Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fennel Slaw

I don't really use root vegetables and bulbs in my cooking because I'm scared of starch, which is not quite true, but potatoes make me gain weight within a week.  I did use turnips and rutabagas one year for Thanksgiving instead of mashed potatoes and they worked well.  So my irrational phobia aside, I had the walnut croquettes with fennel slaw at Fatty's in Eagle Rock and I was delighted.  That and the fudgey cake (OMG).  My imitation was nowhere near as good as the original, but I like that vegetable, I discovered how yummy blood oranges are, and I'm gonna get it right someday.

 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and washed
2 blood oranges, peeled and cut into small cubes
1-2 small carrots, shredded
Your favorite vinaigrette, or oil, vinegar, and seasonings
Almond slices

I borrowed my mom's As Seen on TV style mandolin to cut the fennel into slaw sized shreds.  I gave up cursing the contraption and used the knuckle buster to shred the carrots.  I mistakenly warmed the vinaigrette I made in a wok and tossed the slaw mixture in with the orange pieces.  I mixed in the almond slices after letting the slaw cool a bit.

What I learned from this experience:

I love fennel enough to eat it even though it was made improperly.  It needed absolutely no cooking.  Also, I need to get a really good mandoline or have my knives sharpened because that death trap I used was so frustrating and really bruised the fennel.  It's hard.  Really hard.  Be careful.  OH AND nutmeg is very potent, use it sparingly.  Next time, no heat, more fruit, and bottled citrus vinaigrette, until I learn how to make a good one. 

As you can see, I make a whole meal out of this.  That's the slaw with rosemary rolls from +Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market toasted in the toaster oven and Nate's Meatless Savory Mushroom Meatballs in mushroom gravy.  Gravy I can make.  Call me on Turkey day, I got that covered. :)


YOU NEED A GOOD ROUX!!!!!  And some bouillon cubes, sweet vermouth, herbs, spices, and mushrooms.  This was a two pan process, and totally worth it.  

First make the broth a little on the strong side.  I dissolved two cubes in a large measuring cup with dried marjoram and parsley and poured boiling water over it. Use the ratio of water to bouillon cubes on the packages.  It can sit as long as it needs to.

Sweat the mushrooms in one saucepan until they lose some of their water and get darker, then add about 3/4 C sweet vermouth and reduce to warm.  

In the other saucepan melt a big chunk (maybe 1/2 a stick or more) of Earth Balance with a little bit of olive oil on a medium flame.  When it is runny, add at least a 1/2 C of +Bob's Red Mill  whole wheat pastry flour. It has a nice flavor and it's fine enough not to clump.  Stir stir stir.   You can add more melted butter if it's too dry.  You don't want it to burn.  It should bubble and turn into a nice thick roux.  Play with your recipe and see where you like it.  When it's ready, turn down the flame and add the broth, then the mushrooms and wine.  Stir stir stir, and bring to a boil.  Taste, season or thin appropriately.  Add more wine if it needs it.  

I microwaved the meatballs in a covered bowl, but prepare them however you like.  Smother them in gravy and use the roll to sop up any extra.  

This keeps for a couple of days in the refrigerator in a storage container.  It gets very gelatinous, but loosens up with heat.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gardein Meatballs

+gardein  Meatballs on a Bed of Kale

Sweat sliced mushrooms in a saute pan until they turn dark and have lost some of their water.  Add olive oil,  chopped garlic, about a clove, diced tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft.  I had grape tomatoes growing in the yard, so I halved those and tossed them in.  When the juices from the veggies start to evaporate, add dry white wine.  When it starts to steam, add the kale and stir until the kale gets soft, then taste and season with salt and pepper.  I microwaved the meatballs in a covered dish while the kale was cooking and served them together.

You could add almonds to the kale, or use sun-dried tomatoes, add vegan parmesan, shredded cheese, tomato paste with the wine, broth or bouillon cubes, any number of herbs or spices--try something you like and see how it works.

So the meatballs:  they were delicious, on the larger side, and light..  The seasoning was nice, with an Italian-American flavor profile that you would expect, hearty, but not heavy.  I want to try them in albondigas soup.

On another note, I made my tofu salad last week with jalapenos, corn, carrot, green chiles, and olives with Vegenaise Chipotle Mayo.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

For New Vegetarians

Sometimes I forget that vegetarians started at Day One.  I've been veg for 22 years, most of that vegan, and I can't remember that place where you think you'll never eat comfort food again.  I am often shocked when omnivores tell me there's no way I could make a recipe vegan when I've been veganizing recipes for years.  I will concede that I haven't even thought of making meringue, but I never did even when I ate eggs.

You can veganize recipes by studying cooking, both as an art and a science.  Alton Brown is a really accessible source as his recipes and videos are all over the internet.  THE JOY OF COOKING is a great primer on ingredients.  Get some good equipment; quality pots, pans, spatulas, etc. will make your work easier.  The equipment doesn't need to be fancy or expensive, it just needs to work well for you.  And practice practice practice.  Most recipes don't work straight out of the gate and need to be tweaked for your taste.  Remember that everything affects your food and that if you know your kitchen, your ingredients, your geography, and basic techniques, your food will be amazing.

But going back to Day One, sometimes you just want something that tastes like mom made it for you and that's where creative shopping comes in handy.  I do a lot of shopping at +Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and +Whole Foods Market which is where I found the ingredients for this dish:  whole wheat hamburger buns, pickles slices, tomato slices, Vegenaise, Daiya Cheddar Sandwich Slices, +gardein Crispy Chik'n Filets, and McCain Potato Smiles.

I defrosted the potato smiles in the microwave while I toasted the bun.  When the bun came out of the toaster oven, I put the potatoes on a foil lined tray and set them in the toaster to broil.  Then I cooked the chik'n filet in the microwave while I dressed the hamburger bun.  Just before the potatoes were done, I added a the cheddar slice and let it melt while I finished assembling the chik'n burger.  Everything was ready at the same time and tasted amazing and familiar.  You could easily make two or three at the same time for a BBQ at home so don't get left out at the next party.

Monday, September 2, 2013

20 Years Without Cheetos

I haven't had a processed cheese product since 1993 or so.  Even though that was my choice, and even though Cheetos were never my favorite snack food, these Earth Balance Vegan Aged White Cheddar Flavor Puffs fill a void in my junk food repertoire.  Except that these ARE NOT junk food, and the puffs taste like the ingredients that compose them.

Of course I tore open the bag to taste these yummy puffs before I had even put the rest of my groceries away.  I had too, and I'm glad I did.  The puffs are light and crispy without being greasy.  The cheese powder has a balanced flavor.  After the initial crunch there comes the full bodied cheesiness, then a lovely aftertaste of grains.

And then I read the label.  Not so bad in comparison to say a 1 oz. bag of regular potato chips, which do not have anything taste wise over these delicious puffs.  Each bag has four servings of 1 1/4 C each.  If you brought it down to a 1 C serving, you could increase the servings per container to 5, decrease the fat per serving by .9 grams and the carbs by 3.8 grams which would make it just a hair over 1 low fat starch exchange, if you're using exchanges in your diet.

It's another great snack from a great company.  AND these are vegan, gluten free, non GMO, and Earth Balance is a very environmentally and nutritionally conscious company.