Mexicali Scramble

I have fallen into a bit of a brekkie rut. I have the most fantastic waffle maker on the planet, coupled with the best recipe for waffles (modified from Vegan Brunch- it's the Buckwheat one but since I didn't have buckwheat flour, I used 1/2 wheat, 1/2 unbleached, and it makes for waffle greatness). I have my fave tofu scramble recipe from http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9781551521879-0, there's the crepes from Vegan Brunch, but that requires thought before hand to get a couple pints of berries or bananas (worth it when I remember), but also not a brunch to have weekly. Pancakes (which, actually, my faves are from The Compassionate Cook, but I seem to have never blogged about those). And if I am low on ingredients, lazy, or in a hurry to get someplace- it's just cereal. So, next week, I pledge to delve further into vegan brunch and do the benedict or the puff pastry tempeh thing, something jazzy. For this week, I needed to work with what was in the kitchen and created this iteration of a scramble. It was good, I would like to experiment and use the extra ultra firm and kind of dry tofu- as this was a bit moist but the flavors were spot on, and it was a great way to start the day! I recommend a cast iron skillet as I do for a lot of dishes these days, since it's a short cut to amazingness. 1 package extra firm tofu 1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed 1/2 onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic- smooshed through a press 1 med-large tomato, finely chopped 1T tamari 1t dijon mustard 1/8 t smoked paprika (secret ingredient, don't skip it, it adds a lot of smoky goodness) 1t nutritional yeast 1T sun dried tomato-infused oil salt and pepper to taste Sautee the onion in 1/2 the oil. Combine spices, garlic, tamari, mustard and nutritional yeast and whisk around with a fork until well combined. When the onions are soft approaching translucent, crumble the tofu into the pan. Add in the spice mix, I use tofu bits to get every last bit out (saves washing a spatula). Let that cook until the color is bright yellow-gold and the tofu is drying out. Add tomatoes and well rinsed black beans. Add the sun dried oil as needed to keep the dish from sticking too much. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until dish is dry enough and some tofu is browning. Serve with toast or corn tortillas- I wouldn't kick some potatoes out of bed with it either.

Grilled Polenta and Vegetable Stacks



For a pile of vegetables- this is amazing. I know that it's weird for a vegan (and also rather inconvenient), but I'm not a fan of grilled vegetables. This is primarily because it's the hot equivalent of a salad at restaurants that don't offer any vegan options. I used to get so annoyed as a teenager when I stopped eating meat and we'd go to a steakhouse for a family dinner and an aunt or someone would say, "oh look, you can eat- they have salad!" Of course, those were back in the days when salads were vegetarian- before the mounds of grilled chicken, beef, bacon or ham were involved.

I digress. This is about the Grilled Polenta and Vegetable Stacks from the (what else) Real Food Daily cookbook. It involves making your own polenta (shockingly easy and FAR tastier than store bought), marinading the mushrooms in handmade vinegrette, making tofu ricotta and a tomato-saffron Coulis. In other words, this is a typical hours long RFD recipe that is delicious and awesome and worth the work.

If you use a biscuit cutter for the polenta (recommended), you'll have loads of left over odd shaped pieces left, which are super perfect for making the BBQ Tempeh with Polenta Stuffing from Appetite for Reduction the next night.

For the Coulis, which is amazingly delicious, I went to a specialty spice shop to get saffron. I know that it's a super expensive spice, but it was $35 for a gram there. I vented on Facebook about that and got the super helpful suggestion that I should go to Trader Joes (where I found a $6 jar). Granted, the more expensive stuff is probably better, but... I shall never know since I used the TJ's one.

Anyway, all of the flavors of this work together brilliantly and in a way that I wonder how a person (Ann Gentry) envisions before making up a recipe like this. There's the deep, rich, almost meaty flavor of the grilled mushroom and eggplant, the creamy tofu ricotta, the hearty polenta and the light, tomato based sauce all melding and having a grand party in your mouth as you eat (what, I'm not a writer- I'm a foodie).

Also, another great thing about making this was that it was the first time that I used a fresh fennel for anything (the sauce), and nature is so crazy. To make a thing that looks like celery but smells like anise when you cut it is just kooky. But the recipe is great, we loved it and super loved using the grill to make booshie food!

Battle of the Tofu Scramblers




Anyone who's been vegetarian or vegan for more than five minutes has probably had tofu scrambler. I had so much of it years ago that I pretty much never eat it anymore. But on the rare occasions that I want it, I want to make it. I have had too many nastily prepared versions at restaurants to ever order it out again unless for some reason, I'd know that the restaurant makes it amazing.

