Cabbage Thing

Ugh, still really busy! Tonight’s meal was yet another “throw a bunch of stuff together and hope for the best” meal. When Mark asked what it was, I answered, “some cabbage thing” and he glommed onto that, jabbering and even singing about his favorite meal “cabbage thing”. So here is Cabbage Thing in all its glory:

Cabbage Thing

1/2 large or 1 small onion, sliced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, if you like them
12 oz tempeh, chopped
2 small or 1 medium potato, chopped
4 cups vegan stock or broth (I used “beef” flavored)
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 green cabbage, shredded
2 cups cooked rice
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
paprika

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven or large pot, then add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the tempeh and the caraway seeds (if you’re a fan) and saute a few more minutes, then add the potato, broth, tomato sauce, and cabbage. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are soft, 20-30 minutes. Stir in the rice and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

The ambitious can add a lesser amount of uncooked rice and cook it in the pot with the potatoes and cabbage.

It ain’t pretty to photograph, but it’s tasty to eat.

Mark said he especially loved Cabbage Thing with cabbage on the side, which I thought was a great idea, so I ate mine with a side of sauerkraut.

This has been a super quick post, and I’m sorry – maybe one day soon I’ll have time for a proper post – but I only have time for a single quick kitten photo. Guess who loves nutritional yeast just like his predecessor?!

It’s Gomezian! Torticia, on the other hand, doesn’t understand the appeal.

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VeganDad’s Meatloaf

I’m definitely through with that pesky nausea. I’ve been eating like a champ. In fact, I seem to be eating even more than usual, possibly to make up for all the calories I missed when I was ill. Also, the Mid-Atlantic is currently suffering wild weather fluctuations, which is fairly typical for May but still annoying. This pattern has been on repeat for a couple of weeks: Saturday it was in the 80s and sunny – I got sunburned driving around in my convertible – then Sunday was mild and cloudy, Monday was cool and rainy, and today it is DOWNRIGHT FREEZING. So between my recently ravenous state, an invigorating swim this afternoon, and an unseasonably cold and rainy day today, this evening’s stroll through my starred Google Reader posts for dinner ideas ended with VeganDad’s Cajun Meatloaf: hearty comfort food fits the bill.

VeganDad’s recipe calls for 2 packages of tempeh and I only had one. I did have, however, leftover grated Tofurkey Italian sausage links, which I’d used in lasagne on Sunday and really wanted to use up. So after looking over VeganDad’s recipe, I went into the kitchen and figured I’d just throw together what I had in a dish “inspired by” VeganDad. Later when I went back to look at his original, I realized I’d actually followed it pretty faithfully, so I’m not taking any credit for this. But believe me, I’d like to: the texture was perfect. This was probably the most successful “meatloaf” I’ve ever made. Not that I’m surprised – VeganDad’s recipes are always a guaranteed success, aren’t they?

Here’s what I used:
1 package tempeh
about 2 links Tofurkey Italian sausage links
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup whole wheat panko
about 1 cup marinara sauce (also left over from the lasagne and needing to be used up)
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
several strong shakes Tabasco (to appeal to Mark, who has been drinking eating about a bottle of this stuff every other day lately)

For the glaze:
3/4 cup ketchup
6 Tbsp brown sugar
several more strong shakes Tabasco
pinch salt

I used a mini-chopper to grate the sausage, tempeh, garlic, and onion, and I just whisked the glaze together without cooking and glazed the unbaked loaves. I baked them covered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour, then uncovered for another 20 minutes or so. I wasn’t really keeping track.

I also loved VeganDad’s “individual meatloaf” idea, which makes for easy serving. I made 8 fist-sized, egg-shaped individual loaves and put four into each of two small glass loaf pans (see first photo). I served with roasted potatoes, peas, and some kale chips. Tonight was the first time I’ve ever made kale chips, which is weird (why haven’t I made them before today?) but true. I was surprised that I didn’t love them – I found them bitter – although I compulsively ate them despite not really liking them, which is strange.

Last night I got to attend an artisan bread baking class with Peter Reinhart.

