Archive forMay, 2008

Aloo Gobi

As I mentioned in the previous post, Mark is not the biggest fan of Indian food, so I often try to get my fill of it (I love it) when we aren’t eating together. Unfortunately, this usually occurs on nights when I don’t have a lot of time to experiment, so tonight it was the old stand-by, aloo gobi. Fortunately I happened to have a nice cauliflower waiting for me in the refrigerator. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this recipe: when I want to make it, I just pick Indian spices off my spice rack and dump them into the pot with abandon. I’m hopeless, I know.

This recipe doesn’t make loads because it was just for me, although I wanted enough for a lunch or two too. I actually have trouble scaling my cooking down; quantity-wise, I tend to cook like an Italian grandma. So what I did tonight was use the adorable cocotte my awesome aunt gave me for Christmas. If I had made it in a larger pot, I’d have kept adding stuff until it was full. So the cocotte is a great way of curtailing my overzealous nature.

Aloo Gobi

1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1″ piece ginger, grated or minced
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
2-3 red potatoes, chopped
1/2 head small cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 springs cilantro (I used 2 of those frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s again because I haven’t yet acquired a new cilantro plant to kill)

In an aptly-sized pan, heat a small amount of oil (or vegan ghee) and add the cumin and mustard seeds, frying until they start to pop (about 30 seconds).

Add the onions and fry until translucent, then add the garlic and ginger and fry until onions begin to brown.

Add the potatoes and fry for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, remainder of the spices, and the water and simmer for 10 minutes.

Note: I called for canned tomatoes because that is what I usually use, especially in the winter when fresh tomatoes and tasteless and expensive, however, since I had half an overly ripe tomato that needed to be used up, I chopped that up and then added about 1/4 cup pizza sauce (the recipe for which you can find here) that I also had leftover. As I mentioned in my pizza tutorial, one of the benefits of not spicing your pizza sauce is it’s easy to use leftovers later. This is one way I try to cut back on wasting food.

Add the cauliflower and simmer until everything is tender and the sauce has reduced by about half. Stir in the cilantro (and if you are fancy, hold a little cilantro back for garnish).

I forgot to take a picture in the pot after it was done, probably because I was starving by that time.

The final meal, served with brown basmati rice. Also a crappy picture due to that whole starving/impatient thing. I really don’t know how all the food bloggers who actually take quality photos of their food manage to take the time to set up pretty shots!

Just after plating, I noticed there was nothing green in my meal and remembered that I usually add peas. Oops. If using frozen peas, stir them in just a minute or two before serving. It didn’t look too pretty, but it was tasty. It would have been even better with peas.

Does anyone else’s cat LOVE water?

And lest you think my other cat never gets any attention, you should know that although Tigger helps me prepare just about every meal I make, Brachtune is the one who helps me eat it:

If you’re curious, Brachtune’s current reading material is Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

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Big Mark’s Bad-Ass Tomato Surprise

Mark is back with a tutorial! Mark requested a leftover tempeh burger for dinner tonight, but I had already had one for lunch, so we’re having separate dinners tonight. This means I get to have Indian food, of which Mark is not that fond, and you get a new tutorial featuring Mark’s cooking! Not depicted is Mark figuring out how to turn on and apply a tempeh burger to the George Foreman grill, but here is his side dish (really more dessert as he’d already wolfed down the burger), “Bad-Ass Tomato Surprise”.

First, assemble the ingredients. Mise en place and all that stuff:

That’s a French press, a can of spotted dick, a lighter, some ginger, one tomato, and an orange tabby.

Remove the sticker from the tomato:

Choose a knife. Mark’s been trained to use the bread knife on tomatoes.

Slice the top off the tomato:

Slice the tomato in half:

Salt the tomato. Mark says the quantity of salt to use is “an ungodly amount”, because “salt is freakin’ sweet”.

Add a bit of freshly ground pepper:

Enjoy your tomato surprise!

