Wednesday, January 20, 2010

seitan sauteed with mushrooms and spinach

I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately. G. was out of town (in Florida!) for days and I wasn't feeling very ambitious or creative while flying solo. I did manage to put together some really delicious brunch tacos with black beans, purple cabbage, and avocado, which reminded me of California. The weather was appropriately and unseasonably warm (I think it got into the 50s that day) and I enjoyed the afternoon of sun.

We spent Monday and Tuesday wrestling with a new medicine cabinet (domestic joys!) and last night, I finally got around to making the dish I'd been prepping for since Saturday. The recipe comes from Veganomicon, so, I can't share the full recipe with you, but as I've said before, go out and buy this book! It's the best.

The dish is seitan (which I made from scratch... you could use store-bought, but the texture and taste of the stuff you make yourself is just so much better that it's hard to go back, even if it is convenient) sauteed with mushrooms (I used specials from the market... they were out of cremini, though either would work just fine), spinach, onions, and a little white wine. The spinach was my favorite part, and I would actually add to the 6 cups that the recipe calls for because it cooks down so much. I served it with mashed potatoes on the side. (If you don't already know this, Yukon Golds make, in my opinion, the absolute best mashed potatoes... not too starchy and perfectly creamy.)

If you use storebought seitan, or have the foresight to make it ahead, this dish can be made in about 30 minutes. (Add an hour if you're seitan-ing from scratch.) In the book, one of the testers says that this seems like something that Julia Child would make if she were vegan. I like to think so.

Friday, January 15, 2010

potatoes + shallots with red wine

G. says that this dish is quintessentially me, which I guess that it is. One of my favorite things to eat? Potatoes. (Right now, I am seriously craving a knish.) One of my favorite things to drink? Wine. Put them together and I'm pretty much in heaven.

The sauce is full and rich, flecked with toasted shallots and mushrooms and pours over lightly sauteed fingerling potatoes. It's perfect for weekday winter evenings, as it comes together quickly.

potatoes and shallots in red wine sauce
about 1 lb mixed fingerling potatoes, sliced in half if they're large
2 large oyster mushrooms, chopped
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
olive oil for sauteing
2 tbs earth balance
1 tbs flour
1/2 c red wine

Saute the mushrooms and shallots in a fair amount of olive oil over medium heat until the mushrooms begin to sweat. Add the potatoes and thyme and stir. Saute for another few minutes until the potatoes begin to brown. Stir well, and add a dash of salt and pepper.

In order to reduce the cooking time for the potatoes, you're going to create a quick-steam environment. Cover the skillet. Get about 1/4 c of water, lift the lid, and toss it in, quickly recovering the potatoes so that the steam does not escape. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, adding more water if necessary.

When the potatoes are tender, cook of the excess liquid, if there is any. Remove them from the skillet. Turn the heat to high and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape off anything that's stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Prepare the buerre mane by whisking together the flour and earth balance, then add it to the wine and stir, until everything is dissolved and the wine has reduced (about 5 minutes). Pour the sauce over the potatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Monday, January 11, 2010

sauteed kale with garlic and mashed potatoes

I love winter greens. I love how they’re heartier and tougher and denser than what grows in the summer and it just makes so much sense to me to eat them when it’s freezing outside. The more seasonally I eat, the more I really begin to understand the way that the plant world works, and the more it just feels internally crazy to try and eat tomatoes or strawberries when there’s snow on the ground. In the winter, only the strong survive!

While I love kale, I understand that a lot of people find it bitter or with too much bite. This is a great introductory kale dish, because the sauté really softens the leaves and, mashed in with the potatoes, the kale has this really delicious, slightly salty bite that balances and incorporates nicely with the starchiness of the potatoes.

sautéed kale with garlic and mashed potatoes

1 head kale, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

olive oil for sautéing

1 ½ tbs soy sauce

1 – 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/8 – ¼ c soy milk

salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes until tender. While the potatoes are boiling, sauté the kale with the garlic in a fair amount of olive oil. Cook until it is well-wilted, stirring occasionally. Add the soy sauce, stir, and cook for a few minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the potatoes and mash them into the skillet with the kale, adding the soy milk to your desired consistency. Adjust the salt and pepper again, and serve immediately, alongside some fried tempeh or seitan.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

sweet and spicy almonds and pecans

I remember the first time that my mom bought me one of those warm, paper cones filled with spiced nuts and just how thoroughly they seduced my young taste buds. I learned much later that, typically, spiced and sugared use egg whites as their adhesive, which is what results in that thick, crispy shell encasing each almond, pecan, or walnut.

