Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Smothered Beans with Leeks and Collard Greens

Vegan food is often derided as expensive, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Sure, there are fancy, pre-made items on the market, and I am guilty of loving many of them, including Gardein, Yves Veggie deli slices, Daiya cheese, and Tofurky sausages.  But there's simply no better bang for your buck than the bulk section of your supermarket, and just about everything you'll find there (with the exception of non-vegan granola or snack mixes perhaps) is vegan.

Beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, rices... Not only are the items sold in bulk packed with nutrition, but they are cheap, will keep dried in the pantry for ages, and require only hands-free prep time (soaking, in most cases) to pull together a recipe.

Tonight's recipe uses two kinds of dried beans from the bulk section - Great Northern and pinto.  Read on for the rest of this hearty recipe.

  • 1 cup dried Great Northern beans
  • 1/4 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leek
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 1 pound chopped collard greens
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained and chopped can whole tomatoes**
1.Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with water to 2 inches above the beans.  Cover and let stand for 8 hours.  Drain.

2. Return the beans to the pan and add 1 quart water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Let cool.

3. Drain the beans through a colander over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid.  Add enough extra water to the cooking liquid to equal 3 cups (about an extra 3/4 cup, at this point), and set aside.

4. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and garlic; saute for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Note: don't forget that the best way to clean leeks is to slice first, then rinse in a colander, since dirt can accumulate between the many layers of this aromatic. 

5. Transfer the leek mixture to a large bowl and add the collard greens, tossing to combine.

6. Arrange half of the leek mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Top with the beans, and cover with the remaining leek mixture.  Layering the beans in this way helps to evenly distribute the flavor.

7.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Pour the reserved cooking liquid over the greens.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for 1 hour, stirring only once halfway through.  Uncover and add the tomatoes; simmer for a final 10 minutes.

Make this part of a fancy "rice and beans" pairing by adding a pilaf or risotto on the side.  Tonight I served with mushroom rice, and a beet salad.

Want ideas to mix and match some of my recipes from this past month?  Start the evening with an appetizer course of Lemon Soy Aioli, then serve alongside the Wild Mushroom-Barley "Risotto" with Sage.  Finish with Apple-Cranberry Walnut Crisp for dessert.  How's that for a cozy winter meal?

*Use 1 teaspoon dried oregano instead of fresh if you prefer.

**Add the undrained can of tomatoes to the pan, and then break the tomatoes into pieces directly in the pot; that's the easiest way to chop a can of whole tomatoes when the recipe calls for it undrained. I recommend a low-sodium variety, to keep down the overall sodium in the dish.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 153 

Tasting Notes:
What flavor!  Deeply earthy beans, a stock that became so richly infused it was almost like "not beef" broth, and lush hints of tomato, leek and oregano.  The beans were perfectly tender, and the combination of the beans and crisp-tender collards was just right.  My only complaint is that this dish didn't quite know what it was.  A bowl of soup?  A heaping side dish of beans?  A main course?  I would drain off the excess liquid before serving next time, so the dish is less soup-y, but wouldn't make any changes in terms of flavor.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Super Simple Peanut Soup with Vegetables

This soup is super simple to whip up, as the title suggests, but I actually first saw this recipe about a year ago, and it's taken me this long to make it.  Read on for the reason why.

  • 28 ounces vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1/2 cup peanut satay sauce (such as Thai Kitchen)*
  • 4 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 (12.3-ounce) drained and cubed package extra-firm tofu
  • 4 cups hot cooked basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional for garnish)
1. Combine the broth and peanut sauce in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Add the broccoli, bell pepper, and tofu cubes.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the rice.  Serve 1 cup soup over 2/3 cup rice in each of 6 bowls, adding 1 teaspoon cilantro as garnish to each serving, if desired.

Feel free to play around with ingredients; cubed tempeh, Gardein chicken, or Match pork would make excellent substitutions for the tofu, and you can swap out just about any veggies you can think of - fresh or frozen - for the broccoli and bell pepper.  Just don't replace the peanut sauce.  Here's why...

*The key ingredient to the original recipe for this soup was Taste of Thai's peanut salad dressing mix, a dehydrated flavor mix made primarily of sugar, coconut milk powder, peanuts, and spices, which is mixed with liquid (in this case broth) to rehydrate.

