Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watercourse Awesomeness

Every trip to Denver includes a trip to Watercourse. So, between having people out who want to see the baby, Josh's trip tp Minneapolis, and the Denver modernism show, I've been o both Denver and Watercourse pretty regularly as of late. Most people rave about their desserts, which I honestly think are just ok. However, their house-made seitan, cornmeal crusted onion rings, and plentiful breakfast offering do excite me. having so many vegan options, I try to try somehting new every time I'm there. Last time, I tried the Amsterdam Hash and, I have to admit, I have a new favorite breakfast. I don't generally like gravy but the scrambled tofu with grilled veggies smothered in gravy and served with a veggie flecked biscuit is divine. I highly recommend getting to Watercourse early. Saturdays tend to be packed with a 30-45 minute wait, but we showed up just after 8:00 and apparently beat the hung-over crowds.
Amsterdam Hash
Aspen modeling withe the refreshing Rosie Palmer (hibiscus tea and lemonade)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pesto Lasagna Pinwheels

For Aspen's first night in town, I decided to make something I knew she would like, which basically means I had to pick something carbalicious. I also knew that it should somehow involve squash so our kitchen and fridge doesn't get overrun by it. In addition to boatloads of squash, however, our basil is going crazy in the backyard. The back of our house faces south and gets direct sun just about the entire day, which turns out to be terrible for having an actual yard but really great for sun-loving plants. Go figure. I do use the basil for garnish and in some salads during the summer, but, for the most part, basil means pesto (which freezes incredibly well if you need to get a winter fix).

Around these parts, Josh is usually the lasagna guy since it seems like a lot of work to me and I wanted to do something different. So I decided on a pest lasagna that is rolled instead of layered. Honestly, it looks awesome and it tastes awesome, but trying to eat it is not so awesome. You could totally impress a date with your cooking skills (and with pretty minimal effort), but, once you serve it, you will most certainly undo that impression by looking like you just learned how to use a fork (not mention the nasty little habit pesto has of getting stuck in the corners of your teeth). So, be forewarned.

The good news is that 13 year olds love it. Her verdict?: "Mmmm..Good, very good. You should put this on the blog." Score one for vegan goodness.
(inspired by Vegandad's Ravioli with Pesto Cream)

12 lasagna noodles (cooked in salted water)

1 lb. extra firm tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of pureed, roasted garlic
Handful of basil leaves torn into to tiny pieces
Salt, to taste

Crumble tofu by hand until it is the consistency of ricotta. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and set aside.

1 zucchini (sliced 1/8 inch wide, length-wise w/ a mandolin)
1 crookneck squash (sliced 1/8 inch wide, length-wise w/ a mandolin)
Oil for frying
Salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste

Heat oil over medium high heat. Lay as many squash as possible in the pan. Sprinkle squash with salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook until pliable (you'll have to be able to roll the squash). Remove from heat and let cool.

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. pureed, roasted garlic
1-2 tbsp. lemon juice
salt, to taste
water to thin out as needed (or more oil)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Process.

Pesto Pasta Pinwheels:

Rinse noodles to separate if needed. Lay out one noodle at a time. Spread a thin layer of ricotta the entire length of the noodle. Line up one piece of squash with one end of the noodle and carefully roll them into a wheel. Even though the squash is shorter, you'll want to start in the same place or the squash won't get rolled up entirely within the noodle. Place each of the rolls in a baking pan. When all twelve are rolled, add a small amount of water to the pan and bake in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with pesto. You can heat up the pesto separately or put in on before the boking, but it will darken depending on the method.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From the Homefront: Bagels and Garden Booty

