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Archive for the ‘Meatless Monday’ Category

I made some daikon kimchi and really wanted to build a Meatless Monday around it. I thought I was going to make a tofu bulgolgi to stick with the Korean theme, but the marinade turned out nothing like a bulgolgi. It was very asian though so I used some ganmodoki we had bought at Mitsuwa and made a clear broth Japanese-style soup to bring more vegetables into the meal.

The daikon kimchi takes 24 hours so I had to start the Sunday. The ingredient list includes a lot of kosher salt (sea salt can be used also), 1.5 tablespoons of toban djan (I didn’t have any Korean chili paste, toban djan is Sichuan, but it is similar enough to work), 1/4 onion small diced, 1 garlic clove minced, 1 lb daikon cut into 3/4 inch cubes, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 2 green onions thinly sliced.

I threw the daikon into a bowl and completely coated it with salt. I left it for 2 hours and then drained off all of the liquid that accumulated at the bottom of the bowl and then rinsed and drained very well.

Then I mixed together the rest of the ingredients, tossed the daikon to coat evenly, and put into an airtight jar. I left it out for 24 hours and then put it in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. You absolutely have to let it sit to get the flavors to penetrate and pickle, so this does take more than 24 hours to prepare. I will say, the daikon turned out way too salty when we ate it. Not sure if I added too much during the pickling process or if I just didn’t rinse it well enough, but next time I make this I will make sure it’s completely rinsed of salt and I may just add 1/2 tablespoon instead during the pickling to make sure it doesn’t get too salty. To salvage the rest of the daikon I’ll boil it in some water to make broth for noodle soup later in the week or something.

For the tofu “bulgolgi” I used 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1/4 granny smith apple, 1/4 onion, 1 tablespoon sugar, juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1/2 inch ginger, 2 garlic cloves, 2 green onions, and 1 packet of silken tofu.

I pressed the water out of the tofu for about an hour and then sliced it into 1/4 inch pieces. I put the rest of the ingredients into my little processor and made a marinade.

I took out my glass baking dish, poured a little marinade on the bottom, lined the tofu side-by-side on top, and then covered it with the rest of the marinade. I let it sit while I prepared the soup. When the soup was almost done I drizzled a little sesame oil on top of the tofu and threw it under the broiler for about 10 minutes.

For the soup I cut up 1/4 of a napa cabbage, used some bean sprouts, 1/4 cup of dashi seasoned soy sauce, 1 carrot cut into half moons, 1/2 package of enoki mushrooms, 5 ganmodoki, the rest of our green onions (about 3), and my last three shiitake sliced.

In my soup pan I poured in about 4 cups of water and added everything except for the cabbage, bean sprouts, and enoki. I brought it up to a boil and then covered it, lowered the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Then I added the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. That’s all she wrote for the soup.

I served everything with white rice and leaves of butter lettuce. That way we could make lettuce wraps bulgolgi-style.

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My buddy Tony and his wife Sandra took Yuki and I to Salam for lunch this past Saturday. Tony’s been talking about how fantastic their hummus is for a long time as he’s an even bigger hummus snob than I am. He took me up there for lunch a while back only to find they were on vacation, so I never got to try it. Well, Saturday worked out. We went and we dined. I have to say, that hummus is not only the best I’ve had in Chicago, it’s right up there with the best I’ve ever had period! I lived in the Middle East for a year so I know a thing or two about hummus. For the life of me I have no idea how they get such a creamy texture. Fantastic! Funny enough, Yuki found online that their hummus voted the best in Chicago by WGN Sunday night.

At any rate, when we were there Saturday I had the shawerma and Yuki had the chicken kifta, both also fantastic, but neither of us tried the falafel. Craving that hummus and wanting to not only try their falafel but also their baba ganouj we decided that we ought to go back for Meatless Monday.

We were meeting a close friend for dinner up there and got there early, so we walked around a little bit. Albany Park is a great neighborhood full of culture that I need to explore more of. We walked into the Tannourine Bakery just to check things out. They hand bake all of their own goods, including their pita bread. After chitchatting with Mike, the head honcho there, we ended up buying some spinach pockets, cheese pockets, and thyme manakeesh. He and I hit it off so he not only gave me a discount, but he also threw in a box of free anise cookies. Everything is so delicious and you can tell they care about their goods. I will definately head back to Mike when I need some good pastries.

Back to Salam. We started off with baba ganouj, hummus, and lentil soup. Believe it or not what you see in the pic are the smalls! Huge portions, only order large if you’re feeding an army. One of the best lentil soups in Chicago and that baba just might qualify as the best in town as well.

The falafel is also outstanding. If not the best in town, definately in the conversation and definately one of the largest falafel sandwiches! Perfectly cooked fresh falafel, diced tomato and cucumber, and tahini…a classic.

