Monday, January 30, 2012

Oscar Noms #9: The Descendan-Dan Noodles

It's that time of year - Oscar Noms are back! I started this tradition last year, making recipes inspired by the annual Academy Award Best Picture Nominations. I was really happy with what I made last year, so I hope this year's nine dishes will be equally inspired if not more so. We're kicking off the countdown with Dan Dan Noodles, in honor of The Descendants. I thought about making something Hawaiian, since that is where the film is set, but I wouldn't even know how to go about veganizing Spam, poi is disgusting, and shave ice is delicious but not really a great recipe to share. Anyway, we love Hawaii (especially because it's where we got married) and also love how it is a melting pot for all types of Asian food, so Dan Dan Noodles seemed appropriate too.

These are very easy to make, and everything should be easy to find with the possible exception of the Szechuan peppercorns. Despite the name, these are not related to the common black peppercorns. These are the tongue-numbing little pods that are the key ingredient in spicy Szechuan cuisine. You should be able to find these at Asian groceries, or at specialty spice stores like Kalustyan's, if you live in NY or want to order online. The recipe is still delicious without the peppercorns, by the way, but it's just a different dish then. The other note about this recipe is that the non-vegan traditional version is usually made with minced pork. I used Lightlife Smart Ground Crumbles, but you could use Match Meat Ground "Pork", TVP, ground seitan, or anything else you like. (Note: MorningStar Farms brand contains both milk and eggs! It is NOT vegan!)

These are spicy, gingery, nutty, and completely addictive. They are also very versatile, so feel free to add veggies or anything else you like to the recipe. And stay tuned for more Oscar Noms coming soon!

Dan Dan Noodles (veganized from this recipe)
serves 4

8 oz. Shanghai-style noodles (cu mian) or udon
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
12 oz. vegan ground "beef" crumbles
2 Tbsp. chopped peeled ginger
3/4 cup vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. chili oil (I used a sesame chili oil and this worked fine)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorns
Pinch of sugar
2 Tbsp. chopped roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced scallions

1. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just tender but still firm to the bite. Drain.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add vegan crumbles and ginger, cook until crumbles are evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in vegetable stock and next 6 ingredients; simmer until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Add noodles to sauce mixture; mix thoroughly to ensure noodles are evenly coated. Garnish with peanuts and scallions before serving.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nachooo Burgers!

Ever since I made these amazing nacho burgers I've had "Nachoooooo!" stuck in my head, and other quotes from my favorite Jack Black movie ever. (Yeah, I studied European art cinema in school, and here I am referencing my favorite Jack Black movie. I'm well-rounded that way.)

My inspiration was this Bobby Flay recipe I saw from the February cover of Food & Wine. Obviously Bobby Flay isn't vegan but I respect his approach to food - straightforward, fresh, bold flavors with a spicy kick. And the first thing I thought of when I saw his recipe was that it would be the perfect opportunity to finally try out two new-ish products I hadn't had the opportunity to test yet: Gardein's Ultimate Beefless Burgers and Daiya's Pepperjack Shreds. These are definitely my new favorite veggie burgers. I've written here before about how much I hate mushy veggie burgers, and these from Gardein are anything but. They have a firm texture and like all Gardein products, are almost frighteningly convincing in their "meatiness." They actually kind of tasted like regular fast food burgers (I mean that in a good way). Can you just imagine what the world would be like if that famous sign boasted about how many millions of vegans were served Gardein burgers everyday?

Anyway, these are so easy that it's barely worth a recipe, but I'll copy the one for Bobby Flay's salsa here. The other thing I loved about these burgers was that crushed blue corn chips were part of the toppings. I've always been a (semi-closeted) fan of putting potato chips on sandwiches, so the corn chips definitely appealed to me both for the color and texture that they added. I also served these burgers with Alexia Spicy Sweet Potato Fries - seasoned with Chipotle, they were the perfect side for these slightly spicy burgers.

Bobby Flay's Nacho Burgers (Veganized)
serves 4

For salsa:
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar  
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1 chipotle chile in adobo, seeded and minced 
3 plum tomatoes, finely diced 
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced 
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro 

1/2 cup Daiya Pepperjack shreds
1 package Gardein Ultimate Beefless Burgers (4 patties)
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
Sliced pickled jalapenos and crushed blue corn tortilla chips, for serving

1. For salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl and season with salt.
2. Prepare burgers according to package directions. Top each patty with Daiya Pepperjack and allow to melt. (I let the Daiya start to melt while the burgers were still in the pan and then put them into the oven for a few minutes to finish melting completely.) Top with salsa, jalapenos, and corn tortilla chips.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Warm & Cozy Winter Dinner: Mushroom Pot Pie

There are few things that I like to cook with more than puff pastry. There's just something magical in its puffy, flaky, buttery deliciousness. I mean, I don't love it enough to make my own, apparently, but I do love to defrost a package of it and let it work its magic on whatever recipe I'm making. Don't judge me for that.

While we're discussing my culinary laziness, I do love a pot pie but I have to confess I'd never made one before because it just seemed like too much work. That whole making the crust and everything. If you haven't noticed on my blog thus far, I kind of hate making crusts. I can hear the gasps of horror across the foodie blogosphere right now...but it's true. I hate making crusts. There, it's out in the open now.

So now you see the real reason I love puff pastry so much. It tastes delicious and saves you the trouble of all that mixing and kneading and rolling. Who has time for all that? So imagine my delight when I found this recipe in Real Simple for a Mushroom Pot Pie that not only includes a puff pastry crust, but was also already vegan! I didn't have to substitute a thing! This pot pie is incredibly easy to make and thoroughly satisfying and delicious, especially on a cold winter evening.

Go to the link for the full recipe, but you can see here how easy the steps are:

1. Saute mushrooms, onions, carrots, and celery with dried thyme, salt, and pepper until vegetables are tender.

2. Add flour and frozen peas to mushroom mixture. Bring to a boil.

3. Transfer mushroom mixture to an 8x8 baking dish, top with one sheet of defrosted puff pastry. Cut vents in top of pastry and bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes, until crust is golden.

Make sure to read the ingredients on your puff pastry before buying, as many (especially the fancy kinds like they sell at Whole Foods) will include butter. Fortunately though, the Pepperidge Farms brand is vegan and widely available.