffed shells

1 box of shell pasta, cooked a little less than al dente (since they’ll cook more in the oven)
Marinara sauce (no I’m not giving you a recipe, but please don’t use a jarred sauce)

For the Tofu “ricotta” and spinach filling:
2 – 12 oz. packages of silken tofu
2 teaspoons of olive oil
½ cup of nutritional yeast (nooch)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons roasted garlic
2 tablespoons of basil, finely minced
1 lb. of spinach, blanched, squeezed dry and finely chopped (frozen works well too)

Mash the ricotta ingredients together with a fork until well blended. Taste it and make sure it’s balanced. Add more salt, garlic, or lemon juice if you think it needs it. Mix the spinach in.

Add a thin layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of a baking dish that's large enough to hold the shells in a single layer.  Stuff the shells and put them seam side down in the baking dish and top with tomato sauce. Baked in a 350 oven for 45 minutes until bubbly. Eat and wonder why you don’t make them more often since they’re so damn good and so easy.

Red Lentil Soup with Mango Cream

I love Indian food and it’s kind of surprising how little of it I’ve made so far during Vegan MoFo. I make a lot of lentil soups of all kinds but red lentils are perhaps my favorite. It’s all a great week night soup because red lentils, also called masoor dal in Indian cooking, cook really quickly. This isn’t an authentic recipe and it kind of has one foot in the dal world and one foot in the soup world. You can make it without the mango cream, but I think it’s worth the extra time it takes (since you can make it while the soup simmers). You can use fresh or frozen mango. I found frozen mango puree recently at Trader Joe’s and it’s perfect in this. I get the fenugreek greens (also called methi greens) at my Indian grocer, who has them frozen. The bag contains individual cubes about the size of an ice cube. I generally use 1-2 cubes in soup or dal. This soup is also great with any flat bread. There are a lot of ingredients, but it does come together pretty quickly.

Red lentil soup with Mango Cream

1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 teaspoons of oil
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 inch piece of ginger, grated
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground
2 teaspoons of cumin seed, half ground, half left whole
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of kalanji seeds (also called nigella or black onions seeds)
2 teaspoons of black mustard seeds, half whole, half ground
2-4 dried red chiles ground (to taste)
1 ½ cups red lentils, well washed
6 curry leaves
1-2 red or green chiles
Chopped cilantro

1. Add the oil to a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and salt and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown a bit. About 5-8 minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste, grated ginger, and the spices (reserving the whole cumin seeds and mustard seeds).
3. Add the lentils and about 4-6 cups of water (depending how thick you like your soup). I add less water and add more as need throughout cooking, Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 20-30 minutes (checking now and then to see if it needs more liquid)
4. When the lentils are cooked and falling apart, heat a small pan over medium heat and add a little oil, or spray oil to it. Add the reserved cumin and mustard seeds, 1-2 whole chiles cut in half lengthwise, and the curry leaves. Cook until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add this to the soup and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro.
5. Ladle into bowls and add the mango cream (recipe follows)

Mango cream

½ cup of mango puree
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
Juice of one lime
2 oz. of silken tofu

Mix all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust balance if you think it needs it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Korean Food

We’re half why through Vegan MoFo already. And to celebrate, I have a short, cheater post because I’m going back to a recipe I already did: Korean tofu (but if my obsession with Korean hot pepper powder). But last time it had no pictures (although these aren’t stellar). I served it with the homemade kimchee which isn’t really fermenting much yet, but has gotten more intense and complex over the last few days, and a carrot banchan. It’s similar to the spinach banchan, but it just different enough that I can claim it as a new recipe. Remember, I usually onlycook for two, but you can double or triple this if need be.

Korean tofu

Clockwise from upper left: carrot banchan, Korean tofu, homemade kimchee
Carrot banchan and kimchee

Carrot banchan

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 large clove of garlic
1½ tablespoons of brown or unrefined sugar
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 inch long piece of ginger, grated
½ teaspoon of Korean red pepper powder
2 carrots, grated
1 green onion, finely chopped

Mix all of the ingredients except the carrots and green onion together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the carrots and green onions and mix again. Let sit 10 minutes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seitan and chickpea flour cutlets with mushroom gravy and twice baked potatoes

Tonight it’s vegan comfort food. Seitan and chickpea cutlets with mushroom gravy, twice baked potatoes made with a roasted garlic and dill cashew cream and a side of spinach in balsamic vinaigrette. It’s total mom food, or maybe something out of a vegan diner circa 1963 (if such a thing actually existed). It’s what a vegan Betty Draper would have cooked between cigarettes and big belts of cocktails. Although, maybe the Betty Draper version would have a side of cashew creamed spinach instead (mmm, make mental note, must make cashew creamed spinach sometime). The cutlets were featured in their own post, so you need to look the recipe up there, but the twice baked potatoes and gravy are featured here.

