What we’ve been cooking this week

May 17, 2015 at 8:01 pm (Beans, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, East and SE Asia, Georgeanne Brennan, Indian, Isa C. Moskowitz, Middle East / N. Africa, Nancie McDermott, Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Tofu, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

I say what we’ve been cooking instead of what I’ve been cooking, because with the new baby, Derek has been doing about as much cooking as I have, if not more. In the first few months he was mostly just making old standbys, but in the last week or two we’ve finally started to branch out and try some new recipes. I don’t have time to write full blog posts about each one, so I’ll write a short blurb here for each. Read the rest of this entry »

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Autumn latkes with beets, carrot, and sweet potato

September 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm (breakfast, Fall recipes, Isa C. Moskowitz, Jewish, Root vegetables, unrated, Winter recipes)

I wanted to title this post “Oven-baked autumn latkes with beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and fennel seeds,” but that seemed like a mouthful. In any case, these latkes are striking—they really show off the jewel tones of autumn.  Plus, they’re tasty and satisfying. The sweet potato adds lots of natural sweetness and the beets contribute their great earthy depth. And I’m always a sucker for fennel. The original recipe is from Veganomicon, and is, as you would expect, vegan, but I un-veganified it because I generally think of latkes as having eggs in them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds

September 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm (B_minus, Fall recipes, Isa C. Moskowitz, Vegetable dishes, Winter recipes)

This was the first recipe I made from Veganomicon. I used the peel and guts of a butternut squash to make vegetable broth, and then I had a whole squash waiting to be cooked. I found this very simple recipe, and was intrigued by the addition of 2 Tbs. of coriander seeds. I love roasted butternut sqush, and I quite liked all the coriander seeds in this recipe, and so I decided to give this one a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Seitanic red and white bean jambalaya

September 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm (Beans, B_, Caribbean, Grains, Isa C. Moskowitz, Seitan)

This is actually the second recipe I tried from Veganomicon.  (I’m blogging in reverse order today.)  It’s a mix of veggies (the cajun holy trinity–onions, celery, and bell pepper), rice, kidney beans, seitan, tomato sauce, and spices. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cornmeal-masala roasted brussels sprouts

September 10, 2011 at 9:49 pm (B_minus, Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, Isa C. Moskowitz, Winter recipes)

My Mom gave me a copy of Veganomicon in January, but I didn’t get a chance to make anything out of it until this week. I saw some beautiful first-of-the-season brussels sprouts at the store and brought them home, then went looking for a recipe. The Indian-spiced crumbly cornmeal-chickpea coating appealed to Derek, and I had all the ingredients, so I decided to make it for dinner. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sesame noodles (peanut style)

February 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm (B plus, Chinese, Derek's faves, Isa C. Moskowitz, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Peter Berley, Seitan, Starches, Tofu, Website / blog)

I make Madhur Jaffrey’s sesame noodles all the time. It’s one of Derek’s favorite dishes. Tonight when I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said “chiliquiles!” but all my tortillas were frozen, so he went with his second choice–sesame noodles. I agreed, but didn’t tell him that I wasn’t going to make our standard recipe. I had recently come across a recipe for cold sesame noodles from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes. I really like McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, so I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bell peppers stuffed with black beans and quinoa

October 3, 2009 at 3:00 pm (Beans, B_, Isa C. Moskowitz)

Stuffed bell peppers are a standard in any 70’s vegetarian cookbook.  Despite being a pretty easy way to disguise “brown vegan mush”, they’ve never really become part of my repertoire.  Before the summer peppers completely disappear, I decided to try the stuffed pepper recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance.

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 Tbs. chile powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 4 large red bell peppers
  • 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • fresh cilantro for garnish

The technique is to saute the onions until soft, then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until dry.  Then the chile powder, salt, 1 cup. tomato sauce, water, and quinoa are added, and the mixture is simmered for 20 minutes. Afterwards, the black beans and maple syrup are added to the mixture.  The bell peppers are blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, then filled, topped with the remaining tomato sauce, and baked at 350 for 15 minutes.  The peppers are garnished with cilantro before serving.

My notes:

I followed the recipe exactly except I added 1 minced jalepeno with the onion.

The biggest problem I had with this recipe is that 1/4 cup of water was not enough water to cook the quinoa.  I think at least 1/2 cup of water, and maybe 2/3 cup is needed.  After 20 minutes my quinoa was still in hard, white balls, and I had to add more water and cook it for another 10 minutes.

The flavor of the mixture is good.  I wouldn’t have known that there was maple syrup in it, or mushrooms.  Since the quinoa is cooked with the veggies and tomato sauce, it doesn’t become extremely light and fluffy–it has more of a gooey texture. The mushrooms and quinoa form a brown, starchy glue that helps the beans stick together, and adds nuttiness and depth.  The cilantro garnish added a lot of flavor.  The bell peppers, although not overcooked or undercooked, didn’t add that much.  They were sweet, and tasted like bell peppers, but the flavor just didn’t meld that well with the filling.  Derek said he wouldn’t make this recipe again, but he would make the filling again.  He gave the whole recipe a B/B- and the filling a B+/A-.  I liked the filling, but didn’t love it. I think the filling might work well in enchiladas or burritos, or maybe could be used to fill zucchini or halved winter squash.  I’d give the recipe a B-, and the filling a B.

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Barbecue Sauce

October 23, 2008 at 9:58 am (frozen tofu, Isa C. Moskowitz, Mom’s recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing, Tofu, unrated)

Sarah Palin grew up in Alaska, which is close to Russia, and thus she claims foreign policy experience. I grew up in Texas, the great state of barbecue, so therefore I’m an expert in the art of barbecuing.  Well…, let’s just say that I know as much about barbecue as Sarah Palin knows about foreign policy.

I’ve only ever tried two barbecue sauce recipes: my mom’s, and more recently the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance.  The recipe on the left is my mom’s recipe for barbecue sauce, and is meant to be added to frozen tofu which has been marinated in peanut butter, paprika, garlic, salt, pepper, and oil. Barbecue sauce #2 is based on the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance (I’ve made a few changes), and is meant to be added to tofu baked with oil and soy sauce.  The second recipe calls for more esoteric and expensive ingredients: pomegranate molasses, shallots, maple syrup, liquid smoke, star anise, etc.  On the other hand, I haven’t been able to find American style tomato sauce, brown sugar, salad mustard, or blackstrap molasses here in Germany.  After making the VwV recipe, I was surprised that it tasted quite similar to my mom’s recipe.  I lined the recipes up below to compare them and there are quite a few differences. The most noticeable difference to me was the absence of any acid in the VwV recipe.  I added lemon juice both times I made it, and it helped balance the flavors.  I’m curious, however, to try a side by side taste test and see which one comes out ahead.  My taste test will have to wait until I get my hands on some yellow mustard and molasses.  Ultimately, I’d like to merge the two recipes, and create the perfect, German-shopping-friendly recipe for a vegetarian barbecue sauce.   If anyone has any suggestions for other barbecue recipes I should try in my taste comparison, please post a comment.

