Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ceci n'est pas un dessert.

Sometimes you just have to do this sort of thing. At least I do. This is a really involved dinner, but totally worth it to see people's faces when you serve them chocolate cake and ice cream for dinner (first photo). And dessert (second photo).

For the most confusing and fun effect, make the dessert cake first, then while it's cooling make the dinner cake in the same cake pan, so the two look nearly identical. Use the same colour ice creams and sauces for each. Both go well with sprinklings of cocoa nibs. Both of these are pretty heavy, so go easy on the serving sizes. The dinner below will comfortably serve 6-8 with a salad, and (light) starter.

Savory Chocolate Dinner Cake

Note that because a few of the ingredients need to be soaked, or blended and reduced, you're going to have to use some judgement with the liquid to dry ingredient ratio. I recorded the volumes I used, but you might have waterier tomatoes or meltier chocolate or whatever, so do go with your gut at the end and adjust. If you've never made cornbread before, and have no idea what the consistency of quickbread batter should be, this recipe probably isn't the best place to start. I love you all, but this is an unashamedly "advanced cooking" recipe.

Liquid goo:
1 large mango chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
(blend and simmer until reduced to a paste)

Mole fixins:
(note that this is a fairly modified/simplified mole recipe, that would not be suitable for use on it's own. it works well in this cake though. if you want to make stupendous mole that can be enjoyed as a real sauce, suck it up and do it properly. The cocoa is added in addition to the nibs so that your cake looks like chocolate cake. If you don't care about that, just double the cocoa nibs and leave the cocoa out.)
1/2 c raisins, soaked in enough water to cover (keep and use water)
1 tbs crushed peanuts
1tbs sesame seeds or pepita
1-2 large ancho chiles, soaked and seeded (discard soaking water)
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (optional, seeded if you want)
2 heaping tbs cocoa nibs (or some unsweetened chocolate)
1-3 heaping tsp cocoa powder (depends on how much chocolate you used, and personal taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground aniseed
1/2 tsp cinnamon

puree all of this in a blender with half of the liquid goo.

you may need to supplement with 1/2 cup water or veg broth. At this stage, you should have something the consistency of slightly-too-thin chocolate pudding.

mix dry ingredients and then add them to the mole + liquid goo:
2c maize meal
1 tbs baking powder
dash salt

You should now have something the wetness of cornbread batter (or other quickbread, if you've never made cornbread. You might need to add more liquid or more maizemeal. However, this will be considerably heavier than normal cornbread. This extra heavyness is why you need the vinegar.

stir in
1 large onion, baked and chopped finely (bake it while you're baking your dessert cake)
1 large bunch spinach, steamed and chopped finely, water squeezed out
1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Bake in an oiled and cornfloured cake tin at 180C for 30-40 mins.

Ice with black bean hummous (cooked black beans with the rest of the liquid goo, pepita butter or tahini, garlic, some annatto, a squeeze of lime, and some salt)

serve warm with vegan sour cream ice cream, roasted red pepper and cilantro puree.

Sour Cream Ice Cream

1 batch of your favorite vegan sour cream (about 1 block silken tofu worth)
1 cup soy yogurt
1 tbs sweet white miso
lime zest
dash salt
1/4 tsp guar or xanthan gum.
additonal lime juice to taste

Mix everything together in a blender or with a hand mixer and freeze, stirring every hour or so for 4-5 hours, or use an ice cream maker if you have one.

Chocolate Whiskey Dessert Cake

1 and 1/4 cup okara or soy yogurt
1/2 cup chopped chocolate
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2-1 cup of sugar, depending on the sweetness of your chocolate
3/4 cup whiskey
orange zest

1 - 1.5 cups flour (this will depend on if you used soy yogurt or okara, and how watery it was to start with)
1 tbs baking powder
dash salt

1 tbs apple cider vinegar

Mix list A. Mix list B. Add B to A. Mix well. Stir in the vinegar just before pouring into cake pan.

bake in an oiled and floured cake pan at 180C for 30 mins. Let cool . Serve with vegan citrusy ice cream and raspberry, lemon and mint puree. The lemon is key, as it really brings out the whiskey flavour. This cake is ridiculously rich and doesn't actually need icing, but if you must, just use a simple ganache.

This dinner has enough steps that I thought I'd actually give a timeline for it.
-night before: put black beans to soak.
-early in the day: start the ice creams, put raisins and chillies to soak, cook black beans
-about 3 hours before dinner: start liquid goo reducing, then prep the dessert cake
-While the dessert cake (and onion) is baking, roast red peppers, make the sauces (pureed roasted red peppers with chopped cilantro, pureed raspberries with lemon and chopped mint)
-Rescue dessert cake, remove from tin, leave to cool
-Prepare mole, then dinner cake. You may want to begin drinking at this point. If you want to serve some veg with dinner, I recommend a raw jerusalem artichoke salad (grated jerusalem artichokes and carrots, chopped olives and capers, lemon juice, salt). Something crispy and light.
-While dinner cake is in the oven, make black bean hummous.

