Sunday, November 25, 2007


Cornbread cubes for Cornbread Dressing.

Before moving to Austin, I had never heard of cornbread dressing, and the only cornbread I had ever made, was the kind from the little blue Jiffy box. Since I've been in Texas, though, it seems like every fall, you can't escape the innumerable mentions of cornbread dressing, recipes for cornbread dressing, and smell of cornbread baking in anticipation of being made into cornbread dressing. Needless to say, I've tried a few different versions of cornbread dressing, and while they may have been tasty, I couldn't help thinking that the dish would have been better if the building block of the dish, the cornbread, was better. It seems to me that the cornbread used is usually off, either too dry, too soggy, too sweet, or having too little corn flavor. So, I decided to experiment with cornbread recipes. Many of these were good, but something about each just wouldn't work for dressing. Finally, I decided to just create my own. This recipe is the result. It's slightly sweet, moist enough to eat alone, but dry enough to soak up soup, chili or bean likker. It also makes an awesome basis for cornbread dressing.

Christina's Cornbread
by Christina Terriquez

Dry Ingredients

2 1/3 cups fine cornmeal
1 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/3 cup non-GMO corn oil
2-3 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons flax meal (ground flax seeds)
1/2 cup water
2 cups soy milk
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Lightly oil a 13"x9" baking dish.

In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients together.

In a blender or food processor, blend corn kernels, oil, agave nectar, flax meal and water until smooth. Add soy milk and vinegar and let rest for 5 minutes.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour into prepare baking dish and bake until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.


This can be frozen in air tight bags for up to a month, though it will dry out a bit.
JD was extremely excited about the cornbread, as he grew up eating it often, and to him, apparently, nothing is better than a bowl of "soup beans" and cornbread. So I made this meal for him. It's cubes of cornbread, covered with whole, slow cooked pinto beans, slow cooked collard greens cooked with a little alderwood smoked sea salt and sesame oil (to give it a sort of smoky oily flavor, like ham hocks or bacon), and sweet potatoes.

JD's comfort bowl.

Post Thanksgiving Report

My dinner plate, from left: Mashed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, Walnut, Fig and Cranberry Cornbread Dressing,
Blanched Broccoli, Cauliflower and Carrots, Spiced and Caramelized Butternut Squash Purée, Slow-Cooked Collard Greens, Fresh Cranberry Sauce, Wheat Gluten Roast, Wild Mushroom Pilaf

I'm sorry for my abrupt absence. I had a horribly tenacious computer virus/spyware/adware infection. I thought I was going to have to wipe my hard drive and restore to factory settings (in fact I had tried to do that, but I was unable to complete the process). I ended up getting help from the Geek Squad. The gentleman who came to nurse my comp back to health was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The whole clean up took over three and half hours, and it took about a week just to get them here. This absence of course breaks up my Vegan MoFo postings....

Since this is a food blog, and a big food day just passed, I'll be posting the obligatory post Thanksgiving report, with accompanying pictures and a few recipes. JD and I both moved to Austin as adults, so we don't have any family in town, and neither of our families were planning to come to town, so we hosted a dinner for our fellow Thanksgiving Orphans.

Traditional Sage Dressing.

We had a pretty exhaustive list of dishes for Thanksgiving, including two dressings (stuffing)--I was leaning heavily toward a walnut, fig, and cranberry cornbread dressing, and JD couldn't bear to live without a sage white bread dressing to stuff in his turkey*. He's generally pretty traditional as far as flavors go, and can be a bit hesitant to mix things up.

The kitchen was pretty hectic, so the recipes in this post aren't exact, but are more like guidelines.

Sautéed onion and celery, dried cranberries, dried figs, herbs and toasted walnuts.

Walnut, Fig and Cranberry Cornbread Dressing

by Christina Terriquez

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
sea salt
2 stalks celery, diced
3/4 cup dried, fruit juice-sweetened cranberries
3/4 cup dried figs, diced or cut into quarters
1cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted
6 cups of your favorite cornbread, prepared, cooled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, Simply Organic brand recommended
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high oil and sauté the onion with a pinch of sea salt until translucent. Add celery and a pinch of sea salt and sauté until tender. Add cranberries, figs, and walnuts and sauté for about two more minutes.

Heat remaining oil, and add dried herbs and cornbread cubes. Toss cornbread to lightly brown.

