Tempeh Tacos

Of course, vegetarian tacos are very easy to produce – a can of re-fried beans, some chopped lettuce and tomato, a little salsa, a little guacamole, some tortillas or taco shells and you’re done. But where’s the fun in that, I ask you? Plus, tempeh has a lovely firm texture and wonderful nutty taste that works perfectly in a taco setting.  I’ve had tofu tacos, and I much prefer their tempeh cousins.

Ingredients

  • 1 package tempeh, crumbled (I prefer the plain soy kind, but feel free to use the grain kind.)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, or one beefsteak tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 jar salsa (I used corn and black bean salsa, it was lovely)
  • black pepepr
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • tex-mex seasoning
  • half a cup of water
  • tortillas
  • avocado
  • cheddar cheese, grated
  • several sprigs of cilantro

Directions

Saute the onion in olive oil unlike caramelized. Crumble the tempeh in to the pan and toss with the onion.  Add the black pepper, chili powder, paprika and tex mex, and cook until tempeh is browned. Add in peppers, tomatoes and salsa. Cook while stirring until well combined.  Add the water and cover with a lid, stirring occasionally. Cook until peppers are tender and tomatoes have broken down.

In the meantime, you can warm up the tortillas by wrapping them in foil and placing them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Also, clean and remove leaves from cilantro. Fill tortillas with tempeh and peppers mixture, add a few slices of avocado, cilantro leaves and a sprinkle of grated cheddar and serve. Or simply place separate ingredients on the table, and let everyone make their own (more fun that way!)

Sorry, no photo again. I really should get myself one of these fancy digital cameras everyone is talking about.

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Raisin and Caraway Risotto

I’m a sucker for summer risotto: local asparagus, courgette flowers, fresh tomatoes off the vine. Unfortunately, as the London rain has been reminding me, it isn’t summer any more. But the colder months don’t have to mean the loss of good risotto as this dish takes advantage of two ingredients that don’t disappear with the sunshine: raisins and caraway seeds. It makes for a lovely, creamy and slightly sweet dinner suitable on its own or as a starter.

Note: Ground flax seeds will appear frequently in my recipes. As a vegetarian, it can be hard to get enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are primarily found in oily fish. They don’t sound very appealing, but they do help reduce your risk of heart disease and all kinds of other good things. My current bag also contains ground pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I keep it in the fridge and add a tablespoon here and there. Depending on how much I add, they either disappear into the dish or add a subtle nutty flavour.

These measurements make enough for one hungry person, or two more moderate eaters. It is a very flexible recipe, easily increased or decreased depending on your requirements. It’s also built for easy substitution of vegetables, so use whatever is in your fridge.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • about 3 Tbsp green pepper, diced
  • about 3 Tbsp zucchini, diced
  • ½ c. risotto rice
  • about 1-2 cups water or stock
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
  • mature cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat the butter or oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and fry. Once they’re translucent, add the chilli, green pepper and zucchini. Fry slowly until soft.

Add the rice, cook for 3-5 minutes until rice slightly translucent. Stir regularly so it doesn’t stick. Add about a ¼ of water or stock, caraway seeds, raisins and flax seeds. Stir and simmer until water has been absorbed. Continue adding liquid a ¼ cup at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed each time. Don’t forget to stir! Continue until the rice is creamy and soft, with a little bite, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, and add the cheese and salt or pepper to taste. Stir well. Cover and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Garnish with remaining parmesan cheese if desired, and serve hot. Enjoy!

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Three Sisters Polenta

This recipe was inspired by a combination of Vegan Yum Yum‘s “Carmelized Leek and Spaghetti Squash Polenta with White Sauce,” Rebar Modern Food‘s “Three Sisters Burrito,” and my desire to eat polenta with tomato sauce and spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, simultaneously.  It basically consists of polenta infused with spaghetti squash, covered with slightly spicy bean and tomato sauce.

