Sesame Noodles with Tofu “Steaks” and Baby Bok Choy

My fall garden has been a disappointment. One of the things that has actually done really well is bok choy. I thought I’d try this recipe from Fresh Food Fast.

The method for cooking the tofu was a bit unusual to me. But the result was really great. The tofu was flavorful and crisp. I think it is very annoying to call for 1.5 lbs of tofu in a recipe, because it leaves you with half a pound. But I actually ended up running out of tofu before sesame noodles. Next time I’d just make the whole two pounds. I also ran out of bok choy. Next time I’d make 1.25 the amount called for in the recipe.

The recipe calls for kimchi. But I don’t particularly like kimchi and don’t keep it on hand. Instead, I made quick pickled cabbag and onions. I thinly sliced an onion and added 1/4 head of red cabbage and 1/4 head of napa cabbage. I added salt and enough vinegar to cover about half the veggies. I did 1/2 and 1/2 white vinegar and rice vinegar. The dish was very good with the pickled cabbage. I’d highly recommend doing this if you don’t care for kimchi or don’t have enough. Don’t leave it out altogether. The dish is bland without it.

Compared to the flavorful tofu, the noodles were a bit bland. But overall the dish worked really well together. What a great way to enjoy bok choy from my garden.

http://epicureanvegan.com/2010/04/13/sesame-noodles-with-tofu-steaks/

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Cuban Black Beans

In college I lived in an apartment with my two best friends. We cooked a lot. One of my roommates, Ellen, shared this recipe for her mother’s favorite Cuban black beans with me. The recipe came from one of her mother’s cookbooks. Creamy, sour, and a tad sweet, it quickly became one of my favorites as well. But I never got a copy of the recipe from Ellen and for years afterwards I couldn’t make it. Finally, recently I got a photo of the recipe from Ellen and went about making it once again. It didn’t disappoint.

Below is the version I make. I have greatly reduced the oil (the original recipe calls for 2 cups!) and also left out the pimentos, which are called for in the original recipe but which I never have around. I’ve also changed the steps around a bit and shortened cooking times to simplify things.

Be aware! This recipe make 12-16 servings. If you don’t want that much beans, consider halving the recipe. However, it does freeze well.

2 1/4 cups dry black beans, cooked (or 3 cans) (keep the liquid)

1/3 cup olive oil

3 cups green bell pepper, chopped

3 cups yellow onion, chopped

2 tsp sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup white vinegar

  1. Blend bell pepper and onions in a food processor until they are finely ground
  2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot
  3. Once oil is hot, add the pepper onion mixture and sauté it for 8 minutes.
  4. While the mixture is sautéing, blend 1 cup of the beans in the food processor
  5. Add the whole and blended beans, sugar, and salt to the pot, gently stir
  6. Simmer on low for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
  7. Add the vinegar

Tempeh Bolognese

I was in the mood for tempeh, but didn’t want to spent a long time cooking. I found this tempeh bolognese recipe and was intrigued. I’d never tried making a vegetarian bolognese recipe, but I liked the idea of a filling sauce that didn’t require anything extra to be a full meal. I made it with dried shitake mushrooms and fresh wild stump puffballs I picked from my backyard.

I served the sauce over spaghetti squash and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the dish. The tempeh flavor was definitely present, but I didn’t mind it. The texture was very good and the dish was flavorful and filling, while only requiring 1 pot and 30 minutes to make.

I ended up needing to add extra tomatoes to make the dish saucy enough. It calls for 28 ounces of canned tomatoes, but I used a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes, which might have been why I needed extra. Also, I ran out of sauce before I finished the whole spaghetti squash. Next time I’d 1.5x the recipe.

In my book this was a winner. I’m going to keep it in my repertoire for nights when I need to make something filling and satisfying without much time or work.

