Friday, December 31, 2010

Vegan Good Things: Best of 2010

I really can't believe it's the last day of 2010. It's been an incredible year in a lot of ways, mostly due to all the good things that came into my life this year, in large part due to the connections I've made through this blog. It was a year in which I made so many new friends, attended some very fun and exciting events, and had plenty of good things to eat. So many, in fact, that it was also the year I finally joined a gym.

Looking back on my Vegan Foodie Resolution for 2010, however, I'm somewhat dismayed at how few of the items I accomplished. Here's a summary of how I did:

1. Stop collecting cookbooks and start testing recipes from the ones I have already! Well, I certainly did test quite a lot of recipes from my vast collection of cookbooks, but I didn't slow down my cookbook collecting habit at all. In fact, I added many new cookbooks to my collection this year, my favorite of which has to be Chef Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook, which gave me two of my all-time favorite recipes for Celery Root Soup with Granny Smith Apples and the now famous Oven Roasted Banana Rum Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Crust & Maple Rum Sauce. Resolution for 2011: buy new bookshelves?

2. Eat more beets. This I actually did manage to accomplish. I thoroughly enjoyed the beets I ate at a friend's house for dinner, they were steamed and dressed simply with olive oil and lots of fresh dill. I also really enjoyed these Beet & Brown Rice Burgers that I made with a recipe from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way. I like beets now, but I still don't love them.

3. Eat more raw food. I'd give myself a C on this one. We do eat more raw food, but beyond salads I really don't make much raw food at home. This I will definitely improve upon in 2011. I am now armed with a new (and I'm ashamed to admit, still unused) fancy Excalibur food dehydrator as well as Ani Phyo's Raw Food Essentials and Raw Food Desserts. So expect lots of raw food posts in 2011!

4. Have dinner at 4 Course Vegan. I am so ashamed I didn't manage to do this this year. What can I say? I'm not good at planning ahead. I did, however, manage to make it to an incredible Gracious Gourmand dinner, where we enjoyed many delectable creations by Chef Ayinde Howell. So 4 Course Vegan will go back on my list again for 2011, as well as one of the Nasturtium dinner parties. So many amazing vegan dinners in Brooklyn to go to!

5. Compete as a chef at a Veggie Conquest. Oops. Didn't do this one either. I'm scared, to be honest. We did attend another Veggie Conquest as eaters, and were very impressed by the food that people (my potential future competitors) presented. I'm still working up the courage to do this in 2011. I believe that my cooking skills might have improved enough over the past year to be able to not completely humiliate myself.

I will post my complete Vegan Foodie Resolution for 2011 tomorrow, but for now let's just reflect on my Top 5 favorite posts of the year. These are my favorites either because they got the biggest response from the commenters & Tweeters, and/or simply because they were my favorite things to eat. I truly hope you've enjoyed my posts this year, and I can't tell you how excited I am for all the posts to come in the new year.

5. Eat Your Brussels Sprouts! Who knew that there were so many brussels sprout lovers out there? This is still my absolute favorite way to eat them. The combination of maple, soy, Sriracha, and lime is just finger-licking good.

4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Tofu Pudding. This recipe is so easy to make, and so worthwhile. This will make even the biggest tofu-phobes lick their spoons clean and ask for more.

3. What You're Craving Now: Vegan Pad See-Ew. You guys love Thai food. You really, really love it. I do too, so expect to see a LOT more Thai recipes in 2011. I've got a long list of Thai recipes I'm working out, so get your bellies ready.

2. The Greatest Cheesecake Recipe of All Time, Ever. From the above-mentioned Tal Ronnen cookbook, this cheesecake has wowed everyone to whom I served it. It is my favorite cheesecake and has become my standby recipe for all entertaining needs. It's so good that I think it has ruined me for any other cheesecake recipes. Quite simply, it is a perfect dessert.

And the winner is crowned...drum roll please...

