August 29, 2008

Coffee Ice Cream

Posted in dessert, ice cream, recipe, Uncategorized at 10:27 pm by veganalects

Once again, I find myself having to apologize for my unexplained absence. The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind—I went to California (Millennium Restaurant absolutely lives up to its reputation) and Milwaukee (I must retract my snarky comments about Cream City’s vegan offerings; I ate quite well), then packed for school and am in the process of moving into my apartment. But I have been cooking and documenting—now I just need to update.

My second try with the ice cream maker yielded results similar to the first time: good but not perfect. I think the texture on this one was a little better because I just used soy creamer, which has a higher fat content than soymilk. Getting a better soy creamer might improve the ice cream, too (I’ve been using decent-and-widely-available Silk creamer). Again, I’ll provide the recipe because I liked it well enough to serve to others, but I don’t consider this my final pronouncement on coffee ice cream.

But first, a word or two on starches. I used arrowroot powder the first couple times I made ice cream because that’s the standard on A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise. After two quarts of ice cream, however, my $6 container of arrowroot was almost gone. My wallet could not support my ice cream habit. I’ve heard cornstarch doesn’t freeze well so I decided to look for tapioca starch. I found it at my local Thai grocery for 89¢ a pound. The arrowroot was $6 for a 50 gram container (a spice bottle). At about 450 grams per pound, that means arrowroot costs more than sixty times as much as tapioca starch. Sixty! Arrowroot may come a bit cheaper in bulk, but any way you add it up, it ain’t worth it. So, budding vegan ice cream makers, find an Asian grocery, inconvenient though it may be for some of you, and stock up on dirt cheap tapioca starch.

Coffee Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

2 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 ½ cups soy creamer
1 ½ cups very strong coffee
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Stir the tapioca starch into ¼ cup of the soy creamer until dissolved. Set aside.

2. Heat the remaining creamer and coffee in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the mixture approaches a boil.

3. When the liquid boils, turn the heat down until the liquid is at a simmer.

4. After 3 minutes, whisk in sugar until dissolved, then whisk in tapioca mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

5. Chill for several hours to overnight, then make according your ice cream maker’s directions. You may need to freeze it for two hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker to solidify it. Store unused ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer; it will be very hard right out of the freezer, but microwaving it for 15 seconds will soften it.

August 4, 2008

My Favorite Sandwich

Posted in brunch, recipe, sandwiches, Uncategorized at 6:44 pm by veganalects


Look, I have been cooking. Really. It’s just that everything I’ve been cooking is a bit monastic (cabbage soup, plain cooked chard), less than fabulous (a middling coffee ice cream), or totally unphotogenic (a peach salsa that was actually quite good—don’t worry, I’ll make it again).

But I have also been making a lot of sandwiches. Actually, it’s just one that I make a lot. It’s my favorite sandwich ever, and it seems almost too simple to write about: the hummus sandwich. I say almost because I have specific directions for my version of this vegan classic. I like simple hummus spread on bread with veggies, but the magic is in the details for this one: spices and olive oil.

Have you ever had that Forty Spice Hummus? This is much better, and it’s only Two-Three Spice Hummus. All you need is cumin, paprika, and possibly cayenne pepper, depending on your taste. The cumin should outweigh the paprika, say 2:1; the pepper should just be a pinch. And the oil. Most hummus includes olive oil, but drizzling the bread with your own extra-virgin olive oil will go a long way in improving flavor. These two elements really transform this sandwich for me. I think it works best on a toasted bagel, but the bread is up to you. Toasting makes this sandwich easier to eat, though—the bread is less chewy and more crunchy.

By the way, I live on this at college. For any college vegans stuck in vegan-unfriendly dining halls, if you have access to hummus and a halfway decent salad bar, the hummus sandwich can be your best friend. If there’s no spice rack, you can bring the spices with you!

This hardly warrants a recipe, but for those who don’t want to sort through the post…

The Best Hummus Sandwich
Makes one sandwich

1 bagel, sliced in half and toasted
olive oil
½-¾ cup hummus
cumin
paprika
pinch cayenne pepper, optional
vegetables of choice, such as tomato, baby spinach, cucumber, sprouts, red onion…

Drizzle the bagel with olive oil. Add spices to the hummus, to taste, about twice as much cumin as paprika. Mix them in with a knife, then spread generously on the bagel. Add veggies, with spinach and sprouts on the bottom and more stable items like tomato and cucumber on top.

