Thursday, September 18, 2014

Planning for Eastcoast US Vegan Extraveganza

Getting ready to go home to the US for a visit to the family.  I will be on the Eastcoast - NYC, Westchester, upstate NY, and South Jersey/Philly area.  Coincidentally, NYC has just be crowned the Most Vegan-friendly city in America.

Since living in regional Australia means limited vegan choices (for the time being, because I live in hope!), I am super-excited for all the vegan options and to get really inspired.

Since will be a holiday from my day job and my casual academic/PhD night job (although I probably won't get completely away from it), for me this is an exciting way to spend a break: Family and Food. Some people find taking a long bath or a walk in the park relaxing.  I am one of those people who finds creative cooking really relaxing.  I think this is because it uses different areas of my brain and skills.

I will try to spend a good amount of the time exploring food and hanging with my family.  My sisters and partners are increasingly veg and going towards vegan, so will be helpful co-conspirators.  My mom, while a dedicated carnivore, has become a bit more flexible.  To be conciliatory I have also found a few restaurants near her that have both vegan and non-vegan menus.

So far, my planning includes compiling lots of vegan restaurants and cafes to try on a personalized Google Map.

I think though I'm most excited about trips to Wholefoods and just regular supermarkets where there will be lots of choices I've only heard about.  I'm particularly interested in the Earth Balance snacks, the mayos (Just Mayo, Vegenaise), Field Roast, Gardein  and all the vegan cheeses we don't have widely here (Daiya, Follow your heart, Teese, artisan nut cheese).

I'm also looking forward to doing a trip off to Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA.

I shall be endeavouring to update this blog more regularly both on the trip and with my vegan cooking and recipes.  Fear not, I have been cooking up a vegan storm.  However, I have been slack with documenting and updating.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle, Lime and Coriander Mayo

I think if you've been a veggie for any length of time, you probably have a favourite legume. The one closest to your heart (and palate).  Mine is definitely black beans.  The first few years I lived in Australia it was extremely difficult to find black beans, either canned or dried, even in Sydney.  In fact, I would bring back cans of black beans in my luggage after trips home to the States to see my family.  I even got my mother to bring some on her one and only trip (so far) to Australia.  I would hold onto these precious cans and use them very sparingly.

Now, luckily for me (and you, if you're a black bean fan), it is a lot easier. I find my canned black beans and the dry beans I cooked for this recipe at my local Harris Farm Market.  The dry ones, while taking a more time, are a lot cheaper.  I think last time I bought them it was around $5 for a kilo bag of dry beans, which last for ages, while an average size can of cooked beans was $2.79.

I tend to cook up a pot of  beans on the weekend and then store them in the fridge for use during the week. I've found they've stayed fresh for about five days after cooking.   I store them without liquid in a plastic container.

My method for cooking black beans is to soak them overnight with plenty of water, changing the water about halfway through.  Strain and rinse the soaked beans before putting them in a pot with fresh water. You want to have the water hit about 6-7cms (3 inches) above the beans.  I don't add any salt at this point.  I bring them to a boil in a covered pot.  When the water comes to a boil, I lower the heat to a simmer with the cover ajar so that some steam can escape.  I have found beans cook best at a slow simmering pace.  I usually boil them for a couple of hours, testing the beans that are soft without any crunchiness but stopping the cooking process before the beans start to go too mushy.  I then drain and rinse the beans again. The good thing is when they hit the simmering point they require very little supervision and you can get on to other things while they cook.

Chipotle chile in adobo sauce can sometimes be hard to find in Australia as there are not a lot of Mexican specialty shops.  However, again, Harris Farm Market to the rescue.  I was able to find a can for less than $3. One can should last you through a few recipes.  

Chipoltes are smoked jalapeno peppers and therefore can be very spicy.  It is important to handle them carefully (use gloves if you are sensitive).  When preparing to use them in a recipe it is a good idea to split the chili up the middle, scrape out the seeds (where most of the heat is) and discard them.  This recipe is not super-spicy (I would rate it at about a medium) but if your spice-shy, feel free to halve the amount of chipoltes. If you can't handle spiciness at all you might substitute a roasted red capsicum (either jar or do it yourself) in place of chipoltes. 

Yesterday I had a craving for some smokey black bean burgers after cooking a pot of black beans from dry. If you don't have time you can use a can of pre-cooked black beans. The recipe is based on an updated version of the Chipotle-Bean Burger recipe from Vegetarian Times

Here is my version:

Black Bean Chipotle Burgers

Makes 4 dinner-sized burgers

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 cups cooked black beans 
(canned or cooked from dry)
1/2 cup vegetable stock 
(stock powder or fresh is fine)
3/4 cup vegan breadcrumbs 
(1/4 cup to mix into burgers; 1/2 cup for coating burgers. I used Anchor original breadcrumbs which I bought at Coles.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put 1Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the copped onion and salt.  Stir to mix. Cook until the onions are translucent and soft but not brown, 5-10 mins.  If the onions start to brown lower the heat.

Add the garlic, chipotle, cumin, oregano and stir into the onions.  Take the pan off the heat.

Add the cook black beans and stock to the pan. With a masher or fork (I found the fork worked best) mash the beans into the mixture incorporate the stock until all the beans are mashed.

Put the bean mixture on heat again and stir.  Cook until the water is absorbed.

Take off the heat, put the contents of the pan into a bowl to cool.  Wait until the mixture is cool enough to handle. Stir in 1/4 cup of the breadcrumbs.  Mix to incorporate.  Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as necessary

Put remaining breadcrumbs into a flat dish.  Use hands to form 1/4 of the mixture into burgers. Dredge the burger in breadcrumbs, making sure it is totally covered.  Rest burger on a clean plate.  Repeat with remaining mixture until you have four burgers.

Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a clean skillet.  Place each of the burgers into the pan.  Cook until brown and crispy, flipping once to brown the other side. You may need to add another Tbsp of oil when you flip them.

Once cooked, place on clean paper towels to rest for a few minutes. Serve warm with the chipotle, lime and coriander mayo below in a tortilla wrap or a bun with your favourite salad veggies.

Chipotle, Lime and Coriander Mayo

I did a bit of a cheat by using store bought vegan mayo.  I used Praise 99% Fat Free Mayonnaise, which is one of those "accidentally vegan" items commonly available in Australian Supermarkets.  Feel free to use your favourite vegan mayo - store bought or homemade.

1 cup Vegan Mayonnaise
2 Chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, minced
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
handful of Coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the indigence together in a container with a cover that you can keep in the fridge. Taste for seasoning, adjust salt to taste.  

I recommend putting in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to chill.  This will give the flavours time to meld.

Serve on top of the above black bean burgers or your other favourite burgers or sandwiches.