August 11, 2013

Grilled Ramen

Serves 4 to 6
Total time: 3 hours (or overnight) || Active time: 30 minutes

Grilled Ramen

Curly noodles in a homemade dashi broth, topped with grilled hoisin tofu, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and some diced avocado. OMG it’s Grilled Ramen. And it is beyond sublime. The kind of food that brings the room to a hush as you take your first slurpy bites.

This is definitely a date night recipe. Or a marry me recipe. Or a “I just want to do something special for no particular reason, so sue me” recipe. The sweet char of the tofu, and the meaty earthiness of the shiitakes play well with the briny broth. The avocado mimics the fatty boiled egg often atop a big bowl of steamy ramen. And a healthy dose of sliced scallion adds a bright freshness and some crunch.

Also, grilled greens are all the rage these days! Baby bok choy is especially fun, since it’s like two veggies in one: the crisp snappy stems and the velvetty leaves. Even if you don’t want to make the entire recipe, give the bok choy a whirl some time.

To make this recipe not such a pain in the tuchus, make the broth a day ahead, and marinade the tofu overnight. The next day, you’re essentially just boiling the noodles and grilling some stuff. And it is so worth it!

Grilled Ramen

Recipe Notes

~ You definitely want the right noodles for this! A trip to an Asian grocery should provide you with a wall of ramen to choose from. We’re not talking the kind that come with a flavor packet, just a plain old back of curly looking noodles. However…

~ If you can’t find the right kind of noodles anywhere, than any supermarket ought to have those packaged noodles, and there is often a vegan flavor. So let’s improvise. Lose the flavor packets and just boil the noodles as directed. In these packages, the noodles that have been fried, so, I dunno, whatever your opinion on fried foods, take that into consideration. I suppose some people will be stoked on that and others not so much.

8 oz plain ramen noodles (see note above)
1 recipe Miso Dashi Broth

For the marinade:
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce or  tamari
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

For marinating:
12 to 14 oz block extra firm tofu, pressed
1/4 lb shiitake mushroom, rough stems trimmed

For the bok choy:
4 baby bok choy sliced in half
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

For garnish:
1 ripe avocado, diced small
1 cup thinly sliced scallion

In a wide shallow bowl, mix together all of the marinade ingredients.

Slice tofu into 8 even slabs widthwise. Place in marinade for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, flipping occasionally.

Keep the shiitake mushrooms on standby, as they will be dredged in the marinade prior to grilling.

When the tofu has marinated, cook the noodles according to package directions, then immediately cool them under cold running water, and set aside. Also, make sure your broth is piping hot and ready to go, since everything else will happen rather quickly.

Heat up a grill to about 450 F.

We’re going to put the bok choy on the grill first. Brush each half with sesame oil, and sprinkle with a little salt. Place face down on the grill for about 5 minutes, until grill marks appear. Keep the leaves away from the direct flame, if possible, since they will burn if too close to the fire. As you can see, I keep one half of the grill off, so that the leaves don’t burn.

Brush the grill with a little sesame oil, and place the tofu on the grill as well, cooking along with the bok choy for about 5 minutes. Once the tofu is on the grill, dredge the mushrooms in the marinade.

When you remove the bok choy, flip the tofu, to grill for another 5 minutes. Use a thin metal spatula to flip, so that you can really get under the tofu and it doesn’t stick. In the meantime, place the dredged mushrooms on the grill, and let them grill for 5 minutes as well.

Now remove the tofu and mushrooms from the grill. It’s time to assemble your ramen!

Place the cooked noodles in the hot broth to heat through, just for about 30 seconds. Divide into big bowls.

Slice tofu slabs on a bias, and divide amongst the bowls. Add bok choy, mushrooms and and avocado in little piles. Scatter scallion across the top, and serve immediately!

August 7, 2013

Miso Dashi Broth

Makes 8 cups broth
Total time: 2 hours || Active time: 20 minutes

(disclaimer: I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe alone, so I didn’t get a shot of the actual broth. This will have to do!)

Dashi, if you’re not familiar, is the deeply umami Japanese broth used to make ramen. Traditionally, it’s made with some fishy ingredients. Literally. Here, we’re simply making a veggie broth, with a healthy dose of kombu, for a slight taste of the sea, and miso, for that fermented deliciousness. I’m going to be posting a whole ramen recipe in just a bit, but I wanted to get the party started and get this broth up first. And you should totally read up more on dashi, its history and technique is definitely worthy of reading about in more than the few sentences I can afford to do here.