2 Tbs. oil 1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped 1 cup shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced 2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups tomato sauce 6 ounces of tomato paste
2 cups water 2 cups water or vegetable broth
3/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbs. blackstrap molasses 3 Tbs. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. salt 2 Tbs. soy sauce (maybe more?)
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder 1/8 tsp. cayenne
no smoke flavor in recipe 1/8 tsp. chipotle powder or liquid smoke
1 tsp. allspice a pinch of ground cloves
2 arms of star anise
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ginger
no pepper in recipe, but added to tofu several grinds of black pepper
3 Tbs. dried parsley no herbs in recipe
1/3 cup lemon juice no acid in recipe
1/2 cup salad mustard no acid or mustard in recipe
no peanut butter in recipe, but added to tofu 2 Tbs. peanut butter

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Two Ginger Muffins

September 15, 2008 at 7:21 am (B plus, breakfast, Dessert, Isa C. Moskowitz, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe)

Although these muffins have a bit of bran in them, I wouldn’t classify them as bran muffins. Ginger is definitely the predominant flavor.  This recipe is based on a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance (but it’s been un-veganified):

  • 1.5 cups white flour
  • 1 cup wheat bran (not packed)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • 1 small apple, cored (but not peeled), diced finely
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Add aluminum muffin papers to a 12-muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, bran, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices and salt.   Grate the carrot and chop the apple, and mix them in to the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the ingredients and add the liquid ingredients.  Stir the liquid ingredients together, then gently mix the liquid and dry ingredients together.  Do not overmix.  Fold in the crystallized ginger.
  3. Fill the muffin tins and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops are lightly browned.

Derek really liked these muffins, especially the crystallized ginger.  I thought the flavor was good but I would have liked a bit more bran/molasses flavor, and a slightly heavier muffin–something a bit closer to gingerbread perhaps. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of raisins, soaked, and folded in at the end with the ginger, but I subbed in carrot and apple since I didn’t have any raisins.  Soy milk can be used instead of the buttermilk.  As written, each muffin has about 170 calories.

Next time I make this I’m going to try subbing in 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and I’ll substitute brown sugar for the white sugar (since I haven’t found molasses yet–otherwise I would add 3 Tbs. molassess). I also might try replacing the baking powder with another 1.5 tsp. baking soda (since I’m using an acidic liquid).   If that works, I’d like to try using a full 1.5 cups wheat bran, to add body. I’m not sure exactly how much buttermilk would be needed to counteract the extra bran.  Maybe another 2 Tbs?  Or I might try using yogurt and an egg, maybe 1 egg and 1 3/4 to 2 cups lowfat yogurt?  Another change I’d like to try is adding in some fresh ginger for even more bite, and transforming these into three ginger muffins.

Update Dec 2010:  I made these again exactly as written above, and again Derek really liked them.

Update October 11, 2009: I made these again, changing the recipe up a bit.  I used some whole wheat flour, added more bran, and fresh ginger.  I increased the baking soda and decreased the powder.  They’re now three ginger muffins.

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup wheat bran (packed)
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 carrot, grated (about 1 cup not packed)
  • 1 small apple, cored (but not peeled), diced finely (I left this out)
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Add aluminum muffin papers to a 12-muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, bran, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices and salt.   Grate the carrot and chop the apple, and mix them in to the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl mix together the liquid ingredients and the fresh ginger.  Gently mix the liquid and dry ingredients together.  Do not over-mix.  Fold in the crystallized ginger.
  3. Fill the muffin tins and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops are lightly browned. (Mine were done after 15 minutes, with the fan in my oven on!)

I liked these muffins.  They definitely taste like ginger.  The extra bran and the whole wheat flour give them a more substantial texture than the first batch–more muffiny, less cupcake-y.  Still, they weren’t dry at all.  I quite liked them.  I think they could have taken in even more grated carrot.  Derek, however, thought they had too much bran, and were too gritty.  He said the bran mutes the ginger flavor.  This recipe made 12 small muffins.  The muffins are 39% fat, 52% carbs, and 9% protein.  Rating: B+. Derek rating: B-.

Nutrition Facts
Ginger Bran Muffins ~ VwV
Serving Size: 1 muffin
Amount Per Serving
Calories 143
Total Fat 6.6g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 1mg
Sodium 294mg
Carbohydrate 19.8g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 5.2g
Protein 3.4g
Vitamin A 31% Vitamin C 2%
Calcium    7% Iron 7%

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Chickpea burgers

April 20, 2008 at 7:12 pm (Beans, B_minus, Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Seitan)

My friend Katrina picked this recipe for chickpea burgers for our first food club challenge. It’s a recipe from Veganomicon that’s been all the range on the vegan blogosphere.  Below I’ve posted my comments, as well as those of the other members of our newly started cooking club.

My comments:

I made these chickpea burgers when visiting Derek in Germany.  As soon as I took my first bite I thought “these are seitan burgers, not really veggie burgers.” They had the distinctive chewy, stringy texture of undercooked seitan. I didn’t find it altogether unpleasant, but neither did it excite me. I thought the patties had little flavor: I couldn’t taste the sage or other dried herbs at all. I cooked the first four with 1 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet, and Derek and I thought that the crispiest patties were the best, so the second batch of 4 I cooked with 2 Tbs. of oil. They turned out oilier, but not any better, I thought. I could see how someone who really likes greasy food would like these patties cooked with a lot of oil though. I only used 3/4 of the soy sauce as I was worried they’d be too salty. With 3/4 they were fine.

I like that the recipe is novel: I’ve never seen a veggie burger recipe that calls for gluten flour before. However, I would have preferred more chickpea flavor and less seitan texture, so if I make these again, I think I will try replacing half of the gluten flour with besan (chickpea flour). I may also try adding different seasonings to make them Indian tasting, or perhaps Mexican spices.

I don’t think these would work very well on a hamburger bun with all the fixings, because they are a bit dry and quite starchy, and bland. I think they would be better served as Heidi Swanson suggests serving veggie burgers: use the burger as the bun, slice each one in half and fill it with tomato and lettuce and whatever other toppings you like to add to your veggie burgers. Or just serve them as I did: with a creamy, spicy sauce.

My rating: B-


Derek’s response:

The first time I made them Derek commented that they tasted like cheap veggie burgers, kind of like boca burgers. He said the texture was soft and cardboardy. When I objected that cardboard is the opposite of soft, he said “like wet cardboard.” Then he asked for a second one, and he ate half of one of mine as well. He claims that he ate so many of them because they were a good carrier for the sauce I made, which was yogurt mixed with amarillo pepper sauce and lemon juice. “Aaaah, lemon juice,” he says. I had doubled the recipe and stored half of the dough in the fridge for two days. When I made the second batch, Derek said they had gotten chewier and stretchy, but the flavor was still fairly bland. He gives the recipe a C+.

Katrina’s comments, as transcribed by me (Katrina broke her thumb so I offered my typing services. This is only approximate however–Katrina was much more eloquent in real life.)

