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Thursday, March 30, 2006

LAST POST 'TIL NEXT THURSDAY-- ANOTHER FRESH TOFU DISH, AND HEADING FOR VEGAWAKENING!

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This will be my last post for a week because I'm off to the above vegan chef's conference (the first!)at the crack of dawn on Saturday, April 1st. (Tomorrow, Friday, I'll be at work at the library, and today is packing day!). I get to Grand Rapids, MI that evening, try to have a good night's sleep, and then prep all day Sunday and Monday morning for my seitan-making workshop Monday afternoon. Wish me luck! I'm in exalted company! Besides Chef/Instructor Kevin Dunn, who organized the conference and is amazingly calm (!!), there will be:

Ken Bergeron, first chef to win a gold Medal in the Culinary Olympics with Vegetarian Cuisine.

Ian Brandt, chef at Sages Cafe, Salt Lake City, Utah

Fran Costigan, vegan baking instructor and cookbook author, New York, NY, and, I'm honoured to say, a friend

David Lee, President, Field Roast Grain Meats, Seattle, Washington

Ron Pickarski, 7-time Culinary Olympics medalist (including gold), President and executive chef /consultant for Eco-Cuisine, Cookbook Author

Tanya Petrovna, Chef, Native Food Restaurant, Four vegetarian restaurants in California

Eric Tucker, Chef, Millennium Restaurant, cookbook author, San Francisco, California

Chad Sarno, Executive Chef/Owner, Counter and Vital Creations, New York City, NY

and me. (No wonder I'm nervous!)

The keynote speaker will be the great Howard Lyman, "The Mad Cowboy"

I'll be reporting on my experiences when I get back.

In the meantime:


Homemade Fresh Tofu with Sundried Tomatoes and Artichokes

The following is a short description of a dish I did the other day, quickly using up the last of our fresh tofu. (The recipe will be in the next issue of my subscription newsletter, The Vegan Feast.) In case you missed that the other day, tofu eaten the same day it's made, or within a day or two of making, tastes lovely-- kind of like ricotta cheese--- and needs only minimal preparation and seasoning to please. Really! Trust me! Homemade is the best, of course, but if you can find out what day(s) the bulk tofu is delivered to your health food store (and you can ask the tofu makers if it's made the day it is delivered), you can make sure to buy some and use it that day for maximum tofu delight!

I have made this dish before, both with my own homemade tofu and fresh tofu from my health food store. This last time (photo below), I added Kalamata olives to the recipe. It's a quick dish to make and absolutely delicious. A little wine and fresh rosemary makes all the difference.

Have a good week!

Fresh (storebought) Tofu with Sundried Tomatoes and Artichokes (with olives)


Monday, March 27, 2006

FRESH TOFU SCRAMBLE, INDIAN-STYLE

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NOTE: Serve this for an Indian-style brunch with SusanV's (from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen) Coconut Chai Breakfast Cake for dessert!

This is a vegan take-off on an Indian dish called chenna bhorji. The original dish uses the homemade cheese called chenna, which is a crumbly (unpressed) version of the more familiar paneer or panir.   Absolutely fresh tofu makes a good substitute for the chenna— homemade tofu , fresh tofu from a tofu shop, or bulk tofu that has been delivered to your store on the same day that you buy it. This is important, because very fresh tofu has a taste similar to chenna. It loses flavor as it ages.

This is a spicy scramble and contains no nutritional yeast, as most Western tofu scrambles do. It is usually served with chapathi or flaky parathas, but a wholewheat or sprouted wheat flour tortilla makes a good accompaniment, too. Some spicy vegan masala chai would be good, too!

Indian black salt, or kala namak, is actually pink, due to the trace minerals and iron in it. It has a distinctive “boiled egg” odor, due to the sulphur compounds in it. Sprinkling it on at the last minute adds a more “eggy” personality to the dish. (It dissipates quickly.) This is the Canadian source where I purchased it online .

