Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quick Pickled Carrots

I'm enough of a food geek to think pickling is fun, but I don't always have time to spend toiling over the canning kettle.  Refrigerator pickles let me enjoy pickled vegetables with less of a time commitment.

The ingredients
1 lb carrots, cleaned and cut into thin sticks
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the edge of a knife
1/4 c sugar
2 t dill seeds, or a couple sprigs of fresh dill
2 t salt

The process

  1. Pack carrots into wide-mouth mason jars, or another heatproof container.
  2. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, and simmer until the sugar dissolves, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Pour pickling liquid over carrots, and let them cool to room temperature uncovered.
  4. Cover and refrigerate a few days before eating.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Japanese Feast

I adore Japanese food, but at my local Japanese restaurants almost everything contains fish, so unless I make the trek to Cha-Ya I'm out of luck.  I make tempura semi-regularly, but for some reason I didn't think I could succeed at making sushi.  I decided to try to put together a Japanese vegan feast yesterday to expand my skills, and overall I think it was a success.  I used my new Japanese vegan cookbook, Japanese Cooking: Contemporary & Traditional, as inspiration, and found sushi-making tutorials online.  My first roll was pretty sloppy, but once I got the hang of keeping the roll tight and not letting the fillings creep out the top of the roll, it turned out pretty good.

Here's a rundown on my menu:

Miso soup with tofu and green onions—I've made miso soup before with a water base, but for this I made a konbu stock, which deepened the flavor.

Kimpira—which consists of burdock root and carrot in a sauce of konbu dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil.  I loved the smoky flavor of this, but the burdock root was very fibrous; I'm not sure if I bought bad burdock, or if that's just how burdock is.

Yam tempura and onigiri.  The tempura batter was perfectly light and crisp, the result of using very cold water and not overmixing it.  The onigiri were stuffed with umeboshi plums, which are basically sea salt bombs.  Not my favorite, but easy to eat around.

Last but not least, sushi with pickled carrots and avocado.  I'll be making a whole lot more of these babies.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Soup x 2

For my first time trying out recipes from Appetite for Reduction, I couldn't decide between the Butternut-Apple Soup and the Cauliflower Pesto Soup, so I made both.

While it was a little odd to have two different soups for dinner, the contrast between the green and the orange was nice.  Both soups were very simple and quick to make, and both tasted fine, but neither blew me away.  The butternut-apple soup wasn't as appley as I would have preferred; it basically tasted like every other butternut soup I've ever had, including the kind that comes in a box.  The cauliflower-pesto was more unique; the recipe involves simmering cauliflower in broth until it's soft, then removing it from the heat and blending in lots of basil.  I love the idea of blending basil into soup, but I thought it could have used more.  (Maybe I should just eat pesto as a soup?  Yum!)  Also, I prefer chunky soups so if I make this again I'll pulverize the basil before adding it to the soup, and leave the cauliflower florets in tact.  This soup did inspire me to try adding more herbs to soups, though, and I think I'll be making a potato-basil or potato-cilantro soup soon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garlic Wine Quick Bread

I based this recipe on my beer bread recipe, subbing out wine for beer and garlic for onions.  I used a rose wine, but I think any white wine would work fine as well.  It was delicious served with a dab of pesto on top.  I'll be eating the leftovers topped with pear slices.

The ingredients
3 c flour
1 T sugar
1 T + 1 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
8-10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 c wine

The process

  1. Combine dry ingredients
  2. Add garlic and wine, and stir until just combined.
  3. Press dough into a greased loaf pan, or mound it on a cast iron skillet.
  4. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes.
  5. Cool on a cooling rack before serving.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Indian Feast

For my second use-my-cookbooks meal, I decided to focus on Indian food, because I love Indian restaurant food but I've always been a little intimidated by the long ingredient lists in Indian cookbooks.  I made chana samosas from Vegan Yum Yum, vindaloo vegetables from Vegan Fire & Spice, and poppyseed dal from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, as well as some brown basmati rice.

I was a little intimidated by the samosa recipe because I thought the dough would be hard to work with; as it turned out, the dough recipe had enough oil in it that it was easy to roll out, but I had a hard time getting it to seal closed around the filling (one came open during frying).  The filling used more garbanzos than potatoes, and I found it a little dry; I'd stick with a traditional potato filling if I made these again.  They were a big hit with my husband, though, and I liked having an excuse to eat mango chutney.

