Archive forApril, 2010

French Onion Soup

Some months ago I made a French onion soup for Smark that seems to have made a much larger impression upon him than I’d realized. He’s been asking me to make him onion soup again for months, and although I’m usually very glad when he makes requests, I’ve been avoiding this particular one because I don’t remember what I did last time and was therefore unsure I’d be able to live up to his expectations. I’m breaking out of my cooking slump, though, and today felt up to the challenge. I wish I’d baked my own bread for this – I haven’t baked in several weeks – but maybe the fact that I didn’t will make the recipe more accessible to those who don’t bake bread. Caramelizing the onions for this takes a long time – I actually let them cook for two hours – but they can largely be ignored, so it’s not active time by any means. If you turn the heat up a bit higher than I did, you can caramelize them in an hour.

French Onion Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 huge or 3 normal-sized onions, any kind, I used a mixture of white, red, and yellow, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups vegan “beef” broth
crusty French bread, sliced (3-4 slices per serving)
melty vegan cheese, like Daiya, shredded
Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix, if you have it on hand (and if you don’t, why don’t you?)

Bring a soup pot or Dutch oven to medium-low temperature and add the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the sliced onions and the salt.

Cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized and greatly reduced. Here is what their progression will look like:

Add the white wine, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, and pepper.

Stir in the broth.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for half an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Slice the bread into 1/2″ thick slices.

Pop the bread slices under the broiler for a minute and a half, turning half way through.

Ladle the soup into individual broiler-safe bowls. (If you don’t have individual broiler-safe bowls, just broil the whole pot and ladle into individual servings later.)

Float the bread slices on the soup.

Top with shredded “cheese”, then optionally sprinkle with the uncheese mix.

Broil for a couple of minutes – keep an eye on it, the broiler works fast and things burn very quickly and it will probably be no longer than two minutes., depending on your oven.

Serve on individual trivets or other heat-safe surface.

Don’t make the mistake I did and leave the room momentarily in the middle of dinner.

Mark rated this “totally awesome”. Apparently I did his memory of my first French onion soup justice. Whew!

Speaking of Daiya cheese, which is now available in the US at all (I’m told) Whole Foods stores, here is a picture of some mac and cheese made using it – a quick post-swim meal from earlier this week.

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Spicy Roasted “Chicken” with Miso and Ginger

I’m still in a cooking slump. I don’t know why. I got a great suggestion via comments my last post: look through my cookbooks! Which actually made me feel a bit stupid: I hadn’t even thought to look through my cookbooks! Again, no idea why not. Isn’t that why I have them? So I dragged a bunch of them out tonight and even marked several recipes that I want to make soon but just didn’t feel like tonight. But I was still idea-less for tonight. So then I went to Google Reader and looked at articles I’ve starred – 90% of which are recipes – and came across this recipe for Spicy Roasted Chicken with Miso and Ginger, which I probably saved because I’m always looking for ways to showcase my miso. And decided that was it. That was what I was making tonight.

So I rushed into the kitchen to start making some seitan to substitute for the chicken. This I did without a recipe: I just dumped all of my remaining vital wheat gluten into a bowl and followed it up with random amounts of other ingredients, then started it simmering in a broth. And then I realized I’d just, without thinking, made a very beefy seitan, when what I wanted was something somewhat chickeny. AND I’d just used the last of my vital wheat gluten. AND I couldn’t find anything else in my refrigerator or pantry that seemed remotely “chickeny”. So despite the fact I’d been determined to NOT go to the grocery store (again) today, I was off to Wegmans. There I found some Gardein “chicken” and decided I’d just work with that instead of making a second batch of seitan. If you don’t have access to Gardein products, you can use your favorite chicken-like seitan, or tofu, which would work well with this dish (especially frozen and thawed tofu).

Spicy Roasted “Chicken” with Miso and Ginger

1 pound chicken-style seitan, tofu (frozen and thawed if you’d like), or commercial vegan “chicken”
3 Tbsp miso paste
2″ piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon + juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce (or red chili paste)
chopped scallions, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place all of the ingredients except the “chicken” and scallions into a food processor, blender, or mini-chopper.

Process until smooth.

Coat each piece of “chicken” with the miso/ginger sauce, place on a baking sheet or pan, and cover with any remaining sauce.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Serve with a grain and green. I totally forgot to garnish with scallions as I’d intended.

This picture was not taken today but it may as well have been. The vet keeps giving me dire news about Brachtune and her bloodwork. On paper, she’s a mess. And in person, she’s a bit of a mess, too. But she’s so incredibly happy. I don’t even understand how a being can BE so happy. She’s just a complete joy to be around. She lets us give her sub-q fluids every day – she sometimes even purrs the whole time. She lets me jam three different medicines down her throat twice a day. She follows us around the house, purring. She sits on our laps, purring and drooling. If she’s a asleep and you wake her up, she’s instantly in your face, purring and full of love. But she can also be very demanding. I unexpectedly came home very early today and she greeted me at the door screaming. She wanted to go out. Badly. Whenever it’s sunny and over 60 degrees, this cat – who used to be petrified of the great outdoors – simply goes bonkers and screams to be let out. As you may be able to tell, I have a hard time saying “no” to my cats under normal circumstances, but now that it seems my time with Brachtune may be limited, it’s even worse. Anything she wants, she gets. So when she wants out, I take her out. But although all she really wants to do is lounge around in the sun and eat grass until she pukes, I never let her out without a leash and harness. So here she is on the back patio looking slightly crazy – her normal state of being. The picture is from last year, but this is exactly where Brachtune and I were to be found for most of the afternoon today: Brachtune eating grass until she puked and me reading a book. Both of us in a happy place.

