25 September 2009

Follow My Blog! (And VeganMoFo III!)

Just a quick note: If you like what you have read here so far, please stick around and become a Follower (see "Followers" at the bottom of the right column). I know the blog is just starting out, but with the Vegan Month of Food (a.k.a., VeganMoFo III) just around the corner, there will be much more vegan goodness to read about, not only in this blog but so many others as well. Thanks!

22 September 2009

Baby Spinach and Japanese Eggplant, Shojin-style

Dinner tonight was Japanese-themed. I needed to do something with the Japanese eggplants from the Saturday farmers' market, and had baby spinach in the fridge that was on the verge of being forgotten if not used soon. Fortunately, I had a copy of Good Food from a Japanese Temple (Yoneda, 1982) on hand, thanks to my local library, and had been browsing its many treasured recipes just yesterday. I absolutely love this cookbook and need to find a copy of my own. The book contains recipes and information regarding shojin ryori, a Zen Buddhist cooking tradition that features elegant and flavorful vegetable-based dishes without the addition of animal products (vegan!). The recipes are arranged by season, and those I've tried so far are quite good; seasonality is important and totally makes sense. I serendipitously happened upon this lovely book while searching for another book that I still have not tracked down, and I don't mind it at all.
Above is a photo of Whole Simmered Eggplant, which uses my favorite (so far, at least) recipe from the cookbook. It's fairly simple and requires few ingredients, but the result is nonetheless delicious. Shojin cooking and presentation can be very specific--it's a certain art, really--so although I followed the directions for prepping and cooking the eggplant, I am sure I've not done the presentation justice. I also made Spinach with Walnut Dressing (using pecans instead of walnuts), which was actually labeled as a winter dish. But I had spinach around, as I've said. Anyway, that's also both simple and delicious. I served both dishes with white rice. There is so much to the shojin tradition that I find so fascinating, so if you're as interested in it as I have now become, I suggest you read up on it, too.

14 September 2009

(Leftover) Rice: a Food Staple

There is always rice available in this house. Growing up in an Asian household made me accustomed to white rice accompanying almost every dinner. And when there were leftovers, we often opted to nuke individual portions plain, or turn whatever remained from the previous night's dinner into fried rice. Back in my non-vegan days, my family's Hawaiian background dictated that SPAM-and-egg fried rice maintain its proper place at certain Sunday breakfasts. Otherwise, it was chicken fried rice. I've obviously moved past the meat-n-eggs thing, but every now and then I crave fried rice, and more often than not I have the leftover cooked grain that is just perfect for it.

Here, I used baked tofu (a tangy lime-cilantro version I baked myself) to make the dish more meal-worthy. Thai chili peppers from the backyard--my plants are finally producing--add just a little bit of spice.
Spicy Fried Rice with Baked Tofu (printable recipe)
Serves 2 to 4

1 1/2 to 2 c cooked rice
1 c seasoned, baked tofu, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 small carrots, sliced on a diagonal
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 large onion (or 1 small onion), chopped
2 Thai chili peppers, scored lengthwise
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp to 1 T vegetable oil
shoyu, to taste (up to 2 T)
salt and pepper, to taste
green onion (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium setting, until hot but not smoking. Add the carrots, bell pepper, onion, and chilies. Cook until somewhat softened, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add the garlic and baked tofu, stirring frequently and cooking until the tofu is heated through and lightly browned. Remove the chilies. Add the rice and combine well, then add 1 T shoyu. If using white rice, the addition of the shoyu should make it a light brown. Sprinkle in more shoyu if necessary. Stir and cook until everything is heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped green onion and serve hot.

09 September 2009

Sourdough Bagels

I spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen. When it comes to experimentation with food, I can't seem to get enough of it, especially when it both allows for my creativity to flow while (usually) satisfying my vegan belly. And if the food is carbohydrate-heavy, it's even better.

Bagels are a good example of the type of starchy goodness that I love. Because of a need for versatility with my sourdough starter and a sudden desire to have fresh bread within immediate reach, I began searching for some kind of foundation recipe for sourdough bagels. Many of the sourdough recipes call for the use of yeast. No thank you. As I understand it, when used in sourdough recipes, yeast lends the finished product that certain bread flavor. I don't know, maybe it also speeds up the rising process, as starter takes more time than yeast to work its leavening magic. But honestly, if I'm using the starter, it's already got cultures working (slow as it may be) and lending its own distinctly sour flavor into the dough and I'd rather patiently let it do its thing than help it along with yeast (not that I have anything against yeast).

