Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the Island of Stromboli

Any time I think of making stromboli, I end up singing Wilco/Billy Bragg lyrics to the song "Ingrid Bergman"... "Let's go make a picture. On the Island of Stromboli. Ingrid Bergman." (To give credit, I hear the song was written by Woody Guthrie, but never performed until Wilco/Billy B came along.)

Making stromboli is easy and forgiving like making pizza, but more fun because you get to braid dough. Aren't you glad you practiced braiding on all your Barbies years ago? Or were you the type who preferred to cut off all their hair as a budding Sinead O'Connor fan? The idea of making stromboli was inspired by a bag of TJ's whole wheat pizza dough and Amanda's Domestic, who altered a vegan ricotta recipe from Nonna's Italian Kitchen. She found the recipe here for Ricotta di Soya and added a lil' nooch, a lil' garlic salt, and some dried basil. Delish!

Here's what you do:

Start with one batch pizza dough, or one bag from TJ's... stretch into a large rectangle .

Lay some good tomato sauce down the middle, then spread some of the ricotta down the middle. Careful not to get the sauce too close to the edges, or it'll be harder to seal.

Top with your choice veggies/toppings. We've liked sauteing some onions, bell peppers, and garlic--and topping with artichokes and sliced olives.

Braid it up per this website (ignore the gross meat... I'll try to make my own tutorial soon.)

Brush with a little soy milk, and pop in a 400 degree oven until golden brown on top

Serve with some marinara on the side

**The ricotta could be optional

***You might want to do this either on a cookie sheet, since it's hard to transfer, or on some parchment paper which could be lifted onto a baking pan. You might also benefit from something to make it not stick, like oil or a generous amount of flour/cornmeal.

****This is really good leftover and cold after you've been up all night. Highly recommended.

My next project with stromboli is to attempt making little mini personal strombolis and having a stromboli party. I've shared this idea with my friends who I call my "play group" (Kimber and Melissa,) and I think they're down as long as we've got enough red wine to wash it down. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I ♥ Broccoli!

I was never the type of kid who didn't like vegetables. I loved spinach, green beans, salads, squash, peas. Sure, it took me a while to warm up to tomatoes and mushrooms, but no one's perfect. One of my favorite veggies has always been broccoli. When I was back in Gainesville, we had access to the most delicious, local, cheap broccoli at Ward's Supermarket. Even though there's no place in Baltimore quite as fabulous as Wards, broccoli-mania has continued post-vacation. I'm mainly eating lots of frozen organic brocs from Trader Joe's, since it's not really in season here. And let's be honest, frozen food can be easier, stays fresh, and therefor is more accessible and more likely to be eaten. 

Here are two recipes I whipped up today that both feature my good friend, Big B.

♥ Broccoli! Asian Slaw
Sometimes you just don't want all that Veganaise gooping up your coleslaw. Here's an alternative-- a little bit tangy, little bit sweet, little bit spicy, with a nutty undertone from the sesame oil and sunflower seeds. It'd be good with some chopped peanuts, and I could see using it inside a summer roll or lettuce wrap.

1 bag Trader Joe's broccoli slaw, or 12 ounces of any broccoli/carrot slaw mix
1 package ramen (oriental flavor is vegan)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

3 T. Rice vinegar
1 T. Agave nectar
4 T. Lemon or lime juice
1-2 T. tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1-2 T. Toasted Sesame oil
1 tsp. Sriracha
2 T. minced ginger

For the salad:
1. Warm a tablespoon of canola in a skillet on low-medium heat.
2. Place ramen noodles in a plastic bag, and pulverize the hell out them.
3. Add ramen bits and sunflower seeds to the skillet and toast them up a bit.
4. Let cool for a moment, then place slaw in a bowl and top with browned bits.

For the dressing:
Combine everything in a bowl or mug, and whisk. Adjust to taste. I made mine a tad spicy with the Sriracha.

Pour the dressing over the slaw and bits, toss together, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will combine. The acids will break down the slaw and make it a bit easier to digest, too.

♥ Broccoli! and Rice Cheesy Casserole
Whenever I make vegan mac-n-cheese with broccoli in it, I end up picking the cheesy broccoli bits out to munch on. They're my favorite part of the casserole. This is an attempt to feature broccoli in cheesy sauce, with some rice to hold it all together. The sauce is a variation of VegWeb's "Best Ever Vegan Mac and Cheese in the Entire World... seriously."

