July 2009

I’m hoping that this delicious, quick, and easy dinner will pardon the sin of what’s to come on Saturday. Currently I’m baking the most unhealthy cookies in the world. Maybe not the world, but close. I can see all my healthy, fit, vegans shaking their heads at me…I’ll have hell to pay for this goodness.

But for the present time, I give you a super healthy, antioxidant rich, protein laden made in under 20 minutes dinner: Red, Green and Blue Quinoa. It’s simply delicious.

Red, Green and Blue Quinoa

1/2 c quinoa
1 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch spinach, rinsed
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 c blueberries, rinsed
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved

Soak the quinoa in hot water for five minutes.

While the quinoa is soaking, rinse the spinach of any dirt.

Bring the quinoa and 3/4 cup water to a boil in a pot. Once it begins to boil, lower to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until fragrant (don’t let the garlic brown). Add the spinach. Saute for 3-5 minutes until just wilted. Add the balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from heat.

Once the quinoa is cooked, plate with the garlicy spinach and a mixture of the blueberries and cherry tomatoes.

Serves 2.

Damn. Venezuela does it right.

As you know by now, I’m constantly on the quest for the perfect vegan sandwich. In fact, I’ll even eat very unvegan sandwiches given the right circumstances (i.e. drunk off my rocker at Elliot Street Pub where the sandwiches are the best in town–never vegan, but really darn tasty). So when the New York Times posted this mouthwatering article about the best places to nab a patacón in New York City, I knew Atlanta needed one. Or, rather, that I needed one. And pronto. “But why all the trouble, when two slices of white or rye might do just as well” Dave Cook, the reporter, asks. The answer he gives: “Because Venezuelans love their plantains “morning, afternoon and night.”

Guess what, it’s not just the Venezuelans who love their plantains, it’s also me, myself, and I (and hopefully you too). If you’ve never tried a double fried green plantain, well friend, now’s the time. Seize the day.

The patacón is made up of a “green (that is, unripe) plantain that’s been sliced lengthwise, fried, pressed flat and fried again. Still warm, the golden discs embrace shredded beef, roast pork, chorizo, chicken or cheese.” The article described a couple versions, most with meat, tomato, lettuce, and a sauce of some sort, so I decided to try my best at veganizing the very meaty treat. As far as the wastefulness of the foil is concerned, it’s pretty darn hard to eat the sandwich without wrapping it in something–the sauce flies everywhere–so, well, it’s worth it.

My personal patacón consists of the fried green plantain “bread,” chopped up and seasoned gluten, tomato, lettuce, and my own thrown together pink sauce. Is the ensemble authentic? Lord knows. Was it super ridiculously delicious? Amen. The gluten tasted like chorizo, the tomato was fresh, local, and juicy, the sauce was perfectly spicy & creamy, and the plantain was fried plantain goodness (there’s just no human way to describe the starchy perfection of it). You can substitute whatever you’d like, I’m sure, for the meat and the fixin’s, I think the only requirement is the fried plantain. So go for it! Seriously, right now, go make one!

Vegan Patacón

1 green plantain
several slices of Kittee’s gluten log
fresh crushed pepper
1/2 tsp Cajun spice
1/2 ripe tomato, sliced
1 or 2 pieces of lettuce
2 tbsp Veganaise
1-2 tsp spicy mustard
2 tsp ketchup
Hot sauce to taste
Oil for frying
Empty beer bottle
Paper bag

In a small bowl mix the veganaise, mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce to taste. It should be pink and spicy.  Set aside.

Heat up 1 tsp vegetable oil in a small pan. Chop up the gluten until it looks like shredded pork. Add to the oil and brown with fresh pepper and Cajun spice. Once slightly crispy and browned (like you’d want your vegan chorizo to be), remove from heat and set aside.

