Vegan Iron Chef 2: Quinoa and Cornmeal Crusted Sweet Potatos

For the second Vegan Iron Chef Challenge, I went with something fried again, because it was what was quickest and what came to me. We make a great kale and quinoa salad at the zen center’s cafe, but that would have been too easy. I saw sweet potatoes that needed using and came up with Quinoa and Cornmeal Crusted Sweet Potatoes. I dipped cooked sweet potatoes into apple cider, then into cornmeal, then back into the cider, then into a mixture of cooked quinoa, cornmeal, chipotle, and salt. I pan-fried in some olive oil until browned on each side.

This is a last minute creation and post and I’m a bit past the deadline, but maybe it’ll wind up in the Iron Chef round-up.

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Growing Staple Foods

One of my interests with gardening in the last few years has been growing some of my own staples crops. With my neglect, some have done better than others.

This year I finally grew a decent crops of beans that, even though it isn’t going to keep me fed long, was drastically better than my two previous attempts. The corn, despite having more of it, was more attacked by disease and insections, perhaps due to the poorer soil at the farm and nearby corn monocrops.

The peanuts were a first this year and did surprisingly well for the heavy soil they were in (yes, here in Michigan). I have yet to roast any but await that opportunity. I’ll just have to make sure to not eat them all and save enough to plant again. Growing peanuts, as well as all beans but favas, is definitely not a space-efficient way of producing calories, but it gives me a first-hand perspective on the amount of land my diet takes up if done in a small-scale intensive manner. Ultimately, hazelnuts would make more sense, but I have to settle down somewhere that I can dedicate that time and space to produce a crop.

Potatoes, oh potatoes. A wonderful crop, easy to grow, but I’ve neglected you every year since 2006. I leave the watering to rain too much and it doesn’t come when you need it.

Some crops grow, but then I forget to store them properly or, more specifically, create a proper storage environment for them. The Jerusalem Artichokes are an example of this from last year and possibly this one, as well. I ran out of room in the fridge and never built that root cellar or some other cold/moist storage method.

Right now, I have little land to grow on so it may seem silly to grow crops that are so cheap to purchase. Instead, most people would choose high-value crops. I do it as a way to get exprience with growing crops that are a major part of my diet so whenever I do have the opportunity to expand, I’ll have a point of reference to work with. The fact that this can be done in a way to actually regenerate soil health makes it all the more appealing to me. For more information on this, check out Ecology Action’s information on biointense gardening/mini-farming.

Eventually, I’ll get to some regular cooking posts for Vegan MoFo, but with the move to a zen center, I haven’t had much opportunity yet for personal cooking. The posts might slow down, therefore.

Note: I grew more of everything in the photos below. They weren’t that small of crops.

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Vegan Iron Chef: Po’rn Puppies

With the announcement of this weekend’s Iron Chef challenge calling for mashed potatoes as the secret ingredient, I went through a few ideas before I got the crazy idea of deep-frying it. This lead to the creation of po’rn puppies, mashed potatoes dipped into a corn batter, then fried.

The Method:

In addition to the usual olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, I added some minced cayenne peppers to the mashed potatoes. I spread it out on a baking sheet and placed it for awhile in an oven set at its lowest heat setting to dry it out a little. I made up a batch of hush puppy batter, then rolled little balls of potatoes and dropped them individually into it and stirred them around until well-coated. They were then fried in a pan of hot oil until browned. I didn’t have enough oil to completely deep-fry, so I had to flip them to make sure both sides were browned and crispy.

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Roasted Garlic Toast

Continuing with the garlic recipes, I’m going to share a garlic toast to put all other garlic toasts to shame. Garlic toast for most people is some sort of white bread with olive oil or butter and a sprinkling of garlic powder. Admittedly, that can be good, but for the true garlic lover that often isn’t enough. That’s why I came up with this version, a thick spread of roasted garlic, olive oil, and salt on top of whole wheat bread that is then toasted in the oven.

As with my last recipe, this is a loose one that depends on how much you want. I’d recommend at least 8-10 bulbs of garlic and more if you’re going to feed more than a few people. I’d say go on the larger side of what you think is enough. I’ve done what seems like a reasonable amount and have been bummed when there is only enough for a few pieces of toast. Tonight, there was plenty of it to go with Margaret’s wonderful Potato-Leek Soup made with our first attempt at growing leeks.

