Sunday, July 11, 2010

But of course cool can be comforting!


What I mean is that, well, people usually associate warmth with comfort, right? Comfort foods aren't typically cold, fresh foods; rather, they're warm, dense, and often naughtier for you than, say, fresh fruit sprinkled with maple sugar. "Warm and comforting" is universal. Allow me to use a Twilight reference to illustrate (my apologies):


In Eclipse, in the tent, does Bella get warmed and grow comfortable in the frigidity through Edward's cuddling with her, or is it thanks to Jacob's hot temperature that Bella doesn't freeze to death? I mean, I'd rather cuddle up to Edward, but if I wanted to live, I guess Jacob and I would have to spoon.


But in the middle of the heat of summer, especially this heat wave we've been enduring (and, frankly, enjoying--sorry, Deleilan!) in Montreal, it's more common to seek comfort in the form of fresh, cool, or icy foods like fresh produce, cool pasta or potato salads, and frozen or chilled desserts (okay, so there are some inherently cool comfort foods). I'd never understood people not wanting to cook during the summer because we've always had central air conditioning at my house, so cooking really had little to no effect on the temperature inside of my house. I suppose I'm lucky in that respect, since pizza- and cookie-making mid-summer have had no effect on my psychology. Nevertheless, I've been wanting to embrace the delights of summer eating, and here are some photos of my summer accomplishments. (I used the word "summer" four
five times in this paragraph.)

Two-layer chocolate cake for Father's Day, with chocolate-peanut-butter frosting that I literally pasted on with my fingers. It was so dense and wouldn't spread that I created patties on my palms and pressed them onto the cake. And, because I am by no means artful, I haphazardly places the sprinkles on. Whatever--at least it tasted good! This recipe is from Fran Costigan's More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts--Naturally. The icing is the result of my not having enough cocoa to make pure chocolate frosting, and not having enough peanut butter to make a pure peanut-butter frosting. The result: heavenly frosting that was not unlike the taste of peanut-butter cups. Mmm...
Thanks to Viva Granola Vegan Store, I was able to try these bad boys: Daiya-stuffed vegan chicken bundles. They are delicious and provide a pleasant, filling accompaniment to any veggie-centred meal. I highly recommend you try them, despite their moderately-high price tag.

I was recipe-testing for macrobiotic vegan chef Christy Morgan, and these are the delightful and easy-as-pie raw spring rolls she had me make. I filled them with avocado slices, grated carrot, bok choy, and julienned red pepper. Sure, they're great on their own but, like everything else in this world, they are brought to the highest rank of deliciousness when dipped smothered in Christy's peanut butter sauce.
Mom was very pleased...
Upon recently acquiring the lovely, charming, and amazingly talented Hannah Kaminsky's My Sweet Vegan, I made her chocolate mousse to take to my cousins' birthday party. It literally disappeared before my eyes, so thankfully I grabbed a piece before it disappeared. It was wondrously rich, so fresh berries provided the perfect accompaniment to each spoonful. I topped this cake with mulberries from our mulberry bush in front of our house.
I'm sorry: I'm not even close to classy enough to wait before photographing my food. You get the gist, though.

Here's an example of the fresh, cool food that's been providing the backdrop to my meals as of late. From top right, going clockwise: carrots in jalapeno hummus, olive fougasse from Première Moisson, mixed bean salad from Fontaine Santé, and marinated shiitake mushrooms.
Ah, where did this come from.... Well, speaking of Twilight interests, this is what I was decked out in for the premiere of Eclipse, at midnight, on the 29th of June. I needed to show my allegiance to Team Edward, but I am not ambidextrous, so, if you look carefully, one "Team Edward" is a lot prettier than the other. Can you tell if I'm right-handed or left-handed?
Sometimes I wonder why I'm allowed out....
Enough Twilight, though: here's a bundt cake, again taken from Fran Costigan's book, that I made for my cousin's birthday. The recipe is for an orange bundt cake, but I modified it to make it an apple one, replacing oil with applesauce and orange juice with apple juice.
I can't ever say I'll make anything as simply beautiful or delicious as this. This is my paternal grandmother's pizza. It is perfect in every way possible, and though it is not a fluffy pizza dough--the kind that I usually fancy--, there's a certain amount of grease and flavouring that renders this pizza an absolute pleasure to consume. My paternal grandparents live in Ottawa, so it is a really big deal when 1) we get to see them and 2) we get to enjoy my Nonna's cooking.
If I didn't make it obvious enough in the picture, this recipe for dried-fruit focaccia comes from My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky. I'd never made focaccia before, so this was a special treat in its unconventional form, that is, its containing dried fruit instead of being topped with olive oil and Italian herbs. I misread the baking time, though; as a result, you can see that the top's a bit more golden than I'd like. Nevertheless, it is a splendid dessert, and it goes perfectly with my morning espresso, as shown below.
At a recent trip to Costco with my mum, I asked her to buy some potatoes and sweet potatoes because I was craving them. So she made me one of my favourite dishes ever: baked sweet potatoes and white potatoes with onions and olive oil. But that was just one dish, and we ended up with tonnes of extra pototoes and too much exterior heat to give us the will to make potatoes at all. So I went on a potato rampage, raiding Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson for recipes.
Above is a lemon potato stir-fry with sundried tomatoes, black olives, and onions (instead of shallots). I love fried potatoes, so this was a true treat.
What I was really craving, though, was potato salad, which stays with my recent theme of fresh, cool foods. Before I went vegan, though, I strongly disliked potato salads. It's funny, though, that meals and foods in general that I disliked as a non-vegan have become appealing to me now that I've familiarized myself with cooking and baking. It's exciting to have all sorts of foods and ways to cook opened up to me. Anyway, this potato salad recipe was modified by me (can I ever leave well enough alone?) to include chopped cucumber instead of celery, and black olives instead of pimiento-stuffed green olives. It is stunningly simple to make, and though it does require boiling of potatoes, this is a dish that is served cold, obviously, and summertime-friendly.
And last but absolutely not least is a nice, juicy, red Quebec tomato that I bought today at the grocery store. See, the thing that's special about this is that, here in Quebec, we spend a good half of the year either tomato-less or consuming disgusting (I try to be careful with strong adjectives like these, but they're really disgusting), grainy pink tomatoes. They're awful. So I graciously open my arms to Quebec's fresh produce and the rich flavours offered by local foods. Thank goodness for summer and its bounty!


Vegan in Suburbia