I meant to post the link to Buzzfeed's "What it's really like to be a vegetarian" weeks ago but kept forgetting. Anyway, it's definitely worth a laugh. I found myself giggling and nodding at quite a few of them, especially #2, #7, #15. Good times!
What if I told you that you could make a completely dairy-free, animal-free macaroni and cheese dish that tasted like BACON? Would you call me crazy? (It's okay; I've been called worse.)
Thanks to the ever-impressive Isa at The Post-Punk Kitchen, it's possible. And it's possibly one of the most delicious vegan dishes I've made to date.
Chipotles (smoked jalapeños) provide a bacon-y depth, while ground cashews make the dish decadent and creamy. I'll admit it: I was pretty skeptical about this one when I first found the recipe. I've had plenty of bowls of rich, gooey macaroni and cheese concoctions over the years (especially since moving to the South), and I wasn't sure how a dairy-free version would turn out. This version is a beautiful species of its own and shouldn't be made with the intention of fooling anyone into thinking it's made with real cheese or bacon. However, it is equally satisfying -- just in its own lovely way.
Isa's version called for miso in the sauce, but after scouring the Internet for ways to replace miso (I didn't want to buy a whole tub for one recipe), I found I could use tahini instead. Also, because Bryan isn't a fan of Brussels sprouts, I replaced them with roasted broccoli, which I think actually worked quite well, as the sauce soaked into the broccoli florets and infused them with flavor.
You will need:
- 8 oz dry macaroni (I used brown rice pasta but would recommend something sturdier)
- 1 lb broccoli
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
- 2-4 chipotles in adobo, seeded (I used 2!)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 Tbsp sesame tahini
- Preheat the oven to 425° F and start a pot of water boiling for the pasta. Cut the broccoli into florets and wash/drain. Toss them with the oil and a dash of salt, and spread them out on a baking pan. Roast for 18-20 minutes, or until they're lightly browned on the edges.
- While the pasta water is working on boiling, make the sauce. Drain the cashews and place them, along with the rest of the sauce ingredients, into a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the sauce is totally smooth. (If you're using a food processor, it might not get totally smooth. Myeh. Still tastes good.) Taste for salt.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and place it back into the pot.
- Ideally, the broccoli should be roasted by this point so that you can immediately add it into the pot with the pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli and stir gently to distribute the smoky, creamy sauce. Add salt, if needed, and serve immediately.
One note: If you forget to soak the cashews ahead of time, you can simmer them in water in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes, and then just drain them and go from there.
It might have been the fault of the pasta I used, but this dish wasn't great when reheated in the microwave the next day, so try to eat as much as you can when you make it! (It won't be hard; trust me!)
As my sister pointed out the other day, one problem with moving away from from your childhood home is that you forget that people around you don't understand your nostalgic references. For example, when the weather turns cool and crisp and the leaves begin to dry and change color, one fabulously fun but ludicrously simple attraction always comes to mind: Pumpkinland at Green Valley Nursery.
Sadly, no one around here knows about Pumpkinland, and as far as I know, there is no Triangle equivalent. Yes, we have local hay rides or corn mazes, but nothing tops Pumpkinland, with its hay bale and cornstalk-festooned obstacle course and giant field of pick-your-own pumpkins. Oh, and it had a petting zoo! (Nothing says Halloween like baby goats and fuzzy rabbits, right?) I can still remember the odd fragrance the place gave off: dried straw mixed with livestock droppings. Ahh, it was Heaven.
Oh, I'm sorry -- did you come here for a recipe this week?
One of the oddest parts of Pumpkinland was Harry's Hay Toss, which was, as far as I remember, a cordoned-off outdoor area filled with knee-deep hay where children were invited to -- you guessed it -- launch handfuls of hay at their unsuspecting younger siblings. My sister and I were never allowed to visit this attraction, and when I asked Bryan (a fellow Sinking Spring native) about it, he shook his head and said, "My parents hated that thing. My brother and I used to get so filthy."
