Sunday, June 17, 2007

Vegan Grilling

Grilled tempeh and vegetable kabobs

We finally bought a grill and inaugurated it last night. Texas and grilling just kind of go hand in hand. For one thing, it's so freaking hot out in the summer that you don't really want to be heating up the whole house by cooking in your kitchen, and for another, evenings can be great times to be outside in the cool evening, while you're cooking. We had been talking about getting a grill since we got our patio set, but just hadn't gotten around to getting one.

We made the obligatory veggie kabobs with marinated vegetables including: a beautiful little eggplant that I got from the farmer's market, red bell pepper(from the farmer's market), broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, crookneck squash (from the farmer's market), snow peas, and parboiled red skinned potatoes. I also marinated homemade pumpkin seed tempeh and wakame tempeh for the kabobs.

You can see in this picture that JD left a few of the kabobs on the grill a little too long.

When I saw a package of fresh baby corn at the grocery store the day before, I knew I had to get it since it is one of JD's favorite foods. We tried putting these on the kabobs, but they kept splitting, so we roasted them in a pouch with the red bell pepper and snow peas that were left over from the kabobs, olive oil and sea salt.

Fresh, grilled baby corn, red bell pepper and snow peas
We also had a handful of baby artichokes that I was dying to grill. I thought about putting them on the kabobs, but it just didn't seem right at the time, so we cooked them in a pouch as well. JD taught R how to clean and prep them while I worked on the other dishes. Basically, you peel off about 3-5 layers of the outer leaves, trim and peel the stem, and cut off the top inch or so, and cut them in half, rubbing the cut edges with lemon as you go to prevent discolorization. After these babies were all prepped, I drizzled olive oil and sea salt over them and folded up the foil pouch. We grilled the artichoke and baby corn packets at the same time. Usually when I make artichokes I use more salt and much more lemon juice, but these were simple dishes that really let the true flavors of the food shine.

Grilled Baby Artichokes

JD had expressed concern that using foil would keep the food from tasting like it was "grilled", but both the corn and artichokes had an amazing depth of flavor while tasting really clean and pure. You can even see the carmelization evident in both dishes. Personally, I think foil is a necessity for vegetarian and vegan grillers, because our foods can be really delicate, and foil offers an extra layer of protection. If you're concerned about cooking your food on aluminum, I'd say to cover it in parchment, then in foil so that the foil isn't actually in contact with your food, but will be able to keep the parchment from burning.

I also made a light, summery, pasta salad, my Orange Ginger Sesame Noodles with Mint. I use fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh ginger juice, tahini, shoyu, salt, a touch of toasted sesame oil if you really enjoy the sesame flavor, and grated carrots over cooled noodles like udon or somen. I usually garnish with cilantro, but JD has recently become a cilantro hater, and we were all out, so I used some fresh mint, and of course, toasted black sesame seeds. This dish is also really nice served over a bed of lettuce or tossed together with green leaf, boston or romaine lettuce cut or torn into 1 inch pieces.

Orange Ginger Sesame Noodles with Mint

Of course, we had to grill dessert. We just happened to have kiwi, figs, black plums, and pineapple on hand, so we decided to try grilling them all. As you can see, not all of these fruits held up to being skewered and tossed on the grill. They all tasted amazing, though. I served the grilled fruit with a simple ganache and some chopped hazelnuts.

Grilled Fig, Pineapple, Kiwi and Plum Skewers

Saturday, June 16, 2007

H's Visit: The Recap.

Waffle Pac-Man eats Herbed Tempeh before going after fruit.
H's visit was great. I had forgotten how much fun she is to be around. The bad thing about this, of course, is that I now realize just how much I miss having really close girlfriends in town.

While she was here, we only did about half of the things I felt she HAD to see, and less than a third of the things I really wanted her to see, but it was a pretty packed week. Her visit was bookended with a few tragic events in JD's family that aren't really mine to discuss, but suffice it to say, he's been somber lately.

H arrived on May 31, and after JD and I picked her up, we headed to Java Noodles. After that, we went to the Gingerman and caught up. We intended to go to Weird Wednesdays at the Alamo Drafthouse, but we were tired so we headed home. Once there, H and I watched a few episodes of Strangers with Candy.

Since we had stayed up late, we slept in and had fresh mangoes, apricots and satsuma tangerines, herbed tempeh and spiced apple waffles (I found the recipe online, but I don't recall where; they tasted delicious, but they were kinda soggy and hard to handle.) I hardly ever make big breakfast, but I made at least 4 during the week H was in town.

Clockwise from top: satsuma tangerines, mango slices and apricots, herbed tempeh, and spiced apple waffle

Then, we went to meet H's friends E and J after work. E works on 6th Street and the Republic of Texas Biker Rally was just starting, so we watched it and E and H caught up for a bit, then we went to Mother Egan's. Mother Egan's is a favorite of E and J, but I had never been. At one point, the conversation drifted to grade school (where H and E met), and they started talking about line dancing. They promptly decided to see if they still remembered how. After a few rounds, they sat down but a cute guy had noticed and came over to chat up H. They showed each other a few dances, and he gave her some pointers on how to fight. We hung out while they talked, then went home.

Aside: Whenever my single girlfriends visit me in Austin, they get hit on by all kinds of cute boys. H and I also went to a cafe and the cute, witty barrista was totally flirting with her. When my old college roommate, L, and her friends visited me, she couldn't walk a block or go to the grocery store without being hit on. Let this be a lesson to all my long-distance girlfriends: if you're single and want to meet cute boys, visit me.

