Friday, May 31, 2013

Vegan Cold Sesame Noodles

not to toot my own horn or anything,
but "best damn" doesn't even do it justice...
Cold Sesame Noodles
The Best Damn Creamy Tahini Sauce EVER.
One option (of many) for your cold sesame noodles:
top with sesame-lime roasted radishes,
sauteed greens, lime juice, sesame seeds and hemp seeds.

Medium-sized rice sticks.
I prefer these, but you can use almost any type of noodle.

In the winter I eat soup. Almost all day every day. When the seasons shift, I want noodles. Nothing but noodles. I love all manner of cold noodle dishes, but there is one that sits triumphantly atop the heap. One composition of noodle-y deliciousness that I could, without question, eat for every meal.  Cold sesame noodles. A perfectly versatile dish that can be dressed up or down, eaten as a side or a main, keeps incredibly well (hello picnic season) and is a snap to throw together. Below are a list of toppings and garnish suggestions, but you can use any vegetable/ protein combination that
strikes your fancy.

If you want to keep it simple, raw veggies are the way to go.
If you want to spend a bit more time, sauteed greens or
roasted root vegetables are a fantastic addition.
Then come the pickled things, all manner of herbs, fresh greens,
the possibilities are endless.
The aforementioned best damn tahini sauce ever.

Vegan Cold Sesame Noodles
Serves 6-8

1 lb rice or buckwheat noodles

Toppings suggestions:
Fried or baked tofu, sliced
Seasonal raw greens
Shredded or matchsticked carrots
Shredded Cabbage
Raw broccoli
Raw or roasted turnips
Raw or roasted radishes
sesame lime roasted radishes
Sauteed greens
Sliced mushrooms
soy pickled shiitake mushrooms

Sliced scallions
Extra lime
Fresh mint
Thai Basil
Sesame seeds
Hemp seeds

Creamy Tahini Sauce:
1/2c roasted tahini
2 Tbsp Tamari (gluten-free) or Soy Sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp light coconut milk
2 Tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp organic sugar or agave
2 tsp chili sauce (optional)

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions.
Once cooked, drain, rinse under cold water and set aside.
Prepare tahini sauce by combining all ingredients and whisking together until smooth.
Place noodles in a medium mixing bowl and drizzle tahini sauce over the top.
Toss to combine.
Portion noodles into individual bowls and serve with toppings and garnishes.
If making ahead of time, keep toppings separate until serving.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Strawberry-Rhubarb Ginger Compote

finally, the stars (or the seasons)  have aligned.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Ginger Compote
Compote filled jars, ready for the canning bath. 

Rhubarb, scrubbed, trimmed and chopped.

I love almost everything about living in New England. The weather (yes, even the winters), the politics, the Red Sox, but one thing I absolutely detest is the misalignment of rhubarb season and strawberry season. Rhubarb comes out strong and early and is dwindling by the time strawberries make their first appearance. That leaves precious little time to indulge in the combination of the two. Well, this year I wasn't going to stand for it. This year I kind of cheated. A fortuitous road trip down south resulted in my returning home with a car-full of strawberries (not a bad way to travel) and visions of preserves dancing in my head.
And it's rhubarb season here in the northeast!

Compote ingredients: sliced strawberries, minced ginger,
chopped rhubarb organic sugar, lime juice and white wine.
So what are we waiting for?
Let's get canning, shall we?

Strawberry Rhubarb Ginger Compote

You will need 3 half pint (8 oz) canning jars
6 quarter pint (4 oz) canning jars
with bands and lids

1 lb (about 3 1/2- 4cups) strawberries, 
washed, hulled and halved
1 1/2c thinly sliced rhubarb
2 Tbsp finely minced ginger
1/2 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp sweet white wine
1/4 c organic sugar

A couple of notes:
*This recipe will make about a pint and a half of compote. Canning is the best way to preserve the compote for an extended period of time, but it can also be made and stored in the refrigerator for about a week. 
*The texture of the finished compote will be a bit on the runny side, more the texture of applesauce than jam; it can be spooned over fresh fruit, baked goods or ice cream and even stirred into a breakfast porridge. 

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan
and bring to a gentle boil. 
Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit releases its juices
and the rhubarb breaks down, approximately 10-12 minutes.
The compote should have a texture similar to applesauce when done. 

Meanwhile, sterilize and prepare canning jars, lids and bands. 

Ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4" of headspace. 
Wipe rims, center lids and tighten bands on jars. 

Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 
Remove jars from water and place on a rack to cool. 
Check to make sure jars are sealed after 24 hours. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vegan Sticky Buns

the unicorn of the vegan breakfast world?
Homemade Vegan Sticky Buns
magic is everywhere.

If pancakes, waffles and french toast are the ultimate vegan breakfast trifecta,
sticky buns are something above and beyond-- a dream you never dared to dream.
Like Bigfoot. Or a unicorn.
Well, call me the dream maker because I'm here to tell you that they do indeed exist.
The sticky buns, that is.
Not so sure about the other two...
But keep believin', folks. 
Keep on believin'.

Vegan sticky buns. 
(makes 9 medium buns)

For the dough:
3 1/2c all purpose flour
1 1/4c warm water
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2tsp sea salt
1/3c  + 1 tsp organic sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil

extra oil for greasing the bowl

For the sticky bun filling:
1/4c vegan butter or coconut oil, at room temperature
1/3c packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4c raw walnut pieces (optional)

extra butter or coconut oil for greasing the baking dish

Friday, May 17, 2013

Homemade Vegan Pho

behold the curative powers of...
Homemade Pho

Pho broth, noodles and fried tofu with chopped chard and stems,
Thai basil leaves, sliced lime and sriracha.

Now, I'm no fancy-pants doctor, but in my book pho possesses truly remarkable healing powers. At the first sign of a cold, a big ol' bowl of pho is my go-to. There is something cleansing about sitting before a steaming bowl of aromatic soup, slurping up noodles with reckless abandon. By extension, these healing powers apply to allergy season as well. Believe me, I've been my own test subject many times this spring. And when you're not fighting off sickness, and just plain old hungry, pho will nourish you, body and soul.

This broth is prepared rather traditionally, but you don't have to think entirely within the box when it comes to toppings. The classic route is a bit of protein (tofu or seitan) with vegetables, sprouts, herbs and lime. I like to add some seasonal greens into the mix, currently arugula (adds a nice peppery touch to the broth) and chard, stems and all, for a little pop of color. Add the greens to a platter with your other garnishes and toss them in the soup at the last minute. They will wilt nicely in the broth while still keeping their color. Another favorite pho addition are these soy pickled shiitakes, the sweet/tart flavors of the pickled mushrooms really amps up the soup's flavor. The broth also freezes perfectly, so go ahead and make the full batch, freeze it in small containers and pull some out when you have a craving. Just reheat on the stove, add some noodles and garnish and there you have it:
(almost) instant pho gratification!

Gathering spices for dry roasting. Star anise, coriander, cloves
and cinnamon sticks.

Vegan Pho (serves 6-8)

3 quarts (12 cups) of water
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
4 shallots, peeled
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and halved
Knob of fresh ginger (about 3"), peeled and halved
4 large carrots, peeled and each cut into thirds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp coriander seeds
5 star anise pods
4 whole cloves
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 stalk of lemongrass*
2 tsp raw sugar
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
salt to taste

*to prepare the lemongrass
Remove the upper green stem from the lower yellow stalk and bulb.
Use the side of your knife to slightly smash the bulb, then cut it into three pieces.
This will help the lemongrass release its full flavor.
Toss both the lower bulb and the upper green stem into the stock.

noodles/ toppings/ garnish suggestions for the soup:

you will need about 1/4 lb of rice noodles per serving, any thickness,
round or flat will work
fried or baked tofu and/or seitan
mushrooms, pickled or raw.
greens, chopped or shredded, such as arugula, mustard greens,
chard (stems included), kale etc.
other vegetables such as bok choy, nappa cabbage, carrots, broccoli
Thai basil and/or mint
thinly sliced onion or scallion
fresh bean sprouts
limes, cut into wedges and served with the dish

hoisin sauce and/or sriracha

for the broth:
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.
Add onion, shallots, garlic, ginger, carrots, cinnamon sticks, star anise, coriander,
cloves and peppercorns.
Dry roast, stirring ocassionally, until vegetables get a nice char
and the mix becomes aromatic.
Add water, soy sauce, sugar and lemongrass and salt.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Once cooking time is up, taste and adjust salt/sugar to your prefrence.
Pour broth through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth strainer
 into a large clean pot to remove all solids.

to prepare noodles:
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.
 Allow to sit for 20 minutes or until tender.
Drain and add to individual bowls, then cover with broth.
Or, if you find that soaking is not softening the noodles enough,
cook them quickly in a pot of boiling water.
Drain, then rinse well with cold water to prevent them from sticking together
before adding to your soup bowls.

to serve:
Once noodles have been placed in the bowls and covered with broth,
top off the pho with tofu or seitan and garnish with the vegetables of your choosing.