But, by far, the most popular attraction at Pumpkinland was Dizzy's Darkroom, the nursery's best interpretation of a G-rated haunted house. They tried to make it scary, and honestly, for anyone under the age of eight, it was pretty spooky. In my mind now, it was huge and rambling, but in actuality, I think it was just a corridor between two rooms of the plant nursery, so it couldn't have been longer than a couple yards. I remember being freaked out by the hanging polyester spider webbing and the flashing strobe lights. (It was a simpler time.) Bryan and his brother used to pay their quarters to get in, wend their way through the haunted house, and then walk backwards to the start to do it again. (I like to imagine that my sister and I emerged from the exit and ran to my parents, whining, "Two boys in there are cheating! ")
So yes, in my mind, autumn equals nostalgia. Some of my happiest childhood memories occurred in the fall, from meandering family car rides to Lititz to "nose poke" in the shops along East Main Street to crunching through the leaves in the playground near my Mom-Mom's house. It's a season that involves change, but moving forward always requires some looking back, in my mind.
So happy fall, everyone! And happy Vegan Mofo!
This month's premier vegan offering is a remix from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe that originally featured regular sausage. However, by subbing oil for the butter and using Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausage (Expensive but well worth it, it's available at Whole Foods), I easily veganized this hearty, autumnal dish.
You will need:
- 12 oz bottle of Belgium-style vegan wheat beer, such as Blue Moon Belgian White (Find vegan beer here!)
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 12-14 oz vegan smoked sausage, sliced into 2-inch rounds
- 1/2 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 large firm apple, such as Honeycrisp, unpeeled but cut into small chunks
- 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- zest from half an orange
- 1/2 tsp dried sage
(A quick note: The only obnoxious thing about this recipe is the way the ingredients repeatedly go in and out of the pan like a terrier in heat through a dog door. I kept a big serving bowl nearby to store the ingredients in between steps.)
- Start by adding half the beer and the red pepper to a wide, rimmed skillet; turn the heat to medium-high and allow the beer to come to a boil. Then add the sausage and green beans and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the sausage and beans simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the beans are just tender. Pour the mixture into the serving bowl and set aside.
- Next, wipe out the skillet with a damp paper towel. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook the apples int he oil for a few minutes until they're golden brown. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on the serving platter.
- There should still be a tiny bit of oil left in the pan, so pick out the sausage from the serving platter (I warned you this gets annoying!) and add it to the skillet. Brown the sausage on all sides and then return it to the serving platter.
- With the heat still on medium, add the remaining beer to the skillet and then pour in the remaining oil, the brown sugar, the vinegar, and the orange zest. Whisk the mixture for a few minutes, allowing it to simmer, until it's slightly thickened. Return the sausage, green beans, and apples to the skillet to coat them in the glaze. Sprinkle the mixture with the dried sage and serve.
If this dish doesn't remind you of fall, then you've never actually experienced the season. The smoked sausage recalls woodsmoke on blanket-wrapped evenings, the sage evokes late-season family dinners, and the sweet-tart apples call to mind long walks through scattered orange and red leaves.
Linda of HolisticNutritionDegree.org has recently complied an excellent list of 101 Leading Sites for Healthy Vegan Eating. Her list covers everything from product reviews and recipes to animal rights and travel tips. Whether you're 100% vegan or you're just interested in learning more about veganism, there's something here for you. Check it out!
Speaking of vegans, would anybody be interested in taking a basic knife skills class from Chef Matt Props with me? I can do a lot in the kitchen, but my knife skills definitely need work! If you're interested, leave a note in the comments, talk to me on Facebook, or shoot me an email (to the left, to the left). I'd love to get a small group together!
Often, when I'm on summer vacation, lunch is an exercise in creativity and resourcefulness, based on what I can find in the kitchen on a given day. Sometimes lunch transcends cultures (Leftover orange-ginger tofu and potato pierogis with a side of masala broccoli? Sure. Why the hell not?) and time zones (Did I make this chickpea salad Tuesday or Sunday? Hmm.) but it's always interesting, to say the least.
But while that type of lunch-foraging can be fun, it's also a good thing for lunch to be predictably nutritious and flavorful, which is why I like to make a light, easy-to-eat recipe early in the week, stash it in the fridge, and eat it whenever the "leftovers + random nutritional accessories" combination doesn't cut it.