H stayed with E and J over the weekend, and I taught myself how to make crepes, which I'll post about later. I also saw Knocked Up with JD. If you like Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, you'll like it. JD and I are big fans of Freaks and Geeks, so we loved seeing Bill, Nick, and Ken together again (even Daniel's there!).

Sunday evening, H came back to our place, and I made Mexican Hot Chocolate with soy milk for all. It was perfect because although it was warm out, it was raining like crazy. After we drank the cocoa, we decided to go check out some movies from Vulcan Video. We ended up getting Don't Tempt Me, The 40 Year Old Virgin (I was on an Apatow/Rogen kick), and the live-action version of The Tick. If haven't see this, what the hell are you waiting for? This is great family friendly viewing.

Rich, creamy, and vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate

On Monday, I made a trio of fresh fruit crepes with pineapple orange syrup and cashew créme. We went shopping along South First, and found, among other things, an adorable bat backpack a la Francesca Lia Block's Witch Baby. We ended the shopping at Bouldin Cafe with juice for me, a shake for H and a vegan chocolate triangle split between us to tide us over until 5:30.

At 5:30, R joined us and we went to Uchi for dinner. I mentioned previously that I had my doubts about what I would be able to eat and whether it would be worth it, but I must say, it was amazing! Part of that, obviously, was because of the wonderful company. Our server was very helpful and knowledgeable, and definitely heightened our experience. During happy hour, Uchi has $2 unfiltered sake--I love unfiltered sake and $2 is a bargain!--which we all tried. It was served in a small glass inside of a small wooden box, and it seemed like at least 2 tablespoons of sake were in the box instead of the glass, but none us know how/if we were supposed to drink that, ie. should we drink straight out the box? should we pour it into the cup? It seemed like it might be impolite or improper to drink out of the wooden box, and we didn't want to be uncouth. Finally, our server came to take my glass, and poured the sake from the box into the glass. The food, drink, company and conversation were great, and we decided to make it a girls' night.

Aside: JD couldn't join us for dinner, so I ordered a few items that sounded like things I had heard him order before, tekka and negitoro. We we arrived home, he asked why I gotten those things for him. Apparently the fish had been chopped, making it mushy and totally unappetizing to him. I told him he couldn't make me order (omni) food for him without providing any instructions (he had told me to get him "whatever, you know what I like"). I had never really had fish before I went vegan, aside from fish sticks, crab wontons and shrimp cocktails, so him asking me to order fish sushi/sashimi without providing instructions is like me telling him to buy me a bra without telling him what size, style or color.

R, H, and I went home to drop off JD's food, and so that R could change out of her work clothes. Then we went to the Drag/campus area. We walked around and shopped for a bit, then went for margaritas at Trudy's. After Trudy's, we hit Toy Joy and Dhaba Joy just as they were closing. We each bought some cool trinkets from Toy Joy, and some pretty desserts from Dhaba Joy. I'm a little ashamed to admit that this was my first visit to Toy Joy and Dhaba Joy, especially since I know Vivek and Laura, the owners. At least I finally got to try Oatscreme. I must say, I enjoyed it. I wouldn't serve it to a omnivore as ice cream, but it was cool, sweet, creamy and enjoyable. I also got a few tiny chocolate cupcakes because they were super cute and I knew JD would want something sweet. I ate one and a half and promptly got the most awful sugar headache.

Mini chocolate cupcake with chocolate rose from Dhaba Joy

On Tuesday, H and I decided to hang out on South Lamar. First, we saw Hot Fuzz at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was hysterical. If you like Nick Frost/Simon Pegg, or buddy cop movies, you'll love it. After that, we went to Kerbey Lane Cafe. I got what I always get; Spinach, Artichoke Heart and Mushroom Omelet, veganized, with dry sourdough toast and homefries. Bellies full, we walked to the Lowbrow Emporium, where we each picked up a nifty book, then headed back up the road to the stores at 2110 South Lamar. That evening, E and J invited H, JD, and me over for dinner, which was lovely.

We decided to take it easy on Wednesday and just hang out at home. I made some chocolate chip pancakes (which were semi-disastrous, as grain-sweetened chocolate chips are huge and scorch easily), tofu scramble, a few pieces of fried tempeh, and fruit and we watched Twin Peaks while H packed. JD, after receiving some bad news, came home around 2:30, to take H to the airport, and we dropped her off around 3:30.

Apricot, Satsuma Tangerine,Blackberries, Tofu Scramble, Tempeh, Edible Flowers, and Chocolate Chip Pancake

After that, JD wanted to picked up something from our local comic book store, Southside, but when we arrived, we saw that it had suddenly closed down, then we had went on an adventure trying to find a postal stamp. You'd think it's be easy to buy a single stamp, but apparently not in Austin. We finally found a place that a) had stamps and b) would sell them to us in increments that were under 10 bucks, so we got a book of stamps. Just as we arrived home, H called me to say that all west bound flights had been cancelled due to tornadoes, so we picked her up and, since we had all had a kind of exasperating day, we had pizza and watched more Twin Peaks (we were trying to get through the first season, which is only seven episodes and the pilot, so that she'd only have to try finding the second season).

Thursday morning H packed again, we watched more Twin Peaks, and said our goodbyes. She went to the airport while I went to work to teach. It was a whirlwind week, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

H, big mama, please came back again soon! Muah!