Tag Archives: vegan

Chicago: Day Two

The sky was blue, the sun was out, so we headed for the lake...

Saturday was so beautiful, the drinking I had done at Gallery Cabaret the night before could not keep me in bed. I wanted to walk in the sunshine, see a bit of the neighborhood, get a cup of coffee, and maybe grab a dose of greasy Mexican diner food.

Sadly, the only Mexican restaurant that fit the bill didn’t seem to be open at the time. A stroll down a few blocks back toward my hostel brought me another quick breakfast option.

Austrian Bakery and Deli on Urbanspoon

I have been in other businesses, mostly bakeries, that have a specific cultural cuisine focus, but they’re usually spare, family owned places with white walls and floors, spare shelves, and a strange sense of permanent temporariness. Austrian Bakery was warm and welcoming, filled with what seemed to be a good mix of locals and both stateside and international travelers. The small seating area was completely cramped with people, with just a little open seating at the counter in the window. My walk, however, had gone on a little too long and I wanted to get back to the hostel to rouse my partner from his slumber, so I ordered a coffee and cheese pocket pastry to go.


My mouth is watering just for the thought of it. The sweet pastry gave way to a surprisingly mild cheese filling that perfectly coated the inside layers. It was present in every bite, but not overwhelming and not too sweet. The only minor detractor was the abundant powdered sugar, which didn’t add anything necessary to the pastry and made it messier than it could have been.

But, like I said, that was a minor complaint. I gobbled the pastry down minutes after bringing it back to the hostel. For as leisurely as our trip was, I probably should have taken more time to savor its deliciousness.

Because Friday’s weather had been so crappy, we had stayed fairly close to Lincoln Park. Saturday’s gorgeous weather afforded us the conditions to stray a bit farther into the city. We took advantage of our three-day CTA passes and hopped on a train to Chinatown.


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Anatomy of a Sandwich: Tomato and Balsamic Tofu


A simple idea can often be undone by its own simplicity. You figure, it seems so obvious, why isn’t it just assumed that this already works? And then you think, well, duh, cause of course it doesn’t work, and everyone already knows that.

When I was at the terrific Osteria 2350, I enjoyed a sandwich fairly common to Italian cafes and delis alike: The tomato and mozzarella with roasted red peppers and balsamic vinegar. This sandwich knows no one cuisine, because although its roots are clearly in Italian staples, its appeal is widespread and its basic form – a warm and possibly grilled cheese sandwich with added ingredients – is a well worn food item among any number of cultural heritages.

Osteria’s version was very delicious, so delicious that I had to lament the fact that, for my vegan partner, there is no accessible way for him to enjoy this sandwich. The tomato, red pepper, and vinegar portions, yes. The cheese? No. Vegan cheese can be tasty, but it has its limits, and there is not a vegan cheese on the planet that can imitate faux mozzarella.

Except that, as I considered the giant pillows of fresh mozzarella stuffed into the sandwich, I found that it bore a striking similarity to something most, if not all, vegans heartily enjoy: Tofu. Specifically extra-firm, uncooked tofu. Both are white and soft. Both have neutral, almost watery-fresh flavors. Tofu can’t melt like mozzarella, but in this sandwich, the mozzarella stayed perfectly solid, so melting wasn’t an issue.

So, I’ve had this dish in mind for a while. After a short stop into Lotus Foods on Saturday, I decided it was high time that I tried out my theory.

Success? Well, you be the judge. But would I write about it if it were a total failure?

A few tips for this very easy recipe:
– A pound of tofu should yield four sandwiches worth, unless you really want to get heavy on each sandwich.
– Soak the tofu in balsamic vinegar for extra flavor
– Press your tofu, but don’t get rid of all the moisture. A little dampness inside helps to mimic the mozzarella.
– Use good crusty bread for this. Jackie, my friend and most fantastic cooking partner, brought over some homemade sandwich bread that worked fantastic. Make sure to use thick slices and toast for extra support.
– We slightly cooked our tomato slices, but if you want to leave them firm and crispy, go right ahead.

