Friday, September 19, 2014

Braised Tofu and Bean Sprouts with Coconut Milk

I found this recipe while desperately looking for something to do with bean sprouts besides another stir-fry. It is wonderful! I've never had a dish quite like this before. Simple, yet an explosion of flavors and textures.

The only changes I've made are to use more tofu and add some cilantro, and to omit the curry leaves (only because I didn't have any).

Braised Tofu and Bean Sprouts with Coconut Milk 
(from veggie belly)

14 oz firm tofu
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
pinch asafetida (optional)
1 green serrano chili, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
4 c bean sprouts (about 8oz)
1/2 cup coconut milk

1. Drain the tofu, and gently pat it dry with an absorbent towel. Cut the tofu into ½ inch cubes and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a wok or large sauce pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop over medium heat.
3. Once they pop, throw in the chili and asafetida. Stir for about 30 seconds or till the chili starts to sizzle.
4. Sprinkle turmeric over the oil. Immediately add cubed tofu. Mix everything gently so the turmeric coats the tofu.
5. Cook the tofu on medium heat, flipping it around occasionally, till it is lightly browned on all sides. About 8 minutes.
6. Then add the bean sprouts, coconut milk, and salt. If you want more liquid, add more coconut milk. Cook just till the bean sprouts wilt a little – about 2 minutes. Toss in cilantro and serve hot or cold. Serves about 2.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Soups Good Bad and Ugly [but really good]: 2 Asparagus Soups and One Beet Soup

Each of these soups I tried both hot and cold. I'm not always sold on cold soups, but it's been so hot here that I had to try, with ambivalence.

This has been the summer of green soups. In trying different ones, I realize that a few choices can produce a huge variety of soups:

  • just asparagus, or bulk up with another veggie? Or no asparagus at all and only use milder vegetables?
  • roast or sautee the vegetables?
  • cashew cream? coconut cream? neither?
  • herbs - mint, cilantro, dill, basil? brighten up with citrus as well/instead?
This soup, adapted from seitan is my motor, is the first of several. Because of what I had on hand, I used cilantro and dried mint instead of basil, and cashew cream instead of coconut cream.

Simple Asparagus and Pea Soup 
(adapted from seitan is my motor)

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
14.1 oz green asparagus, chopped
7 oz. frozen green peas
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup cashew cream
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro
1 TB dried mint
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add onion and fry for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and fry for 1-2 more minutes.
2. Place asparagus, peas and broth in the pot and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Add cashew cream and stir until dissolved. Place in a blender together with herbs and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or chilled. Serves about 3. 


Then there was this beet soup. Why was it not good?? There were oven-roasted beets, soaked cashews, onion, garlic... but I think I got a bit too adventurous, or rather, I tried to go on three different adventures at once. Maybe if it were thinner. Maybe if I hadn't used ginger and worcestershire sauce and lime juice. But it looked so pretty!


But this next soup, a recipe from vegan richa, was really, really good. It was a bit thinner than the top soup, which I think makes it feel more delicate and less cloying. My mom and I also found grilled asparagus in the freezer section at Trader Joes (in NC; I haven't seen it in LA), which made this recipe a breeze to pull together. Because the asparagus was roasted but the garlic and onions weren't, we had to change up the method a little bit.

Roasted Asparagus Soup with Dill and Basil
(adapted from vegan richa)

14-16 asparagus spears, roasted and cut into 1-in pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 white or red onion, sliced
oil, salt and pepper as needed
1/2 cup soaked cashews or 1/2 cup cashew cream
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp dried dill or 2 tsp fresh dill
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt or taste
2 tsp nutritional yeast
a very generous dash of black pepper

1. In a large pot, sautee the onions and garlic. Add the asparagus, give a few stirs, and then turn off the heat.
2. Blend sauteed vegetables with the cashews, broth, dill, basil, olive oil, salt and nutritional yeast.
3. Add blended puree to a pan and heat at medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir frequently. 8 - 10 minutes.
4. Taste and adjust salt. Add more water/broth if needed for desired consistency.
5. Garnish with cashew cream and black pepper. Serves about 3.

Cauliflower Meatballs

These meatballs are a great idea. I can see how you could tweak them to get all kinds of different flavors, provided the amount of bulk, liquid, and salt stay constant.

I didn't have quite enough walnuts to follow the original recipe, so I compensated by adding the equivalent in cauliflower. I also halved the salt, just because it seemed like a lot, and I still thought they were too salty--especially with the mushroom gravy I put on them. But they baked out perfectly (and I wish I had a photo of the pretty finished project). These would be great on spaghetti or in place of falafel, or you could make a larger version as a veggie burger. Thanks to the bread crumbs, they held together quite well.

