May 2010

It’s almost the weekend and a long weekend at that–anyone else excited? Tonight I’m going to see Clarence Carter perform at an outdoor venue (who knew Roanoke could get a cool soul musician???), then tomorrow is a half day of work, and then I’m off to Richmond for a bit. Vegan food on the horizon! I’m thinking I’ll have to talk my uncle and his wife into getting Ethiopian–it’s been far too long since I had some injeera. Anyone else have exciting plans?

Part of getting ready for Clarence Carter was preparing a bit of concert food. Since they don’t allow coolers in (I hate that policy–I have no desire to buy an overpriced Bud Light) I decided not to go whole hog (err…tofu) with the picnic idea, but rather to just bring a little snack. And last weekend when I picked up the sweet red cherries at the farmers market I knew almost immediately what I wanted to do with them. Make cherry empanadas of course! So tonight I’m taking some empanadas to the concert. A little bourgeois, maybe, but whatever.

Now you know me, I can’t just make a simple version of anything (unless it’s intentionally simple). Thus the gluten-free buckwheat cherry chocolate empanada was born. Maybe this empanada isn’t exactly authentic, maybe it’s more like a handpie–I don’t know. All I know is that they’re out of this world, with hardly any sugar added. Who would want to mask the tart sweetness of the cherries? The buckwheat gluten-free pastry gives the empanada a savory side which, I think, pairs well with the tart-sweet-smooth chocolatelyness of the filling. And instead of making a typical cherry pie-like filling, I went with the apple pie filling route: just cherries, chocolate, a dash of sugar & lemon juice, voila. They get two thumbs up from my non-gluten-free, non-vegan testers, so I guess that’s a win. So go make some fruit empanadas this weekend with whatever is fresh in your area! You won’t regret it!

Buckwheat Cherry Chocolate Empanadas

For the pastry:
3/4 c buckwheat flour
1/2 c chickpea flour
1/4 c rice flour
1/4 c sorghum flour
1 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2/3 c Earth Balance/butter substitute
1/4-1/2 c ice water

For the filling:
1 1/2 c sweet red cherries
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp rice flour

In a large bowl, combine the gluten-free flours, salt, sugar, and xanthum gum.

Using a pastry cutter, cut in the Earth Balance in tablespoon size chunks until it is mealy with no chunks of Earth Balance left.

Add the ice water a little at a time, using a spoon to evenly distribute it until a large clump/ball forms. You only want the pastry wet enough to press into a ball–no wetter.

Wrap in saran wrap and let chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, pit the cherries and cut them in half. I used this trick to pit them from the Kitchn and it worked great! Chop the chocolate.

In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and cherry halves with the sugar, lemon juice, and rice flour. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two baking sheets with oil.

Take the pastry out of the fridge. Using only a small chunk at a time (a small fist-sized chunk), roll out the dough between parchment/wax paper or saran wrap (I used the latter and it worked fine). You want the dough to be approximately 1/4 inch thick, no thinner.

Using something approximately 4″ in diameter (I had a giant coffee cup that worked), cut a circle from the dough.

Place on the baking sheet where you’re going to bake it (the dough can be hard to work with, you don’t want to use it much) and place 1-2 tbsp of the cherry mixture on one half of the circle. Fold over in half and pinch the edges closed. Repeat until there is no more dough/cherries.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown at the edges. Let cool for 15 minutes before eating.

Makes 15 empanadas.

Last Saturday I had the immense pleasure of going to the Grandin market for the first time since the last weekend of October–and let me tell you, it was good to be back!  After catching up with farmers and producers I hadn’t seen in months, I finally settled on buying a bunch of new herbs & vegetables to plant in the garden (lemon balm, sage, tons of basil, spaghetti squash, etc.) along with some lettuce and fresh sweet cherries.  One of my favorite scores, though, was finding the chicken of the woods mushrooms again!  Oh, how I’ve missed these strange, chickeny fungi.

The last couple of times I had them I simply braised or seared them, but this time I decided to go out on a limb–a highly sacrilegious limb, or so it felt. You see, the mushrooms are always my most expensive purchase–$5 for about two servings (although I stretch it out)–and while that’s all relative, the thought of deep frying such expensive delicacies seemed wrong.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the evening chatting with the man who holds the title of the largest morel found in Iowa. This guy hunts up morels so often that he deep fries them. I gave him hell for that–I mean, why on earth would anyone deep fry a morel?! It’s just wrong! I’ve only had the chance to eat them twice in my life and this man deep fries them?? Well…I deep fried my chicken of the woods and holy mother of mary they were awesome. The batter was just like the fried chicken I grew up eating at church picnics (cheesy but true) and the mushroom still, I honestly swear, tastes like and has the texture of chicken. It’s uncanny. Sacrilegious or no, these fungi are wicked good.

