Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vegan Bratwurst, Beer-braised Cabbage and the World's Greatest Mustard...

I love making my own "meat" at home now that I actually have a few successful recipes. Sausage, hot dogs and other tubed meat weren't something I really enjoyed as an omnivore, at least not in large quantities. But for some reason when veganized, they are one of my favorite treats. Using a pretty standard bean and vital wheat gluten base, I've made brats, italian sausage, chorizo, apple-sage sausage and andouille. All have had great results. I'm sure given some research you could do just about anything with this basic recipe.

Here is my latest night of vegan bratwurst-making, laid out step-by-step.

Before you dive in and start the bratwurst, get the cabbage on the stove.

Red cabbage & carrot, stewing
1 large head red cabbage, cut into quarters
4-5 carrots, cut into large pieces on a bias
4-6 cups "beef" stock
2 bay leaves
8-10 whole black peppercorn
1 bottle dark beer
Salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover and heat on high until boiling, then reduce to a very low simmer and continue to cook for about 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are extremely tender. Remove bay leaves and peppercorns before serving. Adjust vegetables to suit your taste, using  cabbage as the main ingredient. You could add onion, garlic, mushrooms, etc.

Steaming setup
I'm sure we all have seen the bean/vital wheat gluten meat recipes and actually, that's all I'm using here. I've copied this recipe for vegan sausages found on Vegan Dad's blog, which is actually from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's blog. So if you're making my variation, have a look at Vegan Dad's since that's what I'm directly referring to. 

Step 1: Get the steaming setup ready. If you don't have anything specifically designed for steaming, just do what I've done here. Place a colander in the bottom of the largest pot you have, making sure the lid will close entirely. Fill the bottom of the pot with about 2 cups of water and start on medium-low heat. Cover.
Step 2: While the steamer heats up, you can begin assembling the brats. The spices for the brats can be ground up in a coffee grinder or food processor, then set aside. My combination included: 

1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. black peppercorn
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried coriander
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dry garlic
1/2 tsp. dry onion

Other things you could use: nutmeg, white pepper, dry mustard, rosemary, mace, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, etc. It's up to you to adjust as you like - or just do what I did. :)

Kidney bean puree
Step 3: Puree your beans. I use kidney beans because they have a harder outer-shell and seem to provide the meatiest texture and flavor of all the beans. This is strictly opinion; if you want pinto, white or black beans, by all means. Do what you like!

Combine all of the wet ingredients with the nutritional yeast, beans, etc. in a large bowl. The spices you've already taken care of, so don't add any extra that might be listed in his recipe - just add what you've ground. And remember - you have all of that amazing beer broth stewing on the stove with your cabbage - use THAT goodness instead of making up new broth! It's divine! Mix well before adding the vital wheat gluten. It will setup and start feeling a bit gooey very quickly. At this point you know it's ready. The only thing I might do is adjust it for saltiness, but between the broth and spices, you may find it already has plenty.

Note: I made one change that I believe to be for the better. I increased the ratio of bean to vital wheat gluten in this recipe. I used about 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten to 1-1/2 cup bean puree. I think it gives the sausage a much better texture and flavor.
Step 4: Wrap the brats! You will get about 6 large or 8 medium-sized brats from the batch. Tear foil sheets off and lightly spray one side with oil. Separate the batter into 6 or 8 equal balls and form each one into a sausage shape. Place on foil, roll to cover and tightly wrap the ends by twisting. It should look almost like one of those holiday crackers that has toys in it.
One down...
Ready to be steamed
Step 5: Place your wrapped brats into the steamer. You may want to check the water level at this point because they will be steaming for at least 40 minutes and you don't want it to go dry and burn! Cover, set and walk away. This would be a good time to open one of those dark beers.
Ready to steam
Step 5: Remove the brats from the steamer. Use gloves while unwrapping or wait until they have cooled somewhat. You could eat them now if you'd like. 
The finished brats!
Perfect texture
They taste amazing. They look convincing... let's not stop there.
Throw a few on the grill. They take very well to grilling and will form a nice crust on the outside. Just be sure to spray a little oil on them.
Grilled bratwurst, Weber's mustard, beer-stewed cabbage and carrots. (from Instagram)
Of course, there is only one mustard I would serve such a delicious brat with. Weber's horseradish mustard is by far the best. It is incredibly smooth at first, but will kick you swiftly in the nostril and make you say "do that to me again." Sadly, I can only acquire it by ordering online or stealing several jars from my parents' pantry when visiting home. Hopefully one day its Buffalo, NY makers will start stocking it in North Carolina. Wishful thinking...
Barry Carotene will share his mustard with you

