Archive forCookbooks

Tomatoes à la Provençale

Yesterday Mark brought home two lovely tomatoes, given to him by a co-worker. I suspect they will be the last tomatoes anyone around here will be trying to get rid of! I figured I’d better do something with them before Mark made his famous Tomato Surprise, and I decided on Tomatoes à la Provençale from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. I strayed slightly from her recipe, mostly because I didn’t have fresh basil or parsley. What I do have is a rambling shiso plant, so I made the unlikely substitution of shiso for basil and parsley. I’m guessing most of you are much more likely to have basil and parsley, so I’ll give you the original ingredients.

Tomatoes à la Provençale

6 large firm ripe tomatoes (about 8 ounces each)
regular salt
1/2 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup soft white bread crumbs (for 2 tomatoes, I tore up one slice of sourdough bread)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (for 2 tomatoes, I chopped up 3 shiso leaves and added about 1/2 tsp dried parsley)
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil (I used 1/2 tsp dry for 2 tomatoes)
3 Tbsp finely chopped shallots or white parts of scallions
2 cloved garlic, finely chopped
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

(Note: I’m going to stray a bit from my usual protocol and just transcribe the original text, but since I can’t keep my mouth shut, I’ll add my additional thoughts in italics. I just wanted to make it clear which words are the author’s and which are mine.)

Slice off and discard 1/4 inch from the top and bottom of each tomato. The original recipe says to then cut each tomato in half crosswise, however, the brilliant Renae, who is more accustomed to making up than following recipes, managed to miss that line and instead went right onto the next step of scooping out the seeds. I cored each tomato, then dug out a little bit (I saved the bits other than the core for the soup I was also making). With a finger or the handle of a small spoon, scoop out the seeds.

Sprinkle the insides with a little regular salt and turn them upside down to drain on paper towels for about 15 minutes.

I also didn’t cut off an entire 1/4″ from the top nor especially the bottom; I just made sure they’d each sit upright.

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Lightly oil a shallow baking dish large enough to comfortably hold the tomato halves in a single layer. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the dry bread crumbs, soft bread crumbs, parsley, basil, the crazy addition of shiso if so inclined, shallots, and garlic. Season with coarse salt and pepper. Add half of the olive oil and toss well to thoroughly combine.

My sourdough slice, torn up.

Fill each tomato half (or, if you are a dummy and can’t read directions, each whole tomato) with about 2 tablespoons of the bread crumb mixture, patting it in and letting it mound up slightly in the center.
Arrange the tomato halves in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle evenly with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender but not limp or mushy. Serve warm. Or let cool and refrigerate, covered, for a minimum of 3 hours and serve chilled, sprinkled with the optional parsley if desired.

These were good; Smark really liked his. He seemed quite disappointed I didn’t make the recipe up. The shiso actually worked quite well, and they worked fine as whole tomatoes instead of halves.

I served it with the Tomato-Lentil Soup with Brown Rice from the same book, but I’m not going to bother writing it up because honestly I liked my lentil soup better.

I did, however, use one of my own home-grown, fresh bay leaves for the first time, though! I’ve had the bay leaf plant for several years now, which is nothing short of amazing in terms of plant life in my hands. It’s been particularly happy now that it’s living right next to that crazy shiso plant, and is now big enough that I don’t feel bad robbing it of a leaf here and there.

Comments (2)

Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono): Hakata-Style Cabbage Pickle

I’ve been wanting a Japanese pickle press for a while, but all of the ones I’ve seen have been pretty big and I feared they’d take up too much room in my refrigerator and make far more pickles than two people could reasonably eat. I probably could never make too many traditional dill pickles for Mark to consume, but I generally intend tsukemono to accompany a single meal and only need two servings at a time. So when I saw a small press at Soko Hardware in San Francisco’s Japantown last weekend, I snatched it up. I also picked up a tsukemono recipe book, Easy Japanese Pickling in Five Minutes to One Day. This book is not completely vegan, but it is mostly so.