I specify amontillado in the mushroom gravy. It at all possible, track it down. Amontillado is type of sherry, that’s more full bodied and nuttier than the paler fino sherry. It’s a perfect foil for mushrooms. Amontillado comes medium dry and completely dry. Either will work, although I prefer the drier version for cooking. Sherry is under appreciated – go track down a decent one and give it a try.

1 recipe of seitan and chickpea flour cutlets, sautéed in olive or spray oil until heated through and lightly browned

Mushroom Gravy
1 shallot, finely minced
4 oz. white mushrooms (about 6 large ones), finely minced (like for duxelles)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 cup white flour
1/3 cup sherry (preferably amontillado, but dry fino will work as well)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon nooch (nutritional yeast)
1 teaspoon white miso
1 1/3 cups of vegetable stock

Sauté the shallots, mushrooms and garlic in the oil. Add the salt to pull the moisture out of the mushrooms and shallots. Cook for about 5-8 minutes until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and the pan is almost dry. Add the flour and cook for a minute or so stirring constantly. Add the sherry, dried thyme, nooch, miso and stock. Stir to combine. Turn to low heat and cook until it thickens and reserve, keeping warm on low heat. Add water to thin it if it sits a while and thickens up.

Twice baked potatoes with Roasted Garlic and Dill Cashew Cream

4 russet potatoes, baked, cut in half and cooled slightly

Roasted garlic and dill cashew cream
2/3 cup of cashew pieces
2/3 cup water
¼ cup roasted or white wine braised garlic
Juice from half a lemon
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Baked the potatoes and cool. If you’re in a rush, microwave them for 15-18 minutes and then finish them in a 450-500 degree oven (they’ll take about another 15-20 minutes). Microwaves are an invention of the devil, but they’re good for things like this.

Cut the potatoes in half and let them cool slightly. Make the cashew cream while they cool. Combine the cashew cream ingredients in a blender and blend until thick. Scoop the potato flesh out of the potatoes but be careful not to tear the skins. Put the flesh in a bowl and add the cashew cream. Mash thoroughly and taste for salt and pepper (adjust as you see fit). Stuff the potato shells with the mixture and place on a baking sheet. Put into a 400 degree oven and bake until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.

Blanched spinach with balsamic vinegar

1 bunch of spinach, washed, cleaned, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, cooled and fnely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoons of olive oil
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon of good quality balsamic vinegar

Cook the shallot and garlic in the oil in a small pan. Let it brown for a few minutes. Add the white wine and continue to cook until reduced by three quarters (trhe shallot should be soft). Add the spinach and heat through. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook 20 seconds. Serve immediately since the vinegar will discolor the spinach if it sits too long.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend prep - Seitan and chickpea flour cutlets

Weekends are time for prep work for the coming week. This weekend it’s more white wine braised garlic (since I use tons of the stuff) and seitan cutlets. I like seitan but find it can be a little heavy at times, so I’ve been trying to figure out new ways to make it a little less dense and chewy. Today’s experiment involves adding some chickpea flour and steaming it in a bamboo steamer as opposed to simmering it in liquid. After steaming, they’ll be marinated in stock and white wine in the fridge until they get used in a day or two. (I’m thinking about sautéed seitan cutlets with some kind of pan sauce and twice baked potatoes where the stuffing is the potatoes mashed with braised garlic and some kind of cashew cream, but I haven’t gotten it all worked out in my head yet.)

Before steaming

After steaming but before marinating in the white wine and stock

Seitan and chickpea flour cutlets
Makes 6 cutlets

1 ½ cups of wheat gluten
½ cup of chickpea flour (besan)
¼ cup of nutritional yeast (nooch)
2 teaspoons of dried sage
1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of lemon pepper
¼ teaspoon celery seeds (optional)
¾ teaspoon dried mustard
2 tablespoons roasted garlic (mashed to a paste)
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
7/8 cup of water

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl or stand mixer. Add the roasted garlic, soy sauce and water. Knead for a few minutes until the dough comes together in a ball. Divide into six pieces and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes to relax a little. Flatten each piece of dough into a cutlet. Lightly spray the racks of a bamboo streamer with oil. Place the cutlets in the rack and steam over water at a moderate boil for about an hour.

While the cutlets steam, make the marinade.

White wine marinade
1 cup of white wine
1 shallot finely minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of parsley
1 bay leaf
6 allspice berries
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
2 cups of vegetable stock

Add everything except the vegetable stock to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce by about a third. Add the vegetable stock, bring back to a boil, and then turn it off. Let it cool. Add the steamed, cooled cutlets to the marinade and refrigerate for a few hours or a few days.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Korean Pancakes and Kimchee

My current obsession
I’m currently obsessed with Korean red pepper powder since I bought a pound of it at Go Bu Gi yesterday. So after brewing up some pilsner today, I decided I needed to make more Korean food. Kimchee is the national dish of Korea. It accompanies almost every meal. There’s a wide variety of commercial kimchee at markets that I shop in, but today I decided to try and make some from scratch. Although Kimchee is usually fermented, you can some of it fresh and let the rest ferment.

