The trouble with cheeze + chilled tomato and avocado soup

I bought Miyoko Schinner’s book Artisan Vegan Cheese, because I’d heard SO much about it.  I know it’s a fairly well respected book about vegan cheese-making and I thought I wanted to add it to my repertoire.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I love a challenge, I, obviously, love making things from scratch, particularly things people don’t usually make from scratch.  I understood patience was necessary in vegan cheese-making, and I’ve got lots of that, so I thought I’d try it.

Well, the first hiccup and a half was gathering the odd ingredients to begin.  Ms. Schinner gives a recipe for rejuvelac in the book, but the whole sprouting thing, washing the grains, waiting the right amount of time, blah blah blah, just seemed a little annoying and tricky, and I knew I could buy it, so I went to Whole Foods and looked for it.  Yeah, no.  I had to order it.  Fine.  I did.  And it was cheap, for once.  Fine.  That was the half hiccup.  The whole hiccup was carageenan.  In the chapter on melting cheese, Ms. Schinner says that you must use carageenan – and not agar – because that’s the key in getting a melty consistency.  Well, not only did Whole Foods not carry it, the grocery manager told me that there have been studies pointing to bad things coming from carageenan.  He told me to look into it myself.  I did.  Okay, then.  We’re going without carageenan.  And without melty cheeze.

My client had asked for a pasta dish with cheeze sauce (she actually used an “s”, not a “z” in her spelling) and cremini mushrooms.  Ms. Schinner actually featured a recipe for fettucine alfredo with gruyere and mushrooms.  Excellent!  That would be the one.  Also, I came into about 4 lbs of heirloom tomatoes that were unusually delicious, so I decided to try Ms. Schinner’s recipe for fresh, buffalo-style mozzarella, so I could make a nice caprese salad.  In the end, the gruyere tasted okay (sorry, I remember very well what *real* gruyere tastes like – and it is AWESOME), but the pasta came out meh.  It was fine.  In my cooking, I generally strive for better than *fine.*  The mozzarella was an entirely different story.  It TOTALLY didn’t do at all what she said it was supposed to do.  Instead of puffy white clouds of mozzarella floating in brine, I got globs of *solids* floating in milky liquid.  Ewww.  Again, it tasted okay.  Not worth the trouble.

I did end up using the *globs of solids* in a recipe for my clients in place of sour cream (I’ll be sharing below), then drained the milky white brine and globs in a fine mesh sieve, and kept the solids to use as cream cheese on my home-made bagels.  For lunch today, I had a home-made bagel, fresh-mozzarella-cum-cream-cheese, slices of heirloom tomatoes, diced cucumber, and a pinch of kosher salt AND IT WAS AWESOME.  So, there’s my bright side.

Chilled tomato and avocado soup (adapted from a recipe from Sunset magazine)

  • 2 lbs ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 firm but ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped
  • 1 cup veg stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh vegan mozzarella (or plain coconut milk yogurt)
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 3 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 tsp fresh minced tarragon

Puree tomatoes in a blender.  Add 3 tbsp champagne vinegar and salt to taste.  Transfer to another container and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Clean out the blender.  Add the avocados, veg stock, mozzarella (or yogurt), and lime juice, and puree.  Add salt to taste.  Transfer to another container and refrigerate for an hour.  Place the cucumber, shallots, and tarragon in a small container, top with last tablespoon of champagne vinegar, mix well, and chill for about a half hour.  To serve, pour a layer of avocado puree into a glass bowl or glass, top with the tomato soup, and then sprinkle the condiment on top.

Cool and delicious.  Enjoy!



Pain perdu tropical, No Knead Whole Wheat Sourdough, Brown Sugar

Whatever.  I’m not really so fancy-pants as all that.  I did make French toast for dinner tonight that tasted of somewhere I’ve never been.  And it was GOOD.

I will say this.  You could make this *more* tropical.  I used rice milk as the main liquid in my batter, because I thought it was already going to be on the thicker side, but next time, I think I would use coconut milk and thin it with some pineapple juice.  You could also add shredded coconut to the batter.  They tasted so good, though, that I would say those would enhance, but this French toast is already yummy.

Pain perdu tropical

  • 7 slices whole wheat sourdough (recipe follows)
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar (recipe follows)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour

Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium heat.  Mash the banana with a fork in a large bowl.  Add the brown sugar to macerate and make the banana break down a little easier.  Add the extracts, rice milk, olive oil, and nutmeg, and stir and mash until pureed.  Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon.  Dunk your slices of bread in the batter until well coated.

Spray the skillet with cooking spray, and place the battered bread into the pan.  Let brown on each side, then set aside.  Serve with maple syrup.  Duh.


No-Knead Whole wheat sourdough

I make this bread at least once a week, sometimes twice.  It is so good and SO FREAKING EASY.  You need the simple ingredients, a bowl, and a wooden spoon.  That’s IT.

