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homemade veggie burger
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A Homemade Veggie Burger Recipe: Easy enough to memorize

This is my favorite homemade veggie burger, and the recipe really is easy enough to memorize. The portions are equal and the ingredient list is incredibly short.

These homemade veggie burgers came to exist one day when I was too lazy to follow a recipe. I’ve made so many veggie burgers in the past – bean-based, grain-or-starch-based, nut-based, etc, and the one thing most of them have in common is that they are so complicated. 

When I want a veggie burger, I am generally craving convenience, so I don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen to make one. 

A long while ago I posted a recipe for sunflower seed burgers, which I used as my template ever since – sunflower seeds are cheap, nutritious, and add that delicious, fatty mouthfeel that a veggie burger needs, and often lacks, especially in bean-based ones. 

Homemade veggie burger criteria:

But this time, I wanted something even simpler, and it needed to meet this criteria:

-taste good (duh)
-have a sturdy, firm texture that is easy to cook (read: doesn’t fall apart)
-not dry
-super nutritious
-be so simple that the method and ingredients could be memorized upon reading once

I’m happy to announce that all of the above criteria were met, and here’s the recipe that you won’t need.  This recipe is easiest using leftover brown rice, and canned chickpeas.

The Easiest Homemade Veggie Burger
Serves 6
This is my favorite homemade veggie burger, partly because it's delicious, but also because it's so incredibly simple to make. And nutritious, too!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sunflower seeds
  2. 1 cup cooked brown rice
  3. 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  4. 1 cup grated carrot
  5. 1-2 teaspoons seasoning (Italian herbs work really well, like oregano and thyme)
  6. salt and pepper (around 1/2 teaspoon each)
Instructions
  1. Using a food processor, grind the sunflower seed into crumbs (some chunks are okay).  Add the brown rice, chickpeas, carrots, seasoning, salt and pepper, and process until a sticky dough is formed.  You'll need to scrape the bowl a few times, since this is a very stiff dough - an important component of it forming it into really sturdy patties.  You can make them as smooth or chunky as you prefer - I like a little bit of texture in mine.
  2. Form the dough into six patties - since it's sticky, damp hands work best.  Cook on a lightly oiled non-stick pan for 5-10 minutes per side on medium-low heat, to ensure it cooks through. Serve with all the fixins.
Oh Waffle http://www.ohwaffle.com/
 

This is a light-coloured patty, so I like to give it chicken-y flavors like thyme, oregano and rosemary.  Dried herbs work fine, but fresh would taste super lovely. 

Enjoy, friends, and happy belated Easter!

xo,
Allysia

mains, recipes

Hail Seitan!

Howdy, friends!  Today I want to talk to you about something very near and dear to my heart.  Seitan is single-handedly responsible for keeping Allysia and I sane through this month of frugal foods.  Don’t get me wrong, we love beans, lentils, and all forms of cheap, natural protein,  but sometimes you just need something different.  Something familiar and friendly, tasty and versatile.  All of these things describe seitan for me.

Obligatory gratuitous close-up shot
Maybe seitan feels so familiar to me because the last time I ate real meat was in 2012.  When done right, seitan seems to be the easiest way to reproduce some of the tastes and textures of meat.  Homemade versions won’t confuse current omnivores, but storebought versions could give a few people a challenge to identify.  Obviously we haven’t been splurging on pre-made seitan this month, but we have learned a lot about creating it ourselves.  With a little bit of experimentation I’ve developed a nice simple seitan recipe that serves as the perfect tabula rasa to twist and change into a great product every time.

Note from Allysia: I am generally a seitan-making failure, either making it too spongy or too dense, but Michael figured out this method that I love, and always eagerly anticipate eating – especially seasoned and fried up in a dry rub.