Printable Recipe

FRESH TOFU SCRAMBLE, INDIAN-STYLE Serves 3

12 oz. FRESH firm tofu, crumbled, but in large lumps
1/4 tsp. turmeric, dissolved in 1 Tbs. nondairy milk
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Chopped hot green chilies to taste (I used 1 Tbsp. chopped jalapeño)
1 chopped tomato or roasted red pepper
3/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, basil, or parsley
1/4 tsp. black salt (kala namak)

In a medium bowl, mix the tofu gently with the dissolved turmeric and set aside. Sauté the onions in the oil in a nonstick skillet, cooking at medium-high heat until it starts to look translucent. Add the chilies and cook a minute or two more. Add the tomato or red pepper, salt, and cumin. Stir-fry a minute or two more. Add the tofu and mix it gently so as not to break up the tofu too much. Use a flat spatula and a folding and turning mixture, cooking for 3 minutes or so. Place on a heated platter to serve, or on individual plates. Stir in the the chopped herbs, or sprinkle them on the top. Sprinkle the black salt evenly over the dish just before serving. Serve with hot whole wheat chapathi, paratha, or tortillas.

Enjoy!

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

BASIC CRUSTY BREAD

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We ran out of bread the other day. Strange, because Brian bakes bread for special customers, and I bake, too. But it was all sold. So, at Brian's request, I made my crusty bread. I don't call this bread "artisinal", but it's very crusty, and tasty. This particular recipe does not need a starter, but you make a "sponge", a sort of quick starter to get things going. Since you can rise this sponge in an hour, you can make the bread without planning ahead. Or you have the option of rising the sponge overnight.

This type of bread is actually a very simple one and easy to make. Just remember not to try and speed it up by using more yeast or skipping a rising-- it needs time to develop flavor and texture. It also needs a hot oven and some moisture at the beginning of the baking, to develop "oven spring" (the last burst of rising) and to form a golden crust.

You will notice that this bread, like most European breads, contains no sweetener or oil. The yeast can feed off the natural sugars in the flour, so needs no sugar. The lack of oil gives the bread a crisp crust and chewy texture, as you expect with this type of bread, but makes it stale fast. So, if you aren't going to eat it within a day, freeze it.

The first baking, I used all unbleached flour with the bran, I rose the sponge in a warm kitchen for 1 1/2 hours, and I used my Bosch Universal Mixer with a dough hook to mix the dough. I didn't bother with a baking stone this time (I did use both the pan of water in the bottom of the oven, and sprayed the loaves with water 3 times at the beginning), but the crust was super crunchy! I confess that I ate one crusty end and another slice for lunch, warm from the oven!

The second baking, this afternoon, I used 2 cups of wholewheat flour and 4 cups of unbleached flour, and mixed, kneaded and rose the bread in my Oster bread machine. It came out very well, too. See the photos at the bottom of this post.



BRYANNA’S BASIC CRUSTY BREAD
2 loaves or 12-16 rolls

1/2 Tbsp. dry active baking yeast (or 1 tsp. instant or fast-acting yeast)
2 cups very warm water
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour (or use 3 cups wholewheat flour and omit the bran)
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 tsp. salt
3 cups unbleached flour

In a large bowl or bowl of a heavy-duter mixer dissolve the yeast in the water for about 5 minutes. Stir in the first 3 c. of flour and the salt. Beat well, cover with plastic wrap and let this "sponge" (batter) rise for 1 or 2 hours in a warm spot OR overnight in the refrigerator.

Stir in the last 3 c. flour a little at a time, adding only as much as necessary to make a kneadable dough. Knead the dough with the dough hook of a heavy-duty mixer or by hand on a lightly-floured surface for about 10-15 minutes. Add a little more flour as needed, but be careful not to make the dough too dry-- it should be moist but not sticky, and very pliable.

Slam the dough down hard on the surface a few times after kneading (to get rid of air bubbles). Place the dough in a large lightly-oiled bowl, cover well and let rise at room temperature until doubled. Punch down.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half. Shape the dough into 2 long loaves, or rounds or braided loaves, or into 12-16 loaf-shaped rolls. Place on a non-stick or lightly-oiled cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina cereal (cream of wheat). (If you are baking on stones or tiles, place the loaves on greased and well-floured flat cookie sheets with no lip or rim, or on pieces of stiff cardboard covered with greased and well-floured baking parchment.) Sprinkle the tops with flour, cover with slightly damp clean tea towels or place inside of large plastic bags, and let rise at room temperature until doubled.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (convection 425 degrees F).