I first learned about Korean pancakes in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but his recipe uses eggs. The recipe I use now has no eggs in it, although I do add some baking powder as leavening. You can use pretty much any vegetables in them. I found nice looking zucchini so I used those, but you can also use cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, etc. Experiment with what looks good.

The kimchee recipe is for a small amount (about 1½ quarts). You can make a larger batch if you want by doubling or quadrupling the recipe. Because I use soy sauce instead of fish sauce, the kimchee is a little darker that traditional kimchee.


1 napa cabbage, about 2.5 lbs, washed, cut into quarters lengthwise and then into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup of kosher salt
1 large carrot, julienned
¼ daikon radish, julienned (roughly equal to the amount of carrot)
6 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of scallions cut into 1 inch pieces
2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/8 cup of rice flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
¾ cup of water
¼ cup of soy sauce
2-8 tablespoons of Korean red pepper powder (go for as hot as you can)

Add the salt to the napa cabbage and let it sit for 1-2 hours to soften and remove moisture. Rinse the cabbage thoroughly and squeeze out the excess water. Taste it to make sure most of the salt has been removed. If it still seems salt, rinse it some more.

Mix the water, rice flour, and sugar in a sauce pan and cook until it thickens. Remove from heat and add the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and red pepper. Mix to combine into a thick paste.

In a bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients, add the paste, the carrots and the daikon. Mix well, then add the napa cabbage and mix well. Pack the contents into canning jars but don’t tighten the lids (put them on but not screw them down, because the kimchee will create CO2 as it ferments. You can store it on the counter for several days to ferment, or you can put it in the fridge to ferment slowly over the course of several weeks. You can use it fresh the day that you make it as well.

Packed to ferment slowly in the fridge (if it lasts)

Fresh Kimchee
Korean vegetable pancakes

1 cup of white flour
1 cup of rice flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 zucchini, grated
2 carrots, grated
1 bunch of scallions, tops and roots trimmed, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 teaspoon of kosher salt

For dipping sauce:
1/3 cup of soy sauce
2 tablespoons unprocessed or brown sugar
½ teaspoon Korean red pepper powder (or more to taste)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
1 inch piece of ginger, grated

Mix the flours, baking powder, and salt together. Add enough water to make a batter. It shouldn’t be too thin or too thick. Go for a consistency like normal pancake batter. Add the vegetables and mix thoroughly.

In a non-stick skillet, add a little oil or coat the pan with spray oil. Add the batter and cook for about 5 minutes until browned and then flip. Cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Remove, cut into quarters and serve with dipping sauce and a side of fresh or fermented kimchee.

Korean Tofu

I stopped at an awesome Korean market yesterday, Go Bu Gi, in Beaverton and got some Korean red pepper powder. So naturally I had to use some. I still had a craving for the spinach banchan I wrote about a few days ago and planned on doing some Korean sautéed tofu to go with it. Add some steamed rice and dinner is ready. The pictures came out even worse than usual and kind of make it all look in distinct, but it’s a great combination of flavor. I love Korean food, but will that I’m very fluent in it yet.  This tofu dish is sort of a composite recipe, but it’s something I’ll definitely be making again soon.

Korean Tofu

1 block of firm tofu cut into slices about ½ inch thick, drained on paper towels to remove excess moisture
1 bunch of scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch long pieces
1 tablespoon of roasted sesame seeds

Sauce ingredients:
¼ cup of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of sugar
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1-3 teaspoons of Korean red pepper powder
1 teaspoon of sesame oil

Mix the sauce ingredients together and set aside in a small bowlIn a non-stick skillet, sauté the tofu in a little oil or spray oil for about 3-5 minutes per side (just to get some color). Remove from pan and keep warm. Add the scallions and cook for 1-2 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add the tofu slices back to the pan and add the sauce. Cook for one minute to heat everything through. If the sauce reduces too much, add some water. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the tofu. Serve over steamed rice with a side of spinach banchan or kimchee (or both).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catalan White Bean and Seitan Sausage Stew

Day 11 of Vegan Mofo.  I love Spanish food and Catalan food in particular. Because of its reliance on vegetables (onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, eggplant and legumes plus a huge assortment of others), it’s easily adaptable to vegan cooking. The best book on Catalan cooking in the US is Colman Andrews’ brilliant Catalan Cuisine. This recipe isn’t authentic – it’s more an amalgamation of several Catalan cooking elements. It also using a few tricks to save some time, which Mark Bittman would approve of but Coleman Andrews and your Catalan grandmother likely wouldn’t. But it tastes great and it’s easy to do.