Three sisters, corn (well, maize), squash and beans, are the staples of a number of indigenous nations in North America, and one of my favourite food combinations.  Ever since tasting Rebar’s delicious burrito, I’ve become pretty obsessed with adding southwest spices to the mix.  This recipe would probably do amazingly with some roasted poblano chillies thrown into the sauce, or even maybe some chipotle puree.  I was worried about adding too much spice, because I didn’t want to drown out the taste of the spaghetti squash, but I think everything can be improved with poblano.

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved with the seeds removed
  • 1 med sized onion, diced
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 tbs chili powder (spice measurements are all guesstimates)
  • 5 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbs tex-mex mixed seasoning (I use Club House, or just add more of the chili and paprika)
  • few shakes of crushed red pepper
  • few shakes of black pepper
  • 1 tbs molasses
  • 4 1/2 cups water or broth (or water with a bouillon cube)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn meal

Directions

Begin by  cutting, cleaning and cooking the squash. This takes a while, so you can prep and cook the rest of the meal while waiting for the squash to cook. I microwaved in on high, in a little water for about 15 minutes, but you can also bake it or boil it (although, if you boil it, don’t cut it in half first, just pierce holes all over it).  You know it’s done when the flesh is soft – you’ll be able to feel it through the rind.

While the squash is cooking, dice your onion and caramelize it in a large pan on med-low heat (I use cast iron). Once your onions are soft and browned, add spices and after a minute the can of tomatoes (you don’t want to burn the spices).  Drain your cans and beans and add. Stir, add molasses, and let simmer on low heat.  Taste and adjust spices as necessary.

Add your water/broth/water with bouillon to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking the whole time to avoid chunks. Continue to whisk over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes. You want the cornmeal to cook, but not get too thick – a good indication is when it lightens and looks more uniform. Remove from heat, but keep covered so it stays warm.

Cut each half of your squash into quarters lengthwise, and use a fork to scrape the ‘spaghetti’ strands into a bowl. Add the strands to the polenta and stir.  Serve polenta in bowls, with the beans over top.

Apologies for not getting a photo – hunger got the best of me. And the leftovers don’t look that pretty sitting in Tupperware.

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Panzanella

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad. It’s fresh, summery, and filling and an excellent use of day-old bread (or older should you keep it in the fridge).  I adapted this recipe from The Complete Italian Vegetarian, a beautiful and extensive cookbook put out by the incredibly sedulous people at Cook’s Illustrated.  I adapted this recipe mostly because I didn’t have all the ingredients it called for – olives, cucumber, fresh oregano – so I omitted the first two and replaced the third with fresh parsley, leafed but left whole.  With the bread, chopped tomatoes, and light dressing the end-result made me think of giant tabouli – with chunks of bread replacing the bulgar. Of course, the dressing is olive oil and balsamic (or red wine vinegar), and not the lemony dressing of tabouli – although I think tabouli dressing on this salad might be interesting to try.

Ingredients:

  • a loaf of day-old (but not too hard) bread, cut into cubes (about 3 cups of cubed bread).  The recipe calls for white country bread – but I used half a loaf of multigrain and half a loaf of this incredible dark and dense pumpernickle, and it turned out deliciously.
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, diced into 1 inch chunks
  • 4 green onions, sliced into coins
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, leafed
  • black pepper
  • dried basil
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method

Place bread, tomatoes, onions, parsley, black pepper and basil in a salad bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and vinegar. Toss until dressing is well dispersed.  Let salad sit at room temperature about 30 minutes, to allow bread to soften. Serve.

Because the dressing is minimal, and is intended to absorb into the bread, this salad keeps well in the fridge, and so is good for pot-lucks and picnics. Enjoy!

(Apologies for the terrible web-cam photograph)

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Kale and Cabbage Salad with Coconut Bacon

I adapted this recipe from Vegan Yum Yum’s BLT Salad. If you haven’t checked out this blog, and the accompanying cookbook (one of the most beautiful cookbooks I have ever seen – I love a cookbook with good photos), I highly recommend you do.  I didn’t change the main idea of the salad all that much: I switched out the spinach for cabbage, added green onion and yellow zucchini, didn’t cook the tomatoes, and messed with the dressing proportions, but it’s still a kale based salad with a creamy dressing and fake bacon.  The most significant change I made was that instead of using tempeh bacon, I made my own coconut bacon.