Blank-Slate Seitan
makes about 4 large-sized servings of seitan, or six smaller servings

Large pot of salted water, boiling
1 cup wheat gluten
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil (olive or neutral vegetable oil)
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or other acid)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
Black pepper
Additional spices or flavourings (see below)
Directions

1. In a mixing bowl combine the gluten, nutritional yeast, and onion powder.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.
2.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir together until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the bowl and knead like bread dough for about 3 minutes.  The seitan should be rubbery and soft.  Shape it into a wide flat log that will fit into your boiling pot.
3. Add the seitan to the pot, partially cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook the seitan for 45 minutes.
4. When the time is up, cover the pot completely and allow the seitan to cool in the fridge (while still in the pot).  Let it sit until room-temperature, or overnight.
Sliced seitan cooked with mushrooms and onions to make a sauce-y sandwich
Those who have made seitan before know that it can usually be boiled, steamed, or baked.  Boiled seitan is the most tender of the three, and also the easiest to make (steaming seitan can be quite finicky, and baked seitan can turn out dry). 
As made above, the seitan works well in applications where it is not the centre of attention: diced and added to pasta sauce, stir-fried with a sweet-and-spicy vegetable mix, or, a current favourite, smothered in blackening spices and fried.  If you want the seitan to have a little more of its own flavour you can add some additional flavour to the dough itself.  When using the seitan for pasta sauce I might add healthy amount of dried basil, oregano, and thyme.  An Asian-styled-spin can be given by removing some of the salt and beefing up the soy sauce, adding some toasted sesame oil, and grating in some fresh ginger.  Any flavours that you would add to a dish can be added to this recipe.  Since the seitan is boiled it won’t get so hot as to destroy any delicate flavourings.

Blackened seitan slices served with pureed cauliflower/potatoes and braised carrots
The real trick to using homemade seitan is knowing its strengths and weaknesses.  Since the seitan is fairly soft and moist, it won’t work well if served in a large slab.  It does, however, work great when sliced or diced before it hits a hot pan.  This allows the liquid to be removed from the individual pieces, leaving a great meaty texture.  After this month of frugality is over we may try to find a great baked recipe which may work better served in large pieces.  I don’t think I will be able to rest until I can say that I have made a great-looking, great-tasting seitan steak.  A lofty goal to be sure, but you’ve got to set your goals high.  Until next time.

One more sandwich shot for good measure.
mains, recipes

(The Best) Vegan Fried Rice (Ever)

Hi there and welcome to our second edition of “The Best, Ever”.  The first time around we brought you a truly delicious vegan lava cake.  For this edition we decided focus on a different kind of treat, a perfect blend of salty, sweet, and savory: Fried rice.

My mouth is salivating already!

Every Chinese restaurant can make delicious fried rice, but it always seems impossible to duplicate the results at home.  In some ways this is a good thing: homemade fried rice is almost always less greasy and less salty, and healthy fried rice recipes exist all around the internet.  The downside of these guilt-free versions is that you lose the true fried-rice experience.  That oil and salt is there for a reason!  This recipe focuses on a truly authentic experience, and forgoes any “homemade = healthy” pretensions (though it’s still healthier than most takeout).

Our fried rice adventure required us to pass three milestones: we needed the perfect meat alternative, we needed the perfect rice, and we needed the perfect stir-fry technique.  The part of “meat” in this production was played by our good friend Seitan.  A nice seitan loaf, seasoned properly, is meatier in texture than both tofu and seitan, which is why we’ve used it here as a stand-in for pork.  The rice is an interesting thing: most people think you need leftover rice for fried rice, but we’ve found the perfect way to make same-day fried rice that tastes completely authentic.  The stir-frying technique is fantastically simple, so with no further adieu, let’s go!


Part One: Sweet and Spicy Seitan

4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 inches ginger, sliced thin

1 cup wheat gluten
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, grated
2 inches ginger root, grated

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Directions:

1. Place the veggie broth, water, smashed garlic, and sliced ginger in a large pot and set the heat to high.

2. While the cooking broth heats up, mix the gluten and nutritional yeast together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine the remaining seitan ingredients (veggie broth, soy sauce, lime juice, chili flakes, oil, garlic, and ginger).

