Day 24 of vegan recipe challenge: it’s all about those frites

Raise your hand if you don’t like French fries. (and, if it is because you believe them to be called Freedom fries, you may exit this blog immediately).

No doubt there are certain types of fries you may not care for, but – and this is perhaps a gross generalization – most people like French fries.

So, here’s the follow-up: what is your favorite type of French fry? In need of a great opening for your next networking event, you’re welcome. As silly as it may sound, this line of questioning can lead to serious discussions, even potential arguments, over which form of fried potato reigns supreme. Thick-cut steak fries? I know those are near the bottom of Aaron’s rankings. The spiraled delight of the curly fry? How about the porous waffle fry? Skinny? Sweet potato? Shoestring? Home fries? The list could go on and on. One that tends to be overlooked but eoften vokes strong memories of cafeteria lunches is this one:

crinkleRight next to your creamed corn and “chicken tenders”

The crinkle fry. An ole-forgotten standby of many diners, drive-ins, and now, our freezer. During menu planning last week, I had already pinpointed Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Island Black Bean Burgers as one of the new recipes to test out. As American as I can possibly sound, what goes best with burgers?

Kale.

Yes, there was some stir-fried kale served alongside the burgers. But really, I meant:

crinkle2In one word: yum.

Unfortunately, the actual burger component of this meal went to hell-in-a-handbasket quickly. It wasn’t the preparation portion that threw me into a tailspin. Apparently, during the shopping trip, I failed to open my eyes and actually read what I was purchasing. Sooo…instead of cilantro, I picked up parsley. And, instead of scallions, I purchased shallots. And, to boot, my Jamaican curry powder arrived at 8pm that evening, so the spice component was all improv.

Regardless, these burgers were outstanding, and I know they will even taste BETTER with the island-infused curry powder and perhaps cooking my black beans just a tiny bit longer so the mashing process goes a little easier.

dinner2Baked bean burger goodness.

Isa includes a recipe for nectarine salsa with these burgers. But, since nectarines aren’t in season, I didn’t want to chance it. Instead, I picked up some Mrs. Renfro’s Mango Habanero Salsa. In three words: ay de mi!

Island Black Bean Burgers
Makes 8 burgers (mine made 10 somehow)
Total time: 45 minutes; Active time: 20 minutes

For the burgers:

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Burger buns
Additional toppings of choice (mango or pineapple salsa is fun!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a medium bowl, use a small potato masher (or a strong fork) to mash the black beans and black-eyed peas. They should be good and mushy but not totally pureed, with a few beans still identifiable in the mix.

Add the red pepper, scallions, cilantro, curry powder, salt, broth, and lime juice and mix well. Mix in the panko until it all holds together. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or so.

Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray or brush with oil. Form the burger mixture into 8 patties (or more) that are about 1 inch thick. Spray or brush with a little more oil and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the burgers and bake for 12 to 15 more minutes, until nicely browned.

A note from Isa: she writes in Isa Does It that to make a perfect patty every time, use a 3-inch cookie cutter. Pat the mixture into it, and don’t worry about fingerprints (they will flatten out when you flip them). If you don’t have a 3-inch cookie cutter, use an empty 15-ounce can and press it into the veggie burger mixture. Then, simply pop the patty out of the can!

dinner1

And what to dip those crinkle fries in? We kept it local with some Num Num Sauce.

The burning question: what is your favorite French fry shape?

Day thirteen of vegan recipe challenge: oogling for Udon

While musing on the #veganuary challenge during a run last weekend, I decided to take on breaking down the barriers that surround a vegan staple (and, if done right, an overall delight): tofu. Tofu! Too many people have experienced bad tofu: gummy, watery, and bland. But, when done well, tofu can bring down a house (it may also burn down a house if you are not careful when frying but that’s a simple fact of cooking with oil. Fire extinguishers are key!)

So, I decided to host a “Tofu Done 5 Ways” gathering later this month both to introduce tofu in new ways to some friends and to glean their knowledge and experience in working with this powerful protein. What are the 5 ways, you ask? We’ll do some simmered tofu (either in soup or an simmering sauce), fried tofu, baked tofu, pureed tofu, and raw tofu. For the raw tofu, I decided that I wanted to make sushi. But, there’s a catch:

I don’t know how to make sushi.

I do know how to eat it though. Fortunately, through the insight of social media, I discerned my friend Chelsea is a sushi-rolling master. So, I asked her if she would teach me her ways, sensei. She happily agreed, so we’ll be knocking that out later today. To prepare for this endeavor, I visited a foodies gem in the haunts of an old Circuit City:

LiMingNo more computers here. Just crazy amounts of food.

Why I hadn’t shopped at Li Ming’s Global Market more frequently is beyond me, but that will change for 2015. Rows and rows of fresh vegetables, tofu, and simmer sauces labeled in languages far beyond my linguistic grasps. After selecting the nori and other key sushi-making project ingredients, I sought the pièce de résistance for a dish from Veganomicon: fresh Udon noodles. I had never worked with fresh noodles before (a travesty!) and was overwhelmed by the sheer options of Udon noodles staring back at me. Some where seasoned with various animal-based proteins, so I carefully selected a straight-up-now-tell-me packet. And, after a few chops, flips, and minutes, this is what I was left with:

Udon2Slurpy goodness.

With some added bok choy (because who can resist giant bags of bok choy for $2?!), I found this recipe to be sublime. Excellent broth – the ginger/garlic combination is present but not overwhelming. This miso (which I also bought at Li Ming’s for an obnoxiously inexpensive price) tickled the tongue. Aaron and I took down the entire recipe (yes, it serves four) last night. What I also liked about the fresh udon noodles is that it came in four-individual packs, so we still have two left in our fridge, waiting for their own bath in the pool

Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth
Serves 4; Time: 35 minutes

1/2 pound fresh udon noodles or dried udon noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 medium-size red onion, sliced into thin half-mooons
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons mirin (optional)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons miso (see note below)
4 cups chopped kale
2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste

Note: In this recipe, Isa & Terry used a strong, dark miso (which I did too). If you are using a light, mellow miso, you may want to add another tablespoon or so.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the udon according to the package directions (about 10 minutes for dried; 3 – 4 minutes for fresh). When done, drain and rinse with cool water until ready to use.
Meanwhile, preheat a large skilled over medium heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms in the oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are softened but still have some crunch. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute.

Add the mirin, water, and miso, and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the kale. Toss the mixture around with tongs until the kale has wilted. Add the noodles and use a paste spoon to stir them into the broth for about 2 minutes.

Divide the udon and vegetables among bowls and spoon some broth over each serving.

Then, slurp away, my friends. Slurp away. I just steamed the bok choy and threw in one for some additional green vegetable love.

Udon1

And, one additional food-related plus for today. During my Target meat-alternative excursion, I discovered this brand of veggie burger:

vburger

After yesterday morning’s run, I tossed it into a pan for some protein fuel. YUM! Sweet Earth nailed it. It has a nice crunch on the outside, and I definitely could taste the Middle Eastern spices. I will gladly try out some of the other flavors.