Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vegan Summer Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (. . . feeding my "inner fashionista" hand sewing Alabama Chanin and joining Sew-a-longs)

The tomatoes have been piling up here. I had to do something. So I did Italian of course. Not that I needed a recipe to create a perfect fresh tomato sauce with pasta dinner. I didn't. But I believe anything Italian made well can be made even better with little pearls of wisdom from Marcella Hazan. Made with 2 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes, a half stick of vegan butter, an onion (peeled and cut into quarters), five cloves of garlic and cooked this according to Marcella at "a very slow but steady simmer for 45 minutes . . . until the fat floats from from the tomato". Her basic sauce omits the garlic and I can appreciate that option. But as far as I'm concerned, it's not really edible Italian Sauce without the garlic. I tasted the sauce while it was simmering without the garlic, it was "okay". As the sauce simmered, I thought it needed some umph: so I also added a fresh zucchini, a carrot, some celery and a can of garbanzo beans. This was a scrumptious meal. 
And an even better leftover the next night. 
I also added fresh basil and oregano from the garden, too--but toward the end of cooking. 
Finally, I hit it with some balsamic vinegar. Perfecto!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Vegan Texas Sheet Cake for Two (eat chocolate: feel better. . . and Frankie's first year)

Well. I needed chocolate. You know how when you usually bake a Texas Sheet Cake, you're obliged to bake with an overly large thirteen inch cake pan--with a TON of leftover cake mocking you the rest of the week? (Nibbling away here and there until five more pounds creep up on you? Seriously, now that I'm in the "over fifty" range--if I look at a cake, I can feel my thighs growing.) Not so with this cake. It takes a six-inch round springform pan, less temptation--more reason to love, and viola: cake for two! Perhaps a more appropriate name for it would be: Rhode Island Chocolate Sheet Cake. (Okay, I have dibs on this name for my future restaurant.)

 It's delicious, moist, chocolate-y, nutty and cinnamon-y. Pure delish. Serve it with some vegan ice cream and really get your dessert fix on. But not five pounds worth, 'kay?
I found a wonderful little baking book: Dessert for Two by Christina Lane in the book store quite by accident a few weeks back (or maybe the book found me). Although not vegan in its design, you know I've never met a non-vegan recipe I couldn't veganize--I'll be busy baking from this book for 
awhile. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Roasted Corn, Avocado and Black Bean Salad (A Yankee as "Miss Maudie" reading . . . To Kill a Mockingbird)

This salad is a result of a time-honored tradition as head chef of this household: It's a hundred and thirty here in St. Louis. Cripes almighty! No cooking will happen--we are all raw foods here. This salad took literally five minutes to prep. I have tomatoes and cucumbers galore from the garden--I pulled out whatever else I had on hand to make a lovely main-dish salad. It was dressed with a yummy balsamic vinaigrette and fresh lemon juice. I had so little energy yesterday afternoon, I could barely scoop the avocado from its shell. Chopping and peeling the cucumber from the garden nearly did me in. And the corn roasting part!--I was able to muster only because I had made a quick dash to the store after my morning run, husked it right away and put in a bag in the fridge. All I had to do was place the corn over the open flame of the stove for a few seconds to add a nice color of "I-worked-hard-to-make-you-a-salad-for-dinner" appeal. Simple. Straightforward and filling. I topped the salad with some quinoa for an extra protein boost. Salads are an essential summer staple right now. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Vegan Summer "Berry Good" Pie According to Fannie Farmer (A Tale of Two Cities for Me This Summer)

Pies don't last long in this house. It's a tradition for me to bake at least three or four pies during the summer. But given we've had some really steamy, icky-raining, crappy summer days here in St. Louis this year so far, this is my first pie. But oh, what a pie! It's a three berry pie: blueberries, blackberries and raspberries all done according to the Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. (One of my most treasured cookbooks--and is to be saved first should, godforbid, anything happen to this house.) 

As pies go, if you don't attempt to learn anything else in baking, learning a pie dough recipe by heart will add years to your life and the life of your loved ones. Abiding by the directions from Fannie Farmer, "Pie dough should be made by hand in order to achieve the greatest flakiness. Other methods, using the food processor or blender, overblend the fat and flour and end up making a good, crumbly tart pastry instead of a flake pie crust." Truer words were never said. So here is the memorized pie dough recipe I have used:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup vegan shortening
6-7 tablespoons ice cold water

Add flour and salt to medium bowl, then add shortening in pieces, mix together with your hands until a fine crumb forms. And in this case, the mixture should look like what Fannie Farmer says: bread crumbs. Then, add the ice cold water one tablespoon at a time until you can pinch the mixture together and it holds. Split the dough in half, shape into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for about 30 minutes. (Fannie Farmer says the chilling part is not necessary, and it really isn't despite what you've read. I just like the way the dough handles after a brief chill--my rolling pin experience involves less cursing as well.)

And for the filling, keep it simple: 

5 cups of whatever fruit you'd like
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour or cornstarch
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegan butter
Toss this all together and pour into your pie shell.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, then turn oven down to 350, bake 25 minutes more. Cool the pie.
Ta-da: Pie!

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