Sunday, June 24, 2012

Vegan Chopped - Black Celebration Pasta: Black linguine with black-eyed pea balls with blackberry Marinara

Depeche Mode isn't able to join me for dinner, but let's have a Black Celebration anyway.  Multi-tasking is the key to getting this completed in about the time it takes to listen to this classic 80's album.

The lovely and amazing Isa posted a Chopped challenge and I couldn't resist the throw down.

The Challenge:  Make a vegan entree using Blackberries, Fresh Mint, canned Black-Eyed Peas, and Bittersweet Chocolate

I thought this up at work on Friday, and I am shocked and amazed at how delicious and interesting this turned out.  I'll try not to hurt myself patting myself on the back.  I was seriously worried about the chocolate pasta.  I'm delighted with the results.
Black Celebration pasta garnished with challenge ingredients:  Blackberries, black-eyed peas, mint chiffonade, and chocolate shavings.

Black linguine is usually made with squid ink and used to be a big favorite of mine.  I took out the seafood element and whipped up a dark fresh pasta with meaty balls and a fresh homemade sauce.  

Black Linguini
1 Cup all purpose flour
2 oz Bittersweet chocolate (melted)
1/4 cup water (approx) 
1/2 tsp salt

Blackberry Marinara
Olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1 small sweet onion
Fresh herbs - Mint, Basil, Oregano
Large Can Tomatoes with juice (28-35oz)*
1 Pint fresh blackberries

Black-Eyed Pea Balls**
1 Cup canned black-eyed Peas rinsed
1 TBS olive Oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
Fresh herbs - Mint, Basil, Oregano, Thyme
1 Heaping TBS dried Italian Herbes (or combo of Italian herbs like basil, oregano, etc)
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (panko)

Boil water for pasta (salt when ready)

Trio of components with authentic splatter
Linguini part 1: Mix together flour, melted chocolate***, and water.  Add additional water/flour as needed to form smooth ball.  Knead for a few minutes or throw into bread machine/mixer/food processor for a quick knead.  Wrap in wax paper or plastic and set aside.    

Simmering Blackberry Marinara

Marinara sauce:  Heat olive oil in saucepan.  Chop garlic and onion and add to pot to saute.  Chop herbes and add to pot.  Squish up tomatoes (reserve juice) and add to pot.  Blend blackberries with juice from tomatoes and add to pot.  Let simmer until ready to serve.  I didn't need to add any salt.

Frying Black-eyed Pea balls
Black-Eyed Pea balls:  Heat vegetable oil in cast iron fry pan.  Blend black-eyed peas, olive oil, salt, water, fresh herbs, and dried herbs.  In medium bowl, mix together wheat gluten and breadcrumbs.  Add black-eyed pea mixture and mix together with your hands to form dough.  Knead a little.  Break into just smaller than golfball sized pieces and shape into a ball. Fry until golden brown.   Tip: If you slightly flatten 6 sides to kind of make a square with them, they'll be easier to get brown on all sides.  

Linguini part 2.  Break off a small ball and roll as flat as possible, then slice into ribbons.

This would have worked much better with a pasta maker, but I wanted to make sure this worked if you didn't have one.  Cook in boiling salted water for about a minute or 2.  

The cooked linguini which now actually kind of looks like sea creature tentacles!

The pasta was definitely chocolatey on its own with a slight bitter edge.  Paired with the rest of the ingredients, though, I'm not sure you could tell that it was chocolate if you didn't know.  Kind of like mole sauce.

The marinara sauce also had a definite sweet and sour flavor that I knew was the blackberries, but I don't think you could pick it out if you didn't know.  The seeds were present and if I were a gourmet chef, I probably would have strained them out, but I'm me, so I prefer them rustic.

I love the black-eyed peas in the balls.  If you know your beans you can easily identify them.

The mint is more subtle and blends well with the other fresh herbs.  You get an occasional distinct minty bite from the garnish and it's not weird.

*Not quite tomato season, so canned was the better option.  Hoping for no hurricanes this year so I can can tomatoes this fall.  (Intentional can-can.)

** The Chickpea cutlets from the Veganomicon have been my inspiration for many, many, many meaty bean balls/cutlets, so if those proportions look familar, that's why.  I've adapted it so many times, but usually remember to give the inspiration props.  Lots of experimental combinations, but perfect results every time.

***Melting the chocolate:  I don't have a microwave, so I put a glass bowl over the boiling pasta water to melt.  I know it seems obvious, but just remember the bowl will be hot.
Black Linguini ready to cook

Awesome Chopped Challenge.  Can't wait to see what everyone makes.


Love all the comments on the facebook.

I made the rest of the pasta and shared with my neighbor who I "forced" to judge.

Yay, she loved it!  Definitely digging the bean balls.  Seriously, she wanted to lick the bowl.  What better compliment is there?

She set up a makeshift table with candles and we dined al fresco on the patio.  Other neighbors and lots of people out walking their dogs looked jealous of our sweet set-up.

