Friday, January 27, 2012

Vegan Kimchi Secret Ingredient?

Kimchi the morning afterKenji, writing about his month adhering to a vegan lifestyle, has an interesting recipe for the old Chimpanzee Tea Party favorite: kimchi. For those who are unaware, the issue here is that your traditional kimchi is decidedly not vegan... at the very least it has fish sauce, but could also have salted shrimp or oysters. Always one of the tricky parts of finding vegan/vegetarian food in the Asian sphere is their propensity to put non-obvious fish products in places you'd never expect... everywhere from the aforementioned kimchi to the dashi used to make an unassuming miso soup. Now, you can simply exclude these fish products when making Asian dishes at home... as I did when I made vegan kimchi... but what's a temporary vegan to do when he doesn't want to give up that precious umami? Well, Kenji, of course, experimented:
What's the best substitute for the umami-burst of the dried shrimp? I tried a number of things including soy sauce, marmite, and pure MSG powder, but the best option was red miso paste, a similarly glutamate-rich condiment that's readily available.
I really want to make kimchi again, but I think Anna is deeply concerned about the current pickle proliferation and losing refrigerator space... so I might be on pickle timeout. But for the rest of you... definitely worth making and dead easy to do... plus it lasts forever... assuming you like the funk of "ripe" kimchi, as I do. Otherwise, I guess you have to eat it in a month or so, but there are plenty of things to make with it (kimchi quesadilla!).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pink Pickles (aka Zuni Cafe's Red Onion Pickles)

Red Onion Pickles
They are actually red onion pickles from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook... but that's a pretty brilliant shade of fuchsia for a pickle. You can find the recipe here. I haven't had a chance to try them yet so I don't have whole lot to say... but the recipe isn't quite as fussy as it sounds. Yes, you have to blanch the onions in the brine three times (in batches)... and yes, you need the onions to cool completely in between... and yes, that's along time to have your head over simmering vinegar (a good exhaust fan is helpful here)... but it really doesn't take as long as you might fear. Part of this was probably that I used a wider bottom pot than the 4 quart saucepan suggested, so my brine came back to a simmer quite quickly. In addition, spread out on a cookie sheet they cooled pretty fast. Plus, they're pickles... they have to sit around at least a day anyway, so they is no particular hurry.

I suppose the proof will be in the eating, as the repeated blanchings are allegedly the only way to get a great pickle flavor while maintaining the crunch of the onion. Certainly they do make for quite a pretty pickle.

After Repeated Blanching

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy National Cheese Lover's Day

In honor of National Cheese Lover's Day, here's a collection of photos (which link to the associated posts if you click on them) about Chimpanzee Tea Party's Adventures in Cheese over the past year:

Tomme de Crolles
Gougères - Puffed Up 2
Farmhouse Cheddar - 1 Week Old
Marinated Queso Fresco
A Wine and Cheese Dinner
Ideas in Food - Mac and Cheese

Harvard’s Science + Cooking lectures Available on iTunes U

From the LA Times:
...the real find here is Science + Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter from the Harvard School of Engineering and Science, 52 one-and-a-half- to two-hour videos from a lecture series that “discusses concepts from the physical sciences that underpin both everyday cooking and haute cuisine.” You have Ferran Adria of the late El Bulli presenting spherification, Jose Andres of The Bazaar (and minibar in Washington, D.C.) discussing basic components of food and gelation, and Wylie Dufresne (wd-50 in New York) on inventions with transglutaminase.

Just listen to the titles of some of the lectures: “Mixing the Unmixable,” “Sous-vide Cooking: a State of Matter,” “Meat Glue Mania,” “Olive Oil and Viscosity.” Heady stuff, and it’s free, free, free -- even the app.
So kinda cool... you can watch these lectures through the iTunes U app on iPhone or iPad... though they're also all available on YouTube here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vegetarian Southern Food

Seitan Ribz, Watermelon Pickles, Baked Cauliflower and Cheese
The only contribution to this meal I made was those watermelon pickles I made back in September, but apparently never followed up on.

Well, they're good. Kind of like eating an Arnold Palmer (i.e. 1/2 lemonade and 1/2 iced tea). If you never had them (I hadn't) then I definitely recommend it. While I admit to being a little intimidated by the idea that a rind could ever end up as something tasty... no matter the pickle alchemy applied... this definitely made me a believer.

Otherwise what you see was made by Anna. Up front are a seitan based "rib" creation (from Vegan Diner), and in back is a riff on baked mac and cheese that subs in cauliflower for the pasta. Both were delicious.

