Archive for November, 2010

Enter the Wonton


Konichiwa, bitches. Do I have an accidental surprise for you: wontons. (Yes, I know wontons are Chinese and not Japanese; I just love “Konichiwa, bitches” too much.) I say accidental because this went from a sub-par ‘breakfast’–more on that in a sec–to punch-me-in-the-face-good pot stickers. See, at my also sub-par job (where I am writing this post, oddly enough), I often work a 1am-10am shift. So I wake up at 11 or 11:30pm to be out of the door by 12:30am. It’s disorienting to wake up yesterday and go to work tomorrow, but that aside, figuring out what an appropriate veg breakfast is can be somewhat complicated. I often just stick with toast and hummus or scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach, but that can get old fast. So one morning I decide to make a tofu scramble: extra firm tofu, diced red peppers, and diced onions. I seasoned it a bit, but it still sucked. I mean, it was fine, but not for an 11:45pm breakfast. So, unwilling to throw it out, the scramble went into Tupperware and was forgotten. Fast forward four or five days and to a large helping of hunger and boredom. The rest, readers–well, the rest is this post. Peep this ish.

Ingredients for wontons:

1/2-lb extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled (you can do this with your hands)

1 red pepper, diced

3/4-cup onion, diced

1-package wonton wrappers (The brand I used, Nasoya, works great and comes with 48 in a pack; you won’t use them all, but better safe than sorry.)

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbs. black pepper

2 tbs. low sodium soy sauce

1 egg, whisked

1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil

Makes as many servings as it makes. Depending on how much stuffing you can add and the shape you form them, expect about 20-30 wontons.

Ingredients for (optional) dipping sauce:

1 tbs. natural peanut butter

2 tbs. low sodium soy sauce

1 tsp. Sriracha sauce/ hot sauce

1 tsp. pepper flakes

If you’re not into spicy, kill the Sriracha. I recommend only cutting the amount of pepper flakes in half, though, to keep some of the flavor.

Heads up: the peppers will need to be diced finer.

First up: the scramble. Heat the oil to a pan over medium to medium-high heat and cook thepepper and onion mix until soft–about 5-6 minutes. Now add the drained and crumbled tofu, the seasonings, and soy sauce and cook for another 3-5 minutes. You’re not looking for any real char on the tofu or peppers, just heat and tenderness. (I feel like there’s a joke here, but it’s 3am at work and one-liners are out of my immediate reach, so this one’s on you.) Set aside the mix; this will be your filling.

Now for the incredibly not fun part: stuffing the wontons. You have three shape choices to choose from: the bindle, the tortellini, and the ravioli; I utilized the latter two, forgetting totally about the first. The steps aren’t hard; it’s just a matter of patience, the type of wrapper (mine was probably too thick for the bindle), and using the egg to seal the seams. The bindle and tortellini take about the same amount of filling, and the ravioli can take just a bit more. I recommend starting out with a hefty teaspoon and working from there. Mind you, stuffing isn’t an exact science–you’ll only get a feel for it by the end–and it’s an obnoxious pain in the ass with tasty results.

For the bindle: place the filling in the middle of the wrapper, egg-wash the exterior of the wrap (as if a frame of egg wash), and gently twist the wrapper closed, like you would a bag of bread when you lose/ give up on the twist tie.

For the tortellini: this one is hard to explain verbally, so bear with me. Orient the wrapper so it’s a diamond, place the filling in the middle, and frame the outside of the wrapper with the egg wash. Bring the bottom point to the top (home base to second base), then squeeze and seal. Finally, do the same for the side corners (third and first bases). For a visual reference, this version looks like a tortellini.

For the ravioli: This one is easy–so easy, in fact, that I quit on the tortellini halfway through and did this one. You get more stuffing in and it’s less (but still quite) tedious. Again, place the filling in the middle of a wrapper, wash the outside, and place another wrapper on top while aligning the corners. Seal and crimp the edges.

As far as cooking goes, you can pan fry (or deep fry, if you must), steam, or boil these suckers. For the latter two–steaming and boiling–make sure your seals are especially perfect. I pan fried them in a cast iron skillet with peanut oil; use this or vegetable oil, since they have high smoke points and will tolerate the high heat well (unlike olive oils).

