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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

AN EGGPLANT RECIPE FOR EGGPLANT HATERS & A SOLUTION TO EGGPLANT SOAKING UP OIL LIKE A SPONGE

Best Blog Tips This will be my last blog post until July 6th or so, when I get back from the McDougall "Celebrity Chef" Weekend in Santa Rosa, Ca. I'll be in good company, with Chef Kevin Dunn, executive chef and creator of the Vegetarian Awakening vegan chef's conferences; Susan Voisin from the fat free vegan blog; Colleen Patrick-Goudreau from the Compassionate Cooks blog; Jill Nussinow, "The Veggie Queen"; Miyoko Schinner, author of "The New Now and Zen Epicure"; and Chef Eric Tucker of Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco. Wow!

We will all, along with Mary McDougall, be demonstrating flavorful, no-fat-added recipes for the participants to recreate at home. I'm doing a workshop on breakfast foods on Saturday morning, and a work shop on "The Elegant Bean" on Sunday.

So, I'll be filling you in when I get back! In the meantime, I'm posting a delicious eggplant dish that I made the other day. A medical practitioner recommended that  my husband eat more eggplant. Now, I've been telling him that for ages, because eggplant is a great source of viscous fiber-- "the 'sticky' type of soluble fiber found in oats, barley and beans, and certain vegetables such as okra and eggplant. Viscous fibers help binding the cholesterol in your digestive tract and sweep it out of your body. In another word, soluble fiber act as a sponge, absorbing cholesterol and carrying it out of your system. People at less-developed countries (such as China) are less prone to having high blood cholesterol because their diet are high on viscous fiber."  http://foodheal.blogspot.com/2006/07/eating-to-lower-cholesterol-1-viscous.html You can read more scientific stuff about this here, and about the "Portfolio Diet" which followed that research.

I love eggplant, but DH has only eaten it reluctantly, except when I make Szechuan eggplant, which he does like. So I thought I'd start out with a stir-fry. I found the following recipe on a great website called "Ashbury's Aubergines" that has thousands of eggplant (aubergine) recipes!

I wanted to cut down the oil a bit, so I experimented with a technique I read about in Cook's Illustrated magazine. Eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge-- as the authors say, "it's essentially a sponge, ready to absorb anything, and it's packed with water. This one-two punch transforms the eggplant into oil-soaked mush before it has a chance to caramelize."

and:

"The Solution: First we needed to dehydrate the eggplant, but the traditional salting method didn't sufficiently dry it out. Combining salting and microwaving did work— after we put a few disposable coffee filters under the eggplant to keep it from poaching in its leached-out liquid. The eggplant (now reduced to a third its original size) could be sautéed in a much smaller amount of oil (1 tablespoon vs. nearly 1/2 cup). The eggplant plumped up nicely when added back to the other vegetables to stew, absorbing these other flavors instead of just oil."

So, what you do is, cut your eggplant into chunks or strips and toss it with a bit of kosher salt in bowl. Line entire surface of large microwave-safe plate with double layer of [unbleached] coffee filters and lightly spray with oil from a pump sprayer. Spread the eggplant in one even layer over the filters. Microwave on high until the eggplant is dry and shriveled to one-third of its size, 8 to 15 minutes (the eggplant should not brown). (If your microwave has no turntable, rotate the plate after 5 minutes.) Use in your recipe. It worked!

(PS: For anyone who is still afraid of using a microwave oven, here's some information you may be interested to read.)



Printable Copy
BRAISED EGGPLANT WITH SUNDRIED TOMATOES, BRYANNA'S VERSION
Serves 2-4

This was delicious and DH loved it, even though heclaims to hat eggplant.

1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into strips and prepared as above
1 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, diced (I washed the oil off with hot water and patted them dry)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small tomato, peeled
seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper and cook over high heat until the garlic is soft. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and prepared eggplant (see text above). Turn the heat to medium. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes until the eggplant is tender. Add the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar to the skillet. Cook until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add tomato and parsley or cilantro. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat.

I served this with brown basmati rice, but it would be great cold with baguettes or pita bread or rye crisp!

Enjoy and have a great week!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

WHIPPED CREME UPDATE AND A SPICY POTATO AND KALE SOUP

Best Blog Tips For those of you who are waiting eagerly for the vegan whipped topping recipe that Julie Hasson and I have been working on, I'm afraid you will have to be patient! What we are working with is a product called Versawhip 600K, a soy product. It's not cheap, but, as I mentioned last month on my vegsource forum, you can get a pretty good price at L'Epicerie in New York. I had to wait until I actually went there (I was going anyway!) to get it, and will have to have it shipped to an American friend to send to me in future because they don't ship to Canada.

We are working separately (we live in different countries!) and tossing ideas around by phone and email. My first batch was pretty good, and certainly looked good, but was lacking in several departments. I haven't had as much time as I would like to to work on this, and other ideas I have for using this product, so my progress has been slow. Today (rather guiltily) I spent most of the day on it (this included research on food science) and had to throw out two experiments. That is the nature of recipe development, and this product is particularly tricky-- there is a steep learning curve! Recipe development begins in your head, and ends in the kitchen, but in between, you crack open the books, you do online research-- it takes time. This is particularly true in alot of vegan cooking because you need to know what you are aiming for, and then how to achieve that with products that act differently from the ones you used as an omni! If you are a perfectionist, it may take even longer!

