Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: June 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Manchurian-ish Mushrooms

We've been in "Mexi-mode" lately almost exclusively with my testing and restesting recipes for the cookbook. On Friday, I was looking at the website TasteSpotting and decided to do a search of the word "spicy", 'cause that's how I roll. One of the recipes that came up was for Manchurian Mushrooms. The picture was so drool-worthy that I had to go look at the recipe. I sounded absolutely amazing. I sent the recipe and picture to both Brett and Selina (she and I have very similar tastes). Brett, who claims to be "Asian-ed out" took one look at the recipe and agreed that we should try it and soon. Selina was on the same page as me and wanted to make it as soon as possible.

I started from this recipe here. I didn't have some of the stuff on hand and I wanted to make sure that the mushrooms were spicy to my liking and the sauce was sweet to Brett's liking so I tweaked the recipe and provided it below.

You may note some new serving ware here and there. My Nanny Beth (among others) wanted our food to look nicer since we put pictures of it online, so she got us these "rooster bowls" which look really cool with Asian food and some plates for us to use for our "Mexican presentations". Now all I have to do is learn how to use a camera and get some sort of eye for "food fashion". Hell, I am just the cook, Selina, PLEASE DON'T LEAVE PRESENTATION UP TO ME FOR THE COOKBOOK. It would just be bad. You've seen my titles for things and my lack of skill with the camera, you do not want that. :-)

Well, here she be.

The local booty legend (aka revealing my sources):
no asterisk = grocery store
+ = local produce from The Root Cellar
++ = The Peace Nook (will denote whether product is local or just from the Nook)
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
**** = the non-profit buying club, Blue Planet or Purcell Mountain Farms

J&B's Manchurian-ish Mushrooms
1 pack button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
3-4 cups peanut oil for frying

Spicy Batter:
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp corn masa
2 tsp (or more!) of chile-garlic sauce (I used Huy Fong)
4 Chiles Japones, crushed with a mortar and pestle (you could also use a food processor or coffee grinder, or just crush them up with your fingers)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 cup water

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Slowly add the water and mix well, making sure to work out all the clumps.

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
2 tbsp peanut oil
2 small red boiler onions, chopped *
3 banana peppers, seeded and sliced *
2 small green bell peppers, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces *
1 head broccoli, cut into florettes *
1/2 yellow summer squash, cut into large chunks **
1 head Georgian Fire garlic, sliced *
2 tbsp alfalfa honey *
3/4 cup organic ketchup
4 tbsp sweet chile sauce
3 tbsp shoyu (or other soy sauce)
4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish, optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.

Add the onion, peppers, broccoli, and squash and saute stirring often for about 6-8 minutes.

Add the garlic and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes.

Turn the heat down to slightly below medium.

Add the honey, ketchup, chile sauce, and shoyu. Combine well.

Let simmer on low while you batter and fry the mushrooms.

To batter and fry the mushrooms and finish up the dish:

Put your peanut oil in a heavy bottomed small skillet and turn heat on the low end of high (does that make sense?).

Dip the mushrooms pieces in the batter and once oil is heated carefully drop them in the hot oil.

Fry for 6-8 minutes or until mushroom pieces are deep golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain the excess oil. Repeat this process until all the mushrooms are fried.

Put the fried mushrooms into the sweet and sour sauce and stir to coat evenly. Top with cilantro. Serve immediately.

This was really freakin' good. It tasted like something you would get from a restaurant. It isn't the least time consuming of the recipes here on Veg*n Cooking, but it is well worth the effort.

'Til next time!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Weekly Local Booty - Farmer's Market and CSA - June 27, 2009

We've been in the midst of a heat wave here in Mid-Missouri and today is slated to be no different - highs in the upper 90s, heat index well into the 100s, and humidity, humidity, humidity. Neither Brett or I are fans of the whole "early to bed, early to rise" mentality, but not wanting to have heat exhaustion or come home feeling like a hot oozing mass of sweat, we decided to get up early and hit the market first thing. Apparently we weren't the only ones with that idea as the market was really packed already at eight in the morning.