3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Once the liquid has been mostly absorbed remove the dough from the bowl and knead for about three minutes.  It will be very elastic and fairly tough.  Form it into a wide, flat log.

4. When the cooking liquid is boiling place the seitan log in the pot, partially cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook the seitan for 45 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and cover completely.  Place the whole pot into the fridge and let the seitan sit in the broth overnight (see note below).

5. When you are ready to make your fried rice, take the remaining five ingredients and mix them together in a bowl.  Cut about half of the seitan into small slices and toss it with the glaze.
6. Now comes the best part.  Place the seitan in a frying pan set to medium heat.  Dump in the remaining glaze.  The key to getting perfectly delicious seitan meat candy is to fry the seitan for a good, long time, stirring often.  Eventually the sugars will reduce and caramelize, coating the seitan bits in a sticky layer of sweet and spicy heaven.

Seitan bits, ready to be fried.

Note: During the boiling, the seitan loaf will expand and poof up.  This is entirely normal, but mildly alarming if it is your first time making it.  Cooling the seitan overnight will allow it to absorb a little more flavour, but the real reason is to firm it up.  It will originally be somewhat light and spongy, but 8 or more hours later it will be nice and dense – a perfect meat substitute.

Delicious seitan candy!

Part Two: Same-Day Rice

1 cup long grain white rice
2 tablespoons neutral oil (we used grapeseed oil)
2 cups water
Directions:

1. Start the rice in a dry, cool pot.  I know it sounds crazy, but trust me.  Add enough oil (about 2 tablespoons) to coat the rice and leave the bottom of the pot slick.  The rice at the bottom shouldn’t be swimming in oil.  Turn up the heat to medium.
2. Before cooking, the rice will be translucent.  Our goal is to make it opaque.  Stir the rice constantly for 10 – 15 minutes until it all looks solid and white.  My rice got a little brown, but that is what happens when you need to pause and take pictures every few minutes.  This is a technique called “parching” the rice.
3. When the rice is opaque, add the water and set it to high heat.  Do not cover!  Once the rice is at a full boil, give it a quick stir and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let the rice continue cooking until almost all the liquid is gone.
4. Once the liquid is almost entirely boiled off you can give the rice another stir, remove it from the heat and cover.  The rice should be al dente – firm enough to stand up to a final frying, but not so hard as to be crunchy.
Close-up of dry, raw rice prior to parching.
Parched rice (note the more “solid” white colour of the rice).
This odd technique for cooking the rice may seem a little wild, but it really is the best way to get rice the perfect fried rice texture.  As my cousin said last night, the grains of rice have issues with their personal space: they stand alone, rather than cuddle up and mush together.  Sure, you can always use day-old rice like the restaurants use, but sometimes you need your junk-food fix right away.  This rice works perfectly in any recipe that calls for somewhat dried-out rice: Spanish carne asada, burritos, salads, the list goes on.
Part Three: The Final Fry

About 4 cups of assorted sliced/diced veggies (carrot, broccoli, and cabbage are all favourites)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
Drizzle toasted sesame oil

A beautiful mise en place, if I do say so myself.

Directions:

