Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Alternative Cherries

I'm often given strange looks when I tell people that I don't love fresh fruit, since apparently, it should come with the territory of being vegan or vegetarian. (Don't roll your eyes, I eat enough vegetables to make up for it.) It's not the actual taste of fresh fruit that I dislike, but rather the texture. Although most people describe things like blueberries or grapes as crunchy, I find them sort of mushy, and am turned off by the liquid that is released upon chewing. So while I will eat the occasional apple or orange, I am much more content to snack on dried fruit like figs or dates, or nix the health benefits of my fruits by turning them into pie or adding them to baked goods. Frozen fruit is by far my favorite, however, as my perceived mushiness has completely disappeared. Sometimes I eat frozen berries plain, though I usually blend them into smoothies with some ice and soymilk.

For the last couple of weeks, Sam and my family have been enjoying the height of cherry season, buying and finishing off huge bags of fresh cherries almost daily. Not wanting to miss out on the fun completely, I developed my own way to enjoy this summer treat by pureeing frozen cherries into a creamy, but still very nutritious snack. Not substantial enough to be called ice cream but thicker than water ice, I had a hard time coming up with a name for this recipe. Sam decided that I should call it "Cherry Pilaf," I think for no reason at all except that he thought it sounded funny and made no sense. I assure you, there are no grains in this dish.

Cherry Pilaf
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings

To make this, you'll need:
-2 cups frozen cherries (pitted, of course)
-2 tbsp cocoa powder
-4 tbsp dairy-free chocolate chips
-1/2 cup soymilk

Putting this together is really simple. Place the cherries, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips in a food processor, and pulse until the cherries have nearly formed a paste. Then, slowly pour in the soymilk, turning the mixture from paste-y to creamy. Some of the chocolate chips will get chopped up and some will remain whole, which I find gives nice texture. Serve immediately, as this will start to melt almost right away.

Alternately, by omitting the chocolate chips and adding a little more soymik, and perhaps some ice, this recipe also makes a great cherry-chocolate smoothie.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back to work

I hadn't been doing much interesting cooking over the last couple of days because I wasn't feeling well, but I found myself with more energy this evening and with more desire to make a meal. While I have suggested two possible methods of cooking the portobellas, I found a grill pan to work much better in the hot weather, as firing up the oven obviously creates a lot of heat in the kitchen. These mushrooms are filling, and need little else to fill you up. I served them with roasted asparagus spears, but sauteed spinach or a cool salad would also be delicious.

Polenta-Stuffed Portobellas
Serves 4

For the polenta:
-2 1/4 c water
-3/4 corn grits or polenta
-7 or 8 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
-2 tbsp pinenuts, toasted
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-5 or 6 leaves fresh basil, chopped or torn
-1/2 tbsp olive oil
-salt, to taste

For the portobellas:
-4 portobella mushrooms, stems removed
-1 tsbp olive oil
-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-salt, to taste

1. While the water is coming to a boil (remember to salt the water liberally NOW, or it will be impossible to salt the corn grits later on), remove any dirt from the mushrooms by wiping with a damp cloth. Whisk together 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, and brush the mixture onto both sides of the mushrooms, adding salt to taste.

2. Drop the sundried tomatoes into the boiling water for about a minute so they plump up. If your tomatoes are packed in oil, you can skip this step. Fish the tomatoes out of the water and set them aside to cool. Once they can be handled, chop them.

3. Slowly pour the corn grits into the boiling water, whisking constantly. Once the mixture begins to thicken and bubble, lower the heat to a simmer. Keep an eye on this and make sure to stir it frequently. It will probably take about five minutes to cook.

4. At this point, you can begin to cook the portobellas. I prepared mine on an indoor grill pan, grilling about five minutes on each side. You could also place them under your oven's broiler for the same amount of time.

5. Heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic, sundried tomato, and pinenuts until fragrant, about two minutes. Add in the basil at the last minute. Combine this with the polenta, and cover to keep warm.

6. Spoon the polenta mixture into (or onto, depending on the shape of your mushrooms, really!) the portobellas, and garnish with more fresh basil, if you'd like.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cooking from VWAV

My family had dinner together last night after getting back from my sister's graduation. I would have liked to make something a little more extravagant, but I wanted to have something ready since we would be arriving home sort of late and very hungry. I followed the recipe for Orrechiete with Cherry Tomatoes and Kalamata Tapenade from Vegan With a Vengeance and served it as a cold pasta salad, substituting in whole wheat fusilli. The saltiness of the olives went really nicely with the sweetness of the grape tomatoes and sauteed red onion. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially Sam, who had seconds and thirds. I always like when people take seconds of my food. I also threw together a really simple salad of red leaf lettuce and shredded carrots, dressing it with a red wine vinaigrette to sort of echo the red wine vinegar used in the tapenade.

I made a batch of peanut butter oatmeal cookies, also from Vegan With a Vengeance. While the recipe was for giant cookies made from a 1/3 cup scoop of batter, I opted to make smaller cookies instead, and ended up with about a million of them. The cookies were delicious though, with the outside being crispy and the insides chewy and a little bit dense from the oatmeal. Remembering an episode of Good Eats, I believe the combination of crispness and chewiness came from using both granulated and brown sugar. If you have VWAV and haven't made these cookies, they, like most of the other recipes in the book, are certainly worth making.

Monday, June 18, 2007

My favoriteee!

Unfortunately, I don't have any great stories about pancakes. They aren't anything especially exciting, in fact, they are pretty commonplace. I know that most people who make pancakes enjoy them for breakfast, but I usually make them for lunch or even dinner instead, sometimes with some scrambled tofu. Not too long ago, I experimented with some buckwheat flour while making pancakes, and I've used it every time since. I really love the smell of the buckwheat and the very slight grittiness it adds to the pancakes. Unfortunately the addition of the buckwheat flour does cause the batter to turn a sandy, gray color, which some people find kind of yucky. But since I think these pancakes are delicious, I don't mind at all.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes
Serves 2-3

To make these pancakes, you'll need:
-1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
-1/2 c buckwheat flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tbsp ground flaxseed
-3/4 c (one six-ounce container) plain soy yogurt
-3/4 c soymilk
-a pinch each of salt, sugar, and cinnamon
-a couple of handfuls of blueberries

I don't bother mixing the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls for this recipe. Just combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix to combine, add the wet, and stir the batter until everything is incorporated. Don't overmix! The batter will be thick and somewhat heavy due to the whole grain flours, and will need more time to cook than other pancakes. I usually spoon some batter onto the pan and place a handful of blueberries on top, instead of tossing the blueberries in the bowl with everything else and turning the mixture blue. After all, the color of these pancakes is weird enough already.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Quick Lunch

When it came time to make lunch today, I was in the mood for something fast and light, and since Sam had mentioned it last evening, I decided to make shells with edamame. It's a simple dish to prepare that while nutritious and filling, won't weigh you down after you've finished. I've adapted the Asian-style sauce that the pasta and soybeans are tossed in from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer.

Shells with Edamame
Serves two

-First, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While waiting, make the sauce by combining two teaspoons of agave nectar, two teaspoons of toasted sesame oil, two teaspoons of brown rice vinegar, and five teaspoons of tamari in a medium bowl.

-Once the water is boiling, add about cup of frozen edamame. I used the kind that was still in the pod, but you can also use pre-shelled edamame and skip the shelling. The edamame will cook in a minute or two. When it's ready, scoop it out of the pot and run it under cold water.

-Drop enough pasta shells to serve two (depending on your appetite) into the boiling water. I used whole wheat, though I'm sure any other type of shells would work just as well. While the pasta is cooking, shell the edamame, dropping the soybeans into the sauce.

-Drain the cooked shells and toss with the soybeans and sauce. Garnish with black or white sesame seeds. While any shape of pasta will do for this recipe, I like the shells because they catch the soybeans and sauce inside of them. This dish will be equally delicious served hot or cold.


this will be fun