Some days sleep deprivation shows its effects more than usual. I was making myself a bowl of oatmeal the other day and ended up spilling half the content by clusily wrestling with the bag. Then I grabbed a bag of raisins and absent-mindedly chewed the corner instead of opening the resealable zip. On days like these, the meal of choice would be something that can be put together in 5 minutes or less. This is one of them. Don’t be put off or intimidated by the idea of lime leaves; you can substitute it with whatever you have on hand. Dried seaweed, scallions, shredded carrot - get customizing.
[ 12 ounces noodles + 1/4 cup soy sauce + 3 tablespoons sugar + 4 garlic cloves, minced + 3 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil + 1 tablespoon chili oil, add more if you’re up for it + 6 lime leaves, thinly sliced + 1 teaspoon sesame seeds ]
In a bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients. Stir until well combined and adjust ingredients as needed.
Cook your noodles according to the package instruction and drain. Pour sauce over warm noodles and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds, red chili pepper flakes and more lime leaves. Serve immediately.
Making Cream of Mushroom Soup
A lot of of recipes for vegan cream of mushroom soup use cashew as a thickener. I immediately searched for an alternative because the thought of crunching on a piece of stray, unblended cashew makes me shudder. That, and I just think having nut paste in a soup is a bit weird.
Cream of mushroom soup is usually made with button mushrooms; finely chopped and sweated down with and almost dissolved in a mixture of broth and cream. In this one I’m using dried shiitake for two reasons; the first is that they’re unbelievably cheap. The second is that when you steep them in water, you also get a very deep, earthy mushroom stock that is simply delicious. If you want to thin the soup you can use almond milk or mushroom broth, the latter is a bit strong so use sparingly. A little bit goes a long way.
CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP:
[ 1 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushroom + 2 cups cauliflower florets + 1 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 teaspoon olive oil + 1/2 yellow onion, diced + 2 cloves of garlic + 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano + salt and pepper, to taste + a small bunch of parsley ]
Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in 4 cups of warm water for at least 1 hour. Reserve the liquid and drain the mushroom. Set aside.
Bring cauliflower, milk and 3/4 cup of the reserved mushroom liquid to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it boils, put the lid on and reduce heat to low and simmer for 7-8 minutes, until cauliflower is softened.
Take off the heat and puree the cauliflower mixture using a blender or food processor. Return back to the pot.
Thinly slice the shiitake mushroom. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and onions and sautee over medium heat until the onion begins to brown. Add in the mushroom and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the dried oregano and season to taste.
Add half of the sauteed mushroom mixture to the pureed cauliflower. Bring to a boil over medium heat, adding more almond milk to get the consistency you want (you can add the mushroom liquid instead, or a mixture of both. Almond milk will give it a creamier taste, mushroom both a more earthy flavor. Your call). Season to taste.
Pour warm soup into serving bowls and garnish with leftover sauteed mushrooms and freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.
Making Chocolate Custard Bomboloni
Potatoes and chocolate. Aside from the classic french fries dipped in milkshake, who knew they would go so well together? Mashed spuds lends these doughnuts a rather savory taste without adding egg or even milk. Which makes them a great vegan dessert.
Speaking of vegan desserts, if there is one thing that irks me it’s the
insistence tendency to eat everything raw. Raw cheesecake, raw almond milk, raw chocolate mousse - it was almost difficult to find a recipe for chocolate custard that didn’t involve an avocado. Vegan is synonymous with healthy, I get it. But surely it isn’t a crime to indulge once in a while, and almond milk based custards can hardly be called unhealthy. If you want, you can of course use sweet potatoes. But I fear that chocolate custard might not be the right filling for it, no. Salted caramel might be in order. Hmmm.
[ 1 cup mashed potato + 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour + 2 teaspoon yeast + 3/4 cup warm water + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 2 tablespoon sugar + 2 tablespoon vegan margarine + vegetable oil for frying + caster sugar for coating ]
[1/2 cup cornstarch + 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips + 1 3/4 cup almond milk + 1/2 tablespoon vanilla ]
To make the doughnuts, mix all the ingredients except the flour in a large mixing bowl mix with the paddle attachment until well combined.
Switch to the hook attachment and add the flour 1 cup at a time until you get a nice smooth dough. Cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel and let it rise for an hour or so at a warm place until double in size.
While you’re waiting, make the chocolate custard filling. In a pan, whisk together cornstarch, sugar and salt. Gradually whisk in almond milk until combined. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and gets thicker to a pastry cream consistency.
Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate chips and vanilla until smooth. Refrigerate (covering the surface with cling film) until needed.
Punch down the dough and remove onto a floured work tabletop. Roll out the dough to about 1/4” thick. Using a small, round pastry or cookie cutter (or any medium sized circular object, for that matter. As you can see here I’m embracing my inner MacGyver by using an empty can of Golden Ginger lozenge. Oh yeah), cut rounds out of the dough and place them on a sheet of baking paper to rise again. Gather the scraps and re-roll, then cut out more donuts.
Let the bomboloni rise in a warm place for 30 minutes covered with a clean tea towel to prevent from drying, then fry them in plenty of vegetable oil at about 170-180°C.
When they are an even deep golden brown, immediately place the hot bomboloni in a bowl of fine caster sugar to coat them.
Place them on a baking rack until cool enough to handle. Get your custard out of the fridge. It will look a bit scraggly, but this is fine. Just give it a good mix with a spatula and load into a piping bag with a normal or long tip. Pipe the chocolate custard from the side of the doughnuts and serve immediately.
