Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pistachios and Pomolasses, several ways

In this post:
  • Apricot Sesame Kale REMIX with Pomegranate Molasses and Toasted Pistachios
  • Cumin-Pomolasses Dressing
  • **Carrots and Green Beans with Caraway, Harissa, and Pistachios**!!!
  • Harissa itself 
  • shameless photos of ice cream and cute animals
I finally bought some commercial pomegranate molasses, and it has way more kick than the stuff I made from scratch.  Sweet, but in an achingly tangy way, it's kind of like what a starburst candy should taste like.  A little bit adds exciting dimensions to recipes (without making them taste like candy at all).

For example, I did the Apricot Sesame Kale again, but added some pomolasses with the tamari near the end.  And, inspired by this recipe for vegetables with pistachios--about which, more soon--I also sprinkled it with pistachios.

Apricot Sesame Kale with Pomegranate Molasses and Toasted Pistachios


Pomegranate molasses also plays a totally bomb part in the salad dressing below--but its deliciousness doesn't exactly translate into a photo.  The combination of light citrus and coriander, fragrant olive oil, cumin, and cinnamon, with intensely sweet pomegranate, keeps your palate dancing!  I put this on a green salad, but the blogger I borrowed this from used it on couscous... I think you could use it in almost any kind of salad.

Cumin-Pomolasses Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
juice of one lime
juice and zest of one-half of an orange
1 clove garlic, minced (I used the equivalent in garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon


But here's the real star of the day:

Carrots and beans--quintessential summer garden bounty.  [my mom and her friend Michele have a great vegetable garden, some of the spoils of which they photographed--


But fresh carrots and green beans in August taste so good plain, why adulterate them?  Well, because this recipe is phenomenal.  Everything--the textures, the flavors--is exciting without being flashy.  The carrots and beans are just barely cooked in boiling water, then stir-fried in oil with garlic and a spice mixture (harissa).  I got lucky with the cooking times and temps, and the result was tender, but not limp, vegetables that had a slightly crispy, blistered, caramelized outer skin.  And, the caraway seeds and the pistachios crunch. !

When you first take a bite, the flavors seem pretty savory and heavy--there's sweet carrots, and quite a bit of garlic and cumin.  But then the chili kicks you a little bit, while the caraway gently pulls you somewhere else.  And then, a bit of lemon actually "finishes" it: you're left feeling as if the whole taste experience was light and clean.

The only sad thing about this dish (for solo cooks, anyway) is that it tastes better freshly made and slightly warm.  I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, but I used slightly more veggies and more pistachios and harissa (the recipe for which follows).

Carrots and Green Beans with Caraway, Harissa, and Pistachios
(from ecurry)

2 cups carrots, quartered and cut into bite-sized lengths
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized lengths
a good splash of olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp harissa, or perhaps less (recipe follows)
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1.5 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt to taste (optional--after the salted water, the salt in the harissa, and the salt on the pistachios, I didn't need any more)
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped if you like

1. Cook the carrots and the beans in salted water (just enough water to cover the vegetables) until just barely cooked--enough to remove the raw taste; they should still be crunchy.  Drain the veggies and ice them somehow to stop the cooking (at right)!
2. In a large skillet heat the olive oil and caraway seeds over medium high heat (yes, olive oil will splatter, but I think it might be worth it here).  Cover with a loose-fitting lid if needed.  Cook several minutes, then stir in the garlic and harissa.  Continue to cook several more minutes.
3. Add the drained vegetables (remove ice, obviously), and stir fry at medium heat for about 4-6 minutes.
4. Turn off heat.  Add salt if desired.  Stir in the lemon juice, and sprinkle the pistachios.  Serve warm as an appetizer, salad or a side dish.  Serves about 4.


A big part of the magic of the above vegetable recipe is due to harissa.  I've never actually made harissa before today, and it looks like the ingredients can vary quite a bit.  Lemon? Coriander? Fresh mint? Cinnamon? Rosemary? Cilantro?  Oh, the possibilities!  But it looks like the basics are cumin, oil, probably garlic and caraway, and tons of chilies.

I think this stuff is really fun.  It seems familiar to my palate, but just different enough (especially with the caraway and fresh mint in this recipe): Is it a pistou? A chili paste? Mouhammarah?

I think I followed the original recipe from ecurry pretty closely, except 1) I toasted and ground the spices, and 2) the thought of doing anything with 3/4 c garlic just made me nervous.  I probably used about 1/4 c and it was still pretty garlicky... And it's just bulked out enough with tomato paste and oil (and some chili-soaking water, too) that you can use it as a chili paste in cooking or as a condiment.  I think it would taste pretty amazing baked into some pita/pizza-type dough, for example.

