Thursday, June 25, 2009

Amaretto & Poppyseed Pudding with Cranberries

I sought something sweet but didn't feel like putting too much effort in to it. I was yearning for something cold and creamy that I'd never had before. So, I looked into the cupboard to see what I have. That's my M.O... I make stuff from stuff that I have. I found almond milk, cornstarch, sugar, sweetened dried cranberries and amaretto. Did someone say pudding? Oh, but this is not your typical pudding, this, I daresay, is luscious and verrrrrrry sensual.

I just love bitting in to poppyseeds and they look so pretty freckling the creamy, dreamy scented pudding. I added the cranberries to further provide color contrast but also to give it a slight tartness. If you don't like Amaretto or just don't want to have to buy a bottle just for this recipe, I suggest almond axtract or plain ol' vanilla.

This dessert is so cheap (about .25 per serving) and easy and even kinda fancy! AND it's light. AND low-fat AND low-cal AND even gluten-free.

Would be awesome in crepes or served as a parfait with layers of crushed cookies.

Amaretto Poppyseed Pudding with Cranberries

(serves 4)

2 cups almond milk (or soymilk)
1/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup if you like your puddings really sweet)
3 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp Amaretto (can substitute 1 tbsp almond extract or good vanilla extract)
1 tbsp poppyseeds
1 tsp lemon zest
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
garnish with toasted, slivered almonds and cranberries

In saucepan whisk together milk, sugar, starch, amaretto, poppyseeds and salt until all lumps disappear. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly to avoid lumps, about 5 minutes or until thick.

Pour into serving dish and let cool about 10 minutes and then refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Tip: if you put it into a large shallow dish, thereby increasing surface area, you can cut the cooling time in the fridge to an hour or less. Make sure to cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding to prevent "pudding skin".

Serve cold--garnish with toasted nuts and more cranberries. I served mine in a highball glass--to fancify even more, try a martini glass, like all the frou-frou chefs are doing nowadays.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spicy Chile con Queso Dip

I just love art shows! Just got back from here in San Diego and had such a nice time. Sometimes I forget how cool it is to live just blocks away from these arty-farty places and shops and all the trendy restaurants and bars. At one of the galleries, which was actually Bank of California lobby, there were free snacks, which included cheese cubes. That inspired me to rush back home a create a spicy queso dip! It's spicy, tangy, creamy--everything a queso dip should be.

Lately I have come to prefer using chickpea flour (besan) as a thickener for a lot of my sauces. I think besan works particularly well in this queso because it maintains the protein component that makes cheesiness possible (just a theory of mine). For the same reason, I also used a few tablespoons of tahini. Plus, to me, tahini has a slight cheesy flavor. For tanginess, apple cider vinegar, of course!

This sauce/dip is excellent on baked potatoes! Or try it on nachos!

This sauce would fool most cheese-lovers. Great for potlucks! Try it on your favorite omni. Not "on" them, unless you're into that...but you know what I mean!

Spicy Chile con Queso

(makes about 4 cups)

1 tsp oil, I used canola

1 medium tomato, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

2/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

3 cups water

3 tbsps tahini

1 tsp salt

3 tbsps apple cider vinegar

In a pot, saute tomato, onion and jalapenos in oil until tender. Over medium heat, add besan and nutritional yeast and mix well with a fork to break down any possible lumps. Add garlic powder, water, tahini, salt and vinegar and cook for about 15 minutes, whisking often so it doesn't stick to the pot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hijiki Seitan Ceviche with Nopalitos & Wild Rice -- A fresh summer dish!

I just had dinner and it was even better than I expected. Tangy, spicy, savory and fresh--hijiki seitan ceviche with nopalitos and wild rice on a store bought tostadas. Now I am sitting here, with a smiling and wondering why I never made vegan ceviche before.

