Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tangy Sweet Potato Curry

This is my 100th post!  It's been just over eight months since I started this blog, and I have learned a lot, not just from the experiments I've undertaken in pursuit of new recipes, but also from the needing to record (and often approximate) what I actually use in a given recipe.  And, about taking photos of food!  I'm excited to continue.

Life these days is busy, but good.  I thought this evening, Ah, to drink a Mexican beer on a rooftop in Little Armenia, watching the sun set to the west of the Hills, and prepare half of a lecture on Keats... not bad!  And then to go inside and make my own curry powder!  Well, I'm into it, anyway.

I'd had some sweet potatoes in my kitchen begging me to use them before they go bad for over a week now.  Also, I recently acquired half a pound of fennel seed at Jon's for $3.  Also, I found this recipe on the internet.  Forces conspired, let's say, to bring this recipe to my stomach and this blog.

Alterations to recipe
I'm not sure how much oil I ended up using.  2 TB seemed like a lot, but the sheer amount of spices necessitated that I add more as I went along.  Also, the original didn't actually specify how much sweet potato to use.  Then, I unwittingly used 1 cup rather than 1 can coconut milk, and it was "light"--this was totally fine (especially since I went out for Thai food last night and probably consumed 1/4 c of oil in my delicious fried eggplants).  I also used extra chickpeas: if a small can is just over the requisite 1 c, why not just dump it all in?  Finally, following my friend Sowjanya's suggestion to add coconut to more savory dishes, I also put in some shredded unsweetened coconut, which added more texture as well as flavor.

As for flavors, I used a particular curry powder (recipe below), and I'm sure that different ones would produce different results.  I also added the better part of a large chili pepper (labeled pasilla but perhaps a poblano?), and this made it just a bit spicy.  Then, I didn't have any tamarind--a key ingredient!--so I approximated it by using pomegranate molasses.  Finally, perhaps because the chickpeas I used come in brine, I used half the salt, and it was fine.

When I put the ground spices in the frying pan, I was worried that the spices, especially the 2 TB (!) fennel, would be too overpowering.  But in the final analysis, when watered down by sweet potato, coconut milk, and accompanying rice, they're just right.  Warm, almost buttery, and so interesting!  My guess is that the overall dish depends heavily on what's in the "curry powder" you use: the recipe I got from the Bittman bible uses a lot of cinnamon and cloves, which shine out quite a lot when paired with sugar as they are here.  I'd love someone's best guess as to what the make up of the ubiquitous "curry" flavor is--it's quite a bit different than the recipe at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, if I were to change anything about this dish, I'd like less sweetness and more sourness--I thought that the pomegranate molasses would do the trick, but I think it would have needed more acid (i.e., lemon) and less sugar (i.e., pomegranate juice).

The textures are lovely: slightly crunchy bell pepper, firm but soft sweet potatoes and chickpeas, and a sauce that is rich but not at all oily (its thickness derives as much from the quantity of spices as it does from the cup of coconut milk).  You probably want to watch out that the potatoes and peppers don't get overcooked.

Tangy Sweet Potato Curry
(adapted from kirsten's kitchen)

2 TB vegetable oil
1 onion, chipped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB fresh ginger, minced
1 TB cumin powder
1 TB paprika
1 TB  curry powder (recipe below)
1/4 tsp allspice
2 TB  fennel seeds- toasted and crushed
3 small sweet potatoes/yams, 1/2-to-1-in dice
1 c coconut milk
1 c water
1/4 c pomegranate molasses thinned with water OR 3 TB tamarind paste soaked in 1/4 c water
1+ cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 large green chili (pasilla or poblano), diced
2 tsp cane sugar, to taste
1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper or cayenne, to taste
cucumbers for garnish

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high heat.  Add onions and saute for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add garlic and ginger, stir, then add spices and stir around until no longer powdery.  Add potato, stir to cover with spices.  Add coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil.  Add both peppers and coconut, and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Add chickpeas and pomegranate molasses (or tamarind liquid). Season with sugar,salt and pepper.
Serve with rice, and garnish with sliced cucumber.  Serves at least 4.


