Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to make tempeh not gross

Since my delightful new inability to consume wheat products without breaking out in a disfiguring and uncomfortable rash, I've been forced to leave my former gluten-heavy homemade meat-substitutes and head back to the soy fold.  And while it seems the jury is still out on what effect soy phytoestrogens actually have on humans, I try to make certain that the majority of my soy intake is fermented.   (And GMO free, as soy & corn are the most genetically modified crops out there.)

That said, for most of my life, I have hated tempeh.  HATED IT.  Texturally displeasing and bitter, it's usually presented grilled in a crumbly, disappointing mess, or flooded in sauces that fool no one.  I am talking to you, generations of hippie-cafe-style reuban sandwiches! 

However, I recently realized that there are ways to render tempeh not only palatable, but delicious.  The key is in a mildly annoying but eventually worthwhile multi-step process.

1.  Slice the tempeh, and then steam it for about 10-15 minutes.
OR throw it in a pan over medium heat with a half cup of dry sherry or vegetable broth (or a combination thereof), and braise until all the liquids are absorbed.
2.  In a dry or lightly oiled pan, sear the tempeh on each side until just crispy-brown
3.  Use in your original recipe as desired

This definitely adds a few minutes and dishes to the process, but it really is a game changer. If time does not allow for each of these steps, omit 2, but do not skip 1!   Last night I baked braised & seared tempeh in a pineapple barbecue sauce, and ate it with a bowl of brown rice and a side of lemon-garlic kale, and it was a dream.  Totally worth all the cooking, even to this former tempeh-hater. 

(Also if you are gluten-free, you should make sure there isn't any barley in your tempeh!  It's a fairly common additive, a fact I learned the hard, itchy way.) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Redemption v. Restoration + Lime Basil

This is my inaugural vaguely feminist-themed post!  Wheee!  And like most of my most deeply held and profoundly felt beliefs, it is a Super Good Timetm.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Veggie ramen broth (1st time w/ blogger app)

I don't ever find myself with a craving for meat in and of itself. The things I catch myself wanting - something protein dense, something with a firm chewy bite- these are very easily satisfied with some beans or tofu or seitan. Once in a while, though, I'm a little bit sad just thinking about a bowlful of noodles in a silky, rich broth that heretofore I thought could only be derived from beef or pork. Vegetable stock is great! I use it for everything, but historically I've always been disappointed in ramen made with it.

So! With this in mind, I tried to focus on the two things meat broths have that are usually lacking in vegetable broths: umami and fat. The umami gives you richness & depth, and the fat gives you the silkiness. In trying to replicate that experience, I went with a mix of oils, and a long, slow, simmered mushroom broth. Fresh mushrooms, in this instance, will disappoint. You need to find yourself some dried ones - these are the ones I used. THESE ARE NOT ACTUALLY PORCINI! They're in the same genus, commonly known as the "slippery jack" or "sticky buns" and are way cheaper than Boletus edulis. If you can get over the phrase "viscid cap," you can have yourself an incredibly rich and fragrant broth in a couple of hours.1

Before starting, soak 2 large handfulls of the mushrooms in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes. After they've soaked, be sure to strain the liquid through a coffee filter and give your soaked mushrooms a quick rinse in fresh water. Dried mushrooms can hold a lot of grit; if you don't believe me, try this once, look at all the dirt you've filtered out of your soup, and then make your own informed decision. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but 1) it is totally worth it and 2) you're making a pretty big batch, so you can freeze a few quarts for those days when you're like, "Man, I want something delicious but I just cannot handle real cooking right now."

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sesame oil
3 onions, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
18 cups of water
4 inches ginger, peeled and quartered
8-12 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 star anise
2 large handfulls of presoaked & rinsed dried mushrooms, plus filtered mushroom liquid.

dash of peanut oil (for finishing)(optional if you have allergies, but I would recommend it heartily if you do not)
soy sauce

In a large stock pot, sweat the onions and carrots in the oil over medium heat. Once the onions are appropriately fragrant, add in your water, your ginger, your garlic, your mushrooms and mushroom liquid. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for two hours until your broth has been reduced by half. Because I am a weenie about anise and anise-flavored things, I add that in for the last hour only, but you could probably put it in with the garlic and ginger if you wanted.

Once you've reduced your broth down, give it a taste. Is it a tiny bit watery? That's ok. Add some soy sauce and some salt. Taste it again. You want it to be just under-salted. Add a dash of peanut oil to taste. You don't want this to overpower any of your ingrediants. When you're satisfied, strain the liquid. To serve, bring it back to a boil and then pour over a bowlful of tasty ramen fixings. I like noodles with teriyaki seitan and pea shoots but the world is your metaphorical oyster! You can do anything you want.

