Labneh

1 11 2010

I remember my grandmother AKA Grammy, as sharply drawn on eyebrows and boxes of pencils for Christmas. My grandfather’s AKA Papa, is more pronounced and memorable. Scally caps and coffee cakes, mostly. But the people I knew still aren’t the parents that my mother had. Those people I’ll never experience.

But it’s at this moment in time, I’m finding myself checking hydrometer readings on gallons of beer in the basement, at the same time, tying up a cheese-cloth satchel of yogurt, where in a couple of days, it will give me labneh, a soft Middle Eastern cheese. And my mother, looking on, amazed and excited, because as she later tells me, her father was a homebrewer, a concoctor of natural remedies, home-made wine and dandelion soup. And her mother, used to hog the shower for days, with her bags of strained yogurt-cheese hanging from the shower rods. I never knew these things about my grandparents. And I’m coming to appreciate family a whole lot more through food. There’s nothing like seeing your mother remember her mother by tasting a cheese that still tastes the same after 30 years.

Anyways. Labneh. Soft-texture, flavor similar to a blend of cream cheese and goat cheese. A common breakfast throughout the Middle East and Greece. Something really special when smeared onto pita bread. Try it out. You can either make it plain, or do as I did, and marinate the cheese in olive oil and fresh herbs & garlic. It’s fun to make and there’s really nothing like incorporating a traditional old-world delicacy into your life.

Labneh
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

4 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tsps. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (this can be omitted if you don’t have any, or if you prefer your cheese without a slight peppery kick)
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs. rosemary leaves
6-8 thyme sprigs

In a medium-sized bowl, place the yogurt and stir in the salt and pepper. Line a bowl with a piece of cheesecloth folded in half to make a square. Spoon the yogurt into the center. Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and using a piece of string, tie as closely as possible to the yogurt, leaving a loop at the end.

Thread the loop through the handle of a wooden spoon and hang the yogurt over a bowl. Leave to drain in the refrigerator for 3 days. (This can be done by either hanging the yogurt from a rack in your fridge, or what I did was use a wide-mouth long-neck punch jar)

Rinse a mason jar with boiling water and dry in a warm oven.

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and fresh thyme. Set aside.

Untie the cheesecloth and roll tablespoons of the drained yogurt into balls. Make sure your hands are cool and wash them often.

Place the labneh balls in the dried jar and pour the herbed oil over the top. Seal with a lid and refridgerate for 24 hours. Serve at room temperature.





Banana Smoothie

27 10 2010

I like to preface my food posts with things completely unrelated. So last night, I watched a movie. Dogville. It seems like it could be a love-it or hate-it movie, being 3-hours long and set up as a stage-play with a VERY minimalistic set. It was probably one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever experienced, watching a film, and a challenge, both emotionally and intellectually. It raises a lot of questions on forgiveness and judgment, and asks the question, how much are you willing to excuse evil under the guise of just being human. Not to mention an ending that blew me away. Does anyone have any experience with this flick? It needs to be watched with another person so you can talk about it afterwards.

Anyways. Time to insert a jarring juxtoposition. BANANA SMOOTHIES!!!! 😀 heh. Is it mundane to write about banana smoothies? I don’t care. I make these everytime I have bananas and yogurt in the house. They’re really light and lifting, and I can usually keep my head on pretty well when I start the day with one. It’s a 1-person serving. Double it if you have friends, mothers, secret lovers.

Banana Smoothie
Adapted from 365 Easy Vegetarian Recipes

1 medium banana
1/4 cup soy milk (or whatever milk you have around)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp. agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy.





Pumpkin Ale

27 10 2010

It’s Halloween-time. And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to fill my posts with little sugar ghosts or chocolate frosted bats etc etc. Adorable and all, but I have neither the time nor funds. I want to be seasonal, in the evil dead spirit, and make something we can all enjoy. So hey, it’s time for Pumpkin Beer. An amber ale, to be exact.

I bought a kit from Austin Homebrew and jazzed it up a bit. It’s brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and orange peel, crystal 60L, and Caramunich and vienna grains. An O.G. of 1.052 and approx. 5.1% ABV.

