Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vegan Crab Cakes & Chipotle Tartar Sauce

One of the things I love about finals is procrastination. It normally bites me in the ass, but seriously, it tastes really good. Tonight I should have written a paper on the political animal. Instead I made vegan crab cakes. So worth it.

Jhenn over at Vegan Ronin posted a good looking recipe for crab cakes, and since I had tofu sitting around in my fridge and not much else (I need to go grocery shopping like I need to not bake more stuff), I decided to go for it. But the crab cakes needed something to go with. I picked up my Food & Wine Magazine 2001 Cookbook, flipped through the pages, found a lima bean and mint salad, decided to modify it, and serve both on a toasted baguette slice with tartar sauce (also modified from Food & Wine). Several mods later, I plated a damn tasty meal.

Vegan Crab Cakes & Chipotle Tartar Sauce

For the Crab Cakes:
2 slices of bread (any type)
2 Tbsp soy milk
1 Tbsp vegan mayo
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp parsley flakes
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (copy-cat recipe)
1 lb firm tofu, drained & pressed
salt to taste (no more than 1/4 tsp)

**notes: I did not have any parsley, so I chopped up ~1 tbsp fresh chives. I also didn't have Old Bay, so I used a pinch of everything noted in the copy-cat recipe that I had (again, I left several spices out). The mix and pinch method worked well for me though.

In a mixing bowl, tear up the bread into small pieces. Add the milk to moisten the bread. It will be a little sticky.

Except for the salt, add & mix the remaining ingredients, crumbling the tofu. Now add the salt to taste.

Mix with your hands to make sure the tofu is really crumbled up and everything is all stuck together.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat, with just a little bit of oil.

Form the mix into (about) 10 patties. Pat them with pressure to make sure the air is out, and that they will stick together.

Fry until golden brown (just a few minutes). Be gentle when flipping the patties.

**Notes: I cooked up one or two cakes at a time and saved the remaining mixture in an airtight container. It kept well for the three or four days I had it sitting in my fridge.

For the Lima Bean Salad:
1 10-oz package frozen lima beans
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
**Notes: I used 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar because I didn't have white wine vinegar. It tasted fine.

Cook the beans in a medium saucepan of boiling water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in vinegar and oil. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Chipotle Tartar Sauce:
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 tbsp chipotle pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning (again, I did the pinch method of the copy-cat recipe)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Keep refrigerated.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Cheesecake Bites

It's been awhile since I managed to successfully complete a Daring Bakers challenge. I tried the yule log back in December, but my gluten-free, vegan version fell apart and I just didn't have the heart to post my mess. But I'm back!

This month's challenge was posed by Elle of Feeding my Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell. They found a cute concept recipe based on turning cheesecake into bite-sized pops on a stick (or something like that).

I originally planned on making the recipe as written (all dairy/egg ingredients included), but decided at the last minute to veganize it, because, really, I wanted to eat it too. This might have been a mistake though...I ate waaay more of the cute, little, enticing cheesecake bites than I should have.

Unfortunately I had a few time constraints (I started making the pops on Sunday afternoon for a Sunday night potluck) and couldn't find any lollipop stick things, but the end product (post-multiple-freezes) was delicious, apparently non-vegan tasting, and quickly eaten by my potlucking friends.

As always, go check out the now-plethora of Daring Bakers to see what everyone came up with!

Vegan Cheesecake Bites

For the cheesecake:
2 14 oz package firm silken tofu (NoriMu)
2 8 oz package Tofutti cream cheese
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
4 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place silken tofu and vegan cream cheese in the food processor. Process for 1 minute, then add sugar. Process until smooth and no sugar granules remain, 3-5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch into the soy milk and vanilla and almond extracts. Pour mixture into the food processor and process until very smooth. Pour into a foil lined 9" springform pan and bake for an hour and a half.

Allow to cool at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours. (I sliced the cheesecake into squares instead of scooping balls.)

For the chocolate coat:
8 oz vegan chocolate (I use Baker's semi-sweet baking squares)
2-4 Tbsp Earth Balance

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the Earth Balance, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and butter are combined. Stir until completely smooth. (Add more Earth Balance if needed to get a more viscous consistency. I ended up adding a few tablespoons of soymilk because my bites weren't frozen and collapsed in the heat of the chocolate.) Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Quickly dip a fr
ozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I can't believe people eat such cute crabs!

