Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vegan Pomelo/Grapefruit Salad (Happy Lunar New Year!)

Happy Lunar New Year!  The Year of the Dragon!  This weekend, if you are roaming around China town, Vietnamese town, Thai town, etc. you will see a lot of Pomelos, Kumquats, Oranges, and Tangerines.    When I start seeing pomelos in Asian markets, I know that it is close to Tết (lunar new year).  Then, I start thinking about making pomelo salad.  If there is no pomelo in your area, you can use grapefruit instead.  Pomelo is larger than grapefruit, can weight from 2-4 lbs, but it is not as tart as grapefruit.  The fruit looks like this:
It is huge and has a very thick skin, about 1/2 to 1 inch thick.  Here are  videos I found in youtube:  How to Cut, Peel, and Eat Pomelo (including the horror movie music background) and Peeling the Pomelo. For this salad, I shredded the pomelo sections/pulps after they are peeled (the white skin part was removed).  The inside of my pomelo was white instead of pink such as it was in the videos.

Now, why should I make a salad dish in winter time?  This should be a summer dish, right?  We should all be eating soups, right?   The reason is that citrus is in season now and it contains a lot of vitamin C, such as the pomelo above.  It is time to eat CITRUS so we can fight colds that are common during winter.  I also have a lot of fresh limes from my tree.  I will need fresh limes for my pomelo salad. Pomelo and lime contain a double dose of vitamin C.  This diet works since I am proud to say that I haven't had any cold in more than 1 year now.  Actually, I don't remember the last time I had any cold.

The ingredients of pomelo salad are:

From top left, clockwise: shredded pomelo(in blue bowl), carrots, cucumber, aburaage, mint leaves, cilantro leave, beansprouts.
Vegan Pomelo/Grapefruit Salad
Serve 4-6

2-3 cups shredded pomelo or grapefruit  (it depends on the size of the pomelo, it can be from 1 to 2 pomelos after it is cut and peeled)
2 cups carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cups cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 cup  aburaage or firm tofu, cut into matchsticks
   Note:  I used seasoned aburaage (one for inari) but you can use unseasoned aburaage or shredded fried tofu
2 cups beansprouts
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts, 1-2 tablespoons more for the toppings
1/4 cup fried shallots, optional
  Note:  Below is the picture of fried shallots I bought at an Asian market.  It is crunchy and savory.  If you can't find it, you  can substitute with French's French Fried Onions but fried shallots are the preference.

Salad dressing:
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
1/3 cup vegetarian soy sauce or light soy sauce
1/4 to 1/3 cup agave nectar, depending how sweet you like it
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 minced serrano chili or Thai chili
  Note :  for less spicy, use 1/2 chili

  1. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Don't mix the dressing until about ready to serve. Note: I often store the combined salad ingredients in the fridge without the dressing and add the dressing before serving.
  2. Combine the salad dressing in a separate bowl, mix well.
  3. Pour salad dressing slowly into the salad and toss well.  Add chopped peanuts on top.  Serve.
This salad is very refreshing.  It is sour, sweet, peanuty,  minty, limey, and oniony.  I just love it.  It is also light.  There is no oil in the dressing so if you are cutting oil after all those meals during the holidays, you will appreciate this salad (use plain firm tofu instead of aburage and omit the fried shallots).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vegan Caterpillar Roll

Vegan Caterpillar Sushi Roll
This blog was inspired by my recent visit to San Diego.  I searched for a vegetarian restaurant in the area using the Internet and was directed to Sipz Fusion Vegetarian Restaurant.  After reading a few reviews, I was interested to try their variety of vegan sushi.  I haven't had sushi for a while and was excited to try several kinds of vegan sushi from this restaurant.

Unfortunately, when we arrived to the restaurant during lunch time, we were told that they didn't serve vegan sushi until after 5 pm.  Bummer! What a disappointment!  We had to go home that day and won't be back to Sipz that night.  Apparently, the sushi chef is a different chef from the restaurant's.  He rented a space in the corner of the vegetarian restaurant to make sushi every night.  Oh well!  We ordered other dishes and had delicious and yummy food.  Don't take me wrong, Sipz is a really good restaurant and it was crowded, too.  We'll be back some day for the vegan sushi.  We consumed other lunch dishes that day instead.

Hence, I still didn't have any sushi.  So I decided to take their sushi menu home.  It says on the menu that their Caterpillar Roll is "Everybody's favorite!":   I decided to create my own Caterpillar Roll at home and got the idea from the menu which says:  Inside - teriyaki flavored shitake mushroom, yam, cucumber.  Outside - avocado, sesame, teriyaki sauce.

