Cook The Book: Coconut Tofu and Sour Beans with Cauliflower Grains

I’m really, really good at saving recipes. I copy and paste items from menus that look interesting. I save links from websites. I bookmark and make lists of recipes in cookbooks. I feel like I am overflowing with ideas of what to cook.

I’m not so good at sticking to a plan of what to cook when. After a week of not being home at dinner time, or eating something simple and quick to get to various school functions, I’m ready to spend some quality time with my knives and pans. I put the responsibility on a dear friend to choose if I should cook from a link, a restaurant menu, or a cookbook, and she picked book. Which works out great, because almost all my library cookbook holds came in at the same time and I have a huge stack to get through.

I settled on a recipe for Coconut Tofu, Sour Beans from Vegetarian Dinner Parties: 150 Meatless Meals Good Enough To Serve To Company by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. The tofu is poached in coconut milk and served atop hot and sour long beans. Every recipe comes with a sidebar of suggested menus, and I decided on their idea of a small plate of Cauliflower Grains, Cucumber, Parsley which is a lovely raw and zesty side dish for the sour and earthy tofu and bean dish.

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These are super satisfying on their own and work really well together. Also, they didn’t elicit a negative response from the kids, which sometimes is all I need for a successful dinner. This book is filled with intriguing flavor combinations and creative pairings and I look forward to cooking more from it, be it a dinner party or a regular night with my favorite three people. And hey, if the dear friend I referenced above wants to fly across country, well that would just be great and I’ll totally feed her all the yummy food.

 

Arroz Amarillo con Seitan, Sikil Pak, Hearts of Palm “Ceviche”

It’s not always easy to find a meal to please everyone in my family. Read: it’s downright impossible. When thinking about plant-based protein sources beyond legumes, the common big three are tofu, tempeh and seitan. The other night our dinner included tempeh, which is one of my favorites and the lowest on the list for child 1, child 2, and husband. Child 1 cried out “why can’t we have seitan?” I honestly could not remember the last time I served seitan. Back in our pre-kid years, husband and I would eat it fairly regularly- whether from pure enjoyment or how budget friendly it can be when you make it yourself, as I’ve been doing for over a decade. While it does come together fairly easy when you have the ingredients, it’s not convenient if you’re trying to throw together a last minute meal. Also, as I cook more for people who either require or embrace a gluten free diet this “wheat meat” has disappeared from my meal planning. But hey, the kids want it. Maybe we can get through a meal without a fight.

 

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Arroz Amarillo con Seitan, Sikil Pak, Hearts of Palm “Ceviche”

The arroz and steamed white seitan recipe, which contains vital wheat gluten flour along with chickpea flour, come from Terry Hope Romero’s Viva Vegan.  The Sikil Pak (pumpkin seed mole dip) comes from Romero’s Vegan Eats World. I gleaned the “ceviche” from various web sources.

I measure the success of a family dinner by:

  1. Minimal complaints
  2. Clean plates
  3. Request for leftovers for next day lunch
  4. Bonus points for actual compliments

Success all around! Even by child 2, the toughest critic of all.

 

 

A Cascade Of Carrots

My family joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm share this year. I’ve been enjoying my weekly visit to the farm (only 4 miles from my house!) and meeting the people that grow my food. I am also loving the abundance of vegetables and the challenges of cooking what you have, as opposed to shopping for a recipe.

One thing to note, if there’s a crop that’s doing particularly well, you’re going to get a lot of that item. For the past thirteen weeks, only one week’s pick up lacked carrots. Now, carrots are an incredibly versatile root vegetable and there are a million things you can do: raw snacking, pickles, side salads, soups, and of course, my favorite variety of cake. But when the carrots just keep coming, sometimes you need to look for new options. One of my go-to’s is this amazing carrot sofrito enchilada recipe, which I may post more about later. For more carrot goodness, see ideas below, and forthcoming, as this exercise made me think of lots of things!

Carrot Noodles

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If you’re not familiar with using veggies in place of pasta, here’s a quick overview. You can use a vegetable or julienne peeler, or a spiral slicer. You can eat the “noodles” raw or cooked. I’ve always been a fan of a peanut sauce on vegetable noodles, but went with a lighter, Mediterranean flavor profile here. For the noodles above, I gave the spiraled carrots a quick boil, which helps puff them slightly and softens the crunch a bit. After draining, I tossed them with melted butter, capers, a little white wine, red pepper, and topped with toasted hazelnuts.

Macaroni and Carrot Sauce

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I have fooled my children. A “cheesy” sauce containing no dairy, plenty of vitamin A, fiber, and some protein from the cashews. I tried this two ways and found it’s best served as a stovetop mac as opposed to baked, keeping it light and creamy.