I first tracked down the dressing mix last spring, but puzzled over several of the ingredients - a heck of a lot of chemical and obscure sounding items like malic acid and sodium caseinate. I decided to double check with the company that the mix was vegan.  Many thanks to Taste of Thai for a prompt response, but I was alarmed to receive only a curt, "Sorry but it is not suitable for vegan diets."

This reply left me even more confused.  Which item wasn't vegan?  My best guess is the sodium caseinate (perhaps related to the casein protein from dairy milk) but note to vegans everywhere: put your peanut salad dressing mix back on the shelf.

I tabled the recipe with a sigh, as a result, although occasionally I found myself Google searching for an organic company making a similar peanut dressing mix.  Recently, I noticed a little jar of "peanut satay sauce" in the Asian section of Whole Foods.  It has the same main ingredients as the peanut salad dressing mix (coconut, peanuts, sugar), minus all the scary-sounding chemical stuff, and it's essentially the same thing except already rehydrated in water.  The best part?  The bottle is labeled as vegan.

I changed the quantity to reflect the fact that the Thai Kitchen version is already mixed into water, rather than a powder, but I am delighted to present to you at last this not-so-super-simple-to-veganize but super-simple-to-make peanut soup. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup soup, 2/3 cup rice), Calories 318 

Tasting Notes:
I am so pleased to say that this turned out exactly as I imagined, using peanut satay sauce instead of the dressing mix.  The peanut and coconut flavors were just right, and you get a crazy amount of flavor and spice from the sauce, without having to measure out tons of individual ingredients.  Because the soup is served over rice, it was more like a watery curry than a soup.  Next time, I would use half the amount of broth for something close to a thick stew, and serve over rice that way. I would also rate the soup much higher if I tinkered with ingredients, since broccoli and bell pepper aren't my favorite veggies.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lemon Soy Aioli

Aioli is a traditional Provencal garlic-y version of mayonnaise, consisting of garlic, olive oil, and eggs.  You can easily make it vegan by using soft tofu in place of the eggs.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 8 ounces soft tofu
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the garlic and cook for 10 minutes.  Drain.

2. Meanwhile, place the tofu on several layers of paper towels, and cover with additional paper towels.  Let stand for 10 minutes, to soak up any excess liquid.

3. Combine the tofu, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth.

This aioli is great for dipping fresh vegetables, like carrot sticks, celery sticks, radishes, zucchini, and yellow squash, and is also wonderful as a sandwich spread.

Nutrition Info:
14 servings (1 tablespoon), Calories 23 

Tasting Notes:
Between the strong tastes of lemon and salt, I thought this was closer to a tahini or hummus spread, than to what I would think of as aioli. But that's not a bad thing!  The garlic flavor was mellow from the stint in boiling water, and the texture and taste worked great with crudites.  I recommend a double batch - 14 tablespoons will be gone in moments if you put out a big platter of raw veggies.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Cuban Beans and Rice Salad

This easy salad does double duty; perfect for dinner, it also travels well for lunch at work the next day.

  • 1/2 cup peeled and diced avocado
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped plum tomato
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 (15-ounce) rinsed and drained can black beans
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1. Combine the avocado, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cumin, salt, and black pepper in a bowl; toss gently.

2. Add the rice, plum tomato, parsley, black beans, and cilantro, and toss well.

Note: Omit the cilantro if you're not a fan; I've recently learned that some people have a genetic dislike for it, so leave it out if that's the case for you.

You can serve the salad chilled or at room temperature.  Because you can cook the rice ahead of time, this salad will come together in moments.

Tonight I served with baked tortilla chips and a simple pineapple salsa: in a bowl, toss together 3 cups chopped pineapple, 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno pepper, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro, 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  These amounts make for a fiery salsa; if you want less heat, I recommend seeding the jalapeno or using less.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup), Calories 184 

Tasting Notes:
The dish had nice, subtle flavors - nothing over the top or too bold.  The balsamic vinegar was quite good in combination with the avocado and black beans. I would add more cumin, more avocado, and other spices such as coriander next time, but since - as mentioned - my pineapple salsa was fiery tonight, I appreciated the mildness of the rice and beans in comparison. 


