Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crunchy Sesame Slaw

I much prefer a creamy style slaw to the more vinegary variety, so "Crunchy Sesame Slaw" (page 74) was calling to me when I found myself looking for a side dish for Vietnamese Po'Boys (to be reviewed next). The vegetables in the salad portion include cabbage and carrot, same as you find in many slaw recipes, but an unexpected (and wonderful) addition is snow peas, cut into very thin matchsticks, with green onions rounding out the list of veggies. The dressing is a mixture of tahini, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil. My golden rule is to cook completely oil free, but I will make the occasional exception for sesame oil. What I've discovered, though, is it only takes the tiniest amount of this very flavorful oil to stand out in a dish. Here, the recipe called for one tablespoon, and I used just one teaspoon. It was enough for the unique flavor of sesame oil to shine through, especially since sesame seeds are also sprinkled on top of the salad after it is tossed with the dressing. It could be that different brands of tahini are thicker than others, but I found I had to add about ¼ cup of water to the dressing to make it pourable, because made as written, my dressing came out more as a spread. An additional optional topping of crispy chow mein noodles is offered up, but I passed since I'm pretty sure that "crispy" means "fried". With the sesame oil and seeds, rice vinegar, snow peas, and chow mein noodles (if used), this slaw has a definite Asian persuasion, and it made an excellent side for the Vietnamese Po'Boys.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spicy Tomato & White Bean Soup

"Spicy White Bean and Tomato Soup" (page 173) is tomato soup for grown-ups. If, like me, you grew up loving the stuff that came in the red and white can, this soup will please you even more. What makes this soup rise above the mundane is subtle heat from diced green chiles, creaminess from white beans, and an unexpected ingredient, peanut butter, which adds a layer of complexity and richness. You might think this soup would call for fresh tomatoes, but instead, flavorful canned crushed tomatoes are used. Sautéed onion is puréed with the tomatoes, chiles, beans, peanut butter, and broth, and a splash of fresh lime juice finishes things off. Minced fresh parsley added to each serving adds a bit of color and texture contrast. This soup makes a great starter dish at dinner, and is perfect alongside a sandwich for lunch (especially a vegan grilled cheese sandwich!).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Golden Veggie Burger

Now on the 7th burger recipe in this book (out of 11), the "Golden Veggie Burgers" (page 121) follow a similar approach as the other 6 I've tried so far, that is, a mixture of different vegetables and/or beans, gluten flour, and spices. This particular mix combines yellow onion, yellow bell pepper, and garbanzo beans (providing another shade of "golden"). The ingredients are combined in a food processor, formed into patties, and fried in a skillet on the stove. Optionally, there are also instructions for baking them in the oven if you prefer. The burgers are served on buns with condiments of your choice, with the tempting suggestion to include a yellow tomato and mustard if you want to go for the monochrome look. These burgers are easy to assemble, and easy to make oil free. Simply omit the oil when sautéing the onion and bell pepper, and when frying them (use a nonstick skillet instead - or bake them!). One notable difference in these burgers that stood out from all the others I've made so far is the moisture content. These were quite moist, almost to the point of making it difficult to form the patties. All the other burger recipes I've tried so far were just the opposite, where I've had to add a little extra water or broth. But in the end, they were still delicious, and as usual, I got 6 burgers instead of 4, as I don't like my patties very thick.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baked Jambalaya Casserole

There's nothing better on a cold evening than a dinner from the oven, and "Baked Jambalaya Casserole" (page 303) really hit the spot on one of those nights not too long ago. Start with skillet browned tempeh, add rice, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomatoes, broth, and kidney beans, spike with Cajun style spices, pop into the oven, and what you end up with is a complete one-dish meal. I almost exclusively use brown rice when I cook, but the exception to this rule for me is a dish that calls for rice to be cooked as part of an oven dish with multiple ingredients. As many times as I've tried using brown rice under these circumstances, adjusting the amount of rice and/or liquid, the rice never seems to cook to completion. So, in this dish I gave myself permission to break my brown rice rule and used white instead. I suppose if you had cooked brown rice on hand, it would have worked to use that instead of uncooked white, and I might try that next time. I did omit the olive oil when browning the tempeh and veggies, so I was able to keep this dish oil free. This is a very satisfying dish, and don't forget to put the Tabasco on the table for extra heat when serving up!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Puttanesca Seitan & Spinach Salad

"Puttanesca Seitan & Spinach Salad" (page 82) is a hearty salad that can become the centerpiece of a meal, especially if you toss in some cooked pasta, an option suggested in the recipe. The salad consists of garlic sautéed seitan, mixed with kalamata and green olives, capers, spinach and tomatoes. The dressing is a balsamic-based vinaigrette which calls for three tablespoons of olive oil, too much to completely omit without using something in its place. I opted to replace the oil with water, which I mixed with the balsamic vinegar and other dressing ingredients, plus I used ¼ teaspoon of guar gum to thicken the dressing before pouring over the salad. Fresh basil and parsley are added as a finishing touch.  The flavors in this salad are fresh and intense, and although it makes four servings, my husband and I finished it off in one sitting. I was able to keep this dish completely oil free by using a non-stick skillet when sautéing the seitan and omitting the oil called for in this step as well.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hearty Minestrone Soup

There seems to be as many recipes for minestrone soup as there are cookbooks. Each one is a little different, but the basic equation remains the same, resulting in a versatile Italian vegetable soup that includes the common ingredients of beans, veggies, some sort of grain, and tomatoes. The "Hearty Minestrone Soup" (page 145) is very much a vegetable soup with onions, celery, carrot, tomatoes, and cabbage. I also had a handful of fresh green peas, so I threw those in as well. Italian seasonings include garlic, oregano, basil, and parsley. I always add the garlic at the very end, right after I turn the soup off, and let the residual heat just barely cook it, in order to retain a stronger flavor. Instead of calling for traditional pasta, this recipe called for barley (although using pasta instead was mentioned as a viable option). Another unusual addition was ¼ cup split peas. Kidneys were the bean of choice, but as the recipe states, any bean works well. Not as tomato-y as some minestrones, but all-in-all a very satisfying and hearty vegetable soup. It was easy to keep this recipe oil free by omitting the 1 tablespoon called for when sautéing the veggies.