Tomato and Balsamic Tofu Sandwich

Ingredients
– 1 pound of firm tofu, sliced widthwise into four big slabs
– 2 small tomatoes, sliced
– 1 red bell pepper, sliced into small strips
– Salt and pepper (to taste)
– Balsamic vinegar – we weren’t precise on the measurements, so use your judgment. About a 1/4 cup overall should be fine.
– Eight slices of thick, crusty bread, toasted
– 3 tbs olive oil or grapeseed oil (use more as needed)
– Fresh spinach (as desired)
– Vegan mayo (optional)

– Heat the oil in a pan, then add the red pepper slices. Saute until soft, adding salt and pepper as desired. Add the tomatoes, cooking for about a minute. Remove from the peppers and tomatoes from heat, but keep the pan hot.

– Put a slab of tofu in the pan. Add balsamic vinegar, cook for a minute, then flip, adding more vinegar. Once slab has soaked up some of the flavor – a touch-and-taste test works – remove from heat. Repeat with each slab.

– Assemble your sandwich. Toast the bread, then layer tofu, tomato, red peppers, and spinach. Add vegan mayo if using. Enjoy!

Chicago: Day One

They could be playing "Stormy Weather" all night...

The weather on Friday was a dance between cold, wet, colder, and wetter. Every time we stepped outside the conditions seemed to have changed for the worse without somehow changing very much at all. We were colder with every new trip, or the rain struck us harder.

This did not make ideal weather conditions for taking photographs, but that’s alright with me. To tell the truth, I’m not much of a picture-taker when on vacation. I wish I was. I envy people who come back from long trips with a mile of photos glorifying their travels. They have pictures of everything they did, everywhere they went, everyone they saw. Drank a pint with friends? It’s in the pictures. Car got stuck in the mud? It’s in the pictures. Ate an amazing dinner at a famous four star restaurant?… Well, it would be in my pictures as well. But you get the idea.

As a result of the crappy weather and how it restrained us to our hosting neighborhood- Lincoln Park – and the surrounding territory, I don’t have much photographic record to share. The picture above was taken a few doors down from one of my favorite stores in Chicago, Shake Rattle and Read, on Broadway in Uptown. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Green Mill Jazz Club is a famous Chicago venue, opening in 1910 as a roadhouse complete with indoor and outdoor dining and dancing areas. In the twenties, Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn, henchman of Al Capone, took over a large percentage of the club’s ownership, and the place became a favorite mob hangout. The story of McGurn’s takeover is best described in the historical summary on the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge website:

“Manager Danny Cohen had given McGurn the 25% stake to “persuade” comedian/singer Joe E. Lewis from moving his act south to the New Rendezvous Café at Clark and Diversey. McGurn managed to convince Lewis by slitting his throat and cutting off his tongue. Miraculously, Lewis recovered, but his songs never regained their lush sound.”

Ah, isn’t history wonderful, kids? I’d love to be a school child on a walking tour of jazz clubs in the city. Way more blood, booze, and broads than an average Pittsburgh field trip to the zoo.

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Good Morning, Apricot Coffee Cake!

I used to make a killer sour cream coffee cake. The original basis came from AllRecipes.com, but as I returned again and again to the dish, I put my own tweaks on it. I toyed around with extra flavors, zests, extracts, fresh and frozen fruits. I got the cooking time just right. I knew when to use icing and when to use a crumb topping, and I knew exactly how much to use.

And they always came out perfect. Soft, but substantial, sweet but not overpowering, absolutely great for either breakfast or dessert. Provided there were any leftovers, they even stored well and could keep for up to three days if packed properly. I ran through every idea I had and the best turnouts- chocolate chips and cocoa powder, cardamom and orange zest, cream cheese and blueberry preserves – more than made up for the few failures. I never got tired of making them and no one seemed to be tired of eating them.

Then I moved.

