Friday, March 28, 2008

Pasta de la Yummysogoodfreakingawesome

For starters, why is it still snowing in Seattle?!?!? Snow! I can see April from here and we're still putting up with snow?!?

Ah, that feels better. Moving on now.

Sadly, there are no pictures of what I am about to describe for you. I had my shot all lined up, the food looked beautiful and was posing in just the most tempting of ways. I turned on the camera, pushed the preview button... aaaaaaand the camera shut itself off because the batteries were dead. It was kind of an accelerated metaphor of my dating life, come to think of it.

I adapted this recipe from this one here on recipezaar. You will note there are no measurements because I think the ingredients are all things that people know how much they like or don't like of them. You don't like a lot of Kalamatas? Don't use a lot. You wish you could take baths in sun-dried tomatoes while eating sun-dried tomatoes and reading about sun-dried tomatoes until you fall asleep to dream about sun-dried tomatoes? Then by all means, put as much as you like in the pot. Here we go.

Kalamata olives, sliced in half
Sun-Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil
Pesto (I used cilantro pesto)
Karam's Garlic Tahini Sauce (if you can find it, if you cannot, oh how I pity you. you can just use crushed garlic though.)
Whole Wheat Pasta (I used Trader Joe's Multigrain with Flax because I figured it was important to pretend there was some health benefit to this recipe)
Frozen peas (see note about pasta)

Okay, cook your pasta and drain it. Put it back in the pot with maybe a little olive oil. You will especially want the olive oil if you are using leftover pasta like I did the second time I made this, in which case heat the olive oil up a little bit first. Get the frozen peas heating up separately. Add in everything else up there on that list, except the peas. Mix it around until it gets hot. Save the peas for last so they won't get squished. Shove it in your face!

Possible garnishes:
Nutritional yeast
Vegan parmesean
Pine nuts (oh, that would be so good! I wish I'd thought of that at the time)
Gomasio (which is quite good)

Now I would like to talk very briefly about food and guilt. When I was about to serve myself the pasta I consciously looked at it and thought, "I will be good, and not eat too much of this." Two seconds later I thought, "No that ain't right." Why do we think of ourselves as being "good" with food when we aren't eating it? Food is life, food brings people together, food has history and connects us to our ancestors. Food heals, the eating and the preparation. Food shows that you care when you cook for someone else. What do people do after someone dies? They bring food. It makes me so sad what's been done to the reputation of food. Why can't we think "I am going to be good to myself, and eat three whole pancakes, because they make my tummy very happy when I eat them." I'm not talking about emotional eating, or certainly about eating disorders. Those are very serious matters that aren't even about food. Food itself is never ever the enemy, and we must stop thinking of it as such. Food loves us and wants us to be happy. And that is all I have to say about that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

splendid little roasted tomatoes and garlic

I had most of a carton of "splendid little" tomatoes from Trader Joe's that were verging on the wrong side of splendid. Still perfectly good, but not as firm as when they first came home. So I decided to roast them. I meant to do it last night, but first I had to clean my oven to get rid of all the spillover from Leek & Bean Cassoulet that kept smoking whenever I turned my oven on. After cleaning it I had to just let it run hot for an hour and call my mom in a panic when I saw what looked like smoke and smelled what smelled like a terrible odor (turns out that's normal, and my mom taught me a great trick of putting a bowl of water with baking soda in the hot oven to help absorb the odor. Then my phone died and I hung up on her. Oops.) THEN I had to go to bed. When I got home I had to take the oven racks out and put them in the right way (I had them backwards). It was like my own personal version of "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie."

That said, I have finally managed to make my roasted tomato cream sauce, inspired by the Cappellini in Fresh Tomato Cream Sauce from Vegan Yum Yum. Her recipe is great for when you have nice fresh tomatoes. I think mine is more for when I've neglected mine just a tiny bit.

This is the recipe as I made it, I'll talk more about what I would change at the end, and I'll probably re-post this when I get a final version worked out. But if you're one of the 3 people who reads this, maybe you'll make it and tell me what you think?

Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 1/2 pound little tomatoes
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 small (or 1 large) sprig of thyme
  • 2 tbsp (or just big spoonfuls) Tofutti cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small baking pan, combine tomatoes and garlic cloves and toss with olive oil just to cover. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 30 minutes (check them after 20, especially if your tomatoes are very small). You want the tomatoes to get a little color on the tops and they should burst open, releasing their liquid and looking all wrinkly like the picture above. It doesn't sound so pretty but it's a truly beautiful thing to behold (and smell).
Remove from oven and allow the tomatoes and garlic to cool while you get out your food processor or blender and put the herbs and cream cheese in it.

Add the cooled tomatoes and garlic (with all the liquid) to the herbs and cheese. Process until smooth*.

Serve over pasta or polenta and garnish with pine nuts, if you like.

