Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Braised Tempeh with Lemon Tahini Sauce

I read a lot of food blogs.  When I find a recipe I want to try, I save it as a word document and leave it on my desktop until I try it, at which point I put it away in a file somewhere.  My (electronic) desk is pretty messy these days... and weirdly, half the recipes are for cupcakes... The recipe below came from a non-cupcake file that had been sitting around for quite a while.  I decided at the last minute to make it for lunch today, because I had half a block of tempeh sitting around that needed to get used (the weird thing about tempeh: in a sealed package, it lasts FOREVER, but once the package is opened, its days are numbered).

Then I saw the "marinate on each side for at least 2 hours."  Hm.  Not going to happen.  So, I used Jes's recipe, but employed the method I've been using in the Orange Pan-Glazed Tofu and Tempeh recipes.  Frying and braising--almost as much flavor, but instant, and more, um, fried.  I also used half as much liquid smoke, because it's an ingredient that while magical, can go wrong very quickly if it's overpowering (10/12/09: the liquid smoke controversy emerges).  Speaking of magical but dangerous ingredients, the original recipe called for Bragg's Liquid Aminos, which I do not have.  So, I concocted a bootleg substitute using water, tamari, and nutritional yeast.  Now, as I said in my last post, "nootch" and I don't always get along.  Still, since you're cooking with it, I thought it worked fine in the marinade-that-wasn't-really-a-marinade.  This stuff, while it looked weird when I mixed it together, smelled fantastic while it was cooking off.

 The tahini sauce tasted great, too, although I would use less nootch here--maybe 1 instead of 2 TB.  And, if you're one of those readers who is going to skip this recipe because of the yeast, just omit it!  It will be fine.  I also added some cayenne to the sauce, and used garlic powder rather than real garlic for easy mixing, but more than anything, it needed way, way more lemon to balance all the slightly weird creaminess going on (a recurrent theme in my posts, apparently).  Just keep tasting it and adding more salt and/or lemon as necessary.  I ended up with a bit of extra sauce, and I'm totally okay with this.

 And... I got to use my brand-new universal lid!  Works on my 8-in stainless fry pan AND my 12-in cast-iron.  Hot damn.

The final analysis: a great tug-of-war (or tango?) between the umami and the acidic.  Frying and then braising the tempeh gives it a skin that's chewy, almost crispy--the kind of texture that's often lacking in a vegan diet. 
Braised Tempeh with Lemon Tahini Sauce
(adapted from Cupcake Punk)

For the tempeh:
canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 8 oz package tempeh, cut into 16 bite-sized triangles
3/8 c water
2 TB nutritional yeast (optional)
2 TB tamari
2 TB red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
pepper to taste
For the tahini sauce:
3 TB tahini
1-2 TB nutritional yeast
1 TB capers
2-3 TB lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder

1) In a hot frying pan, heat oil and then add tempeh and minced garlic.  Allow to brown (4 min) before turning over and repeating.
2) While tempeh is frying, in a pyrex, combine water, nutritional yeast, tamari, red wine vinegar, and liquid smoke.  When tempeh is cooked on both sides, pour this mixture over the tempeh, reduce heat to medium, and cover partially, cooking 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced.
3) Meanwhile, in another pyrex, combine ingredients for tahini sauce, adding water to get the right consistency.
4) Serve tempeh hot with sauce drizzled over it.  Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Sauce

So "June gloom" ends after tomorrow, right?  Cloudy weather never got to me until I moved here.  But when it's dry and sunny all the time, the different weather makes me alternatively gloomy, nostalgic, and cozy.  Staples like tabouleh and cold bean salads lose their appeal.  I wanted rich comfort food.

I've been wanting to make creamy things out of cashews for a while now.  I finally picked up some raw cashews at Trader Joe's; the only thing missing was nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast and I broke up about a year ago.  I had some really old stuff that I'd moved from Chicago, to Minnesota, to LA (and then moved within LA).  It was kind of funky, and after throwing it out, I didn't have the heart--or the stomach--to buy more.

Until today.  My new eye doctor is right across the street from Nature Mart and its bulk bin store, and sure enough, they had nootch in bulk.  I didn't take too much.

