Vegan since 1975, I decide to answer the question, "What DO you eat?" These posts tell about some meals and recipes my family and I have enjoyed over the years.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lentil Soup and Sourdough Bread and Vegan Pizza

My mother would always make LENTIL SOUP when we would come to visit, and I have tried to recreate her recipe, with maybe just a few changes.

In a large soup pot, saute one medium chopped onion in a tablespoon of olive oil, eventually adding three chopped garlic cloves, three chopped carrots and two large diced potatoes. I also added a small amount of chopped celery, a small piece of hot red pepper and one small green pepper that grew all lonely in the garden.
Add one teaspoon of thyme, one bay leaf, one teaspoon of summer savory, and a half teaspoon of turmeric, just because.

Rinse off two cups of dried green lentils and add them to the pot, along with twelve cups of water and two cups of chopped greens. I used kale. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for an hour.
When the lentils are soft if squished against the side of the pot, add a chopped tomato, a tablespoon of tamari, and a quarter cup of red wine. Cook another fifteen minutes or so.
Right before serving, add the juice of one lemon.

SOURDOUGH BREAD is yummy in the fall.

I began the STARTER four days ago. Mix one cup of flour with one cup of water and one tablespoon of baking yeast. Stir it together in a ceramic lidded crock at least twice the size of the amount of the starter. Use a container for this that isn't metallic, that you won't need for a long time, and that has a lid.

Let it sit in a warm place for three days. If there are fruit flies around, you might need to put some netting under the lid to keep them out. The starter is ready to use or refrigerate at this point. It will smell sour, be bubbly, and will have risen up to the top of the container, if not right over the lip, down the sides and onto the counter.

 There are other ways to begin starter. For instance, you can get some from a friend. But to be sure it hasn't been started with sour cow's milk, this way will work.
If you don't use the starter during the week, each week you should discard half of it and freshen it with half a cup of flour and half a cup of water, refrigerating it again. Usually I keep using it for a couple of months or so, lose interest, and let it get all icky. You could still reclaim it, pouring off the blackened water, discarding all but a tablespoon, and starting over from scratch without the yeast, but I usually give it a break until the following year. This year I have kept my starter going for longer than usual, and my crock is a sight only a starter enthusiast could love. I use a bottle opener to pry open the lid, which is glued shut by the dried crust of starter.

Not everyone likes the sour taste of this bread, but if you do like it, all other bread pales in comparison.
To make two loaves of SOURDOUGH BREAD, the night before you want to bake, in a large ceramic bowl that is two and a half times the size of the dough, stir together four and a half cups of whole wheat flour and three and a half cups of lukewarm water. The water should not be so warm that it burns the inside of your wrist. Mix in all the starter, stirring as much as you can to develop the gluten.
Take out one cup of starter from the bowl and return it to your starter crock. You can leave it out overnight and refrigerate it in the morning. It should double in size.
Let the remainder of the wet dough, called the sponge, sit out in a warm place, covered, overnight, fermenting and doubling in size. I used a large enamel pot with a lid for this purpose, instead of a bowl and a cloth. If there are fruit flies around, use a cloth under the lid.
The next morning add half a teaspoon of non-iodized salt per expected loaf. Regular salt will work, but iodine can interfere with the fermenting process. You may prefer more salt, but start out with this amount, and increase it next time if you want.
Mix in unbleached white flour. I use the kind with the wheat germ added back in. Have three or four cups of it on hand, but only use as much as you need, gradually. Or as you knead, gradually. I only say this, because I forgot to measure. In any case, mix it around and then knead it, adding flour as you go, until it is pliable and a little sticky, still. Let it sit in the bowl for three hours in a warm place.

Divide the dough into two parts and form it into loaves. If you are using baking pans, make sure they are oiled. If you are baking it on a metal baking sheet, you can put a little cornmeal or flour down first, so it won't stick. The bread will spread out and expand quite a bit, so be sure to allow a lot of room on the sheet for it. It won't rise as much as regular bread, and will tend to be a lower, broader bread, unless you use the bread pans to give it some shape.
Let it double in size again in a warm place, which can take up to three hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Brush the tops of the loaves with water. Bake for twenty minutes at 425 degrees. Brush tops of loaves with water again, lower heat to 375 degrees, and bake for another hour. The water will make a crunchy crust.
Take the breads out of the pans and place on a cooling rack as soon as they come out of the oven, so they don't get damp in the pan. The bottoms of the loaves should sound hollow when you tap on them.
This bread is slightly sour, sticky and springy, has a crunchy crust, and is great with soup, spread with mustard, or dipped in olive oil. It can be made with more white flour and less whole wheat, as you prefer. You can also add cooked rice in the morning; maybe some that was left over and sitting out from the night before. You wouldn't want to add anything cold to the dough, so plan ahead for whatever grain you add to be room temperature.
Five of us enjoyed the soup and bread tonight, and there looked to be another meal's worth of soup and bread enough for a couple of days left over.
I have used the Tassajara Bread Book over the years to help me remember how to make the sourdough bread. It is a little less fussy than other recipe books.

Since writing this last fall, I have lately been making my sourdough a little differently. I usually make four loaves worth at a time, freezing a couple for later in the week, which ensures it won't mold or get stale before we use it.

I have been mixing the unbleached white flour with the warm water in the evening, and adding in the whole wheat flour the next day. I have been using a lesser amount of whole wheat to white flour, as per my family's strong request.

Since talking to Olivia at a party this spring about no knead sourdough, I have been experimenting with my own take on the process, having yet to look up the actual method. Mainly I just use less flour in the morning, loosely mixing the whole wheat in with a spoon, then glopping the very wet dough--it approaches a thick batter--into my oiled pans.

I pat the loaves with a wet hand to smooth them out a bit.

I then let them rise until double in size.

I put them in a non-preheated 350 degree oven, turn on the timer for an hour and forty minutes, and hope for the best.

The crust is very crunchy, and the inside is anywhere from stretchy and moist, to sticky, to gummy--I am continuing to refine my process and enjoying eating the results with soup. If it is too awful, don't forget to make croutons or bread pudding with it. About the worst thing you could do would be to put too much salt in it. Then you really would have to compost it, which is why I ask that you add salt very carefully.

If I ever have leftover dough/batter, I moosh it out on a large oiled cookie sheet or some other flat pan and let it rise until I can top it with pizza trimmings and bake it at 475 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

I use my tomato sauce, sprinkles of salt, nutritional yeast, oregano, basil, pepper, then a drizzle of olive oil. I usually top with onion rings and some sort of protein, such as Tofu-Lin by Soyboy, or my seitan, or maybe commercial vegan pepperoni. This one also has some spinach on top.

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