Sunday, April 29, 2007

Just an assortment

EDIT: I've added the Oatmeal Wheat Bread recipe at the bottom of this post, since several of you were interested in it. The original recipe came from Fatfree Vegan, but I adapted it somewhat so I'll just post my version here!

I was trying to think of a title for this post that would tie together all of the food that I have to share... but there is nothing that links it together--it's just a mélange. So I'll just slap on a boring title and go with it!

This is Quinoa Spring Salad from Vive! I did have to make a couple of changes based on what I had available: While I didn't have cucumbers, I did have portabello mushrooms, so I chopped up some of those. Also, I have a very hard time getting my hands on hemp seeds, so instead of those I used some ground pepitas. And because I wanted to make this a "meal" instead of a side dish, I threw in some chickpeas. It was easy and delicious--so light and cool and refreshing (perfect for 85-90 degree weather, as we have been having). When I made it, I made too much quinoa. So the next day I took the leftovers and...

Served it with tempeh "fajita" filling. This was just a quick concoction I made by first marinating the tempeh in lime juice and hot sauce, then sautéing it in a bit of olive oil with red peppers and onions. At the end I took it off the heat and added about 1/2 cup of salsa. This would have made great fajitas, but it was awesome over the quinoa as well.

Organic red bell peppers have been on sale for $2.99 a pound at the local health food store, so you will continue to see quite a few foods here that incorporate these lovely veggies.

I went to my best friend's wedding shower on Friday night, and when I found out just a couple of hours before the party that NONE of the food was vegan except for the fresh fruit, I decided to whip up something to take along. This particular something I have been eyeing for so long, and just waiting for an excuse to make it.

Dreena's Creamy Cashew Dip, which will be included in her upcoming cookbook Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. I was so excited that she decided to let us have a sneak preview with this recipe. It's just amazing... The cashew butter makes it so rich and creamy, though I am sure almond butter would be equally delicious in this recipe. This dip went really fast at the shower, and I was thankful that I had made some extra to leave at home. Hee hee. The next morning I saw all the leftover dip that we had, and...

I knew I had to put it in crêpes! I used to make crêpes very often, but I haven't done so since becoming vegan, and I was a bit worried that I may have lost my knack for it--if you have made them before, you know they can be tricky until you get the technique down. But I did fine--no broken crêpes here... I used this recipe. Notice how it says on the recipe, though, that it is crucial to use the proper flours or the crêpes would fall apart. I didn't have bread flour, so as a safeguard I added one Ener-G egg to the batter. Perfect! And the cashew dip with bananas and strawberries stuffed inside was just heaven. Sometime, maybe I'll try them with some of this stuff, if I'm lucky...

Crêpes are one aspect of French cuisine that have really stuck with me ever since my time in France. Street vendors would sell them, stuffed with various sorts of goodness, like you would see Italian ice vendors around here. Something else that I took note of when I was in Paris and have embraced since then is salad art. I love the way they arrange their salad elements, in patterns with all kinds of colors and textures to contrast one another. For a long time when I came back, I had to make my salads look just perfect... and even now, I love to spend time arranging my veggies when I have some interesting ones to play with.

This is not the most aesthetic salad I have ever made, but it was light and delicious, and attractive enough for a quick dinner for one. Chickpeas, sliced red peppers, pepitas, and sliced scallions all found their way onto a bed of fresh spinach. I toasted my pepitas before adding them, and I liked the way they puffed up a little. I dressed this salad with a drizzle of the Ginger Dipping Sauce from Vive! for a nice Asian flair.

Speaking of Asian flair, Jess posted this amazing recipe for Peanut Coconut Grilled Tofu a few days ago, and as soon as I saw it I knew I would inevitably have to try it. I made the sauce last night and let the tofu marinate in it all night, then took it out and grilled it for lunch today. Decadent and delicious! I try to steer clear of cooking with coconut milk most of the time because it's usually a little too rich for me. But this was worth breaking the rules for!

Alongside this tofu I served a green salad much like the above one, dressed with the ginger sauce, and, in keeping with the Asian flair, mashed wasabi lima beans thanks to an inspiration from Melody. I was too lazy to purée these because I didn't want to wash out the food processor, so I just used a potato masher and a whole lot of elbow grease. They didn't get as smooth as they would have in the processor, but the lumps didn't bother me at all. I added just a splash of coconut milk to help thin them out, and then just started adding wasabi powder a little at a time and tasting until I had it just right. Such a good idea, Melody!

Finally, just a plain old loaf of oatmeal wheat bread. It turned out particularly lovely, though, and I thought it merited a photo shoot.

Till we meet again... Adieu!


Oatmeal Wheat Bread (adapted from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

Mix the above in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes or so, until foamy. In another bowl mix:

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 tablespoons wheat germ (I sometimes add this and sometimes I don't)
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten*
2/3 cups unbleached white flour

Make a well in the center and pour the yeast mixture in. Work it together into a ball, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 15 minutes or so, until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic. While you knead, it can require adding a good bit more flour--just add flour until the dough is no longer excessively sticky. Place in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Place in a warm place and let rise for an hour or so, until about doubled in size.

