Archive for April, 2009

Roasted Garlic

April 25, 2009

I use roasted garlic (and its oil) in so many dishes, I figured I’d write about how easy it is to make.

The worst part about roasting (or any other kind of) garlic is peeling it, right? Well, I just buy the peeled stuff at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market. Saves a ton of time and aggravation. Do not, however, buy that minced, chopped, etc. garlic in water (or oil – it’s lying to you). It lacks flavor and won’t do what you want it to most time. Just buy the peeled stuff, even if it’s the small container you can grab at the grocery store.

For me, I usually buy between one and five pounds, depending on how much I still have at home and when I plan to go back the Farmer’s Market. This trip I only grabbed one pound, knowing I had some back at home.

Anyway, I take the garlic and trim the little “nubs” off. I used to just go ahead and leave them on, but I bit down on one really hard once and vowed never to do that again. This is the most time-consuming step, only because you can’t do anything simultaneously. Save the jar the garlic came in.

Trimmed Garlic

Once all of the garlic is trimmed, put it in a pot and cover in oil.

In The Pot

Not toss in oil. Not drizzle oil over it. Cover the garlic in oil. Any oil will work, but you want a neutral flavor such as soybean or even olive. I like to use half extra virgin olive oil and half soybean. I used to use all extra virgin olive but when it goes in the fridge it solidifies too much.

Covered In Oil

Then put it on the stove, uncovered, on the lowest possible setting your stove top will allow. And then try and make it lower. The lower the temperature, the slower it will cook and the better the flavor of both the garlic and the oil.

Super Low Gas

Eventually, the oil will begin to bubble like the garlic is frying – this is OK, do not be alarmed, but do keep a close eye on the garlic after this step. There’s a fine line between roasted garlic and burnt garlic and it only takes one time to learn the difference. A very disgusting lesson at that.

When the garlic gets to a satisfactory level (depending on your tastes and usage can be from anywhere from “just soft” to “really, really caramelized”) take it off the heat. You can let it cool down at room temperature if you want or you can throw it in the fridge. Either way it should get cooled down to room temperature or cooler. When it does, add all of it back into the jar the garlic came in – oil and all.

Roasted Garlic

Now you’ve got roasted garlic and roasted garlic oil. The oil is great for sauteeing, salad dressing, marinating and any other use you have for oil. The garlic is great for sauteeing, salad dressing, marinated and any other use you have for flavor.


Artichoke and Olive Ravioli with Red Kale

April 24, 2009

Mmmmm - there's no other way to describe it

I made a big batch of marinara sauce the other day (post to come soon) so I had to try it out. The verdict? Awesome.

Normally we try out new batches with some angel hair pasta and bread to get a good picture of the sauce. This time we had just gotten done shopping and had purchased (among other things) some Rising Moon Ravioli. Specifically, the Creamy Artichoke and Olive variety. I’m not the biggest olive fan, but my wife is. I gave in and bought them and they were actually rather tasty.

I had some mise en place leftover from calzones a few nights prior (another post to come, I promise) so I sauteed it all (green peppers, artichokes and grape tomatoes) in a little roasted garlic oil.

Mise en Place

We also bought some red kale. We’ve been eating an inordinate amount of kale recently, but had yet to try the red variety and it didn’t disappoint. It was a little tougher than normal (may have been how I cooked it), but it was still really good. I added the kale and let it wilt.

Red Kale

As soon as the ravioli began to float I transferred it to the sautee pan, added the freshly-made marinara sauce and we were in business. With so many vegetables (and bread – I had some leftover pizza dough I baked like a boule) I only made one package of ravioli and it was more than enough.

Really Red Beets (and the Greens, too!)

April 23, 2009

Cous Cous, Red Beets, Greens
Looks a little like Christmas in April

Ever since I introduced golden beets into my wife’s diet, she can’t seem to get enough of them. Every time we’re grocery shopping and a store has them, we have to get them – it’s a rule. Well, there weren’t any golden beets around this time, but we were both craving them. I’ve been nervous to substitute red beets for fear of her foregoing beets altogether, but I was left without an option. Well, I guess I could have had no beets, but who wants that?

