Fancy Faux-Lobster Roll

Fancy Vegan
Fancy Faux-Lobster Roll, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
During long, winter months when days are short, snow piles up high and it does not get above freezing for weeks on end, New Englander likes to enjoy things like pots and pots of piping hot New England Clam Chowder, a creamy and rich seafood based soup. This winter I did something that just a year ago would have sound like a total science fiction and impossibility. I made completely plant-based, clam-free New England “Clam” Chowder.

Now that we are approaching the high summer, I felt ready to tackles another recipe that New England self-identifies with, the Lobster Roll! If you’ve never tasted or seen a Lobster Roll let me quickly describe how it’s made. You take a hot dog bun, steam it or toast it and fill it with chunk so of cooked lobster meat tossed with some mayonnaise and chopped celery. The main flavor you get is usually the combination of mayo and celery, and you may get some citrus overtones since the roll is often served with a lemon wedge.

So far, jackfruit was my go-to seafood replacement. Jackfruit works really well in crab-less Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes, in Clam-free “Clam” Sauce, and in vegan New England “Clam” Chowder, but for the lobster rolls I wanted a different texture and milder flavor as canned jackfruit that I have access to is usually a bit salty and sour. So I did a little bit of research and discovered that heart of palm seems to be everybody’s favorite lobster stand-in. I have not really used heart of palm before so I was not sure what exactly to expect.

Luckily for me, my local Trader Joe’s carries 14 oz. jars of heart of palm in brine, so I decided to go for it. This amount of hearts of palm is enough to make four generous rolls using a standard size hot dog bun. The rolls come together in less than ten minutes and definitely qualify as a quick lunch or dinner. I recommend rinsing the heart of palm well and chopping it into relatively small piece. I know that chunks of lobster in some of the most revered lobster rolls out there are pretty large but in this case I do think that making celery and heart of palm pieces about the same size works better to integrate the flavors. Plus it makes for more manageable bites. So, get a large mixing bowl out and lets make a much lighter, cheaper, safer and, lets face it, tastier and kinder lobster roll.

Fancy Faux-Lobster Rolls
Fancy Faux-Lobster Rolls, kinder and safer, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Fancy Faux-lobster Roll

What you’ll need (for 4 servings):

1 14 oz (400 g) jar heart of palm
6 stalks celery
1/2 cup vegan Mayo (store bought or homemade)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon old bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3-4 springs of fresh dill, chopped
4 hot dog buns

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Drain and rinse heart of palm. Pat dry and cut in half lengthwise and then across into 1/2 in (1 to 1.5 cm) pieces. Place into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Chop celery into thin slices, approximately matching the size of the heart of palm pieces. Add to the mixing bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Toast four hot dog rolls then top them with generous amount of faux-lobster filling. Sprinkle more dill on, if you like, and enjoy! The flavor is so fresh and satisfying that you will not want to add anything to this, but just in case you are wondering what to pair Fancy Faux-Lobster Roll with, you can try boiled or baked potatoes with just a splash of olive oil. That ought to do it!

Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

 

Best DIY Sushi Ever!

Best DIY Sushi
Best DIY Sushi Rolls with Minty Peas & Red Cabbage, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
If you think that making sushi requires hours of practice, one-on-one instruction from a sushi master chef and special equipment… well, you may be right if your goal is to make sushi that contains fish or seafood, especially given health risks involved. But, if you want to explore the wonderful and delightful world of plant-based sushi, all you need is about an hour or two, and some imagination.

I made my first vegan maki sushi, the kind where filling and rice are wrapped in sea weed, few months ago, and I really enjoyed the process and the flavors. I got inspired to start thinking about what ingredients would work together well, and whether there are any dipping sauces I could use to complement the sushi.

The results of this brainstorming are before you: Green & Orange Sushi Rolls and Peas & Cabbage Sushi Rolls, with Peanut Dipping Sauce and Sour Lemongrass Dipping Sauce.

The basic requirement for a great sushi is plenty of sticky rice. You can get special sushi rice but you can also use any short and medium grain variety of rice. For sushi, I use the same rice I use for risottos. The trick is to add the rice to boiling water, reduce the heat and let the rice gently simmer with occasional mixing.

Finally, leaving the rice to cool will help you handle it as well as help the rice get nice and very sticky. I recommend dipping your hands in water before handling the rice and then keep wetting them as you spread and press the rice.

