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Archive for August, 2010

I’ve been feeling a little restless in the kitchen lately; actually, to be fair, I’ve been feeling a little restless in general. I’ve got a tonne of stuff on my plate right now and for whatever reason, whenever I have several projects on the go, I always get this feeling that I need to make more changes in my life and create more challenges…what a sick feeling, huh?! Well, whenever this feeling roots itself deep in my being, I immediately turn to the kitchen…creating/trying something new in the culinary world always helps me to feel at ease, as well as gives me a small sense of accomplishment.

Lately, I’ve been craving a lot of tofu…I can’t get enough of that chewy white sponge! However, I’m so over the Italian marinade from Veganomicon. Don’t get me wrong, I lovelovelove that recipe; but, I’ve also been making it weekly since I bought the cookbook. I’ve been wanting something new…something different and exciting and a whole new taste experience. This thinking led me to the idea of a “buttermilk” marinade. There are several styles of cuisine that have recipes for milk-based marinades for various meats and I figured, why can’t I use one for the original vegan meat? I didn’t even bother researching for a reference recipe; I wanted to be inspired entirely by what was in my very own kitchen (another little challenge I enjoy giving myself…especially on the day before grocery day…let’s all say it together now: nerd).

I set out thinking that I wanted the meal to have a nostalgic flair; a very post-war era style dinner using cheap, simple ingredients; so, instead of running out for fresh herbs, I pulled out a selection of dried ones for the marinade instead. Once I had stirred together what I felt was the perfect blend of ingredients, I gently laid the pale triangles of protein down in the dish, keeping my fingers crossed that the tofu would bake nicely and develop a pleasing, simple flavour.

The result? Success! At least to Husband and I…we both welcomed the change of flavour with gluttonous abandon! There was a slightly sweet tang to the tofu. The dried herbs provided a really great background of aromatics, and the tiny clove of garlic I added to the marinade offered just a hint of garlicky depth to the baked tofu.

“Buttermilk” Herb Tofu

-1 cup soymilk

-1 tsp. lemon juice

-1 T. grainy mustard

-1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced

-2 T. nutritional yeast

-1/2 tsp. each dried thyme, parsley, mint

-1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

-1 pkg. extra firm tofu, drained and sliced into roughly 1/2″ slices

Stir together the milk and lemon juice in a large, shallow dish. Set aside to curdle while you prepare the tofu and other ingredients. Add the mustard, garlic, nutritional yeast, herbs, and pepper to the milk mixture. Stir together. Lay the tofu slices in the marinade. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours. Flip the tofu over and continue marinating for an additional 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the tofu slices on a foil-lined baking sheet, gently shaking off the excess marinade. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the tofu and bake for 10 minutes more, until the tofu is browned on both sides.

We had ours with simple baked potatoes and those little guys down there.

Aren’t they just stunning? They really are a true work of art…I might actually make a print of that photo to add to my growing collection of food close-ups. Brussels sprouts have got to be one of my all-time favourite vegetables…I loved them even as a small child! My favourite way to eat them is roasted with nothing but a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I usually leave mine in the oven a little longer than I have to; I adore when the outermost leaves of the sprouts get really crispy…it reminds me of kale chips and makes my belly very, very happy.

I think this satiated my need to do a little kitchen creating…at least for a couple of days. I go on vacation next week and have big plans involving me, my polka dot apron, and my iPod. We have a date to do a little recipe testing…

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Ginger Pear Jam

This past weekend, my sis-in-law, her brother, and I gathered at her place to spend a day doing some canning, or I suppose jarring, as we didn’t actually use any cans. This might sound easy enough, but, between the three of us, we’d had one failed attempt at canning in our entire lives. About eight years ago, I attempted to make my own pickled beets (my personal favourite pickled item). Armed with a bunch of perfect beets and absolutely no know-how, I whipped up what I thought was going to be a wonderfully delicious batch of beets. After letting them sit for a couple of weeks to develop pickled flavour, I popped open the jar and forked a beet into my mouth…and promptly spat it into my kitchen sink. It tasted like dirt and vinegar! To this day, I have no idea what went wrong; but, clearly something went very wrong indeed! Since then, I’ve made a few jams (I make a killer strawberry jam spiked with vanilla liqueur!); but, I’ve always just made enough for one or two jars and eaten them within a week…so, I’ve never had to do any “processing”.

