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All posts for the month September, 2008

This is my entry for the iBuyBarbecues grill contest.  This recipe makes “faux” hot dogs from seitan, a dough made of wheat gluten.

Chipotle Seitan Sausages

    1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    2 tablespoons chipotle powder
    1 tablespoon kosher salt
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1/2 tablespoon black pepper
    1 tablespoon paprika
    1 1/2 cups cold water
    4 sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon oil from the sun dried tomatoes
    juice of 1 lime
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

In a Kitchenaide mixer, add all dry ingredients and mix with a fork.

Dry Ingredients in the Bowl

Then add the wet ingredients.

Knead on low for five minutes and then remove the resulting dough from the mixer.  Continue to knead by hand for another minute or two.

How Seitan Looks Out of the Mixer

Cut the dough into 8 pieces and roll by hand into hot dog shapes.

One piece of Seitan rolled.

Bake on a cookie sheet for 25 minutes and then take to a grill to finish.  Baste with ketchup or adobo sauce before serving in a bun and garnish the way you would any hot dog.

The Finished Product With Garnish

It was a chance encounter that first led me to Masalas, an authentic Indian restaurant near my local Whole Foods. I had no idea that a simple grocery run would, in the end, leave me literally so full I could not have had another bite.

The building that Masalas currently occupies used to be a Baja Fresh, but it had closed down. The old Baja Fresh’s signage was quickly replaced with “Masalas Authentic Indian Cuisine…Coming Soon.” I thought it was a clever name, but I did not really give it a second thought until months after the sign change.

It was pure dumb luck I was running to the grocery store with my son the night Masalas decided to give its kitchen a dry run. Noticing that people were walking into the restaurant and sitting down, I let curiosity get the better of me and drug my son into the place, which was still not-so-stylishly decorated in the black-and-white checked flooring and stark white counters of Baja Fresh and asked if they were open.

Chandra, the project manager in charge of launching the restaurant told me they were testing the kitchen and insisted I try some of the food. He sat me down and started off with a carrot pudding flavored with coconut that was almost too sweet to eat, but too good not to finish. I was surprised that it did not have raisins or other dried fruit.

The first entree he gave me was called Cauliflower Manchurian, a dish that came to India in the 1960s when Chinese immigrants moved to the country. Those immigrants began cooking the dish and it quickly became highly popular, even as Indian cooks began adding their own spices and making it their own. The end result was a dish had a taste in between kung po cauliflower and aloo gobi (an Indian dish with cauliflower in a yellow curry.) The dish is a little sweet, a little hot, a little salty, and has flavors more reminiscent of China due to the use of soy sauce.

I was blown away. They gave me five other dishes and they were good, but nothing came even close to Cauliflower Manchurian. I wanted more. I had to stop myself from licking the plate. In the end, I was given a score card. Nothing got below a 7 on a scale from 1 to 10, though nothing came close to the cauliflower’s high score of 21. At the end of the night, I thanked Chandra and left his restaurant, but I was already hungry for more of that fantastic Cauliflower Manchurian.

That was in May. For some reason, I thought that Masalas was a few weeks, maybe a month away from opening for business. One month passed. Then another and then another. Every now and then I would see Chandra at Whole Foods and I would ask when Masalas was going to be open. The need for more Cauliflower Manchurian was turning from a desire into an obsession and I needed to know. I was told “Soon.”

For four months I waited until again, out of sheer happenstance, I was going to get groceries when the signage at Masalas changed. This time it read: “Now Open.”

I canceled my dinner plans, walked in and ordered the buffet. I had a fantastic meal. I tried everything, but when I went back for seconds, my plate contained only one dish. It was made with cauliflower.

I left the restaurant stuffed, but I still have not gotten enough Cauliflower Manchurian.

If you want to try Cauliflower Manchurian for yourself, Chandra was nice enough to share his recipe.

For the cauliflower dumplings:

  • 10 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sriracha or sambal olek
  • 1 teaspoon of MSG (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • ½ tablespoon of pepper
  • ½ tablespoon of sugar
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into cubes

For the sauce:

  • 1 small onion per head of cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon of MSG (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup

First, make the dumplings by combining all the ingredients except for the cauliflower in a mixing bowl and add water until it forms a smooth, pancake-like batter. Taste the batter at this stage, it should taste delicious. If not, adjust the seasons accordingly.

Add the cauliflower and toss to evenly coat and let sit for 15 minutes.

Deep fry the cauliflower in a neutral oil and drain.

To make the sauce, cook the onions, ginger, garlic, and spring onions in the olive oil until the onions are soft. Add the cauliflower dumplings and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

As an alternative, you can leave out the dumplings and add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water and thicken the sauce first. Then add the cauliflower and cook long enough for the dumplings to get coated and warm.

