Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Cinco De Mayo action, toppings.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to post my favorite main dishes for Cinco De Mayo, but first I wanted to post just a few more tasty toppings that I like to have on the table for any taco night.

Tex Mex Pickles

1 cup - white vinegar
4 Tbsp - sugar
1/4 tsp - salt (you can just use a fat pinch)
1 - dried Serrano (Chile Seco) or other small dried chile (if you like the spice use 2 or 3)
1 tsp - cumin seeds

You are going to be boiling vinegar, so you need a pot that wont react with it. That means stainless steel, glass or enameled. If you use a copper or iron pot, it will make the pickles taste funny.
1 - clean jar to store the pickles in. I like to use old pickle or jelly jars.
Knife, cutting board, etc...

This same brine is great for lots of different pickles. Here are my favorite 3.

Red Onion
  • Get the biggest red onion you can find.
  • Peel the onion and cut a small slice off of one side, so that it will be stable when resting on the cutting board.
  • Cut the onion into 1/4 inch thick rings.
  • Bring all brine ingredients to a boil
  • Add the sliced onion and boil for just a few seconds, while you give it 10 or so stirs.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool completely before transferring your pickles to a left over pickle or jelly jar.
  • Use the left over brine to make sure that all the pickles in the jar are totally covered.

  • Core and seed 6 large jalapeños and cut them into 1/4 inch rings
  • Bring all brine ingredients to a boil
  • Add the sliced jalapeños and boil for just a few seconds, while you give them 10 or so stirs.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool completely before transferring your pickles to a left over pickle or jelly jar.
  • Use the left over brine to make sure that all the pickles in the jar are totally covered.

Red Cabage
  • This recipe will need about twice as much brine as the other two, so make a double batch.
  • Use one small head of red cabbage
  • Cut the cabbage as thinly as you can, like you were making cole slaw.
  • Bring all brine ingredients to a boil
  • Add the cabbage and boil for just a few seconds, while you give it 10 or so stirs.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool completely before transferring your pickles to a left over pickle or jelly jar.
  • Use the left over brine to make sure that all the pickles in the jar are totally covered.

Soyur Cream

1 pound - firm tofu
4 tbsp - lemon juice
3 tbsp - cider vinegar
4 tbsp - vegetable oil
1/4 tsp - dry mustard powder

You really need a food processor for this. A blender will work in a pinch, but it isn't ideal.

  • Puree tofu, lemon juice and vinegar in a food processor until well combined
  • Sprinkle in mustard powder and let run for a minute until the powder is all well combined with the tofu mixture. (Make sure that the vinegar and lemon juice is well combined before adding the mustard. If there isn't enough acid in the mixture to neutralize it, the mustard will react and make this very spicy.)
  • Drizzle the oil in slowly allowing it to be incorporated a little at a time until all oil is well combined with the mixture
  • then let the processor run for another 20 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but it is the most important step, the longer you let this run, the more it breaks down the proteins in the tofu, and the smoother it will become.
  • If the mixture is still too thick after the mixing is finished add a very little bit of water at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Be careful not to use too much water, you want just enough to make it right.
  • This will make about 2 cups of soyur cream.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BeBe Gourmet

My friend Corri writes a really cute food blog called BeBe Gourmet. It is a mix of recipes, reviews, and foody adventures. She recently posted a recipe for her Grandma's 3 Bean Salad. It looks really tasty, and vegan.

Check it out.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The one Easter dish that I couldn't live without.

My family has always been really into having a big dinner on holidays. It doesn't really matter what one, New Years dinner is just as huge as Christmas. The important thing is that as many family members as possible get together, eat, tell stories, have a few drinks, enjoy each other's company and remember those of us who aren't still around. I suppose one of the reasons that I enjoy cooking and eating so much is that I was raised in a family where food is regarded as a type of fellowship.

Since today is Easter, I would imagine that while I sit in my apartment drinking coffee and typing, my family is sitting down to a huge dinner. Were I there, I am sure that my dad would have made me a large casserole dish of the one thing that I actually miss from Easter dinner, scalloped potatoes. Ham, I haven't really missed since I stopped eating it, but that other staple of Easter dinner (at least in my fam) I still adore and eat whenever I have the chance.

Scalloped Potatoes without ham

5 - russet potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
1 - onion, sliced as thinly as you can possibly manage.
4 Tbsp - flour
1/4 cup - vegan margarine
1 1/2 cups - unsweetened soy milk
2 Tbsp - Nutritional Yeast (if you have it, the recipe works fine without)
1 1/2 Tsp - salt
1/2 cup - shredded vegan soy cheese (Follow your heart is my favorite, again it will be fine without)
garlic powder
bacos (or other fake bacon bits)

1 - sauce pot
1 - casserole dish
1 - cheese grater
1 - whisk (or a fork works in a pinch)
knife, cutting board, etc...

