Archive for June, 2010

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Homemade Flautas & Guacamole

June 18, 2010

Hi all!

One of my favorite Mexican foods right now has to be flautas: crispy fried tortillas rolled up so they sort of look like flutes (hence the name). Until now, though, the only flautas I ever ate were the excellent ones made at Zefe’s, our local round-the-corner Mexican eatery. But last week, I thought it would be fun to see if I could make them myself. The result is what you see above. And here there are again up close:

The first thing I’ll say is that they’re very easy to make. We just followed this recipe from The Vegetarian Times, which provided easy-to-follow instructions for a simple black bean and corn filling and for how to make that filling into a flauta. But really, all you have to do is roll up some tortillas and then bake them for a while.

Now our flautas were nowhere near as good as Zefe’s, but that was to be expected. Also, ours were bean flautas, whereas the ones I’m used to from Zefe’s are cheese ones, and I think I definitely prefer the cheesy filling. Furthermore, our baking method didn’t seem to make for quite as crispy shells in the end, which are one of the major draws of the dish for me. However, we did come up with one way to really kick our flautas up a notch…

Yes, guacamole. Homemade guacamole. Always a welcome sight to my eyes. Caitlin prepared this as I was finishing up with the flautas, and when they were all done baking, we generously topped them off.

Mmm… seeing these is making me want guacamole again. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy your weekends, and I’ll see you again soon!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Getting In My Grains

June 16, 2010

I’ll admit it: I’m a grain lover. Sure, I’m also a vegetable lover, fruit lover, and nut & seed lover, but grains hold a special place in my heart. And last week, I got to make two excellent grain-centered dishes. I’ll introduce them in turn…

First, we have some Italian Fried Grains! I made this with the help of Soap & Chocolate’s recent recipe for Italian Fried Rice, along with some help from Choosing Raw’s subsequent slightly tweaked version. My own crack at this dish did not follow either recipe to the letter, but rather used a combination of ideas from both, along with my own additions. The biggest difference to my dish was in my choice of grains: a roughly equal mix of quinoa and orzo. I’m happy to say that this was a delicious combination, and a very good complement to the dish’s other flavors, which included spinach, raisins, pecans, and nutritional yeast. Here’s what it looked like up close:

Served over a small bed of kale, this made for a very satisfying dinner, and the leftovers served as excellent take-along lunches for the rest of the week! I love recipes like that. Thanks Diana and Gena!

My other grain meal from last week was this heavenly creation…

This is Israeli Couscous with Pistachios and Figs, a delectable recipe from Veganomicon. This was my first time making Israeli Couscous, but it was an excellent introduction. For those who don’t know, israeli couscous (or ptitim as it’s known in Hebrew) is technically a wheat-based baked pasta, coming in the shape of largish round pearls. That means it in fact has little relation to regular couscous, in terms of both its make-up and its taste. But regardless, it is fantastic. And Veganomicon’s recipe pairs it perfectly with a wonderful mix of Turkish spices and pistachios. Their original recipe also called for dried apricots, for Caitlin and I smartly subbed in dried figs instead, which were perfect. Paired with a small side of roasted Brussels sprouts, this dish was mouth-wateringly good. Here’s another look at those couscous pearls:

So there you have it: two awesome ways to get your grain on! I wish you all many tasty grains in your future.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Restaurant Review: Ayurveda Cafe

June 15, 2010

Hi, everybody! Today I’m here with yet another NYC restaurant review, this time from an Upper East Side Indian joint known as Ayurveda Cafe. Caitlin and I went here with my parents a couple of weekends ago, and I’m pleased to report that Ayurveda is definitely the best Indian place I’ve eaten at in the city. Granted, I haven’t been to all that many Indian restaurants here (and the ones I have been at have been particularly unpleasant experiences), but regardless, Ayurveda stands up well against the many other fine Indian eateries I’ve visited in the past, and so I feel confident in my recommendation. But let me explain more, and you can judge for yourself…

What really sets Ayurveda Cafe apart is its unique menu and approach. Ayurveda doesn’t have a menu that you offer off of, as do most other restaurants. Instead, the food served changes daily, based (I’m assuming) on what’s in season, on what the chef feels like making, and on what will work best with everything else. And so, instead of ordering a specific entree or anything, every diner just gets the same big platter, including the day’s appetizer, entrees, rice, bread, salad, chutneys, and dessert! (And did I mention that everything is 100% vegetarian?) It was definitely a different experience for me going out and not knowing what I’d be eating, but I will generally eat any Indian food that is placed in front of me, so I was eager to dig in.

