Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vine and Dine - Voluptuous Vegan - OMG Raviolis!!

OK, so they aren't really called OMG raviolis, but they should be. This was the second V & D that featured Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld. This week's Dine part of vine and dine was the Herbed Ravioli with Porcini Pesto and Tofu "Ricotta" (pg. 185) and Basil-Walnut Pesto (pg. 187). I will get to the OMG part, but I have a few other things to cover first. Don't forget to see what my other Vine and Dine buddies had to say about his dish and see what wines they paired with it at Vegan Appetite!

I had two really messed up errors in the kitchen today. First, while I was making biscuits for breakfast I added corn starch instead of baking powder...hello hockey pucks. Seriously, sometimes I think I'm really losing my mind. Have I never been in a kitchen before? Who puts cornstarch in biscuits? I can't even think of an excuse. The crazy mishap ended up being a blessing in disguise. I have been trying to come up with some breakfast items for the cookbook I am hoping will materialize in the near future. I regrouped and came up with a damned good southwestern biscuit that you will see in the future.

Next up, error number two. Well I guess we are going to have to call this challenge numbers two and three. A couple of weeks ago, I went about purging as I try to do every few years. I got a little over zealous and donated my pasta maker to a charity garage sale. Duh!!! This was something in my repertoire I actually do use! I had to hunt another one down for the ravioli. I headed over to Sur la Table aka Empty My Wallet, to see if they had said device. They did, but it was $75.00. Ouch. I fired up my trusty droid and found that Bed, Bath and Beyond had just what I needed for $34.99. I dragged my poor sister to the next store and scored my piece de resistance. With my trusty pasta maker in hand, I headed back to the casa. Here is where things got interesting yet again.

I headed out to the herb garden and the chive patch and rustled up some incredibly herbaceous herbs. (seen below) and got to chopping. It is amazing the volume of fresh herbs it takes to equal 1/3 cup finely minced. All proud of my mad mincing skills, I set about making the pasta dough. In this recipe, silken tofu stand in for the eggs traditionally found in many pasta doughs. I whipped up my tofu mixture and started kneading away as my trusty mama looked on. The dough was quite obviously dry and really not coming together. After a bit of kneading and water adding, I realized something was amiss. I looked over my ingredient list and much to my horror realized I had forgotten to add the olive oil to my tofu mixture. The big bummer about this, is that there was really no recovering the dough that I had trashed and the fresh herbs I had wasted. The herbs, my precious herbs, so sad. Luckily I had more to gather and mince.

The second batch was much improved. I started kneading away, when I thought, hey, there are 4 people watching me work away. I thought, hmmm, maybe I can talk one of them into kneading the dough. My lovely sister was more than willing to get her arm work out for the day. My mom said she could see me grinning as my sister was doing all the hard labor. Hee hee. Memories of childhood when I would promise to make it home to do my chores before Mom got home from work. Jackie would always end up having to pick up the slack and do all of my work.

Actually, it makes me ridiculously happy when my family cooks with me. We had a lot of this going on during Mom's trip. As is often the case in the arid desert climate, I had to add more water to the dough to get it to the right consistency. I had a few challenges getting the dough to roll out in a nice sheet. But after a few trials and tribulations, we finally got some good sheets!

Here is how it all went together.

The tofu ricotta and porcini pesto came together easily. I must admit I was a little concerned with the amount of rosemary in the ricotta recipe. Rosemary is a very potent herb and can overpower if not used with discretion. But I'm happy to say my concerns were for naught.  The fresh herbs stole the show. They were everywhere: in the pasta dough, in the porcini pesto and the Basil-Walnut Pesto. I'm so happy we have our own herb garden, because super fresh herbs are the bomb! I absolutely adored the herbed pasta dough. The miso in the tofu ricotta and the pesto added the perfect amount of saltiness. Pine nuts are crazy expensive, so I used walnuts in porcini pesto. I tasted the ravioli naked before dunking in the pesto. They were incredible. The pesto was just an added treat. There was so much going on, creamy richness, earthy mushroom tones and of course the sunny flavor of all those fresh herbs! Gastronomic bliss.

