Archive forJanuary, 2010

Soybean Casserole

I make tofu just about every weekend, and last night I dutifully began soaking my soybeans as per usual. Today, though, I found that I just didn’t have it in me to make the tofu. It’s not hard, and I’ve done it so often I can do it in my sleep, but for some reason I just really did not feel like making tofu. That, however, left me with a bowl of soaked soybeans, which I then decided would have to be the basis of dinner. I’ve made barbecued soybeans before, and those are good, but doing that would have required making another dish or two to round out the meal and I was really lacking in motivation. I’ve also made a kimchi soybean dish that is really good, but alas, we don’t have any kimchi right now. So I did a bit of internet sleuthing for ideas (there are surprisingly few whole soybean recipes in all my cookbooks) and ran this one by Mark. He liked the sound of it, so I have veganized it for him, and by extension, you!

Soybean Casserole

1/2 cup bulgur
2 cups vegan “beef” broth, divided
1 onion, chopped
pinch fennel seeds
1/4 tsp celery seeds
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 carrot, grated
red pepper flakes, to taste
sherry, wine, broth, or water for deglazing (optional)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked soybeans (this is probably about 1 can if you are lazy)
hot sauce, to taste (optional) (I used garlic-flavoured Tabasco)
salt or seasoning salt, to taste (I used Vegeta)
vegan cheese, for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring 1 cup of the broth to a boil and add to the bulgur in a bowl. Cover and set aside.

I had frozen rice in the freezer. This is how I defrosted it: I sat it in some boiling water (I love that electric kettle!).

Grate the carrot.

Chop the onion and bell pepper; mince or press the garlic.

If you have an oven-safe Dutch oven that you’d like to bake the casserole in, use that. Otherwise, you can use a skillet and a separate casserole dish. In either case, heat some oil in the Dutch oven or skillet, then add the onions, fennel seeds, and celery seeds and saute until soft.

Add the bell pepper and garlic and saute for another few minutes.

Add the carrots and fry for a bit, using sherry or wine (or broth or water) to deglaze the pot if necessary.

If you are using a Dutch oven, add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and bring to a boil. If you used a skillet, scrape the contents into a casserole dish and then add the rest of the ingredients and mix.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Optionally, top with shredded or grated vegan cheese and return to the oven. The Whole Foods near me have started carrying Sheese, which I am super excited about, so I used a bit of that:

Bake another few minutes and remove from oven again.

It ain’t pretty, but it was easy to make and tasty!

By the way, instead of the bulgur, you could use packaged vegan “ground beef” (mince), which I think would have been pretty good if you like that sort of stuff. I’ll probably try that next time, although the bulgur method is the more healthy.

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PopCo’s Let Them Eat Cake cake

Just before Christmas, Kylie sent me a book she thought I’d like, PopCo, by Scarlett Thomas. I finished reading it last night and was gratified to find a vegan cake recipe at the end, opposite a list of the first 1,000 prime numbers – a juxtaposition that as a vegan and a former high school Mathlete, I found delightful. Actually, the book sort of advocates veganism, and yes, the characters did eat the cake in the book. Naturally, today I had to bake the cake. Perhaps I’ll start a regular feature in which I cook from fictional books.

The book is British, so I’ll give you the original recipe, direct from the book, first, and then I’ll “translate” it for my American readers and add my commentary…basically I just measured everything for you after weighing it, although I will state that I much prefer baking by weight and I encourage you to buy a good scale if you don’t have one.

Let Them Eat Cake cake


2 oz ground almonds
6 oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 oz light muscovado sugar
150 ml corn oil
200-250 ml soya milk
zest of two unwaxed lemons
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp orange flower water
1 tsp natural vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees, or less if it’s a fan oven.

Grease a cake tin. A deep six-inch tin is good but any will do.

Sift the flour and the baking powder into a bowl and then add the sugar. Mix in the ground almonds and the lemon zest. Add the oil and the milk. Use slightly less liquid to make the end result for of a cake and less of a pudding. You don’t have to be 100per cent precise with the liquids in this cake.

Now add the lemon juice and mix in thoroughly. Add the flower essence and the vanilla extract and mix again. The result should look like a thick batter.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for about forty minutes. The outside should be brown and the inside very soft. Turn out, cool, and decorate with fresh mint leaves and strawberries.

Alright, now here is the recipe from my American kitchen:

It’s hard to find self-raising flour in America, so I’ve used all purpose and added additional baking powder and salt. Wegmans had muscovado sugar but it felt rock hard and not particularly fresh, and I figured it may not be super easy for Americans to find anyway, so you can substitute light brown sugar or turbinado sugar. The orange blossom water may be difficult to find. I found it in a Mediterranean grocery. If you simply can’t find it, you can try a few drops of orange extract, but be aware the orange blossom water has a floral component you will be missing. It is, however, a fairly subtle flavoring.

