Tuesday, 28 April 2009

vegan caviar (!). greens and ume salad

See? Not some insipid little plate of iceberg lettuce drowning in icky oily dressing. Here we have wilted red chard, pears, fennel, carrots and almonds. And for the dressing: ume paste, shoyu, elderflower vinegar, agave syrup, lemon juice. And yes, it's all heaped on a full-size dinner plate. Dark greens and ume may be my new favorite pair of edibles right now. Sometimes I have to post a salad because I love salad. Love it. It's super easy and fast to make and yummy and a riot of colours and flavours. Salad gets sooo undersold.

On a completely unrelated topic to which I shall provide no segueway whatsoever, I was up in the Orkneys looking at neolithic stuff just for the hell of it, and found VEGAN CAVIAR. Yes. I was so excited and curious upon discovering it that I accidentally started dancing in the fancy-pants grocery shop where we found it, much to the amusement of the woman working there, who didn't even know that they stocked Sea Relish, much less how much it was supposed to cost. She phoned the manager. The manager phoned the owner. Finally, a price was agreed on. It was all very amusing. Having never ever tried nonvegan caviar, I have no idea if this tastes anything like it, but I can tell you that it's damn good and made of seaweed and we ate it on smoked seaweed-infested tofu and bread as we picnicked near the Ring of Brognar and it was awesome. Both the standing stones and the caviar. I bought some extra caviar to take home with me, and I must say, I feel an attack of blini making coming on.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

parsnip plum pancake perfection

I had me some parsnips, but I wanted pancakes. Like, reeeeeally wanted pancakes. But the parsnips were getting kind of menacing. "Eat us now",  they were saying. "You've had pancakes for a few days in a row. Your vegbox will have more of us next week, and you have to keep up!" I've been on a okonomyiaki kick lately, since finding the perfect recipe for them in the Asian Vegan Kitchen cookbook (by the way, I can't say enough good things about this cookbook. It rocks.) Now, having figured out basically how to make *anything* in my veg box into scrumptious and highly addictive japanese/kitchendancing fusion pancake madness, I'm unstoppable. 

Unstoppable, yes. But I did pause when I realized that I had taken parsnips, leeks, some soaking shitake mushooms and umeboshi plum paste out of the fridge, plus the requisite greens, (because it's not dinner if it ain't got anything green).  Really? I thought. Is this a good idea? OH SWEET JEEBUS YES. This is heaven if you like foods where the flavours strongly contrast but still play nice together. The parsnips are sweet and earthy. The mushrooms pick up the earthy note and run with it,  the greens lighten up the dish a bit and the picked plum sour/salty/sharp just skips over the whole thing and somehow ties it together. It also keeps it from being too sweet to eat for dinner. I like sweet and savory together, but  at least for main dishes, I"m not a big fan of out-and-out sweet. Try this. You won't be sorry. By the way, you'll need 4 shitake mushrooms soaked in about a cup of water beforehand.

parnsnip rosti/okonomyiaki (makes 2 pan-size pancakes, or 4 smaller ones)

2 large grated parsnips (about 3c. grated parsnip)

1 smallish leek, chopped

1/3 c shittake mushroom stock (just the soaking water from the mushrooms)

2 heaping tbs chopped pickled ginger

1 heaping tablespoon white miso

dash shoyu

dash sake


grind of black pepper

about 2/3c. ww flour mixed with 1 tbs baking powder

Mix all ingredients together. This should be a very thick batter, with the flour just barely present enough to hold the parsnip and leek together. This isn't a pancake batter that you can pour. It's more like rösti with a bit of adhesive. Adjust the liquid/flour if you have to.  Fire up a pan (if you have a nonstick, now is the time to use it), spray with oil, and spread/press one pancake of batter into it, smothing it out with the back of a spoon. Cook covered until the bottom is browned, then flip, and cook covered again until the other side is brown. Repeat for pancake number two.

ume-mushroom-spinach sauce

4 rehydrated shitake mushrooms

1/2 cup cooked spinach, chopped  (I just used frozen)

2/3 cup shitake stock (ie, the rest of the stock)

dash shoyu

1 heaping tbs umeboshi plum paste

Simmer the mushooms in the stock and shoyu. Let it simmer down until there isn't much liquid left.  About 2 mins before you want to serve the pancakes, add the cooked spinach into the mushrooms and stir to combine and heat  the spinach. When you're ready to serve, stir in the plum paste. 

