Cilantro Chutney

IMG_0882    You might think of chutney as a chunky concoction, but many are velvety smooth, like this one.  There are at least hundreds of recipes for the favorite Indian Cilantro Chutney, and many are similar.  Some have peanuts or cashews, or lime juice instead of lemon, coconut meat instead of oil, garlic or green apple, etc.  I adapted this one by Indian chef, Vikas Khanna, and fell in love.  The salt, sugar and oil melt down the pungent onions and spicy ginger while they’re being whirled in the blender.  What really hit me was the fresh brightness of the lemon.  This tastes as good as it looks, the flavors are complex, but it’s so simple to make.  I cut the salt and oil in half, and it’s still amazing.  I also decided to freeze the leftover chutney in an ice-cube tray and keep it in the freezer, it’s that good.

CILANTRO CHUTNEY

INGREDIENTS
1 large bunch cilantro, washed and roughly chopped  (I discarded most of the stems)
6 scallions, coarsely chopped  (both white and green parts)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
one knob of ginger, chopped  (I chopped a 1″ by 2″ piece of peeled ginger)
1/4 Cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
Place all ingredients in a blender, and start on low.  Slowly increase speed and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as you go.
Store refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Freeze any leftovers in an ice-cube tray.

Notes:  To save time, I used Lakewood Organic Pure Lemon Juice.   The original recipe calls for 2 hot chilis, such as Serrano or Thai chilis.  I often do not have such a thing in the house, so I substituted the cayenne, and then I put Sriracha on the table, because I like it hotter than Lars.

IMG_0889  If you want to elevate a bowl of Nissin Top Ramen (Oriental Flavor is vegan), this is the ticket!   If you find you like this, then you might also go crazy for this chunky Ginger Scallion Sauce.

Sesame-Orange-Glazed Tofu Nuggets with Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper

IMG_0643    Here’s a link to a great review of this recipe by Your Vegan Mom.   This recipe is from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook by Donna Klein.  I’ve made this entire recipe and we liked it a lot.  It’s surprising how you roll the tofu cubes in the sesame seeds before you dredge them, and they do stick, and they don’t burn.  But, as an aside, they do benefit from a sauce–the sauce in this recipe being the perfect one.  However, today, for a quick lunch, and let’s be honest, for mofo, I decided to see how quickly I could get this together.   So, I improvised–I left out the tofu, and just cut up some vegan General Tso’s chicken from Whole Foods.  This saved a lot of time, and you could just throw on some cashews or walnuts instead of the General Tso’s.  I made a packet of Nissin Top Ramen (Oriental flavor, which is animal-free), drained the noodles and split them onto two plates.  I did steam the vegetables, and consider this important.  But people, it’s the sauce that makes this dish, it’s a winner!  I did not deviate from Donna Klein’s sauce, and it doesn’t take long to make.  With this sauce, you can elevate any stir fry!  I probably only used half a teaspoon of oil to sauté the veggies before I added in the sauce.  I used Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce (because I love it), instead of the chili paste called for, but I did cut it down to teaspoons because Lars is a lightweight when it comes to spicy.  Excellent meal in under one hour.   The sauce is mild but very flavorful, with the gentle sweetness of the orange, and the kick of the chili.  I’ve eaten at my share of upscale Chinese restaurants and this dish is comparable.  You can riff on it too, add some fresh grated ginger, mix up the veggies, use some fancy Chinese vinegar, etc.  I can’t wait to try several other recipes from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook, including the Velvet Corn Soup!

Bangkok Street Cart Noodles

IMG_0437    This recipe for vegan Bangkok Street Cart Noodles is slightly adapted from the March/April 2012 issue of VegNews.  To me, it tastes like a good Pad Thai.  If you make your sauce and chop all your veggies ahead of time, it’s much quicker to throw together at dinnertime.  Both Lars and I loved this dish.  Instead of cubed tofu, I sometimes just use the vegan General Tso’s Chicken from Whole Foods, which also saves time.

