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Monday, October 20, 2008

Lemon Spice Applesauce

Christie and I went on a field trip to the aforementioned Kiyokawa Orchards at the beginning of the month. We got a map, directions, a box, and a little red wagon and set out to pick apples from the u-pick orchard.

Let's check the map

In short time we had bags of Elstar, Gala, Empire, Swiss Delight, and a couple of other varieties. Once back in Portland we split up the pounds of apples and put them in the fridge. Then we both marveled at the sheer number of apples we had. Piles of them.

I love apples, truly they are my favorite fruit. I spend much of the spring months missing the really good apples that only around in late summer and autumn. Sure, there's some that are still from local orchards and keep well into spring and early summer (like a Pink Lady), but I really miss the crispness of an Elstar or Newtown Pippen. Well, now I had piles of glorious crisp delicious apples.

Having just made the apple preserves a week before I looked through my copy of the Ball Blue Book and was shocked to discover just how little there is to making applesauce. This news was confirmed by the lovely folks at Kiyokawa who were offering samples of fresh made, chunky applesauce in their market.

Kiyokawa Orchard Store

In order to make sufficient room for the newly picked apples in Christie's fridge we set to chopping up all the ones she already had in the fridge from the Farmers Market, all Honeycrisps. Sugar is optional so we went further optional by using agave. I added some bottled lemon juice as well since we weren't going to be canning any. All this and a little water went onto the stove, some time later, when the flat smelled delicious, we added cinnamon and enjoyed a bowl of piping hot, amazing applesauce.

I immediately wanted to play around further with the applesauce idea having discovered how simple it is. I made a point to I use a mix of ALL the varieties of apples we picked at the orchard. I liked the lemony note the bottle juice brought to the batch, but wanted fresh and also to try using the zest of the lemon. I had loved the cardamom in the preserves, so added that as well and the results were 2.5 quarts of incredibly tasty applesauce!

This brings me to the recipe!

6 1/2 pounds of apples (about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 per quart)
1/4 cup dark agave syrup
1 teaspoon powdered cardamom (or less, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon (or less, to taste)
1/2 cup water (or less)
juice and zest of 1 lemon

Wash, drain, peel, core and roughly chop all of the apples. Cook apples in a large saucepan with just enough water so they do not stick. When apples soften and break down use a potato masher, whisk or even a fork to help process the apples into sauce. Add the agave, lemon juice, zest and powdered spices. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

At this point you can put the applesauce into jars, let it cool, then refrigerate if it will be eaten quickly.

If you'd like a little chunkier applesauce reserve one or two of your apples. Once the other apples begin to breakdown into sauce finely chop the reserved apple, add to the sauce pan, and cook until the newly added apples have just softened.

If you want to can the applesauce, here are the directions from the Ball Blue Book:

Bring applesauce to boil (212 degrees Fahrenheit). Maintain this temperature as you ladle the hot applesauce into hot canning jars. Leave 1/2 headroom. Remove any air bubbles. Adjust two-piece cap. Process pints and quarts 20 minutes in a boiling-bath canner.

Rosey Spiced Apple Preserves

The NYTimes had some recipes up related to Rosh Hashana that I emailed along to Gayle. One is a beef dish that she and I talked about how to make vegan. I haven't tried that yet, but with the gorgeous bounty of apples from Kiyokawa Orchards I was prompted to make the Apple Preserves with Cardamon... with a twist. I made up a batch as described below to give to Lev & Gayle for Rosh Hashana.

Here's the recipe that appears with that link above:

2 tart apples, like Granny Smiths, cored, peeled and quartered
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or 3 whole pods, smashed.

Place apples in a medium heavy pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water, plus other remaining ingredients. Bring to a slow simmer for about a half hour or until apples are soft.
Remove from heat and cover pan for 20 minutes. Serve immediately or transfer to a jar with a lid. Refrigerated, apples will keep for at least a week.

A few distinct changes I made in this recipe:

Well, first isn't a change so much as an "oops". I forgot to smash the cardamom pods. This meant I ended up adding the ground cardamom as well as having some whole pieces in there. I rather like cardamom, so I didn't mind the whole pieces and think the black specks are rather dramatic, but Christie found them hot.

The cardamom was nice, but I also added about a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon too.

I used 1 Honeycrisp and 1 Pink Pearl apple instead of two Granny Smiths. The varieties I used both are quite tart apples and I think far tastier than a Granny Smith. What happened was that the Pink Pearl cooked away into sauce. I ended up cooking it for a bit longer that suggested so the Honeycrisp would cook down a bit more. I also needed to reduce some of the water because...

Christie and I had picked fresh raspberries at a u-pick on Sauvie Island just before I made this so I was moved to throw about 1/4 cup of those into the mix. This added an additional tartness, but that wonderful summer berry note. It also turned the batch brilliant red -- beautiful!

I haven't talked to Lev & Gayle to ask if they enjoyed it. Not sure if the same issue with the cardamom seeds will surface. I must say that I liked it very much, ate it all up on toasted, sprouted wheat English muffins (and forgot a picture).

Easy Breakfast Tofu Eggs

I'm not an egg person. Even when I was just a vegetarian, I ate eggs maybe twice a year, and then it was EggBeaters, cooked extra hard, usually to placate someone in the car who had to go to Elmer's or IHOP for breakfast because their coffee has extra crack or something. I never quite understood the pancake house fetish.

But I'm becoming a tofu person. I'm already amazed that extra-firm tofu can become delicious pudding with just a little cocoa, almond extract, and agave. I've enjoyed several Hawaiian meals with fried sweet onions, cabbage, sauce, and tofu. I've been repulsed by the flan-from-Hell-like ickiness of Ma Po Tofu in MSG sauce.

