Tofu Gumbo

When given the choice between a vegetable in its “normal” color or the same vegetable in a strange color, I’ll almost always go for the strange color. And I love it when the farmers market has something I’ve never seen before. Hence, I had a quart of red okra in the refrigerator all week that I needed to deal with last night.

I think I like it even better than green okra! It’s a beautiful color.

Okra is neat.

Obviously I had to make gumbo, but making a nice, dark roux for gumbo can be time-consuming, and I didn’t have any vegan sausage prepared, and moreover it was late and we were hungry. I decided that instead of trying to be remotely traditional, I was going to mix random things – I was so incredibly busy this week I didn’t even have time to cook and there was a lot of vegetables from last weekend’s market I had to get rid of – in a pot, season it with Creole seasoning, and call it gumbo. If you want a more traditional gumbo, run to the always amazing Kittee – I’ve made her gumbos before and she much more an authority than me. But if you are lazy and in the mood for something gumbo-ISH, this wasn’t half bad.

I was going to use tempeh as my protein, but there was so much going into this gumbo that I was worried Mark, who only likes tempeh in small doses, would complain about (squash, okra) that I decided to switch to tofu to make it more inviting for him. Surprisingly, he was completely fine with the okra and didn’t even seem to notice the squash, so maybe I could have gotten away with the tempeh, but I do think he liked it a lot more this way than he would have otherwise.

Tofu Gumbo

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups vegan broth (I used “beef” bouillon)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 small squash, chopped
small handful French beans, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped okra
1 lb extra-firm tofu, chopped
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp liquid smoke
as much Creole seasoning as you can stand before it gets too salty (I used Tony Chachere’s)
Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste

I should have taken a picture of my roux, but I wasn’t planning to make a post when I started cooking. I actually got a somewhat decent color faster than I thought, but in the interest of time, I decided to only go as dark as I had time to while prepping everything else. So I got a big cast iron Dutch oven out, put it over medium heat, poured in the oil, then with a wooden spoon, stirred in the flour. Then I kept stirring as frequently as I could while prepping everything else. It was definitely a lazy person’s roux, and a bit dangerous (it’s easy to burn if you don’t stir constantly), but it turned out surprisingly well.

While working on the roux, I chopped all the vegetables. In a smaller cast iron pot, I sauteed the onions, celery, and bell pepper until they were soft. When everything was chopped and the “holy trinity” was soft, I slowly and carefully added the broth to the roux (it will immediately bubble up) and stirred until there were no lumps. Then I added all the other ingredients except the Tabasco and let it simmer until everything was cooked through. Finally, I adjusted the saltiness (you can add regular salt if it needs some but you don’t want to over-Tony Chachere it) and added a little Tabasco, saving the rest for individual servings.

Just after adding all the ingredients:

I served it over rice (which has soaked up all the broth in this picture, it’s really a little soupier than it looks).

We have a lot of leftovers, but it keeps well and makes a nice lunch.

I’ve been trying to attract hummingbirds to our yard. We have a ton of birds, many of them very beautiful, such as cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers:

And this guy:

But I also wanted hummingbirds. So I’ve been putting nectar out all summer. I saw a single hummingbird at the feeder early on, but then a long period of nothing. Part of the problem was it was so hot this summer that I had to change the nectar about every other day or it would be gross, but it was hard to work up the motivation to keep making nectar, dragging a stool outside to get the feeder down, spilling sticky, bug-filled nectar on myself, and replacing the freshly cleaned and filled feeder when I was never rewarded with hummingbirds. But over the last couple of weeks, possibly because it’s been a little cooler (like in the upper 80s/lower 90s instead of 100+) so I’ve been more regular about replacing the nectar, I’ve started seeing hummingbirds frequently. Today there was a constant parade of them! Of course I wanted to photograph them, but this proved harder than I’d hoped. First there was the fumbling around with the camera and tripod every time, until I gave up and just left the tripod and camera set up, lined up for the shot and even pre-focused. Then the hummingbirds started doing “fly-bys”: they’d fly by the feeder – sometimes when I already had my face behind the camera, ready for the shot! – but then see there were too many other birds there (our bird feeding station is very heavily used) and keep on flying instead of stopping for a drink. I guess I should buy a separate pole for their feeder so they can have some privacy but I am on a major spending ban following a couple weeks (or lifetime?) of excessive spending.