One other thing you need to pay attention to is what side of seaweed sheet you pile your rice on. It should be the one that feels slightly rough, so that your outside is nice a smooth. What I discovered is that you don’t really need the bamboo sushi rolling mat or any special equipment. The main thing to remember is to go easy on the stuffing so your rolls don’t end up to full. This will make them hard to roll and more likely to rip. I hope you go for these vegan versions of sushi, or create your own. There really is no limit and no rules!

DIY Sushi with Two Dipping Sauces

What you’ll need:

FOR THE STICKY RICE

1 cup short or medium grain rice

2 cups water

FOR GREEN & ORANGE SUSHI ROLLS

1 1/2 cup cooked rice

3 seaweed (nori) sheets

1 carrot

1 English cucumber

1 avocado

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup black sesame seeds

FOR CABBAGE AND PEAS SUSHI ROLLS

1 1/2 cup cooked rice

3 seaweed (nori) sheets

2 cups peas, frozen

2 cups water

2 cups shredded red cabbage

1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 cup fresh mint leaves

FOR PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE

2 tablespoons peanut butter, unsalted

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sriracha(or other hot sauce)

1/4 cup water

2 teaspoons panko, toasted

FOR LEMONGRASS DIPPING SAUCE

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce, reduced sodium

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon lemongrass, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil and add the rice. Lower the heat to gentle simmer and cook the rice, stirring occasionally, until all the water is absorbed, and the grains are soft. Set to the side and let it cool.
  2. In another pot bring 2 cups of water to boil and add frozen peas. Cook until well done for about 15 minutes.
  3. While rice and peas are cooking, put together the dipping sauces. In a medium size bowl, combine all the peanut sauce ingredients, except panko, and mix well to combine. Toast panko in the toaster oven, or in a pan over high heat, for 1-2 minutes. Top the peanut dipping sauce with toasted panko.
  4. In another bowl, combine all the ingredients for the lemongrass dipping sauce and set aside.
  5. Prepare your roll stuffers, like cucumbers, carrots, avocados or anything else you like. The trick is to make your veggie sticks long and thin.
  6. To make the red cabbage, place finely shredded red cabbage in a bowl and add all the rest of the ingredients except mint leaves. Mix everything well using your hands. Squeezing the cabbage as you mix will help soften it and make it absorb flavors better. Let the cabbage “marinate” for 30 to 60 minute.
  7. When peas are fully cooked drain and purée them.
  8. Once the rice is cool it is safe to handle. Place a piece of the seaweed sheet on the flat kitchen surface rough surface up. Place 1/2 cup of sticky rice on the sheet. Spread the rice to cover most of the seaweed sheet using your wet hands. Next, place the topping on 3/4 of the way towards one end of the sheet, and start rolling from that edg, slowly and gently. The roll should come together nicely.Cut the roll into sushi piece. One note on peas and cabbage rolls: spread the pea purée across entire rice and the pickled cabbage and mint leaves in a single line, 2/3 of the way from the edge.
  9. Serve the sushi with the two dipping sauces, some pickled ginger and wasabi paste. Enjoy!

Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Mushroom “Scallops” with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Mushroom “Scallops” with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
“Waste not, want not” is how the saying goes, encouraging us to not to waste what we have and conserve resources. Well, I may be extrapolating here, but it is not a bad maxim to cook by, if not live by. I’ve been struggling for number of years now to find use for mushroom stems, especially the big, almost woody stems of large white button mushrooms. The caps are fabulous for stuffing, and I’ve already shared my Mashed Potato Stuffed Mushrooms with Cashew Sour Cream recipe, but stems are a bit trickier. I usually chop them up and combine them into the stuffing, or don’t even bother removing them if I use mushrooms in a soup or stew that will simmer for a while. However, big stems just don’t work well in some of the quicker recipes.

That’s why I got really excited when I found out that mushroom stems can be used as a sort of replacement for large scallops. For example, Cara, the person behind a fabulous blog called Fork & Beans, used king oyster mushrooms to make a “scallop” pasta. That got me thinking: why not use the large stems I got to create a vegan “scallop” dish?

