January 22, 2012

Caramelized Beets

Serves 6
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 10 minutes

Caramelized Beets

I have a bittersweet history with beets that starts in PS 272 Brooklyn NY, Mrs Sklar’s third grade class. We went on an outing to a farm in Queens (the farm is gone now) and everyone was assigned a vegetable to dig up. Little hands furrowed for potatoes, and pulled at the frilly green carrot tops. But when it was time to leave, I still had no vegetable. Instead of saying anything, I just went along with the rest of the class, them with their veggies still dripping with soil, me with nada.

When one of the pretty hippie girls who worked there realized that my hands were empty, she led me over to the nearest patch, which happened to be beets. We dug for a few minutes until we pulled out a beet as big as my head. I held it like a baby and the whole bus ride home was filled with intense jealousy from the other students and their lesser veggies.

When I got home, I left Beet on the kitchen counter and just stared at him. After a few weeks I had memorized every bump. I hadn’t ever seen a veggie fresh from the earth, never mind a beet. I had no intention of cooking Beet, it didn’t exactly smell like food to me (read: french fries or pizza) but I loved that he was all mine. Weeks went by and Beet was mostly okay. I noticed a little wrinkling, but no matter. One day I came home and Beet was gone and I cried and cried. And that’s my sad story.

It would be years and years until I actually tasted a beet, at a Polish diner, in a bowl of warm borscht. The flavor was a little shocking. Dirty, fresh and sweet and probably still too adult for my tastes. But it was a start.

Now I am a beet fanatic. I crave them fresh and raw in salads, potent and alive in juice. And even though my tastes are more grown-up now, I still want sweetness, especially as a way to punctuate an otherwise savory meal. These Caramelized Beets do the trick, and it doesn’t take many ingredients to get there. Use them scattered alongside mashed potatoes and seitan, or over your scrambled tofu, tossed into salads, or grains (beets and quinoa = heaven.) They’re crisp and sweet, with just a little tanginess to accentuate the flavors. When you eat them, think of Beet, looking down on us from where ever he may be.

2 lbs beets, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (plus extra for drizzling)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

On the baking sheet, too the beets with olive and salt, to coat. Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, tossing every 20 minutes. Drizzle on the balsamic, toss the beets to coat, and cook for 10 more minutes.

Serve warm and drizzle with extra balsamic to taste.

January 21, 2012

Eggplant & Black Eyed Pea Curry

Serves 6 to 8
Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 20 minutes

Eggplant, Lentil & Black Eyed Pea Curry

January for me means there’s always a chili or a curry simmering away on the stove. There’s no farmer’s markets to speak of so of course I’m depending on lots of beans and pantry items. When your toes are so cold all the time you need something warm and filling at the ready, and the spice doesn’t hurt, either! Its fragrance warms everything up like a magic spell wafting throughout the house. In fact, this curry was so aromatic that the mailman had to knock on the door just to tell me how good it smelled. Now that’s sayin’ something.

I wanted lots of texture here and so I went with hearty ingredients. Eggplant, for one, with its great meaty seeds and velvety body. And then I used a little lentil trick that is worth its weight in gold (I mean, worth it’s weight in lentils.) Use two kinds: red lentils as a backdrop, because they just melt into the stew and provide a thick heartiness. And then brown or green lentils which stay toothsome and intact.

You can serve with basmati rice, of course, but it’s also great over mashed potatoes (maybe even cilantro or scallion mashed potatoes if you want to get a little fancy.) When peeling the eggplant, you don’t have to be too precise. A little skin left on is fine, I just find that a lot of skin is a little obtrusive and it also prevents the eggplant from breaking down. I used black eyed peas to switch things up a bit, but kidney or chickpeas are great here, too!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced medium
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 lbs eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
1 1/2 tablespoons mild curry powder (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed or chopped fennel seed
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (leave out if you don’t like spicy, increase if you do)
1/2 cup red lentils
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped (extra for garnish)
5 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked black eyed peas, rinsed and drained (about 2 16 oz cans)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium high heat. Saute onions in oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute for another minute.

Add the eggplant, curry powder, fennel seed, salt, pepper and cayenne along with a 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth to cook the eggplant down for a minute or two.