So I decided to try tofu for breakfast. My tofu-for-brekky experience has mostly been with the godawful, half-hearted tofu scrambles that non-vegan restaurants throw on the menu to appease picky Portlanders. Even Mother's restaurant, which flings some pretty good fare, managed to serve me a boring, pass-the-salt-and-pepper-and-anything-else-that-looks-flavorful tofu scramble. To be fair, Lisa at Sweet Pea does come up with a pretty good tofu scramble for brunch sometimes.

With help from others in the PDXVCC, I invented an easy tofu breakfast that is, if I say so my own damned self, quite passable.

The secret: not just turmeric, which is good for a yolky yellow and a little spark of flavor, but also BLACK SALT. This little monster is available at Indian food stores for next to nothing, and it adds a mildly sulphuric, eggy flavor to anything it touches. It's also not black. My bag (from India Food World, I think) is pink. A little dab'll do you with this, so in my short recipe, it's 1/8th teaspoon, but it makes a world of difference to me.

Easy Breakfast Tofu Eggs

  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu, drained and cut in 1/4" or 3/8" slabs (or minced, or mashed, or whatever)
  • 2 T large-flake nutritional yeast (nooch is good for cheesiness, even though I add cheese after)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 t black salt
  • 1/4 t turmeric
    1/4 t paprika
  • 1/4 t garlic sea salt
  • a couple shakes (1/8 to 1/4 t) black pepper
  • a few spritzes of nonstick oil
  • 1 or 2 slices Tofutti vegan American cheese

All spices in a bag or bowl. (Careful with clumping in the paprika and black salt. Shake or squeeze or whisk those out.)

Shake or dredge the tofu with the spices.

Frying pan on medium heat; slam the tofu in it. (Warning: do not actually slam the tofu in the pan or you'll look foolish.)

Cook for 5 minutes. Flip. Cook for 5 more, or until it looks about 2 minutes from being as crispy as you want it to be.

Drop the Tofutti cheese on it. Cover. Cook for another minute or two until the Tofutti cheese melts.

Serve over wheat toast, hash browns, English muffins, or anything else that you grew up eating with eggs.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bulgogi-style fake chicken

When you think "cuisines that are super-easy to veganize," you think "Korean!" Right? Right?!

OK, so the meat-heavy Korean barbecue is not the most natural fit for vegans, what with the sauces and side dishes that always manage to sneak in powdered shrimp (who the heck needs to powder a shrimp?). But that doesn't stop your intrepid PDX Vegan Cooking Club. We threw down a fast bulgogi-type, pan-Tsushima Basin* dinner tonight, and everyone was happy -- even an omnivorous guest.

* It's the blue part of the map between South Korea and Japan.

The first few times we tried bulgogi, we used steak-style Meal Starters. It worked well, but the omni (who's addicted to "real" bulgogi -- which, apparently, is made from pig muscles) didn't think the beef flavor was right. We also tried Tofurky Oven Roasted Deli Slices. That approach was delicious, and the texture was pleasingly al dente. The omnivore, however, is not Tofurky compatible. If we didn't love her, we probably would have stopped with the steak-style Meal Starters, or the Trader Joe's analogue. But, because we're a good guy or something, we went back to the ol' drawing board to try to find a recipe that would convince her that she didn't have to go to meat-cooking places to find Korean goodness.

Tonight, we won. Yeah, score one for the vegans!

The breakthrough was using chicken-style Meal Starters. (We'd have preferred the TJ's version, but we had a freezer full of the Meal Starters.) After all, pig flesh is supposed to be "the other white meat," according to the television in the 80s. Why not try a fake white meat?

So we took this recipe for Spicy Pork Bulgogi from Recipezaar. Substitutions: 2 8-oz. bags of chicken-style Meal Starters for the meat; 1 Tablespoon of red pepper flakes instead of two. We also added about 2 cups of sliced white mushrooms from Trader Joe's, 1 chopped red bell pepper, a dozen or so thin slices of lotus root, and one tablespoon of toasted sesame oil.

Marinated the whole mess for an hour or two (though overnight would have been better); cooked it; served it. Had tremors of taste bud happiness throughout the meal.

If you've been to a Korean Barbecue restaurant, you know that they serve a million side dishes with the main dish. Bean sprouts, kimchi, veggie salads, pickled things, peppers, unidentifiable black things, marshmallows, flip-flops, calculator keys marinated in Wite-out... um... what were we typing about? Oh, yeah... side dishes. Here's where we decided to go Japanese, with a little Korean thrown in for authenticity.

The Korean is kimchi, for sure. You don't do bulgogi without kimchi. So when we started this odyssey, we went to the Pado World Korean market in Beaverton and looked through the dozens of kimchi brands to find one without shrimp, fish, squid, or centipede toes. That's also where we picked up the delightfully tangy and hot Kochi-jang (spelled 470 ways on Google -- good luck).

Today, it was off to Uwajimaya for side dishes. We decided on seaweed salad, bean sprout salad, fresh bean sprouts, and pickled radish salad (hari hari zuki). Paid about $7 total for enough salads to last three people for two or three meals, and enough bean sprouts to last 94 meals (or, truthfully, about one more meal before the remainder goes slimy).

The hit of the side dishes was the pickled radish salad. A forkful of bulgogi with a crisp, pickled radish on the end made for a perfectly sweet, tart, savory, spicy bite. The Japanese seaweed salad combined interestingly with the bulgogi as well, with the complementary elements meeting at the toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. The bean sprout salad was fine on its own, and it was all right combined with the bulgogi.

Served with TJ's frozen-for-the-lazy-person brown rice and spicy veggie potstickers whose package threatened, "You can be served with delicious roasted dumplings."

A good meal was had by all, and no people (or pigs) were served with delicious roasted dumplings.