There is one major trick to transforming mushroom stems into scallops – you have to soak them in hot water 1-2 hours to overnight. I soaked my batch overnight, actually for almost 24 hours, which is totally an overkill but I just had other things to do the mushroom stems had to wait happily soaking in the refrigerator. The mushroom stems I had were pretty long so I had to cut each in half, so my scallops were about 1 in (2.5 cm) thick. That worked well in terms of cooking too! Before using, drain and dry your mushroom scallops.

Mushroom “Scallops” Soaking, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Another advice I can share is to make mushroom scallops the same way you would make scallops, which in my case means simply browning them on both sides, using a bit of oil or cooking spray and sprinkling with Old Bay Seasoning on one side as the first side is finishing cooking. The cooking itself takes no time at all: three to five minutes per side should do the trick!

If you are serving the mushroom “scallops” as is, I suggest you sprinkle them with some lemon juice. I decided to serve them with a Cilantro Yogurt Sauce which I made from homemade soy yogurt, fresh cilantro, crushed garlic and lime juice. The homemade soy yogurt was simple to make and I recommend you try making your own, but if pressed for time store bought plain soy yogurt will do the trick. Here, the tangier the yogurt, the better the yogurt sauce so choose the brand with more tang – I can’t recommend any here because none of the store bought yogurts I tried were really all that good (thus the decision to make my own!). You can adjust the tang with adding a drop of apple cider vinegar or a bit more lime juice.

You can serve these mushroom “scallops”, and the sauce, with pasta or polenta, but I plated them as an appetizer over some fresh baby spinach leaves. The “scallops” were hot when plated, and their heat wilted the spinach a bit as well. I let them sit for few minutes before layering on cold yogurt sauce and serving immediately!!!

In case you were wondering, these don’t really taste like scallops but they are delicious and I love the idea so I will definitely be trying to get the flavor closer to the original, perhaps by trying a different mushroom variety.

Mushroom “Scallops” with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

What you’ll need:

20 large white button mushroom, stems only

2-3 teaspoons, Old Bay Seasoning

1 cup plain soy yogurt, homemade

1 cup cilantro leaves (about 1 bunch)

2 teaspoon garlic, crushed

2-3 teaspoons lime juice

Baby spinach for plating

Cooking spray

What you’ll do: 

  1. Cut large white button mushroom stems into 1 in (2.5 cm) pieces. Soak in water overnight, or in hot water for 1-2 hours.
  2. Prepare plain soy yogurt according to the instructions on VegCharlotte site. The method I used takes advantage of a crock pot, slow cooker, but it does take at least 14 hours to make so give yourself enough time, or get a tub of store bought soy yogurt. So this recipe is a bit of an overnight flight and you’ll need to get the mushroom “scallops” and the yogurt going one day ahead.
  3. In a food processor, mix yogurt, cilantro, garlic and lime juice. Your yogurt might be more or less solid, mine was more of a kefir than yogurt, but that really does not matter much in this application. At the end you will have a beautiful, aromatic, vibrant sauce regardless of your yogurt consistency. Put your sauce to the side and proceed to deal with the mushroom “scallops”.
  4. When ready to cook the mushrooms, first drain the liquid and pat the mushroom “scallops” dry with a kitchen towel.
  5. Spray the bottom of a large frying pan with cooking spray and place it over the high heat. Brown the mushroom “scallops” on one side for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the top with Old Bay Seasoning then turn over for another 3-5 minutes. Plate on the bed of baby spinach that has been generously topped with cilantro yogurt sauce. Serve and enjoy immediately!
  6. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Soy Yogurt Cilantro Sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Cilantro Yogurt Sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Clams-free “Clam” Sauce

Jackfruit Clam Sauce with Black Bean Pasta
Jackfruit Clam Sauce with Black Bean Pasta, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Cooking is in many ways similar to doing experiments in a research lab. In a lab we start from a protocol, or a recipe (oh, yes… we use recipes in science big time!), and more often than not we change things up to see what happens to our experimental results under a new set of parameters or conditions. We make observations and jot them down. The main and the biggest, actually a life and death, difference between cooking and science is that you don’t taste results of your science experiments, while tasting cooking experiments is recommended.

Why do I mention experiments? Well, although seldom talked about most experiments actually give negative results or even fail. Now this happens in cooking too, but I have to say at this point in my life not very often. So, it is with a bag of mixed emotions that I am jotting down this recipe – the Clam-free Clam Sauce with Black Bean Pasta – as this did not turn out the way I was hoping it would.

The sauce itself is actually spot on, creamy and delicious. It uses jackfruit as a stand in for clams, similar to what I’ve done in my New England “Clam” Chowder, and a batch of homemade vegan mozzarella, recipe for which I found on a fun vegan cooking blog site it doesn’t taste like chicken. This vegan mozzarella, combined with the jackfruit, some almond milk, lemon juice, and a dash of Old Bay Seasoning gave a beautiful, rich, and creamy sauce.

The main problem was that I decided to pair this delicious sauce with black bean pasta, instead of more traditional linguine pasta, and this DID NOT work at all. The black bean pasta had a strong flavor that interfered with the subtle flavors of the Clam-free Clam Sauce so the final dish was definitely very far from authentic pasta with the clam sauce.

Conclusion of this experiment? When in possession of the clam sauce, even if it is a vegan version of it, just go with linguini, which is exactly what I’ll do next time!

Clam-free Clam Sauce

What you’ll need:

1 can (10 oz, 280 g) young green jackfruit in brine

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

1/2 cup vegan mozzarella

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry basil

1 teaspoon dry oregano

Cooking spray

Fresh flat leave (Italian) parsley

What you’ll do:

  1. Prepare the vegan mozzarella according to instructions on it doesn’t taste like chicken site.
  2. Prepare the jackfruit by draining the brine out and washing the jackfruit off from access brain to make sure that most of the salt is washed off. Pull jackfruit apart into smaller pieces, about the size of clam “meat”.
  3. Spray the bottom of your pot with cooking spray and turn the heat on medium-high. Add jackfruit and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add Old Bay seasoning, mix well and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add garlic and sauté for another minute, until the garlic releases its aroma.
  6. Next add the vegan mozzarella and mix everything together. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add almond milk and decrease the heat to medium to medium-low. Let the sauce come to simmer.
  8. In a small bowl, mix corn starch and couple of tablespoons of sauce to temper the corn starch. Then add it to the sauce and mix well. Let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Add lemon juice, oregano and basil. That ought to do it. But remember: no matter what don’t pair this sauce with the black bean pasta, it’s not worth it!
  10. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

New England “Clam” Chowder

Bowl of New England “Clam” Chowder, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
A week ago New England was thrown into a March snow storm that dumped 1-2 feet (30 – 60 cm) of fresh powder all over the region. Schools were closed, businesses advised people to work from home if they can, and by the time late afternoon rolled around we were all outside digging ourselves out.

As we all know, when it comes to the cold weather and snow storms nothing works faster to melt the chills away than a bowl of hot soup, so given the success of my Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes I decided to veganize a seafood classic, the New England Clam Chowder and see if jackfruit would work in this recipe as well.

For those of you not familiar with the New England Clam Chowder it is a creamy soup built from butter, heavy cream, celery, onions, potatoes, clam juice and clam meat. I had past success in making creamy soups using potato or corn starch as gluten-free thickening agents, and I was pretty sure that they will work here as well. I was interested to see how jackfruit will do as a stand in for clams and felt confident that it will turn out OK.

But how to make vegan clam juice, which is clam broth and a key ingredient in this soup that adds unique flavor evocative of sea and shell fish posed and interesting challenge. I decided to use some Old Bay Seasoning because it worked so well in my “crab” cakes, and for some extra sea flavor I used some seaweed broth. What I did is to soak two sushi nori seaweed sheets in some warm water for 30 minutes, and then pass the mix through a strainer to remove the seaweed and keep just the liquid. That was my “clam juice”, and it worked!

Beside that little neat trick, my one general recommendation is to use a Dutch oven or a similar heavy post with a lid, as the soup does need to simmer for a while. When the soup is done, it is best served fresh with a squeeze of lemon, coarsely ground (cracked) black pepper, a sprinkle of dry basil or fresh parsley, and a piece of bread. There’s nothing better to help you recover from all that snow shoveling!