In a 13"x 9" baking dish, mix dried fruit mixture and cornbread. Add vegetable broth and season to taste with salt.

Bake, uncovered for 30-45 minutes, until brown and crispy on top and moist, but not wet, inside.

Assembling the cornbread dressing.

JD made the turkey and prepared all its accompaniments. While he was cleaning it, there was a horrifying/ridiculous moment when I realized he had his hand literally up the turkey's butt. That was...kind of weird, and I don't think he appreciated me pointing it out. He also put his foot down when I cheekily suggested we name it.

The spread.

We didn't actually get to cook the mulled cider because I ran out of pots and pans (I added the spices and orange rind and it's been steeping in the fridge while we slowly drink it), but here's our menu:

Mulled Cider
White Wine
Wild Mushroom Pilaf
Slow-Cooked Collard Greens
Blanched Broccoli, Cauliflower and Carrots
Sweet Potato Casserole with Candied Pecans
Mashed Potatoes
Mushroom Gravy
Spiced and Caramelized Butternut Squash Purée
Walnut, Fig and Cranberry Cornbread Dressing
Sage Dressing
Wheat Gluten Roast
Stuffed Turkey with Giblet Gravy
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Triple Chocolate Silk Pie
Cashew Creme

The biggest disappointment was the wheat gluten roast. I had tried a stuffed wheat gluten roast earlier in the month, and it looked great, but was just okay in the flavor and texture department.

Cute but unremarkable stuffed Thanksgiving wheat gluten roast.

I thought I'd try one of Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipes, for Thanksgiving. Of course I tinkered with the recipe a bunch, and it came out really dry, hard, and pretty much inedible. JD and I both agreed that my usual seitan is much better. Since it was so tough, I ended up grating it and cooking it with diced onion, grated carrot, garlic, cumin and tahini as a filling for tamales a few days later. The tamales were excellent.

Grated leftover seitan with diced onion, grated carrot, minced garlic, cumin and tahini.

The biggest surprise to me was the spiced and caramelized butternut squash purée. It was richly flavored and extremely aromatic. I made it on a lark, as I'm not generally a big fan of butternut squash. It's usually just a bit too watery and not quite sweet enough for me. If I'm making winter squash, it's almost always going to be a kabocha or a buttercup. However, when we went grocery shopping, the organic squash was priced well, and it stores well, so I figured if I didn't use it for Thanksgiving, I'd have plenty of time to do something else with it. I'm so glad I bought it! The dish was divine, and it was the first thing to be entirely eaten--no leftovers! If you make this for dinner, I would recommend doubling or tripling the recipe as it's fantastic the next day, and it can be used in soup, as the filling for empanadas or pies, sweetened for a dessert, or frozen for later.

Squash and spices, midway through roasting.

Roasted and Spiced Butternut Purée
by Christina Terriquez

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 whole cinnamon sticks
seeds and empty pod of 1/2--1 vanilla bean
sea salt
shoyu, optional
sweetener, optional

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Place squash, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean and empty pod, a pinch of sea salt, and enough water to cover the top of the squash. Bake for 1--2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed. Squash is done when completely soft, and slightly brown.

Remove from oven. Carefully remove cinnamon stick and vanilla pod. Mash with a fork or potato masher if needed and season to taste.

This gets better the longer it bakes. Ideally, it should be so soft that you don't really need to mash it, as stirring is enough to break up any large pieces.

If you don't have a vanilla bean, omit it entirely, vanilla extract will not work. However, if you have empty vanilla pods that you've been saving, you can use 3 or four of them in place of the seeds.

You can spice this up more with a pinch of cayenne powder, ground cloves, or nutmeg.

You can substitute ground cinnamon for the whole sticks.

Try adding a little coconut milk for a richer, creamier consistency. This also works well if you make this into a soup, or add some cayenne.

Sautéed onions, celery, and wild mushrooms for the pilaf.
The pilaf was a pretty basic pilaf, I used brown basmati, sautéed onion, celery, garlic, fresh shiitakes, and reconstituted wild mushrooms with a little thyme. It was yummy, but overshadowed by the other dishes.