Note: you want to serve the dinner cake warm, so put it in the oven as your guests arrive.

Double-take music: One. By U2, then by Johnny Cash.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

anti-vamp chickpeas

aka: roasted lemony chickpeas with smoked garlic and kale.

I love chickpeas. LOVE. Can't get enough of them. I feel the same way about kale and garlic, so this dish is pretty much my own personal version of tastebud heaven. It's pretty simple to make, and full of crazy big tastes that go well together. However, there is nothing, *absolutely nothing*, subtle about this dish. Though you can turn the leftovers into a stew (stew in red wine, broth, and crushed tomatoes), which will be subtle and complex and kinda sweet and will make you wish that you'd made a quadruple batch of this so you could eat it all week, even if the garlic reek has a bit of an adverse effect on your social life (the way around this is to feed your nearest and dearest this as well, so you all smell like garlic together). Note that you can use liquid smoke or smoked paprika if you don't have any smoked garlic. It's not something I usually have on hand, but there was some at the farmer's market this weekend. I felt compelled to use it in large amounts. If ever there were a city where vampire attacks could actually happen, I'd be Edinburgh, land of gothicness and downtown graveyards. Ahem. Just to be safe, I ate this tonight:

-2-3c cooked chickpeas + enough soy sauce to lightly coat them, without having vast pools of sauce leftover(I like shoyu)
-1 whole lemon, sliced in very thin rounds and seeded. You're going to eat the entire lemon, including the peel, so unwaxed and organic is a good idea. use an orange if you don't like bitter things, but I think you should try it with the lemon first. really. it's much better with the lemon.
-6 cloves (just over half a head) smoked garlic, sliced in little rounds. Sometimes I use a whole head of garlic, but these cloves were huge. HUGE. So I exercised restraint and only used half a head.

-1 tbs cumin
-1 onion, cut into thin half-moons
-4-6 sundried tomatoes, cut into strips (use scissors) and rehydrated in enough hot water to cover
-1 bunch kale (or chard, or dark green cabbage, or beet greens...)
-a few olives or capers (or both), chopped
-1 tbs sumac (start with half a tbs, taste, and adjust)
-sea salt
-lemon juice

Roast chickpeas and lemon slices in the oven with shoyu on fairly low heat (280-300F) for about 10 minutes. In a nice big pan, dry-roast the cumin powder and when it gets fragrant, add the onions and sundried tomatoes and their soaking liquid, followed by a splash of white wine. When the onions begin to get translucent, add the kale, sumac, and olives or capers. Cover and let cook. The cooking time will depend on how tender or tough your kale is. You can use any leafy green, really. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste (but use a light hand because the chickpeas are going to be pretty salty). When the chickpeas have been roasting for about 10 mins, add the garlic slices to them, and pop them back in the oven for a further 5 minutes until the garlic is cooked, but not burnt. Either toss the chickpeas with the kale, or if you're feeling fancier, use the greens as a bottom layer and then carefully make a little pile of chickpeas on top of it. I think this goes well with pretty much anything. I (as usual) at it with spuds that I'd roasted at the same time as the chickpeas were going.

garlic boogie music: in the afterlife, Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Vegetable love: beets gone wild.

This year, for valentine's day, and for Vegetable Love I created these crepes: savory chocolate crepes filled with bloo pate, baked beets and apples, all served on a salad of bitter greens dressed with chocolate-balsamic sauce. My love of savory chocolate dishes continues. I just can't help myself. And what could be more romantic than beets? They're like beautiful rubies, except you can eat them! The bloo pate, beets and apples play on the classic trick of juxtaposing very strong fermented salty flavours (the pate) with sweet (the beets) and fresh (the apples). The bitter green salad keeps the whole thing from being cloying or too heavy. I tried to think of a clever name for them, but all I could come up with was "from russia, with love", which kinda sucks. Also, I just couldn't get a good photo of it. It's winter. It's dark. The kitchendancing cave is not brightly lit. More importantly, we were too hungry to fuss over the camera. And yes, as per the rules for Vegetable Love this is virtually fat free, clocking it at a whopping 1 square of chocolate per 4 servings as the only source of added fat in the whole thing. Saunter on over to the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen to see what this whole Vegetable Love thing is about. Feel free to vote for me if you think this looks as yummy as I can assure you it was.

