Mexico Eats

Hola amigos!  
What a whirlwind month.  Of course our oven broken during MoFo!  Argh!  It was just replaced last Friday.  5 weeks without one, which is ridiculous but hardly surprising since we rent.

We were also in the Riviera Maya in Mexico during the last month for a while.  As it turns out, it was not at all difficult to get good vegan grub in that area.  The resort we stayed at had a more than adequate buffet; the fresh, local fruit at the breakfast buffet was lovely (fresh papaya and pineapple, mmm), there was lots of little Latin sweets to eat (coconut shreds drenched in fruit syrup shaped into little squares, and my favourite, deep fried tortillas sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and drizzled with a simple syrup, yum!), and they even had a little section labeled “Vegetarian” at the dinner buffet.  Not all of it was vegan, but a lot was!

We also had great success on the times we ate in the town of Playa del Carmen.  A sample of what we had:

Mandarin and lime sorbet

Lemonade with chia seeds

Oatmeal horchata

Whole roasted habaneros were served often as a meal accompaniment.

Mexican-Asian fusion tacos, stuffed with meaty soy strips, greens,  grilled vegetables and a great hot-sweet sauce from 100% Natural.  Note the cheese on the guacamole…lesson learned, even if you ask to ensure there is no dairy cheese or sour cream on the tacos, they might still put it on other stuff.   

Burritos stuffed with an assortment of grilled veggies, with black bean sauce, guacamole and rice.  

People were very accommodating if you asked.  Everyone was very friendly and were more than happy to prepare something vegan, and fortunately, we hardly came across anyone who acted as though it was a foreign, strange concept.  Good experience overall!

– Crystal

Arroz con Seitan

We’ve got a trip to Mexico planned for the beginning of November (what a way to wrap up MoFo, huh?) and it would be a dream come true if every place we went had food like this dreamboat of a dish here.  Wishful thinking; our plan is to gorge on local fruit while we’re there.
To build up excitement for our trip, we’ve been digging into the cookbook Viva Vegan a bit more lately.  We’ve never made this recipe before as it is pretty involved; what with the making the seitan and all.  Okay, it’s not really that bad if you make your seitan ahead of time, but we’re not so smart.  
This rice dish is laced with succulent olives and capers, juicy “chicken” seitan, cilantro, peas, green pepper, garlic, onion, and spiced with pretty staple Latin spices like oregano and cumin.
I found the recipe posted online here, but I strongly recommend you just buy the book.  There’s a recipe for churros!
Last night, we had some visitors a bit late into the evening and we didn’t even realize we hadn’t eaten dinner until 9:00pm.  What’s a couple of really hungry vegans to do?  Make epic nachos, that’s what.

Salsa, green olives, sliced jalapenos, beefy crumbles and daiya cheese on tortilla chips.  Bake and eat.

– Crystal

Tostones (Fried Plantain Medallions)

These fluffy fried plantain crisps are a delicious, though not necessarily nutritious, snack. They’re popular all over Latin America, and taste a bit like french fries. If you see plantains at the grocery store that are still green like unripe bananas, buy a few and try this recipe! We love plantains. 
1. Peel the plantain by whatever method works for you. It’s a little difficult at this stage of ripeness. 
2. Chop it diagonally, creating pieces about 1/2″ to 1″ thick. 
3. Fry ’em in a deep fryer (or carefully in a deep pot on medium heat with about an inch or two of oil) for about 5 minutes. Be careful, because hot oil is angry and sometimes jumps out of the pan at you.
4. Take them out, placing them on a plate covered in paper towel. Let them cool for a few minutes while some of the oil is soaked up. My personal recommendation would be to use this time playing Angry Birds. 
4. On a cutting board, or any flat surface like your floor or driveway, use a rolling pin to squish the pieces a little bit. Not so much that they fall apart, but enough that they change shape slightly. (There is a special tool out there for this procedure called a Tostonera, which you could invest in if you really like these.) 
7. Put them back in the oil. That’s right, you’re frying them a second time. Do this for about 4 minutes or until they are starting to brown around the edges. 
9. Take them out and put them on paper towel again and sprinkle them with salt. Now they’re ready to serve! 

Jackfruit Carnitas

Jackfruit carnitas is a dish that has a few different variations floating around.  We found some canned young jackfruit in brine in the asian market, and decided to give my friend Melisser Elliott’s version a go, which you can see in this video here.  Anyway, it’s supposed to mimic pulled pork and it really does!  I was almost thrown off at first at how meaty it looked.  Texture wise, it’s a bit softer than meat, but delicious.  Totally delicious.

Jackfruit is an interesting thing, I had never had it before, but apparently in its young form, it is used quite commonly in many south asian countries where people perhaps don’t eat meat for religious or economical reasons.

Beware of the heat from the salsa verde you use to make it though – Trevor picked some up from the latin market and – OUCH! – it was hot hot hot.  Next time, we’ll use a milder version, so the other flavours can shine through more.

We filled tacos with the carnitas, along with some fresh guacamole and lettuce to cool it down a bit. Some vegan sour cream would have been lovely on it – a nice homemade cashew-based one would do the trick.  We had that with some fried plantains, and tortilla chips with salsa. We also scored some frozen tropical fruit pulp at the latin market – guava, mango and lulo – so we decided to blend that up with some fresh pineapple and orange juice, and have some yummy, healthy smoothies with dinner, to help cool our scorching tongues.

There are two states in which plantains are consumed – when they are green (made into tostones) or very ripe, nearly black.  We mostly eat them in the latter stage.  Cooking plantains is very easy. Let them ripen until the skin is black and soft…they aren’t like bananas, which would be no good by that point; you want them to be nice and black or atleast speckled a lot.  Peel them by cutting off the ends and then slicing through the skin lengthwise. It should peel off very easily this way. I like to slice them in four pieces, but you can really slice them up however you like. Heat up a tablespoon of coconut oil (or your preferred oil) in a frying pan on medium. Put the plantains in when the oil is hot. Squish ’em a bit with the back of a spoon if you like. Sprinkle them with lime juice as they fry. Cook them until they are a little crispy and brown on the outside. Now sprinkle a dash of salt on them and they’re ready to eat.

This is NOT meat!  

– Crystal

Taco Talk-o

No kiddin’, we love latin food.  We eat lots of tacos and are always trying new things to put in them.  Vive Vegan by Terry Hope Romero is for those of us who like a little latin gusto in our lives.

From that, we have our first taco, stuffed with Tempeh Asado from Vive Vegan.

Tempeh asado, shredded cabbage and carrot, vegan sour cream, salsa and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.  Super good.  See the end of the post for the recipe for the tempeh, which is super easy, nutritious and most importantly, flavourful.
Next up, a chipotle seitan and kale taco with avocado, salsa, sour cream and daiya cheese.  The seitan was the famous Seitan O’ Greatness recipe, which will follow below.  
And another latin inspired plate.  From top left, going clockwise:

Vive Vegan’s Mexican Street Corn, Vive Vegan’s Curdito salad, fried plantains, some rice and a random bbqed potato.  Seen in the far top left of the photo, lime juice and hot sauce…two perfect condiments for all of this.

Tempeh Asado

1 (8-ounce) cake tempeh

Steaming tempeh in a microwave is fast and less messy. Place the sliced tempeh in a glass microwave-safe bowl with a lid and add 1/2 cup water. Toss the tempeh to moisten. Cover and microwave on high 5 to 6 minutes, or until the tempeh has softened and absorbed some of the liquid. Drain the excess water. Your tempeh is now ready to marinate!
1/3 cup light-colored Mexican beer or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely grated
1/2 rounded teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled by rubbing between your palms (releases flavor and eliminates any coarse leaves)

1. Slice the entire tempeh cake in half length-wise, then slice it into thirds. From here you can either slice each third on a diagonal to form triangles (good if serving as an entree) or leave as rectangles for use in sandwiches or tacos. Steam the tempeh in either a steamer basket, a covered sauce pan with 1 cup of water over high heat, or a microwave as directed above. Be sure to drain it of any excess water before adding to the marinade.

2. In a square pan or glass baking dish, whisk all of the marinade ingredients together. Add the tempeh and flip each piece over a few times to help it absorb the marinade. Let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. While this is going on, you can heat a cast iron grill pan over medium high heat. If pan-frying the tempeh, generously oil the pan with peanut or canola oil. Using metal tongs, place the pieces of tempeh on your grill or pan, taking care not to crown the pan. Brush with some of the extra marinade. Grill on each side for 3 or 4 minutes, flip and keep brushing with marinade, using up the rest of the marinade on the tempeh as it cooks. Tempeh should not cook for more than 6 to 7 minutes total, or it may become too dry.

3. Serve hot tempeh immediately. To serve in tacos, cut the tempeh into squares as directed above, grill, and coarsely chop the hot tempeh into bite-size bits. Serve in soft corn tortillas with sliced radishes, chopped cabbage, salsa, and a sprinkle of lime juice.

Seitan O’ Greatness

Can be used in just about any application that calls for something meaty, including just slicing and eating as-is.

1.5 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cups nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup cold water
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce

Preheat oven to 325°.

In a large mixing bowl mix dry ingredients. Mix the rest of the ingredients (liquid ingredients) in a smaller mixing bowl. Whisk well until mixed.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well, then knead for several minutes.

Form into a log (6-8″ long), wrap tightly in foil, twisting ends. Bake for 90 minutes. When done baking, unwrap and leave out to cool all the way. Then wrap it foil or plastic and refrigerate. Slice to use as desired.

– Crystal

Rainy Day Burritos #12 & 35

It was a dreary, rainy day here, and we wanted some comfort food. For me, comfort food is almost always Latin American food. So we decided to fill ourselves up with Burritos. Simple logic, really.

(as you can tell I put absolutely no effort into plating this or taking the photos)

Step 1:
Make some brown or white rice (we chose brown as it’s healthier and we think tastier), and then chuck some pinto beans or black beans in it. Season it with some salt and pepper, cumin, chile powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, oregano, parsley, turmeric….and whatever else you want.

Step 2:
Put the beans and rice in the center of a flour tortilla (the bigger the better). Cover that with some hot sauce, salsa, vegan sour cream, sliced avocados, lettuce, and maybe some Daiya if you’ve got it.

Step 3:
Fold in the ends and then roll the thing up. There is no easy way to describe the method. Just do it. Maybe you’ll fail. Maybe you’ll find it easy. Practice makes perfect sense.

Step 4:
Put them in a sandwich press if you have one. Or, If you’re like me you’ll just throw them in the oven on high for a few minutes. You want the outside to get a little crispy, but not dark. Don’t put them in and forget about them for 20 minutes only to end up pulling burnt black burritos out of your oven when you hear the smoke alarm.

Step 5:
Burrito coma.

– Trevor

Horchata and Latin Food

Vacation week!  Sorry we haven’t been blogging much, but we’re on vacation and between day trips and refinishing furniture, we haven’t been doing much in the way of bloggable food.  Figures, time off means no cooking?!

Anyway, we made a really nice dinner tonight, making a bunch of stuff from Vive Vegan by Terry Hope Romero.  Swiss chard with raisins and capers, Peruvian potatoes with spicy cheesy sauce, Creamy horchata, and some blue corn tortilla chips.

– Crystal