Last Minute Valentine’s Day

•February 15, 2012 • 2 Comments

 

I wasn’t planning on doing anything particularly exciting for Valentine ’s Day this year, but plans always change.  At 5pm a friend called with an “emergency.”  One of our friends had a recent break up and is panicking about v-day, so they call me to whip something up fantastic.  I checked the pantry and had all the essentials for a fabulous last minute dinner.  What was on the menu, you ask?  Well we started with a great garden salad with house made bleu cheese  dressing, frozen mozzarella sticks (it was a hormonal evening on short notice….don’t judge), homemade fettuccini alfredo with grilled chicken (real for the meat eaters, soy-based for those not), Girl Scout inspired Thin Mint cocktails, and chocolate soufflé for dessert.  Believe it or not, all of this was ready in about an hour and I didn’t have to go to the store for any of it.

My salads are always simple: for the four of us, I chopped 3 heads of romaine (I always have a few days worth of salad ingredients on hand for lunches), 3 roma tomatoes, 1 cucumber, a quarter to a half of a red onion, and some croutons.  When it comes to the dressing, I am a bleu cheese guy all the way!  My problem is that it is very, very difficult to find a bottled or jarred bleu cheese dressing worth buying.  Even the alright ones in the refrigerated section don’t live up to restaurant counterparts and are always more expensive than their worth.

That being said, I am a proud fan of Paula Deen and all of her butter use!  On my last flight back to Boston from Florida, I happened to be watching Food Network and Paula was on.  And, she just happened to be making the bleu cheese dressing she uses at the Lady and Sons in Savannah.  Having been there, and eating the dressing, I knew I had to make this dressing.  It is super easy and very inexpensive to make this dressing yourself and it has none of the preservatives the bleu dressing at the store has.  Now when it comes to Paula, I personally think she uses too much mayonnaise and not enough sour cream.  I also, almost never have buttermilk on hand so I have made a few alterations to the recipe I now regularly use.  Paula’s original recipe can be found here.

For the Dressing:

2/3 cup mayonnaise

3 heaping tablespoons sour cream (just under ¼ cup)

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon garlic powder

6 ounces crumbled bleu cheese

1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon cream, half and half, or evaporated milk

Pinch cracked black pepper and salt to taste

Just mix well and serve.  This should be well more than enough for the salad I prepared above.

 

The alfredo is something I have held close to my chest after years of tweaking to perfection.  I share it though, because it is so simple and such a crowd pleaser.  This is certainly one of those recipes where fewer ingredients really is the more appropriate way to go.  I just heat up whatever protein I plan on eating with it and toss it with the pasta at the end.

For the Alfredo Sauce:

½ cup (1 stick) salted butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan.  Over medium heat, sauté the garlic until tender, about two minutes.  Then add the cream and bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Continue boiling until sauce has thickened to desired consistency.* Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted, add the salt and pepper to taste.  Toss with one pound of cooked pasta and serve immediately.

*This can take some time, so be patient.  Often times, I will bring the cream to a boil right before I put the pasta water on.  By the time the pasta is done, the alfredo is usually at the appropriate thickness.

 

Soufflés are another crowd pleaser that are usually always easier than people expect them to be.  I stake no claim for this soufflé recipe, except that the proportions of ingredients I’ve posted here, I have pared down to fit 4 6oz. ramekins instead of 6 6oz. ramekins.  The original recipe is also from the Food Network Kitchen, and can be found here.  The chocolate sauce I used with them is my own recipe, but it’s super easy to make as well.

For the Soufflé: 

2/3 cup finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

2 2/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus for preparing the molds

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2large egg yolks

2 tablespoons warm water

1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 1/3 tablespoons, plus for preparing the molds

5 1/3 large egg whites, room temperature

1/3 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Confectioners’ sugar for garnish

Brush 4 6oz ramekins with soft butter, then coat with sugar and place in the freezer.

Set an oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double broiler, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside.

Combine the egg yolks and warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer or large bowl and beat until frothy. Gradually add the 1 1/3 tablespoons sugar, and continue beating until ribbons form, about 5 minutes. Very lightly fold the yolks into the chocolate mixture.