Anyway, I FINALLY got some pictures, just before the sun went down, but it was already really too dark and the pictures are crap. But I’m excited nonetheless because Mark told me I couldn’t get hummingbirds, and he didn’t believe me when I told him a week ago that I HAD gotten them…until he saw one with his own eyes for the first time today. I don’t know why he doubted me because I can attract any animal I want. Raccoons appear out of nowhere wherever I am, and our (suburban!) yard is a haven for raccoons, skunks, foxes, turtles, snakes, deer, bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, and opossums. Okay, enough suspense. Here are my crappy pictures of hummingbirds! I’m sure I’ll get better ones soon.

This is actually the sharpest picture I got, which is a shame because he’s half hidden.

Look at that beak!

Leaning in for a drink:

Posing:

Leaving!

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Black-eyed Pea Stew

Ugh, I have never gone this long without posting! I need to get back into the swing of it, or just start cooking more interesting things! I will try to be more consistent. Anyway, I nab fresh beans any time I see them, and I happened across some fresh black-eyed peas this weekend, so today I cooked up a spicy stew that seemed worth a post. Here’s what I did:

Black-eyed Pea Stew

1 leek, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 small or part of a large sweet potato, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
about 6 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp celery seed
10 oz fresh black-eyed peas
4 cups vegan broth or bouillon (I used “chicken” flavored bouillon)
2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp filé (optional, for thickening)
2 cups or more spinach (collard greens or chard would be even better but I was working with what I had on hand)

Chop the leek. I include some of the green bit so it doesn’t go to waste.

Mince the jalapeno.

Chop the tomato.

Mince or press the garlic and chop the carrot, bell pepper, and sweet potato.

Rinse and pick over the peas. You can also used dried black-eyed peas, which you don’t need to soak (though you can). Your cooking time will just be a bit longer.

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven, then add the leeks and celery seed. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the bell pepper, carrot, sweet potato, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook for another few minutes.

Add the broth or water and bouillon, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, and if you are using it, the filé. Bring to a boil and cook until the sweet potatoes and peas are soft.

Add the spinach and cook just for a minute or two (a little longer for collards or chard).

I didn’t have enough rice in the house, so I cooked some barley in some vegetable broth as an accompaniment.

Serve with a crusty bread!

I also served with avocado, because I serve everything with avocado. The avocados are shown atop the stew here, but I really smooshed them on pieces of bread to eat them. This was a nice, smoky, spicy, wholesome meal.

So, I spent part of my absence in LA, where I attended Fortinbras’ graduation. Yay for Fortinbras! The car rental place gave me a free upgrade to a Jeep Wrangler, which was a ton of fun and made me happy because I usually miss having a convertible when I’m there. Fort meant to take a picture of me in the Jeep because he said I very unexpectedly looked “perfect” driving it (he thought I’d be dwarfed by it as I’m so “tiny” and ordinarily drive a very tiny car), but we forgot. In fact, I lugged even more photography equipment than usual out there yet managed to take far fewer pictures than usual. It was more a trip to just be with friends, and Fort’s family, than sight-see, though, and it was really nice. One new thing we did do was drive down to San Diego, which is about two hours south of LA. This is La Jolla, which I learned on this trip is how you spell the place I formerly thought was spelled La Hoya!

This kind of looked like Greece to me, not that I’ve ever been to Greece.

We saw a gorgeous sunset there.

Okay. Time for a story. Lately it seems like all my trips end up taking on some sort of eerie literary significance. Have any of you read 1Q84? My story contains no spoilers, but it’s a little more interesting if you are familiar with it. I was driving a Jeep full of friends to La Jolla on an absolutely gorgeous day, sitting in typical southern California beach traffic, when from the passenger seat Fort exclaimed, “Some woman just got out of a cab into traffic and started walking down the highway!” To which I responded, “That’s the beginning of 1Q84!” Which it is; the book begins with a girl named Aomame, who is a passenger in a cab sitting in heavy traffic on a Japanese highway, getting out of the cab (with the encouragement of the cab driver) and walking across traffic to a nearby set of emergency stairs. Fort watched his woman walk away, and that was the end of that conversation.

We finally made it to the beach, just before sunset, and I took the pictures above. We stayed until the sun was completely set and the moon was high in the sky. I aimed my camera at the moon and snapped this picture:

That is NOT what I saw in the sky. What I saw in the sky was the bright white blob you see in the photograph. I did NOT see the second, green moon. If you have read 1Q84, you know why this picture is weird. In 1Q84, some people, including Aomame, become aware of a second, duller, greenish moon hanging in the sky a little lower than the regular moon. Most people don’t see the second moon. I have no explanation for the appearance of the green moon in the photograph. A second picture I took a short while later also contained the green moon. A picture from the exact same perspective taken by a friend did not contain the green moon. It must be some sort of lens flare – it looks like it may be a mirror image of the real moon – but it was strange it appeared just a couple of hours after another 1Q84-like event. Creepy, huh?!

