Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spicy Pork and Sauerkraut Sandwiches

Sandwiches are trending on New York City menus these days - and this vegan sandwich rivals any of the meat-layered creations I've seen. Use any soft bun, like hamburger buns or kaiser rolls for these tasty sandwiches.

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces Match pork, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups packaged cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw
  • 1 tablespoon bottled prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Annie's Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 (2-ounce) hamburger buns
  • 16 (1/8-inch thick) slices cucumber
1. Divide the Match pork into 8 or 9 equal portions and pat to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Combine 1/4 teaspoon of the salt with the oregano, thyme, and black pepper, and sprinkle evenly over the pork slices.  Heat 1 and 1/2 teaspoons canola oil in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the pork pieces and cook for 2 minutes on each side; remove from the pan.

2. Add an additional 1 and 1/2 teaspoons canola oil to the pan.  Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the coleslaw, horseradish, red wine vinegar, crushed red pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Combine the mayonnaise with the Dijon mustard in a bowl, and spread evenly over the cut sides of the hamburger buns.  Divide the coleslaw mixture, pork slices, and cucumber slices evenly among the bottom halves of the buns, and cover with the top halves of the buns.

For a quick, fun side dish, whip up homemade roasted garlic dip and serve with crudites: combine 1/4 cup Tofutti cream cheese, 2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon minced green onions, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced roasted garlic, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl; beat with a mixer until well combined.  You can prepare the dip ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to serve.  I added yellow squash slices, carrot slices, cut green onions, and chopped red bell pepper for dipping - pre-cut veggies from the store work just fine if you want to skip that step at home.  A dish of strawberry sorbet made a perfect finish to the evening. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 sandwich), Calories 366 

Tasting Notes:
Simply de-lish.  Yum.  Okay, I will try to be more articulate: the herb mixture on the pork gave this great flavor, the mayo/mustard mixture was so simple but so good, and the sauerkraut and cucumber tasted almost like deli pickles, when combined in one bite.  You can easily wow guests with this dish - since the flavors were summer-y, keep it in mind for an al fresco meal come warm weather.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Brown Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves in Tomato Sauce

I have been addicted lately to stuffed grape leaves sold at Whole Foods.  But since I generally try not to buy pre-packaged foods, (no matter how healthy) I thought I would make my own version at home tonight.  Needless to say, now I understand why it is easy to find stuffed grape leaves as a store-bought convenience.  If you decide to make the recipe that follows, it will be a labor of love, and is quite time consuming.  Although fun to make, I will probably continue to rely on the store-bought variety, except on weekends when I have a considerable amount of time.

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leek*
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons toasted and chopped pine nuts**
  • 2 tablespoons dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained can crushed tomatoes
  • 24 bottled grape leaves***
1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan; add the rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.  Because the rice cooks in nearly double the amount of liquid normally required, expect it to take over an hour, and to be almost like a risotto in consistency by the end.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

2. Heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the leek and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, making sure not to brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Set aside 1/4 cup of this leek mixture; add the rest of the leek mixture to the cooled rice.

3. Add the parsley, the pine nuts, the currants, the dill, the lemon juice, the lemon rind, the savory, the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper to the rice as well, stirring to combine; set aside.

4. In a large skillet, combine the reserved 1/4 cup leek mixture, the remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and the crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

5. Carefully remove 24 grape leaves from the bottle - this step is incredibly delicate, since the leaves will be wrapped around one another.  If you tear a couple in the process, you should be all right, since they are generally sold about 60 leaves to the bottle.  Some will also be smaller than others, and you'll want the largest grape leaves of the bunch for this recipe.

6. Carefully rinse the 24 grape leaves you select, and pat dry with paper towels.  Working with 1 leaf at a time, trim the toughest part of the stem from the center of the leaf, using a sharp knife, and discard.  Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture into the center of the leaf.  Fold up the sides of the grape leaf, then roll up from bottom to top, jelly-roll fashion.  Place, seam side down, in the tomato mixture.  Repeat with the remaining grape leaves and rice filling.

7. Cover and cook in the tomato sauce over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.  Serve these delicate little appetizers with other Greek-themed tapas (like olives or store-bought tabbouleh salad) for an elegant appetizer. 

*As always, my advice is to slice the leek first, then rinse the slices thoroughly in a colander to make sure you get the dirt from all the layers.