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Grilled Marinated Tofu with Gravy

I know I have been remiss in posting of late; I guess I haven’t been very inspired in the kitchen these last few weeks. Frankly, I’m making tonight’s post more out of obligation to post at least once a week than because it’s anything special. In fact, although it’s an easy, quick, and tasty meal, grilling tofu seems a little stereotypically vegan in a way I generally try to avoid on this blog (I’m trying to prove we don’t just eat tofu). Moreover, this is far from original. Nonetheless, Mark WAS scraping his plate clean after this meal (I offered to just go ladle him a bowl of the gravy for dessert), so it’s husband-approved and it was a good weeknight meal.

Grilled Marinated Tofu with Gravy

1/2 -1 pound tofu (I only had about 8 ounces of tofu, which may be fine for two normal people, but wasn’t really enough for one normal person and a Smark)
1 cup vegan broth (any flavor)
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp thyme
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the gravy
all of marinade above
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour

In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients (everything above except the tofu and gravy ingredients).

Slice the tofu into 1/4″ slabs.

Put the tofu in the marinade and marinate for 1/2 hour or longer (up to 24 hours in the refrigerator).

Remove the tofu, reserving the marinade.

I grilled the tofu on my George Foreman grill. You could also do it on a stovetop grillpan, or pan fry it, or bake it.

Meanwhile, to make the gravy, in a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil and flour to make a roux.

Slowly whisk in the marinade (you can optionally strain it first as I have done here).

Continue to whisk until gravy is hot and thickened.

Grill, fry, or bake the tofu until lightly golden.

I served my tofu with roasted asparagus: doused with a vinaigrette of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, pressed garlic, salt, and pepper then roasted at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Also served with a mixed grain side from Trader Joe’s that was heavy on the Israeli couscous.

Although Mark enjoyed this meal, I didn’t get any photographic evidence of it, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this. But here he is during our recent visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History (by the way, it’s not recommended you try to visit the Smithsonian during the Cherry Blossom Festival – it was incredibly crowded, even on Easter).

And finally, guess what I saw on a Metrobus during my commute yesterday …

I thought that was pretty cool.

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Mark Makes a Stir Fry

I was in for a special treat last night when Mark agreed to make me dinner. And now YOU are in for a special treat because I photographed it for you. I really need to get a video camera, though, because believe me, still photos don’t do justice to an evening in the kitchen with Mark.

Markery (Mark’s Stir Fry)

sushi rice, prepared
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 red chili peppers, sliced
1 scallion, chopped
3 small heads broccoli, chopped (Mark really likes broccoli)
1/2 pound smoked tofu, sliced
1 cup cashews (Mark also really likes cashews)
vegetarian stir fry sauce, to taste
garlic black bean sauce, to taste
soy sauce, to taste
1 Tbsp garlic chili paste
1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp water

First, get the rice cooking. Mark selected sushi rice, so he first rinsed it in the pot of the rice cooker. He said he needed to rinse it extremely well in order to reduce his carbon footprint. When I pointed out that rinsing uses up a lot of water and wasn’t really reducing his carbon footprint, he informed me that Han Solo had a very large carbonite footprint.

Next, start prepping your vegetables. Peel the carrots.

I said PEEL the carrots …

… then chop them. Pick your next vegetable to prep.

The onion was the last one in the air, so he donned my onion goggles …

… and got to work.

And then this happened, after which he said the onion pieces were too small and he’d meant to have large pieces, but I refused to give him another onion.

Next Mark elected to chop his chili peppers. His first rule of working with chili peppers is to not put them up your nose.

Next, slice them with a knife.

Then he rinsed them under running water to remove the seeds.

Mark was pleased to discover a four-leaf clover when chopping the bell pepper …

… and enjoyed ripping the heart out of it.

Intermediary glass of orange juice.

Little man made of scallion and chili pepper ends, carrot peel eyes. Mark gives new meaning to playing with your food. Also, he must have chopped the scallion by this time.

Next he chopped the broccoli, probably a bit more of it than really necessary for two people.

I don’t like stir frying raw broccoli, so he asked if he should steam it first and I said he could just microwave it for a couple of minutes. So here is Mark explaining microwaves – they are from the “future”. (Again, I really need to get a video camera.)

Meanwhile, Mark discovered the package of smoked tofu …

… and sliced up about half of it.

Next he wanted to put together a sauce for the stir fry. He wanted to just use soy sauce but I said soy sauce alone would be too salty, so he rummaged through various ingredients and found Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce …

… which he poured into a small bowl.

Next some garlic black bean sauce …

… and soy sauce.

To his immense surprise, this tasted pretty good.

So he whisked it up very well.

And then added this much chili paste – he wanted me to show you exactly how much.

The finished sauce:

In a separate small bowl, he whisked together a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water.

At this time the rice finished cooking, so he tasted it, then added salt and rice vinegar (because the sushi vinegar I bought last time is nasty).

Then it was time to get cooking. He poured some oil into the hot wok.

The onions went in first.

Then the carrots.

And the peppers … and I think he had mixed the scallions in with the peppers.

Then the broccoli and tofu.

Followed by four pounds of cashews.

Stir fry it all up until veggies are all crisp-tender.

Then pour in the sauce.

When the sauce comes to boil, pour in the cornstarch mixture and mix well.

Then remove from heat.

And celebrate with more orange juice.

Behold your beautiful meal.

Finally, it’s time to taste the fruits of your labor.

Not too bad!

And here is my plate:

My verdict? It was actually pretty good! A bit salty and rather heavy on the cashews, but tasty and cooked to perfection. A job well done, Smark! I’d definitely be willing to let him cook for me again.

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