Southern Fried Chicken of the Woods

2 large chicken of the woods mushrooms
1/4 c En-Er-G Egg Replacer
1/2 c water
3 tbs siracha/hot sauce
1 c self-rising flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Thoroughly wash and clean the mushrooms and cut into desired size.

Whisk together the egg replacer and the water in a bowl until foamy and thick. Add the siracha/hot sauce.

In a pie pan or 8×8 baking dish, mix together the self-rising flour, salt, and pepper.

Warm at least 3 inches of vegetable in a pot (I used my circa 1973 Fry Daddy) until a drop of water crackles and pops when flicked into the oil.

Dredge the mushrooms in the egg replacer mixture and then in the flour, thoroughly coating each piece.

Fry two or three mushroom pieces at a time, being sure not to crowd because that will lower the temperature of the oil.

Once golden brown, place on paper towels to drain excess oil.

Serves 2

This past week has been crazy, a lot of sleep to catch up on, ankles to rest, etc. after my time in Mobile. Turns out I injured my ankle pretty badly while making the wedding cake/rehearsal dinner/reception. Not sure what I did to it, don’t remember twisting it or anything, but I’m not able to run or go on my usual longer bike rides. I feel a little pent up, not going to lie. But I am swimming regularly, since it’s the one thing that hurts slightly less than everything else, and I’m still riding my bike around town for transportation (hope my mom doesn’t read this, she’s urging me to stay off it, which I probably should…but I just can’t…ahhhh conundrums!). Injuries aside, I swear (for the last time) I’m back on schedule here.

Looking back at my pictures, though, I can’t help but smile quite a bit when I remember pelicans and sailboats and dancing around to Nola-style jazz at the reception. Making the wedding cake? Not so fond memories, but, with my mother’s help, it turned out alright. And doesn’t my mother look beautiful? She & Todd were the very picture of pure joy (as cheesy as that probably sounds, it’s true)–they give me so much hope for real love and community in life. I was so blessed to be able to share the journey with them!

But back to life in the ‘noke, though. This week has been a blur of wrapping up my 1st year of grad school–mostly meetings, I finished all my projects last week while in Alabama–and continuing to work as much as possible before the public school system’s year ends and I’m jobless until August. Given that I never know what day I’ll work and where I’ll be working, I like to keep lunchroom-friendly leftovers on hand, and given that I still had about 2 lbs of corn tortillas leftover from the enchiladas and a package of tempeh sitting in my fridge and homemade chili powder on hand, I figured I might as well put them to list.

While tempeh tacos might not be too utterly original or interesting, I think that the simplicity of the tacos is what makes them shine. I simply marinated the tempeh, sauteed it in some olive oil, and served it on the fresh tortillas with local, organic salad greens, diced tomatoes, and my version of my favorite Mexican diner’s hot sauce. They just go to show that you make excellent entrees with relatively few ingredients. I also served the tacos with some fried potatoes, but I’m saving that recipe for a rainy day.

Edit:: An Apple A Day is hosting a TofuXPress giveaway–go check it out!

GF Tempeh Tacos & Super Hot Salsa

for the Taco-Style Tempeh:

1 package gluten-free tempeh
1/3 c + 2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp dark chili powder

Cut the tempeh into thirds, then cut each third in half width-wise to make nine equal-sized thin rectangles.

In an 8×8 baking dish, mix the 1/3 c olive oil and Bragg’s together. Dredge the tempeh in the mixture and then place in the baking dish. Sprinkle the minced garlic and chili powder on one side of the tempeh.

Let marinate for 4-6 hours, flipping over after two hours.

After the tempeh is marinated, warm 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Saute the tempeh on both sides until lightly brown and crispy. Set aside to cool.

For the Super Hot Sauce:

3 medium slicer tomatoes
1 onion
2 jalepenos
1-3 chiles de arbol

In a blender, puree the tomatoes, onion, japenos, and chiles de arbol. Add a little water if needed to puree. (Note: chiles de arbol are super hot–beware! I use 3, but I have a stomach of steel and adore ridiculously hot peppers. For the general public, 1 chile de arbol is more than enough.)

for the Tacos:

1 recipe Taco-Style Tempeh
1 recipe Super Hot Sauce
1 tomato, diced
1 c mixed salad greens
24 fresh corn tortillas

Warm the corn tortillas in the oven or microwave.

