Sunday, November 10, 2013

Simply Delicious

I'm reviewing Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Eats World cookbook for Compassionate Action for Animals, and today was the last day of making recipes from the book. I thought it only appropriate to make something with some Latin American flavors and a dessert since she's also the author of Viva Vegan! and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I also wanted to focus on easier dishes given the epic Korean feast I made from Vegan Eats World last weekend.

Chipotle Tofu Cemita Sandwich (p. 107)
The Chipotle Tofu Cemita recipe sounded great and we had most of the ingredients on hand. I highly recommend taking a couple minutes to make the pickled red onions (p. 62) which were simple and a perfect addition....oh, and super crave-worthy. If you don't have the cookbook, you could sub some soy chorizo for the tofu and make your own cemita. You just need: 1) bun (preferably with sesame seeds), 2) vegan mayo, 3) tomato and avocado slices; 4) cilantro, 5) soy chorizo or chipotle tofu; 6) pickled or fresh red onion; 7) romaine or cabbage; and 8) slather of refried beans. Assemble and enjoy.

Cemita toppings, including pickled red onions (p. 62)
What would be a cookbook review if I didn't sample one of the dessert recipes? Not to mention, dessert is pretty much my favorite meal. I was drawn to the gorgeous Tenacious Tart Tatin (French caramelized apple tart) because of the photo, but the ingredient list was also really appealing. I was shocked there were no spices in the recipe, but after tasting it I can attest it doesn't need them. The caramelized apples were super easy and kind of fun to make. I can guarantee I will be making this again, or may just make the apples and serve with non-dairy ice cream.

Tenacious Tart Tatin (French Caramelized Apple Tart) (p. 321)
Look for my review soon, but I can give this sneak peak: If you like to eat out to try new food adventures and wish you could recreate a few of them at home, you'll love Vegan Eats World. I know I have, so much so that despite having what I need for the review, I still can't wait to make the momo dumplings with spicy sesame tomato sambal and cabbage slaw (p. 184) and the steamed bbq seitan buns (char siu seitan bao) (p. 197)!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Holy Crepe!

I had the impression crepes were a difficult, finicky thing to make with a paper thin consistency that seemed destined to tear or end up in a jumbled mess. I also thought you had to have a crepe pan to make them which I do not have. So, as you may imagine, I've never made crepes ... before today. 

As part of the wrap up weekend of making recipes from Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Eats World for a review I am writing, I decided to try the International House of Crepes recipe because I had all the ingredients and she said I could make them in a cast iron skillet (which I have.) 

International House of Crepes (p. 203) 
 It turns out crepes are only moderately difficult to make. You really don't have a lot of wiggle room once you drop the thin batter onto the well-greased cast iron to swirl it into a thin perfect circle. I made 6 crepes and they will pass, but none of them were beautiful. The one in the photo above was the last one I made and so is a little thicker than the rest because I was finishing off the batter. I made so many because I like the tip Romero has to store them in the fridge under plastic wrap and use them as you wish.

Last week when I was sampling recipes from the cookbook, I made a Korean dish that had me using 8 recipes in the book. Today, I wanted to keep it simple, so even though Vegan Eats World had a number of delightful savory filling options, I elected to do a little earth balance buttery spread and bee-free honee with a dollop of blackberry preserve. I felt less guilty for taking this shortcut after attending a book reading this week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz for Isa Does It. In response to an audience question, she said whenever the dish involved a lot of steps and looked like it would take a lot of time it was probably her friend Terry Hope Romero's recipe. Unlike last weekend, I wasn't itching to get in the kitchen and cook for hours, and the nice thing is I didn't have to. Though I do wish the red wine braised leeks would magically appear in my kitchen to stuff into a crepe. :)

Earlier in the week, I did an adaptation of Vegan Eats World's Jigae stew (p.151)to use the leftovers from our Korean feast and I definitely will be making this again. It's a perfect winter stew of kimchi, tofu and eggplant with a bit of kick from chili powder....mmmm.

My advice after making a dozen new recipes from Vegan Eats World? If you haven't in awhile, take one of the cookbooks off the shelf and find a new recipe to try...and then actually make it. It's been fun to explore.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Part II: Feasting on Bulgogi and Bibimbap

This is part two on my Epic Korean Feast adventure. You can read part one which talks about prepping the individual ingredients used in Vegan Eats World's Sizzling rice with veggies and chili sauce (dolsot bibimbap) and Sweet Soy BBQ (bulgogi.) I made these dishes this weekend as part of a cookbook review project I'm excited to be doing for Compassionate Action for Animals

Sizzling rice and veggies with chili sauce (pg. 308) and sweet soy BBQ (pg. 249.)  
With the individual components of the dishes prepped last night, I woke up this morning ready to start assembly knowing what came next was...devouring! First things first was to finish the prep, so I cooked up a batch of sushi rice (pg. 299) and chopped scallions for the sesame scallions (pg. 309). Now on to assembly...
Fast lane kimchi (pg 56), gochuchang (pg. 308), seasoned spinach (pg. 309),
sesame bean sprouts (pg. 89), sesame scallions (pg. 309)
Dolsot Bibimbap (aka Sizzling Rice with veggies and chili sauce)

Bibimbap means "mixed rice" and dolsot "stone pot." In restaurants, this dish is served in a hot stone dish that continue to cook the sushi rice so it has a golden crust. Terry Hope Romero in Vegan Eats World suggests using a dutch oven or cast iron pan to create the crust that makes dolsot bibimbap so special. Following her instructions to the letter, the rice turned out perfectly and everyone loved the crunch and toast achieved on the golden crusted rice. 

