Archive forAugust, 2008

SusanV’s Okara Crab Cakes with some sauces

As I promised in the Imperial Deviled Crab post, yesterday I attempted to make a crabby tofu. And I failed miserably. I was left with, however, an Old Bay and seaweed-infused mass of thick okara, so to keep the thing from becoming a total loss, I obviously made SusanV’s Okara Crab Cakes.

I actually had some tartar sauce already prepared, as yesterday I’d made us quick “fish” sandwiches, using some frozen vegan “fish” patties, but reading Susan’s suggestion of a “spicy cocktail sauce”, I decided I wanted some of that too! I looked up cocktail sauce recipes and quickly learned that horseradish is pretty much essential, but I didn’t have any and it didn’t seem worth a trip to Wegmans (despite my undying love for Wegmans). In case you ever find yourself in the same situation, here’s what I did:

Don’t Have Any Horseradish But Need Cocktail Sauce Cocktail Sauce

1 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp powdered wasabi
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
juice of 1/2 large lemon
hot sauce to taste

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Since I had made the tartar sauce the day before and wasn’t planning to post it, I don’t have any pictures for you, but in case you are interested, here’s what I probably did (I don’t remember exactly and I just make this stuff up as I go along…)

Tartar Sauce

1 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup sweet relish, squeezed dry
1/4 onion, minced
1 tsp dry mustard
juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are into photography at all. I’m quite an amateur, but I consider it one of my hobbies. I like to think that most of my photography is better than the awful pictures I manage to take of food for this blog (food photography is a skill I’m trying to improve), but I still have a lot to learn. One thing I DO know is that my aperture was set way, way too low when I was taking pictures of my crab cakes tonight. Wow. This actually looks better in the smaller version (usually the reverse is quite true), but it is still an awful picture and I’m sorry. I’d have skipped posting anything tonight, but it’s been several days and I feel as I’ve abandoned you. I wanted to have an awesome tofu crab tutorial for you today but that didn’t work out!

I’ll leave you with a picture of some rolls I baked yesterday (in addition to a hearth loaf and a panned loaf that is currently in the refrigerator for baking tomorrow). The recipe was the Whole Wheat Bread with a Multi-Grain Soaker and Pâte Fermentée from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread.

This book has been on my wish list forever and I was ready for a new bread book, but since I’m a book-buying ban until I go to Sydney in February, I borrowed it from the library. I don’t want to hurt Peter Reinhart’s feelings, but I might have a new boyfriend now! I’m either going to have to keep this book checked out until my birthday in October, or I’m going to have to break the book-buying ban, because I need this book. (Fortunately, I’ve been very careful to say I’m only “cutting back” on my book purchases until Sydney…)

Oh yeah, and I found out that Fortinbras promised his mother that I would do a bagel tutorial, so look for that soon. If it weren’t so late and I weren’t so into reading Little House on the Prairie for some unknown reason, I’d start some bagels tonight, but I’m afraid it’s going to have to wait another week. Bagels are fun though! Get yourselves some high-gluten flour in preparation!

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Let me show you what I was talking about

Remember the Anti-Tigger Shield in this post? Well, here’s why it’s necessary:

That’s Tigger sitting in a bread basket. On a loaf of bread. It was stale bread, so it didn’t bother me, but it’s even more weird that he wants to sit on rock-hard bread.

What, is he roosting?!

A very hungry Mark just came into the library where I am posting this, gnawing on a piece of the very stale bread. “You realize Tigger just laid that, don’t you?”

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Imperial Deviled Tofu

A fact about me: I’m from Baltimore, hon. Which means that although I haven’t eaten a crab in 20 years, I know that if you don’t put Old Bay on them, you aren’t doing it right. It also means that I miss eating crabs from time to time. Not so much any more, in fact, they kind of gross me out these days, but I totally miss crabs more than, say, steak.

So when I was rooting through some old family stuff and came across a newspaper clipping for an Imperial Deviled Crab recipe, the gears in my brain started churning. Could I? Possibly? Should I even dare attempt to veganize a recipe chock full of seafood, cream, butter, and eggs?!

Yes! Yes, I should!

I’m not sure how old this clipping is but I’m nearly certain it came from The Baltimore Sun. It says it’s the Rennert Hotel’s recipe and originally came from a book called Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Maryland by Frederick Steiff published in 1931.

Here’s the original recipe in its quaint little imprecise format:

Simmer the flakes of 2 crabs and 1/2 a chopped onion in butter, season with salt and cayenne pepper, add 2 cups of thick cream sauce, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoonful of English mustard, a little chopped chives, bring to a boil and bind with the yolks of 2 eggs. Add a little green and Spanish pepper chopped fine. Fill crab shells, spread a little French mustard and a sprinkle of bread crumbs over the top. Place a small piece of butter on each and bake in the oven until brown (15 to 20 minutes). Serve with lemon.

My first challenge was the crab itself. I had a block of homemade tofu that needed to be used today or else, so tofu crab it was. But I didn’t want to spend all day marinading it in something to make it taste seafoodish. So I did the following, which was all just on impulse more than for any thought-out reason.

Tofu Crabmeat

The only tofu I had was already in the pot cooking so I had to use a stand-in in the ingredient photograph.

1 lb tofu (pressed unless it is homemade and very firm)
4 cups water
1/4 cup dulse
1 Tbsp MSG (I got this idea from the UnSeafood recipes in Simply Heavenly!, but you can just omit it)
1 tsp kelp powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Old Bay
1 tsp dry mustard

The reason for the Old Bay is Old Bay is necessary for crabs, period. The reason for the mustard is there is this stuff in crabs called the “mustard”, which looks and I guess tastes sort of mustardy (and what it really is is pretty gross), so mustard just seemed appropriate.