I tend to get so caught up in the picture-taking process that I don’t pay real attention to what’s going on in front of the camera, and I didn’t want to miss anything Peter said, and I didn’t want to be obnoxious, so I didn’t take my “real” camera. All I got, therefore, was this iPhone picture, which I had to crop.

I wish I had a better picture or two, but I’m actually glad I didn’t take my camera because I know myself and I know I would have missed a lot of what he said if I’d been messing with it. If you ever have a chance to attend one of Peter’s classes, I strongly urge you to do so. He’s full of knowledge, he’s so enthusiastic about bread, he’s funny, he’s nice, and he just genuinely wants to teach others everything he knows. Very inspirational. What I liked and disliked about the class is probably completely backwards from everyone else in the class though! The one bad thing about the class? The bread! I knew this going in, of course, so I wasn’t surprised, but most of the loaves he made were from enriched dough, which means milk, butter, and/or eggs. I’ve mentioned that I was a tester for his new book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, so I have made just about all the loaves he made in the class (the only one I didn’t test was the challah, which I felt had too many eggs to warrant a vegan’s perspective on testing), and I know they are all DELICIOUS. But of course, although he says in his books you can use non-dairy milk, etc., he wasn’t using it in the class, so I had to pass on all the samples except the French bread. This was heartbreaking because they smelled and looked soooo good. I was especially drooling over that babka that he’s glazing in the photo, because my vegan rendition of it was amazing (use silken tofu for the eggs). In fact, I’m going to have to make it this weekend.

What I liked most about the class was all the things that went wrong. Which may sound weird, but hear me out. I’m a fairly experienced baker, and I’ve made most of Peter’s breads, and often everything goes exactly as it should. But it’s not unusual for something to go wrong. So what I got the most out of during the class was watching Peter adapt to problems that arose. I think you learn much more from mistakes than you do perfection. The ovens in the classroom were terrible: they baked unevenly and not at the temperature on their knobs. Undaunted, Peter showed us how to deal with that: by rotating the loaves, covering them with aluminum foil, telling us at what point in the baking process it was safe to lower the temperature of the oven. That’s the sort of thing it’s hard to learn from books, which tend to assume perfect conditions. The doughs were mixed the day before by the store’s staff, and the first batch of lean dough (which is what I could eat) didn’t rise well and didn’t spring much in the oven, and basically came out dense and not what Peter was going for. Which was too bad because I was really hungry for that sample after jealously having to pass on the thumbprint rolls and sticky buns. But that gave Peter the opportunity to discuss what might be wrong with it and how we would avoid or deal with it. (After trying a single bite of the finished loaf, he realized the problem was too much salt. I scarfed down my sample anyway.)

And I know I’m really going to seem perverse, but my favorite moment was when he broke the Kitchen Aid mixer. Okay, it very well may have been having problems before he used it (I’m sure it wasn’t really his fault), and I’m sure he uses Kitchen Aids in just about all of his classes without incident, but I’ve mentioned a few times how many problems I have had trying to mix dough in a Kitchen Aid mixer (as I mentioned in just my last post, I destroyed two of them in a year), so I felt vindicated seeing Peter struggle with one as well. My reaction to my final broken Kitchen Aid was to (make Mark) buy Hieronymous, the trusty Bosch Universal Mixer, but I really liked having the opportunity to see Peter react to a broken mixer. Which was basically to not react: he happily mixed the dough by hand. What’s great about the recipes in Artisan Breads Every Day is, with the refrigerated fermentation method, you barely need to knead, so a mixer isn’t really saving you that much time or effort anyway. Peter removed all of the fear of hand mixing that I somewhat irrationally have by showing how easy it really is. So I’m glad the mixer broke. For those recipes, it’s probably not even worth dirtying Hieronymous.

Well that’s my probably-overlong review of the class. Peter’s touring around the States a bit right now; if he shows up in or near your town and you like bread at all, I definitely recommend you go.