For the most part, I cook from my pantry. Sometimes I find inspiration in cookbooks and online but generally I just put stuff together. Confession: I always think the things I make are good but I only share the good stuff, be it online or in real-life. Some of my concoctions are too weird-looking. But my concoction today, looks nice and I wish my omnivorous roommates were not so vegan-phobic because I made A LOT and they are certainly missing out!

Today, I discovered a bag of Hijiki in the cupboard. And then I thought about the 25 lbs. of gluten that I have. Then I remembered, with a deep sense of longing, that just last summer I would get my vegan ceviche fix at the now-defunct Rancho's Natural Market here in San Diego. To be quite honest, their ceviche was not "all that" but it was the only vegan ceviche around. I'd never made my own vegan ceviche before. Then I thought about my old landlord, Bruno, who was from Peru and loved talking, exhaustively about ceviche. So, it has been decided for me: I must make ceviche!

I added wild rice for textural/color contrast, to make the ceviche a little more substantial and because I just love it. The hijiki imparts a subtle "oceany flavor". If you can't find hijiki, I am sure a pulverized sheet of nori might work just as well. Make sure to chop seitan into small pieces so they can thoroughly absord all the wonderful flavors.
A note on SEITAN: I think I have finally come up with a simple and fool-proof seitan recipe. With the addition of the chickpea flour it's tender and not rubbery. That's the first secret. Plus, it mellows out that hard to describe gluten flavor. Without the hijiki and soy-sauce, this is my basic seitan. You can season the basic version with your favorite spices and seasonings. The second secret is wrapping it up really tightly with clean tea towel, kind of like a hard candy. Tie the ends. Boil it wrapped up like this. Beware: If any of the seitan escapes, it will be spongy! Another benefit of making it this way is that you don't have to season the boiling liquid as all the flavors are contained in the bundled seitan. Try it and let me know what you think.

Hijiki Seitan

1 cup gluten powder

1/2 cup chickpea flour

1/4 cup hijiki

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp oil

1 cup warm water

Mix flours & hijiki. Separetely mix soy sauce, oil and water. Add to dry mixture. Knead well. Let stand for 10 mins. For into a log, or chub and tightly wrap with cheesecloth or other impeccably clean fabric. Boil in large pot of water for 1 hour.

Hijiki Seitan Ceviche with Nopalitos and Wild Rice

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

juice of 4 limes

2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 large cucumber, remove seeds and chopped

2 cups chopped nopalitos (if using fresh, blanch first OR if using canned rinse well)

1 cup cooked wild rice

1/2 cup hijiki

4 cups chopped seitan (I used my "hijiki seitan")

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. Can be served at room temperature or cold.

Serve on tostadas with avocado and extra limes. Also good with saltines. Great with an icy cold Mexican beer!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sesame Poppy Tahini Crackers (with or without Spirulina) & Tahini Salsa Dip

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I know! It's hard always being on the cutting edge. I spotted some bulk brown rice flour which was super cheap. I knew I had to have it.

Then I got home and looked in my cupboard and there it was, giving me "that look"--my 20 oz container of spirulina a.k.a. blue green algae. Now, of course I know that it is supposed to be really healthy. Why else would anyone buy that much? However, I didn't realize that mixed into any liquid, spirulina would make me gag, which is really strange, seeing as almost no non-animal food in existence can do that to me.

I had been doing a bit of online research and found that spirulina should not be heated so as to preserve it's nutritional benefits . Inspired by "Spirulina Popcorn" where you take hot, freshly popped corn and put it in a paper bag and sprinkle in spirulina and shake to coat, I came up with this AMAZING cracker. I seriously love it. I just ate a whole plate and they made me feel tingly good--like really focused and energized. Maybe spirulina is a "wonder food" or maybe it's all in my head.

They taste just list those seaweed rice snacks. If you like those, I guarantee you'll like these. I'm not just saying that because I invented them, I'm saying it because in my heart and in my mouth I know it's true!

The recipe below makes a nice, hearty, cheesy tasting cracker. Excellent as is. I made half into plain (without spirulina) and half with spirulina.