BANGKOK STREET CART NOODLES

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1.5 packages Kame brand Japanese curly noodles (Chuka Soba)
(or thin rice noodles, maybe vermicelli, not sure)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Sauce
1 teaspoon sweet chili sauce  (I use Mae Ploy brand, a Thai brand w/garlic already in it)
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice  (or juice of one lime)
¼ Cup soy sauce or Tamari
1.5 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
½ Cup vegetable broth  (I use Better Than Bouillon, the organic/vegetable base one)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (safflower or peanut or grapeseed oil)  (not canola)
12 oz. pkg. Tofu, pressed and cubed into ½” dice.   (or General Tso’s vegan chicken from Whole Foods, slice pieces in half)
2 bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips or tiny dice
1 Cup of some other vegetable here, such as snow peas, fresh corn off the cob, chopped kale, etc.
4 green onions, sliced into thin rings.  Use all the white parts and only half of the green parts

ESSENTIAL TOPPINGS
plenty of fresh lime wedges, at least two limes worth
3/4 Cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped.  About ½ Cup.
Sprouts, rinsed well and dried.  About 1 Cup  (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Cook noodles according to package.   Rinse noodles in cold water, drain well and toss noodles with 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and set aside.
In a jar, combine chili sauce, hoisin, tomato paste, tamarind, cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, tamari, ginger and broth.  Mix well and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tablespoon oil, and fry tofu cubes until browned.   Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.
Add all sauce, seitan (if using), bell pepper, any other vegetables (if using), and green onions, and stir fry one minute.    Add noodles back into skillet and stir to coat.
Serve immediately, with lots of fresh lime wedges, chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, and optional bean sprouts.

Notes:  Prep as much as you can.  I make the sauce ahead to save time, and keep it in the fridge.  I think the original recipe just called for “rice noodles” but am not sure.  If the cooked noodles sit too long, they can clump together, so don’t prepare them more than an hour ahead.
IMG_2668  My favorite tamarind concentrate

Sweet and Sticky Cashew Tofu

IMG_9855I made this last night for dinner and can attest that it is delicious.  This recipe is by Erin at Olives for Dinner.  Why can’t I get a dish like this in my local Chinese restaurant, waah.    The only thing I would do differently next time is run the noodles through the sauce, or fry the cooked noodles in the pan for a minute.  I used Kame brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chukka soba) and they were perfect for this dish.  p.s.  I used white button mushrooms and salted cashews from a can, because that’s what I had on hand, and it was still great!

Ginger Scallion Noodles – Ginger Scallion Saimin or Ramen

This famous sauce by David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar takes only about 20 minutes to make (not counting cleanup).  I approached this recipe for Ginger Scallion Noodles with a homesickness for saimin, and was not disappointed.  I can see where some might balk at the intensity of this dish, and maybe that’s where I’m at too, so I checked out this other post, where someone at Gourmet modified this classic Asian dish by throwing the raw Ginger Scallion Sauce into very hot oil.  This mellowed and blended the pungent ingredients.  I also learned to not use canola oil, because, to quote Francis Lam, it can taste “like a piece of metal trying to be a piece of fish.”  I too recently noticed this after frying something in fresh canola oil.  I followed Chang’s suggestion and bought a small bottle of grapeseed oil.   Envisioning a Zen noodle experience like that in the film Tampopo (minus the dead animals), I forged ahead.  I will say, however, that I thought the amount of oil in Lam’s recipe was way too much, and I reduced it to even less than Chang’s recipe.  I also wanted something more than a plate of noodles; maybe some hot saimin to further melt and integrate the ingredients, and so I simply made an instant broth and bought some Japanese noodles.  You could also use an instant vegan ramen (such as Nissin Top Ramen Oriental flavor) and add this amazing condiment to it, along with a rainbow of other food garnishes.  I ate the first bowl and thought it was pretty good.  The next day, I ate another bowl, and realized this was growing on me.  I’m going to try adding a bit more of the Tamari and sherry, and maybe a crushed garlic clove, but either way, I’ve got this under my skin now.  I made this for my Dad when he was here and he liked it too.  We ate it hot today with strips of vegan char siu in it, and I highly recommend this.  The meaty texture of the vegan char siu got soft and tender in the steaming broth and released it’s own spiciness, and suddenly I was just eating slowly, immersed in the flavors, fragrance and heat, . . . zazen!
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Ginger Scallion Noodles

Makes:  Certainly enough for 4 to 6 people.