(If using unglazed tiles or baking stones, preheat them in the oven as well.)

In order to generate steam in the oven, you can place a shallow pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven, AND/OR squirt the loaves and the walls of the oven two or three times in the first 10-15 minutes of baking with cold water in a plant mister.

Before baking, slash the loaves in several places with the tip of a new razor blade. (I make four slashes in a square on round loaves.) Place the cookie sheet on the middle oven rack. (If baking on tiles or stones, slide the loaves or rolls onto the hot stones or tiles.) Spray with water from a plant mister. Bake 5 minutes. Spray again. Bake 5 more minutes. Spray again. Bake 5 more minutes. (If you are using a pan of water in the oven, remove it at this point.)



Bake 15-20 minutes more, or until the bread is a rich golden brown. (Rolls will take less time and a convection oven will also probably take less time.) Remove bread from pans and cool on racks.

When the bread has cooled, you can freeze it wrapped in foil, then reheat it wrapped in the foil at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

TO MAKE THE DOUGH IN A BREAD MACHINE:

Making sticky bread doughs in a modern bread machine is a wonderful time-saver, and certainly very clean (no messy hands or counter). But you must bake the bread in a regular or convection oven, or you will be disappointed, even if you have a "crusty bread" or "French bread" selection on your machine.

If your bread machine makes large (2 lb.) loaves, it can probably handle kneading the whole recipe. If it's an old one with a smaller capacity, you may have to knead half a recipe at a time.

Make the sponge first. You can let it rise right in the bread machine pan. When it has risen, add the remaining flour. Select the dough cycle and let it go to work. You can remove it from the machine after it has kneaded and rise it in a bowl, or, if the your container is big enough for the dough to double, let it rise through the entire dough cycle, then remove for the final rising and proceed with the recipe as instructed above.

FOOD PROCESSOR DOUGH: You can make this dough in a large food processor, or in two batches in a medium food processor, following the directions given with your machine. Mix and rise the sponge in a bowl first. Process the final dough ("knead") for 60 seconds.

PICS OF THE SECOND BAKING:

Before rising:


Ready for the oven:


After 5 minutes in the oven:







Thursday, March 23, 2006

POMEGRANATE TOFU RE-VISITED

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This what we had for dinner last night. It's a very simplified, lower-fat, vegan version of fesenjan, a famous, rich, and elegant Persian poultry or game dish, which usually contains lots of walnuts and more spices. I hadn’t made this recipe in a long, long time, but came across my review of the book it came from and thought it was worth repeating, since I didn't have much time to cook and had all the ingredients. I had my notes of the changes I made from the first time I made it, so followed those. I almost doubled the pomegranate molasses!

It's very good in a subtle kind of way, and pretty quick to make. It wasn't Brian's favorite, though. I think I will try to work out my own version of fesenjan someday.

SWEET & SOUR POMEGRANATE TOFU
4 servings
Adapted from “The Bold Vegetarian” by Bharti Kirchner (my changes in parentheses). (See my review of this from Vegetarian Times magazine.)

SAUCE:
2 tablespoons canola oil (I used 1 Tbsp. olive oil)
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced gingeroot (I grate it)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup walnuts, ground to a coarse powder (or you could use all or part pecans)
1/2 cup water ( + 1/4 cup more water to rinse out the blender—add that into the mixture)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup (pomegranate molasses—I used 4 tsp.—see below)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used 3/4 tsp.)
Ground red pepper to taste (you could use paprika, or cayenne—I used Aleppo pepper, a Turkish blend—substitute 4 parts paprika mixed with 1 part ancho chile powder)

TOFU:
1/ 16 oz. package firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (I made 1/2” cubes and only used 14 oz.)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas, defrosted (I used 1 1/2 cups baby peas)
(I added 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, rinsed and chopped)

GARNISH:
Chopped fresh cilantro (I used fresh basil because Brian doesn’t like cilantro)
Red bell pepper strips

1. Saute onion in hot oil in large skillet until richly browned, but not burned, 8 to 12 minutes, stirring often. (If necessary sprinkle a little water to keep the onions from burning.) Stir in garlic and gingerroot. Add turmeric, cumin and the 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Process onion-garlic mixture, walnuts, and the 1/2 cup water in a food processor until thick and creamy, adding a little extra water if mixture is too thick. Remove to a medium bowl (rinse the blender with the extra 1/4 cup water and add that to the mixture-- BCG) and add sugar, pomegranate syrup, salt, and red pepper. Mix well and transfer to the same skillet.