1. By Popular Demand: Coconut Bacon! This post sparked a veritable coconut bacon craze. It united vegans and bacon lovers... basically leading to world peace. If you haven't yet made this coconut bacon, MAKE IT NOW. With some Vegenaise, lettuce, and tomato, this makes the world's greatest BLT. It's salty, smoky, crunchy, and good, and just thinking about it is making my mouth water. So Happy New Year's everybody! Now I've got to go whip up a new batch of coconut bacon!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Blogiversary! I'm Celebrating with a Pissaladière (Onion Tart)

I can't believe it. Exactly one year ago today, I wrote my first post for this blog, and had no idea how it would lead me to connect with so many amazing people. I feel very blessed to have met, both online and in my "real" life, so many incredible people who love delicious vegan food. I've also discovered countless new blogs, inspiring chefs, and people from all walks of life who are finding wonderfully creative ways to share their love for vegan food and vegan issues. What a wonderful year it has been, thanks to people like YOU who are reading this right now, and I am giddily optimistic and excited about all the good things that 2011 will bring.

Speaking of 2011, you may be planning things to make for a New Year's Eve get-together. This vegan Pissaladière is perfect party food. Similar to a pizza, it is traditionally topped with onions, olives, and anchovies. For obvious reasons my version does not include anchovies, but I don't think it lacks any flavor because of it. It's caramelized oniony goodness, topped with some salty olives, and fresh thyme on a flaky buttery puff pastry crust. Just cut this into squares to serve to your guests, and don't forget the champagne!

Vegan Pissaladière (adapted from this recipe) 
serves 6

6 yellow onions, sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for brushing on dough
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 sheet vegan puff pastry (Pepperidge Farms is vegan, and widely available)
20 oil-cured black olives, pitted
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1. In large saute pan, cook onions over medium heat with olive oil, thyme sprigs, and salt. Cover and cook for 40 minute to 1 hour until onions are wilted and soft. Remove lid and continue to cook until moisture is gone and onions are starting turn a golden brown. Pull out the thyme sprigs and discard. Allow to cool while making tart.

2. Preheat oven to 400. On lightly floured surface roll pastry sheet to a thickness of 1 1/16 inch. Put on sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Dock the surface with a fork (poke lots of small holes to prevent air packets from forming), and lightly brush with olive oil. Put in middle of the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until pastry no longer looks raw and it’s just starting to turn brown.

3. Spread onion mixture on inside of tart, to within 1/2 inch of edge. Brush edges with a bit more olive oil and return to oven to continue cooking. Remove when pastry is dark golden brown, after about 10 minutes. Push olives into onions to form a grid pattern and sprinkle with the fresh thyme.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays to All! My Gift to You: Orange Spice Bûche de Noël with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting & Chocolate Ganache

The very happiest of holidays to all of you. The past two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind due to an insanely busy work schedule and all of the holiday planning and preparations, so I haven't been able to post much. It wasn't until yesterday that I finally had a chance to start some holiday baking. And by holiday baking, I mean my annual attempt at creating a beautiful Bûche de Noël cake. My past attempts have been less than successful - the cake was too dry, it cracked/fell apart, the frosting looked ugly, etc. But finally, finally, this year I managed to make one that I am proud to share with you.

The Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, is a big tradition in France and when living in Paris I always loved gazing upon the gorgeously-decorated creations in all the bakeries at Christmastime. I've adopted this tradition as my own, and once you taste this cake, you might too.

I simply veganized this recipe for the cake and the filling and will tell you that one of the reasons I chose it was because it was one of the only recipes I found that didn't call for a bunch of egg whites and other hard-to-veganize ingredients. I substituted flax "eggs" and the cake came out very tasty and with a heavenly aroma courtesy of the orange zest and spices. Just make sure you don't leave it out on the counter too long after it cools, or it will dry out. Wrap it up and refrigerate it until you are ready to move forward with the filling and frosting. Please note that this recipe below will give you enough of the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting to frost the entire cake. This would give you a beautiful white cake, which I might do another year, but for this one I wanted to use a chocolate ganache to frost it to give it the more traditional wooden "log" appearance. Besides, who doesn't love a chocolate/orange combo? The chocolate ganache is incredibly easy and I simply made a half portion of the recipe from Fran Costigan's More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts. At any rate, you can either make a half-batch of the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, or you can have leftover frosting to use on cupcakes, to stuff into some vegan French Toast, or whatever else suits your fancy. It's the holidays, so go crazy.

Vegan Orange-Spice Bûche de Noël with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 10 - 12 servings

For the cake:
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. ground flax seed, mixed with 6 Tbsp. water (equivalent of 3 eggs)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated orange peel
Powdered sugar
For the frosting:
1 8-oz package vegan cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) Earth Balance or margarine, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
For the ganache:
8 oz. vegan semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup vegan cream (I like MimicCreme)

Make the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Use EB to butter 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment. Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. 

