Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sausage and Okra Purloo

Purloo is a hearty Southern dish of rice and meat cooked together. It's made differently, depending on the part of the South you're in and can be customized a million different ways. Because of that, it's also very easy to veganize. You can use any vegan meat substitute in this and it would work, but my favorite is sausage. I'm currently obsessed with Beyond Meat's new sausage, which comes in brat, Italian and hot Italian varieties. Any of them would work here, but the hot Italian was especially nice. The texture and flavor are uncanny and, because it has a casing, there's that "snap" that you get biting into sausage that the other vegan varieties lack. Any sausage would be good in this, though. I'm sort of a wuss about heat, so add some hot sauce or hotter peppers if you like. The "hot" Italian Beyond Meat sausage does not have much kick by itself, in my opinion. This purloo is a one-pot dinner, which is always a good thing.


1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
1/2 poblano pepper, diced
2 vegan sausages, sliced
2 cups sliced okra
1 cup sweet corn, cut off the cob
1 cut short grain rice
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp marjoram
2 cups veggie broth

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

In a dutch oven, deep cast iron skillet with a lid or other oven-safe pot, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and poblano pepper and stir to coat. After a couple of minutes, add the sausage and stir to incorporate. Cook it for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until the sausage is browned a bit.

 Add the garlic and cook it a bit, being careful not to brown it. Add the spices, corn and okra and cook them for another couple minutes, then add the rice and stock. Stir it all up to incorporate.

Lower the oven temp to 325, put a lid on the pot and put it on the middle rack. Set the timer for 35 minutes. Don't stir it while it's in the oven. The rice should be perfectly done by this point. If it isn't, let it cook for another 5 minutes or so. Fluff it up with a fork and serve.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Southern Jam Cake

I love making cakes, but I'm terrible at making pretty cakes. That's fine, because I really revel in the eating of the cake than in admiring its beauty. This cake has a certain rugged beauty, but its flavor is where it shines. If you've never had a southern jam cake, you're in for a treat. Two characteristics of this spice cake make it unique: jam in the batter and a caramel frosting. These cakes are usually associated with Kentucky or Tennessee, but you can find them in lots of places. I can remember eating them occasionally growing up in Missouri. The best one I ever had was at a party I went to while I was briefly stationed in Mississippi back in my Navy days. This veganized version really captures the flavor and texture of a good jam cake. You can customize this by using a different flavor of jam or by adding pecans to the batter or on top of the frosting.


 For the cake:
2 sticks Earth Balance, softened               
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane sugar
1 10-ounce jar blackberry jam
1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used soy)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 

4 prepared vegan eggs (I used the Vegan Egg for this)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
For the frosting:
1 stick Earth Balance, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3 cups powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Make the cake:
In a small bowl, combine the milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Set this aside as well.
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the Earth Balance and sugar. Add the whole jar of jam and the vegan eggs and incorporate, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients and milk mixture a bit at a time, going back and forth. Start with the dry and end with the dry. The color will change from this... this. Kind of a bummer, because a purple cake that doesn't need food coloring would be very cool.

Divide the finished batter between the two cake pans equally. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Make the frosting:
In a small saucepan, bring the Earth Balance, brown sugar and milk to a boil, stirring it to combine well. Let it cool a bit before pouring it into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, incorporate the powdered sugar until the frosting is fluffy and smooth.

After the cakes cool on a wire rake, turn one of the cakes out onto a cake plate or other type of plate that you want the cake to stay on (once it's there, you won't really be able to move it). Frost the top and sides, then repeat with the other cake. As you can see from the pic at the top, I'm not much of a cake decorator. We ate this so fast that it didn't matter anyway.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Smoked Jackfruit BBQ Sandwiches

Summer! I won't bore you with my well-worn love song to summer, but suffice it to say that the best part for me is that it's grilling season. I will grill just about anything, but I've never really done much to use my grill as a smoker. Time for that to change.

The jackfruit barbecue sandwich is a well-known vegan delicacy nowadays, so we're not doing anything too terribly innovative here as far as the basic concept. If you never had it, it's a yummy fruit that, when done right, is a dead ringer for pulled meat (usually pig). It doesn't have a ton of flavor on its own, so it's a bit of a culinary blank canvas.

Prepared jackfruit comes in just about every flavor you can imagine (I gave up trying to count the flavors they have at Vegan Haven), but there's something satisfying about doing it yourself. Having said that, we're technically still cheating a bit here because we're using a canned jackfruit that has already been chopped up into workable pieces. Be thankful for that, because this is what it looks like right off the tree:

I have no idea where to even start with that, which is why we're going with this instead:

Shout out to our cat Fosse, making a cameo in the background!

You can find jackfruit in the can at Vegan Haven or most Asian markets. Be sure to get the kind that's packed in water or brine and not syrup, which is the sweet variety.

If you've never smoked anything on the grill before, it's really very easy. The secret is indirect heat, meaning the jackfruit stays on the other side of the grill from the side that's got flame going. This is good for a set it/forget it style of cooking, as there's no chance it'll burn on the flame.

