Archive forCookbooks

Mexican Pizza; Lentil Orzo Soup

I’m just going to skip having a Thanksgiving post, because my Thanksgiving was nearly identical to last year, and although Mark has been happily gorging himself on leftovers, I didn’t do anything particularly creative or unusual. I hope everyone – even you non-Americans – had a great Thanksgiving, however!

As per my usual routine, I moved two pizza doughs from the freezer to the refrigerator before the weekend. We usually end up having pizza at some point during the weekend, but what with the Thanksgiving leftovers and various social obligations, it didn’t happen this weekend. Which left me with pizza dough that I needed to use tonight. But I wanted to try a different approach from my usual, pretty traditional pizza, so tonight I made Mexican pizza:

Here’s what I did:

Mexican Pizza

up to 4 batches individual-sized pizza doughs
12-16 oz vegan ground “beef” (“mince” for you non-Americans)
1 packet taco seasoning (I found some taco seasoning for yuppies packet at Wegmans)
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Mexican oregano
canned or fresh jalapeno, sliced
vegan mozzarella, grated (I used Cheezley)
vegan cheddar, grated (I used Daiya)

Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 550 Fahrenheit (or as high as it will go).

In a heavy sauce pot, heat some olive oil, then add the ground “beef”, saute the ground beef, add the taco seasoning, and saute another minute. Add the tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, and oregano. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Shape the pizza dough for each pizza and place on a peel. Spread the sauce mixture evenly on each pizza, then top with jalapeno slices and mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Bake until done, about 5 minutes.

Next up is just a quick soup I threw together last week when I wasn’t feeling that great. I didn’t take pictures of the process or write it up earlier, because at the time I just wanted something soothing in my belly, but I did snap a photo of the finished product and it was very simple and really tasty, so, if I remember correctly, here’s what I did:

Lentil Orzo Soup

2-4 shallots (depending on size), or 1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
red pepper flakes, if you are so inclined (to taste)
4 cups vegan stock or broth
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup orzo (or other small pasta)
2 cups baby spinach
salt, to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

Bring some olive oil up to temperature in a heavy soup pot, then add the onions, carrots, and celery. Saute for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and saute another couple of minutes. Add the stock or broth, tomato paste, lentils, and red pepper flakes if using. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the orzo and simmer another 15 minutes. Add the spinach and taste for salt, then simmer two or three more minutes. Add the lemon juice, then serve.

In not-at-all-food-related news, I went to see Jeff Vandermeer read in Baltimore last night. I’ve been a fan of his since I read City of Saints and Madmen, and I’m currently reading his latest, Finch (which he signed for me). In fact, I have only a few more pages left and as soon as I finish this post, I’ll finish it up.

I liked this picture because from reading his blog I feel as if he and I have a similar sense of humour, so I like that I caught him laughing:

In other book news, but more food-related, I forgot to urge you all earlier to buy Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day! I was a tester for this book (my name is in it! Mark’s so impressed!) – if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve seen photos of some of the breads – and I can assure you that even the non-vegan breads veganized beautifully. I tested all but just one or two recipes from the book; Peter was gracious enough to at least pretend he cared about my vegan input even on non-vegan-sounding breads like Crusty Cheese Bread. They were all amazing, even the Crusty (Non-Dairy) Cheese Bread and the Babka. It’s a great book for novice bread bakers as well as the more experienced. My favourite thing about it was how easy it makes it to create a bread-baking schedule that works for people who work late hours but want fresh bread during the week. Most of the recipes are scaled for two loaves of bread, so I’d mix it up and bake one loaf during the weekend, then bake the second mid-week. The recipes and techniques are clear, the bread is great, and if any of you buy it (or any of his other books) and have any questions about veganizing the recipes, I’d be happy to help you. The recipes actually call for “any kind” of milk, which he makes clear includes non-dairy milks, so mostly it’s just eggs you need to substitute. Of course, many of the recipes are vegan as written. I know I don’t do many bread recipes on this blog, although bread baking is a particular passion of mine, but the reason is I pretty much just slavishly follow Peter Reinhart’s (and Jeffrey Hamelman’s) recipes. Although I do my own thing when cooking, I’m more shy about making things up when it comes to baking, and between Reinhart and Hamelman, I figure my bases are covered. If you are at all interested in baking your own bread, Artisan Breads Every Day is a great place to start. No, I’m not making commission on the book even though I was a tester – I just think Peter Reinhart’s books are really, really good!