Stewed Black Eyed Peas

I wanted to make something really simple to enjoy my last black eyed pea harvest of the season. I looked at a recipe for stewed black eyed peas on the New York Times and, using this recipe as my inspiration, made this recipe for stewed black eyed peas:

2 cups Fresh Black Eyed Peas

6 cups water

2 Leek Tops (Green Part Only)

1 onion, cut in quarters

Tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, peeled

I put everything in my small slow cooker and cooked on high for 5 hours. The result was delicious. Flavorful, soothing, and with surprising depth of flavor. This is my favorite black eyed pea recipe I made all summer.

There was enough broth to use in another recipe. I used it in this one, and I suspect that’s the reason that the recipe was so flavorful. https://nimbleveggies.wordpress.com/2021/11/15/farro-with-mushrooms

Farro with Mushrooms

I was looking for a recipe to use up the remainder of the mushrooms I had bought for a recipe I’d made the week before. I came upon this recipe on the New York Times and was intrigued. I used the mushrooms I had (fresh cremini and chanterelle and dried shitake) instead of those that were called for. I used half white and half red wine since I ran out of white.

Dried shitake was not a great choice. They were too chewy for the recipe. The chanterelles worked well. Even with all my changes and the odd dried mushroom choice, the recipe was very good. It is sort of reminiscent of a risotto with farro, but much faster to make since you add the liquid all at once. The flavor is really deep and rich and the fresh parsley adds complexity. I only used 5 cups of broth instead of the 6 that were called for. I’ll be making this again.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013008-farro-with-mushrooms?action=click&module=RecipeBox&pgType=recipebox-page®ion=all&rank=5

Note: I used the broth from this recipe. I think it’s one of the main reasons the recipe came out so flavorful. https://nimbleveggies.wordpress.com/2021/11/16/stewed-black-eyed-peas/

Mushroom Bourguignon

This recipe came up on when I was reading the New York Times. It looked so good I had to make it. Plus it can be served over grits. Grits here I come!

The result was kind of mixed. The flavor was very good. And I liked that there were additional veggies rather than just mushrooms. On the other hand, there was way too much liquid and it didn’t thicken the way I think it was supposed to. I’d half the wine and stock.

I bought chanterelles especially for this recipe. They were very expensive. Only after buying them did I realize that they were just meant to be put on top of the stew, not in it. I really don’t think they added much and given the price, weren’t worth it. I’d leave them out next time.

I kept thinking that this would be really good with seitan in it. I might try adding some next time.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020738-mushroom-bourguignon

Green Bean and Sesame Salad

I chose this recipe, from page 200 of The Ethnic Vegetarian, to accompany Samp and Cowpeas. It calls for 1/4 cup of olive oil. That seemed absurd to me. I cut it down to 2 tbsp. Honestly, I think I could have cut it down to 1.5 and been fine. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sesame seeds but a lot of them just ended up in the bottom of the bowl. I think next time I’d try a rounded 1/8 cup.

I liked the texture of the green beans. Crisp and fresh. The sesame flavor was interesting. But it was a little to spicy for my taste. I think I would cut it down to 1/2 tsp of black pepper and 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes.

This recipe makes A LOT of salad. 2 lbs of green beans was too much for me. I got tired of them and had a hard time finishing them. Next time I think I’d try making .5 the recipe. But it would be good if you’re feeding a big family. To be fair, I does say it calls for 8 servings.

Vegetarian Pho

I fell in love with pho while living in D.C. A restaurant called Pho 14 in Columbia Heights serves a delicious vegetarian pho made with a broth made from fuji apples. After I moved to North Carolina I found myself craving that pho and unable to find anything like it. Most pho restaurants that attempt a vegetarian pho broth use something that tastes like mock chicken broth to me. Not at all what I was missing. I decided to try to make it myself. I started by googling “fuji apple pho recipe”. This took me to this blog https://southofparadise.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/vegetarian-pho-with-homemade-fuji-apple-broth/. The person writing it was in the same position as me. Trying to recreate a beloved restaurant meal without any recipe. Using this recipe as a starting place, I’ve been tinkering with the recipe for the last five years, adding in some elements from this recipe when it was published a few years ago https://food52.com/blog/19080-how-pho-genius-andrea-nguyen-makes-a-richer-vegan-broth.

