Friday, January 29, 2010

Tuesday, January 19th

This blog entry is sadly late, as I’m getting ready for a trip out of the country, but want to get it published while my memory is still fresh. This was a vegan night led by Guest Chef Phil Gelb ( Here’s what we made:

Winter Vegetable Bean Soup—I’m generally not a fan of soups that have lots of chunky stuff in them, and this one was definitely that. I tend to prefer blended soups that then have several garnishes, not a brothy soup that has a whole bunch of stuff floating around. But this one was chock full of so many ingredients, some large, some small, some with skin, some naked, but the thing that held it altogether for me was a really great flavor to the broth. I was especially skeptical of the kabocha chunks with the skin on them but ended up enjoying the taste, texture, and even the peeling experience along the way. And garlicky broth is good broth. In all, I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Watercress Salad—Again, another dish with a lot going on, and again, a really good dish. When Phil described this dish, he talked about how blood oranges were his favorite citrus, and I really developed a new love for the fruit on this night. This salad was wonderfully complex, citrusy but really interestingly so, crunchy and juicy, tart and sweet. I would have liked to have had a bit more vinegar in the dressing, but apart from that, it was a really excellent salad. I give it a score of 7 bucks but it could have very easily been .5 higher with a bit more tang.

Tempeh Marsala—for many people, this was their favorite dish. Not for me. Phil makes his own tempeh, and it’s really good stuff to start with. I really like that it was fried—I guess I like most anything fried—but the Marsala and spicing was not enough for me. It was a bit too delicate, and I think that I would have really liked several shots of soy sauce on each piece. With this said, I kept eating it, so it couldn’t have been all bad, and thus I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Olives—this dish had the potential to be really good but for me fell short. I like Brussels sprouts and I love pine nuts and olives, but there wasn’t enough holding the pieces together. The sprouts, in my opinion, were undercooked and not sufficiently flavored. I wanted the flavor and texture of the pine nuts and olives to be infused in the sprouts, but they were really more of a garnish, and I wanted more of that since that was the flavorful part. Perhaps it could have been improved by some balsamic vinegar or some lemon, or by chopping the sprouts smaller so that everything was more uniformly sized, but as it was, I can only give it a score of 4.5 bucks.

Pear Crisp—this was a really nice dessert. The pears were perfectly cooked, the topping was outstanding, and Phil had made some wonderful cashew nut ice cream that was to die for. Was it pumpkin flavored? In any case, perfectly baked fruit is a nice thing, especially with some grains and nuts and other dried fruit on top, so I can do nothing but give it a score of 7 bucks.

Overall—this was quite a nice meal with several highlights for me. And like “A Prairie Home Companion”, all the dishes were above average. And in all, a meal valued at 30 bucks is quite a bargain for 8, and this one was. Here are the recipes…

Winter Vegetable Bean Soup

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

½ C olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 leeks, diced
6 t sea salt
4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 fennel bulbs, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1 small kabocha, seeded and diced
1 radicchio, diced
2 bulbs garlic, diced
4 tsp dried thyme
4 tsp dried oregano
2 cups red wine
18 cups stock
2 cups cooked beans
3 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 lemons zest and juice

1. In a soup pot, heat olive oil, add onions, leeks and salt and let sweat for 10 minutes.
2. Add the next nine ingredients (through thyme and oregano) and cook 5 minutes.
3. Add red wine to deglaze and let most of it evaporate.
4. Add the stock and cooked beans. Bring to a simmer.
5. Add fresh herbs, lemon juice and zest at the end. Season to taste and serve.

Serves 18

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Watercress Salad

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Dressing Ingredients
Zest and juice of 3 blood oranges
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 T champagne vinegar
2/3 C olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 shallot, minced
½ t sea salt

Salad Ingredients
2 bulbs fennel, shaved
3 bunches watercress leaves, chopped
7 blood oranges, sectioned removing all the pith
20 green olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 C walnuts, toasted

1. Mix together the dressing ingredients thoroughly.
2. Combine the fennel and watercress and dress.
3. Top with blood oranges, green olives, and walnuts

Serves 10

Tempeh Marsala

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Olive oil
½ lb tempeh, sliced into ½ inch strips
Kosher salt
1/3 C Marsala

1. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat lightly with olive oil.
2. Fry strips on one side until brown.
3. Turn over—only once—and brown on the other side.
4. Sprinkle with salt and add the Marsala wine at the end, after it browns. Cook 10 seconds and remove from heat.
5. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Olives

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 t sea salt
1 T safflower or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T pine nuts
10 olives, chopped

1. Trim Brussels sprouts and cut in half.
2. Place sprouts on a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt, oil and garlic. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 15 minutes.
3. After 15 minutes, remove foil, add pine nuts and olives, and roast for an additional 10 minutes, or until sprouts are al dente and slightly caramelized.