If you are nice, share with your cat:

Put away the French press, spotted dick, lighter, and ginger. They’re taking up the cat’s lounging area.

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Places to buy stuff

I just noticed that The Wok Shop has the Thai sticky rice steaming basket and pot available for just $10.

And I also noticed that Bryanna Clark Grogan has two links to sites selling wooden tofu presses on her tofu page: the SoyaJoy soy milk maker ordering page, which has a whole kit for $24.99 – not bad! – and Simply Natural, with a kit for $33.95.

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Potato Salad

It’s Memorial Day here in the U.S. and we are supposed to be thinking about the contributions of those who died in combat in the name of our country. I think most people are thinking about grilling hamburgers and drinking beer instead. I like to make holiday-appropriate meals so in that spirit, I made Vegan Dad’s Perfect Tempeh Burgers (atop homemade whole wheat rolls), baked beans (*cough* from a can, I’m so embarrassed *cough*), and potato salad. I also drank some beer like a good American.

Potato salad is one of those things for which I don’t understand the need for a recipe, so I feel a bit stupid offering one. But I’m training myself to be better about remembering to take pictures so I can share recipes with you when stuff turns out well, so I photographed my potato salad and will thus give you a recipe. I used red potatoes, because it’s what I had on hand, but I think next time I will try to pick up some Russets for this recipe because they sort of disintegrate and make for a creamier salad that is more like what my family made when I was growing up.

My family also always added hardboiled eggs to potato salad. For that reason, I used Indian black salt instead of regular salt in this recipe. Indian black salt – which is actually pink – smells heavily of sulfur and therefore tastes sort of like eggs, so I add it to things I want to remind me of eggs…which honestly isn’t much. Mark hates the smell of it, but I sort of like it. If you don’t have black salt, you can substitute regular sea salt, but don’t use salt that is actually black (lava salt) because it will turn your potato salad gray.

Potato Salad

1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed (any kind is okay; baking potatoes will be creamier)
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup Vidalia or red onion, small dice
2 small or 1 large dill pickle, minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup Vegenaise
1 tsp Indian black salt or regular sea salt (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs – I used dill and chives because my dill and chive plants are taking over my indoor herb garden, but parsley would be good, too.

Chop the potatoes into 1″ cubes, place in a pot, and cover with water. Simmer until a fork pierces them easily (about 20 minutes).

While the potatoes are cooking, combine the celery, pickles, onions, and herbs.

When potatoes are done, drain and mix with all other ingredients.

Chill for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend.

Here are the rolls I made:

I used this recipe.

Here is the meal plated, although it’s a lousy photograph:

In other kitchen-related news, yesterday I successfully re-seasoned a cast iron Dutch oven that I tried to destroy a few weeks ago by leaving it empty on a hot burner for an hour or so. I have a really bad habit of wandering out of the kitchen in the middle of doing something and then immediately and completely forgetting I have something going on, leaving my husband to ask me much later if the stove is SUPPOSED to be on fire. The great thing about cast iron is it’s virtually indestructible, and in fact, being forced to re-season this piece turned out to be a good thing because it was one of those pre-seasoned Lodge pots and I was never really happy with the seasoning, which wasn’t nearly as non-stick and wonderful as my antique Griswold skillet. It turns out you really should season those so-called pre-seasoned items, so why you should spend twice as much on them, I do not know. You might as well just buy a non-seasoned one if you’re going to have to season it anyway. I guess you don’t have to pre-wash the pre-seasoned ones as thoroughly. Anyway, I rubbed the pot with Earth Balance shortening, in lieu of the much-hyped seasoning power of lard (which is not to say I’m not a fan of The Power of Lard, and if I didn’t think she’d absolutely kill me, I’d share a picture of my mother wearing my Dead Kennedys sweatshirt at my niece’s birthday party this weekend). The Earth Balance worked really well; I baked it at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple of hours. It didn’t smoke much and the finish is really nice. I did a test-run in it by caramelizing some onions for our tempeh burgers tonight and that went very well. The pot is much better than it was before I tried to incinerate it! I’m inspired to go find some more vintage cast iron and re-season it!