Just look at how green and fresh the inside of that falafel is. I know the picture sucks, but trust me, that falafel was heaven in a fried chickpea.

I also ordered the spinach pie, but honestly, I was so stuffed from the huge falafel sandwhich that I didn’t even touch it. I’m going to eat it tonight. Judging by everything else I’m sure it’s one of the best spinach pies in Chitown.

We ordered the combo plate full of kifta and kabob on rice with a tomato and cucumber salad to go along with six more falafel balls. The idea being that we had a bunch of left over hummus and baba that we ought to just have leftovers for lunch today. Not only did we have leftovers for lunch, we still have enough for dinner tonight as well. For about $40 we both got 3 full, healthy and delicious meals. You can’t beat that.

Service is also pretty good. It’s a bare bones little restaurant, but very attentive. I’ll definately make this little joint a regular stop in my rotation. I just cannot say enough good things about Salam except for “Peace be with you”.

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Finally, I got Meatless Monday back into my life. No Bears game (thank goodness, I don’t think I can stand to watch that O-line pretend to block anymore) or anything that calls for carcus so I cleaned out some of the vegetables I had in my fridge. With the weather getting a little chilly I thought a nice hot bowl of Minestrone would hit the spot, especially since Yuki loves soup. To go with it I made some mushrooms in soy milk on toast.

For the minestrone I used 1 can of brown beans, 4 quarts of vegetable stock, 1 28oz can of skinned tomatoes, 6oz of farfale pasta, 2 ribs of celery chopped, 1 carrot chopped, 1 zucchini chopped, 1/2 an onion chopped, 1/2 green bell pepper chopped, 1 yukon gold potato skinned and chopped (2 in the pic but I only used 1), 3 garlic cloves chopped, some basil thinly sliced, and Parmigiano Reggiano grated.

In a heated stock pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then sweated down the onion, carrot, and celery for about 3 minutes. Then I added the green pepper and garlic and let that go for another 3 minutes. I dumped the juice from the tomato can in and crushed the tomatoes with my hands. Once the tomato juice started to boil, about 1 minute or so, I poured in the stock and seasoned with salt and pepper and 1 bay leaf. Once the stock started to boil, about 2 or 3 minutes, I added the potato and zucchini. The potato and zucchini obviously lowered the temperature of the soup, so a few minutes later when it came back to a boil I added the pasta then covered the pot and turned the heat down from medium-high to medium. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes to let the pasta cook properly.

While the pasta was cooking I heated up my saute pan and got the mushrooms ready. I thickly sliced (about 1/4-1/3 inch) 4 button mushrooms and a container of cremini mushrooms and sliced up 3 green onions. I melted 1 tablespoon of butter and poured in another tablespoon of olive oil then dumped all of the mushrooms and green onions in. I let them cook down for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms started to release their moisture. Then I poured in about 1/4 cup of soy milk and let that thicken up for about 2 minutes. I added some thinly sliced basil and turned off the heat. I toasted some sliced of challah during the cooking.

To serve, I ladled some soup into my bowls and topped it with sliced basil. I put the toasted challah on a plate and spooned some of the mushrooms on top. Then I topped everything with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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For Meatless Monday last night I had an almost failed attempt at making falafel. To make falafel, you need to start way in advance and soak some dried chickpeas in water for about 8 hours. We were out at the Morton Arboretum all afternoon when I got the urge to make falafel, so I tried to make it using canned chickpeas. As you’ll see, that just doesn’t do the trick as canned chickpeas are way too soft and don’t have nearly the same texture. Lesson learned.

In my food processor I tossed in 2 cans of chickpeas (the pic shows 3, but I only used 2), half a chopped red onion, 5 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, and a handful of basil leaves. Typically, besides soaked dried chickpeas, you’d use parsley. I didn’t have any parsley so I used basil. It actually worked quite well flavor-wise. At any rate, I processed everything into a paste and let it sit for about half hour. During that time I got everything prepped for the Israeli Couscous soup I made to accompany.

For the soup I used 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes, the half of red onion diced, 1 quart of vegetable stock, 1 carrot chopped, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 1 cup of Israeli couscous, some basil, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds crushed in my pestle and mortar, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne.

I also had time to throw together my tomato and cucumber salad. I chopped up 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, half a seedless cucumber, and halved the rest of my cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 the container). I set the lettuce aside and threw the cucumber and tomatoes in a large bowl. I zested the lemon on top. In a separate bowl I juiced half of the lemon, tossed in a pinch of salt and a pepper, and then poured some olive oil in at a ratio of 2 parts oil 1 part juice. With a wisk I emulsified it into a smooth dressing and poured that in with the cucumbers and tomatoes and then tossed to coat. I set all of the salad ingredients aside.