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tiny Sandwiches? Just Eat More Sandwiches!

I appreciate America's new obsession with tiny foods, I really do. It's a wanted departure from the super-sizing phenomenon. However, I'm fascinated by sliders. It's junk food, made tiny. Also, somehow it seems when you order a slider, you don't get less sandwich, you actually get more. Instead of one giant burger, you get 3 small-ish ones. 

I'm not going to dwell on this, because I think I know where America is going and I like it. Moral of the story: If given a tiny sandwich, you may eat multiple sandwiches. No one is counting.

Am I right?

I really hope so because I made an embarrassing number of sliders the other night and ate most of them. They were so cute and tiny! Only three bites a piece! First up was a Grilled Peach, Arugula, Cashew Cheese Spread & Balsamic Syrup Slider. That's a big name for a tiny sandwich.

Grilled Peach, Arugula, Cashew Cheese & Balsamic Syrup Slider
"Hi. This crazy girl put me on a tiny bun..."

Overall, delicious. I love these flavors, but I think I may have gotten "Slider Fever." These items definitely work better as a salad. At times it also seemed as though I was eating a trick sandwich. The peach kept slipping out of the back just as I would go to take a bite in a most dramatic fashion. 

The second of the two was my favorite: Korean BBQ & Kim Chi Slider (a la Chubby Vegetarian).  

Korean Mushroom BBQ, Kim Chi and Cucumber Slider
Even if it does burn my taste buds off and even if I'm still not quite sure of its correct spelling, Kim Chi is just an indescribably good condiment. It can punch anything up to the next level: soups, salads, burgers, stir fry, even pastas...

The kim chi recipe on the CV's site calls for 1/2 cup of Korean Chili Powder, which seemed like an awful lot to me. I tasted the chili powder and it was blazing hot. I seriously just stood there with the mixing cup in my hand shaking for a moment. It all felt too risky. I added 1/4 cup to start and that felt like enough. As the chili paste was blending, the white noise of the food processor triggered some sort of outburst of my innermost bully: "Add it all, you pansy," said the voice in my head.

I've learned not to question the voices in my head.

This Kim Chi is so hot, your face will melt...
Except for the mayo, I arranged these exactly as the Chubby Vegetarian did. Cucumber was a very necessary addition because of the hotness level of the Kim Chi. After eating 2 or 3 sliders, I found myself just chomping into the remains of the peeled English cucumber to cool my mouth off.

The Korean BBQ is made from portobello mushrooms, sliced thinly and sauteed with green onions in  soy, rice vinegar and agave nectar. I added white button mushrooms and shitake mushrooms because I didn't have enough portobello to go around. It tasted great and was a sweet contrast to the kim chi.

The mouth pain was totally worth it. I would make these again in a heartbeat. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dinner in the Raw: King Oyster Mushroom & Dried Cherry Tomato Linguine, Peach Tart

Eating raw seems like it should be so simple. Food is already raw when you begin, so no action required, right?

Some people don't think so. In fact, yesterday I learned there are some people who think raw food should be extremely complicated, and a cuisine only for the uber-hipster who is somehow independently wealthy and can devote the majority of his or her day to (not) cooking and becoming a yogi. Raw foodists, please understand that I mean no disrespect, but I'm just going to put this out there: I don't understand you.

Let me walk you through my day of cooking exactly one (1) raw meal.