Punch the dough down well to get all the air out of it, then knead it once or twice and let rest for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 and oil a loaf pan. Once the dough has rested, form into a nice loaf shape and place into the prepared pan. Place on stovetop and let rise for another 10 minutes or so. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden and hollow-sounding on top. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack.

* The vital wheat gluten is a tip I got from Melody, and it makes the bread stronger so that it slices better for sandwiches. If you prefer, just leave it out and add an extra 1/4 cup of flour.


Emily said...

I would love your crepe recipe!

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

I am so flattered that you even tried it! let alone liked it! awesome. Yours crepes, additionally, totally impress! Oh yeah, feel free to use lite coconut with the tofu, I know what you mean about the richness (personally I <3 coconut milk too much and have to remind myself to only occasionally stock it..)

<3 jess

Urban Vegan said...

what an amzing assortment. II love crepes...and I always joke that you have to sacrifice the first one to the crepe gods. Gotta' try that cashew dip.

Anonymous said...

i never try crepes, yours looks very good! the breat oks very pretty too.

Courtney said...

Your creps look perfect! I have been scared to try making them because they sound hard to make without ripping--but you may have just inspired me with your photo!


Anonymous said...

wow!! your photos are so beautiful and colorful - I'd love to try yout oatmeal wheat bread recipe! i'm hoping to improve my baking skills (yeast and i don't get along... unless i'm brewing beer)

aTxVegn said...

Wow, Laura! You know how much I love beautiful colorful food, so I think everything in this post looks wonderful! Red peppers add the perfect touch to so many dishes. Thanks for the pointer to the crepe recipe and the review of Jess's tofu. And the oatmeal bread - one of my alltime faves!

bazu said...

Delicious stuff all around. I've been craving a lot of those dishes- the wasabi lima beans, the tofu, yum! Oh, and I second the request for the oatmeal bread recipe- it's something I've always wanted to try! How good do those crepes look?? Ok, I think I need dinner right now.

Julie said...

Everything looks de-lic-ious!

That cashew dip is perfection, isn't it?!

Oooh and those crepes....OOO

Neva Vegan said...

That bread is beautiful!

The crepes are so impressive. I've never made them because I'd been warned they were very tricky.

Mmm, cashew dip, fruits, and lovely salads.

Very, very inspiring.

laura jesser said...

Emily, the crêpe recipe is a very good one--it's linked in the post. Like I said, though, I didn't have bread flour so I used white whole wheat flour instead and added an "egg." I don't know how necessary the egg was so next time I may try it without!

Jess, I'm glad you came by to see what I did with your tofu! Lite coconut milk is something I've never seen--maybe I just haven't really looked for it. Bob's already asking me when we can have this tofu again!

Urban vegan, yes, that's usually the way of the first crêpe, eh? (Though this time, interestingly enough, I had to sacrifice my last one instead...)

Johanna, thanks! Crêpes aren't that difficult, but they do take a little practice. Hmm, maybe I'll do a crêpe-making tutorial... that would be fun!

Courtney, give 'em a go sometime! Like I said to Johanna, I think I'm going to do a crêpe-making tutorial on here very soon, so you could wait for that if you want--or just go for it!

Stonielove, I'll post the bread recipe. But I think your people need to talk to my people--while I've got yeasted breads down pretty well, I have never brewed my own beer. I'd love to try someday!

Diann, yes, red peppers are so vibrant and gorgeous. My refrigerator is bursting with them right now, and I'm having a great time putting them in everything!

Bazu, that's great--you sound like me when I go blog-hopping at dinnertime!

Julie, YES about the cashew dip! I can't imagine a nicer balance of flavors and textures...

Neva vegan, thanks!I'm so glad that you stopped in and left a comment on my blog! I just love your profile pic by the way--it's lovely. So I think I will do a crêpe-making tutorial very soon, if you are interested. But, try them sometime--it may be that only half of your first batch survives, but eventually you get the knack and then it's not so hard at all.

scottishvegan said...

How have I managed to miss that quinoa salad in Vive!? It looks great…I will be making it soon! And that dip sounds heavenly…mmmm! Your bread looks perfect…thanks for posting the recipe…another one to add to the list!

Jackie said...

What great meals you have been having.

Popped by Dreena's blog for the cashew recipe.

The Oatmeal wheat bread looks so good. I really must add more oats to my life as they are so good for us.

laura jesser said...

Scottish vegan, I can't believe I have overlooked that recipe this long either. The balance of flavors is just lovely. Mmm, I always love trying out great new bread recipes!!

Jackie, I love all the health benefits of oats--it really makes that bowl of breakfast oatmeal feel like a great big hug for your body!

Liliy said...

Ooh, your crepes look great! I need to improve mine...

Emmy said...

The cashew dip looks great. I'll have to give it a try soon. I bet it was delicious in the crepes too.

laura jesser said...

Liliy, once you know how to do it, it just takes practice! :)

Emmy, it was great in the crêpes, especially with fresh fruit, mmm.... Yes, you should try it!