Monthly Archives

July 2013

recipes, salad

Grilled Romaine Hearts with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

Good evening, as they say.  Konbanwa (こんばんわ), as they say in Japanese.
Since today ended up being a sunny and event-free day (especially compared to the wild storminess of yesterday), Michael decided it would be a good day to fire up the bbq, which is a pretty rare event for us despite how everyone else in our neck of the woods gets all bbq-happy in warmer weather.  
But instead of just grilling some sort of veggie meat, we decided to try out an idea we’d been talking about for months – grilled romaine hearts, served as a salad.  

Grilled Romaine Hearts with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing
Makes four large side servings

For the Salad:

2 romaine hearts, cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices of bread, any kind
For the Dressing:

1 red bell pepper, roasted and peeled (see directions below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave nectar, etc)
1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Directions:

1.  Start with the pepper.  Cut it in half and remove the pith/seeds.  Place it skin-side-up on a hot barbecue or an oven set to broil.  Roast the pepper for twenty to thirty minutes.  When done, the skin should be mostly charred.
2.  While the pepper is roasting, take the olive oil, parsley, and minced garlic and stir them together in a small bowl.  This will be used to brush the romaine hearts and the croutons. 
3.  When the pepper is finished, place it into a resealable plastic bag and let it sweat for fifteen minutes before peeling.  This will loosen the skin.  When it’s cool enough to handle, rub the skin off with your fingers.  Reserve the red pepper flesh for the dressing.
4.  While the pepper is sweating, take the herbed oil and baste about half of it on the romaine hearts. Cut the bread slices into 1/2″ strips and toss them in the remaining oil.  Place the romaine hearts cut-side-down onto a hot grill with the bread slices.  Cook the romaine for 60 seconds on each side, and cook the bread slices until toasted (about 5 minutes).
5.  To make the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients except thyme with the peeled red pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.  Stir in the thyme, and pulse in the blender a few times to break it up a bit.  .
6.  Slice the bread strips into square chunks.  Drizzle the romaine hearts with the dressing and top with croutons.

Eaten with a knife and a fork, this was a really fun and novel way to enjoy a romaine salad.  We’re definitely excited to try this concept with a Caesar dressing when we have access to our pantry again (we’re out of town right now).  Even though we couldn’t make the Caesar today, the roasted red pepper dressing paired very nicely with the grilled romaine, adding sweetness and zest to the salad, which was garlicky, fresh and a little smoky.

Grilling romaine is really quick and simple if you’ve got access to a bbq – we began by tossing the halved romaine hearts with a very simple garlic-herb-oil mixture.

Next, we threw ’em face-down on the bbq for about 1 minute, keeping the lid open (to avoid steaming the leaves and maintain crispness).

After a minute, flip them over and cook for about a minute more.  You should see some lovely grill marks on the lettuce halves.

When they’re done on the grill, serve ’em up with croutons and the roasted red pepper dressing (or Caesar dressing, or any dressing really), and enjoy a big side salad to your bbq’ed meal.  For a smaller portion, they could be cut in half again lengthwise and still hold together quite well.

Well guys, two weeks until we move to Toronto, and things have officially become crazy-busy.  You’ll probably see a little less of us in that time frame as we pack up our life in Saskatchewan, but hopefully we’ll still sneak in a brunch or two.  Take care!

mains, recipes

Korean BBQ Tacos

The final project for culinary school involved creating a menu and serving it to the public.  My biggest contribution to it was this Korean BBQ Taco recipe, which features everything homemade, like the corn tortillas, the tofu filling, and the kimchi.  Those are then served together along with a slice of avocado, some cilantro and toasted sesame seeds for a salty-rich-tangy-spicy affair that I adore.

When it comes to corn tortillas, there really is no comparison from storebought to homemade.  Homemade ones are soft and flexible, and only use three ingredients (water, corn flour, and salt), and they’re not hard to make if you’ve got plastic wrap, a rolling pin, and 10 minutes to spare.  Even if they don’t come out with a perfect round edge (as mine certainly didn’t), they still work just fine.

As for the homemade kimchi, I walked you through that whole thing in the last blog post.  Buying high-quality, unpasteurized, and vegan kimchi is not always easy, and if it is easy, it’s usually pricey.  But the cost of cabbage, ginger and garlic is dirt cheap, and really only requires 20-30 minutes of effort.

But the tofu, of course, is the star of the show!  I marinated it in a ham-like mixture (adapted from Taymer’s Holiday Ham), baked it, and then tossed it with a Korean-style BBQ-sauce.  Really nothing complicated, but it’s got tons of flavor.  I bet you could even skip the marinating step if you really wanted – it wouldn’t be quite as flavorful, but there’s enough going on in this recipe to more than compensate.

