Chilled Cream of Broccoli

This is my new favorite soup. Using low-fat dairy products, believe it or not, doesn’t detract from the taste. It’s savory and refreshing, with only a moderate amount of dairy fat per serving.

For a vegan version, substitute almond milk and non-dairy yogurt of your choice. You may need to add a squeeze of lemon at the end.

Ingredients
1 or 2 heads of broccoli, chopped (reserve 1/3 separately)
1 cup vegetable stock (or water, but not chicken stock. It doesn’t taste right.)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 scallions, chopped (reserve 1/3 separately)
Salt to taste
Optional: fresh herbs you have on hand. Dill is very nice.

Technique

Add 2/3 broccoli and scallions, garlic, veg. stock, milk, butter, and salt to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until broccoli is just past the tender-crisp stage. Still green but on the way to soft. Taste and adjust salt so that it tastes perfect and does not need additional salt at the table.

Meanwhile, microwave/steam the reserved broccoli just until it’s crisp and still bright green.

Remove soup from heat and let cool a bit. Then pour into blender and puree. Remember to start the blender on low as hot liquid easily splashes up. Stir in greek yogurt and remaining 1/3 broccoli. Garnish with remainder of scallions.

This is absolutely delicious chilled, and good at room temperature. I wouldn’t heat it too much after the addition of the yogurt for fear of curdling.

 

Veggie/Vegan sausage and greens with pasta

One of my favorite dishes is orecchiette (little ears) pasta in a broth with garlic, hot sausage, and broccoli rabe. It’s Italian-American comfort food I first encountered in college. I’m happy to say my experiment doing it vegetarian/vegan was a success! This is a dish I’ve never known anyone to dislike.

A bitter green brassica-type vegetable is a requirement. Don’t substitute something mild like plain broccoli; it won’t work.

Any time you see a dairy product, just substitute your vegan version if you like. I did the first batch all vegan except that I added parmesan at the end. The vegan stuff was delicious all by itself, though.

Ingredients

2 links Field Roast brand vegan sausage. The chorizo works great, but so does the milder stuff. This fake meat is good and chewy

4 good-sized cloves garlic, minced

1 head broccoli rabe chopped into bite-sized pieces ~or~ same amount of chopped kale, fresh or frozen

3 cups veggie broth (reconstituted from powder, canned, or from your freezer bin of vegetable stock odds and ends)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt to taste

Olive oil for sauteeing/dressing

Cooked pasta—the classic shape is orecchiette. Farfalle (bow ties) and penne rigate work, too.

Technique

Chop Field Roast sausage to desired texture. . .sorta like ground sausage. Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat, add sausage and brown to a crisp, stirring as necessary. Add 1/2 cup broth, scrape pan, then add in minced garlic and crushed red pepper. Reduce for about a minute.

Add greens and remaining veggie broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a medium simmer, and stir. Cover and cook for three-five minutes. Remove cover, taste broth, and adjust seasonings. It may want a squeeze of lemon juice and a glug of olive oil.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente and no softer. Drain, put back in pan. Add broth/veggie/sausage mixture to pasta and heat through quickly, stirring. It’s best to do this in portions, rather than putting all the sauce on all the pasta at once. That makes for soggy leftovers.

Taste and give final garnish of olive oil or salt if necessary. Vegetarians add parm/romano. Vegans add nootch and hot sauce.

Golden Nuggets (frikkin’ scrumptious fake chicken nuggets)

Humans like fried foods, right? Vegans and vegetarians should not be deprived of this delicious treat. This is my version of the tastiest damned fake meat chicken nuggets I’ve ever had. My friend Sarah took me to this awesome vegan restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. They have hearty diner food down to an art. Seriously yo. If you have a Loving Hut franchise in your area, run, don’t walk. It’s seriously good and carnivores will love it.

Note—Loving Hut is a total hippy transcendental freak cult, but the food is great and the staff don’t push it. How awful can a freakish vegan cult of non-violence be anyway? LH is presided over by this lady who calls herself supreme master Ching Hai who publishes books of herself ‘shopped with all manner of lap dogs. Just sayin’.

Ingredients
Seitan (see basic seitan recipe)
1 cup flour
1/3 cup bread crumbs (whole wheat are great)
1 tbsp garlic powder
½ tsp cayenne or other hot pepper
1 Shit-ton of ground black pepper (this is the key to a “fried chicken” style breading)
½ tsp salt

Technique
Cut your seitan into strips, chunks, cutlets, whatever. Dunk in buttermilk, or plain milk, or water, then coat thoroughly in breading. Buttermilk—or yogurt cut with milk or water—gives a nice tang, but it’s not essential if you don’t have it on hand. Really press the seitan down into the breading and make sure it’s thoroughly coated.

Allow seitan to air dry for at least 20 minutes. This is key to a good, consistent crust that doesn’t flake off or get greasy.