INGREDIENTS
2 medium bunches of scallions (greens and whites) (at least 5.5 oz. or more)
2 oz. peeled, fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil  or  peanut oil
2 teaspoons Tamari (or usukuchi soy sauce, or Kikkoman)
2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Japanese noodles and hot broth,  or instant ramen (make sure it’s vegan)
vegan char siu (optional) or other toppings of your choice (cubes of fried tofu, sprouts, mushrooms, shelled edamame, any vegetables thinly sliced or chopped, etc.)

DIRECTIONS
Rinse and trim scallions, and process to a fine mince in food processor.
Scrape processed scallions into a glass bowl.
Process the freshly peeled ginger the same way, until finely minced but not pureed.
Add processed ginger to the scallions and stir well.
Salt the ginger and scallion mixture, and stir well.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a metal pot, until it just barely begins to smoke.
Add the ginger scallion mixture to the hot oil in the pot, and immediately stir and remove from the heat.
Stir well and scrape the hot mixture into a glass bowl.
Add the Tamari and sherry vinegar and stir again to blend.
Refrigerate, use right away,  or freeze in cubes in an ice cube tray.

My favorite way to eat this is to cook Japanese noodles and put them in a steaming broth (or vegan ramen).  Slice vegan char siu on top of the noodles and then with your chopsticks, push the slices under the hot broth so they soften.  Eat with joy.

Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles

This recipe for vegan Dan Dan Noodles can be mostly prepped ahead, and then thrown together at dinnertime.  I made this the first time with soba noodles, but upon reheating, the soba stuck together and made a gloppy mess.  So now I use Ka-me brand Curly Noodles (Chuka Soba) from the store and they’re great, lending a Chinese-food flavor and texture.  But, many dried Oriental noodles would do.  You can play with this, as many chefs do.  For veggies, I’ve used chopped green cabbage, finely chopped celery, grated carrots, bell peppers, etc.  You could use water chestnuts, or throw in handfuls of chopped frozen spinach.  Again, you can make the base of the sauce the day before, and you could even chop everything that morning so you’d have everything ready for a quick throw-together at dinnertime.   p.s. If you want to go all out and be authentic, Penzey’s has the real Szechuan peppercorns, but plain ground black pepper is also good.  Traditionally, this is made with Chinese Chili Oil, but I’ve kept this recipe in such a way that it uses ingredients most people might have at home.

VEGAN DAN DAN NOODLES

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter or Tahini
2 Tablespoons Tamari, or low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon white miso paste  (or yellow miso)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Cup hot water

2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns (or ground black pepper)
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 to 2 Cups chopped vegetables
12 oz. package soy crumbles, such as Beyond Beef,  or Boca
1 Tablespoon vinegar, such as brown-rice vinegar or umeboshi vinegar or Chinese black vinegar
squirt of Sriracha sauce (optional)

5 oz. (up to 8 oz.) pkg. Asian Curly Noodles, such as Ka-Me brand
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 Cup chopped toasted cashews or peanuts (I use Planters from a can)
Optional: 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS
Whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, miso, sugar and 1 cup hot water in medium bowl, and set aside.   Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.   Add garlic, pepper and ginger, and cook 1 minute.   Stir in vegetables, and cook 2 more minutes.   Add vegan meat crumbles and cook 2 minutes more.    Add tahini/miso or peanut butter/miso sauce to skillet and stir.  Bring to a simmer, and cook 3 minutes more.    Add vinegar and optional squirt of Sriracha sauce, and turn heat off.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions, but throw a teaspoon of sesame oil (or some other oil) into the boiling water to prevent noodles from sticking together.    Drain noodles, and place in a large bowl.  Toss with 2 cups of vegan meat sauce, or ladle the meat sauce on top.    Garnish with cashews or peanuts and then green onions.    Optional: sprinkle sesame seeds over all.   Serve hot.