Many Japanese pickles are made by extracting excess water from veggies by applying weights to them. The plastic pickle presses you can find in Japanese markets (or online) work by applying pressure in the form of a spring that clamps a lid down onto the pickles. A special press is not at all necessary, however. In fact, this particular book describes how not to use a press. Instead, it suggests placing the pickle ingredients into a bowl, covering with plastic wrap, and using cans or other weights to press the pickles.

I chose a simple pickle (most of them, in fact, are quite simple) last night, using my new press instead of the cans-in-a-dish method recommended by the book. The pickle press simply eliminates a little extra work (and plastic wrap, which I try to avoid) and also provides easy storage of leftovers.

Nakata-Style Cabbage Pickle

400 grams cabbage (check out that “baby” cabbage I got at Wegmans! It weighed 412 grams: perfect!)
2 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp water
1/2 carrot, julienned
30 shiso leaves (I used fewer, but was very glad to be able to trim my rampant shiso plant, which for some reason is not only not dead, but thriving)

Core the cabbage.

In the words of the book, “Slice to fit a small rectangular container.” Their pickles ended up retaining layers, looking a bit like a cabbagy petit-four, but I made mine “scattered”, much like the sushi I served it with. So basically I just chopped the cabbage into bite-sized pieces:

Place the cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and water. Mix together using your hands. Let sit for 15-20 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, julienne the carrot and cut the shiso leaves into bit-sized pieces (I used kitchen shears). When the cabbage is ready, squeeze it dry, then layer in a pickle press (or a rectangular container), alternating with rows of shiso and carrot.

If using a pickle press, put the lid on and tighten the screw as much as possible:

If you don’t have a pickle press, cover the vegetables with plastic wrap, place a small plate or bowl over them, then put a can or other weight onto the plate or bowl.

Let the pickle stand for 30 minutes. Makes six servings.

This was a nice, light, “clean”-tasting accompaniment to our meal, even if it didn’t look as pretty as the picture in the book.

Comments (11)

Scattered Sushi

Mark requested “tofu and rice” for dinner last night and looking for inspiration, I flipped through Asian Vegan Kitchen. I decided to make Scattered Sushi from that book. Wegmans didn’t have the lotus root called for, so I substituted dry tofu (which also satisfied Mark’s tofu request). At the author’s suggestion, I substituted bamboo shoots for the shiitakes because as previously discussed, I hate mushrooms.

Scattered Sushi

Before running up to the grocery store, I stuck a piece of kombu into 4 cups of water. This gave me enough dashi when I got home to prepare the meal below and make 2 servings of miso soup.

4 ounces dry tofu, cubed (original calls for 3.5 ounces lotus root, soaked in vinegared water)
1/2 cup dashi
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar or 6 drops stevia
pinch of salt
1 medium carrot, julienned
4 Tbsp dashi
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia
pinch of salt
1 8 oz can bamboo shoots, shredded (or 10 dried shiitake mushrooms)
2/3 cup dashi
3 Tbsp sugar or 18 drops stevia
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup snow peas, strings removed, and chopped in half
sushi rice
1/2 cup white sesame seeds, toasted
pickled ginger for garnish
1 sheet toasted nori seawood, cut into strips, for garnish

Prepare sushi rice. I guess I should do a tutorial on this sometime, but all I do is cook it in a rice cooker, then cut in seasoned rice vinegar and salt with a rice paddle when it’s done. I don’t even measure those things, so it wouldn’t be much of a tutorial. Just follow the instructions on your package of sushi rice, then season with sushi vinegar and salt to taste.

Combine 1/2 cup dashi, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp sugar or 6 drops stevia, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Add the tofu or the soaked lotus root and cook for 3 to 4 minutes (until lotus root, if using, is tender). Drain and set aside.

Combine 4 Tbsp dashi, 1/2 tsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp sugar or 2 drops stevia, and a pinch of salt in the same small saucepan and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Drain and set aside.

