Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Vegan Mofo 4: A Trip to Penzeys, or I can stop anytime I want to.

I just really, really don't want to. I thought I had a game plan: I went during lunch, not too much time, and only needed one thing, just one little thing. Once again, the sweet siren's song that is Penzeys has gleefully dashed me upon its delicious shores. In other words:

Damn it, Penzeys, I only needed cinnamon! 
So now that I'm about $50 out of where I meant to be, what can I whip up for a quick, cheap dinner? This may be a deja vu moment, but I'm kind of obsessed with beans and rice. I was a poor college student for the majority of my life. And who am I kidding with the 'was'? Beans and rice have always been at my side, and on my hips, through thick and thin. You can dress them up any way you want to. Any cuisine, at any point; beans and rice. Give it a try some time and see. Now on any given day, you could bust out those Rancho Gordo beauts, soak them overnight, break out that heirloom rice, get a nice glass of Chianti, some candles, set the mood... Me? Nah, I got your can of beans right here, baby. They may even be store brand (I promise they're not)

For the main event? I sniffed my way around the shop today on a leisurely stroll and found this:

It smells like everything I've ever wanted. I just met you, and I love you. Much to the dismay of my Italian mother, I have a deep love of Indian food, and a nasty track record of recreating my favs. This is kind of cheating because I centered everything on this one blend, but I highly recommend it. After all, it's 10:30 pm, and I'm thinking of going down for a second helping, so let's get this started, shall we?

Quick, Dirty, and Inauthentic

1 15 oz can of Dark Red Kidney Beans
Oil for the Saute
1 small Onion chopped
3 cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
Hot Pepper Flakes to taste
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds (guess where I got mine)
1 to 2 tsp Rogan Josh Seasoning, or you favorite blend
Fistful of Cilantro
 Brown Rice (Trader Joe's)
Salt to taste

In a saucepan, heat the oil on medium with the mustard seeds, hot pepper flakes, Rogan Josh blend, onion, and garlic. Saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add your beans (you rinsed these, right?) with about half a can of water, add your cilantro, and let bubble 'til the flavors have melded and it's the consistency you want. Now's a good time to taste for seasoning. I'm often heavy handed with spices, so I added more. I may even have thrown some vindaloo spice in there for a little punch, but I'll never tell.
Serve over brown rice! What did that take, like 10 minutes? Yep.

Get yourself an arial view:

 Okay, now a little to the right:


Monday, October 8, 2012

Salted Apple Cider Caramel and a Side of Naan

Two great tastes that um, well, no. You see, we left for Austin on Sunday morning, and I typically make something crazy on Saturday. With no place for whatever I made to go, I scaled it down a bit. While I figured I could get off my lazy arse and attempt a homemade naan to go with what was left of our Sag Paneer, I also wanted to do something in the spirit of the season. I had a jug of apple cider in my fridge, and a pretty constant desire to get this caramel thing down right (previous installments have had near phantom of the opera results)

 The secret to caramel, you see, is to actually leave it the hell alone. Not just say that you're going to, but actually do it. Multi-task, but multi-task in your kitchen so that you can keep an eye on it. For instance....Make some Naan.

Naan for the Lazy - Adapted from Veena Chopra's Indian Vegetarian

2 3/4 cups Flour 
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
2 tblsp Soy Yogurt 
6 Tblsp Coconut Milk (leave room for more)
2 Tblsp Earth Balance
 1 tsp Nigella/Charnushka Seeds (optional)

I picked up the Nigella seeds from, you guessed it, Penzeys. I wouldn't put it past me to name my firstborn, Penzey. We all have our addictions.

When I first had naan with these seeds in it, I thought they were bits of char from the oven. The best way I can describe their taste is: familiar. Try it and see if it doesn't remind you of that implacable something from your childhood. Backyard grills, or blue skies, it haunts me still. Do you have to have these seeds? Of course not. 'Have to' and 'should' are two very different things.

Preheat your oven to 450 ° 
Mix your flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Cut the earth balance into the dough until it reaches a small pebbles state. It's best if you use your hands in this one. Make a well in the center of the flour and add in your soy yogurt, seeds if you have them, and coconut milk. Combine everything until it comes together into a ball, try not to over work it. If the 6 tablespoons of coconut milk are not enough, add more by the tablespoon until everything comes together. I'm going to tell you right now, mine was dry, you don't want that. You want a silken, smooth texture. So don't do this when you're distracted about having to be stuck a mile up in the air in a small metal tube for 4 hours, it could mess with your naan mojo. Let the dough rest for a half an hour. 

This dough is dry. Don't let this be your dough. I'm an honest person, I could tell you that this was the greatest thing I ever made. That the resulting naan was so good that I was instantly transported to my favorite Indian restaurant and all my naan related troubles vanished for good, but no. I won't do that to you. I'll give you the nitty gritty and the skinned knees of it all, and give you the tips to make yours work. Hell, I'm not even sure if naan has two 'a's in it, but it does now, baby. It does now.

Divide your silky, smooth dough into 4-6 pieces and arrange them on a parchment lined sturdy baking tray. Brush the top of the naan with lightly water. As you may notice, I did not do that.