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tomato and Roasted Pepper Salad

About a week ago, I grilled tomatoes to perk up their lackluster winter flavor.  Marinating is another tactic to restore summer flavor to your winter tomatoes.  I tried this last year in my Tomato Salad with Lemon and Agave, and tonight I'm using a similar technique for this vibrant salad.

  • 4 medium tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup bottled caperberries*
1. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and membranes.  Place, skin sides up, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and flatten with your hand.  Broil for 10 minutes, until blackened.  Transfer the peppers to a zip-top plastic bag and seal.  Let stand for 10 minutes, then peel off the skins and cut into 3/4-inch strips.

2.  Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into 4 slices each, and arrange in a single layer on a platter.  Whisk together 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and the agave nectar; drizzle over the tomato slices.  Sprinkle with the salt and black pepper and let stand for 15 minutes to marinate.

3. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar in a bowl with the red wine vinegar, olive oil, and garlic.  Add the bell pepper strips and caperberries, and toss to coat.  Spoon the bell pepper mixture over the tomato slices. 

*Don't confuse small capers for caperberries.  Although from the same plant, the latter are the fruit (about the size of olives), whereas capers are the immature buds.  You'll find caperberries near olives and capers in the supermarket.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (2 tomato slices, about 2 tablespoons bell pepper mixture), Calories 48

Tasting Notes:
"Fresh" is the first word that sprang to mind - not something that happens often in winter.  The salad balanced salty (the caperberries) and sweet (the balsamic, the roasted bell pepper) quite nicely.  A touch on the acidic side, but quite bright and pleasant.  Caperberries, which I've never had before, are an absolute pop of salty goodness - great in combination with both the bell pepper and the tomato.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Apple-Cranberry Walnut Crisp

This homey dessert features a classic crisp topping: flour, oats, (vegan) butter, and cinnamon, but the extra touch of sweetness from maple syrup and the addition of cranberries give this version a New England feel.  You can use either apple cider or apple juice, but I chose the former.  Either way, the dessert makes the perfect finish to any evening in your home, and I also enjoyed leftovers for breakfast.

For the filling:
  • 9 cups peeled and sliced Gala apple
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of salt
For the topping:
  • 1 cup regular oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Spoon into a 13x9-inch baking dish.

2. Combine all of the topping ingredients in a second bowl.  I found that the easiest way to mix was with my hands.  Because the ingredients are simply mixed together, instead of cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, it is almost like cookie dough.  Sprinkle evenly over the apple mixture.

3. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes - the topping should be crisp and you want the juices to be thick and bubbly.

I recommend serving a la mode, with vegan vanilla ice cream on the side:

Note: if you want to make the crisp in advance, it reheats well; place in the oven at 250 degrees until warmed. 

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1 portion), Calories 282 

Tasting Notes:
The topping tasted like a cross between homemade granola and crisp oatmeal cookies.  Crisp on top and soft and chewy underneath where it touched the warm fruit, it was almost like eating a fresh-baked granola bar.  The fruit filling was yummy, but not outstanding in any way.  I would increase both the vanilla and cinnamon next time.  The walnut flavor in the topping, on the other hand, was very pronounced and delicious.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Grilled Steak with Charred Tomato Salsa

The point of this meal really isn't the steak - made with Match beef - but rather the beautiful tomato preparation on the side.  I love finding ways to perk up winter-weary tomatoes, and grilling is a great method since the high heat will caramelize the sugars in the tomato, creating juicy, rich flavor.  Serve the tomato salsa alongside any other entree if you prefer.

  • 2 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon basil-flavored olive oil*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 6 thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 12 ounces thawed Match beef
1. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally; core and seed the tomatoes.  Place, cut sides down, on paper towels and let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Heat a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Place the tomatoes, cut sides down, in the pan and grill for 5 minutes.  Turn over and grill for about 1 to 3 more minutes - you want the skin on the bottom to char.  Remove from the grill pan and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch pieces, and combine with the red onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and basil.