Myra suggested serving this with her roasted pepper recipe. I am kind of a freak about using organic peppers and no fresh ones were available. So I cheated. I bought some crook neck squash and sauteed them in olive oil with dried oregano, thyme, granulated garlic, salt and pepper (which gave the plate a nice color contrast) and topped it with jarred organic sliced roasted red peppers. To round out the meal we found a really nice local baked multigrain bread. I made a garlic butter with Earth Balance, Carla Kelley's Cheezy Mix, fresh minced garlic and minced parsley (from the garden of course).

Fred, Mom and I were doing a lot of mmmm and ohhhhh-ing over this one. Mom has eaten a lot of vegan dishes a la Kim. She said that this one didn't taste vegan at all. Now mind you, mom doesn't turn her nose up at vegan food, she just wanted to make a point that no one would be able to tell it was vegan. I love her for so many reasons and her open mindedness when it come to trying anything I cook is just one of them. She's been here for two Vine and Dines this month. Sure wish we wasn't heading home as I'd love to do a few more for her!!

HEEEEEERE'S Phat Freddie's Wine Review

An " Andrew Peace" (remember this one) was our vegan red wine tonight (confirmed vegan). A 2009, again seems to be a good year for reds, mixture of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and the deal maker or breaker, Mataro. This is an Australian (family owned) winery who do make a number of vegan wines, in fact I am finding Australia seems to be more vegan friendly in this arena than most other countries that have produced for a much longer time. As of today, Australia is the fourth leading exporter of wines in the world, so there must a reason or two. I think one of those reasons is innovation, hence our wine tonight. The Mataro grape is an earthy, blackberry driven grape that needs an ample water supply but can take more heat than most. It is higher in taninns and can be high in alcohol content when conditions are right. I think that is why they mixed it with the other three grapes to make it a more interesting, characterized wine. It worked for me. Kim's very organic, herbal dinner was a mid tongue blessing and I reveled in the mild but yet fruit forward blackberryness with pepper chasing a slight tobacco taste that covered the rest of my tongue. Kim and her mother would have rather stayed in their comfort zone with their food, not so much blackberry forwardness, perhaps a touch softer in the tannin area. All three of us agreed it was a very nice wine and would suggest it to friends in any occasion. In fact, I am one of my best friends and I believe I will find a couple of "Peace" wines in our fridge in the near future.

DON'T FORGET TO CHECK BACK FRIDAY FOR MY VEGANIZED VERSION OF THIS GUY FIERI RECIPE FOR FOOD NETWORK FRIDAY! Delay of game. I am behind on my FNF so this will not appear until Monday or so.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Feelin' the Love - On the dinner plate

Whether he will admit it or not, Fred loves to shop. He loves to chat with the employees, the customers...just about anyone who comes across his path. He will spend hours toiling over labels, samples, new ingredients or just plain shooting the breeze. This is one of the reasons I totally love him, but it is also the reason I try not to get hung up on time frames if I need ingredients for something I am hoping to make on a given day. He has gotten into the very helpful habit of asking me if I need something right away before he heads out. This has saved me much time waiting and has saved him from getting that heavy sigh and disappointed look from me. (I have been told more than once that it is stressful to shop for me by both Fred and my sister...when did I become the kitchen nazi/diva?)

The other day I asked Fred if he could pick a few things up a the store for me (4 things to be exact). My mom said he left the house with his list of 4 things and disappeared. Several hours later, Fred reappeared at the house with several full shopping bags. He had purchased quite a variety of fresh produce and no less than 3 different kinds of mustard. As he kept pulling little surprises out of the bags, I couldn't help but smile and think of how many other women wished this was going on in their kitchen with their man. The point of this blathering is that we had a lot of produce that we needed to use before it went bad. Which meant a whole lot of cooking needed to be happening while I was working a long string of 12 hour days. 

I did my best to whip up some simple dishes so that very little would go to waste, but by the 9th day, I was spent. I requested that Fred marinate some asparagus and throw some potatoes in the oven at 530pm so that I could make the rest of the dinner when I got home at 630pm. You might ask why I was making dinner rather than Fred? Fred is usually more than willing to cook occasionally when he is off of work and I am working like a crazy woman. However, Fred suffers from a chronic case of distraction. I am tempted to say ADD, but his is self induced. He always sees things that need to be done or things that interest him and off he goes. Often, when this happens, dinner will not materialize until close to 9pm. When you get up at 430am, this proves to be a bit problematic. I had fully intended on coming home and making the rest of the meal so an early bed time would be mine.

When I walked in the door, my adorable honey, my mom and my sis were all hanging out and there were some non-potato smells coming from the kitchen. I was so thrilled to learn that Fred et al had teamed up to make dinner, so that I could just relax. So NICE!!! Fred not only baked the potatoes and marinated the asparagus, he steamed some wonderful veggies (carrots and onions from our garden were included) and grilled the asparagus. My sister made some beautiful Quinoa Stuffed Peppers she found on Vegetarian Times website. She left the cheese off of a couple so they would be vegan. Mom (even though she is here "on vacation") has been pulling dish duty on a regular basis this week. To say I was grateful would be a horrible understatement. It was such a nice treat and truly awesome. I love my family!!! I hope you all get to feel the love this way soon. It does the soul good!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stuffed Wild Mushroom Manicotti

This weekend we headed up to the Grand Canyon. If you have never been there, it truly is a wonder of the world. However, the food service outlets are average at best. For the second time at the North Rim, the restaurant greatly disappointed our group. Last year the service was deplorable and the food cold. This year we thought we'd give them another try. We had a 645pm reservation. At 645pm we were told that two tour busses had come in and we wouldn't be seated for at least an hour. Are you kidding me? You have to make reservations far in advance for the dining room. Our group was getting up at 3am to hike. This was completely unacceptable and we will not spend our hard earned money there again.

We opted for the deli which had very few vegan options...not really any on the menu itself, but you could work it out. I ended up eating a lot of fried vegetables and chips. Yuck!! I did finally find a nice salad and a baked potato to hold me over. So you can imagine when I got home I was ready for some real, tasty, vegan fare. I was planning on doing something quick as I was pretty sleep deprived. Then I got this bug to get a bit more creative. I've been wanting to develop my own version of tofu-cashew ricotta for an upcoming Valley Dish appearance...and so I did. I decided to take it for a spin in these delicious stuffed manicotti. I still need to do a little work on the sauce, but you really could use your favorite marinara sauce on these with great success. I used a red-pepper sauce that I am toying with and don't quite have perfected. It was fantastic on this! Below I have posted a different sauce than I used, but this one is already tested and really yummy!

Stuffed Wild Mushroom Manicotti

Makes 10 Manicotti

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons red wine
1/4 lb. Oyster Mushrooms, medium dice (about 2 cups)
1 large portobello, fins removed, medium dice (about 2 cups)
1 recipe Tofu-Cashew Ricotta (recipe below)
10 manicotti shells (cook up a few extra to compensate for any ripped pasta)
2 cups of marinara or your favorite red sauce* (or I have posted a recipe below)
Vegan Mozzarella or Vegan Parmesan (optional)

In a 12 inch cast iron pan or skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add black pepper, salt and oregano and combine. Deglaze with red wine. Saute until liquid is almost gone. About 2 minutes. Add diced mushrooms. Saute until they are almost dry, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare manicotti according to package directions. Drain and let cool. 

While the pasta is cooking, prepare Tofu-Cashew Ricotta (recipe below).

In medium bowl combine the cooled mushroom mixture and the Tofu-Cashew Ricotta. Put mixture into a large pastry bag with no tip. Using your best pastry bag skills. Fill each pasta tube with the filling by squeezing mixture in slowly. Place each stuffed tube in a lightly oiled 9 x 13 pan. When all 10 are filled and in the pan, spread sauce over the top. Sprinkle on cheese (if using). Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for the last 5 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. 

Tofu-Cashew Ricotta

1/3 cup raw cashews
1 – 14 oz. firm tofu, water squeezed out
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
½ cup loosely packed basil, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon oregano, roughly chopped
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ black pepper

Place cashews in a small bowl with enough water to cover and come over about 1 inch. Let soak for an hour or longer.

Drain cashews. In large food processor bowl, place cashews and remaining ingredients. Pulse to mix ingredients. Process until smooth (about 5 minutes), scraping sides of processor bowl as necessary. 

Serve this with a simple salad or simple grilled vegetables for a nice filling meal.

* I like a lot of sauce, so if you are like me use 3 cups so you will have some on the side to slather on the pasta.

