Archive forNovember, 2009

Mexican Pizza; Lentil Orzo Soup

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

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

Here’s what I did:

Mexican Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

Lentil Orzo Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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Mustardy Creamed Onions

I don’t generally spend that much time on side dishes; I generally prefer my veggies as close to their natural state as possible and usually serve them steamed or lightly dressed in some manner. Sometimes, though, a recipe for a fussier side dish strikes my fancy. Here is my take on these Gratineed Mustard Creamed Onions from Epicurious. As it was just me and Mark, I halved the recipe and rather than broiling it, finished it off in the toaster oven so I didn’t have to heat the oven up for just a couple minutes of broiling.

Mustardy Creamed Onions

1 lb pearl onions
1 Tbsp vegan margarine
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 1/2 Tbsp cream sherry
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp grainy mustard (I used the balsamic mustard from Jes at Cupcake Punk.)
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste (I used white pepper)
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan or Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add some salt, and then cook the onions (in their skins) until soft (the original recipe says 25 to 30 minutes; I think it was closer to 20 minutes for me).

Drain the onions.

Allow the onions to cool. Meanwhile, measure the remaining ingredients. (My milk is brown because I whisked the sherry into it.)

Melt the margarine over medium heat, then whisk in the flour, cooking for a minute or two.

Slowly whisk in the liquids, then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until thickened, whisking frequently.

Meanwhile, pop the onions out of their skins.

Whisk the mustards, nutmeg, and salt and pepper into the sauce.

Add the onions and cook another 5 minutes.

Transfer to a small, shallow baking dish and top with vegan parmesan or uncheese.

Bake in toaster oven at highest heat for about 5 minutes or until bubbly and browned.


This was good, despite it being a little annoying having to deal with the onions, which were a little too soft to pop out of their skins as easily as I remember it being when I’ve only cooked them for 5 minutes or so. Mark eats a lot faster than me and after he finished his, he was stealing onions from my plate before finally going to get seconds for himself. I will make this again, perhaps even for Thanksgiving. I might also experiment with different kinds of “cheese” for the topping.

Miss Brachtune has had a wonderful weekend, I must say. Uncle Fortinbras came down from Baltimore Thursday afternoon to go to a concert with us and stayed through to today. While Mark and I were at work Friday, Brachtune sat on Uncle Fortinbras’ lap all day, Saturday she spent all day sitting on Mark’s lap while he was working in his office, and today she spent sleeping on me while Fortinbras and I recovered from a late night by watching The Office all day. I don’t know what she’s going to do tomorrow when she finds herself without a lap for most of the day. She’ll probably spend most of it in the surrogate lap – it’s a pet bed I fitted with a heated cushion – I rigged up for her. Here are some pictures I took yesterday of her looking exceedingly cute in it.

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Kylie’s Friend’s Non-Salad Couscous Salad with Grilled or Roasted Veggies

My friend Kylie (who, by the way, as a result of recently reading Eating Animals and some other previous musings, is now feeding her family vegetarian – possibly vegan – meals most days!) sent me recipe for a salad invented by her friend and slightly modified by herself, that she said was awesome. She included this photo:

About the same time, the office manager at work decided that I was to bring in “salad” for our Thanksgiving potluck this week, which left me at a bit of a loss because I kind of consider salad “too easy” and prefer to use events like potlucks as opportunities to expose unwitting people to great vegan cooking. Then Kylie sent me this recipe and it looked absolutely perfect to take to the potluck, so I did. (I’m the type of person who is always making never-tried recipes for dinner parties and potlucks. I live life on the edge. Though at least time I had Kylie’s word it was good.)

For our potluck, I doubled the quantities Kylie sent me, so the photos may depict what looks like an enormous amount of food. The amounts in the recipe I present here are scaled to what Kylie said fed her for 5 lunches.