I know that valentine's dinners are typically for 2, but this easily serves 4, because I like to spread the love, dammit, and hate the couple-obsessedness of the world. If you're good at making crepes, there will be extras that you can just have for breakfast the next day (you can fill them with bananas or any other fruit). For the whole sordid uncouply affair, you need crepes, 1 batch bloo pate (without the optional tahini), 4 medium beets, 1 apple, 4c washed and chopped arugula and 2 cups washed and chopped red chard, 1 batch balsamic dressing and lots of looooooove. Music and whiskey also help. The recipes are all below, followed by the assembly method. This dinner takes a bit of advance planning (the bloo pate really is much much much better if it sits overnight), but the time actually spent cooking is pretty low given how fancy this looks. Once you get the hang of making the crepes, this is an easy (though involved) dinner to make. If you've decided to make this and want it *now*, you can make a faster version of the bloo pate (though it won't be as nice, and will be quite a lot sharper): use well-rinsed canned pinto beans, cut the ume paste down to about half, add about 1/2 tsp of salt, and use a full tsp of agave.

For the crepes:
1.5 cups whole wheat spelt or buckwheat flour
1 tbs arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1-2 tbs unsweetened cacao powder (darker is better)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2-1 tsp black pepper, depending on how much you love black pepper
pinch salt
pinch sugar or 1/2 tsp of agave
1.5 c usweetened soy or rice milk
1.5 c water

Mix all dry ingredients well. Add wet ingredients and mix very well (I use a whisk). Let stand for at least 30 min. Your batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it's too thick to pour easily, add more water to thin it out. Heat a nonstick pan on medium heat and pour 3 tbs of batter into it. Immediately spread the batter out as best you can into a very thin layer using the back of a spoon. (This takes practice). Turn heat down and wait until crepe is cooked through. You shouldn't need to flip it. The trick is to get the heat just right, and to spread the crepe out very quickly. This makes about 12 crepes, assuming that all of them survive. If you've never made crepes before, expect to lose the first 3 or 4...or 5. Make pancrepe scramble with them later. Stack all your surviving crepes up in a plate.

The recipe for the bloo pate is here. Ironically, the bloo pate is very pale pink. This amuses me.

The beets are simply washed and roasted in their skins for 40 minutes at 400F, then cooled, peeled and sliced.

The apple is just sliced.

For the chocolate-balsamic dressing:

1 c balsamic vinegar, reduced to 1/3 c.
Remove from heat, and melt 1/10th of a (about 10 grammes) very good, very dark chocolate bar into it.

To assemble, put 1/4 of the chopped greens (arugula and chard) on each plate, assuming there are 4 people around. Drizzle with balsamic dressing (the arugula, not the people, though if you double the recipe for the dressing, you should have enough for both). Now, heat your nonstick pan up again on low heat, and add one of the cooked crepes to it. Spread the crepe with about 2-4 tbs of bloo pate (the more you add, the heavier and saltier the crepes will be). On half the crepe, add slices of apple and slices of beet. Add a little bit of black pepper and/or a sprinkle of lemon juice if you're so inclined. This is also amazing with a few toasted walnuts added, but they're by no means necessary. Cover the pan and let everything heat through. Fold crepe in half and lay it on top of the salad. Garnish with a fresh fig, or some coriander, mint, or dill. Repeat for the other three plates.

See? Easy. Leaves lots of time for making out and slow dancing.

Slow dancing music: One night with you. The King crooned it first and best. And it still gets the girls.

Monday, 2 February 2009

amuse bouche

Mmmmmm... swellegant. Fig, bloo pate and a sliver of the deepest darkest chocolate. Perfect for serving before a dinner party. Or just before dinner.

Bloo pate is reminiscent of blue cheese. It doesn't taste like cheese, but it does go well where blue cheese would, and is (as a bonus), minus the suffering and grossness of actual cheese. Bloo plate is strong, salty and fermenty. It's not for the weak of palate. The ingredients are: 1.5c of pinto beans, blended til smooth, 3-4 tbs of ume paste, 1 tbs of white miso, 2-4 tbs of nutritional yeast, pepper, a sprinkle of garlic salt, about a tbs of apple cider vinegar and a touch of agave. Optional tablespoon of tahini if you'd like this a wee bit creamier. Let sit overnight in the fridge. The next day, stir in 1/3-1/2c chopped seaweeds (I scored some fresh sea veg, but you could use rehydrated and chopped wakame). Taste. You might want to add a little salt, but I seriously doubt it.

Since we can't eat everything on figs and topped with chocolate all the time, here are some alternate suggestions: Bloo pate is great on sandwiches with apples and walnuts, on pizzas with pears and arugula, and in ravioli with either spinach or butternut squash. You can also stir it into tomato sauce to make a very rich rose sauce for pasta.

Swelligant music: Well did you evah? Written by the inimitable Cole Porter, but sung by Debby Harry and Iggy Pop.