Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Dear God Feed Me" Vegan Nachos


You know, when I have a she-beast sized appetite, but I'm short on ambition, I reach for vegan nachos. You can pretty much have this plate of food in your hands in about 5 minutes, with almost no work, and it is very satisfying. It's also pretty easy to keep the ingredients on hand.

All you need is:

  • Tortilla chips (Santitas brand was used above; They're vegan too, with only corn, salt, and oil listed in the ingredients)
  • Daiya brand vegan shredded "cheese," (see image below)
I have had this specific brand of vegan cheese recommended to me by 3 (count-em #3!) separate vegans within a short span of time, and none of them knew each other. They were totally right. This stuff is really good. I even fed it to my omnivore father, who confirmed that you really couldn't tell it wasn't real cheese. I'd say you could probably tell if you ate it cold, but warm you hardly notice. And it's tasty food with a conscience.

The cheese comes in cheddar and mozzarella styles (shredded only, no blocks that I know of), and I bought mine at my local Whole Foods. Maybe cheddar style is better for nachos, but honestly, when you're hungry, eat whichever one you have on hand and use them interchangeably. And this "cheeze" really does melt and stretch as it proclaims. It lacks a little in the salt department (in terms of imitating the flavor of real cheese), but the tortilla chips used in this recipe will help to compensate for that. If you are really interested in daiya "cheeze" look them up on their website, daiyafoods.com. Extra credit if you make their recipe here for vegan macaroni and cheese. I have not tried that recipe yet, but I am starving and could easily eat that right now...

Anyway...

Instructions:

Lay out however many tortilla chips your heart desires on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Sprinkle the daiya cheese generously over the surface of the chips. Try not to get too much of the cheese on the pan. Broil the nachos carefully between 400 and 500 degrees in your oven until the cheese starts to bubble, and the chips get some toasty brown color. This will take a few minutes, but just watch to make sure the chips don't burn.

You're done, the end. Scoop these carefully onto a plate, and serve with guacamole, salsa, refried beans, etc. Relax. Repeat.

Of COURSE you can add other ingredients to your nachos (peppers, faux taco meat, etc), but this version is a quick and dirty "OMG I am starving I might destroy Tokyo" sort of recipe.

This instructions may seem simple, but I promise this recipe will help to save you from the hunger monster...

Good luck and Godspeed. Tokyo is saved.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Super Satisfying Basil Vinaigrette

Summer is definitely the ideal time to bite into a nice crisp, cool, salad.

And on those hot, humid summer days, you may not want the heaviness of a cream-based dressing weighing you down. As a wonderful alternative, this light (and vegan!!) vinaigrette will give you a lot of flavor punch for your dining dollar. This dressing is totally refreshing, and will really dress up a simple salad with distinctive flair. This is especially true if you can snag some fresh basil from the garden to make it...

The original recipe is from Cook's Illustrated magazine, and has been reprinted here. I have made a sort of "quartered" version of the recipe below, since I don't always like to have the same dressing every night, and the original version of this dressing makes a lot; My version makes 2-4 servings, depending on the size of the salad. However, if you do not have a really tiny food processor like I do, you might have to double or quadruple the quantities to use your blender or regular-sized food processor effectively:

1 cups olive oil (or canola or other healthy oil)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (divided into two 1/4 cup amounts)
1/4 of a peeled shallot
1 really tiny clove of garlic peeled (or a quarter of a really large clove)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or other vinegar of your choice; apple cider vinegar should work fine)
1 Tbsp water
1/8 tsp salt
A few grinds of pepper
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard

In a small to medium saucepan, heat a few tablespoons of oil with 1/4 cup of the basil over medium heat. After a few minutes, the basil will turn an inviting bright green, and small bubbles will appear in the oil. At this point, remove your pan from the heat, and allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes. This will allow the basil to infuse the oil with flavor.

While you wait, process your shallot, garlic, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and mustard in your food processor (or blender) until the garlic and shallot are finely chopped.

Add your steeped basil oil and process again. Next, add more of your plain olive or canola oil and continue to process until dressing is smooth and emulsified. (You don't have to use all of the remaining oil if you don't want to. You'll just get a more intense flavor if you add less oil). You may or may not be able to keep your food processor or blender running as you do the above step. I had to turn mine off and add a little oil at a time. But it still worked fine for me.