Serves 8

Pear Crisp

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Topping Ingredients
1 ½ C rolled oats
¼ C buckwheat flour
1/3 C walnuts, chopped
¼ C Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
¼ C maple syrup or agave

Pear Ingredients
8 pears, cored and sliced thin
1 t cinnamon
1 T kudzu or potato starch
½ t sea salt
½ t allspice
¼ t cloves
2 T maple syrup or agave
½ C dried cranberries

1. Mix together the oats, buckwheat, and walnuts, then add the Earth Balance and syrup.
2. Mix all of the pear ingredients together and then place in a baking dish.
3. Place the topping on top of the pears, covering the pears completely.
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until it starts to bubble up on the sides.
5. Serve warm with ice cream.

Serves 8-12

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And a Local Story about Frugal Foodies in Berkeley...

Seattle Frugal Foodies in the News

This story has a few typos and a few factual errors, but should help tell the story about Frugal Foodies debut in Seattle:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tuesday, January 12th

This was the first vegan night using a series of menus provided by Julie Motz. We’re calling these “Julie’s Vegan Nights”, and this first one did not disappoint. We made a series of dishes, some rather easy, at least one quite involved, and the full house seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit. Here’s what we made:

African Yam Soup with Ground Nuts—you all may know that I love a good soup, and I make quite a few excellent ones, so it takes quite a soup to impress me. This one did. I have a handful of soups that I make regularly that are can’t miss, and I think that this one will be added to the mix. Great taste, wonderful texture, and quite distinct from anything that I’ve ever had. I loved it. And some of it may have come as a mistake since I don’t think that the group had enough space in their pot for the mass quantity we were making so the soup ended up a bit thicker than intended. And what a soup it was. I give it a nearly perfect score of 7.5 bucks.

Cumin Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms—also a very tasty dish, though I think that the mushrooms were not roasted quite long enough. There’s a note in the recipe saying that the mushrooms should be roasted until they are dry, and these weren’t. I think that the flavor and texture would have been richer had the group broiled them longer. Still they were excellent and I went back for seconds. I give it a score of 6 bucks, but I think that it could have scored a buck higher with proper cooking.

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Crepes with Edamame Sauce—this was the most difficult of the dishes, and it’s one of those recipes that I’m not sure has to be so hard (for the record, I shortened the name of this dish, and it's still far too long...that should be a sign that something is amiss). For me, it had too much going on, and I think that it would have been better as a simpler dish. There were some very good elements to it, the shiitake mushrooms being outstanding, the crepes well cooked, but overall it was lacking. I think that had they been shiitake mushroom crepes with a simple creamy sauce, edamame or otherwise, it would have scored much higher. Still I give it a score of 5 bucks with room for improvement.

Warm Cabbage Salad—this is a recipe that was condensed in terms of cooking time to meet the Frugal Foodies format of no more than an hour and a half of prep and cooking time. It suffered because of it. The original recipe called for at least two hours of marinating, which I shortened to an hour, and so the cabbage was not as flavorful as it was the next day when I tried it. Still, something was missing for me, perhaps the onions were too big, perhaps there weren’t enough toasted walnuts, but it was not what it could have been. So with potential for something more, I give it a score of 4.5 bucks.

Carrot Cake—this was a recipe that I also abridged with better results. It was supposed to be a quite involved cake with frosting and walnuts but we made only the cake. Vegan cakes are often tricky but this one turned out well. It was moist—and perhaps would have benefited from a few more minutes baking—and well flavored with a mix of lots of funky spices. Might be nice to try it with all the extras (if we had the time and energy to do it) but it was pretty good as it. I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Overall—a good meal, and especially so for being vegan. The overall score was 28.5 bucks. If I were to make this menu on my own, I’d cut out the cabbage, simplify the crepes as discussed, and it would be a quite lovely meal. Here are the recipes…

African Yam Soup with Ground Nuts

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

2 t olive oil
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 t fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/3 t ground cloves
½ t ground cardamom
½ t ground allspice
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cumin
2 t chili powder
¼ t cayenne pepper
1 c orange juice
½ t orange zest
3 yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
16 oz can diced tomatoes
6 c vegetable stock
½ c creamy peanut butter
¼ c light miso
salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro, lime wedges, and chopped peanuts as garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté, stirring often, for ten minutes or until the onions are lightly caramelized. Add the next seven spices and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and zest, yams, tomatoes, and stock, stir, and let simmer for 40 minutes, or until the yams are very soft.
2. Add the peanut butter and miso and puree the soup until smooth.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with garnishes.