In my version, a reduced simple syrup works to the same effect, and it's super easy. If you haven't noticed, I have a pretty high spice tolerance, so feel free to adjust all of these measurements to your own tastes. The cumin is subtle, but does add a nice savory note underneath it all.

sweet & spicy roasted nuts
1 lb almonds and pecans, mixed
1 c sugar
1 c water
3 tbs cinnamon
2 tbs allspice
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cumin
dash of salt
Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Stir together all your spices and set aside. Mix together the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat it, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 5 - 10 minutes. You want it to reduce enough so that it's syrupy and sticky. When it gets to that point, pour in the spices and stir well to incorporate. Pour the mixture over the nuts and stir with a rubber spatula until all the nuts are well-coated. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the nuts begin to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. *This step is important, so that the nuts become crispy, and not soggy/mushy.

Store in glass jars for up to a month.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

holiday recap

I really can't believe it's 2010 already. I also can't believe that I've been in Brooklyn for nearly six months.

I have a lot of posts to catch up on, with full recipes, but I wanted to start off with a re-cap of what's been going on for the past two weeks.

For Christmas dinner, I made Shepherd's Pie for my family, and it was a huge hit. I even heard my dad say, "If this is vegan, I'll go vegan," which made my day. The next morning, my mom faithfully made Irish Soda Bread and completely surprised me with a vegan version of the loaf. And, I have to tell you, it was amazing. It tasted just like what I'd remembered. Expect the recipe very soon.

I added two new books to my arsenal: Great Chefs Cook Vegan and The Vegan Table.

The first is more... aspirational than the latter. The recipes are put together by some of the top chefs in the world, including Jean Georges. The images are beautiful and seductive and elegant, and most of the recipes require skills which are slightly beyond this at-home chef. Perchance to dream. I'll try my hand at an asparagus terrine some day.

The Vegan Table, on the other hand, is accessible and seasonal and smart. The focus is on entertaining, so the entire book is broken down by crowd-size, then by season. I'm really looking forward to digging in to all the recipes.

Other things to look forward to this week: spicy almonds and pecans tossed with a reduced simple syrup, mini-brownies for winter relief, hot and sour ginger chili soup, and mashed kale and potatoes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy holidays, everyone! I'll be traveling and celebrating through January 4th, but look forward to sharing lots of new recipes and stories with you in the New Year.

Until then, be well and happy!


from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Vegan Table:

My hope is that we can all navigate through this world with the grace and integrity of those who most need our protection.

May we have the sense of humor and liveliness of the goats, the maternal instincts and protective nature of the hens, and the sassiness of the roosters. May we have the gentleness and strength of the cattle, the wisdom, serenity and humility of the donkeys. May we appreciate the need for community as do the sheep and choose our companions as carefully as do the rabbits. May we have the faithfulness and commitment to family of the geese and the adaptability and affability of the ducks. May we have the intelligence, loyalty and affection of the pigs and the inquisitiveness, sensitivity, and playfulness of the turkeys.

May we learn from the animals what we need to become better people.

Monday, December 21, 2009

canning apple butter

Despite the monstrous snow storm that roared through New York on Saturday, I actually managed to get out and to the market in order to pick up everything I needed for holiday gift-making/canning. Most importantly, six pounds of apples that were destined to be buttered.

I was really surprised because six pounds of apples (which really seems like a lot) cooked down to about 3.5 8-ounce jars... which means, a whole lot of work and very little to show for it. A word to the wise (from the wise?): this will take you all day. And halfway through, you'll probably wonder why you're going to so much effort. Well, friends, the answer is because 1) it's the holidays, and 2) because it's delicious and you'll feel so much better when you're eating it than if you'd just bought an $8 jar at the store.

A few notes: I don't have a slow-cooker, so this is a stove + food processor method. You can, alternatively, throw everything together in a slow-cooker and let it go for a good 8 to 10 hours, then strain it and process it. I also strain by hand, with a fine mesh strainer, but if you have a food mill, you should use that because it's way easier. All spice measurements are approximate. You should adjust them to your taste. Finally, please do not take my processing times as gospel. You can consult a canning guide, like the ones here and here.

apple butter

6 lbs apples, cored and wedged (*do not peel)
3 c apple cider
3 tbs cinnamon
1 - 2 tbs allspice
1 - 2 tbs ground cloves
1 tsp star anise (optional)
1/2c to 3c sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Put all the apples and the cider in a very large pot and cook it over medium heat until the apples are tender and falling apart (about 15 - 20 minutes). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. In batches, put the apple mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Pour the blended apples into a large, oven-safe dish or pot. (I actually used my cast-iron skillet and it fit perfectly.) Add the cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and anise to the apples and adjust to taste. Stir well and add the lemon juice and zest. Put the pot in the oven and let it cook, uncovered for at least 45 minutes. As the apples cook down, they will become sweeter, so I recommend waiting at least this long before adding the sugar, which you should add to taste. I used about 3/4c total. Stir well, and return to the oven for 3 hours, checking and stirring occasionally. The butter is done when it is a spreadable consistency, and there are no pools of water on the top after it's stirred.

