Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The End of the Affair

I got so many cookbooks during the holiday season that it feels like eons since I've made anything from my favorite one, Veganomicon. I almost feel dirty. Like I've been having one night stands with all my other cookbooks. This weekend, I was back to my Veganomicon and I'll never forsake my darling again!

I made the Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry and Sauteed Collard Greens.


If you have this book, go make this curry right now. If you don't have it, go buy it, then make it. If you can't afford it, tell me and I'll get it for you for your birthday...or just send you some curry. YOU MUST HAVE THIS CURRY!

I put it over basmati rice and every forkful has me thinking "I made this? Me? This is crazy. I know I didn't get it from a restaurant, so I must have made it. WOW." I used purple cauliflower, which is all kinds of pretty, but I think the parsnips really make it. The sweetness of the parsnips combined with the spiciness of the dish is just crazy good. I could eat it by the pot.

The collard greens are really good too. My father has said he hates collard greens many times. He almost refused to taste these, but I finally talked him into it and he was shocked. He works in the food industry, so he had to know what I did to make them so good, so he could go tell the cook what to do (I've seen the collard greens they make where he works. They start frozen and are boiled or steamed to death. The look more like collard greys. Nasty.). I think the liquid smoke is what really gave them their kick (I didn't have the seitan broth mentioned in the recipe, so I used vegetable broth, shoyu and liquid smoke). Yum.

As you can see, my Veganomicon reunion was a happy one. I'm not allowing myself to buy any new cookbooks until I've made five things from each I already own, so you can expect cooking from some of my other books in the coming weeks, but I shall never stray to far from my Nomnomnomicon, I swear.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Its everything I could ever hope for...

...in a banana bread."

That's what my mother had to say about the banana bread from Papa Tofu (a superawesome cookzine).

My mother had a bunch of extra bananas hanging around the house this weekend and asked if I could do something with them.

Me: What? Like juggle?
Mom: No...maybe....food something.
Me: Bake?
Mom: Yes. I want banana bread (it sometimes takes her a while to stop beating around the bush).

So I brought down my cookbooks and tried to talk her into all sorts of other crazy banana-related sweets, but she insisted on plain banana bread. I'm glad she did because this stuff rules. In the zine, kittee suggests toasting the walnuts, which really brings out their flavor and makes every nutful bite a treat (I don't usually like nuts in my baked goods, but looked forward to finding the walnuts in this bread). My mother liked it so much she doesn't want anyone else in the house to eat it (since I made it for her), but she reserved a large piece for my grandmother, who loves banana bread.

When I said I really liked this bread and I'd definitely make it again, there were cheers all around. That's two baking successes in one week. Wooha!

Any Excuse to Bake

One of my friends recently moved into his first NYC apartment. This meant a housewarming party. This meant baking. Behold Strawberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Veganomicon.

As written, these are supposed to be Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars, but I've been reading articles about raspberry insect infestations and bugs are neither kosher nor vegan, so I went with strawberries instead.

These things are great because even without taking the jam shortcut, they were easy and fast enough to make at midnight after a concert (Ambulance LTD is doing a residency at Union Hall under the name Impervious. Two dates left: 1/31 and 2/7. Be there!). There's no blender, food processor or beaters required either, so they can be made quietly in the middle of the night, too.

These made me kind of nervous because I like everything really well done, so I left them in the oven significantly longer than indicated in the recipe because I wanted them to get brown...even though blondies aren't usually all that brown. Despite that, when I cut them into bars, they were still so gooey I thought they might be underdone. Before bringing them to the party, we had taste tests at home. They definitely didn't taste raw! They tasted like sweet chocolate strawberry goodness. People at the party seemed to like them too, which was cool since it was almost all omnis. I believe we can call these bars a success.

Hooray for yummy baked goods that aren't cupcakes!

Salad Days

Among my other lovely Giftmas presents, I received Vegan Planet, a huge (and therefore immensely intimidating) cookbook. The first thing I tried from it was the Tomato and White Bean Salad with Watercress.

Wow. The dressing for this salad is really simple, really tasty and really (REALLY) strong. It's pretty much just pureed shallots and garlic with a bit of oil and lemon juice, but it's SO yummy.

A note of caution: the fragrance is powerful. I don't know if they actually could, but I felt like everyone could smell garlic on me for two days after making/eating it. So serve it with mints if you're having a romantic dinner. Just saying.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Im a Hero!

