Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barbecue sauce from scratch

I love a good barbecue sauce. I like a good traditional Kansas City style sauce -- that's a sweet tomato based sauce that most commercial sauces are based on. I've made my own years ago, and it turned out okay, but not good enough that i would want to try to recreate it. Plus I didn't totally even remember what I did, so I started over, and created a recipe of my own based on bits and pieces of informations from various recipes.

One thing I noticed is that most recipes called for ketchup. Now I love ketchup, and I an almost religious admirer of Heinz ketchup, but I wanted a more made from scratch thing here. I take pride in my cooking, and making barbecue sauce that's little more than suped-up ketchup isn't really my style.

So, based on all this I'm going to give the following recipe. This will make a a sweet and tomatoey sauce.

  • One large can of crushed tomatoes
  • Half of a small red onion, finely chopped
  • Five to seven cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • White vinegar -- 1/3 cup
  • Liquid smoke -- 1/2 teaspoon (a cap full)
  • Soy sauce -- 1/4 cup
  • Brown sugar -- 1/3 cup
  • Regular yellow mustard -- 1 teaspoon
  • Crushed red pepper -- 1 teaspoon for a mild sauce (up to a couple of tablespoons if you are bad ass)
  • Arrowroot powder -- make a slurry of several tablespoons.

Heat up some olive oil in a sauce pan on medium-high heat, and add the onions. Cook a couple of minutes until translucent, then put your heat down to medium and ass the red pepper flakes and the garlic.

After a couple of minutes (watch your garlic -- don't let it burn) add the vinegar, soy sauce, and the liquid smoke and turn the heat back up to med-high. When it gets boiling pour in the tomatoes, brown sugar, and mustard.

Stir all this together well and let it simmer (turn back down to med-low) for about 40 minutes, stirring every few minutes so it doesn't stick.

After it's cooked for about 40 minutes stir in your arrowroot slurry a bit at a time. It should thicken as it heats up. Allow it to simmer another minute or two -- it should be noticeably thicker.

At this point you have a pretty decent sauce, but it will be a bit chunky. Ladle the sauce out of the pan into a blender, and blend the mixture well. Let cool, and refrigerate.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eggplant red Thai curry

So I decided that I was going to try to make red curry for the first time ever last night. I think the heartiness and bad-for-you high calorie and fat content of this dish makes it sufficiently redneck enough. Now for some reason I have always had a bit of trouble making Asian foods more than any other, and my downstairs smoke detector always goes off whenever I try. (I think my smoke detector is racist.)

Often when I decide I’m going to make something for the first time I will browse around other recipes online and try to formulate my own recipe. From there I can usually create a good recipe that I think will work best. That’s what I did here, lurking around various sites, making mental and sometimes actual notes on what to do, until finally I developed what seemed like a process that would work. And it did – quite well actually.

Most red curry recipes out there are for chicken curry, though a lot is for tofu. While I like the tofu curries that I have had when I go out to eat (St. Louis has really good Thai restaurants by the way), I don’t particularly like cooking with tofu at home. I don’t hate it or anything, but it’s a bit of a process to get it drained and marinated and all (which I do by freezing then thawing and squeezing). I decided that I was going to use eggplant, as eggplant is pretty hearty, and will often work well in lieu of meat. I ended up going to the cool little ethnic food market here in town (Jay’s International) to get the necessary ingredients. They had these cool little cans of red curry paste which were perfect.

Anyway, the curry turned out really well, enough to where I feel pretty confident giving this recipe out for mass consumption:


  • Two Chinese eggplants (or one regular eggplant), diced into largish chunks
  • One medium-small red onion, sliced
  • One green bell pepper, sliced
  • Five cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz or so of sliced button mushrooms
  • Several tablespoons of red curry paste (exact amount may vary)
  • A light oil (I used Canola)
  • One (normal sized) can of light coconut milk
  • Three tablespoons of soy sauce

Note: I don’t like dicing the onions and peppers for this dish like I would a soup or a chili. For a curry I think it’s good to leave the pieces a little longer. Most pieces were around an inch long.


Get a wok (or a large pan of some sort) and heat up several tablespoons of oil (enough oil to coat the bottom well) using medium-high heat. Throw in the eggplant, pepper and onions at the same time, and stir fry until the eggplant starts to get saturated and the onions begin to get translucent. Then turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic and the mushrooms, and keep stir frying until the mushrooms are saturated.

