Friday, January 29, 2010

Sausagey Shepherd's Pie with Mushroom Gravy

I know this recipe sounds weird, but it's actually really delicious. I'm typically not a fan of veganizing what we might call "homestyle" (but mean, I think, Western European --> American) food. So many other ethnic cuisines are effortlessly vegan--Indian, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Armenian, etc. And...typically these cuisines have a lot more flavor. In fact, it is these types of food that really formed the backbone of my culinary education in a co-op and elsewhere. I was comfortable cooking with turmeric and coriander long before I ever discovered oregano or thyme.

But I am starting to branch out. I bought thyme and sage for the first time in my life this year. Perhaps I feel as someone with a more traditional background in cooking would feel upon discovering Indian food. But there's also an element of homecoming: these are familiar tastes; I just have not been reproducing them until now.

This was actually all spurred on by the long-held thought that I could make sausage out of tempeh or something else because it tastes like (crazy, hitherto-unknown-to-me) herbs and spices rather than actually tasting like meat. The sausage filling in this recipe wasn't as close an approximation as I'd hoped, but it definitely evokes sausage, or preserves the spirit of sausage.

This recipe takes some time, but I am very happy with how it turned out. And you can make it in stages: make the crust and pre-bake it one day, later cook and prepare the filling and put it in the crust, then finally bake off the pie when you're actually ready to eat it.

I strongly recommend also making the mushroom gravy--it's delicious, tasting like pure Thanksgiving to me. Without it, the pie might have seemed a bit too dry and not salty enough; with it, it was excellent.  Tamari, bay leaf, and sage all add interesting "meaty" flavors to this dish. The lovely flaky crust makes the dish feel special, but it's not junk food, either. I guess that makes this "comfort food."

N.B.: I know this isn't really a Shepherd's Pie, but what else should it be called?  "Sausage Pie" is also something different.

Sausagey Shepherd's Pie
Pie Crust

1 1/4 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
3-4 TB of cold water

Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, oil, and salt. Add water until you have dough. Roll dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper, on top of a slightly wet countertop. Transfer to a 9-in pie pan; reserve extra crust. Poke crust with a fork and bake 15-20 min. Remove crust from oven and set aside.

Tempeh Sausage Filling
(adapted from The Complete Vegan Kitchen)

1 8-oz package tempeh, cut into 1-in cubes
¼ tsp dried thyme
¾ tsp rubbed sage
1 bay leaf, ground
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ c whole wheat flour
½ TB soy sauce
1/8 c olive oil
Canola oil for frying

Steam tempeh 15 minutes. Crumble into a bowl. Add dry spices, mix well. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Saute in a bit of canola oil until browned.

Vegetable Filling


2 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 whole scallions, finely chopped
2 potatoes, small diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp coriander
1 stalk celery, chopped, including leaves
¾ c frozen corn
¾ c frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
3 TB flour and 3 TB water

1. In a saucepan, boil potatoes and carrots until somewhat tender (about 15 min).
2. In a large skillet (can be the same that you used for the sausage filling), heat olive oil. Saute garlic and scallions. Add potatoes, carrots, thyme, and coriander, and cook 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in celery, corn, peas, and salt and pepper. In a separate pyrex, mix flour and water before adding this to the skillet as well.

Assembling the Pie

If oven is not already hot, preheat oven to 375. Spread the sausage filling along the bottom of the pre-baked crust. Then pour vegetable filling on top, pressing down gently to fit it into the pie. If desired, roll out extra dough and create lattice design on top of pie. Bake pie at 375* for 30-40 min, or until warmed all the way through and top crust is lightly browned.  Serves 6.

Mushroom Gravy

3/4 cup white mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup Earth Balance
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 TB soy sauce
1/4 cup flour (see note below)
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet, melt the Earth Balance and add onion and mushrooms. Saute for just a minute or two over high heat.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.
3. Add seasonings, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.  Makes just more than enough for a pie, or 6 servings.