Soak 1½ cup cashews for 2 hours, drain and rinse.
Steam 4 peeled and sliced carrots.
Sauté 1 diced sweet onion.

In food processor or blender, combine sweet onion and steamed carrots with 1 cup vegetable broth, ¼ cup nutritional yeast and 2 tbsp rice vinegar. Return to saucepan to heat. Boil pasta to desired doneness, drain, and add to the carrot sauce.

Carrot Maki

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Salt roasting carrots followed by a long marination can produce a lox-like carrot product that is truly wonderful. I was curious, what if the carrots were first roasted in nori sheets?

I’m going to test this some more and will update with any changes (and hopefully a more attractive roll), but the nori does in fact impart an ocean flavor to the carrots. Thinly slice carrots length wise, place in small oven dish and layer with nori and salt. Roast at 375° for about 30 minutes. Remove carrot slices from nori, rinse off any excess salt. Marinate in 1 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp soy, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp liquid smoke, 1 tbsp maple syrup overnight. Prepare your sushi rice, spread the rice and carrots, and roll.

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Carrot Dog

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Full disclosure: I’ve never liked hot dogs. It was always a disappointment as a kid to find that was what was being served at a friend’s birthday or family cookout. The smell, the texture, the taste, I found it all repellant. When I became a vegetarian in the early 1990s, there weren’t any meatless hot dog substitutes on the market. Imagine a new level of disappointment when those tasteless rubbery tubes did become available in supermarkets and every well meaning relative wanted to offer me a nifty vegetarian product to imitate what they were having. The only hope was to slather the veggie dog with condiments and try to choke it down. After a couple attempts, I decided to just say no. Those puppies aren’t going to fool anyone, and it wasn’t something I cared to simulate anyway. We’ve all heard horror stories about what’s really involved in hot dog production, and in 2015 Clear Labs published a report stating 10% of vegetarian products contain meat, including pork in a vegetarian hot dog. Yuck.

Enter the carrot dog. I’ve seen this making the rounds on the internet and in cookbooks, and honestly, it was another turn-off. Seemed like bland health food and another opportunity for omnivores to mock vegans. I had no interest. Then, I had so many carrots I didn’t know how to incorporate them all into meals. Okay, fine. I’ll try it. But I’m not going to like it.

4 carrots cut to bun length
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
2 tbsp tamari
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 dashes liquid smoke
  • Bring a pot of water to boil. Add carrots, cook until just fork tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Mix vinegar, water, tamari, garlic powder, and liquid smoke in a resealable bag.
  • Add carrots to marinade bag, shake, place in fridge for 24 hours.
  • Grill those carrot dogs and top to your liking!

Guys, I gotta say, I was wrong. This. Is. Amazing. There are many ways to dress a dog, I went with mustard, pickled red onions and pickled jalapeños. Served with maple baked beans, coleslaw, and salad completes a meal worthy of any summer party. I don’t know how to relate it to a meat hot dog, as it has been so long. It is far superior to any commercially prepared veggie dog, and no, it does not taste at all like a carrot simply thrown into a bun. My daughter insisted on having the leftovers for school lunch the following day, and was sad to find I did not have an endless supply on the ready. Time to marinate some more carrots! 

Chopped Vegan Brunch Challenge: Butternut Squash Turnovers

Mystery basket ingredients: Butternut Squash, Popcorn, Fresh Rosemary, Apricot Preserves
Full description of challenge here.

Butternut Squash and Pickled Fennel Rosemary Popcorn Turnover with Apricot Vinaigrette 

Butternut Squash Turnover

It has recently become snuggle-up weather here in Portland, Oregon. Foggy when you wake up, steady drizzles of rain during the day, and darkness by dinnertime. I’ve been craving some warming fall comfort food, and this challenge provided the first opportunity of the season to pull the puff pastry out of the freezer. Just coming off a great (albeit not vegan) birthday dinner featuring a turnover served atop a butternut squash puree at Little Bird Bistro, I decided to make a squash and fennel turnover. Pressing crushed rosemary cooked popcorn into the pastry added an unexpected and delightful salty crunch, and the vinaigrette provides a nice balance of sweet and sour. I drizzled it over the turnovers, but you could also use it as a dipping sauce.

