Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Slightly tropical cornbread

The recipe which follows is an unrecognizable variation on a variation on a variation on a cornbread recipe from the original Vegetarian Epicure (1972). This was the only vegetarian cookbook in the house when I was growing up, and it's interesting mostly as evidence of how much vegetarian cooking has changed. I've always thought that this page from The Moosewood Cookbook (1977) summed it up:


In other news, I bought an oven thermometer today and am learning that my (wonderful, new) oven is typically not as hot as I think it is. This alone may explain why some cookies that I'd made here turned out quite differently (better, in fact) in my mom's electric oven.

This cornbread is higher in fiber and in flavor than the original. I decreased the white flour, increased the cornmeal, and added whole wheat flour and coconut. I increased the brown sugar by a little bit, added lime and vanilla, and adopted nondairy versions for milk and melted butter. It is really, really delicious--a little salt, a little sugar, lots of flavor and texture, moist without being greasy. It's sweet enough to be a dessert or a snack with a glass of soymilk or a cup of tea, but not so sweet that it wouldn't also go well with a dish like Hearty Rainy-Day Chili.

Slightly Tropical Cornbread

1/2 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c coarse corn meal
1/2 c unsweetened coconut
3/8 c brown sugar
1 1/2 TB baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 TB ground flaxseed mixed with 3 TB water
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c soymilk
2 TB corn oil

Preheat oven to 375*. Lightly oil a 9-in pie pan. In a large bowl, mix dry. Add wet. Pour into pan and bake 30-35 min or until edges begin to brown.


Maybe "winter" in LA is finally here. It's been raining all morning. I still haven't made it to the grocery, so I thought I would make soup with what was left in my kitchen and wait out the rain (but then I ran out to get the avocado anyway...) I know it's a lot of ingredients, but half of them come from cans. With its slightly tropical garnishes, this chili pairs really well with quinoa or with...Slightly Tropical Cornbread.

To this chili, the tempeh, allspice, bay leaves, and liquid smoke (optional) all add meatier tastes, and the cornstarch (also optional) thickens the already-chunky soup. The mother of my former coop-mate Trevor introduced me to the value of adding sugar to tomatoey dishes to balance the acidity. I make liquid smoke and cornstarch optional because they are both ingredients that can easily ruin a dish if you use too much, or even if you're just not in the mood for them. That said, I found the texture and flavor of this stew (using these optional ingredients) to be thick and complex.

Hearty Rainy-Day Chili


2 TB olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tsp whole cumin, toasted and ground
1/4 tsp allspice
1 2-x-3-in block tempeh (that's half of a Trader Joe's block), cut into 1/2-in cubes
1 drop liquid smoke (optional)
2 small bay leaves
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2-3 c stock
2-3 c water
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
salt to taste
1 can black beans
1 c frozen corn, thawed
1 TB cornstarch (optional), mixed with cold water before adding to soup
2 TB sugar
optional: cilantro, avocado, lime slices, etc.

0. Thaw corn, toast and grind cumin, do chopping, etc.
1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they begin to brown. Add garlic, jalapeno, cumin, allspice, tempeh, and liquid smoke (optional). Saute until tempeh begins to brown.
2. Add bay leaves, carrot, and celery, and cook for another minute or so. Then add oregano, stock, water, tomatoes, cayenne, and salt. The amount of salt will depend on the type and amount of stock you use as well as whether the canned tomatoes have salt already added. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add beans, corn, cornstarch (optional), and sugar, and cook 10-60 more minutes. Adjust seasonings before serving. Garnish with cilantro, avocado, lime slices or juice, etc. Serves 6-8.


Quinoa-Scallion Pilaf

This is a "pilaf" in that you toast the grain in oil before cooking it in water, which makes it more flavorful.

1 TB olive oil
1-2 scallion, finely chopped
3/4 c quinoa
1 1/2 c near-boiling water
1/4 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add scallions and saute, being careful not to burn them. Add quinoa and saute a bit longer. When quinoa begins to brown, add water and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer 15-20 minutes. Allow to stand before serving.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Notes from Minnesota

From this: this...
...and back!

Happy Holidays!

Mini wreath of dried peppers on a decorated tree, MN Landscape Arboretum

Not a lutefisk or a hotdish (i.e., casserole) to be found in this post, unless you count enchiladas as a hotdish.