Serve with garnishes (herbs, sprouts, greens, sliced limes) and sauces on the side.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sesame-Lime Roasted Radishes

radishmania continues...
Sesame-Lime Oven Roasted Radishes

Local French Breakfast and Champion radishes, soon to be roasted. 
Scrubbed, trimmed, halved and tossed in sesame oil and lime juice. 
As you can see, I've gone kind of radish crazy this year. Spring radishes have always been a  "heavy rotation" ingredient around here, but this year is different. This year I discovered something new. Something that has me, once again, chock-full of retroactive food-based regret. Over not discovering this incredibly simple dish earlier. Over being so mortifyingly late to the party. Roasted radishes. Such a simple concept, how could I have missed it???

Raw or pickled radishes are a fantastic addition to Asian flavored dishes (noodle salads, slaws), so why not give these little roots an eastern-style kick
while roasting?

Any type of  spring radishes will work for this recipe. I've used a combination of French Breakfast, which have a milder flavor, and Champion, more traditionally peppery. Their flavor will mellow a bit during the cooking process,
allowing the lime juice and sesame oil flavors to shine through.

Garnish the finished radishes with raw or toasted sesame seeds, a drizzle or seasoned rice vinegar or a bit of extra lime juice.  They can then be eaten on their own, tossed into cold noodle salad, served as a side with a larger Asian meal...
So many possibilities!

Sesame-Lime Roasted Radishes

2 bunches of medium sized radishes (about 20)
1 1/2tbsp sesame oil
1/2 lime, juiced
sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Separate the greens from the radishes and set aside.
They can be cooked as an accompaniment, or made into pesto!
Scrub and rinse then radishes, then cut each in half lengthwise.
Place them in medium mixing bowl and add sesame oil, lime juice.
Sprinkle with salt and toss to combine.
Spread radishes out on a large baking sheet or glass baking dish.
Roast for 16-20 minutes, turing once or twice during cooking.
The radishes should be browned and slightly crisp at the edges and
tender in the center when done.

Add extra salt or lime juice to taste. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Vegan Soft Pretzels

better than the ballpark.
plus you can yell at the TV...
Make Your Own Soft Pretzels.
Where's the mustard??

Every spring, when the weather subtly shifts from just plain cold to cold with a *hint* of warmth, its like a switch is flipped. Suddenly, more than anything, I wish I were at Fenway. Sitting in the cheap seats, yelling at the umpires (or the Sox, if its an off night) with a beer in one hand, a scorecard in the other and a soft pretzel in my lap. When I can't get to the ballpark, I do the next best thing. Put the game on the TV, sit on the couch, yell at the screen more often than I'd care to admit, drink much cheaper beer and have a plate of homemade soft pretzels close by. These are those pretzels. Buttery soft, a little sweet, a little salty and perfect paired with yellow mustard.

Vegan Soft Pretzels Recipe:
(makes about 16 pretzels)
You will need:
 A stand mixer fitted with a dough hook
or quite a bit of elbow grease.
A large bowl for dough rising (you can also reuse the mixer bowl for this step)
Baking sheets
Pastry brush

Fully risen pretzel dough.

Part One:
3 1/2c all purpose flour
1 1/4c warm water
1Tbsp active dry yeast
1/3c + 1tsp organic sugar
1Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2tsp ground sea salt
extra olive oil for rising bowl
Part Two:
2c warm water
1/4c baking soda
1/4c melted vegan butter
Coarse sea salt for topping
Recipe notes:
There are two different ways to finish off the raw pretzels before baking. My preferred method is to do both the baking soda dip and brush with butter before sprinkling with salt. The baking soda dip will give them a nice golden brown hue and the butter will keep them extra soft.

You can also forgo the butter and just do the baking soda dip and sprinkle with salt.
This will give the pretzels a more "traditional" golden brown look
and a slightly harder exterior.

I wind up with 16 pretzels from this recipe almost without fail, 
but you can easily make the pretzels larger or smaller to your preference.