But why make your own broth? There are so many varieties available in the supermarket these days, that simmering your own can seem like a hassle. And maybe, compared to simply grabbing some off a shelf, it is. But creating your own scratch-made broth has many benefits. Not everything should be overlooked in the name of convenience!

So here are my top 10 reasons for making your own broth.

1) Taste 
Taste is a great place to start. Plenty of pre-made broths taste anywhere from “just fine” to “pretty darn good.” But homemade is simply just better. Fresher, more aromatic, and endlessly customizable to your taste. Make it as salty as you like, add different veggies, more or less garlic, and on and on. And if taste isn’t incentive enough….

2) Cost
I know that you occasionally have an onion laying around, beginning to sprout. Or a few carrots just languishing in the fridge. And how about that last little nub of ginger that will probably wither away eventually. That is (almost) all you need to make this vegetable broth. So let’s just say it’s practically free.

3) Less wasteful
Less packaging and less processing…these things are all great for the planet. We need a planet so that we can do fun things like make vegetable broth!

4) Aromatherapy
There is a definite difference between being in a home that has a veggie broth simmering on the stovetop, it’s gentle aroma filling your senses…and being in a home that has bubkis. But honestly, the process of making the broth will improve your mood drastically. From the scent to the sense of accomplishment when sipping your soup, the therapeutic benefits are unsurmountable.

And now the cons…
1) One Passover, not long ago, I spent the day making a metric tonne of broth for the Matzoh Balls. Once it had cooled on the stovetop, my mom threw it out thinking it was garbage. What the hell, mom?

OK, so moms tossing out your creation aside, I’m assuming you’re now completely on board. Find a relaxing time, when you have plans to read or watch a movie or troll the internet or whatever, and then get brothing!

Recipe Notes

~I prefer to use cheesecloth to strain the broth because that means you can squeeze the boiled veggies and get every bit of flavor, while still having a nice, translucent broth. But if you don’t have it/don’t want it, then don’t worry! Just use a fine mesh colander, and let the veggie drain over a pot.

~This recipe is for a miso dashi broth, but if you leave out the miso, it’s still a really yummy broth! In fact, if you leave out the miso AND the kombu, it’s still delicious. Again, it is endlessly customizable. Add fresh herbs, if you like, or extra garlic, or no garlic, or…you get the picture.

~You can leave the skin on the onion since everything gets strained. It actually may increase the golden hue of the broth in the end. You don’t have to peel the ginger or garlic, either. Fun.

~Mirin is an ingredient I always have around. It’s a sweet rice wine that just makes flavors pop. I use it most often in stirfries, but it definitely adds a depth to the broth. However, you can totally leave it out. Again: customizable.

1 tablespoon oil (peanut, sesame or canola are all good choices)
1 large yellow onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 large carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced
12 cups cold water
2 sheets kombu, cut into 3 inch strips
2 tablespoons mirin (optional, see note)
3 tablespoons mellow white miso
2 teaspoons salt

Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic in oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, just to get a little caramelization going.

Add the carrots, ginger and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, leave the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape, and lower heat a bit, simmering to reduce by about 1/3rd. After about 30 minutes, add the kombu. Let cook an additional 30 minutes or so, removing the kombu at this point so that it doesn’t get slimy. All said, it should simmer for a little over an hour, and reduce to 8 cups.

Add the mirin, miso and salt and stir. Let simmer for an additional 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Place a separate pot, large enough to manage 8 cups of broth, in the sink. Place a handled strainer so that it sits securely on top of the pot (as pictured). Line with a few layers of cheesecloth with plenty of overhang. Pour in the vegetables and broth and let strain for about 20 minutes.

Once cool enough to handle, bunch up the cheesecloth and squeeze, so that the vegetables release as much moisture and flavor as possible.

Taste for salt again, and now your broth is ready to use! Freeze in tightly sealed plastic or glass containers for up to 3 months, if not using within the week.

July 25, 2013

Ranch Salad With Buffalo Tempeh

Serves 2 to 4
Total time: 30 minutes || Active time: 30 minutes

Buffalo Tempeh Ranch Salad

I needed a way to use up my leftover ranch dressing, so why not Buffalo some tempeh? Spicy, tangy, saucy tempeh over a cool ranch salad was just what the summer night ordered. And this recipe is capital E lowercase A lowercase S lowercase Y. (Um, that spells “Easy.”)