If using shiitakes, rinse and soak in water for 5 minutes, then remove hard stems. Place the mushrooms or the bamboo shoots in the small saucepan with 2/3 cup dashi, 3 Tbsp sugar or 18 drops stevia, mirin, and soy sauce and cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. The liquid may be nearly or completed absorbed if you are using mushrooms, however, it probably won’t be with the bamboo shoots. Drain if necessary and set aside.

Blanch the snow peas in salted boiling water. Drain and set aside.

The book didn’t suggest serving the scattered sushi with the typical soy sauce and wasabi you’d eat regular sushi with, but I wanted to try out the real wasabi I’d gotten from Penzey’s, so before assembling the sushi, I mixed some up so it could sit for a few minutes:

To assemble the dish, place sushi rice in a bowl, then “scatter” with sesame seeds, the prepared vegetables, pickled ginger, and nori slivers. Serve at room temperature.

Best served with miso soup and pickle!

Mark rated this meal as “simple but very good” and gobbled it up very quickly. Speaking of Mark, as much as I loved being in San Francisco, it was very good to be back in my own kitchen with my two favorite boys:

Comments (1)

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?

Comments (9)

Sushi Bowl

Mark went to a friend’s house tonight, leaving me on my own for dinner. I embrace such evenings as opportunities to eat stuff he won’t eat, so tonight found me flipping through a few cookbooks in search of inspiration. I ended up with Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and found myself intrigued by a very Bittman-esque table of “sushi bowl ideas”, the idea being you take a bowl of sushi rice, add a topping from column A, a sauce from column B, and a garnish from column C. Fast, easy, flexible, and scalable, i.e., good for a one-person meal. The only problem with the whole idea of a sushi bowl is Mark would have loved it. This is the boy who at least once a day claims he’s going on an “all-rice diet” (an idea I keep rejecting: “you need to eat a balanced diet”). Nonetheless I was getting hungry, so sushi bowl it was.

I am a fan of tsukemono, Japanese pickles. I make them sometimes, although not as often as I want to. I mean to start making them more often, but in the meantime, I usually have a few packaged kinds on hand to eat as sides with noodles, my go-to dinner when I don’t feel like really cooking. I have a bunch of such tsukemono in the refrigerator, so I chose that suggestion from Bittman’s column A. In column B for that row was something like “seaweed ‘mayo'”, which I almost completely ignored as I wasn’t about to put mayo on my sushi bowl, even if it DOES sounds like something the Japanese would do. But curiosity got to me and I checked out the recipe for “seaweed ‘mayo'”…and was surprised to find out it was not only vegan, but really just seaweed (arame) pureed with a tiny bit of oil and sake. So I whipped that up.

Column C was slivered scallions in this case, but I also added shredded nori and shredded shiso. To shred the nori and shiso, I rolled each up lengthwise, made two cuts lengthwise on the nori and one on the shiso, then snipped the rolls up into small pieces (like chiffonading).

Sushi Bowl

1 1/2 cups sushi rice, prepared
1/2 cup different kinds of tsukemono (Japanese pickle)
2 Tbsp “seaweed ‘mayo'” or other mild sauce
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
2 Tbsp shredded shiso (optional)
1 Tbsp shredded nori (optional)

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop and prepare as if for sushi (cut in sushi vinegar and salt to taste). For the sauce, choose something mild that won’t clash with the pickles, but also non-salty (the pickles are really salty, so a soy sauce-based sauce is probably a bad idea). Place the rice in a bowl, top with the tsukemono, then the sauce, then the garnishes.

Serves 1.

Here’s what it looked like after mixing it all up:

I served it with miso soup, which is incredibly easy to pull together. I discussed in an earlier post how to make dashi. Simply soak a piece of kombu in some water for at least half an hour. If you are in a hurry, you can simmer it instead for 15 minutes. Here’s how I usually make miso soup:

Miso Soup

2 cups water
1 3″ piece of kombu
1 tsp dried wakame
1 splash mirin
1 splash seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp light miso
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped tofu

Soak the kombu in the water for 1-24 hours (refrigerate if longer than a couple of hours), or, simmer it gently for 15 minutes. Remove kombu. This is the dashi. Rehydrate wakame by soaking in warm water for 10 minutes. It will expand considerably, so don’t use too much and give it enough room. Heat dashi in a small saucepan. Add a splash of mirin and a splash of seasoned rice vinegar. Remove 2 Tbsp of the dashi and place in a small bowl. Set aside. Add the scallions, rehydrated wakame, and tofu to the pot.

