Saturday, June 27, 2009

Vegan Roasted Plum and Marjoram Puttanesca "Hamburger" Helper

I have a shameful addiction I'm just going to let off my chest right now.

I am a Food Network crack whore.

I know, I know. I have to avert my eyes from the television more times than I care to acknowledge whenever Paula Deen makes love to the camera with her demon-like eyes before placing raw meat in her cast iron skillet. Their lack of Vegan, even vegetarian friendliness, is more than appalling. But something about that damn channel fascinates me. Most of the time, I just leave the television on as I shimmy about my kitchen. As I listen, I learn. And during more than one culinary experiment in my kitchen, I've spoken aloud and even tossed about witty banter as if a camera and audience were 10 away.

Go ahead and laugh at me now. I'm a geek's dream date.

Done? Ok.

Occasionally, The Food Network airs programming about eating contests. I can't say I've really payed close attention to many of them, but I do know that it's usually the tiniest of the bunch that can miraculously slam down 10,000 coconut cream pies. Right now, I really regret not giving those shows a closer look. Well, not really the shows, per se. But they have to air some kind of behind the scenes reality-show style training tips like the Olympics, right? If a 100 pound girl can eat 500 donuts, she definitely doesn't just wait to compete until PMS hits. She's doing something to prepare!

Why the deep remorse? I'm writing this post from the city of San Francisco, which has more delicious Vegan dining options than my body has room to accommodate. True, I am one tiny little fucker. But I can EAT. I feel like I need to develop a solid pre-San Fran training regimen that would allow my body to eat double it's typical amount. I usually only spend 3-4 days here, and I never leave for Los Angeles feeling like I've conquered enough of my "must try" list. I either need to condition my stomach to expand twice it's normal size, or start smoking weed again.

I do, however, always leave San Francisco firmly remembering why I love to cook. Two days ago, I enjoyed the pleasure of my second annual birthday dinner at Millennium Restaurant. While everything I've ever tasted there has been more of a gastronomic experience than a meal, this visit definitely one-upped the last. They had a special seasonal tasting menu with a Morel Mushroom dish listed, and I knew I had to taste it. I bat my long blonde lashes at the waitress and sweet-talked my way into asking the chef if I'd be allowed to order that one plate off the tasting menu. Let's just say at least my flirtation skills are more finely tuned than my stomach's food capacity. My palate was spoiled rotten.

Ike's Place was also every ounce as amazing as Quarrygirl divulged on her blog. It made for a perfect lunch before marching my Queer little ass around San Fran for the rest of the day. I still have 24 hours left in this fair city, and I plan to hop on the plane tomorrow morning looking pregnant. I will eat my regrets away.

Anyway, my recipe. My lady unexpectedly had the day off from work on my "Blog Cooking Day" last week. I told her that my day was mostly free, but I needed to spend a few hours in the kitchen that morning. "What are you making?", she asked. "It's like a fancy Vegan version of Hamburger Helper. Have you ever had Pasta Puttanesca?".


"Puttanesca. It's kind of Italian for Whore's Pasta."

"What? You're really gross sometimes".

"No. Seriously. Go on Google and look it up. During trying times in Italy, the Brothels were owned by their government. The sex workers were given very little time to shop or cook food, and this dish became well known because they could throw it together quickly. That's why I'm making it today. I want us to have time to hang out."

"Are you calling yourself a whore?"

"Get out of the kitchen. I'll be done in an hour or two".

Well, if I am really a whore, even a Food Network crack whore, at least I have a healthy hobby.

Roasted Plum and Marjoram Puttanesca "Hamburger" Helper

For the Pasta and Sauce...