Secret: sometimes I google my own recipes. So instead of, you know, opening my copy of Appetite For Reduction, I found the Buffalo Tempeh recipe online. In fact, I came across a blog that mentioned crumbling instead of cutting. “Hmmm, no slicing, that sounds cool.” Thought lazy me. And so I crumbled. And then, once the laziness took hold, I really didn’t feel like steaming or marinating. Instead, I used the method for Tempeh Sausage Crumbles in Vegan With A Vengeance. Essentially, steam that yumminess in the same pan you’re going to saute it in. Pour in the sauce, and boom, a really really really easy summer night topping for your ranch salad!

The ranch will make more than you need, but I’m sure that’s ok, right? I looooove powdered onion and garlic in ranch dressing. I don’t know, I was born in the 70s, that’s what we ate, there were no fresh onions or garlic. But feel free to use fresh as you see fit. In my opinion, fresh chives are a must!

Recipe Notes

~The nutritional yeast in the recipe is just for body. It helps the dressing cling to the veggies. But you can omit it, if you like!

~I never measure the water for steaming the tempeh, I just make sure that the tempeh is submerged, and maybe poking out of the water just a bit. This process takes out the bitterness that is sometimes associated with tempeh, and gets it nice and ready for soaking up the sauce.

~This recipe makes the perfect amount if you’re having dinner for two. If you’re serving it with a soup or side, then it will be enough for four. The recipe doubles wonderfully, though, if need be.

~If you’re wondering if you can use another hot sauce besides Frank’s….no! It has to be Frank’s for that Buffalo flavor. I mean, I suppose another “Lousiana style hot sauce” might work, but don’t come crying to me if it’s not awesome.

For the tempeh:
8 oz tempeh
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot hot sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano

For the ranch dressing:
1/4 cup vegan mayo, homemade or storebought
1/4 cup unsweetened unflavored almond or soy milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh chopped chives

For the salad:
2 romaine hearts, chopped
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced cucumbers

Extra chives for garnish

Tear the tempeh into bite-sized pieces and place in a large stainless steel pan. Cover with water (see note above), cover and bring to a boil. Let steam for 15 minutes or so, and in the meantime, make the dressing (directions below).

After 15 minutes, most of the water in the tempeh should be mostly evaporated. Drain the remaining water, if any, into the sink, being careful not to lose any of the tempeh (hold it back with a spatula or something.)

Return to the stove and drizzle in two teaspoons of olive oil. Saute tempeh for 7 minutes or so, until lightly browned. Shove all the tempeh to the side, and saute the garlic in the remaining teaspoon of oil for 15 seconds or so. Then flip it in with the tempeh and cook for a minute or so.

Add the hot sauce, vegetable broth, and oregano and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook for 5 more minutes. The sauce should reduce by half. Taste for salt. It really shouldn’t need any because the hot sauce is pretty spicy.

To make the dressing:
Mix all ingredient together in a mug. Use a fork and just stir until well combined.

To assemble:
Toss the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers with a 1/2 cup dressing or so. Top with tempeh, spooning extra sauce from the pan over it. Serve with additional ranch and dig in.

July 18, 2013

Zucchini-Banana Bread

Makes one 8 x 4 loaf (10 slices)
Total time: 90 minutes || Active time: 20 minutes

Zucchini-Banana Bread

This bread answers so many questions. Like, “What am I going to do with all this zucchini?” And “What am I going to do with this overripe banana?” And before you know it, the gentle scent of cinnamon is wafting through the house and you pull this beauty from the oven.

Zucchini bread as it should be, at least in my world. A toothsome crust and tender moist crumb. Studded through and through with raisins and walnuts and laced with delicate spice. Sweet, but not too sweet, and sturdy enough to dunk into a mug of coffee if the need arises.

And don’t worry, I’m not gonna say that thing that people ALWAYS say when discussing zucchini bread. You know the thing I mean. Don’t make me say it!

Fine, I’ll say it: and there’s a vegetable in it so it’s good for you! Har har. ::the sounds of the entire internet groaning::

Anyway, I know it’s hot and you don’t want to turn on your oven. But just bake this when the sun has gone down and then you’ll have a perfect morning treat when you wake up.

Recipe Notes

~For zuke bread perfection, I like zucchini that is grated in tiny pieces, not shredded in long strands. To achieve this you can either hand grate it on a box grater, working in quick short motions. Or, you can chop it into chunks and pulse in a food processor, being careful not to puree it.

~One averaged-sized zucchini should get you a cup of grated. Your mileage may vary! But a 6 oz zucchini should just about do it.

~Many zucchini breads call for you to drain the zucchini prior to baking. I say “YEAH RIGHT NO WAY!” Instead, this recipe uses the moisture from the zucchini in the bread, instead of adding any additional liquid, saving you a very annoying step. You’re welcome!

