Summertime for Vegetarians: Vegan Scrambler

Being a vegetarian in the summer is great.  Aside from having to avoid most of the traditional grilled fare at barbecues, nature’s bounty blesses our plates with fresh foods from bursting farmer’s markets.  Admittedly I haven’t been to the farmer’s market nearly as much as I would have liked this summer, but I did get the chance to go recently.  For this particular trip, I decided to run down to the market, which isn’t too far, but the sun was hot and the run was tortuous.  I picked up some  berries, small super-sweet tomatoes, kale, and something called garlic scapes, and I paid with a very damp $20 bill that I pulled from my armband.

First of all, I don’t know why I persist in buying kale when I don’t even like it that much.  Perhaps it’s because it seems uber trendy these days, but I do like that it lasts much longer in my fridge than any other greens, and I do like that it’s good for me.  So I keep buying it and I keep making kale chips or tossing it into whatever I can, such as a vegan scrambler!  (What a winning segue.)

Vegan scramblers, for those that don’t know, are scrambled “eggs” but it’s really scrambled tofu.  I never buy eggs and I’m not a fan of milk, so I usually eat vegan at home and vegetarian when I’m out.  Vegan in the sheets, vegetarian in the streets, if you will.  (This is actually pretty accurate considering the number of times I’ve eaten meals in my bed.)

Vegan scramblers sound a little odd but they are easy to make and really delicious.  It’s one of those “kitchen sink” dishes; whatever you got in your fridge, you can just chop it up and stick it in the scrambler.

This particular scrambler was tex-mex inspired.  I happened to have some vegan “soyrizo” so I cooked that in a little oil.  I chopped up the tomatoes, kale, and garlic scapes.  Garlic scapes were new to me before this dish, but they are essentially the green onions of garlic; they have a grassy, subtle garlic taste.  I added the garlic scapes and kale to the dish and sautéed with the soyrizo.

Then I added the crumbled tofu with a little water and some spices (turmeric for color, pepper, and this spicy mix from The Spice House called “Vulcan Fire Salt,” a mix of cayenne, salt, and various other fiery flavors.)  Finally I added the tomatoes and sautéed a minute or so longer, and then I served it to myself on a bed of blue corn tortilla chips.  I also happened to have some vegan cheese, which I don’t buy very often because it can be kind of weird, but sprinkled on top of this, it was amazing.  (not shown)

The sweet tomatoes were an interesting contrast to the spicy soyrizo and tofu and the subtle undercurrent of garlic brought it together.  It was so good I was compelled to make it again the very next day, and the pic below is of that scrambler.  I “forgot” to add kale to it that time.

Unfortunately summer is almost at an end but with fall comes a new prospects for the plate and an urge to buy school supplies.  Pumpkin butter and fresh notebooks, mmmm…can’t wait.

Vegan Scrambler

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All the Small Things: Pupusas Stuffed w/ Vegan Chorizo & Platanos Maduros

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Sometimes in a small moment, I wonder if I am creating a lasting memory.  I did this upon my first visit to Chicago almost two years ago, standing with my little brother in his first apartment kitchen eating slices of deep dish pizza from around the corner.  I asked myself, will I remember this years from now?

Yesterday I sat at my brother’s table sharing a giant cinnamon bun we got from Whole Foods because the frigid day gave us a craving for one and Ann Sather’s was closed.  We listened to a Nina Simone record and he taught me about Wong Kar Wai’s films and sure enough I turned inward at one point not only to remember that time in the kitchen, but also to wonder if my brain would randomly call upon this current moment sometime in the far future.

Because of this strange self-awareness, I inevitably make memories out of many small moments.  These moments don’t really have much significance.  There’s really no reason for me to remember that the post office clerk yesterday answered my question of “How are you doing today?” with the cool, smooth enthusiasm of an old jazz radio DJ. “I’m supercalifragilistic!” And how he bid me a farewell as if signing off his show. “Have a great day, a great weekend, and a Happy New Year.  I’ll see you on the flip-side.”

There’s no reason for me to remember that on my personal brunch at 3rd Coast Cafe today, while enjoying my coffee and magazines, my thoughts were interrupted by the punching and ringing of an old-fashioned register I hadn’t noticed before.

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These are small moments with little significance, but pausing to ask myself if I will remember them, while makes me an observer of my own life for a second, forces me to appreciate the present.  And appreciation allows me to enjoy laid-back lovely weekends such as this one when I can just do whatever my whims call me to do without the pressure of what a fun weekend for a 20-something is supposed to be–whether that’s buying myself brunch and magazines, or making vegan chorizo and frying up the plantains that are finally ripe enough for maduros.