Crispy Noodle Cake with Kale and Mushrooms

This recipe is from the April/May 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. It says 30 minutes, but it took me a bit longer than that by the time I prepped the vegetables. This is absolutely delicious, different and a bit elegant. The addition of the nuts is mine. I do think the non-stick skillet helped with the sticky noodles. The crispy noodles will soften a little as they sit under the hot vegetables, but they’ll still be a bit chewy and will just taste even better that way!
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Crispy Noodle Cake with Kale and Mushrooms

Cooked ramen or angel hair pasta can be substituted for the yakisoba noodles. I used a 5 oz. package of Ka-Me brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chuka soba) instead and thought they were perfect  (see photo at bottom).  I found these noodles at my health food store but am guessing they’re readily available in the international aisle of many large groceries.  If you want more noodles, Ka-Me also has an 8 oz. pkg. of “Chinese Plain Noodles” that fry into a lovely cake also.

Serves 4, but if it’s the main dish and you’re using less noodles like I did, I’d say it serves 2.

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
1 17 oz pkg. yakisoba noodles, precooked.  I used a 5 oz. bag of Ka-Me brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chuka soba) instead and really liked them.
1 large bunch kale, stems and ribs removed, coarsely chopped (4 cups) (I used about half of a bunch)
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (1 cup) (I used celery, but here you could use other vegetables you have on hand, such as water chestnuts, etc.)
8 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms (4 cups), thinly sliced (I just used one cup of chopped white mushrooms).
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (essential)
¾ Cup low-sodium vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, or Tamari
1 Tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
Optional: Salted cashews for sprinkling on top (I really like this and it adds even more protein). If you want a healthier nut, use chopped raw walnuts, or you could throw the walnuts in with the kale at last minute.

DIRECTIONS
Precook your noodles.
Combine broth, soy sauce, sherry and sugar in a small bowl, and set aside.
Combine corn starch with 2 Tablespoons of water in a small dish, stir and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat (I used a 12-inch skillet)
Arrange cooked noodles in skillet, in an even layer, pressing down firmly. If noodles are too sticky, spray your spatula with some cooking oil.
Cook about 5 minutes or until noodles are golden brown (or just golden) on the bottom.
Carefully place large plate over skillet and invert noodles onto plate.   I don’t own a large round platter, but My 10.25″ dinner plate (inverted) fit right into the bottom of the skillet, over the noodles, so I was just careful to keep my hand on the plate and not touch the pan.
Add 1 Tablespoon oil to skillet, and slide noodles from plate back into skillet, to brown second side. Cook 2nd side, pressing down with spatula a few times, and then slide noodles onto baking sheet and place baking sheet into preheated oven.

Add 1 teaspoon oil to skillet and heat over medium heat.
Add kale, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, until just wilted. Transfer kale to plate.
Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in skillet and add carrot (or other vegetable), and cook 2 minutes.
Add mushrooms, and cook 3 minutes more.
Stir in garlic and ginger, and cook 1 minute.
Add broth, soy sauce, sherry and sugar mixture. Bring to simmer and cook 3 minutes.
Add corn starch and water slurry to skillet, stirring until thickened (takes a minute or less).
Stir in kale (and raw walnuts if using).
Remove noodles from oven and transfer to large platter.
Pour mushroom/kale mixture over noodles, keeping to the center of the noodle cake, and leaving an inch or so of bare crisp noodle edge.
Optional: Scatter salted cashews over the top.
Serve.