My current favorite lunch salad is based on Whole Foods' grilled corn, quinoa, and spinach salad, which features un surtido of Mexican-inspired ingredients: black beans, jicama, corn, chipotle, and oregano. It takes a bit of time to put together, between pre-cooking the quinoa, slicing the corn off the cob (see my note and photo after the recipe), peeling and shredding the jicama, and toasting the walnuts, but it keeps well for days. It works nicely on top of a bed of salad greens or just on its own. And besides, you will LOVE it. No, really, you will. I'm not the type to say things I don't mean.
You will need:
- 2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
- chipotle powder to taste
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 1/2 cups cooked and chilled quinoa (from roughly 1/2 cup dry)
- 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup shredded jicama (you can chop it into small bits if you don't feel like putting it in the food processor)
- 1/2 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted
- 2/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1 medium roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup Ranch dressing
- fresh spinach leaves (opt.)
- Heat a medium rimmed skillet over medium-high heat and add a quick drizzle of canola or vegetable oil. Once the skillet is hot, add in the corn and allow it to cook. Shake the pan every couple of minutes to keep the kernels from sticking. It's a good (but initially alarming) sign when the kernels start to take flight with a loud pop. When the kernels are starting to get brown on the edges, sprinkle them with the oregano and chipotle powder (to your taste) and remove the skillet from the heat.
- Next, add the quinoa, beans, jicama, walnuts, feta, and red pepper to a large bowl, along with the corn. Drizzle about a half cup of Ranch dressing over the mixture and toss to combine. (You can always add more later if you want.)
- Serve cold or at room temperature, either over a salad or as is.
A couple notes:
- Jicama is a root vegetable that reminds me of water chestnuts; it adds a nice crunch but contains so much water that it doesn't have much taste on its own. Look for a firm, dry specimen without any soft spots. It should feel heavy for its size. They're easiest to peel with the type of Y-peeler you'd use for butternut squash. (Wish I'd had one!)
- The original recipe calls for Whole Foods' store brand Chipotle Ranch dressing, but as I didn't feel like buying a bottle of salad dressing just for one recipe, I just used regular Ranch and added chipotle powder to the corn.
- If you wanted your cheese to be more authentically Mexican, you could use cotija.
- You can easily make this recipe vegan by changing up the dressing and cheese. You could use a dairy-free Ranch (Organicville makes one) , or you could use a cilantro-lime type vinaigrette. (Ooh, this one sounds delicious.) If you take out the feta, you might miss the saltiness, but sliced black olives would make a good substitute.
- Finally, use a bundt cake pan and a sharp knife to take the kernels off the corn cob. I learned this trick from watching Michael Chiarello's show a couple years ago, and it works wonders. Once you've shucked the corn (*giggle*), stick the cob end into the bundt pan's opening, and use your knife to slice vertically to cut off the kernels. The bundt pan will catch the kernels as they fall off! Brilliant! (Snazzy nail polish strips optional.)
For me, this summer has been all about trying new things and taking risks. So far, I've volunteered at the Orange County Literacy Council, started a new tutoring gig, revamped my blog, taken a digital photography class (and inadvertently discovered a crime scene -- long story), sent a Facebook message to a chef I'd never met before to ask if I could interview him (And he agreed!), met two new friends, and started a new fitness program. During the school year, I have so little time for myself because teaching takes over my life, so I vowed back in the spring to take full advantage of the time I'd have this summer. My life is so out of balance from late August to mid-June, and I don't always take care of myself as well as I should or give myself opportunities to explore the things I'm interested in. I'm turning 30 in October (I think that's the first time I've actually typed that out!), and I want to enter that decade feeling more balanced, self-assured, open-minded, and healthy.
I've discovered that a risk doesn't have to be dangerous or unprecedented to be important and have an impact on your life. The very act of doing something even a little out of your comfort zone is liberating and encouraging. Each small success gives you courage and confidence to try something bigger.