I doubled up on the spices and added the Roasted Meat from one big ol’ pumpkin. It had a delicious aroma, a decent head, but a bit over-carbonated. Very smooth with a nice crisp finish and the spices just pop. Next time, I would probably have added a couple cans of pumpkin mash for some extra pumpkin flavor, and maybe have let it sit for another week or so. Any crap, I recommend the kit. Next up on the list, a chocolate oatmeal stout.

On a related note, I cannot wait until my friend Ashleigh gets back from Europe. She is my homebrew companion my beer babe sloppy sistah. Ladies who brew, I love youuu. Be prepared for a slew of crazy winter homebrew adventures.





Tofu Cutlets

25 10 2010


These should have been blogged about last week, but I’ve been out in Worcester for a couple days visiting my maaan. Ryan just published an interview in Worcester Magazine with a local band Herra Terra, so we went out to Ralph’s Diner to check out their record-release show on Saturday. Striking electronic rock + a couple shots of whiskey =  a solid time. Visit my Flickr page for show photos. Also this weekend, an outrageously good breakfast at Lou Roc’s in Worcester. Fast & friendly service, manageable prices, huge portions. Broccoli Cheddar Homefries and a Weekend Breakfast Specials list that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around (pumpkin french toast drooool). If you’re obsessed with finding quaint little breakfast joints as I am, check this place out. Ok on to tofu cutlets.

I’m sure that most of you have your own favorite recipe for some kind of baked or fried tofu. Here is mine. It has great flavor on its own, but the flavors are universal enough that you can take this tofu and really do anything with it. It gets a great texture from being frozen for 2 days. It’s worth the wait. Propsies to My Vegan Mom for inspiring my tofu lunch the other day. Ok get this, she fried an avocado. Like.. make vegan fish tacos, with a fried avocado. I fucking love her. Check it out. So with that in mind, I made a similar style taco, just with my fried tofu, cabbage, hot sauce, and vegan tartar sauce. Nom.

And then later that night, getting home late from work, not really thinking about cooking, re-heated a baked potato, made some gravy, and just poured that over the tofu. And right now I might need to refer you to an earlier post. This gravy. I’ll let you in on one of my lesser than sexy moments. Left the gravy on the stove to cool down before I put it away. Went and had about 2 beers, went back into the kitchen, took a finger taste of the gravy, and realized, I need more. Took a spoon and stood in my kitchen, around 12 am on a Thursday, eating gravy. It’s that good. Go make it. Put it on everything.

Tofu Cutlets
Adapted from The Chicago Diner Cookbook

1 lb. tofu, cut into 6-7 pieces

Marinade:
5 tbs. canola oil
1 1/2 cups water
1 tb. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tb. dried parsley
2 tsps. garlic powder
2 tsps. onion powder

Dry Mix:
1 cup cornmeal (or crushed Cheerios or breadcrumbs.. whatever you have)
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper

Wrap the slices of tofu in plastic wrap and then in tin foil. Freeze for at least 48 hours. To thaw, remove the plastic & foil. Place in a bowl and cover with hot water until ice dissolves. While it’s defrosting, whip up the marinade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl or shallow pan. Remove the tofu slices from the water and squeeze them together with the palms of your hands. They should look spongy. Add to the marinade and let sit for 30 minutes.

Mix the dry ingredients in a dish. Remove the tofu from the marinade, press out most of the liquid and coat with the dry mix. Heat some oil in a skillet and pan-fry the slices until crispy.





Apple Enchiladas

19 10 2010

I had the day off from work today. I had no car. I had a giant coffee buzz and this new pair of yoga pants that honestly made me feel like I could conquer the sun. I felt sooooo good. So I opened up all the doors in the house, brought my laptop out into the kitchen, put on a Beatles playlist, and proceeded to make not only apple enchiladas, but the flour tortillas and whipped cream as well. I’m not normally a Beatles/yoga pants kind of person, but it felt good and sometimes I like to embrace those “I’m a million different people from one day to the next”-type moments. Tell me about your favorite cooking music.

You don’t need to act as gung-ho as I did and make flour tortillas. In fact, these are the perfect way to use up any leftover  tortillas you may have kickin’ around from Taco Night. It’s a great recipe, rich & comforting, and further proof that the Hot Damn & Hell Yeah cookbook can do no wrong. Vegan dirty south cookin’. With no sanctimonious attitudes or esoteric ingredients. Plus there’s little cartoon skeletons on every page. Please go check out Microcosm publishing.

