Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Recap

So here's the complete Thanksgiving menu:

  • Butternut Squash and Onion Galette (Taylor and Matthew, recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen then veganized)
  • Pear-Cranberry Chutney (Taylor and Matthew, recipe from New York Times)
  • Spiced Cider (from Trader Joe's)
  • Seasonal Beers

  • Sweet Potato Pie (Leigh-Michil, family recipe)
  • Coffee

  • Music: Seasonal colonial hits (seriously)

And here's the party (as it turns out, the Thanksgiving mood lighting wasn't so great for photographs):

Starring Vegan Planet

So Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet is definitely my favorite cookbook these days. The sheer volume of excellent recipes that are neither overly fussy nor obvious (like macro cookbooks for "steamed broccoli"), and the huge range in flavors and influences, are truly superb.

Vegan versions of traditional Thanksgiving fare usually tend towards tvp, tofu, and/or lackluster imitations of meat-based dishes. I went for these Middle Eastern dishes because--like in Thanksgiving food--there's a tendency to mix sweet and savory flavors. As an interesting side note, this Thanksgiving ended up being completely soy-free, except for the miso in the sauce for the greens. Now, I adore miso and tempeh, and I'd be lost without EarthBalance for baking, but it is interesting that we ended up with a feast that felt balanced without soy. The reason? Sooo many nuts. Almonds in the chickpea stew, walnuts all over the eggplant dish, tahini all over the place, and almonds in the ill-fated whipped topping. This made for a rather rich as well as balanced meal. Interestingly, this meal also ended up incorporating a lot of nightshade-family vegetables (tomato, peppers, eggplant), which I usually avoid since they are inflammatory and not incredibly nutritious. But it was a special occasion.

I'd made the Chickpea and Green Bean Tagine from Vegan Planet one time before, and I really liked its use of cinnamon, almonds, and lemon zest--a more interesting version of the ubiquitous Middle Eastern chickpea stew. However, I overdid it on the tomatoes this time, and I think the dish suffered because of it. The stew already calls for a considerable amount of dried fruit, and the overabundance of canned tomatoes made it a bit too syrupy and tomatoey.

The Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant with Walnut Sauce, on the other hand, was incredible. This walnut sauce, which contains onion, turmeric, ground walnuts, stock, tomato paste, brown sugar, pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, was like nothing I'd ever tasted. Tangy (due to the juices), yet meaty (due to the walnuts especially). I swore it tasted like a really classy sloppy joe, but was outvoted by my guests--and after all, I probably haven't had a sloppy joe in six years. The eggplants are stuffed with a mixture of onion, eggplant, bell peppers, rice, more walnuts, and fresh mint and parsley. I think the amount of fresh herbs could easily be doubled.

One thing that was nice about the eggplant dish and the roasted green dish was that I was able to prepare them ahead of time, place them in baking dishes, and then pop them both in the oven for about 15 minutes right before eating. I did the pie first thing in the morning, so the only other dish to worry about was the tagine.

Chickpea and Green Bean Tagine
(from Vegan Planet)

1 1/2 c mixed dried fruit
1 TB olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp allspice
*at least* 8 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-in pieces
*less than* 14.5 oz diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 c stock
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 1/2 c cooked or canned chickpeas
1/4 c slivered blanched almonds
2 TB minced fresh parsley
*at least* 1 tsp grated lemon zest

1. Soak dried fruit in boiling water for 20 min. Drain and chop.
2. In large pot, saute onions in olive oil (5 min). Add garlic and spices. Add green beans, tomatoes and juice, stock, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 min.
3. Add fruit and chickpeas. Cook 5-10 min. Just before serving, stir in almonds, parsley, and lemon zest, and season to taste.


Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant with Walnut Sauce
(from Vegan Planet)


2 eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 TB olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 c ground walnuts, divided
1 c stock
salt and pepper
2 TB tomato paste
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 pomegranate juice
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 c cooked basmati rice
2-4 TB minced fresh mint leaves
2-4 TB minced fresh parsley

1. Bake eggplant face down on an oiled baking sheet at 400* for about 15 min.
2. When eggplants are cool enough, scoop out insides, leaving 1/4-in shells intact. Coarsely chop the eggplant flesh and reserve.
3. Heat 1 TB olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add half of the onion, cook until softened. Add turmeric, half of the nuts, stock, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer about 15 minutes until sauce begins to thicken.
4. In a separate bowl, combine tomato paste, sugar, and juices, and blend well. Add to sauce and simmer on very low heat.
5. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Saute remaining onion and bell pepper and cook until softened. Add eggplant and salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and combine with rice, remaining nuts, and herbs.
6. Place eggplant shells in an oiled baking dish and stuff the shells with the mixture. Bake about 15-20 minutes. Top with walnut sauce.