4.  Sprinkle the Match beef with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Add to the grill pan and grill for 6 minutes on each side.  Let stand for 5 minutes and then cut into slices to serve, with the tomato salsa on the side.

To round out the meal, I tossed together a mixed greens salad and roasted these simple potato wedges: cut 2 medium-sized baking potatoes into wedges and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons crushed rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.  

*I found basil-flavored olive oil at Whole Foods, but if you can't locate it, it's easy to make a batch at home.  Combine 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and 1/4 cup regular olive oil in a saucepan.  Heat over low heat just until the oil sizzles.  Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.  Strain through a sieve and discard the basil.  Leftovers not used for this recipe will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (3 ounces beef, 1/4 cup tomato salsa), Calories 206 

Tasting Notes:
Although I found the tomatoes to be a little mushy off the grill pan, the summer-y flavors of the dish were quite good here in February.  I would tweak the ratio of ingredients - less red onion, a little less vinegar, and more basil olive oil.  The Match beef was grilled to perfection, and a perfect foil for the bright flavors of the salsa.  Add in the potato wedges and a salad and this was an elegant little meal.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spicy Mulligatawny

The title of this recipe is actually redundant; mulligatawny is a curry-flavored soup from India, which literally translates as "pepper water," so any version ought to be spicy.  If you don't like food quite so spicy, cut the curry powder, ginger, and red pepper amounts in half.  You can also control the level of heat depending what variety of mango chutney you buy.  I recommend Geeta's brand (certified by the U.K.'s Vegan Society), which sells mango chutney from mild to hot.  I chose the halfway ground and used their medium variety.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 2 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped Gala apple*
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 28 ounces vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1/3 cup mango chutney
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional for garnish)
1. Heat 1 teaspoon of the canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan; saute for 3 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan.  Add the apple, onion, carrot, celery, and green bell pepper; saute for 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour, curry powder, ginger, crushed red pepper, and salt.  Cook for 1 minute.

3. Add the chicken broth, chutney, and tomato paste; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.  Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for a final 2 minutes.  I liked sprinkling individual servings with just a touch of chopped parsley for a fresh burst of flavor (and color). 

Serve with pita wedges on the side to round out the meal.

For a cooling dessert after all those spices, I served vegan vanilla ice cream topped with simple sauteed pears: toss 2 cups sliced and peeled pear with 1 teaspoon lemon juice.  Melt 1 tablespoon vegan butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pear and saute for 6 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar.  Scoop your favorite vegan vanilla into dessert bowls (I like Soy Delicious); top with the pear mixture and crumbled gingersnap cookies (such as Mi-del). 

*A sweet apple like Gala is a nice foil to the spicy soup. Any other sweet variety, such as Braeburn, would also work.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/4 cups), Calories 236 

Tasting Notes:
This soup had exactly the kind of heat I like - not a burn on the tongue (my gripe sometimes with Mexican cuisine), but a warmth that grows from the inside out, slowly warming down the throat until you might actually pop a sweat.  The tender sweet apple was marvelously unexpected, and the sweet chutney and savory tomato balanced one another perfectly in the broth.  The broth is a touch thin, so I might puree half of the soup next time with a hand-held blender, to add thickness to the body.  I would also chop the celery and carrot very fine, so they are more tender.  Minor complaints - this was delicious "pepper water."


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caramelized Onion Chicken

The secret ingredient in the sauce for this sweet-spicy chicken is raspberry jam.  I recommend sauteed haricots verts on the side to round out the meal.

  • 12 ounces Gardein chicken*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam**
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1. Sprinkle the Gardein chicken evenly with the salt and pepper; set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the chicken; saute for 8 minutes.  Remove the onion and chicken from the pan.

3. Add the jam, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and rosemary.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Return the chicken and onion to the pan and cook for a final 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*As with my recipe for Curried Chicken and Chickpeas, I recommend smaller-sized pieces of Gardein for this dish, such as their buffalo or barbecue wings.  Both are sold in the freezer section, and come with an accompanying sauce.  Discard the sauce, or save for another use, and use the plain chicken for the recipe.  Although there's no need to thaw the frozen chicken before adding to the skillet, I find that it cooks more evenly if I give it a quick defrost in the microwave.