The meal was delicious, the company good, and the music, well, we cooked to all four sides of the Saturday Night Fever album, so it was pretty....disco. Which prompted me to think about having a glam Disco Thanksgiving next year.....I don't think JD is really up for that, though. The only bad thing was that JD put the fresh-from-the-oven turkey directly onto the glass table cover, which, of course, cracked immediately. Ah well. I hope everyone had a good day and something for which to be thankful.

*I'm sure some people are wondering how a vegan could allow a turkey to be cooked in their house. Well, 1) this is JD's house too, and he's (usually...) pretty accommodating of me, so I figure I should be accommodating for him because 2) since we've been together, he usually doesn't buy/cook/eat animal products and 3) we invited many omnivores, and I think the best way of spreading the vegan/vegetarian message is by being an example and showing how fun, delicious and compassionate being a vegan can be. By making a dinner where all the dishes, with the exception of the turkey, were vegan, I can do just that. No one wants to be lectured on a holiday, and I for one, don't want to lecture. I DO want to prepare beautiful, yummy food for my friends and family to enjoy, and that's exactly what I did.

ETA: I made the Fig, Walnut, and Cranberry Cornbread Dressing for my family for Christmas, and I was a little worried that it would be too extreme, but they loved it. "THIS is how stuffing should taste!" was my mom's response to her first bite. The recipe was bit different, since I didn't have my own equipment or pantry, and it took about 1 1/2 hours to find dried figs at the grocery store, but it was definitely worth it.

Additionally, I actually found some "Dressing Bread" at the local King Sooper's (the name Kroger's go by in the Denver Metro area). It was a dense loaf of bread that had all the sage, celery seed, pepper, and herbs that typically go into dressing. I had never seen or heard of this before, but it actually came in handy, especially since the loaf I bought was on the reduced price shelf since it was older and slightly stale--which is exactly what I was looking for, since it was the day before Christmas, and it wouldn't have time to get stale naturally. Is this a new thing? Has it been around for a while, but I've just missed it? It was sort of neat, really aromatic, but also very weird.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chile Verde Enchiladas and Cold Weather Comfort Soup

I've got a confession to make.

I cheated.

I gave in to weakness and tried VeganRella. The worst part? It was delicious! It's not something I'll use often. I may, in fact, not buy it ever again... but it does indeed melt, and it melts better than Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet (my personal NotCheese of choice). The taste and texture right out the package leave much to be desired, as it is waxy and bland, and it contains canola oil (which I missed when I bought it) but for gooey meltiness it's probably the best commercially made vegan cheese alternative. The normally off-putting waxiness also comes in handy in this case, since it makes grating very easy. Of course, my minimally-refined, go-to ingredient for gooey deliciousness is usually mochi, and probably always will be, but sometimes it just doesn't work in a given dish.

One such dish is enchiladas. I had tried making a nightshade-free version with mochi and it just wasn't any good. The mochi filling was so rich and filling you could really only eat one, and you felt full and bloated for hours afterward. I may attempt another nightshade-free version with mochi, but if I do, the enchiladas would be filled with either beans or vegetables, and only the topping would contain mochi.

Yesterday I posted a recipe for green chile that I had been meaning to post for months; but it just so happened that we recently made a big batch, which we have been using in various dishes, and tonight we made green enchiladas, so it seemed like a very timely dish to post. I took a few really pretty pictures of the enchiladas and the soup and vegetables that I made, but apparently my camera ate the pictures (the food was that yummy!), so I'm left with one lone enchilada picture.

VeganRella and Mama C's Chile Verde Enchiladas
For this batch of green chile, we used about 6 Anaheim peppers, 4 poblanos, and 5 or 6 jalapeños. Using a mix like this really lets the most desirable aspects of each pepper shine through, in this case, the poblano don't have much flavor, but give a nice dark color contrast, and help temper the heat of the jalapeños. The tomatoes give a good tang and add bright red bursts of color. The Anaheim are slightly sweet and mild, give body to the chile, and provide a base. The jalapeños, of course, provide heat.

Enchiladas are another dish that is more about technique than ingredients. It's very important to have your filling and sauce ready. The fillings I associate most with enchiladas are cheese & onions, spiced ground beef, or beans, but the possibilities are endless. I used a simple filling of grated VeganRella (mozzarella flavor) and green chile. Making enchiladas is a great way to use leftovers, for example if you have tacos on Monday, you can use the leftovers as filling for enchiladas later in the week. Enchiladas are commonly made with a red chile sauce, often being tomato-based, but green chile sauces are not uncommon.