Either I'm an ordinary person with an extraordinary ability, or I finally started playing with my Giftmas present from the awesome Paula Dines: How to Garnish by Chef Harvey. You be the judge.

I'm a huge dork, so the first thing I had to try when I got this garnishing book was the tomato rose. It got a lot easier when I used a sharper knife. It'd probably look even nicer if I'd broken out my good knives, but I didn't want to spend that much time on cleanup. It's a good thing to know for my next (first) fancy dinner party, though.

Next, I tried to make cucumber crabs. These didn't go so well. I don't know if I didn't cut the legs thin enough or didn't leave them soaking long enough, but they all snapped when I tried to bend them. Oh well. Another time.

The cucumber shark and zucchini whale were great fun and don't look half bad for my first try. They're sort of smiley, like Disney sea life. At my friend Lauren's suggestion, I had to float them out in a quinoa ocean. Good times.

Tonight's dinner will be the most oddly-shaped salad ever. Which is a far better way to end a long weekend than with a mountain of baked goods, really.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Wheelers Black Label OMG!

Yesterday was the Wheelers Black Label Vegan Ice Cream Tasting Party at Little Cakes Gallery. DAMN that was good stuff!

Of course, it was an ice cream party on the coldest day of the year, but that didn't stop my friend Lauren and I. It just made us walk faster, so we were the first people there. They were still setting up their serving table when we got there. Not only was there VEGAN ICE CREAM, but there was a nice selection of fresh fruit available to top it with.

The space was tiny and the demand was high, so once people started showing up, there really wasn't much room to move. After a while, there were people standing outside eating ice cream (the "real feel temperature" was around 7 F)! That's dedication.

The first flavor we were given was peanut butter chip. I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter, but the addition was quite subtle, so I enjoyed it. Next up was espresso chip, which I had some blackberries on, so that helped mask the coffee flavor (I don't like coffee either). Third was chocolate coconut, which I liked a lot despite my general aversion to coconut (yes, this was very weird: conceptually, I knew I shouldn't like any of the flavors, but I did!). I liked chewing on the little bits of coconut. They broke out the big guns last: Mexican chocolate. It was spiced just right and I almost melted into a pile of goo right there from it. It was that good. When this stuff hits stores, it better come in barrels.

The ice cream itself was awesome. Very creamy. I'd never know it was non-dairy (they use soy). This event filled me with great joy since I hadn't eaten ice cream since July or August and I really missed it!

Despite what we'd like to believe, man cannot live on ice cream alone, so we followed that with brunch at Kate's Joint (a vegetarian diner sort of place with a bar that plays great - though repetitive - music).

Kate's does have eggs and cheese on the menu, but they also have tofu and vegan cheese options for all of those dishes. Rock. I got Kate's Benedict with tofu and vegan hollandaise. It was really, really good, except when I dropped about half of it in my lap (I found a chunk of tofu in my wallet when it was time to pay). Lauren got the Breakfast Burrito, which looked like a pretty standard (though big) breakfast burrito. She said it was tasty and chock full of protein. Even though it's not technically brunch fare, when we saw UnChicken Wings on the menu, we couldn't resist them and we got those too. They were very spicy and tasty, but also very tofu-y. They didn't imitate meat as well as those at Red Bamboo (which actually come on a stick!), but they were still really good. It's a cute place, right by the Mercury Lounge and Downtown Yarns and they're open late, so I'll definitely go back.


Kate's Benedict

Three-Day Weekend

I'd like to thank Martin Luther King, Jr. for the current three-day weekend. And for all that civil rights stuff. That stuff rocks. We've still got work to do, though.

I think we should work it out so I have a three-day weekend following Giftmas every year so I have time to break in my new cookbooks. For instance, my friend Sarah sent me The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and I made the Traditional Macaroni and Cheez last night. I also made the Frittata di zucchine e pinoli al forno (baked zucchini and pine nut frittata?) from BioVegan.

I have to be honest: I don't love nutritional yeast. I know it's good for me and I think it tastes OK, but I don't want to marry it. When I'm using it without a recipe, I always add just enough to add texture, but no flavor. When I was making this, all I could smell was olive oil and nutritional yeast. It didn't smell like macaroni and cheese to me at all. Then my brother came downstairs and asked "Who's making macaroni and cheese?" It took me a second to realize the correct answer was "Me."

