Archive for June, 2010

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How I Survived 2 Weeks of Pub Grub

June 29, 2010

Okay, maybe that is a misleading title. Pub food is awesome. It’s delicious. It will clog your arteries, but is quite* worth it.

With 2 weeks in London, I certainly managed to fit in a lot of pub grub and this post will detail just some of the highlights.

Lunch at the Rocket near the British Library.  Veggie Bangers and Chips. They ran out of mash… These veggie sausages were probably the best I had in London. They were sort of like sausage-shaped potato pancakes!

Potato wedges at the Sutton Arms. Honestly, this was not as heavy and greasy as it may seem. The potatoes were super crispy and, hey, there was a little side salad.

Another attempt at Veggie Bangers and Mash, this time at the Eagle and Child in Oxford. The food was pretty tasty, but this pub is worth a visit for its famous former clientèle. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to chill here! I’m glad I had enough initials to fit in.

Cheese and Pickle sandwich at the Granta in Cambridge. This sandwich was ridiculously (and somewhat unexpectedly) awesome. I was told by one of our lovely leaders that the pickles were traditionally English and, therefore, delicious. This is definitely going on my “must-recreate” list! The pub also had a wonderful view of the Cam from its deck. We took in some leisurely views of people enjoying the beautiful weather by punting down the river and of a puppy or two having a fetch. The Granta was pretty top notch all around.

Eats not pictured but worth a mention: the Black Horse, the Fitzrovia and the Carpenter’s Arms (especially their Granny Corner…)

(I really should stop making that silly face every time someone takes a picture of me drinking beer…)

In short, vegetarians have nothing to fear in travelling London. Pubs are surprisingly veg friendly and the grub is pretty great!

Until We Eat Again,

Caitlin

P.S. If you would like to see the pictures I took that have little to do with noshing… you can check them out on Flickr!

*which sense of the word “quite” I am using here is totally your call. 🙂

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Naan, At Home

June 27, 2010

Happy Sunday, readers!

Like any reasonable person, I love, love, love naan bread. In fact, it is possibly my favorite kind of bread. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest to come by. I’ve never seen it sold freshly baked at any bakery, and the grocery store brands that I’ve tried, though not bad, don’t come close to the real thing you find at Indian restaurants. Thankfully, Caitlin does have a delicious mini-naan recipe that she makes for me once in a while, which I adore. But a week ago, I wanted to try my own hand at making naan. And amazingly, it was not a total disaster. In fact, it was sorta completely awesome.

Now admittedly, I was not on my own on this baking endeavor; I had the excellent assistance of Manjula’s Kitchen’s naan recipe (which also includes a very helpful video tutorial). The recipe itself is not overly complicated, although it does take about five hours from beginning to end, allowing for a three- to four-hour rise. Here’s how three of my naans looked before going into the oven…

And here’s what they looked like after coming out!

As you might be able to tell from this picture, these naan breads actually puff up in the oven (and judging by Manjula’s Kitchen’s sample photo, they should actually puff up much more than this). This made the naans almost like pocket pitas, which was great. And the taste was superb, as well—though perhaps not quite as good as the real thing, these were definitely one of the best breads I’ve ever baked. Here’s one of them close up:

Delicious! Of course, the other half of my batch did not turn out quite as pretty…

Still, the crispiness of these naans did not take away much from their tastiness. I’m really excited to try this recipe again, as it should only go more smoothly next time, now that I’m more familiar with how the whole process works. And I’d encourage you to try making them yourself sometime, too! (And then invite me over.)

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Chickenless Chicken Nuggets

June 25, 2010

Happy Friday evening, friends!

A little while ago I was in the mood to try out something new in the kitchen: cooking with Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) and Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG). For those that don’t know, these acronymic ingredients are wacky things vegans use to recreate the texture of meat. Now, recreating the texture of meat is not something I typically strive for in my dishes, but after years of vegetarian and vegan cooking, I thought that it was about time that I at least try these things out and see how they work. And so last week, with the help of this Chickenless Nuggets recipe from Happy Herbivore, that’s exactly what I did!