Pack the remaining 1/4 cup of basil into your processor and pulse until dressing is as smooth as you like it.

This dressing will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, depending on how many people intensely love basil in your house (like I do).

Note**: If you have difficulty in digesting raw onions, shallots, or garlic, you can soften the sharp flavors of these items by cooking them briefly before adding them to the recipe. Just chop your shallot (and/or garlic), and put it in a saucepan with a little oil. Cook over low heat until the shallot becomes somewhat translucent. Just a few minutes should be all you need. You may even be able to get away with adding more shallot to your recipe if you cook it in this way before adding in.

Hope you enjoy your ride to flavor country folks. Happy Father's Day!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ridiculously Tasty Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


So, I know it may not look like much, but this really is a super delicious strawberry rhubarb pie. I got the original recipe here, but changed it just slightly. I added half a cup more strawberries than called for (making about 4 cups) and half a cup less rhubarb than listed (about 3 cups). I also used about 3/4 cups brown sugar (the granulated kind, not the packed kind), and 1/4 cup regular white sugar, instead of using 1/2 cup each. Fruit pie recipes are more like guidelines than rules anyway...

To see some pictures of our rhubarb plant, and the process of harvesting rhubarb, keep reading. My slightly altered version of the recipe is also listed below. Bon app├ętit!

Super Tasty Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe

For crust

3 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces; I used Crisco, but if you prefer to eat organic, you could always try

Spectrum Naturals vegetable shortening

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces; You may be able to use Earth Balance here to make this vegan, or you could probably substitute another vegan pie crust recipe here; Keep in mind though that the recipe below makes a 9" pie, and the fruit below is proportioned to fit a 9" pie; And the cook times reflect a 9" pie also

10 tablespoons (about) ice water




For filling

3 cups rhubarb, trimmed to about 1/2" lengths

Just over 1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 4 cups)

3/4 cup granulated brown sugar (please see note immediately below)

1/4 cup sugar ( I am sure if you put in 1 cup total of demerara sugar - or another sugar of your choice - that it would not adversely affect the recipe, as long as you use no more than 1 cup total sugar in the filling

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze); I am sure you could find a vegan substitute for this also



Method:


Make crust.

Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Pulsing the food processor on and off, cut in shortening and butter. Do not overmix. Mixture will resemble wet sand when ready. Next, blend in the ice water 2 Tablespoons at a time, until the dough starts to hold together in clumps. You may not need to use all of the water for this to happen. Gather dough into ball and cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic, and chill about 1 hour. The dough can be made 1 day ahead, but just keep it chilled until you are ready to use it. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)


Make filling:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 filling ingredients in large bowl, and toss gently to blend.


Flour your work surface, and roll out 1 dough disk to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.


Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively if you like.


When finished, brush your egg glaze over the crust. Transfer pie to baking sheet (Very important! The baking sheet will catch drips before they become a burnt mess on your oven floor!). Bake at

400°F for

20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until crust is golden and filling has thickened, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to a rack to cool for 30-60 minutes.


Enjoy the deliciousness. :-)

The above is the green rhubarb I used when I made this pie. Note that not all species of rhubarb get completely ruby red why ready to harvest.


When you harvest rhubarb, you are supposed to grasp the stalk as close to the ground as you can, and twist the rhubarb away from the rest of the plant. It is not good to cut or break the rhubarb stalks to pick them, as it can make the rest of the plant susceptible to rot or pests. You should also shake all of the rhubarb that you harvest before bringing it in the house, just in case any little critters decide to come along for the ride...


If all goes well, you will end up with a stalk of rhubarb that looks like this at the end; You'll want to use this rhubarb rather quickly if you can, to ensure the most possible freshness. But if you can't make your pie right away, you can wrap your bunch of rhubarb in paper towels, and store in the fridge for a few days.


This giant prehistoric-looking leaf is a rhubarb leaf. Rhubarb leaves should be trimmed off before you use your rhubarb. They are not to be eaten. I trim them off and leave them in the compost pile and don't even bring them in the house for safety's sake. Rhubarb leaves contain a substance called "oxalic acid," which is definitely not good for you, and I am sure not good for your pets or inquisitive children. In fact oxalic acid is poisonous. So please take care in preparing your rhubarb. The stalks of the rhubarb plant are more than safe to eat. Just avoid the leaves.

Well, I hope that you have enjoyed my pictures, and that you have a wonderful and tasty June! If you make this pie, please tell us about it and comment here. Thanks guys!



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Garden herb and turmeric basmati rice (baked)

This may be my first post referencing How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, but I ASSURE you it will not be the last. I loooooooooove this book. I would recommend it to anyone, vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike. But I'll write more about this amazing book at another time. Down to business!

The recipe below has been adapted from Mark's (we're on first-name's terms you see) Simpler Baked Rice with Herbs recipe (page 515 for you lucky book owners!):

  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil; The original recipe notes that you could use 2 Tbsp butter instead, but I used grapeseed oil to keep this vegan; I suspect you could use Earth Balance to keep it vegan but still add more of a "butteriness" to the rice
  • 1 cup basmati rice (or another long-grain rice); I used basmati here and it was awesome :-)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (onion or shallot would work too)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (cilantro would also work really well)
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley (I didn't actually grow any of the fresh stuff this year, and this works just as well)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp turmeric powder (You can find this pretty cheaply at the Indian grocery store, or less cheaply at your regular grocery store; It adds really awesome color, and it's an antioxidant; I don't think it has an easily distinguishable flavor, so go with the amount that gives you your preferred shade of yellow)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed (I'd also recommend picking this up at the local Indian grocery)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups water

An ovenproof pot/pan with a lid (I used a dutch oven for this)


Method:

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Put your oil into your ovenproof pot/pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, coriander, turmeric, parsley, and approximately half of your chopped dill/cilantro to the pot, and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add your rice and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another minute or so.

2) Now add the water to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat on the stove, make sure the lid is on your pot, and place the pot carefully in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.

3) Carefully remove the pot from the oven and let the rice sit, covered, for 10 more minutes.

4) Stir in the remainder of your chopped dill or cilantro, and serve immediately.

Serving suggestions: This rice would be great as part of an Indian meal. In fact, I ate mine with my leftovers from an Indian restaurant (i.e. my favorite mutter paneer). Often enough, I run out of rice before I finish the rest of my meal, so this recipe would be helpful to supplement the leftover goodies the next day. This rice is also not super overwhelming in flavor, so it could go well as a side to virtually any meal, such as a vegetarian chicken cutlet and some veggies.

As a side note, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian tends to give you a lot of interesting info about your food, beyond just the recipes. Mark Bittman writes that basmati rice is one of the world's most expensive rices. He notes that the premium grade is aged for at least a year, which would somewhat account for the price difference. But, though basmati may be pricier than some of the other types of rice you could buy, it is generally worth the extra financial output. In recipes like the above, in which the rice itself is basically the primary flavor, you really will get more bang for your buck with basmati. And if you decide you really love basmati rice, and you want to buy in bulk, I again highly recommend the Indian grocery store.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the recipe! Let me know how it comes out! Or if you have any questions, or ideas about variations, please post them here. Thanks everyone!




Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Three Things I Never Thought I'd Buy," or "Reasons I Might Be Insane"



So, I was doing some thinking today, and I realized that I have purchased a number of items this year which I never thought I would. I mean, I assumed in my younger days that, in the future, I would attempt to lead a relatively healthful lifestyle; that I'd buy fresh fruit and veggies, and that I'd learn how to make fairly wholesome dinners etc, etc...But what on earth could possess me to actually exchange hard-earned post-tax dollars for a small bottle of powdered dried algae. I mean, come on...


1) Spirulina (shown above): I only really found out what this stuff was sometime earlier this year. I had heard the name bounced around in health-food circles, usually in conjunction with someone talking about their latest morning run (yes, I know. The thought of running in the morning exhausts me too guys...) However, I didn't really have any idea what spirulina was. I thought it might be a component of grain or something. Sort of akin to wheat germ (which also has kind of an unappealing "health-nut" connotation). Or, if it wasn't a grain, maybe it would be something like ground up wheat grass. Is your mouth watering for this stuff yet, haha.

What spirulina actually turned out to be was dried microscopic blue-green algae. Mmmm...slime...

