Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Red Curry & Wild Rice Soup

I have lived in Florida for most of my life and I don't remember it ever being this cold. I recall it snowed flurries when I first moved here with my family, but I still don't remember it being this freezing. I went to my nephews third birthday party this weekend, and it was rainy and chilly out. Luckily it was at an inside venue, but I remember last year it was outside at sunny! 

It was a Sunday, and it had been a freezing week, and all I wanted was some warm comforting soup to end the weekend. I was looking through my fridge and I had some red curry paste, tons of veggies, coconut milk, and I knew that whatever I was making was going to involve red curry. I ended up making a soup with wild rice, a red curry broth, and veggies. It was so soothing and relaxing and is exactly what I needed to put me to sleep before the start of the work week. This recipe was inspired by a recipe I made a few months ago from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson.

Red Curry Wild Rice Soup

2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 large yellow onion chopped
1/2 large red pepper chopped
8 pieces of baby corn - halved lengthwise, then cut in half widthwise
1 and 1/2 teaspoon red curry paste
1/2 cup wild rice
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 heaping cup of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 and 1/2 tablespoon braggs liquid amino (or soy sauce)
1 can coconut milk (14oz)
1/2 cup water
1 cup cauliflower
5 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons basil
Lime Juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
black pepper to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a soup pot to medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, add the garlic, yellow onion, red pepper, and baby corn. Add the red curry paste and stir together and saute for about 4 minutes until the onion gets soft. Make sure the curry is evenly distributed.

Next, add the wild rice, the vegetable broth, mushrooms, and bring to a boil, then simmer and cook according to the wild rice package. I cooked mine for about 20 minutes, but you will know when the rice becomes soft when the rice starts to open and split.

When the rice is done, add the cauliflower, the green onions, coconut milk, braggs liquid amino, sugar, a generous squeeze of lime juice, water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes. Taste and add some black pepper if needed.

Ladle into a bowl and garnish with some basil and cilantro, and red pepper flakes (if you are using them for extra spice) , and you are ready to eat!

I can't express how nice it was to eat this soup on a cold day. One thing that i learned is that you will want to experiment with different curry pastes because some are hotter than others. The one I used said medium spice, but it really was mild. If you prefer to give it a little kick.. add the red pepper flakes, or even some cayenne pepper. I most always use braggs liquid amino instead of soy sauce because it's less in sodium, but feel free to use soy sauce, tamari, or shoyu if that is what you prefer. You can also use whatever grain you have in the cabinets. I used wild rice, but how about quinoa, soba, or orzo? You can even add Gardein, tofu, or edamame. Those would work too. If you are looking for a warm, comforting, and soothing soup... this is the one for you! Please let me know what you think!

Curry on Foodista

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gardein "Chicken" Piccata with Wilted Spinach and Roasted Potatoes and Onions

Okay, so I know this looks like real chicken, but it's actually a protein source called Gardein. Gardein is a play on the words, garden and protein. It contains no animal products and is made from whole grains and plant based proteins, and then it's slow-cooked to give it a meaty bite. It comes in many varieties. You can probably find it at your local grocery store and definitely at whole foods. This product is great for people trying to cut down their meat intake or for more variety in a vegan or vegetarian diet. 

When I used to eat meat, one of my favorite dishes was a Chicken Piccata recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada De Lourentis. The Conscious Cook also has a Chicken Piccata recipe which was contributed by chef Scot Jones specifically using the Gardein Chicken. The recipes were pretty much the same, but I used a little influence from both of them for the one below. I ended up making roasted potatoes and onions, and wilted spinach which turned out to be an excellent addition. I am so excited to share this dish with you since it was one of my favorites from the past. I hope you enjoy!

Note: The Roasted Potatoes and Onions and wilted spinach recipes are below

3 Gardein Chick'n Scallopini breasts
Sea Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 to 2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
6 tablespoons of Earth Balance (or any non-hydrogenated vegan butter)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (or more if you desire)
1/2 teaspoon shallot
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Take the Gardein breasts out of the packet and season on both sides with some salt and pepper. I just sprinkle a little of each on both sides and kind of pat the Gardein to make sure it sticks.

