Grilled Plantain Vegan Tacos

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 4:53 PM

Hey Dude,
I know I already texted you a little bit about this, but I’ve gotta get into more details, because it was so good. Those grilled plantain vegan tacos I made this afternoon were absolutely stellar. It literally only took me like 15 minutes from start to finish to make this, but I had a lot of stuff prepped from either the freezer or frozen meals.

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The tacos were assembled with the following ingredients, from bottom up:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Grilled plantain pieces
  • Grilled cherry tomatoes
  • Spicy passion fruit-mango slaw
  • Pieces of fresh avocado
  • Sauteed onions
  • Sriracha to taste

It was really the perfect marriage of sweet, savory, and spicy. Amazing. There is really not much to say about this one. I got the tortillas at Trader Joe’s. They got sprayed down with a coconut oil spray and thrown on my grill. The plantains were pre-cooked in palm oil, got it from the freezer section of the grocer, but that may be a south Florida thing. You might have to go fresh. Anyway, I sprayed these down with coconut oil while still frozen and generously sprinkled faijita seasonings on all sides. They went directly on the grill, and only needed maybe 7 minutes.

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Put the cherry tomatoes on a skewer, sprayed them lightly with coconut oil. Grilled. The slaw is trickier. I made it the other night and can’t really tell you what I did, except the following ingredients got involved at some point: cabbage, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, adobo seasoning, fire sauce from Jake’s Sandwich Board in Philly, mango-passion fruit puree, and pear-passion fruit juice. Beyond that, I couldn’t say. You’re on your own.

The rest of the ingredients are self-explanatory. I will make these again. Beautiful little f***ers.

Jamey

Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

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Daniel Larkin: to Jamey Bennett

November 25, 2014

You like that email name?  I thought you would.

All stupidness aside, I’m really glad you picked Pho for the first throwdown.  It seems like nowadays I can’t look at any social media forum without seeing a hundred people with raging boners for the stuff, so I think the time is right to Two Dudes it.  The real reason I was excited that you picked Pho, though — and it’s time for some brutal honesty here — is that I’ve never even been in the same room as a bowl of the stuff.

This was a good primer into Pho, and to your credit, I was guided by your recipe.  I just tried to adapt it on the fly with the basic ingredients I could find at the local Food City; aka, Food Shitty. This may be like a blind man describing the color red, or Albrecht Dürer’s Rhino.  But whatever it was that I made, it was outstanding!  It was savory, but the spices were light and festive.  It was hardy, but still soft and comforting.  It was vegan, but had the richness of a steak.

The obvious first hurdle was the meat.  I decided that just going tofu instead of beef was a cop-out.  I hate when restaurants do that, because sometimes it’s just the lazy thing to do, so I wanted to avoid that trap.  What I landed on was mushrooms, but not just mushrooms, ponzu marinated portobello.

Ponzu is a citrusy soy sauce, that when made right, adds all five flavors; sweet, sour, tangy, salty, and savory.  (When Kikkoman makes it, it tastes like soy sauce and 7-Up.)  The spices in Pho seemed like they would be a good match for a slight lime taste, so I went with a ponzu and lime marinade.  (Depending on your noodles, the small amount of wheat in Ponzu can the only thing keeping this meal from being gluten free.)

Most of the work was done in the morning, when I started my broth.  I also cleaned the fans from the mushrooms, sliced them, and let them marinate all day.  In cooking the mushrooms, my general rule is that the longer they cook, the more flavor they give.  It just gets concentrated.  So with all of that in mind, let me give you my list of ingredients.  As you said in your email, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s all fairly easy.  And again, I found everything at the local Food Shitty, so there’s nothing weird or obscure here.

For the mushroom marinade:  

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  • 2 large portobello caps, de-fanned and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup Ponzu
  • 1/4 cup Tamari (soy sauce as it should be, no wheat or sugar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic diced
  • 4 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger
  • Juice of one lime

Mix in a gallon Ziplock bag, and stash the fridge, turning every now and then to ensure equal contact time.

For the Broth: aka, the star of the show.

  • 1 32oz box of veggie stock.  I always recommend Imagine No Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 onion rough cut — save the other half for the soup
  • 6 cloves of garlic whole
  • 6 slices of ginger
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 6 oz package of shittake mushrooms  (This is the key to that savory bump)
  • 2 pods of clove (Optional.  The flavor boils off, leaving good aroma – if you like clove)
  • Half bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 3 tbs Tamari
  • 2 tbs honey — or agave syrup if you don’t consider honey vegan.
  • 1 TBS rice vinegar
  • Half bunch of cilantro whole

Combine all of these into a stock pot, bring to a simmer, and let it go low and slow all day.  Strain all the solids off when it’s time to assemble the soup.  It’s really that easy.