There are lots of slow cooked braises in Catalan cooking, most of which start with a sofregit, which is a slow cooked combination of onions, tomatoes and olive oil. This is a slightly lower fat version (but don’t kid yourself in to thinking it’s super low fat because it’s not). If fat isn’t an issue, double the amount of olive oil. I use canned tomato sauce primarily because it cuts down on the time it takes to make the sofregit. If you use whole or canned tomatoes it will take a little longer. The other traditional element is a picada, which has been called a sauce but is more of a thickening agent in this recipe. They can be made from a variety of ingredients, but usually contains dried bread, nuts, garlic, and some spices. Traditionally they’re made in a mortar and pestle and are stirred into stews or braises towards the end of cooking to thicken the dish. When I’m in a rush, I use a min chopper instead of the mortar and pestle. Because the picada contains raw garlic, it will need to cook for 10-20 minutes in the stew in order to tame the sharpness. I use homemade seitan sausage, but you can substitute vegan chorizo if you want.

I normally am only cooking for two, so this is a two person recipe, but you can easily double, triple or even quadruple it. A final warning: a lot of traditional Catalan food is what Colman Andrews calls “brown food.” You can add some chopped parsley to it for some color, but if you want vibrant colors, this dish isn’t it. But if you want earthy, hearty food for a cold day, look no further.

Catalan White Bean and Seitan Sausage Stew

2 large onions, finely diced
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of pimento (smoked Spanish paprika, regular paprika is not a substitute)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup of white wine
16 oz. canned tomato sauce (or 2 cups of canned or fresh, skinned tomatoes)
2 cups of cooked white beans
1 seitan sausage, sliced in quarters lengthwise and then into 3/8 in slices
1 piece of dried bread, toasted or fried in oil
¼ cup of toasted almonds
2-3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish

In a non-stick skillet, cook the onion, oil and salt over medium heat until well browned (about 20 minutes). Watch it carefully and don’t burn it. Add the pimento and cinnamon and cook for a minute or so. Deglaze with white wine. Add the tomato sauce and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the white beans after the sauce is reduced and let them heat through, about five minutes. Make the picada: in a mini chopper or food processor, process the almonds, bread, and garlic to a thick paste. Stir the picada into the stew and let it reduce for about 10 minutes. Stir in the seitan sausage and heat through for 5-10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust to your preferences.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

White bean cutlets and mashed potatoes

I love white beans. I use them in a lot of things from baked beans to dips to stews with artichoke hearts (make mental note – haven’t made the stew with artichoke hearts recently and really must blog about it soon). I made a pot of white beans over the weekend and still had some left and decided to do a variation of the chickpea cutlets from the Veganomicon using white beans. I wanted a more French or Italian feel for them so I ended up with a blend of white beans, garlic, sage, basil, and lemon zest and finished them in a sauce of shallots, garlic, capers, white wine and lemon juice.

What could be better with these than mashed potatoes and some cheezy sauce? I had some basil tofu aioli left over and decided it would add a nice lemon and herbal note to the potatoes. (Cheezy sauce is a household favorite with potatoes of all kinds: baked, hash browns, mashed, etc.)

White Bean Cutlets
Makes 6-8 cutlets

2 cups of cooked white beans
4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried sage
Zest from two lemons, finely diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 slice of whole wheat bread, ground to crumbs in a food processor
¾ cup of vital wheat gluten (or more if needed)
Olive oil or spray oil
2 tablespoons of roasted garlic
1 shallot, finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon capers, diced if large

1. In a mixing bowl, mash the beans well and add the garlic, basil, sage, lemon zest, salt, paprika, black pepper, and soy sauce. Blend well.
2. Mix the bread crumbs in and then the wheat gluten and knead for a few minutes in the bowl. Divide into six to eight cutlets.
3. Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat and glaze with olive oil or spray oil. Add the cutlets and brown on one side 5-7 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for another 5-7 minutes. Remove the cutlets from the pan and keep warm.
4. Sauté the shallot and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with the lemon juice and white wine. Add the basil and capers. Add the cutlets back to the pan and flip once to coat with sauce. Serve with remaining sauce over the top.

For the mashed potatoes, simply boil potatoes and mash with roasted garlic, soy cream, and basil tofu aioli to taste. Serve with cheezy sauce (aka Nooch sauce).

Cheezy sauce (adapted from the Veganomicon, which you really should buy)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup of white wine
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 cups of vegetable stock or water
¼ cup of white flour
¾ cup nutritional yeast (nooch)
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. In a small sauce pan, sauté the garlic in the oil for a few minute. Be careful not to let it darken or burn.
2. Add the turmeric and mustard and stir to combine. Add the white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the tarragon.
3. Mix the flour with the stock and combine with a whisk until smooth. Add to the sauce pan.
4. Add the nutritional yeast and cook over medium low heat until thickened, stirring often.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Assorted small plates

In addition to being vegan, we try to eat low fat, which means very little or no added oil most of the time. But over the weekend we had several high fat meals and by Monday I was feeling a little ill (and guilty) and needed to get back to eating low fat again. For dinner on Monday I decided to do a couple of no oil added dishes to get back on track. I get pretty hung up on menu planning and don’t normally mix “genres” of food, like Korean and Mediterranean, but my craving for Korean spinach got the better of me so I broke my own rules.