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Japanese Green Beans and Tempeh

Mark requested sushi rice – just sushi rice – for dinner tonight, but I of course insisted on adding a vegetable and protein to the rice. I did want to keep it very simple though, as I haven’t felt like cooking much this weekend. So here’s what I did:

Simple Japanese Green Beans

8 oz French-style green beans (or regular green beans)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Toast the sesame seeds over a medium flame until they are light brown and smell sesame-y. I’m using a tiny cast iron pot my mother-in-law gave me (because she knows I love cast iron).

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the green beans. Cook French-style green beans for 2 minutes; fatter beans for maybe 3 minutes: you want them crisp-tender.

Whisk together the soy sauce and mirin. I like using Asian tea cups for tiny mixing jobs.

When green beans are just cooked, drain.

Toss green beans with soy sauce mixture and sesame seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I don’t think tempeh is very big in Japanese cooking, but I decided to give it a Japanese twist to serve with Mark’s sushi rice. Here’s what I did:

Japanese-style Tempeh

8 oz tempeh
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp miso
2″ ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, pressed or smashed
several shakes shichimi togarashi (Japanese “seven spice” seasoning)

Whisk together all ingredients but tempeh; set aside.

Chop the tempeh: cut into fourths, then slice each fourth in half lengthwise …

… then slice each eighth into four strips.

I managed to forget to take a picture of the tempeh marinating, but pour the marinade over the tempeh in a shallow bowl and let sit for at least 10 minutes. I did this first then made the green beans above. Drain the tempeh, reserving the marinade. (I just picked the tempeh out of the marinade.)

Heat some oil in a hot cast iron skillet (I used olive oil with a bit of sesame), then add the tempeh strips.

Fry until golden on all sides.

Spoon about 3 tablespoons of marinade over the tempeh and stir. I also added a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with rice.

This was simple and quick, but pretty salty, as is a lot of Japanese food. And tempeh seems to soak salt right up. So you may want to use low-sodium soy sauce or try reducing the amount I called for, depending on your salt tolerance.

Here is Mark demonstrating how much he loves sushi rice. He’s eating it straight out of the rice cooker, off the rice paddle.

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Pasta with Tempeh Bacon

I generally consider pasta one of those things that doesn’t need a recipe. I mean, basically you just toss it with stuff that tastes good together, right? Who needs a recipe? Unless you are perhaps doing something revolutionary with the pasta. This isn’t revolutionary by any means. But I had the urge to use the camera tonight, so I wrote it up anyway. It was also good and worth repeating, or I wouldn’t subject you to it.

Pasta with Tempeh Bacon

8 oz pasta – just about any shape would be okay
1/2 onion, chopped
6 slices tempeh bacon (homemade or packaged)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 can chickpeas
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine or water (preferably pasta cooking water)
1/4 cup water (preferably pasta cooking water)
salt or vegan soup seasoning (I used Vegeta), to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegan cheese, grated (I used Sheese Mozarella) (optional)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Mince the garlic:

Prep the other ingredients: chop the tempeh bacon, artichoke hearts, onion, and tomatoes; drain the chickpeas.

Heat some olive oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent.

Add the tempeh bacon and a few minutes later, the garlic.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook another couple of minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, oregano, chili pepper flakes, pepper, and salt or seasoning and cook for two or three minutes.

Add the white wine (or half the water) to deglaze the pan, then toss in the cooked pasta as as well as the water, mixing well.

Optionally toss with vegan cheese.

I served with roasted broccoli (tossed with a mixture of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and salt and baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes). This was a quick but tasty weekday meal, the pasta using all pantry items and therefore being easy to whip up with no planning.

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Tempeh in Horseradish Gravy

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

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

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

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

Peel the horseradish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also made some roasted mustardy potatoes.

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

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

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

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

I gathered the spices:

Sauteed the onions, then added the spices.