~Obviously, you can play around with the add-ins in the recipe. Choose pecans or hazelnuts instead of walnuts, dried currants or chopped dates instead of raisins. Have a blast with the ingredients you have on hand!

~Sometimes on my quickbread recipe posts, people report that theirs came out flat. It’s ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS because they’ve used a different sized bread pan than I do. I use an 8×4 metal bread pan for all of my quickbread recipes. Many people have a 9×5. You can use that, but yes, it will be wider and flatter than mine is, and it will bake a bit faster.

~If you don’t have the correct sized pan, I would just suggest making muffins. Bake for only 22 minutes or so.

1 large very ripe banana
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup grated zucchini

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8×4 metal bread pan.

In a mixing bowl, mash the banana well, until no large chunks are left. I use an avocado masher for this. Add the applesauce, canola oil, sugar, and vanilla and use a strong fork to mix well. Mix in the grated zucchini.

Sift in 1 cup of the flour, the cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt. Mix to combine. Add the walnuts, raisins and final 1/2 cup of flour, and mix just until no visible flour is left.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick or knife. If it needs more time, turn heat down to 325 F and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Slice and serve!

July 11, 2013

Stonefruit & Lentil Salad With Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette

Makes 6 servings
Total time: 20 minutes || Active time: 20 minutes (not including time to cook lentils)

Stonefruit & Lentil Salad

I love summery food. But enjoying a summery salad doesn’t mean that you have to be hungry ten minutes later. Enter the lentil.

This salad, studded with the little legume, makes the most of the season. It’s hearty and light at the same time. Sweet and savory. Whimsical, yet down to earth. Full of contradiction. It’s the Zooey Deschanel of salad!

I love to toss together field greens, with their pretty colors and velvetty textures, and romaine, for the crunch. The fruit adds sweetness (obviously), but texture, too. Choose fruit that is a little bit more firm than you’d like to eat as is, that way it holds its sweet form once you mix it with the dressing. And the lentils make the salad not only substantial but also maybe a little adorable?

The pickled red onions are totally optional. But I urge you to make them because 1) they’re easy and 2) they add a sweet tartness that just makes the salad sing. All you have to do is toss the pickles in a little vinegar and sugar right before prepping everything else. 15 minutes will give you a mild pickle, but if you do it a few hours ahead, you’ll get something awesome like this (excuse the Instagram photo!):

Pickled Red Onions

They’re great on veggie burgers and tacos, too. If you’re not the type to make pickles, this might be the time to change that. It makes a great conversation starter/pickup line. “Hey, I make pickles.” Try it.

Ok, now go forth and salad!

Recipe Notes

~You can use whichever stonefruit you’d like. Mix it up, even, with plums and apricots. Add some pitted cherries. Live a little.

~I use French or beluga lentils here, because they hold their shape wonderfully. Brown or green would work, too, but don’t mess with red lentils or you’ll have mush salad.

~To cook lentils, submerge them in slightly salted water by 3 inches. You can throw in a bay leaf, if you like. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer, and let cook for about 20 minutes, with the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Check tenderness after 20 minutes, but it could take 30 or even 40 minutes for them to be Goldilocks perfect: not too soft, not too hard.

~Once lentils are tender enough, drain and spread them out in the colander to cool. (Obviously make sure the colander has holes small enough that the lentils won’t fall through.) If you’re trying to speed chill them, place in the freezer and give them a stir every few minutes. They’ll cool in 15 minutes or so that way. Otherwise, place in the fridge once they’re stopped steaming. You can do this a few days ahead.

~If you don’t want to cook lentils, you can purchase canned or boxed ones that are already cooked. They’re pretty good! Just give a rinse and you’re good to go.

For the Pickled Red Onions:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
Small red onion, sliced into thin half moons

Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup vegan mayo, storebought or homemade
2 tablespoons chopped shallot or onion
1 clove garlic (about a teaspoon minced)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Big pinch salt

For the salad:
4 oz mixed greens
1 romaine heart, chopped
1 lb stone fruit (I used nectarines), diced small
2 cup lentils cooked lentils (see cooking notes above)

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar and salt. Add the onions and splash them around. Let them soak while you prepare everything else, giving a stir every now and again. You can also prepare these a few hours, or even a few days ahead, for a more pickly pickled onion.

To make the dressing, wizz everything together in a small blender. Taste for salt and seasoning.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the greens, fruit and lentils. Top with pickled onions and drizzle with dressing. Serve!