Monday, July 28, 2014

Basil 'Cream' Sauce

Basil Sauce (dried basil used) w/ GF pasta, spinach and crispy baked tofu!
 This sauce started out as a family 'recipe' that my sister-in-law got from her mother-in-law. I use the quotes because it's one that has always gone something like this:

Mix equal parts of Vegenaise and Plain Yogurt. Add nutritional yeast. Add more nutritional yeast. Add onion powder. Add more onion powder. Add dried oregano. Add more dried oregano. taste. adjust. Serve on veggies, tofu, pasta, rice dishes, anything and everything you want basil-y delicious!

When I went vegan I thought I'd just sub soy or any other vegan yogurt but it never tasted the same. It tasted off, and I was sad. I missed this sauce. I missed it a lot. It was one that truly tasted amazing without the need for fresh ingredients and elevated any simple, thrown together meal to something that felt restaurant-worthy. The kids loved it, too!
Breakfast with Basil Sauce (fresh basil used) over quinoa and Vegan Diner's Smoky Curls
Then, the other day, while harvesting some fresh basil from our newly planted container garden, I had an epiphany. I can't really take much credit. All I did here was take an already amazing recipe and change the flavors to become my beloved basil sauce. 

Most vegans who frequent the internet are familiar with Mama Pea of the now dismantled Peas And Thank You site (or cookbook by the same name) and her amazing Mmmm Sauce. Flavored with curry and dried cilantro and with a base of almond and chickpeas it is a super creamy and delicious sauce that is totally vegan and totally, turns out, versatile!

So here ya have it. Basil Sauce. Thanks to Mama Pea Sara for her generous vegan creativity, my genius mother-in-law(-in-law) for her original amazing recipe, and my tiny little lively basil plant who keeps giving me tons of bright green herbs and loads of inspiration! (You can nix the dried basil and use fresh basil if you have it on hand, but it's not necessary. Just use one chopped tablespoon of fresh herbs for every tsp of dried.)

Basil Sauce
makes approx (just under) 3 cups of sauce

1/2 c. canola, olive or other mild tasting oil
1/2 c. almonds*
2/3 c. water (+ more for thinning to desired consistency)
1/2 c. chickpeas
1/2 c. + 1 T nutritional yeast
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp light agave 
1 1/2 tsp dried basil (or 1 1/2 T fresh chopped basil)

Add all ingredients but basil to high powered blender, stick blender container, bullet, or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy adding water one tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency. Sauce will be somewhat thick but definitely spreadable. It's up to you if you want it pourable. Add basil and pulse to incorporate without turning your sauce green. Unless green sauce is what your after, then blend away! Taste and adjust seasonings.

*I use a Vitamix so I use plain, raw almonds without soaking but if you find that your blending device has issues with whole, raw nuts you might want to soak yours for a couple hours prior in the 2/3 c water. 

**I have two adjustments I haven't tried to this recipe and will report back once I do, but the first is to add a bulb of roasted garlic. I mean, how could that be a bad idea?! I don't think garlic powder would do, but roasted garlic? yes, please! the other change I'm thinking of toying with is to use a 2:1 ratio of almonds to cashews to see if I could get it a bit smoother. With this option I will omit the agave until it's all been blended and see how it tastes before adding since cashews always seem to add their own bit of sweetness. If you happen to try either of these variations, do let me know how they turn out for you!
Clean out the 'fridge dinner! Basil Sauce over Smoky Curls, 'shrooms, spinach, and quinoa & onions

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Korean(ish) Soy Curls

I should start this post by admitting that the closest thing I've ever had to food that could be deemed 'Korean' was any time our dear Korean friend Francis, the sushi chef, made me dinner. Even then though, there wasn't a lot of drawing from his culture, even if his knife skills are mad impressive!

That said, I've always wanted to try a Korean restaurant but have always been scared of the meat-centric cuisine. Enter Butler Foods Soy Curls. There's pretty much nothing this dehydrated meat stand-in can't replicate in the way of mouth feel or deliver in the way of flavor (I still can't believe I've never blogged about Vegan Diner's Smoky Soy Curls, oh man. Bacon. Yum.). 

