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Archive for the ‘New Ingredients’ Category

Chinese 5-Spice Tofu and Broccoli

Have you had it up to here with boring stir-fry? Give this one a whirl!

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Chinese 5-Spice Tofu and Broccoli

I’ve been vegetarian for six years, and my favorite dishes have changed and expanded ever since. But like a loyal friend, tofu and broccoli has always been there for me. It’s reliable, it’s easy to make, and it makes it seem like I put way more effort into lunch or dinner than I actually did. What’s not to love?

Well, one thing that could lessen the love is a lack of variety. I like making tofu and broccoli because it’s fast and dependable, but even fast and dependable can be made better with a little sprucing up. Enter Chinese 5-Spice. Chinese 5-Spice is a blend of black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, and cloves – it’s warm, it smells great, and best of all, it’s pretty cheap!

What follows is not only my secret for the easiest vegan meal you’ll ever make that doesn’t come from a can, but also a method to jazz it up with a very flavorful seasoning.

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Tofu: "Please, make me pretty!"

To start, take about a quarter of a block of tofu and cut into bite-size pieces. Sometimes I cut the tofu into cubes for faster cooking and easier stirring; but in this dish, you’ll want relatively-larger pieces for easy frying. You can pat your tofu somewhat dry if you like, but don’t drain it or make it bone-dry – you’ll want some moisture to help the spice mixture stick! No eggs or oil required.

Heat a blend of olive and sesame oils in a skillet on medium. Meanwhile, put about 1-2 tsp of Chinese 5-Spice into a small bowl with a flat bottom (you can also use a small plate, just be careful to not send the spices flying everywhere as you dredge). When the skillet is hot enough, dredge each piece of tofu in the spice blend to coat evenly. The moisture from the tofu will make the spice blend cling to it and form a nice coat.

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Once each piece is coated, add it to the skillet and start frying!

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Allow the tofu to cook on one side for up to 5 minutes, then flip. Scoot all of the pieces to one side of the pan, then add your broccoli. Adding the broccoli at this step as opposed to earlier allows it to cook through without getting soggy or burnt – it’ll be just perfect!

You may also have some extra spice left in your bowl (as I often do). Instead of cursing at your wasted spice, take what’s left and sprinkle it over the broccoli! Stir the broccoli so it gets coated in both oil and spice; if the broccoli seems dry, spray with some cooking oil. Do not add water or excess oil, as this will make the spices fall off off your food and into the skillet; we’re not eating the skillet for lunch so it shouldn’t get all of the seasoning! Once the remaining 5-Spice has been added, sprinkle both the tofu and broccoli with some sea salt to bring out the flavor further (avoid soy sauce as this will also wash off your spices).

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Yummy

Allow the tofu and broccoli to cook for about 5 minutes more, then turn off your heat and serve! I like eating this over a bed of quinoa for extra protein, but you can substitute your grain of choice – or use no grain at all! Happy eating!

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Eggplant and Green Bean Stir-Fry with Soba Noodles

Nothing like a good stir-fry loaded with veggies!

Eggplant and Green Bean Stir-Fry with Soba Noodles

I often extol the virtues of a stir-fry; and while my go-to for a long time has been a simple Tofu and Broccoli stir-fry, I’ve been trying to expand the list of ingredients I fry up in the skillet. Eggplants fit this bill perfectly, especially since eggplant in general is not a food I tend to eat. I’ve only recently begun buying eggplant on my own free will to prepare in dishes, and when I found some adorable miniature eggplant at the farmer’s market last week, I decided that a stir-fry was just the ticket.

Itsy bitsy teeny weeny purple stemmy eggplants!

To start, I cut up two miniature eggplants into coins. Do this first if you’ll be ready to add them to the skillet within five minutes; otherwise they’ll start turning brown from oxidation. This doesn’t hurt them, it just makes them look a little less appealing. Anyhoo, I then diced up the whites of two spring onions, setting aside the stems for later to add as a garnish; and two cloves of garlic. I heated up my go-to blend of olive and toasted sesame oils on medium, then sauteed the onions and garlic for about one minute before adding the eggplant.

After letting the eggplant cook a bit, I added Braggs liquid aminos, mirin, and rice vinegar to really give this somewhat neutral vegetable a punch of flavor. I then allowed the eggplant to cook for awhile before adding additional ingredients – eggplants are very moist, and need more time than sturdier veggies to heat through and really soak up the flavor! After a few minutes I added the green beans, stirring to get them coated. I wasn’t particularly concerned with getting the seasonings cooked into the green beans because I think they have a swell-enough flavor on their own; they just needed to heat through a bit. Up next, I added a couple large dashes of cayenne to spice it up, then topped off the stir-fry with my not-so-secret but all-too-important ingredient: nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast adds some amazing flavor as well as texture to a stir-fry, especially one with soft ingredients like eggplant. Give it a try!

While the veggies finished up and the soba noodles finished boiling (you can prepare your noodles while stir-frying everything up), I chopped my spring onion stems into small circles to add as a garnish. To make the meal, I spooned out some soba noodles, topped them with my sauteed vegetables, and garnished with the spring onion stems and sesame seeds. This meal is great for a relatively fast, hot lunch that satisfies; and it features seasonal ingredients front and center. Enjoy!

Eggplant and Green Bean Stir-Fry with Soba Noodles (Serves 1)

Prepared soba noodles, hot

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 spring onions, white parts chopped, green leafy stems set aside

2 miniature eggplants, cut into coins (or 1 cup eggplant chunks)

1 TB Bragg’s liquid aminos, or soy sauce

1 tsp mirin

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 cup green beans, chopped into matchstick pieces

Cayenne, to taste

2 TB nutritional yeast

Sesame seeds

If your soba noodles are not yet prepared, boil them while you cook your vegetables.

Heat oils on medium in a skillet. Add the onions and garlic and saute for about a minute. Add the eggplant, stirring to coat with oil and mix with the onions and garlic. Add the Braggs, mirin, and rice vinegar. Cook for a few minutes, allowing the eggplant to brown. Add the green beans, mixing well. Add the cayenne and mix, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast and toss. Cook for up to a minute more. While the vegetables finish cooking, chop the spring onion stems into small pieces.

Spoon vegetables over soba noodles. Garnish with spring onion stems and sesame seeds. Serve hot.

Welcome Back, Farmer’s Market!

Spring is almost over, and summer’s just around the corner. And in these parts, that means that the Farmer’s Market is back! *throws confetti*

Well, truth be told, the farmer’s market that I frequent is technically open year-round; but they spend the winter selling breads, cakes, tea, and pickles. While yummy, this doesn’t exactly constitute a well-balanced diet. So once the ground thaws and the plants start growing, I’m back at the Farmer’s Market faster than you can say “sweet potato.”

While sweet potatoes were not to be found at the market this week, I did find an amazing bounty. Anyone concerned that Farmer’s Markets won’t have everything you need produce-wise, look around. Today alone I purchased cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, spring onions, zucchini, yellow zucchini, kale, and miniature cucumbers. The market also had carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, yellow onions, basil … you get my drift. It’s well-stocked.

Not only are these markets well-stocked, but the produce is fresh and looks amazing! For instance, I found a head of cauliflower that was bigger than my own noggin. Check it out:

Attack of the 50 Ft Cauliflower!

Speaking of colossal, check out these spring onions. I’m just gonna laugh at the ones they keep in the store now, shipped in all the way from California. Hey CA, keep your minis – VA’s got the big guns!

What I’m most intrigued by, though, are the yellow zucchini. I’ve never had this variety of zucchini before, and while I have an iffy relationship with summer squashes (they sometimes make me nauseous), I couldn’t resist their pretty yellow color and the following description: “buttery taste.” I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes with these guys, and of course sharing my results!

Don't confuse yellow zucchini with yellow squash!

In short, my first 2011 foray to the Farmer’s Market was a success, and I look forward to getting local produce again through Autumn. To fresh and local eating!

Golden Pizza Hummus (aka, Marvin Gets a Haircut)

Who wants hummus?!

Golden Pizza Hummus

Lately I’ve been expanding my list of “Things I’ll Never Buy Pre-Made Again.” Seitan is on that list, and so is hummus. Really, it’s so much cheaper to make hummus at home, especially if a) you use dried chickpeas, and b) you find a recipe without tahini (though using canned beans and/or tahini barely raises the cost). The main upside is that homemade hummus recipes make SO MUCH! It costs maybe $2 to make a batch of about a cup or two at home, while a $3 container of hummus at the store is maybe half a cup. Rip-off! I’ll take mine homemade, please.

My personal preference is to use dried chickpeas, because it’s even cheaper this way, and it does make the flavor a bit better. Canned beans will do in a time crunch; however, I find that preparing the chickpeas from scratch isn’t too time-consuming, especially since they’re largely unattended and you can make them while doing other things. Multi-tasking!

I personally find dried garbanzos adorable. Look how cute and tiny they are!

If making dry beans, you must soak them! Fortunately this is the easiest step – measure out a cup of dry chickpeas, put in a bowl, cover with water, cover the bowl, and stick in the fridge for at least eight hours. You can do this overnight, or while you’re at work so you can make them at night. The latter is my preference since I can simmer the beans while I surf the web, then store them in the fridge for later use.

The Incredible Growing Garbanzos - just add water!