Note: I have substituted cornstarch for flour, but be careful not to overdo it: start with a small amount and then add more gradually. To make it cloudy when I made it this way, I also added some soymilk.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thai Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber Relish

This recipe was on Vegan Dad quite awhile ago, and as with the recent tempeh recipe, I had been meaning to make it for quite a while. As I had my reservations (and as I am only one person!), I only made a half batch, and I think this was probably wise: I wasn't crazy about how these turned out. To be fair, I did not have red curry paste or oyster sauce, so these may have not tasted all too similar to the original. Still, I appreciate the idea, and I am going to use this method again. Although making little cakes (much smaller than burgers) is an unnecessary hassle (especially when you end up, like I did, putting the leftovers into some sort of weird Thai burrito), it's rather fun, even cute:

Re: the relish: I would have liked less onion and vinegar, more spices or herbs or something. Eating raw onions makes me unbelievably thirsty--is this typical? As for the cakes, I can see how the nori is supposed to make the cakes taste more "fishy," but it didn't really happen. Maybe a different sea vegetable? In any case, a fun idea that merits further experimentation.

Thai Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber Relish
(from Vegan Dad)

Cucumber Relish
1/4 c rice vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c water
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 c diced cucumber

Chickpea Cakes
1 nori sheet
1 19oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp red curry paste, or to taste (I used rooster paste, ground cumin, etc.)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (I omitted)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 c frozen french cut beans, thawed

1. Heat vinegar, sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add garlic, ginger, and shallots. When cool, add cucumber and mix well. Let marinate for as long as possible.

Chickpea Cakes (makes 12)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Rip up the nori sheet and place in a food processor with the blade attachment. Process on high speed until chopped into small pieces. Add chickpeas curry paste and pulse until chopped up but not like a paste (you're not making hummus here).
2. Dump chickpeas in a bowl, add sauces, oil, lime juice and mix well. Add cornstarch and mix well. Add beans and mix well.
3. Using wet hands, press mixture into a moistened 1/4 cup measure (don't fill it right up--more like 1/3 full. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining mixture.
4. Spray cakes lightly with oil and bake for 15 mins, or until golden--don't over bake or they will be dry. Serve with relish.
5. You can also fry them for about 3 mins per side in 350 degree vegetable oil.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh

This was really good! I saw this on 101 Cookbooks a while ago, and had been meaning to try it, but the words "Pan-Glazed" put me off--it sounded labor-intensive. Far from it! This recipe is really easy, and it tastes phenomenal. The tempeh is moist, chewy, and flavorful. I found that the orange tasted a little bitter, though; I might use more sugar the next time, or it might have just been the particular oranges I used (not that they weren't really nice oranges--my friend picked them in her backyard). As Heidi Swanson notes on the original recipe, you could use tofu in this recipe, too.  Update, February 2010: For tofu version, see Orange Pan-Glazed Tofu.

Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh
(from 101 Cookbooks)


1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large juicy oranges)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (or puree from a jar)
2 teaspoons tamari
1 1/2 tablespoons mirin (I used rice vinegar)
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
roughly 10 ounces of tempeh
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lime
a handful of cilantro leaves


1. Put the orange juice in a small bowl. Squeeze the grated ginger over the bowl to extract the juices, then discard the pulp. Add the tamari, mirin, sugar, ground coriander, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.
2. Cut the tempeh into thin-ish, bite-sized pieces.
3. Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tempeh and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden underneath. Turn and cook the other side for another 5 minutes, or until golden. Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a lovely thick glaze. Turn the tempeh once more during this time and spoon the sauce over the tempeh from time to time.
4. Serve the tempeh drizzled with any remaining sauce and a squeeze of lime, with the coriander scattered on top. Serves about 3.

Monday, January 18, 2010



I feel like every granola recipe has a cheesy alliterative modifier preceding it. "Groovy granola" or "great granola" or "gratuitous granola," etc. Yet I think this is just granola. And it still needs some work.