  • Add your flour and margarine to your sauce pot, over medium heat.
  • Stir constantly with your whisk until the margarine is all melted and the mixture is smooth.
  • Add the soy milk, salt, and nutritional yeast and whisk frequently until the mixture just comes to a simmer.
  • Remove from heat
  • Using a little more of your margarine, grease the inside of the casserole dish.
  • Cover the bottom of the dish with an even layer of potato slices, two slices thick.
  • Cover the layer of potatoes with a very thin layer of onion slices, remember this is scalloped potatoes, not scalloped onions, too much will be over powering.
  • Sprinkle the top of the onion layer with just a very fine dusting of garlic, paprika and bacos. Remember, there are going to be a lot of layers, so just a tiny bit is needed.
  • Repeat layers, until the dish is half full
  • Pour half of your soy milk / flour mixture slowly over the top, letting it soak in.
  • Continue with potato, onion and seasoning layers until the dish is full.
  • Pour the remaining soy milk / flour mixture over dish
  • Cover the top with shredded soy cheese.
  • Bake for about an hour at 350.
  • You can test to see if it done by poking the middle with a fork. The potatoes should feel firm still, but shouldn't give too much resistance.
  • I like to finish it off with a few minutes under the broiler, if the cheese isn't all melted and slightly browned yet. I mentioned this before, in the pizza post, but soy cheese needs to be heated to astronomical temperatures to actually melt.
That's about it, but I did want to take a minute to talk about Nutritional Yeast. I know I said I wouldn't be including any hard to find or expensive ingredients in my recipes, but I have to go back on that in the case of Nutritional Yeast. Of course you can leave it out if you want, and the potatoes will still be delicious. Here is my case for including it though.

There is only one nutrient that a vegan can not get from vegetable sources, and that is B12. Up until about the industrial revolution, that didn't matter, because B12 was abundant in the water supply, due to natural bacteria. Today however, our water is so filtered and purified (which I have no problem with) that there is little to no B12 in it any longer. Fortunately, Nutritional Yeast, in addition to being tasty, is rich in vitamin B12. People with B12 deficiency may experience:
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of memory
  • Lack of balance
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Dizziness
  • Liver enlargement
  • Eye problems
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Inflamed tongue
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of memory
  • Palpitations
  • Neurological damage
  • Tinitus or ringing in the ears
You can find Nutritional Yeast flakes at any health food store, and they are popping up more and more often in traditional groceries, particularly those with health food or organic sections. It is sometimes a little pricey, but it isn't terrible and one container will go a long way.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cinco De Mayo, el primer curso. SALSA!

If there is a better appetizer/snack food than salsa, I am not sure what it is. As a matter of fact, I have become known for showing up to pretty much any gathering to which I am invited with at least one kind of salsa in hand. It is kind of my thing. I also never prepare a tex-mex meal without at least one or two salsas on the table.

I am not so adamant about avoiding jarred salsas, as I am about jarred pasta sauce. There are actually some really tasty pre-packaged salsas out there. This is where my "Do it your F-ing self" nature is going to kick in though. Even though there are some tasty salsa options on the shelf at the grocery store, why would I want to pay 5 or more dollars for a jar, when I can make something just as good in my own kitchen? I have included 3 of my favorite salsa recipes(black bean salsa, roasted poblano salsa and guacamole) here, to get your Cinco De Mayo feast started right.

Black Bean Salsa

1 - 15.5oz can balck beans
1 - ear corn off the cob, sweet white corn is my favorite (or 3/4 cups frozen corn, thawed not cooked)
2 - plum tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced (check the Nona's 10 Hour Marinara recipe for peeling/seeding instructions)
1/2 - med onion minced
4 - cloves garlic minced
1 - jalapeño minced (more or less to taste)
1 - lime juiced
1 tsp - ground oregano
2 tsp - ground cumin
salt to taste (about 2 tsp)

1 - mixing bowl
1 - pan boiling water
1 - bowl ice water
Knife, cutting board, etc...


  • Mix all ingredients together and then refrigerate for at least an hour. Make it a day ahead of time if you can. It tastes much better after sitting overnight.