Added Nov. 2010: Some uses for harissa:

(adapted from ecurry)

3/4 cup dried red chile peppers, of which some should be chipotle
4 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup minced garlic (about 10 cloves)
pinch sea salt
1/4 c chopped fresh mint leaves
2 TB tomato paste
2 TB olive oil
Optional: Cinnamon, Rosemary, Fresh Coriander/Cilantro...

1. Remove the stems from the chilli peppers; chop coarsely and soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes, then drain, reserving some water.
2. Toast the caraway, coriander, and cumin.  When cooled enough, grind them.
3. Place all the ingredients in a small food processor (or mortar and pestle) and process until smooth but not absolutely pureed.  Add reserved chili-soaking water as needed for an even blend.  Store leftover harissa in a jar with a layer of oil on top. Makes about 1/2 c.


And still more pistachios!!  After having the carrots and green beans with pistachios for lunch, I strolled over to Scoops, the ice cream shop in LA that I won't live more than a mile away from.  They make about sixteen different flavors every day, from pretty standard to pretty crazy (they had pistachio-hefeweizen today, too).  It's about 2/3 dairy gelato, and 1/3 soy, with a sorbet or two thrown in.  Now, I don't bother with the storebought soy ice cream because it's just not good enough, but this stuff is fantastic, due in part to the slightly higher gelatoish temperature they keep the ice creams at--I bet you actually can't tell the difference between the dairy and soy ice creams here.

Sorry for posting this.  I'm guessing that if you live in LA and you're reading this, you probably already go here all the time, and if you're not in LA, you're wishing you were.  :)

Strawberry-Rhubarb and Pistachio (vegan) Ice Cream from Scoops


So many animals in my life this summer!  None of these animals are mine, but they all came from the mean streets of LA.  The kitty and the flower-smelling doggie both have amazing loving homes, but I believe the laughing dog on the right is still up for adoption--her name is Bunny, if you're interested.

I'm back!

I've been on vacation in a far-off land by the seaside, getting work done (yes!) and caring for a doggie. 

Ok, it may have been only ten miles away.

In any case, I have a ton of new recipes to try and post, so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


How much introduction does this dish need?  CSA, necessity, mother of invention, etc.   Butternut squash staring at me for a whole week, sacrificed to the hummus gods, with awesome results!

I used my recipe for basic hummus, but the added boiled squash thinned out the flavor so that I needed to add more lemon, cayenne, and salt.  The end result was sweeter and fluffier than your average hummus--it was really, really good.


1 small butternut squash
1 can chickpeas
1-2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 c tahini
cayenne pepper, to taste
cumin, to taste
salt, to taste
juice of about 1 lemon, to taste
parsley, chopped
olive oil

1. Cut up the squash, scooping out seeds and chopping of the outside rind.  Squash should be in rather small (2-in) chunks.  Boil in salted water until very soft (about 30 min).  Drain.
2. Blend everything together.  Add water if necessary for consistency. Garnish with extra cumin, cayenne, olive oil, and parsley.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Another tale of traveling food...

I've been reading tons of Indian cookbooks, several of which have recipes for khichdi (or kitcheree or kitchree), a simple one-pot meal of lentils (or mung beans) and rice with the cultural role in parts of India and Pakistan of chicken noodle soup in many American households (rainy day comfort food).

One of these cookbooks also mentioned that there's an Anglo-Indian dish called kedgeree that, while quite different (according to wikipedia, it contains "cooked, flaked fish . . . boiled rice, parsley, hard-boiled eggs, curry powder, butter or cream and occasionally sultanas"!), is clearly a descendant of khichdi.

So it wasn't only because my brother Colin is moving to Egypt next week (!) that a short article in The Atlantic about an Egyptian street food called kushari (or koshari, koshary, kushary, etc.) caught my eye.  The article suggests that the British brought the dish from India in the early twentieth century.  While this makes sense given Egypt's central location and role in trade with the British Empire, this Egyptian dish is itself quite different both from khichdi and from kedgeree: it's rice, lentils, pasta, and chickpeas, topped with tomato sauce and crispy fried onions.

Since Colin was here visiting before leaving the country, he and I decided to make our own.  Oddly, the fact that it's so basic makes it feel somehow more inauthentic (no complicated spice blends? no hard-to-find ingredients?), but it seems that we definitely approximated the dish at the very least.

This dish is naturally vegan (places with Orthodox Christians who fast are good for this!), nutritionally balanced, cheap, stick-to-your-ribs filling, and tasty.  No wonder it's popular, if not the most exciting dish ever.

To save stove space and energy, we cooked the rice and lentils in one pot, and the pasta and (dried soaked) chickpeas in another, adding the rice and pasta at a later stage due to their shorter cooking times.  For the pasta, we used a little bit of whole wheat rotelle, some whole wheat fettucini, some trofie, and some spaghetti--a fun mixture of shapes and textures.

The biggest revelation in cooking this dish was that we used both fresh and canned tomatoes--THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!  Using only fresh tomatoes is more expensive and requires a lot more cooking time to get rid of enough water, but when you use canned tomatoes you lose out on taste and texture.  This tomato sauce, which used about half of each, was one of the best tomato sauces I've made.  Why haven't I heard about this technique before?

1/2-1 c lentils
1/2-1 c chickpeas, canned and drained, or soaked
1/2-1 c rice (we used short grain white)
2 servings pasta (assorted)
(for the tomato sauce)
olive oil
1/2 onion
1-2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1-2 tsp cayenne
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can high-quality diced tomatoes
2 handfuls fresh grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 c vegetable stock
salt (if needed)
1 TB sugar, to taste
(for the onions)
canola oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced (not minced)
parsley, chopped, for garnish

1. Cook lentils, pasta, and rice according to instructions.
2. In a medium saucepan or saucier, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Saute onion, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne for several minutes, then add garlic and continue cooking for a few minutes.  Add canned and fresh tomatoes, reduce heat, continue cooking.  Add stock and sugar and simmer 20+ minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste.
3. For onions, heat oil (not olive oil) over high heat, then add onions and fry until they are very very crispy (about 10 minutes).
4. Combine!  Garnish with parsley.  Serves at least 4.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles?!

The authors of Vegan Cookies Invade... actually posted this recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles on their website.  Another success from this cookbook!  I will definitely be making this again.  I increased the cayenne pepper by 50%, which made it perfectly spicy for me--something to slow you down, and make the flavors really pack a punch.  Because maple syrup is depressingly expensive, I subbed half brown rice syrup.  After I did this, I thought it would mess it up (because brown rice syrup seems to f up the consistency of everything it touches), but I ended up with a deliciously moist cookie--sort of the soft chewiness you'd expect in a molasses ginger cookie.  Finally, the recipe asks for you to make far too much cinnamon sugar for the outside--I've halved it below.

 Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

For the topping:
3 TB cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the cookies:
1/2 c canola oil
1  c sugar
1/4 c pure maple syrup (or 2 TB maple syrup and 2 TB brown rice syrup)
3 TB non-dairy milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups flour (I used 1 c white and 2/3 c whole wheat)
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2-3/4 tsp cayenne

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix the topping ingredients together on a flat plate. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together oil,  sugar, syrup, and milk. Mix in extracts.

Sift in remaining ingredients, stirring as you add them. Once all ingredients are added mix until you’ve got a pliable dough.

Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Pat into the sugar topping to flatten into roughly 2 inch discs. Transfer to baking sheet, sugar side up, at least 2 inches apart (they do spread). This should be easy as the the bottom of the cookies should just stick to your fingers so you can just flip them over onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, they should be a bit spread and crackly on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  

Makes 2-3 dozen smallish cookies.

Tempeh Salad (Sandwich)

I was attracted to this recipe because it called for a lot of random ingredients I happened to have on hand, but in the end it was a lot of work for a dish that was just ok--and it was too chunky to really make a sandwich out of.  Then again, I've never been a big fan of vinegar, mayo, or dill, so I think the deck was stacked against me.  I also had to add a lot more vegan mayo and mustard to the dish than was called for.

Tempeh Salad
(adapted from Epicurean Vegan)

1 pkg tempeh
1 red onion, minced
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/3 c frozen peas, thawed
1/3 c frozen green beans, thawed
1/2 small cucumber, chopped
1/4 c chopped kosher dill pickles
3 TB vegan mayonnaise
1-2 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB chopped fresh dill, or to taste
2 TB chopped fresh parsley

Briefly boil onions, then drain and marinate in vinegar for 30 minutes.  Steam tempeh (cut only into quarters) for 20 minutes.  Briefly boil the celery, carrot, peas, and beans (about 1 minute), then drain and plunge into cold water to stop cooking.
Chop tempeh into small pieces.  Combine everything (but drain the carrots etc., first).

Balsamic Mustard Greens and Chickpeas

My mom eats mustard greens raw as salad greens, but sometimes one (i.e., me) is not up to the task.

This recipe, originally from Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, was similar to Balsamic-Glazed Kale and Carrots, but zingier.  I changed the method of the original recipe to 1) add fat and 2) make it simpler.

Balsamic Mustard Greens and Chickpeas
(adapted from Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen)

olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes
salt, if needed
10 ounces mustard greens, de-stemmed and chopped
2 TB balsamic vinegar
1/4 c vegetable broth
1/2 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp sugar
1 c cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Saute onion in olive oil, adding garlic soon after beginning.  Then add greens, saute until bright green, and add vinegar, broth, tamari, sugar, and chickpeas.  Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Guacamole Beans?!