I've just returned from a week in Minnesota, where the previously-single-digit temperatures relented for the week I was there; instead, the world hovered in the 20s and low 30s and thus snowed like mad.

My families and I cooked a great deal, and I took a ton of photos, but there's actually not too much to report. My mom and I retried some recipes I've already posted. We learned some things: the Whole Wheat Cumin Flatbread recipe had far too much salt (it's been corrected), and Fat Mints have a far better texture when you use no turbinado sugar --as I suspected (the recipe already reflected this, but I had been using turbinado out of convenience). We remade the Asian Squash-Pear Soup with even more lime juice and delicious results. Oatmeal Coconut Spice Cookies and Apple Cranberry Pie continued to shine--we found a killer Indian market (unsweetened coconut, really cheap spices and spice blends) in a suburban strip mall next to Tires Plus!

We also developed several new recipes. Sadly, I somehow forgot to take photos of either of these! My dad also made a tasty vegan minestrone that had barley in it.

With photos forthcoming, then, I present some tastes of a not-very-traditional holiday season in Minnesota.

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Pineapple Enchiladas

2 TB olive oil
1-2 yellow onions, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 large sweet potato, in bite-sized chunks or cubes
1-2 tsp ground cumin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 20-oz can pineapple chunks or tidbits (not in syrup), juice reserved
8 whole wheat tortillas
1 small can enchilada sauce (or make your own to avoid weird preservatives)
optional: salsa, avocado, chopped cilantro, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly oil a 13 x 9 baking dish.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When onion starts to brown, add jalapeno and sweet potato. Cook for several minutes and then stir in cumin, beans, and pineapple. Cook until everything is heated through.
3. For each tortilla, place a small amount of enchilada sauce, then fill with saute mixture. Roll up tortilla and place the edge side facing downwards in the baking dish. Line up all the filled tortillas in the baking dish.
4. Mix reserved pineapple juice with remaining enchilada sauce and pour over the entire dish. If you have a little remaining filling, you can throw that on top as well.
5. Bake covered with foil for 35-40 minutes, then uncover and bake 5-10 more minutes. Serve with desired toppings/condiments.


Chana Masala
This recipe was made mostly without measuring, so although the ingredients and the order are accurate, I'm just estimating on the amounts. I'd welcome feedback and suggestions on that, or on any other aspect of this recipe. I have no idea how authentic this is, but it is tasty--using so many different toasted spices gives dishes a depth that my palate is not used to.

Garam masala is a spice mixture available in South Asian groceries, or you can make your own. Storebought mixtures might actually be better, though not as fresh, in that they may contain more interesting, hard-to-find ingredients, like mace.

toasted spice mix:

3/4-in stick cinnamon

3 whole cloves

2 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or a small dried chili
2 TB olive oil
3/4-in stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
a 1-in cube ginger, minced or grated
1 20-oz can chickpeas (or prepared dry equivalent)
tomato paste as needed (about half of a small can)
water as needed
1 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
chopped cilantro

1. Toast spices in a toaster oven or a broiler, watching carefully (they will be done very quickly!). Remove spices and allow them to cool. Also be careful of the toasted-pepper fumes--it might make you cough. When cool, grind the spices: a coffee grinder (that isn't used for coffee) is best, but a mini food-processor or a mortar and pestle might work, too. Set ground mixture aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or rondeau over medium-high heat. Stir in cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne, and cook until the oil itself smells deliciously spicy. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook 5-10 minutes, until the onion is no longer crunchy.
3. Stir in the chickpeas. Add tomato paste and water until all the chickpeas are lightly covered with tomato, but the sauce is not very liquidy (for reference, see this photo of a different chana masala). Add garam masala and salt to taste, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-25 minutes.
4. A few minutes before serving, stir in the toasted spice mixture. Serve with rice and top with cilantro.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Triumphant return

So, as the quarter was finally drawing to a close, and I was just about to embark on new cooking adventures... I got the stomach flu. I figured no one would appreciate posts about eating plain pasta and soymilk, so it's been a while. You really appreciate your appetite when it's been absent!

