Archive for October, 2011

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Foc Yeah Focaccia Bread!

October 21, 2011

So this happened over the weekend:

Yes, yet again I spent my days off baking bread, this time tackling Peter Reinhart’s focaccia bread from The Break Baker’s Apprentice (could I possibly recommend this book any more?). The fun thing about focaccia (or at least this focaccia recipe, which is the first and only one I’ve tried), is that you shape it right in the pan, and that’s where the dough does most of its rising, like so:

This flat loaf, soaking in herb oil, actually sat in my fridge overnight before I put it in the oven. Then, after only twenty minutes, it was ready!

And oh how good it was. I was very impressed with this bread, and not just because it’s so full of oily, herby goodness. The crust came out superb, opening up to reveal and incredibly soft and melty crumb inside.

I could honestly eat this focaccia bread for every meal. Or just all the time without even stopping.

I don’t think I’d get fat. Why would I get fat?

Bread makes you fat??

(I hope someone got that.)

VeganMoFo #21/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Hell Yes: Guacamole Naan Pizza

October 20, 2011

Oops! I did it again. I think I have a new favorite vegan pizza recipe.

Longtime readers will remember my first “new favorite vegan pizza recipe”: this delicious White Bean Pizza. Then less than a month ago, I blew that recipe out of the water with “my (new) new favorite vegan pizza recipe”: this even more delicious Roasted Pesto & Hummus Pizza. But now I’ve come up with something even more new and favorite: Guacamole Naan Pizza!

Surprisingly, I got the idea for this pie not from one of the many food blogs I follow, but from the travel blog Uncornered Market, run by two amazing world travelers whom I happened to cross paths with while I was in Berlin in July. They recently published a post detailing the amazing Berlin “Gastro Rally” they got to experience—a whirlwind tour of Berlin’s food scene, as well as its history and culture. It’s a fantastic post, and you should really check it out for yourself, but the important point for our purposes is that one of the dishes they were served was a guacamole naan pizza—a delightful fusion dish I had never even imagined, much less heard of, before. After seeing it, though, I knew I had to make it—and stat.

Mere days later, I did in fact make my own guacamole naan pizzas, for me and some friends. It was actually fairly easy, since I already had some experience with the pie’s different components. First, for the naan, I used the naan recipe I always use, because it’s the best naan recipe there is: this one from Manjula’s Kitchen (vegans: you’ll need to sub in soy yogurt for the regular stuff). This naan always comes out so good, and thankfully it still worked out rolled out into bigger pizza crust rounds. Here’s a couple of my naan breads right after they came out the oven; the one on the left is a future pizza crust, the one on the right is just a regular piece of naan.

After that I simply whipped up some guacamole (Gena’s Classic Guacamole is always a good fallback recipe option if you don’t already have one you like to use), slathered that on the naan, and topped it off with some baby spinach, roasted cherry tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, and some freshly squeezed lemon juice. The result: perfection.

The only thing is—and this was something brought to my attention by my dinner guests—this isn’t really a pizza. And I guess that’s right: it’s more of a big piece of naan topped with guacamole and vegetables. However, being a veg*n for as long as I have, I’m pretty used to names never really fitting what I make (cashew ‘cheese’, anyone?). I cut this like a pizza, I ate this like a pizza, and regardless of what it tasted like, and regardless of its utter lack of any tomato sauce or cheese, it’s still a pizza in my mind.

But enough talk—let’s just sit down and eat!

Oh, and by the way: that Great Divide beer you see hanging out in the background there? It’s pretty great. Just sayin’. Now go make yourself some guacamole naan pizza!

VeganMoFo #20/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: The Green Grind

October 19, 2011

Time for another review in my Toronto Café Tour series! This one’s from The Green Grind (yes, another café on my Indie Coffee Passport). Although I don’t spend too much time in Little Italy, I was surprised to discover this little coffeeshop tucked away on the corner of College and Manning. My feelings towards the place ended up being sorta mixed, though; here’s what I thought in more detail:

Latte: First of all, this soy latte was expensive: $4.62, one of the steepest prices I’ve seen in the city. And second, this soy latte wasn’t very good. Perhaps it’s just my personal tastes—I just don’t like lattes with super airy layers of foam on top, or lattes served in tall glasses. What can I say, I guess I’m just a mug-gy sort of guy. But I really wasn’t impressed with any part of this drink, and further disappointed by how much it cost me.