Edit: I don't think I adequately stressed how good this is, at least at this time of year.  With really fresh vegetables, this was probably the best thing I ate in weeks.  It also kept for four days or so, thanks to the lime juice.

This is another simple salad that showcased the inherent goodness of the vegetables in it.  The mixture of textures is unbeatable!  Also, if you've ever wished you could just eat guacamole with a fork...

Green Bean Guacamole Salad

1 lb green beans, trimmed
20 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 avocadoes, large dice
cilantro, minced, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
juice of 1/2 to 1 lime, to taste
salt, to taste
cayenne, to taste
olive oil (not too much)

1. Briefly steam beans and then place in cold water to stop cooking.
2. Combine ingredients.  Serve chilled.  Serves about 4.

Walnut- and Mushroom- Stuffed Tomatoes

These tomatoes, large and small, were filled with a sauteed mixture of onions, garlic, mushrooms, walnuts, and herbs and then baked at a high temperature until the tomatoes' juices bled into the filling, the skins blistered, and the walnuts on top got toasty.

* Fresh sage is magic.

* I scoffed when my friend Julia insisted on stuffing the tiny tomatoes, but they were the best, because you need not cut them up to eat them, so you can fully enjoy their composedness.

* The photos are from before baking because they got eaten too fast to be photographed after.

Walnut- and Mushroom-Stuffed Tomatoes

olive oil
tomatoes! (stuffing probably fills about 8 medium tomatoes)
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg mushrooms (we used crimini), minced
thyme, dried
fresh parsley, minced
fresh sage (not too much--this stuff is potent!), minced
1/2 c walnuts, chopped

1. Oil a baking dish and preheat oven to 375*.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet.  Saute onion several minutes, then add garlic, then add mushrooms and saute until everything is soft and juicy.  Add a bit of tamari, and stir in thyme, parsley, and sage.  Turn off the heat and stir in walnuts.  Set aside to cool.
3. With a paring knife, cut out the top of each tomato and then scoop out all the seeds and water inside (a melon baller was very helpful for this).
4. Fill hollow tomatoes with stuffing and place in baking dish.  Bake on top rack of oven for about 25-45 minutes, until tomato skin is blistered and filling is hot.  Serve hot.  Makes about 8 medium tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Bulghur and Kale Recipes

It is so summer!  Most of the things on this plate came from the farmers market.

Herbed Bulghur with Za'atar (see below), 
Balsamic-Glazed Kale and Carrots (see below), 
Squash and Chickpeas Sauteed with Garlic

The bulghur was an improvised, last-minute, nearly-instant kind of thing.  I've always meant to do a post on bulghur, a rather amazing and ancient food.  It's wheat that is cooked, then dried, then cracked, resulting in a delicious, high-fiber, high-protein, fast-cooking, nearly-impossible-to-spoil staple grain.  What's not to love?  I also love that at Jons it comes in four different grades of grind (#1 to #4), just like sandpaper.

(for more about the history of bulghur, see this great page)

Herbed Bulghur with Za'atar

bulghur, prepared according to directions*
*(pour 2 parts boiling water over 1 part bulghur and let stand 10 minutes--that's it!)
lots of za'atar
fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper


This isn't going to be my favorite kale recipe ever, but I was just really happy to have a new kale recipe, period.  The kale bandit has been working really hard this summer.  I'm not a big fan of putting sugar in savory dishes, and you have to do it here to make the flavors work.  The rich tamari and the sweet balsamic-sugar and carrot flavors hold their own against the slight bitterness of kale.

I've probably mentioned this before, but Vegan Planet is my favorite all-around cookbook of all time.  The recipes are not only delicious, they also feel simple and intuitive without eliciting the "why is this in a cookbook?" reaction (like, for example, some macrobiotic cookbooks with recipes for "Steamed Spinach").

Balsamic Glazed Kale and Carrots

1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and chopped
2-6 carrots, cleaned and sliced
1-2 TB olive oil
1-2 TB tamari
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)

1. Boil veggies in salted water about 5 minutes.  Drain.
2. Heat olive oil in a very large skillet.  Add veggies and everything else all at once.  Cook over medium-low heat until liquid has evaporated.

Two Experiments in Fruit Salad

Strawberries are in season at the farmers market!  What always strikes me is how each one of these wound-dark berries tastes slightly different from the others--there's not the same homogenization of flavor that you get with supermarket strawberries.

I worried that this recipe was making things more complicated than they should be, but it ended up just bringing out the natural wonders of the berries.

Strawberry Basil Salad

strawberries, sliced
basil, chopped
lemon juice
sea salt


And now for a similar, but even more unusual salad, that my professor Helen passed on to me.  I had to wait until my Cashew Cheese was finally ready, but it was worth the wait: with its sour, nutty, and salty aspects, this stuff turned out to be a fantastic component in the salad, which originally called for feta.  I thought that tomato and watermelon might be too similar to pair together, but when you place them side by side, you taste what's different between them.  This salad was really lovely.

