Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Say cheese, again

A few posts ago, I mentioned that Bute Isle "scheese" - a vegan cheese substitute that has won rave reviews - is now available by mail order in the U.S. and promised to give a report. I ordered three flavors – smoked cheddar, blue and gouda – and am enjoying them, but not significantly more than some other vegan cheeses I have tried.... They still have a sort of processed flavor and texture. The smoked cheddar was my favorite of the three.

In general, vegan "cheese" is getting better and better - in years past, I've thrown away packages after one taste because they were so unpleasant. There are many acceptable brands now, and hopefully vegan-cheese technology will continue to improve.

I do have a rave review to offer of another vegan dairy substitute: Wildwood soy yogurt. Fruit-flavored soy yogurts are just fine, but until Wildwood I had never found a plain soy yogurt that I liked. Plain soy yogurts tend to be sweet, and lack that yummy yogurt "twang." But Wildwood is wonderful – I couldn’t tell it from dairy-based yogurt.

The only drawback is that I haven't yet found a local source for it. The tub I had came from The Home Economist, a health-food store in Charlotte. I mean to make inquiries soon to see whether any of our local stores can order it. Meanwhile, if you know of a place that carries it around the Winston-Salem area, please let me know!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cheap tofu!

Heads-up: Food Lion has Nasoya refrigerated tofu on sale for 99 cents this week. That's right, 99 cents! They also had already-cubed "super firm" tofu, which I hadn't seen in stores around here.

I also picked up organic bananas for 79 cents a pound.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Eggs in veggie burgers

Staying on the subject of eggs, which Julie wrote about in her latest entry, a reader made me aware of an egg issue involving veggie burgers. Two groups, Compassion Over Killing and Vegan Outreach, are taking on Morningstar Farms, one of the leading makers of vegetarian products, over the eggs it uses in its products. The eggs come from hens that are confined in battery cages, giving them almost no room to move around -- a truly appalling sounding life. The groups want Morningstar Farms to stop using eggs in its products. Another veggie-burger maker, Gardenburger, has stopped using eggs in all but one of its products, and those eggs are from free-range hens. You can read more about this issue here.

I checked out the ingredients list online of the other major veggie-burger line that I buy, Boca Burgers. The only items of theirs that contain eggs seem to be the lasagna and non-breakfast sausages -- none in their burgers or "chicken" patties.

This wasn't an issue that I had heard about before, but it's certainly changed the way I'm going to select my veggie burgers from now on. I tend to like most veggie burgers and don't have a particular affinity toward one particular kind -- I like to change up the ones I buy and have a variety. But this issue makes me less likely to buy Morninstar Farms veggie burgers.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Baking and eggs

I was on holiday last week, and enjoyed the chance to do a lot of cooking at home. That got me to thinking about ways of "veganizing" recipes.

Some things are simple. For example, soymilk can replace cow's milk in almost any recipe. But sometimes you have to be a little more tricky to replace the eggs.

In some cases - oatmeal cookies, for example - you can simply leave out the egg with fine results. I'm convinced that sometimes adding an egg to baked goods is just a habit.

But there is always a risk that in the recipe you choose to omit the egg, it plays a vital role. A sense of humor and spirit of adventure come in handy here. So does a dose of creativity - if those crumbles from the oven can't really be called cookies, open up a pint of soy ice cream and call them a topping!

And now that it seems you do need an "egg," you can try some of the many substitures out there. Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Post Punk Kitchen has great suggestions on vegan baking at http://www.theppk.com/veganbaking.html

The "flax eggs" she describes - 1 tablespoon flax seeds ground and blended with 3 tablespoons water per egg - do work very well. They become very gelatinous and gummy when blended and will surely hold those cookies together. I generally mix up a large batch in the blender. Leftovers will keep a few days in the refrigerator. And they can be divided into ice-cube trays and frozen for long-term storage.

Plain soy flour makes an even simpler egg substitute. One tablespoon of the soy flour and an extra tablespoon or two of water or other liquid can replace one egg in baked goods. You don't even really need to mix them ahead of time. Just add the soy flour in with the dry ingredients, and the extra liquid in with the wet ingredients.

I have found just one drawback to this method. The raw soy flour can cause an unpleasant taste cookie or cake batter. This taste disappears once the dish is baked, but it cuts down on the joys of eating gobs of raw cookie dough, or licking the mixing spoon.

Readers, have you found any other good ways to replace the eggs in your cooking?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Now serving: Carnivores only

In previous entries, we've highlighted some area restaurants that provide nice eating options for vegetarians. Today I'm going to highlight a couple that DON'T do a good job of considering vegetarian eaters.

Obviously, there are some restaurants that are clearly not going to be vegetarian-friendly -- barbecue joints and steakhouses, for example. I'm not really concerned about those, because I'm not very likely to go there. I am concerned with restaurants that I think could and should do a better job of being vegetarian-friendly, the ones that you go into thinking you stand a pretty good chance of getting something vegetarian and are then disappointed.