The Mediterranean dishes are both dips that go well with whole wheat pita chips, which are simple to make with store bought pitas. The muhammara is a red pepper dip that I wrote about recently. Because I was craving lower fat food, I cut the walnuts back to ¼ cup but otherwise kept the recipe the same. The white bean dip is an oil-less blend of well-cooked white beans, roasted garlic, lemon juice and basil. You don’t really need a recipe for it, since you can just mix everything together until it tastes right, but I have one friend who will complain if I don’t give some guidelines.

In Korean cooking, banchan are small side dishes that accompany every meal. Most are vegetarian and many are vegan. Is this spinach dish an authentic banchan? No, but it captures the essence well. It’s one of my favorite ways to make spinach or other greens and I get huge cravings for it at times.

White Bean Dip

2 cups of cooked white beans (yes you can use canned, but really, start to make real beans)
¼ cup roasted garlic puree
1 tablespoon (or more) of finely chopped fresh basil
Juice of 1-2 lemons (taste it after adding the juice of one – if you think it needs more, add more)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender). Taste it to make sure it’s balanced and add more salty, lemon juice, basil or garlic as you see fit. If it’s too thick, thin it with a little water.

Spinach banchan

6 oz. cleaned spinach
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of red chile paste (sambal oelek or similar) or to taste
1 tablespoon sugar (any kind, white, brown, turbinado, etc.)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 inch piece of ginger grated
1 teaspoon sesame seeds toasted

Blanch the spinach for 30 seconds. Drain and refresh in cold water. Squeeze dry to remove excess water. Chop finely and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste to make sure it has a good balance (if it seems out of whack alter it to suite your tastes and mood). Add the chopped spinach and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Toasted pita chips

Preheat oven to 350. Cut each pita into sixths. Separate the layers and place on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5 – 8 minutes until dried and lightly browned.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Penne with Roasted Fennel and Onions, Seitan Sausages, and Roasted Garlic Cashew Cream

Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables. Although it’s become better known in the last 10 years, it’s still under appreciated. It’s incredibly versatile and works well cooked or raw. It’s also something that’s generally readily in cooler months. Roasting fennel mellows its flavor and brings out its sweetness. OK, the picture isn't stellar because most of the ingredients are similar in color, but it's a dish with a rich creamy garlic cream flavor and an underlying sweetness from the roasted fennel and onions. 

Penne with roasted fennel, roasted onions, seitan sausages and roasted garlic cashew cream
Serves 4-6

1 bulb of fennel (use 2 if they’re small), trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced into 3/8 inch slices (reserve some fronds if you want for garnish)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 3/8 inch wedges
Spray oil
White wine (for deglazing the baking sheet)
1 seitan sausage (see previous blog post), cut into quarter lengthwise and the sliced 3/8 inches thick
4 teaspoons chopped basil (or cheat and use 4 Dorot frozen basil cubes from Trader Joes)
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups roasted garlic cashew cream (recipe follows)
1 pound dried penne (you can substitute whole wheat pasta if you want)
Juice from 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Spray a sheet pan with spray oil and scatter the onion and fennel on the sheet pan. Lightly spray the onion and fennel with oil. Put the sheet pan in the oven and cook until the vegetables are browned and lightly caramelized (about 30 minutes). When they’re done, remove the pan form the oven and deglaze it with a little white wine.
2. While the fennel and onions roast, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat it with some spray oil and add the seitan sausage and sauté for about 5-8 minutes. The seitan is already cooked – all you need to do is give it some color and texture. Don’t overcook it! Hold to the side, while the vegetables finish roasting and the pasta cooks.
3. Cook the penne until it’s al dente. Try to time it so it’s done when the vegetables are done.
4. Add the roasted vegetables and any juices to the skillet with the seitan sausages. Add the basil, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the cooked, drained pasta and the cashew cream. Serve in bowls. Drizzle a little lemon juice on each bowl. Garnish with fennel fronds if desired and serve.

Roasted garlic cashew cream
Makes about 1.5 cups

½ cup raw cashews
¾ cup water
½ cup roasted garlic puree
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (nooch)
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend for several minutes until emulsified and creamy.

Weekend prep work

Let’s be honest. A lot of us who like to cook do spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We brag about quick, easy dishes we can whip up in no time, but most of us probably spend a lot more time cooking than we mention to casual observers. There’s nothing wrong with it. I love to cook and find the entire process therapeutic and fun, but at times it can be a labor intensive hobby.

Weekends are my time to do a lot of the prep work for things I’ll use during the week. I have time to make some of the more labor and time intensive things that I’ll need during the week. This weekend’s prep includes a pot of white beans (likely destined for white bean cutlets – a variant of the PPK chickpea cutlets and perhaps a white bean, rosemary, and lemon juice dip), white wine braised roasted garlic (to be used in pretty much everything), and seitan sausages (for pastas and maybe pizza). The seiatan sausages are a variant of the ones in the Millennium Cookbook (a continual resource for inspiration and idea poaching).

