Saturday, August 31, 2013

Devil's Food Cake

Devil's food cake is the opposite of angel food cake - the former is rich and chocolaty, whereas the latter is light and airy. Certainly, it's easier to make devil's food cake vegan, since recipes typically call for one or two eggs. (Angel food, but contrast, generally calls for 10 or 12 eggs, although that doesn't stop me from trying!). Another characteristic of devil's food cake is that it uses cocoa powder, rather than the chocolate that goes into a standard chocolate cake. The cocoa gives the cake a slightly reddish tint after cooking, which is another possible origin of the cake's name. But I like to think it's called "devil's food" because it's so devilishly delicious.

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules*
  • 1 tablespoon vegan powdered sugar
1. Coat an 8-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray, and dust with 2 teaspoons flour; set aside.

2. Place the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until melted.  Add the cocoa, stirring well with a whisk.

3. Add the brown sugar, stirring to combine, then add the Ener-G eggs and whisk until smooth (whisk gently, to avoid sloshing).  Stir in the baking soda, vanilla extract, and salt.

4. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Add the flour to the cocoa mixture, stirring just until blended.  In a measuring cup, combine the hot water and espresso granules, then add to the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Note: The batter is quite watery at this point, so much so that I worried it wouldn't set properly during baking. These fears were unfounded, so don't fret if you are also concerned about how wet the batter is.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes - a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then dust with the powdered sugar.

Cut the cake into 9 squares, and serve warm from the pan or at room temperature.

*If you don't have instant espresso, use 2 teaspoons instant coffee instead.

Nutrition Info:
9 servings (1 square), Calories 221

Tasting Notes:
I don't think I've ever had a cake simultaneously so rich in flavor but airy and light in texture - a fantastic combination. The cake is almost fluffy, and yet bursting with chocolate. If you want to take this up a notch, try your favorite vegan frosting on top. The powdered sugar was nice, but I know this cake would be even better frosted.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Gazpacho Andaluz

Summer isn't complete without making gazpacho, so I realized I'd better hurry it up since we're already up to Labor Day weekend. This version is typical of gazpacho recipes from the Andalusia region of southern Spain. Originally, gazpacho was a soup of bread, garlic, salt, olive oil, vinegar, and water. The tomatoes we're used to weren't added until after the "discovery" of America. To harken back to the original, try serving this with a good fresh bread.

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds tomatoes
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped and peeled cucumber
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 coarsely chopped garlic cloves
1. First, cut the tomatoes into quarters.

Note: Be sure to choose the ripest, reddest tomatoes you can find for this recipe. You'll be glad you did!

2. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth.

3. Press the tomato mixture through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon; discard the solids. There will be a surprising amount of these "solids" leftover, and you'll wind up with a salmon-pink, wonderfully smooth soup.

4. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 80

Tasting Notes:
Too vinegary, alas, so use only 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar and it ought to come out better. Either that or increase the amount of tomatoes and keep everything else the same, and the balance would be right. This gazpacho is definitely different, since I've almost always prepared or consumed chunky versions, but aside from the novelty factor, I'll probably go back to chunky gazpacho in the future. This would have been better with soaked bread added right into the bowl, or a little fresh cucumber garnish on top.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

I had fun making southern black-eyed peas about a week ago, and thought I'd continue the theme this evening with okra, a decidedly southern vegetable.

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cups trimmed okra pods
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1. Heat the canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes.

2. Add the okra, water, sugar, salt, black pepper, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

I rounded out the meal with mac and cheese (made with Daiya) and black-eyed peas.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup), Calories 72

Tasting Notes:
Not quite as I hoped. For one thing, I would definitely slice the okra into rounds next time, and cook that way, and I also thought the mixture was too soupy; simmer with the lid off so that some liquid can evaporate, and I think you'll wind up with a better final product. In terms of seasonings, there was too much black pepper, but not enough other spices - thyme or a similar herb might have been nice in here. I'd stir black-eyed peas directly into the pot next time too, for a heartier one dish meal, and then this would have been a real keeper.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Peach Compote with Rum

Last week I was craving peaches, but only once in the middle of baking did I ealize I'd bought white peaches for my upside down cake instead of juicy yellow ones. I went ahead with the cake, but my craving for a yellow peach was unsatisfied. Tonight I decided the peaches would be even better showcased in a fresh fruit compote. Summer is the perfect time for fruit desserts - with fruit this sweet and ripe, you only need to add minimal sugar or additional flavor. This particular compote also works with savory dishes, if you prefer. For a fun twist, try serving it alongside Gardein chicken.

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3 cups peeled and sliced peaches
  • 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • Mint sprigs (optional for garnish)
1. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.

2. Remove from heat and stir in the rum, lime rind, and lime juice.  Let cool to room temperature.

3. In a large bowl, combine the peaches, grapes, and raspberries.  Add the rum mixture and toss to coat.

For a savory take on the dish, serve with Gardein chicken.

For dessert, try it over your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream.