2 oz, or scant 1/2 cup almonds, ground (measure before grinding)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
heaping 1 Tbsp baking powder
heaping 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (unpacked) light brown, light muscovado, or turbinado sugar
2/3 cup corn oil
1 cup soy or other non-dairy milk (I used hemp)
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
juice of 2 lemons
1 Tbsp orange flower water (also known as orange blossom water; can be found in Mediterranean and other specialty grocery stores)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grind the almonds, pulsing to ensure they don’t turn to a paste.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. If you don’t have a sifter, you can just use a strainer, as I’ve done here.

Add the sugar and almond meal to the bowl.

Zest the lemons; you can do this right into the mixing bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients together well.

Juice the lemons and set aside.

Measure the oil – I barely had the 150 ml I needed, but here it is in both American and metric sizes:

Add it to the bowl, then measure the non-diary milk.

Add the milk to the bowl and mix well. Then add the orange blossom water and vanilla extract and mix well again.

Grease a cake pan. I’ve used an 8″ square baking dish. I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen a 6″ cake pan.

Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes.

Let cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then place an upside down cooling rack over it …

… and invert. Let cool.

I didn’t have any fresh mint or strawberries, so I just topped with vegan whipped cream. Strawberries and mint would have been delightful though. Interestingly, Mark thought the cake smelled of strawberries, but in fact it tasted quite lemony, as you could probably have guessed from the ingredients list. It was very moist; I used the lower amount of liquid recommended and can’t imagine having used any more. I had it with tea, which was perfect, especially since I think a cup of tea was drunk on at least every other page of PopCo.

PopCo, with its emphasis on math (mostly as it relates to cryptology) proved to be an unintentionally interesting segue to my next book, which I’d been on the wait list for at the library and which finally arrived: The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, what with Dirac being a very mathematically inclined physicist. (Well, all physicists are probably mathematically inclined, but until he became enamored with relativity, math was Dirac’s direct calling.) This is a strange book for me to be reading because I very rarely read biographies. I find I simply don’t care enough about anyone to read an entire book about them. I largely prefer to read fiction. But from the reviews I’d read of this book, it’s pretty heavy on the physics – it was written by a physicist – which I like. And it’s been a strange reading year so far: exactly half of the 8 books I’ve completed have been non-fiction. Compare that to the 93.6% fiction (of 109 books) I read in 2009. I don’t know how I’m tolerating all these facts!

Speaking of the library, I also checked out Vegan Soul Kitchen. Anyone have any favorite recipes from that book I should definitely try?

And now, Brachtune takes a bath…

(She’d just finished yawning.)

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Boston Baked Beans and Boston Brown Bread

Some weekend mornings I wake up, realize I don’t need to be anywhere for the whole day, and wonder what kind of slow-cooking meal I can cook at my leisure all day – especially when it’s freezing outside and I want to warm up the kitchen. This morning was such a morning and I immediately thought of Boston baked beans and Boston brown bread. As many of you – at least the Americans – may know, baked beans and steamed brown bread were New England staples since Colonial times, traditionally cooking all day in Puritan homes and served for Saturday dinner. In fact, beans played such an important role that Boston is sometimes called Beantown. A little googling just now informs me that the Puritans learned how to make beans from the Native Americans, eventually replacing the maple syrup and bear fat in their recipe with molasses and salt pork. You don’t have to slaughter a bear to make my version, you’ll be glad to know. Nor a pig; I don’t even know what salt pork is though I assume it’s just pork that’s been cured with salt, which I know was a popular thing to do in Colonial times.

If you search for Boston baked bean recipes, you’ll find that nearly all of them call for ketchup. I find this bizarre. We have a baked bean recipe in my family (though we’re not from New England; most my ancestors hovered pretty near the Mason Dixon line); I believe it was my great Aunt Joyce’s but my mother would have to confirm. I don’t have access to it, unfortunately, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t contain ketchup. Ketchup sounds like a strange addition to me, and in fact, Google tells me that under no circumstances should ANY tomato products go into traditional Boston baked beans. I couldn’t resist putting tomato sauce in mine, though, and obviously I’m not putting pork in it, so my version isn’t traditional. It’s traditional in spirit though, in that I’ve been slowly cooking it all day and am anticipating an unassuming, filling, nutritious meal.

Boston Baked Beans

1 lb dried navy or other small white beans (I measured this for you in case you don’t have a scale and it’s about 2 1/4 cups. But you should get a scale.)
3-4 cups bean cooking liquid (and/or water)
1 onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup molasses
1 small can (8 oz) tomato sauce
3 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
2 bay leaves

Soak the beans overnight, or do a quick soak, which is what I did: cover beans with water …

… bring to a boil and cook two minutes, then remove from heat and soak for an hour.

Cover soaked beans with a 2-3 inches of water, bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour or two, or until tender enough to easily bite but overly soft. Check periodically and add more water if necessary.

Drain beans, reserving liquid. Also, preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Smash the garlic.

Dice the onion.

Put the beans and the rest of the ingredients in a bean pot, Dutch oven, or other oven-proof dish. (Have I mentioned that I’m in love with my new Dutch oven?)

Stir to combine.

Cover and bake 5 to 8 hours. Check on the beans periodically, stirring and adding more liquid if necessary.