The other thing I’m proud of myself about is the fact that I sharpened my chef’s knife all by myself a couple of weeks ago and it’s actually sharper than it was before I sharpened it! I bought a whetstone a while ago, but every time I tried to use it, I’d just make my knife duller, so I’d force my very handy best friend to sharpen it for me whenever he was around. (I make that boy work for his meals.) He’s been a bit complainy about driving to Virginia lately, though, so the last time he was here I made him show me how to do it properly and I later actually managed to do it without his supervision. But I’m still a little surprised every time I use it and it chops things. Tonight it sliced a very ripe tomato (which may sound like an easy task, but you really need a very sharp (or serrated) knife to pierce the skin)!

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Thai Sticky Rice and Sauces

Thai sticky rice is a fun food you can eat with your hands and flavor with a variety of different sauces. You want to buy rice labeled “sweet rice” or “glutinous rice”. Shown is a store brand I currently have on hand, but I usually buy a Thai brand from the Thai grocery store. This is a short grain, glutinous rice, but it is not the same as sushi rice, so if you are unsure about what you are buying, you may want to ask a clerk. I have found the clerks in Asian grocery stores to be extremely helpful, despite the fact that I’m ordinarily very shy, so don’t be afraid to ask. In fact, everything I am about to show you about making Thai sticky rice, I learned from the very helpful lady at the Thai grocery store.

I cook most of my rice in an electric rice cooker after moving into a home with an electric stove (from one with a gas stove) and finding myself no longer capable of cooking rice properly, however, this type of rice can not be made in a rice cooker (although sushi rice, which is also sticky, can be). Instead, you will need a special steaming basket, which is available in Thai grocery stores and looks like this:

They are inexpensive and you can order them online, from sites such as this one, although you can probably just use a regular steamer if you don’t want to buy one.

First you need to soak the rice. Most of the instructions I have found online have given soaking times between 4 and 6 hours, however, the very nice lady at the Thai grocery promised me two hours was sufficient, and I’ve never had a problem soaking for as little as two hours. If I think of it earlier, I soak for longer, but two hours is fine. Figure on about 1/2 a cup dry rice per serving.

Here is my soaked rice:

Drain the rice. Get a piece of cheesecloth or muslin about 12″ by 12″ and mound the rice into the center of it. In the photo, I thought I would be clever by lining my sieve with the muslin and pouring the soaked rice into it, thinking the water would drain quickly through the fabric and save me a step, however it didn’t really work: the water didn’t drain quickly enough for me and I ended up pouring it out.

After mounding the rice in the center of the cheesecloth or muslin, fold it up into a neat little package:

Place the rice package into the steaming basket:

Put a few inches of water into the pot and place the basket on the pot (make sure the water doesn’t touch the basket). Place a snugly-fitting lid over the rice package:

Steam over medium heat. How long the rice takes to steam will depend on how long it was soaked and how much you are making. I have found it usually takes about 45 minutes, although I start checking it after half an hour. To check for doneness, remove the rice package from the basket, unfold, and try to grab a bit with chopsticks. If the rice is still hard and not sticking together, you still have a while to go. If it is clumping together, test a small amount in your hand and see if it feels soft and sticky. It’s never done the first time I check, but the bottom of the package is usually stickier than the top, so I’ll usually return the package to the basket upside down so it uniformly steams.

When the rice is done, remove from the basket and use a wooden rice paddle to remove from the cheesecloth or muslin.

Traditionally, the rice would be moved to a lidded serving basket, but I for some reason seem to not yet have acquired one of those. Sounds like a trip to the Thai grocery store is in order…

To eat, take a small amount of rice in your hands and dip it in a sauce. Here are a couple of sauce recipes:

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

I got this recipe off the internet somewhere a long time ago: it is not my recipe. For my husband and I, I usually halve these amounts.

