Vegan MoFo Day 2 – Mock Fried Scallops

2 10 2012

Happy National Fried Scallops Day!

Scallops are more interesting than I thought.  Did you know they can have up to 100 eyes?  Seriously! SCALLOPS HAVE EYES!!!  Check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scallop.

So since scallops are alive and have 100 eyes and all, I am really glad I don’t eat them.  But because it’s National Fried Scallops day, I had to cook something scallop-y.  I thought about scalloped potatoes, but I’ve never really liked scalloped potatoes so that was out.  I thought about building a scallop out of agar and kelp powder and magic, but I don’t have those kind of skills.  So I basically went to the supermarket and bought veggies with interesting, possibly scallop-y, textures.  So today I made mock scallops from tofu, eggplant, and plantain.

As a sidenote, I have a coworker (not vegan) and we batted the idea back and forth of what foods would have the appropriate texture to make a vegan scallop.  She had the really interesting idea of using lychees.  Long story short, she actually tried it.  She leached out the sugar by soaking them in water, marinated them in salt and fish sauce, then breaded and fried them.  She reported back that the lychee smell never went away, even though the sweetness did leach out and the saltiness seep in, so it was somewhat of a failure unless she plugged her nose.  But as far as I’m concerned, anyone who gets excited about trying to make a scallop out of a lychee gets ten million bonus points in the game of life.

So back to my mock scallops.  I marinated the tofu, plantain, and eggplant in a mixture of water, vegetarian fish sauce, and wakame.  It smelled pretty ocean-y.

I let it go for about an hour and a half (note: not long enough!) then battered and shallow pan fried them in a cast iron skillet.  I used seasoned flour (flour + Old Bay + wakame ground to a powder in my spice grinder) and soy milk to flour/dip in soy milk/coat with flour.  Then I fried them at about 350 degrees.  I picked seasoned flour rather than breadcrumbs because it was 8:30 at night and it seemed like the simplest option.

Here’s what they looked like.  Keep in mind that I’ve got zero mad blogging photo skillz.  And nothing I fry comes out beautiful and delicate looking… it comes out looking like I fried it until it SUBMITTED TO MY WILL.

(Plantain to the left, eggplant in the center, and tofu to the rear right.)

Verdict:

  • Plantains: Ick.  Just ick.  Seaweed flavored plantains were just wrong, and the texture was totally not right.  Don’t do this unless you enjoy weird contrasts.
  • Tofu:  Definitely tasted like tofu.  I think the texture was close, but the marinade really didn’t penetrate enough to cover up the bean curd flavor.  Given my experiences with tofu, I’m not sure I ever could have gotten it to marinate well enough to flavor it all the way through.  Still, it was fried tofu so we gobbled it up.
  • Eggplant:  This one had the most promise.  The texture was a bit too soft for sea scallops, at least according to my memory of the one time I ate them years ago.  But the eggplant soaked up the seaweedy flavor pretty well, and they were really good. (Hello! Fried eggplant nuggets!)

My better half (not vegan) made the observation about both the tofu and the eggplant that he had eaten frozen processed fish products in the past that had less seafood flavor than my mock scallops, so I’ll cut my losses and consider it a victory.  And then I will go have another eggplant nugget.

But before I go, Merry would like you to know that she is sad that the whole world is not playing with her.

And tomorrow is National Caramel Custard Day!  I have plans to celebrate it, but I’ll be taking a rain check until later in the week.  We’re going out for dinner and drinks with a couple of friends who will be in town for the evening, so I don’t think I’ll have time.  BUT I’LL BE BACK!!!  AND I’LL BE MAKING FLAN!!!!!

Advertisements




Vegan MoFo Day 1 – Coconut Shortbread

1 10 2012

Happy National Homemade Cookie Day!

I made cookies!  And to keep things interesting, I didn’t make any of my normal cookies to celebrate National Homemade Cookie Day. No peanut butter or oatmeal raisin, and nothing from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar… all of which would have been wonderful choices and which I know would have turned out delicious. Instead I decided to kill two birds with one stone: make a new recipe, and alter it to use up a pantry ingredient that was embarrassingly expired (as in, “Best By January 2012” expired).

So I made shortbread for the very first time. And I had a whole jar of pretty expensive raw coconut butter (basically coconut oil with bits of coconut flesh finely ground up in it) that was technically expired as of January but still smelled and looked fine. It was like fate… I needed two cups of butter for the recipe… the jar of coconut butter had exactly two cups in it! Here’s the recipe I started with:

Scottish Shortbread

  • 2 C butter
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1-4.5 C all-purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Add 3 to 3-3/4 cups of flour and mix in. Knead for 5 minutes until a soft dough forms, adding more flour as necessary.

Roll out to 1/2″ thickness and cut into 1″ by 3″ rectangles. Poke holes with the tines of a fork and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, in a preheated 325 degree oven, for 20-25 minutes.

 

Obviously I substituted raw coconut butter for the dairy butter called for in the original recipe.  Sounds pretty easy, right? It probably is if you have half a clue what you’re doing. The first problem I ran into was that after three cups of flour my coconut butter/sugar/flour was basically crumbly and could in no way be considered a soft dough. I could have built a sand castle out of it, it was so crumbly. It looked like this:

 

But the upside was that my whole kitchen smelled like coconut.

I added a bit more fat to my crumbles (about 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance, since I was out of coconut oil) and a bit of water, and got it a tiny bit more cohesive than this.  Not much, but a tiny bit.  To be honest I was afraid to push it too far, and some shortbread recipes describe a crumblier dough than the recipe I was using so I wasn’t completely sure where to draw the line.   Since there was no way I was going to be able to roll this out and cut it into strips, I went ahead and smooshed it into the bottom of my biggest springform pan. I discovered that I also lack spatial awareness, because instead of being 1/2″ thick, it turned out that I made it much closer to 1″ thick, which I noticed later when I unsprung the pan sides and set the shortbread free.

So I tossed up my hands and let the cooking gods have their way with the shortbread while we ate dinner. My better half cooked… we had a lovely thrown-together dry curry with potatoes, chickpeas, corn, pattypan squash, onions, and tofu while my shortbread baked away in the oven. I ended up adding an extra 20 minutes to the cooking time to get it golden, probably because, unknown to me at the time, it was two or three times thicker than it was supposed to be. While we were eating dinner I was still mulling over why my shortbread got so crumbly with over a cup less flour than the recipe called for. In hindsight, I think the raw coconut butter (because of all the coconut solids in it) wasn’t a pure fat like regular unrefined coconut oil or Earth Balance would have been. It was probably 2/3-3/4 oil and 1/4-1/3 solids, which may be why my flour ratio was so far off and my dough never came together.

But our story hasn’t ended yet! I took the shortbread out of the oven at about the 45 minute mark, and it was nice and toasty golden on top. It also smelled really good… very much a cross between a toasty coconut smell and a buttery crumbly baking smell. Once it cooled enough to cut, it looked like this:

See what I mean about it being ridiculously thick? It’s not a cookie, it’s practically a pie!

(Apologies for the bad photo… I wasn’t able to take it in a well-lit room.  It was actually much more appetizing looking than this, which looks suspiciously like dry-fried tofu instead of a cookie.)

So I let the ginormous monster coconut shortbread cool and tasted it.  I wasn’t surprised to discover it was a bit dry.  Okay, way dry.  Way, way, way dry.  But it did hold together better than I thought it would.  And the taste?  Really, really good!  Toasty and coconutty with a touch of the richness from the brown sugar.  I will probably need 700 cups of tea to get through this monster dry shortbread (10″ diameter by 1″-ish deep is a lot of shortbread!), but I think I will actually eat it.  And I will definitely revisit the recipe in the future.  I’ll probably try using unrefined coconut oil rather than the raw coconut butter, partially because the coconut butter is pretty expensive and partially to get back on the right track with my fat to flour ratio.  But if I can manage this flavor with real shortbread texture, I’ll be one happy vegan.

And here is a bonus picture, because even if you didn’t know it you need a photo of my cat  This is Merry, mowing down on her wheatgrass while we ate dinner.

Happy MoFo everyone!  I’ll be back tomorrow to celebrate… National Fried Scallops Day!





Vegan MoFo 2012 – Flying by the seat of my pants!

1 10 2012

It’s official! Today is the first day of the Vegan Month of Food, and the first official day of this blog.

Did you know that in the U.S. there is at least one food holiday for every day of the year? Some of them are based on historical events, some of them were created by marketing departments or lobbyists to promote a product, and the origins of some are lost in the mists of the internet. And it saddens me that we aren’t taking advantage of these holidays. When was the last time you celebrated National Stuffed Mushroom Day (February 4) or National French Toast Day (November 28)? Well NO MORE! We will embrace our frivolous food holiday heritage! And for the month of October, we will celebrate ALL the holidays! At least one per day! Vegan-style.

Now I work full time, plus some. So I’m sure there will be a few days during the month where I can’t cook and will have to celebrate something belatedly. But I’m good with that! I will celebrate one food holiday for every day in October, even if it takes me until the end of November to do it! And I’m not doing anything ahead… hence the “flying by the seat of my pants” title. I may crash and burn. But if I do, I will share it with you. Because I’m awesome like that, and also because I have no shame.

So cheers to the Vegan Month of Food! I’ll be back tonight for the first food holiday celebration!





So.

19 09 2012

Blogging. I’m finally taking the plunge.

October is the Vegan Month of Food, a month of crazed cooking and blogging as the online vegan community rallies together and shares photos and stories about their food and their lives. Every year I follow along wistfully, but this is my year. 2012 is the sixth annual Vegan MoFo, and I’m finally going for it. This is the year I will stretch my writing muscles, which have become puny and weak since college. This is the year I will stretch my cooking comfort zone. This is the year I will see if I *can* rather than allowing myself to believe I’m too busy, or not creative enough, or not a good enough cook to participate.

More to come.