Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Culinary Student Converted!

Well, maybe not converted from being a carnivore, but Sebastian definately had a great recipe using tofu. PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE--Blend equal amounts of silken tofu and creamy peanut butter until smooth. Sweeten with some honey if desired and enjoy.

I decided to try a variation on this mousse since chocolate makes everything even better. I used a spread called "Dark Chocolate Dreams" by "Peanut Butter & Co.".  I purchased it at my local Hannaford's grocery chain but you can check it out at www.ilovepeanutbutter.com or call 1-866-ILOVEPB.  Since this peanut butter is blended with rich dark chocolate I needed a little liquid to keep the tofu and peanut butter moving in the blender. If I hadn't consumed all the Grand Marnier during the holidays I would have put a tablespoon in the blender with the tofu and PB & C spread.  As I foraged through my pantry I found some coffee-flavored soy milk and almond extract. A little of each and the mousse was moving. I topped off each serving of mousse with some chopped, toasted hazelnuts.  My tofu-fearing husband ate the mousse and loved it. I did too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Respectful Eating

"Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do." -Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook

 On page 205 of The French Laundry Cookbook, Chef Keller describes an experience early in his career that helped him develop his respect for food. He describes the first time he killed a rabbit that was to be served in the small restaurant where he was working in the Hudson River Valley and the impact this had on his career.  After reading this page as a culinary student I saw the value in participating in ALL aspects of procuring food. So I caught a large-mouth bass from the pond on my farm and proceeded to kill, clean, prepare and serve that fish to my husband and nephews who were visiting. Each person got one glorious bite of fish and had to fill up on the vegetables and rice I served with the meal. 

For some people these kinds of experiences would convince them to adopt a vegan lifestyle.  For me, I give thanks and cherish each bite of the animal that gave it's life for my meal.  I serve much smaller portions of fish, chicken or meats and purchase them from farms committed to a humane way of raising and killing the animals.  This often requires me to purchase serveral whole chickens at a time or plan to purchase half a hog or a quarter of beef and store it in my freezer.   Since defrosting the meat takes time and some advance planning, chicken and meat is saved for special meals.  My quick-to-defrost, cooked beans have taken a more prominent role in my daily meals.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm A Carnivourous Vegan

I enhance my vegan meals by garnishing with meat, butter, cheese or sometimes sneaking in some chicken stock to make a sauce.  Ok, I confess, I almost always use beef stock or chicken stock when making my beans and grains. I also start with dried beans, soak them overnight in water and then cook a big pot of them the next day using the stock to which I've added some kosher salt.

Please don't try eating a whole pot of beans in one sitting.  It is digestive suicide and guaranteed to make you hate beans. As soon as the pot of beans is tender, not mushy, I drain them and spread them in a large roasting pan to cool.  Speed up the process by placing the pan in an ice bath and gently stir the beans.  Once the beans are cool put 1 cup portions in freezer bags and freeze for another meal.  Beans prepared this way have a much better flavor and texture than canned beans and you can use them in small amounts by adding to soups, stews and making into vegetable salads.

Try this with some black beans and next summer combine them with some fresh-off-the-cobb sweet corn, red onion and diced peppers. Season with chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, a little salt and a little chopped, fresh, chilli pepper and you will join me in cilantro heaven.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Developing A Taste For Tofu

It's taken two attempts with my curried tofu but I finally hit on the best way to prepare it.  Start with extra firm tofu if you want it cubed. Keep the cubes small and the texture, which can be a little hard to get used to, blends right in with the dish. Microwave the tofu for 4 minutes to release the moisture in it. Now you are ready to saute it and add it to your curry sauce.  When I did not pre-microwave the tofu it released it's moisture in the saute pan and took much longer to lightly brown. By that time it was sticking to the bottom of the pan and I had to add more oil or let it burn.

The other way I prepare tofu for carnivore's is the classic spinach dip in the pumpernickel bread bowl.  Use soft silken tofu in place of the sour cream or for just a portion of the sour cream.  You can also reduce the amount of mayonnaise. I've served this to many carnivores and my reputation as a chef has stayed intact.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reluctant Vegans

I just told my future-chef students at The Culinary Institute of America that they must prepare AND eat a vegan meal by next Wednesday, Jan 13. Absolutely no butter, cheese, eggs, chicken stock or any other animal product can be included.  I think some of them are now bingeing on beef and butter in anticipation of this project. Telling culinary students to give up their beloved meat, butter and eggs is unthinkable for many chefs. 

I'm an animal lover.  If they are not my pet then I want them on my plate. So why do I insist my students experience a vegan meal?  That's a longer story. I'll fill you in after I finish my tofu curry for dinner.