**There are many brands of vegan jam on the market (sweetened with organic sugar or simply fruit juice), but nearly all contain seeds.  I do recommend seedless jam for this recipe, however, which is harder to find (when ruling out companies that use high fructose corn syrup - vegan, but yuck).  One good option is the seedless raspberry jam from Sorrell Ridge. However, any organic raspberry jam with seeds will work in a pinch.  

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (3 ounces chicken, 1 tablespoon sauce), Calories 246 

Tasting Notes:
An odd blend of ingredients, but the raspberry, ginger, and soy sauce married perfectly, and the bright rosemary flavor was delicious.  I recommend plating about 5 minutes before serving - the raspberry mixture will thicken slightly as it cools, and then coats the chicken beautifully.  I wanted more caramelized onion, especially since it is in the title of the recipe.  I would triple the amount and caramelize way down with vegan sugar before adding the chicken to the pan and proceeding as directed.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wild Mushroom-Barley "Risotto" with Sage

This hearty dish isn't a true risotto, since it's made with pearl barley instead of rice, and the cooking method is actually closer to a pilaf.  The creamy, rich texture of the final product tastes similar to a risotto though.  There are two components to my post tonight: first, a savory porcini stock, which then is used to simmer the barley for the final result.

For the Rich Porcini Stock:
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 5 cups warm water, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups coarsely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup vegan dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 whole garlic head, cut in half
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 flat-leaf parsley sprig
  • 1 fresh sage sprig
1. Combine the porcini mushrooms and 2 cups warm water in a bowl.  Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.  Drain the mixture through a colander over a bowl, reserving the liquid.

2. Rinse the mushrooms, and transfer to a large saucepan.  Strain the reserved liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into the pan.  Add the remaining 3 cups warm water and all the remaining ingredients for the stock.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat (this won't take nearly as long as you'd think, since you're starting with warm water).  Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.  Strain through a colander and discard the solids.  If you prefer to use this stock for soup or a recipe other than this risotto, then stop reading right now.  It will keep in the fridge up to 3 days, or can be frozen up to 2 months.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 53

And now for the risotto:

  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 recipe Rich Porcini Stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 8 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/3 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Combine the barley and 2 cups water in a bowl.  Let stand for 2 hours; drain.

2. Place the prepared porcini stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook for 5 minutes.  Add the shiitake mushrooms and sea salt; cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add the barley, porcini stock, and sage.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the liquid is mostly absorbed.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, butter, and black pepper.

Note: Tonight I used Galaxy Foods' vegan mozzarella block.  Use a different vegan cheese if you prefer of course.

Great side dishes for this meal include roasted winter vegetables (think carrots, parsnips, and turnips) perhaps glazed in a touch of the leftover red wine from the porcini stock.  I also added a salad of watercress in bottled dressing, which was a light, peppery contrast to the earthy risotto.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (about 2/3 cup), Calories 191

Tasting Notes:
One of the better barley-and-mushroom dishes I've had, out of many I've made. The Rich Porcini Stock adds a depth of flavor, and the creaminess of the butter stirred in just at the end is great. The sage got lost under all the savory mushroom taste; I recommend stirring in a little fresh sage just before serving, or garnishing with sage sprigs.


Monday, February 6, 2012

New Year's Rice Cake

Admittedly I'm a bit late making this cake, a dessert traditionally served around Chinese New Year.  But I was away from home a couple weeks ago when we rang in the Year of the Dragon, and still wanted a chance to bake this intriguing dessert - better late than never.  It was my first time baking with glutinous (sweet) rice flour, so I was curious to see how the cake would turn out.  Don't mistakenly buy regular white flour; made from short (sticky) rice, sweet rice flour is essential to making the cake turn out right.  Bob's Red Mill and Ener-G are two common brands to look for.

  • 3 and 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied pineapple
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 Ener-G eggs
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  (For even more accurate measuring, use a kitchen scale; the 3 and 1/2 cups called for should be about 1 pound).  Combine the flour in a bowl with the sugar, dried cherries, candied pineapple, dates, almonds, and baking powder.

Note: check for candied pineapple made with raw or otherwise vegan sugar. I would normally caution the same when purchasing dried sweetened cherries, but dried tart cherries shouldn't have any sweetener added.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, canola oil, and Ener-G eggs.  Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moist.