Anyway, put all ingredients except the tofu into a pressure cooker and bring to a boil. Cut the tofu into four slabs as depicted in this photo:

Put the tofu into the pressure cooker as well …

… and bring up to pressure, then cook for 20 minutes. Bring the pressure back down by placing the pot in the sink and running cold water over it before removing the lid. Remove the tofu …

… and dice it.

At this point I felt the texture of the tofu was interesting, but maybe not quite as firm as I wanted it. So I microwaved it for two minutes, which did seem to firm it up a bit.

The funny part about making the tofu crab is I didn’t tell Mark anything at all about my intentions. He had no idea what was in store for dinner. But he came into the kitchen while the tofu was in the pressure cooker and exclaimed, “Are you cooking crabs!?” So it sure smelled authentic! That might be because crabs smell like Old Bay, of course. But with the seaweed as well, it did smell very seafood-y and crabby. And since olfactory senses are very tightly tied to the sense of taste, that’s half the battle right there!

The next step was making the “thick cream sauce” mandated by the recipe. I’m not a big lover of rich, heavy cream in savory dishes (or even sweet dishes for that matter). Fettucine Alfredo and the likes just aren’t for me, so I don’t really have a go-to recipe for heavy cream sauces. What I did have on-hand was some MimicCreme because I use it in ice cream. So here is what I threw together for the “thick cream sauce”:

Thick Vegan Savory Cream Sauce

1 Tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups unsweetened MimicCreme
1 tsp vegan “chicken” bouillon

In a small but heavy pot, melt the margarine. Then whisk in the flour to make a roux.

Add the salt and the MimicCreme, whisking constantly until completely smooth. Bring to a simmer and add the bouillon. Continue whisking until smooth and thickened.

Okay! With those two hurdles out of the way, I was ready to embark on the real adventure!

Imperial Deviled Tofu

1 large shallot or 1/2 onion, diced
1 pound tofu crab meat (recipe above)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chives, chopped
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup pimento, diced
1 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 recipe thick vegan savory cream sauce (recipe above)
egg replacer for 1 egg (I used En-R-G)
1 cup bread crumbs (I used panko), divided
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
sweet paprika, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

My cast iron skillet is a getting a workout lately, isn’t it?! So…in a large skillet, heat a small amount of oil or margarine, then add shallots or onion and fry for a minute. Add the tofu “crab”, salt, and cayenne pepper, frying until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the chives, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, green pepper and pimento.

Fry for 2 minutes. Add the cream sauce.

Bring to a simmer and add the egg replacer. When it thickens, stir in 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs.

Remove from heat and divide amongst two ramekins or other individually-sized serving dishes. Top each with half of the remaining bread crumbs, spread each with 1 Tbsp of the dijon mustard, and sprinkle each with paprika.

Cook for 20 minutes or until brown and crispy on top.

And here it is plated:

Verdict from Smark? Well, he’s busy killing something in World of Warcraft tonight, so he’s eating down in his man-cave. He came up to get a helping of the crab dish and took a bite before going back down. “It’s really good,” he said, “but not as good as what you made Saturday night.” Well, I could handle that, I thought. Mark doesn’t lie, at least not convincingly, about my food, so if he said it was good, I figured it was good enough to post here.

But guess what? Before I had even finished photographing my meal for you and sitting down to eat myself (with Tigger and a book), Smark resurfaced, announcing, “This was so good I need a second serving!”” he said. “Are you revising your earlier opinion?” I asked. “Yes! The ‘crab’ is really, really good! It tastes like real crab – I think. The texture is great!”

So with that, I think it moved into the realm of “would make again”. I might try to perfect the tofu crab recipe. Since I make my own tofu, I’m thinking I can infuse it with seafoody flavors while I’m making it. Sounds like a pretty fun experiment, eh?

By the way, one of Tigger’s favorite places to sleep is Mark’s laptop bag. It’s his little nest.

I’m really lucky I married someone who loves Tigger as much as I do.

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Carolina Red Rice

Although his father used to spend days planning huge vegan feasts whenever we’d visit my in-laws, Mark’s mother doesn’t enjoy cooking any more than my mother does, so I’m not going to be getting a lot of family recipes from her. What I did get for Christmas from her this year, however, was a big ole bag of South Carolina food stuffs.

Most of Mark’s family moved to Charleston a couple of years ago. Some people, when I tell them I’m heading down there for a visit, will say, “oh, the food is so good down there!” I haven’t found that to be the case, however. Not only is it rather meat-centric, but EVERYTHING is fried. One time, somewhat out of desperation, Mark ordered a BLT sans the B and was shocked to discover the tomatoes were fried! On his sandwich! It was…disturbing. Asian restaurants are few and far between, and not of the quality we’re used to up here in our little Asian wonderland of Northern Virginia. There actually are a few veggie-friendly restaurants on James Island, where they live, including a couple that have vegan things right on the menu, so it’s not completely hopeless, but it is a lot different than it is here. And if you stray too far from the more populous locales, the vegan food situation gets sketchy quickly. Which is too bad because once you get past all the meat and the fried stuff, there’s something to be said for Southern cuisine.

Anyway, my mother-in-law frequently gives me Charleston-related food items, which I love. The jalapeno jelly I often slather on my bagels over cream cheese came from her. And tonight while putting away groceries, I found an adorable little bag of Carolina rice that she had given me for Christmas. I’d been puzzling over what to make for dinner, and in fact, had planned to just pick something up from the hot bar at Whole Foods before finding it decidedly un-vegan-friendly this evening. And since Smark is a riceasaurus, and the recipe on the back of the rice bag called for bacon, which meant I could use up some of that leftover UnPork from last night, I figured it would be the perfect thing to throw together tonight.

Here’s the bag of rice:

Isn’t it cute?! I’m trying to think of something crafty to do with the bag once the rice is all gone. The only thing I’ve come up with so far is a pin cushion, or it’s a pretty good size for making into a cold pack. Funnily enough, I’d fill it with rice for such an application.