And, I think you could make this recipe without nutritional yeast at all.

I started with this recipe on Seaweed Snacks, but I substantially changed around the method as well as some ingredients.  My mini-food-processor needed all the help it could get, and I wanted to add some sauteed garlic.  So, while the original recipe required no cooking, I ultimately combined everything together on the stove.  I added water to help the blending go, er, more smoothly, some of which maybe cooked off over the stove anyway.  In any case, it wasn't too watery.  I also used roasted peppers from a jar rather than raw fresh peppers--more convenient, more roasty, and easier to digest (raw peppers make me burp a lot).  I added paprika for color, and red pepper flakes for spiciness.  At first, the sauce was too sweet with the bell pepper, so I added quite a bit of lemon juice, which really improved it.

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Sauce (over Whole Wheat Spaghetti)
(adapted from Seaweed Snacks)

1 1/2 c raw cashews
1/4-1/2 c water
1/2 c roasted red peppers from a jar (or fresh)
1/8 c extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes and paprika to taste
1/8 c nutritional yeast
1 TB tamari
1/2 tsp sea salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

1) In a food processor or blender, blend cashews, water, and peppers until as creamy as possible.
2) In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute garlic with red pepper flakes and paprika several minutes, until browned and fragrant. 
3) Reduce heat to very low.  Add cashew-pepper puree to saucepan, as well as remaining ingredients.  Stir until completely mixed, then transfer back to food processor if more blending is desired.  Serve warm over pasta. Makes about 2 cups or 4-6 servings.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mojito beans?

Ah, green beans and corn on the cob -- the quintessential summer foods of those places where I come from.  The growing season in MN and WI is certainly short, but when it's happening, the tomatoes, corn, green beans, melons, and other veggies it produces are actually superior to what we get in CA.  Especially corn and apples.  My mom has always said that her mom always said that it was the harsh early frosts that made apples what they were, and I'm inclined to believe it, but the similar verdict about sweet corn is based solely on my own experience.  Corn on the cob here is just not as interesting as it is in MN/IA/WI/IL.  But, it's still good, especially when paired with an interesting beer and the bean salad which follows...

Jon's was selling large bags of dried fava beans.  So, I got some.  Man, what a lot of work!  I did the usual soaking and simmering, but then got to wondering if the skins were too thick to be happily digested.  I know that when you have fresh fava beans you're supposed to remove the skins, but these were small beans that had already been soaked for 12 hours and simmered for 1.  Really?

Facebook to the rescue.  I posted on the page of my friend Myer, who knows a lot about food.  Our friend KSW beat him to the response, suggesting that "your belly will thank you if you [remove the skins]."  But Myer then wrote, "well, i'm a goat, but i don't think i've ever had a problem with the skins..."  So the mystery continues.  Still, better safe than sorry.  I shucked every single bean out of the 2 cups of beans.  Oog.  So much work.


I used the beans in a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, only I used fresh green beans instead of asparagus.  The beans and, er, beans make a great combo, but the mint in this recipe was a bit too intense for me: what with the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and fresh mint, I felt like I was eating a mojito--just one that was full of beans.  This recipe definitely needs less mint, and more salt.  And maybe use orange instead of lemon.  Or balsamic vinegar, even.

Fava Bean and Mint Salad with Green Beans

1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 c dried fava beans, soaked and simmered (or fresh), with skins removed
1 c fresh mint leaves, chopped (use 1/2 c instead)
2 TB olive oil
2 tsp [lemon or] orange juice or balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
grated [lemon or] orange zest (optional)

1) Steam green beans and then transfer to ice water to stop cooking.  When cold, drain.
2) Combine green beans, fava beans, and mint in a large bowl.  Combine olive oil, lemon/orange juice, and sugar separately before adding to vegetables and tossing to coat evenly.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with citrus zest.  Serves about 4.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pain trouvé

It's funny how long a can of coconut milk will last.  After I skimped in making Red Lentil Coconut Curry, I thought I'd find another great use for the second half of the can.  It went in Earl Grey, it went in coffee, it went in decaf chai... but it needed to go more quickly.