Bring several inches of oil to frying temperature in a saucepan. Proper temperature is hot enough to crisp food and brown the breading all over in about five minutes, but without sucking up excessive oil and without smoking. You don’t need a thermometer. Here’s how to know if your oil’s ready. Drop a small piece of seitan in. It should start to bubble, but not too vigorously. It ought to take about 30-45 seconds for the piece to start browning. If it’s too fast or slow, adjust accordingly. With practice on your own stove with your own pans, you’ll get it.

Fry in small-medium batches, turning seitan over during cooking. Remove and drain/blot well on paper towels. Serve with dipping sauce.

 

Basic seitan (mock meat)

This stuff is the queen of fake meat, and it’s super cheap to make. Wheat gluten—often called “vital wheat gluten”—is the protein separated from wheat flour, in powder form. Find it at your health food or bulk food store.

A note on spices: This is the “chicken” version of seitan. The classic poultry/fowl spices are thyme, sage, and rosemary. Heavy on the thyme and sage. Build on variations of those to your taste or whatever’s in your cupboard. If you don’t have the exact ones on hand, improvise. No sage? Then substitute oregano for a more Italian flavor, etc. and so on. Few dishes will be RUINED if you ad lib a bit.

Use: This is best fried or sauteed to give it a crisp. Once you do so, you can use it in pasta sauces, sandwiches, cold salads (think seitan “chicken” salad), etc. Of course, you can fry it chicken-style and serve with mashed potatoes. Yum!

Ingredients

Dry:
1 and ½ cup gluten
3 tbsp veggie broth powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
several grinds of black pepper
½ tsp MSG (Stop staring in horror. “MSG poisoning/headaches/toxicity” are not real. Really.)-sold as “Accent.”

Wet:
¾ cup water
2 tbsp tamari/shoyu/soy sauce
1 tbsp veggie broth powder stirred in
1 tbsp oil stirred in
Enough water in a pan to cover the seitan, with enough broth powder/stock in it to make a good salty broth.

Technique

Stir together dry ingredients in one bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in another bowl. Stir in liquid into dry ingredients with a spoon into a loose ball. Turn onto a surface and knead the fuck out of it. Since this is pure gluten, it’ll be much stiffer and more rubbery than any bread dough you’ve worked. Just keep mashing it, folding it, turning it until it’s really elastic. Don’t worry about perfect technique cuz it doesn’t matter.

Let rest for 20 minutes.

Cut/shape into cutlets, stretching the seitan with your hands into the shape you want. Again, irregular shapes are just fine.

Two cooking options

Pot on the stove—bring salty broth (enough to cover the seitan, or about1.5 quarts in a 4-quart pan) to a simmer and add cutlets. Cover and cook for 1 and ½ hours, turning over occasionally. Remove from broth and let cool, draining liquid run off.

Pressure cooker—put broth and cutlets in cooker and bring to pressure. Cook 25 minutes and use any release method you like. Take cutlets out of broth and allow to cool.

One step to take food from blah to BRILLIANT… on a budget!

I’ve been considering some basic cooking “cheats” and this is my biggest one. This works for everyone from barely competent cooks looking to improve their food, to highly skilled cooks in a hurry or on a budget. One simple thing that opens up the door for more interesting meals? Find the Spanish/Latin/Ethnic section at your local grocery store. 

No, I don’t mean the Old El Paso taco and burrito kits. Get out of here and don’t come back! I mean at least the Goya stuff, which is the heart of what I think of as “home cooking” as a former kid from the Bronx. 

There’s two big benefits here. The first one is that you’re going to find big bold flavors that you’re maybe not used to, for really reasonable prices. Replace the salt with adobo and add a packet of sazón con culantro y achiote to your rice, and add a tablespoon of sofrito and/or recaito to a can of beans, and you’ve got a cheap and hearty dish with barely any prep time. Marinate your cheaper cuts of chicken or pork in some mojo criollo, then grill or broil it and serve over rice or on a hoagie roll… and one bottle is good for a couple of meals. You’re going to find a bunch of “weird” stuff in that section of the store, but it is all tasty and rarely excessively spicy.

Speaking of spicy, this is where the second benefit hits. Have you ever looked at a recipe that called for a spice you rarely use? And then you go to the store and look for it and find out that a tiny jar costs more than any other ingredient or sometimes as much as all the other ingredients? Well, before you give up you should check the “ethnic” aisle. Very often, they’ll have small packets of ground spices that are just enough for that one recipe, or larger containers for half as much as they cost in the spice aisle. You can save a lot of money and try a lot of different spices without having to commit to a larger container that’s going to sit in the cabinet for three years until you randomly need it again. 

So have fun, and cook something nummy!

Corned Beef, Roasted Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts

This is going to be good. For my birthday, I’m eating in and eating well. I’m not Irish, but I LOVE corned beef. My wife doesn’t love cabbage, but that’s OK to because Brussels sprouts are like mini, tastier cabbage anyways. This one is simple and easy and very tasty, and makes a plate of food that looks like you worked pretty hard. 

