Vegan MoFo 2014 – The Outdoor Cookery Edition

vegan mofo 2014

Today we start another month of writing about vegan food! Today is also my first day back from 9 days of camping in the woods with 20 people, no oven, no microwave, and no dishwasher. The coolers are still packed (why did I buy all that salad?), I’m eating cold leftover vegan mac and cheese for dinner, and there’s a giant bag of empties waiting to be returned to the depanneur (Quebecois for convenience store). Everything, including me, still smells like campfires. The cats are giving everything the cursory sniff-down and threatening to never let us out of sight again.  

Over the next month I’ll be sharing my outdoor cooking adventures with you, with a substantial dose of nostalgia and recipes on the side. If you ever went on family camping trips or were a member of Guides or Scouts (I was both), you’ll probably get a kick out of these veganized versions of camping favourites. If not, hopefully the methods and recipes will inspire you on your next foray into the wilderness (or your local urban park). Mixed in with the camping stories will be the usual collection of random recipes from work, pictures of foster kittens, and insight into la vie Montrealaise. 

Ratatouille and fried portobellos in the making

Ratatouille and fried portobellos in the making

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Amazing Vegan Gluten-Free Bread

This is what I make when I need a vegan, gluten-free bread. It’s healthy, delicious, and easy to make once you’ve done it a couple of times. It’s adapted from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats From Around The World, which is a great book all around. I found her recipe was way too wet for me… This may be because wherever she is cooking, they don’t have as high humidity as we do here in Montreal. Therefore, if you are in a place like Edmonton where there is no humidity, you might need to add up to a half cup more liquid! Start with less, though. The bread should be firm, moist, with a consistent crumb throughout, no sagging in the middle, a nice brown, crisp crust and delicious flavour. I slice it when cooled and keep it in the freezer, toasting it as needed. But if you keep it on the counter, that should be fine too. Let me know how it goes!

 

Amazing Vegan Gluten-Free Bread

400g/ 2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
65g/ 1/2 cup corn or tapioca starch
18g/ 1 tbsp powdered or 4 tbsp whole psyllium husk (just make sure you get 18g total)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
20g/ 2 1/2 packs yeast
50g/ 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups warm unsweetened almond or soy milk, divided
1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water, divided (see note above)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
12g/ 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
sesame and poppyseeds for the top

1) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, starch, baking powder and salt

2) In a large bowl, whisk the yeast, 1 cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup water, and sugar

3) In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk together with a fork 1/2 cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup water, vinegar, oil, chia, and psyllium

4) Add the dry ingredients and the contents of the liquid measuring cup into the yeast mixture. Stir together about 5 minutes by hand, or 1-2 with a handheld mixer. Cover the bowl with saran wrap

5) Have a glass of wine and read a book for an hour

6) Punch down the dough, then transfer to an oiled, parchment-lined standard-sized loaf pan. Top with plenty of seeds and pierce all the way through the center

7) Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit in the hot oven for 30 minutes. Test with a knife through the center- moisture is ok, smears of dough are not.Let cool on the counter another 20 minutes before removing from the pan and allowing to cool completely before cutting into it. Enjoy with some more of that wine you opened. If you don’t eat it all, you can store the rest in an airtight container in the freezer. 

Sultry Sweet Potato and Chipotle Chili

My lady over at IGVD shared her famous bean burger recipe recently… She says it’s my burger recipe, but in fact I am just the person who came up with the chili recipe that makes an approximate fuckton of leftovers that she got stuck with, and so needed to come up with ingenious ways to use it all up. To make matters worse, she added too much chipotle (despite my strongly worded warning) and so concocted this burger recipe to dilute that somewhat. Since her recipe goes along with my chili so nicely, here it is- my favorite chili! I have no pictures of it, so here’s something cute instead.

