Monday, November 26, 2012

Spud Muffin

My blog titles usually lead to audible or eye-rolling groans from my fiance. My puns can be a little corny at times. That said, this time this is really the name of the muffin I made to go with stew.

I adapted the "chive-flecked spud muffin" recipe from Robin Robertson's 1000 Vegan Recipes by switching out the chives for rosemary. Laziness meant I used yukon gold potatoes and didn't bother to peel them. Why throw away the best part (especially when that means more work)?! The muffins straight out of the oven and resting on top of the stew was reminiscent of dumplings. The next day the muffins are more straightforwardly muffins.

The stew was a riff on this recipe that I learned at a Whole Foods demonstration, except I opted for Gardein beefless tips instead of seitan. To up the richness of the beefless tips, I sauteed them in olive oil, lots of garlic and a health dose of cabernet that I cooked into a demi-glace and added to the stew. Yum!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hey Lil Pepperoni

Usually dinners with your colleagues can be hit or miss, especially after a long day of hashing out world changing work strategies and whatnot. I luck out because I have pretty cool colleagues, so I have a higher likelihood than most of having a good time at a work dinner.

In addition to coerced social interactions with your colleagues, the other way work dinners can go awry is in appeasing varied dietary restrictions and preferences. Nothing says awkward/frustrating like being the vegetarian/vegan at the steakhouse with your boss. Again, my place of employment comes through with flying colors by opting for Busboys and Poets which had something for everyone on its menu.

I'm a big fan of calzones. Monstrous pizzas folded in half with the sauce on the side (more room for the toppings!) So, imagine my delight when I saw a vegan calzone on the Busboys and Poets menu. This one featured a whole wheat crust (oh, aren't I healthy :) ), onions, red and green peppers, mushrooms, vegan cheese and vegan pepperoni. I've never had vegan pepperoni, so despite the many other tasty looking options, my mind was made up. 

The calzone was fun, not revolutionary, but that's what you give up by being a place that caters to everyone is you probably won't knock the socks off anyone. That said, if you're eating with people with varied dietary restrictions/preferences or people who are going out as much for the company as the food, Busboys and Poets is a great choice in the DC area. One thing the vegans out there will appreciate is both the online and in-house menus clearly identify the multiple vegan options available.

Oh, and hilarious coworker conversation starter? Ask about the most unique tradition on their thanksgiving spread....just get on top of changing topics when disgusting gets substituted for unique or things can turn quickly. :) 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Korean Food

Good Korean food has a homeyness to it like no other to me. When I lived in Boston, I loved going to Koreana which specializes in barbecue. They have vegetable and tofu barbecue and you cook the dish on a piping hot grill in the middle of your table. Half the fun is making up barbecue "tacos" with daikon, kimchi, lettuce and other side dishes. Kimchi is like Korean sauerkraut (except it can be any vegetable) meets spicy goodness. Note: if you don't eat seafood, you should call ahead to ask if the dishes use fish or oyster sauce or shrimp paste in the sauces or kimchi.

Recently catching up with some of my favorite people on the planet in DC, we decided to try out Mandu for Korean food; in part, because both Washington Post and VegDC identified it as vegan-friendly. Sadly, they're not a place that has the barbecue in the middle of the table, but they did have some decent food. Opting for the closest thing to a grill in the middle of the table, I got the dolsot bibim bop which is served in a hot stone bowl that cooks the dish after its served. They were able to substitute tofu for the meat, but as you can see it was pretty much just fresh tofu (kind of boring.) In addition to traditional napa cabbage kimchi, they served a kimchi zucchini, fermented black beans that had a sweetness to them and some pickled potatoes (see upper right corner of the picture for a sneak peek.)


I don't know if it is the sizzling, hot food or the depth in the sauce, but something about Korean food envelopes me in warmth and good feelings. I guess there's one other thing it could be: Soju! It's a vodka-like drink that is made with rice, sweet potatoes, barley and/or wheat. It's extremely smooth and beguiling given it's got a 10-25% alcohol content! We opted to split a bottle of "fresh" and it was delightful, though not nearly as much so as the company. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What's Gratin Into You?

Today was Compassionate Action for Animal's 10th annual Thanksgiving potluck. Last year, I attended this event and was blown away by the over 100 people and the countless vegan options for Thanksgiving. We had brought simple, roasted brussel sprouts (so good), but I knew this year I wanted to try something new in honor of some amazing dishes people brought last year. I remembered there being a lot of salads and noodles and desserts, but not a lot of hot vegetable side dishes. Liking a challenge, I started to brainstorm what I could make and the inspiration came from Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer: Three Green Gratin! Decadent but packed with greens....yes, this could work.

Trader Joe's version isn't vegan, but it wasn't hard to veganize. Sub a vegan bechamel and vegan cheese and bam! done. I hadn't made a bechamel sauce in a long time, but I remembered how finicky it could be to get all the lumps out. The trick is just to go slow adding a little flour and later non-dairy alternative at a time to make sure it all gets incorporated and silky smooth.

The picture isn't that appetizing, but just imagine earthy greens (with the swiss chard stocks for a pop of color) lovingly wrapped in a silky, creamy bechamel with a hint of nutmeg, rosemary, thyme and garlic and bubbling, ooey, gooey browned Daiya garlic jalapeno havarti. You'll want to lick your plate, I promise.

Michelle's 3 Green Gratin (inspired by Trader Joe's)

1 bunch swiss chard
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch green/curly kale
1 1/2 T fresh rosemary
1 1/2 T fresh thyme
4 large garlic cloves
1 T olive oil

Vegan Bechamel Sauce:
6 T earth balance spread
6 T all purpose flour
3 c unsweetened rice milk
1 1/2 t fresh grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste (I used himalayan pink salt)
1/2 block Daiya Garlic Jalapeno Havarti

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Chop greens to bite size pieces (keep only the stems of the swiss chard). You will easily have over 10 cups of green, but they cook down. Heat oil in a large skillet or stir fry pan. Cook greens (likely in 2 batches) until they cook down to less than half their original size. Add in minced garlic, thyme and rosemary. Set aside cooked greens. In a large cast iron skillet, heat earth balance and add flour in a tablespoon at a time, stirring it in to avoid clumps. Once all the flour has been added, slowly add in the milk, stirring constantly. Let the sauce thicken for 4-5 minutes, taking care to stir often. Grate in nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix greens in the cast iron pan with the bechamel. You can cover with tinfoil and put in the oven, or transfer to a greased glass 9 x 13 pan before placing in the oven. Let cook covered for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn up the heat to 450 degrees. Crumble Daiya havarti with jalapenos over the bubbling mixture and return to oven uncovered and cook for another 15 minutes until Daiya browns. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

So good and not too bad for you :)