1.23.2012

pesto lasagna

Since the family requests lasagna so often, I try to get creative with this layered pasta dish. I've made the traditional American Lasagna, Kate's favorite, the traditional Italian Lasagna Bolognese, Catt's favorite, and a Grilled Vegetable Lasagna, my favorite. It is now Mikel's turn. He adores Pesto and requested a Pesto Lasagna. Well, maybe not in so many words, but I interpreted that way.

I decided to make this lasagna with traditional pesto sauce (no spinach or tofu added, as I like to do), but instead using olive oil, basil, garlic and pine nuts. Very straightforward. He would have been happy with just the noodles, pesto and cheese, but I wanted to add something more. I made the tofu-spinach ricotta that I normally make for the American Lasagna and layered that in there as well. To add a touch of sweetness, I also layered in grilled onions and roasted pepper. This way the dish wouldn't be "pesto pasta with cheese," but an actual Lasagna dish. 

He was enchanted with how it turned out. I was worried the pesto would be too much and overwhelm the dish, but the other components of the recipe balanced the pesto nicely.

Cost Breakdown

Daiya: $4.50
noodles: $4
basil: $8
red pepper, onion, garlic, spinach: $4
lemon, pine nuts, olive oil: $2
tomato sauce: $2
Total to make 10 servings:
$24.50




1.22.2012

osso buco

Part of the goal of this blog is to reinvent 'traditional' recipes, renew conventional ideas and let people see that the omnivore rut that they have been stuck in is easy to get out of.

This traditional Milanese recipe of braised veal shanks, Osso Buco, is literally translated to mean 'Bone with a Hole." Not really sure how accurate the name is in this vegan context, but for the sake of tradition we'll keep it as is. 

This is what I mean about altering conventional thinking; normally 'Bone with a Hole' has no right to be in cooking distance of a vegan kitchen, but since the recipe itself means both the dish and the cut of animal, I couldn't really call it "Seitan Buco" or "Osso Seitan," could I? Maybe "Seitan Osso Buco," but I try to keep as close to the original name as possible, for simplicity sake. It is difficult to know what someone will name a veganized version of a dish - it is much easier to search for the omni version of a name (and hence the one most recognized) than to try to guess what an author chooses to call something. As much as I would like to rename dishes to reflect a more vegan world, I try to stay as true to the original as possible.

I made "veal" seitan cutlets, thick-cut, and braised them with carrots, celery, onion, herbs and wine. This dish is usually served over a risotto, but Catt has been asking for mashed potatoes. She must be getting kick-backs from the potato board, and since I knew this dish would have some great sauce for the requested spuds, mashed it turned out to be. 

It has been a few years since I've made this, but it was just as great as the first time. It is garnished with gremolata, a condiment of parsley, garlic and lemon zest. The garnish gives it a nice punch that cuts through the richness of the sauce and seitan. I wouldn't skip it if I were you.

Cost Breakdown

seitan: $3
carrot, celery, onion, garlic: $2
spices, herbs, tomato paste, wine, broth: $3
potatoes: $3
gremolata: $2
Total to make 6 servings:
$13.00


Veal Seitan Recipe
(coming - I'm still tweaking it)

1.18.2012

cream of mushroom soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup, from the can, used to be my hubby's favorite...well, everything! He'd have it as a soup and, it seems the company did their PR well, he'd 'cook' Green Bean Casserole, pork chops and a sundry of other casseroles with it.

 He has been asking me for the longest time to try to replicate this and I'd always fall short. Or tall? Depending on how you look at it; it is difficult to compete with a canned, condensed version - mine was always too fresh.

Logistically, part of the problem had been to chop the 'shrooms finely enough to be 'worthy' of the can. I think I've finally managed to get close enough to the original, while not sacrificing flavor.

If you are looking to have it more like the canned version after being reconstituted, add enough milk to thin it out to the consistency you like, but be sure to re-season it with salt.