1.5 lbs frozen broccoli--thawed (bag and a half of TJ's organic) or two heads of broccoli , diced
1 cup brown rice
1 medium sized onion, diced
1 T. oil

3/4 block firm tofu
2.5 cups plain soymilk
half cup water
1.5 cups nutritional yeast
1/4 cup oil (canola, olive, your choice.)
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 T. paprika
1 T. good garlic salt
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

1.  Cook 1 cup of rice. I used a rice cooker.

2.  Warm 1 T. of oil in a skillet, then add diced onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent.

3. Very briefly steam the broccoli. Be careful to not overcook. Just cook until it's barely soft enough to be considered "cooked." Drain when done.

4. For the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender and give it a whirl until it's all smooth and creamy and delicious.

5.  In a casserole dish (roughly 9x13,) lay out the rice, then the broccoli, then those wonderful-smelling onions. Pour most of the sauce over the top (you might have a tiny bit leftover-- it's great on greens.)

6. Stir it up good, and sprinkle with some paprika if you fancy.

7. Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the top is browned. Let sit for 10 minutes or so before serving to let it "set."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cheeze and Chick*n

It's been a pretty gorgeous week here in Baltimore. Sure, it was hot as hell for a couple days, but now it's mellowed to a more tolerable warm, sunny, breezy spring. We've had the windows open and are basking in the pre-summer glory. Kitty is marking the season by shedding her winter coat all over the house. Thanks, Kitty.

The season makes me want to get my garden started. I found some self-watering pots at IKEA for dirt cheap. My mom sent me some seeds and gardening books, including a book specifically about gardening in self-watering containers. The plan for this year is to do most of the veggie gardening in front of the house. Mind you, I live in Baltimore city. In a rowhouse. Across the street from two pretty high traffic dining/drinking establishments. I'm hoping I can get away with the more public planting without anyone destroying my little planties. Last year's garden did well out back on the slab, but it just didn't get much sunlight. 

Last year's garden

We're hoping to grow some good veggies this year. I think I'll start with lettuce, swiss chard, and some herbs. Also, I'm genetically obligated to grow some tomatoes. My parents have a seed company that specializes in heirloom tomato seeds, which they started the year I was born. I used to hate tomatoes, but now I've seen the light. Kevin's still not a big tomato lover, but we're slowly winning him over. He likes tomato products, just not straight-up 'maters.

He requested grilled cheeze sandwiches and soup the other night. I'd splurged on some cheddar Daiya. Of course, grilled cheeze sandwiches have to be paired with tomato soup, so I made Vegan Yum Yum's Spicy Tomato Chickpea Soup. Super easy to make, and pureeing chickpeas along with the tomatoes makes it proteinaceous. (Like my new term?)

I whipped up some quick stuffed potatoes, which I topped with Daiya. The recipe was inspired by the Veganomicon samosa-stuffed potatoes that Annie made for us a while back. I wasn't crazy about these. Annie's were definitely better. These had mushed potato, broccoli, and tempeh for a "cheddar/broccoli/bacon" theme. Oh well.

Then we had even MORE fun with Daiya in some burritos. I made Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos from Donna Klein's Supermarket Vegan. Kevin ordered the book on a whim when placing a recent Amazon order. It's full of recipes that require only easily accessible, mainstream vegan ingredients. No Ener-g or Gardein or Teese. Good for when we don't feel like driving around the Inner Harbor to get to Whole Foods. 

Not a pretty shot. I slightly modified it to include fresh white sweet potatoes (instead of canned,) refried black beans from TJ's instead of mashed whole ones, and frozen corn for some texture. Please don't mind my bite marks. I was hungry!

And now for the grand finale... Let me tell you what Mr. Kitchen Kevin has been up to. He's been showing me up, making ridiculously yummy food and having friends over while I'm stuck at the hospital. (We knew I might be at the hospital, and I told him to proceed as planned regardless.) One thing we miss most is Indian food. It usually contains ghee, which is dairy. This is particularly crappy because we have an awesome Indian/Nepalese cafe just a couple blocks from us. It's owned by a very friendly man who's a folk music star in Nepal. He's, like, super famous there, but here in Locust Point he's just happy to make you some authentic Nepalese food. We need to get up the chutzpah to inquire about ghee-free preparation. 

Anyways, I digress. So, Kevin and I love love love tikka masala. He had the fancy pants idea that he could make it from scratch with Gardein. If you haven't tried Gardein, it's pretty awesome. It's almost identical chicken, and it's not full of processed crap. It's some gluten, some soy, and "ancient grains." He used this recipe to marinade the Gardein, then cook it up on skewers in our Broiler from Hell.



