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Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook Part 4

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The cla.s.sic, 11 17-inch, slightly rimmed jelly-roll pan will serve you well roasting just about any vegetable-just line the bottom with baking parchment or aluminum foil first, or you'll never get them clean again. You can also use it for baking jelly rolls! Nonrimmed cookie sheets work for roasting, too, but you risk having the juices run off and burn to the bottom of your oven.

Baking Tins

This is where you can go all freestyle with your bakeware collection. Large m.u.f.fin tins, medium m.u.f.fin tins, little bitty cutie little m.u.f.fin tins . . . go crazy! Hate m.u.f.fins (and don't have a soul)? Then don't get m.u.f.fin tins. But maybe you fancy Bundt cakes, so go get the best Bundt cake pan you can afford. And don't forget a standard loaf pan, unless you want to live a monklike existence free of banana bread. In general, we don't care for silicone bakeware, but we understand if all those pretty colors lure you in.

We had to go and bring up baking, didn't we? Well, then you'll also need this stuff:

Mixing Bowls

These are for more than just baking-you'll use them for everything. You might as well buy a set, since it's nigh-impossible to buy them separately, but you'll be happy you did. The stainless-steel ones are tops in our book, although plastic will do. Gla.s.s or ceramic ones are great as well but your cat will knock them onto the floor and cause disaster, so only get them if you're allergic to cats.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Psychic chefs can use the power of their minds to determine cup of nutritional yeast or teaspoon of vanilla. For the rest of us, a st.u.r.dy metal or high-quality plastic set of measuring cups and spoons will do. Bonus: a stainless-steel tablespoon makes a cool MacGyver-style melon baller.

Kitchen Timer

In our carefree youth, we would put some cookies to bake in the oven, then go call a friend, play with the cat, take a nap and watch the last fifteen minutes of the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. Okay, maybe we're exaggerating about the nap but the resulting charcoal cookies would make us take note that maybe getting a kitchen timer would be a good idea. Older and wiser, we've learned to relax a little and let the timer do all the work of reminding us to do something. Nothing fancy required, as long as you keep a plastic one away from the stove so it doesn't melt. If you happen to be a cheapskate with a cell phone, most cell phones have a timer feature.

Oven Thermometer

How much do you trust your oven? Unless you have one of those fancy top-of-the-line super expensive ovens (and even if you do), trust us, your oven is lying to you. Buy an oven thermometer, they're cheap and will save you burnt cookie heartache.

STANDARD UTENSILS.

Spatulas: Shop around for a thin, flexible, metal spatula that suits you, You'll use it for frying and sauteing in cast iron and aluminum, as well as for flipping pancakes and transferring cookies to cooling racks. A wooden (bamboo, preferably) spatula with an angled edge is great for stirring sauces and soups, and for sauteing in enamel or nonstick cookware.

Tongs: Tongs are great for flipping tofu on the grill, sauteing greens, mixing salads, and retrieving the olive oil cap that you dropped into the soup.

Slotted Spoon: It's the spoon that's not a spoon, because it doesn't hold anything! Maybe it sounds like the ultimate rip-off, but a slotted spoon is d.a.m.n handy when fishing out ravioli from a boiling pot o' water.

Pasta Spoon: That really creepy looking spoon-thing with teeth is a superhero when it comes to grabbing lumps of linguine or spools of spaghetti.

Ladles: Sometimes ladles make you feel like your pouring out the finest French soup, sometimes they make you feel like you're in a soup kitchen. Either way, you need a ladle because that tablespoon isn't going to get that soup into the bowl anytime soon.

Fork and Spoon: You may laugh, but this humble dynamic duo from the cutlery drawer will come to the rescue in your darkest hours. Forks make great mini whisks in a pinch (just don't use them for stirring anything in a nonstick pan), and spoons are experts at seeding squash and portioning out flours.

OTHER STUFF.

Barely a day goes by where the salad spinner doesn't see some action. And that's not because we're eating salads every day; salad spinners are geniuses at washing leafy greens, mushrooms, berries, green beans, and any smallish, numerous fruit or vegetable. Not to mention it doubles as an extra colander and additional large bowl to hold annoyingly large vegetables and greens. Speaking of colanders, you need one. You should get a fine-mesh strainer, too, for straining stuff and sifting flour. A citrus reamer can squeeze the juice out of a lime much, much better than your hands ever will. A whisk is nice to have, also. But the bottom line is that you will cook best with the equipment you are most comfortable with. Spend as much time as you need in the housewares aisle, handling your future equipment and seeing what feels best to you. If you prefer one handle to another, don't discount this as something trivial. And if you have a hand-me-down skillet from your best friend's mother, and love cooking with it, well, then keep it and cook on.

