Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Appropriately veganesque

Veganism is something I kind of shy away from. If you know me, you are well aware of my borderline sanity-threatening obsession with cheese. I am simply not willing to give that up. We can peacefully coexist, veganism and I, it’s just not my cup of proverbial tea, much like socks with individual toes or cutting the crusts off sandwiches.

I used to live with a girl who worked at our local food co-op, and as such, her diet became appropriately veganesque. She would regularly bring home tofu, nutritional yeast, and the like. For the most part I was game to try everything; I came around to my own occasional green smoothie, I came to love kombucha. I never did get within less than a few feet of nutritional yeast.

My point is, while I’ll likely never crossover into a land of no cheese, or bacon, or anything worth its culinary salt (I kid, I kid) I certainly don’t discount the possibility that vegan and good can exist in the same sentence. It can happen, and it does happen. And actually, I’ve done it:

These vegan cookies are damn good.

The thought of cookies without butter, eggs, or flour seems a bit like baking blasphemy at first, I know. But somehow, these little guys pull it off. Bananas and olive oil serve as the liquid and fat, respectively. There are nuts, and chocolate, which always help. I don’t exactly know how the rest all works, but I don’t really care. I’ve made these twice already, have fed them to precisely zero vegans, and everyone loves them.

See? You shouldn’t judge a cookie recipe by its dietary life decisions. Try it if you don’t believe me. (These also, as an added bonus, take barely twenty minutes to throw together.) My old roommate would be proud.

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 - 7 ounces dark chocolate chips or carob chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and olive oil. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

The dough will be a bit looser than a normal cookie dough, don’t be alarmed. This is perhaps the only setback to not having butter and flour. Drop two-teaspoon-sized balls of dough an inch apart onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, making sure that the bottoms get nice and brown but just shy of burning. (If you don’t let these bake long enough, they will fall apart on you.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Things owed

I suppose I owe you pita.

I’ve never owed anyone pita before. Money, sure. Favors, yes. But never pita. I’ll have to say, it’s not the worst kind of debt to have over your head. In fact, it’s actually quite nice. I’ve been running around lately, thinking every now and then about how I need to get on here and tell you about pita, and I’ve never once felt like hiding my checkbook, feigning forgetfulness, or say, screening your calls.

Pita is in the category of things that sound more impressive than they are difficult, like homemade pasta or figure eight knots or big pot blanching. Which, lucky for us, is the perfect combination in food. The oven does most of the work, combining the high heat and the moisture to make the steam that puffs up the pita.

I am human, though, and realize that pita is most common when it comes store-bought and plastic-wrapped. Also that, so long as you’re with me out on the east coast, heat waves and five hundred degree ovens don't make the best companions. I still think you should try this, at least once. (I’ve always been stubborn.) It’s really not so hard, and you’ll have pita to eat for weeks. Plus, you can add it to your list of things accomplished. For now, I can cross it off mine of things owed.

Whole Wheat Pita

(Adapted from epicurious.com)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then let stand until foamy. While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let stand at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms. (I used a stand mixer for this step.)

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten 1 ball, then roll out into a 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to 1 of 2 baking sheets lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Roll out the rest of the dough in the same manner. Loosely cover pitas with 2 clean kitchen towels and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Set oven rack in lower third of oven and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 500°F. Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack. Bake until just puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more. Cool pitas on a cooling rack. Bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner.