Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011

Best of 2011

One of the main things I try to keep in focus when writing here is that it's not always about the recipes or the pretty pictures. After 10 years and 3000 posts(!), it really has been about the journey, the friends we've made, your feedback, and the commitment to finding new ways to cut tofu into funny shapes express vegan food.

Here's some of the more interesting things we made this year -- a mix of favorites and new favorites -- and why they made the list (in no particular order). Click on the links for more pictures, recipes and descriptions without the consent of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Hoisin Tofu Blocks stuffed with Radish & Beet Greens

A refinement of the Borg Cube from 2008, which also inspired Thanksgiving dinner (below) -- smoked, cored, deep-fried tofu blocks filled with braised greens. This was scary good.

Terrine, Spinach, Apple and Fennel Salad

We like to break out those old-school Time-Life books on Terrines and re-imagine what they could be like 40 years later. The result was elegant and tasty.

Chicago Style Deep-Dish Pizza

I joked over on Tumblr "The next time someone says that they could never be a vegan because they would miss pizza — show them this…" ;)

Seitan Osso Buco, Polenta

Just because comfort food never goes out of style doesn't mean it can't look good as it tastes.

Tomato and Basil Tart

Speaking of comfort food, this quick tart with phyllo dough hit all the right notes and looked great to boot.

Farro with Grilled Tofu

Continuing in the comfort food vein -- Farro is an underappreciated grain -- we like to pressure cook it and pair it with smoked, marinated and grilled tofu and nice glass of red wine. Perfect for when the leaves change color.

Seitan Bourguignon, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Braised Leeks

Finally, Bourguignon is my ultimate comfort food, any night of the week.

Raw Food Wednesday: Sushi

Another refugee from 2008 was a further refinement of a raw dish idea that involves frozen watermelon and a vacuum-sealer. This got some play on the internets.

Injera, Kabocha Stew with Okra and Collard Greens

Teff and Kabocha Squash: Two great ingredients that are even better together. Also, who knew a boy from the midwest could love okra so much?

Paella with Fennel and Seitan Sausages, Tofu and Mushrooms

If you buy a Paella pan, you might as well use it. ;)

Spinach Ravioli, Arugula Salad with Crutons and Tomatoes

While vegan wontons are not the easiest to find -- hint, Asian grocery stores -- that doesn't mean you need to always make Asian dishes with them.

Squash Blossom Fritto Misto

Moving on to the deep-fried portion of the list, squash blossoms from our garden are only available for use in a very short window of opportunity. This is our favorite way to use them.

Fiddlehead Fern Tempura

Ditto on the short window for the Fiddleheads -- they were blanched slightly to remove the bitterness and then coated and deep-fried.

Makin' Seitan

Our first video (still working on number two, honest) on making seitan.

Yes, that's my voice. No, I don't sound anything like you imagined. ;)

Seitan Roulade, Roasted Broccoli, Red Potatoes

Here's our favorite way to use that seitan from the video.

Mac 'n Cheese with BBQ Tofu and Roasted Broccoli

A mash-up of three great things that surprisingly work well together.

Ramp Pasta with Fava Beans

Speaking of pasta, we made quite a bit of our own this year, starting with Ramps.

Black Trumpet Mushroom Pasta with Fava Beans

Then we moved on to mushroom pasta, using Black Trumpets.

Cherry-Smoked Eggplant Po' Boy with Cole Slaw

Blasphemy? Perhaps. But tasty, tasty blasphemy.


Blanched tapioca pearls marinated in seaweed and black tea. So Good.

Blini with Beet Caviar

Blanched tapioca pearls marinated in seaweed and beet juice. So, So, Good.

Hickory-Smoked Mushroom and Quinoa Burger

Yes, these were as delicious as they look.

Oaxacan Black Mole with Mesquite-Smoked Tofu and Polenta in Tortilla Cups with Plantain Chips

This dish was inspired by a set of limitations -- a small, one bite dish, Mexican ingredients, easy to prep ahead of time, easy to assemble on site. Basically a culinary thought problem that didn't involve trains living from Wichita at 3pm traveling east at 35mph. ;)

Oaxacan Black Mole with Polenta, Hickory-Smoked Grilled Tofu, Plantain Chips and Pumpkin Seeds in a Tortilla Cup

The second pass was a shot at refinement. This is something we should explore more of in 2012.

Seitan with Black Vinegar Sauce

One day we'd like to do a whole book on veganizing a Chinese Take-Out Menu. Here's the first entry.

Vegan Test Kitchen

Prepping for Vegan Iron Chef is always fun...

What The Hell Does A Vegan Eat For Thanksgiving Anyway? 2011 Edition

Holidays are always an important time for us as we try to strike a balance between the classics (braised carrots, Brussels Sprouts) and inspiration (hello tofu cube!).

Bastille Day 2011: Seitan Roulade, Petite Pomme de Terre, Ratatouille, Haricot Verts, Blini with Vegan Caviar, Tapenade, Mushroom & Walnut Pate

We always like to throw a few dinner parties, and this year we had excellent weather to celebrate Bastille Day.

Sliders, Potato Salad

The July 4th weekend is another time to fire up the grill and get our burger on...

Valentine's Day 2011

Yes, after 26 years, I love my wife more than ever.

Asian New Year: Shumai, Steamed BBQ Tofu Buns, Lotus Root Chips, Scallion Pancakes

Click through for the rest of the spread, but the shumai were quite a treat.

Akron Vegan Bake Sale For Japan

A great way to donate money to a great cause, and eat high quality desserts -- Bonus!

Black Tofu

Tofu Party Tonight! Tofu Party Tonight!

(Why yes, I do have too much free time)

So, there you go -- onward to 2012 and more pictures of tofu cut into funny shapes. ;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gyoza, Broccoli, Seitan Satay, Jasmine Rice

Dinner 12/28



Seitan Satay

Jasmine Rice

Say Seitan Satay five times fast. ;)

The broccoli was seared in canola/sesame oil in a wok on med-high heat until lightly browned. Then we added tamari, turned the heat down to low, slapped a lid on it, and steamed it. The chunks are from the stem (my favorite part), peeled and cubed.

The gyoza were filled with wilted napa cabbage, carrot, ginger and garlic and seared and steamed like the broccoli above.

The satay used the some leftover seitan we had (recipe via Vegan Vittles) that I was able to thread onto a skewer and grill. The sauce was a quick mix of peanut butter, sesame oil, sriracha, tamari and agave. The seitan was briefly marinated, then grilled and basted with the leftover marinade. Yum!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Alder-Smoked Risotto with Peas, Grilled Tofu and Mushrooms

Dinner 12/27

Alder-Smoked Risotto with Peas

Grilled Tofu


Time to break out the stovetop smoker again, not only for the grilled tofu, but also the arborio rice.

We made a little foil pouch for the 1 cup of rice to sit in as it was smoked, along with the tofu, for 25 minutes. The tofu was then marinated: 2 tbs. olive oil, 2 tbs. tamari, 1 cloves of garlic smashed, 1 tsp. agave, 1 tsp. ketchup and freshly ground black pepper to taste. While the tofu was grilling, it was basted with the remaining marinade.

The risotto was made pretty much as before in the original recipe except using the smoked rice and having cremini mushroom to work with tonight.

All in all, a hearty risotto for a cold winters night...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pierogi, Braised Carrots, Green Beans, Pear & Celery Soup, Cheddar Biscuits, Nog Cookies, Clothespin Pastries, World Peace Cookies

Dinner 12/24

Pierogi (Potato & Smoked Maitake Mushroom)

Braised Carrot

Green Beans

Pear & Celery Soup with Fried Leeks

Cheddar Biscuits


Nog Cookies

Clothespin Pastries

World Peace Cookies

This is why we made/froze so many Pierogi when we bought those huge maitake mushrooms over the summer -- we knew the holiday season would require these pierogies to be complete, and they did not disappoint. ;)

To start, Liz made a delightfully creamy soup of poached pears and braised celery topped with fried leeks that was paired with a cheddar biscuit (zested Sheese).

To round out the evening, a classic trio of cookies/pastries: the always elegant Clothespin Pastries (puff pastry filled with a buttercream frosting), World Peace Cookies (adapted from Dorie Greenspan) and the two part Nog Cookies (adapted from Tish Boyle).

Here's a close-up of the Clothespin Pastries.

Then we opened presents: I got a huge box of odd cookbooks from my sister-in-law. ;)

Also, here's the mushroom plates without the pierogies on them...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pot Pie, Spinach Salad with Pears and Pecans, Palmier

Dinner 12/19

Pot Pie

Spinach Salad with Pears and Pecans

Palmier (w/Tapanade)

Do you remember the 1970s? We sure do. We survived our share of TV Dinners and Pot Pies and decided to never speak of them again...

Until now. ;)

The stew used a tiny bit of leftover seitan bourguignon from the party with some added roasted cauliflower and peas which was topped with a sheet of puff pastry.

Here it is coming out of the oven, golden brown and delicious -- served with a small spinach, pear and pecan salad. We turned the leftover scraps of the puff pastry into an impromptu palmier with the addition of tapanade.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Party XV

Holiday Party XV 12/17

Another Holiday Party is in the books, thanks to the 45 folks who braved the bad weather on the way down from Cleveland!

Let's start with the desserts this time...

Blondies, Chocolate Cupcakes, Thumbprint Jam Cookies

Close-up of the Chocolate Cupcakes

Thumbprint Jam Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Blondies

Close-up of the Thumbprint Jam Cookies

Moving on to the main event... The menu in full:

Green Olives (pimento stuffed)
Crudite with Onion Dip
Mushroom Pate
Baked Artichoke Dip
Hummus (as required by law)
Tofu Salad Sandwiches
Seitan Sausages in Phyllo
Mini Polenta Bundt Cakes
Phyllo Cups with Curried Tofu and Raisins
Chilled Orzo Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (w/ Roasted Garlic)
Sliders / Mini-Burgers
Stuffed Mushrooms
BBQ Tofu Lollipops
White Bean Cassoulet
Seitan Bourguignon

Table Right

Table Center

Triple Tofu Sandwich Tower

Artichoke Dip / Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

Mini-Polenta Bundt Cakes


and of course, the aftermath...

...and now, a nap.