So, for a while, I kind of wrote off the little green guys. That is, until I tried a drink called "Green Machine" from a company called Naked Juice. It's similar to Odwalla if you're more familiar with that company. Let me tell you, this stuff does not look palate pleasing at all. But, seriously, after you drink this juice, you feel like a million bucks. So I looked into the ingredients on the bottle, and started reading about Spirulina. It has quite a bit of protein, vitamins, and minerals in it (including iron, which, admittedly, my vegetarian diet often lacks), and did I tell you how I wanted to wrestle a bear after having some? So, I bought some Earth Rise brand powdered, dried, algae in a bottle. And I haven't looked back. I do warn you though, it will make your smoothies a little slimy and green if you put enough in. But really, you and the bear you wrestle probably won't mind. (Well, the bear might...); Do consult your doctor though before adding this to your diet, particularly if you are on other medications, or have health concerns.



2) Large bags of dirt: Yup, I bought these too. And as soon as I did, I heard the voices of generations of my ancestors declaring me a lost cause for having purchased something that is essentially free everywhere. But, this year, I really endeavored to become an accomplished home gardener.

The problem is of course that I was most definitely not born with a green thumb, judging by my accidental assassination of countless houseplants. Nevertheless, I decided to strive for greatness anyway. To the tune of buying WAY too many seed packets at the Ocean State Job Lot, and probably putting myself in danger of writing the sequel to The $64 Tomato. But, I can certainly vouch for the effectiveness of Miracle Grow Moisture Control Potting Mix, that's for sure. Aside from the few little spearmint and catnip seedlings that I left unwatered for one too many days, the Moisture Control Potting Soil actually managed to keep me from being a "green widow" to my tomatoes, lettuce, and innumerable herbs. Yeah, I will tell you that the soil is a little pricey considering that you are buying dirt, but the stuff works wonders. And until I get my backyard composting groove on, the store-bought kind will do just fine.

Note: Sorry, the Miracle Grow mix is not shown above. I ran out, and apparently so did the local hardware store. That's how good it is!

I promise that one of these days, I will post pictures of my first little garden. My little baby seedlings have grown up so fast! And I dote on them like they were children. I may have pictures of them in my wallet by tomorrow...

Speaking of which...



http://seitanismymotor.com/2007/12/03/of-stir-fries-and-strange-vegetables/

3) Oyster plant seeds: I actually bought mail-order seeds for the first time ever this year. I never thought I'd be that serious about gardening in my life. And I had never even heard of the Salsify plant (or the related "Scorzonera Hispanica") before April. It sounds kind of made up doesn't it? The so-called "oyster plant" is essentially is a long fibrous root vegetable (like a carrot or a parsnip) that is white inside and black on the outside. (Fun fact:"Scorza" means "bark" in Italian, and "nera" means "black.") And, supposedly, the flesh of the plant tastes a bit like oysters. Since I'm a vegetarian, and have never eaten an oyster, I was totally intrigued. And, much like me, Salsify is huge in Belgium...(just kidding. I'm pretty sure Belgians are universally unaware of my existence...so far.....)

Sorry guys, I'll get back to the point...

Because food is pretty much the only reason I garden at all, and because I have an unstoppable urge to taste any and all fruit or vegetable forms on planet earth, I actually looked into buying seeds to grow my own oyster plants. I purchased them from CherryGal.com, and they just arrived yesterday! I was super excited. It was a phenomenally dorky moment. But anyway, according to my reading, these root veggies are supposed to stay in the ground until at least the first or second fall frost in order to develop their oystery flavor. So, while I plan to chronicle the Belgian root vegetable exchange program taking place in Rhode Island this summer, it may take me 6 months to know if it was a bad idea....

Anyway, I hope you guys have enjoyed my first substantial blog post here at the Worldly Vegetarian! If any of you have made unexpected and potentially odd purchases this year, please share them here! I look very forward to sharing food, fun, and recipes with you for a long time to come!

Intro

Hi everyone!

For a while now, I've wanted to write a blog about my experiences as a vegetarian (and a partial kinda sorta vegan). However, as a natural procrastinator, it has taken me months (read: "years") to actually write this first post.

But, as they say, there is no time like the present. I hope you enjoy my personal explorations into the vegan/vegetarian/attemptedly-healthy lifestyle. I'd love for all of you to join me through the good, the bad, and the not at all appetizing...

Well, happy June everyone, and here goes!