Beefy Asparagus Stir-Fry

Okay, if the last two posts didn't sell you on Isa Does It, this has to! This dish, like the others is nearly devoid of seasoning, but is so intensely flavorful, it tastes far more complex than it is. I used homemade seitan (RFD recipe), and followed the recipe to the letter with the exception of adding the bean sprouts that I forgot to get at the market. This has a lovely sauce with fresh mint and basil in it, there's a good amount of ginger in the stir fry along with garlic, asparagus, cashews and the seitan. All combine for a really delicious stir fry that lets a lot of the flavors come through (not overly saucy or gunky like some recipes are). My only change would be to either lessen what I call the high notes (the soy sauce, mint, ginger) and intensify some deeper ones- I think sesame seeds would work really well in here, a few tablespoons are gonna get added in next time. But on the whole, I loved it- especially how it whipped up so fast. Also, I served it over quinoa vs rice (a theme of mine lately), and loved the texture that added in. A+

Summer Seitan Sauté ( winter)

New year, new cookbook (yay!). This one was on my pre-order list (though I never pre-ordered it, got it for xmas this year) because it's by Isa Chandra Moskowitz who is probably my favorite cookbook author (Vegan Brunch, Vegan with a Vengeance, Appetite for Reduction, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, etc etc). Though her recipes aren't usually weeknight friendly (there's some for sure, but most are the longer labor and love over kind). Anyway, this is the inaugural run of this book, the "Summer Seitan Sauté". Selected not because of the season, but because of the ingredients in it and lack of spices since I wasn't cooking at home in the comfort of my spice cabinet. This is a really solid, good dish and whipped up in under an hour- totally doable on a weeknight. I used storebought seitan (I know, I know), and it was still really delicious. It was a weird almost stir fry but really southwest flavored meal with the jalpeño and corn and lime juice in it. The corn added sweetness and with just salt and pepper added to season, all of the ingredient's flavors really came through. I had it over quinoa with sliced avocado on top (which added a great creaminess to it), though she recommended rice and guac (maybe next time, as I'm sure I'll make this again). Stoked to try another recipe from the book soon!

Seitan Curry Salad

Another Beans and Barley recipe- I was trying to nail down how to recreate the tofu curry salad at Whole Foods. This was a super awesome alternative, and, I think, maybe even better than the whole foods one. I love the texture of their tofu or whatever they use, so that's one point in their column, but this one has so many amazing flavors, that it wins. I used the "chicken-style" seitan from RFD's book, the sauce (for lack of a better word) is Veganaise based, which I truly would not have thought of on my own. Then there's; carrot, celery, scallions, garlic, parsley, ginger, curry, turmeric, salt and pepa, and the seitan. Shockingly, even Davey liked it (he hates mayo with a passion). Thanks again to that fella who sent me the Beans cookbook- it continues to be awesome!

Braised Cabbage and Seitan

Man, why have I waited until I was 36 to learn how to braise food?! It is my new favorite thing- the flavor that braising adds to veg is just over the moon. This was a delicious dish! I also really don't use cabbage in much of anything besides spring rolls or stir fries- but this was fantastic and made me wonder why we don't eat it more often.

I used RFD's "chicken style" seitan for this (just realized that "seitan" is an e before i word- like "weird"). Anyway, it's a really simple dish and since it was from Appetite for Reduction, was super low calorie too- which made me feel better about overeating because it tasted so great.

The seitan was cooked first to establish a crust that would keep the braising later from making it soggy. I have to say, though, I'd probably sautée the seitan next time and remove it from the pan before braising the cabbage- then add it back in at the last minute. The recipe has the seitan in the pan when the cabbage is braising, which adds a good flavor to the seitan, but does make it a bit floppy. Anyway, the whole thing was super delicious, very weeknight simple (other than making the seitan), and it also held up the next day, which I found shocking. I fully expected the cabbage to be too wilty, but it was still great. Also, the night that I made it (this is a left over pic), I baked potatoes as she recommends in the book. The braising broth poured over the potato was amazing! Also, it's great that we didn't need a load of vegan butter because of the broth as well (since the aim was a low-cal meal). Four stars- I highly recommend it.