Watermelon Tomato Salad with Basil and Cashew Cheese

3/4 pound seedless watermelon, rind removed
3/4 pound heirloom tomatoes (about two large tomatoes)
3 ounces cashew cheese
8 leaves basil
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste

Cashew Goat Cheese

At long last... it has happened. 

Pepper-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese

Before you dismiss this as far too time-consuming to do, let me stress that it's not actually that much work-- you just have to plan ahead.  Way ahead.  But most of the work is done by time itself--the soaking of the cashews, the slight draining in cheesecloth, the baking.

Honestly, it's worth it.  This stuff makes a great spread, but it's also good anywhere you would use a soft, salty cheese like feta--for example, in this watermelon-tomato salad, or in stuffed cherry peppers (forthcoming).

Pepper-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese

3/4 cup raw cashews
6 TB canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 TB tahini
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns 

1. Place cashews in large bowl; cover with 3 inches water. Soak overnight.
2. Drain liquid, rinse cashews under cold water, and drain again. Purée cashews, oil, lemon juice, tahini, salt, and 2 TB water in food processor 6 minutes, or until smooth and creamy.
3. Place large strainer over bowl, and line with triple layer of cheesecloth. Spoon cashew mixture into cheesecloth. Fold sides of cloth over cheese, and form into 6-inch-long oval loaf. Twist ends of cloth and secure with rubber bands. Set in strainer over bowl, and let stand 12 hours at room temperature. Discard excess liquid. Chill.
4. Preheat oven to 200*. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap cheese, and scrape into 7-inch-long log on cheesecloth. Rewrap, and twist ends to secure. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes, or until cheese becomes set on outside but still soft, turning occasionally. Cool, and chill.
5. Unwrap cheese. Sprinkle with peppercorns, pressing to adhere.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spoils from Italy

My friend Julia just came back from a trip to Europe, and she brought me back some really special pasta and olive oil from Italy.  The olive oil is infused with all sorts of things, including bay leaves, chilis, and rosemary.  And the pasta is called trofie, which I don't think I've ever had.

The first thing I did with this booty was use it with a bunch of CSA veggies to make the pasta dish below.  Sometimes it seems to me that the better your ingredients are, the simpler your recipes are and should be.

Farmers Market Vegetables with Pasta

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 zucchini or other summer squash, large cubey slices
cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh basil, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped
chickpeas, walnuts, etc. (I mixed in some chickpeas after taking the photo)
olive oil
red pepper flakes

Prepare pasta according to directions.  Saute garlic and squash in oil and then set aside.  Combine everything.  Serve hot or cold.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Need I continue to mention how scrumptious zatar is?  It's salty and nutty and sour all at once.  (some recipes: about.com, epicurious, chow.com--but also widely available for sale in middle eastern groceries and at Jons)

Most things taste good on popcorn, and this is no exception (edit 9/20/10: tahini-tamari sauce, however, while delicious, is really messy on popcorn).  And... making popcorn the "old-fashioned way" is easy, delicious, relatively healthy, and absurdly cheap.  Why aren't you eating this right now?

(Edit 4/12/11: For more popcorn toppings, see dukkah and berbere.  See also the comments below.)

Popcorn popped in canola oil, but drizzled with olive oil and tossed with zatar and salt

To make popcorn: Place kernels and oil (use a refined oil--something like olive oil will make a smoky mess) in a saucepan, cover, and turn heat on high.  When kernels begin to pop, gently shake pot to keep popcorn from burning.  When popping slows, turn off heat and allow popping to stop.  Transfer to a bowl and do with it as you will!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


This is something you can make when you're like, I want to keep making interesting things but I have too many leftovers!  Or, when you're like, I would like some chai.

Compared to the average chai you'd find in a coffeeshop in the US, the recipe for chai in Indian Home Cooking leans more heavily upon cardamom and ginger, and less upon cinnamon and vanilla (though I added some vanilla).  As a result, you have more zingy brightness rather than just cloyingly sweet pumpkin-pie juice.  (oh, cardamom, you are so magic and, like fennel, queer). 

Obviously, though, you can do whatever you want with this recipe!  I'd like to try this with significantly more black pepper--yum!  The real difference is that you boil everything together and let it steep 15 minutes before serving.  A little bit of sugar brings out the spices, but I thought 1 TB was more than enough--then again, I don't really like sweet drinks, so do it to taste.

Chai (Iced)

2 c nondairy milk (I used soy)
1 c water
1 1/2 TB loose black tea
a 1 1/2-in piece cinnamon stick, broken in half
9 green cardamom pods, slightly opened/crushed
7 whole cloves
a 1 1/2-in piece ginger, peeled and dived
6 black peppercorns
small splash vanilla extract
1 TB sugar (or to taste)

Boil everything in a pot, then turn it off, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes.  Then, strain and reheat or serve over ice.  Serves 4-5.