Add lentils, cilantro and remaining vegetable broth. Cover pot and bring to a boil, keeping a close eye. Once it’s boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, until lentils are tender and eggplant is soft. Add black eyed peas to heat through, and stir in the tomato paste and lemon juice. If you’d like a thicker curry, then leave the lid off for the last 10 minutes. For thinner then just add a little extra broth. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Let sit for 10 minutes or so for maximum flavor. Serve garnished with cilantro if you like.

January 12, 2012

Raspberry Truffle Brownies

Makes 12 brownies

Raspberry Truffle Brownie

If there’s a better combination than chocolate and raspberries then I don’t know it. These brownies are dense and truffle-like, with lots and lots of melt-in-your-mouth raspberry flavor from both jam and whole berries. And here’s the amazing thing…they’re low in fat, high in fiber and made with whole wheat pastry flour! But don’t let that deter you, you’d never know it.

I’ve been hard at work developing healthier dessert recipes for the upcoming Forks Over Knives cookbook! I said “healthier” not “healthy” because dessert, no matter how healthy, is an indulgence. But if we’re going to indulge (and we definitely are), why not try to make those treats as nutritious as possible? Developing these treats has been a fun challenge and I’m getting a kick out of experimenting with whole grain flours, natural sweeteners and alternative sources of fat. I also like that the recipes don’t have to be too restrictive; some fats are cool to use in moderation, like nut butters, avocado and chocolate.

But back to these brownies! Valentine’s Day is coming up and you’ll surely want to make these for the one you love. Maybe you’d like to scatter brownies on the bed instead of rose petals?

A few recipe notes:
~This is one of those rare occasions where frozen fruit actually works better than fresh, so don’t worry about raspberries being out of season. The batter is very thick and I’m pretty sure that fresh raspberries would get crushed as you tried to knead them in.
~Use a naturally sweetened fruit spread if you can find one.
~For the dry sweetener, I use Sucanat, but any sugar will do.
~To get brownies as fudgy as possible, be careful not to overbake. These really benefit from chilling in the fridge for a few hours.
~To slice brownies, use a blunt knife (a butter knife or a plastic knife) and dip in water after each slice.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup raspberry fruit spread
1/2 cup sugar or other dry sweetener (see note)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8 inch pan with parchment paper and lightly mist with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate in either a double boiler or the microwave. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, vigorously mix together the jam, sweetener, and apple sauce. Stir in the extracts and the melted chocolate.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix very well until a stiff dough forms. Fold in the raspberries. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. It will be very thick, you’ll probably need to use your hands to evenly spread the batter.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, they should still be soft and gooey. If a tester toothpick comes out clean, they’re overbaked. Remove from oven and let cool completely. These taste especially good and fudgy after being refrigerated for a few hours.

January 6, 2012

The Post Punk Kitchen 100

There’s no doubt about it, veganism landed on the moon in 2011 — it was everywhere! This list is all about the food we ate once we landed. From the cookbooks and blogs that got us into the kitchen, to the gadgets that made it fun to be there — here are 100 ingredients, recipes, chefs, restaurant, tips, cookbooks, tools and websites that made us swoon all year.

I compiled the list by asking everyone from my mom to my favorite musicians what inspired them in 2011. I also posed the question on Twitter and Facebook (of course!) so that I could get as much feedback as possible. Since this is the Post Punk Kitchen 100, naturally there are a few items from Terry and I that made it on to the list, but I tried to make it as diverse as possible, giving shoutouts to the other people that made our 2011 a delicious year. I also tried to include things that everyone could afford to do right now today as well as a few items that you can add to your bucket list. For instance, I still don’t have a $400 blender but I can certainly swing an avocado masher. And hopefully there’s a tip or trick in here that will even save you money!

The list is in no particular order, #1 isn’t necessarily any more important or better than #47 in our eyes. The main point was just to have some fun. From time to time we link to stuff you can buy on Amazon. If you purchase through those links, the credit will go to supplies for The Teal Cat Project.

If you see a mistake or if I accidentally didn’t give credit, please just let me know. And of course let us know what inspired you in 2011. Enjoy!

