Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vegan "Clam" Chowder

It's not the most photogenic thing in the world, but it sure is good. This vegan clam chowder is based on the recipe from the LA Times, and it's something I make on a regular basis. The base is cashew cream and kombu broth, which I think is genius. It adds a subtle sea flavor, which is great for seaweed wimps like me. (Of course, folks who like a stronger seaweed dimension could add some dulse or other seaweed to the broth and/or garnish with dulse flakes.)

The "clams" are smoked king oyster mushrooms; the recipe tells you to smoke them on a stove top smoker like this little set up of wood chips in a foil-covered heavy pan:

Place a bamboo steamer over the top of the chips and it works pretty well as a makeshift smoker.

The stove top smoker is not essential however. I've made this recipe many times just coating the mushrooms in a smoky spice mix (smoked salt, paprika, garlic granules, Old Bay), and then cooking them under the broiler for 3-5 minutes. I actually prefer the taste from the smoked salt rub method better than the smoker method. You could also marinate them in a smoky marinade.

Once they're broiled or smoked, cut them into strips and they're ready for the chowder.

As I mentioned, I make this often and have come up with my own deviations from the original recipe:
  • Added: a generous Tablespoon of white miso and a good few drops of umeboshi vinegar to the cashew cream. I do this more often than not with any creamy base; it makes it richer and nuttier and salty. Do a taste test, but you usually don't need to add extra salt to the recipe.
  • Added: 2 cups of Seitenbacher veggie broth to the finished kombu broth. Seitenbacher broth is unsalted and has nutritional yeast in it; it adds some nice flavor. 
  • I usually only use 2 cups of cashews instead of the 4 the recipe calls for, and I don't soak them overnight as it suggests in the recipe. That's total overkill in my opinion. Soaking them for 45 minutes to an hour is plenty if you ask me; they blend up just fine.
  • Added: a finely diced jalapeno to the celery/onion saute base. 
To top it off, I cook up some smokey tempeh strips, chop them up and sprinkle them over each bowl of chowder. With a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some hot sauce (both essential), this is soo tasty! And, it's so much healthier than the non-vegan variety to boot!

In other family news, meet Molly. She's a foster kitty from the local animal shelter. I help out with cat fosters when the isolation room gets full. She's just about a year old, though she's already had a litter of kittens! She started early. :D Anyway, she's spayed now and is so cute and fun, still full of kittenish play.
These photos don't capture what fun she is...I really should post a video of her at play, because she gets up to the funniest and cutest things.

She loves the sun porch, where as in the photo above,  she hangs out in the plant pots. And, my cat Cheeky, who is a hard sell for new cats in the house will even tolerate her enough to share the sun room with her.  

Cheeky is still not 100% sold on the idea of Molly being around, but our other cat, Lucky, has become a fast friend. They run around the house cat wrestling and playing together and then snuggle up on the bed. Again, I wish I had a vid of them at play, but we'll have to do with pics for now. 

Anyone in the Seattle area who knows someone interested in making Molly part of their loving home and cherish her know where to find her. Here's her petfinder posting
Healthy Clam Chowder Recipe
Rosanne Tobin
Roseann Laponte

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms and Spicy Squash

The seasons have changed since the last time I posted, so I figured it was high time to move on to something more in keeping with them: hearty mushrooms and winter squash just seem to say autumn. 
Portabella steaks with vegan feta and savory stuffing, runner beans, and spicy caramelized squash
This meal was inspired by Michelle at Lovinlivinvegan, who has been posting about portabella steaks recently, and she pretty much convinced me it was high time to bring on some 'shrooms. She linked to Happy Herbivore's recipe, which includes a nice gravy.  I followed the recipe faithfully, except that I upped the sherry and reduced the balsamic in the gravy, and thickened it with a little arrowroot powder.

After I simmered the mushroom steaks, I decided to go a step further and stuff them with some of Happy Herbivore's vegan feta combined with a savory bread stuffing.
Happy Herbivore's Fat-free Vegan Feta

I really liked the feta recipe and that she included white miso in it. I added a little umeboshi vinegar to the mix. I'll definitely make this again, but next time I'm going to try it with a little less red wine vinegar and more lemon juice.

For the stuffing, I sauteed some onion, garlic, and celery; tossed in some sprouted grain bread crumbs and herbs, salt and pepper and a bit of veggie broth. I should have added walnuts and parsley, but I forgot.

After they were stuffed, I baked them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 F, until the tops started to brown and turn golden. 
   Stuffed Portobellos pre-baking

Thanks to both Michelle and HH for the recipes and inspiration! 

Now, on to the squash. I got three mini hubbards out of the garden this year...that's it! Three. Pitiful. There were lots of squash on the vine, and I hand pollinated them just to make sure, but the squash just kept fading as if they hadn't been pollinated. I've grown squash and the like many times and done the hand pollinating, so not sure what went wrong. Any ideas? 

But, I'm moving off topic...I talk about the hubbards because that's what I used to make some spicy, garlicky, caramelized, oven-roasted squash.

I drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the squash chunks and sprinkled it liberally with red pepper flakes and some coconut palm sugar (wanted to use maple syrup, but I was out). Then, I baked the squash at 375 F for about 20-30 minutes. The squash chunks kind of look like avocado, because they  were slightly immature and still a little green under the skin. 

About 10 minutes before I took them out of the oven, I poured a mixture of soy sauce and water blended with about 8 cloves of garlic over the top. The result was some spicy, garlicky, caramelized squash.

Last but not least, hats off to all you Vegan MoFoers out there! I participated in '09 and in 2010, but I'm sitting this one out. That's partly because I didn't think I'd have the energy or time to blog that much this year, but mostly because in years past, I was so busy doing my own posts that I didn't have anywhere near as much time as I would have liked to read and explore other blogs. So this year, I'm cheering from the sidelines and reading to my heart's content.

Talk to you soon, and Happy October everybody!
Rose Tobin
Roseann LaPonte
Rosanne Marie Tobin
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