If you can’t get your hands on genuine South Carolina heirloom rice like this, any long grain rice should suffice. It’s cool to use non-mass marketed stuff like this though. The following recipe comes directly from the back of the bag of rice. Ordinarily I’m a very throw-whatever-together kind of chef, but it seems like this week I’ve been a slave to recipes! I’m really having fun with it, though. So here we go:

Carolina Red Rice

1 1/4 cup Carolina Gold rice (or any long grain white rice)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, diced (I used two because that’s how we do things in our household)
1 1/2 cup good quality canned crushed tomato (I used 1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted)
1 cup vegan chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 thin slices UnPork, diced (optional)
2 Tbsp vegan “bacon bits”
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar (or 15 drops stevia – I find it so much more convenient than dragging out the sugar canister)
6 dashes Tabasco (or to taste)
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper

The UnPork is optional because the bacon bits will sub for the bacon that is called for in the original recipe and provide all the taste you need. But since I had the leftover UnPork I threw it in to provide a little bacon-like texture, which the bacon bits don’t really do as they don’t get crispy. Possibly you could just fry them instead of the UnPork and they’d get crispy. I don’t know.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do use the UnPork, put the olive oil into a frying pan, bring it up to temperature, and then add the diced UnPork:

When it’s crispy …

… add the onions, jalapeno peppers, thyme, bay leaf, soy sauce, “bacon bits”, salt, and pepper (or if you didn’t use the UnPork, just throw all of this into the pan to start with).

Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar or stevia, and Tabasco:

Cook for five minutes, then add the stock or water and the rice. Bring to a simmer again.

Pour everything into an oven-safe casserole dish:

Place a lid on it or cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes or until rice is done. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes, then remove bay leaf and fluff with a fork.

While the rice was cooking, I wondered what I could serve with it. I had harvested these adorable purple peppers from our garden earlier in the day:

Okay, that’s a lie. The horrible gardening skills I had before have done nothing but get worse this summer. I’m pathetic, really. I got those cute peppers from the farmer’s market.

God, I’m such a liar. Although I LOVE farmer’s markets, I hardly ever drag myself out of bed before 11 a.m. on weekends, which makes them next to impossible for me attend. I bought those peppers at Whole Foods. I will have you know, however, that they ARE from a local farmer. If you consider Pennsylvania local to Northern Virginia. I’m going to pretend that I do.

I bought them because they were cute, cheap, and organic. They seemed like they’d be a good accompaniment to the rice because Southern cuisine calls for bell pepper in practically everything as part of the “holy trinity”. I’d have considered stuffing the peppers with the rice, but that would delay dinner for too long, so I decided to simply roast the peppers and serve them NEXT to the rice. Same basic taste, right?

Check out my pepper roaster:

My collection of kitchen gadgets knows no bounds, does it? This one was little neater when I had a gas stove (how I miss thee, gas stove), but to my surprise, it works with the electric stove nearly as well. And actually before I had this gadget, I used to roast peppers directly on the gas burners, although that required one burner per pepper. You could also use a broiler, or probably a grill.

What I was not expecting was for the process of roasting to roast the purple right off those peppers!

They started to turn green as their skin charred!

After about 10 minutes of turning the peppers until they were uniformly charred (by the way, I can report that our smoke detector IS working) …

… I put them into a brown paper bag …

… for 10 more minutes. Then I rinsed them under running water and washed the blackened skins off:

Then I de-seeded them and just pulled them apart into bite-sized pieces.

And here’s the meal:

This was really good! Mark loved it. He ate all his peppers up before I even sat down next to him (I had to take the above picture before I could sit down to eat, of course), and when he started in on the rice, he was ecstatic. It was very flavorful and, since I used two jalapenos, nice and hot. I’m making a mental note to consider making this meal for his whole extended family during our next Charleston beach week!

In other news, here is my new invention:

It’s called the Anti-Tigger Shield. Hidden beneath those two domes are three proofing loaves of ciabatta bread. Tigger is FOREVER sitting on my bread dough, pizza dough, freshly-baked muffins…you name it. If it’s a baked good in any stage of its life cycle, Tigger wants to sit or walk on it. WELL NO MORE. TAKE THAT, TIGGER!

Aww, but he’s so cute I can’t stand it. Ok, you can walk on my dough, Tiggs.

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Barbecued UnPork Chops

I don’t know if any of you not related to me have been following the discussion in which I learned what pork is (it’s any pig meat, not just a certain type as I formerly believed) and was informed of all the forms of pork I used to eat as a child. Which is fine; I later saw the error of my ways, but I think we need to keep this information from my friend, Pig:

Pig is my traveling companion. We go on all sorts of adventures.

He often finds himself in trouble, I’m afraid.

We have traveled the world, though.

Anyway, within this pork discussion, my mother claimed she used to make pork chops although no one else in the family remembers any such incident of pork chop-making on my mother’s part. She did supply me with the barbecued pork chop recipe she used to allegedly make and I decided that the Smoked Seitan Butt and Green Beans recipe was such a surprise hit that I would veganize “my mother’s” pork chops!

I really hadn’t intended to do so until I was flipping through several cookbooks tonight, including Simply Heavenly!, and saw the UnPork recipes. Now since I never actually witnessed my mother making pork chops and have never consumed pork chops – I honestly have no idea what a pork chop even LOOKS like – I decided to just pick one of Abbott George’s four “pork” recipes and go with it. Although the ingredients are all his, I did alter the method slightly. Do I have any idea if this tastes remotely like pork? No. It’s actually pretty good though. And I was shocked to pull it out of the pressure cooker and find that it looked pretty much what I thought pork looked like; the color anyway. Which is a sort of a frankly unappetizing greyish white color.