Sesame, Poppy, Tahini, Chickpea Powder, Brown Rice Flour Crackers
(makes a lot--a lot is a relative term, depends on how you cut 'em)

1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 cup "nooch" a.k.a nutritional yeast
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 cup chick pea flour
1/8 tsp cayenne powder
1/8 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
2 tbsps vegan sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
2/3 cup tahini
1 cup hot water
3 tbsp vinegar

Mix all seeds and dry ingredients really well. Add tahini and mix with fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add hot water and vinegar and get your hands in there and mix well until you have a pliable dough that does not crumble apart. If too dry add a tbsp more water. If necessary, repeat until dough stays together.

Let dough rest, covered, at room temperature, for 20 minutes.

Cut dough in half. Spread out an overturned sheet cake pan or baking tray--no need to oil as the oil from the tahini will keep crackers from sticking to your pan. Then take a rolling pin and roll it 1/4 in thick. Cut off edges to leave a large rectangular shape.

With a pizza cutter score rolled dough into desired shapes. I made basic squares. Score with prongs of a fork. Do not separate cut dough!

Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Take out of over and separate, then back into the over for another 7-1o minutes or until they start to brown slightly around the edges. Serve with your favorite dip.

NOW--if you wanna make them REALLY good.

Put half a recipe of still warm crackers into a paper bag. Sprinkle in 4 tbsps spirulina powder. Shake around carefully to distribute powder. Enjoy!

WARNING: This might not be the best cracker for dipping, unless you don't mind your dip getting tainted. Maybe put dip on the the individual cracker?

Tahini Salsa Dip

1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup your favorite salsa--I used Smokey Fire Roasted Carrot Jalapeno Salsa (my recipe from yesterday's post)
2 tbsps lemon juice
3 tbsps Sriracha

Mix well & serve. Resulting dip will be nice and thick. Spicy & slightly sweet. Sriracha covers up the slight bitterness of the tahini.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vegan Chorizo Gorditas & Smoky Fire Roasted Carrot Jalapeno Salsa

Yay. Here I am, and here you are. Welcome. First post, first blog. After much convincing from friends to do something creative and food-related and after 6 months of being unemployed, I decided to get off my ass. Yeah, the "TET" got me--"TET" is my acronym for "tough economic times". Ugh, such a hackneyed and trite phrase-so trite, it makes my stomach churn. I am not really so bothered by what denotes/connotes rather by the lack of creativity and the fact that newspapers & magazines haven't yet started to abbreviate somehow, perhaps using my acronym.

Enough of that. On to the food.

In El Paso, TX, and in the land from which I hail, summer means festival "gorditas". Please forget the Taco Bell lie as true gorditas are nothing like that. Think of a thick corn tortilla (about 1/3 in thick), deep fried and while still hot, cut open like a pita. Then stuffed with meat & potato & onion mixture, shredded lettuce and cheese. El Pasoans are truly fanatical about these. In fact, gorditas are, for some, the sole reason to go to a carnival or festival. The gordita stands always have loooong lines and most vendors sell out EVERY night. I've been to festivals that had maybe about a total of 30 boths with 10 of them being gordita sellers.

In high school, in marching band camp, jajaja... but yes, in band camp, our big fund raiser was a gordita dinner. The band members and band parents prepared everything. We sold tickets in advance. Huge money maker--in a weekend we would raise at least $5,000. I loved volunteering for this event because we would get to take home all the wounded soldiers--the misshapen or torn gorditas! jajaja--me and my ulterior motives.

Now I live in San Diego, CA and miss my little gorditas, so what is an unemployed girl to do but make her own. Not only am I broke, but there is no place in outside of El Paso that sells them. Plus, I love a challenge. This is what I came up with and it certainly hit the spot! Would be even more awesome with sides--spanish rice & refried beans.
First, you need some Maseca--the key ingredient in gorditas. You can find this near the flour at your local grocery store. I've seen it at most major markets. It's an instant masa corn flour, made of white or yellow corn. It's gluten free, cheap and easy to work with. Also great for making corn tortillas and tamales. I've found that if you leave it out in the cupboard it can go rancid so I keep it in the package in a sturdy ziploc in the freezer.