Either my guests were conservative in their sauce consumption, or this recipe made far too much sauce for the eggplants. Not that this is a problem. I'm going to be putting this delicious sauce on everything for the next two weeks.

Roasted Greens with Miso-Tahini Sauce

Why roast greens? Roasting helps concentrate flavors and creates good textures. I had a somewhat random assortment of greens, however, and I knew that roasting all of them equally would result in some things underdone and other things overdone. So what would have been a simple recipe became a little tricky as I pre-steamed vegetables that would require more cooking. The cheesy or nutty flavor of the miso-tahini sauce pairs nicely with the slight bitterness of the greens.

Roasted Greens with Miso-Tahini Sauce

Possible Ingredients
Radish greens
Broccoli rabe
Brussels sprouts
Minced garlic
Olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper
Toasted sesame seeds (optional--I forgot)

Wash and trim vegetables. Steam vegetables to the point that they only require 10-15 minutes of roasting. This meant that for me I had to steam the broccoli rabe and the brussels sprouts for 5 minutes, remove the broccoli rabe and continue steaming the brussels sprouts for another 5 min (and it should have been 10). When all the vegetables have acheived about the same level of ready-to-be-roastedness, toss with a liberal amount of garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out in a baking sheet or pan, and cover with foil. Bake at 400* for 10-15 minutes, removing the foil towards the end. Vegetables should be tender, and greens should be just beginning to get crispy. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve with miso-tahini sauce (recipe below).

Miso-Tahini Sauce

I struggle to imagine a food pairing more simply perfect than miso and tahini. It's creamy, it's nutty, it's salty, and it's cheesy. Misos vary enormously in flavor (darker ones, fermented longer, are saltier and have richer, wine-ier flavors). I ended up using equal parts of my favorite yellow miso and a low-sodium red miso, which was quite middle-of-the-road (and delicious).  Edit 9/20/10: We might also consider the sibling tahini-tamari sauce as well.

Sometimes I put mustard or garlic in this kind of a sauce, too.

Miso-Tahini Sauce

3 parts miso (experiment with different kinds)
3 parts tahini
2 parts warm water
1 part olive oil (optional)

Instructions: Blend well and serve at room temperature.

Apple Cranberry Pie with Tahini Crust

Apple Cranberry Pie with Tahini Crust and Almond Butter Cream

Thanksgiving was a blast. We broke out one of the extra leaves of my dining table and had seven people total! Guests brought wine and beer, a delectable sweet potato and onion galette, a pear-cranberry chutney, and a yummy sweet potato pie. I made a few other things. I'm going to start with the most important: pie. This recipe is adapted from a berry pie recipe from Arhia's family. The filling is fruit, plus a little bit of other stuff (she used arrowroot and flour) to firm it up, and sugar as needed. I turned this into a very tart apple pie which incorporated lemon, ginger, and cranberries (and the accordingly necessary sugar), as well as some apple pie type spices. The crust is all Arhia's: using tahini instead of butter, lard, or oil gives the crust an amazing nutty taste.

I decided at the last minute to make Robin Robertson's Almond Butter Cream. This would have paired nicely with the pie, but I put it in a container that had recently housed onions, and the results were slightly tragic. If anyone has any ideas about what to do with a cup of oniony almond date goop, let me know. I'm also wondering how I could have made the top of the pie look more attractive. I know I should have used a bit more fruit (I've already adjusted the recipe); I'm wondering if this is the main reason that the top looked a little anemic and wilted, or if I should have glazed the apples on top or something.

Apple Cranberry Pie with Tahini Crust
(adapted from a recipe by Arhia)

Tahini Crust
Ingredients (9-in pie)
3/4 c white flour
3/4 c wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c tahini

Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in tahini (I used a knife and then switched to a fork as it got more evenly mixed in--see image to the right). Mix in warm water, a small amount at a time, until a dry dough forms.