I didn’t photograph the making of the UnPork, unfortunately. I was busy doing other things at the same time. Some of you are going to balk at the use of MSG, the use of which Abbott George makes an apologia in the introduction of the book. MSG doesn’t bother me. While I don’t think you should go willy-nilly throwing it into everything to make it taste better, there are times when its use can be justified. So I use it when it’s called for. If you don’t like MSG, just don’t use it. You might want to substitute soy sauce instead, or maybe just a little more salt, but I’m sure you can just omit it as well.

But on with the recipe:

UnPork 1
Adapted from Simply Heavenly! by Abbott George Burke

1 onion, chopped finely
6 Tbsp MSG
4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tsp sage
4 tsp corn oil
8 cups water
2 cups vital wheat gluten

Mix together all ingredients except vital wheat gluten in a pressure cooker if you have one, or a Dutch oven if you don’t. Place the vital wheat gluten in a bowl and add 1 3/4 cup of the broth. Stir the gluten until it sticks together, then knead it with your hands until it forms a ball. You may want to do this before adding the onions to the broth so they aren’t incorporated into the gluten. I had a few holes in my finished gluten because of the onions, but this didn’t bother me. Bring the broth to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap the gluten up tightly in cheesecloth. Plunk the gluten into the pressure cooker or pot. If using a pressure cooker, bring it up to pressure and cook for 45 minutes, otherwise, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

I did manage a picture of it sitting in the broth after being pressure-cooked:

The original version calls for mixing the vital wheat gluten with water and then cooking it in the broth. I thought it would be neat to incorporate the broth flavorings into the seitan. I think it was a good idea.

This is what it looks like when it’s done. This is really what I thought pork looked like. Scary!

Now for the recipe my mother found in her recipe box and may have made for some mystery family that the rest of us don’t know about. First, the original in her words:

Barbecued Pork Chops

2-4 pork chops
1 (15 oz.) can tomatoes
1/4 cup vinegar (I think I used cider vinegar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
salt & pepper to taste

Brown chops in small amount of fat in electric frying pan; remove. Add remaining ingredients for sauce to drippings; cook for 5 minutes. Add meat to sauce. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until tender.

Now my version:

1/2 recipe UnPork (see above)
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (I used diced and crushed them with an immersion blender)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
sriracha to taste

The first step is take your electric frying pan, if you have one, and donate it to Good Will. I’m simply baffled by the whole concept of electric frying pans.

Next, heat your (preferably cast iron) frying pan over medium heat, then add a little oil. If you are using nicely seasoned cast iron, you don’t need a lot of oil. My burners are not level and all the oil pools on one side, so what I like to do is brush the whole bottom surface of the frying pan with oil using a pastry brush.

I don’t know what a pork chop looks like, so I just sliced the UnPork into 1/2″ slabs …

… and fried until golden brown on both sides.

Remove the UnPork, then add the remaining ingredients to the pan. I had to add sriracha because I have difficulty comprehending barbeque sauce that isn’t spicy. Let the sauce bubble for a couple of minutes.

Add the UnPork slices, spooning the sauce over the tops so they are covered.

Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for half an hour or until the sauce has reduced somewhat.

I decided sauerkraut would be a good accompaniment to the pork chops. I have no idea what usually goes with pork chops.

The verdict? Mark really liked the seitan. He said it really tasted like pork, which is odd because he usually never says fake meat tastes anything like the real thing. He kept nabbing bits of the unused half and gobbling them up. It was slightly spicy from the red pepper flakes; just enough to have a little kick and make it interesting. The sauce was good, although I tasted it before adding the sriracha (which is not called for in the original) and was underwhelmed. With the sriracha, it was tasty. I would make it again.

Tigger approved.

And no, making this dish did NOT bring back any memories of my mother ever having made and served it, so I can’t say it’s a cherished family recipe or anything like that. But I did GET it from my family and it WAS pretty yummy. Since my mother has never been into cooking, I’m surprised to hear myself say this, but I think I’m going try veganizing some more family recipes…if we have any. Maybe my mom made some other interesting meals for the other family that got the pork chops all the time and she can give me those recipes.

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Smoked Seitan Butt and Green Beans

Pork is somewhat of a mystery meat to me. In fact, until as recently as last week, I went around proclaiming I’ve never eaten pork in my life. I wasn’t raised vegetarian, or Jewish, or Muslim, we simply didn’t eat a wide variety of meats when I was growing up. All I really remember ever eating is ground beef, chicken, fish sticks, hot dogs, and Steak-Ums. My favorite was ham, but I only got that at my grandmother’s. Now, I know pork comes from pigs and ham comes from pigs, but still I don’t know if ham is a subset of pork or vice versa or what, and frankly, I don’t care to know. All I knew is my family at no time ever served me anything and called it “pork”, and as I became vegetarian at 15, I figured I’d never eaten it.

But then last weekend my mother told me that she and my aunt had made Smoked Butt and Green Beans, a family recipe she made from time to time when I was growing up, for my dad Saturday night, and it turns out that the “butt” is actually “pork butt”. So I guess I have eaten pork. I can remember laughing at the name of the meal when I was a kid and asking why it was called “butt” and my parents telling me it was the butt of the pig and me not believing them. Talk about avoiding the issue of where your food comes from! I thought someone was just being silly when they named the meal. I’ve always been an animal lover and I’m not sure I would have wanted to eat it if I had really thought it was an animal’s butt, but on the other hand, I was far from being a picky eater and loved meat as much as any other food until I started thinking about things more thoroughly. My mom recently transcribed parts of my baby book and apparently at even at three months, baby Renae ate “everything”.

