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Friday, September 29, 2006

CHANTERELLES AND AN EASY SAUTE

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It's chanterelle season again and, thank heavens, we had a good downpour last week to get things going after our long dry spell. We have some chanterelle mushrooms in our woods (the only ones, really, that I feel qualified to safely pick, though we sometimes find oyster mushrooms and cauliflower fungi), but one of our friends has the Motherlode of chanterelles on his property and kindly shares with us! (In fact, his wife, a writer, wrote a very funny piece on how sick she was of chanterelles last year!)

If we have an especially large haul of these lovely morsels, I clean, slice and oven-saute them in large baking pans, and then freeze them in 2 cup containers. This preserves their flavor the best, I think. (I don't really like them dried.) I often use these frozen chanterelles in my barley-mushroom soup (along with some dried porcini mushrooms), and in sautes like the following one.

Here is a recipe that I originally developed for my Vegan Feast newsletter last fall, using oyster mushrooms and my homemade seitan "chicken" cutlets, but it is equally delicious with my "Breast of Tofu"(which is in almost all of my cookbooks), or frozen Chinese vegetarian "chicken" cutlets (see info for purchasing in recipe below), instead of seitan, and chanterelles instead of oyster mushrooms.

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BRYANNA'S VEGAN "CHICKEN" CUTLETS AND MUSHROOMS WITH SHERRIED CREME SAUCE
Serves 4
Forget that old recipe using cream of mushroom soup-- this vegan recipe is  truly elegant. Serve with brown basmati or jasmine rice,  potatoes, or eggless noodles.

Your favorite vegetarian "chicken" cutlets for 4 servings (could be a Chinese variety, or Gardein or homemade tofu, tempeh or seitan "chicken" cutlets)
SEASONED FLOUR
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp onion powder
pepper to taste
SAUCE:
1 green onion, chopped
8 oz chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1/2 cup vegetarian broth, for steam-frying
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup extra-firm SILKEN tofu
1/2 cup mushroom broth OR vegetarian "chicken-style" broth
2 tbs chopped parsley
pinch nutmeg (freshly-ground, if possible)
salt to taste
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
several drops lemon juice
1/2 tbs cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbs cold water or wine

Blend together the tofu and soymilk until very smooth, using a blender or hand
immersion blender. set aside.

Dredge the cutlets in the Seasoned Flour. Brown them in a large nonstick pan in the olive oil over medium heat. Remove the cutlets and add the green onion-- saute briefly. Add the mushrooms and steam-fry-saute adding the 1/2 c. broth as you stir.

Add the sherry and boil 1 minute. Add the tofu/soy milk mixture and the last 1/2 cup of broth. Add the parsley, nutmeg, a few drops of lemon juice and the dissolved cornstarch. Cook over high heat, stirring, just until it thickens a bit.

Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Nutrition (per serving): 451.5 calories; 15% calories from fat; 8.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 1014.9mg sodium; 727.8mg potassium; 44.6g carbohydrates; 7.3g fiber; 3.2g sugar; 50.1g protein,WW Points 10.5

Enjoy!
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

RED LENTIL/TOFU CURRY, FAMILY PHOTOS & WHAT WE'VE BEEN EATING THIS WEEK

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The above picture is a portrait of my Peruvian (paternal) grandmother, Clotilde Roncagliolo de Urbina, painted in the 1950's by my mother, Eve Tonge Urbina. I have it hanging on my wall, but one of my Peruvian cousins recently asked for a copy of it, which is why I took a photo of it. My mother was a professional portrait artist and her father, Gilbert Tonge, was a well-known California artist and muralist.

Spice Island Vegan, who has met my mother, wondered what my mother looked like when she was young (see photo of her now, at age 88), so I'm adding (Sept. 25) a photo I came across recently of the Urbinas when my family visited Peru in 1954. I believe this was taken at Christmas.

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My parents are on far right of the picture, my father, Alejandro, standing, and my mother sitting in front of him (she's very obviously the non-Peruvian!). My grandmother is in the very center, holding a baby (I don't know who this was). I (age 6) am in the second row, third from the left, with barrettes in my hair; my sister Karin (age 7) is in the first row, far right.

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Our sister and brother kitties, Tina and Ringo. Ringo looks oh-so-dignified, doesn't he?