In another pan, heat up 1/4″ vegetable oil for frying the plantains. While the oil is heating up, chop the plantain in half (i.e. halfway between the ends), then in half again lengthwise. Peel it. Fry the 4 plantain pieces on one side until golden (3-4) minutes. Flip over and do the same (mine took less time on the second half, 2-3 minutes). Carefully remove (I used tongs) the plantains and place on a cutting board or piece of parchment paper. Using the beer bottle, gently roll the bottle up the plantain from one end to the other flattening the plantain to 1/4″ thickness. BE GENTLE. You don’t want to smoosh apart or tear the plantain. Once flattened, fry each piece on both sides again until golden/golden brown. Remove and place on a paper bag to drain the excess oil.

Now to assemble. Place one plantain slice on a piece of tin foil. Slather on a generous amount of pink sauce. Next layer a tomato slice or two, two or three heaping spoonfuls of the “meat”, some lettuce, and another slathering of pink sauce. Top with another plantain slice, then wrap in the foil. Repeat with the other two slices.

Eat while hot, be careful not to get pink sauce all over you, and come back to me with news about how awesome Venezuela is.

Sometimes you just need a quick, summery dessert-snack. And sometimes you have three peaches and one small package of blackberries sitting around. What else to do but make individual cobblers?

Happy weekend all!

Blackberry Peach Cobbler

3 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 small package of blackberries, rinsed
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp corn starch

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 stick cold Earth Balance, cut into small pieces
1/8 c boiling water

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a small bowl, mix the peaches, blackberries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In three small Corningwear dishes, pour in equal amounts of the blackberry peach mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another small bowl, blend together the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, mix in the Earth Balance until a coarse, crumbly meal forms. Pour in the boiling water, mix until just combined.

Remove the blackberries/peaches from the oven, top with the biscuit batter, and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the biscuits are golden on top.

Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then enjoy!

I’ve been baking a lot lately, which isn’t a bad thing, just strange given that I haven’t done much baking over the past year or so.  When the site first started it’s practically all I did.  Speaking of which, starting that is, my veganisery was a few weeks ago, July 7!  Totally forgot about it.  So it’s been 2 years since I went vegan, 2.5 since I went veg.  It seems longer, as in I can’t remember why I ever ate meat or enjoyed it.  Someone asked me yesterday (he’s cut out all meat but chicken, interestingly what I did before I turned veg) if I ever miss meat.  It was an easy answer–no.  I never have, not even in the early days.  I remember the last meat I had–some nasty orange chicken dish at a cheap Chinese place–and it was totally gross.  There was no going back after I realized how gross cheap meat is.  I do occasionally miss cheese and eggs, but not for taste.  I miss cheese because I miss eating it while drinking a nice glass of wine.  I miss eggs because they were so darn convenient.  When I became a vegetarian I ate an egg every morning.  It was great having that easy source of protein.  Totally environmentally degrading, but easy nonetheless.  I have decided that whenever I get my own house with my own yard I will have chickens.  I would love to have environmentally and ethically responsible eggs–something I don’t see as an option unless I personally feed, clean, and love the chickens who lay them.  One day.  I guess I won’t be a vegan then, but I’m not too attached to the movement as a whole–just the way of living environmentally and ethically in the red.

So on to the recipe.  After my farmer’s lovely gift last week I knew I needed to bake something to say thanks.  Given that I’m moving in…oh my gosh…3 weeks or so, I’m trying to clean out extra pantry items.  Sitting on the corner of my flour shelf (yes, I have an entire shelf devoted to flour) was a bag of buckwheat flour.  I’d never used it, just picked it up on a whim from the bulk section of the coop.  But I wanted something to put in the bread, give it a little pizazz.  Thankfully my boss had just donated some springs of rosemary from her garden and I had some oregano left over from the gift last week–fresh herbs!  Then, because they ought to go in everything of course, I rehydrated some sun dried tomatoes and chopped them up super finely.  Using my so awesome I can’t get over it Kitchenaid mixer, making the bread was a whizz.  The end result is a dense yet sweet and chewy crumb–perfect for soups. The intensity of the buckwheat was calmed a bit by the sun dried tomatoes and the fresh herbs gave it a nice Italiany kick.  I’d recommend the recipe more for winter than summer, the density makes it perfect for a warm and hearty meal, but I’m pretty proud of the result.  Maybe I really can do this whole make up your own recipe thing!