Wifi: Yep! (Although I did have a few connection problems at certain points, especially when a lot of other people were in the café.)

Atmosphere: This is where The Green Grind really shines. From my first step inside, I loved everything. The interior pops with color and everything is really well decorated. The space itself is also fairly large, and there are plenty of seating options, with some good variety in style (I sat at the head of their long oaken banquet table—so cool). I comfortably worked here for hours, which is a very good sign in my book.

Food: Didn’t look too closely at their food options, but I did notice some items specifically marked as vegan on their menu. Awesome!

Final Verdict: This is a tough one—I really loved Green Grind’s atmosphere, but I hated its drink. I could definitely see myself going back and ordering something else, so if you’re going to check it out—which you should—just be sure not to order the soy latte.

VeganMoFo #19/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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The Perfect Vegan Frozen Dinner: Indianlife

October 18, 2011

Hi guys and gals!

I don’t usually like buying frozen foods, and rarely ever do. What can I say—I’m just not that into processed, pre-fabricated foods. But sometimes they really are a welcome convenience, especially when after a weekend away one is returning home to an empty fridge and a lot of already-closed supermarkets. On such occasions, I like to plan in advance and stock my freezer with a couple easily heatable dinner delights, and for a long time now my go-to option has been Indianlife and their line of naan and vegetable wraps.

The nice thing about these wraps is that they’re actually made completely from all-natural—that is, perfectly pronounceable and readily recognizable—ingredients: no chemicals or weird preservatives here! On top of this, they are delicious and filling, and thus an extra nice treat to come home to. You can either microwave or bake these puppies, but I prefer baking them, since it keeps the outer wrap crispier and more satisfying.

I should note that not all Indianlife products are vegan, but many are, and it’s very easy to figure out which. I really enjoy their naan wraps in particular, but everything I’ve tried from them is really great. Plus, they’re Canadian (even though based in BC). Their products are well stocked at my nearby Fiesta Farms grocery, but I’m sure you can find them elsewhere in Toronto as well. Check them out sometime! They’re the perfect quick and easy vegan meal.

VeganMoFo #18/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Tofu Tots (or, How to Make Perfectly Fried Tofu)

October 17, 2011

Hi all!

Having been a veg*n for over four years now, and having cooked tofu for just about as long, I forget sometimes that tofu can be a daunting challenge for newcomers to this diet. People still ask me, “How do I cook tofu? What’s your secret?” and I usually don’t know what to say—I’m generally happy just cutting it up into squares, tossing it in some oil, salt, and pepper, and then baking it for thirty minutes or so. I think this tastes great, but perhaps I’ve just been eating the stuff for too long. So today I thought I’d share one of my more special—though still totally simple—tofu preparations: frozen & fried tofu, or what I’m now calling Tofu Tots!

Last week I had the opportunity to make this tofu preparation for the first time in a long while, and as my friend and meal-mate informed me, these small fried tofu cubes felt a lot like that old schoolyard cafeteria favorite known as tater tots—except made with tofu instead of potatoes, of course. Thus their new name was born. And although cute names are enough to get me excited about any dish, these Tofu Tots are super tasty to boot.

The secret behind their deliciousness—and the biggest trick to making perfectly fried tofu—is to freeze the tofu first. Yes, that’s right: freeze it. Simply place your store-bought tofu in your freezer, still in its package, at least the night before you want to use it. Just note that you’ll want to make sure your tofu is packaged in at least some water; if not, you can put the tofu in a ziploc bag filled with water, as I did below:

In the morning, take your tofu out of the freezer, and run the package under warm water until the water melts and you can open it up.

The tofu will still be frozen in its center, and you’ll have to let it sit and thaw for a few hours.

