Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wrap Artist

I think wraps are the best sandwiches you can make. They’re easy to hold, fun to eat, and don’t spill their contents easily.

You can make them with cold ingredients, like the Curried Chickenless Salad Sandwiches I recently made, or they can be hot like these Enchiladas pictured here (before the extra sauce was poured on top).

OK, technically Enchiladas aren’t wraps because you eat them with a fork, but as hot burritos the concept is similar. Like all wraps, Enchiladas are especially great for improvisation because they are so capable of handling whatever you have on hand.

Dona Z. Meilach's Wraps and Roll-Ups (non-vegan) names four components needed to make the perfect wrap: filling, binder, flavoring, and crunch.

One ingredient can cover more than one component and one component can be covered by more than one ingredient. Here’s how it breaks down.

Filling - This is the main component. In my Enchiladas, this was covered by spinach. I used a 10.5 ounce frozen chopped spinach, squeezed of all water, as the main ingredient for this one. In Veganland, this is generally covered by the main vegetable, but can also be beans or tofu.

Binder - This holds everything together. I usually use grains or beans, but even soft potato or pumpkin could work. In my Enchiladas, I used brown rice. I didn’t measure how much. It was whatever was left over.

Flavoring - This is usually covered by a sauce. It can be enchilada sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, chutney, guacamole, peanut sauce, BBQ sauce, you name it. In my Enchiladas, I used leftover cheesy sauce. Again, I didn’t measure how much. I just added to taste.

Crunch - This is most overlooked component of wraps. Crunch adds texture, which prevents your wrap from being another mushy bean burrito. In my Enchiladas, I added some chopped celery. Nuts (I like slivered almonds for Asian wraps) and fresh vegetables (especially chopped, sliced, or matchstick carrots) are my favorite addition for crunch. Others include broccoli, cabbage, sunflower seeds or even thick potato chips if they don’t get dampened by the sauce.

As I mentioned, some ingredients can be used for several components. Tofu can be a binder and a filling. Raw carrots can be a filling and a crunch. Cooked carrots can be a filling and a binder. Thick sauces can be a binder and a flavoring. Peanut butter can be a binder, a filling, and a flavoring, though not all three at once. Add jelly as the flavoring and you’ve got it made.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Throwing Stuff Together

One of the fun things about browsing through cookbooks - new ones, especially - is picking out things you want to try even if you don't want to do them in the combinations they suggest.

For instance, one recent dinner (pictured above) had Baked Tofu, which I adapted from a different recipe in Isa Chandra Moskwitz and Terry Hope Romero's Veganomicon, Mushroom Gravy from Joanna Vaught's Yellow Rose Recipes, and a Cheesy Sauce from here (which is also somewhat similar to Gee Whiz Spread from Jo Stepaniak's The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook).

The brown basmati rice and the sauteed squash were pretty straightforward.

It was mix and match, but still came together great. The Mushroom Gravy was savory and marsala-like. This must be one of her favorite flavors because she has another recipe in the book specified as a marsala sauce, which I haven't yet tried.

The cheesy sauce was like a mild queso. The baked tofu was chewy without any of the stereotypical jelliness, and it turned out to be a knockout dinner.

I'm going to be trying more from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, including the Gee Whiz Spread. Cheese is hard to duplicate when going vegan, but this book even shows to make hard cheeses.

I've found several uses throughout the week for this generic cheese sauce besides just topping on the rice, and I'm going to blog about my favorite one next.

CHEESY SAUCE RATING (not Gee Whiz Spread) - 7

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Couple of Vegan Burgers

A vegan burger is a great thing, a quick thing, and, at times, the only thing that can quickly satisfy hunger when it's meal time and there's nothing else ready to eat.

When you do have time to cook, though, there are some amazing recipes that really make it something special. One of the classic "burger" sandwiches involve portobello mushrooms. These big 'shrooms have a naturally chewy texture and can be plain old grilled, or made fancy like I did recently.

The picture above is Roasted Portobellos from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Veganomicon, my favorite cookbook. Anyone can grill a portobello sprayed with oil and dusted with salt and pepper, but this recipe involves a wonderful marinade the 'shrooms stay seated in while roasting in the oven.

Note the Veganaise on the buns. Besides adding a nice touch, it also provides a layer of fat that protects the bun from sogginess that could result from the juicy, marinated 'shrooms.

In this version I added some lettuce and red onion, but another nice touch is wasabi mustard that makes a nice compliment to the soy sauce flavor in the marinade.

One drawback I noticed in preparing this recipe is that the portobellos shrunk a little when roasting to make for a smallish "burger", albeit one still full of flavor.

If you had some bland store-bought burger, you could add a roasted protobello to upgrade it into something really special.

Of course, you don't have to buy some pre-fab burger by Boca, Amy's or one of the other companies who put frozen veggie burgers in a box. After all, they're expensive and usually don't have just what you want in a burger.

By making it yourself ahead of time, you get a burger that's cheap, delicious, and you can make it taste exactly how you like it.

Here are some that I made recently.

They are made from okara, the remnants from soybeans after you've squeezed out the soy milk from them. They have kind of a mashed potato consistency. See my blog list for "Okara Mountain", a website dedicated to finding uses for the okara left after making soy milk.

Mashed or blended white beans would be even better than okara because they would contain their full nutrient base whereas okara has had some of it steeped out for soy milk.

I usually grate some carrots and other veggies into the okara, but a recent juicing of carrots, apples, and celery left pulp in my juicer very similar in texture to okara.

I mixed by hand (and I mean literally squeezing it between my fingers for a couple of minutes) 1 cup of okara, 1 cup of carrot, apple, and celery mush, 1 cup of gluten flour, 3/4 cup of bread crumbs, and 2.5 t of Tony Chacherie's Creole Seasoning. After forming patties I baked them at 375F for 25 minutes, flipping them after 15 minutes.

I used to include more flour or oats instead of bread crumbs in the mix and then simply dipped to coat them in bread crumbs, but I like the texture better this way.

With less seasoning in the okara burgers, those roasted portobellos would be a great way to combine them into Deluxe Portobello Okara Burgers.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Curried Chickenless Salad Sandwiches

One of my new cookbooks (thank you, holiday gift cards) is Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson. After reading the recommendation of my good friend, Pixiepine (see her "Palace" on my Blog List at right), I chose Curried Chickenless Salad Sandwiches as my first recipe to try.

This has two ingredients that are considered totally love or totally hate - curry powder and tempeh. I'm fine with both of them.

Curry powder is the essence of Indian food and tempeh, which is a chewy, fermented soy product, can be bitter if not poached or steamed a bit. After 10 minutes in simmering water tempeh is much better.

I don't see the recipe posted online so you'll have to get the book for this one, but what I especially like about it is the contrasts of both flavors and textures.

The flavors combine savory ones like tempeh and curry with sweet ones like golden raisins and sweet pickle relish. The textures include chewy ones like tempeh, red peppers, and scallions with crunchy ones like chopped celery and slivered almonds.

After making the sandwich as pictured above, I realized this followed one of my own guidelines for perfect wraps (a future blog post) for having multiple textures.

Although the recipe just says to put it on bread, I say roll that baby up in a large tortilla and you'll enjoy one incredible wrap.