Yes, coconut bacon. I was first introduced to the idea of coconut bacon at a lovely vegan restaurant in Montreal called Aux Vivres, where I had a very very delicious coconut bacon-LT sandwich.  I searched around the internet, and found several recipes, most of which called for dried unsweetened coconut shavings, a mysterious ingredient called liquid smoke, some water, some soy or tamari, and something sweet (often maple syrup, probably because it’s vegan-friendly).  My grocery store only had sweetened coconut, so I bought a fresh one instead, which substantially added to the labour and time involved, but turned out pretty delicious.

Oh yeah, liquid smoke. So I looked into this, and apparently its a very common ingredient in anything smoke flavoured (barbecue sauces and the like). It’s located beside the barbecue sauce in the grocery store, is fairly inexpensive, and is apparently literally made  by dissolving smoke in water.  My store had two brands, so I bought the one with less ingredients (usually a safe choice).  It also had both hickory and mesquite flavour, and I decided hickory sounded more ‘bacon-y.’ Coconut bacon, especially in salads and sandwiches, is surprisingly bacon-like.  The salty smoke flavour from the liquid smoke and soy mixed with the meaty consistency and rich/fatty taste of coconut seems to do the trick somehow.  It still tastes somewhat like coconut, so it’s not an exact approximation, but it is very very tasty.

Ingredients

Coconut Bacon:

  • 1 coconut (or about 2 and  half cups of dried shredded coconut)
  • 1 tablespoons of liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar or honey (I had none of these and used table syrup, which is less than ideal, but worked fine. You could probably use simple syrup too, and maybe throw in some maple extract to make it sort of maple-y, cause that would probably contribute to bacon-y flavour.)
  • 1 tablespoon of water

Salad:

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, deveined and sliced thinly (lacinato kale is long and thin with flax waxy leaves, unlike standard kale which is tougher and ruffled, and not delicate enough to be eaten raw)
  • 1 yellow zucchini, diced
  • 1/8 of a large head of cabbage, shredded
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard (I used grainy dijon)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (Vegan Yum Yum’s recipe called for lemon, but I had lime, and quite liked it)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • black pepper to taste

Method

Coconut Bacon:

Somehow get your coconut open and drain the water. (There are videos on youtube that make this seem very easy, but I couldn’t make the ‘simple’ method work, so I hit the coconut with a hammer near the three indentations until it broke and spilled coconut water all over my floor.) If you have a coconut scraper/shredder (which I do not) than you can easily scrape out perfect flakes of coconut.  Otherwise, put your broken pieces of coconut in a preheated 350 F oven for 15-20 minutes.  This helps the flesh dry a little and pull away from the shell, making it much easier to pry off with a knife.  Use a vegetable peeler to get the brown skin of the coconut pieces. Probably the easiest way to get these into small thin pieces would be to grate the coconut in a food processor, but I wanted my pieces bigger than that, so I sliced the pieces of coconut thinly (and painstakingly)! Place coconut in a bowl and toss with liquid smoke, soy, water and syrup.  Let stand a few minutes. Spread on a baking sheet and place in 350F oven until crispy, about a half hour. Make sure to check on it carefully so it doesn’t burn and stir the coconut around on the pan often, at least 3 times. Put aside and let cool. It will get crispier as it cools.

Salad:

Remove large center vein from kale and slice crosswise very thinly. Mix together dressing ingredients and toss in large bowl with kale. Because kale is so hearty, it usually needs to be cooked to be eaten.  Lacinato kale is much more delicate, and so, when it is sliced thin, it can be eaten after marinating in the dressing for a little while. This is why it is important to let the kale sit in the dressing while you make the rest of the salad.  Dice the zucchini and tomatoes, chop green onions and shred the cabbage. Add to bowl of kale. Add 3/4 of coconut bacon. Toss until well combined and dressing is evenly distributed. Serve in bowls topped with remaining bacon.