The basic process begins with lightly frying a corn tortilla in a touch of oil to soften. I think you could probably get away with heating the tortillas on a comal, skillet or griddle if they were fresh and flexible, though. Next, you fill the tortilla with your desired filling--I used approximately 2 tablespoons finely grated VeganRella and 2 teaspoons green chile per tortilla--and roll up. Place rolled tortilla in a baking dish, and repeat. This process is much easier if you have someone helping you, then you can fry while your helper fills, or vice versa. When you've either 1) used up all your ingredients, 2) run out of space in your baking dish, or 3) made 2 more enchiladas than you think will be enough to satisfy all members of your household, spread a generous amount of your desired chile sauce over and around each enchilada. You can even put a little sauce in the bottom of the baking dish prior to putting enchiladas in dish, but I haven't found that to be necessary. If desired, top with a sprinkle of your favorite notcheese. Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes or until filling is heated through. If you're using a melty vegan notcheese, obviously, you're looking for it to melt. I like to smother the enchiladas with more chile halfway through cooking, but I don't think that's necessary unless they look a little dried out.

I also made a yummy stick-to-your-ribs soup, that just happened to be super easy and made almost entirely from leftovers. JD loves Campbell's-style vegetable beef soup, and I wanted to make a soup similar to that, but heartier and healthier. Recently, we've had a cold spell in Austin. Our temperature seems to be about 10 degrees cooler than usual, which means that I've had to wear long sleeves, pants, and real shoes as opposed to my normal casual November attire of knee-length skirts and flip flops. It also means that I've been craving more long-cooked, baked, or stewed foods and soups that are thicker, richer or more filling.

I've been playing with homemade vegetable stocks, and I saved some of the vegetables (I used carrots and celery), so I also had both of those items on hand. I also had cooked short grain brown rice, but you could use any leftover grain. I chose red lentils to thicken the soup and add heartiness, because red lentils, unlike most other varieties, turn to mush as they cook and change to a light yellow color, so you can't really see then in this soup. Certainly, other lentils could be used, but they wouldn't thicken the soup in the same way. If you have cooked whole beans like white or kidney on hand, they'd make a delicious addition.

Stick-To-Your-Ribs Comfort Soup
by Christina Terriquez

2 1/2 cups of your favorite broth
1-1 1/2 cups diced mixed vegetables (frozen, leftover or fresh)
2 tablespoons red lentils
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of red sauce (Mama Mia sauce, nightshade-free red sauce, tomato sauce, or marinara)
1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
your choice of dried herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, or Italian herb mix, etc.
sea salt or shoyu

In a medium saucepan or dutch oven, heat broth and add vegetables. If using fresh vegetables, simmer vegetables for 2 minutes. If using frozen vegetables, simmer for 10 minutes. If using leftover vegetables, proceed to next step.

Add red lentils and simmer for 10 minutes. Add garlic, red sauce, brown rice, and herbs and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste and simmer for 5 more minutes. Garnish with fresh scallions of parsley.

Add 1/2-1 cup whole cooked beans.

Try adding other leftover grains in place of brown rice.

Can be served as a meal with a piece of crusty bread, or in smaller portions as a starter.

When I put away the leftover soup, I took it as an opportunity to try taking another picture, so here you are:

Stick-To-Your-Ribs Comfort Soup
I especially like the way the hands sort of take on the form of a heart in this picture.

It seems like VeganMoFo is really helping spread the vegan food love among bloggers. I know I've personally found many new blogs which will become a part of my weekly reads, and it seems like I've possibly gained a few more readers. If you're a new reader, welcome! It's always nice to make a new acquaintance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mama C's Green Chile

I had planned on posting this recipe over a month ago. Thank Vegan MoFo for helping me catch up with things I meant to post ages ago and keeping me on track with my posts. Isa at PPK has a growing list of other people participating in Vegan MoFo.

Do I really need to tell you who Isa is? Okay, I might need to tell some of you. She's the author of three books that have taken the vegan cooking (and blogging) world by storm, Vegan with a Vengence (VWAV), Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (VCTOW), and most recently, Veganomicon. She's also the creator and co-host of the cooking show, Post Punk Kitchen, which airs on some PBS stations, and is viewable on Google Video.

