Fusion chipotle salsa soy stir-fry

August 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm (East and SE Asia, My brain, Summer recipes, Tempeh, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

Last night I was emptying out my fridge in preparation for my upcoming trip to Scotland, and I was trying to figure out what to do with about 1/3 cup of leftover chipotle salsa.  Good salsa is rare around here, so I didn’t want to just toss it.  But good salsa doesn’t seem to last that long, and I was pretty sure it would be moldy by the time I got back from my trip.  The salsa was a quite thick, cooked-style salsa, and visually it reminded me a little of a Thai chile sauce.  Derek was making sesame noodles with broccoli and cucumber for dinner, so I decided to make a stirfry with the salsa and what I found in the fridge:  4 ounces of tempeh, 2 small zucchinis, and a big bag of green beans.  I made a stir-fry sauce out of the chipotle salsa, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and a spoonful of maple syrup.  It was really tasty!  It didn’t really taste fusion–the Mexican flavors in the salsa faded away in comparison to the Asian kick from the soy sauce.  But everyone seemed to like it a lot, and it was an easy way to make a tasty stir fry sauce.

I used a still-oily non-stick skillet to crisp up the tempeh and green beans.  (I julienned the tempeh first.)  Then when the tempeh and green beans started to brown I poured in the stir-fry sauce, which I had watered down so that the tempeh would have some liquid to cook in.  I added the zucchini, which I had cut into thin planks, and covered to cook everything through.  When the green beans were tender-crisp I took off the lid and led the sauce cook down until it was more of a glaze.  I sprinkled the dish with fresh cilantro before serving.   Delicious.  I’d definitely make this “recipe” again.

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Orange pan-glazed tempeh

August 14, 2009 at 4:07 pm (101 cookbooks, C, Tempeh)

I was looking for a tempeh dish that would go well with spring rolls, and decided to try the recipe for orange pan-glazed tempeh that’s on the 101 cookbooks blog.  The pictures look pretty, and Heidi says “This might be the best tempeh recipe I’ve highlighted to date.”  Based on that strong recommendation, I decided I had to try it.

The recipe was disappointing.  The instructions work, and everything cooks just as specified, but my friend Alex and I both thought that the tempeh was simply boring.  I could definitely taste the orange juice, but that was pretty much the only flavor that stood out.  The ginger didn’t come through, I couldn’t taste the coriander seeds, nor could I detect any lime.  It pretty much just tasted like fried tempeh cooked in orange juice.  Plus,  the recipe is pretty high calorie.  I followed the instructions exactly, except I didn’t have mirin so used rice vinegar instead.  I can’t imagine that 1.5 Tablespoons of mirin could have really made that much of a difference.  If anything, I thought the recipe was too sweet and needed more vinegar/acid, not less.  I don’t think I’d make this recipe again, but if I was going to, I’d probably at least double the amounts of all the seasonings, and maybe cut down the maple syrup and add more soy sauce.

Rating: C

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Simple sweet spiced chard

August 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm (Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, My brain, unrated)

I made some chard tonight that was fantastic.  Derek said that if he was served it in a fancy restaurant, he would be impressed.  It’s a pretty simple dish, but it was just really tasty and interesting tasting.  I think it was the garam masala that really put it over the edge.  I’m not sure where this particular garam masala came from–I might have made it myself?  When you first smell it, it smells quite sweet–like cloves or allspice.  A cheap commercial garam masala usually skimps on the more expensive spices, so if yours doesn’t smell of cloves or allspice you might need to add a little extra. It’s funny, I’ve tried Italian chard recipes that call for raisins, and I never liked the addition of the sweet raisins to the chard.  But the sweet spices and the chard went perfectly together, especially with the salty, briny soy sauce flavor to balance things out.  Last week I made a much oilier chard recipe (probably the same amount of chard and 2 Tablespoons of oil, and 2 Tbs. of garlic), but this one–despite being low fat–was much tastier.

I didn’t measure everything, so the measurements below are only approximate.  I do know that I had exactly 4 very densely packed cups of raw chard, because I had it leftover from another dinner and I just managed to barely shove it all into one quart-sized tupperware.

  • 1 tsp. olive oil (this I measured)
  • 2/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1.33 cups chopped chard stems
  • 1 very large clove of garlic (maybe two teaspoons minced?)
  • 1/2? tsp. garam masala (see note above)
  • 2.67 cups chard leaves
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of water

Heat the oil in a 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute over medium-high heat until starting to brown.  Add the chard stems, and saute until starting to brown.  Add the garlic and garam masala, and cook for about one minute.  Add the chard leaves and stir.  Mix the soy sauce into the water and pour evenly over the chard.  Cover immediately to trap the steam.  Cook for about five minutes, until the chard is softened but still bright green.  Do not overcook.  Serve immediately.