The new apartment had a rented stove that was about fifteen years older than the one I had during my coffee cake renaissance. When I cooked my first coffee cake in my new kitchen, I was shocked by the way it had turned out. Where was the fluffy, moist cake? Why was the crumb topping so dry and flavorless? Why was everything so flat? And how did it get burned?!?

I was dispirited. Even my failed experiments had never been this bad. This was barely edible (in fact, after bravely eating a piece, most of the remains did find their way into the trash). I tried to learn from my potential mistakes: I must have been careless about the amounts of flour, baking powder, and sugar. It must have baked too long. I must not have greased the pan enough.

So I tried again. But even with the tweaking of cooking time, the careful attentiveness to ingredients and prep, and a watchful eye while the cake sat in the oven, it still failed. It wasn’t the horror show that the prior failure had been, but it was still a failure. I had to face facts.

The magic was gone.

So, flash forward to the present. Since my coffee cake heartbreak, I have made a total of zero coffee cakes. Like any jilted lover, I moved onto other culinary distractions. I had brief flings with cupcakes, dabbled casually with muffins, and settled into a nice routine with the dependable and delightful cookie, a relationship that satisfies me to this day. But sometimes, when I’m craving something that I can’t quite name, I know what I’m actually yearning for.

I was tempted by the coffee cake recipes in Sarah Kramer’s books, as well as the sure-to-be delicious recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking, but I was always afraid to attempt them. For one, I didn’t want to come back to coffee cake baking after such a long absence just to fail once more. In addition, I had never tried a vegan coffee cake recipe, so I was worried about botching not only my comeback cake, but my first attempt at a vegan one at that.

Sunday, however, after a week that was rich in both pain and healing (a story that I will come back to another time), I was looking for a distraction and picked up my recently purchased copy of Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Mokowitz. Thumbing through the recipes, I was about to try out the tomato-rosemary scones when one last courtesy flip through the pages landed me on her recipe for “East Coast Coffee Cake.” And I thought, well, why the hell not?

For my first time back to coffee cakes, I stayed fairly true to Isa’s recipe, tweaking just a few ingredients to match my own tastes. Her basic recipe does include fruit preserves, but she includes handy directions on including any number of ingredients. The recipe turned out to be a cinch to make, and while the results weren’t perfect, they were far from the disasters of my last coffee cake attempts. I’m not sure we’ll ever be as close as we once were, but it looks like me and coffee cake are on the redemption road to a casual friendship.

Apricot Coffee Cake

Ingredients

For the topping
– 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 1/4 cup veg oil

For the cake
– 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
– 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup veg oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp baking pwoder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup apricot jam

– Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square pan. Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and set aside to allow for curdling.

– For the topping: Mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the oil by tablespoons, mixing it into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Keep mixing until you’ve got a mixture of large and small crumbs. Set aside.

– For the cake, mix together the milk-vinegar mixture, sugar, vegetable oil, and extracts. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth.

– Pour the batter into the pan. Pour the 1/2 cup of apricot jam over the batter, then swirl it with a knife or fork. Sprinkle topping over the batter and lightly pat down.

– Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool, add powdered sugar if desired, then slice and serve!

Good Morning, Brunch Feast!

Despite the time invested in this pile of delicious breakfast, this post is going to be exceedingly brief. I spent Sunday evening in glorious doom and gloom entertainment, first watching the final performance of Next to Normal Downtown [capsule review: Could also have been titled Depression! The Musical], then after post-show drinks, rushed home to watch the 11:00 pm re-run of the latest episode of The Killing on AMC.

I spent Sunday evening enjoying the most downbeat offerings stage and TV could possibly provide, which starkly contrasted with my midday minor vegan feast and the pure joy I felt throwing it together.

The meal was this: Roasted Cajun potatoes, scrambled tofu, navy bean gravy, and tempeh bacon. All delicious items when eaten apart, but as America knows, best when it can be collected in a big sloppy pile. The potatoes are easy enough – sliced and roasted with Cajun seasoning – and the tofu was just your typical scrambled tofu – turmeric, a little bit of vegan margarine, a little bit of liquid smoke, some salt and cayenne pepper – so the real stars here are the tempeh bacon and the amazing navy bean gravy, a vegan gravy so good, it could easily run for the same affections currently claimed by beef and chicken gravy devotees. And it’s incredibly easy to make.