July 20, 2008

Green Tea Ice Cream

Posted in dessert, ice cream, recipe, tea, Uncategorized at 7:42 pm by veganalects

Tea, tea, tea. I cannot get enough tea. Everything about it delights me: the wares, the process, the associated foods…not that I’m even very knowledgeable about tea, as became clear to me when I looked at a few tea blogs. But anyway, I decided that for my first foray into ice cream-making I should attempt not vanilla or chocolate but green tea. I had the matcha powder, I now had the ice cream maker, so I had no excuse not to make it.

For ideas about how to proceed I started with Veganomicon. Its one ice cream recipe is based on coconut milk, however, and I wanted to avoid a strong coconut taste in this case. So I turned to the internet, recalling that I’d come across a vegan ice cream blog once before. It’s not too good to be true! I used a template from the extremely useful A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise, with my own add-ins. So while the recipe is mine, the credit is not.

Onto the verdict. The ice cream was really good—the ingredients were well-balanced, the tea came through nicely, it wasn’t too sweet, and (paramount for me) it was satisfyingly creamy. It fulfilled my ice cream needs and I would definitely make it again.

But.

It’s not perfect. The texture is not quite right. It’s not sorbet, which I’ve never cared for much; it is creamy. Yet it’s not quite ice cream either—not full-fledged, silky-smooth ice cream, anyway. It’s sort of 85% ice cream, 15% sorbet. This may be an issue of veganness, but I doubt it: I have had both store-bought and homemade (well, restaurant-made) vegan ice cream that did not suffer from this flaw. My mom also said she remembers having this problem with dairy ice cream, and that the solution was to make a custard first. So I don’t know if cooking it longer would help, or increasing the creamer-to-milk ratio, or what. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Still, I’m posting the recipe because I’m mostly happy with it and I still recommend it to other vegans craving ice cream. I used an ice cream maker, but apparently there are other methods.

Green Tea Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 cups soymilk
2 cups soy creamer
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons matcha (green tea powder), sifted to remove lumps
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

1. Stir the arrowroot into ¼ cup of the soymilk until dissolved. Set aside.

2. Heat the remaining soymilk and creamer in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as the mixture approaches a boil.

3. When the liquid is gently bubbling, whisk in sugar until dissolved, then matcha until dissolved (it will not actually dissolve, but will be in suspension).

4. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in arrowroot mixture until dissolved. Then stir in the extracts.

5. Chill for several hours to overnight, then make according your ice cream maker’s directions. You may need to freeze it for two hours after it comes out of the ice cream maker if you desire a thicker texture. Store unused ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer; it will be very hard right out of the freezer, but microwaving it for 15 seconds will soften it.

July 18, 2008

Panzanella

Posted in appetizers, recipe, salad at 8:20 am by veganalects

Have you ever had panzanella? I hadn’t until a month ago. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it, though I guess it’s standard fare for Italian restaurants. What can I say? My restaurant attendance skews heavily toward Asian.

But there I was, at Bar Toto in Brooklyn, desiring lighter fare than a generously oiled panino with a huge plate of fries. And panzanella—bread salad, so said the menu—caught my eye. It was delicious. It didn’t seem complicated. I had to make it.

This dish centers around stale bread, dressing, and tomatoes, and I gather that beyond that anything (or at least a great deal) goes. I made this for the Fourth of July (which, I feel compelled to state, I celebrate purely for celebration’s sake) and it was a hit. It beat the green tea cupcakes! And they’re cupcakes! Perhaps, however, the market for vegan green tea cupcakes is limited. But I digress. My panzanella is inspired by Bar Toto’s, hence the olives. Plus I really like olives. But consider this recipe a guide; feel free to add whatever you have on hand that seems appealing—or subtract whatever you don’t, that doesn’t. Although it looks complicated, it’s really quite simple and could be made even simpler by not roasting the tomatoes.

A note on the bread: ideally it should be stale, but in a tropical D.C. summer leaving it out overnight barely toughens the crust. If it’s still soft, toasting works fine (toast the slices, then break them into strips).