When I lived in London, I went out for weekly karaoke with an assortment of people, mostly French, doing internships in the city.  My friend Cyril told me about "pain perdu" (or "lost bread"), which sounded interesting.  At the end of that year, when I visited him and others in Toulouse, we made pain perdu, and I realized that it was just what we call... French toast.

I literally have not made French toast in years.  Perhaps I have actually never made it (besides helping with pain perdu in Toulouse), and I just remember my parents making it when I was growing up (we had breakfast for dinner several nights a week--we must have kept Bisquick in business).  Anyway, every vegan French toast recipe calls for coating your bread in tofu goop, something that's never really appealed to me.  Would coconut milk be a viscous enough alternative?

I'm still not sure.  To cover my behind, I also mixed in one prepared ener-g "egg replacer," which, I know, diminishes my "not using weird things" feelings about French toast.  There was so much sugar in the batch I made that it sort of caramelized with the oil in the pan.  It was delicious, but I felt a strong urge to brush my teeth before they fell out. So, that's been reduced in the recipe below.  Indeed, the recipe needed drier bread and less sugar (though sugar would depend on how you're topping it--use even less if you're going to put syrup on top).  Some lemon zest or juice would balance out the richness and the sweetness. 

Coconut French Toast

2 ener-g "eggs"
1/2-3/4 c coconut milk
3-4 TB brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
lemon zest or juice?
vegetable oil or earth balance
8-10 slices old, dry bread
banana slices
unsweetened coconut

1) Prepare egg replacer.  In a wide, shallow bowl, combine remaining ingredients with egg replacer.
2) Heat oil (not that much) in a nonstick pan.  Dredge slices of bread in batter, flipping once so that the entire thing is soaked and coated.
3) Cook battered bread in pan like a pancake, flipping once, until browned.
4) Serve hot with banana slices and coconut.  Makes about 8-10 slices.

Sexy pasta sauce

I really liked this pasta sauce, which evolved as it went along.  The scrumptious tempeh, sauteed with allspice, fennel, and sage, tasted a lot like chicken sausage that you might find in a tomato pasta sauce.  And, the last-minute addition of the miso really rounded out the flavor of the sauce, balancing against the acidity of the tomatoes and adding a slightly cheesy/winey flavor.  I wish I had made twice as much!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Sexy Pasta Sauce
olive oil
1 onion (I used several scallions), finely chopped
4 cloves garlic
4 oz tempeh, crumbled
1 zucchini or other squash, cubed or sliced
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground sage
1 tsp fennel seed
red pepper flakes to taste
salt as needed (depends on tomatoes and miso)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4-1/2 c roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped if necessary
1 c yellow miso broth
2 tsp dried oregano
lots of fresh parsley (or basil?), minced

1) In a large cast-iron skillet, heat a generous amount of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, tempeh, squash, and spices and saute for 5-8 minutes.
2) Add tomatoes, roasted peppers, miso, and oregano, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or more.  Add more water if the sauce gets too dry.
3) Just before serving, stir in fresh herbs and adjust seasonings.  Serve over pasta (I used whole-wheat spaghetti). Serves 2-3.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ethiopian Lentil Stew

I decided to make a first try at using my Berbere.  Most of the recipes I found online have you cooking the lentils in stock and then adding veggies and spices.  While this is probably the most energy-efficient way of doing it, my hunch was that sauteeing the veggies and spices in oil first (like a curry) would yield slightly more flavorful results.  Leave it to the Post-Punk Kitchen to read my mind.  So, while I started off with this recipe from, I ended up drifting towards the (less authentic?) PPK version.  Besides the sauteeing, I also liked that they added tomato--this seems more like what I've been getting at restaurants.  It's really tasty, but it's not that pretty, and it's still missing something.

Someday I will make enjera.  Today is not that day.