*This makes a very little amount when all is said and done. My 6-cup food processor was too big for the job so the sauce was all up on the sides of the bowl where the blade couldn't get to it.

splendid tomato sauce, being splendid

As for things I would change, mostly it's the amount of tomatoes. I'd keep the garlic the same but perhaps use an whole pound (maybe more?). I'm not totally certain what I have here is 1/2 pound but it was approximately that. I might also thin it out with some soymilk to make it creamier. The sauce as I made it was a bit acidic, soymilk might help cut that. I might also try it without the thyme.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My First Food Processor

I pine for various kitchen implements. My wishlist is full of muffin tins, hand mixers, gadgets, a Magic Bullet, this a fetish? One thing that was on my list for a long time was a food processor. I live in a small apartment with a small apartment on a small budget, so I knew that whatever I ended up buying would have to be non-clunky and last for awhile. After reading reviews and weighing my options I went with the Hamilton Beach 6 cup food processor. It sat on my wish list for months and months while I dreamt of a time and place where my food processor and I could live in harmony.

I spoke recently of an impending move, but circumstances prevailed that have allowed me to stay in my current apartment. It is small, but it's my home and has great sentimental value for me still. Before living here I lived with over 10 different people in the space of three years, this place is mine and mine alone...mine and my cat's...and my kitchen stuff...where was I going with this? Oh yeah! So since I am staying, yet had gone through the effort of relieving my space of years upon years worth of things I no longer needed, I have a lot of open space in my hall closet just begging to be filled with kitchen things.

Enter the food processor. I'd never actually used one. I grew up with my mom's Proctor Silex (it had it's own bright yellow quilted cozy, adorables) but I was always irrationally afraid of it. But I like hummus, and I like pesto, so it was time to get over it and keep track of my fingers at all times. The me-friendly thing about this one is that it won't turn on if the cover and the bowl are not locked on where nothing can hurt me. Bonus!

The other night I made a roasted red pepper hummus from La Dolce Vegan! It's very delicious but opted not to be photographed.

Tonight I made the roasted garlic pesto and gnocchi from Everyday Dish after watching the webisode yesterday.

I am not entirely sure I did this right. I added the right amount of oil and basil, and it came out looking mostly like ground pine nuts with some basil thrown in, so I chose to add in 2 more oz of basil which made it much greener, I think it could have used more oil but I ran all out, so here is how it turned out eventually. There are some whole pine nuts at the bottom, I'm not sure if that would have been cured with more oil or not. It didn't bother me so much because I was planning to use pine nuts as garnish anyway.

The moisture on the gnocchi really helped spread it out. Even if the texture wasn't what I expected, the flavor was simply amazing! The roasted garlic with the fresh basil and the goodness, exquisite. But then I thought to myself, "How good would this be if you put some Karam's Garlic Tahini Sauce in it?" The answer to that question is, "It is fucking right on hell yeah good!" How could it not be, though? One of the ingredients in the sauce is love (no joke, it's on the label.)

look at that. you want it, it knows you do

Monday, March 10, 2008

Leek & Bean Cassoulet: A Story of Failure

I had really high hopes for this dish. It looked just beautiful when I read about it on Yeah, That "Vegan" Shit, and then my excitemetn built as I read about it and saw the picture on Vegan Chicks Rock.

Dinner was at 6, I started at 4:30 chopping and peeling and rinsing and stirring and sauteeing and mixing and kneading. Dinner looked beautiful, smelled delicious, and the stew part tasted good, but were this Iron Chef or any kind of judged event, I would have docked myself in the following areas:

1) The onion/leek/carrot mixture refused to brown in the pan. It instead chose to release a lot and I mean a LOT of water. I theorize that I should have laid the leeks out on some paper towels to dry a bit after rinsing and before cooking. My bad.

2) The casserole dish I chose to use (an olive green round Pyrex about 4" deep) was too small around for all the biscuits to fit with 1" in between them, as the recipe calls for. Also:

3) I accidentally pushed some of the raw biscuits into the stew, and they could not be retrieved. Hence:

4) The biscuits came out a beautiful golden brown on top, and completely raw dough on the bottoms.

My dinner companion really enjoyed the raw biscuit action though. In her words, the dough kind of melted into the stew and made it a super thick texture. Trying to pry the biscuits out of the stew was impossible, and they just fell apart into tiny doughy bits that dove straight to the bottom of the casserole dish. So I did my best to scoop out stew only, and the stew part tasted really, really good! Even though at first I had convinced myself it tasted like failure, I finished my whole bowlful and my companion went back for more biscuit.

After dinner we went bargain madness shopping and stopped back by my apartment, where I used the facilities and when I cam out I found her in the kitchen eating a bowl of cold stew. So maybe this wasn't such a failure after all. :)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

a brief history of (my) food (intake)

I've been eating good food like crazy! I've been eating it so much I haven't had time to take crappy pictures! Let's see if I can even remember some of it, I should really take notes or something.

Well, for starters I had been thinking of making Julie Hasson's sausages for awhile, and then I read Isa's post about them and that was it. I *had* to make them. I'm a total fangirl for Isa. There, I said it. Some people are fangirls/boys for Star Trek, I'm a fangirl for vegan cookbook authors. If there were a Con (is there!?!!?) for vegan cooks like there are for sci-fi geeks (I mean that in a nice way, I have a tattoo in Elvish, y'all...but that's a whole other story.) I would dress up as a baby bok choy.