Remove prepared ramekins from freezer. Put the egg whites and the lemon juice in  a medium bowl. Beat on medium until frothy; then gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and increase speed to high. Beat until the whites hold a stiff peak.

Working quickly, fold about a third of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten; then fold in remaining whites until blended. Gently ladle or spoon the soufflé mixture into the ramekins, and place on a baking sheet. (Level off the surface with a straight edge, scraping any excess mixture back into the bowl.)

Immediately bake until the soufflé rises about 1 1/2 inches from the ramekins, and the tops are touched with brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

Make 4 6 oz. soufflés

For the Chocolate Sauce:

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

½ teaspoon instant coffee granules

Place all ingredients over a double broiler and stir until smooth and shiny.  Break the tops of the soufflés and fill with sauce.

 

Thin Mint Cocktail:

I fell across the Thin Mint cocktail recipe on pinterest this past weekend and had been looking for an excuse to make them.  The original recipe can be found here.

Place 4oz each of Irish cream liqueur, Kahlua, and peppermint schnapps in a shaker filled with ice.  Shake until thoroughly mixed and strain into champagne or martini glasses garnished with chocolate syrup.

This makes 4 3oz cocktails.

Supreme Court Clerking and an Enlightening Dressing

•February 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For those of you who haven’t heard, I have just been accepted to clerk for Chief Justice Ireland.  Who is he, you ask?  Justice Ireland is the chief justice for the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  In other words, the highest judge in the highest court in the state!  I am super excited and hope that this opens the doors for many opportunities in the future.  what you need to take away from this is that I am very excited and honored.  One of my girlfriends asked me what I was going to make to celebrate.

It was a very odd moment for me, because what I wanted more than anything in that moment was the salad that was served for Krishna lunch in the Plaza of the Americas at the University of Florida.  Having not been from there, my friend had no idea what I was talking about.  I tried to explain that it was this heavenly, creamy, nutty, salty amazing salad dressing  that neared perfection.  I promise I am not exaggerating.  At any rate I jumped online and found a recipe that tasted close, but not exact.  Several trials later, this is what I’ve come up with.  To those of you from UF who know how amazing this dressing is…this is for you!  It is super easy and only requires a food processor.  I REALIZE IT DOESN’T LOOK AS INCREDIBLY APPETIZING AS IT ACTUALLY IS…AS MY MOTHER HAS SO ASTUTELY POINTED OUT…BUT GIVE IT A SHOT!!!

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup neutral tasting oil ( I use just under a 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon hing (asafetida)* or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients, except water, in a food processor and blend until smooth. 

Slowly add water to reach the desired thickness.  The dressing will thicken a bit as it sits.

*Hing is an awful smelling dried sap of a plant.  It is colloquially known as devil’s dung!  It is common in many curries and hints to garlic and onion.  To me it smells like rotting onion and burning hair or rubber, but don’t let that deter you from trying it.  I highly recommend it in this recipe, but garlic powder will do in a pinch.

Carrots in my Marinara?!?!

•February 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Despite going out of my way to make all of my own pasta sauces from scratch, I have never done so for a marinara.  I suppose it could be because I don’t usually have a craving for one and there always seems to be a jar on hand to conveniently use.  Well, I had a recent discussion with a co-worker outside the courtroom the other day and he was singing praises about putting carrots in his marinara.  Carrots in my marinara?!?!  I thought I’d give it a try, and it was so simple, and by the time the pasta was ready, the sauce was done.  I figured I’d have to share this recipe with everyone!

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, diced

1 stalk celery

1 medium carrot

4oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

I like a chunky sauce so I decided to keep this one chunky.  Feel free to use an immersion (stick) blender to smooth out your sauce at the end.   Heat the oil over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven.  Add the diced onions and cook until they soften.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.  Because I don’t like chunks of carrots or celery, I placed mine in a food processor and finely chopped.  If you are going to use a blender at the end anyway, you can skip this step.  Add the finely chopped/grated celery and carrot and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add the chopped mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs, and red pepper flakes. 

When the sauce comes to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer, and stir occasionally.  Start your pasta water now and when the pasta is done, the sauce will also be ready.  You can continue to simmer the sauce for up to an hour.  If you want a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender until the desired consistency is reached.