New England “Clam” Chowder, Gently Simmering, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

New England “Clam” Chowder

What you’ll need:

1.5 lbs (700 g) potatoes, peeled and diced

1 can (10 oz, 280 g) young green jackfruit in brine

6 stalks of celery

1 large yellow onion

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 bay leaves

2 sheets of sushi nori seaweed

2 cups hot water

3 cups almond milk

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Soak seaweed sheets in 2 cups of hot water for 15-30 minutes.
  2. While seaweed is soaking rinse and drain the jackfruit and pull the pieces apart to create smaller chunks, roughly the size and shape of chopped clams. Set aside.
  3. Peel and dice potatoes, onions and celery.
  4. Spray the bottom of a large Dutch oven, or other heavy pot, with cooking spray and bring up to medium high heat.
  5. Add onions, garlic and celery and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add potatoes and continue sautéing for another 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add jackfruit, sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning, mix well and sauté for another 5-7 minutes.
  8. While the vegetables are sautéing, run the seaweed through a strainer to remove as much seaweed as possible. You should end up with 2 cups of water that is slightly brown and smells like seaweed. That’s your “clam” juice
  9. Mix in the starch into the vegetables, and add the “clam” juice, bay leaves, and lemon juice. Bring the soup to gentle boil, mixing occasionally.
  10. Add almond milk, and keep the soup on gentle simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot, with a squeeze of lemon and a piece of bread.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cake, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
I discovered jackfruit about two months ago and can’t live without it ever since. I used it as my secret “chicken” in the Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala, as well as a quick and easy taco filling. If you are new to jackfruit, here is a brief intro. The type of jackfruit that works for savory main dishes is called young green jackfruit and for most of us it will come in a can, usually packed in brine or water. There is also jackfruit in syrup, which is ripe and sweet – I did not taste that one yet, but it seems like it tastes like pineapple or grapes.

One thing I noticed over the last few weeks is that people are very much interested in trying jackfruit but they don’t really know where to find it. My source is a local Asian food market – the trip is fun and the price is right. But, I know that not everyone has a handy Asian food market nearby so in that case places like Amazon.com will help, or places like Whole Foods Market that carries products of The Jackfruit Company, which is a Boston-based company I just stumbled upon dedicated to promoting use of jackfruit and supporting farmers who grow it.  The Jackfruit Company site also includes a long list of interesting looking recipes, but no “Crab” Cakes – they don’t know what they are missing!

My jackfruit comes in a brine so I always begin by rinsing the jackfruit off really well and letting it drain for a while. Basically I leave it in the same strainer I wash it in over a bowl on the kitchen counter for at least 30 minutes, and then I also pat it dry. For this crab cake recipe, I recommend pulling the jackfruit pieces apart to make them roughly the same size crab chunks usually are. The two other ingredients that I enjoy in crab cakes are scallions (green onions) and red peppers, both of which I chop relatively finely.

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes Step 1, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Finally, one ingredient that you simply can’t have a crab cake flavor without it is Old Bay Seasoning. One note of caution when using Old Bay Seasoning: if you are keeping your meals low salt you may want to skip this one and make your own seasoning mix, or use a smaller amount.

If you are wondering if there are any other tricks to this recipe, I would say that the really neat trick is to leave the cakes in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This will help them keep their shape while cooking and as a result you will have a plate of Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes that are delicious, and good lookers to boot!

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes Last Step, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes

What you’ll need:

2 cans (10 oz, 280 g each) young green jackfruit in brine

6 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 large red bell pepper, finely diced

2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

3 tablespoons flax meal

6 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

Cooking spray

Fresh cilantro and lemon wedges for garnish

What you’ll do:

  1. Use flax meal and warm water to make vegan flax egg. What you need to do is in a small bowl or a measuring cup mix flax meal and water in 1:2 ratio (1 tablespoon flax meal plus 2 tablespoons warm water and scale up from there if you know you need more binding agent), mix well and let sit for 15-30 min.
  2. Drain and wash the jackfruit. Pull apart with your fingers into smaller pieces that are approximately size of crab meat used in crab cakes. Place into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Dice the red pepper into small dice and add to jackfruit.
  4. Chop scallions (white and green part) finely, add to the bowl.
  5. Add all the other ingredients including the flax egg and mix well.
  6. Line a tray with wax paper, form crab cakes with your hands, and set on the tray. This amount of jackfruit should yield 6-8 cakes. Leave the cakes in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.
  7. Spray the bottom of the frying pan with cooking spray and heat it over the medium high to high heat. Place 3 to 4 crab cakes into the pan at a time. Make sure you leave enough room between the crab cakes as it will help you move them around and flip them over. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on the first side and 3-4 minutes on the second side.
  8. Sprinkle the Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes with some freshly chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017