1. First things first: Fried rice is all about improvisation and last-minute decisions.  Don’t have any broccoli?  Sub in bok choy.  Ran out of carrot?  Omit it entirely.  The best way to decide what to put in your fried rice is to open the fridge and grab a little bit of everything.  Variety is the spice of life and all that.  For us, this meant that our meal involved cabbage, carrot, broccoli stalks and florets, leek, green onion, and zucchini.  Get all of your veggies cut up into nice bite-sized chunks.  Using a wok effectively is a very hands-on experience, so you won’t have time to cut things up during.
2. Grab a wok and add a small splash of high-heat oil.  Grape seed or unrefined sesame work great, but safflower or canola will do in a pinch.  Add a tablespoon to the wok and let it reach a screaming hot temperature.  Here is the secret to good wok cooking at home: that dial that I told you to set to “high”?  Leave it there and don’t touch it until you are done.  I set mine to max and left it.  You need high heat to actually stir fry something without just steaming it.  Trust us on this one.
3. Your ingredients need to be divided up based on how quickly they cook.  Things like broccoli stalks and carrots take the longest.  Drop them in the wok and stir/flip them around for a few minutes until slightly soft.  If you don’t stir constantly everything will burn, so be careful.  A stir-fried utopia will be the reward for your vigilance.
4. Next up is the softer items.  Onion, cabbage, and leeks would fall into this category.  Drop ’em in, stir ’em up, and let them cook for a minute or two.
5. At this point you could add some aromatics, which includes ginger, garlic, shallot, green onion, etc.  Toss everything for another minute.
6. Finally it is time to add the delicates.  Broccoli florets and zucchini count, as well as things like sweet corn and lighter greens.  Toss everything around yet again.
7. Before we can finally eat, we have to toss in the rice.  Add it to the wok and stir quickly, then pour in the soy sauce, dried ginger, sugar, and sesame oil.  Toss everything to coat and voila, your meal is ready.

The first few batches of veggies sizzling, steaming, and popping away.
There are a lot of steps to this fried rice, but it’s not as complicated or time-consuming as it may seem – plus, the reward is an amazing meal (or side dish).  Plate up some of the rice/veggies and spoon on some of the seitan candy.  Top it all with some sesame seeds and maybe a dash of sriracha.  It may not be the healthiest meal, but it is certainly the best fried rice I have had in a long, long time.

A little piece of heaven.

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!

mains, recipes

Michael’s Birthday Feast: Hasselback Potatoes

Happy Friday!

Last week was Michael’s 26th birthday, so to celebrate we made a skype dinner together, because we’re all food nerdy like that.  Even if I was back home we probably would’ve done the same thing, except the difference is that there wouldn’t be two different climates for cooking (read: having the stove and oven blasting during Austin’s hottest day thus far does not align with Saskatchewan’s mild spring day).

Sweating buckets was worth it, though, for the resulting “dude meal” (so-called by my roommate), and I definitely didn’t have to be a dude to enjoy it.

The star of the show was the Hasselback baked potato, which was scallop-sliced and rubbed with garlic butter, and later topped with melted Daiya cheese, green onions, bacon bits (I have a bag of dehydrated coconut bacon…so good), and a wonderful white mushroom sauce.  Michael topped his ‘tato with a dollop of plain yogurt – he had no sour cream, but it worked all the same.  For how pretty it looks, it was intensely easy to make, and we concurred that it was our new favorite way to enjoy a baked potato.

The supporting cast consisted of sauteed asparagus, topped with the same white mushroom sauce as the potato, and some veggie sausage slices.  Ketchup made an appearance on my plate, too, because ketchup is the condiment of the gods.  Michael enjoyed vegan seafood as the protein portion of his meal, made by the company Sophie’s Kitchen (which he talked about in an earlier post), this time testing out the crab cakes and scallops.

Hasselback Baked Potato with Garlic Butter
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 medium Russet potato, washed
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
1 garlic clove, minced
Small handful Daiya cheddar cheese
Assorted toppings (sour cream, chives or green onions, bacon bits, etc.)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Make the garlic butter: Heat the margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When melted, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Remove from heat.

3. To prepare the potato, make 1/4-inch slices widthwise all the way down the length of the potato.  If you place a wooden spoon on each side of the potato (lengthwise), your knife won’t cut all the way through the bottom of the potato, making flawless slicing easy-peasy.  Pour the margarine on the potato and rub it into the crevices.  Place the potato on a baking pan and bake for 50 minutes, adding the cheese on top of the potato in the last 7 minutes or so, to melt.