After the tofu has thawed, cut it up into bite-size cubes. For anyone who’s never frozen tofu before, you’ll see that freezing gives it this amazing, spongy texture. This texture is perfect for frying, because: (a) the tofu is super absorbent, and holds any breading extra well; (b) the tofu itself holds together extra well, and thus will not fall apart while frying; and (c) the tofu is super soft, thus making for a very pleasing textural contrast between it and its eventual crispy fried exterior.

Now that you have your tofu all cubed, you’re ready to bread it! Lots of different breadings will work here, but I usually like to keep things simple with the following basic mix:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • lots of pepper, salt, and paprika, to taste

Mix these around in a plate, and then toss the tofu cubes in it until they’re coated on all sides.

After this, simply heat a small amount of oil (canola, coconut, or some other good frying oil) on a skillet, and then throw the tofu in. Adjust the temperature so there’s no oil flying in your face and then just let the heat do its magic. It’ll probably take around five minutes for you to get a nice fry on the bottom side, after which you’ll want to flip the tofu over and fry the other side, which typically goes much quicker (two to three minutes). I typically don’t need to fry every side of the cubes, since the sizzling oil will usually take care of the sides as the top and bottom are frying.

Your Tofu Tots are now ready! These taste pretty excellent on their own, but pairing them with a nice dipping sauce never hurts. Tonkatsu or a spicy ketchup would work great here, but for my last batch I made a simple chili dipping sauce by boiling equal parts sugar and white vinegar, and then after the sugar had dissolved, mixing in a small amount of sriracha chili sauce. It’s a nice and simple sauce that still tastes really good.

Anyway, I hope this helps you all in tofu cooking adventures! Happy eating!

VeganMoFo #17/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Farmers’ Market Profiles: Earth & City

October 16, 2011

It’s Sunday again, so I’m here with another post in my new Farmers’ Market Profiles series. Today’s featured vendor is Earth & City, which has long been one of my favorite destinations at The Stop’s Saturday morning market at Wychwood Barns.

Here’s the most important thing you need to know about Earth & City: everything they make is ridiculously delicious (deliculous?). Though they’re a small stand, they offer a big variety of snacks, all 100% vegan and focusing specifically on raw and, most importantly, local ingredients. Their food, which ranges over sweet and savory dishes, always highlights the seasonal produce of the region, most of it procured from the very same farmers you find surrounding them at the market. When I visited yesterday, for example, they had some seasonal fruit tarts…

…and these new apple ginger snap cookies—two great ways to make use of the autumn’s apples!

Also for sale were their fabulous macaroons (to which I’ll just say: yesssss)…

…as well as their peanut butter thumbprint cookies (to which I’ll just say: more yesssss).

I was a little disappointed though to note the absence of my personal favorite of their desserts: their date squares, which they top with a variety of delectable frostings (mint is probably my fave). However, I was assured that they’ll probably be rolling out some date squares again later in the season, and with some new toppings!

Now on to the savory. Most of what Earth & City does on this end is wraps and such, like these raw burgers made with nutty patties:

And here’s the savory treat I decided to purchase today, their raw taco, filled with a nutty ground non-meat:

I really loved this: There was a nice spiciness throughout accentuated by the fresh crispness of local vegetables, and the collard green leaf made for an excellent wrap. But what I liked even more was what I picked up at my last visit—their raw pizza!

So good! This slice came on a soft and chewy dehydrated buckwheat crust, topped with a sundried tomato base, some sort of nut pate, and then tons of fresh tomatoes, peppers, and yellow squash. Loved it.

But what I really love about Earth & City is how they really show you all the incredible things you can do with what you find at your local farmers’ market. Their dishes are constant sources of inspirations for my own cooking, and they should serve as a model to everyone for how local, seasonal, healthy, cruelty-free, and most importantly, delicious food can all come together as one.

And if all that weren’t enough, the last great thing about Earth & City is that it is all run by the lovely dynamic duo of Cassandra Rizzotto and Lisa Sweetman, who are always so friendly and happy to see everyone (even when it’s 9 a.m. on a blustery weekend morning and gusts of wind keep trying to blow over their tent):

So check out Earth & City for yourself! Aside from Saturdays at The Stop, they also do the Sorauren Farmers’ Market on Mondays and Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market. You can always find the most up-to-date info on where they’ll be on their website, or better yet, follow them on Twitter. Just do whatever you have to do to find them and try their food—you won’t regret it, and that’s a promise.

