Thursday, March 19, 2015

Asian Barbecued Tofu with Miso Corn-Edamame Salad

I tore out this recipe for Spicy Barbecued Chicken with Miso Corn from the October 2014 issue of Food & Wine, and have been meaning to veganize it ever since. The photo just stopped me in my tracks, not because I wanted to eat chicken, but because something about the combination of barbecue sauce and grilled corn instantly sent me off dreaming about warmer weather and picnics in the park and cookouts and weekends at the beach with the kids... you know, summer stuff. After a particularly brutal winter and an incredibly stressful move, I found this recipe again among a shockingly large stack of recipe clippings (seriously, I think I have a problem) and knew that the time had finally come to try this one out.

It not being summer yet, corn is still not in season, but luckily I almost always have frozen corn in my freezer, as well as edamame. I thought a succotash-type salad would be a great accompaniment to some barbecued tofu. I didn't change anything at all for the barbecue sauce recipe, I simply marinated one package of extra-firm tofu in it, instead of chicken, then sliced and grilled it. This barbecue sauce is mind-meltingly good. It is slightly spicy and sweet and truly finger-licking good. I spooned the leftover marinade generously on the grilled tofu slices, and poured the small remainder over some rice the next day because I didn't want to waste a drop of it. The corn and edamame salad is buttery and miso-y, and is a perfect accompaniment to the spicy sweet tofu. This dish is great because you can make it any time of year, but will be really perfect to take on picnics too, once the weather warms up.

Like I said, I didn't really change the barbecue sauce, but I adapted the corn recipe so that it worked with frozen kernels instead of whole ears. Let's make this and meet in Prospect Park!

Asian Barbecued Tofu with Miso Corn-Edamame Salad
serves 2-4

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
1 15-oz. package extra-firm tofu, pressed

1-2 Tbsp. vegan butter, melted
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. white miso
1/2 scallion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 1/2 cups frozen edamame (shelled)

1. Prepare the tofu. In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients except the tofu. Add the tofu and let stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, turning over midway through so that both sides are coated evenly.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the corn and edamame salad. In a small bowl, mix the butter, sesame oil, miso and scallion together. Add the corn and edamame, toss to coat evenly. 

3. Heat a grill pan* on high and brush with canola oil or use cooking spray. Cut the tofu into 8 even slices (cut width-wise) and grill 4-5 minutes on each side, until you have nice char marks, brushing the leftover marinade on the slices as they cook. 

4. Saute your corn and edamame salad in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat for several minutes, until vegetables are heated all the way through. Serve warm or at room temperature alongside the tofu, garnished with sliced scallion. If you have any leftover marinade, feel free to pour that on top of the tofu slices. 

*If you don't have a grill pan, a regular non-stick pan is fine too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PlantPure Nation: Ethiopian Lentil Stew

In my last post I reviewed Love Fed, a raw food dessert book from BenBella Books. For this post, I have two more titles from BenBella that I have recently tested out, and fallen in love with! First up is The PlantPure Nation Cookbook, by Kim Campbell, daughter-in-law of T. Colin Campbell whom you might know as the co-author of The China Study. We are huge fans of The China Study book in this house and have sent copies to many of our family members, where it goes largely unheeded, but that's another story. Anyway, The PlantPure Nation Cookbook is the companion book to the documentary film PlantPure Nation, executive produced and directed by Nelson Campbell (husband to Kim and son to T. Colin, if you're keeping track), which will be released this summer. This is the same creative team that brought us the film Forks Over Knives, so I have no doubt that this will be another must-see documentary that will combine inspiring story-telling with a simple, science-based approach to show us all how a vegan lifestyle can, you know, save your life and the rest of the planet too.

But back to the food. Pictured above is the most mouth-wateringly delicious Ethiopian Lentil Stew (recipe below). I love love love Ethiopian food, and as soon as I saw this recipe I couldn't wait to try it. The base of almost every Ethiopian recipe is a very complex spice mix called berbere, which can be very difficult to find, but Campbell helpfully includes a recipe (also below!) so that you can make your own mix and keep it on hand. The lentil stew had the wonderful berbere seasoning as well as butternut squash and spinach. I made it early in the day to have for dinner later, and it tasted even better after it sat for a few hours, allowing all the flavors to meld. And it was yet again even better the next day, when we finished up the leftovers. This recipe is going into my regular rotation, so I hope you make it and enjoy!