**Toast the pine nuts in a skillet; cook over medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes, shaking almost constantly, and keeping watch to make sure they don't cross the line from toasted to burnt.

***Look for bottled whole grape leaves in the supermarket aisle with the olives and bottled roasted peppers.  You will almost certainly see some that are already stuffed (dolmas), so make sure you are just buying the leaves.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (3 stuffed leaves, about 1/4 cup tomato sauce), Calories 148 

Tasting Notes:
I really liked the currants in the filling.  I really liked the savory.  I found that the rest of the filling actually lacked flavor (perhaps my taste buds are tainted from those store-bought grape leaves...).  Either way, the tomato sauce on top was therefore more than just a pretty garnish, but really added to the flavor.  I also didn't love the risotto-like consistency of the rice, and recommend cooking it in the standard 2 cups water, so the grains are cooked but still firm.   Next time, I would also increase the heat slightly during the last bit of cooking, so the grape leaves were more tender and I'd use a bit more salt.


Vegan Extra:
On a side note, I've cooked with several types of rice this month, including short-grain sushi rice and long-grain brown rice.  Rice is great, but I often find myself with large quantities of leftovers, wondering what to do with it.  Here are a couple quick rice side dishes if you feel the same:

Top with hot marinara sauce and your favorite vegan cheese.

Stir in vegan Parmesan sprinkles and dried basil.

Stir in toasted nuts (I used pine nuts and walnuts).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Curried Coconut Shrimp Stir-Fry

Here's a super speedy one-dish meal you can get on the table in less than 30 minutes.

  • 1 (3.5-ounce) bag boil-in-bag long-grain brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon bottled ground fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 16 ounces pre-cut broccoli and cauliflower florets
  • 24 ounces Vegetarian Plus shrimp, thawed
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vegan fish sauce*
1. Prepare the rice according to package directions; drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger and curry powder; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add the red bell pepper, broccoli, and cauliflower; cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Note: look for bottled fresh ginger in the Asian section of the grocery store - although normally I take the time to grate and peel my own for recipes, this is a great product to have on hand as a time saver.

3. Add the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Add the coconut milk, soy sauce, and fish sauce; cook for a final 4 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thick.  Serve the shrimp mixture over the rice for a hearty meal.

*Curious about the paradox that is "vegan fish sauce"?  See my post for Lion's Head Meatballs in Spicy Coconut Sauce, where I give the full rundown on options, plus the recipe for my favorite version.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups shrimp mixture, 1/2 cup rice), Calories 392

Tasting Notes:
I really liked the coconut/curry sauce, which had great flavor, texture, and spice.  The vegetable and shrimp went well together, but the broccoli and cauliflower weren't tender enough.  In retrospect, because packaged florets come in rather large pieces, I should have chopped them into much smaller pieces so they would cook more evenly and be tender by the time the rest of the dish is done.  As it is, the slightly-tough broccoli and cauliflower detracted from my enjoyment of tonight's dinner.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sushi-Rice Salad

Use short-grain sushi rice for this yummy salad - it has the flavors of a cucumber roll, but in a deconstructed presentation.  Sushi rice grains are so short compared to their width that they actually look nearly round (see photo below), and the sticky texture is what makes it great in (vegan) sushi rolls, and perfect for this particular salad.

For the rice:
  • 2 cups uncooked sushi rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated and peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste
For the salad:
  • 1 cup (2-inch) julienne-cut and peeled English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds*
  • 1 sheet nori seaweed
1. Rinse the rice thoroughly in a sieve, and drain well.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan, and add the rice and salt; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

2. To prepare the dressing, combine the rice vinegar, canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and wasabi in a bowl. 

Note: many varieties of wasabi on the market contain artificial food coloring, which I try to stay away from on principle.  A good option is the wasabi paste from Roland, dyed with the all-natural gardenia blue (which makes it, paradoxically, a bright green).

3. In a bowl, combine the cooled rice, the dressing, the cucumber, the red onion, and the sesame seeds.  Cut the nori into 2-inch julienne strips, and sprinkle over the rice mixture.  Depending what brand you buy, you may actually need to toast the nori sheet over a flame before cutting it into strips - when doing so, it will turn from nearly black to the most brilliant shiny green.  If I ever meet a mermaid, I expect the scales of her tail to shimmer exactly like this: 

If you're feeling adventurous, try serving this salad alongside ecoVegan fish fillets - then you'll really have all the flavors of a sushi roll.