Place 1 large sheet of waxed paper on a flat surface, using a few drops of water underneath to hold it in place. Transfer dough to top of this waxed paper and cover with another sheet. Roll out the dough to desired thickness. Remove top sheet of waxed paper and transfer crust to oiled pie pan.

Remaining crust can be baked off in a frying pan and topped with jam for a delicious snack (see image to the left)!

Apple Cranberry Pie
about 6 apples, cored and sliced (I used Fuji)
1 1/2 c fresh or frozen (unsweetened) cranberries
1-2 TB fresh ginger, grated
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1/2 c turbinado sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
3 TB cornstarch
3 TB flour

Fruit should more than fill the pie pan (see image to the right). If desired, retain some of the fruit for a decorative topping. In a saucepan, cook fruit and ginger with some water until it begins to soften. Add remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes, until well mixed. Transfer to pie crust. Top with reserved fruit and brown sugar, if desired (see image to the left).

Bake pie at 425* for ten minutes, then at 350* for an additional 40-50 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust begins to brown. Allow to stand and cool before serving.

Update, January 2010: I made this pie back home over the holidays and it turned out prettier. We used more fruit, and my mom made a prettier crust than I had:

Almond Butter Cream
(from Vegan Planet)

1 c boiling water
1 c raw almonds
1/2 c boiling water
4 dates, pitted

Place almonds in a larger bowl and dates in a smaller bowl. Pour boiling water over each. After 1 minute, drain almonds and pat dry. Remove skins. When dates are soft and have cooled, blend blanched (skinless) almonds, dates, and date water in a blender, adding water as necessary. Cover and chill before serving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chocolate-Coconut Muffins (not cupcakes!)

(I promise that the next post will not be about muffins)

Like most people, I have had many "food epiphanies" abroad. I remember being shocked that people in Dakar made and kept yogurt outdoors in a plastic bowl with a piece of plywood over it, and that even in England people didn’t refrigerate open jars of jam or eggs (my English flatmates mused, “Well, maybe if the eggs were *really* not fresh the supermarket *might* need to refrigerate them…”).

I also learned a lot about cultural attitudes towards food by working in bakery-cafes in London and the US, one after the other. It blew my mind when a customer came into Gail's and said something like, "Oh, and let's have a about that muffin?" I thought, "How can muffins be cake?!" But this brings up an important issue. What is the relationship between the muffin and the cupcake these days, when a "muffin" can have more calories/fat/sugar than a piece of cake? Is frosting the only distinguishing factor?

I'd like to believe that there's still a difference, or that at least there's a spectrum between ur-muffin on one end and ur-cupcake on the other. Still, today's adaptation of Arhia's muffin recipe made me question this whole system. Chocolate was the culprit. I wanted to make a muffin that was deliciously chocolatey without being a chocolate cupcake. In the end, it felt like something was lacking. Not that it needed more oil; the applesauce creates a wonderful moist texture. More salt? More sugar? Is there a point at which chocolate doesn't taste like chocolate unless it is accompanied by enough sugar?

Chocolate-Coconut Muffins

1 1/2 c white flour
1 c wheat flour
1/2 c unsweetened coconut
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 c corn oil
1 c applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
soymilk and/or water to desired consistency

Oil muffin tin. Preheat oven to 375*. Mix dry. Add wet. Mix well. Fill muffin tins almost to the top. Bake 25 min. Makes about 14 muffins.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Molasses-Walnut-Cornmeal Muffins

"One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them."
The Importance of Being Earnest

This muffin business is getting a bit out of hand, perhaps. But really...what a fun way to make bread. And, more generally, what a delightful way to avoid doing work.

I love baking recipes which require sour milk or buttermilk. Adding vinegar to soymilk makes the texture creamier and gives it a nice tangy flavor. This muffin tastes quite strongly of molasses without being particularly sweet. The walnuts add a good contrast to the molasses, and in terms of texture, the cornmeal balances out the white flour (I didn't substitute wheat flour because I was worried about this muffin sticking together with cornmeal and without egg replacer).