Remove from oven. These could also have been cooked in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes, or in a crockpot all day.

Boston Brown Bread

I followed this recipe from Epicurious exactly (other than substituting oil for the butter and and non-dairy milk for the milk); it got really high ratings and looked good and simple, so I figured there was no need to change it up. I probably should have used blackstrap molasses but all I had on hand was mild flavoured. It turned out fine.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole rye flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used hemp; I’m a freakin’ hippie.)
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Whisk in the molasses and non-dairy milk, then fold in the currants or raisins.

Rub or brush the interior of a 28-oz aluminum can (from which the top but not the bottom has been removed) generously with oil, then pour in the batter. If you use different sized cans or change the quantities of the ingredients, just be sure to fill the can(s) no more than two thirds full as the bread will rise quite a bit.

Cover tightly with foil and secure with a rubber band (or tie with string).

Place an in an oven-safe dish or pot and fill with boiling water (that electric kettle of mine sure is handy!) to a point halfway up the can.

Put in the oven and steam for 2 to 3 hours. Check periodically and add more water to the pot if necessary. The original recipe said to steam for two hours, removing when an inserted skewer comes out clean, but I found it took closer to three hours to be done and it was still quite moist – almost too moist to eat easily. So next time I might cut back on the liquid just a smidge. Let cool in can for 30 to 60 minutes. (The original recipe said an hour, but I was already behind schedule because it was steaming for longer than it said, so I probably only cooled for half an hour.)

Slide out of can. Mine slid right out, but if yours doesn’t, just remove the bottom of the can and push it through.

Slice to serve. I was so caught up in making the beans and bread, as well as making a batch of tofu at the same time, that I completely forgot to make a vegetable to serve with them, so I just grabbed some corn, or as the Indians call it, maize, from the freezer. Mark informed me this was really good, and that he experienced several different taste sensations, including sweet, bitter, etc., terming it very “mouth palate-y”. I think that’s good anyway.

Here is a carrot sunflower bread I also baked today:

I think Whole Foods should start paying me to be a roving advice giver. I don’t know what it is about me, but people are compelled to ask me for help in grocery stores. I have lost count of the number of times people have randomly asked me what a certain vegetable looks like and where they can find it. Fortunately for them, I probably know better than most customers – and possibly employees – what everything in the produce department is, but I don’t know how they know that. Some guy asked me to help him figure out if he’s allergic to a certain detergent today; that was new. And also today a lady asked me what kind of tofu she should buy and how she should prepare it. I wasn’t even buying tofu. I mean, THIS is what I look like:

Would you approach this person and solicit her advice? Does this look like “Tofu Expert” to you? (Okay, I wasn’t wearing the hat in Whole Foods – today.) The weird thing is I am a tofu, and a produce, expert, but I don’t think I necessarily give off that vibe just by looking at me. Usually it’s produce questions, though. I’ve explained what shallots, sunchokes, kumquats, horseradish, chard, and umpteen other vegetables are, where they are located, how to tell if they’re fresh, and how to cook them. In fact, I’ve only ever been unable to answer one question: once, in Wegmans, someone asked me where to find some sort of meat and I told her I didn’t even know where the meat department is, which is true, although I know Wegmans like the back of my hand, so you’d think I would know where it was if only to avoid it. Both Whole Foods and Wegmans should at least give me a discount on my bill for all the customers I’ve helped for them. I guess I just find it strange because it would never occur to me to ask a random shopper questions like those. At best, I’d ask an employee where something was if I couldn’t find it. But I’d never walk up to someone and say, “hey, do you know how to cook tofu?” I really don’t mind, though. Elsewhere, it’s rare I’m asked questions I actually know the answers to, so I enjoy feeling useful for once. I just think it’d be awesome if WF and Wegmans rewarded me for my helpfulness!

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Sherried Tomato Soup

Long day today: first full work week in a while, late night last night with Fortinbras, and swim class until late this evening. I was FROZEN when I got home, and hungry, so no preparatory photos because I wasn’t planning to make a post. But the sherried tomato soup I threw together turned out fairly well so I figured it warranted mentioning.

Sherried Tomato Soup

1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 Tbsp sherry (I used cream sherry)
1 14.5 oz tin tomatoes
3 cups vegan broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat some olive oil in a soup pot, then add the onions and celery and cook until onions are beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Use some of the sherry to deglaze the pot, then add the tomatoes and let them cook down over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend and adjust seasonings if necessary.

I served with grilled “cheese” sandwiches made with Cheezly and the soft sandwich rye from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, and pickles. I’d like to have garnished it with basil but we ate all the fresh basil I had last night, so I used baby spinach to liven the photo up. It didn’t taste bad, either. I also sprinkled with some croutons, mostly for photographic reasons.

I hope everyone has a very happy new year! Mark and I broke our years-long New Year’s Eve tradition in which one of us is always sick that day: neither of us were sick. But because I assumed one of us would be we didn’t make any plans. Which was really fine with me: the weather was pretty miserable and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than in our cozy house with my wonderful husband and wonderful cat anyway!

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