April 2009

I love making bread when I have the time.  There’s nothing like having an afternoon to set aside to watch dough rise while reading a book or magazine.  Normally something goes slightly awry with my bread though.  The yeast doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, the dough doesn’t proof like it should, I over bake the loaf–something.  This time, though, it turned out perfect, for perhaps the first and only time (although I’m hoping my bad luck broke and now bread and I will love each other!).

When Andrea over at Cooking Books posted a recipe for coconut milk dinner buns, I knew I had to make them.  Coincidentally I had leftover coconut milk sitting in my fridge that I didn’t want to spoil, so when the opportunity to make rolls or biscuits for my brother’s birthday dinner (the big 2-7) presented itself, I jumped at the chance to try my hand at yeast again.

Perhaps it’s just that my apartment is already unlivably hot and humid (the perfect proofing environment), but the recipe went so swimmingly I can’t believe it.  The end result is wonderful!  My sister-in-law couldn’t stop eating them they were so good.  I used half all-purpose flour and half bread flour and the crumb was perfect.  The rolls aren’t sweet at all (any more so than normal) and they were super soft with a satisfying crunch on the bottom.  Slathered in Earth Balance, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Coconut Milk Dinner Rolls

From Cooking Books

1 tsp sugar
1/2 c warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 c coconut milk
1/2 c soy milk
1/4 c Earth Balance, cut into smaller pieces
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 c warm water
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 c bread flour

Dissolve the first teaspoon of sugar in the 1/2 cup warm water, then sprinkle in the yeast.  Allow to bloom for 10 minutes before stirring.  In the meantime, warm both kinds of milk in a flame-proof bowl or saucepan until lukewarm, stirring all the while.  Stir in the Earth Balance, the 3 tablespoons of sugar and the 2 teaspoons of salt, as well as the 1/2 cup warm water.

Take off the flame, making sure that the milk isn’t hotter than lukewarm.  Then add in the yeast and 2 cups of the flour.  A whisk comes in handy hear to beat the dough until starts to become smooth and elastic.

At this point, I switched to a wooden spoon and added in about 2 1/2 more cups of flour.  Continue to beat until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed.  Add flour as you knead until the dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky.

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl and turn so that all sides of the dough are greased.  Cover with a towel and allow to double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Punch the dough down, then divide in half, and in half again, and again, until you end up with 16 dough-sections.  Roll each section into a bun between the palms of your hands and place on greased baking sheets.  Brush with the beaten egg wash.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the buns are a golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to cooling racks and enjoy!

Ever since reading about dried bean curd skin on Vegan Ronin, I’ve been on the hunt.  I had the hunch that Green Sprout’s amazing amazing amazing “chicken” dishes were made using bean curd skin and I’m fairly certain after sampling my own that I was correct.  The texture of the rehydrated bean curd skin is amazing–just like chicken!  (Well, or at least what I remember chicken being like…)  The twists are made of layers and layers of skin twisted into a knot, so each knot has this amazing dense, stringy, chewable texture.  You want to make sure that you get the twists completely soaked, though, to get that perfect texture.  It’s like rehydrating mushrooms or soy curls–you just gotta wait.

These are definitely much more wonderful than soy curls–more to chew on, although probably not good on pizza–and much much cheaper–only $2 a bag or something at Super H.  Paired with blanched and stir-fried broccoli in a black bean sauce, the chickeny twists were perfect.  The recipe makes about 6 servings and I ate most of those in three or four sittings.  Mmm perfect late night after drinking snack/meal!

“Chicken” and Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce

For the stir-fry:
1 package dried bean curd twists
2 cups boiling water/vegetable broth
cornstarch for coating the twists
2 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
1/2 onion, sliced into wedges
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 heads broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
cooked rice/grain of your choice (I used quinoa)

For the sauce (adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine):
2 tsp veg broth powder
1 c water
4 tbsp fermented black bean paste
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp corn starch dissolved in 1 tsp cold water

Reyhydrate the bean curd skin twists by placing them in a bowl with the hot water or broth for 20 minutes.  Make sure that the twists are completely saturated and not hard in the middle.

Pour some cornstarch into a bowl.  Keeping one hand dry, roll each bean curd twist in the cornstarch until fully coated.  In a deep fryer (my favorite new thing) or in a pan/pot with 1-2 inches of heated oil, fry the twists until crispy on the outside.  Set aside.  (I set the fried twists aside on a brown paper bag to soak up the extra oil.)