To make the dough by hand, without a stand mixer, first proof the yeast as instructed.
Once yeast is frothy add in all other ingredients,
Stir well with a wooden spoon until dough is roughly incorporated,
then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Knead dough for 10 to 15 minutes until smooth, elastic and well incorporated.
Dough should not stick to your hands or the work surface when finished.
Form into a rough ball and place in a well oiled bowl to rise.
Formed pretzels baking soda dipped and ready for butter and salt.

Part One:
Measure 1 1/4c warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Sprinkle in the yeast and 1tsp of the organic sugar and whisk to combine.
Allow yeast mixture to proof for 10 minutes or until frothy.
Once yeast mixture has proofed, add flour, remaining 1/3c of sugar, sea salt and
olive oil to the bowl.
Mix at low to medium low speed for approximately 8-10 minutes.
You may need to stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the dough off of the hook
or the sides of the bowl.
You want a smooth, elastic, well incorporated dough that pulls away easily from the bowl and does not stick to your hands.
If the dough seems too dry, add extra water a few drops at a time.
If too wet add a small pinch of flour at a time.
Once dough is mixed, roughly form it into a ball and
place in a large well oiled bowl.
The dough will roughly double in size, so be sure your bowl is large enough.
Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm dry place,
inside of an unheated oven with the light on works perfectly.
Allow to rise for 1 hour.

Ready for the oven.

Part Two:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease baking sheets or line with silpats.

Prepare baking soda dip by mixing 1/4c baking soda and 2c warm water in a medium bowl, stir to combine.
Melt 1/4c vegan butter in a microwave safe bowl.

Once risen, turn dough out onto a well floured surface and roughly form into a rectangle.
Use a dough scraper or a sharp knife to divide it into 16 equal sized pieces by first cutting the rectangle in half lengthwise, then making eight slices across the two pieces.

This will give you 16 small rectangular dough pieces.
Roll each piece into a long "snake" shape (about 12") and twist into pretzel forms.
Dip each formed pretzel into the baking soda mix, shake off the excess liquid and
place on prepared baking sheets.
You may need to give the baking soda mix a stir from time to time, as it can separate.

Once you have dipped all of the pretzels sprinkle each one with a generous
pinch of coarse salt
if using the vegan butter (recommended)
brush each pretzel with butter then top with the salt.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Vegan Radish Greens Pesto

Leaf to root. 
Save those tops for..
Radish Greens Pesto
The finished product. 

Local english breakfast radishes (soon to be eaten)
 and their gorgeous tops (soon to be pesto). 
I don't generally buy into the asparagus mania that local foodies and gardeners get swept up in at the beginning of each growing season. I reserve my early spring vegetable excitement for the oh-so-humble radish. I adore radishes in all forms, but it is the often-overlooked peppery radish greens that have me marking off the days on the calendar, counting down to spring. I'm calling this a "leaf to root" kind of recipe; foodie frugality at its finest. Shop for radishes as you normally would at the farmers market or grocery store, but make sure the tops are attached. The quality of the leaves will reveal the radishes' overall freshness, so make sure they are bright and crisp. 

Now, there's no denying that radish greens have an abundance of delicious culinary applications (soups, stir frys, salads, dolmades and the list goes on...) but my hands-down favorite use for them is pesto. Prepared exactly as you would a traditional basil based pesto, the finished product has a lightly peppery flavor and is perfect in traditional dishes as well as more spring-y recipes such as veggie heavy pasta or grain salads. Slather some on a big slice of toasted sourdough and top off with fresh cut radishes and I absolutely guarantee that you won't be disappointed. 

Well washed radish tops, pine nuts and sea salt.

Recipe notes: 
I prefer pine nuts, but you can use walnuts in their place or a combination of the two.
The nutritional yeast is optional, but recommended as it gives the pesto a
more traditional cheese-y flavor.

Vegan Radish Greens Pesto Recipe:

2 cups of  well washed packed radish greens 
(about 2 small bunches worth)
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional but recommended)
1tsp lemon juice

Place the washed radish tops, pine nuts or walnuts, garlic, salt, lemon juice and nutritional yeast in the bowl of a food processor or blender. 
Process until the greens have broken down (about a minute). 
Drizzle in the olive oil and continue to blend until mixture is well incorporated. 
Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid. 
The pesto will keep refrigerated for about a week. 
Pouring a thin layer of olive oil over the surface will help it keep for a bit longer. 
Pesto also freezes spectacularly well,  so why not stock up for the winter??

This won't last long...