Okay, quick recap:

In Part 0, we learned how to prepare tofu via pressing and that silken tofu is largely the suck unless its the shake or the cake.

In Part 1, we learned how to bake tofu to give it a firm outer texture and a moist inner texture that will keep your mouth from thinking sucky tofu.

Now, in Part 2, we will look at frying tofu.  Tomorrow will explore frying it, then saucing it, before finishing the series with an amazing recipe for vegan ma po tofu.  Mmmm… Also, after this series over, I will be releasing it as one PDF with images on this site.  Check back for more details.

And now without further ado… deep frying tofu.

Of all the techniques to make tofu, this one is the most likely to result in something you are going to want to eat. Deep frying pretty much anything makes it better, right?  Tofu is no different.  Still, there are some things to take into consideration before deep frying your tofu.

Size Matters

There, I said it.  When it comes to deep frying tofu, how you cut it will make a big difference to the texture of the final product.  While you can cut your tofu any way you would like, you have two options.

First:

  • You can cut the tofu into 1 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch pieces like you were baking it.
  • After deep frying, you are going to have firm on the outside.  However, because the oil will probably not have time to penetrate into the middle of the tofu, the center is still going to be chewy and rather tofu-like.
  • This is how it served in a lot of Chinese dishes, but if you are reading this, you probably want something that is not tofu-like so I do not recommend this for tofu beginners.

Second:

  • Cut the tofu into half inch cubes and deep fry.
  • Cubes have much greater ratio of exterior which will get nice and crispy in the oil to interior which stays moist.  The smaller interior means less non-fried tofu texture and a better experience.
  • In fact, if you leave the tofu in the oil long enough, the entire block will get fried.  I don’t necessarily advocate this since it makes for greasy tofu, but it is an idea.

Coating

You also have the option of whether to bread, batter, or otherwise cover the tofu.  The sky is the limit here and I encourage your to play around with different deep fried tofu coatings.  I have three ideas, all of which build off the one before it to get you started.

  1. Naked tofu (wow, this post got racy, didn’t it?)  In all seriousness, just drop the tofu in the hot oil and fry it.  No fuss, no muss.  No extra flavoring and no color, either.
  2. Coat in corn starch.  Either put the tofu in a plastic bag filled with corn starch or put corn starch on a plate and cover the tofu with it.  Shake off the excess and fry.  This promotes browning and will thicken sauces if the tofu is added to it.
  3. Coat in corn meal.  First, pat the tofu dry with a paper towel.  Create a slurry of equal parts water and corn starch.  Dunk the tofu in the slurry and then put it on a plate with corn meal that has been spiced to your liking.  Coat the tofu, shake off the excess and put it in the oil.  Consider doing this a second fry (fry the tofu once to cook it then coat in slurry and corn meal, fry for 15-30 seconds.)

Frying Time

Fry tofu until it is golden brown, which usually takes between 3 and 4 minutes, though it could be longer with a thicker wet batter.  Fry in small batches, too, because tofu has a tendency to clump, especially when coated in a starch.

The sky is the limit when it comes to deep frying tofu.  The important thing is you enjoy!

Anyone else have any tofu coating tips?

Don’t worry, Part 2 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck is coming, but I didn’t realize I had never posted my Omnivore’s 100:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

That’s 65 out of 100.  And frankly, were I not vegan I’d probably finish out the rest.  If I could find dog somewhere.   (And for the record, I have four at home, so it’s not that I am a dog lover.)  Now snakes, like Indiana Jones, I don’t much care for them.

If you haven’t read it yet, Part 0 of the series on how to make tofu that doesn’t suck covers some important lessons in preventing sucky tofu.  Espeically the part on pressing.

If you have read Part 0, fantastic!  Let’s move on to the next step: baking it.  In Part 2, we will cover frying it, which is the easy way out.  Part 3 will dicuss stir frying your tofu, Part 4 will look at a few sauces for your tofu and Part 5 will be my favorite recipe for ma po tofu using extra firm tofu instead of silken.  But for now…baking your tofu for fun and pleasure.

This idea came to me while eating at Whole Foods with my wife.  She had filled up a to go container from the salad bar and added some “tofu croutons” to her salad.  These croutons were about an inch and a half long, half an inch wide, and half an inch tall and had obviously been baked for quite a while.

At this point in my veg*n cooking, I was pretty ho hum about tofu.  I knew I needed to eat more of it, but every time I had tried to make it, it sucked.  Thus, it was hunger alone that persuaded me to try one of the croutons.  Honestly, I was expecting mush.  Instead, I got somthing that was firm on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside, and had a mouth feel that in no way resembled soft tofu.  Score!