Apple Enchiladas
Adapted from Hot Damn & Hell Yeah

6 flour tortillas (recipe below)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup vegan butter/margarine
4 cups apple pie filling:
-4 granny smith apples; peeled, cored and sliced
-3/4 cup white sugar
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-Pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 175 C/350 F and grease a 20 cm/8 in. square baking pan.

Place a few heaping spoonfuls of filling in each tortilla, then roll the tortillas up and place them in the baking pan, seam-side down.

Heat water, sugars, margarine and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes to let sauce thicken. Remove from heat and pour over tortillas, spreading with a spoon to ensure they are evenly coated.

Bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown on top.

Flour Tortillas:
(will make 5-10 tortillas depending on how large you make them)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegan butter/margarine
3/4 cup boiling water

Sift flour and salt together into a large bowl. Rub the butter in by hand until evenly mixed. Make a well in the center and pour the boiling water into it. Mix with a wooden spoon until you’ve got a doughy texture to work with.

Sprinkle a bit of flour on top and knead the dough until it’s a smooth consistency.

Roll pieces of dough into balls about 5 cm/2-inches around, then place on a tray and cover. Leave covered for at least an hour.

Roll the dough balls out on a lightly floured surface til they’re as thick as you want them, then get a skillet warmed up over high heat.

Place a tortilla on the skillet for about 10 seconds. Flip over as soon as you see a bubble or 2 forming on the top. Cook 20-30 seconds then flip back over to cook the other side 15-20 more seconds. Keep a close eye on them. You want tortillas soft with light brown spots, not crispy with dark brown spots.

Stack cooked tortillas on a plate and keep covered with a dish towel to keep soft until you’re ready to use.





A Vegetarian on Cape Cod… Part 1!

17 10 2010

There’s no good places for a vegetarian or vegan to eat on Cape Cod!! I scream this daily. So I’m gonna hunt down the few and far in between. First stop, The Corner Store in Chatham.

My mom and I did our usual Sunday schtick of going out to lunch on our day off. It was a sexy friggin’ day, the perfect fall day. Light on the winds, high on the sun, so we decided to make the drive down to Chatham so I could check out the burritos that I’ve heard a lot of talk-talk about at The Corner Store.

The place was packed, which is always a good thing. A line almost out the door, annoying little dogs yapping in cars, and people sitting every which place, burritos in face. From the outside the Corner Store looks like, well, a corner store. Very unassuming. A couple of benches. The emblematic cluster of pumpkins. But go inside and you have a full-on clusterfuck of burrito chaos. Step 1: White or wheat wrap? Wheat. Obvs. Step 2: Oui ou non on the cheese. Oui. Then you get to choose from pinto, black beans, or refried beans. Went with the sensual refried heh. Then a selection of meats or fresh veggies that change daily, rice, and extra toppings which really popped my cherry. Pickled onions?? Yes. Asian slaw?? Fuck yeah. Cover it in hot sauce?? Jesus please do. All around 7 bucks.

Here’s mum.

And if burritos aren’t your thing, they also have a pretty dank-looking selection of paninis. The Grilled Eggplant: feta, hummus, spinach, marinated tomatoes, & kalamata olives on 7-Grain. Cool. They also have a nice coffee spread, pastries, and soup. I’m sold. I’m a vegetarian on Cape Cod and I’ll go to The Corner Store. Tell me about your favorite places so I can go check them out!

Thumbs up.





Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons

14 10 2010

Life is finally assembling itself into something that I could really dig thanks to a nice blend of cosmic settling and personal ambition. Ryan and I secured a winter rental in East Falmouth in the gorgeous home of a traveling couple who are off to Costa Rica from January – July. And I must say, this place is a dream come true, amenities & price-wise. We’re really excited. It’s giving us a chance to play out our youths a bit longer, ice cream for breakfast, sex on the counters whiskey bottle in hand sort of thing. But I think it’s also going to open up a creative wormhome, in that it’s going to give us endless time and space to work on things like our writing and music. Oh and did I mention the kitchen ?? Maybe some other time.

