Due Stagioni and Beer Dinneroni

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This is a tale of two seasons and two pizza recipes.

Kyle and I hosted a potluck vegetarian beer dinner at our house Saturday night. The theme was Farewell Summer, Hello Fall and the guest list approached twenty, for the largest Vegology beer dinner yet. For a month, we tasted and tested beers. Two weeks before the event, we began to prepare the house, yard, and décor.  One week before the dinner party, I realized that merely a wish and a dream would not get twenty people to fit into our house and around the same table, so I placed my order with Party Perfect to rent banquet tables and folding chairs for the patio. By Friday afternoon, the only thing I had not prepared for yet was what dish to make. It was the element I was least worried about, since I’ve thrown together my dishes for the last two beer dinners at the last minute.

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As I drove home from work on Friday evening, I started to think about what dishes I could prepare. The loose guidelines I imposed on myself and the guests – “summer or fall, any kind of small plate” – were not focused enough, so I had way too many ideas floating around in my head. I started to think about transitional seasonal dishes, ones that could bring you from summer into fall, and foods that I could make ahead and reheat at party time, and then it hit me. Four seasons pizza.

Quattro stagioni is a pizza with four different ingredient sections, representing the four seasons: artichokes for spring, olives for summer, mushrooms for fall, and prosciutto for winter. I decided to make miniature pizzas, or pizzettes, and do them in two seasons, due stagioni. Because I couldn’t think of a beer that would pair well with both olives and mushrooms, I did seasoned zucchini for summer on one half, and mushrooms for fall on the other, with a basil pesto base and fresh asiago melted on top (thank you,  Dany Schutte of Ellwood Thompson’s for the cheese suggestion!). The zucchini seasoning I used was the Village Garden piquant spice blend, which can be purchased locally at the South of the James farmers’ market or the Carytown farmers’ market.

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I knew the pizzette idea was a winner. I woke up Saturday morning and floated to Project Yoga at the VMFA feeling confident. After a relaxing practice in the cool autumn-like morning sun, I purchased my ingredients, some fresh flowers for the table, and a few more pieces of décor, and headed home to prepare for the party. Kyle was at work so I had to tidy up the patio, set up the tables and chairs, decorate, clean the house, and prepare the food all by myself. Everything was going really smoothly and I even had time to practice my introduction speech for the Due Stagioni Pizzettes, and decide whether to curtsy or bow when our guests gave us a standing ovation and declared the dish the most clever and delicious thing they had ever had the pleasure of tasting.

Then, suddenly, it was forty-five minutes before party time and I hadn’t made my dish yet, three people had cancelled, and Kyle was stuck at work. I frantically sliced zucchini, rolled out and cut dough, and preheated the oven. I was still assembling my dish as guests started to arrive and I distractedly pulled it out of the oven as the first course was being served. By the time my turn came around to serve, my award-winning pizzette idea had made a spiral descent down the drain and turned out to be an oily, crispy mess. A mess that left me wishing that I had chosen a stronger beer to wash down my soggy burnt crust, instead of that light, crisp pilsner, served with a side of hubris.

I made some mistakes, and I am going to outline them here so you don’t have to make them yourself. Because the next day, I repurchased all my ingredients and made the whole dish over again to prove to myself that it would work. And it was good!

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So here are the don’ts of making miniature pizzas, besides the obvious ones (don’t wait until the last minute to test your recipe, don’t cook during your dinner party, don’t shut off your brain while entertaining in your kitchen).

  1. Don’t roll out your crust too thin. I used a thinner crust the first time, thinking that a thicker crust would swallow up or spit out the delicate toppings as it rose. On the remake, I cut out the pizza rounds from a thicker sheet of dough and it worked much better.
  2. Don’t forget that your pesto has oil in it. Don’t use too much oil when sauteing your zucchini. I used way too much oil overall in the first batch, and when I pulled the pan from the oven, the oil from the pesto and the zucchini had seeped out and formed a slick on the baking sheet.
  3. Don’t second guess browned edges. I checked on the pizzettes at one point and saw browned edges but the top of the dough still looked soft and wet, so I left them in the oven for a few more minutes. Big mistake. The pesto pizzettes turned into hockey puckettes very quickly.