1) Soaked cashews
2) Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food
3) Pinterest
4) Speculoos
5) Massaged Kale Salads
6) Magic Bullet
7) Garden Tomatoes No Matter Where You Live
8) Obsessive Confection Disorder
9) Caulipots
10) FUD Nachos, Kansas City, MO
11) The Broth Bag
12) Coconut Flour
13) Caribbean Vegan by Taymer Mason
14) Vegusto Cheese
15) WholeSoy Unsweetened Plain Yogurt
16) The Gnocchi at Portobello PDX
17) Vanilla Beans
18) Avocado Masher
19) Chia Seeds
20) Salt and Pepper and Chocolate
21) Down To Earth Fertilizer
22) Vegan Slow Cooking
23) Camera+ for iPhone
24) Bunnies on Blogs
25) Dunwell Donuts
26) Dumpling Squash
27) Skittles Juice
28) Tofu Xpress
29) Vegan Cadbury Eggs
30) Cuisinart Green Gourmet Skillet
31) Loafs
32) Soy-free Vegenaise
33) Secondhand Annual Magazine Cookbook Collections
34) Vegan Big Mac At Doomie’s, LA
35) Real Thai Soy Sauce
36) Refrigerator Pickles
37) OhSheGlows Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
38) Kansha, by Elizabeth Andoh
39) The Vegan Vine
40) Silicone Crust Shield
41) Anise/Fennel Seed Mix
42) Steamed Veggies
43) 00 Flour
44) Flan at Gracias Madre, SF
45) Devilled Eggs
46) Kombu
47) Cocoa from the Grenada Chocolate Company
48) Chickpea Tofu
49) Make Your Own Mixes
50) Cast Iron Pan
51) 3 Brothers Vegan Menu, Rockville Center Long Island, NY
52) Peanut Flour
53) Quinoa Sushi
54) Sweet & Sara’s Marshmallows New Formula
55) Blendtec
56) Beer Battered Avocado Tacos at Seabirds, Southern California
57) Hand Pies
58) Chickpea Magazine
59) Frozen Ginger
60) Cultured Cashew Cheese
61) Cookie Dough Shake, Chicago Diner
62) VKRees Photography
63) Sweet Pepper Onion Quiche from Louise Hagler’s Miso Cookery
64) Lentil Taco Meat
65) Stovetop Smokers
66) Steamed Dumplings and Assorted Wheat gluten at House Of Vegetarian, NYC
67) Grilled Kale
68) Maple Extract
69) Coconut Whipped Cream
70) Falafel Nachos
71) Agar Agar powder
72) Macnocheeto Burrito from Homegrown Smoker, Portland, OR
73) Parboiled Oven Fries
74) Donut Pan
75) Vegan Cheesecake
76) Saoji Masala Tempeh (and Long-ass Recipes)
77) Chloe Coscarelli’s Pumpkin Tiramisu
78) Illustrations at The Vegan Stoner
79) Gigante Beans
80) Whole Spices
81) Dulce De Leche
82) Smoky Soy Curls from Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson
83) How To Peel Garlic In 10 Seconds
84) Beet Burgers
85) Make Your Own Candy Bars
86) Marinated Tofu Sandwich From VegNews’ Recipe Club
87) Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta
88) Grapefruit Brulee
89) WeeklyVeganMenu Blog
90) Lagusta’s Chocolate Of The Month Club
91) Partially Frozen Olive Oil
92) White Balsamic Vinegar
93) Steamed Seitan from Viva Vegan
94) Food For Lovers Queso
95) Fresh Yuba
96) Indoor Mushroom Growing Kits
97) Vegan Dad’s Hot Cross Buns
98) Cooking for someone you love
99) Buying Vegan Food on Amazon
100) iPad In the Kitchen

Thanks so much for all who participated (in order of appearance)! Troy Farmer [Raven & Crow], Lagusta Umami [Lagusta’s Luscious], Lazy Smurf [Lazy Smurf’s Guide To Life], Johanna Fateman [LeTigre], Quarrygirl [Quarrygirl], Jason Das [SuperVegan], Alan Dubinsky, Kelly Peloza [Vegan Cookie Connoisseur], Angela Liddon [OhSheGlows], Sarah Kramer [Sarah’s Place], Laura Beck [Vegansaurus], Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan [OurHenHouse], Amy Gedgaudus [Tahinitoo], Terry Hope Romero [Vegan Latina], My Mom [no website], Gabrielle Pope [Vegans on the Move], Aaron Adams [Portobello], Joanna Vaught [Yellow Rose Recipes], Mo [Mo Betta Vegan], Michelle Truty [Vegtastic Voyage]

December 27, 2011

Puffy Pillow Pancakes

Makes 6 Pancakes
Time: 30 minutes

Puffy Pillow Pancakes

I miss NYC the most during the holidays. Any holiday, really, but mostly on Jewish Xmas. If you’re not familiar with Jewish Xmas, it involves Chinese Food and a movie. I always celebrate with my mom, but your family member mileage may vary.