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Curry Laksa

Let me first say how much I and Mark both appreciate all of the comments we received on my last post about losing Brachtune. It’s been hard for us – the house seems so empty without any animals – but your kind thoughts have been a big comfort. I never really thought anyone would read this blog when I first started it, but having the support of people from around the world when I’m feeling this down is really incredible. Thank you.

Mark’s been battling quite a chest cold for several days now, and I’m hoping this tickle in my throat isn’t going to turn into anything worse. But I happen to think that spicy soups are just the thing at the beginning or end of a cold (or the middle, or, well, any other day, quite frankly), and I had most of a can of coconut milk left from another recipe that I wanted to use up, which got me thinking about laksa. I don’t see laksa much on menus in this area for some reason, although maybe it’s just never found under the vegetarian section so I miss it. So the first time I ever had laksa was actually in Sydney (where it was found under the vegetarian section of a menu). I’d therefore be hard pressed to call myself a laksa expert so the recipe I present here may have little in common with a genuine laksa, but it was spicy and good so I’m presenting it anyway. I used this recipe as a reference for the spices.

Curry Laksa

8 oz rice noodles (either wide or vermicelli)
4 shallots, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2″ piece ginger, roughly chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground dried lemongrass (I bought this at Penzeys for those times I don’t have lemongrass on hand, obviously you can substitute fresh lemongrass)
2 Tbsp sambel olek
peanut oil
3 cubes frozen cilantro (or a handful fresh, chopped)
1 cube frozen basil (or a few leaves fresh)
2 tsp curry powder
4 cups vegan broth
1 1/4 cup coconut milk (this is what I had leftover; I’d just dump an entire can in if I were making this again)
1 carrot, cut into squat matchsticks
1 can young green jackfruit (in brine), shredded
1/4 cup chopped bamboo shoots
1/4 cup water chestnuts
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup frozen asparagus stalks, chopped
tofu puffs or frozen fried tofu, chopped
limes, to garnish

I didn’t have a lot of fresh veggies and didn’t want to make a trip to the grocery store, which is why my veggies are pretty weird. I’d really have liked to have had bean sprouts, so much so that I almost did make that trip to the store. If I had, I’d have gotten some fresh cilantro and maybe basil (Thai or holy basil if they had it), and some green vegetables of some sort.

Place the shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, and sambel olek into a small food processor or chopper.

Process until smooth.

Pour some peanut oil into a soup pot over medium heat, then dump the paste from above in and fry until it darkens somewhat (but do not let it burn).

Meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles. I soak them in boiling water until they are done.

Drain the jackfruit. I’m using it as a sort of seafood alternative here, by the way.

Shred it with your fingers.

Add the broth, coconut milk, curry powder, the jackfruit, and any non-frozen veggies that are relatively hard (like the carrots).

Cook until the veggies are almost soft, then add the herbs, frozen veggies, and any other items (except the tofu puffs and bean sprouts, which I’d just top on the soup raw later).

To serve, place some noodles in a large bowl, then ladle the soup over them. Top with the tofu puffs and bean sprouts if you have them. Squeeze the lime over the soup before eating.

I am supposed to tell you that Mark recommends seasoning this with sriracha. Mark, of course, recommends seasoning everything with sriracha.

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Spicy Teriyaki Rice Bowl

This is a quick dinner that scales easily, uses whatever veggies and protein you have around, is cheap and filling, and tastes good. I’ve made a spicy version because, if you haven’t noticed, I think spice is the spice of life, but you can omit the chili paste and have yourself a regular teriyaki rice bowl instead if you prefer.

Spicy Teriyaki Rice Bowl

veggies to pan-fry, such as carrots, onions, bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, daikon, squash, etc., chopped, sliced, or julienned into uniform pieces
protein, such as tofu, seitan, tempeh, fake vegan “meats”, and/or beans, cubed or sliced in uniform pieces
sushi rice, prepared
scallions, chopped and/or sesame seeds, for garnish

For the sauce (measurements for 2 – 4 servings)
4 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp mirin
4 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili broad bean paste (omit for a non-spicy teriyaki sauce)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated

Prepare the sushi rice. I use a rice cooker. When it’s cooked, let it cool, then cut in salt and sushi vinegar to taste.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients into an appropriately sized pot. (For the amounts above I used this adorable cast iron melting pot.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer a few minutes or until sugar is dissolved.