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Lucky for me, we had a beautiful evening with great food and beers and excellent company. Hopefully the nightmare of the failed pizzettes haunted only me that night, as everyone else seemed to have a wonderful time. Here is a rundown of the courses we enjoyed at our fourth ever potluck vegetarian beer dinner:

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Crispin Cider – Liz and Alex from I Heart Vegetables – deliciously fresh and tart, with sweet dressing and two kinds of nuts for crunch, a great start to the meal.

Eggplant, Chickpea, and Potato Curry with Three Brothers The Great Outdoors – Sydney and Andrew from chic stripes – perfect as the sun started to set and the temperature began to drop, a dish with summer vegetables and fall spices to keep us warm, and a beer that reminds you of camping.

Cracklin’ Cauliflower with home brewed rye pale ale – Brittany and Isaac from Eating Bird Food – Brittany is right that this cauliflower is great at any temperature, and the flavor went really well with Isaac’s impressive home brew. I’ve made her recipe before, and it’s a keeper.

Due Stagioni Pizzettes (improved recipe below) with Victory Prima Pils – me and Kyle – thank goodness Kyle’s sense of humor and optimism pairs well with my high-strung perfectionism, so when the first attempt fell flat we could laugh it off and have another beer. . . then try again the next day!

Cauliflower “Cous Cous” Salad with Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild – Paul and Leah – I need to get this recipe and I’ll link to it here. We loved this pairing of a dish and a beer that both came with a twist – the “cous cous” is actually cauliflower and the beer is actually Lagunitas Little Sumpin’, with an additional wild yeast strain.

Skillet Apple Pie with Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout – Shannon and Evan from Thirsty Richmond and Boho Cycle Studio – so decadent, this apple pie was perfect, not an exaggeration, and it elevated my appreciation of this milk stout, as well as cast iron skillets. Oh, and blogger husbands, who are (in my humble opinion) the very best.

Deconstructed Apple Pie with Cider – Brock (Isaac’s brother) and Alex from Quarter Life Cupcake – I did not know that a vegan, gluten-free homemade dessert could be so good! I am officially a believer now.

And then the after-dinner bonus beers came out, including Goose Island Harvest Ale from Al (and poor Adrienne who had to stay home with a cold), Dogfish Head Tweasonale, The Alchemist Heady Topper, Goose Island Bourbon County, and more. Thank you to everyone who made this dinner special!

Due Stagioni Pesto Pizzettes

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Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces pizza dough, homemade or store bought, rolled out to 1/4 inch thick
  • medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced – both shiitakes and maitakes are good (maitake mushrooms are our favorite)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto, homemade or store bought
  • Italian seasoning or herb/spice blend of your choice for the zucchini
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 ounces fresh (soft) asiago cheese, or mozzarella, grated

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a medium pan. Add zucchini to pan and saute until tender, adding seasoning to taste halfway through cooking. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat in medium pan. Sprinkle the oil with 1/2 tsp black pepper. Add mushrooms to pan and saute until tender, then remove from heat.
  4. Using a 2-1/2 inch round cookie cutter, punch circles in the rolled out pizza dough and transfer to baking sheet. This should yield about 12-15 pizza round.
  5. Top each pizza round with pesto, dividing evenly among all rounds. Place two zucchini slices on one half of each round, and a spoonful of mushrooms on the other half. Top with grated cheese.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 10-12 minutes until edges begin to brown – then remove immediately!
  7. Can be reheated from refrigerated in 350 degree oven for 4-5 minutes if needed.
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Savory Plantain Splits

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If you have been reading for awhile, or if you have taken some time to dig around here, you may know that one of my very first posts was a recipe for Tostones, fried plantains. I started Vegology to chronicle my adventures in the kitchen, particularly with ingredients and methods that were new to me. In the beginning, I was two years into vegetarianism and five years into my home cooking habit. I had started to be more adventurous in the kitchen and found new and exciting ingredients at the farmers’ market weekly. There were so many options that I had to consciously spread them out so that I wouldn’t bite off more new ingredients than I could chew each week. Now, three years later, I have to search a little harder to find ingredients that are brand new to me. There are still as many ingredients that I haven’t tried as there are stars in the sky, but I do have to look a little farther beyond my local farmers’ market to find them.

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Take, for example, jackfruit, which I discovered was an excellent stand-in for pulled pork last year. You can find a lot of things at a Virginia farmers’ market, but jackfruit is not one of them. Soba is another, and epazote yet another. So I have discovered a lot of my new-to-me ingredients over the last several months in specialty stores and grocers. However not every showstopper meal requires a trip to the end of the earth for exotic ingredients. When I am working with my same old kitchen staples, I try to reinvent the classics to get that jolt of adrenaline that I often do from novel food. Which leads me to the star of this show, the Cuban plantain split.

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Inspired by the elaborate and aesthetically appealing arrangement of the components of the classic ice cream shop creation, the banana split, I set out to make a savory version with starchy, green plantains instead of bananas. I often associate plantains with Cuban food, so I started brainstorming in that direction. I came up with my vegetarian paella to start. Then I recalled a Cuban dish that I made in my pre-vegetarian days, consisting of shredded meat, tomato sauce, spices, and green olives. Ropa vieja is like a Cuban sloppy joe, except that it’s so much better. Stuck at two scoops, I reached out to a foodie friend to come up with the third: slow simmered Cuban-inspired black beans.

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Topped with cilantro, avocado, a drizzle of hot sauce and a spritz of lime, this is a hearty vegan dish with complex flavors and a variety of textures. If you have an open mind, it is seriously fun to eat, and if you’re up to the challenge, it is easy to stuff yourself with this spicy comfort food. But let’s be real. This dish is a ridiculous time commitment.

Realistically, you’re going to get four separate recipes out of this post and you may never make them all at once like I did. To make them all together and assemble the plantain split masterpieces from scratch, it took me and another cook two hours in the kitchen, working together with no idle time. In the end, we agreed the result was worth it. But then again, I’m the kind of person who considers a night spent in the kitchen revamping the classics while chopping several pounds of produce and dancing to samba music to be a great time. If you are not that ambitious (or crazy?) each component takes less than an hour on its own and can be paired with a fresh salad for a quick, flavorful and filling meal.

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Cuban Plantain Splits

Prepare one batch of each: Split Plantains, Vegetarian Ropa Vieja, Cuban Black Beans, and Quick Vegetarian Paella. Arrange plantain halves along the long side of an oval shaped dish. Arrange one scoop of each of the other components, in a row between the plantain halves. Top with chopped fresh cilantro and fresh avocado. Serve with hot sauce if desired. Serves 4-6.

Split Plantains

Ingredients:

  • 4 large green (unripe) plantains
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable oil for frying

Preparation:

  1. With a sharp small knife cut ends from each plantain and cut a lengthwise slit through skin. Cut plantains once lengthwise and once crosswise into quarters. Beginning at slit, pry skin from pieces.
  2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet heat 1/2 inch oil over moderate heat until just hot enough to sizzle when a plantain piece is added. Fry plantains in batches, without crowding, until tender and just golden, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. With tongs transfer plantains as fried to paper towels to drain.
  3. Remove skillet from heat and reserve oil. With the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a wide solid metal spatula flatten plantains to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Into a bowl of warm salted water dip flattened plantains, 1 at a time, and drain them well on paper towels.
  5. Heat reserved oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and fry flattened plantains in batches, without crowding, until golden, about 3 minutes. With tongs transfer tostones as fried to paper towels to drain and season with salt if desired.

Vegetarian Ropa Vieja

Ingredients:

  • 2- 10 oz. cans jackfruit in water, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 small green pepper, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1- 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup green olives with pimiento, sliced or halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add jackfruit and cook until browned, about six minutes. Remove from pan and shred jackfruit until the texture resembles that of pulled meat.
  2. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic to pan. Saute until translucent. Add ground cumin to pan and cook, while stirring, for 30 seconds.
  3. Add fire roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, and broth. Bring to simmer, then lower heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add olives, salt and pepper just before serving. Top with fresh cilantro.

Cuban Black Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
    • OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano plus 1 teaspoon dried epazote
  • 2- 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a large sauce sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, garlic, and oregano, and epazote if using. Saute until translucent.
  2. Mash 1 cup of beans with fork, or blend in food processor, Add mashed beans, remaining whole beans, vegetable broth and vinegar to pan.
  3. Cook 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Quick Vegetarian Paella

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup medium grain white rice
  • 6 saffron threads
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup fresh vegetables, diced (I used zucchini, carrots, and peas)
  • 1- 6 oz. jar quartered, marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Prepare rice according to package directions to produce 3 cups prepared rice.
  2. Boil 1/2 cup water in a small sauce pan. Turn off burner. Add saffron threads, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Strain water into a bowl and discard threads.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and saute until tender.
  4. Add vegetables, saffron water, artichoke hearts, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, and garlic to soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add rice and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Chickpea Noodle Soup

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I can’t explain this midsummer soup that I made at the end of a July heat wave, except by saying, “sometimes you just need comfort food.”

It was the end of a long, stressful day and I needed a quick late night dinner. Although it had been 90 degrees that day, I really wanted soup. So I scoured the pantry and fridge and came up with almost all of the ingredients for chicken noodle soup, except for chicken. No problem, I thought. I had chickpeas.

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Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind (yet). I am aware that chickpeas are nothing like chicken, and I know that just because an ingredient sounds like another, that does not mean they taste the same. However, I needed some protein and chickpea noodle soup just sounded so right that it couldn’t be wrong.

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I used a vegetable soup base blend that I had picked up from the frozen vegetables section, and I think the okra in this blend really helped to thicken the soup. I also added some texture by tossing a third of the chickpeas into the food processor before adding them to the soup. The noodles and legumes were very filling, and the veggies made me feel like I had made a semi-healthy meal choice.

If you just can’t bear the thought of hot soup in July, or you think it’s a waste to use canned and frozen ingredients in the middle of the best season for fresh produce, I get it. Really I do. I’ve eaten a fresh tomato sandwich for dinner the last two nights in a row so you know I appreciate what’s coming out of the dirt over what’s coming out of the can right now. But at least toss some fresh green beans and okra in the freezer now and bookmark this recipe, because if you aren’t ready today, I think this is just what you’ll be looking for in January.

Chickpea Noodle Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb frozen vegetables (I used a vegetable soup blend that included carrots, potatoes, corn, green beans, lima beans, okra, peas, celery and onions)
  • 1- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 oz. egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend (optional)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and onion to pot and sauté until onion is translucent.
  3. Add vegetables to pot, and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Divide chickpeas into three equal portions. Add one third of the chickpeas to a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.
  5. Add whole and chopped chickpeas, broth, and 1 cup water to pot. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add noodles and the rest of the ingredients, return to a boil, then cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Grills Gone Vegan

Things have been heating up around here.