  • 1 Pound Dried Conchiglle Pasta
  • 1 Large Red Plum
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Canned Pureed Tomatoes (Pomi brand are my favorite)
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Marjoram
  • 1/2 Pound Large Black Olives, pitted and quartered
  • 4 TBSP Capers, drained + 1 TBSP Reserved Caper Brine
  • 1 TBSP Red Miso Paste
  • 2 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Dr. Cow's Cheese or Vegan Parmesan, grated (optional)

For the Ground "Beef"

  • 1 batch Beef Style Seitan (recipe follows), ground in a food processor (Or 1 12oz package frozen Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Sausage Crumbles)
  • 1-2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Basil
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • Pinch of Spanish Smoked Paprika
  • 2 TBSP Water

First, roast the Plum.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Halve the plum, remove the pit and squeeze a lemon over top of it. Line a small baking dish with foil, and place the plum halves inside with cut side facing upward. Place about 1/4-1/2 tsp Vegan Margarine atop each half, then bake 35-45 minutes until completely softened. Set aside to cool.

Next, make the Ground "Beef".

Note: If you're using pre-packaged "Beef" Crumbles, be sure to defrost them before browning in the skillet.

Place the Olive Oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the ground "Beef", Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, and Paprika . Cook until the "Beef" is begins to brown, then add the water to the skillet to deglaze. Continue cooking until the "Beef" is browned and heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

Lastly, make the Sauce and Pasta.

Begin a large pot of salted water boiling for cooking the Conchiglle pasta.

Combine the 1 TBSP of Red Miso Paste with the 1 TBSP of Caper Brine, and stir until the Miso Paste is completely dissolved. Set aside. (This is meant to take the place of Anchovies an authentic Puttanesca recipe.)

Heat the 1/2 cup of Olive Oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, then add minced Garlic and Marjoram Sprigs. Saute about 30 seconds. Add the Pureed Tomatoes to the Oil and Garlic, then the Olives, Miso/Brine mix, Capers and Tomato Paste. Stir in the Red Pepper Flakes, then taste for Salt and Pepper.

Lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the sprigs of Marjoram, then add the cooked ground "Beef" to the sauce. Simmer for an additional 3-4 minutes, then remove from heat.

Cook the Conchiglle pasta in the large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain well, toss with a touch of Olive Oil, then mix with the Sauce and "Beef" crumbles.

Serve garnished with Dr. Cows or Vegan Parmesan (optional).

Beef Style Seitan

“Beef” Seitan Dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon® No Beef Broth paste (not diluted in H20)
  • 2 TBSP MimicCremeTM (or Alternative, pg 33)
“Beef” Seitan Broth:
  • 8 cups prepared Better Than Bouillon® No Beef Broth (8 tsp paste diluted in 8 cups water)
  • 6 dried Shitake Mushrooms
  • 1/8 cup Tamari
  • 1 Portobello Mushroom Cap, chopped
  • 1 TBSP Garlic Powder
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 Bay Leaves

First, add all of the Seitan Broth ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil. While it's heating up, using a stand mixer, mix together all of the Seitan Dough ingredients. Don't over-mix...just let the mixer go until it's all combined. The dough should be softer than usual.

Using your hands, mold the dough into a large ball. Flatten the ball out on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut into six pie- wedge shaped pieces. Drop into the boiling broth. Let it cook for about 1 hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Using tongs, remove the "beef" from the broth, and place in a colander to drain. Allow to cool until ready to use.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Miniature Vegan Veal, Black Peppercorn and Basil Burgers with Artichoke and Avocado Tapenade

I tend to hide my vulnerabilities from the public eye...said "public" referring to the old people at the grocery store and patrons of various LA farmers markets. I've exposed a few of my idiosyncrasies here in the past from a place of acceptance. This week, I'm facing one head on:

My hair style.

Friends, family and even casual acquaintances know that I don't ever change my "do". It is long enough to hit the past-boob point. It is the most natural blonde coloration within a 5 mile radius of the 90210 zip code. I like to think it is the straightest thing about me (pun very intended), and it's parted down the center Ala Wednesday Adams.

My hair has been a hotbed of controversy for ages. I popped out of my mother's womb with enough hair for the nurses to stick a pink bow on my head. I assure you it was the only "pink" and the only "bow" I ever sported. My parents parted my hair down the middle and slicked it down, and I never did a damn thing to alter their decision. At an age when most teenagers dye their hair more times than they lie to their parents, my best friend had to make it her mission to retrain the part that now adamantly refuses to disappear from dead-center scalp. After several fervent attempts with combs, gels and even sweat bands, she eventually forced me to lay on the floor for over an hour with a pile of books holding my hair down to the left side. My hair, being the living creature that it is, took it upon itself to fall right back into place when I finally stood up. My friend waved her white flag, and I smiled with sweet satisfaction. She wasn't the last to try, and she wasn't the last to fail. The part is here to stay. The style, for once, is not.