Curry Powder
(adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian's "Fragrant Curry Powder")

1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
5 cardamom pods, outsides removed
3 whole cloves
1 3-in cinnamon stick
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 TB cumin seeds
1/4 c coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground turmeric

In a cast iron skillet or toaster oven, toast all the spices except the turmeric, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and slightly browned.  Allow to cool slightly before grinding and mixing in turmeric.  Makes a lot (1/4 c?).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Best cabbage dish of my life

I created dish in hopes of making the leftover lo mein from the previous post more interesting, but by the time I made it I'd eaten almost of the original dish.  I tried to go for some of the flavors that were missing from the lo mein: meaty, spicy, sweet, and vinegary/acidic.  Hence the mushrooms, the chili, and the sweet wine (btw... the bad news: pomegranate wine from Jon's tastes pretty bad / the good news: great for cooking!).

And this is so good!! The textures, the tastes... Who knew fried cabbage was one of the most delicious things on the planet?  I could eat this stuff from the tupperware like ice cream.  Ok, I did.  You could easily add tofu, too.

Stir-Fried Cabbage and Mushrooms


 canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cabbage, shredded
1/2 lb button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 TB "rooster paste" (chili garlic paste-- or use fresh garlic and red pepper flakes)
medium splash tamari
very big splash pomegranate wine (or red wine + sugar)
 very small splash toasted sesame oil

In large cast iron skillet, heat oil to medium high temperature.  Add onion, cabbage, and mushroom and saute for 10 minutes or until veggies release their juices and begin to brown.  Add chili paste, tamari, and wine, and allow liquid to cook off.  Turn off heat, and stir in a bit of sesame oil.  Serves about 4.

Stir-Fried Veggies x2

This weekend I found myself with a produce overload, the result of some impulse buying of beautiful fruits and veggies.  What can I say?  It's spring in Southern California.  So, given the goal of efficiently and tastily using as much produce as possible, as well as an interest in getting to know my cookbooks better, I hit the index of Vegan Planet.  Now, Vegan Planet is still my absolute favorite cookbook, but the recipes I chose this weekend were a bit unenlightening--a fact I would have noted, were I just browsing rather than trying to find the most useful recipes.  These are dishes I might have thrown together without a recipe, and were I not following a recipe, I might have been more inclined to tweak them as I went along.  Nevertheless, these recipes were good, and they were tweaked.  The first dish originally called for other greens and no zucchini, and it was to be served in the hollowed out shells of the eggplants.  The second dish called for tofu, pea pods, more traditional noodles, and fewer vegetables overall.  

Stir-Fried Greens, Eggplant, and Zucchini
(adapted from Vegan Planet's "Stir-Fried Watercress in Japanese Eggplants")

1 TB canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
 1 large bunch dandelion greens, cleaned and chopped
1 unit (head?) bok choy, cleaned and chopped
1-2 TB tamari
red pepper flakes
toasted sesame oil
sesame seeds, toasted

Heat oil in large frying pan.  Add onion, garlic, eggplant, and zucchini; saute until veggies start to brown.  Add greens and tamari and cook until greens are wilted.  Turn off heat and add red pepper, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.  Serve over rice.  Serves 4.


Quasi Lo Mein with Cabbage and Ginger
(adapted from Vegan Planet's "Tofu and Vegetable Lo Mein")

6 oz long noodles (linguine, lo mein noodles, etc.--I used whole wheat spaghetti)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1TB canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2.5 c cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
1.5 c green peas, thawed (if frozen)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 TB tamari

1. Cook noodles, drain, coat with sesame oil, and set aside.
2. Heat canola oil in frying pan or wok.  Add onions and cabbage and cook 1 minute.  Add remaining vegetables and continue cooking; add tamari and continue cooking until veggies are tender but still firm.  Turn off heat and mix with noodles.  Serves at least 4.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Breakfast Pron

Trader Joes sprouted rye bread (sesame seeds! poppy seeds! celery seeds! caraway seeds! dill!), toasted
Peanut butter w/salt
Fresh mango (from Mexico...I know...)
Fresh Jones Coffee, roasted in Pasadena

Friday, May 21, 2010

Meyer Lemon Tofu

You may notice on the main photo below that the light is different.  Well, the sun has finally moved far enough north that I get western/afternoon light through my north-facing window.