MEOW

MEOW

This is a pretty cheap, healthy, warming chili that uses the classic flavour combination of chipotles and sweet potatoes and then adds a healthy dose of seductive depth from cocoa and cinnamon. This is a true pantry dish, you can keep the ingredients on hand and whip it up when you have a crowd coming over or when you need a special meal. You’ll only need up to a quarter cup of chipotles in adobo altogether, depending on your heat tolerance. The remainder freezes well squished flat in a baggie, then you can break off however much you need the next time you want to spice up your rice or beans. If the chipotles are too hot, but you want some more smoky goodness, add some smoked paprika or natural smoke flavour. Be sure to use fair trade cocoa, preferably dutch-processed (darker in colour and flavour). You can substitute a couple of cups of cooked quinoa or even brown rice for the veggie ground round, just add some more veggie stock to balance the flavours. If you happen to live with someone who is afraid of vegetables (like I do), you can puree all ingredients up to the addition of bay leaves after cooking them, then return them to the pot and continue with the recipe.

Cans:

1 large can diced tomatoes (28 oz. preferably no salt added)

1 small can Mexican stewed tomatoes (19 oz.,or 1 small can regular tomatoes plus 1 tbsp chili powder)

2 small cans pinto beans (14 oz.)

2 small cans black beans (14 oz.)

1 small can green chilies (7.6 oz., look in the Mexican section of your grocer)

1 tbsp from small can chipotles (7.6 oz. Start with a tablespoon, and slowly go up from there, checking for heat as you go. Chop carefully with gloved hands.)

1 can corn (or about a cup and a third of frozen corn- add the juice from the can if you’re a big fan of corn)

oil for cooking

Veggies:

1 large peeled sweet potato, cubed into bites, about three cups

2 large peeled carrots, diced, about two cups

1 large yellow onion, diced, about two cups

1/2 a head of garlic, minced

1 or 2 bell peppers, whichever kind you like, diced, about a cup

stems from 1 bunch of cilantro, about 1/3-1/2 cup, washed well and minced

Flavour flavour:

1 veggie bullion cube (I use fake beef kind, more if substituting grains for soy, or to taste)

1 tbsp Ancho chili powder (or some other dark chili powder, not chili flakes)

2 bay leaves

1/4-1/2 cup fair-trade cocoa

2 tsp cinnamon

Soy:

2 packages veggie ground round, beef style (or substitute 2 cups of a cooked whole grain)

Garnish (optional, but awesome):

chopped cilantro leaves, chopped green onion, lime wedges, soy plain yogurt or sour cream, soy cheese

Saute the onions and carrots in a bit of oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat in your largest pot. When the vegetables are translucent, add the cilantro stems and the garlic, cooking for about a minute. Toss in the tomatoes, chipotles, bullion, chili powder, bay leaves and all the beans. Bring to a boil and add the sweet potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and the liquid has reduced a bit, about 20 mins. Add the cocoa, cinnamon, ground round, bell pepper, corn, green chilies and adjust for flavour. This is where you may decide it needs more heat (chipotles or Ancho chili powder), smokiness (chipotles or smoked paprika, salt (bullion), or depth (bullion, cocoa, blackstrap molasses might do it). By starting with a conservative amount of spices, you can build it up slowly and hopefully avoid the risk of going overboard. Be careful not to add too much cinnamon–as tasty as it is, it’s supposed to play a supporting role in this dish, and can easily overpower the subtle flavours of the chilies and cocoa. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then serve it up and allow people to garnish their own bowl. We served this with plain, steamed collards, cut into ribbons, and Jackie’s tasty corn bread with margarine and agave nectar for dessert. Heavenly.

Taking in strays/Kimchi part 1

It’s been a whole week since I’ve written, and I feel pretty crappy about it. But I have the best excuses. Plus, I have several legitimately exciting food stories to share over the next few days, so that makes up for some of it, right? Well, you be the judge,

The first reason I was away last week is that we took in a stray kitten. If you’ve ever done this before, you know how those adorable fluffballs can just eat up any spare time you might have. This little one was part of a feral colony, but decided she wanted to adventure off on her own and consort with humans. She cried and cried outside my guy’s back door til we were finally able to trap her and get her spayed and dewormed and all those good things. She’d 4.5 months old and doesn’t know how to do anything other than snuggle and hide. But that’s ok. The rest will come with time.