So, in order to make tofu that doesn’t suck

  1. Either before after the tofu has been pressed cut the tofu into 1 1/2 in by 1/2 in by 1/2 strips.   While the amount of water pressed out of the tofu is probably different if you cut first, I honestly can’t tell the difference.
  2. Cook the tofu low and slow.  In my oven, this means baking it at 250 degrees for an hour.  This produces a firm, crisp exterior and a succulently juicy interior.

I know it takes a long time and if you are in a rush, tune in tomorrow for how to deep fry the tofu which is much faster, it is just not as healthy.

This series is now complete.  If you want to read the other posts, you can find them here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Yes, you heard me right.  Vegan that I am, I can admit it.  Sometimes, tofu sucks, especially if you are not used to eating it.  And there’s two very good reasons why tofu out of the package can suck:

  1. It’s flavor (it has a very subtle soy bean/water flavor)
  2. It’s texture (it’s mushy)

Still, making good tofu is within reach of everyone, even those who don’t think they like it.  But it’s going to take some work and maybe a bit of practice.

This post will begin a series on how to make better tofu.  Tonight I want to address the prework that should go into any tofu preparation.  If you are a big tofu eater and cook it all the time, these steps will probably sound very basic.  However, what I have noticed is that there are a large number of open-minded eaters who refuse to eat tofu because of either #1 or #2 (or both) from the list above.

There is hope.  Once a cook masters these critical precepts, she will be ready for further tofu enlightenment which I shall supply in forthcoming posts.

Precept 1: Beware the soft tofu

Silken tofu has a number of homes: flourless tofu cakes, tofu smoothies, tofu cannoli mix (it’s coming, I promise.)  However, if tofu is going to be the main protein or be prevalent in the dish, avoid silken tofu unless your eaters are VERY accustomed to it.  I eat a lot of tofu and I still can’t get over the way silken tofu squishes in my mouth.

The answer: unless you know your eaters well, get extra firm tofu.  It will be close to something most people expect.

Precept 2: If you ain’t frying, get to saucing

Tofu by itself is not what most poeple call “good.”  That’s why you have to think about really bold sauces.  My personal favorite is a mixture of sriracha and chili garlic sauce (some people call it Chinese ketchup, but it’s basically a little chili and a lot of corn syrup.)  Other favorites include chili oil, soy, and oriental mustard, soy and honey, and barbecue sauce.

If you are deep frying the tofu, sauce matters less as long as the tofu is breaded with something that will bring a little flavor to the party.  Still, having a little rice wine vinegar/soy dipping sauce cannot hurt.  Or like me, go with the soy, chili oil, and oriental mustard.  I love that stuff.

Precept 3: The Press

Once you have the extra firm tofu, you need to get the water out of it.  To do this:

  1. Take the tofu out of the package and drain
  2. Wrap it in a clean towl (not paper towels)
  3. Set a cookie sheet on top of the tofu
  4. Put several cans of something on top of the tofu
  5. Come back in an hour

If you master this techique, even though it takes time, you tofu will be better for it.

So, anyone have any good tofu sauces to share?

Waiting on a plane in Denver airport.  Had an interesting couple of days eating.

Among the lowlights: vegan veggie sandwich from Marigolds (would have been great if I wasn’t vegan.)  Louie’s… nice delivery person, bad food.

The highlight: Trinity Brewing Company so selected because they have VEGAN BUFFALO WINGS.  So I had to go.  Normally, they make them out of seitan, but he was out of seitan today so he made tempeh wings.  They were outstanding.  Just blocks of tempeh which were deep fried  without any breading and shook up with a really good buffalo sauce.

I am so happy to have found this place because buffalo wings is one of the meat dishes I miss the most and sadly, Chef Marcus’ were better they mine (curses).

The best part was we came after the rush and I got to talk with the chef for a few minutes.  While I won’t give too much away, expect some thoughts on vegan gravy and vegan “wings” very soon.  At least I’ll tell you what I can tell you without getting the chef too upset.

Probably lots of typos, but the plane is here!

First, of all, I wanted to give credit where credit is due.  My friend Daniel posted this recipe for Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce complete with step-by-step pictures.  I think his recipe looks absolutely fantastic and his blog style puts mine to shame.

I wanted to blog about his recipe earlier, but I had one slight obstacle: I don’t have a good vegan heavy cream substitute.  When we make homemade vegan ice cream, we use soy coffee creamer which is sweetened and tends to work well.  For a savory dish like pasta, I just do not have a good replacement.

