Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mole Skillet Pie With Greens

I was going to start this entry by whining about how long this meal took (2 hours from start to finish), but once I put the first bite in my mouth, all was forgiven.

This was warm, both literally and metaphorically, rich, comforting and so damn good. It was a near perfect blend of sweet, salty and spicy. The topping had just the right combination of moistness and fluffiness with just a bit of a crust on the very top. We were impressed.

I've never made mole sauce before, and admittedly, have not been a huge fan of it until today, but it was so worth the effort. Making this was actually the hardest and most time-consuming part of this dish, so if you can make it ahead of time, do so. I *strongly* encourage that. The good news is that it made twice what I needed so I froze the other half and will be making this dish again soon.

The only thing I might do differently next time, more out of just to try it than a pure preference, would be to use spinach instead of the collard greens I used. The collard greens were great and had a nice chew to them, but next time I'd like to use the more tender spinach so every bite just melts in my mouth. Then we'll see which we like better. This was also the first time I'd made anything with fresh collard greens. I had no idea they were these huge leaves and that they repelled water like leather.

I actually made this dish in a traditional casserole dish. Stupid me, I got all the way to the end and then told Bryan that I needed a skillet to cook this in. He says to me, "David, it's a skillet pie." Of course I was just thinking that was a cute name, but no, they really meant it literally. Yeah, I'm a bit dense sometimes, too. That, in addition to my laziness.

This would make the perfect meal on one of the first chilly days of fall. Since we probably have one of those coming up very soon here in Seattle, I'll be planning on that.

This is on page 156 of Veganomicon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Greek-Style Tomato-Zucchini Fritters With Fresh Herbs

I think I probably washed my hands off a good 20 times while making this dish. And the 45 minute preparation time ended up being 1 1/2 hours for me. I'm sure part of my slowness is due to the fact that I couldn't organize a square into a square if I had to, but what I lack in organizational skills I make up for in physical speed. But I also made the suggested dip (Mediterranean-style Cashew-Cucumber Dip) which also needs to be added to the prep time, despite being able to multitask each dish separately.

One problem I had was that they ended up being a bit "wet." When I originally prepared the "batter" I thought it was too dry, probably because I squeezed almost all the water out of the tofu, so I added a little bit back in. Too much, obviously.

The outside was nice and crispy and the fritter was very flavorful. The cashew-cucumber dip was excellent...very fresh, creamy and tangy. I'd love to make that again if I can think of something else to use it with.

I probably won't make this dish again anytime soon, solely for two reasons. One, the time and mess. Two, it was expensive, at least in my book. And I even "cheated" a bit by using fresh basil on our porch rather than the fresh mint, which I don't grow (yet). But I'd be happy to eat it again if someone else wants to make it!

This recipe is on page 52 of Veganomicon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Caesar Salad With Roasted Garlic Croutons

OMG! I says to the hubs, "I could sustain myself off of these croutons!" And after we ate, he said the same thing. Well, those and Pad Lao from Vientiane Palace in Madison, WI.

This salad was sooooo good. Do you know how awesome it is to be able to eat a Caesar salad without wondering if there are anchovies in it? Pretty freakin' awesome, folks. And not just any Caesar salad, but *this* Caesar salad.

The dressing turned out fantastically and I think you already know how I feel about the croutons. I actually didn't follow the crouton recipe precisely as I forgot to roast the garlic and didn't feel like doing it so late in the game. So I just used some powdered garlic, but no worries, those damn croutons didn't need exact precision to be one of the best things I've put in my mouth in a while. They were the perfect balance of crispy and chewy.

Give yourself a little extra time for this recipe as it didn't account for me having to wash the lettuce (I can't not wash organic buggy). And you'll need to make sure you make the dressing first so it has time to chill and unlike me, get that garlic roasting right away as well.

One tip for this: If you want a little extra protein, add some warm, fried tofu cubes. We like to freeze our tofu, thaw and then squeeze it out like a sponge. It's nice n' chewy and fries up real good like that way!

This recipe is on page 81 of Veganomicon.

Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Rabe With Rotelle

After making this dish I realized that I have for a long time been fan of fennel. And after making this dish I also became a huge fan of broccoli rabe! I'd actually never eaten it before.