Soffrito Seared Seitan

Oh my, this is good! This is from the Candle 79 book and is to die for. The sauce is prepared with a load of great, fresh, raw ingredients (except for the roasted tomatoes). You marinade the seitan in the sauce for 4 hours and then take it out, pan sear it, add the sauce back in to heat it up. It is fantastic. It would be a great summer meal because except for the tomato roasting at the beginning, the cooking is minimal- and it has a really light, fresh flavor to it which would be excellent on a hot day.

They recommend serving on rice with avocado on the side which adds to the aforementioned light, fresh aspect. The sauce almost tastes like pico de gallo. There's tomatoes, garlic, onion and cilantro- which I think is where that fresh salsa idea comes from, but there's also red bell peppers, parsley and some other stuff that hints more at a meal sauce. Anyway, we loved it and I do think that this will become a staple meal. Minus the marinade time, I think it's an hour of cooking tops (oh, also minus the seitan making time too, but still!) It's an excellent dish!

Oven Fried Chik'n Seitan

New cookbook! Since Borders is closing all L.A. stores (insert stifled weeping here), their cookbooks were 30% off. The selection was pretty picked over on the whole in the store (although there were still two full shelves of Sarah Palin's book), but there was also a pretty decent selection of vegan books (insert groan that they weren't snapped up). They were mostly ones that I have or am not interested in except for "Vegan Comfort Food", which I've looked at a few times and never gotten for some reason.

I'm excited to have it now, though. There's a great selection of recipes that aren't just veganized meaty recipes but also aren't too esoteric that you couldn't cook for omnivorous family members from it either. I had left over seitan so I decided to try the Oven Fried Chik'n Seitan. I think that I can't really review this fairly b/c I didn't use her seitan recipe. This was a recipe from RFD's book. The thing is, I LOVE RFD's seitan, but every other book says to boil it (instead of roasting it in water like RFD). I dunno about that whole boiling thing, but I'll try it soon just to see what all those other books are blathering on about.

Anyway, this worked alright. The Panko is WAY crunchier than breadcrumbs. I had made something else breaded recently that never made it onto this blog- but the breading recipe was found online and worked amazing. This one didn't work as good. The liquid was too runny and the panko too big to stick, although it did enough to make what you see here. I baked them as directed, and they were looking dry and lame, so I threw them in a pan with some oil to finish them off. The seasoning was delicious though. I would maybe use the liquid from my other mixture and then mix panko and breadcrumbs (?) I'll experiment at some point and report back. Over and out.

Mediterranean "Chicken" Salad

Yum. I think that the Beans and Barley cookbooks have such great salads in them because a) they have a deli, and b) it's so cold all winter that people in Milwaukee get really excited in summer to be outside and have cookouts and eat great picnic food. Like the Mexican Quinoa from book two or ...this salad! It's from the Beans book Volume 3 (thank you again, Nicholas V!)

This was intended to be a salad using chicken along with parmesan cheese. I skipped the cheese (although I could tell from the flavors of the salad that it would be really excellent on it), and I veganized it by using the "chicken style" seitan from Real Food Daily's book.

The salad is pretty quick to mix up (after spending 2+ hours making the seitan). Just some noodles, fresh spinach, diced tomatoes, red bell and red onion and some pine nuts. The dressing is good too, a teeny bit goes a long way. Also, since Davey hates vinegar, I reduced that by 1T and it was pretty great. Unless you love vinegar, I'd recommend cutting the recommended 3T down to 2, it's a nice balance of flavors with less.

This would be great to take on a picnic or to make for a summer meal, it's nice and light but still pretty filling with the faux chick, noodles and pine nuts. So the verdict is, I'm super happy to have more Beans and Barley books!

Fajitas starring "chicken style seitan"

These are the Fajitas from the Real Food Daily Cookbook (I gotta branch out, but... why?) These are amazing! The "chicken style" seitan has different ingredients than the standard stuff (this one has onion, garlic, cannellini beans and garbanzo flour). It changes it up a bit, although it's hard to tell the taste difference b/c this fajita recipe adds a bunch on top of it.