So when I was looking for ways to use up leftover rice earlier in the week and found a recipe for Thai fried rice, I thought, "What the hell?" I'd never made Thai food before, but what was the worst that could happen? If it didn't turn out well, we could always get pizza from across the street. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Admittedly, it was a fairly simple and un-intimidating initial foray into Thai cooking. The measurements seemed pretty flexible, and the ingredients were accessible, plus it didn't require any specialty equipment (although I'm sure it would have turned out even better in a wok). I halved the original recipe and made a couple changes to the ingredients, but overall, I followed the recipe pretty closely to end up with flavorful, hearty, healthy results. This dish contains a lovely combination of fruity sweetness, tail-end heat, and savory salinity.
You will need:
- 1-2 cups cooked, cooled rice
- 1-3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil, divided
- 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/8-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, depending on your heat preference
- 1 egg (skip it if you're vegan)
- a handful of frozen peas
- a handful of sliced carrots
- a little less than a cup of pineapple chunks, either canned or fresh (I recommend fresh)
- 1/8 cup dried currants or raisins (I used currants from Whole Foods' bulk bins)
- 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted cashews (I had to use sliced almonds after remembering I'd used up my cashews earlier in the week)
- a handful of bean sprouts (opt.)
- Place the rice in a bowl and drizzle 1/2 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp oil over it, mixing it in with your fingers to break up any chunks of rice. (This will keep the rice from burning later on.) Set aside.
- Pour the soy sauce and curry powder into a small jar with a lid; put the lid on and shake the dickens out of it. Set aside.
- Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium-high and add in the remaining oil. Add in the shallots, garlic, and red pepper and stir-fry the ingredients for about a minute, or until they're fragrant. (They'll continue to cook, so you don't have to spend much time on them now. The recipe says that if things start to stick to the pan, you can add a tablespoon or two of water or broth, but I didn't need to do that.)
- If you're using the egg, crack it into the pan and stir quickly for a minute or two until it's almost set.
- Add the carrots and peas and stir-fry another 2 minutes (adding more water/stock if needed).
- Finally, add in the oiled rice, pineapple, currants, and cashews to the skillet. Drizzle the soy/curry mixture into the pan and continue gently stirring the ingredients for another 5-8 minutes, or until the rice begins to make popping sounds. If you're using the bean sprouts, throw them in right at the end of cooking. (The recipe notes to stop adding any more liquid at this point, because the rice will get soggy.)
- Serve with extra soy sauce and garnish with cilantro. (I know it's parsley in the picture! Shut up! Move along!)
Cooking a new type of cuisine made me feel proud -- and full!
I've been sitting here for 20 minutes, clicking back and forth between this editing page and various favorite distractions (ahem, Dogshaming) as I try to think of what to say about this recipe. What can I say about chickpeas, roasted peppers, tomatoes, and vinaigrette that hasn't already been said elsewhere?
This is a simple recipe, and sometimes simple is best. It hails from the ever-popular Smitten Kitchen, and even usually-illustrative Deb (Did I ever mention that I met her a few months ago?) couldn't find much to say about it. It's not that it's boring -- it's definitely not -- but it's reliable, and it tastes exactly the way you'd expect it to taste. The chickpeas are plump and slightly salty, the peppers are smoky and sweet, the tomatoes add a little more sweetness, the herbs lend some earthy flavor, the lemon brightens everything a bit, and the oil brings everything together with a touch of richness.
There: I did find something to say after all.
You will need:
- 2 large roasted red peppers, either jarred or homemade
- 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 medium tomato, cored and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Cut the peppers into small-ish strips (no need to be exact) and place them in a bowl. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and mint, tossing briefly.
- Whisk the lemon juice, salt, garlic, and oil together in a separate bowl, or shake them up in a jar with a lid.
- Pour the dressing over the chickpeas mixture and toss to combine. You're ready to go!
This can be served as is, or it can be stuffed into a pita or a wrap. I'd imagine it would also be good over salad greens, but I haven't tried it that way myself. I like to make a batch, stick it in the fridge, and come back to it as the week goes on. The flavors intensify as time passes!