Cauliflower Meatballs
(via Sketch-Free Eating)

1/2 head of cauliflower, raw
1/2 c cooked lentils
1 c walnuts
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
thyme and oregano (I used dried)
3/4 c bread crumbs
1 tbsp water (if needed)

Buzz it all up in a food processor. Form into balls. Bake for 40 minutes on 350F flipping halfway through. Made about 16 balls.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Green Pea Curry with Tomatoes and Cashews (Mattar Masala)

I made a lot of food when I visited my mom last month, and I'm still catching up on those posts. This creamy, tomato-based pea curry was marvelous--I'm still thinking about the smell that filled the kitchen when I was sauteeing all the spices and onions.
Toasted cashews are ground into a paste, giving the impression that there's dairy in the sauce. I used 2 c canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and ended up with lots more sauce. The sauce was delicious, so I wasn't sad about this, but next time I would only use 1 c canned tomatoes. I was also thinking about using green fava beans or edamame rather than peas next time, for more protein. Also, it's not a spicy recipe, so feel free to substitute cayenne in place of aleppo pepper, or to throw in some minced chili if you want some heat--I added a dried red chili when I was sauteeing the ingredients for the masala paste (pictured below:).

Green Pea Curry (Mattar Masala)
(from taste space)

1/4 cup raw cashews, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil, or oil of choice
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 inch piece cinnamon stick
2 black cardamon pods, slightly crushed
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile flakes
1 medium onion, chopped
1.5 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (I used 2 c canned diced tomatoes; next time I would use only 1 c)
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil, or oil of choice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
8-10 frozen curry leaves
3 cups green peas (thawed if frozen)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile powder
1/2 tsp amchoor powder (optional)
pinch of asafoetida
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
fresh cilantro, for garnish


1. Begin by making the masala paste: In a large skillet over medium-low heat, roast cashews until lightly browned and fragrant, around 5-7 minutes. Remove form heat to cool, then place in a food processor.

2. In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and stir for 30-60 seconds, or until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Quickly add the cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and chile flakes, cover and gently wiggle the skillet occasionally, so the spices do not burn.

3. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, until softened and browned. Add the ginger and garlic, stirring for 1 minute more, without allowing to burn. Deglaze with the tomatoes, stirring to incorporate the spices. Cook for 5-10 minutes until thickened, stirring throughout so it does not burn. Stir in the cilantro and allow to wilt, around 1 minute. Remove from heat and add to the food processor. Fish out the cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks because they won’t do anything in the food processor. Next, pulse into you achieve a smooth paste. Return the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. (This paste can be saved at this point; store in the refrigerator until needed).

4. For the curry, in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and saute for 5 minutes until softened and lightly brown. Add the tomatoes and curry leaves, simmering until the tomatoes cook down, around 5-10 minutes. Add peas and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the peas are just tender. Stir in the masala paste, turmeric, ground coriander, chile powder, amchoor powder, asafoetida, garam masala and salt. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water, to achieve your desired level of sauciness. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it does not stick. Add additional water, if required. Remove form heat and let stand for 5 minutes to cool, prior to serving. Fish out the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and any other bits not pulverized in the masala paste.

5. Serve with your choice of side (pictured with brown rice) and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Eggplant in Tahini and Mustard Sauce

I love eggplant, and mustard, and tahini, but I don't know that I'd ever had them together before. This unusual recipe from ecurry may not look the best (at least in the only snapshot I got of it before it was all eaten), but it's really delicious.

Does anyone have a good mustard oil to recommend? It's illegal to sell it for food uses in the US, and I'm a little wary of buying something that says it's a massage oil or aromatherapy oil, even if that is just a workaround. I've cooked with it before when I was house-sitting, and it was delicious! I'm sure it would really improve this recipe, too, though it was good with canola oil anyway.

Eggplant in Tahini and Mustard Sauce
(from ecurry)

4 medium Chinese/Asian eggplants or 1 large American Eggplant (about 8-10 inches long)
4 tablespoon oil pure mustard oil of any cooking oil +( 1 more tablespoon of pure virgin mustard oil – optional)
1/2 teaspoon kalonji/nigella seeds
6 hot green chilli peppers (more or less, adjust to taste) – slit
salt to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon Kashmiri Red Chili Powder (or cayenne or paprika) – adjust amount to taste
2.5 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds (or black for stronger flavors);  I have used a mix of both
2.5 heaped tablespoon Tahini (or Sesame Paste) (recipe for easy Homemade Tahini)
1 teaspoon sugar (not to make it sweet; just for the balance of taste)
about 1/4 cup water to make the paste + more water as needed for the sauce

Wash the eggplant and pat dry. Slice them 2 inches long (about 3/4 inches wide) or in cubes. Sprinkle some salt and half a teaspoon of turmeric and toss well. Allow the eggplant to sit/sweat for about 10 minutes.

