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Pickled Mushrooms ala The Master and Margarita

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The Master and Margarita is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a fantastic fantastical satire of Soviet society published in the mid-60s but written during Stalin’s reign.

The idea is that the devil visits Moscow with an entourage and befriends a woman named Margarita, whose lover has been jailed for being a writer. Margarita is a witch, and shenanigans pursue. There’s also a backstory involving Jesus. You should read it if you haven’t.

One of the devil’s entourage is a large talking cat named Behemoth. He carries a gun and a gas stove and is kinda a jerk, as cats tend to be.

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Sue was tickled to see this in Ulan Ude. M&M is her fave too.

In one scene, Behemoth eats pickled mushrooms with a fork, and for some reason this image stuck with me, mainly because I’m fond of both cats and mushrooms.

So, I had to make pickled ’shrooms for VeganMoFo — I modified a pickled mushroom recipe from Food.com using a mix of white and fancy fungi. They’re super simple to make but look classy enough on an appetizer tray.

Zeno would not comply when I asked him to pose with the pickled mushrooms as a Behemoth stand in, thus again proving that cats are jerks.

What a jerk.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dry white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 oz mushrooms, cut into quarters if they’re big

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients, minus the mushrooms, in a small saucepan. Boil over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms, bring back to a boil, and stir for another minute.
  3. Chill overnight to allow flavors to combine and mushrooms to marinate. Serve cold.

Vegan Julienne (Russian mushroom casserole)

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Without stooping down for the mushroom, you cannot put it in your basket. ~Russian Proverb

Mushrooming is a popular activity in Russia. Families escape the bustle of the city for rural dachas in the summer and hunt for mushrooms to eat or preserve.

Mushrooms are a common ingredient in Russian cooking. One of my favorite examples is Julienne: mushrooms sautéed with onions, then baked with cheese in sour cream. You can do this casserole style in a big dish, or class it up by preparing it in individual ramekins.

I halved and veganized this recipe from Everyday Russian to christen the oven in my new apartment. I elected to use nooch instead of vegan cheese, but I bet it would be great with Daiya.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • Olive oil, for sautéing
  • 1/2 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 3-4 oz shredded Daiya (cheddar or mozzarella — optional)
  • 2 oz vegan bacon (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Sautéed mushrooms and onions until onions are brown and mushrooms are soft. Pour into a medium bowl.
  3. Mix in sour cream and flour and divide into ramekins. Top with cheese and vegan bacon (optional) and bake for 10 minutes.

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream from Veganomicon

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Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (you apparently need three names to be a vegan cookbook author) is less of a cookbook and more of a tome — it’s heavy and epic.

I’m a huge fan of this book because it has so many excellent and fairly easy to prepare recipes, and because the name makes me think of Army of Darkness (10.11.12 edit: the book in that film is called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis). I haven’t seen either of the Evil Dead movies (they look scary), but the ability to quote Army of Darkness won me points with nerd boys in high school, which was pretty much the only male attention I got in four years. (I had glasses, played in the orchestra, and wore a lot of oversize t-shirts.)

“Good. Bad. I’m the one with the gun.”

Anyhow, now that I’ve admitted that I didn’t have a life growing up, out of all the good stuff in Veganomicon, Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream (p. 164) most stood out on my most recent perusal. I wouldn’t typically make a casserole to try to impress someone, but I’d say this casserole is even worthy of being date night fare — definitely an elegant dish.

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I subbed butternut squash for the zucchini called for in the recipe, since zucchini is not in season (yeah, yeah, neither is eggplant, but whatever) and swapped out the nutmeg for cinnamon because the only nutmeg I own is Shaw’s brand nutmeg (I have nothing against Shaw’s brand nutmeg, but I haven’t lived near a Shaw’s since June, 2008, so do the math there).

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Other than needing, like, 5 different pans to roast all of the different veggies and having multiple steps, the recipe is pretty easy. It tastes rich, but since the bechemel topping is just silken tofu with pine nuts and lemon juice and a few other things, I don’t think it’s actually all that heavy or unhealthy. At least, I hope it’s not, because I’ve eaten a lot of it lately.