Sorry for the delay in posts--I was tromping around Jekyll Island this past weekend and have been catching up on school work ever since. Let me tell you, eating vegan on a barrier island in south Georgia is hell. If I never eat another mediocre iceberg lettuce salad, I'll be really happy. Really happy.

I'm going on a picnic-hike tomorrow with the poet and I made a slurpable feast (he had mouth surgery last week...can't chew anything; now that's a challenge...). Pictures and recipes will, of course, be posted when I return.

Until then, enjoy the beach photos!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lazy Never Tasted So Good

Thanks for the comments on the flower picture. I'm rarely given flowers and the few times that I have been, the guys have been off the mark (sorry, I'm just not a roses or daisies kind of girl). Happily, this time, he was right on.

The poet brought me this sprig of fresia before we went to see big at the Atlanta Ballet. The evening was marvelous (seriously the best dance performance I've ever seen and probably ever will see), followed by a late dinner at Top Flr (my favourite restraunt in Atlanta, co-owned by my friend Jeff Myers, and the current home of the pastry chef I apprenticed under, Taria Camerino), and a glass or two of a nice shiraz I picked up at the Dekalb Farmers Market (note: cheapest place to buy imported wine and beer in Atlanta). All in all, a rad evening and I thought I'd share the flower with you.

On a different note, who doesn't love stir fry? I mean, seriously, can you admit to not liking it? As you can tell from almost everything I make, if I can cook it in a wok, then I will. So today, with my one day off of class and work, with 800 million papers to write (oh, the end of the semester is so much fun, let me tell you), I needed to eat something that was quick and easy to cook with minimal clean up. I had almost succumbed to pita and hummus...but I figured something with color might be a better option.

Thus, without further ado, I give you sweet and sour stir fry a la Cupcake Punk. And I'm back to my papers pronto.

Sweet & Sour Stir-Fry

2 cups cooked brown rice

olive oil (I mixed olive oil and peanut oil)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 package extra firm organic tofu, cubed
1 large head of broccoli, chopped into florets
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into small strips

1/3 cup brown rice vinegar
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/3 cup water

Saute the onions and garlic in oil until slightly translucent. Add the tofu and saute it for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the onions and garlic. Add the broccoli and bell pepper and cook until slightly al dente (this took approx. 10 minutes for me).

Meanwhile, combine the rice vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce in a pan over medium heat. Add the cornstarch-water mixture and stir/whisk until smooth and slightly thickened. Add more water if necessary.

Pour the sauce over the veggies and tofu, cook for one minute until everything is covered. Serve over rice.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Romantic Gestures 101

Sometimes flowers take the cake.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spicy Peanut Noodles

I try really hard to be healthy, I really do, and you'd think eating vegan would make that easier. Oh well. Nature over nurture? (smile).

Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks is one of my blog loves. She cooks some of the most delicious and healthy (and mostly vegetarian) fare I've seen in a long time. It's comfort food, but good for you, and with unexpected twists. And while a noodle salad isn't a real salad (in the green sense of the word), I figured it was time to bite the bullet and make a salad.

I tried, I really did. But there's something about warm noodles, sauteed tofu, and veggies in a peanut sauce that takes me back to happy memories of fake Thai food. If only I had a take-out box to serve it to myself in... gotta work on that.

So below is my take on Heidi's Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad. I'm sure the original recipe is tasty, but I'm a fan of mine too.

Spicy Peanut Noodles
riffed from Heidi

1 8 ounce package soba noodles
1 bunch asparagus spears, ends trimmed then cut into 1/2-inch segments
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into short strips
12 ounces extra-firm (organic) tofu, cut into small cubes
1 small bunch of spring onions or scallions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup (brown) rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
drizzle of toasted sesame oil
big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4-1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup peanuts

Big a large pot of water to a boil. Boil the soba noodles per package instructions.In the last minute or so of cooking toss in the asparagus. Drain noodles and asparagus, run under cold water for about a minute to stop cooking, and set aside.

Saute the cubed tofu in a pan until lightly brown. I like the slight crunch and solidity of the tofu this way, although Heidi prefers it cold and cubed (no cooking involved).

