Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mexican cooking class

Here is the meal that my students put together tonight, including fajitas (made with seitan), cornbread, quinoa and leeks, potato soup, and "Dilip's Orangey Rice Pudding".

Monday, November 23, 2009

Carnaroli Risotto with Fennel and Asparagus, Jerk Tempeh

Tonight, I made my "Conference Call Risotto", as I have described before. I had some asparagus that I wanted to use up, and recently also purchased fennel, which I've only purchased maybe once before. I found a risotto with fennel and asparagus recipe online, and decided to take its ideas for the fennel and asparagus, and fuse them with my risotto recipe.

I cut off a bit of the rough ends of about a half dozen asparagus spears then blanched; I slowly put the asparagus into boiling water so as not to disturb the boil, then quickly took the spears out once they were just cooked (al dente) and showing a darker green color. I plunged the spears into an ice water bath to arrest the cooking and, once the spears lost their heat, drained the water and kept the asparagus ready to be cut just before I needed it.

As the recipe that I found suggested, I took the bulb of one fennel root and cut it into 1/2" matchsticks, and cut half of a (sweet) onion into a 1/4" or so cube. I sauteed both the onion and fennel together over medium heat until the onion cleared, in the stock pan in which I would make the risotto.

For the risotto rice base, I used some Carnaroli rice, a high-starch, short, plump variety grown in the Piedmont area of Italy (we visited a few years ago Milano, which is in this region). Instead of creating the stock as I usually do with a bouillon cube in water, I cooked the asparagus in water with a bouillon cube and used that asparagus-bouillon water.

Once the onion was ready, I proceeded with my risotto recipe, using less wine than usual (I actually used port - and used about 1/3 cup instead of 1/2 cup). About 5 minutes before the risotto was done, I cut the asparagus spears into 3/4" or so lengths and tossed them in. At the end, I went with the optional Earth Balance margarine as well as Eat in the Raw's vegan Parma!, salt, and freshly ground pepper.

I served the risotto with sauteed tempeh rolled in a bit of mild jerk seasoning. It was a good dinner! Neither my wife nor I (nor, perhaps, our 1-year and 1-day old daughter, who also sampled!) noted the fennel flavor.

Yesterday my daughter turned one year old! We had a nice party for her in the afternoon, then went to Sitar Indian Cuisine, where I had put together a family-style tasting menu of South Indian food for dinner. We ended up with way too much food, some of which will be showing up in upcoming day leftovers! We started with pakoras (vegetable dumplings), idlis (lentil-rice cakes) with spicy sambar soup and coconut chutney, and salad, then main dishes kept coming - dosas (one of my favorite foods - crepes filled with a potato mixture), uttapams (a flattened pancake/pizza, similar in composition to a dosa, but thick and not filled; Sitar makes the best uttapams I've ever had!), vegetable biryani (mixed vegetables in rice), and okra!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vegan burger with Scottish Chive and Cheddar Sheese on bagel, onion rings

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Italian Cooking Class: Eggplant Saute, Orzo, Panzanella, Polenta (and Blueberry Crisp)

Today was the second of six classes of my Ethnic Vegetarian Cooking series. My students made a variety of tasty dishes: an eggplant saute, orzo, polenta, panzanella (bread salad), and blueberry crisp. I ask my students to compete for the most attractive plate, and this is this week's winner.

The food was very good, and I am so happy to have such a fun group of students who seem to really have hit it off working together. They worked well to allow us plenty of leisurely time to enjoy dinner together. All enjoyed the food!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Vegan Celebration Roast with Porcini Mushrooms, Savory Herb Gravy with Mashed Potatoes

We had a busy day today; I enjoyed an appointment and then hiking with my baby. My wife enjoyed some master sitar lessons (she herself is a teacher) from a visiting artist from India this evening, and I took care of my baby - then had to drop the teacher off at friends' he is staying at. So, it was around 9p and we hadn't eaten!

I love Field Roast Grain Meat's handmade stuffed (with apples, squash, and mushrooms) Celebration Roast - it is tasty, nutritious, and easy (just needs to be heated at 350°F for a few minutes). It's rich and I don't make it often, but the company is sending me some new products to try (due on Thursday) along with raffle prize coupons for our Thanksgiving (which is up to 678 coming; we will be in both area newspapers on Wednesday and in one paper next Wednesday), so I wanted to use the roast I had.

I purchased some tasty porcini mushrooms, and made a simple saute with a bit of onion and one roughly chopped garlic clove. I also prepared some mashed potatoes with a bit of onion, salt, olive oil, and freshly-ground black pepper. Road's End Organics, an all-vegan company that makes the macaroni and "chreese" I had a few days back, also makes gravies, including a savory herb mix, that I used.