Couscous Salad with Grilled or Roasted Veggies

1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 small eggplant
1 small red pepper (Kylie in her Australianness so charmingly calls it a capsicum)
250 grams (9 oz) couscous or 1 cup raw freekeh
water or vegetable stock to cook the couscous or freekeh (use amount called for by package)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful sun-dried tomatoes
1 small to medium onion (I cut back on this quite a bit so as not to overwhelm the palates of my fellow potluckers because I managed to skip the paragraph where Kylie said to cook it)
2 scallions, chopped
1 red Thai chili (Kylie called this a bird’s eye chili…I actually used a larger, milder Hungarian wax chili because I didn’t want too much heat in case some people in my office are wimps)
1 can chickpeas
2-3 oz baby spinach
3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup chopped cilantro (coriander to you non-Americans)

For the optional dressing:
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
ground cumin to taste

Prepare the couscous (I used tri-coloured because it’s festive) or grain of your liking. I suggest using stock instead of water.

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into slices about the size of the width of your thumb, rub with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, then grill it. I used my George Foreman. You can also do it stove-top or roast it in the oven.

Kylie said she sometimes grills her pepper (capsicum) and sometimes sautes it with the other veggies. I roasted mine like this:

Then I put them in a paper bag for about 10 minutes …

… and then removed them …

… at which time their skins peeled right off.

Toast the pine nuts in small, heavy skillet (or in a toaster oven):

Chop the peppers, eggplant, chili, onion, scallions and herbs. Press or crush the garlic. Measure the cumin seeds. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Here’s where Kylie’s email had a paragraph I managed to not read: “Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add about 1 tsp cumin seeds. Add onion, garlic and chilli. Cook til onion is soft. This time I put the capsicum strips in here instead of grilling it, and cooked til soft. Take off the heat and set aside.” I suggest following this step to take the bite out of the raw onion and garlic, although mine turned out okay even though I skipped it.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients if you’d like to use it. I thought it gave it a great tangy flavour.

Mix everything together.

This was easily doubled to feed a crowd, or will keep all week for lunches, or would make a nice one-dish dinner. Despite my inability to follow directions (can you tell I rarely use recipes?) it turned out great. I thought I made too much, but every little bit was gone at the end of our potluck and several people told me it was their favourite dish! I’m grateful Kylie thought to pass this recipe along to me when she did because it really fit the bill.

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Tempeh in Horseradish Gravy

I saw this in the grocery store and knew Mark would find it amusing. (He did.)

It is, of course, fresh horseradish. I’m a fan of horseradish, fresh or prepared. I like the sinus-clearing bite it gives to food. I did a little googling and decided to make this recipe, using tempeh instead of the unspecified meat. If you use vegan stock, it’s vegan as written. I made it pretty much exactly as directed, although some of the measurements are a bit vague, so I’ll clarify what I did.

1 package tempeh (no time to make my own recently, alas)
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 small to medium horseradish root, or about 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I used 3)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar (a bit less if you use prepared horseradish)
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 to 1/2 cups vegan “beef” stock
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Chop the tempeh into 3/4″ cubes. Fry lightly in a skillet and set aside.

Peel the horseradish.

Grate the horseradish. I highly recommend using a food processor if you have one because freshly-grated horseradish fumes are quite noxious.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive or other oil in a skillet, then add the onions and brown.

Add 2 tablespoons of the grated horseradish and the flour, and fry for a minute or two.

Add the broth, cloves, bay leaves, brown sugar, and vinegar and bring to a boil.

Allow the gravy to thicken up a bit, then add the tempeh and the rest of the horseradish (you may want to taste it before dumping all the horseradish in), seasoning with salt and pepper as well.

Leave the burner on low until thickened to your likeness. Adjust seasonings if necessary. (I added an extra tablespoon of brown sugar.)

I also made some roasted mustardy potatoes.

I whisked together equal parts olive oil, German mustard, and white wine vinegar.

I tossed this with some teeny tiny potatoes, then spread them on a toaster oven-sized baking sheet. Whenever possible, I like using my toaster oven for small roasting and baking jobs. Then I roasted at about 400 degrees until everything else was done, about half an hour. Larger potatoes will take longer.

For the green counterpart of the meal, I made Elise’s Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika. I blanched the kale for 5 minutes …

… then drained, remembering (for once) to save the kale nutrient-filled water (I used it in the gravy above).