Anyway, my mom included the recipe for Smoked Butt And Green Beans in her email with the note, “I guess you can’t really veganize it.” A-ha! Challenge alert! At first I wasn’t too interested in trying to veganize it because it’s so simple that much of the flavor must come from the “butt” and not only do I not care to eat stuff that tastes like meat, but I honestly haven’t the faintest idea what smoked butt or any type of pork tastes like. I do remember eating it, but no particular memory of the taste comes to mind. But then I found myself with some leftover seitan and some green beans for which I had no other plans, and I know that Smark likes smoky flavors, so I started thinking maybe I would veganize that recipe after all.

The important thing here, I think, is not to think you’re really eating pork or anything that tastes remotely like pork. I have no idea what pork tastes like, so all I tried to do was give it a smoky edge, even though my mom says smoked butt doesn’t taste that smoky to her and if it did, she wouldn’t like it. Other than that, the name, “Smoked Butt” is appropriate because the leftover chunk of seitan I had really did look like the butt of some seitan!

The original recipe, which my mother got from her mother, is thus:

1 peck green beans
5 lbs. potatoes (cut in pieces)
1 (2 lb.) smoked pork butt (cut in 1/4s)
1 onion
salt & pepper
2 tsp. sugar per lb. green beans

Put green beans and butt in large pot with onion, salt, pepper, and sugar. Cook on slow boil for about 4 hours. Add potatoes, bring to a boil again; and then cook on a slow boil for another 1/2 hours or until potatoes are done.

Pretty simple, eh? Well, enough blabbing from me: on with the veganizing! Choose your seitan wisely for this one. Because it’s such a simple recipe, pick a flavorful rather than bland seitan. Vegan Dad’s Veggie Lunch Meat or Everyday Dish’s Corned Beef would be good, and Bryanna’s Soy and Seitan “Ham” (about 2/3 of the way down the page) is a logical choice. Who cares if what you choose tastes like or is supposed to taste like pork though? Just pick something you like the taste of.

Here’s what I did:

8 cups vegan “chicken” broth
6 drops stevia or 2 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp liquid smoke
3 Tbsp vegan “bacon bits”
1 pound green beans, trimmed and either chopped or frenched (I frenched them because I’m fancy, and also I thought they’d cook faster that way…and because I have a nifty bean slicer that I like to give an occasional workout)
1 pound seitan, sliced somewhat thickly
1 pound potatoes, chopped (or not, if you use peewees like I did)
1 onion, sliced
salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Put the broth into a large pot or Dutch oven and begin heating. Meanwhile, fry the seitan slices in a bit of oil.

Drain on a paper towel and when cool enough to touch, rip up into bite-sized pieces.

Trim the green beans …

… and either french-cut them or chop them into 2″ pieces:

(my bean slicer is fun)

Add the bacon bits, liquid smoke, stevia or sugar, seitan, green beans, onions, salt, and pepper to the broth and bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for half an hour. Add the potatoes and continue to simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are done.

To serve, remove solid pieces with a slotted spoon.

I think I probably could have gotten away with throwing everything including the potatoes into the pot and just cooking for half an hour, maybe 45 minutes if I had chopped instead of frenched the green beans. I don’t know why the green beans cook for four whole hours in the original recipe. I also could have doubled the green beans; they were my favorite part. (Mark’s favorite part was the seitan.) I have to say that I wasn’t expecting much from this recipe. I mostly did it just for kicks, because my mother said I probably couldn’t, and figuring that even if it was turned out really boring, we could just put hot sauce on it: everything is good with hot sauce on it. It turned out pretty well, though. Mark really liked it and ate two bowls-full, then drank the leftover liquid out of his bowl. It’s a great way to use up leftover seitan and I’d make it again. I might add baby carrots next time; I bet that would be a good addition.

By the way, I googled “what does pork taste like?” as a research attempt before starting this meal and learned that it apparently tastes like human. Um, gross?

At any rate, smoked seitan butt is very metal!

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Home-Style Bean Curd

I’m catching up on some work tonight, so although I made a real dinner while practically tethered to my laptop, I didn’t take photos or try anything too experimental or involved. What I made was a sort of hybrid between Peng’s Home-Style Bean Curd from Tigers and Strawberries (one of my favorite non-vegan blogs) and SusanV’s veganized version from Fat-Free Vegan, bastardized versions of which I’ve made before. In the past I’ve been too lazy to fry OR bake the tofu, but tonight I baked it (finally, a use for that spray bottle of Bragg’s I bought when Whole Foods was out of the larger, non-spray version!), which not only gave me half an hour to get some work done while it baked, but really did make the dish much better.

Instead of the shiitakes used by SusanV and often suggested by Barbara for veganizing her non-vegan dishes, I used Soy Curls because I find mushrooms revolting. That was perhaps a lot of soy in one meal, but we haven’t had any other soy products all week, so what the heck. I had to use a green bell pepper instead of red because green peppers were 99 cents at Wegmans yesterday and red ones were $3.76…and I’m cutting back my operating costs in preparation for telling Mark how much my ticket to Sydney is going to be. So expect more thrifty meals in the near future! (I also discovered this crazy thing called the library, which I am visiting in lieu of my habit of buying 5 books a week. I’ll have that plane ticket paid off in no time!)

I’d like to have had more veggies with my dinner, but it was a one-dish meal tonight. Except I just remembered that I bought baby bok choy last night that I could have made. Mark loves those things. Oh well. I was busy. I’ll just congratulate myself on making a fresh – and delicious – Chinese meal instead of ordering Chinese delivery. And it really was delicious! I definitely recommend this dish, either Susan’s version or your own veganized version of Barbara’s original (which is really from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook).