Blanch the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until the broccoli is just tender.  Immediately drain the boiling water and run the broccoli under cold water to stop the cooking process.  (Be careful not to overcook the broccoli!!!)  Set aside.

Mix together all of the sauce ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.  Let simmer until needed.

In a wok on medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot.  Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic.  Cook for another 30 seconds, or until the garlic becomes aromatic.  Add the broccoli and the beancurds, then add the sauce and stir-fry everything for 1 more minute.  Make sure the sauce covers everything.

Serve over your favorite grain!

Happy Earth Day!

I hate Spring.  It’s true.  Yes, it’s finally warmer weather, yes beautiful, tasty, wonderful spring veggies are finally available, yes it’s the end of the semester, and yes the trees are leafing and the flowers are blooming and the world carries and sweet green sheen.  But it’s that last part that gets me.  I have really bad allergies.  I didn’t realize I had allergies until my freshman year of college.  I enrolled in a plant ecology class, tromped around happily for two months looking at leaf bud scars on leafless trees and evergreen shrubs and then wham March and April hit.  All of a sudden going outside gave me the shivvers.  In between sneezes and I wheezed in breath, unable to get a good gulp of air in.  I had it bad.  The past couple of years have been better, and I thought this season was going peachy until Saturday morning.

See, Saturday morning I decided to snag some double-wide, super tall bookshelves off of Craigslist.  Somewhere between the highest pollen count of the season and the dusty bookshelves and then going to work in the bookstore for five hours I lost it.  It being all sense of normal human condition.  I fully intended to post a recipe Saturday, but I was having a hard enough time looking presentable for customers.  Then yesterday I had a rather high fever and didn’t really do much of anything besides watch hour after hour of The Wire (my newest TV on DVD addiction).  Needless to say, no recipe posting.

Today I’m feeling better, although not 100%.  And you know what can make someone feel 100%?  Tea and cookies of course!  I managed to find one bag of Traditional Medicinals Gypsy Cold Care tea (one of my faves) lurking in the back corner of my cupboard, hurray!, and then I remembered I had carrots and coconut oil so I could make Heidi’s Carrot Oatmeal Cookies.  Well, it turns out that I didn’t have enough of most of the ingredients, so I played around the recipe a bit.  The end result was just as crack-a-licious as my Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies.  I love that the recipe isn’t too sweet (one of my least favorite things about most cookie recipes is too much sugar) and the coconuty, salty, sweet, nutty flavor is waaay too addicting (I’m on my 3rd cookie already).  Plus the recipe produces a manageable amount of dough, which is a good thing for my 1 person household.  The great thing about this recipe, which Heidi pointed out, is that it’s so happy to be played with. You can add in or substitute almost anything. And there is nothing better than the aromatics of melting coconut oil.

Carrot Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
scant 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 c chopped walnuts
1/3 c chopped pecans
1 c shredded carrots
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c unrefined (fragrant) coconut oil, warmed until just melted
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the nuts and carrots. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the brown sugar, coconut oil, and ginger. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

I love love love sandwiches. Hand-held, self-contained, a complete meal between two slabs of tasty carby bread (sorry to all the gluten free folks, I just can’t help my bread addiction). Exactly, sandwiches are awesome.

Left-over Jamaican Veggie Patty filling is great too. Two pieces of olive bread slathered with veganaise with purple veggie stuff–pretty darn good.

Before we jet across the world from Korea to Jamaica, let me just say how stoked I am about this:

Yes! The Coomb’s Organic Maple Syrup I won from Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs arrived in the mail this week!  I, for one, am a maple syrup fiend.  Recession or no recession, I refuse to give it up.  Some people think it’s over-priced and overrated, but not me!  Where would I be without my maple glazed brussels sprouts?  Or weekend pancake brunches?  Or maple sweetened desserts?  Now I haven’t tried the syrup yet because I have an opened quart of New York maple syrup that I bought in Cuba, NY over Christmas, but as soon as I finish that, it’s on to taste-testing the Coomb’s!

Now to the recipe.  It’s no secret how much I (and everyone else in the blog world) adores Heidi’s recipes over at 101 Cookbooks.  If it weren’t for her my diet would be a bit more boring, I think.  So when Heidi posted a recipe for Jamaican Veggie Patties in March, I immediately bookmarked the page and put it at the top of my to-make list.  The first chance I got I bought all the veggies the recipe called for, raced home, put the groceries away, pulled out the recipe, and then realized that, oops, I’d forgotten the coconut oil.  Granted, I could have made it with vegetable oil, but I figured something would be missing in the end result.  I’m really glad I waited to make the recipe until I bought the coconut oil!

The scent of melting coconut oil is intoxicating.  Mixed with onions and garlic, it’s even more delicious.  I followed the recipe to a T, except I used purple potatoes instead of yellow ones because I couldn’t resist the purpley goodness of the little tatters.  Now I’m wishing I’d used them in a potato salad for tomorrow, but oh well.  I can’t win it all!  The end result was de-lic-ious.  They do need a dipping sauce, something Jamaican, but I made do with an Asian garlic chili sauce: sweet, spicy, garlicy.  The poet gave these a two thumbs up, and I agree.  It was definitely worth the wait!

Jamaican Veggie Patties

from 101 Cookbooks

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 c 1/4-inch-diced yellow onion
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 larges cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c coconut milk
1/4 c 1/4-inch-diced carrots
1/4 c 1/4-inch-diced yellow potatoes (I used purple)
1/2 c frozen peas
1/2 c frozen sweet corn
1/2 cup shredded cabbage (again, I used purple!)
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

For the Pastry:
1 3/4 c unbleached flour
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c chilled coconut oil (I used room temp. oil)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 c plus 2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
In a medium-size saute pan over medium-low heat, combine the coconut oil, the onion cinnamon, allspice, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are caramelized.

Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk, carrots, and potatoes, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the carrots and potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Stir in the green peas, corn, cabbage, thyme, and lemon juice, cover, and cook for 3 minutes more. Season with additional salt and the white pepper (or to taste) and set aside to allow the flavors to marry.

For the pastry:
Combine 1 1/2 cups of the white flour with the pastry flour, turmeric, and salt in a food processor. Set the remaining 1/4 cup white flour aside. Add the coconut butter to the flour mixture pulse until it resembles fine sand.

Combine the vinegar and water and mix well. Place the flour mixture in a large bowl. Then, without overworking the dough, add the vinegar mixture by the tablespoon, while stirring, just until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and begins to coalesce. Squeeze into a tight ball, flatten, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To Finish:
Preheat the oven to 350F and remove the dough from the refrigerator.

With the reserved flour, lightly dust a clean surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut six 6-inch circles from the dough (you can use a bowl). Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling onto the center of one side of each circle, leaving about a 1/8-inch border. Fold the other half over to make a half-moon, press to seal, and make ridges around the edge using a fork.

Transfer the patties to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Serve immediately with some hot sauce.

I went a bit nuts at the Asian markets this week. Truth be told, I hadn’t been to an Asian market in about two years (or more!) since I moved away from the Korean section of Atlanta (i.e. waaaay out in the suburbs, and I only lived there for one summer at my mom’s temporary condo). The thing I loved about this part of town was the Super H, the excellent pho, and all the bubble tea I could want.

This week, after buying a car last Saturday (I’ve been car-free for the past 3 years) so I could work my summer job and then move to Roanoke which isn’t not a car-free-friendly town, I had to drive up to the aforementioned suburbs to register the car and buy a license plate (I’m getting a Share the Road one at least!). Since I was in the ‘hood, I swung over to Super H. $50 in noodles, mushrooms, tofu products (bean curd twists hurrah!), and soup bowls, I left in a hurry. Renae, I didn’t find any vegetarian fish sauce there. Sad hat. Since I hadn’t been able to find the vegetarian fish sauce, I stopped at the Asian Farmers Market right by the highway entrance. Score! The place was nuts–half Hispanic food, half Asian–but I found the vegetarian fish sauce (yay!) and a can of veggie abalone and veggie duck. In cans! So weird and so cool! The poet says he isn’t going to eat the canned “meats,” but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. And its only gluten. So really, what could be so horrible?

As soon as I got home I was really hungry, something about driving around all afternoon and buying tons of food, so I decided to whip up some Korean tofu soup. I first had this soup a few months ago in the same part of town and it was amazing. So hot and spicy-hot and mushroomy and tofu-y and sizzling rice-y…mmm. Due to the language barrier, I’m afraid it may have been made with beef stock…but I’m going to ignore that as much as I can. It was the only all vegetable soup on the menu (at a tofu house–so misleading!), so if it was beef stocked, well, the waitress didn’t speak English so I’ll give myself a break.