I made the mistake of grinding the chickpeas too finely–I wished there were bigger pieces of chickpeas. I would almost consider using more chickpeas and grinding some up and leaving some in chunks. I also liked Rose’s idea of using some chickpea flour. I thought they had an interesting texture and the idea was really nice, to have a bean burger that holds together and isn’t just beans and rice. But the taste wasn’t that exciting. I felt like they needed some more seasoning of some sort. You could probably go any way with it, Indian spices, Mexican spices–you just have to do something. I think it would be good with parsley or cilantro or something. I’ve seen online you could use it sort of like a parmigiana topped with a tomato sauce, and it would probably work pretty well with that as it has kind of a bready texture. You could probably even include some vegetables in it if you wanted. I don’t know if it was the high gluten content or what, but they just felt like a rock in my stomach. It was just a really dense food, which was kind of weird. I would certainly make something along these lines again, something with beans and gluten and seasoning made into some kind of pan-fried burgers, but I wouldn’t follow the recipe. I’d like to try it with a different type of bean as well.

Katrina said she used all the soy sauce but low sodium, and the salt level was fine.

Susan’s comments:

I doubled the recipe and made them into round burger shapes instead of cutlets which made 9 instead of 6. It is necessary to cook them on medium or they will burn. I used 1 tsp of oil per 3 to fry them in.

I thought the texture was good and they held together very well. There was too much sage taste for me and I think I would use something else next time.

Hanaleah said they were okay when she took a bite, but then came back and finished the whole piece.
I made them for a potluck. They all got eaten. This is a good thing, no? They liked the texture but not much taste. They needed a bun, tomatos, mayo, onions, etc everyone said. And when I ate mine 3 hours after I made them, you couldn’t tell that they had sage. It disappearred? At our potluck there was a red pepper salsa that was delicious and when eaten with the burgers helped immensel

Kathy’s comments

Chickpea Success!!! 🙂

A few of us here in Geneva attempted the Chickpea Patty recipe with a bunch of modifications, and it was a definite success. I’ve cc’d the co-creators/tasters and my chickpea consultant, spoons.

First: what will we do with the cutlets? I was talking to Spoons about this on the phone, and he was confused about why we were making chickpea patties in the first place — why not just make chickpeas, themselves, with good seasonings? Then we decided that one of the only reasons we could think of to make chickpea patties instead of chickpeas was that chickpeas would probably fall through a barbecue grill. So, I decided to go towards real chickpea burgers — the kind of thing that you could bring to a BBQ and toss on the grill.

So, how did we change the original recipe?

We made a double batch, which turned into 8 burgers.

We replaced half of the gluten with chickpea flour, and made sure to knead it lightly. We kneaded about one minute after it came together, not too vigorously. Toyoko, who had made this same recipe in Geneva before, blamed her patties’ too-dense texture on gluten + too much kneading.

We left half the chickpeas whole, or barely crushed, to add some more chunks. I wouldn’t do it that way again, since the burgers sometimes had fault-lines develop near the chickpeas, and I would be afraid the patties might break up. I might chop the unground half of the chickpeas about as finely as we chopped the garlic (not *that* finely).

We left out:
# 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
# 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
# 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

but put in a bunch of paprika and some soy sauce, and a drop of lemon oil (which like zest, but what I use when I forgot to buy a lemon). For vegetable broth, we used Veggie “Better than Bouillon” which has a very savory flavor.

Then, we cooked the burgers in a really hot cast iron skillet with some oil.

You can see the result!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nowpicnic/2374225723/

There is a patty on the left, so you can see how it looks, and then another inside the bun. We topped the burgers with carmelized onions, and usual burger stuff like lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard, ketchup. Next time I might put the carmelized onions INSIDE the burgers.

The other things on the plate are chickpea fries (delicious!) and a yogurt-cucumber salad that went really well with the chickpeas. We had dates, pitted with almond butter inside, for dessert, and those were excellent too. 🙂

With these modifcations, the taste and texture of the chickpea burger were both great. The taste was mostly hummus-like (chickpeas and garlic and paprika!) and the texture wasn’t at all boca-burger or seitan-ish. It held together pretty well.

I had some leftovers the next day, warmed up in a pan with some veggies and sausage, and it was OK but certainly more bread-like as it was reheated with steamy veggies. I think the hot searing of a skillet/broiler/grill helps the patties seem more protein-y and less bread-y.

So, your suggestions worked out well! I would definitely make this again, especially as a summer-time BBQ food.

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Chili sin Carne al Mole

March 13, 2008 at 11:29 pm (Beans, Fall recipes, Isa C. Moskowitz, Seitan, unrated, Winter recipes)

I’m usually pretty loyal to my mom’s Texas Tofu Chili, but I was in the mood for chili and didn’t have any frozen tofu, so I decided to try this recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. The introduction to this recipe provides a very precise description of the kind of chili they were going for: Rather than the bland, chunky, bean and vegetable stew that most vegetarians try to pass off as chili, they wanted “a dark red broth, large chunks of meat, accompanied only by a few bits of onions, chiles, and spices.” Now, that sounds like my kind of chili! Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegan French Toast

January 13, 2008 at 2:01 pm (breakfast, B_, Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk)

I know, vegan french toast sounds like an oxymoron, right? But I had a lot of leftover chickpea flour and was looking for something to do with it, and came across this recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance.

To make the french toast you mix together soy milk and soy creamer (I used all soymilk), cornstarch (I used arrowroot), and chickpea flour (besan) into a slurry. You soak your sliced, stale bread in the slurry briefly, then fry the bread in an oiled cast iron skillet.

The recipe worked surprisingly well. I wouldn’t say it tastes exactly like egg- and butter-based french toast, but it was certainly reminiscent of traditional french toast, and tasty. I mean, how can you go wrong with fried bread? This recipe has basically no nutritional content, so I might be more inclined to use it as the base for a dessert rather than breakfast, but it’s certainly an interesting recipe, that I’d like to work with. If I make it again I’d definitely add something: perhaps cardamom, or cinnamon, or a fruit compote. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I know this recipe has the potential to create a very tasty, and also very interesting dish. I’d like to hear anyone else’s ideas of what to do with this recipe. I’d love some way to incorporate in some vegetables, if possible. I thought it perhaps could be used to make a layered vegetable bread pudding, but I’d be afraid it would get soggy, when one of the appeals of this recipe is the crispness of the bread.

I’d also like to try it without the chickpea flour, not because I think it’s unnecessary, but because I’d like to understand better exactly what role the chickpea flour is serving.

Note that although there’s no added salt in the recipe, I found the french toast plenty salty, I’m not sure why. Where is the salt coming from?