First, I made this tasty wintery soup based off a recipe in Veganomicon. It gracefully perches in a precarious yet delightful middle ground between your traditional squash soup (veg stock, cinnamon, etc) and East Asian cuisines. I substituted some spices (now spicier, and with allspice, and without the anise in Chinese five-spice), and used different types of squash, pear, and mushrooms. I really like putting allspice in savory dishes--it also tastes great in refried beans. Does anyone else do this?

This soup is great because you can make it ahead of time, allow the flavors to improve, and finish it just before serving. Serve with roasted or sauteed green vegetables and rice or a hearty bread (depending on which way you want to spin it).

Asian Squash-Pear Soup with Mushrooms
(adapted from Veganomicon)

2 TB canola oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB minced ginger
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks
2 firm pears, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
salt to taste
2 tsp cayenne
4-6 c veg stock
1 can adzuki beans
juice of 1 lime
canola oil
sesame oil
4 oz mushrooms (I used portobella), sliced

1) In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and pepper until onion begins to brown. Add garlic and ginger and saute a minute or two more. Add squash, pears, and spices and cook for a minute or so before adding stock. If liquid does not cover vegetables, add more water or stock to cover. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes, until squash is very soft. Allow to cool somewhat.
2) When soup is cool enough, remove half of the soup and puree it in a blender (you will probably need to blend more than one batch--this recipe makes a lot of soup). This is where an insertion blender would come in handy.
3) In a separate frying pan, heat canola and sesame oil (mostly canola-- a little bit of sesame goes a long way) and saute mushrooms until cooked and juicy, adding a little bit of tamari towards the end.
4) Just before serving, bring soup back to temperature. Stir in beans and lime juice, and adjust seasonings. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with sauteed mushrooms. Serves about 8.


Also, a curious potato salad. I originally made this a few months ago, with the thought that potato salad could be more nutritious and more interesting if you snuck in some beets in the place of some potatoes. Actually, if you already have a favorite potato salad recipe, you could just follow that, using beets instead of some of the potatoes.

Beet-Potato Salad

2 servings new potatoes, washed
2 servings small beets, washed
3 TB olive oil
1 TB plain prepared mustard
1 TB apple cider vinegar
3 or 4 scallions, thinly chopped
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

In separate pots, boil the potatoes and the beets, checking frequently to make sure they don't overcook. When they are just pokable with a fork but not mushy (this may happen at different time for the beets and potatoes, especially if your beets are larger), remove from heat, rinse with cold water, and allow to cool. In a pyrex, combine the other ingredients, checking to taste the ratio between oil and mustard/vinegar. Cut the potatoes and beets into bite-sized pieces and mix in a bowl. Apply dressing and mix well. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serves about 4.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Soup weather

It's raining in LA (can you see the rain droplets on my basil plant?). It's amazing how this rain, far from a storm, throws things out of whack: traffic goes haywire, people are late to everything (even if they're walking!), etc. This morning, I seriously considered not walking the one block to the grocery store. It goes without saying (but I'll say it again) that we are a spoiled lot here. I can't remember what I did when I lived in London, much less what I did during every other winter of my life in Minneapolis, Appleton, or Chicago.

I know this "bad" weather won't last long. In the mean time, it's time to crank up the Ralph Vaughan Williams, wear sweaters, and make soup!

This was a "clean out the cupboard" soup. Not particularly special, but tasty, balanced, and satisfying. I was particularly pleased with the combination of French lentils and Israeli couscous--exactly the same shape and size, but with different tastes and textures, they keep you on your toes!

Maybe I'm just getting a little homesick as the holidays approach, but making this soup made me think of several eating traditions that were part of my family when I was growing up. Whereas I think Scandinavian or Germanic peoples get excited about being lucky enough to find a gold coin or something in their piece of cake, my brother and I were told that if you found the bay leaf in your soup, you were lucky! Gee whiz... Also, the fact that when tomato-ey foods were involved, my brother was only allowed to the dinner table if he came shirtless, so as to avoid splattering on his clothes. Then there's the special family pronunciation of "cayenne"... but I can't tell you that...