Roasted Pepper and Garlic Marinara

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 head roasted garlic, peeled and chopped fine*
1 28 oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon dried leaf thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan over medium heat sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant, 30-45 seconds. Add red pepper and roasted garlic and sauté for another minute or so. Add remaining ingredients. Let simmer on low for about 30 minutes to let the flavors really develop and meld. If you like a smoother sauce, feel free to blend with a stick blender, in a food processor, or blender. This will be even better the next day.

* To roast garlic, peel outer white layers off of garlic head. Cut top of head off to just barely expose cloves. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the head. It is done when the garlic will feel soft like a sponge. Squeeze each individual clove to get the beautiful garlic "meat" out. A note of caution, make sure you let your garlic cool before attempting to squeeze the garlic out. It is extremely hot when it first comes out of the oven.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vine and Dine - The Voluptuous Vegan - Chickpea Crepes etc etc

This episode of Vine and dine was supposed to be brought to you by the lovely chickpea. The featured recipe tonight from Voluptuous Vegan (VV) was the Chickpea Crepes with Wild Mushroom, Roasted Cauliflower, and Chickpea Filling. VV was one of the first vegan cookbooks I owned (after Vegan with a Vengeance). I was so thrilled with this book because it had a sort of fine dining edge that I loved!! Like many of my books this one is totally under-utilized.

One thing I love about cooking challenges is that I try recipes that I would probably pass up because of certain ingredients. I am semi-ashamed to admit that I am 1/2 Irish and I usually hate cooked cabbage or sauerkraut. Sue me. I'm also luke-warm on cauliflower, but I eat it because, darn it, it's good for you. I have been proven wrong a lot in the last year or so by some pretty yummy recipes. This was yet another case of in my face cauliflower and cabbage-goodness. The crepes have a really awesome texture and flavor. My mom said in a weird way they reminded her of an egg-roll-esque type flavor.

I do have to admit that I had to take a couple of liberties. As my traveling companions tomorrow will tell you, they will be eternally grateful that I subbed cannellini beans for the chick peas. As I was cooking along, I pulled out my soft tofu to make the horseradish cream. It had a funky and highly suspicious yellow film on it. So into the garbage it went. Thankfully I had some Toffutti sour cream in the fridge. I used that instead. I made a couple of other tweaks to the recipe that now escape me after a few too many glasses of wine and a bit of time in the sun and the pool. It was graduation day after all. The sauce was kind of a cross of a tzatziki and creamy dill dressing. Um awesome for sure. It was a perfect compliment to the crepes, but I think it would be equally awesome as a veggie dip. The arugula was almost too overpowering as a garnish. I found myself pushing it to the side and eating it later with the sauce on its own. We all thought this was an excellent choice.

Fred had a very educational and interesting evening hunting down wine tonight. It is my hope that he will share everything he learned. I'm also hoping that some of the perplexing questions that came up might be answered by someone out there as we were really curious why it is so damned difficult to find answers to the vegan wine questions Fred poses to the "wine experts" he encounters. Not to dog the incredibly accommodating and helpful people that share their knowledge at all, but the vegan component really seems to throw many a wine aficionado. Fred will be adding his bit a little later today if he can figure out how to update my blog, EEP!

As a side note, I had the unbridled joy of using onions I pulled from the garden just prior to cooking. I was going to post a picture of the onions, but dear readers, the pictures were wisely censored  by my mom and my beloved Fred. Note to self, do not break out the camera when you are wearing your strapless swimsuit after an afternoon in the pool with adult beverages. Thank you Mom and Fred for saving me much embarrassment. That is true love.

Fred's Wine Adventure:

