Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(Not Very) Wordless Wednesday: Riot Grill

grill panning

Those who know me well know that I'm attempting to not buy anything unnecessary in 2011. This covers books, records, clothing, and... kitchen equipment. I know. It's bananas. But I'd been doing well until this month. This was the month that I felt like I had NOTHING to wear and NOTHING to read (everything I've got on hold at the library is taking forever to get here). Most importantly, I was getting very annoyed because we only had one pan to cook with, seeing as the handle broke off our second cast iron pan about a month ago. So, I bought some second hand skirts and shirts, treated myself to two graphic novels, and started looking for a second pan.

We used to have a grill pan that we used all the time, but it had a teflon coating which made it impossible to get properly clean. Not to mention that teflon is going to kill us all. Anyway, after a bit of poking around I found myself a cast iron, non-teflon, not made in China grill pan. Score.

The first meal I cooked in it was the one pictured above: grilled balsamic radicchio, topped with blobs of cashew ricotta and skewers of grilled tofu, tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini. Do I need to say it was amazing? It was amazing. Worth a slight slip in my New Year's resolution, for sure.

J.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vegans, Pack Your Lunches! Kale Salad with Lentils

Packed lunch

First, allow me to make two confessions.

1. I have been really stupid when it comes to packing lunches lately. I usually take leftovers, but for some reason we haven't had a lot of those lately. I know I could easily throw together a salad to take, but I actually am not a big fan of traditional salads. So I've been spending too much money buying mediocre lunches while at work. Even though the cafe in my office makes a reasonable veggie quinoa (!) I still don't want to spend $5 a day on something I could bring from home.

2. I have, in the past, been skeptical about kale salad. Like, really? Could it possibly become soft enough to eat raw? Am I think kind of girl who wants to walk around eating raw kale and insisting to everyone who looks at her sideways that it really is delicious I swear!

kale salad

Who knew it would take the siren song of a really lovely bunch of black kale to set in motion to the solution to both these issues? I was tempted by the kale at a local health food store on Sunday, but had no particular plans for it. I figured I'd give a marinated kale salad a try, seeing as it would partially solve my nothing-for-lunch problem. Kale doesn't get soggy like lettuce does when it sits in dressing, so I was pretty sure a kale salad would be a great thing to keep in the fridge for a few days while I took smaller portions to work. I added lentils to give it some protein and voila! A kale salad I actually like. And a lunch brought from home. Score.

kale salad

Kale Salad With Lentils

1 cup brown lentils
3 cups water or soup stock
1 medium bunch of black kale, destemmed and chopped into strips
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
juice of one lemon
2 tbsp agave nectar*
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot, heat water or soup stock until boiling then add lentils.

Cook until lentils are tender, drain, and then set them aside to cool.

Mix kale and carrots in a large bowl.

Combine lemon juice, agave, and soy sauce. Whisk in olive oil.

Pour dressing over kale and carrots then toss to coat.

Let sit in the refridgerator for at least two hours.

Remove salad from refridgerator, mix in lentils and sesame seeds and then season with salt and pepper.

Makes enough for three or four days of lunch portions. If you're serving it with dinner, it would easily feed four people as a side dish.

*The first day I ate the salad (after two hours of marinating) I thought I would halve the amount of agave the next time I made it because I found it too sweet. However, the next day I ate the salad again and it tasted lovely, not too sweet at all. So you can experiement with this for yourself!

Some Notes:

IMG_0409

-I saw one of the best concerts of my life on Friday night. Elvis Costello (and his modest three piece band) played outdoors at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. On Friday evening it thunderstormed and the Man of Science wondered if I would choose to go in the rain or not. Oh, yes. I would choose to go in a monsoon if it meant finally getting to see Elvis Costello. So, half an hour before show time, off I went in my awesome rubber boots and raincoat. Excellently, it stopped raining when I was walking over to the park and stayed clear and rain-less all the way through the show. Which was marvelous, by the way. He played a great mix of old and new music, most of which was the punk-rocky stuff that I love him for. There was much jumping up and down and dancing. One of the better musical experiences of my life.

-This Saturday is the Man of Science's birthday. He's requested a homemade tapas dinner with key lime pie for dessert. So that's what I'll be (happily) doing this Saturday. Bring on the artichokes and mushrooms and graham cracker crust!

-If you like cooking shows, maybe you'd like to watch Masterchef Australia. Yeah, for real. It is one zillion times better than Masterchef USA. And it's on every night. That's a whole lot of food-related TV. I watch it on line, and usually enjoy an episode after dinner and maybe another episode if I'm cleaning the kitchen. Highly recommended.

