28 October 2010

I like my noodles like I like my sailors -- drunken.

promised a drunken noodle recipe, and I am not one to disappoint (hopefully).  One of my most dear grad student friends, Indi, is a Thai implant to the US.  Indi is a nickname given to her by someone when she arrived in the US (almost two decades ago), and she stuck with it, convinced that none of us could pronounce her real name (which is probably true).  A compact woman with an unmistakably Thai attitude, she is one hell of a spitfire.  I don't think I can explain what a great friend she was to me in her last year or two here at UT.  She and I were going through some very similar relationship ... erm ... issues, and having her around gave me a lot more perspective on the situation than I would have otherwise had.  

* The prettiest little Thai bride ever! *
She graduated well before I did, and stuck around UT (much like I'm doing) for a year or so while she looked for a different job.  She finally found something in Orlando, but she was willing to give out a few Thai cooking lessons before she left.  We learned some very good Thai stir frying basics and how to make Drunken Noodle.  This recipe is a slight adaptation of hers, which includes more traditional things like eggs and some non-vegan sauces. 

Indi's Vegan Drunken Noodle
Serves 4 (or more, if you're not all going for seconds)

1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c teriyaki sauce
1/4 c rice cooking wine

2 tbsp sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, pressed
hot chilis, such as thai chilis or habeneros (use these to taste, but be bold! Drunken Noodle is best when it's spicy)

1/2 of a large onion, cut in a large dice
1 green bell pepper, cut in a large dice
1/2 c broccoli florets
1 carrot, sliced into thin coins

Additional assorted vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes 

1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed, cubed, and fried
~1/4 c sugar
4 - 8 oz rice noodles (for dry noodles. Should cook to about 3 cups)

1 c basil leaves (thai basil is best, but any basil seems to work)

Mix together soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, rice wine, oyster sauce, and seasoning in a bowl, and set aside. 

You can use cubed pre-fried tofu, but I prefer to press, cube, and fry the tofu myself.  Make sure you have this all done before you start cooking.

Get all of your vegetables cut up and ready to go.  Once you start stir frying, you really won't have time to do anything else.  A great thing about Drunken Noodle is the variety of vegetables you can put in.  For this dish, we used garlic, habenero peppers, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, and green tomatoes.  I've also used green beans, yellow squash, red tomatoes, cabbage, bok choy,  etc.  It can really be a clean-out-the-fridge sort of meal.

Finally, cook your rice noodles.  I've used fresh rice noodles and dried, and they are honestly about the same.  Dried noodles are easier to find (and keep on hand), but if you have fresh, then you're good to go.  

Now, the cooking finally begins.  Heat your wok and add the sesame oil. Add the garlic, hot peppers, and onions and stir fry until translucent and fragrant.  At this point, you probably want to turn on your stove's exhaust fan.  The cooking hot peppers will release a lot of oils into the air which make some people (some weenie people) sneeze and cough a lot.  Consider this fair warning.

Add your vegetables in an order that makes sense, from things that cook the longest to things that cook quickly.  I usually do things like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots; then squash and bell peppers; finally green beans and asparagus, with a few minutes of stir frying between each group.  Add about half of the sauce mix, half the sugar, and the tofu, and let everything cook for a few minutes.  Keep things moving by stirring occasionally.  If it starts to look dry, add in more sauce.

Once the vegetables and tofu are well cooked and the sauce has boiled down some, add in the noodles.  It's okay if they are stuck together a little because they'll loosen up as you stir them.  Check your sauce level and add more if it's starting to get dry.  You may not use all the sauce you mixed up; it really just depends on how much your vegetables soak up as they are cooking.  Taste as you go, adding in more sauce and sugar if you want it.  If it isn't as spicy as you like, I recommend adding in some chili paste, like sambal oelek sauce.  When the dish is done cooking, you shouldn't have much liquid in the bottom, although a little is okay.

About three minutes before you finish cooking, add in the tomatoes and basil.  The tomatoes should cook slightly and the basil should wilt.

Plate it up and enjoy!

* Drunken Noodle, Spring Rolls, and Spinach Tofu soup *

 This seemed to be a success, because with only four people, we annihilated the entire wok-full.

* So much for leftovers ... *
We used some non-traditional vegetables in this version, like green tomatoes and asparagus.  Happily, they both seemed to work.  The tartness of green tomatoes was a nice contrast to the slightly sweet sauce.  If you try out this recipe, and I highly recommend that you do, let me know what weird vegetables you throw in that magically work.

