Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Match Vegan Meats Adventure: Italian Sausage Edition

One thing I forgot to mention in my post last week about the Veggie Conquest dinner was that I won one of the door prizes - a package of Match Vegan Meat, Italian Sausage flavor.  Now my friend Annie from the awesome blog Meet the Shannons is always raving about Match products and making scrumptious-looking things out of them, so I had been wanting to try them out, but apparently in New York they are only sold at the D'Agostino grocery stores, and there aren't any in my neighborhood. Seeing as I'm fairly lazy, I just hadn't managed to make a special trip to go buy some. Lucky for me, though, Veggie Conquest saved me the trek and I finally had a chance to bring some home to test out.

The bad news is that now I'm going to have to go out of my way to find a D'Agostino. The good news is that I am a new and adoring fan of Match meats. If they are all as good as the Sausage flavor, then I'm going to be stocking up and may need to invest in a larger freezer. It had a very authentic flavor (chock full of fennel seeds) and the texture is also spot-on, it cooks and browns just like meat would.

I decided to go classic with a pasta dish that would let the sausage be the star of the show, so to speak. Pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe seems to be an extremely popular dish when we get catering at work, and of course I never get to try it, so I figured I'd take this version and veganize it so that it would be even tastier and healthier than the version they get, so there work people, take that.

Conchiglie (Pasta Shells) with Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
serves 4

1/2 pound (about 2 cups) dried pasta shells (conchiglie, cavatelli, or other small shell-shaped pasta)
1/2 pound (1/2 package) Match Italian Sausage
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 bunch (about 3/4 pound broccoli rabe, tough and hollow stems discarded, washed well
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth (No Chicken Broth recommended for this recipe)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other non-dairy butter
grated vegan Parmesan, for serving (optional)

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Crumble Match sausage and saute in oil until browned and starting to crisp, breaking up any chunks with back of your spoon. Remove from pan and set aside. (Do not clean out pan.)

3. Cut broccoli rabe into 1-inch pieces. Using same pan as sausage, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. Saute broccoli rabe several minutes, until it begins to brown. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add broth and raisins and simmer about 3 minutes, until broccoli rabe is tender. Add butter and stir until well incorporated.

4. Drain pasta and add to pan with broccoli rabe mixture, along with sausage. Mix well and heat through thoroughly. Serve with Parmesan, if desired.

And what did I do with that leftover half package of the Match Sausage? I made Meatball Parmesan subs, of course! It was the perfect amount for two subs - I simply formed the remaining sausage into 8 small meatballs, browned them on all sides in some olive oil, then served on baguette with some marinara sauce, Daiya Mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Before topping with the fresh basil, I stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melted. Heaven!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Return of the Blossoms: Zucchini Blossom Pizza

This past weekend I made zucchini blossoms for the first time, stuffing them full of cheesy goodness and frying them. Fortunately I had some leftover blossoms to work with, so I made one of my favorite vegan good things: a cornmeal-crust pizza. I don't normally put zucchini on pizzas...I don't know why, because I love zucchini and I love pizza, but they don't necessarily need to go together, you know? But maybe I've been missing out because I really loved this zucchini pizza, with its one-two punch of fresh zucchini slices and zucchini blossoms. Another thing? The word "zucchini" starts to look really weird the more you type it. Zucchini zucchini zucchini.

Anyway, here is my super fast, easy, and delicious Zucchini Blossom Pizza. Here's a big tip: you can either make your own cornmeal crust, per my recipe, OR you can save yourself just a teensy bit of work and buy the frozen cornmeal pizza crusts from Whole Foods. Here's a secret: I buy them all the time, and they're awesome. In the 8 minutes you save from not kneading the dough, you can do something else productive, like drink a martini.

Zucchini Blossom Pizza
serves two people

1 cornmeal crust (homemade or frozen)
about 1/2 cup of your favorite pizza sauce
2 lg. cloves garlic, minced
1 sm. zucchini, sliced thinly
salt and pepper, to taste
6-8 fresh zucchini blossoms
about 1/4 cup Daiya Mozzarella shreds
fresh basil for garnish, coarsely torn or chiffonade

1. Preheat oven to 450. Spread sauce over pizza crust. I like a lot of sauce, but you don't want too much or else your crust will get soggy. Sprinkle garlic over sauce.