Long Over due Massaman Curry and Thai Iced Tea

•February 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

I had a reader ask me the other day where I found my recipes.  I was caught off guard with the question; I just assumed it was obvious.  To set the record straight, all of these recipes are my own.  The proportions have been tweaked to my liking and most of these dishes I have been perfecting and altering for many years.  When a recipe is inspired by another foodie, they receive credit for the inspiration and, if there is a link, I link to the original and discuss how I’ve made it my own.  That being said, today’s recipe is all my own, developed after many, many trials and restaurant tastings.

I’ve had the dream, for a long time, to take a motorcycle tour across Thailand, tasting all of the regional cuisine, and learning from the people there, hoe to cook their food.  Who knows, someday I may be able to fulfill this dream, but as long as I’m in law school, it’s not likely a reality.  So, in lieu of an actual trip across Thailand, my taste buds will have to go on their own adventure while I stay in my kitchen.

One of my favorite things in the entire world is a great Massaman curry.  The problem is that the final product is vastly different restaurant to restaurant.  So I took the basic ingredients that seemed common to all of the dishes and worked through much trial and error to refine a dish I absolutely love.  This is NOT what I would call an authentic Thai dish, but it is certainly full of the aromas and flavors associated with the traditional dish.

Massaman curry is an Indian inspired Thai curry dish.  In fact, I am told that, the word “Massaman” means “Muslim” because many of the spices used in this dish were transported by Muslim spice traders.  While recipes for this dish tend vary greatly, several ingredients are always constant.  There are always potatoes and onions, and usually carrots or red peppers.  The traditional protein in the dish is the dark meat, or leg and thigh, of the chicken, and it is always cooked in a coconut broth.  I’ve had Massaman curries that were very red, and some that were yellow or orange.  Some have been in a very thick broths and others, very thin.  Finally, while I have seen recipes that top the dish with roasted cashews, I have only ever been served the dish with peanuts.

What’s most important is that they have all been fantastic, and I encourage anyone who tries this recipe to adjust the ingredients to their liking and let me know how it is!

In the recipes I have listed some ingredients with an asterisk–or several asterisks–these ingredients are usually accompanied by a substitute.  The first ingredient listed in one of these pairs is the one that I use to prepare this recipe and is usually the more common and easy to come by ingredient.  In fact, I make this curry weekly, and I can procure every single ingredient (the first one listed), including the fish sauce, at the Target Fresh near my apartment.  The second ingredient is the more traditional ingredient, but often times more expensive or difficult to find.  Further explanation of these substitutions can be found below the recipes.

Massaman Curry

2 tbs butter or vegetable oil*

2 tbs curry paste or Massaman curry paste*

1 medium white onion, thinly sliced root to tip

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbs minced ginger or 1/2 tsp of ground ginger

1 14 oz coconut milk

1/2 to 3/4 pound of protein (tofu preparation follows curry recipe)

1-2 potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes and parboiled (half cooked)

1-2 carrots, thinly sliced

1/2 to 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes, to desired spiciness 

2 tbs brown sugar or palm sugar, or to taste*

2 tbs soy sauce or fish sauce , or more to taste*

1 to 2 tbs lime juice or Tamarind water*

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, unsalted

Heat the butter or oil and sauté the curry paste several minutes until fragrant.  Add the onion, coating with the curry paste and sauté until onions begin to soften.  Add the garlic and ginger and coat with the curry paste.  Sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the onions become slightly translucent.  Add the coconut milk and heat until the liquid comes to a bubble.  Add the protein, potatoes, and carrots.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover.  Simmer until the protein is cooked and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  If the curry looks too dry, add some water, a little at a time, until desired consistency.

Add one tablespoon of the sugar and dissolve.  Then add the soy/fish sauce, red pepper flakes,  and lime juice or tamarind.  Taste and add more fish sauce, lime, or brown sugar to taste.  Stir in the peanuts and serve with jasmine rice.

Standard Tofu preparation:

If using tofu, you’ll need to prepare it to absorb all the wonderful flavors in this curry.  I use extra firm tofu, drained.  You’ll need 1 pound of extrafirm tofu and about 1/4 cup soy sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray.

