Saturday, May 29, 2010

menu fail and vegan paneer

First things first:  I've been trying to be a little more creative in my photo taking - I recently remembered my camera has a zoom feature (most do, I'm sure).  Furthermore, if you hold real still and let it focus, you can actually get some highly enticing shots.  Exhibit A:

This shot really redeemed the number of photos I dragged to the "trash" because gooky sauce doesn't take pretty pictures.

Last night's dinner was Hunan-Style Orange "Beef" and Asparagus Stirfry from VTCC.  I got to use some of my favorite things in the making: the zester I was so excited to find in my Christmas stocking (despite the weird looks my mother gave me) and those funny rice noodles.  I also used two of Mister's favorite things: asparagus and fake beef.  There were a few amazing things about this dish.  For one, I didn't realize how much flavor the freshly grated zest of a whole orange would impart to the dish, even when added at the very end!  Second, I'm not sure what the point of coating the stirfry strips in cornstarch was, but it had two very noticeable effects: it coated the bottom of my wok with a layer of blech (that's the scientific name) that I had to scrape off with my fingernails (all the while realizing that the nonstick nature of the wok has absolutely left the building), and it made the 2 cups of sauce into a very gooky, sticky, lacquer (which probably didn't help the situation at the bottom of my wok).  Although I won't put this in regular rotation, it was certainly good enough to make again, and just one bowl each was quite enough for Mister and me.

Tonight, we had Tofu Saag from The 30 Minute Vegan.  It was extremely flavorful, thanks to the recent reunion I've had with my beloved Frontier Curry Powder as well as some cumin and coriander.  I continue to adore the way all recipes in that book that use tofu have you roasting it first.  It smelled so good in the oven and there was a richness of flavor that it added to the dish that would put real Indian paneer to shame. 

I used frozen spinach (per the recipe instructions) but neglected to thaw it first like the recipe suggests.  As a result of my own stupidity, it became more than a 30-minute meal, but we had nowhere to be, so there wasn't any rush. 

It tasted as good as it looks.  I served it on top of Jasmine rice, which does not take 40 minutes to cook, as the bag claims.  Fortunately, I checked on it "halfway" through (yes, I know you aren't supposed to lift the lid, but I'm just too good at making rice stick to nonstick cookware to take that chance) and found that it only needed about 5 more minutes.  Also, in place of the onion and to give it a little color, I sauteed a diced orange bell pepper with the garlic and ginger.  It was very flavorful and I absolutely would not be able to eat it without the rice.  While the noodle dish (above) was heavy enough that we only had a serving each, this meal is rich enough that we could only stomach one bowl.  I will definitely make this again, though I will probably cut down on the spice blend just a little.

Now, I know I said I would strive to have a menu this week which excluded an Indian-style meal.  Maybe next week...

1. Orecchiette with Broccoli, Chickpeas, and Tomatoes from Vegan Italiano by Donna Klein (a good Italian name if ever I saw one).  I also purchased something special today to drink alongside:  Castello Banfi Centine Toscano, a Super-Tuscan.  I hope it's as awesome as it sounds!

2. Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Garlic Puree also from Vegan Italiano.  I fear the Fatkins Hysteria has infiltrated my mind in at least a small way, because I got this far into my menu and said "Okay, that's enough pasta for the week."  Someone save me.

3. Mediterranean Rice Salad with Roasted Red Peppers from One-Dish Vegetarian Meals by Robin Robertson.  Okay, you got me - rice is still one of those evil carbs, but I like to look at it as a whole grain :)  Besides, the Mediterranean diet makes a lot more sense in my little Greek(-Irish) household.

4. Indian-Spiced Vegetables over Basmati Rice also from One-Dish Vegetarian Meals.  I almost made it through, but Indian-style food is just too tasty to leave out!

5. Moroccan Chickpeas with Couscous from One-Dish Veg. Meals.  I have made this before, but it's probably been about a year, so I figured it was okay to dust this one off.  I love the flavors of Moroccan-inspired dishes, too, but I feel like most Moroccan dishes have been "anglicized" for our bland American tongues.  At the same time, I feel like there's probably a good reason for that and my Irish tongue is thanking me for that.

Just in time for Memorial Day, Summer has made an appearance today.  Here's how Angst is coping:

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