Declan the cat also looked quite envious.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Magical Maitake Mushroom and Garlic Scape Soup

Mmmm mushrooms.  There's a fancy mushroom stand at this year's farmer's market.  Yeah, the exotic 'shrooms are a little pricey, but well worth it.  I picked up some Japanese Maitake Mushrooms or "hen of the woods" and was a very happy shopper.

My normal soup preference is to smash a bunch of vegetables to oblivion in the vita mix and call it a potage, but the unique texture of the maitake mushrooms begged to be savored in a warming garlicky broth.   

I got to thinking about the mushroom texture, and it is a bit reminiscent of shredded chicken.  Perhaps that's how they got the moniker hen of the woods.  I'll have to experiment with that another time.  

Magical Maitake Mushroom Soup
6-8 fresh garlic scapes
1/2 pound fresh maitake mushrooms
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp dried herb mix such as herbs de provence or similar thyme based seasoning
Soy sauce or salt to taste

Chop the scapes into small pieces and saute in olive oil in a soup pan.  Break apart the mushrooms and add to the scapes.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add enough water or veg broth to cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes.  Add seasonings and salt or soy sauce to taste.  Serve garnished with fresh chives. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler (Raw and Gluten Free if you want to...)

This Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler is kind of accidentally raw and gluten free.

I got some lovely strawberries and rhubarb from the farmers marker.  I had planned to bake it, but it just happened that the other ingredients I had on hand were also raw.  So voila, super healthy dessert (or breakfast.)  The soy whipped cream isn't raw, but is obviously optional and I was trying to use that up, too.    

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
4 stalks rhubarb
1 Qt. fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
2 cups raw granola (or raw oats with raisins & nuts)

Slice the rhubarb into small pieces.  I slice the stalk in half, then cut about 1/4 inch slices.  Stem & quarter the strawberries.  Macerate the rhubarb & berries in 1/2 cup sugar for a few hours - I left mine overnight and it was fine.  Top with granola and serve.  You can also bake for about 20 minutes at about 375 degrees for a warm dessert.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kaiware avocado sushi

Yup.  More avocado and sprouts...

Kaiware are daikon radish sprouts.  They're pretty potently spicy all alone, but really perk up the same old avocado rolls.  I'm no expert sushi roller, and you don't even need to spring $3 for the rolling mat.  A piece of wax paper or a dish towel works just fine, too.  Sharp knife helps.


Here's the daikon sprouts rinsed and in a bowl.
Daikon Radish Sprouts (Kaiware)

My sprout set-up.  Wide mouth quart mason jars.  Ventilated lids.  A plastic shoebox.  Sprouting seeds/beans/grains.
From left to right:  Alfalfa, fennel, garbanzo beans
Soak seeds, drain, tip downwards.  Rinse & drain twice a day.  I thought I would forget or it would be annoying, but I rinse them in the morning and before I go to bed.  It only takes a few minutes.    

Saturday, June 2, 2012

California Burrito Grande

I was missing the California Burrito Grande from Boca Grande in Cambridge, MA.

I've been sprouting alfalfa (and adzuki beans, fennel, and daikon radish, but more on those later,) and the California Burrito Grande seemed like the perfect showcase for alfalfa sprouts.  I made this for my mom last weekend and she enjoyed it too.  The avocados* came from SoCal Avocados.  I saw an ad on facebook a few months ago and now I get 20 perfect avocados delivered every month.

California Burrito Grande
1 tortilla (officially flour, but corn works, too)
1/4 to 1/2 avocado cut into chunks (or guacamole)
2-4 TBS Salsa or tomatoes
Handfull of Sprouts

Warm the tortilla**, top with avocado, salsa, and sprouts, then wrap up and enjoy.  I like to add jalapeno hot sauce and a little lime juice, too.  You can also add some chipotle or ancho chili powder on the avocado for an extra kick.

Don't add warm beans and rice, though.  Have them on the side if you want them.  At Boca Grande they normally come on a burrito so they would always ask and one time I mistakenly said yes.  It's a totally different burrito and you loose the freshness of the sprouts.  I'm not knocking a good rice & bean burrito, it's just not the same thing.

*Did you know you can freeze avocados?  Just ripen, then split and take out the pit.  Scoop out the entire half and place it in a freezer bag.  Just thaw and mash into guacamole or don't even bother thawing them and add half to a smoothie. Yum.

**Here's how I normally warm a tortilla:  Wet the tortilla under running water and shake off the excess.  It shouldn't be drowning, just dampened.  The idea is to quickly steam it.  Put it in a toaster oven on high heat for about 2 minutes.  Check it and it should be warm and still pliable.  Adjust time or heat to your liking.
Leaving it for too long on too high heat is a definite fire hazard because it will likely puff up and hit the heating elements.  If you're making a whole bunch, you can wrap them in foil and stick in the oven.  Most packages have instructions for warming.  I don't recommend a microwave unless that's all you got, but wet 2 paper towels and put the tortilla between them and nuke for 30-45 seconds.