The recipe makes probably 8-12 servings, so maybe make your Eggplant-Potato Moussaka for a dinner party or a family or just hunker down for the long haul.

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It’s less pretty the next day, but still delicious.

“Gimme some sugar, baby.”

Vegan potato and leek gratin

I like leeks, which are in season in Western Washington right now, but am often mystified as to what to do with them.

Well, cook them, obviously, but how so? Soup is one idea, but it’s just not soup weather.

When I’m baffled, I usually turn to Google, whose wonderful algorithm led me to Martha Stewart’s recipe for a lovely potato and leek gallette.

Mine’s not as pretty (I ain’t MStew), but potatoes and leeks go together nicely — something about the creamy, mild potato flesh absorbing the slightly pungent flavor of the leek.

Add a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and vegan cheese (which I think could even be optional), and finely sliced potatoes and leeks become a delightful side — a slightly more refined version of a favorite of my grandmother’s cooking: scalloped potatoes.

Serve with the kalamata tempeh from Appetite for Reduction, broiled or grilled asparagus, and a glass of red wine (which, you know, you need for the tempeh anyhow) for a perfect late-spring meal.

Or serve it with whatever you want — who am I to say what you eat. But, uhhh… eat this.

Potato and Leek Gratin

Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds of potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (i.e., use a mandoline)
  • 1 cup sliced leeks
  • 1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella (like Follow Your Heart)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 8″ x 8″ glass pan.
  2. Combine potatoes and leeks in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well, making sure to coat each slice. If you’re brave, you can add another TBS of oliv oil. Mix in vegan cheese.
  3. Pour into prepared glass pan and pat down to flatten any potato slices that stick up. Martha would tell you to carefully layer them, but… c’mon.
  4. Bake for 70-80 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and browning around the edges.

Red pepper and mushroom quinotto


Quinoa is one of nature’s most perfect foods, and can act as a protein-packed substitute for rice in nearly every dish, even risotto: quinotto.

Yes, “quinotto” actually is a word.

Toni is from Peru, and brought an amazing veganized red pepper and mushroom quinotto to a recent communal dinner party. I don’t ask my friends to cook vegan, since I’m the only one of the group who is, but am so touched that they do.

Toni explained that quinoa won’t break down when cooked in the same way that rice does, so all the creaminess in quinotto is traditionally from actual cream. She made it with soy milk instead.

Red pepper and crimini mushrooms add a fun but mellow flavor to this dish, and I added a splash of white wine, just ‘cuz.

Red pepper and mushroom quinotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 2 TBS white wine
  • 1 cup unsweetened hemp or soy milk
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh basil, chiffonaded

Instructions:

  • Bring quinoa and water to a boil large saucepan, then cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked.
  • White quinoa cooks, thoroughly blend hemp or soy milk and red bell pepper in a high powered blender. Set aside.
  • Saute garlic and onion for a few minutes. Add mushrooms and white wine, and allow mushrooms to fully cook. Set aside.
  • When quinoa is done, stir in red pepper mixture and the mushrooms, onions and garlic; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low heat  for 10 minutes or so to allow liquid to absorb. It will look soupy at first, but will all come together.
  • Sprinkle with chiffonaded basil.

Green Vegan Living’s baked purple potato fries

Nate, Bethany and Jared on my frisbee team (and Jared’s wife, who doesn’t play) own Carpenter Creek Farm in Mt. Vernon, WA. Carpenter Creek Farm seems to specialize in purple produce: blueberries (which are sorta purple, despite their name, right?) and purple majesty potatoes.

Nate brought 5 lbs of the latter to practice for me last week, and I knew I needed to transform these beauties into Green Vegan Living’s baked purple potato fries, which I’ve had my eye on since day 3 of VeganMoFo.

Despite being a vivid violet, purple majesty potatoes taste like their plain white relatives, though, as Geena of Green Vegan Living notes, purple potatoes have added health benefits, as well as the added benefit of making you feel “superior to the rest of the population (who doesn’t yet know about purple potatoes).”

Heehee.

I was starving after the intense weight-lifting class I’ve been forcing myself to attend on Tuesday nights (if you can call being exhausted after an hour of lifting the lightest weights possible “intense”), so I didn’t let my fries crisp up in the oven as much as I should have.