1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile, crush the garlic with the pepper flakes and salt with a mortar and pestle.

Stir this paste into the vinegar and sugar solution. Bring to room temperature and serve.

Peanut Sauce

This is my very simple and easy peanut sauce recipe that I use for everything from sticky rice to noodles. The bottle on the right in the photo is my homemade chili oil, which looks strange because there is gunk that marinates in it and I actually ran out of the oil and only had some gunk left. Looks like I’ll be making chili oil tomorrow. I managed to get 1 tsp out of it and made up for the remainder of the heat by using sriracha.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp of chili oil
1/2 cup water

Process all ingredients in a mini-chopper, blender, food processor, immersion blender…or just whisk them all together.

Here’s everything I made for dinner tonight (peanut sauce not shown):

The spicy tofu + sticky rice meal is popular around here. My best friend considers this his favorite, and it’s one of my favorites too.

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Spicy Tofu

Now that I’ve finally gotten around to explaining how to make tofu, I can share one of my favorite tofu recipes with you. It’s particularly good with fresh, homemade tofu, but you can easily use store-bought instead. One of the reasons I make my own tofu is I make it so firm that I can stir-fry it in a wok without it breaking up, which I can’t do with even extra-firm tofu that I’ve pressed. If you buy tofu instead of making it, buy the firmest you can get, wrap it in a tea towel, and press it under a heavy weight or book for half an hour.

Spicy Tofu

1 lb extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
6 cloves garlic, pressed
3-6 dried chili peppers, or red pepper flakes to taste
4 scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, divided
3 Tbsp cornstarch

Mix the chili sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and one tablespoon of the sesame seeds together in a small bowl. If you are using dried chili peppers, rip the stems off and pour the seeds into the sauce, then toss the peppers into the sauce; otherwise, add the red pepper flakes to taste. Set aside.

Chop the tofu into 1″ blocks. Place the cornstarch into a flat-bottomed bowl and add the tofu cubes, tossing them to coat. You may find it easier to do this in two batches. (The tofu cubes are not entirely coated in the photo.)

Heat 1-2 Tbsp oil in a wok over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tofu cubes:

Stir-fry until golden on all sides, then add half the scallions and stir-fry for one minute. Add the sauce to the wok:

Let the sauce simmer down for a minute or two, then stir in the additional scallions and sesame seeds.

Serve with rice.

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Well, my husband and I have just returned from a week at the beach (where internet access was next to nonexistent) and I’m feeling rejuvenated enough to finally get around to writing up that tofu tutorial I promised yonks ago. OK, really I made a tofu dish for dinner tonight that I’d like to write up and figured I’d better tell you how to make tofu before I tell you how to use it. Not that you can’t use store-bought tofu for my recipe, which I suspect 99% of the world will do, but if you are enterprising enough to make your own tofu via my method, your reward will be tofu firm enough to stir-fry! Regular tofu, even extra-firm, often falls apart in the wok, and one of the great things about making your own is you can out-firm the so-called extra-firm. (I’ll stop abusing hyphens now.)

You’ll need two special items before making tofu: a coagulant and a tofu press. Making tofu is apparently similar to making cheese: basically you curdle soy milk, then press the curds to remove the extra liquid. Easy-to-obtain coagulants include epsom salts and lemon juice. I’m not sure of the amounts off-hand because I’ve never tried either, but I can look it up for anyone who is interested because I have a book on making tofu. (I can’t look it up right now because I am settled in a very comfortable chair, with a glass of wine and a cat.) Traditionally, either nigari (sea water minerals) or gypsum (calcium sulfate) is used. Nigari and gypsum can be ordered from several online sources, including soy milk maker manufacturers. I order mine from GEM Cultures. You have to go through the archaic process of printing an order form, writing a check (or sending a money order), and mailing both in to them (although they plan to set up online ordering and Paypal acceptance at some point), however, I have always received my orders within a week and I definitely recommend them.