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Texas Tofu Chili

December 16, 2007 at 12:59 pm (A minus, Beans, frozen tofu, Isa C. Moskowitz, Mexican & S. American, Mom’s recipes, Tofu)

Every vegetarian cookbook has a chili recipe. Some are interesting, some are bland, some are just weird. I’ve tried recipes with exotic ingredients like dried peaches, cinnamon, and peanuts. This recipe, however, makes a very traditional chili (ignoring the fact that it has tofu instead of meat). Maybe I’m biased because this is based on my mom’s recipe, but I like it better than any of the other chili recipes I’ve tried, including various recipes claiming to be the “best ever vegetarian chili.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegan Spanish Omelet with Roasted Red Pepper-Almond Sauce

September 30, 2007 at 7:28 pm (B_, Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk, Starches, Tofu)

A vegan omelet? Risky. Miss Isa Chandra Moskowitz had me intrigued. This dish from Vegan with a Vengeance is actually supposed to be a Spanish “tortilla”: the thick, oven-baked omelet of eggs, potatoes, onions and olive oil. Isa replaces the eggs with a tofu puree seasoned with saffron. I’m too lazy tonight to post the whole recipe but I want to post the saffron tofu puree recipe that Isa uses instead of eggs:

  • a small pinch saffron threads
  • 3 Tbs. unsweetened soy milk
  • 1.5 pounds soft tofu, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  1. Place the saffron threads in a small cup and gently press the threads with the back of a spoon a few times; don’t crush completely. Warm the soy milk in a small saucepan til just about boiling. Remove from heat and pour over the saffron; stir briefly and set aside for a minimum of 25 minutes.
  2. In a food processor, blend the tofu, garlic, olive oil, salt, and cayenne til smooth. When the saffron has had time to flavor and color the soymilk, add the soymilk and saffron to the processor. Blend til creamy.

Actually, Isa says to strain out the saffron, but I have no idea why so I ignored that step.

A bit hesitant, I tasted this creamy mixture. It was really good! I almost wanted to eat it just as a pudding. That little bit of saffron somehow managed to, not quite mask the soy flavor, but meld with it and transform it somehow so that you didn’t taste tofu but a creamy rich savory saffron pudding. I feel that this puree would be great in some kind of interesting vegan dessert, but I need to think about exactly how to work it in. I’m sure it would go well in other recipes as well. (Note: I only had 12 ounces of soft silken tofu so used 12 ounces regular cotton firm tofu as well.)

Okay, on to the omelet. The instructions worked very well. The potatoes were cooked when she said they would be, the omelet had a beautiful browned golden top, and the pieces held together nicely. I could taste the saffron in the finished dish, but it wasn’t as eye-opening as the plain tofu saffron pudding was. The main problem I have with this recipe is that although the tofu puree is salted, the potatoes were not, and as a result even with all the oil they are quite bland. If this was remedied by salting the potatoes before they’re put in the pan to cook, I think this would be a decent recipe. It’s not stellar, as the flavors are all a bit bland, but it’s an interesting presentation and potatoes are just yummy.

I also made the accompanying roasted red pepper almond sauce, which is pleasant and goes well with the omelet. The almonds add texture I assume, but I’d like to see what it tastes like without them. I also tried the omelet with ketchup, but didn’t like the combination of the ketchup and saffron.

Update: on subsequent attempts, I added 3/4-1 tsp. of salt to the potatoes, and 1/2-1 tsp. to the tofu mixture, and the potatoes were much more flavorful. I let Derek taste the saffron puree on its own, and he said it was at best bland, and at worst bitter, although he did have the lower-salt version . Also, in my later attempts the omelet didn’t hold together as well. The main differences from the first time were that I cut down the oil a bit (from 4 Tbs. to 3 Tbs.), and I used silken tofu rather than the firm tofu I used the first time. The amount of onions and potato might have varied as well, as “4 potatoes and 1 onion” is not very precise.

Derek says it tastes okay, but the tofu doesn’t do much for him. He’d prefer just the onions and potatoes and a tasty sauce. He also thought it was too oily. He wasn’t as fond of the red pepper sauce as I was, preferring to eat the potatoes with a Peruvian yellow pepper paste, or a Thai green curry paste.

Rating: B
Derek: C

Update March 7, 2010:  I made this recipe again because I wanted to use up some potatoes.  I used about 9-10 ounces of white onion and 1 lbs 7 ounces of potatoes.  They were the red-colored bag, I think, kind of like Yukon Golds.  I sauteed the potatoes and onions with 2 Tbs. of olive oil and 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt.  For the tofu mixture I used medium cotton tofu (not silken) and added 2 medium eggs to the mixture as well.  The mixture tasted a bit bland to me, even though I had added quite a bit of saffron.  (I suspect my saffron isn’t very high quality.)  So I added some chipotle powder, some paprika, quite a bit of Cholula pepper sauce, and other seasonings.  It was a little spicy.

The tortilla looked quite nice when it emerged from the oven.  The top was puffy and nicely browned, and the pieces came out of the pan in one piece when I cut it.  Once on the plate, the potato slices slid apart, but that didn’t bother me.  The potato/onion mixture was definitely less greasy than last time.  I think 2 Tbs. of oil is perfect. The tofu/egg mixture was surprisingly bland, even after I added all those spices.  I think maybe I should have added more salt (closer to the 1 tsp. the original recipe calls for).  Also, I think the addition of the egg whites makes it a little dry and fluffy, rather than rich and creamy.  Derek, as before, didn’t care much for the recipe.  He rated it a C+.  He did eat it for leftovers once, but not with much enthusiasm.  Derek liked it better with ketchup but I thought the ketchup overpowered the flavors.  I enjoyed this recipe as leftovers twice.  It’s simple but satisfying. Rating: B  Still, I’d like to get more flavor into the recipe.  Once I do, I think it would make a lovely dish to serve for company.  Maybe adding Peruvian yellow pepper paste to the potatoes would help?  Other ideas?

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Vegan with a Vengeance review

September 29, 2007 at 9:37 pm (Cookbook reviews, Isa C. Moskowitz)

I heard nothing but rave reviews about Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  The reviews on Amazon are almost universally positive, except for a few eccentrics complaining about the difficulty of the dishes, the hard to find ingredients, or the general low health quotient of the recipes.  After trying almost 20 recipes in this cookbook, I would argue that the recipes are reasonably varied and inventive, but the cookbook is not the standout I was hoping for.

