18 October 2011

Purple cauliflower

Purple cauliflower and spinach with caraway seeds / smoked paprika and tomato chickpeas / peppered couscous

18 October 2010

Coconut toffee

As a kid I loved toffee. Heath Bars were my favorite candy bar. I've really missed toffee since I started eating vegan. I made a few attempts to cook it with vegan margarine instead of butter, but it came out greasy yet lacking the richness of real toffee, since it's missing heavy cream and butter. Inspired by some coconut caramels I had at Tour de Fat, this weekend I tried adding some coconut milk to my normal vegan toffee. It worked really well! It's still no substitute for that buttery richness, but the texture is pretty close, and it's slightly healthier too.

1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan margarine
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1/2 can coconut milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 cups nuts (I used leftover chili pepitas from our wedding salads)

Combine all ingredients except vanilla and nuts in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat and stir until dissolved. You'll want to use a candy thermometer to make sure the mixture reaches a "caramel" stage, which can take at least 20 minutes. There are lots of good instructions out there on how to make toffee. It essentially involves lots of stirring and keeping a close eye on the thermometer. Once the mixture reaches 320 degrees (the beginning of the caramel stage), remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla and nuts. Immediately pour onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cool and then cut into pieces. You can also top the toffee with melted chocolate before you cool and cut it.

02 July 2010

Greens & Beans

I've never been a huge fan of pasta (I'd rather have rice noodles), but lately I can't get enough of this dish. The ingredients are simple: dark greens like kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, or collards; softer white beans like butter or cannellini beans; garlic, and pasta. Technique (and the right pan) is important to getting the greens seared and the beans bubbly and crispy on the outside (yet still buttery soft on the inside); if everything is hot but limp, it's like any other boring pasta with uninteresting texture. I use a thin wok because it's easy to sear the greens and beans this way, and it's also convenient for tossing them. I prefer to use a sturdy pasta shape like medium shells or orecchiette that will stand up well to all of the greens (you'll want lots!—this dish is best when the greens and beans outnumber the pasta.)

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

- 15 brussels sprouts prepared by cutting off the base, peeling off the leaves, cutting the base again to separate more leaves, and then slicing the center thinly. You don't want huge chunks of brussels sprouts, although if you're short on time, you can just cut off the base and quarter them.
- 1 bunch of kale, spinach, or collards, chopped into 2-inch wide strips
- 1 can butter or cannelinni beans
- ~2 cups uncooked pasta
- garlic (I actually prefer to use High Bulk Index (HBI) garlic powder in this recipe, but minced fresh garlic will work too, although you have to be careful of burning it with the hot pan)
- kosher salt
- coarse ground black pepper
- red pepper flakes (optional, but I like to add tons)
- olive oil
- cheese—I use a mozzarella-style vegan cheese, although Spencer prefers to use a smaller quantity of a sharp and salty cheese like a parmesean

Heat a wok or other large frying pan on medium-high heat. Meanwhile, cook your pasta. Once the pan is hot, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, brussels sprouts, greens, and beans. Toss and let sit for a couple minutes. Sprinkle with kosher salt and toss again. Repeat occasional tossing until at least half of the greens are slightly browned. If they aren't getting brown and your beans aren't getting a little crispy on the outside, then you are either tossing too often or your pan isn't hot enough. Add more oil if they start to stick. Add the garlic, salt and peppers and toss to distribute. Once the greens and beans are done, add the pasta, drizzle a bit more olive oil, and toss a few more times. I like to add my (fake) cheese while the pasta is still in the wok so that it melts and gets distributed evenly. Serve with vinegar for drizzling (I actually like to use Chinese black vinegar, but you can use dark balsamic vinegar too.)