Thursday, August 25, 2011

Waste not, want not

There's nothing quite like the joy of opening the door of your fridge and finding leftovers, especially when they're good. The black beans and sweet potatoes that we had the other night were begging to be eaten the next morning. But who craves black beans and sweet potatoes for brunch? Back when I was vegetarian, I would have just cooked up a few over easy eggs and served them on top, as a sort of impromptu huevos racheros. But we haven't had eggs in years and we wanted something a little more innovative for brunch that morning. We had made sweet crepes the night before for dessert and we had left over batter in the fridge. Diego decided to make sweet potato and black bean crepes, successfully using up all of our left overs. Now this certainly topped that burrito I had back in Gainesville all those years ago. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mac'n Food Truck

Say hello to one of my new favorite vegan restaurants, one that has wheels... 

I've been waiting, not so patiently, to try this food truck for months. I haven't had mac n' cheese in over 3 years, since I first became vegan, and the thought of trying a vegan version sounded really intriguing.  And by some stroke of luck, they were right down the street from me this evening. Dreams can come true. 

I admit, I have quite a soft spot for southern fare. I grew up in the south, so fried green tomatoes, mac'n cheese, and BBQ remind me of my not so culinary refined childhood. I went with the Portobello, Pea & Mozzarella Mac'n Cheese with a side of Fried Green Tomatoes (w/ remoulade). 

and the Fried Green Tomatoes...

Diego tried the BBQ Pulled 'Pork' Jack-fruit Sandwich which was topped with apple slaw. 

This food will make anyone believe that comfort foods can be full of flavor. I was expecting the cheese sauce in the Mac'n Cheese to be flavored like soy or Daiya or some other well known vegan cheese. While, I admit I haven't have had 'real' mac'n cheese in a long time, I would swear that their mozzarella cheese sauce tastes just like the real thing. The Fried Green tomatoes were divine :) the best I've ever had, and they paired really well with the slightly spicy remoulade sauce. Now, the most intriguing and delicious item I had tonight was the BBQ Pulled 'Pork' sandwich with appleslaw. I thought it was really unique to use Jackfruit as the 'protein' in this dish. The texture was very fleshy, but the slightly fruity flavors paired really well with the apple slaw. It reminded me of what I wanted to eat in the Bahamas, something I would have enjoyed on a nice evening by the beach. It was really great for this constantly hot weather in Miami. This Food Truck knows what they're doing, and please, keep it coming :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Playing with textures and flavors

Ever since I had a black bean and sweet potato burrito at Burrito Brothers in Gainesville, no other combination will work for me. It's very rare that you ever encounter a culinary marriage made in heaven like black beans and sweet potatoes. Sure, beans and rice will always taste great together. There's just something about the smokey and sweet/savory taste of a sweet potato coupled with the mellow heat and spice with perfectly seasoned black beans.

I'm learning as I become a more seasoned foodie that textures are also important to me. Gone are the days when I would just inhale my food if the first bite tasted good. I've learned to slow down and enjoy the food for what it truly is, no extra baggage. I found that a lot of the things I used to eat I could never touch again and a lot of the foods I never wanted I crave all the time.

This evening I would have traded my first born for that black bean and sweet potato burrito up in Gainesville. Thankfully, I had both of them on hand. Diego, (my partner in crime) helped me cook and plan out the meal, making all my dreams come true.

The Production - The idea was to utilize what we had on hand, some sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and fresh kale. We wanted to prepare the black beans like traditional Venezuelan caraotas. We loosely based the seasoning choices off of Terry Romero's recipe in Vive la Vegan. The simple green pepper and onion sofrito
adds a sweet savory flavor to the caraotas. I wanted to pair them with fresh tomatoes because I thought the acid from the tomatoes would go nicely with the beans. The sweet potatoes were going to be served on the side with caramelized onions and an herbed butter made out of Earth Balance.