It took me over a decade to grow aggravated with my hair. It is a long, unruly mane. The time has finally arrived to tame it. I have been called "Avril" one time to many. I have burned the pieces that fall in my face on candles, with lighters and over my stove. I have had enough passionate kisses ruined by my lady having to stop and spit a piece of hair out of her mouth. I have unknowingly had pieces of food get caught in my locks after hours in the kitchen, then gone out into public and been laughed at by passersby. Enough is enough.

I am cutting my hair.

In the past, when I said I was getting a hair cut, it meant that my friends would usually ask, "Wait, you cut your hair?" after I asked them how it looked. I am scared shitless to change it, but it's something I have to do. To me, it's a dramatic change. It will probably take me about two weeks to work up the balls to actually "Do the Do", but I've made a promise to myself. I will not pansy out of this one.

Okay. On to the recipe. I am a self-proclaimed Veggie Burger elitist. The best I've ever had was at a restaurant called "Cooks Double Dutch" in Culver City. Their patties were perfectly cooked and seasoned. The buns were more perfect than J Lo's. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed. I often times don't even order a veggie burger out at restaurants even if it's my only option on the menu. I usually end up disappointed. I like my veggie burgers meaty and delicious, and I don't care what you have to say about it ;)

To date, the only Vegetable-ish burger (aka one that actually has chunks of veggies in it) I like can be found at O! Burger. It is flipping amazing, and all organic to boot. With summertime picnics in our midst, I thought I'd try out a recipe that could seduce the hunky carnivore pool boy your aunt Gloria invites to the next family soiree. Enjoy!

Miniature Vegan Veal, Black Peppercorn and Basil Burgers
with Artichoke and Avocado Tapenade

Vegan Veal, Black Peppercorn and Basil Burger Patties
  • 1 batch Vegan Veal Chops (Recipe Follows)
  • 1 Flax "Egg" (2 TBSP Ground Flax Seeds mixed with 2 TBSP Water)
  • 1/3 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 1/8 cup MimicCreme
  • 1/4 cup fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1/8 cup Shallots, finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Dijon Mustard
  • 1 TBSP Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Truffle Oil (or Olive Oil)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
Additional Burger Incidentals
  • 8 Shittake Mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 8 miniature Buns, Bagels or Dinner Rolls
  • 8 slices Vine Ripened Tomatoes
  • 8 small pieces Red Leaf Lettuce
  • 8 slices Vegan Cheese (optional)

Allow the "Veal" Chops to drain well, then dice the Chops into about 1/2 inch size pieces. Place the pieces in a food processor, and run the machine until the "Veal" is almost pureed...about 2 minutes. Move the ground "Veal" to a large bowl, and carefully drain off about half of the excess liquid by pressing firmly on the ground "Veal" while tilting the bowl over a sink.

Add the Flax "Egg", Breadcrumbs and MimicCreme to the ground "Veal", and use your hands to combine well. Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set.

Remove the ground "Veal" mixture from the refrigerator, then add the remaining Burger Pattie ingredients. Use your hands to combine well, then taste for salt.

For the mixture into 2-inch wide, 1 inch thick patties, and set aside.

Preheat and grease your grill well. Place a small skillet over the flame (or over medium-high heat if using stove top), and warm the 2 tsp of Olive Oil until hot. Quickly saute the Shittake Mushrooms until cooked, then season with salt and pepper. Set them aside.

Cook each burger patty about 4-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through to your liking. At this point, I like to grill the buns over the flame while melting a small slice of Vegan Cheese on top. Serve patties on grilled Buns with the rest of the Burger Incidentals and the Avocado Artichoke Tapenade.

