Saturday, July 24, 2010

Middle Eastern-Inspired Phyllo Triangles with Dill Sauce

(Had to repost this because I was having major formatting issues in the original post.  Apologies for repeats!)

I've labelled this recipe as "World Class Vegan" and under medium difficulty due to the length it takes (1.5 hours) and the use of phyllo. Phyllo is actually very easy to work with, but it does take practice. I've added instructions below.

Middle Eastern-Inspired Phyllo Triangles with Dill Sauce

Time: 1.5 Hours      |      Yield: 8 Servings (Pastries) |      Difficulty: Medium


2 cans soybeans
3 cups cherry tomatoes
2 large onions
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspooon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh spinach (optional)

1 pack phyllo dough, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
2 tablespoons water, hot
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
1/4 soy creamer
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed horseradish
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon


Begin with preheating oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a deep skillet (or pot) on medium-high.

Coarsely peel and chop onion, and pulse in food processor until they are finely chopped. Add to skillet, and sauté. Meanwhile, add garlic to processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to onions and cook until the onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

Pulse cherry tomatoes in food processor until coarsely chopped and add to onion mixture. Drain and rinse soy beans, coarsely chop in food processor and add to tomato mixture. Cook until it reaches a boil and turn heat to medium-low and add vinegar, almond butter, and spices. Continue cooking at a simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until soybeans are tender. Add spinach, if using, during the last 10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool, 10-15 minutes.

After mixture has cooled, begin preparing phyllo dough. Unwrap and lay flat - be careful, phyllo can be delicate and easy to break. With a sharp knife, cut the entire square in half, lengthwise.

Mix oil and water in a bowl. Carefully take 1-2 layers of phyllo and place on clean surface. Using a pastry brush, sparingly brush with oil/water mixture. Make sure to mix the oil and water well before applying to the phyllo. Add another 1-2 layers of phyllo, doing this 3 times in total. Pay special attention to properly aligning the dough - but don't worry if you're off. Once you layers are done, simply take a knife and cut along the edge of the dough to make clean sides. Done properly, you will see a long rectangle before you. The phyllo should be facing you lengthwise.

As the steps to making phyllo triangles can seem daunting, and the instructions are terribly long, here is a great link to a video which shows you how to do it. In the video the cook makes non-vegan spanikopida, but the phyllo directions stay the same! Click here. I’d like to point out that she cuts the phyllo in 3 (width wise), where we are cutting them in 2 (lengthwise), as we are making larger triangles. Also, the cook folds away from her – I personally find it easier to fold towards. Try both ways and continue with whatever feels comfortable for you.

Repeat the steps until 8 triangles are formed, or until filling is used up. When done, mix Earth Balance with hot water and melt together. Heat in microwave if needed.

Using pastry brush, glaze the top of each triangle liberally with sugar mixture, binding any loose edges of phyllo. Place triangles on a greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.

Meanwhile, finely chop dill and mix with remaining ingredients. Chill while waiting for phyllo triangles to bake.

When ready, allow triangles to cool for 15 minutes, then serve with dill sauce.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Medieval Cooking and Almond Milk

Almond Milk...a definitively wonderful, delicious, healthful substitute for cow's milk.  It's nutty flavour lends itself beautifully to baked goods and sauces, it's easy to make at home - and for those who need to avoid soy (or soymilk), it's an invaluable addition to any vegan kitchen.  Personally, the only real competition to almond milk's "awesomeness" is rice milk - to me, they are par and I love them both equally.

Almonds originated in the Middle East, eventually making their way to Europe.  This helped form the almond's illustrious history during medieval times.  During the middle ages (5th - 16th century Europe) the eating norms were much, much different than today.  Two of the greatest paradigm differences were the inability to keep food cold, and the unavailability of many foodstuffs we take for granted today like white sugar, tomatoes, potatoes and corn just to name a few.  Spices and herbs that were available, were usually not affordable to working class.  This also applied to many meat products too.

Meat, especially beef, was expensive for peasants and they were normally not able to afford such luxuries, so instead had diets that mainly consisted of fava beans, rye, barley, buckwheat, oats, and of course almonds!  This was especially true during the later centuries after advances in agriculture.  Vegetables were in!  So ultimately, believe it or not, vegetarianism/veganism was practiced during the medieval times (albeit usually involuntarily). 

Almond milk was a staple for the medieval peasant family.  Due to cow's milk spoiling very quickly and being normally turned to cheese/butter, the masses caught onto the almond's versatility.   One of the greatest advantages of using almond milk during the middle ages was that it was perfectly fine to consume during Lent.

Almonds (particularly almond milk) permeated into almost every type of dish, and if you look back into medieval cookbooks, they are everywhere.  Yes, medieval cookbooks do exist, and if you're interest in culinary histories I highly recommend checking some out.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Agave-Garlic Marinated Smoked Tofu with Peanuty Pasta Salad

Not much to say other than YUM!  I apologize for there being no picture this time.

