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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COLD AND BREAD

When the San Francisco Bay Area weather exits its Indian Summer and the air very suddenly turns cold, it’s time to seek out the simplest, most comforting foods available; there is nothing more basic than fresh bread.

For a long time the making of bread seemed almost mystical. I had made pizza dough without making the connection but bread was something that required some kind of connection with yeast as a living thing, it was the domain of husky servant women of olde with big hands and forearms who spent all day thrashing big blobs of dough into compliance.

But then everything changed, or more specifically, I, along with most of The Internet, discovered the magic of no-knead bread. This dough lives in my fridge during the fall and winter as I tend to replenish it as often as necessary. It makes loaves that, while not quite as refined as many of the local offerings, smell great while baking (it’s been said a billion times, but some things are clichés and others absolute truths – there is nothing better than the smell of fresh bread baking) and offer enough crust, chew, and versatility in shape that it’s hard to resist throwing a loaf in the oven every night.

For a really nice loaf, I toss the dough into a preheated cast iron casserole and cover for the first 15 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes or so. Another tip: those basic single edge razor blades from the drugstore are perfect for making slashes.

From this:

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To this:

IMG_0873To this:

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LOCAL LOVE- LIBA’S FREAKING FANTASTIC FALAFEL

LLLFFF. Liba falafel truck specializes in delicious falafel served out of an adorable truck. I was first alerted to their existence by a friend’s constant praise via twitter, but everywhere Liba was on a given day, I wasn’t. They eventually set up at Off The Grid’s Saturday spot which just happens to be just around the corner from my apartment, and I have been enjoying tasty falafel as often as possible ever since.

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HUNGRY PATRONS WANT FALAFEL

I love a food that’s vegan by default, especially when that food is presented in a delicious soft pita with chimchurri and tahini. While Liba’s pita and falafel balls themselves are delicious, what really sets them apart is the array of creative condiments. My personal favorite is the fried pickled onions – zesty pickled red onions lightly battered and fried (they tend to quickly so get there early if you want some, and you do). Other favorites are the tomato ginger chutney and rosemary peanuts; the peanuts add a nice crunch. They also have cardamom dill pickles, an olive-orange relish with thyme, and a billion other things, all very good and mostly vegan.

Liba’s falafels are available in small and regular size pitas, as well as in a falafel salad. I recommend getting the salad at least once if you really want to sample a bunch of the condiments without them running into one another, but don’t pass on the pita if you’re on the go – it’s the best pita game in town. I’m sure anyone that gives Liba a try will be back again and again.

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No fried pickled onions, but tomato ginger chutney makes me hap-hap-happy

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Eat it like it’s (a sweet potato) TOT! A kitchenlab report

Tater Tots – the potato snack/side so easily found in the grocery store frozen aisle, are not something that really need to be made at home. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. So I decided to conduct a little experiment subbing sweet potatoes for the more traditional Russets. I’m writing this adventure up as a food experiment* rather than a recipe so I can return to it later in the MoFo with  improvements.

Here’s what went into the tots:

  • 2 lbs sweet garnet sweet potatoes (the really orange ones), peeled, cut into long 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
  • 2 TBS Potato Starch

Here’s what I did:

  1. Steamed sweet potatoes for 10 minutes. I wanted them to be softened a little but not so soft that they would end up being mashed. tots_steaming
  2. Shredded the sweet potato chunks in a food processor with the shredding attachment.
  3. Mixed the shredded sweet potatoes with the remainder of ingredients. tots_mix
  4. Formed into the mixture into cylindrical shapes approximately 3/4” thick.
  5. Chilled the cylinders on a covered baking sheet in the fridge for roughly 2 hours. I felt chilling would help firm up the shapes and make it easier to form the nuggets. *snicker*
  6. Preheated one quart of safflower oil to 375F. I don’t have a fryer so I did this in a regular stainless steel pot, adjusting the oven flame as necessary to maintain temperature.
  7. Cut the cylinders into nuggets and rounded the edges gently with  my fingers.
  8. Fried the nuggets in batches until they browned, roughly 4-5 minutes each batch, checking the temperature of the oil between batches. As each batch finished I scooped out the tots with a slotted spoon and put them in a paper bag lined colander to soak up the excess oil.

SIZZLE

What went right:

  • The flavor/ spices/ ingredients – The balance here was great. I tasted shallots and thyme with each bite, but the spices didn’t overpower the sweet potatoes. The only thing I might change here is to add just a smidge of lemon juice to perk things up.
  • The shape – I’m glad these kept a nice tot shape. I saw a lot of blobby looking homemade tots when researching recipes for guidance and I can say with confidence that I succeeded in producing nice round tots.