VeganMoFo #16/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Toronto Café Tour: T.A.N. Coffee (on Baldwin)

October 15, 2011

I’m here today with another Toronto Café Tour review, and the first place I’ve checked out with my brand new Indie Coffee Passport! My destination was T.A.N. Coffee, at their Baldwin St. location. Here’s what I thought:

Latte: T.A.N.’s soy latte cost a fairly standard $3.50, but it was spectacular, better than many lattes that I’ve paid more than a dollar more for. It was smooth, creamy, and suffused with an irresistible espresso flavor. The excellence of their latte probably has something to do with the care T.A.N. takes in sourcing only the best and most fair trade beans. I know that this sort of thing can sometimes all be just so much hot steam, but T.A.N. is rightly proud of the coffee they brew. You really have to taste it for yourself.

Wifi: Yes!

Atmosphere: Very nice. T.A.N.’s Baldwin location is a little on the small side, but they fill it well with plenty of good tables and chairs. Most importantly, the space feels comfortable; I could easily see myself coming here to do work, and even getting work done!

Food: T.A.N. offers both sweet and savory dishes, but as far as I could tell, very few vegan options, save for a few Sweets from the Earth treats they had in their display case.

Final Verdict: T.A.N. Coffee won me over with their latte, and I’d definitely come back just for that. Add to that the comfortable atmosphere and you’ve got yourself a solid café. Check T.A.N. out for yourself!

VeganMoFo #15/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Canadian Thanksgiving, pt. 3: Desserts

October 14, 2011

Aww yeah dessert time.

Aww yeah.

If you haven’t checked in here for the last couple days, I’ve been blogging the Canadian Thanksgiving dinner I made last weekend, and having now covered my starters and my mains, it’s finally time to get to the desserts. I made a lot, both in terms of quantity and variety. But then again, you can never have too much dessert!

Where to begin? My basic strategy here was just to make the most delicious vegan desserts I know, and I think I covered my bases fairly well. Predictably, I made a big batch of banana soft serve

…as well as a big batch of my newfound favorite, Chocomole!

On the not-quite-as-sweet side, I prepared a small batch of Zesty Orange Cashew Dip (to be eaten with some freshly cut apple slices, as I prefer):

And last but not least, I added a quadrant of Chocolate Beer Waffles (recipe from Vegan Brunch) to round out everyone’s dessert plate:

If you’ve already seen everything else we ate before this and are wondering how in the world we could possibly eat any more on top of that, let me tell you: I don’t know. I guess it was all so delicious that we couldn’t stop ourselves. Needless to say, I was in a food coma for the rest of the night, in which I’ll likely remain until American Thanksgiving. But one person at least was still energetic after all the feasting and festivities:

“Wait—Why are you sleeping? Where’s my dessert?”

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody, belated as it may be! I’ll be back again in November for the real thing. #america

VeganMoFo #14/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Canadian Thanksgiving, pt. 2: Mains

October 13, 2011

Hi all! I’m back again with part two of my three-part Canadian Thanksgiving dinner series! Yesterday I covered the starters, and today I’m moving right along to the main courses. After much deliberation, I decided against making any one centerpiece item this year and instead opted to make four simple, satisfying, and seasonal savory dishes. Here’s how it all went down…

First up, we have my “Neapolitan” Sweet Potato Trio! This dish was a lot of fun to make. Sweet potatoes have long been a Thanksgiving staple of mine, and after seeing all the different varieties available at the local farmers’ market, I thought it’d be cool to showcase the range and diversity of this stellar root vegetable. And in addition to using different types of sweet potatoes, I also flavored each variety slightly differently: the standard orange potatoes were mixed with coconut milk and so extra sweet; the white sweet potatoes were chock full of rosemary; and I kept things simple with the purple/blue potatoes, simply seasoning them with generous amounts of salt and pepper. I really enjoyed getting to move back and forth on my plate between so many different sweet potato varieties and flavors; I only wish that the three preparations worked a little better in conjunction with each other.

Next up, I made a big bowl of my Signature Colossal Confetti Salad. To keep with my seasonal theme, I used lots of fresh farmers’ market produce in this: kale, arugula, daikon, and even some local edamame! (I didn’t even know you could get local edamame—how cool!) This salad never fails to disappoint, and so naturally it was a big hit.

Following this I served some of my favorite pumpkin soup. This is simply pumpkin pureed with soymilk, Earth Balance, salt, and sugar, but it really doesn’t need anything more. The pumpkin is the star here, and now was the perfect time to showcase it.

I also roasted some corn as my fourth main course, but I apparently neglected to photograph it at any point during the evening. Anyway, it looked like corn. Let your imagination do what it will with that.

And those were my mains! Tomorrow I’ll be back with the close of this fantastic feast, so you know what that means…

“What? Did someone say dessert?”

VeganMoFo #13/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Canadian Thanksgiving, pt. 1: Starters

October 12, 2011

Hi all!

So yes, I know it’s the Wednesday after Canadian Thanksgiving (which, given Canadians’ general confusion over when this plagiarized holiday even is, makes me either two or three days late), but I’ve been busy—namely, busy preparing a 12-course vegan Thanksgiving dinner! Forgive me that I’m only getting around to blogging it now. But let me tell you: it’s worth the wait. This meal was so major that I’m going to break it up into three separate blog posts! (What’s that, it’s still VeganMoFo, you say? What a coincidence…) And today I’m featuring where it all began: the starters!

But first, for those of my American readers unfamiliar with the great northern tradition that is (Canadian) Thanksgiving, let me rehearse a brief explanation I shared on this occasion last year:

While all you Americans are busy enjoying Columbus Day, Canada is busy with its own holiday this weekend: Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s right: Canadians don’t know when Thanksgiving is. Why do Canadians even have Thanksgiving, you ask? Well, it’s because Columbus never discovered Canada, since it was too cold (leaving it instead to the French), and the Canadians, being jealous of their Americans neighbo(u)rs always getting the second Monday of October off, needed some other reason to get a long weekend. And, since by the end of November everything in Canada is already frozen, the beginning of October seemed the perfect time for a harvest festival. And that’s the history of Canadian Thanksgiving.

(Actually, I just checked Wikipedia, and it appears that Canadian Thanksgiving may have actually started before American Thanksgiving, but, like the Canadian origins of Labo(u)r Day, I think everyone has well forgotten this by now, in true American, culturally imperialistic spirit.)

So there’s your spurious history lesson of the day. Now let’s move on to the food! For my Thanksgiving feast’s starters, I wanted to prepare a few easy dishes that could be pleasantly noshed on as my guests trickled in. First and foremost, this meant bread—French bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, to be more precise:

I’ve raved about Peter Reinhart’s bread formulas before, and I am just going to continue that praise here. Though this bread was perhaps not the most amazing thing that’s ever passed my lips (or even my favorite bread recipe from the book), it was a solid loaf, and very satisfying for something made entirely from scratch.

To go with the bread, I whipped up two batches of hummus: Creamy Red Pepper Hummus from Oh She Glows (which had already knocked me out twice before) and Apple Pie Hummus, a recipe from Healthy Kitschy Vegan which I was referred to by Prairie Vegan. The red pepper hummus was, as expected, a big hit. And the apple pie hummus was remarkable: it really tasted like you were eating an apple pie filling, even though there were two cups of chickpeas in there! Perhaps not the best starter due to its sweetness, but still an excellent recipe that I will definitely be keeping in my arsenal for later use.

Last but certainly not least, I made a big bowl of kale chips—or rather, Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips à la Cupcakes and Kale! It’s been so long since I’ve had actual sour cream and onion chips, I really can’t say how well these emulate the real deal, but I do know that they are superb all in their own right. I loved the flavor of the cashew cheese topping paired with the crispness of slow baked kale, as did my guests—the bowl was empty before mains were even on the table.

And those were my starters! Come back tomorrow to see what I prepared for my entrees, and to see more of my favorite dinner guest:

“Well, that was pretty good I guess… but what’s next?”

VeganMoFo #12/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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