December 2008


Happy New Year everyone!  Looking back over the past year, it’s surreal to think that everything that happened happened in under 365 days.  I almost moved to Germany.  I was going to graduate.  I was going to Africa for summer study abroad.  I was going to start a bicycle co-op in Clarkston for refugee children.  I decided to not graduate and decided write a thesis.  I moved back closer to campus and away from the city.  I met the poet.  I decided to take chemistry instead of going to Africa and ended up taking a fiction workshop instead (bad move, if you ask me–apologies to any fiction writers!).  I continued to take classes, mostly graduate level, and write my thesis.  I applied to graduate school for a MFA in poetry, not ecology.  I sent out my work to literary journals, and after a few months found out that I’m getting published in The Hollins Critic (an established and prestigious journal, actually).  I flew to Boston and met the poet’s important family–the twin sister and older brother–and survived.

And now I’m ringing in 2009.  2009 is pretty mythical.  It’s the year I always assumed I’d be graduating (not last year, which would have been after only 3 years of undergrad), and now it truly is.  And so so so much is up in the air.  I know I’m graduating, but I haven’t heard back from the summer job I applied to.  I know I’ve applied for MFA programs and I know that I have a really strong portfolio and fabulous recommendations, but it’s all just a shot in the dark.  If I do get into a program, I don’t know which one it is yet, so I can’t make any moving plans.  It goes on and on.  But I’m excited!  Waking up tomorrow will be surreal.  2009 will be real.  But I am oh-so-ready to face it.

I hope you all have a wonderful time doing whatever you’re doing tonight and that your new year is exciting and surprising!  I’ll see you with the new numbers tomorrow!

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Forgot to mention, I’m in Boston until New Year’s.  See you then!

How the heck is Christmas next week?  I’m flying to Boston (anyone have good vegan restaurant suggestions?) on Thursday, and somehow I have to be ready for everything by then!  Time flies a bit too fast for my taste.

Oh, and since I’m out of town for the holiday, my mom gave me my Christmas gift last night–a Black & Decker vacuum cleaner!  Yippee!!!  (No, seriously, it’s all I asked for this year–a vacuum cleaner, any vacuum cleaner).  Cats are messy bedfellows.  Well, dirty, at least.

And now the part you’ve all been waiting for, the soup recipe!  I mentioned in the first post that the recipe is from Leite’s Culinaria, so you can link over to the original site to view the recipe as well.  The soup is extremely easy to make and 100% satisfying.  I was unsure about pureeing the vegan sausages since I figured they wouldn’t add that much flavor to the soup, but I think they did give the broth a bit of a kick.  As for the kale, you can substitute collards or some other leafy green vegetable.  You could also make the soup sans sausage–it would just be a potato-kale soup then, and that’d be quite lovely too, I think!  Oh, and I browned the garnish sausage dice in a bit of olive oil to give the sausage more texture.  While I love the steaming method, the sausage isn’t texturally perfect for eating on its own.

Caldo Verde

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 vegan chouriços, diced
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups vegetable broth
1 pound kale, cut into very fine julienne
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic and half the chouriço and cook for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, cover everything with the water, bring to a boil and lower the heat, simmering until the potatoes are almost done, about 15 minutes.

When the soup is cool enough to handle, purée it in the food processor and return to the pot. Add the greens, bring everything back to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining cubes of chouriço.

I’m really glad you all like the sausages!  I have a couple sitting in my fridge waiting to go in another seitanic potpie I’m making for my mom’s birthday (which is today, but we’re celebrating tomorrow).

Now, step two of the perfect winter meal.  Bread!  My friend Melissa (who regularly stalks the blog–hey Ranger!) made this bread the other week and I fell in love with it.  As a no-knead bread, it couldn’t be any simpler, and it’s…well…perfect.  I’m getting a sourdough vibe from it.  But you don’t have to have any starter.  Just flour, yeast, salt, and water.   I’m not sure where she pulled the recipe from, so I can’t credit it, but damn, it’s good.  You can also use half whole-wheat flour, half all-purpose/bread flour, but apparently it’s a no-no to call it Bosnian Bread when it’s whole wheat.  But it’s ridiculously tasty that way too!

Bosnian Bread

4 cups bread flour (or all-purpose)
1 package instant yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
2 cups water

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with a spoon or your hand.  The dough will be sticky and loose (not soupy though).  Cover with a wet warm cloth and let it sit overnight (or 8-10 hours).  (note: one time I made it at night and let it sit till morning, the other time I made it in the morning and let it sit until evening–both times worked great!)

Spray a loaf pan with vegetable spray oil.

Scrape dough into pan and let it rise for 30 minutes.

After it has risen, place in a cold oven.  Turn the temperature to 500 degrees and bake for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Let it cool on a baking rack before you slice into it.  It’s worth it for a nicely sliced piece!

So I received my first Christmas present last night!  My dad and I met up for dinner at Across the Street (mmm tvp tacos! and sangria!) and a mini-shopping spree at Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe last nigh,t and I walked away with a bag full of goodies.  Hurrah for being vegan and having vegan-specific stores in town!  At the bake-off on Sunday, a bag from Queen Bee Creations in Portland caught my eye.  Originally $98 but marked down to $76, I knew that if the chance arose I was going to nab it.  My original bigger bag that I use for school grew a hole in it, so I figured I better replace it before my keys fell out.

