Archive for August, 2009

Chickpea-Ricotta Gnocchi

You’re probably wondering why there is no photo accompanying this post.  Well, let’s just say that these gnocchi are not particularly attractive.  Nor are they tasty.  Frankly, this is a terrible recipe and it’s not that I made it wrong.  I don’t even know how I let myself get convinced that this would taste good.  There’s absolutely nothing redeeming about mushed up boiled chickpeas and not even ricotta can salvage it.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Ingredients I Used

3 cups rinsed and dried chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), I used canned this time

1/2 cup ricotta (mine was homemade, more on that later)

about 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

freshly ground black pepper

How I Made It

Set a large pot of water to boil.  Pulsed the chickpeas in the food processor until they resembled crumbs.  Stirred in the cheese and nutmeg.  Added half the flour and kneaded.  That wasn’t enough so I added a little bit more until the dough started to hold together.  Rolled dough into a rop about 1/2 inch thick (between my hands, not on the board) and cut into 1-inch lengths.  Added the gnocchi to boiling water, half at time.  Once they floated, counted to 20.  Removed.  Tossed with some pesto.  Tasted.  Threw into the trash.

Making It Vegan

Umm… don’t make it.  Seriously.  It’s a waste of good ingredients.  That’s half a nutmeg I’ll never get back.  It looked like…  dry dog food at best, what comes out the business end of a dog at worst.  It tasted like your finest wet cardboard.  OK, maybe I don’t like it but you will.  But I doubt it.

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Grilled Cheese and Savannah Navy Bean Soup

Grilled Cheese and Savannah Navy Bean SoupThis is kind of a one-off post because the recipe doesn’t come from Mark’s book.  Savannah Navy Bean Soup is an adapted recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Lowfat Favorites, and I got it on a recipe card from my bean purveyors, Cayuga Pure Organics.  Cayuga Organics adapted it, and then I adapted it.  So this is like a 3rd degree removed from Moosewood original.  The grilled cheese sandwich is something I’ve been messing around with for a while and I will talk about my tips for making great grilled cheese a little later.

Savannah Navy Bean Soup

Ingredients I used

2 small onions, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 cups of st0re-bought vegetable stock

1 bunch fresh spinach

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

4 cups cooked white beans (you can use 2 cans if you want, just rinse them off really well)

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp light brown sugar

1/4 tsp ground allspice

Couple of dashes of hot sauce

2 cups cooked white Japanese rice

How I Made It

I drizzled some olive oil into the bottom of a big soup pot, and cooked the onions and the garlic for a little bit.  Then I added about half the stock and cooked that for 15 minutes with the lid on.  Then I added the clean, chopped spinach, tomatoes, beans, remainder of the stock, vinegar, sugar, allspice and hot sauce.  I let it simmer for another 15 minutes.  I stirred in the rice and cooked for 5 minutes more.  I didn’t salt because I wasn’t sure how salty my beans were and how that would impact the flavor of the soup. That’s it!  It’s so simple and so delicious and it is already vegan.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ever since we became vegetarians, grilled cheese sandwiches have become a regular meal at our house.  We’ll eventually transition away from dairy, but for now, we’re enjoying them.

Ingredients I used

  1. Bread Alone Peasant Bread: bought presliced at the Greenmarket but it’s also available at a lot of different stores in New York
  2. a really good quality extra sharp aged cheddar cheese: I use Bobolink cave-ripened cheddar that I get at the Greenmarket.  I love Bobolink because they treat their cows really well: they have an 18-year old cow, Sarah, in their herd! (and many others almost as old)
  3. lots of unsalted butter: right now I use “really hard to find except at the Greenmarket” Ronnybrook butter

How I Made It

Put a non-stick skillet that will fit your bread on low-medium heat and let it preheat empty while you slice the cheese (about 3 minutes).  Some people recommend that you grate your cheese but I disagree: when you grate the cheese and try to pile it onto the bread in the skillet, it goes all over the place, melts around the bread and the moisture it releases makes the bread all mushy.  I say take a nice serrated knife, and cut even slices. But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Use the room-temp butter and spread it on one side of each pieces of bread: the outer sides when it makes a sandwich.  I know you can figure this out.  Place one slide, buttered side down in the pan, arrange your cheese on top, cover with the other slice of bread, butter side up, and leave it alone for 3 minutes.  Flip, and do 3 minutes on the other side.  Resist the urge to peek and move the bread in the skillet.  I promise, it’s not burning, it’s just crisping up nicely.