Ethiopian Lentil Stew
(adapted from The Post-Punk Kitchen, among other places)

1.5-2 c brown lentils (I ran out of lentils and mixed in some mung beans)
3 cup vegetable stock / water, plus more as needed
several TB vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, miced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 carrot, diced
1-1.5 TB berbere
1/4-1/2 c tomato paste
1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
salt and pepper to taste

1) Cook lentils in stock/water in a saucepan.
2) Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet.  Saute onion, garlic, ginger, carrot, and berbere for 5 minutes or so.  Stir in tomato paste and green beans, cook for a few minutes until everything is warmed through, then turn off heat.
3) When lentils are done, add them to skillet, warming over medium heat for several minutes until flavors have melded.  Add salt and pepper (or cayenne pepper) to taste.  Serves 4-6.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This week saw my first experience with fenugreek.  This pungent little seed looks like Nerds candy and smells exactly like a Traditional Medicinals tea I used to drink.  It's an ingredient that up until now, I've always just skipped over--it usually appears in recipes that call for ten spices or more.  But earlier this week, I went out for Ethiopian food--which was delicious, as usual--and resolved to figure out what gives Ethiopian vegetarian dishes their distinctive flavor.  Internet searching led me to Berbere, a spice blend that resembles many Indian curry powders but contains allspice and fenugreek, among other things.  Luckily for me, I easily found a lifetime supply of fenugreek (labeled "funigreek") for $1.99 (I think you know where).  So, if anyone has suggestions for ways to use fenugreek or favorite recipes that call for berbere, I'd love them.

Berbere is complicated.  I looked at different recipes online before settling on this one from RecipeZaar.  Look at all the ingredients!

Anyway, you measure a lot, then you roast some stuff, then you grind some stuff.  How does it taste in lentils and other recipes?  I'll have to get back to you on that one.  Right now, all I can tell you is that it makes a lot (you might want to halve the recipe) and that it's really, really spicy...

Ingredients for Berbere
(adapted from RecipeZaar)

2 tsp cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
3/4 tsp cardamom seed
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/4 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seed
4 TB dried red chili flakes
1 tsp dried gingerroot
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 TB sweet Hungarian paprika
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves

In a toaster oven or cast-iron skillet, toast the whole spices (everything up through coriander) for 2 minutes on low heat.  Allow to cool.  Then, grind toasted spices with everything else and transfer to an airtight container.
Makes about 1/4 c.


Two quick side notes:

I love this squash, sold at Jon's as "Mexican Squash."  Use it anywhere you'd use zucchini, like in the Red Lentil Coconut Curry I posted awhile back.

 Sarah and I were walking by a garage sale and I got sucked into making this hilarious $1 impulse buy.  I mean, one dollar.  I can't wait to put it in the grad student fridge this fall.  Edit 7/11: It's a lunch box.  Apparently this was not clear; I apologize for any confusion...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lemon Sesame (not Lavender) Cookies

Oh, let's make this photo extra large.  These cookies were fantastic.

It all started when ladyfriend Sarah had an amazing lavender shortbread cookie at Trails Cafe in Griffith Park.  Yes!  A lavender cookie!  It must be duplicated (and veganized)!  After some research, we decided to do a combination of two recipes from When Harry Met Salad and Have Cake, Will Travel.  But first, to find lavender... I did some internet sleuthing and some facebook-status-asking and got some good answers.  For future reference, I compile them here, in approimate order of geographic closeness to the East side:
  • some smaller hispanic market (under the name of alucema)
  • Nature Mart Bulk Bin store (Los Feliz)
  • Home Depot or other nursery (in plant form)
  • large LA farmers markets
  • Whole Foods (?) or Gelson's
  • Sur La Table (Grove or Glendale)
  • Erewhon (Beverly at Fairfax)
  • Surfa's (Culver City -- this place sounds awesome)
  • Cost Plus World Market (Westwood)
  • Penzey's (Santa Monica)
Nature Mart was out of lavender.  I don't know if they'd checked in the last year or so.  Anyway, after a longish walk in the sun to Nature Mart, however, which necessitated a detour for burgers and beer (where we ended up at a table NEXT TO IMOGEN HEAP), two very random yard-sale purchases from two nice Bulgarian ladies, and several desperate stops in chi-chi garden stores ("lavender? do you mean gingeng-infused oils and a crappy little bamboo plant?"), we had lost much of our lavender enthusiasm.  We got back and weighed alternatives.  Lemon-sage cookies?  Lemon-rosemary cookies?  Sesame-rosemary?  And then finally... lemon-sesame.  Felix culpa?  Or at least worthy of a country some about unanswered prayers...

