Archive for March, 2010

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How To Celebrate When Your Oven Suddenly Starts Working (Or, When Avocado and Brownie Collide!)

March 26, 2010

Dear readers,

Some of you may remember how in the past I’ve complained remarked that the oven in my kitchen hasn’t been working. A few days ago, however, it seemingly miraculously started working again. I have no idea why, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I can now bake, roast, and broil whatever I want, whenever I want (at least until the oven mysteriously stops working again, knock on wood). I decided to celebrate the occasion by making a recent recipe from Hangry Pants: Avocado Brownies!

Wow! These brownies were good, and easy to make as well! I’m typically not much of a baker, but even I was able to come out with a nice little tray of tasty goodness. One of the best parts of these brownies was definitely how gooey and cakey they were, especially right out of the oven. Also, in case you are wondering, they don’t really taste like avocado at all. But that’s probably a good thing, despite how much I love avocados otherwise.

N.B. I did make a couple small changes to Heather’s recipe:

  1. I subbed in carob powder for the cocoa powder (this was probably the most significant change).
  2. I didn’t have very much whole wheat pastry flour left, so I topped up the cup with white flour.
  3. I needed to use much more milk than 2 tbsp to create the batter.
  4. My brownies needed to bake for 25 minutes before they were done, although given the state my oven’s been in for the past several months, I wouldn’t take that as indicative of anything.

Overall, this was a great recipe in every way—thanks, Heather! Now you all go out and try them as well!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Korean Burritos, pt. 2 (Plus Special Guest Photos!)

March 25, 2010

Dear friends,

Caitlin still has plenty of things to post about from her visit to T.O. last week, but I wanted to check it now and share with you my latest kitchen creation, another Korean/Mexican fusion (go here to see my first awesome endeavor if you missed it). This time, I decided to Korean-ize an old favorite: Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos. The whole thing was pretty easy. I started off sauteing some onions and orange peppers, added some black beans and buckwheat, and mixed the whole thing with some mashed sweet potatoes. The Korean twist was two heaping spoonfuls of gochujang that I mixed into the sweet potatoes. This little addition didn’t completely change the flavor of the filling mixture, but it definitely added a nice Korean spiciness to the whole thing. Overall, these turned out super!

But enough talk—let me just show you how these turned out. And, as a special added bonus, all of the photos today are coming courtesy of my awesome photographer-roommate Greg! So enjoy the higher-than-usual quality of photographs today! (…And if like what you see and you’re getting married soon and in the Toronto area, let me know—Greg does weddings!)

Talk to you again soon!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Utopia, Ontario

March 16, 2010

Good morn, my little foodies!

I have safely made my way up North to the lovely and currently sunny Toronto! This visit is my longest yet, so be prepared for many delicious posts to come.

First stop, a little cafe in which we dined on my first night here: Cafe Utopia.

You may remember that our first foray into the Canadian poutine tradition was raw, tasty and live. This incarnation was quite different, and undoubtedly closer to the original. Perfectly crispy steak fries covered in a savoury mushroom gravy and cheese curds. Sounds a little like heaven in a basket, no?

On to the entrées! The white bean and tofu quesadilla was delightful, even though I’m not really used to eating masses of melted cheese anymore. Though it was a little soggy, I’m pretty sure it was the result of the food coming out too quickly for us to completely inhale that basket of poutine.

As some of you may already know, Greek food is one of my great culinary loves. Honestly, I could practically write a romance novel about Greek food and I. (Insert inappropriate Tracy Jordan quote here and replace “cornbread” with “Greek food”) Now, this vegetarian souvlaki may not have been traditionally Greek, but it was pretty good. I was a little unsure of the soy protein they use as the souvlaki meat, as I am about most meat substitutes, but it was cooked very nicely and had a smoky taste to it. It was the pita and the barbecue and tzatziki sauces that really did it for me. While Utopia’s tzatziki didn’t quite rival Dumont Burger‘s or Mezes‘, it definitely ranks high for me and the barbecue was wonderfully tangy! They may skimped on the tomato, but I didn’t mind so much considering tomatoes are way out of season, perhaps cucumbers would have been a nice addition?

On the side, we had two, very smooth local beers. I had the KLB raspberry wheat beer (nearest in the photo) and Willie had an ale, the name of which is currently escaping me… The KLB was amazing (and not very fruity at all). I don’t think I have drunk a beer as quickly since Poland, it was just that delicious!

Final verdict?

Without a doubt, I want to go back. They have plenty of vegetarian options (many of which could easily be veganized). Mostly, I want to go back for their starters. Almost all of their appetizers are vegetarian and they all look delicious.

Utopia Cafe is a perfect spot for hanging out with good beer, good conversation and a great selection of casual, veg-friendly eats.

Until We Eat Again,

Caitlin

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Another Night, Another Curry

March 14, 2010

Why have I been wanting to eat curry so much recently? Oh, that’s right: because curry is delicious. And I’ll admit—I’m also a sucker for the vibrant colors.

My latest curry was this Yellow Curry Soup, based loosely on this recipe from Closet Cooking. Unlike the other curries I’ve been making, this dish was definitely a soup (thanks to the six odd cups of vegetable broth the recipe calls for). But I liked the change of pace, and the Thai flavors still stood out despite all the watering down. As another element of newness, the main vegetable in this curry was butternut squash, which really worked well with all the other tastes. I paired it alongside some simple baked tofu, peanuts, and (although you can’t see it) edamame. All in all, a wonderful little evening meal, as pleasant to eat as it was to look at.

That’s all for today, but check back soon, because Caitlin is now in Toronto and there are sure to be many many blog-worthy food adventures coming your way shortly!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Two Ways To Get Your Gochujang On

March 13, 2010

Hi everybody!

So remember a little while ago, when I extolled the joys of Korean gochujang? Well, consider this post part two of that exaltation. Today, I bring you two more wonderful and delicious ways to use gochujang. The first? Gochujang infused burritos!

Burritos are a silly thing to photograph, aren’t they? What you’re really interested in is what’s inside this puppy. I’ll let you in on the secret…

Still not clear? Fair enough. I did sort of make this burrito recipe up myself. Here’s what the filling looked like before it got put inside:

This here is a Korean-Mexican fusion of sorts, an idea I got from two of Closet Cooking’s recent posts (which inform me that Korean-Mexican taco trucks are all the rage in California). For my attempt at this appetizing combination, I fried up a can of black beans with some onions and red peppers, and matched all that alongside some Korean BBQ Tofu (from the batch I made a few nights before). In addition, I threw a grain in there as well, but instead of the more traditional rice, I used buckwheat, which was an amazingly good—and tasty!—idea. Add in a little lettuce and some spicy sriracha sauce, and you get what I’m calling a Korean B.B.T. Burrito (for beans, buckwheat, & tofu). And let me tell you: this was De. Li. Cious. Honestly, I really hope that (veg*n) Korean-Mexican restaurants start popping up everywhere from now on, or at least wherever I happen to be. This is a cuisine combination that everyone needs to try.

So that’s one way to put your gochujang to good use. Here’s another, slightly less complicated way:

This is just a bowl of steamed green beans and broccoli, topped with a Korean twist on my classic MAN (Miso-Agave-Nutbutter) Sauce. All I did was sub in gochujang for the miso, and voila!—a delicious “GAN Sauce” that can easily be prepared in just minutes. Obviously, this packs more heat than the normal MAN Sauce, but in my opinion, at least, that’s a good thing.

So those are two ways I’ve found to enjoy gochujang even more. I’m sure I’ll be experimenting more with it in the future, and I’ll be sure to tell you all about it when I do.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Granola Tofu

March 12, 2010

What do you get when you combine baked tofu with crushed granola?

If you answered “kitchen fun times with Willie”, you are correct! But another acceptable answer is “a wacky and delicious dinner experiment”.

So yes, the tofu you see above is baked tofu rolled beforehand in crushed Nature’s Path Hemp Plus granola. I got the idea for this from Vegan Dad’s recent recipe for Crispy Cajun Tofu Sticks, which recommended coating tofu in crushed cereal. But seeing as granola was what was on sale last week, I decided to use that instead, and strangely enough, it worked.

One obvious problem is that I wasn’t able to get a very even coating. Perhaps I just wasn’t using enough granola; I’m not sure. However, this did work well enough, and provided a nice little crunch and sweetness to the already delicious tofu.

I put these tofu sticks to what I thought was the perfect use—on top of a bowl of Sweet Potato Curry. Did you know that sweet potatoes make curry even more amazing? They do. All in all, this was an awesome dish, packed full of all sorts of exciting flavors. What more can I say? I was a happy diner.

Mmmmm…

Until we eat again,

Willie

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The Joys of (Korean) Cooking

March 8, 2010

Dear friends,

One of the things I like most about cooking is that there’s always something new to try, whether it a new recipe, and new cuisine, or even a new ingredient! Amazingly, I was able to squeeze all three kinds of newness into a meal I made last week and, boy, was it wonderful. Let’s begin with the new ingredient…

Blogosphere, meet gochujang. Gochujang, meet blogosphere. If you’ve never seen one of these little tubs of Korean goodness, don’t be worried—like I said, this was my first seeing the stuff, too. As the label informs, gochujang is a red pepper paste, but I like to think of it as a cross between miso and kimchi. Like miso, it is a fermented paste, and like kimchi, it is packed with red chili powder spiciness. So sensitive palates beware: gochujang is hot hot hot. (For more on gochujang, check out the Wikipedia article here.)

