I opted to go very specific with my “event TV” food: I made grilled cheese in honor of the Jane the Virgin series finale, which aired at the end of July. Jane’s passions since childhood included her family, God, and…grilled cheese sandwiches. (Hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say this trait was noted even in the finale. A lovely callback, if not a critical plot point.) So I gathered some good sandwich bread, Violife cheddar slices, and Miyoko’s cultured vegan butter, and blammo: grilled cheese. Grilled cheese and tears.
If I’m being completely honest, Jane would probably turn her nose up at this sandwich, given that time her and Rafael got trapped in an apartment they were viewing and, out of desperation, raided the fridge and ended up with some very bad vegan cheese.
While I have to admit to missing the perfectly tangy, melty dairy cheeses of my childhood when it comes to things like this, it was a satisfying bite all the same. A little ooey-gooey. A little crispy. Not too shabby.
Today we’re supposed to be inspired by a cartoon. I don’t fall in love with animation often, but I do recommend the oddly satisfying Aggretsuko on Netflix: Sanrio-produced cute animal-people work in a dreary Tokyo office, where our heroine Retsuko dreams of finding love and deals with stress by secretly performing death metal karaoke.
In the latest season, Retsuko has a new coworker, fresh out of college and an utter pill, whose only redeeming quality is he’s an amazing cook. He’s enlisted to help their office organize a booth for the obligatory “family fun” day at their company, and the crowd delights in his skill–especially with the detail of adding sausage pieces cut to look like octopus.
How could I not be inspired by that? The trick was figuring out what to use for the octopus. I don’t think vegan sausage would fan out like that when cut–and I couldn’t figure out exactly how those processed little sausages were seasoned, anyway (smoke, salt, and…???). My first thought was carving carrots–but that was a failure. Then it came to me: scallions. I kept the white part in tact with its bulbous end, then used kitchen shears to split the green ends a little. Put it in water so they’d spread and curl a bit, like tentacles, then seared so they are actually edible. Tasty, even.
The rest of the dish was far more straightforward. I went with a fairly straightforward technique for stir-fries and fried rice and cooked each component separately so it could be added to the starch and sauce at the end.
Though it made sense to combine some components that worked well to saute together.
The noodles are far more processed than I’d normally choose–and god help me if any of the additives aren’t actually vegan; I did not google–but they were fun to work with for once.
I cooked each serving separately, according to package directions. This was super fast and easy. I made a yakisoba sauce (1/4 recipe) to season everything as it came together.
Once the noodles were loose and seasoned, I added in the cooked veggies–cabbage mixture, mushrooms–and a bit of chopped scallion greens. Wouldn’t want the rest of the octopi to go to waste!
To serve, it went in a bowl with some pan-fried tofu wedges and a seared scallion octopus. And it’s every bit as tasty as I would imagine.
Today’s prompt had me the most flummoxed: “Cook something to bring a villain back from the dark side.” What does that even meeeeeannn? It had to be a sympathetic villain, or one worthy of redemption, or simply one who might be fun to fuck with–which is how I landed on Shawn the demon from The Good Place. Or, really, any of the demons who have very stupid, smarmy ideas about how to torture humans.
I thought Shawn–or, okay, probably more realistically Vicki–might think it’s funny to feed the humans “gross” vegan food. Just terrible stuff no one would ever want to eat. The trick would be: it’s not actually gross, right? Ha, ha ha ha, I got you.
So I made BBQ baked cauliflower wings with ranch dip (Salad Samurai recipe). My BBQ sauce was also homemade. Honestly, I wasn’t 100% happy with how it all turned out–I really wanted it to be CRISPY, and it wasn’t–so maybe the joke’s on me. Wonder how many points this exercise is worth.
No, not gagh. I think that would require some molecular gastronomy magic and result in something I have no interest in actually eating, and that’s not how I roll.
But yeah, I like Star Trek. My favorite is Deep Space 9, because COMPLEXITY! I’m in the middle of a slow rewatch right now (BUG ME IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!!!). And on Deep Space 9, everyone loves the supposedly Klingon coffee concoction raktajino, though you never see Klingons enjoying it.
But what the hell is raktajino? The internet has ideas. I started with this one, but made coffee my own way, which right now is cold-brew.
In addition to my usual 2/3 cup coarse coffee grounds, I added a bunch of spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cayenne, nutmeg) and some cocoa powder. The resulting brew was absolute sludge, which I feel like a Klingon might appreciate.
Then I poured it over ice, added a squeeze of agave nectar, and topped it off with oat milk.
