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I have been a really, really bad Mo Fo this week. I have several tests and papers coming up, my roommate moved to New York, and I’ve been doing my best to spend time with Friendboy. It hasn’t been a vigorous week for cooking, but I have a few things and I’ve been remiss in not putting them up.

Smashed red potatoes topped with beef-style seitan simmered in a thin gravy, with blanched broccoli on the side. I think it looks unfortunately like something that might appear in a veg version of a cafeteria, but it was warm and tasty and required almost no effort.

The first part of this week was unseasonably cold for Charleston, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Today it was in the 70s and low 80s. Come on, South Carolina, get with the program. It’s fall, bring back the sweater weather! On one of the cold mornings, I made a warm breakfast for Friendboy and myself. Oatmeal with almond butter mixed in, topped with brown sugar and slices of local winesap apples. Usually I mix peanut butter into my oatmeal, but I bought some CRUNCHY (!!) almond butter the other day and couldn’t wait to use it.

Spinach udon in faux beef broth with red and yellow peppers, purple wax beans, snap peas, onion, and fried tofu. I drizzled some sesame oil over the top, and after I took this picture I added a little bit of soy sauce. The noodles and broth are cooked separately, the noodles are placed in the bowl and topped with the raw vegetables, and then boiling broth is poured over everything. I cover it with a bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes. Fast.

Tonight I steamed a spaghetti squash in the oven, scraped out the flesh, and mixed it with Smart Balance. I made a sauce out of canned tomatoes, diced red pepper, and garlic. Last weekend I bought some bok choy and I wanted to try something a little different from the usual Asian-style preparations, so I sauteed it in olive oil with chopped portobello mushrooms and then dressed it with balsamic vinegar and crushed red pepper. SO GOOD. I like bok choy in stir fry as much as the next girl, but it pairs pretty well with Italian flavors, too. I made some quickie garlic bread in the toaster oven out of “English toasting bread” (I don’t know, but it’s good), Smart Balance, and garlic salt.

Awesome byproduct of spaghetti squash:  spaghetti squash seeds. Everybody roasts pumpkin seeds, but did you know that acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash also have edible seeds? You can roast them just like pumpkin seeds. I put these ones in the oven on some foil at 275F for 20 minutes. They’re coated with olive oil, salt, fresh cracked pepper, and curry seasoning. I’ve eaten a couple of them, but they’ll mostly be my snack with a mug of peppermint soy cocoa while I watch Mulholland Drive.

I solemnly swear that I will do better in the next and final week of Mo Fo.

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I ended up making soup for dinner again last night. It was a faux beef broth with carrots, potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, seitan, and some leftover quinoa stirred in. Delicious and right on, since last night continued the (seemingly nationwide?) trend of being kinda… cold. I took a picture. It’s really not that exciting, so I decided to do an entry not just about what I ate (overwhelming theme of my Mo Fo) but about something I love to eat. Soup.

My father has some peculiar and specific ideas about food and weather, and he only wants to eat soup when it is raining or snowing outside. I am the complete opposite. I am so eager for fall and winter and the beginning of “soup weather” that I start making soup in late August, telling myself that it’s “almost fall.” For reference, the temperature in Charleston in August is regularly in the high 90s and occasionally pushes into the three-digit territory where the radio starts issuing warnings about keeping infants and old people inside. But still I sit in a tank top and underwear, pouring sweat, eating a bowl of soup because I feel that I just can’t wait any longer. Emerson famously said that the remedy for deformity is “first, Soul, and second, Soul, and evermore, Soul.” I think he made a spelling error, and those “L”s should be “P”s.

For your autumnal consumption, I present my list of top ten favorite soups.

10. Fresh Green Pea:  childhood experiences left me hating split pea soup. I can’t stand split peas in ANYTHING and I never use them, certainly not for soup. But I do like fresh or frozen green peas simmered until just cooked in a light broth and pureed into a bright green soup. My mother reports that pureed frozen peas were my favorite food as an infant. Make of that what you will.

09. Borscht: I like beets, but I can’t think of many uses for them beyond roasting, borscht, and pureeing them to make bright red biscuits. I use horseradish in my recipe, which gives it a pretty solid kick. I like eating it at room temperature or cold—especially cold and topped with piping hot chunks of potato. Don’t knock it until you try it.

08. Carrot Ginger:  well, narrow root vegetables and ginger, because when I make carrot-ginger soup I like to use both carrots and parsnips, left to sit overnight in rice vinegar with Thai chiles to get some tang and heat going. Add the ginger and this gets pretty eye-watering.