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

And here it is all together:

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

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

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

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Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh

It’s been a rough day. I went to bed late last night suffering from a lot of back pain, inflicted upon myself either from rigorously brushing the pool (which doesn’t make sense because I’ve been brushing it non-stop all “summer” thanks to the rotten weather-induced algae) or from kayaking (which also doesn’t make sense because after 3 minutes of rowing on my part my back was already starting to hurt and Mark took over all rowing). I woke up several hours before my usual hour, startled by a very loud bang followed by the sound of broken glass. For a split second, I thought it was Tigger, because every other time I’ve ever woken up to the sound of broken glass, Tigger was to blame. Alas, no Tigger, though if he were still here, he could break a glass a day for all I care. With much sleepiness and trepidation I slunk into the kitchen. One of the bottles of root beer I’d bottled on Friday night had exploded. All over my kitchen. Root beer and broken glass EVERYWHERE. I sighed and grabbed the sponge, thinking that, well, at least I’d be early for work for once in my life since I certainly wasn’t going back to bed. I started scrubbing, trying to do so without moving my shoulders, which by the way, is not very easy.

Half an hour later, with root beer still all over the place, I wandered out into the dining room, where I discovered that a bottle of Mark’s ink had also exploded, all over the hardwood floors. Now, I understand why the root beer exploded (though I left plenty of room in the bottle for the carbonation), but I have NO idea why the ink exploded. It’s really very strange. So then I cleaned that up as well, which was not fun and involved, of all things, a dough scraper.

Two hours later, I had cleaned the entire kitchen and everything in it and got all the ink off the dining room floor. I was sticky and blackened and gratefully hopped in the shower, no longer early for work. After showering I was starving and went into the kitchen to grab breakfast. I removed the orange juice and shook it….and as the cap wasn’t on tightly, orange juice went everywhere! All over my newly cleaned kitchen, all over my newly cleaned self. Arrgh! What a morning!

I managed to make it through the day without anything else exploding, but my back was still sore when I got home and I was dismayed the find the kitchen floor still very sticky. Fortunately for me, Mark offered to scrub it again and he did a good job. While he was doing so, I went to my laptop in search of dinner ideas. You’ll forgive me if tonight I wanted something very quick and easy. I googled “cabbage jalapeno tempeh”: three ingredients I have and want to use up. I was a bit surprised to find something that contained all three ingredients, but I did: Mark Bittmans’ Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I actually own (but couldn’t immediately get to as Mark was still scrubbing). My friends, I was too exhausted to try to improve upon this dish, although I take most of the recipes in that book as nothing more than starting points.

Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh

8 oz tempeh, crumbled
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp ginger, minced or grated
1-2 jalapenos, minced
3 1/2 cups vegan broth or stock (any flavor)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar or 6 drops stevia
3 cups chopped cabbage
4 oz bean threads or thin pasta
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I used 2 cubes frozen cilantro from Trader Joes)
2 scallions, chopped

Prep all the ingredients. While I was mincing the jalapeno, it exploded and I got jalapeno juice in my eye. No lie. Today’s been an amazing day of explosions.

Bring some oil up to temperature in a Dutch oven or other pot, then add the crumbled tempeh and fry until golden.

Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno; saute for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar or stevia. Bring to a rapid boil.

Cook at a fairly decent boil for about ten minutes or until broth is somewhat reduced. Add cabbage and boil for another minute.

Add the bean threads, cilantro, and scallions …

… and stir until bean threads are soft.

Serve immediately.

This was okay; a filling meal in about 15 minutes, but I probably won’t be rushing to make it again, at least not without playing with the recipe a bit to make it my own. I usually only make my own tempeh on weekends I will be home on both Saturday and Sunday because I usually cook the soybeans around noon and I like to be sure I’ll be home 24 hours later to remove the tempeh from the incubator. It’s been several weeks since we’ve been home on both weekend days, including last weekend. So I picked up some store-bought tempeh. Since I started making my own, though, store-bought has seemed really bland and doesn’t even look right to me any more. So I suspect I’ve have liked this meal a lot better if I’d used my own tempeh.