Roasted Garlic Toast Recipe

Gather a lot of garlic bulbs. Leaving the bulbs whole, rub away the outer layers, but don’t peel the cloves. Place on baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over the tops of the bulbs. Bake at 375F for around 30 minutes or until the cloves become well softened.

Let the garlic cool a little while if it’s too hot to handle. Peel or squeeze the cloves and place into a bowl. When you have accumulated enough, add a small amount of olive oil and mash. Add a little more oil until you reach a spreadable consistency, then season with salt to taste. Spread this thickly on whole wheat bread placed on the previously used baking sheet. Place in oven until somewhat browned, maybe 8-10 minutes.

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Chocolate-Covered Garlic

One of the things I like to make when I have a bunch of garlic that needs using is chocolate-covered garlic. I started making these last year after I had a number of bulbs that were damaged during harvest or otherwise unfit to sell or replant. Being a garlic fan, I had little doubt that these would be good. I was surprised at how mild the garlic flavor was, though. I brought them to a potluck and no one was able to guess until someone looked inside of one. Her first guess was a white bean, but after a little longer she figured it out.

I usually just make these with semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I experimented with making the first batch with 70% dark chocolate. I threw some hazelnuts on for the heck of it, too. I’ve done fresh mint before, but that overpowered the rest of the flavor. They can be made with raw garlic, too, but my Russian Red garlic is hot and the result is quite intense.

Chocolate-Covered Garlic Recipe

Peel as much garlic as you think you’ll be able to consume and then peel some more. Throw it in a sauce pan or small pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Boil gently until cloves soften, around 8-10 minutes. Drain off water. Remove garlic from pan, then pat dry with a towel. Wipe the pan dry.

Heat your chocolate in the same pan over a low heat until it’s completely melted, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Remove from heat and add one or more garlic cloves at a time. Stir individual cloves around until coated to preference, then place on waxed paper or if you don’t mind being messy, use whatever plate, baking sheet, or other surface and accept you might have to scrape some chocolate off later. Cover with any desired toppings and let cool until firm.

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Stir-fried Veggie Wraps and Spinach-Walnut Salad with Tangy Miso-French Dressing

In order to put something in the sourdough wraps I made yesterday, Margaret and I┬ástir-fried┬ásome veggies up. It’s a dish that had been made frequently a number of years ago, but was until recently forgotten. Back then it was a way to use up a bunch of vegetables on the verge of rotting after their rescue from the dumpster. Now, it’s a way of using up a bunch of vegetables we grew or that were at least fresh when we got them, but are at risk of rotting nonetheless. The scale has been greatly reduced, since there isn’t a whole community of people to feed, and now uses sourdough instead of some sort of tortilla/flatbread.

This has really always been Margaret’s dish to make and all I did this time was stir and add some seasoning. This version was basically just garlic, potatoes, carrots, green pepper, and tomato, seasoned with cumin, black pepper, and soy sauce and stir-fried in oil until everything is good and soft (or soft enough for your level of hunger).

To go with this, Margaret made a salad of spinach, walnuts, and tomatoes while I made an extra garlicky version of the Tangy Miso-French Dressing from The Book of Miso. I’ve made at least a few dressings from that book and they’ve all been good. I used South River‘s Chickpea Miso for this one.

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Whole Wheat Sourdough Wraps

I was originally planning on making focaccia, but getting called into work changed those plans, so I decided to make sourdough wraps instead. They are the first bread I began making after starting a sourdough culture again this summer. I loved them so much the first time I made them, I thought that I’d be happy with just making them and not even bothering with regular loaves. I’ve expanded my horizons, but these things are very versatile and yummy. The fact that they’re quite resistant to tearing when rolled up is a nice bonus, too.

It’d be a bit much to give the whole recipe for making these things, especially now that I’m trying to get this done before the end of Day 1 of Vegan MoFo. I will, however, recommend a great independently-published book on sourdoughs written by a vegan with the focus on truly whole wheat bread, not those all-purpose and whole wheat combination ones. The book is Wild Bread: Hand-baked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen by Lisa Rayner. I also have her book on canning, which is a very informative read.

These wraps use her basic artisan dough formula that can be made into a number of different breads. I only use half the salt and it turns out good. This results in a baker’s formula of Whole Wheat Flour 100%, Water 75%, and Salt 0.9%. In actuality, it might be a little bit drier of a dough than that, depending on how much flour is used in rolling the things out.

Tomorrow, I’ll get around to making a filling of some sort to put in them. Tonight, peanut butter had to suffice.

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