Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Serious Vegan Cheezeburger

This is not a recipe post, per se. It's more of a call to arms for all my of my readership to lend me their 2 cents.

You see, my lifelong dream, aside from an all-you-can eat vegan buffet in my living room, has been to open my own restaurant. Sure, I'd want it to be chock-full of my crazy, gourmet recipes...but let's be frank: it may not be the most cost effective way for me to start a business.

Lucky for me, my business savvy (and uber sexy) wife-to-be and myself have decided to pool our efforts and start our own small restaurant. Nothing fancy. Bare bones. Think if In N Out burger were vegan. We want to keep it simple, but more importantly, keep it delicious.

I've spent the past few days toying around with creating the best vegan burger (and cheeze burger) known to man, and I think I finally have a winner. I've posted the picture above, and if it causes an ounce of drool to slowly drip down your chin, please let me know.

This burger is sandwiched between two grilled buns, is a home-made "beefy" patty slathered with my own Daiya Cheddar cheese sauce creation, then topped with grilled red onions, tomatoes, red leaf lettuce, my home-made vegan ranch and a lot of my soul.

So what else is up with life? Well, it's been quite a roller coaster the past week. Personal circumstances (aka borderline insanity) forced an abrupt departure from my newly acquired 9-5. Did you all expect it to really last that long? Come should know me better by now. If I can't make a living doing the freelance thing, I don't want to make a living at all. I'd rather cry home to mommy and daddy and hope that they understand that I'm a unique flower not meant for the daily toil of the rat race.

In really unusual news, Jane and I entered into one of those mall lottery contests. You know what I mean...there's some giant plastic bin containing a purse full of cash, and you drop your name in the box. I thought I had a better chance at being hit by a bus, but to my surprise, we won! We get to go spin some prize wheel tonight, our lowest prize being an all-expense payed trip to Vegas, the highest prize being $100,000. I suppose it's not that hard to guess what we're rooting for. 100 fucking Gs would allow my freelance life to continue, and help get our new business venture off the ground.

We're off to SF this weekend to meet my amazing publisher at Da Capo press, and I couldn't be more excited for the next few days. I'll post a new recipe soon. I promise. But in the mean time, don't be shy about burger comments. I am ready to jump into action, and I trust y'all to let me know what's up.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saag Paneer with Home Made Vegan Paneer Cheese

Right now, I'm seriously regretting that I wasn't one of those girly little girls that imagined "fairies and rainbows and sparkles" at her wedding. In fact, my only vague memories of extreme party planning are tied to my Bat Mitzvah...the most vivid of which being the argument between my grandmother and I when I demanded I wear a pants suit instead of a dress. How I didn't know I was gay when I was 12 is still a mystery to me. But I digress...

Jane and I have begun the serious planning stages of our wedding. We easily decided on a location (mountain top in Malibu? Yes, please.), and easily agreed on the food. Now comes the tough part. It's not the actual planning of the party itself, but more in the details I don't want to be bothered with. Like do we play "Here comes the bride" or "Here come the brides"? Maybe we should just play some snappy lesbian hip hop and "Back dat ass up" down the aisle.

What is our color scheme? I don't fucking know. I'm more of a "summer" and Jane's more of a "winter". I guess that leaves "spring" being the happy medium. And how the hell am I supposed to pick out a bridesmaid dress that fits all four of my differently-shaped bridesmaids well? I can't even pick out a dress for myself. My sister has tits, by best friend doesn't. Where's the happy medium in that scenario?

All I know is this: I want it to be fun. I want to feel warm and fuzzy with love, then get shitfaced drunk and dance on the table in my underwear...just like another memory from my Bat Mitzvah that sadly involved my grandma doing the dancing. Well, I guess that makes two things I know for certain: give a Shagrin a bottle of good wine, and the evening will not turn out bland.

Now the question I know you're dying to ask: "What about the food?!" Well, we decided to go with a blend of Indian and American. It's easily vegan, and pleases almost anyone. Of course, I offered my culinary expertise should the chef have any questions. Here's one answer:

Saag Paneer with Home Made Vegan Paneer Cheese
  • 2 TBSP Vegan Ghee (recipe follows) or Sunflower Oil
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped Ginger
  • 1 cup Tomato Sauce
  • 1 TBSP ground Coriander
  • 1 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 10 oz packages Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and un-drained
  • 1 batch of Home-Made Vegan Paneer (recipe follows, or sub cubed Super Firm Tofu fried as indicated in the Paneer recipe below).
  • 1/2 cup MimicCreme
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala Powder
Heat oil in 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger root; stir-fry 1 to 2minutes or until garlic is golden brown.

Stir in tomato sauce, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground red pepper, and salt; reduce heat to low. Partially cover and simmer 7 to 8 minutes or until thin film of oil starts to form on surface of sauce.

Stir in undrained spinach. Cover and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until spinach turns a light olive green.

Stir in Homemade "Cheese". Cover and simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until "cheese" is hot; remove from heat.

Stir in MimicCreme and Garam Masala.

Vegan Paneer

  • 1 gallon (16 cups) High Fat Soy Milk (4-5g per serving)

  • 1/3 cup + 1 1/2 TBSP White Vinegar

  • Sunflower Oil, for deep-frying

Line large colander with cheesecloth, and place it in your sink.