Other miscellaneous ingredients:

  • The other half of that onion sliced
  • 3 carrots sliced thin
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small stems
  • Jalapeño (Optional, but recommended)
  • 5 Spice Powder (Optional)
  • Noodles of your choice (I used brown rice Pad Thai noodles)
  • Cilantro, basil and lime wedges for garnish

With all of the prep work done, assembly is pretty easy when the time comes.

  1. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and sear on high heat in your preferred oil.  Once they are seared and have that light brown color on the outside, turn down the heat and go low and slow for at least 20 minutes, or unit they are half sized and easily chewed.
  2. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and set aside.
  3. Deglaze the pan with a splash of broth, then add the other half onion for a two minutes.
  4. Add the broccoli and carrots and top off with the rest of the broth.  Simmer until the broccoli and carrots are tender but not mush.  (Hence the thin slice on the carrots)
  5. Taste and see if you need any five spice powder.  I added a little, but probably could have gotten away without it.
  6. Then you just stack it all, with noodles on the bottom, broth, a teepee of mushrooms, and the garnish herbs and jalapeño.

I’m serious, man, this is one of the most flavorful soups I have ever made.  And it’s one of the few soups that is as good the first day as it is the second.  The key is the broth, which is just a vault of scents and tastes that are neither timid or overpowering. One of these days I’ll actually get to try some real Pho, and then I can see how close I actually came. IMG_7333

Faux-Pho, Fo’ Real, Yo.

[For the original, meat-based Paleo pho, click here.]

Super Easy Creamy Vegan Tomato Soup

(From Jamey Bennett to Daniel Larkin, via iMessage)

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So easy I’m going to text it to you.

    • One 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil,
    • one 14 oz. can of coconut cream (coconut milk would work too, but I like Trader Joe’s coconut cream, it’s thicker)
    • Oops
    • 14 oz. water (use the empty cream can),
    • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar,
    • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning,
    • 1 tsp red pepper flakes,
    • about 3 or 4 cloves minced garlic.
    • And black pepper to taste.

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Combine all in a pot stirring at high heat until nearly boiling, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes. I served it with potato pancakes. Fantastic.

Should serve about 4 bowls.

Vegan Taco Onslaught!!

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Daniel Larkin:

to Jamey Bennett

Traditional tacos filled a with lentil and mushroom base, and curry tofu and chickpea tacos in a soft tortilla.  Well, that’s really only two, but it kinda counts as an onslaught, right?  Now this looks like a long email, but bear with me because it’s two back-to-back meals that fold seamlessly into each other with very little effort!

I don’t know if I told you or not, but the doc told us that Charlie has some food allergies.  They should pass as he gets older, but in the meantime, Jenny has been told to avoid milk and peanuts while she breastfeeds.  Since Jenny is already vegetarian, that almost veganizes her diet.  (She still eats eggs)  So we’ve been really trying to create new whole food, meatless and dairyless recipes, and for the most part, we’ve had some really great successes – especially these two that I made over the weekend.  VEGAN TACOS TWO WAYS!

These two make great back-to-back meals because they share a ‘creamy’ avocado, lime and cilantro sauce.  And while these are both technically tacos, their flavors couldn’t be more different.  The best part is that both are ridiculously simple and only use a few easy to find ingredients.

OK, we’ll start with the sauce, since that’s the common denominator in both recipes; the Avocado, Lime and Cilantro ‘Cream’ Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz silken tofu
  • 1/2 ripe Haas avocado
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 1tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • A good palmful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste

Put all of these things into a blender, and viola!  That’s it.  You’ll never want sour cream for your tacos again.  I promise.

Now, this makes enough to top all of your tacos, with enough left over to make slaw for your curry tacos.

But let’s start with the Lentil and Mushroom Tacos.  This is going to look stupid simple, because the only thing I was worried about was the “meat” base.  If you’ve got a taco seasoning mix or recipe you prefer, use it.  I’ve made my own taco seasoning before, and for the life of me, I just can’t compete with the 95 cent packets at the grocery store.  Or better yet, I just buy a taco kit.  Again, the only thing I worry about is the filling.