26 October 2010

I can't come up with a better post title, because I falafel

Do you remember the Dinner and Movie series on TBS?  For all I know, it's still running, but I haven't seen it in ages.  When I was a kid, I remember one that was Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Falafel, called "I can't come to school today, because I falafel."  And that sad little pun has stuck with me for all of my days.  So every time I eat falafel (which is pretty often), I think to myself ... I can't do such and such today, because I falafel.  All of this pointless lead-in is to say that we didn't watch Ferris Bueller last night, but we did eat some pretty darn delicious falafel.

I have tried a few times in the past to make falafel from scratch, and it has been an abysmal failure each and every time.  Now, I just stick with the box mix; add water, wait 15 minutes, fry it up is about as much as I can do to a falafel without destroying it.  I know that falafel are seemingly easy to make, and that's what has suckered me in so many times before.  To all of you who can and do make your own falafel, my hat goes off to you.  If anyone wants to come by my house and show me how, I will be happy for the lesson.  But, in the meantime, my falafel mix of choice is Fantastic World Foods, primarily because it is available at groceries very close to me.
* There are falafels in there, I promise *
In the radioactive house, we tend to eat our falafels wrapped up in flat bread with lots of veggies and some sauce.  My boyfriend is a strong advocate for A-1 sauce on falafel.  It sounds weird, and it is kind of weird, but it works.  I suggest you give it a try at least once.  To go along with our sandwiches, we had some roasted broccoli and cauliflower, fruit salad, and a couscous dish.  The couscous is based on a recipe that Elizabeth brought to a veg potluck a year or so ago, and it's awesome.  It's super easy to throw together, but last night, just for you guys, I actually measured everything out so that I could put it in a recipe.  Don't feel like you need to be tied to this recipe, just throw things in in whatever amount you feel like.  I like to put the raisins in with the couscous to cook because they plump up a bit in the hot water, but it's not strictly necessary.  If you have a lemon on hand, I strongly suggest putting in some zest as well as the fresh lemon juice, but the bottled kind works just fine.

* All wrapped up with no place to go ... but in my mouth! *

Elizabeth's Awesome Couscous
serves at least six as a side

1 cup couscous
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c golden raisins (or regular, whatever you have)
1 c boiling water

1/4 c slivered almonds
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the couscous, olive oil, salt, and raisins in a large bowl.  Pour the boiling water over top and mix quickly.  Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Once the couscous is all cooked, fluff it with a fork, then add in almonds, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve at pretty much any temperature.

I mentioned that we didn't pair falafel with Ferris last night.  Because of the proximity to Halloween, a scary movie was in order, so we watched Let the Right One In.  If you haven't seen this movie, I recommend it.  It is the vampire romance that Twilight will never be (I say that having never read or seen Twilight ... but I still feel like it's an apt statement).  I don't want to give too much away, because I think the movie benefits from not knowing what to expect.  It has added mystery because it is so different from most vampire movies (with the possible, and obvious, exception of the recent American remake Let Me In, which I haven't seen yet), and it is set in 1980s Sweden, a culture that is very foreign to me (no pun intended).  If you're looking for an oddly touching Halloween film, I highly recommend this one.  And, double-plus bonus, it's streaming on Netflix, so you can watch it right now!

* I can't be your vampire girlfriend today, because I falafel *

25 October 2010

This blog update goes out to Elizabeth

I've got some pretty important blog posts planned.  Okay, important may be overselling it, but I you can look forward to some pictures from recent trips and a recipe for Drunken Noodle in the common days/weeks.  I'd love to get something more substantial out today, but I am two assignments behind in grading and my research has been sorely neglected for the last few weeks too ... so you'll have to just live with this quick note letting you know that I haven't forgotten all you wonderful people (especially you, Elizabeth!, who keeps reminding me to update my blog).

Just a few quick thoughts to round this out:

Vegan MoFo starts next Monday! Which means ... lots and lots more blog updating next month.  I'm going to try my damnedest to post everyday. But if I slip and miss a few, I hope you can forgive me.
* You're getting punched in the face by veganness! *

Also, head over to Chocolate Covered Katie for a chance to win a pretty sweet Artisana package.  If you win it, you'd better share with me! 

I'll be back tomorrow with the startling results of Movie Night, and posting every.single.day. starting next Monday.  Don't miss it.

19 October 2010

The Olive Garden Special

(Almost) Every Monday night, several friends and I get together for movie night.  And every Monday night, I mean to document our dinner date here.  And every Monday night ... I forget ... But not this week!  This is the Monday night that I remembered!