Like the broccoli-lentil salad, this is a recipe I made a lot during my ascetic life outside of academia. It's cheap and relatively nutritious. Remaking this recipe now, I think I skimped on sugar and nuts. Although the molasses and walnuts taste great after being toasted, the granola didn't form enough chunks. Any thoughts about how to improve this granola, besides using more molasses? Perhaps different cooking time or temp?

Update 2/6: Granola epiphany--a better way to make granola.


3 1/4 c rolled oats
3/4 c flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
½ c crushed walnuts
1/8 c sesame seeds
1/8 c flax seeds
1/3 c canola oil
1/3 c molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 c raisins

Preheat oven to 325*. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. When golden brown, remove from oven, allow to cool, and toss with raisins. Store in a dry and sealed container.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Generic yet tasty

Not much to say here. Plain foods can taste great when you use spices. Bay leaves and toasted cumin give this dish a warmth or a roundness. Or maybe that's just because it's hot lentils. The lentils and carrots should be well cooked but still have some texture.

Curried lentils, carrots, and spinach over basmati rice

2 TB olive oil

3 TB cumin seeds
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 bay leaf
2 carrots, chopped
1/2-1 c lentils
2 TB tomato paste
1-2 c stock or water
salt to taste
2 c fresh spinach, stems removed and washed


1. Toast cumin seeds. Reserve half, and grind the rest.
2. In a large skillet, heat oil over low-medium heat. Add spices (including ground cumin) and cook until fragrant. Add onion and garlic, stir to coat, and cook until vegetables begin to brown.
3. Add bay leaf, carrots, lentils, tomato paste, liquid, and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed, cooking 30-35 minutes or until lentils are soft. Stir in spinach and reserved cumin seeds and cook 5-10 more minutes. Serve over rice. Serves at least 4.

Chocolate-Almond Brownies

I decided to make brownies to take to a gathering this evening. But wow... once I started looking at recipes and blog posts, I realized that the brownie is like the [insert perfect French phrase here--I'm sure there is one] of vegan baking. That is, the perfect vegan brownie is sort of a mark of competence. Everyone wants to make them. Everyone has a recipe. How to decide?

I knew I didn't want to make brownies with tofu or beans or anything weird in them. I ended up starting with the recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking because it seemed pretty basic. Having made many of the recipes in this book, however, I knew that the author tends to put a great deal more sugar in her recipes than I would, so I reduced the sugar by 33% (but then increased it a bit). I also used Zulka sugar, this less-refined-looking sugar that's made in Mexico, because it looked like it would be better in baking than turbinado sugar, and it wasn't any more expensive than the normal refined white sugar ($1.59 for 2 lbs at Jons). There also wasn't any fat in the recipe besides in the chocolate chips and the negligible amount in some flaxseed, so I un-substituted some of the recipe's applesauce for buttery-tasting corn oil (people typically go the other direction to reduce the fat).

Having worked in more than one bakery-cafĂ©, I’m also aware that nuts in brownies are a contentious issue. But as I like nuts, and as I wanted to avoid winding up with a textureless glop of chocolate in a pan, I went for nuts (also for the sake of texture, I subbed whole wheat flour for 25% of the white flour). Slivered almonds were what I had, so I toasted and chopped them. I’m not sure if toasting improved the flavor and texture of some rather sad nuts, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Since I was adding almonds, I also added a bit of almond extract.

In the end, this brownie needed a little more sugar to taste as chocolatey as it should (cf. Chocolate-Coconut Muffins). The texture, after only 35 minutes of baking, was very moist but not gooey (i.e., it was "cakey"). Despite the lack of eggs, the brownies held together and came easily out of the pan, and the edges were slightly chewy. 1 c of nuts ended up being a lot, and I would use less next time. The recipe has been adjusted to address these changes. Also, this recipe was a bit more complicated than it needed to be. Although it asks for you to mix water and flaxseed separately before adding it to the other wet ingredients, there is so much more water than flaxseed that this is something of a moot point. Overall, I'm quite happy with how this brownie turned out.