Molasses-Walnut-Cornmeal Muffins
(adapted from Vegan Planet)

1 1/4 c soymilk
1 1/2 TB apple cider vinegar
2 c white flour
1 c cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 c molasses
1 TB canola oil
1/2 c chopped walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350*. Oil muffin tin.
2) In a small bowl or pyrex, combine soymilk and vinegar and allow to curdle.
3) In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Then add soymilk mixture, molasses, and oil, and mix thoroughly. Stir in walnuts. Spoon into muffin tins and bake at 350* for 20-25 min. Makes 12 muffins.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More muffins

One thing that gets my goat is the tendency of many non-vegetarians to think of "vegan" (or vegetarian) as a category of weird, special food, when in fact they eat vegan things every day (like green beans). "You must need to shop at Whole Foods, huh?" "I have a special, vegan recipe for you." "Now that you mention that this cake is vegan, it does taste a little bit like tofu [when cake in question contains no soy products whatsoever]." Etc.

This muffin recipe from my friend Arhia is a great example of a "vegan" baked good that requires no strange leaveners or egg substitutes. It does call for soymilk, but you could use water, too.

I was a little wary of adding chocolate to a muffin that already had lots of flavor--apples, vanilla, cinnamon, and especially cardamom--might not the spices and the chocolate distract from one another? But the chocolate and cardamom balanced each other well. Do note, however: the cardamom flavor is quite pronounced. If you want a more "normal-" (or boring-) tasting muffin, you might omit it. The applesauce makes this muffin moist without using much oil, and the whole wheat flour gives it needed texture. Yum!

I changed the name of Arhia's recipe because cardamom and chocolate seem to be the main players in this muffin. I suggest using corn oil because of its buttery taste, but any vegetable oil would work fine. The original recipe called for sprinkling flax seeds over the tops before baking, and I simply didn't see this part as I was following the recipe. Finally, I didn't need the full 25 minutes' baking time that the recipe called for; they were done in less than 20 minutes.

Cardamom Chocolate Chip Muffins
(from Arhia Kohlmoos)

1 1/2 c white flour
1 c wheat flour
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 c brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/3 c corn oil
1 c applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
soymilk (about 1/2 to 1 c)
1 c chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375*. Oil a muffin tin.
2. Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients. Add enough soymilk to make a muffin batter that is wet but not runny. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Fill muffin tins almost to the top. Bake for 15-25 minutes. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Garam Masala extravaganza

I love baking first thing in the morning. The measuring and the movements help your brain wake up slowly, and then your cold apartment, lit by morning sun, slowly fills with warmth and good smells. But beware: if you don't eat breakfast, you might end up snacking on a lot of cookie dough and getting a stomachache.

But what could this:
. . . possibly have in common with this?

Well, I'm still trying to use up the garam masala I made a few months ago (scroll down for garam masala recipe).

Afer baking gingerbread muffins this weekend (using the typical cloves, cinnamon, etc), I made some chana masala, a northern Indian chickpea curry (I’ve been following the recipe from The Asian Vegan Kitchen to the [ridiculously complicated but AMAZING] letter, so I won’t reproduce the recipe here). This dish uses a garam masala that contains coriander, cumin, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, roasted and ground.

Anyway, I got to thinking about how my friend Arhia puts cardamom in a lot of her baked goods. If she can do that (with great results), I mused, then surely it can't be much more of a stretch to include the other spices in garam masala in a cookie?

So this cookie is something of a South Asian spin on the oatmeal raisin cookie. There are no raisins, and the oatmeal remains. It's a hearty-textured, spiced cookie that uses coconut, oatmeal, and garam masala. Cumin-and-coriander cookies, mustard cookies...what's left?

I'm really happy with the results. The cookies are crispy on the outside but slightly soft on the inside. They're pretty rich, but the oatmeal and coconut balance out the fattiness. In the future, I might try using even more garam masala.

Oatmeal Coconut Spice Cookies

2 TB *ground* flaxseed
6 TB water
scant 1 c vegan butter
1 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c white flour
1 c wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TB garam masala (or more)
1 1/2 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350*. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor or blender, whip flaxseed and water until creamy. Make sure flaxseed is ground before you add the water!
In main bowl, cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and flaxseed mixture.
In second bowl, mix flour, soda, powder, salt, and spices.
Add dry to wet. Stir in oats and coconut, and mix well.
Form into balls of 1 1/2 in diameter, place on cookie sheet, and flatten slightly. Cookies will not expand very much.
Bake for 17-18 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown. After removing from oven, allow to sit on cookie sheet several minutes before transferring to cooling rack.
Makes 5 dozen small cookies.