Around noon I left for the Farmer's Market and Asian Supermarket. I planned to stock up on a few items for two dishes I'd highlighted in my raw cookbooks. Those cookbooks are RAWvolution by Matt Amsden and Raw Food, Real World by Matthew Kenney and Selma Melngailis. I'd put off trying a number of dishes because of the time committment involved, but this was my day.

I started the pasta dish components in the food dehydrator. First, a quart of grape tomatoes, sliced, tossed in olive oil, salt and black pepper and put on the rack cut-side down.

Grape tomatoes
An hour or two later, I added the mushrooms: sliced king oyster and shitake (which the recipe didn't call for) tossed in balsamic, olive oil, nama shoyu, salt/pepper, minced shallot and whole stalks of rosemary and thyme. The recipe called for oregano, but I happen to prefer thyme with mushrooms.

Shitake and King Oyster Mushrooms on the drying rack
The smells of these ingredients filled the house with a very light, savory aroma, not unlike the smells you'd expect if you were roasting vegetables. It was pleasant for the first 3 hours, then irritating and towards the end of the 6-8 hour drying process things were getting downright punchy in the Vegetabull kitchen.

I distracted myself by cutting the squash noodles - a 50/50 combination of butternut and yellow summer squashes, peeled with a regular peeler into wide fettucine "noodles" and tossed in a sprinkling of sea salt to draw out moisture. That took 5 minutes and I went right back to feeling aggravated.

So I tried making dessert.

"Eat a Peach" Tart of the Rawvolution fame.
This is the easiest, best-tasting, healthiest dessert you will ever eat and I think you would be wise to make it as soon as possible. My mother and father created their own version last night using local berries and loved it. There are only three ingredients: agave nectar, peaches and raw almonds.

Peach Tart Crust-shot
The crust is made using 2 1/2 cups raw skinless almonds, run through the food processor until they are very fine or in a "flour-like" consistency. Add 1/2 cup agave nectar (I needed a bit less than this) until it looks like rough sand and can easily be pressed into a tart plate. Here's where I went off the beaten path: I ran out of almonds and used about 1 cup of raw wheat germ instead, then added about 1/2 tsp. sea salt. The result was amazing. It tasted just like real pie crust, but better! Not cloyingly sweet, not overly fatty - just right.

Peach Tart Slice #1
I ate a slice immediately, followed by another. I love this tart recipe. From start to finish (including the consumption) the tart took about 15 minutes. If you add in all the text message pictures I sent to family and friends celebrating my first raw fruit tart, 20 minutes.

I cleaned up my tart-making bowls. Add another 10 minutes.

My dinner still had 3 hours left to finish. I was crawling the walls it was so frustrating! Somehow, I managed to fight the urge to eat drive-thru for the next 3 hours. Here it is: King Oyster Mushroom & Dried Cherry Tomato Linguine (from Raw Food, Real World.)

King Oyster Mushroom & Dried Cherry Tomato Linguine
I started this meal at 3:00 pm. At 10:45 pm, I was eating. That's nearly 8 hours from start to finish for one meal and one individual portion. That's a personal record, for sure.

I added lacinato kale chiffonade tossed in nama shoyu and left to break down for a few minutes. I felt it would add some color and iron. While the completed dish was tasty, I can't help but think it would have been much better 3 hours earlier, when I was actually hungry. By the time it was finished, my stomach had digested a sufficient amount of my own body's fat to reduce the feelings of starvation. I couldn't finish the entire bowl.

Gaze deeply into the vibrant colors of one woman's patience...
I have to admit, it was beautiful food. The colors are the best part about eating raw; every vegetable remains at its height of vibrancy. The cherry tomatoes were the best part. They tasted like candy and I would make them again in a simpler noodle dish. At this time you'll have to excuse me because I am about to say something silly and obvious:  a few specific flavors were a bit too RAW for my taste. Raw squash noodles for instance are delicious, but raw shallots and raw rosemary overwhelmed the palate. I would omit both were I to ever make this meal again.

Which I can promise you, I will not.

Nevertheless... there's always one of these...

The Perfect Bite.
... it took me 8 hours to make this, so I really hope you like it.