Now I didn’t just buy this on a whim. I’ve been really eager to branch out my cooking to include Korean cuisine lately, and after skimming over a few tantalizing recipes, I came to the conclusion that gochujang was going to be an integral part of that branching out. I was happy for the opportunity to try something new anyway. So what did I make? Take a look!

What you see there is lots of tofu marinating in a Korean BBQ sauce. I got the recipe for the marinade from Closet Cooking, and it is a winner. I loved the spicy flavor of the gochujang mixed with everything else inside. However, although I maybe could’ve eaten all the tofu just like this, I decided that it’d be better to put it to further use.

First I fried all my little tofu cubes in canola oil, giving them a nice crispiness. These came out really great; just look:

And although I definitely could’ve eaten all the tofu just like this, I thought I could put it to even better use by adding it to a more complete dish. However, instead of following any specific recipe, I decided to wing it and make something of my own design, which—amazingly—came out amazing. I give you Korean Pad Thai:

Okay, I’m not really sure if Korean Pad Thai is the best name for it, but I can’t think of anything better. Basically, I went by the same general formula I used for the more traditional Pad Thai dish I made a few weeks ago in NYC (thanks again to Closet Cooking!), but with several changes. First, I had the genius idea of using the rest of the marinade as the noodle sauce. This definitely turned up the heat on this dish by a lot (as if the tofu itself wasn’t gonna be hot enough), but it added a wonderful flavor to it as well. My noodles of choice this time were udon, which are of course neither Korean nor Thai, but whatever, they were what I had handy and, more importantly, they worked great! The vegetables I chose to add were just broccoli, greens beans, and edamame, but they went very well with everything else. Overall, this dish was really really good—and also made for delicious leftovers during the week!

So, in review: Gochujang? Success. Korean cuisine? Success. Korean Pad Thai? Super success! I like it when cooking turns out this well. And be sure to check back soon to see what I did with the rest of my Korean BBQ Tofu, and what other great uses I’ve since found for gochujang!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Two Easy Asian Dinners

March 7, 2010

Hi friends!

Today I bring you two simple Asian dinners, though from very different parts of Asia. Thankfully, they were both from tasty parts of Asia.

This dish here is Aloo Gobi, made with the help of the new cookbook I received from my parents for Valentine’s Day, The Asian Vegan Kitchen. The cookbook is pretty neat, actually; obviously, it’s vegan, and it covers all parts of Asia, including India, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Korea. The author herself is Indian but has lived in Japan for 27 years, so apparently she gets around. She also seems to know her way around the kitchen. This recipe for Aloo Gobi (Indian potatoes & cauliflower) was nice: simple and effective, with a tasty spiciness to it. I especially liked it because it made for an easy lunch to take with me to school during the week.

The other Asian meal I have to share is this Thai curry, largely a work of my own improvisation, but made with some guidance (or at least inspiration) from this recipe from Vegan Dad. I packed a lot into this little dish: broccoli, baked tofu, edamame, and peanuts, all swimming in a soupy sauce made from yellow curry paste and coconut milk. This was really really yummy, although I was happy enough that it wasn’t a complete disaster (working without a recipe can be risky for me!). But I have to say, one of the things I like most about Thai dishes is their vibrant colors. It’s fun to eat food that’s so nice to look at!

That’s all I have to share today, but I’ll be back soon with even more exciting things to show you!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Beans and Greens

March 6, 2010

Going to graduate school full time and working two internships can really make it tough to experiment very much in the kitchen. I have found that I really need to have a game plan set for the week by Sunday night, or by Wednesday night I’ll probably end up stuffing my face with stuff like this:

(thanks for the pic wikipedia!)

Recently, the solution to my post-night-class hangry-ness has been greens and beans:

The beans are soaked, cooked and stowed away by Monday evening and, most importantly, ready to be heated up with greens and a tasty sauce. The above bowl is composed of Carribean red beans and braised mustard greens in a Jamaican jerk sauce over quinoa. The jerk sauce is a jar my sister brought back after her last trip to Jamaica, watered down considerably though, because that stuff is intense.

Now, I don’t have any specific measurements, I usually base my proportions on taste and, you know, just how hangry I really am.

