Sunday, August 9, 2015

Midsummer Sorbet (with plums and cherries)

I don't know about where you live, but around here everyone's gardens are growing like crazy. My mom and brother both have 5 foot tall tomato plants and they're still growing! All the fruit trees are in high production and the zucchini plants are so nuts you can basically watch them grow over the course of an afternoon. So between friends and various family members and even my coworkers at the library, I have been gifted a lot of produce. I love free stuff, and I value resourcefulness and making the most of what I have on hand. So I've been making and freezing pesto, drying plums, blending smoothies and juicing on the regular before the fruit flies take over my house and carry me away into the night. One thing I've done with a surplus of local plums was turn them into a delicious, creamy, ultra refreshing, ice cold sorbet. I was suprised by how easy it is to make. It was my first time attempting sorbet from scratch and I wasn't sure it could be pulled off without a fancy ice cream maker, but it totally can (you'll still need a blender or a food processor).

I used cherries because that's what I had in my fridge, but you can definitely use whatever kind of berries you like/just picked/found left on your doorstep. If you use raspberries or blackberries, you'll need to strain the seeds out between the simmering and blending stages.

Midsummer Plum and Cherry Sorbet

1 pound fresh plums
1 cup cherries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste, depending on the sweetness of your plums)

Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Attempt to do the same with your cherries, but you might just make a big juicy mess trying to gouge the pits out any way you can. Salvage the remains and put them in a saucepan with the plums. Add the water and sugar and heat over medium-high until everything starts to simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and let it all cook at a low simmer for 8 minutes. 

Remove the pan from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Puree the plum/cherry mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer the mixture into a loaf pan and freeze.

After the sorbet has frozen, break it up into chunks and blend or puree again so that it has a nice smooth sorbet-y texture. Freeze it again, then sit in the shade and enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spicy Homemade Vegan Sausage

. . . with a bonus recipe for homemade Chickeny Seasoning!

There's a reason we have the idiom, "like watching sausage getting made": it's a pretty nasty process. Granted, this is vegan sausage so even though it's not a grisly recipe post it's sure not the most photogenic one. So that's why I'm opening with a picture of the finished sausage bathed in a saucy bowl of gumbo. To distract you from the doughy brown tubular mess you'll see below.

Seriously, I think making vegan sausage from scratch is really fun! And it will save you a lot of money if you're used to buying those expensive premade ones that hang out next to the tofu and eggroll wrappers at the grocery store. These sausages are great grilled and slapped on a bun with lots of 'kraut or sliced into rounds and fried in a little oil. Actually, I'm just eating one straight up out of the foil right now. . . but my favorite way to prepare them is in that gumbo with a bunch of okra and beans!

Spicy Homemade Vegan Sausage
makes 8 large links

2 1/4 cups wheat gluten
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup chickpea flour
2 tbsp homemade Chickeny Seasoning (see recipe below)
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp fennel seed
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups water
8 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tbsp soy sauce or Bragg's
2 tbsp olive oil

Note: To make the Chickeny Seasoning, mix together the following ingredients in a jar:

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp sage

Cap the jar, shake to combine and use in soups and rice pilafs when you want a chickeny base flavor. Feel free to adjust the salt level as you like. I prefer to go light on the salt because depending on the recipe I'm using, it can be easy to go over board on saltiness.

Now for the sausages! Set up a large stock pot with a steaming basket and water. Prepare eight peices of aluminum foil, about eight inches long.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine the water, garlic, soy sauce and olive oil. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir to combine. You don't have to knead the dough, just mix until the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated.

Use a half cup measure to scoop out a portion of the dough and shape into a log. Roll the log up in the foil and twist the ends so that it's secure but not too tight. The seitan will swell up as it cooks, so you want to give 'em a little room to grow while still holding their loggy shapes. Repeat with the rest of the dough, then stack the sausages in your steamer. Steam for 30 min, then let cool in the foil.

Before and after steaming

These sausages freeze well and are really nice to have on hand for quick weeknight meals. I usually just throw them in the freezer in the foil but if you plan on storing them proper you should probably remove them from the foil and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or freezer bags.