Slice the tofu into roughly 32 pieces.  To achieve this, turn the tofu on it’s side and make four even slices resulting in four large but thin rectangles.

Then slice each of these into 8 even sized rectangles.

Lightly press these with a paper towel to absorb excess water in the tofu.  Then brush each side of the tofu with a low sodium soy sauce.

Place  tofu on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Flip each piece and bake for an additional 15 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

The tofu will be ready to add  to curry immediately or can be refrigerated for several days until needed.  I use this tofu preparation for almost all tofu dishes I make (i.e. stir fry, fried rice, etc.).  It is much healthier, simpler, and easier to clean up after than frying the tofu.

Something a good Thai dish is never complete without is a fabulous Thai iced tea.  If you haven’t ever had one, I suggest you stop reading immediately and get to your nearest Thai restaurant to try one of these puppies out!  Also, while I stand behind my Thai iced tea recipe 100%, if you haven’t ever had one I recommend you try a high quality one from a restaurant so you know what it’s supposed to taste like before attempting your own.  This way, you don’t spend the money on the tea before knowing if you are actually going to use it.

So, on a rare occasion, I am willing to forego a wine recommendation in place of the Thai iced tea.

Thai Iced Tea:

1/4 cup Thai tea leaves/powder

1 cup of good water

1-2 tablespoons sugar

2-3 tablespoons evaporated milk or half and half

Crushed ice

Bring the water to a boil and steep the tea for 5 minutes or longer, strain the leaves.  The steeping time will depend on the type and quality of tea leaves used.  The tea should be strong.  Dissolve the sugar in the hot tea and refrigerate until chilled.  Pour the chilled, sweetened tea mixture over the ice, leaving 1/2 an inch or so in the glass.  Slowly and carefully pour the evaporated milk or half and half over the tea and serve.

Some folks like to mix the milk and tea thoroughly and others like to keep the two separate.  You should play around with these amounts to find your ideal proportion of sweetness and richness before trying to make it pretty.  Note your changes so you know how much sugar and milk you like in the future and you can assemble the drink to impress your guests!

This recipe only makes one glass.

*While fish sauce is far superior to soy sauce and used extensively in Thai cooking, it is not vegetarian friendly…it’s made from fish if you couldn’t guess from the name.  However, if you have no problem using fish sauce, I highly recommend it.  All of the other alternate ingredients will probably be unnoticeable.

Massaman curry paste is also not vegetarian friendly as it contains shrimp.  I also find it difficult to come by and relatively expensive even when purchased online.

Tamarind comes in three forms: a brick where you break off as much as needed and reconstitute in a little bit of water; in paste form that usually comes in a tub; or much less common, the fresh or dried fruit form.  If you are going to use the paste or brick, use only a few teaspoons and add more as needed.

Back & Better Than Ever

•January 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes there is nothing more satisfying than a caramelized onion.  Last weekend I was planning a small dinner and wine party and I really wanted to “wow” the crowd with something a bit more sophisticated than expected.  In my search I stumbled upon—literally on stumbleupon.com—a recipe for a caramelized onion tart with gorgonzola and brie.  The concept was simple, a flatbread on puff pastry with the onions as a base and topped off with gorgonzola, brie, and a sprinkling of tarragon.  That recipe can be found here:  Simplyrecipes.com  Thank you Elise and simplyrecipes.com!

The dish was a huge hit, but not surprising, very unhealthy.

Fast forward to one week later.  This morning I woke up with a pantry full of nothing but leftovers and a grumbling tummy.  I had a batch of dough from last week in the fridge that needed to get used up, so I had the brilliant idea to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  It wasn’t too difficult; a little butter (1.5 sticks), some cinnamon, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg.  What I didn’t account for was the 90 minute wait time before they could even hit the oven and another 30 before they’d be ready to come out.  It certainly wasn’t going to take 2 hours for me to make the icing, and my stomach was still begging for food.

With my open container of dough staring at me, I decided to make a variation on the onion tart I made last week.  I had two onions and about a pound of whole wheat dough which was all I needed to get started.  I’ve always got balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and a little olive oil on hand so I decided to dive in, skip breakfast, and savor an early lunch.

