LOCAL LOVE: Big Lantern–They Deliver and They’ve GOT BUNS HUN!

Friday friday, I’m so glad you’re here. I could go out but well, I’m tired. Tired from biking and working and waking up at 5:30 every morning and being covered in paperwork. One thing I like about living in a big city with a lot of vegan options is that I don’t have to give up those occasional junkish convenience like fried Chinese food delivered to my doorstep, and when I’m feeling antisocial I mean REALLY antisocial, Big Lantern is there. They have online ordering, so not only do I not have to cook but I only have to talk to an actual human being for the split second it takes to grab my packed up bag of Generals Meatless Chicken and BUNS and sign a credit card slip. Yes, I’m dining hermit style tonight. A dim sum hermit.

My favorite order is this: vegetable buns, turnip cake, and generals meatless chicken. It usually lasts (or should last) 2-3 meals, but I admit I sometimes scarf some cold from the fridge late at night.

GOT BUNS HUN!

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Butternut in my Curry And I Am In a Hurry

During the fall and winter I get so many butternut squashes from my CSA that it’s a struggle to use them all. Which put me in the habit of throwing them into curries with a lot of those other winter veggies. It’s not unusual or anything; pumpkin curries appear on numerous menus at Thai restaurants. So this was another, holy crap, it’s a week night I’m exhausted and still have errands to run kind of thing. And because of that, it ended up being really hastily assembled, which isn’t really a bad thing at all. I’d love to throw down and make a curry paste from scratch some day, but until then the yellow curry from Mae Ploy will be one of my standbies.

The ingredients are:

  • about one half of a small-medium size butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced. I’d say it was about 2 cups.
  • one large onion, chopped
  • a couple of fistfuls of green beans, ends removed and cut in half
  • one package tofu, cubed
  • 2 TBS Thai curry
  • additonal ginger
  • Thai Basil
  • Lime Juice
  • 1 can coconut milk

The method is pretty simple. Start with sauteing the onions until brown in a heavy bottomed pot with a lid. Add the ginger and stir until fragrant. Add the remaining veggies and the tofu (you can also brown the tofu first and set aside – I like to do this when I’m not feeling rushed) and cook a few more minutes. Add the coconut milk and the curry paste. Stir until the paste is dissolved and bring the curry to a boil. Lower the heat to very low, cover, and let simmer about 25-30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Remove from heat, add some torn up basil leaves and some fresh lime juice and let sit with the cover slightly removed about 10 minutes or until you’re back from picking up your laundry and some beer.

Serve with brown rice and top with a little more basil if desired. It doesn’t hurt to squeeze some more lime juice on top either.

Butternut and Tofu Curry

 
Update: I also added some mushrooms that were languishing in the crisper. Forgot about those.

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Sweet Potato Tots Take Two

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These turned out really good both inside and out and I learned an important lesson – to get the inside firm and warm it’s essential to put them in the oven after frying.

If you look at my first tot post you’ll notice the ingredients are largely unchanged, with the exception of a slight bit more potato starch:

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
  • 2 TBS minced shallots
  • 1 TBS minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • generous amount of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 TBS Potato Starch
  • 1 quart of refined, high heat oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Steam sweet potatoes for five minutes.
  2. Shred in a food processor.
  3. Add shredded sweet potatoes and all other ingredients to a bowl and mix with a large wooden spoon or your hands.
  4. Grab some of the mixture and form into a clump. You want to squeeze it together a bit. (note: with the shorter steaming time it was a bit harder to form the mixture into a mass to roll out in the next step, hence the squeezing)
  5. Roll out your masses to form logs about 3/4 inch in diameter. Continue until the entire mixture is used up.
  6. Chill the logs in the fridge on a baking sheet or plate, covered with a clean dishtowel or paper towel for 1 and a half to 2 hours.
  7. Preheat 1 quart of oil in a deep fryer or pot to 375F.
  8. With a sharp knife, cut the tot logs into smaller cylinders about 1 inch long. Round the edges with your fingers, reforming into “tot” shapes when necessary.
  9. Fry in batches for about 5-6 minutes each batch, or until nicely browned. Set in a newspaper or paper bag-lined colander to drain.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F.
  11. Bake tots for about 30-35 minutes, turning once.

And that’s it. These were nubblier than my first attempt, and I may try to make them nubbier in the future. I could see processing with the big blade until the sweet potatoes are slightly grainy working well, but for the most part I’m happy with this recipe. They go great with a krauty sausage sandwich.

Tots are surprisingly simple to make if you’re willing to fry things in your kitchen. I find it really isn’t that hard and you’d be surprised at how little oil actually gets absorbed into your food when frying at high heat (I reuse/ recycle the oil and my quart bottle is barely diminished after two batches). I’m still interested in making adjustments to this, more for shits and giggles than any flaws, so if you happen to give them a shot, let me know what you think.

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BACHELOR BOWL, part one – the easiest bowl

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The bowl! One of the easiest and simplest meals is that which is placed in a bowl to be consumed in a big mashup of vegetables, grains, a protein, and some kind of seasoning and/or sauce. Some people in the bowl club (I’m already in trouble for mentioning it, so don’t ask) go all out and name their bowls, carefully considering their sauces and ingredients, but mostly I just throw stuff together without much thought at all.