Soup of Greens and Lentils, with Whole Wheat Pita

1-2 TB olive oil
the better part of 1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and then chopped (i.e., in half-moon slices)
1/2-1 c French ("puuy"?) lentils
1 big splash red wine, red wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
1-2 bay leaves
1 TB dried thyme
a small bunch of parsley, minced
2-4 TB tomato paste
black or cayenne pepper

3-4 c water or vegetable stock
2 c dark leafy greens (I used beet greens) with thick stems removed, chopped
1/4-1/2 c Israeli couscous
2-4 TB miso (preferably red), if not using stock
warm water as needed

In a large pot or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and carrots, and saute 3-5 minutes. Add lentils, wine, herbs, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and water. Reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes, until lentils are cooked. Increase heat again and add greens and couscous, cooking 5-10 minutes until they too are tender. Add water as desired. Meanwhile, in a separate small vessel, dissolve miso in warm water. When soup is ready, remove from heat and stir in miso-water. Serves about 4.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Some favorite things

This past week has been really busy. I usually take time to cook even when I have a lot going on--indeed, it's how I relax when others might watch TV, etc. But this week, my eating was not very impressive. Nevertheless, I have several things to share. (Let the real cooking resume!)

Thing one: Dough! I made the weirdest pizza the other day. Just make a little bit of dough, let it rise a few hours, put it in a 8- or 9-in pie pan lined with cornmeal, and go crazy... I used hummus and mustard instead of sauce, strips of collard greens which became both crispy and tender, and sundried tomatoes (I know it sounds awful--that's why I'm not posting a recipe--but it was actually quite tasty). I read somewhere that pizza originally didn't have cheese on it anyway...but this might just be vegan propaganda. Anyway, bake on the top rack at a very high temp until the crust is baked through and starting to brown.

Thing two: Trader Joe's tofu veggie burgers. In most circumstances I'm wholly opposed to veggie burgers: they're very processed, and the only vegan ones resemble meat-flavored rubber. They also imply a sort of vegetarian lack: why would you eat a gross imitation of "the real thing"? BUT this burger is different: it's made out of tofu instead of TVP, and it has very few ingredients--just tofu, kale, carrots, some spices. In other words, it's not so processed that I couldn't reproduce it myself. It's then fried, and it comes in inexpensive packages of two. And it's absolutely delicious.

Thing three: Broccoli in stir fries.

Spicy Greens and Chickpea Stirfry over Whole Wheat Noodles

1 TB canola oil (or similar)
2 cloves garlic
1 TB minced ginger
several servings collard greens, broccoli (or similar), cut into bite-sized pieces
tamari to taste
1 TB peanut butter
1 TB garlic-chili paste
1 can chickpeas, canned or cooked

Steam green vegetables until bright green and slightly tender (10 min or less). Heat oil over high-medium heat in a skillet or wok, then add garlic and cook several minutes. Add ginger and greens and cook well, deglazing with tamari and water as needed. Thin peanut butter with a little water and add it and garlic-chili paste into skillet. Reduce heat to medium and add chickpeas, cooking several minutes longer to mix flavors.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cranberry-Orange-Walnut Muffins

I suppose it's time to connect the gas to my heater. When you wake up and decide to make muffins primarily because it will warm the place up... maybe it's too cold.

I also made these muffins because I have a considerable amount of fresh cranberries sitting in my fridge, staring up at me. Trader Joe's this season is nice enough to sell 12-oz bags for $1.99, but it turns out that 12 oz is a lot of cranberries (fresh cranberries are very light!).

This muffin recipe (another adaptation of Arhia's recipe) is inspired by a cranberry quick bread that my mom often makes during the holidays. I didn't have that recipe, but I maintained its combination of fresh cranberries, walnuts, and orange zest. The cranberries get wonderfully juicy, and the final product isn't overly sweet or rich.

Cranberry-Orange-Walnut Muffins

2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c turbinado sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp dry ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c corn oil
1 c applesauce (unsweetened)
juice and zest of one medium orange
soymilk or water to desired consistency
1 c walnuts
1 c fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 375*. Oil muffin tin.
Combine dry. Add wet, adding liquid to muffin-batter consistency. Stir in walnuts and cranberries. Fill muffin tins all the way to the top. Bake about 25 min.