Oddly enough, this is really good with a few spicy dill pickes on the side. 

plum-a-riffic music: My favorite plum by Suzanne Vega.

Friday, 17 April 2009


After brunch this weekend, the kitchendancing cave had some leftover champagne.  By the way, if you want to keep champagne fizzy, store it in the fridge with a fork in it thusly. Maybe it works without the fork, but I like champagne too much to risk finding out. Since  I looooves me some boozy cooking, I decided to make something decadent yet decidedly lowbrow with it: Barley "risotto". People often try to do too much to risotto, and also tend to get dogmatic and snobby about it. If you have good mushrooms and good wine and decent technique, it's best not to add too much in the way of other flavours, and if you do that, it's hard to go wrong. Others may differ, but I find that the trick to a really good mushroom rissotto (other than quality ingredients) is to do the mushrooms and the rice (or in this case barley) separately, and to make sure you don't over-spice. I also like to add the barley or rice to the mushroom pan instead of vice versa, so as not to lose all the good stuff kinda stuck to the bottom of the mushroom pan.  Also, rissotto is just a wet pilaf, or savory rice pudding, depending how you look at it. Have fun. Making perfect rissotto takes a bit of practice, but it's not hard, and if you're a beginner, barley is much more forgiving than rice for this dish, though you could do this entire recipe with rice as well. Personally, I love the way barley goes with mushrooms. It's all very earthy and musky and kinda sexy. 

Barley-mushroom-champagne risotto

Soak in enough water to cover:

15g or 1/2c dried porcini (or other) mushrooms

4 dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped and stemmed

Basically, you want a good cup of dried mushrooms here. Use what you have. That's what I had. Nyah.


Fill your kettle with water and turn it on. While the kettle's going, dry-roast 1.5 cups of barley in a big pan on low heat. When it gets light brown, douse with all the champagne you want, reserving a few tbs of the champagne for the next step (though you can use white wine, vermouth, or even vodka here). When the champagne is absorbed, add hot water to cover, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed. You'll eventually be adding the mushroom soaking water, so take it easy at this point with the water-adding, okay? This should be cooking on low heat, just barely simmering. I used about 1.5 cups of champagne. Yes. I'm that decadent. If you're just using a splash of wine, sub hot veg or mushroom broth for the hot water, but use one without strong flavours (like celery) that might overwhelm your lovely little mushrooms. You don't have to stir constantly. That's some kind of myth perpetuated by people who want to intimidate you into thinking that making rissotto is difficult. *Feh*, I say to these people. The secret is out: this is easy. 

While the barley is cooking, chop a leek and (in a separate large pan from the barley) saute it in some more of that champagne. Use green onions if you don't have leeks. When the leek is translucent, add two cloves of chopped garlic. Then throw in the soaked mushrooms, and dump the soaking water into the barley. Turn the heat dow waaaaaaay low and cover the mushroom leek goodness. It should be wet enough to not stick to the pan, but not simmering in liquid as such. This should cook for at least 15 mins. You want to give the leek time to start getting kinda sweet. 

Your kitchen should now smell like I imagine heaven does. 

When everything is done, mix the barley into the mushrooms and adjust the liquid. If it's too soupy, let it simmer a bit (unlike a rice rissotto, it's near-impossible to overcook this one by letting it go a few extra minutes) and if it's too dry, add water or broth. Then add salt, pepper and  if you want, stir in a tablespoon or so of white miso at the end. Add a whack of fresh chopped parsley. Drizzle with some truffle oil if you have it. 

Sunday, 12 April 2009

we're here, we're queer, we're brunching!

Aaaaand this is what happens when your straight friends forget to show up for easter brunch. You end up with a decapitated bunny,  a half-drunk bottle of champagne, and evidence of a show-and-tell about sex toys. 

