Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Simple steamed veggies

The other day my meal was just this simple: steamed vegetables (right) and salad (left). I believe when there are many colors you've got it covered.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Testing, testing...

I am trying out some recipes in a new cookbook: Vegan Soul Kitchen, by Bryant Terry. Today I tried the Succotash Soup, with Garlicky Cornbread Croutons. It's not a quick dish. I figure you should allow yourself two hours to be safe. It's a good recipe for those who are practicing their sidework skills (it's good to keep cleaning up after yourself as you go along, especially when there are several pans and bowls involved). It isn't a complex recipe and the ingredients are few, but there are enough steps that I felt very proud when I finished it.

The recipe calls for four fresh corn cobs, from which I cut off the corn and then cut the cobs in three parts. It also calls for 2 cups of lima beans, cooked in 10 cups of water until tender. When the beans are done, they are strained out of the broth and the cobs are then added to the bean broth. Thus:

While the cobs are cooking in the broth, giving up their flavor, diced onions (from one large onion) are sauteed until soft. In the cookbook they are sauteed in olive oil, but I used water.

Meanwhile the beans wait:

And the fresh corn waits:

The corn is added to the soft onions (1/3 c. of corn is reserved for later), and the mixture is cooked about five minutes longer, until corn is done:

When the broth is ready (it cooks 30 minutes), the corn cobs are removed and added to the compost pile if you have one (I don't, yet), and the corn and onion mix is added to the broth.

After it is cooked sufficiently (about ten minutes), it is blended in a blender and then strained through a sieve to get rid of the tough corn skins.

The sieving is easier than I expected. There was a bit less than a cup of fiber left in the sieve when I called it good.

The recipe calls for a topping of corn bread croutons that are toasted with a garlic-oil mixture as well as freshly roasted corn (done in the broiler). I actually prepared and served these parts, along with the chopped flat-leaf parsley.

The result:

It is so delicious! This recipe makes me want to make more from this cookbook. But honestly, it's the kind of recipe that I consider worth the price of the book.

Note: I tagged this post "McDougall" because with the water instead of oil the soup itself is cooked according to McDougall recommendations. The croutons and roasted corn were not.

A Corny Meal

Polenta with mushrooms and asparagus in marinara sauce

Easy meal to make, satisfying, flexible. Two methods:

Method one: the "hard" way:

For four servings:
1 c. polenta meal
4 c. water
1 tsp. salt

Make the polenta: Mix polenta in water, in a two-quart baking dish. Add salt, stir. Bake for fifty minutes at 350 degrees. Take out, stir, then replace in the oven for 10 - 20 minutes, until done. It will be thick and soft.

Corn and vegetable sauce:
4 ears corn
1/2 c. water
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. asparagus, fresh, preferably thin
1 - 2 c. marinara sauce
A few leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade (roll up and slice thinly) (optional)
Italian seasoning to taste

While the polenta is cooking, prepare the vegatables. Take the husks off the corn and cut in half. Clean and slice mushrooms. Wash asparagus, cut off tough ends and discard, then cut spears into 1 - 2" long pieces. Chop onion. Slice basil leaves into thin strips.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. When the polenta is back in the oven for the second time, put the corn in the pan to cook until done. Test by spearing an ear - if liquid that comes out of a kernal is clear the corn is done.

When polenta is about 2/3 (about 40 minutes in) done, fix sauce. In a large frying pan heat water over medium heat. Add onion, cook for about a minute. Add mushrooms and steam-cook until nearly done (5 - 10 minutes). Add asparagus, marinara sauce, and seasoning. Cook until asparagus is crisp-tender.

[Alternatively, you can cook the polenta ahead and refrigerate. Cut into four pieces and reheat in the microwave]

To serve: Divide polenta onto the four plates. Divide sauce on top of the polenta. Serve corn on the side.

Method two: The easier way:

Polenta: Use tube from the store. For each serving cut two slices, each about 1/2" thick. Heat in microwave until warm.

Corn: use frozen ears. Cook four in microwave, according to package directions.

Sauce. Combine all ingredients except asparagus in wide microwave-safe dish with lid. Cook in microwave oven until nearly done (microwaves vary; start with three minutes and check). Add asparagus (you can use frozen spears if you like, or frozen cut asparagus) and cook until crisp-tender, another minute or so.


Warning: I did not try the microwave version. I relied on past experience with similar mixtures and with polenta from a tube package. If you try it let me know how it comes out.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What is convenience?

Today I attended a Pampered Chef party at the clubhouse in my mobile home park. Yes, I admit it. I'm trailer trash. But vegan trailer trash.

I joined seven others from the park. The consultant (also from the park) had laid out her equipment on some tables in front and was demonstrating how to make some artichoke tarts.

Now, years ago I attended the only other Pampered Chef party I have been to. I didn't know anything about the company then but thought perhaps the equipment was for people who really like to cook, and maybe it would be great equipment. I soon discovered that instead it is all about "convenience". The recipes and equipment are all intended to make cooking as easy and fast as possible. Our host - consultant demonstrated how easy it was to make these tarts, using about seventeen pieces of equipment.

Yes. The list of equipment was longer than the list of ingredients. Among the items she used:

* a garlic press
* a food chopper
* a wooden thing to press dough into a cupcake pan
* a large measuring cup/bowl
* a pizza wheel (I kid you not: she chopped parsley with it)
* cupcake pan
* a melon baller
* a cherry pitter
* and more

I have some specialized equipment myself. I have a mandolin, a salad spinner, a rice cooker, a crock pot. Most of the time, though, I rely on two knives - a chef's knife and a paring knife - plus a cutting board, and some pans for cooking. It doesn't take much to be a vegan chef. And I suspect that I could have put together the same recipe (relying on vegan cheese, of course, instead of what she used) in the same or less time with a lot less equipment.

The trick is knowing how to use your equipment. Learn how to use and care for two decent knives and you are well ahead. You will also have a lot less to clean up.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

PETA's Vegan College Cookbook

Check out PETA's Vegan College Cookbook
at peta2.com

I just took a look at PETA's Vegan College Cookbook at the bookstore. I was surprised at how simple the recipes are. It's full of really convenient vegan recipes. They are super-easy.

And none of the recipes require a stove!