So after some online searching for basic bagel recipes--excluding those for Montreal-style bagels, which include eggs--I put my starter to work. The recipe included here is a sort of mash-up of recipes I found online (sourdough and traditional), based on my own adjustments. For purists or those who fiercely defend how a "real" bagel should look, taste, etc., please note that I by no means claim that this approach is traditional (although I did make sure to factor in the high gluten factor, as well as the "traditional" inclusion of barley malt syrup). I'm just hungry and being creative with my food. By the way, if you're wanting these babies done right away, this is not the recipe to try; the lack of yeast means that the fermentation process requires a lot more time than if it had yeast (you could probably proof a packet of yeast in the warm water to speed it up, but it probably won't taste the same and it's merely my guess as to how the yeast would affect everything else). Anyway, as many recipes go, this one could probably use a bit of tweaking, but I am happy with the results: chewy, slightly sour-sweet bagel goodness.

Sourdough Bagels (printable recipe)
Makes 12

1 c sourdough starter
1 c warm water
2 T vegetable oil
5 T barley malt syrup or granulated sugar, divided
2 tsp salt
1/4 c vital wheat gluten
4 to 4 1/2 c bread flour (amount needed depends on wetness/"hydration" of starter, among other things--I'm no expert on the subject, so look it up if you want to know more)
3 T maple syrup
toppings of choice (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, etc.)

In a large bowl, mix the warm water with three tablespoons of the malt syrup or sugar, salt, and oil. Add starter and mix well. Mix in the vital wheat gluten. Add flour one cup at a time, until you are unable to mix it with a spoon. Knead in enough of the remaining flour so that the dough is a bit stiff and no longer sticky. (I used between 4 1/4 and 4 1/2 cups of bread flour.) Place the ball of dough in a large, oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise somewhere warm and draft-free until the dough approximately doubles in size (this can take a few hours, depending on the conditions, so expect a long wait). The dough will seem a bit heavy.
Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, then poke a hole through the middle and stretch it out into a ring. Place the rings on floured baking sheets and let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the remaining two tablespoons of malt syrup or sugar to the pot and dissolve. Place two or three bagels in the boiling water at a time. When they begin to float (after a few seconds), allow the bagels to gently boil for 40 to 45 seconds, then flip them and boil them for another 40 to 45 seconds. Drain on a wire rack and repeat the process for the remaining dough.
Brush the boiled bagels with the maple syrup. If desired, dip the maple-brushed side in toppings of choice (I used raw sesame seeds, minced onion, and cinnamon sugar, and left some plain). Feel free to be creative with the toppings. Arrange the bagels on prepared baking sheets and bake for approximately 20 minutes, turning the pans midway through and checking the undersides for browning at around 16 minutes. The bagels won't end up as brown and crusty as the more typical egg-washed varieties, but you don't want the bottoms to burn. The tops may be a bit sticky due to the maple syrup. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

01 September 2009

Chimichurri Seitan

Prior to testing this out for dinner tonight, I had only had chimichurri once. I liked it well enough, having tasted it with grilled vegetables instead of the more popular flank steak the Argentinian sauce typically dresses. My local farmers' market used to include a vendor selling various sauces and condiments--including chimichurri--and its products always looked promising, but I can't recall seeing the stand during recent trips. So although my memory of the sauce's flavor is fairly weak at best, a surplus of fresh parsley turned out to be powerful enough to remind me of and urge me to make a batch of chimichurri.

Of course, adopting an animal protein-less lifestyle meant that I wouldn't be grilling up flank steak (or any other meat) anytime soon. Somehow, my normally-sporadic memory had another surprise in store for me and led me to dig out the homemade seitan from the freezer. Protein problem solved. All that was left was to let the seitan thaw and drain a little, dress it in fresh chimichurri, and toss it around in a hot pan for a few minutes. I put a bit more of the raw sauce on the cooked seitan and ate it with a slice of toasted, homemade sourdough. I still can't recall if the sauce tasted anything like how I last had it (if that was even authentic to begin with) but it was tasty change of pace nonetheless.