I made maple hot cross buns from here (so yummy!) and a herb kuku wrapped in lavash bread. The kuku was: 1 block tofu + 1 batch okara (or 1 cup soy yogurt) blended together, 1/4 c cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water, 1/2 c nutritional yeast, salt, 1 tbs cumin, 1 tbs dijon mustard, dash tumeric, grind or two of pepper, a few tsp of barberries, 1 tbs dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), 3 tbs of flour mixed with 1 tbs baking powder,  and 1 cup each of the following fresh herbs, chopped finely: dill, coriander, parsley and wild garlic. Spread onto a pizza dish and bake for 40 mins at 400F. Cool, slice into fingers, and wrap in lavash bread. Dip: soy yogurt, garlic, mint, rose petals, salt. In the little bowls: one bowl each of green olives, cherry tomatoes, very dark easter eggs from Montezuma mixed with chocolate covered almonds from Coco, and mixed grapes. I have to say that between the food and the vast amount of info on sex, you straight people really missed out. 

We also had a bunny from Coco chocolate, who rock because they have kick-ass fair trade chocolate *and* a list of vegan stuff (so you don't have to guess), plus they're super-nice at the shop and have good taste in music. Yay! Plus, this bunny didn't skimp on the chocolate, or try to use subpar chocolate just because it's in the shape of a bunny. Go Coco!

music: I like fucking, by Bikini Kill

Friday, 10 April 2009


Ok folks, despite what the last few posts might suggest, I don't live on desserts, I promise.  So here's a dinner, albeit one that incorporates fruit. You see, the saffron was staring at me, and then all I wanted was saffron. And there were some greens that needed to be used up, like, yesterday. It ain't pretty, but it is super duper yummy. If you want pretty, use white rice, though I rather liked the dark red/orange combo, which just isn't done justice by my cheap camera. 

Baked cauliflower (1 head, including leaves), caramelized red onion (1), mint (1 tbs dry), oregano (1 tbs dry), chopped green olives (6), currants (small handful), dried sour apricots (6), some water and salt, garlic (2 cloves), saffron (more than I like to admit), bitter greens (a bunch, chopped). Add to the pan in that order, turn the heat off when you add the garlic.  Cover for a bit and let the flavours meld. Eat it all on red rice cooked with puy lentils, a few cardamom pods and a bay leaf.

...and as I was doing this, I was singing and kitchendancing along to Le Tigre. Nanny nanny boo boo. Lather, rinse, remix.  

Sunday, 5 April 2009

lentil cakes: east meets west meets Bogle

East meets West meets Bogle

Inspired by Bogles and the chickpea blondies here, I thought I'd invent a decidedly east-ish take on a west-ish dessert, and then use it for this years Bogle festivities, which have taken over the entire month. I dialed down the fat and sugar by a bit (depending on how sweet your quince paste is). Using legumes in desserts is nothing new in Indian and Japanese cooking (and I suspect other types of cooking too, but these foods were my gateway into leguminous desserts).

Just for the record, we seem to have decided that traditional Bogle celebrations must include: 1) gin, 2) cakes and 3) poetry. You should also bring your own Bogle, as prized for "best Bogle" are encouraged at any Bogle event. And this (I've decided) is one of many Official Bogle Cakes.

1 cup red lentils (I cup raw), cooked in as little water as possible, and mashed to a paste (I ended up with about 1.5 cups cooked)
1 cup quince paste or quince jam
1 tbs almond or pistachio butter
1/4 c ground flax seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs rosewater
zest from 1 lime plus 1 tbs lime juice
optional: 1/4 c chopped dried sour apricots

1/2 cup flour OR 1/4 cup wheat flour + 1/4 c chestnut (or chickpea) flour. Note that using either chestnut or chickpea flour will change the taste (I think for the better) and make the cake more dense.
1 tsp baking powder
dash cardamom
dash cinnamon
pinch salt

Mix first group of ingredients together. Mix second group of ingredients together. Then (oh the shock!) mix the two groups with each other. Spread into an oiled and floured baking pan. I find a small pie dish is the ideal size. Bake at 180C for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and spread with a very thin film of adhesive, um, I mean agave, then sprinkle with dried rose petals and the tiniest tiniest bit of cardamom. Allow to cool a bit before slicing.

For cupcake versions, decrease baking time to 25 mins. Note that these don't rise very much, so fill the cupcake moulds up almost as full as you want them to be in the end.