Half way through browning the rice, you add the sprouts, spinach and bulgogi to the top of the rice to let the flavors start to meld. Then you stir together the rice and veggies, add nori seaweed slices and the sesame scallions and some dollops of a korean chili paste known as gochuchang.

OMG, get in my belly! Dolsot Bibimbap (pg. 308)
Korean Veggie Bulgogi (Sweet Soy BBQ)

Bulgogi means "fire meat", but when you're vegan it means "fire tastiness" that comes from marinading mushrooms, seitan, tofu, tempeh or the vegetables of your choice in the sweet soy barbecue sauce before grilling it over high heat to get a crisp char and savory, sweet juicy taste. You can use this in lettuce wraps or if you're feasting in bibimbap. 
Bulgogi (pg. 249) using grilled king trumpet mushrooms, garlic cloves and 5-spice seitan (pg. 51)
Each prepped element was delicious in its own part and you could imagine sipping beer and lazily munching on them all day long enjoying the unique flavors; however, prepare to make new best friends with your taste buds by piling it all into one bowl for an out of this world meal. One of our guests commented the dish was as good as they've had in a Korean restaurant and they were impressed at how tasty the bulgogi was sans meat. In Vegan Eats World, Terry Hope Romero remarks "Wherever it's eaten, meat remains basically the same. It's the plant foods that transport our senses." I couldn't agree more. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Part 1: Prepping for a Korean Feast

Exciting news and inspiration for the blog! Compassionate Action for Animals was looking for someone to review vegan cookbooks for their newsletter to supporters, and I was looking for some inspiration for this blog and a push to actually cook the recipes I like to wistfully page through. My first review is Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Eats World which features 300 recipes from literally all over the world.
Photo credit: Vegan Latina
 My first test of the cookbook was a "go-all-in" Korean feast which required making 8 recipes from the book (from 2 super recipes for Grilled Veggie Bulgogi and Sizzling Rice with Veggies and Chili Sauce (Dolsot Bibimbap).) I really like Korean food, but it can be hard to find really good restaurants especially if you're concerned about eating vegan (aka avoiding fish sauce, shrimp paste, and the like.) So, I was excited to see if I could make my own high quality Korean eats. Setting out on an epic journey, I found out....

If you're going to make international food, you're going to need international ingredients. Living in a bustling metro, that's not too hard for me (though I did need to go to two separate Asian supermarkets to get all the ingredients for this recipe.) If you like to shop and explore new venues, these recipes give you an excuse to try new things, but don't expect to find everything you need at your local grocery despite Romero's valiant effort to make the recipes accessible.
Some of the ingredients purchased for the Korean feast
Breaking a favorite dish down
Bibimbap is a one-dish wonder and I love it, but never realized all the work that went into the individual elements (seasoned spinach, sesame bean sprouts, sesame scallions, bulgogi marinaded mushrooms and seitan, sushi rice and heavenly kimchi.) It was a lot of fun to break the individual elements down and make them myself. While it's not realistic to whip up this epic feast often, some of the individual elements would be quick and delicious. I sense I will be eating a lot more napa cabbage (kimchi) and spinach in my future.
Homemade kimchi (pg. 56) - much easier than you'd expect!
One benefit of breaking dishes down when you make them yourself is learning more about what you're eating. I've eaten chinese 5-spice for years, but couldn't tell you what the five spices were...until now, star anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel seeds and sichuan peppers.
Homemade Chinese 5-Spice (pg. 41) ingredients (left to right: cloves, cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds and sichuan peppers)
Prepping for the feast

Working pretty steadily, I prepped for 3 1/2 hours the night before the feast. Toasting the 5-spice ingredients before grinding them to mix into the 5-spice seitan (pg. 51) and steamed 4 mini seitan loaves which I sliced to add to king trumpet mushrooms and garlic in the bulgogi (sweet soy bbq marinade) that involved grating ginger and an apple before adding it to a half dozen other ingredients. Prepping the kimchi, spinach and bean sprouts involved salting the napa cabbage and blanching the sprouts and spinach before mixing them with their unique flavorful dressings.
Night before prepped dishes (from top left to bottom right): mushroom and 5-spice seitan (pg. 51) in marinade (pg. 249), gochuchang sauce (pg. 308), seasoned spinach (pg. 309), fast lane kimchi (pg. 56) and sesame bean sprouts (pg. 89) 

You can read part two of this Epic Korean feast here.