What went wrong(ish – these were still delish, but here’s what I’d improve):

  • The insides didn’t quite heat up as much as I would have liked. I think the chilling step was probably unnecessary. I’ll skip it next time and see how it goes.
  • The texture – They were a little soft and didn’t get the nubbly-ness that commercial tater tots have. My plan to improve this is to reduce the steaming time to 6-8 minutes and/or give the chunks a quick cold water rinse. Even after shredding the potatoes were at much warmer than room temp and the texture continued to move closer to a mashed potato texture. I wanted to keep the tots a closely knit collective of nubs, rather than a completely unified body.

The final verdict:

I’m looking forward to improving the recipe and finding an appropriate condiment (perhaps cayenne spiked ketchup). Cleanup is always a pain when deep frying, but hey, they’re TOTs.

HOT TOTS!

*Note: I have no idea how actual scientific experiments are written up so please no throwing scientific shade my way. I haven’t taken a lab science class since high school, which was sometime between 4 and 14 years ago (a PINEAPPLE never reveals his age).

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SATURDAY WAKE AND CAKE

For those of us whose Monday-through-Friday-with-a-long-commute work schedule impedes our love of cooking, the weekends are where the real action takes place in the kitchen. So why waste them? I love starting Saturday mornings off with an actual cooked breakfast that I can prepare while puttering around, drinking tea, checking the internet and reading a book or two. And of course, a classic, simple breakfast are those amazing carb bombs, pancakes. I can, and frequently do, finish off an entire batch of Vegan with a Vengeance pancakes on a typical weekend morning.

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This morning they were accompanied by a nice big mug of Lapsang Souchong tea. Lapsang Souchong tea is, according to some, a tea that drinks like a meal. This is especially true if your idea of a meal is a porridge of old campfire logs or three fingers of Scotch. That is to say, it’s very smoky. Lapsang also takes milk well (I like almond).

CakeandBake_tea

I’d love to have a helpful feline to make pancakes for me every morning, but if this is how I have to make do, I can live with that.

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In Praise of the Stir-Fry

When life gets hectic and there’s no money for takeout and I feel like I’m going to spin off the Earth, the stir fry is my gravity. Some nights I can’t be asked to do much more than chop up a generous amount of garlic and maybe some shallots and throw some vegetables into the wok for a few minutes.

Last night was one of those nights. I had no desire to shop after a day at work and train delays getting home. Apparently, a local team of gladiators were rewarded with a parade for slaying their enemies, and the train that connects the local villages to my metropolis was slow going. The crisper saved me with bok choy that I hadn’t decided what to do with, oh, and that half package of rice noodles and some tofu. I fried the tofu and bok choy with shallots and garlic, splashed with tamari, mirin, and chili oil, added the noodles and bam! Dinner in under 30 minutes. With a beer it was the perfect humpday solution to a growling stomach and a stressed psyche.

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KRAUT AT THE DEVIL

Sauerkraut is a polarizing condiment, even more polarizing than mayonnaise. Some love its zesty fizz and sour crunch. Others complain of its potential for causing gas or turn up their noses at its acidity. Personally, I love the stuff, and as a confirmed bachelor, I have no one around to prevent me from relishing it with abandon. I will put it on greens, on homemade sausages, on Reubens (obviously) or just eat the hell out of it with a fork. Do not leave me alone with a jar of Bubbies because there will be trouble.

Having dabbled recently in kimchi, and less recently in sourdough and kombucha, I decided to give straight  up kraut a go. The process is simple – shredded cabbage and salt are thrown in a vessel (ceramic crocks are often suggested but not being able to find a perfect one I went with a food grade plastic bucket from the handy dandy restaurant supply store), the salt extracts the water from the cabbage, creating a brine in which the cabbage ferments. I’m not going to go into all the science so If you want to know more check out Wild Fermentation.

I’ll be checking on the kraut periodically as Vegan MoFo rolls along.

Here it is on Day 0, Sunday Evening, still whole then all salted up. I weighed it down with a big plastic bag full of water (the bag expands to cover the full width of the container):

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And Tonight. There’s a definite change in the taste, but it’s still very cabbagey – no zing yet:

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It’s always exciting when SCIENCE happens right in your own kitchen. I can’t wait to come back at the end of the week and see how it’s progressed.

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