Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Veggie Sushi Hand Rolls

So, it's almost August and summer is in full swing. Are you sweltering away in the heat, possibly tiring of zucchini and tomatoes? If not, well bully for you, walk on by this post. But if you're looking for a breather, give these rolls a gander. They look difficult and gourmet, but really simplicity is the game here. After all, we are about to enter the dog days of August, when all you want to do is sit in the shade on your front porch and drink iced fruity drinks soaked in lots of alcohol. So to make up for your alcohol calories (and your lack of cooking), make these hand rolls.

Hand rolls, as they are referred to in the sushi world, are usually rolled with an open end so that you can see the array of beautiful ingredients inside. I love to make them with leftover marinated tofu or tempeh and some grated carrots for texture and greens as a base. For this version, I had made some carrot ginger miso sauce and knew slathering them on these rolls would be the perfect way to use up my leftover sauce.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thai Green Curry Noodles with DIY Fishless Sauce

When I came across Vegan Dad's recipe for Fishless sauce I knew it would make a great DIY Pantry post. And as my usual habit, the following post uses the DIY pantry item in a dish. But in thinking about what to make, my usual Thai curry sounded, well, a little boring and commonplace. After much perusing of the web several Thai noodle dishes popped up. Fantastic idea!

I am convinced that searching for recipes on the web is a real artform. Sure, there are lots of generic sites (the ones that pop up right away since they are usually paying for that service) and I tend to veer away from them and head toward personal blogs to support my fellow bloggers who you know have tested out the recipe. But upon spying this Easy Thai Noodles recipe that included a quick fresh Thai Green Curry recipe, I gave it a try. Really easy and really good was the verdict!

I will be sending this over to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, founder and organizer of Presto Pasta Nights for next week's Round up. Stop by and the enjoy the entries! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thai Fishless Sauce - DIY Pantry

Thai food is one of the most enchanting cuisines in the world, at least in my book. Any cuisine that uses lime, coconut milk, cilantro and chiles as liberally as Thais do are culinary geniuses. But there are a few slightly more esoteric ingredients that are fundamental to making Thai food, like lemongrass, Kafir lime leaves and fish sauce.

Fish sauce is usually made from anchovies and other seasonings, which puts it off the table for vegetarian and vegan cooking. So when I noticed that Vegan Dad had posted a DIY fishless sauce, well, that was a no-brainer to try!

Vegan Dad's version is brilliant - use plants from the ocean, AKA seaweed, to mimic that fishy taste, without the fish. Since I am not completely vegetarian at the moment and am still eating fish, I had some fish sauce to compare to Vegan Dad's seaweed version. To deepen the umami taste of the fishless sauce, I made two additions to his recipe - a dash of dark soy sauce and an extra piece of seaweed, kombu, which I allowed to soak for 24 hours in the first blend of the sauce. It deepens the complexity of the sauce giving it the stronger fishy flavor that actual fish sauce imparts.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - Raw or Vegan

This is the Tale of Two Chocolates - one raw, one not.

Once upon a time a woman named Kirsten decided to get over her issues with raw chocolate. How could anyone have an issue with raw chocolate you ask? Simple. It seemed so strange that people who ate raw food - only raw food - who appeared to be so interested in eating just for heath reasons, would eat so much chocolate. So she investigated raw chocolate and discovered that because it was derived from cacao beans, which are so full of antioxidants in its raw form, they are prized for their nutritional value.

And like so many fairy tales, she discovered that at first glance, something that appeared fantastical and unbelievable turned out to be real and true. Despite the fact that cacao is the basis for chocolate, which seems to be the antithesis of healthy food, it is healthy to eat large amounts of cacao powder.  Adding cacao powder - ground, raw cacao beans - to various other raw ingredients like coconut oil or coconut butter produces a solid food that looks like a treat but has high nutritional value. What a revelation!

Kirsten decided to try a few recipes using these ingredients and she discovered that she liked raw desserts! She made this raw chocolate bar and these raw brownies and decided that raw was good! Thinking about her favorite dessert combination - chocolate and peanut butter - she set out to create a raw version of her favorite guilty pleasure treat.

However, she had doubts. What if the raw chocolate peanut butter cup wasn't as good as the raw bar or raw brownie? Being a resourceful person, she decided to make two versions - one with a hard chocolate shell made with melted chocolate and one using a raw recipe. And do you know what? They were both good! Everyone wins!

Ironically, the darker chocolate cup in the above photo is the hard shell cup, with only 55% cacao, while the lighter chocolate cup is the raw one. Go figure!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Zucchini Parmesan Medallions

When summer hits, the zucchini invades, especially if you were foolish enough to put a plant or four in your garden. Like spiders, they multiple at astounding rates. One day they are cute and small, making your heart sing at your ability to grow your own food. But look away for a moment and you find gigantic bats sticking out from those leafy stalks. Never fear, here is a great way to cook up those green giants that everyone will love. With less than five ingredients and almost no work on your part you will be reducing those monsters to delicious juicy morsels of summer goodness.

This recipes comes from my mother who loves zucchini. She tosses zucchini medallions - 1 inch slices of zucchini - with olive oil, salt, and pepper, topping them with shaved parmesan cheese. It sounds like one of those recipes that is too simple to be so delicious, but trust me, it really is. The best part is that these little addictive morsels will be gone faster than you can say cheese, so it's a great way to use up all of that zucchini overflowing out of your garden or the farmers' market!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tomato and Herb Orzo Salad

Orzo, the mini pasta, not orso, the big bear! Orzo looks like a grain of barley or rice but is actually pasta, so it has that toothsome bite and pasta taste. Being so small, it tricks people into thinking they're not quite eating pasta, so it's always a great dish for a potluck.