Navy Bean Gravy

Ingredients
– 1 15 oz. can navy beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 tbsp oil
– 1 half onion, chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 2 tsp dried rosemary
– Black pepper (I tend to think more is better than less, but the actual quantity is a matter of taste)
– 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
– 1/3 cup flour
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1/4 cup water

Saute the onions and garlic. Add the rosemary and black pepper and cook until the onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Combine the broth and flour and stir vigorously with a fork until there are few lumps of flour left.

– In a blender or food processor, combine the stock mixture, beans, soy sauce. Blend until smooth, then add the onions and garlic. Puree again until mostly smooth.

– Pour the pureed mixture into the stove pot and simmer until bubbling, stirring frequently. Add water to desired consistency.


Tempeh Bacon

Ingredients
– 8 oz. package of tempeh, sliced widthwise into 1/4 inch strips.
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp liquid smoke
– 1 tbsp maple syrup (I used honey)
– 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
– 1/2 cup vegetable broth
– 1 tsp garlic salt
– 1/4 tsp black pepper

– Combine all ingredients (except for the tempeh) into a large bowl. Mix until well combined, then add the tempeh strips. Marinate for 1 hour (can be done overnight as well).

– When tempeh has marinated long enough, heat some oil in a large frying pan. Fry the slices for six minutes on each side, or until both are browned sufficiently.

 (Adapted from recipes in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Good Morning, Vegan Banana Pudding


I once had a banana pudding so good it had to have been evil. I don’t mean “sinfully delicious” or so bad for you but so good-tasting. I mean that it literally had to be evil to be that good. It had to have communed with the beast. It had to have divined its powers from another worldly realm so deep, so far from the simple divinity of heaven.

It was heavy and sweet and body-possessing. As a follow-up to an already very substantial lunch in Athens, Georgia in mid-August, it was a little too much to take. It was a taste that knocked the wind out of me, and pretty much every ounce of energy I might have had left. Emerging into the well-baked afternoon, I promptly fell into what could only be described as a euphoric food coma. It might also have been described as heat stroke.

Anyway, I suffered the same fate as those who dare chase the forbidden fruit. To this day, I’ve never found the equal to this banana pudding (found at Peaches in Athens, GA, if you’re interested), and I’ve never really desired to. One encounter is enough.

Still, I love banana pudding. Serve it with vanilla wafers, ladyfingers, or whipped cream. My favorite preparation is simple: Pudding and banana slices. I had some silken tofu and bananas on hand, so I was set to make up a vegan variation, which me and my partner set about devouring as soon as it left the fridge. Thank goodness this only takes five minutes to make. Next time I’m saving it all for myself!

Vegan Banana Pudding

Ingredients
– 2 ripe bananas (Don’t forget to have an extra on hand for topping!)
– 1 12 oz. package of silken tofu
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
– 1/2 tsp Xanathan gum

– In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients until well blended. Chill for at least two hours. Serve with banana slices.

(Adapted from this recipe on Vegweb.com)

Good Morning, Green Onion Stir Fry!

They say that what you cook for yourself and yourself alone is a good indicator of how much you consider your own well-being. While I think there is some truth behind that – after all, if you didn’t care about yourself, you would care little for nourishment even when absolutely required – it’s largely a subjective matter. What one person considers a perfectly adequate meal for one might horrify another solo diner, and these opinions are, for the most part, a matter of taste.

I just finished reading Alone in the Kitchen With Eggplant, a compilation of essays from different writers focusing on the idea of cooking for one, dining out alone, and generally eating by one’s lonesome. Some of the essays took the stance that one should treat themselves to a meal that is on par, if not better, than what they would serve other people, because it’s important to show yourself the same level of consideration and care that you show other people.