Sun Dried Tomato & Fresh Herb Buckwheat Rolls

1.5 tsp active dried yeast
1 c warm water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 c rehydrated sun dried tomatoes, chopped finely
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped finely
1 1/4 c buckwheat flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
~1 1/2 c high gluten bread flour (you may need more or less, add slowly)

In a large bowl (or the mixer’s bowl), combine the water, sugar, and yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until the yeast is frothy.

Add the salt, sun dried tomatoes, herbs, buckwheat flour, and whole wheat flour and mix with a spoon or with the mixer’s paddle until well combined and a dough begins to form. If using a mixer, switch to the bread hook. If using a spoon, continue to do so until a ball of dough forms, then continue on to knead.

Slowly add the bread flour 1/4 cup at a time until a ball of dough (moist but not sticky) forms. If using the mixer, leave the mixer on at medium speed with the dough hook for 5-7 minutes. If using your hands, knead the dough for 10-12 minutes.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, place in a warm (but not hot) place (I use the inside of my oven if it’s not turned on), and allow the dough to double in size for approximately 1 hour (it might take longer).

After the dough has doubled, punch it down, then divide it into 8-10 equal pieces. Form rolls. Place on an oiled baking sheet, cover again with the towel, and place the rolls back in the warm place and allow to rise for another hour.

After an hour has passed, preheat the oven to 350F (remove the rolls from the oven if that’s where they’re proofing). Once the oven is preheated, cut x’s in the top of the rolls, then put them in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown.

Let cool, then serve!

Is it possible to make too many mojitos?  Really, is it, be honest with me.  This weather is just too nice & mint is just so in season! These evenings beg for porch sitting and cool drink sipping and desserts that are light and summery.

Light and summery…fresh mint…limes…rum–how about a mojito eclair?  I actually made cream puffs because I wanted more than just four or five eclairs for the dessert party I brought them to, but hey, cream puff or eclair, it’s the same (sans shape, of course). I don’t remember exactly why I needed to make a mojito eclair, why not just regular eclairs, but however the idea was born, I think, personally, that it was a pretty good one. I’m not one to experiment nuch with flavors or make up my own recipes, and although I haven’t done a web search yet, I feel like the combination is rather unique. If not, well, I still think it’s awesome.

The eclair is composed of a regular choux pastry shell, filled with a mint custard, and drizzled with a light rum & lime glaze. Simple as that! And, as my mother pointed out, eclairs seem so fancy but they’re so simple make. This recipe is no exception. Oh, and might I suggest you mix up a cocktail or two to keep you company while you slave away in the kitchen? It’s perfectly refreshing in a hot kitchen!

Mojito Eclairs/Cream Puffs

For the choux pastry (from Musings from the Fishbowl):
1 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer whipped until stiff with 1/3 c water
1 c soy milk

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare egg-replacer. Stir together flour, vegan sugar, salt, baking powder.

In a sauce pan (non-stick works well), bring the soy milk and margarine to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the flour all at once, and reduce heat to low. Stir constantly until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the pan and the spoon and is glossy and smooth.

Working quickly, remove from heat and add the Ener-G Egg Replacer, about a third at a time, beating well after each addition until the dough is glossy, smooth, and pulls away from the pan.

Shape the puffs as desired–just make sure each puff/eclair is rounded enough to fill with custard. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 for another 30-40 minutes (half way through, flip the puffs over so that they bake evenly). Once slightly golden on the bottom, turn off oven and allow the puffs to cool with the door slightly cracked for another 20 minutes. Take out of oven and set aside.

