Sunday, April 29, 2012

Barbecue Pulled Chicken with Marinated Cucumbers

Sandwiches often get relegated to lunch time, but if you make them fancy enough, they equally deserve a place at the dinner table, or even for company.  This barbecue-spiced Gardein chicken sandwich is begging to be served al fresco on a warm spring evening.  Serve with a simple salad, or make an extra batch of the marinated cucumbers to serve on the side.

For the chicken:
  • 1/4 cup vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
For the cucumbers:
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cucumber
For the remaining ingredients:
  • 4 (2-ounce) hamburger buns
1. To prepare the chicken, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar with the chili powder, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika, and black pepper.  Rub evenly over the Gardein chicken.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side; remove the chicken from the pan.  Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Return the chicken to the pan and add the broth; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the chicken and shred into small pieces (use two forks or your hands if easier).  Return the chicken pieces to the pan and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is all absorbed.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar.

4. Meanwhile, make the cucumbers: combine the cider vinegar with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Peel and slice the cucumber, and add to the vinegar mixture; seal and marinate in the fridge for 10 minutes.  Remove the cucumber slices from the bag and discard the marinade.

5. To assemble the sandwiches, spoon about 1 cup chicken mixture onto the bottom of each hamburger bun.  Top each serving with 1/4 cup cucumber mixture and the top of the bun.

Note: if you're in a rush, you have at least two store-bought options for barbecue chicken: Gardein's bbq pulled shreds and Trader Joe's chicken-less pulled barbecue chicken.  However, I find these versions to be a little too sweet, whereas the brown sugar in this homemade version was just right.  Plus, by virtue of the fact that I have a cooking blog, you know I prefer to make things at home.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 sandwich), Calories 373 

Tasting Notes:
Absolutely delicious, but I was expecting bigger, bolder tastes.  The spicy-and-sweet flavors in the rub could both be stronger (though perhaps this is my fault, since not all of the rub made it from plate to skillet after I initially rubbed it on the Gardein).  I would also marinate the cucumbers longer for stronger pickled flavor.  Even so, the cukes were delicious, and you might want to make extra just to snack on.  The sandwich could also have used more moisture; in that vein I wouldn't simmer off all the liquid next time, but leave it a little syrupy; as is, the hamburger buns are a touch dry. With those changes, this sandwich has the potential to be spectacular. 


Vegan extra:
If you want to add decadence to a sandwich without the trouble of a full recipe, it's easy to dress up your standard lunch fare with a fancy spread instead of plain mustard or vegan mayo. Try your next sandwich with bottled pesto, olive tapenade, or Tofutti cream cheese with fresh herbs stirred in.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cambodian Summer Rolls

Back in December, I served tasty Vietnamese Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce, and thought I'd try this variation using vegan shrimp instead of the Gardein chicken in the former.  To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what makes this recipe 'Cambodian' as opposed to 'Vietnamese.'  All sources I found online said that the main components of a Vietnamese Roll are shrimp, rice noodles, rice paper, and herbs - which are all present here.  However, other websites pointed to the growing popularity of these rolls in Vietnam's neighboring countries, i.e. Cambodia.  So perhaps there's a certain something about the dipping sauce that earns this version the title Cambodian.  But you can forget all that back story - just roll up, dip into the tasty sauce, and enjoy.

For the rolls:
  • 6 cups water
  • 16 Sophie's Kitchen shrimp, thawed
  • 6 ounces uncooked rice noodles*
  • 12 (8-inch) sheets round rice paper
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 cups shredded red leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint
For the dipping sauce:
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
  • 1 minced garlic clove
1. To prepare the rolls, bring 6 cups water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the shrimp and cook for 3 minutes.  Drain, and rinse with cold water.  Chill until ready to prepare the rest of the rolls, then cut each shrimp into 2 or 3 pieces, for 36 pieces of shrimp total.

2. Place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water; let stand for 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, fill a large shallow dish with cold water to a depth of 1 inch.  Place 1 rice paper sheet in the water and let stand for just 1 to 2 minutes, until soft; transfer to a flat surface.

Note: keep the remaining rice paper covered to prevent from curling up, as you work on each roll individually.

4. Spread 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce on the center of the circle.  Top with 3 shrimp pieces, about 1/4 cup rice noodles, 1/4 cup lettuce, 1 teaspoon basil, and 1 teaspoon mint.  Fold the sides of the rice paper over the filling, and roll up jelly-roll style, pressing the seam to seal.  Place, seam side down, on a platter and cover with a towel.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining rice paper and filling.