I also grabbed a copies of Bryana’s Nonna’s Italian Kitchen and Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen.  I stir-fry a lot and I normally find my recipes online, but having sauces and mock-meat recipes in one place is going to be great.  I haven’t decided what to make first–sizzling rice soup, kung pao chicken, beef and broccoli–it all looks so fabulously good.  Chinese cuisine is definitely one of my favorites.  I’m also excited about the Italian one because I’ve wanted an excuse to buy a pasta maker.  Homemade tortellini or ravioli?  Yes yes yes please.  I miss Italian food so much–not the cheeses, but the pasta choices.  Occasionally I end up at Figo, an Italian chain, and while I’ve learned that I can substitute meat from the sauces, I’m still stuck with penne pasta and a rather bland tomato sauce.  Have I mentioned that I love stuffed pasta?  I can’t wait to try any of these recipes out.

Now on to the recipe I promised.  I have I whetted your appetite yet?  Have I teased your tongues?  Well here’s the first installment!  Like many of you, I ran across Leite’s Culinaria’s recipe for Caldo Verde, a traditional Portuguese soup.  Last week, a beautiful bunch of kale came in my vegetable husband basket, and with the weather being so dreadfully cold for the South (it’s all relative, I know), I decided that nothing sounded better than kale soup.

One problem though.  Arguably, the main component of the dish is a hard sausage.  But I was determined to make this dish.  I did a few Google searches to see if anyone else had perfected vegan chourico, and Bryanna actually had one online!  Unfortunately, her recipe was for a loose tvp crumbles and the soup required a hard sausage.  While I normally don’t go out on a limb and veganize savory dishes (I’m truly more creative as a baker), I figured I could take Bryanna’s seasoning mixture and create my own saussage a la Julie Hasson.

The end result?  The most delicious vegan sausage I’ve made to date.  The poet agrees.  Don’t be dissuaded by the incredibly long ingredient list–this is worth it.  Plus the steaming method takes only 30 minutes, so you’ll have your saussages in no time.

Stay tuned for the next two pieces of the recipe!

Vegan Chouriço

2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup soy flour
2 tbsp Veg Base broth seasoning stuff
1  tbsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tsp liquid smoke
2-3 T. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2  cups cool water

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients.  In a seperate bowl, whisk together the liquid smoke, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, and water.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.  Knead the dough for a minute to make sure everything is mixed, and then let the dough sit for 5 minutes.

Scoop 1/2 cup dough mixture at a time and shape into logs.  Place logs on piece of aluminum foil and roll up, twisting ends. Place sausages in steamer and steam on medium heat for 30 minutes.

Remove sausages from steamer to cool.  Once they are cool, remove the aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Caldo Verde & Bosnian Bread

Just a teaser, but over the next week I will be presenting to you the perfect winter meal in three parts. So stay tuned!

It’s hard to post something fabulous after a bake-off win, but let me introduce you to my new friend, the Komatsuna Green.  This delicious little leafy thing came in my first Vegetable Husband basket (a service I’m eternally thankful to Leigh for posting about) and I knew it was the first ingredient I wanted to use this week.  After a bit of research, I learned that Komatsunas are a relative of the turnip but are also called Spinach Mustards in the US.  Grown almost exclusively in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and now, apparently, the state of Georgia, it’s a rich source of calcium that can be stir-fried and pickled, or used like bok choi in any dish.

I decided to stir fry it with dry-fried tofu in a ginger almond miso sauce recipe from About.com.  As much as I love cookbooks themselves, I kind of majorly love the internet as well.  I would have never used this sauce otherwise.  I chopped up the komatsuna greens like I would bok choi, stir-frying the stems first and then the leaves, and the recipe worked perfectly.  The flavor is a bit stronger that bok choi–more green? if that’s a flavor…–and the sauce was  bit too salty for me–maybe you should use a red miso instead of white–but I like the combination mostly.  If you have the chance to pick up some komatsunas, do!  I’d love to see them turn up in my next basket!

Komatsuna Greens in Ginger Almond Miso Sauce

1 bunch Komatsuna Greens, stems and leaves separated
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 lb firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce/Bragg’s Amino Acids
1 tablespoon miso
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup cooked red quinoa (or rice or other grain)

Dry fry the tofu. I divide to tofu into 2 batches to do this. After it is crisped the way you prefer it, set it aside on a plate to add to the stir-fry later.

Chop the komatsuna stems into 1/2 inch pieces.  Julienne the leaves.

Heat up a wok (without oil) and add the almonds.  Stir-fry quickly until fragrant and toasted, about 45 seconds. Remove.

Then in the wok, heat up 1-2 tbsp of sesame oil on medium heat. Add the onion, cook for 6-7 minutes or until the onion turns clear and soft.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the komatsuna stems and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the leaves and cook for another 5 minutes.

While the komatsunas are cooking, combine the soy sauce, miso, and vinegar until smooth and set it aside.

When the greens are tender, add the tofu and then drizzle with miso sauce and sprinkle with almonds.

Serve immediately.

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