Add the miso to the reserved 2 Tbsp of dashi and stir until smooth. Add to the pot.

After adding the miso, do not allow the soup to boil. Serve when it has been warmed through.

Makes two servings.

Brachtune read V For Vendetta while we ate. And by “read”, I mean “licked the cover of”.

Comments (5)

Streamlining the soy milk process and other soybean news, cookbooks, and catching up

The last time I failed to post for several days in a row, I had the excuse of being extremely busy. This time my excuse is exactly the opposite. There is a direct correlation between the day they finally fixed my pool filter and the day I stopped having anything to post here. I’ve pretty much been either swimming in the pool, or floating atop it in my inflatable barge, reading a book. In short, doing nothing. Dinner’s been a rushed affair every night as I’ve been making up for all the swimtime I’ve lost while the filter was broken. Although I don’t have any exciting food to share with you, my weekend has been pretty idyllic.

I did spend all of Saturday morning in the kitchen, though. It was a soy extravaganza on Saturday, in fact. I recently purchased The New Farm cookbook to see if it held any secrets that would help with my tempeh-making. I made tempeh per its instructions (the main difference being that I cooked the soybeans for an hour an a half instead of just half an hour or so). Success!!

I think the problem last time was definitely cramming too many beans into the baggie. I’ll just have to weigh them from now on and make sure it’s exactly 8 ounces of dried beans, which results in the perfect amount for one sandwich-sized bag. I used a higher quality, thicker baggie this time and not only was it much easier to pierce it with the needle, but I was able to remove the tempeh without cutting it, so I will be able to reuse it.

In other soy news, I’ve been noticing that when I make soy milk, the liquid drains through the okara bag that came with my tofu press faster than it does the bag I made myself out of muslin, which I concluded was because the weave of my muslin was tighter than that in the other bag, and since the faster the liquid drains, the easier it is, I’ve been wanting to find a fabric even more loosely woven. So Friday night I went to the fabric store and discovered chiffon.

If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid, you may recognize chiffon as the stuff the bride made you wrap 200 tiny plastic bottles of bubbles, or Hershey kisses, or other wedding favors in. (No one had to wrap anything in chiffon for my wedding because my entire bridal party consisted of Fortinbras traipsing down the aisle carrying our rings on a wedding stick as we said our vows before all of six witnesses in a Scottish castle. I wore black, Mark wore a kilt, and there was no chiffon in sight!)

I may not have been interested in chiffon for bridal reasons, but I’m here to tell you it makes a great okara bag! Because it is slippery, it’s a bit of pain to sew, but it’s worth the small amount of trouble. The soy milk filtered right through it, and with just a couple gentle presses with potato masher, I had extremely dry okara. Not only that, but cleanup was a breeze! My other okara bags never get really clean, but the okara just slides right off the chiffon! And it dries very quickly. I also used a piece of chiffon to line my tofu press when I made the weekly tofu. This worked well because not only did the whey drain through it rapidly, making a firmer tofu faster, but it’s not as bulky as the big piece of muslin I had been using.

I think my tofu should marry my tempeh!!

Another new thing I’ve incorporated into the soy milk-making process is the Multiquick. It had never occurred to me to use an immersion blender to grind the soybeans; I guess I didn’t think they were powerful enough to do it. But one of the reviewers on Amazon said she used hers when making soy milk, so I tried it out, and it worked fine. So after they are finished soaking, I pour off the soaking water, add fresh water to cover, and blend them right in the same bowl I soaked them in. This is particularly helpful when making more than a quart of soy milk because I used to have to do it in batches in the regular blender.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m ashamed of how wasteful I am when I make soy milk and tofu. Because I haven’t had much success using okara, I usually just throw it away. Same with the whey when making tofu. This weekend, though, since the chiffon afforded me the opportunity to extract so much liquid from my okara with very little effort, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dry it as suggested by Maki at Just Hungry. So I spread it on a pan …

… and baked it at the lowest temperature my oven allows (170 degrees Fahrenheit) until it was completely dried out. I’m not sure how long it ended up taking because I sort of did it in cycles, being “busy” in the pool most of the day. It was maybe 1.5 hours total?