The flavors here work very well together, but you can experiment all you want. Add or change out toppings on the sandwich with what you've got on hand or make these into tacos. They're super versatile.

Mesquite, hickory or Applewood chips, for smoking
2 cans of young green jackfruit, water or brine packed (don't buy the ones packed in syrup)
Vegan cheese slices (I used Chao Creamy Original)
1 cup or so of good barbecue sauce
1 avocado
Burger buns

For the spice rub:
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. ancho chile powder
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp white pepper

For the fried jalapeños:
2 whole jalapeño peppers
1 cup soy or almond milk
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 prepared vegan egg substitute (Use The Vegan Egg, if you have it. If not, a flax egg would work)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder or Cajun spice blend
1/2 tsp black pepper
Veggie or canola oil

First, put a good 4-5 handfuls of wood chips into some water and let them soak for about 30 minutes while you set up your grill and do other prep.

Next, open and drain the cans of jackfruit, then rinse and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. If you've never seen jackfruit that hasn't been shredded up yet, here's what that looks like:

Combine all the spice rub ingredients and rub the jackfruit pieces in it. Don't worry about pulling them apart just yet.

Prepare the grill.  If you have a smoker, I'm jealous. Also, you can skip this step entirely and proceed with the smoking like you normally would. If you have a charcoal grill, prepare your coals. Once they're ready, scoop them over to one side of the grill and sprinkle the wood chips over them. if you have a gas grill, like me, wrap the chips up in a foil pouch and poke a few holes in it so the smoke can escape. I did two pouches. Remove one side's grate and light the elements that are below it. Put the foil pouches directly onto the flames, resting them between the flame guards.

Lay down some foil on the non-lit side of the grill rack, then lay the jackfruit pieces out in a single layer. Close the lid and let them smoke for about 40 minutes. Keep the flame on high, if you have a gas grill.

Fry the jalapeños. Combine the milk and vinegar in a medium bowl and let the mixture sit and thicken for a few minutes while you make the egg. Add the egg to the milk and whisk it all together really well. In another medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, garlic powder, chili powder and pepper.

Slice the jalapeños crosswise into discs. If you're a complete coward with heat, like I am, take a small knife and cut out the center part, removing the seeds and whiter part connected to them. Dredge the slices in the dry mixture, then dip them into the wet mixture and then back into the dry. I like a good crust on mine, so I put it back into the wet and then back into the dry mixture again. Place them gently on a plate. Put about an inch of oil into a skillet and heat it to medium-high heat. Fry the jalapeños in the oil, flipping once the bottom side is golden brown, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels.

If you're done smoking (the chips should no longer be giving off smoke), turn off the heat and use tongs to slide the foil holding the jackfruit onto a plate. If cool enough to handle, pick up the smoked jackfruit and pull it apart with your fingers, pulling along the fibers so they split apart and resemble pulled meat. Discard the little bulby parts as they pop out. Put the pulled jackfruit into a bowl until all the pieces are done. Add the barbecue sauce and stir it around with a fork to further "pull" and break up the jackfruit. You could also take two forks and really go to town, but it's not necessary. Jackfruit will soak up the sauce pretty well, so don't be shy if you like your BBQ saucy.

Assemble the sandwiches. On the bottom bun, pile on the jackfruit, topped with the cheese and jalapeños. At this point, I put just that part of the sandwich in the oven to melt the cheese a bit. This is optional, though. Slice the avocado and load up the top bun with it, then top the bottom part of the sandwich. It may not hold together well once you start eating, so have a fork handy!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Creamy Root Veggie Soup

Spring has...not sprung. At least not yet. It's still kinda cold and miserable and I'm really just over it. Since winter is still crashing on our collective couch, a nice and easy root vegetable soup is in order. This one is super creamy, but involves no dairy analogs or other tricks. The potato does all that work. Other than water, oil and seasonings, here are your ingredients:

Doesn't get much simpler than that. The simplicity is also a bonus for customization. You can change this up however you like and probably not go wrong.

1 small sweet yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 medium red potato
1 large turnip, peeled and diced
1 celery root (around 2 pounds), peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups water, divided
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Another savory oil, for drizzling (I used truffle oil, but avocado oil would be nice too)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and leeks with a bit of salt and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the potato and enough water to cover everything, about 1/2-3/4 cup and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the celery root and turnip and enough of the remaining water to cover the veggies. Throw in a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, then continue to simmer until the root veggies are tender.

Throw everything into a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pot) until everything is smooth, then return it to the pot.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.  Ladle into bowls and finish with a drizzle of oil or some vegan cheese or croutons.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Lightest, Best Buttermilk Waffles You've Ever Made

Waffles are probably my second-favorite breakfast staple (after biscuits, of course). They're crispy and buttery and perfect in every way, if they're done right. I only ever have them at home, because the pricing structure of restaurant waffles makes no sense at all. You can have 2 pancakes for $5, or 4 for $7, but one waffle will cost $5 or $6 all by itself. There's no option for a short stack of waffles like there are for pancakes. It's very weird.

The problem with homemade waffles, for vegans anyway, is that most of the recipes are either complex or yield disappointingly dense, limp waffles (or both). That's where these babies come in. They're very easy, buttery and light as air, while maintaining some crunch. Heavy, dense and limp waffles that take all morning to make are a thing of the past.

The key to keeping your waffles warm and crisp is to keep them in the oven at 200 degrees, directly on the rack. That last part is really important. If you use a sheet pan to hold them (like you might do with pancakes), they'll get soggy. Even if they aren't stacked on each other. Do this and you'll be plating perfect waffles every time:


3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp evaporated cane sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain unsweetened soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Vegan Egg (or other egg replacer), prepared
1/3 cup Earth Balance, melted (or 1/3 cup vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the soy milk and cider vingar with a whisk. Let it sit for a bit while you prepare the egg replacer. Add the egg replacer, soy milk mixture, Earth Balance and vanilla to the dry ingredients and combine well, making sure to work out all the lumps. Place the batter into the fridge and let it set for 30 minutes.

Heat up your waffle iron and turn your oven on to 200 degrees. Once the waffle iron is ready, pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the center and close the lid.

Once the waffle iron indicates that it's ready (usually it's a light), open it up and put each finished waffle directly on the rack in the oven until ready to serve.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tomato and Peach Gazpacho

I go through phases every summer of which seasonal fruit is my favorite. Right now I'm on a peaches kick. Can't get enough of them. Lots of other fruits have been used for gazpacho, but peaches are sadly overlooked. It's too bad, because they're perfect for it. Just enough substance, juice and sweetness to temper the tomatoes.

This is a really easy soup. If you can, try to make it well ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge to get really nice and cold. The flavors will develop even more during that time. Seriously, take a taste before you put it in, then a taste after a few hours in the fridge. Big difference. It'll be really good no matter when you eat it, but it's an interesting detail.

I didn't peel the peaches or the tomatoes for this because that's a lot of extra work. Just strain out the pureed soup before finishing it and you'll be fine. Or leave it in, if that suits you.

 - 1 clove garlic, minced 
 - 1 shallot, chopped
 - 1 tbsp olive oil 
 - 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, quartered 
 - 1 lb ripe yellow peaches, quartered 
 - 1 bunch fresh thyme, chopped
 - 1 tsp sea salt
 - 2/3 cup vegan cream (I use soy creamer)
 - 1 tbsp unrefined cane sugar

Heat the oil in a medium pot. Don't go super hot or you'll burn the garlic. Drop in the garlic and shallot and saute them for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes, peaches, thyme and salt and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook it all for about 15 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon to help break the tomatoes and peaches down. By the end, it should still be a bit chunky, but mostly soft and liquified.

It'll start like this:

Almost there...

Here we go.

Transfer the peaches and tomatoes to a blender and process. You may need to work in batches, depending on how big your blender is. 

Pour the soup through a fine-mesh sieve back into the pot. You may have to use a ladle to help it get through after a bit. Don't push it through, though. Put the pot back over medium-low heat. Add the cream and sugar and stir it well to incorporate. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, then pour it into a bowl and put it in the fridge for at least an hour to chill. This would be a good time to also put your soup bowls into the freezer to chill until you're ready to serve. Garnish with some extra thyme or oregano on top and serve it with some toasted crusty bread. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Easy Tabbouli

I'm back! I took a longer-than-planned sabbatical for the winter/spring. Originally, I'd planned to change up the look of the site to something more "professional." I ended up deciding that it's fine as-is.

Anyway, here we are in summer. As I've said many time before, I love summer. The weather, sandals, late sunsets and, best of all, the food. Summer veggies are the best. I have a lot in store for you this summer, starting with this little gem.

Every time I'm at a party or potluck where someone brought tabbouli, I wonder why I don't make it more often. I can eat it by the bucketful. I know, it's basically just an elaborate parsley delivery system, but who doesn't love parsley? And mint? I'm already sold right there.

This summer, I planted some potted herb gardens which are going gangbusters. I have no idea mint grows like crazy once it's set loose. Part of the reason I made tabbouli was because of all this excess mint.

This is a back-to-basics recipe. Tabbouli has gotten a bit complicated lately. Nothing wrong with that, but when the classics work, I don't see any reason to mess with them. Aside from oil, this is what you're dealing with:

1 cup bulgur
1-2 bunches curly parsley (depending on how much you like parsley)
12 large mint leaves 
6 green onions
2 medium tomatoes 

1 cucumber 
2 lemons, juiced 
1/2 cup olive oil

Put the bulger in a bowl and fill the bowl with water until it's about an inch over the top of the bulger. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. It won't look like much at first, but it'll double in size during that time. It'll go from this:

To this:

While the bulger is soaking, finely chop the parsley and mint and put them into a large bowl. Peel, slice and seed the cucumber, then chop it and add it to the bowl. Dice the tomatoes and add them as well.

Pour the bulger into a large sieve, pressing out as much water as possible. 

Once it's dry, add it to the bowl and stir to combine it well with everything else. 

To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice and olive oil and whisk vigorously to combine them. Pour it over the tabbouli and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep the tabbouli refrigerated until you're ready to eat.