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Homemade Pasta

Although in many ways I am a sucker for the latest kitchen gadgets and there are some modern appliances I couldn’t do without, the love I have for vintage items often flows into the kitchen and I periodically find myself in antique stores gawking at old Pyrex. You may have noticed vintage Pyrex and Fire King items in my photos. I was in one of my favorite local antique stores on Saturday when I came across some interesting – and inexpensive – utensils that I decided to snatch up. The first one I realized I needed was some sort of rolling pasta cutter:

I have the Kitchen Aid pasta roller and cutter attachments for my mixer, which, the former at least, I actually use on a fairly regular basis, but this little number intrigued me anyway because I’ve never seen one, and I do occasionally cut pasta by hand.

Then I decided to buy a few of its matching buddies:

The item on the right is a crimper. The one on the left is a batter beater, and the one in the middle is, of course, a potato masher. I have a modern potato masher, but I’ve never liked it. It’s Teflon or some sort of nonsense. I mostly use it for smooshing the okara bag when I make soy milk and it feels extremely dissatisfying. On the rare opportunities I’ve used it for mashed potatoes (I usually use the potato ricer for that), it just gets a lot of gunk in it that’s not easy to get out. I used the “new” masher to make soy milk last night and it felt MUCH nicer. This is a nice, quality potato masher and that’s why I love old stuff and distrust most new stuff.

So anyway, despite the fact that I’m pretty tired and also embarrassingly sore after an unexpectedly long and somewhat terrifying hike on Sunday, I was so excited to try out my new pasta cutter toy that I decided to make homemade pasta for dinner. It’s really not that hard or time consuming. I just used a recipe in Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, so the pasta part of this is not my own recipe. As for The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, honestly, after buying this book I don’t think I like Peter Berley much as a person. There are a few comments in the book I found off-putting. I sort of pre-judged him based on his photo on the back cover, which I realize is a horrible thing to do, but I thought he looked a little mean and arrogant. But I reprimanded myself for being judgmental and went into the book with great hopes. And in fact, I’ve really liked nearly everything I’ve made from this book, however, as I said, Berley makes a few comments, some about veganism and some just in general, that made me dislike him. And sort of glad I bought the book used. But I am glad I bought the book because it contains some good ideas. When I first made the following recipe for chickpea flour pasta it was the first time my homemade pasta didn’t come out as overly mushy as my previous attempts had been. One nice thing I can say about Berley is he’s very much into interacting with his food, by which I mean he doesn’t employ many gadgets because he feels they remove you from the tactile experience of touching the food. That’s a concept I like, although I’m actually somewhat addicted to certain appliances, including my mixer for kneading dough. But the good news is I’m actually giving you a recipe that doesn’t require any special accoutrements!

Chickpea Flour Pasta
From Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

3/4 cup chickpea flour
1 1/4 cup unbleached white all-purpose or bread flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons Rosemary-Garlic oil (recipe follows) (Renae’s note: or substitute olive oil)
semolina flour for dusting

In a bowl, mix the flours and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the water and oil.

(It looks a bit like the egg you’d likely be using for non-vegan pasta, eh?)

With a wooden spoon or dough whisk, stir to bring ingredients together.

It’s easiest to finish mixing it with your hands. All you want to do is make sure the flour is almost completely hydrated. Some dry parts are okay. You can add a tiny amount of water at a time if it is so dry you can’t get it to form a rough ball, but it should be pretty dry:

Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes. Berley then advises 10 minutes vigorous kneading by hand, but I stick it in my mixer with the dough hook for 6 minutes instead. It will become much smoother and somewhat softer (although not as soft as most bread doughs).

Stick it in a plastic Ziploc-type bag and let it rest for 30 minutes. (I usually try to come up with alternatives when recipes direct me to use plastic, but I didn’t want it to dry out and I re-use Ziploc bags, so this wasn’t wasteful. You could also toss it in a container in which is just fits.)

After resting, the dough will be much more pliable. I’m not sure if you can really see a difference in the photos, but it’s even a bit glossier:

Divide it into two equal parts and roll each half out to a thickness of 1/16″ inch (1 or 2 mm):

I’m not that handy with a rolling pin, if you want to know the truth, so half the time I just run it through my pasta roller on the first setting. But I wanted to leave it low-tech in keeping with my vintage cutting tool.

Let the rolled-out pieces sit, without covering, for 5 to 7 minutes to dry out a little. (In the meantime, I chopped up some broccoli and tossed it with some pressed garlic, sea salt, and olive oil, baked it in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes then tossed with freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest.)

Berley’s next instruction is to sprinkle each piece of dough with semolina, roll it up into a “loose cylinder”, then cut the cylinder crosswise into 1/4″ wide strips. Then unfurl the cylinder and separate the noodles. I, of course, instead just rolled my new toy down each piece:

I found it easier to sprinkle some semolina onto my workspace under the dough as well as on top of the dough, as well. You want to use plenty of semolina so it doesn’t stick.

Here are my nice uniform noodles:

Cook in boiling water until done. Berley recommends 3-4 minutes, however, I have found that one minute is sufficient. I’m paranoid about my homemade pasta being mushy because it’s ended up that way too many times. Then drain and if you like, toss with a small amount of Berley’s Rosemary-Garlic oil.

Rosemary-Garlic Oil
from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 small springs fresh rosemary

In saucepan over medium heat, combine the oil, garlic, and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to as low as possible and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the garlic turns light gold. Do not let the garlic brown or the oil will turn bitter. Strain the oil into a clean glass jar and let cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Note: the garlic bread I made when I burned a baguette was made using a paste made from these rosemary-y garlic cloves: so don’t throw them away, smear them on something and eat them!

What to do with your homemade pasta? Anything you’d like, but here’s what I did tonight.

Renae’s Pasta Dish

This is my go-to dish when it’s late and I need to make a quick dinner for guests (although Mark and I eat it a lot on our own, too). It’s very easy and I always have the ingredients, but it tastes a bit more elegant than some of the stuff I make for just the two of us when I don’t feel like cooking.