It was a mighty success at market this week and this week's CSA share is the best one yet. Only one oddity - there are some Amish folks who are at market every week and have some of the best tomatoes I have ever tasted. I actually can't recall them ever not being there. Well, today they weren't. We're not sure if it was the weather or what, but there were only two stands that I saw that were selling tomatoes and boy, were their lines long. We decided to risk it and get tomatoes right before we left. The wait in line was well worth it, we have a lovely haul of some very gorgeous tomatoes.

Anywho, check out Week 7's Danjo Farms quarter share veggie CSA:

Starting from the bottom right: red spring onions, beets with their gorgeous greens, a yellow summer squash, two cucumbers (I'm not sure what kind the curled one is, but whatever they are, they are really, really good cukes), a full sized onion (!!!!!), and a lovely head of tasty cabbage (!!!!!).

That cabbage isn't going to even last a day in our house, I'm using part of it for dinner tonight.

And here is this week's farmer's market haul. It ran us $47.

Starting from the bottom right: 1/2 pound Beau Solais oyster mushrooms (seriously, any folks in Columbia who like mushrooms, try these, we've tried the other oyster mushroom purveyor at market and this one is just hands down way better), 2 red bell peppers (!!!!!), 2 green bell peppers, a bunch of banana peppers, 7 gorgeous tomatoes (we meant to get 6 and ended up with 7 on the scale and decided to go ahead and get the additional one), Stanton Brothers eggs (again, the best eggs we've found in Mid-Missouri), 2 heads of Georgian Fire garlic from Chert Hollow Farm, 2 bunches of small red onions from "The Awesome Guy that I Always Forget to Look at the Stand Name but Get His Onions Every Week Because They Rock" (talk about an "Indian Name"), a bunch of cilantro from the Korean/Vietnamese stand Kea International Market, a box of locally produced Pasta Italia penne pasta, Yukon Gold potatoes from The Veggie Patch, and two Texas candy onions.

I used to be one of those people who thought garlic was garlic - it didn't really matter. That was until I was introduced to the beauty that is heirloom varieties from the farmer's market. So far, our favorite was the Music garlic we had last year, funnily enough, unbeknownst to us, that was from Chert Hollow Farm. We also enjoyed the German Extra Hardy as well, but that Music garlic, man it made some killer refried beans. Anyway, there is a difference in the flavors and qualities of different garlics and we are trying to figure out what our favorite varieties are.

As I metioned in last week's Local Booty Update, we missed the first of the year garlic from Chert Hollow Farm. Eric, the owner/operator of the farm offered to hold some back for us so we could make sure we got some this weekend at market (super cool of him by the way, something that again, makes the farmer's market stand out from the grocery store, you wouldn't get that kind of service and treatment from Wal-Mart). He asked what we planned on doing with the garlic (Mexican food, of course) and picked out a variety he thought would work well. He chose Georgian Fire garlic.

It is lovely garlic that smells amazing even through the skin. We only got two heads because it is "green garlic" meaning it hasn't been cured and thus isn't meant to be stored. It will keep in the fridge for about a week. I can't wait to try it with dinner tonight. We are some mad garlic eaters around here, so two heads should tide us over until next Saturday. However, if we make refried beans again, all bets are off. :-)

I will be back sometime this weekend for a "cookbook teaser post" with pictures of the things Selina and I have been working on for the cookbook.

J's Songs of the Day:

With Words:
"Tonight She Comes" - The Cars
"Crawling King Snake" - The Doors
"Puddin' Taine" - Primus

Without Words:
"Classical Gas" - Mason Williams
"Grey's Groove" - Greyboy Allstars featuring Karl Denson
"Loose Cannon" - Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

I hope everyone is having an excellent weekend, stay cool!

'Til next time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mushroom Stroganoff (Vegetarian)

As many of you know, Brett is an omnivore. Though he occasionally eats meat, he prefers vegetarian food most of the time. One problem? I'm allergic to dairy. I will occasionally endure the prescription haze of an antihistamine to either indulge on a bit of dairy, or when traveling to make finding vegetarian food for myself easier. But I have no problem with dairy - I just cannot eat it regularly. With my being employed and Brett still being a student, he is at home all day. He is not the biggest fan of cooking and thus would often go all day without eating if nothing convenient was at hand. He is a skinny boy as it is; the last thing he needs to be doing is skipping meals.