It was good. Really good. Definitely would’ve been better with the tears of my enemies, but in the absence of any enemies (much less a way to collect the tears), but I’m pretty sure Kira and Dax would appreciate it.
If you were on a first date you didn’t know was a date with the person who turned out to be the love of your–GOD!!, obviously you’d cheers with mozzarella sticks that had lost a lot of shape coming from the kitchen but your waitress managed to scrape off most of the freezer burn so that’s not too bad, right?
Look, I named my pet rabbit after David Rose: of course I’m going to make my “make something for your favorite character day” about him. But dude’s tastes do not run toward the vegan, I suspect–I dare not try to make a pizza for him, say. But I suspect my actual homemade mozzarella sticks, no matter how imperfect (and how vegan the cheese–don’t tell him), might beat the ones from Cafe Tropical.
They do sizzle and melt nicely, though. Send some home with Stevie.
Today we’re taking inspiration from a favorite show. I have a lot of favorite shows, but for this I chose the Netflix revival of One Day at a Time, focused on a Cuban-American family in Los Angeles. I wanted to do this even before hearing the news that Pop TV picked it up for a much-deserved fourth season, but now it’s all the more reason to scream from the mountaintops: Watch this perfect little show!! OK. On to the food.
Obviously I had to attempt a Cuban dish. Something Lydia might’ve made in an attempt to appease Elena whenever she insists she’s gone vegan, but not without a significant amount of side eye. Something Lupe would’ve been skeptical of trying and Alex would’ve teased his sister about. Something Schneider would’ve overenunciated in Spanish. You know. Mushroom ropa vieja.
The recipe I found called for king oyster mushrooms, or trumpet mushrooms, but we got a deal on a giant sack of tree oyster mushrooms at the market, and I figured that would definitely have an intriguingly meaty texture in this dish.
The dish came together easily and smelled fantastic. It even got me to eat green olives. I am not a fan of olives.
To make a complete meal out of this, we cooked some rice (brown basmati; I’m sure Lydia would never approve, but we like it) and black beans with a quickie sofrito. Also a killer-smelling pot of food.
For the last day of Bake Off Week, we’re asked to make a showstopper. Not wanting to make an actual huge showstopper thing (it’d be too much sweets, even for me), I took inspiration from one of the most infamous GBBO challenges of all: Baked Alaska. Even if my efforts failed, I figured, I could at least make jokes about bingate!
But a whole-ass Baked Alaska is also way too much sweets for me and my not-sugar-obsessed partner, so I thought I’d attempt mini Baked Alaskas. Is that a thing? It’s probably not a reasonable thing.
For the base, I made peanut butter blondies–my go-to recipe from Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar–mixed with mini chocolate chips and baked in a mini muffin tin (the word “mini” is really starting to lose meaning the more I type it). At least this way, I have a ton of little muffin…cookie…things that do not require burnt homemade marshmallow fluff to be enjoyable. And storebought chocolate ice cream because my ice cream maker is old and not great. Anyway, I made a lil’ trio of ice cream-topped blondies and popped it in the freezer for about 20 hours.
Making aquafaba meringue was next. I’ve had very mixed success with aquafaba meringue in the past, and frankly it’s not my favorite thing to actually eat–it’s magical and cool and impressive, sure, and it reminds me of childhood and a very specific dessert my mom used to make for special occasions, but on its own, it’s a little bland and sweet. So I have to have a reason to bother. This time I went with the instructions from Vegan for Everybody, half recipe. It always takes forever to get to stiff peaks in my mixer, but it did, eventually, get there.
Without a functional piping bag, it’s not like I can make these super precise, either, so I blobbed it on and used the back of a small spoon to smooth it out and add some little peaks for texture.
Furthermore, I don’t have a lil’ food blowtorch or anything of the kind, since I don’t do this ever. I had to use the broiler in my oven. Which was not a quick as I’d hoped, but it did brown like a nicely toasted marshmallow.
I mean, all right! But what about the interior? Specifically, did the ice cream melt?
Like, of course it did. It was like a tiny tablespoon of ice cream with only a layer of meringue between it and a fucking broiler for however many minutes. It was chocolate soup.
Oh well. The meringue did crack a little bit, which was nice, and it tasted good together overall.
Just, you know. Sweet. So I’m glad we’re moving on to, like, real food.
Today’s prompt got me to make jam from scratch for the first time, because you can’t have scones without jam!
Specifically, boysenberry jam. Fresh from the market. Would Mary Berry approve? I don’t know. But Simon & Garfunkel would be into it.
I didn’t use a recipe, but consulted the google machine for information on general cooking methodology and sugar-to-fruit ratios (settled on 1:2 by weight). I mashed the berries, I stirred in some sugar, I added a little lemon zest and juice, and I let it simmer for maybe an hour so it reduced. Three pints of fresh berries turned into about two cups of jam. I popped it in the freezer ’cause I can’t be bothered to can.
For the scones, I relied on this recipe that specified a preference for English-style scones vs. American. My main experiment here was using oat milk that I infused with lemon verbena; I don’t think the flavor really came through unless you ate them plain and were really looking for it, but it smelled lovely.
Overall effect was faaaantastic. God, homemade jam? How did I never do this before??? It was easy and delicious???? I’ve already eaten most of it???????
DOWN WITH SOGGY BOTTOMS! Okay, so the thing is, I don’t do pie crusts often, and I generally prefer the simplicity of a crumbled tofu frittata, but for this, that simply won’t do.
Remember the galette from pastry day? Well, I made a double crust recipe, so conveniently, I had an extra just for this. But this time, I got to do a BLIND BAKE. Which does not feel like a very apt description for what it does–you get to see how it’s baking up before you fill it; it’s more information than you get when making something where you need to fill an unbaked shell! But I digress. I rolled it, I put it in a pie plate, I forked the edges, I blind baked it, and I filled it with a blended tofu/sauteed spinach filling.
Before making this, I went through a lot of vegan quiche recipes. Some use chickpea flour; some use tofu (usually soft or silken). This was tofu (firm), blended with oat milk and some flavoring elements (nooch, mustard, nutmeg, red pepper flakes) until creamy, then folded with sauteed spinach, onion, and garlic. Pretty basic.
You wouldn’t fool any egg eaters, but it had a pretty good texture and a nice finish. I might’ve bothered with fancy vegan cheese if I had any lying around, but I didn’t, and nooch is perfectly good for my purposes.
Um, also, it’s summer and tomatoes are awesome.
How about that crust? Well… I served mine too soon after it came out of the oven, so it didn’t release cleanly, but even later slices would not likely pass Paul Hollywood muster. They weren’t soggy, per se, but they weren’t golden and crisp, either.
I’m not an impressive baker by any stretch. For a while I knew my way around a no-knead sourdough, but grad school and hot weather killed my baking schedule and then time went and killed my starter (presumably; I’m terrified to look). So I didn’t want to bake something incredibly complicated–I’m out of my depth–but there was a bread I remembered from GBBO that I always wanted to try: the leaf-shaped fougasse.
The dough itself is a pretty basic one: flour, water, salt, yeast, olive oil. A bit of fresh rosemary for yum. I let it go in the stand mixer for a bit and proofed it for an hour. Shaping it wasn’t much harder than making pizza–just with more knife cuts.
There’s a brush of olive oil and a scattering of lovely pink salt. It only bakes for 15 minutes in a hot oven. I slid the parchment paper from my board onto a pizza stone. Easy peasy. Came out lovely and brown.
Somewhere between foccacia and a chewy pita, really. But prettier.
I thought about trying to learn real pastry stuff–patisserie, puff pastry, choux, something like that–but frankly? I don’t have it in me to do the work. Especially for a special treat. Dinner, maybe. So I had to go look up what the hell counts as “pastry” before concluding that, OK, pie crust is pastry. Good enough for me.
Because I’m aiming to make things I haven’t made before, I wanted to do a galette. I might’ve made one before; I don’t really remember. I didn’t make this particular crust recipe before or this particular combination of fillings. And a bonus: it is super easy and forgiving.
I made one recipe of a double crust (I will probably use the other half for another prompt, sshhh) from Vegan Pie in the Sky using half whole wheat pastry flour and half all purpose. It came together really fast in the food processor because I like a useful shortcut, okay? Then I brought it to my partner’s mom’s house to assemble, bake, and enjoy.
Filled with fresh peaches from her tree and raspberries I picked up at the farmers’ market, it came together super easy. After consulting a few recipes and guides, I tossed the fruit with a little sugar, salt, lemon zest (also her tree), and cornstarch, then arranged it on top of the rolled out crust. The edges were folded over a bit haphazardly, then sprayed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with sugar.
Baked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for maybe 35 minutes (started checking around 20), long enough for the crust to get a lovely golden shade and the fruit to bubble.
It’s a slight thing, but perfect. Even the bottom was well cooked.
Also, not super sweet! I don’t like too-sweet desserts; this had a nice balance of tart and sweet.
I have a fondness for carrot cake, despite rarely eating it and possibly never making it. (It might’ve been my parents’ wedding cake?) But I don’t NEED, like, a whole fucking layer cake in my house, especially when I’m cramming in a whole bunch of baking lately. The solution? Cupcakes.
I know. NOVEL.
I used Isa’s recipe from Super Fun Times, halved and poured into eight liners. Also I got to use some rainbow carrots for funsies. (I went with three little orange ones and one big white one. I figured more vibrant colors would get lost in the bake.)
If you’re playing along at home, the bake time for these was about 35 minutes.
Then: frosting. Because an “amazing cake” usually has some kind of extra sugary goodness, right? This was a thing of Kite Hill cream cheese, a little bit of Miyoko’s butter, vanilla extract, some powdered sugar (about a cup?), and lemon zest. It got really loose from the beating, so I chilled it before using.
I was going to be all fancy, but I have like one icing tip and it fucking sucks. I am not good at this shit. So I just put it on with a butter knife and tried to give it some homey looking soft peaks. And oh yeah, a little extra decor.
Sure, I could’ve candied them or something, but I don’t care. They’re pretty enough.
Oh, and tasty enough. Honestly a more important criterion.
I love cookies. I have baked a LOT of cookies. Complicated ones, weird one, simple ones, soft ones, crispy ones–all kinds of cookies. But I was hoping to try something different this Vegan MoFo–at least, try a recipe I haven’t used before. And I was in the mood for peanut butter cookies.
Of the zillions of PBC (sure, let’s abbreviate) recipes out there, there was at least one I hadn’t made before: the one in Vegan for Everybody, the America’s Test Kitchen vegan cookbook that is upsettingly good. But being me, I had to fuck with it. It calls for creamy peanut butter; I used this NuttZo stuff I had yet to try. (I was a little worried about the chia and flax seeds messing with the texture, but it was OK.) It calls for corn syrup; mine leaked out all over a cupboard like six months ago and I wasn’t keen to replace it, so I just used agave. Also I used whole wheat pastry flour. That usually works fine as a sub for my purposes. I’m sure a purist could tell the difference.
Oh. It also says to press with a glass and sprinkle with crushed peanuts. I like that, but since (a) no peanuts in this nut butter and (b) I just LIKE the forking cross-hatch thing, I went my own way.
Every MoFo, there’s a kitchen tour prompt. Today is that day.
I try to present a halfway decent-looking front on the ‘gram, but in reality, I am a messy bench. So in order to do this year’s kitchen tour, I cleaned up a little. Just a little.
Like, my gas range gets really gross. I think last year, or just sometime in the last year, I made a risotto with a cashew cream that boiled over (this may have even appeared in Instagram stories; I was bored and lonely and posting a ton of cooking videos for a while there) and I am pretty sure I didn’t actually fully clean that up until today.
The island that I do most of my work on–not to mention where the most-loved small appliances live–also houses a bunch of random stuff. You can’t really see, for example, the stack of kimchi containers my partner leaves there for snacking convenience. (He likes it funky.) And I tossed the too-far-gone avocados and discarded bags of stuff before wiping things down and scrubbing the cutting board. Like, if you’re a clean freak or a germophobe, just don’t come to my house, okay? I feel shame about it but also I just want to live my goddamn life.
There are plenty of areas that require attention. My pantry is a disorganized mess right now–not even accounting for whatever stuff is currently hosting a moth party, ugh–and it’s super annoying. And the fridge…
The fridge needs to be cleaned out all too frequently and it is my second least favorite household task (my least favorite is scrubbing the bathtub/shower). But that freezer? Fuck my entire life, the freezer is the bane of my existence. There’s too much random shit crammed in there (overripe bananas! ice packs from grocery delivery! half-used bags of frozen vegetables! homemade stuff in plastic containers that falls out when I’m trying to find something and the lid cracks!). But do I clean it out? NEV. ER.
But there is a kitchen chore I do bother with: the dishes. See? Look. Clean pots! A dishwasher! Plats and bowls in the cupboard!! (Also there’s the carbonator and some paper towels and this week’s tomato haul and oh yeah, the toaster oven.) Sure, there’s presently an army of goddamn fruit flies hovering over it, but I’ll get them. (Does wishing for the death of hundreds of very annoying insects in my food preparation area make me a bad vegan? Please don’t answer that. I’ll accept your unfollows or whatever.)
My kitchen is about 1/3 of the room in which I spend most of my time. There’s a dining table, animal habitats, elliptical (not working right now because of said animals), and a couch facing the TV. I may have mentioned I love TV? So this room is cozy.