World, meet Betty Boop (Boop for short, or sometimes Bloop, or McBlooperson)

World, meet Betty Boop (Boop for short, or sometimes Bloop, or McBlooperson)

The second reason I’ve been busy is that I have taken in a stray tourist from Japan! A friend of a friend’s lodging arrangements fell through just a couple of days before she was scheduled to fly to Montreal. Rather than cancel her trip, I gave her my room and am staying with my guy for the next couple of weeks. Needless to say, the sudden nature of this made things a bit hectic for a few days there- lots of scrubbing and packing and laundering happened. But now Tomoko is happily doing her thing out of my tiny little Plateau pad, and life is somewhat returned to normal.

In the midst of all this upheaval, I have managed to find some time for cooking, too. Mostly because if I didn’t, I’d go mad. Last Sunday, I had a fermenting/pickling day with a few lovely friends. We made kimchi and dill pickles. I won’t share all the deets until I get to taste the final product, but I’ll woo you with some pictures in the meantime.

Ladies at work

Ladies at work

It was actually a lot of fun, putting together all the little jars and stirring up big bowls of veggies with chili sauce for the kimchi. It would have been more fun had we made it through the day without one of us cutting herself and another squirting ginger juice in her eyes (that was me!) but, you know. The hostess graciously provided us with wine and baguette, which helped immensely.

Dividing the dill and garlic for the jars

The little countertop that could! Dividing the dill and garlic for the jars, grating turnip, carrots and ginger for the kimchi.

Pretty little jars all in a row, ready for their brine.

Pretty little jars all in a row, ready for their brine. Can’t forget the wine. Not for the pickles, for the pickle-makers.

I will report back with the finished results in a couple of weeks. I hope it will be delicious. I am sure it will be.

Pumpkin and Chard Risotto

If you’ve been reading this blog, you get by now that I work an awful lot, producing food for gazillions of people every week. You might think this leaves me totally sick of cooking and eating chickpeas out of the can for dinner most nights. But in fact, I only eat beans out of the can some nights! Weekends are usually reserved for cooking with/for my delightful friends. First, because otherwise I’d never see them, and second, because they have functioning kitchens that I can usurp.

On Saturday we had a Pumpkin All The Things! day with a few folks (who have a great kitchen). Originally we had planned on doing savoury pumpkin ravioli, but couldn’t find vegan wonton wrappers on a Saturday (they only sell them at the Kosher market). So, we improvised and came up with this great risotto.

Believe me when I tell you, this tastes waaaayyy better than it looks.

Believe me when I tell you, this tastes waaaayyy better than it looks.

The tangy, crunchy chard contrasts so nicely with the creamy, rich pumpkin. Mushrooms were added for some texture, along with my favorite ever Smoked Apple Sage Field Roast sausages. The end result was so delicious we all sat numb from overeating watching NFB videos until we could roll out the door.

Pumpkin and Chard Risotto

For the basic risotto:

Olive oil and/or Earth Balance, for cooking
A bottle of buttery, oaky Chardonnay
Vegetable broth
2 cups arborio rice
2 yellow onions, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced

To stir in near the end of cooking the rice:

2 cups pureed unsweetened pumpkin
3 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram, or 2 tsp dried
1.5 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp dijon
Salt and Pepper

To stir in just before serving:

1 large bunch of chard, any colour, thoroughly washed and chopped- Stems into 1/2 inch slices, leaves into 1-inch cubes
4 Apple Sage Field Roast Sausages, broken with your fingers into small, rough bites
1 pint mushrooms, halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp tamari
Juice from half a lemon
A splash of wine
Olive oil, for cooking.

Start by preparing your basic risotto. Fry the onions in plenty of oil til they are golden, then add the rice and garlic, stirring constantly until just toasted. Stir in a cup of wine, pour yourself a glass while you’re at it. Once the wine is absorbed, add stock a ladleful at a time, allowing it to be fully absorbed between each addition.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and sausages to be stirred in at the very end of cooking. Sautee the mushrooms over medium high heat in the olive oil until almost all golden, then deglaze with a splash of wine. Once that wine is cooked down, add the chard stems to the mushrooms for a few minutes, and finally the chard leaves and the garlic along with the tamari and lemon. Set the vegetables aside, and in the same pan brown the sausages until mostly golden. Deglaze with a little more wine if things have been sticking. Set aside wit the vegetables.

When the rice is just barely soft enough to eat, but still slightly firm, stir in the pumpkin, marjoram, thyme, dijon, and nutritional yeast. Add another 1/2 cup of wine. Stir in the veggies and sausages that you have set aside, and adjust seasoning if required.

We ate this with delicious roasted red pepper and onion fougasse, but if were up for it we would have made a nice salad to go with.

Pho/Air-boat street food/etc.

Big bowl for pho for big Bear, little bowl of pho for little kitten.

Big bowl for pho for big Bear, little bowl of pho for little kitten.

When I was in my undergrad, I took a bunch of courses in the evening. There were two reasons for this, mainly that I refused to take morning classes, but also because the part-time studies department’s Philosophy classes tended to be more interesting. In those cool in-between months after the term started but before Winter came, I often failed to dress appropriately for the weather and would find myself shivering alone in the corridors waiting for evening classes to begin while sometimes falling asleep over my readings. It was at this time that I would get one of two things: a coffee and a chocolate chip oatmeal muffin from the only cafe that remained open for the night students, or a steaming-hot Styrofoam bowl of Pho from the little Asian vendor in the cafeteria.

I always asked for the vegetarian Pho, even before I was vegan, because it seemed like a much better deal- you got so many veggies! Tender-crisp bok choy, slivers of nappa cabbage, whole petals of oyster mushrooms, sprouts, carrots, peppers, and tofu, all in a fragrant broth with warming anise, clove, and black pepper. The whole thing was topped with a mountain of Thai basil and cilantro, and finally a wedge of lime. It was more expensive than the coffee and muffin, and while it had no chocolate in it, it was still the superior choice.

There is some controversy over whether Pho is related to pot-au-feu, the dish common to the French invaders of Vietnam. Westerners like to think of Pho as a fusion food. I think it’s more likely that the French simply assumed that their culture was the epitome of Culture, and thus interpreted the native Vietnamese dish in the only way their fragile egos could manage- as an approximation of the more familiar pot-au-feu. There is something decidedly un-French about traditional Pho as well, namely the way it was vended. No white linen table cloths, wine, or candles. Just hot street food, prepared with taste, nourishment, and efficiency in mind.

Pho was originally sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who shouldered mobile kitchens on carrying poles (gánh phở). From the pole hung two wooden cabinets, one housing a cauldron over a wood fire, the other storing noodles, spices, cookware, and space to prepare a bowl of pho. Pho vendors kept their heads warm with distinctive, disheveled felt hats called mũ phở. (thank you Wikipedia)

I wonder if the Chinese food boat scene from The Fifth Element is at all related to the history of Pho? Some days, especially when it’s cold, I wish for certain conveniences out of sci fi like travelling Pho air-boats or teleportation.

It may be too early for you folks south of the border to be thinking of hot soups as an ideal comfort food, but here in the Great White North the nights have been getting quite chilly, and ominously gray skies have brought portents of Autumn and frost. Unless you have a magical Pho Boat coming your way, this recipe is the best thing to keep the chill out.

Come here, boat of tasty! I want all your deliciousness! But you can leave the terrible ethnic stereotypes behind...

Come here, boat of tasty! I want all your deliciousness! But you can leave the terrible ethnic stereotypes behind…

It took me a while to figure out how to make a good vegan Pho, and the trick is to take your time to treat the veggies right, and not worry too much about being traditional. This is your Pho, make it how you like it.

  1. Take a couple big yellow onions, peel the outer layer and halve them lengthwise. Cut a 5-inch stem of ginger root lengthwise. Blacken the outer layer both over a flame (broiler/element/blowtorch). Rinse away any flakes of char and set aside.
  2. Roughly chop five large, peeled carrots, and a couple cups of mushroom stems (any kind, preferably belonging to the caps you’ll use in the soup) and roast them in a pot with coconut oil until beginning to brown. This will take a bit of time, but keep an eye on it and have a beer to keep you occupied.
  3. Add to the carrots and mushrooms a couple of star anise, a couple of whole cloves, a 4-inch stick of cinnamon, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, a three-inch strip of kombu and several black peppercorns. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the onion and ginger, then about 5-6 cups of low- or no-salt mushroom or vegetable broth- enough to cover with an inch or two to spare.
  4. Simmer until reduced by 1/3, then add a tablespoon or two of good tamari and/or vegan fish sauce. Strain well through a fine sieve. This broth can be kept in the fridge or frozen until ready to use.
  5. Cook medium flat rice noodles til tender. Add to big bowls of freshly-boiled broth.
  6. Prepare vegetables. Firm tofu, mixed fresh or dried/re-hydrated mushroom caps, tender greens, snow peas and peppers can be sauteed ever so lightly, then divided among individual bowls.
  7. Toppings should be served on the side, to be added with chopsticks to the bowls by diners. Scallions and red chilies finely sliced on the bias, whole cilantro and Thai basil leaves, wedges of lime and bean sprouts. Vegetarian hoisin, chili-garlic paste/sriracha, and seasoned rice vinegar should be offered as well.

To Eat: Pile on the herbs, sauces, etc. and barely stir them into the piping-hot broth. It will wilt the leaves, while maintaining some of their texture and providing lovely contrast between the spicy/sour/cool/herbal notes of the garnish and the warm/earthy/sweet/savoury notes of the soup.

Bon appetit!

Easiest Pasta Salad

Simple, colourful, and utterly satisfying. Probably prettier in a wooden bowl, but you know, beggars can't be choosers.

Simple, colourful, and utterly satisfying. Probably prettier in a wooden bowl, but you know, beggars can’t be choosers.

Last summer, I lived for a while with some wonderful folks with an amazing patio. You know, the kind that is level with the widest branches of the trees and suspends you above the rest of the city, filtered through the greenery? This location magically inspired food with lots of fresh vegetables. I ate a LOT of salad. Something about being outdoors inspires further freshness. But because raw veggies can only take you so far, I started finding ways to mix grains into my creations. The pasta salad of my youth was an egg-ridden, totally gross swamp of cholesterol, dodgy food standards and sodium. This variation couldn’t be further removed from that science experiment of a side dish.

This little pasta salad is easy-peasy, varied, and filling enough to be a meal in itself. It follows a simple formula, and the secret is in the sauce. No gross eggy-stuff required.

  1. Pick a cute little pasta. I like bowties. Things like shells tend to stick to each other too much. Macaroni is good, if you’re down with the retro-feel of the uniform elbows.
  2. Pick fresh, flavourful vegetables in four different colours. Colour is important to the appreciation of this dish. It symbolizes the variety and abundance of harvest times. I like crunchy veggies and ones that suck up sauces thirstily, like broccoli.
  3. Use good herbs. I use dried marjoram, thyme, and tarragon. And then fresh parsley and/or cilantro. The fresh parsley really contributes to the flavour of this dish, so try not to ditch it. Use the flat-leaf kind, it’s tastier and has a nicer texture.
  4. Infuse your olive oil. Take a good olive oil, and brown a whole lot of minced garlic in it. It will infuse the oil with garlic flavour, which will then distribute evenly through the pasta. If you want some kick, use dried chilis in your olive oil infusion. Go ahead and add some capers, sundried tomatoes, or marinated artichoke hearts for tang and depth. Stir in some nooch, dijon and almond flour enough to make a cream. Add lemon juice and cider or wine vinegar (yes, both) until it is thinned enough to just coat the back of a spoon. Toss liberally with your salad.
  5. I like fresh greens, such as rough chopped arugula, spinach or chard stirred in at the last minute. It makes it all feel fresher and brighter.
  6. Go ahead and add some beans. Chickpeas, small white beans and green lentils are nice.

This recipe makes me long for summer days and crisp, cool Rieslings sipped on the porch. Also, it pulls together in maybe 20 minutes. Can’t go wrong.