It took almost seven years, but I finally convinced him that not only do I not mind cooking something up for him to have for lunch during the week, but I actually really enjoy it.

He finally started giving me a list of things he'd like to have to eat, that would be convenient for him to make up for his meals during the week while I am at work. His first request was stroganoff. Not the kind with meat in it though, but a mushroom loaded vegetarian stroganoff. So, I made it for him and had him in the kitchen with me so he could taste it and let me know what it needed. It is strange cooking from the brain, sight, and smell only, but with Brett there to taste, it worked out quite well.

He loved this stroganoff. I'm actually not sure love is a strong enough word in this instance. Brett isn't one to give idle compliments, and especially not one to excessively compliment, but he did with this. Every single time he ate some of this, he would let me know how much he liked it. He'd send me an email telling me how good it was, he'd get on Google Talk and let me know he had it again and loved it, he would make a point to tell me when he talked to me at lunch or when I got home from work that he had had more stroganoff and he still really, really liked it. I wasn't originally going to blog about it, but then he went through the effort of photographing a bowl of it, and even taking the time to make a presentation, so I couldn't say no at that point. Really, it was pretty cute, and I am so happy he liked it as much as he did.

He had also trimmed a catnip plant right before eating and so used his small pruned bit of kitty-nip greens as the "pretty-pretty" for his picture. He enjoyed his stroganoff over Indiana made egg noodles from Selina. I haven't had the pleasure of trying them yet, but Brett loved them.

A little aside - Selina got us the coolest wedding gifts ever: a tortilla press, corn masa, a tortilla warmer, all sorts of salsa, pickled peppers, chow chow, fruit butters, she got Brett chocolate covered Oreos, dark chocolate covered cherries, tzatziki spice, and even locally produced egg noodles. It was so sweet and thoughtful; I only hope that our gift to her was even half as appreciated. Oh, and I have now officially made tortillas! Corn tortillas to be precise. Brett and I made them a few weeks ago when testing out a spin on our J&B's Huevos Rancheros and they were so good. And easy to make too! Thanks Selina, you are too awesome.

Also, I'm not sure about veganizing this recipe. I tried making a stroganoff with tofu sour cream a couple of years ago, and I'm sorry to the folks who think it tastes the same as "regular" sour cream because it doesn't, at least not in any way, shape, or form in my humble opinion, and that tofu sour cream stroganoff was one of the nastiest things I have ever had come out of my kitchen. So be warned that if you try to make this vegan, it might not actually taste good. :-)

And now, here she be!

The local booty legend (aka revealing my sources):
no asterisk = grocery store
+ = local produce from The Root Cellar
++ = The Peace Nook (will denote whether product is local or just from the Nook)
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
**** = the non-profit buying club, Blue Planet or Purcell Mountain Farms

Mushroom Stroganoff:
2-4 tbsp canola oil
1/2 lb mushrooms oyster mushrooms, sliced *
small handful (5-6) button mushrooms, sliced
2 small yellow onions, minced *
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tub organic sour cream
2 tbsp veggie broth
4 tbsp Earth Balance
black pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add the mushrooms and onions, cook for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until mushrooms are soft.

Reduce heat to slightly below medium and add sour cream, broth, Earth Balance, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through so sauce thins out a bit.

Serve over hot egg noodles.

I have been cooking more than just things for Brett lately - lots of cookbook recipes that have needed to be created or tested. I think sometime soon I will do a brief post with some "teaser" pictures of the things Selina and I have been dreaming up for our cookbook.

Other than some cookbook testing and gardening duties here and there, Brett and I have been enjoying married life and each other's company. We have really broken that NBA 2k9 game in too - we are finally winning some games. I've been doing a lot of reading and other than that we're just trying to keep cool during this mid-Missouri heat wave. Right now it is 92 with a heat index of 105; it is supposed to get worse before the day is done. Anyone under the midst of a heat wave, do be careful, drink lots of fluids and don't stay out in it too long, heat exhaustion is lame and no fun at all.

'Til next time!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekly Local Booty - Farmer's Market and CSA - June 20, 2009

Brett and I went to market this morning with Mexican food in mind and as usual, the market and our CSA did not disappoint. The only thing I was bummed about was that I missed Chert Hollow Farms' garlic - some of the first full bulbs of the year. I read about the prospects for garlic bulbs of Eric's Chert Hollow blog yesterday and tried to get there early, but alas, I was not early enough - there is always next week. Aside from that little bummer (which isn't really when you think about it, Eric sold out, and that is a sign of folks enjoying the offerings at market) we had quite a successful trip.

A bit of notice to any Columbia readers out there - the first peaches of the season will be available at market on Monday and Wednesday!

And boy is summer upon us in Mid-Missouri. It was hot, humid, and sunny for our trek to market this morning. Whew!

Check out week six of our Danjo Farms quarter CSA veggie share:

Starting from the bottom right: beets with their greens! (we had some rough weather here this week so the greens being intact was a pleasant surprise), spring onions, a cucumber, a zucchini, rashishes, and a really nice looking head of lettuce that is bound for our tummies in just a few minutes as our lunch.

And this week's farmer's market haul.

(I'm sorry I am so bad at taking pictures, I am working on learning how to use my camera.)

Starting from the bottom right: sweet cherries (!!!!!), 3 Anaheim peppers, a zucchini, a yellow summer squash, 2 bunches of cilantro, 2 green bell peppers, 2 bunches of red onions, tomatoes, and chard.

Our counters were so overloaded with produce last year that my space to actually, you know, cook was limited. My Dad and step-mom Stacey gave us some very festive plates, bowls, cups, etc., last year (really awesome hand-me-downs, I love hand-me-downs), included in this set were two large, what I assume to be some sort of serving bowls which are perfect for storing veggies. Now I have counter space again!

This is one of two. The other is on our really big shelf in our kitchen and contains the tomatoes and some of the left over Yukon Gold potatoes from last week's market.

J's Songs of the Day:
"Blood" - Jimmie's Chicken Shack

"When You Sleep" - Cake (I'm in a weird mood today)

'Til next time.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garden Update - June 14, 2009

Welcome to what will hopefully turn into a weekly garden update as I did last year. This update only covers the container garden as the community garden isn't really all that pretty right now.

Things are going well in the community garden - though fast grow the weeds is right! The week and a half we were away for the wedding and honeymoon led to a rampant spreading of weeds and crab grass in our gardens. We went down to weed and put hay on the plots, only to find out half way through weeding that all the hay available had already been used. A bit at a loss, we decided just to weed right up around the plants and hold out for a little while in hopes that there is more hay to be had. Otherwise, we may have to do some sort of mulch/newspaper combination.

Anyway, check out the container garden as of last Sunday.

Here is the first group - these are all various peppers, there are three pots up close to the railing which contain a battered pot of spinach, chard, and a nice looking pot of baby kale.

Here is the second group. Again, it is mostly peppers, as they do so well in containers, but we are trying a few new things in containers this year as well such as acorn squash, basil, dwarf sugar snap peas, and Tiger's Eye beans.

Here is a horrible picture of our Topsy Turvy planter that contains two Italian Heirloom tomatoes.

Check out the acorn squash, so far doing quite well in a window planter box.

The first bloom! We've had two more blooms open this week. I may need to get out there and hand pollinate in the mornings.

A picture of the "pepper infestation" on the cayenne pepper plant we started inside in February.

Another picture of the big cayenne plant. There are tons and tons of peppers on here and blooms opening everyday. Having it in this huge pot means it has lots of room to grow too.

Here is our second of three cayenne pepper plants with its own peppers going too. I can tell you if there is one thing we know how to grow well it is peppers, cayennes in particular apparently.

A picture of a baby sugar snap pea and a couple of blooms. I've never grown peas of any sort before and was delighted at how pretty the flowers are. They remind me a bit of pansies.

Genovese basil. Not sure if anyone notices or not, but these are also the basils that were started inside.

Winterbor kale. We aren't going to let the kale reach full size, it is sweeter and we personally prefer its texture when in "baby form".

Volunteer catnip! We like to recycle our garden soil each year. We have a huge container that we put all "spent" soil in and then work in fertilizer. It turns out that there were some ungerminated catnip seeds left in our soil container because volunteers have popped up in about three or four different containers. It is doing very well and Brett is getting practice pruning on the catnip. I bet the kitties will be pleased.

