Tag Archives: vegan

Two Cookbooks

Piss me right off, when I bother following a recipe and then it fails. But sometimes cookbook authors know just the right way. The problem is choosing a cookbook you can trust. I’ve been cooking from these two recently, and they haven’t let me down.

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
by Peter Berley

This guy used to run the kitchen at Angelica Kitchen, the macro-vegan restaurant in New York. He uses a little butter here and there, but pretty much all of the recipes can easily be made vegan. The desserts are spectacular–I have been making the chocolate cake and the lemon rice pudding at a vegetarian restaurant I work in, and selling them out like crazy. The vegetable recipes are simple, but just a little better than what you might throw together without a recipe; they have that one extra ingredient that makes the dish memorable. And almost above all, included in this book is a recipe for BBQ tempeh, aka, vegan pork ribs.

Baking Illustrated
from the America’s Test Kitchen editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine

This is a big-ass book of recipes that almost all contain eggs, butter, and/or milk. BUT, the authors and test kitchen bakers tell you why they used what, so if you do need to make substitutions you will have some idea what might work. My friend and I once stayed up all night baking Christmas cookies in Queens, with this book as our guide. The ginger-snap style turned out especially nice with our vegan substitutions, and you can read about my experiments with the Baking Illustrated soda bread, vegan-style.

Have any trustworthy cookbook suggestions of your own?


Cerignola Olive Sourdough

Cerignola Olive Sourdough
3 Large or 4 Smaller Loaves

1/2 cup rye sourdough starter
1 cup water
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed

-mix the starter and water with enough flour to make a thick batter, leaving it loosely covered in a large container until it is risen and bubbly (a few hours, depending on the temperature)

bubbly sourdough starter, from above
3 cups water
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
1 level Tablespoon fine sea salt
1 pint green Cerignola olives, pared of their pits and chopped course

-mix the bubbly starter with the water, 4 cups of the flour, and the salt to combine, adding more flour and mixing until a very wet dough forms (this is the key to airy ciabatta-type loaves)

-stir/knead the dough with a sturdy wooden spoon, adding just enough flour to make a dough; you will very nearly have to pour the dough into whichever container you wish to raise it in

-once the dough is mixed, stir in the chopped olives and continue mixing until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough

-place the dough in an oiled bowl or bin, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, in a warmish place for 40 minutes

-after 40 minutes, turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold it like a letter. Rotate it and fold once again like a letter. Use plenty of flour, as the dough should still be very wet and almost batter-like. If you don’t quite understand the folding part, no big deal. Just fuck with the bread a little bit, forming some gluten and maybe incorporating a little flour if it is super sticky. You will notice the dough is getting springier. Return it to rising in the bowl or bin for another half hour, then repeat the folding. Repeat this rising/folding twice more

-after all the rising and folding, turn the dough out (it should be getting pretty airy and risen by now) onto a floured board and cut it into 3 or four even-sized pieces. Roll each one loosely like a rug.

-oil 3 or 4 bowls (depending how many loaves you are making) and dust them with semolina or cornmeal. Heat the oven at 475 degrees with a heavy pot in it*.

-take the dough pieces one-by-one and roll them into round loaves, careful not to deflate them if you want airy bread. The dough should be very soft, sticky and full of air bubbles. Place each loaf bottom-up in one of the oiled bowls. Wrap loosely in a plastic bag. Place 2 of the loaves in the refrigerator and keep 1 or 2 out to rise. They will take a half hour, maybe more, to rise. Perhaps. It depends on the temperature. Let them rise fully if you want airy bread, but if one deflates when you put it in the pot to bake, let the next one rise a little less.

-once the first loaf is risen, and the oven is hot, turn the loaf out into the pre-heated pot. Slash the top to let steam escape and place the lid on the pot before closing the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the loaf carefully from the pot onto the oven rack to continue baking for another 15-20 minutes. You can put the next loaf in the pot to bake at this point. Remove the loaves one-by-one from the refrigerator as the room-temperature loaves go into the oven.