For those who don’t know: red beets bleed. A lot. Having worked with them many times, even I was taken off guard by how red the cous cous got after I sauteed them.

Really Red Beets

A lot of times when we shop, the stores will take off the “unwanted” greens – but that’s sacrilege! We love the beet greens almost as much as the beets themselves (so much so that at work, I had our produce rep source out just the greens so I could feature them. She couldn’t do it, suggesting turnip greens instead).

Like most Israeli cous cous recipes, this one was incredibly easy. I peeled and diced the beet root and sauteed in roasted garlic oil. Once you’ve got a nice smell going add the cous cous and stir to coat. The cous cous will absorb all of the water in the pan and begin sticking – this is a good thing as long as it doesn’t burn. The more you can cook the cous cous, the more it caramelizes, giving it a slightly nutty flavor. As it reaches the point of almost burning, add some white balsamic (dark balsamic or any other vinegar [or wine] will work as well) and scrape everything off the pan. Add water to cover, reduce to simmer and stir frequently. Almost seems too easy, eh?

When the water is gone, taste some of the cous cous to make sure it’s cooked all the way. If not, add more water. Once it’s to just below the desired consistency, add your beet greens. They will release water which will help finish off your cous cous. Stir until they are completely wilted. I finished mine off with a little tarragon “pesto”. I use quotation marks because it lacks both pine nuts and parmesan cheese (or vegan equivalent). Salt and pepper to taste and you’re ready to go.

Eating vegan on Carnival Cruise Lines

April 21, 2009

I recently had the pleasure of joining a good friend on his wedding cruise. It was my second cruise as a vegan, but first with Carnival so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Vegans are like Boy Scouts – we always come prepared. And prepared I was with Silk, peanut butter, bagels and plenty of Clif Bars (side note: Chocolate Chip has overtaken Peanut Butter as my favorite), but I didn’t need much of it. I started each day with some Silk and and a Clif bar, but only dug into the bagels and peanut butter out of obligation and needing the space for all of the souvenirs.

My first cruise as a vegan was my honeymoon. We ventured to Alaska with Norwegian Cruise Lines. It took a few days to get the system of obtaining a vegan meal down, but once we did I was pleasantly surprised by how accommodating they were – and Carnival was no different.

I tried to take as many pictures as I could, but in such a social atmosphere I regularly neglected to take my camera out of my pocket until we got up to leave the table. I also thought I would easily remember each night’s menu, but a few weeks removed (and many hours at work) have left my memory a bit foggy, but I’ll try to do my best.

Each night there is at least one vegetarian option for appetizer and entree – but rarely vegan.

Pumpkin, Squash and Cheddar Pot Pie

The first night’s menu had marinated fruit for an appetizer, which I happily ordered. The problem? It had some creamy-looking stuff holding some of the presentation together. I nervously ate around it as it was rather tasty.

The entree option was a Pumpkin, Squash and Cheddar Pot Pie – a no go for me, but my wife ordered it and enjoyed it. It was even close to being able to veganize, so I ordered the steamed vegetables and steamed rice – which were good, if a little bland.

Steamed Vegetables and Rice

Dessert was more fruit (a trend I won’t continue with anymore pictures – you’ll also have to forgive my phone camera as I forgot my point-and-shoot in the cabin).

Fruit Plate

The second night was similarly unveganizable (new word), so I opted for more of the vegetables and rice. Our server, G, laughed and took my menu, knowing what I wanted for dessert without asking.

The third night had potential – stuffed peppers. We asked if it was possible to get them without cheese – it wasn’t. It was this third night that our server decided to speak up and say that if we wanted anything special we should talk to the maitre d’. They couldn’t do anything for tonight, but would fix me up for tomorrow so I settled for some more marinated fruit, steamed vegetables and rice.