I have used both nigari and calcium sulfate, and although the latter has the benefit of adding nutritional calcium to the tofu, I prefer nigari, which seems to make a firmer tofu. I will therefore give instructions for using nigari in this tutorial, however, if you have any questions about other coagulants, ask away.

As for the tofu press, they are somewhat frustratingly difficult to find in the U.S., but you have options. When I first starting make tofu, I took two identical loaf pans and drilled holes in the bottom of one of them. I then nested the other into the holey one and placed the weights into it. This was actually a nice sturdy press, but I was unhappy that I was unable to drill drainage holes into the sides, and it makes about two pounds of tofu, which is more than I really need most weeks. Most soy milk maker manufacturers sell plastic tofu presses and kits like this one. These are cheap and easy to find, but I refused to go that route both because I dislike plastic and because I use such heavy weights I was afraid a plastic press would break. I doubt any plastic press is a quality product, but you may decide to go that route. I have drooled over the beautiful stainless steel press in Maki’s tofu tutorial (required reading, by the way) but until I make it to Japan, it’s out of my reach. After hours of fruitless internet searching, I ended up buying what was probably the last wooden tofu press they will ever sell at Soko Hardware in San Francisco’s Japantown when I was last out there: the owner, who had carried it back from Japan in her personal luggage, told me it’s simply not cost-efficient to stock them because there’s no demand. I paid an outrageous price for that reason. Months later, though, I came across this wooden press, which looks really nice, although it’s probably about the size of my loaf pans and may make more tofu than I personally need at a time…unless I make a rather flat block. If there is any interest, I can devote a later post to tofu presses, because I am very interested in them, but in the interest of moving this post along, let me conclude by saying if you can’t find a press and don’t want to make one, you can use a colander or strainer if you don’t mind oddly-shaped tofu. Basically you need any contraption from which liquid can drain.

As I mentioned in my post on making soy milk, the first step in making tofu is to make soy milk. You can use commercial soy milk to make tofu, although I find the idea strange. If you decide to go the commercial route, buy unsweetened soy milk and warm it up to about 170 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the coagulant. If you make the soy milk yourself, the temperature should be just about perfect after straining. The recipe I provided for 2 quarts of soy milk makes about 12-16 ounces of tofu. For this amount, dissolve three teaspoons of nigari into two cups of lukewarm water, then pour this mixture into the soy milk. I pour it in a spiral motion from a measuring cup into the large bowl or pot that contains the soy milk, then stir once, slowly, with a wooden spoon. You don’t want to disturb the soy milk much after adding the coagulant, so I try to evenly disperse it as I pour it, instead of doing a lot of stirring. Cover the bowl or pot and let it sit for about 20 minutes. It should end up looking like this, large curds amongst a yellowish liquid, or whey:

While the soy milk is coagulating, prepare your press. I set mine in the sink so the liquid can drain that way, although since the whey has other uses, most instructions I’ve seen have recommended you set it in some sort of pan that will allow you to collect the whey. Line the press with a piece of clean fabric – I use muslin, just as I used for my okara bag in the soy milk post – that is large enough to fold over the top of the press. I find it easiest to wet the fabric before lining the press with it. When the soy milk is fully coagulated, ladle it into the lined press:

As you can see in this picture, I use a wok skimmer to do the ladling:

Here is the press with all of the curds in it:

Wrap the fabric up around the curds:

Put the lid on the press, or if you are using two loaf pans, place the non-holey one on top of the curds:

Add weights to the top (or in the second loaf pan):

Atop the can, I usually place a cast iron skillet and then my molcajete, both of which weigh a ton, although here I’ve just used a heavy iron pot (into which I stuffed a tea towel to prevent the can from scratching the surface of my good pot). For a firm tofu, just load it up with as much weight as you can.

Allow the tofu to sit under the weights for half an hour or longer, the remove the weights. You should have reduced the volume of the tofu by about half:

Unmold the tofu. Here is my press with the outer sides removed:

And here it is completely unmolded:

Then I trim the edges up:

It’s usually a little lopsided because I didn’t evenly distribute the weights, but I don’t get too worked up about that.

To store, immerse in water inside an aptly-sized container and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, changing the water daily.

Honestly, I rarely remember to change the water every day and it’s fine. You’ll know if it’s spoiled if it smells off, but I generally make it on Saturday or Sunday and use it sometime before Friday. If I haven’t used it by then, I stick it in the freezer. Freezing it changes the texture (it becomes chewier), but this is actually called for in some recipes. It’s particularly lovely served the same day, however.

I realize the tofu-making process isn’t for everyone, and that the length of this post makes it seem like a very involved process, but it actually takes little longer than an hour to make tofu from start to finish (if you have soaked the soy beans) and once you’ve done it once or twice, it doesn’t seem nearly as intensive. I do suspect, however, that I have bored most of you with this post. I seem to have bored Brachtune:

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Pork-free Ramen Soup

Like most starving students, there was a time in my life during which I practically lived off instant ramen. Ten packs for $1? You can’t beat that with a (chop)stick! Then one day I happened to look at the nutritional label more carefully than my usual cursory glance to make sure no animal ingredients had made their way into the Oriental flavor and was flabbergasted to discover it had about 800 grams of fat in it. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but I realized how really, really, really bad those things are for you – I don’t think I had realized before then that those noodles are fried before packaging – and that was the end of my ramen-eating era.

But ramen is fun, fast, and tasty, so I quickly found another way to guiltlessly enjoy it, and the good news is it takes barely any more time to prepare than those cheap packages. The bad news it costs about ten times as much, but when you’re talking about ten times ten cents, it’s not really that big of a deal. Plus I have many more options than just the one vegetarian but mysterious “Oriental” flavor.

I usually make kimchee ramen and I suppose one day I will give you a recipe for that. However, after seeing a photo of some ramen in New York on Slashfood yesterday, I did things a little differently tonight.

Here are most of the ingredients I used:

The essential part is chuka soba, which is unfried ramen-style noodles, which I get for $1.99 (two servings) at my Asian grocery store or Whole Foods. The fat content per serving is listed as 0.5 grams. The other “weird” ingredients here are vegan ‘beef’ bouillon and Soy Curls. Oh, and I suppose the Shaoxing wine might strike some people as weird, but it’s also optional, as are the Soy Curls.

I usually put a few cubes of tofu in my kimchee ramen, but a) I don’t have any tofu right now and b) I was going for a different ramen tonight and thought the Soy Curls might stand in for the traditional pork. Soy Curls are a neat product consisting of nothing but the entire soy bean. You soak them in hot water for a few minutes and they magically take on a nice, chewy, “meaty” texture that works very well when you want a less-processed, tasty meat substitute. I got them from Vegan Essentials. If you don’t have any Soy Curls, you could use cubed tofu, or just omit it.

Also, I pretty much consider it a sin to not have several heads of garlic in the house, and in fact, I’d normally put a lot more vegetables in this sort of soup, but my husband and I are leaving early Saturday morning for a week-long vacation and I’ve been trying not to leave myself with a lot of perishables. I used the last of the garlic last night, so I had to use garlic powder tonight. If I’d had them on hand as usual, I’d also have grated some carrot and chopped some cabbage and put them in to cook a couple of minutes before the ramen. I also tend to keep dehydrated vegetable flakes on hand for making this soup nearly-instant, however. I often make ramen soup for lunch when I’m working from home because it’s a nice hot lunch but it doesn’t take me any longer to prepare than heating up leftovers (which is what I usually do for lunch in the office).