Mint sprigs make a pretty garnish.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (2/3 cup), Calories 116 

Tasting Notes:
Just as I hoped, the fresh fruit was fantastic, with just the right sugar-rum coating clinging to each bite. The resulting liquid tastes a bit like grenadine syrup or a raspberry mojito, thanks to the rum and raspberries. Although the compote was just great over ice cream, I actually preferred it with the Gardein, since the flavor combination was more unexpected. But honestly, even better just to spoon into the compote by itself, to savor the peaches to the max.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chicken Piccata

I'm making this dish with Gardein chicken tonight, but a seitan piccata might also be a nice, hearty entree.  This dish isn't exactly an authentic piccata, since I skipped the process of coating the Gardein in flour before cooking. However, it contains lots of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, white wine, and a generous dose of capers, capturing the flavors traditionally found in a piccata sauce. I served with wild rice, but you could also try it with pasta.

  • 1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 4 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice*
1. Drain the artichokes in a colander over a bowl, and reserve 3 tablespoons liquid. Discard the remaining liquid.

2. Combine the 3 tablespoons artichoke liquid in a shallow bowl with the broth, lemon juice, and white wine.  Add the chicken pieces; cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic; saute for 4 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the dish (reserving the marinade), and add to the pan; saute for 1 minute.  Add the reserved marinade; cook for 12 minutes.

4. Stir in the artichokes, capers, and black pepper; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the rice.  Serve 1 chicken piece and 1/2 cup artichoke sauce over 1/2 cup rice on each of 4 plates.

*Don't forget it takes a good deal longer to cook wild rice compared to other varieties.  Make sure you've set aside at least 50 minutes to 1 hour for the rice to cook, or your chicken will grow cold while you wait.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 chicken piece, 1/2 cup sauce, 1/2 cup rice), Calories 288

Tasting Notes:
I love artichokes, so it's really hard to go wrong in a dish that has them in such a starring role. The brininess of the capers and artichokes is fantastic over the chicken and rice combo. My only complaint is that the lemon was a touch too strong; decrease to about 1/4 cup or so in the marinade, or you risk a bit of a pucker while eating this. 


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Black-Eyed Peas with Ham and Pickled Onions

I'm taking a little trip down South in my kitchen tonight, for this vegan take on a classic side dish. Use your favorite brand of vegan deli ham slices; or if you prefer, you can infuse the dish with smoky flavor by using liquid smoke instead. You'll need to start the pickled onions the day before, but the rest of the dish comes together quickly.

For the pickled onions:
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
For the peas:
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 cups frozen black-eyed peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1 (5.5-ounce) package vegan ham slices (such as Lightlife)
1. To prepare the onions, combine the cider vinegar, sugar, and a dash of ground red pepper in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 25 seconds.

2. Stir to dissolve the sugar completely, then stir in 1/2 cup onions.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to a few days ahead.

3. To prepare the peas, heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 1 cup onion and the garlic; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Dice the ham slices.  Add to the saucepan, along with the black-eyed peas, salt, thyme, black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Partially mash the peas in the pan with a potato masher.  Cook, uncovered, for a final 5 minutes.

6. Ladle 1/2 cup pea mixture into each of 8 bowls, and top each serving with 1 tablespoon pickled onions.

Good accompaniments? Turnip greens or collard greens, vegan mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes, or for a more Cajun kick, the andouille sausage that Tofurky recently came out with.

Note: If you prefer hoppin' john to this black-eyed pea recipe, all you need to do is add cooked white rice and a little extra broth.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1/2 cup pea mixture, 1 tablespoon onions), Calories 141

Tasting Notes:
A warm bowl of comfort food, with rich flavors just from a few ingredients. The ham and beans pair perfectly together, and there's a nice little kick from the ground red pepper. The pickled onions on top are super fresh and not salty, compared to jarred pickled onions, and were a nice contrast to the soft peas. If you'd rather skip the onions though, the dish is just fine without them.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Lemon-Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably noticed that I've shifted away from mock meats (like Gardein and Match) and moved toward eating more plant-based whole foods. If so, you're astute and you're quite right. I find myself eating fewer processed vegan meats (no matter how much better for you and less cruel they are than the real thing), but I do occasionally still enjoy Gardein's beefless tips or their chicken breasts. However, I'm finding that it makes sense to consider these items an indulgence, rather than a weekly staple. Tonight though, since I was craving a Chinese stir-fry, I decided to play with Gardein.

  • 3 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 cups julienne-cut yellow squash
  • 1 cup red bell pepper strips
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups hot cooked jasmine rice
1. To prepare the stir-fry, cut the chicken pieces into 1-inch strips, and sprinkle with the black pepper.  Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the chicken, onion, and 1 tablespoon ginger. Stir-fry for 4 minutes.  Remove the chicken mixture from the pan.

2. Heat the sesame oil in the pan.  Add the yellow squash and bell pepper; stir-fry for 3 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon ginger with the lemon rind, garlic, agave, soy sauce, lemon juice, water, and cornstarch.