Chocolate-Almond Brownies
(adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

1 1/4 c sugar
½ c unsweetened applesauce
¼ c corn oil
generous ½ c water
2 tsp ground flaxseed
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 c white flour
1/3 c whole wheat flour
¾ c unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 c semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped dark eating chocolate
1/2-1 c almonds, toasted (optional) and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Oil an 8x8 baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, combine ingredients sugar through almond extract. In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir just enough to mix.
3. Pour into baking dish. Bake 35-40 minutes (depending on your oven, and on your preference for gooey or cakey brownies).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Roasted Fennel with Orange

Fennel is a rather controversial vegetable. In fact, besides cilantro, what is more controversial than licorice flavors? I have to admit, I've never been a huge fan, but I'd been curious about fennel for a while now, and this recipe seemed promising. I used stock with lemon juice instead of a whole cup of orange juice; otherwise, this recipe is pretty close to the original. To me, it tastes a bit like Thanksgiving, which surprises me, given that fennel most certainly did not play an important role in Thanksgivings growing up. Yet perhaps the mellow flavors of the roasted onion, with the citrus and the rosemary, do the trick. In any case, this dish ended up being far tastier than I expected--even as cold leftovers. Ideally, the onions and fennel should be tender but not yet totally mushy.

Roasted Fennel with Orange
(adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

2-3 TB olive oil
1 bulb fennel, in very thin moon slices (trim, and reserve green fronds)
1 onion, in very thin moon slices
1 orange, in very thin moon slices
1 c vegetable stock
1 TB lemon or orange juice
1 tsp dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 500*.
2. In a cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium low heat and add fennel, onion, and orange.
3. Add stock, juice, and rosemary, and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Place skillet in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes, until vegetables are soft and just beginning to get brown and crispy.
5. Garnish with green fennel fronds.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Green Hummus

Those who have visited the prepared foods section of a WholeFoods may have noticed a bright green hummus sitting coyly in the corner of a fridge case or salad bar. This yummy hummus (yummus?) contains large quantities of parsley and scallions, and it is pretty easy to reproduce with success.

Today, however, I present a different kind of green hummus, born, as usual, out of necessity/chance/convenience. Certain circumstances meant that I wound up with a TON of cooked mung beans in my fridge. I also recently purchased a new, small, steel frying pan, for which this receipe was a perfect maiden voyage (I'm slowly phasing out all my scary teflon-coated pans).

FYI: The mung bean is a small, lovely-green bean (about the shape and size of an adzuki bean) which appears most commonly in South and East Asian cuisines.

Frying the garlic gives it a toastier, less intimidating flavor (I usually don't bother, but it's probably worth it). The chopped cilantro not only adds deliciousness, but also amps up the green shade of the mung beans from puke to a lovely pistachio color. My guess is that due to the fresh greens, this hummus won't keep as long as your typical homemade hummus.

Green Mung Bean Hummus

2 c mung beans, cooked until very soft
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1-2 TB olive oil
1 c fresh cilantro, chopped (plus some for garnish)
1/4 c tahini (optional but will give a creamier taste and texture)
ample cumin, cayenne, and salt to taste

1. In a small frying pan, saute garlic in olive oil over low heat until browned and fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you are chopping the cilantro.
2. In a blender or food processor, blend all the ingredients (including oil and garlic). Adjust seasonings to taste. Garnish with additional cilantro, cumin, cayenne, and/or olive oil. Makes 2+ cups.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Blueberry Cornmeal Coffee Cake

Yum. This coffee cake is like a slightly unusual blueberry muffin in cake form. Using berry-flavored soy yogurt actually made this cake a little sweeter than it needed to be; in the future, I would reduce the sugar if using sweetened yogurt rather than soymilk. You could also use this recipe to make muffins, if you reduced the cooking time; however, the cake is very soft and fragile (hence the parchment paper) and might not make it out in coherent muffin form.