Serve with whatever toppings you like, in whatever quantity you like.  Enjoy!

The white mushroom sauce was creamy and rich without being unhealthy, and I’m excited to share that recipe with you next time.  Happy weekend, guys!

mains, recipes

Sushi Party (With Pickled Ginger Recipe)

One of our goals for this week was to each create a blog post your reading pleasure.  When this came up, I (Mike) instantly jumped up and passionately proclaimed that we would make sushi, and that it would be my blog post.

The first thing I did was create a list of the different types of sushi and accouterments I wanted at my party (in this case, a party for one).  I decided to make nigiri (the type of sushi usually consisting of a lump of rice with a hunk of veg or protein attached), maki (your standard assorted rolls), miso soup, and a miniature rice bowl.  I surveyed my ingredients and decided that I could make nigiri featuring avocado, marinated tofu, zucchini, and some no-tuna pate.  The rolls would be an assortment of whatever I had around, and the rice bowl would include some chives, avocado, tamari, and assorted spices.

The usual condiments for sushi include soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger.  I had a small amount of pickled ginger on hand, but I really wanted to take another crack at preparing it from scratch.  A little research led me to some interesting information.  Apparently there is a reason why pickled ginger is often dyed pink.  Traditionally, only young ginger was used for the condiment.  This ginger was shaved thinly and then salted and massaged.  After letting it sit for a length of time, boiling vinegar and sugar was poured over the ginger.  This is where the magic happens – apparently a chemical reaction happens between the salted ginger and the boiling vinegar that causes it to turn slightly pink!  The chemist in me loves tidbits like this.  We won’t go through quite that much effort to pickle our ginger, but I did have a healthy way to dye it pink, using our good friend the beet.

Homemade Pink Pickled Ginger
Makes about 1 cup

about 6 inches of ginger root, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 small beet (unpeeled is fine)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Rice wine vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar, really)

Directions:

1. Once the ginger is peeled, continue using the peeler to skim very thin pieces off of the root. Collect all of your pieces is a bowl and add the salt.  Massage the ginger for a minute or two to work in the salt.  Let it sit for an hour or so.

2. Once the ginger has sat, bring a pot of water to boil.  Take your beet and cut 3 quarter-inch thick circles from it.  Pop two of the circles into the pot of water and cut the other beet circle into chunky sticks.  Set aside the beet sticks for now.
3. Add the ginger to the boiling water and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.  Once the time is up, strain the ginger and remove the beet circles.
4. In a small mason jar or resealable container, pour the agave nectar and about a tablespoon of each of the vinegars (if you don’t have multiple vinegars, just use more rice wine vinegar).  Add the ginger and one or two beet sticks to the jar and shake it up a bit.  Add more vinegar, in a 50:50 ratio, until the ginger is completely covered.
The ginger will need to sit and mellow for a while before you will want to eat it.  Luckily, the boiling reduces that time greatly.  It will be perfectly edible and not too astringent after a few hours, but it is ideal after sitting overnight.  The pickled ginger can be refrigerated more a few months without worry.  I love how brightly colored the ginger is, but especially love the fact that it wasn’t done with any weird chemicals!

With the ginger finished, I was ready to make the sushi.  I won’t go into the finer points of sushi rolling, but I will cover a few general points:
  • Proper sushi requires short-grained rice.  Cook the rice using 1 cup of rice to 1 1/4 cups of water.
  • When the rice in done you will need a mixture containing rice vinegar, salt, and sugar.  I would use 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Stir this into the rice.
  • For most sushi rolls, spread the rice very thinly on the nori sheet, covering just over one half of the sheet (more for a fatter roll, less for a thinner roll).
  • Place the fillings on the rice in a neat little pile, keeping each item together.
  • A bamboo mat is not required for rolling.  Carefully wrap the nori and rice around the fillings, trying to keep the roll nice and tight.
  • While rolling, lightly dampen the end of the nori sheet to help it stick and close properly.
  • The most common problem people run into while rolling sushi is that the rice does not ring around the food perfectly.  This all just comes down to practice.  Delicious practice.  I am actually incredibly proud of myself that my rolls turned out so well.
  • For nigiri, cut a nori sheet with scissors into thin ribbons and dampen them slightly.  It can take a few tries to get the ribbons looking nice and not cracking.