Marinated Fruit

The fourth night was my first taste of what they can do for vegans. They have one chef in the kitchen who is solely responsible for special dietary needs – vegan, low sodium, kosher, etc. Had I known that earlier, I would have made him earn his money a little more. He had prepared the menu item – black bean enchiladas – but made them without cheese. They were rather tasty, if a little on the small side.

Vegan Black Bean Enchiladas

I also had a nice arugula and spinach salad with (mediocre) watermelon and blueberries.

Arugula, Spinach, Watermelon, Blueberries

The final night was Indian fare – something I don’t care for so I asked them for some pasta and marinara, which I got. The sauce was really good – a lot of olive oil and what was the consistency of what I imagine crushed and strained tomatoes would be. I asked for seconds on this one and got it in no time.

The appetizer that night was marinated tomatoes and green beans, which was bland.

Marinated Tomatoes and Green Beans

I may have messed up which days were which on the appetizer side of things, but the entrees are right.

In addition to the sit-down dinner restaurant, they also had a buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There was very little vegan fare on the buffet, but they did have an excellent salad bar (greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, green olives, black olives, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, carrots and a lot more) that hit that spot everyday for lunch (red wine vinegar and olive oil for dressing).

Overall, I didn’t go hungry and once we got the system down it was a breeze to eat vegan the entire trip. I should have known better and said something on the first night (my waiter could have said something after my second night of rice and vegetables, but…).

Dessert was the biggest disappointed, but it’s not like I expected them to have non-dairy ice cream or eggless cake available. They did have their staple warm chocolate melting cake available every night which my wife fell in love with. One of the things you could do was a tour of the kitchen – something I was very interested in – but the biggest surprise was they gave us a copy of the warm chocolate cake recipe.

I’ve recently veganized it to deliciously-decadent results. Pics and recipe to come. At some point.

Risotto-Style Israeli Cous Cous, Zucchini, Tomatoes

April 19, 2009

Risotto-Style Israeli Cous Cous

I’ve long been an admirer of Israeli cous cous (sometimes referred to as Lebanese cous cous or pearl pasta), but it’s something of a novelty for my wife, so we tend to use it a lot (in place of rice or pasta).

I had an extra zucchini lying around, as well as a white onion so it was a pretty logical leap to make risotto and it’s almost too easy with Israeli cous cous.

I started by sauteeing my onion in some roasted garlic oil and added my diced zucchini just until it began to soften. The cous cous comes already toasted, so it doesn’t need much more sauteeing, but I did it anyway. I added water until it just barely covered everything in the pot – with a little Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base. Continuous stirring is the key to a good, creamy, sticky risotto, so that’s what I did until almost all of the water was gone.

A little basil pesto, Parma! and diced tomatoes to finish it off and it was all done. Delicious.

Avocado (Tempeh) BLT

April 12, 2009

Completed Avocado BLT

I had some avocados that need to get used up soon. I had been struggling with a way to use them that wasn’t the same old-same old (guacamole, salsa, etc). When I mentioned it to a co-worker, he suggested making some kind of sandwich on my “fancy homemade bread”. And suddenly, it all hit me – an avocado BLT.

The only thing I was missing were the tomatoes, but a quick stop at Publix and I was good to go.

The first step is baking the bread. I know it says 5 minutes a day, but it certainly takes longer than that! But while the bread was baking I got everything else ready. As soon as the bread was in the oven, I tossed the baby spinach with some of Garden Fresh Artichoke Garlic Salsa to let it marinate for a little bit.

Salsa-Marinated Spinach

I sliced my surprisingly-ripe tomatoes and marinated them with a little kosher salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil. The avocados weren’t as ripe as I thought they were (we got them from a friend of my wife’s grandparents – a story for another day), but I managed to get some good pieces out of them. A little lemon juice to keep them from turning and it was time to sear the tempeh.

I’ve only just begun using tempeh and I’m still trying to figure out the optimum way to sear it, but I think it came out really well this time. As soon as the tempeh was done, I had to assemble quickly or the sandwich wouldn’t be warm at all, but I wanted to sautee my spinach a bit. After my last turn of the tempeh, I shut off the gas to the burner and as soon as the pan was clear I added my spinach. I didn’t want to cook it all the way – just wilt it – so I stirred it really quickly and put it back in the bowl.