The dal was the real star of this meal.  The recipe called for the black "urad dal", but I couldn't find any, so I used regular brown lentils instead.  After the lentils are cooked, they are combined with a mixture of ginger, cilantro, and poppyseeds that were fried in lots of margarine.  This was one of the best things I've tasted in some time, and was very simple to make.  I enjoyed the leftovers for both breakfast and lunch the next day.

The vindaloo vegetables were hearty and nutritious, but the flavor wasn't really anything to write home about.  If I make these again, I'll amp up the sauce with lots more curry powder and chiles.

Overall, it was fun to have an Indian feast without having to first grill a waiter about which items contain ghee, and I was pleased with myself for being able to cook such a feast in under 2 hours.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fancy-pants hors d'oeuvres

I'm trying to expand my recipe repertoire of recipes by using my cookbooks more, so this is the first of a series of posts in which I'll feature a smattering of recipes from a wide array of cookbooks.  I decided to start  with hors d'oeuvres and made a meal of "small bites."  I wouldn't make any of these the same way again, but it was interesting to try some new techniques.

1. Rice Croquettes from The Urban Vegan

I thought these were pretty, but looked better than they tasted.  They are basically rice mashed with herbs and avocado, coated in nutritional yeast and baked.  I had never thought of using nutritional yeast as a coating before, and I liked how crisp and golden it got in the oven, but I thought the flavor was too strong (and I LOVE nutritional yeast) and didn't really go with the herbs used in the recipe. I guess I like the idea of croquettes in theory, but they seem a little too fussy in practice; I'd have preferred eating a bowl of rice with sliced avocado on top.

2. Garlic Puree from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen
This recipe calls for simmering unpeeled cloves of garlic in vegetable broth until most of the broth is reduced off, then running it through a food mill to make a spread.  I've always enjoyed baked garlic as a spread but had never simmered it before; it was tasty, if a little too salty from the broth.  However, the peels on the garlic gummed up the food mill so much that I didn't end up with much spread; in the future, I'll peel the cloves before simmering them so they're easier to mill.

3. Artichoke-Mushroom Packets from 1,000 Vegan Recipes

These were supposed to be Artichoke-Mushroom Phyllo Packets, but I accidentally bought puffed pastry instead so I went with that.  The filling is artichokes, mushrooms, and onion, sauteed and then pulsed in a food processor.  I liked the filling, but it made the pastry a little soggy on the inside; maybe this wouldn't have happened if I'd used phyllo.  I used the leftover filling as a dip for raw cauliflower, and I preferred it that way; the crunchy cauliflower was a nice contrast to the gooey spread.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Bao are pillowy, steamed buns stuffed with filling.  They're a little time-intensive, so I only make them a few times a year, but they do reheat well, so I recommend making a big batch and freezing them.  They can be reheated either by steaming until heated through, or by wrapping in a damp towel and microwaving for a few minutes.  The texture is a little better in the steamer, but the microwave route makes for easy work lunches.

Dough ingredients:
2 1/2 t yeast
1 c warm water
1 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1 t salt
about 2 3/4 cups flour

  1. Combine yeast, sugar, oil, and salt in a mixing bowl, and pour water over it.  Let sit until very foamy, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add flour and knead 8-10 minutes (or mix for about 4 minutes in a stand mixer).  Dough should be as soft as possible without being sticky.
  3. Let rise in an oiled, covered bowl, about 1-1.5 hours or until doubled.  (While dough is rising, prepare filling.)
  4. Punch down dough and knead for about a minute.
  5. Divide dough into 12 balls.  Working a few at a time, roll each ball into a 4.5 inch circle and dab a little oil in the center of the circle.  Add 1-2 T of filling, then gather and crimp the edges together over the filling, pinch firmly, and twist to completely seal in the filling.  (This will work best if you roll the dough circles so the edges are thinner than the centers.)
  6. Place buns in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover, and steam for about 15-18 minutes, then cool on a cooling rack.
Notes on filling:
I don't use a recipe for my bao filling, and therefore never make it the same way twice.  My favorite fillings so far include pineapple-coconut, cherry pie filling, and barbecue soy sausage.  Any simple stir-fry will also work well, as long as you chop the ingredients into very small pieces.  You also don't want anything with a thin liquid, unless you're way more skilled at sealing the buns than I am.  If your stir-fry is too liquidy, either cook off the liquid, drain it, or thicken with a little cornstarch.