Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mojo de Ajo and What to Do With It

Since returning from Mexico I've been enjoying Jason Wyrick's book Vegan Mexico, which offers lots of interesting and authentic recipes. One of them is for a very useful item: mojo de ajo - olive oil infused with garlic and citrus. I made a small batch a week ago and have been keeping it in the fridge. I don't use a lot of oil these days, and usually prefer to cook using vegetable broth, but once in a while it's a nice change. Here's the basic recipe, followed by two of many dishes you could use it for:

Mojo de Ajo

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup peeled whole garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
juice from one lime, orange, or lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place olive oil in a baking dish and add garlic and salt. Bake for about 45 minutes. Carefully retrieve from oven and add citrus juice. Bake for another 20 mins or so. Remove from oven, let cool a bit, and, with the back of a wooden spoon, mash the garlic inside the olive oil. Keep in fridge and use where scented olive oil is appropriate.

White Beans, Zucchini, and Tomato

1/2 tsp mojo de ajo
1/2 small white onion, diced
1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into thin rings
1 medium-sized tomato, diced
1 cup cooked white beans (cannellini, navy, or similar)
big handful of herbs: I like rosemary and oregano for this, but be creative

Heat mojo de ajo in pan. Add vegetables, beans, and herbs, and toss about for 7-10 minutes until fragrant.



Roasted Vegetables

1 tsp mojo de ajo
2-3 sweet potatoes, sliced
1/2 small white onion, diced
3-4 heads bok choy, separated into leaves
6 garlic cloves
1-2 cups assorted mushrooms
big handful of herbs
2 corn cobs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper double the size of your baking sheet. Place the bottom half of the paper on the sheet and rub mojo de ajo on it. Arrange vegetables and herbs on the baking sheet, then fold other side of parchment on top of them and put in oven for approximately 40 minutes.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Tacos with Baked Tofu, Avocado, and Mango

This whole feast on the left, complete with homemade tortillas, took me 20 minutes to make. Easy peasy! Of course, we benefit from the fact that Casa Lucaz #3, our local grocery store, keeps fresh masa bags for purchase near the counter. Here are the instructions, for two people:

First, make the tofu (the most time-consuming task.) Heat up the oven to about 420 degrees. Cut up 150g tofu into little cubes. In a shallow dish, mix:
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tsp liquid smoke
1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast

Then, add tofu cubes to the dish and toss around until coated. Place cubes on silpat mat on baking sheet in a single layer and forget about the tofu for 20 minutes.

Then, make the salad: lettuce, avocado, mango and cilantro, with plenty of lime juice.

Then make the tortillas: I used masa and a tortilla press. I'm especially fond of making tiny tortillas, 3-4 inches in diameter, because they look cute. Wrap both sides of the tortilla press with saran wrap or parchment paper and place a small amount (the size of a ping-pong ball or less) on the bottom side, closer to the back hinge. Then, carefully close the press and use the handle to press. Gingerly peel the tortilla of the paper/saran wrap and place on a hot, dry griddle. After 1 minute, flip over to other side; after 1 more minute, tortillas are ready.

Beet Burgers

If you're anything like me, you probably have all kinds of vegetable leftovers. After yesterday's iteration of the Buddha bowl, we were left with about a cup and a half of quinoa, a cup of cooked chickpeas, a few steamed beets, and a small plastic container of zucchini in tomato sauce.

I placed all these things in the food processor, added some salt, pepper, and liquid smoke, and added some dry polenta until the textures solidified enough to make little patties. I then baked the patties on a silpat mat at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, and we had delicious beet burgers to enjoy with vegetables, tahini, and a side sip of the New York Times' legendary gazpacho.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Even More Buddha Bowls!

You already know I've been very enthusiastic about Buddha bowls lately, right? Exhibit A; Exhibit B. Well, here's Exhibit C, just to give you more inspiration to concoct your own. The toppings are incredibly easy to make:

Beets: I steam them in the Instant Pot for eight minutes and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Carrots and Brussels Sprouts: This time I halved the sprouts, cut the carrots into matchsticks, and rubbed both vegetables with a little bit of mojo de ajo that I had lying around from having made Mexican food earlier in the week. I then placed them on a silpat mat on a baking sheet and sent them into the oven, at 350 degrees, for about 25 minutes.

Zucchini in Tomato Sauce: I had a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce lying around from a nice ravioli dinner yesterday. I thinly sliced up two large zucchini and sauteed them in the sauce until tender.

Chickpeas: I could've gotten fancy with this and baked them with spices, but this time I simply spooned cooked chickpeas with some fresh ground black pepper.

In the center I have a few spoonfuls of kimchi.

And the whole thing sits atop a layer of quinoa cooked in vegetable broth.

Which is another illustration of the principle: if there's an abundance of colorful, wholesome ingredients, you don't have to be particularly fancy with the preparation of each topping - just place them nicely in the bowl and you'll have a fabulous lunch.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Grilled Vegetable Casserole

The answer to the question "what do vegans eat on the 4th of July?" is obvious: grilled vegetables of all kinds! But what do vegans eat on the 5th of July?

We had a bunch of grilled vegetables from yesterday in the fridge, and today, with the help of some fresh tomato sauce and some herbs, they turned into a nice, filling casserole. Feel free to improvise with whatever you have in your fridge.

1/2 cup grilled corn kernels
1/2 cup grilled potato
1/2 cup grilled cauliflower
4 grilled mushrooms
2 large grilled onion slices
6 grilled Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup tomato sauce
oregano, marjoram, rosemary, garlic to taste

Cut up vegetables into small cubes, and in a baking dish, toss with tomato sauce. Sprinkle herbs. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 mins or until the top begins to be golden.