Make the peanut sauce by combining the peanut butter, rice vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and a big pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Thin with hot water - the amount you'll need depends on the original consistency of your peanut butter.

Gently toss the noodles, asparagus, red bell pepper, spring onions, peanuts, and tofu with the sauce. Serve!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Curry Pie

I have a problem. I love curry. I love my wok. I have no idea how to cook for one person.

Before I moved, I had a bunch of mushrooms that were about to go bad. I also had a bag of frozen peas. And, per usual, tons of spices and curry pastes and coconut milk and the like. Logical conclusion--make curry. It was a great idea until I added too much curry paste, setting my mouth on fire (and mind you, I adore super hot and spicy food), attempted to fix the heat with extra coconut milk (a dash of lemon juice did the trick somehow...I've no idea how the chemistry behind that works or if it were a fluke), added chickpeas and some other random odds and ends, and then added cornstarch to thicken it because I had an entire wok full of curry soup. Delicious curry soup, but I wasn't going for soup at this point. And I had an entire wok full of it.

I ate some, pawned some off on friends (not like I was twisting anyone's arm or anything), ate some more, ate some more. Almost a week later--sick of curry. Sick of curry with two tupperware dishes left of it. Crap.

Solution? Let them eat pie. Curry pie. I whipped up some whole wheat vegan puff pastry, rolled it out, lined a pie dish with it, filled it with curry, topped it with puff pastry, and baked it for over an hour. The pastry was thick, so it took forever, but Holy Mary Oh My God the end result was orgasmic. And maybe it was that good simply because I'm a carb fiend and anything in bread is delicious, but damn, I did good.

Moral of the story: whenever you have leftovers that you're sick of, make it into a pie. A pot pie. A shepherd's pie. A puff pastry pie. A whatever pie. It's like a caserole, only classier. Or something. Or maybe just more delicious. (smile)

Below is the original recipe I used for the curry. I added much more curry paste than it called for. You can adjust the amount to taste.

Oh, and let me tell you, taking a good picture of this thing was not easy. Just trust me: it tastes 800x better than it looks.

Curry Pie

For the Curry:
1-2 tbsp oil (I use a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil)
1 onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 lb button mushrooms
1-2 cups frozen green peas
1 cup chickpeas
2 green chiles, seeded (I use Thai chiles)
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp curry paste (I used red, and much more than 1 tbsp: adjust to taste)
1 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
cornstarch, as needed

Clean the mushrooms and remove stalks. Depending on the size, halve or quarter them. Slice the chiles in half, and de-seed them with a spoon. Dice the chiles into small pieces. Dice the onion.

Add 1-2 tbsp oil to the pan, add the onion, chiles, and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion is clear. Add the mushrooms and cook 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown.

Add the spices, peas, chickpeas, coconut milk, and curry paste, and reduce the heat. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.

If there is too much liquid, add cornstarch a teaspoon at a time, stir the mixture, and allow it to thicken until you reach the desired consistency.

For the Puff Pastry (from dr. stonielove's bewildered beast):
Note: I doubled the recipe for the top and the bottom, but I did have leftover dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup soy margarine
2 cups cold water
2 tsp salt

Mix the flour and salt with cubed margarine to create cornmeal like texture. Create a well in the middle and slowly incorporate to form a dough.

Rest the dough for 30 minutes in the fridge (DO NOT KNEAD!). After 30 minutes, take out the dough from the fridge.

Flour the surface of a board, a roller, and the dough. Seperate teh dough into two balls. Roll the each ball into a rectangular with a ratio of 1x3. Fold the it twice to make a square. Repeat it at least 5 times with each ball of dough.

Final Assembly:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Roll out each portion of dough into a layer for the crust bottom and top. My thickness was about 1/8". Line a pie pan with the dough and fill to brim with curry. Place the other rolled out portion of dough on top to form a top crust. Poke holes or a design in the crust to allow for expansion (you don't really want the pie to explode, trust me).

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the crust is light brown.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm not dead...

... but you have to wait for more posts until I have internet at my new place. That's right...I moved, again. I need to stop doing this. Long story not worth typing, but I'll be back sometime this weekend hopefully! And I have recipes waiting for you too! Hurrah!

See you in a few days!