Then I ground it up.

Now I will do something with it. I think Bryanna was discussing dried okara as a parmesan substitute recently; I’ll probably give that a whirl. Maki suggests using dried okara in baked goods, but ugh, I’m so disgusted with using soy byproducts in baked goods! I’ve tried using okara before and it turned my bread into bricks! I wasn’t using dried okara, and Maki claims the texture is much better with dried, but after baking a brick this weekend using whey leftover from making tofu – because the New Farm cookbook said it was good to add to bread – I’m about ready to claim that soy products have no place in bread!

I’ve become a bit of a bread snob; I rarely bake any “straight doughs”, that is, dough made and baked all at once, with no pre-ferments or sponges. But since I was too busy Friday night playing with my chiffon to put together my usual doughs to bake on Saturday, I decided to try the whole wheat recipe in the New Farm cookbook (which, as you can see, has gotten a lot of use since I got it), and at New Farm’s recommendation, I added some of the tofu whey.

Big mistake! It didn’t proof very well, which was the first sign that things were going badly, but I thought maybe I’d just put it in too large a loaf pan. But when I removed it from the oven, I recognized that signature pale, deathly color I’d seen in my previous attempts to use okara in bread. Look at it, it looks sick:

I hadn’t mentioned my whey trial to Mark, from whom I have to hide fresh bread if I don’t want it devoured within two minutes, and who cut himself a slice after it cooled. He took a bite and promptly came to me with a skeptical look on his face, asking me to taste it and tell him if it tasted, well, tasteless. It did. It tasted like cardboard. Mark threw the slice away in disgust.

So today, I decided to bake the same bread, but without whey. Look at the difference:

Now, to be fair, the bigger loaf was much better kneaded, because my mixer crapped out on the bad loaf before it was fully kneaded, and due to an injury sustained while making the okara bags the night before (my thumb tangled with a rotary cutter and lost – ouch!), I wasn’t able to knead it by hand very effectively.

So, speaking of the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, on Thursday night, I was making Vegan Dad’s Green Enchiladas and decided that instead of using my usual “cheese” recipe from Simply Heavenly!, I would flip through the New Farm book to see if they had any “cheese” recipes I could try out. I found one and was shocked to find myself looking at the very recipe I almost always use from Simply Heavenly! I don’t want to say Abbott George Burke is a plagiarist, and I honestly think most of his 1,400 recipes are original, but I just found this weird:

Melty Nutritional Yeast “Cheese” from the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook Yeast Cheeze from Simply Heavenly!
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups water
1/4 cup margarine
1 tsp wet mustard

Mix dry ingrdients in a saucepan. Whisk in water. Cook over medium heat, whisking, until it thickens and bubbles. Cook 30 seconds, then remove from heat, whip in margarine, and mustard. It will thicken as it cools but will thin when heated, or add water to thin it.

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 unbleached white flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups water
1 Tbsp nondairy margarine
1 tsp wet mustard

Mix the dry ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk in the water. Cook over medium heat while whisking as it thickens and bubbles. Cook 30 seconds more and remove from the heat. Whip in the margarine and mustard. This thickens when it cools and thins when heated. Water can be added to thin it more. This keeps about five days.