But that's not the only recipe I tested from the PlantPure Nation book - I pretty much always have to try a mac & cheese recipe if one's included. This Macaroni & No Cheese is baked and features a cheesy sauce made from cashews, butternut squash, nutritional yeast, and of course other seasonings. I added some peas and carrots to the mix to try to sneak in some extra veggies for the kids, but when they picked them out I could still be silently happy that I was at least making them eat squash. Solid, easy, and tasty.

These Gingerbread-Blueberry Pancakes were a special weekend treat. They were thick and hearty, and wonderfully spiced with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Warming and delicious.

And I made this Broccoli Salad because it reminded me so much of a very similar recipe that my dear friend Wendy gave me last year. The veggies are mixed with raisins, sunflower seeds, and vegan bacon bits (I used tempeh bacon) and a mayo-mustard-agave dressing. It's smoky and sweet and crunchy and chewy all at the same time. Just calling it Broccoli Salad really undersells it, because it's so good.

And finally, before we get to the recipe, I also reviewed another title from BenBella, The Best Green Smoothies on the Planet by Tracy Russell. It has 150 recipes for, yep, you guessed it, green smoothies, helpfully categorized according to their main benefits: Detox & Cleansing, Weight Loss, Antioxidant, Fitness & Energy, Immune-Boosting, Calcium-Rich, Heart Healthy, Iron-Rich, and Mood-Enhancing. We have a serious green smoothie addiction in my house because, as I have mentioned, I have a vegetable-averse toddler. He will pick out the most microscopic "green thing" out of his food, but ironically will happily down just about any green smoothie that I make for him. It's an excellent way to get your greens in, whether you're a picky toddler or a busy adult. Some of the combinations I tried were the Banana-Pineapple-Spinach, the "Green Machine", the Mango-Kiwi, the Chocolate-Peanut Butter (because of course I did), and the Coconut-Goji Berry. I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of pictures of green smoothies though, so just have a look at my adorable baby girl drinking the Banana-Pineapple one here.

And finally, the exciting part. Thanks again to BenBella Books for granting permission to publish this recipe. As I mentioned, it can be hard to find in stores, but if you want to purchase your own berbere mix instead of making it, Amazon has it here.

Ethiopian Stew

Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 45–60 minutes

This is an easy slow-cooked or one-pot dish. It is slightly spicy, sweet, and rich in flavors. This recipe uses berbere spice, which is a key ingredient in many Ethiopian dishes. It’s a combination of more than ten individual spices. It can be difficult to locate, but you can make your own (below). I also have purchased berbere through Amazon.

1½ cups dried lentils
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ tablespoons Berbere Spice (below)
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 red onion, diced medium
2 cups diced butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons pureed ginger
2 cups chopped frozen spinach

1. Put all the ingredients in a pot and simmer until the lentils are tender, 45–60 minutes. Do not overcook because the lentils will turn to mush.
2. Add water if necessary to thin the stew. I sometimes like to add extra tomato paste for a richer flavor.

Berbere Spice

Yields: 6–7 tablespoons
Prep Time: 5–10 minutes Cook Time: 0 minutes

This is a combination spice used in many Ethiopian recipes. Depending on where you buy this, you can get varied levels of heat. It’s not always an easy spice to find, so I did once purchase some online. However, I discovered that simply making my own is cheaper and more adaptable. Here’s a mild-heat version.

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons paprika
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Love Fed: Maple Banana Tiramisu Trifle

Maple Banana Tiramisu Trifle
Love Fed is a new raw food, plant-based dessert un-cookbook from Christina Ross.  I was happy to receive a copy for review from BenBella Books because after a long, cold winter, I still have a sweet tooth but I'm trying to lighten things up a bit. Raw desserts are an excellent way to feel like you're indulging, and yet still be healthy at the same time.

Love Fed is an informative, good-looking book with plenty of enticing pictures and recipes. Just some of the dishes that I have flagged to try out are: Triple Layer German Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Almond Hazelnut Caramel Apple Torte, Lemon Ginger Kiwi Tart, and a Banana Toffee Pie. All raw!

