Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vegan Steak and Potatoes

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We made some braised seitan that didn't come out the way we intended. It was made with a ton of onions and turned out just a bit too sweet. In order to avoid eating it for days, I decided to shake it up a little and turn the seitan into something different. I lightly pan fried the seitan with olive oil until the edges are browned and then I topped it with some vegan shiitake mushroom and red wine sauce. Voila! It looks just like a restaurant steak with steak sauce. I paired the steak with some sweet potato fries.

For this vegan steak topped with mushroom sauce, you will need:
  • 16 ounces seitan steak (store bought or you can make my seitan recipe but be sure to shape the dough into fist sized chunks)
  • 2 pints fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
  • 5 tablespoons butter substitute (I use Earth Balance), divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper
To begin, heat up olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter substitute in a non-stick pan. Gently pan fry both sides of the seitan until browned. Set aside. In a medium sauce pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter substitute, then add minced thyme and rosemary. Stir and mix in sliced mushrooms. Cook gently until mushrooms are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in flour until all the mushrooms get sticky and flour browns a bit at the bottom. Pour in red wine and soy sauce. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Bring mixture to simmer and continue to cook until it thickens, about 2-5 minutes. Spoon over the top of pan fried seitan steaks and serve.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fresh Fava Beans and Peas Bruschetta

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Over the past Memorial weekend, VB and I caught a baseball game in Oakland and stopped by encuentro cafe and wine bar afterwards. The review was mixed on this one: VB loved it and I thought it was too expensive and too much like bird food. But we agreed that their fresh peas and mint bruschetta was delicious. I had some fresh fava beans handy so I thought I'd make something similar at home.

It was my first time working with fava beans. I took some pictures to document the process, but they somehow disappeared when I tried to transfer them to my computer. (Don't you just hate it when that happens?) Anyway, fava beans have to be first shucked and then par boiled. After boiling in water for 2-4 minutes, the waxy skin wrapped around the beans can be peeled off or squeezed off. But the easiest way to get the skin off, for me, was to cut a slit with a sharp paring knife then peel. The resulting beans tasted fresh yet earthy, tender and green like fresh peas but not quite as sweet. I supplemented the fava beans with some thawed petite peas and roughly mushed them with olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. The result was pretty comparable to what we had at encuentro.

You'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh fava beans
  • 1 cup fresh peas or thawed petite peas
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • mint leaves for garnish
  • slices of crusty toasted bread
Roughly puree all ingredients together and spread it on crusty bread. Garnish with mint leaves. That's it! Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mystery Produce of the Week: Opo Squash

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Also known as hulu (葫蘆), opo squash is popular in Chinese dishes and often consumed in soup or stuffed with meat and steamed. It is prepared by peeling its skin and scooping out its seeds (although the seeds can be edible if the squash is fresh and young). It has a mild, sweet flavor. When cooked, it is delicate and soft without being mushy or mealy.

Since I can't stuff it with meat, I made soup. The challenge here is to make a flavorful soup without using chicken stock. Since this squash is very mild, it can be a bit flavorless without chicken stock. Instead of substituting with vegetable stock, I decided to boil it with water and shredded cabbage to add sweetness and some vegetarian chicken broth powder (still haven't figured out what that is exactly). I cooked the cabbage low and slow until it almost disintegrated in the soup and then added the squash and simmered for another 15 minutes.

Finally, to make sure it has some taste, I added.... bitter melon greens. Yes, those taste bitter. But at least you can't say the soup is bland! I like the fact that the bitter melon greens added a bit of depth to the soup, but I can see why some people won't find it palatable. Bitter melon is... an acquired taste. Frankly, I'm even not sure that I've acquired it yet. You can always leave it out or add some other dark greens.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Green(s) Pie

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This pie didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Because it wasn't even supposed to be a pie! I was planning on making turnovers, but the pastry was not cooperating on a hot, humid day. So instead of struggling with stuffing and folding a dozen turnovers, I made one pie and patted myself on the back.

I stuffed this pie with a lot of nutritious greens and added aromatics like sage, thyme, onion and garlic. I also mixed in some cannellini bean puree that held the veggies together and gave the filling a creamy texture. The crust was golden, tender and flaky. Although I didn't successfully make turnovers, this was nevertheless a success.

You'll need:
  • 2 bunches dark greens (I used kale and rainbow chard, but you can also use spinach, mustard greens, and collard greens), tough stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs sage, chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1 portion pastry, recipe below
For the pastry, you'll need:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cubed and chilled
  • 3/4 cup vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance for me), cubed and chilled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • up to 5 tablespoons ice cold water
To begin, mix all purpose flour, chilled vegan butter spread, vegetable shortening salt until the mixture has a wet sand consistency. You can use food processor and pulse a few times or you can use your hands and break up the fat into finer granules. Mix in water, one tablespoon at a time. If you're using a food processor, add ice water one tablespoon at a time while pulsing. The dough should barely come together. You probably only need 2-3 tablespoons of water. When in doubt, retrain from adding more water. It's easy to add more water, but impossible to take it out. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill.