J.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vegan Strawberry Shortcakes or How I Ate So Much I Nearly Exploded

vegan shortcakes

Those of you in other countries may not know that Canadians sh*t-talk my home city of Ottawa all the time. The city has a reputation for being boring, reserved, bland, and for, as I remember my parents saying in the '80's, "rolling up the sidewalks at 8PM". I'm not going to say that all of that is patently untrue, but I will say that usually people who complain like that either a) don't live here and haven't spent much time here, or b) live here, but don't do much themselves to turn the city into the kind of place they'd be less likely to complain about.*

All this to say that the sidewalks were not rolled up at all this weekend and I have the sleep deprivation to prove it. I spent most of the weekend attending rock shows as part of the aforementioned Ottawa Explosion, and I had a truly great time. Over three nights I saw sixteen bands, most of them local, and enjoyed (almost) all of them immensely. The weekend was amazingly well organized by a very enthusiastic guy named Emmanuel (he's vegan!) and I hope lots of people thanked him profusely for working so hard on something that allowed us all to have a good time. For my part I brought him some homemade chocolate donuts to express my gratitude.

strawberries

And, as if to prove that fun is the rule rather than the exception for our fair city, this week continues with a reading by yours truly and the talented Jessica Westhead on Thursday night, an outdoor Elvis Costello concert on Friday night, and a roller derby bout on Saturday. But first I need to rest and eat something.

Actually, I needed to rest and eat something last night, which is when I made these delicious strawberry shortcakes for the Man of Science and I to eat after we'd enjoyed some chickpea cutlets, mashed potatoes, miso gravy, and chard. Which is, just in case you were wondering, way too much food.

I'd had strawberry shortcakes on the brain for a while, but hadn't made them because I never seemed to plan ahead long enough to make the cream. I was also not confident when it came to making the biscuits, since my attempts at biscuits in the past yielded only pasty hockey pucks. Blargh.

biscuits

But as you can see from this photo, these biscuits rose well and were not puckish at all. I was a bit worried about how they'd be when they were no longer fresh from the oven, but even one day later they are still fluffy and delicious. The strawberries are fresh and local right now here in Ontario and these ones came from a giant basket that my mom bought and generously shared with me. The cream is the same one I always use: Tal Ronnen's cashew whipped cream from his book The Conscious Cook. It is generally very tasty, but I find it a bit coconutty when I eat large amounts of it. I prefer it in recipes like this where it is combined with a few other elements. It's not hard to make once you learn not to combine any warm ingredients with the cashew base unless you want the whole thing to curdle and make you cry and want to smash things.

vegan shortcakes

Vegan Strawberry Shortcakes

Biscuits (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp vegan margarine
3/4 cup soy milk
1 tsp vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together into a large bowl and mix until they're combined.

Cut in margarine until mixture is somewhat crumbly.

Add vinegar to soymilk and let sit for a minute until it is curdled.

Add curdled soymilk to flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon, until just when a blob of dough forms.

Dump the blob of dough onto a floured countertop and knead for about one minute until dough is smooth. Add more flour is necessary.

Pat dough down into a disc about 1/4 inch high.

Using a drinking glass or a circular cookie cutter, cut out as many biscuits as you can, then knead excess dough back into a ball and pat it down again to cut more biscuits. Repeat until all of the dough has been used. (I got 10).

Place biscuits on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until biscuits are firm and the bottoms have browned slightly.

Let cool, then pull into two halves and cover with cream and strawberries.

biscuits

Makes approximately ten shortcakes.

J.

*I'll give a bit of a pass to my husband on this one, since he complains mostly about the city being cliquey, which is often true and hard to remedy. Also he moved here from San Francisco, which provides a very tough act to follow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Lady Dogs

Catie and Sacha

It's all action, all the time around here.

J.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Vegan Donuts and Bike Rides (and no, we're not in Portland, OR)

vegan chocolate donuts

Last week Ottawa had its first "Tour La Nuit" as part of Capital Velofest (Bikefest for you anglophones). Tour La Nuit was basically an hour-long evening bike ride with a bunch of major roads in Ottawa closed to cars so the cyclists could take over. I went with my friends Magi and Krishna (and their three terriers who love riding in a bike trailer!) and since they were good enough to pick up my ride pennant for me, I made some donuts for us all to eat before the ride (well, for the humans to eat, anyway.)

pre-ride donut

freeloaders

I baked the donuts in my handy donut pan, which meant, as the Man of Science pointed out, they were basically just pieces of cake with holes in them. However, the pan gives them do a nice firm edge all around them and their cuteness can not be underestimated. Plus, if you use the right recipe (hold tight for that) the cakey part of the donuts will turn out dense and not overly sweet, and the frosting will add the perfect sugary compliment. Listen to me, going all Food Network on you. Really all you need to know is that these are VEGAN CHOCOLATE DONUTS! Make them. That is all.

donuts!

Chocolate Baked Donuts

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup soymilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Egg replacer for 1 egg (normally I use ground flax seeds, but I was out. I used Ener-G instead)
4 tbsp vegan margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in sugar and salt.

Over medium-low heat, combine all other ingredients, stirring gently until the margarine has melted and everything is smoothly combined.

Mix wet ingredients into dry, don't over mix.

