I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red white and blue boring

Very little in the way of innovation has accompanied much of my recent kitchen pursuits in the middle of July in the middle Atlantic in the middle of moving. Frankly, I wants the comforts of my uneducated youth. Theoretically, nothing better fits the bill than good ol' red white and blue macaroni salad. From the deli. The really cheap deli at the local Gianormous grocery store.

Problem is, I am not that fond of most grocery store mac salads any more. They are too full of mayo and too sweet. I am not anti mayo or sugar by any means, but don't understand why everything from the deli counter has to be swimming in both. Guess it's the American way? We are trying to kill ourselves with sweet mayonnaise soup?

Well tighten up America, it's time for a new way! If I were Queen, here's how everyone would make their mac salads: elevate the flavor, don't forget the veggies, and for dog almighty's sake don't turn it into some kind of weird fatty liquid vat of slime.

Bonus- check out the recycled deli container used for the fancy food stylin'. Way to build up the eco-points, comrades...

Deli Macaroni Salad

Makes 12-16 small side servings, or 8 larger servings

1 pound elbow macaroni

½ cup diced bell pepper, your color choice (mix 'em!)
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup diced celery
½ cup shredded carrot
¼ cup minced fresh chives, or 2 Tbs. dried chives

1 cup vegan mayo
½ cup non-dairy milk of choice, more as necessary
2 Tbs. sweet pickle relish
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. prepared Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. fresh minced dill, or 1 tsp. dried dill
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. salt, to taste
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp. whole caraway seed, or ¼ tsp. ground caraway seed, optional

Bring a large, 6 quart pot of water (with 1-2 Tbs. salt added, if desired) to a boil, and cook pasta until just al dente- follow manufacturer's directions but check early to achieve a firm al dente, not overcooked, result.

While water is heating and pasta is boiling, prep the vegetables and set aside in a bowl.

Make the dressing by blending mayo through caraway seed, if using, in a small bowl.

When pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to halt further cooking. Place in a large serving bowl, add chopped vegetables and dressing, and mix gently but thoroughly to combine. Adjust condiments/seasonings to taste.

Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Blend in a little more milk if the salad seems too dry after refrigerating; the pasta will continue to absorb the dressing for a while as it sits.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scrambling to catch up

Painting is about to happen. I swear. Boxes are slowly leaving the building, space is opening up, items are being purged. But I am still WAY behind where I planned to be the first week of July. Dad seems to be getting along as well as can be expected without Mom around, so the urgency is not quite as pronounced as what was originally feared, and frankly I have just been dragging my feet. Moving sucks.

The garden starts are all but abandoned; I may try to save a few of the tomato and pepper plants and miraculously discover a sunny spot somewhere at Dad's (he doesn't have much more sun than I do), but in all probability they will end up in the compost. This will not be the case forever, just keep repeating to self...

I have packed up the pantry spices in little labeled cardboard boxes for the final move, but they are still here with me and on occasion an actual recipe does get developed and executed these past couple of months. Here's the evidence.

Susan over at Fat Free Vegan did a post on her method for a tofu scramble, which of course every other veggie blogger on the planet has done as well, but hers caught my eye because of the complexity of the seasonings. However, you might not want to attempt this when you are really hungry, and short on time, and trying to get the painting done, and just not in the mood. So I thought, why not do a bulk version of the seasoning mix, keep it in the infamous WTM 1 lb. recycled peanut butter jar, and have a scramble in no time flat when the mood strikes? Why not?

Susan is a genius. I poked and prodded the original recipe, as usual, to get it to conform to my own exacting tastes (yeah right), then scaled up for a bulk version, so away we go.

Scrambled Tofu Seasoning Mix

2-4 cups nutritional yeast (update 12/11/2010: I found I was adding more nutritional yeast to the scramble after I added the seasoning mix so I used four cups of nutritional yeast in my most recent batch of mix instead of two cups. This recipe would now technically require more than one 1 lb. jar if you also decide to use four cups.)
3 Tbs. onion powder
2 Tbs. sea salt
1 Tbs. black salt (for an eggier taste: find it at an Indian grocer, or online)
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. turmeric
1 Tbs. dried chives
1 Tbs. dried dill weed
1 Tbs. dried parsley
1 Tbs. dried sage
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground celery seed
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Blend all ingredients well or pulse a few times in a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. Use up to ¼ cup per 16 oz. diced or crumbled tofu.

To make my favorite scramble, melt a tablespoon of Earth Balance margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2-3 diced green onions or a diced shallot, and a few diced cremini or white mushrooms. Saute a bit to soften the veggies, then add about 4-5 oz. of crumbled or diced tofu and a tablespoon of seasoning, stirring to blend. I diced for this iteration, and 5 oz. is a very generous serving.

You probably don't need to press the tofu to remove excess water; it works better for me when I don't press. Keep stirring the scramble to evenly distribute the seasoning and heat through. Find your seasoning tolerance and adjust as necessary. I found that a tablespoon was about all I needed, and the scramble was remarkably egg-y. This is also great in a burrito!