4. Add the agave mixture to the pan, along with the chicken mixture.  Stir-fry for a final 4 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the rice, so it is hot and ready to go as the stir-fry is finishing up..

Serve 1 cup chicken mixture over 3/4 cup rice on each of 4 plates. Try serving with the Hunan dumplings from Macro Vegetarian, and a side salad to round out the meal. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup chicken mixture, 3/4 cup rice), Calories 395

Tasting Notes:
This dish really lives up to its name - gorgeous fresh lemon and ginger. The sauce has a rich thickness from the cornstarch and agave, and just the right blend of sweet and savory. Yellow squash was a different but rather inspired choice for the veggie, and I definitely recommend making this dish while summer's bumper crop is here. In the winter, I might play around with different veggies - snow peas, broccoli, or julienne-cut carrots all come to mind.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Peach Upside-Down Cake

I made a fun upside-down cake last week, but it used canned fruit instead of fresh summer produce. Grab the last of summer's peaches to make this yummy cake. I also drizzled caramel syrup on top after baking this time, unlike my pineapple cake, where the caramel bakes right in. As you'll see in my Tasting Notes below, this was definitely the right choice.

  • 3 cups thinly sliced and peeled peaches
  • 1 tablespoon vegan sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan buttermilk*
  • 2 and 1/4 cups vanilla non-dairy ice cream
  • 6 tablespoons caramel sundae syrup (such as Fun Fresh Foods)
1. In a bowl, combine the peaches, 1 tablespoon sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice.  Spoon into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Combine the remaining 2/3 cup sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter, lemon rind, vanilla, and Ener-G egg.  Beat at medium speed for several minutes, until blended.  Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a bowl with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and mixing well after each addition.

3. Spoon the batter over the peach mixture in the pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes - a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.

4. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Place a plate over the pan, and invert the cake onto the plate.

5. This cake is best served warm.  Serve one slice on each of 9 plates along with 1/4 cup ice cream. Warm the caramel syrup, and drizzle 2 teaspoons over each serving.

*To prepare the buttermilk, place 2 and 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Fill with non-dairy milk to equal 3/4 cup and let stand for 5 minutes to clabber the mixture.

Nutrition Info:
9 servings (1 cake slice, 1/4 cup ice cream, 2 teaspoons caramel syrup), Calories 307

Tasting Notes:
A beautifully moist cake, and I'm so glad I drizzled the caramel sauce on after baking this time, because each bite was just a pop of caramel flavor. Served a la mode, the warm cake melts the ice cream, for a "peaches-and-cream" effect. Minus one point only because I realized I bought white peaches, and the flavor would have been peachier and fresher with yellow ones.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Fresh-from-the-Garden Vegetable Salad

Ok, I don't have a garden, seeing as how I'm in a New York City high rise. But I have a nearby farmers' market, which is the next best thing. Play around with different veggies in this recipe, depending on what you grow or what looks freshest.

  • 4 quarts water
  • 12 ounces green beans
  • 12 ounces carrots
  • 1 tablespoon vegan sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper strips
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1. Bring the water to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot.  Trim the beans and add to the pot; cook for 1 minute.  Cut the carrots into 3-and-1/2-inch long x 1/4-inch wide sticks.  Add to the pot and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Drain, then transfer the vegetables to ice water.  Let stand for 1 minute, then drain again.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cider vinegar, mustard, canola oil, and salt.  Add the beans, carrots, bell pepper, and onion, tossing to coat.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup), Calories 84

Tasting Notes:
A good, all-purpose summer staple. Just the right touch of Dijon and sugar in the dressing, making for a nice coating over the vegetables. The carrots were absolutely perfect, but I would cook the green beans just a minute or two longer next time, and also add the yellow bell pepper to the pot for the last minute of boiling.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Barley "Pasta" Salad

This salad has all the flavors you love from summer pasta salads, but uses pearl barley as the base instead. You'll get more fiber than from pasta, and loads more iron and protein, making for a healthier choice at any of your upcoming summer get-togethers.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped and seeded tomato
  • 1 cup thinly sliced spinach
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped, seeded, and peeled cucumber
  • 1/2 cup diced Vegan Gourmet mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pepperoncini peppers
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, and add the barley.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water; drain again.

Note: I recommend chopping the veggies while the barley is simmering, to streamline preparation.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the cooked barley and all the remaining ingredients, tossing to coat.

Lightly sweetened iced tea is the perfect way to wash it all down.

Nutrition Info:
5 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 153

Tasting Notes:
This is super delicious, even better than I was expecting. The barley provides a nice chewy, nutty background, and all of the veggies are fresh fresh fresh. Taking the time to finely chop everything makes this a bit like a hearty chopped chef's salad. I was torn between using fresh pepperoncini peppers or the kind sold in jars, and am glad I chose the latter, since it added just the right amount of brine/saltiness, and I think the salad would be a touch too bland otherwise. If you like oregano, this salad is definitely for you. The only change I'd make would be to crumble Veg Cuisine's feta on top next time, in place of the mozzarella.