 I could not confirm our Jean Albrecht "Pinot Gris"  is vegan so I do not think it is, darn. My learning curve on vegan wines is going to be much bigger than I thought. This wine was a fantastic match for our dinner, gold in color, perfect acid content with a strong mineral base that would not wash away with strong foods like cabbage or dill. One of my wine experts actually read Kim's recipe and said it would be better matched with a beer. This wine is mellow and not sweet, a plus. It comes from a region in France that is  rugged and a little dry. A Pinot Gris ( in Italy it is the same as a Pinot Grigio) is a finicky, thin skinned, tender grape with a lot of taste. I find it interesting that a grape of this nature thrives in a rugged appellation. It's sugar and alcohol content can change in a manner of a few days with changes from cool and rainy to warm and breezy. I chose this wine as it has a slight smokiness  and a hint of mushroom undertone, which I hoped would twin up and become one with Kim's mushrooms. It gets this character from a little rot that happens in between picking and fermenting. There is such a thing as grand  rot which is a whole nuther subject. I have read that 09 was a good year for this area producing very round and balanced wines which this one was. It matched dinner very nicely. I did learn that a list of vegan wines has to be updated constantly as one season a vineyard may not be vegan and the next it could be. A vineyard might try a fining process with clay or diatomaceous earth and it may not work with that years grapes or they may not fine at all one year. Unfortunately, most white wines need some type of filtering or they would turn out to be cloudy. The unvegan fining processes use one of, egg whites, casein (milk protein), gelatin, chitin (lobster and crab shell), or isinglass ( a gelatin made of fish bladders). One saving grace is that with the advent of mad cow disease, Europe made it illegal in the early 90's to fine wine through cow blood.  My wine sommeliers are very helpful and knowledgeable but when I whip out the V word, time stops for 15 seconds while they uncross their eyes and gather themselves. It is not that they do not know about the V, it is that no one ever asks if slaughtered beings were used to make our feel good libation.  It would be very helpful to put a V on the label and I do not know why they don't, I guess there is a stigmatism about them darn vegans. They are probably populating and drinking good vegan wine somewhere.
 Next week, vegan wine!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Food Network Friday - Aarti Sequeira's Pretzel Crusted Steak with Mango Chutney Onion Gravy

It's time for a another Food Network Friday where a few of us food bloggers and food lovers take a recipe posted on the Food Network site and make an awesome vegan conversion. Check out what my other friends did by check out Tami's wrap up at Vegan Appetite! 

This week's Food Network Friday features new Food Network Star Aarti Sequeira. I have a tendency to pick chile laden and latin influenced recipes. This time I chose something that is not typical for me. Her recipe for Pretzel Crusted Steak with Mango Chutney Onion Gravy is far from typical. Am I glad we tried this one! 

The pretzel crust on this is super crunchy. I highly recommend using the unassuming pretzel for breading and frying. It adds a spectacular crunch. I did not have fenugreek leaves so I used half the amount of ground fenugreek in the flour mixture. I used soy creamer with flax seeds in place of the eggs. It is probably no surprise that I used seitan cutlets for the protein. I am working on a personal project that I needed to develop a beefy seitan recipe. I was able to have success with both. 

The onion gravy recipe called for 2 tablespoons of mango chutney. As it was my first full day back in the kitchen for a while, I was feeling particularly ambitious. Instead of using pre-jarred chutney I made Alton Brown's recipe for Mango Chutney and of course took the option of using hot curry powder. The gravy recipe called for 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture. I found this was not near enough. The gravy was far too thin for my liking. I let it reduce down quite a bit. My broth was a bit too salty, so the gravy was a bit salty. But still, it was really fantastic! I loved the hint of heat and ginger from the chutney. I chose to serve this with mildly spiced sliced sweet baked sweet potatoes, sauteed spinach and garlic and Israeli couscous with sliced almonds. I kept the side dishes simple and mildly seasoned because the gravy had so much flavor going on. It was a good call. The gravy kind of pooled on the plate and snuck into the spinach and cous cous. Oh happy mouth! It was delicious. 

This was an all day project for me; making the seitan in the morning, the chutney in the afternoon and putting it all together in the evening. You could easily sub tofu for the seitan and buy the chutney for a quick and special dinner. I recommend giving it a try as it was a big hit with my crew last night. My mom and sister are omnis and they were both in the clean plate club last night. There were not leftovers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Memory Lane - PIctures from Recipe Testing HAWT!

Today is my Friday. This translates in to 12 hour work days = no kitchen time. All that I really want to do is head to the kitchen for a good creative day. But alas, this will have to wait until the morrow. I haven't posted for a few days and I am dedicated to posting more often. So today, while I don't have any new material to post, I did find lots of testing pictures.

The three books featured here today all came out this past year. I was lucky enough to be selected by the authors to be a recipe tester for all three. It seems like the testing was ages ago! Now, you might think I am biased because I was a tester. Admittedly there are always a few recipes I'm not crazy about. But honestly, I really loved so many recipes from each book, that I think they are worthy of your consideration. I am including links to Amazon to make it easy for you to find the descriptions and reviews of the books. This pictorial should give you a good sampling of some really excellent cook books you should add to your collection!