That’s all well and good, but I tend to side more with Ann Patchett on the subject. Despite her years of food knowledge and preparation expertise, she is reluctant to put any significant effort into a meal meant only for herself. She writes of subsisting on crackers eaten over the sink, meager yet satisfying meals of odds and ends and non-cooked foods. Despite having the ability to make challenging and delicious cuisine, the last thing she wants to do after the trying experience of cooking that meal is to sit down and eat it. So when it came to feeding herself, she stuck to things that required as little effort as possible.

I don’t exactly eat saltines every night for dinner, but I understand the point. When I’m not cooking for others, I tend to lack the focus and energy to make a complete meal for myself. There are things I’d rather be doing with my time, and besides, I’m very easily satisfied. What’s the point in expelling all the energy, using up all that time, dirtying another dish, another pot, another fork and spoon?

But last Monday night, I felt in a bit of a food rut. I had eaten out a lot the prior week and hadn’t really gotten a whole lot of time in the kitchen, not even on the weekend when I generally do most of my meal-making. I still had quite a bit of produce in my fridge thanks to a Strip District visit the weekend before, and I didn’t have much to do or anywhere to be. I wasn’t even particularly tired.

So I set to making a simple stir fry.  Those of you who already have their chosen stir fry, feel free to ignore this recipe. Those who haven’t found their recipe might want to try mine. I’m not saying it’s the best, but it’s damn satisfying, especially with the addition of the green onion pancake.

Another one of my problems in cooking for myself is that I always end up making way too much, to the point that it’s more than even simple leftover lunch the next day can handle. This recipe yields a quantity big enough to share between two people.

Green Onion Pancake Stir Fry

Ingredients
– 2 to 4 green onions, chopped
– 1 small green pepper
– 1 small red pepper
– 1 small zucchini
– 1 tbsp veg oil
– 2 tbsp dark sesame oil
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1/4 tsp ground ginger
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
– Garlic chili hot sauce (optional – use to taste)
– 1 pre-packaged green onion pancake (found in Asian grocery stores – I got my pack of six at Lotus)
– 1 cup instant brown rice

– For rice, prepare as instructed on box.

– Heat vegetable oil in a large, deep pan. Add green onions and sesame oil. Saute until onions are tender, then add peppers and seasonings. Cook for a few minutes longer, than add zucchini and soy sauce. Toss until everything is well coated. Allow to simmer on low heat for ten minutes.

– Cook the pancake in the toaster until lightly browned.

– Assemble your plate: First a scoop of rice, then the pancake. Add extra soy if desired. Then top generously with veggies and leftover sauce from the pan.

Good Morning, Irish Stew!

I could talk about St. Patrick’s Day, but in regards to this stew, what I really want to briefly touch on is how fantastic Martha Stewart’s recipes are.

Look, I know she’s not a popular lady. She’ll never be thought of as warm and likeable and the gal everyone wants to be around. I can’t stand most of the folksy crafty stuff she does, I don’t care for a much of her line of interior decor, and I never have and never will watch her program. But the woman knows her recipes. Her cookbooks are some of the better name-branded cookbooks out there. Don’t know the first thing about basic kitchen skills? Check out Martha Stewart’s Cooking School and Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Not only are the tips comprehensive, the instructions clearly written and simply broken down, but the instructive visuals are also top-notch. How do you fold something into a batter? What’s the correct way to whip something? What’s reduction and when is it appropriate?

These aren’t just great books for novices, however. Anyone from beginner to experienced cooks can utilize these resources. Although, being a little high-end for my tastes, I do not own them. (Yet.) What I do have is access to Martha Stewart online and its wondrous bounty of recipes and cooking tips. Chances are if you Google search for a recipe, you’ll pull up something from this website. They’re definitely worth a look.

In the past, I’ve made a few Martha recipes. Those Mini Almond Tarts were an adaptation of her Almond Tart recipe. This veganized version of her “Irish Beef and Stout Stew” is what I served up for St. Patrick’s Day, but it was so delicious, I’m ready to make another pot any day of the year.