Meanwhile, fry the veggies and protein (adding the ingredients to the skillet in descending order of their cooking times) in a small amount of oil (I used olive with a touch of sesame). I used: slivered onions, thinly sliced seitan, a carrot, three baby bell peppers in various colors, broccoli, and a handful of corn kernels.

When the vegetables and protein are cooked, remove from heat and pour the sauce over them, tossing to combine.

Serve with the prepared sushi rice. Garnish with chopped scallions and/or sprinkled sesame seeds if you have them (I didn’t).

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Spicy Rice Vermicelli Soup

First of all, I’d just like to state for the record that I HATE SNOW. I am definitely moving some place that never sees so much as a flake of the awful stuff. Mark and I had plans to surprise his mother for her birthday on Tuesday by visiting her in Charleston. Due to a snow storm on Saturday, the day we’d planned to leave, we didn’t get to Charleston until Monday morning. On Tuesday, her birthday, she had to work from 8am to 8pm with a couple hours off in the middle, during which we got lunch. Since she’s off on Wednesdays, the family celebrated her birthday with dinner that night, shortly before which I looked at the weather forecast for back home and realized WE’RE SUPPOSED TO GET TWO FEET OF SNOW FRIDAY AND SATURDAY. Which meant we had to leave three days early in order to rescue Brachtune, as the cat sitter wouldn’t be able to get to her during a blizzard. I set a land speed record of getting us from Charleston to Fairfax in 7 hours, because I’m a race car driver. I didn’t let Mark drive because he drives like a granny.

Anyway, the theme of our truncated visit, in my mother-in-law’s eyes, seems to have been “Convince Mark and Renae to move to Charleston”. High on her list of reasons we should move there are: 1) no snow and 2) no traffic. Both of which are excellent, and enticing, reasons, however, they are both countered with my reasons not to move to Charleston, which are: 1) no Asian grocery stores and 2) no Wegmans. So my mother-in-law set out to take me on a tour of Charleston’s Asian grocery stores to prove I could survive there. She did some googling for Asian grocery stores in Charleston and her top search result was my blog post complaining about the lack of Asian grocery stores in Charleston. Not a great start. Despite this setback, she dug up three addresses for Asian grocery stores, not in Charleston (which really has none), but in North Charleston, which is a whole other city about half an hour north, and she packed Mark and me into the car for a road trip.

This is the Asian grocery store at the first address she found:

If that looks a lot more like a deserted office in an industrial park than an Asian grocery store, that’s because that’s what it is.

Fortunately, the second address was more fruitful:

That’s Hang Lung Grocery (that’s what was on the receipt), and I’m pleased to say their selection rated a B-.

Just don’t wander into that Fresh Fresh Fresh Meat department in back. Trust me.

Korean specialties were lacking, though, and the produce department was very disappointing (this is pretty much all of it):

… but they did have many necessary staples. They also had the world’s largest whisk!

(I’m sorry that Mark does not know how to focus a camera; also he was incredibly embarrassed by my forcing him to take my picture in the store.)

I think Mark, whose idea of a fun day is NOT a tour of Asian grocery stores, actually found as much stuff he wanted to buy as I did, his favorite being:

Thai Red Bull. At $8.99 for 10 bottles, it’s quite a bargain compared to the American stuff. Unfortunately, poor Mark was disappointed to find it tastes like syrup and is not carbonated. So I’m actually going to try using it as an extract and carbonating it myself through fermentation. I’ll let you know how that goes.

And in my final Charleston talk, another complaint of mine has long been that the food is terrible. Not only is it full of meat, meat-flavoured vegetables, meat, and more meat, but it’s all deep-fried. Mark ordered a lettuce and tomato sandwich one time and was horrified to find the tomato battered and fried. There have always been a few reliable places we could go, but overall, I have found Charleston to be pretty un-vegan friendly. But this seems to be changing! We went to the Mellow Mushroom and got a great pizza with vegan cheese (the vegan cheese is not on the menu, but you can ask for it). I was so surprised! Then we went to Three Little Birds, which is hidden behind a shopping center, but is worth seeking out, because they ALSO have vegan cheese! (And vegan soy milk and vegan yogurt.) This BBQ Tempeh Melt on spelt bread (I’m pretty sure that’s a Tofutti single) might not look that great, but it was really tasty:

All in all, Charleston’s definitely making headway, but something must be done about the Asian grocery store situation.