In the meantime, I’ve had a long day, I’m sore, I’ve been reading 2666 for a week, which is a long time for me to be reading a book, even if it is 900 pages long, Smucky’s arriving on Wednesday and I’m having a party for him on Saturday, so what I want more than anything else this evening is to sit here, Brachtune purring on my lap, and read until I fall asleep. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. I will not be making myself a pot of tea because I’m pretty sure the kettle would explode and scald me with 3rd degree burns. I don’t think, however, I will need any help falling asleep tonight.

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Mustardy Vinaigrette Potatoes with Broiled Tempeh and Sauerkraut

We’re back from the beach! Although now Mark wants to move to Charleston….

I did some refrigerator restocking this afternoon but have mostly been just relaxing today and didn’t make anything elaborate: just the usual tofu and pizza (I need to show you my new crust made with 00-style flour!). It was nice to be back in the kitchen with all my own stuff, although I did enjoy making Carolina Red Rice for Mark’s family one night at the beach. Next year I am definitely taking my own chef’s knife, however! Anyway, since I didn’t have time to make tempeh this weekend, I sucked it up and bought some, although store-bought just does not compare to home-made. The night before we left for Charleston, I had moved my latest batch of sauerkraut from its crock to the refrigerator after a 6-week fermentation and it is really, really good so I wanted to incorporate it into dinner tonight. Here is what I did:

Mustardy Vinaigrette Potatoes

5 medium red potatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp German-style mustard
2 tsp sugar or 4 drops stevia
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp coarse or flaked sea salt (like Maldon)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and chop the potatoes …

… and the onion.

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender …

… then drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

Put the cooked potatoes and the chopped onions into a bowl …

… and toss with the dressing.

Serve warm, room temperature, or cool.

For a protein, I made an improvised tempeh thing. I cut the tempeh in half, then cut each half into two slabs like this:

Then I whisked together a tablespoon of German mustard, a half tablespoon of soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos, and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

I brushed both sides of each tempeh slab with the mixture, then fried on both sides until golden:

I topped each slab with a slice of vegan “cheese” (I used the swiss uncheese recipe from The Uncheese Cookbook). I also put a dab of habanero sauce on each slice.

This photo is blurry, but I wanted you to see that when I removed the tempeh I was a little worried that the uncheese was setting up and baking instead of melting:

But I smeared it around with a spatula, mixing the hot sauce in, and all was well:

I tried heating up the sauerkraut to serve it warm, but decided it tasted much better cold, which meant it was raw and probably even healthier. Mark made a sandwich out of the tempeh and sauerkraut and some rye bread; I served mine without bread. Mark’s meal was probably a little better, though, because the tempeh was a little dry: smooshing it together with the sauerkraut probably improved it. What Mark had, therefore, was a super-healthy reuben, minus the fattening Thousand Island sauce!

As promised/threatened, I have some travel photos. Mark’s mom arranged a salt marsh tour for us and it was rife with photo ops. This is the Morris Island lighthouse.

There were a lot of birds on the island we stopped to explore. This guy didn’t budge regardless how close I got to him and had what I thought was a funny expression on his face.

My college roommate’s father was an artist who named all his works “Sentinel”. I named this photo “Sentinels” in his honor.

This guy left his post:

This one is facing the wrong way!

This one is a loner. I identify with him.

These pelicans didn’t let me disturb their wading.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m from Baltimore and that the single non-vegan thing I probably miss most is steamed crabs covered in Old Bay. As you buy bushels of crabs still alive in order to steam them, I’ve seen plenty of living crabs. My uncle thought it was amusing to chase me around the house with them during family crab feasts after I went vegetarian. However, I’m used to the appearance of Maryland blue crabs. We saw what I’ve identified as ghost crabs, which look quite different, scuttling around the island:

He ran away from me – sideways of course! – as fast as he possibly could (which is quite fast), but he needn’t have worried because I haven’t eaten a crab in more than 20 years!

I had another lesson in seafood on the boat tour as well. These are birds standing on oyster beds:

I never knew what oysters looked like in the wild. In fact, I’ve never even eaten an oyster and don’t even know what they look like on a plate!