Now for the food...I'm not going to tease you with more newsletter stuff, which is mostly what I have been cooking. Below are photos and descriptions of some of the more simple meals we've been having this week:

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Chikn Pot Pie

This is a recipe from the Dec 04/Jan 05 Vegan Feast newsletter, but I used a biscuit topping-- actually, plain version of the scone dough I posted here. I used only 1 T. sugar, and no additions except a tsp. of dried basil.

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The filling consists of SoyCurls, which are tender TVP-like morsels made from the whole soybeans (and they really have the taste and texture of chicken), with a creamy gravy, green soybeans, sweet potato, etc.. The original recipe calls for fennel and leeks, but I didn't have any, so I used celery and onion. It was still good!

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Actually, my husband goes nuts over it!

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Grape Focaccia

This is a recipe from the Oct/Nov 04 Vegan Feast newsletter, but you don't really need a recipe. I happened to be making pizza that day, so I made extra dough just to make this with some organic grapes I was given. It's one of my favorite Autumn treats! Basically, use your favorite pizza or focaccia dough (if you use pizza dough, make it thicker than a pizza), let it rise for 1/2 an hour in the pan, then "dimple" the dough with your finger tips and place grapes on top (green or red, preferably seedless). I squish the grapes in my hands a bit to make them exude their juice. Then sprinkle with sugar-- it can be coarse if you like. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes. Eat hot...yum!

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Italian Sausage Stew

This was a real spur-of-the-moment thing. I just sauteed a sliced onion, orange bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, a few mushrooms, lots of garlic, and two sliced Tofurkey Italian Veggie Sausages in a little olive oil with 4 medium garden-fresh tomatoes (two red and two yellow). I simmered it for about 10 minutes. I added about 1/2 cup of dry red wine, a handful of fresh basil, and salt and pepper. At the last minute I added some sliced sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives, but I think that was overkill. It was actually a bit too rich-tasting! The leftovers made a geat bruschetta topping, though!

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Red lentil and Tofu Curry with a sort of Indian-style "salsa".

This was a recipe I copied down from a June 1999 Gourmet magazine a long time ago and always meant to try. It was pretty quick to make, and I served it with basmati rice and a sort of Indian "salsa" made from red and yellow diced tomatoes from our garden, green onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and homemade plain soy yogurt (that was good!).

The curry was pretty dull, so I jazzed it up as I went along. It was tasty in the end, and certainly cheap!

Printable Recipe

RED LENTIL AND TOFU CURRY, BRYANNA'S VERSION
Serves 2 or 3 with rice

1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2" piece of ginger, grated
1 T. olive oil
1/2 cup split red lentils
3 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. olive oil
1/2 lb. firm tofu, in 1/2" dice
1 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. EACH curry powder, ground cumin, salt, mustard powder, paprika
1/4 tsp. EACH ground cloves and coriander
pinch cayenne (or to taste)
a small cinnamon stick
2 T. lemon juice

Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in the first T. oil until the onion is softened. Add to the red lentils, wit the water and first 1/2 tsp. salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until the red lentils have softened.

Meanwhile, heat the second T. of oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the tofu and all of the spices (except the cinnamon stick). Sate until the tofu is coated with the spices.

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Stir the tofu into the lentil mixture and add the cinnamon stick. Simmer at medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture cooks down to a thick stew-like mixture, being careful not to let it scorch. remove the cinnamon stick and discard, and stir in the lemon juice before serving.


Enjoy!

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

SNEAK PREVIEW; PUMPKIN-CREME CHEEZE-TUNNEL CAKE WITH CARAMEL SAUCE

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This entry will be short and sweet (in more ways than one!). I had a glitch this morning with my camera software and just wasted 2 hours!

Anyway, yesterday I tested this cake for the upcoming Vegan Feast Newsletter, which contains Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes, so I can't divulge the recipe. I've been wanting to do a vegan "tunnel cake" for a long time, and this seemed a good opportunity.

It turned out really well! The pumpkin cake tastes richer than it really is, and it's moist and tender, not heavy. The "tunnel" is a ring of tangy lemon "creme cheeze" (homemade) with chunks of organic candied ginger. (I might make more of the filling next time for a bigger "tunnel".) I topped it off with a caramel sauce and toasted pecans. Divine!

I just used a regular bundt pan, BTW-- didn't need one of those special tunnel cake pan sets. (That would be great for ice cream cakes, though!)

I plan to work on more vegan "tunnel cakes" in the future!

Have a sweet day!
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Friday, September 15, 2006

A MODERN VEGAN BLT SANDWICH: HEAVEN!

