Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tempeh tacos

Taco night! But not just any taco night. These feature delicious, escabeche-like pickled sweet onion and jalapeno together with flavorful tempeh crumbles. Plus creamy avocado and tangy queso fresco...yes please. Tuesday night tacos, coming at you. Let's start with the quick pickle.If we get this going first, it will be perfect by the time everything else is ready. Just slice up half a sweet onion (and mine were really from Vidalia GA because a co-worker's kid sold them to me for a school fundraiser--weird, right?) into thin half-moon slices and mix together with about 6-8 pickled jalapeno slices, 1 teaspoon sugar and 3 -4 tablespoons cider vinegar. Stir it up together and let sit while you do other things. Get 2 tablespoons olive oil heating up in a skillet over medium-high. Add in 1 teaspoon cumin and 2 teaspoons chili powder to bloom their flavors in the heat before you put anything else in.Get a package of tempeh out and admire it in all its fermented soy glory. Tempeh has great flavor and texture, especially for soy-resistant people. It isn't gonna win any beauty contests though.Crumble it up and stick it in the pan with the spices and oil.Stir it around for a few minutes, breaking up big chunks. If it seems dry you can add a drizzle more olive oil. For flavor I added 1 tablespoon worcestershire, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 1/4 cup tomato sauce plus a squeeze of tomato paste. My sauce was frozen which is why it looks so weird in the picture. You don't want it to be soupy with sauce--just enough to boost up the flavor and help it brown in the pan. After you mix everything in, turn down the heat to medium and spread it out in the pan and let it crisp up in parts. Let it continue to cook like this for about 5 minutes, stirring the pan occasionally so everything gets a chance to get crispy. Taste it and see if it needs more salt or anything to perk it up--as with many soy products, you can get aggressive with the seasoning. I tossed some squeezed out limes on top to flavor it too. Meanwhile, you can cut up your other taco fillings! I had 1 avocado, sliced and tossed in lime juice, about 1/2 cup crumbled quesco fresco, a couple lime wedges for squeezing, and the sweet onion-jalapeno pickle.This is the right amount to fill 8 small corn tortillas. Warm them up on the stovetop first.Don't forget the tempeh! Now just fill up your tacos!The onion is crisp with a sweet-tangy heat and everything pulls together to make the perfect early summer back porch dinner.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quinoa summertime salad

This is a protein powerhouse of a salad that tastes best room temperature or cold. It's pretty much summer anyway, and it creeps up on you every year, so it's best to be ready with the stuff that is easy to cook without too much heat. Especially great for lunches and perfect along with anything you grilled for dinner. And the best takes advantage of any odds-and-ends from the farmers markets. Or maybe the best part is the quinoa...oddly enough, this teeny little grain is a close relative of spinach and has very complete amino acids. It's unusually good for you! The More You Know!Quinoa needs to be rinsed a couple times in a few changes of water to swish off this natural bitter coating on the little seeds. See, quinoa know how delicious and healthy they are, so they used their powers of evolution to develop a nasty tasting resin (called saponin) to repel insects and birds. I am just a font of quinoa wisdom today, aren't I? Just rinse it well before cooking with it.I cooked it in chicken stock but you should use whatever you like. Veggie stock or water would be fine (you could even stir a little miso in the water for a heartier flavor but then cut back on the rest of the salt used). Or, depending on what the other flavors ended up being, half orange juice and half water. I used 2 cups of quinoa to 4 cups stock to make a ton of this. Bring liquid to a boil together with the quinoa, then simmer covered, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. In fact this is a good time to point of the flexibility of this salad--just cook up the quinoa into fluffiness, and meanwhile chop up a pile of delicious add-ins. I had some big chives from the neighbors yard, some small chives from my yard, 1/4 cup minced parsley and about 1/2 a cucumber, diced into mini chunks.Also, about 1/2 cup diced queso fresco (you could use ricotta salata instead, or feta), plus 1/4 cup goat cheese, 1/4 cup minced roasted red pepper, and a small clove minced garlic. Zucchini or yellow crookneck, once it's in season will be nice all diced up in there. Garbanzo beans. Tiny chunks of tomato, minced green beans, maybe fresh corn too. You want at least 2 cups of extra stuff to stir in there.By now your quinoa should have cooked up pretty well--the grains will be translucent and soft when done. Fluff it up and admire.Stir in the juice and zest from one lemon plus a pinch of salt. Add a hefty 1 tablespoon butter (you can use olive oil instead, if you want a different flavor). It's good to add a little flavor while the grains are all hot and absorby.I dumped it into a big mixing bowl at this point--it was easier to stir and it cooled down faster this way. You don't want it to be hot when you stir in all the other ingredients. Also you can keep it fluffy and not let it cool all into a sticky lump (it shouldn't do this anyway because you added some butter/olive oil, but you never know).After it's cooled down somewhat, stir in all that great stuff you chopped up already.
I just thought of more things you could add in...chopped nuts, or tiny chunks of pressed tofu, or chopped up hardboiled eggs, or tuna...anyway.
Here's the dressing I made: 3 teaspoons capers, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablepsoons white balsamic vinegar, 1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard, plus a pinch salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I just put everything in a glass jar with a tight lid and shake it up really well to mix. Pour it over the grains and veggies and mix well.
You can leave it at room temperature or stick it in the fridge for later. Taste it for salt before serving--sometimes cool foods can taste flat. I want to eat some version of this everyday, all summer long.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Veggie corndogs

Law school final exams are taking a toll on spare time right this is about the extent of cooking at the moment. Be back very soon with some exciting new recipes!