The recipe says "The sauce should continue to bubble as you add the milk; if it doesn't, you are adding the milk too quickly." My sauce bubbled very rarely and spent quite a bit of time looking like cheez dough, not cheez sauce. It wasn't until I added about half the milk that it started to loosen up. And I certainly didn't have to heat it longer to thicken it up. If anything, adding the hot macaroni helped get the sauce off my whisk.

When it was all done, the consistency was near perfect and the taste was pretty good too, but I certainly haven't found my go-to mac 'n cheese yet. There's another recipe in the same book that uses slightly less nutritional yeast that I think I'll try next. There's also the Mac Daddy in Veganomicon, one the same Sarah sent me, and a multitude from the Internet. It seems like everyone wants to recommend the best vegan macaroni and cheese EVAR, making it even harder to figure out which one actually deserves that title.

I was intrigued by this frittata because unlike most recipes, it used a mix of flours for its "eggy" base instead of tofu. I think I need to mess with the cook time a bit more, but it's really tasty. I'm going to try it again for sure. I don't know Italian, so thanks to my friend Shawn for the translation.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Quin on Quinoa*

Last weekend, as an antidote to my ten thousand pounds of baked goods, I did my cooking from Fatfree Vegan. I made the Creamy Herbed Coleslaw with Grape Tomatoes and Quinoa and Red Lentil Cutlets. Yum!

I had half a head of cabbage left over from the previous week's Garden Vegetable and Bean Soup and decided to put it to use in coleslaw. The recipe calls for eight ounces of cabbage. Shredded, my half head made eight cups. For people outside the US, eight cups cabbage = one metric assload. So I brought it with me to the previously mentioned holiday celebration. It turned into a potluck of sorts and one of my friends was nice enough to veganize the recipe she brought (which was awesome and I will definitely make it soon and post all about it). The tomatoes really made the coleslaw into something special. Unfortunately, when I bought them, I didn't realize just how much slaw I'd be making, so I didn't have as many tomatoes as I could have. D'oh! I definitely want to try this again with different vinegars and more tomatoes.

The cutlets are really good, too. I doubled the recipe and it made enough to eat some every weekday, share some with my family on Friday night and still have some left. They'd probably be really good on a bun with some lettuce, tomatoes, pickle and ketchup. Sort of like those "veggie patties" that were the only vegetarian option at some restaurants back in the early 90s. They always tasted good but were disappointing compared to what everyone else was eating. These are not disappointing because you make them yourself.

This was my first time working with quinoa, and now I see what all the fuss is about. It couldn't be easier to make and seems really versatile. And since it's a seed, not a grain or a legume, it's technically kosher for passover (unfortunately, some say it's not because it's processed in plants with regular flour), so I may actually have something to eat this April. Wooha!

* For the unaware, quinoa is pronounced keen-wah. If you didn't know that, you probably thought my name is Quin. Incorrect!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Holidays! Kinda.

Like all normal people, my friends and I had our gift-giving-holiday get together on Sunday, January 13. This year, all of my gifts were homemade (baked or knit - I forgot to photograph the knit. I suck). But you can still behold the baked goods in all their questionable glory:

First, I made two dozen Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and one dozen Fauxstess Cupcakes from Vegan With a Vengeance:

Then the fun began.

Fauxstess cupcakes are so fun to make. Once they're cool, you poke a hole in them with your finger and pipe it full of fluffy frosting. If you're me, you fill some of them with pink fluffy frosting.

Then you dip them in warm ganache, which I believe is French for chocolategasm.

Then it's time to turn the cupcakes into records. Using a small, circular thing I found at NY Cake Supplies which may or may not be a cookie cutter, I cut a hole in the ganache and scraped it off. In two cases, I cut a little too deeply and removed some cupcake too. It was tasty. I replaced the disc of ganache with a disc of colored marzipan: the label.

Then I used royal icing to write the band names on the labels and to do the regular Fauxstess squigglies. My royal icing was WAY to thick and I had a lot of difficulty getting it to pipe. All my lettering was completely illegible. So I added water when I added the pink food coloring, scraped off the old letters and rewrote the names. The icing was too runny, and the letters were all over the place. But I was at the end of my tether, so I decided to leave them alone and translate if necessary (for the curious, they say !!!, Interpol, The Beatles, CYHSY [Clap Your Hands Say Yeah], Ben Folds and Ambulance [LTD]). I also used dabs of ganache to make the spindles.