This is getting on a tangent, but the thing about ordering tofu in restaurants is that most places (non-veg restaurants) do not prepare it well. You need to use the right tofu for the right job (Silken for sauces and deserts, water packed for stir fries and scrambles). I went to a big, chain Mongolian barbecue style place with a client and ordered a stir fry with tofu- they served silken in a stir fry that was undercooked and unmarinated! No wonder tofu has a bad rep with most of the meat-eatin' crowd!

So, yeah, water packed is the way to go for this dish, firm or extra firm. These recipes are from Vegan Brunch and Dolce Vegan. Dolce Vegan is the one in the tortilla and was the clear winner. I would halve the mustard that it calls for, but other than that, it's a great, basic recipe that you can doctor up with peppers or whatever you like. It's just yellow and neutral with enough flavor to make it interesting. I also threw in some vegan chorizo to justify the tortilla b/c we were out of bread (toast).

The Vegan Brunch recipe was not my thing. I suspect that the author is also bored with this dish and just wanted to jazz it up, but 2 teaspoons of cumin was overkill, and not the flavor that I'm looking for with scrambler. Plus, it calls for quite a lot of nutritional yeast, which I think is great in small doses but too much of it damns a dish for me.

So that's my tofu scramble report until next year when I make it again and try a new recipe.

Ying (sic) Yang Salad with Peanut Sesame Dressing




This is the Ying (sic) Yang Salad and Peanut-Sesame dressing from Real Food Daily's cookbook (see Enchiladas). This is where I found out how vast the difference between a food processor and a blender really is. I have a blender. I needed a food processor. A peanut butter based dressing in a relatively cheap blender is not a good combo at all. Still, it was fine. Probably not at all what it should've been, but fine.

This is typical of the recipes in the book where when you set out to make one thing, you need to actually make 3 things (for this one it was; the dressing, marinated ginger tofu, and the salad itself. The salad has amazing fresh ingredients that are primarily things that we don't eat regularly (daikon radish, red cabbage, etc). The tofu was way too salty for my taste. The peanut dressing balanced it a tad, but not enough to make a day long tofu-making process worth it (there's a 2 hour long draining of the tofu, plus a 4 hour marinade).

I would try it again, but would skip the uber tofu and just add some tj's stuff or something marinaded for less time (?). Also, I'm going to be needing a food processor before attempting the dressing again since a moratorium has been effected which prevents me from putting peanut butter in the blender ever again (Davey got stuck with the dishes and said that was a huge pain). Sorry, honey!

Wraps- Starring Meet Market's Cashew Cheese




Okay, I'm mildly obsessed with this Meet Market Cashew "Cheese" (I would like to rename it to Cashew Awesome Spread since it's really pretty dissimilar to cheese). Anyway- I saw a recipe to make the stuff for anyone whose not in L.A. on Whole Food's iphone app. I'm not gonna bother though, since I can just go get bona fide guaranteed greatness over at the Market. Also, I have no food processor.

Anyway- this is another easy peasy thrown together sammie made special by the Cashew Awesome Spread. You'll need:

Tortillas
Lettuce
Tomatoes, chopped
Cashew Awesome Spread
Avocado, sliced
Trader Joe's Baked Tofu- Savory flavor (1/2-1 brick per wrap depending on appetite and tortilla size)

Slice each wad of tofu into 4 slices width-wise (like in my BLTA club) and cook in a wee bit of oil in a frying pan making sure both sides get some golden-y goodness on them. Spread cashew cheese on 2/3 of the tortilla (anywhere that'll be the inside once it's wrapped). Blot tofu, and slice lengthwise (giving you 8 slices per brick). Use 4-8 slices per wrap and layer over cashew cheese. Add lettuce, tomatoes and avocado.

Wrap up, take a bite, let your eyes roll back into your head and be filled with gratitude that you get to eat such great food.

Brooklyn Pad Thai



Aaaawwww man! This is the messiest, splatteriest, biggest production of a dish that will ruin both your kitchen and the shirt that you're wearing while cooking it, but damn, it's worth it. This is the "Brooklyn Pad Thai" from Vegan with a Vengeance, p. 180, and it is AMAZING! The sauce is so flavorful, it has a real kick to it, but isn't too hot to eat and doesn't seem to get hotter the next day like a lot of spicy foods. Slicing the tofu into triangles as she recommends seems to make it taste better (?). It is just such a great amalgam of flavors, the spice, some sweet, the savory tofu, a peanut here and there... it's amazing and a greatest hit and you MUST try it.

I have a few specifics that I do with it, mostly out of availability of ingredients and taste preference.