Avocado Artichoke Tapenade
  • 1 16oz can Artichoke Hearts, drained well
  • 1 small Haas Avocado
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 cloves fresh Garlic
  • 1/2 TBSP Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 TBSP Lime Juice
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
Note: You can use 1 TBSP Lemon Juice if you don't have limes lying around

Puree all of the ingredients in a food processor until pureed. Taste for salt and pepper. Squeeze a little lime or lemon juice over the top, cover tightly with a lid, then place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Vegan Veal Chops

1 1/2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten
1 1/2 cups + 1 TBSP Water mixed with...
1 tsp Better Than Bouillon's No Beef Broth Paste
1 1/2 TBSP MimicCreme

6 cups prepared Better Than Bouillon's No Chicken Broth
1/4 cup Tamari
1 cup prepared Better Than Bouillon's No Beef Broth
1 bottle of Dark Stout Ale
1 cup MimicCreme
Handful of Dried Porcini Mushrooms
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder

Combine all of the broth ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil.

While the broth is heating up, make your Seitan Dough by mixing and kneading the Vital Wheat Gluten, Water/Bouillon blend, and MimicCreme until it's completely mixed. It will be a little more wet than most seitan doughs. Squeeze out the excess liquid, and form the mixture into a ball. On a cutting board, flatten the ball out, and use kitchen shears to cut into eight "Chops". Before putting in boiling broth, flatten each part down by pressing it firmly between your hands, then drop them into the pot.

Cover the pot, reduce heat to simmer, and let the seitan cook for a little over an hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

Remove the "Chops" from the broth with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain/cool.

You can reserve the broth to re-use another day. Hey..the economy is shit. We gotta get by somehow, right?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rustic Sunflower Seed and Lime Pesto "Quiche" Tartlets with Roma Tomatoes and Black Olives

My BirthWeek has arrived at its triumphant end. I sit at my desk following a week of guiltless sin, and while I've been sober for nearly 48 hours, I've still yet to detox. Vegas had her rough, gritty way with me for four days straight [gay?]. Two showers, four Kombuchas and one juice detox later, I still reek of her pleasantries. But I digress...

I'm allowed only two days of recovery before the start of the 2009 L.A. Pride celebration begins. Whether I like it or not, I live about 1/16th of a mile from the heart of the celebration. I'm going to party in my Rainbow Thong and over sized aviators like there's no tomorrow. My refrigerator, typically full of a truckload's worth of produce, tofu, cooking wines and sauces, will be temporarily filled with good beer, Jack Daniels, mixers and The Joose. With San Francisco Pride in two short weeks, this might as well just be a BirthMonth.

To give ourselves a little healthy respite between all the celebration mayhem, Jane and I decided to allocate a portion of our Vegas winnings to purchase something "healthy". We went to Dicks, and we bought lots of balls. No, silly pervert. Dick's Sporting Goods. We each bought ourselves a tennis racket, some tennis balls and a basket ball. To further the sexual innuendos (or blatant comparisons), the company that manufactures my racket is named "Head". That's right. Dick's for balls and Head. Game on.

Growing up, I never was much for athletics. I was always a decent athlete...I just could never seem to keep myself in one piece. Being the good little lesbian that I am, I spent at least 8 years on the softball team. By the time I reached high school, I'd sustained one nose fracture and broken my foot twice. My high school authorities kindly suggested that perhaps Varsity athletics posed a threat to my overall health and the school insurance policy, and my dreams of Olympic glory and days of being surrounded by hot women in tight pants came to an abrupt end.

Well, I'm back in action. We're having a great time so far, but our "game" admittedly needs a little work. At the very least, perhaps I'll build some arm muscles so that my next pie crust-rolling experience is a little easier.

PS: There is an amazing Italian restaurant called Stratta in the Wynn Hotel that has a secret Vegan menu. You have to ask them for it.

Rustic Sunflower Seed and Lime Pesto "Quiche" Tartlets
with Roma Tomatoes and Black Olives

Chef's Note: You can also simplify this recipe by purchasing pre-made Vegan pie crusts, letting them thaw, then rolling out and molding to Tartlet pans.