I also want to take this opportunity to introduce a different kind of rice for sushi rice.  In the past, I blogged about making sushi here and here.  I was using short grain brown rice and quinoa.  However, DH thinks that he still likes sushi better with white short grain sushi rice than brown short grain brown rice.   Since I am trying to avoid white short grain rice, I came up with the idea of using semi brown short grain rice.  The Japanese successfully created a healthier  semi brown short grain  rice called Haiga.   Haiga rice is neither white or brown, it is in between or so called semi brown.  The rice bran was meticulously removed and the nutritious rice germ was left intact. It is perfect for a healthy sushi rice.

Vegan Caterpillar Roll
Makes 2 large rolls

Printable Recipe

Teriyaki Sauce:
You can always purchase a store-bought teriyaki sauce.  Below is what I came up with.
1/3 cup Kombu dashi (recipe below) or vegetable broth
1/3 cup Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Dark Mushroom Soy Sauce
1/3 cup Aji Mirin or other kind of mirin
2 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
2 tsp.  Cornstarch

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small pot.  Stir to combine thoroughly.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer for 6 minutes.
  3. The mixture will thicken slightly.  Let it cool.
Kombu Dashi:
You can always use vegetable broth.  However, I found that adding kombu and dried shitake mushrooms will add a lot of umami.

6-8 cups water
1 large piece of kombu
8-10 dried shitake mushroom
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Take out kombu and shitake mushrooms  (remove the stems and use the mushrooms for other cooking such as this roll).

Haiga Sushi Rice:
1 1/4 cups Haiga Rice
1 1/2  water
3-4 Tbsp. Organic Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Aji Mirin or other kind of mirin
3/4 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
1/2 tsp. salt

  1. Rinse haiga rice, drain.  Combine rice and water in a medium sauce pan and let it soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Cover tightly and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until water is absorbed.  Remove from heat.  Note: you can also cook this rice in a rice cooker with 'semibrown' setting.
  3. Dump the rice into a wide shallow bowl. Combine rice vinegar, mirin, agave nectar, and salt in a small bowl.  With a wide spatula or a rice paddle, slice into rice at a 45 degrees angle while pouring the rice vinegar mixture.  Continue to combine and slice rice clumps until all the rice vinegar mixture is combined with the rice.  
  4. Use a magazine or a paper fan, fan the rice to cool while stirring for about 5-8 minutes.  This method will combine the flavor and give the sushi rice a nice gloss.
  5. Cover with a damp kitchen towel while preparing other ingredients.
Caterpillar roll ingredients: Avocado, cooked shitake mushrooms, teriyaki sauce, cucumber, yam

Ingredients (Caterpillar Roll):
1 large ripe Avocado
4-6 cooked shitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cucumber, sliced lengthwise
1/2 yam (Jewel or Garnett yam)
Haiga sushi rice, recipe above
2 -3 Toasted nori for sushi
Toasted sesame seeds
Teriyaki sauce
Sriracha hot sauce
  1. Steam yam in a food steamer for 20 minutes. Check for firmness while steaming as each yam is  different in sizes.  Don't let it be too mushy.  It needs to be cooked but still firm.  Let it cool, peel, and slice lengthwise similar to the cucumbers.
  2. Add 1-2 Tbsp. teriyaki sauce to sliced mushrooms.  Set it aside.
  3. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, peel and slice the avocado horizontally as pictured below. I learned from this youtube video on how to arrange the avocado on top of the roll.

Rolling the Caterpillar:
I use a bamboo sushi rolling mat that I bought from a Japanese market.  I covered it in a plastic bag so the rice won't stick to it.  I will explain the process below.  However, you can watch this youtube video showing the process of rolling a caterpillar sushi.  It is actually quite fun making this roll.

Put sushi rice with wet hand on bamboo sushi mat.  Spread and pat it down.

Add nori on top and arrange the filling (yam, cucumber, teriyaki flavored shitake mushrooms) on the bottom half.
Roll with the bamboo mat tightly until a firm roll is achieved (see youtube for a demo).
Add avocado slices in the same direction and rolled into the rice roll.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cut in pieces with a sharp clean damp knife.
Arrange on a plate and drizzle with teriyaki and sriracha hot sauce.
Sliced caterpillar roll on its side.
If it seems that it is hard to make this dish, it is actually not if you use short cuts by buying a store-bought teriyaki sauce and avoiding to make the kombu dashi. This dish is quite easy to make once you got the hang of rolling sushi and it is quite delicious and filling.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Vegan Adas Polow

Traditionally, Adas Polow is a Persian dish of cooked basmati rice with lentils, ground lamb or beef, currants, dates, onions, and spices.   However, I've been to several Persian restaurants that served this dish vegetarian style, i.e. without the ground meat.  It is so delicious and satisfying.  DH loves this dish very much.  I perused the Internet to study how to make this dish.  I opted to use my fancy smanzy rice cooker to cook the rice instead of the boiling method that used by Persians. 

The cooked basmati rice to be used for this dish is not supposed to be sticky.    I learned a new trick that if the uncooked basmati rice is rinsed in cold water a lot of times until the water runs clear, the rice won't stick together when they are cooked in a rice cooker or in a pot.  The starch in raw rice is the cause of the stickiness. Another trick I found out  is to take the rice out and spread them on a cookie sheet to cool right after the rice cooker beeped to tell you that it is done (or when it switches to Keep Warm mode).
Ingredients, left to right, clockwise: chopped onions, cooked brown lentils, basmati rice, currants, and dates.
 The currant I used is the Zante currant which is smaller than raisin.  I bought these at a Persian market.  If you can't find currants, you may use raisins.  It the raisins are large, they can be cut in halves.  The thing is I want them in similar size as the lentils.  I also cut the dates in small pieces, the same size as the lentils.  Food that is uniform in size looks better and tastes better.

Now, I also used saffron as a spice in this dish.  Saffron is very expensive but a small amount of it goes a long way.   There are different grades of saffron.  They are just like diamonds.  I think I used the medium grade,  it costs me $10.99 for 2 oz.  The higher grade costs $19.99 for that much of saffron.  I mixed 1/2 tsp of saffron with 2 tablespoon water.

According to Wiki, this is how saffron is graded:
Saffron is graded via laboratory measurement of crocin (colour), picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance) content.[30] Determination of non-stigma content ("floral waste content") and other extraneous matter such as inorganic material ("ash") are also key. Grading standards are set by the International Organization for Standardization, a federation of national standards bodies. ISO 3632 deals exclusively with saffron and establishes four empirical colour intensity grades: IV (poorest), III, II, and I (finest quality). Samples are assigned grades by gauging the spice's crocin content, revealed by measurements of crocin-specific spectroscopic absorbance. Absorbance is defined as Aλ = − log(I / I0), with Aλ as absorbance (Beer-Lambert law) and indicates degree of transparency (I / I0, the ratio of light intensity exiting the sample to that of the incident light) to a given wavelength of light.

Vegan Adas Polow 
Serve: 6
Printable Recipe

6 cups cooked basmati  or brown basmati rice
1 1/2 cups brown lentil, soaked in 3 cups of warm water
1 onions, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp saffron, dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
3/4 cup currants
3/4 cup chopped and pitted dates
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
4-5 Tbsp. melted vegan butter

Caramelized onions.
  1. Soak lentils in warm water for 15 minutes, then simmer in low for 15 minutes.  Drain. The lentils should be soft but not mushy.
  2. Meanwhile, while the lentils are being simmered, saute onions in 1 Tbsp olive oil on medium low heat for 45 minutes.  This is to caramelize the onions.  Keep turning them so they don't become burnt. At the end of 45 minutes, the onions should look like the picture above.
  3. Then, add the salt, spices, currants, and dates.  Mix well for a few minutes,  add the drained lentils and mix.
  4. In the pot used to cook the rice or the rice cooker pot, add 1 Tbsp melted vegan butter and swirl it around to cover the bottom of the pot,  add a layer of cooked rice.
  5. Add a layer of currants, dates, and lentil mixture.
  6. Add a layer of cooked rice, drizzle with 1 Tbsp melted vegan butter.
  7. Repeat step 5 and 6 and end with a layer of cooked rice on top.
  8. Drizzle the saffron and its soaking water over the rice.  This is going to make some of the rice to become yellow.
  9. Cook the entire dish on low for 30 minutes or turn on your rice cooker (about 30 minutes cooking time) then serve warm.
Drizzle saffron soaking water at the end, on top.
 My Persian friend told me that if I continuously hit the cook button on my rice cooker, it will create TADIQ which is browned, crispy, crunchy basmati rice on the bottom of the pot.  I actually love tadiq and have had some at restaurants.  Unfortunately, my rice cooker is too fancy because it has the non-stick pot and computer that won't burn rice.  I tried several times and it didn't create the tadiq.  I have to cook it traditionally using the aluminum or stainless steel pot to create tadiq.  If your rice cooker has an aluminum pot, it may work.

 There are other ways to cook basmati rice:
  1. Heat 4 1/2 water until it is boiling (may add salt in water) in a medium pot, then add 3 cups of uncooked basmati rice (rinsed and drained). Cover and simmer in low heat for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid, wrap the lid with a kitchen towel and place it over the pot, tightly.  Remove from heat and set it aside for 30 minutes.  Fluff it with a fork to cool off.
Or you can watch this video how Indians cook their basmati rice in a boiling water and then drain the rice.  Their method works great also and produces non-sticky rice.