Vegan MoFo

Vegan MoFo Day 25: Preserved Lemon & Friends

I want to start this post by mentioning something I did not make but wanted to: tempeh. Years ago, we saw a demonstration by someone who had created a complicated system for homemade tempeh; it involved fish tank equipment, among other things I didn’t want to buy, and at least two dozen PowerPoint slides of instruction. Then I watched the East Meets Kitchen’s video in which she made mung bean tempeh wrapped in banana leaves. It looked doable. Also, despite my general distaste for actual bananas, I love things cooked in banana leaves, so, like many of her videos, I got hungry just thinking about it. Anyway. Maybe another time.

A much more achievable “international food product” with my current energy level is preserved lemon. So I made that last month–it needs to ferment and chill for a couple weeks before using, after all.

Above: Lemons, salt, jar. Woo.

Preserved lemon is an ingredient in some tagine recipes, so I figured I’d attempt one of those. I’d made vegetable stews that were Moroccan-“inspired” before, but not necessarily with much knowledge of those cooking techniques. So I read up a little and modified (veganized) one of the recipes I found.

Above: Veggies, aromatics, and chickpeas, layered and stacked neatly in my Dutch oven.

A key difference from how I’d cooked this *handwave* general-ish type of food before is that ingredients are purposefully and carefully stacked and arranged inside the cooking vessel, then simply simmered until cooked to desired doneness. That is, instead of sauteeing and adding ingredients over a cook, it all goes in the pot. Making a little mound of chickpeas and layering slabs of zucchini and bell pepper was a nice, pretty bonus.

Above: Preserved lemon.

The preserved lemon was also nice and tender and tangy. I’ve got a whole jar of ’em, now, too, so I’ll need to continue to experiment…

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#VeganMoFo Day 22: Wheat Berries, It Turns Out, Are A Little Tricky

For today’s “unconventional” grains prompt, I wanted to make a freekeh salad from Vegan for Everybody, but freekeh was no longer available in my local Whole Foods’ bulk section. So I picked up some wheat berries instead.

The last time I attempted to experiment with this grain, they turned out very dry and firm and just generally not tasty. But America’s Test Kitchen has a good track record of explaining how to make this kind of thing right, so I followed their advice and made the wheat berry salad with spinach and oranges (+ red onion, chickpeas, mint, and a zesty sherry vinaigrette). It turns out the secret has something to do with precisely how well-salted the cooking water is: they say it’s 1½ teaspoons of salt, no more, no less, to a full 4-quart kettle of water.

Though the resulting grain is not soft enough to substitute the usual rice and quinoa, it was tender and chewy enough to make up the base of a tasty entree-type salad. And while the recipe didn’t suggest doing so, I opted to combine the dressing, spinach, and wheat berries (which I’d made ahead and refrigerated) in a warm metal bowl over boiling water to heat these components and–most importantly–gently wilt the spinach.

It’s a simple recipe and, once you’ve cooked the grains, it comes together in a snap. Chalk it up to another win for that cookbook.

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#VeganMoFo Day 19: My Boyfriend Thought Five Ingredients, Max, Was A Really Tough Challenge, Pfffft

OK, it is though.

I went through a few ideas before landing on this one: baked sweet potato with a sheetpan bake consisting of brussels sprouts, red onions, and chickpeas, plus balsamic added to the permissible oil-salt-pepper seasoning.

Ooooh, what I wouldn’t have given for ONE MORE ingredient spot so I could use friggin’ garlic. BUT NO, I DID NOT CHEAT.

Mmmm. Easy, and not a bad result.

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#VeganMoFo Day 7: No Fake Anything

For my money, no international cuisine embodies today’s theme of “original vegan” like Indian food. Sure, they’re more likely to cook with dairy, but vegetable oils are common and inexpensive and lentils, beans, rice, and other grains are critical components to dishes throughout the region.

At the farmers’ market this week, I picked up a few veggies that really lend themselves to Indian-inspired preparations: cauliflower and mustard greens. I’ve also had my eye on a recipe for fancy-looking roasted cauliflower and spiced rice dish with pomegranate seeds (also seasonal!) from Vegan for Everybody – and it was easy enough to find a simple palak recipe (pureed greens sauce) that would pair well with chickpeas, thanks to Vegan Richa’s website.

I have GOT to improve my plating skills, ‘cause this is a unicorn rainbow of deliciousness and I made it look a little meh. OH WELL.

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Roasted cauliflower coconut curry soup with chickpea-kale dry fry

This was pretty tasty, and I didn’t use any particular recipes. First, I tossed a bunch of cauliflower florets and rough-chopped onion with olive oil, pinch of salt, mustard seeds, and curry powder and roasted it at 400 F until everything looked browned and cooked well through (maybe 30 minutes?). Then I took out a few smaller florets and set them aside (for garnish/texture later) before dumping everything into the Vitamix with a can of lite coconut milk, some leftover vegetable broth (maybe ½ cup), a little tomato puree (again, not measured, but maybe 1/3 cup), and a healthy chunk of chopped fresh ginger. I put this back on the stove to simmer (with a little extra water, a little lump of coconut oil, and another pinch of salt), and seasoned with lemon juice just after turning off the heat later.

For the chickpea fry, I pan-fried the bulbous part of a small red spring onion, sliced thinly, with some mustard seeds and red pepper flakes, then added a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed) with about a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, and let it cook in the pan for a few minutes before adding a dash of tomato puree to coat. I let this cook down for a while before adding a handful of baby kale to the pan and covering to let the tender leaves wilt. After they did, I mixed them with tongs and added a splash of lemon juice.

I ladled the soup into the bowl first, then some of the chickpeas and kale, then a couple cauliflower florets and fresh spring onion greens. Yum.

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Quick chickpea-spinach curry and roti

Confession: although I have at least five different Indian cookbooks, I made this Indian-inspired recipe from Bon Appetit magazine. Well, with a couple minor adjustments – I added hot sauce and lime juice at the end. It’s not very authentic (whatever that means, really), but it is quick and flavorful.

The roti are a basic recipe, but the more I make them, the better they get. These rolled out super thin and wide, but puffed and blistered perfectly during cooking to give them a nice flaky texture that was soft enough to use for scooping. I also threw a handful of chives in the dough, just because they were handy.

All in all, a satisfying, quick (other than griddling the flatbread) Friday night dinner.

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Anatomy of a vegan pizza

1 part whole wheat pizza dough

1 part roasted cauliflower pesto spread*

1 part pan-roasted chickpeas**

1 part chopped wilted spinach

4 asparagus spears, cut into 1″ pieces

sprinkling of hemp seeds and nutritional yeast

Bake for 15 minutes at 475 degrees F.

* Roasted cauliflower pesto spread: Rough chop about two cups of cauliflower florets (I had five little ones) and toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (toaster oven is perfect for this). Pour into a Vitamix with garlic (used the bulb from a stalk of green garlic), handful of torn basil leaves, some nutritional yeast, a few splashes of white wine vinegar, and water to get things moving and blend until bright green and creamy.

** Pan-roasted chickpeas: Minced green garlic stalk, diced tomato, and a little bit of red pepper flakes get cozy in a shallow pool of olive oil in a saute pan until the tomatoes start to disintegrate. Then dump in a can of chickpeas (drained, of course) and stir to coat. Try to get the chickpeas to toast a bit. Eventually add a splash of vinegar and some nutritional yeast, stir again, and spread out over pesto-covered pizza dough.