These dudes are tasty on their own, but a dipping sauce is always nice—and this one is real easy, too. Combine the ingredients and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between nukes, until you get a thick consistency and all of the ingredients are combined. You can zest this up with some lime or grated ginger, as well. In fact, this sauce works great over pasta and rice dishes as well. So consider this as two posts, you greedy bastards.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4.5. My brother, a committed meat eater who hates tofu, was scarfing these wontons and lathering them with the sauce. I think I pimp smacked him with the pimp spatula at one point because, damnit, I needed this for dinner for a few days. The half-point deduction is because these do have tofu in them, which automatically sounds unfriendly. My brother is an adventurous eater, so I was able to persuade him for the sake of NVFF research.

These things are light enough (if steamed) for an appetizer or, when paired with the sauce and pan-fried, great as a meal. I’m not sure how they freeze, but I imagine it’s just fine.

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Mac & Cheese: the Omega


I know; I know: this is the quickest turn-around from the VV you’ve seen yet. I promise it’s not premature posting; I just thought I owed you after that, you know, embarrassing performance with the Vurgers. I know you keep telling me that it happens to all new vegetarian cooks, but I’m a little embarrassed, nonetheless.

So how do I make up for those ramshackle burgers? The best, most awesomest, pants-wettingest, life-changingest, revelatory mouthgasm that ever involved the words ‘mac’ and ‘cheese’. Flavor aside, it’s goddamn healthy too. Boom. So hopefully any Debbie Doubters resulting from the Veggie Burgers are now Acolyte Annies. Remember: the Virgin reserves his right to any and all hyperbole and salesmanship. Truthfully, though, this meal sometimes feeds me 2-3 times a week, freezes great, and always hits the spot. It’s probably a little high in protein and sodium–not to mention more caloric in the outlined portions for people who are on a strict weight-loss diet–so if you’re really concerned, eat it before or after a hard workout.

Ingredients:

1lb. Pasta Barilla Plus (I like the elbows or rotini.)

8oz. fat free shredded mozzarella cheese

8oz. fat free shredded cheddar cheese

5oz. reduced fat bleu cheese (feta also works, but bleu is the best for kicking up the flavor)

12oz. broccoli and cauliflower, steamed (I use the microwave steam bags because, well, why not? They’re easy, fast, and maintain nutrients more reliably; plus they free up a burner.)

8oz. white mushrooms, sliced

1/4-cup butter or butter substitute (Brummel & Brown was listed here before, but if you consult the comments below you’ll see why it was taken out.)

2 tbs. all-purpose flour

2-cups skim milk

Not pictured: black pepper

1 tbs. hot sauce

1/2-tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2-tbs. cumin

1 tbs. ancho chili powder

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1.5 tbs. paprika

1/3-vegetable bouillon cube, grated (at some point in the future, I’ll show you how to make your own)

(garlic) salt & pepper to taste

. . . feel free to include the kitchen sink, if you want.

Makes 5-6 servings if main dish, a helluva lot if a side.

Boil the pasta. Strain and set aside.

Using the flour and butter, make a rue (check out my Mushroom’s Cream Soup for guidance, since it’s a bitch to write about twice). When the rue is made, add the milk. It helps if the milk is warm so the hot rue isn’t shocked with cold milk, thereby stunting the process a bit; you don’t want it boiling, so a couple minutes in the microwave should do the trick. Now throw in the seasonings and hot sauce. (This is a good time to steam the broccoli and cauliflower, especially if you’re using one of the steam bags.) Once the rue is done—I normally wait for the milk to reach a very slow boil over a medium heat, then drop the heat a little—start adding in the mozzarella and bleu cheeses, about 1/4 of the amount at a time. With a whisk or long fork, keep stirring the mix so the cheeses melt uniformly, also while breaking up and smooshing any remaining clumps of flour-butter. Once all of the cheese is added and melted—making one gooey, cheesey pot of awesomeness—take the cheese sauce off of the heat or drop the burner as low as it can go. Oh, and most importantly, sneak a taste of some and thank me later.

While you’re working your (my, actually) magic with the cheese sauce, coat a shallow, rectangular baking pan—mine looks to be about 11” x 8” x 1.5”—with a non-stick spray. Dump in the pasta, mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower and stir it all together. Pour on the cheese sauce and, again, stir the mother. Now sprinkle on the cheddar cheese—but don’t even think of stirring. Jerk. This unassuming sprinkling ends up as a delicious film of melted cheese, and if you want to mess that up then you deserve to die cold and alone. Now here’s a point of disagreement: I’m not one to sprinkle breadcrumbs on top; I don’t need the added crunch. If you’re one of these people, knock your socks off—I recommend Italian breadcrumbs—but if you’re on the fence about it, I say try it first without the crumbs.

Bake for 11-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Dig the hell in.

I promise it tastes better than it looks.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5(trillion-hundred-million). Yea, it’s another typical omnivore dish—eat it. Considering its nutritional profile to gustatory satisfaction ratio, there is nothing not-bitchin’ about this meal. The broccoli and cauliflower add a nice texture without overwhelming—roasted eggplant or peas would work well too; just nothing too crunchy—and the mushrooms are succulent after their time in the oven. Just a warning: this is the type of meal that forces you to unbutton your pants afterward, so I recommend sweatpants or, if it’s a classy function, Gloria Vanderbilt stretch jeans; you know, the ones with the swan.

Veggie Burgers: redemption awaits.


So the Virgin is back, albeit with a less than stellar performance with some Veggie Burgers. Sure, my ego is bruised, but what more can you expect from a (vegetarian) virgin? I was tempted to not share this one, but they do taste pretty good, nonetheless. The problem isn’t the taste—which I guess is redemptive—but the consistency; the form, not content (for what it’s worth).

The coNo, you will not eat the plastic wrap--at least not more than once.urse: the all-crucial Veggie Burger. Below will surely be only the first in a series of Vurger installments—if for no other reason than to atone for the final results. The problem, which I’ll get into more below, is that the burgers didn’t stay together very well; they didn’t totally come apart, but they didn’t keep shape perfectly either. Towards the end I propose some ways to try and fix this problem in the future.

Ingredients:

1/2 yellow bell pepper, (not too) finely diced

1/2 jalapeño, (not too) finely diced

4 pepperoncini, diced

4 Spanish olives, diced

4 cloves garlic, diced (getting the trend yet?)

6 oz. black beans, drained

6 oz. lentils, drained

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1.5 tbs. paprika

1 tbs. garlic salt

1 tbs. majoram

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs. basil

1 tsp. dill

6 oz. panko

Makes 4 patties

Coat the bottom of a skillet with oil. Heat over medium to medium-high heat. Add all of the vegetables except for the beans. Feel free to add a pinch of salt to help bring out some more flavor and sweat the peppers. Heat everything until the peppers become semi-translucent and the garlic just begins to brown, making sure not burn it. Remove and allow to cool.

Combine the mix and the beans, and then stir in the rest of the seasonings. Crack that egg and drop it on top. Mix the whole mess together with your hands, making sure to disperse the egg and somewhat break down the black beans; this means don’t be afraid to use some pressure, muscles—but not too much, since you don’t want mush.

Dollar is for scale, not consumption.

Form the mess into patties; you should be able to get four. Here’s a tip I stole from mygrandmother: use a shallow plastic container to get the shape. Just make sure to line the bottom with a fair amount of plastic wrap so you can wrap the burgers and individually freeze them. I let them set up for 30mins in the fridge—but I don’t think this is enough. Again, though, I’ll get into that below.

No rocket science here. Just serve it like you’d serve any burger: tomato; onion; bun; cheese; avocado. I advise staying away from mustards or ketchup with this one, though, since the flavors don’t jive with the veggie mix.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 2, maybe less. For one, veggie burgers are a hard sell to carnivores; there’s no way around that. But give them a veggie burger that falls apart and you’ll get your face grilled. That being said, the mix is of vegetables is pretty great. I may not use lentils next time—I want a different consistency—but everything else was spot-on. Wait until you smell the veggie mix in the pan; you’ll have omnivores pouring in, asking for a bite.

Finally, to my gripe: these bitches fall apart. They stay together better after they freeze (as opposed to simply setting up for 30mins), but it’s still not ideal. I have a (hopeful) solution though: 1-2 oz. more of panko, or maybe some olive oil mayonnaise. I need some more/ better binding, so if anyone has any suggestions, light up the comment box below. Otherwise, just wait until Veggie Burgers: the Return, you damn non-participators.