Because I’m trying to use up what’s in my fridge so I can start fresh for the new year, I had to get creative with dinner.  I fried ripe plantains in a little vegetable oil to make plátanos maduros and afterwards the vegan chorizo I made a couple days ago using Terry Romero‘s recipe from Viva Vegan.  Then I chopped it into smaller pieces and used them to stuff them into pupusas.

Pupusas, a traditional Salvadorean dish, are essentially fat corn tortillas stuffed with various fillings.  They’re simple to make since you just add water to Maseca (which is a maize flour you can usually find in the Latin foods section of the grocery store) until it forms a damp dough that you can shape into patties, stuff with whatever you want, and pan fry.  Shaping them is a little tricky, but this is a good step-by-step tutorial.

I haven’t made them in the traditional Salvadorean way quite yet; I have been opting to fill them with whatever I have on hand–in this case, chorizo and plantains!  Since I didn’t have the customary tomato salsa or slaw (curtido), I opted to blend a couple chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with a little vegan mayonnaise, slather it on top, and garnish them with some extra chorizo and plátanos maduros.

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It wasn’t the healthiest of meals, but it was pretty delicious for an iron-cheffed dinner.  I also made some hot chocolate with a bar of Olive & Sinclair (a Nashville-based artisan chocolate company) for dessert, just to make extra damn certain that I would spend the rest of the night in food coma.  Highly effective.

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Bacon Jam Crescent Rolls

I know what you might be thinking: “Bacon? Again? What’s with this woman?”

But if you’re cool, which you are, you’re probably thinking, “Bacon! Again! I love this woman!”

Now I promise I’m not obsessed. The sound of sizzling bacon doesn’t make me tremble. The smell of sizzling bacon doesn’t make me weak in the knees. Actually, when I’m at home, I usually eat vegetarian or vegan meals. But I saw this recipe for bacon jam on Ezra Poundcake, and I could not resist. I mean it’s JAM made of BACON!!!

Excitedly I told two friends about it, and they had the opposite reaction. Their faces scrunched up as if to say, JAM? Made of BACON?

This only made me more determined. It was even enough to get me out of my self-imposed Saturday morning coma to get some biscuits from Target.

Now Target is a trap. I go in for one specific reason and end up battling the urge to buy things I don’t need, like a donut hole/cake ball pan. True story. Now I’ve never wanted a wedding or thought much about getting married, but as I looked longingly at the kitchen appliances and gadgets, I realized that maybe I do want one someday…because I can register for some epic kitchen swag and get it FO FREE. Then I realized that it’s not really FO FREE because I have to pay for the wedding. Touché, frugality. Touché.

Anyway, Target did not have biscuits, and the thought of bacon jam hadn’t empowered me enough to make them from scratch, so I saw the crescent rolls and thought, why not?

I followed the recipe for bacon jam on Ezra Poundcake with no variations. And she’s right, it does smell pretty bad at first, but when it’s done, it mellows out and the flavors intensify. I won’t go into detail because I can’t do a better job describing it than she did. Much, much later I spread some on the crescent roll triangles, rolled up those suckers, and popped them in the oven. Easy.

I felt a little Sandra Lee using one of those tubes of pre-made dough, but whatever…call me Sandra Lee if you dare, because it was good. Buttery and bacon-y, and really, what could be better? These could be a great addition to a brunch menu, and quite simple if the bacon jam has already been made. All they need is a tall glass of orange juice, some scrambled eggs, and hash browns. Next time.

Edit: These also taste fabulous when you come home from dancing at 2 in the morning. :)

Brunch at Smoke

I officially became old as hell this past month: my “little” brother turned 21 years old.  For his birthday present, I decided to fly him to Dallas to spend the weekend and, of course, get him drunk in honor this milestone.  Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind, ending in brunch at Smoke and followed by a day of relaxation triggered by a euphoric food coma.  I knew before he came here that I wanted to take him to brunch (practically a Dallas institution) and eat some BBQ.  Quick research told me that Smoke would be the perfect place to do both.  I wasn’t wrong.
Walking up to the restaurant, which reminds me vaguely of a ranch house, I could already smell the smoked meats that were waiting for me.  Their seating method is high tech—no chain restaurant dry erase podium in sight.  They use a tablet to take down your name and phone number, and they text you when the table is ready.  I’m assuming this is useful when they are really packed, but we only had a 15 minute wait, which gave us just enough time to get two bloody marys at the bar that greets you at the entrance.
The bloody marys appeared in front of us like lava lamps of alcoholic joy.  With a quick mix and a sip, I could tell that these spicy cocktails would kick the hangover right out of your mouth.  The glass was rimmed margarita-style with a hot spice mixture and served with a savory garnish of carrot, pickle, and green bean.
 
