Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spinach-Artichoke-Mushroom Strata

Admittedly, there are too many words in this title. But spinach and artichokes are really good. And so are mushrooms.

Strata, a savory sort of bread pudding, is ideal for brunch, as it can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning. The conventional version is made with an egg custard that soaks the bread and provides substance. Here, silken tofu and almond milk provide richness, and vegetables take the place of meat. This is good fresh from the oven, or at room temperature, as we served it.

Spinach-Artichoke-Mushroom Strata
serves 8-10

8 ounces stale bread (I use a French, rustic, or Ciabatta loaf), torn into 1” pieces
1 ½ cups mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon Earth Balance, or other non-hydrogenated margarine
3-4 artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen spinach, coarsely chopped
2 ounces soy cheese (optional; I used Follow Your Heart cheddar)
2 ½ cups nut, seed or soy milk (I used half almond, half hazelnut)
6 ounces firm or extra firm silken tofu (half of a vacuum-sealed box)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon mixed fresh or dried herbs, chopped (optional)
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Preheat an oven to 350º F.
Heat the earth balance in a large skillet, preferably cast-iron. Add the mushrooms and sauté until softened and slightly browned. Set aside.
Toss together the bread, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, spinach, and 1 ounce of the soy cheese. Evenly spread the mixture in a well-oiled 9”x9” or 3-quart baking dish.
In a blender, combine the milk, silken tofu, Dijon mustard, garlic, and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the custard over the bread mixture. Cover and chill for at least an hour, or up to two days.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch and no longer custardy. Add the remaining 1 ounce of soy cheese, and cook until slightly melted, about 5 minutes more. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Chocolate Corn Chili

This chili has the makings of a fairly sophisticated dish: it begins with a mirepoix, the classic French combination of onion, carrot, and celery that serves as the foundation for so many soups. Flavors are well-layered. And there's even some deglazing.

But frankly, the chili has cans and cans of stuff in it, and takes about 15 minutes of actual labor. And the deglazing is done with...well, beer. Let's be honest: it's really lowbrow.

The attractiveness of this recipe is its substantial nature, and the massive quantities of food it yields, perfect for a casual dinner party or packed lunches. It's also very flexible: add mushrooms, cilantro, different beans, whatever you like.

Although I never take this advice, I do recommend wearing gloves when handling the jalapeno and chipotle peppers.

Chocolate Corn Chili
at least 8 generous servings

6 medium carrots
3 stalks celery
1 large onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
6-10 cloves garlic (I use a whole head), minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder (store-bought is fine, or make your own from a combination of chili powders)
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cups beer
1 26-ounce can pinto beans, undrained, or 2 cups cooked beans + 1 cup water
1 26-ounce can kidney beans, undrained, or 2 cups cooked beans + 1 cup water
1 26-ounce can black beans, undrained, or 2 cups cooked beans + 1 cup water
2 28-ounce cans crushed or diced tomatoes
1 ounce baking, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
juice of one lime
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pulse carrots, celery, and onion (separately) in a food processor until very finely chopped, or dice very finely. You want a texture closer to ground than chopped. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stockpot and add the mixture along with the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-10 minutes.

Add garlic, jalapeno, adobo, chili powder, and cornmeal. Cook 5 minutes more, stirring constantly. Pour in beer and deglaze, scaping any browned bits from the bottom of the stockpot. Add beans, tomatoes, and chocolate.

Let simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until the chili has thickened slightly. Stir in corn and lime juice. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve, garnished with cilantro, green onion, chopped tomatoes, Cashew get the idea.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Coconut Lime Scones

Using Isa's infinitely customizable Orange Glazed Scone recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, I created this version. Substituting coconut milk for the soy creamer and lime zest for the orange gives an exotic flavor with a particularly tender crumb.

The glaze, made with rum and fresh lime juice, goes well with everything. It can be drizzled over pound cake, fresh fruit, mashed potatoes...

I imagine firefighters and police rushing to rescue someone from its naughty goodness. Several flights of stairs and a battering ram later, a veteran fireman bursts through the door, full of courage. His eyes fall on the victim, and he realizes it's too late. "We've lost another one," he says, learning against the wall in defeat. And shaking his fist: "It's that damn glaze!"

Rum Lime Glaze
about 1 cup

1 tablespoon earth balance or coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons light rum
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 1/2-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine the earth balance or oil, lime juice, zest, and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, stirring until completely smooth. Stir in the rum. Add additional powdered sugar until a thick but pourable consistency is reached. If using on something warm, the glaze will become more fluid, so keep it thick. Add more rum if a thinner glaze is required.
Eat outside, where the pale green of the scones echoes the green things springing up everywhere. And have a pot of passion fruit tea while you're at it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Vegan Chocolates

I recently celebrated my first veganniversary, a year of being vegan! My wonderful husband surprised me with a great veg lunch and exceptional chocolates from
  • Rose City Chocolatiers

  • Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Caramel Almond Bread Pudding

    I created this in my pre-vegan days as a pastry cook at a tearoom in Littleton, Colorado. The vegan version is just as decadent, particularly when served with extra caramel and Soyatoo whipped topping. With it's crackly sugar topping and creamy interior, it has the power to convert even the staunchest anti-bread pudding crusader.
    Yes, they do exist.

    Caramel Almond Bread Pudding
    serves 9

    1/2 pound stale white bread (I use a good French loaf), torn into 1" pieces
    3/4 cup silken tofu or plain soy yogurt
    1/4 cup brown sugar or turbinado sugar
    1 tablespoon white sugar or evaporated cane juice
    1 1/4 cups plain almond milk
    1 cup plain soy creamer
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
    3/4 cup slivered almonds
    3/4 cup brown sugar
    3 tablespoons earth balance or other vegan margarine
    3 tablespoons plain soy creamer

    Preheat an oven to 350. Place the bread in an even layer in a well-earth balanced 9" x 9" baking pan.

