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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

I’ve been reminded the past few weeks why Spring may be my favorite season, and I need only one word for it: asparagus.

I’ve been pining or asparagus season since, oh, November or so. Granted, this is California, so I could theoretically get asparagus anytime I want, but it’s usually conventionally grown and from Mexico or Chile. With a vegetable that’s technically a young shoot and is best when it’s fresh, there’s no way this stuff is going to cut it.

When I spied local, fresh asparagus at my farmers’ market three weeks ago, my jaw literally dropped. I’ve been buying a pound of it every week since, which I usually consume singlehandedly in two sittings.

roast-asparagus

The above is one of my more successful asparagus endeavors: roast asparagus (with salt and pepper), a poached egg, and a miso butter sauce on the side. Dipping the asparagus in the egg yolk was great, and the miso butter — get this vegans — tasted exactly like parmesan cheese. As one who’s been eschewing dairy lately, this discovery made my evening. (Miso butter recipe here, I used margarine: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/19/dining/193crex.html)

However, pan-roasting asparagus turned out to be the best option. Even better than roasting. I made a giant plate of it for me and my sweetie; prep was little more than cutting the asparagus spears into bite-ish-sized piece and sauteeing in olive oil over medium-high heat for five minutes, then cutting the heat to low for the last five. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and you have a meal fit for a king. Or queen. Or whatever royalty you want to be.

We’ve also started enjoying our CSA share — our second pick-up is tomorrow. Our CSA seems to favor a really wide variety of vegetables. Last week, it was parsnips, which I’d never had. We discovered that we really like parsnips. Veggie prep this week has been roasting them — a mix of a parsnip, some carrots, a beet, red onion, some fennel root, coated with olive oil and put in a pan with about a cup of veggie broth. Roasty at 350F for an hour; dress with mixture of (2 T soy sauce + 1 T balsamic vinegar), salt, pepper, some cayenne, fresh herbs (we had parsley). We found feta to be a nice addition as well. Also good with brown rice. Pretty much any root veggies would do well in this way of preparing, which I found in my CSA cookbook. Note to veggie lovers out there: CSA cookbooks are great, if you can get your hands on them.

roasted-root-vegetables

Here’s to Spring and all of the adventures it brings.

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I’ll admit, I’ve been sucky on the breakfast front lately. I’m a picky breakfast eater — I don’t like anything sweet or cold, and it has to be sturdy. I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal (thick rolled oats + boiling water + sugar), but I’m also easily bored. I decided to take back breakfast this morning.

A big cup of tea and my favorite vegan breakfast — and actually sitting down and deciding to make a meal of it, instead of eating in my lap while on my laptop.

In my brain I’m all about valuing eating. Food is important! Put away the internet and sit down at a table! I’m pretty good at dinner since the boy and I have been eating meals I make at home regularly, but the rest of the day’s meals get tossed away. I know it’s even worse with an 8-5, or if you’re a student. Breakfast becomes a hassle, pitting your body’s needs against time. And time kind of wins usually.

But today breakfast won. With my favorite, quick and easy vegan breakfast. Here’s what you do (taken from one of the How It All Vegan books).

– Leftover rice and tofu into a pan with some olive oil and soy sauce
– Bread gets toasty
– Toasty bread receives Vegenaise treatment
– Soy saucy rice and tofus go onto lubricated bread
– All gets topped with ketchup

Kind of weird, but really fast and tasty. And man, talk about stick to your ribs! I was full full full after two pieces.

Now, of course, I’m imagining out-the-door versions. Rolled in some lavash bread maybe?

But for now, I’m going to stick to my sit down breakfast. I think I owe it to myself.

(Books are a nutritious part of this balanced breakfast. I’ve discovered the library, can you tell…?)

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Last night, I had a date. A date with an eggplant.

Eggplant and I have had a touch-and-go relationship. Well, actually, there’s never been much touching. Maybe a one-night stand at my favorite Sri Lankan restaurant where they actually know how to prepare eggplant. Usually, though, my relationship with eggplant consists of me finding it in mediocre grilled vegetable sandwiches that are the only thing on the menu I can eat. The eggplant is always squishy.

So I tried last night to make amends with eggplant and cook something delicious. Here was my game plan: fried polenta, broiled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted Anaheim pepper, balsamic onions. Pretty much everything I read recommended some combination of eggplant-tomato-pepper. Makes sense, as they’re all in season around the same time.

By the way, did you know eggplant is a berry? And in the same family as tomatoes? Never woulda guessed.

Anyway, the players:
– Balsamic onions: Slice an onion (I used red) into rings and saute over medium-low heat in olive oil until translucent and wiggly. Move to a bowl and cover in balsamic vinegar. Allow to steep until you’re ready to use them.
– Roasted pepper: I roasted my Anaheim pepper directly over the stove flame. I’m not sure I like setting things kind-of on fire in my kitchen. However, it worked well.

– Sun-dried tomatoes: Reconstituted in olive oil, which I then used to brush on the eggplant.
– Eggplant: Sliced into 1/2″ circles and salted for quite a while — an hour? more? Broiled for 5-ish minutes each side as in this recipe.
– Polenta: Pre-made polenta roll (will try to make my own soon), sliced into 1/2″ circles and pan-fried in olive oil.

The results?

Really good! The polenta had a little bit of a crust and lent a sweetness to the dish’s foundation. The eggplant was not squishy and had remarkable flavor — I think I’ll peel it next time, as the skins got a little tough. The tomatoes were just a little tangy and chewy, providing a nice complement to the roasted pepper. The balsamic onions, though, were what really tied the dish together, picking up on the tanginess of the tomatoes while making the polenta and eggplant more interesting.

I am so making this again. I really surprised myself!

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Friends, colleagues, fellow vegetarians and vegans alike,

Do you struggle with tofu? Do you feel as though you’re one of those infomercial people in black-and-white, wrestling with preparing tofu? Have you gotten your hopes up for a broiled, steamed, fried, or baked tofu recipe, hoping this could be “the one,” only to be met with disappointing results?

Well, join me in the color part of the infomercial. I think I have figured out how to make tofu perfectly, every time.

I’m going to walk you through the steps. No monthly payments.

1. Procure some tofu for yourself. I used this:

I’ve found that tofu that comes with minimal water is usually the tofu that has the best texture. Tofus that come in plastic containers seem to hold more water. Obviously, you want extra firm or firm tofu.

2. Cut your tofu into 1/4 – 1/2″ slices.

This will give you a high surface area to volume ratio (crucial for flavor absorption and crispiness), but also give you tofu that, in the end, is good for anything.

3. Freeze your tofu for a few hours! This helps to really firm up the texture and give it a very chicken-like texture — I like a sturdy tofu. This is a departure from how I was taught to make this tofu, and I think it’s an improvement.

4. Thaw your tofu.

5. Marinate your tofu.

Marinade recipe: juice of 1 lemon PLUS 2 – 3 Tbsp of soy sauce, PLUS a little water if you don’t have enough for your tofu to soak up. You could add minced garlic to this, or red pepper flakes.
Let this sit for at least an hour, turning regularly to make sure it is evenly coated. You should see that your tofu is getting darker, because it is soaking up the marinade.

6. Dredging time! Put some (1/2 c?) nutritional yeast into a container a little bigger than your tofu slices, add a piece of tofu, shake to coat, flip, repeat until all the surfaces of the tofu are covered in yeast. The nutritional yeast will soak up some of the moisture, so you may have to flip a few times.

7. Frying time. Heat a frying pan, with enough oil to coat, over medium-ish heat (depends how hot your burner is). Fry each piece until golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Flip. Repeat.

Hooray! Tasty tofu with a bit of a crust. Should keep at least a week — probably way longer — in the fridge.

Ideas for using:
– eat with your hands
– use on a sandwich
– slice up in salads (I did this last night and I think it’d be good in a “chicken” Caesar)
– add to a rice bowl for some extra flavor and protein
– substitute for breakfast “sausage”
– eat with ketchup and a little hot sauce instead of “chicken” nuggets
– make “chicken” parmesan

Go forth and make tofu! I’m looking forward to cooking amazing tofu from here on out…

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In the vein of talking about tomatoes a LOT, I offer you a new and innovative way to enjoy tomatoes!

After a few weeks of making soup out of tomatoes, eating tomatoes on bagels, making pie out of tomatoes, putting tomatoes on pasta, drying tomatoes (more later), I’m still not over them. Although I’m investing a lot of energy in preserving the Early Girls for the off season, I want to savor some of them as unadulterated as possible. I’m not yet part of the camp that eats tomatoes like apples, probably because I’m still recovering from eating many a mediocre tomato in my day. That having been said, these tomatoes are GOOD, and I want to really taste them.

So! A simple recipe for using up some tomatoes. Y’all should know that I feel more masterful in the kitchen when working without a recipe — responding to the ingredients that I have rather than blindly throwing “three tomatoes” into a bowl. The recipes that I put out there end up being a reflection of that. Check out what you have, inspect your feelings on correct tomato-to-lettuce ratio, and go from there.

And, of course, the better ingredients you can obtain — organic, locally farmed — the better this will taste.

For a generous one-person salad, you will need:
One slice of bread, toasted — I used Russian Rye, which yielded great results.
Two-ish tomatoes
Lettuce — I used baby greens because I don’t like ribs. Choose something green, not iceberg.
Onion
Mayo (can use Vegenaise to make vegan, or plain yogurt if you don’t like mayo)
Balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar if you prefer)
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

1. While toasting the bread, cut tomatoes into quarters or eighths. Leave seeds and squishy stuff in.
2. Tomatoes, lettuce, onion (cut into thin rounds, amount per your onion preference) all go into a bowl.
3. Take toasty bread and cut into pieces roughly 1″ square. Add to salad mixture.
4. Add dollop or two of mayo — maybe 2 tbsp, depending on how much you like or are grossed out by mayo.
5. Add splash of balsamic and drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

And the most important step:

6. Toss and let sit for a few minutes. The bread will get a little squishy and really really tasty.

Basil would go well in this salad, also. I’d recommend against adding other veggies, in the interest of highlighting the simple tomato + tangy flavors.

This recipe inspired by a recipe in my UCSC CSA cookbook.

Enjoy! A fabulous way to savor the last fruits of summer…

P.S. Yes that IS Animal Vegetable Miracle that I’m reading, and I’m on the tomato chapter! Talk about good timing. I highly recommend the book to, well, anyone, and will talk more about it when I’m finished.

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