Then, I laid some wax paper on a baking sheet and formed walnut-sized balls of the falafel mix on top. I sprinkled the tops with some sesame seeds. I was a little worried about the texture because it was kind of soft, but I thought everything would be ok. I let the falafel balls sit for about 15 minutes while I got the deep fryer ready and made the soup.

To make the soup I poured a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a hot pot. I added the onion and carrot and let them saute for about 5 minutes. Then I added the garlic. 30 seconds later I poured in the can of tomatoes with the juice, the stock, and all of the spices along with some salt and pepper. Once it came to a light boil I added the couscous, partially covered the pot, and turned the heat down to medium-low to let it slowly simmer while I fried the falafel.

Once the oil was ready, 375 degrees, I dropped 3 balls in and let them go. A minute later when I checked on their progress I noticed that they were much smaller than they were at the start. I put them back in for a minute and then checked again…even smaller. The oil had basically disintegrated them. They were way too loose. What a waste of oil! While I was pissed, I didn’t panic. I had to switch gears and do it quickly so that the couscous wouldn’t overcook.

I quickly got out my big pan and heated it to high. I poured in some oil and ended up shallow frying the falafel. They turned out to be more like falafel latkes and did start to fall apart in the pan as well. I was able to salvage most of it though and turn out a decent dinner. It did take a little longer than I wanted and the couscous overcooked a little, they were a bit soft. Oh well, what can you do? Disasters are half of the fun of cooking.

To serve I added the basil and juice from the other half of the lemon to the soup just before ladling it into the bowls. On the plates I laid down some of the lettuce, then the cucumber and tomato salad, and then topped that with the falafel…we’ll call them patties. All in all it didn’t taste bad at all. Complete failure averted.

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A couple of our friends are growing their own shiso. apparently their plant is going haywire and they have too much shiso for their own usage, so they gave us a bunch. I do mean a bunch! I only used half of it for the pesto. Does anyone want some? I have a feeling you’ll see at least one more shiso recipe on this blog sometime this week.

I made the pesto much like I would a regular pesto, but with a few changes. I used about 1/2 ounce of shiso leaves, one clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese, and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. I put it all in my little food processor and whipped it all up.

For the tofukatsu I used mustard, 1 block of silken tofu, and some panko. I pressed the water out of the tofu in the fridge for about an hour. Then, I cut it in half. I sliced the halves into 4 equal pieces to look like cutlets.

I poured some panko on a plate and then spread a thin layer of mustard on top of each tofu cutlet. I pressed the tofu, mustard side down, on the panko and spread another thin layer of mustard on the other side then flipped and pressed again. I wanted both sides of the tofu crusted in panko. In a large skilled heated to high I poured in a few tablespoons of peanut oil. I like to shallow fry in peanut oil because it has a high smoking point and doesn’t really have that strong of a flavor. I fried the tofu in two batches so as to not overcrowd the skillet. After both sides were nice and golden I laid them on a wire rack to let any excess oil drip off.

I made a couple of sides to go with the tofukatsu. One was a simple steamed head of broccoli. I cut the broccoli down into bite-sized pieces, florets and stem and them steamed it for about 4 minutes. I had a packet of mixed sesame seeds with dried carrot so I decided to sprinkle that on instead of salt and pepper.

I had about 1/2 pound of oyster mushrooms in my fridge, so I decided to saute them with 1 teaspoon of sherry, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of flour, 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and I was going to use 1/2 onion.

For whatever reason I wasn’t feeling the onion. No rhyme or reason, I just decided not to use the onion and instead use the enoki mushrooms that were in my fridge. I also grated a clove of garlic at the last minute too.

In a hot pan I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and put the grated garlic in for about 30 seconds. Then, I threw in all of the mushrooms, both oyster and enoki. I let them saute for about 4 minutes and then poured in the sherry and soy sauce. Once the liquid was almost completely boiled off, about 2 minutes, I poured in the flour and butter and stirred that all in. The flour thickened up the last bit of liquid while the butter made it all silky and smooth, as butter always does.

Finally, I took a daikon radish and skinned about half of it. I grated the part that I skinned and served it just as it is.

To serve everything, I had some white rice and then put some broccoli next to it and then two pieces of tofukatsu next to that. I poured a little of the pesto on top of the tofukatsu. The grated daikon went on the plate as well. It was a little sharp, so we poured a few drops of soy sauce on it. In a separate plate I laid some mushrooms down. Next to them I put some kimchi cucumbers that we picked up at the Assi Plaza. I’m not a big fan of cucumbers, but these kimchi ones are so damn good they just might make me a believer. Bon apetit!