Smothered Burritos

When I was a child in Colorado, I played softball in a little league within the Catholic Diocese. I was a Saint. While the team didn't go out together for ice cream or pizza after each game, food was very much a part of the game ritual. After every game, the girls on the team each got a soda, and each family had to put in money for concessions (giant jars of monster pickles, bulk candies and soda, lots of soda), and on a rotating basis, provide refreshments. My memory of the exact details on this are a bit fuzzy, because, frankly I was more concerned with hitting a homer, having a G-DOUBLE-O-D-E-Y-E, and not getting a black eye from that fierce pitcher who hit at least two members of our team with a fast curve every inning she pitched, each time we played her team.... however, I believe that each family was expected to make burritos.

I was not a particularly picky eater as a child, but I did not like spicy food. I just didn't understand why in the world people would eat food that made them uncomfortable--which is funny because as an adult, I've been known to eat wasabi paste like avocado. As a child, I only ever ate burritos when my mother made them, and though it was a rare occasion, she would make an enormous batch when she did. As I recall, her burritos were not especially authentic--I think they consisted of browned ground beef, slices of longhorn colby cheese, refried pinto beans and green chile with pork--but, my oh my, the green chile!

I loved and have longed for my mom's green chile often since I moved away. I didn't know until recently, but many of the dishes I grew up thinking of as Mexican were actually New Mexican, which is probably why it's rare to see chile verde in Texas, except as "green chile pork stew". When I was growing up in CO, green chile was THE chile. If you wanted a bean, tomato and ground beef stew with cumin and spices, you asked for chili con carne. There was even a place called Chubby's that had chile cheese fries, or what I liked to refer to as Heart Attack on a Plate. It seems as though in any other state, that dish would be served with chili con carne, but at Chubby's, it was always green chile, and it was divine.

Obviously, green chile is a very sentimental dish for me. I can't smell roasting green chiles without getting nostalgic for fall in Colorado with the changing of the leaves, the golden aspens, the end of summer vacation and the butterflies associated with the beginning of school. I thought about trying to recreate it off the top of my head, but I was feeling sort of homesick by this time, so I called up my mama and chatted for a while, then asked her how she did it. Not being especially fond of cooking, she never wrote any recipes down, so she'd tell me a few steps, then go back and change everything. It was adorable. And it further cemented my need to make chile right away. My mother told me that she used tomatoes, which didn't sound right at all to me, so I omitted them at first....bad idea. The chile didn't have any tang or zest. The moral? Always listen to your mama.

When I told JD that I wanted to attempt making green chile, he thought I meant a white bean, chicken and green bell pepper stew. Right then, I knew I HAD to make green chile, and I had to make it until it was perfect.

Since this recipe was passed down orally, it's a little bit looser than most of my recipes, but that just gives you more freedom. If you're a mild kind of person who doesn't want to make a big batch, only add 1 or 2 jalapenos, and 2 quarts of water. If you like things face meltingly hot, and think the more the merrier when it comes to leftovers, add 6 or more hot peppers--hell, throw in a habanero or scotch bonnet!--and use 4 quarts of water. The original recipe, of course, used pork, and I use seitan, but you could omit that and use a different thickener if you're opposed to seitan, wheat intolerant or celiac.

Mama C's Chile Verde/Green Chile
by Christina Terriquez

8-10 mild green chili peppers like mild hatch, poblano, or, my favorite, anaheim, washed and dried and whole
3-6 medium or hot chili peppers like serrano, or jalapeno, washed and dried and whole
olive or safflower oil
5 stewed or fresh tomatoes, skins peeled and discarded and flesh minced
1/2-1 yellow or white onion, diced
2-4 cloves of garlic
2-4 quarts of water (1 quart is 4 cups)
sea salt
1 lb seitan or 1 batch Easy Wheat Gluten
organic white unbleached flour

Roast peppers over flame until skin is black and blistered, being careful not to puncture skin as juices will leak. Set blackened peppers aside or in brown paper bag to cool. Repeat until all peppers are roasted.

Using plastic gloves, under cool running water, peel the skin away from the peppers, de-stem and de-seed. Dice pepper flesh.

In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of oil and sauté onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt, until onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Remove from heat.

In a stockpot or large dutch oven, add onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes. Simmer for at least 1 hour.