So this is my easy bowl, full of quinoa, roast broccoli, and baked tofu and topped with a bit of Sri Racha, some nooch, and a teensy bit of olive oil to stick it all together.

quinoa broc tofubowl

So now I can settle in on a Monday and catch up on AMC’s frightening documentary sent from the future.

Stay Tuned for tomorrow’s post – Sweet Potato Tots Take Two!

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A Silken Gamble

Silken tofu doesn’t normally equate with deliciousness. Yes, those mori-nu boxes are convenient for thickening or as an egg replacer, but the tofu is able to work only because it is hidden. I’ve heard horror stories of clueless and/or vindictive chefs and caterers serving unadorned silken tofu to vegan wedding guests. Yuck!

So I was intrigued when I saw this at the store:

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Hodo Soy Beanery is a purveyor of some of the best tofu in the bay area. They sell at farmers markets and natural food stores and their tofu is always fresh and tasty – I’m also a huge fan of their yuba skin. I wasn’t exactly sure what the texture of their silken tofu would be like but knew it would be much better than the stuff in those aseptic boxes. I dreamed of creating something akin to the soft style of scrambled eggs.

I started with sauteeing some garlic and onion, adding mushrooms, and then raiding the crisper to find some fresh thyme that really needed using up, as well as some spinach from this weeks CSA delivery and a little bit of parsley. So with herbs, freshly ground pepper, and a generous pinch of salt, I was getting some nice Sunday morning smells in the kitchen. I added the tofu.

Well, it wasn’t quite what I expected and there was suddenly a lot of liquid in the pan. In fact it seemed like more liquid was coming out of the tofu as it cooked. Undeterred, I rolled with it, turned the heat up a little, and decided to let the tofu and veggies simmer, hoping that the liquid would evaporate.

Thankfully, after about 20 minutes, during which I made and drank a hefty amount of coffee and a batch of homefries, much of the liquid had evaporated. I have to say, it was really one of the best tofu scrambles I’ve had. I was left with soft curds that soaked up much of the flavor of the onions and herbs and had none of the offensive off tastes that plague lesser tofus. To soak up some of the remaining liquid I toasted some two day old bread and spooned the curds over the bread slices. I would definitely do this again.

SILKY

Fresh Silken Tofu Scramble with Homefries

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Last of the Summer Vine

Living in the Bay Area the summer growing season tends to stretch right through October, yielding peppers and tomatoes right up to the point when temperatures take a precipitous drop. This provides a chance to add some summer flavor to a fall soup and still get that smug, self-satisfied seasonal locavore thing going. All kidding aside I do love local produce and I made this soup with the last mix of peppers from my CSA; some were sweet and some were hot, but you can use whatever you like.

This recipe isn’t exactly winning any prizes for originality, it’s a lentil soup for chrissakes, but I think I’ve made enough tweaks to the various recipes I’ve culled it from to post it here as my own.

Roast Tomato and Pepper Soup

  • 1 lb lentils (I used green lentils, but brown lentils should work fine)
  • 1 lb mixed peppers
  • 1 lb red tomatoes, cut in chunks
  • 6 cups vegetable stock, or water and powder/bouillon
  • 2 carrots – peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery – diced
  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 1 TBS Cumin seeds – toasted and ground.
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  1. Half the peppers and remove the seeds or be like me and cut around the core. Place on a pan and roast under the broiler until some of the skin turns black. Remove and chop, set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss the tomatoes with some olive oil in a roasting pan and roast for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and olive oil to a large heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium high heat until fragrant.
  4. Add onions, carrots, celery, and salt and saute until onions are translucent.
  5. Add peppers and spices and stir for a minute or so until everything is coated and the spices get a little toasty.
  6. Add lentils, vegetable stock, and tomatoes.
  7. Bring to a boil and boil for a couple of minutes, then reduce to a simmer, partially cover and cook for another 30 minutes or so. Adjust seasonings.
  8. Puree with an immersion blender or let cool slightly and blend in batches in an upright blender. Blend to whatever consistency you like (I like to blend about half of the batch and then return it to the pot so there are some whole lentils mixed in with the pureed) and reheat if using an upright blender.

Serve with fresh bread and hot sauce on the side.

soooop

NO, SOUP DOES NOT PHOTOGRAPH WELL

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OUT AND A’KRAUT

So remember that kraut I started about ten days ago? Well, I can safely say that it has crossed the line from salty cabbage floating in brine to a grown up batch of kraut. I figured as much when I pulled back the dishtowel I have covering the bucket and caught a whiff of that pickled air. Then I grabbed a taste and it was nice and sour with just a teeny bit of kick.

It’s a good thing too, because I am tired tonight and could use something easy. Work has been an endless mountain of mind-numbing paperwork and to keep from stressing I started expanding the bike portion of my commute by getting off at an earlier train stop. I biked a total of 20 miles today which is almost twice what I normally do.

So easy plus kraut plus some very light corner grocer shopping equals sandwich. This could probably qualify me for one of The Laziest Vegans: Alexia chipotle sweet potato fries from the freezer and a tofurky beer brat. Oh well, sometimes convenience foods are there as the crutch I need when I’m feeling mentally exhausted and broken. And really, it will all be nice on a sandwich roll with plenty of whole grain mustard:

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PINK KRAUT!!!!!

As for the rest of the kraut, I have some in a jar in the fridge and I’m leaving some to ferment more to see what I get from it – maybe even another Vegan MoFo Post.

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