Fair food

Well, our trip to the State Fair of Texas turned out pretty well. It was overcast and cool but never rained, and we had not only beer and fries, but managed to find what we can only assume was a vegan burrito. The owner of the food stand in question came out, phone attached to ear, diamond encrusted Texas-shaped pinky ring on finger, and diligently answered our questions before ordering the kitchen to whip up a bean, lettuce, tomato, and guacamole burrito with side of jalapeños – even giving us a big discount. He even had Firemen’s #4 – on tap! I hadn’t seen this stuff outside Austin before, so, all in all, we were pretty happy fairgoers.

We also managed to totally avoid the livestock “show” while visiting the automobile building, the Hall of State, and the Midway, where we took a scream-filled ride on the pirate ship. Win.

Fair food

The boy loved the retro State Fair beer cups. They’ve looked like this for as long as I can remember.


Cross posted from stellatex.

Pineapple Empanadas

I love hitting up my grandmother for fun recipes—especially when those recipes are accidentally vegan…well, mostly. Instead of egg wash, I used agave nectar so my empanadas could glisten like Grandma’s. Enjoy these gems hot or cold, and chase ‘em down with a good cup of café con (soy) leche!

Pineapple Empanadas

2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tablespoons evaporated cane sweetener
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup palm oil shortening
1/2 cup water
1 jar pineapple preserves
agave nectar

In a large bowl, mix flour, sweetener, salt, and baking powder. Add shortening and use fingers to mix thoroughly. Add water and knead together.

Cover dough and place in refrigerator for about 5-10 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out dough on a large floured surface and cut circles about 3 ½ inches in diameter (roughly 12 circles).

Place filling in the center of each circle and lightly dab the edges with agave nectar. Seal edges together with a fork.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and glaze empanadas with agave nectar. Set sheet back in oven and broil empanadas until they are golden brown.

Grandma’s Homemade Flour Tortillas (sorta)

I may have mentioned that I spent a good bit of my childhood in my grandmother’s kitchen…mostly gossiping and watching her cook, but occasionally I would give her a hand. I remember using an old wooden rolling pin to help her whip out loads of tortillas for a table-full of hungry children. We’d load these magical discs (nobody made ’em like Grandma) with all sorts of things–beans, guac, butter, you name it…

So after years of trying, I finally got the magical recipe out of Grandma, veganized it, and made a batch of my own. And let me tell you–what these tortillas lack in beauty, they most certainly make up for in taste!

Grandma’s Homemade Flour Tortillas (sorta)
2 c unbleached white flour (plus extra for rolling)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon evaporated cane sweetener
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 c vegetable shortening
3/4 c unsweetened almond milk (luke warm)
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well with fork. Add shortening and mix with fingers until consistency is even. Add almond milk and knead well (about 3-5 minutes). Separate dough into 8 equal parts, creating small dough balls.
Generously dust a large, flat surface with flour. Using a rolling pin (or a sanitized wine bottle…not kidding), roll out each ball into a round, flat shape. Use additional flour to dust balls as you roll them out.
Heat griddle to medium-high heat. Thoroughly cook each tortilla (roughly 1 minute on each side).
Store uncooked tortillas on a large plate, separated by parchment paper. Cover plate with plastic wrap. Uncooked tortillas can be stored up to 3 days in refrigerator.
Feel free to load these up with whatever you like…or don’t. They’re great all by themselves, too!

Austin: Polvo’s enchiladas

The first time I went to Polvo’s, in 1999, I wasn’t impressed. I ate meat then, and I am sure I had some sort of chili con carne cheese enchilada dish, but I remember thinking that the tortilla chips sucked, the sponge-painted walls sucked (I hate sponge-painted walls, but they’re a much worse offense in an Italian restaurant), the wait sucked, and the food was kind of bland.

Though I still agree with that initial assessment, I now love Polvo’s. Yeah, it’s a paradox.