*You can quickly toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, until they darken and become fragrant.  Cool to room temperature before adding to the salad.

Nutrition Info:
7 servings (1 cup), Calories 256 

Tasting Notes:
I found the flavors really light, refreshing, and different in this salad, so quite enjoyable.  I would change a few things, however.  Putting the nori strips on top didn't seem like the best use of the seaweed; I would actually chop it into small pieces and stir directly into the salad.  I also felt like the salad needed a little... more to amp it up; cubed avocado and julienne-cut carrot strips come to mind.  There was also just a tad too much strong vinegar taste to the dressing, so next time I would decrease the amount to 1/3 cup.  And speaking of next time, this salad would be perfect for al fresco summer dining, so keep it in mind for the warm months ahead.


Finally tonight, a quick mea culpa: You may have noticed yesterday that there was briefly a post for Chambord Granita, which then just as quickly disappeared.  Well, I have been enjoying Chambord for years without a thought - raspberries and cognac, I assumed, so no vegan worries there.  Had I done my due diligence, I would have realized that Chambord contains honey, and I feel terribly guilty for having not realized this sooner.  So the instant my online research turned up the fact, I pulled the recipe from my blog.  Please spread the word to fellow vegans who may not know that there is honey lurking in their Chambord.  A vegan alternative I found online?  The creme de framboise raspberry liqueur from Alain Verdet.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wild Mushroom Stew with Gremolata

There were two parts to my recipe tonight - first making homemade Mushroom Stock, and then using that stock as the base for the stew itself.

You can, of course, purchase pre-made mushroom stock from the grocery store, but there's such fresh, amazing flavor to the homemade variety that it's worth taking a little extra time.  Plus, your kitchen will smell amazing while it simmers.  The secret ingredient to this earthy broth?  Dried lentils! 

For the Mushroom Stock:
  • 5 cups water 
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms 
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery 
  • 1/3 cup vegan dry red wine 
  • 1/4 cup dried lentils 
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs 
  • 1 fresh sage sprig 
  • 1 whole garlic head, cut in half
    1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, until reduced to 2 cups.  Strain the stock through a sieve into a bowl, and discard the solids.

    Note: if you want to stop here, you can get creative with uses for this stock.  Try it as a base for any mushroom-barley soup, gravy over baked or mashed potatoes, or the cooking liquid to make braised beans.

    Nutrition Info:
    2 servings (1 cup), Calories 29

    Now moving on to the stew itself.  This dish gets an extra touch from the gremolata on top - a chopped herb condiment traditional in Milanese cooking.

    For the stew:
    • 4 and 1/2 cups quartered shiitake mushroom caps
    • 4 and 1/2 cups quartered cremini mushrooms
    • 1 (8-ounce) package button mushrooms, cut into quarters
    • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    • 2 cups thinly sliced leek*
    • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
    • 1 cup (1-inch thick) sliced carrot
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
    • 2 cups Mushroom Stock
    • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
    • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
    • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained can chopped tomatoes
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon water
    For the gremolata:
    • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
    • 1 minced garlic clove
    1. Combine the shiitake, cremini, and button mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.  You'll start with a big heaping pile of mushrooms, that will reduce way down to a rich mixture of cooked mushrooms.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

    2. Heat the remaining 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leek, fennel, and carrot; cook for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt then cover, reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes.  Uncover and add the cooked mushroom mixture, the prepared Mushroom Stock, the soy sauce, the tarragon, the thyme, the sage, the agave nectar, the black pepper, and the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

    Note: there is a lot of chopping involved in the prep for this recipe.  If you want to save a bit of time, substitute dried herbs for the fresh - use 1/4 teaspoon each of dried tarragon, thyme, and sage instead.

    3. Combine the cornstarch and water in a bowl, and add to the stew; cook for 1 minute.

    4. To prepare the gremolata, combine the flat-leaf parsley, lemon rind, and garlic.  Serve over the stew.  I added store-bought polenta on the side, which was a great way to round out the meal

    *Leeks are a tricky veggie to clean before chopping.  To ensure you get the dirt from all the layers of the leek, slice first, then place the slices in a colander and rinse with cold water.