I'm going to go Alphabetical by book title in the name of fairness.

It is hard to pick a favorite from AVK. But this San Fran Seitan Wrap is right up there. The marinated seitan is TDF but add the cool Asian slaw and experience something really special.

This Chicago girl can tell you that this Chicago Style Pizza is aces. Make sure to cook it in an iron skillet for a nice texture on the crust.

Check out the All American Incrediburgers. They are eerily like the texture of the meat version. They are incredible on the grill.

While the Nut-Topped Almond and Hazelnut Bundt Cake might not be the most photogenic selection from this book, this cake is a star. The nut topping is sublime. I had a totally vegan-phobic co-worker not just eat it, but he also requested the recipe so that he could have his wife make it for him. 

Yes folks, this yeast bread challenged girl actually made these beautiful Hot Cross Buns. I still have a precarious relationship with yeast, but these turned out perfectly. This is a wonderful vegan version of an Easter classic.

I know I've posted these before, but they are so good, they deserve a double post. The Car Tire Cookies are a bit labor intensive. The results are more than worth the effort. These were by far my favorite recipe from the book.

There is a little backstory to this next pie, the Banana Pudding Pie. First off, I always LOVED banana cream pie. I thought I'd never again be able to indulge in the luscious creamy delight in a vegan version. I am so glad I was wrong. Fred and I had decided to visit Oregon. We met a bunch of the PDX PPK gang at the Bye and Bye. Here is where I was introduced to and solidified a food crush on the lovely Julie Hasson. She showed up with this pie and made my dreams come true. Besides being an awesome creator of crazy good recipe, she is as sweet as this here pie. After chatting for a while, she invited me to test for Vegan Diner. Oh happy day!

We need to get some savory in to the mix. Here is a Southwestern version of the Quinoa Burgers. Get your napkins ready and eat up!

No diner menu would be worth it's weight without a great onion ring recipe. Enter the Beer Battered All-American Onion Rings. The coating on these is crispy and perfect, leaving you with a creamy sweet onion on the inside. Pass the catsup and salt!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cinco de Mayo 2011

I have to admit, I used to love the drinking holidays in my younger years. However, I've either gotten a lot older or smarter or both. I no longer stay out until the wee hours of the morning, wonder how I got home or nurse a nasty hangover. For these things I am truly grateful. OK that confirms it...I AM OLD! Hee hee.

Cinco de Mayo was not a holiday we celebrated back in my youth. I really only learned to appreciate this fine celebration after I moved to AZ. Many people incorrectly think that this holiday is Mexican Independence Day (which is actually September 16th). It is actually a celebration of the Mexican army's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. 4000 Mexican soldiers took down an army of over 8000 French and renegade Mexican soldiers. It was a huge victory. Now that you know the true reason for the holiday, lets talk about food and drink.

Admittedly, I spent much of my day at work gorging myself on chips, salsa and guacamole. So by the time I was heading home, I had lost my entusiasmo for creating a festivo Mexican dinner. I was very torn to say the least. I hate passing up any day that allows me a theme for my kitchen toiling, so I had to find something to make.

I still had cornmeal pizza dough left over from Vine and Dine in the fridge. I set about digging through the disaster that is my fridge to see if I could scrounge up any reasonable ingredients for a tasty pizza. Somewhere in its depths I found a small amount of enchilada sauce. I have no idea which recipe I used it for originally or how long it had been in the fridge. But I gave it the sniff and taste test and decided it was safe. I found some mushrooms that needed to be used, stat. There was some Soyrizo I just happened to pick up the other day. A friend of mine had given me a load of fresh cilantro from his garden yesterday and I hit the garden to find a couple of lonely jalapenos to throw into the mix. The results of this impromptu fridge cleaning/Mexican themed creation were tasty!

Cinco de Mayo Pizza

Makes 8 slices

Cornmeal pizza dough (enough for one 14" pizza)
1/4 cup enchilada sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup soyrizo
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup vegan cheddar, mozzarella or combo ( I prefer Daiya)
2 fresh jalapenos, thinly sliced
few springs of cilantro, leaves only

Preheat Oven to 500.

In a 10 inch saute pan or iron skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and Soyrizo and saute until mushrooms are just starting to release their liquid and Soyrizo is just browning. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate. Add a touch more oil and saute the onions until they just start to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan.