Before our platters arrived, though, we ordered some drinks, and I got this Banana Lassi:

I’ve never had a Banana Lassi before, but this one was great! It was packed with lots of sweet banana flavor. Caitlin enjoyed a Plain Lassi, which, though too tangy for me, seemed to suit her taste buds very well. And then, in hardly any time at all, our platters arrived!

Sorry that this picture isn’t any better, but I’ll explain what everything is as best I can. Starting from the top and moving clockwise we have: raita (which I surprisingly liked—I’m usually not much of a fan), salad (a little too simple, but fine), some sort of curry vegetable dish (very good), rice (no complaints there), some sort of vegetable pakora-like things (very good), a sort of Indian white bean soup (delicious), and in the center, an Indian spinach dish (loved it). I liked how everything was neatly separated into little bowls, and I thought the portions were perfect—enough to get your fill of each dish, but not so much that you got too full on any one of them. Plus, from what their menu tells me, their platters are made with a healthy balance in mind, and always include all six tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, and pungent. I wasn’t able to pick out all these tastes myself, but I did appreciate the general variety!

Last but not least, we were served a petite dish of rice pudding for dessert:

Caitlin was very excited to see that this was the dessert du jour, as she loves rice pudding. I was a little less ecstatic—that is, until I tried it. Although I’m generally not a fan of rice pudding, Ayurveda’s take on the dish really hit the spot for me, and I happily gobbled it up!

As for the service, the staff were friendly and I had no complaints. The atmosphere, however, left something to be desired (namely a replacement of their creepy purple lighting), but it was by no means bad. I would eagerly return to Ayurveda any day, especially given their very reasonable prices: $9 for their lunch platter, and $12 for their dinner one. Plus, with their ever-changing menu, every visit is a new experience! So if you’re in Upper Manhattan and looking for a good Indian place to eat, check out Ayurveda—you won’t be disappointed.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Frühstücksparty

June 14, 2010

Guten Morgen, liebe Freunde!

For those who don’t know, I’m spending my summer studying German (for the first time) at NYU. The course is taught at a breakneck speed, cramming the equivalent of 4 semesters of German into a mere 12 weeks. I’m now entering my fifth week of classes, and it’s very intense, but also very rewarding. And last week, before our first midterm exam, we had a little breakfast celebration, what our teacher called a Frühstücksparty (‘Frühstück’ is German for ‘breakfast’). I was very excited to experience what a semi-tradtional German breakfast is like, and pleased to find out that it wasn’t just a bunch of meat paired with more meat. In fact, there was plenty of vegetarian fare up for grabs at our little potluck. Check out my plate:

Starting at 12 o’clock and moving clockwise, what we have here is half of a Hörnchen (croissant), Brot mit Tomaten, Schnittlauch und Frischkäse (bread with tomatoes, chives, and cream cheese), crackers, some Weintrauben (grapes), one slice of Apfel (apple), and one slice of Apfelsine (orange). All of this was delicious, or as the Germans say, ‘lecker’. The bread with cream cheese was definitely the most German thing on my plate, and definitely the highlight of the meal for me. But what’s that in the center of the plate, you ask? Well, nothing other than my contribution to our meal:

What you see there is a gluten-free Banana Nut Muffin! One of my classmates has a gluten allergy, and since I do enough weird vegan baking on my own already, I figured I’d volunteer to take a crack at gluten-free baking and make something he could enjoy (a more pressing need given the high quantity of gluten-y bread in our breakfast).

As I found out, gluten-free baking is not all that hard. The main difference is that you need to use a mix of different, gluten-free flours, along with a little bit of xanthum gum to make everything come together. I found this recipe on Gluten Free Mommy, which was itself a modification of this recipe for standard Banana Nut Muffins, which I then modified further to make vegan (a flax egg for the regular egg, and vegan margarine for the butter). It was a breeze.

Most importantly, though, these came out tasting very good! I wouldn’t say that they were incredibly awesome or anything (nothing I ever bake seems to come out that good), but they were still very tasty, and the lack of gluten really did not subtract anything from them. And thankfully, they were a big hit with all of my classmates as well!

So there you have it. I’m very happy that my first gluten-free baking experience was such a success, and I’m excited to do it again sometime soon (hopefully for another German food party!). And when I do, you know where to come to hear all about it. Bis bald!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Indian, Quick and Simple

June 12, 2010

Yo!