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With temperatures soaring, cicadas (aliens!) humming, and my lawn o’ weeds growing to epic heights, the great outdoors are not exactly calling my name. However, with a big patio begging to host a party, the aroma of the neighbors’ grilled food wafting over to greet me when I climb out of my car at the end of a long day, and a few strands of twinkly lights romantically draped around our backyard, it is tempting to step outside and enjoy early summer. So when the publishers of Grills Gone Vegan by Tamisin Noyes asked me to review their vegan grilling cookbook, I decided to give it a shot. After all, we own two grills and rarely use them since we do not eat meat. Veggie burgers taste great on the grill, but firing it up just for a couple of No Bull burger patties seems silly. When Grills Gone Vegan arrived in the mail, I was excited to see a book full of recipes for foods we could actually eat, all prepared on a grill. I wanted to try everything! The options were so overwhelming that I had to invite a few friends over to help me taste test.

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Fast forward to last weekend, when I stood with a counter full of farmers’ market produce and local goodies from Ellwood Thompson’s, a cookbook with several bookmarked pages, and a rickety old laptop blasting dance music into my kitchen. When afternoon turned to evening, I was joined by Shannon of Thirsty Richmond and her husband Evan, and Adrienne of hippie itch and her husband Al. They all had more experience with vegan cooking and eating than I did, so I figured they would make great judges for the variety of dishes we prepared. They are also just super fun up-for-anything people, who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and skewer some seitan for the cause.

The book is full of creative recipes with manageable ingredient lists, and it includes a lot of fancy-looking dishes that, with my limited grilling experience, I never would have dreamed of preparing on a grill. Most recipes include sets of instructions for indoor non-grill preparation, indoor grill preparation, and an outdoor grill preparation, so you have a lot of options. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure approach to getting a delicious dish to the table. I was also really pleased to find dishes that incorporated grilling in the ingredients, like Charred Leek Spread, in which you take grilled leeks and process them with raw ingredients to make a creamy vegan spread for sliced baguettes.

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We chowed down on this dip while assembling skewers for the next dish and it was definitely a hit. The dill flavor is very light and springy, and leftover spread was a great dip for baby carrots and celery. It also added a unique flavor t0 veggie sandwiches the next day.

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I substituted some of my weekly farmers’ market finds for the vegetables called for in the Tunisian Seitan Skewers with Lemon Kissed Couscous. I used chicken-style seitan for this recipe, which incorporated a lemon and spice flavored marinade for a bright and citrusy grilled dish. The kohlrabi, which I substituted for mushrooms in the skewers, was pretty difficult to spear and it took longer to cook than the other vegetables. I will definitely try grilling kohlrabi again, but maybe in slices placed directly on the grill rather than on kebabs. Otherwise the vegetables and seitan were delicious, and the lemon kissed pearl couscous was tasty with this dish as well as the next entrée.

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The second entrée we prepared was Savory Grilled Tofu with Mushroom Sauce. The tofu is marinated first, and the marinade is really tasty so that the leftover tofu is great even without the mushroom sauce. Then the tofu is grilled and topped with a delicious herb-packed mushroom sauce. The couscous was supposed to go with the Tunisian skewers but it worked well for sopping up mushroom sauce in this dish. I really liked the idea of preparing a sauce on the stovetop while grilling the tofu outside. The result is an impressive dish that appears to be and elaborate showstopper, but is actually very easy to prepare.

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Finally, we grilled some nectarines that had been lightly brushed with agave nectar, and served the warm, caramelized fruit with Almond Dream vegan ice cream and fresh mint. I know some of you will disagree with me on this, but after trying it firsthand, I do believe that the almond ice cream was a better accompaniment for this dish than dairy ice cream would have been.

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If you are a vegetarian or vegan who wants to transform your grill from a piece of lawn furniture to a functional cooking element, or if you are an avid griller looking for some new recipes to add to your meat-laden collection, I highly recommend this book. It is easy to read, the instructions are simple to follow, and the recipes are very adaptable for any kind of cooking setup you may have. There are enough creative ideas in Grills Gone Vegan to keep you busy trying new things all summer. The book is available on Amazon or by mail order from the publisher.

