Saturday, January 29, 2011

Confetti Salad

Have you ever had a jicima? Surprisingly, many people have not.  It looks sort of like an overgrown radish or turnip and has a wonderful delicate, bright flavor.  Jicima is often used in Mexico to compliment spicy dishes and it is not hard to see why.  The acidity of the jicima would do a nice job at cutting through some of the spicy dishes served in Mexico.

I cannot take responsibility for this recipe as I found it on the Simply Recipes website. I changed the name as when I was making it I couldn't help thinking about confetti with all the beautiful colors in there.  I followed the recipe almost exactly since I do not have a lot of experience with jicima.  Now that I have done this I will definitely experiment with different flavor combinations, with jicima as the centerpiece.

Confetti Salad

1 large jicima, peeled and julienned finely
1/2 red bell pepper finely diced
1/2 yellow pepper finely diced
1/2 English cucumber seeded and finely diced
1/2 red onion finely chopped
1.2 orange, peeled sliced into rounds and sectioned to the smallest amount possible
1/2 cup cilantro chopped finely
1/3cup fresh lime juice
Pinch of paprika
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Toss together in a large bowl the jicima, peppers, cucumber, red onion, orange and cilantro. Pour in lime juice and season with paprika, cayenne and salt. Toss.

Wait about half an hour for flavors to develop before serving.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Polenta with Mushroom and Kale Ragout

It has been snowing like crazy the last couple of days.  I made a valiant attempt to get to work today but did not even get a mile down the road when I decided to turn around and work from home.  I actually had a very productive work day and the added benefit of being home to plan dinner.  The only glitch was that there was no chance anyone was going to brave the elements to go to the grocery store.  Time to rough it and figure something out from only those ingredients on hand in the house.

After scouring the fridge I discovered some prepared polenta (you know, the stuff in a tube), some mushrooms left over from another recipe,  and some kale.  OK, I can work with that.

This actually turned out really well. Sometimes the best meals are those you just throw together as you go.  This was one of those type of meals.

Polenta with Mushroom and Kale Ragout

10 oz fresh mushrooms (I used shitake and cremini)
4 oz dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted
3 large kale leaves cut into bite size pieces
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 minced shallots
4 cloves roasted garlic, chopped*
1 tsp thyme
1 tube of polenta cut into 10 1/2" rounds
2 tbsp  plus  1 1/2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Reconstitute the porcini mushrooms by soaking in hot water for approximately 30 minutes. 

In a large skillet  over medium heat add 2 tbsp olive oil.  Place the mushrooms in the pan to saute until browned.  Do not add the liquid you reconstituted the porcini mushrooms in. Add thyme and salt and pepper.  You need to be patient to brown the mushrooms as they will first release a lot of liquid. Keep heating until the liquid is reabsorbed and the mushrooms are  browned.  Remove from the skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet add the vegetable broth, wine, tomato paste, shallot and garlic.  Heat until liquid is reduced by about half and the shallots are tender.  Add the mushrooms back into the pan and add the kale. Turn heat to medium low and heat long enough for the kale to wilt.

While the kale is wilting brush the polenta slices with olive oil Grill the polenta slices in a grill pan, Foreman type grill or panini maker until they are sufficiently heated through and have nice grill marks.

To assemble place one piece of polenta on the dish, cover with ragout, stack another piece of polenta on top and then more ragout until the tower is as high as you desire.

*Note: if you do not have or do not feel like roasting garlic raw will work just as well. I just happened to have roasted garlic leftover from another recipe which is why I used it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sticky Buns

I have not had a sticky bun in years.  When I was a kid there was this place that we used to go called the Montgomeryville Mart. "The Mart" as we called it was a very run down sort of low rent version of a mall. I actually worked there for a short time making hand cut french fries. It had concrete floors, the stores were mostly little stalls where many vendors sold their wares- clothing, jewelry, t-shirts, records, artwork, hardware, pizza , soft pretzels and sticky buns!  The best sticky buns known to mankind, actually!

In retrospect, we were pretty brave eating anything that came out of The Mart; it was filthy, to say the least. When I close my eyes I can still smell that smell-- not a particularly pleasant smell, not entirely unpleasant either but certainly unique to The Mart. I am quite sure there is nowhere else on earth that smells exactly like the Mart did.  The Mart is long gone but I do still remember those sticky buns.

Over Labor Day weekend I had a big party at my house where lots of friends from my youth came. Amy brought with her a tray of sticky buns and they were devoured in no time flat. They looked and smelled delicious, but I did not have any since they were made with butter and milk.  Everyone raved about them, including Mr. Meat and Potatoes, so I asked her for the recipe.  I only had to alter it slightly to make it vegan and I will tell you that they taste exactly like those sticky buns of my youth from The Mart! It is a sheer bonus that these use a frozen store bought bread dough as the basis of the recipe.

Sticky Buns

2 loaves of frozen bread dough*
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins
1 4.6 oz package vanilla cook and serve pudding mix (not instant)*
1/4 lb. (1 stick)  Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
1 cup organic light brown sugar
2 tbsp So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Thaw the bread dough according to package directions. Grease a 9x13 pan well with cooking oil spray. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with the chopped pecans and raisins.  Before the dough rises break into walnut size pieces and place in an even layer on the bottom of the 9x13.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and place in the refrigerator for about twelve hours so the dough can rise. You may want to spray your plastic wrap or foil with cooking spray so the dough will not stick to the top if it rises that high (mine did not).