COOKING AND PREPPING TERMINOLOGY.

When we're asking you to "sweat" some mushrooms, we're not implying that you should apply extreme emotional pressure to get the fungus to admit to some dark secret. It's just one of a few cooking terms we like to throw around here, because they're a lot easier than writing out things like "partially cover and allow to steam until tender" all the time, and also because they're fun to say. Here are a few terms to know that will have you cooking like a master chef (almost): Bias: Often we say to slice something on a bias-say, carrots, for example. This mean to cut diagonally instead of straight down or across. This is usually specified when the cut makes a big difference to the texture of the food, or in situations where it will be more aesthetically pleasing. This way, instead of people barely noticing that you sliced a carrot, they will gasp in admiration of your d.a.m.n fine-looking carrots.

Blanching: A quick boil, when you don't want to cook your veggies all the way but just get them a bit softened up, usually because they will be cooked further somewhere down the line.

Blend: Stirring the contents of a bowl, pot, or pan to combine all of the ingredients. Usually done at a vigorous pace and sometimes done in a blender (obviously).

Braise: Briefly sauteing a piece, or pieces, of food to lightly sear or brown the outside. Then a small amount of liquid is poured over the hot food; often it's a seasoned vegetable broth or alcohol but water works, also. The food is then covered and allowed to steam just enough to make the food tender. An easy way to think about braising is a cross between sauteing and steaming.

Caramelize: To cook, usually over moderate heat for an extended period of time, until the sugars begin to brown.

Chop: Cutting things up any which way. Although most recipes will give you a general size to shoot for, when we say simply to chop something rather than dice or julienne or another more specific term, it usually means that it doesn't much matter what the shape is.

Deglaze: After your vegetables (usually garlic and onions) are cooked, adding liquid to the hot pan to lift up anything stuck to the bottom. This is a great way to make sure that all the food and flavors are incorporated into the entire dish, rather than turning into burnt bits and getting sacrificed to the bottom of your pan. Deglazing also makes a great sizzling noise that makes you feel like a real chef.

Dice: Chopping vegetables or other items into uniform cubes. When we say uniform we don't mean that you should whip out a tape measure, just aim to get them as alike as you can. Typically, dicing is done in rather small pieces, about inch or less.

Fold: Gently stirring in a single ingredient into a larger mixture or batter, usually done by stirring the bottom batter over the added ingredient with a large spoon or spatula. The idea is not to overmix the main batter or mixture, rather to evenly incorporate the new ingredient without disturbing the overall texture.

Grate: Sc.r.a.ping food along the surface of a shredder or microplane grater to yield fine shreds or particles of food.

Grill: Cooking marinated vegetables or proteins over a heated metal outdoor or indoor grill. The food is often turned several times to ensure it's completely cooked and the exterior lightly caramelized.

Julienne: We will take our carrots in matchstick form, thank you. We rarely julienne anything else, except for a cuc.u.mber here or there.

Mince: Using a knife, chopping vegetables or herbs into very small particles, around inch across or even smaller.

Process: Basically our lazy way of saying use a food processor or blender to puree something.

Puree: Blending the heck of out something in a food processor or blender.

Reduce: Simmering a sauce or soup on a stove top until some of the water has evaporated. Usually done with the pot uncovered or partially covered. Reducing will eliminate some of the total volume of the sauce and help intensify the flavors.

Roast: Baking food in an oven until the exterior has browned or caramelized and the interior is fully cooked. When roasting vegetables and protein foods, it's often necessary to rub the exterior with an oil to prevent its drying out entirely.

Roux: A cooked paste of flour and oil. When a roux is carefully cooked and stirred it begins to brown, forming a tantalizing, full-flavored base for soups and stews. In addition to providing flavor to these dishes, it also is an effective thickening agent.

Saute: Frying, while stirring occasionally, food in a skillet or pot with the addition of a fat.

Sear: To cook at high heat for a short period of time so that the outside of a food gets browned but the inside doesn't cook as much.

Slurry: A mixture of liquid and starch (usually flour, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, or tapioca starch) that's used to thicken soups and stews. The reason for making a slurry is that you can't add starch to hot things directly or it will clump up. Once the starch has been broken down in the water, it thickens a dish nice and evenly. We use this method a lot, so figured we might as well let you know the proper culinary term.

Sweat: In a heated skillet, partially covering a sauteed food and letting it steam until tender.

Whisk: Quickly stirring a liquid ingredient, or combination of ingredients, to mix and lightly beating in a little air. Usually done with a whisk, but often a dinner fork will do just as nicely.

LOWER-FAT COOKING.