Panzanella
Makes a Big Old Salad Bowlful (Serves Eight?)

1 small-medium loaf stale/toasted Italian or other crusty bread, sliced and torn into strips
1 box cherry tomatoes, roasted (see below)
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (measure after pitting)
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup basil, chopped
½-¾ cup vinaigrette (see below)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

For the tomatoes
To roast tomatoes, preheat oven to 400˚F. Toss washed and dried tomatoes with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Place on a baking sheet and cook 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are wrinkled and slightly collapsed.

For the vinaigrette
½ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
a few dashes salt

Place all ingredients in a jar. Shake vigorously.

And now, the panzanella
In a large salad bowl, combine bread strips, roasted tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil. Toss. Add vinaigrette to taste, a little at a time and tossing in between since the bread will absorb it quickly; you have ¾ cup and may use up to all of it (I recommend ½ cup as a minimum). Add salt and pepper to taste. Dress (the salad, that is) a half hour before you plan to eat it.

February 24, 2008

Brain Food: Mexican Oatmeal Soup

Posted in dinner, recipe, soup at 2:35 am by veganalects


My room is a sty. I haven’t had clean socks in days. I have three loads of laundry, 150 pages of reading, and a fearsome paper to do this weekend. But there’s always dinner.

I pried myself out from under the crushing pile of obligations long enough to make said dinner, as dining hall vegan hot dogs seemed somehow less than appealing. Good meals to good think!

My mom sent me a veganized recipe from the New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook which she figured would be simple and quick enough for a college vegan to make. I had most of the ingredients on hand and a grocery store run covered the rest.

I further adapted my mom’s adaptation by adding spinach and cayenne to the recipe, so I figure it’s different enough from the original to reproduce here. Oatmeal soup sounded a little strange to me initially, but it was quite tasty. The oatmeal gives it a nice texture and substance, and, well, I always like spinach. I eat cayenne on everything these day; you probably should too. The soup was indeed fast enough for a busy college student to make. On a crusty dorm stove, to boot.

(Sort of) Mexican Oatmeal Soup
Serves Six…or one, with five days of leftovers!

1 1/3 cups rolled oats
4 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, or 2 large fresh tomatoes
6 cups vegetable broth*
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne (or more, to taste)
3-4 cups loosely packed spinach
black pepper, to taste

1. Toast the rolled oats in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are brown but not burned. Set them aside in a bowl.

2. Heat the oil in the skillet; add the onion and garlic and sauté briefly.

3. Add the tomatoes, broth, salt, cayenne, and oats. Simmer for 6 minutes over medium heat.

4. Add the spinach and stir in until wilted. Grind pepper liberally over soup and serve immediately.

*Because this soup is simple and barely spiced, the quality of the soup will depend largely on the quality of the vegetable broth. Homemade broth is ideal, but I know I don’t have time for that. Make sure the ingredients don’t include too many things that aren’t vegetables; you might need to try a few brands before you find one you like.

February 10, 2008

Chickpea Curry

Posted in dinner, recipe at 5:16 pm by veganalects


Yikes. Is it Sunday? How did that happen?

Well, I kind of know how it happened. My lovely long winter break ended and I went back to college. In other words, my free time suddenly disappeared and my kitchen became a filthy stove and a clogged sink. So, unfortunately, I won’t be updating (or cooking) as frequently as I have been. I will make my best effort to keep posting regularly, though—but now regularly will probably be a couple times a week. Yesterday I drove to Cleveland to stock up at Whole Foods, so now I can actually get back to cooking. (I’m planning to make lemon bars. Oh yeah.)

In the meantime, here’s a recipe for my favorite dish ever. My parents make it whenever I come home because it’s always the first thing I want to eat. I think it came from my dad’s grad school days, but it’s been substantially adapted to our tastes since then.

