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Monday, September 30, 2013

Vegan Mole Burritos

This dish is similar to many of my previous bean sauces, and miscellaneous burrito concoctions, with one exception.  We're going to do a mole sauce this time.

I love mole.  I find it an excellent venue within which to couch a surprising amount of heat (chilli); it can hold a fair bit of pepper heat without letting it dominate, and can still allow a fair few other flavours to come through.

Apparently there are many different types of mole sauces, but one thing they all have in common is peppers and chocolate (cocoa).  For those of you who have not had the privilege of tasting a mole sauce before, let me clarify that this is not the sweet chocolate that has become ubiquitous throughout North America, consisting of cocoa mixed with sugar and butter.  This is pure, dark chocolate, and sits beautifully next to chilli in this type of sauce.


Other than the sauce, this is going to be pretty simple.

I'm going to start my rice cooking first, because I like brown basmati, and that can take a while to cook (I'd say twice as long as white).

Next comes the prep for the sauce.

Like I said before, there are many different types of mole sauce, so I feel like it is OK for me to be a tad creative here.

I've chosen, in order of concentration, onion, scallion, garlic, chilli pepper, cocoa powder, apple cider vinegar, a touch of vanilla and a sprinkle of salt.

So, I'm going to start simmering the onion and garlic and pepper first, in a little bit of olive oil.

I've only chosen a couple of small jalapenos.  If you've read some of my posts before, you'll know that this is because I cook for the wife, who doesn't tolerate much heat.  If it were for me alone, I'd be throwing an habenero or scotch bonnet in there.  

So, this is still twice as much heat as I'd normally be able to use with the wife... but it will be OK because of the mole.

While that is simmering, I'm going to take on the arduous task of removing the corn from a couple of cobs.  

I did learn this trick, which helps to keep the kernels from flying all over the place, and also from inadvertently slicing off a finger:

Place the cob in a bundt cake pan!

Heh heh heh heh.

You might find it easiest to trim the end a bit first, so it can sit right, but after that it's just a simple matter of trimming the kernels with a paring knife.

Fun stuff!

So, that gets put in a pan with some water, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

By the time the water evaporates, the corn will be cooked through, and then the oil will lightly pan-fry the kernels.

Meanwhile, my sauce requires work.

To the existing pot of simmering onion and garlic and pepper, I'm going to add a signature blend of oregano and cumin.  Both of which are common in most of my Mexican cooking.

Then I'm going to add a can of beans.  Just regular brown (navy) beans today.  Although often I'll use a variety of beans, refried beans, lentils, or legumes, today it is just a single can of brown beans. The non-sweetened kind (I abhor sweet-sauced beans... and tend to buy just 'beans in tomato sauce' variety).

Now comes the fun part!

A good amount of cocoa powder.  I buy 'rich dark' cocoa, but I'm sure any kind of cocoa powder will work here.  There's probably just under a half a cup in there.

If you want to mix this into a liquid first, before adding to your sauce, that's not a bad idea (to prevent clumps), otherwise just be prepared to do some decent whisking.  :)

Next comes a fair bit of apple cider vinegar.  Many types of vinegar would work, but for this mix of flavours I do suggest A.C.V..

It's great stuff when you want a good, tart but mellow vinegar.

I put in about a quarter of a cup I'd say.

Then I added a splash of vanilla (about a teaspoon) for flavour.  Again, you can get creative with this kind of sauce because the chilli and the cocoa are going to take dominance over pretty much anything, rendering everything else subtle by comparison.

That's basically it.  Your sauce should have a good half hour to simmer and develop a good flavour, while you're waiting for the rice and the corn.  At that point, you could just serve it all up on a plate and go to town, but - as the title of this post suggests - we're going to wrap this up burrito style!


So, get out your masa harina, mix up some dough balls, and start rolling!

One of these days I'm going to pick up a tortilla press.  But for now I'm still rolling these babies out with parchment and a rolling pin.

The good news is that these don't take long to cook.  If your skillet or pan is super hot, it only takes a few minutes per tortilla.

You can keep them warm and moist, by wrapping the cooked tortillas in a kitchen towel.

When everything is done and ready, just fill and serve!