The best part of the tour, though, was getting to see some dolphins just a few feet from the boat, and the captain kindly cut the engine for several minutes while I snapped away. It’s hard to get a picture of a dolphin, especially through a telephoto lens, because by the time you hear them surface and focus your camera, their faces are back in the water again and you have no idea (because the water is not clear) where they will resurface. Here’s what I managed to capture, though:

You can’t really tell from the photo, but the fin in front of the mama dolphin belongs to a baby!

And that’s how I spent my week at the beach: hanging out with dolphins, swimming in the ocean, reading, enjoying the company of Mark’s wonderful family, reading some more, and swimming some more. Pretty idyllic, really. It was sunny and hot in Charleston, and at an amazing 83 degrees, the ocean temperature was a good ten degrees warmer than the water in my pool when I left it. When I got home, I found the pool had actually also warmed to 83 degrees, which was nice. What was definitely NOT nice was that the filter broke while we were gone and my pool was a green, swampy – but finally temperate – mess. So while I thought I’d spend my transition day from vacation to work week poolside, what instead transpired is I spent an hour cleaning the pool, which I couldn’t get in, and then it rained and was overcast all day anyway. Yeah, hello, Virginia. Can’t say I missed you or your lousy excuse for a summer.

In happier news, however, Miss Brachtune missed the heck out of us. She hasn’t left my side for 24 hours. I’ve never seen a cat so incredibly happy to see a human being before. And she’s doing great! The cat sitter said she was a perfect angel when getting her sub-q fluids and she seems to have eaten pretty well, and she just looked healthy. So that was a relief! And now I guess I have to confront the fact that I need to be at work in 10 hours. I did realize today that thanks to the Fourth of July on Saturday, I have a 4-day work week – woo!

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Okara Tempeh: don’t try this at home

Those of you who have been here a while may be aware of my ongoing battle with okara. I make tofu just about every week and have tried – really tried! – to put the leftover okara to use, but nearly everything I do with it fails. When I had The Book of Tempeh out of the library, I learned you can make tempeh from okara, and as my tempeh-making skills have become full-fledged, I thought that sounded like the perfect idea. So this weekend I did just that. If you’re the impatient type, I’ll save you the suspense: I won’t be doing it again.

I wouldn’t say it was a complete failure. If I had used the resulting tempeh in some recipe in which it needed to be ground or crumbled, it may have been fine. But, having read that okara tempeh is common in Indonesia, the birthplace of tempeh, I figured I’d make some sort of Indonesian dish with it. That all went pears. But I’ll share it with you nonetheless, if for no other reason than there is very little about okara tempeh on the internet – and not one picture that I could find.

After straining my soy milk to make tofu, I spread the leftover pulp – the okara – onto a baking tray.

Because I know that tempeh will fail if the soy beans are too wet, I decided I’d better dry the okara out a bit, so I baked it at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

Then I let it cool to room temperature and mixed it with a tablespoon of vinegar and 1/2 tsp powdered tempeh starter, just as I would whole-bean tempeh.

I put it in a perforated baggie and then in the same contraption I always use for incubating tempeh: a yogurt maker fitted with a steaming rack.

It was hard to tell when this tempeh was done because you’re looking for mostly-white mold to form on it, and okara is white, whereas it’s easy to tell when whole-bean tempeh is done. After 30 hours or so, I figured it was as done as it was going to get and put it in the refrigerator. It smelled like it should (a bit mushroomy) and it had a few black spots (which is normal for tempeh), but it seemed more fragile than normal tempeh. I was skeptical already.

The next day I decided to use it in a meal. I removed it from the baggie, finding it flimsier than my tempeh usually is. I cut it in half so I could see the interior. It looked…crumbly.

Nothing about it suggested there was anything wrong with it, however, so I proceeded. And honestly this is pretty much what I expected okara tempeh to look like. I chopped it up into bite-sized pieces.

A lot of traditional Indonesian recipes call for deep frying the tempeh. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve deep fried something at home, however, and not only would Mark not eat anything I deep fried, I don’t want to eat it either. So I decided to brown the okara tempeh by pan-frying it in a moderate amount of oil. I used a couple tablespoons of coconut oil.