Seitan Sausages

2 cups of wheat gluten
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 dried negro entera chile (or substitute pasilla or ancho)
2 teaspoons pimento (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of water
¼ cup of oil
2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
Cheese cloth and kitchen twine (for wrapping and cooking the sausages)

For the poaching liquid:
4 cups of vegetable broth
½ cup of white wine
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the liquids in a separate bowl. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and work into dough. Knead on a board for 5 minutes to get a smooth dough. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each one into a cylinder about 4 inches long. Roll the sausages in the cheese cloth (to help them hold their shape) and tie the ends shut with kitchen twine.

Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the four sausages in a single layer. Bring to a boil, add the sausages, and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for one hour. Remove the sausages and allow them to cool slightly before removing the cheese cloth. Store the sausages in the poaching liquid in the fridge until ready to use.

Garlic braised in white wine

This is another idea stolen from Millennium. Whole heads of garlic are roasted in white wine and herbs until they get soft and creamy. It’s fat free but adds sweet, mellow garlic flavor and creaminess to anything you add it to. It’s perfect to thicken pan sauces and dressings without adding fat.

4 whole heads of garlic, top ½ inch or so cut off
1 cup of white wine
A few sprigs of fresh herbs of your choice (thyme, tarragon, and rosemary all work well)

Put the garlic in a small baking dish, add the herbs and white wine. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 for 75-90 minutes. When the garlic is completely soft and the tops have browned a little, it’s done. Check it half way through the cooking. If it dries out, you can add more white wine. When it’s done, let it cool. Squeeze the heads out and store it in the fridge. It’ll keep for a week, but you’ll probably use it sooner. You can easily double or triple this recipe.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why aren't Portland brewpubs more vegan friendly?

I haven’t written anything that’s beer-centric on this blog (as opposed to the old blog where beer had a more prominent role) but it’s still a big passion. But last night my passions for vegan food and beer were in stark contrast to each other. Portland is generally viewed as a vegan friendly city. Of the 500+ blogs in Vegan MoFo this year, 34 are from Portland. We’re a city that values organics and sustainability. We’re also the craft beer capital of the country. We have more breweries in and around the city than any other city in the world. 12% of the beer drunk in Oregon is brewed in Oregon; 50% of the draft beer drunk in Portland is brewed in Oregon. I could go on with statistics, but let’s just say that craft beer has a ubiquity in Portland that exceeds any place else in the country. If you live here, you know this. Any hole in the wall Mexican place in Gresham has craft beer just like any mediocre Thai place in Beaverton. There are even food carts serving beer now. There’s craft beer everywhere. In Portland we love our beer as much as we love organic and sustainable.

So why are most of the brewpubs and beer meccas in town so vegan unfriendly? We met friends at the Raccoon Lodge last night, which is the original location for Cascade Brewing (and where all of their beers are still brewed). They’re a brewery getting national attention for their inventive and original sour beers. The beers are fantastic. But the only vegan thing on the entire menu is French fries. Now granted, they’re fries are in fact killer, but everything else, from salads, to sandwiches, to entrees has meat or dairy. There were two things that could be adapted to be vegan friendly: the Greek Mediterranean appetizer (hummus, veggies, tapenade, etc.) if you either left off the tzatziki and the garden burger if you left off the cheese and Thousand Island dressing. Slim pickings in a place that actually has good pub food.

I don’t mean to single Raccoon Lodge out. I love their beers (the 09 Kriek was wonderful) and I ate there a lot over the years as a non-vegan and the food was always quite good, as well as reasonably priced. But it was a stark reminder of how vegan unfriendly most brewpubs are. I checked the online menus of a bunch of other beer meccas and most don’t have any vegan dishes at all, although there are generally things that you can adapt to be vegan by removing cheese. Even then, you’d have to ask if you’re strict and want to be 100% sure. The reality is that you better get used to eating gardenburgers without cheese if you want to tour Portland’s best beer spots.

One happy surprise was Hopworks. They actually have several vegan appetizers and salads, as well as a marinated tofu wrap, and a vegan cheese alternative for any of their pizzas. But they seem to be in the minority (if you know of others, please leave me a comment).

Most craft beer is vegan. In fact it’s generally only the use of isinglass that makes beer non-vegan. Isinglass, which is derived from fish, is used in some breweries (mostly in the UK) to fine or clarify beer. Most US micro’s seem to use other things for fining so it isn’t an issue, but again, if you’re strict, you should ask. So in what’s generally viewed as one of the most vegan friendly cities in the world and the top craft beer city in the country, why the disconnect between the craft beer world and the vegan world? It seems odd……

Friday, November 5, 2010


I get obsessed with certain foods occasionally. A recent example is knishes. Two weeks ago, I made several batches of knishes. Honestly I think it’s part of a larger dumpling obsession (conspiracy?), because I’ve got ravioli, pot stickers and tamales on the brain as well. But the only one of these things that I’ve done so far is the knishes. Yesterday the knish jones hit again and I foolishly decided that knishes were easy enough to do on a weeknight. My wife baked the potatoes so they were done when I got home. I thought it would be a snap. But alas fate intervened in the form of incredibly sharp onions that made me tear up, made me close my eyes while chopping and subsequently made me put a large whack into my thumb with the chef’s knife (a total rookie mistake by the way – I always keep my fingers curved but somehow my thumb was sticking out).