Now, did you think you’d ever get to today’s recipe? I got only a couple hours’ sleep last night, got up at 5:30 am (which is typically a bedtime for me), drove across three states, battled pre-blizzard crowds at the grocery store when I got home, unpacked, did laundry, and basically ran around all day like a lunatic, all on a single meal of cold cereal eaten at 6 am (and a few snacks in the car), which, believe me, is extremely unusual for me: I get irritable if I go three hours without food. So when I finally had a moment to stop and make something to eat, I was exhausted and wanted something in a hurry, but it had to be “real” food and not just another snack. So here’s the nearly instantaneous soup I threw together.

Spicy Rice Vermicelli Soup

4 cups vegan broth
2 Tbsp gochuchang (Korean red pepper paste…if you live in Charleston, you’re out of luck with this, I’m afraid)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 small can mock abalone
4 oz firm tofu, diced
1 large or 2 small carrots, julienned
2 cups tender pea shoots (or other green, such as spinach)
small handful dried cloud ear fungus (No, I have no idea why I own or can tolerate this ingredient.)
4 oz (?) thin rice vermicelli (I forgot to weigh this for you before adding it to the soup, although I used too much anyway; use what you think is appropriate for 2 or 3 servings)
1 tsp chili oil

Bring the broth to a boil, then whisk in the gochuchang and rice vinegar. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring the vermicelli well to avoid clumping. Heat for three minutes or until vermicelli is cooked. Note that the vermicelli likes to absorb liquid and will drink it all up if you give it a chance (so don’t overcook).

We seasoned ours with sriracha for additional spiciness.

Now excuse me, I’m going to go pass out.

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Drunken Noodles, more authentic

The last time I made drunken noodles, I warned that it was not my usual drunken noodles and not remotely authentic. My “usual” drunken noodles are generally me standing around the kitchen throwing things together and making it really spicy. Last night I decided to “get authentic” and actually look at recipes for drunken noodles. I did what I usually do in those cases and read a bunch of recipes, kept it all in the back of my head, then went into the kitchen and worked something out that was a conglomeration of what I’ve read. This recipe probably weighed the most heavily.

One thing I learned is the basil used in real drunken noodles is not Thai basil, as I thought, but holy basil. I wish I’d thought of this before I went to Super H the other night because they have holy basil, but as it was, I had NO basil and was still determined to make the dish. Which right there probably eliminates it from the realm of “authentic”. I did throw in a frozen basil cube, though, for (completely the wrong) basil flavour. (I just typed “flavor” like a normal American and Firefox – which on my laptop thinks I’m British for some unfathomable reason – underlined it as a typo and I went back and “corrected” it. It’s very distracting for Firefox to keep telling me words are misspelled when they aren’t. Curiously, Firefox also insists that “Firefox” is misspelled.) I don’t really recommend the frozen basil thing though, because in addition to probably getting you mocked by serious Thai food connoisseurs, these noodles could really have used some green basil leaves snaking through them for the sake of appearance if nothing else. They weren’t all that pretty. Mark mysteriously announced that in the wok, it looked like Hamburger Helper. Trust me, that’s not what you want to hear when you’re going for an authentic ethnic meal.

The good thing about this recipe is it’s super fast. I prepped everything in about 10 minutes, then just waited for Mark to come home. When he arrived, it was just 10 minutes, if that, to prepare. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s mostly just sauces you’re mixing together at one time. Easy.

Drunken noodles should be very spicy; add as much heat as you can handle!

Drunken Noodles


6-8 oz wide rice noodles (banh pho)
2 Tbsp vegan oyster sauce (readily available in Asian grocery stores)
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp seasoning sauce (This is usually Golden Mountain seasoning sauce, which is a Thai condiment similar to Maggi seasoning. The second bottle from the left in my photo is a Vietnamese seasoning sauce with ingredients that look identical to Golden Mountain, so I’m assuming it’s pretty much the same flavour-wise. Substitute Maggi seasoning sauce and/or more light soy sauce.)
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (substitute more light soy, or omit if your mixture is too salty already)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sambel olek
1 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar, white is fine)
6 oz chicken-style seitan or cubed tofu
1 cup holy basil, or Thai basil, or if all else fails, regular basil, or if you’re completely desperate, a frozen basil cube
3 large shallots or 1/2 onion, diced
4 cloved garlic, minced or pressed
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 can baby corn
1 jalapeno (this is what I used because it’s what I had; Thai peppers would be more appropriate if you have them)
2 Tbsp canned jalapenos, chopped (optional; I still had some leftover from the Mexican pizza and nachos)

Because I had the canned jalapenos I wanted to use up, I figured I’d make a cheater’s version of one of the condiments you get in Thai restaurants. I took the canned jalapenos and covered them in rice vinegar (and a splash of the vegan fish sauce for good measure, but that’s just because I have it and feel like I should be using it). If you don’t want to bother with doing this, just add the vinegar to the sauce in the next step instead.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster, soy, seasoning, and fish (if using) sauces, sambel olek, and sugar. Set aside.

Prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions. What I do is bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the noodles and stir, and let them sit for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft. Keep an eye on them; they soak quickly this way. Drain and run under cold water when soft, then toss lightly with a bit of oil to keep from sticking.

Chop your shallots or onion, carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper. Mince or press the garlic. (Not pictured: prepare your basil.)

Heat some oil in a hot wok, then add the shallots and fry for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper and fry for another couple of minutes, then add the garlic and fry another minute.

Add the tofu or seitan and fry another minute or two.

Mix in the noodles and basil.

My picture of the next step was too blurry to use, but add the sauce, mix well, and bring it all up to temperature. I added my jalapeno/vinegar condiment here because it was just me and Mark and we like it the same way, but you can also serve it at the table for guests to add to their own liking.

Bonus kitty picture:

It’s snowing here, heavier than they’d predicted. I was supposed to go up to Baltimore to see a friend I haven’t seen in several years, so I’m frustrated. Mark, despite the fact he spends most Saturdays sitting at his computer, is going stir crazy because he is being forced to sit at his computer instead of doing some myriad of unidentified outdoor activities he’d suddenly rather be doing, and keeps coming into my sunroom/library and dancing around like a maniac. Brachtune is the only content one. See above.

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Kimchee “Beef” Ramen; Nachos

I’ve done a post on ramen before, but here’s another idea. I’ve been going into work early (for me) this week and was too tired when I got home to make much of a fuss with dinner, so this is what I came up with.

Kimchee “Beef” Ramen

4 cups vegan “beef” broth
4 oz vegan “beefy” seitan, sliced thinly or purchased in a small format
1 carrot, grated
equal amount of daikon, grated
2 Tbsp gochuchang (Korean spicy pepper paste) (optional)
2 Tbsp vegan fish sauce, if available (I just threw this in because I have it and don’t know what to do with it)
2 cups kimchee, chopped
1 package chuka soba (curly noodles)
1 cup bean sprouts
4 scallions, chopped

Grate the carrot and daikon.

If your kimchee isn’t chopped small enough for your tastes, scissors make short work of it.

Combine the broth, “fish” sauce (totally optional), gochuchang (optional if you want to cut down on the heat), kimchee, and “beefy” seitan in a soup pot.

Bring to a boil then add the ramen. You don’t need to break it up, but do submerge it.

Cook for a minute, then add the carrots and daikon.

The ramen will be done in 3 to 5 minutes; when it is, you can stick a spoon or chopstick in it and twirl to separate the noodles.

Add the bean sprouts and scallions; stir.

Serve topped with additional scallions and maybe a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Next up, not so much a recipe so much as an idea. I had leftover “beefy” sauce, jalapenos, and “cheese” from the Mexican pizzas I made the other day, so last night I made nachos to use it all up.

Nachos

tortilla chips, enough to thoroughly cover your baking dish (and feed everyone)
taco-flavored vegan ground “beef”
vegan refried beans (I used half a can for two servings)
diced onion
canned or fresh jalapenos, sliced
salsa (I used half a jar for two servings)
vegan cheddar cheese (I used Daiya)
guacamole and/or vegan sour cream (I made guac by pounding a bit of onion and garlic with some salt in a molcajete, then adding avocado and hot sauce and mashing well; you can use a bowl and fork instead of a molcajete)

Mark got home late, so I made two separate sets of the nachos, each in an 8×8 baking dish, which was about right for a single serving, and saved his to bake when he got home. I just layered the tortilla chips, then the refried beans and “beefy” sauce, then the onions and jalapenos, then the salsa and cheese. I baked it at 375 for about 10 minutes, then added some guacamole.

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Hot and Sour Shirataki Noodles

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while: I haven’t cooked much. Mark was in LA for nearly a week and Fortinbras came down to hang out with me, but we went out for Indian food and then I lived off those leftovers for a while. I’ve also been swimming every night after work and by the time I’m done, I’m so hungry I just eat whatever’s available. Last night, however, in order to atone for serving the very health-conscious Mark onion rings the night before, I made shirataki noodles, famed for having few (tofu shirataki) to no (traditional shirataki) calories. Whole Foods and Wegmans sell tofu shirataki noodles; you can also get “real” shirataki in Asian grocery stores. One package is generally considered one serving, but honestly they aren’t very filling so I used three packages for two servings.