The first half dozen Crimson Velveteen cupcakes were for my friend who loves red velvet (and sweets in general), so I topped them with a brightly colored swirl of Old Fashioned Velveteen Icing from VCTOTW and silver dragees.

The next set of Velveteens were for someone who loves Star Wars, so I dyed the icing and some marzipan green and made Yoda cupcakes. They came out way better than I expected them to and made me very happy.

The next set were for one of the people who taught me to knit, so I stole VeganYumYum's knit cupcakes idea. Unfortunately, her site was down when I was working on these and I'd only printed out the pictures, so I didn't know how to keep the marzipan from cracking. Fail. These and the vinyl took the most time. The vinyl because I think I spent two hours just fucking around with the royal icing and these because I had trouble getting the marzipan to stick to itself and stand the way I wanted it to (I ended up making little marzipan "pillows" to hold up the fabricy looking pieces).

To get all of these done before our party, I actually ended up baking and cooking through the night. While I was working on one of these knit cupcakes, I realized it was after 10 AM, I hadn't been to bed and I still had gingerbread to decorate. Guess which cupcake I was working on when the realization hit:

A work-in-progress in an ugly colorway:

A ball of yarn:

A fringed scarf:


Ball of yarn with needles:

Lastly, I made gingerbread hipsters with the recipe from The PPK. When I made a test batch of gingerbread, I used an eight inch cookie cutter which made gingerbread men the size of small children. Seriously. The heads were bigger than my fist. Awesome as that was, I wanted something slightly smaller for this, so I got a five inch cookie cutter. It worked much better.

I had hoped to decorate these in loads of different colors and get all fancy and detailed, but I was tired, my icing was runny and my brain wasn't working, so I ran out of cliches after about two. Damn. I suck.

Left to right:
Top row: asymmetrical hair and a stud belt, fauxhawk and eyeliner abuse, asymmetrical hair and bling, a MisShape.
Middle row: obscure band t-shirt, sideburns and what may be pinstripe pants, asymmetrical hair and stud belt, I don't know what the last one started out as, but now I think it's a bald Carlos D.
Bottom row: my Chucks failed so they became Uggs. I think the last speaks for itself.

Despite how sloppy and unprofessional the cupcakes and cookies looked, everyone seemed to like them, and that's what counts. I received many a food-related gift this holiday season and look forward to using them to make food for others (especially if I'm baking. Everyone but me should eat the baking!).

Monday, January 7, 2008

Happy New Year!

I know I've already posted this year, but this is my first entry about something I actually cooked in 2008, so I thought I'd wish everyone well here.

Personally, I'm not doing so great. I almost died on New Year's Eve, botched both things I prepared yesterday and have a cold. The worst thing about this cold is that my friends and I are finally having our holiday gathering this coming weekend and about half the gifts I plan on giving are baked. So unless I can shake this thing by Saturday night, I'll be baking in gloves and a face mask. Tips (like advice, not money) greatly appreciated.

I attempted to make Fat Free Vegan's Garden Vegetable and Bean Soup and the Buttermilk Biscuits from Yellow Rose Recipes. Fail.

Please look at the recipe on fatfreevegan.com. Could that be any easier to make? No. Is it impossible to fuck up? Yes. Unless you're me. I was supremely lazy and decided to use the food processor for everything, so instead of pieces of onion, my soup's base was a sort of onion puree. I also used red cabbage instead of green. And too small of a pot, so it nearly boiled over. See?

Please look at the picture on fatfreevegan.com. Now look at this:

Do they look anything alike? No. And the disparity is getting greater with time, as the broth darkens and the zucchini and beans turn purple.

That said, it's still tasty. It's not the sort of thing where I flip out with the tasty goodness at every spoonful, but it's satisfying.

The biscuits should have been a cinch, since I just made them, but no. See the picture at the top of this post? I call it breadscuit.

I doubled the biscuit recipe, so I needed five teaspoons of baking powder. I put in five tablespoons. Of course, I realized what I'd done right when I finished dumping the last one in, so I tried to scrape off as much baking powder as I could and leave in approximately five teaspoons. Perhaps that's why the dough was incredibly sticky, no matter how much flour I added to it. The dough was so stuck to my hands that I had to call my brother in to add the flour while I kneaded it. After adding what felt like ten cups of flour, I gave up, scraped as much of the dough off my hands as I could and threw it in the oven. A few minutes later, I remembered I had poppy seeds, so I pulled it out, dumped them on and put it back in (in retrospect, I also have flax seeds, which have been a way better idea. Pity I forgot).

