Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Burgers
Snow Day! Lots of time to just watch movies and drink hot chocolate, so I also made the black bean burger recipe from Veganomicon. They were pretty tasty although next time I'll definitely ensure to add the cilantro and maybe a bit of salt, and I was really craving guacamole to go with them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Conquering Eggplant - Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Stew

Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Stew
On a quiet, cold weekend, it is hard to imagine anything better than a hearty soup or stew. I was thumbing through Veganomicon, a cookbook I got for the holidays, and came across a recipe for Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Stew.

Ding ding ding! Since I had only recently written my culinary resolutions for 2011, it was too soon to forget my pledge to conquer eggplant this year. Or at least to give it a fair shot. This recipe sounded hearty and also not all eggplant, which seemed like a good idea.

First the recipe has you roast eggplant and peppers in the oven, saute some things on the stove, and then let them all simmer together. If anything (and can you even say this?) the recipe had too much flavor. The seasonings are terrific but roasting everything and adding the wine really brings out a lot of flavor. It is NOT for the timid! The recipe writers (who are the people responsible for Post Punk Kitchen, check them out) recommend eating it over polenta, but I just ate mine with couscous and that helped the problem, if you can call it that.

As far as the hero, the eggplant itself, well there were no complaints. It wasn't slimy, bitter, or a questionable texture despite the peel still remaining on it. I liked the taste of it roasted, and snacked on a few pieces before I added the rest to the pot.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cooking Resolutions 2011

Most new years resolutions are rubbish, but really a resolution is just a goal. There are a few goals I'd like to meet in my cooking experiments, and I've tried to make them as specific as possible.

1. Make homemade pasta
I have had a pasta maker for, oh, 8 years or so. I've never used it. It would be nice to commit to making ravioli, but I don't want to overwhelm myself completely. Let's really make it specific and say I'll make a homemade pasta with a homemade sauce, at least once in 2011.

2. Make seitan from scratch
Since I can't buy it at my local grocery store, and using seitan really mixes up the vegetarian meal options, I want to try making it from scratch. I have vital wheat gluten IN MY PANTRY and several recipes bookmarked, I just haven't done it. 2011 is the year!

3. Use the dehydrator
Funny how two of my resolutions are appliance related. I have a dehydrator that has never been used. I want to remedy that this year. My in-laws make these amazing sesame kale chips, or I could simply dry some fruit. Whatever, I need to get comfortable with it.

4,. Conquer eggplant
To be honest, neither Nathaniel or I are sure we actually like the stuff. The first cruise we went to feautured unripe eggplant and I'm not sure we ever recovered. I have a baked eggplant parmesan recipe that I found in a Weight Watchers cookbook that is pretty good (since it is baked it isn't as greasy), and I've definitely had pasta sauces and Thai dishes that include eggplant that I have liked. I even used to make a stuffed eggplant recipe on a fairly regular basis. I'm not sure how to make this one more specific, because I don't have any recipes in mind. If you have eggplant recipes you love, please pass them on!

5. Make cheese from scratch
I'll consider this accomplished if all I do is make homemade ricotta, which would go fairly well with #1, eh? I have made mascarpone from scratch, which worked great and is a good alternative to buying it, since it is often unavailable certain seasons plus it is freaking expensive. I would like to try making other cheese from scratch. Since we have such a good dairy locally, with organic milk (Happy Cow Creamery), I'd like to make a good whole-milk mozzarella from scratch too. I know it can be done!

Thanks for reading. I'll also be posting baking resolutions and gardening resolutions for 2011.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! - Vegan Hoppin' John

Vegan Hoppin' John
Now that I live in the south, I like to follow food traditions when possible. One is to have Hoppin' John on New Years Day, to ensure a year of good luck. The more research I did, the more I realized this was one of those dishes that everyone makes differently. Ham hock is also a key ingredient, one I was not planning to use (hopefully it isn't ham juice that gives you good luck in the new year, right?).

The Lee Brothers, who I trust whole-heartedly with all things food and southern, have an interesting article about the history and most basic recipe for Hoppin' John in the New York Times. There is a great traditional recipe in their cookbook which gave me some ideas about what to use. It was from them, actually, that I learned that black-eyed peas are just one variety of the southern field pea. I had fallen in love with field peas this past summer at various farmer's markets.

Some recipes, like Emeril Lagasse's, ask you to make a stew of sorts and serve it over rice. Many versions are more like a soup, like this one from Cajun Cooking. Still others make more of a rice pilaf dish, in fact that is how Hoppin' John is defined in the South Carolina Encyclopedia. I imagine it is a combination of regional cuisine and family traditions.

Since I'm not from the south, I had no traditions! And since I wasn't going to make it with meat, I pretty much decided I could make it any old way I wanted. The rice pilaf idea appealed to me, it sounded hearty and it is cold and rainy here today. I wanted to come up with ways to replace the smoky flavor of the ham, and came up with a few. I also added greens right to the dish. Sometimes collards are served alongside Hoppin' John, but in a pilaf, the gang's all in.

Vegan Hoppin' John
by Jenny Colvin

2 cups cooked black eyed peas
2 cups cooked long-grain rice (cook in vegetable stock for ultimate flavor)
1 (14 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes*
1 lb greens, chopped, quadruple washed, and dried**
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium or 1 large onion, peeled and diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

1. Cook black-eyed peas and rice ahead of time. ***

2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onions until starting to get transluscent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes, undrained.

3. Add greens, putting pot lid on for increments of 5 minutes, stirring in between, until greens are wilted and incorporated into everything else.

4. Stir in black-eyed peas and cover pot for another 5 minutes.

5. Stir in rice and season to taste.

* - You can use several fresh diced tomatoes if you like to stay away from canned foods, but fire-roasted will add a nice smoky and slightly spicy flavor.
** - I used mustard greens. They have a lot of flavor and cook much more quickly than collards. Collards would be more traditional.
*** - Sometimes you can find par-boiled black-eyed peas in the store in the south right before the new year, but you can use canned or start them the night before from the dried version. I could have also used my frozen field peas, but they weren't black-eyed, and who wants to tempt fate?