07. Pumpkin:  I love pumpkin, so I treat it very simply when I turn it into soup. Pumpkin, onions, salt, pepper, broth, and crushed red pepper. I don’t like dressing it with traditional pumpkin spices like nutmeg, clove, or cinnamon. I guess I don’t see the appeal of soup which tastes like pie.

06. Cauliflower and Leek:  I’m a fan of sneaking leeks into almost any soup, but this soup is for when I really want to taste them. It comes out very similar to a potato soup, but lighter and I don’t get the same “watery mashed potatoes” vibe. My bias against potato soup is showing.

05. Curried Squash:  acorn, butternut, long island… I’ll use any winter squash in this recipe. Squash, curry spices, coconut milk, and lime juice. I usually pair all soups with bread, but I like to pour this one over a bowl of rice.

04. Black Bean and Sweet Potato:  why do I feel like I never see black beans and sweet potatoes paired up? Maybe it’s because I’m in the South, where sweet potatoes tend to go into… well, sweets. But they’re so good with salty, savory black beans! I like to just cook them up with lime juice, cumin, ancho pepper, and eat them with rice or on tortillas, but in winter I add some extra liquid and suddenly they become soup. Which I then top with strips of tortillas.

03. Ramen: not the kind in a ten-cent package, although I do have a certain affection for that variety. Noodles in a hot, salty broth topped with whatever comes out of the vegetable crisper—leeks, peppers, scallions, chunks of steamed squash, green beans, baby corn, carrots, radishes, tofu. I have been eating ramen since I was a little tiny kid and it will never stop warming my heart.

02. Kale and White Bean:  I made this when Friendboy wasn’t feeling well back in September. I don’t usually add barley, I like to keep this soup pretty straightforward since I think there’s already a lot going on with the kale, beans, and Gimme Lean sausage. I let this one simmer for as long as I can stand it. I like my kale to be wilted into submission.

01. Tomato:  tomatoes, olive oil, salt, broth, sugar. We’re done here.

Go forth and soup thyselves!

Last night, I made a pot pie for dinner. It had faux chik’n gravy, chicken-flavor seitan, potatoes, turnip greens, and lima beans. It was delicious, but the pictures turned out horribly. I am not talented enough to photograph pot pie–it’s not a very photogenic dish. 

Now, it was a pot pie for one, so I didn’t need very much crust, but I still made a full recipe of the dough and put the excess away in the fridge. When I was a kid, my mother would give us the extra bits of pie dough to make “treats” out of, which usually involved folding some jam into them or sprinkling them with sugar and baking until crisp. As an adult, I still love to play with my leftover dough, and one of my favorite uses is “samosas.” Now, these are only samosas in the loosest sense of the word. I didn’t use the flaky crust that samosas usually have–I used an olive oil herb crust, because that’s what suited my pot pie best. It’s also not filled with completely traditional samosa ingredients. It’s filled with… tofu scramble! Think of it as a tasty hybrid of samosas and those gross breakfast Hot Pockets.

The filling for two samosas is ~1/4 lb of extra firm tofu, 1 medium red potato, and 1/4 cup of frozen peas, although you could use onions, carrots, cauliflower…whatever vegetables you want. I pressed, drained, and crumbled the tofu, and seasoned it with turmeric, ginger, crushed red pepper, black pepper, onion powder, salt, and coriander and made the seasonings a bit stronger than I usually would, since I’d be thinning the mix out with my vegetables later. I diced the potato and boiled it with the frozen peas and a peeled chunk of ginger root until the potatoes were just tender, but didn’t break apart when poked. I scrambled the tofu as usual in a small amount of olive oil, and when it was nearly done I added the drained peas and potatoes (remove the chunk of ginger root if you use it) and about 1/4 tsp of sesame oil for flavor. While the veggies and tofu were mingling on the stove, I rolled out my crust very thin and divided it into two pieces.


You’ll need either fresh or leftover savory pie dough. I used olive oil herb dough (1 cup white wheat flour, 1 cup unbleached AP flour, 1 tsp herbs of your choice, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup cold water) leftover from last night’s dinner. The paring knife is provided in the picture for a sense of scale. That’s the only knife in my entire kitchen except for one wobbly steak knife and some butter knives, by the way. Every meal you see on this blog has been prepared with that knife.

I put about 1/2 cup of tofu and veggies in the center of each piece of dough, which left about 1/3 cup of filling for me to snack on. I folded the dough over the filling, then sealed the edges with a little bit of water and rolled the edges up. A small hole in the top to release any steam, a brushed-on coating of a little melted Smart Balance, and they’re ready for the oven.