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 2/3 cups cool water
  • Extra flour for preventing sticking

Place the flours, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add the cool water, and stir with a wooden spoon. When the dough is moist and well mixed, place in a large oiled bowl, cover, and place in a warm place for 12 to 18 hours.  Remove the towel, Generously flour a board and dump the dough on top of it.  Generously dust the top of the bread with more flour, then fold over several times.  Cover and let rise another 2 hours.  Preheat the oven and a Dutch oven with a lid to 450 degrees for a half hour.  Dump dough into the preheated Dutch oven, cover, and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove lid and bake for another 10 to 15, until crust in golden brown.  Let cool completely before slicing or monkeys will fly out of your behind.


Brown Sugar

Okay, it’s super lame that I’m posting this recipe, but most people have never made their own brown sugar, and I’m telling you.  IT IS HIGHLY SUPERIOR to the store bought stuff.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses

Put ingredients into a large bowl and stir for about 5 minutes or so until the molasses is completely integrated into the sugar.  Store in an airtight container.  Enjoy.


Mole picadillo burritos – the horse I rode in on

First let me begin with the menus of the week. For client #1, I made a green salad topped with lentils and nectarines, pickled red onions, and a seriously delicious creamy Dijon dressing with a couple of thick slices of my whole wheat sourdough; curried vegetables and chickpeas over black quinoa; Sephardi meatballs with cabbage and barley; chipotle macaroni and cheese with OMG roasted Brussels sprouts; and my world famous (in my own mind) mole picadillo burritos. For client #2, by request, I made mole picadillo burritos; roasted broccoli; salad greens with a pomegranate vinaigrette; and a chilled cantaloupe bisque. Everything was yummy. Other than the aforementioned burritos, I think my favorite item was the Dijon dressing. I know. It’s salad dressing. It was FINGER-LICKING GOOD. Really.

I have been making these burritos for…I dunno…17 years? They’ve only gotten better. As with any good burrito, the ingredients list is completely flexible, and lends itself to repurposed left-overs. But this is generally what they look like. If you want to beef up the vegetable content, you can add fresh spinach or kale at the end to wilt it. Seriously, I would stake my reputation as a maker of yummy things on this burrito. It is SO yummy.

Mole picadillo burritos

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 lb pkg super firm tofu, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lrg onion, chopped
  • 1 lrg red pepper, chopped
  • 1 apple, preferably Granny Smith, but any will do, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 – 3 chipotles in adobo, per taste, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen roasted corn
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 8 (whole wheat, my preference) flour tortillas
  • Toppings: sliced avocado, pickled jalapenos and carrots, cholula

Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu, and saute until golden on most sides. Add the onions, then the bell peppers, stirring often, until the onions are softened. Add the rest of the ingredients (stopping short of the tortillas, yo) in order, stirring fairly constantly. The water should make a nice sauce.

Heat a medium cast iron pan over medium heat. Toast tortillas in the dry pan, one at a time. Toast on one side, flip over, and then pile about a third cup of filling into the middle of the tortilla, add toppings, then remove to a plate to cool long enough so you don’t burn your fingers folding it into a burrito.


Avocado pesto potato salad

Okay. This is so good and SO easy. And SO GOOD.

  • 2 or 3 generous handfuls broccoli florets, broken or chopped into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 smallish red-skinned potatoes, cubed into 1/2″ dice
  • Handful basil
  • 2 or 3 handfuls spinach and arugula
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 ripe but firm avocados
  • 1/2 – 1 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place broccoli on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast for about 14 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Meanwhile, place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Leave lid ajar, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 7 minutes, and taste. The potatoes should be cooked all the way through, but still firm. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Pour broccoli into the bowl.

Place the basil, greens, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and avocados into the bowl of a food processor, and start the machine. Stream in the olive oil until the avocados are completely pureed and the texture is pesto-like. Pour some pesto – not all of it, start with about a cup – onto the potatoes and broccoli, and toss. Add more pesto, if desired. Use left-over pesto on fettucine.

This week’s menu for client #1

  • Bangers and mash with greens
  • Grilled vegetable and farro salad with French cream of cauliflower soup
  • Black-eyed pea and pomegranate salad with late summer eggplant stew
  • Golden bowl over brown rice
  • Posole in broth with microgreens, avocado, olives, and toasted pepitas with Hatch tomatillo salsa

Favorite of the week: my French cream of cauliflower soup. Also, my mash. Mashed red-skinned potatoes with onions and garlic roasted with white wine and fresh turmeric, plain coconut milk yogurt, and rice milk. Potatoes and fresh turmeric are so delicious together. I highly recommend trying that combo!

French cream of cauliflower soup

This soup is perfect. I lived in France for a year. I have visited France. I have eaten A LOT of French food. Their reputation for making delicious creamy things is well-deserved. I would serve this to a French person. Make it. You will be glad you did.

French cream of cauliflower soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 3 small to medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio
  • 4 cups veg stock
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt to taste

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil, and then add the onions. Saute the onions until they’re golden, and then add the cauliflower and potatoes. Stir the cauliflower and potatoes into the onion mixture until they’re fairly coated in the onions. Add the Pinot Grigio and veg stock, cover, and turn the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Uncover, turn the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower and potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, and put the whole pot of vegetables into the blender with the sunflower seeds. Blend until completely pureed, and place back in the soup pot. Stir in the pepper and nutmeg, and taste. Salt to taste.