I don’t measure anything, and I switch up the ingredients to match items I may have on hand. But at it’s most basic it looks like this:

1 shallot or 1/2 onion, diced
many cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2-4 Tbsp capers: these are a must as Mark never fails to announce, “I don’t know what those tiny little green things are but they are awesome!”, to which I respond, “They are capers and you just like them because they are salty.” and then he says, proudly, “Yup!”
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes: I usually use the kind not packed in oil because I use enough oil in frying the onions
chopped olives, if you have good ones on hand. I often don’t (and Mark and I are in disagreement about which are better, black or green olives), but when I do, I throw them in. Although I like cheap canned olives for some purposes, this dish is not one of them. It’s good olives or none.
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (the can in the picture is bigger than what I usually use and I only used half of it)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
flaked sea salt, to taste (watch it if you use a lot of other salty things)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes (or to taste)
pinch of oregano
2 cubes frozen basil, or fresh basil (as much as you can get your hands on)

In a wok or large pan heat some olive oil, then add the onions and fry for 5 minutes or until beginning to turn brown:

Add the garlic and capers and fry for 2 minutes:

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives if using and fry for another 2 minutes:

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until tomatoes are beginning to break down:

Season with salt, pepper, oregano, and chili flakes. If using fresh basil, add just a minute before serving.

Toss in the cooked pasta. This can be the homemade pasta above, or for quick meals, any dried pasta shape you like.

The final meal:

Didn’t take nearly as long as you’d think considering the pasta was homemade. Tigger sat on the chair next to me while I ate:

… until he climbed up on the table and tried to knock over the vase of roses that Mark gave me yesterday (for no reason, isn’t he great?!) in order to get the water out. He was successful at this maneuver last night but I was too fast for him tonight. To retaliate for unfairly preventing him from messing up my roses and drinking day-old dirty rose water, he licked my pasta:

I can’t win with him. But I DO win at the antique and thrift stores where I am always making fabulous finds. I also scored a Secret Hearts Ken for my friend’s birthday. Now, THAT was a true thrifting success story. You freeze heart-shaped ice cubes (ice cube tray included!) and then rub them on Ken’s cummerbund “and other parts” and secret, magic hearts appear. How awesome is that?

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Lentil Soup for Neil

Lentils never fail to remind me of The Young Ones. I don’t think Neil, who was in charge of cooking, ever managed to make a lentil dish that didn’t end up on the floor or with washing powder in it, but he was vegetarian. So this soup is dedicated to poor downtrodden Neil. At least my lentils are edible.

No preparatory photos tonight, I’m afraid. I wasn’t planning to make a post as I was just experimenting and was also very tired from a long and arduous swim. But I quite enjoyed the results so I figured I’d write the recipe up if for no other reason than to remind myself what I did the next time I decide I want lentils, or Neil, Vyvyan, Rick, and Mike come over for dinner.

I’d been thinking I wanted to do something involving both lentils and bulgur, and searches for those ingredients led me to several recipes for Turkish wedding soup, or ezo gelin, so I guess this was inspired by that, although I didn’t use mint, which seems to be an important part of ezo gelin, and I did use a black lemon, which may or may not be used in Turkish food (I’m really not sure). It is a Middle Eastern ingredient. I mostly used the black lemon because I have them and had no idea what else I was going go do with them, so in the pot one went. It turned out to be a great touch. Black lemons are little, black, shriveled-up items that might actually be limes and not lemons. Figure that one out. You can just omit it if you don’t have them. I’m excited to experiment further with them though.

Lentil Soup for Neil

1 sweet onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
6 cups water or broth (I used 1 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon vegan “chicken” flavor)
1 1/2 cups lentils, red or brown (I used brown, which Neil seems to prefer)
1/4 cup bulgur
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (if you have it)
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 black lemon
1/2 tsp cayenne
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
lemon wedges for garnish

In a pressure cooker if you have one (or a large pot if you don’t), heat a bit of oil then add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the water or broth, lentils, bulgur, tomato paste, and spices except the salt and pepper. If using a pressure cooker, cook at high pressure for 20 minutes, otherwise, cook until lentils and bulgur are soft (about 45 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges. Don’t try to be all artistic like me and stick the lemon wedges IN the soup because then it’s messy when you go to squeeze them over the soup.

I quite liked this. When I took the lid off the pressure cooker and stuck my spoon in for a taste, I was surprised how good it was, which is when I decided to go ahead and post it even without photos. As far as the black lemon, I think you can grind them up and use them as a powder, but I wanted to find out what happened if I just tossed it in whole. It eventually softened and deflated, then began to disintegrate. The taste it added was tangy without being as tart as lemon juice. I’m going to think of more things to do with the remaining black lemons. If it weren’t nearing 1 a.m. and if I weren’t completely depressed from watching Control, I’d take a picture for you, but we’ll save that for tomorrow, shall we?

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Dolsot Bibimbap

My mother-in-law is staying with us a few days in conjunction with a family wedding. She and I were swimming today as I was thinking about dinner possibilities, which lead me to decide on one of my favorite meals, a sizzling Korean concoction called dolsot bibimbap. As I mentioned in my kimchi post, Mark’s parents lived in Korea for a while just before he was born, and they were responsible for introducing me to Korean food. It’s also a pretty easy meal to make and doesn’t take much longer than it does to make rice (although you have to work the whole time the rice is cooking). So I dragged myself out of the pool and was off to Super H to get a few ingredients.