Friday, August 6, 2010


A post without a recipe?!

I decided this morning that I needed more of a proper introduction to this blog, so here's a first attempt:

What began as a way to show off the fact that I could make two kinds of cupcakes and two kinds of frosting in one day has evolved into a rewarding practice that fuels my passion for good food and continuously expands my range of culinary possibilities. 

Although all the recipes on this blog are vegan (with the possible exceptional inclusion of honey), I do not write for an exclusively vegan readership: I’m always trying to find new vegetables, new spices, and new culinary possibilities, but you won’t find many meat substitutes from a box or cream cheeses made from hydrogenated beans here, just… food.  My favorite culinary model here is 101cookbooks.com, which is actually not an exclusively vegan blog.

And, while recipes remain the heart and the focus of this blog, I do strongly believe that grocery-shopping, eating, cooking, and the discourses that we use to communicate about these acts, are always political.  While veganism to me is not about purity or being holier-than-thou, I think that adopting a primarily vegan diet—besides being a much healthier way to eat—has significant political weight for several reasons:

1) eating lower on the food chain and consuming far fewer resources,

2) standing outside of the powerful agricultural-military-economic-industrial complex that benefits from keeping people uninformed and apathetic about where their food comes from, and

3) cultivating mindfulness about food more generally—a value that I see in other seemingly-prohibitive practices of eating, such as those in Islam and Judaism, as well.  This goes far beyond thinking about the environmental impact of our grocery shopping: I’m interested in how the circulation of recipes and cooking practices reflects a history of complex cultural exchanges, and in how discourses of and attitudes toward eating reflect and construct cultural, racial, and gendered identity.  Why, for example, are many of the national dishes of Senegal based on rice that was introduced into the country from Southeast Asia in the last century?  Where do fortune cookies come from?  Why are red wine vs. white, wine vs. beer, steak vs. fish, meat vs. vegetable, ALL gendered choices in my culture?  Why are so many vegans and vegetarians queer and/or female?  (some earlier half-baked versions of these questions: on "ethnic" food, on studying abroad in Senegal, and on Indian cookbooks)

My questions are too broad and wide-ranging to ever produce a thesis.  Rather, this cluster of issues forms a lens that I think helps clarify why food is so, so important--I mean, beyond its immediate biological life-sustaining purposes.  While I admire and appreciate the work on blogs like Vegans of Color and VeganIdeal, I have yet to find a strong community of food bloggers who are interested in taking up these same questions while still focusing on food.  I would really like for this blog to become more of a conversation than it currently is, and to this end I welcome suggestions about recipes, foods, books, blogs, articles, whatever!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Matar Tofu Paneer Dal

Confession?  I've baked, broiled, braised, breaded, battered, frozen, and fried tofu, but I've never actually pressed it until now.  And damn! it makes the texture so much better!

(this demo on about.com makes it look more complicated than it is--actually, look at the comments at the end of this post for more details about pressing tofu)

I followed this playfully inauthentic recipe from Bittersweet almost to the letter, and it's fantastic--warm and delicious badass comfort food.  The only things I did or would change are: I used canola instead of coconut oil, and cayenne instead of chili powder (I think this is what the author intended anyway?), and next time I would double or triple the cayenne pepper, and not put the peas in until the very end so that they don't get mushy and discolored.  I didn't add any salt--the vegetable stock I used was just salty enough.

Matar Tofu Paneer Dal

1 TB canola oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2-1.5 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 c vegetable stock
1 c yellow split peas or red lentils
1 plum tomato, diced
2 TB tomato paste
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 pound (I used a 12-oz block) extra-firm tofu, thoroughly pressed (2 hours?)
salt and cayenne, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, heat oil and saute onion.  After a minute, add in the garlic and spices, and stir well.  Cook for 5-8 minutes, until the onion is translucent and the spices are highly aromatic.
2. Deglaze the pan with the vegetable stock, scrapping the bottom to make sure nothing is sticking, and then introduce the beans/lentils as well. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to a low simmer, and let it sit, undisturbed, for about 20 minutes.  If using split peas, they will still be somewhat firm at this point, but red lentils will be nearly done.
3. Stir in the diced tomato, tomato paste, peas, and pressed tofu, and let cook, covered, for another 5-10 minutes. Give the whole mixture a good stir to encourage your legume of choice to break down a bit, and test to see if its fully cooked. The lentils should be done, but mung beans will probably take another 15 minutes or so. Just be patient, and keep a close eye on the pot, making sure there is still enough liquid for everything to cook without burning on the bottom; add a splash of water if it seems too dry.  Season to taste with salt and cayenne, and serve piping hot.  Serves 4-6.