  • Heat oven to 425°. Peel butternut squash and dice. Mix with 1 TB oil on baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a few cloves of garlic to the pan and roast until tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Make rosemary infused oil by cooking ½ cup olive oil and 5 sprigs fresh rosemary in a small pot over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
  • Heat 1/3 cup 50/50 mix peanut oil and rosemary infused oil in dutch oven. Drop 2 kernels in to test temperature, when they pop, remove and add enough kernels to barely cover the bottom of the pan, about ½ cup.
  • Put lid on, leaving about a half inch opening to allow steam to escape.
  • Gently shake as the popcorn pops, remove from heat as popping stops.
  • Transfer to large bowl, toss the popcorn with rosemary oil and sea salt to taste.
  • To make a quick pickled fennel, mix 1 thinly sliced fennel bulb with kosher salt, black pepper, and white wine vinegar.
  • Heat oven to 400° and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Toss together squash and fennel.
  • Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface. Unfold the puff pastry on top and flatten creases with a rolling pin. Cut puff pastry into squares.
  • Press crushed popcorn into both sides of the pastry.
  • Place two spoonfuls of the filling in the middle of each square. Dampen the edges with soy milk and fold diagonally into a triangle. Press edges with fork to seal and make a vent hole in the top with a knife. Brush each turnover with soy milk.
  • Transfer to the baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  • For the apricot vinaigrette, heat 2 tbsp apricot preserves in small pot over medium heat. Stir as it becomes more liquid, then add in 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Remove from heat and mix in 1 tbsp stone ground mustard.
  • Drizzle vinaigrette on turnover.
  • Enjoy!

Chopped Vegan Brunch Challenge: Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Socca with Popcorn Hollandaise

Mystery basket ingredients: Butternut Squash, Popcorn, Fresh Rosemary, Apricot Preserves
Full description of challenge here.

Chickpea and Popcorn Socca with Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash, Apricot Swiss Chard, and Popcorn Hollandaise

Butternut Squash Socca

Socca is a pancake or flatbread made from chickpea flour, and is a great vehicle for a savory meal. Here it is used as a base for swiss chard, butternut squash, and  hollandaise. I cooked the swiss chard with apricot preserves and added in apple cider vinegar, which gives the greens a delicious balance of sweet and sour. Top that with the rosemary butternut squash and drizzle with tangy popcorn hollandaise for a savory brunch.

A few additional notes: I incorporated crushed popcorn into the chickpea pancakes, but I don’t feel it added much, so this could easily be skipped. The hollandaise is adapted from Ann Gentry’s Vegan Family Meals; I used popcorn instead of roasted corn. I made both recipes to compare, and was pleasantly surprised to find the popcorn version similarly very tasty!

  • Heat oven to 425°. Peel butternut squash and cut into ½ inch chunks. Spread on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, 5 sprigs chopped rosemary, salt and pepper.
  • In a food processor, combine 1 cup freshly popped popcorn (see directions below),  1 cup soy milk, 1-2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Blend for a few minutes. Strain into a bowl. Warm over low heat just before serving.
  • Whisk together 1 cup chickpea flour with 1 cup water, 1½ tbsp olive oil, pinch of salt. Let rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Heat pan lightly sprayed with oil, ladle in the batter. Quickly sprinkle on a handful of crushed popcorn, evenly distributing over the batter.
  • When edges are set, gently lift the pancake and flip. Cook another 2 minutes until both sides are dry and lightly brown.
  • Place pancakes on baking sheet in a warm oven as completed.

Socca

  • Rinse swiss chard, trim tough ends. Slice leaves into 1 inch ribbons.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in dutch oven. Cook 1 thinly sliced garlic clove until fragrant.
  • Stir in 2 tbsp apricot preserves. When melted, add swiss chard leaves.
  • Cover and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, stir in 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, season with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, pile swiss chard on the socca, then the squash. Drizzle with hollandaise.

Here’s how I made the popcorn: Heat 1/3 cup peanut oil in a dutch oven. Drop 2 kernels in to test temperature, when they pop, remove and add enough kernels to barely cover the bottom of the pan, about ½ cup.

Natural Selection Challenge: Kabocha Squash Polenta

So…does anyone remember when I entered the world of food blogging in 2012? No? Could be because I started a dozen draft posts and only published three.

The intent of this intended series was to recreate one Natural Selection dish off each week’s changing menu. The idea was that I wouldn’t have tasted the dish, and would have nothing to go on but the menu description. I wouldn’t know if I came even close to what the chef intended. But I would know if it tasted good.

Funny story, I began this post on May 17, 2012, referencing a restaurant dish listed for the week of May 9, 2012. Off to a pretty good start. It is now September 5, 2016. I still have two other drafts for the Natural Selection challenge, and have saved many of the weekly menus with the intent of picking this up again. Maybe I will. But sadly, I will run out eventually, because Aaron Woo’s Portland plant based restaurant, Natural Selection, has since closed. Their menu offered two columns of prix fixe items. One side vegetarian, the other vegan. My original post encouraged you to go there with a friend and order everything off their amazing menu. I can surely steer you to other great restaurants, but if you didn’t have the good fortune to go already, you’ll have to just take my word that some of the nicest folks in town served truly wonderful fine dining creations highlighting plant based food.