I have made the recipe on the right so many times I have it memorized, so I recognized it the instant I saw it in the New Farm cookbook…which was published 22 years before Simply Heavenly. Incidentally, although I feel lost, confused, and misled – like I did when I realized that Bauhaus’s song Telegram Sam was really a T.Rex song – I actually recommend the “Simply Heavenly” version because it uses 1/4 the amount of margarine (it’s the only difference!), and it’s plenty. Also, this “cheese” was really good in Vegan Dad’s enchiladas, which you really must make. Mark has been absolutely rhapsodizing about them ever since. I’m a bit afraid he prefers Vegan Dad’s recipes to my own! I guess if I’m second best to anyone, Vegan Dad might as well be the one.

Whew…that was a lot of jabbering on my part without posting a recipe! I’m sorry I don’t have anything for you, especially after deserting you for so many days. I can show you a picture of the Sweet and Sour Tempeh I made tonight:

It’s from – surprise! – the New Farm cookbook. I’m probably the last vegan on the planet to buy this cookbook; it’s been on my wishlist forever, but I just never got around to it. Maybe because I think I have half of it in the form of printouts of recipes that have been posted on various websites, forums, and mailing lists over the years. So I guess it’s about damn time I bought a proper version of it. I was surprised to realize, too, that Tofu Cookery, which I have had for years, is also by Louise Hagler and the folks at the Farm. I had no idea!

That’s all the food news from nowhere. Here is a picture of a turtle we rescued from the pool yesterday, though:

Isn’t he great? I named him Prince Harry. I don’t know why I named him that because I have no special interest in the royal family and in fact can’t tell Harry from William, but that’s the name that popped into my head. Prince Harry didn’t think much of me, I’m afraid. He was so eager to get away from me and my animal paparazzi tendencies that he walked right into a chain link fence and had to be helped by Mark, who relocated him to a safe place. Then Prince Harry toddled off somewhere as far away from me as he could get.

I discovered wild raspberries growing by the pool as well.

Comments (11)

Pimiento Cheez

Being vegan is much easier now than it was just ten years ago. Ten years ago I barely knew how to cook, didn’t know any other vegans, and although I lived near a health food store in Baltimore, I didn’t really know what to do with the stuff I found there. I don’t think food blogs even existed. The internet has been a boon to vegans since then, though: not only are the online resources for vegans themselves immense, but a lot of people who might otherwise never have come across the concept of veganism are exposed to it online, which helps greatly when I, as a vegan, am later exposed to those people. Ten years ago when I told people I was vegan, the response I most often received was, “What’s a vegan?” (followed by an astonished, “But what DO you eat?”) Now I can go into a restaurant and ask if a particular dish is vegan and get an answer – without a puzzled look. A lot of restaurants use the term “vegan” right on their menus these days!

Back in the dark days of my early veganism, the first cookbook I bought was Simply Heavenly!.

As you can see, my copy of this book has been seriously abused. Entire sections of it have come unattached from the spine and there are food and water stains throughout. In particular, the “Dairy Substitutes” chapter is completely removable from the rest of the book due to being opened to that part so frequently, and is also caked in lord only knows what. Although I’ve gone on to purchase countless other vegan cookbooks, I don’t know what my life would have been like if Abbott Burke hadn’t told me early on how to make several varieties of “cheez”, seitan to taste like every meat imaginable, and everything else you can imagine – 1,400 recipes in all. Along the way, I learned to cook. I still consider myself a novice cook, but I’ve certainly progressed from the Spaghetti-Os and cheese sandwiches of my pre-vegan days.

Unfortunately Simply Heavenly! is long out of print – and used copies go for a pretty penny – which is why I will be sharing the following recipe with you. This “cheez” will be used in another recipe I will be providing later today or tomorrow, but I’ll give it its own post. The text below is from the cookbook.

Pimiento Cheez 2

This Cheez should not be grainy from the ground (blended) cashews. If this happens to yours, then you did not blend long enough or your blender lacks the power to do the job. We use a Vita-Mix, and it works perfectly. (Renae’s note: I use a Sumeet Asia Kitchen Machine, my undying love for which I’ll be discussing at some point.)

1/4 cup agar
1 cup water
3/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup pimientos
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
dash garlic powder
dash dill seed
1/2 tsp corn oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Soak the agar in water about 5 minutes …

… and boil gently until clear.

