Thursday, August 27, 2009

End of Summer Treats

Around here, it feels like summer is just getting started (we had a really cool summer in June and July), so it's hard to believe that we're nearing the end of the season!

Nevertheless, we're trying to eat as much summer produce as possible, before it's no longer available. Last year, I began trying to eat in-season produce as much as possible and I'll tell you - it is worth it! You really appreciate the in-season fruits and veggies, they are at their best in terms of flavor, and you know they weren't shipped in from out of state (or country!). Meanwhile, when the season is over, you aren't saying, "Oh, I wished I had had more corn!, etc."

The above Raw Hemp Tabouli from Rawvolution (different recipe name in the book, but I thought this better described it) was made simply of tons of herbs from the garden, cherry tomatoes (mine are so small, you don't really have to even chop them), and a sprinkle of onions and hemp seeds (the hemp seeds stand in for the traditional bulgar). I really loved this fresh parsley salad (the typical American version has more bulgar than parsley, but the real stuff has mostly parsley). Four stars! ****

Not so seasonal or fresh (or health), these Dulce Sin Leche Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (VCTOTW) kicked some serious ass, once again. Made these for a co-worker's birthday and as always, they didn't disappoint! Although, the glaze melted a bit overnight and I had to refrigerate them. The coconut on top is a must, for presentation, at least, but I will never understand the "I hate coconut" people, anyway...

Next up, this spicy and amazing Moroccon Spring Tagine from Vegan with a Vengeance was excellent and pretty easy. Except for the fact that all the veggies are actually summer ones, and not spring, so it was a perfect meal to have this week! Zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, onion, beans... Four stars **** and Mr. PLV even at the leftovers - twice! :) Speaking of in-season, we finally had grilled okra, too! No photo, as it was scarfed down too quickly. My mother, who is visiting, just couldn't get enough of it - yeah!
Last week, we feasted on a quick meal of vegan gnocchi (most gnocchi is, but Wegman's brand actually had the vegan symbol on it - yay!) with roasted tomatoes and roasted green beans. We had never had roasted green beans before, and they were pretty good! Three stars ***, maybe less - it needed some garlic.

Last week, I also used some of the slew of late-summer corn to make another Sweet Corn Chowder. This time, it was from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen. This was much better than the Rawvolution version, but still needed way more corn. I would double the corn. Nice and fresh and great with the avocado and cilantro! Three stars ***

Another quick, fresh and amazingly delicious meal came from Ani's book last week. This time it was Walnut-Cranberry Squash "Rice." The rice was made by grating a raw butternut squash in the food processor. I would never think of doing that, but it was incredible! Tasted a bit like stuffing. Yum, yum, yum and all raw!! Four stars ****.

It's been a while since I roasted root veggies, but since we got a few from the CSA the previous week, it was time to do something with them before they went bad. Roasting is a great way to use up veggies that are a tad past their prime. This was the Roasted Salad with Roasted Garlic Salad from Veganomicon. Even though it's hot as blazes out there, our central air made it comfy enough to use the oven for all this roasting. I figure, with all the meat I haven't eaten in years, my carbon footprint is already smaller than average (which it really is, I calculated it online) so I can afford a little electricity splurge now and then. And WOW, was this worth it! The roasted garlic makes a creamy, rich dressing, that's not overly garlic at all. And roasted turnips? Woah. Four stars, without reservations! **** Mr. PLV also liked this one, because of the taters.
I also roasted two small eggplants from the CSA to make my second-ever Baba Ganouj (recipe from Madhur Jaffry's World Vegetarian), which kicked ass! So yum, so easy, but so not photogenic :P Four stars anyway ****

These Pesto-Stuffed Mushrooms from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen were also so incredibly good, we're going to make them again this week! I haven't had stuffed mushrooms in a while. I even used local bread (frozen last week) for the breadcrumbs. Wow! Mr. PLV ate almost all of them :) Four stars ****.

Meanwhile, my garden continues to give me a pint to two pints of cherry tomatoes a day. Except for this plant, which I swear came from the same packet! It's giving us these beautiful elongated globes - plum tomatoes! They're not as tasty as the cherry ones, but they do have more substance. Someone said that getting different tomato varieties from the same seed packet is pretty common. Cool!

And, last but not least, THEY'RE BACK! :) Last summer, my "green bean seeds" flourished into melons. This year, three plants came back, even though I didn't really try! One withered in the sun, I tripped on another and accidentally ripped the vine out of the ground...and then there was one. Wonder if it'll taste better than last year? Well, I'm off to continue helping with the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves my father has been working on all week! Happy Early Christmas to me and my books! :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Random Food Attacks

A random mix of recipes, in no particular order...

First up....Chocolate cake. Raspberry preserves. Rich, fudgey, ganache-like frosting. Mmmmmm....

Despite not following the directions on how to apply the frosting and preserves (I just slapped the preserves in the middle and put the ganache in the fridge to quicken the cool-time before dousing the cake), this amazing Raspberry-Chocolate Blackout Cake with Ganache-y Frosting from Veganomcion was still decadent, flavorful and drool-worthy. Also, very, very easy! :) Four stars ****. Haven't baked in a while, so I thought a cake was about due.

