Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Masala Sauce (recipe)

Okay, so lets start with the masala sauce. This sauce forms the body and soul of the worlds most popular pseudo-indian dish. I'm working to bring it on the trail with me next weekend. Because heavy cream is not trail friendly, I've decided to substitute mori-nu tofu for the heavy cream. This dish, as prepared, is vegan and vegetarian.

I got distracted when cooks illustrated covered chicken tikka masala in their current issue. I made their recipe, and I didn't see what was so great about it. Honestly. I found it lacking in flavor, and color. It had great texture, but with heavy cream, texture isn't much to brag about.

I've tried to keep this recipe as trail friendly as possible. I didn't take pictures during the preparation because my battery was charging. I'll take pictures when I prepare it for this weekends adventure.

To make this dish backpacker friendly, I will prepare a simple spicy tomato sauce and dehydrate it at home. This will give me a fresh flavor tomato sauce without weight. It will also save me the need to carry an extensive spice rack with me.

On the trail, mori-nu tofu will be whipped into the sauce to add protein and thickness.

Masala Tomato Sauce
  • 6-8 ripe tomatoes
  • a slice of butter/veggie stuff (optional. I don't use fats in things I want to dry)
  • 2tbls minced garlic
  • one medium white onion, minced and optional
  • 1-2 jalepeno or equivalent chillies
  • 1-2 tsp Paprika
  • 1-2 tbls fresh coriander
  • "1/2 amount of coriander" cumin seed
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2tsp garam masala spice blend
  • 1 inch minced ginger root
  1. toast whole coriander and cumin seeds till fragrant and aromatic before grinding with mortar and pestle.
  2. puree tomatoes with Jalepenos, seeds and ribs included
  3. Cook onion in butter over medium -medium high heat 3-5 minutes
  4. add spices (parika, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, garam masala blend ) and cook 45s-1:30, till fragrant
  5. add tomato-jalepeno puree and minced ginger
  6. cook 10 minutes
  7. dehydrate on parchment paper till dry . I use my over on the lowest setting with the door propped open. I flip the sauce after 8 hours to dry the other side of the slap.
**NOTE: If you are making this at home, you could puree the tofu in with the tomatoes and jalepenos, or whip it in by hand during the cooking. **

On the trail, rehydrate the dried tomato sauce in boiling water, and add mori-nu silken soft tofu to cream up the sauce. I recommend mashing the tofu up right in the box with your knife or spoon before adding it to the sauce. This sauce is delicious with rice, noodles, dumplings, falafel balls, breads, and eaten plain with a spoon.

I'll be posting an update on my fake meat recipe soon . . . Thank you for reading my blog,

Tofu and Tomato sauce with masala spices (below)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

teaser, recipes coming soon

Hello internets, I babble on and on in this one, just keep scrolling, there are pictures down there . . .

I have a shiny new hard drive, and I am glad to be online and posting again !

A little background information : I'm a few years old, and I work as a chromosome mechanic for a world class university in Berkeley California. I hold a degree in biochemistry, and I have 10+ years experience covering protein chemistry, molecular biology, fermentation science, DNA & RNA sequence manipulation & analysis, and computer programming.

I need to be honest with my eaters. I think I can make a better fake meat than the seitan I used in my amaranth soup recipe. I'm not vegan, and I was challenging myself to work without rice, lentils, and soy for the last trip too. I chose to do seitan because I thought it would be reasonably easy for the trail. I found it fussy. Without having control of the water termperature, and measurments, the recipe was hit or miss. I felt that without limiting my ingredients, I could I achieve a better texture, better chew, and better appearance than anything on the market. I was wrong. There are some incredible fake meats on the market today, but, I couldn't find anything particularly friendly to the lightweight backpacker.

So, I set out to develop a backpacker friendly recipe de novo. I've made a half dozen attempts, and I am near ready to share my progress with you. I have a short trip coming up this weekend, and I will be developing a new dinner recipe. My ambition is to develop a trail friendly tikka masala , using the fake meat. I will be releasing several versions of the fake meat to appeal to my vegatarian and vegan readers, as well as my backpacking audience in the next few weeks.

Anyways, I have myself back online, new recipes later this week !
Here are some pictures of fake meat development, enjoy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lassen Volcanic National Park

( Text up front, pictures at the bottom of this post, enjoy )

I suffered a hard drive failure on my computer, so this blog is being thrown together quickly before I leave work on a Friday. I am sorry if it sucks.