So I did some Googling, took some notes, and scribbled down a bunch of ingredients that kept reappearing. I made a sauce, hydrated my Curls, and got to cooking. Easy, sweet, peppery, delicious! I have NO clue if these are anywhere near the flavors of what a Korean dish would deliver, but since the recipe is born of some serious Korean internet searching, I'm going with Korean(ish) Soy Curls. And I plan to make them again. And again!

Korean(ish) Soy Curls
makes approx. 4 meal-sized servings

1/3 bag rehydrated (in boiling water) Butler Soy Curls

3 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
6 T shoyu
2 1/2 T light agave syrup
2 T toasted sesame oil
1 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T ginger paste

Squeeze water from rehydrated Soy Curls. Toss in marinade, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to overnight. Heat 1-2 T peanut or coconut oil over med heat. Squeeze excess marinade out of Curls and place in hot oil, tossing every few minutes to brown but not burn. Add veggie of choice (I used some fresh chopped broccoli) and saute, stirring often until crisp tender. Serve over rice noodles, bean thread noodles, or rice. There will not be much of a sauce. You could always add some water or some of the marinade if you want more of that. I like the flavor all in the Curls sans sauce. 

You could easily add any veggies you like to this. The fresh flavor of the vegetables will balance the sweet peppery taste of the Soy Curls. I just had a hankering for some broccoli. Then again, I find I always have a hankering for some broccoli. Also, I wanted to finish this off with a sprinkling of some toasted sesame seeds, but had none on hand. Next time! 

Peanut Lime Cilantro Dressed Salad

Whenever we have guests, I will spend the days leading up to their arrival dreaming up menus, planning to pull out all the stops, wanting to woo them with vegan goodness they'll be craving for meals to come after their departure. If they're lucky, I'll actually have a sauce or dressing in the 'fridge already and at least one perfect plate will make it to them amid all of the fun, non-eating things that tend to get packed into a visit instead of cooking and the cleaning up of my tiny kitchen. 

When one of those plates is like this one on a hot summer day and the diner is my ever appreciative mom I'm more than happy!

This recipe certainly isn't anything you haven't seen before, but what it is is a perfect way to balance sweet and salty tangy and savory and dress a ton of raw, crunchy veggies in the most delicious way!

Above you see whatever we happened to have on hand during mom and dad's visit; butter lettuce, green cabbage, some spiralized raw zucchini, cucumbers, red bell pepper, and carrots. I served this to mom with a side of Korean(ish) Soy Curls and Broccoli, but I've also done this similarly with a handful of chickpeas and some dry pan fried tofu or edamame for some added protein and topped with 1/3 cup of cold soba noodles and called it dinner. 

Also, as a side, I started enjoying this tossed with a cup of shredded green cabbage, small hand fulls of shredded bell pepper, carrot, and cucumber and topping with more fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. It's become a pretty stellar staple!

Whatever you're gracing with this light but flavorful dressing, you'll just call it tasty!

Peanut Lime Cilantro Salad Dressing
(I usually make mine and store in an old 32oz Veganaise jar. It doesn't fill the jar completely, but is enough to dress quite a few salads and/or veggies!) Can easily be halved if you're just making for a lesser number of servings. 

1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. lime juice
2 T shoyu (or soy sauce or tamari)
2 - 3 T agave (to taste. I start with 2 and taste and adjust from there)
1/4 c. peanut oil (or other light tasting oil of your choosing)
3 garlic cloves
1 - 2 T chopped ginger or ginger paste
1 - 2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 c. fresh cilantro

Put all ingredients but cilantro into food processor, high speed blender, or container to use with immersion blender. Blend until smooth and taste to adjust seasonings/sweeteners to your liking. Add cilantro and pulse to just blend in but not turn green. 

Drizzle in 2 or 3 tablespoon serving sizes over salads or veggies and store remaining dressing in air tight container in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.