Blueberry Cornmeal Coffee Cake

1/2 c sliced almonds
1 TB brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c white flour
1/2 cornmeal
1/2 c turbinado sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c applesauce (unsweetened of course)
1/2 c of either:
a) 1/3 soy yogurt thinned with water to make 1/2 c or
b) 1/2 c soymilk with a tiny bit of vinegar added to thicken it
2 TB earth balance, melted
1/2 TB apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine almonds, brown sugar, and cinnamon and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine dry. In a pyrex or small bowl, combine wet. Add wet to dry and mix well. Stir in 2/3 of the blueberries (do not thaw if frozen).
4. Pour batter into pan and smooth. Top with remaining blueberries and almond topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I didn't really feel like cooking when I got home tonight; it was a long day, and it was already 6. I thought I'd just make pasta with some pesto, using (as I had all summer) the basil in my herb garden. But as it turned out, there were barely 10 leaves of basil remaining which seemed edible. Moreover, the only viable nut option I had (I usually would use pistachios, skinless almonds, or pinenuts) was walnuts. The combination of walnuts with the sun-dried tomatoes I used to fill out the pesto reminded me more than a little bit of mouhammara, a delectable Middle Eastern spread of walnuts, oil, and red peppers. And, as in the case of the Turkish Eggplant with Walnut Sauce, this combination also made me think of a distant sloppy joe. This pesto is delicious on whole wheat pasta, or on crackers or flatbread.


1/4-1/3 c raw walnuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed (if packed in oil) and chopped
10 leaves basil, chopped
olive oil

In a small food processor, grind walnuts. Add garlic, tomatoes, and basil, and pulse until you have a paste. Add olive oil and continue pulsing until paste reaches desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Makes 2-3 servings.

Marinated Broccoli Lentil Salad

I was somewhat surprised to realize that this, one of the first recipes I ever created, hadn't yet made it onto the blog. Lentils and broccoli are two of the healthiest AND cheapest foods out there (see end of this post). Prepared this way, they taste delicious. This is a fast recipe which gets better as it sits. Make sure not to overcook the lentils or the broccoli. This salad needs a LOT of balsamic vinegar and black pepper to really work. The olive oil also adds flavor as well as making the salad more digestible.

Marinated Broccoli Lentil Salad

1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed
1 c vegetable stock (or water)
2 c water
1-2 c small broccoli florets
1/4 c white onion or scallions, finely chopped
2 TB balsamic vinegar
olive oil
sea salt to taste
ample ground black pepper to taste
optional: chopped olives, garlic or garlic powder

1. Undercook lentils in stock and water, draining if necessary.
2. Lightly cook broccoli and onions by pouring boiling water over them, covering, and draining after 2 minutes.
3. Toss lentils and vegetables together. Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. allow to stand until flavors have soaked in and salad is cool.

for reference:

  • 1 c stewed chicken breast has 211 calories, 41g protein, 0g fiber, and 7% daily iron
  • 1 c regular cooked lentils has 230 calories, 18g protein, 16g fiber, and 37% daily iron, and probably costs about $0.10
  • 1 c steamed broccoli has 54 calories, 4g protein, 6g fiber, and 6% daily iron, as well as ample vitamins A, C, K, and Bs
(data from

Monday, January 4, 2010

(Almost) Instant Spicy Hot Chocolate

YUM. Could you get this out of a packet? Or those awful Nestle "Mexican Hot Chocolate" discs (which, despite the fact that the only "flavors" other than chocolate and sugar are artificial, and that they contain more sugar than chocolate, are surprisingly dairy-free)? This drink is richly chocolatey and creamy, and not too sweet (unless you want it that way).