Cost Breakdown

mushrooms: $3
vegan butter, flour: $.75
VA Chicken-Style Broth Mix, vegan milk: $2
onion, celery: $1
Total to make 6 cups:
$6.75




1.14.2012

FNF - bayou eggplant and cauliflower pasta


Food Network Friday, hosted by Tami Noyes, author of American Vegan Kitchen, is veganizing Emeril Lagasse's Bayou Chicken Pasta this month. In case you are new here, FNF is open to anyone! All you have to do is veganize the chosen Food TV recipe. Tami posts the  cookalong on her site well in advance and you cook and post. That's all there is to it.

Emeril's recipe is a creamy, spicy pasta dish with chicken and tomatoes. The spice comes in the form of his Essence, which contains cayenne, and habanero peppers. Not only will this clear up all sinuses in the house and make everyone cough like mad while it is being cooked because of the fumes, it also gets a bunch of kids to ask for an alternative dinner option. 

That is not to say they didn't like it, though - in fact, they did quite a bit. But the heat was a little too much for them. Be warned, but don't skip it entirely since the flavor of the habanero is delicious and it tends to mellow a bit after cooking.

A few veganized ingredients in the dish are the chicken and the cream. I replaced the chicken with eggplant and cauliflower and the cream with vegan milk mixed with some arrowroot. The arrowroot thickened the sauce up a bit (as cream would) and added body to the dish. The flavors of the habanero, tomato and green onions, along with his Essence, were delicious. This was a quick and easy way to make a nice creamy sauce. As for the veggies, you could substitute something else, zucchini, squash, green beans, or use only cauliflower or only eggplant. 

This was a deliciously spicy and pleasant meal to have - nothing too difficult about it. Just watch the spice and have water and bread handy.

Cost Breakdown

pasta: $3
eggplant, cauliflower: $5
habanero, garlic, onion, olive oil: $1.50
almond milk, arrowroot, green onion: $3
Total to make 6 servings:
$12.50




1.12.2012

"grills gone vegan"

I have been doing a bit of testing for Tami Noyes' upcoming "Grills Gone Vegan" cookbook. Since Chicago has just had its first snowfall of the season today, what better way to look forward to the summer than by showing everyone the upcoming summer festivities we will have to enjoy: Grilling! Vegan Grilling!

This book will be a must have. This is the only decent vegan cookbook on the subject and I cannot even see summer grilling without out.


First up is Poblano Bruschetta. Lightly spicy.




Then Roasted Corn Chowder. Sweet with a little smokiness.




And finally, Pesto Tomatoes. She will also have a pasta option for this classic. 



And just because I care about your feelings and don't want to see anyone hurting for something that they just can't have yet, here is a not-such-a-tease recipe: Cajun Pot Pie from her American Vegan Kitchen cookbook - which I know you all have. 
If not, here is another reason to get it.


Enjoy!

1.10.2012

manhattan chowder

It keeps astounding me that my daughter, who is an absolute mushroom-phobe, continues to ask for this soup - a soup that is laden with oyster mushrooms. 

Unlike its counterpart, New England Clam Chowder, Manhattan Chowder, the 'red one,' as it was commonly referred to at "Captain's Nook," a seafood restaurant my parents owned in Hollywood, FL, is not cream based, but tomato based. 

Mikel loves the New England Chowder and Catt digs this one. Not difficult to make and quite delicious, especially with some saltine crackers. Old Bay, a popular seafood seasoning, and seaweed make another appearance in this soup, as it is my habit of including them in anything that requires seafood - sans the animals. 

The mushrooms are a great touch, giving the soup a more 'clam-y' texture, but it can be ignored or another mushroom subbed. We adore oyster mushrooms at our house (well, at least those who actually eat any mushrooms at all), and if it isn't Manhattan Chowder that gets 'em, then it'd be the Po' Boys. Lucky for Catt we recently had Po Boys and it was her turn at the coveted 'shroom.

Cost Breakdown

oyster mushrooms: $6
oil, garlic: $.75
onion, celery, carrot, green pepper: $2
roasted tomatoes: $2.50
spices, Tabasco, seasoning: $.75
seaweed: $.75
potatoes: $1
Total to make 8 servings:
$13.75





1.08.2012

seitan parmigiana

First off, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Post Punk Kitchen for naming this blog, yes, the one you are reading!!, Weekly Vegan Menu, on their 100 List. We are so darned amazed, flattered and any other word that aptly describes being slammed to the floor in awe. I love the list and its other contents and look forward to perusing it myself in the coming weeks. Beautiful job, PPK! And not just because we are on it. The list is great and if you haven't seen it, yet, you certainly should.