When I came back to Austin in 2006 as a vegetarian, I discovered the cheese enchiladas with poblano cream sauce, and I was converted. I also realized that the availability of three distinct salsas was pretty cool (I like the dark, smoky one). I also determined that, with proper planning, getting a spot on the crowded patio after work or on a Sunday morning was worth waiting for, especially once I figured out that they have vegetarian rice and beans, and several different acceptable breakfast taco fillings. This past September, a bunch of us spent a lovely, long morning there before heading to ACL, and everyone – vegans to omnis – was happy. The margaritas ain’t bad, either.

So let’s talk about this vegetarian rice. To be honest, I don’t know if I believe them. But they advertise vegeterian rice, and every time I ask the waiter about the contents of the beans and rice, they tell me they’re vegetarian. I like the refried black beans at Curra’s better than the whole beans with tomatoes (ew) served up at Polvo’s, but the rice at Curra’s? No thanks. The rice at Polvo’s, on the other hand, is what one expects alongside enchiladas: it’s yellow, it’s sticky, it’s richly flavored! Yes!

Unfortunately, their guacamole, while served in ridiculously huge helpings alongside chopped cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce, and green peppers, is rather bland. Maybe it’s because it’s straight-up avocado, I don’t know – but I expect my guacamole to have a depth of flavor. It needs chili powder, cumin, lime juice, garlic, onions, and salt – yes, salt! Even El Chico slices the avocados right in front of you and tosses them with the requisite secondary ingredients in a fake mocajete.

Today at Polvo’s, I ordered the poblana enchiladas with “tamatillo” (physalis ixocarpa – is this different from “tomatillo,” physalis philadelphica?) sauce. They also have some other vegan sauces, such as verde, roja, and chipotle, and a choice of grilled vegetable filling. The menu, I noticed, advertises two potentially vegan tamales, too: vegetable and bean. They also serve huge burritos. These enchiladas were pretty damn tasty – and moist, like enchiladas are supposed to be (unlike at some other places that will remain nameless). There was so much that even I, consummate enchilada devourer that I am, could barely eat half of what was presented.

Thanks for lunch, Mike!

“Small” guacamole salad, salsas.

Poblana enchiladas with tamatillo sauce.

Enchilada plate, with vegan black beans and rice.

With added guacamole.

Cross posted from The Vegan Tree House.

Simple Migas…Brownsville Style

I spent much of my childhood watching cooking shows, experimenting in the kitchen, and gossiping with my grandmother while she prepared some fabulous meals! Not terribly exciting, but I grew up in Brownsville, Texas, after all. My grandmother is from a small Mexican village, where simplicity is valued, and native cuisine is a concoction of indigenous foods with a Spanish twist. One of my favorite breakfast dishes growing up was my grandmother’s simple, yet delicious migas! Grandma prepared her migas with freshly made corn tortillas, scrambled eggs, and a few Latin spices. Not overloaded with flavors, the simple dish made it possible for all of my family members to dress the dish to our own liking. My mother and aunt Sylvia usually topped theirs with a salsa picante and cheese (chilaquiles style), and my brother Michael and I often picked out most of the egg (we had a funny thing about eggs) and topped the remainder with ketchup…don’t knock it ’til you try it. A recent conversation with my mother about the dish inspired me to create a vegan version for myself…ketchup included! The dish is quite simple.

Migas Base
4 corn tortillas (cut in small squares)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch sea salt

6 oz Mori-Nu Extra Firm Tofu
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 small garlic clove (minced)
1 pinch cumin powder
sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
In a small skillet, sauté tortilla squares until lightly crisp. In a separate skillet, combine scramble ingredients and sauté evenly. Combine all ingredients and top as you wish…get crazy, even!

Austinist runs my post about vegan enchiladas

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. I’ve spent the last eight months on a quest to try as many vegan enchiladas as possible, and here are the results.

Plenty of Austin publications routinely print lists of the best and most popular (which aren’t always the same thing) Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in town. When was the last time anyone bothered to ask vegans?

Right, right – the words “vegan” and “enchilada” are mutually exclusive. After all, vegans don’t want enchiladas con carne, or with sour cream sauce, or even with cheese. But being vegan does not preclude being a hungry Texan, and for lucky Austinites, the options are perhaps shockingly numerous.

Continue reading here.

Guero’s grilled veggie enchiladas, rice, beans, and guacamole.