I don't know why I put off trying bagels again for so long. Last time, I tried making a batch from a recipe that I found on the internet and they tasted good but were a disaster in every other sense. This time, they were damn near perfect, becasue I went straight to the god of bread-making: Peter Reinhart. I bought the The Bread Baker's Apprentice a while ago after hearing rave reviews about it everywhere. Boy, they weren't lying. These bagels turned out crispish on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Seriously, I would give up my first-born for these bagels (Sorry Aspen!), but, instead, she's going to help me make more while she's visiting so she can take some home to the fam.
I think I may have mentioned before that I have the same thing for breakfast every morning. Due to the gestational diabetes, I had to give up my morning bagel, but now that I've cooked these babies up, I'm back at it. Indeed, not only are the bagels homemade, but the toppings are now straight from our garden making for an almost entirely homemade breakfast (I leave the cream cheese up to the good folks at Toffutti). Due to an abnormally wet summer, our garden has been producing like crazy. I'm a bit surprised, given that I have a black thumb, but I also admittedly have very little to do with the garden. I decided I wanted one and picked out the seedlings, but Josh has done most of the work building the beds, watering, and picking the produce. I supervise from the window and stick my head out occasionally to water the basil in the pot right next to the back door. Why, you ask?

Motherfucking snakes in our motherfucking garden.

Every time I stick more than my head out the door, some snake goes sliding by underfoot. Don't get me wrong, I know that these little garden snakes are harmless and are actually good for the garden, but that doesn't stop those sneaky little fuckers from making sudden movements that inevitably make me shriek like a little girl, drop the baby, and run (ok, I'm being a bit hyperbolic but I do indeed shriek...even when there's really no snake and Josh just thinks it's funny to point and say "watch out for that snake!").

But, my supervisory position is paying off. We have more zucchini than we can use (almost), the tomatoes are starting to ripen in hordes, and we finally got the prize of all prizes: the lemon cucumber. For a while, we though our various types of squash go frisky with one another and produced some kind of mutant offspring, but no...These little yellow balls of sunshine are delicious, taste nothing like lemon, and make me very happy.
Ah, but I digress. The breakfast of breakfasts. The thing that makes getting out of a bed a little bit less painful in the morning. The lovely snack that also ends up being second breakfast on most days...:
A homemade jalapeno bagel with vegan cream cheese, fresh ground salt and pepper, and homegrown lemon cucumber, tomato, and basil. Yum. Yum.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Easy Week Night Dinner: Phyllo Pizza with Zucchini and Fresh Basil

For many, many years, I've been ambivalent about pizza--at best. I worked at Godfather's Pizza in the early 90's and, as most people who work in the food industry know, working around food can breed a deep dislike of specific foodstuffs due to overindulgence. For me, garlic cheese bread and pizza of any kind became completely unpalatable and I would eat pizza maybe once or twice a year after that.

However, something about going vegan makes a girl want some damn pizza. But, I am not at all into the amount of time it takes to make a good one. Luckily, Josh just happens to like making most of the things that I don't: lasagna, risotto, and pizza...hmmm, it just dawned on me that it's all Italian food. I don't go to Italian restaurants either. But I digress. We hadn't planned ahead. Josh was already lounging in front of the TV and I had recent issue of Cooking Light in hand and old frozen phyllo that needed to be used as part of the pantry challenge. Turns out, phyllo pizza is delicious and only a fraction of the work that's involved with making a decent crust by hand.
Sorry about the crappy photo. This was way better than it looks here.

Phyllo Pizza with Zucchini and Fresh Basil
(Adapted from July 2009 Cooking Light)

1 package of phyllo dough
1 log of Teese, grated
1 cup of Pantry pizza sauce (can of tom's, 2 T tomato paste, a splash of balsamic, some "Italian seasoning," and salt, cooked and blended)
1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh basil
Oil, in a spray can

Preheat oven to 450. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Working quickly (or use a damp towel instead of being lazy like me), separate sheets of phyllo. Put one down, spray it with oil, then repeat two more times. Laye the third sheet with a handful of grated Teese. Repeat, putting cheese down after every third sheet of phyllo, until phyllo is gone. Spread tomato sauce on top of layered phyllo, leaving a thin crust around the rim of the pizza. Put zucchini and red onion over sauce and then cover the whole thing with the remaining Teese. Cook until the phyllo is brown and cheese has melted.

I recommend letting the pizza sit for about 10 minutes before eating. This will ensure that you do not burn the roof of your mouth and the cheese will have a chance to set. Before serving, sprinkle with fresh basil and crushed red pepper.