In this version I tossed together what I had in the fridge - sweet grape tomatoes, red onions and mint - added a few dashes of red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and presto! A lovely easy summer pasta salad!

Mint was my herb of choice just to change it up a bit from the traditional basil, but if you've got basil on your mind, go for it. Mint is always so crisp, fresh and cooling for my taste, which is why it often finds it's way into my salads along with cilantro before basil does. To each their own!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Oven Baked Onion Rings with Aioli

"Vie-dail-ya Unyuns" - that would be Southern for Vidalia Onions, patron saint of Vidalia, Georgia, the sweet onion that only deigns to bless us with its presence for a brief but glorious time during the early summer. Grab them while you can and probably not from your farmers' market unless you're living far south of the Maxon Dixon line.

I spent three years in Atlanta as an undergrad and was "schooled" in the treasures of Vidalias, and have faithfully searched them out where ever I was living ever since. They are sweet and crisp without the stinging acidity of white or yellow onions. Here I baked them a la Post Punk Kitchen's advice and enjoyed them with some homemade aioli!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Aioli - Fresh Garlic Mayonnaise - DIY Pantry

Aioli is one of the Food Gods greatest gifts to us mere mortals. One taste and you will want to slather it on everything, dip anything edible in it, and when no one is looking, spoon it straight out of the jar. But the real addiction starts once you try homemade - and really, it's not worth buying it, that's just chopped garlic in mayonnaise. Fresh garlic mashed to a pulp with salt and then incorporated into homemade mayonnaise, it's (insert your favorite superlative here)!!!

Yes, it is one of those homemade items that intimidates people, but if you follow the instructions below I can promise, no guarantee, that you will produce gorgeous, addictive aioli. And then you can join the smug club and feel beyond self-satisfied when you share your wealth.

Key Tips to Perfect Aioli (or homemade mayonnaise)

1. Chill your metal bowl and whisk at least 30 minutes before beginning.

2. Use the freshest eggs you can find (if you're not getting them from your neighbor with chickens, just be sure to check the date when you buy them in the store. (Kidding about your neighbor, but lucky you if that is where you're getting them!)

3. Use a tablespoon to drip the oil into your mixing bowl rather than pouring it in. This ensures that you do not pour too much at a time and your aioli will emulsify.

4. Place a dish cloth under your mixing bowl so that it does not spin away from you as you whisk the aioli (while your other hand is dripping in the oil).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vegan & Vegetarian Grilling for the 4th of July

I have always wondered why grilling on the 4th seems so de rigor - it is hard to imagine Thomas Jefferson or George Washington slaving over a grill - oh, right, their slaves did that for them! But seriously, where did this tradition come from? If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

Regardless of the tradition, the vegetarian and vegans out there certainly get shunted aside for the meat-heavy menus that take front and center at the grill on that day. So for all of you folks looking for more than grilled portabellos (good, but kind of common) and frozen veggie burgers, here are my humble suggestions.

Let's start with entree possibilities.

First is Apricot Chipotle Glazed Tofu. Sounds complicated but oh so easy and delicious that you will have to hold the meat-eaters at bay with your fork - make sure the tines are sharpened!

Another interesting entree choice is Grilled Haloumi. If you have yet to try this magical cheese of Cypress, find a specialty or natural food store and pick up a piece. A firm cheese that feels like more solid fresh mozzarella with a bit of the salty tang of feta, it grills without melting all over the place, producing beautiful grill marks and a smoking creamy mouth feel. Dare I say it's the steak of cheese? It would pair nicely with any fresh green herb condiments like Chimichurri or Coriander Chutney.

Yes, you can buy veggie burgers at the store and there are some that I love in a pinch. But make your own and put exactly what you want in them!

In these White Bean and Chipotle Burgers I combine mild flavored white beans with spicy chipotle sauce (great if you have made your own) to create a not too beany but oh so spicy burger waiting for your favorite toppings. With that much spice in the burger, my additions are usually simple like the tomato and avocado in the picture.

If you are one of those greens-a-holics (don't be ashamed, raise your hand) you will love the Spinach and Black Bean Burgers. Adding greens of any kind to beans helps hold a veggie patty together nicely - no need for eggs here! Past variations have included bread crumbs or walnuts, truly whatever was on hand that sounded like it would be good together. This version is straight out of the pantry - dry and frozen. Combine frozen spinach, canned beans, a little flour to hold it all together and some basic seasonings, and you've got a great burger!

If you prefer an Asian style marinade, this Szchewan Style Grilled Tofu is for you. Simple but flavorful, this is my go to recipe when I need to whip something up quickly as a contribution to a grilling feast. The tofu only needs to marinate for 10-15 minutes per side and then you're ready for the fire.

Don't forget the sides! These are a few of my current favorites, including grilled veggie options but also some cold salads like this vegan tortellini pasta salad (the trick is to use won ton wrappers or DIY goyza wrappers).

Tortellini Pasta Salad

Grilled Zucchini with Red Wine Vinegar

Traditional Italian Style Grilled Radicchio

Grilled Artichokes with Aioli

And to bring up the rear, here's the Classic Herb Potato Salad I posted for last year's 4th celebration. Happy Birthday America! Here's to another year of continuing to improve our country and striving to be the home of the brave and the land of the free for everyone!