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Eggplant Zucchini and (Soy) Chorizo Pizza

Eggplant is one of my very favourite vegetables, although it tends to require more forethought than I usually put into cooking, so I don’t buy them that often.  But I inherited a couple eggplant from a friend of mine who was heading out of town, so I decided to do my very favourite thing with them: slice them in quarter-inch thick slices, squeeze the water out of them and fry them. This is what you do to eggplant before making a parmigiana – a family favourite – and I have fond memories of stealing cooked slices while my mother wasn’t looking.  But it is much much to hot to be baking anything in the oven for more than ten minutes, so I decided I would use my delicious eggplant coins for a pizza.  Throw in some farmers market zucchini, a roasted red pepper, asiago and goat cheeses, and some soy mexican-style chorizo from Trader Joe’s, and you have the makings of a pretty tasty pizza.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small or 1 large Italian eggplant, sliced into coins, drained and fried (feel free to peel the eggplant if you prefer. I like the way it looks and taste with the peel, but some people prefer it without.)
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 green zucchini, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, roasted and sliced
  • 1/2 package Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo (or real chorizo, or other brand soy chorizo.) Note: this soy chorizo is Mexican style, which means its really just a ground in a sausage casing, which has to be removed before cooking, so the result is a bunch of tasty spicy crumbles – unlike a Spanish or Portugese style chorizo, which usually has an edible casing and can be sliced like standard sausage.  Also, I’m not usually all that fond of ‘fake meat’ because it tends to be full of sodium and preservatives and other terrible things, but I was very intrigued by this so I tried it out and it was quite good.  I probably won’t make a habit of using it, just because ‘textured soy protein’ as a main ingredient weirds me out.
  • goat cheese
  • asiago, grated
  • your favourite pizza dough recipe, or purchased dough or crust (I use Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough, which is fresh, very tasty and only a dollar.)
  • your favourite pizza sauce (I usually get a small can of pre-made pizza sauce or sauce, or just crushed tomatoes if I can find the really little cans – the Italpasta pizza sauce is pretty good – and then add tons more spices too it, especially black pepper, hot pepper flakes and oregano. Tons of oregano. Plus some basil and parsley and onion and garlic powder, or a minced garlic clove. If I have 2 or 3 fresh tomatoes, I’ll usually dice and sort of mush those instead of using the canned stuff – but the cans are really convenient to have on hand, and then you don’t have to open an enormous can of crushed tomatoes and use only 6 tablespoons of it.

Method:

Slice eggplant about a quarter inch thick, crosswise (ie into coins). Layer coins in a bowl, adding a bit of salt to each layer (this will help remove the moisture – if you fry the eggplant without squeezing out the liquid they absorb way too much oil), place a place and weight on top of the eggplant and let them sit for several hours so the water can be squeezed out.  The easiest way to do this is to prep the eggplant in the morning and they’ll be ready by dinner.  Once they’ve sat pour off the water and heat about a quarter inch-deep of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Make sure its quite hot before adding the eggplant so they cook quickly and don’t absorb too much oil. Fill the pan with a single layer of eggplant coins, and flip them over once with a fork while they cook – a few minutes on each side, until they’re lightly browned and shriveled around the edged.  Remove them to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat until all the eggplant is cooked. Set aside.

Place red pepper on baking sheet under the broiler to roast. As you are waiting slice the zucchini.  You’ll want to turn the red pepper over at least once under the broiler.  Remove when its skin is blackened and slightly blistered. Place in a paper bag and cool.  When it’s cooled enough to touch, peel off the skin (it should come off easily with your fingers) and slice.

Remove soy chorizo from its casing.  Be careful doing this, because it is very crumbly and wet will fall everywhere. Also, the spices in it will turn every surface they touch red. So I recommend doing this over a bowl, or over the pan you will cook it in. Cook in a pan with some vegetable oil until browned and a little drier.

Assemble pizza, topping with grated asiago and dollops of goat cheese. Cook in preheated 425 F oven for 10-ish minutes, or until your crust is cooked and your cheese nicely melted.

Enjoy!