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (2 cups stew, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons gremolata), Calories 228

    Tasting Notes:
    This stew stood out from the dozens of mushroom soups and stews I've had before in so many ways.  First, what a novel idea to bake the mushrooms, rather than simmering them - it really condensed the flavor in a rich way.  Beyond that, the homemade mushroom stock came out great, I loved the deep umami flavor from the addition of soy sauce, and between the tarragon and the fennel, there were wonderful hints of licorice in the background.  My only real complaint? The carrots were a bit tough, no doubt because the recipe called for such large pieces; I recommend 1/2-inch thick slices instead.


    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Wasabi-Miso Marinated Steak

    My adventures in vegan meat continue.  Having become a fan of the vegan pork, chicken, and crab from Match meats, tonight I wanted to try their beef.  If the recipe was a success, it meant I could start to make things like "beef tenderloin" or "London broil" or "beef wellington" for my carnivorous fiance, who is rapidly becoming a convert of the new plant-based meats on the market.  Tonight's dish gets a two-hour stint marinating in a strong mix of wasabi and miso.

    • 1/4 cup yellow miso*
    • 1/4 cup mirin
    • 1/4 cup vegan dry white wine
    • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • 12 ounces Match beef, thawed
    • Cooking spray
    1. Combine the miso, mirin, white wine, wasabi, and rice vinegar in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Transfer to a zip-top plastic bag and add the Match beef; seal and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.

    2. Place the marinated beef on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray; broil for about 5-6 minutes on each side, basting occasionally with the marinade.

    Note: in nice weather, you could also try this recipe on the grill, in which case grill for an equal amount of time on each side. 

    3. Slice the beef into thin slices, and serve.  Good side dishes for this entree include white sticky rice or mashed potatoes.

    *For a more thorough run-down on miso paste, see my post from earlier this month for Miso Soup with Spring Greens.

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (3 ounces beef), Calories 252 

    Tasting Notes:
    First, let me just say that Match beef met all my expectations, having tried the company's other products.  As for the marinade, I was surprised that it wasn't spicier, even though there was a great taste of wasabi coating the outside of the beef - you might consider using a baster with an injection tip, so the marinade penetrates beyond the outer layer, or serving some extra marinade spooned on top, to up the heat quotient.  Although the Match beef didn't slice as nicely as I hoped, this still made a yummy meal, and it cooked great under the broiler.


    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Caribbean Vegetables

    My fiance took off to the sunny climate of Florida today.  Not to be outdone, I decided to welcome a little Caribbean flavor into my kitchen with this recipe.

    • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • 3 cups peeled and chopped sweet potato
    • 1/2 cup vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 and 1/4 cups chopped zucchini
    1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sweet potato and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, cilantro, ginger, parsley, coriander, allspice, salt, and black pepper; cook for 15 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender.  Add the zucchini and cook a final 2 minutes.

    Try serving this dish with the bbq pulled chicken shreds from Gardein - the sweet barbecue sauce reminded me of jerk-seasoned meat, popular in Caribbean cuisine.

    To round out the meal I added a second side dish of buttermilk mashed potatoes: place 1 and 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice in a measuring cup and add plain non-dairy milk to equal 1/2 cup, stirring with a whisk - voila!  Vegan buttermilk.  Meanwhile, place 1 and 1/2 pounds peeled and chopped baking potato and 2 minced garlic cloves in a Dutch oven.  Cover with water and bring to a boil, then cook for 15 minutes.  Drain, and return the potato to the pan.  Add the buttermilk, 1/4 cup vegan sour cream, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mash with a potato masher until smooth.  Cook for a final minute over medium heat, stirring constantly, to heat all the way through.

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 187

    Tasting Notes:
    It's not that the taste of these vegetables was bad - they were, in fact, quite good - but the overall result was a little disappointing, since it was not what I expected.  It didn't, at the end of the day, feel very Caribbean.  I would add some fresh-squeezed lime juice, more spices, and canned black beans to the dish (in which case it could stand alone as a vegan entree), and would have liked for it to be saucier.  The ginger and coriander flavors were lovely, but the allspice got lost.


    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Miso Soup with Spring Greens

    I really enjoyed the addition of greens to this dish, elevating it above a standard bowl of miso soup.

    • 1 cup dried kombu seaweed
    • 4 cups water
    • 1/4 cup miso*
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil 
    • 1 and 1/4 cups shredded and peeled daikon radish**
    • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
    • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion bottoms
    • 2 cups trimmed watercress**
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
    • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion tops
    1. Combine the kombu and the water in a saucepan; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute.  Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving the liquid; discard the seaweed.  Combine 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid with the miso in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk; set aside.