There's a base of brown rice, topped with beans in a generous mole sauce, a sprinkling of fresh, juicy corn, and garnished with some greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, and some green onion.

Obviously if you're opting to go VEGAN with this (again, as the title of this post suggests), you'll omit the yogurt and the cheese.  

But then I'll just feel sorry for you.  :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Holy Tellicherry Peppercorns (Batman)!

Fresh, coarsely ground black pepper is great on almost anything edible.

Of course, everyone puts a bit on their salads, soups, pastas, and grilled meats, but I enjoy it almost everywhere (including some less common places such as sweet fruit compotes and syrups.) If you've never had it before, I encourage you to try some black-pepper-laced strawberry syrup on your pancakes sometime!

Anyway, tellicherry peppercorns are the same fruit as regular 'black' peppercorns, but are allowed to mature longer upon the vine, before being picked and dried.

These babies can be a little hard to find sometimes, and are invariably more expensive than their immature cousins, but they are really worth it.

Not only is the flavour warmer, and the heat less intense, but there is a veritable complexity in each taste, ranging from citrus to floral if you let it sit on your tongue long enough.

So, if you want to spice up your cooking, go grab some tellicherry peppercorns.  I find them used best when ground as coarsely as possible, but feel free to use them wherever you might use traditional black pepper (or even beyond!)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Reclaimed Barn Wood Harvest Dining Table

As we get older, we gradually phase-out all of our old, cheap furniture, and replace them with more durable and long-lasting pieces which - in theory - should last us our whole lives.

These pieces are often high quality, well-constructed items, made from solid wood, and are as inescapably beautiful as they are expensive.  ;)

It has taken us many years, but we've come fairly close to eliminating all traces of particle board and veneer finishes from our home.  When you're young you don't know any better, but I feel like these places that mass-produce cheap crap (Ikea, to be sure, but I've noticed awful stuff from places like Home Depot, and even Future Shop/Best Buy) should have to pay a disposal fee for single-handedly clogging up our landfills. 

In fact, when I say we 'eliminate' our old cheap furniture, I mean of course that we re-sell them.  Someone somewhere is always younger or on a tighter budget, and it saves me from contributing to our massive environmental waste problems.

Anyway, when you put the quality into manufacturing a great piece of furniture, sure it costs more, but if you treat it right, it should (theoretically) NEVER need to end up in a landfill.

OK, sorry for that rant... I promise this DOES have some little bit to do with culinary spatterings; one of the last pieces we've upgraded, is our dining table.

One of the main reasons we waited until last to upgrade this piece, was because it was still tolerable.  It was still made from solid wood, and not terribly cheap, it's just that it didn't really match our aesthetic anymore.

For example, look at these pictures juxtaposing the old, 'espresso' table with our buffet/hutch in the antiqued, raw wood look.

I guess we've just gotten tired of the 'modern' aesthetic, and have chosen to adopt the much warmer, and more inviting, rustic style.

So, here's our new table:

It's made from reclaimed barn wood.

It's delightfully warped, dented, and just haphazardly blemished.  But it is seriously solid, and definitely gorgeous.

We opted for benches instead of chairs, for three reasons.  Firstly, they're a little more unique, and look stylish.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they occupy less room than the equivalent amount of seating in chairs (six) would, and can be neatly slid under the table when not in use.  This is handy, seeing as our dining room is not overly large.

Anyway, in the configuration pictured above, the table can comfortably seat six, three on each bench.  However, the table does come with one leaf, which expands to eight.  It says 8-10 place settings, but I wouldn't want to seat more than 8.  But it does 8 quite comfortably, provided you put an extra chair at the head and foot of the table.

In fact, we're already planning on picking up a couple of nice dining chairs to place there, and to offer our "less-than-sprightly" guests something a little more comfy than a hard wooden bench.

That said, I'm also thinking of getting a couple of nice cushions for the benches, but seeing as how they'd need to be custom-made, it is proving a tad difficult convincing the wife of their utility.

Anyway... we love our new table.  All it needs now is some gorgeous linens.  I've never really liked the idea of a table runner, but I think it would look great on this table.  After all, with a finish like this, you don't want to obscure the whole table, so I am starting to see the merit behind a runner and some place-mats, in lieu of an entire tablecloth.