Slice the each rectangle of tempeh into 4 smaller rectangles.

Use two tortillas per taco (double layer them) and place a small handful of greens in the tortilla, then layer three or four pieces of tempeh on top of the greens and sprinkle diced tomatoes on top.

Serve with the hot sauce (drizzle inside the taco or dip the taco in the hot sauce).

Serves 4.

You know when you crave something and then you don’t make it and then, for weeks or months, you have this little nagging desire at the back of your brain?  I’ve been wanting to make enchiladas for the longest time, but during my food funk I never got around to making them, and two or three months later I finally decided to give them a go–that’s what friends and weekly potlucks are for: motivation.

But, with my enchiladas, I didn’t want to make the usual vegan version–the ubiquitous V*Con sweet potato and kale ones. I love the V*Con enchiladas as much as I love both sweet potatoes and kale, but I’m a bit sweet potatoed out these days. So when I saw Homesick Texan’s cheese enchiladas with a chili gravy, I knew I had to make them. But what filling to use?

Then it hit me–if I’m going to the amazing Mexican grocery store on the outskirts of town to buy chiles to make my own chili powder, then I might as well pick up something like sweet potatoes but not–i.e. plantains. I’d heard about plantain mash, but never made it, so I thought it might make a good base for the filling, and with black beans and corn mixed in, the entire combo sounded like a winner.

Important note regarding the homemade chili powder which I think is integral to this recipe: blister the dried chiles in your oven, not in a cast iron skillet. I love my cast iron, but the first recipe I made burned the peppers because the flame was too hot. Using the oven, at least, you can monitor the peppers easier and pull them out before the burn completely (something which is hard to see on a guajillo which has a dark skin). When in doubt, blister them for four, five minutes at a max and then take them out. Better to be underblistered than overblistered.

And one of the best things about the recipe? You can take any leftover tortillas, plantain mash, beans, and corn and make quesadillas! Who needs cheese when you’ve got plantains and homemade chili gravy?

Gluten-Free Plantain & Black Bean Enchiladas

for the Plantain Mash:

2 ripe (yellow with black spots) plantains
1 tsp salt

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.

Peel and cut the plantains into equal size chunks. When the water is boiling, add the plantains to the water and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the plantains are soft.

Drain the water, rinse the plantains, and put in a medium bowl and mash. Set aside.

for the Chili Gravy
slightly adapted from Homesick Texan:

1/4 c vegetable oil
1/8 c oat flour
1/8 c sorghum flour
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp powdered garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp chile powder
2 c vegetable broth

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flours and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.

Add all the dry ingredients and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients.

Add vegetable broth or water, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens.

Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water to adjust the thickness.

for the Enchiladas:

1 recipe Plantain Mash
1 recipe Chili Gravy
8-9 corn tortillas
1/2 can of black beans
1/2 c frozen/fresh corn
vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 450.

Pour the 1/2 an inch of oil in a small skillet, and heat the tortillas one at a time, flipping over to warm each side. Add more oil as needed. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated.

Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy in an 8×8 glass baking pan.

Take a tortilla, put 2 large spoonfuls of plantain mash in the tortilla. Add 1 spoonful of black beans and corn on top. Roll the tortilla and place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Pour remaining chili gravy on top of the enchiladas and bake for 10 minutes until bubbly.

Serves 4

Greetings from Mobile, AL!  I’m down here for a week for my mom’s wedding (which I making the wedding cake for too) and these few days before the festivities and cooking hit full swing, we’re trying to eat as light and flavorful as possible (everyone wants to fit into their dress/suit…such a delicious drag).  So last night we grilled out–my first cook-out of the year–and while the recipes are simple, you can’t beat fresh grilled vegetables.

The eggplant slices were marinated in a store-bought marinade, but the corn was slathered in basil butter (mix 2 tbsp fresh minced basil with 4 tbsp Earth Balance) and wrapped in foil before grilling.  The zucchini and yellow squash were put in a foil packet with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Everything, of course grills at it’s own pace, but the corn takes the longest, followed by the zucchini and the eggplant.  Served over a little leftover quinoa and the plate was perfect!

I’m hoping to keep this updated on my regular schedule, but we’ll see how it goes with the wedding prep and all.  Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

How I spent my Saturday:




and eating a lot of veggie burgers.

Finished a perfect 100 out of all the women and under 2 hours (and didn’t drown during the swimming part!!!)–met my goal!