In a large pot fitted with a lid, begin heating up olive oil over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes to the oil. When pepper flakes start to sizzle, mix in diced onion and cook until translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Mix in garlic, sage and thyme. Cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add greens. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well together and cover for a 5-8 minutes over medium low heat. The greens should be just wilted and still bright green. Remove and set aside. Once cooled, add mixture into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Wrapping the mixture in cheese cloth, squeeze out any excess liquid and place the mixture in mixing bowl. Add cannellini beans to the food processor and pulse until beans are mashed. Mix together the bean puree with vegetable mixture and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chilled dough onto a floured surface. Divide the dough in half and wrap up one half in plastic wrap and place it back in the refrigerator. Roll out the other half into a round disc 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Mold the dough into the pie pan and trim off any excess dough. (If you're working on a hot and humid day or the dough is too wet, try rolling the dough out in between two pieces of plastic wrap. The plastic wrap will help you to roll out the dough evenly without sticking and make the transfer to pie pan a lot easier.) Dock the dough with fork and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill the baked pie crust with vegetable mixture. Spread it out evenly with a spatula. Roll out the other piece of dough into a round disc big enough to cover the pie pan. Cut out some vent holes in the middle of the disc. Cover the pie with the dough. Crimp the edges by pushing down gently.  Brush with egg wash (omit if you want to keep this vegan). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until browned. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Black Eye Peas Salad

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This black eye peas salad is not the usual Southern side dish. I took a Mediterranean spin on this dish and added sweet paprika and olives. The result was fresh and delicious with creamy beans and crunchy veggies. And it's so quick and easy to make.

You'll need:
  • 1 cup dried black eye peas (or 1 15-ounce canned black eye peas, drain and rinsed)
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 25 to 30 black olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • salt to taste
A note on cooking dried black eye peas: I like cooking my beans with my trusty pressure cooker. It cooks beans perfectly without all the soaking and boiling for hours. I use a Fagor Duo 8QT. Pressure Cooker and place it on the high setting for 10 minutes for perfectly cooked black eye peas. But if you don't have a pressure cooker, you should soak black eye peas overnight and boil in a medium pot with a lot of water gently for 1 to 1.5 hours. I know... it's a pain in the butt. Makes me even more thankful for a pressure cooker.

Once you cook the black eye peas, toss together with the remaining ingredients. Let stand in room temperature for 30 minutes before serving or refrigerating.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vegan Shepard's Pie

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A vegan Shepard's pie sounds like an oxymoron. A traditional Shepard's pie would contain ground lamb. I mean, otherwise, it's not really a Shepard's pie, right? In any event, for my vegan version of a Shepardless pie, I used pearl barley to replace the ground meat and to add texture and bulk to the pie. The result was healthy and flavorful. And it wasn't that hard to make!

For the mashed potato top layer, you'll need:
  • 3 pounds potato (or 5 large Russet potatoes, I used baby potatoes here), peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter substitute
  • 3 tablespoons non-diary cream cheese or sour cream (I used Toffuti sour cream)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated soy cheddar
  • salt to taste
 For the bottom layer, you will need:
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
To a large pot, add peeled and diced potatoes. Add enough water to the pot so that the potatoes are completely submerged. Cover. Turn heat up high and bring water to boil. Once boiling, set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check the potatoes by piercing them with a sharp knife. If potatoes can be pieced through easily, then they are done. Otherwise, continue to boil and check again in 5 minutes. Repeat until potatoes are done. Drain. While the potatoes are still hot, pass them through a ricer or a food mill. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside.

To a large pot, add 4 cups water and pearl barley. Cover and bring to boil. Turn down to simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until pearl barley is cooked. The grain should be edible but should still be chewy. Drain and set aside.

In a medium pot, heat up olive oil. Add diced onion, carrots and celery. Stir and allow to cook until onion becomes translucent, about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic and thyme. Stir for a few minutes. Add soy sauce, vegetable stock, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in frozen peas and cooked pearl barley.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour vegetable and barley mixture into a 3 quart pan. Spread mixture to the edge evenly. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until top is browned. Remove from oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tomato Curried Lentils (Daal)

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Long time no blog! It's a classic case of life getting in the way of hobbies. I've been busy and also somewhat uninspired to cook. So. I'm going to try my best to get back in the kitchen and get inspired again.

Here, we have a simple, flavorful meal full of protein and fiber. I made some classic Indian curried lentils with rice pilaf made of brown Basmati rice and wild rice. This recipe is adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day. I added more spice to make this even more flavorful.

You'll need:
  • 1 medium onion, medium diced
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 dried chilies
  • 1 fresh Thai chile
  • 1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
Begin boiling water along with dried chilies and lentils in a medium pot. After water reaches boil, reduce to simmer and gently cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until lentils are slightly undercooked. Remove chilies, drain and set aside. Add onion, ginger and Thai chilies to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.

In a medium pot, heat up vegetable oil. Add cumin seeds. Once seeds begin to pop, add onion ginger mixture. Turn heat to low and gently cook until onion becomes translucent. Stir occasionally. Add turmeric and stir. Stir in lentils, diced tomatoes and garam masala and bring mixture to boil. Season with salt. Reduce to simmer and cover. If mixture becomes too dry, add 1/2 cup of water each time and stir. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tomato breaks down and mixture thickens. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with rice or roti.