I was conscious to be somewhat healthier this time around so I cut the amount of olive oil used to sauté the onions, sprinkled with low fat cheese, and perhaps the most calorie saving choice, was using the whole wheat dough in place of the puff pastry.

My taste buds could not have been happier!  By the time the flatbread emerged from the oven, the cinnamon rolls were ready to go in, and by the time I was done enjoying my lunch and making the icing, the rolls were ready for dessert.

As far as wine goes, the sun is still out, so it has been a dry morning.  What I can say though, is that one of my great friends brought by a surprisingly good California Cabernet to the party.  I have no idea how much the bottle cost, and since it is bad form to ask, I won’t be finding out any time soon.  What I do know is that the label was “Three Wishes” and it was a 2006 vintage.  It was slightly sweeter than what I would normally associate with a cab, but only very slightly.  The bouquet opened up nicely after running through the aerator and it was not overly “oaky” as a lot of California wines can be.  It gets two thumbs up from me!

I know it has been a LONG time since my last post, but I resolved to post regularly with pictures.  A few things have changed since I last posted:  I am no longer vegan, I now live in Boston and go to law school at Northeastern.  But despite these changes, I will forever be grateful to what I picked up while vegan and still incorporate many ingredients I would have never come across had I not started out on that journey.

All of this being said I now give you the recipes I used in today’s post:  The cinnamon rolls, the caramelized onion flatbread, and the dough used in both.  I did want to note that this dough is my standard basic dough recipe I use for almost everything; it makes about 2 pounds of whole wheat dough and lasts for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  Also, the caramelized onion recipe and technique is also standard and used wherever caramelized onions are required or desired.

 

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

  • One pound of dough, recipe follows
  • 12 tablespoons softened butter (1 ½ sticks)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Roll the dough out to a 12 x 16 in rectangle* with the long side facing you.  Spread the butter evenly on the dough leaving about an inch at the top unbuttered.  Mix all of the other ingredients together and sprinkle on the buttered surface.  Roll tightly and evenly away from you.  Seal the unbuttered edge against the roll.

Slice** into 9 equal sized rolls and place, cut side down in an 8 x 8 greased dish.  If the dough is fresh, wait 40 minutes and then bake, if the dough is refrigerated, wait 90 minutes before baking.

Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown

Combine the icing ingredients and spread over the rolls.  If too thick, add some milk, 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency.  Alternatively, if the glaze is too runny, add confectioner’s sugar, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency.

*I find it much easier to roll the dough out onto a lightly floured silpat, or silicone baking sheet, to prevent the dough from sticking and tearing.

**I find that slicing can be difficult sometimes, smashing the rolls, or tearing them causing all of the filling to spill out.  I use a string of waxed dental floss, run it under the roll to where I want a slice, and bring both sides of the floss up crossing them.  Pulling tightly, the floss slices through the roll from the bottom making perfect slices every time.

Caramelized Onion Flatbread:

Ingredients:

  • One pound of dough, recipe follows
  • Seasonings for the crust*
  • 2 medium to large white onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 oz. low fat shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
  • 2 oz. crumbled gorgonzola
  • Tarragon or crushed fennel seed to taste and garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Slice the onions from root to tip in about 1/4 inch slices.  Heat the olive oil in a large deep pan on medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook for about 10 minutes or until wilted and starting to brown. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook gently, uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until richly caramelized. Add a little water if the onions look like they are starting to dry out.

While the onions are caramelizing, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thick.  Prick with a fork to prevent the dough from bubbling in the oven.  Sprinkle with seasonings if desired.  Bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven.

When the onions are done, spread them evenly on the crust and sprinkle with both cheeses.  Top with tarragon or fennel if desired and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden.  Let sit for 5 minutes and slice to desired size pieces.

* I use garlic powder, salt, pepper, and dried Italian herb blend to sprinkle on my crust before half baking the dough and topping.  This varies from crust to crust, but I generally use a thin even dusting of the blend, being careful not to over salt.

The Basic Dough:

  • 2 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 packet or 3/4 tablespoon granulated active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/8 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2 cups lukewarm water

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  You may have to use your hands to incorporate all of the flour.  There is no kneading necessary. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for two hours.  The dough will rise and fall.  At this point, the dough is ready to use.