In retrospect, I think Home Depot would actually have been the best bet.  They have a huge selection of inexpensive herb plants in their nursery, and it would be way cheaper than a little tin of old dried stuff from Sur La Table or something.

Update 6/26: Jon's had dried alucema all along (on a low endcap in the produce section?!), and Home Depot appeared to be a bust (although I wasn't looking too hard there).

Update 7/10: Read about Lemon Lavender cookies.

So, while we're on the subject of relative prices of spices, living in a predominantly Latino/Armenian/Thai neighborhood has made me realize how arbitrary a lot of spice pricing is.  For example: Jon's has spices in at least three aisles: the standard McCormick etc. spices are in a baking/spices/staples aisle, but the "International" (i.e., Middle Eastern and Eastern European) aisle has several other imported brands of herbs and spices, AND there are at least two endcaps of aisles with Latino brands.  Now, I totally understand that there are varying qualities of spices, and that the nice herbs you buy at Whole Foods or the farmers market will probably give you much more bang for your buck.  But we're talking about McCormick and its peers.  Surely this stuff is not worth FOUR TO TEN TIMES AS MUCH?  A typical spice jar holds about 0.5-1.7 oz. of stuff, depending on what it is.  But these shaker containers clock in at 7-8 oz. and THE SAME PRICE ($3-4).

Sesame seeds are one of the worst: they are often sold in even smaller containers at larger prices, while at Jon's, or Asian food stores, or even Whole Foods's bulk bins, you can get a shaker's worth for $2 or less.

I guess the bottom line is demand.  If you only use sesame seeds once a year in a "special recipe," you're going to be more willing to pay top dollar than if you use it daily.  And, if all the other matching spices and herbs in the display are also $4-5, it perhaps makes some sort of sense that the sesame seeds should be, too.

All of which is to say, this recipe uses a lot of sesame seeds.  Don't buy like 5 little jars from the supermarket for it.

And it's so good!  It's very lemony (we subbed the juice and zest of a whole lemon for 2 tsp lemon extract) and not too sweet (or at least, the lemon and sesame make it seem less sweet).  The sesame seeds are crunchy, the outside of the cookie is chewy, and the inside is soft and almost fluffy (because of the cornstarch?).  We made them quite small and could not stop eating them!!  Sarah and I also decided that they might be even more delicious with a bit more salt, to play up the savory leanings of the sesame.

Update 6/24: Made these again with twice as much salt, and they taste great.  Next, I'd like to try them with less sugar and more butter--a step closer, perhaps, to these Savory Sesame Herb Shortbread Cookies.

Lemon Sesame Cookies
(adapted from Have Cake, Will Travel)

1/2 cup nondairy butter
3/4 cup raw sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sea salt (perhaps more for the adventurous?)
2 TB nondairy milk, as needed
about 1/2 c sesame seeds 

1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Pour sesame seeds onto a small plate.
2. Cream together butter and sugar. Stir in lemon juice and zest, and vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt.
4. Fold dry ingredients into wet. Add milk, as needed.
5. Scoop up 1 1/2 to 2 TB worth of dough.  Roll into balls, then gently roll in sesame seeds before placing on baking sheet.  Flatten a little, as the cookies don’t spread a lot while baking.
6. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. If you want chewier cookies, aim for 12 minutes.  Wait 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes about 4 dozen small cookies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Strawberry Coconut Almond Muffins

 Muffins made with strawberry-flaxseed goo!  Tasty and moist, but I wish they had a bit more strawberry flavor.  Also, tilt the flour ratio more towards white flour unless you want a really fibertastic muffin.

