Site Meter

May 10, 2010

Quick Garlicky Soba Noodles with Asparagus, for one

Everyone has favorite quick prep, no fuss recipes in their arsenal. In my arsenal, one favored ingredient for quick meals is buckwheat soba noodles. Once you have the water boiling the noodles go in for just 3 minutes. I am being generous in saying that this meal took 15 minutes from start to plate.

The evening that I enjoyed this dish I was dining alone. The particular brand of soba noodles that I buy has four bundles of noodles per package, and one bundle is perfect for one hearty serving. You could easily multiply this recipe to feed more, but you may want to enjoy this alone because there are 3 large cloves of garlic per serving (!). Trust me, this is not as overpowering as it might sound. Rather than crushing or mincing the garlic, use your best knife* and slice it into thin chips (but not Goodfellas-thin). Cut your garlic chips in half once, and then they are ready to fry. Lightly brown the garlic chips in oil for crispy, super-delicious goodness, being careful not to burn them (super not-delicious). Garlic lovers, this one is for you.

Quick Garlicky Soba Noodles with Asparagus
Serves 1

3.25 oz buckwheat soba noodles (give or take)
1-1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, trimmed, peeled, halved and sliced (see above)
1 medium shallot, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
3 - 4 tbsp Bragg's liquid aminos, divided (or tamari, or soy sauce)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
10 stalks of asparagus, woody ends removed, chopped into 1" pieces

Prepare soba noodles according to packaging. When finished boiling, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

Toast the sesame seeds in a large dry skillet over medium heat, stirring often. Once they are lightly browned and aromatic remove them from heat and pour them into a small bowl and set a side.

Heat the olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic chips. They will start sizzling in the oil, watch them carefully and stir often. At the first signs of light brown stir in the shallots, and fry for a minute. Add a tbsp of Bragg's to deglaze the pan, which will also help prevent the garlic from burning. Continue to fry the shallots and garlic for 2-3 more minutes, until the shallots are softened, adding a litte bit of Bragg's one more time when the liquid cooks off.

Stir in your asparagus and fry for 3-4 minutes, adding a little bit of Bragg's as needed to keep things moistened. After a few minutes test a piece of asparagus and if it is crunchy-tender, it is done. Pour in your noodles into the pan but before stirring drizzle the sesame oil, 2 tbsp of Bragg's (or to taste), and sesame seeds directly on the noodles. Now toss everything together, and heat through. My total measurement for Bragg's is an estimate since I added a little bit at a time as I went, so you will want to taste the noodles and adjust as needed for your preference. (If anything my measurement is a little bit conservative). For a spicy kick stir in a bit of sriracha sauce or crushed red pepper.

*Speaking of knives, please indulge me and allow me to show off my new one!

I knew that my cutlery was not up to par (hello stringy cuts of celery and smushed tomatoes!), but I had no idea how really bad my knives were until I started using my new one. When I was researching knife options I discovered ceramic cutlery. Have you heard of this? I hadn't, but I was intrigued by the claims of being light-weight, super sharp, and always delivering clean cuts. Reading customer reviews of various ceramic knives the only negatives I found were that they cannot be used on bone-in meat (no problem there) and there is risk of chipping if dropped on the floor. Since I am not in the habit of dropping my knives on the floor I thought I would do well with a ceramic knife. I went with the black 6" ceramic chef's knife by Zayka (which comes with a free ceramic peeler, score!). When my knife starts to get dull I can send it in for a free sharpening (which is typical since ceramic knives cannot be sharpened at home). Though I am starting to think that even at it's dullest, this knife is still going to be better than any other knife I have ever owned. A good knife really does make all the difference, doesn't it? Haha, can you tell how happy I am?? If you are so inclined to share, I'd love to hear about your favorite knife and/or your experience with ceramic knives. 

I'll leave you with another clip from Goodfellas, my favorite scene. Being a typical girl, my favorite scene in this mobster movie is Karen's first date with Henry at the Copacabana night club. Swoon!

May 6, 2010

A Soupy Cinco de Mayo and Vegan Sour Cream

Guilty. I totally jumped on the Cinco de Mayo bandwagon. I would not normally be seduced by such a holiday, but the circumstances were just right this year, and I am so glad they were! We are all friends here, so there is no need for me to be modest. This soup seriously rocks. It is everything I could ask for in an entree soup. I am in love with this combination of beans, greens, and grains. This soup is accented by roasted tomatoes and sweet chewy bites of hominy, all in a spicy smoky broth. The name I had really wanted to give to this soup was Mexican Black Bean & Barley Soup with Hominy and Collard Greens, but I reigned myself in a bit. I dropped the Hominy and Collard Greens from the title, mind you they are just as prominent as the black beans and barley.

I thought this soup would do well with a dollop of vegan sour cream, so I decided to make some. This was my first experience with vegan sour cream, but with Vegan Epicurean as my guide I knew that I could do no wrong. I am also very enthused about these results! I had a couple of non-vegans around to try it and they were also impressed. Wouldn't you know, it is less than half the calories of dairy sour cream, at just 14 calories per tablespoon. You better believe you'll be seeing it again around here.

Mexican Black Bean & Barley Soup
Serves 5-6

1 medium white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, finely diced (about 2 tbsp)
2 ribs of celery, chopped
8 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup pearled barley
2 tsp dried thyme
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 large collard greens, center rib removed and chopped
1 15 oz can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes (or regular) with liquid
2 cups cooked black beans (or one can, drained and rinsed)
2 tbsp tomato paste
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper

Tofu sour cream (recipe below)
Toasted tortilla strips
Green onion

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in onions and saute for about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, serrano pepper, and celery and saute for another 3 minutes.

Pour in the stock, barley, and spices, and turn up the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling lower heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Stir in the collard greens and continue to simmer for about 8 minutes minutes. Test the barley for tenderness, and when it is to your liking mix in the hominy, tomatoes, and black beans and heat through, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, lime juice, salt and pepper, and serve.

The toasted tortilla strips offer great extra flavor to the dish, as does the sour cream. Chopped cilantro is another option for garnish.

Vegan Sour Cream
(Adapted from Vegan Epicurean)

12.3-ounce package of Mori Nu lite silken tofu (firm)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon agave
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process several minutes, until very creamy and smooth. This will firm up a little when it chills. It is important to use the firm silken tofu to get the correct consistency. Refrigerate sour cream until it is ready to be used.

I am submitting this soup to the No Croutons Required blogging event. This month's challenge is to create a Mexican inspired soup or salad. Perfect timing! You can vote on your favorite soup or salad May 21-31 over at Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen.

May 4, 2010

Tibetan Momos in Darjeeling

Hello friends! I'm doing something a bit different today. I wrote a guest post as a contributor for Vegan Backpacker, a new blog by two vegans who are eating their way around the world in 2010. Thanks to their blog, we can take that journey with them. My guest post details the Tibetan momo cooking class that I took at Hot Stimulating Cafe in Darjeeling, India. You will not want to miss the details, which includes a mysterious Nepali guitar man that serenaded us and then eventually came to my momo-making rescue. Once you have read my guest post, come back here for the momo recipe. A big thanks to Vegan Backpacker for allowing me to share one of my favorite meals in India!

 Hot Stimulating CafĂ© in Darjeeling, India

Learning how to make momos at Hot Stimulating Cafe in Darjeeling was one of my favorite things that I did during my trip to India. I brought the recipe home so that I could share it with you. Some of the recipe was in loose measurements, some exact metric measurements. I halved the recipe, converted the measurements, and tested it in my own kitchen, and they turned out perfect. I am not going to lie, these are a lot of work, but oh, so worth it! I recommend grabbing a friend to help you if you can.

Tibetan Momos
(Adapted from Hot Stimulating Cafe cooking class)
Serves 4

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cups water, divided

3 cups cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, grated
1 tbsp ginger, minced
2 small potatoes, peeled, boiled, and mashed (about 3/4 cup)
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup light tasting oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle 1/4 cup water over the dry ingredients and mix well by hand. Add another 1/4 cup of water and knead for several minutes. Add the last 1/4 cup of water, 1 tablespoon at a time (4 total) and knead well in between. If your dough it too dry add more water, or if it is too sticky knead in a little bit more flour. Knead well until you have a nice stiff dough--a bit stiffer than bread dough. It took me about 20 minutes to make the dough, but if you are an experienced dough maker, you will likely be able to accomplish this in half the time. Cover the dough and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

While your dough is sitting start chopping the veggies, the finer the dice the better. Combine the veggies in a large bowl. Heat the oil in a small skillet and then pour the hot oil over the raw veggie mixture. Stir immediately to coat, and continue stirring for a minute to soften the veggies. Last add in the potatoes and salt and stir until well incorporated. Set aside.

Now it is time to get back to the dough. Tear off a handful of dough and roll between your hands into a hot dog shape. Pinch and twist the end of the dough, tearing off about 1 heaping tablespoon worth, and toss the piece back into the bowl (just like Rumba in this pic). Continue until you have gotten through all of the dough, trying your best to make the pieces the same size so that the dumplings will cook evenly. Once you have torn all of the dough into pieces, go back through them and roll them between your hands to smooth them out. During this time be checking for any pieces that are too large or too small and adjust as necessary. When you are done the dough balls should look like this:

Now you are ready to roll out the dough, you will want to use a nice smooth surface such as a wooden cutting board or your kitchen counter. Have a small bowl of flour handy to toss each dough ball around in just before rolling. Using your dominant hand, position your flat palm firmly on the center of the rolling pin and grip the handle with the other hand on the handle to stabilize (see picture). Since the dough is so small you will not have much control over it if both of your hands on the handles. Using your main hand, push the rolling pin down on the dough ball to smash it and begin to roll it out in small motions, and rotating positioning as needed to make the dough as round as possible. Roll the dough fairly thin, the finished piece should be about 3" - 3-1/2"  in diameter. I recommend working in batches since you won't be able to steam these all at once, so once you have about 20 pieces of dough rolled out move on to stuffing them. In the meantime put a damp cloth over your dough balls to keep them from drying out.

Time to stuff the momos! Place a flattened piece of dough in the palm of your hand and scoop a tablespoon of the veggie mixture into the center. Now, even though I was pretty impressed by how well I did folding the momos on my own at home, I am still not the best teacher. Since a certain Nepali guitar man isn't around, I found this video that shows the two main techniques.

The round style is typically used for meat momos and the half moon shape for veggie momos. They both are similar in technique, in that one side gets crimped before pinching it together to join it with the other half. The only difference is that your work in a circular motion vs. more of a straight line. Either way, you are only ever crimping one side of the dumpling. Make sense? (I warned you that I am not the best teacher!)

Now that you have some beautifully folded and crimped momos it's time to steam them. Spray your steaming apparatus with cooking spray so that the momos won't stick. Arrange them in a single layer, don't worry if they touch a little bit but you don't want them mashed together in there. Steam for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes they are still a little sticky, steam them for a few more minutes. We enjoyed our momos with some tomato chutney, which was simply some pureed tomatoes, hot green chilies, and salt.


Thanks again to Vegan Backpacker for having me as their guest. I hope you enjoyed reading both posts about my cooking adventures in Darjeeling. Now get out of here and make some momos!

View of Darjeeling from our hotel room balcony.