3. Bring mixture to a simmer. Add tofu (and roasted red pepper, if using-- BCG) and peas. Simmer, covered, 5 to 7 minutes. During this time, uncover once and gently turn the tofu pieces. Taste and adjust the salt and cayenne. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Best served with plain steamed basmati rice—- it was also good in a tortilla or Arabic flatbread wrap!


ABOUT POMEGRANATE MOLASSES (known as nasrahab in Georgian and dibs rumman in Arabic) is an essential Middle Eastern ingredient. It has a wonderful flavor and heady aroma, and keeps in the refrigerator after opening almost indefinitely. The Iranian kind tends to be sweeter and thinner than the Lebanese brands.

The uses for this thick, tangy, piquant syrup are many. It blends well with walnuts, adds a tart and pungent flavor to beans and other savory dishes, and gives an astringent edge to salads and vegetables. It is delicious in glazes and marinades and it can even be diluted and used for sharp drinks and tart sorbets.

This should not be confused with grenadine syrup, which is made from the same base but has sugar and other other flavorings added.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ON LOW-FAT COCONUT MILK FOR COOKING

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UPDATE OCTOBER 27, 2010:  Solution to the "casein in coconut powder" problem (see below in Aug. Update)! Coconut FLOUR!  It is made from dried coconut meat with most of the fat removed.  NO CASEIN! It's high in fiber, too, BTW. There are many, many brands out there now.  I'm using an organic Canadian brand, Alpha, which is reasonably priced and the label states that 2 tablespoons contains 26 calories, 1.2 g fat and 5.4 grams of dietary fiber.  The calories vary from brand to brand, but the fat content seems to be about the same ( not sure how that works!).  Here are some organic brands available in the USA: Swanson Organic; Let's Do Organic; Aloha Nu; Tropical Traditions; Island Harvest; Bob's Red Mill; Wilderness Family Naturals.

It's a tiny bit grainy, but it has alot of coconut flavor, and it smooths out nicely when well-blended in a Vita Mix or blender.  So, give it a try in my updated low-fat coconut milk recipe below.

UPDATE AUG 29, 2010:  Since I did my last update, I have not been able to find ANY coconut milk powder without sodium caseinate in it!  The brands that I recommended before seem to have either changed their formulas or their labelling!  Even Wilderness Family Naturals brand contains "a trace of casein; a milk protein used to keep the fat from separating. The only one I could find that contained nothing but coconut was TRS Coconut Powder, a Sri Lankan Brand, which only seems to be available in the UK!  There is a Jamaican brand that is widely carried online, called Grace, but I can't find ingredient info anywhere, even on their website.  (If you have a package, could you please post the ingredients in Comments??)


I know that So Delicious has a new low-fat coconut milk beverage tastes good, but it doesn't have the intense coconut-y flavor that coconut powder can provide for cooking and baking (without all the fat), unfortunately.  So I guess I'll have to go back to the drawing board.

(BTW, in case you're wondering why I haven't climbed on the coconut oil bandwagon, read this.) Also, I'm not opposed to using or drinking coconut milk beverage [or rice or almond, etc.], but be aware that the nutrition simply does not equal that of soy milk, or, second in line, hemp milk!  See this article comparing non-dairy milks.  