Pour batter into lightly greased donut pan. Working with a donut pan takes a bit of practice, but the most important thing is to ensure that the dough is distributed evenly around the ring, otherwise you'll have wonky donuts that are thicker on one side.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until donuts spring back when you poke them.

I put quite a bit of batter in the pan for each donut, and ended up with 8 donuts total. I think I might have been able to get 12 if I'd been more conservative with the dough.

For the frosting I melted about a 1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips with one tablespoon of coconut oil and dunked the top of each donut in that mixture, then let them sit on a sheet of parchment paper until the frosting cooled enough to be solid, not sticky. If you want to add sprinkles (like some kind of overachiever) then you'll want to do that before the frosting cools.

vegan chocolate donuts


Some Notes (Ottawa Edition):

-Ottawa people who want to know where I got my donut pan (and there are many of you apparently, judging from Twitter messages) can go find your own at Kitchenalia in Westboro. It's one of my favourite kitchen shops in the city, even though the service is a bit snotty. I'm willing to overlook that because the store is so well stocked.

-The other thing I've gotten a few questions about lately is where to find pre-made seitan in Ottawa. I've never bought the pre-made stuff, since I usually make my own (using the Vegan With a Vengeance recipe). But I do want to report that I saw pre-made, unflavoured seitan (by the Noble Bean company) at both the Wheat Berry and at Market Organics.

-Hey, do you live in Ottawa and like Punk Rock? Then you want to check out The Ottawa Explosion this coming weekend. Four days of awesome bands (like The White Wires, Statues, The Johnnies, Zebrassieres, The Visitors, and so many more) and fun with lots of good people and lots of good beer.

J.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Another Saturday Lunch

lunch

I was a bit bonkers (in a good way) on Saturday. The Man of Science and I got up early and took the dogs for a walk, then I made breakfast, went to the farmers' market, did two loads of laundry, and worked on the quilt I was making. Then it was noon. And I was starving. This lunch was an easy mix of chopped up Soyarie tofu burger, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and leftover potatoes from breakfast, cooked in a bit of olive oil with only salt and pepper for seasoning. The greens from the market are so nice right now, I just want to put them in everything.

J.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'll Take You On A Picnic For Two: Potato Salad with Cashew Mayo

Cashew mayo potato salad

One of the problems that comes with living in a climate with very extreme seasons is that when it rains it pours. Literally and metaphorically. My last post was all about the literal version of raining and pouring (and kudos to you all, by the way, for knowing exactly what unsettling sci fi movie it was that my mother exposed me to at an impressionable young age) and this time I'm thinking about the metaphorical interpretation.

There's no one reason why posts have been scarce these past two weeks, rather there are a million reasons. Or at least it feels that way. Everyone is out of hibernation and the rain has (finally) given it a rest, so things! are! happening! Everywhere! Me, I spent the last week desperately trying to finish a quilt for a coworker who is retiring, beginning to pack up our house for our impending (this month!) move, racing to get caught up on things for my actual worky work, and trying to plan out the coming month so it doesn't eat me alive.

There's fun stuff too! Don't get me wrong. Big bike rides, an upcoming local punk rock fest, an upcoming Elvis Costello show in a park, long dog walks, farmer's markets, visiting friends in their cool back yards and awesome new houses. It's great, but it's leaving me less time for cooking and coming up with new recipes.

Cashew mayo potato salad

But never fear! The warmer weather has actually been bringing about a bit of summer cooking around here, starting with this excellent potato salad. It was inspired by two recipes that I saw while poking around on food blogs a while ago. The gluten-free, vegan, raw one used jicama instead of potatoes, which didn't really seem like my kind of thing, so I checked out the Smitten Kitchen recipe for some further inspiration. This resulted in the frankenrecipe you see here.

It was totally delicious. Creamy and flavourful and very summery. I was sad when The Man of Science ate the last of it one day before I got home from work, because I'd actually been thinking about it on my way home. He had no idea that I wanted to eat it, so I don't blame him, but I did take away one lesson from this experience: if you like it then you shoulda put your name on it.

Cashew mayo potato salad

New Potato Salad with Cashew Mayo

dressing:
1 cup of cashews, soaked overnight
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped small or microplaned
2 tbsp olive oil

the rest of it:
2 pounds new potatoes, halved
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 tbsp fresh dill, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Drain and rinse the cashews, then put them in a food processor or blender with all other dressing ingredients, except for the olive oil.

Blend or process the cashew mixture until it is as smooth as possible. This might take a few minutes.

With the machine still going, drizzle the olive oil in very slowly and keep blending until the mixture thickens.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are tender enough to stick a skewer through, but not mushy.

Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water.

NOTE: If you mix your dressing with warm potatoes it might curdle, so make sure the potatoes are at room temperature before moving on.

Add potatoes, celery, and dill to a large bowl then pour on about 2/3 cup dressing and toss. Add more dressing if you like.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

We ate this as a main dish with a side of asparagus (yum) and it served two of us with a bit left over. If you were serving it as a side dish, you could easily feed four people, maybe even five or six.

J.