Natural Selection
~ a restaurant built on vegetables, fruits and grains. 

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As listed on the menu the week of May 9, 2012:

Kabocha squash, polenta and asparagus, rapini, garlic, lemon, hazelnut romesco.

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NOTE: Readers, please keep in mind that I am not a recipe writer. This is something I need to work on. Also, yes, pictured here is broccolette, not rapini. I remade the dish hoping to get a better photo than the one I had from four years ago, but rapini was not available. It is a yummy vegetable, but they are not the same thing. I also veered from my original recipe to make the romesco gluten free.

All measurements are approximate.

  • ½ cup hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 kabocha squash
  • 1 tbsp berbere spice blend (recipe follows)
  • 4 ½ cups vegetable or no-chicken broth
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tbsp butter or substitute (optional)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 bunch of rapini
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Hazelnut Romesco

  • Toast hazelnuts in a skillet over medium-high heat. They should be very lightly browned, be careful not to burn.
  • Roast 1 red bell pepper. Place in bowl and cover, or in paper bag, until cool enough to handle to peel the skin and remove seeds and stem.
  • Combine hazelnuts, pepper, 1 clove of peeled garlic, tomato, paprika, and vinegar in blender. Add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil and blend until smooth.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha is a tough squash to cut into. However, the skins are edible, so there’s no need to peel, unless you prefer it that way.

  • Once you manage to hack it apart, cut into 2 inch cubes. Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil and berbere spice blend. Roast 400 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

Polenta

  • Bring 4 cups vegetable or no-chicken broth to boil (for no-chicken broth I used Better than Bouillon)
  • Whisk 1 cup polenta, simmer until desired thickness, 15-30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, stir in butter or vegan butter substitute (optional- I’ve made polenta that tastes so creamy it doesn’t seem necessary, but sometimes it needs that extra richness).

Rapini and Asparagus

  • Blanch and drain chopped rapini and asparagus.
  • Heat 2 tb oil in skillet, add 1 clove minced garlic for 30 seconds.
  • Add rapini and asparagus and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  • Add ½ cup no-chicken or vegetable stock, turn down and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add 1 tsp tamari and lemon juice from ½ a lemon.

Spoon polenta into bowl, top with kabocha squash, place rapini to one side, asparagus to the other. Serve with the romesco.

Enjoy!


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Berbere Spice Blend from Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World

Makes over ½ cup of ground spice blend

  • 6 green cardamom pods or ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 6 allspice berries or ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon coriander sides
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons ground hot or sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. If using the cardamom pods, open them with your fingers or the tip of a sharp paring knife and remove the seeds. I usually find it easiest to slice each pod horizontally, break open the pod and shake out the seeds. Discard the empty pods.

2. In a skillet over medium heat toast together the cardamom seeds, allspice berries (but not the ground allspice if using), coriander, cumin, fenugreek, peppercorns, and cloves for 2 to 2 ½ minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove seeds immediately when fragrant and fenugreek seeds have darkened slightly.

3. Grind the toasted spices with the ground paprika, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, salt and cinnamon in a coffee grinder as fine as you can make it. Store in a clean, dry glass jar and cover tightly. Keep in a dark, cool kitchen cabinet and use within 3 months for the best flavor.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Tempeh

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Tempeh

Most of the meals I make are, or were at a time, based on a recipe I read someplace else. I adapt, based on what I have on hand or what I feel like at the time. I bought the ingredients for the Spicy Noodle Salad from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, truly intending to make the recipe as written. Instead, I roughly followed the sauce recipe and the basic ingredients. The only thing that really makes this dish stand out over my usual soba or brown rice stir fry dinners is the inclusion of balsamic vinegar, which I would have never thought to try before reading the recipe. The rich and somewhat sweet flavor was a nice surprise and change of taste from the perhaps more traditional rice wine vinegar.

Tempeh and peppers

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tbsp peanut butter, grated zest and juice of 2 limes, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp agave nectar, 1/3 cup soy sauce, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, dash of hot sauce.
  • Marinate tempeh in the sauce.
  • Saute bell peppers and tempeh until lightly browned.
  • Cook soba noodles according to package. Drain.
  • Plate noodles with tempeh and peppers.
  • Add bean sprouts and sliced scallions, and serve.