    2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the daikon radish, carrot, and green onion bottoms; cook for 3 minutes.  Add the reserved liquid that you haven't mixed with the miso; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the watercress and dill; cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the miso mixture, and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Sprinkle with the green onion tops.

    Great accompaniments to this light, refreshing soup include quinoa and Asian-style baked tofu, such as the tofu lin from Soyboy.  I also liked leftovers for lunch the next day with vegan macro sushi.

    *The recipe called for yellow miso, which is somewhere in between the sweetness of white miso and the more heavy, fermented taste of red miso.  My favorite miso brand, however - and the only one I know of that's organic - doesn't produce a miso labelled "yellow."  Rather, they have "sweet white" which is what I generally just think of as white miso, and "mellow white" which I essentially consider their "yellow" version.

    **Daikon radish looks more like a long white carrot than like the radishes you're probably familiar with.  If you can't find it, you can substitute regular radishes, in which case just thinly slice them, instead of shredding them - no need to peel.  You can likewise substitute arugula or spinach for the watercress, if you prefer.

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (1 cup), Calories 52 

    Tasting Notes:
    It felt like an early wave of spring was just bursting out of this soup bowl.  What wonderful freshness from the watercress and radish, and a really lovely and unexpected touch of flavor from the dill.  The broth had just the rights hints of miso and seaweed, without being overwhelmed by either.


    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Tarragon Chicken-in-a-Pot Pies

    Figuring out what kind of bread to use for these little pot pies posed me no little consternation - and I will fill you in on the details below.  However, I'm glad I went through the effort, because the resulting dinner was amazing both in terms of taste and presentation.

    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup plain non-dairy milk
    • 1/2 cup vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
    • 1/2 cup vegan dry white wine
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2/3 cup chopped sweet onion
    • 3 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
    • 1 cup sliced carrot
    • 1 cup (1/8-inch thick) sliced zucchini
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • 4 (4-ounce) country or peasant rolls*
    1. Place the flour in a bowl, and slowly add the milk, stirring with a whisk.  Doing so forms a "slurry," which is any mixture of a water and a starch that acts as a thickening agent in cooking.  Add the chicken broth and the white wine; set aside.

    2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Chop the Gardein chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan, along with the onion; saute for 2 minutes.  Stir in the carrot, zucchini, salt, tarragon, and black pepper; cover, reduce heat, and cook for 4 minutes.  Stir in the prepared slurry.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened (it will take anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.

    3. Cut the rolls horizontally about 1 inch from the top.  Hollow out the bottoms of the rolls, leaving a 1/4-inch thick shell.  Set aside the torn bread and the bread tops for another use.

    Note: one great idea is to pulse them in a food processor and make breadcrumbs, which you can then store in the freezer for up to 6 months, for the next time you feel inspired to top casseroles or stuff veggies with fresh crumbs.

    4. Place 1 bread shell on each of 4 plates, and spoon about 1 cup of the chicken mixture into each bread shell.  Serve this entree with romaine and radicchio lettuce tossed in bottled salad dressing on the side, and you'll have a complete meal.

    For a fun dessert, try these quick caramel-coconut sundaes: sprinkle 1/4 cup flaked coconut (such as Let's Do Organic) on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees until golden brown - about 6-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place 1/2 cup of your favorite vanilla non-dairy ice cream in each of 4 dessert bowls.  Drizzle each serving with 1 tablespoon caramel syrup (try the one from FlavOrganics) and sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon of the toasted coconut. 

    *Ok, so about those bread rolls.  I first wanted to know what the recipe meant by country or peasant rolls, since both of those have such a broad definition.  One can find packaged country rolls in a grocery store, but they are usually small (about 2 ounces) and quite soft.  Online definitions seem to suggest that a peasant roll is a catch-all term for anything that is not Italian bread or French baguette.  I decided that the 4-ounce requirement was more important than the type of bread, since it had to be big enough to hold 1 cup of the chicken mixture.  My branch of Whole Foods sells big 4 ounce vegan kaiser rolls from a company called Bread Alone, and I was nearly all set to buy those - until I decided a kaiser roll was too soft and would fall apart in a pot pie sauce.  I decided it was time to hit fresh bakeries and see if they sold big, crusty "country" roles that also happened to be vegan.

    My destination was Amy's Bread, and my hunch was correct.  There they were: country sourdough sandwich rolls, nice and big at 4 ounces, and with a vegan ingredient list.  Hurrah!  My problems were solved.  So my suggestion to you is to hit up your local baker.  Amy's Bread also sells some of their products online, so you might check out their website.

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (1 pot pie), Calories 413 

    Tasting Notes:
    These got yummier with each bite.  At first taste I thought the chicken filling was a little bland; but the tarragon began coming through more and more; the longer the bread shell soaked up the sauce, the yummier the whole thing got.  Add to that how beautiful this was in terms of presentation, and how fun to eat, and it is a sure winner.


    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Ham and Mushroom Quesadillas

    Busy week night? Then these quick quesadillas are the dinner for you.

    • Cooking spray
    • 1 cup chopped vegan ham (such as Lightlife)
    • 2 tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
    • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced button mushrooms
    • 4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
    • 1 cup shredded Daiya cheddar
    1. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the ham, green chiles, and mushrooms; saute for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set the ham mixture aside; wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.

    2. Place 1 tortilla in the pan.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheddar, and top with 1/2 cup of the ham mixture.  Sprinkle with an additional 2 tablespoons cheddar, then fold the tortilla in half.  Cook for 1 minute on each side, being careful not to let the filling spill when you flip the tortilla over.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining tortillas, cheddar, and ham mixture.

    Add your favorite toppings to round out the meal. These are great with bottled salsa, guacamole, and Tofutti sour cream dolloped on top.

    Note: if you want to keep the already-made quesadillas warm while you prepare the others, just place them in your oven at the lowest setting. 

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (1 quesadilla), Calories 245 

    Tasting Notes:
    So delicious I gobbled these up in a big dripping mess!  The three-ingredient filling is so simple but so delicious that I actually found guacamole and salsa to be superfluous (although only adding on to the yumminess).  Add to that how easy these are to make, and they were a sure "5" in my rating system.


    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Spinach, Walnut, and Curried-Apple Salad

    This warm salad makes a great lunch or light supper alongside breadsticks or an Amy's Indian samosa wrap (which is a nice compliment to the curry flavor).  It takes wonderful advantage of red curry powder - not to be confused with the yellow-colored Madras curry powder - and is a fun and different way to incorporate the spice into your cooking.  If you like spicy food, increase the amount of red curry powder to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons.

    • Cooking spray
    • 1 and 1/2 cups thinly sliced Granny Smith apple
    • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1 teaspoon red curry powder
    • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable broth
    • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
    • 8 cups fresh spinach
    • 2 tablespoons toasted and chopped walnuts
    • 2 cooked and crumbled Lightlife bacon slices
    1. Heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the apple and onion and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the curry powder and saute for 1 minute.  Stir in the cider vinegar, the vegetable broth, and the agave nectar.

    2. Place the spinach in a large bowl, and pour the warm apple mixture over the spinach, tossing to coat.  Sprinkle with the nuts and the bacon.

    Note: quickly toast the walnuts ahead of time by heating in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant, making sure to shake the skillet nearly constantly to prevent the nuts from burning.  When you cook the bacon, make sure to make it nice and crispy, so it will crumble easier.

    Nutrition Info:
    6 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 74

    Tasting Notes:
    A wonderful mix of sweet and salty, tender and crunchy in every bite.  This salad would definitely be worthy of company; I loved the warm curry notes in each bite, and the tenderness of the apple.  My only complaint is that - with so much going on - it felt like a main dish salad instead of a side dish, in which case I recommend amping it up either with tempeh or seitan strips, or some chopped Gardein chicken.  


    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Apple Marzipan Galette

    A galette is any variety of French tart with either savory or sweet toppings.  This sweet version would be the fitting cap to a French-themed dinner party. (Perhaps start off the night with the Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic, and Tomato Croutes I prepared earlier this week...)  Having never worked with marzipan before, I was eager to try out this dessert.  A big thanks to the PR rep from Odense, who confirmed that their marzipan is vegan: the sugar used is beet sugar, so there is therefore no need to filter through bone char.

    • 1 (8-ounce) pie dough*
    • Cooking spray
    • 1/2 cup vegan marzipan
    • 4 cups peeled and sliced Granny Smith apple
    • 3/4 cup vegan sugar, divided
    • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon almond extract, divided
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    • Dash of salt.
    1. Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat the foil with cooking spray; set aside.  Roll the pie dough into a 14-inch circle on a lightly floured surface, then transfer to the prepared pan.  Be aware that 14 inches is large for a pie crust, and means it will be very thin.  To transfer easily: roll it up halfway around the rolling pan, and use that as a support when moving over to the baking sheet, being careful not to tear the dough as it pulls away from your work surface.

    2.  Roll the marzipan into a 9-inch circle on a lightly floured surface; place on top of the dough.  As I mentioned, I've never used marzipan before, and found that it rolls easily into a circle, and has a wonderfully workable texture.  Consider me a fan.

    3.  In a bowl, combine the apple slices, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour, 3/4 teaspoon of the almond extract, the lemon juice, and the salt, tossing well to coat.  Spoon the apple mixture over the marzipan.  Fold a 2-inch border of dough up over the apple mixture, pressing gently to seal (you will have a space in the center where the apple is open to the air, not covered by the dough, as per the photo later on in this post).

    4. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes - the galette should be lightly browned by the end.  Don't worry if the apple filling leaks slightly during cooking, since it is bound to happen and that's part of what the aluminum foil is there for!

    5. To make the caramel topping, place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook for about 4 minutes, until the sugar dissolves, stirring as needed so it dissolves evenly.  Once dissolved, continue to cook for 1 minute, until golden.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.  Drizzle over the galette.

    Note: there was another reason I was excited to try this French dessert - it was the perfect compliment for the bottle of certified vegan Muscat dessert wine I found online through The Organic Wine Company.  Pair the two together and you're sure to end the night on a high note.

    *Normally, I'd advocate the store-bought frozen pie crust from Wholly Wholesome for a recipe like this; although the crust comes fitted into a pie plate, you can thaw it at room temperature and then roll it into any size or shape that a recipe calls for.  Because this recipe required a large 14-inch circle, however, I worried that Wholly Wholesome's dough wouldn't be malleable enough.  I tried it in a similar galette recipe about a year ago, and it cracked and was too stiff to fold up properly over the fruit filling.  As a result, I whipped up a quick, 8-ounce pie crust using this recipe, substituting vegan butter and vegan shortening (both from Earth Balance).   However, if you'd prefer to use store-bought dough, it should be fine, and just use care while rolling out and folding over.

    Nutrition Info:
    8 servings (1 wedge), Calories 291

    Tasting Notes:
    The almond flavor made this dessert exceptional rather than just yummy.  I loved the almond-y, toasty note that it gave each bite, although was surprised that the marzipan texture got lost (it must melt while baking).  The only reason this dish wasn't rated a "5" is that the caramel mixture hardened the moment it was poured over the tart, and I wish it had stayed a soft caramel sauce.   From some online research, it seems that for a caramel to stay soft, you'll need to add a tiny bit of butter or non-dairy creamer once off the burner, so you might try that.


    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Chicken Paprikash-Topped Potatoes

    I adore baked potatoes for dinner, and the more creative the topping, the better.  So when I saw this recipe, I had to give it a try.  It takes traditional Hungarian paprikash - a dish of chicken, onions, and paprika, traditionally served over pasta - and puts it on top of a baked potato instead.

    • 4 baking potatoes (about 1 and 1/2 pounds total)
    • 4 Gardein chick'n filets
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
    • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
    • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
    • 1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
    • 2 minced garlic cloves
    • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
    • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    1. Scrub the potatoes with a brush and pierce several times with a fork.  Arrange on paper towels in a microwave and microwave until done, turning halfway through - I recommend starting out with a cook time of 8 minutes, but since microwave strengths can vary considerably, they may need as long as 16 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes before splitting open with a fork and fluffing the pulp.

    2. Meanwhile, cut the Gardein chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Combine the chicken pieces in a zip-top plastic bag with the flour, paprika, salt, and ground red pepper; seal and shake to coat.

    3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken mixture, the onion, the mushrooms, and the garlic; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the broth; bring to a boil, then continue to cook for 6 minutes, until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.

    4. Divide the chicken mixture evenly among the baked potatoes, and sprinkle evenly with the parsley.

    To round out this meal, try serving the potatoes with garlic breadsticks (whether store-bought or homemade) and simple roasted Brussels sprouts: combine 4 cups trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with 2 teaspoons melted vegan butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, tossing to coat.  Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, then prepare the rest of the dish while the sprouts are roasting in the oven.  For the garlic breadsticks, I followed this recipe from Cooking Light, swapping agave nectar for the honey and using one Ener-G egg for the real egg. 