There's a "marinade"- the driest marinade known to man, only 4T of liquid to, oh, about 20 T of spices. I marinaded it overnight. After that, it's easy peasy to make- just chop the peppers, onions and tomatoes, pan sear it all and voila! It's a delicious dish, and I appreciate the recipe a lot because I would never, ever have used those herbs (oregano, thyme, basil + others) for a mexican dish.

I have one pound of the seitan left, which will go in some mole enchiladas, so again, it'll be doused in something disguising the flavor, but there is a clear difference, and I can see why you'd want to use the "chicken style" versus plain for different applications. It's also nice to expand our non-soy protein base with a different flavor.

Seitan from Scratch + Salsbury Seitan- Take Two

Okay, I've gone off the vegan deep end. I made seitan from scratch today! It's in a few of my cookbooks, but it always seemed overboard to make not only a recipe for the dish (plus the sauce, plus the side dish, plus whatever else), so I've bought a delicious one by Westsoy. Some of my favorite recipes use seitan now (Ethiopian Seitan and Peppers, East Side Tacos, etc), and the stuff is rather expensive ($10 a meal). More importantly, when we went to Real Food Daily and ate their homemade seitan, it was noticeably faaaaar better.

The process of making it made me feel like a real cook. Combine wet into dry, blah blah, but then... you put parchment paper in an 8x8 pan, you lightly oil the paper, put the seitan dough in it, cover that with tin foil, and THEN put that in a 9x12 pan that's filled 1/2 way with water, and bake the whole shebang for two hours! Then, you take it out, and that gooey dough turned in to something that very strongly resembled seitan brownies! Once cooled, it can be cut however you please.

But here's the magic part. I made the Salsbury Seitan, which I made before and wasn't too fond of.The marinade never soaked in with storebought seitan, it just sat on top in a paste (see my comments HERE), so I almost wrote it off as a bunk recipe. After eating it at RFD, though, I knew it wasn't them, it was me. So, I tried it again with the homemade seitan and voila! Super magic! The marinade was entirely absorbed, it was beyond delicious, it was moist, flavorful, non-gritty, and awesome. In fact, we ate hours ago, and the only thing keeping me from going in for more is that I'm in bed and I've flossed already. Also, the golden gravy from the RFD book is an absolute must with this. I could do shots of that stuff.

And, just because I was getting over a cold and had nothing better to do all day, I made baked potatoes too. The only way that I've ever known how to make these is to wrap them in tin foil and bake them (or the micro way which seriously creeps me out now). I looked up how long to leave my tin foil pressies in the oven, and found that other people oil the skin of the potato and salt it and then bake them. There was even a tirade about my treasured tin foil method online! So, I tried the oil/ salt method, and holy Pete! What a different beast! I still think that the tin foil method is great too, but this is good in its own right. They get amazingly fluffy inside, and the skin is crispy and salty goodness. So, I'm sure most of you know this, but this was what I did:

• Scrub baking potatoes
• Puncture them with a fork a few times
• Coat in oil lightly with a brush or your fingers
• Put in a metal baking pan, sprinkle with salt
• Bake for 30 minutes, turn
• Bake for 30 more, enjoy perfection

Anyway, five recipes later, we had a phenomenal dinner, and I cannot recommend the Real Food Daily cookbook more, particularly now that I've made this seitan! And now, I feel like I have to re-make all the seitan dishes that I heretofore thought were awesome just to have my mind blown out of my head from deliciousness overload.

Salsbury Seitan

Ah, a healthy vegan version of the classic Swanson tv dinner! This is from p188 of RFD's cookbook (aka my bible). The marinade/ sauce is good, although there's kind of an overpowering mustard flavor to it (I think I'll 1/2 it next time- that or maybe the tahini is giving it a bit of an almost pasty flavor. But, with a ton of the golden gravy (p68), some smashed taters and corn, it still is a delicious comfort food meal.