Note: you'll have the easiest time of it if you've prepped all the ingredients, and everything is lined up on your work surface.  Indeed, for recipes like this, I often work my way backwards through the list of ingredients, to make sure everything has been chopped as needed.

5. To prepare the dipping sauce, combine the soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, sugar, cilantro, lime juice, ginger, chile paste, and garlic in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Serve with the rolls. 

*Be sure to purchase thin rice noodles (vermicelli style).  The thicker variation - about as broad as linguine - would be too wide for the rice paper wrapping.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 roll, about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sauce), Calories 140 

Tasting Notes:
The dipping sauce was far and away my favorite component of this dish - wonderful flavors of soy, fresh lime, and cilantro, with the warm burn of the chile paste on the tongue at the end.  Unfortunately I found the rolls themselves to be a little bland until dipped in the sauce, despite lovely basil and mint.  For one thing, there were too many rice noodles per roll, a detriment both to taste and to the ease with which one could eat the rolls without the filling tumbling out.  I'm also not sure the lettuce really belonged in here.  If I had my way, I'd combine the Vietnamese Rolls I made last December with the dipping sauce from tonight and that might just be the perfect combo.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Southwestern Omelet

I used a very basic tofu recipe for the outside of this omelet, stuffed full with black beans and Daiya cheddar.  If you want to make it a touch 'eggier' try adding nutritional yeast or the Vegg.  I actually have a package of Vegg in my pantry, but am hesitant to use it since it will be my first time.  Please comment if you've already done so and can lend any tips for experimentation.

  • 6 ounces lite silken tofu
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (for color)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup shredded Daiya cheddar
  • 1/4 cup bottled salsa
  • Cooking spray
1. Combine the tofu, water, cornstarch, and turmeric in a food processor and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the cilantro and salt; set aside.

2. Combine the black beans, green onions, cheddar, and salsa in a second bowl.

3. Heat a medium skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat until hot.  Add the egg mixture, spreading into an even circle and cook for about 3 to 6 minutes, until set.

4. Spoon the bean mixture onto half of the omelet; fold the omelet over the filling and cook for a final minute or two.  Slide onto a plate and cut in half to serve.

Note: no points here for neatness, since it's the taste that matters even if your omelet doesn't completely set.  A few tips: let the omelet stand in the skillet about 5 minutes before serving, and the tofu mixture will firm up even more.  You'll also have better luck inverting onto a plate, instead of scooping out with a spatula.

Add a few other southwestern components to round out the meal, which works equally well for brunch or dinner.  I made quick quesadillas with leftover Daiya cheddar: coat 4 (6-inch) corn tortillas with cooking spray, and place two of them, cooking spray sides down, on a baking sheet.  Top each with 2 tablespoons Daiya cheddar and 2 teaspoons chopped green onions.  Cover with the remaining tortillas, cooking spray sides up.  Broil for 2 minutes.  Turn the quesadillas over and broil an additional 2 minutes.  Cut into quarters and serve with any remaining bottled salsa and your favorite vegan sour cream.

Pineapple juice made a sweet contrast to the savory flavors in the dish, as a nice way to wash it all down.

Nutrition Info:
2 servings (1 omelet half), Calories 181 

Tasting Notes:
I loved the southwestern trio in the filling of beans, cheese, and salsa.  I wasn't wild about the green onions, since they barely cooked and retained quite a bite.  Either saute the green onions separately first or omit all together.  The tofu omelet didn't set as much as I hoped, but the edges were best; I would add nutritional yeast and onion powder to make it tastier next time.  But I loved the idea of stirring the cilantro directly into the tofu mixture, which gave a fresh hint of cilantro to each bite.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Tempeh Stew Nicoise

Nicoise olives - a small, tart, lightly salty variety - lend great flavor to this hearty tempeh stew. If you want more hearty olive entree ideas, check out my posts for Zesty Tofu Wraps with Olive Tapenade, or Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Olives and Caramelized Onions.

  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound (1-inch) cubed tempeh
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) undrained cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 (3-inch) orange rind strip
  • 1/2 cup pitted nicoise olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 cups hot cooked rice
1. Combine the lemon juice, sugar, ground red pepper, and salt in a bowl; add the tempeh and toss to coat.  Arrange in a single layer in an 11x7-inch baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

2. Heat a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 7 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the thyme, rosemary, and garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the white wine and bring to a boil.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and the orange rind; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the tempeh and olives and cook for a final 5 minutes.  Discard the orange rind and sprinkle with the parsley.