Here's what the whole cake looked like. It would have been prettier with fresh raspberries and some frosting roses, but I didn't have the time, it was too hot, and it was for teenagers, who really didn't give a rats ass about looks (and who also scarfed it down!).

It was so hot, I spent my one day off last weekend, inside. OK, so we were painting three ceilings, so I wasn't really taking it easy. I called it, "bikram painting." It was so hot, ugh. But it's done and now it looks so smooth and new! Here is Mr. PLV, doing the easy part (I did the trim, edges, and around the light fixtures - hand cramp central!).

After that, all I wanted was something fresh, watery and cold. I splurged and got some organic fruit from the farmers' market, including a giant, dark red watermelon. These blackberries, cherries and blueberries were excellent, too! Holy antioxidants, Batman! Four, very sweet stars ****.

Mr. PLV was craving portabella mushrooms, so we grilled a few to top a huge-ass spinach salad with our own cherry tomatoes. (They just keep coming!) Three and a half stars ***. (That's leftover quinoa you see in clumps nearby).

Used up some of the CSA potatoes, too, and grilled them, then tossed them with our own parsley. Yum.....Three and a half stars ***1/2.

Had a CSA zucchini and some BIG ass tomatoes (also CSA/ organic) to use up, so Veganomicon's Greek-Style Zucchini-Tomato Fritters were baked in the oven. I used some local artisan olive-sourdough bread to make the breadcrumb crust. Wow!! Even Mr. PLV loved these and went back for leftovers, which he rarely does. Three and a half stars ***1/2. The cashew-cucumber yogurt-style dip was only OK. Two and a half ** 1/2, but it was probably my fault....long story.

Tonight, Mr. PLV baked our CSA eggplant in the oven for an hour, and I fried it up with some onions, spices, and another huge-ass CSA tomato. Wow!!! This was really, really good. The recipe was something like "Smoky Eggplant," from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. Great Indian food! Four stars ****. Unfortunately, the sauteed greens (beet, turnip, and chard) were horrible. Bitter, tough....even the great sauce from Vive le Vegan couldn't save them. Not even one star. I think it was the turnip greens that just didn't cook up right. Tips anyone?

Backing up some.... last week I had some pot sticker wrappers and seitan kicking around in the fridge. I tried my own recipe, added some ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and carrots to the diced seitan filling. Used a great dipping sauce from Vegetarian Times and wow! Four stars ****.

Finally, on Monday, our library's AC broke and we had to go home early. What a shame! :) I read an entire book (I'm a speed reader) while the acorn squash from the CSA was roasting, and while the awesome cornmeal-flavored crust was chilling for these Acorn Squash-Black Bean Empanadas from Veganomicon. They were well worth the effort, alongside a jarred salsa and some homemade guac. Wowee! Four stars for the crust, which kicked ass with the cornmeal crunch; three and a half for the filling. What an awesome week (and a half) of food! Stay tuned for more CSA-based recipes to come!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Pizza and Sausages

It's funny, someone recently referred to vegan food as "monkish" compared to the standard American food. I nearly screamed! Well, I certainly did laugh out loud, anyway. Turns out, the person really didn't mean to use that word (he's not an English scholar - he just meant that it was very different ), but it does give me an opportunity to show fellow bloggers/blog-readers, just how wrong that statement is!

For example, this Corn and Fresh Tomato-Basil Pizza with Garlic Pistou from Vegetarian Times was anything but austere, bursting with flavor and pizazz! The roasted garlic was combined with basil fresh from our garden, as well as some pine nuts and other things, to form the pesto of sorts that was spread on a homemade crust (gee, can you tell that's homemade?), then topped with fresh corn and cherry tomatoes from our CSA. A sprinkle of more homegrown basil topped it off.

Here's a yummy close up. This was a decent three-star recipe ***, but our crust was way too thick and a little doughy in places. We're determined to get better!

Then, speaking of bursting with flavor and spice, something was cooking in our steamer last week...

Sausages! Meatless - duh - and completely amazing. I have some work to do on my wrapping technique, so they don't have pointed edges and are a little more "shapely" but the texture and taste were amazing! Spicy and perfect. These were my first try, and a wicked easy recipe from Isa, courtesy of Vegan Dad's blog. Thanks, Vegan Dad! Mr. PLV loved, loved, loved these and can't wait to try some recipes with them!

Meanwhile, I sliced them up with some fresh basil...

And added them to another recipe - Roasted Tomato-Fennel Pasta with Pine Nuts, Capers and Basil published in Veg News, but originally printed in Eat, Drink and Be Vegan, by Dreena Burton. The recipe didn't call for sausage, but the fennel flavors matched up perfectly and the sausage made the whole dish even more satisfying. Yum! Now, what monk eats like that? Four stars ****.

Then, after a long car ride home from the in-laws, I was greeted with this heavenly dish from Mr. PLV's mom...a foil packet to throw on the grill, she said, and some fluffy rice to accompany it. I wasn't prepared for the sensational flavors and aromas when I first opened it up! Asparagus, mushrooms, and red peppers, along with some spices, green onions, and dill, combined for a sensory overload. It was sooo nice to get out of the car, unpack, turn on the grill and eat in 8 minutes! Beautiful, and certainly the best dish of them all. Four stars of thanks to her! ****