2. Arrange zucchini slices over sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Note: I happened to have some leftover sauteed onions and mushrooms in my fridge, so I threw those in under the zucchini layer. Feel free to add any additional pizza toppings you like. Go crazy!

3. Arrange blossoms over zucchini slices, like so:

4. Top with Daiya cheese and some fresh basil.

5. Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes, until cheese has melted on top. Before serving, add some more fresh basil.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Veggie Conquest!

Veggie Conquest is one year old! Funny enough, we went to the very first VC one year ago, and this was our first time back. Those tickets sell out fast! I was happy to see that over the course of the past year the event has gotten bigger, better, and stuff-you-full-of-awesome-vegan-foodier than ever. This event was Sunday evening and I think I'm still having a hard time buttoning my pants.

For those of you who have not had the great opportunity to participate in one of these events, it's like an all-vegan Iron Chef challenge, where you have a number of amateur chefs who compete for the winning title, some cool prizes, and bragging rights. Like Iron Chef, they are given a secret ingredient (one week in advance), and have to prepare a dish highlighting the secret ingredient that will not only wow and impress the panel of judges, but also the room full of tasters, who buy tickets to the event. 


Each contestant had to make an entree incorporating basil. And nobody took the easy route and just made pesto! Remember that none of them are professional chefs when you check out these drool-worthy six competing dishes:

Basil Tofu & Vegetables Stuffed in Sweet Rice, Wrapped in Bamboo Leaves

Stuffed Basil Leaves & Basil-Infused Falafel, Tabouleh, & Tahini*

Pepper Basil Seitan in a Basil Bechamel Sauce over Basil Pasta with Basil Oil Accent

Basil Ricotta Rollatini with Spicy Coconut Cream Sauce

Basil Eggplant Balls

Basil & Flax-Crusted Taro, with Beer-Stewed Lentils with Roasted Garlic Basil Oil

Can you believe we got to taste all those dishes?! Granted, we were served a bite-sized portion of each, but that alone was enough for a small meal. But did the fun stop there? Oh no. No no no no. That was just the first course!

For the second course, the three judges had each prepared various dishes for us to taste AND our favorite vegan fast food joint on the planet Foodswings also prepared mini "Big Macs" and the most mind-blowingly delicious mac & cheese I have EVER tasted. Ever! I'm still dreaming about that mac & cheese.

A vegan "Big Mac," mac & cheese, a whole bunch of other good stuff, and (hiding in there) the best chocolate chip cookie you ever tasted, from Gone Pie Vegan Bakery, topped with a scoop of Cinnamon Vanilla from the Raw Ice Cream Company!

Seriously, the treats from Foodswings, Gone Pie, and Raw Ice Cream were worth the price of the tickets alone. It was vegan food heaven. It was vegan food overload. It was insane. Oh yeah, and after all that, we still had the birthday cake, which by the way was made by Champs, the new vegan bakery in Williamsburg. So you'll understand why I might be fasting the rest of this week!

*This won both the judges' prize and the tasters' prize! It actually was the one dish where you tasted the most basil.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Vegan Cheese-Stuffed Fried Zucchini Blossoms

They seduced me. Those beautiful golden blossoms flirting with me every Saturday at the farmer's market. Just like that other temptress, the Romanesco cauliflower, the zucchini blossoms looked so sexy and exotic, just beckoning me to take them home. And so I finally did. And just what do you do with those delicate, pretty little things? Well, you stuff them full of cheezy stuff and fry the hell out of them.

At least that's what I did. I have to admit that before today I had never made anything with zucchini blossoms, nor do I think that I've ever even eaten them. But I've seen so many recipes about how to use them, and they always look so tasty, so I was going on blind faith that they would be good. In fact the only memory I have of eating flowers in the past was a rose petal ice cream I once had in Paris. It was made fresh at a Middle Eastern market, and it was so subtle, so delicate, romantic, and unlike anything I had ever tasted before. It was a truly memorable dessert that I may have to attempt to recreate (veganized) one day.

But back to the zucchini blossoms. Like I said, there are a lot of recipes out there for stuffed blossoms, many of them involving goat or some other mild tasting type of cheese. I improvised and was very happy with how these turned out. These are very rich and they certainly wouldn't fall into the category of "health food," but hey, this was never the blog for that kind of stuff anyway. These would be great to serve as an appetizer, one or two blossoms per person.

Vegan Cheese-Stuffed Fried Zucchini Blossoms
makes 8 blossoms

8 fresh zucchini blossoms
1 small zucchini (about 4 oz.), diced
1 lg. garlic clove, minced
4 oz. vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti Herbs & Chives flavor)
4 Tbsp. Daiya Mozzarella shreds
1/4 tsp. salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 Tbsp. lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
1/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup beer (I used a Brooklyn Pale Ale because, well, I live in Brooklyn)*
vegetable oil for frying
marinara sauce for serving
about 1/4 cup (loosely packed) basil leaves, torn or cut into chiffonade

1. Gently open each blossom and pull out the long stamen inside. Also pull off the stem and green parts around the base of each flower, leaving the bottom intact so that it can hold the filling. Lightly rinse each blossom and pat dry.

2. Saute garlic and zucchini in olive oil until well done (when zucchini pieces are dark brown, but do not let garlic burn). In a medium bowl, mix zucchini and garlic with cream cheese, Mozzarella shreds, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Stuff each blossom with a spoonful of the cheese mixture, and gently twist tops of petals to seal. I used a small espresso spoon to stuff the flowers - whatever you use just be careful to not tear the blossom apart. In another small bowl, whisk flour and beer together.

3. Pour enough oil into a non-stick skillet so that it's about 1/2 inch deep. Heat over medium high so that a few drops of the batter turn golden brown after a minute or so. Dip each stuffed blossom into the batter mix, then fry until golden, turning them over after about a minute so they fry evenly on both sides.

4. Use a slotted spoon to remove blossoms from oil, and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve with marinara sauce, fresh basil, and a wedge of lemon.

*make sure to check that your beer is vegan on Barnivore!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Easy Summertime Dinner: Fettuccine with Fresh Corn Pesto

I'm in denial that it's late August already, which means that summertime is coming to an end. Where did it go? I haven't even been to the beach a single time this summer! I'm going to try to make the most of the few remaining weeks we have left. And of course that includes eating all the fresh sweet corn, watermelon, peaches, and zucchini I can manage. The August issue of Bon Appetit magazine was really inspiring, because it includes entire menus centered around corn, zucchini, and tomatoes, making the most of your fresh summer produce. I was definitely intrigued by their recipe for Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto, and knew I had to veganize it. It turned out great!

With the creamy pesto and bits of tempeh bacon, this dish certainly calls to mind a pasta carbonara, but without all the eggs, the cheese, and the pork, this version is so much lighter, healthier, and full of fresh summer flavors. It's a perfect dish for dining al fresco. Now, if only I had a yard so we could dine al fresco...

Fettuccine with Fresh Corn Pesto
makes 4 servings

4 tempeh bacon slices (I like Lightlife), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 3 large ears)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
3/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
1/4 cup grated vegan Parmesan, plus additional for serving
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. fettuccine or tagliatelle
1/2 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

1. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Cook tempeh bacon pieces in oil until browned and crisp (I cooked them a little longer than I normally would if I was eating them plain). Transfer bacon pieces to a small plate and set aside, but leave remaining oil in pan. Add corn, garlic, salt, pepper, and liquid smoke to skillet. (The original recipe cooks the corn in the leftover bacon grease, so the liquid smoke helps to replicate that bacon-y flavor.) Saute over medium-high until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cup corn kernels to a small bowl and set aside.

2. Scrape remaining corn mixture into a food processor. Add Parmesan and pine nuts. With the processor running, pour olive oil through the feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth.

3. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Return pasta to pot, add pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/4 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls until it reaches desired consistency. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

4. Transfer pasta to a serving dish, top with remaining basil leaves and reserved tempeh bacon. Serve with additional Parmesan if desired.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

VGT On the Road: Woodstock Camping & a Visit to Farm Animal Sanctuary

Just wanted to share a few photos with you from our camping trip last weekend, up near Woodstock, NY, with six other vegans and a total of three rescued dogs (including our Bella). It was just a quick weekend trip, but we managed to squeeze in vegan s'mores, a beautiful hike, scary stories around a campfire, and even a visit to the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary.

Bella was the happiest pup in the world, having other puppy pals to play with, and being able to run free through the woods. Just look at that smile:

And you know what makes me happy? Vegan S'MORES! We came prepared with some vegan graham crackers (not easy to find, as most graham crackers contain honey), a variety of assorted chocolate bars, and of course a variety package of Sweet & Sara's vegan marshmallows, including all four flavors: vanilla, strawberry, cinnamon pecan, and toasted coconut. Holla!

By the way, I was recently asked why regular marshmallows are not vegan. For those of you who don't know, regular marshmallows (and many other things) contain gelatin. Gelatin is derived from the collagen inside animals' skin, bones, and connective tissue. So the next time you're chowing down on some marshmallows, Jell-O, or even taking vitamins or supplements that come in gelatin capsules, just think about the fact that you're eating a bunch of boiled bones and skin. It's gross. But fortunately we have a sweetie like Sara to make some delicious vegan marshmallows so we can still enjoy our s'mores around the campfire.

Making Vegan S'mores:
Step 1: Place squares of chocolate on top of a graham cracker. I recommend our technique of placing said graham cracker on top of a rock near the fire, so that the chocolate warms up and becomes just a tad melty.

Step 2: Sharpen some sticks so that they resemble small spears. Place vegan marshmallow on stick and hold over the fire. Note: vegan marshmallows don't really brown and scorch the way that regular marshmallows do, so just hold them over the fire until they seem like they're warm and gooey.

Step 3: Smush the marshmallow on top of the warm and gooey chocolate squares, and sandwich with another graham cracker on top. Squish all together so that the chocolate reaches maximum messiness. Eat. Repeat.

Since we were getting all gourmet with the s'mores up in there, I will tell you that the best combos we made were the strawberry marshmallows with a hazelnut chocolate, and also the toasted coconut marshmallows with a currant and raisin dark chocolate. Yep, even in the great outdoors with nothing but a fire pit, I'm usually thinking about what kind of delicious food we can make.

And here's another pic of our happy pup in the morning:

Also sweet was our visit to the Woodstock Sanctuary. It was my first visit there, and although I already knew I would love it, I'm an adoring fan of what they do now. I was really impressed to see their vegan outreach in action. There was a large group of people there, at least some of whom (probably most) were not vegan, and the tour guide not only introduced them to individual animals (all of whom share a story of survival), but also took the time to educate about the harsh realities of factory farming. When one begins to see each animal as an individual with emotions, who is capable of suffering, and who has a will to live, it becomes more difficult - if not impossible - to imagine eating them. And when one learns of the horrors of the modern day factory farm, it becomes an obvious choice to no longer contribute to or support such a system. I think, I hope, that a lot of people might come to the sanctuary expecting something akin to a petting zoo, but walk away from the sanctuary as newly-converted vegans.

Just look at this happy goat.


"Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." - Albert Schweitzer

These turkeys recommend my puff pastry entree stuffed with sauteed wild mushrooms, seitan, garlic, and fresh herbs, accompanied by cranberry chutney.

Lucky cat.

I think this is Dylan the cow.

Look at that happy pig! She's smiling!

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
P. O. Box 1329
Woodstock, NY 12498
Phone: 845-679-5955

Monday, August 9, 2010

Opa! It's a Summertime Greek Fest

Seitan Souvlaki with Vegan Tzatziki

Summer's glut of fresh vegetables practically begs you to make some Greek food, doesn't it? What else are you going to do with all that eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and fresh herbs? Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so, both VegNews and Saveur magazines recently featured some Greek dishes that as soon as I saw them, I just knew I had to try.

