the monster dessert post!

I love indian food. That has to be one of the hardest things about being allergic to nightshades: I can't eat much at an indian restaurant when I go out anymore. Indian food used to be one of my standards suggestions when omni friends asked where I could eat if we went out - most of it is so vegan friendly.

Except the desserts. Almost all indian desserts not only contain dairy, but center around it. (The only one I can think of that doesn't is the occasional jalebi recipe, but even then, sometimes they have yogurt.) I've tried my hand at a few indian desserts: gajar halwa, or carrot fudge, date rolls, kheer... also I am a master at laddu, but an ex once made fun of them and said they were just balls of cookie dough so I don't like to share them with people anymore). But there was always that one dessert that haunted me.

Gulab Jamun. Little deep-fried balls of... dairy (some people call them cheese, but I think technically cheese has to have cultures, so it's just a dairy ball) soaked in sugar syrup. With rose and saffron.

I've weeded though dozens of recipes for gulab jamun. All are different. Some are staggeringly unveganizable. And almost all of them make gulab jamun sound like such a complicated dish that even if you could veganize them, it's not worth the time.

but: 1.) I love a challenge 2.) I loved gulab jamun and 3.) a very good friend of mine had a birthday last week and he's been pining over gulab jamun for the 10 years he's been vegan. AND SO:

This recipe takes longer to read than it does to make. It looks/sounds complicated, as it has quite a few steps, but it isn't actually very difficult. And it's totally worth how amazed everyone is that you've made:

Vegan Gulab Jamun
serves 3-4, maybe more if you don't keep taste-testing as you go...

NOTE (8/6/2010): Since I first posted this recipe, I have had questions as to what kind of soymilk powder I used. Embarrassingly, I don't remember. HOWEVER, I have repeated the recipe with Fearn's Soya Powder, and it worked BEAUTIFULLY. If you can't get that, I would recommend trying soy flour (you may need to up the soymilk amount) before trying soymilk powder--there is such a wide variety of consistencies in soymilk powder that it might mess up the recipe too much.

For the balls:
1 1/4 cup soymilk powder
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch cardamom
pnch salt
1 Tbsp "butter" (melted) or peanut oil
3/4 C soy milk (you may need more later)

Vegetable oil for deep frying

For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups water
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 Tbsp rose water*
pinch (5-6 strands) saffron*

(for a cane-sugar-free but not cost-effective version, use 2 C maple syrup or 1 1/2 C agave nectar mixed with 1/2 C water)
* - these are optional, use one or both or neither, but they give the recipe a nice authentic taste and the saffron gives it a nice color.

Combine the soymilk powder, flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil and soymilk and stir well. The texture should be a bit less firm than play-doh but not as wet/limp as clay (wow, sorry, that is totally unappetizing). If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a bit more soymilk powder; it too dry, more soymilk, a Tbsp at a time.

Let the dough sit while you make the syrup. In a small pan, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring ingredients to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, stirring often, until the syrup is reduced to nearly half of what it was.
Mine was a pretty orangey color thanks to the saffron. Remove from heat.

Now, back to the dough. Form the dough into slightly-smaller-than-walnut-sized balls. (They should be small enough that they will either be submerged or nearly submerged when you fry them.) They will be very sticky: I used a small pat of Earth Balance to rub my hands to keep the dough from sticking to me.

In a saucepan, pour 1 1/2 inch to 2 inches of vegetable oil. How big a sauce pan to use depends on how much oil you want to use - the bigger the pan, the bigger the batches you can do, but then, the more oil you'll use. I used about 2 cups canola oil in a small pan - this means I had to fry the balls in several batches, so it's a question of which you'd rather save: time or oil.

This is the trickiest part of the whole process (you can handle it!):
Turn the heat up to high. After 3-5 minutes, the oil will be hot - test by dropping in a tiny piece of the dough (finger-nail sized?): if lots of little bubbles form around it, turn it down to medium. (If lots of little bubbles don't form around it, wait another minute or two and try again with another small piece of dough.) TURN DOWN THE HEAT TO MEDIUM.