First things first: this is not a diet cookbook. We love oils and nuts and avocados. They are essential for making delicious meals out of healthful foods. They are often crucial when cooking vegan, because plant foods are, in general, significantly lower in fat than animal-based foods. Flip through the pages and it will become clear that we're not shy when it comes to using olive oil or cashews and, of course, we usually leave room for dessert. Second thing: We are no strangers to diets of all kinds. We've tried many of them with some success, and some failure, over the years. Now that dozens of studies have shown that vegans are less likely to be obese and vegan diets bring greater weight loss, one of the more interesting misconceptions about eating vegan is that you'll be instantly skinny the day after you eschew cheese or bacon. Not so true. We've encountered many vegans who struggle with weight issues just as much as their more omnivorous fellow dieters, and we're not sure of the reason, either. Maybe it's because making all this delicious food will make you want to eat more of it? Or, it could be people are a little unclear about how to eat healthy if not eating the standard American diet of meat and potatoes. French fries are vegan, right?

Practice Low - Fat Vegan Cooking

Even if you're perfectly happy with your weight, you might want to trim some of the fat from your diet. It's been recommended by many heath impresarios and nutritionists that we should up the fiber, vegetables, and protein in our diets and keep the fat in check anyway. This might even be just the kind of cooking you flirt with a few times a week, while leaving the weekends open for occasions of full-fat desserts and fried foods.

Lucky for vegans, not only is cooking with less fat not rocket science, it isn't even seventh grade biology cla.s.s. For the most part, the staples of a vegan diet-legumes, grains, vegetables, and fruit-are all naturally low in fat, as are tofu, tempeh, and seitan. The plant foods we eat that do contain significant fat, such as those aforementioned nuts and avocados, can easily be eaten in moderation. So what we need to look at are the preparation methods we use when cooking our foods. And as you've probably deduced, we're talking about oil here.

AVOID NO-FAT COOKING.

Way back in the '80s when people thought that "mousse for hair" was a good idea, fat of all kinds became the cold-war level threat to the country. You couldn't enter a supermarket without tripping over a fat-free cookie, salad dressing, or tortilla. So like good little dieters, we tried this fat-free business. And yes, while the pounds did come off (temporarily), we were one h.e.l.l of an angry, cranky b.i.t.c.h the whole time. Now, in this new enlightened century, we've learned that some fats, namely high-quality, minimally processed vegetable oils, are good for you. And make you happy. Olive oil; cold-pressed nut oils; canola, safflower, and even unprocessed coconut oil are just a few of these fatty good guys. They contain lots of healthful antioxidants, help you feel full for a longer amount of time, aid in digestion, and just taste good. Cooking-wise, oils provide the necessary medium to keep vegetables moist and tender during cooking, not to mention that they "transport" the flavors of cooked foods like no other.

Now, here comes the less-than great news: you can have too much of a good thing. Yes, sopping up that fresh, crusty bread in herbed olive oil may not clog your arteries like saturated fat will, but over time it can make those jeans just a little tighter. So especially if you have weight loss in mind, keep those wonderful oils in your cupboard and in your salads, entrees, and other dishes. Just use less of them.

SAUTe WITH LESS OIL.

Maybe the most obvious thing in the world, but happily it's the easiest thing to do. First off, the venerable non-stick skillet is your friend here (see page 14). With your high-quality, nonstick skillet in hand, you can approach recipes with a critical eye as to how much oil is really necessary to get the approximate degree of browning and crisping. Usually if a food is just going to be browned or lightly grilled, less than a tablespoon of oil should work. Depending on the "sticky factor" of the item, it might require more or less. A spray bottle filled with oil is a G.o.dsend here, as it will distribute only the lightest coat of oil evenly over whatever you are cooking.

For sauteing veggies, tofu, tempeh and seitan, you can subst.i.tute vegetable broth for most if not all of the oil. Our favorite method is to use a tiny amount of oil to initially lightly brown that tofu, tempeh, asparagus, and so on, then add the broth to finish the job. Technically this might be braising, except that we may or may not find it necessary to cover the pan. If you're cooking a tough vegetable that requires a longer cooking time (such as cauliflower or broccoli), then covering the pan is the way to go.

When sauteing garlic and onions as the base of a soup, stew, or sauce, you can usually get away with only a teaspoon or two of oil. Here's a little trick: Put a teaspoon or two of oil in a pool on one side of your pan, don't coat the entire pan. Now, add your onions and garlic to the oil. Saute in that little corner of the pan, preferably using tongs. When moisture begins to release from the onions, usually after 3 minutes or so, you can spray on a little more oil. Then use broth to cook them further, if needed. Many of our soup and stew recipes call for two tablespoons of oil, which really isn't very much when divided among six to eight people, but you can use this method if you want to reduce the fat even further.

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Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook Part 4 summary

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