The Seitan Souvlaki skewers pictured above, amazingly started out from this blob of dough:

It's only recently that I started making my own homemade seitan, and I'm still surprised by how easy and versatile it is. This recipe is from VegNews July/August 2010 (I would link to it if I could, but it's not online. Contact me if you'd like me to send it to you.) After making the seitan, which is already filled with plenty of seasonings, you then toss it in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, and dried rosemary. Then you thread it onto skewers along with pieces of bell pepper, onion, and tomato.

Then you grill it. Seeing as we live in a Brooklyn apartment with no yard, this is how we grill:

Yes, that is my panini maker. Clearly it's time for me to invest in, at the very least, a grill pan. Grilling kabobs like this isn't too bad, but you know what's difficult? Grilling eggplant.

Grillin' eggplant, Brooklyn-style

Looking at these pictures gave me a flashback to the days when I used to make grilled cheese in my dorm room with my iron. When it comes to food, I will find a way to get things done!

To go with the Seitan Souvlaki, I made the Tzatziki Sauce recipe also from VegNews. It's just a mix of cucumber, garlic cloves, vegan yogurt, lemon juice, and fresh herbs - I used dill. It was super easy and delicious, adding a nice cooling contrast to the heavily seasoned "meat." If I would change one thing though, I might swap the vegan yogurt for some silken tofu. I found the vegan yogurt to be too thin and watery for this sauce. It is traditionally made with Greek yogurt, which is very thick, and I think silken tofu might be a better match for the consistency.

Along with the skewers, I also made the Melintzanosalata and Kolokithokeftedes recipes from Saveur magazine (that would be Eggplant & Parsley Dip and Zucchini Fritters to you and me). The Eggplant Dip was already vegan, so I made that according to the recipe, starting with the eggplant you see grilling above. After cooling, peeling, seeding, and chopping up the grilled eggplant (a lot of work, but it's worth it), you saute some bell pepper and jalapeno, then process everything together with olive oil, parsley, red wine vinegar, and garlic, until it slightly chunky. This dip far exceeded my expectations, it was intensely flavorful and fresh tasting. And - best of all - my normally eggplant-hating husband loved it too! Definitely the sign of a good recipe.

The Zucchini Fritter recipe I had to veganize, so I'll give you my recipe below. These are AMAZING. Not since I made the Indonesian Corn Fritters have I had something that packed so much flavor into such a small bite. If you are wondering what to do with that surplus of zucchini from your garden (or that you bought at the farmer's market), look no further.

Zucchini Fritters
serves 4 (12 fritters)

1 lb. zucchini, grated
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated vegan Parmesan (like this one from Galaxy)
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 medium yellow onion, grated
1 1/2 tsp. Egg Replacer + 2 Tbsp. water, mixed (equivalent of one egg)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne, to taste
Olive or canola oil, for frying

1. Mix zucchini and salt in a strainer; set a weighted plate on top; let drain for 30 minutes. In a flash of genius, I had the idea to use my tofu press for the zucchini. It worked like a charm and pressed all the moisture out much faster, and without all the cumbersome heavy-stuff-on-a-plate crap. If you do use the strainer method, after 30 minutes transfer the zuccchini to a tea towel and squeeze out any remaining liquid.

2. Mix the zucchini with all other ingredients (except oil) in a medium-sized bowl. Divide mixture into 12 patties, about 3/4" thick.
3. Pour oil into a non-stick pan until it's about 1/2 inch thick, heat over medium-high until oil is shimmering. Fry patties until they are browned and crisp, about 5-6 minutes total. Transfer fritters to paper towels. Can be eaten warm or at room-temperature.

And here you can see the final results, the Eggplant & Parsley Dip on the left, Zucchini Fritters on the right, along with some store-bought hummus, dolmades, olives, and whole wheat pita bread. The only thing that could have made this better is if we were eating it outside by the azure blue waters of Santorini...