Chicken Parmigiana is a classic Italian dish of breaded and fried chicken, baked with layers of tomato sauce and cheese. Interesting to note is that Eggplant Parmigiana was the predecessor of the meat version, not the other way around. 
Way to go aubergine! 

Since I have already created the eggplant recipe, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about the meat version. I had a bunch of non-veg teenagers over for dinner and thought this might be a nice vegan dish to make for them. This was also the perfect way to introduce to you all my brand-spanking-new Simple Chicken Seitan Recipe

The Simple Chicken Seitan Recipe uses only 7 ingredients, can be made in any machine or by hand (if you have to) and has no seitan flavor if cooked properly.

What's the catch? 

(1) You have to cook it at a very low temperature. The lower the better, but 225 F works very well. This means that you cook it longer. If you do not care about seitan-y flavor, then by all means, continue cooking it at the regular temperature of 350 F for an hour or using your slow cooker.   
UPDATE:
The slow cooker method has turned out to be a success, and I am so excited because of it! It is actually turning out to be the better of the two methods (oven or slow cooker). The trick is to leave the lid ajar, by about a quarter inch, and only cook the cutlets for 3 hours and 45 minutes. Huge thanks to Nonna for getting me to try it even after I abandoned the idea.

(2) You have to sift your gluten flour. No getting around this. In order to pull off the recipe to an exact tee, maintain proper texture and flavor, you have to measure the correct amount of gluten. The best way to do that is to either sift the flour before you measure it or stir it up before you measure it. This is the same procedure that you use for baking with regular flour; the flour granules settle down and make measuring inaccurate by as much as FOUR Tablespoons per cup of flour! That makes a big difference in the final product.

***A little note about the cost of vital wheat gluten flour.*** 

I've seen some comments on different sites about the expense of gluten flour. If you purchase a small box of it from your local health food store, sure, you are going to pay an arm and a leg for the stuff. Been there, done that. But, if you buy it from the bulk section of, say Whole Foods, you are way better off. I buy 25 pounds at a time from WF for around $80. That is around $3.25 per pound. A pound of gluten flour yields more than 3 cups. 1 cup of gluten makes 8 cutlets. 
Therefore, 1 pound of gluten, at $3.50, makes around 30 cutlets of Simple Chicken Seitan.

No Whole Foods or other super-awesome store like that near you? No problem. Hitting Amazon, you would still be paying a lot, around $5/pound for Bob's Red Mill or $6/pound for Arrowhead Mill. But that is still not even close to the $9/pound that you pay at a local health food store. 
(There are other companies that sell on Amazon, but I don't have buying experience with them.)

On the brighter side, Barry Farm , a place I have shopped from, sells vital wheat gluten for $3.50/pound. Discounts for larger (5 pounds or 25 pounds) orders. Great place to get it. I purchased 30 pounds and the total, including shipping, was $85. That is less than $3/pound, including shipping. 

The other ingredients for the Simple Chicken Seitan are chickpea flour (very important), salt, VA Chicken-Style Broth Mix, garlic and tahini. If you don't have tahini, add 1/2 Tablespoon of a neutral flavored oil.    

_______________________________

A note about eggs and binding. What makes the Parmigiana family of classics especially off the menu for vegans (even if you ask for it without cheese) is the egg batter. The consensus still remains that you need eggs for binding crumbs onto things, when all you need is wet flour. It doesn't matter if you use soy milk, nut milk, water, broth or eggs to make your flour wet - it all does the same thing - turn flour into glue (papier mache anyone?) The one difference is that vegan milk, water and broth won't cost you a million karma points. 

There it is. Get cooking.


Cost Breakdown

seitan: $3
panko, breadcrumbs, flour: $1
spices, garlic: $.50
pasta: $3
tomato sauce: $3
Total to make 5 servings:
$10.50




1.05.2012

lángos

My dad's dream was to live in New York City and introduce Lángos to the people of America. In fact, he always said that if he could just let people taste this Hungarian street food, he could make millions! I'm pretty sure it was this and his desire for a BMW that kept him going for so many years. My parents owned and operated more than a dozen restaurants throughout our lifetime, even one in New York, but, unfortunately my dad never did get his Big Wish granted. Which is a shame, since  Lángos is so amazing.