This is by nature pretty flexible; I had some simmering broth leftover from a batch of seitan that I threw in at the last minute, myself. Just go by taste. You will not be sorry.

1Slippery jack also has a high concentration of sugar alcohol. You know what happens when you eat a large amount of artificially sweetened things? Yeah. Apparently that can happen if you consume a lot of slippery jack. I have never experienced this. However, if you make this broth and then experience some distress in your fanny region. . . well. There you go. Stay hydrated! If you fear the slippery jack, I would go with porcini or shiitake, even though they are super expensive and I would probably never use two large handfuls for one recipe, for I am not made of money.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shredded Beet & Carrot Salad with Avocado, Oranges, & Citrus Vinaigrette

Who likes to turn the oven on in the summer?  No one!  Who is finally making regular use of the food processor R gave me in December, instead?  Me!  I usually prefer my beets roasted to the point of caramelization, but once the summer heat hits, I vastly prefer cool, fresh salads that do not turn the kitchen into a sweltering pit of hell.  In that vein, here is a very beautiful salad that's super simple if you've got a food processor handy.  If you don't, then this'll probably require more elbow grease than I would ever be willing to devote to a meal.  

A note on beets & aesthetics: maybe you're at the store, and they have a big bin of rainbow colored beets.  Maybe you think, "I shall make a salad all the hues of the rainbow, excepting green & blue!"  That is not how beets work.  It'll be radiant for 2 minutes, but then the purple beets get on the yellow beets and turn them gray and sad and it's very disappointing.  Stick with one color, if you can.  

For the beet-haters, R once counted himself among you, but he likes this salad.  Well, his words were, "I would probably like this if I weren't sick."  Please take that ringing endorsement for what it's worth.  This is basically a hybrid of this recipe and this recipe.

Recipe for  Shredded Beet & Carrot Salad below the jump

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The $12 Polenta-Crusted Sweet Potato & Bean Burger

Recently, my friend asked me for suggestions on how to prepare Rio Zape beans.  Well, here's my first suggestion:  a nutritionally dense and flavorfully awesome combination of sweet potatoes, quinoa, veggies, and beans. It doesn't really showcase their extraordinary smoky & meaty qualities, but that same smokiness and meatiness makes for a very fine burger.  We had it for dinner tonight, served on a pretzel roll with a lavish helping of this bbq sauce, red onions, and a little sliced avocado and dang!   "I would pay for this burger," I said to R, and he said, "Twelve dollars.  That's how much I'd pay."

The original recipe came from a cookbook of an old roommate  - for the life of me, I can't remember the name of it - and I've tweaked it somewhat over the years.  I like to make up a batch and freeze them for those nights when cooking dinner for myself just seems like the worst.  It's a great replacement for those highly processed yet convenient TVP-based products you can find in the frozen food section, and the taste!  Oh man.  It's a lot of chopping & grating, but it's worth it, if you've got the time.

($12 Polenta-Crusted Sweet Potato & Bean Burger recipe below.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

TNG & Vegan Cashew Queso

meat, earl grey, hot
Question of the day: in the Star Trek universe, is replicated food vegan?1 I say yes, since it's not technically an animal product.  R says no, since it's indistinguishable from animal protein. Google tells me this is a hotly contested issue whose arguments fall along the same lines currently dividing our own household.   I definitely get that if one is accustomed to avoiding animal protein, one would want to avoid artificial animal protein as well - however, this doesn't change the fact that replicator "meat" isn't derived from animal sources.  Or. . . is it?  The original blueprint for space bacon had to come from somewhere, right?  So this facsimile couldn't exist without the death of one final sacrificial pig.  VEGAN NERDS, PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR OPINIONS.

(Nacho & vegan queso discussion under the jump.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Favorite Recipes of Other People

Kale Salad with Avocado Dressing
This is also really good with other fruit - sectioned tangerines with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, for example - and toasted little tofu croutons.

Chickpea cutlets
This is the most go-to of all my go-to recipes.  I keep them on hand and use them for everything!  Heat them up and make a sandwich wrap with a little avocado, hummus, and salad greens!  Saute with some onions & taco seasoning for a truly deceptively meaty taco filling!  Make some gravy for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner-type meal.  NOT gluten free.

Otsu Recipe
We make this sauce, and douse a bowl of brown rice, kale, sauteed tempeh & ribboned carrots with it, but the original recipe is amazing too!


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I'm working on some stuff! For now, it is just about vegetables.