I think this made about 3 cups of cooked chard.  I know it seems strange that 4 cups of raw chard would turn into 3 cups of cooked chard, but the raw chard was really packed tightly, and when I measure cooked greens I don’t pack them that tightly.  Derek and I easily finished the whole dish between the two of us, but it’s probably more like four normal-person servings.

Update Sept 12, 2009:  I made this again last week and it didn’t turn out quite as well, I’m not sure why.  I don’t think there was enough garam masala, for one.  I tried again tonight and this time used 1 tsp. of garam masala, which was better, but still not as good as the first time.  I didn’t measure my chard stems, but I used a total of 2 pounds, 9 ounces damp chard leaves.  I think perhaps it was a bit too much chard for the amount of seasoning.  It wasn’t quite salty enough.

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Barbecued seitan

August 8, 2009 at 11:51 am (Seitan, unrated, Website / blog)

I’ve tried grilling vegetables on a barbecue grill, but I’ve never liked what I’ve produced.  The vegetables are simply not that tasty.  I’ve had marvelous grilled veggies at restaurants, so I know it’s possible, but clearly I don’t know the secret.  I was invited to a barbecue yesterday, and struggling to come up with something vegetarian to bring.  I finally remembered this recipe for barbecued seitan “ribz”, on the fat free vegan blog, that I’d been meaning to try.

I made the recipe as specified, with tahini, except I didn”t have any smoked paprika, so I used regular sweet paprika and added in a little chipotle powder.  I made the dough then let it rest for an hour in the oiled pan while I went to the gym.  When I returned I tried to shape it to fit the pan.  I didn’t get it perfectly square, but it mostly filled my 8×8 pan.  I baked my seitan for 25 minutes, then I poured my 1 cup of (homemade) barbecue sauce on top, and let it sit in a tupperware until the barbecue.

At the barbecue I put it on the grill, but I didn’t realize how hot it was and by the time I checked it the seitan was already burning.  You’d think seitan would like the heat, but it’s actually pretty dry and cooks really fast, unlike zucchini which has more moisture.  I flipped the seitan when I saw that it was burning, and then proceeded to burn the other side!  The pieces on the edges didn’t burn as much and they were delicious.  The seitan had a more bready texture than most seitans, but was still pleasantly chewy.  I liked the texture and the flavor a lot.  The flavor was mostly from the barbecue sauce, but also from the seasoning in the seitan.  I’ll definitely make this again next time I have a barbecue to go to, and hopefully I won’t burn it again!

Besides the seitan I brough watermelon, and made mint lemonade, and zucchini, all of which were a hit.  I made the lemon/garlic/mint zucchini from Fresh Food Fast, and let them marinade in the dressing all day.  I cut the zucchini along the bias to try to make the pieces bigger and less likely to fall through the grill.  However, my zucchini were pretty small and we still lost quite a few of the end pieces.  Next time I would buy bigger zucchini for grilling.  The zucchini came out well.  The ones that were really blackened and soft didn’t have much zucchini flavor, and the ones that weren’t browned at all were undercooked, but the ones with just a few flecks of brown were perfect.  I could stil taste the marinade on them, but I think it would have been even better to throw the cooked zucchini back in the tupperware with the rest of the marinade and give it a quick toss before serving.

Update May 2010:  I made this recipe again, but in the oven not on the grill.  To keep the seitan from getting to dry, I put the sauce on top of it before putting it in the oven to bake.  That was a mistake.  I think the sauce held too much moisture in because the seitan took forever to cook.  It just stayed soft and doughy.

The next time I made it I cooked it for 20 minutes and then put the sauce on and cooked it for a while longer.  It was still a little soft though.  Next time I’d leave it for about 25 minutes in the oven and then add the sauce.

Everyone liked this recipe, but the texture wasn’t quite as good as when I grilled it.  I accidentally put 4 tsp. of smoked seitan in instead of 2 tsp., but I couldn’t tell the difference.

The first attempt:  I was trying to find a new seitan recipe, and decided to try this recipe for baked seitan from the Fat Free Vegan blog.  I didn’t have smoked paprika so I subbed in somed chipotle powder.  I used peanut butter as my nut butter.  I don’t have a grill so I baked the seitan according to Vegan Dad’s instructions (linked to from the blog article).  Unfortunately I put the seitan in the oven too early, and the other component of our meal was not ready when it was time to add the barbecue sauce.  I left the seitan in the oven on warm, which was a mistake as it got a little dried out and tough.  I still liked the texture, but I’ll need to try it again without overcooking it.

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