Gazpacho

Tonight I'm having a nice friend over, so I took a few minutes in the morning to make gazpacho according to the New York Times recipe. I used eight large vine tomatoes, two Persian cucumbers, half a red onion, and one Poblano pepper, and drizzled in olive oil. This is one recipe in which the oil makes a big difference--it emulsifies everything into a heavenly orange-hued soup.

I'm also serving sauteed long green beans in garlic-ginger-soy sauce, a green salad, and easy portobello pizzettas.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Collard Wraps

Today we're grilling vegetables in the yard! It's always a fun thing, and our selection this time includes cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and brussels sprouts. On the side, we'll be eating these guys: collard wraps stuffed with a lovely light salad.

Wrapping with a leaf is a skill, but you get better at it the more you do it, and collard leaves are excellent for this purpose because they are sturdy and, at the same time, pliable. You trim their stem and steam them lightly and they're ready to go. It's a nice, hand-held way to serve a salad, and might induce salad-phobic people to indulge.

Wraps
4 collard leaves

Salad
1 package kelp noodles
1/2 a regular cucumber or 1 Persian cucumber (preferred)
4-5 radishes
2 tbsp chopped green onions
big handful cilantro
1 small avocado or 1/2 big one

Dressing
juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
chili powder to taste

First, mix all dressing ingredients and set aside to combine.

Then, place kelp noodles in bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for a few moments.

While the noodles are rehydrating, thinly slice all vegetables. Drain noodles and mix with vegetables. Pour dressing on top and gently mix to combine.

With a small, sharp knife, gently trim the stem off the collard leaves, without tearing the leaf itself. Place trimmed leaves in a steaming basket (or in your Instant Pot) and steam for a few minutes. Remove from heat source and rinse leaves gently with cold water.

Place a collard leaf on a cutting board, with the stem side toward you.. Place a few hefty spoonfuls of salad at the center of the leaf. Fold the stem side over the salad, away from you, and the opposite end toward you. Then, fold the sides as well. Flip the wrap with the seam side pointing down and give it a gentle squeeze. Proceed until all leaves and salad are used. Place on a tray, seam side down.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Vegan Pupusas

This blog's subtitle refers to our neighborhood, Mission Terrace, in which you'll find lots of wonderful Mexican and Salvadorean restaurants--and more than a few that serve food from both cuisines. If you have masa on hand, you can make both tortillas and their Mexican cousin, pupusas--a nice, fluffy pancake stuffed with nice filling. Our neighbors on Mission Street make theirs with dairy cheese, so I decided to try my hand at my own version and stuff mine with cashew cheese. I made two varieties: cheese and beans and cheese and loroco (a green bud sold at Mexican supermarkets and grocery stores.) Both came out delicious.

My technique is still pretty shoddy, but even the failures are tasty. For a real expert's guide, I give you Lupita.



How to make the vegan fillings? I used my soft cashew cheese and mixed some with beans and some with loroco, in lieu of the fillings Lupita uses. Note that it's easiest to maintain the consistency of the pupusa if the masa and the filling have roughly the same consistency. Buen Provecho!

More Buddha Bowls!

Here's another variation on the Buddha Bowl theme! This one has, as its base, some leftover brown rice, stir-fried with spinach and mushroom. On top is a romanesco broccoli, accompanied by beets, sweet potato, cucumbers, radishes, two types of kimchi, and some sliced Sproutofu (a very easy way to eat tofu when you don't have energy to marinate and bake anything.)

I really encourage you to experiment--really, all it takes is to use cooked, raw, and fermented vegetables, with a starch and a source of protein in a creative and colorful way.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Make Thine Own Tortillas!

I'm back from two weeks of travel, the first of which was spent in beautiful Mexico City. What a treat! Art everywhere, delightful and interesting people, lots to see, and lots to eat! It's extremely easy to eat vegan in Mexico City. There are several vegan businesses: Gatorta, a vegan taco and torta stand at the corner of Puebla and Insurgentes, and Viko, a vegan taqueria-susheria in the Chapultepec underpass serving delicious soy horchata. I also had excellent vegan dishes with friends at Paramo on Avenida Yucatan - they made us ceviche from hearts of palm, tacos with roasted mushrooms, and a beautiful lentil salad.

But everywhere you go, even if the menu appears meat-heavy, just ask them for vegetables and they'll prepare them for you. I had tacos with rajas (roasted poblano pepper strips), nopales (cooked cactus fruit) and champiniones (cooked mushrooms), with heaping bowls of frijoles de olla (cooked beans served in their fragrant pot liquor.) The cheese-and-cream-on-tacos thing is, thankfully, not a feature of authentic Mexican cuisine, at least where I went, so everything was vegan and delicious.

My main takeaway from all this is that homemade tortillas are way better than purchased ones. So, when I bought groceries this morning at Casa Lucaz I picked up a fresh bag of masa. I rolled a little ball, about an inch and a half in diameter, and placed it in my new cast iron tortilla press, between two layers of parchment paper. It turned out a perfect disc, and I then popped it on a hot cast-iron pan for about a minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other. It came out perfect and terrific - fluffy, flexible, full of corn flavor - and was a great base for a tofu and greens taco.

Making my own tortillas is absolutely worthwhile from the flavor perspective and also quick and easy, so I'm never looking back - it's all about the press and the pan from now on. I'm planning a nice Mexican mini-feast this evening using my new Talavera dishes - check out the pictures. In the blue dish: two pico-de-gallo salads (we like these!), some fresh spinach, guacamole, and tomatillo hot sauce. In the red dish: baked winter squash, Rancho Gordo beans, sauteed mushrooms with onion and a drop of whiskey, and sauteed kale in orange juice. Not all of these are traditional, of course--and you'll note that the rajas and nopales are missing--but they will be so tasty with the fresh tortillas!