These nuggets were basically a mix of chickpeas, TVP, and VWG, breaded in crumbled cereal (I used Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise). For those that are interested, the TVP comes in the form of little crispy protein bits (similar to granola, actually) and the VWG just looks like flour. What’s fun is that the VWG makes gluten strands form as you knead the dough. In this way, the VWG both acts as a binder to better hold the dough together and makes the mixture more, well, meat-like.

As for the taste of these nuggets, I’d rate them as above average: not out of this world, but definitely tasty enough to heartily enjoy. On my end of things, I think I should’ve crushed the cereal a little finer so to make a better coating. On the recipe’s end, I think the dough mixture could’ve been spiced a little more or differently to make for a more interesting flavor. However, these nuggets made for a nice meal with a grain and vegetable on the side, and later in the week I also used them in a sandwich to great success. In addition, I whipped up this great homemade dipping sauce:

This is just BBQ sauce, leftover tomato juice, and Korean gochujang, mixed to my taste, but boy was it good. Those three flavors really work well together and make for a delectable spicy and tangy sauce.

And that’s all I have for today. Enjoy you weekend, everyone! I’ll talk to you again soon!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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The Best (Vegan) Risotto I’ve Ever Tasted

June 22, 2010

Hello readers!

Today I’m here to share with you a broccoli risotto recipe I recently tried out, and let me start off by saying that there are not enough superlative adjectives to describe how good this was. Seriously. This is hands down the best risotto I’ve ever tried, vegan or otherwise, and it is easily a contender for best recipe I’ve made this year. It is wonderfully creamy and has a surprising amount of cheesiness for using only a quarter cup of nutritional yeast. And what’s more, it’s super simple and calls for only a dozen common ingredients, which just makes it all the more impressive. But the credit cannot go to me: the recipe comes from Vegan Dad. He also deserves credit for getting a much better photo of this recipe than I was able to. Nonetheless, here is how mine came out looking…

And up close…

I’ll admit, it doesn’t look like much. But taste is what really counts, right? And it is not at all lacking in that department, trust me.

There’s really not much more I can say about this risotto, except I should note that the recipe works fine with vegetable broth made from bouillon cubes rather than boxed or homemade broth, and with white cooking wine rather than real white wine (although I’m sure it would only be even better with those latter things). And the amount of broccoli could probably be stepped up by a half or maybe even by a whole cup, too, if you really wanted to, although it is delicious as it is.

I could go on more about how amazing this risotto was, but that would just delay you from making it yourself. Which is exactly what you go do. Right now. Happy eating.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Guess where I am guys!

June 21, 2010

That’s right! I have been in London for a week now and will be here until next Saturday!

Now don’t panic everyone, I have been photo documenting all my eats (good and bad) and plan to update once I get a rest from my fast-paced schedule of sightseeing and learning about e-publishing!

Hope all is well wherever you are this lovely June!

Until we eat again,

Caitlin

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Phyllo, Phor the Phirst Time

June 20, 2010

While I was back at my parents’ house last weekend, I had an exciting culinary first: my first time cooking with phyllo dough! This was extra exciting for me because over the past year I’ve been falling more and more in love with Greek food, in which phyllo dough is probably most well known (think spanakopita and baklava). Yet for my first phyllo endeavor, I decided to go a little west of Hellas and make Dreena Burton’s Moroccan-Infused Vegetable Phyllo Rolls from her book Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. Here’s how it went…

First off, before I got to touch any phyllo (but while our store-bought phyllo pastry sheets were defrosting), I had to make the filling for the rolls. Dreena’s recipe calls for a medley of different vegetables and dried fruit, which then all get roasted for about forty-five minutes. What you see above is our huge sheet of chopped vegetables pre-roasting, and below…

Is how they looked post-roast. The assortment you see consisted of red pepper, yellow pepper, zucchini, onion, fennel bulb, dried apricot, and garlic, mixed with some oil, cumin, ginger, paprika, and cinnamon. To see this all a little better, here’s the filling again, with white beans and fresh chopped basil added:

Now we were ready to get working with the phyllo. For those who don’t know (like myself before last weekend), phyllo dough—or at least the phyllo pastry sheets we purchased—come in pre-frozen rolls of about 20 sheets, which you then defrost, unravel, and then carefully peel off to use. The phyllo sheets really are incredibly thin, and thus also pretty fragile.