Kathy decided it would be a good idea to get take out at that point. But, after the bleeding stopped, I was more determined than ever. So I moved ahead with the knishes: half a batch of potato and onion and half a batch as potato, onion and spinach. Luckily they turned out well, so the war wound seemed worthwhile.

A couple weeks ago I tried different variations of knish dough, because in addition to being vegan, I’m also try to eat low fat. A lot of knish recipes are relatively high in fat (some older, really traditional recipes are incredibly high in fat – no wonder they always seemed so good). I started with the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance which uses two tablespoons of olive oil to 3 cups of flour. I tried half that and honestly 2 tablespoons of oil is about as low as you can go and still get a supple dough that doesn’t dry out. I subbed canola oil for olive oil because I wanted a more neutral flavor. I also bumped the baking powder up a little bit, but otherwise it’s the same dough recipe.

Knishes are a personal thing. Everyone has their idea of the perfect knish and mine has a fair amount of onion in it. You can cut back on the onions if you don’t want them to be so dominant. But they’ve got be well caramelized. Cook them until they get a deep color. You want that sugary goodness. If a spinach knish offends your traditional view of knishes, don’t use it. I may be from NY but I’m a goy, so what do I know for knishes?

Makes 15-18 depending on the size

For the dough:
1 baked russet potato, cooled
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt (to taste)
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
¾ cup of water
3 cups of unbleached white flour

For the stuffing:
2 large onions, finely chopped
4 teaspoons of oil, divided
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
5 baked Russet potatoes, cooled
6 oz. spinach, blanched, cooled, and finely chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start the onions first because you can make the dough while they cook. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 2-3 teaspoons of the oil. Add the onions and salt and cook, stirring now and then, until the onions begin to brown. If they seem to be drying out and need more oil, add the remaining oil.
2. While the onions cook, make the dough. Scoop the flesh out of one potato and mash it in a bowl with the oil and then add the water. Mix thoroughly. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and work it into a ball. Knead on a floured board until it comes together and gets elastic (about 5-8 minutes). Let it rest in a bowl covered with a damp cloth and finish making the stuffing.
3. Scoop the flesh out of the remaining five potatoes and mash them roughly in a bowl (I just break them up by hand). Add the onions (which should be done by now). Mix thoroughly. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
4. Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll one piece out to a rectangle (about 12 x 6 inches but don’t get hung up about size). The dough should be about ¼ inch thick or less. I cut the dough into smaller rectangles about 3 inches wide and about 6 inches long. If you only get three, don’t worry you can use the scraps to make a fourth one. If you not anal retentive about then shape just cut the rectangle to into four more or less even pieces. Add some potato stuffing to one end of the dough. Fold the other end over and pinch it shut. You can add a little water to the edges if you want, but it’s you don’t have to. Place each finished knish on an oiled sheet pan. Don’t over stuff them or they’ll burst when you bake them. Repeat with second piece of dough. You should have 8 knishes.
5. Add the chopped spinach to the remaining stuffing (you should have about half left). Mix so it’s distributed evenly.
6. Roll out the remaining two pieces of dough as above. You should end up with 8 knishes that are potato and onion and 8 that have spinach added as well.
7. Spray the knishes with spray oil (or brush with oil) and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes until well browned. (The coating of oil really does help the color and texture.) Take them out and let them cool somewhat before eating. Serve with spicy brown mustard.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Smoked Portobello Mushroom, Piquillo Pepper and Kalamata Olive Pizza

Who doesn’t like pizza? But pizza without cheese? Absolutely. If you think about it, pizza is really just a flat bread with toppings, which is common throughout the world. Even though most Americans think tomato sauce and mozzarella, pizza can be a lot more than that. All you need is some kind of base sauce to top the dough, which can be as simple as olive oil flavored with garlic or chiles, and a few toppings that both contrast and mix with each other. This pizza uses a vegan “aioli” as a base and a mix of smoked Portobello mushrooms, sweet piquillo peppers, and salty Kalamata olives for toppings. If you have the dough made, it all comes together pretty quickly.

The base for the pizza is vegan aioli, which will strike my non-vegan friends as wrong and awful. Its main resemblance to aioli is its creamy texture. It’s an incredibly flavorful puree of silken tofu, roasted garlic, lemon, basil, oregano, and capers. It works to hold the toppings in place as well as to seal the dough so some of the wet ingredients don’t make the dough soggy. It’s adapted from the ingenious Millennium Cookbook. As a recent vegan, but long time foodie, I’m astounded at how clever it is and how good it is. Don’t think of it as an aioli substitute – think of it as an amazing sauce that has a creamy texture similar to aioli. It’s astoundingly good.

