Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Vegan Mofo 2018 Post 16: "Fish" Balls

"Fish" balls are lightly crunchy bite.
The smallest country on Africa's mainland, The Gambia's population of two million is almost the same amount of Philadelphia inhabitants. The Gambia--a tropical climate region-- is named after the river its nearly surrounded by, a river that in fact empties into the Atlantic Ocean. English is the official language although there are other spoken native tongues. In culinary regard, foods such as rice, black eyed peas, cassava, plantains, peanuts, cabbage are among the fare thoroughly enjoyed.
Gambians love their fish balls, having them at any time of the day usually with a light stew or over white rice. I never had fish balls (let alone a whole fish staring lifelessly at me from its POV on a plate) and recreated a Genius Kitchen recipe.
I was utterly surprised that these no animals harmed delicacies came out well. After all, it hasn't been a winning week as far as experiments go. The crisp exterior holds up for the creamy, savory interior-- very interesting flavors and texture profiles.
As for now, I am super stuffed. I ate five "fish" balls with a basic topping of Just Mayo Garlic, lemon juice, and parsley. For dessert, I had a glass of almond milk alongside the mistake makroudhs (kept in the refrigerator). They turned into chilled dense butter cookies with the cherry date filling enhancing their sweetness. Funny how failures become something entirely unexpected.

"Fish" Balls Ingredients and Preparation

1/4 cup walnuts, crushed
1 cup cornmeal mush
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 flax eggs (2 tablespoon flax meal + 6 tablespoon water)
1 cup breadcrumbs (used Watusee Foods Chickpea Crumbs)

coconut or olive oil for frying

Combine walnuts, cornmeal mush. mashed potatoes, onion, ketchup, lemon juice, parsley, paprika, salt, and black pepper-- mix well.

Tablespoon out the batter. Set up a station for the flax egg and the breadcrumbs. Dip the balls in flax and coat them in breadcrumbs.

Covered and ready to go.

In a skillet, pan sear the "fish" balls on all sides.

Serve hot.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Vegan Mofo 2018 Post 15: Mustard Tofu

Pan seared tofu coated in mustard sauce might be one of the more interesting creations made this month.
Gabon-- located on the equator-- is in the central part of Africa and its earliest settlers were the Pygmy peoples before the Bantu came. Rainforests cover 85% of the country and a group called "The Raconteurs" want to keep alive the Gabonese tradition of oral storytelling folklore and mythology through language of the Fangs. Their cuisine is largely influenced by former French rule, but rice, cassava, plantains, guava, mangoes, and bananas have always been primary staples.
Mustard chicken is Gabon's signature must have dish. Of course, I thought why not tofu? Now I'm not the hugest mustard fan, only adding a tiny bit to mac n cheese or so. Nothing much else. The tangy mustard combined with garlic, lemon, and onions bring amazing flavor. Plus, one can sub out tofu for any of the delicious chik'in out in the market-- Beyond Meat or gardein.

Mustard Tofu Ingredients and Preparation

2 tablespoon olive oil
extra firm tofu
red or yellow onion
3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon cornmeal
2 tablespoon water (add more if thicker consistency desired)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small tomato
dried parsley

Whisk together Dijon mustard, cornmeal, water, garlic, turmeric, cumin, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.
Cover tofu cutlets in the mustard sauce.
In a nonstick skillet, fry up onions until brown and add the marinated mustard tofu. Cook for several minutes on each side.

Top finished tofu with tomato slices and parsley.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Vegan Mofo 2018 Post 14: Cherry Date Filling