While the sweet potatoes were baking, we prepared the rest of the food. Efficiency is another kitchen virtue I have learned over the years. There's always an order of operations in this kitchen :) Next, I diced some fresh tomatoes and seasoned them with salt, fresh black pepper, fresh thyme and a little bit of olive oil.

With the tomatoes set aside, Diego started the green pepper and onion sofrito mixture. This was sauteed until caramelized lightly to give a sweet smokiness to the beans.

In a separate pan, I began caramelizing the onions.

 * I just really wanted to take a picture of caramelized onions, one of my favorite foods in the world

I took a huge shortcut in Terry's recipe and just used canned black beans. I'm trying my hardest to get away from canned beans once and for all, but I'm a sucker for convenience. I managed to use the three cans as planters for my pepper plant seedlings. So I didn't waste anything this time. The beans only took a short amount of time to heat through and were ready to serve. We decided to try the new Daiya Pepperjack Cheese on top of the caraotas. We also threw together a small batch of roasted Kale chips. I just sprinkled chopped pieces of kale (chip size) with sea salt and black pepper. I very lightly coated them with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and them roasted them for 10 minutes or so until they were crispy.

This was the finished plate...

It was even better than that burrito. This was hands down one of the best dishes we've made in a while. It was nice to have so many flavors and textures all in one dish. I think the Daiya cheese was unnecessary but it was fun to try, I think it would go better melted on a burger or a pizza.

A lesson in scavenging

Scavenging- it sounds so dirty and low class. When we think about scavengers we usually envision vultures, crows, or other 'undesirable' creatures that live off free pickings. A lot of us can't stand the idea of buying second hand or shopping in thrift stores, the very idea that someone else owned something before you seems offensive. Who wants to go through garbage to get free things that could otherwise be valuable? A lot of people, especially those trying to be green, creative, or both and enjoy finding used, cheap, or free things and making them their own. One man's garbage is another man's treasure. 

A lot of people are finding that they can make use of things that would be deemed garbage. One of my goals is to develop a program for dealing with my own household wastes. Ideally, I would like to have zero landfill input. I have to avoid buying any food or items that are sold in materials that are not recyclable. All of my biodegradable trash, such as food scraps, paper rolls, and cardboard, I will turn into soil using a worm bin. And other items that are recyclable such as glass or aluminum cans, I want to make use out of in innovative ways. 

As for scavenging, I decided that when I moved to Miami, I would not buy any furniture while I am here. I wanted to challenge my creative side by utilizing thrown out furniture and making it my own. And why not? I love the idea of getting free furniture, and believe me there is plenty for the taking in a materialistic city like Miami. 

When I moved into my new apartment, I found this gem next to the dumpster of my apartment complex. I snagged it with no shame, took it up to my place and dusted it off. It was hand made by someone out of solid wood, not particle board. How often do people throw out real wood furniture? It looked pretty bad with the two colors being cheap red wine and some sort of off white that was tinted with bile. I wanted to get rid of the colors and make it a lot darker. I like the look of aged worn furniture but I wanted to add an edge to the color.  I sanded most of the paint off, the edges of the shelf where I wanted to stain it with red mahogany. And on the insides I wanted it to look like tarnished copper, with the 'metal' oxidized so that the blues and greens come out. 

 I got both the stains and the paint from Home Depot, totaling $12. I put two coats of the red mahogany stain on the wood bordering the shelves. I painted two coats of the copper paint on the inside. Once the copper paint dried, I took some old oil paint (Green, Blue, Silver) that I had lying around and I lightly painted all over the insides of the shelf. To get the oxidized rusty look, I watered some of the paint down and let it drip down the inside, then I went behind with a small artist's brush and blotted the drops, so that it looked like the tarnished metal was spreading from the drip marks. After I finished this, I stained my old coffee table to see how it would come out. Once it's done drying, I'll post a picture. It's a lot of fun once you finish your first piece.