Irish “Beef” and Guinness Stew

Ingredients
– About two pounds of beef-flavored seitan
– 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 2 tomato paste (6 oz.)
– 2 pounds new potatoes, peeled and chopped in large chunks
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 2 cups vegetable stock
– 1 bottle (12 oz) Guinness
– Several garlic cloves, thinly sliced (amount is to taste – I used six cloves)
– Salt and black pepper to taste
– 2 boxes frozen baby peas, thawed

– In a Dutch oven, saute the “beef” and onion in oil, then add the flour and tomato paste. Stir until well combined, then add potatoes, stock, beer, and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, then cover, leaving to simmer for two hours. Check in frequently, stirring to prevent sticking.

– After two hours, stir in the peas, add more salt and pepper (if desired), and cover again, leaving to simmer for thirty minutes.

– Serve hot with soda bread and a cold pint of stout.

(Recipe adapted from “Irish Beef and Stout Stew” from Martha Stewart Online)

Good Morning, Vegan Pierogi!


Pierogi. Pierogie. Perogi. Pyrogi. Pyrohi. Doesn’t matter how you spell it, this staple of European cuisine satisfies hunger in a way few other dumplings can. What is it about the wondrous pierogi that makes it such a favorite? Could it be the thin dough, crispy and golden when fried? Could it be the filling, flavorful and bold against the neutral flavor of the dough? Could it be the handiness of the little savory pocket, or how easy they are to make, with cheap, accessible ingredients and easy preparation?

Given the cultural demographics of Pittsburgh, the pierogi is a staple of this city’s cuisine. Spend enough time on Urbanspoon, and you’ll find users more than ready to complain about this fact. Their point is not entirely ill-informed, but I think it comes from a place of overexposure, rather than a straight forward dislike of the dish itself. I don’t know the actual statistics, but I’d wager a bet that the majority of local restaurants ( those of unspecified ethnic cuisine, of course) offer pierogi. But don’t go judging a dish by its commonly mediocre preparation. Having pierogi on your menu because you’re expected to doesn’t exactly yield the best tasting versions. Many places are serving the same tired, frozen versions that you can buy in the supermarket. This is pierogi, sort of, but it’s about as satisfying as any frozen food can be.

What I say to these pierogi naysayers is to not hate on a dish until you’ve had it properly served to you, meaning homemade, either from some restaurant’s own kitchen or someone’s own home. Take a recommendation from those who LOVE the pierogi before ordering it at a random restaurant. Some good places to start:
S&D Polish Deli
Bloomfield Bridge Tavern
Rosie’s Pierogies
Gosia’s Pierogies (available at several locations, including the Pittsburgh Public Market)
St. John the Baptist Ukranian Catholic Church (they sell traditional Ukranian pyrohy starting in Fall and going until around the end of May)

Or you could eat some quality pierogi by getting into the action yourself. Making pierogi is easy, even if you have never made dumplings before. The dough can be kind of dry, making it tricky to knead and spread out the dough circles. I’ve been able to keep it workable by keeping my fingers wet. You want them to be damp enough to keep the dough from drying out, but not so wet as to make the dough slimy.

One of the best things about pierogi is how easy they are to make vegan. The dough itself can be made with butter, shortening, etc, but is usually best when it is made with simple vegetable oil. The filling is really up to the maker. For my Saturday evening vegan pierogi, I went with an easy potato and onion filling, that yielded far more than I needed. Darn, looks like I’m going to have to make another batch….

Everybody Polka for Some
Simple Vegan Pierogi!