Well, there was this cherry date filling that worked out.
Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Delta is Tunisia--formerly Ifriqiya (Africa). Tunisia is a place with beach tourist attractions, the World Heritage Site of the Ruins of Dougga, and some fifty art galleries. Tunisian diet is rich in Mediterranean flare. Ingredients such as olive oil, spices, and tomatoes are abundantly consumed. One dish that is well-known to the area is lablabi-- a chickpea and garlic stew bookmarked for the future. They love fire grilled vegetables, include black cumin in their harissa, and couscous is a primary staple. It is also number 42 (behind Morocco and Algeria) in worldwide cherry production.
Makroudh is a beloved pastry traditionally filled with dates or figs-- like a classic Fig Newton and glazed with honey and orange blossom water. I found this recipe with ingredients listed in grams and milliliters and significant errors (for example how much boiling water to add to flour and butter mixture) quite problematic. Plus, without pictorial aide, I was generally lost on accurate preparation. For one thing, the dough was too weak to roll the filling in and as end result tasted far too buttery. It obviously needed more flour.
Still, for all the effort, this refined sugar free cherry date filling is worth writing about. It is sweet and vibrant, smells heavenly (has anyone simmered cherries, dates, and spices before?), great for any successfully created makroudh or hand pie/pop tart.
I will attempt to make makroudh again (using a different recipe) and use the cherry date filling.

Cherry Date Filling Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup medjool dates
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup frozen cherries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon arrowroot (or cornstarch)

Soak medjool dates for an hour or so.
Puree and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine cherries, cherry juice, cinnamon, and cardamom on low heat for about five to seven minutes.
Pour into date mixture. Blend this together and place contents into the same saucepan, adding the arrowroot to thicken.

Bubbling cherries for the cherry fiend.

Warm, thick filling.

These makroudh are not bad, but have the potential to be better. It was my first time working with semolina flour-- flour finer than whole wheat and all-purpose. 

There also wasn't enough filling in the centers. It made sense to spoon extra on top. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Vegan Mofo 2018 Post 13: Kulwha

Soy ground is seasoned to perfection next to lemon-garlic brown rice.
Eritrea is located in Northern Africa, with parts of its coast adjacent to the Red Sea-- coincidentally the ancient Greek definition of Eritrea. Although the country has no official language, Tigrinya is mostly spoken and written, seen as the de facto for national identity. Eritrea's cuisine has influences from Italy--their former conquerors-- for there is a tremendous penchant for tomatoes.
Also, I watched the delightful Life Is Fare at the Blackstar Film Festival this past summer-- it stars a first generation Eritrean, artist Sephora Woldu, who also wrote and directed.
Eritrea and Ethiopia (the Southern neighbor that has always had great plight) have quite similar cooking styles. For example, Kulwha (Eritrean stir fry) calls for berbere (Ethiopian spice) and nit'r kibbeh (spiced ghee very popular in Ethiopia). I made my own nit'r kibbeh using coconut oil as a basis as opposed to butter. Miyoko's Kitchen could have worked, but at the same time, I wanted a simple, cost effective solution. As for lamb (something that I never had), I always replace with soy ground. There are apparently vegan lamb varieties somewhere in existence as well as recipes for homemade seitan creations.
I quite enjoyed the process of making the nit'r kibbeh and prepping the overall meal. It is time consuming, a learning curve that ups the value of how we see our pantry ingredients (some of which we probably rarely use). Plus, it amazed me that one could get so much flavor into soy ground, enhance its properties into complex and intriguing to consume.

Kulwha Ingredients and Preparation

coconut nit'r kibbeh
1 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cardamom
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Lightlife Soy Ground
1/4 cup onion, sliced
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon coconut nit'r kibbeh
1 tablespoon berbere
1 teaspoon spice pulp*
pinch of salt

This coconut nit'r kibbeh is modeled after My Darling Gourmet's recipe with slight alterations to make less. 

Simmer coconut oil with ingredients for thirty minutes, stirring to keep from burning. Separate with sieve or strainer into an air-tight container, and place in refrigerator for four hours or longer until it becomes a golden yellow solid. Retain the spice pulp. But discard the cinnamon stick.

In a skillet, combine olive oil with soy ground, onions, coconut nit'r kibbeh, spice pulp, and salt.

Dinner is served.

Very tasty.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Vegan Mofo 2018 Post 12: Roasted Okra and Sweet Potato Salad

Warm roasted salads bring bright art and flavor to the table.

Sierra Leone-- located in West Africa-- is perceived as a gold mined fairy tale. I remember this country being hailed as a mecca for its rich metal properties, their popular diamonds often smuggled illegally. Agriculture is a primary employing force with 80% of its people working in the industry. Rice is the most cultivated crop and is often eaten at every meal. They also love potato leaves, cassava (still trying to find some around Philadelphia), an herb called crain crain (has a similar slimy texture to okra), fried plantains, and fresh mangoes, pineapples, and oranges.
I found roasted okra and sweet potatoes off the Recipes From the Pantry blog. It is actually meant for a Christmas occasion, but it sounded too delicious and the bright colors spoke of the approaching autumn.
One Green Planet has great tips for getting rid of the sliminess (even frozen okra has this problem) is soaking okra in vinegar for half an hour, patting down okra until dry and sautéing, or cooking okra with tomatoes ("acidity reduces the slime").

Roasted Okra and Sweet Potato Salad Ingredients and Preparation

1 large sweet potato
1 1/2 cup frozen okra
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 small red or yellow bell pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoon lime juice
4 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Generously coat sweet potato chunks, dried okra, and bell peppers in olive oil , salt, cumin, and chili powder.

Roast for thirty minutes, turning it over after fifteen minutes pass.

Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, mustard, and sugar. Mix in with finished roasted vegetables. Serve warm.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Vegan Mofo 2018 Post 11: Jollof Pasta

Jollof pasta and the mistake beside them.
We head to Nigeria--the seventh most populated country and twentieth largest economy in the world respectively-- is in the western part of Africa and is supposedly the place my father's side of the family hails. So the ancestral ties are weaved deep into this part of the region, where Igbo and Yoruba ethnicities still have a strong residual history and present. There are over five hundred languages spoken here, some extinct, abundances of tourist attractions like waterfalls, rain forests, and landmarks, and literature, film (Nollywood), and art are much respected. Realist artists such as Chiamonwu Joy and Oresegun Olumide are bringing clout and inspiration with their commendable rendering techniques.

As for Nigerian cuisine, herbs and spices provide variety to favorite items like groundnut and chili peppers.

Now I would be lying if omitting countless trials and tribulations that have occurred during the creating process of my foods during this month of experimentation. Along with my Jollof Pasta, I attempted moin moin and failed miserably. They are black eyed peas pureed with onions, garlic, and spices, turned into steamed buns. Well, let's just say this would have worked out better with ramekins, a pan of water, and foil instead of pouring the batter into muffin tins and hoping for the best. This wasn't my proudest plate moment. Still, the pasta (a quicker choice than the standard rice) was a delicious choice. Essentially, the idea is to throw everything in a pot and allow all the flavors to marry together. It is definitely different.

Jollof Pasta Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup pasta
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 small white onion
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon
1 teaspoon black pepper (or white if you have it)

Bring pasta to boil. Drain pasta, reserving the pasta water.
In a skillet, combine olive oil, bay leaf, diced tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, thyme, curry powder, coriander, garlic, bouillon, and black or white pepper together.
Add pasta and pasta water, cooking for an additional few minutes or so.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Vegan Mofo 2018 Post 10: Lentil Soup

A warm, comforting easy soup full of flavor. 
In Sudan-- bordered by Egypt, the Red Sea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and South Sudan (the youngest country having received its independence in 2011)-- there are ancient mud villages, pyramids, and other historic sites. However, the current landscape in Darfur especially is heartbreaking and has been for years. Still, it is the community bringing peace and unity, aide from other countries. The land, its indigenous people, and its rich history and culture are too precious to be destroyed. Sudan is worth utmost appreciation and respect.
As for Sudanese cuisine, stews and sorghum porridge are primary staples. Unfortunately, I didn't find any sorghum flour in my neighborhood and settled for a simple lentil soup, a recipe from Sundanese Kitchen. The technique of sautéing garlic in olive oil until it browns and sizzles is called gadha and it is added after lentils are cooked and prepared for blending. This soup is exceptional-- thick, fragrant, and "meaty," sending love and joy to the spirit. While autumn is quickly approaching, stocking the pantry up with dried lentils might be the best idea.

Lentil Soup Ingredients and Preparation

3 1/2 cup water*
2 cup dried lentils
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon garlic

Bring lentils to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Pour soup into bowl and mix with cumin, lemon/lime, chili powder, salt, and black pepper.
In a skillet, fry up garlic until sizzling and browned.
Pour over the soup and blend in a food processor or blender.

*for a thicker soup, use less water and more water for a thinner consistency.