The tempeh cubes sucked all the oil up, leaving a completely dry wok, after about a minute. My wok is well-seasoned and the tempeh wasn’t sticky, so dry-frying was no big deal….until the tempeh began crumbling like mad and the crumbs started burning. It got smokier and smokier in the kitchen (and the whole house) and the tempeh cubes got smaller and smaller. They looked like croutons. Or what I could see of them behind the increasing wall of smoke.

Though shrinking, the tempeh cubes weren’t really getting all that crispy, but I eventually couldn’t take the smoke any longer and dumped them out into a colander …

… which I then shook vigorously, knocking the burnt crumbs off and through the holes.

The cubes look brown, but they are spongy, not crispy!

Then I had to get all the remaining crumbs out of my wok so I could make the main dish. I use a bamboo brush.

One thing I can say is even after soaking up all oil almost immediately, the tempeh did not stick at all, and the crumbs brushed right out. However, I don’t think I would ever make okara tempeh again unless I was planning to deep fry it. It may well have turned out well if I had deep fried it….

Too late for deep frying. I soldiered on. I ground up some shallots, garlic, soy sauce, and sambel olek:

Then I heated a small amount of coconut oil in the wok and briefly fried the tempeh cubes again with some minced ginger. Again, the tempeh almost immediately soaked up the oil.

I added some chopped carrots and bell pepper.

Then I mixed in the shallot mixture, followed by a cup of coconut milk.

As I heated the mixture through, most of the tempeh cubes simply dissolved, making a grainy rather than smooth, milky sauce, with few distinct pieces of tempeh.

It was edible, but overall pretty dumb. I won’t be making okara tempeh again and I recommend you not bother.

Okara remains my nemesis. So here is a lilac from our backyard.

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Reuben Casserole

The following events have all occurred recently:

  • My second batch of sauerkraut finished fermenting.
  • I made my first batch of tempeh in about a month.
  • A package of cheddar Teese arrived on my porch.

I was therefore thinking about how to incorporate these items into my evening meal; after all, tempeh is best as fresh as possible, and I’d already opened the Teese to taste it. So let’s see: tempeh, sauerkraut, and “cheese”…what can I possibly make with that? Well the obvious answer, of course, is everyone’s favorite: reubens, but we didn’t have any bread and although Wegmans is right down the street, I’d already been there once today – and separately, so had Mark – and had no intentions of returning. So what I did instead was make a reuben casserole, which also allowed me to use up the 5 leftover lasagne noodles I’ve had in my cupboard forever. This was a win all around.

Reuben Casserole

4 ounces pasta, any sort (I broke up some whole wheat lasagne noodles)
6-8 ounces tempeh
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1/4 cup tomato sauce or ketchup (you may want to add a tiny bit of sugar if you use tomato sauce)
2 Tbsp pickle relish
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp Indian black salt (or sea salt)
juice of 1/2 lemon
shredded vegan cheese (cheddar Teese worked perfectly; a portion of the “cheese” recipe in this post or pimiento cheese would also be great)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta; cook until al dente, then drain.

Admire my tempeh. I know I keep forcing you to look at pictures of my tempeh…I’m still always amazed when it turns out so well, and after the lackluster packaged stuff I had the other night, I’m so glad I finally got the hang of making it.

Chop the tempeh into bite-sized pieces.

Heat some oil in a skillet, then fry the tempeh pieces until beginning to brown.

Mix together the sour cream, tomato sauce or ketchup, relish, lemon juice, mustard, and salt.

If you are using a solid “cheese”, shred it.

In a medium-sized casserole dish, place the pasta, tossing it with a tiny bit of vegan margarine or oil.

Add the tempeh in a layer.

Top with the sauce …

… then the sauerkraut. (By the way, I made mine with caraway seeds this time; if yours is plain, you could toss some caraway seeds in with it.)

Top with the “cheese”.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes; remove lid, then bake 10 minutes longer.

It’s not the prettiest thing to photograph a serving of, but it sure was tasty!