Here are the nutrition facts for coconut milk beverage.  The calories are fairly low, and the fat about the same as many plant milks, but all saturated.  Coconut milk beverage contains only 1 g protein per cup, the same as almond and rice milk, and nowhere near the 6-8 g of dairy, soy and hemp milk.  Coconut milk beverage contains 7 g of carbohydrates and 6 g sugar per cup (better than rice milk, which is very high in carbohydrates [24 grams] and sugar [11 grams]. Coconut milk beverage has 10% of the RDA for calcium, which is added, whereas many soy milks and other plant milks are fortified to 30%, about the level of dairy milk.  Coconut milk beverage does have B12 added to 50% of RDA.  Dairy milk contains no iron. Hemp and soy milks are highest in iron (10-20% each).  Almond and rice milks are iron-poor (just 2% each).  Coconut milk beverage has 4% RDA. Coconut milk beverage has added vitamin D at 30 % RDA, but no vitamin A.  Coconut milk bevrage is very low in sodium, but unsweetened soymilk contains none at all.)
Anyway, I'll report back when I do some more research.

***********************************
Original Post:
Spice Island Vegan and I have been having an online conversation on low-fat coconut milk. She’s been craving South Asian dishes, but she’s also been cooking low-fat to lose weight. I seldom use coconut milk because of the fat and the fact that there is so much saturated fat in it.

Regular Taste of Thai coconut milk contains 420 calories and 45 g fat per cup! Taste of Thai Lite coconut milk contains 135 calories per cup and 12 g fat, better, but still too high for me and Spice Island Vegan. Unfortunately, we have found no really good coconut flavoring, whether extract or oil, natural or not. Some are downright nasty!

I wondered about using a “mock coconut milk” made from a low-fat nut milk called “Almond Breeze” (Update: or So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage, which is low-fat) and some reduced-fat silken tofu for creaminess, along with some coconut powder (also called "instant coconut cream powder") for authentic flavor. (UPDATE: Okay, this is the part that got complicated when I could no longer find coconut powder without added casein!  See updates above.)

HERE IS THE UPDATED RECIPE USING COCONUT FLOUR INSTEAD OF COCONUT POWDER (See latest update [Oct. 2010] at top of post.):

Printable Recipe


BRYANNA'S MOCK COCONUT MILK

10 (1/4 cup) servings  (can be SF)

Yield: 2 1/2 cups
 
This recipe is easily multiplied (or halved). It makes a really creamy, slightly-thick coconut milk.  Almond Breeze is my preferred liquid for this recipe (or Silk Almond). It is made from almonds, but is quite low in fat, and has a nutty flavor which is closer to coconut flavor than either soy or rice milk. You can also use the new low-fat So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage, if you prefer.

This milk can be used in East Indian, West Indian, Southeast Asian, and other dishes which call for coconut milk. The real thing contains from 45 to 60 g of fat and 400 calories or more per cup, compared to 4.4 to 5.4 g fat and 104 to 120 calories per cup for this recipe! It is also alot cheaper AND creamier than canned regular or lite coconut milk. NOTE: If you pressure cook a dish with the mock coconut milk, add the blended silken tofu just before serving.

NOTE: For a soy-free mixture with a few more calories. substitute 1/4 cup raw cashews and 1/4 cup more milk for the tofu.
  
1/2 cup    firm or extra-firm silken tofu (you can use the reduced-fat kind if you like)  
2 cups    almond milk (see above) or So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage, Original 
1/4 cup    coconut flour (see information above)  
  
Mix in a blender until very smooth. Refrigerate in a sealed jar.

VARIATIONS:
For "Coconut Cream" or Thick Coconut "Milk", use more silken tofu (or raw cashews), and less milk.
For a thinner "coconut milk", omit the tofu and use 1 cup milk.

NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS calculated using Almond Breeze Original, regular extra-firm silken tofu and Alpha Organic Coconut Flour.
Nutrition (per 1/4 cup): 26.6 calories; 32% calories from fat; 1.1g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 42.9mg sodium; 62.2mg potassium; 3.8g carbohydrates; 1.3g fiber; 1.8g sugar; 2.5g net carbs; 2.0g protein; 0.4 points.
 
NUTRITION ANALYSIS calculated using So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage, Original, regular extra-firm silken tofu and Alpha Organic Coconut Flour:
Nutrition (per 1/4 cup): 30.6 calories; 43% calories from fat; 1.6g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 15.9mg sodium; 44.2mg potassium; 3.6g carbohydrates; 1.1g fiber; 1.6g sugar; 2.5g net carbs; 2.0g protein; 0.5 points.
Cheers,