Strawberry Almond Coconut Muffins

2 TB ground flaxseed
6 TB warm water
3/4 c fresh strawberries, cleaned, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1-1.5 c soy milk--or enough to get a good muffin consistency
1/4 c unsweetened coconut
slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil muffin tins.  In a mini food processor, puree the strawberries with the flaxseed and water.  Set aside.  Mix together dry ingredients (including sugar).  Then mix in strawberry puree with all the other wet ingredents (oil, extracts, then soymilk).  Finally, add coconut and mix.  Pour into muffin tins-almost to the top.  If you have leftover batter, it makes a great pancake.  Top muffins with slivered almonds and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

House: warmed

It doesn't matter that I'm way behind on grading and writing because I've been moving and have been sick; I still have to tell you about the delicious housewarming food we had last night!  There was:

  • whole wheat lavash bread (locally baked--yay Little Armenia!)
  • fresh veggies for dipping
  • pickled veggies and olive
  • mixed nuts
  • hummus with green goo (recipe below)
  • baba ganoush with mint (recipe below)
  • stuffed mushrooms (recipe below)
  • cardamom chocolate chip cookies
  • lots of beer

 With the cookies, I had a sugar-measuring incident.  Using more sugar than usual and baking in a new, hotter oven (which might be electric even though the burners are gas?!) meant that they came out sort of flat and toffee-like.  I'm not sure which way I like better.


Some recipes you can google and, after looking at a few, have a pretty good idea of an ur-version of that recipe.  This is not the case for stuffed mushrooms.  The things you can put in a stuffed mushroom, the flavor combinations, are really quite varied.  This recipe, which I found on a website I'd never seen before, is delicious, but the sun dried tomatoes are really dominant.  In the future I might try to mellow them out a bit by using breadcrumbs, or more nuts.  Also, saffron.  Can we talk about saffron?  Is my palate just too unrefined?  Isn't the very subtle flavor that saffron imparts to most dishes usually not worth the price tag?  Saffron rice, ok, but in a dish like this?  I'm not sure I could taste it.

I like the self-containedness of this recipe.  You use both parts of the mushroom; you use the oil that the tomatoes came in.  Nice!  Cutting the mushrooms without destroying them was a bit of a challenge.  I used crimini and I found that I had to hollow out more of the mushroom with a paring knife after popping out the stems. 

Stuffed Mushrooms

15 button mushrooms (pick bigger firmer ones)
1/4 c packed sun dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped (save the oil, too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB chopped parsley (I forgot this)
1/4 c roasted red bell peppers, finely chopped
1/3 c almonds or pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 TB olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp saffron
saved oil of the sun dried tomatoes
1 TB lemon juice
crushed red pepper

1. Wash and dry the mushrooms.  Carefully scoop out the stem of the mushrooms to make a hollow inside the mushrooms. Save the stems and the caps, separately.
2. In a frying pan, saute some of the oil with some of the garlic.  Add the mushroom caps to the pan & saute them while tossing at high heat till the mushrooms start to brown & all the water dries up. Toss with the parsley; place in oiled baking dish.
3. Chop the stems of the mushroom very fine. Chop the roasted bell peppers. Chop the sun dried tomatoes. Process the nuts till they are coarsely ground.
4. Heat the remaining olive oil.  Add remaining minced garlic. Add the minced stems of the mushrooms; saute them till dry. Add salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, saffron, and nuts (reserving 2 TB for later) to the mushrooms.  Then, add lemon and red pepper flakes.
5. Stuff the mushrooms with filling.  Drizzle with the oil from the sun dried tomatoes.  Bake at 350* for about 10 minutes.  After baking, sprinkle some coarsely ground almonds on the mushrooms.  Squirt some fresh lemon juice if you want.


I liked this variation on hummus, and not just for its name.  I think if I had a better food processor the goo would have turned out prettier.  The hummus recipe seems to call for a lot of liquid, but it actually wasn't too much.  If you want a thicker hummus, though, you might readjust as I think the original recipe calls for 4 c of chickpeas rather than 3 (I just didn't want to open a third can).

Hummus with Green Goo

(for hummus)
3 c cooked chickpeas
1 cup water
scant 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup tahini
(for green goo)
1/4 cup Italian parsley
1 jalapeño, destemmed
1 large clove garlic
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Place chickpeas in a food processor.  To the food processor add the water, lemon juice, and salt. Process for three minutes or until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way. If you like your hummus thinner add more water a small splash at a time. Add the tahini, process one more time. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl.
2. To make the "green goo" rinse out the food processor bowl, and use it again, and if you don't have a food processor, you can certainly do a hand-chopped version. Pulse the parsley, jalapeño, garlic, and salt in the food processor.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture while the processor is running, until an green emulsion is created.  Transfer to a jar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
3. Drizzle the hummus generously with the green goo. Makes 4 cups of hummus.