Heat soy milk to boiling in 6-quart stockpot over medium-high heat. Make sure to stir frequently while it's heating up to prevent scorching.

The second that the soy milk hits the boiling point, quickly stir in the vinegar and remove from heat. The soy milk will immediately separate into vegan "curds" and "whey" .

Pour the contents of the pot into the cheesecloth lined colander in the sink, then lift edges of cloth, hold up the "cheese" in the cloth, and pour any excess liquid out of the colander. Completely wrap the "curds" in cloth, and place them back in the colander. Making sure to use an object that covers the entire surface area of the "cheese" in the cloth, place a weight on top of the "cheese". I use a stock pot with a cast iron skillet resting on top of it. You can also just fill a correctly sized stock pot with water to use as a weight. Leave the "cheese" in the sink for 5 to 6 hours to drain well.

After 5-6 hours, remove the weight and transfer the "cheese" to a cutting surface. Unwrap and discard the cloth, then slice the "cheese" into 1/2 inch cubes. Place the cubes on a plate, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours. They should look like so:

Heat 3 inches deep of sunflower oil in dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat. When the temperature reads 300 degrees (or when testing one piece of cheese, it fries), deep fry the cheese in two batches for 4-5 minutes until it floats to the top and is golden brown.

Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove it from the pot, then drain on paper towel lined plate.

Use immediately, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days, or freeze for a few months.

Vegan Ghee
  • 1 stick (or 8 TBSP) of Vegan Margarine
Heat the stick of margarine over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it reduces by a little more than half. This should take about 7-10 minutes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Madeira and Pancetta Infused "Chicken" Spezzatino

I selflessly admit to having a schoolgirl crush on Giada De Laurentis. Her perfect bre...*cough*...I mean, smile, wins me over in an instant. What woos me even closer is her Italian roots. In the past, I've rambled about my Italian-loving side. Sure, it was fostered in an environment where the overwhelming mob population spawned the popularity of the cuisine. I like to think that's why the Italian food I ate as a kid was so damn authentic. Mafia influence aside, Youngstown's Italian food was (and still is) some of the best I've ever eaten.

Now, back to Giada and her nice rack...of garlic bulbs. While many of the recipes in her cookbook border on the cliche side of Italy's foodscape, that doesn't mean I can't use them as a blank canvas to spruce up and veganize. With my hellish work schedule cutting into my typical "cook like a fiendish motherfucker" schedule, I jumped at the opportunity to cook for a group of my friends last week. Giada's Chicken Spezzatino seemed like the perfect dish to warm the frigid 55 degree LA weather right out of our bones. Special thank to all my testers who validated that this recipe is, in fact, a winner. Special thanks to Giada for giving me some inspiration and someone that looks prettier shimmying about a kitchen than Mario Batalli.

Enough boobie and garlic talk for one post.

Life's been pretty damn good the past few weeks. New Years marked Jane and I's 1 year anniversary. What a year it has been. Even though lately I find myself with less free time than someone with a triple major in college, I see true value in the moments of idleness that we can just enjoy together. Right now, I sit typing away at my computer, and she at hers. Of course, she's writing a great work of fiction while I type away about some chef's titties, but that's besides the point. It just feels nice. The dogs are asleep on the couch, and I'm surrounded by my little family. Somehow it makes this concrete jungle feel a little more like home.

What? You really thought I wouldn't bring up boobs again? Shame on you.

Happy Jew Year, kids.

Madeira and Pancetta Infused "Chicken" Spezzatino

  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 2 TBSP Vegan Margarine
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 batch of Vegan Pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (see below)
  • 1 batch of Vegan Chicken, cubed
  • 2 stalks of Celery
  • 1 large Carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small Onion, chopped
  • 2 TBSP Shallots, finely minced
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Madeira Wine
  • 1 14 oz can San Marzano Tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 1/3 cup No Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Basil, chiffonade
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 tsp Fresh Thyme, mince
  • 1 can Organic Kidney Beans, drained

In a 6 quart saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and melt margarine completely. Add the garlic, and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the celery, carrots, onions, shallots and "pancetta", "chicken" and cook stirring occasionally, until the onions and shallots are translucent and the "pancetta" and "chicken" are beginning to brown. Add a bit of salt and pepper.

Add the Madeira to the pan, stir once, then add in the tomatoes in juice, no chicken broth, basil, bay leaf, thyme and tomato paste. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

Add the kidney beans, and simmer for another 10 minutes until the liquid reduces.

Discard the bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper, then serve.

For the "Pancetta"...
  • 12 oz baked firm Tofu, preferably "smoked" flavor
  • 6 TBSP Soy Sauce
  • 2 TBSP Bragg's Liquid Aminos
  • 4 tsp Better Than Bouillon No Beef Broth Paste mixed with 1/2 cup Water
  • 1-2 tsp Colguin Hickory Flavored Liquid Smoke
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil

Slice the baked tofu into very thin slices, then dice the slices into small squares. Place the diced tofu in a shallow, airtight container.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients very well, then pour over the diced tofu. Allow the tofu to marinade for a about 2 hours.

Drain the tofu well before using.