If not being used immediately, store covered in the refrigerator.  The dough should be allowed to vent for two days before sealing completely in an airtight container.

The cats really enjoy a warm oven

I Can’t Believe it’s Not Chicken!

•January 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I have been a vegetarian for just over a year now, and as of January 1, 2011, I have gone vegan.  Let me assure you that it is not because I feel bad for the animals.  Mind you, I care quite a bit about animals (I own two rescued dogs and three rescued cats), but I primarily went vegan to lose weight.  The parameters were simple:  No animal products whatsoever, no added fats or oils whatsoever (including cooking spray), and no refined carbs whatsoever (white sugar, white flour, white rice, etc.).  Daunting at first, I know, but then I came across this wonderful blog called the fat-free vegan kitchen (http://blog.fatfreevegan.com) run by a fabulous woman by the name of Susan V.  This site, along with a few others held my hand and led me into the scary world of nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten, and agave nectar.

In high school, I was captain of my culinary team and throughout my undergraduate years I taught gourmet cooking classes.  I am no novice to the kitchen, but vegan was/is a whole new world to me.  But I am happy to say that 29 days in I am officially making my own seitan based on my own recipe and I couldn’t be prouder.  For the past 21 years I had been living in the South and I wanted a bit of that for lunch today, so I decided to make my own “healthy vegan southern-style oven ‘fried’ chik’n seitan.”  I know it’s a mouthful and a bit contradictory, but it was amazing.

This being my first food post, I did not have the foresight to put together a nice place setting to photograph.  Nor have I created a nutritional profile for the dish yet, but I promise to update with the nutritional information soon.  So if you’re not weak hearted, and have a bit of time to make your own seitan…Take a Bite!

Chik’n Seitan

Seitan:
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 nutritional yeast
1/2 cup water
 
Broth:
2   1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
 
Breading:
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs 
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
Fresh ground pepper and additional salt to taste 

Mix the seitan ingredients until well combined and knead for about a minute on a clean surface that has been dusted with a little wheat gluten.  The dough will be very stretchy.  Flatten to about a half of an inch and cut into desired shapes or sizes (I cut into 6 strips of 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch wide).  Keep in mind that the seitan will double in size when cooked.

In a medium stockpot, combine all of the broth ingredients and bring to a boil.  Carefully add the seitan pieces to the broth, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Be sure to stir the seitan every ten minutes for about 40-50 minutes until most of the broth is gone.  Smaller pieces take less time.

I usually cook a double batch of this at least the night before.  This allows the seitan to rest after being cooked.  It should last for week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make the oven “fried” seitan, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a shallow dish, add the unbleached flour and season with salt and pepper.  In  another bowl, whisk the non-dairy milk and mustard untill blended well.  Mix the remaining ingredients (the panko and seasonings) well and set aside. 

Dredge the prepared seitan pieces in the flour mixture and shake to remove excess flour.  Then dip the piece in the liquid mixture allowing any extra liquid to drip off.  Finally, coat in the breadcrumbs and place them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (alternatively, you could use some non-stick cooking spray, but this recipe contains no added fat). 

Repeat this for the rest of the seitan pieces and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes, turning once halfway through, until lightly browned.

I would pair this with a Columbia Valley Pinot Grigio or a nice pale ale depending on your tastes.



Vinting in Seattle

•January 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Vinting is the process of stripping the grape from the vine, then crushing it, fermenting it, and aging it into the liquid bliss that is wine.  I see life in a very similar way.  As humans, we collect information, synthesize it, and dwell upon it until we need to use it.  In this way, we are each vinted into a unique and genuine varietal. 

It amazes me that so many people can experience the same, or very similar experiences and yet have vastly different perspectives and opinions.  I love it!  People taste things differently, see and hear things differently, interpret things differently, cope with things differently, and yet, however disjointed our beliefs, opinions, and experiences turn out to be, we’re all still rotating on this little planet together.

I’m a newly vegan first year law student trying to make sense of it all, and I hope you’ll join me on this mad journey through school, relationships, food, and lots and lots of great wine!

 
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