  • 2 cups prepared lentils cooked in veggie stock. (I won’t go into cooking details because different lentils cook differently)
  • 8 ounces portobello mushrooms finely chopped.
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp each soy sauce and vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of liquid smoke (optional)
  • Any extra veggie stock you didn’t use on the lentils
  • Packet of favorite taco seasoning

This is easy:

  • Sautee mushrooms in olive oil for 5-10 minutes (until they start to shrink)
  • Add lentils, tomato paste, soy, Worcestershire and liquid smoke.  (Stir this around and check the consistency.  You want extra liquid because it’s going to cook down, so if it looks stiff, add veggie stock.)
  • Slowly add seasoning mix, tasting as you go.  (I say slowly because all of these packets are different, and it’s easy to end up with a salt bomb)
  • Simmer for 15 minutes.  You’re looking for a semi-loose consistency, like beefy taco mix, so don’t be afraid to keep adding stock as you go.

Top those bad boys off with all the usual fixin’s using the tofu cream sauce instead of sour cream. The lentil and mushroom texture will more than fill in for the beef, and the flavor is more smokey and robust than any ground beef.  You’re welcome.

OK, so you’ve enjoyed your traditional tacos one night, but you still have a shit load of tofu and avocado sauce left over.  What do you do?  You make some Vegan Cilantro/Lime Slaw to go with your curry tacos, that’s what!

  • Buy a prepackaged bag of coleslaw veggies.
  • Add a handful of rough chopped cilantro, 2 tbs of lime juice – salt and pepper to taste.
  • Now mix in the left over tofu sauce until you get a good slaw-like mixture.
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two.

The Tofu/Chickpea Curry Tacos are really the crown jewel of this whole thing, and they’re also the simplest thing to make.  There is really no heavy cooking involved, just mixing and simmering.  With my slaw premade, I had these tacos on the table in about 30 minutes.

  • 1 lb block extra firm tofu – well pressed and chopped into small cubes.
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped (optional)
  • I can prepared chickpeas – drained
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tbs green curry paste (or more if you prefer)
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • soft tortillas
  • roasted cashews, chopped

And the cooking on these is so simple, it’s ridiculous!

  • First, saute the onion and tofu on high heat for 5 minutes (use coconut oil if you have it)
  • Add next five ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Turn off heat and mix in the cherry tomatoes, basil and lime juice.  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes while you warm tortillas.

Pile that shit on!  The curry mix should stiffen a bit, but make sure you get enough sauce in each tortilla.  Then top it with slaw, more cilantro and lime juice, cashews, and of course Sriracha.

The taste is amazing!  It’s subtle enough for you to pick out every flavor, but balanced enough that they all sing in perfect harmony.  These are the best things I’ve made in  while.  Seriously.

Now go make tacos!

Vegan Tamales!!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

So I finally did it.  I took the plunge and made tamales yesterday.  And not to brag, but they kinda ruled.

The plan was to make vegan tamales using this recipe from CheekyKitchen.com.  But you know me, I’m not one to stick to a recipe very long, so I took what I needed and promptly veered off course.  The biggest question for me was how to make the dough.  The article in CheekyKitchen.com was great for that, and I still recommend reading it as a good primer.  Or hell, use the whole thing instead of what I’m about to write.  This is really just an addendum to that article.

I ended up making the majority of the tamales vegan, but I ran out of veggie filling before I did dough and husks, so I just dressed up some left over chicken and finished up with those.  (Chopped chicken, chili, cumin, salsa, and the chipotle sauce you mailed me a while back.)

The Cheeky Kitchen article uses a lentil base for the filling, but I didn’t have any lentils on hand.  I also couldn’t find a can of straight green chilies at Food City (aka, Food Shitty).  This is where I where I went on my own with the recipe.

Here’s what I used for the vegan filling.

  • One can black eyed peas — (insert generic, but accurate Fergie insult here)
  • Two carrots cubed small
  • One zucchini cubed small
  • Half large onion
  • Handful of frozen corn
  • Lots O’ Garlic
  • 10-ounce can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies
  • One small can of Rotel Original tomato sauce
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1/2 TBS cumin
  • A stem of fresh oregano, minced
  • Salt and white pepper

Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the rest of the fresh/frozen veggies.  Sauté for another few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Viola, vegan tamale filling.  It tasted spicier in the bowl than it did in the tamale.

I made the dough pretty much exactly like the Cheeky Kitchen recipe, but I subbed Imagine brand No Chicken Stock for the faux-beef bouillon cubes and water.  I loved the use of coconut oil for the saturated fat.  It gave such a light, fresh flavor that you just don’t get with shortening or lard.  I used organic unrefined oil.