The first of my sushi rolls is a fairly standard veggie roll with tofu, chives, carrot, beet, cucumber, and avocado.

This second rolls uses shredded kale instead of rice as the base.  Very delicious.  Fillings are similar to the above roll.

The other rolls present include a simple cucumber roll with a squirt of sriracha and a roll created using the no-tuna pate.  I meant to include the pate in the other rolls, but I completely forgot about it.  Oh well.

One thing you may notice right away is that this sushi party involves a lot of food.  Probably almost enough for two people.  One of the best parts about eating sushi is the variety on the table in front of you.  In light of this, I always like to create a bunch of different things, and then save some leftovers for the next day.  I even ate my leftovers for breakfast!

During every sushi party there tends to come a point where you get tired and annoyed and you curse the very thought of making sushi.  This usually occurs about ten minutes before you get to put the first piece in your mouth.  But oh man, once that first piece hits your taste buds (and the wasabi hits your sinuses), you know it was all worth it, and you will totally do it again.  Have a good one, friends.

mains, recipes

Marinated Seared Tofu Steak

Good morning, ladies and gents!  I’ll start off by letting you know that I (Mike) will be doing a little more blogging over the next day or two.  Today you get a recipe for the fourth course of our Valentine’s Day Dinner, a seared tofu steak with roasted vegetables and white root veggie puree.  To tell you the truth, I am especially glad that I get to blog most of this one because this was seriously one of the BEST tofu dishes I have had.  It was certainly the closest vegan comparison I’ve seen to having some huge hunk of meaty protein on a plate.   

 Just look at that delicious piece of  ‘fu!  There were a few important parts to the success of this dish.  The first was marinating the tofu for a long time.  We marinated ours overnight, but two or three days couldn’t hurt, either.  Searing the tofu on high heat was another important piece to the puzzle.  A nice sear gave the steak lots of color and caramelized some of the sweet marinade on the outside.  Finally, a little bit of sauce reduction poured over everything set off the dish perfectly.  But enough gushing, lets get to the recipe!

Seared Tofu Steak With Root Veggie Puree

Ingredients (for the puree, two servings):

2 cups turnip, rutabaga, or parsnip, cubed
1 cup potato, cubed
1/2 to 1 cup veggie broth
Pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the tofu, four servings):


1 block firm or extra-firm tofu 
1/2 cup Marsala wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp cracked black peppercorns (or ground pepper)

Directions:

1. Start by cutting the tofu.  You can make them any size/shape you want, but try to keep them around 1 inch thick, or even slightly thicker.  You can probably get two good-sized steaks out of a block of tofu, with some trimmings left over for other use.

2. Combine all other ingredients in a Ziploc bag and shake to mix.  Add the two tofu pieces to the bag and squeeze most of the air out of the bag before sealing.  This seems to be a great way to keep the tofu submerged in the marinating liquid.  Let the tofu sit for 24 to 72 hours.

3. When ready to start making the meal, boil the peeled and cubed root veggies for around 25 minutes, or until they are very soft.  Drain and mash.

4. Either by hand or in a blender, vigorously mix in the veggie broth.  You may only need a small amount of broth or you may need a lot, depending on the specific veggies used.  Allysia’s turnip and potato puree needed far less broth than my parsnip puree.  Add a hefty amount of pepper.

5. While the veggies are being done, heat a large, heavy pan (cast iron is probably a good bet) to medium-high heat.  Remove the tofu from the Ziploc bag, saving the marinating liquid.  Sear the tofu in the hot pan, starting with the narrow sides.  Let the tofu sear for 3-4 minutes per side.