4. Place 1/2 cup rice in each of 6 bowls, and top each serving with 1 cup stew.

Note: nicoise olives were too small for my olive pitter.  You can remove the pits from several at a time by lining up on a cutting board and whacking with the flat side of a chef's knife - the olives will split open just enough so you can easily pop out the pits.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup rice, 1 cup stew), Calories 407 

Tasting Notes:
I loved parts of this, and wasn't so wild about others.  Namely, the tempeh was some of the best I've ever eaten.  The moment the beautiful golden tempeh nuggets came out of the oven, I nearly scrapped the rest of the recipe and dug in right then.  Fabulous flavor and texture.  The stew itself had way too much onion; I would use only half the amount, and wouldn't miss the rest of the onion one bit.  The olives - salty and juicy - were fabulous, but you'll definitely want at least 1/4 cup more.  I'd leave out the ground red pepper, because it subsumed the thyme and rosemary, and I'd also sprinkle with a touch of orange zest after cooking, because the taste of the orange rind got lost.  Very hearty and filling, a one-dish meal for sure.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Arugula and Cheese Souffle

I had to try again. It's like the itch I can't quite scratch, my holy grail: the vegan souffle.  Once again, I decided tonight was the night to try and get one to rise, savory this time around.  I thought gooey Daiya mozzarella made a nice compliment to the peppery arugula, but try any vegan cheese you like.

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 9 cups trimmed arugula (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 and 1/4 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 Ener-G egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese
  • 6 Ener-G eggs
  • Dash of cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
1. Coat a 1.5-quart souffle dish with cooking spray, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom and sides of the dish.  Set aside.

2. Cook the arugula in boiling water for 15 seconds, just until wilted.  Drain in a sieve and press until barely moist (be careful to press through several layers of paper towels, or you'll scald your fingers).  Finely chop and set aside.

3. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a saucepan with the salt, ground nutmeg, ground red pepper, and black pepper.  Gradually add the milk, whisking until blended.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Continue to cook for 1 minute, until thick.

4. Make 1 Ener-G egg yolk in a large bowl (as a reminder, that's 1 and 1/2 teaspoons powder whisked into 1 tablespoon warm water).  Gradually stir in one-fourth of the hot milk mixture.  Return the whole mixture back to the saucepan, and cook for a final 30 seconds, until thick.  Remove from heat and stir in the arugula and cheese.  Let cool.

5. While the milk mixture cools, it's time to whip up your Ener-G eggs to mimic egg whites.  Combine the 6 Ener-G eggs and a dash of cream of tartar in a large bowl.  Beat for 12 minutes until "stiff peaks" form.  Gently stir one-fourth of the beaten Ener-G mixture into the milk mixture.  Fold in the remaining beaten Ener-G mixture and the baking powder.

 6. Spoon the mixture gently into the prepared souffle dish, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until puffed.  Like all souffles, serve immediately, as it will deflate!  Here's a peak through the oven door:

And here it is just out of the oven:

This dish is an excellent component of a leisurely Sunday brunch - think fresh-squeezed orange juice, vegan bacon strips, and fruit salad.  Or skip the orange juice and pour a glass of crisp white wine, like a (vegan) Sancerre. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/6 of the souffle), Calories 154 

Tasting Notes:
Heck before I talk about taste - it rose!  It rose beautifully, it was puffed, and golden, and spilling over the edges.  I am ecstatic merely for that.  Having conquered that bit, I would tinker with taste next time.  Because I was nervous, I was heavy-handed with the baking powder, which gave a slightly metallic taste to the final product.  Try decreasing to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons (or even 1 teaspoon) and you might still achieve the same results without the metallic tang.  I would also offset the flavor by adding more cheese and more arugula, and instead of the ground red pepper, I would use double the amount of nutmeg.  1/2 cup breadcrumbs was more than necessary to coat the sides of the dish; 1/4 cup should be plenty to achieve the desired result.  Finally, if you want your souffle to taste "eggier" consider adding nutritional yeast or the new Vegg. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

Hummus-Stuffed Pita with Roasted Vegetables

Roasting the vegetables and serving them warm from the oven makes this stuffed pita sandwich different and delicious.

For the roasted vegetables:
  • 5 cups (1-inch) peeled and cubed eggplant
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped red onion
  • 1 and 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomato
  • 1 cup (1-inch) chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
For the hummus:
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 cups drained canned chickpeas
For the remaining ingredients:
  • 4 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas
1. To start, coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray and add the eggplant, red onion, tomato, green bell pepper, thyme, parsley, rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, tossing to combine.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Note: if you want to eliminate some of the prep work, you can use 1 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary instead of the fresh.

2. While the veggies roast, make the hummus: combine all the ingredients listed under hummus in a food processor and process until smooth.  If you prefer, you can also prepare the hummus in advance; store in the fridge up to a couple days before assembling the sandwiches.