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When I went up to Sun Wah B.B.Q. for dinner the other night I took advantage of it being close to the Golden Pacific Market. I love that place, but hardly ever get up there since it’s so far away. I brought my cooler with me and loaded up on some goodies. A good portion of those goodies ended up in my Meatless Monday last night. In fact, I got the fried tofu specifically for it. I luz me sum fried tofu!

Before making the Thai Curry I put together some Thai flavored samosas. I had two red creamer potatoes and got a yukon gold (out of red creamers) that I skinned and diced, a lime that I zested and juiced half of, some egg roll wrappers (you can find samosa wrappers at some grocers or cut down some phylo, but I wanted smaller samosas so I cut some egg roll wrappers in half), 5 tablespoons of coconut milk (first thing I did was scoop the cream that settles on the top off and reserve that for the curry), 1 tablespoon of minced ginger, and one small shallot diced. What I forgot to get in the photo was about 1/4 cup of frozen peas that I thawed.

The first thing I did was boil the diced potatoes for about 15 minutes. Then I drained them while I heated up my pan and poured about 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in. I cooked the ginger and shallot over medium heat for about 4 minutes, just until they softened. Then I dropped the potatoes in along with the peas and coconut milk. I lightly mashed that all together with the back of a wooden spoon. I seasoned with salt and pepper and dumped in the lime zest and juice. I stirred that all together and let it cool, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Once the potato mixture was cool enough to handle I wrapped them up. I placed a spoonful at one end and proceeded to fold it up like a flag, leaving a little flap at the end.

I brushed the little flap with some peanut oil so it would seal together.

I lightly oiled a baking sheet with peanut oil and brushed the samosas all over with more peanut oil. They went into a 425 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, just until they became a nice golden brown color.

While the samosas were baking I put together the curry. In the red bowl is the coconut cream from the can of coconut milk (this not only is used for flavor, but I used it as my oil so there was no need for additional oil), 8 green onions chopped, 1 chinese eggplant chopped, 1 red bell pepper chopped, 1 large shallot minced, 2 tablespoons of ginger minced, the other half of my lime juiced, 3/4 cup of vegetable broth, 4 oz shiitake quartered, 1 package of fried tofu diced, 1 tablespoon of Thai Red Curry Paste, 5 baby bok choy, and two stalks of lemongrass finely chopped.

In my hot pan I added the coconut cream. About a minute later, once it started to lightly bubble, I added the curry paste (along with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce that didn’t make it into the photo) and mixed it all together to make a smooth cream. I added the shallot, lemongrass, and ginger to that and let them cook for about 2 minutes before adding the pepper, eggplant, shiitake, and green onions. Once all of the vegetables were coated with the thick sauce I let it all cook for about 6 minutes. Then I poured in the vegetable broth. When the broth started to boil I added the tofu and let that heat through for about 3 minutes. After that I threw in the baby bok choy. I covered the pan and let everything cook for about 4-5 minutes. When it was all heated through and the baby bok choy slightly wilted I turned off the heat and stirred in the lime juice.

I served the curry next to some white rice and garnished it with some cilantro.

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Mapo tofu is a Szechuan dish typically made with ground pork. However, last night being Meatless Monday, I diced up some shiitake mushrooms to take the place of the meat.

To start, I made the sauce. I used 2 heaping tablespoons of toban djan (a szechuan chili and fermented bean sauce, its spicy but this dish is supposed to be very hot), 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/8 cup of sake, and 2 teaspoons of tapioca flour to thicken it up a bit. I mixed it all together and set it aside.

I used a 3.5 oz package of shiitake, about 6 oz of haricots vert cut into thirds, a carrot cut into matchsticks about 2 inches long, 8 green onions chopped into 1 inch pieces, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons minced ginger, 1 red bell pepper cut into thin slices and then halved, and 1 package of firm tofu. I prefer silken tofu, but there wasn’t any at the store. Oh well, what can you do? I pressed the water out of the tofu for an hour in the fridge and then diced it.

In a hot pan I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and then fried the garlic and ginger for about a minute. Then I added the haricots vert. About 3 minutes later I tossed in the carrot and pepper. I let that go for about 3 more minutes and then the shiitake and green onions went in. Once the shiitake were softened a bit, about 3 or 4 minutes, I poured in the sauce (I mixed the sauce thoroughly again to make sure the tapioca didn’t form any clumps). This was the first time I’ve ever used tapioca flour as a thickening agent and it worked a little better than I expected. The sauce almost immediately thickened up on me in that hot pan. To remedy that I poured in about 1/3 cup of water and that thinned it out nicely. I needed it a little thinner so it would evenly coat the tofu which went in right after I stirred the water in. I let the tofu heat through for about 4 minutes over medium heat and then served it all up with some white rice and drank it down with a cold beer.

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