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First, I have to share this photo of our two young cats, Ringo and Tina, taken by my husband, Brian Grogan. (BTW: their "cat window" was open at the time, but they insisted they wanted to come in through the door!)


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One of my "5 things that everyone should eat at least once before they die" from this entry was "a sandwich made with homemade white bread, vegan  mayonnaise, a ripe tomato still warm from the garden (it HAS to be freshly-picked from a garden and NOT the hothouse variety), and a little salt".

We are currently inundated with both red and yellow tomatoes, one of the few items that we (non-gardeners that we are!) cultivate every year. We savor as many sweet, juicy tomato sandwiches as we can before that sad day when our tomatoes are all used up, because we only eat tomato sandwiches with our own tomatoes, purists that we are! No store-bought tomato is ever as good as ours, and a tomato sandwich is basically about the tomatoes, so we just don't bother the rest of the year! Makes us savor them even more.

Tomato sandwiches are very individual. I have mine as described above, sometimes on toasted bread and sometimes not; sometimes with lettuce and veggie bacon or soy bacon bits (stuck to the mayonnaise) (making it a BLT), sometimes not.



My husband adds pepper-- I don't. And he NEVER uses lettuce. I like more mayonnaise than he does, too-- LOTS of it. Since I don't want to ingest too much fat on my sandwich, I make my own low-fat vegan mayonnaise, recipe below (with miso and chili/garlic flax oil variations). To me, it tastes very like real mayonnaise.

This morning I had a toasted vegan BLT for breakfast (why not?), with, I swear, the sweetest tomato I have ever eaten! I used Italian bread and Yves Veggie Bacon (you could use LightLife Smart Bacon instead, or use organic soy bacon bits such as Frontier Bac'Uns). I didn't have any lettuce, so I used a modern touch-- organic baby greens mix. It was very satisfying.

What's your favorite way of making a tomato sandwich?



NOW, THE MAYONNAISE....



In the recipe below, right after you blend it, the mixture will be pourable, but....



...after the mayonnaise has set in the refrigerator for several hours, it should look like this.  Then you whisk it in the jar to get the familiar creamy texture.

Printable Recipe with all Variations


BRYANNA’S DELICIOUS LOW-FAT VEGGIENNAISE  (can be soy-free)
See Miso Mayo and Chili/Garlic Flax Oil Variations below
Makes about 2 cups
PS: There's a hemp milk and hemp oil version here  and a new version using The VEGG (powdered vegan egg yolk alternative) here.
PPS: This recipe was slightly revised on Oct. 29, 2011 to contain an option that makes it stay set and spreadable longer
.

This is a revised version of the recipe that appears in several of my cookbooks. For those who are allergic to soy, do not like tofu mayonnaise, or the commercial "light" mayos (most are not vegan, anyway), here is a delicious (and inexpensive) solution! Four Hellman's fans of may acquaintance loved this (and were surprised that they did!).It contains a small amount of oil, just enough for good flavor and mouthfeel. It’s smooth and creamy, and a little tangy, but not too much.
 **BRIGHT IDEA-- This mayonnaise, with the addition of herbs, garlic, etc., can be used as a savory vegetable and toast topping.
Note: If you leave out the agar in the basic recipe, this makes a good base for cold savory sauces. 

Mix A:
1 cup any non-dairy milk (can be low-fat)
2 T. apple cider, plain rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar, or lemon juice
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or flax oil (or 2 tablespoons of each)
Mix B:
1/2 cup plus 2 T. cold water
1/2 tsp. agar powder
3 and 1/2 T. cornstarch (or wheat starch--do not substitute other starches! You can buy organic cornstarch in health food stores and online.)

Optional addition (this will keep the mixture from breaking down and getting softer after refrigerating for a few days):
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1.)Place the Mix A ingredients into your blender jar or food processor bowl and set aside. NOTE: If you have no food processor or blender, you can use a 1 qt. deep bowl or pitcher and a hand/immersion blender.

2.) In a small saucepan or microwave-proof bowl, mix together the water and agar from Mix B, and let sit for a few of minutes. Add the cornstarch and whisk well.
If making in the pot on the stovetop, stir constantly over high heat until thick and translucent-- not white.  Microwave option: Use the microwave-proof bowl for the mixture, and microwave on HI 30 seconds. Whisk. Repeat this about three times, or until thick and translucent. (The microwave works well with cornstarch mixtures.) 
Tip: If you don't cook this thoroughly (and "translucent" is the key word), the mayo won't thicken properly.