In order to prepare for our very large canning endeavour (we very ambitiously decided to make two different jams and six different pickles for our first go….we’re insane, I know!), I decided to get in the jam-making spirit by whipping up a small batch of ginger pear jam….a personal favourite! I didn’t process it, I just prepared it on the stove top and let it cool before putting it in a jar; but, I thought it would be a confidence booster to prepare for the big day.

It turned out marvelously! I added lots of lemon to give it a little extra kick. I really feel that the lemon is what makes this jam…it isn’t a pronounced flavour; but, it really wakes up the pear and makes it perform a little jig in your mouth. The added bite of the freshly grated ginger adds this great warmth to the jam…mmmm….and what does one do with a jar of homemade ginger pear jam? One eats the majority of it out of the jar with a spoon! If one is feeling particularly adventurous, one could also slather it on some baked tofu and wrap it up in a lovely pesto garlic tortilla with avocado and romaine…equally delicious and perhaps a more appropriate vessel for the jam. Either way, it’s just wonderful.

Ginger Pear Jam

-1 cup peeled and chopped pears

-1 tsp. lemon zest, grated

-1 T. lemon juice

-2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

-pinch cinnamon

-3/4 cup sugar

-2 T. water

Combine the pear, lemon juice and zest, ginger and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until the fruit starts to release its juices and break down a little, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and water. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute, stirring the entire time. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and reduces down to yield about 1 cup. Cover, let cool completely. Transfer to a jar or container with a lid and store in the fridge. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge; but, I doubt it will last that long.

I’ll post about our canning adventure in a couple weeks…once I’ve had a chance to test out our pickles.  Keep your fingers crossed that they come out of the jars tasting like pickles and not dirt and vinegar!

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My sister-in-law gave me some of the bounty from her garden a few days ago and I happily devoured the majority of it within minutes of her dropping it off! I simply cannot resist a garden-fresh tomato…I’m weak, I know. Anyway, her zucchini plant is not doing so well, unfortunately, and she’s had to pick the zucchini while they are still fairly small or they basically just rot right off the plant…it’s very strange. She gave me one of these adorable little zucchinis in my little garden care package and I spent a couple of days trying to decide what to do with it, considering it was really too small to use as a side dish or to make bread.

While contemplating this, I happened to notice that the plantain I had sitting around was on its last legs. That’s when I had the idea to make a fritter/patty/cake thing and just add a little extra vegetable to it to round out the mild zucchini. Originally, I was thinking of a fritter, maybe even something similar to a pakora; but, the food had other ideas of what it wanted to become and I just went along for the ride, stirring and adjusting until it felt right.

What came out of the oven was a tender, aromatic, beautiful cake that I served up with a little lemon caper aioli over a bed of baby spinach and farmer’s market tomatoes that had been spritzed with nothing but a little fresh lemon juice. It was such a lovely dinner: fresh and full of flavour.

I think that the cakes would be a big hit with kids because the plantain gives them an inherent sweetness, and the carrot dyes the batter a lovely shade of yellow. The vegetables give some great texture to the cakes; as well as nutrients and seasonal flare. They’re very simply seasoned with a little minced garlic, a hint of garam masala (the ingredient responsible for the amazing aroma as they bake), and salt and pepper.