Making It Vegan:

I’ve never made this vegan but I’ll try soon and report back.  I’ll just swap out the cheese for vegan cheese and use margarine instead of butter.  Although, this soup is equally delicious with a plain toasted slice of bread so no substitutions are necessary if you want to remain a purist.

For the love of cheese!

I was in the middle of composing a post about our dinner last night (which included cheese) when I read this on SuperVegan.  It’s all about how the only thing that there aren’t decent vegan substitutes for is cheese.  Well, the author writes about Daiya, which is apparently a really great vegan cheese substitute and I plan on trying it as soon as I can get my hands on some. Specifically, I want to try the cheddar blend because that is the kind of cheese I would miss the most.

I want to go on a little rant about vegan cheese for a second though, because the issues I have with it aren’t really addressed anywhere.

My problem with vegan cheese isn’t that it doesn’t taste like cheese.  It’s that it tastes like the wrong kind of cheese.  It seems that vegan cheese makers aspire for their products to look and taste like the milk-based stuff Kraft peddles pre-shredded in the dairy aisle.  I understand the desire to market based on familiarity but come on!

I’m a pretty sophisticated eater.  I would never eat Kraft.  The cheese I do eat is artisanal and tastes that way.  Why not make vegan cheese that tastes this way, too?  Stop appealing to lowest common denominator!  (I’m not saying Daiya tastes that way, I haven’t tried it yet but that is usually the situation with vegan cheese).

Ratatouille: much easier to make than spell

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The first recipe I made from the cookbook was Ratatouille or as Mark calls it “Baked Mixed Vegetables with Olive Oil” (pp. 380-81).  The decision to make this was largely driven by ingredients.  I went to the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday and picked up a bunch of vegetables: 3 different kinds of Asian baby eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, fresh red onions…, in other words, perfect stuff for Ratatouille.

As far as recipes go, this one is very flexible and easy to do.  Pretty much, as long as you have good vegetables and enough olive oil, it will be tasty.

Ingredients I Used:

3 small eggplants (white, pale purple, dark purple)

2 zucchini

1/2 yellow bell pepper and 1/2 red bell pepper

1 fresh red onion

half a head of garlic, peeled and halved

6 slightly bigger than cherry size tomatoes

1/2 cup of olive oil (this seemed like a lot to me but that’s what Mark said)

salt and pepper to taste

How I Made It

Mark suggests salting the eggplants and so I did:  cut them up into half-inch thick chunks, stuck them in a collander and threw some kosher salt on top.  They sat like that for about an hour while I went out for drinks with some friends.  Then as I preheated the oven to 350, I cut everything else into equally-sized chunks, threw it into a 9×13 Pyrex dish, poured on the olive oil, tossed, salt-&-peppered. No fancy layers for me (as Mark suggests or as we all saw in the movie).  It went into the oven for an hour.

Meanwhile, I boiled some water and steamed corn on the cob.  We had it, at Mark’s suggestion (pp. 288-290), buttered with grated Parmesan and chili pepper.  You can see everything together in the picture.  Next time, I will also photograph all the ingredients before they get dispatched to make the dish.

Making it vegan:

Obviously, this is pretty easy to make vegan: just skip the butter and the Parm.  Butter is easy enough to replace with your vegan margarine of choice.  Parm is a bit more difficult:  I hear that there are vegan Parm substitutes out there but I’m not much for soy cheese.  I think the best “real food” alternative would be some chopped nuts (pine nuts seem like they would be great) or seeds (mmm… sunflower).

P.S.  I promise my food photography will improve. I was really hungry.

Back… with a cookbook

I started this blog what seems like eons ago and my little foray into chronicling my entry into vegetarianism lasted all of 2 (two) posts (the foray, not the vegetarianism, that’s going strong).  I guess I did a little Googling and found all the answers to all the questions I am wont to ask about becoming a vegetarian and therefore it was no longer interesting to me.  But recently, with all the hoopla about Julie/Julia, I came up with a concept.  Well, actually the concept arrived from amazon.com in the form of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  It’s a giant tome, and while it doesn’t have Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking cult status, I thought it would be an interesting project to try to cook through it.  And then maybe pick up Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Veganomicon?

I won’t post Mark’s recipes in full, because I’m not entirely clearly on the copyright issues involved (lawyer self rearing ugly head).  But I will discuss which ones I did, what page you can find them on and what I thought of them.  Deal?

I’m not looking to get a book deal out of it, or a movie (although while we’re on the topic, I suggest that Zoey Deschanel clear her schedule to play moi), I just need a blog in my life.  That is all.  Enjoy!