(makes 8)
2 cups Maseca
2 cups warm water (but may require more based on ambient humidity levels in your area)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 baking soda
Sift dry ingredients together. Make a little well in the center and pour water and mix with your hands. Dough should be pliable and not stick. If too dry add a tablespoon of water and keep working until you get the right consistency, adding more water as needed. If too sticky, or rather, pasty, add in a tablespoon of Maseca until it's the consistency of sold Play-doh.
Cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball and flatten by hand until you get 8 round patties that are each about 1/3 inch thick. You don't want them too thin, I'll explain later. You don't want them too thick lest the center not cook.

To cook, either deep fry until golden brown (this is the tradition way) or cook on a hot oiled skillet for about 2 minutes on each side (this is my way, healthier--I call it "gorditas secas, meaning dry gorditas).

As soon as they are cooked, while still hot take each gordita and split horizontally, like a pita bread. If you let them cool, they get kind of hard making it almost impossible to split them without tearing them apart. Gorditas are ready to be filled like a pita pocket sandwich. Once filled add: shredded lettuce or cabbage, chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, salsa--you know, the typical taco stuff.

Note: Growing up, my mom and I would make "gorditas secas" and not split them. As soon as they were cooked we would take the hot gorditas and poke little holes in them on one side with a fork or knife and smeared on a little Mazola corn margarine (that was our favorite) and add a little salt. You should try this! Also good smeared with refried beans. Be creative.
Now that you know how to make these, I suggest you keep a sack of Maseca handy! So easy to make and so good.

Spicy Chorizo, Potato, Zucchini Filling
2 tbsp canola oil
2 medium russet potatoes, small dice (I prefer like them with the peel on, but)
1/2 onion chopped
1 jalapeno chopped, or less, depending on how spicy you like it
8 oz Vegan Chorizo
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup tomate sauce
salt, to your taste
pepper, to your taste
1 medium zucchini, medium dice
Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan add potatoes, spread out so they are in an even layer. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes or until browned on one side and then stir them once and cook another 5 minutes. Add onion, jalapeno and crumbled chorizo. Cook another 5 minutes or until onion is softened. Add zucchini tomato sauce, garlic, salt and pepper and stir again. Cover, reduce heat and let cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are softened.

Note: Zucchini goes in last because it cooks so rapidly and you don't want it to get all mushy.

Smoky Fire Roasted Carrot Jalapeno Salsa
(makes a LOT--about 4 cups)

4 medium carrots, whole but peeled
2 whole jalapenos
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 whole lime, juiced
salt, to your taste
black pepper

Char carrots and jalapenos either on a cast iron skillet or an a grill. Make sure to really char the heck out of 'em as this is what will impart the smoky flavor!

In frying pan, heat oil and add cumin and let toast for 1 minute. Add onion and cook for 1 minute until soft. Add garlic, tomato paste, charred jalapenos and carrots along with water or broth. Stir well so tomato paste is dissolved. Cover and let cook over low heat until carrots are fork tender. Let mixture cool then dump mixture into blender or food processor along with cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Keeps about 5 days, refrigerated.

Note: Don't worry that you made so much of this stuff! Don't let it go to waste! This salsa would be great in lieu of tomato sauce in spanish rice. Also great as an enchilada sauce or for chilaquiles. Ooh, what about using it as a base for tortilla soup?
Came out spicy, smoky and just a tad sweet! It's in a shot glass only for presentation, it's not like I expect you to take the spicy shot! Though, on second thought... That but that brings up a question. When I go to the taco shops I always get extra salsa and love doing shots of it. My friends think this is the weirdest thing ever. Tell me, are there others like me out there? There must be!