The left samosa is done properly, I had some… technical difficulties with the one on the right, but it tasted totally fine, I promise. It’s just not as attractive. I baked the samosas on foil misted with olive oil for twenty minutes at 375. Now, at this point, if you wanted to make samosas for future breakfasts, you would bake them for five minutes, remove them from the oven, allow them to cool, then wrap them up and freeze them. When you want to eat them, put ’em back in the oven. Vegan breakfast Hot Pockets!

While the samosas were baking, I decided that I wanted chutney on the side. The problem is, chutney takes an hour or more to cook down, and my samosas were going to be ready in twenty minutes. So I took my basic chutney recipe and turned it into a deconstructed chutney, or (since “deconstructed chutney” sounds a little too Top Chef) a chutney salad. It uses the main flavor components of my usual chutney–tart apples, tomatoes, onion, ginger, vinegar, and brown sugar. This makes enough to eat with two samosas.

CHUTNEY SALAD
1/2 a large tart apple, like Winesap or Granny Smith, diced
1 medium or 1/2 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1 green onion stalk, chopped into segments
1 teaspoon peeled and finely diced ginger root
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Whisk the brown sugar and salt into the vinegar with a fork until dissolved. Toss all remaining ingredients in the dressing. That’s it, you’ve got a chutney salad.

After the picture, I spooned the chutney salad onto the plate and ate it in combined bites with the samosa. Because of the chutney salad, I ate this all with a fork, but if you’re eating this as a reheated Veg Pocket, it works very well as a handheld food.

UPDATE:  I don’t have any pictures because I got to the potluck and realized that my camera was still on my kitchen counter. ARGH. This also means that I have no pictures whatsoever of the cupcakes, soup, or tomato relish because for some reason, I didn’t take any shots of them in my kitchen before I left. So this is a tragically photo-less post. I will make it up to you later. With, umm, whatever I cook tonight. And I’m not sure what that will be, because I don’t have anything planned. Bear with me.

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No pictures for this yet, I’ll add them after the potluck, because I want pictures of all the other delicious veg foods, too.

So my friend and former roommate, S, is turning 23 and his roommates are throwing a party themed around colonialism. It’s a potluck, and the guests are kindly requested to bring veg dishes which we would not have been able to make if it weren’t for the long history of European colonialism. Yes, they’re kooky kids, but I love them all dearly and S really is abnormally fascinated with colonialism.

I’ve made two dishes:  peanut butter cupcakes with bitter chocolate ganache, and black bean soup with spicy green tomato relish. The peanut butter cupcakes are the ones from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, with a couple of very small changes–dark brown sugar instead of molasses, banana instead of flax as the egg replacer, and the addition of pumpkin pie spice. I’ll add pictures later, but here are the recipes for the bitter chocolate ganache and the spicy green tomato relish. They’re both too simple.

BITTER CHOCOLATE GANACHE
1 cup vegan bittersweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons spiced rum
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Melt the chocolate chips and rum together in a double boiler. When they have formed a sauce, stir in the peanut butter until thoroughly combined. Makes enough to top twelve cupcakes.

SPICY GREEN TOMATO RELISH
10 oz green tomato, chopped into large pieces
1/4 cup pickled green jalapenos
1 green onion stalk, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
apple cider vinegar

Place first five ingredients in a container with a lid. Add enough apple cider vinegar to cover, and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to make your relish, drain the vinegar and place all the solids in a food processor. Whiz it about until everything has been diced into uniform small pieces. Can be served with chips or any Mexican food–I’m putting it on top of black bean soup.

PARTY RECAP
The potluck was fun, and the food was delicious. Also on the table:  sticky rice, pumpkin pudding, fried spring rolls, a green salad with avocado and pepitas, burritos, tortilla chips, corn salsa, and straight gin. The cupcakes and relish were both big hits, and someone asked me for the tomato relish recipe for inclusion in a vegan cooking zine that is coming together in the area. After the feasting was over, we cleared out the kitchen and my other former roommate, T, set up his turntables and crates of 45s and DJ’d a set. I walk-of-shame’d my way back home at 7am. Moral of the story:  vegans party really hard.

I live one block from the Saturday farmer’s market. There are weekends (plenty of them) when I sleep until two in the afternoon and miss the whole thing completely, which is shameful. But this morning I was wide awake and I went down to take my pick of fresh, local fruits and veggies. I brought my camera (I even went back to my apartment to get it) and then discovered while standing in front of a stall full of adorable, bright flying saucer squash that I had LEFT MY MEMORY CARD IN MY LAPTOP. I was peevish, but oh well. I’ll be back next weekend, and until then there are pictures of this week’s haul.