Veggie Plantain Cakes

-1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

-1 carrot, peeled and grated

-1 small zucchini, grated

-1 very ripe plantain, peeled and mashed

-3/4 cup all-purpose flour

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

-1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp. garam masala

-1/2 tsp. salt

-1/4 tsp. pepper

-1 tsp. vegetable oil

-1/3 cup soymilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Stir together all the ingredients until incorporated; but, not completely smooth. You still want a few lumps in the thick batter. Ladle spoonfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch between each one. You want them to be about pancake size (about 3-4 inches in diameter). You should end up with 6 cakes. Lightly spray the tops with a little cooking spray or olive oil.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, remove and flip over, and then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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The above heaping plate of pasta has got to be one of the most delicious pastas I’ve ever eaten…even though it looks so unassuming and humble. It’s loaded with all sorts of nutritious ingredients and it tastes divine! I came across the recipe  way back in 2007 when Vegetarian Times printed it in their May/June issue. I remember being very intrigued when I saw the recipe, not because of the tasty-looking photo that accompanied it (which is usually what intrigues me….what can I say, I’m ruled by my stomach!); but, rather, because of the method of cooking the pasta. The dried noodles were toasted in the oven, and then were simmered in the broth with the veggies. As the pasta and veggies cooked, the broth simmered into a lovely thick sauce. Now, I may be the only person who felt this way, but, I was thrown for a loop. I couldn’t imagine the type of genius that would have thought of trying such a method for cooking pasta. I knew I had to try it out as soon as possible…and I did, and we loved it, and then I forgot about it entirely for the next three years.

I thought about it again about two months ago when I bought a small jar of harissa for the express purpose of making this pasta dish again (the first time I made it, I subbed red pepper flakes for the harissa). Fast forward to present time and I think about the dish again and finally make up my mind to prepare it for dinner. And I did. And we loved it. And I totally used red pepper flakes again because I spaced on having bought the harissa…I have no short-term memory…

Nonetheless, the dish is just lovely. The toasting really brings out a depth of flavour that you would never expect from dried noodles and the simply prepared sauce is a perfect complement to the toasted noodles, wilted baby spinach, sautéed button mushrooms, and nutritious chickpeas. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed devouring this.

I’m going to move the jar of harissa onto the counter top so I’ll remember to actually use it when I make this dish again. If you want to try the dish out yourself, the recipe can be found here.

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I wasn’t alive in the 70’s; but, I’ve always been intrigued with the entertaining favourites of decades past. I collect vintage cookbooks and pour over them, soaking in the entertaining ideas and recipes. I tend to lean towards the ideas that engage the entire group as a whole….things that are extremely interactive and communal, like fondue parties! Or its second cousin, the very quickly overlooked raclette!

Another thing about the 70’s entertaining scene I love is how there was a strong emphasis on making things that looked and tasted very impressive, things that gave the impression of you slaving all day in the kitchen to satisfy your guests when really, it was something you whipped up in about a half hour. Enter quiche! Quiche is always something that people seem to become very impressed by. And, in reality, it couldn’t be simpler to make, especially if you use a store-bought crust.

I make quiche occasionally when Husband and I have little bits of things in the fridge that need to get used up or if I open the freezer and realize I have some pie dough still sitting in there from who-knows-how-long-ago. The first vegan quiche I made was years ago and I remember it being really delicious…however, it was one of those kitchen experiments where I came home after work starving and just threw things in a blender and hoped for the best…to this day, I can’t even remember what flavour that quiche was. That’s quite a shame when you get a craving for quiche and are trying to find an appealing recipe.

It was time to turn back to my copy of Vegan Brunch and try out Isa’s Classic Broccoli Quiche recipe. I even tried my hand at her Basic Pastry Crust recipe. The pastry was really difficult to work with for me and I think I’d just use my old stand-by crust recipe next time around. Although, it did bake up very nice and flaky. I didn’t change a thing about the filling at all…and after eating it, I wouldn’t! It was a great quiche; it had strong broccoli flavour, it was seasoned very nicely, it set up wonderfully, and I just loved the roasted cherry tomato garnish. I’d have to agree with Isa, too; it was great at any temperature we served it at. Try it out! You’ll long for the days of avocado-coloured appliances and polyester pant-suits!

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