Roll out pizza dough to 14" diameter. Place on corn meal dusted pizza pan. Using a large spoon, spread enchilada sauce onto dough. Sprinkle minced garlic evenly over the pie. Do the same with the mushrooms, Soyrizo and onions. Sprinkle the Daiya evenly over the other ingredients. Place jalapeno slices and cilantro leaves decoratively over the top of the cheese.

Place pizza pan on rack that is about 6" from top of he oven. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes. Cheese should be bubbling and the crust should be golden. Let sit for about 5 minutes before slicing. Wash down with a cold Mexican beer (example below).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Product Review - Doctor Hummus Spinach Artichoke Dip

I have been a regular at our local farmers market for quite some time now. There are lots of vendors selling fresh fruits and veggies, organically raised fish, meats and lots of other non-vegan specialty food items. It seemed that finding vegan friendly boutique foods was a bit of a challenge. I always love to support individual vegan friendly businesses. Doctor Hummus is based right in Tempe, AZ. It doesn't get much more local than that for us. I read that the owner will be opening a restaurant called Wild Flavors (also in Tempe) this summer. I am hoping there will be lots of vegan options. I had visited Doctor Hummus' booth many times. They do have some delicious vegan hummus. One day I noticed they had this creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip.

Not often running across such vegan specialties, I thought I should bring some home and give it a try. I sliced up some crusty bread and got to eating. The dip is very rich and creamy. I thought the texture was great. It had a few nice chunks of artichoke and a good amount of spinach. What it did not have, however, was a lot of flavor. Something just seemed to be missing. I was very surprised as their hummus varieties have great flavor. I added chopped roasted red pepper and that seemed to help with the flavor. I might have added some more lemon and salt as well. I think that might have brought it up to a good flavor level.

The final verdict: the quality of the product is very good. The packaging was very nice. The texture was excellent.  The flavor was a bit lacking. For me, I found the $7.00 cost for 8 oz. a bit high. It did inspire me to make my own artichoke dip. For about the same cost, I was able to make 3 times the amount. If you needed a vegan dip, that is not hummus, in a pinch this would be a good option.

Where to find Doctor Hummus Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip: Local farmers markets, Whole Foods, New Frontiers and AJ's Markets. 

Cost: $7.00 for 8 oz. container

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Valley Dish - Sloppy Chipotle Joses

Yesterday was a fun and fabulous day. I got to cook with Tram Mai, the awesome host of Valley Dish here in Phoenix. She is so fun and full of energy. She is passionate about food and is very interested in finding delicious healthy things to eat. A self-proclaimed carnivore, she was very excited to try some tasty vegan fare. I was thrilled to be able to bring some compassionate cooking to the studio kitchen. I do hope that I am able to dispel some of the misconceptions about vegan cooking being bland and boring.

When trying to come up with dishes for the show, I have a fun time trying to find vegan dishes that will appeal to all types of viewers and diners...that can also be prepped in 10 minutes or so. This flavorful Southwestern twist on a classic American favorite fit the bill for this episode. The actual cooking time is longer than 10 minutes of course, but prep is a snap. I've served this dish to kids, adults, carnivores, you name it, with great success. I love it because it is easy, low fat, healthy and really great for feeding a crowd. It doubles easily and freezes like a dream. So it is excellent for busy people. Click here to view the video of Tram and I dishing 'em up (courtesy of Valley Dish).

Sloppy Chipotle Joses

Makes 8 sandwiches

1 ½ cup brown lentils
5 cups water
2 ½ teaspoons Better than Bouillon vegetarian no beef flavor base
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large fresh pasilla/poblano chile, medium dice (approx ¾ cup)
1 medium yellow onion, diced small (approx 1 cup)
3 large cloves of garlic, minced (or 3-4 teaspoons pre-minced)
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup ketchup
8 oz. tomato sauce
2 chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce), minced (leave seeds in if you like a bit more heat)

In a two-quart saucepan combine the lentils, water and bouillon. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer lentils for about 20-30 minutes until cooked through. There should be a very small amount of liquid left (Lentils can be made a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated).