3. Cut each pita in half.  Spread 1/4 cup hummus into each pita half, and fill each half with 1/2 cup roasted vegetables.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 pita half), Calories 261

Tasting Notes:
Like I mentioned in the intro, the warm veggies make all the difference; because they instantly heat through the thin pita bread, the entire sandwich grows warm and soft.  The homemade hummus tastes so fresh and light compared to store-bought versions, which I find can be too salty or too tart from lemon. This version was just right, and I loved the toasty cumin flavor.  The sandwich could have used some kind of dipping sauce (made with non-dairy yogurt perhaps) since it was a little dry, but other than that, fantastic. I would play around with different veggies next time, too.  The tender eggplant and sweet tomatoes were great, but I would try artichoke hearts in place of the bell pepper and onions.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

White Bean Salad with Shrimp and Asparagus

I'm circling back through some of my springtime favorites, such as pasta primavera and creamy vegetable soups.  Last spring, I made a salad similar to this one, with fresh sugar snap peas, arugula, and Match chicken.  To play around with the flavors, tonight's version uses asparagus as the veggie, spinach as the greens, and vegan shrimp in place of the chicken - try Sophie's Kitchen, the newest contender on the vegan seafood scene.

  • 2 cups (1-inch) sliced asparagus
  • 12 ounces Sophie's Kitchen shrimp, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 cups torn fresh spinach
  • 2 cups rinsed and drained canned cannellini beans
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 Lightlife bacon slices
  • 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia green onions
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1. Steam the asparagus, covered, for 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

2. Sprinkle the shrimp with 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Heat the canola oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until thoroughly heated.  Transfer the shrimp to a bowl, along with the asparagus, torn spinach, and cannellini beans - toss well.

3. Return the skillet to the burner over medium heat and coat with cooking spray; add the bacon and cook for about 4 minutes, or until nice and crisp.  Remove from the pan, crumble, and set aside.  Recoat the pan with cooking spray and add the green onions and garlic; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently - the onion should be soft.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining black pepper (1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon), the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, the crumbled bacon, the chicken broth, the parsley, the lemon juice, and the cider vinegar.  Drizzle over the white bean mixture and toss to coat.  The salad will be best served immediately, just after the warm vinaigrette wilts the spinach. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 3/4 cups), Calories 245 

Tasting Notes:
I loved how crisp the asparagus was in contrast to the tenderness of the beans.  Whereas the chicken flavor dominated in the version I made last year, all of the flavors felt lighter and brighter this time around - great acidic lemon, salty bacon, and fresh spinach.  This is only the second time I've tried the shrimp from Sophie's Kitchen, and I found it quite pleasing - just the right hint of "fishy-ness" without being overwhelmingly so.  A great spring salad.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Last spring, I extolled the Cream of Enter-Spring-Vegetable-Name-Here Soup, and showcased a velvety smooth Cream of Leek Soup.  This year, I'm turning to fresh crisp asparagus - enjoy the soup now before this beautiful spring heats up into an all-too-early summer.

  • 3 cups (1/2-inch) sliced asparagus
  • 2 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)*
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vegan butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1. Combine the asparagus, chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, bay leaf, and garlic clove in a large saucepan.

2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.

3. Transfer the asparagus mixture to a blender and process until smooth. Be sure to remove the center piece of your blender's lid and cover over with a paper towel or dish towel; this way steam can escape, to avoid a messy soup explosion.

4. Place the flour in the saucepan, and gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk until blended.  Add the pureed asparagus mixture and the nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon thyme, the butter, salt, and lemon rind.

Ladle into bowls. A few extra asparagus tips make an elegant garnish.

*I really like using vegan chicken broths for vegetable soups; they're paler in color and more subtle in taste than store-bought vegetable broths - perfect for an application like this soup, in other words, because it lets the asparagus shine.  If your local grocer doesn't carry un-chicken broth, however, vegetable broth will work in a pinch.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/4 cups), Calories 117 

Tasting Notes:
Loved this - all the things I remember adoring about the leek version - velvety smooth, creamy, and a hint of sweetness from the milk (I used soy).  Whereas the leeks added only subtle flavor, meaning the butter and salt dominated, this version was much "greener" - amazing tastes of bay, thyme, and asparagus. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Garlic Fries

These are just about the most decadent french fries ever, but because they're oven-baked and not fried, they're actually quite "good for you" in comparison to oil-fried potatoes.

  • 3 pounds baking potatoes 
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 8 minced garlic cloves*
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan sprinkles (such as Galaxy Foods)
1. Peel the potatoes, and cut into 1/4-inch thick strips.  Combine the potatoes in a zip-top plastic bag with the canola oil and salt; seal and shake to coat.

2. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Stir and return to the oven for an additional 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. Combine the butter and garlic in a large skillet and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the potatoes, parsley, and Parmesan sprinkles, tossing to coat.  At this point the fries are best served immediately. 

Serve with your favorite veggie burger for the vegan equivalent of fast food - without all the unhealthy stuff or cruelty.

*Because garlic cloves vary considerably in size, you'll wind up with very garlic-y fries if you use 8 large cloves.  If you're not a big garlic fan, keep the amount in check by mincing and measuring to equal 5 teaspoons instead.  But if you love garlic, use the biggest cloves your heart desires.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings, (about 1 cup), Calories 256 

Tasting Notes:
Like I said at the top of this post: decadent.  Garlicky and cheesy, with a nice fresh pop from the parsley.  The butter and oil were finger-looking good without the fries ever feeling greasy.  The fries were a little too tender, so I'd cook about 10 minutes less to maintain a crisper fry.  


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Herbed Cheese Pizza (Lahmacun)

Tonight, I took a little journey in my kitchen to Turkey.  The country is experiencing quite a moment for its meze - appetizers and other noshes - in up-and-coming restaurants.  I figured it would be fun to highlight a vegan version of lahmacun, Turkey's take on pizza.

I thought long and hard before making this recipe about how to replace the kasseri cheese, a sheep's milk cheese from Greece and Turkey.  Having never tasted the variety back in my cheese-eating days, I wanted to make sure I came as close as possible with whatever vegan brand I chose.  Online descriptions call the cheese "buttery" and suggest provolone and mozzarella as substitutes.  The best "buttery" mozzarella I know of is from Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet, so ultimately that's what I decided to go with here.  But if you haven't yet heard, Daiya has just started making wedges in addition to its shreds, so perhaps this pizza is the perfect opportunity to try out a Daiya wedge. If so, let me know how your version turns out.

For the dough:
  • 2 cups bread flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 2 packages dry yeast (about 4 and 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees), divided
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Cooking spray
For the topping:
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (28-ounce) undrained can diced tomatoes
  • 10 ounces thinly sliced Vegan Gourmet mozzarella
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1. To prepare the dough, lightly spoon the bread flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine 1 cup bread flour in a bowl with the sugar, yeast, and 1 cup warm water; let stand for 15 minutes.  Oh those beautiful bubbles - a sure sign of happy, healthy yeast:

2. Lightly spoon the all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine 2 cups of the all-purpose flour with the remaining 1 cup bread flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the yeast mixture, the remaining 1 cup warm water, and 2 teaspoons olive oil; stir well.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead just until smooth and elastic; add enough of the remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.  Indeed, I found the dough to be quite sticky, so added some of the extra flour while the dough was still in the bowl, and only kneaded for a few minutes.  For a reminder on kneading, check out this link.

3.  Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning so the top is coated as well.  Cover and let rise some place warm and free from drafts (such as an unheated, closed oven) for 45 minutes.  Punch the dough down and divide into 8 portions; cover and let rest for 20 minutes. 

Well hello there adorable little portions of dough:

4. Meanwhile, prepare the topping: combine the oregano, cumin, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl; set aside.

5. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the garlic, the bay leaf, and the canned tomatoes; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, until thick.  Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf.

6. Back to the dough - roll each portion into a 6-inch circle on a lightly floured surface, working with 1 portion at a time (keep the remaining dough covered to prevent it from drying), and then place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

7. Top each crust with about 1/4 cup tomato mixture.  Divide the cheese evenly among the pizzas (about 1 and 1/4 ounces each), and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon oregano mixture.

8. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes - the crusts should just be lightly browned.  Sprinkle evenly with the parsley.

Want to continue the Turkish theme?  Serve with store-bought dolmas (stuffed grape leaves - just make sure they don't contain feta or meat) and other finger foods like sweet sticky dates.

Note: if you're short on time, you could use store-bought pizza crusts (either individual 6-inch ones, or two 12-inch crusts, and then slice into wedges), but I really don't recommend it.  This homemade version is one of the yummiest pizza doughs I've ever eaten.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 pizza), Calories 434 

Tasting Notes:
Utterly awesome - a soft pillowy dough topped with savory tomato sauce, wonderful spice blend, and melty mozzarella.  I was worried the spices would be too hot, but it was the oregano that came through best - delicious in combination with the crust and cheese.  A minor complaint is that I would have liked the crust a little crisper; I've never had traditional lahmacun, so not sure if such a soft crust is normal, but I would cook for about 5 to 10 minutes longer.  But that doesn't stop this recipe from earning a rating of '5.'