Once the dough has risen remove from the refrigerator, uncover and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Over low heat place the butter in a sauce pan.  Once melted add the brown sugar, pudding mix, coconut milk and cinnamon and stir until smooth.  Pour over the top of the risen dough.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Immediately upon removing the pan from the oven invert the sticky buns on a cooling rack and allow to cool before serving.

*Note: be sure to read package ingredients to ensure your bread dough and pudding mix are indeed vegan.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vegetable Risotto Cakes

Sometimes on Saturdays I like to go to the grocery store without a plan (or a list) and just wander the aisles choosing  my ingredients as I go. I find this a very relaxing and usually the result of  these trips are my best meals.  Things always seem to somehow materialize while I am in the store and by the time I get to the checkout I am excited to get home and start cooking.

Yesterday was one of those days. I spent close to two hours at the local Wegman's (which is absolutely a vegan's paradise).  I walked the aisles choosing my ingredients. I guess the recipe I recently read online at Cmac's Kitchen for Vegan risotto cakes was still in the back of my mind as I came home with the makings of my own risotto cake.

This dish can be easily modified to accommodate whatever veggies you have on hand.  While it is time intensive, it is not terribly difficult and the end result is a hearty dinner that, paired with a salad (I did a spinach and roasted beet salad), will fill even a hard core meat lover's belly (yes, Mr. Meat and Potatoes loved it too)!

Vegetable Risotto Cakes

2 tbsp Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
2 tbsp olive oil
7 cups vegetable stock
2 cups aborio rice
1 leek, minced (white part only)
3 asparagus stalks, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, minced
10 cremini mushrooms, minced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 cup white wine
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup white corn meal
1/4 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or other relatively large pot heat olive oil and Earth Balance over medium heat and add the leeks and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until translucent. Add the asparagus, peppers and mushrooms and saute for another few minutes until vegetables are tender.  Add the uncooked rice and cook for a few more minutes, until the rice turns somewhat translucent.  Add the paprika, salt and pepper. Stir to coat.  Add the cup of white wine and stir until the rice has absorbed all of the wine.  Start adding the vegetable stock one cup at a time stirring constantly. After each cup of stock is absorbed by the rice add the next until you have added all seven cups.* Remove from the heat. Add nutritional yeast and stir to incorporate.  Set mixture aside to cool.

When mixture is cool enough to handle place some white cornmeal on a cutting board or other flat surface.  To mold the cakes place some corn meal in the bottom of a round vessel (I used a ramekin) and add large handful (about a cup) of the rice mixture pressing it into the vessel.  Run a butter knife gently around the sides of the ramekin and turn upside down and bang gently on the cutting board with the corn meal.  Coat the cake with cornmeal on all sides. Repeat until all mixture is gone- this should make about eight cakes.

Heat corn oil over medium. Add the cakes and allow them to cook until golden brown on all sides and warmed through.

*Note: if you do not want to use wine you can substitute an extra cup of vegetable stock. I do think the wine gives it a nice flavor, though.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baked Onion Rings

Twitter is a really interesting place. It has certainly served as a forum by which to meet many  vegans and generally like minded people. At any hour of the day or night, I  can get online as VeganVersion  and jump into all sorts of conversations with my "Tweeps".  Sometimes we discuss vegan philosophy and recipes sometimes just share general chit-chat. I was initially skeptical but it has turned out to be a great resource.

Through my Twitter online community I have been introduced to so many wonderful vegan bloggers and as a result almost never reference an actual cookbook any more. If I cannot find what I am looking for I simply ask the group on Twitter and many are right there eager to help.

@MegVegLibrarian recently tweeted about some baked onion rings she made.  They sounded great so I clicked on the link to her blog to check them out and decided immediately that I needed to make them.  They were very simple and very tasty.  I did not change the recipe much other than using So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk instead of almond milk, one red and one Vidalia onion, and using a little more cayenne pepper than her recipe called for.  Thanks Meg for a great new recipe and for being part of my online Twitter experience!

Baked Onion Rings

2 average size onions (I used one red and one Vidalia)
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 slightly-heaping half cup of all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Slice the onions into 1/2' thick rounds. Separate the layers.  Spray two baking sheets with a thin layer of cooking oil.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the milk, flour and cornstarch to form a batter. Stir until smooth. Add the apple cider vinegar and stir until incorporated.  Set aside.

In a shallow dish place the bread crumb, garlic salt, cayenne and olive oil. Mix until the olive oil is well incorporated into the bread crumb mixture.

Place one onion round in the batter and then place it into the bread crumbs ensuring it is well coated. Then place onto the baking dish.  Continue until all rounds are coated.*

Bake at 450 for about 9 minutes and then flip the onion rings using tongs. Continue to bake another 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.

* When battering and breading the rounds it is best to use one hand for the "wet" ingredients and the other for the "dry" ingredients.  Doing so will make the process much easier and avoid clumps in the dry ingredients.