Just to give a brief history of movie night: basically it is an invention of necessity.  A large group of my friends get together on Mondays to play Dungeons and Dragons (yes, most of my friends are also engineers).  You might be surprised to learn that there are different levels of engineering nerdiness, and, while I am certainly nerdy, I don't quite reach the D&D level.  I will dance badly at weddings (like NOBODY's business).  I will tell one punny joke after another.  I will discuss the merits of alternative reactor fuels over my third drink of the night.  But I will not play D&D.  Everyone has a limit.  Hence the inception of Movie Night.  Some weeks we have theme dinners, like waffles and tofu scramble, and The Breakfast Club, or pizza and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Mostly, though, we eat whatever gets cooked and watch whatever movie is around.  Last night was one of those nights.

Salad, bread, and two kinds of soup: Butter Bean Potato Soup from happyveganface and Minestrone Soup from 500 Vegan Recipes (pg 144).

* Extra delicious salad with sprouts, blackberries, nectarines, and red onion. Way better than Olive Garden!*
* Vegan garlic bread, recipe from Carla's upcoming one dish cookbook *
Here's my dinner, salad and bread, potato soup, and minestrone (just like at the Olive Garden, it's all you can eat!).  I made the pictures smaller so that I wouldn't look like such a glutton ;)

We paired this with I am Legend.  I'm pretty sure I was the only one of tonight's four participants who had not yet seen the film.  It's basically a zombie movie, although the more interesting part was how completely nuts Will Smith became after nearly three years with only his dog.  I don't know that I'd really recommend the movie, but it was easy to watch.  I found it to be a little ... disappointing.  ** SPOILER ALERT ** If you haven't seen the movie and are planning to, don't read the next few sentences.  Just skip to the end.  It really bothered me that none of the non-zombie people ever acknowledged that the zombies did still have some very human feelings.  Honestly, none of the crappy stuff that happened to Smith in the second half of the film would have happened if he hadn't kidnapped that zombie's girlfriend!  Even though it was obvious that the zombies had formed attachments, were capable of making intricate plans and schemes, and had a social hierarchy, none of the non-zombie humans acknowledged that the zombies may be more than mindless eating slops ... ** END SPOILER ALERT **

So, that's my Monday night. Not as exciting as D&D, but a hell of a lot more fun (to me).  And if Elizabeth reminds me, I'll be back next week with another movie night! 

06 October 2010

Melting all Kepners ...

There's a local veg-friendly restaurant, The Tomato Head, that has some of the best vegan sandwiches in all of Knoxville.  Okay, so maybe they are competing with the likes of Subway and Jimmy Johns, but they still make some damn good sandwiches (and a pretty mean thin-crust pizza).  Unfortunately, the servings at Tomato Head do more to empty your wallet than to fill your stomach.  So, I set out to recreate my very favorite sandwich there (which isn't normally vegan, but they will make appropriate vegan substitutes at the restaurant if you just ask).  So here it is, in photo spread:  The Great Recreating of the Kepner Melt!  From their menu:
Kepner Melt

fresh spinach  organic baked tofu  monterey jack  herbed tomato  pineapple  roasted onion
walnut  pesto  mustard  heated

Step 1: Assemble your ingredients.  I had some pesto which basically followed the recipe in VWaV languishing in my fridge, just waiting for this opportunity to shine.  I made the Universal Marinade from the Candle Cafe Cookbook and marinated some pressed extra firm tofu slices overnight, then baked them according to the method in VWaV (the final broiling is the secret to AMAZING baked tofu texture).  

You might have noticed that the description calls for "herbed tomatoes." I'm not sure what that is, but I picked up these roasted tomatoes at Earth Fare and they were basically perfect!  However, they were a little on the pricey side, as you can see, so my next task will be to make these from scratch to save a couple dollars. 

Step 2:  Assemble the sandwich on a baking pan.  On the tops, I have spread pesto, then sprinkled on chopped walnuts, pineapple, and roasted tomatoes.  On the bottom, a healthy schmear of whole grain mustard, spinach, baked tofu, and roasted onions.  Then, I just popped the whole thing in my toaster oven on about 350* for maybe 10 minutes, to get everything nicely heated through.

Step 3: Plate and serve!  At Tomato Head, you can get a sandwich with a side of potato or blue corn chips.  It's a pretty meager amount of chips, which they actually count out as they are plating (no joke! I've seen them do it).  But at home, we got a healthy serving of fruit and a side of chips.  I didn't do the cost break down of this, but I am 97.2% sure that the whole thing cost way less than buying it out. 

So, the ingredients sound weird together ... I mean, pesto and pineapple? Really? But, trust me, the weirdness makes it absolutely delicious!  If ever you are in Market Square, stop in for a Kepner Melt.  But, if you don't have plans to make the great pilgrimage to Knoxville, then you can make your own!