I gathered the spices:

Sauteed the onions, then added the spices.

And finally added the kale and sauteed a few more minutes.

And here it is all together:

Any Nabokov fans out there? I got The Original of Laura!

I was so excited about it I actually had to buy the December Playboy to get a preview, but the real thing makes for a bit classier of a read:

Each page is printed on heavy card stock with a scan of the actual index cards on which VN wrote the incomplete novel. The pages are perforated so you can re-order them. That’s how VN wrote all his novels: on index cards that he would rearrange until the story formed itself in the correct order. Because he died before the book was finished, we don’t know for sure in what order the cards would have ended up.

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In which I talk about cats but not food

I was reprimanded for not having enough cat pictures lately … sorry.

I’ve just been so busy! But then I realized I had a bunch of pictures on my iPhone I’d been saving to share with you, all of cats. In fact, there were so many I’m going to make them their own post. Rest assured that I plan to have a food post for you later tonight or tomorrow, though, so if you aren’t among the cat lovers out there, you can sign off now and come back tomorrow for the food!

I took this series of pictures of Brachtune on my phone shortly after Mark’s birthday, when I was enjoying a slice of his birthday cake for dessert one evening. Brachtune was dining with me:

Suddenly, she approaches:

When she thought I wasn’t looking, she had a little snoot of the cake to see if it smelled like tuna:

And finally attacks!

I eat a lot of meals looking at this view, by the way:

In other cat news, this is the cat I’m going to have one day very soon:

His name is Nakata. I love him.

And okay, I’m not sure how soon I’m really going to have him because I must come up with an elaborate, foolproof plan for stealing him from my friends Dale and Nona, to whom he doesn’t even actually belong. They are long-term cat sitting him and another cat for a military friend of theirs. And his name isn’t actually Nakata. But get this: I fell in love with him on sight the first time I met him and immediately re-named him Nakata (from Bogey), which has been on my list of possible cat names ever since I read Kafka on the Shore. I thought the name sounded neat for a cat, especially since it’s the name of a character who can communicate with cats. Cool, huh? And I instantly decided that The Cat Formerly Known As Bogey looked like a Nakata. What I didn’t know at the time I issued this new name is that Nakata is actually from Japan! Nona’s friend rescued him when she was stationed there. Nakata is Japanese, like his name! NAKATA SHALL ALSO BE MINE. I feel I have a special bond with Nakata. He comes over to me and lies his tiny little head (actually, it’s quite large; he’s a substantially sized kitty) on my lap every time I am there! My heart, it melts.

This is the cat that really belongs to Dale and Nona, Pot Pie. She’s also super cute and I love her, but I’m not planning to steal her.

Finally, this picture is a year and a half old, but I mentioned in one of my recent San Francisco posts that I go looking for and chase around random and stray cats when I’m traveling because I really miss having a cat around to pet, and it reminded me of this cat I found at the beach last summer, lounging on a Harley. I really want to know if the bike belongs to the cat’s human:

There was also the time in New Orleans when Pig found a Siamese in a bookstore (you have no idea how much I love bookstores that have cats, by the way). Ended badly for Pig:

(You’d think I’d get kicked out of bookstores more often than I do…)

Finally, when I searched my galleries for those older pictures, I came across this picture, which made me mist up a bit:

I miss my handsome orange boy.

Right, well, time to hit Wegmans, make dinner, and make a post that’s actually about eating food, not terrorizing or stealing cats.

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Make Mark Feel Better Spicy Rice Noodle Soup

Mark and I returned from a simply wonderful trip to Disney World, where we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, earlier this week. Mark ran around like an exuberant child the entire time. He looked like this, constantly:

Unfortunately, he developed a bad cold or virus as soon as we got home Tuesday night. Considering the number of coughing children we encountered in Disney, I guess that’s not too surprising. He’s feeling better now, but he’s still quite stuffy, so I wanted to make him something sinus-clearing for dinner tonight. I can’t rightfully call what I made pho – it’s even less authentic than the last time I made it – but it’s “pho-inspired” and it was really quick and easy. It’s so quick and easy even the somewhat ill could make it for themselves. It’s also really good and you don’t have to be sick to appreciate it. I’m not sick and I thought it was great, too!