Not yet clear


“Clear”

Place the other ingredients, except the oil and lemon juice, in a blender …

… with the agar and whirl. Slowly add the oil. Add the lemon juice last.

Pour immediately into a mold and set in the refrigerator to cool.

The cookbook doesn’t provide an estimate of how long it will take to firm up, but it doesn’t take long, perhaps as little as 15 minutes. Mine doesn’t look too pretty unmolded because I was planning to just shred it up anyway, so I wasn’t too careful about smoothing it out.

You know it’s good because Tigger only sits on cookbooks of which he approves!

(That’s a total lie. Tigger is completely non-discerning about he sits on.)

Comments (1)

Pizza Dough

In my previous post I discussed a new vegan cheese that is good for everyone’s favorite meal: pizza! Since I had to mix up some pizza dough tonight, I figured I would photograph it as I went along to share with you here. This led my husband to ask if this was going to turn into a pizza blog. That’s not really my intent, although I sure love pizza. I’ve been threatening to get the How to Make Soy Milk and Tofu posts up soon, so if you are really strange and hate pizza, don’t go away! In the meantime, though, let’s talk pizza.

First of all, I have to apologize for the fact that I can’t post my pizza dough recipe, which I realize is really lame. I feel like I’m off to a weird start; I was thinking that people who came across the blog yesterday and didn’t read my Teese post carefully might think I work for Teese and just slapped this together to advertise for them, which is another reason I thought I’d better get some more posts up. I promise I will have recipes for you very soon, but I only want to post original recipes unless I am sure the author of the recipe I am posting is okay with it being shared. The pizza dough I make is from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and I have to tell you, I am a total fangirl of Peter Reinhart and I don’t want to piss him off. I think he’s actually an extremely nice individual, but nonetheless I’m not taking any chances on making him sad. But if you have ANY interest in bread baking, please, please, please buy this book. And then buy his new Whole Grains book. Even if you are too scared to bake your own bread (although you shouldn’t be; if I can do it, you can too!), the pizza dough is really, really easy if you have a stand mixer and is worth the cost of the book alone. Any one of the recipes in it is worth the cost of the book (although as a vegan there are some I’ve never tried).

Now, that said, I’ll be hypocritical and alert you that you CAN find the same recipe I use here. But I’m telling you the book is worth it! What I will share with you, though, is my thoughts on keeping your household in homemade pizza. Peter’s recipe makes 6 individual-sized pizzas and it freezes wonderfully. So what I do is mix up two batches – one using high gluten white flour and one using white whole wheat flour – at a time. The dough has to rest at least overnight, so I usually do this on a Friday night, like tonight, and then pop one serving of white dough and one serving of whole wheat dough in the refrigerator for use at some point during the weekend and then freeze the rest. Then on subsequent Friday nights I take one of each type out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw. That way they are ready at any point for a (relatively) quick meal. I bake both up, cut each in half and my husband and I get half of each; that way we each get the wholesomeness of the whole wheat and the decadence of the white. I’ll talk more about that later. For now, here are some photos!

Gathering the Ingredients

I’m a big fan of mise en place, although with so few ingredients, it’s not a big deal here. It’s just flour, salt, yeast, water, and optionally olive oil. The problem with mise en place at my house is it often attracts my cat. Meet Tigger. You’ll be seeing a lot more of him, I’m sure.

Note the scale. Peter gives his recipes in volume and weight. If you’re a casual baker or not sure if you are really going to make your own pizza dough or bread more than once, go ahead and use the volume measurements, but if you are at all interested in baking more often, please get a scale. It’s faster and far more accurate.

Mixing the Ingredients

You’ll be stirring together the dry ingredients, then the olive oil if you are using it. The water goes in last. Although I fill my measuring cup to a little above the proper line, I weigh my water on the scale as well because I’ve found the lines on the cup are pretty inaccurate, and the amount of water in bread and pizza dough is crucial. After adding the water, you want to mix just to bring it all together. That funny looking thing is a dough whisk which I use in lieu of the mixer’s paddle attachment suggested by Peter (yes, we’re on a first name basis), because I find it annoying to switch attachments. And also because I have a serious problem when it comes to King Arthur Flour’s store. A sturdy spoon will work just as well though.