-bake the loaves all the way. The crust should be caramel brown and will be very hard just out of the oven, but will soften to the crispy texture as the loaves cool. Cool them all the way before eating, or the texture suffers.

-for more bread baking instruction (more patient bread-making instruction!) see the Sesame Sourdough post. But remember, nobody can teach you to make bread, you just have to make some and learn. Homemade bread never turns out that bad!

*baking bread in a pot is nothing new, but the idea was made popular by Mark Bittman’s NY Times article featuring Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread. It is a technique worth learning, for kneaded bread or un-kneaded.

Instant Bread made with Buttery Spread

Real bread takes hours to ferment, proof, and bake. Plan ahead or you’re shit out of luck.

I just was reminded of Irish Soda Bread when reading through Baking Illustrated, a scientific baking manual by the positively anal America’s Test Kitchen crew. Here is a cheater’s–or an Irishman’s–way to home-baked bread, with, as the Test Kitchen crew describes it, “a tender, dense crumb and a rough-textured, crunchy crust”. It only takes a couple of hours from measuring flour and heating the oven to spreading on sweet strawberry jam and eating half the loaf.

The original recipe (Irish Brown Soda Bread on page 43 of Baking Illustrated), calls for buttermilk, of course. By mixing cider vinegar (use Bragg’s brand, ‘With the Mother’!) into soy or regular milk, you can avoid buying a carton of buttermilk just for this recipe. Also, the original recipe calls for butter, where I substituted Earth Balance organic vegan “Buttery Spread”.

Finally, the original recipe also includes cream of tartar, to react with the baking soda for leavening and preserve the buttermilk’s sour flavor in the finished loaf. Might as well add baking powder, if you’re going to do that (as baking powder is just soda with an acid–such as cream of tartar–added, anyway), and call it American Baking Powder Bread. The buttermilk, or vinegar, reacts with the baking soda to leaven the bread while vegan butter and a bit of maple syrup, along with the whole wheat flour, provide more than enough flavor. Besides, who has cream of tartar?

Using a portion of whole wheat pastry flour, which is finer and softer than regular whole wheat flour, keeps the bread from being too course.

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread
Since this is a quick bread, kneading it will only increase toughness. Stir the wet and dry mixtures together just enough to moisten all of the flour, then pat gently into a rough-shaped loaf on your oat-strewn counter before transferring the loaf gently onto a baking sheet or into a hot Dutch oven.

2 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cup regular whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
1 1/2 cups plain soy milk or EdenBlend soy/rice milk blend
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
quick rolled oats, as needed (1/2 cup approximately)


Heat the oven up to 400 degrees (F). If you have a heavy cast-iron or clay Dutch-oven type pot with a lid, put both the pot and lid in the oven to heat up also. Otherwise, lightly oil a sheet pan and dust it with a few of the oats.

Combine the whole wheat pastry flour, regular whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-large mixing bowl. Rub the Earth Balance in with your hands until the mixture is even and feels kind of like wet sand.

Combine the soy milk with the vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes until it is thick and curdled. Stir in the maple syrup.

When the oven is heated–and only then, as the baking soda reacts for just a short time and your bread will rise and fall if it has to wait to go into the oven–add the soured soy milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Make sure that the flour is all moistened, but the mixture doesn’t need to be totally smooth. Don’t over-mix it.

Sprinkle the oats across your counter-top and turn the just-mixed dough out onto them. Turn it over once to coat the other side with oats, and pat it into a rough round, about 8″ across and 2-3″ high. If you are heating a Dutch oven, remember that this dough has to fit into it!

Use a serrated knife to cut a large “X” into the top of the loaf.

If you are baking the loaf in a Dutch oven, carefully pull the hot bottom of the pan out from the oven and gently transfer the loaf, “X”-up, into the pan. Place the lid on and put it back into the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking the loaf for another 15 minutes or longer, until it is dark golden brown and a cake-test (skewer or toothpick) inserted into the center comes out clean.