Still, they were delicious with an aioli made by mixing reduced-fat vegenaise with a little garlic powder and ground chipotle.

Yum.

Minted Farro, Zucchini and Fava salad

This is a take on the Fava Bean and Asparagus Salad With Mint that “vegan before 6″ Mark Bittman includes in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Farro, also called emmer, is a chewy, nutty grain that has become very popular in recent years (so I probably don’t need to tell you any more about it).

Fava beans, though permanently creepy after their cameo in Silence of the Lambs, are a delicious (though somewhat time-consuming to prepare) legume– shucking them makes for a nice activity to perform on one’s deck on a warm summer afternoon while sipping a cool adult beverage with a fluffy grey cat at your feet.

All of the produce, save for the lemon, is in season in Seattle and readily available at the local farmer’s market or food coop.

Enjoy with a tasty adult beverage like … wait for it … a nice Chianti.

Ingredients

  • ≈3-4 lbs Fava beans (about 1 1/2 cup shelled and skinned)*
  • 1 cup dry farro
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil, to taste
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 sprigs mint, leaves removed and chopped

Method

  1. Shell fava beans. Blanch beans in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then remove and discard outer skin.
  2. Boil farro in 5 cups water for 50-60 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add sliced zucchini and fava beans. Drain.
  3. Place drained farro, favas and zucchini in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix.
  4. Serve warm or chilled.

*This is an estimate. Fava beans can be pricey (I think mine were $3/lb), but they are also incredibly delicious, so use more or less as you see fit. Farro and zucchini are also tasty, so they’ll balance it all out if you elect to go with fewer favas.

Cactus salad + enchiladas

David loves Mexican food, probably more than he loves the fact that he is nearly done with college after deciding to complete up his degree nearly 4 years ago.

He is so close to finishing it all up that he participated in UW graduation exercises last week and this past Saturday (though will take summer school).

After the interminable Husky Stadium ceremony (and by the way, Kathleen Sebelius, WE are the “real Washington”), his parents took us out to dinner at Galerias, a schwanky Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill. I like to say that it serves what upscale folks in Mexico City would eat on a night out, but I really have no basis for that statement, having never been to Mexico nor its eponymous City.

Galerias is simply nice Mexican food served in a colorful, elegant, light-filled space. Plus, the kitchen includes slices of baguette in their chip basket, which makes it seem über-fancy. You should eat there.

Galerias’ vegan selection is also pretty solid. Not extensive, but solid. I ordered vegetable enchiladas, which were filled with a mix of tasty veggies, the only variety I could really distinguish being carrots.

However, the highlight was a little side salad made from cactus (¡nopales!), kidney beans, sliced radish, red onion and cilantro, and I determined that I would replicate it later that weekend.

Which I did.

I also threw together some enchiladas from veggies I bought (mostly) at the farmer’s market: roasted baby carrots and potato, sauteed mushrooms, and collard greens (the collards were a bit bitter, so next time I’d use kale or chard or something), wrapped in corn tortillas, smothered in homemade (but simple) sauce and cheddar Daiya.

Recipes below, if you want to try them.

Enchiladas

Easy Enchilada Sauce (adapted from a recipe at Food.com):

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  1. The directions say to add the dry ingredients into a bowl, pour in about 1/2 cup of water, and mix to form a fine paste, then transfer to a sauce pan and add the remaining water and tomato sauce. I sort of mixed it all together, and it was a little lumpy at first and then all smoothed out.
  2. Simmer until sauce thickens — about 10 minutes.

Filling (you really could use anything you like):

  • one bunch collard or other type of greens, stem removed and chopped
  • small handful chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 lb or so sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch baby carrots, chopped
  • 1 small yellow potato, diced finely
  1. Place potatoes and carrots on a pan sprayed with olive oil and spray them with olive oil. Sprinkle some salt over them and roast at 400 degrees or so until done, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Saute the mushrooms and onions in a little olive oil and set aside.
  3. Saute the chopped greens and chopped cilantro until greens are wilted.