Sorry for the lame photo.  This baba ganoush was lovely.  It had a creamier, more whipped consistency than it sometimes does, and I'm wondering why.  More tahini than usual?  Different eggplants?

This is the first time I've put mint in baba ganoush (an idea I got from Vegan Planet, though I didn't use that recipe).  It's a a great addition to the flavor and texture of this dish. I'm sorry I don't have a real recipe; some day I'll keep track of what I'm doing so that I can reproduce it.  But it's more of an add-a-little-as-you-go kind of thing.  The only real variables are that sometimes I don't use cumin, and some times I do use the tiniest, tiniest drop of liquid smoke to get a roasted/grilled-outside kind of flavor.  Even without it, thoguh, roasted eggplant is amazing; it gets almost caramelized in the oven.

Baba Ganoush with Mint

eggplant, halved lengthwise (the "hot dog" way)
olive oil
garlic, minced
lemon juice
cumin, ground
fresh mint leaves, washed and chopped

Sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh of the eggplants and allow to sit.  Preheat oven to 400*.  Place eggplants on an oiled baking sheet, cut side down; poke several holes in the skin with a fork, and bake for 20-35 minutes, until flesh is very soft.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before scooping flesh out of skins.  Discard skins.
In a blender, combine eggplant innards, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and salt, adjusting seasonings to taste.  Blend until very creamy.  Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with mint leaves.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Breakfast and Slaw (separately)


Sourdough Toast with Peanut Butter, Banana, and Nutmeg; Earl Grey Tea with Coconut Milk


When I first put this salad together, I thought it was a disaster: it was far too salty, and just not very interesting.  However, the following day the overwhelming saltiness was gone, the cabbage was slightly more wilted by the salt, and the other flavors had blended in with each other and gotten stronger.

I'd kicked myself for preparing this salad exactly according to the recipe on Smitten Kitchen.  Had I been following my intuition, there's no way I would have used a tablespoon of salt.  Still, I'm guessing you need quite a bit of that salt to do the "cooking"/tenderizing.  The author of Smitten Kitchen suggests that you could rinse the cabbage after the initial salt preparation stage, but I think next time I'll just use less.  But in the end, this tasted great the way it was.

Also, this salad is worth chopping well.  I was sloppy, and it's just not as nice.  This matters more, I think, in simple and/or raw recipes.

Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts
(from Smitten Kitchen, changes italicized)

1/2 small red cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)
1/2 small green cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 bunch fresh baby spinach, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch wide ribbons (about 4 cups loosely packed)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 2 small limes)
1 tablespoon Dijon or other salty prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8-1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper


In a large bowl, toss the shredded red and green cabbage with the salt, massaging the cabbage a bit until slightly lime and shiny.  Transfer the cabbage to a colander and let it drain.  Return to bowl and add the spinach. In a pyrex, whisk the lime juice, mustard, cumin, and oil together.  Toss the salad with the dressing and add the roasted peanuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A trio of soups!

Chickpea Noodle Soup, Carrot Ginger Soup, and Mushroom Leek Soup

Yes, I know it's June in California.  But one of my favorite people is sick, and I don't know how else to make her better.  I'd already decided to make Chickpea-Noodle Soup and Carrot-Ginger Soup when I saw the Mushroom Leek-Soup recipe on my friend's blog and had to try that one as well.  So three soups it was: one with a (somewhat) more complicated recipe from a cookbook, one with a simple recipe from a friend, and one with no recipe at all.  All very different soups, but all sort of fusiony, and all tasty.

Making soup is sooo cheap!  If you have stock, miso, tamari, salt, spices, and olive oil on hand, the veggies for these soups--I made almost 30 cups or 2 gallons of soup--cost $5.  I will give some of it away, eat some of it, and freeze the rest in small containers for future soupy times.