I’m not sure Jewish Xmas can really exist anywhere outside of NYC. While the rest of the country seems to shut down and sink into a comfy sleepiness, it’s a busy busy day in New York. Restaurants do some of their best business, the movie theaters are packed. You can’t truly experience it anywhere else, I guess it’s like American Mardis Gras in that way. Jewish Xmas without NYC is like Mardis Gras without Bourbon Street.

So what’s that got to do with pancakes?

Well, I started ruminating on the ghosts of Jewish Xmas past. In particular, I was trying to recall all the movies I’ve seen on December 25th throughout my entire life. My memory is painfully shabby, but I thought of one year where it was just my mom and me, and we saw Dan In Real Life starring Steve Carrel and Juliette Binoche. I don’t remember much about that movie except for one thing: the pivotal pancake scene.

Juliette Binoche was flipping these magnificent golden brown creatures on a griddle. I think she was pissed off about something, but all I could concentrate on were those puffy pillows of pancakes, perfectly golden brown, lined up like jewel cushions on display.

Ever since, I’ve been obsessing on a pancake like that. I’ve gotten the size and shape right, but often at the expense of the texture. Too doughy, or undercooked. I think my main failing was that I wanted to see air bubbles as the pancakes cooks, but when a pancake is that thick, it’s just not going to happen, and now I know that is okay.

Since there was no Chinese restaurant open, I set about finally getting these totally right: golden, almost crumpet-like in appearance, billowy and substantial but not inelegant. I used the recipe I’d been tweaking, but I got the brilliant and innovative idea to google “Thick Puffy Pancake” and realized I hadn’t been using enough baking powder. A little adjustment and voila — perfect puffs on pancakeness. The stuff of dreams! It was a true Jewish Xmas miracle.

They’re simple so don’t let these tips intimidate you. But I do want to share some lessons I’ve learned the hard way:

~ Don’t use an electric mixer for the batter. Overmixed pancakes tend to result in a dense pancake. I use a dinner fork to get everything mixed.

~ You have to let the batter rest for ten minutes or so. The vinegar and the baking powder need to react with each other and the gluten needs to settle in and rest.

~Don’t crowd the pan. Even in my big cast iron, I don’t make more than two pancakes at once.

~ Don’t use too much oil in the pan. It will result in a tough exterior. A very thin layer of oil is what you want and a spray can of organic canola oil works perfectly for this.

~ Preheat the pan for a good ten minutes. I use cast iron and put it on moderate low heat (right around 3 on my stovetop), but you will probably need to adjust a little to get the temp just right. Remember, the temp is not set in stone. Lower and raise in tiny increments as needed. Even turning the dial 1/4 inch can result in big changes.

~ Use a measuring cup (with a rounded bottom if possible) to scoop out the batter. And remember to always spray ithe cup between pancakes, to prevent sticking.

~ Once you drop the pancake in, refrain from futzing with the batter too much. But don’t be afraid to delicately nudge the batter a tiny bit with your fingers to get a more circular shape and more even cooking. But the batter should spread a tiny bit and puff up all on its own.

And now let the pancakes begin!

Puffy Pillow Pancakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup almond milk (or soy milk)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center.

Measure the milk into a measuring cup. Add vinegar and ground flax seeds, and use a fork to vigorously mix the ingredients until foamy. This will take a minute or so.

Pour the milk mixture into the center of the dry ingredients. Add the water, canola oil and vanilla and use a fork to mix until a thick, lumpy batter forms. That should take about a minute. It doesn’t need to be smooth, just make sure you get all the ingredients incorporated.

Preheat the pan over medium-low heat and let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly coat the pan in oil. Add 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake, and cook for about 4 minutes, until puffy. Flip the pancakes, adding a new coat of oil to the pan, and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Pancake should be about an inch thick, and golden brown.

Rest pancakes on a cooling rack covered with tin foil until ready to serve. To reheat, place pancakes in on a baking sheet covered with tin foil in a  300 F degree oven for 5 minutes or so.