Serves 6

Cumin Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
½ t ancho chili powder
¼ t black pepper
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T tamari
2 T olive oil
16 oz cremini or button mushrooms, well cleaned and trimmed

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the mushrooms. Whisk well.
2. Immerse the mushrooms completely in the marinade and let sit for at least 15 minutes.
3. Place the mushrooms, tops down, on a baking dish. Brush the mushrooms with the marinade and broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are brown and dry.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Crepes with Edamame Sauce

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

Edamame Sauce Ingredients
1 t canola oil
2 t toasted sesame oil
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced into thin crescents
¼ c ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 ½ c pickled mustard greens or kimchee, diced
1 lb edamame, shelled
1 ½ c vegetable stock
2 t cornstarch, dissolved in ¼ cold water
2 limes, juiced
½ t ground white pepper
Salt to taste

Sauce Instructions
1. Heat the canola oil and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions and ginger and sauté for two minutes, or until just wilted. Add the pickled greens and edamame. Cover with the stock and simmer for ten minutes.
2. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer for another five minutes, or until thickened.
3. Remove from heat. Add the lime juice, white pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Add salt to taste.

Eggplant and Shiitake Filling Ingredients
1 lb Chinese eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 1 inch thick slices
2 t canola oil
1 red onion, halved and sliced into thin crescents
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ t fermented black beans, coarsely chopped
2 t fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 t tomato paste
2 T sucanat
3 T tamari
1 t toasted sesame oil

Filling Instructions
1. Blanch the eggplant for one minute in salted water and drain.
2. Using a wok or large sauté over high heat, add the canola oil and once it’s very hot, add the onions and garlic. Sauté for one minute. Add the black beans, ginger, pepper flakes, eggplant, and mushrooms, and sauté for 3-4 more minutes until the eggplant is just soft. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, and cook until the sauce thickens and glazes the eggplant and mushrooms.

Crepe Ingredients
2 c brown rice flour
¼ c cornstarch
2 t egg replacer
½ t salt
½ thinly sliced scallions
2 t black sesame seeds, toasted
1 t toasted sesame oil
¾ c soy milk, plus more as needed

Crepe Instructions
1. Combine the rice flour, cornstarch, egg replacer, salt, scallions, and sesame seeds in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the sesame oil with the soy milk. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, using more soy milk as necessary to achieve a pancake-like batter.
2. Using a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, spray the pan with vegetable oil, and ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the center of skillet. Tilt and rotate the skillet to form a 6-7 inch crepe. Cook for 90 seconds (or until the edges start to brown) and then flip and cook for another 30 seconds.
3. Transfer the crepe to a large plate and repeat the process. Continue to stack the crepes as they are cooked, covering the stack with a moist towel.

Garnish Ingredients
½ bunch Thai basil
6 T kecap manis
6 T peanuts, toasted
6 T thinly sliced scallions
4 oz enoki mushrooms

Serving Instructions
1. Fill the crepes with 1 cup of the filling and some basil leaves in each one, and rolling them closed.
2. Place crepe on a plate atop 1/3 cup of the edamame sauce. Serve and enjoy with additional garnishes.

Serves 6

Warm Cabbage Salad

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

1 head red cabbage, shredded
½ c umeboshi vinegar
¼ c olive oil
1 red onion, halved crosswise and cut into ¼ inch crescents
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t coarsely ground caraway seeds
2 T balsamic vinegar
½ t black pepper
3 c loosely packed spinach, cut chiffonade
¾ c walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
6 T basil, cut chiffonade

1. Place the cabbage in a large mixing bowl and toss with the vinegar. Cover the bowl with a bag weight the top down with some plates and let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature. After an hour, drain the cabbage of excess vinegar.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for three minutes, or until the garlic just starts to brown. Add the caraway seeds and the cabbage and cook for 3-5 minutes until heated through.
3. Remove from heat and add the balsamic vinegar and black pepper.
4. Serve the cabbage mixture atop a bed of spinach chiffonade and top with walnuts and basil.

Serves 6

Carrot Cake

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

1 whole nutmeg
½ t whole cloves
½ t whole white peppercorns
1 ½ t cinnamon
1 ½ t ginger powder
½ t mustard powder
2 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
¼ t baking soda
½ t salt
½ c canola oil, plus more as needed
1 c pure maple syrup
1 ½ t lemon juice
¾ c soy milk
1 t vanilla
2 c carrots, shredded
¾ c walnuts, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the nutmeg, cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder and grind until fine. Place into a large bowl. Sift in the next seven ingredients and combine.
3. In another bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, soy milk, and vanilla.
4. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the carrots and nuts, just enough to combine.
5. Pour the mixture into prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
6. Let cool before serving.

Serves 10

Frugal Foodies Opens in Seattle

I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the grand opening of the new Frugal Foodies in Seattle last Wednesday. It was quite a night and quite a menu. I'm not going to review the menu now but I will be sure to copy it at one of the Frugal Foodies here in Berkeley. Their menu was all about beets, and it wasn't too "beety". In fact, some of the recipes were out of this world. Here's what they had:

Roasted Beet Crostini
Golden Beet Salad
Beet, Broccoli and Spinach Quinoa
Beet Chocolate Cake

All of the recipes were above average, and a few I would have scored at 7 bucks or above. So it was a very good meal at an always good price, and I'm hoping that they'll keep it going 2-4 times a month. Please help spread the word and stay tuned for our next Frugal Foodies opening in Bogota, Colombia.