Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Check Out This Salad

I love to read cookbooks.  I usually read them cover to cover including the introduction, the information about the author and, of course, the recipes.  I particularly like cookbooks that have more than just recipes - tidbits of information, local lore, quick cooking tips, history of a recipe, pictures and photos.  I have a fairly large cookbook and recipe collection, but it can get expensive buying books so I indulge my love of cookbook reading by taking cookbooks out of the library.  Not long after I started eating a vegan diet, I went onto the website of my local library and put holds on all the cookbooks with "vegan" in the title.  I've had a steady stream of cookbooks come through my home, and the weeks that I have them on loan allows me to really get into the book, try out a few recipes and, ultimately, decide if I want to buy the cookbook and add it to my permanent collection.  Recently, a friend recommended the cookbook, Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, so, naturally, I took it out of the library.  It is a really great book!  I love reading it and I want to try out ALL the recipes!  This is definitely a cookbook I must own.  Here is one of the recipes from this book:

Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad
(adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
4 cups (or more) chopped Romaine lettuce
1 to 3 cups of assorted vegetables *
1/2 to 3/4 cup of Balsamic Vinaigrette (see below)

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large salad bowl.  Add the dressing and toss to coat.  Eat!
* I used lots of shredded carrots, some chopped green onion, chopped artichokes, chopped red and yellow peppers.  You could also use sprouts, baked tofu, fresh leafy herbs ...

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked in water for at least an hour)
2 tbsps chopped green onions
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsps Dijon mustard
1 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt

Blend the cashews and green onions together in a blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Blend for at least 5 minutes until completely smooth - blend for the full time to make sure the dressing isn't grainy.  The dressing may seem thin at first, but it thickens when chilled.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Dinner Party Extrodinaire!

Last weekend, "Tom" and I hosted a dinner party.  This gastronomic soiree was one in a series of rotating social gatherings.  The institution of revolving dinner parties came about a few months ago when I was searching for a way to spend more time with my close friends and, at the same time, take the stess out of organizing and planning activities.  I suggested we take turns hosting a dinner party every few weeks or so.  At the current party, we decide on the date for the next party.  There was instant agreement and support for this idea.  All of us being food lovers and all of us dabbling in, if not downright immersed in, vegan eating, we have been really enjoying sharing our culinary discoveries and experiments.  Here is what was on our menu:

Fresh Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Baked Portobello Mushrooms With Almond Sauce
Quinoa Stuffed Red Peppers
Sesame-Garlic Steamed Greens
Almond Banana Hot Chocolate

Fresh Spring Rolls With Spicy Peanut Sauce
(our own creation with some help from Vegan with a Vengeance)

rice paper wrappers
shredded savoy cabbage
lettuce leaves
carrots, cut into long matchsticks
green onions, cut into long matchsticks
mint leaves
cilantro leaves

Soften the wrappers by soaking in warm water for a few minutes until pliable.  Soften one wrapper at a time.  On the softened wrapper, lay down a lettuce leaf.  Add some shredded cabbage, a couple of carrot sticks, a couple of green onion sticks, 3 or 4 mint leaves, 5 or 6 cilantro leaves.  Roll up by rolling from the bottom first, tucking the sides in as you go.  As you can see from the picture, the rice paper wrappers can rip easily.  The first spring roll you roll may not look too pretty, but you'll get better as you go along.  The last one I made is the one on the left in the picture - very nicely rolled if I do say so myself!

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp Asian chili-garlic paste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsps peanut butter
1 1/2 tsps sugar
3 tbsps peanuts, chopped

Whisk all the ingredients together making sure the peanut butter is well blended.  Serve in little bowls for dipping the spring rolls into.

Baked Portobello Mushrooms with Almond Sauce
(adapted from The Garden of Vegan)

1/2 cup almonds
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Braggs
1/2 + cup water
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced finely
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed

In blender, blend almonds until powdered.  Add oil, Braggs, water, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, oregano and blend well.  In large baking dish, place mushrooms tops down and pour the sauce over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.  Pour off the sauce.  Cut the mushrooms into strips.  Pour some of the sauce back onto the mushrooms and put the rest into a bowl on the side.  Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Quinoa Stuffed Red Peppers
(our own creation)

3 red peppers
3/4 cup quinoa, cooked in broth
1 cup white navy beans
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
2 to 4 tbsps chopped fresh herbs (I think we used thyme and rosemary)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

Cut the peppers in half and cut out the seeds and membrane.  Mix all other ingredients together and stuff into the pepper halves.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle on some minced parsley before serving.

Sesame-Garlic Steamed Greens
(our own creation)

broccoli, chopped into bite sized florets, stalks peeled and chopped
kale, main stalk cut out, cut into about 4 pieces per leaf
baby bok choy, ends cut off and leaves separated
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tamari sauce

Steam the greens until almost fork tender.  Heat the oil, garlic and tamari in a non-stick pan and cook for a minute.  Add the greens and toss with the oil/garlic/tamari mixture for about a minute or two.  Serve.

Almond Banana Hot Chocolate
(adapted from Vegan Eats)

1/2 banana
35 grams organic, freely traded 70% dark chocolate
2 1/4 cups almond milk
2 tbsps almond butter
4 medjool dates
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine all ingredients and stir gently until the chocolate and almond butter are melted.  Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  Makes 2 or 3 servings.

Bon appetit, mes amies!