For the filling (adapted from Veg Source):
2 c soy milk
3/4 c  sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
4 springs fresh mint, chopped finely

Mix 1/4 cup soy milk with cornstarch. Set aside.

Bring 1 & 3/4 cups of soy milk and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, immediately remove from heat. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the boiling soy milk. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick like pudding.

Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and mint. Set aside.

For the glaze:
3/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 oz light rum (I use Bacardi)
zest of one lime
juice of half a lime

In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients until a glaze forms. Add more sugar or rum until you achieve the consistency you want.

To assemble:
Cut the puffs/eclairs into two pieces (1/3 for the top, 2/3 for the bottom–not an exact half) with a serrated knife. Pick out the doughy insides to form cavities.

Scoop 1-2 tsp of the custard into the puffs then drizzle the glaze on top.

Let chill for at least 1 hour, then serve!

It’s been the perfect weekend: 80 degrees, no humidity, bright blue skies with white fluffy clouds, and lots of porch sittin’ and mojito drinkin’. Need I say more?

Sloppy Joe’s Mojitos

from Gourmet

Light Rum (I use Bacardi)
Fresh mint
Soda Water

Put a teaspoon of sugar in a highball glass, squeeze in the juice of 1/2 small lime, and toss in the squeezed lime shell. Muddle for a moment with 3 sprigs fresh mint, add 1 jigger light rum and handful of fine ice, fill with chilled soda, and relax.

First of all, is there anything more wonderful than opening up a too full and extremely disorganized fridge and being greeted by a bouquet of fresh mint? It’s a beautiful sight. And one that will (hopefully!) translate into an awesome baking project this weekend. I’m feeling my kitchen groove come back. But you’ll have to hold for the results until next Tuesday!

Another wonderful and inspiring thing in my life, person, actually, is one of the farmers at the Emory local farmers market. I can’t remember his name, or the farm’s name, but let’s just say that he made my week. I’ve been showing up to his stand every week for the past month or so buying basil and zucchini (pretty much all he’s had), but this week when I stopped by it was with a heavy heart. I had only $1 to my pre-paycheck name and no funds to pull out cash from the ATM. Not only did I only have $1, but he had a luscious spread of herbs, tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, and something else I’m forgetting. It was a tragedy. But, smiling, I asked him for as much basil as $1 could buy. While opening a little paper bag he asked me to try a cherry tomato. Did I like it? Yes? “Here, I’ll throw a few in. Oh, do you like oregano? I’ll give you some of that too.” At my protests he simply shrugged his shoulders, saying “you’re a regular.” Elated, thrilled, joyful–none of these words really describe how wonderful the transaction was. A stranger giving away food because that’s what you do in a community-based society–you help each other out. Needless to say I’m going to bake him up something super nice to give him next Tuesday as a thank you. BUT this is all to say: GO OUT AND SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS. Not simply because they’re nice and friendly and will give you free food when you’re out of luck before your paycheck, but because by supporting them you’re supporting a community, and by supporting the community you’re ensuring the well-being of not only yourself but the people you know enough about to care about and countless others that you don’t know about and don’t know enough to care about.

Ok, so, the recipe. Again, it’s a simple farmers market dinner of basil, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini mixed with my pantry staples–fusilli pasta, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, and almonds. But it’s delicious and filling, which is all I can really ask for. You can use any nut, of course–pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, cashews–whatever you have on hand: that’s the beauty of pesto!

Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Almond Pesto

1 c fresh basil
1/4 c sun dried tomatoes, soaked in water for 10 minutes if dried
1/4 c almond slivers
1/3-1/2 c olive oil (depends on how well the sun dried tomatoes incorporate to the basil and almonds)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt

Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until well combined. It will be slightly chunky, but well mixed. Add more oil as necessary (I found that adding oil to each serving size helped the pesto cover the vegetables and pasta).

Serve with pasta and fresh, seasonal vegetables.

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