Gardein Tikka Masala

Our vegan buddies Annie and Wiley were going to bring me leftovers to the hospital since vegan food is scarce at good ol' AAMC, but luckily the tardy baby decided to finally make an appearance so that I could stumble home at an almost reasonable hour. Nearly 24 hours and two babies later, there's not much better than eating a really great meal, watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and crawling into bed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I had a dream that my south Baltimore neighborhood was collectively recognizing Passover (fat chance in hell in this Irish/Polish Catholic community.) Everyone was marking their doors but not with sheep's blood, as the original story goes. Instead, they were wrapping their door in the flag of their favorite soccer team. My flag was Finland. Random. Some Wikipedia research during waking hours reveals that Finland does not, in fact, have a very good soccer team. Oh well.

This dream came the evening after making Passover dinner for some neighbors and friends. I'm not dogmatic or ambitious enough to do a full seder, just a few dishes to mark the holiday. Before making vegan Passover, one has to make a decision about a controversial kosher subject: legumes. Are legumes kosher for Passover? My vegan-Jew guru, Isa Chandra Moskowitz--a true Brooklyn Jew--says they're A-OK. Other Jewish vegans of the internet claim their rabbis gave them special dispensation. Evidently the concern is that some grain may get gotten into your legumes when you weren't looking. In the age of 'gluten free' labeling and stricter standards, I'm not too worried about that. To compromise, I soaked and cooked my own legumes and bought tofu with a 'gluten-free' claim. Good enough for me.

Here's some of what I made:

Chickpea and Artichoke Salad, from Vegan Yum Yum

Sweet potato-apple-carrot kugel, from 
(oh Google, the things you find!)

My friend Kimber brought some bodacious dessert: matzoh with chocolate on one side and toffee on the other!! and fudgey-gooey brownies with walnuts!!! I think the matzoh recipe came from My Sweet Vegan, and it was absolutely out of this world! 

On the home front, we're at a stand-still. Counters still need to be put in. Odds and ends still need fixing, but at least the kitchen is operational! My next home project will be spring planting. I say 'spring' because it's April, but really it's pushing 90 degrees here in Baltimore. Funny; there are still piles of snow on the ground in some areas of town.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Long time no blog. I'm full of good excuses though! Kevin and I are back from our our road trip, which was awesome. We kept it simple: just a little drive down south with some stops along the way. Our time was mostly spent enjoying the gorgeous spring weather. On the south-bound journey we stayed at a truly unique and inspiring eco-village called The Hostel in the Forest. It's about a hundred miles south of Savannah. These kids got it goin' on: tree houses for sleeping, geodesic domes, composting toilets, cob ovens, a huge organic garden, fire circles, and lots of good vegan cooking. Check out their website (and their Flikr page to learn more.) 

From Georgia, we drove south into my old stomping grounds: Gainesville. Oh, 352, how I'd missed you! I hadn't paid a visit in a couple years, and a lot has changed. The best new development is a strong vegan culture. It's like restaurants are competing for the vegan market. A couple local tempeh makers (Jose and Artie) have worked hard to promote tempeh, and you can now find tons of vegan options and lots of tempeh on almost any menu in Gville. I can't tell you how well we ate while we were there. 

Satchels - great pizza, Teese available, killer salad, locally brewed beer

8th Ave Bike and Coffee House - vegan mini chocolate cakes!!

These are a few of my favorite things.

Favorite Gainesville places to eat vegan, old and new:
  • Satchels, duh.
  • Boca Fiesta - the tempeh burrito is awesome. Get it with vegan queso and a margarita!
  • Chopstix - best vegan pad thai, and they know what it means to not put fish sauce in your vegetarian food.
  • El Indio - good, cheap Mexican. Great quac.
  • Reggae Shack Cafe - Jamaican. Tofu. Seitan. Vegan plates/utensils separate from omni.
  • The Jones - vegan breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Homebrewed kombucha.
Our days mostly consisted of making cappuccinos in my brother's espresso machine with the amazine, frothable So Delicious coconut milk, rallying the troops on bikes, and riding around town to eat, drink, and be merry. I'd do it again sometime.

Now that we're back, Kitchen Kevin has been striking again. I've been slammed at work; delivered nine babies in the last 10 days or so. So Kev's been helping me out by doing a lot of the cooking. This is a pizza we made last night, inspired by Hawaiian pizza. We marinated some crumbled tempeh in tamari and liquid smoke to give it that salty-sweet, ham-reminiscent flavor, then broiled it with red onions in my awesome new Chambers broiler. It's like you've summoned the fire of hell to cook your dinner.

WW crust, roasted red peppers, tempeh, red onions, garlic, green and black olives, pineapple. Yum.

And these tofu "fish sticks," with Veganaise tartar sauce: