Friday, December 24, 2010

Latkefest 2010 - Vegan Latkes Three Ways

I saw a latke recipe a couple of days ago (from The Girlie Girl Army; you can find the original here), and thought, well, I've got some time tonight...

Using that basic recipe as a base, I came up with some non-traditional latkes that use this classic Hanukkah treat as an inspiration, but are made to take more of a starring role in a meal. Here's what I came up with:  

Apple-Parsnip Latkes with Ginger Spread
Bubble-and-Squeak Latkes with Beer Mustard
Horseradish Jicama Latkes with Applesauce

Instructions are at the very bottom, with ingredient lists under each title. I hope you all enjoy these... they are the first original recipes I've included, so I'll appreciate your feedback. I tend to cook by sight and feel (and smell!), so I wrote the recipes after making the latkes, but I'm pretty confident in the proportions. Still, if things start to look funny to you, go with your gut and adjust amounts as you think is best. Enjoy!

Apple-Parsnip Latkes with Ginger Spread

3 potatoes, grated and drained
1 apple, grated and drained
1 medium to large parsnip, grated and drained
1/4 c. grated onion, drained
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt

Serve with a ginger spread or jam - the one by The Ginger People is my favorite.

Bubble-and-Squeak Latkes with Beer Mustard

3 potatoes, grated and drained
1/4 of one small cabbage, chopped finely
1 small white onion, grated and drained
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt

Serve with a pub-style beer mustard, though avoid using too much, as it will overpower the latkes. As a bit of background, Bubble and Squeak is a British dish with a base of potatoes and cabbage, traditionally prepared with leftover vegetables from a roast. Click on the link above for the Wikipedia entry...

Horseradish-Jicama Latkes with Applesauce

3 potatoes, grated and drained
1 medium jicama bulb, peeled, grated and drained
4 tsp. freshly grated horseradish
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt

Serve with an unsweetened applesauce.

For each of these recipes, get as much water out as possible from the grated ingredients. Heat a thin layer of canola oil to between medium and medium-high in a cast-iron pan (I tried first in a stainless pan, and the latkes adhered instantly, leaving me literally stabbing them with a spatula and chanting "Die! Die! Die!").

Form your latke mix into little patties, and place several quickly into you pan. You'll need to have plenty of room to scoot them around in the pan - I did about 5 at a time. As soon as you've got them all in the pan, push them around with the spatula to make sure they don't stick. Doing this as soon as possible seems to be key to keeping them from sticking, though continue to move them periodically as they fry. Keep an eye on them and flip them when they are browned, usually after several minutes. Replenish the oil as needed, but make sure that it gets back up to the right temperature before you put in the next batch. When they're done, drain them on paper towels. Keep them in a warm oven (about 275) if you need to as you finish the batch. Serve hot.

I was talking to a friend at work today about these, and he said, "I wonder how little Jewish grandmothers would feel about vegan latkes?" I hope they'd like the idea, since leftovers could be served with either a meat or dairy kosher meal... At any rate, they're delicious, and who complains about good food?

For other latke recipes and info, visit the Foodista page on latkes, linked below...


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes

I'm not much of a dessert person, but I bought Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World recently for someone for Christmas, and I dipped in to it a little myself and got slightly carried away. Cupcakes are kind of enchanting - small, sweet, self contained, prettily decorated, promising just enough indulgence - and I went a little crazy. I made marzipan poinsettias to top them and gave them to friends for Christmas.

I started with a recipe from Vegan Cupcakes, and after several test batches, here is my adjusted recipe for Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 c. coconut milk
1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
1 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp corn flour (like Maseca Masa flour that you can buy at your local Mexican store)
1/4 c. almond meal
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. ground cinnamon, depending on how much you like
1/8 tsp ground cayenne (or more, if you like - I don't know that I'd exceed 1/4 tsp., but I haven't tried that much yet)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Whisk together coconut milk and flaxseed, allow to sit for 10 minutes. In another bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, corn flour, almond meal, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. (You can make the almond meal yourself to save some money - just drop almonds into boiling water, then pull them out after about a minute and drop them into ice water, then pull them out after a minute. The skins should pop right off - then dry them well and grind them in a food processor or spice grinder. Presto - almond meal). Whisk sugar, oil and vanilla into coconut milk mixture. Gently add wet ingredients to dry. When blended, fill each cupcake liner to 3/4 c. full, then bake 22-25 minutes. After you put the cupcakes in, don't even open the oven until at least 22 minutes have passed, then test for done-ness. Cool completely before icing.

Icing (this is genuinely impressive - the heft and richness is fabulous):

1-12.3 oz package of extra-firm silken aseptic tofu (like Mori-Nu)
1/4 c. plain (full-fat unsweetened) soymilk
2 Tbsp. agave or maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-12 oz package of semisweet chocolate chips

Crumble tofu into blender, add soymilk, agave and vanilla. Puree until completely smooth, set aside. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler, cool 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chocolate to tofu and blend until combined, then transfer to a covered container and chill 1 hour.

I like cake better than icing in general, so I just spread the icing on top of the cupcakes, and using that amount, the above recipe will ice well over 2 dozen cupcakes. If you were piping the icing on to the cupcakes with a pastry bag, it wouldn't go quite as far, but I still think that you could get almost 2 dozen.

If you wanted to make the marzipan poinsettias, you'll need marzipan, red food coloring (gel works well - it makes less of a mess and adds less liquid), and pearl or silver dagrees. Cut off however much marzipan seems appropriate to you, then cut it into smaller pieces (just to make it easier to mix in the food coloring). Squirt some food coloring over the marzipan, and knead it in. Roll the marzipan into a log, then divide into 12 pieces, or however many cupcakes you have. Take one piece, and divide it into 6 little pieces. Roll each piece into a teardrop shape, then squish into a flat petal shape. As you make your petals, transfer them to a piece of wax paper so that they don't stick to anything while you work with them and assemble your poinsettias. Use a toothpick to put a line down the middle of each petal. Once you have 6 little petals, take 3 and arrange them into a trefoil shape, pressing their fat ends together a little. You can also use a q-tip to wet the ends to help them stick together. Next, carefully press the remaining 3 petals on top of your base, with each new petal pointing in between the two below it. At this point it may be particularly helpful to wet the part of the underside of the petal that will be touching the petals below it. Once your poinsettia is assembled, gently wet the center of each flower with your q-tip and place some dagrees (however many look best to you) in the center. Press each in to the marzipan gently with the end of a toothpick. Store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Canadian Vegan Thanksgiving

My best friend comes from a family who thinks her eating habits (she's vegetarian and studying nutrition) are bizarre and, frankly, not to be trusted. She has to deal with comments like, "So you won't eat chicken broth? You're really going to be that strict?" all the time, and it makes me sad. She's been such a major influence on my own decisions about food that I hate to see her go through that, and it makes me really grateful to have a family that is so understanding (and who love her like she's their own, too). Her husband is vegetarian also, and his family struggles with it as well, so the three of us invented Canadian Vegetarian Thanksgiving last year, and this year we went vegan.

Canadian Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday in October, making it the first holiday on my fall calendar. Each year, we've gotten together to plan our menu in advance, then prepared the meal in their tiny kitchen with only minimal bumping in to each other. This year was a great success, and we even timed it well enough to have all the food out at one time.

Canadian Vegan Thanksgiving Menu

Cornbread dressing
Mushroom gravy
Sauteed yellow squash and zucchini
Spicy butternut squash soup

Cranberry sauce
Tempeh-pate-stuffed mushrooms
"Grit-Style Tofu" from The Grit Restaurant Cookbook

Grit-Style Tofu
This is a great way to quickly prepare savory, filling tofu, so here's a non-copyright-violating version - heat a little bit of oil in a large pan (not huge, but larger than you need for the amount of tofu you're using). Saute chunks of extra-firm tofu until golden brown, turning often. Sprinkle lightly with soy sauce (I tried tamari once, but it is very strong and I wouldn't suggest it for this recipe), then saute some more. Remove from pan, drain excess liquid, wipe out pan, and start process again. Make sure the oil is very hot before you add the tofu, then saute a second time until well browned, turning often. Sprinkle with a little more soy sauce, to taste, then begin to sprinkle nutritional yeast, turning the tofu, until it's as coated as you want it. Serve hot.

Incidentally, the tofu goes really well with gravy - though, in all fairness, there's very little that doesn't. There are hundreds of great vegan gravy recipes out there, from soy-sauce-based brown gravies to flour-based white gravies. Both are good, but I'm more of a white gravy person. I like to start by toasting flour in a dry pan and working my way by taste from there. Mushroom broth is a great addition, though it's hard to make enough of it from your standard package of dried wild mushrooms. I'm sure canned veggie broth would work well, but I love the mushroom flavor. Black pepper works well with mushrooms, and a standard Thanksgiving herb combo like rosemary-sage-thyme is classic. Nutritional yeast will add richness, as will plain soy milk (even 'original' flavored ones taste too much like vanilla for me, so keep an eye out for plain).

The stuffed mushrooms were a major success, and you can find the recipe for them in my Aug. 29th blog. I made them again for real Thanksgiving, as well as citrus collard greens with golden raisins and roasted Sweet Potatoes Anna, a variation on Pommes Anna, in the French tradition - though, without the traditional copper pan and fancy heavy lid to flip the potatoes, mine never made it into the solid cake form that is the goal. Click on the link above for a recipe that doesn't require the crazy pan - it's not vegan but, you know, just substitute Earth Balance or some other vegan margarine. The ingredients are incredibly simple, but the magic is in the technique.

One thing I really love about French cuisine is how much effort they'll put into a single dish - the best type of potato with the correct amount of firmness, the appropriate type of butter - you have to respect a culture so passionate about food that someone invented a kind of pan solely for Pommes Anna - one that can be flipped repeatedly in the oven to help the potato slices form a solid cake. While I have been known to tirade against appliances that can only be used for one thing (Electric jar opener? Really?), when it comes to the Pommes Anna pan, I'm amazed at the pure devotion of it. A more accessible example is the crepe pan, which has shallow sides which make it easier to flip and remove a crepe without tearing it. One excellent excuse for buying a crepe pan is the versatility of crepes themselves - but more on that later.

Next up, Mexican Chocolate first foray into desserts. Wish me luck.