 Bake for 10 minutes, or until browned, flip, and brush the top with water. Bake another 10 minutes or until golden. If your naan are smaller, start off with 5 minutes and go from there.

Brush tops with some earth balance, or even coconut oil. Me, I got some nice naan frisbees. You, you will do better. I have faith in you.

 With the kinda bad also comes the good, as it is with so many things. I cheered myself up with some salted apple cider caramel in my latte. When I get home, I may bake it into a pie. Or maybe just sit in the corner cradling the jar murmuring 'preciousssss' Whatever I decide to do with it, it shall be delicious. You know I'm just going to eat it straight up, right? Just so we're clear here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sag Paneer is no longer my Kryptonite

It's one of those occasions, like so many before it, that is just so ridiculous that you can't even explain yourself in hindsight. I loved Sag Paneer. Paneer tastes like tofu. I can make Sag Paneer vegan.
My god. It's full of stars.

 This recipe comes to us from the good ol' Cooking Channel, aka the only reason I have cable, aka the only reason I have -premium- cable. Bal Arneson, The Spice Goddess, did something I found amazing, she added multiple types of greens to the dish. She also omitted the cream, keeping it very simple. Look, it was 6:30, I was starving after a particularly long Friday, I stumbled blindly through the recipe on my phone, I didn't even have fresh ginger, and this was amazing. You have no excuse. 

Sag Paneer - slightly adapted from this

2 Crowns Broccoli, Chopped
2 Cups Spinach, Chopped
Oil for frying 
1 Onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1 Tblsp fresh ginger, or 1 tsp powdered
1 Tblsp Garam Masala
1 tsp fenugreek (omitted due to hatred)
Chili Flakes to taste
Salt to taste (Obvs)
1 Brick of Tofu, pressed and cubed

The main flavor component here is Garam Masala, do yourself a favor and go to Penzey's, or your local spice market, and pick some up. It will change your life. As for the fenugreek? I'm sure it adds to the backbone of the flavor. I'm sure something about that sourish, bitterish taste, and cloying sticky smell is great, but no thank you. I'm good.

You're going to want to press your tofu. I have a lengthy explanation of how to Here

In the meantime, steam your broccoli crowns and spinach. Don't overdo it! You don't want mush. Well, you will want mush later, but on your own terms. Make sure things stay vibrantly green. If you're super lazy in a devil-may-care sort of way, steam your spinach in the bag it came in. It gave me the willies to microwave in plastic, but it got me to where I needed to be. Cut an 'X' into any stalks that are too thick to steam quickly, or are looking at you funny.

Set the greens aside to cool a bit. In a saucepan, add the chopped onions, garlic, salt, spices, and saute until the onions are translucent and the spices are nice and toasty.  
Take your greens for a whirl in the food processor or blender. If they are still steaming, take the little cap off the top of your device so it can vent, or you will be very sad, and possibly scalded.
I was aiming for a rough chop, but wound up with a pretty fine puree. Do what makes you happy. You could even mash the greens by hand, if you felt the need to vent some aggression in productive manner. Put the resulting mixture in the pan with the garlic, onion, spice mixture, and let it simmer for 5 minutes. 

In a skillet, put enough oil of your choice to coat the bottom, and toss in your tofu cubes. You can brown them, or you could stare at them resentfully for taking so long, and take them out once they're only warmed-through. I won't judge.
Plop these into your sag mixture, be careful not to break up the pieces, I guess. Whatever, I'm going to eat it either way.

Ahem. Serve over rice, or with some homemade Naan-whoarewekidding- rice.

By now, you must know that it's going to be hard to take a pretty picture of this. I wanted to. I tried to. At the end of the day, it's ground up spinach over tofu. It's going to look like something your body rejected after a well spent night at your favorite dive bar.  It's not pretty, but it is delicious. Here's attempt number one:

Hmmm. How about some bamboo? Does that help?

No, no, that might actually make it worse. Well, this one might not make it up on tastespotting, but that's their loss, not yours.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vegan Mofo 2012

I feel as though I flirt with disaster on a daily basis, so much so that we're now on a comfortable, first name basis. Let us not speak of prior attempts, let's maintain a forward looking, sunshine-and-rainbows approach.
Here's a look at what I've been playing with the last few months:

What happens when you take a classic French dessert and twist/bend/mangle it to your will?

Coconut custard-y things! At one point like a marshmallow, and in another turn, a sort of a vanilla-y gum, and after a day in the humidity, maybe best left alone. Perhaps a rationalization to get an acetylene torch. What? It's a great idea!

You'd think I'd leave the French alone after that one, right? Well, the only reason I even ventured into that territory was because the bastardized brioche  was quite tasty:

Turns out all you need to make successful bread is also the same thing you need to cut down your energy bill- a 90 degree kitchen.

Someone gave me a hard time about cake:

but oddly, not about my blatantly mismatching plates.

And finally, I've found the best air freshener in the known universe:

Freshly baked banana bread, warmly spiced and with double chocolate goodness. I slept so contentedly that night. 

Now that October is here, I'm all aflutter with baking plans and plots- that and the $17 of U-Pick apples in my kitchen. Game on.