Garam Masala
(adapted from The Asian Vegan Kitchen)

1 1/2 TB coriander seeds
1 TB cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 small stick of cinnamon
3 green cardamom pods
8 cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Toast spices in a toaster oven or on the stove for a few minutes until fragrant and browning. Cool. Grind. Store in airtight container. Makes about 3 tablespoons.  NOTE TO SELF: make a double batch.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Strange pressed salad

Every time I buy a cabbage, I use part of it and the remainder sits in my fridge, asking me what I am going to do with it. Cilantro is supposedly a blood-purifier, and green onions are also really good for you . . . This tastes great, but only if you really like cilantro.

Cilantro-Chard Pressed Salad

1/4 cabbage, in ribbons
6 leaves red swiss chard, in ribbons (thick stems removed)
3 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1 small bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 persian cucumber, very thinly sliced
lemon juice
toasted sesame seeds

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Add a small amount of salt and mix, massaging vegetables until limp and shiny. Place a plate over vegetables and add weights; leave for several hours. Drain water and plump vegetables. Garnish with a small amount of lemon juice and sesame seeds before serving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gingerbread muffins

Procrastination takes many delicious forms. This muffin, patched together from many googled recipes, ended up being moist without being gummy or oily, and flavorful without being too sweet. One might want to consider adding a small amount of vanilla and/or salt.

Gingerbread Muffins


1/2 c corn oil
1/4 c brown sugar
1 "egg" (Ener-G egg replacer, prepared in mini food processor)
3/4 c molasses
1 c hot water
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp black pepper, ground

Preheat oven to 375. Oil muffin tin. Combine wet and dry ingredients separately. Add dry to wet. Mix and spoon into muffin tin. Bake at 375* for 15-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to stand before removing from pan. Makes 12 muffins.

Beet Kimchi Followup

Ten days ago, I made "beet kimchi." After adding the juice from an older batch and leaving the jars out at room temperature for a day or two, I stuck them in the fridge. Every few days I checked a jar only to find that it smelled, well, gassy. But today it didn't-- I don't know if this means it's "done," but a) it tastes really fermented, b) it didn't make me sick, and c) it tastes pretty good, so I'm going to say case closed.

Today, it's a deep purple color, though, thanks to gravity, you get this freaky rainbow effect that needs some shaking:

It actually feels fizzy in your mouth. It tastes primarily of ginger and spicy pepper. Upon eating it, my stomach felt momentarily a little funny: not sick, but it was as if the creatures already in my stomach said to those incoming, "Oh hello! I guess we will have to work together."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Simple dinner

On the menu tonight:

Main dish salad with broiled tempeh
Mediterranean wheat berry salad
Strawberries and peanut butter cookies

Main dish salad with broiled tempeh

2 servings "spring mix" salad greens
2 leaves red swiss chard, sliced into thin ribbons
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 persian cucumber, thinly sliced
goddess dressing
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into thin half-circles
1/2 can trader joe's three-bean salad
1 avocado, cubed
2 servings broiled tempeh (see below)
1 tsp lemon juice
black pepper

In a large bowl, combine greens, chard, radishes, carrot, and cucumber. Add dressing and mix well. Transfer dressed vegetables to a platter. Arrange peppers, beans, avocado, and tempeh on top of and around greens. Squeeze lemon over the avocado. Grind black pepper over the top.

Broiled tempeh
two servings tempeh, cut into bite-sized slabs
3 TB balsamic vinegar
3 TB olive oil
more olive oil

After cutting the tempeh into pieces, place in a tupperware with marinade ingredients and add water until tempeh is covered. Allow to stand several hours. Then, remove tempeh from marinade and discard marinade (or use as salad dressing). Coat with olive oil and broil for about 10 minutes, until edges begin to get crispy.