  • Difficulty: This cookbook does have some time-consuming recipes, such as the recipe for cauliflower leek kugel, but it also has plenty of everyday recipes as well (at least for someone who cooks a lot and is comfortable in the kitchen).   I didn’t find any of the recipes to be technically complicated.
  • Accessibility: The ingredients are no more weird or hard to find then in my other vegetarian cookbooks.
  • Health: The cookbook is definitely not aimed at health nuts; some of the recipes call for excessive amounts of salt, and only a small percentage of the recipes are very-low (<20%) or even low fat (<30%). That said, the recipes don’t seem terribly unhealthy to me, especially since it’s easy to reduce the oil and salt according to your own taste. Although there are a few recipes that call for TVP, for the most part the recipes don’t call for processed or prepared foods.  Most recipes are based just on tofu, vegetables, beans, seitan, or tempeh, with a good mix of the five. In most cases the dishes are quite heavy, with a home-style comfort food feel to them: it would be nice if there were a few more raw or very light dishes. The authors do include a recipe for mango spring rolls, but that’s about it on the raw front. I was disconcerted when I read the Amazon reviews to see people extolling the fact that this cookbook has no salads in it: the absence of salads is a weakness, not a virtue.  The cookbook contains a large selection of recipes for vegan baked goods (in the breakfast section and in the dessert section), most of which call for white flour and white sugar.
  • Creativity: The cookbook includes recipes for some simple vegetable sides, but these tend to be pretty standard: ginger roasted winter vegetables, orange-glazed beets, balsamic portobello mushrooms, kale and tahini sauce, sesame asparagus, garlic brussels sprouts… nothing too new here. Compared to the vegetable sides, the entrees are much more creative, spanning a number of different cooking techniques, seasons, and international cuisines. One technique I found interesting that I haven’t seen before is to use pureed silken tofu in baked dishes to give a rich, fluffy, almost egg-like quality to the dish. The technique works quite well, and it’s something I’m going to try to experiment with on my own.
  • Personality: I enjoyed many of the short introductions to the recipes: Isa definitely has a wry sense of humour. She does an excellent job of establishing her voice in only a couple of sentences. There are also some longer entries giving tips on things such as “perfect pancakes”, “prepping a butternut squash”, and how to store a lot of kitchen items in a small space. As a pretty experienced cook, I didn’t find these sections to be terribly enlightening, although they are reasonably entertaining.
  • The physical:  The cookbook is a good size–not too big and not too small.  The pages in the paperback version stay open pretty well, and I haven’t had any pages fall out.
  • The visual:  The fonts and recipe layout are easy to read.  There’s a section with color photographs in the middle of the book.
  • The organization:  I like that all the recipes are listed in the table of contents, for easy scanning.  The recipes are organized by category, such as entrees, sides, brunch, pizzas and pastas, etc.  That organization worked fine for me, but the index is poor.  It’s missing a number of essential entries (which I will write down once I have my book in front of me).
  • Seasonal eating:  There’s no mention of eating seasonally in the cookbook, and the few recipes that refer to a season seem confused.  For example, the Moroccan Tagine with Spring vegetables calls for zucchini, green beans and tomatoes.  I suppose in Texas those are spring vegetables, but the author is from NYC.
  • Accuracy: The recipe instructions are generally pretty precise, with the exception of amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are given in inconsistent measurements. Isa often does not provide weights, or even volume measurements. What is a medium sized golden yukon potato? And how can she call for 1 head of cauliflower in her braised cauliflower recipe. Doesn’t she realize the size of cauliflower heads can vary by a factor of three? And does she really think 2 medium-size heads cauliflower equals 4 cups of florets (in the cauliflower kugel recipe)? Other than that I generally found the instructions clear and easy to follow. It would have been nice if she had provided nutritional information though.

After trying almost 20 recipes my feeling is that this is an above-average vegetarian cookbook. I had a few recipes tank, and a handful more I probably wouldn’t make again. The majority were fine, but so far I’ve only found one or two that I adored, and that I’m definitely adding to my repertoire.

  1. Seitan Portobello Stroganoff B+/B
  2. Cauliflower Leek Kugel B/B-?
  3. Jerk seitan B/B+
  4. Cold Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Seitan B
  5. Spanish Omelet with Saffron and Roasted Red Pepper-Almond Sauce B/C
  6. Vegan french toast B
  7. Barbecued Pomegranate Tofu B/A-?
  8. Banana pancakes B-/A
  9. Tempeh and white bean sausage patties, B the first time, C the second time
  10. Italian baked tofu B-/B-
  11. Frittata with broccoli and olives B-/B-?
  12. Mango spring rolls B-
  13. Corn fritters C/?
  14. Moroccan Tagine with Spring Vegetables C
  15. Millet and Spinach Polenta w/ Pesto C
  16. Butternut squash soup with ginger and lime C
  17. Tempeh bacon D/B
  18. Spanakopita D/C
  19. Matzoh Balls F

I’ve put my rating first, with Derek’s after (if he happened to be around when I made that dish).

A few comments about the items that haven’t made it into my blog elsewhere:

I didn’t really care for the taste of the italian baked tofu–a bit too vinegar-y perhaps? Derek liked the flavor more than me though. Also, even after marinating all day the inside of each tofu slice was still white with no flavor. I used extra firm tofu but the texture of the baked tofu was surprisingly soft, rather than the toothsome texture of the baked tofu at the upscale vegan restaurants in New York. I didn’t care for the tofu as a side dish, but it made a pretty good sandwich filling. The moisture/softness was actually a plus in a sandwich. Derek gave the tofu a B-, and a B as a sandwich filling with other ingredients to add flavor.

The barbecue sauce that comes with the pomegranate tofu recipe is not bad, but needed a bit of tweaking.  In particular, it needed more acid. Also, I suspect more expensive ingredients are used than is absolutely necessary.  The barbecued tofu recipe is very rich, so everyone else liked it, but I was disappointed in the texture of the tofu.  The tofu just tasted like plain tofu covered in barbecue sauce to me–it didn’t meld into a single, cohesive dish.  Also, I didn’t think the pomegranate seeds really went with the dish at all, either visually or flavorwise.

The second time I made the tempeh and white bean sausage patties they were bland, undersalted and dry.  I didn’t have fresh sage, and had to use dry, which maybe explains the blandness?  The recipe says it makes 10 patties I think, but using the 3 Tbs. of batter the recipe calls for, I got 19 patties.  I can’t figure out what happened.  I definitely used a pound of tempeh and a cup of white beans.

The mango spring rolls sounded marvelous but were a little boring, even with the dipping sauce.  My friend Alex said she thought they needed something salty.  She said that she uses tofu baked in soy sauce in her spring rolls, and it adds an important salty/umame flavor.  (Okay, she didn’t say the umame bit.)  Our mango was delicious, and we liked the mung bean sprouts and the chopped peanuts in the spring rolls, and the dipping sauce was tasty.  In the end, though, the combination just didn’t seem more than the sum of its parts.  We then made up our own spring rolls with avocado and the dipping sauce and soy sauce and mung bean sprouts and thai basil and those were much, much more satisfying.

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Tempeh Bacon

September 23, 2007 at 3:30 pm (F, Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Tempeh)

Having never eaten bacon, I don’t have to worry about this recipe living up to any preconceived notions. The recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance.

  • 3 Tbs. Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1 8-ounce package tempeh
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil or vegetable oil
  1. To make the marinade combine the soy sauce, cider, tomato paste and liquid smoke in a wide, shallow bowl or pan and mix with a fork until the tomato paste is fully dissolved.
  2. Cut the tempeh into thin strips (less than 1/4 inch thick) lengthwise. You should be able to get about 12 strips. Rub the strips with the crushed garlic, then toss the garlic cloves into the marinade. Submerge the tempeh strips in the marinade and let sit, for at least an hour and up to overnight. After marinating, discard the garlic.
  3. Heat the oil in an 11 or 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the tempeh strips and cook for 4 minutes on one side; the bottom should be nicely browned. Flip the strips over and pour the remainder of the marinade over them. If there isn’t much marinade left add a splash of water. Cover and let cook for 3 more minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Uncover and check for doneness; if necessary keep cooking uncovered until all sides are nicely browned. Remove from heat and serve.