Agave-Garlic Marinated Grilled Cutlets with Peanuty Pasta Salad

Time: 45 Min      |      Yield: 4 Servings      |      Difficulty: Low

Marinated Tofu:
1 Pack smoked tofu, sliced into 4
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 low sodium vegetable broth
3-5 cloves garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or more if you like it super spicy)
1 tablespoon preferred vegetable oil

Pasta Salad:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tablespoon hot pepper, like Serrano, or 1/4 tablespoon Sriracha
12 oz (3/4 lb) rigatoni or any short pasta on hand
1 large orange bell pepper, cut into matchstick-size strips (or grated)
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup very thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
2 tablespoons lime juice (optional) or to taste

Begin with turning on BBQ to medium-high heat, and boiling salted water to cook pasta.

Mix all ingredients for marinade in a large bowl and add smoked tofu.  Let sit for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the salad, combine all ingredients except pasta and vegetables in a bowl to make peanut sauce. Once pasta is done, allow to cool and combine all remaining ingredients.

Grill marinated tofu until well done, continuously basting in marinade, no more than 5-7 minutes each side.

Serve with Pasta Salad.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tomato and Hummus Pizza

I was in Australia less than a week ago, visiting my fiance's sister. She moved to Melbourne with her fiance, who is Australian. We had a great time - definitely going back!

While we were there, we had a pizza night. Everyone could make their own pizzas and I figured this would be a yummy combination. Not only did it turn out yummy, but it was also beautiful! I don't think it's a coincidence that the Vegan pizza was the most beautiful pizza out of the bunch. ;)

This is a Super Simple Series (SSS) recipe. You can however, turn it up a notch and make everything from scratch.

Tomato and Hummus Pizza

Time: 35 Minutes      |      Servings: 2      |      Difficulty: Low

2 prepared pizza crusts, 8-10"
1 medium-large container garlic hummus
4-5 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil
olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper, as needed
1/4 red onion, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Celsius.

Spread hummud evenly onto pizza crusts. Top pizza with tomato slices. Sprinkle salt and pepper.  If desired, drizzle with olive oil.

Bake pizzas for 20-30 minutes, or until crusts are golden brown. Top with fresh basil and enjoy.

- If you don't have hummus on hand, or want to use another bean, feel free to puree navy beans, soy beans or anything else your heart contents in place of hummus.
- The possibilities are literally endless; top pizzas with whatever! :)

Thai Green Curry

This recipe is from scratch - so you get all that comforting satisfaction from making it. The ingredients are potentially difficult to find at a normal grocery store - but if you drop by an Asian market, all these ingredients (plus the general everyday ingredients) are super easy to find. Every single ingredient listed below I found at an Asian market with no problems, except for nutritional yeast, which I had on hand and did not look for.

This recipe is from a traditional recipe of chicken green curry, which I have veganized. It has all the foreign ingredients you'd find in an authentic recipe, plus a few uniquely vegan additions. Actually, one thing that I have always noticed (or thought to myself) is how similar fish sauce and nutritional yeast smell. I actually found more of a similarity between these two ingredients than nutritional yeast and cheese (although it's still a great cheezy addition). That's my humble observation. I have used nutritional yeast as the replacement for shrimp paste, which turned out great.

Thai Green Curry
Time: 1 Hour      |      Servings: 4      |      Difficulty: Low
1 block extra firm tofu, cubed
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cans coconut milk
10 cloves of garlic (yes, 10)
3 stalks lemongrass
1/2 of a purple onion, very coarsely chopped
4 Thai chilies, stems removed
2 pieces galangal, about a thumb's size each, peeled
2 cups fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup vegetarian fish sauce
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
10 lime leaves, preferably still on branches
1/4 cup Thai basil, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups white rice, cooked with 4 cups of water
Begin with placing rice and water in a pot, and bringing to a boil.  Turn down heat bring down to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes (a timer is very useful here so you can forget about it and come back to it after 20 minutes).  Turn off heat and set aside, still covered.
Meanwhile, remove outer leaves of lemon grass, cut off the bulb and roughly slice the light yellow body, you'll have about 1/4 - 1/3 cup.   In a food processor, pulse together lemongrass, chilies, onion, garlic, galangal, cilantro, nutritional yeast, fish sauce and 1/4 of a can of coconut milk until a thick paste is formed - you've now made a true Thai curry paste!  As lemongrass and galangal are very hard, it can take some time, up to 10 minutes, to get a real paste consistency.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides to help it along.
Heat oil in a deep pan, add paste.  Cook, stirring constantly, until beautifully fragrant, about 1-3 minutes.  Add the remaining coconut milk, spices, vinegar, along with whole lime leaves (you'll take them out at the end), tofu, bell pepper and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and maintain for about 10 minutes, and bring down to a simmer.  Stir in lime juice and Thai basil, and cook for another 20 minutes, or until desired thickness is reached.
Remove lime leaves.  Serve with rice, and garnish with fresh cilantro.