I did receive a free copy of Grills Gone Vegan for testing the recipes. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review and all opinions are my own.

Seitan, Stripped

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Earlier today, I was standing in line in a local coffee shop, when I was tapped on the shoulder by one of my colleagues from work.

“Oh, hi there! Great to see you! What brings you to my neighborhood?”

We had a nice three minute conversation until it was my turn to order. On my way out, I met a member of my coworker’s family, wished them both a good day, and waved goodbye. As I walked away from the coffee shop, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a pane of glass. Then I came to the horrific realization that my tank top had slid down and about an inch of my zebra print bra was exposed. How long had it been that way? How many people had seen? Why do these things always happen to me?!

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I had been thinking all morning about what I was going to write about in my next blog post. With the humiliation of my unintentional striptease on my mind all afternoon, these seitan strips seemed like an appropriate topic.

I made these a couple of months ago, when Kyle decided he wanted to reduce the amount of soy in his diet. I cook with soy-based protein sources quite often, so his request required me to branch out a bit. As I struggled to put together the meal plan and grocery list that week, Kyle suggested that we cook with seitan. I’ve used the ingredient before, but I find that the pre-packaged seitan that is sold in stores tends to be high in sodium, so I’ve shied away from it.

A little research taught me that it’s a very high protein food, so I determined that it was worth investigating further. I quickly discovered that seitan is easy to make at home, where you can control the amount of sodium, with just a few ingredients. Most of the salt comes from the broth that it’s cooked in, so I searched for a low sodium vegetable broth and a few more essential ingredients, then I got to work. My stripped-down version has just the ingredients I want in my seitan, and nothing more.

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The basic recipe includes vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, water, liquid aminos or soy sauce, oil, broth, and seasonings. I made mine in a slow cooker according to this recipe from the Cathe’s Kitchen blog.

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The dough for the seitan comes together pretty quickly, then it gets dropped in a slow cooker bath of broth, onions, garlic, and herbs to simmer for a few hours. This time of year, when it starts to get pretty hot outside, I am a big fan of slow cooking to keep my kitchen cool.

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The seitan loaves look kind of creepy when they come out. I think my first batch had too many air bubbles, but I’ll get the texture down with some practice.

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The loaves freeze and defrost really well, so I recommend that you make a big batch. When you are ready to serve them, simply cut into slices or strips and cook them like you would chicken cutlets. If you want to simmer them in a sauce, it is best to brown them in a pan first, which makes the texture less spongy.  My favorite way to prepare them so far has been to marinate and grill them. I have only done them on the George Foreman indoor grill, but I am looking forward to getting them on my charcoal grill this summer.

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The strips are delicious when marinated in cilantro and lime, grilled to perfection, then stuffed into warm tortillas with roasted poblanos, corn and tomato salsa, and avocado.

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Whether you are looking for a way to prepare store-bought seitan strips, or you are experimenting with your own homemade version, this taco recipe is a simple introduction to seitan. The marinated and grilled strips are also great in sandwiches and on salads. I tossed them with some toppings over rice to bring to work for lunch, and they even tasted great reheated in the microwave.

Cilantro Lime Seitan Strips

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb plain seitan (store bought or homemade), sliced into strips
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon agave syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, agave, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Spread seitan strips in a shallow baking dish. Cover with marinade.
  3. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove seitan from marinade and grill for 6 minutes on each side, or until dark grill marks appear. Brush with marinade while grilling if desired.
  5. Serve hot. Stuff into warm tortillas, sandwich between two slices of bread, or place on top of rice or a salad. Cover with desired toppings and enjoy!

Stay cool and have a great week!

Grilled Gruyere and Radish Sandwich

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My husband is a radish fiend. For three years I have brought them home from the market nearly every weekend that they are available, and he never tires of them. This time of year, Kyle is in radish and greens heaven, and I am constantly trying to find new ways to prepare both. We have always eaten radishes raw, so last week I roasted a bunch of French breakfast radishes with carrots – big win! I highly recommend it. This week, I got home from the market and immediately dumped my purchases out and searched for lunch inspiration.