I made peanut butter cookies a few nights ago to bring to a dinner party. I wanted to make cookies, but I didn't have any Earth Balance around, so I needed a cookie that would still keep its shape and coherence if I used oil instead. Enter the peanut butter cookie! When I took them out of the oven, they were really crumbly, and I feared for their integrity, but after they sat on the cookie sheet for ten minutes they were good to go. These cookies are delicious. It's because of their incredibly high fat content--I mean, even for cookies. This makes them the consistency of good shortbread--almost melt in your mouth. Except crunchy, too, especially due to the extra peanuts added. Also: does anyone know why only peanut butter cookies need to come with a fork criss-cross? The relationship between peanut butter as a cookie type and fork designs seems completely arbitrary.

Peanut butter cookies and strawberries

Peanut butter cookies
(adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted peanut buter)
1 "egg" (ener-g egg replacer)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c smooth peanut butter
1/2 c corn oil (1/4 c would actually be fine)
1 1/2 tsp soymilk
1 TB vanilla
1/4 c ground peanuts


Preheat oven to 375. In one bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Prepare egg replacer. In a second bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, oil, soymilk, and vanilla until well mixed. Add "egg." Add flour and peanuts, and mix well. Drop small spoonfuls onto baking sheet (grease not necessary). Flatten with a fork in crisscross pattern. Bake 10-12 minutes until cookies begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit on baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring. Makes 2 dozen small cookies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Extraordinary Rice Pudding

I decided to make this rice pudding to complement my friend Devon's Mediterranean-themed dinner. Although the recipe originally comes from Vegan Planet, I added vanilla, reduced sugar and fat, etc. Most importantly, however, I wanted to make it bright pink, which was easily done by adding two slices of raw beet. I also wanted to highlight the greenness of the pistachios, so I didn't mix most of them into the pudding (this way they stayed crunchier, too). The results were quite delicious!

Coconut-Cardamom Rice Pudding
(adapted from Vegan Planet)

2 1/2 c cooked white basmati rice
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1/2 c water
1/3 c turbinado sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 slices of raw beet, 1/4-in thick
1 1/2 tsp rose water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c shelled and chopped pistachios

1. Combine rice, milk, water, and sugar in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 20 min, stirring occasionally. Stir in cardamom and beet slices and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring to distribute red color.
2. Remove saucepan from heat. Remove beet slices. Stir in rose water, vanilla, and some of the pistachios. Allow to cool, and then refrigerate.
3. When cooled, shape the pudding into individual servings. Top with remaining pistachios and refrigerate until ready to eat. Serves 4-6.

Macro-Southern Fusion

There are a few things that I make that regularly surprise me in that something so strange and so simple could be so delicious. One of them is the combination of tahini and miso: on toast, it tastes like a cheesy spread. On greens or roasted veggies, it makes a killer sauce.

Another strange standby is the following recipe, which (many permutations ago) came from 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery. This is another fantastic cookbook: though not exclusively vegan, its recipes are simple, and they lean far towards the macrobiotic end of the spectrum whose other end is tofutti cuties or tofurkey or something. The recipes aren't quite as "weird" or ascetic as a straight macrobiotics cookbook, so it's more appealing to skeptics.

I vary this recipe depending on what I have around. Collard greens can give way to kale or mustard greens, carrots to sweet potatoes, rice to wheat berries, and black beans or black-eyed peas to tempeh. It's different every time, and the seasonings seem a bit funny and/or bland, but it always produces a completely balanced meal that tastes great.

Macro-Southern Fusion Casserole
(now accepting ideas for better name)

2 TB olive oil
1 onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
6+ large collard greens, middle parts removed and coarsely chopped
2-4 carrots, chopped
2 servings tempeh, large cubes
1 c wheat berries
4 c boiling water
1/8 c tamari
2-3 TB chipotle or other pepper paste
2 TB balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Heat oil in a cast-iron frying pan. Saute onion and garlic until fragrant. Add vegetables and tempeh and cook for 8-10 minutes, until greens are bright green and tempeh begins to brown.
2. Mix saute mixture with uncooked wheat berries in a baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients separately and pour over contents of dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350* for 45-75 minutes, or until grains are fully cooked and carrots are tender. Serves 4-6.

Spaghetti squash: the sequel (+ squash cookies!)