The first recipe I tried was a total winner: Mini Mint Chocolate Brownies. The "brownie" is a combination of ground pecans, cacao powder, agave nectar, and almond butter, with a fudge-y ganache-like topping. They are moist, chocolatey, and oh so satisfying. The funny thing about raw desserts is that even though they taste good enough to make you want to go in for seconds, they are so nutrient-dense that they are utterly satisfying, even after just a small portion. You don't need to grab another piece. But you might anyway, because chocolate!

Mini Mint Chocolate Brownies

And the next recipe I tried was the Maple Banana Tiramisu Trifle, pictured at the top. Like the brownies, this was another really easy recipe to make, it came together quickly, and required no time in the refrigerator to chill or set. It's made with bananas that fill in for the ladyfingers of a traditional tiramisu, layered with a sweetened cream made of cashews, almond milk, cold-brewed coffee, and seasonings. The chocolate sauce drizzle was also practically instant to make, and then some more cacao powder was gently sifted on top. This was a rich and decadent dessert that my whole family devoured, including my toddler who took a big lick right off the top of the dish after I took the picture. If that face isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is! 

If I had to make any criticism at all, it would be that making raw food recipes can be really quite costly. Ingredients like cacao powder, cacao butter, lucuma, and maca powder are very expensive and hard to find unless you shop online or have a well-stocked health food store nearby. Ross uses ample amounts of those in many recipes, as well as easier to find but also expensive items like raw nuts, agave nectar and pure maple syrup. Our weekly grocery budget doesn't allow me to fit items like these in all the time, but it's certainly worth a splurge once in a while. 

BenBella Books was kind enough to grant permission for me to publish the recipe below, so please make this and enjoy! Love Fed is full of other equally enticing and indulgent treats, so if you are interested in adding some raw desserts to your repertoire, you can't go wrong with this book. 

Maple Banana Tiramisu Trifle

Yield: 2 mini trifles
Prep time: 30 minutes

This is my raw-vegan mash-up of two favorite European desserts: English trifle and Italian tiramisu. The result is a sophisticated dessert worthy of any fancy tabletop.

1 c. cashews, soaked and drained
1⁄8 tsp. sea salt
1⁄4 c. almond milk
1⁄4 c. cold-brewed coffee or 1 tsp. coffee extract
1⁄4 c. maple syrup
1 tbsp. melted coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. cacao powder
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1⁄4 tsp. vanilla extract 
3 bananas
11/2 tsp. cacao powder, for garnish

To make the cream: Place the cashews, sea salt, almond milk, cold-brewed coffee, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until very creamy.

To make the chocolate sauce drizzle: Whisk the cacao powder, maple syrup, and vanilla extract together in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer to a squirt bottle, if you have one, or leave in the bowl until ready to use.

To assemble the trifle: Cut each of the bananas into 3 even sections. Slice each section in half lengthwise (you will have 18 total pieces of banana). Place 2 of the banana sections in the bottom of a 33⁄4x41⁄4" trifle glass or ramekin. Repeat in a second glass or ramekin. Squirt chocolate sauce (or drizzle with a spoon) along the rims of the glasses all the way around, reserving some for garnish. Next, add enough cream to cover the bananas. Layer another 2 bananas sections on top, then the cream.

Stand up the remaining 10 banana sections vertically around the sides of each glass (5 per glass), then pour in the cream to the top. Gently sift cacao powder on top and garnish with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Serve immediately or let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar Noms #8: The Imitation Game (Vegan "Venison" with Cranberry & Wine Sauce)

This is my final Oscar Noms post of the year, as the awards show is this evening, and this one pretty much wrote itself in terms of what I was going to make. The Imitation Game...imitation game... what a perfect opportunity to take a game-y, meaty dish and veganize it. Lucky for me, my friend Annie Shannon has a perfect recipe on her site for Vegan Venison with Cranberry and Wine Sauce, which can also be found in her cookbook Betty Goes Vegan. As she points out, "venison" doesn't only refer to deer, but to any "wild game on four legs," which could also include elk, caribou, or moose.

I'll share with you my own experience with venison. When I was very young, probably around 8 years old, we had steak for dinner one evening. "Special" steak, I was told. After I ate my dinner, my dad announced, "You ate deer!" I'm pretty sure my brother said, "You ate Bambi!" And now I'm vegan. Coincidence? I don't think so.