Spicy Rice Noodle Soup

6 oz rice noodles (linguine-shaped)
3 large shallots (or 1/2 onion), thinly sliced
4 cups vegan “beef” broth
2 star anise
1 small stick cinnamon
1 1/2″ chunk of ginger, grated
1/2 tsp MSG (optional)*
1/2 jalapeno, sliced
8 oz seitan, thinly sliced, or firm tofu, cubed
1 carrot, julienned
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup bean sprouts
cilantro, to taste
4 scallions, chopped
lime wedges
sriracha, to taste (optional)

Cook or soak the rice noodles according to the package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a soup pot, add the shallots or onion, and saute for about 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the broth, star anise, cinnamon, ginger (I just grated it right into the pot), MSG (if using), and jalapenos.

I used a small can of “chili chick’n” braised gluten for the seitan. You can find similar products in Chinese grocery stores. This particular kind comes in chunks that are comprised of several thin layers of seitan that I pulled apart and shredded with my fingers as I put them in the pot.

You can also use thinly-sliced homemade seitan, or cubed tofu. In either case, place in the pot and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the carrots and simmer for an additional 3 minutes, then add the spinach and cilantro and cook for another minute. (I didn’t have fresh cilantro and instead used two cubes frozen cilantro from Trader Joe’s.)

To assemble, place some of the rice noodles in each bowl …

… then ladle some of the broth over them, top with bean sprouts and scallions, squirt with sriracha to taste, and squeeze the lime wedge over it all before mixing it all up. Top with additional fresh jalapeno slices if so desired.

As you can see, this is really fast to make, and Mark reports that it was “really, really, really good”. In fact, he was quite disappointed to find there were no leftover rice noodles for a second helping, so he found some leftover rice and ladled the rest of the broth over that for his second bowlful. And he sounded less stuffy afterwards!

* About the MSG: I know some of you will find my use of MSG appalling, but I don’t have a problem with it. I keep it on hand for just a few different recipes, but tonight I really felt like upping the umami in my broth (with as little work as possible) and felt it gave it a little extra something. If you have it on hand, add it if you want to. If you are among those who revile MSG, just pretend you didn’t even see it in the recipe. As long as you use a good broth, it will have plenty of flavor anyway.

Back to our trip to Disney: it was relatively easy for us to eat there. Most of the restaurants are extremely accomodating, but we managed to find enough stuff that we didn’t need to have special dishes created for us. I did take a supply of energy bars everywhere we went in case of emergency, however, and we ate most of them. The best meal we had ended up being the Seared Marinated Tofu with Mango Glaze at the Sci-Fi Diner in Hollywood Studios – I need to recreate it because it was delicious. We got sushi for our anniversary dinner. Here’s what happens every time Mark uses chopsticks:

The resort somehow knew it was our anniversary and gave us a free upgrade to a really nice room with a balcony and a view of the water. We also got “Happy Anniversary” buttons that earned us anniversary greetings from just about every “cast member” we passed (as well as a few patrons), as well as free champagne at one dinner and free cake at another. Here we are in Epcot on our anniversary:

Because our anniversary is on Halloween, Mark let me wear my chicken hat that day. Ordinarily he hates the chicken hat, although I don’t know why because it brings joy to everyone who sees it. I also took Pig everywhere.

In the spirit of Halloween, Mark even wore the chicken hat for a while:

Then the sun started to go down:

… and eventually Epcot put on a light show for our anniversary. It was called Illuminations: Reflections of Earth or something that sounded a wee bit silly. It was cool, though.

Mark commented that I was obsessed with taking pictures of Cinderella’s castle. I guess it’s sort of compelling. I also like castles. We were married in a castle!

In my next post, I’ll have to tell you about the greenhouse tour we took at Epcot, because that was really interesting and actually food related!

And finally, I’ll leave you with an obligatory Mickey shot from a random Magic Kingdom parade. Boy, they sure love parades and fireworks in Disney World, let me tell you.

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