A note about the peppers: If you've never roasted your own, you really should try it. I used to think it was a complicated process that involved paper bags and fancy knives, but it really isn't difficult at all. Newbies should check out this detailed explanation of a truly simple process. All you need is peppers, an oven, some sort of baking vessel, tongs, and your hands. The jarred kind taste good, but they usually contain excess oil and salt and sometimes preservatives. If you make your own, your peppers contain peppers and only peppers. I definitely prefer making my own when I have time.
Ask most chefs about their formative influences, and they’ll most likely cite a James Beard Award-winning artisan or an esoteric New York restaurant (or possibly a grandmother).
Matt Props, a vegan chef in Durham, answers the question from a surprisingly different angle.
“Punk rock, hip hop, and jazz,” he tells me over the phone, a grin practically audible over the line.
“Punk has a do-it-yourself mentality,” the Ohio native explains, noting that bands often played in garages or basements when traditional music venues were inaccessible. “Hip hop is about creating a persona and a voice and an angle,” he continues, while jazz involves “taking classics and adding your own twist.”
Like his musical influences, Props’ culinary projects are inventive, persona-driven, and improvisational. Stay Fresh and Day One, both of Props’ restaurants, take over Durham’s Ninth Street Bakery once a week. Stay Fresh (open on Tuesday nights) is a “no-frills,” order-at-the-counter enterprise, and Day One (open on Saturday nights), while still casual, is a tad more structured and cozy. Both operations feature the music Props grew up listening to and the vegan cuisine he loves to share with an ever-growing fanbase.
Props, vegan since the age of 16, fully recognizes that “vegan” is often unfairly associated with an “air of elitism and privilege,” and that many people think vegan food, while healthy, is “all brown rice” and “flavorless.” Furthermore, he adds, people tend to think that vegans are “starved for options” (no pun intended) and will gratefully eat whatever animal-free options they can find, no matter how tasteless. (“I’ve been to weddings where the vegan option is just grilled asparagus on a plate,” he sighs.)
But Props wants to defy that desperate, flavorless reputation by proving that vegan food can be creative, tasty, and satisfying. “A lot of what people eat everyday is vegan but they don’t know it,” he notes. Through both his pop-up eateries, he aims to serve “relatable food,” or what he terms “vegan cuisine for the masses.”
To that effect, Stay Fresh has featured biscuit-laden brunches, Chesapeake Bay-inspired delights, and a burger night. Similarly, Day One, Prop’s collaboration with baker and fellow hip hop enthusiast Ari Berenbaum, has served up meals inspired by Chinese take-out, Southern picnic eats, and, perhaps most interestingly, neighborhood bodegas. Of course, all the items contain no animal ingredients, but they do highlight Props’ own imaginative twist on familiar favorites. For example, bodega night starred portabella mushroom jerky, pig-free pork rinds, and scratch-made SpaghettiOs (dressed up with caramelized leeks and capers).
A graduate of Bauman College’s Natural Chef Certification program (where he completed an internship with vegan superstar Colleen Patrick-Goudreau), Props self-identifies as “a chef first and foremost,” adding that he loves to “apply classic culinary techniques to things that aren’t traditionally vegan.” Even as a vegan, he doesn’t shy away from meat-heavy cookbooks, instead scouring them for techniques and flavor pairings he can adapt for vegan dishes. “Just because a cookbook has a picture of a fish head on it,” he advises, “you shouldn’t discount its advice.”
So how has Durham’s food community responded to his vegan-remixed classics?
The most common customer reaction Props has experienced has been sheer gratitude. Props designs his themes with his too-often-marginalized diners in mind, and to that end, his menus always include at least one gluten-free option. (He is also able to work around other allergies with three to four days’ notice.) According to Props, Durham’s vegan community has been “phenomenally supportive,” and the gluten-free diners have been “the most supportive and thankful and hopeful.” Props wants customers to feel welcome and return often enough that they feel comfortable making suggestions for themes or menu items.
For as often as Props’ diners have communicated gratitude, they have also happily expressed surprise at the creativity and robust flavor of his dishes. He gets a real thrill out of seeing born-and-bred Southerners enjoying his animal-free take on soul food.