My Notes:

In writing this up I just realized I misread the cider as cider vinegar. No wonder it seemed like it needed some sweetener. I only used 2 Tbs. of full sodium soy sauce, and 1 Tbs. of olive oil. I cooked the tempeh in my 9-inch cast iron skillet, which was a bit crowded. The final tempeh had a very delicate yet toothsome texture which I enjoyed, and almost no “tempeh” flavor that I don’t care for so much. I can’t imagine this is what bacon tastes like however. On a pita bread with sliced tomato and lettuce I found the tempeh too bland. Maybe with the cider and the extra soy sauce and oil it would have been better? I’ll have to try it again, but I think I’ll wait til Derek comes in case I don’t like it that much. Tempeh here in Montreal is $4 for 8 ounces! That’s alot to waste on a dish you don’t care for all that much. (Anyone know where to get tempeh for less in Montreal?)

A day later the tempeh had more “tempeh flavor.”

Update January 5, 2008: I made this recipe again, properly this time, for Derek.  The only issue was that I had white wave tempeh which comes in very square blocks so you can’t really cut it into long strips, and I had trouble even getting  8 slices, nevermind 12.  I fried it in the full amount of oil and it came out extremely greasy.  I took one bite and that was enough: the flavor was too in-your-face, and the amount of oil was overpowering.  I served it to Derek anyway, and he liked it quite a bit, eating it plain for breakfast with a half a grapefruit and some leftover celery root salad.

Rating: D

Derek: B

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Spanakopita

August 14, 2007 at 8:08 am (Dark leafy greens, F, Isa C. Moskowitz, Tofu, Turkish)

I love spanakopita. I adore spanakopita. If Derek would let me, I’d name our first born spanakopita. I’ve never tried to make them on my own, however; I wasn’t sure I could bear to see how much butter and cheese I was ingesting in my favorite of dishes. When I saw the recipe for vegan spanakopita in Vegan with a Vengeance I was intrigued, to put it mildly. Derek and I had fun putting the layers together (especially without a pastry brush for the oil), and the final dish looked delicious when we pulled it from the oven. The taste, however, was quite disappointing. Can you say bland-sad-mockery-of-my-favorite-dish-ever? We didn’t skimp at all on the fat, so it wasn’t that we tried to make it too low fat. I think maybe spanakopita without feta is just a no-go. I tasted the “feta” made from tofu before it went into the casserole, and I found it quite bland tasting. I should have known at that point the recipe wasn’t going to be any good. Derek actually said he liked it more than me, having two pieces for dinner. However, the rest of the pan stayed in the fridge all week, untouched, so he obviously didn’t like it that much. I’m not going to bother to post the recipe.

I do have to thank Isa for inspiring me however–I’m now determined to try my hand at making the real thing.

Rating:D

Derek: C

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Cauliflower-leek kugel with almond-herb crust

July 31, 2007 at 5:49 am (B plus, Cruciferous rich, Isa C. Moskowitz, Jewish, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

Derek argued that this dish is not truly a kugel since it doesn’t have noodles. Apparently he’s never had potato kugel, and doesn’t know that (although literally a pudding in Yiddish) a kugel can be any sweet or savory casserole type dish. This recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance, and the anecdote at the beginning of the recipe is quite amusing–I recommend you buy the cookbook and read it for yourself. Apparently it was adapted (switching eggs for tofu) from this Bon Appetit recipe. If you eat tofu on passover this would make a great passover dish.

Serves 8-12.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups sliced cauliflower florets (about 1 medium-size head of cauliflower, or half a very large head)
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 3 whole matzohs (2 in the filling, then 1 in the topping)
  • 1 (12-ounce) package silken tofu
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts from about 4 leeks)
  • 1 cup diced onion (1/2-inch dice, from 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

I’m going to re-write the instructions since I found the order and details of the instructions to be inefficient, and lacking in sufficient detail. My instructions look quite long but I assure you they will be easier, and faster than the original, shorter instruction set.

  1. In a 4-quart saucepan (with a lid) add an inch of water and a folding steaming basket. Bring the water to a boil while you prepare the cauliflower. When the water comes to a boil, add your sliced cauliflower, cover, and steam for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Then remove from heat, uncover, and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry cast iron skillet or 12-inch stainless steel skillet until lightly browned and fragrant. Watch the almonds carefully. Don’t burn them! When toasted, chop them in a food processor with a few pulses. Set aside in a small bowl (about the size of a cereal bowl) .
  3. Crumble two sheets of matzoh into the food processor. Grind the matzoh into large crumbs (coarser than matzoh meal) and pour into a large (4-6 quarts?) bowl.
  4. Now chop your onion and leeks into large pieces, and add them to the food processor and pulse a few more times. Add 2 Tbs. of the oil to the skillet you toasted the almonds in, and raise to a medium-high heat. When hot, add the leeks and onions, and saute until the leeks are tender and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Meanwhile, chop the parsley and dill in the food processor. Add all but 1 Tbs. of each herb to the small bowl with the almonds. Add the remaining two Tablespoons to the large bowl with the matzoh. Next, crumble the tofu into the food processor, and puree until smooth.
  7. The cauliflower should be cool by now, and the leeks and onions cooked. Mash the cauliflower in the steaming basket with a fork. Add the tofu and leeks and onions and cauliflower (without the steaming water) to the large bowl, along with the salt and pepper, and mix well.
  8. Brush or spray a 9×13 inch casserole dish with oil. Spread the cauliflower mixture evenly in the dish. Pour the almonds and herbs into the large bowl you just emptied, and crumble in the remaining matzoh with your fingers. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. of olive oil and mix. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the kugel.
  9. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, until browned on top. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes.

My Notes
Both Derek and I really enjoyed this recipe. We were worried it was going to be bland, but it wasn’t bland at all, it was quite tasty. We couldn’t taste the tofu at all, but it gave the dish an almost eggy consistency, that really reminded me of a traditional kugel. The fresh herbs were present, but not punchy. The leeks were delicious–I think with just onions this recipe wouldn’t be as good. The cauliflower didn’t add a huge amount of flavor, but with the tofu gave the kugel a great texture. I was worried it was going to be too salty so I only added 1 tsp. of salt, but in the end we added salt at the table so next time I’d add the full amount. This dish is quite rich, and Derek thought the oil could be cut in half without ill effect–just use 1 Tbs. to saute the onions and leeks, and 1 Tbs. for the topping. As is it’s about 47% fat, but with half the oil it would still be 40% fat, I guess due to the tofu and almonds. No wonder it’s so tasty! I really liked the cauliflower layer, but in my 9×13 pan it ended up quite thin. I think it could have used a slightly higher cauliflower to topping ratio. If I make it again I may try using 6 cups of cauliflower instead of 4, or maybe just doubling the whole base recipe (except for the topping). Also, I might increase the amounts of fresh herbs just a bit, maybe to 2/3 or 3/4 cup each.