Anyways. In celebration, I’ve made this soup in hopes that I’ll be making similar soups like this in our new home. Nothing could bring a bigger smile to my face than the smell of roasting squash mixed with ginger and sage permeating my new walls. It’s so comforting. Tastes like velvet winter.

Some things got changed. I mixed up thyme with oregano when digging through drying herbs. Not sure how that happened. But I suppose that’s ok seeing as how thyme isn’t one of my favorite spices. Also, in my search for a good chunk of Gruyere cheese, I came across an Applewood Smoked Gruyere. Using plain Gruyere would be fine, but holy crap am I lucky to have found this. The smokiness brings out so many new flavors from the soup. Whole new level. So if you happen to stumble across it as well, good god man purchase that cheese.

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Soup:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 14 1/2-oz cans vegetable broth
4 cups 1-in. pieces peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs, check out the already peeled versions in supermarkets)
4 cups 1-in. pieces peeled acorn squash (about 1 1/2 lbs; incredibly tricky to peel; cut in half, scoop out seeds and throw into an oven at 425 degrees until soft, then just scoop it out into pot)
1 1/4 tsps. minced fresh sage
1 1/4 tsps. minced fresh thyme (or oregano! hah. really, both are good. Whatever you have)
1 1/2 tsps. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 cup whipping cream

Croutons:
2 tbs. (1/4 stick butter)
1 baguette loaf, sliced 1/4-in. thick
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme (or oregano…)
1 tsp. minced fresh sage

For soup: Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, all squash and herbs; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)

For croutons: Preheat broiler. Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with croutons and serve.





Ginger-Lemongrass Lager

12 10 2010

Ginger. I love you. I really adore you. Ginger tea, ginger ales. You’re so good to me. Good for me. But what I’m beginning to realize is that I don’t like ginger in beer. It’s not that its too strong. Bring on the strength. It just imparts a…slightly off flavor to me. It doesn’t seem like beer anymore. But listen, if you enjoy ginger in all it’s forms, try this out. Does anyone have any opinions on ginger brews? I’m interested to see what people think. My friends gave it a thumbs up. It goes well with Asian-styled dishes, hence why we drank a shitload of it and ordered Chinese.


It gives off a nice lemongrass aroma. You can definitely get subtle and sweet hints of honey, as well as a hoppy backbone. It’s a little big undercarbonated, but that’s probably fault of my own. I guess I’ll end this post with the same upbeat note as my last homebrew post: But hey, we got about 40 of them, so we’ll have a good time.

Ginger-Lemongrass Lager

Ingredients:
3.5 lbs plain extra light DME
2.5 lbs clover honey
1.5 oz Cascade hops (boiling)
.5 oz Cascade hops (finishing)
3 oz fresh ginger
2 oz fresh lemongrass
White Labs San Francisco Lager Yeast
3/4 cup honey for priming (boiled for 5 minutes with 16 oz water)

Instructions:
Add DME, honey and boiling hops to 1.5 gallons water and boil for 60 minutes. Chop lemongrass and ginger and puree with some water in a blender. Add lemongrass/ginger mixture in final 10 minutes of boil and finishing hops in final 2 to 4 minutes of boil. Strain, sparge and transfer immediately to 2 gallons of cold water in the fermenter. Add additional water to make 5 gallons. Cool and add yeast. Ferment at 65-68 degrees. Rack after 7-10 days. 2 weeks in secondary fermenter. Prime with honey and bottle condition 3-4 weeks.

O.G. 1.052
F.G. 1.004





Banana Almond-Butter Muffins

7 10 2010

I’m impartial to muffins. Really, I don’t care. Maybe because I was raised in a house where muffins appeared twice a year, if we’re lucky, in blueberry form, from a pouch of muffin mix. We don’t celebrate the muffin or sing the muffin electric. So I do believe, this may have been the first time that I’ve ever had the inclination to say out loud at around 10 pm on a Monday night, “Hey! … I’m gonna bake some muffins.”