Anyway-- on to the soup!

Caldo Verde-- smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton) is a tasty garnish!

We've had company this week, and some unseasonably chilly weather, so soups have been on my table quite frequently. The following is one of our favorites (I made the Portuguese version this time)!

Printable Recipe
BRYANNA’S CALDO GALLEGO (SPANISH KALE AND POTATO SOUP-- WITH PORTUGUESE CALDO VERDE VERSION)
Serves 6-8

Kale and potatoes are made for eachother, as you’ll see when you try this wonderful soup. In Spain (and also Portugal, where it’s called Caldo Verde), this soup contains a spicy (but very fatty) sausage called chorizo, which is seasoned with garlic, dry red wine, chile, paprika, and cumin. I add these seasonings to the soup itself instead. Cubes of turnip are another characteristic Spanish touch.

NOTE: Don’t worry about the amount of garlic in this soup— it mellows out considerably during cooking.

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 T. dark sesame oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 whole head of garlic, peeled and minced (or about 10 cloves from a jar, minced, or about 2-4 T. minced from a jar)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp. dried red chile flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper (you may not need this if you use spicy Field Roast Chipotle vegan sausage-- see below)
6 c. vegan broth (see this post)
10-12 oz. kale, washed, trimmed and chopped (you could also use turnip greens or collards)
2 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed (unpeeled) and thinly sliced
1 medium turnip, peeled and cubed in 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 c. (or a 15 oz. can) cooked white kidney (cannellini) beans, drained
1/4 c. dry red wine OR 1 T. balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: sliced spicy vegan sausages (Field Roast Chipotle would be my choice, or a mixture of Chipotle and Italian)

In a heavy soup pot, heat the oils over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir-fry for several minutes, or until the onion softens. Add a little water as needed to keep from sticking.

NOTE: You can also cook the onion and garlic with the oils in a microwave oven (place in a microwave-safe covered casserole, or Pyrex pie dish with another one on top for a lid) for about 10 minutes. This works well if you are doing a bunch of things at once, because you don't need to stir!


Add the bay leaf, paprika, cumin and chile flakes and stir for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes,or until everything is tender. Taste for salt and pepper.

THE PORTUGUESE VERSION, CALDO VERDE:

Omit the turnip and use 4 potatoes instead. Use the sausage option and omit the beans. Use only 1/2 lb. kale.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

VEGAN WHIPPED CREME, MARSHIE FLUFF-- THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

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See update here.

Sound too good to be true? It's not! Julie Hasson and I are working with some unusual ingredients and experimenting, in our own kitchens miles from eachother, and in our own ways, sharing our experiences, failures, and successes. The results so far have been pretty amazing, witness the following successful experiments:


"Whipped creme"!!


Only 27 calories per 1/2 cup!


Strawberry Shortcake with the above "whipped creme"


Vegan "Marshie creme or fluff"-- a spin-off from the "whipped creme" recipe!
UPDATE: The recipe is on this blog post!


It's sweet, sticky, fluffy and it lasts!


I couldn't resist trying it on small fat-free chocolate cakes (Light and Easy Chocolate Cake from my book "The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook".



Can you see why we're excited? But there's alot of work to do, perfecting the recipes, figuring out the limitations, and the possibilities. Souffle? Angel Food Cake? Meringue? Pavlova? Mousse? Rocky Road Ice cream? Good thing there's no fat involved, or we would turn into blimps!

So stay tuned to both my blog and Julie's for more developments!

All the best!

Monday, June 9, 2008

HOW TO MAKE FLUFFY, "BUTTERY", NO-FAT VEGAN MASHED POTATOES

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A real down-home dinner- Red Pepper Grain Meatloaf (from the upcoming Field Roast Cookbook) with creamy mashed potatoes and vegan brown gravy.

Why mashed potatoes when it's almost summer, you may ask? Because it's bloody freezing here! I'm still craving cold-weather foods! But, anyway, it gives me a chance to share something I just learned from Cook's Illustrated magazine. This magazine, BTW, is not vegetarian, but you can learn alot about food science from it, as well as good tips about cookware, ingredients, etc.

I love mashed potatoes, but I'm not about to put a stick of butter (or even my new palm-oil-free homemade vegan "butter"!) into a 2 lb. batch of mashed potatoes! I've been making them fat-free for years now, but I thought they could use a little "face-lift", so-to-speak. Then, I happened to read an article in Cook's Illustrated. Although their goal was not to make tasty fat-free mashed potatoes, the article helped me do just that!