Now the way Dreena suggests using these phyllo sheets is fairly innovative, at least in my opinion. What she has you do is stick two sheets together by brushing on some olive oil in between them, place some of the filling in the center, and then roll them up just like they were burritos. It works surprisingly well! (However, I will admit to being entirely nonplussed by the way Dreena describes this process in her book—both my mother and I couldn’t make heads or tails of what the instructions were telling us to do at first.) Here’s our tray of six wrapped phyllo rolls:

After this, all you do is bake them for about twenty minutes and then they’re ready to serve! We topped ours off with some almonds and paired it with a small salad of kale and shredded beets:

The phyllo dough worked really great as a faux wrap, adding a nice crispiness that you don’t get from a tortilla or pita. Here is the wrap cut open:

Overall, I liked these phyllo rolls and definitely had a fun time making them. If there were one thing I’d change about the recipe, though, it’d be the vegetable filling. I think I would prefer to cut out the peppers entirely, perhaps replacing them with butternut squash or something similar, and I would definitely substitute figs for the dried apricots. A green such as spinach would be nice as well, I think. But for a first crack, this recipe was a big hit.

And the phyllo-related excitement did not end there! The next morning, since we still had a few sheets of phyllo leftover, my mom made some homemade baklava! This was the first time I’ve ever had homemade baklava, and I was naturally super excited. Ours was filled with pistachios and generously drizzled with honey:

And a little closer up:

Needless to say, I enjoyed this immensely. And just for reference, I’ll have you know that this small square of baklava (probably no more than 3 inches across) took a whole three sheets of phyllo to make! So just imagine how much phyllo goes into an entire tray’s worth!

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today, but I’ll be back soon with more exciting food adventures to report! See you soon.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Onigiri Made Simple

June 19, 2010

Last weekend I made a quick trip to my home in upstate New York to run in our local 5K, visit my parents, and—most importantly, at least for this blog’s concerns—enjoy some delicious food. Take Friday night’s dinner, for example. After I got back from the bus station, I was treated to something I haven’t had in a long time: onigiri, or Japanese rice balls!

These little packed-rice triangles are ubiquitous in Japan, readily available in any number of flavors at every convenience store. Though typically a lunch or midday snack item, these worked surprisingly well as a dinner, especially when paired with a side salad. And now making them is easier than ever, thanks the magical handheld onigiri press my mom got. And since I was so amazed by this little plastic wonder, I thought I would document and share the process with you. So here we go…

First, start off with a decent-sized bowlful of cooked rice (Nishiki is ideal).

Now take out your magical handheld onigiri press.

Next, fill the press about halfway with rice, packing fairly snugly.

Then get out your favorite onigiri filling. We used this homemade mushroom mix, but the possibilities really are endless. Japanese onigiri are most commonly filled with some sort of fish (as would be expected from Japan), but other popular varieties include the (in my opinion disgustingly) sour umeboshi and, on the other end of the spectrum, fried chicken. So you really can put just about anything in there.

Now place a small, perhaps quarter-sized amount of your filling in the center of your onigiri triangles.

Then cover up that filling with another layer of rice.

Next, get the other half of your magical handheld onigiri press ready.

Place it on top of the bottom half.

Then squeeze the two halves together firmly.

Next, press down on the, er, presser thingies.

Your onigiri should now be neatly half out of the press.

Then simply turn the press over and your onigiri should just pop right out!

Finally, wrap a thin strip of nori dried seaweed around the edges, and you’re done!

Oh man, did this ever bring back memories for me. Onigiri really are a great meal, and a perfect take-along lunch to boot. But they would be significantly more difficult to make without a magical handheld onigiri press. So should you happen to come across one ever, definitely buy it! It works, and moreover, it will make your life more delicious. ごちそうさまでした!(Gochisousama deshita!)

Until we eat again,

Willie

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