If you are baking the loaf on a sheet pan, gently transfer the loaf to the sheet-pan, “X”-up, and place the sheet-pan into the hot oven (middle rack or upper-middle rack). Bake for 45 minutes, or until dark golden brown and a cake-test (skewer or toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean.

Either way, spread a little bit of Earth Balance over the outside of the loaf while it is hot out of the oven, to keep the crust soft. Allow the loaf to cool almost to room temperature before cutting it open and digging in.

Makes one great big loaf.

Mexican Chicken-Style Seitan (Sans Gravy)

Seitan is a hearty vegan protein. My dad pronounces it SATAN, which is entirely acceptable although alternative pronunciations are preferred by some. The homemade version is somewhat of a pain to master, but much better than the store-bought stuff. Vital wheat gluten flour is a convenience product that consists of only the gluten-forming proteins of the wheat berry. Get it in bulk at health-food stores. While seitan can be made from just whole wheat flour and water, that is a messy process. Try making seitan from vital wheat gluten first, then try the traditional method if you like.

The seasonings are open to modification. This combination is particularly savory, especially with the forthcoming GRAVY, which I will add in a future post. Adjust the amount of chipotle to your desired spiciness. Garden oregano, which doesn’t seem to have as many uses as some other garden herbs, lends subtle reinforcement to the ‘Mexican’ note provided by dried chipotle chilies. So do the carrots, believe it or not.

For some reason I really like eating this with a mixture of short grain brown rice and wild rice, pressure-cooked together in about a 3:1 ratio (cook them in a regular pot if you don’t have a pressure cooker). You might say wild rice brings out the true chicken flavor from the seitan, but, being vegan, you are obviously wrong because seitan doesn’t have any chicken in it at all.

This is a recipe ‘in progress’, but one that Mama makes repeatedly so it must be worth something. See what you think.

Mexican Chicken-Style Seitan
this serves six or more with rice and keeps well (in fact it is a good food to eat cold without bothering to close the refrigerator door, if you are in that kind of a mood); gravy forthcoming

2 ½ cups vital wheat gluten, aka wheat gluten
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
1 ½ cups water

3 quarts water, more as needed
1/2 cup additional soy sauce
4 carrots
4 scallions (green onions)
4 whole garlic cloves
5 small branches fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
2-4 dried chipotle chillies
salt to taste

Put the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and stir them together with your hands or a utensil.
Measure the olive oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 1/2 cups water into a different bowl and mix them up, then dump the wet mixture in with the wheat gluten mixture.
Stir the gluten mixture and wet mixture together with sweeping motions so that as much water as possible touches as much dry stuff as possible right away. Don’t over-stir before you judge the mixture! Before it is totally mixed, see if there is a lot of dry gluten at the bottom of the bowl. If so, add a splash more water. If the mixture seems crumbly and soggy, on the other hand, add some more gluten (yes it is counter-intuitive, as you would think that a crumbly mixture needs extra water, but in fact it’s the other way around).
Knead the mixture briefly just to combine all of the ingredients and make sure there are no dry spots. Set it aside in the bowl while you get the broth ready.

For the broth, measure or eyeball about 3 quarts of water into a large pot. Add 1/2 cup soy sauce. Turn the heat on high to start the mixture simmering. Clean the carrots and cut them into large chunks before adding them to the pot. Slice the scallions and add them, along with the garlic (peeled and left whole, but slightly crushed with the blunt end of your knife), oregano and chipotles.

When the broth starts boiling, tear or cut the gluten mixture into pieces. Make the pieces big or small, but know that they expand and grow as they cook. Add them to the broth, and, once they are all in, reduce the heat to low or medium-low to keep it simmering gently. Allow it to simmer for an hour or so, adding water as needed to keep the gluten covered. There is no need for a lid, but stir occasionally because the gluten will tend to float and dry out on the surface. Careful not to boil it violently.