Chickpea Curry
serves six to seven

vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
(or about 4 large fresh tomatoes)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp or more cayenne
at least 2 tsp salt
pinch (or more) cinnamon
pinch (or more) cloves
pinch (or more) black pepper
2 large (25-oz.) cans chickpeas, plus at least some of the liquid
olive oil
2-3 Tbs lemon juice
chopped cilantro (or parsley) to taste

1. Sauté onion in oil until translucent.

2. Add garlic and green pepper. Continue to sauté until the pepper is softened.

3. Add tomatoes, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper. Cook 5 minutes.

4. Add chickpeas with quite a bit of the liquid. Simmer for a half hour or more.

5. Stir in lemon juice and garnish with cilantro or parsley just before serving. Serve over rice.

January 26, 2008

Sour Cream Silver Dollar Pancakes

Posted in brunch, recipe, the Challenge at 7:50 pm by veganalects

There are two schools of thought when it comes to pancakes. Some prefer sweet batter; some prefer neutral or slightly savory batter. I am a card-carrying member of the Savory Pancake Society, and I can debate passionately about sugarless pancakes’ superiority over their sweetened counterparts. In my book, sweet batter + maple syrup = too sugary. I like the sweet-salty contrast and I like to let the syrup speak for itself. But it’s really just a matter of taste, and no debating can change that. If you share my taste in pancakes, read on. (Or just skip to the recipe and make it immediately.)

What with all the pancakes sprouting up on vegan blogs these days, I could no longer resist making some of my own. I skipped my standard pancake recipe in favor of one I’ve been curious about for a couple years now: the Sour Cream Pancakes in the 1961 New York Times Cook Book. I don’t know why I didn’t make these sooner, but sometimes things need to lie dormant in my mind for a few years before I get around to doing them.

I used Tofutti sour cream for this (I almost got adventurous and used my leftover cilantro sour cream before I realized it has roasted garlic in it—not what I want in my pancakes). Homemade sour cream would probably work too, but I can’t vouch for it. I’ll have to try it out and let you know how it goes. Obviously I veganized this recipe, but I also altered it by adding a significant amount of soy creamer to improve the consistency. I’ll include my version here.

But I’m getting off track. Here’s the verdict: these were great! To return to my sweet vs. savory rant, I loved the slightly salty, slightly sour notes that come from the sour cream. For obvious reasons, these pancakes are also creamier and smoother than most. Their only downside is that the batter is a funny consistency and takes a little bit of coaxing into shape. But that’s really not hard. I made silver dollar pancakes because they’re easier in my pan, but I’m sure bigger ones would work well too.

Sour Cream Pancakes
adapted from the NY Times Cook Book
makes 14 silver dollar pancakes

1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cups vegan sour cream (homemade or Tofutti, as long as it doesn’t have things that would be gross in pancakes)
1 Ener-G egg replacement
½ cup + 2 Tbs soy creamer (soymilk also works)

1. In a large mixing bowl, sift or mix together flour, salt, and baking soda.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine sour cream, Ener-G egg, and soy creamer. Pour into the flour mixture and stir gently until just mixed. Do not beat.

3. Heat a griddle or skillet (do yourself a favor and use non-stick if you have it), grease lightly if necessary, and drop the batter by ¼ cupfuls onto it, spreading carefully into ¼ inch-thick circles. When bubbles break on top of the pancakes, check the underside with a spatula. If it’s golden brown, flip and cook on the other side until that’s golden brown as well.

January 25, 2008

Mango Lassi Test Lab #2

Posted in beverages, dessert, recipe, the Challenge at 7:19 pm by veganalects


Oh, the elusive mango lassi. As I mentioned in my last post about it, mango lassi is one of the few things I really miss from my pre-vegan days. The obvious solution to my craving is to concoct a vegan version, but I have yet to find the perfect recipe. My last attempt was too yogurty; this one was closer, but still not flawless.

Part of the reason this recipe is hard to pin down is that I’m using fresh (and therefore unpredictable) mangos. This mango was less sweet and flavorful than the last, so it caught me off guard. Even though this time I used only half the yogurt I did last time, because of the mango’s inferior flavor, it was still slightly too yogurty. I also had to increase the sugar. I may try using mango pulp, but I’d really prefer to use fresh fruit if I can. And maybe changing soy yogurt brands would help—I like WholeSoy better than Silk anyway.

This recipe is better than the last one, but if you decide to use it you may need to adjust the sugar based on your mango and your taste. I dusted this one with cardamom, which I don’t think is standard but is definitely scrumptious.