6.  Strain the marinating liquid and add to the pan.  Let the tofu continue to cook while the liquid reduces to a fairly thick sauce.

Allysia’s beautiful plate before adding sauce, complete with some citrus wedges and broccoli!

7.  When the liquid is reduced, remove the tofu and plate on top of a good-sized portion of the puree.  Serve a few roasted or grilled veggies on the side for some added color and flavor.  Just before serving, spoon some of the sauce from the pan over the plate.

My tofu steak, with some braised broccolini and carrot.

 When I said before that this was one of my favorite tofu dishes ever, I meant it.  Just look at the color and texture on that plate.  The sauce was slightly sticky from the reduction, and ridiculously flavorful.  It was really nice to use something other than potatoes in the puree.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my mashed potatoes, but changing it up is so easy, and the difference is definitely worth it. 

mains, recipes

Ethiopian Cabbage and Carrots

Over the weekend, I posted a picture of my homemade Ethiopian feast plate, with its 4 different stews and weirdo injera.  The first recipe I want to share with you is the cabbage and carrot one, which I discovered in the most recent issue of Food and Wine magazine.  I found the recipe from the magazine online, so check it out – it’s a gooder.

Now for some notes on the recipe.  First things first:

-I cut this recipe in half and it still makes a lot.  We got 6-8 servings out of it, but keep in mind that it was served in small portions since there was lots of other food.

-Never in my life have I cooked with so much turmeric before.  1 tablespoon for the halved recipe!  I was all edgy and nervous and wondered if it was going to be edible, and interestingly enough, the turmeric gave it a great flavor.  A little sweet, a little earthy.  Who knew?  Not me – I used to think turmeric was the crazy bitter thing.

-Salt and oil are crucial, for realz.  I probably used a teaspoon salt total for this recipe.  The other equally important flavor contributions come from the onion, garlic and ginger – don’t skimp on those either.

Next time I do up an Ethiopian-style feast, I won’t hesitate to make this again.  Not only does this dish contribute some vegetables to the meal, it just tastes so damn nice.  Mild and sweet and silky.  Plus, cabbage and carrots are among the cheapest foods ever, so how’s that for awesome budget food?

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the red lentil stew (misir wat), which was also featured in the Food and Wine magazine.  Take care!

mains, recipes

Zucchini Spaghetti and “Meat”balls

Howdy everyone!  As part of my commitment to keeping Allysia sane throughout this Mofo, here is another blog post brought to you by me, Mike.  Maybe if I do this enough I’ll eventually think of a not-awkward way to introduce myself.

Today I got to have an extra-long lunch break, so I decided that I would make the two of us a delicious and fairly healthy lunch.  The idea came from a meal that Allysia and I made a few months back, but I’m not sure we ever posted it.  If we did, we certainly didn’t post a recipe for the things that we made!

The spaghetti noodles were made from a few small zucchini put through a spiralizer.  I’m sure that spiralizers are nothing crazy, and that most people have seen/used them before, but I was completely amazed the first time I saw that thing in action.  Entire veggies turned into beautiful, curly noodles right before my very eyes.  For this recipe we salted and pressed the noodles to get rid of some of their water.

The sauce was made the way I make a lot of my sauces: buy something pre-made, then jazz it up with a bunch of fresh, delicious ingredients!  We had half a jar of some generic tomato sauce left in the fridge to which I added half of an onion, sauteed until translucent, a few cloves of garlic, lots of pepper, and a few roughly chopped tomatoes.  The tomatoes just add more heft while simultaneously diluting the saltiness of the pre-made sauce.

Now onto the main event!  The meatballs involved a few too many ingredients to describe in paragraph style, so I’ll just list everything below.