While the lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add pasilla chiles, yellow onion and garlic. Sauté until just soft, about 8 minutes. Add ancho chile powder, smoked paprika, Mexican oregano and salt. Saute for another minute or so until they become fragrant. If lentils are not quite, done turn heat on the vegetable mixture to the lowest setting and simmer. Add lentils and remaining ingredients to the pan. Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes. You can serve immediately, but I recommend waiting 15 minutes or so to let the flavors really come out. This one is even better the next day for a quick lunch.

Serve on soft burger buns with a side of slaw.


If you like a lot of heat, you can add an extra chipotle chile and maybe even a hit of cayenne pepper.

Want it more sloppy? Feel free to add another 8 oz. can of tomato sauce.

Just for the fun of it, here is the nutritional information courtesy of livestrong.com

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vine and Dine - Vegan Table Round 2 - South of the Border Pizza

I wish all of you would get in on this cook along. It is so fun! This week we took another delve into the Vegan Table. We planned on getting on this over the weekend, but we ended up going a-visiting and partying with friends most of the weekend. So we are a little late to the party. No matter. We did finally get it done.

This week we tried out the South of the Border Pizza recipe (pg. 295) with the cornmeal version of the Basic Pizza Dough (pg. 287). For those of you who follow my blog or my ramblings on the PPK, you know that yeast is my nemesis. Today was no exception. My first try the yeast just sat there dead as a door nail on my first try. Big surprise Haha. My second try it was meek, but alive. I had to let it rise the full two hours in a warm oven. That seemed to do the trick. 

The pizza toppings looked a bit simple and perhaps a bit boring to me. It called for one jalapeno for an entire 16 inch pizza. Seriously? That is laughable in the house of chile (aka our house). So of course I upped it to 3 BIG jalapenos. I also thought it would be great to grill them before slicing them. The recipe called for 2 cups of pinto beans. Well, a 15 oz can of beans is only 1 1/2 cups, so that's what we used. It would have been even better with the full two cups, but I didn't want to use a partial can. I used Daiya Mozz. I really want to try Teese on pizza one day soon, but WF doesn't carry it. I can only get it one place locally and I haven't done it recently. Maybe next shot. 

After baking I topped it with slices of avocado and drizzled it with sour cream. I thought about making my go to tomato salsa, but then I thought I'd try something different. Fred loves the heat, so I opted for a sexy, fiery roasted habanero-tomatillo number. (For those of you who are testing for me, I will be posting it to the test site tonight or tomorrow). I served this on the side so the pizza would not get soggy and we could decide how much we wanted.

OK, so the crust on this was super crisp. I really liked it. Making a 16" pie it was very thin and very awesome. This was an interesting combination. it was a nice contrast with the creamy, rich topping and the crunchy curst. I think the pizza on its own was a bit bland, but with the salsa it was much more complex and interesting. I thought about adding thinly sliced shallots but decided to try it without this time. Next time I'd add them for sure. Fred liked it, but commented he is a red sauce guy when it comes to pizza. I might try this again with a southwestern tomato sauce. All in all we liked, not loved this combo, but the crust! Oh the crust was yummy!

Tonight's pizza was very basic but yet somewhat healthy, I ate three big pieces and won't dream in color tonight. What was cool about it is that I could change the taste totally with the addition of salsa or red pepper. We chose a white wine that had a lot of light fruit tones, green apple, melon, lime, pear, etc. As a rule of thumb one should choose a wine that is as spicy as your food or sweet to compliment and offset the spiciness. Since the pizza's personality was so quickly changed with salsa and spices we thought a sweeter, fruit forwars wine would work the best, and it did! An organic, biodydamic, sulphite free, and vegan wine kicked some butt as an accompaniment and as a long sip at the end of the meal.  "Horse and Plow, Harvester White North Coast, 2009" tickled our tummy tonight in a good way. I would use this wine in a situation where one couldn't please everybody in a crowd and only had one bottle of wine left. It was light and fresh, great for summertime but yet has enough body to make people sip slowly.

**As a side note, Fred went to three different stores to try and find a vegan wine. This time he wasn't lucky enough to find someone who knew what vegan wine was. I went to Whole Foods and had a similar experience. The young gentleman in the wine department was super willing and helpful, but really didn't have any idea which wines were vegan. I had my droid, so I did pull up Barnivore.com to determine if wines were vegan while I was there. I actually called a vineyard here in AZ because I thought it would be fun use a local wine, but the person I talked to at the vineyard had no idea what made a wine "not vegan".  We'll keep trying to learn and educate the locals. :)