Matchbox Twenty - You Won’t Be Mine
Making Chimichurri Tofu Steak
Tofu is dirt cheap in Indonesia. You’d get about 2lbs for less than $1. There’s no need to go to the supermarket to get it either. There’s a peddler who comes around in his motorbike, a small wooden crate strapped into the back seat filled with blocks of tofu wrapped in banana leaves. There’s also tempeh and warm soymilk. Really good stuff.
Seasoned and grilled, tofu breaks out of its stereotypical image of being watery or bland, providing that you pat it dry beforehand. It’s great topped with a lot of sauces, but I chose to make some chimichurri for some bright flavors. I know that it’s not traditional to put sugar into chimichurri and wine vinegar is usually used, but I’m putting lime to mine and some fresh chili peppers for that extra kick.
[ 1 pound extra firm tofu + 1 teaspoon garlic powder + 1 teaspoon onion powder + 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika + 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin + 1/2 teaspoon black pepper + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil ]
[ 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley + 2-3 garlic cloves + 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon dried ones + juice of 1 lime + 1/4 cup olive oil + 1 red chili pepper + 1/2 tablespoon sugar + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ]
Combine the garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, cumin and vegetable oil.
Slice the firm tofu lengthwise into six to eight equal portions. Press the tofu slices between sheets of paper towel, adding some weight to help squeeze out excess moisture.
Brush the sides of the tofu with the rub and set aside.
Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley, garlic and oregano (if using fresh ones) and place in a small bowl. Deseed and finely chop the red chili pepper and throw those in too. Stir in the oil, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Adjust to taste, adding more lime juice or salt if needed. Set aside.
Place tofu in a grill pan over medium-high heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn the tofu steak with a pair of tongs and a flat spatula if necessary. Sear the second side and continue grilling until done, about 3-5 minutes
Serve grilled tofu topped with chimichurri sauce.
Just messin’. I was going to do it sooner or later, regardless if the anon showed up or not. So I guess this is sooner. Like, ohmagerd you guises, I’m about to reveal my cheap tricks. In all seriousness though, my basic view of post editing is that you enhance what you’ve already got. You’re neither adding things that are not already there nor removing something that is there in the first place. So taking a good initial picture, with the right lighting, angle and composition is still key.
Now what I’m about to show you is the basic editing sequence that I used on the majority on my light-deprived pictures. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, what with the somewhat exaggerated lighting and grainy noise, so experiment around to see what works for your own particular set of pictures. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
PROGRAM USED: Paint.Net v3.5.10
1. “Glow 1”
Effects > Photo > Glow
You’d want to reduce the Radius, which is the amount of blurring done on the picture to 1. We’re only using the glow to illuminate the picture.
After "Glow 1", you’ll have something that looks like this:
Feel free to stop at this stage and skip to stage 3 if your picture is adequately illuminated. I personally repeat the glow process again, this time with a little less brightness.
2. “Glow 2”
And you’ll end up with something like this:
You can see that the contrast and brightness is a bit too much and looks a bit harshly lit. To counter that we go to the next step:
3. “Level it out”
Adjustments > Levels
Adjust the tabs to get the brightness and contrast you want. Use a combination of tabs, because each has its own effects. Going from left to right:
Input top tab: moving it up decreases brightness, moving it down increases it.
Input bottom tab: moving it up increases shade, moving it down decreases it.
Output top tab: moving it up increases contrast, moving it down decreases it
Output middle tab: moving it up increases midtone, moving it down decreases it.
Output bottom tab: moving it up decreases contrast, moving it down increases it.
4. “Finishing Touch (ups)”: Saturation, selective blurring, selective sharpen, noise reduce or noise increase - you know the drill.
And more of the before & afters:
So there it is, that’s all there is to it. I hope this is of some use to you guys. Sharing is caring, right? If any one tries this and it works or you encounter some difficulties, lemme know.
Making Watermelon Panzanella
A few things:
1. I’m currently munching on a piece of leftover toast from this recipe. Today had arguably the worst lighting for a photo session. The sky had been dark since 10AM, and I contemplated back and forth on whether or not to do a post. I knew I wouldn’t have time to do it next week, so I guess you guys will just have to put up with the sub-par photos.
2. No one has yet to come forth and claim the anonymous ask for the post-editing techniques. I wasn’t kidding or being sarcastic when I said I’ll tell what it is once someone claims it. I figured my blogging days are numbered, so I might as well pass the post-editing baton.
3. Is a watermelon recipe appropriate for this time of year? Probably not. And I haven’t posted a pumpkin-related recipe at all, which is a personal record. If you can get your hands on some watermelon, do try this out. I have to say though, going on the vegan wagon for this month was especially hard for this dish, because it was practically begging (beggiiiiiiiiing, I tell you) for some soft, creamy feta. I’ll just go sob in a corner now.
[ 3 cups cubed watermelon + 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved, or 3 ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks + 3 slices of day old bread + 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 small red onion, thinly sliced + 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and cut into chunks + a handful of basil (I used parsley), chopped + 1/4 cup olive oil + juice of 1 lime + 1 tablespoon zaa’tar + 1 teaspoon sugar + 1 clove or garlic, minced ]
Brush both sides of the bread and lay out on a baking sheet. Put in a 300°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until a bit toasted.
To make the dressing, whisk the 1/4 cup olive oil, lime juice, zaa’tar, sugar and minced garlic in a bowl. Set aside.
Mix everything together and let marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Serve as it is or on top of toasted flatbread.