3. Spoon the batter into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes - a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool the cake for 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

If you want to continue the theme, serve after a dinner of vegan fish (a symbol of prosperity at the New Year), dumplings (representing togetherness), and Chinese stir-fried vegetables (symbolizing happiness and good fortune). 

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 wedge), Calories 389 

Tasting Notes:
This cake was like nothing I've ever tasted; if you've ever had mochi squares, that's the closest I can think of to describe it.  If you haven't had mochi, think of rice pudding in a cake form, and you'll sort of grasp the taste.  In other words, the rice flavor is quite pronounced (more so than I would have thought), but the dried fruit was a nice contrast and sweet burst of flavor.  I was not a huge fan of the chewy interior at first, but it actually grew on me.  Eating slices of cake for a snack two days later (chilled from the fridge), the flavor had only improved.  My verdict is that it's definitely worth baking with sweet rice flour at least once.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Agave and Spice-Glazed Pork

If you haven't tried Match meats, I strongly recommend a little journey over to their website to check out what the fuss is all about.  The coolest thing I know about this all-vegan meat company is that they sell their beef, pork, and other mock-meats directly in the meat aisle of select grocery stores here in NYC.  Rather than relegating plant-based proteins to a special, hidden "vegan" section, I commend the company for taking back the word "meat."  Meat, after all, used to refer to any solid food, as distinguished from beverage - think of the meat of a coconut, for example.  So please don't be alarmed when you find recipes on my site referring to pork, beef, chicken, or even crab.  I do not put these things in quotations because I consider what I'm eating quite real, and have Match to thank for it.

For this dish, Match pork gets dressed up with a sweet and spicy glaze. 

  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound Match pork, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Whisk together the agave, mustard, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Divide the pork into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch thick patty.  Sprinkle evenly with the salt and black pepper.  Add the pork to the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the agave mixture.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, turning the pork over halfway through.

Serve with mashed red potatoes sprinkled with fresh chives (leave the skin on for a beautifully rustic presentation) to round out the meal.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 pork piece, 1 tablespoon glaze), Calories 321

Tasting Notes:
One of the best Match pork recipes I've made to date.  The glaze had a wonderful sweetness without being cloyingly so, and the touch of ginger was subtly spicy.   Much like the honey-mustard sauce I used to dip nuggets into in pre-vegan days; the sweetness accentuated the savory Match underneath. I highly recommend those mashed potatoes on the side - perfect for soaking up the last bits of glaze from the plate.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

White Cheese and Sausage Pasta

With leftover Tofurky Italian sausage in my fridge, I thought I'd make this indulgent baked pasta.  Use a combination of cheeses for the best result.  I highly recommend that one of your cheeses be a melt-y mozzarella (such as Daiya or Vegan Gourmet), but the second really depends on preference.  I chose Galaxy Foods' mozzarella block, but any brand of vegan Parmesan sprinkles or shredded Sheese would be nice too.

  • 2 (4-ounce) Tofurky Italian sausages
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 4 cups uncooked ziti
  • 3/4 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded Daiya mozzarella
1. Break the sausage links into crumbles, and cook in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until browned.  Remove the sausage from the pan and place on paper towels.

2. Wipe the pan with a paper towel.  Add the butter, and melt over medium heat.  Add the flour, stirring with a whisk.  Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth.  Continue to cook for about 8 minutes, until thick; remove from heat.

3. Meanwhile, cook the ziti according to package directions; you should have about 6 cups hot cooked pasta.  Drain.

3. In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture, sausage, cooked ziti, 3/4 cup vegan cheese, and the salt.  Spoon the mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with the mozzarella.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes - the top should be lightly browned.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 577 

Tasting Notes:
A wonderfully indulgent dish full of creaminess from the two cheeses and the milk-and-flour roux.  In fact, this was probably the best roux I've ever produced in my kitchen, texture-wise, so I was quite proud.  I loved the bits of sausage, but the dish could use a little more layering.  Consider adding wilted spinach or another veggie, minced or bottled garlic, crushed red pepper, or other herbs and spices.