Ingredients for filling:
– 2 medium potatoes, chopped (I used two larger than my fist and ended up with way more potato than I needed. So about fist sized should do it.)
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 2 tsp garlic-pepper seasoning
– 1/2 tsp cayenne
– 1 tsp vegan margarine (I actually forgot to add this and the filling was still delicious, so it is optional)
– 1/2 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk

Ingredients for dough:
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/4 cup water (and extra on hand, as needed)
– 1 1/2 tsp oil

For the filling: Boil the potatoes until tender. While potatoes are boiling, saute the onions until translucent, then set aside. Drain the water, add the onions (with the leftover oil), seasonings, margarine, and “milk” to the potatoes, and whip everything until smooth. You want to get it nice and creamy, so try to work out all the big lumps.

For the dough: Stir together flour, water, and oil until you get a workable dough. Knead for about three minutes, keeping your fingers wet to keep the dough from drying out. Divide the dough into eight equal chunks.

Assemble your pierogi: For each of the eight chunks of dough, roll into a ball and then flatten into a disk. The dough should be spread thin but sturdy enough to maintain without ripping. Take about tablespoon of the filling and place it into the center of the dough. Fold and pinch closed, then using the tines of a fork, seal the sides of the pierogi. Set each one aside until you have all completed.

Cook your pierogi: Boil a pot of water, then add the pierogi. Boil for about five minutes, or until each pierogi floats to the surface of the water. Scoop out and gently dry, then either freeze them for later use or cook them, either by frying (as I generally do, cause I love me some fresh fried pierogi) or baking in the oven.

Serve with vegan sour cream, a little smoked paprika, and fried onions, if desired. I know that’s how I like ’em.

(Recipe adapted from this recipe on Vegweb.com)

Anatomy of a Sandwich: TLT


The majority of the restaurant reviews you read on this site come from dining out mid-week, and there’s a good reason for that. I’m often not very energetic when it comes to my weeknight cooking. With most people, the inverse is true: the bulk of their kitchen time is during the week and they use their weekends to go out and have fun and dine around town. Not me. I like to have good quality weekend time with my kitchen.

But not on weeknights. On weeknights, I want to be either 1) napping, 2) getting up from a nap, 3) writing, 4) accomplishing the various post-work tasks I normally have to see to, 5) going to the gym (that’s right, pumping iron, alright!), 6)….. you get the picture. I don’t really want to cook. I eat leftovers. I eat cereal. Sometimes I eat peanut butter and honey on toast and call it a meal. Sad, but true.

My laziness gives way to a decent recipe about every six months. Tuesday was one such night, when, needing to use up the leftover tofu from the weekend’s Southern feast, I decided to make a sandwich.

If you’re not a huge fan of tofu, let me advise two strategies to help you get over your concerns:
1) Extra Firm, Extra Pressed: Buy extra firm tofu, drain it, then press it until most of the excess moisture is out. You can gently press on it with your hands (like a sponge), or you can set up some kind of contraption to do the work for you. I balance a cutting board so that a side drains into the sink, then put the tofu on there. I cover it in paper towels, put a plate on top, and then add a few cans or bags of beans. Thirty minutes and the tofu has gone from wet and crumbly to… well, drier and crumbly. But the results really show in the cooking.

2) Don’t just fry it, coat it and fry it: Frying tofu can be awesome without any extra ingredients aside from oil and a few seasonings. But if you’re squeamish about the possible squish, coat tofu slices like you would chicken fillets. It takes to a breading really, really well, and it can often times smooth the transition into eating it.

Lazy Loafing, Ever Loving TomatoLettuceTofu Sandwich

Ingredients
– Three slices of extra firm tofu, about 1/3 inch thick. (Can vary depending on taste.)
– 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
– 1/2 tsp of baking powder
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
– 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
– Salt and pepper (to taste)
– Oil
– Two slices of tomato
– A couple of lettuce slices
– Vegan mayo (c’mon, you gotta have mayo or a mayo-like substance on a sandwich like this)
– Two pieces of bread, toasted
– Oil to fry tofu

– Mix the flour, baking powder, and seasonings in a large shallow bowl. Coat each piece of tofu in the mixture. Fry the slices until golden on both sides.

– Assemble your sandwich. Apply vegan mayo to one or both sides of toast, layer with tofu, lettuce, and tomato.