Next, you want to coat the Gardein with flour, but Instead of dredging the Gardein, I grab some of the flour with my hands and coat on the breasts, and then shake off excess. Then, turn then over and do the same on the other side. That way, I am not wasting a bunch of flour. I really don't go crazy with the flour... I just use enough to coat each side of the Gardein.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the earth balance with 3 tablespoons of the oil. When the butter is melted and it starts to sizzle, then add 3 breasts and cook for 3 minutes, until browned on the bottom. Then, flip over and cook for another 3 minutes to brown on the other side. Remove the breasts to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium low, and add the lemon juice, stock, wine, capers, garlic, and shallot. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan for extra flavor.

Return the breasts to the pan and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. They should be heated through and the sauce should start to thicken. Plate the breasts, and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of earth balance and 2 tablespoons of oil to the sauce and whisk until smooth. Pour the sauce over the breasts, and the roasted potatoes and spinach (or whatever else you are serving with this)... garnish with parsley... and serve immediately.

Roasted Potatoes and Onions
6 Red Potatoes
1 white onion
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 350
Quarter the potatoes, or cut into bite size pieces
Cut the onion into large chunky pieces
Coat in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper
Place potatoes and onions on baking sheet, and spread out so they are not on top of each other, and roast in oven for 35-40 minutes
When finished, put on plate with Gardein and pour some of the piccata sauce over the potatoes and onions.

Wilted Spinach

About 3 cups spinach
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

Coat the skillet with olive oil, and set to medium heat. When you see the skillet begin to smoke, pour in the spinach. Season with some salt and pepper. Cook with a spoon stirring around the spinach for about 4 minutes until it starts to cook down. Take it off the heat after some leaves are wilted, but some are still full (it will still continue to cook down after taken off the heat). Plate this with the roasted potatoes and onions and Gardein, and pour some piccata sauce over the spinach for extra flavor.

I first heard about Gardein from my friend Karen. She mentioned she had heard about it in Oprah, and that the taste of this protein didn't taste much different from actual chicken. I hadn't heard about it at the time, but I am happy that I picked up the Conscious Cook and used this opportunity to cook with it because it really did taste just like chicken to me (from what I remember). I actually felt a little naughty eating it. It was that real!

It is great that this product is available because it's always helpful to have another protein source available, and it's wonderful to have a product that meat-eaters can switch to to protect their health and transition their diet to a more plant based one.

I ended up making this with the roasted onions and potatoes and wilted spinach, but this would also be great over angel hair pasta, quinoa, and steamed broccoli, or sauteed peppers. It could really go with anything! I really hope you try this recipe and product. I can't wait to hear about what you made!



Spinach on Foodista

Red Potato on Foodista

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Video: Michael Pollan on The Daily Show

Michael Pollan, author of Omnivours Dilemma and In Defense of Food, makes an appearance on The Daily Show on Jan 4, 2010 to discuss healthcare and promote his new book, Food Rules. He discusses the high cost of cheap food, meaning that you end up paying an enormous amount for healthcare when you develop illnesses later in life due to inexpensive processed food loaded with ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, and msg.

Michael Pollan is also featured and interviewed in the movie, Food Inc. which takes you into the food and animal farming industry. I have yet to read his new book, Food Rules, but it is next on my list. In this new book, he discusses several rules to keep in mind such as: Do not eat cereals that change the color of your milk. 

Watch the video here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Michael Pollan
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Conscious Cook by Chef Tal Ronnen

It's official... we are a few days into the 2010. I know this because I took my usual trip to the gym on Sunday morning, and had a very hard time finding a parking spot when usually I have no problem at all. That's okay though, I am not complaining. I am happy to see so many people off to a healthy start.

Speaking of the new year, I am going to add a new genre to The New Vegan Blog, and that will be cookbook reviews. I have gone through many cookbooks in my lifetime that have influenced my cooking over the years. These are not only vegan cookbooks, but cookbooks from when I started cooking that I still use this day to influence some of the flavors and sauces in my vegan recipes.