I know, I know, this spaghetti squash business sounds fishy. How does one get from this... pasta-like strands? Well, look closely; this squash is a little strange:

All those little circles in the meaty part of the squash are actually pasta waiting to happen! And it's really easy:

Instructions for Spaghetti Squash
Rinse squash and cut it in half the long way. Place both halves open-side down on an oiled baking sheet. Roast at 350* for about 60 minutes. Squash is done when softly pokable with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scoop out the stringy, seedy part in the middle of the squash and discard (unless you wish to save the seeds for roasting). Now, use a fork to loosen the spaghetti-like strands from the fleshy part of the squash. It should all come out, leaving an empty husk (see below). Now you have a heap of pastasquash to do with as you see fit!

But wait! There's more! You don't have to throw out the husks of any winter squash. Instead, you can make squash cookies, as my friends Arhia and Myer introduced me to last Thanksgiving. These little morsels are chewy and succulent, and are great over rice and/or with some sort of tahini/mustard/miso sauce.

Squash Cookies

Cut the rind of the erstwhile squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and spread out on a baking sheet. You may also add: rosemary or cumin seeds, leftover squash seeds, walnuts, crushed garlic, etc. You may also roast other vegetables at the same time. Roast at 400* for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash begins to brown.

Not noodles

This weekend I had another great spaghetti squash experience. Inspired by cold Thai noodle or papaya salads, I created a "noodle" salad with spaghetti squash. The results were incredibly refreshing.

Asian "Noodle" Salad

Innards of 1 spaghetti squash, roasted, scooped out, and rinsed (confused?)
2 carrots, quarter-diced
1/2 c green onions, thinly and diagonally sliced
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
2 c radishes, very thinly sliced
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp sesame oil (don't overdo it!)
1/8 c canola oil
2-3 TB red pepper flakes
2 TB rooster garlic-chili paste
1 tsp salt
1/8 c water
chopped cilantro
1/2 c chopped peanuts
1 avocado, diced (optional)

Combine vegetables in a large bowl and mix well. Combine dressing ingredients well before adding to vegetables. Toss well. Top with cilantro and peanuts (and optional avocado). If desired, reserve radishes until the end for visual effect (as pictured).

But how exactly does this spaghetti squash business work? Read on...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Generic Italian Chickpeas

Really cheap. Like pasta sauce, but with protein.

Generic Italian Chickpeas over Wheatberries

1 can chickpeas (or dried and soaked equivalent)
1 TB olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 onion (any kind), diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
2 TB tomato paste
1 TB oregano
1 tsp thyme
salt to taste

1. Simmer chickpeas until tender.
2. In a separate pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add cumin, cayenne, onion, and garlic, and saute until fragrant. Add mushrooms and zucchini, and cook until vegetable begin to soften. Add tomato paste, oregano, and thyme, reduce heat, and simmer until fully cooked.
3. Combine chickpeas and vegetable mixture and simmer 5 minutes. Salt to taste. Serve over rice or pasta. Top with nutritional yeast if nutritionally inclined.

A thought about tomato paste: I cook with tomato so rarely that if I don't use an entire can of tomato paste I freeze the rest.

Beet kimchi

BEETS! As bloody as my kitchen gets.

Just what it sounds like...Perhaps the logical outcome of splitting my time between adjacent Koreatown and Little Armenia... After noticing how the redness of radishes bled out in earlier kimchi preparations, I made some kimchi with julienned beets (merely added them to the original recipe). I think it will look crazily red as it matures. How does it taste? Only time will tell.

Update: read about the results here.

Ode to Jons

Also known as gloating... but seriously, this supermarket is amazing (and there's one in Weho for people who live further west in LA).

1 spaghetti squash
1 cabbage
3 large peaches
5 large granny smith apples
2 lemons
5 carrots
2 avocados
1 zucchini
1 large bunch collard greens
2 lbs trimmed radishes
1/2 lb button mushrooms
1 piece ginger
1 jalapeno
1 loaf locally baked 100% whole wheat bread (thank you, Russians)

total? $13.68.

But, you may say, surely shopping at the farmers' market is more environmentally and socially responsible than shopping with the plebians? Perhaps it is. But... this is a small, local chain of supermarkets, and I try to only buy things that were grown in California (which isn't hard, since... it's California). In fact, I think one of the reasons Jons keeps prices so low is that they just don't stock things that aren't in season, period. And of course (though this should not be the bottom line)... had I bought this at the farmers' market, I would easily have spent $30-40.