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.