Isa has you use the food processor for the matzoh and the tofu, but not for anything else. I say, why not chop your almonds and onions and herbs in the food processor as well? She also says to boil the cauliflower but I think it’s easier and healthier to steam it. Her instructions are to break the cauliflower into florets. Rather than spending time breaking the cauliflower into neat florets, I suggest just breaking the cauliflower into large pieces then slicing them–it saves time and you’re going to end up mashing the buggers in the end anyhow.

Even with my modifications, this still isn’t a quick and easy recipe. It’s not exactly difficult, but it does use a 4-qt pot, a steaming basket, a large skillet, a food processor, and a large and small bowl. So plan accordingly. To use one less pan, if your large skillet is oven-proof you may be able to bake the casserole directly in the skillet. I thought about baking it in my cast iron pan, but the casserole would have been much fatter than intended. It’s worth a shot, but since it was my first time I followed the instructions and used a 9×13 metal cake pan.

I cut my kugel into 8 large slices; each had about 240 calories. Two slices were quite filling and satisfying. With half the fat each slice would have about 200 calories.

Update Sept 1, 2007: On a second try I used about 6 cups of cauliflower, from one large head. I also used 1/2 cup + 1 Tbs. of each herb, and reduced the oil to only 2 Tbs. total. I had three quite large leeks, and only got 3 cups of chopped leek out of them. I used the food processor to chop the onion and leeks, which resulted in a much more rough, uneven chop than when I did it by hand. The whole recipe took me 45 minutes to make, plus about 15 minutes of clean up time (I don’t have a dishwasher).

Rating: B+

Derek:

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Vegan Banana Nut Pancakes

July 28, 2007 at 9:32 pm (breakfast, B_, Derek's faves, Isa C. Moskowitz, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk)

Vegan with a Vengeance has quite a few vegan pancake/waffle recipes. Derek likes this one the best. The first time I made them, Derek went bananas over these pancakes. His rhapsody: “fluffy and wonderful, creamy without the cream, better than any pancakes I ever made (including our usual oatmeal walnut yogurt pancakes) .”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jerk Seitan

July 28, 2007 at 9:18 pm (B_, Caribbean, Isa C. Moskowitz, Seitan)

After the disaster of the jerk tempeh from Some Like it Hot, I was both excited and nervous about trying another jerk recipe. This recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance was quite different in technique though, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m trying to make all the seitan recipes from vegan with a vengeance.

I don’t have the energy to post the recipe right now, so I’ll just post my comments. I’ll come back and post the details if I make it again.

The sauce is interesting–you basically put all the ingredients into the food processor and blend it into kind of a watery paste. The sauce was pretty good tasting, fresh, and full of caribbean flavors. The recipe calls for you to saute some green peppers, then add the seitan cutlets and fry them for another 10 minutes or so, then add the sauce. This seems odd, since the peppers are getting totally overcooked while the seitan browns. I’d either take the peppers out before adding the seitan, or add them at the end when the seitan is almost done. The sauce is pretty powerful stuff–I liked it, but found that I didn’t really want to eat the seitan cutlets on their own–too strong tasting. I liked it okay on a sandwich, but I feel like I didn’t quite find the right combination of foods to eat this recipe with. Isa suggests serving it with sweet potatoes and greens I think, which sounds pretty good.

Derek’s comment, solicited with difficulty: “That’s some tasty shit. I’d have it again.”

Rating: B
Derek: B+

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Seitan Stroganoff

July 14, 2007 at 5:22 pm (B plus, Isa C. Moskowitz, Pasta, Seitan, Soymilk, Starches)

I just bought Vegan with a Vengeance, and was paging through it deciding what to make. Derek’s mom and I wanted to test out Isa’s seitan recipe, so were trying to decide which seitan main course to make. She thought the stroganoff sounded good, but I was pretty wary. I have a very distinct memory of ordering stroganoff at West Side Cafe in Austin many, many years ago and being totally disgusted. I also tried making some stroganoff recipes from various cookbooks–I think they all ended up in the trash. I even adore gravy, so I don’t know why I found them so unappetizing. I think stroganoff is typically a dairy-rich dish, and trying to make the creamy sauce out of soy just doesn’t cut it. So I was hesitant, but then I read the recipe’s intro, and the first sentence says something like “So, you’ve been disappointed with vegan stroganoffs in the past…” In one sentence she had hooked me, and we decided to make it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Winter Squash Soup

February 11, 2007 at 8:15 am (Cook's Illustrated, Isa C. Moskowitz, soup, Starches, unrated)

Every cookbook in the world seems to have a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup. They often call for adding fruit like apples or pears, or for sweet seasonings like nutmeg or ginger. Others are very simple and just call for the squash alone. I’m guessing that over time this post is going to get very long. Feel free to send me your favorite recipe for squash soup!

Cook’s Illustrated Best Light Recipe Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I’ll post the recipe once I get a library card in Chicago and can check the book out again.

My Notes:

As I reported in the thread on roasting butternut squash, I didn’t like these instructions much. The onion burnt at the tips, and the squash burnt a bit too. The resulting puree was very thick, and with a very dark, vegetable-y flavor, rather than the sweet, bright flavor I was expecting. I’m guessing the onion added the unpleasant vegetable flavor, and the burnt bits made it taste so dark. I added the half and half, and it did improve the flavor a bit, but I still didn’t like it that much. So I added 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg, and then it tasted like nutmeg, which was an improvement, but still not great. So I added 1/8 tsp. cardamom and 1/8 tsp ginger. It was okay, but I don’t think I’d make it again when there are so many better butternut squash soup recipes out there.

Cook’s Illustrated Magazine Silky Butternut Squash Soup

For this recipe Cook’s Illustrated found that steaming the squash resulted in the best flavor and texture. Adding the squash scrapings and seeds to the steaming water made the soup even more flavorful. Some nice garnishes for the soup are freshly grated nutmeg, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or a sprinkle of paprika.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts, serving 4 to 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium shallots , minced (about 4 tablespoons)
3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large), unpeeled, squash halved lengthwise, seeds and stringy fibers scraped with spoon and reserved (about 1/4 cup), and each half cut into quarters
  Table salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
 
 

1. Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until foaming; add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add squash scrapings and seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes. Add 6 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, place squash cut-side down in steamer basket, and lower basket into pot. Cover and steam until squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes. Off heat, use tongs to transfer squash to rimmed baking sheet; reserve steaming liquid. When cool enough to handle, use large spoon to scrape flesh from skin into medium bowl; discard skin.2. Pour reserved steaming liquid through mesh strainer into second bowl; discard solids in strainer. Rinse and dry Dutch oven.

3. In blender, puree squash and reserved liquid in batches, pulsing on low until smooth. Transfer puree to Dutch oven; stir in cream and brown sugar and heat over medium-low heat until hot. Add salt to taste; serve immediately.