2. Heat non-dairy milk in medium saucepan over medium heat to 150°F. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and flax eggs in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla and grated orange peel. Beat in flour mixture until just blended. Gradually beat in warm milk. Pour batter into pan. 

3. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Spread kitchen towel on work surface; cover with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with powdered sugar. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Invert hot cake onto parchment. Peel parchment off top of cake. Starting at 1 long side and using towel as aid, gently roll up cake jelly-roll style. Cool. 

Roll the cake up just like you would a sushi roll.

Make the frosting:
1. Using electric mixer, beat first 5 ingredients in large bowl until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Cover and chill until firm but spreadable, about 45 minutes. 

2. Unroll cake; remove second sheet of parchment. Spread scant 2 cups frosting over cake; starting at 1 long side, roll up jelly-roll style. Place cake, seam side down, on platter. 

3. Starting 1 inch in from end of cake, turn knife on sharp diagonal and cut to remove one 3-inch-long triangular piece of cake. Spread 1 tablespoon frosting on cut side of cake piece. Attach frosted side of cake piece to side of cake near end. 

The assembled, but still undecorated cake, unless you're into a minimalist look. It really does look like a log!
Make the ganache:
1. Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat non-dairy cream in a small pan until it just comes to a boil. Pour cream immediately over chocolate, let sit one minute. Using a non-stick spatula, stir cream into chocolate until it is all melted and smooth.

2. Spread ganache over top and sides of cake and cake piece. Using tines of fork, draw circles on cake ends to resemble tree rings. Draw fork along length of cake to form bark design. Garnish as desired with dried or fresh fruit, candied orange peel, powdered sugar to resemble snow, marzipan mushrooms, etc. 

Enjoy the holidays and all the sweetness of the season!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's a Party Without Sesame-Soy Meatballs?

I meant to do some holiday appetizer posts this week, but work has kept me incredibly busy and I just haven't had the time to do much cooking. Then I remembered this recipe for Sesame-Soy Meatballs that I'd been wanting to veganize. The recipe is for a main dish, but stick some fancy toothpicks in them and you've got a perfect little holiday bite!

These meatballs are seriously garlicky and spicy and pack quite a punch. I'm talking warding off the vampires kind of garlicky. So just keep that in mind when you're serving them. Everybody needs to eat some in order to become immune to each others' garlic breath. That said, these were so savory and addictive. Garlicky, spicy, a little salty... we ate them with just some white rice and steamed green beans, because they were so boldly spiced we didn't need any other competing flavors. I found it hard to stop eating them.

Other than tweaking a few things to the original recipe to make these vegan, I just finished them off by drizzling a little sweet chili sauce mixed with a small amount of Braggs liquid aminos (you could also use soy sauce or tamari). The glaze gave it a nice touch of sweetness, but you could also put it in a small dish to use for dipping, if you are serving these appetizer-style. A spicy mustard dip would also be really good with these.

Vegan Sesame-Soy Meatballs
makes about 20 meatballs, or 4 servings

1/3 cup minced green onions
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. Bragg's liquid aminos or tamari
2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp. chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 tsp. salt
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. vegan ground beef*
*I recommend using Match or Lightlife ground beef for this, because they will stick together better. Do not use the crumble-style ground beef for this recipe.

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Add beef; mix gently to combine. With moist hands, shape beef mixture into 20 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs.

3. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the meatballs to pan; cook 4 minutes, turning to brown meatballs on all sides. Arrange browned meatballs in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper or coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining meatballs. Bake meatballs at 400 for 7 minutes or until done.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Not Your Parents' Taco Night: The Flying Pig's Crunchy Tofu Korean Tacos

I saw this recipe for the Flying Pig's Crunchy Tofu Tacos in Food & Wine magazine sometime during the summer, clipped it out, and have been thinking about making it for months now. I'm really bad about that - I have an entire kitchen drawer full of recipes that I've ripped out of magazines and one day plan on testing out, but this taco recipe really stuck in my head because it sounded so different, and so creative, and so delicious.

One good thing about my job is that my office is on the edge of "Korea-town," a couple blocks of all-Korean restaurants, groceries, and other businesses. This made it very easy for me to find the Korean chile powder and Korean pepper paste, also known as kochujang, but if you don't live near a well-stocked Asian market, you can order these ingredients online. Believe me when I tell you it's worth it, because these tacos might have been the best tacos I've ever tasted.

The recipe is incredibly easy and quick to make - basically you're just frying the tofu and then assembling the tacos. You toss tofu cubes into a marinade of the Korean chile pepper flakes, chile pepper paste, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil, then you toss those cubes into a mixture of cornstarch and more chile pepper flakes. Fry these in oil until crispy and browned, then garnish your tacos with the tofu, kimchi, slices of Asian pear, chopped scallion, a drizzle of hoisin sauce, bean sprouts, and crushed peanuts. It's a flavor explosion!

Despite all the chile pepper and kimchi, I didn't think these were overwhelmingly hot. These flavors are big and bold but very complementary, the pear slices and hoisin sauce add a nice cooling sweetness, and the tofu, sprouts, and peanuts all add a pleasant crunch. Sorry refried beans, taco night will never be the same for me again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mangez Bien! Vegan Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet

I mentioned before that I lived a few years in Paris, when I was a student. One French dish that always eluded me while living there, and which I will forever associate with reading Celine's Journey to the End of the Night, was the famous rustic dish called cassoulet. The "real" version is a fatty, porky, mess of a dish, and never appealed to me in that form. But when I discovered this much lighter sounding version in Gourmet, I was intrigued and knew it was a dish I could easily veganize.

This dish has quickly become one of our absolute favorite winter meals at home. It is really easy to make, comes together quickly, and is full of garlicky goodness. It's hearty and warming, but so full of flavor it won't make you feel heavy or too full. You will imagine yourself enjoying this meal in the French countryside, so be sure to pour yourself a good glass of red wine to go with it, though speaking with French accents is entirely optional.

This cassoulet inaugurated my new Le Creuset pan. Vive la France!

Vegan Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet
makes 4 servings

4 vegan Italian sausage links (I used Tofurky brand, which are flavored with sun-dried tomato and basil), cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 med. onions, halved and sliced thin lengthwise (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp. mixed chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and/or sage or 3/4 tsp. mixed dried herbs, crumbled
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped scallion greens or fresh parsley (wash and dry before chopping)
one 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes including juice
salt and pepper, to taste
19-oz. can white beans such as cannellini, navy, or Great Northern, drained and rinsed

For topping:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (wash and dry before chopping)

1. Cook sausages in 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil to pan and cook onions and garlic, stirring, until golden. Stir in herbs (including bay leaf), scallions or parsley, tomatoes with juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil, then continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add sausage and beans to tomato mixture and cook, stirring, until heated through. Discard bay leaf and cover cassoulet to keep warm while preparing topping.

4. For topping, heat olive oil in a skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Saute bread cubes until pale golden. Stir in garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste and saute 1 minute while stirring.

5. Transfer cassoulet to serving dish and cover evenly with topping.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Comfort Food: A Hearty Beefless Stew

I hate being cold. As many years as I've been living in NY, I never get used to the freezing cold winters. My goal in life is to be able to use the word "winter" as a verb, as in, "I'm going to winter in Anguilla this year."

That said, with it having turned bitterly cold already, I've been eating a lot of hearty, warming soups and stews. I came across this recipe from The Conscious Cook himself, Tal Ronnen, on Gardein's website. The original recipe uses Gardein Beefless Tips, which I'm sure are amazing, but I didn't have any of those on hand so I used seitan. Really the only thing I did differently was add some soy sauce and extra seasonings, because the seitan wasn't preseasoned like the Beefless Tips would be.

The resulting stew was hearty, flavorful, and "eats like a meal." The wine simmered with the vegetable stock really gives it an extra rich depth of flavor, and besides, who doesn't love any recipe that includes wine?

Beefless Stew
serves 4-6

12 oz. seitan
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
10 oz. pearl onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, 1/2 inch diced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
3 Tbsp. flour
3 cups vegan "beef" broth, or vegetable broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 medium potatoes, 1/2 inch diced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat, add seitan and brown on all sides. Remove from saucepan and set aside.

2. Add pearl onions, garlic and celery to saucepan and cook for 3 minutes. Add carrots, thyme, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and continue to cook for 3 minutes.

3. Sprinkle in flour, then slowly add broth, wine, and soy sauce while stirring.

4. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Add seitan back in and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.