Monday, October 24, 2011

Probably the best thing that came of this weekend with my dad was the revelation that he's now in it ("it" being veganism) for the animal welfare. This from the guy who told me I was "betraying my heritage" when I went vegan years ago, from the guy who has worked in the restaurant business his entire life, from the guy who, for most of my life, was a proud and vocal foodie. The dad I had then could probably give Anthony Bourdain a run for his money for disparaging comments made about vegetarians and vegans.

It started out as a health thing–his cholesterol was way too high. He'd been on Lipitor for years, was trying to eat well, and exercised constantly, but it never really dropped down to a healthy level, just a less-deadly one. At the time he was working for Zoe's Kitchen, a Greek fast casual chain in the South. Simultaneously he was working with Veggie Grill, a small vegan fast casual comfort food chain in Southern California. They hammered out a contract and my dad moved to Veggie Grill, conveniently located in the same area he's already living. And I got to be stoked that my dad was no longer commuting to Birmingham, Alabama to go to work.

On top of health, it became a I-don't-want-to-be-a-hypocrite thing. Doesn't look too good if the CEO of a vegan chain is eating meat.

Now, I love my dad, but he's not exactly the most compassionate guy. So when he started to give a fuck not just about his health and his image but the plight of factory-farmed animals, I was shocked. Frankly, I'd always thought it seemed more likely he'd become a born-again Christian than give two shits about animal rights. So when he told me, over a plate of enchiladas at Gracias Madre, that he "didn't think it was right, the way we exploit animals," I nearly fell out of my chair. I couldn't believe it. I still can't really believe it. But I'm really happy about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It will come as a shock to exactly no one that sometimes baking is a struggle. Sometimes a recipe just doesn't work, or your oven cooks things too unevenly (ahem), or you forget a crucial ingredient, or the ingredient you need is just too damn expensive. So, no photos today, no recipe.

Yesterday I attempted to veganize look I made that!'s strawberry cake and it was a disaster from start to finish. I should have known when, while reading the recipe, I thought: "This might be above my skill level."

It certainly was. As soon as it came out of the oven I knew it was a dud. After I frosted it (why did I bother?) Michael gamely tried it and pretended to like it. Kind soul, that one. It was too dense, the flavor was off, hadn't cooked all the way through, the frosting was too tart, and the taste of almond extract too strong. I frosted that cake, took a bite, and cried about it.

I watched some funny animal videos on youtube and felt better. But the memory of that terrible cake continues to haunt me (as do the dishes it generated.)

I'll try it again someday.

Friday, October 7, 2011

As the month of apples trundles on, so does the month of endless baking. Today I come bearing promises of apple sauce and a galette. But first, I want to talk about apples.

Things to know about apples:
  • They are native to Central Asia. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang, China.
    • Xinjiang is China's northwestertly-most autonomous region. The population is majority Muslim and majority Uyghur. If you have a long memory for international news, you might remember the riots in Xinjiang's capitol city of Urumqi that left 156 dead, sparked by tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese.
  • China produced 35% of the world's 55 million ton apple total crop in 2005, worth a hefty $10 billion. The US produced the second largest crop at 7.5%, followed by Iran.
    • 60% of the apples produced in the US were grown in Washington state. Now if you don't mind, I'll be packing my bags and heading out this here door.
  • The apple's wild ancestor, the Alma, can still be found today, along with its 7,500 children (cultivars), with their mind-boggling 57,000 genes (compared to our measly human 30,000.)
  • Just about every apple you eat, except for the ones you grow yourself, was made through grafting. Probably every apple you grew yourself came from a grafted tree too, unless you started that bad boy as a seed. Speaking of starting apples from seeds, remind me to post a picture of my little apple tree.
    • When I first read about grafting I was pretty bummed. You mean I can't eat my favorite apple, save the seeds, and grow my own favorite apple tree? But here's the thing: grafting assures quality. If you've ever read about Johnny Appleseed, you know that dude traveled parts of early America throwing apple seeds everywhere. Of the seeds that grew, probably 90% of the resulting trees would have produced godawful apples. Small, crabby, sour, mealy. Totally gross. Grafting removes the "Will this suck?" question from growing apples so you don't have to spend a couple years of your life nurturing a tree that will not make delicious apples.
  • Apples show up in a lot of world mythology, the Garden of Eden debacle being perhaps the most famous.
  • Though most apples get gross if stored over two weeks (unless they're stored in tightly controlled environments,) you can store Fuji apples for up to year under ideal conditions. This is what makes the Fuji unequivocally the best apple. Yeah, I'll fight you.
  • And here is a list of apple cultivars, my favorites being,
    • The Arkansas Black - super crunchy and can be stored for up to 6 months.
    • Fuji - developed in Japan. Best for slicing and munching as dessert.
    • Gravenstein - sweet, tart, begging to be juiced. I am happy to oblige. 
    • Honeycrisp - sweet and perfectly crisp. Another great snacking apple, best cold.
    • Jazz - the wildcard. I've had some really good ones and some really bad ones.
Now that you're up to speed on apples, have some recipes.

Gala Applesauce

8 Gala apples
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup lemon juice

Peel, core and chop apples.
In a large saucepan combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon.
Cover and cook over medium heat until apples are soft.
Allow to cool, then add lemon juice. Mash with fork or potato masher.

Makes 2 pints applesauce. Store in sanitized mason jars.

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: ~25 minutes

Apple Galette

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup Earth Balance (I like the sticks), kept very cold. Seriously, don't take it out of the fridge until you absolutely have to.
3 tablespoons ice water

You can make this crust without a food processor, but it's a serious pain in the ass.
First, add flour, salt, and sugar to food processor bowl. Pulse a couple times to mix.
Remove Earth Balance from fridge, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Drop those bad boys into the processor and pulse until the mixture resembles something mealy.
Now, add ice water one tablespoon at a time and pulse until dough looks crumby. After three tablespoon,s gently pinch a piece of dough together with your fingers. If it sticks, it's done.
Dump the dough onto a clean, lightly floured work service. Knead until the dough just comes together, then flatten into a disk. Wrap disk in saran wrap and stick it in the freezer.

Now, on to the innards:
4-5 Granny Smith apples, depending on size. You could do six if you're feeling feisty.
1/4 sugar, I used brown
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 400F before doing anything else.
Peel, quarter, and core your apples. Slices cores into small wedges, about 6 per quarter. Place in a bowl. Dump in sugar, flour, cinnamon, and mix. Once combined, set aside.

Prepare a your cooking vessel! Take a cookie sheet, cover it with parchment paper, set aside.

Get your dough on the freezer and work quickly. Place it back on your clean working area, throwing away saran wrap, and gently roll out dough until it's a large disk, about 1/8 inch thick.
Once dough is flat, gently wind it around your rolling pin and transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. Unwind dough. You can use a little almond milk and flour to repair any large rips.
Dump prepared innards into middle of dough disk, creating a small mound. Now, carefully fold the long, floppy edges of your dough over the apple mound. You want to be careful to patch any rips or holes that develop in the dough lest some juice leaks out while it's baking.
Because we don't do an eggwash around these parts, you can omit it altogether or brush a small amount of almond milk on the dough.
Pop the whole thing in the oven and back for about 35 minutes.


Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: about 35

Pie based on the Apple Galette recipe from Pinch of Salt, crust based on the All Butter Crust from Simply Recipes.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Today is October 1st. Aside from being my 2nd anniversary with Michael, it's also the start of Vegan Month of Food (hereafter known as Vegan MoFo!)

October is a good month. Good things happen in October. There's my birthday, the aforementioned anniversary, perfect weather, the start of winter produce, and baking, baking far as the eye can see. In the run up to October I turned my kitchen inside out in pursuit of delicious, simple vegan baked goods and then I scrubbed the sink grout with a toothbrush.

As is so often the case with veganizing buttery, eggy, creamy foods nothing I baked was perfect on the first try. Actually, nothing I bake from a vegan recipe is perfect on the first try either. I guess that should tell you something about my skills, though no one has yet died from my cooking. Or gotten food poisoning. That I know of.

On that positive note, today, on this first of October, I bring you cherry corn scones. If you're thinking, "Kate, I'm pretty sure I've had these scones before," you're thinking right. This recipe is based on Arizmendi's brilliant cherry scone. When I used to live in San Francisco I'd spend a fair amount of time in the Inner Sunset. There're good bars there, after all. And one thing I always had to do was visit Arizmendi. For those uninitiated, Arizmendi is a worker-owner cooperative chain of bakeries in the Bay Area. They specialize in pizza, but also sell a stunning array of baked goods. The San Francisco store generally has more vegan eats than the Emeryville or Berkeley store if you're curious.
So they have this scone. You know, usually I am not a scone person. They tend to be a little dry for my taste. I might choke one down every now and then, but truthfully I prefer a muffin. These scones were the premier scone of my pre-vegan days, though. Crisp, light, flaky with the pleasant crunch of corn meal and bite of fine tart cherry. Also: the overwhelming flavor of butter.
The veganized version of this recipe isn't so heavy on the butter flavor because it (surprise!) contains no butter. It is, however, just as delicious if not more delicious than the original.

Cherry Corn Scones


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup + 1/4 cup vegan white sugar

1 1/2 cups medium-grind yellow cornmeal

1 cup cold Earth Balance, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used the buttery sticks)

3/4 cup dried, unsweetened tart cherries

1 1/4 cups vegan buttermilk (2 tsp apple cider vinegar to every 1 cup almond/soymilk)


Preheat oven to 425°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat if you're fancy.

Set apple cider vinegar concoction aside to curdle.

Try to work fast so the butter doesn't melt. Sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder into a large bowl. Add salt, 2/3 cup sugar, and the cornmeal. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter until it is the size of small peas. Using the spoon, mix in cherries. Make a well in the center; add buttermilk. Mix briefly, until ingredients just come together; some loose flour should remain at bottom of bowl. Let the batter stand for 5 minutes.

Gently shape the dough into balls about 2 1/4 inches in diameter (they should have a rough, rocky exterior) and place them on the prepared pans about 2 inches apart.

Sprinkle the 1/4 cup sugar on top of the scones. Place the scones on the middle rack of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375°. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the scones are golden. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.

Yields 15-20 scones

Original Source:
Wednesday, May 10, 2006