Make a paste with the mustard seeds and 1/4 cup water. Whisk in the sesame paste/tahini  and red chili powder, the rest of the turmeric and the sugar with the mustard paste and set aside. (If you do not have tahini, use lightly toasted sesame seeds along with the mustard seeds to make a mustard sesame paste).

Heat half of the oil in a pan (save the spoonful to drizzle). Add the nigella seeds and some of the slit chilli peppers (remove seeds and membrane carefully from the peppers if you do not want the heat; the fresh flavor is vital here). As the seeds sizzle and the peppers have brown blisters, add the eggplants and increase the heat.

Cook the eggplants while tossing frequently until they start to soften and brown. Most of the oil will have been absorbed by the eggplants. They would be about half cooked. Now add the rest of the oil, except the spoonful to drizzle and add the mustard tahini paste to the pan and toss everything together.

Cook at medium – low heat while gently stirring, preventing the paste from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until the raw taste of the mustard and sesame is gone. Add about a cup (or maybe a little bit more depending on how much sauce you want) of water, give it a gently stir and partially cover to cook until the eggplants are done. The sauce should thicken and be able to coat the eggplants and have some extra.

Adjust salt. Finish of with a drizzle of pure mustard oil and more chili peppers if you want.

Serve hot over rice or with any flat breads.

Serves 4-6 as side

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Veganism, masculinity, fat-shaming

It's not every day that you listen to an NPR interview with an academic whom you've met, conducted by a reporter who once sublet your apartment! This story on vegan men and masculinity touches on many of the issues that continue to inform my blogging and my research.

While I'm reposting links, I should also mention fuckyeahfatvegans. While I don't identify as fat, I absolutely love this tumblr. I love how this blog calls out the hypocrisy of the ableism and thin privilege of vegan discourse. While I do think that eating vegan is generally healthier, I don't think that this is the most compelling reason to go vegan. And I certainly don't think that it's okay to use fat or otherwise nonnormative bodies as negative examples in "go vegan!" propoganda (as in this cartoon).

Animal rights have always been the stickiest, least comfortable arrow in my "why vegan?" quiver. I think it's really complicated, and I am still open to the idea that in environments where eating vegan is not agriculturally feasible, there are good ways to be meat eaters. This is part of my reason to eat as an omnivore while studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal. That said, for someone living in the U.S., it's not only feasible but also ecologically imperative to avoid eating meat, given the way it's produced here. And from there, maybe it's only a matter of degree from a worldview that de-emphasizes the individual with respect to the planet, to a worldview that de-emphasizes the individual with respect to the energy and uniqueness of other beings.

I don't know. 

I don't know. Like I said, it's so much harder to articulate this aspect than the fact that one quarter pounder uses the equivalent resources of two months' worth of showers. But even if the animal rights ethics aren't obvious, 1) the environmental argument is obvious, and 2) why not err on the side of care, given that we have the option?

Even with this agnostic position on animal rights, it seems clear to me that campaigns like PETA's (which have employed sex, fat-shaming, and even autism scare tactics [rufkm?!]) totally miss the point. If veganism is to mean something, it needs to be a self-aware, politically conscious stance that privileges humility and compassion over self-righteousness and hysteria.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Avocado Cup Salad with Cucumbers, Radishes, and Ginger-Miso Dressing

Another great recipe for hot weather. If you're not cooking for a crowd, I would still make the full batch of salad and dressing, even if I were only stuffing one or two avocados. The salad will keep longer and is good on its own.

In the couple of weeks that have passed since I first made this, it's become clear to me that this salad left its mark--I've been putting cucumber and radish in everything, and have made several other dishes (like one with spicy blanched green beans) that have some sort of miso-sesame sauce. This may have been where it all began.

Avocado Cup Salad with Cucumbers, Radishes, and Ginger-Miso Dressing
(from smitten kitchen)

1 cup finely diced cucumber (from about half a long English or 2 small Persian cukes), seeds removed
1 cup finely diced radishes (from about 4 large red ones)
2 scallions, finely chopped
4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated or minced fresh ginger root (or more to taste)
2 teaspoon white sesame seeds, toasted
4 ripe avocados

Mix cucumber, radishes and scallions in a medium bowl. In a small dish, whisk sesame oil, miso, rice vinegar and ginger. Add dressing flavor and seasonings to taste. Halve avocados and remove pits. Score avocado halves with a knife, cutting lines in both directions to form a grid, but being careful not to through the skin.

If you’re serving all four avocados right away, go ahead and mix the dressing and salad ingredients together, then heap each avocado half with salad and dressing and garnish with mix of sesame seeds. If you’d like to stretch this over several days of lunches or the like, keep the mixed salad ingredients and dressing in separate dishes. When you’re ready to eat, cut and score your avocado, dot a little dressing directly on each half, heap with salad filling and drizzle with more dressing. Garnish with mix of seeds.

Eat with a spoon.