It is a savory doughnut, so to speak. The dough is made with flour and a little mashed potato. After being fried, it is seasoned with salt, rubbed with raw garlic and eaten with a drizzle or dollop of sour cream. This is not everyday food, but one that I remember having on New Year's Day and maybe at another time during the year. 

And so it goes at our house as well. The kids will begin mentioning their desire for it months before it is actually made. Not that it is hard to make; on the contrary, after the dough rises, it is stretched into a thin disk and deep fried. Nothing complicated about it. Since it isn't health food, however, it has become an annual or semi-annual indulgence. 
Worth every delicious, garlicky bite.




1.03.2012

island burger

Liz, a terrific lady over at Cooking the Vegan Books, and a fellow cookbook tester, suggested I get Caribbean Vegan by Taymer Mason, since we share the love of island food and the love of Habaneros (or is that Scotch Bonnets?) 

I open up my adventure of this cookbook with a burger. Mikel asked for a burger to be on the menu and this satisfied both of us.

The Island Burger uses TVP for the burger base. Nice and easy, I thought, that is unless you are one of those people who cannot stand a huge list of ingredients; this one recipe has over 20 ingredients. I do not mind the list of ingredients since I know it can sometimes take a bunch seasonings to make a dish great.  As an additional work-load, you are asked to make one of the ingredients in the ingredients list - Bajan Seasoning.  There is also a recipe for the Barbecue Sauce that goes on the burger and a recipe for the bun - Salt Bread - that the burger goes on. 

Naturally, the only way to tackle a recipe with this much to do is to:

 (1) come to terms with it - it isn't going to get shorter unless you cut something out, but, then how do you know what to cut out without affecting the result? 

(2) plan to make it at the right time. Don't make a recipe like this in the middle of the week while the kids are crying for food and you've just come home from work. Which includes planning a Weekly Menu (name of this blog- check out the tab "Weekly Menu" to get some complete weekly menu ideas. Once you are good with both (1) and (2), the task isn't work, but instead becomes fun.

The recipes in this book feed my yearning for the fiery little pepper, but since I can't get Scotch Bonnet peppers as readily as Habanero peppers (and I can't really discern the difference between the two anyway- even Ghost Peppers have that same flavor profile to me), I use them interchangeably. 

It seems to be an authentic cookbook worthy of the islands and worth the effort. Many times cooking something out of your comfort zone can seem challenging. However, consider that once you have met the challenge the first time, you can easily do it again.

If you are jonesing for a burger, but you don't have this book, try this one.


ethiopian

When Tami, over at Vegan Appetite and author of American Vegan Kitchen, posted a contest for PaPa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, I knew there was no way I was going to wait to just lose in the contest, so I hurried over to Kittee's blog to grab her zine. Besides, I knew I was going to have to have it, so I didn't want to take the chance away from someone else.

I love, love, love Ethiopian food and the complete lack of a vegan cookbook on the topic was depressing. Until this little zine came along.

She covers how to throw your own Ethiopia food party and gives you all the essential recipes to start cooking your Badookie off. 

She has a gluten-free injera, (flat-bread), recipe, the niter kibbeh, (flavorful cooking fat), recipe and a berbere paste recipe. It's all here to get you started. 

I made the injera, niter kibbeh (you can't skip it), dinich siquar allecha (sweet potatoes), ye'miser w'et (red lentils in spicy stew), and ye'takelt w'et (mixed vegetables in spicy stew). It was all amazing! The two w'ets used the same red spicy gravy, but they were still distinct enough that they were able to stand on their own. 

All vegan, all Ethiopian and all gluten-free. And leftovers? Just as amazing. But, like Kittee says, don't even entertain for a second to have it with rice. Although I've erred in the past regarding this, I now concur.

Dinich Siquar Allecha (Sweet Potatoes)

Ye'Takelt W'et (Mixed Veg in Spicy Gravy)

Ye'miser W'et (Red Lentils in Spicy Gravy) with Selata (Salad)