Korean BBQ Tacos

For the tofu marinade:

4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons pineapple juice (or whole pineapple, crushed)
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Black pepper, to taste

1 block firm tofu, pressed and shredded (use a box grater)

Combine all ingredients (except tofu) in a shallow pan and let marinate for 30 minutes -1 hour.  Heat the oven to 350 F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the tofu mixture on it.  Bake until golden, about 45 minutes, flipping every 15 minutes or so.

For the Korean BBQ sauce:

1/4 cup tamari
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce (like sriracha)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1/2 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

In a small saucepan, bring the tamari, maple syrup, chili-garlic sauce, garlic powder and rice wine vinegar to a boil.  In a separate bowl, combine the arrowroot with the water, and stir into the boiling sauce mixture.  Cook until thickened, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil.

For assembly:

Baked tofu (above)
Korean BBQ sauce (above)
10-12 corn tortillas, warmed
1 avocado, sliced
6 tablespoons kimchi
Small handful cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Toss the baked tofu with the BBQ sauce.  Place a slice of avocado on the middle of a taco shell, followed by a spoonful of the tofu mixture, and roughly 1/2 tablespoon kimchi.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

These tacos are hearty and spicy, and yet somehow still fit into a summertime menu.  I love the pulled pork texture of the tofu (quite similar to the pulled pork buns we did a week ago), and adventurous omnivores approve as well.

Well guys, we might not be around for brunch this weekend since we’re out of town, but rest assured we will be eating lots of good stuff.  And I wish you all good eats as well!

appetizers, recipes

Sauerkraut “Kimchi”

Allysia’s Ukranian background often leads us to some incredibly delicious foods, but a short while ago she decided to embark on a little food adventure.  As any Ukranian knows, fermented cabbage is an essential component of life itself.  While we would certainly not argue with them, the world of fermented cabbage seems to be open to interpretation and experimentation.  We decided to make our first attempt at a fairly simple, modified sauerkraut based on one of my new-found-favourite condiments, Korean kimchi.

Kimchi-Style Sauerkraut

Makes approximately two cups of sauerkraut

Ingredients:

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1 teaspoon salt*
1 inch ginger root, peeled and julienned
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1-2 tablespoons red pepper powder**
1 large outer leaf of cabbage

*I am not normally one to advocate the use of fancy salts, but this is a time when high-quality sea salt is an absolute necessity.  Cheaper salts are loaded with iodine that is harmless to humans (and technically an essential mineral), but strong enough to kill off the bacteria needed to ferment the cabbage.
**the red pepper powder should be some sort of pure pepper powder, not a blend, and certainly not American-style chili powder.  We used an Asian red pepper powder.  Be sure to taste the powder before use, as some of them can be extremely hot (like ours!).  


Directions:
1.  Once the cabbage is shredded, toss it into a bowl with the salt.  Massage the cabbage vigorously for ten minutes until it has released a lot of water.  The cabbage should now be soft and partially broken down.
2.  Add the ginger, garlic, and red pepper powder to the cabbage and mix until uniform.
3.  Sterilize a 2 cup mason jar by boiling it, with the lid, in a pot of water.  When the jar is ready, remove it from the pot with tongs and press the cabbage mixture in it.  Be sure to include the liquid from the cabbage!  Fill the mason jar and press the kraut mixture very firmly, trying to keep everything submerged under the liquid.  If you’ve made a mess on the rim of the jar, be sure to wipe it down.  Use the reserved cabbage leaf as a sort of packing material to hold down the kraut.  Screw the lid on tight.

4. The kraut needs to ferment somewhere between 3 and 7 days.  Every day you should open the jar and make sure that the large cabbage leaf is still holding the kraut underneath the liquid.  Adjust it if needed.  After three days you can start tasting your kraut to see if it is to your liking.  We left ours for five days and it was deliciously fermented.  Discard the large leaf when kraut is ready, and store in the fridge.  

Our kimchi-meets-kraut experiment certainly yielded delicious results.  The cabbage, ginger and garlic taste amazing when fermented together, and the red pepper powder gives it an incredibly strong kick.  Most red pepper powders work well for this – it won’t be as authentic if you don’t use Korean pepper powder, but it will still taste awesome.  As mentioned above, just be sure to avoid chili pepper blends (which have cumin and salt added to them), as well as red pepper flakes – they are not finely ground enough to tint the kimchi that classic orange hue.  