Other stuff:

  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • Daiya Cheddar (1/3 bag?)
  1. Microwave 6-8 corn tortillas covered with a damp paper towel for 30 seconds to soften them.
  2. Add a bit of sauce to an 8 x 8″ glass plate.
  3. Dunk a tortilla in sauce, and fill with filling. You could include cheese at this point, but I didn’t. Wrap up and place in pan. Repeat until pan is full.
  4. Cover tortillas with the rest of the sauce, and cover in Daiya to your preferred level of cheesiness. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce bubbles.

Cactus Salad

  • 1 jar cactus
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 bunch radishes, sliced thinly
  • a handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • a few dashes lime juice. Real lime juice, not that fake plastic bottle stuff.
  • a few dashes tabasco sauce
  1. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Yup. Easy.

If you make both recipes according to my very loose directions, you will have both half an onion and some fresh cilantro left over. I made a nice salsa out of 1/2 the leftover onion (e.g., 1/4 of an onion), diced, and some of the cilantro, chopped, added to a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes with some cayenne pepper and lime juice. Excellent with Daiyachos.

Potato leek soup + broiled asparagus + lemony greens

This is what a day off looks like.

A chance to recharge the brain.

An opportunity to answer to no one– I do what I want!

A day with just me + the cats + the TV + chai tea and a donut with Jessica + a leisurely trip to the food co-op + a massage + a homemade margarita.

And a nice sit-down lunch: potato leek soup + broiled asparagus + lemony greens + applewood-smoked olives marinated in chardonnay.

Mmhmmm. Good.

Potato leek soup

  • 3 leeks
  • 3 medium yellow-skinned potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • olive oil
  • 6 cups light-colored vegetable both (I used faux-beef this time around and it made the soup dark)
  • salt and pepper, to taste (best with LOTS of pepper)
  • dried parsley
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, drained
  1. Wash leeks. Chop off white part, rinsing under cold water to remove any additional dirt, and discard green stem. Slice while part into strips.
  2. Wash and finely dice potatoes– peeling optional.
  3. Saute leeks and garlic in olive oil until fragrant in a soup pot. Add broth, salt and pepper, and parsley. Simmer until potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Remove all or most of the contents of the soup pot to a blender (I elect to leave a bit behind for a chunkier texture) and add the beans. Puree until smooth.
  5. Return contents of the blender to the pot and cook a few minutes more.

Broiled Asparagus for one

  • 1/2 bunch asparagus
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Set toaster oven to broil. Let heat up.
  2. Spray pan with olive oil. Pus asparagus on it. Spray with more olive oil and add salt and pepper.
  3. Broil 10 minutes, turning once of you want. Or don’t turn.

Lemony greens for one

  • A handful or two of mixed greens (kale, chard, collards)
  • olive oil, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and saute a few minutes.
  2. Add greens, salt and pepper and cook until starting to wilt. Add a few dashes of lemon juice and cook until completely done.


Smoky baba ganoush

Some people hate the smell of campfires. Not me.

While others rush to wash their clothes after an evening in front of a roaring flame, I inhale deeply into whatever sweater or jacket kept me warm the previous evening.

I equally adore smoky flavors; smoke adds depth and warmth to otherwise bland foods.

Therefore, I was very excited to pick up a jar of applewood smoked sea salt at the Columbia City farmers market; the same vendor attends the U District farmers market as well. Scott of Seattle Food Geek has a tutorial on how to make your own if you can’t find any or have a smoker/grill and are so inclined.

So, I had a jar of the stuff, but was stumped: what to do with the little grey grains?

Noelle of An Opera Singer in the Kitchen gave me the idea (via Twitter) to do something with eggplant. Of course– baba ganoush!

The already smoky flavor of this spread takes well to being kicked up a notch or two.

Smoky baba ganoush (adapted from David Lebovitz)
makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 eggplants
3 tbs tahini
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp smoked sea salt

  1. Prick the eggplant with a fork and roast in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Let cool.
  2. Split the eggplant in half and spoon the pulp into a blender; discard the skins
  3. Add tahini, olive oil, lemon juice pressed garlic and smoked sea salt; blend.

Serve with pita, chips, crackers, bread, or– my favorite– cucumber slices.

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