I browsed through one of my favorite food sites, eat me, delicious and found something with ingredients I had and something sort of autumn-y; Banana Peanut Butter Muffins. I changed the recipe around a little bit and used almond butter instead, threw in some chopped walnuts, and some ground golden flaxseed, just because it was there. I baked them, and I guess I can say, I’m still not celebrating muffin-dom. It’s going to take a whole lot more baking to make me feel at ease with them, but I like these. They’re not too sweet, which makes them more accessible. I feel good and healthy when I eat one for breakfast or snatch one up as a snack before work. A good rustic muffin. I’m satisfied 🙂

Banana Almond-Butter Oatmeal Muffins
Adapted from eat me, delicious

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup mashed banana (about 2 medium-sized bananas)
1/2 cup natural almond butter (or peanut butter)
1 cup buttermilk (or make your own with 1 cup milk and 1 tb. white vinegar)
1 tb. ground flaxseed (optional)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, brown sugar, eggs, mashed banana, almond butter, flaxseed, walnuts, and buttermilk until very smooth, making sure all egg has been well-incorporated. Pour into flour mixture and stir until no streaks of flour remain.

Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tin, filling each just about up to the top.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.

Remove muffins from tin and cool on a wire rack.





Lentil Loaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

2 10 2010

 

I have a really hard time saying Lentil Loaf without laughing. I’ve been meaning to blog about this since last week. I’m still eating leftovers of it because this recipe made a shit ton. 4 cups of lentils to 2 cups water, really? That’s what the original recipe called for but there is no way that works, especially if you want some broth leftover. So adjust as you see fit. Besides that, I left out the carrots because I hate the carrots.

It’s a tad bit dry, but I found the perfect solution to that. Gravy. Boat loads of it. The gravy recipe from the Chicago Diner Cookbook is one of my favorite out there and is pretty much intrinsically created to make this dish craveable. Not to mention drinkable. Gravy gravy gravy, gravy the world. Go listen to some Gravy Train!!!! and bake this comfy dish up.

Got back from a trip out to Andover, MA a few days ago and picked up some new craft beers from one of the best liquor stores I’ve ever been too. Fabulous selection and they gave us free Octoberfest glasses! So yeah, time for my Friday night sampling of La Fin Du Monde’s triple fermented beer and the Williams Brothers Seaweed Ale!

Lentil Loaf
Adapted from The Chicago Diner Cookbook

Beans:
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
4 cups lentils (like I said before, this may need to be adjusted)

In a large pot, bring the water, bay leaf, and lentils to a boil. Cook on a low simmer until tender. Save 1 1/2 cups broth.

Grains:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup bulghur

In a second pot, boil the water and add the bulghur. Stir, cover, and remove from heat.

Vegetables:
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup walnuts
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced celery
2 tbs. oil
2 tsps. sage
2 tsps. thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tb. parsley
1 tb. tamari
2 cups quick-cooking oats

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a sheet pan, toast the seeds & nuts until they become aromatic. Set aside. Increase oven temp to 350. In a large skillet, saute the veggies in the oil until soft. Add the herbs, except the parsley, and cook 10-12 minutes. Stir in the parsley and tamari. Add the toasted seeds & nuts, lentils, bulghur, and oats and stir well. The final mixture may need some of the saved broth if it’s too dry to hold together. Season to taste. Place the loaf in an oiled 4 x 7-in. bread pan (my version made enough for 2 of these), and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Cover with foil and bake another 20-25 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Gravy
Adapted from The Chicago Diner Cookbook

Spice Mix:
2 1/2 cups nutritional yeast
1/3 cup dried parsley
1 1/2 tbs. salt
1 1/2 tbs. dried dill weed
2 1/2 tbs. celery seed
2 1/2 tbs. onion powder
2 tsps. each of basil, oregano, and thyme
1 tsp. rosemary

In a small dry bowl, mix all the ingredients well; store in a dry container.

Roux:
1/3 cup oil (not olive, thinkin canola or soybean)
1/3 cup unbleached flour

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. When hot, gently whisk in the flour, stirring constantly, until the flour develops a nutty aroma. Be careful of burning!! Set aside

Base:
4 cups water or veggie stock
1/3 cup tamari
1/4 cup Spice Mix

In a medium pot, bring all the base ingredients to a high simmer. Gradually whisk in the roux and cook to desired thickness. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.