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This week at the South of the James farmers’ market, I picked up Agriberry strawberries, Norma’s Produce baby yellow squash, Norwood Cottage craisin bread, Crumptown Farm Tokyo Bekana (a new-to-me green!), Walnut Hill Farm turnips (with bonus greens – two vegetables for the price of one!), Bella Grove purple radishes, and Broadfork Farm dill. Our cluster of radishes was small and it was calling my name. It was a little cool outside that day, and I thought grilled cheese sounded pretty good. I decided to add some sliced radishes to our grilled cheese sandwiches to provide a little crunch and flavor.

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I used some smooth, nutty, Gruyere cheese that I had leftover from last week’s groceries, leftover spinach leaves, and thinly sliced spicy radishes, with a thin spread of Dijon mustard, sandwiched between two slices of Ellwood’s Bakery whole wheat bread, over-buttered and griddled to golden brown in a pan. I wasn’t planning on making these sandwiches for a post, but they turned out so well that I decided to take some photos and share the recipe with you. This is super simple, but a little different, so I thought it felt special. I served with a  bowl of fresh strawberries and iced coffee. If we were having these for dinner, I would definitely serve with a glass of Syrah instead.

Sometimes the recipes you come up with on the fly, with the freshest local ingredients available, are the best ones. So, while you probably don’t need the instructions, I’m giving you a grilled cheese recipe. Enjoy!

Grilled Gruyere and Radish Sandwich

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Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bread (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 ounce Gruyere cheese
  • 2 small radishes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Butter

Preparation:

  1. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Melt a dab of butter or oil in the pan to coat.
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Stack them with the buttered sides facing each other, On the top slice of bread, spread the Dijon mustard.
  3. On top of the mustard, place the spinach, cheese, and radishes.
  4. When the pan is hot, take the top slice of bread with its toppings and place it buttered side down in the pan. Top with the other slice of bread, butter side up.
  5. Cook for 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Vegetarian Beer Dinner III

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments and words of encouragement on my last post. This beer dinner recap is a few weeks late, but I cut myself some slack, since the week after the beer dinner I focused solely on preparing for my first half marathon, and I have been recovering ever since! Thank you for your patience!

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It’s that time of year again. . .

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Seasonal vegetarian beer dinner time!

A few weeks ago, I hosted a potluck vegetarian beer dinner to celebrate the flavors of late winter and early spring. Some good friends showed up with vegetarian dishes paired with seasonal beers, and we all enjoyed tasting a diverse array of delicious combinations. You might recall that this is the third dinner of its kind that we have hosted en la casa de Vegology.

Check out my recaps of past beer dinners here:

Vegetarian Beer Dinner I – Summer 2012

Vegetarian Beer Dinner II – Winter 2012

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As usual, we had notebooks for taking notes on our favorite pairings, as well as the ever-present “Beer: it’s not just for dinner” cocktail napkins. Of course there were plastic tasting glasses, because my only dishwasher is named Kyle, and I love him enough to keep him from washing fourteen glasses by hand when we already have fourteen plates and fourteen forks to take care of!

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I offered oyster crackers as a palate cleanser this time around, and they were a real hit. Someone enthusiastically commented “I only go wine tasting for the oyster crackers!” I have to say that I agree that these little crackers are one of the highlights of wine tasting in Virginia. Smile

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Our dining room was jam packed with chairs and people. I don’t know if I could have fit any more seats in there! Not only was the dining room full, but we also packed the refrigerator and a cooler full of a wide variety of craft beers. Here is the lineup: Potter’s Craft Cider, Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Brewer’s Art Debutante, Bell’s Oarsman Ale, Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and The Duck Rabbit Brown Ale.