Hot and Sour Shirataki Noodles

3 leaves cabbage, julienned
1/2 orange, yellow, or red bell pepper, chopped
1 small head broccoli, chopped into small florets
1/4 carrot, grated
1/2 cup snow peas
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 zucchini, cut into ribbons on spiral cutter
3 packages shirataki noodles
1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp cold water

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp hot sesame oil
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce
1″ piece ginger, minced or grated

Prepare all the veggies. I totally didn’t intend for them to all be orange and green. I generally like more colourful meals.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

Open the shirataki packages and pour contents into a colander to drain, then rinse with water. The package I had said this helps eliminate the “natural aroma”, and they did in fact smell a little funky.

Place the shirataki in a bowl and microwave for one minute; again this supposedly helps with the smell (which, by the way, isn’t that noticeable unless you put your nose pretty close to the noodles). I also nuked the broccoli for about 45 seconds to pre-cook it.

Heat a wok over medium high heat and then add a bit of peanut or other oil. When hot, add the cabbage.

Stir for about 30 seconds, then add the bell pepper …

… then 30 seconds later, the broccoli and 30 seconds after that the snow peas, stir-frying continuously.

Next add the carrots …

… then the tomatoes.

Add the noodles and zucchini ribbons and stir well.

Pour in the sauce then push the noodles aside.

Whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the sauce and stir well to thicken.

Add the scallions and stir everything well, allowing the sauce to thicken and coat the noodles.

Serve immediately.

The verdict on this was I didn’t allow the sauce to thicken up enough and it never coated the noodles very well, resulting in rather bland noodles, which is too bad because the sauce was quite flavourful. Also, Mark was hungry about 15 minutes after eating and had to have a cookie for dessert to help fill up. Therefore I’m not sure if calorie-free noodles are really any better than regular noodles: if they don’t fill you up and you end up snacking on other stuff, what’s the point? However, it’s a quick and easy meal and Mark’s always excited when I use shirataki because he thinks it’s very healthy. They filled me up well enough, or maybe the wine helped with that. Next time I’m going to try harder to get flavour into them, though.

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Drunken Noodles

Tonight when I asked Mark what he wanted for dinner and, gesturing toward the kitchen island covered in produce fresh from the farmer’s market, suggested basil should play a large role considering I had a bunch of it. I was surprised he promptly answered, “drunken noodles”. Surprised because not only is his standard answer “I don’t care,” but because I didn’t know Mark even realized drunken noodles contain basil. Sure, typically it would be Thai basil and I had Genovese, but I have ways around that. Drunken noodles are not a new dish to my repertoire, but I did make them completely differently than I usually do because I didn’t have the wide noodles I usually use, I didn’t have Thai basil, I didn’t have shallots, I didn’t have bean sprouts, and I did have vegetarian fish sauce. Oh, and I don’t usually sneak zucchini into it. It ended up okay, but I prefer my usual version so sooner or later I’ll have to put that one up. In the meantime, here’s what I did tonight, and it was hot enough to work its magic against hangovers (not that I had one) even if it wasn’t as great as usual.

Drunken Noodles

1/4 package wide rice noodles (I used long, thin-ish, Pad Thai-ish noodles, but I usually use short, wide noodles that are nearly square)
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 tsp anise seed -> Thai basil has a somewhat anise flavor compared to European basil, so I use anise seed for flavor when I don’t have Thai basil. Add it only if you don’t have Thai basil, and use it sparingly.
1 zucchini, sliced into ribbons/noodles on spiral slicer (optional)
1 yellow (or other color) bell pepper, chopped
1/3 pint orange cherry tomatoes, halved
2-4 small Thai peppers (I used cayenne because that’s what I had on hand), sliced
1 cup basil, Thai if you can get it
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp thin (light) soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (or extra soy sauce)
2 Tbsp sambel olek (or to taste)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
zest of 1 lime
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
2 drops stevia or 1 tsp sugar


The reason I decided to make zucchini “noodles” is really just that I have a lot of zucchini. I buy it by the ton at the farmer’s market so I can relate to the “way too much zucchini” problem that people who are actually capable of growing things have. Also, I’ve recently converted Mark into a zucchini fan. (Score!) If you don’t have a spiral slicer or you don’t have an abundance of zucchini or you aren’t married to Mark or you just think it’s weird to put zucchini in drunken noodles, well, just omit it. It is weird.

Cook or soak the noodles according to package instructions, then drain.

Chop the bell pepper and tomatoes; slice the onions and hot peppers. Grate/zest the ginger and lime.

In a small bowl, whisk together the “fish” sauce, soy sauces, ginger, lime, sambel olek, stevia or sugar, and sesame oil.

Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add some oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, and if using, the anise seed.

After a minute or two, add the bell pepper and stir fry for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the rice noodles …

… and, if using, the zucchini “noodles”.

Then stir in the sauce.

Finally stir in the basil and make sure everything is warmed through.

Drunken noodles are very fast to prepare! I’ve never actually tried them as a hangover cure, but they are tasty even when you are feeling fine!

(They’re even tastier when I’m using my normal recipe, however.)

In other, semi-related news, as someone who makes her own tempeh and tofu, I found this slideshow and article in The Atlantic pretty interesting. I’m slightly disturbed by the fact they used to use their feet to make tempeh – all the more so because the reason is feet are “very dirty” – but that’s apparently illegal now anyway.

In completely non-related news, but I bring it up because I mentioned the book in my last post, yesterday this article popped up in my feed reader and I found it completely bizarre. For one thing, it’s an opera about physics. For another thing, I’m currently reading the book its based upon. And it’s not like the book is new (it was published in 2005); I’ve had it on my shelf for a few years and just randomly started reading it last week. So the timing is weird. Not quite as weird – and a much happier coincidence – as the time David Foster Wallace committed suicide while I was reading Infinite Jest. The opera is moving to Barcelona after Paris, and I’d love to go see it there because I also just finished reading two books that take place in Barcelona, but considering I’ve already been to Australia this year, I think I’m going to have to catch it at the Guggenheim in NYC in January. (By the way, if you are at all interested in string theory, quantum mechanics, particle physics, extra dimensions, and all that fun stuff, in addition to Warped Passages, I highly recommend The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene – who happens to be vegan!) (Hey, look, I managed to make this paragraph somewhat relevant to a vegan blog!)

In cat news, is Brachtune not the utmost adorable thing in the world when she’s sleeping??? She lies with her face flat on the chair:

She’s such a cutie!

She always wakes up when I’m taking her picture though.

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Korean Rice Cakes (Ddukbokki)

I know I said not to expect me to post for a couple of weeks, but I found time to make a quick dinner tonight, so here you go.

Korean rice cakes may not be for everyone. Completely unlike the crunchy styrofoam-like health food snack that no one likes but Mark (who will eat anything with the word rice in the name), they have a texture that puts some people off, including myself to some extent. I don’t like overly chewy things because I have bad dreams involving chewing gum and my teeth (which is why I don’t chew gum). Rice cakes are about the limit of chewiness I can tolerate. Mark loves them, however, and I like the spicy sauce they are served in. The first time I tried to make this, I overcooked the rice cakes. NEVER overcook rice cakes. Err on the side of undercooking!

The reason I didn’t make an Irish meal in celebration of Bloomsday is because we’re leaving for the beach on Saturday and I will likely not be cooking any more meals between then and now, so I’m not hitting up the grocery store for any fresh food and am eating what’s on hand. Ordinarily, I’d have used fresh ginger and added scallions to this dish, but again, I’m a lacking some fresh supplies.

Korean Rice Cakes (Ddukbokki)

1 package rice cakes
3 heaping tablespoons gochujjang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 gloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp grated ginger, or 1 tsp powdered ginger
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Korean red pepper flakes
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 leaves cabbage, chiffonaded
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetarian ‘fish” sauce, or 2 Tbsp soy sauce + 2 Tbsp water
3 scallions, chopped

Bring a medium large pot of water to a boil and add the rice cakes, stirring so they don’t stick.

How long it takes to soften them depends on the size and shape of the rice cake, but will probably only take a minute or so, so don’t walk away from them. Slightly undercook them because they’ll be further cooked later. When they are soft enough to chew, drain and rinse with cold water.

Prep the cabbage, onions, garlic, and scallions (if you have them).

Mix the gochujjang, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and sugar together in a small bowl.

Stir the soy sauce or vegan “fish” sauce into the water.

Heat a wok over medium high heat and add some oil. I used canola plus a bit of the toasted sesame oil for flavor. When hot, add the onions and cook for a minute or two.

Add the cabbage and cook for 30 seconds.

Pour in the water and soy or “fish” sauce and bring to a boil.

Scrape in the mixed chili paste …

… then stir to combine.

Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken.

If your rice cakes are sticking to each other, run cold water over them while rubbing them apart from each other. When they are all free from each other, dump into the wok.

Bring the sauce back to boiling and cook just long enough to heat the rice cakes and thicken the sauce.

The sauce should be sticking to the rice cakes. Do not overcook! Stir in the scallions and remove from heat.

These must have been good because Mark informed me he would be taking the leftovers in for lunch tomorrow and he never takes lunch in.

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