Roasted Tomato Poblano Salsa

4 - large tomatoes
2 - poblano chiles (if you have a very low spice tollerance, you can use less but after roasting these wont be very spicy.)
1/2 - med onion minced
4 - cloves garlic minced
1 - lime juiced
1 tsp - powdered oregano
2 tsp - powdered cumin
salt to taste (about 2 tsp)

1 - mixing bowl
1 - barbecue grill
1 - bowl ice water
1 - container with tight lid
knife, chopping board, etc...

  • Start the grill up while you are chopping the veggies, and when it is good and hot, arrange all the peppers and tomatoes over the hottest part and leave them uncovered.
  • Turn them every 5 or so minutes until they are blackened all the way around.
  • Once the skins are all charred and blackened, put the peppers in a tupperwear or soup pot with a tight lid, and leave them covered for 5 - 10 minutes.
  • After you take them out, you should be able to easily scrape the skins off.
  • The tomatoes get transfered to an ice water bath for about 30 seconds during which I use my hands to brush off as much of the char as I can without destroying them too much.
  • After being skinned, the peppers and tomatoes both get chopped up and added to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  • Refrigerate for at least a half hour before eating, overnight is better.


3 - haas avecados diced
1 - plum tomato
1/2 - med onion
4 - cloves garlic minced
2 - limes juiced (I like mine limey, you might want to start with just 1 and add more to taste.)
2 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - powdered oregano
1 tsp - powdered cumin

1 - mixing bowl
1 - cheese grater
knife, cutting board, etc...

  • Start by juicing the lime into a salad bowl.
  • Use a cheese grater to grate the tomato and onion into pulp and add to the lime juice.
  • Mix in the salt, garlic and spices
  • Once the other ingrediants are all mixed together, prepare the avecados. (Make sure to wait, because you want to add them to the lime juice mixture as soon as they are cut. This will keep them from browning.)
  • Dicing an avecado:
  • slice into one side of the avecado until the knife hits the pit.
  • Holding the knife still, rotate the avecado slowly, letting the knife cut it in half around the pit.
  • Once it has been sliced, hold the two sides and twist them apart, like opening a jar. The avecado should come into two pieces, with the pit stuck in one side.
  • Place the side with the pit on your cutting board, pit up, and chop into the pit with your knife.
  • The blade should get stuck. You can now use it as a handle to twist out the pit.
  • Leaving the avecado in the shell, make slices about 1/4 inch apart, all the way across the flesh, penetrating down until the tip of the knife touches the inside of the shell but doesn't cut through it, then switch and do the same thing, perpendicular to the first lines.
  • Once you have diced the flesh, use a spoon to scoop it out into the lime mixutre.
  • You can mash it all together if that makes you feel better, but I think it is way better to just stir it together well (which will do some mashing) and leave the chunks how they are.
  • Unlike the salsas, guacamole should be used right after you make it.
  • If you need to prepare it ahead of time, make sure to store it in a zip lock bag with all of the extra air squeezed out. It also helps to save the pits, and put them in the guacamole. Beleive it or not the pits actually do help slow the browning.

You will note that none of these recipes have any cilantro in them, even though it would be in all of these dishes traditionally. There is a simple explanation for that. I hate cilantro. If you are a fan of that wretched herb, feel free to chop up 3 or 4 sprigs and mix it in to any of the above. I am sure you will enjoy it. I, however, will pass. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cinco De Mayo

I absolutely adore Hispanic culture, particularly Central American. I love the language, I love the art, I love the style and I LOVE the food. I think one of the most interesting things about any culture is seeing how all of the different aspects of that culture mix to create an identity. The families breed the politicians and revolutionaries. The politicians and revolutionaries inspire the artists (or are the artists.) The food appears in the art and on the tables and feeds the families. This interaction seems to be so much more obvious in Hispanic cultures and I find it fascinating.

Of course if I love cooking as much as I do and I love Central and South American food as much as I do, it only makes sense that Cinco De Mayo is one of my favorite holidays. It also happens to be right around the corner. I try to have an epic tex-mex feast, on Cinco De Mayo, every year(and on as many other days of the year as I can fit it in.) So today, I had the idea to post all the recipes you will need for such a feast, in one big post.

The problem here, is that I very rarely use a recipe for anything and when I make things up, I rarely take notes. So instead of sitting down and writing out a normal post, I have spent pretty much this whole day remembering and writing out the recipes for all of my favorite tex-mex dishes. I also noticed that this is going to be a truly monstrous post if I put it all together. My solution is to make several posts, over the course of the next few weeks, each with a few recipes. This way you can have time to look through them and decide which ones you want to try, in time to get ingredients and cook your very own Cinco De Mayo feast!