Once the butter has cooked down completely, remove it from the oven. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large pot and, using the back of a spoon, press the butter through the strainer. You'll need to clean off the strainer every so often and, I found, that working in smaller batches was the easiest and most successful. Keep the leftovers (what wouldn't press through the strainer) in a bowl nearby. I recommend, if you have the time, straining the leftovers a second time. I got another 50% of butter the second time around.

If you aren't canning, either freeze the apple butter, or refrigerate it for up to a week.

If you're canning, heat the apple butter until boiling, fill 8-ounce jars and process each one for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. If your jars don't seal, you can re-process them with new lids within 24 hours, or just refrigerate the jar and use it soon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

applesauce and latkes

On Friday night, G. and I were lured to midtown by a Mexican restaurant advertising a Hanukkah menu. Being two very enthusiastic Mexican food lovers, we bundled up and headed north. The menu featured a Mexican latke trio, brisket tacos, and a jelly donut with dulce de leche dessert. The latkes were thin and crispy, and were paired with Mexican dipping sauces (cilantro and lime, chipotle, and I think the last one was some sort of horseradish cream). G. loved the brisket tacos (I ordered mushroom), and we opted for churros over the jelly donut, which, while not traditional holiday fare, were delicious nonetheless.

Saturday was spent prepping for our party, and preparing a menu of our own: applesauce, jelly donut cupcakes (which I think were the crowd favorite), latkes, and mulled wine.

My applesauce is essentially a non-recipe. I used six pounds of apples (mix varieties), peeled them, chopped them, tossed them in a soup pot and cooked it all down over medium-low heat for about three hours. The longer you cook the sauce, the more the apples will break down, so just remove it from heat whenever you like the consistency. Normally, I like it with chunks of apples, but I let this batch cook down further because it was going with latkes. You can also easily add any spices you like: cinnamon, cloves, allspice. If your apples start to stick to the bottom, or if the applesauce gets too thick as it cooks down, add water about ¼ c at a time, stirring as you go. The water will keep cooking off, so check it occasionally and give it a stir to prevent sticking.

For the latkes, we’d planned to do two batches, one vegan and one with eggs, but the vegan ones were such a hit that we just went with it. In place of eggs, the thickening/sticking agent is cornstarch (you could also use potato starch), and they are seasoned simply with salt and pepper. To make these gluten-free, you can substitute an alternative flour, though I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for their texture.


3 lbs potatoes, peeled and shredded

1 medium white or yellow onion

¼ c cornstarch

about 1 c flour

salt and pepper

If you have a food processor, fit it with the grating disc and shred all the potatoes and the onion. If you’re hand-grating, grate the potatoes, then dice the onion as small as you can get it. Rinse the potato shreds well, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. (This step is important, and will keep your latkes crispy and not soggy.) Mix together the potato and onion and add the cornstarch. Mix well and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Add flour gradually until the mixture becomes sticky and holds together.

Heat a cast-iron skillet with vegetable oil over high heat. You want the pan and oil to be hot, but not smoking. Form small balls of the potato mixture and press them very flat. (You want them pretty thin, or else they’ll be doughy and mushy on the inside.) Fry the pancake on both sides until golden and crispy, adding oil as necessary. Drain latkes on brown paper bags (they hold more oil than paper towels). Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.

Serve hot with sour cream and applesauce.

Friday, December 11, 2009

holiday gifts

I have so many people on my gift list that it's hard to keep it all straight. I also have about twelve different running lists of appropriate gifts for each one of these people. While I don't generally follow gift guides of any sort (does anyone, really?), I'm posting some of the things I've come across this year that might be helpful if you find yourself in a similarly overwhelmed position.

Stainless steel straws from Brook Farm General
These clever and good-looking straws would make a nice hostess gift

A subscription to Ed Behr's The Art of Eating
This magazine would make a great gift for any travel-loving, food enthusiast.

Useful Towel from Bailey Doesn't Bark
I'll never learn conversions, and this beautiful towel would keep me from running to Google each time I encounter grams!

How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons
This book should be in absolutely everyone's arsenal. You'll know how to pick fresh produce, and, more importantly, how to store it. (Keep broccoli tightly wrapped; cut the tops off of carrots to keep them from dehydrating; never refrigerate a tomato.) I reference this book at least once a week, and I learn something new each time.

Himalayan Salt Slab from Sur La Tabla
I'm intrigued! You can use this brick of salt directly on the stove or grill, as it heats slowly without melting, salting your food as it cooks.