Here’s her recipe, verbatim.

For the Tamale Dough:

  • 4 cups masa
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes dissolved into 3 cups of water
  • 1 (16 ounce) package dried corn husks

Now, I only used a 6 oz package of husks, and I still had WAY too many.  But I have the feeling that I may have rolled mine funny.  Either way, I wouldn’t go overboard and buy more than a 6 oz package of husks.

Again, to her instructions.
“Soak the corn husks in a large bowl of warm water while preparing to cook the tamales.
“In a large bowl, mix the masa, baking soda, and salt together. Add the coconut oil. Stir well. Add the bouillon flavored water to the mix. Add more water, if needed, to make the masa a soft, spongy dough.”

Filling and tying the tamales was frustrating at first, but it’s an easily acquired skill.  Just remember, you’re not making the giant sized tamales that the masters produce, you’re making smaller, more manageable tamales.

Basically, what you want to do is grab a big husk from the water and spread a good coating of masa across the center part of the leaf, making sure to leave room at the top and bottom to fold and tie the husk down.  Leave some room at the edges, too, so you have space to cover the whole tamale with husk when you roll it.

Spoon some of the mixture into the center of the dough, and roll it up side-to-side.  Pay careful attention to completely cover the filling with the dough when rolling.  This may involve peeling the husk back as you go, kind of like rolling a cigarette in a dollar bill.  Once the dough is closed, and the husk is wrapped, fold the top and bottom edges over and tie them back with peeled strips from another husk.  (Her instructions seemed vague about this, and her pictures made it seem like she only used one tie.  I couldn’t figure that out, so I opted instead to tie the top and bottoms separately.)

She suggests baking the tamales at 400º in the oven on a rack set over water.  This will bake and steam them.  I did it a little differently.  I actually steamed them on the stovetop; in a colander set at the top of a stock pot.

Once all of your tamales are rolled and tied, stand them up in the colander – I had to lay a few flat across to fill it, but they all cooked fine.  Place the colander inside a stock pot filled with a few inches of water and seal tightly with tin-foil.  Once the steam is at a full boil, give it about 30-40 minutes and check them.  The tamales may seem mushy right out of the steam, but they’ll firm up as they cool.

Let me just say that they look as awesome as they taste.  And it makes your house smell wonderful!  We made a ton of tamales, enough to freeze and snack on later.
I definitely recommend giving this a try, dude.  Especially considering how much you like the Mexican cuisine.  It’s damn near authentic!

West African Peanut Soup

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I’ve only just discovered African food in the last year or so, and I am a huge fan of what I’ve had. My exposure is still pretty much limited to Ethopian food and Harissa sauce. The nearby Whole Foods carries a couple of kinds of Harissa, and I’m in love with the one from a DC area company, Cava. Soon, I’m going to try my hand at making my own Harissa.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying a bowl of this delicious peanut soup. I got the idea from the Eating Well website, but I made a few modifications that I think made a big difference.

Here it is. I took two sizable sweet potatoes, poked a few holes in them with a fork, and microwaved them for 8-1/2 minutes. While that was happening, I sauteed the equivalent of a small red onion (diced) in my cast iron skillet with oil. As the onions were browning, I threw in two large garlic cloves, diced.

After everything looked and smelled the way I wanted, I added 1-1/2 cups of ketchup and 1-1/2 cups of water. The recipe actually called for tomato juice, but I didn’t have any, and I thought it might be reminiscent of barbecue sauce if I used ketchup. Not very West African, I know, but I think it was actually a good choice.

After a minute or so, I added a handful of jarred sliced jalapenos, 1 teaspoon of ginger powder, and 1 teaspoon of all spice.

While I let all that boil for about 10 minutes, I peeled the sweet potatoes, dicing one to small bite-sized pieces and putting the other in my food processor. I added 1/2 cup of all natural chunky peanut butter to the food processor, and 2 cups of broth. I didn’t have vegetable broth on hand, so I did the next best thing and used a tomato-chicken buillion cube, dissolved in two cups of hot water. Once blended, I put that mixture, and the chunky sweet potato into the skillet. Stirred. Lots of stirring.

Now, this is where things get a little less precise and a little more creative. I thought it was too thick, so I added another cup of water. I didn’t think it was spicy enough, so I added paprika, cayenne, and crushed red pepper to taste, along with a fairly generous amount of fresh ground black pepper.

Once everything tasted about right, I spooned it into a bowl, and garnished with cilantro.

Okay, now I’m going to go eat a second bowl.