It didn’t take us long to figure out what we wanted to eat.  I confidently ordered the smoked brisket cornbread hash, having already drooled over it when I look at the menu online, and Daniel ordered the pulled pork eggs benedict, which was on every table in the room we were seated.
We were certainly not disappointed.  The brisket had a wonderful caramelized crust that gave it some crunch, and the cornbread in the hash brought out a sweet edge.  The only thing I left was the empty plate.  I tried Daniel’s pork eggs benedict and understood why it was on everyone’s table.  The hollandaise sauce was the richest and creamiest I’d ever had, and the pork was smoky and sweet with the accompanying barbecue sauce.
Smoked Brisket Cornbread Hash
Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict
I wasn’t too surprised that brunch was amazing.  Smoke and Chef Tim Byres has been lauded in high profile places.  Southern Living even named it the best breakfast in Texas last year.  I will certainly be trying their dinner menu sometime.
On another note, now that my brother has left, I am saddened to return to reality, but I’m glad to have fun new memories.  I introduced him to my favorite hamburger at Twisted Root (The Spicy Goat) and the magic that is Central Market.  We partied on Cedar Springs at S4’s drag show and Round Up.  We explored the arts district and watched The Artist at the lovely Angelika Theater at Mockingbird Station.  We ate dinner at Bolsa and bought unique chocolate at Dude Sweet Chocolate.  We rocked Alone by 80s band Heart at Family Karaoke, among other songs.  We danced among the hipsters at Beauty Bar.  We had a wonderful brunch at Smoke and we relaxed.  Not bad for a stay-cation with my not-so-little-anymore brother.

Another Broken Egg Cafe

Brunch is big in Dallas, like everything else in Texas.  It is a Sunday event that ranges from the high-end to the down-home.  All I know is that many places offer bottomless mimosas, and I must find these establishments as soon as possible.

When I got my manicure a couple days ago, my manicurist told me about a place called Another Broken Egg Cafe.  He is a Texas native (Arlington), which was evident by the tattoo of Texas around his left elbow with the word “Love” inked in below.  I usually don’t like talking when I go to the salon.  When I go to the salon, I just want to relax in silence and get what I came there for.  However, I know that they are just trying to provide good customer service and establish a clientele, so I don’t get too ornery if I’m pressured into conversation.  Back in Tennessee I had my hair cut by the same lovely woman for five+ years, and every single time I sat in that chair she grinned at me in the mirror and asked me in her high-pitched Southern twang, “So…you got a man?”

But I digress.  I always ask any Texas native I meet for suggestions and recommendations, even if they are doing my nails and I am feeling antisocial.  Anyway, my manicurist told me that he and his partner have mostly left behind clubbing for lovely Sunday brunches, so I asked for recommendations.  Knowing the area of Dallas I live in, he recommended Another Broken Egg Cafe.  This morning I was craving a big breakfast, so I tried it out.

Another Broken Egg Cafe is a small franchise with restaurants across Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.  I read on their website that they have recently switched to using only free-range eggs, which made me happy.  The menu had a variety of tasty-sounding choices, so I just asked my waiter what the most popular item was.  He recommended the Lobster Et Fromage Omelette, which had brie cheese, garlic Lobster, fresh tomatoes and a champagne cream sauce.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Sometimes when you get lobster dishes, you only get a little bit of lobster meat, but this omelette has a substantial amount and it was delicious.

My waiter had a good sense of humor.  When he brought out my breakfast, he kneeled down on one knee, held up the plate and said, “Breakfast, Your Majesty.”  But then, as a result of middle age I suppose, he couldn’t get back up and he had to grip the table to clumsily pull himself up.  When he brought my check, he opted for a deep bow instead of a kneel and said with dramatized chivalry, “It was a pleasure serving you.”   Now that’s service.  :)  (Sorry I don’t have pictures.  I forgot my camera and phone at home.  :( )

Another Broken Egg was good, but with so many other places to explore in Dallas, I don’t think I’ll go again.  Plus, it was pretty pricey.  I blew $20 for an omelette and coffee, but I guess it was a lobster omelette and taxes are a biotch.   Another Broken Egg also didn’t quite measure up to my Nashville favorites for breakfast (Pancake Pantry and Athens Family Restaurant).   I am so glad that this time tomorrow my hungry stomach and homesick heart will be back in Music City.