Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cool Things: Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival

Sign Vermont is a fun state filled with amazing ski resorts, country stores, great diners, hippies, awesome breweries, and a garlic festival.

I couldn't go last year for some reason, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to go this past labor day weekend. Really, it's hard to be prepared for how much garlic is present in one place and at one time. And there are a huge number of garlic aficionados, judging by the turnout.

When Vampires Attack Considering that I can't stomach raw garlic, and just got a shiny new pair of braces put on, I wasn't up to sampling much, but Jeff was up for the task. The number of varieties of garlic was mind boggling. Like apples, each variety has a different flavor, level of tartness, acidity and is best suited for different applications.

We ultimately came home with 5 pounds of German White for pickling and roasting, and a pound each of Music, Zemo, Hnat and Carpathian. Considering how quickly Jeff and I tore through the garlic stash my mom bought for me at last year's garlic fest, I'm sure these won't be around for long.

Delicious Another fun part of the festival was all of the food and drinks available for tasting. It was really sad for me, actually, because I can't eat pretzels, chips or nuts for the next two years, and those are the vessels most vendors provide for sampling their various dips, salsas and sauces. I let Jeff do the tasting, and I scoped out one or two vendors that offered bread to sample with, including some delicious balsamic from pastamoré, who apparently are not local to Vermont in any way.

YumThere were also plenty of wineries offering samples, as well as one distillery that sold some sort of delicious and hugely expensive brandy. The wines we are sampling in the adjacent photo are from Honora Winery, which makes a delicious Merlot that we bought. They do grow their own grapes which I thought was interesting. Many Vermont wines focus on local fruits, not necessarily grapes. They just purchased a tasting room in Wilmington that used to belong to my family's old favorite North River Winery that we were sad to see go out of business recently. I'm glad that the location will not be going to waste!

Tasting But the best bang for our buck was a tasting set in the back of the festival where we were able to taste a flight of at least a dozen local wines for free. I really wish I had kept some notes about the wines, as some were absolutely divine. Some expensive nearly 100$ ice wines were part of the tasting. (By the way, I am not double-fisting in the photo above, nearly offering my mom's glass for a refill as she took the photo.)

DinerFinally, no trip to Vermont is complete without a trip to the Blue Benn Diner. Tucked away just off of routes 7 and 9 in Bennington, located in a quaint train car, the Blue Benn is certainly a delight for local vegetarians and vegans. Nearly a half page of their menu is dedicated to meat free dining, and Jeff and I were both excited to eat the veggie-loaf with gravy. It was soft enough for me to get through with my new braces, and savory and delicious as well. I would definitely recommend this place to any veg*n who finds their way to southern Vermont.

(Photo credit: my mom took all the photos in this post. I brought my camera and took exactly 0 shots the whole time.)

Garlic on FoodistaGarlic

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Recipe Roundup

I've decided to start including a post with some great recipes I've tried and used from other websites every (hopefully) Saturday.

  • Healthy Miso Gravy - I've been making this gravy and mixing it with macaroni to make a fast version of mac and cheese, something I've been craving a lot lately. I imagine it would also be delicious as an actual gravy!

  • Vegan Cinnamon Bread - I made this in the evening for breakfast the next morning, and it is quite delicious! I'm usually wary of any recipe that calls for over a stick of butter, and I probably used half a stick total without any noticeable lack of flavor.

  • Chai Latte, Iced or Hot - I don't drink coffee but sometimes I want something other than water to drink at work. I made the tea, which utterly clogged my french press. (Note to self: do not put ground spices in my french press again.) Instead of soy creamer (too many weird ingredients), I mixed it with some soy milk. I think it would be just as good with homemade almond milk.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Raspberry Picking

Filling One thing I miss about living in a somewhat rural area is u-pick farms. I have many fond memories of apple and raspberry picking at Goold's Orchard going back to at least a kindergarten field trip many years ago. Now that I live in Boston, my options are finding a vehicle and driving at least an hour away or waiting until I go home to visit my parents and picking from one of the many local u-pick locations.

Picking Jeff and I were excited to take a trip to Goold's after hitting up Vermont's Garlic Festival on labor day weekend. Our goal was to pick as close to 18 pounds of raspberries as we could before hopping in the car and going back to Boston.

We searched high and low, nearly picking a huge swath of bushes completely dry for at least two hours before calling it a day. Our final tally was 15 pounds - enough to add to our primary fermenter Red with some sugar and yeast to make 6 gallons of raspberry wine.

As of now, it's still sitting in the secondary, bubbling away, but we're extremely excited to taste it in a year or so.

(Photo credits go to my mom.)

Raspberry on FoodistaRaspberry

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Recipe: Vegan Okara Meatballs

Now that Jeff and I make our own tofu, we have become connoisseurs of okara. Okara is the "honorable pulp" that is what's left in the cheesecloth after pressing out the soy milk from the beans. I think it's fair to say that we eat the okara faster than we eat the tofu. We've reviewed a recipe for okara burgers but now I'd like to introduce our own invention: okara meatballs.

These meatballs have become one of my favorite foods. They're very versatile and Jeff and I keep coming up with new ideas for tweaking the recipe for various applications. Just today I made the Italian style recipe, and instead of forming balls to bake, broke it up into chunks and fried it in olive oil on a skillet, mixing it with marinara to make "meat" sauce. It was really thick, but hit the spot after an 8 mile run, when I want to eat something quick, delicious and filling.

In this recipe, I I don't recommend using raw okara, but okara that has been cooked in a soy milk maker or simmered before manually extracting the soy milk. It really does make a big difference in the final product.

Okara Meatballs
Yield: 2-4 servings
1 cup okara
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder (feel free to use 1-2 cloves finely minced garlic)
2 tsp onion flakes (similarly, substitute 1/4 small onion finely minced)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp ketchup (or tomato paste)
2 tbsp water

Spices: Italian Version
1/4 tsp black pepper (or 1/2 tsp if you really like black pepper)
1 tsp Italian seasoning (or mix of oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and sage)

Mexican Version
1 tsp taco seasoning (or mix of paprika, chili powder and cayenne pepper)

If baking, preheat oven to 350oF (175oC).

Mix all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use your hands to work the ingredients together and get the gluten nice and elastic.

Option 1:
Form into 12-16 balls and place in a glass baking dish. Bake in the oven at 350oF for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Option 2:
Form into many teaspoon sized balls and fry in your favorite oil on a skillet for 10-15 minutes until golden all around. Making small meatballs is important as the larger ones won't always fry through completely, leaving a very elastic center.

Serving Ideas
Jeff and I love the baked meatballs served over pasta and topped with marinara, freshly crushed black pepper and nutritional yeast.

Fry the Italian version, not in meatballs but in tiny broken-up chunks, and mix with your favorite marinara to make a "meat" sauce.

Similarly fry the Mexican version to create a delicious "ground beef" substitute for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or your favorite Mexican meal.

Add many tiny fried (or baked and broken up) Mexican meatballs to your favorite mac-n-cheese recipe before baking the mac. (My favorite mac recipe comes from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook.)

Okara on FoodistaOkara