...right, so, I made these really great sausages in my food steamer. It's an Oster that I picked up brand new at Goodwill for $10. It's a touch cumbersome, but still my favorite appliance.
sausages in the sauna

I think that I should have steamed them a few minutes longer than the recipe calls for, only because I forgot that my steamer takes a minute or two to get going. However, really this just meant that they took a little longer to really firm up in the fridge, no big deal. I also changed the seasonings a bit, because I searched high and lo at the grocery store and could not find chicken-flavored seasoning. Here's what I used instead:
1 tbsp all-purpose seasoning I made from one of my Sarah Kramer books
1 tbsp onion powder
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
3 shakes allspice

I'm thinking next time this will be amazing as a sun-dried tomato and fresh basil version, with those beautiful reds and greens, so good! I've been snacking on it with just Dijon mustard.

A few days ago I made sausage and peppers with them. Normally sausage and peppers is just those two things, onion, and garlic. I added a sprig's worth of fresh thyme and mushrooms to mine, then put it all over some lightly fried polenta. Oh how I loooove sausage and peppers! And oh how I loooooooooooved it this way! Mrow.

There was also the Polenta Casserole, as recently discussed. The night before last I made ED&BV's Teryaki Quinoa with a side of steamed broccoli. Veggie-wise this was a turning point as I usually put a pat of margarine on most all my cooked veggies. But it didn't seam like it would go with the quinoa this time, so I left it out, and the broccoli was delicious on it's own. And last night I made spaghetti, which was not fancy as I just added some dried herbs to a box of Trader Joe's Italian Starter Sauce. But it was good enough, I topped that with yet more sausage, which is tasty cold but oh-so-much tastier when fried a little bit, it gets crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and oh, it's lucky it made it onto the spaghetti plate at all.

Lately work has been not the greatest, I love what I do, but the person I do it for (that sounds more perverted than it is) has been a holy terror lately. It's something I have to wait out, and I have people who are dealing with the same thing which makes it better. I mention this because when I've had a bad day at work, the last thing I want to do is put more effort into *anything*, but I remember that cooking can and should be therapeutic, to help revive the mind and the spirit. Food gets us ready for battles, big and small, inner and outer. So I was all set to make VwaV's Stewed Tofu and Potatoes in Miso Gravy, which is rather time-consuming. But then the dishes I needed weren't clean. They are now, but they are drying, and I lost my verve. Tomorrow.

"This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'"
-Henry V
Yeah, that's how I feel about going to work tomorrow.

BUT! I'm super excited for Saturday because I'm having people over to cook for! I love cooking for other people, it's the one thing I mind about living alone. I plan to make the Leek and Bean Casoulet from Vcon. And there must be some collective conscious in the vegan blogosphere because the day after formulating this plan I read two, count 'em two accounts of people making it. It looks delicious. So excited am I.

Now I think I've finally decompressed and worked up and appetite. Time to eat!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Polenta Casserole

Friday night for dins I made ED&BV's Polenta Casserole. It comes together so easily, and grating polenta is This was also my first experience using faux cheese, as the recipe suggested I used Follow Your Heart's mozzarella and I've got to say, wow! I've had the faux Parmesan on pasta before, but that kind of thing you kind of expect that it won't be melting. I've been wary of the brick cheezes for just this reason, and while this stuff didn't melt as easily as real cheese, I took a little taste before adding it to the grated polenta and it was delicious! For sure something I'll be picking up and playing with again in the near future. The recipe calls for a cup, but I went ahead and used the whole block because Y.U.M. And I didn't even get to how the casserole tastes. Oh, my gawd, it's so good! There's a whole melty cheesiness under the very top, so you get the flavor of the casserole filling and then this creamy tangy thing happening and some crispy bits of polenta on the very top. It's amazing, for serious, it's so good. You should totally buy the book and make it! Yeah! I'm retarded for this casserole. I did take a picture, but it didn't turn out, and then I was too busy eating to take a picture of the food.

Today was also the first day I figured out how to get the broiler to work on my oven. The trick is to get the dial to click once before it clicks to off. I felt like a total genius. 2 years I've been convinced it just didn't work. And now I'm moving.

A final thought on the subject of food as a healer. I have pink eye, basically the nurse I called at Group Health said I have a cold in my eye and to put cold compresses on it and drink lots of fluids. That's helping a little, but mostly my eye is itchy, swollen, watery, I want to rip it out of my face and stomp on it, it's uncomfortable and looks awful. But while I was working on the casserole, I didn't feel it at all. I didn't notice the itching, I didn't feel the tears running down my face as they've been doing all day (I'm really sorry if your appetite is ruined now). I got it all put together and into the oven and realized I hadn't felt miserable about my eye the entire time. This is one of the many things I love about food, the healing of it is not just in eating, but there's real therapy in the preparation. Grating things, chopping things, stirring, it's all very meditative and can help you focus away from your problems, both physical and spiritual. I have a lot of emotions about food, remind me to elaborate someday on how I believe food is better when you think about love while you make it. :)