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 17, 2008

Luscious Lemon Bars

Posted in baking, dessert, Veganomicon at 2:11 am by veganalects

I was hoping to make these lemon bars from Veganomicon before I came back to school, but life (and packing) took over and I never got the chance. When I got here one of my (omnivorous) friends raved about them to me. That was all the motivation I needed to make them.

I had never made anything with either agar flakes or arrowroot before. Thickeners are crazy! The bars weren’t hard to make, but I wasn’t sure whether I was handling the thickeners properly. A word of advice: don’t get boiling agar on your hands. Not only will it burn, it will stick to you most persistently. Eventually everything mixed smoothly and I filled the crust and set the bars out to cool.

Having had a half dozen tasters for these, I can say confidently that they’re a hit. Whatever reservations my friends had about the lemon bars’ radioactive hue (hard to detect in this picture) disappeared after the first bite. Want testimonials? “Oh my god, I’m majoring in lemon bar eating.” Fact: making these lemon bars has been proven to increase your popularity by at least 46%.

That said, I should point out that their texture is different from that of the lemon bars I used to eat. The agar makes it quite gelatinous, smooth, and firm (“like a petri dish,” said the lemon bar majorer, and with good reason: most petri dishes are made of agar). The lemon bars I remember from my pre-vegan days were basically thick lemon custard over shortbread. I might try to recreate them someday. Please don’t let that turn you off, though—the only reason we have one lemon bar left is that I’m saving it for the friend who recommended them.

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.

February 2, 2008

Chai Latte Cupcakes

Posted in baking, cupcakes, dessert, VCTOTW at 5:54 am by veganalects

Aren’t beverage-themed cupcakes inexplicably delightful? I can’t seem to stop making them. I love chai lattes, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Oh my god, let’s just start with the batter. I could have called it a chai latte and drunk it from a cup. The spices were exactly right and it was so creamy and delicious. (Yeah, I lick the bowl. No salmonella risk, right?) Since I was aiming for a solid version of the drink, though, I restrained myself and put them in the oven.

Actually, I think I might have kept them in the oven a tiny bit too long. They were a little spongier than the other cupcakes I’ve made from VCTOTW, but it was certainly nothing grave. They were still good. The only thing I would change in the future is the frosting, actually; I thought they could have used something moist and creamy on top instead of the sugar and spices they recommend. If you wanted to make it really authentic, you could even top it with vegan whipped cream. Ooh, I should do that next time.

February 1, 2008

Sort Of South-by-Southwest Dinner

Posted in dinner, seitan, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 6:15 am by veganalects

Okay, I must admit that this is a meal of ambiguous origins. The corn pudding is southwestern, the collard greens are southern, and the hot seitan “wings” are…from Buffalo? It’s not really a Buffalo wings kind of sauce, though. One thing I’m sure of: it all came from my kitchen.

The Veganomicon Southwestern Corn Pudding caught my eye when I saw it on Vegan Dad. I just wasn’t sure what to make it with. The pudding looked like a bit of work, so I wanted one salty/filling thing and one green thing to go with it that wouldn’t be too labor-intensive.

I settled on seitan for the salty/filling component and collard greens for the green component (you can only eat so much spinach and kale, after all). The former I marinated in the Hot Sauce from Veganomicon‘s Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh. (I could have just coated the seitan in Frank’s Red Hot—I practically drink that stuff by the gallon—but I could only find generic! I bought it and it’s just not the same.) Then I coated it in Ener-G Egg Replacer and cornstarch and pan-fried it (a trick I learned from VeganYumYum), topping with more marinade. I used the leftover hot sauce, garlic, and a few drops of liquid smoke to sauté the collards. I’d never cooked collard greens before and I think I could have left them in the pan a little longer. How tender are they supposed to get?

The seitan and the greens were good, but the star of this meal was clearly the corn pudding. It’s not very photogenic, but don’t let that fool you. It’s full of different colors, flavors, and textures. It’s creamy from the coconut milk; it’s crunchy from the corn and red pepper. It’s yellow from the corn (duh), but it’s flecked with red and green from the pepper, scallions, and cilantro. It’s a little sweet and a little salty but mostly just good. Yeah, it’s not the fastest recipe, but I thought it warranted a late dinner. If you like corn—or if you miss summer—make this pudding.