Now that Props has established his culinary identity, he is focusing on the future. “Ultimately our goal is to have our own space,” he explains with pride. Currently serving up dishes with a staff of only three or four, Props is comfortable in Ninth Street Bakery and thankful for the “amazing support” the owners have given him. However, in the future, he’d like to expand his workspace to give himself, his co-workers, the local DJs he hosts, and his diners more elbow room.
“We’re trying to foster a real community,” he explains.
Props’ focus on the future and the positive allows him to remain optimistic in spite of occasional challenges. As the hip hop community has known for years, haters gonna hate. Within the chef scene, some traditionally-minded cooks view the idea of a vegan chef as a joke, even taking offense at the notion that chefs could conjure up flavor without using any animal-derived ingredients.
Perhaps drawing on that hip hop swagger, Props just laughs off their sneers, boasting, “I love proving them wrong.”
Update: Check out Day One's Jamaican Night this coming Saturday, July 13th!
We just came out of a week without air conditioning (and lived to tell the tale). When it's hot, the last thing I want to do is cook. (The first things I want to do are whine and then shower.) Summertime is the best time for quick, light, vegetable-based meals that don't require much work, and translucent, veggie-stuffed summer rolls are a fun option.
If you've never made summer rolls before, I promise that the process is much easier than it looks. The versatility of the fillings, the speed of assembling dinner, and the healthy nature of the rolls far outweigh the challenges. Most of the work is front-loaded because you'll want to prep everything before you get rolling (pun intended). The toughest parts are finding the right ingredients and then folding the rice wrappers without tearing them.
The best wrappers we've found are made by Red Rose and look like this. Around here, they're sold at Whole Foods and A Southern Season, and I'm sure most Asian markets sell them too. (If you can't find them, you might want to ask someone at your favorite Vietnamese, Chinese, or Thai restaurant where you can buy them.) We found them in two sizes; the bigger size leaves too much tasteless, chewy wrapper around the filling, but the smaller size doesn't accommodate much filling, so you end up with much smaller rolls. (We affectionately called them "summer blorps.")
For the noodles, you'll want something wispy and tangled like this. The first time I made summer rolls, I opted for bean thread noodles, but I didn't find them to be soft enough. I think rice noodles definitely work the best, and the thinner the better.
As far as fillings go, you really have an infinite number of choices, and making these rolls is a wonderful way to use up a glut of whatever summer produce you have on hand. You can make them as appetizers by using mostly light, leafy vegetables, or you can make heartier summer rolls by including proteins like tofu or tempeh. The basic ingredients and method come from this Epicurious recipe, but what follows is my personal favorite fillings and my own tips.
I know the ingredient amounts are vague -- Don't be nervous! -- but that's because you really have to play around to find what you enjoy best. Bryan and I have made these together three or four times now, and each time they've been a little different. That's what makes them fun, in my opinion!
You will need:
- dried rice noodles
- lime juice
- rice paper wrappers (The same type of "skin" is used for both un-fried summer rolls and deep-fried spring rolls, so the package might be labelled for use with either.)
- fresh basil and mint leaves
- grated carrot
- broccoli slaw mix (I've used shredded napa cabbage and cabbage coleslaw mix, and broccoli slaw is definitely my favorite crunchy option.)
- freshly grated ginger root
- tofu (I like mine pressed, cut into thin rectangles, and then sautéed in oil until crispy and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.)
- chopped peanuts
- other fillings you might enjoy: cilantro leaves, julienned bell peppers or cucumber, slivered scallions, bean sprouts, toasted sesame seeds, sliced serrano or jalapeño peppers, or lettuce leaves
- Place the rice noodles in a bowl and pour hot water over them. (We set our tea kettle at 180° F because a full boil can make the noodles too limp.) Let them soak for anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the brand. Test them every couple of minutes. When they're al dente, drain them and then toss them with a sprinkle of lime juice in a bowl. Use a knife or kitchen shears to make a few cuts so they aren't too long. Set aside.