My Notes:

I made this recipe quite a long time ago, but I remember it being perfect. It tasted just like the “porridge” they serve at Hangawi, an upscale Korean restaurant in NYC. Steaming the squash resulted in a much brighter orange color and sweeter flavor than roasting the squash as in the above recipe. I probably didn’t use all the heavy cream and butter, but I don’t remember how much I actually used. I’ll try it again and report back.

Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Lime

I tried this recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, except I simmered the squash in vegetable broth rather than roasting it.  In addition to the squash, it calls for onion, a hot green chile, fresh ginger, garlic, maple syrup, and the juice of 1 to 2 limes.  The final soup was bright orange with a reasonably creamy texture.  I did not care for the soup however.  I only used one lime yet still the sourness of the limes dominated, and the sweet earthy squash taste was overpowered.  I did not taste any ginger either.  I wouldn’t make this recipe again.

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Sesame noodles (tahini style)

June 30, 2006 at 9:29 am (B plus, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Isa C. Moskowitz, Madhur Jaffrey, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing, Starches, Tofu)

I love the cold sesame noodles at China Palace in Pittsburgh. This isn’t quite the same, but it’s rich and salty and complex all the same.  Serve it with julienned raw veggies and crispy tofu.  Based on a recipe from Madhur Jeffrey’s World of the East.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, about 4 quarts of water.  Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli and sauce. Chop

  • two small heads of broccoli, stems sliced thinly and tops broken into small florets (about 1 lb 8 oz. broccoli in total–after trimming any woody stems–usually around 7 cups of florets and 2 cups of stems)

In a large serving bowl, mix together with a fork until you have a smooth paste:

  • 3/8 tsp kosher salt (if you have fine salt use only a 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbs neutral-tasting oil or peanut oil (use the spoon you’ll use for the tahini to measure this)
  • 1.5 tsp. toasted sesame oil (you can leave this out and instead drizzle it over the noodles)
  • 3 Tbs. tahini (using the spoon you used to measure the oil)
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

When the water comes to a boil, salt the water (add 2-3 tsp salt), then add the broccoli stems, the broccoli florets, and then:

  • 1/2 lb. soba noodles, udon noodles, spaghetti, or Chinese egg noodles

Actually, the order will depend on how long the noodles need to cook.  My soba noodles are very thin and only take about 3 or 4 minutes to cook, so I add the broccoli first.  I let the broccoli stems cook for 1 minute, the broccoli florets cook for another 2 minutes and then add the noodles.  However, if your noodles take more than five or six minutes to cook you’ll want to add the noodles first.  The broccoli should take a total of about 4 to 6 minutes to cook, including the time with the noodles. (The exact time will depend on exactly how large your broccoli pieces are.)

While the noodles cook, roast in a small skillet:

  • 2 Tbs. sesame seeds (white, hulled seeds crisp up and look prettier than beige, unhulled sesame seeds, but both taste good)

When the noodles and broccoli are cooked, drain them and if using soba or udon noodles rinse under cold running water to release the extra starch, then add the noodles to the bowl with the sauce.  Sprinkle on top:

  • 2 Tbs roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Serve immediately.

This dish has quite a lot of broccoli, and sauce too.  It’s oily and quite salty, and filling.  There’s a mild but noticeable heat from the cayenne. Derek loves this recipe, and asks for it at least once a week.  I enjoy it as well, although I prefer to make it into more of a salad by adding lots of  raw veggies (partly because the noodles as Derek prefers them are quite salty).  I usually julienne about 4 cups of raw vegetables.  I like cucumber, carrots, red and yellow bell pepper, radishes, jicama, bean sprouts, scallions, kohlrabi, etc.  I usually keep the raw veggies separate from the noodles and broccoli so that Derek and I can mix in our preferred proportion of raw veggies.  Last time I made this I served it with cucumbers that had been marinating in a sweet, vinegary dressing, and Derek really liked the combination, much more than plain julienned cucumbers.

I would say that this recipe makes 4 generous servings, which should be enough for dinner for four people, but people always seem to want seconds.  So realistically I would say that by itself this recipe serves three, and if you serve it with a lot of raw vegetables and some spicy, crispy tofu cubes then it serves four people for dinner.  Usually I just make this recipe for Derek and I, and we split the leftovers into two small lunches or I give it as a big lunch to Derek.  Leftovers from this recipe make a nice lunch the next day (hot or cold). I never have any difficulty getting rid of the leftovers!

This recipe is very heavy on the broccoli.  If you’re not a huge fan of broccoli, you can reduce the amount of broccoli to 16-20 ounces and replace the missing broccoli with more pasta.  Try it with 10-12 ounces of pasta maybe.  If you like, you can add even more broccoli–around 1 3/4 pounds.  If you do, however, Derek suggests adding more sauce as well.  He thinks that even with 1.5 pounds of broccoli and 1/2 pound of noodles the dish is slightly undersauced, especially if you add more raw veggies and some tofu on top.

Derek likes this recipe with any kind of noodle.  I do too, but I prefer this recipe with soba noodles, because the flavor is more intense.  However, their dark brown appearance and generally sticky texture yields a dish that is not so beautiful.  The soba noodles are substantially less sticky if you rinse them before adding the sauce, but still the recipe looks a bit like brown congealed slop.  This recipe when made with wheat noodles is much prettier, and would make a nice potluck dish, especially if garnished with a variety of colorful raw veggies.

The sauce is also tasty on cauliflower and other vegetables.  The sauce can be made ahead of time.  Just cover it.  It’s fine at room temperature overnight.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

Nutritional stats with all the sesame oil and broccoli, and 8 ounces soba noodles.

Macronutrient breakdown:  33% fat, 52% carbs, 15% protein

Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 420
Total Fat 16.9g
Saturated Fat 2.2g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 1178mg
Carbohydrate 60g
Dietary Fiber 5.6g
Sugars 4.5g
Protein 16.8g
Vitamin A 23% Vitamin C 256%
Calcium    16% Iron 22%

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The Search for the Perfect Matzoh Ball

April 5, 2006 at 10:29 am (B_, Cruciferous rich, Isa C. Moskowitz, Jewish, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Website / blog)

Matzoh balls are a simple combination of matzoh meal, eggs, and fat, and yet small differences in proportions and technique make the difference between golf ball “sinkers”, or huge, fluffy, and airy “floaters.” There are lots of theories out there about how to achieve each type, but I suspect many of them are urban myths. One suggestions I’ve read recently: to get denser matzoh balls make sure to let the dough sit in the fridge for a while, as it gives a chance for the liquid to hydrate the matzoh meal, which somehow leads to denser, firmer balls. I’d love it if Cook’s illustrated would weigh in on this topic, but I doubt they ever will as matzoh balls are not All-American enough for them. Perhaps someone else has done a scientific study of the matzoh ball? Anyone know? I have some notes below from a recipe taste test Epicurious did, but I think their results are bogus. Read the rest of this entry »

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