In other news, here's the sunset, seen from my window, that accompanied this dish.  I didn't even sex up the color saturation or anything.  Note Russian Orthodox Church and Hollywood Hills.  :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Killer Dal

I'm building up quite the arsenal of leftovers!

Clockwise from top: stir-fried cabbage, stir-fried squash, avocado (it's sort of like a raita...right?), whole wheat lavash (sort of like chapati?), dal with ginger and lime (recipe follows), cilantro-coconut chutney.  Not pictured: spicy mustard greens with coconut.

So, this is the best dal I've ever made.  I would eat it like I eat ice cream.  Just not in a cone.  This dal is great partly because I used yellow split peas, which had an incredible creamy texture, instead of my usual brown lentils.  I think it also has to do with the cooking method, however: usually, I start by sauteing onion, garlic, spices, etc. in oil and then adding water and lentils.  In this recipe (and apparently in most dal recipes) you do it the opposite way: boil the legumes and add an oily spice flavor extravaganza at the end--a tempering oil.

Dal with Ginger and Lime
(adapted from Indian Home Cooking)

1 c yellow split peas
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp salt
4 c water
2 1/2 TB canola oil
1 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
5 hot cherry peppers, minced (substitution for 2 whole dried chilis and 1 fresh green chili)
1 TB minced fresh ginger (or more)
1 tsp minced garlic
cayenne to taste
juice of 1/2 lime (or more)
cilantro (I didn't have this)

1. Boil legumes in water with salt and turmeric.  Yellow split peas will take up to 45 minutes.  Mash some.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan.  Fry cumin seeds first, then add remaining ingredients (except lime juice).  Cook only a few minutes.  
3. When legumes are ready, stir in the lime juice and most of the oil mixture, reserving some of the latter.  Top in serving bowls with remaining oil mixture and cilantro.  Serves 4.

Two Indian Vegetable Dishes

My professor Helen recommended an Indian cookbook to me that someone had recently recommended to her, and I got to try out some of the recipes from it yesterday.  I think that any cookbook that tries to present the cuisine of an entire enormous and diverse region is going to encounter certain difficulties, and Indian food is no exception.  For one, most of the Indian food that gets served in American restaurants is the Punjabi cuisine of northern India.  Do you try to include the food of many different regions?  What about "inauthentic" dishes that bear the influence of still other cuisines, colonial and otherwise?  How much do you simplify the complex spice blends, and how often do you suggest substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients?  How much historical and cultural background, how much personal anecdote go into the intros and headnotes?  While housesitting recently, I spent a lot of time with another book, Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent, and it's a really impressive book with fabulous stories, photos, and recipes, but I'm never going to buy it: it's too big and too expensive.  Meanwhile, I start wondering about the way "ethnic" food gets framed by cookbooks: is it being presented by a totally authentic "native informant"?  Or by an Orientalist who's been there, experienced it all, and is able to distill, catalog, and report on this information for the audience "back home"?  (besides my last underdeveloped post on some of these issues, here's a post on veganideal that also addresses some of the same questions)  To be fair, I think the (Canadian?) authors of Mangoes & Curry Leaves do a really amazing job of sharing an incredible amount of passion, appreciation, experience, and knowledge while keeping an eye on their limitations as foreign visitors and as the authors of a book that can only be so long.  I also wonder about the politics of cookbooks that are co-authored, as Indian Home Cooking is, by an author who's originally from India and an American-born Caucasian.

In any case, Indian Home Cooking is an excellent cookbook that makes no pretense of being exhaustive, either across regional cuisines or within any particular one.  Instead, the author gives you the basic recipes and shows you how they might be adapted according to one's own ingredients or creative whims.  He typically makes very few simplifications or substitutions, but suggests how you might make them were it necessary.

The first things I made from this cookbook were two vegetable dishes that, I realized after beginning, were almost identical.  Oh well... these were just the vegetables I happened to have on hand.  I tried to differentiate them by adding nigella seeds to one, omitting coconut from one, using bay leaves in one but not the other, and adding garlic in one.  Both turned out quite well, but the amount of mustard seeds in the cabbage dish was a bit too much for my taste.  I also struggled to follow the directions, which have you frying the spices and coconut in oil for quite a while before adding the veggies--I ended up with burnt coconut and undercooked vegetables, which suggests to me that you need to cook at a lower temperature if you're going to follow this method.

The real highlight of my first adventure with Indian Home Cooking was a dal, about which I'll post next!

Stir-Fried Cabbage with South Indian Spices

3 TB canola oil
1 TB yellow split peas
1 TB black mustard seeds
1 TB nigella (kalonji onion) seeds (addition)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp red pepper flakes (substitution)
2 bay leaves (substitution)
1 small cabbage, cored and shredded (about 8 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lime (or more)

1. Fry spices in oil (do the split peas and mustard first, adding the rest after a minute or two).
2. Add cabbage and cook briefly, until slightly wilted.  Remove from heat, add salt and lime juice.  Serves 4.