Yes indeed, things are changing!  I'm moving in two weeks.  I'm three posts away from the big one hundred on this blog.  And, I'm sortof catering this weekend for the first time, for this deal... anyway, there's no time like the present, and the spring, to embrace weird local foods.  Like Meyer lemons.  I vaguely remember being freaked out in like, 1994, by my uncle Peter in the bay area, when he was eating lemons from his backyard.  Turns out, they're not sour.

This is a simple recipe with an interesting mix of flavors, colors, and textures.  I used dandelion greens, a choice I would not recommend: between the lemons (you even eat the rinds) and the greens, it was too bitter.  Maybe spinach would be better here.  Also, there was definitely not enough oil.  I changed "2 tsp" to "2 TB" and you probably will want more if you are going to brown the tofu on all four sides.  However, seeing as you deglaze the pan at the end, it's ok if the tofu gets a bit dry and stuck to the bottom; it will all come off at the end, and you get more chewy texture that way.

Meyer Lemon Tofu
(adapted from Seaweed Snacks)

5 TB seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 TB tamari
2 TB toasted sesame seed oil
2-3 TB canola oil
1 block of tofu
2 small meyer lemons
1 1/2 cups onions sliced thin (I used the white parts of scallions)
1 bunch of greens roughly chopped (I used dandelion greens)

1. Cut tofu into 2 inch or slightly smaller pieces. Pat dry with a towel and set aside. Patting the tofu dry will help it sear and brown.
2. Cut onions into thin slices and set aside
3. Wash and trim greens; pat dry.
4. Slice meyer lemons into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.
5. In a very hot wok or pan (I used a saucepan), add 2 TB of canola oil. When wok is very hot and oil starts to dance around, add tofu and cover wok. Stir tofu every minute or so, allowing each side of the tofu to brown and sear. After about 8 minutes, add the onions, lemons and sauce. Cover again for a minute and then stir the tofu, vegetables and sauce until onions start to brown, are wilted and the sauce has evaporated (about 7 minutes). Add chard and stir in. This will help it start to wilt. After the chard juices have evaporated (less than 2 minutes), serve.  Serves at least 4.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


This is a long post; sorry.  You could of course skip to the recipe, which is cheap, hearty, and really delicious.

But even before I tried to title this post (sorry for the bad pun), I had some problems in organizing what I was going to write here.  The relationships between veganism (or more broadly, discourses of vegetarianism) and colonialism continue to be interesting, productive, and uncomfortable.  Looking at my mother's vegetarian cookbook from the 1970s, I don't know where Western veg*an food would be without the "discovery" of Indian cuisines.  Even today, and even in LA, if I want to suggest a vegan-friendly dinner option to omnivore friends, I almost always turn to Indian or Thai food (both of which are blissfully abundant here).

...And you have the whole eco-feminist thing, which both embraces and critiques the ways in which women have been aligned with nature ... and, in a few years, you'll have my dissertation on the ways in which discourses of eating--specifically vegetarianism--construct racialized, gendered, and sexuality-ized subjectivities in a colonial/transatlantic context...

But when it comes to the development of vegan food in the US, and indeed the impact of all sorts of ethnic foods on all sorts of cuisine in the US, how careful do we need to be?  "American" food has always been a heterogeneous, plagiaristic amalgamation.  Do vegans, by virtue of their standing alliances with the oppressed/voiceless/subaltern, have more of an imperative in this sort of a cultural exchange to be careful about how authenticity and exoticism are thrown around?

The folks at "Vegans of Color," which I really like, definitely think so.  Check out the post on "Helping Folks Eat the Other," where Western vegans are called out (Veganomicon, anyone?) for exoticizing and patronizing the Other.
“[Non-English ingredient or recipe name] must be [non-English language] for ‘delicious’!”
It's true; this is ubiquitous.  And it's particularly the author's critique of "African Peanut Stew" ("I cannot recall ever seeing a cookbook featuring anything like European Bean Soup..") that makes me self-conscious about this post.  That's why I've called it "Peanut Beans."  Authenticity be damned.  The blog from which it came describes the dish as "East African" and calls it "Shiro Wat"--an Ethiopian dish which (google tells me) contains neither peanut butter nor solid beans.  Moreover, this dish reminds me more than anything of some things Cape-Verdian dishes I ate in Senegal...which is not remotely "East African."  In Senegal, bean dishes, a relief from the fish and lamb, were always Cap-Vertien.  But Dakaroise food was already Cap-Vertien, and even also Lebanese... and Cap-Vertien food itself is a mixture of Portugese, French, Senegalese, more... and even many of the "official" dishes of Senegal are either Portugese-derived (for example, Yassa), or based on rice--itself a legacy of French colonialism in West Africa.  All of which is to say, yes, I'm sensitive to the problematic politics of Western vegans' appropriating other cultures' dishes, but any claim to authenticity is itself going to be a problem.


This dish also deserves the as-yet-uncreated tag of "delicious-but-not-pretty."  Hence the scallions, or as the original recipe suggests, cucumbers.

Another issue was the "healthiness" of this dish.  I looked at the recipe and was like, "4 TB of oil and 1 c of peanut butter?!  You can't be serious."  Now, I'm not at all a prude when it comes to fat (cf. deep-fried avocado), but this was just weird.  I halved the oil and the peanut butter, and increased the beans by 50%, and it seemed just right.   Go figure...  To wrap it up, it might need more spices than called for--it was just a little bit less flavorful than I would have liked.  Finally, watch the salt--it depends on how salty your peanut butter is.

Oh, one more note: I really liked how this recipe forced me to call on all the tiers of my spice cabinet-- a while back, I realized that the most reasonable way to organize spices was not alphabetically but according to how often I use them.  And this recipe totally collapsed my hierarchy.  PS: what spices do other people use most frequently?

Front row (use most frequently): cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, ground cumin, oregano, ground cinnamon; Middle row: turmeric, ground coriander, dried rosemary, nutmeg, cloves, thyme; Back row (use the least often): garlic powder, paprika, ground cardamom, dried sage, whole allspice, saffron; In front of steps: black peppercorns, ground allspice, ground ginger; Ancillary: Whole cloves, whole cardamom pods, whole cinnamon sticks, whole coriander seeds, dried peppers (incl. chipotle), backup spices, sesame seeds, gomasio, flaxseeds, ground flaxseeds, bay leaves, whole cumin seeds, liquid smoke, homemade garam masala, ground mustard, dried and ground mint leaves, wasabi powder

Peanut Beans
(adapted from The Fairest Feed)

1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups cooked mung beans or black eyed beans (I started with 1 c dried mung beans)
2 TB corn oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
2 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper

1. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes until golden. Add the tomato paste, thyme, spices, salt and pepper. Stir well.
2. Add the peanut butter and enough water to make a smooth, thick sauce. Mash the beans a little, then add to the pan. Stir well.
3. Check the seasoning, heat thoroughly and serve over rice or another grain with cucumber or green onion slices.  Serves at least 4.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pomegranate Baked Beans

Let the finding of uses for pomegranate molasses begin!  You can use regular molasses in baked beans, so why not this?  It tastes great.  The onions were actually the best part as they absorbed more of the sweet and tangy flavors than the beans.

Pomegranate Baked Beans

about 2 cans' worth black beans (I used dried, soaked, and simmered)
canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c pomegranate molasses
2 TB tomato paste
2 TB molasses
1 TB ground mustard
2 tsp ground cumin
the smallest drop possible of liquid smoke (optional)
salt to taste
black pepper or cayenne pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 300*.  In a cast iron skillet, heat oil.  Saute onion and garlic.  After 7 min or so, turn off heat and add remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly.  Transfer to a baking dish (unless you have a dish that can go from the stove to the oven), cover with foil, and bake 90 minutes or so.  If the beans are still too soupy, remove foil, turn heat up to 400*, and cook for another 20-30 minutes, adding liquid if beans look dried out.

Miso Glazed Fennel

Well, I thought this recipe sounded a little weird when I read about it, but fennel alone, miso alone, and glazed things alone each would have caught my attention.  So when they're all together?  I had to try it, even though the instructions to "scatter" butter and "toss" with miso left me suspicious that the author lives on a planet that has different gravity, atmosphere, etc.

This recipe is tasty, but more interestingly, it enacts a sort of defamiliarization [not that fennel is really that familiar to begin with--as my friend Myer suggested on a previous post, fennel is rather "queer"].  In this trio, fennel and miso become nearly unrecognizable as their old selves.  I used a rather strong, salty-cheesy miso (Cold Mountain Miso's Kyoto Red), but by the end, it was simply mellow and sweet, like the filling of a buttery pastry or something.  Indeed, because fennel tastes like / is related to licorice, the orange zest sort of throws you into the realm of gingerbread.

After 30 minutes of baking, the fennel was practically buttery and melty.  I didn't use very much orange zest--less than 1/4 the surface area of an orange--and it was plenty.  I served it over a bed of lemon-ginger kale (canola oil, garlic, ginger, kale, tamari, lemon juice), and the chewiness and very bright lemoniness of the kale balanced the melty sweetness of the fennel, despite the fact that both had citrus in them.

Any ideas for what to do with all the leftover fennel fronds?

Miso Glazed Fennel
(adapted from seaweed snacks)

2 med/small fennel root or 1 large root
1 heaping TB miso
1 tsp earth balance
zest of an orange

Preheat oven to 375*.  Wash and slice fennel into medium thickness slices. Place in oiled baking dish.
Scatter little chunks of earth balance and miso on top of fennel and toss.  Sprinkle with orange zest. Bake covered at 375 for 30-40 minutes.  Serve over greens.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


After postponing this day for months, I approached it with both eagerness and apprehension.  My hopes and expectations were so high that I worried about the real thing living up to them.

I'm talking about mouhammara, a spicy and savory Middle Eastern dip/spread that I've only had (though multiple times!) at Marouch, the amazing Lebanese/Armenian restaurant down the street from me.  It's made out of walnuts, peppers, garlic, and spices, and it tastes like one of the best things I can imagine: nutty and spicy, but also slightly creamy and sour.

A vast google search suggests that the ingredients are pretty standard (though some include tomato paste); what varies is the proportions.  I ultimately chose the recipe below because it was the cheapest and healthiest of the bunch (with regard to the ratios between oil and walnuts, and bread crumbs).  Not surprisingly, I think it needs more nuts and less bread crumbs.  Bread crumbs do help bulk out the dish and add a creaminess that might be lacking if you were going gluten-free.  Anyway, more walnuts, less bread, and perhaps adding a bit of tomato paste might also help.  No more oil, though!  In fact, the recipe called for 3/4 c olive oil, and 1/2 c was plenty.  Also, I used 3 large cloves of garlic, and if you're not in the mood for intense (though delicious) garlickiness, you might use 1 or 2.  Also, you could roast your own red bell peppers in the oven and use them instead of the kind from a jar.  Update 6/17: I used equal parts (1/2 c each) walnuts and bread crumbs, and almost NO oil, and it turned out even better.

Despite all these notes, this recipe was unbelievably delicious.  I ate it on a fresh whole wheat pita (despite the fact that the bread-on-bread thing seems not quite kosher), with some greens and vegetables.  And, I think that this is like what Hot Pockets might be like if God ate them (in how many different ways is this sentence offensive?)--rich, savory, creamy, slightly spicy, yet perfectly simple and healthy!  I actually find it easier to "eat healthy" when I eat rich foods, especially avocados, nuts, and olive oil (though I know everyone's constitution is different)--if you feel satisfied, you are happy to stop eating, and you don't snack on random starchy sugary things throughout the day.

There is one slightly-more-complicated ingredient in this recipe, and that is pomegranate molasses.  The (simple!) recipe is at the bottom of this post.  And if anyone has any ideas for what else to do with pomegranate molasses, please let me know!  So far it seems that it goes in mouhammara and some Middle Eastern eggplant dishes.  And, I found one adventurous recipe for pomegranate molasses cupcakes.  Thoughts?

Update 5/27: some new-found uses for pomegranate molasses: Pomegranate Baked Beans and Tangy Sweet Potato Curry.

Update, 10/31/11: When I started using commercial pomegranate molasses, I realized I needed a lot less of it than the waterier version I'd made at home.  Try using 1 tsp instead of 2.