Finally, as with most of my recipes, most of the measurements below are approximate. I hadn’t even planned on writing this one up when I began, so I wasn’t paying much attention to what I was doing and am just guessing after the fact. Just add stuff and taste it as you go along and see if you like it – that’s what I do!

Pork-Free Ramen Soup

4 cups water
2 tsp Better Than Bouillon vegan ‘beef’ (this is half the strength recommended for that amount of water) or other vegan soup flavoring (diluted if it’s salty)
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp shaoxing wine (Chinese rice cooking wine) or sake (optional)
2 tsp sesame oil
1-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed or 1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp dried vegetable flakes (for soup, such as these) (optional)
2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated
1-3 tsp chili garlic sauce or sambel olek, depending on hotness of sauce and your tolerance
1/4 cup shredded daikon (grated carrots and/or chopped cabbage would also be good additions)
1/2 cup Soy Curls, reconstituted and shredded (or chopped tofu)
1 package chuka soba (two servings)
2 scallions, chopped

Bring water to boil and whisk in bouillon, tomato paste, soy sauce, wine or sake if using, sesame oil, garlic or garlic powder, vegetable flakes, and ginger. Add the chili sauce to taste – we like ours quite hot – and then the Soy Curls or tofu and any non-dehydrated veggies. Bring to a boil and add the chuka soba, breaking it up into pieces if you like. Cook for three minutes. Break up clumps of noodles by sticking a chopstick into them and stirring to loosen. Stir in half of the scallions. Place noodles and broth into two bowls, top with remaining scallions. Enjoy!

Cheap, easy, fast, and delicious!

And a parting photo of Tigger being inquisitive, because I know you miss him when he’s not in every picture:

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Produce and rolls

No recipes tonight, just a photo of Tigger inspecting my haul of produce:

And my homemade kaiser rolls, from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (of course):

I’ve made the kaiser rolls several times before. They’re so much better than store-bought. Yesterday I made the regular version; tonight I made half whole-wheat. They just came out of the oven though so I’m not sure how they turned out.

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My mother, as well as a whole lot of other people, finds mock meat both “weird” and “scary”. A lot of people can’t figure out why vegans would want to eat something that tastes or even looks like meat. Well, people have all sorts of reasons for being vegan, or even eating vegan part-time, and many of those reasons may not preclude the desire to taste meat. And most vegans haven’t been vegan since birth, so I think a lot of the time people are trying to replicate dishes that were previously “comfort food” or that have happy memories associated with them. I generally avoid the highly processed mock meats you can find in grocery stores because it’s just not very healthy, although I do occasionally buy certain items when I don’t have time to cook a proper meal. But mostly when I prepare any sort of fake “meat” dish, the “meat” is little more than a vehicle for a certain type of sauce or seasonings that are associated with the meat. For example, do you really eat jerk chicken to taste the chicken? No, it’s the seasoning. So what difference does it make if you instead eat jerk tofu?

With that in mind, one of the most popular dishes I make is a recipe for “UnRibs” that I got off the internet ages ago. I’ve been making it for years and it is universally enjoyed by omnivores. The fact of the matter is very few of my friends are vegetarian, and I don’t even know any vegans other than my husband. So when I entertain, I have to make very “accessible” food. Although I fortunately have pretty adventurous friends who will eat practically anything I make them, I’m not going to get away with serving them nothing but braised bean sprouts and raw carrots. One of the best compliments I got as a hostess came from a friend’s boyfriend who said, “You are the best kind of vegan because you don’t force your views on anyone, you just cook amazing food.” It’s very important to me that I show people that vegan food is not strange or restrictive or scary. A couple of the ingredients for the famous “rib” recipe may seem a bit esoteric for non-vegans, which I usually try to avoid, but the results are just too good in this case.

The recipe I use for the “UnRibs” is not original to me, although I will supply my own barbeque sauce recipe. You can use your favorite barbeque sauce, either bottled or homemade, or you can try mine (which is never the same twice, but I’ll post what I did tonight). I don’t remember where I got the UnRibs recipe, but I have a note that it is from the cookbook Kathy Cooks.