Julie and I decided to try out Christopher's New Global Cuisine for lunch recently, but discovered to our dismay when we got there that the vegetarian item on their online menu that we'd had our eyes on -- a grilled-vegetable sandwich with tofu -- wasn't actually on their menu. The only vegetarian options we had were a fried green tomato sandwich and an unhearty salad or two. This was disappointing, considering that they have a separate vegetarian menu for dinner (which unfortunately isn't on their Web site -- though considering they don't seem to keep the online menu updated too well, might be a moot point). I'm not sure why the same consideration for vegetarians can't be shown for lunch as well as dinner. Do they think that vegetarians don't eat lunch?

I live in the Clemmons/Lewisville area, and a new sports bar/restaurant called J. Butler's recently opened just off 421. Admittedly, one doesn't have high vegetarian hopes for a sports bar, but they have a pretty large and varied menu -- but there's not one vegetarian entree to be found. In this day and age, I expect most restaurants to at least have ONE token vegetarian dish -- for example, the seemingly ubiquitous portabello sandwich or pasta primavera.

Have you had any memorably disappointing visits to area restaurants when you were surprised to find that you couldn't eat anything on the menu?

Blogger has a new version, and in updating our blog to the new version, we suddenly were presented with 13 comments that were left ages ago that never showed up on our blog. Apparently a setting was briefly selected that kept them from showing up. We feel terrible about this, because you took the time to respond to us (some of you quite lengthily!), and it must have frustrated you to no end for your comments not to show up or to think that we ignored you. Our heartiest apologies!

Comments now show up as soon as they're left, so we hope this never happens again. We also hope that those of you who left the comments are still reading, and it didn't put you off totally. If you would like to read these comments, many of them can be found here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Excellent eggplant salad

One of my Christmas gifts was the cookbook The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. I want to make almost all the recipes in it! I haven't had the time to make too many of the dishes yet, but I wanted to share one particular dish I have made that I thought was FABULOUS.

Eggplant Salad

1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 med. onion (about 6 oz.), chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lb. tomatoes, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 t. dried
1 t. chopped fresh mint
1/4 t. dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 c. black olives, pitted and halved
1 T. drained capers
2 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant, onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, thyme, mint, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occsionally, until the eggplant is tender, the mixture is thickened and the liquids are greatly reduced, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the olives, capers, parsley and cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired.


I left out the olives and capers, because I don't like them, and doubled the vinegar to compensate for the lack of their sharpness. This is an extremely versatile dish -- it can be served warm, cold or at room temperature. It makes a great stuffing for pitas (its intended use), and I couldn't get enough of it as a bruschetta topping. I could also see it being mixed with pasta.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Could it be ... Seitan?

Although the name sounds a little bit evil, seitan is a good thing for vegetarian cooks. Also called "wheat meat" or gluten, seitan is a handy meat substitute made from the protein in wheat.

It can be flavored in many ways, and has a satisfyingly chewy texture. Prepared seitan is available in health-food stores, and it is the basis for many pre-packaged meat substitutes. But it can also be made at home easily and at a lower cost.

Many years ago, I made a batch from scratch, starting with plain flour. This required seemingly endless kneading and washing, kneading and washing, kneading and washing. The final product was fine – but so labor-intensive that I've never done it again.

It's much easier to start with vital wheat gluten flour – the bran and starch are already mostly gone, so you don't have to wash it. Isa Chandra Moskowitz has an excellent recipe in her cookbook Vegan With a Vengance, and it's also available on her Post Punk Kitchen Web site at http://theppk.com/recipes/dbrecipes/index.php?RecipeID=112

The resulting seitan can be stored in its broth in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen for longer storage.

The ever-reliable Vegetarian Resource Group has an article here on making and using seitan http://www.vrg.org/recipes/vjseitan.htm More good recipes for making and using seitan – including such treats as seitan "pepperoni" can be found in Joanne Stepaniak’s cookbook Vegan Vittles.

Although seitan has Asian roots, it can be used in recipes from around the world, as the seitan recipes collected at Gourmet Sleuth, http://gourmetsleuth.com/seitanrecipes.htm, suggest. It has recipes for Seitan Ropa Vieja; French Country Stew, Sukiyaki, Boston Baked Beans with Seitan, and more.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Mary's Of Course

A vegetarian-friendly restaurant that I've recently "rediscovered" is Mary's Of Course, a small cafe at the corner of Brookstown Avenue and Cherry Street. Vegetarians will find a lot to tempt them, with hearty entrees that are more than just a token meat-free vegetable dish. I mean, how many other restaurants in the area serve tofu AND tempeh?

Breakfast and brunch are available all day -- try the tofu scramble, the tofu burrito or an omelet made with tofu or vegetarian sausage. In the mood for lunch? You can get a vegan burger, tempeh rueben, tofu satay or a barbecue tofu (or tempeh) sandwich -- the latter is a bun overflowing with cheese, slaw and cubes of tofu or tempeh in a tasty barbecue sauce. It's definitely messy, but oh-so-good.

There's always a vegetarian soup of the day, and they also have interesting specialty grilled cheeses -- one day it included pears!

A bonus to going to Mary's is the ever-changing artwork exhibits on the walls -- as well as the standing collection of toys and geegaws sitting around the restaurant.

Mary's Of Course is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekends.