Rainy Day Soup

In Asian, Vegan on December 23, 2009 at 4:28 pm

At this point Christmas could go either way: rainy or snowy. Today — T-2 days before my entire extended family converges on the former home of my paternal grandparents (what is now my aunt’s home) — rain is a constant, and snow is in the forecast. There, we’ll exchange inexpensive novelty gifts (I’ll be giving away a book entitled Pilates for Men to some unsuspecting couch-bound relative) and baked goods (homemade cinnamon bread and chocolate crinkle cookies are the annual favorites).

For the moment, however, the sky is overcast and weepy, and I have very little desire to leave the comfy seclusion of my warm, dry home. And, after having already had my fill of baked seasonal favorites (both the sweet and savory varieties), I’m craving the crisp bite of fresh vegetables.

This rainy day soup is full of colorful vegetables — carrots, mushrooms, snow peas, and bok choy.  Wheat noodles and whole-grain tempeh drowned in a rich, steamy sesame-infused broth give the soup a certain heartiness that perfectly combats the chill of the weather. And, with a generous amount of fresh ginger, it tastes  very seasonal, too — albeit somewhat unconventionally so.

A while back I typed up the recipe, and have kept it in pdf form; that recipe can be downloaded here: Esculency Rainy Day Soup.

Rainy Day Soup Bowl

Friday Fotos: Preparations on a Saturday Afternoon

In Baking, Friday Fotos on December 18, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of the latest addition to our home library’s cookbook shelf. Since purchasing Jim Lahey’s My Bread two weeks ago, at least half a dozen no-knead loaves have emerged from our kitchen. The method itself is absurdly easy and nearly fool-proof — the trade-off, however, is that to follow it requires a fair amount of patience and planning. Lahey’s technique is not for those who crave instant gratification. Case in point: it requires one to let the dough rise initially for a period of 12 – 18 hours. As for me, I’ve had a lot of success at the upper end of this time range, sometimes letting the dough sit for 19 hours (that is, before letting the dough rise for the required second time). Finally, once the bread emerges from the oven, Lahey cautions that the loaf be allowed to cool entirely — in upwards of one hour — before serving up that first slice. His reasoning is that the loaf will continue to cook during this waiting period. But, the end result is more than worth it. It is literally as good as anything I’ve purchased at my favorite local bakery, WheatFields — and that is indeed a very strong endorsement.

These photos were taken this past Saturday, while preparing for some Saturday afternoon guests to arrive. On the menu was a loaf of freshly baked bread, prepared using my now-favored no-knead technique. It was served simply with apple slices, an assortment of hard and soft cheeses, and a little butter (which was kept spreadably soft in an Emile Henry butter pot, as shown in the picture above) . To drink, we shared a bottle of Redstone Meadery‘s Nectar of the Hops. Although I don’t often drink mead, I do enjoy the subtly honeyed taste of it, and am a big fan of this particular meadery.

Turkish Fig and Pecan Coffee Cake

In Baking, Cake, Vegan on December 14, 2009 at 8:03 pm

empty espresso cupAlthough I enjoy baking, I don’t often bake sweets. Mostly it boils down to a desire to avoid the guilt that inevitably stems from having inhaled half a dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies or polished off two or three pieces of fresh peach and cherry pie in a single go.

You see, I love good food — all varieties of it. But sweets are my Achilles’ heel.

Even though I don’t tend to stock up on sweets, believe me, I eat them. And I certainly don’t lead an ascetic life of denial — particularly during this time of year, when the weather has turned chilly and all of the local coffee shops start peddling their own competing versions of the gingerbread latte. Admittedly, I can easily bypass sugary coffee drinks. (I prefer coffee black and unadulterated, and espresso strong, with just the slightest hint of demarera). What these commercial concoctions do leave me craving are flavors such as cinnamon and spice — albeit in a different, more substantial form.

And yesterday was a day in which I found myself doing just that — that is, craving the sweet and spicy flavors that have come to define the gastronomie of the winter season. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any ginger on hand — nor did I have any brown sugar. So, foregoing anything gingery, I settled on a recipe for a cinnamon-rich, ultra crumbly coffee cake. And although the recipe calls for brown sugar, I made up some of my own using baker’s sugar, a little molasses, and this recipe. To put my own personalized spin on the cake I decided to throw into the mix some dried Turkish figs and pecan pieces that I had on hand.

It was a day of slowly making my way through the Sunday paper, drinking cup after cup of coffee, and indulging in this coffee cake — which had managed to become my main source of sustenance by the day’s end.

coffee cake

Coffee Cake with Turkish Figs and Pecans

(This recipe is an adaptation of one that appears in Vegan Brunch).

The ingredients:

For the topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 – 4 tablespoons canola oil

2 – 3 tablespoons Earth Balance (or salted butter substitute), melted

For the middle layer:

1 cup of finely chopped dried Turkish figs

1/2 cup pecan pieces

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the cake:

3/4 cup soy milk (other nondairy milks also work fine as a substitute)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

The how-to:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 8 inch pan.

Begin by measuring out and combining the milk and vinegar. Set aside and allow to curdle while preparing the topping.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Drizzle in approximately 2 tablespoons of canola oil and two tablespoons of the melted butter. The addition of the salted butter gives the topping a slightly richer salty-and-sweet taste than using canola oil alone. Combine until crumbs begin to form. Then continue to add either canola oil or butter (or both) until the fat is mixed in completely, and the final result contains mostly large crumbs. Note: A bit of remaining sandiness is not a problem, as long as most of the mixture has taken on the form of large crumbs. Set the mixture aside.

For the middle layer, using your hands combine the chopped figs, pecan pieces, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

To make the cake:  Mix together the milk + vinegar mixture, sugar, canola oil, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Then sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Next, evenly sprinkle the combined middle layer ingredients over the batter.  Finally, sprinkle on the topping evenly and then pat down gently. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool and enjoy with a strong cup of hot coffee.