(adapted from

a 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5-2 TB fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1-2 tsp pomegranate molasses (recipe below)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (or slightly more) extra-virgin olive oil
toasted pita triangles as an accompaniment

In a food processor blend together everything except the olive oil until the mixture is smooth.  Then, with the motor running add the oil gradually. Transfer the muhammara to a bowl and serve it at room temperature with the pita triangles.


Pomegranate molasses is a key ingredient in mouhammara.  I know this photo would look much nicer with sunlight going through it; I may try to retake it in the day time.

Pomegranate Molasses

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a large, uncovered saucepan, heat pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice on medium high until the sugar has dissolved and the juice simmers. Reduce heat just enough to maintain a simmer. Simmer for about an hour, or until the juice has a syrupy consistency, and has reduced to 1 to 1 1/4 cups. Pour out into a jar. Let cool. Store chilled in the refrigerator.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Complicatedly Armenian

These recipes originated in Simply Armenian, a cookbook I found at the public library.  There are actually a ton of vegan or veganizable recipes in traditional Armenian cuisine due to the many fast days when, traditionally, animal products are not consumed.  I'm not too psyched about the cookbook; it suffers from the same issue as macrobiotic cookbooks: yes, I love simple food, but do I really need a recipe for steamed broccoli?  But I'm going to work through some of the slightly more complicated recipes, starting with those below.

Some notes about this food:
* behold the fusion of Little Armenia!  Serrano chilis worked just fine in the bean salad, just as cilantro hovers from my Indian to my Chinese to my Mexican dishes.
* I'm failing at the economy project.  It's just so much more convenient to have a ton of staples on hand.  I am, however, trying to cycle through some of these staples: if I set out to make a legume or a grain, I ask myself which is the one I've had for the longest, and then make that.  Which explains the pasta salad below.

As the author, Barbara Ghazarian, notes, pasta salad is almost necessarily a fusion-type thing (although my postcolonial theory background makes me skeptical of any dish's claim to authenticity); the fact that I made it with a really random assortment of whole wheat penne and TJs harvest "grains" (mostly Israeli couscous, which is not a grain) makes it even odder.  Anyway, if you haven't had Za'atar (or Zahtar, or Zatar, etc.), you should!  It's a mixture of thyme (or something like it), sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and other herbs, and it is so tasty, especially with olive oil and bread.

Za'atar (Zahtar)-Spiced Pasta Salad
(adapted from Simply Armenian)
4+ servings pasta
2-3 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons za'atar
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

1. Cook pasta, drain, rinse, set aside, cool.
2. Combine remaining ingredients.  Mix with pasta.  Serves about 4.


The following salad is refreshing and easy to prepare, if anticlimactic.  The original recipe called for white kidney beans and far less parsley, but I liked it this way.  Make sure to chop onions, peppers, and herbs very, very finely!

Chickpea Salad
(adapted from Simply Armenian)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/8 c finely chopped onion or scallion
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 c parsley, minced
1/8 c olive oil
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 serrano chili, finely minced (or cayenne pepper to taste)
juice of 1 lemon

1. Combine chickpeas and vegetables.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and then pour over vegetables.  Toss until blended.  Allow to sit before serving.  Serves about 4.


I've been meaning to make baklava forever, and my friend Devon finally talked me into a joint endeavor when she was over for dinner this evening.  Yum!  This was so good, and though phyllo's a bit of a pain, it's pretty hard to mess up.  Using Earth Balance instead of butter seemed to work just fine, and the phyllo I got from the supermarket is vegan/pareve, even if it does have some preservatives in it.  :(  I wonder where one can get phyllo without strange chemicals in it?  It seems as though it would be excruciatingly difficult to make one's own dough without some sort of a machine.  Anyway, preservatives or no, this dish tasted amazing--I doubled the lemon, which made it really zingy, and the recipe doesn't call for all that much sugar, considering how much it makes.  Nevertheless, this was a really satisfying dessert--not something you can keep snacking on--simultaneously fluffy, crispy, and caramelly.