Corned Beef:

Cut open the bag that the corned beef came in, and throw away all that “juice”. Rinse the corned beef, place it in a pot and cover it with water and/or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes per pound. Slice the corned beef thinly along a diagonal angle across the grain. Top with Grey Poupon, of course. 🙂

Roasted Potatoes:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut small red potatoes into quarters, about 2 per person. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, fresh-ground pepper, and sea salt. Transfer to a oven safe pan or sheet, and cook for 45-60 minutes, or until they are nice and crispy. Turn once about halfway through so they cook on both sides. Sprinkle some fresh rosemary on top and you’re done!

Brussels sprouts:

Melt 3-4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet on medium low heat, then add 2 teaspoons of garlic and salt to taste. Slice off just the very base of the sprouts and slice in half long-ways. Place the sprouts cut-side down in the butter, top with black pepper, and cover the skillet. Raise the temperature to medium and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for five minutes before serving. 

Meat Stuffed Plantain

Sweet and spicy are combined in one dish for an excellent meal.

Ingredients

*2 yellow plantains, ripe

*1 lb Meat (beef or turkey or diced chicken)

*1/2 cut diced onion

*1/2 jalapeno pepper

*1/2 Long Hot pepper

*1 Sweet pepper

*2 table spoon butter

*Cinnamon

*Brown Sugar

*Chili Powder

*Garlic powder (or fresh crushed Garlic), about 2 teaspoons

*4 table spoons of diced tomato and juice

Peel the plantains by slicing off the tips of each end and then removing the skin. Be careful not to break the fruit apart. Make a small incision along the plantains and gently start to open it, be sure not to completely separate them so make the cut shallow.

Prepare a grilling surface and heat to medium. Put plantains on grill with the open side facing up. Add the butter in thin slices onto the plantains and sprinkle on cinnamon. Cook until the butter melts completely into the plantains. Turn over and cook for about an equivalent amount of time (took about 8 minutes for me but it will vary based on your grill/stove). On the other side sprinkle on brown sugar and make sure it caramelizes into the plantain. Flip over again and cook until the plantain crisps up. Do the same for the other side

In a frying pan or wok, coat in oil and heat to medium. Add in sliced onions and drizzle brown sugar over them. Cook until the onions are transparent and caramelized

Chop the peppers as fine as you can (again be careful using hot peppers, they can actually hurt if they get in your eyes). Add them, garlic and the ground meat of your choice into the pan. Stir and mix well.

Brown the meat while peroidically stiring it and mixing it with the onions and peppers. Add in the diced tomatoe. Season as you go with chili powder. Cook until brown.

Using a spoon dish the meat into the slit of the plantains. Serve over rice.

DIY bread crumbs

Blotzphoto left a great tip in a comment:

“Just save the heels of your sandwich bread in the freezer until you have a critical mass of them. Fill your food processor and give them a buzz. Then spread them out on a cookie sheet and toast them in a 200 (F) degree oven until they are all dried out. Transfer to a container of choice and store in the freezer. Don’t have a food processor? Toast your heels in the oven first until dried and toasty, then grabbing as many as is comfortable run them over the fine holes on a box grater,

Spiced Noodles

A great noodle dish that can be used as the base for other more complex recipes or as a great side or main course.

Ingredients

* 1/2 lb Spaghetti

* 2 tablespoon soy sauce

* 2 tea spoon ginger

* 1 teaspoon garlic (ground or minced)

* 1/4 cup diced mushroom

*1 table spoon butter

*2 eggs

* Asian Chili sauce

Prepare the pasta and strain it. Rinse well with cold water and let dry.

In a large high rimed frying pan or a wok lightly oil and preheat to medium. Put noodles in and add the butter atop of them. Stir until the butter melts into the noodles. Add the soy sauce, ginger and garlic while tossing and string the pasta regularly. Cook until the soy sauce is fully boiled away or absorbed into the noodles. Don’t over cook, you don’t want them to be crispy. Sprinkle in some sesame seeds and stir.

At the end put in a spritz of the chili sauce and stir, the sauce is very potent so you only want a little to add some kick. Put into a serving bowel.

Fry the two eggs and serve over the noodles.

*You can optionally change the recipe slightly by adding in diced beef, turkey or chicken as you add the soy sauce. Diced cubes of bean curd is also a great addition.

Count To Three Salsa

In my opinion a perfect mix of spicy but not over powering. It seems really mild but count to three and…

ingredients

1 jalapeno pepper

1 long hot pepper

1 baby sweet pepper

1/4 cup diced onion (optional)

2 cup diced tomato

1 Teaspoon brown sugar

1 sprinkling of chili powder

Dice each pepper into really really fine pieces (I personally use my slap chopper to quickly reduce them to tiny minced bits). Be careful with the Jalapeno, they are REALLY hot and should be used with a light hand. Wear gloves if possible and be sure to wash your hands. Mix ingredients together and sprinkle some chili powder in.  Enjoy cold with your favorite chips. Ideally it should come out with a sweet initial taste but a sudden burst of pleasant spice within three seconds.

 

I made mine because a full pepper was too much to spice my meat with for the Plantain recipe so I used half of those items to make the salsa