All this for $23, all of it grown locally on small farms and co-ops. Clockwise from the lemonade: 
-fresh squeezed lemonade (no, really, they juice the lemons right there at the stall)
-heirloom “black” cherry tomatoes
-organic butternut squash
-red potatoes
-cucumber
-organic Japanese turnips with their greens attached
-organic portobello mushrooms (the most expensive item by weight at $8/lb, but it takes quite a few mushrooms to make a pound, so it’s not so bad)
-organic beets (for my borscht later this week, I’m excited!)
-green onions
-jumbo head of organic garlic
-red onion

The squash and the turnips came from Rita’s Roots, a “transitioning-to-organic” farm on nearby Wadmalaw Island. In addition to their stand at the Farmer’s Market, they also run spring and fall CSA programs. On the weekends when I do make it to the Market, I make a beeline for Rita’s (even before I get the OMFG delicious jumbo cup of lemonade). It’s always kind of a surprise–they seem to be pretty strictly seasonal, so I can’t necessarily count on seeing the same thing two weeks in a row, but there’s generally a selection of greens and root vegetables, although this week was very heavy on the squash. Rita Bachmann runs the stand and is always polite, helpful, and smiling.

There’s a raw vegan restaurant and juice bar in Charleston called The Sprout. It’s been around for a good two years, but this year they have a stand at the Farmer’s Market, serving up raw vegan lunches on the go. I didn’t get anything this week, but it was heartening to see them there (seriously, this is South Carolina we’re talking about) and I’ll probably be back for a smoothie or a sandwich next weekend. The menu board this week advertised mock tuna salad, cashew cheese, sunflower seed “burgers,” and raw pad thai in addition to six or eight different varieties of smoothies.

I am NOT usually up this early on a Saturday (it’s noon), but I feel surprisingly refreshed and ready to tackle my bread machine this afternoon.

I’m sure this seems ridiculous, but of all of the things I cooked over the past couple of days, I was most excited about blueberry pancakes. Not because I had a surplus of blueberries kicking around and not because I am particularly fond of blueberry pancakes, but because I have never IN MY LIFE successfully made pancakes before this week. They always came out lumpy, thin, translucent, burnt, or rubbery, no matter what recipe I followed. Scratch? Failure. Boxed mixes? Failure. Who messes up making boxed pancake mix? I do, every time.

But the stars aligned on Thursday morning, and I pulled off perfect light, round pancakes. Accompanying these blueberry-cinnamon pancakes are a cup of Greek yogurt topped with three-berry preserves, red grapes, and Gimme Lean vegan sausage.

Next up are vegan chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. The recipe:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 16-oz can of pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, Ener-G egg replacer (2 eggs’ worth), 1 1/4 cups vegan cane sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 2/3 cup of vegan chocolate chips.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonguetrip/3957097056/in/photostream/

 

At Whole Foods the other day, I discovered that Gimme Lean (my favorite vegan sausage) also comes in a beef-style version, so I bought some to make meatballs. I thought about just serving them with spaghetti, but my friendboy had a meatball sub for lunch and it sounded good to me. “Meatballs” browned in olive oil, served on a toasted sesame bun with tomato sauce and an Italian six-cheese blend that my roommate uses for pizza. On the side are braised brussels sprouts with carrots and onions and a green salad with grape tomatoes.

I was not in a good mood today, so I went with something very lazy and comforting for dinner. The recipe comes from the Jif peanut butter website and is called “Easy Peanut Pasta Twists.” One of my former roommates used to make this dish, and while the ingredients seem kind of like a strange combination (peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic, ketchup), it’s spicy and creamy and delicious. I didn’t even bother to plate it, I just ate it out of the serving bowl with a tall glass of orange juice and a Law and Order marathon.

Veganmofo III is about to begin in October. While I didn’t have a blog until this year, I followed Veganmofos I and II. I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian, not a vegan, but I will be going vegan for the month of October to participate. I was a vegan for several years, and I “reverted” to vegetarianism after a period of serious illness during which I lost a lot of weight. I wasn’t gaining weight back fast enough on a vegan diet, and so I returned to eating eggs and dairy. It bugs me a lot, but I feel… fallen? Disgraced? Strangely religious language to use, but lacking a religion, veg*nism is an important part of my ethical views and I feel like I’ve let down myself and factory farmed animals by falling off the vegan wagon.

So I’ll be a vegan again for the month of October, eating and blogging exclusively vegan food every day for thirty-one days.

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