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Course 1 – Sarah (The Smart Kitchen), Liz (I Heart Vegetables) and Lindsay (Neat As You Please)

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Sarah, Liz and Lindsay put together an awesome appetizer of Apple Fennel Salad Skewers with Creamy Ginger Apple Honey Mustard Dressing (recipe). They paired this with Potter’s Craft Cider, and the complementary apple flavors were a great fresh start to the meal. Sarah won the prize for best pairing story, explaining why she wanted to use Potter’s cider (a cute guy in the tasting room had something to do with it) and how she came up with her dish (why not put salad on a stick?).

Course 2 – Adrienne (Hippie Itch) and Al

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I was super impressed by Adrienne’s made-from-scratch samosas (recipe from Skinny Bitch), that were totally vegan and bursting with flavor. Just like their pairing, the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, these perfectly portioned appetizers packed a serious punch, but with enough restraint that they didn’t knock you completely over, so you could really enjoy the complex flavors inside. If I can muster the patience to make this dough from scratch, I would like to try making this one at home sometime.

Course 3 – Lauren and Kyle (Vegology)

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For the entrée course, I made Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes. We all joked that Adrienne and I must have been on the same wavelength with the Indian flavors! You can follow the link above to get the recipe and to read about how I came up with my pairing. Kyle and I tasted a lot of beers before we chose this one, and we ultimately decided to serve Debutante, a saison which is a collaboration beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Brewer’s Art, both from my hometown of Baltimore.

Because it was dark by the time we got to my course and I couldn’t get a great picture during the dinner, I can’t resist posting this glamour shot of the dish here:

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Course 4 – Paul and Leah

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Our friends Paul and Leah brought over a pairing that, no matter how fast you paddled or how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from. Beets! After having this tasty Golden and Crimson Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel and Feta (recipe), we noticed that little traces of bright pink kept showing up in subsequent courses. Check out the next two photos on this post to see what I mean – we got the beet! The beer paired with this course was Bell’s Oarsman Ale. I always thought this beer tasted a little sour (in a good way) and after reading the Bell’s description, I realize there is a better way to describe the flavor – citrusy tartness – which paired very well with the citrusy beet salad. This was one of the few dishes that I went back for seconds on, so I know it will make another appearance in my kitchen soon.

Course 5 – Bob and Ashley

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Our friends Bob and Ashley hit a home run with their comfort food pairing, which included a creamy polenta cooked with beer and Asiago cheese, with Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils to wash it down. I begged to keep the leftovers and Bob and Ashley were too nice to say no, so I was treated to a second serving of this delicious polenta the next day (okay, the next morning. no judge!) Bob is a skilled home brewer that taught Kyle a lot of what he knows about brewing beer. Bob and Kyle’s latest home brew creations came out a little bit later, which is always a fun add-on to the tasting dinner.

Course 6 – Shannon (Thirsty Richmond) and Evan

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Shannon, the Queen of the Beer Cakes, did it again with another fantastic beer baked dessert. Even though Shannon’s oven failed to turn on the day of the dinner, Shannon found a way to get us a creative dessert. If I had found myself in the same situation, I might have just given up and picked up a pack of cookies on the way over, but Shannon persisted. Spontaneously turning her vegan cupcake recipe (similar here) into a vegan brownie recipe, she fired up the toaster oven and pulled off a brownie bar that was so good that I didn’t even miss the cupcakes (and let me tell you, her cupcakes are out of this world). She used Duck Rabbit Brown Ale in the batter and as the pairing beer.

Not 100% confident that the brownies would turn out well, Shannon also picked up a pack of Oreos (vegan!) on the way over just in case. We cleaned our plates and made a dent in the Oreos. And then there were all those leftover “extra” beers that mysteriously disappeared, one by one, as the night went on. Go team beer dinner!

Thanks to all who participated. We had a blast and I’m already dreaming up plans for the next one this summer!