- If the veggies aren't already shredded or chopped, do that now. Assemble a little prep station for yourself so you have everything ready to go. Assuming you're right-handed, I suggest this order, from left to right, with each ingredient in its own bowl or container: a shallow dish or bowl wider than your rice wrappers (you'll use this to soak the wrappers), the basil and mint leaves, the noodles tossed with lime juice, some grated carrot mixed in with the broccoli slaw mix and tossed with a little ginger, the tofu, and then the chopped peanuts, followed by an empty plate to hold the finished rolls. (I really should have taken a photo of my prep station!)
- Pour some hot (not boiling) water into the shallow dish and then soak a rice paper wrapper for a few seconds to make it pliable. (There's a helpful video explanation here.)
- Lay the softened wrapper on a non-textured cutting board or plate. Layer on a couple basil and mint leaves, a small handful of noodles, a bit of carrot and broccoli slaw, a few pieces of tofu, and a sprinkling of peanuts. Fold up the sides of the roll, and then fold over the ends. (Again, the linked video above shows the process clearly.)
- Set the finished roll aside and start over at step #4, continuing until you've used up your ingredients.
We like to cut the rolls in half and then serve them with peanut sauce and sweet chili sauce. Some recipes I've seen have also suggested plum sauce as an accompaniment. If you're ambitious enough, there are plenty of online recipes for making your own sauces, but I just use the bottled kind.
Making the rolls is fun, especially if you're working with a partner. The first couple will probably be oddly-shaped, but once you get into the swing of things, it's easy! Bryan is usually in charge of soaking the wrappers while I pile on the fillings and roll them up. After soaking, the wrappers become sticky and sort of gummy, which means they self-seal after you've layered in the fillings, but it also means they have a habit of self-sealing before you're done if you're not careful with them. We usually end up tossing one or two of them each time we make summer rolls, but considering each package comes with approximately 56,000 wrappers (roughly), it isn't much of a problem.
So give it a try! It's basically just a funky way to eat a salad!
Look at my shiny new blog! Managing the old blog through Google/Blogger/eNom was way too complicated, so Bryan convinced me to check out Squarespace, and I think I'm off to a good start. It's still a work in progress, but I'm happy with it so far.
Yes, it's summer in North Carolina, and no, soup is not a traditionally summery dish. However, the carrots and kale that go into the soup are in season! I've mentioned before that I'm a huge fan of chickpeas, so I'm always searching for new ways to cook them, and this creamy vegan soup from the PPK seemed like a great one to try.
Soaking and grinding up raw cashews was a new technique for me. The cashews bring richness and creaminess to the soup without adding dairy fat, and the addition of cooked rice also makes the broth thick and hearty. This one is definitely a keeper.
You will need:
- 3/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours to overnight
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped into thin pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- 3/4 cup rice, rinsed (I used Jasmine)
- 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
- 1 cup carrots, diced chunky
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika, opt. (lends a lovely smoky undertone)
- 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 4 cups chopped or shredded kale, thick stems removed
- Once the cashews have soaked for a few hours, drain them and place them in a blender or food processor, along with a cup of fresh water. Blend the water and cashews until the mixture is completely smooth. (You might need to scrape down the sides with a spatula once or twice.)
- In the meantime, heat the oil over medium heat in a stock pot. Sauté the onion, along with a pinch of salt, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add in the garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and sauté one more minute.
- Next, add in the rice, celery, carrots, and broth (and paprika, if using). Cover the pot, raise the heat, and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to a simmer, add the chickpeas, and allow the soup to simmer for 15 more minutes, or until the rice and carrots are cooked.
- Finally, pour in the cashew cream and add in the chopped kale. Let the soup simmer another 3-5 minutes to allow the kale to wilt a bit. Add more water if the soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then let the soup sit for 10 minutes before serving.
In the original recipe, Isa notes that the soup gets thicker as it cools, so it might be necessary to thin out the leftovers with a bit of water. We'll see when I eat more of it for lunch today! The first batch was definitely thick last night. I struggled to get through a whole bowl; it was so delicious, but my eyes were hungrier than my stomach! This soup contains a healthy amount of both protein and fiber, and I can imagine it would be a great treat after a chilly day of shoveling snow or sledding. But for me, it was a nice way to end yet another day of unpacking and cleaning at our new apartment. (How do two people make so much laundry?!)