Here is the result.

Broth:

7 Fuji Apples (cut in half)

2 Carrots

1 Onion

3 celery stocks

10 peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds

3 cinnamon sticks

1 star anise

2 cloves

  1. Put all the ingredients into an instant pot or a 6 quart slow cooker.
  2. Fill it up with water, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top
  3. Cook on high (if your slow cooker has settings) for 10 hours

The idea behind this broth recipe is to make a concentrated broth so that it can be stores easily or combined with boiling water for a hot bowl of pho without having to microwave the broth. I put the broth in jars in the freezer and enjoy pho all season without having to constantly make more broth. I find that the right combination of water to broth is 1/3 broth 2/3 water.

Once you have the broth made, there’s only one more thing you need to make ahead of time before you’re ready for an almost instant delicious weeknight dinner: the tofu. I played around with various options for recreating the delicious deep fried tofu found in pho restaurants. I’ve actually decided that the best no deep-fry option is to bake the tofu. The tofu comes out crispy and tough. It’s not the same as restaurant tofu but it gives me the same textural satisfaction in the bowl. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit
  2. Cut a block of medium tofu into 2/3 inch squares
  3. Put 1 tsp of canola oil on a cookie sheet and spread it around.
  4. Put the tofu on the cookie sheet and spread it around flipping it on all sides to make sure all sides get coated in oil
  5. Cook the tofu, flipping it halfway through, until all sides are golden.

Now you’re ready for almost instant weeknight pho. Here’s how I do it. The proportions are for 1 large bowl of pho.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of pho broth, left out to room temperature

1 cup Broccoli, in bite size pieces

1/2 Carrot, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 Dried mushroom, in bite size pieces

1/2 cup Vermicelli rice noodles

1/5 block cooked tofu

Basil

Bean sprouts

Siracha

Hoison Sauce

Lime or lemon juice

  1. Boil 3 cups of water (I do this in a kettle)
  2. Put rice noodles into a heat-proof large bowl or pot, breaking them up so that each piece is 2 inches long
  3. Add the veggies to the bowl
  4. Add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the bowl
  5. Once the water is boiling, pour it into the bowl with the noodles and veggies
  6. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until everything is soft
  7. While ingredients are soaking, boil another 1 1/3 cup water
  8. Put the soft veggies and noodles, along with the tofu, into the bowl with the broth
  9. Pour in the boiling water
  10. Add lemon juice, hoison, siracha, basil, and bean sprouts as desired

Ratatouille with Fennel

Have I mentioned that I love fennel? Or that all summer my garden was overflowing with zucchini? Well in my constant search for fennel recipes and for recipes that would allow me to use zucchini, this unusual ratatouille recipe caught my eye. Well I have to say, it looked better than it tasted. It was fine, but I wouldn’t make it again. The zucchini and fennel were just strange combination along with all the other veggies. Ah well…back to the search.

https://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/ratatouille-with-fennel

Ciambotta

Like many of the cookbooks in my house, I acquired Nonna’s Italian Kitchen from the discard shelf of one of my family members. I brought it home to try out the vegan cheese recipes, but hadn’t gotten it together to make them. I was looking for a novel recipe to use up some late summer veggies, and found this recipe for southern Italian vegetable stew. I liked that it sounded kind of like ratatouille but with potatoes. The result was good not great. The flavors of the mixed veggies was very very good. I was really surprised by how flavorful it was considering it was basically just basil, tomatoes, and salt. But the recipe did need some tinkering. I think the potato chunks were too big. The size prevented them from really absorbing the flavor of the stew. Next time I’d cut them smaller and cook them for less time. The zucchini was undercooked. I think next time I’d add them 12 minutes in instead of 15. The peppers were perfectly crunchy though, so I’d still add those at minute 15. Finally, I thought the recipe would really benefit from some kalamata olives. I tried adding a few and indeed I really liked the result. I’m on the fence about whether I’ll make this again. It was super easy to make. But I finished it in a couple days. Not up to my standards of week-long meals. If I make it again I need to 1.5 the recipe.