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (1 potato and 1/2 cup chicken mixture), Calories 311

    Tasting Notes:
    The paprikash mixture by itself was already delicious, and serving it over the potatoes made it even better.  Wonderfully creamy from the sour cream - reminiscent of the sauce in the beef stroganoff my mom made when I was a kid - with delicious bites of chicken and mushroom mixed in.  You might consider adding a touch of sherry to bring out the mushroom taste a bit more.  Do make sure to follow the recipe instructions and buy small (about 6 ounce) potatoes. I had initially worried they would be too small and overwhelmed by the sauce, but it was actually the opposite; if the potatoes were any larger, there wouldn't be enough sauce to offset the dryness of the potato flesh.  Also, the recipe did not specify to use Hungarian sweet paprika, but I wish in retrospect that I had; mine had a touch too much heat.


    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Broccoli Bread

    This is one of those recipes that makes me laugh at myself, since nearly all of the ingredients called for are not vegan.  But as always, I'm convinced that one can veganize pretty much anything, and wanted to give this twist on corn bread a try - and boy am I glad I did.

    I thought long and hard about the first ingredient - 1 cup egg substitute - because there are so many ways that the vegan baker can approach eggs.  Normally, I dislike using Ener-G egg replacer when more than four eggs are called for, since it has very little flavor, and it's main purpose is as a thickener.  However, unlike in an omelet or frittata recipe - for which I normally turn to tofu - the egg replacer in this recipe wasn't intended for taste, and nor was it intended to make the bread rise; it was mainly to help the cornbread set.  As a result, I did decide to use Ener-G egg replacer (the equivalent of 8 eggs), and I'm pleased to say it worked well.  However, feel free to experiment, using agar agar, flaxseed in water, or tofu substitutes for eggs.  I would love to hear your results.

    • 8 Ener-G eggs
    • 3/4 cup prepared vegan cottage cheese*
    • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
    • 2 tablespoons melted vegan butter
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 and 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
    • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
    • 8-ounces packaged corn muffin mix**
    • Cooking spray
    1. To start, whisk 1/4 cup Ener-G powder into 1 cup warm water in a large bowl just until foamy, to make the equivalent of 8 eggs.  Add the cottage cheese, the sour cream, the butter, and the salt.  Stir in the onion, the broccoli, and the corn muffin mix, stirring until well blended.  Pour the batter into a 13x9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray.

    2. Bake at 400 degrees for 27 minutes - make sure the mixture is set before removing it from the oven.

    Note: if you bake in a glass baking pan, you will want to reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

    Serve this yummy bread anywhere you'd normally serve corn bread.  It's particularly delicious alongside a bowl of soup - I recommend Amy's black bean vegetable or any of Amy's chilis. 

    *As a reminder for my favorite vegan cottage cheese, you only need to do the following: in a bowl, combine 1 (14-ounce) package lite firm tofu, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a pinch of salt, a few drops of vanilla extract, and a pinch of stevia; mash with a fork to the consistency of cottage cheese, then cover and refrigerate for about 5 hours before use, so the flavors have time to blend. You will have leftovers after using 3/4 cup in this recipe.

    **The original recipe called for Jiffy's corn muffin mix, which is not vegan.  A good alternative is one of the gluten-free corn muffin mixes on the market, which usually (although not always, so be careful) are also vegan.  I used the Yankee Cornbread & Muffin mix from The Gluten-Free Pantry (www.glutino.com).  You won't need the whole box for this recipe, only 8 ounces, so check the serving size of whatever brand you buy and add to the recipe accordingly.

    Nutrition Info:
    12 servings (1 piece), Calories 146

    Tasting Notes:
    Oh my goodness.  I was expecting something mediocre - a slight twist on corn bread, but nothing more - but this was eye-roll good.  I particularly loved how forward the broccoli flavor was, and the onions were delightfully savory.  The interior was moist and dense, making this taste somewhere between corn bread and quiche, and the top of the bread had great buttery flavor, even though there were only two tablespoons of butter.  Since it is indeed so quiche-like, you might consider serving this to company at brunch - it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.  The only note of caution: you won't be able to stop at just one piece.

    Update: leftovers are still delicious, but tended to be a tiny bit limp after 24 hours in the fridge; to perk leftover slices back up again, toast them for a couple of minutes on each side in a dry skillet over medium heat, and they'll be good as new.