Here’s all you need:

If you are vegan, you are probably familiar with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is different than brewer’s yeast and can be found in health food stores. It has a savory, somewhat cheesy flavor (which is why vegans use it in cheese substitutes). The package on the left in the photo contains dried yuba sticks. Yuba is “bean curd skin”. When hot soy milk is left undisturbed, it forms a skin on the top that can be removed and eaten, or dried for later use. This “skin” is yuba. It is rich and more flavorful than tofu. It is somewhat chewy. For the ribs you want to purchase dried yuba in stick form as shown. (It is also sold in sheets and other forms.) You can find yuba in Asian grocery stores. If you absolutely can’t find it, you can substitute seitan, although cooking time may then vary.

Here’s the recipe in its original form, followed by photo tutorial:


8 oz dried bean curd (yuba) sticks
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp miso
2 Tbsp melted soy margarine
2 tsp paprika
2 cups barbeque sauce

Soak the dried bean curd 4-6 hours or overnight in hot water. Drain and cut sticks into 4-6 inch lengths. Squeeze out excess water and drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil cookie sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the next five ingredients together to form a smooth paste.

Toss yuba in and mix until all sticks are evenly coated. Lay sticks in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Bake 25 minutes or until bottoms are brown and crispy.

Remove from oven and put into mixing bowl with barbeque sauce. Toss well. Arrange sticks in single layer on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Now my photos:

Here is the yuba after soaking for several hours:

After draining the soaked yuba, chop it into smaller pieces:

Place the remaining ingredients (except barbeque sauce) into a small bowl:

Mix the ingredients together: it’s easiest to just do it with your hands and sort of knead it. When it comes together it will be like a paste:

Place the chopped yuba back into the bowl or pot you soaked it in, then put the paste into the bowl. Then prepare to get your hands dirty! Just start rubbing the paste into the yuba. Since some water will still be clinging to the yuba, the paste will start to dissolve. Here it is about halfway through rubbing:

And here it is fully rubbed in:

Place the ribs on a single layer on a cooking surface. I made a double batch, which fit nicely on a half sheet pan, which I lined with parchment for easy cleanup:

I usually bake them for longer than the 25 minutes stated in the original recipe. I think these were actually in for closer to 50 minutes. But check to make sure they don’t burn. You want them a bit crisp, but not blackened.

When the ribs are somewhat crisp, smother in barbeque sauce and return to the oven for another 10-20 minutes.

By the way, if you purchase nutritional yeast specifically for this recipe, and don’t know what to do with the remainder, try it on popcorn! I’ll probably be suggesting it here and there in recipes, too. Also try giving it to your cat. Tigger LOVES LOVES LOVES this stuff. I can’t go near it without him sinking his claws into my clothes (or bare skin) and dragging me and the can closer to him. It’s actually good for cats, too. Here he is enjoying a plateful:

Now, as for the barbeque sauce, I usually make it up as I go along, but the following is generally the basis for most of my ribs sauces. But please tweak it to your own tastes.

Here are the ingredients I usually round up:

Barbeque Sauce

1 onion, chopped
4-8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-4 chili peppers, chopped
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup vinegar (I used apple cider)
2 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp liquid smoke
1-2 tsp chili powder (I used chipolte)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dry mustard

Saute the onion in a bit of oil or soy margarine, adding the garlic and chili peppers after a few minutes, until soft. If you don’t have fresh chili peppers, you can use chili pepper flakes to taste. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for half an hour or longer.

Let cool slightly and then puree using an immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, let cool more fully and blend, in batches if necessary, in a regular blender. NEVER add hot liquids to a regular blender.

That’s it! Why bother buying bottled, eh?

I usually serve with mashed or roasted potatoes and a veggie. I over-steamed the broccoli, so tonight it was peas!

It’s one of Mark’s favorite dishes!

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