- I use srichacha for the "asian hot chile or hot sauce" ingredient
- the vinegar that I had was rice vinegar (as opposed to rice wine vinegar- unless they're the same (?)
- I use fresh lime juice in lieu of tamarind concentrate
- I use 1 fresh red chili pepper (since I misread the ingredients list the first time)
- I use 3/4 c peanuts because I love them so (versus 1/2)
- I skip the cilantro and lime garnish
- I use this tofu from T.J's that isn't waterpacked, it's really dry and firm and comes shrink wrapped with a green and red label. I like it in a lot of stir frys and things b/c it needs less cooking time to be cooked thoroughly.

Pretty please try this one- you will be soooooo happy that you did. It makes a ton too, so it's good for a large dinner party (provided you schedule in clean up time before seeing others) or a good dinner and leftover dish.

Club Sammie



There's an awesome vegan restaurant in L.A. (Silverlake) called Flore. I have never ever had one single menu item that I didn't like- or even just went "eh, s'alright" Every single thing is awesome. Way back when I started going there, I decided to capitalize on the fact that every menu item was an option for me (pretty rare as a vegan) and order something different every time that I went there. This was difficult because everything is so good, I kept being tempted to order the same delicious things that I had previously had. My exploration of the menu only lasted about 4 visits until I hit on their club sammie.

It consists of; baked tofu, tempeh bacon, eggless mayo, lettuce, tomato, avocado and sprouts. They lightly toast the bread so it's more substantial and can hold all that goodness in. It's amazing! The combo of the salty tempeh, the creamy avocado, the juicy tomato... it's so good. After ordering that, I couldn't bring myself to order anything else there. I was dying to continue exploring the menu, but that sammie just called at me every time.

Until I decided to de-code it and make it at home. The biggest deal about making this is that the tempeh needs to be marinated for at least 4 hours. But, if you're home in the afternoon to start it and around about 2 hours in to flip it, this is really no effort at all. Especially for how good it is. I think a few places carry "tempeh bacon", but really, this marinade is over the moon. To save time and effort though, I use pre marinated/ seasoned/ baked tofu from Trader Joe's. This is what I came up with:

(makes 4 sammies- you can make them 1 or 2 at a time tho)

1 large avocado
1 large tomato
1-2 leafs Romaine lettuce per sammie
1 package Trader Joe's baked tofu- savory flavor
1 package tempeh, marinaded
Veganaise (optional, but highly recommended)
2 slices whole grain or sturdy bread per sammie
2 T olive oil for frying up tempeh and tofu
Marinade ingredients (see below)
____

About 4 hours before consumption of sammies is intended, whip up the following marinade (I use an 8 x 8 baking pan and whisk ingredients)

4 T Tamari
1/2 c water
1 T Agave Nectar
a pinch- 1/8 t garlic powder
1 T Liquid Smoke

Mix all 5 ingredients in pan. Slice tempeh about 1/8" thick lengthwise, coat each slice in marinade, and leave for 2 hours. After 2 hours, turn to coat other side of slices.
____

Okay, that was really the hard part. So, wash your lettuce and set aside, slice up the tomato into sammie slices. If you're making less than all 4 sammies, just slice what you'll need on one sammie (about 3 slices depending on the size of the tomato). Slice the tofu- for each brick in the 2 brick package, you'll get 4 slices. Each sammie takes 2 slices, so slice as much as you'll need for the servings you're making. I cut them from the side so that each slice is the same size as the original brick in front (I should draw a diagram, but you'll figure this out when it's in front of you)

Put the oil into a large pan, and add the tempeh from the marinade and the tofu slices over medium heat. Watch them carefully and turn them when necessary. Undercook any tempeh that you aren't immediately serving to be reheated the same way the next day. Only cook the tofu that you're serving- the rest will keep in a ziplock until you need it.

Slice the avocado. I use 1/4 large avocado per sammie. Lightly toast the bread (about 1/2 the toasting time you'd do for toast).

Blot tempeh and tofu on a paper towel and assemble sammie. These are BIG and teetery, so I don't recommend cutting them in 1/2. To assemble, I go in this order for maximum taste and stability: bread, veganaise, avocado, tempeh bacon (about 4 1/2 slices per sammie), 2-3 slices tomato, 2 slices tofu placed next to each other, bread slice.

Nothing makes us happier than having these for dinner. Well, almost nothing. And, with the club decoded (the home version is a bit different from Flore's, I still recommend trying there's if you're in L.A.)- I am free to order new menu items there again. Yesterday I had the tofu egg salad sammie with a side of potato salad, It was flippin good.