Tiger's Eye beans. I am surprised at how many bean pods we have going in this container. These and the dwarf sugar snap peas were not originally intended to be in containers on our porch. We started these (and almost everything we're growing) from seed and they overgrew their starter pots. The problem was it kept raining, raining, raining, and raining some more keeping us from getting our starts in the garden as early as we would have liked. So I transplanted them into pots thinking I could take them down to the garden. But then they started to grow all gnarly, but started to produce, so I decided just to leave them in the containers and see what happened.

At the community garden, we have two plots this year and all the seeds we've sowed have come up! In Plot 1 we have dwarf sugar snap peas, Tiger's Eye beans, Parade cucumbers, Straight Eight cucumbers, butternut squash, and then a small herbs/greens area containing chard, spinach, cumin, Genovese basil, and cilantro. Plot 2 is home to 4 Tigerella tomato plants, 4 Moneymaker tomato plants, 1 Italian Heirloom tomato plant, 2 Green Husk tomatillos plants, and in bewtween are nantes carrots and Clemson Spineless okra. Wahoo!

Next week's garden update may just highlight the container garden again, it depends on what happens with the hay situation at the community garden - unless you all don't mind seeing a slightly weedy garden. :-)

'Til next time!

Weekly Local Booty - Garden Grub, Farmer's Market, and CSA - June 13, 2009

There are going to be two quick posts today so I don't fall too far behind. I've been reading this awesome non-fiction book called How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto and I think I am getting a bit lazier as a result of now having some justification for my laziness. :-) I kid, I kid. This has been my first week back to work and Brett and I have been enjoying ourselves after work. Selina and I have also been spending a lot of time working on our cookbook, which is shaping up very nicely by the way.

So though this post should have been up last Saturday, it is better last than never, right?!

Check out our first bit of container garden booty!

Our first cayenne! This is from the plant that we started inside in, I believe, February. Before we left for the wedding and honeymoon, the plant held this and a few other peppers. It exploded while we were gone - we haven't even ventured to guess or try to could how many peppers are on the plant now. I might be able to make a full-fledged ristra this year!

Here is Week 5's CSA:

Starting from the bottom right: basil, spring onions, asparagus, salad greens, 2 cukes, and a bunch of radishes.

We really enjoyed the asparagus in a new recipe I tested for our cookbook. Most people might not think to put things like asparagus in Mexican food, but done right, it is awesome, just awesome.

Here is last Saturday's farmer's market haul:

Again, starting from the bottom right: red and white boiler onions, Yukon Gold potaotes, 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, 2 bags of Phil's Phine sweet basil, 3 serrano starts, 2 tomatillo starts, 2 heads of broccoli, 4 tomatoes (one orange!), and locally made penne pasta.

We've been eating mighty fine this week. I may have to put up a couple of "teaser" pictures of things we are working on for the cookbook soon.

Not to worry though, there will still be recipes and posts here on Veg*n Cooking, but they are going to be the ones that are just rough drafts, that still need improvement before going into a cookbook

Well, I'll be back at some point today for a quick container garden update.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

J&B's Random Eats of Late

As you can probably imagine, while I was still cooking before the wedding, blogging about cooking or trying many new, complicated things wasn't really on my agenda. I did, however, photograph some of the food - just random things I threw together or things I am playing with for Selina and I's cookbook, so I thought I'd share 'em.

My take on Wasabi-Tempura Asparagus (and button mushrooms!) from Vegetarian Planet. I served it with a sweet and spicy peach-soy-chile sauce.

A radish salad inspired by a recipe from the awesome Callina.

Simple and tasty corn and tomato salad.

A new and improved recipe for Pico de Gallo.

A black bean and rice stuffed omelette with tomatoes, onions, garlic, chiles, and cilantro.

Brett's bowl of goodness (eaten with tortilla chips) - cilantro-lime rice, black beans, cheese, guacamole, radish salad, and corn salad.

Drunken beans Take 1!

This was really easy, and Brett simply adored it: sliced portobellow mushrooms, black olives, spinach, cumin, salt, pepper, a splash of lime and Mexican pepper cheese.

I got some pictures of the container garden today, and some market pictures from yesterday I will post at some point, after I post the CoMo honeymoon pictures. Whew!

There is a lot of stuff to post about!

'Til next time.