Cut half of seitan into 1/2 inch chunks, and add to stockpot. Cut remaining seitan into pea-sized pieces, and brown in skillet with oil. Set aside for garnishing just before serving.

Dilute 2 tablespoons of flour in 1/4 cut of water and slowly stir into chile. Season chile with sea salt. If chile looks thick enough for your liking, serve. If chile seems a little watery, dilute flour 1 tablespoon at a time, and add to chile. Keep in mind that chile will thicken as it cools.

Chile is great as a sauce for smothering burritos, making green enchiladas, or pouring over scrambled tofu or tofu omlets for a sort of "huevos rancheros" dish.

We often eat it room temperature with chips.

It's very important to use gloves when peeling hot chili peppers, as the essence stays on your fingertips for a long time and burns sensitive skin and mucous membranes. I've known many a person who didn't wear gloves when seeding peppers, then (after washing their hands) went to the bathroom or touched their eye, with stinging consequences.

Flour is what my mother always used, but you can use a different thickener. My favorite thickener is kuzu powder.

Tomatillos may be use in place of tomatoes for a greener chile verde.

In one of the last big meals R, JD and I ate together, we had smothered burritos filled with Monterey Jack Follow Your Heart NotCheese , refried pinto beans and green chile, covered with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, more NotCheese and more green chile, plus Spanish rice and zucchini ribbons sautéed with olive oil and garlic. We each had one flour tortilla burrito and one sprouted grain (or maybe sprouted corn?) tortilla burrito. Pretty simple, but sooooo good! Interestingly, although I loved green chile in burritos as a child, I could not stand smothered burritos as they always seemed like a soggy, hard-to-eat mess. Either I'm less sensitive as an adult, or the vegan tortillas are more impervious to the vegan chile than lard-laden tortillas are to conventional green chile.

Burritos smothered in Mama C's Green Chile

With some leftover chile, we had tofu omelets filled with mushrooms and covered in green chile, with a little NotCheese for garnish. The green chile is not pretty, but it IS delicious! JD is not really a fan of tofu, and we don't eat it much, but if there's chile in the house, he'll scarf down two smothered tofu omelets in no time. I don't do nightshades very often, but when I do, I do them right.

Tofu omelet with mushrooms, and Mama C's Green Chile

Monday, November 5, 2007

Potluck and Black-Bottom Blackberry Pie

I finally made it to one of Cristen and Miguel's potlucks at the invitation of a friend. I love vegan potlucks, especially if they're themed. This theme happened to be pie, which seems to continually have a big presence in my life. I'm kind of known for the pecan pies I make, and so I usually make those when I want to make pie, but I wanted to try something different and maybe a little usual. I decided to make a blackberry pie using frozen blackberries. When I looked in my baking cabinet, I found some high quality dark chocolate from when I was making truffles, and black-bottom blackberry pie sounded yummy so I got to work.

Last year during peak strawberry season, when I went to the farmer's market, the strawberry farmers would give me a few extra baskets of berries, so I had much more than I knew what to do with. I ended up making strawberry sauces, strawberry pies, and freezing the berries for later use or for frozen fruit slush. My favorite experiment from that time was a free form black bottom strawberry tart, made with phyllo dough, dark chocolate, strawberries and I think a little turbinado sugar. The flavors worked well together, but they are very separate and distinct, which kept them very intense. The technique was also extremely easy. On a baking sheet, I'd lay down one sheet of phyllo and brush it with safflower oil, then lay another sheet, that I'd turned 45° and brushed with oil, repeating and occasionally sprinkling or drizzling some sweetener over the last sheet. After laying down 25 sheets, I'd place broken chocolate or chocolate chunks in the center of the phyllo star in a circle approximately 7 inches in diameter. Then I'd lay 1 or 2 more sheets over the chocolate and strawberries that had been macerated in sweetener with a touch of lemon juice/zest. If the berries were particularly juicy, I'd add some powdered kuzu, then mound the berries in the center of the phyllo, where I'd previously placed the chocolate. Next, I'd fold the edges of the dough in to the center, leaving a large part of the strawberries exposed. If I used turbinado sugar, it would have been to sprinkle over the top of the dough for a sparkly, crunchy, sweet crust. I'd bake it for about 25 minutes at 350°F. When it cooled, the chocolate would get hard again, and the texture of hard dark chocolate with juicy soft berries and crisp phyllo always made me happy.