Mark liked it a lot. So did I. As for that cheddar Teese, it’s okay, but quite frankly it’s no Cheezly. I didn’t like it by itself on crackers that much, while amazingly we can eat Cheezly that way. It did, however, melt nicer than cheddar Cheezly (though I find mozzarella Cheezly melts perfectly), and I think it would be good in grilled cheese sandwiches or maybe even a quick mac & cheese. I think its best use may well be topping casseroles like this one.

In other news, I woke up on Sunday with Locomotive Breath inexplicably stuck in my head, so I was rocking out to some Jethro Tull in the sunroom. When Mark popped in, the following ensued:

And in cat news, sometimes Brachtune looks like an owl. I took this picture of her and promptly had the Dead Kennedys’ I Am the Owl stuck in my head the rest of the day.

Brachtune is so gorgeous, I’ve often wondered why she doesn’t get a modeling career and support us for a change.

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Half-a-brain Sweet and Sour Tempeh

I’m one of those people who can’t function when talking on the phone. I freely admit this: it’s why I refuse to use my cell phone in the car. Talking on the phone makes me stupid – it’s true. Fortunately for the world, I hate talking on the phone and very rarely do it. There are few people I enjoy talking on the phone with: Fortinbras is one of them, and my friend V is another. V called me tonight from her home in San Francisco, firstly to apologize for treating me so horribly in my dream last night, and secondly to place yet another request that I make San Francisco my home. (A request I’m not willing to turn down…why isn’t San Francisco my home?) As she managed to call just as I was amassing ingredients and brainstorming recipes, tonight’s meal was conceived and constructed using only half – or less – of my brain. It turned out surprisingly well under the circumstances. Another mitigating factor in tonight’s meal was I really need to go grocery shopping. Having used up my green pepper I officially now have NO fresh vegetables. Yikes!

Sweet and Sour Tempeh

12 ounces tempeh, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3″ piece ginger, minced or grated
7 ounces (about 1/2 can) diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp (or to taste) chili paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 veggie bouillon cube
1/2 cup diced pineapple (fresh, frozen, or canned; if canned in in syrup, omit or cut back on the agave nectar)

Prepare all of the solid ingredients: chop the onion and green pepper, mince or press the garlic, mince or grate the ginger, chop the tempeh, measure the tomatoes and pineapple chunks.

Mix together the liquid ingredients: the soy sauce, agave nectar, rice vinegar, water, chili paste, and orange juice. Add the bouillon cube. I microwaved it for 30 seconds in order to get it to dissolve.

Heat a wok over medium high heat and add a small amount of oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fry for two minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger. (There are dried chili peppers in this picture because I used them but in the future I’ll just use the chili paste for all the heat, so it’s all I’ve called for.) Fry for one minute.

Add the green pepper and fry for a minute.

Add the tofu and stir fry for two to three minutes.

Add the tomatoes and fry for another minute.

Add the pineapple.

Add the liquid ingredients. Turn up the heat and let boil for a minute or two until slightly thickened.

Serve with some sort of grain. Because I was only using half my brain, I absentmindedly put some rice in the rice cooker before starting the rest of the meal, but later I thought I’d have really liked quinoa with this meal and was disappointed I hadn’t thought of it.

This was pretty good, as I said, for being made while I was under the influence of cellphonis stupidis. However, I used packaged tempeh for the first time in months, because until this week I hadn’t really had time to get back into my regular routine of making all my staples, and all I can say is: wow. Is homemade ever MUCH better! The packaged tempeh – the same brand I used to always buy before I started making my own – was bland, poorly textured, and insipid. I have soybeans soaking now to make my own tempeh tomorrow…whew! I’d gotten so used to homemade I hadn’t realized that it’s a million times better than store-bought!

I baked some kaiser rolls while I was making dinner! They are another test recipe for Peter Reinhart. They’re good. I’m going to be heartily recommending this book when it comes out!

In other news, Mark got a fish. His name is Atticus Fish. Mark loves Atticus Fish with all his heart.

Atticus Fish is a bit silly.

Brachtune finds him fascinating!

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