Brunch, recipes

Omelet Challenge and Shredded Hashbrowns: Vegan Sunday Brunch Episode 51

Almost exactly one year ago, Allysia and I decided to make ourselves some glorious, delicious vegan omelets.  The results were fantastic: fluffy and firm enough to hold together.  The omelets were even served with a boozy-brunch cocktail!  This week the plan was to redo our omelets with a few small changes, but the two of us couldn’t decide on one set of fillings for them.  With this in mind, we embarked on another small challenge: who could create the better omelet?

Michael’s omelet, in all its asparagian gloriousness.
As a change of pace we ended up completing this challenge while visiting family in small town Saskatchewan.  While this gave us access to a much larger/nicer kitchen, it also limited our ingredients somewhat. Fortunately Allysia was smart enough to know that we would have to pick up a few ingredients (tofu, nooch) before leaving.

Allysia’s omelet, crisp and full of kalamata olives.
Omelet Batter
makes two (fairly large) omelets
Ingredients:

1 12-ounce pack soft silken tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon black salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
Daiya, veggies, and herbs for filling
Directions:
1. Combine al ingredients in a blender (any old blender will do, no need for a fancy high-speed blender for once) and blend until smooth.
2. Heat up a non-stick pan to medium-low.  We used a crepe pan – make sure it is really, really non-stick or else this omelet won’t work.  Oil the pan with a dab of olive oil or some spray-oil.
3.  Pour about half of the batter onto the pan and smooth it out a bit with a spoon.  You can also use the spoon to ‘push in’ the edges of the batter a bit, to keep them from thinning and spreading too much.  Add the fillings to the omelet and cook it for 5-7 minutes, until the tofu is browned on the bottom and it is released from the pan.  Fold over half of the omelet on top of itself and continue cooking for another few minutes.  Repeat for the second omelet.
Our new-and-improved omelet batter proved to be not-that-much of an improvement.  We cut out the flour from the previous recipe and replaced it with just a small amount of cornstarch.  The omelet held together, but were much more finicky to deal with.  The final product was creamier than the previous attempt, but less firm/fluffy.  Our old recipe is probably the better of the two, but what are you going to do?  Sometimes in the name of progress you have to break a few (theoretical) eggs.

Allysia chose to fill her omelet (above) with a combination of diced zucchini and tomato, sliced olives, and a healthy portion of minced dill, all smothered in Daiya.  My omelet (below) involved some sautéed mushrooms and asparagus, a little diced tomato and some fresh tarragon, covered with my own portion of Daiya.  Choosing a winner was tricky, maybe you guys and gals out there can help us out by telling us which sounds better to you?

The co-star of this brunch was the quick and easy shredded hashbrowns.  The internet had long told me that hashbrowns could be made using a waffle iron, and this time we decided to try it out for ourselves.

The procedure was pretty simple, and the results were amazing.  First a few potatoes met up with the box grater.  They were then salted a bit and left to sit while the waffle iron heated up.  Once we were ready for them, we took the potatoes and squeezed as much liquid out of them as possible.  This step is absolutely essential to getting crispy shredded potatoes.  The potatoes were loaded into the lightly oiled waffle iron and left to cook for about ten minutes.  Really they were just cooked until brown and easy to remove.  Crispy, salty, and great with ketchup!

Allysia: it’s true – hashbrowns are naked without ketchup.

The ritual of ketchup squeezing is to be taken very seriously (even if it is Heinz).

Until next time.

recipes, sandwiches

BBQ “Pulled Pork” Sandwich

Ah, July!  The first time in a while where I am not rushing off to school early each morning to mold impressionable young minds.  As with many other seasonal jobs, with the end of the school year comes staff parties and potluck suppers.  I think everyone loves a good summer potluck: good food, good company, and above all else, good beer.  The only downside with most potlucks is that they tend to be entirely omnivorous, and by that, I mean that almost every dish tends to involve some kind of meat hidden within.  Baked beans with bacon, broccoli salad with bacon, roast potatoes with bacon… I mean, what is it with people and bacon!?  Allysia and I knew that we had to help rescue the carnivores from themselves.

We were actually incredibly stumped when it came to figuring out what we should bring to the party.  We literally spent an hour or two just sitting around trying to come up with ideas.  We had planned to bring one dish at first, but that quickly expanded out to two dishes, and then a third was finally tacked on at the end.  We would bring an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert.

The appetizer was fleshed out.  Cauliflower chunks, battered and baked in the oven.  Tossed with some buffalo sauce (what can I say, I have a weakness…), returned to the oven.  Perfecto.  The desert was going to be decadent.  Really decadent.  Chocolate brownies covered in a layer of cheesecake and drizzled with more chocolate.  The main course was the final invention.  We knew that the hosts were going to be providing pulled pork for everyone at the party (at least it’s not bacon, I guess?) so I decided to make something similar for Allysia and I: tofu “pulled pork” with barbecue sauce!