Stir-Fried Mixed Summer Squash

3 TB canola oil
1 TB black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red pepper flakes (substitution)
1 clove garlic
1/4 c shredded unsweetened coconut
2 lbs squash, halved and sliced
1/2 tsp salt, to taste

1. Fry spices and coconut in oil (do the split peas and mustard first, adding the rest after a minute or two).  Turn down the heat once you've added the coconut.
2. Bring heat back up to medium high, add squash, and cook until slightly soft.  Remove from heat, add salt.  Serves 4.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Squash Muffins

This weekend's CSA box included an enormous yellow summer squash.  As luck would have it I recently saw a post about Summer Squash and Applesauce muffins at Urban Vegan, but when I went back to it, I was dismayed at the soy flour and applesauce it called for.  So, I instead followed the recipe for zucchini bread in The Joy of Vegan Baking, but cut down (as usual) on the sugar and fat while upping the spices, vanilla, and squash.  All in all, a lovely, hearty muffin, but the occasional sour raisin made me think about how much better these would be with a bit more taste variety--perhaps some lemon or orange zest?  Walnuts, too, would have added some more variety in texture

Summer Squash Muffins
(adapted from "Zucchini Bread" in The Joy of Vegan Baking)

1 1/2 TB ground flaxseed
1/4 c water
scant 1/2 c vegetable oil (or 1/4-1/4 split with applesauce)
1/2 TB vinegar
3/4 c sugar
1 1/4 c grated summer squash or zucchini, not peeled
1/2 TB vanilla extract
1 1/2 c flour (I mixed white and whole wheat)
1/2 TB cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c raisins
1/4 c walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 325*.  Oil a muffin tin.
2. Mix dry and wet separately, then combine.  Don't over mix.  Fold in raisins and walnuts.
3. Pour into muffin tins, filling almost to the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, around 30 minutes.  Note that these muffins may take longer (and they cook at a lower temp) than other types because the squash (and applesauce, if you're using it) contribute a lot of moisture.  Makes about 10 muffins or 1 loaf.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lemon Cucumber Cashew Cream Soup

Yesterday at my favorite coffeeshop in LA, the handwritten menu board read "Gazpacho!"  And I was like, really?  Does gazpacho really deserve an exclamation point?  Isn't it just like drinking salsa?

I am a very, very adventurous eater.  In fact, when people ask me what I like to eat I'm sometimes unsure what to say.  I like... food.  Everything that's not animal products or weird processed things I could never make myself.  Olives, pickled foods, and tomatoes were the very last holdouts, and we've more than made our peace quite a while ago.

But...cold soup?

When I saw this recipe on Seaweed Snacks, though, I was intrigued, mostly because I'll try anything made out of cashews.  And it was great!  Maybe more cold soup is in my future.  Moreover, now that I know how easy it is to make cashew milk (and how delicious it is), I'll do that again, too.

Cashew milk and leftover cashew pulp

The garnish, which I changed a bit from the original recipe, really made the dish.  Rather than use still more cashews, I just used the leftover pulp from making the milk.  Baked with some tamari and spices, the result is a spicy, crunchy, and slightly caramelly foil to the creamy brightness of the soup.

Lemon Cucumber Cashew Cream Soup

1/2 c raw cashews
1 1/2 c water
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/2-1 tsp salt, to taste
zest of 2 lemons (or a bit less)
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tsp chopped shallot or onion
1 TB olive oil
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2-1 tsp tamari

1. Soak cashews in water overnight. Discard water and add cashews to blender with 3 cups water. Blend on high until smooth (about 1minute). Using a metal strainer over a bowl, pour cashew milk into bowl and separate any large pieces of cashew that may not have been blended. Save these!
2. Now, in the blender blend cashew milk with cucumber, salt, lemon zest and juice, onion, and olive oil. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into a bowl with a metal strainer to catch any pieces that have not been blended. Taste for salt.
3. Take the reserved cashew chunks that were leftover from straining the milk, and mix them with curry powder, paprika, and tamari.  Spread this mixture out on a baking tray and cook at medium low temperature (preferably in a toaster oven) until the mixture has dried out and the tamari caramelized (about 10 minutes at 300*).  Scrape this off the tray and crumble it up.
4. Garnish each bowl of soup with a spoonful of cashew-spice garnish and an extra drizzle of olive oil on top. Serves 2-3.

In other news, the pathetic Purple Pistachio Pesto actually looked much better the next day, even before I put it in this pasta salad with pasta, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and more lemon juice.  It tasted good, but I wasn't happy with the textural redundancy of the pasta and chickpeas: either wheat berries with chickpeas, or pasta with walnuts, would have been better.