This "Chickpea Noodle Soup," from Veganomicon, is a slightly Japanese vegan take on chicken noodle soup that nevertheless still has the "Thanksgiving" thing still going on.  I think it must just be thyme (or sometimes sage) that makes me instantly identify a dish this way.  Anyway, the saltiness and the herbs were just right, but ultimately I felt that the soup needed a bit more bite: the recipe suggested mirin as optional; I actually added a splash of rice vinegar at the end.

This sweetness, I think, also depends on the miso you use.  I used Cold Mountain Miso's Kyoto Red miso, which is a darker, but reduced sodium, just-soybeans miso.  I find the varieties of miso enduringly confusing, not least because the names, colors, and ingredients only sometimes match up with each other, but as far as I can tell, white and yellow are sweeter and used more for seasonings while darker colors are saltier and better for soups.  The miso I used, however, was pretty much halfway in between these categories, and the soup was quite sweet.  Whatever type of miso you use, try not to boil it--this is why you add it at the end--or else you'll kill the living friends in it that will help your digestion.

Finally, the soup actually needs more broth or less pasta.  I can't really believe I'm saying this; as my family will attest, growing up I always strained all the liquid out of my soup, serving myself a bowl of chunky veggies/meat/pasta.  Yet this broth tastes so good that it should be allowed to shine on its own a bit more.  An easy way to adjust this would be to use less pasta/noodles.

Chickpea Noodle Soup
(adapted from Veganomicon)

2 TB olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 c  sliced carrots
2 stalks celery, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c sliced mushrooms
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
6 c water (not stock)
2 c chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 oz. soba noodles (I used whole wheat spaghetti), broken into short pieces
1/3 c (or less) miso 
black pepper to taste
splash mirin or rice vinegar, to taste

In a stockpot or large saucepan, heat olive oil.  Add onion, carrots, and celery (aha! a mirepoix!), and saute several minutes.  Then add garlic, mushrooms, and herbs and saute some more.  Add water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15 minutes or so.  Add chickpeas and pasta and cook 10 more minutes (or a little less than the cook time on the pasta).  Just before serving, mix the miso with a little warm water and add it, along with mirin/vinegar and black pepper, to the soup, according to taste.  Try not to boil the miso.


I love how you don't need dairy (or fake dairy) to get a rich, thick, creamy soup.  I don't think I ever really liked or ate creamy soups when I was growing up, but at the cafe I worked at in London, our soup of the day was always a blended soup.  Maybe it's easier to make blended soups look elegant.  Or, maybe they have a comfort-food power that is all their own, reminding you of when you were an infant and didn't have teeth or something.  Anyway, this Carrot-Ginger Soup is pretty and delicious.  If you're feeling timid, you might want to reduce the generous amounts of cayenne and ginger; as is, the soup will definitely clear out your sinuses.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 3-in piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6-8 carrots, chopped
6+ c vegetable stock (I use water and then add Better Than Boullion paste when blending)

In a stock pot or large saucepan, heat olive oil.  Add onions, garlic, and ginger, and saute several minutes.  Add spices and carrots and saute some more.  Add water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 20-30 minutes until carrots are very soft.  Remove from heat and allow to cool somewhat.  Then, puree soup in a blender (with boullion paste), return to pot, reheat if necessary, and serve.


The Mushroom Leek Soup came from my friend and former co-op-mate's awesome new blog, Celeste's Vegan Goodness.  I'm not going to post the recipe here, because I'd love for people to go check out her blog.  She has great photos and step-by-step instructions about how to best prepare the leek and the mushrooms as well.

I'm not sure I've ever cooked a leek before.  It's a bit like a monster scallion.  And, one leek goes a long, long way (see image to the right!).  I have to admit that at first I was a bit skeptical that this so-simple recipe would be too healthy or macro-tasting (although I'm obviously quite into both of these adjectives).  No stock?  No miso?  Isn't this just... onion water?  But no!  It's so delicious.  Mushrooms and tamari add a whole lot of umami to this soup, resulting in something like a macro version of French onion soup.  The mushrooms are tender but chewy, and the leek is still a little crunchy.  Simplicity can be really, really lovely.

Mushroom Leek Soup