Many people seem to think that "vegan chocolate" must be hard to find because it's made out of beans or vital wheat gluten or something. And, depending on how stringent your definition of "vegan" is, it might be. But chocolate that contains nothing but cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, and maybe vanilla is actually ubiquitous. It's only milk chocolate (duh), and poor quality chocolate that tastes like (and contains?) wax (like Hershey's and Nestle), that you need worry about.

Spicy Hot Chocolate

3 1-in squares of high-quality dark chocolate (I used Lindt "Intense Dark" [70% cocoa])
4 oz boiling water
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or to taste)
4 oz soymilk or other plant milk
sugar to taste (it might depend on whether your milk has sugar added--you might not need any)

Break the chocolate up into very small pieces with your fingers.
In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt the chocolate in the boiling water. Stir until you have a fully dissolved chocolate paste-water. Add cayenne and cinnamon, and pour into a mug or teacup.
In the same saucepan, heat the milk (still over low heat) until hot. Pour carefully into mug, give it a stir, add sugar if desired (remembering that the chocolate and maybe the milk already contain sugar), and you're done!
Makes one 8-oz serving.

Avocado + Pear = Yes

This random salad ended up being so good that I made it two days in a row. Avocado and pear with lemon and fresh mint make for a really refreshing mix of mild flavors and textures that isn't very sweet. It seems that whatever type of pear you use, it must be quite crunchy, and the avocado can't be too soft, either (but it should be ripe enough to be edible); otherwise, you will have a bowl of light green mush (like guacamole from outer space).

As you might imagine, this salad doesn't keep very well. The lemon will keep it from browning for at least a few hours, but don't press your luck.

Avocado-Pear Salad

1 large, crunchy pear (I think I used something like a gong pear), 1/2-in diced
2 avocados, not too ripe (refrigerate before cutting), 1/2-in diced
about 12 mint leaves, chiffonade-cut (i.e., rolled up and cut into thin strips)
lemon juice to taste (about 1/2 of a lemon)

Toss pear, avocado, and mint together in serving bowl. Squeeze lemon juice over the salad and give one more little mix. Serves 4.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Preserved lemons

More adventures in pickling and preserving... Today I decided to make preserved lemons in a last-ditch attempt to avoid lesson-planning. In a few weeks, these babies should be salty, tangy, and spicy, and should take my dishes (for example, couscous) places they've never been before. Updates to follow. If these turn out well, I will post the recipe, which comes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (yes, I just bought another cookbook).

Preserved Lemons

Some Italian thing

I made far too much bulghur the other day. I don't know what I was thinking. This recipe helped me use up at least part of it. Although I've just been calling it "Italian thing," I think henceforth it shall be, due to its basis in bulghur and the method of preparation, Italian tabouleh. This dish is both refreshing (lemon, basil) and meaty (sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives). Between the tomatoes, olives, and bulghur, it has a ton of texture. Chickpeas add protein and fiber (but bulghur also provides these). I should emphasize that it's really delicious. And it only got better each day that it sat in my fridge and marinated.

The basil plant in my windowsill has undergone some extraordinary metamorphoses this year. I think it is imploring me, "Just let me die!" but I have Italian tabouleh to make... It keeps trying to go to seed, producing tons of tiny basil-scented flowers that (AT MY WINDOW--IN THE MIDDLE OF HOLLYWOOD) attract hummingbirds. The stalks have turned brown and are now so thick that little sparrows are able to perch IN the plant. The leaves are a somewhat sickly, pale green, but they still taste like basil. I'm going to assume that it's the fact that this plant, an annual, has been producing basil for over seven months straight, and not the pollution, that's making my basil so weird.

Italian Tabouleh

2-3 c prepared bulghur
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
8 kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
4 sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed (if packed in oil) and finely chopped
1-2 scallions, finely chopped
2 TB fresh basil, chopped
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1 TB olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste (careful--you've already put in olives)
ground black pepper to taste

Combine ingredients. If possible, allow to sit several hours before eating. Serve at room temperature. Serves about 4.