They discovered that using a different cooking method from boiling worked better. In addition, they advised using a potato ricer to make the potatoes fluffier. Now, I have never owned a potato ricer, and my husband had never heard of it and thought I was nuts, but, then, he's used to me chasing after kitchen gadgets that take my fancy! I had just been talking to Julie Hasson about potato ricers and she told me they make great mashed potatoes. The article clinched it-- I was off to the local kitchen shop and laid down my $20 or so (including tax!) for the nifty new model.

I often use Yukon Gold potatoes for mashed because they have a warm, slightly buttery look to them, and a rich flavor. And that's what the magazine recommended, for the same reasons. They added 1/4 cup of butter to their potatoes (instead of their usual 8 tablespoons!), but I didn't use any, and they were still yummy. That way, you can either use a fat-free vegan gravy and be really virtuous, or you can melt some vegan marge (Update; try my new palm-oil-free homemade vegan "butter") on top and still not be ingesting THAT much fat!

Here is what the author had to say about the cooking method:


"Gluey potatoes are a result of starch granules that swell with water and then burst during cooking, releasing a gel that turns potatoes sticky. Cooking the potatoes with their skins on protects the starch granules, reducing the guminess. To give peeled potatoes the same protection [the magazine's cooks were trying to avoid needing to peel freshly-cooked hot potatoes before mashing! BCG], we made two alterations to our usual technique. Steaming rather than boiling the potatoes exposes the potato pieces to less water, reducing the chance of the granules swelling to the point of bursting. Some granules, however, will inevitably burst; rinsing the potatoes midway through cooking removes the resultant gel. As a bonus, we found that this method requires less butter and dairy to achieve the same richness as conventional mashed potatoes."

It sounded a bit complicated, but it really wasn't! And the results were great! Give it a try!



Printable Recipe

FLUFFY FAT-FREE VEGAN MASHED POTATOES A LA COOK'S ILLUSTRATED (WW Core Plan-Compatible!)
Serves 4

To make these even richer-tasting, you can blend some extra-firm SILKEN tofu with your non-dairy milk to make a sort of fat-free cream. (Some people call for Silk Creamer, but I find that too sweet for mashed potatoes.) Another suggestion-- add some roasted garlic while mashing!

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes (4 to 6 medium), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks, rinsed well, and drained
about 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 2/3 plain full-fat soymilk, or almond milk, warmed (2/3 cup made them a bit too soft for me, put that's a personal preference)
NOTE: You could also use hemp milk, if you like the taste-- it is quite creamy.
Freshly-ground black pepper

Place a metal colander or steamer insert in large pot or Dutch oven. Add enough water for it to barely reach bottom of colander. Turn heat to high and bring water to boil.



Add the potato chunks, cover, and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook the potatoes for 10 minutes.



Transfer the colander to the sink and rinse the potatoes under cold water until no longer hot, 1 to 2 minutes. (Or, if you use a steamer, place it in a colander in the sink and rinse as instructed, then transfer the steamer back to the pot.)

Return the colander and potatoes to the pot, cover, and continue to cook until potatoes are soft and tip of paring knife inserted into potato meets no resistance, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Pour off water from Dutch oven.

ENERGY-SAVING ALTERNATIVE:  Micro-steam the potato chunks in a covered microwave-safe casserole.  The amount for this recipe, cut as instructed above and cook at 100% power for about 12 minutes total, rinsing as instructed above after 6 minutes, and then returning to the casserole to finish cooking. You do NOT need to add water to the casserole, BTW. 



Set the potato ricer over now-empty pot. Working in batches, transfer the potatoes to hopper of ricer or food mill and process, removing any potatoes stuck to bottom. Press all the potatoes through the ricer into the pot. (Use a food mill if you don't have a ricer.)



Using a spatula, stir in the salt until well-mixed. Stir in the warm non-dairy milk until the consistency you prefer. Season to taste with more salt, if necessary, and freshly-ground pepper. Serve hot with fat-free vegan gravy!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

OKARA MISO PÂTÉ

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I promised to post a few more okara recipes (well, 2 anyway!), and I'm posting one here today, but I have to wait until I get some raw cashews so that I can make my other favorite okara recipe and take a picture of it!

Anyway, the following recipe is a variation of a variation! The original was from The Book of Miso. I revised it to my own tastes many years ago and my version (with credit to the original) was published in my book, The Fiber for Life Cookbook. It is much more delicious than its’ humble ingredients suggest, and it’s great on crackers or rye bread or French bread.



BRYANNA’S OKARA MISO PÂTÉ
Adapted from a recipe in my book “The Fiber for Life Cookbook”.

1 cup (squeezed) fresh okara
1/2 cup fresh (soft, not dried) breadcrumbs (a light wholewheat is best)
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 cup sesame tahini
3 Tablespoons miso (whichever kind you prefer—I prefer a light miso)
4 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
large pinch EACH of dried thyme, rosemary and sage

In a small bowl, mash the water and breadcrumbs together with a fork until the crumbs absorb all the broth. Mince the onion and garlic in a food processor. Add the other ingredients and process JUST until everything is mixed. Pack into a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for AT LEAST one hour (preferably overnight) before serving. If you like, drizzle the top with a little roasted (Asian) sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with minced green onion or parsley before serving.

Enjoy!