So there's no need to eat deer or elk or cows or any of our other friends when there are things like seitan, or ready-made Gardein products, just for example, in your grocery store. It's still freezing cold here in NYC, and it was snowing yesterday when I made this, so Annie's wintery, Christmasy recipe with cranberries and red wine is still perfect long after the holidays are over. I made it with seitan instead of the Gardein Beefless Tips because that's what I had on hand, and served it over herbed mashed potatoes. Also, it was incredibly, surprisingly hard to find apple jelly - I searched four different stores - so I just added some apple cider instead and it still worked out fine, adding just the touch of sweetness. So go to the link above and make this vegan "venison" dish if you want something really comforting and warming and delicious. And enjoy the Oscars show, if you are watching, or even better, if you're throwing your own party.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Oscar Noms #7: Selma, Alabama Mud Cake

I had a really hard time coming up with a dish to make for Selma. Hard as I tried, I couldn't come up with  any play on words for the title. So then I tried to find a recipe that was representative of Alabama, where the film takes place, portraying the epic civil rights march from Selma to the capitol of Montgomery that led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Let's just say that there is a dearth of recipes from Alabama. It's not really known for its cuisine. I hope I'm not offending any Alabamian readers when I say this, but the food scene down there seems to shall we say? Lacking. A mystery to non-locals.

Fun fact about me: I was actually born in Huntsville, AL. We didn't live there very long but growing up my uncles always teased me and called me an "Alabama pig farmer," which never failed to upset me. Even at a young age the thought of farming pigs was very disturbing to me. So anyway, back to my search for an inspiring Alabama recipe... Everywhere I looked, I kept coming across recipes for something called "Alabama White Sauce," a mayonnaise-based BBQ sauce, which I am intrigued by and might try another time. Then of course there are Alabama Slammers, which would be an excellent cocktail choice for your Oscars viewing party, but I don't drink hard alcohol these days so I didn't want to blog about those. And then I stumbled upon this recipe for an Alabama Mud Cake. Now, growing up with a Southern family, this recipe reminded me of all the desserts that people would bring to our family reunions and holidays. They always seemed to include a box of this, a can of that, a jar of something else. Almost everything somehow included a tub of Kool Whip or a box of Jell-O mix. Those recipes always seem more like a science experiment or an assembly project, rather than actual "cooking." So when I saw the Mud Cake recipe, and the ingredient list that included a can of pineapple, a can of cherry pie filling, and a box of devil's food cake mix, well, at first I just thought, "No. No. Nope. No way." Perhaps it wasn't quite as demented a recipe as this one, but this is just not my kind of cooking. But then I kept thinking about it, and it seemed so wrong that it might just be right. I had to make it.

I was ready to have a laugh at this "special occasion dessert," but you know what? It's good! I don't even understand how it works, when you just pour dry cake mix in a pan and bake it, but somehow the cake comes out brownie-like, with the pineapple and cherries caramelized on the bottom, like an upside-down cake. It tastes like a brownie sundae, all you need to add is some vegan vanilla ice cream, or even just a dollop of whipped cream. The pecans add a nice crunch and counter-balance to the sweetness, which isn't nearly as cloying as I expected. It's actually really good! I mean, it's not the freshest ingredients, obviously, and they definitely fall into the accidentally vegan category, but I mean, it's super fast and easy to make, and it's pretty fun to eat. My 3 year old had a great time helping me make this one. So without apologies, I will post the veganized recipe below. I will note that the original recipe calls for mint chocolate chips, but I don't know of any vegan version of those, so I used carob chips instead. I could have used regular vegan chocolate chips, but I was feeling so guilty about all the ready-made ingredients that I had to add at least one thing (other than the pecans) that had some redeeming "healthy" quality to them. But regular chocolate chips would be fine too.

Alabama Mud Cake
veganized from this recipe
makes 8-10 servings

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling
1 (18.25 oz) package devil's food cake mix (Duncan Hines "Moist Deluxe" brand is vegan)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup carob or vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup vegan butter, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Pour pineapple with juice into prepared pan, spreading evenly to make the first layer. Spread cherry pie filling over the pineapple layer, then spread the dry cake mix over the cherry pie filling. Sprinkle the cake mix layer with pecans and carob or chocolate chips, then distribute the sliced butter evenly over the top.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oscar Noms #6: Po'Boyhood (Mushroom Po' Boy Sandwiches)

To start with, I can't tell you how pleased it makes me when the title of my Oscar Noms post works as well as Po'Boyhood. I realize how utterly nerdy that makes me, and I'm ok with it. Secondly, if you haven't seen Boyhood yet, run, or at least add it to your Netflix queue, and see it immediately.

Boyhood was filmed over 12 years, giving us a time capsule of a boy's life from 2nd grade to his first year of college. It's a nostalgic look at all the memorable moments of growing up, something that is especially touching to me now that I have little ones of my own. Somehow it seems fitting to me to make po' boys in honor of this film, as New Orleans holds a special and nostalgic place in my heart. Also, today is Mardi Gras! I made my first trip to New Orleans 20 years ago with college friends, a trip all about those horrid-tasting frozen Hurricanes on Bourbon Street and other underage shenanigans. And then there was the next trip, soon after, where we rode motorcycles and reenacted our own version of Easy Rider, and got regrettable tattoos. Remember, this was 20 years ago, before tattoos were ubiquitous and cool, when they still seemed kind of rebellious and dangerous. Every few years it seems that I find myself in New Orleans, but with each visit I find myself a lot tamer and a lot farther away from the Bourbon Street debauchery. I've grown up, I guess. Now when I visit, I steer clear of any frozen beverages and I'm all about finding some good local vegan fare and maybe a Trombone Shorty show. I've had some memorable and some not-so-memorable meals there, but one thing that has proven surprisingly hard to find is a good veggie po' boy sandwich.

I was thrilled to find this very authentic-sounding Mushroom Debris Po' Boy recipe online from The Chubby Vegetarian. It's even featured on the menu at The Second Line, a New Orleans po' boy Memphis, TN. So it might be still hard to find an authentic vegan po' boy in New Orleans after all. So go to Memphis! There's great music there too! Or better yet, just make this recipe at home! And eat it while watching Boyhood on Netflix.

The recipe starts out with slowly browning a mix of onion, celery, and carrots, then adding garlic, red wine, and thinly sliced portobello mushrooms. These all cook down with some vegetable stock, thyme, bay leaves, and other seasonings. The smell in my kitchen was heavenly. Mushrooms cooking with onion, garlic, and red wine... this combination takes me to my happy place. Then you heap the mushrooms onto some French bread rolls, along with sliced tomato, lettuce, pickles, some vegan mayo, mustard, and a dash of hot sauce if you like. Totally classic po' boy flavors. The mushrooms are meaty and umami, and juicy enough to run down your chin when you bite into the sandwich. Just like being back in N'awlins.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oscar Noms #5: American Snicker

Sorry this picture is terrible. I will work on my candy-making skills so that they look as good as they taste.
Truth be told, it was tough figuring out a post to do for American Sniper. I will not get into the questionable politics of the film, as I am reserving judgement until I see it myself, and besides, this is a food blog, not a politics blog, so I'm going to keep it light and do what I do best: making good food and mediocre food puns.

If there is anything as American as a movie about the military and guns and stuff, it's a Snickers bar, right? Who didn't grow up eating those things? They are very nostalgic for me, but it's been a long time since I bought a candy bar that wasn't one of these or these. Ok, or one of these. So it's not that I'm at all opposed to candy bars, it's just that I buy only vegan and slightly less processed ones these days.

I had never attempted to make my own candy, until I came across this recipe for Vegan Snickers Bars from one of my all-time favorite blogs, Minimalist Baker. Seriously, Minimalist Baker has the greatest recipes and they are all super easy with a minimal number of ingredients, and totally delicious. They make me want to just give up on my own blog, they're that good. But hopefully, you'll stick with me and continue to read this one too.

So I made these homemade Snickers bars for my sweetie on Valentine's Day and they were just perfect. Did they look perfect? Nope. The caramel didn't really thicken as much as I would like, and the chocolate was trickier to work with than I expected. They were kind of a mess, and if we're being really honest they probably would qualify to be on this list. So I need some work on my confectionary decorating skills, but no matter, they were a sticky, sweet, chocolatey, totally decadent treat and we loved them. The "nougat" is made with a combination of dates and walnuts (I used cashews actually.) Then they are covered with a caramel, peanuts, and then chocolate. Did they taste exactly like Snickers? Nope! Did I care? Nope! They taste enough like them to perhaps make you reminisce about those candy bars of yore, but they are so delicious that you will enjoy them in their own right. So click on the link above to make these yourself, and enjoy. Just don't eat them while watching a war movie. Remember over at Vegan Good Things, we're lovers, not fighters.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day.