1 package veggie ground round
1/2 onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
8 soda crackers (crushed)
3 tablespoons soft tofu (blended)
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
sizable squirt Sriracha
pinch of salt
lots of pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and start to heat a small drizzle of oil in an oven-safe saute pan on the stove top.  Take all the ingredients and combine them in a mixing bowl.  Make sure to get messy and mix the ingredients with your hands!  Form the mixture into small balls and carefully set in the hot pan.  Once all the meatballs are made and in the pan, put the pan in the oven.  After ten minutes you can carefully turn the meatballs and return them to the oven for another 10 minutes.  The balls will be fragile and slightly crumbly until cooked, but they will hold together better afterwards.  These aren’t the craziest, most complicated vegan meatballs I can think of, but they are tasty, easy, and definitely not dry.

Immediately before serving I chopped up a bunch of fresh basil and mixed it into the zucchini noodles.  The plating was pretty simple, but I added some olives and Daiya on top of the sauce to give it an extra boost of flavor.

All things considered, this was a beautiful meal that satisfied the stomach and the soul.  Nothing like a blast of healthy comfort food to get you through the rest of a work day.  The only thing I would change?  If I could I would go back and make this meal at supper instead.  That way it could be served with a nice glass of wine.

Cheers!

decadent treat food, mains, recipes

Tofuffalo Wings and Sweet Potato Fries

Happy Friday, all!

A couple weeks ago, Mike decided to be a genius and make Tofuffalo wings.  He took super-firm, pressed tofu, sliced ’em into chunks, breaded and fried them, and served them up with a ranch and buffalo sauce mix.  If heaven had a taste and texture, this would be it.

But then, we didn’t blog about it.  The reasons are vague – at best I can say it was because it was dark out and the photos didn’t fully convey their awesomeness.  Otherwise, I would have set aside everything and shared the recipe with you sooner than today.

This is the kind of meal you share with friends and family, the not-super-healthy-but-damn-tasty kind of food that isn’t too weird, even though there’s tofu involved.  For real!

And I have to make a comment on the ranch dressing.  I’ve made a zillion different vegan ranches in my day, some using cashews as the base, others mayo, and others soft ‘fu.  This time, we opted for the most authentic ranch experience possible – the seasoning powder stuff you add to mayo and milk.  I love me some home-spun vegan ranch dressings, but this is the way to go if you want something that tastes exactly like ranch.

So that’s the sauce – 1/4 cup plain non-dairy milk, 1/2 cup Vegenaise, and a couple teaspoons of a ranch flavor packet (not all of them are vegan, so read labels).  For the sake of convenience, we mix that with about 1/2 cup buffalo sauce.  It’ll be fairly salty and tangy, which is good because the tofuffalo wings don’t have a lot of flavor themselves.

For the sweet potato fries, you want to bring a bit pot of water to a boil.  Chop up a decent-sized sweet potato into fry shapes (we made ours fairly thick) and cook them in the boiling water for about 10 minutes.  Heat the oven to 350 F, spray a baking pan with cooking oil, and bake the boiled sweet potato fries for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot to about 375 F.  When the sweet potatoes are done in the oven, fry them in a couple of batches (about 1 person’s portion per batch) for 3-4 minutes, until beautiful.

Keep in mind, too, that the smaller the batches are, the better the fries tend to turn out.  When they’re done frying, let them drain on paper towels.  Insert om nom here!

The tofu breading is a typical concoction – about a cup of flour, a tablespoon of cornstarch, a teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk.  It should be a thick breading, so start with less milk and add more as needed.  To give the breading a bit of flavor, we used a teaspoon of garlic salt, a teaspoon of paprika and a generous portion of black pepper.

Slice some extra-firm, pressed tofu into thick sticks – 1 very small block of tofu gave us 6 sticks.  Generously coat the tofu in the breading mixture and fry in the same hot oil used for the fries.  You can fry 6 tofu sticks at a time for about 4 minutes, until the breading is golden.

Beautiful, crispy heaven.  Toss the tofuffalo sticks with the ranch-buffalo sauce, serve with fries and greenery, and enjoy!’

See you folks on the weekend. 🙂