The dish was wonderful. The marinade for the tempeh was excellent. I kept smelling it as it reminded me of being in an authentic Italian restaurant. I figured out it was the fennel that I was smelling, and after eating the dish I realized that I really, really liked fennel. It had such a distinct, strong, earthy flavor. I had no idea what "that flavor" was all those years I'd been eating it.

The tempeh was moist and meaty and very flavorful, thanks to the marinade. And the broccoli rabe was mildly bitter with a nice give to it. We both liked it better than spinach, which is fine but usually a bit mushier and not as flavorful.

Although we like whole wheat pasta okay, both of us are usually bigger fans of "regular" pasta, but in this dish, the whole wheat rotelle was just perfect. It gave the dish a bit more heft and meatiness.

All in all, this one goes into our top X list and we'll definitely be making it again. To top it off, it was also an easy dish to make.

This recipe is on page 190 of Veganomicon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sour Cilantro Cream

I made this "sour cream" for a Spanish rice dish the hubs Bryan made the other day. It was made with a spice blend called sazon, which, although being Latino spice, makes me walk around the house saying it with a strong, thick French accent. Hilarious, I know. Anyway, the funny thing is that we actually couldn't find the spice at our local grocery stores in the part of Seattle where we live, but had no trouble finding it in Madison, WI. WTF?

Bryan accidentally bought a lemon instead of a lime, so the end result can't really be judged until I try again with a lime. Although it served it's purpose on the dish, I actually prefer Sour Supreme as this just had too much flavor for me. I like my sour cream mild. It could have just been the lemon so I'll have to report back once we try with the lime.

But it was certainly a breeze to whip up and was full of protein, which can't be said for the store bought vegan sour cream. And it was cheaper, too.

Oh, and have I already said how much I hate hate hate cilantro? I haven't, have I? Well, I really, really really despise cilantro. It's one of the very few flavors that makes me crazy. So, needless to say, I left that out and didn't put in any substitutions. I like my sour cream mild. Did you forget that already?

This is on page 209 in Veganomicon.

Broccoli-Millet Croquettes

Okay, this was easily the most time consuming recipe yet (although having only gone through 5 I can't say yet where this will stack up in the end, but I sure hope it remains one of the most time consuming).

I was supposed to prepare the broccoli/millet combo the day before, as the recipe suggests. However, I forgot. Ask my husband if that's a surprise. Anyway, he offered to do this step for me. He started at about 530. I got home from work at 545 and then took over for him, thinking dinner would be ready by 730 at the latest. Woops.

I think with the exception of about 15 - 20 minutes I was active from 545 until, yes, about 810. That's over 2 1/2 hours from start to finish. Looking back, I can't understand why it took so long, but I digress.

One tip: The cooling step really is important. I actually did follow the instructions and let it cool for 45 minutes...even stirring often, but it probably needed another 1o to 15 minutes, so about an hour would suffice. If the mix is made a day ahead of time then no worries.

The patties were a bit unruly and didn't hold together well. It wasn't a total disaster, but several of them folded or lost some pieces. I actually added about 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs to the "batter" as it seemed a bit wet still. I don't know if that made things worse or if they would have been worse had I not done it.

Anyway, the rolling of the balls and frying of 3 batches added to the time, so if you can use a bigger frying device, then you'll save some time.

As for the sauce, I made one of the recommended sauces, the white bean aioli. One word comes to mind. Garlic city. Okay, that was two words. They said to use six cloves. I used 3, although they were rather large. Let's just say our throats were irritated for a long time afterwards, and I had the same problem today eating it for lunch.

Taste-wise, the croquettes were delicious. A little crispy on the outside and creamy/grainy on the inside. They reminded me of latkes, which I used to thoroughly enjoy back when I dated a Jewish guy who had a great cook for a mom.

The aioli was basically like Hummus (really garlicky hummus, and why is there a k in garlicky?) without the tahini. It was tasty, although to be honest, I think I'd be just as happy with a nice nayonnaise with some garlic mixed in. Sure, it's probably not as "pure" and doesn't have the protein the beans do, but I'll admit it, I can be lazy at times. Haven't I already admitted that?

So while it was a dish we would be happy to eat again, I'm not sure if I'll be motivated to make it again anytime soon. Fortunately, I have a whole cookbook ahead of me so I don't have to worry about it for a while.

This is on page 51 in Veganomicon. And sorry, I forgot to take a picture this time.