The first cookbook that I would like to tell you about is The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen. Since most people want to make healthy resolutions, I thought this would be a good one to start with since the recipes focus on transitioning from meat to meatless. Chef Tal Ronnen is a former steak lover, and these recipes are designed to show you that you can have meatless recipes that have the bite and flavor of meat, and that you aren't giving up anything when you take out animal products in your diet.

I fell in love this cookbook for many reasons. First, there is a captivating picture to go with every recipe, and each one of them makes my mouth water. It was difficult for me to pick out which recipe that I would make first because all of them looked so delicious and creative.

Second, the ingredients used are pretty normal and the recipes are not too labor intensive. I like to know that I will be purchasing herbs, spices, and grains that I am going to use often rather than a once a year. And, I don't mind a little bit of labor... I love the art of cooking, chopping vegetables, and mixing sauces. It's all very therapeutic to me. It gives me a chance to go into another world away from the stresses in life, and make something to blog about! But, all in all... these recipes are not too difficult.

The third reason I love this cookbook is because it's not just a cookbook, but it also tells many stories. The cookbook opens with, "Welcome, meat-eaters," and then he goes onto explain that he used to be a meat eater, but gave it up as a teenager, and he says, "I became obsessed with eating vegan food that was just as mouthwatering and delicious as anything I'd ever had as a meat-eater. This book is my chance to share these discoveries with you."

Throughout the book, he explains why vegan is the healthy choice, and even quotes Paul McCartney and Albert Einstein promoting the lifestyle. He goes onto break through the vegan myths, and mentions that going vegan even three days a week lets you in on the benefits. There is a page dedicated to each food group, and he highlights what his favorites are in each category.

He goes on to feature guest chefs that he has worked with who tell their stories of why they decided to adopt this lifestyle as well as share a few of their recipes. One story that I found fascinating was by Chef Chad Sarno of Saf, London's first full vegan restaurant and bar. Sarno actually begins by saying, "I was blessed with asthma-blessed in that it brought me to where I am today," and he goes onto explain that he didn't eat a lot of meat to begin with, but after he was told to cut out dairy from his diet, he never had another asthma attack again and was able to stop using all of his inhalers.

This cookbook also includes interviews with:

Don McKinkey, who brought quinoa to the United States from South America. "Quinoa is a grain that is really high in protein and iron and had sustained the Inca - a very poor people who barely ate any meat."

-Bob Goldberg, who is the cofounder of Follow Your Heart products and inventor of Veganaise (Vegan Mayonnaise).

-Yves Potvin, who created the first veggie hotdog, and is the founder of Gardein and Yves Veggie Cusine. You can find these imitation meat products in the frozen and refrigerated section of your grocery store.

-Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza, who are the owners of Candle Cafe and Candle 79. These are one if the first fine dining vegan places on New York's Upper East Side.

He uses all of the ingredients by each of these interviewees in some of his recipes, and it makes the dishes more fascinating since you learn about the history of these products and how they were influenced. You really do learn where your food is coming from, how it is made, and the love and compassion behind it through this cookbook.

Some of the recipes that you can expect to find in this cookbook are Artichoke and Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller, Gardein "Chicken" Piccata, Tomato Bisque, Tomato "Mozzarella" and Pesto Panini, Herbed Cashew Cheese Baguette with Tomato and Watercress, Paella with "sausage" Nori Dusted Oyster Mushrooms, and Wine Braised Artichoke Hearts, Agave-Lime Grilled Tofu with Asian Slaw and Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cake with Berry Sorbet.

This book is perfect for beginners because it is not only a book filled with delightful recipes, but it's also a how-to guide. It is filled with stories and explanations of the food that you will be using which may be unfamiliar to you, and this helps to put your mind at ease. The recipes are all takes on contemporary dishes that are featured in everyday restaurants with common ingredients, so you don't have to worry about any strange or unexpected outcomes. Chef Tal Ronnen has traveled the world working with master chefs, and it shows with the variety of exotic flavors and cultural influences in these recipes.

Since I have purchased this book, I decided to try quinoa and fell in love with it, and it will become a staple in my diet. I also can't wait to tell you about the Gardein Chicken Piccata that I made from this cookbook in my next recipe blog. I will make the same promise that Chef Tal makes in his introduction, and that is... "I promise, you won't miss the meat."