Baklava (Paklava)
(adapted from Simply Armenian)

1/2 c + 1 TB sugar
1/2 c water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/4 c walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1 c melted earth balance
1/2 pkg phyllo dough

1. Combine sugar and water in saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes until sugar syrup thickens.  Allow to sit.
2. Combine walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon.  Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350*.
4. Melt earth balance.
5. Brush the bottom of a baking dish with melted earth balance.  Place 1/2 sheet phyllo dough in dish, and brush with melted earth balance.  Repeat until you have 10 half-layers of dough.  Brush top with earth balance as well.
6. Spread walnut filling atop dough layers.  Then do 10 more half-layers of dough.
7. Cut everything into small triangles with a very sharp knife.
8. Bake 30 minutes or more, until golden brown.
9. Remove from oven and pour syrup over the top.  Allow to sit and cool before serving.  Serves MANY.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chili Corn Salsa

The fact that my neighborhood is so quiet tonight makes me wonder if Cinco de Mayo is a bit like St. Patrick's day, or lutefisk: bigger and more exaggerated in the U.S. than in the home country (pay no attention to the lack of parallelism behind the sentiment...). Nevertheless, I thought I'd make something very vaguely Mexican-inspired: a throwback to my ascetic Chicago days when I mostly ate leftovers from work or steamed veggies and rice. Though my standards are higher these days, spicy corn is still delicious. It makes me wonder what other kinds of salsas I could make. Oh, and I put this in some sort of haphazard taco-nacho-salad thing:

After I put this salsa together, I realized there was a reason I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand.  Amanda and I had made a mint-cilantro chutney last weekend that just happened to use lime juice, cilantro, and onion (and cumin!).  I should have just stirred corn into the leftover chutney!  Which reminds me... I need to go to this restaurant.

Chili Corn Salsa


12 oz froz corn, thawed
1/4 onion of any type, very finely diced
1/4 bell pepper (optional)
½-1 green jalapeno, very finely diced (I used a serrano pepper this time and had to be careful!)
lots of cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime
sea salt to taste

Combine ingredients (lime juice and salt to taste). Let sit before eating.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lemon-Coconut Cake!

I don't usually post recipes that came directly from somewhere else, but I think the whole world should know about this cake.  I forget that the authors of Veganomicon are so good at desserts, but after making this cake, I think I should get my hands on one of their newer books: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  Because this cake is superb, and easy!  I think that baking with coconut milk is magic: your item is instantly moister, richer, and more flavorful--sort of like the very-high-test version of baking with applesauce?  The lemon juice also curdles the soymilk, which further contributes to the moist-creamy thing.  Lemon juice and lemon zest, coconut, and coconut milk combine to make this cake flavorful--if anything, I may have skimped on lemon zest and would put in more next time.  The recipe called for a Bundt pan, which I don't have, so I used a 9x13 rectangular pan.  The amount of batter (12 c) is still right, but the cook time needs to be decreased (from an hour to 40-45 min).  Finally, I was puzzled by the original instructions, which called for mixing the wet ingredients together, then sifting each dry ingredient, one at a time, directly into the wet batter.  What's the advantage of doing this, other than only having one bowl to wash?  I have to confess I'm a rather sloppy/lazy baker when it comes to sifting, exact measuring, etc.  I could never work in a fancy bakery.

Except I did, once! albeit in the front-of-house.  And it was there that I learned this powdered-sugar technique:

This allows you to meter out the sugar more carefully and evenly distribute it, rendering your cake prettier.  But don't put it on until you are serving the piece; it doesn't look so good the next day.

Lemon-Coconut Cake
1 2/3 c sugar
2/3 c canola oil
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
1/4 c soy or rice milk
1/4 c lemon juice
3 TB lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla
3 c flour
2 tsp baking pwder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c shredded unsweetened coconut
powdered sugar for top

1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Lightly grease 8- or 10-in Bundt pan OR 9-x-13 rectangular pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil coconut milk, soymilk, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla.  Stir.
3. Mix dry ingredients (except coconut) separately and add to wet mixture.  Fold in coconut.
4. Spread batter in pan.  Bake 40-50 min for a rectangular cake, about 1 hour for a Bundt cake (in any case, cake is done when a wooden chopstick inserted in the middle comes out clean).
5. Remove from oven and cool.  When serving, sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.  Garnishing with a bit more lemon zest would be a nice addition as well.