To break down the method in some very unscientific terms:

  • I would guess that the bean to green ratio is about 2 cups of tightly packed chopped greens to 1/2 to 3/4 cup beans.
  • dry cook the greens quickly (possibly with garlic and onion, if you’re into that kind of thing)
  • add a little liquid (in the above dish, I added water, braggs and about a tablespoon of jerk sauce). Add the pre-cooked (or canned) beans and simmer until the greens get nice and tender.
  • This process really only takes 10 minutes tops, so if you are going to pair it with a tasty grain, I would suggest you start the grain a little earlier.

These dishes have been a great and quick way to fill me up on nights following days that look like this:

(you really thought I could go without photo-documenting snowpocalypse 2010?)

Another variation that was not quite as spicy, but just as tasty was mustardy white bean bowl:

This bowl was a mix of white beans, black-eyed peas and mustard greens in a braggs-mustard sauce.

Honestly, if you haven’t tried mustard greens go out and do it now. When raw, they have an light peppery taste and, when cooked, they becomes much more mild but much richer. Also, they are currently in season. Yay for seasonal veggies!

Until We Eat Again,

Caitlin

P.S. By the way blogosphere, I have a new series of review posts that I simply can’t wait to share with you, so stick around if you are so inclined!

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New York City: Odds and Ends

March 4, 2010

Dear readers,

From the start of my long, 9 day visit to New York, I knew that I would need to write one catch-all post at the end of the trip for all those wonderful little sundries that never found their way into a post of their own. This is that post. There’s a lot to share, so let’s get started.

I bought this cookie in Toronto before I left, originally taking it along to eat on my bus ride to New York, but I never got hungry enough for it, so I decided to split it with Caitlin after I arrived. If you can’t read the label, this is a Seed ‘n’ Raisin Bite Me! Cookie from local Toronto company New Moon Kitchen. They make a lot of good products, and these cookies were no exception. They were full of tasty seeds and raisins, as advertised. To get a little better idea, check out the flip side:

Yum! Okay: Next!

These were the two cute little baked goods Caitlin and I got a Chinese bakery in Chinatown in celebration of Chinese New Years. The one on the left was a green tea bun and the one on the right was a red bean bun. Both were very delicious.

We also drank some wine while I was there. This was the first bottle we drank: a Hacienda Del Plata Malbec. I’ve really been digging malbecs a lot recently, and this was a good one.

This wine, a Red Diamond Merlot, was also very good. I think I preferred it to the malbec, but in general I’ve really been liking merlots now, so that’s no surprise.

I picked up this bag of Food Should Taste Good Chocolate Chips at the store one day. I’ve always been a big fan of all of FSTG’s other flavors, but this was the first time I tried their chocolate. Verdict: excellent! Kind of like their cinnamon variety, these work surprisingly well, having the perfect amount of chocolate subtlety mixed in with their already tasty corn chips. Recommended! They give a whole new meaning to “chocolate chips”!

While Caitlin was at work during the week, I stayed at her apartment and worked as well (on essays and such). For lunch, I wanted to have something hearty and easy to prepare, so I picked up some canned soups at the store beforehand. Not really the best lunch, I know, but they served their purpose. I also got the chance to try some new things I had never tried! The soups you see above are, from left to right: Amy’s Organic Chili (my favorite of the bunch), Amy’s Lentil Vegetable (though this was also good), and Jyoti Madras Sambar (and this was good too).

The other element to my lunchtime meals was a nice little side of Sabra Savory Dill Hummus with some homemade tortilla chips (just blue corn tortillas cut up and baked in the oven). I really liked this hummus a lot. But then again, I really like dill.

One night Caitlin and I drank some beers. I had the Wells Banana Bread Beer on the right (which attentive readers may remember from this post, and which I can now say from personal experience is something everyone must try for themselves) and Caitlin had the Wychwood Hobgoblin Dark English Ale. Cheers!

One morning, a dalet, the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, appeared on the ceiling in Caitlin’s room. We stared at it for a while in wonderment, pondering over what sort of prophecies it could portend, and then we realized it was just appearing from how the light was coming through the window curtains.

Another morning (or maybe it was the same morning?), I made the great idea that we should eat biscuits. Caitlin found a nice and simple recipe, whipped them up, and then we munched away. These were very very good, like all biscuits should be. Just look at ’em:

So good.

Finally, on my last night in New York, Caitlin and I ordered in some Mexican food from the awesome Zefe’s. This time we tried two new things: their quesadilla…

…and their enchilada…

Both were, as expected, delicious, although nothing could compare to their flautas (which I forgot to take a picture of this time, but looked very similar to how they did before). I just love this place so much.

And that’s all I got! I’ll be back soon with some exciting updates from my Toronto kitchen, and Caitlin should be checking it soon as well, so come on back!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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