Hold the pan by its handle and tilt it a little sideways. Put in the balls of dough, one at a time, slipping them in along the side. This is so they don't stick to the bottom when you drop them in. I used a small pan, so I only did 4-5 in a batch, but if your pan is bigger, you can do bigger batches. Once they are all in, level the pan and shake it gently to stir the balls around. Let them fry for 3 minutes, jiggling the pan around occasionally to ensure even browning. After 3 minutes they should be a nice golden brown; if not, give them a little more time.
Here are mine, bubbling away in the oil. The uncooked ones are in the background.

Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl lined with a napkin or towel to soak up some of the oil. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Mine were a little darker than golden brown, but still pretty, right? right. Try to take yours out a little earlier than this.

Combine the balls and the syrup. Let rest anywhere between 20 minutes to a day so the balls can soak up loads of the syrup. Serve in the syrup, at room temperature or warmed slightly.
If the balls aren't submerged when in the syrup, make sure you stir/shake the balls occasionally so they soak up the syrup evenly on all sides.

Yeah, so that was epic. Mostly I've been making desserts from other people's recipes lately for dessert.

From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World:
Rum raisin cupcakes for my book club, with just the rum glaze because I'm not big on frosting.
lychee cupcakes with coconut glaze. I have no words for how amazing these babies are.
mmm... preglazed... you can see the chunks of lychee. Uh oh. I'm getting hungry as I type this.
An M cake! My roommate mish's birthday was this month, and for the past two years I've made her M-shaped cakes in honor of the occasion. It's an orange-chocolate cake: I used the basic chocolate cupcake recipe, added orange extract and put a layer of marmalade under the chocolate ganache.

I was admiring everyone's Jelly Donut Cupcakes from Veganomicon, so I tried my hand at them this evening. Unfortunately I only have whole wheat flour and raspberry preserves on hand, so both were a bit denser than the recipe called for. The taste is AWESOME, but the jelly didn't sink to the center like it's supposed to...
I didn't cover them with powdered sugar, because I told myself that if there's no sugar on top, they're healthy. Really! I used whole wheat flour and agave instead of sugar, they are basically jelly donut MUFFINS, which makes it okay to have two in one sitting, right? right.

And last, but definitely not least: Pecan Fudge Pie from sarah kramer's La Dolce Vegan.
Incredibly decadent and really simple.

Ugh it was such a bad idea to write up this post late at night... total snack attack... and those jelly donut "muffins" are sitting on my kitchen table...

I mean, if there's no sugar on top - they're healthy enough for a late-night snack -



okay so I lied

I couldn't steal batteries from my parents' house because they didn't have any lying around. But I finally bought some today and will have a post for ya on Friday. I SWEAR.

In the meantime, to get you through the rest of the week:
I love fresh cherries. This is from a while back, though - I haven't seen fresh cherries... oh, yunno, since they've been more in season? I like to think that instead of being "blurry," this picture "has a soft focus." It makes the cherry sexier than a cold sharp image, right? right.


more adventure food: a quick post

I had a great dessert entry planned for you this week, but my camera ran out of batteries so it is not giving up the desserty pictures I have on it until I get new ones. Annnnnd since batteries are expensive, I figured I'd wait until I visited my folks back in NY to swipe some rather than buy my own (attn mom and dad: please pretend you did not see that).

I am normally not a soda person. Even natural/organic soda sodas. I simply do not like my drinks to be too sweet. I water down my juices whenever I can, for example. I do, however, like bubbly things... so sometimes I mix juice and selzer. I sometimes get italian sodas when I am out somewhere... but they're often really sweet (and who KNOWS what kinds of artificial sweeteners/colorings are in some of those flavor syrups!).

BUT THEN. I visited a local turkish grocery sore and found a whole shelf of syrups made from boiling down various fruits. It was a tough choice, but I ended up with Mulberry syrup (more often called mulberry molasses). Its only ingredient is mulberries, and it can be cloying in large amounts, but I've been stirring tablespoons into my yogurt and making an Italian-soda-like concoction of it and selzer:
Pretty, n'est-ce pas? Never mind the rainy weather out there. April showers and all that. It tasted pretty soda-y, like a knock-off dr. pepper. just not as sweet.

I also bought some carob paste (in the same kind of jar, but with even less english on it), for which I have yet to find a good use beyond putting in yogurt and pouring over (soy) ice cream. I'll figure something out. You'll hear about it, I'm sure.

One of the best things about spring, besides the weather: the produce that comes into season!
Organic asparagus was almost as cheap as conventional asparagus last week! So I've been buying a bunch of it. Normally I just steam it, but there's only so much steamed asparagus a girl can take, so I made Asparagus Potage with Garlic "Cream" from Myra Kornfeld's Voluptuous Vegan.
She calls for potatoes, I used sunchokes. Result? Very creamy, with that richness soups usually get from potatoes, with a nice strong asparagus flavor. I don't entirely understand why I went through the process of making the garlic "cream" only to have to blend it in with the soup, though - it seems like I could've saved time and dishes by just including the garlic from the start. Myra kornfeld, what were you thinking?

Seriously, though, I recommend it.

Expect a dessert-themed entry sunday night or monday, after I return from a weekend in upstate NY. It will be worth the wait. (Three words: vegan.gulab.jamun.)


adventure food!

Most of the food I eat is organic. Most of my shopping, therefore, is done at places like Whole Foods (or my parents' natural food store in upstate NY). But once in a while I can't resist checking out the pakistani or the mexican or the turkish or the brazilian grocery stores in my area. We never had so many food options in upstate NY! One of my favorite places to get groceries from other countries is super 88 market. Their produce section is exciting - where else will I see bitter melons or fresh sugar cane or young coconut? - and their refrigerated section features soy products I never knew existed. A lot of them I don't buy because they have MSG, but the MSG-free ones sometimes make it home with me:
Soy sausage, which is actually just oddly-shaped tofu with no flavor (pictured here with a spice rub, but more attractive in the previous entry as a roasted ham).
Soy steak, which was mildly flavored with five spice powder and soy sauce (good in salad).
And Soy Chew, which I had to buy for its name.

There was also the sweet-and-sour soy chew, which I bought and did not photograph because it was 1.) ugly (just brown) and 2.) gross. I wanted to like it. It didn't work. And they have fried tofu, which is just deep-fried tofu. It's a little too oily to eat straight (I have to wring it out in a few napkins first), but it has a great texture. The nicest thing is that this brand says their soy is non-gmo. So not organic, but not the worst option.

Anyway, one of my most exciting produce finds there was Lotus Root! I've used dried lotus root, but I wanted to work with the real thing:
It's adorable, no? It's quite chewy, and boiling it, the smell reminded me of corn. The taste was sorta like a cross between water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Maybe a little corn-esque, too. I liked it.

Christina Pirello has a recipe for stuffed lotus root in her Cooking with Whole Foods. I tried making it and I failed. Stuffing a lotus root is hard, messy work, because there are so many chambers. So for those of us who would like lotus root in a simpler, potato-salady form:

Unstuffed Lotus Root Salad
(serves 4 as a side)
1 pound lotus root (two lotus roots)
1/3 Cup frozen corn
1/3 Cup peas
2 Tbsp almond butter (or other nut butter. not peanut, though)
2 Tbsp miso (milder's better)

Peel the lotus root. Half it lengthwise, then slice fairly thinly (1/4 inch pieces). Heat a medium-sized pot with of water to a boil, then add the lotus root. Boil for 15 minutes, until tender. Add the corn and peas in the last few minutes of cooking.

While the lotus root is boiling away, stir the almond butter and miso together in a large bowl. Add 1/4-1/3 cup of the boiling water from the lotus-root pot to the miso mixture and stir some more until it makes a nice sauce.

Drain the lotus root and veggies. Add to miso mixture, stir until all of the lotus root is coated. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes (stir occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn't sink back to the bottom) to a day for the flavors to set.

Salty but delicious! Very good with or on greens.

(These are not halved or sliced, so they took longer than 15 minutes. But you get the idea.)

Finally, these have nothing to do with exciting food purchases, but I took this picture of organic plums from my parents' store months ago, and only just found it while transferring some pictures from my old computer.
They're so pretty they're practicaly obscene. For some reason I never remember liking plums, nectarines, or peaches, but then I eat one and remember THEY ARE DELICIOUS.