Then add your curry paste. I should note here that not all curry pastes are created equal, so you might need to use more of some types than of others. Most of the time you will use between three and six tablespoons, but if you like it hotter and more flavorful then feel free to go crazy. Stir in your curry paste well, then add the coconut milk and the soy sauce.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer for a few minutes. Also, you might want to take a taste to see if it needs anything (most likely either curry paste or soy sauce). Serve this over your favorite rice (I like white jasmine rice) and eat. Yum. This was pretty good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Product review: Frieda’s Soy Taco

Every now and then I will provide a review for a product here at RVK. These posts will be fairly short and straightforward for the most part. I will provide a grade ranging from A to F, as well as more specific grades like A- and C+.

My first review is of the meat alternative Frieda’s Soy Taco.

This is meat alternative made from soy protein. I had a hankerin’ for some tacos, and was planning on getting the Boca meatless crumbles and use some taco seasoning that I had gotten from Trader Joe’s. Well, I live in south city St. Louis, and no, it’s not the cool part. It’s a more middle-low income area where they don’t carry some meatless stuff on a consistent basis, so although this place (a Schnuck’s in south city) has had them before, they didn’t this time. So I decided to look in the hippie section of the produce department where they sell the tofu, some fake dogs, and the like, hoping to find a tube of SmartLife fake ground beef. No luck. But they did have Freida’s Soy Taco, so I figured what the hell; I was too lazy to drive to the Dierberg’s a few miles away.

All in all, it was good not great. I used some regular taco shells and some shredded spring greens, and I was not disappointed in the tacos at all. It was spiced pretty well. It had a taco flavor to it so I didn’t have to add anything to it. Now they were a little acidic – a little too vinegary. But in a pinch, this product makes some pretty decent tacos pretty quickly, and isn’t too expensive.

Grade: B

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let's start with seitan

Okay, this is the first post for RVK. Welcome. I made this blog because I think that too often vegan food blogs more concerned with either making healthy food or making stuff that conspicuously uses exotic ingredients. Why can’t vegans just have simple food that tastes good without concern for making sure it’s made of stuff you can’t pronounce and has so much fiber that you might as well throw it in the toilet and cut out the middleman?

Well, I guess I will jump right in with a recipe, and seitan seems like the best place to start, since it can be used to make so many hearty things like barbecue sandwiches, tacos, “beef” stew, and plenty of other cool dishes. Lots of people are intimidated by the thought of making seitan, and I can understand as there are several steps to the process, and hence more chances to screw up. But if you get the process down it’s actually pretty easy.

This is my own recipe. I have been making seitan for the better part of a decade, and while I found a lot of good recipes (such as from the Veganomicon), I have always thought I could improve it. So over the years I have modified existing recipes and proportions and basically experimented. So this recipe is the culmination of years of fiddling around, and one grand accident, where I found the secret ingredient. I ran out of olive oil when making seitan one day, and was too lazy to run to the store. But what I did have was some toasted sesame oil. So I tried it, and the seitan was phenomenal. You come across some of the best discoveries by accident, and this is perhaps the best culinary accident I have ever made. Anyway, the recipe…

Here's what you need and the amounts*:

Dry ingredients
  • 2.25 cups of vital wheat gluten flour
  • 7 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 4 tablespoons of garlic powder
Wet ingredients
  • 1 cub of broth
  • 0.5 cups soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
*This makes a pretty large batch of seitan. If you want to make a smaller batch just use half of everything.

You want to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients together, separately. Then, in a large mixing bowl, add the wet to the dry. Some people suggest using a spoon for this, but I just use my hands.

You are going to want to kneed this for several minutes until the dough is nice and elastic. Then I roll in into a log shaped form several inches thick and slice pieces about half to three-quarters inches each.

Then you put them into a stock pot with 10 cups of cool broth. You can add some soy sauce the broth if you like. It doesn't have to be cold -- room temperature is fine -- but it can't be warm. The turn the heat on high and bring it up to a boil. After it's boiling, put the heat on medium low (high enough to where it still simmers) and cover for an hour.

After it’s simmered for an hour, drain the seitan through a strain and then you let it cool. When it's cooled off then you will need to squeeze the excess broth out. It will be pretty watery if you don't do this.

This recipe makes the best seitan I have ever had. My omnivorous mother told me it actually tastes like meat. I plan to put a lot of recipes on here that use seitan, so I will probably refer back to this recipe quite a bit. Enjoy!