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Red Gram with Spinach

Sorry, but this post is just a teaser. I think I first read about Cooking at Home with Pedatha on Tigers & Strawberries, or maybe it was Mahanandi, but in either case I’ve had it on my wish list forever. I recently decided I was going to start making more Indian food – whether Mark likes it or not! – and immediately ordered this very nice cookbook with so many rave reviews. I received it yesterday and as Mark is out of town again, tonight was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

I made Red Gram with Spinach, or Palakooora Pappu. It was REALLY good!

The book is really nice – almost too nice. As in, it’s so nice I’m afraid to get it dirty and all my favorite cookbooks are filthy. It’s very pretty to look at, has full-colour photos of every dish, contains a pictorial glossary of just about every ingredient so you can find it in your Indian grocery store, and makes the dishes seem a lot simpler to pull together than it sometimes seems Indian recipes are. In fact, this meal took me less than half an hour to make and 15 minutes of that was pressure cooking the dhal (gram), which required no supervision.

Want to see it closer up?

I can’t wait to make more recipes from this book, and maybe I’ll adapt a few to put up here. All I need to do is convince Mark he’s going to like these recipes as much as I do…

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Spicy Peanut Eggplant

Apart from boxed macaroni & cheese and other “foods” of that nature, before I went vegan I knew how to cook exactly one dish: eggplant parmesan. I don’t even remember what inspired me to learn how to cook that, but it was my big speciality. Of course, it went by the wayside when I went vegan, and for some reason I never showed any further interest in eggplant. I think I over-eggplanted on the eggplant parmesan. It’s ridiculous to continue to avoid eggplant as it’s been 11 years now, although I don’t actually avoid eggplant, it just never occurs to me to buy it. That is, until I saw the adorable “purple pixie” eggplants at Wegmans last night. I should have taken a picture. They’re tiny and so cute!

I don’t know why, but I had decided I wanted to make something with the eggplants involving peanut sauce. Maybe because that’s the furthest thing I could think of from parmesan? At any rate, I got home quite late tonight and had a hunch that Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian would contain what I was looking for. I was not disappointed. It had exactly what I was looking for and what’s more, it was nearly instant: Cold Eggplants in a Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Spicy Peanut Eggplant
(lightly) adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

10 oz small or baby eggplants, quartered or halved then cut into 2″ pieces
4 tsp natural peanut butter
4 tsp soy sauce
4 tsp vinegar
2 tsp Shaoxing (Chinese rice) wine (or try sake)
4 drops stevia (or 2 tsp sugar or agave nectar)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili garlic paste
thumb-size piece garlic, grated
1 cube frozen cilantro (or a handful fresh, chopped)

Steam the eggplant pieces until tender. Jaffrey suggests 10-15 minutes, however, I checked after 9 minutes and mine were very over-done, so for particularly delicate eggplants, check after 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Toss with the eggplant and serve cold or at room temperature.

I realized I was going to have much more sauce than I needed, so I cooked a bundle of soba noodles to toss the leftover sauce with:

In cat news, Brachtune likes to sleep in my reading chair:

You are probably wondering why I never take any photos of Brachtune that don’t involve her lounging around in that chair. Well, the fact of the matter is, Brachtune spends a good 95% of her time there.

I spend a lot of my time there as well, such as right now. Since we are competing for the spot, Brachtune is currently standing on me and kneading at my stomach, which is cute but also annoying because she’s always messing with my belly button ring. This is what Brachtune looks like when she wakes up and realizes I intend to claim my chair:

And this is what she does to make herself as super-adorable as possible in hopes that I will change my mind:

It never works. I just scoop her up and put her on my lap and then she sits there purring and drooling all over me. And sitting on my arm when I’m trying to type…

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