Onward to cooking! I use Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Veganomicon as a reference for cooking beans. They recommend adding three cups of water per one cup of beans, and recommend 90 minutes of simmering time for garbanzos in particular. I usually add seven cups of water when cooking one cup of dry beans (better too much than too little), and only need to simmer them for 60 minutes. Per Moscowitz and Romero, you can also add a teaspoon of sea salt to the beans 20 minutes before they’re done. To cook, bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, opening the lid partially to allow steam to escape.

Before cooking the beans, I recommend saving the soaking liquid after you drain them. Some of the garbanzo goodness is now in the liquid and you can use it in recipes, particularly ones that ask for chickpea liquid reserved from canned beans. I keep my soaking liquid in a glass tea bottle in the fridge.

Now, let’s make some hummus! I used the hummus recipe found in Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s Appetite for Reduction, a must-have for anyone looking to cook more with whole foods! It’s probably the cheapest homemade recipe since it calls for minimal olive oil and no tahini, two of the priciest ingredients in hummus. The recipe calls for one 15-oz can of chickpeas and three TB of reserved chickpea liquid – I used two cups of cooked chickpeas, plus 3 TB of reserved soaking liquid as subs.

But what makes it Golden Pizza Hummus? Basil and Yellow Sun-Dried Tomatoes!

Yummy.

I first discovered hummus with basil and sun-dried tomatoes at Whole Foods, when I bought the variety on a whim and subsequently became addicted. It really does taste like pizza! And fortunately for me, Appetite for Reduction has a variation which calls for these additions, having you add 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 1 cup fresh basil leaves. Marvin got a hair cut for the basil, and I used the yellow sun-dried tomatoes from Eataly, which gave the hummus a nice golden tint (hence the title Golden Pizza Hummus).

The recipe is very simple in that it’s just chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpea liquid, salt, and paprika. I also added a dash of cayenne and some cumin to up the flavor a bit. The basil is added at the end and pulsed in finely. The result? Hummus that’s easy, pretty, and tasty!

Just a quick note if you’re new to making hummus – it’s never going to taste very good straight out of the food processor. It needs to chill and have a chance to let the flavors meld before it really sings. So don’t be disappointed if you try some right away and it’s not quite up-to-par!

Winter Blend Saute with Ginger-Infused Olive Oil

Today’s magic ingredient – olive oil infused with ginger!

Ooh, ahh ...

In addition to yellow sun-dried tomatoes, I found this enticing little bottle at Eataly tucked within more varieties of olive oil than you can shake a stick at. It’s what the title claims – extra virgin olive oil infused with ginger oil. Simple, but intriguing enough for me to buy for future experiments. I’m dreaming of the pasta dishes, hummus spreads, and dipping plates I can make with this, but for now, I used it for a simple saute.

Sauteing is probably my favorite way to prepare veggies. I don’t like boiling them or roasting because I feel like this kills them too much, and aside from depleting the nutrients, taking away their vitality, blah blah blah, they just taste bad when you overcook them. I’ll only accept mushy vegetables if they’re called potatoes and they’ve been mashed (coming soon: perfect mashed cauliflower!). However, most health texts will say to steam your veggies instead, and while this sometimes works, I find them a little dull this way. Why not just eat them raw in this case? Enter the saute – cooks veggies to a perfect crisp without overcooking or frying. Voila!

One of my favorite dinners is basically to throw a ton of veggies and a protein into a skillet and go to town. Tonight I created a simple saute with the ginger olive oil, diced garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, seitan, and dashes of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Many times I’ll add soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos, as well as nutritional yeast; however, I wanted to go minimal this time to let the flavors stand out on their own. All were served over a bed of long grain brown basmati rice, though any grain will do, really.

But what about the ginger oil? I think it added a nice heat and flavor to the veggies especially. What I liked the most was that it added the punch of ginger without adding ginger chunks (which aren’t pleasant to bite down on) or using weak ginger powder. I would definitely use it again.

I call this a winter blend saute because I went to NC State University, where they regularly served a vegetable dish called Winter Blend that consisted of broccoli and cauliflower. However, bless their hearts, they boiled these perfect veggies into oblivion, which resulted in mushy blandness where crisp pleasure should’ve been. Enjoying them in a saute is much better, trust me.

Winter Blend Saute with Ginger-Infused Olive Oil

1 TB ginger olive oil (you can use regular oil if you like, just maybe add some chopped fresh ginger or ginger powder)

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cauliflower florets

1/4 to 1/3 cup seitan chunks, sliced thinly (tofu works too)

Sea salt, cracked black pepper, and cayenne, to taste

Heat the oil on medium, then add the garlic and saute for a minute or two until golden; be careful not to burn. Add the broccoli, cauliflower, and seitan, and saute for a few minutes, allowing the vegetables to darken in color. Add the seasonings and cook until vegetables are done and seitan is starting to brown. Serve over rice.