Bibimbap is a pretty well-known Korean meal consisting of various things – usually including meat of some sort – stirred into rice. A dolsot is a heavy stone bowl that can be heated over fire. Dolsot bibimbap, then, is bibimbap that is partially cooked and served in a dolsot. In my opinion, dolsot bibimbap is much better than regular old bibimbap because a) it makes noise (it sizzles) and b) the rice gets crunchy. The problem some of you are going to have is finding dolsots. I’m fortunate to live in amongst many Korean stores, so dolsots were no problem for me. You may be able to find them online but you’ll pay a fortune in shipping if you do because they weigh a ton. I imagine you could try cooking the rice in a cast iron pot and then transferring it to a serving dish when it’s crunchy, although honestly that’s not nearly as fun. I have two smaller iron pots that are, I believe, Chinese that I used before I bought the dolsots, and while this worked somewhat, the result wasn’t nearly as good as it is in a real dolsot. Here is what my dolsots look like:

As far as the tray under the dolsot is concerned, you definitely need one and this is one of the very few times I’ll tell you you want the plastic kind over the wooden kind. I originally had wooden trays for my dolsots, but they were laminated and the hot dolsots stuck to them so now I have a plasticky goo on the bottom of my dolsots that smells really bad and gets all over my burners when hot. Bizarrely, the plastic kind doesn’t melt while the wooden kind does (at least the wooden kind I had).

One of the great things about vegetarian bibimbap, and making bibimbap at home, is you can put whatever you want in it. It’s good for using up leftovers, although I usually just go to Super H and grab some veggies there. The Super H near me often has prepared seasoned bibimbap veggies that save on prep time. I ordinarily wouldn’t buy prepared veggies like that except the packages they have contain traditional items like bellflower root and bracken fern that I can’t always find fresh and unprepared. But don’t be alarmed if you don’t have a Korean store nearby where you can get these items. You can put any type of veggie into your bibimbap as long as you can chop it up into nice pieces. So the following is really more a few suggestions than an actual recipe.

Dolsot Bibimbap

short or medium grain rice (I use sushi rice), one serving per person
gochujang (chili pepper paste) sauce: about 1/4 cup per person (recipe follows)

various vegetables and tofu, depicted above is:
1 large or 2 small carrots, julienned thinly
1 bunch baby broccoli: an example of a non-traditional ingredient that worked well for me
mung bean sprouts
bracken fern
bellflower root
Korean or Chinese chives (which I didn’t end up using because I had enough other stuff)
Korean radish or daikon
tofu, cubed

Also suggested:
mushrooms if you can stand them
really any strange vegetables you see in an Asian grocery store and can’t identify

For the veggie marinade:
3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
9 drop stevia or 1 Tbsp sugar

Prepare the rice according to the package. I use a rice cooker. While the rice is cooking, prepare the veggies. “Hard” vegetables such as carrots, radish, and zucchini should be julienned thinly. I used a julienne peeler on this carrot:

Leafy vegetables should be roughly chopped if necessary. Blanch veggies like carrots, broccoli, bean sprouts, and radish in boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute depending on how hard they are then rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Don’t overcook them.

Leafy items like spinach can be microwaved for one minute or lightly steamed. Zucchini can be lightly sauteed or just used raw. Chives, lettuce, and tofu can be used raw. I honestly don’t know know how to prepare mushrooms because I don’t eat those nasty things.

Stir together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.

Keeping each vegetable in a separate bowl, toss each with a small amount of the marinade. If you like, toss in some sesame seeds:

Next make the sauce:

Gochujang Sauce

(Makes enough for three generous servings.)

1/2 cup gochujang (spicy chili pepper paste, available in Korean markets)
3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
9 drops stevia or 1 Tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp sesame oil

Gochujang is a very thick paste that looks like this:

We want to make it a bit more “stir-able”, so to it add the other ingredients:

Then whisk together. You’ll need a sturdy whisk.

Divide the gochujang into small individual bowls (I used Chinese teacups), one for each serving. Set aside.

Meanwhile, as the rice is finishing up, prepare the dolsots. Set each dolsot directly on a burner. Gas is probably really better but I don’t have a problem using my electric stove. Pour about 1/2 tsp sesame oil into each, then use a paper towel to rub the oil all over the interior surface, wiping away any excess oil. Bibimbap is not at all a greasy dish, but the sesame oil causes the rice to brown and turn crispy, so a thin layer is necessary. Turn each dolsotted burner on medium heat. Allow the dolsots to come up to temperature for a couple of minutes, then spread one serving of the cooked, hot rice into each dolsot, covering the bottom of the dolsot and partially going up the sides.

Allow the rice to cook in the dolsots for about 10-15 minutes, checking periodically that it is not burning. You can serve it in a range of states from lightly brown and slightly crunchy to golden brown and very crunchy. Meanwhile, as the rice is cooking in the dolsots, warm up each of the marinating veggies. I simply stuck each small bowl into the microwave for 30 seconds to one minute. You can also individually saute them for a minute or so each. They shouldn’t need to cook any further, you just want to warm them up a bit.

As you finish warming each veggie, distribute it amongst each of the dolsots. I always put the tofu in the middle (where, by the way, a raw egg would be cracked in a traditional dolsot bibimbap dish; it cooks as you later stir it into the sizzling hot rice) and have each of the veggies radiating out from it. Try not to place the same colors next to each other.

Here are all three dolsots that I prepared tonight waiting on the stove as I set the table and arranged the banchan (side dishes):

When you are ready to serve the dolsot bibimbap, use oven mitts to transfer each dolsot to its plastic tray, then carry to the table. They should be sizzling; the rice will continue to cook even after you remove it from the heat.

The pictures I took of the table were overexposed and not very good, but here’s an idea of what it looked like:

When you are ready to eat, each diner adds the gochujang sauce to their taste. It is quite spicy, so be forewarned. Mix everything together, then enjoy!

My mother-in-law said it was very good (and cleaned her dolsot), and Mark told me to think of the most horrible tasting food in the world and said that it was the exact opposite of that. Once you know what you are doing, it’s really a very easy and fairly fast dish to make, and it ranks as one of my all-time favorite meals.

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