Tip #2:  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot or bowl with the whisk, so that no cornstarch gets left at the bottom.


XANTHAN OPTION: If you are going to add the xanthan gum, add it to the Mixture A in the blender JUST before you add Mixture B, NOT with it.  Add it to the blended mixture, blend briefly and then proceed to the next step, but work quickly.

3.) Scrape the cooked Mix B into the blender or food processor or container you are using with a hand/immersion blender (using a spatula so that you get as much of it as you can out of the bowl or pot) containing Mix A. Blend until the mixture is very white and frothy and emulsified (you can't see any oil globules). (Tip: This mayo doesn’t get thick as you blend it, like regular mayonnaise or soy mayonnaise made with lots of oil, so don’t blend it and blend it, thinking it will thicken as it blends— it won’t!! It will thicken in a few hours in the refrigerator.)

4.) Pour into a clean pint jar, cover and refrigerate for several hours, until it is set. It should be firm enough to stand a knife up in. 


Keep refrigerated.  Will keep for about 2 weeks.

Nutrition facts were (using Living Cookbook software) calculated using my homemade soymilk and  1/4 cup olive oil.  I calculated it using various kinds of nondairy milk and the nutrition facts are in this range no matter what you use (except for regular coconut milk, which has more fat in it).  21 calories a tablespoon is pretty darn good, considering regular mayonnaise (even vegan) contains about 100 calories per tablespoon!

If you use less oil, of course fat and calorie levels will be less, but I think you loose the creamy mouthfeel and it doesn't look right to me, but I've given you the Nutrition facts for that version below these, if you insist!

Nutrition Facts: (per tablespoon): Nutrition (per serving): 21.0 calories; 75% calories from fat; 1.8g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 92.5mg sodium; 2.3mg potassium; 1.1g carbohydrates; 0.0g fiber; 0.1g sugar; 1.1g net carbs; 0.2g protein; 0.6 points.

Nutrition Facts: (using only 2 tablespoons oil in the recipe-- see my comments above)  (per tablespoon): 13.6 calories; 61% calories from fat; 1.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 92.5mg sodium; 2.3mg potassium; 1.1g carbohydrates; 0.0g fiber; 0.1g sugar; 1.1g net carbs; 0.2g protein; 0.3 points.

Cooking Tip
Do you prefer Miracle Whip to mayonnaise? Try this:
Use 1 teaspoon mustard powder, and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon organic sugar or agave nectar to the recipe (sugar levels in this type of recipe vary, so start with this and then let your taste dictate).

MISO MAYO AND CHILI-/GARLIC FLAX OIL VARIATIONS:
Omit the salt and use 3 T. miso (not a dark variety)and/or omit the mustard powder and use chili/garlic flax oil


“SECRET BURGER SAUCE”: Mix to taste, Veggiennaise (already set and chilled), ketchup, and pickle relish; or you could use Veggiennaise, ketchup and mustard, or Veggienaise and a ketchup-style chili sauce.

OTHER MAYONNAISE VARIATIONS: 

You can also make tasty sandwich spreads by blending half vegan mayonnaise (blended but not set), and half grainy gourmet or creamy Dijon mustard (for a "Dijonnaise"), OR, for serious miso fans, light soy or chickpea miso.
Aioli:
To make a delicious garlic dip for cold, steamed vegetables and artichokes, omit the dry mustard and add 4-6 peeled raw cloves of garlic while blending. This also makes a good spread for making garlic toast.
Tartar Sauce:
Use dill pickle brine instead of plain vinegar. To the blended, but not set, mayonnaise, add 3/4 c. minced raw onion and 3/4 c. minced dill pickle. If you have no pickles, use chopped cucumber with dillweed and white wine vinegar to taste.
Russian Dressing:
This dressing is a traditional addition to many deli sandwiches.
To the blended but not set mayonnaise, add 2 T. prepared horseradish, 2 tsp. vegetarian worcestershire sauce, 1/2 c. ketchup-style chile sauce, and 2 tsp. grated onion.

THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Mix together:
1 cup Veggiennaise (already chilled and set)
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
2 Tbsp. minced stuffed green olives

FLAVORED MAYONNAISE
 Flavored mayonnaise can turn a quick sandwich or salad meals into a gourmet treat. Try these suggestions, and then invent your own.

1.) Use cranberry or other berry vinegar, or white balsamic, champagne, or sherry vinegar, or lime juice, instead of ordinary vinegar (or lemon juice).
2.) Use your favorite herbal vinegar plus 3 to 4 T. of the appropriate fresh herb.
Add while the Veggiennaise is still runny (don't add AFTER the mayo is set, or it will get "soupy"), add one of these:
3.) 3 T. minced pickled jalapeños
4.) 3 minced chile chipotles
5.) several tablespoons vegan Pesto OR pureéd roasted red pepper OR pureéd sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed--I rinse the oil off-- or soaked,dried ones)
6.) 1 T. minced or grated fresh ginger
7.) 2 T. prepared horseradish
8.) 1 T. curry powder
9.) 1/4 c. or more minced fresh herbs, such as basil, mint, oregano, cilantro, tarragon, etc..
10.) 1/3 c. chopped chives, 1 T. grated lemon zest (preferably organic) and Louisiana hot sauce to taste 

(this makes "Creole Mayonnaise")
11.) 1 T. Chinese hoisin sauce (or 1/2 T. EACH dark or red miso and maple syrup)
2.) 1/4-1/2 c. salsa
13.) 1-2 tsp. wasabi (Japanese green horseradish) powder
14.) 2 T. citrus zest (preferably organic)
15.) 1/4-1/3 c. minced Japanese-style pink pickled ginger
16.) 3-6 T. of your favorite chutney
 17.) 12-18 cloves (1 head) roasted garlic

Enjoy!


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Monday, September 11, 2006

CHOCOLATE-ORANGE-BLACKBERRY-PECAN SCONES

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It's sunny and warm now, but it was chilly this morning, and I had a jones for scones, plus two oranges that needed using, plus a little basket of wild blackberries in the fridge, so I came up with this variation on my usual low-fat scone recipe. The recipe is low in fat because it only contains 1 Tbs. of oil (though the pecans and chocolate chips raise the fat level in this version!), but the scones are nice and tender, due in part to the pastry flour. Try them-- they are yummy!

Printable Recipe

BRYANNA'S LOW-FAT CHOCOLATE-ORANGE-BLACKBERRY-PECAN SCONES
Makes 6 large scones
This recipe only has 1 T. of oil in it, but the scones are light and tender.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Have ready:
3/4-1 cup fresh blackberries

Mix in a large bowl with a whisk:
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. unbleached white flour
1/4 c. organic sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Stir in:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 oz. organic dairy-free fair-trade chocolate chips

In a small bowl whisk together:
1/2 cup orange juice
6 Tbs. non-dairy milk
1 Tbs. oil
Grated zest of one organic orange

Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix lightly but thoroughly.


Dump the dough (very soft) on a greased cookie sheet. With wet hands, shape into a circle about 1/2" thick. With a sharp floured knife, cut 6 wedges. (If you want the edges of the scones to be soft, don't separate the wedges; if you want them crispy, separate them.)


Make slight indents in the dough with your finger where you want the berries to go and place a berry in each indent.


Bake about 15 minutes, or until golden. Pull the scones apart and serve warm.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

AJVAR (VEGETABLE "CAVIAR") AND MEDITERRANEAN "QUESADILLAS"

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What I made for lunch the other day-- I call them "Mediterranean Quesadillas". I had some grilled eggplant and zucchini, and some wholewheat tortillas, leftover from dinner the night before. I cut one tortilla in half and spread one half with Ajvar, a Balkan red pepper and eggplant spread (see more about this and a recipe below), and the other half with vegan mayonnaise (my low-fat version). Then I added the grilled veggies, plus roasted green peppers (you could use red ones) thin slices of smoked tofu, and fresh basil leaves.
I put it together and cooked over medium heat in a nonstick pan until golden and crispy on both sides.  Cut into wedges with a sharp knife. This will serve 1-2, depending on appetite. Have napkins handy!

ABOUT AJVAR (pronounced Eye-vahr):  
This delicious condiment is originally from Macedonia, Croatia, and Serbia, but is popular also in Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey, etc., and all over the Middle East now, it seems. It is sometimes called "vegetable caviar", and  there is hot ajvar and mild ajvar. In some areas they use roasted green peppers.

Commercial versions are inexpensive in Middle Eastern stores and many brands are available from amazon.com. Trader Joe's sells it but they don't call it ajvar on the label. They call it Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic. I understand that Whole Foods sells an organic version with "Ajvar" on the label.