Over the weekend, I wanted to try my friend Heidi’s recipe for vegan cashew cream, but I did not get a chance.  So, hats off to Daniel for his recipe and if you want to make vegan heavy cream, consider blending cashew pieces with a water a little at a time unti lit reaches the desired consistency.

——–

Also, my complements to Google.  In the targeted ads over there to the left, they’re actually advertising vegan products.  I appreciate that.

I’ve been dealing with an extreme bout of total unmotivation this week so I opted out of thought for this post. Instead, I posed the question to my Twitter buddies what they were interested in knowing about food. DazzlinDonna responded with the idea to look at what cultures around the world do for breakfast.

I was actually a bit surprised at the answer, but according to Wikipedia every major culture appears to use breakfast as a chance to load up on carbohydrates: rolls, pastries, noodles, and rice are common in just about every culture. In India, they eat Idli, a savory lentil cake. In Pakistan, they eat Naan. Vietnam eats noodles. In Western cultures, there are biscuits, toast, pancakes, and oatmeal.

This does make sense. In many cultures, the gap between breakfast and the next meal can be up to 12 hours. Eating a heavy breakfast will give the eater the best chance to remain full throughout the day.

During my reading, there was one dish, though, that really caught my eye: htamin kyaw, a Myanmaran rice/split pea dish.

Htamin kyaw- a rice/split pea dish with onions

I couldn’t find was a recipe for it, but I did learn that this is dish made from day old rice, yellow peas, and onions with cumin and tumeric for flavoring.

This is my take on the dish. My recipe uses fresh rice. If using day old, add about 4 tablespoons of broth or water when you mix it with the onions. This recipe also cooks the rice and peas together with the tumeric, which will make the rice yellow. I did this to save on cleaning an extra pot. You can, however, cook them rice and peas separately and add the tumeric to the peas.

You will need:

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1/2 cup uncooked yellow split peas
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of tumeric
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  1. In a rice cooker, add the rice, yellow peas, tumeric, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the salt, and 3 cups of cold water. Prepare according to your rice cooker’s instructions. If you don’t have a rice cooker, add the ingredients to a saucepan and cook covered until the peas are soft, at least 20 minutes.
  2. After ten minutes of cooking the rice and peas, put a skillet on medium heat and add the onion, olive oil, cumin, pepper, and the rest of the salt. Saute the onions until soft.
  3. When the rice is done, mix the onions with rice/pea blend in a bowl and stir well. Adjust the salt as needed. If you are using day old rice, add it to the onions first with the broth and let it rice rehydrate.

If I keep finding dishes like this, I’ll be eating breakfast for dinner more often. What do you eat for breakfast?

By the way, that image is copyright Waguang and like this post is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 License.

Unbeknownst to me, the tamarind is an somewhat popular ingredient in southern Indian cooking.

My love affair with tamarind began the first time someone told me what was in phad thai sauce (which includes tamarind paste, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and chilis.)  Upon hearing this, I just knew that I would always love tamarind because, hey, if it was in phad thai, it had to be good.

Quite frankly, after smelling fish sauce for the first time, I should have realized there is NO correlation between being in phad thai sauce and “good”.  Still I persisted in thinking I would like tamarind until I had my first bit of raw tamarind candy.

Um…yeah…not so much.

So what I have decided is that while tamarind by itself is not to my liking, when put into a sauce, it is actually pretty darn good.  Which is why when I saw that my Indian cookbook has  a number of recipes called for tamarind paste, I decided I would try to make my own.

Making tamarind paste is not hard at all, but it does require some manual labor.

You will need:

  • Eight ounces of tamarind
  • Water

(Told you it was easy.)

  1. Put the tamarind in a plastic bowl and cover with cold water.  Let the tamarind soak for at least an hour.
  2. Drain the tamarind.
  3. If you have a food mill, mill the tamarind pods at least twice to get a smooth paste.  If you do not have a food mill, roll up your sleeves and:
  4. Begin pressing firmly.  Soon, the tamarind will look like this:
    Tamarind paste is a lot of work...
  5. Add one half cup of water to the tamarind.
  6. Pick up pieces of the tamarind and squeeze them.  This will produce a small amount of juice and pulp.  It will also loosen the seeds.
  7. Pick out the seeds from the pod and remove all of the pulp which has stuck to it.  Discard the seeds.  The majority of the pulp comes from around the seeds.
    You're going to get your hands dirty.
  8. Continue until all of the tamarind has been broken down and there is no outer shell left.
  9. The tamarind paste may still be gritty.  It can be strained over a fine mesh.  (I used the splatter guard from my saute pan.

Viola!  You now have your very own tamarind paste.

So before I reveal how I used it, what do you do with tamarind?