Better Mango Lassi
makes a scant two

medium mango
3/4 cup plain soy yogurt (or less)
4 large ice cubes
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
cardamom, optional

Peel, pit, and dice the mango. Blend all ingredient in a blender (food processor is also fine). Dust with cardamom and garnish with mint if desired.

January 12, 2008

Mango Lassi

Posted in beverages, dessert, recipe, the Challenge at 6:50 am by veganalects

Along with ice cream, mango lassi is the main food (or beverage, in this case) I miss from my dairy-eating days. I used to have it whenever I went to an Indian restaurant, but alas, I have yet to come across a vegan mango lassi.

Today I realized I had a mango that wasn’t getting any younger, a carton of soy yogurt I’d been staring at for days, and a new blender, so I decided the time had come to make my own. After skimming a few recipes online I took the plunge.

The result was tasty and satisfied my hankering, but wasn’t quite right—it was a bit too yogurty. I’m including the recipe I used here, but if you want to use it, I’d reduce the yogurt (or increase the mango). The rosewater, which I don’t think is usually in mango lassi at Indian restaurants, gives it a nice aroma and delicate flavor. I’ll fiddle with the measurements and post an improved recipe on here, but this one was good enough that I’ll include it anyway.

mango.jpgMango Lassi
Makes two

medium mango (like the one pictured)
1 1/2 cups plain soy yogurt (at most)
4 large ice cubes
1 teaspoon sugar*
1/2 teaspoon rosewater

Peel, pit, and dice the mango. Blend all ingredients (in a blender if you have one; a food processor is also fine). Garnish with mint if desired.

*I used Silk Plain soy yogurt, which is already somewhat sweetened, though not as much as most flavored soy yogurts. Depending on the brand you may need more or less sugar.

January 10, 2008

Roasted Potato Soup

Posted in dinner, recipe, soup, the Challenge at 2:05 am by veganalects

I decided to take a break from the Veganomicon marathon I’ve been running by doing something I fear very much. It’s a fear I’ve known I would need to face eventually, but I put it off until last night.

I decided to make dinner out of my head.

Sure, a lot of people do that on a daily basis, but I am not one of them. I don’t understand how people can cook without the security of a tested recipe. I really want to come up with a few recipes of my own, though, and I had an idea.

I wanted to veganize this great creamy potato soup with champagne. As I wondered how to make it taste good, it morphed in my head into something different. “Roasting,” I thought to myself, “roasting makes everything taste good.” And so the roasting commenced. I roasted the potatoes, I roasted some garlic, and I decided to serve roasted broccoli on the side. Then I thought, “Mmm, caramelized onions. You can’t go wrong with caramelized onions.” So I caramelized a couple onions, added various liquids, and threw everything into the food processor.

The result was pretty different from the original soup I had planned to imitate, but it didn’t matter. It tasted good. It’s very thick (“it looks like oatmeal,” says my mom) and pretty rich because of the roasting, and we all liked it. The roasted garlic adds a nice nutty flavor to it. (Oh, and the broccoli was good too—I prefer roasting to almost any other broccoli preparation.) This recipe is very approximate, but it’s soup. You can eyeball basically everything. It also made a ton, so feel free to halve it.

Roasted Potato Soup
Serves six?

5 medium potatoes (I used Yukon gold, but only because we had them on hand)
olive oil
1/2 head garlic
2 large white onions
vegetable broth or water, to taste (at least a few cups)
soymilk or soy creamer, to taste
dry white wine, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425°.

2. Cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces. Place them in a bowl, drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss. Spread them on a cookie sheet.

3. Remove the outer skin of the garlic, leaving the individual cloves in their skin. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in tin foil.

4. Put the potatoes and the garlic in the oven. They should both take about 45-55 minutes.

5. Go read the comics for a while. Fifteen or twenty minutes before the potatoes are due to come out, preheat a skillet with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

6. Cut the onions any way you like, as long as they’re reasonably small. When the skillet is hot enough, put the onions in on high heat, stirring occasionally until they’re brown but not burnt.

7. Once everything’s ready (remove the garlic from its skin, obviously), put it all in the food processor and blend, adding the liquids until you get the desired consistency. Taste along the way to see how much wine and soymilk you want. (You may need to blend it in batches.) Rewarm if necessary and garnish with rosemary or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand.

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