Enchiladas Verde (that's Spanish for "awesome")

Hey, guess what? I got a new cookbook! It is: The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry. Real Food Daily is an L.A. restaurant chain that is vegetarian and organic. Disclaimer- I've never been there (to any of the locations). I've read good and bad reviews and live no where near any of them, so I just have never bothered. But the cookbook is beautifully designed, full color (unlike most of my books- not that I have anything against low and minimal budget printing, it's the content that counts). But this one is damn pretty. What really caught my eye with it though was the seasonal sections in the back. The chef lists recipes by seasonal ingredients after the usual sections (soups, salads, entrees, etc).

One thing that I noticed when I got it home and really delved into it, was that the recipes that are most interesting to me are rather complex. there's a lot of listing of ingredients and then buried in the list will be "x sauce (see page blah blah)". Meaning that you have to make things to have the ingredients to make things. Which undoubtedly makes them better, but also takes up some serious time.

But anything worth doing is worth doing well, right? So this is the Enchiladas Verde (more or less) from page 152. I say more or less b/c I cheaped out on making my own Seitan and just bought some. I'm ambitious, but I have limits.

I did make the Salsa verde, which was my first foray into tomatillos. They're kinda creepy as I found a large dried up spider in one (in between the husk and the fruit). Anway, the salsa is an excellent recipe in itself. I did hit on a happy accident with this too. I made the salsa and had a minor catastrophe last night (almost lost my engagement ring while making it- we found it after 2 hours of looking. It was in the onion drawer). Anyway, I didn't feel like finishing up enchiladas, so I stuck the salsa in the fridge. It turns out that having it steep overnight is really good for the flavor.

Today, I made the enchilada part with store bought seitan (oh, whatever, it's good). The recipe is delicious! Davey thinks it's the best green salsa that he's ever had. It has great flavor, and after the addition of the second chili in the enchilada sauce, a nice simmery spice to it. the seitan takes on a very faux chicken feel, and the whole combo of flavors is really over the moon.

I also got ingredients for a nice peanut noodle salad that I'll be trying. I'm hoping that all of the recipes from the book are as out of the park as this one. And, I have to get around to trying out the restaurant as well!

East Side-y Tacos

I semi-de-coded another Flore recipe. I have to add a disclaimer. Home versions are good in their own way, but it's just not the same. Going to Flore and partaking in their food pretty much can't be beat. But, if you don't live in L.A., or want to make knock offs at home like me, fakes are alright.

This also requires buying their brand of Cashew Cheese, which is sold at their sister café Meet Market east of Flore on Sunset. This stuff is awesome. For cheese eaters, or even anyone looking for a cheese substitute- you should know that this doesn't resemble cheese at all. It's its own thing. Its own wonderful thing. It's a spread (versus a shredded or grated cheesy substance), the flavor is nothing like cheese- which is not a bad thing at all. This stuff is spiced perfectly and has such a rich, amazing flavor. It totally makes anything you use it on. It's a crucial component of their East Sider Tacos, and although I'm not positive that the stuff at Meet Market is exactly what they use on the tacos, it's real close and just as tasty.

So, this is pretty easy peasy and good for a "tired after work" night. You'll need:

2 packs of Seitan (I buy the blue packs at Whole Foods)
1 packet of Whole Foods taco seasoning (I suppose you could use any brand you wanted though- but it's the powdered kind)
Cashew cheese to taste (I used about 3 t per taco)
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomatoes
Hard corn tortillas

Prepare the taco seasoning according to the directions. Put both packs of seitan (broken up a bit more, the chunks in the pack are pretty big and these need to fit into the shells) into a large skillet, pour taco seasoning over. Cook until most of the liquid dissolves, but there's still a bit of sauciness in there. While seitan is cooking, shred lettuce and dice tomatoes.

Spread cashew cheese all throughout the inside of the taco shells. Put seitan in the bottom about 1/2 way up the shell, top with lettuce and tomatoes to taste.

Voila! Tasty amazing tacos that I'm betting even carnivorous friends would enjoy!