Crust: Makes 3-4 Tartlets
  • 1 1/3 cups + 4 tablespoon Pastry or All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry EnerG Egg Replacer Powder
  • 2 cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  • 8 TBSP cold Vegan Margarine, diced into cubes
  • 1/4 cup cold MimicCreme (or Coconut Milk)
Pulse Flour, Egg Replacer Powder, Salt, Garlic and Cayenne together in a food processor. Add the 8 TBSP of Vegan Margarine, and pulse about 10 times until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few bean-size chunks of Margarine still in it. Add the MimicCreme, and pulse 1 to 2 times more...being careful that the dough doesn't form a mass around the blade. If the dough seems dry, add 1 tsp at a time of more MimicCreme, pulsing briefly.

Remove the blade and bring the dough together by hand. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour. When your ready to make your Tartlets, roll out on a well-floured surface and follow the assembly directions below.

Sunflower Seed and Lime Pesto
  • 1/4 cup Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
  • 4 oz Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 3 cloves fresh Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
Bust out a food processor or blender, and throw in the Sunflower Seeds, Pine Nuts and Garlic. Let the food processor run for about 30 seconds to break everything up into smaller pieces. Add in the Basil, Lime Juice and some Salt and Pepper.

Turn the food processor back on, and slowly pour all of the Olive Oil down the shoot (or through the top of the blender) until the mixture is fully combined. Taste to see if more Salt and Pepper is needed.

For the final Quiche Tartlet...
  • 1 batch of the Pie Crust Recipe (above)
  • 2 cups Basic Scrambled "Eggs" Mix
  • 1/2 cup Sunflower Seed and Lime Pesto
  • 2-3 Roma Tomatos, Thinly Sliced
  • Black Olives, Sliced,
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease your Tartlet pans well.

Roll out the pie crust, then mold enough dough into each Tartlet pan so that it's about 1/4 inch thick on the bottom and sides. Pre-bake in the oven for about 12-13 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Combine the Basic Scrambled "Egg" Mix and the Pesto well.

Spoon about an 1/8 cup of the "Egg"/Pesto mix into the bottom of the cooled, pre-baked tart shells, and spread the mixture out evenly. Place a layer of sliced Romas and Black Olives. Spoon another 1/8 cup of the "Egg"/Pesto mix on top of the veggies, then add a second layer of Sliced Romas and Olives. Sprinkly the top layer of Tomatoes with a touch of Salt and Pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until fully set and cooked through. Allow to cool to room temperature before removing from pans and serving.

Garnish with Fresh Basil, if desired.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's My Birthday, and I Won't Blog If I Don't Want to!

Vegan Sea Salt Pecan Pralines

Alright. I do want to blog just a little bit. Originally, I was going to take a one-week hiatus from cooking to accomplish some serious eating. It is my firm belief that one should not have a Birth"day", but a Birth"week". This Birth"week" involves making decisions that satiate the inner child. The logical adult mind, which is rapidly over-taking my immaturity as of late, is to be ignored completely. I tell myself "Yes" to an ice cold beer at 10AM. I tell myself "Yes" to chugging a bottle of Children's Grape Tylenol then running naked down Santa Monica Boulevard. I tell myself yes to eating 3 lunches...and I won't say "Excuse me." after I burp.

So there.

Truthfully, the reason I wanted to post a blog this week was to say one gigantic "THANK YOU!" to everyone who responded to my request for cookbook readers. I can't even begin to tell you how flattered I am that so many people are interested in what I have to say. It was the best Birthday (excuse me...Birth"week") gift I could have received.

Well, truthfully, the amazing Bluetooth device my lady bought me was probably the best gift I received. For the past three months, the only way my hands-free headset would stay attached to my ear was if I held it on with a pair of sunglasses. This was fine during daylight, but let's just say you probably wouldn't have wanted to drive anywhere near me at night.

No recipe this week, kids. I'll taunt you a little with the above photo of the Vegan Sea Salt Pecan Pralines. It's included in my cookbook, which I'll hopefully find a literary agent / publisher for sooner than later.

Did I have a great time on the actual day? I'll let this Drunk Face photo of my friends and I speak for itself....
I'm off to Vegas for a few days! See you all next week.