Oddly enough, my mother and brother liked the breadscuit. I didn't think it was half bad either. Then again, maybe it's not so odd. Baked dough is almost always a good thing.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Chili Wili

It currently feels like 7 degrees in NYC. I'm fucking cold. Obviously, the only things to be eaten in this weather are soups, stews and (now) chilis. My copy of Yellow Rose Recipes came a couple of weeks ago and the first recipes I tried were the Better Than Basic Chili and Buttermilk Biscuits.

I know the proper accompaniment for chili is cornbread, but biscuits are like gold in my house, so as soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I had to try it.

Before this, I don't think I'd ever really had chili. I stopped eating meat when I was around 13 and was a fan of neither beans nor spicy food before then. I wasn't even much of a fan of them after I stopped eating meat. I didn't really get into beans until a few years ago, and even then, if they looked funny, I wouldn't go near them. I made this chili because my mother asked me too. Yes, my omni mother asked me to make vegan chili.

This recipe couldn't be easier to make. It has a jalapeƱo pepper in it, so I thought it was going to be too spicy and I was going to cry, but it had just enough bite for me to call it "hot", without actually being uncomfortable. The onions are added in two parts: one in the beginning, to flavor everything, and one at the end to add crunch. The crunchy onions rule.

Yellow Rose Recipes has two chili recipes in it. This one, and one that calls for TVP. I was out in the suburbs when I decided to make the chili, so TVP was out of the question, hence I went with this chili. But I know my mother likes her chili meaty and "gets a kick out of" the meat substitutes, so I kind of cheated and pinched in a package of Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style. And I really did feel like a cheater. I had to tell every person that tasted it that the "meat" was store bought and ask if it seemed too "fake", like it was trying too hard because of the meat. What have I become?!

I LOVED the chili, but here's the big test: What did the omnis think?

Dad: Took one bite (was going out to dinner), grinned and exclaimed "Meat is overrated. This is damn good chili!"
Mom: Took one bite (was going out to dinner). "This is damn good chili!"
Brother: Ate a giant bowl of it. "I don't need Dougies anymore! If you learn to make Fire Slammers, I'll pay you!"
Three friends: All ate hearty portions and said it was good. One thought it should be spicier, but I made it and I'm a wuss.

There you have it. Not a single complaint about the lack of meat.

The biscuits went over really well too. I think I like them even better than the Baking Powder Biscuits from VWAV. These are butterier, more flavorful and also a bit more moist, I think. But that's kind of to be expected when they're called "Buttermilk," not "Baking Powder." Right? Right.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Soup, Moroccan Style

The most recent issue of Vegetarian Times had two awesome things in it:

1. A positive review of Veganomicon.

2. A soup feature.

I love soup. Could probably live on it, given half a chance. Hell, I'd marry it. I made the Moroccan Harira and pretty much fell in love with it. Expect a June wedding.

(unfortunately, all the photos I took of this soup are pretty grody-looking because I couldn't get the noodles in the bowl without them smearing the sides. Whoops!)

The soups in the feature were all from different countries and were supposed to be healthy and somewhat medicinal. VT provided a bit of cultural background for each soup, which was quite interesting. Harira sometimes has a bit of lamb or other meat and egg in it and is usually eaten to break the fast during Ramadan. This particular recipe obviously didn't have any meat or eggs in it, but it did have chick peas, cilantro, green lentils and a cinnamon stick.

This was my first time cooking lentils. I was worried I'd keep them on too long and they'd turn to mush, but they were nice and firm, even in the last portion of the soup. The cinnamon stick gave the soup a nice bite and really complimented the cilantro (which I think is one of my new favorite herbs - the idea that I have favorite (legal) herbs blows my mind. Four months ago, I didn't even know what cilantro was!). I stored the soup in two containers and left the stick in one of them. I ate that one first, then transferred the stick to the other.

With a bit of whole wheat pasta thrown in, this soup totally qualifies as a meal. It's packed with protein and other nutrients and it's low fat. And did I mention it's delicious? The only bad thing about this recipe is that I didn't double it.