My version, while not authentic (I still need some real-deal Korean clay pots to cook with so I can do the sizzling rice thing), is uber tasty. I ended up adding more pepper paste than the recipe calls for because I like my food really hot, but that’s definitely something each individual should play with. I also didn’t add any extra mushrooms than the string mushrooms, but that could be a tasty addition. How authentic is the soup? I’ve no idea. But it was perfect for the absolutely random April snow we had (yes, April snow in Atlanta, Georgia!).

Korean Tofu Soup

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Korean pepper paste (I used 2 tbsp)
4 cups vegetable stock or veggie “beef” stock
1 cup kimchee (or sauerkraut, if you don’t have kimchee around)
1 tbsp soy sauce/Bragg’s
4 cups soft tofu, sliced into 1″ squares
2-3 baby bok choy
1 package string mushrooms
3 scallions, chopped
Sesame oil
Cooked rice

Sauté the garlic in the oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock, kimchee, soy sauce, and pepper paste. Stir everything to combine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Gently stir in the tofu. Add more soy sauce or pepper paste to taste. Simmer 5 more minutes.

Add the baby bok choy and string mushrooms. Simmer 1-2 minutes.

Place one serving of rice in each bowl. Ladle soup on top. Sprinkle spring onions and a couple dashes of sesame oil on top.


One of the great things about having writerly people as friends is the creative living and work arrangements everyone comes up with. Sure, some of us teach, some of us hold regular day jobs, and some of us, including my friend M. works part-time and house-sits full time! I truly aspire to her pared-down existence, if only for the luxe places she sometimes lives in.

One of her regular haunts is a historic, fancy-pants house in the Druid Hills area in Atlanta. We’re talking a brick mansion with a 1920s swimming pool out back. There’s a greenhouse, a sauna, a hammock house, a music-listening room, and the world most beautiful kitchen ever. The wife used to run a catering business, so you can imagine the industrial quality ovens, stoves, counters, dishwashers (yes, these are all plural), as well as the spices, pots and pans, knives (I would kill for the contents of her knife drawer), and various cutlery and dishes. It’s swanky and comfortable and oh so much fun to cook in.

The other week M. invited me over for a cookbook reading date and a chance to cook in the kitchen. Given the awesomeness of the kitchen, I’ll let you imagine the awesomeness of the cookbook collection. At least 200 volumes. Plus cooking magazines. Plus she cooks a lot of vegetarian fare, so there’s no shortage of amazing vegetarian/vegan cookbooks to browse!

One cookbook that I fell in love with is Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables. Politics aside, Alice’s recipes are spot-on. They’re simple, but somehow irresistible, complex flavors arise from just a few ingredients. I also love the organization of the book, by vegetable in alphabetical order, which makes everything easy to find. While there are no pictures, something I generally require for a new cookbook purchase, I could almost taste and smell every recipe that I read. While I didn’t make anything from the cookbook right then and there (just a simple Chinese-style stir-fry), I did copy down a few recipes to make later.

The Carrot & Cilantro Soup is definitely a recipe that embodies everything I noticed in the book: simple ingredients, simple technique, bold flavors. Personally, I hate cilantro. But that’s why I wanted to make the recipe. Maybe I’d like it better mixed into a pureed soup. The smell still gets me though, even though the soup itself tastes fabulous. It’s creamy and sweet with a cilantro freshness–the perfect bridge between winter and spring flavors! I’m not unhappy that I made the recipe, and I’m looking forward to finishing off the leftovers, but the cilantro just isn’t my cup of tea. If you like cilantro, though, please make this! For one, it’s cheap–probably cost $4 to make the whole pot, maybe less, and it’s also just simply delicious. What’s not to love about carrot soup?

Alice Waters’ Carrot & Cilantro Soup

from Chez Panisse Vegetables

1 white onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of carrots (~1 lb)
3 potatoes
1-1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock (I used homemade)
1/2 bunch cilantro (add more if cilantro is your thing)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice the onion and put in olive oil to stew. Peel the carrots and potatoes and cut them into large chunks.

Once the onions are soft, add carrots and potatoes, salt generously, and continue to stew for approximately 10 minutes.

Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and simmer until the vegetables are cooked and soft. Take the pot off heat.

Add the cilantro to the pot. Puree the soup in a food processor in multiple batches until smooth. Strain through a medium sized sieve.

Reheat on stove and serve with crusty bread!