Mixing the Dough

One of the goals I have for this blog is improving my food photography skills. I read a lot of great food blogs with incredible pictures, and although I’ve long been interested in photography, I’m horrible at photographing food. This is actually a reason it’s taken this long for my husband to convince me to get this blog going. So, um, apologies for the photography but it is NOT easy to photograph the interior of the mixer bowl while it’s mixing! The reason I couldn’t stop the mixer to take the picture is the dough would look a lot different if the mixer wasn’t working. The dough should be so wet that if the mixer stops, it looks like a sloppy mess, but as the mixer is working, it should come together on the hook, clearing the sides of the bowl but sticking to the bottom. Unfortunately I couldn’t angle the camera well enough to show you the bottom of the bowl. I am kind of short.

Note: if you are making two batches of dough as I did, mix up the second batch while the mixer is kneading the first!

The Mixed Dough

When the dough is clearing the sides of the bowl and is silky and smooth, dust your work surface liberally with flour and dump the dough out onto the flour. You may need to scrape it out with a dough scraper (if you have a baking tool obsession) or spatula (if you don’t). If it is too sticky to work with, roll it around lightly in the flour. Now it looks like this:

Dividing the Dough

Peter’s recipe makes six individual-sized pizzas, so use a bench scraper (or a knife) to cut it into six equal pieces. When I make rolls, I weigh each piece on the scale to ensure they are all exactly the same size, but with pizza crusts, I just eyeball it.

Rounding the Pieces

Next, take each divided piece and round it into a ball. To do this, cup your hands over it and sort of push down and under, while turning the dough around in a circle. You just want to form a ball with a little bit of surface tension.

Storing the Dough

Now here’s the part I DON’T want you to follow me on. I store my dough in recycled plastic containers, Tofutti cream cheese (because I also love the bagel recipe in Peter’s book!) and sour cream containers to be exact. They are the perfect size for this, however, I do NOT advocate storing food, especially long term, in plastic containers, especially the type of plastic meant for “single use”, and also I don’t like plastic at all in the first place. In fact, I’m open to any suggestions readers might have, although I will probably end up buying some Pyrex bowls, which I already use to store my homemade ice cream, for this purpose. So pretend you don’t see the Tofutti logo on my containers and use your imagination to come up with something better to store your dough in. But for the sake of honesty and so you can see the size container you should be looking for, here is what my dough looks like when ready for the freezer or refrigerator:

Now, I mentioned that I make a second batch of the dough using white whole wheat flour. Whole wheat pizza dough is a bit of a holy grail among whole wheat aficionados. I know I sound like I’m in love with Peter Reinhart, but if you are one of those people who has tried making whole wheat pizza crusts and gotten really depressed about how cardboard-y and un-pizza-y they turned out, well, Peter Reinhart HAS SOLVED ALL YOUR PROBLEMS. Both his whole wheat and multi-grain crusts, from his Whole Grains book, are AMAZING! The only problem is they do not freeze nearly as well as the dough made from white flour. I have frozen the whole grain versions and while the thawed dough made a delicious pizza, the dough will never be nearly as supple and nice as it was before freezing…and his whole grain doughs are amazingly supple when not being abused by freezing them. So what I do instead is sub white whole wheat flour for the white flour in the Napoletana recipe, which makes a really nice dough and crust, and freezes better. The white dough does freeze nicer than the wheat, but I honestly sometimes can’t tell the difference between the two after taking them out of the oven. So here is the white whole wheat dough after mixing:

And here it is shaped:

So that’s my guide to pizza dough. I’ll have a post up soon about baking the pizza, and I’ll give you my (extremely easy and simple) pizza sauce recipe (please don’t buy prepared pizza sauce). You’ll have to wait because pizza crusts can’t be made in a day! (Well, they can, but they aren’t nearly as good.)

Comments (6)

Next entries »