Luckily, the freshly-baked bread was still warm so it wasn’t a cold sandwich after all, so I started by layering up the tempeh and tomatoes a few times and added my avocado.

Tomatoes and Tempeh

Topped the whole thing with the wilted spinach and I was ready to go.

With Spinach

I snapped some blurry pictures and quickly devoured the simply amazing sandwich. So many delicious flavors working together, I cannot wait to make it again.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Asparagus, Corn on the Cob and Caraway-Rye Dinner Rolls

April 10, 2009

Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus, Corn on the Cob and Caraway-Rye Dinner Rolls

Sweet potatoes were on sale, the corn on the cob looked really good in the supermarket and a dinner was born.

I cut the sweet potatoes and tossed them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, black pepper and some italian seasonings. 450 degree oven for about an hour and they were ready to go.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

The asparagus was sauteed in a little bit of roasted garlic oil, salt and black pepper until they turned bright green (any longer and they’re overdone).

The corn turned out to be very sweet and all I did was steam it for about 15 minutes (while everything else was getting ready).

Caraway-Rye Dinner Rolls

The caraway-rye dinner rolls was my first attempt at making rye bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I substituted whole wheat flour for regular all-purpose and it overpowered the rye flavor. I’ll have to work on increasing the proportion of rye flour to wheat in future batches. It certainly wasn’t bad – quite the opposite, actually, just not as flavorful as I was hoping for.

Vegan “Cheesesteak”

April 9, 2009

Containing neither cheese nor steak, but just as delicious.

I normally just caramelize onions, peppers and some thinly-sliced zucchini, season it up with A-1 and I’m good to go. But the Morningstar Meal Starter Steak Strips caught my eye as I was shopping and I thought I’d throw them in. If you’ve never tried these, they are pretty tasty – and super easy. They are actually made by a company called Gardein and sold under the Morningstar brand – likely why they don’t contain eggs (zing!). And yes, I know they are attempting to phase out eggs from most, if not all of their products, but why were they there in the first place?

Onions and Peppers - Before

I bought the zucchini anyway and plan to use it up soon (they looked really good), but skipped adding it and we didn’t need it – it was filling enough and I wasn’t even able to use all my onions and peppers. The key to a good vegan cheesesteak? A-1 and a toasted bun. In this case, I didn’t bake my own – lack of time, but I did use up a french baguette I had stashed in the freezer, so kudos for that.

Onions, Peppers and Morningstar Steak

Vegan Meatball Sandwiches

April 8, 2009

Vegan Meatball Sandwiches

Again, I’m not too fond of vegan substitutes for meat, but there are exceptions. And Nate’s Vegan Meatballs are one of those exceptions. It’s likely due, in large part, the ease in which they are prepared. Put them in a sauce pan, add sauce until they are coated (I use marinara, but these would be just as good with barbecue or something a bit more exotic), cover the pan and turn on medium-low. 8-10 minutes later and you’re ready to go – I promise.

And that’s exactly what I did to make these. Once complete, I like using Toufayan’s Snuggles to complete the replication. We stumbled on these wonderful little buns a few years ago and they’ve become a staple ever since. We always have a half pack in the freezer – just in case. If you see them (Publix carries them), grab them and give ’em a shot – you may be surprised.

Potatoes and Tomatoes

April 7, 2009

Potatoes and Tomatoes

A few months ago, with little time available, a long day behind me and too long ahead I whipped up this super-easy, super-delicious meal at work. It was a big hit and I decided to give it a shot as a meal. It was a big hit then, too.

How easy exactly? Potatoes, Tomatoes, Olive Oil, Seasonings (your choice, but I used dried basil, garlic, salt and pepper). 4 ingredients. Mix them all in a bowl, put them on a baking sheet in a 450 degree oven and walk away. We were hungry and pulled them out a little too early as I’d have preferred a little more color on my potatoes, but they were excellent anyway.

The biggest surprise? How filling it was.