I served three slices of the roast, topped with the mushroom. The gravy (which my baby enjoyed!) went with the potato, and heirloom tomato slices completed the filling and tasty meal.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Collard Greens with Butternut Squash, Curried Cauliflower

Similarly to what I did last October, I hand ripped collard green leaves from the stems into roughly 1 1/2" squares. I boiled about 3/4 cup of water plus a vegan bouillon cube, then added the greens and cooked, covered, reducing the heat to a simmer. After 3 or 4 minutes, I added about 3/4 of a cup of frozen butternut squash cubes and let them steam with the greens. After a total of about 7-10 minutes (i.e., about 6 more minutes), I turned the heat off, mixed in a little salt and dried tarragon, and served.

I also prepared some cauliflower; we had only a small amount, maybe 2/3 of a cup of florets. I sauteed in some hot chili oil the cauliflower florets for a few minutes, then added a little bit of olive oil, about a quarter medium onion, diced to maybe 1/4", and a fifth of a small bell pepper, diced similarly. I sauteed for a few more minutes, then added 1/8 teaspoon or so of cumin seeds, and stirred for half a minute. I then added about 1/4 cup water and a few pinches of turmeric, just brought to a boil, then simmered, covered, for 5-8 minutes till the water was largely absorbed.

Finally, we had at the recent Spice Street tasting some smoked tempeh / tomato / asparagus skewers, and had some leftovers we brought home. I heated them and served with our meal; a carrot completed the plate.

We are lucky to have a vegan baker named Dina in town. She graduated this past year with a political science degree and wants to become a human rights lawyer, but also has many years experience in vegan baking - her Mom I believe is a long-time vegan baker. So, Dina opened Dharma Bakery, an all-vegan outfit that takes custom orders for both local pickup and anywhere delivery. Other than some Earth Balance margarine, she made a soy-free set of desserts for us, which we picked yesterday - including creamy and crunchy peanut butter cups, an amazing lemon coconut-milk based cupcake, pumpkin cookies, truffles, and more. After dinner, I heated a chocolate croissant that we had picked up and served it - wow! It was very good!

Leftover Macaroni and Chreese with grated Garlic Cheddar Sheese, Hash Browned Potatoes, Grilled Tofu with Lentils

We were out this afternoon and evening, including by chance dropping by and enjoying a session of laughter yoga. My wife picked up a hearty salad at Whole Foods and decided later that it would be her dinner, so I cooked for myself tonight.

I had leftover Macaroni and "Chreese" from a few days ago, and heated it, serving with a sprinkling of grated garlic cheddar Scottish Bute Island "Sheese" atop. I made some hash browned potatoes with bell pepper and onion.

We are having an evening seating at Spice Street restaurant in Chapel Hill and have had some sampling of vegan dishes. They had made some grilled tofu with lentils before I submitted a point-of-departure menu; we really don't include tofu in our Thanksgiving dishes (I much prefer tempeh, a whole food rather than a fractionated one, and one which is much easier to digest), but in any case I had a bit of tofu left, and heated it up.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Melissa's Stewed Root Vegetables with Moroccan Spices Soup, Scottish "Sheese" on Onion Bagel, Corn-off-the-Cob

Probably my favorite vegan cheese (I don't eat cheese often, but of course when I do, it's vegan - since I'm vegan!) is the Scottish Bute Island Sheese. In yesterday's mail, I received the first of two annual boxes from them, primarily for Thanksgiving raffle prizes, but they like for me to have several samples to experiment with. I served onion bagel halves - my wife's had Earth Balance margarine, and I had the Sheese - the flavor that I opened was a cheddar with chives. Yum!

This week, our friend Melissa who sells fabulous soups, has a stewed root vegetable soup with Moroccan spices. We picked it up this evening and it was part of our dinner tonight, just a few hours later. The soup was almost as thick as a stew might be, and Melissa recommended that it goes well over rice or couscous. I really liked the soup and agree that it would also be good atop a grain. I also served corn-off-the-cob with a little lime, salt, and Earth Balance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cooking Class: Warmup "3 a.m. Pasta" with Tempeh and Vegetables

Tonight was the first of six Tuesday nights for the vegan cooking class that I teach. This picture is the cooking of my students. As I've described this class in the past,

today was mostly lecture, discussing some background about vegetarianism, and getting to know each other; working in two teams, they had about an hour to put together this dish named after what one can do to quickly put together a tasty and nutritious meal when a friend shows up to visit at 3 in the morning (this has happened to me a number of times!) It is a saute of tempeh, shiitake mushrooms, and onions, served over pasta (we used brown rice pasta today) with salad and bread/toast.

Their meal was very good!

Jerk Seitan with Squash

I made a delicious seitan accompaniment to baked squash today - possibly the best seitan I've tasted! I took a box of seitan, sliced it into thin rectangles maybe 1" x 3/4" x 1/4" thick, and marinated in Volcano Lime Burst (water, organic lime juice, and lemon oil - but just lemon or lime juice would have been fine) plus coarsely chopped green chili pepper.

I think the key to this dish is that I heated oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat and cooked, after individually at a higher temperature than I normally do, flipping when crispy. I ended up with reasonably crispy seitan pieces, which I then dredged in a mild jerk seasoning. I served within some baked squash - very tasty!