UPDATE: Added links to the recipes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

45 Minute Tuscan White Bean Soup

Tuscan White Bean Soup
Technically this Kenji recipe is billed as "30 minutes", but since I assume anybody reading this blog is not so deft with the knife to be able to prep the mirepoix, garlic, rosemary and greens in the given ten minute prep time... I thought I'd label it more accurately. The only tweak Anna made when preparing this was to use veggie stock to make it vegetarian, and you could skip the Parmesan to make it vegan as well... however, if you're not vegan then definitely use the rind if you have one: that stuff is magical. Seriously. Parmesan rinds are a great way to get that vaunted "umami" into a 100% vegetable dish without really imparting much in the way of discernible cheese flavor... and Parmesan is so commonly used in cooking that it really doesn't take long to collect a bunch of rinds in the freezer. Do it.

As for the soup itself, I thought it was very nicely flavored: the chili flakes were a nice choice that works well with the greens. It's very easy to make on a weeknight, and it's quite possible you have everything you need sitting in your kitchen right now... which is definitely a plus.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

BREAKING: Former New York Resident Discovers Mysterious Area Outside New York City Has Fewer Dining Options

lardI've never lived anywhere but one of the coasts, with most of that time being in the Northeast, but even my coastal elite self finds this New York Times article about a NYC transplant to Kansas City having difficulty finding a vegetarian meal in the Midwest to be both condescending and nauseating:
But after the first three dinners in my new hometown, where I moved from New York to cover the Midwest for this newspaper, even this veteran vegetarian was flagging.

This city, after all, is celebrated as a Mecca of meat. And any newcomer should expect to start with a tour of the most venerable purveyors of cows, pigs and chickens in what I’ve been told are their most delicious forms.

So, yes, I’ve “eaten” at some of these famous restaurants. There was the meal at the Golden Ox steakhouse (baked potato), Stroud’s fried chicken (rolls) and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue, where, searching for vegetarian options on the menu, skipping over the lard-bathed French fries, pausing to consider the coleslaw, I ordered the safest option (a mug of Budweiser).

After three days of this, starving, I went alone to the nearest Chinese restaurant I could find, where I feasted on a steaming plate of meatless mapo tofu.
Ohnoes! Mapo tofu!? The indignity! What a man wouldn't give for a little Venezuelan or, dare to dream, some Ethiopian. I wonder how a visitor to a new town is ever to find such restaurants!? (Hint)

Maybe it's just me, but it seems problematic to expect a great vegetarian meal at either a steakhouse, a fried chicken joint, or a barbecue place. Granted, Anna does well making a vegetarian meal out of (non-lard or chicken broth cooked) sides up here at Redbones... and yes, as great as I think "bacon butter" is, I really don't think there is any real reason to cook veggies in it. However, newsflash to the ex-New Yorker, these are the issues every vegetarian who lives outside a major metropolitan area faces... even on the East Coast. In fact, that's kind of what makes it a "lifestyle choice"... and something well beyond wanting your dressing on the side or not liking cilantro. The world would be a better place if more places took vegetarians into account, but it's hard to deny that this has been improving pretty steadily in the past 5-15 years... and no matter how much better I hope it gets, you're still going to be an idiot if you're expecting a creative tofu preparation at a steakhouse.

I really have no sympathy for this guy, as there is apparently a vegan who has been blogging about veggie friendly Kansas City dining options for years. Yes, it's harder than being an omnivore... it takes research and/or calling ahead... but it's not impossible and presumably you made this choice because it was important to you? So maybe it's worth a little extra effort? Possibly?

Oh, and learn how to cook buddy. Just because an NYC vegetarian can subsist on takeout alone doesn't mean it's a great way to go.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pepperjack Potatoes

Pepper Jack Potatoes

Since we were given a big chunk of pepperjack cheese over the holidays, I made these potatoes from a recent post on Simply Recipes... very tasty and I found the cream and the starch to combine nicely into a rather velvety sauce (not a diet dish!). I find Elise's obsession with not having crumbly potatoes a little odd... what's really the problem if they're falling apart a bit? But if you don't care about that or don't mind the suggested option turning "overcooked" potatoes into Pepperjack Mashed Potatoes, then it seems a nice low maintenance side dish... as it mainly just sits, covered, waiting for the cheese to melt and does well being zapped in the microwave a bit before serving.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pickleback

I've been thinking a lot about pickles lately, and because I don't have anything else interesting to post, this is the "pickleback" I had on New Year's Eve at Woodberry Kitchen. Done in order: shot of bourbon, shot of pickle juice, beer chaser. It's a lot better than it sounds... I swear!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Zuni Cafe's Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Pickles Day 2

