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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Que sera, queso

WTM has posted about (plant-based) queso before. As a matter of fact, it has been noted that it is a food group at my house. However the food group continues to evolve in the wild (i.e., on the internet) as well as here, and in the past few years quesos with vegetable bases in addition to, or without, nutritional yeast have gained in popularity.

Check out your favorite search engine for scores of plant-based quesos with potatoes and carrots (sometimes onions and/or cashews) in the base, and especially the VegNews post from 2008 for Best Mac 'n Cheese on the Planet. Many of the aforementioned have influenced the recipe below, as well as my previous queso post, which had origins in a Vegan Explosion post (a version of which eventually went commercial,  congrats to Food for Lovers!) but we have to go back much further to find the mother lode. 

Years ago I saw my first plant-based queso-y, cheese-y style dip/spread in Joanne Stepaniak's Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (Unprocessed Cheese Sauce) published in 2003. I no longer have the version that preceded that (The Uncheese Cookbook, 1994), and cannot remember if it appeared in the original Uncheese Cookbook (Update: I repurchased the original version of the cookbook, and yes it had a similar recipe.) At any rate we should give credit where it is due and I send thanks to Jo for inspiring so many succeeding iterations of non-dairy, non-exploitative, yet totally scarfable chile con queso recipes. This version does include nutritional yeast and cashews, although if you have issues with either, they could be left out for a somewhat different flavor profile.

Applications will of course not be limited to just dippin' of chips. Think: taco salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos, tacos, cheese fries, etc. 

And try not to feel too virtuous about gettin' yer veggies on in the meantime.

Chile con Queso

Makes about 4 cups (party size)

2 cups potatoes, peeled and cut in 1" cubes
½ cup carrots, cut in ½" cubes
½ cup chopped shallot or onion
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 Tbs. raw cashews (these will be steamed with the vegetables for easier blending)

½ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup sunflower or other neutral oil, or melted vegan butter
¾ cup plain, unsweetened soymilk or other unsweetened plant-based milk
1 Tbs. coconut vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, or ¾ tsp. lactic acid powder
1 Tbs. prepared yellow mustard
1 tsp. mellow white miso
1½ - 2 tsp. salt, to taste

10 oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles, well drained
¼ cup diced canned chiles (or 2 whole canned chiles, diced), well drained
1 tsp. New Mexico chile powder, or other chile powder to taste

additional plant-based milk to correct consistency, if necessary

Place about an inch of water in a large pot with a steamer insert and bring water to a boil. Add potatoes through cashews to the steamer insert, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and steam until potatoes and carrots are soft (about 15-20 minutes; check potatoes and carrots with a wooden skewer at about 15 minutes).

Remove ingredients from the steamer and place in a high speed blender with nutritional yeast through salt. Blend until very smooth.

Transfer blender mixture to a saucepan. Stir in tomatoes through chile powder and heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes to blend flavors (or transfer to a small crockpot and heat through if serving later). If a thinner consistency is desired, blend in additional plant-based milk to taste, a tablespoon at a time. The queso should be thick but 'dippable'.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Top o' the tortilla to ye

Yet another post in the vein of go-withs, condiments, seasonings, and general topping-off-mundane-stuff you normally eat. A while back on the Gentle Chef Facebook forum, someone mentioned their undying love for Peppercot Sauce. Which I have never seen 'round these parts, but had vaguely heard of. So after some internet rambling around I learned that this is basically an apricot preserves/jam, ground chilies, and vinegar type sauce. 

Sounds good so far, basically a Southwestern chutney. And I went in search of the original. Not available here on the east coast, as far as I can tell. And I almost ordered some, but really, if the ingredients are that simple, should I go to that expense?

No. Well at least not right off the bat.

Some day I will trial the original Peppercot Sauce[s], but until then this is what I came up with. And I expect it is not too far from the revered originals, given that the ingredient list was pretty simple. Spicy, sweet, zingy. Just the ticket for an otherwise bland fajita or taco.

Chilecot Sauce

10 oz. jar apricot preserves
1/2  cup apple cider vinegar
3 tsp. dried New Mexico chile flakes to taste, depending on the hotness of the chiles. Note that my dried chilies which I then ground into powder were rather mild; you may not need as much. Start with a teaspoon, blend, and taste. The heat will spread, so don't overdo it unless you have bullet-proof taste buds.

Blend all ingredients thoroughly and chill for a couple of hours before using. Store in a tightly closed bottle in the refrigerator.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Time to dress up

Long time, no nada. That's what happens with Facebook competing for your time and attention. It becomes the blog. But I think it's starting to wear thin. There has been some noodling around in the kitchen and elsewhere 'round here, but a lot of the noodling has been following all of my cooking groups on FB, in particular the Gentle Chef (new cookbook just released! It's awesome!), Vegan Meringue- Hits and Misses!, and several others, as well as all of the cooks/chefs I keep madly collecting cookbooks from. 

How cool is this- most of my cooking heroes are now FB friends. And food science is transforming plant-based cuisine. And I am just in awe of the developments we've seen in only a couple of years.

Most of my own concoctions of late have been condiments/seasonings/quick mixes, so here follows a pantry mix cobbled up today. I have been craving dippy stuff (which is normal) but also salads, and Ranch dressing/dip has always been one of my fave complements for both rabbit food and munchies. So after perusing various other versions of that famous dressing-mix-in-a-packet this Labor Day weekend, my own version is now tucked away in the pantry for many jars of dressing (and dip) to come. 

Note that this mix is not going to look like the white stuff in the packets, because it does not have fillers. This is straight essence, babies (i.e., seasonings, and yes I am channeling my inner Emeril), so you don't need that much. I use and recommend non-dairy milk (such as soymilk or cashew milk), and eggless mayo (such as Just Mayo or the homemade mayo from the Gentle Chef cookbooks) as the bases. I also doubled the batch (so there would be no dressing emergencies in the near future...)

Kicked Up Ranch Dressing Mix

4 Tbs. dried parsley
2 Tbs. onion flakes
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. onion powder
1 Tbs. dried dill weed
1 Tbs. dried chives
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. paprika

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients a few times to chop up the larger flakes, transfer to an airtight jar with some headspace (for re-mixing ingredients that have settled), and store in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard. Shake jar vigorously before measuring out mix.

To make dressing or dip:

2 tsp. mix, or to taste
½ cup + 2 Tbs. mayo, and 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. milk for dressing,  OR
¾ cup + 2 Tbs. mayo, and 2 Tbs. milk for dip
½ tsp. lactic acid powder OR 1 Tbs. vinegar or lemon juice (this gives the buttermilk flavor)
¼ - ½ tsp. xanthan gum, if a thicker dressing is desired (xanthan gum is often available in the gluten-free baking section of the grocery store)

Blend ingredients vigorously, transfer to a bottle or jar, and chill for at least a couple of hours to blend flavors. Dressing/dip will also thicken somewhat with chilling, especially if you add the xanthan gum, although this may not be as 'thick' as the store-bought versions.