Tofu Pulled Pork Sandwiches
makes 6 sandwiches

Ingredients:

1/2 block pressed tofu (the really firm, pre-pressed stuff works the best)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce, store-bought or home-made*
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced onion
2 cloves sliced garlic
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Fresh buns, cut down the middle (we used sourdough)
Fixings (we used tomato, cucumber, kale, pickles, Vegenaise, and a little extra barbecue sauce)


*We used store-bought sauce, but a quick and easy barbecue sauce can be created with garlic powder, onion powder, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, and vegan Worcestershire.

Directions:

1. The tofu we used was a pre-pressed variety that we have found at a few health food stores.  It is significantly more dense than the extra-firm or super-firm tofu found at most grocery stores.  If you can find it, I highly recommend it.  If not, take some extra firm tofu and place it on your counter top in between two clean kitchen towels.  Place some weight on top (I find 20 pounds is a good amount) and let it sit for an hour to remove all moisture.  Once your tofu is ready, grate it on the coarse side of a box grater and mix it with the barbeque sauce and vinegar.

2. Heat the oil in a pan and slice your bell pepper, onion, and garlic.  Saute the veggies for about ten minutes, then add the tofu to the pan.  Continue sauteing for another ten minutes.

3.  To assemble the sandwiches, slice your buns and spread on some mayo, barbeque sauce, mustard, ketchup, or whatever else fits your fancy.  Layer on some greenery and fresh veggies before finishing with a portion of the tofu mixture.

The pressed tofu gives the sandwich an amazing, meaty feel.  I have used the pre-pressed tofu as well as pressed my own, but the pre-pressed definitely has the best texture.  Since we were taking our sandwiches to go, we let them cool off a little bit before wrapping to keep the buns from getting soggy.  We knew there was going to be at least one more herbivore at the party so we made sure to bring extra.

The party ended up being great fun.  There were even some actual salads present!  The sandwiches were a huge success among the vegans/vegetarians present, and the buffalo cauliflower was enjoyed by all.  We made a huge amount of cauliflower, but they were gobbled up none-the-less – people were mentioning them to us for days afterwards.  Unfortunately our pictures of the appetizer went missing, so you guys and gals will have to wait until we make them again to hear about the recipe.

When it comes to food experimentation there is always a risk of failure.  Our brownies fell victim to that risk.  While still delicious, they were more akin to a thick, chewy pudding than to any kind of baked treat.  If you see Allysia in your travels be sure to offer your condolences on the Brownies that Never Were.  Oh well, you win some, you lose some.  See ya!

recipes, Soups and Stews

Roasted Broccoli Soup

A few weeks ago I made an incredible grilled cheese sandwich and partnered it with a spur-of-the-moment roasted soup.  My go-to soup has long been a tomato-based affair, but this time I felt like something different.  Cream-based soups always make great dippers, but I definitely wanted nothing but fresh veggies in my bowl.  I hunted through the food I had available until I found exactly what I was craving.

Roasted Broccoli Soup
Makes 3 portions of very thick soup, or 4 portions of thinner soup

1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled
3 cups broccoli florets, broken up
2 cups zucchini, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cups veggie broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup tarragon, chopped
lots of fresh black pepper
salt (might not be needed, depending on your broth)

Directions

1. Set your oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the onion, garlic, and potato in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss them onto a roasting pan.  Put the root veggies in the oven for 20 minutes.

2. Tear your broccoli into chunks and chop the zucchini up a little.  No need for pretty looking pieces, everything will hit the blender eventually.  Toss the broccoli and zucchini in the remaining oil.  After those first twenty minutes have elapsed, add the green veggies to the roaster and return to the oven for another 40 minutes.  Toss the veggies around the pan a couple times to even out the browning.

3. When the veggies are finished, remove the pan from the oven and splash some of the veggie broth in it to release all those delicious brown bits.  Toss the veggies and all remaining ingredients in a high-speed blender.  Blend until it reaches your desired texture (hearty and chunky or silky smooth), adding more veggie broth as desired.

Since my soup was destined for dipping I used only 3 cups of veggie broth.  This left me with a very thick soup that clung perfectly to the dunked sandwich.  The depth of flavor that comes from roasted soups is always incredible, but there was an especially great balance in the final product.  The dark, bitter flavors of the roasted greens cut the sweetness of the roasted onions and garlic, while the lemon juice and tarragon shocked the soup to life.  Roasted soups should probably be a part of everyone’s kitchen lexicon.

Later days.