I suppose in 2012 it's a little passé to be posting about the Zuni Cafe Cookbook... roughly 10 years after it was first published... but I just got it for Christmas so whaddya want from me? Zuni Cafe's most famous recipe is for roast chicken and it has become some sort of food blogger right of passage. While I do want to make the chicken that popularized the concept of a "dry brine"... I thought I'd start with some pretty awesome pickles instead. While they've only been pickling a day or so at the time of this writing I can tell you that these babies are well worth making. They've got a little bit of sweetness that is tempered by the mustard's tang. Perfect for a grilled cheese or just munching on.

You can find the recipe at the LA Times.

Trimmed Zucchini

A pound of zucchini and a small onion are all you need produce wise... but to get 1/16th inch slices of that zucchini you'll need a mandoline or far better knife skills than me.


Here they are sliced and covered in an icy brine in which they needed to sit for an hour. At the end of that hour the zucchini should be salty and somewhat soft. Appropriate texture achieved, I drained them and put 'em in batches in the salad spinner before drying them between paper towels... which was probably a little OCD... but Judy Rodgers said that excess water will dilute the flavor so I guess I took that a fairly seriously.

Waiting for Pickling Liquid

The dried zucchini and onions fit perfectly into a 1 liter jar.

Pickling Liquid

Apple cider vinegar (2 C), sugar (1 C), mustard powder (1 1/2 t), mustard seed (1 1/2 t), and tumeric (1 t) simmered for three minutes. You need it to cool down completely before adding it to the zucchini and onions as you don't want them to cook at all. Believe it or not it also fit perfectly in the liter jar with no excess. You want to wait at least a day (refrigerated) for the flavors to meld and for the zucchini to turn neon yellow... but they will keep indefinitely in the fridge.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cheese Tips from From Formaggio Kitchen

This blog post is a great collection of cheese advice from the experts at Formaggio Kitchen:
  • How do I put together a cheese plate?
  • Do you eat the rind on this cheese?
  • What exactly are double and triple-crème cheeses?
  • What is a washed-rind cheese?
  • How should I store my cheese?
  • BONUS: a little bit of cheese history.

Too Cold and Sick to Cook? Ramen Hacks!

Instant Ramen Hack

I received an unwanted gift for New Years in the form of a cold that, while not debilitating enough to keep me from working, has made some of my more ambitious cooking plans for 2012 less appealing. In addition, apparently New England finally realized it was winter and has bestowed upon us single digit temperatures to match. Yay. It seems like a lot of people are sick and it's frigid everywhere, so maybe some of you are in the same boat as me.

Well I've had ramen on the brain for a while now (more on this theme in later posts: I baked some baking soda last night for those of you who know what that's for)... and soup is of course perfect when you are both cold and sick... but simple package of instant ramen isn't really all that satisfying and certainly isn't blog worthy. Enter Kenji with ramen hacks. A few simple additions can really upgrade those seventy cents of dried noodles into something... if not exactly "gourmet"... that is much better than dorm room fare. Indeed, I wish I had some concept of this when I was rockin' the microfridge in college, as it is really quite easy.

Basically I spiked the water I was going to simmer the noodles in with beef bullion, some dried seaweed, and chili oil. Once that was boiling I threw in a few snap peas and sliced shiitakes with the noodles... and while that was going on I fried up a little sliced bacon in another pan. Three minutes later I stirred in a bit of the seasoning packet (maybe a quarter) and topped with the bacon, some chopped scallions, defrosted frozen peas (just had them sit in hot tap water for a few minutes), and a squirt of sriracha. Pretty good stuff, though in retrospect I like my snap peas a little crunchier and thus should have waited a minute or two to add them into the simmering noodles. I like to avoid using the seasoning packet at all in future ramen hacks, but the broth tasted a little weak without it and I haven't figured out an appropriate spice combination to substitute for it. Suggestions welcome on that front. For my next attempt I will also do an "egg drop" for some more body and maybe scale back the veggies a bit to keep it from being too busy.

Anyway, something to think about when you have some instant ramen in the pantry and some random veggies in the fridge and don't feel like cooking... hard to screw up but tasty. Nobody is going to declare you the next Iron Chef for making it, but there is nothing wrong with simple and satisfying food.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tips for a Better Grilled Cheese

Ruth Reichl has them. I already knew about how awesome mustard is on a grilled cheese, but mayo and/or a little cheese on the exterior is not something I'd ever thought of.