USES FOR AJVAR:

I use it on all kinds of wraps, panini, and sandwiches:


Panini made with my homemade ajvar and vegan white "cheese", from the Oct/Nov Vegan Feast

It also makes a great cracker spread or a dip. Serve it as an appetizer to spread on thick slices of country-style bread or flatbread such as pita or lavosh, or use it as a side dish. Or just use it like salsa. You can use it 0nrice or potatoes, or as a quick pasta sauce; or mix it in with hummous and other dips. It's used on grilled meats, so why not on grilled seitan or tofu? Or on some big Tofurkey or Field Roast veggie sausages? Or  how about with white beans, veggie "meatloaf", "cheese" toast, or bruschetta? Spice Island Vegan used it with my tofu fritatta from "Nonna's Italian Kitchen" and it would be good on scrambled tofu, or vegan omelets, too . I use it in my "cheddar cheese" recipe for color.



PS: ABOUT PRESERVING HOMEMADE AJVAR:
Many Balkan families can their own supplies of it every year, but I can't find anything specific about canning it. I read that green beans and unripe tomatoes are sometimes mixed in with the ajvar before canning. All the canning sites I consulted warn against canning any pureed vegetables because of the problem of getting the temperature up high enough in the center of a jar of pureed food without commercial equipment. Perhaps if you made it very chunky you could pressure can it in small jars (1/2 pint) and then puree it after opening.

I did read that you can freeze it!

HERE'S MY RECIPE:

Printable Recipe

BRYANNA’S AJVAR (BALKAN “SALSA”)
Makes 3 1/2 cups
Pronounced Eye-vahr, this is a name of Turkish origin given to a popular Balkan spread or relish made of roasted peppers and eggplant (and sometimes other vegetables, too). Fresh ajvar is always made during the late summer and early autumn, just after the pepper harvest, when many Balkan households also can or bottle their own ajvar for use throughout the year. You can make it as mild or spicy as you like!

I can get this in my area in jars, fairly cheaply (about $4.00 Cnd a jar), but I like the idea of doing my own seasoning, and it’s very easy to make!

NOTE: My husband didn’t care for the what-I-would-call-“silky” texture of this ajvar, but then, he doesn’t really like eggplant. I have noted below that you can use more pepper and less eggplant if you like, but see also the zucchini variation below, which he preferred.

3 medium red bell peppers
(NOTE: If you prefer a chunkier texture and redder color, use another pepper and a smaller eggplant)
OPTIONAL: 1 large mildly hot pepper (such as a Hungarian yellow banana pepper)
(NOTE: use more hot peppers instead of adding hot sauce, if you prefer)
1 medium eggplant
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 T. red wine vinegar
juice of one medium lemon
1/2 tsp. liquid red hot sauce, or more to taste
freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and the eggplant on another. Poke the vegetables in a few places with a large fork. Roast the vegetables until they are somewhat charred on the outside and soft inside—the peppers will, of course, soften faster than the eggplant. Place the veggies inside a closed paper bag for 10 minutes or so— this will help loosen the skins.

This is a messy job, but quick—the skins should just peel away—it’s okay if a bit of pepper skin gets left behind. Remove the stems, and the seeds of the peppers. Rinse the peppers. Chop everything coarsely and then pulse in a food processor to the texture you like. Set aside.

On a small plate, mash the garlic with the salt with the back of a spoon til it is paste-like. In a large skillet, heat the oil a bit, then add the veggies, the salt and garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, hot sauce and fresh pepper to taste. Simmer the mixture until it has thickened a bit (it will thicken in the jar, too, so don’t cook it down too much). Taste for salt, pepper and hot sauce.
If serving immediately, serve it in a bowl drizzled with olive oil, or pack into 2 sterilized pint jars, drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, seal and refrigerate— it will keep for several weeks, although you’ll probably find many uses for it! (i have read that you can freeze it, too, but have not tried that myself.)

ZUCCHINI AJVAR: Omit the eggplant and use a chunk of large zucchini (this is a good way to use those overgrown ones!) about the size of a medium eggplant. (NOTE: you can use 4 red peppers and a slightly smaller chunk of zucchini if you prefer—it will be redder in color that way.) Otherwise, proceed as for the recipe above. I found that it needed about 1/2 tsp. more salt when using the zucchini, for some reason.


Enjoy!
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