Since I had done that many times before, and it always came out beautiful and delicious, I thought I could use the same approach for a pie. Looking back I see my error. The pie was beautiful, but the blackberries and chocolate ended up co-mingling and being really rich. In addition, I served it hot, which amplified the richness. It's much better at room temperature. No recipe as this definitely needs tweaking.

The potluck was fun, and everyone was really sweet. We ate around a big bonfire, where Cristen and Miguel made hobo pies. The fire made me think about how we need to use our chiminea more often. I also got to see Vegan*asm, who I originally met at a different potluck, and it seems, I've narrowly missed before. She made super cute mini pecan pie bites, that kind of reminded me of baklava in that they were small and one was totally satisfying due to their sweetness and richness. As for me, I've learned that I cannot eat pie exclusively without becoming completely dehydrated.

I saw a few people taking pictures of my pie, but ironically enough, I didn't take a picture of the final product, so you'll have to be content with a pre-baked picture. Just imagine a more golden crust, and more blackberry juice oozing through the stars.

I mentioned that pie seemed to have a big presence in my life, so I wanted to share a few non-food pie-related tidbits:

-The gold box edition of Twin Peaks was recently released on DVD, and I really want it. I have a big crush on Special Agent Dale Cooper. If you haven't seen it, this is a great opportunity to buy it, add it to your Netflix queue, or check it out from your local video place. This is the first time the pilot has been available on DVD in the US, and the first time the original US version has been available. David Lynch made a deal with international markets to distribute the two hour pilot as a stand alone movie, which was how he was able to fund the series, so the international version has extra footage, including the identity of the Laura Palmer's murderer. This is why it wasn't the best introduction to a series based on the question, "Who killed Laura Palmer?"
Also, make sure to wait until after you see the series to attempt watching Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, or you'll be confused as all get out.

-Pushing Daisies is my favorite show. I don't watch much TV, and most of what I do watch is online, but this is definitely a show that I'll watch on TV. It's a wonderful show full of heart. It's extremely cinematic, with beautiful long shots and close ups. It has a magic reminiscent of Amelie and other Jeunet movies, and a dark whimsy often seen in Tim Burton's work, especially Beetlejuice. The main character is often referred to as The Piemaker, and most of the action revolves around his eatery, The Piehole and his pie making business. I've never liked the term piehole as in "shut your piehole", since it always seemed uncouth and crass, but for some reason, I adore that they used that word as the name for the shop. The cast has three great Broadway actresses, and it seems that they will be utilizing their singing voices. Recently, they've sung snippets of "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Birdhouse in Your Soul". It always bothers me that heartless, soulless, misogynistic shows like Two and a Half Men or King of Queens can stay on the air for 9 seasons, but shows with wit, originality or charm rarely last more than a season.

-I didn't remember my third tidbit, until I saw Megan the Vegan's post about Waitress, which comes out on DVD later this month. I've yet to see it, as it had a pretty limited run at local theaters, but R saw it and said I'd love it, it seems completely up my alley, and I love the writer, director and actor, Adrienne Shelly. Waitress is a movie about a young women in an abusive marriage who falls in love with another man. She works at a diner and makes pies based on her emotions, like I-Hate-My-Husband Pie, and Falling-in-Love-Chocolate-Mouse Pie. It's apparently a very charming movie, with a lot of sweetness and quirk.

Adrienne wrote, directed and starred in one of my favorite movies, Sudden Manhattan, and starred in another favorite, Hal Hartley's Trust. She was tragically murdered a year ago by one of the men renovating her building, when she complained about the noise. You may recall the news stories about the investigation of her death which was staged to look like a suicide. A foundation has been set up in her honor to help young women pursue their film making dreams.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

VeganMoFo and Vegan Meatballs

I just heard about Vegan Mo(nth of) Fo(od) from Katie at Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk, and I think it's an awesome idea! I'm a few days late, and this is my busiest season (which is saying a lot), but I've been neglecting my blog so much, I want to try this.

Many things have happened since my last post, including R moving out. Over the summer, she fell in love with an old friend who lives in Seattle, and she decided to move there to be closer to him. They're very happy and in love, and I'm ecstatic for her, but I must say, I miss her an awful lot. In addition to not having our friend close by anymore, JD and I have been looking for a new roommate. It's such a process. We find a person who seems like a good fit, but they have a cat (JD's allergic), or a particular person loves the house, but they're....not so ideal. For example, one potential roommate said, "I know you said no hard drugs, but how do you feel about LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), Ketamine, shrooms or ______ (something I had never heard of)?" So...... we're still looking.

I finally met up with some of the VRA members, and it's true! They do rock! First, a few of the members came to the Persian Feast at Casa, which was extremely cool of them, then, there was a potluck/house show featuring Captain Number 1 and seamonster at the house of one of the members. Please check out these one-man bands and buy some music! Both guys were very nice and extremely cool. seamonster reminded me a lot of Colin Maloy of The Decemberists as far as nautical themes, vocals and song writing, with just enough Jeff Magnum to make me long for Neutral Milk Hotel. Captain Number 1 was a little more poppy. Also, Captain Number 1 incorporated a Light Bright into his show, and they used a toy piano and melodica, and I'm a sucker for those kinds of touches.

I had been planning on going to the potluck/house show for a while, but didn't know what to take, although I was planning on something with seitan. A friend came over for lunch that day, during which we made a big batch of nightshade-free red sauce (made with onions, carrots, celery, winter squash, herbs and beets) and she mentioned how the sauce smelled like her grandmother's marinara, in which her grandmother would cook meatballs for the grandchildren. Meatballs! That sounded like a great idea to me. I started thinking of ways to make both meatballs in marinara and Swedish meatballs.

I decided to use my basic seitan recipe, but to add less water, since I really wanted the balls to retain their shape and not get...blurry? edges. Adding less water did help, and they tasted amazing in my opinion, although they did NOT retain their perfect beautiful round shape. C'est la vie. While the meatballs came out great, the red sauce would not play nice with them, no matter how much tweaking I did. I mean, the sauce was perfectly serviceable, and I'm sure many people would have enjoyed the meatballs in the red sauce, but they looked like meatballs in a tomato marinara, and that's the flavor most people would expect, so the nightshade-free sauce seemed slightly off. I ended up serving them in a tomato marinara, to a great reception.

By the way, I couldn't think of a better name for these, and JD, who usually has a problem with people using misnomers like "cheesecake" for vegan desserts, which by definition have no cheese, however tasty they might be, only suggested "gluten balls" or "protein balls", both of which sound dirty to me, while my example of a fancier name, "neatballs", sounded dirty to him, so I welcome any suggestions (I apologize to this horribly long sentence!).

I made a HUGE batch, and had to pull out my giant skillet. Can you tell how massive this thing is?

Even in the massive skillet, I had to pan fry in two batches.

Wheat Gluten Meatballs
by Christina Terriquez

1/4 cup organic whole wheat or whole spelt flour
1 cup organic vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons organic tahini
2 tablespoons organic, unpasteurized shoyu
3/4 cup spring or filtered water or less

3 cups spring or filtered water
2 inches dry kombu, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 teapoons organic, unpasteurized shoyu
1/4 small white or yellow onion, cut into big wedges
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised but whole (optional)
3-4 button or crimini mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (optional)

extra virgin sesame oil (or toasted sesame oil or olive oil)
alderwood smoked sea salt

In a medium sized bowl, mix both vital wheat gluten and flour.

In a small bowl, mix tahini and shoyu. Add tahini shoyu mixture to flour and mix well to incorporate. You should have a grainy texture. When thoroughly mixed, add 1/2 cup of water and knead well. If needed, add water, but add as little as possible, using no more than 3/4 cup total. Dough should be spongy, and elastic.

Divide dough into balls about the size of a quarter, as balls will expand while cooking.

In a medium saucepan, mix all ingredients for the brine. Gently place gluten in saucepan and simmer for approximately 30 minutes, adding water if needed.

When meatballs are cooked through, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat, with a generous amount of virgin sesame oil and a shake of smoked sea salt. Pan fry balls, making sure to brown all sides. This is the step that really puts these over the top, and gives them the slightly oily mouth-feel of real meatballs.

Add meatballs and 1/4 cup brine to 1 cup of marinara or red sauce and simmer for at least 15 minutes. If desired, add 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder for a smoky kick.

Finished product: salty, savory, slightly crispy outside and tender inside.

Swedish meatballs to come later this month!