Update: On a repeat offense, upon finding I lacked applesauce, I substituted 1/4 c ground flaxseed whisked with 3/4 c water for the 1 c applesauce with equally excellent results.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fat Mints

Fat Mints

This is a really good cookie. In fact, it might be my current favorite, and I make a lot of cookies. Well, it might be a tie between these and garam masala cookies, but chocolate mint might be more of a crowd-pleaser. I made a batch yesterday for a final-class potluck, and then I made another 1.5 batch today to bring to my own students. That's one thing I miss about communal living and/or living at home: I can't just make stuff for other people. But with sweets, at least, I've realized that I can bring pretty much anything to school and it will get eaten.

I decided to call these cookies "Fat Mints" because they taste very much like Girl Scout Thin Mints, but they're not crunchy; instead, they melt in your mouth. Also, they are physically less thin.

This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, but the proportions are greatly altered. This is an incredibly rich cookie; I can't believe it calls for 50% more butter (and more sugar and chocolate chips, too) than I use. I enjoy strong mint and chocolate flavors; I would not increase the amounts beyond what is in this recipe.

In other news, I have both a sourdough starter and a hard cider going! I feel a bit like a mad scientist in my kitchen. Updates to follow.

Fat Mints
(adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

1 "egg" (ener-g egg replacer)
1/2 c vegan butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/2 c white flour (or substitute 1/2 whole wheat)
1/4 c cocoa (unsweetened)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c or more semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a pyrex, small bowl, or small foodprocessor, whip together "egg" (2 TB water + 1 1/2 tsp egg replacer = 1 egg).

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add "egg" and extracts.
In another large bowl, combine flours, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and mix well. Then add chocolate chips. Because of the reduced butter, this dough will appear very dry and crumbly. However, under pressure, it becomes the consistency of dry fudge. Using a fair amount of hand strength, press dough into small blobs, then roll into spheres (1 to 1.5-in diameter).
Place cookies on parchment paper-lined sheets. Cookies need not be spaced out very much.
Bake for 10 minutes. Cookies will still be very soft, but they will begin to crack open, and a toothpick inserted will come out clean. Allow cookies to sit and cool on baking sheet before moving them (they are fragile at first!). Makes 3 or 4 dozen small cookies.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Things green and spicy

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Today, better success with the roasted brussels sprouts! I steamed them for over 10 minutes--until they were effectively completely cooked. Only then did I toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast (this time in the toaster oven!), uncovered, until they got noticeably crispy/chewy on the outside (under 10 min). Yum!

Broiled Tempeh over Short Grain Brown Rice
with Green Tomato Chutney and Avocado

Thanks to a CSA box, I was also saddled with some green tomatoes. I don't even like ripe tomatoes. What, I lamented, can I possibly do with these besides bread and fry them? Yet I was browsing through Vegan Fire and Spice (definitely not as good as Vegan Planet) and found a chutney recipe that actually called for green tomatoes in abundance. Fortuitous! I cut back on sugar and vinegar, and upped the heat and the ginger. It's delicious--hard to place, somewhere between apple pie and salsa (and more than a little bit like fried apples and onions)... I've put it on flatbread (recipe below) and tempeh. The tempeh-rice-avocado-chutney combination was, I'll admit, a bit geographically incoherent (and created on the basis of what was in my fridge, what would be balanced, etc), but I like to think that maybe you could eat it in Jakarta or somewhere. In any event, it tasted pretty good. For broiled tempeh: cut smallish pieces of tempeh in half so that they are only 1/4-in thick. Oil lightly and broil (I use the toaster oven for small things like this) until golden brown, turning once.

Green Chutney
(adapted from Vegan Fire and Spice)


2 green tomatoes
1 pear
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 green jalapeno
1-2 TB fresh ginger, grated
1 TB lemon zest
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Cook in a saucepan over low heat for up to one hour.

Green Chutney on Whole-Wheat Cumin Flatbread

This flat bread was delicious! Mostly because it had a lot of oil in it, but also because of cumin seeds and the texture of whole wheat flour. It's an adaptation of my grandma Nellie's pie crust recipe.

Whole-Wheat Cumin Flatbread

1/2 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
3 TB cumin seeds
2-3 TB oil
water as needed

Mix together flour, salt, and cumin seeds. "Cut in" oil (it's not quite enough to be distributed evenly). Slowly add water until you have a dry dough. Form the dough into tennis-ball-sized balls and roll them out between two sheets of waxed paper, or (better) on a floured surface. Cook the flatbreads in a lightly-oiled cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown (each side). Makes about 4 flatbreads.