I love Indian food. A lot. I would even dare to call it my favorite cuisine at times. Yet when it comes to making Indian food myself, I’ve always struggled. Granted, the Indian dishes I’ve made have never turned out horrible, but they’ve always seemed miles away from the food I enjoy so much at Indian restaurants. However, since the start of this year my Indian cooking has been getting much better, thanks primarily to Vegan Dad’s recent string of astounding Indian recipes. I’ve blogged about the great success I’ve had with several of his other recipes in the past, and today I’m here to bring you yet another success story called Khichdi.

I was curious about this Indian recipe because I’d never had or even seen it at any Indian restaurant before. Admittedly, that may just be because it’s so simple and straightforward: it’s basically just a hash of lentils and rice, cooked along with some onions, garlic, margarine, shallots, garam masala, and cilantro (check out the recipe for yourself here). Now from that ingredient list, you may think that this dish would turn out rather bland, but you’d be completely wrong. The flavors in the end turned out awesome and were not bland at all. Perhaps a close up will make the deliciousness shine through…

Overall, I can’t say that Khichdi is my favorite Indian dish ever, yet given its affordable ingredient list and its ease to make, I think you definitely get more out of this recipe than you put in. I will definitely make it again in the near future, and I will definitely have to restrain myself again from eating the whole pot in one night.

I hope you all get to enjoy the wonders of Khichdi yourselves sometime soon as well! Enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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I Dream of Blini

June 11, 2010

Happy Friday, readers!

Not long ago, I came home from a long day of school and schoolwork to be greeted by an exciting meal that Caitlin was just finishing up with: Buckwheat Blini with Mushroom Gravy and Vegetables! Sounds good, ya? Well, it was! By way of introduction, let me tackle this dish one part at a time…

First, on the left, we have the Buckwheat Blini, recipe courtesy of Veganomicon. For those that don’t know, blini are, according to Veganomicon, “light, savory, yeasted pancakes with a real Eastern European feel to them,” or, according to Wikipedia, “thin pancakes.” According to me, though, they are simply a delicious accompaniment to a hearty dinner. On its own, this recipe is nothing incredibly special, but used as we did as part of a larger dish, it becomes an excellent foundation to one’s meal.

And on the right we have the dish’s vegetables, a mix of sauteed carrots, peas, green beans, and okra. Again, on their own, these vegetables aren’t out of this world (although the okra did come out quite nicely), but paired with the blini and gravy, they worked really well.

And that brings us to the gravy, or more specifically, the Mushroom Gravy, recipe also courtesy of Veganomicon. Mushroom gravies are generally wonderful in my book, and this one did not fail to please (although, admittedly, it was not quite as good as VeganDad’s extraordinary Roasted Mushroom Gravy or How It All Vegan’s scrumptious Mighty Miso Gravy).

However, what I liked most about this meal was not so much any of its individual parts per se but rather how all the parts came together as a whole. The gravy really brought both the blini and the vegetables to new heights, and the blini and vegetables in turn enhanced the gravy. Here’s a picture of everything all together:

All in all, a wonderful meal. Thanks again, Caitlin, for making it for me! I hope everyone enjoys their weekend!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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It’s Asparagus Time

June 10, 2010

Yay summer!

Summer may not be my favorite season (I prefer the crisp air of autumn, personally), I do appreciate what summer brings food-wise. And one of the best things that’s in season right now is asparagus! Although I was never much a fan of asparagus growing up or even later in my adolescence, I’ve now come to really love it. Usually I’m content just keeping it simple and having it steamed or blanched, but the other day Caitlin and I went a little fancier and made this delicious Asparagus Pesto Pasta!

The recipe comes courtesy of Closet Cooking, where it is in fact a recipe for Asparagus and Ramp Pesto Pasta. Caitlin and I had every intention of making ours with ramps as well but, to our dismay, they were not in stock at Whole Foods the day I went, despite their also being in season right now! Bummer. (Even more so seeing as I have never tried ramps before and was really looking forward to.) Fortunately, this recipe is plenty good without them. And it’s simple—just blend some asparagus with a little spinach, pine nuts, and pesto’s other usual suspects, and then toss that with some pasta, adding more asparagus spears and pine nuts to your liking. I thought our use of farfalle “bowtie” pasta went particularly with this recipe, and we both eagerly devoured every last bite. Here’s one more close-up:

So go out and enjoy some asparagus, everybody–it’s the perfect time!

Until we eat again,

Willie

*Side note: When I looked up ‘farfalle’ in my computer’s dictionary to make sure I was getting the spelling right, I noticed that it lists it as an ‘exclamation noun’. I think this means that I’m permitted to go around shouting “Farfalle!” at people from now on.

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