The aioli has a lot of lemon juice which gives it a bright acidity and makes it a great contrast to the various toppings. The portobello mushrooms are smoked over hickory and add a smoky earthy element. If you don’t have a smoker, you can just use plain portobellos. Roasted piquillo peppers add some sweetness and the Kalamata olives add a salty, briny note that cuts through the other flavors.

Smoked Portobello Mushroom, Piquillo Pepper and Kalamata Olive Pizza

Makes 4 dinner plate sized pizzas.

For the dough:

2 cups 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 and then add the water. Mix together and then need on a floured board until smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Put the dough into an oiled bowl and let it rise for several hours. (I make it in the morning before I go to work and let it sit all day. Some people will say it may over rise but I think it’s fine for pizza.)

For the vegan aioli:

1 - 12.3 oz. package of silken tofu
1/3 cup of roasted garlic
2 tablespoons 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 1-2 lemons finely minced
½ cup of lemon juice

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

For the toppings

2 Portobello mushrooms, smoked for 30 minutes over hickory or other wood, sliced
4 piquillo peppers, julienned
16 kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half lengthwise

To assemble:

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. Divide the dough into four equal parts and roll each into circles about the size of a dinner plate.
Add a few tablespoons of the aioli to each and spread it evenly leaving a ½ inch border.
Divide the other toppings evenly among the pizzas. Optionally spray each with a little olive oil.
Bake at 500 degrees for 5-8 minutes depending on how crisp you like the dough.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Day 2 of Vegan MoFo and I feel like I should be cooking something impressive but I’m under the weather. I’m also lucky enough to have leftover tamale pie so I really don’t need to cook. But it’s kind of lame to blog about leftovers, so I felt compelled to come up with something, even if it’s brief.

Anyone who knows me knows that I get obsessed with certain foods sometimes. And while that can be good because it helps you hone in a recipe, it can also lead to a weekend full of nothing but knishes, several days of soups or stir fries using pickled shitakes, and the “winter of French braises” from several years ago that my wife still recalls with a certain amount of dread. One of my current obsessions is dips, or you could call them salsas, chutneys or pestos. They’re essentially rough purees of various ingredients that can be used as dips for bread or vegetables at a mezze table, but also can be added as garnishes to soups or other dishes, so they’re incredibly versatile.

One of my current favorites is Muhammara, which is a red pepper and walnut dip from Syria. There are a lot of variants of this and mine is not the definitive one since mine is oil-less. You can certainly add some oil to it if you’ve not concerned about added fat. Mine is also inauthentic in that I used Spanish piquillo peppers, but you can use plain roasted peppers if you want. (I get jarred piquillo peppers at Trader Joe’s for $2 and that makes this a fast dish that I can snack on while I cook something else.) I serve it with homemade pita chips, which is the only decent thing you can do with store bought pitas, but you can serve it with any fresh flatbread. You can also add a few spoonful’s as a garnish to lentil soup. If you live in Portland, go to Barbur World Foods and get some fresh baked pitas and keep the tough supermarket ones for making chips.

I call for fresh breadcrumbs. I use whatever fresh bread I have on hand and process it to crumbs in a food processor. (It’s a Jacques Pepin trick.) Fresh bread makes fluffy crumbs so you don’t need as many and it doesn’t make you’re food taste heavy and overly bready. Try it and then you can feed the can of stale, nasty supermarket ones you have to the birds.

The Aleppo pepper and pomegranate molasses are worth tracking down, but you can substitute red chiles for the Aleppo pepper and a little more lemon juice for the pomegranate if you can’t find them. (Some people will argue that it’s not Muhammara without the pomegranate molasses and they’d be correct, but it will still taste good.)  You can find both of these at Barbur World Foods (plus some awesome Lebanese wine). 


1 slice of white or whole wheat bread, processed to crumbs in a food processor
1-2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup of toasted walnuts (toast them in a pan or in the oven until lightly browned)
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
1 – 10 oz. jar of roasted piquillo peppers or 3 roasted and peeled red peppers
1-2 teaspoons of Aleppo pepper, rinsed and drained or 1 fresh or dried red chile
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon of lemon
A couple of grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil (optional but traditional)

1. In food processor, process the slice of bread to crumbs. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.
2. Add the walnuts, garlic, and salt to the process and process to a rough paste (but not a puree).
3. Add the piquillo peppers and process for 30-45 seconds until broken down and incorporated.
4. Add the bread crumbs, Aleppo pepper, cumin seeds, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, black pepper and oil (if using) and process for another 15 seconds or so to mix. Put it into a bowl and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

To make homemade pita chips, cut each pita into sixths and separate the layers so you get 12 wedges per pita. Toast on a sheet pan at 350 for 5-10 minutes until they dry out and toast ever so slightly. 2-3 pitas should make enough chips for a batch of dip and will fit onto one sheet pan.