I made it back from Lassen Volcanic Nation Park. I enjoyed this park a lot. The soil was soft and easy on my joints, lots of trees meant lots of shade, and the elevation was low enough as to not be a problem. I had a blast. I hiked in 5-7 miles to rainbow lake saturday night, and then did 12-15 miles Sunday to run out to Butte lake, stopping at CinderCone and then back to the car. I can see myself heading out here again in the near future. Hopefully I can motivate some friends to come with me next time.

I made the Amaranth soup with Seitan. It was as delicious on the trail as it was at home. I really liked amaranth, and I will be using it on more trips. I was dealing with strong winds, and less than ideal fuel for my stove. Boiling lots of water was out of the question, so I used smaller chunks of glutten. It turned out a little spongy, but it is hard to make one serving of gluten under any conditions. This meal was a success.

Anyways, here are some pictures from the trip, click for bigger picture, visit my flickr page for more complete photo collection.

I entered via the SouthWest entrance

Sulphur works is closed, but here is a little guy spewing out some gases

I made my way back to the lakes from summit lakes trail head

And camped at rainbow lake

In the morning I ran out to Butte Lake, and saw this volcano called Cinder Cone along the way.

This is the view from inside the volcano. There are 3 people in this picture.

A single tree struggles to survive on the side of Cinder Cone.

A nice shot of Mt Lassen.

here are some pictures of food from the trip.

The uncooked glutten

Potato was diced fresh, but the rest of the veggies were dried from fresh at home.

Cooking over the pop can. Isopropano is a crappy fuel. And the winds weren't helping much.

Dinner is served, a wilderness version of candle lit dinner.

With the flash it looks like this. I made it with extra broth. I think it helps make the full sensation last longer.

Breakfast was porridge of corn, wheat, oat, barley, millet, and amaranth. Seasoned with honey, allspice, and cinnamon. I would walk 14 miles before I ate another meal. Better than my usual cream of rice.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Amaranth and Harvest Soup

(Text at top, Pictures follow, recipes linked in right side column)

No rice, no beans, no lentils, no problem !

First lets get out some bisquick, instant potatoes, and dry milk. I'm joking, put that stuff back on the shelf. I think you will like what I came up with better. At first I was struggling, I kept wanting to use the forbidden items. Rice noodles, tofu, textured soy protein etc. But then, inspired by ancient brewing practices in the Americas, I decided to use amaranth seeds.

Amaranth seed is an amazing pseudo-grain, providing nearly 100% of the required amino acids per 150 grams. The flavor is very enjoyable, nutty, sweetly similar to malted barely. The texture in my hands is a delicate crunchy shell, encasing a soft chewy interior. In Aztec culture, amaranth was believed to be a magical food that provided superior endurance and strength. Amaranth was food for royalty, and an important part of the native religions in the Americas. The Spanish forbid the cultivation of the plant because of its use in non-Christian religious ceremonies, and the food disappeared for hundred of years.

I'm pairing Amaranth seed with wheat to provide me with a complete protein diet, as high in food value as red meat, fish, or poultry. I've decided to make fake meat on the trail from vital wheat gluten. It's a simple, but hour long, process of mixing some seasonings and water with some gluten powder. I've specifically planned this trip to allow me cooking time.

Today's dish is a simple Amaranth soup with Seitan (wheat meat) and fresh harvest vegetables. I walked out of the store with onions, snap peas, red bell pepper, potatoes, and corn. Your market might have something else in season.

I've also prepared a chimichurri inspired vinaigrette to finish off the flavors of the dish. It's simply a bunch of parsley, garlic, EVOO, champagne vinegar (or lime juice // other acid) , and red wine. Notice that by bringing wine and acid, I will have a drink as well as a dressing.

I started by preparing some Seitan, or wheat meat

It's boiled for about an hour in chicken broth and 10% soy sauce

and then cooled in broth

before being sliced and used like meat

Dice potatoes take the longest to cook

so they go in first, cooked in broth from Seitan preparation

Amaranth is a tiny little seed from a flowering weed

I add it after the potato has had five minutes in the pot, and let it cook 8 minutes

before adding the veggies.

In preparation, it's very beautiful

The fixing for a little Argentinian inspired sauce

Finished sauce, let water separate and take seasoned
acidic oil on the trail.

The final dish as eaten for dinner last night

For the trail, I dehydrated some corn, onion, celery and pepper. Less than 1/4 ounce for great fresh flavors. A huge weight savings, and almost no noticeable change in flavor profile. Much easier to chop and use in the wilderness.