    To make the custard, combine the silken tofu or yogurt with the sugars in a blender until completely smooth. Add the almond milk, soy creamer, and extracts. Pour over the bread, saturating it completely. Allow the bread to absorb the custard while you make the caramel.

    In a microwave safe bowl, or on the stovetop, melt the brown sugar, earth balance, and soy creamer together. Allow the mixture to bubble for a minute or so, until the sugar is well-dissolved. Scatter the slivered almonds evenly over the pudding. Drizzle with caramel. At this point, the pudding can be refrigerated for up to a day before baking.

    Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until slightly puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Carrot Lassi

    Served as a cooling drink in India, the traditional Lassi has countless variations.

    While traveling in the south of India, I once went exploring. Followed by a friend, I stumbled onto an expansive green field. We ran through the rows of soil, amazed at colors and smells. I knew that tea wasn’t grown at this altitude, but the leaves were too intense to be anything ordinary. This kind of wistfulness stopped abruptly, as we realized that several people tending the field had spotted us. After considering a quick escape (trespassing, after all!), we were surprised by grace.

    The farmers welcomed us toward a tiny corrugated metal shack, out of which an entire family emerged. They brought chai, and asked us to stay for dinner. Reaching into the earth, a man uprooted a handful of his crop—carrots!—and thrust it into our arms. We talked, laughed, and made balloon animals with the family before returning to the everyday.

    Nearly eight years later, the friend who joined me on that adventure is my husband. This unconventional Lassi is my homage to India, and to the beautiful and generous family who shared their field of carrots with us.

    Carrot Lassi
    Serves 2, generously

    1 cup fresh carrot juice, purchased from a juice bar if you don’t have a juicer
    2 6-ounce containers plain or vanilla soy yogurt
    1 teaspoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
    ¼ teaspoon cardamom
    a pinch of salt

    Whisk together or combine in a blender. The Lassi should be fairly thin; add several tablespoons of water if necessary.
    Serve over ice, topped with grated nutmeg or additional cardamom.

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Healthy Breakfast

    This is the least glamorous thing I'll post here, promise.

    My grandparents, both vegetarians, ate this every morning for years. As a child I loved junk food, and dreaded visiting because of the healthy stuff they fed us: fresh baked homemade bread, fruit warm from their backyard garden, and brown rice with peanut butter and raisins.
    I tried the rice one morning, years after my grandparents were gone, and it made me remember everything about them I loved. Eating it makes me feel sensible and resolute--neither of which I actually am! But I imagine becoming a stronger, more responsible person with every spoonful.

    Brown Rice with Peanut Butter and Raisins
    serves 1-2

    1 cup brown rice, cooked (I highly recommend investing in a rice cooker, particularly if you live at a high altitude as I do)
    1 tablespoon (or a bit more) peanut butter
    1/2-3/4 cup raisins

    Combine everything. Eat.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Leisurely Lasagna Lunch

    Since today was for rest, I assembled lasagna ahead and baked it while relaxing after church. I usually don't make stuff this typical, but served with salad and bread, it makes a simple, hearty meal. It's labor intensive, but all the elements can be made up to several days in advance and refrigerated, or assembled and frozen. The herbs in the spice rub can be varied, but do use the basil and fennel--they add the flavor of a certain ground and encased animal product that will remain nameless. It rhymes with vausage.

    Veg Lasagna
    9 servings

    Spice-Rubbed Veg Filling:
    1 eggplant, diced into 1/2" cubes
    1 zucchini, diced into 1/2" cubes
    1 yellow summer squash, diced into 1/2" cubes
    1 portabello or about 10 button mushrooms, sliced thin
    1 onion, diced
    several tablespoons olive oil
    1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
    1 teaspoon fresh pepper
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    2 teaspoons sea salt

    Put the veggies in a large bowl. I first salted the eggplant to extract excess water, but this is optional and probably unnecessary.
    Grind the spices and salt fine in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, then toss with the veg. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add several tablespoons of oil and the veg mixture. Saute until softened and a bit brown. Set aside.

    To Assemble:

    1 10-ounce package lasagna noodles
    Spice-Rubbed Veg Filling
    Isa's Tofu Basil Ricotta
    1 1/2 cups grated non-dairy mozzarella (I used Follow Your Heart, the only non-disgusting veg cheese)
    1 25-ounce jar good tomato sauce
    additional tomato sauce

    Cook the noodles according to package directions, until just tender. Preheat an oven to 350.
    Spread a few tablespoons of sauce over the bottom of a 9" x 9" baking pan. Layer a third of the pasta in the pan. Spread with half the Ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, half the Veg Filling, and one third of the jarred sauce, in that order. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread the top with additional sauce and the remaining mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes, covering with foil if the top goes beyond golden brown. The cheese should be gorgeously crackly when finished. Serve with copious amount of additional tomato sauce.

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Food is so good!

    And cooking it yourself is even better.

    Welcome to veganjoy. Here, you'll find recipes, photos, and tips to make your foodie experience a lovely one.

    That little pie I'm holding above is Claire. For her sake, human rights, animal freedom, economics, health, and spiritual principles, I'm a vegan. I'm also a dessert junkie! While my usual diet is full of fresh produce and low in processed foods, I'm a fervent believer in the occasional [read: daily] treat. I delight in rice pudding. I think ganache is a gateway to transcendence. And I've been known to get teary over a perfect plum.

    I hope you'll join me in hyperbolic food rants. Enjoy...veganjoy!