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Black Bean Soup with Migas

I adapted this from a recipe in the Big Book of Vegetarian by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley – a lovely cookbook that I bought for its incredible asparagus pesto recipe (I highly recommend it). I love cookbooks, but I very rarely follow recipes exactly. Instead I see them as a great way to get inspired. For instance, I was really interested in making black bean soup – so I looked up this recipe, which consisted of a delicious looking soup served with a homemade lime-bell pepper salsa (intriguing!). I thought rather than serving the soup with this salsa, I would just include the salsa ingredients in the soup, plus throw in some cilantro, roasted Poblano chilies, tex-mex seasoning, corn, and cocoa powder. Also, where the recipe called for small pasta, I instead topped the soup with migas (pan-fried tortilla pieces) and sprinkled hot pepper Jack cheese on top. That gave it a similar presentation to French onion soup, and actually I love the idea of serving this soup in French onion soup bowls. I didn’t broil the tops, because I wanted to serve it with the migas still a little crunchy. Unlike the bread in French onion soup, the migas are very thin so absorb the soup quite quickly, and because the soup and the migas were both very hot the grated cheese melted almost instantly.

This soup was pretty delicious, and tasted a little like soup made of tacos, which was fine by me.
(Apologies for the lack of accurate spice measurements)

Ingredients:

  • 1 average sized poblano chili, roasted and diced (I only had one chili, but I’d be inclined to throw in two the next time. But I love poblano chilies.)
  • a few tablespoons of oil, for sautéing
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems
  • a generous sprinkle of black pepper
  • a few shakes of dried hot red pepper
  • a couple tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon tex-mex spice mix (I use Club House – if you don’t have this you can throw in more red pepper flakes, chili powder, onion powder and maybe some cayenne)
  • 5 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1/2 large can crushed or diced tomatoes (with juice) or a whole 16 oz can
  • 3 1/2 cups of vegetable broth (I used from a carton, but feel free to used canned, bouillon and water or make your own)
  • 3 cups of water (or 2, if you want the soup to be thicker)
  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup frozen (or canned) corn niblets
  • 5 teaspoons of cocoa powder
  • 3+ ten-inch flour tortillas
  • Jalapeño or other hot pepper jack or cheddar cheese, or plain jack or cheddar if you prefer, grated.

Method:

Start by roasting the poblano chili(es). Poblano chilies have waxy skin, and so taste much better roasted and the skin removed. (If you can’t get your hands on fresh Poblano chilis try ancho chilies, which are what they’re called when they’re dried) I did this under the broiler – but you can do it over the flame on a gas stove, if you prefer. Place the chili on a baking sheet under the broiler for about 8 minutes, or until the skin blackens and blisters, then turn the chili over and repeat. When it is finished place in a paper bag to cool (I put mine in the fridge). When cool skin should peel off easily. Dice and set aside.

While waiting for the chili to roast, dice onions, both bell peppers and garlic cloves, and remove cilantro leaves from stems. Heat oil in a soup pot – add onion and garlic, and sauté on medium heat for a minute or two, add dried red pepper, black pepper, and lime juice, add peppers and cook until they begin to soften, about five minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, tex-mex seasoning and your roasted poblano pepper, and cook about a minute (be careful not to burn the spices). Add crushed tomatoes to stop cooking. Add broth, water beans, corn, and cilantro. Bring to a boil and then let simmer about 45 minutes (or longer, depending on how patient you are and how cooked you want all the elements of the soup).

About ten minutes before the soup is ready add cocoa powder. Cut the tortillas into squares, and heat some olive oil in a frying pan. When oil is quite hot, add the tortillas and stirring constantly cook until they are crispy. How much oil you use for this depends on whether you want your migas to be fried or lightly sautéed/toasted. Both are delicious. If you fry them, blot with paper towel before serving over the soup.
Grate the cheese.

Serve soup in bowls topped with migas and grated cheese. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

I recommend making the migas fresh any time you serve the soup – so only make enough migas for the people eating. While this soup could easily feed 6 people, 3 flour tortillas is about enough migas for 3 if you are topping the soup pretty generously with the migas (or two quite hungry people who are going to have seconds. Or if your dinner companion/sous-chef is, like mine, obsessed with migas and decides to eat more migas than soup.)

Oh, and apologies for the terrible photograph. I don’t have an actual digital camera, so I took this with my computers webcam. It doesn’t do this very tasty soup justice.

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