Monday, August 29, 2011

BBQ Seitan and Coleslaw

As I write, it is a cool and breezy evening and the sound of the Phillies playing in the background.  We have the windows open and no damage from the hurricane that recently ripped through the northeast.  Today was beautiful and we had a lovely dinner.  Not this dinner, but a lovely one nonetheless and we have much to be thankful for.  This dinner was inspired by the only menu item that lures me into choosing the same thing every time I go to the restaurant. 

The hubs and I love Home Grown Cafe in Newark, Delaware and despite the distance, we end up going there at least every other month. I love their menu where almost everything can be made either vegan or vegetarian with then even choices of protein.  Somehow though, their "sloppy joe" gets me every time and I end up eschewing other options for a trusted favorite (the bahn mi was another inspiration for a recipe on the blog). 

As promised, I am finally talking a bit about seitan.  "What is seitan?" you may ask.  Well, for starters, it is oddly pronounced like "satan" with the second a sounding a bit more like "on." (sorry grammar people- i never learned phonetics).  Seitan is made out of wheat gluten and is a more convincing meat substitute as far as texture goes.  We don't eat it very often, but is great for an occasional treat.  I have never made it before this recipe, though I have bought it frozen before with less than desirable results. 

I loosely used the recipe in Veganomicon for seitan, found here though I omitted the lemon and veg broth because I was out.  I am sure it will taste better next time if I use a good quality broth.  I prefer Trader Joe's brand of concentrated liquid bouillon but they haven't been carrying it for quite a while. 

BBQ Sauce  (adapted from Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen)

1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c soy sauce
2 T tomato paste
1 pt cherry tomatoes, seeded
1/4 c maple syrup
1 T olive oil
3 t dry mustard
2 large cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes to taste
1 t liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste

In a blender, mix all ingredients together.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes for tomatoes to reduce. 

BBQ Seitan

Slice the seitan cutlets into 1/2 in thick slices and sear on a cast iron griddle on all sides.  Toss into bbq sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve with good rolls and a better cole slaw than the one pictured above (I spared you the recipe, no point in making you suffer the poor quality slaw as well- find you favorite blog and use theirs). 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

When the husband's away...

 I will eat tomatoes, lots of them.  In a sort of continuation post, this is just a teaser of a few things I have been doing with my abundance of tomatoes.  When the hubs is gone I tend to not really want to cook (it is no fun with no one to share it with- plus, I cook too much food for one). 

So, aside from my tomato and boursin sandwich which was my dinner of choice last summer, I have had quite a few BL"T"'s, and made up a batch of bruschetta that I ate practically all by myself.  Hey, I used less oil and it is mostly veggies right (nevermind the crackers). 

We are fans of Morningstar Farms fake bacon, though to be honest we haven't really tried any other kind because that is what good ol' Trader Joe's carries. 

What are you making with your tomatoes?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Canning Attempt

A few weekends ago I attempted to can tomatoes.  The farm let us pick as many tomatoes from the field as we could, so the hubs and I filled a grocery bag.  G gave me some large canning jars so I thought fresh packing tomatoes would be a great way to preserve them. 

My grandma gave me a Ball canning book last time she visited and I have only tried one jam recipe until now.  I had some pectin in the cupboard and a lot of blueberries and strawberries.  True to form for my learn by trial and error cooking- I discovered that jam has a lot of added sugar.  The recipe I found to use asked for 7 cups of sugar, and if I didn't want to sit and let the fruit reduce without pectin (I didn't- wanted to can in less than 2 hours), I would have to add that much sugar.  Another future option is low-sugar pectin, but boy was the pectin useful!  Last time I canned preserves it took me 45 minutes to cook down the fruit. 

The canning book is helpful, but I think supposes that you already know some key things, like the temperature preserves need to be to gel (not found anywhere in the book- thank goodness for google).  Canning tomatoes however has a two-page spread complete with drawings, and step by step directions that are pretty helpful. 

Basically, I put the jars and lids into the dishwasher and skinned the tomatoes.  Then I quartered them and packed them into a jar, topping it off with simmering water. 

Nothing about this was in the book though:

I did use used jars, but I did test them all and removed the ones with cracks- apparently I missed this one.  I came over and saw that the jar was floating, which depsite my canning novelty, I knew was wrong.  I grabbed the tongs and pushed it down, only to have it pop back up.  The next action was suprising, I pulled up the jar to investigate and all the tomatoes fell out into the pot!  This resulted in a slew of exclamations, mostly consisting of me repeating, "Oh no!  Oh no!" 

I scooped out the tomatoes into a bowl that later on became salsa, and let the rest of the jars just keep on cooking.  I think they turned out fine, though no one who has seen them has canned tomatoes before.  Anyone have thoughts as to the odd layering affect? Tips for future canning?

Aside from the busted jar and having to fish out the bottom from a pot of boiling water- it was relatively easy.  From start to finish it only took me about 2 1/2 hours, and boy was the dishwasher helpful!  And after getting the jars as a wonderful gift, the tomatoes as free surplus, a great cost-effective activity. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vital Wheat Gluten and Tomatoes

I am pretty sure I may have tomatoes coming out my ears.  I have been working it feels like non-stop to preserve the summer goodness that is tomatoes.  I do have to mix cherry tomatoes into something quite tasty though to get the hubs to eat them, and even then it isn't all that willingly.  
Last night I made some cherry tomato marinara sauce, with a couple of tomatoes from my garden.  It took some work, but mostly only when I decided to drain out the sauce, leaving the skins and seeds behind.  Once I did that though, the sauce was alright, but a bit acidic still.  A good first attempt. 

I ventured into my first foray with vital wheat gluten last week, making a recipe from Veganomicon.  I made chickpea cutlets which just sounded like they were asking for a gravy like chicken friend steak.  I didn't have any dairy in the house though so I made carmelized onions with a touch of vinegar and maple syrup, so yummy, and paired it with a simply cucumber and carrot salad dressed with some red wine vinegar. 

Overall, they were really tasty and not very difficult.  I am attempting homemade seitan this week.  What is seitan?  Stay tuned and find out...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Menu Planning for the Week

Being Tuesday, I have already obviously cooked a few times since our pick-up on Friday.  Alas, my photos didn't turn out very well, nor did some of my recipes.  I attempted a sort-of Nicoise sandwhich and it just ended up tasting quite weird, not bad, just weird. 

We got an interesting variety this week, with waaay too many cherry tomatoes.  We still have some in the fridge, hopefully to be used tonight, and more growing on the vine in the backyard.  Oh boy.  I have to cut them up and hide them in other things that the hubs likes in order for him to choke them down.  The veggies we got:

swiss chard
cherry tomatoes
tomatillos (saving since they keep well in the fridge to make a salsa verde)
hot pepper
green beans
ground cherries

So, my plan for this week:

Mexican lasagna (using refried black beans, leftover corn tortillas, swiss chard, and some salsa)
black bean burgers and grilled watermelon
blackbean salad
chickpea cutlets and carrot salad
naked fajitas (no tortillas)
nicoise sandwhich and israeli couscous and tomato salad
huge batch of salsa for many of the recipes

What sounds interesting to post the recipe?  Chickpea cutlets? Grilled watermelon (planning on dressing with feta and mint)?